My Collaborative Post on the Commercialization of Rock for POTCERT11

This is a post similar to one I might use in my History of Rock course.

Please read THIS short article on the commercialization of rock music. Then watch these short videos of rock music being used to sell products.


Next, please read THIS short article on the use of dead rock stars for promoting products.

Please take this Poll and add comments on your thoughts on the commercialization of rock music. Some things to consider for your comments: Is rock music music fashion or art? How does the DIY ethic of Punk Rock accept or discard commercialization. Is a product suddenly ‘cool’ just because a rock song is used to promote it. Could rock music exist without any commercialization?


9 thoughts on “My Collaborative Post on the Commercialization of Rock for POTCERT11

  1. Norm Wright says:

    Is there really much difference between getting paid by CBS to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and getting paid by Nike to perform on a sneakers commercial?

    I know lots of talented musicians who are working in offices, factories, schools and emergency rooms. It’s not because they refused to “sell-out” but because they couldn’t. Maybe they weren’t good enough or maybe not popular enough or maybe they never got discovered, but there are bills to pay and and loved ones to take care of. These guys would probably drop their jobs in an instant if they found they could get by doing what they really love doing, playing music. So what’s wrong with that.

    I’ll bet it wouldn’t be too hard to find some examples of artists who have made a nice little nest egg from their work and once the financial needs are met, they’ve been free to go develop their art the way they really want to without having to worry about getting the next meal on the table. Some might argue that you have to suffer and struggle to create great art, but don’t think its always true.

    Thanks for this fun post. A nice break from the presentations and syllabus blogs. And a nice little example of an online class lesson.
    By the way, how do you use the Polldaddy results in your classes?

    • Ted Major says:

      It’s not rock & roll, but John Hartford had the luxury to pursue his music as he saw fit (and also to be a steam-boat captain) thanks to royalties from Glenn Campbell’s cover of one of his songs.

      • jproppe says:

        Hi Ted – That’s very refreshing to hear, since many early pioneers in rock and popular music did not get credit or receive any payment for their songs. Arthur Crudup comes to mind. He was very close to being awarded some royalties for his songs when the defendant in the case decided it would be cheaper to take him to court. He died poor after many stars: Elvis, CCR, Elton John, Rod Stewart and others earned a lot of money recording his songs.

    • jproppe says:

      Thanks for the compliment Norm. I agree with on all you points. ‘Selling-out’ and commercialism affect all art forms, that is why this type of topic is a good one for discussion in the course. Keep in mind that the majority of students ages 19-30ish have never lived in a world where rock was not commercialized. Some of the reactions to the 1970s arena rock bands (like some on the videos I posted) in the late 70s was in reaction to the inability of a small band to have any chance of making it in the business. So, many of them created their music away from the traditional paths. For these rockers to sell one’s self to promote a product was the worst form of corporate control. Kurt Cobain would most certainly not be thrilled with his image being used to sell shoes for instance. There must be a balance in getting paid for what you love and being molded into a product by a committee.

      I would use polldaddy very much like I have here to begin a conversation on how they voted the way they did. I also have “getting to know you” polls in my online class similar to what Pilar mentioned in her video for this week. I have thought it might be fun to have some polls similar to Dick Clark’s old “rate a record” from American Bandstand but I haven’t figured out just how to stream the music for that type of poll yet.

  2. shellie reeder says:

    What an interesting question~! Is this the class you teach? My husband is an instant fan as he believes that what is considered rock music these days is not at all the rock music he grew up on! He is an artist, of the graphic type and considers art just that….art. While some are sell-outs, some are true rockers….it seems a little bit more like semantics to me!

    • jproppe says:

      Hi Shellie – Yes, I teach the history of rock as well as various other music history courses and music theory courses. Rock has often fought the battle to be considered a legitimate art form. When I was in college it wasn’t even offered as a course yet. We’ve come a long way indeed.

      • shellie reeder says:

        If this class had been offered when I was in college, I might be in a different place! I love it! My husband struggles with art all the time. He is trained as a fine artist, but has done it all…graphics, ceramics, design, jewelry. It just refreshing to be around creative people who do it for the love of art….not to make a buck!

      • Norm Wright says:

        I remember taking a Jazz history class in college, but R&R was not offered. I imagine some of what you teach in R&R history now hadn’t even happened yet, when I was in school. No one ever heard of MP3 or even CD at the time.
        I remember a music appreciation instructor who looked just like a picture of Brahms in our textbook.
        On the point about rock these days vs. what we grew up with – I wonder if we just like the old stuff more because of the associations we have with it, or has the commercialization really changed things that much. I still find new stuff that I like, just not as often.

  3. […] Week 7 – Thoughts on Pilar’s Video & Collaborative post […]

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