My column last week, “In Praise of Selling Out,” on the advertising industry’s adoption of indie rock, has generated probably the most mail of any piece I’ve written so far. Unsurprisingly, most of it’s been negative. People, and especially people from the glory days of the DIY movement, don’t like seeing the bands in their scene show up on a commercial for burgers or something. Also unsurprising—to me at least—is that every positive response I got came from musicians, who are looking at a future where making a living off the former staples of album sales and touring seems impossible. And actually, a couple of them have popped up in articles since then. Last Friday, Little Steven Van Zandt—who’s doing more than maybe anyone else right now to promote independent music—dropped a pro-commercials piece in Billboard, arguing with only slight exaggeration that, “If you don’t have a song in a TV commercial your career is over.” And yesterday AdFreak pointed to a recent interview with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney where he called commercials a way to pay the rent.
While I can understand the opposing viewpoint—I came up in the DIY indie/hardcore scene myself—a typical response like this one over at the Beachwood Reporter (scroll down to “Sell-Out Secrets”) offers a lot of outrage, and nothing in the way of real solutions. (Google ads? Really?) I wish small indie bands weren’t in a situation where selling their songs to sell burgers wasn’t the most attractive career path. But I’m also starting to understand that a lot of people are expecting bands to hold up their end of the DIY contract while bailing out on their own responsibility to support the music. Given the number of indie releases up on OiNK, I’m willing to bet it’s more than just a few.