Dear Audi, Thanks for Stealing My Music. Sincerely, Sohn.

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Screengrab from Audi’s A3 Ad.

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.

Sohn calls out Audi on Twitter
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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!

39 Responses

  1. GGG

    What usually happens with these sound-alike bullshit cases? I always forget to check into them. Didn’t Sigur Ros, Black Keys, etc not even bother suing?

  2. Michał Franczak

    Damn. It is SO SIMPLE arpeggio that I DOUBT that it is a steal. Maybe Sohn used some kind of preset and the other composer did it too. Each year we got hundreds of thousands of new albums. That means: millions of new tracks. Most of them are composed in the cheapest way – ITB (in-the-box = using computer software). There is no need for methematician to calculate the probability when two different musicans use the same preset of the same software or music workstation. It’s pure coincidence.

    • Rikki

      why should musicians be upset its all computer sounds ….now if you played a real instrument ok then sue

      • Versus

        By that logic, a composer should have no rights to his composition since he didn’t actually “play” the orchestra.

        • Musician

          I’ll be honest, I am always scared shitless that as a musician that I’ll trip on the same three-cord progression as some other musician and get sued out of my home. This kind of lawsuit has happened before.

  3. There is something...

    He calls a basic arpeggio preset a “tune”. This dude should start to learn songwriting first.

    • MFS

      That’s what I was thinking. Most electronic music uses purchased loops, then layers instrumentation, and vocals, it making it unique. This sounds like the loop, which I highly doubt this artist/singer-songwriter programmed & created on his own.

      There are many ad agencies who will hire jingle companies to create soundalikes to get away from paying a huge licensing fee to major label artists. I don’t know of any current law around this, but do know that stores like iTunes cut down on that content years ago.

  4. anon

    i’m sure he could at least get a quick 20-30k just by sending a demand letter and just buy a cheap audi.

  5. JTVDigital

    Well, since he’s signed to a record label, I suppose he also has a publisher.
    The songs are certainly registered at the local collection agency, AKM in Austria (he’s based in Austria but maybe registered the songs elsewhere).
    The publisher can raise the issue to AKM who can sue Audi for plagiarism (collecting agencies can go to court on behalf of their members).

    • Nah


      If the synch and mechanical has not been agreed they can sue Audi and the Sound recording owners.

      Audi is probably their best option because the studio probably has about $2 in the bank!

      • JTVDigital

        They did not use his song but created a sound-alike that seems too close from the original

    • AB

      How about the kick? And the side-chan compression on the pads? The filter?

      • There is something...

        All common technics in electronic music. I don’t say it doesn’t sound similar, but you can also find other songs with the same type of sound design. It’s not like they used the melody line or lyrics from the vocal parts. That would be plagiarism. A very basic arpeggio and side chained pad can’t count as music composition, even if they sound quite similar. Or people in EMD, house or trance could sue each other for almost every song ever released.

  6. Ethan

    PEOPLE ARE GETTING AWAY WITH THIS DAILY!!! I hope they get boned for this!

  7. Paul Resnikoff

    If Sohn really thinks this was stolen from him, then he should go into an Audi dealership and request a test drive. Then take the car home and start running errands with it, pick up his girlfriend, etc. Then park it in his driveway.

    All on camera, of course.

    THAT’S called making a point.

  8. Adam

    Just because most of you seemingly don’t know who Sohn is doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a case. Arpeggio or not. Meanwhile, while some of you are making snide comments about his songwriting and musicianship, others of us are recognizing that he makes really great music and happens to write songs. By the way, its 2014. Computers ARE now instruments. Don’t date yourself so badly, we all know some of the best music from the last 30 years was made with synthesizers. No difference here. If you go to shows regularly or are in the biz, this guy’s live show is a standout. Go listen before you decide to insult the dude’s music. Clearly its pretty impactful if Audi heard it and copied it.

    • There is something...

      I love computer music. And of course, you can make great music and absolutely original melodies from computers or synth based instruments. But in that case, the common elements between the song and Audi commercial are not the melody or anything usually protected by copyright laws. The guy who made the Audi commercial may perfectly have been inspired by the music, but that doesn’t change anything. If a very basic arpeggio and side-chained pads can by protected by copyright, then it’s the end of electronic music.

  9. MST

    The arp synth on the Sohn track is clearly the instrumental hook. With the exception of some chord changes, sonically and rhythmically, the Audi composer’s arp synth is the same. Could this be considered a derivative work? Would love a publishing guru to chime in!

  10. Ughhhh

    These “musicians” in the comments who’re saying it’s not stolen because of how “basic” or “simple” it is need to open their f**king eyes. Sohns “arpeggio” chord is actually 1-3-5-6 which isn’t really an arpeggio and also creates an amazing major/minor effect over continued ostinato which is later developed harmonically with the pads–clear, thoughtful, inspired composition. Anyone who dismisses this as a loop or preset is just being a lazy pretentious turd.

    • There is something...

      And why would that not be an arpeggio ? Fanboys need to chill out a bit here…

  11. payload

    Dear Sohn………you need to speak to your fellow artists and fans. Mark Ronson says “sampling isn’t hijacking (translation: stealing)…………and from a fan’s perspective, neither is “file sharing”. You have bigger problems than Audi (and yes, they probably copped your vibe to some degree)……….but with numerous examples of “prior art” that sound remarkably like your arpeggiator, you’d be better off chasing your fans for the music they “shared”. Artists (from baby bands to significant ones) send their music to ad agencies BEGGING them to use their music for FREE, so they can get exposure………so if you’re wondering why what you do is a bit devalued, there are plenty of factors. And you can’t blame the record labels anymore…………welcome to the world many of your fellow artists have created and promoted. Sorry………..

    • There is something...

      Very different situation. Jay-Z actually sampled an original recording, so he made use of the master without getting it cleared. Here it’s clearly NOT a sample of the original recording. You can’t make a case from it.

      • Ben

        Oh yes you can make a case. If Robin Thicke can lose a lawsuit over the Blurred Lines/Got to Give It Up because of vague similarities, so can Audi.

  12. JS Bock

    Not every creation is protected. Blues changes, rhythm changes, ice cream changes, classic grooves–all filtered out as scenes a faire on the front end of a lawsuit.

    I think all that is left for this guy is his melody–and Audi didn’t include that.

  13. Eric

    I am with the others that feel maybe the same synth patch or loop was used for one voices of the layering. And that’s it. If I have to give Sohn any validity, then they both stole Dirty Vegas’ filter sweeping and synth sounds anyway so maybe Sohn should pay Paul, Steve, and Ben whatever he may get unearned from Audi.

  14. herenow

    There is only one solution when you start to sound like everyone else: Try being original.

  15. Floyd Flewitt

    Sounds like a sylenth preset… I dont think he has a case, to me it sounds like its jus a coincidence. …

  16. Anonymous

    I think unless there is proof that they directly copied his song, he doesn’t have a case. Copyright only protects specific expressions.

  17. Yorke

    Not same track at all,different genre.
    I don’t like lessons by sohn but I really like the A3 soundtrack,it reminds me “Like Spinning Plates” by Radiohead.