"Selling Out" - Learn what it means and use the term properly, please

To every pretentious know-it-all (this isn’t aimed at anyone here) who keeps talking about which musicians have “sold out”, at least learn what that means before you talk.

Just because a formerly obscure band suddenly finds fame without compromising their style or values, this does not mean they have sold out. It means they have become successful. I know you’re very happy to be able to easily rattle off the names of ten bands no one’s EVER heard of before when someone asks you what music you listen to. But this doesn’t make you special or superior to everyone else. It just makes you pretentious and annoying.

Just because a band or artist appears in or lets a company use one of their songs in a commercial, this does not necessarily mean they’ve sold out. Now, if they have come right out and said that they hate commercialism and would never stoop so low as to hock crap on T.V., then they’ve probably sold out to make that Ford commercial. And if you hate commercialism so much, what do you say when your record label wants to promote your album? “Sorry, we’d prefer to remain penniless and keep our day jobs at Cinnabon so we can stay true to our ideals and not sell out.”? Yeah, that’s nice. I’d try to get some exposure so maybe being a musician could be my only job some day.

Keep in mind here that professional musicians do this for a living. They get paid to make music. How is that so different from saying, “Sure, you can use our song we’ve already recoded in that Mitsubishi commercial. More exposure for us!”?

If a band that used to make their own kind of music, ska for example, decides they want to be super-rich and starts making crappy pop because that’s what sells, they’ve probably sold out.

If a sweet young girl lets her record label dress her up like a crack whore to sell more records, she’s their puppet and while she may have a soul, she certainly doesn’t have a spine.

It doesn’t count as selling out if they started that way. The Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, and any other fabricated-by-a-record-label band is incapable of selling out. You have to have ideals to abandon in the first place.

If you use “sell out” as a shorthand term for any band or artist you don’t happen to like, stop that right now. You’re only embarassing yourself.

Thank you for reading and have a lovely day.

Kudos on the ranting. This thread might provide some entertainment: Please help me to be pretentious!!

Maybe you can out-snark the know-it-alls.


Can we make this a sticky in Cafe Society?

On behalf of sellouts everywhere, I must mention that we prefer the term “buying in”.

A poet, Reeves, once said “Am I sell-out because I sold out?”

I happen to like several relatively unknown artists. When people ask me my favorite bands or singers, I list what I like, fairly regardless of popularity.

Granted, it can be pretentious and annoying if people make efforts to show off that they like non-mainstream music, but that isn’t always the case. Take it on a case-by-case basis.

That’s why you’d be a sell-out.

Another aspect of a song being used in a commercial:

Sometimes the band has abosolutely no say in the matter. The label owns the song. So long as they pay royalties to the proper people, they are within their legal rights to do what they want.

I don’t understand why people think that it’s only the artists like Backstreet boys or SpiceGirls that are fabricated. All artists and bands are fabricated, or have an image which is fabricated to some degree. Some images are fabricated by the people who work at the label and some are fabricated by the artists themselves.

Anyone who is getting paid to make music by a record company has sold out to some degree. That’s the nature of the business. Just being signed to a label will mean some degree of compromise of the artists’ style or values. At the end of the day the band hopes that you will buy their product and that’s why it’s called the ‘music business’.

Obscure bands are no exception. They are affected by and involved in a lot of the same commercialism that the Backstreet Boys are, it just happens on a much smaller level. This makes it appear as if they somehow have more integrity or better ideals than the BS Boys but really they don’t. It’s all the same business.

“One likes to believe in the freedom of music
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity”
-Rush, The Spirit of Radio

I think there’s a fallacy at work in the OP. It’s not so much the ‘selling out’ that makes the music poor but the attitude behind it.

Honest music is where you find it. Even commerically driven studio music can be worthwhile. The Monkees proved that with a string of amazingly catchy and fun pop songs while never pretending to be anything else.

But a band that’s solely motivated by commerical forces while proclaiming themselves above such things or ‘for the revolution’ or ‘just about the music, man’ or some such shows real contempt for both their art and those buying it.

And art with contempt in it shows to the thoughtful listener. Sadly, most of the teenage record-buying public aren’t yet discriminating.

That’s exactly the attitude the OP is talking about Jonathan. Who cares what the artist’s attitude or image is, as long as I like the music? Would the Monkees’ songs be any less catchy and fun if they had pretended to be above commercialism? No, they wouldn’t.

The “thoughtful listener” is often a pretentious twit.

I do. And having heard your thoughts on the subject, I can conclude that you are ignorant and I am better than you. I realize this might frustrate you. I understand. Sometimes I see beautiful people or rich people and wish I were beautiful and rich too. Alas, I am not. I do, however, have taste in music which you clearly lack. Like a beautiful person gets used to ugly people calling them vain or a rich person gets used to poor people calling them greedy, I am used to hearing people without taste call me a pretentious know-it-all. That’s fine… your obvious lack of discernment means I can safely ignore your conclusions about my good taste.

You and I have the same ears, but I hear more. Your attempts at appreciation are to me like watching a slug try and enjoy television. Yes, you are to me a slug of music. Me, a gifted aesthete, trying to explain my gift of musical appreciation to you, cretinous slug, would be like pouring salt on you, pointless and cruel annihilation that while truthfully somewhat entertaining for me is ultimately childish. So I won’t do it. No, don’t thank me. Not having to cleanse myself of the rank ichor from your blown mind is thanks enough.

Now I am going to listen to a series of albums by artists you have not heard of and couldn’t find releases by even if you wanted to. Maybe you can go and listen to FM radio or something… remember to tune it to a station though. You look silly pumping your fists in the air when it’s just static. If you can’t tell the difference, come and get me and I will take a break from understanding complex beauty and hold the hose for a minute while you wallow in your musical filth.


Funniest thing I’ve read today.

'Course, it’s not even noon.

Uhh…hazel, that was a joke, right? Funny if it was. Otherwise you really come off like a prick.

I agree that if the music is good I don’t care what the attitude behind it is. I have been studying music since I was about 9. I am 25 now. So, yeah, I do know what I’m talking about. I judge music on its artistic merit, nothing else. Often, of course, the attitude behind the music will affect its artistic merit, but not always.

I don’t think that everyone who listens to obscure music is pretentious. I like some bands that very few people have heard of (Avoid One Thing, the Highland Rovers, the Reilly Clan). I don’t think that everyone who listens to popular music is an ignorant slug with no taste. Cause there’s some popular music that’s good too (U2, Sting, Mighty Mighty Bosstones). But if you’re the kind of person who only likes 12-tone music because nobody else does, you’re just being silly. Though, if you like the sound of every note on the keyboard being played in seemingly random order with no regard for rhythm or key, more power to you.

And there’s some music I like where I don’t so much like the artist. I love Sinatra’s music, but in person he was apparently just self-centered, rude, and awful to be around.

I think maybe fabricated was the wrong word. How about manufactured? Those bands I listed were put together by record labels with the express purpose of making music that will sell well to the masses. I don’t usually like the music made by groups of -as Giles put it - “singers chosen for their ability to dance.” Again, if you like this stuff, enjoy. It’s a free country.

I stand by my OP. Sure, some people sell out when they’re signed to a label. A lot of them don’t. There are more and more independant labels put together by artists who had problems with the label to which they were signed. Those indy labels will then try to do it right, sign people who are good, and then not mess with that.

And I know this is the Pit…sorry, the Fucking Pit, but being rude like that shows that you’re not here to discuss things. If you’re just here to insult people, I really don’t think you belong on message boards.


Posted by jonathan Chance:

::Cough:; Avril Lavigne::Cough::

So where does that leave REM? Early on, they made a big deal about how much they hated MTV and how they would never make music videos. Next thing you, they’re winning the fucking Video the Year award.

That was a bit silly, wasn’t it.

I agree with everything the OP said…almost.

Letting your songs be used in commercials is selling out and I fucking hate it, hate it, hate it! Situations in which the use of the song isn’t the artist’s choice are unfortunate, but I think that letting someone else actually own your song and do whatever they want with it against your will is the very definition of selling out.

Good music evokes strong mental images. Everyone responds differently to music and they all have their own emotions and memories associated with songs. A sappy love song might make you sigh wistfully and think of an old girlfriend, for example.

When music is used in commercials and you see these commercials enough times, your old mental images and impressions of the songs can get hijacked and replaced with visions of crappy consumer goods. “Baba 'O Reilly” by the Who used to evoke strong emotions in me. Now it just makes me think of SUVs spinning around in a field.

I won’t stop listening to an artist just because he lets his song be used in a commercial, but I do lose a certain amount of respect for him, and the particular song is often ruined for me forever. I guess not everyone is like this, but I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.

Perhaps a Bill Hicks quote is in order. I’m not quite as vehement as he was about this, but I love the quote:

No one is ever going to admit, even to themselves, that they like a band simply because they want to feel superior or just 'cause no one else does, so what’s the point of railing about it? We can scream about these mythical scenesters until the sun goes down, but it’s not gonna change anything. We’re never gonna know just why someone else likes a band–even if we find it impossible to believe they could like the music, someone obviously does or it wouldn’t be out there. Just a pet peeve of mine.

As for the whole selling out thing: the whole argument is tired, tired, tired. I agree with the OP, sort of–I’m so damn sick of the term being thrown about. However, a certain amount of artistic integrity is important to me as well. If you don’t care about that, good for you. It’s certainly all up to you. I also would have to agree with the music-used-in-commercials thing–I hate it, for all the reasons mentioned above. I’m not sure if I’d use the word sell-out, just because it’s so exasperatingly cliche, but I definitely don’t think it’s cool. I think if we just got rid of the world “sell-out” altogether the world’d be a better place.

I will conclude with some rather defensive lyrics from Lagwagon, poor guys:

But now you’re a D.J. and preaching that hype
“Corporate rock sucks,
You know, college radio enlightens you.”
It’s supposed to serve as a means to expose new bands,
without prejudice, but it makes no sense
Safe harbor for the underground
'til the alternative becomes the popular sound
The bands are good 'til they make enough cash,
to eat food and get a pad
Then they’re sold out and their music is cliche
Because talent’s exclusive to bands without pay