Slate magazine has an article by Seth Stevenson on a TV commercial that features Paul McCartney (Did you guys know he was in a band before Wings?). I have no opinion one way or the other about pop stars selling their images and/or music to commercial interests for use in advertising campaigns. But this sentence from the article seems to me to directly address those of us in the concert music world who are concerned about the future of our art:

[C]an we really consider it selling out when what you crave above all else is to put your new art in front of your audience?

What should we be doing in this regard? What would be too much?


  1. I for one would license my music to be used in a commercial (assuming that I didn't have any moral objection to the product -- I would hesistate about allowing my music to be used to advertise cigarettes or republican political candidates) in a heartbeat. I think a big part of the problem is the common belief among unpopular musical subcultures in the false analogy popular=trivial/bad -- thus if my music becomes popular it might be because, or appear to be because, I have sacrificed my artistic integrety for the sake of popularity. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many musicians identify to some extent with the anticapitalist extreme political left. But I think as long as you don't actually sacrifice your artistic integrety and you can simultaneously get popular exposure and make a buck, go for it.

  2. I agree, Galen. Whenever someone allows a song to be used in a commercial you hear a tremendous outcry from fans, not from other artists.

  3. For crying out loud, when in heaven's name are we going to get over the idea that artists are somehow some kind of special breed of spiritual beings, wafting overhead (or in the ethernet) existing only to enlighten and enliven our own dreary and meaningless, humdrum human lives?

    Musicians, painters, poets etc. are human beings, too, who need to pay the bills. Do we ask the plumber or auto mechanic to work their "magic", do their "voodoo" on our homes and cars for free, because they are so dedicated to their "art". No, of course not.

    For example, people who got upset when Eric Clapton sold "Tears in Heaven", as if he exists on this planet only to provide beautiful funeral music for THEIR loved ones. As opposed to the reality that he has to (1) eat (2) have a roof over his head, and (3)(in this particular case) pay the funeral bills of HIS OWN RECENTLY DECEASED CHILD.

    Lots and lots of artists of all stripes write/paint/sing whatever they want on their own time, and are gig sluts or have day jobs. Hey, gotta eat!