SELLOUT: Band of Horses makes deal with devil

Posted September 14th, 2007 by Eric Greenwood · 18 Comments

I realize it’s some times shitty to be in a touring band. You don’t really make that much money, unless your selling out stadiums the world over. Everybody’s downloading your album, so your CD’s just collect dust at the merch table. But, artists are supposed to have it rough. My sympathy only extends so far. But it seems that lately more and more people are relenting and actually feeling sorry for bands and their income plights, even overlooking the occasional blatant sellout. I’ve never been a fan of bands shilling for corporations. It’s just tacky. And it makes you respect the ones who you know will never let you down even more. Like Tom Waits. Total class act. The man wouldn’t dream of loaning his music to Target or McDonald’s. But some of the younger bands aren’t quite so discerning.

Band of Horses enjoyed a better year than most of its peers in 2006 with its debut record making a highly publicized, international dent. And now with its follow-up ready to hit shelves, the band has unfortunately chosen a few ill-advised corporate tie ins: Ford and Wal-Mart. Word spreads quickly when an indie band shakes hands with Wal-Mart, so the band has already issued an official statement, explaining its aw-shucks attitude thusly:

“My personal stance is that once that music is recorded and released to the world then I don’t really care where it goes. “The Funeral” has been licensed to death (ha, wretch) at this point and if somebody wants to throw down some duckets for it, then feel free. It also beats the hell out of stealing batteries from Wal-Mart to sell them back for 8 bucks.”   

The explanation is neither here nor there. It doesn’t change the fact that Wal-Mart and Band of Horses are now officially business partners, which is as distasteful as it is embarrassing. It’s a slippery slope once you open that door, and before you know it your song could be as universally despised as John Mellencamp’s hideous “Our Country.”  

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18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 patrick // Sep 14, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    i at least partially admire his stance with ford — he owns an f-150, believes in the company, yada yada yada.

    but wal-mart? for fuck’s sake, dude. at least endorse the fucking gap or something.

  • 2 Eric Greenwood // Sep 14, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    i still think it’s lame. it’s antithetical to rock ‘n roll. you can’t pick and choose who to sell out with. you either do it or you don’t.

  • 3 Logan Young // Sep 14, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    perhaps their are qualitative degrees to selling out – dylan doing an underwear ad is not as bad as joni mitchell doing starbucks, wilco selling cars is worse than the buzzcocks selling them, etc. myself, i’m just waiting for someone to give me the opportunity to sell out. it’s easy to cry foul when you haven’t been given the opportunity yourself. even then, i would never allow wal-mart to sell anything i’ve ever written…esp. not with bi-curious Furby.

  • 4 patrick // Sep 14, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    i’m not excusing it one bit. it’s still super-lame.

    and let’s be fair — everyone would hate “our country” even if it weren’t in a chevy ad.

  • 5 Eric Greenwood // Sep 14, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    some people probably view selling out to vitamin water as less offensive than selling out to exxon. it all smells bad to me. i don’t think you can “kind of” sell out. that’s like being “kind of” dead. you’re either dead or you ain’t.

  • 6 christopher // Sep 15, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    What’s strange is that Band of Horses is not even near the level of Mellencamp, Wilco, Dylan, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I cringe every time I hear The Who selling me a car or The Rolling Stones selling me detergent (“But, he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me “). But lets be real, Band of Horses? What a stupid move when you haven’t even proven yourself to the rest of the music community. At the least Pete Townshend can claim that those songs are now officially bigger than he is. They are “released to the world” and belong to the public domain in some way. Band of Horses? No one knows who the f*** you are yet. Thats not selling out. You barely have anything to sell. Like losing your virginity and getting pregnant at the same time.

    My advice is not to forget Hootie and the Blowfish, buddy. You aren’t shit yet. If you lose cred this early, there’s now way back.

  • 7 patrick // Sep 17, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    wait, wilco shilling for volkswagen is worse than the buzzcocks shilling for volkswagen?

    logan, explain yourself.

  • 8 Logan Young // Sep 18, 2007 at 1:04 am

    technically mr. sox fan, the buzzcocks shilled for subaru whilst tweedy and twats sucked off hitler’s import. (to perhaps mask the fact that he bitch-slapped nels cline and glenn kotche in their experimental faces by making them recorded “fuck blue fuck” instead of something much more out there and forward-thinking.) regardless, wilco has infinitely more cache than pete shelley and his mancunian masturbators. and while last year’s “flat-pack philosophy” wasn’t any better than this year’s “mung blue mung,” that point’s prolly moot to begin with. we all hate hippies for their stench, fashion and taste in music, but i argue it’s their undying optimisim, people are innately good, save an already dead planet, love one another, war is bad, etc. philsophical naivety that’s the real kicker. the 60s are over…but so are the 70’s. someone needs to tell all the straightedgers that gather at NBT on friday (so much so that they have to start charging for H20) this obvious fact. you ain’t punk; you ain’t shit. you ain’t even worth my time. shave that ridiculous faux-hawk, take the safety pins out your orifices, learn how to play an E chord, and have a fucking drink that’s not a Capri Sun. there’s now a consignment shop in five points called “sid and nancy.” punk has been co-opted by the mainstream that it ceases to be punk anymore. (e.g. “britney spears’ performance at the VMA was sooo punk.”) so yeah, wilco selling out is worse than the buzzschlops doing it. (you ever driven a subaru? – it’s like wolfbagging a virgin vegan…virtually impossible to have any fun with it.) wilco is prolly one of the top 5 rock bands working today. the fuzzmops aren’t even an asterisk on that on an accompanying appendix. punk sold-out years ago, before i was even an itch in colin r. young’s crotch…wilco at least waited until i was 23.

  • 9 Eric Greenwood // Sep 18, 2007 at 9:06 am

    wow, as an avid despiser of wilco, i couldn’t disagree more. but that is neither here not there. a sellout is a sellout is a sellout. no blurry lines, no some worse than others bullshit. it’s all one big bag of corporate cock-slurping, and wilco’s selling out is the same as any anonymous jam band or even the mighty buzzcocks, who, in my esteem, are far more valuable to the musical lexicon than those boring ass dad-rock hippie bullshitters, wilco. your assessment that wilco’s selling out (amusing as it is) is somehow worse is merely a matter of unfortunate taste and nothing more. it may be worse to you, personally, but selling out does not discriminate. it’s all bad.

  • 10 patrick // Sep 18, 2007 at 11:49 am

    logan:

    i didn’t get past “mung blue mung.”

    i think, ultimately, why the buzzcocks shilling for subaru — and thanks for jogging my memory on that — is more offensive to me is that the buzzcocks are, like eric said, much more valuable to the grander musical lexicon. granted, i like dad-rock as much as the next dad (wait, what?), but the idea that wilco would schlep corporate cock always seemed … well, inevitable to me. most especially when mung blue mung sky blue sky came out.

    but ah, here’s the rub: wilco’s basically licensed its entire album. question: is that somehow worse than licensing a single song?

    sub-question: logan, what the penis is wolfbagging?

    (and, logan, for what it’s worth, i think we’re all with you on your stance on modern “punk.”)

  • 11 Logan Young // Sep 18, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    as an older brother of mine once said, you start selling-out “as soon as you leave the garage.”

    forget the fact – at least for a moment – that both of you are abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous with the even more ridiculous assumption that a third-tier band (even back when punk mattered) like the lowly buttfucks, regardless of their severely overrated place in a “musical lexicon” that sold-out eons before “summerteeth,” is even remotely in the same league as someone like wilco.

    i pity the fool(s) who actually think this sort of rubbish. you’re worse than the christians. at least they know that simon peter (wilco) is better than that overrated whore who wanted to jump jesus’s dick – mary magdalene – eventhough he was obviously a flaming fag (pete shelley)…what with spending all that time with 12 single dudes alone in the desert.

    what are you gonna tell me next – that the melvins are better (i.e. more significant to an always subjective classical canon the very existence of which flies in the face of everything the idiom itself stands for) than the faces? small and/or regular-sized ones?

    i can only assume you’re both still high from last friday night.

    as for selling-out:

    eric, how much does it cost me to buy DBETM’s “Control” on i-Tunes? hey-hey gave me a button for free, but what did you guys charge at the merch booth for it when art garage was still around?

    pat, what does an alaska the tiger t-shirt go for on e-bay these days? it’s gotta be more than what i paid for it last time i saw you guys (after all, it’s a collector’s item now).

    you make music because you have to…either that or you physically can’t jack -off more than 6 times in an hour so you need to find something else to do. this neo-romantic, nearly Platonic notion of artistic purity is at complete odds with everything this country and economic system holds sacred.

    as soon as you turn a profit on whatever aesthetic artifact you’ve spent a few weeks recording with jay and steve over at the jam room then, guess what bitches, you’ve theoretically sold-out – at least according to Keynesian fiscalities.

    granted you only sold a 7 inch single and a bumper sticker to that bitch that sometimes hangs out at the whig you secretly wanna have funky butt-lovin’ with next time the old ball ‘n’ chain goes out for groceries, but don’t tell me i’m playing semantic games here.

    shouldn’t we be (somewhat) happy that the music supervisors at all the places are actually selecting moderately decent music to use in their adverts? it might be a product of the indie-is-now-mainstream phenomenon, but who gives a fuck in the end.

    bottom line, if either of you were approached by someone from corporate conglomerate X and offered what these bands are getting, you’d be completely irresponsible (and more ridiculous than the buzzcocks vs. wilco thing) to refuse. if you won’t sell-out…you gay. period.

  • 12 Eric Greenwood // Sep 18, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    your misguided and ill-informed “pity” doesn’t change the facts. i’m not sure what school of thought you were raised on, but, come on, man, wilco? seriously? anyone with an ounce of credibility – or taste for that matter – would choose the buzzcocks in a heartbeat over the likes of banalities like wilco, even though comparing the two is as ridiculous as comparing kabbalah water to donkeys (and a dead-end, subjective debate). and without getting into the semantics of “Keynesian fiscalities”, the act of “selling out” is just commonly accepted as 1. signing to a major label and/or 2. shilling for corporate whores, i.e. selling your music to corporate advertising. it’s as simple as that. we have to agree as to what the variables mean or this discussion is pointless (which it probably is anyway). i am completely aware that turning a profit for music could technically be considered selling out, but that’s not what i mean, or what the general consensus means, when using the term. so wildly off-base and unjustifiably pedantic lessons (cleverly cloaked in colorful yet ultimately digressing metaphors) on the matter from you are utterly moot. no need to bring jesus into it, either. although, i do agree in theory with your older brother about the garage. that’s just not realistic or how it works. if you want to defend sucking corporate dick, you’re welcome to, but you have to call it what it is.

  • 13 patrick // Sep 19, 2007 at 9:57 am

    whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. time out.

    broseph might have a point about leaving the gay-rage, but selling merch isn’t the same as “selling out.” the idea of “artistic purity” isn’t soiled because your band sells T-shirts. every band sells merch; not every band sells out. to wit: selling merch often prevents bands from having to sell out. how do you think stretch made it through all those tours? chris mclane wasn’t shilling for pepsi, i can guarantee you that.
    remember: keynes didn’t have much of a music scene to dissect in his days.

    i agree with eric: there is no “theoretical” selling out. you do or you don’t. if you want to define selling out as selling a T-shirt on tour, be my guest, but i think that’s a little extreme. that said, i think we almost have to take signing on a major off the sell-out short-list. at least there, wilco’s flimsy argument of “oh, well, we just wanted more people to hear our songs” makes a lick of sense. can we fault a band such as modest mouse — who, let’s face it, would be making shitty records today even if they were still on K or Up! — wanted to bring their music to a larger audience? and they didn’t even have to do a car commercial to do it.

    (yes, i know that modest mouse’s “gravity rides everything” was used in a mazda minivan commerical. yes, that makes them sellouts. no, that doesn’t make that argument any less valid.)

    also, jesus totally wasn’t a sell out. remember that time he spent forty days and nights fasting in the desert, and the devil came and said, “dude, i’ll totally give you this almond joy if you’ll do a commercial with for apple?” and then jesus said, “no way, dude. selling out’s for lame-o’s?” and then he came back and had a totally bitchin’ feast with his bros? yeah, that’s totally in the bible.

  • 14 K // Oct 8, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    http://www.thestate.com/life-and-arts/story/192910.html

    via

    http://www.brooklynvegan.com/archives/2007/10/band_of_horses_11.html

    Welcome to the conversation, a month later.

  • 15 patrick // Nov 16, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/article/news/47159-band-of-horses-turn-down-wal-mart-tv-ad

    good on you, ben. now let’s put this unpleasantness behind us.

  • 16 Sam // Aug 29, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    This is pretty deep stuff. Well, being from the UK, no one i know has heard of Band of Horses. Personally, i think they’re the best band i’ve ever heard and as for selling out, i’d love to go buy some of their merchandise from anyone who sells it as i’m not pretentious enough to care where it came from. The most pleasure i would get from it would be when someone asks me “Who are they….Band of Horses????”, then i could say, they are a great band with great music, so why not look it up? If they do, the band has benefitted from me buying their stuff and i’ve benefitted by introducing this awesome band to someone else, who will hopefully do the same. Who gives a shit where its from. I like them, so there.

  • 17 Bill Meredith // Oct 2, 2008 at 8:03 am

    As a band thats trying to even get started i can understand. if walmart said i’d sponser you, id say fuck ya. lets be mature about this, its not like they are an anti goverment punk band. they just a band in the 21st century trying to make a buck. bands have to give up all the time because the capital isnt there. they can no longer make songs and play music because no one buys cds anymore. i agree with sam, why does it matter where they sell there shit. if the country isnt grown up enough to stop stealing music then i guess we can be a little understanding, atleast.

  • 18 fuzzybunny // Oct 3, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    welcome to the conversation, bill. we’ve been waiting for you.