“Selling Out is down to Opportunity…”

in-utereo-purchase-incentive-edition“…obscurity is not a fucking badge!” So said Mclusky on album Mclusky Do Dallas. There I was pondering what to write about when a fully blown discussion on selling art appears on my Facebook timeline. Yeah yeah, marketing is evil but only when it’s on behalf of music or things you don’t enjoy or respect…  

Les from science blog 21st Floor (known to Glasgow’s Alt Nation boarders of yesteryear as LesMTS) is debating the issue having read a lengthy piece on Wilco. As mutual friend Michael Lambert points out, the way Wilco are now able to run their affairs is partly a result of many years of support under major-label infrastructure. He’s right. It’s a lot easier to do your own thing when the public already know you exist.

The opening quote from Wilco sets the tone of the piece, “I think our approach is that there’s another way to be creative. How we run our business is another thing to think about creatively.

The subsequent mention of “people of privilege” is what partly sparked the debate and if you read the article perhaps you’ll want to add your opinion too.

As ever it’s a hot topic for many. Even in the ‘about us’ section for the up-coming ‘Human is not Alone‘ charity gigs it declares – “to give voice to the underground and DIY musical movements in the UK and show that, far from simply a marketing utensil and commodity, music can still represent something greater to people and benefit their wider community.”

For the unit shifters popular music remains a commodity albeit one that now incorporates 360 deals where major labels want a cut of everything from tour ticket sales to merchandising.

So what came first, the art or the marketing utensil? Personally I enjoy hearing Aereogramme soundtrack a cinema ad for S1jobs. I’m pretty damn sure when they were writing that song ‘Barriers’, they didn’t sit down with the intention of writing music for adverts. As Mogwai once said about their music being featured in an advert, “we need to eat too.”

Of course if you take the hard line from Bill Hicks about marketing, then you may as well go back in time and cancel every ATP ad that was ever run, tell Sub Pop to stop sending merch emails out to past purchasers, and halt every press release ever sent out by a 100% independent label. Yeah, marketing is evil but only when it’s on behalf of music or things you don’t enjoy or respect…

OK I’m being deliberately argumentative but if there’s one thing I loathe more than hype it’s HYPOCRISY.

As you were.


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  1. Oh, I’m getting major deja vu here :)

    If you want to be precious about it, any time a band plays a gig in a traditional venue – pub, club, whatever – they’re helping The Man sell beer.

    Did you see this?


    “The working question is not about the life of a band like Wilco but of smaller outfits, where making a living is sometimes not even a question, when a day job is the only option. How do we think of music when the chances of it providing a living salary are incredibly small? What is the positive viable future for marginal (not a bad word) and independent artists?”

    It’s a good piece, well worth your time.