The Black Keys Sell Out?

Updating this post with this recent video interview with Dan and Pat addressing issues of “selling out”.


This post has been updated since it was first published


Fans have overwhelmingly expressed, in 354+ comments on The Black Keys Facebook page, that the band has “sold out” following an announcement that a new song, “Chop And Change”, will be a part of the soundtrack for the third installment of extremely popular vampire movie franchise “Twilight”.

The Black Keys have sold out? Yeah, sure. If anything, they’ve finally just sold in on their own terms. Witness these quotes and examples to follow.

Questions of selling out and who the band’s audience and fan-base is have often been dealt with by the band in the past, it’s really nothing very new. It seems people just seem to hate Twilight much more than anything else that the band has been connected to.

In most cases, the term “sold out” would be fantastic news to artists in regards to shows, books, CDs, etc. It simply claims that the artist/event is doing so well that they have run out of space or items and that it is pretty much exclusive and rare – a privilege, really. It’s heartbreaking to the people who did not get a chance to be a part of it, but it does hint at success, which can obviously be rendered in many different ways. For people who appreciate “underground” or lesser-known works or talents, however, “selling out” is the worst possible brand that you can get from a fan – it pretty much means that you are now not good enough to be appreciated anymore, and that you are now “mainstream” or “too trendy.”

On the angry Facebook thread, some fans do mention that “Twilight” actually has pretty good artists contributing to their soundtracks. Based on the franchise’s overall guaranteed success, star power and worldwide recognition, the track list for the third movie installment “Eclipse” has some other notable inclusions.

Twilight “Eclipse” soundtrack listings – artist and song:

  1. Metric, “Eclipse (All Yours)”
  2. Muse, “Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)”
  3. The Bravery, “Ours”
  4. Florence and the Machine, “Heaven In Your Arms”
  5. Sia, “My Love”
  6. Fanfarlo, “Atlas”
  7. The Black Keys, “Chop And Change”
  8. The Dead Weather, “Rolling In On A Burning Tire”
  9. Beck and Bat for Lashes, “Let’s Get Lost”
  10. Vampire Weekend, “Jonathan Low”
  11. UNKLE (featuring the Black Angels), “With You In My Head”
  12. Eastern Conference Champions, “A Million Miles An Hour”
  13. Band of Horses, “Life On Earth”
  14. Cee-Lo Green, “What Part Of Forever”
  15. Howard Shore, “Jacob’s Theme”

Since The Black Keys formed in 2002 (they’ve been around for 8 years and have known each other since they were 10), they have simply marketed themselves to appeal to the world – anyone and everyone who can listen to their music is welcome, and the more exposure they promote and receive, the better they will feel. I think this should be a general outlook for anyone who just loves music and what they do.

Dan and Patrick’s style and appreciation of music is very genuine and unique. If they get a chance to promote their music to a very huge audience, why wouldn’t they take it? Yes, a vast majority of the “Twilight” franchise fans are young teens and women, but I think the idea that they will be exposed to an amazing and quality band like the Keys will be beneficial to EVERYONE.

I am still blown away that people could say such negative and obscene things about the ‘Keys just because they are contributing some music to another film.

Take a look at where The Black Keys’ music has previously been featured in the media (source: Wikipedia):

  • “When the Lights Go Out” – In film Black Snake Moan, and also on the soundtrack for that movie.
  • “Set You Free” – In film School of Rock, and also on the soundtrack for that movie.
  • “Lies” – Featured in the conclusion of the February 4, 2009 episode of Lie to Me.
  • “Girl Is on My Mind” – Was used in a 2006 Sony Ericsson advertisement, starring the tennis players Ana Ivanović and Daniela Hantuchová.
  • “Girl Is on My Mind” – Used in a 2006 Victoria’s Secret commercial featuring Heidi Klum.
  • “Girl Is on My Mind” – film Rest Stop and Cashback.
  • “10 am Automatic” – Used in the video game MLB ’06: The Show, The O.C., The Go-Getter, and was also used in a 2007 American Express commercial starring Shaun White.
  • “Your Touch” – Featured in a 2007 Lee’s jeans commercial, and can be heard both in an episode of NBC’s Friday Night Lights and in an episode of “Eastbound and Down”.
  • “Your Touch” can also be heard in the HBO series “Entourage” in the episode ‘Manic Monday’, during the opening scenes.
  • “Your Touch” – In film Zombieland.
  • “Your Touch” – In an episode of “Eastbound and Down” on HBO.
  • “Grown So Ugly” – Heard in the background of the going away party in the 2007 film Cloverfield.
  • “Strange Times” – Used in Grand Theft Auto IV on the in-game radio station Radio Broker.
  • “Strange Times” – Heard during a preview for ABC’s The Mole, and the trailer for season three of the Showtime  series Dexter, as well as a promo for Gossip Girl.
  • “Just Got To Be” – Used on the soundtrack for the video game NHL 08.
  • “Hard Row” – Featured in the premiere episode of the FoX show Sons of Anarchy.
  • “Keep Me” – In both Episodes 6 and 7 of the Fox show Sons of Anarchy.
  • “Busted” _ In episode 7 of the first season.
  • “Lies” – Featured in the advertising campaign for the third season of HBO’s Big Love.
  • “The Breaks” – In film RocknRolla.
  • “Psychotic Girl” – Featured the episode “Messin’ with the Kid” in season 6 of One Tree Hill.
  • “I’ll Be Your Man” – Theme song for the HBO show Hungand was also featured in an episode of the Fox Network show Rescue Me.
  • “The Wicked Messenger” – In film “I’m Not Here”, a Bob Dylan bio-pic

In this fantastic snippet from an audio interview from NPR on Day to Day on February 18, 2009, Dan comments on “Grand Theft Auto IV”, about their music winding up in these places:

I think it’s cool, I mean, you know, they don’t play music much on the radio anymore; you know, not majorly. Getting our music out there as much as possible, it’s the way to go. Video games are pretty huge, although I can’t really play video games. Yeah, I get seasick.

The interviewer then asks what film, TV show or video game he’d like to have his music in and he ironically answers:

Wow. Maybe, like, a Martin Lawrence movie. Martin Lawrence’s big comeback film.

In a recent interview in March 2010, Patrick frankly admits:

Our mission was and still is to be able to pay our rent playing music.

This quote from September 2006 sums up the band’s attitude better than anything else. Pat is commenting on the discussion fans have about where The Black Keys’ music ends up:

Well, I remember when Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” was in that Volkswagen commercial, and I thought that was very strange.  I mean, you feel like you’re the only one that likes Nick Drake, when in reality there were thousands and thousands and thousands of people who have been fans of his for a lot longer than me.  And because of that commercial, a lot of people know who he is.  Maybe he’s rolling in his grave—I think that might be questionable when you’re dead.  For us, it’s easier to justify doing a commercial.  Modest Mouse did a commercial for Nissan, we did a commercial for Nissan as well.  I was a fan of The Shins before their first seven-inch even came out, and they had a song on a McDonald’s commercial.  I see no problem with it—at the time, no one knew who those bands were.  Now people do, and I think they make awesome music.  It obviously hasn’t corrupted them.  Rancid got nearly two million dollars to do a shampoo commercial—I don’t know, maybe that’s the punkest thing they could do.  If someone offers you enough money to buy a new guitar and pay your rent for a while, and you don’t have to do anything for it…the only thing you have to do is take the flak.  We’ve turned down ads, we don’t take everything we get.  We turned down a Hummer ad.  We finish records in a basement, we live in Akron, Ohio.  Not too long ago we were making five bucks an hour.

Finally, in this 2010 interview Dan matter of factly sums up the band’s attitude to having their music used for commercial purposes:

The only major regret of their career is turning down, on their manager’s advice, $130,000 for a British mayonnaise commercial. “That would have paid my rent for two years,” mutters Auerbach. “It’s almost insulting to my mom, who works every day teaching kids and doesn’t get paid shit. As long as your art is pure, who cares where it is?” Carney nods emphatically and adds, “So we fired his ass.”

Dan also discusses the commercial here in more depth:

“It was a mayonnaise commercial. That was one of the most surreal offers, and we turned it down, stupidly. I say stupid because it was hilarious in a few different ways – firstly here’s this big company that wants to pay us a huge amount of money so they could use a song we recorded in a basement for like $2, and secondly because, at the time, we were driving everywhere – criss-crossing the country in a Fordor! So for us to turn it down because we didn’t want to be sell outs was stupid. It’s a weird world.”

“Do you think that, in this age of record sale declines, bands should feel free to sell their music to commercials?”

“Bands can do whatever they want to do. Pat and I made our first four records on our own, and they cost next to nothing. We worked harder than pretty much any band I’ve ever met, never setting foot in a first class plane seat but travelling all over the world. We never once had anyone else have an artistic say in what we do – Pat’s brother did the artwork for our first demo, and he still does the artwork for our records.

“So as long as you can keep in control of your art, what does it matter where it gets played? What’s the point of going on the road and touring, trying to promote your record, then turning down the opportunity to have your music played because of some bullshit stigma? It’s all in everybody’s head.”

It was also recently reported that the way band’s make money has irrevocably changed:

“How certain artists make money is changing, and it’s less about albums and it can be more about licensing income,” Tortella said. “For The Black Keys, that (licensing) is their number one source of income.”

Clearly the band were sensitive enough about claims they have been selling out to publicly take the piss out of themselves with this witty rejoinder on the Colbert Report. The last word to Stephen Colbert: “Clearly you have both equally whored out your music.” Well, to the cynical yes. For the rest, no one really cares so long as the music remains righteous – and it has.

And now something for everyone:


30 thoughts on “The Black Keys Sell Out?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Black Keys Sell Out | The Black Keys Fan Lounge --

  2. They where in Rock N Rolla as well. And the film they did Wicked Messenger for er that Bob Dylan one. And they where in some other film as well. I honestly don’t see any issue with it. I think the only thing thats got “rock n rollers” annoyed is the fact that its in Twilight and not some manly film that they can all go “yea bro fuck yea, kick the shit out of him, yea… wow dude, was that the black keys… aweeeeesome!”

  3. @TheHokes Right on, added Wicked Messenger. You know more than Wikipedia – the wonders never cease

  4. Great article Jade Luber! Glad to see more contributing authors now. I had mixed feelings about them selling out and have come to terms with the fact that “selling out” is overrated bullshit for the “underground” fans. When you hear a band like The Black Keys, your entire musical perceptive is chopped and changed. You start looking for these hidden gems. Glad to see someone who is going against he grain of the sellout fad.

    Anyone remember hearing the Phoenix-1901 song in the Caddy commercials this year? Yeah, great song, so great it was pretty much the unanimous song on the year by anyone who created a list.

    I would have never heard Kings of Leons first few CD’s if i didn’t like “Use Somebody”

    Saying a band is a sellout is for people who have sold out.

  5. I don’t even know what the term “sellout” means anymore. It’s been used so much that it no longer holds any meaning. As long as The Black Keys focus on making great music, who cares about the rest? If anyone is upset with the situation thus far, it’s really just their own hangups that are the problem. I’ve been a fan since ’03 and will be until The Black Keys’ music is compromised. It’s quite possible that The ‘Keys are using their label just as much as their label is using them. And why not? Good on ’em.

  6. Very well said! In my eyes, The Black Keys have not sold out one bit. They have expanded their musical talents and business network into places that bands WISH they could. The example of Blakroc is perfect. They collaborated with some great names in Hip Hop and R&B, not to mention worked with one of the best musical producers in the game, RZA. The Black Keys are merely doing what any musician or musical group should be doing, expanding their horizon. The group will forever remain true to their fans and music, and I challenge all the folks claiming “sell outs,” to take a step back and see how far this band from Akron, Ohio has come. To Dan and Pat, keep doing your thing, yall are some true pioneers in the game today!

  7. Thanks, everyone!

    Here’s a great article about upset fans in general, and the benefits of this exposure.

    I would love to hear what Dan and Patrick think about all this someday. It’s so silly, but I have so much respect for them and love hearing their opinions and thoughts on pretty much everything.

    Good times!

    Go check out the Facebook hate, if y’all have a chance. 375 comments and counting!

  8. Thank you for trying to bring some even-handedness to this…I saw how people were bashing on THIS page, and I couldn’t believe how easy it was. It’s pretty amazing how quickly we will paint everything with broad strokes and label it. It’s like the quote from Pat hinted at it–having music/artists you love, you feel this possessiveness about them, and it’s like “Aaahh, I’m one of the rarefied few who really love them.” But at the same time, you find yourself talking them up to others and trying to convert them to fans because if they’re not, there must be something wrong with them. Can’t have it both ways. I for one, am all for it if simply for the comment Pat made about ICP in the Pitchfork interview–ICP selling more than 6 times the number of albums as The Keys is Karl-Pilkington-stoopid! (That’s enough. I’m tired of hearing/reading myself talk/type.)

  9. I think that the latest “Twilight” announcement is just the icing on the cake in terms of the disrespectful behavior the Keys have been giving to their fans. While it may not be fair to say that they have sold out for putting one of their songs in an extremely popular film series (see their victoria’s secret commercial), “I’ll be your man” is the theme song to an HBO show for god’s sake, and I don’t think ive heard anyone raise a stink about that, because we like seeing it.
    However, the way in which they (or their label) has conducted their business regarding “Brothers” shows that there is little respect for the fans.

    #1, the pre-sale tickets for their Brothers tour having those ridiculous convenience charges that came along with the already unreasonable ticket prices.
    as well as the fake “get a copy of the new album with your ticket” claim, which failed to mention the fact that you’d have to pay even more money for your album.

    #2, the appearance of “Brothers: Deluxe Edition” directly after all of the presale tickets/album package sale. The keys basically suckered a lot of their more devoted fans into paying extra money for their album, and THAN having the nerve to release a more expensive deluxe edition without any prior knowledge. This basically says to the average fan, “You bought it already, we know. But now here, buy this one too.”

    These are some of the problems with being a part of a major recording label, which are only interested in profits, rather than respect for the music or the fans who have made these guys careers.

  10. I think the Black Keys should license their music to as many films, tv shows, video games, and commercials as possible and I hope they get paid well every time they do. They make great music and it should be heard everywhere by everybody. It’s unfortunate that this time, one of their songs ended up in an ungodly piece of garbage like twilight. The up side is that now little kids who don’t know good movies from trash will be exposed to their music. Maybe those kids will develop some taste.

  11. If you guys dont like what the Black Keys are doing, then dont listen to them. There are many of us who love their music, and will continue to love those guys regardless of whether or not they are on Twilight soundtracks etc.

  12. @Al
    You do realize the band isnt behind those extra charges or the ticket prices for that matter. Those high fee’s and prices are thanks to the monopoly Ticketmaster has on the concert industry. Bitch to them, not TBK. You talk like the band owes you something. Their job is to make music and that’s what they’re doing.

    I don’t blame the keys at all. How else are they supposed to make money when so many people pirate music?

  13. well…Matt.
    if you actually took the time to read my entire post, you would say that i would say that at the end 😉 and yes, the band does owe their fans something. mutual respect.

  14. As long as the music stays good i don’t care where it’s played or how much they make from it.

    But, I look at a band like Kings Of Leon who’s early stuff was gritty and great while their new stuff sounds like anthem rock.

    Selling out to me is making music to please the masses… Not selling your true music to the masses.

  15. i wonder how many of the ‘keeping it real’ guru’s out there who bag the band for “selling out” have illegally downloaded their music in the past…..?

  16. Pingback: Listen: ‘Chop and Change’ by The Black Keys from the Twilight Soundtrack | The Black Keys Fan Lounge

  17. Selling your song here and there is fine, but the Keys have gone crazy. They are in everything, and not cool things either. Twilight is fine, bad ads for regional jewlery stores is just plain pathetic. Its like they fear they will never write another hit song.

    Be a little more selective, you do have the right to say no.

  18. A subaru (I think, some car company anyway) commercial.
    A Zales diamonds commercial.
    And the Twilight Saga? I didn’t even know about that one…
    Yeah, they’re a couple of spoiled little sellout bitches from the rich part of town.

  19. Here’s an interview where Dan talks about this issue towards the end. It’s about exposure for a band that until recently had to fight for everything just to get a radio play. It’s about reaching people through the new ways in which people access media.

    If you’re gonna call them spoiled sell out bitches you were never a fan to begin with and good riddance.

  20. @suzanne if you are referring to the author of the post or ths website with your comments, clearly you didn’t read the article or at least understand the point it was trying to convey. It was a defence against people calling them sell outs and not liking their music for those reasons.

  21. Pingback: The Black Keys Sell Out? | TrendsCity: Hot TV Shows

  22. … sell out for sure! watching the rose bowl and within the last 15 min their tunes were on a commercial for some cell phone and also a cadillac commercial, a freakin’ cadillac commercial. Are they that desperate for money? Love the band, have seen them 4-5 times, but for Christ’s sake, give it a rest.

  23. Grow up people. tHis is the new reality. You are the same bloggers that don’t pay for music any more. Nobody buys CD’s, and fewer still buy mp3s. What do you expect them to do? Commercials are a good pay day and they get their music out and get people to live shows which is one of the few ways bands have to make money these days. This is the new reality. Get over it.

  24. bloggers? Mark, the post is in defence of The Black Keys against the people you have hatorade for. You miss the point.

  25. I dont care which add uses their music(gotta’ make $$$..aint NO buddy else going to do it 4 u).. Im just wondering when they are going to give some of that$$$ back to the Miss. hill country.. you know? the place they got that sound from?

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