Sell Outs?

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Sell Outs?

Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Tue Nov 16, 2010 6:18 pm

If a band reforms ONLY to tour with their old material, are they selling out?

Generation X has one foot in middle age, which is leading to some interesting musical hyjinks. I've always dismissed as lame the kind of live music crap that my parents still flock to. Like going to see the Four Tops play the State Fair. I don't feel old enough to start partaking in that kind of thing. I've always felt that there were big differences between those "alternative" rock fans of my generation and those before us. One of those differences was a ongoing acceptance of new music; to not get too stuck in the past.

But this year I was right there paying top dollar to see the Pixies play Doolittle. And last year I succummed to the less discerning musical tastes of my significant other, paying rape-like prices to see The Police. While I know I was getting ripped off by Sting, the thought never even crossed my mind that seeing The Pixies perform was some kind of sucker play.

There they go. One "alternative" band after another, lining up for their turn at the till. The Pixies, Pavement, Peter Hook performing Unknown Pleasures, this shit is looking a lot the Minnesota State Fair. And it's freaking me out.

At what point do I side with Billy Corgan, who reacted to the most recent expulsion of Jimmy Chamberlin from his band by saying that "Jimmy wanted to be in an oldies cover band." A vailed slap at the fact that he obviously wanted to play the old SP hits, while Corgan would rather save Muzzle for his oncore and build a set list around his new music. He's not interested in living in the past. Neither am I, but that was some good shit back then!

The dirt poor college age fans of the 80s post punk and 90s grunge eras have more coin these days. At least the ones that still have jobs do. While we may have had to dig deep to come up with ten or 20 bucks for to see our favorite bands back in the day, a lot of us today don't seem to mind inflated ticket prices to see 20 year old songs played.

Does that make our favorite bands sell-outs? Does it make us suckers?

God, I hope not. I don't want to be that pot bellied bald geezer, drunk on Miller Lite in the front row of what I think is a Beach Boys concert, but is really John Stamos's weekend drumming gig while Full House is on hiatus. But at the same time, if The Smiths somehow found a way to get back together, Live Nation could rape me a thousand times over and I'll still fork over whatever amount of money they demanded.

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Postby D. Phillips » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:18 pm

I don't blame bands who are out there trying to make a living anymore than I hold it against any other artisan or craftsman who does commercial graphic design or home construction.

That said, I have a firm $50 limit I will pay for any live show. I simply can't justify paying more for a <2 hr experience...at least not right now. I don't care what other people do but I do think people who are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for single events are why ticket scalpers (be they in an office or on a street corner) exist, and that's a profession I won't support.

On a side note, I find your rape analogies distasteful.

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Postby miss carol » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:42 pm

I agree with Derek. I guess they got to make a living being an artist. Sometimes "sideprojects" or "experiments" don't wash with fans who just want to wallow in the "good ol' days." Yeah, it would be nice if artists could still sell their creations without someone in the audience yelping out the mouldy oldies. But that's showbiz, I guess. Me, I'm not keen on nostalgia shows. I'll see a band who is supporting a new record (e.g., Teenage Fanclub, Billy Bragg) but I also love that they play old songs. A little reminicence isn't bad so long as you don't rest on your laurels.

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Postby creepy » Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:18 pm

I was thinking about this while at the Guided by Voices show a couple of months back. I kinda justified it to myself that I had never seen the "classic" GBV lineup and finally got to, also, Uncle Bob's probably put out 9 albums in the past 6 months so he's not doing any laurel resting. I caught the Pixies twice on their first reunion run and both shows left a bad taste in my mouth. loudQuietloud didn't help either. I read the article about Corgan shit talking a few minutes before I came in here and pretty much dismissed him because I've never liked his band and he seems like an asshole. I can kinda see his point, but I think he's talking apples and oranges. The dudes in Pavement reformed to play some old hits, make a little dough, then go back to their day jobs/bands. Corgan seems to have reformed the Punkins because Zwan sank like a rock. (What were you thinking Dave Pajo?) Calling Pavement sellouts is pretty ballsy for a dude who debuted a song in a Hyundai commercial during the superbowl. Im not gonna go so far as to call Corgan a sellout, but he's definitely a living in a glass house while throwing stones motherfucker.
I dunno, my opinion on the matter's gonna change depending on whether or not I give a shit about the band, what I perceive their intentions to be, the venues they're playing, and the price of a ticket. At least I'm aware that I'm a fickle asshole...

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Postby jaimoe0 » Wed Nov 17, 2010 12:22 am

Sellout, schmellout. If you know what you're getting, what's the big deal? For instance, you know you're going to get new artistic statements on a grand scale if you go see whatever Corgan is dubbing "Smashing Pumpkins" these days and a helping of catalog. Black Francis already said the Pixies aren't doing new stuff, and it's no secret that Pavement isn't either. Nobody is holding a gun to anyone's head and making them go to a reunion show. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Or don't. And anyone who tours is hoping to make a buck, no matter what they are playing. My only beef would be going to a Pavement reunion to hear all those smash hits of yesteryear and then getting a bunch of new jazz-funk excursions written by Ibold and Steve West. Uh, not what was advertised guys. That might irk me a bit. But if I knew that was on the menu and bought the ticket anyway... well, I was warned.

I do not intend any disrespect to Messrs. Ibold and West. It was just a fir instance, as they are not generally considered the band's top songwriters.

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Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:46 am

I'm conflicted by Corgan's statements. Maybe it's because I've listened to too much of his post 2000 SP material that I can't dismiss him outright. I'm somewhat sympathetic to him. He views The Pumpkins as his band. It was in 1988 when he formed the band, and it's his now. I don't think he ever thought of resurrecting the band as a way to "cash in" financially on the band's name or catalog. In fact, he plays few of their old hit in concert. He views The Pumpkins as his ongoing life's work and a platform for his song writing. He doesn't even have a recording contract anymore. He and Jimmy bought a studio in Chicago and he records everything there now with whomever is currently in the Band's line-up. What he's doing is almost the opposite of bands who reform to tour on old material.

For Corgan, he would indeed be selling out if he went on tour with Darcy and James and played Mellon Collie from start to finish. He simply can't fathom why anybody could stomach going on tour and playing decade's old material night after night simply to get a paycheck. And I get that. In that sense he's a lot like Morrissey, with no interest in ressurecting the past. You can stand in the front row at a Morrissey show and scream for Smiths songs all night, but all you're gonna get is one or two as an encore (believe me, I've tried over and over).

Of course, Corgan owns the Pumpkins catalog. They sold tens of millions of records and continue to sell them today. While he doesn't have a record conract anymore, the fact that he is able to connect with so many people online and self distribute his music probably owes a lot to his earlier success.

In that respect Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins is a lot more like Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails.

As far as sell-outs go, I view last year's tour by The Police as a blatent example of a "sell out" tour.

I'm less harsh on The Pixies, but if I'm pressed I'd have to say they're at least dipping their toes in that water. They're recording every show and selling the live recording AT THOSE SHOWS. It's a level of "merch" that I've never seen before at live shows. With no new songs to sell, though, I guess that's one of the only ways to soak their fans.

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Postby D. Phillips » Wed Nov 17, 2010 1:45 pm

Again, I find it a bit silly to be talking about "soaking" fans. People love to connect with the bands they love however they can. A high quality recording of the show they just attended makes sense to me and companies have been doing it for years (you can get a few old Riviera shows from Schubas via eMusic!).

And as you know, Scott, bands make their money on merch. It's why ska bands have 23 shirts for sale and 8 varieties of hats, and wrist bands...people love that shit--give it to them.

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Postby Rikki Lixx » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:01 pm

D. Phillips wrote:Again, I find it a bit silly to be talking about "soaking" fans..

I do too. Even at Gallager shows it warns fans that the first few rows will get wet with melon juice. So if you don't want to get soaked, then don't bother going. I mean, it shows him holding a big hammer on the posters, so you know he's going to smash things. He even smashes pumpkins.
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Postby Sugarcubes Forever » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:14 pm

D. Phillips wrote:Again, I find it a bit silly to be talking about "soaking" fans. People love to connect with the bands they love however they can. A high quality recording of the show they just attended makes sense to me and companies have been doing it for years (you can get a few old Riviera shows from Schubas via eMusic!).

And as you know, Scott, bands make their money on merch. It's why ska bands have 23 shirts for sale and 8 varieties of hats, and wrist bands...people love that shit--give it to them.


Yeah, I know. I've worked the merch table at countless ska shows!

I'm not totally dissing The Pixies for that. I don't believe they made a whole lot of money back in the day. And in today's environment I'm more than happy to see a band use their shows to generate revenue.

What gets harder and harder to do is draw that line, as a critic, between the out and out "sell out" and the truely earnest band who gets back together for the "right reasons." I'm not sure I know what the right reasons are.

It seems blatently obvious that $300 tickets to a show by an A-Hole like Sting or Billy Joel is total bullshit. It pushes the average working stiff either to the nosebleed seats or out of the show all together. Phil Collins doing an oldies cover album is a bunch of sell-out bullshit. But is it so bad to see Pavement do a few shows?

Corgan spoke specifically about this in Rolling Stone earlier this year. I think Corgan, though, can't seperate his opinion of what is right for Billy Corgan (musically) from what is valid creatively or even morally for other musicians.

Q: A bunch of huge bands in the past few years have reformed without writing any new material.

A: I've been in contact with those bands, as a fan and in many cases as a peer. I say to them, "Please write new music. We need you." When I got the Pumpkins back I made it very clear — it's this way or no way. If I walked onstage tonight and there were 20 people out there, I [still wouldn't] go back and like ring up anybody that used to be in the band. That's it. It's over. I'll go make some kids or play the fucking ukulele. I will never, ever, be that guy. And I've said a lot of things that I've gone back on, but I can guarantee you I will never be that guy. It's just not in my DNA.

Q: A lot of fans are very focused on the original lineup.

A: In that lineup you had two people who could play with a high level of musicianship, and two people who couldn't. And somehow that worked. James [Iha] and D'arcy and Jimmy... fascinating people. Jimmy, world class drummer. James, very creative when he wanted to be. D'arcy had a really incredible intuitive sense. But that band was not built to last. Believe me, if that band had anything left in it, not only would I do it because it would be creatively interesting, but it would be incredibly financially lucrative. People say, "Well come on, just shake hands backstage and ride in separate buses." Part of my being and spiritual person is, I'm not gonna be in a band with people who don't like me.


James Iha is a crummy musician? Huh? Ugh!

Corgan to me is a lot like Cortney Love, talented and intelligent. He's able to verbalize things about the music industry and his own creative process and band at a level of detail you rarely hear from rock musicians. But at the same time he's totally nuts.

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Postby miss carol » Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:21 pm

I always thought that "selling out" applied to artists who held on to a belief that they were different than the norm, alternative, if you will. Sting and Phil Collins never sold out; they bought in at the start. Collins is a Tory for crying out loud! He is for all intents and purposes The Man.

X has reunited countless times. Are they sell outs? Some would argue yes, but consider that Exene has MS and medical bills to pay. Are they still sell outs?


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