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

This thread makes me laugh.

I don’t mean in a snarky, superior way, but in a more I guess, tolerant way.

Disclaimer: My favorite band is Rush.

These guys are insanely (compared to contemporaries such as Aeorsmith and Kiss) popular without nearly the exposure on radio.

Their “breakthrough” album was 2112, which was a pissed off reaction of the band members to Mercury Records’ dragging in “consultants” to shape their “image and sound” in order to, apparently, protect Mercury’s investment. Basically, these guys flipped off their label (musically) and “made it.”

Ok. Then, they got a rather large following grooving on their rather quirky interpretation of “hard rock.”

Then come the 80’s. Synthesisers. Rush starts using them as a large part of their sound, and starts to pare down the length of their songs, because they are (paraphrasing) “tired of writing 20 minute songs.”

A lot of former Rush fans scream, “Sellout!”

Uh huh :rolleyes:.

Same three musicians (with an occaisional guest appearance), different producer(s), though. In interviews, and on records, and most importantly, in concert, an apparent dedication to giving their audiences (not necessarilly fans, an important distiction) the best, most honest performance they are capable of. I’ve seen them many times. I own all their recordings. I fumble through their bass and six string guitar parts with abandon, for the purpose of entertaining my daughter, myself, and the spiders in my basement.

The idea of “sellout” is a joke to me. Some musicians do what they do merely to make a buck. So what? Some musicians are fortunate enough to get wealthy doing what they love without compromising their principles. I know which ones get added to my collection, because they talk (or sing) to me.

Music or artistic snobbery is such a silly and petty vice. Those that indulge in it can do way better with little effort. :wink:

So then by your definition, is every artist who has recorded on a major label is a sellout?

I kinda like N*Sync. Not their music, but what they do is what I would do if I had the money. Go into space! Be an extra in Episode Two!

Damn, man, and they got harshed for it. Way I see it, they’re living every SF fan’s dream.

When an artist enters into a contract that allows a record company to use or manipulate the content of their songs in ways that they don’t approve of, then yes, they’ve sold out.

Lately I have a hard time understanding the idealization of being able to live entirely for your art.

Making music should not be a job. Making enough money off of your record sales, etc., to live without any other income is a cosmic privelege. Believing that it is somehow an entitlement is what causes young bands to sign their entire futures over to massive record labels that couldn’t give a fuck about them.

If your deal with your big record label involves giving up any amount of your decision-making power concerning the future direction of your band, you have sold out. I like plenty of bands who have sold out. There are degrees to selling out. But changing anything about your approach in exchange for the monetary support of a group of strangers is selling out.

The music industry would be a lot better off, and making music would be a lot more fun, if more bands did keep their day jobs while they made music. You don’t have to work at Cinabon. You don’t have to do anything degrading. There are a slew of office jobs that will afford you the freedom and monetary independence to direct most of your energies into your art. I’d rather have a job than a label. At least Manpower doesn’t tell you how to spend your paycheck.

Yeah, I’m hikacking my own thread. Try to guess which thread this is, sort of:

Notes from an Album-free Band

So the guys and I have formed a band. We’re calling ourselves The Doppler Effect. It’s great so far, playing gigs, doing covers. But no sooner had we announced that we were starting a band than people started asking, “So when should we expect the first album.” Whoa, album? We only just started. And why does everyone assume that just because we formed a band we have to instantly start squirting out albums?

We don’t know if we ever want to record an album. I mean, the music industry is in such a state of flux, we’re worried about losing our artistic integrity. What if they take one of our songs and use it in a commercial? We don’t even know if we have what it takes to promote an album. I mean, all those long nights. We like being able to go on a vacation at a moment’s notice. If we always have tour dates, how will we have any time just for us?

And no one lets it go at that. You can’t just tell people you’re not going to record an album. Like you’ve personally offended them that you’re not doing your share. They just say, “You’re such a good band. I bet you’d record a great album.” or, “Oh, you’ll change your mind once that clock starts ticking. Tick tock.” And they smile and nod as if we’re dumb kids who don’t know what we’re doing. Really, we have discussed this and we don’t feel that recording an album is right for us.

Why is it any of their fucking business what we do with our band? Why do they have to ask, “Are you unable to record, or is it the guys?” And even if you do record one album, that’s not enough for them. They instantly start asking, “When are you going to do a follow-up?” God! Like one album isn’t enough!

And now my mom’s in on it. She keeps calling me and asking when I’m gonna provide her with a recording of ten to thirteen of our songs. This woman won’t leave me alone!

So a band is a sell out because you are too weak-minded to keep your own impressions of a song? Riiiiiiiiiiight.

Honestly, I can’t even remember most of the songs that are used in commercials. And certainly no commercial has replaced my memories of old musical assocations.

If a band decides to allow their song to be used in a commercial, good for them. It doesn’t affect me. If a band signs on to a major label and loses the rights to their song, again, if that’s what they want to do, it won’t affect my appreciation for their music one iota. And if a band wants to stay indie, again, good for them if that’s what they want. It won’t affect my appreciation for them one bit and it certainly won’t make me think more of them if they suck.

And Bill Hicks is obviously a smug, pretentious prick. And if you feel the same way, then you probably are too.

In a perfect world, bands would keep the rights to their songs, but this isn’t a perfect world. Look at it this way. You’re in a band. Some record executive likes your band and wants to sign you. Are you going to think: “Fame! Fortune! No more washing dishes at IHOP!” or are you going to think: “Hmm. Better make sure I negotiate this contract right so no one’s using my songs in a flying scooter ad twenty years down the road!” And then there’s your bandmates. What if they’re all happy about the fame and the fortune and the record contract, and you’re the asshole sitting in the corner bitching about artistic integrity? I think it’s expecting a lot of a band to think that, at the moment where all their craziest dreams look like they’re about to come true, they’re going to sit down and nitpick about rights.

Besides, if anyone who signs away the rights to their music is a sellout, then the Beatles are sellouts. And anyone who genuinely believes the Beatles sold out is probably too pretentious to be put up with.

Well fucking good for you. I’m glad you’re such a strong-willed person that the multibillion-dollar advertising industry doesn’t affect you in any way. Unfortunately most people are not that way. Otherwise, they wouldn’t even use songs in commercials. What would be the point?

And I still stand by my assertion that letting people mutilate your art because they think it will be more profitable, or using your art against your wishes to sell things is selling out. How can it not be?

I concede that it is very difficult for an artist to become successful without relenquishing some creative control, and I think that’s a crying fucking shame. It’s one of the plethora of reasons that I hate the major label recording companies so damn much.

I’ll defend them. They have LONG complained about the lack of airplay they’ve gotten. Hell, their one album that did get serious airplay (Out of Time) even opens with a song about how much the radio sucks.

Yes, they do have a huge contract with a major record label, but I think their willingness to massively change their style from album to album is a great example of them doing what they want.

When I think of “selling out”, I primarily think of Blink 182 and Smash Mouth. I mean, didn’t the lead singer of Smash Mouth brag that he deliberately wrote “All Star” as a song to be played in commercials and at sports events?

This is an interesting conversation, and is along the lines of some stuff I’ve been thinking about with regards to selling out as a writer. My current writing professor is a 27 year old punk rocker who is immensely talented. He is also vehemently anti-sell-out and “principled” in the area of independent art. This is fine with me. If that’s what he wants and how he wants to get his work out there, more power to him.

I, however, am 32 years old (no punk rock image here, though) and I have some different views on selling out and principles. I’m starting to wonder if the idea of principles and selling out is actually working against the anti-sell-out. In the end, doesn’t it, in some manner, abandon the artistic world (including the market) to the very machine anti-sell-outs rue so much? I mean, doesn’t anyone want to fight the powers that be instead of giving up and settling for what they can get outside of the system?

I haven’t really fleshed these ideas out very much. I just started thinking about them, actually. Me, I’m kind of ready to sell out in the common (albeit incorrect, as noted in the OP) use of the word, which is to say, I’m ready to make some money on this writing gig! And I have some very cool ideas for selling out (if I have to). For instance, conquering the Christain reading market and donating tons of money to planned parenthood, the ACLU and various other organizations that piss off all the right people, as well as opening a publishing house for independents–to give them more market exposure. If I were a musician, I’d consider selling out and funneling the money I took back from the corrupt industry to musicians so they wouldn’t have to sign those awful contracts and lose creative control just to put bread on the table.

Anyway, as I said, just some random, incomplete thoughts.

Did Stipe ever say anything about changing his mind on the video thing? I could accept your defense if he had rescinded his original comments.

As for the Smash Mouth song: I wouldn’t consider this a sell-out if he said he wrote the song for financial gain right up front.

Of course, there are those who think all music should be free.

I am not one of those people. If you have a talent that I enjoy, I don’t mind paying YOU. It’s the slimy corporations that i don’t like giving money to. I understand that manufacturing isn’t cheap, but the fact that CD prices, for example, haven’t changed (essentially) in 20 years is a bit much to swallow.

I disagree with the OP only in the case of selling a song for use in a commercial. There is no reason other than money to do this, it degrades the song and the band, and it’s pretty much the fucking definition of selling out.

Absolutely hysterical post, hazel-rah.

So, if we can’t call crassly commercial, socially engineered bands (NSYNC et. al.) “sell outs”, what catchy and denigrating phrase(s) can we use instead?

Hmmm… A catchy and dednigrating phrase…

Insta-bands? No need to spend years struggling, no need to try to find your sound. Just throw cheesy synth backings with 4 to 5 singers chosen for their ability to dance, and instant band!

If you have any sense of yourself as an artist, the idea that someone else would own the rights to your materialshould be repugnant enough to you now that “twenty years down the road” doesn’t even have to cross your mind for you to know that the contract is a crock of shit.

Look, I don’t personally use the term “selling out.” And I like plenty of bands who have to some extent sold their souls to a record company. However I do hold that it is impossible to hold on completely to your integrity if an outside entity that is interested solely in making money off of you has any say whatsoever in the direction your music takes.

Also if you half the brain God gave a chipmunk I’m sure you can find a better job than washing dishes at IHOP.

No, you don’t.

Oh yeah, there is just so much complex beauty in Suck My Ass It Smells.:rolleyes:

I think it has mostly to do with him getting over his extreme shyness. When they were promoting South Central Rain and played it on Letterman’s old show, Stipe hid behind Peter and Mike when Dave came over to talk after the song. And even when they did start doing videos, they at first refused to actually appear in them personally. But now they have no problems with any of that

Hard to tell what you mean by " letting someone else actually own your song." Licensing a song for a commercial is “letting someone else actually rent your song.” No loss of ownership is necessary.

Or it’s still possible that the artist, through naivete, didn’t realize that they never owned the song to begin with. Musicians are better now than they used to be at reading contracts, but they’re still not perfect.

Third and final possibility, the artist is dead broke and in debt. How does this happen? Record companies are really good at making this happen. When the poor soul has nothing left but his publishing rights, he is forced to sell them.

Not that I think the Who are going broke, but it’s certainly possible that Dirty Vegas needs cash (They’re hip, but are they selling quintuple platinum? Is their record company screwing them?)

I think the problem is that pop music’s fans think they share ownership of the music with its creators. That’s its strength, but it has a nasty downside when your favorite rock star needs cash.

I think he means giving the rights to the record company to do with as they please. He’s talking about the record company owning the songs, not the people who make the commercials.