It Used to Be About the Music YKTTW Discussion

It Used to Be About the Music
The members of a successful but sold-out rock band lament the good old days
Needs Examples Tropeworthy?
(permanent link) added: 2011-07-24 07:10:59 sponsor: katiek edited by: DracMonster (last reply: 2016-01-17 03:46:41)

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Stage Manager: Bart, You've got to go on.
Bart Simpson: Slag off!
Milhouse Van Houten: You've changed, man. It used to be about the music.
Bart Simpson: I said slag off!

Disclaimer: This article is not for debate about what qualifies as selling out, only fictional examples where someone has lamented it in their own perception.

Witness the above dialogue, from a flash-forward fantasy with an adult Bart Simpson and adult Milhouse, "The Otto Show" episode of The Simpsons:

THIS was already a reference to just about every rock biopic ever made about a band that "sold out before they got back to their roots".

Related to Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll. Is that moment where they realized they have sold out, or the moment a fan or an old friend tells them they have. They may or may not take heed. They may be victims of Executive Meddling. It might be the moment before they spiral into total destruction, or the event that precedes them making a comeback album clear of commercial production values, their megalomanic producer or all those phony hangers-on telling them what direction the public wants them to go. We may see a flashback of their schoolboy days when they first discovered Mississippi Blues, contrasted with their later voracious appetites for Hookers and Blow. It seems to be the general tone of movies ranging from the wildly parodic "mock rockumentary" This Is Spinal Tap to the slightly more wistful comedy Still Crazy, though one might struggle to find a specific scene that represents this trope. Both owe a debt to the documentary Let It Be, however.

Present in nearly every episode of Behind The Music, and may be present in many musician autobiographies. However, for these, we want to limit it to when the band members in question have written or spoken of their band's moment of "selling out" in bios and documentaries, which leads us to the next point...

No Real Life Examples, Please!, such as the point that YOU felt the real life band in question sold out (e.g. "We Built This City", anyone? No? Yeah, let's not go there.)


  • Jim Morrison has a violent reaction to this in The Doors, when he finds out that "Light My Fire" has been used in a car ad.
  • Sex Bob-Omb from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (the movie) is a good example. Especially since Scott gets kicked out.
  • The Beatles Let It Be reveals itself to be a documentary about how the band was trying to recapture their old spirit, along with their exhaustion with studio recording, which in part led to doing a rare live performance (on a rooftop). It backfired, of course, as the band broke up within about a year. Sadly, this film is a Lost Episode.

  • This seems to apply to the autobiography of Alex James from Blur: 'Bit of a Blur'. As the book goes on, James' anecdotes have less and less to do with music.

  • The song "Punk Rock Explained" by Screeching Weasel chronicles a punk rocker's eventual disillusionment with the lifestyle and music industry.
    The merchandise is selling out, you're the talk of the scene
    The profit margins far exceed your most orgasmic dreams
    But touring feels wrong when they're shouting out songs or punching you in the mouth
    The ones who don't want your autograph scream at you that you've sold out
  • The chorus of Panic! At The Disco's "London Beckoned Songs About Money Written By Machines" predicts this:
    well we're just a wet dream for the webzines
    make us it, make us hip, make us scene
    or shrug us off your shoulders, don't approve a single word that we wrote
    (oh blessed objectivity...)

Western Animation
  • Inverted in a flash-forward fantasy in an episode of Daria featured an older Trent lamenting his empty life as a failed musician. Trent basically laments the fact that he never got big enough to sell out. This may be a callback to an earlier comment about "not wanting to end up one of those townie bands playing Doors covers at brew pubs."
  • On the episode of South Park which parodies movies about rock bands with Guitar Hero this occurs. They decide that they originally enjoyed playing Guitar Hero because they were playing together, not for the points.
  • Parodied on Adventure Time, in "What Was Missing", the characters form a band, and Jake deliberately acts as "the jerk in the band", throwing a tantrum and declaring that it used to be about the music.
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