13 March 2005

Musical integrity

During a drunken bout last Thursday, the question of musical integrity and "selling out" came up. Sort of one of those there-could-be-a-universe-in-my-finger, college type questions, but I realized I didn't have a well-formed opinion on it. It was in the context of my music, so the whole discussion made me uncomfortable--it feels kinda arrogant to say what you'd do when your Art is popular, when it's anything but. However, these hypothetical questions are there to help you define your beliefs.

I was very liberal on the subject: as long as a paycheck was involved, I felt that I wouldn't really care what they did with my music. Bastardization of copies could never destroy the integrity of the original. If something I did could be turned into a jingle with a significant revenue stream, that could only help me to continue working at what I love. I think that many fringe musicians would say the same thing. If millions of people know a composer's music from a TV commercial, there will still be the hundreds or thousands who know it from the original source. And the commercial will eventually fade away.

What do I feel about other artists? Have I ever felt that they "sold out"? I guess the "lifestyle" rockers seem the most out of place in commercials, but that's because (as with most of rock) their music is partially subsumed by their image. It's just odd seeing Bad Boys shill for The Man. Ultimately, it's still just another way to make money off of their work--their albums will still exist in their original form.

It's odd that I'm currently listening to The Who Sell Out. It's a concept album presented as a pirate radio broadcast complete with interludes of fake (and some real) commercials. According to the excellent Wikipedia article: Part of the intended irony of the title was that The Who was actually making commercials during that period of their career, some of which are included as bonus tracks on the remastered CD. Very clever. Now, will years and years of CSI reruns affect how we listen to The Who's music?

I remember some sheepish quipping about "contract responsibilities" by Robert Smith when The Cure's music was used for HP commercials. I liked hearing ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" during the VW Beetle and Eternal Sunshine commercials. I've been told that one of the very popular electronic groups [?] has a bad rap in the electronic community for having their music in so many commercials. The stigma doesn't seem to be there for movie music. There's a whole genre of teen movie whose whole purpose is to sell a soundtrack that is basically a sampler of hip bands. Although there is somewhat of a stigma for bands showcased on TV shows.

Earlier this year, I commented that some bands, somewhat fussily, refused to distribute their music with commercial download services because the fragmentation destroys the integrity of the album. Just as with "selling out," those who can appreciate your music will still seek it out in its original form.

[ posted by sstrader on 13 March 2005 at 6:54:52 PM in ]