The xx may have won a Mercury Prize, but that’s not going to stop mobile phone companies riding on their coattails without paying a cent for it.
Stereogum this morning revealed the new ad for Nokia Smartphones India, which just so happens to directly rip off pretty much everything except the vocals from the London’s trio’s ‘VCR’. The comments both on the Youtube page and Stereogum are already noting the likenesses, but as some have pointed out, a few tweaks is often all a hack music composer has to do to avoid getting sued.
Advertising companies often try to get out of paying artists what they deserve by commissioning a song that sounds almost exactly the same as the original but on different instruments (or in a different key) which means they are only up for publishing royalties at best. It’s a disturbing trend noticed most recently by Sigur Ros, who wrote an damning expose on how many different companies were trying to nick their vibe including Sony, Coca-Cola and even state governments.
No word from Nokia on whether they paid The xx for the rights to use the track (and let’s face it, ad synchs are where a lot of the cash is for artists these days), but we’re judging by their silence almost a week after dropping the commercial that the answer is no.