I just posted here:
Taking my own experiences with my band out of the equation, let me just address this as a fan. There have been artists who use their music as a means to another end for a long time 🙂 From 80’s glam rock stars who used their band as a way to get chicks and live the “rock star life,” to today’s rapper with a yacht-load of endorsements, there is always an “artist” who is eager to sell their art to get what they really want. On the other hand, there are those who are only concerned with the artistic process and don’t sell it out for anything. The music career is the goal, and the journey is the destination.
Most artists sit somewhere in between.
In general, the way an artist rides the line between best-seller and credibility depends upon their cultural understanding of what’s appropriate. They’re informed by the music outlets they hear locally and online, the music cultures they choose to be a part of, and what their social/cultural group’s feeling about “selling out” is. It goes without saying that if you live in Hong Kong (where super-pop music rules the charts) and your favorite artists are Black Eyed Peas and 50 Cent, your idea of “sell out” is going to be drastically different than someone who lives in Los Angeles and listens to Pearl Jam or Minor Threat.
The culture defines the threshold. The fans and the artists, together, declare their opinion about when the line is crossed.
My concern is in the motivation. In addition to the difficult business of “getting noticed” by the fans, some musicians have extra pressure to pay the bills. The music industry is locking new artists into oppressive 360-deal enslavement, and trying to gradually hack away at the rights they initially promised their older acts, in order to protect their bottom line. And as long as the bands allow the labels to take their rights, the artists will have more pressure to look for money elsewhere.
Although I agree with a good deal of what Klein says in this piece, it is immediately evident that there is no one set of rules that works for everybody…but there are guidelines to help you set up your set of rules, such as:
If you license your music, do it with partners who get you, treat you fairly, and whose product is consistent with your message.
Do your homework, and know what your rights are worth, so when you trade them for something, you know you’re getting a fair deal.
Put your brand identity, your credibility, first.
I’ll leave you with a thought from Klein’s interview:
“One of the advertising creatives that I spoke to talked about doing away with the middlemen of record labels, that ultimately music could be released straight through advertisers. And I just thought, “God, that’s so curious that he would see that as doing away with the middleman when it’s clearly replacing the middleman.” And I can’t say for sure whether advertising executives are worse than record executives, but I don’t think they’re better. So, yeah, I think there is a gap here. And what the Internet offers is some possibility of — if not completely removing a middleman — creating a more transparent middleman and one that doesn’t take away so much of the money.”