This isn't what anybody needed. We heard two weeks ago that Matador had recalled physical copies of Car Seat Headrest's Teens of Denial on the eve of its release because Cars' Ric Ocasek didn't approve songwriter Will Toledo's playful use of "Just What I Needed" in the song “Just What I Needed/Not What I Needed." Now, the label has put a price tag on the whole snafu: 10,000 destroyed vinyl records at a cost of at least $50,000.
"This is definitely an unprecedented situation," Matador head of sales Rusty Clarke told The A.V. Club. "We’ve never had to actually recall an album from retail before. We’d had it up for pre-order since March, so it had accrued a fair number of pre-orders at iTunes and Amazon and Google Play."
Matador had negotiated for the song's use months ago, only to find out a week before the album's release that the publishing house involved was not authorized to grant the license and that Ric Ocasek had refused the use. In 48 hours, the band rerecorded the track (which, humour not lost on Toledo, is now called "Not What I Needed") so that it would make its May 20 digital release, but all physical copies would have to be destroyed.
The not-insignificant losses also reveal that, after decades of debate, an antiquated and pernicious view of sampling and reuse persists in the music industry. There's an automatic response, Toledo says, to protect — and perhaps profit from the protection of — intellectual property without even the slightest consideration for its intended use:
What the conversation revolves around is not the art itself at all, and that’s the only part of it that really seems wrong to me. I don’t think that Ric ever listened to the album or the song, which is the only part that really bothers me. He can do whatever he wants and it’s his right to do so. But I just hope that if I ever get to the point of being where he is, and a situation like this comes along, that my first reaction would still be, ‘Okay, well, what’s the song?’ I would want to listen to it first and see what, artist-to-artist, what’s going on, rather than it be my manager telling me they’re doing something bad, let’s sue them, and saying, ‘Okay, I’m mad now. I have no idea what the situation is, because it’s removed by many people from me, but that seems to be the situation here.’
Then again, maybe Ocasek just really hates the song.