Is It Possible For A Band To Sell Out Anymore?

image from allthefestivals.files.wordpress.com "While we might be irked that our favorite band has sold a song to VW or McDonald's, we can instantly decontextualize and remove that song from its annoying commercial counterpart. When we don't buy full albums anyway, when we don't care about album sequence (which is all about intention) or look at the band's artwork or the label they're on (again, all intentional decisions), and when all of the songs we want are free-floating in the ether untethered, then advertisements aren't a source or means of "selling out." Instead, they're the new radio.

So, is it possible for a musician or band to sell out anymore? Probably. I think the bigger question is, why do we no longer care?"

– author and musician Carrie Brownstien of Sleater-Kinney on NPR's Monitor Mix

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  1. I’ve been writing about this idea for a long time now. Personally, I don’t believe that selling out is relevant anymore. If people are saying you’ve sold out, it simply means that you are making it in the most competitive business in the world.
    Bands do not sell out anymore, they simply create a means to an end. People upset over their favorite bands songs being used in commercials should look at that bands ability to record new albums, tour extensively and provide their fans with a great experience overall.
    Please feel free to check out this link to my blog and my thoughts on another theory regarding selling out and the movies: http://www.truthaboutmusic.me/2009/03/selling-out-and-movies.html

  2. Honestly, who has the right to call a band a “sell out”? The guy who downloads illegal torrents? Some obscure fan in the middle of bumf*ck Iowa, who doesn’t understand the inner working of the music business?
    With dwindling CD sales, and in many cases, poor concert attendance, a band does what it can to survive! Personally, I wouldn’t care if Motorhead licensed a track to ‘Dancing With The Stars’, as long as it was a good song, and the band made enough money to record another album.

  3. The concept of selling out has always been retarded and usually limited to music purists. If you agree that music is just content (with emotional components) and bands are brands (like any sports athlete) then advertising/sponsors go hand in hand with brands. (and rhymes too)

  4. I never understood this, fans that get upset when the band they have been following and supporting finally gets to the point where they can pay bills and eat by making (and selling) music…

  5. OK so if Radiohead allow their music to be used on a MacDonalds or a Coke advert they haven’t sold out?
    Surely ‘selling out’ is more to do with ethics than simply making money, and as my example shows, it’s all relative to the size of the band and what they stand for (if anything).
    I can’t wait for Rage Against The Machine not to sell out by letting Killing In The Name Of be used on promotional videos for the armed forces in exchange for money from the military.
    If a presidential campaign wanted to use your song and you didn’t believe in that candidate’s policies, would you allow them to use your music for cash?
    Or on the other hand if you took money from a brand which was ‘cool with the kids’ but known to everyone who read news blogs that they have an appalling human rights right and environmental record, would that not also be selling out?
    Whether its for five bucks or five million bucks, it’s the backing / endorsing of a product, cause or belief which is the key issue and not the money.
    This is why on the flipside many brands find it so hard to sponsor bands individually – it can tarnish their brand with stuff deemed bad for the company in question should the bands do things that don’t fit in with the sponsors image.
    It’s also why some brands like Jaeger and Southern Comfort find alignment with the music industry and get quite specific with which bands they sponsor.
    Although musicians need sponsorships and brands need music, we are in the era where saying ‘Well I didn’t know’ or ‘It’s out of my hands’ is simply not acceptable. Now that bands and artists have more control than ever over what happens with their music and more of them are in direct contact with the brands themselves, they have more accountability. Blaming a manager or record company for doing something you claim not to understand but pocketing the cash anyway could be disastrous for an act in these days of transparency should the story ‘leak’.
    To put it bluntly – there’s still a huge amount of damage an artist or band can do to itself by ‘selling out’ for inappropriate reasons and causes.
    Right then. I’m now off to see how good our ‘Destroy’ song looks against this baby seal ‘Cub Club’ TV commercial which an unknown sponsor is going to pay us a fortune for to sell his new patented bludgeoning device. Don’t tell anybody though. It’s fair game, surely?

  6. I think selling out is just recontextualized these days. Its no longer selling a song to a VW add, because those ads are actually looking for good music now! the modern equivalent to “selling out” is compromising your sound to play at a festival or to get on letterman or to get tour support from an agency or label (*cough,cough* kings of leon *cough, cough*).

  7. The reality of songs being used in commercials is that the band rarely find out until after the fact, and if they object to the usage, they’d have to take legal action to stop it. So, regardless of whether the audience think a band have sold out, they usually haven’t.
    NZ band Crowded House once had a song used by Chile’s phone company in the days Pinochet was in charge. The only thing they could do to counter it, was donate those royalties to Amnesty International’s campaign against the Pinochet regime. It’s a positive response to a negative impression and worth any band’s while to keep in mind.

  8. Selling out is all about perception, not any realities.
    So-called “fans” who are quick to point the finger and turn their backs on their beloved artists simply enjoyed being among the first to “discover” said artists. Once they feel that uniqueness of the act has become lost amongst the masses, they lose interest and move on.
    People buying Black Eyed Peas albums in 2009 are not the same people who saw Black Eyed Peas rock small clubs and break-dancing sans-Fergie back in 2000 (obviously this is a broad generalization). BEP have found a way to grow as a successful act in this highly competitive business.
    At the end of the day, as long as the artists are happy with the direction their careers have taken, “selling out” isn’t a term worth a damn.

  9. Seriously, anybody with a brain can conjure up an extreme scenario to back their case. I believe in it’s most general and basic form, “selling out” is to “musicians and fans”, as “leaving the hood” is to Thugs. Everyone throws it around like it’s a bad thing, but when it involves your well being (AND IN SOME CASES YOUR FAMILY’S WELL BEING), a responsible decision is definatly in order.
    The key word being “Responsible” and not STUPID, like the Rage scenario. If a band makes a bad career move, I say let em weed themselves out. There’s plenty more waiting to jump. But unless you got mommy and daddy backing your funds, or you just happen to be business minded (which most musicians are not), then it’s crucial that you find a sponsor, be it you brother-in-law or a fortune 500+.
    let’s all stop splitting hairs about this.

  10. Is it possible for a band to focus on art’s connection to self-affirmation, health, cultural identity and spiritual truth any more?

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