TODAY I'm going to approach that long debated discussion "Selling Out", and waffle on a bit about certain things. I will mostly be taking this up because as all three of my regular readers probably know there has been a bit of a rash lately of Swedish rock musicians sucking corporate cock.
Here is what my good friend Wiki has to say about SELLING OUT:
"Selling out" refers to the perception that someone is compromising their integrity, morality, or principles in exchange for money or "success" (however defined). It is commonly associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream audience. Any artist who expands their creative path to encompass a wider audience, as opposed to continuing in the genre and venues of their initial success.
Yup, we can all agree with that right?
Also, there is one band in particular (who's name I will not say as I'm sick of mentioning them) but in a recent interview they quoted me re: my comments about them being in the Melodifestival (Sweden's run up to the Eurovision Song Contest).
” if you want to sell out that much as competing in Melodifestivalen you might as well make a porno movie or a Mc Donalds commercial “.
This is what they had to say about me, and people like me, and I target this because it is so typical of the same "excuses" I been hearing from people who sold out all my life. So this goes for not only this band but every band that has ever stepped into the dark side.
"The people who think that we´re stupid for doing this are the ones that doesn´t like us anyway. Today everybody wants music related things for free the listeners also have to accept that a band sometimes participates in odd events and things like this (melodifestivalen) to be able to keep doing what they love doing. That´s the reality. As I said we think that this is gonna be a lot of fun to do and you get a lot of publicity so why not.
It´s easy to say that a band is ” a Sell Out” .It´s often bitter and immature people who are playing music themselves but don´t get anywhere that say stuff like that. A normal nice and sane person doesn´t say something like that about an artist or a band. If you feel comfortable and secure within yourself you don´t need to talk down on other people to feel good about yourself. The people who like us know who we are and what we do , we don´t need to prove anything to them by being true underground and sit on our asses in our mouldy rehearsal place in Tyresö (a suburb of Stockholm) for the rest of our lives".
So, firstly, with our accurate WIKI definition of "selling out" in mind lets have a look at just what has happened with this bands statement and just how easy it is to yell "sell out".
"THE BAND" - have two very good rock/punk albums out on a small-ish label and since their conception have pretty much done everything themselves. They have a very loyal following of good music fans spread out over many countries.
MELODIFESTIVALEN - song writers write their interpretation of a rock song and then look around for a band that looks the part to be able to play it.
So, a rocky/punky band that would usually play hard rocking tunes in smaller venues and festivals suddenly stands up in front of an audience of thousands of "norms" in a stadium, watched by millions at home on TV and plays (well, that's debatable, I think the music was at least mimed) a song that is not only not written by them but a sloppy 2nd rate power ballad catered to a pop audience. Go back to our original definition of "selling out" and you have our 101 right there.
Now lets look at some of the things that the band have said and examine them.
"The people who think that we´re stupid for doing this are the ones that doesn´t like us anyway."
OR, they DO like them, and are fans and have that in common and don't want a band that they love to suddenly be liked by "norms" pop fans all over the country.
"...a band sometimes participates in odd events and things like this (melodifestivalen) to be able to keep doing what they love doing"
"we don´t need to prove anything by being true underground and sit on our asses in our mouldy rehearsal place in Tyresö (a suburb of Stockholm) for the rest of our lives".
OR, the band were doing very well already. Two albums, thousands if not millions of fans, tours with the likes of MOTÖRHEAD, festivals all over Europe...I don't think they had much of a chance to sit about in their mouldy old rehearsal room. Plea to leave the faithful behind and cross over to a mainstream audience?
And the best one, and the one I will talk about now for AGES...
"It´s easy to say that a band is ” a Sell Out” .It´s often bitter and immature people who are playing music themselves but don´t get anywhere that say stuff like that. A normal nice and sane person doesn´t say something like that about an artist or a band. If you feel comfortable and secure within yourself you don´t need to talk down on other people to feel good about yourself".
OR...are we really like that? I don't think so. Just this week I read by TWO other writers in two of Sweden's largest newspapers their disdain for what this band did. One I am not sure about but I know that he writes for one of Sweden's biggest newspapers so he's probably a very big passionate music fan. If he plays too (I don't know) then he's both a consumer AND a creator. That my readers is our keywords "CONSUMERS AND CREATORS" - we are the ones who have a right to say "this isn't right!" When a spokesperson for OUR music, lifestyle and scene misrepresents it we have a right to voice our opposition.
Now, the other writer I know is a musician and played for a VERY popular hardcore punk band a few years ago. When that band split up he joined another very popular punk band. He writes for a very popular newspaper, a very popular Swedish rock magazine and writes a very popular blog. He's not "jealous"... he's not sat home dissing this band because secretly he wishes that he was in their shoes. He's a CONSUMER AND A CREATOR - and opposes. His band/s never sold out because they had ethics, values and still today, credibility. It's funny how some people presume that every one's goal with a band is to be the biggest and most famous band that there is...sometimes it's not all about that!
And now...to me!
Have I ever sold out? Am I jealous? Do I want to secretly be rich and famous? Well, I've not written too much about myself yet and I don't really want this to be an ego-stroke but I'll tell you a few things...
As a youth throughout the 80s and 90s I played in many small bands. Metamorphosis, Rabid Pagan, Succubus, Whore, Angelfuck, we made demos, we put on our own shows, we did it all ourselves. My mother offered a few times to put me onto a pub covers circuit if I would only put a band together that would play old covers, I would make a lot of money but I just couldn't do it, so I didn't. There, right there, is the root. Integrity vs Money.
Later on in life I joined the band Mr.Zippy - a punk band from Clevedon, North Somerset who started out small but grew to putting on their own tours. We released our own album, distributed it ourselves and ended up playing all over the UK, Japan and Norway. By 2002 we were signed to one of (if not THE) UK's biggest punk label. We toured constantly, all over.
"play music but never got anywhere" to quote Crucif...oops, I mean "that band" is not a label I would choose for myself.
- Got sponsored by Airwalk shoes but refused to play with the "Airwalk" banner on stage saying that we had more important things to say than "buy these shoes".
- Turned down offers from "big time" managers and labels.
- Started a protest that carries on today against swindling flyer deals and promoters.
- Refused to make a video to go onto the UK video channels.
And so to Sweden - I started the band Lucien, who released one album on a small independent UK label. Got picked up by a Swedish distributor. We were a bunch of punks and death metallers playing rock. Our lyrics were socio-political. People didn't get it. Reviewers expected a punk album and got a rock album...hello? My theory was that we could play this music but with the message and still be punk. Oh no no no, you must sound like this, or this or this...
Anyway, we broke up when other members of the band wanted to take it to a more commercial direction. Not me say I. No more band.
So, I've always stayed true and done some great things with it. I got out of the rehearsal room, fuck I went to the other side of the world! Never once sacrificing an ounce of integrity.
"BUT WAIT A MINUTE GREG!" I hear you say. "ARE YOU NOT THAT PUNK GUY THAT USED TO PLAY IN SHEBANG????".
Well, that's part true and part rumour. I'll explain. Shebang by the way for those who don't know are a Swedish girl pop-duo, manufactured by the same company that brought you Rednex, who were quite famous about 6 years ago and had a string of chart hits in Sweden. Now...when I first moved over to Sweden I worked for their record company. They had a few sister companies and I handled promotions and booking for their more rock acts.
I think that this rumor, although part true comes from another place. You see, back then when SHEBANG were actually a big band in Sweden they did have a permanent backing band that went on tour with them. The guys in the backing band had their own band called THE ACKERMANS. A few years down the line when they were no longer the backing band THE ACKERMANS split and one member started an emo-punk band called FARE THEE WELL and another started a more crusty punk band called VARNAGEL. In a way these guys have done a reverse sell out, right? Well, anyway, there's your punks that used to play in SHEBANG.
Where do I come in? Well, like I said I worked for the record company and after the girls released their last album "Go Go Go" in 2007 they had a few gigs booked, but one of the guitar players in their backing band let them down at the last minute. One of the gigs was a charity gig in aid of child cancer, the other a small club show in Arvika. They asked me if I could stand in, I thought about it and said "ah, why the hell not!"
So there you go.
This was however picked up on by one of Sweden's biggest rock/metal magazines CLOSE UP when it came to reviewing Lucien's album.
Now, I'm not going to say anything bad about Close Up Magazine A) because it is essentially a great magazine and B) one of the writers might well read this!
But, well. Lucien had released their album and we wanted to at least let a few people know that it was out there. So, you know like when a magazine has a free CD with a bunch of songs on it and writes a bit about the band? Well, that cost us easily a months wages (for me anyway) to do.
We had a song on the CD, there was a few reviews - some good, some bad (fair doos) but....they wrote a bit about the band, but instead of writing about the band they wrote just about me and specifically to ridicule me for having played a few gigs with SHEBANG.
You see, it's all about the integrity isn't it. So let me tell you, what I told them.
- Had never replied to any of my emails until one came with a wedge of money attached.
- They are quite quick to dis Shebang yet quite happy to take money from their record company for adverts.
- On a personal note when they had a festival a few years back I watched their main guy get handed demo after demo by bands and as soon as the band turned their backs he just left it where he was, discarded (I by the followed him round and picked them all up afterwards, discovering some great bands, M:40 among them!)
- And the worst of all.....
Still...a few months later I saw that the band OCTOBER FILE got an amazing review and a bit in the magazine, in fact their album (which is boring as fuck run of the mill stuff) seemed to be loved, according to the magazine they were like the best thing since The Ramones.
What they didn't mention however is that the bass player for OCTOBER FILE is also the boss of PHD distribution, and that in the same magazine PHD distribution had taken out a two-page advert. Now...that could, I'm wiling to admit just be a coincidence.
(UPDATE - apparently this WAS just a coincidence. I'm sorry to have to admit that I just find their music repetitive, mundane and soullessly boring - perhaps influenced more by me knowing the people involved and knowing that it's just a put-together band formed just to sell a few albums and go on big tours with bigger bands because the boss of these bands label plays in October File. But - although this wasn't the case with O.F, this kind of money influenced worship does happen A LOT even in underground outlets, so it's a good example.)
Anyway...so, what's so wrong with selling out anyway?
More people hear the band, the band gets richer and more popular, more people like them right? Well, yes kind of but. I think the best example I can think of is Metallica, You see up into 1990 when they released "Smell The Glove" they were quite underground (not within rock circles but overall). You see, when you saw someone else with a Metallica t-shirt or patch, you knew that they were like you. That they lived like you and were passionate like you. That they had searched and found - they were your soulmate. And then after they got in the charts and became like the biggest band ever...suddenly you were not to sure. Pre-1990 I would proudly wear a Metallica t-shirt stating my lifestyle. Post-1990 I just meant that I kinda might just a little bit be into kinda rock a bit.
When you sell out you shit on your fans. You ruin your original message and fan base and you lose them, you become just another face in the sea of people waiting to shout "next!".
Look at Backyard Babies...once an "ok" rock band, then media whores, even with the band sitting in a car shouting "turn around the roundabout!" for a GPS advert...lo-oo-s-ers-
Some bands that had it right...
Between 89-07 this Swedish punk band released 11 albums and toured almost constantly. They only once made a music video for a song from their last album. They signed to Burning Hearts Records but when Burning Hearts was bought by Epitaph, who were owned my a larger corporation they hopped off joined the smaller label Bad Taste. Mucho respecto!
Formed by ex-members of Minor Threat and Rites Of Spring this band have always stayed very true to their punk ethics, for example, selling merchandise on tour would require a full-time merchandise salesperson so Fugazi decided to simplify their touring by not selling merchandise. Also, it's about the MUSIC right? Fugazi hated high admission for rock concerts so they kept their gigs at $5 or under if they could. They also did the same for their albums, which they put out themselves.
FALL OF EFRAFA
This English crust/doom band were active between 05-09, their music was a re imagination of the Richard Adams book/film Watership Down. They turned the "story" into a political and social adventure incorporating themes of oppression, animal rights, veganism and much more. They had a story to tell, they did it over three albums and then called it a day, Job done.
WHO DID IT WRONG...
If you're gonna write an album called "NEVER SELL OUT" - make sure that you weren't recently in an advert for Sony Playstation...