The Black Eyed Peas Refresh the Selling Out Debate

By Kiran Aditham 

Sure, Moby staged a marketing coup in 1999 by licensing virtually every track from his breakthrough album Play for commercials and subsequently refreshing the age-old argument of “selling out.”

But whereas the electronic music producer’s strategy was ultimately considered shrewd, the Black Eyed Peas have now taken the contentious “selling out” spat a few, well-choreographed steps further. By dancing, prancing and preening in a horde of ads for clients like Doritos, Pepsi, Best Buy and most recently, Target (via Wieden + Kennedy) (above), the band has seemingly forsaken artistic integrity for total overexposure.


Slate’s Seth Stevenson believes this to be the case and this week deemed the Target spot to be “an abomination”. As a result, the scribe argues that “selling out” shouldn’t be a dead issue and the Black Eyed Peas are in fact linchpins of it.

Of course, we’re in an era where many underground/emerging acts can rely on iTunes, MySpace, Pandora, etc. as well as licensing to promote their output. In turn, it helps apprise we the listeners of new music. But this can hardly be construed as selling out.

BEP, on the other hand, has turned album promotion into a commercial circus, not only keeping our DVRs in check with their small-screen omnipresence but starting fights with blogging diva Perez Hilton in the process. In fact, the band seems so far beyond selling out that its music ideally could’ve been made just for commercials in the first place.

So the conversation continues. Are the Black Eyed Peas marketing geniuses, “sellouts” or did the term itself die with Neil Young in the ’80s?

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