There's a pretty insightful article today in the NY Times about Converse setting up a recording studio to give free recording time to up and coming artists.
This once again opens up a can or worms that's been perpetually been opened and closed since the start of recorded music -- selling out. Things have gotten more complicated in recent years; having your music in an advertisement is downright passe, especially since companies will use your music even if you don't want them to and then play it off later. There have been a number of ventures recently that go beyond just using a 30 second clip of a band's song. Converse has already sponsored a couple of collabo singles between hip artists, Nike has funded a few running albums/mix tapes and Mountain Dew have their own label.
So is all this selling out? Basically, yes. If you have the popularity or critical acclaim to be accused of selling out, and then you take money from a company then you are selling out. But it's not necessarily a bad thing. Bethany Cosentino aka Best Coast writes enjoyable indie rock songs. Here music and aesthetic are not based on authenticity, so the idea of her taking some money for Converse isn't some terrible art crime. She wears Converse anyway, and likes the company, so there's not much harm in writing on a new song when they come calling. There are still pockets of authenticity, i.e. punk and rap, but even within those genres the rules of the game keep changing.
Not all artists can be Steve Albini, and not all artists should be. But artists who make a genuine effort to record, release and perform their music without an corporate interference (be it from a soft drink maker or a large conglomerate that happens to run the record label you're on) should be rewarded by their audience. A number of bands have gone directly to their fans to fund their music at sites like pledgemusic.com and I'd like to see that system expand. If I'm still willing to pay $15 for an albums, I might also pay $25 for a signed copy if it helps that album get made. Plus even if a band doesn't have a single fan yet, there's always youtube, myspace and facebook.
Up until about 10 years ago there was a specific path for a band - play gigs until you sign to a label and then record albums and tour until you break up. The mistake people made when Napster emerged was thinking that a new magical system would emerge phoenix-like from the ashes of the major labels. But there isn't a system, just an ever increasing series of choices. In the end bands should make the decisions that let them sleep at night and put food on the table during the day. Even if that means washing down the food with a bottle of Mountain Dew.
And so we witness the end.
3 years ago