So I’ve spent the majority of my life in the music business. I love it, but it is a crazy, ever-changing, and very dangerous business that is filled with stories of seemingly overnight successes. Truth is. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Even Psy (where’s that guy now? Hmm, guess gimmicks don’t always work), who’s “Gangnam Style” took over the world for the better part of a year, had been in the game for over a decade. We just never knew who he was. Mega rock stars like Steven Tyler played in and out of bands for years before finding the right guys, right sound, and busting their asses to get people to listen. This is an industry that demands absolute commitment and dedication. You can’t half-ass the music biz. You have to commit fully and give everything you have…
…and you’ll still most likely fail. It’s just how it is.
What’s worse is that even if you’re good enough and you work hard enough, and connect with your fans enough, and become successful, there’s a good chance you’ll be deemed a “sell-out”. (Unless you play metal; then all you have to do to be a sell-out is cut your hair.)
So what is a “sell-out” or “selling out”?
Wikipedia says this about selling out;
There are two distinct forms of selling out in terms of music. The term ‘sell out’ referred to those who signed for major labels and those who licenced their music to companies for use in advertising that contradict their apparent values, and more recently it can also refer to those who sacrifice their musical integrity through a change in their musical sound, sometimes due to pressure from major labels  or in order to gain profit by making their music more appealing to a mainstream audience.
This is the same meaning I used to assign to that term. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it gets thrown around a little too much by douchebags who just don’t like certain types of music and it seems to always be cast upon successful bands by people who have no idea what that band’s ideals or reasons are. Are there “sell outs” in music? Of course. There are plenty of people in every industry who sacrifice integrity for fame or money, but I couldn’t tell you who they are with any certainty because I don’t know them. So who am I to claim they sacrificed integrity?
About 8-10 years ago I was working in the financial industry. A mentor of mine used to tell us that we had to sell out to our business and our company’s products. When I first heard that, I was confused and a little turned off. As he explained what he meant, it made a lot of sense. If my goal was to grow within that company and be the best I could be, I needed to clear my mind of any negativity and completely sell out to that company’s products and way of doing business. I had to believe in it 100%. (Now, it needs to be said, that this is not a good idea unless you believe in what that company is doing; which I did.)
So I sold out, but in a much different way than what I had always known. I committed to the business 100% and gave it everything. I did the same when I decided to start FTF Records. I sold out completely. I gave up everything I had in order to commit myself to that label and those artists.
So nowadays, “selling out” means something completely different to me…
It means total commitment. It means giving up everything you have to chase your dream. It means selling everything you own for gas money so your band can tour. It means dropping out of college just before you earn your degree, so you have no fall back plan and MUST succeed. It means sacrificing; not integrity, but time, energy, money, and a whole lot of sleep, because your mind never stops running with ideas and there are not enough hours in the day.
Ok Jeff, what’s the point?
Tonight I had to run out to a local concert venue to meet a business partner of mine who was in town watching one of the many talented local bands we’ve worked with. I got there and my friend informs me that one of the guys in the band had just offered him a flat screen TV and a barely used, backward-compatible Playstation 3 for a mere $150. Not a bad deal considering the PS3 alone goes for well over $200 used. I asked why he was selling it, since he had only purchased both items within the past 12 months. The answer: “needs money to tour.”
So I looked into it more…
These guys are selling everything they own, not related to their music, scraping together every dime they can collect and save for their upcoming tour. They are literally calling everyone they know (or don’t know) and offering them ridiculous deals on everything from electronics to underwear.
They are SELLING OUT. They are sacrificing everything for their dream. They are committing themselves 100% to their passion.
Statistics show that they have a pretty slim chance of gaining any success from this tour. But they might grab themselves some new fans and a few new out of town venues who will welcome them back on their next tour. That is the focus. They are performing; working to build relationships with fans, other bands, and venues so that they can continue to grow. They know this tour is not going to be the “big break” everyone is looking for, but it may lead them to (or start to lead them to) something or someone that may then lead them to that opportunity.
Seems like a lot to sacrifice for just a kind-of, sort-of, maybe, but probably not, chance of making it, right?
Yea, that’s the point. Are YOU willing to sacrifice like this in order to achieve your dreams? Are YOU willing to commit completely and really go after it?
Maybe you should be…