What does ‘selling out’ mean, anyway?November 17, 2009
Three recent perspectives on artists licensing their songs to big companies.
The end of selling out. A predictably trite blog post in Newsweek about the ‘sudden shift’ to fans not really caring if songs get used in commercials.
What does it say about our culture? Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater-Kinney, wrote a post for NPR which offers an considerably more nuanced route to the same question that Newsweek asks: what does it say about us that we are no longer bothered about music being used in commercial contexts? Brownstein argues that our infinite access to music has led to a well-developed ability to divorce music from its commercial content. But she (rightly, I think) questions this tendency to decontextualize music.
What does it mean to sell out? Amanda Palmer, as usual, got to the crucial point, even though she wasn’t specifically discussing ads:
selling out is when you go against your own heart, ideals and authenticity to make money.
selling out is an action, a 180 from a stated position.
…but if neil young were to suddenly hire the matrix to write him a thumpin’ dance album and then appear on saturday night live snogging bob dylan, i’d have reservations about his integrity.
Like everything else, there’s no single right answer. When I hear “Lust for Life” soundtracking a cruise line commercial or “Heroes” behind a Microsoft Windows ad, it doesn’t diminish my respect for Iggy Pop or David Bowie, but it sure as hell diminishes my respect for those companies, or at least their ad agencies (and I’m not alone). Boston favourites The Motion Sick getting their videogame-themed love song “30 Lives” in Dance Dance Revolution is a win all around. And I must admit to more than a tinge of sadness when I listened to Modest Mouse‘s The Moon and Antarctica for the first time in ages and found my mind wandering to minivans.
EDIT: Make sure you check out the comments for Michael and meredith’s great remarks from the musicians’ perspective.