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Deggans debate on public radio: Do artists sell out when they sell their songs to advertisers?



The-who-sell-out_front It's not like I don't have enough to do, what with the winter TV season picking up with frightening speed this week and next.

But when producers at public radio station WNYC asked me to participate in a debate about commercialism and pop music, I couldn't resist.

Their question: Is it still considered "selling out" for artists to lease their hit songs to advertisers?

I've had a curious evolution on this issue. When I was a young whippersnapper of a pop music critic, full of hipness and indignation, such uses seemed crass and desperate. I mean, Barry Manilow used to write commercial jingles -- it's like mortgaging your adolescence to grandma.

But as digital technology continues dismantling the way musicians have traditionally made money on their wares, it's not surprising to see everyone from Moby and Digable Planets to John Mellencamp, Massive Attack and Chris Brown cash in by selling songs -- or in some cases creating songs -- for advertisements.

I just finished a spirited debate on the issue with Chicago Tribune entertainment writer Mark Caro on WNYC, and they say the emails and phone comments are still pouring in.

Beatles rock band My point: Pop music especially is already a commodity. When Beatles songs are on a Rock Band video game and used to fuel a Circe du Soleil show in Las Vegas, is it really that big a leap to see them used in creative commercials?

I discovered Massive Attack by hearing their song "Teardrop" used as the theme for Fox TV's House, and I discovered Coldplay when ABC used their hit "Yellow" for an ad campaign several years ago. I still play both songs on my iPod quite often and love both bands.

But others have a different view. What do you think?

Check out the debate on WNYC by clicking here.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:04pm]


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