If your fans jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?

There’s little point in raising any objections to The Eagles’ exclusive distribution deal with Wal-Mart for their double-album Long Road Out of Eden just because it’s about money. Back in 1994, The Eagles had an unfortunate influence on the music industry thanks to their prolonged absence from it, and were therefore able to command upwards of $100 – then a princely sum – for a ticket to one of their reunion shows, which has led to an ongoing competition to see who can command the most dollars per ticket. But in terms of sheer greed, The Eagles are far outpaced by other bands who jump at every licensing deal throw at them. Plus, it’s far less disconcerting to see a band “selling out” when its music no longer matters. So this move means almost nothing to anyone who isn’t on the Eagles Inc. payroll.

I can’t even get that irritated by the obvious hypocrisy. In a recent CNN interview, Don Henley says that Wal-Mart made them “a really good offer” and that’s presumably why he’s excepting Wal-Mart from his usual tirades about the evils of corporations. Henley is rock’s biggest blowhard, and I’ve long felt that the louder someone has to be about their beliefs, the less sincere they are. It’s as if they’re trying to convince themselves while they’re convincing you. Social responsibility was good for his career, until it wasn’t. And again, it’s not like the Eagles have been above a big money grab before.

No, the thing I find objectionable is Henley’s further reasoning about the wisdom of their decision:

And a lot of our fans are customers of Wal-Mart, so we thought it was a good fit.

Hmm, where have I heard that before? Oh wait, I remember.

We feel okay about VWs. Several of us even drive them.”

Is this the new standard? It’s OK as long as it’s something you or your fans use? If so, I can’t wait for, say, Tegan and Sara’s “Knife Going In” to show up in an ad for Land O’ Lakes Butter. Or maybe an exclusive distribution deal with BP Amoco stations for the next album by Rihanna because “a lot of my fans have cars that use gas, so it seemed like a natural fit.” Or music from Nickelback’s next album showing up in an Ex-Lax ad because it’s so shitty.

6 comments for “If your fans jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?

  1. November 18, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    <>Is this the new standard? It’s OK as long as it’s something you or your fans use?<>I have no problem with an artist selling their creative work. You created it, you own the rights to it, you can do with it what you damn well please.The problem I have with that line of thinking is that the artist in question develops a bullshit justification for their actions. Eagles fans shop at Wal-Mart? Wilco drives a VW? I like this product, so it’s OK for me to endorse it.Let’s just be honest about what we’re doing: Corporation X offered me/us a boatload of cash for my work. I accepted it. It’s no different than working for a living, except that the invoice you generated last Wednesday at 2:15 after lunch for 150 installed desktop workstations isn’t part of someone’s memory of a defining moment in their life.

  2. Kerry
    November 19, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Have you had time to read this little missive?http://www.stereogum.com/archives/commercial-appeal/of-montreal-art-brut-do-tmobile.htmlIt would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Or sad if it wasn’t so funny.

  3. November 19, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Kevin: I think what artists need to be OK with is the notion that it is no longer their art when it is sold. The creation becomes something different and they no longer have control over the connotations people will have with it.Kerry: Been meaning to read that, thanks for the reminder!

  4. November 19, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Not to get all crazy, ranting-from-my-bunker-in-the-hills-of-Montana on you, but this really speaks to a bigger, more troubling achievement by the mega-corporations (and their marketing budgets) and how lots of younger artists simply perceive them as a logical means to an end, as if Outback and T-Mobile and VW and Wal-Mart existed purely as a willing, eager “partners” in the distribution of indie rock music. Lots of groups, including Wilco, hide behind the excuse that they license their music commercially simply as a way to “get it heard” by more people (because, you know, nobody that’s ever come with 50 feet of a Borders knows who Wilco is.) Wilco is even the exception, having been around long enough to know better. A group like Band of Horses or Of Montreal only sees the upside (getting paid) and the other upside (getting their music heard by millions) and fail to acknowledge the downside (deeply compromising the integrity behind what you do for the gain of a faceless corporate entity renowned for their questionable labor practices and zeal for destroying local, independent businesses.)It’s a slippery slope, to be sure. Is it okay for a band to license their material to an independent, low-budget filmmaker? If so, why not an hour-long drama on the CW? And if that’s okay, what about video game? Or a commercial for that video game? The next thing you know, you’re buying another new home in Santa Monica with your earnings, but can’t fill a club with a hundred people because nobody knows or cares who you are. You’re a professional jingle-writer with floppy hair and a thrift-store amp.But I digress. In all seriousness, I couldn’t care less what Of Montreal does with their music or how much money they’ve made, because I hate them. I just need to know how much I personally need to pay to keep from ever having to hear that goddamn song again. Outback, name your price, I’m listening.

  5. November 20, 2007 at 5:15 am

    I rather like Of Montreal, although I was less than impressed with its most recent album. But the quality of the band isn’t really at issue here. There are plenty of bands who go in for the quick buck that are crap (Dirty Vegas, anyone?) and plenty who do that aren’t (Wilco). But the results are all the same.

  6. Julene
    November 21, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    <>I think what artists need to be OK with is the notion that it is no longer their art when it is sold. The creation becomes something different and they no longer have control over the connotations people will have with it.<>Um, wow. So if art is sold – it is no longer that artist’s work? I think what you are trying to say is that commissioned work for a specific ad or commercial reason is different than art created for for oneself or art’s sake and ended up being purchased. I don’t think an artist can control what anyone thinks about their art no matter how it comes into the hands of those who witness it (paid or not). And I think it becomes very difficult to say that because a patron has commissioned a work that it is no longer art. What about all public art? The Sistine Chapel? I realize that these are not music, but the argument should still stand if one believes music can be art.

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