Le Mikey

So, Michael, who advertises in the magazines you write for?

Michael Azerrad

Yeah, other people have tried to play that puerile little gotcha game with me on this issue. Would I rather write for Mother Jones magazine? Sure. But I'd still be killing trees by writing for a magazine that uses paper.
Let me explain a very adult notion to you: life is full of compromise and shades of grey, and you use your ethical sense -- if you even have one -- to draw the line somewhere. Case in point: there's a huge difference between writing for a magazine that advertises something as patently nasty as Mountain Dew and actively going out of your way to shill for the stuff, attaching your name, face and reputation directly to it just so you can fly home to Williamsburg with those big, tainted PepsiCo dollars popping out of your wallet.
The indie underground used to be a respite from that kind of thing for all of us, even hypocritical sell-outs like me. It used to be a place where you didn't feel the chill wind of the corporate world, and that people were doing music for the love of it, or even just the hell of it. Now they do it to make money, and that sucks. There's no refuge anymore.
By the way, nice anonymous post there, "Le Mikey." You're patently qualified to decide matters of integrity.

georgia kral

i'm glad someone (YOU) has said something. i'm tired to death of all the talk of "this is the only way musicians will make money these days" through sponsorships and creative marketing strategies....even though that is true because no one is buying music, this craziness has gone too far. and FADER? come on, they are run by Cornerstone marketing, and even though they've said the editorial decisions are completely separate, i find that increasingly hard to believe.



Stop your whining - yes, there's a war going on, as always - but until we become ethereal beings beyond the needs of earthly things, people - including musicians - will have to find a way to eat and someplace to shit.

In the future, it seems that everyone (almost) will have to do with a little less money. So be it, that is life. Because of technology, and bad judgment by record label execs, a new media 'business' model will have to be concocted and implemented. This will be no easy task. The kids are all right – tainted – but all right.

Everybody sells out - to some extent - it's the corporeal plain. In the 1980's, I knew a guy who wanted to name his band 'Fecal Matter.' I told him that he might as well call his band 'The Shitheads' - because that's what people will think of them - and the name would never sell. He did find another name. Everyone compromises. Ironically, I think the band name 'Fecal Matter' would fly today.

Don't quit - evolve.... Or not.

Michael Azerrad

"Mark," if that's your name, you seem to draw no ethical line here. Anything's fair game because making money is the most important thing, and who cares about the consequences. Does that value system sound familiar? Like, maybe something you might have read about in the newspaper recently? It's you who have to evolve.
I used to know a guy who once called his band Fecal Matter too. On the advice of friends, he also compromised and changed the band name, eventually settling on Nirvana. He sold a lot of records, but I guarantee you that even if he hadn't, he never would have played a showcase for Marlboro.


I never said making money was the most important thing - but you do need money to survive in the big city. Kurt didn't compromise on the advice of friends, in fact, out of all in the Olympia music scene, he was the only one I met who had any real interest in commercial success - something he'd go to great lengths to hide from his friends and acquaintances. But at Evergreen, that was uncool.

Yes, my name is mark. I had a relationship with Kurt from the beginning of 1985 to about a month after Nevermind was released.

Would he have played a Marlboro showcase? If the money was right and if he could get away with slamming Philip Morris for the entire show, he might have...


However, my intention was not to go on a Kurt rant but to say that you are good at what you do, and yes, things are fucked-up, but adapt (evolve) to these stressed out and changing times. Things will likely get better before they get worse again...

georgia kral

These conversations always turn to Nirvana because, as is popularly believed, commercial success and corporate pressure weighed too heavily on the artistic and weakened soul of K.C. What I think is the really interesting development in the indie v. corporate structure is that there seems to be very little dissent at all. Bands play the Fader FORT without a hint of irony, it's like, oh well, whatever it's a stage. But its really not just a stage. Without the money, there'd be no stage. I think ToddP, the promoter and party-man out of Brooklyn deserves some props here. He's been doing his under-the-radar, all ages, house party/loft venue thing for many years now. Actually, i think he used to do in Austin, and he hasn't "sold out." I still see him at his shows, deep into Brooklyn in dingy buildings, looking as disheveled as ever, and i'm sure he has had tons of offers. Bands that are loyal to him prefer to play shows that he puts together. And in Austin this year he put on a bunch of shows in dusty parking lots at 3 am. now that is rock and roll and that is what K.C. would be attending, if he could.

Lastly, anyone notice that the bands that play FADER fort are generally the "buzz" bands that are made through promotion and not through the organic word of mouth process? And KANYE? NO COMMENT.

Mateus Potumati

That's a great analysis and a great discussion, Michael. I may be a little naive on this, but it seems to me that from a perspective of "artistic freedom" a brand is less intrusive than a major label. Of course this is not the only reason why indie bands have kept a distance from the corporate world historically, but on the other hand I tend to see it as a somewhat natural movement -- like the same that took graffiti from the streets to art galleries. Not that I'm totally comfortable with it - in fact, I'd prefer my favorite bands to be associated with brands I trust to be honest and that don't explore little kids in Southeastern Asia -, but I'm trying to see it from the perspective of somebody that's already created something with a reasonable amount of freedom and is trying to sell a service to somebody else.

Am I too wrong?

Michael Azerrad

Points well taken, Mateus, although artistic freedom is a separate issue from what I'm talking about. Also, I'm not saying that major labels are great either. It's a false dichotomy that an artist has to take their pick between those two options, major label or corporate co-branding. There are other ways to go.
I'm not sure your analogy with graffitti works either. What I'm talking about is not like a graffitti artist going to a major gallery (and I know that's an issue in Sao Paulo, which I assume is why you brought it up). It's more like a graffitti artist getting paid to spray advertising on the walls.
It's unpleasant for something as sacred as music to be considered "a service" to be sold to a corporation. For a long time, indie/underground music was a refuge from pervasive corporate intrusion into our culture. When indie bands prostitute themselves to Mountain Dew or American Spirit cigarettes or Levi's jeans or Playboy magazine or whatever, it pollutes that refuge. It's so sad that a lot of people don't understand that.

Mateus Potumati

Sure, I know you aren't defending majors and I agree that dichotomy is false - although I don't condemn people like M.I.A. or Wilco for selling songs to commercials. I'll stick with my graffiti analogy instead of yours though, because if The Hold Steady or The NY Dolls were graffiti crews I think they would be basically doing an art show in a brand-sponsored gallery - their own art show, not spraying advertising or something. It sucks, specially because this kind of event is usually ran by douc*&ebags and attract all types of douc*&ebags and make them feel like they're cool. But let me cite you an example: last month here some friends of mine produced a series of gigs for a local surfwear brand. It was a great chance to catch some really hot and artistically challenging acts and nothing was coarse about the whole event - you know, no invasive branding all-around, nice people, lots of friends, the venue was cool (a customized "Burn to Shine"-like house nearby my apartment, which was even better because I could go there walking hah) and the bands got decent pay. Ok, as far as I know this surfwear brand is not as vicious as Mountain Dew or BP Amoco, but they sell a lifestyle that's mostly identified with idiots. Anyways, it looked like a fair trade to me.

On the other hand, I also think it's sad that political alienation is so high that nobody cares about what companies do anymore. One day, people will be playing at Bush's house without even noticing it or they won't give a damn about it. But I'm trying to avoid dichotomies here too :)

Do you think I'm being too cynical?

Michael Azerrad

Well, if you won't condemn Wilco for doing ads for cars, then I will. They have positioned themselves as pro-environment and yet they're helping to sell fossil fuel-guzzlers? That is clearly hypocritical. They are compromising their values for the sake of making money. And it's not like they even need that money -- every time they sell out Madison Square Garden, they each make more in one night than most Americans make in a year.
But that's actually tangential to my point, which is that this co-branding thing pollutes a once corporate-free environment. It's like putting up a billboard in a forest. I agreed 100% with what you said: "It's sad that political alienation is so high that nobody cares about what companies do anymore."
OK, I get your art gallery analogy. It's like these bands are allowing themselves to be absorbed into corporations. Like Mountain Dew is absorbed into PepsiCo, Inc. That's just repulsive.
But do you really think that it's a "fair trade" for a band to link its artistic identity, the sonic representation of their souls, to "a lifestyle that is mostly identified with idiots"? That doesn't sound like a fair trade to me, it sounds like the Devil's bargain.

Mateus Potumati

Maybe "identified with idiots" was a bad/mean choice of words -- specially because some friends of mine use it and they're not idiots. It's just a regular surfwear brand, used by all kinds of people. My point was: that brand is not directly identified with music, it's identified with lifestyle, and for some people (say, Dischord, Wire magazine in the UK... you, maybe?) it's a bad association. I respect this point of view and I think we need people doing things through that ethos. But to me, it's not necessarily true that all co-branding immediately pollutes an artistic environment. I won't like The Hold Steady more or less for playing a showcase like that. Of course there are lots of pretty nasty things going on and people must investigate it and be aware of it. I don't want to be a part of that either. But I guess I'm just not as strict as you on this subject.

Michael Azerrad

Of course, there are grey areas to everything. It would be foolish to say that ALL co-branding is bad, because there must be exceptions. But co-branding with Chevrolet, Mountain Dew or any brand of cigarette surely crosses the line. (By the way, do you have Mountain Dew in Brazil? It is a soda that kids drink but it has more caffeine than Coca-Cola and was recently cited as a leading cause of tooth decay -- local dentists call it "Mountain Dew mouth" -- in the Appalachia region of the U.S.)
As far as the Hold Steady for playing a Rachael Ray party, i still think of their music the same way, but i respect them slightly less, and I'm not the only one.
On a completely different note, your English is very good!

Mateus Potumati

We don't have Mountain Dew here, but I knew it (and hated it) while living in the US. Wasn't aware of that research though, it's terrible. What we do have here is one of the highest diabetes and blood pressure rates in the world. Not sure if we can blame one brand in special, but you can always think of strong candidates. The government just kickstarted a huge prevention campaign here, trying to avoid 200k deaths per year.

And gosh, I didn't know what Rachael Ray was until some seconds ago. Is it this girl here? http://www.rachaelray.com/
If so, it looks really creepy that any indie band could play at their gig.

And on a completely different note too, thanks for the compliment :)

Michael Azerrad

Yes, that is the same Rachael Ray. And yes, that is my basic point: there are some gigs that it is creepy for indie bands to play.

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