Sellout is Not a Dirty Word

Ryan Gill is President and Partner of Cult Collective Ltd. and the Chairman of The Gathering

“Selling out” is doing something for money that you otherwise wouldn’t do. And we’ve all sold out at some point; think about the shitty jobs you’ve taken, and the principles you compromised even a little, to pay the rent.

But nothing is more reviled than the image of the musical sellout. That musician or band who left its core fan base of their moms and 12 other people to gravitate towards the possibility of a bigger following, better concert bookings, and, yes, more money.

I can picture the cringing of so-called “music purists” who think that art is created in a vacuum at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. Please. Have they ever considered that musicians actually work for a living like the rest of us?

Money matters. But so does how you earn it.

Technology has made it possible for anyone with an Internet connection and Garage Band to cut and sell a single. This democratization of music has flooded the market with options and has forced musicians to further differentiate themselves and find new revenue streams.

So in this new world where it’s all but up to the artists to find and engage their own financial backers, where do you start?

How about with your favorite brand?

Smart brand leaders know that straight advertising simply can’t generate the emotional connection that music naturally offers. And musicians are beginning to understand that when they partner with the right brands that honor their music and their values, they are actually protected from selling out in the traditional sense.

“The right artist is out there for most brands,” says Mixmag CEO, Jerry Perkins, who recently inked a seven-figure deal with Smirnoff to curate original music experiences for the drinks company. “A lot of them (artists) will be uncomfortable if the brand feels wrong. It’s a case of matching their values as closely as possible.”

Selling out has never been this creative, respectful and authentic. In fact, bands that connect with the right brands haven’t sold out at all. They are rooting for the long-term viability of their music careers and accept that some aspects of the profession must be run like a business. And businesses evolve.

Brand/band relationships are way more beneficial and respectful to the musician than the older, mega record label model that disadvantaged scores of artists while executives made millions.

Today, when bands pair up with brands that align with their image and beliefs, they get to keep their integrity AND pay their rent.