Last night, I went to the Kings of Leon concert – which was awesome btw – and one of my concert-goer friends was telling me how she and her step-sister were having a discussion about how people think Kings of Leon have “sold out”. At that moment in time, my reaction was a resounding “uhhhhh”, meaning I was four beers deep and didn’t care to really think about the statement. But later on last night, and then again this morning, I kept asking myself “Is ‘selling out’ such a bad thing?”
Let’s use Kings of Leon as an example. Less than a year ago they played a show at First Avenue in Minneapolis, a venue that can hold maybe 2,500 people max. Last night, they played a nearly sold out show at the Target Center in Minneapolis, a venue that can seat 19,000 people for concerts. Between those two shows, they’re most recent album ‘Only by the Night’ blew up and, according to some, Kings of Leon ‘sold out’.
Let’s start from the beginning up until their ‘selling out’ point. Disclaimer: this is my guess as to a typical band’s timeline from when they first start out until they make it big.
When a band forms, they have a dream of becoming musicians and writing music for people to listen to and enjoy, and that is what they do for a living. So they do their thing, writing music, performing in small venues, and eventually getting picked up by a record label. They’re thinking, “Awesome. Doing what we love to do and getting paid for it.” Then they keep on going, writing music, now playing medium sized venues like First Ave in Minneapolis, they start a following of fans, and their singles are put in the rotation on college radio stations. This continues for a while. They’re living their dream, but they aren’t selling out arenas yet or getting paid like rock stars.
Then, maybe a few of their songs get featured on a television series or in an ad campaign for Target or some car company. And that is where the “selling out” begins, since, let’s be honest, they got some cash for the TV stuff. Then their new album drops simultaneously with this new exposure and BOOM – instant popularity with the masses. They’re all over VH1, on MTV during commercial breaks between reality shows since MTV doesn’t play videos anymore, nominated for Grammy’s, musical guests on SNL, played on both the pop and alternative radio stations, on the red carpet at the VMAs, the list goes on.
So if all of that fame and popularity (not to mention straight cash) is a result of “selling out” – the question is what band wouldn’t want to “sell out”? Isn’t that kind of the point of it all? Making music for people to listen to and enjoy? And not just a select group of scenesters that only listen to unknown bands, but to everyone.
Prediction: If my little timeline above is at all accurate, the next band to make it big is SPOON.