The Beastie Boys Are Right. So Why Are They Losing the PR Battle?


Beastie Boys in 2005. (Image:

One of the cardinal rules of public relations is that perception trumps all. You may have the law on your side, for example, but the public won’t care much if it considers the optics ill conceived.

We started to think about the power of perception in light of the Beastie Boys accusation that toymaker GoldieBlox violated their copyright with a hit viral video.

More than 8 million people have watched GoldieBlox’s Princess Machine video since it launched last week, using a parody of the Beastie Boys’ 1987 tune “Girls” to promote its construction toys for young women, according to The Guardian.

Late last week GoldieBlox filed a preemptive lawsuit against the Beastie Boys, claiming the group’s attorneys had threatened to sue for copyright infringement.

(Following the death of Adam Yauch in 2012, the Beastie Boys revealed that Yauch’s will instructed his estate to prohibit the use of the group’s music in advertisements, The Guardian said.)

GoldieBlox said it is subverting the Beastie Boys’ “highly sexist song,” The Guardian added, to encourage girls’ interest in science, technology and engineering.

To put it mildly, this is no-win situation for the Beastie Boys.

While the Beastie Boys may have a legal (and financial) leg to stand on, the court of public opinion seems to be with GoldieBlox—which itself is riding an incredible and probably inadvertent wave of earned media.

All the legal precedents in the world are little match for a corporate message designed to both empower younger women and shatter stereotypes about the kind of careers that appeal to them.

The Beastie Boys reaction to the GoldieBlox parody is justified, but the response threatening a lawsuit is not.

The group could have done itself a bigger favor by harnessing the current popularity of the GoldieBlox song and, via some PR of its own, reminding the public that the Beastie Boys (who peaked in the 1980s) are still active on the music front.

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1


Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments


About Matthew Schwartz

Group Editor, PR News: Matthew Schwartz is group editor of PR News, the leading source of trends, how-to content and best practices for PR professionals. Matthew leads the editorial strategy for PR News’ premium content products—including its weekly newsletter—and for its digital presence. Matthew was editor of PR News from 2003-2005. Prior to returning to PR News, Matthew was a reporter for Crain’s BtoB and Media Business magazines, where he covered business marketers and media companies. He was also editor of BMA Buzz, a biweekly email newsletter covering B2B marketing, advertising and social media, and contributing writer to Advertising Age Custom. Matthew has helped to launch blogs on behalf of ZoomInfo and direct marketing agency The Kern Organization. He also spent a few years in cable-news precincts, working as a writer/producer at CNN and Fox News Channel.

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  • Darren

    Unnecessary jab at Beastie Boys at the end there. “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200, selling 128,000 copies in its first week.” But, maybe you just meant the plateau of the peak ended after MCA died.

  • Paratrooper

    I don’t think the Beastie Boys care one whit about what people who probably never bought, or will ever buy, any of their records think about their actions. They’re doing the smart thing by not allowing their actions to be dictated to them by people who will never be on their side. Plus, protection of their intellectual property is far more important than image at this point in their careers.

  • Anthony aka Baldini

    Stealing is stealing.

  • Ibeilln

    “Peaked in the 1980s” is totally inaccurate and just kind of laughable. Check Your Head, Hello Nasty and Ill Communications were all HUGE albums in the 90s. And Sabotage was one of the top records of that decade. This group is in the R&R HOF for making decades of great music, not for peaking in an era of one-hit wonders.

  • Lisa

    In what world are they losing the PR battle? Sentiment seems to swing in favor of the Beastie Boys everywhere I’ve observed. Obviously, you’re not a fan–but don’t underestimate consumer loyalty to the group, especially Adam Yauch.

  • Kristen

    I think it’s the opposite–most people I have heard about are siding with the musicians, who were not asked, and were sued for the use of a song they own, when all they did was uphold their principles, and their copyright. I find GoldieBlox to be entirely at fault here and hope they do not win the contest based on stealing and bullying, which is not a lesson most parents want their children to learn.

  • Chris Baccus

    What data shows they are “losing the PR battle.” All of the TV coverage of this brings up the fact it was stolen and a violation of copyright. Any article I’ve read has also had 90% of the comments in favor of the band. Are you just assuming they’ve lost because the company’s video is cute and likeable?

  • adamsnider

    I agree with the other commenters. Public opinion seems to be turning in the Beastie Boys’ favour. So far, they haven’t sued Goldieblox. They’ve issue a public letter that explains their point of view fairly and shows that, contrary to early rumours, Goldieblox is suing them (rather than the other way around).

    The Beastie Boys have illustrated PR best practices, despite the claims made in this article.

  • Lynford Morton

    PR serves the organization’s goals, not itself. It looks like the Beastie Boys’ goal was to respect Adam’s wishes and protect their music. PR designed to sell albums would not be aligned with their goals on this issue. It’s hard to see how that could be considered a success.