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.

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6 responses »

  1. leDeb says:

    I think the argument from some people about selling out is that once you do make the big bucks and play the large arenas; somehow your music loses its integrity and authenticity.

    I read some where that KOL’s lead singer was complaining that the only song people know and sing at their concerts is “Sex on Fire.” Now, if that’s what you are upset about, then yes – you probably did sell out.

    However, I never know about bands until they do “sell out,” so I’m thankful that they’ve reached this level – otherwise I’d still be listening to Sister Hazel.

    • Kari says:

      I guess I wasn’t really thinking about that comment by the singer. But now that you mention it… if I were that guy, wouldn’t be complaining at all because I’d be to busy counting the Ben Franklins in my pocket… just sayin’… 😉

      Some bands definitely do lose their authenticity and integrity when the hit fame and fortune. And then they go to rehab and write really deep meaningful music and the cycle starts all over again.

  2. ash says:

    it’s always been a pet peeve of mine when fans turn on a band they previously liked for the sole reason that the band “sold out.” i put the phrase in quotes because for some fans, they consider the phrase to mean “making significant amounts of money and getting famous,” which i don’t find objectionable in and of itself. i mean, why wouldn’t you want your favorite little band to be properly rewarded financially for their great music? and why would you be so selfish as to deprive other people the chance to hear music you think is good?

    i think that selling out does exist, but it has more to do with making songs for the goal of making money rather than the goal of creating something that has intrinsic value (see: Black Eyed Peas).

    i officially resent the people who don’t want their favorite little band to make it big. who are you to keep a good band down?

  3. Kari says:

    Ashley – couldn’t agree more!

  4. Kari says:

    Oh – and I aslo think Phoenix is on their way up. They played the Varsity Theater this summer (small venue), then they just played a SOLD OUT show at First Ave last week (medium sized venue). And one of their songs is in a car commercial. And this is a good thing!

  5. Kirsey says:

    This is an interesting topic. I heard on Cities 97 a little while back in an interview with Augustana that they had made a bunch of compromises on their latest album simply because the record label wanted it and they had little to do with the decisions. They were really at the total discretion of the label, just because that is where the Benjamins were coming from. To me, that really puts a band in a tough spot, they are pulled in two directions, one way not to sell out to the label and make their music how they want to make their music, but also wanting to get paid and get the radio play that only the label can bring. I don’t envy their position because money talks and you know everyone’s got to make a living, but it’s got to be tough. In the end, they listened to the label, I think went Gold with their album and did/are doing fairly well.

    On a side note, Jeremy Messersmith is amazing, just saw him at 1st Ave. and am hoping he makes it big like Jack Johnson…so amazing. Secondly, I have no idea if you spell it label or lable…appologize for that.

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