Are Band of Horses Sellouts?

by oz on September 21, 2007

Ben Bridwell
I’m a Band of Horses fan. HearYa placed Everything All the Time as the number one album of 2006. Lately, however, I’ve been distracted from their music. First I heard about lead singer, Ben Bridwell, flipping the bird to fan. Now every blog I read is talking about Band of Horses selling out by featuring their popular song “Funeral” on a Wal-Mart ad (Click Here to See). I still shop at Target.

Fellow Indie fans; Can we talk? I remember reading similar rants about Wilco “selling out” by being featured in VW commericals:


Does anyone really care if indie bands “sell out” anymore? I applaud every band that gets their music into a commercials or movies these days. The Internet has given us all access to sample music before we buy, download free mp3’s, and purchase selected tracks instead of entire albums. It’s easier to find the ears of new fans, but it’s much harder to stand out from the crowd.

As consumers, we are more fickle. Years ago, I remember waiting outside of a record store at my alma mater (Miami University) for Pearl Jam or U2’s new album before it sold out. Not these days. Now I’ll preview Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild album and not purchase a single track because I’ve already found 10 other bands on eMusic this month.

Speaking of Eddie, is this the same anti-Ticketmaster, anti-music video Eddie Vedder from years past? Now he’s scoring blockbuster movies? I’m not judging him, of course, but it seems that his scruples have loosened up a bit. I’m sure he just feels passionate about the storyline of a guy living and dying in the Alaska wild. Sorry to ruin the ending. I think Eddie has probably realized that the music marketplace has changed dramatically over the past few years and consumer dollars are now spent over a much broader, long-tail, selection of music.

I, as an indie music fan, have no problem if a band that has struggled to be heard finally scores an opportunity to “sell out.” Strike while the iron is hot, I say. Plug yourself into a commercial, movie, tv show…sponsor a maxi pad for all I care. Whatever fits (no pun intended). While you are at it, please design a decent t-shirt and maybe a beer koozie for me. Don’t worry about maintaining any sort of indie credibility because I’d rather you make the money you deserve and continue to put out quality music that I can consume instead of answering phones in a cubicle. We, the paying consumers, belong in cubicles. You, the musicians, belong in our earbuds while we sit on our cubicle asses wishing we were playing music.

Here are two new tracks from Band of Horses and one from Vedder. Both new albums should be coming soon to a Target near you.

Band of Horses – Is There a Ghost (courtesy of Muzzle of Bees)
Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You (courtesy of Joe at Each Note Secure. The player may not work, so just click on the link)
Eddie Vedder – Hard Sun (From the Into the Wild soundtrack)

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody September 21, 2007 at 9:53 am

Personally I don’t care if a band lets their music be used in a commercial. Who the hell am I to tell them not to make more money? Maybe Ben can buy a razor with the extra dough.

As for Vedder, I think you are being way to harsh on him. Its not like he is scoring a lame Reese Witherspoon date movie. Into The Wild is great book by a great author. Good for him.

And as far as Ben flipping off the videotaping fan. I have to say that I agree with him again. Not hte flipping off aspect but his point of view. I was at the Okkervil show on Tues and they kicked into For Real and all the videophone and cameras came out. I liken shows/concerts to be intimate affairs between me, the performer and the crowd. I think it cheapens the experience when someone tapes it and puts on the internet. They rarely sound good or look good.

Tibi Puiu September 21, 2007 at 9:58 am

Is having your true value recognized and actually ascending to mainstream define the term of selling out? I think not, the new album as the debut one looks very promising and looking forward to it

Andrew September 21, 2007 at 12:37 pm

I agree with your sentiments about the whole bands selling out thing. I’ve been finding that some of the TV shows are getting a lot of awesome songs, and there’s a bunch of bands who’s music I wouldn’t have found otherwise, if they hadn’t been highlighted to some extent. Some shows have poorer choices, others are better. (House and Veronica Mars are my two favorites with amazing soundtracks.)

Hard Sun – love that track. Something about it just rocks.

Kevin September 21, 2007 at 3:33 pm

My thoughts are that it can’t be selling out if people like your music. Wilco and Band of Horses wrote those songs and their music without the intent to be in a WV or WalMart commerical. If people offer me money for something I’ve already created with a specific intent (as I’m sure those songs had) then I’m more than OK with it (within reason). It’s when an artist compromises their integrity by altering their process or sound in order to make a certain type of person (rich people) happy. *cough* Sugar Ray *cough*

World Famous In San Francisco September 26, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Selling out rules. Every real artist wants their art seen. It’s less about money, more about making the world your own.

Bud October 3, 2007 at 2:52 pm

Eddie Veder sounds like a middle aged dad in dat song.Lame.

KateF October 5, 2007 at 5:20 pm

I don’t really care if they are sellouts, as long as I can listen to “Everything All the Time” while lying on the living room floor with my dog. Meah.

Jim October 9, 2007 at 7:07 am

I think selling out is what happens when you are selling yourself, rather than the song. Like Eric Clapton selling beer–that is pure selling out, because he’s selling Eric Clapton, not the music. If an unknown band sells their music, they’re not selling themselves, yet, because they’re still unknown. (Although the line is somewhat blurry, because not only is Wal-Mart or whoever getting some music for their ad, they are getting (or trying to get) some indie cred by using an indie artist, and in that sense the artist gets used for who they are, rather than for their music.)

Then the other part is, even if you’re unknown, and you’re just selling your music and not yourself, I think you’re selling out if you don’t pay attention to who is using the music. Like sell your music to Whole Foods, maybe, but, why advertise for somebody like Wal-Mart, or Exxon, etc. who is fucking up society and the planet, etc.

The other thing is, to a lot of people, they hear music in an ad and like it and want to know who it is. To me, it ruins the song–I always associate it with the ad and whatever the ad is selling.

oz October 9, 2007 at 7:01 pm

Great points, Jim. I guess Hank Williams Jr. doing Super Bowl songs may qualify as a sellout?

Red January 21, 2008 at 8:24 am

Anybody that is such a music snob as to discredit a band’s music just because it was used on some form of media other than a purchased album has got to come off their high horse. I challenge anyone that feels that way to really think about what they would do in a similar situation. Sure, it’s easy to yell ‘sellout!’ when it’s not your career at stake. Other than a few bands like Fugazi, I’m pretty confident that just about everyone would be freely licensing their music to whoever could get their hands on it.

runaway dorothy April 19, 2008 at 8:20 am

I can’t call any Carolina boy a sell-out. North or South.

Mike April 27, 2008 at 9:46 am

So whaddya mean by sellout? Being successful (and gettin’ your stuff heard in commercial spaces) isn’t necessarily selling out. It becomes selling out if you change your art to cozy up to commerce and schmooze extra bucks. Like if they’d re-wrote a Walmart version of Funeral that’d be selling out – but if Walmart just bought their product as it was – so what?

But there’s gotta be some things that are just totally outside the cool zone when it comes to the sellout-ometer. Can you ever let McDonald’s or the Republican Party use your music, without it being a sellout as a matter of general principle?

chuck May 12, 2008 at 2:23 pm

just because a band

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