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On the double standard between sold-out carrots and rock bands

by Catherine Galioto
August 13, 2000

I get a kick out of all those claiming to despise bands that 'sell out.' These elitists are hypocritical to say the least.

While claiming to hold dear only the most underground of underground acts, and abhorring the mainstream, the same people consume the most mainstream of other products.

I don't see those claiming a band is 'too commercial' shying away from the brand of toilet paper that is shown in the most commercials.

They are so possessive about too many people liking the little-known punk band, and yet use the most widely known brands of ketchup, soda pop, iceberg lettuce, and stain remover.

I find it very ironic that one thing, music, is worth being exclusive about, while another, plastic saran wrap for example, is not. Yet both are products the public consumes. Why is one different from the other? Do we ostracize Lays potato chips, the same way a fan will ostracize Green Day upon seeing them on MTV under the guise they've 'sold out'?

To do so seems ridiculous, yet we treat our bands this way. How odd, when, in my eyes, bands work much harder than Frito-Lay, and produce some finer products too. What is the harm in spreading your product to a diverse audience? A fan should be more happy that something he loves so much can be loved by the starting quarterback, an exchange student, that hottie in health class, and the health professor themselves, since its all a testament to how enjoyable the music is.

If we all kept music to ourselves like these elitists imply, I doubt the many music genres that exist today would even be around. How else can you keep the music alive unless you share it with many people? These people in hoarding things 'underground' call for their death. Then, they call for their death anyway, crucifying and deserting these "sell outs." Oh, if only every band could be blessed with such number one fans.

What angers me most about such elitists is the depths of their own record collection. They shun those that have "sold out" (whatever that means) and still they claim "[Insert things like Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Sex Pistols and other widely known acts here] have really inspired me." Look in a musical snob, find an old NKOTB fan. These people are repressing their pasts. Did they come out of the womb abhorring the musical mainstream, wishing for "more underground" nursery rhymes instead of that sold out "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?" If they did, they might be surprised to know "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" is set to a Bach composition.

Furthermore, I'm sure each of these people's first album they bought with some hard earned money is something like Bon Jovi's "New Jersey."

Bands have the ability to define their own success. Fans do not have input into that process the way a stockholder does for a company. Its just the artist, losing money on tours instead of raking it in, playing their heart out for you, deciding what it means to be a successful musician. While the women's department manager at Sears isn't a sell out for working his way up the corporate ladder, the band is for making its way up the Billboard chart.

Bands should be able to do what they need to make them happy and successful, however they choose to define it. We as fans should not be denying them happiness or success by insisting they only play here, or only sign to this label, or anything else that keeps them "unsuccessful," not "underground."

Just as an underground political group hopes to one day take the country for its own, an underground band will not always stay that way. Its odd that an underground political group fails if it doesn't overtake the country, but when an underground band does, the band is deemed a failure.

If you don't want your little known secret band to get into the mainstream, why don't you go and destroy all their records, rip down their show flyers, and convince the record companies not to sign them? I highly doubt you'll do that, because that's not what a fan does. I would like to suggest that those who point the finger and claim 'sell out' are not fans either. They are no better than the mass consumer they despise so much.

Catherine is a staff columnist. Contact her at msmatildarockzone.com.

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