justin bieber needs to say 'sorry' for his graffiti, warns san francisco

A city attorney sent a letter to the singer's camp, calling its 'Purpose' marketing campaign 'vandalism.'

by Emily Manning
29 December 2015, 5:55pm

Photography Alasdair McLellan

To Justin Bieber and his army of marketing minds, album promotion is an art — literally. Back in October, the singer teased the release of his highly anticipated fourth studio album by revealing 18 street art murals — one for each of Purpose's tracks — in cities from Stockholm to Sydney. And in case people missed the 20-foot tags on their local bodega walls, Bieber and company also spraypainted a less subtle message, "Justin Bieber, #Purpose, November 13," on sidewalks in various major cities. Almost two months (and over a million album sales) later, the stencils haven't been removed, and you better Belieb San Francisco is pissed.

After residents filed complaints that "they're tired of corporations taking advantage of weak civil penalties that don't curtail illegal promotion," Vulture reports, city attorney Dennis Herrera blasted Bieber's guerilla marketing campaign in a letter sent to Def Jam and Universal Music Group executives on Monday.

Cleverly titled "It's too late now to say sorry," Herrera's letter doesn't take aim at the "We Are" single mural installed by street artist RPES somewhere in the Bay Area. Instead, he argues that the sidewalk stencils should be considered punishable vandalism. The campaign "irresponsibly tells our youth that like-minded lawlessness and contempt for public property are condoned and encouraged by its beneficiaries, including Mr. Bieber and the record labels that produce and promote him," Herrera writes.

Of course, Bieber isn't the first artist to use sidewalk art to promote a release. In fact, most of those mysterious Aphex Twin symbol stencils — which elusively signaled the release of Syro, his first album in 13 years — that appeared in August 2014 are still visible throughout New York City.

Camp Bieber has yet to comment on the controversy, but they're runnin' out of time (oh-oh!). Herrera seeks "a proposal to resolve the full scope of wrongdoing and avoid civil litigation" from the label; otherwise, San Francisco could sue responsible parties up to $2,500 for each stencil as well as restitution. 

READ Justin Bieber's i-D cover profile


Text Emily Manning
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Grooming Florido Basallo at 901 Salon using Tarte Cosmetics
Photography assistance Lex Kembery, Matthew Healy, Simon Mackinlay
Production Nina Qayyum at Art Partner
Retouching Output

san francisco
Justin Bieber