How Selling Out Can Help or Hurt Your Band

12 case studies of cashing in, blowing up and facing the music

Musicians have always struggled with whether licensing their music or becoming a spokesperson for a brand will affect the relationship they have with their fans. Some artists have been able to reap the benefits of ad partnerships and use it to grow a dedicated audience. Others have spread themselves to the point of becoming a musical plague.

We present case-and-point studies of 12 musicians or bands who have become household names—and whether their choices to work with advertisers has affected their place in music history. 


Snoop Dogg / Snoop Lion

No one has been able to retain cred and sell his talents to almost every company like the D-O-double G. Snoop has promoted everything from Star Wars products for Adidas to ultra-caffeinated Pepsi Max. He even got away with the horribly punny Pocket Like It’s Hot and You Got What I Eat, both for Hot Pockets. He can do no wrong.


Don’t forget that the pop queen sought sponsorship from Pepsi for her classic single “Like a Prayer.” That relationship burned to the ground. (No pun intended.) Despite that fiasco, she’s still in advertisers’ good graces and has worked with BMW and Gap to name a couple.

Impressively, she’s still retained her rebel persona. Just a few years back, ABC reportedly asked her to tone down the sexual content of a perfume commercial. Not bad for being a Material Girl in her 50s.


The Irish rockers sponsored a red iPod and teamed up with Bank of America both to unveil their track “Invisible” while supporting a worthy cause, fighting HIV/AIDS with the (RED) campaign. But, they haven’t lost their ability to sell out stadiums.

Dr. Dre

There probably hasn’t been an album as anticipated as Detox, which has reportedly been in the works since 2001.

But no one has accused Dre of not keeping busy. In addition to producing acts like Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and 50 Cent, recently his most well-known contribution to the music world has been touting Beats by Dre. Instead of accusing Dre of working on electronics instead of getting to the studio, fans are rocking the multi-colored headphones as a fashion accessory.

Bob Dylan

When the iconic rock legend decided to do a Super Bowl ad for Chrysler, many listeners accused him of selling out.

However, they seem to have forgotten that Dylan has appeared in past spots for Pepsi, Apple and Victoria’s Secret, while licensing his music to many more companies. His long career has survived these campaigns, and it’s highly unlikely that Dylan fans will stop listening anytime soon.


The band complains about how it isn't making enough money because people are listening to its music for free. They've licensed their music to Guitar Hero, which is basically musical instruments for people who have very little musical talent. Lars collects fine art.

Fans still worship them as metal, counter culture gods.



50 Cent

Fiddy’s albums have been bona fide successes. No one is arguing about that.

But his G-Unit clothing label has seen better days. Things went south for the apparel venture when Marc Ecko split from the brand. His own headphone line, SMS by 50, pales in comparison to the Beats by Dre empire. And, we have to ask, why Vitamin Water!?

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga was one of the biggest names in pop music a few years ago, and many thought she had lifelong staying power. However, a bunch of strange stunts—including an odd partnership at SXSW this year with Doritos where she was vomited on while performing—made it seem like she was trying too hard instead of being a creative visionary. It didn’t help that her latest album, Artpop, got lackluster reviews.


Nickelback probably is one of the most disliked bands in America, despite having sold an impressive amount of records. Part of the hatred stems from the overuse of their image as a "real, live rock band" in spots like this CitiCard ad and this German spot for Euro Cup 2004. Subway even peddled $5 tickets to Nickelback’s live show.

Black Eyed Peas

The Black Eyed Peas were a hip act until they were everywhere. Target, DirecTV, Pepsi: You name it, they promoted it. Add in one of the worst Super Bowl performances in recent history, and you have a sell-out disaster.


Moby really thrived in the underground electronic music scene. But, after Play started gaining some traction, he licensed every song off that album. You couldn’t go a full day without watching a commercial, movie or television show that didn’t contain a whiff of Moby, and it proved to be too much.


Creed’s sell out woes really lie with its front man, Scott Stapp. Possibly his biggest faux pas was the awful Marlins Will Soar, which was a take on his single You Will Soar—but tied to the Florida Marlins. Deadspin said it best when they proclaimed that the singer “ruined baseball.”

The worst part is Stapp didn’t even get paid cash for this monstrosity. He told the Broward / Palm Beach New Times that he did the track in order to get season tickets and allow his son and nephew to be batboys.