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How Selling Out Saved Indie Rock
November 12, 2013 7:37 AM   Subscribe

"A generation ago, refusing these kinds of offers was a way for bands to telegraph where they stood, the sort of thing that showed their allegiance to the underground and their community... If someone in the independent-rock world thinks that this is bullshit, they should take a look at themselves. They’re doing the same thing; they’re writing albums that people stream 30 seconds of on fucking Pitchfork and then people are like, ‘Oh, I like your album.’”
posted by Kitteh (97 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I know I'm an old and cranky Gen-Xer, but I sincerely agree with that Bill Hicks rant about commercials and the artistic roll call. Sorry, kids! Enjoy your filthy lucre!
posted by entropicamericana at 7:48 AM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thanks old man! Enjoy streaming all of our music for free!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:50 AM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


I always thought the concept of "selling out" was a false flag operation designed to make all artists starve to death.
posted by The Whelk at 7:51 AM on November 12, 2013 [26 favorites]


Thanks old man! Enjoy streaming all of our music for free!

Exactly. Indie bands started "selling out" when we stopped "buying records"
posted by gwint at 7:52 AM on November 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


refusal to sell out; see 'Death'
posted by judson at 7:54 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Musicians get to eat and make more music I can enjoy?

[thinks]

I'm okay with that.

What, did you think your angsty teenage lyrics would herald a world revolution? No. It doesn't matter if you "sell out" or not. You're not going to change the world with your principled music.

You might, however, make lots of people happy, sad, engaged, excited, maudlin or whatever with your great music, if you can only afford to record it and someone will help you get it into people's ears. Corporations are a valid way of doing that.

However, using children's characters like Willy Wonka for advertising or products is anathema, and these people should be shot. I'm inconsistent, so sue me...
posted by alasdair at 7:55 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


As I understand it, Spoon makes a hefty percentage of their living this way.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:58 AM on November 12, 2013


The issue isn't the survival of the artists, it's the survival of an art form.
posted by Teakettle at 7:58 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's interesting to me that this article appears on Buzzfeed -- a site that seems to make it's hay with endless lists and random stuff just to get clicks, but then occasionally puts out nicely written and well researched, lengthy articles that qualify as actual journalism. Some parallels here between writing and music and "selling out."
posted by cubby at 7:59 AM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Anything that interferes with the megalomaniac self-regard of "indie rock" is fine with me.
posted by thelonius at 8:00 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If there was only a way to pay musicians for their music so they didn't have to chuck it to that Volkswagen ad...

Daydreaming aside, anyone else remember the Levi's ads that spawned Levi's greatest hits , so it actually turned into pressed vinyl/CD's? Babylon Zoo found an audience via that ad, and if I recall correctly their song wasn't sped up originally...
posted by dabitch at 8:00 AM on November 12, 2013


My Malaysian MIL quoted me a proverb when we moved overseas: "You must go where you can fill your rice bowl".

I have no problem with this; it pays the bills and they can continue to create music.
posted by arcticseal at 8:00 AM on November 12, 2013


Maybe the problem is that "making it big" has become the assumed goal (in the minds of audiences and musicians alike) and when you look at from a distance the only consistent winners are members of the music industry. I relish the idea of a music genre that can't be saved through big distribution because it is designed to be experienced in intimate and temporal closeness.
posted by dgran at 8:00 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it's sad that putting their music on advertisements is the only way for professional musicians to survive. I'm allowed think it's sad without having an alternative suggestion, right? It's sad that few pay for music recordings, and it's sad that your music must be damaged by association with a litany of shit advertisements. The modern world is making it really difficult to be counter-culture/anti-consumerist and still eat. Advertising is winning emphatically, and it's sad that we get angry at bands for accepting this system and it's also sad that we have to read long essays defending the new system.
posted by distorte at 8:01 AM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Thanks old man! Enjoy streaming all of our music for free!

Oh, don't fret, I don't listen to your music!
posted by entropicamericana at 8:02 AM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yet another reason to use AdBlock -- so you don't accidentally subsidize indie rock with your ad impressions.
posted by straight at 8:06 AM on November 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


so you don't accidentally subsidize indie rock

Coffee out nose!
posted by ian1977 at 8:07 AM on November 12, 2013


I don't disagree with the piece, but my follow-up question would be, "what about the bands that never get to a high-enough profile to be able to get involved with advertising." I don't know that you can say something's been "saved" when big chunks of its ecosystem still don't really exist.

But yeah, it's tough for me to condemn bands for taking money to survive, as long as it's reasonably clear that they're not changing their output to make it more attractive advertising-bait. Money and music's been a thorny thing forever.

lengthy derail about the Clash's admirable but massively self-destructive business practices deleted because who needs that
posted by COBRA! at 8:07 AM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it's sad that putting their music on advertisements is the only way for professional musicians to survive

Counterargument:

This allows bands to focus on making great music without having to necessarily dilute their sound or aim for the widest possible fanbase just to make a living. Selling records means you have to make records that lots and lots of people want to buy; on the other hand, if your primary income stream is jingles and ad-clips, you can be less concerned with whether your latest musical experiment will turn off a few fans and, barring the singles that lead to new jingle-opportunities, focus on artistic expression even if that means fewer, "better" fans.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:07 AM on November 12, 2013


This may seem like hair-splitting, but it also helps me swallow all of this song licensing that commercials are so much better-made than they used to be.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:08 AM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Honestly, selling a song to be in a commercial is almost the opposite of selling out as it has been under the existing system. Instead of listening to a guy from the record label who is telling you to change your songs to fit what they want, you're taking a song that you created yourself as part of the normal artistic process and selling it to someone else who likes the song itself. The incentives are all different, and you're being paid to do your art as you see fit, not to do what industry executives think will make them more money.

I don't see a huge difference between selling your song to one person for $100,000 and selling it to 100,000 people for $1, especially since the 100,000 people will be able to hear it either way.
posted by Copronymus at 8:08 AM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


I have so many mixed feelings on this topic. On one hand, I have no issues with a band getting their music out there through commercials and making a decent living any way they can. On the other, I resent when commercials strip away the vocals and otherwise mangle the song or its meaning for their purposes. I am still annoyed by Lemon Jelly being used to sell kitty litter, and am still furious about the Levi's attempt to sell jeans with the Dead Kennedy's song "Holiday in Cambodia."
posted by C'est la D.C. at 8:09 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


barring the singles that lead to new jingle-opportunities, focus on artistic expression

I see what you're saying, but surely aiming for the jingle-opportunities exerts much more pressure than conforming to fan expectations? After all, you can always develop new fans—fan bases are shifting amorphous entities—but advertisers are a much smaller, more homogenous, and probably more conservative master.
posted by distorte at 8:13 AM on November 12, 2013


"It's a virus. Artists are lining up to do ads. The money and exposure are too tantalizing for most artists to decline. Corporations are hoping to hijack a culture's memories for their product. They want an artist's audience, credibility, good will and all the energy the songs have gathered as well as given over the years. They suck the life and meaning from the songs and impregnate them with promises of a better life with their product." --Tom Waits
posted by entropicamericana at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


It's been so long since I last paid for music that I have no right to judge how a musician puts food on the table.


And I bet that applies to most people nowadays.
posted by ocschwar at 8:15 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


As Matt and Kim point out in the article, there are choices musicians can make about to whom they license their songs that can make the experience more or less comfortable. I mean, it's one thing to have your song used reverently in an artistically shot short film that's all about establishing a brand via mood. It's something else to have it used as a backing track for a generic shill piece in which mom explains why she gives her family product X.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:15 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


> This allows bands to focus on making great music

No, this allows bands to focus on making music that is suitable for advertising jingles. "Great music" and "30-second ad format" aren't really the same thing.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very glad that musicians are making money from their music. I admire the bands that have been successful in doing this with ads and if I could do this, I would. I was happy to hear "Little Fluffy Clouds" as a Volkswagen ad, and it hasn't negatively impacted the tune for me.

But it isn't going to fix "indie" rock - or any other form of music. (Indeed, I'd say that once your music is being used in commercials you have ceased to be "indie".) 95% of the money from this is going to go to the top 1% of bands - moreover, it's going to be spent on songs which are catchy (which is a good thing) and likely to offend no one (which is not).

What is needed to fix music is a sea change from music lovers: an acknowledgement that musicians need to be paid for their music.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:22 AM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


> It's been so long since I last paid for music that I have no right to judge how a musician puts food on the table.

Why DON'T you pay for music?

How do you justify it to yourself if you download someone's work that they explicitly did NOT want downloaded for free? "I can do it, so I will, and that makes it right?"
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:23 AM on November 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


The issue isn't the survival of the artists, it's the survival of an art form.

It's the survival of a certain kind of music that has particular dollar costs associated with producing and making it.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:24 AM on November 12, 2013


Music and film/TV seem like pretty natural, healthy partners. Music and commercials--well, it still sets my Gen X teeth on edge, too, but I can't say I begrudge anyone for doing what they have to to survive, and depending on the product, I'd be willing to do it. Selling out is definitely the wrong phrase for it, since most artists are doing this stuff in order to be able to continue making music.

"Selling out" literally means letting yourself be bought out of doing business, like when a start-up sells out to a bigger company and all its executives sail away on big giant golden sailboats. It's not selling out unless you stop making good music in return for the money (i.e., sell the store in the bargain).
posted by saulgoodman at 8:27 AM on November 12, 2013


I enjoyed this, thanks. When Black Iris picked up shop, my band inherited the building they were using for their recording studio. Their logo is still painted on a wall in the back lot at the new Scott's Addition Sound, aka the Yacht Cave.
posted by emelenjr at 8:27 AM on November 12, 2013


Yeah but ...not everyone is Tom Waits, a single man with no operating costs content to live a wandering minstrel lifestyle. The current climate in all art is the destruction of the middle class, the journeyman, the not super stars, people who may want to see thier kids on occasion or take a vacation. Being a musician has always been hard and the business has always been predatory, but maybe we can make it a little less awful by heaping scorn on people for wanting to make money doing thier job?

( except, of course, for Train and that awful hey soul sister song where they compare love to a hefty garbage bag cause Hefty paid them to name drop products which is both gross and dumb cause I don't want to associate garbage bags with love and/or shitty corporate house bands.)
posted by The Whelk at 8:29 AM on November 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I confess that I particularly love that the article was written by the Jessica Hopper, of Hit it or Quit It 'zine fame.
posted by Kitteh at 8:33 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure Tegan and Sara are a good example for the point the author is trying to make. They didn't just change up their business model to get the same music out to a wider audience; their latest album has a drastically more commercial sound (for better or for worse-- a lot of people really love their new LP).
posted by threeants at 8:33 AM on November 12, 2013


( except, of course, for Train and that awful hey soul sister song where they compare love to a hefty garbage bag cause Hefty paid them to name drop products which is both gross and dumb cause I don't want to associate garbage bags with love and/or shitty corporate house bands.)

What?? I want to read more about this, but then I feel I would be playing right into your viral marketing, Hefty blue hand. (sidenote: remember that James Brown hit, "Pop has got a brand new bag"? )
posted by mean square error at 8:35 AM on November 12, 2013


It's not selling out unless you stop making good music in return for the money (i.e., sell the store in the bargain).

The concern is that theoretically, as some have posited, you can produce both great music and songs for commercials, but that in practice money often has a distorting effect and exerts a pressure to create music that conforms to what advertisers want.

I'm with everyone else that musicians need to do what they have to do to survive in today's world, but I think it's a little naive to think that a close embrace of music by advertising won't affect the music. It probably won't even be a conscious decision, it will just be artists unconsciously making choices that are more commercial due to the system they're working in.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:36 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


> It's the survival of a certain kind of music that has particular dollar costs associated with producing and making it.

ALL music has "dollar costs" associated with producing and making it. Even if you're a solo guitarist/singer who never records, you still have to buy an instrument and get transportation to and from the show.

And the idea that the hundreds or even thousands of hours of practice you need to have under your belt before you perform has no opportunity cost is ridiculous. In a more leisurely time like the 60s, you could afford to work part-time and spend the rest of the time practicing but that's not possible these days except in limited circumstances. The time you spend practicing is time you could be spending working at something that actually makes money - to value this time at zero is economically unreasonable.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:36 AM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I agree that the flip side of this article is that some bands make music as bland and commercialized as possible in order to get in commercials, but it's not like shitty music is a new development. What is a new development is the rise of the Jingle Punks.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:41 AM on November 12, 2013


I would gladly "sell out" and have my music be in mustard ads or whatever. How do I sign up? I've spent way more money on musical equipment than I've made back performing in bands.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


not everyone is Tom Waits, a single man with no operating costs content to live a wandering minstrel lifestyle

Not that it has anything to do with this thread, but Tom Waits is married and has three kids.
posted by gwint at 8:45 AM on November 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


It must be nice to have the luxury to say "I'll prefer to make money off my art in this alternate fashion which, while perhaps less lucrative, is still available to me."

Want my music? For just about anything? My band name is in the profile. And as a matter of facet, today is the release date of my fifth album.

I'm playing a show here in the LA area tomorrow night. I doubt there will be more than a couple hundred dollars in sales any time soon. Considering that I'm writing this from my day job office, and we are talking about my FIFTH album, cries about death of the art form may be a bit premature.
posted by chimaera at 8:50 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


chimaera,

The problem that selling your music to advertisers is trying to solve is not a lack of audiences/sales/support/shows, its to monetize one's popularity. You can now be really popular, and really poor. Selling your music for commercials helps solve that problem.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:55 AM on November 12, 2013


Actually it's both Misanthropic. Bands recently have broken out because they've caught the attention of licensing hipsters who put them in a VW commercial or whatever. Getting a good licencing agent is way more important to an unknown band than getting on a major label or getting a review in Pitchfork.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:01 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The issue isn't the survival of the artists, it's the survival of an art form.

if there's ever been an issue where the nuance is everything, this is it.

I remember the trailer for Where The Wild Things Are that used Arcade Fire's Wake Up (before we all got a little tired of it) as its main driver. That ended up being better than the movie.

But then there's this ...

On the other, I resent when commercials strip away the vocals and otherwise mangle the song or its meaning for their purposes. I am still annoyed by Lemon Jelly being used to sell kitty litter, and am still furious about the Levi's attempt to sell jeans with the Dead Kennedy's song "Holiday in Cambodia."

Enough of which will so neuter the art form that there will no longer be any point in caring one way or another. The bad guys will truly have won. And call me paranoid but I'm pretty sure that's all part of the masterplan.
posted by philip-random at 9:06 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


chimaera: I liked your music! (And drop me a line if you're ever touring around New York City, I can book you in the very happening arts space where I curate such acts...)

But you aren't really in the target demographic being discussed here, which is "indie rock" (or perhaps just "rock in general"). From what I heard, you aren't a rock band - you don't have a live rhythm section, it's likely there's just one or two of you, and you can just stick everything you need in a knapsack or two, and go.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against this - indeed, that's what I do these days, because the costs and logistics of actually running a rock band are so hard. You're probably in exactly my category, "More or less affluent person who pursues music as a hobby."

That music can only go so far though. I saw two Brazilian bands the other day (Capsula and Os Mutantes) - Brazil is a place where you can actually make a living playing music. Os Mutantes in particular put on a mind-blowing show with six amazing musicians (and, I might add, NO prerecorded backing tracks, suck on that Animal Collective!) and I was in awe and envy.

You simply cannot attain that level of mastery and musicality doing music in your spare time after a demanding day job. Perhaps if you're young and an overachiever and your day job isn't that demanding, you can pull it off for a year or two and maybe move to the big time where you can work full-time on your music.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:16 AM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


For what is worth, I still pay for music whenever I am given that portion. The stuff I can't pay for has usually been deleted from an artists catalog long ago or otherwise never made available for purchase. But whenever something in that category is made available, I delete my free copy and buy the other.

I don't state this out of any sense of moral superiority just to point out that even with a bunch of people like me out in the world, bands all aren't putting food on the table. At some point, only Bieber will remain. Because all his fans pay.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:16 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Cue lupus's memail box getting flooded with mefite bands wanting to play his art space)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:24 AM on November 12, 2013


lupus_yonderboy -- thanks! If you like Cargo Cult, check out Vaporware: it's entirely different; the 2011 album is decidedly alt rock, complete with a full 5 piece live band when we played out, so that's where the indie rock is more applicable. I'm currently recording an EP/album hopefully done in 2014 which will be very long-form post-rock instrumental.
posted by chimaera at 9:24 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


> (Cue lupus's memail box getting flooded with mefite bands wanting to play his art space)

Well, it isn't "my" space, but I'm on the "board of directors" (they call it "Chef"). And ABSOLUTELY, please flood my memail box! (Or mail me at tom at swirly dot com.)

Silent Barn has an explicit mandate to book musically interesting bands that might be unpopular and difficult.

Plug: My next show there is going to be Blevin Blectum, Irene Moon and me on January 18, so please all come if you are around New York City on that day!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:28 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


chimaera: oh, coolness! If you need an electronic wind instrument player for any parts, do let me know... :-D
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:29 AM on November 12, 2013


It probably won't even be a conscious decision, it will just be artists unconsciously making choices that are more commercial due to the system they're working in.

Sure, there's definitely some potential for that. Trends can definitely be shaped by the commercial pressures. Pop singles once topped out at a little over three minutes in length essentially due to physical constraints of the audio storage media (7 inches). The economics have always influenced cultural output like music in profound ways.

Like how everyone now uses auto-tuner and compression to eliminate any last shred of authentic character or color from vocal performances. But there I go showing my Gen X roots again, looking for authenticity in something that's all artifice by definition.

(Damn. Now I wish I was still gigging so I could hit up lupus_yonderboy for a gig at his art space.)
posted by saulgoodman at 9:34 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Counterargument:

This allows bands to focus on making great music without having to necessarily dilute their sound or aim for the widest possible fanbase just to make a living. Selling records means you have to make records that lots and lots of people want to buy; on the other hand, if your primary income stream is jingles and ad-clips, you can be less concerned with whether your latest musical experiment will turn off a few fans and, barring the singles that lead to new jingle-opportunities, focus on artistic expression even if that means fewer, "better" fans.


People placing songs in commercials aren't on some altruistic trip where they're trying to support the arts and inspire creative innovation -- they want to sell products, and they use music that they think will do that based on its projected appeal to their target demographic. So of course it's still about making music that lots and lots of people will want to buy, even if they're buying it in a slightly different channel.

And it's not like that sort of income stream is easy to come by. You need to have either established a certain profile and connections or just incredible good luck, just like any other way of making money as a musician.

lupus_yonderboy: Long live the EWI!
posted by ludwig_van at 9:36 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Arlo Guthrie in magazine ads for Craig car stereo systems (1975)

Motor City Radio Flashbacks: Commercials

Swing the Jingle
In the early-1960s, dozens of the biggest names in pop music recorded and released versions of the jingle for Things Go Better with Coke. . . Artists . . . were asked to incorporate the Things Go Better with Coke slogan into a song, which was generally inspired by one of their big hits. . . . More than 100 musicians from around the world eventually recorded their version of the jingle.
Coca Cola's Greatest Hits
For 110 years from Hilda Clark to American Idol, The Coca-Cola Company has blended popular music and refreshment in harmony through its association of Coke with celebrity performers and the creation of some of the most memorable and greatest hits in beverage history. After all, wouldn't you like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony?
Pop and rock artists who've recorded Coke Commercials
  • Ray Charles [Winner 1966 Golden Spike Award (Hollywood Radio and Television Society) for best 60-second radio spot.]
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Marvin and Tammi Terrel
  • Roy Orbison
  • The Box Tops
  • Fontella Bass
  • Los Bravos (from Spain!)
  • The Troggs
  • James Brown
  • The 5th Dimension
  • Supremes
  • Gladys Knight and the Pips
  • Kool & The Gang
  • Al Green
  • Jan and Dean
  • Freddie Cannon
  • Everly Bros
  • Moody Blues
  • Tommy James and the Shondells
  • Bee Gees
  • New Vaudeville Band
  • Petula Clark
  • Tremeloes
  • Tom Jones
  • Wayne Fontana & Mindbenders
  • Fortunes
  • Freddie and the Dreamers
  • Lulu
  • Mary Hopkin
  • Golden Earring
  • Easybeats
  • Left Banke
  • Lesley Gore
  • Vogues
  • Nancy Sinatra
  • Gary Lewis and the Playboys
  • American Breed
  • Sandy Posey
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • BJ Thomas
  • Vanilla Fudge
  • Boyce and Hart
  • Neil Diamond
  • Jay and The Americans
  • Lee Dorsey
  • The Drifters
  • The Seekers
  • Joe Tex
  • Carla Thomas
  • Jerry Butler
  • Paul Williams
  • New Seekers
  • Bread
  • Janis Ian
  • Three Dog Night
  • John Denver
  • Carpenters
  • Chicago
  • Newbeats
  • George Benson
  • Donna Summer
  • Natalie Cole
  • Dottie West
  • Glen Campbell
  • Jerry Reed
  • Blondie
  • Randy Travis
  • Selena
  • Paula Abdul
  • Elton John
  • Whitney Houston
  • The Pointer Sisters . . .
You say you want a revolution . . .
 
posted by Herodios at 9:43 AM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


ludwig_van: thank you thank you!

Actually, I play the competition to the EWI - the Yamaha WX7 - but, same turf. Here's a short but exciting live track featuring me, on it...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:43 AM on November 12, 2013


Remember when Of Montreal let Outback Steakhouse use a version of "Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)" with lyrics changed to become the "Let's go Outback tonight" jingle? That's a bridge much further than most go in the "sellout" game, and yet it did nothing to derail Of Montreal's best deeply weird creative period. And I mean, if even changing your lyrics to a fucking Outback jingle doesn't poison the well, surely the criteria for "sellout" is a bit more nuanced than just selling your song as ad music and has a lot more to do with whether or not selling music for commercials is a prime motivator in the creation of music.

Even then, ironically, some of the most nose-to-the-grindstone, musician's musicians you can find are stock music composers. So I guess it isn't really about making the bread, it's about how you make it.

I can't hang with a view that would paint Raymond Scott as illegitimate.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:46 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Alex Doonesbury (during the Napster crisis): "Daddy, it's not stealing! It's not my fault that your generation had to pay for entertainment and that mine doesn't!"
posted by Melismata at 9:46 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Herodios: Gosh, I love that list.

I'm entertaining myself now by thinking about what other (or "other") bands's Coke commercials might sound like: the Butthole Surfers, Throbbing Gristle, the Sex Pistols, Lightning Bolt, etc...

HEY - perhaps the next Mefi music competition might be to write a Coke jingle!!!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:50 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


moreover, it's going to be spent on songs which are catchy (which is a good thing) and likely to offend no one (which is not).

I've noticed this in the music that's been coming out for the last few years. Even from less famous artists I've liked for a while, a lot of their more recent work sounds like it was made to be played in the background of a TV show or commercial - the songs are often more homogeneous, more repetitive and simple in song structure and melodic lines, more "universal," with the weird edges smoothed out.

I think it's hard for any music creator to create new music now without some knowledge that this sort of thing is probably the only way they'll ever be able to make money from their craft. Selling out hasn't saved indie rock at all, whatever that even means.
posted by wondermouse at 10:01 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's a short but exciting live track featuring me, on it...

Exciting. Verrr nace.

I play the competition to the EWI - the Yamaha WX7

Both swing. I used to get a lot of noise of of a DH-100: ten sawskis for a MIDI wind controller. I'd plug it into my pal's PPG or Fairlight and rule like Balok commanding the Fesarius.

Speaking of selling out, here's Kenny G hawking the DH in a magazine ad.

HEY - perhaps the next Mefi music competition might be to write a Coke jingle!!!

What a twisted idea! (I love it.)
 
posted by Herodios at 10:04 AM on November 12, 2013


I'm entertaining myself now by thinking about what other (or "other") bands's Coke commercials might sound like: the Butthole Surfers, Throbbing Gristle, the Sex Pistols, Lightning Bolt, etc...

How 'bout the Gang of Four:
Drinking a Coke is like a case of anthrax
And that's one thing I don't want to catch. . .
posted by Herodios at 10:06 AM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Coke is the realest Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:12 AM on November 12, 2013


I knew an artist who licensed his song for a Hummer ad -- the same one that was so ceremoniously rejected by Trans Am in the OP -- and man, I gotta say, his life seemed to change significantly for the better thanks to that princely sum, which made my mistrust of the premise completely evaporate. I actually went to jail for my valiant teenaged attempt at anti-Hummer activism, but I still couldn't really fault him for taking the check: he went from barely scraping by to 100% debt-free overnight. Who wouldn't want that for their friends or loved ones, let alone themselves? After chipping away at them for years, he paid off his student loans in one fell swoop. The commercial was soon all but forgotten but the effect it had on his life was positive and permanent.

On the other hand, I knew another artist who licensed his song for a Dr. Pepper ad, and at least from the outside, the experience (incredible influx of cash aside) appeared to give him nothing but grief. In that instance, he had to split the spoils with his bandmates, a couple of whom were hired hands, and he seemed to resent them so bitterly for their requisite collection of performance royalties that the actual dollar amount he wound up taking home seemed trifling in comparison to the seething resentment it engendered. More money, more problems for that dude.

When I was younger, before people decided that music is basically worthless and all the record stores closed, I used to be able to get haughty and riled up about the notion of "selling out." Now I'm all about whatever any artist wants or needs to do to survive. The notion of bands rewriting their songs to include corporate namechecks -- a la Of Montreal and Outback -- makes me a little twitchy, but it's basically along the same lines as a talented indie actor or actress taking a part in a mindlessly tepid rom-com or guns'n'splosions summer blockbuster. It pays a lot of bills and lets them get back to doing what they really love, which is (presumably) creating less commercial-friendly art for a pittance.

And besides, everyone has a price. Most of us just call it an hourly wage.
posted by divined by radio at 10:14 AM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


"This allows bands to focus on making great music without having to necessarily dilute their sound or aim for the widest possible fanbase just to make a living. Selling records means you have to make records that lots and lots of people want to buy; on the other hand, if your primary income stream is jingles and ad-clips, you can be less concerned with whether your latest musical experiment will turn off a few fans and, barring the singles that lead to new jingle-opportunities, focus on artistic expression even if that means fewer, "better" fans."

Counter-counterpoint: None of the bands mentioned are actually doing that. They're all making radio friendly unit shifters. And specifically, it neuters what is generally a longstanding part of punk and DIY music (nominally, "indie rock"), which is a criticism of capitalism as it's currently constituted and an alternative where you don't have to kiss corporate ass to make a living.

(Speaking of which, Teagan and Sara complaining that some bands are "doing well" while the rest are "middle class." Fuck you — middle class IS doing well. If you can support middle-class incomes for your band, that's excellent. It's OK to want more, to want to be rock stars, but thats a) kinda a departure from the indie rock ethos, and b) bullshit to describe as the point at which you're "doing well.")

So, instead of "saving indie rock," it's making indie rock less weird, more anodyne and pretending that is liberating instead of desiccating.

And I say all this as someone who thinks that most cries of "selling out" are bullshit and who wants musicians to make living wages.
posted by klangklangston at 10:14 AM on November 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


"I'm entertaining myself now by thinking about what other (or "other") bands's Coke commercials might sound like: the Butthole Surfers, Throbbing Gristle, the Sex Pistols, Lightning Bolt, etc..."

You'll see "Pepper" licensed soon enough. Butthole Surfers already did a Nintendo ad.
posted by klangklangston at 10:16 AM on November 12, 2013


Speaking of selling out, here's Kenny G hawking the DH in a magazine ad.

When a person "sells out," they're selling their artistic credibility and integrity for money.

So, uh, what was Kenny G selling?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:18 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's such a perfect day, I'm glad I spent it with Duke Nukem...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Coca Cola really, really wanted to use Timbuk 3's hit single 'The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades'. But they said no. So Coke kept upping their offer. And Timbuk 3 still said no.

I always wondered how awesome that might have felt - to have something that a global multi-billion dollar behemoth really, really wants, and just tell it to go fuck itself. To tell it that its oceans and oceans of money are just no good.

Gotta be a hell of a rush. Worth the price? Who knows? Who knows what mine might be. But, damn.
posted by fikri at 10:24 AM on November 12, 2013


Timbuk 3 did, however, license that song for the movies Something Wild, Campus Man, My Best Friend Is a Vampire, Kuffs (the one with Christian Slater and a dog), Dream a Little Dream (a two Coreys movie), Tommy Boy, and myriad TV shows, including Head of the Class whose cast starred in their own video for the song. And in 2000, Pat Benatar recorded the song for the Disney movie An Extremely Goofy Movie.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:29 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Shortly before this kind of licensing became commonplace, I had a song used in a commercial for an unpopular product and was paid an amount that significantly improved my life. Unsurprisingly, I caught a bit of flak for this, and my defensiveness led me to a different perspective on this issue.

It occurred to me that it's really weird that indie musicians (without explicit political content) are assumed to be wise and principled, crusaders of enlightenment. Most of this music is made by needy people who want to be adored, and THATS TOTALLY FINE. However, I think many musicians are uncomfortable admitting this and deflect it by alleging their artistic pursuits are somehow motivated by a desire to improve society. In my experience, indie-ish musicians are pretty dang selfish (again, totally fine and usually age appropriate). I feel like many of the objections to music being in commercials is assigning unwarranted importance to a song, and I think it's disingenuous to view it as a moral transgression. Having a song you like in a commercial makes it a bit less cool, and that can be upsetting. AND THAT IS TOTALLY FINE.
posted by yorick at 10:32 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The other thing that affects how we feel about songs in commercials is that, given how fragmented our media landscape has become, even the most ubiquitous commercials of 2013 are seen a fraction as often as the most widely seen ads from 1983 or even 1993.

If Bruce Springsteen had licensed "Born in the USA" for a car ad in 1985 that would have been shown on prime time tv on the three major networks, the vast majority of Americans would have seen it over and over again. When Wilco licensed their songs for VW ads, how many of us even saw them?

It may be a numbers/(over)exposure thing. That is, an ad that 20 million people saw 3 times during Cheers is one thing. An ad that airs during Dancing with the Stars, whose audience is 5 million people, many of whom skip the ads with DVRs or see few if any via online streaming, is something else entirely.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:50 AM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I remember being really taken aback when Dunlop used Venus In Furs for an ad in 1993, but the thing is, so many bands are already part of some corporate structure or other that unless you're part of some press-your-own-records-and-do-all-the-distribution-and-marketing-yourself setup, you're already part of the corporate machine you heap such scorn on.

I mean, look at Radiohead, to pluck a name out of the air. When, as complete unknowns, they signed to EMI in the early 1990s, their label was part of ThornEMI, a massive arms-manufacturing-and-entertainment conglomerate who were as happy to make and sell landmines as they were to make and sell Radiohead albums. (Maybe even happier; the profits from landmines were probably better.)

All of this stuff is, for the most part, inextricably linked; this is why the back sleeve of Godspeed's Yanqui UXO is a diagram of those links. So much of this is an artificial debate centred around what finely-grained level of selling out constitutes selling out at all in the first place that it's essentially become a meaningless argument.
posted by Len at 11:02 AM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know this has been going on since forever, but the first time I remember this being really obvious and huge was when Moby came out with Play in '99 and subsequently sold every song possible off of it for a profit, many times over. Now homeboy is a certified Service Sector Classic (pretty sure I'm borrowing that term from Travis Morrison), and my mom still has and still listens to the copy of Play I left behind when I moved out a decade ago. Even today, not a month goes by that I don't hear "Porcelain" at some point in the background when I'm grocery shopping or doing some other mundane daily task.

I do remember feeling conflicted though, because at that time I felt like I was supposed to be "Aw, fuck him, man" but at the same time it seemed to cushion the blow for more musicians to do it and it was only a year later when Coke used an Amon Tobin song in one of their commercials and I had that guilty little thrill of hearing it and recognizing it someplace other than the album, and thinking that more people might get Supermodified or go to his shows because of it.

It's also doubly weird now that I'm older and I've found myself...shamelessly shaazaming music I don't recognize from commercials and in some cases, downloading it after. It still feels, strangely illicit to me, even though I gave up the ghost of being cool or whatnot ages ago. I still have that lingering feeling of guilt that I didn't discover something the hardscrabble way by digging through row after row of albums at a record store or driving three hours to hear five bands play when you're really only interested in one.


I've noticed this in the music that's been coming out for the last few years. Even from less famous artists I've liked for a while, a lot of their more recent work sounds like it was made to be played in the background of a TV show or commercial - the songs are often more homogeneous, more repetitive and simple in song structure and melodic lines, more "universal," with the weird edges smoothed out.

I've also noticed that a lot of times, it seems like a movies/TV/commercials are forming themselves around the song they want to use. I was watching Person of Interest sometime in the last couple of weeks and they used DJ Shadow's The Number Song for an action sequence. Which at first seemed awesome to me (based on how many imaginary action sequences I've invented in my head for that song), but quickly was less awesome because the editing of the action scene didn't match the pacing of the song at all, and then it just kind of fizzled out. The same could be said for the Coke commercial I mentioned above too. Both players are trying to project something to the public, and either side will bend one way or the other to get the sales.
posted by pandalicious at 11:13 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to sell out SO HARD. I want there to be a band that shows up on every commercial singing about buying stuff I love and where to get it, with raging guitars and gut-liquefying digital bass drops.

I want that band to follow me everywhere and be my secret pals. I want them to show up on TV shows, on the sides of buildings, in magazines and flying from banners at enormous omnimedia stores. I want every member of that band to know me by name and give me "Big Ups" all the damn time.

I want that band to be my big brother, Daddy figure, and best man rolled into one rockin', sweat-fuelled, drug and sex amplified nightmare that tells me where to buy tickets to their new movie. I want them to fight crime and get the girl.

Integrity is for suburban dorks. Artistic vision is for trust fund babies and liberal arts school perennials. My Favorite Band (tm) kicks all of their asses and leaves me lit up for days, penniless, post-orgasmic and riding through town on a flotilla of plastic electronic crap that I love more intensely than my pets or my mommy.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 11:47 AM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The problem I have with this article, and the whole underlying premise, is that this cross promotional synergy bullshit, "syncs" and the like, aren't saving real independent musicians, indie rock or otherwise.

This is really about alternative revenue streams for established name acts, now that the bottom has fallen out of physical media purchases, and the bigwigs that control digital content distribution are paying cents on the dollar, even compared to the old studio/label system.

None of this is any panacea or solution for real indie musicians and bands trying to make a name for themselves, or find a way to be able to practice their art beyond a day job hobbyist level.
posted by stenseng at 12:09 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think that the framing of the "selling out" debate as an issue of personal integrity, rather than focusing on the economic structures that obstruct authentic creative expression, is problematic. This is the Adbusters line of consumerism being the main ill of modern society, versus a more nuanced and structural analysis of economic systems.

Yes, we all have to eat and try to avoid the mental health issues that generally arise from constant economic uncertainty, and we all make our bargains with the inherent exploitation and alienation of selling our labor in a capitalist system, and there are definitely problems with assigning personal blame or valor to people's individual choices as to how far they comply with capitalism for personal survival to personal comfort and financial security - including but not limited to the fact that many people don't start from a sufficiently privileged economic position to even have the choice whether to sell out their artistic vision or not.

On the other hand, the structure of the music industry (as with other creative and intellectual industries) has real effects and limitations on the nature of what can get produced within that industry (as well as what can get produced outside of that industry, since, as noted above, having a day job limits the amount of practice and creative time a musician has, or lack of money from having neither a day job nor an affiliation with any arm of the music industry limits the available instruments and recording equipment and such), and to ignore this is just as naive as ignoring the fact that people have to eat.

The lesson here is that under the current economic structure, artists often must choose between two bad options - it's a lose-lose situation. To put a good option on the table, we'd have to change the nature of the game.
posted by eviemath at 1:19 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


the artists aren't selling out - the companies are buying in

and if you feel that this is causing artists to create more commercial friendly music, more accessible music, more generic type music, there are two solutions to that - support those bands who aren't doing that - or better yet, make music yourself

as for me, it's real unlikely that i'd ever be offered thousands of bucks to use my song in a commercial - but i'd do it - i'd be pretty stupid not to in my situation, where earning thousands of dollars requires many hours of work at a factory
posted by pyramid termite at 1:23 PM on November 12, 2013


Something that my coworkers and I were talking about is how soundtracks have totally declined in terms of introducing new music, and how these same sync rights are now for commercials instead of, say, the random Aaliyah track being dropped on Dr. Doolittle 2.

"and if you feel that this is causing artists to create more commercial friendly music, more accessible music, more generic type music, there are two solutions to that - support those bands who aren't doing that - or better yet, make music yourself"

Well, part of it is that I'm not against commercial friendly music per se — I don't think it has to be generic. I just think that it's worth realizing that when you hear it, you're not really the audience, except by proxy. It's a song that was (implied) written for an ad exec.

But yeah, I try to support bands that aren't doing that. My last concert was Carcass a couple weeks ago; I'm seeing Big Freedia on Thursday.
posted by klangklangston at 1:43 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


"As I understand it, Spoon makes a hefty percentage of their living this way." - DirtyOldTown

Particularly amusing, as I distinctly recall a particular conversation with a then-not-quite-discovered Britt Daniel about plans to play the sellout game.

At the time they were enjoying a nice local following and were being courted by Matador and by DGC, and Britt had the plan to sign with Matador, spend some time there to "build street cred", and then -- once known -- jump ship to DGC where the real money was.

At the time, my naive and idealistic self thought this was the height of smarmy... but these days I've got to hand it to the guy. Of all the bands playing around Austin back then, Britt more than anybody else looked upon his music as a business...and it has paid off well; so far as I know, Spoon and ...Trail of Dead are the only two still going.



Bands need money. Selling material makes money for bands so that they can keep being bands. That is nothing at all to be ashamed of.
posted by kaseijin at 1:45 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


And yeah, part of it is that companies are buying in.

Now that the indie rock kids of the 1990's are middle-aged and working as creative directors and account execs out there, it only stands to reason that they would try to fit music they love into their work.
posted by kaseijin at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2013


The lesson here is that under the current economic structure, artists often must choose between two bad options - it's a lose-lose situation. To put a good option on the table, we'd have to change the nature of the game.

Outside of something like some sort of government program that offers financial aid to a good number of worthy musicians in various genres (fat chance), I doubt the situation here will get better via some sort of free market workings. Free market has given us Spotify and Pandora, which take away the guilt anyone needs to feel by not paying for the music they listen to. But they do not generate revenue beyond a few cents for the vast majority of musicians whose music is on those sites, even if some people are listening to it.

if you feel that this is causing artists to create more commercial friendly music, more accessible music, more generic type music, there are two solutions to that - support those bands who aren't doing that - or better yet, make music yourself

I do both of those things already and don't see them as solutions. Me paying $10 for a digital download doesn't make up for the millions of people who just never do that anymore. It is really hard to create music as an independent adult who needs to work full time to support him/herself. I spent my 20s struggling to make ends meet while also struggling to find time and energy to make the music I wanted to make (and also saving money in order to give it a proper release and get it sounding good enough so that some people other than me might actually want to listen to it) - it is not easy at all.

I, too, would love it if a company offered me a large sum of money to use one of my songs in a commercial. I've tried to imagine what it would take, what sort of company it would have to be in order for me to turn down that sort of thing, and it would have to be pretty extreme. So yeah.
posted by wondermouse at 2:18 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, any ad execs out there, hit me up. As long as you don't want me to pitch hemorrhoid cream, I'm your man. Just hang a sign around my neck that says: "Will compose and produce for food."
posted by saulgoodman at 2:22 PM on November 12, 2013


Just hang a sign around my neck that says: "Will compose and produce for food."

And rent money. Don't forget rent money.
posted by wondermouse at 2:30 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, I remember when selling out still MEANT something, back before EVERYONE was doing it.

(For music recording, that would have been August 14, 1888.)
posted by kyrademon at 3:49 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


by the time billy murray did it, no one cared

"come along with me lucille, in my merry oldsmobile ..."
posted by pyramid termite at 4:43 PM on November 12, 2013


I don't know what to think about all this, other than this narrative of being in a band,making it big and escaping your circumstances seems to become more cruel by the day as other options close.

Perhaps all that has an effect on music, who knows - Len, would Radiohead beat a landmine in an online popularity poll ? I suspect Coldplay would lag well behind.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:48 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


My perspective on selling out also was changed by my own (non-musical) career path. At 25, I hated the thought of wasting my time on anything that didn't make me feel like I was making the world a better, more interesting place.

By the time I was 30, I was ready to kick babies in the face all day for Beezlebub, Inc. as long as they had health insurance.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:07 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it possible to create a band with the sole objective of getting your songs in an ad? It seems like poppy, "indie"-sounding bands are really fitting the bill here.

It was years ago, but my first encounter with hearing an underground artist that I had adored forever (Mark Bianchi of the old hardcore/screamo band Indian Summer, and now Her Space Holiday (this was the song that was used on a car commercial I believe) was surprising. The only thing I could do was grin and think "Well, Marc Bianchi finally made it." I thought it was funny. This is a guy who has been playing music since 1992 (and maybe before) and he finally got his big break. I hope it bought him something cool.
posted by gucci mane at 11:47 PM on November 12, 2013




I don't know what to think about all this, other than this narrative of being in a band,making it big and escaping your circumstances seems to become more cruel by the day as other options close.

It always a cruel joke. The number of people who started rock bands and made it big was a statistically meaningless blip compared to the number of people who started bands and made nothing. A few millionaires and a lot of bankrupt drug addicts.
posted by empath at 3:20 AM on November 13, 2013


Yeah... the older I get, the more I think the lucky ones were the ones who stopped trying to "be in a band" as their primary M.O. before they hit about 27.

The really unfortunate ones are the folks who achieve some moderate amount of notoriety, flounder in a delayed adolescence for about 10 years while they "be a band", and then have to face the daunting task of trying to start a normal career track 10 years after everybody else.

I've known too many folks like that.

Moderate success is cruel. If you're going to fail, fail fast. You can still have creative outlets without being a rock god.

Shoot... your creative outlet can even remain your music. Despite having a normal job and knowing that I will never, ever, be a rockstar, I still play music on occasion at nearly 40. Every now and then it's just plain fun to schlep all of your gear to the club, crank everything way up, and rock the fuck out -- even if it's mostly just for friends.
posted by kaseijin at 5:50 AM on November 13, 2013


What's really tough is to be approaching success and then have it all fall apart due to personal circumstances beyond your control and unrelated (or at least orthogonal) to your musical ambitions.

I'd been performing original music professionally since I was 15, and my last band was doing great and seemed to be heading for big things to enough of a degree we actually had big labels reaching out to us on the word of their A&R scouts. Then, just as we were getting close to completing our debut album ("Eight Days in the Life of Grace"), my mom (who lived in Germany) had a recurrence of cancer, this time clearly terminal. We were in the middle of mixing the record when suddenly we had to postpone everything for a couple of months while my wife and I traveled to Germany to hold vigil at my mom's bedside (one of the most painful parts of this was dealing with pressure from some in the band to keep working in the middle of this incredibly painful time). In the process, my wife lost her job because we were delayed a week due to complications with our return flight (she found a very thoughtful termination letter in the mailbox, natch). Meanwhile, the other two core members of our group, who were also a husband and wife at the time, started having relationship problems and their marriage soon fell apart, splitting up all our friends and just completely ruining any chance of continuing as a working group. My wife and I tried to go on with a new lineup for another year or so, but we had also been struggling through medical problems of our own, and after everything else that had happened, we just didn't have the heart for it anymore.


Dealing with failure due to unrelated personal circumstances is hard, I think, because you end up getting all your feelings about making music tangled up with your other personal feelings. It's especially hard if you've been working seriously at making a career in music since adolescence, because then oftentimes, your entire social identity is bound up with making music. And after you hit a certain age, it starts to become pretty clear your shelf life's expired. Its hard not to feel a little bitter about it because earlier on I also had a decent shot at making a career in writing, but I chose to stick with music instead because all the signs were good that I was on track to make it work. Now it seems I'm stuck with nothing but a lifetime of 9--5 to look forward to, at best. Well, at least I've got that (for now).
posted by saulgoodman at 6:31 AM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


With all the debt we've accumulated now (and with two kids to raise), I keep thinking it sure wouldn't hurt if we could just get one song placed in a commercial or something like that. We're too old to be traditional rock stars now, but we might be able to make it work as recording artists if only we could place a couple of pieces in commercials, or even better, film. For some of us, there might not be any better options left if we still aspire to make music work out as a meaningful source of income.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:38 AM on November 13, 2013


Outside of something like some sort of government program that offers financial aid to a good number of worthy musicians in various genres (fat chance), I doubt the situation here will get better via some sort of free market workings.

Thus changing the nature of the game, i.e. the economic system. Though I think something closer to anarchosyndicalism, where businesses are all democratically run, worker-owned co-ops yet goods and services are still exchanged via markets could be just as effective as moving away from a market-based system of distribution for resources, goods, and labor altogether. As another, still market-based, example, various barter arrangements have been successful in local communities in supporting local musicians. This contributes to the strong local music scene where I live (not indy rock, admittedly). Another example is Kingston, NY's O+ Festival.

But probably a hybrid system could still give people much more free time to pursue any activities they choose, including artistic expression, while holding down a more traditional job. Some past threads (on phone, will look up and link later if I get a chance) have linked to arguments that we can meet and exceed everyone's material needs via full employment at only 20 or 30 hours a week, for example. The lack of leisure time for people who are employed, lack of sufficient employment for those with time to practice and write music, and lack of monetary support for musicians is a distribution problem, not a resource scarcity problem.
posted by eviemath at 6:53 AM on November 13, 2013


There's money to be made from streaming an artist's tunes, be it via YouTube or Rdio or Spotify. Revenue from recorded music isn't completely dead.

Now, your deal with the people who pay you out (i.e. labels) may not be great. And, if you're "indie" in the sense that you're on part of the distribution curve that isn't a blockbuster (cf. that long-tail nonsense), then odds are you'll still be shit-ass broke even with what passes for a sweet streaming deal.

It's funny that it took skinny white dudes with beards longer to catch on to what the hip-hop crowd has known for a while - that showbiz is about getting paid.

Now, there's a question of whether you diminish your future earnings potential by licensing your work - some prospective fans/buyers might be turned off by some product associations. But that calculation has shifted quite a bit as ad work becomes more normalized. Not much is shocking these days in terms of who's willing to take ad money.

Doing an ad spot didn't seem to hurt these guys too badly.
posted by faceattack at 7:09 AM on November 13, 2013


Yeah... the older I get, the more I think the lucky ones were the ones who stopped trying to "be in a band" as their primary M.O. before they hit about 27.

I have a friend who was always in bands, and often very good ones, that used to say when he was about twenty-one, "If I'm ever twenty-seven years old, holding my gut in and still trying to make it as a ROCK star, please kill me."

And he loved the life -- the writing, recording, rehearsing, gigging, touring. It was hard to imagine him doing anything else. It was hard to imagine him not somehow succeeding. But he didn't, mainly due to the kind of personal chaos that saulgoodman describes, and he did, true to his word, put the rockstar dreams aside around his twenty-fifth birthday. Not that he's never stopped playing, writing, gigging (and loving it), but he did park the part about someday being ADORED. And the thing is, he's not remotely bitter about it as far as I can tell. He had a blast when he was young , and what's to regret about that?
posted by philip-random at 9:00 AM on November 13, 2013


I tried to make a graceful transition to song-writer, producer and the business side of things when it became obvious the honeymoon was over, but that didn't pan out either. I should have moved to LA or NY years ago. All my friends who did have had much better luck in their creative careers. Location, despite all the internet-is-changing-everything-stuff people always talk about, still seems to be pretty important.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:07 AM on November 13, 2013


Yes, it still is. I think that's due to the real life connections you make and people you get to collaborate and work with. There are alternative cities that have creative bursts too.
posted by dabitch at 11:25 AM on November 14, 2013


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