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Black Keys Sue Over TV Commercial's Use of "Tighten Up"

By June 10, 2011

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It's no secret that for a lot of up-and-coming acts, getting your song in a television ad can be a huge deal. With commercial radio becoming less and less adventurous and with record sales plummeting, you've got to go somewhere for exposure and cash flow. So enterprising bands have licensed their songs to commercials, TV shows, movies, video games and other outlets. One such band to do this successfully is the Black Keys, who joked about the amount of "selling out" they've done for their latest album, Brothers, on a segment for The Colbert Report back in January.

But there was nothing funny about the lawsuits the duo filed recently against Della Femina Rothschild Jeary & Partners, a New York ad agency that (the band members say) used their Grammy-winning song "Tighten Up" in a commercial without asking.

The lawsuit, which was obtained by Billboard, said in part, "For at least a two-week period in February 2011 coinciding with the period leading up to and the aftermath of the 2011 Grammy Awards, [Della Femina] and [Valley National Bank] knowingly created and ran a television commercial incorporating significant portions of ["Tighten Up"] without having sought or obtained a license from Nonesuch to do so."

According to Billboard, "In the commercial, the bank president, Gerald H. Lipkin, makes a pitch with the pop hit playing in the background." The band's lawsuit seeks to get the commercial off the air. Apparently, it's only a local spot -- it's a New Jersey bank -- and I've been unable to find a video of the commercial online.

This sort of thing is more prevalent during election years when candidates use songs on the campaign trail without compensating the artist. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Foo Fighters famously objected to Republican nominee John McCain snagging "My Hero" while on the stump. For the Black Keys, the fact that a local bank wanted to use "Tighten Up" suggests how popular and influential their song is, which must be flattering. But they would have preferred to have been asked first so they could have least gotten paid for it.

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Photo: Karl Walter/Getty Images.

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