The quality is kind of besides the point though. This is a band that has made a name for itself by going against the system (man). They’ve even now disbanded claiming they are at their best now. “Death Grips was and always has been a conceptual art exhibition anchored by sound and vision,” the group said in its farewell letter to fans. Hell, the song they used in the commercial is called “You Might Think He Loves You For You Money But I Know What He Really Loves You For And It's Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat," which is the final line off of Bob Dylan’s iconic song “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat.” Bob Dylan’s song is obviously a play off of money and the power it can buy and I think Death Grips is trying to make a similar statement here.
Maybe that statement has something to do with the music industry itself. The idea that it’s not about the money the artist is receiving but it’s the exposure. Maybe it’s even more of a nod to Bobby D (we’re close friends), who has been known to be strict with his licensing but generally will play most anywhere to earn some money, most notably in communist China during protests against the state. Or maybe they simply needed the money, but given that the band is calling it quits at the top of their popularity, money doesn’t seem to be the deciding factor here.
Sadly there is little to no information on how much they were paid or the thought process the group may have gone through to come to this decision. I would be very interested in knowing who was first to approach one another. Did Adidas find the song and think ‘this seems to represent our brand?’ Or did Death Grips seek out sponsorship for this particular song? I suspect it was not the former given the lyrical content of the song — (I apologize for the language but I think it helps illustrate the point) “Come come fuck apart in here/ I die in the process/ You die in the process/ Kettle drum roll hard shit/ Fuck I said fucker don't start shit.” The lyrics continue in a sort of disjointed spoken word style profane poetry from there. So I’d be impressed if Adidas was first to approach. Maybe this shows how music can be commercialized to make a message? Or maybe I’m reading way too far into all of this, but it’s hard to ignore the undertones here. But, in true Death Grips fashion, it may be a while before we know, if ever.
Licensing probably makes up a fairly small portion of an artists annual income unless you're a fairly large artist and depending on the play of the clip. But, what licensing does do is give exposure to a band. I’m sure Jack White was paid handsomely for his spot on the world cup, but what he gained in exposure to an international audience who may have never known he has a new album out, in immeasurable.
There are few restrictions I would personally put on music as being off limits to licensing. But I think the one most groups would all abide by is taking a political stance, especially if it’s one that conflicts with the band’s political stance. What did Paul Ryan think when he wanted to license a Rage Against The Machine song to play before his speeches? The band is called Rage Against the Machine and the Republican Party in particular is everything they are raging against. But beyond political stances, there aren’t any restrictions I can think of. Certainly it depends on the band of course. If you’re an anti-establishment, anti-commercialism band then you may not want to feed into commercialism. This is precisely why I think Death Grips had an alternative motive for licensing its music revolving around a statement of the value of money.
I don’t believe the headlines that read “Death Grips Sell Their Soul To Adidas Commercial” (Consequence of Sound), I don’t believe most legitimate bands would ever sell out, or if that term even holds any weight anymore. Bands simply need exposure in this over saturated market and selling to commercials is the best way to get it.
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