David Byrne is currently preparing a lawsuit against the Republican Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, for the use of Road to Nowhere in a political campaign. Check out the full story.
Besides being theft, use of the song and my voice in a campaign ad implies that I, as writer and singer of the song, might have granted Crist permission to use it, and that I therefore endorse him and/or the Republican Party, of which he was a member until very, very recently. 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). If Crist and his campaign folks had asked to use the song, I would have said no — even if they had offered a lot of money, such as I have been offered in the past for ad use (though I’ve always turned these offers down).David Byrne | Yours Truly vs. the Governor of Florida
Byrne is one of my favourite artists, as regular readers will know. The fact that he has made, and continues to make, records that mean more to me than almost any others is further enhanced by his remaining one of the few artists who have resisted the lure of commerical advertising. One can only imagine how much money he’s been offered for the use of certain songs in his back catalogue and deeply admire his artistic integrity. For me, hearing a song or piece of music in an advert almost always destroys it. So given the importance of his music to me personally, I hope and pray he maintains his stance.