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antiMUSIC is pleased to welcome aboard Trent McMartin who not only has been filing special news reports but now will give you the "lowdown" on various music related topics! 

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The Art of Selling Out: Compromising the Music

A few months ago I wrote an article entitled “The Art of Selling Out” examining the growing trend today where musicians are selling their songs to corporations to be used in advertisements. I debated the pros and cons of musicians selling their creations as a way to make money and to gain exposure in today’s short-attention-span music industry. What this new article will examine is the propensity of many musicians to compromise their musical integrity. When an artist actually chases fame and fortune putting aside musical quality, original intentions and moral convictions

In the summer of 1998 the Ben Affleck/Bruce Willis popcorn flick Armageddon was a huge hit in theatres and everywhere that summer could be heard the Dianne Warren penned hit “I Don't Want To Miss A Thing”. The song was sung by veteran rock act Aerosmith and it would become the band’s first ever number one hit even though they didn’t write it. This of course isn’t the first instance of an artist not writing their own material but it stood out because it took 25 years and someone else to provide Aerosmith with their first number one song. 

The king of rock and roll Elvis Presley wrote little of his own material hiring countless musicians and songwriters to provide him with the hit making material that would propel the unstoppable Elvis machine. Prolific songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote some of Presley’s greatest songs such as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “King Creole.” 

Even if someone writes their own material or brings in songwriters there is always an inclination to come up with something catchy, new and relevant that has the possibility of becoming a hit. You cannot blame an artist wanting to make a living from creating music and wanting to spread their music to as many people as possible. That’s every artist’s goal but sometimes during the pursuit of success, the music is compromised. 

“I've been a punk-rocker for a long (expletive) time and I guess I've struggled with the thought of bands that would want to compromise the music they create to try to ‘make it’,” said Liam Harvey Oswald, vocalist for the Canadian pop/core outfit A Last Goodbye.“ I always thought that there are two kinds of musicians...the ones who play the music for the love of it, and the ones who just want to be famous.”

Fans are not stupid and usually they can pick up on the distinction between artists doing it for the music and others doing it just for the money. “I would say that ‘selling out’ is left up to the listener/buyer of the CD,” said Jason Manning, Music Director for Edmonton’s modern rock radio station Sonic 102.9 FM. “Some people get pissed when an artist sells a lot of one CD.  Take for example Moby.  Play sold a TON of records.....his last 2 CD’s...well they have not done so well.  Is his music crappier now....well that’s for his fans to decide.  I do not think bands automatically suck after they sell a gazillion CD’s,” Manning added. 

Oswald agrees. “We're seeing alot of really heavy bands, mellow out, and have producers work with them to help give them the 'hooks' that the radio execs wanna hear,” the vocalist said. “It's pretty much left up to you to decide which bands are full of (expletive), and which bands have any integrity at all.”

Can artists be blamed when they don’t or just cannot write the same material they did when they first started out? Many bands have been accused of going softer and because of that, they’re branded as sell outs. In 1991, Metallica would release their most popular record to date, The Black Album, which would go on to sell more than 10 million records bringing heavy metal into the mainstream. Many hardcore fans cried fowl calling it Metallica’s sell out album but others were kinder and less judgemental. “In my opinion their sound didn't change,” said 92. 5 JOE FM Assistant Music Director and huge Metallica fan Ryann Bradley of Edmonton, Canada.  “Why not go mainstream to make the bank account fatter and gain a more diverse audience?”

It’s really hard to say who has “sold out” and who has kept intact their artistic vision. A guy like Neil Young could never be accused of compromising his music. But it also could be said that Neil Young only has the ability to follow his musical ambitions because of the success and achievements he garnered early in his career as a solo artist and a member of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. 

If you’re an up and coming band it may be more tempting to write something more appealing to listeners or to bring in outside help. “The music industry is ruled by suits now, and you have to play by their rules,” said Cort Smith, television producer at Vancouver’s Global television. “You absolutely need to sell yourself if you have any expectations of making a career out of music.” 

And it’s this dilemma that tears apart many artists who feel conflicted between their artistry and the industry. Kurt Cobain went through this conflict up until his tragic death in 1994 taking the accusations of being a sell out very hard. Having the ability to write great hooks and catchy melodies should not be criticized but commended. As one community figure remarked to me recently, “art is a state of mind; and for one person to slag another person’s vision or opinion is crap.” 

And while many artists and people agree with the concept that selling out is nonsense, others remain hesitant to follow trends. “I don't think I'd ever be happy if I allowed someone to take complete control over all the things that make a band great,” said Liam Harvey Oswald. “I do believe that it is almost impossible to do it all on your own, and expect any sort of great success, but still believe that with hard work, and determination, anyone can achieve their goals,” he explained.

“After all, radio & video stations ain't everything... it's the people behind your music, at the shows, showing their support, helping to inspire, and allowing you to continue to do what you love to do.” 
 
 


 

Your turn. 


They call you 
What do you think ?:

Fan Speak:

Posted by Marcus:
The whole concept of selling out is ridiculous. Just because an artist decides to collaborate with someone or head in a different direction does not mean they are "selling out." True musicians have an appreciation for ALL music and wouldn't want to just limit themselves to one thing. It's all of the idiot fans who pigeonhole them into just one category. Rock and hip-hop are the worst offenders. Think of how minute the categories get for rock music: metal, black metal, thrash metal, nu-metal, death metal, goth, punk, post-punk, hardcore, metalcore, etc. No wonder so many artists are accused of being sellouts: because they switch to a subgenre of a subgenre of rock? WTF? And the ones who don't "sell out" are only afraid of being called sellouts if they change just ONE element of their music, because that is what happens, change just one thing and all of a sudden you've sold out. Like I said, the whole concept is ridiculous.


Posted by Zach:
One should never get mad at someone for making a popular song/album/film, as long as it goes in line with what they wanted. I honestly believe to actually "sell out" is to give up your creative control.


Posted by Mark:
Just because you sell your music to advertisers doesn't mean that you have compromised your artistic vision or integrity. If you were to change your album for greater commercial success at the expense of your true vision and feeling, that is selling out; and in most cases I don't think the public know enough about a band to say when they are or arn't staying true to their vision.


Posted by www.waitingfordaybreak.com:
what do I think ?

I think Liam and all of a last goodbye are sweet balls and they should all be rollin' in escelades and beamers.

(but that's just me)


Posted by www.waitingfordaybreak.com:
what do I think ?

I think Liam and all of a last goodbye are sweet balls and they should all be rollin' in escelades and beamers.

(but that's just me)


Posted by SATANFAG:
Snoop is no sellout, I have told you all for years now - JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS YOUR MASTER! MASTER!!!


Posted by da crabb:
and justice for all..suffered from a cruddy mix, and actually Bob Rock did put a better sound with the Black album. Garage Inc. shows that Metallica can do cool covers and i do admit that Load is a guilty pleasure, although Reload and St Anger are subpar...


Posted by Plastic Bono Band:
I thought it was lame when Sting gave Puff Daddy permission to use the sample from "Every Breath you take" or when P. Diddy remixed "Roxanne." What a travesty.


Posted by Caught in a Mosh:
Metallica didn't really consciously have a desicion to sell out I think. They got fame and money with the Black Album, and that changed them. That led them to make worse and worse albums as the years went on(although I have to admit to liking most of Load).


Posted by Uncut:
Selling out is nonsense. But it can be said "selling out" is more than using your music to sell a product. What if a heavy metal band sings a poppy R&B song. Would that be selling out? I heard people calling Snoop a sell out for singing with Justin Timberlake. The Black Eyed Peas when they added Fergie. Metallica when they released the black album. Rod Stewart when he started singing disco and other crap after years with The Faces and The Jeff Beck Group. Selling out is crap but it encompases everything that involves an artist compromising their artistic vision for money. Be it dealing with a corporation or purposely changing their image, sound, and style for the sake of money. Oh yah, Pearl Jam has been doing things their way since the early 90's. Ten allowed the band to do whatever they wanted. Ever listen to No Code!!!!


Posted by GTD:
Pearl Jam has to do things their own way now since they aren't signed. And let's define a "sellout" anyway - selling out isn't when your music somehow becomes popular - it's when you use your music to sell product, for example, Aerosmith and U2, and countless washed-up "classic" bands.


Posted by Anuj:
Yup that too. I liked Garage Inc, but then again, it wasn't their own material now, was it?


Posted by Sado:
What about S&M? That was a weak live album.


Posted by Anuj:
The Metallica/Black Album story is complicating. Some say they "sold out" by hiring Bob Rock to produce the Black Album. But in their defense, it can be said that they were pissed off with the production on ...And Justice For All (as was most everybody), and perhaps felt that just a little compromise could produce better results. But, in my opinion, that got the ball rolling towards complacency on their part, and a descent into crappy output (Load, Reload, ST. ANGER). Does anyone concur, even remotely?


Posted by controller:
Pearl Jam is one band who does things their way.


Posted by Dio:
We Sold Our Souls For Rock in Roll!!!!


Posted by hikingartist:
I always liked Maynards line "I sold out long before I met you". Any band getting national coverage is bound to compromise to be heard...and what constitute "sell-out" anyway"? Pandering for money? Then every schmuck in our greedy little society who as ever cashed a paycheck has sold out. Everyone is different and circumstances change. Some bands obviously want loot. Others are talented enough to rise to the top. Others get lucky; I always like the story of Trio. Recorded an album no one bought. 10 years later their song shows up in a VW commercial and they sell a million copies. Sell-out or survival, it's a judgement call at best.


Posted by Joy Division:
Artists will always sell their souls for the almighty dollar



 




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