It’s a tale as old as time.
An artist starts making music, cutting their teeth until they sign with a major record label, start seeing some success, and boom… your music is in a corny commercial and you’re doing paid Instagram promos for ass cream.
They find themselves making certain moves, dressing a certain way, and recording/releasing songs that they would’ve never released before, but… it’s all about makin more money now. Integrity and art be damned.
Next thing you know… you’re a sellout.
Granted, plenty of butthurt country fans will call you a sellout for even having a minor amount of success (which is dumb), but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about the Texas artists like Cody Johnson that sign a major label Nashville deal and still make the same ol’ country music they’ve always made… that’s not selling out.
With that being said, the rock duo The Black Keys sat down for Joe Rogan’s latest podcast, and discussed the idea of “selling out,” and how they found themselves in a tough spot early on in their careers with their label.
The Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach has been producing a number of country albums here in recent years, like Hank Williams Jr.’s upcoming Rich White Honky Tonk Blues blues album, multiple Yola albums, Marcus King’s El Dorado, and John Anderson’s Years.
Auerbach admitted that making decisions off of what labels and others think is pretty common, and said they fell prey to that early on:
“We were making decisions on what other people thought we should do.”
He told a story about how they were asked to do a mayonnaise commercial in the UK, when they only had a few hundred dollars in their bank accounts, so they were willing to do anything at that point.
However, their manager convinced them not to do it, because they’d be labeled as “sellouts,” and turned down a lot of money to do it.
Auerbach also noted that he thinks some songs were ruined by being overplayed on commercials, like “Heard It Through The Grapevine.”
“It was omnipresent, it was overexposure. Hearing a song enough can make it a hit song. I’m convinced you could play any song, pipe it through every Walgreens, and it’s gonna become a hit song.”
“Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes comes to mind, as it became a commercial for Applebee’s, and was played so much on a national scale that now I want to smash my head against a wall any time I hear it.
Rogan then asked Auerbach what it takes to make a hit song, now that radio is not a main driver, and he admitted he wasn’t sure.
However, he does believe that TikTok can play a huge role…