Is Selling Out A Bad Thing?


-- Rema Rahman

I'm a self-proclaimed music snob and I could give two craps what you have to say about it. I like discovering bands and trends before the mainstream strips it of all significance. I like the connection I make with music that fewer people have heard, and that come from acts hungry for a purpose.

This is why, when bands sellout - what I define as catapulting their likeness onto corporate machines that brings them real money, real fast - I lose interest, real quick. Subsequently, this is also when their fan base become sweaty, partially lucid morons devoid of fully functioning brain cells, thus turning me off even more.

Acts who sell themselves to commercials, name brands or appear on any outlet of the dreaded MTV in honor of the almighty dollar dumbs-down the music significantly. Instead of forming cred by performing and releasing as much music as they could, they choose a quick fix route to be paid thousands by Burger King. And other than an occasional whopper, I could give a shit about Burger King.

Shortly after I came up with the idea of this article, an act I had been following since inception – Chromeo – signed on to do a national MySpace tour with fellow indie revelers Justice, DJ Mehdi and Diplo, all of which I deemed my favorite upcoming acts of last year. I would have jumped at the chance to see any of these acts live – except if it meant sitting in the balcony for $50-$70.

What is it about indie bands latching their likeness onto mainstream things that turns people off? I mean hell, I consider Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjork and Smashing Pumpkins among my favorite bands. If Fiona Apple had sold "Extrordinary Machine" to a lawn mower company, would I listen to her less? If Rage Against the Machine sold "Killing In the Name of" to an army commercial – would I have stood out in the pouring rain for 8+ hours last summer to catch them live?

I attended Chromeo's first New York City performance at the Bowery Ballroom in the spring of 2005 when they opened for Bloc Party. The audience was comprised of about ten people, seven of which, I knew. They had one album out, She's In Control, and we got into conversation with the two French Canadians when they mingled at the bar. Dave 1 talked about doing his Masters at Columbia and signed my t-shirt. P-Thugg gave us a bunch of free drink tickets as if we were already friends.

I didn't hear much from Chromeo after that until the spring of 2007 when their sophomore album, Fancy Footwork made its way around the Internet. This time I caught them a little further uptown, and the small club was packed to the brim. Where had all these people come from? Was this all a result of "Rage" in that McDonald's commercial? Despite the crowding, I had a great time. They sounded great and I met them again – though this time they were sprinting into a cab on the way to God knows where.

Chromeo returned to the Bowery Ballroom for a headlining show in January. Now, in just under three years, they sold out the venue in a matter of days. Following one of shows was an after party I attended that featured Brooklyn's biggest douche bags. Where was the empty auditorium from 2005? Where were my free drink tickets?


-- Mack Rawden

Everybody who's famous, sucked a dick to get where they are today.
Only difference between us and them.
We swallowed it.

Oh, selling out, far and away the most taboo of all musical taboos. Toping incest and even scalping your own drummer on stage, pleasing the man can ruin a band’s street cred and even inspire unparalleled hatred from a group’s own fanbase, as if, somehow, a magical force has turned back the clock and soiled everything the guilty parties ever accomplished. This phobia permeates over every aspect of Indie Rock music, engulfing it in some pathetic web of clique in-fucking.

The term selling out is vague, at best, so, I will do my best to define what I think it means. Selling out is doing something for monetary gain, which you wouldn’t otherwise do. Can we agree on that? Alright. Then newsflash: we’re all a bunch of fucking sellouts. When I was in high school, I mowed lawns in Chicago–for money. Do you think I relished sweating through two layers and getting screamed at by angry neighbors, upset over how long it had been since the previous tenants trimmed their hedges? No! But I did it because I wanted disposable income to blow on lapdances and cheap tequila.

But wait! Indie Rock doesn’t apply, right? Professional musicians are supposed to fixate on producing albums their seven fans like rather than attempting to cater to a larger audience, which might, you know, be able to pay their rent. Bullshit. I’m sure you gain a lot of your self-esteem from saying you saw Neutral Milk Hotel with twelve other people on a Tuesday night in Athens before they became trendy, but you fail to realize that because you only saw them with twelve other people, they fucking lost money. Jeff Mangum probably went home to some shitty apartment and borrowed five bucks from his parents to eat at Subway. But wait! I forgot. He has an obligation to you, one of those twelve fans who stumbled upon his work first, to never sell any of his music to a corporation or appear on any program which might exponentially increase the number of people exposed to his work. You’ve decided he’s better than that; so, he must be. He doesn’t have the right to make as much money as possible off the music he’s already produced.

You know what F. Scott Fitzgerald did when he ran out of money? He went to Hollywood and contributed to B-movie scripts. I guess I should throw away all of his books because “he’s no longer a serious artist.”

Indie Rock fans make me fucking sick to my stomach. Anything a band does, outside of continuing to play in shitty, rundown holes in the wall, is tantamount to betraying their fan base. They upped ticket prices? What a bunch of money-grubbing jackasses. They let Hollywood buy the rights to one of your favorite songs? That track was always kind of indulgent anyway. They let use a chorus as a background for forcing love on the masses? They’re dead to you.

My favorite song of all-time is Blind Melon’s “No Rain.” I blast it almost constantly, to the point where my friends call me every time it’s on the radio. Those three minutes and thirty-seven seconds are my time, my escape to tune out the rest of the world and feel wonderful, if only for that brief period. A few years ago, I heard it in a Pepsi ad. My song. My favorite piece of music ever written. And you know what I did? I smiled and silently hoped it would bring someone else as much happiness as its brought me.

Where Do You Stand?

Is Selling Out A Bad Thing?

Subscribe To Topics You're Interested In

Blended From Around The Web

Back to top

Hot Topics


How Justice League Sets Up The Aquaman Solo Movie

Gateway Blend ©copyright 2017