In the contemporary music industry, where getting anyone to pay money for your music is an exception to the norm, the stigma around “selling out” has long since lost its potency.That being said, with the Occupy protests raging nationwide, Bank of America is an exception to another norm.
Last week, Patrick Stickles, frontman for New Jersey punk rockers Titus Andronicus, called out Philidelphia neo-folkie Kurt Vile on Twitter for licensing his song “Baby’s Arms” to Bank of America, which used it in a TV commercial.
Over the course of two tweets, Stickles wrote, “Come on, Kurt Vile, yr a million times better than that. #crushcapitalism If it is even true! Can someone confirm? if it is real, then you need to get real, man. I thought you were, like, the best dude in music!”
Vile responded in defence of himself, tweeting, among other things, “sorry titus. i did it to be like the carpenters.and to buy my daughter high end diapers. and to pay back my publishing advance. and because i never cared about that sorta thing. whoops,i even have a bank of america account.” (all tweets are sic’d.)
Stickles then apologized, and Vile’s manager Rennie Jaffe went on to post this message in the Facebook comments section of the Pitchfork article that broke the story:
“KV has never used his music as a political platform. He’s not Fugazi. He’s a songwriter who’s worked for a decade to make a living off of his work. Where does this ever end? No selling records to Republicans? Tea Partiers blocked from …downloading singles from itunes? Occupy Wall Street is about a fair distribution of wealth. Well, here’s an instance of BOA breaking something off for a working artist. And for what its worth, this was in motion well before all the Occupy stuff started and Kurt is also one of several artists in the series.”
The music licensing process is one of the more opaque aspects of the industry, and the song’s appearance in a BoA commercial in the midst of the Occupy protests seems to be a case of unfortunate timing.
When contacted for comment, Vile’s publicist and Matador Records’ Artist Liaison and Director of Publicity Nils Bernstein wrote in an email that “[Vile’s label Matador] tries to obtain and negotiate opportunities, but not to make the decisions on behalf of the artists. … the final decision to licence is always the artists’.”
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