Most of us have found ourselves embroiled in passionate arguments defending or blasting artists who "sell out." Those who rail against musicians who use their product to amass wealth will often cite Minor Threat as a shining example of a band who successfully avoided the monetary pitfalls of fame.
During the '90s, the legendary straight-edge band famously refused to license their name for t-shirt production. Such militant anti-capitalism makes the revelation that the band licensed their song "Minor Threat" for Sunday's episode of Entourage the head scratcher of the day.
Many folks, myself included, may be surprised to find out that Minor Threat licenses its songs all the time. This is according to Dischord Record's Alec Burgeois, who spoke with the Washington City paper.
"Minor Threat clears plenty of stuff--some of it never runs, some of it does and no one notices," explains Burgeois, who adds that the band enforces strict caveats when licensing its work. For instance, it refuses requests it considers offensive and demands the same amount of money bigger artists would receive for appearing on the same soundtrack.
Compared to the way younger artists flippantly use their creations as barter these days, Burgeois' rationalization actually comes across as reasonable. But it's still disheartening to hear.
How Minor Threat could allow their song to be used in a show about crass narcissism, and hedonistic excess and not consider it offensive is bizarre.
When I rail against rock and commercialism, I don't make the argument that artists should be barred from doing what they want with their own material--this is America after all. The argument I make is that unless a song is being used for some epic movie scene (like Eric Clapton in Goodfellas, or Rick Springfield in Boogie Nights), artists run the risk of cheapening their product as they immortalize it on screen.
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The airwaves are full of examples: Smashing Pumpkins became predatory lenders in cahoots with Visa when they whored out the song "Today", Led Zeppelin collaborates with Lexus and The Submarines licensed their poppy number "You Me and the Bourgeoisie" to an iPhone commercial a couple years back. When I saw the latter play that song at Detroit Bar in 2010, all I could hear was the phrase "There's an app for that." Don't get me started on what CSI has done to the Who.
Does lending your song to a popular HBO series cheapen it? I'll let the comment board decide. I'll just leave you with a lyric from the Minor Threat song "Cashing In."
"You know I'm going to be alright with the money I make off you tonight/Sucker/ We don't care, we don't pose/We'll steal your money, we'll steal your show/Know something?/ The problem with money is I want more."
Vitriolic sarcasm? Or rigorous honesty?