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Last Saturday night, while out in Brooklyn, we met a PA who worked a T-Mobile video shoot with of Montreal, also mentioning that Art Brut shot a commercial for the same campaign earlier in the day. oM’s went down at Waldorf, while Art Brut filmed at Irving Plaza. Curious, and jumping into reporter mode, we heard from another source that oM’s spot would feature two lines of Kevin Barnes dialogue and the band in full Monty attire. Hello, America. We were curious about the logistics and the band’s decision-making process, especially considering some of the flak they received for their Outback campaign, so we reached out to see what was what. Kevin Barnes, master lobster handler, kindly stepped to the plate. Of course we weren’t asking the man to defend himself (we certainly prefer oM to Mellencamp during Office breaks); nevertheless, Kevin’s presupposed a “Band Of Whorses”-style backlash and titled his essay to ’Gum readers “Selling Out Isn’t Possible”…

Selling Out Isn’t Possible
by Kevin Barnes


Are you a sell out? Yes. Don’t let it bother you though, cause apparently I am also a sell out, and so are your parents and everyone you’ve ever known. The only way to avoid selling out is to live like a savage all alone in the wilderness. The moment you attempt to live within the confines of a social order, you become a sell out. Once you attempt to coexist you sell out. If that’s true, then selling out is a good thing. It is an important thing. If we didn’t do it, we’d be fucked, quite literally, by everyone bigger than us physically who found us fuckable.

The pseudo-nihilistic punk rockers of the 70′s created an impossible code in which no one can actually live by. It’s such garbage. The idea that anyone who attempts to do anything commercial is a sell out is completely out of touch with reality. The punk rock manifesto is one of anarchy and intolerance. The punk rockers polluted our minds. They offered a solution that had no future. Of course, if the world would have ended before Sandinista! was released then everything would have been alright. It didn’t. Now we have all of these half-conceived ideas and idiot philosophies floating around to confuse and alienate us. I think it is important to face reality. It is important to decide whether you are going to completely rail against the system or find a way to make it work for you. You cannot do both — and if you attempt to do both you will only become even more bitter and confused.

When I was younger, and supported my parents, I chose to float between the two. A lot of people choose to do this. There are so many confused young people running around now polluted by this alloyed version of the tenets of the punk rock manifesto. Of course they’re confused. It isn’t possible to be in chorus with capitalism and anarchy. You must pick one or the other. Very few people are willing to do it, though. The worst kind of person is the one who sucks the dick of the man during the daytime and then draws pictures of themselves slitting his throat at night. Jesus Christ, make up your mind! The thing is, there is a lack of balance. When capitalism is working on a healthy level, everyone gets their dick sucked from time to time and no one gets their throat slit. It’s impossible to be a sell out in a capitalist society. You’re only a winner or a loser. Either you’ve found a way to crack the code or you are struggling to do so. To sell out in capitalism is basically to be too accommodating, to not get what you think you deserve. In capitalism, you don’t get what you think you deserve though. You get what someone else thinks you deserve. So the trick is to make them think you are worth what you feel you deserve. You deserve a lot, but you’ll only get it when you figure out how to manipulate the system.

Why commercialize yourself? In the art industry, it’s extremely difficult to be successful without turning yourself into a cartoon. Even Hunter S. Thompson knew this. God knows Duchamp and Warhol knew it. Some artists are turned into cartoons and others do it themselves. I prefer to do it myself. at least then I can control how my cock is photographed. Why should it be considered such an onerous thing to view the production of art as a job? To me, the luckiest people are the ones who figure out a way to earn a living doing what they love and gain fulfillment from. Like all things in this life, you have to make certain sacrifices to get what you want. At least most of us do. If you’re not some trust-fund kid or lotto winner, you’ve got to slave it out everyday. People who wanna be artists have the hardest time of it ’cause we are held up to these impossible standards. We’re expected to die penniless and insane so that the people we have moved and entertained over the years can keep us to themselves. So that they can feel a personal and untarnished connection with our art. The second we try to earn a living wage or, god forbid, promote our art in the mainstream, we are placed under the knives of the sanctimonious indie fascists. Unfortunately, there isn’t some grand umbrella grant that supports indie rockers financially and enables us to exist outside of the trappings of capitalism.

The thing is, I like capitalism. I think it’s an interesting challenge. It’s a system that rewards the imaginative and ambitious adults and punishes the lazy adults. Our generation is insanely lazy. We’re just as smart as our parents but we are overwhelmed by contradicting ideas that confuse us into paralysis. Maybe the punk rock ethos made sense for the “no future” generation but it doesn’t make sense for me. I like producing and purchasing things. I’d much rather go to IKEA than to stand in some bread line. That’s because I don’t have to stand in a bread line. Most people who throw around terms like “sellout” don’t have to stand in one either. They don’t have to stand in one because they are gainfully employed. The term “sellout” only exists in the lexicon of the over-privileged. Almost every non-homeless person in America is over-privileged, at least in a global sense.

Obviously, I’ve struggled with the concept. I’ve struggled because of the backlash following my songs placement in TV commercials. That is, until I realized that the negative energy that was being directed towards me really began to inspire my creativity. It has given me a sense of, “well, I’ll show them who is a sellout, I’m going to make the freakiest, most interesting, record ever!!!” … “I’m going to prove to them that my shit is wild and unpolluted by the reach of some absurd connection to mainstream corporate America.”

I realized then that, for me, selling out is not possible. Selling out, in an artistic sense, is to change one’s creative output to fit in with the commercial world. To create phony and insincere art in the hopes of becoming commercially successful. I’ve never done this and I can’t imagine I ever will. I spent seven years not even existing at all in the mainstream world. Now I am being supported and endorsed by it. I know this won’t last forever. No one’s going to want to use one of my songs in a commercial five years from now, so I’ve got to take the money while I can. It’s the same with pro athletes. You only get it while you’re hot and no one stays commercially viable for long. It’s not like Michael Vick is going to be receiving any big endorsement deals anytime soon. As sad as it may seem, one of the few ways most indie bands can make any money whatsoever is by selling a song to a commercial. Very very few bands make enough money from album sales or tour revenue to enable themselves to quit their day job.

Next time you see a commercial with one of your favorite bands songs in it, just tell yourself, “cool, a band I really like made some money and now I can probably look forward to a few more records from them.” It’s as simple as that. We all have to do certain things, from time to time, that we might not be completely psyched about, in order to pay the bills. To me, the TV is the world’s asshole boss and if anyone can earn some extra bucks from it and they’re not Bill O’Reilly, it’s a good thing.


He raises a number of interesting and important issues and questions. What do you think? What’s selling out? Does it depend on who you’re shilling for? Band Of Horses recently backed out of that Wal-Mart campaign, so they were obviously conflicted. This is all super important life and death shit, obviously, but the real question is: Who’s in Kevin’s Fave Five?

The commercial airs sometime on Sunday, so perhaps will find out then. Clip to come…



UPDATE: Should have guessed that “sometime on Sunday” meant during the American Music Awards (the T-Mobile Text-In Award suspense is practically unbearable, no?). We’re ushered into a faux Montreal band meeting, in a Waldorf-Astoria hotel room, with a smarmy agent guy trying to orchestrate an oM reunion tour on his most excellent Sidekick. (Says Kevin: “Reunion tour? We haven’t broken up!”). Aside for a big band cheer for Düsseldorf, pretty uneventful. On the way out we get “Gronlandic Edit” for a few seconds: “I guess it would be nice / to give my heart to a” [CUT TO BLACK]. Guess T-Mobile’s got no love for god. Watch:

Comments (228)
  1. cherry  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    really good for him. someone needed to say that.

  2. James  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    Kevin an incredibly talented songwriter and deserves to make a living at it, which is especially difficult now that so many folks believe recorded music should be available at no cost.

  3. hmm  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    [Most importantly, i]t’s not like Michael Vick is going to be receiving any big endorsement deals anytime soon.

  4. Steve  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    I agree with James on this one. Just about any way that Kevin Barnes and Co. need to go about making more records and touring more I’m all for it. What speaks more for of Montreal is that Barnes is open to speak to the community openly about so-called “selling-out” (In essay form, no less). I love this band, I love their music, and things like this make me enjoy them and music today in general that much more.

  5. Some Hooker  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    I hear you KB!

    You make a similar argument to that of my pimp. He says to me, “You’ve only got a few good years left in you before your tits sag and your teeth fall out, so you might as well let ‘em fuck you in the ass!”

    Who needs integrity anyway?

  6. Clete  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    LET’S GO OUTBACK TONIGHT!!!

  7. Kevin,

    Don’t let the haters get you down. I love commercial jingles and I’m not alone. You should be proud of your work in this field. Outback has outdone the P.C. Richards whistle or even the Sleepy’s anthem with its classic didgeridoo groove.

    This is snapshot neo-art for the 21st century. Face it, hipsters! Times have changed. This isn’t the ’90s when people cared about what the “cool kids” at the “coffee haus” thought! Get with the program.

    By Mennen…

  8. James II  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    I used to criticize sell-outs too. As I finished my last year of law school, I was presented with my first opportunity to sell out, and I took it. Anyone who talks shit about selling out doesn’t have anything anyone wants to buy.

  9. “Outback has outdone the P.C. Richards whistle”

    Let’s not get crazy now.

  10. Daniel  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    Kevin Barnes is such an economic badass.

  11. I just saw the outback commercial the other day and was super excited and cranked up the volume on the tv, I’m actually glad the music’s getting more into the mainstream and I really don’t know why all these people are calling them sell-outs. It’s a shame really.

  12. Eric  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    I think the bottom line is not to support something you think is evil. For instance if you sold your song to Google or some similar corporation no one would bat an eye, where as Band of Horses sells one to Walmart and people wig out. Why? Because they are letting someone use your catchy art to sell a product or idea of which people have opinions. Because we’re making a judgment about them selling a song to that corporation specifically, not a corporation in general.

    Some people think corporations are universally evil. These people are usually foolish and/or (usually and) hypocrites. They are also the same people who prattle on about selling out. Anyone who pays their cellphone bill has sold out to telecommunications as much as Kevin Barnes ever will.

  13. John  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    I love Of Montreal, T-Mobile, AND The Bloomin’ Onion, so naturally I am okay with this decision. I feel that what Kevin is doing is okay beacuse, as far as I can tell, neither of those two companies have questionable buisness methods unlike some other recent Indie-rock enlisters. Luckily Band Of Horses came to their senses and pulled from Wal-Mart.

  14. Ferris  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 +1

    Every time some dipshit complains that the only way they can continue to make music and provide for themselves is to sell their music to some taco commercial, I think Fugazi. You don’t need to sign onto some giant conglomerate record label, you don’t need a fucking video, and you don’t need to take a check from Nike just to continue to record music. Don’t give me a fucking recitation of some dipshit capitalistic theory to justify yourself. All I hear is an admission your music is fucking weak, no one buys your shitty albums, and this is the only way you can make a buck. No one’s going to want to use your songs in a commercial in five years: exactly.

  15. hnomad  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    there is nothing wrong with making money off your music, and in the current industry, licensing is where the money is at. go kevin.
    on the other hand, artists can still choose who they “sell out” to, and should do so carefully. the associations made by advertising are indelible.

  16. Eric  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    Ok, that’s a whole bunch of reasons you don’t HAVE to sell a song to a commercial, can you give me a good reason NOT to, assuming the company isn’t inherently immoral?

  17. josef  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    “Kevin an incredibly talented songwriter…”

    Kevin is just an incredibly talented person and got insanely fucked on the Outback deal. I feel bad for the guy. If this means he can keep making records for me to enjoy while protecting his creative rights, then more power to him.

  18. gene simmons  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    atta boy… wanna open for KISS?

  19. kooky  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    nothing wrong with getting paid. still… I used to love oM and the Outback spot ruined Wraith and the band in my mind if not forever then for a good long time.

  20. Cody  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    My friend and I went to see oM perform in SF on tuesday. Before their set began, she and I stood, somewhat in awe, right in front of the stage, staring at the giant three-tiered light-up set, the projection screen showing real time footage from the cameras attached to the mike stands, and the roadies’ trippy and fantastic costumes.
    “this must be where all the Outback money went,” she said to me.
    of Montreal sold their soul to the steakhouse devil, and the result is one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.
    Plus, that commercial is really catchy.

  21. Joe  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    I think there’s a distinct difference between allowing your song or part of your song to be played during a commercial and re-recording/changing the lyrics of a song to promote whatever product the commercial is selling. In the first instance, you’re briefly lending your art to commerciality; in the second, you’re letting commercial-interests impose upon and reshape your art. I think the second scenario is problematic. After all, all art exists within a larger cultural context. And it’s naive to think that a song won’t adopt new connotations depending on its public usage. Hence, “Wraith Pined to the Mist” is now “That Outback Song”

  22. banana  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    ?It is kind of hard for kids to be upset
    about this kind of thing, they have never had a child or had to pay bills or do anything, which
    is basically what it came down to you know. Kevin wrote the song, so it is actually his money,
    but, it wasn?t even that much money, but at the time he had a wife and a kid, and it takes a lot
    of money to support a family. He kind of felt weirdly pressured I think. So that?s how it worked
    out. But the kids who are upset about it, you know, if I was sixteen, I?d be upset too,? Poole says
    and adds: ?But we don?t even play that song in America anymore. It is just ruined. We are very
    sad about it. But the worst thing was that Outback Steakhouse didn?t even use the original song.
    They made their own version of the song, and it ended becoming this kind of mockery of the art
    that of Montreal created.?

  23. Matt  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    Mostly agree with Barnes on the selling out, but forcing a choice between anarchism and pure acceptance of capitalism is bullshit. Capitalism is exploitative. It has its benefits, and there isn’t a better system, but that doesn’t mean we have to pretend it’s all flowers and lollipops. Some artists stand up for principles or change without falling back on mindless support for anarchy. Some find ways to live within capitalism that resist participating in and being victim to its most exploitative elements. It’s not an either/or situtaiton.

    Not that music always has to be that place. Not that Of Montreal has to be that band (really, how would they ever be that band and make the particular kind of awesome music they make?) or shouldn’t make money. And I DO like when I hear a song I like in a commercial, actually. I’m much happier to be hearing songs I like in commericals than songs I hate. But the subtext here is that artists with principles are hypocrites, and that’s bullshit. Barnes, you don’t have to take every other artistic stance down with you just to ease your conscience for being in a commercial. And when you start talking about social Darwinist bullshit like “You’re only a winner or a loser,” I lose a bit of respect.

    I suppose “I fell in love with the first cute girl that I saw that could appreciate George Bataille” was always supposed to be ironic. But I thought maybe only half ironic, have nostalgic. Maybe I was wrong.

  24. banana  |   Posted on Nov 16th, 2007 0

    Oops. I left out the other part of that quote.

    The last few months have seen of Montreal fans have become actively critical of the band,
    after one of their songs appeared on a TV commercial for the Outback Steakhouse restaurant
    chain. ?Yeah, that was a learning experience,? Poole says. ?Kevin didn?t read the contract properly,
    and didn?t have a lawyer look at it, so he thought it was one thing, and it turns out he was
    signing something else,? he explains. ?Once he realised what it was, maybe an hour later, they
    wouldn?t let him go back.?

  25. andy  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    I’m just kind of amazed that, given his points, he’s concerned enough about it for write 1000+ words.

  26. Chase  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    Wal-Mart is awesome– what’s wrong with supporting it? Some say it’s evil, I think they do more good in this world than any of the posters who say its evil will ever be capable of.

  27. frankie  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    Thats all fine and well but just don’t ever go around waving your penis again where I can see it. I fucking mean that, Kevin Barnes.

  28. I really like this guy! I’m gonna hafta give his music a listen…

  29. Des'ree  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 -1

    Kevin Barnes is a whiny little prick and I wanna beat his ass. He has no fucking idea what punk-rock ethos is b/c he doesn’t have a clue what The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Joy Division contributed to mankind! Without the punk-rock movement, there would BE no Kevin-freaking-Barnes! Ya dig?!

    I’m all FOR artists who are able to find a bigger audience (even if through commercial means), if they keep their musical integrity. Kevin says he would “never” change his music to fit commercial needs, but that’s EXACTLY what he did when he RE-RECORDED his own freaking song to FIT THE ADVERTISER’S NEEDS! He inserted “Outback Steakhouse” into his own song! What’s wrong with you, twerp?

    Newsflash to Kevin: There ARE indie-rock bands (like AUDIOCRASH from FL) that only play music because it’s their PASSION, and NOT to make a buck. There ARE pop/hip-hop artists like the hot new kid, J. MELLO (aka JUSTIN SMITH) from NJ, who are extremely TALENTED lyricists and would never DREAM of, say, rappin’ about Starbuck’s Coffee. (Unless of course, he MEANT to rap about Starbuck’s Coffee when he recorded the track!)

    With ELECTRONIC/DANCE music DJs/producers — like PAUL VAN DYK, PAUL OAKENFOLD, BT, MOBY, FATBOY SLIM — it’s a GREAT thing when their music gets LICENSED for commercial use in TV spots, film, video games, etc. because it means the artists are getting paid and exposing their music to a wider audience. The difference is, Paul Van Dyk LICENSED his track titled “Connected” to Motorola. He did NOT re-record “Connected” using only DIAL-TONES from a fucking MOTOROLA PHONE in place of the original SYNTHESIZERS in the track! Am I getting through to you, Kevin, you dipshit?

    Get over your fucking self, Barnes. You’re certainly NOT the only artist having his/her music used commercially. But you ARE the most annoyingly sanctimonious prick whose rants I’ve read today. Now, go get your dick sucked.

  30. Elliot  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    “Selling out, in an artistic sense, is to change one’s creative output to fit in with the commercial world. To create phony and insincere art in the hopes of becoming commercially successful. I’ve never done this and I can’t imagine I ever will.”

    …..you changed your song’s lyrics into a company jingle. Help me out here.

  31. um desree  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    desree- outback bought the song, used the melody and they set their own words to it. he didn’t rewrite it.

  32. roffle  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    ^^^ troll

  33. the lord god  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    after reading your post, Des’ree, all i see is AUDIOCRASH! and J. MELLO!*!&@ barf

  34. stanyo  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    Yo, way to spit some Ayn Rand shit, fucko. You think people getting fucked by capitalism are just lazy? You think 12 year olds in a third world country making shirts that you shill are just lazy? Go to hell, boy.

    You can justify a lot of what you’re saying, but dont applaud the system while you’re at it. I will gladly steal your next record as you so willingly separate the music from the business.

    • Jason  |   Posted on Aug 13th, 2009 0

      God, I’m so tired of ppl bitchin about sweat shops. No, it may not be easy living, but every time ‘do-gooder’ fuckos force them to close those laid-off children end up looking for other ways to make money… like prostitution and criminal activity.

  35. asdf  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 +1

    A lot of people need to calm the fuck down and realize that Kevin did not rewrite the words to his own song. He did not realize what Outback was asking for when they asked him for the song, he has explained that if they had used the song as is he would be ok with it but it angers him that they changed the words but there’s nothing he can do about it now. Yes, he probably should have understood what they were asking for clearly before signing the contract but he didn’t and now it is too late. Please shut the fuck up and understand the situation before you go on your RARARRARA HYPOCRITE tirades.

  36. poop jonson  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    selling a song for a commercial is a one time handjob. bring back the major label cultivation.

  37. ss albion  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    WHO. FUCKING. CARES???

    when will everyone finally learn that of Montreal are among the (if not the) most overrated bands to come out of… anywhere. ever.

    honestly, unless im higher than the current pound/dollar ratio i cant enjoy a single one of their overly hyped, boorish excuses for pop music.

    i wouldnt listen to them if someone payed me. and i AM a sellout.

  38. “It’s a system that rewards the imaginative and ambitious adults and punishes the lazy adults.”

    I really have no problem if artists when to sell their work to a commercial interest. Its their music, they can do what they want. I’m in no position to judge their motivations. But I really wish people would drop the completely false assertion that capitalism has built this perfect meritocracy where the “hard-working” succeed and the “lazy” fail. As others have pointed out, capitalism, or more accurately corporate-powered capitalism in America, has messed up the lives of millions of people.

    When an industry is outsourced to a different country leaving hundreds of thousands of people out of a job (and with sparse replacements of equal value) is it because those workers were too “lazy”? Or is it because the attainment of ever-better profit margins have become truly mercenary. If it were all about “hard work” why are so many hard workers doing so badly?

    “Almost every non-homeless person in America is over-privileged, at least in a global sense.”

    Compared to starving children in the third world, or political dissidents in China, sure. But is that a fair comparison to make when critiquing the level of “privilege” in America, by comparing it to the very worst cases in the world? Why not compare it to the very best cases in the world? With all our affluence why are so many millions without health care? Why is our infant mortality rate plummeting to third-world levels? Why are corporations almost completely unchecked and given legal status equal to a living being? This line of argument seems very close to “you don’t know how good you got it, so shut up”. A defense of American capitalism that the ever-growing ranks of working poor are most likely fed up with. But then, perhaps they are too lazy and uncreative to deserve success.

    From my experience, the best defense against cries of “sell out” is to make transcendent art that renders such criticisms meaningless. If you can’t manage that, perhaps you aren’t working hard enough.

  39. Music comes with persistent associations: the place you first heard it, who you were with, how you were feeling. I’d rather not have companies buying into those memories.

  40. tj  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    it’s pretty clear that kevin barnes doesn’t have a very good understanding of what anarchism is.

  41. chase  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    for someone who doesn’t think he did anything wrong, he sure spent a lot of time defending himself.

  42. “…discussing ‘Story of the Eye’”

  43. I like this guy even more now. Go Kevin, you’re awesome :)

  44. Joe  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    Exactly, Chase. This essay reads like he’s desparately trying to convince himself of something.

  45. some terrible points and some incredible points. the incredible points remind me of this dave eggers essay:

    http://www.geocities.com/temptations_page/eggers.html

  46. Kevin Barnes' Soul  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 -1

    Dear Kevin,

    Hey, remember me? We used to have it pretty good together, I thought things were all right. I hope you like the money Kevin, I miss you.

    Sincerely,
    Your Soul

  47. innercityblues  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    you guys really watch too much tv. secondly, if you’re ranting about using discretion before you sell you art, i hope that you are also using that same discretion in researching every store you ever walk into. hipster-crites.

  48. @a: thanks for that link. i thoroughly enjoyed it.

  49. Cruiser  |   Posted on Nov 17th, 2007 0

    What a slut….

  50. Of Montreal – keep making the cheese!

    We interviewed these cats last month and they mentioned the Outback deal helped buy and build the massive tour setup and production, so sounds like everyone wins.

    For your next stunt please make the entire state of NY smell maple syrup at the same time.

    http://www.butterteam.com/2007/10/bt-interview-of-montreal-interview-talk.html

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