29 June 2008

Corporate Rock *still* sucks

Devo is suing McDonalds over a new Happy Meal Toy, which strongly resembles the outfits Devo wore in their 'Whip It' video.

I have no problem with bands selling their music for use in commercials, especially since advertising executives developed decent musical taste. (The most recent example are ads I've seen during the UEFA Euro Cup featuring music by great Brazilian psych-rock band Os Mutantes.) And maybe I'm foolish but it still amazes me that McDonalds would steal from Devo, of ALL bands, to keep selling their multi-million dollar flavor of diabetes. And attaching American Idol to it is a pretty big slap in the face.

I wonder how much this sort of thing goes on. The only famous example I can remember from my lifetime is when Michael Jackson licensed 'Revolution' to Nike back in the late 1980s. Paul McCartney, a notorious suit in the rock 'n' roll world (let's not forget that he sued the Beatles) was livid, and I'd always assumed that it was McCartney defending Lennon's ideals, but it turns out that it was because he didn't get paid. Read about it in the Straight Dope (God, I miss the Straight Dope.)

But a much better example is that of Tom Waits, who has, among his other accolades, developed a stance against this very practice. From his Wikipedia page:

"Waits has steadfastly refused to allow the use of his songs in commercials and has joked about other artists who do. ("If Michael Jackson wants to work for Pepsi, why doesn't he just get himself a suit and an office in their headquarters and be done with it?") He has filed several lawsuits against advertisers who used his material without permission. He has been quoted as saying, "Apparently, the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad—ideally, naked and purring on the hood of a new car," he said in a statement, referring to the Mercury Cougar. "I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor."

Waits' first lawsuit was filed in 1988 against Frito Lay. The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed an award of US$2.375-million in his favor (Waits v. Frito Lay, 978 F. 2d 1093 (9th Cir. 1992)).[46] Frito Lay had approached Waits to use one of his songs in an advertisement. Waits declined the offer, and Frito Lay hired a Waits soundalike to sing a jingle similar to Small Change's "Step Right Up," which is, ironically, a song Waits has called "an indictment of advertising." Waits won the lawsuit, becoming one of the first artists to successfully sue a company for using an impersonator without permission."

Good for Tom Waits, and good for Devo. I hope the courts find in Devo's favor.


Blogger Dave Cavalier said...

Help me to understand how what Devo is doing is any less corporate than what Disney or Warner Brothers does. They're suing over a costume they wore in a video? That's pretty corporate to me. It also seems pretty petty. Did they go out and copyright the outfits? Can you do that?

10:07 AM  
Blogger stinkrock said...

Yes, the outfits are copyrighted and trademarked.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Dave Cavalier said...

So this suit by Devo is different than a typical corporate action in defense of intellectual property how?

12:49 PM  
Blogger Jackson said...

I don't know how it differs, or why it should matter.

If somebody is trying to make money using Devo's shit, then Devo should get paid. Furthermore, if Devo doesn't want their shit used in an advertisement, then it should not be used.

What's the problem?

4:32 AM  
Blogger Dave Cavalier said...

I totally agree. Devo has every right to protect their intellectual property. I just don't hear the same cheerleading when, say, Disney sues somebody for trademark infringement, even though trademark law requires that you vigrously defend your trademark or you start to lose control.

I also think Devo is an odd choice for a corporate rock still sucks post about not selling your music to commercials. We're talking about a band that specially re-recorded their biggest hit for a Swiffer commercial. Mothersbaugh writes music for commercials. Casale used to direct commercials. They sold their band to Disney for Devo 2.0, for God's sake!

Don't get me wrong. I love Devo and "Are We Not Men?" is a great record. But the band have had no hesitation whoring themselves out to corporate suits. Maybe they do it with a knowing wink, in their minds, but it's still pretty much whoring (from a certain point of view).

Interestingly, the owner of SubPop came under fire recently because he helped license one of their bands to a commercial. His view was that this was a way to keep the artist afloat financially and get some exposure. I can see his point, even if purists don't like it.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Jackson said...

To your first point, that's because The Mouse is evil.

Devo are savvy enough to work the system for their finacial gain. I'm sure it's a matter of them making sure they are the ones doing the working as opposed to being worked.

Everyone is a whore.

Considering the state (dead) of the music industry, making a buck from TV is great if you can swing it.

Neil Young doesn't work for Pepsi or Coke, and that's fine, he doesn't need to. Pepsi calls Jackson, I pick up the phone.

Hi Mike.....

1:36 AM  

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