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Defining “Selling Out”

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“Selling Out” is a term that has been thrown around by fans of numerous acts in the entertainment business for decades. It is mostly used in the punk world, but it crosses all forms of entertainment. However, in my experience, I feel that people seem to grossly misinterpret what is and isn’t “selling out.” I aim to define those things right now.

What ISN’T “Selling Out:”  The long and short of it: Lending a song to an ad campaign. In today’s post-Napster world, bands need all the exposure they can get. Albums just aren’t selling much anymore, so they need people to be aware of them and hopefully come to a live show or buy some merchandise. But relying on such things is walking a dangerous line, as you can’t simply bank on the fact that people will know you if you go on MySpace. The best way to get exposure is to lend a song to an ad campaign.

This works two ways for the band:

1. MONEY: They aren’t doing this for charity (Unless I suppose they lend their song to a charity in which point…yeah, they’re doing it for charity). The band needs a source of revenue, and by no means should they be giving up their songs for free. A company like Outback Steakhouse or the latest stupid quirky indie movie with Sassy McQuotey with a taco cell phone has lots of money, and they’re willing to give it up.

2. Not compromising who they are: This is where the “not selling out” part comes in. Giving a song of yours to use in an ad campaign isn’t selling out because you are not changing the way you are. Your songs and identity are not being changed by this use. You are the same, except you have more fans now.

What IS “Selling Out:”  Six words. Black Eyed Peas and Green Day. Selling out is essentially changing who you are so you appeal to the lowest common denominator, something the two aforementioned band achieved to perfection.

In the late 90s, Black Eyed Peas was a three man rap group that differentiated themselves from played out gangsta style, alongside such bands as Jurassic 5 and harkening back to De La Soul. They even had some decent charting songs. However, somewhere between 2000 and 2002, somebody decided they wanted money. A lot of it. As in, Jay-Z or Britney Spears money. So they did a couple of things. First, they got a meth addict who used to be on a children’s television show. Secondly, and this is the important part, they changed their entire image to appeal to the masses. They became a pop band, plain and simple. Gone was the creativity that drove them years prior. In its place was lazily singing about humps and whoring themselves out to any company that came a knockin’. You may be wondering how this is any different from what I described in the first part of this. It’s simple, really. There is a significant difference between a song playing in the background of an ad, and  the actual band shouting from the rooftops that you should shop at Best Buy and buy DirecTV.

Green Day is a similar story, albeit far more puzzling. They were never struggling. They were always successful. In the 90s and early 2000s, Green Day was well known for making what is basically rock for middle school boys. Lots of weed, drunkenness, and farting references, entry level tunes, etc. Basically, just a fun band. They weren’t trying to challenge you or anything, you got what you paid for. So that’s why it’s so odd that they sold out in 2004. Green Day went from 40-year-old middle schoolers to 40-year-old pretentious high school emo kids. They slathered themselves in makeup, started wearing black clothes, and started whining about George Bush, and making terrible concept albums with “meaning.”  (Perhaps not so) Coincidentally, this happened when a good portion of young people were against Bush and were flocking to garbage emo bands like Dashboard Confessional.  Again, they changed their image to appeal to the masses. Green Day was once a band that never took a thing seriously, and suddenly the lead singer was yelling at Australian audiences that he’s George Bush’s worst nightmare. That sound you heard way back in 2004 was my eyeballs popping out from rolling so violently. They went from releasing an album called Nimrod to an album called 21st Century Breakdown. They went from not caring and having fun to being deathly serious about things they really did not understand (Ask them about why they hate Bush and I guarantee you’ll hear a “but the corporations, duuuuuuuuuude” in there), all because it’s what was popular at the time.

Both bands betrayed what they stood for. That’s selling out. And honestly, if you forego your identity for a fancy artificial new one, do you really even have one anymore?

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Written by nfugitt

December 5, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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