“Selling Out” Has Lost All Meaning In Today’s Media Culture


Jed Gottlieb writing for the Boston Herald takes modern indie bands to task for selling out to the man.

John Mellencamp’s career has basically been one long commercial for the American working man. So when Chevy ads featuring his song “Our Country” scrolled across TV screens every 2.3 seconds for months last fall, it seemed fitting.
But when Of Montreal – a cultish dance-pop band with a penchant for singing about chemical dependence and oppressive isolation – sold its song “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games” to Outback Steakhouse, well, let’s just say a flamboyant frontman in mascara isn’t your typical bloomin’ onion pitchman.
Shilling for soul-crushing, art-ignorant, world-befouling multinationals seems antithetical to indie rock’s do-it-yourself code – or at least that’s what Fugazi, the Dead Kennedys and even major-label grunge grandpa Neil Young have preached. But Of Montreal and many more of today’s indie bands think outside the box, or outside the bun, or any way you want them to think if you’ve got a suitcase full of cash.

Gottlieb goes on to implicate Iron & Wine, The Shins, Postal Service, The New Pornographers and White Stripes in this money-making stratagem.
I say more power to them. It’s incredibly hard to work for yourself, especially in the arts. And just because you sell the rights to a song doesn’t mean you’re altering your indie DNA. Rather, it means you’re making money the hard way, by inventing something of value.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.