Beastie Boys Rethink Their Values After Paramount Writes a Big, Fat Check…

Guess everyone’s got a price tag, including the Beastie Boys.

The Beastie Boys have long been adamant about keeping their music off of advertisements, despite the guaranteed financial windfall.  The group has even sued multiple brands to scrub their music from spots, while refusing to license any and all high-priced offers.   One legal battle, waged against Monster Beverage Corp., resulted in a decision valued at more than $2 million (and a subsequent out-of-court settlement).

This was about the Beastie Boys’ core values towards capitalism, creativity, and never selling out, no matter how big the jackpot.  Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch, aka MCA, even prohibited any commercial licensing of the group’s music in his will (Yauch died in 2012).  The $6.4 million trust, assumed by Yauch’s wife in 2012, explicitly forbade any use of the Beastie Boys’ music in any advertisement, period.  “It’s a pretty bold move that cements Yauch’s ideological reputation, considering the amount of money there is to be made by corporations likely desperate to use the Beastie Boys’ trademark sound in their commercials,” Pitchfork declared at the time.

Which sort of makes it surprising that the popular Beastie Boys song ‘Sabatoge’ is now a centerpiece for the trailer for the upcoming Star Trek Beyond movie, in theaters this month.  Not only is ‘Sabatoge’ a critical part of this massive commercial  advertisement for a multi-million dollar, for-profit Hollywood blockbuster film, it’s referenced by the actors themselves right at the beginning.

Take a look.

All of which blatantly contradicts with the Beastie Boys repeated vows to never, ever license their music for any advertisement.  And, seriously undercuts years of moral high-horsing against base commercialism in music.  In a lawsuit against GoldieBlox in 2014, a company that used the track ‘Girls’ without permission, the remaining Beasties grandstanded after winning a court victory:

“Make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product and long ago, we made a conscious decision not to permit our music and/or name to be used in product ads.”

Even more pronounced was Yauch himself, who specifically declared in his will that “in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes.”

All of which makes the inclusion of ‘Sabatoge’ in a massive advertisement perhaps the biggest sellout of the decade.  And worse, a direct slap against the wishes of an important Beastie Boys member, one who doesn’t really have a vote.

Update, 6:30 am PT: Several people have noted that the Beastie Boys previously licensed ‘Sabotage’ for earlier Star Trek movies, which wasn’t mentioned in the first version of this article.  But I’m not sure if that helps or hurts the Beastie Boys’ case here: after all, a movie synchronization license straddles the line on ‘advertising’ (it’s a commercial licensing that helps to sell a product, after all).  And here, it’s clearly used in a major commercial.


Image adapted from an original by Michael Morel, licensed and transformed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).


41 Responses

  1. danwriter

    “After his death in 2012, Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch, aka MCA, even prohibited any commercial licensing of the group’s music in his will.”

    The writing gets funnier and funnier. I assure you, he wrote the will before his death.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      That’s funny, yeah it didn’t quite come out right did it?

  2. DJ Mantis

    I think the Beastie Boys see licensing music for a movie a lot different than for a consumer product. A movie is an artistic creation not unlike their music. While including it in the ad may blur the line a little, I think it still holds that true that the Beastie Boys are not selling out. In addition their music has been used in several movies before MCA passed away as well.

    • matt bunsen

      I agree w DJ. Primo sync opportunity with a word renowned franchise is more like an advertisement for their music. Maybe they loved Star Trek…

      • Art

        The Beastie Boys were big fans of the original Star Trek series especially Adam Yauch. You can here it in some of their lyrics such as Ch-check it out and Intergalactic. So not surprised that their much was allowed to be used in the Star Trek reboot movies.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. Plus, the song was used in the first Star Trek, which is part of the reason why it was used here. This isn’t a big deal.

      • Paul Resnikoff

        Thats a gray distinction. After all, isn’t that an advertisement, with the purpose of selling something?

        • Anonymous

          I’m sure millions more people will now go see Star Trek because Sabotage was in the trailer.

          • Carter Hayes

            if poor paul had googled “beastie boys star trek” b4 spending an hour or so photo-shopping his ultimate visual witticism, maybe he would have thought twice. the only thing sabo’d here is his credibility. paul you suck hard.

          • Corey

            Thanks Allyson. I respect the Beastie Boys decision to, God forbid, have an opinion and then change their minds.

            This author just seems bitter to wait until 2016 and write this article.

    • Adam

      I think he’s right (DJ Mantis) the Beastie Boys advertise their love of Star Trek throughout their catalogue. So some douche who obviously doesn’t know their music or inspiration calling them hypocrites is like hey I bet the survivors of the Beasties know what MCA intended.

  3. Rick Shaw

    This has nothing to do with values. It has to do with money.

  4. Me

    Weak. Investigate, research, interview, then report (speculate)…is this a blog or a new org? Yes, I know you’ve corrected the record about the original 2009 movie including Sabotage in the opening scene, but we’re still worried about the moral dilemma of “selling out?” Maybe MCA’s wife had a change of heart, maybe the first contract included all future Star Trek movies for X # of years (which was signed 3 years prior to his death), and/or maybe the B Boys never received a dime…what if they donated the song to their favorite TV/Movie franchise? How can 1 band member override 2 other? They were huge fans of Star Trek, doesn’t surprise me. Watch “Ch-Check It Out” No worries, the article did it’s job, made Google headlines and attracted 7 people to comment.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      Just to clarify, I wasn’t correcting anything, just added that the song was used in earlier Star Trek films. Frankly, I’m not sure if that even helps the argument that the Beastie Boys didn’t sell out (according to their own declared and sell-publicized values). That’s really the point of this piece.

      • Doodad

        I agree. It seems like the band sold out. The cheesy use of Sabotage in ST: Beyond made me cringe. The real sabotage is the band’s image. This wasn’t an auteur indie film with a gritty message, it was an overrated popcorn blockbuster aimed at an international audience with the edges dulled so as not to have untranslatable nuance. Maybe no nuance. The band’s sellout is made even more comical and contradictory based on their previous stances against commercialism. Yes, they got the right to change their minds. I get the right to evaluate whether changing their minds changes my opinion. It does.

  5. Nikki Lev

    I give the article a “C-“, give the title a “D” and give the URL name a “F”.

    You can have whatever opinion you want, Paul, but leaving out the fact that the song was already in the previous Star Trek movie is bad journalism and really destroys the entire conceit of the article. Also, any person who is a Star Trek fan and a Beastie Boys fan will immediately point out the obvious: Its not a sellout if they are just taking the opportunity to have the honor of having their music featured in the series that is an obvious influence on their music and lyrics. I know that when I heard Sabotage in the last movie I was like “yeaaaaaahhhh!!” And fully enjoyed the scene of the movie partially because of the inclusion of one of my favorite band’s music in the movie.Its literally no surprise that the song would again be used in the promotion of the new movie.

    Maybe you are not a Star Trek fan or a sci fi nerd, so just don’t get the difference between not wanting your music used to promote say Walmart vs the honor of having your music in a big awesome movie in a genre/series you like.

    Anyway, I’m really over your sensationalist click bait type “journalism”. Congratulations that you have enough good writers on your staff that I haven’t canceled my daily email from you.

    Also, your website works horribly slugish-ly on Firefox AND Chrome on my Dell Optiplex 390 Desktop computer. Just FYI. Other sites do not have the same problem. Kudos to you for annoying me so much I worked through it anyway, probably won’t do that again either.

  6. eyeroll

    Slow news day, eh?

    This is not a Commercial license so it does not blatantly contradict the statements contained in MCA’s will. In the actual world of music licensing this is a Trailer license. Considering that the song was licensed in previous Star Trek films, this may just be Paramount exercising an option contained within a Theatrical license deal. A Trailer license and a Commercial license are two completely different deals.

    You are entitled to your opinion that the Beastie Boys are hypocrites but your attempt to trash them as the “biggest sellout of the decade” and sell that as “news” is weak AF.

    As an aside, I am entitled to my opinion that this attempt at a “think piece” article is actually just tabloid style click bait “journalism” – which is what I’ve come to expect from this website. DMN is the TMZ of the music industry.

    More actual news please.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      I think I understand your point. So the Beastie Boys policy should be: absolutely no commercials, unless it’s a commercial they want to do?

      • eyeroll

        My point is this was a Trailer license not a Commercial license. I’m not giving a suggestion of what the Beastie Boys policy should be nor am I trying to interpret their words in my favor to generalize them as sell outs in order to harm their reputation or support my argument that they are hypocrites. You are.
        Less muckraking. More journalism. Please.

        • Paul Resnikoff

          I’m not getting the sense you excelled in debate club. So, what you’re arguing is that the Beastie Boys didn’t break their vow never to use their music in a commercial, because this specific commercial was licensed through a trailer license?

          • eyeroll

            I’m getting the sense that you excelled in Sensational Journalism Club.
            The Beastie Boys obviously do not define a film trailer as a product ad. Get over it. This is not news. Stop trolling your own shitty article and go find some REAL NEWS to write about!

          • Completely Unimpressed

            Dude, your article was bad and your perspective askew, but your trolling of your own comments is just plain unprofessional, you should find something you are better at.

          • Doodad

            Eyeroll doesn’t understand that a film trailer is a product ad. The product is the film. Something tells me eyeroll will try to find a definition of “product” and “ad” which excludes films as “products” and trailers as “ads.” This should be fun to watch.

      • Will F

        Hmmm… they loosened their policy in 2009 to include artistic endeavors such as Star Trek due to it’s creative/artistic value, believing that both the song and it’s use in the movie meshed well creatively. They decided they would take a different approach at licensing instead of a blanket “NO”. They were still wholly against using it in ads to sell tangible products however, so no I don’t believe this is “selling out”

  7. Peter Rauh

    A film use of their music is in no way out of the realm of possible licensing given the avocation of Adam Yauch, who dba Nathaniel Hornblower, made a fairly significant impact on filmmaking and music and who co-founded a wonderful independent distribution company Oscilloscope ( and I will quote their ‘about us’ statement:

    “OSCILLOSCOPE LABORATORIES has three divisions. It is like a three-headed dragon. The brains of the three heads are designed to think uniquely. While O-SCOPE PICTURES is thinking about distributing films, O-SCOPE PRODUCTIONS is thinking about making films, and the third head is mostly thinking about making music.”


    Not sure why this component of the Beastie Boys was so blunderous-ly overlooked, but I’d cease while you’re behind, Mr. Resnikoff. Adam Yauch and co. are way out of your league…

    • Paul Resnikoff

      I’m not really following your logic. So, because it’s for a film this isn’t a commercial? Pray explain.

  8. I'm Not a Robot

    “Biggest sellout of the decade”??? Haha…3.5 years to go, let’s hope T Swift joins the iTunes bandwagon. Clearly you misunderstood the bands previous statements. Worst part about this article is that you’re implying that Mike D. and Ad-Rock are not honoring MCA’s wishes. Even if they are, and they’re not…how is that our business?

    You missed a few:

  9. I'm Not a Robot

    “…perhaps the biggest sellout of the decade”??? Haha, wow only 3.5 years to go. Let’s hope T Swift joins the iTunes bandwagon.

    Worst part of your article is that you’re implying Mike D. and Ad-Rock have dishonored MCA’s wishes. Checkout IMDB’s site, you missed about 109 other credited/un-credited examples. Clearly you misunderstood their statements.

  10. Mmm...

    I think you had your sensationalistic idea; the “sell out”, and didn’t see or decided to ignore the nuances. This doesn’t seem to be a classic case of double standards. It sure attracts attention and it “sells”. On the other hand, the equivalence addSynch=filmSynch you draw is BS and is only clear to you because it helps your weak argument.

  11. Irving Mindreader

    It’s none of your business, or your readers’ business, and to suggest so is in incredibly poor taste.

    Would you be less judgmental if it was discovered Yauch’s daughter needed money for cancer treatment? Or maybe just his gardener?

    Would you be less judgmental if his widow was donating his estate’s share of proceeds to Tibetan Freedom, or drilling fresh water wells in Africa?

    Should she be compelled to come forward and publicly explain herself, lest she be shamed by the likes of you?

    No. Absolutely not.

    There is a great deal of important work you could be doing as a journalist. This isn’t it, by a mile.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      > It’s none of your business, or your readers’ business, and to suggest so is in incredibly poor taste.

      >> Why isn’t it any of my business? Can’t I ask this question? The Beasties Boys are public figures, they’ve made public statements over this matter.

      > Would you be less judgmental if it was discovered Yauch’s daughter needed money for cancer treatment? Or maybe just his gardener?

      >> Um… huh? To my knowledge, Yauch’s will does not specifically prohibit using the fund for fighting cancer.

      > Would you be less judgmental if his widow was donating his estate’s share of proceeds to Tibetan Freedom, or drilling fresh water wells in Africa?

      >> Again, what? I don’t think he expressly prohibited that. And personally, yeah I don’t really care.

      > Should she be compelled to come forward and publicly explain herself, lest she be shamed by the likes of you?

      >> That’s up to her. She can do whatever she wants. Maybe she absolutely hates that the Beastie Boys song is in this ad, and wants to do something about it.

      > There is a great deal of important work you could be doing as a journalist. This isn’t it, by a mile.

      >> Speaking of value judgments…

  12. JMA

    Paul – interesting points you raise, your article is really appreciated. Hope you can ignore all the negative comments, I’m not sure why people get so angry over these features, you are simply sharing some very relevant and topical news regarding the music placement, licensing etc. and are not making harsh judgments on the Beastie Boys. Anyways, for what it’s worth, I found your post very interesting.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      JMA, thanks. Really, I don’t mind the criticism, at the very least it causes me to rethink whatever assumptions I brought into the piece, and consider all angles. I can be a stubborn and inflexible thinker, but I still — after all this discussion — question whether the Beastie Boys went back on their vow never to license to advertisements. You can get into trouble with fine-tuned exceptions and loopholes.

    • Fake

      Lame, clearly Paul or Paul’s buddy wrote this one..

  13. Hippydog

    Maybe its as simple as the guys were Star Trek fans?
    If so, it is not “selling out” as their primary motivation was not money.

    • Doodad

      Compare Beastie Boys’ Sabotage in Star Trek with Shepherd Fairey’s Obey sellout. It is particularly sad to see street get peddled around like a $20 trick by the oligarchs.