SELLOUT: The Major Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo and Hardcore (1994-1997)

SELLOUT – Dan Ozzi

SELLOUT covers the major label signings of several punk, emo and hardcore bands between the years of 1994 and 2007.

While I’ve always had a soft spot for pop-punk and emo bands, I’ve been on a pretty heavy kick recently, so when I was looking to read something about genres, Dan Ozzi’s recent release, SELLOUT, came highly recommended by readers.

SELLOUT not only looks at several of the period’s biggest bands like Green Day, Rancid, Blink 182, Thursday, Jimmy Eat World, and The Donnas, amongst others, it also takes a closer look at the scenes in which these bands came to prominence. Ozzi examines the symbiotic relationships between fans and musicians where even the idea of a band commiting itself to a major record label was on par with even the worst, most unforgivable sins.

Even when bands would commit to a label, they were adamant that they retain full creative control, even to the detriment of their future careers. A band like Jawbreaker, who according to their agent, had a potentially monstrously successful song sitting in their back catalog, could not be persuaded to rerecord both it and any prior pre-label songs they had written and released as they felt that they would be taking something away from the fans and the independent record labels who supported them in their infancy.

While many of the bands profiled went on to have long and influential careers, it wasn’t exactly the case for others. The most frustrating to read about was Brody Dalle and her band, The Distillers. While they were able to get their foot in the door with some help from her husband Tim Armstrong’s band Rancid, once their marriage disintegrated and The Distillers moved to a major label, Brody suffered alienation from the punk community. They were essentially banned from being booked on any show or festival that also featured Rancid. It wouldn’t have been so difficult if Rancid wasn’t one of the biggest punk bands in the world.

SELLOUT is an extensive look at a scene that created some of modern rock’s most influential bands. On a personal note, I am not one who would ever fault an artist or band for signing with a label and getting paid for their talent. I find it gross to ostracize an artist for essentially trying to get their piece of the pie. If they change their sound or style, I can see that being frustrating for fans, but realistically, these people need to secure some form of financial stability for themselves and their families if they want to make a long career out of this.

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