David Byrne Explains Why He’s Suing Crist

Republican Governor Charlie Crist is using a Talking Heads song in an ad for his Senate campaign without permission. So David Byrne is suing his ass. Here’s why:

The general public might also think I simply license the use of my songs to anyone who will pay the going rate, but that’s not true either, as I have never licensed a song for use in an ad. I do license songs to commercial films and TV shows (if they pay the going rate), and to dance companies and student filmmakers mostly for free. But not to ads.

I’m a bit of a throwback that way, as I still believe songs occasionally mean something to people — they obviously mean something personal to the writer, and often to the listener as well. A personal and social meaning is diluted when that same song is used to sell a product (or a politician).

As anachronistic as these ideas seem nowadays, I’m happy there are still some artists who refuse to allow their songs—especially older, established songs—to be used in ads. I know, I know. I’ve heard it all. Ad nauseum. But still. Kudos to the artists who can afford to say no.

Talking Heads: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Video: Talking Heads – “Road To Nowhere”

8 thoughts on “David Byrne Explains Why He’s Suing Crist”

  1. I got no problem with artists who don’t license their music, just as I have no problem with artists who do

  2. I tend to disagree there, Derek. I can’t quite explain what it is that induces major eye-rolling every time a songwriter or band that I dig goes and sells their stuff to a corporation for marketing purposes. I know Dylan has done it. Zeppelin caved a few years back with Cadillac. While I do agree that it’s their right to do whatever they wish in terms of commerce and art, there’s something cheesy about it. That’s a lame argument, but of well. I don’t like it.

  3. Every time I see that banner I think it’s saying that David Byrne is suing Christ. Which really wouldn’t surprise me.

  4. I’m with Jake–and Jonathan–on this one. “[T]he artists who can afford to say no” is, for me, the cornerstone of the argument.

    If that beer commercial will pay your rent for a few months or enable you to take leave from your job to go on tour, more power to ya. But Dylan, Zep, etc don’t need the added money or exposure, so what’s the point?

  5. Sean Lennon recently said that the reason is mom allows his dad’s songs to occasionally be used in ads is not for the money, but rather to keep the music out there for new generations. This seemed odd to me until I realized that kids no longer need to listen to the radio and may never “stumble” across a classic rock station. Besides, oldies channels play 80s music now.

    Not sure I buy it, but it’s an interesting point of view.

  6. What Lep said; surely there are better, less tacky ways of reaching Yoko’s supposed goal.

    I’d buy the reasoning if the tune were used in PSAs, not to sell me digital cameras, soft drinks or whatever the hell type of ad the song gets placed in.

  7. the trick is to get it used in an iTunes commercial, where selling the music is the whole point. then you can’t really be faulted, more like “lucky bastards!”. Or in a movie soundtrack. but only if the movie is good. if it’s scorcese then it’s cool to be included in the ‘art’. if it’s the “Iron Man 2” AC/DC album, then it is sucking on the proverbial donkey balls of good taste. too bad you don’t get to pick and choose, because I would Totally throw in my songs for a product I really liked, such as Bell’s Brewery, Netflix, or peanut butter. Peanut butter is good.

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