Five Odd Examples of Selling Out

This past Thursday, I was on a panel for George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight where the topic was selling out.  We weren’t very serious about the subject–that wasn’t the point–and a good time was had by all. Watch for the segment to be broadcast October 15-ish.

The producers also asked me to provide a Top 5 list of some sort.  Here’s what I came up with.

Five Odd Examples of Selling Out           

Far be it from me to call out an artist for taking money in exchange of rendering some kind of service.  You gotta do what you gotta do, whether you’re a young struggling artist or an established act who has noticed that those CD royalty cheques aren’t as big as they used to be.

Still, if you’re going to endorse something, shouldn’t it be consistent with your personal brand?  Just askin’…


1.  Bowie’s Ice Cream Commercial (1968)

David Bowie had a dismal time finding his way in the 60s which led him to taking a job in an ice cream commercial directed by some young filmmaker named Ridley Scott. Yes, him.


2.  John Lennon’s Call to Revolution Gets Hijacked (1987)

When Michael Jackson outbid Paul McCartney for the rights to much of the Beatles catalogue, Paul was pissed.  He and the rest of the Beatles organized had a meltdown when MJ authorized the use of “Revolution” to sell shoes.  And yes, there was a lawsuit.  A big one.


3.  Led Zeppelin Gives It Up for Cadillac (2002)

Purist Zep fans had a stroke when this ad showed up on the Super Bowl.  To my knowledge, it’s the only time Led Zeppelin has ever let one of their songs be used in a TV spot.


4.  Johnny Rotten:  “Get the Butter” (2008)

Music is just one pursuit for Johnny Lyndon.  He’s also written books, done radio programs, appeared on C-list celebrity reality shows and, er, endorsed Country Life Butter.


5,  Ozzy Shares Best Buy with Justin Bieber (2011)

Okay, so it was a Super Bowl commercial, which means the payday must have been significant. But why did the Prince of Darkness agree to appear in a spot with Justin Bieber.  Oh, right:  the significant payday

What else you got?  Let’s build on this list by collaborating.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

5 thoughts on “Five Odd Examples of Selling Out

  • October 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    My favourite was a CFNY live radio event on the Humble & Fred morning show. Some marketing genius from Labatts was in studio with a surprise big announcement about an upcoming campaign for Genuine Draft.. He was quite excited to be introducing it on CFNY, as it would be of great interest to the loyal CFNY listener. H&F were completely in the dark, but Fred understood immediately when the theme song for new campaign was revealed and announced – How Soon Is Now, by The Smiths.

    I recall a bit a dead air, and then a concerned 'oh' from Fred, and the suggestion that they should maybe take a break. I believe the switchboard then lit up.

  • October 7, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I see your Labatt Ice commercial, and raise you a Labatt Maximum Ice commercial with Michael Ironside and Ministry

  • October 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm


    Is Bowie really selling out if he was struggling? It sounds more like he was starving and needed to eat. If a person/band hasn't had their fame yet, is it really selling out?

    See how I did that "fame" thing? Pretty good, eh?


  • October 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I LOVE OZZY !!!!!!!!!!!!!


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