Created By: katiek on July 24, 2011 Last Edited By: DracMonster on January 17, 2016

It Used to Be About the Music

The members of a successful but sold-out rock band lament the good old days

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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.)

Examples:

Film
  • 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.

Literature
  • 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.

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.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • April 15, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    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.

    Possibly present in autobiographies of musicians?
  • April 15, 2012
    fulltimeD
    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, youre the talk of the scene
      The profit margins far exceed your most orgasmic dreams
      But touring feels wrong when theyre shouting out songs or punching you in the mouth
      The ones who dont want your autograph scream at you that youve sold out

    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."
  • April 26, 2012
    TheHandle
    It would help if we defined what "selling out" meant.
  • April 26, 2012
    katiek
    Good point.
  • April 27, 2012
    DmM
    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...)
  • April 27, 2012
    TrustBen
    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.
  • April 27, 2012
    DracMonster
    If we limit this to No Real Life Examples Please we can skirt the whole brouhaha over what qualifies as "selling out" -- it's HUGE flame bait material.

    That or if we do have real life, include a (probably boldface) disclaimer that article is not a debate about what qualifies as selling out, only examples where someone has lamented it in their own perception.
  • April 27, 2012
    katiek
    ^^^ Am in total agreement on this, prefer the first option.
  • April 27, 2012
    katiek
    I don't want to add this to the content, but could it be argued that Pink Floyd's The Wall has something to do with this, or is it thematically on a totally different page? It has a similar tone but do the themes have more to do with Pink's internal conflict than with "selling out"?
  • April 27, 2012
    fulltimeD
    ^ I get what you're going for but that sounds like a separate trope to me. Actually, on their respective WMG pages, I posted a theory about Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and The Who's "Tommy" being essentially about the same person in two alternate timelines. You can read it for yourself. Maybe there's a potential trope there, if we can find more examples.
  • April 27, 2012
    katiek
    Thanks, and I looked that up - that is interesting. Yeah, I figure as well The Wall would open up a can o worms here.
  • April 27, 2012
    archangelwestley
    You're kind of limiting the options with no real life examples, because the Beatles most certainly apply. However, Sex Bob-Omb from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (the movie) is a good example. Especially since Scott gets kicked out.
  • April 27, 2012
    katiek
    I think The Beatles could be included if it is referring to a biography where so-and-so is quoted that such-and-such was the point that John Lennon wanted out, or what have you. The point of not having Real Life examples is not to, as in the example I cited, have tropers launch into a flame war about whether "We Built This City" is the worst, most sold-out single ever. Not to be like The Other Wiki... yeah, not sure how this would go. It may be that we collectively understand The Beatles similarly enough that flame wars would not be an issue.
  • April 28, 2012
    DracMonster
    Exactly. We dont want the page to be a tool for soapboxing. If Real Life is allowed, it can only be listing examples where someone else specifically went into a rant about it (and not in a forum post or personal blog either!) "It's obvious to any true music fan that The Beatles sold out" is a path to madness.

    If people did want a page for ranting about real life bands selling out, there could theoretically be one on Darth Wiki in the same dark corner as So Bad Its Horrible
  • April 29, 2012
    Koncur
    • 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.
  • May 3, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    More Screeching Weasel fans on TV Tropes! :)

    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.
  • May 3, 2012
    katiek
    I don't know where this is going...
  • March 4, 2013
    StarSword
    Fixed image to point at the show.
  • January 16, 2016
    katiek2
    Dewey Finn (Jack Black) lectures to his students in School of Rock:

    "There used to be a way to stick it to The Man. It was called rock 'n' roll. But guess what. Oh, no. The Man ruined that too with a little thing called MTV!"

  • January 16, 2016
    randomsurfer
    The Simpsons is the page pic. The Simpsons is the page quote. Until such time as it's changed The Simpsons is the Trope Namer. So why isn't The Simpsons listed as an example?
  • January 16, 2016
    DAN004
    Needs a link to Sell Out so people would know what you're talking about.
  • January 17, 2016
    MetaFour
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=8jj8h45j87za47p9t7qo5hul