Forget about asking for free music. Did Audi just completely rip off Sohn?
Here’s what happens when a major corporation with millions of dollars decides they don’t want to license your music. Or, can’t believe you refused to license it to them.
They hire a ad agency, who then creates something that sounds almost exactly like you. Then, they release it as their own.
Take a listen to these two clips. The first is from the artist Sohn. The second is an ad by Audi that was broadcast shortly thereafter.
1. Sohn, ‘Lessons’
2. Audi’s A3 Sportback Ad
Sadly, this isn’t the first time this sort of stunt has happened. After this incident, Pizza Hut pushed an advertisement with a soundtrack that sounded exactly like the Black Keys. The only problem is that it wasn’t a Black Keys song. It was, however, a song that used exactly the same instrumentation, arrangement style, and phrasing of the Black Keys.
In response, the Black Keys sued, and ultimately reach an out-of-court settlement with Pizza Hut.
But the Black Keys case introduce some very tricky issues involving musical style, instrumentation, and approach. Fast-forward to the ‘Blurred Lines’ battle between Pharrell and the estate of Marvin Gaye, and suddenly musical copyright got flipped on its head. Pharrell, along with Robin Thicke, ultimately lost, largely because their song has a similar ‘feel’ to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up’.
That was viewed with outrage in certain sectors of the music industry, mostly because the actual notes, lyrics, and even keys of the piece were so different. Pharrell famously remarked that one song was major, the other minor, but those details floated over the heads of jury members.
Back to the Audi case, and the similarities are far great. But Sohn didn’t pursue legal action, probably because hiring lawyers and filing court paperwork is a time-consuming and expensive process. Welcome to the modern legal system, where the bigger fish usually wins. Not because they’re right, but because they have a lot more money.
Thanks for playing, Sohn!