For the first time ever, the Beastie Boys have allowed one of their songs to be used in an ad. And it’s a Joe Biden ad.
The Beastie Boys’ 1994 hit, “Sabotage,” made its “commercial” debut during televised NFL games on Sunday. It’s a fitting accompaniment for an ad aimed at shining a light on the devastating impact the pandemic has had on live performance and the venues that’s support them.
Called “The Blind Pig,” the Biden spot features Joe Malcoun, co-owner of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based music venue that the ad is named for, talking about his experience in 2020 so far.
“For 50 years, the Blind Pig has been open and crowded, but right now, it’s an empty room,” Malcoun explains. “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,” he continues. “There is no plan and you don’t know how to go forward.”
The ad works, and has drawn the attention of even the advertising-averse Beastie Boys, because Malcoun is one of many in the same situation. The entire live entertainment industry has been struggling since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in March.
Music venues, theaters, concerts, comedy clubs, dancehalls, and other venues have been shut for more than six months in the U.S. While many restaurants have been able to open with limited capacity during the pandemic, it’s near impossible for these venues to do the same while respecting social distancing and ordinances banning events with large groups.
It’s become clear that venues holding live events will be among the last places to reopen. They likely won’t be back to hosting stage performances and live music until after there’s a vaccine. Broadway shows have already been canceled until at least May 2021.
Yet there has been no bailout focusing specifically on helping those working in live entertainment in the U.S., and grassroots efforts only go so far. By contrast, in the UK, a more than a billion pound relief package has been set aside for the arts industries.
Some musicians, stage performers, and other artists have been able to monetize their work on the internet. However, many others have not. Live music venues have stayed shuttered. On top of that, stagehands, roadies, and other live production workers whose profession can’t transition to remote work have been unemployed for months.
Unfortunately, the issue has been largely ignored by many politicians in the U.S. and the situation for live entertainment is looking grim. Billboard has kept track of the many live venues that have closed during the coronavirus pandemic. A survey released during the summer estimated that 90 percent of live music venues and clubs could eventually close due to COVID-19.
So, when a major U.S. presidential candidate wants to air a political campaign ad on television to highlight the struggles of the live entertainment business, it seems like the perfect opportunity for the Beastie Boys to break their streak and license a song for the cause.