The Beastie Boys had never before licensed any of their songs for an advertisement, but that commercial blackout came to an end during Sunday’s Steelers/Browns game, when the sounds of “Sabotage” accompanied a spot for the Joe Biden presidential campaign.
It wasn’t just any campaign spot, but one that focuses on how the COVID-19 shutdowns have decimated the live music industry. The ad focuses on a club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Blind Pig, that remains shuttered this year after a 50-year run as a pillar of the community, which the owner blames on what he considers Donald Trump’s shortsighted response to the coronavirus crisis.
A Biden campaign spokesperson said the Beastie Boys, who had “never licensed music for an ad until now,” agreed to the use of “Sabotage” in the spot “because of the importance of the election.
“Everywhere I go, people have a story about the Blind Pig,” Joe Malcoun, co-owner of the Blind Pig, says in the commercial. “The Blind Pig has been one of those clubs that attract artists from all genres. For 50 years, the Blind Pig has been open and crowded, but right now, it’s an empty room. This is the reality of Trump’s Covid response. We don’t know how much longer we can survive without any revenue. A lot of restaurants and bars that have been mainstays for years will not make it through this. This is Donald Trump’s economy: There is no plan and you don’t know how to go forward. It makes me so angry. My only hope for my family and for this business and my community is that Joe Biden wins this election.”
The Blind Pig began as a blues club in the early ’70s but went on to become an all-genre nightspot that hosted big-name groups like Nirvana and Soundgarden on the way up.
The Michigan-set ad arrived on national TV screens the day after Donald Trump held a rally in the swing state and two days after Biden made his own campaign stop there.
The Beastie Boys’ classic kicks in about 40 seconds into the 60-second campaign spot, allowing the climactic appearance of Biden and running mate Kamala Harris in masks to almost appear as if it were right out of a vintage Spike Jonez video.
The late Adam Yauch stipulated in his will that the music he was involved in creating could not be used for product advertising purposes. The group has sued Monster Energy and GoldieBox for using their songs in the past. They have allowed “Sabotage” to be used in trailers for “Star Trek” and the “Destiny 2” videogame.