so i was thinking about bands "selling out" recently and why it annoys me. The Rolling Stones, in particular, piss me off lately. They have to be extremely rich already, but they've been in some stupid commercials lately with these insurance people saying how cool it is to be at a Rolling Stones concert. I think that automatically makes your band lame, if your concerts are praised in insurance commercials. I'm sure they got paid a ton to do it too. And they're probably going to tour soon and charge $80 a ticket.

Then there was the whole Verve thing, where the Rolling Stones sued the band the Verve for using a very short and nearly impossible to notice sample of an orchestral version of a Stones song - not even the band themselves playing. The sample was in "Bittersweet Symphony," which was a huge hit for the Verve, and the Stones won all past and future royalties on the song, which they then licensed in lots of commercials - something I'm pretty sure the Verve had refused to do. So the Rolling Stones basically made a ton of money on a song they never wrote or performed and rubbed it in the Verve's faces. The Verve, who had been hailed as the one of the best bands of the late 90s, broke up not long after. It's not like they stole an entire song or were making fun of the Rolling Stones or anything - the sample was like six notes on a violin, nothing obviously by the Stones or really impressive musically or anything. I saw an interview on MTV or something with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards about the whole deal and they were furious that the Verve had dared do that. What a bunch of dicks. They're obviously just out to line their own pockets however they can.

Another example of what I think is a sell out are the Black Eyed Peas. They don't make me as mad as the Rolling Stones, but have been in so many commercials, magazine ads, etc, sometimes for the most tenuous reasons, that it's ridiculous. I feel like they're more of a spokesband than a real musical group now. Which is too bad, because their old stuff was pretty good, like Bridging the Gap, which was before they got the girl singer. I also think part of what annoys me about them being in so many commercials is that a lot of the commercials basically say that they're a cool group. If you have to be told that something is cool, then it's probably not. And since when is Best Buy or some car company the arbiter of cool? Plus commercials seem to decrease coolness exponentially - being in one commercial is not bad, but you rapidly get less cooler as you appear in more commercials. I thought Moby's Play cd was great, but after he licensed every song to commercials, it became not very cool. He's almost a joke now, and none of his CDs after that have sold very well. Even Snoop Dogg in commercials is getting old, it's almost rote - here's Snoop, he's dressed like a pimp, he says "izzle" a couple times, and our company is now cool.

But along the same lines, I wonder what else it is that makes me feel like a band sold out? I think what a band is selling is a big factor - Ikea wouldn't be too bad, but some chips or Pontiac cars would be pretty lame. Devo let the Swiffer mop thing use a version of "Whip It" in a commercial as "Swiff It," but apparently they said OK because it was such a bizarre idea, which I think is a good reason. Maybe how obscure the band plays a role too - for example, I think I heard an Iron and Wine cover of "Such Great Heights" by the Postal Service in a car commercial, which I thought was cool. But I heard a Postal Service song in another car commercial and thought it was lame. Iron and Wine are definitely more obscure, and I've heard the Postal Service a lot more often, so it seems like more of an attempt by them to get famous. But why don't I think that way about Iron and Wine? They were both in car commercials? It's odd. Maybe something about Iron and Wine makes them seem less corruptible or something.

And a corollary is that if the band is obscure and a little old, I think it's fine - like I just heard Civ's "Can't Wait One Minute More" in a Nissan or Toyota commercial - good for them! That was a minor hit maybe 10 years ago, I think it's cool they're getting paid for it again.

But if I ever make music and people want to use it in a commercial, I'll only consider it if it's a cool commercial that isn't on very much, and it's some product I like. Assuming that ever happens of course. I probably would need to music some kind of music first.

Stereogum has a thing about Paul McCartney in a commercial too.


handels said...

i think maybe the postal service is in the new civic ad campaign, there's good music in a couple of their commercials... i used to hate hearing music i like in commercials on principle, but now i think the whole concept of "selling out" is bullshit. bands i like are under no obligation to starve themselves for my ego, you know? as long as they choose companies i'm fine with, it's fine... i guess if my favorite band was in a commercial for something awful i'd probably lose interest, but because of HOW they licensed their music, not that they did it at all. anyway, good post.

Andrew said...

yah, "selling out" is a fine line for me. Maybe it annoys me because I feel like the company is just trying to attract the band's fanbase, rather than just playing a song because it's good. And I could care less if a band signs to a big record label or whatever, which some people consider selling out. Beating people in fantasy football, however! Whereas if you look at my team, I am obviously not interested in winning.

ilb said...

Actually, it wasn't the Stones that sued the Verve, it was their old manager (and producer) Andrew Loog Oldham. The track that the Verve used, "The Last Time", was taken from an album Oldham did where he directed (and produced) a symphony playing Rolling Stones covers. I don't think the Stones saw a penny of that money and the Verve gave their small cut to charity rather than be bothered with it.

Andrew said...

well, in any case, they were still dicks on VH1, and are still tools. A&E's website, of all places, says it was Andrew Klein who was the copyright owner, and that they had agreed to a 50/50 split, then he changed his mind at the last minute before the song was released.

handels said...

pernice brothers in a SEARS commercial... did a doubletake with that one...