It’s safe to assume that the mouths of wizening hipsters across the country dropped open with astonishment when they heard “Mind Your Own Business,” a relatively obscure, 40-year-old song by short-lived British post-punk quintet Delta 5, blasting from their TVs when a new Apple ad aired during the NBA play-ins.
The song was the first single by Delta 5, which grew out of the late ‘70s Leeds University art-school scene that spawned post-punk luminaries like Gang of Four and the Mekons. Unusually, the group had two bassists, and the song is built around a driving beat, throbbing bassline (oddly reminiscent of the Slits’ cover of “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” released around the same time), stabs of grating, Gang of Four-like guitar and chanted, in-your-face vocals. The group achieved some indie acclaim in the U.K. and U.S., but split in 1981 after a lukewarm response to its debut album, “See the Whirl.”
However, the song and the group acquired a cult following over the years, with a handful of indie covers and occasional airplay on alternative radio, and a compilation was released in 2006 on the long-running indie label Kill Rock Stars — which is essentially how the song landed in Apple’s “Privacy on iPhone” ad, which dropped Thursday.
The spot was placed by Terrorbird Media, whose sync licensing department was started by Lauren Ross — who began her career as an intern at Kill Rock Stars before branching into licensing and joining Terrorbird.
“‘Mind Your Own Business’ has been one of my favorite songs, ever since Kill Rock Stars reissued a Delta 5 compilation while I was working there,” she tells Variety. “The song has a wonderfully deadpan sass to it and features one of my favorite basslines ever. Our team knew this would be the perfect song for an upcoming Apple campaign, given Apple’s recent emphasis on privacy. All of us at Terrorbird and Kill Rock Stars were thrilled to see it materialize, as was the band!”
She was quick to credit Media Arts Lab, an agency that works often with Apple, for the ad’s concept and execution — “We just provided the music. They did a phenomenal job editing picture to music and music to picture,” she adds.
“Mind Your Own Business” has gotten a couple of synchs in recent years — on Netflix’s “Sex Education” and the BBC’s “The A Word” — but as artists from Feist to Lizzo and Tones & I can attest, an Apple ad is a different story. A rep for Kill Rock Stars confirmed to Variety that the band holds the song’s copyright, approved the use and “they will be getting paid.”
“This is part of what I love so much about sync licensing,” Ross concludes. “Generally, there is no expiration date for musical relevance. Whether it’s a new release or a song by an inactive band, if the song tells the right story at the right time, it’s going to stick.”