Hearsay: Wednesday, September 26, 2002
Selling Out

Basically, HearSay goes where the cheap beer is. (Have bottle opener, will travel.) HearSay loves brew so much that your columnist will repeatedly mention the brand name of any beer from any brewery interested in throwing copper HearSay’s way. Par example: “Over a crisp, refreshing Miller Lite last weekend (wink, wink!), HearSay watched its sex appeal skyrocket, its jokes elicit bouts of broad, stomach-clenching laughter from friends and general hangers-on, and its remedial pick-up truck transform into a hot red sports car.” See? It’s that easy. Rock bands get away with mixing art and commerce all the time. One of HearSay’s all-time favorite examples of this phenomenon occurred during that evil infomercial of a USA tv show Farmclub.com: On the screen, a blowhard from the Bloodhound Gang was shown guzzling a bottle of Jägermeister. With minimal digging, HearSay discovered that the liquor company was a sponsor of the band’s. Jager gives the gang tour support and free drinks, the band mentions Jager in the media. It’s a win-win situation.

At the Coors Light Texas Music Festival last weekend, HearSay was once again reminded of the precarious relationship between making pop music and selling pop music: Anyone can make the stuff, but only the really crafty can profit from it. And it just so happens that the really crafty bands are the really popular, talented ones. Now this isn’t to say that obscure bands don’t make good records and work hard, some do. It’s just that being able to get your music out there to as many people as possible has to mean something. The belief that you get out of life what you put into it rules HearSay’s universe. The Polyphonic Spree isn’t a household name because the Polyphonic Spree obviously hasn’t been doing everything in its power to become one (if that is indeed the goal, and HearSay believes it is). In the music world, there is no such thing as “selling out” — especially if you belong to a once-famous rock band.

Friday night’s headliner was Live, they of the multi-platinum records, multiple radio hits, and MTV fame. And you should have heard the grumbling afterward about Live’s having “sold out” — “they were playing a beer festival for Chrissakes!” True, Live frontman Ed Kowalczyk dropped “Coors Light” into his crowd banter. Also true, the entire backdrop of the stage resembled a giant Coors Light beer can. But the only question that needs to be answered is: Did Coors Light representatives or Coors Light itself in any way affect the form or content of Live’s music? Answer: No, not in any perceivable way. So does Live’s participating in this event mean they’re sell-outs? Hardly — unless by “sell-out” you mean “a band that makes its living selling out its music.”

Now let’s all shut up and raise a glass to seeing Live at next year’s event.

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