Nothing has a more polarizing effect on music fans than the concept of "selling out." In fact, try talking about it this week at one of your holiday parties and see how contentious the conversation gets.
Start by rattling off some of music's biggest names. We bet they didn't get there without some level of gratuitous commercial exposure along the way. The Beatles, U2, Metallica, the Rolling Stones, Madonna — five of the top-grossing artists of all time, and each one with (rather unnecessary) sellouts lining their career paths. Heck, you don't get to mega-stardom without a couple sellouts along the way.
Fans get upset when artists earn their livelihood this way, but the music world is full of contradictions. And the line between art and commerce continues to blur every year. Still, there's a line that gets crossed — the one that separates due attention from gluttony. With that in mind, here are some of 2010's most blatant cash-ins by legendary rockers.
This Aussie juggernaut made headlines in 2008 by securing exclusive distribution for its Black Ice
album with Wal-Mart. It was a bizarre bedfellows move, seeing that the big-box chain doesn't even carry CDs with parental-advisory stickers and has occasionally sold edited versions of popular CDs that do bear them. But the partnership definitely worked: Black Ice was AC/DC's first No. 1 album since 1981's For Those About to Rock.
Industry insiders say AC/DC are smart when it comes to money matters. Apparently they're smarter at securing a direct line to their target audience. Wal-Mart had a stake in AC/DC's Iron Man 2 soundtrack/greatest-hits album, which was an instant million seller — squarely aimed at a younger audience that probably didn't buy last year's pricier Backtracks box set.
If Steven Tyler's erratic behavior and American Idol gig hasn't signaled that the landing gear has come off Aero Force One, this year's excursion into selling lottery tickets certainly has. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees worked with the Ohio Lottery Commission and a dozen other organizations across the U.S. to launch an instant-win scratch-off game called Dream On. Top prizes include guitars, motorcycles, and an "ultimate rock-star party" at the Rock Hall with the band.
Aerosmith engaged heavily in other forms of name-branding in 2010, selling everything from video games to trucks. And you thought that song from the asteroid movie was going to be the low point of their career.
Longtime poster boys for music-marketing whoredom (remember the action figures, coffins, and comic books printed in blood?), Kiss show no signs of slowing down. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have always been all-business and always will be. Last year they tied their latest album, Sonic Boom, to Wal-Mart as an exclusive (hey, if it's good enough for AC/DC and the Eagles ...). The three-disc set included rerecorded versions of Kiss classics and a live DVD.
This year's Hottest Show on Earth tour hit the road with support from nearly 39,000 7-11 stores, which promoted theconcerts on Slurpee and Big Gulp cups. And nothing goes better with those big-ass beverages than candy. Good thing Kiss also unveiled limited-edition M&M's featuring the members' faces this year.
managed to avoid the schmaltzy Broadway trap with The Wall, despite his own touring cash grab this year. But aging punks Green Day turned their Grammy-winning concept album American Idiot into a Tony-winning musical-theater production and fell face first into the schmaltz.
With inspiration cribbed from The Rocky Horror Picture Show
and West Side Story, the album's story is invigorating and entirely believable. But something got in the way on the Great White Way: Rent. When Green Day saw an early production of the stage version of American Idiot, they claimed the music made them cry. We're guessing the Levi's sponsorship and the underwhelming Rock Band: Green Day video game they dirtied their hands with this year might also have something to do with it.
Of course, there were plenty of other artists who cashed in and sold out this year: The Beatles finally settled up with Apple for the iTunes launch, dozens of bands — old and new, legendary and not-so — hit the road to perform one of their old albums in its entirety, and Glee made everything less, well, gleeful. We'll leave you to debate the rest over your nog — or better yet, a Slurpee.
Send feedback to [email protected]. Anne E. DeChant –
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