Demon Commerce!!!

Demon Angel Commerce image

In order to be a professional, commerce is required

DSC03525-BThat’s right, to be a professional musician, ditch-digger, lawyer, doctor, plumber, construction worker, snowboarder, hooker, drug dealer, police officer, and even school teacher, COMMERCE must happen! Somebody, somewhere, somehow, is charging money for something and part of the money they collect covers the cost of your paycheck. Y’all get that right?


You don’t get paid unless commerce happens

When commerce stops, people stop getting paid and their respective positions will end with that particular organization.

You may be the best musician, artist, producer, engineer, or songwriter but you are not professional by definition until you pay your bills in that trade. This holds true for all the previously mentioned jobs and all the occupations that weren’t mentioned.

Commerce Define SuccessI personally believe that success is defined as making a living (which requires you to trade a TON of your precious time in exchange for a living wage) doing what you love to do.

For those artists who enjoy making music as a hobby, why not eliminate the discretionary income portion of the equation? This will require commerce.


For those artists who aspire to one day leave the crappy job they suffer through to “make it” in the music industry, COMMERCE IS MISSION CRITICAL!!

Why then, do I read so many comments disparaging commerce as if it somehow means the artists are selling out? Isn’t that the point? Ugh, “selling out” has such a negative connotation doesn’t it?

So this got me thinking as to why, exactly, some artists are so “against” commerce. Whether you are the ultimate Commerce Hello My Name is Sellout imageindie artist who always wants to maintain a “cult following” or you aspire to be bigger than Jay-Z and Beyonce put together (like DethKlok), commerce has to be involved. Kurt Cobain clearly despised being famous (which I TOTALLY understand), but I am pretty sure the goal all along was to make a living making music. This, of course, required the demon commerce.

Why do some artists feel like the art gets diluted with commerce? Well, because it happens sometimes. Without any negative judgment, that’s entirely up to the artist.

Why are most aspiring professional artists ignoring the simple fact that commerce is required to be professional?

Let’s dissect the old music business to articulate where and why art could have been diluted with commerce.

  • Records cost $250,000 to make and $750,000 to promote.
  • Very few artists were even given the chance at a career because it was so expensive. A huge risk for the label (aka investors)!
  • The delivery/exposure mechanism of choice for the music was terrestrial radio and touring
  • Terrestrial radio is a whole different set of corporations with an agenda that has NOTHING to do with music.
  • Radio stations are interested in one thing and one thing only; selling ad space.

Looking at these facts it is easy to surmise that when the commerce of any art has to meet the file9151263244692approval of 2 different committees at 2 different massive corporations with zero interest in the personal and/or artistic well being of the artist, compromises will come. Glen Campbell sang “There’s been a load of compromisin” on the road to my horizon in his Larry Weiss penned hit “Rhinestone Cowboy”. The label feels they know what is marketable (usually based on the very last hit record by the newest hit artist that we will name “Johnny Hot-Sausage”). Therefore, the label wants the artist to adapt the art to their proven methods so they can sell more records. while this situation is not ideal, it is certainly understandable. The radio stations feel that if you sound more like “Johnny Hot-Sausage” they can sell more ad space, so they too, want you to compromise. Or worse, the artist changed the market forever with their original music all the while growing artistically, however, the label just wants a carbon copy of the previous big record so they put pressure on the artist to comply. This can, if the artist lets it, create sterility. Some artists got lucky (and/or remained strong) and didn’t comply. Some artists did conform to ensure they could remain professional artists: thus, the purists are pissed because they feel the artist “sold out” and the art got compromised due to commerce.

Derivative Commerce

I could agree with that argument in some cases. I mean, there is certainly more powerful, original, and important art in any genre. Then, of course, there are the derivatives (which are called “Me-Too” products in the business world). The “me-too’s” also get to be professional artists.

If we dig down, we could also argue that while the art may be getting compromised (to what must be a suitable amount to the artist or why would they do it?) they are in fact, in the game. The artist is able to make a living Commerce Indian imagewriting, recording, and playing their music. Hell, some of them simply wanted to be professional musicians/artists whatever the circumstance and that’s no sin. I mean, we can’t have all Chiefs and no Indians, right? So while their specific circumstance may not have been perfect, they were “successful” to some degree because they were doing it professionally.

Is that selling out?


One has to concur that while one may not like or agree with the method the artist utilized to become professional; the artist is in fact, professional. So there’s that position.

I have countless conversations with artists actually forewarning them that the haters will multiply exponentially with the attention. I advise them that “sell out” or not, haters tend to get real pissed off when they see someone living out the dream the hater didn’t have the balls to maintain. I know from experience that often times the “sell out” conversation is rooted deeply in personal baggage from the antagonist and has nothing to do with the artist.

I would tell the hater to examine their specific circumstances. What does the hater do for a living? Unless said naysayer can honestly say they LOVE their job, then aren’t they selling out too? Aren’t they trading all their precious time doing something they don’t necessarily love for nothing more than a paycheck? Doesn’t that make the aggressor a “dancing chicken” of sorts for nothing more than money? How are they different exactly from the artists they claim supposedly “sold out”?

Some people love to fish. Some people truly believe that a bad day fishing is better than the best day at the office, so if they were professional fishermen…you get my point.

I mentioned before that huge success almost always requires compromise. I do see real artists in music and acting who have found a palatable balance between big budget mass market projects that deliver big paychecks, press, and notoriety (keeping the proverbial train on the tracks), and small, quiet, indie projects that feed their artist souls.

Why is that bad?

John Mayer comes to mind with his 2 pop records then the John Mayer Trio blues record approach. One could argue that Mayer’s methodology actually brought massive attention to a genre that is sadly almost forgotten in the Commerce John Mayer Triomainstream marketplace. So is John Mayer selling out or did he breathe new life into a dying genre?

I do find it offensive when a popular artist seemingly runs out of ideas and starts to release music that is clearly trendy for nothing more than commerce. That process usually ends up in failure although I could argue that Kiss’ attempt to capitalize on the disco trend, “I Was Made For Loving You” is pretty cool. The Rolling Stones tracked one of my very favorite songs “Miss You chasing the same trend, so sometimes it ends up brilliantly.



Arguments about “selling out” and Commerce Pro Art imagedemon commerce diluting the art are literally a waste of time. Now artists have the power, infrastructure, and access to knowledge to create a business based on finding fans who like the artist’s music just exactly the way artists want to create it; without anyone telling you what to do. Without compromise!

Again, Commerce is required. Not only do you have the amazing opportunity to capitalize on this dynamic, but this approach is MISSION CRITICAL. For the most part you have to create a profitable small business first.

The only way to be successful, which means making a living (by my definition) doing what you absolutely love and need to do, requires commerce. You are going to have to become a business person of sorts so stop avoiding it! Embrace it.

Commerce is not a demon.

Commerce is your friend.


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