[UPDATE 10/23/20]: Joe Biden‘s presidential campaign has pulled its campaign ad that made waves on Sunday for its licensed use of the Beastie Boys‘ “Sabotage”. The ad, which premiered during Sunday’s Browns/Steelers game, was the first instance of the rap-rock group allowing their music to be used in a political advertisement. The reason for Biden’s camp taking down the ad, however, had to do with Blind Pig owner Joe Malcoun, who has been reportedly been harassed and threatened between the Sunday premiere and the video’s removal on Wednesday.
According to the Biden campaign, Malcoun—who appeared in the video to discuss the Ann Arbor, MI venue and the dire financial straits it faces as a result of the pandemic—has been “doxxed” by supporters of President Donald Trump and is the subject of ongoing threats. In an effort to calm the outrage and secure Malcoun’s safety, the Biden campaign has removed the ad from YouTube.
“The price for having a voice in our political process cannot be endless harassment,” Biden spokesman Bill Russo said in a statement given to Variety. “And yet, that is what (Blind Pig co-owner) Joe Malcoun and his family currently face as he was doxxed, harassed and threatened after the Trump campaign has sought to smear a community leader who dared to speak out against Trump’s failed response to the COVID crisis. It is shameful.”
In response, the Trump campaign has stated that the ad was not taken down over reasons of security, but rather out of embarrassment by the Biden campaign. Trump campaign spokesperson Ken Farnaso maintained that when it came to light that Malcoun is a successful investor who owns numerous other businesses and only came into ownership of the Blind Pig after his wife inherited a substantial amount of money that the ad was taken down for its deceiving nature.
“Saw that you wrote a piece on Biden’s ‘Blind Pig’ ad that has since been taken down because of rightful backlash from everyday Americans offended that the Biden team created this ad,” Farnaso said in an email to Variety on Wednesday. “In their desperation to pin something else on the President, they fabricated a story in a last-ditch effort to lie to voters because nothing else has worked — and they got caught. Looking forward to your updated stories or standalone articles like this one talking about Team Biden taking it down.”
While the Trump campaign may feel satisfied in whatever “gotcha” moment they feel they caught the Biden campaign in, the focus of the ad was not Malcoun or the Blind Pig. The focus of the ad is the thousands of venues across the country who remain shuttered as a result of Trump’s handling of COVID-19. The focus of the ad is the independent venues that have been forced to permanently close because Trump has held any further pandemic relief hostage until after the November election. In the midst of all of the back-and-forth bickering between campaigns, these small businesses around the country are still closed, with their owners—regardless of wealth—facing real problems as the two parties fight over the optics of a 60 second commercial.
[10/19/20]: For the first time ever, the Beastie Boys allowed their music to be played in a political advertisement. Specifically, the rap-rock pioneers licensed the hit song “Sabotage” to the Joe Biden campaign for an ad calling attention to the live music shutdown, particularly Ann Arbor, MI’s the Blind Pig.
In the 60-second ad spot, which premiered on national television during Sunday’s Browns/Steelers game, Blind Pig co-owner Joe Malcoun lays out the reality of what he terms “Donald Trump’s economy.” Meanwhile, b-roll footage of the packed club alongside archival photos and video from the venue’s 50-year tenure plays in the background.
“Everywhere I go, people have a story about the Blind Pig,” Malcoun says. “The Blind Pig has been one of those clubs that attract artists from all genres. For 50 years, the Blind Pig has been open and crowded, but right now, it’s an empty room. 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: There is no plan and you don’t know how to go forward. It makes me so angry. My only hope for my family and for this business and my community is that Joe Biden wins this election.”
The ad shows mainstream acts that got their start in small clubs like Macklemore alongside hometown favorites Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers. Meanwhile, the Pixies‘ “Where Is My Mind?” plays as Malcoun describes the grim reality of trying to keep a venue open during the pandemic. Then, like the NFL players running out of the tunnel to start the game, the bass line for “Sabotage” kicks in and the commercial paints Biden and Kamala Harris as the superstars coming to save the day.
Watch the Joe Biden presidential ad, featuring the Blind Pig as well as Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”, below.
The Blind Pig | Joe Biden For President 2020
[Video: Joe Biden]
In his will, the late Adam Yauch stipulated that the group’s music could not be used for product advertising purposes. The group has already sued Monster Energy and GoldieBox for using their songs in the past. However, they have allowed “Sabotage” to be used in trailers for Star Trek movie and the videogame Destiny 2.
As the pandemic keeps venues closed for the foreseeable future, the only shot the industry has at long-term survival is through the Save Our Stages Act. Last month, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) won a major victory when the $10 billion SOS Act was tacked onto the House of Representatives’ proposed $2.2 trillion Heroes Act. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump has stated that he will not engage in any further COVID relief negotiations until after the election.