Monday, 18 July 2011

In Defence of those who "sold out"

Years ago, when I was in high school, I remember having discussions about bands who used to be great but sold out.  What does that even mean?  Does it mean that artists get crappy because they get signed to a big label and have to produce the things that the label demands?  This is what I think about it now a days...
Usually if you are a musician, you are in need of a career to support yourself over and above being a musician.  Lets say that you have a band and you are working hard to make ends meet during the day and a few nights a week your band gets together to make some music.  Then one day, while your band is playing covers with one or two originals, at a public function, someone says "hey your band is great, how would you like to make enough money that you can just play music.  The music that you play can be written by you but it has to meet certain criteria to be determined by the record company.". In your mind you think "hmm, that doesn't sound so bad, I can play music all I want, and the criteria is quite loose compared to the requirements that I have to meet now playing at this gig.  I even get to perform more of my own songs!"  Great!  so now you can either continue your struggle or be labeled a sellout.  Nice.  Now lets say that this record company was an 'independent' record company (whatever that actually means) and this somehow saves your little band from being sellouts (probably because there is less money involved).  You will work hard and maybe make ends meet.  Later (if you are creating a large following) a major label record company will notice you and offer you a contract that would pay off your mortgage, your car, and your guitars amps etc, but you just have to play the songs that they want.  Is that so different from playing covers at a gig somewhere before you were noticed?  Why were you playing those covers back then anyway?  Was it because  it was what someone else wanted?  Chances are that was the case (but not always).  Were you aiming toward a certain audience when you played? (If not, you should have been or else your performances were probably doomed to failure.)  Whats the real issue here?  I think that every band changes over time due to life experience and taste, and we are creatures of habit and generally resist change so we are programed to dislike the new different pieces from some of the bands who 'used to be great'.  Now because we are quite slow to find faults with ourselves and our way of thinking, we need something to blame it on!  How about "they suck now since they sold out".  Yeah.  That sounds good.

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