In high school, I made the argument that certain bands I previously liked have become “sell outs.”
An example of this would be The Killers; I saw them live when they had only put out Hot Fuss, and it was synth heaven. I lost interest in the band with Sam’s Town and everything since. But, the ugly truth is that many bands haven’t “sold out,” but rather they’ve lost their edge and consequently a chunk of their fan base.
When Brendan Flowers proclaimed their sophomore effort was going to be the best rock and roll album ever, I held him to that. Not only was it nowhere near the greatest, it was damn near unlistenable to my ears. While typing this, I’m listening to We Were Dead by Modest Mouse, another album, which a few snobby High Fidelity-esque elitist folk would dismiss as a “sell out.”
To not like an album is one thing, but to blame it on the business side of the music industry with unfounded evidence is another. Unless a band is on a roll with guitar riffs, and takes a moment of silence to praise Pepsi products and Camel cigarettes, then I can’t see how they could easily be labeled sell-outs.
Also, if an artist is just digging for deep pockets, which some can be then you must defend your statement. Were you in the room when the record executives held the band at gunpoint to produce poppy, marketable crap? Have you actually read or heard that a band has unwillingly compromised their artistic vision, or is this just a fabrication?
Also, the only thing that keeps musical elitists at the top of their idealized hierarchy is others’ indifference. If we’re talking about sell outs, then the fact of the matter is you and I are exactly that; you might not have heard of a band if it weren’t for iTunes or music review sites like Pitchfork and Cokemachineglow, which dig up independent gems.
Some are too egocentric in this department: while you may be doing back flips that Pitchfork loves yet another Sufjan Stevens album and struggle to find a copy on the internet, hundreds of thousands of eyes have scanned the review before you found it. So next time, re-think what you praise as “small time,” “independent,” and “pure.”
Evan Seaman is a junior majoring in marketing. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.