Bob Marley: Sell-Out?

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December 23, 2010 by DJ Elroy

http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/bob-marley-the-transformative-sound-of-selling-out.html

Bob Marley has achieved godlike status, a reputation as a musical rebel,  and you’re telling me he sold out?!

Well, pretty much. But is this really a bad thing?

The article speaks for itself.

To me, selling out isn’t necessarily a pejorative. Selling out might also be called playing the game. And until you “make it” you need to play the game by “their” rules. Once you’re known, you can start calling the shots. But not until.

Selling out’ smartly can mean changing the game forever—and arguably for the better.

A good artist is able to tweak his style to fit what the people want. Knowing what works and what doesn’t. What people want and what they don’t. And not being afraid to make some adjustments. You’ve heard of an artist “growing” or a sound “evolving”, right? Is that selling out?

After all, as a nightclub DJ I’ve had to “play to the crowd”. It may not be all my favorite music all the time; I need to throw the dancefloor a few bones. They trust my judgement. I drop some for them, some for me, and maybe some experimental stuff. Same thing with Marley. He did it his way and made some noise, but when he compromised, when he got some additional input, some more headspace, his music went from good to great. He went from rockstar to superstar. He didn’t give up his sound, he added to it!

Marley’s ‘sell out’ points to the potential commercial and cultural benefits of working with producers outside one’s generic comfort zone, folks with an intuitive sense of where to find the mainstream touchstones in unfamiliar music. When a relationship like this really works, the artist shines through.

And this isn’t a bad thing. Selling out can mean compromising your values, giving up what you stand for to acheive fame or fortune. But in the case of Marley, it’s nothing like that.

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