Music, Super Bowl Commercials, and Selling Out

Billboard posted a run down of music in commercials that aired during this year’s very weird Super Bowl.

It included Youtube sensation and first-billion-view-getter PSY going “Gangnam Style” for pistachios, the Flaming Lips scoring an epic play date for Hyundai, the Rolling Stones and Willem Dafoe selling Benzos, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Wonder for Anheuser-Busch products, and the M&Ms spelling out what they won’t do for love—mainly, be chewed up.


All these artists have licensed their music to companies in the past, so no surprise that they’re “selling out.” Though I suppose we can argue whether they are “selling out.”

Or whether it matters.

Like in 2002, when the Transplants, a punk/hip hop supergroup featuring Rancid’s Tim Armstrong and Blink-182’s Travis Barker, licensed their song “Diamonds and Guns” to Garnier Fructis for shampoo ads.

Previously, Rancid had famously turned down offers from big labels and even titled their third full-length “…And Out Come the Wolves” because of the huge contracts major labels were throwing at them. But then, seven years later, there was one of Armstrong’s songs selling shampoo.

What line shouldn’t artists cross?

Does it matter who it is? Does it matter whether it’s Justin Timberlake or Beyonce, The Ramones or Bad Brains, Metallica or Mastodon?

I suppose much of the cries depend on what an artist means to the person crying “sell out.” Or whether the person considers the performer an artist at all.

I suppose artists are only truly tested when a contract comes across their desk with real money and real fame attached to it. And, perhaps, what the artist’s reasons are for signing on or flipping the bird.

Millions of dollars surely makes making art easier. Though does money and comfort corrupt the art and render it less than? Does the money make these wild, creative people beholden to something other than their own instincts, whimsies, and experience?

I suppose it’s a decision every fan and artist makes for themselves. It’s certainly difficult to ignore the righteousness of Beyonce’s halftime show, which was so big and elaborate it may have broken the Superdome’s lights last night.

Are her fans, or the fans of the Flaming Lips, Rolling Stones, and yes, PSY, somehow less deserving of the feelings they get from those artists and those songs, because they also sell products? Are those groups and their skill less worthy of praise?

I’m still figuring that out, so for now, I’m going to take a shower and think it over while I lather, rinse, and repeat.


Also, for what it’s worth, here’s a video Shaquille O’Neal posted of him singing along to Bey’s “Halo.”

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