Posted in industry | music | tour dates | video on October 30, 2008

Love it or hate it, licensing songs seems to be the new reality for "indie" bands (or any bands) looking to make money and gain exposure. As an avid music fan and Senior Director of Advertising & Video Games at Primary Wave Music Publishing, Ryan Barkan makes sure to stay on top of news related to artists getting their songs in ads, on TV, in movies, in video games and just about anywhere else a band would get paid to put a song. As someone who never pays attention to any of that, I thought the site could use a weekly column to identify who sold out this week help fill in what I'm missing (think M.I.A. in the Pineapple Express commercial, Nick & Norah, Santogold shilling Bud Light, Chairlift & CSS for Apple, etc..). For that...please welcome Ryan (who also goes by the blog and photographer name "Fresh Bread")....


by Ryan Barkan

DevotchkaMicrosoft's Halo 3 video game commercial was so amazing that it won the Grand Prix (i.e. best of show) at this past year's Cannes Advertising Awards, in June, in the "Film" ad category. The spot, titled "Believe", was created by San Francisco advertising agency T.A.G. and featured the dramatically delicate "Raindrop Prelude No 15" by Chopin against a violent and disturbing war scene.

Another huge 2008 release for Microsoft is the upcoming sequel to the game Gears of War, creatively called....wait for it...Gears Of War 2 (available November 7th exclusively on Xbox360). What works once should work again right? T.A.G. thought so and took the same approach with the music as they did with the "Believe" spot, juxtaposing the hard war visuals against a beautiful song, but this time with a more contemporary artist, Devotchka. The beautiful song they used by the Colorado band is called "How It Ends" and the trailer will debut on network television this Sunday, November 2, during NFL Sunday Night Football. You can also watch it right now. The video for that, and of the full version of "Believe", are below.


Other Notable Licensing News:

DevotchkaThe Walmart-exclusive AC/DC edition of Rock Band is out November 2nd and now MTV/Harmonix have announced a Beatles video game that will be based on the "Rock Band" engine, but not branded "Rock Band". "The Best Of The Who" edition of Rock Band was released in July as DLC (downloadable content).

Hypebeast has the info on a new line of Miles Davis-inspired T-shirts by urban boutique and shoe company, Supreme.

Flaming Lips, the B-52's, BB King and others were commissioned by NBC to create their own interpretation of the network's classic "Chime In"...

You may not know that the notes to NBC's famous chimes are G, E, and C, but chances are you'd recognize the Peacock jingle in an instant. With that in mind, executives at the network decided to have some fun with their famous chimes and launched a national campaign calling for a 21st century reinvention of the 75-year-old television staple. [Hollywood Insider]
Wayne Coyne talks about it in an interview to EW you can watch HERE.

What do Friendly Fires, The Duke Spirit, The Submarines, The Black Keys, Black Kids, The Virgins, and Robyn have in common? They've all had songs featured in an episode of Gossip Girl this month.

What about Lykke Li, Passion Pit and The Kooks? Well, as you may have read earlier, they'll all be appearing in future episodes of Gossip Girl/OC-creator Josh Schwartz's new "music-themed scripted web series" Rockville, CA.

I really dig the new spot for the Google Android Phone. The commercial features a song by The Black Angels called "Black Grease" - not sure if it'll convince me to switch from the iPhone but it's a nice placement nonetheless. Video below...

T-Mobile G1 Google Android Ad (w/ The Black Angels)

Halo 3 | Believe Ad HD

Gears of War 2 "The Last Day" (w/ "How it Ends" by Devotchka)

Devotchka - 2008 Tour Dates
Oct 31 - Boulder Theater Boulder, Colorado
Nov 1 - Boulder Theater Boulder, Colorado
Dec 31 - Showbox at the Market Seattle, Washington

The Black Angels - 2008 Tour Dates
Oct 31 - El Rey w/ Roky Erickson Los Angeles, California
Nov 1 - Great American Music Hall w/ Roky Erickson San Francisco, California
Nov 2 - Great American Music Hall w/ Roky Erickson San Francisco, California
Nov 9 - Fun Fun Fun Fest Austin, Texas
Nov 30 - Bronson Ravenna, Italy
Dec 1 - Circolo degli Artisti Rome, Italy
Dec 2 - Zoe Milan, Italy
Dec 4 - Le Cabaret Aleatoire Marseille, France
Dec 5 - Espace Tatry Bordeaux, France
Dec 6 - Festival Les Transmusicales Rennes, France
Dec 7 - Le Grand Mix Tourcoing, France
Dec 8 - Élysée Montmartre Paris, France
Dec 10 - Molotow Hamburg, Germany
Dec 11 - Paradiso Amsterdam, Holland
Dec 12 - Die Werkstatt Cologne, Germany
Dec 14 - Botanique Brussels, Belgium
Dec 15 - Ruby Lounge Manchester, UK
Dec 16 - Stereo Glasgow, Scotland
Dec 18 - ULU London, UK



Comments (100)

ACDC is the best .... hands down!

Posted by Dooder City | October 30, 2008 9:35 PM

interesting, so this will be a weekly feature...

I'm split on this thing. I mean, sometimes it's kind of cool to listen to a song you like in a GOOD tv show, like last year(?) when TV on the Radio's Staring at the Sun played at the end of the season finale of Entourage. But there's also the high likelihood that a good band will end up selling their song to a terrible tv show/product...

What I definitely hate is something like of Montreal's Outback sell out... that's just unforgivable. They ruined the song, now I can't listen to Wraith Pinned without going "let's go Outback tonight..."


Posted by dee | October 30, 2008 9:47 PM

Didn't friendly fires do something with wii fit as well?

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 9:47 PM

i'd hit it

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 9:56 PM

gag me

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 10:10 PM

Great first article. I look forward to the rest, though I'm a little nervous about what I'm going to find out in this each week.

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 10:20 PM

no offense to the writer but this is pretty damn worthless.

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 10:30 PM

"no offense to the writer but this is pretty damn worthless."

what an idiotic thing to say

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 10:45 PM

i like it, keep it going!

Posted by slob | October 30, 2008 11:20 PM

i think this is pretty much the definition of selling out.

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 11:21 PM

"i think this is pretty much the definition of selling out"

did you come to that conclusion all by yourself?

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 11:27 PM

vital and interesting real world stuff, thank you to the author

Posted by Trublood | October 30, 2008 11:28 PM

excellent stuff. i'd like more from this author.

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 11:48 PM

ha, as I was reading this the MotorStorm Pacific Rift commercial came on with a Gogol Bordello song in it.

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 11:48 PM

this is good. keep it coming.

Posted by Anonymous | October 30, 2008 11:51 PM

Leave this to the Times Advertising section. And it's Gossip Girl, not Gossip Girls. As an industry insider you'd think you would know that much.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 12:13 AM

the G1 is so awesome

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 1:34 AM


Posted by mirc | October 31, 2008 2:03 AM

That BV even hinted that bands "sold out" with your clever little strike-through font is pathetic. Can't we all just admit now that bands -- specifically, indie bands ... the ones we endorse and want to read about here -- need the income from these sources to continue to tour and record? Eff off already with your holier-than-thou BS. Not like you have any issues taking ad money from Google and that ugly-ass banner strip on top of your site.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 3:38 AM

Using your art to convince other people to buy a product is just plain nasty. There is a BIG difference between benefits for non-profits, and shilling for corporations. Frankly, it makes me ill inside to hear the "inside scoop" on how this is done, be it "reality" or not.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 6:55 AM

Let the products sell themselves /
Fuck advertising, commercial psychology / Psychological methods to sell should be destroyed

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 7:02 AM

noah and the whale - 5 years time

in the new jim carey movie and the car commercial(nissan i think)

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 7:08 AM

If I have to suffer through hearing ads, I'd much rather hear a cool band in an ad then another britney or terrible jingle. Why should artists be crucified for making money from someone that appreciates them as much as a so-called 'real fan' who probably stole the music online and then weaseled into their show on a guest list?

Posted by clairepetrol | October 31, 2008 8:42 AM

Don't forget that AC/DC is played at McCain Rallies.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 9:00 AM

The genre that fills most commercials changes with time. The mid to late 90's I recall most commercial music being jungle / drum and bass type stuff, probably good artists in that genre too. These days its mostly rock n roll, specifically a diet rock n roll / light indie rock / adult alternative.

Ads need music, if they pick good music then cool. It's not the end of the world, its just an ad. Plus I bet some pretty cool people are out there picking these tunes for the ads.

How many of us would pass up a job picking music to play on ads, I bet most would love and enjoy it. I know I would.

Some people try too hard to be this anti-advertising elitist kinda thing. Ads have been a huge part of modern culture and if you stop and think about what removing all advertising from all mediums would do you might see just how much of our economy thrives on it. We all like jobs right? Or is that not cool enough either?

Posted by Joel | October 31, 2008 9:18 AM

"Some people try too hard to be this anti-advertising elitist kinda thing"


Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 9:52 AM

it's not a Beatles version of Rock Band, it's a completely separate game.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 9:54 AM

welcome Lil' ry-ry!

Posted by Big Perm | October 31, 2008 10:16 AM

Thank you for driving the final nail into the coffin of "indie" rock. It was at least fun to pretend that these bands were cool and not just corporate sell out tools. And fuck Brooklyn Vegan for printing this dumb shit.

Posted by SeeYouInTea | October 31, 2008 10:25 AM

"It was at least fun to pretend that these bands were cool and not just corporate sell out tools. "


Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 10:40 AM

that Wayne Coyne video is awesome

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 10:49 AM

keep it up.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 10:58 AM

Hehehe... "Indie" is the new "Alternative" (which was something else before that). It's just another way to faux categorize and sell music. The root of the word may have meant something initially (a band was on an independent record label) but these days there are "indie" bands with major label contracts (which is counter intuitive).

Furthermore, indie cred is not what it used to be. With the major labels bleeding dry and the emergence of the internet and PR tools like myspace, it is far easier to get the word out for your band without the help of corporate cash.

Posted by Ramble | October 31, 2008 11:02 AM

isnt there a final fantasy ad with a sigur ros song??

Posted by fuckwebsterhall | October 31, 2008 11:02 AM

It's nice to see people have opinions on something.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 11:16 AM

"What I definitely hate is something like of Montreal's Outback sell out"

I think Kevin Barnes has said that he didnt know they were going to change the words and he is pissed that it turned out the way it did. Regardless, thats an extra chunk of cash which enables him to keep putting out records and stage elaborate live shows (for his fans....)

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 11:18 AM

I don't blame artists do the ads. This money helps them eat, pay rent, make more art.
Like someone said earlier, it is a bummer when good songs get paired with lame products.

Cadillac used Hum's "Stars" to sell an SUV i think. Cool song, lame ad.

A remake of Bowie's Space Oddity is in a current car commercial. That ad is tolerable.

Posted by The Jim | October 31, 2008 11:32 AM

All you haters need to drop this romantic notion that real musicians should live in a van and make art for arts sake. That's fine for a while but eventually these musicians need to make some money to continue creating the music you enjoy.

I have a musician friend that is 30 years old and can't have a kid with his wife because he hasn't sold enough records to be able to afford it. If he managed to license one of his songs for a popular commercial it could potentially change his whole career. some of you guys are saying this is wrong?

you sound like 8th graders with all this " i'll never sell out" shit. I'll bet a bunch of you probably have a 9-5 job you hate. who's the sell out?

Posted by C | October 31, 2008 11:35 AM

Nice article Ryan...I'm digging it and know it will spark some interesting comments on this board...hollar at me if you want to do a 'this week in USBs' my man.

Posted by J Gott | October 31, 2008 12:07 PM

Is there any info on how much the artists are paid for these spots? That would be interesting to find out. It'd also be cool to hear some artists' perspectives on doing this--do they resist the temptation to "sell out" or all they all for capitalist enterprise? What about bands whose music is ripped off without their permission? The M. Ward Mastercard issue from last year comes to mind--Ward denied them permission to use his cover version of "To Go Home," but Mastercard just got a different band to record a nearly identical-sounding version for the commercial, and Ward was not happy. I wonder what happened with that.

I used to view bands who did this as total sellouts, but am now a little more on the fence. They do need to make a living, but having your music in, say, a Hummer commercial is definitely going to lower my respect for a band--and it cheapens their art. I can bearly listen to Feist anymore after hearing "1234" in an Apple ad every time I turned on my TV. Video games, TV shows, and movies are more tolerable, but it totally depends on the product and the level of saturation.

Posted by PJ | October 31, 2008 1:01 PM


Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 1:34 PM

I don't buy into any of this about "the artists need to make money to keep recording."

It may be true, but it comes down to this: Why do you make music? If the answer isn't "to sell it to commercials," then why ever do that?

My feeling is that the individual in postmodern society (i.e. this one) is basically stripped of all property, physical or otherwise. Creating art is the only way to effectively combat this; your own art is the only thing you can actually "own". Selling it to Outback is basically saying, I relinquish the right to own even my own innermost thoughts and feelings, which are no longer my own, but actually a commodity to be bought and sold, with a specific market value.

The fact that these artists feel "forced" to do this because of their economic situations is laughable. It just shows how deeply embedded the capitalist rhetoric (the concept that we need to "buy" the opportunity to make art; as someone said earlier "they needed the money to keep recording music") is embedded in our nation's artists.

When I was growing up I believed that artists represented a freedom that could not be had anywhere else. Now, our artists have decided that they have *willingly* given up this freedom. It's very discouraging.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 1:38 PM

kevin barnes is already a millionaire you foolishly ill informed libertarian zombies.

he did not need the extra 100k+ from outback steakhouse to enable "him to keep putting out records and stage elaborate live shows (for his fans....)"

these endorsements and sponsorship deals and licensing deals turn vital artists into whores. if you, as a very very lucky artist, become reliant on 100 or 300 or 750 grand yearly to maintain your lifestyle, then you will cater to what keeps those cash sources happy and interested. you debate this?

if you have convinced yourself that chasing that dollar doesn't compromise artistic integrity then I really don't know what to tell you. you're plainly wrong.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 1:40 PM

sell out bands should be abandoned.

shun them, stop listening to them.

luckily that's barely even necessary. most bands that start to suck that teet turn to bland grey shit almost immediately. the corporate gravy train in corrosive and kills quality artistic innovation.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 1:44 PM

we need a new Fugazi. this licensing / corporate sponsorship shit is crass and ridiculous.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 1:52 PM

"kevin barnes is already a millionaire you foolishly ill informed libertarian zombies."

This is of course totally false. The 30K check that is received annually from Outback is applied directly to recording and touring costs. Without Outback, there's no entertaining stage show, no costumes, no multi-level stage, and no white fucking horse.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 2:27 PM

Each artist should decide for himself or herself whether they want to have their art used to see a product. Just like I can decide that I think any artist who does that has sold out. I'm sorry, I just can't take anybody serious as an artist who licenses their song to sell a fucking car. It is nauseating to me. Do I even need to explain why? Life is about choices, we all make them all the time. There's a little something called integrity that apparently no longer exists amongst many. Hell, all you hipsters are commodities anyway. Urban outfitters and other companies sold you your own identity. Pretty funny really. So of course it is easy for many of you to justify an artist selling out since you have already done it yourselves.

Posted by SeeYouInTea | October 31, 2008 2:38 PM

you trust fund babies make me want to vomit.
kevin barnes sang the changed words. he was fine with it. he needed the money.
there is a big difference between allowing your music to be used in a commercial, laughing all the way to the bank, and signing to a major label and proceeding to allow them to call the shots regarding your music.
admittedly, i'm sick of hearing cat power covering david bowie ten times per world series game, but that's not the point. i hope chan puts that money away so that she has something to show for all the years she put in entertaining us and barely getting paid for it.
perhaps some of you bv commenters are so awash in cash that you could never imagine needing to earn some extra money on the side, but it's *barely* worth arguing with you fools anyway. those of us in the real world know better.
great post, keep it coming.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 2:50 PM

I bet the same people complaining that a band used their song in a commercial don't pay for the music they listen to.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 2:55 PM

barely getting paid? are you serious?

do you have any idea how much money Chan Marshall makes PER APPEARANCE?

this mythology about starving indie stars is so silly. These indie pop stars do quite well, while many others with oodles more talent do indeed starve.

Chan Marshall makes many DOZENS of thousands of dollars, every night, to perform for you lemmings.

She does not need to whore herself out further by licensing her songs to commercials... but she does it anyway, because she is no artist anymore - she is a cottage industry.

she can do what she likes and capitalize on her star status to her heart's content. But nothing she does speaks to me anymore, and hasn't in years. Whether the chicken came before the egg here, that her music started sucking then she sold out, or the selling out exacerbated the sucking, is up for debate.

personally, all anecdotal evidence I've ever seen points to the commercial pressures directly causing the art to go right down the suck drain.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 3:13 PM

99.9% of the bands that are getting offered large sums to sell their songs to commercials are already in the upper stratosphere of per-show pay.

we're almost exclusively talking about bands who make $3000 per night and higher. Usually much, much higher.

to claim that these bands are selling out because they "need" the money is pretty naive.

Kindly explain why can't these folks earn their pay by connecting with fans? is that so old fashioned, really? ticket prices are way, way up. That means the popular acts are getting paid more for live shows than they ever were before.

It strikes me that the defenders of this new "licensing" system of paying musicians are the ones who profit from it, people who have had to devise elaborate rationalizations for it, people like the author of this article.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 3:35 PM

artists who sell out are not artists. they are businessmen and buisnesswomen. and thats it.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 3:40 PM

Passion Pit is listed up there. Before CMJ, their most recent NYC appearance was a weekly stint at Piano's -- hardly a $3000 a night gig. How about maybe $300 or less.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 3:48 PM

What this really boils down to is two things.

One, does the pursuit of licensing and sponsorships and endorsements compromise artistic integrity over time? Most people would admit that, yes, it does affect artistic integrity to have the monkey of commercial endorsement on your back. It causes an artist to both jump through hoops he/she wouldn't otherwise have considered, and also to shy from taking possibly alienating artistic chances he/she might otherwise have taken. This is pretty self-evident. If you're suddenly pulling $300,000+ a year based on the artistic merits of one aspect of your artistic output that resonated with the marketeers, then you do what you can to speak directly to just that niche and keep that gravy train flowing. You don't rock the boat. That's poison to the artistic process.

The second question is, what are the advertisers buying exactly? Is it just a band, a song? Of course not. What they are buying is a lifestyle, specifically the grassroots subculture that an indie band represents. They are buying the scene that you, not some band, built up. Our community is not some band's property to sell.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 3:49 PM

artists who sell out are not artists. they are businessmen and buisnesswomen. and thats it.

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 4:36 PM

Warhol made ends meet by making ads for consumer goods. Is he a sell-out?

Posted by The Jim | October 31, 2008 4:43 PM

he didn't make paintings to advertise consumer goods. in fat, he directly addressed the concept of consumer goods in his art.

there is a difference between producing ad copy as a job to make ens meet and putting your heart and soul, which your fans hold dear, onto the auction plate to be used as wallpaper to wrap a product in

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 5:00 PM

this is pretty neat, but it's already been done by a really good writer at adage:

you should check him out too

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 5:13 PM

there are many sides to take on this debate, but the one perspective that is definitely not objective would the one espoused by dudes who fucking work in advertising!

who gives a flying fuck whether some advertising dude thinks that using indie bands' songs doesn't constitute a problem?

Posted by Anonymous | October 31, 2008 5:19 PM

Can we get a round of haterade for some of these posters please!! Nothing wrong with a musician doing whatever THEY please with what THEY create.

Posted by Dub | October 31, 2008 5:30 PM

@ Posted by PJ | October 31, 2008 1:01 PM

that song, "To Go Home" is not an M. Ward song. It is a song by Daniel Johnston. I can assure you every one in the Daniel Johnston camp gave their seal of approval on that commercial.

Also, FYI, M. Ward licensed a song for a Cadillac spot in 2006

i guess he is a sell out and you can no longer listen to him.

Posted by ryan fb | October 31, 2008 9:20 PM

"I realized then that, for me, selling out is not possible. Selling out, in an artistic sense, is to change one's creative output to fit in with the commercial world. To create phony and insincere art in the hopes of becoming commercially successful. I've never done this and I can't imagine I ever will. I spent seven years not even existing at all in the mainstream world. Now I am being supported and endorsed by it. I know this won't last forever. No one's going to want to use one of my songs in a commercial five years from now, so I've got to take the money while I can. It's the same with pro athletes. You only get it while you're hot and no one stays commercially viable for long. It's not like Michael Vick is going to be receiving any big endorsement deals anytime soon. As sad as it may seem, one of the few ways most indie bands can make any money whatsoever is by selling a song to a commercial. Very very few bands make enough money from album sales or tour revenue to enable themselves to quit their day job.

Next time you see a commercial with one of your favorite bands songs in it, just tell yourself, "cool, a band I really like made some money and now I can probably look forward to a few more records from them." It's as simple as that. We all have to do certain things, from time to time, that we might not be completely psyched about, in order to pay the bills. To me, the TV is the world's asshole boss and if anyone can earn some extra bucks from it and they're not Bill O'Reilly, it's a good thing."

- Kevin Barnes addresses "Selling Out" in an interview on Stereogum last year

Posted by anon | October 31, 2008 9:32 PM

Thanks for the new column. I definitely want more from the author and keep the info coming. I think the term sellout also refers to the haters who think licensing is selling out. It is art but it is also job and way to keep the art going. They dont sellout because they cant sellout. Big ups!

Posted by Rasdrew | October 31, 2008 9:55 PM

you're a bunch of chumps.

if you don't see that advertising money poisons artistic intentions then you are blind.

Posted by Anonymous | November 1, 2008 4:51 AM

you poor uninformed fans, you actually believe your musician heroes when they claim to not make any money.

let me tell you something, the bands that are getting these commercial offers make money. They already have some established pull on the touring circuit and a dedicated fanbase or else the marketers wouldn't approach them in the first place.

Kevin Barnes, aka Of Montreal, sells out 3000 capacity venues at $25+ a head. The venue may take a hefty cut, but he's walking with minimum $25,000 after expenses when he plays New York. His band is a solo project with a band name, so it;s not as if he shares equally with his bandmates. Trust me, he's having no trouble, quote, "making any money whatsoever."

That you buy into his weak ass cover story explaining his obvious sell out is just sad. I guess you just really really want to believe that your indie heroes have integrity.

News flash: NOPE!

Posted by Anonymous | November 1, 2008 5:01 AM

Great idea for a column. Keep it up.

Posted by Bob F. | November 1, 2008 8:23 AM

well, this proves that most BV commenters are still in high school.

Posted by nick | November 1, 2008 10:39 AM

... and have other people (ie mom and dad) handling their finances. Fucking CLUELESS

Posted by Anonymous | November 1, 2008 11:18 AM

Sappy A Holes

Posted by Anonymous | November 1, 2008 12:44 PM

"well, this proves that most BV commenters are still in high school."

I don't know Nick. That one guy with the postmodernism and whatnot sounds like he's been in college long enough to learn about concepts he will later realise are bullshit.

Posted by Dave | November 1, 2008 5:20 PM

so, let me make sure I follow you here, you think the commenter is childish because he knows how much big indie bands actually make on tours?

but... he's actually got his facts right. Bands like Of Montreal, Cat Power, Devendra Banhart, Sufjan Stevens, Wilco, Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio... pretty much anyone you see playing Terminal 5, Hammerstein Ballroom, Roseland, etc; these people make very good money. We're talking many thousands of dollars per concert appearance, often more nightly on tour than the average per capita income *yearly* in the United States.

Why does knowing and acknowledging this fact indicate to you that someone is "still in high school"?

It seems to me that you've gone so far down the road of 2 dimensional, contrarian, libertarian thinking that you've convinced yourselves that every truism of tacky capitalism is false.

But maybe you should make sure the facts fit the hypothesis, because you are 100% wrong and ill informed if you believe that every indie rocker "isn't making any money to speak of."

Many do quite well, and those that do get rich like to hide the real numbers behind tales of the legions of musicians who make nothing, in order to obscure and rationalize their crass money grabs... rewriting a song to serve Outback Steakhouse, for instance.

One thing none of these successful indie bands will ever come clean about is the amount they make nightly as guarantees on tour, or their yearly income with licensing and sponsorships. The reason: you'd realize they are overcharging you through the teeth for concert tickets, and also that they have become gluttonous corporate whores.

Posted by Anonymous | November 1, 2008 5:30 PM

I love that Kevin Barnes holds himself in such inflated esteem that he would actually say "for me, selling out is not possible."

what a pompous arrogant ass!

Posted by Anonymous | November 1, 2008 5:32 PM

Seeing as how nearly all music is recorded direct to Protools these days, how the heck do you get of claiming that artists need to sell their songs to suburban steakhouse chains inorder to "keep recording"?

Recording at home, which is the dominant recording method these days, costs virtually nothing. Even if you want to record in a studio, it's an investment of maybe 5 or 10 thousand dollars (and that's a very liberal estimate) to take a lot of care and record a full length record in a reputable indie studio to your heart's content. The well known indie labels all pay these fees. Frankly most fans couldn't tell the difference between a studio record and a Protools record - studios definitely don't necessarily make records "better".

These indie stars and advertising proponents are feeding you a line of bullshit. It is STILL selling out, it never stopped being anything but selling out. It's a swindle. Nobody "has to" sell their tunes to corporate America, it is greed, not need, that sends them down that road.

Selling out shouldn't be tolerated, and it certainly doesn't deserve any sympathy.

Posted by Anonymous | November 2, 2008 11:02 AM

There is nothing greedy about making money.

Posted by Dave | November 2, 2008 3:16 PM

hey skeptics, talk to anyone from Athens about whether or not Kevin Barnes is a rich, by any standard. They will tell you that yes, he is. So is Devendra Banhart, so is Chan Marshall, so is Sufjan Stevens, Isaac Brock, Joanna Newsom, and several more.

They've made the money they've made by selling records (yes it is still possible to make money selling records, if you appeal to the right demographic) and by playing in front of large crowds at high ticket prices. Great, more power to them.

But is it so much to expect these people, who are exceedingly *LUCKY* in the first place, to take the high road and not turn their music into advertising slogans?

Posted by Anonymous | November 2, 2008 11:37 PM

If selling your music to a corporation is "selling out" then is selling your music to fans selling out as well. If we're holding music-making to this huge standard of art, then why should anyone pay to listen to it in the first place?

People sell their paintings. People make films to make money. Art is a business. If you buy an album from a band, you're not just supporting that band, you're supporting every band on that label. What if one of the bands on that label had ad revenue? What if one band keeps another afloat with it's ad money?

Most people aren't in the business of music to play free shows for all their fans and give away all their music for free. They're in it because they like the art and they're able to continue making that art because people pay for it. Whether it's a corporation or an individual consumer is really not that big a difference.

Oh, and corporation haters - can you tell me that EVERYTHING you own is unbranded?

Posted by Matt | November 3, 2008 5:41 PM

hey mat, read the thread above. there is a clear difference between selling your work, on it's own merits, to the public and allowing your songs to be used to sell products. your argument ignores that this differentiation has been explained in great detail already.

in short, your point is no point whatsoever.

Posted by Anonymous | November 3, 2008 5:49 PM

As a music industry insider who has a relatively good idea of how much money most bands that aren't mega-pop stars actually take home for themselves and their families, I have to ask - how many of you purchase all your music? How many of you download it for free, illegally? Many of the bands I know and work with have had to turn more and more to these alternative streams of revenue in order to continue on in the industry. More often than not, it doesn't "ruin" their art (Outback commercial totally exempt from this comment) or their credibility, in fact it brings in the income they need to survive and continue to record and create. Anyone who knows the high expenses of touring and recording these days can understand this.

If you are all purchasing your music still, then ignore this and thank you for supporting artists.

Posted by Anonymous | November 3, 2008 6:36 PM


Posted by MORH8 | November 3, 2008 6:40 PM

6:36 is full of shit. I am also a "music industry insider" and I would like to call attention to 6:36's complete lack of any hard numbers behind his/her claims.

if you're so certain that bands have no choice but to sell their music to licensing, then please give us some genuine numbers about

A.) how much money the bands in question make on tour? How much does a band of, say, Of Montreal's stature gross per evening tour

B.) how much extra they are making via licensing, let's start with Outback or a similar restaurant chain, how much do they offer said artists of said stature to allow their songs to be used, and how much to get the band to rewrite the lyrics to praise a product, and then rerecord, singing those lyrics? How much to just have the song play in the background during an ad for a movie? how much for a video game?

C.) exactly why and how the expenses of touring and recording have increased "these days?" And what would you estimate those expenses to be?

since no one on the pro-licensing side of the equation has yet come forward with any numbers whatsoever, it kind of puts a cloud over their arguments that bands "have to" sell out these days. No?

Posted by Anonymous | November 3, 2008 6:50 PM

why does downloading matter to this discussion at all? downloading is a fact of life, you aren't going to bring back selling recorded music to people any more than you could talk people into listening to music on 8 Track again.

At the same time, since downloading has caused the collapse of the major label record industry, it has suddenly become possible for indie level bands to gain an audience and win the promotion / PR game in a way that simply wasn't possible in the old days. They used to be frozen out by the better funded, better connected operations at the big majors - not so anymore.

This means that the most accessible (and lucky) indie acts now can perform on late night television shows, they can have their videos shown on MTV (or MTV2, at least), they can get on the radio; and they can use these opportunities to build larger audiences to play live in front of, for much higher ticket prices than were kosher before.

This is clearly happening, that a place like Terminal 5 even exists is testament to that. Ditto for the McCarren Park Pool.

So bands may not be getting rich selling records (although some still do!), but they make boatloads more cash playing live shows than they ever did before, especially festival appearances.

So what's the problem? Why is it suddenly "justified" to do all the sell-out shit that was not cool before? It's telling that the people who want to tell you that bands just gotta do this sell-out shit these days are the same people who profit the most from it.

Posted by Anonymous | November 3, 2008 9:40 PM

still waiting on the pro-licensing crowd to cough up some actual numbers....

Posted by Anonymous | November 5, 2008 8:12 PM

I stumbled on this and really just have one question to everyone whining in the comment section about artists selling out...why do you really care, i mean really? what direct impact does this have on your life? does it really make you that mad to see a band that you enjoy listening to hawking a product (maybe a product you don't agree with)? if so, just stop listening, right? sounds simple enough, right? why so much hate? are you having a bad day? i understand expressing your opinions but this is just sad. i mean seriously, how is your life better or worse because a band says ok to a product...would love someone to cough up a legit answer to that.


Posted by Anonymous | November 6, 2008 1:03 PM

ok 1:03, here you go.

I love sincere, heartfelt music and it's plain to see that the lure of licensing money causes bands to make compromised creative decisions, in effect to become insincere and calculated.

Artists who get used to lots of promotional money start to worry, "will the advertisers still use me if my stuff is too edgy?" It has the rapid effect of making interesting artists make shitty, compromised art.

Commercial success on its own can complicate the creative process too, but there is big a difference between getting wealthy and famous based on people buying the records that you want to make, by attracting fans to buy tickets to see the live show that's just the way you conceived it; versus getting paid because advertisers respond to one aspect of your sound, in one song, or because companies want to use the crowd you have built up and the energy you express in your live show to help them launch a product and wrap your charisma and scene around their marketting strategy.

When you become dependent on licensing your songs and payed promotional appearances to pay for your lifestyle, then the pressures on you to produce the sort of tunes the advertisers want from you, or to remain the kind of performer that's appropriate for promotional events; those pressures are different than the pure desire to just make music that regular people will respond to.

I oppose licensing because I love music. Licensing poisons the artists I love. You can argue about this all you want, but can you find me one example of a musician whose best stuff came out after their songs started appearing in commercials, or after they started getting asked to play shows for tennis shoe companies?

Posted by Anonymous | November 6, 2008 1:35 PM


Posted by Anonymous | November 6, 2008 5:31 PM

Flaming Lips "Do You Realize" for Mitsubishi circa '04. At War With The Mystics came out in 06...awesome f-ing album. BOOM!

Another? Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On" for Jag...Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga that followed was a pretty good album as well.

But I bet you're already hoping the next Band Of Horses album will suck...they've licensed 2 tracks this year alone.

Also, what gives you such insight into the minds of these artists to know that they've been so compromised? Are you friends with the Ting Tings?

Posted by Anonymous | November 7, 2008 4:34 PM

1:35 - if you love music so much, why don't you just make your own...make it real heartfelt and genuine. yea, do it! douche.

Posted by Anonymous | November 7, 2008 4:40 PM

seriously? band of horses and spoon?

you've defined boring, SUCK, and "only in it for the money"

flaming lips I'll give you, they are a genuine exception, and that's true about them on many levels. plus, it could be argued that their entire second wave of success began from artistic hail mary passes made at a time when their first wave of commercial success had completely imploded from the backlash to "She Don't Use Jelly."

You may not remember, but I was around then and I recall them playing empty venues and being all but written off in about 1996, leaving them with no commercial viability to worry about losing anymore. It was at that moment, when their saleability was at zero, that they decided to do things like release an album with the different instrument tracks on different cds, when they did their experiments with mixing their records by driving around abandoned parking garages with the different instrument tracks playing on different car stereos, weaving around each other.

It was that we're-washed-up-it-doesn't-matter-anymore spirit that led to the "Soft Bulletin," which remains their creative peak, and definitely caught everyone by surprise when it came out.

Posted by Anonymous | November 7, 2008 4:49 PM

why 4:40, why don't you eat a dick?

1:35 wrote something intelligent and you just wrote a bunch of trash

Posted by Anonymous | November 7, 2008 5:40 PM



Posted by Anonymous | November 7, 2008 6:24 PM

did this song make FROM GEARS OF WAR alone?

Posted by HOWMUCH | November 17, 2008 3:05 PM

It seems kind of ironic to me that a blog is talking about indie bands "selling out" in light of the fact that places like Brooklyn Vegan have advertisements on their website while also giving away these same indie bands' mp3s for free. So Brooklyn Vegan is makings some money from these ads but people are coming to the site for free music and a little insight. So while the band isn't compensated, Brooklyn Vegan can make money from corporate advertising while depriving the artists of any profit and then question these artist when they lend their songs to corporate ads???

Posted by Ben | April 9, 2009 1:52 PM

I don't think BV questions these bands for their commercial decisions, at all.

It's commenters who have (rightfully) criticised.

Posted by Anonymous | April 9, 2009 2:46 PM

I love sincere, heartfelt music and it's plain to see that the lure of licensing money causes bands to make compromised creative decisions, in effect to become insincere and calculated.

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