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What Your Content Marketing Can Learn from the Beastie Boys

Beastie-Boys-Pauls-Boutique-cover[Editor’s note: Happy Holidays! This week, the editorial team at Content Marketing Institute wanted to share some of the best content marketing blog posts we’ve seen from our CMI Consultants. Today’s post originally appeared on Michael Weiss’ figure18 blog, On May 4, 2012.]

Today we lost a great man; a great storyteller; a great content strategist. Adam Yauch, aka MCA, co-founder of the groundbreaking rap trio, the Beastie Boys, lost his battle with cancer.

He was only 47.

It gives me pause because I grew up with the Beastie Boys. Anyone in their 40s remembers the first time they heard “Fight For Your Right.” The Beastie Boys did more for rap and rock-n’-roll than most people realize. Yes, they were three Jewish rappers from New York, and as a fellow MOT (member of the tribe) I idolized them. They broke down barriers and accomplished things that most musicians dream of. And happily, Adam was alive to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame last month.

All Beastie Boys albums were chock full of great stories, rhymes that made my mother cringe, and amazing music. From “Licensed To Ill” all the way to “Hot Sauce Committee Part 2,” MCA, Ad-Rock ,and Mike D pushed the limits of rap as much as they could while they blurred the lines of race and musical genres.

Now that I am 43 and a marketer, I can say with confidence that the Beastie Boys are amazing content marketers. They have a huge fan base, sell incredible amounts of merchandise, made some of the greatest MTV videos ever, and were a brand unto themselves. Yet, as a CMI Consultant, I can also see that they were masters of repurposing content.

I talk with clients all the time about repurposing their content. Why create new content when you can rewrite/reuse old content? Take an old white paper and turn it into three blog posts; take a relevant blog post from 12 months ago, write a new title and repost; put a presentation deck on SlideShare. We don’t do this because we are lazy, we do it because we are targeting new audiences or simply need to retell a story.

The Beastie Boys did this better than any other artist in history — especially on their seminal album, “Paul’s Boutique.” Ask any Beastie Boys afficionado and they will agree. Some call it their “Sergeant Pepper’s.”

How is a rap album a great example of content marketing? Aside from the lyrics and a few beats, there is not one piece of original music on the entire album. In the music industry it is called “sampling,” and back in the ’80s some frowned upon it because it was equated to stealing.

The Beastie Boys weren’t stealing — they were paying homage to their favorite artists and influences. They had favorite songs that they wanted to rap to — it was as simple as that. That is what makes the album so incredible! I urge you all to go listen to it today and marvel at how complex the music is. I think so many love this album because of subconscious familiarity with the songs. You will constantly recognize song clips throughout.

Let me put it in perspective. They repurposed:

  • The Beatles
  • James Brown
  • The Eagles
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Steve Miller Band
  • Sly and The Family Stone
  • Funkadelic
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Alice Cooper
  • The Sugarhill Gang
  • …and the list goes on (you can see more here).

It’s a very sad day for those that grew up in the ’80s. We lost a man that influenced me through music, rhymes, and video. As a young man, Adam Yauch made me laugh and dance. As an adult, he still makes me laugh and dance, but now I recognize him as a great storyteller and content strategist. Rest in peace Adam.

For more creative inspiration from content marketing innovators, read CMI’s Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples.