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Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore

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"Ozzi's reporting is strong, balanced and well told...a worthy successor to its obvious inspiration, Michael Azerrad's 2001 examination of the '80s indie underground, 'Our Band Could Be Your Life.'"--New York Times Book Review

A raucous history of punk, emo, and hardcore’s growing pains during the commercial boom of the early 90s and mid-aughts, following eleven bands as they “sell out” and find mainstream fame, or break beneath the weight of it all
Punk rock found itself at a crossroads in the mid-90’s. After indie favorite Nirvana catapulted into the mainstream with its unexpected phenomenon, Nevermind, rebellion was suddenly en vogue. Looking to replicate the band’s success, major record labels set their sights on the underground, and began courting punk’s rising stars. But the DIY punk scene, which had long prided itself on its trademark authenticity and anti-establishment ethos, wasn’t quite ready to let their homegrown acts go without a fight. The result was a schism: those who accepted the cash flow of the majors, and those who defiantly clung to their indie cred.
In Sellout, seasoned music writer Dan Ozzi chronicles this embattled era in punk. Focusing on eleven prominent bands who made the jump from indie to major, Sellout charts the twists and turns of the last “gold rush” of the music industry, where some groups “sold out” and rose to surprise super stardom, while others buckled under mounting pressures. Sellout is both a gripping history of the music industry’s evolution, and a punk rock lover’s guide to the chaotic darlings of the post-grunge era, featuring original interviews and personal stories from members of modern punk’s most (in)famous bands:
Green Day
Jimmy Eat World
At the Drive-In
The Donnas
The Distillers
My Chemical Romance
Rise Against
Against Me!

416 pages, Hardcover

First published October 26, 2021

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Dan Ozzi

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 375 reviews
Profile Image for Jacob Thomas.
26 reviews1 follower
November 14, 2021
Thanks to Mr. Ozzi for convincing me to check out bands I’ve hated forever without any good reason.
Profile Image for Rachael Faith.
27 reviews22 followers
September 10, 2021
As a product of the early 2000s New Jersey punk rock scene, this book was like candy to me. Reading references to the Wayne Firehouse, TheNJScene, New Brunswick basement shows, and Vintage Vinyl (RIP) was like a trip back in time.

On the other hand, the format of the book focusing on a different band and pivotal album in each chapter allowed me to learn a lot more about parts of the scene I was less immersed in, and I completely enjoyed every little tidbit.

Even though parts of this book feel totally tailored to me (even though I don't know him, I'm utterly convinced Dan and I have been at some of the same shows), I'm confident that any music enthusiast could find something to love here. A great read.
Profile Image for Gretchen.
266 reviews17 followers
November 6, 2021
Have you ever wished there were a book about one of your super niche interests, only to have one suddenly land on your radar? That was this book for me. Having grown up in the NJ scene, it was so cool to hear about all my favorites. Ozzi does a great job of keeping the focus on each band’s rise to commercial success without ever getting gossipy or critical. I’m so sad that it’s over!
Profile Image for Nev.
1,026 reviews132 followers
March 11, 2022
I LOVED THIS BOOK SO FUCKING MUCH. If you’re a fan of punk, emo, or hardcore bands from the mid 90s to mid 2000s then you need to read this. It’s a fun walk down memory lane and an insight into the behind the scenes of how different bands decided to move from indie labels to major labels. Even though I was pretty familiar with the origin stories of Green Day, blink-182, My Chemical Romance, and The Donnas there was still a lot of new information to learn. Also, the book profiled bands like Jimmy Eat World, At the Drive-In, Thursday, and more where I knew some of their music or knew of them vaguely but nothing super in depth.

When I initially saw the title of the book I was hesitant about reading it because I thought it was going to be negative towards all the bands who “sold out,” but that’s not the stance the book takes. It shows all the nuances of how the bands made their decisions and the hate that they would get from their communities because they wanted to spread their music as wide as they could.

I also loved how there was a wide variety of experiences represented in the book. Some of the bands released their major label debuts and blew up into the mainstream, some of them didn’t quite hit that highest level but still kept going, and with other bands the major label debut was also the last thing they released.

I had such a blast reading this book. I was constantly setting it down to listen to the songs that are mentioned. If you do read it then I recommend taking that approach because it adds so much to the overall experience.
Profile Image for Bryan Cebulski.
Author 4 books38 followers
February 7, 2022
Damn, it's nice to read a book on occasion about a topic I'm interested in that's written in an approachable, conversational style. I must remember this for the future. And I want a book like this for like twelve more bands at least.

Unorganized comments/takeaways:
- Rancid sounds like a cult.
- Jawbreaker got a raw deal. Can't get over how negative the initial reaction to Dear You was. Such a good album, and yet!
- Surprised by what a negative light Against Me! is depicted in (not that they didn't deserve it tho)
- NOFX did NOT respect the straightedge punks!
- Punks in general are fickle and mean and ideologically inconsistent
- I don't get the punk ethos of "We love you but we will hate you if you are offered even a modicum of success," although it does explain why so much punk is bad, because if you're good then you risk being successful.
- I love how often people interviewed in the book go out of their way to trash Limp Bizkit
- The Jimmy Eat World chapter closes out with a groanworthy but laudable pun about how the band hoped that, between major and indie labels, they could find success in the middle
- Kinda fun that the first mention of trans people in the book is in the MCR chapter.
- Rise Against once considered calling themselves the Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don't Cares.
- It's really cute that Kurt Cobain wore a Jawbreaker t-shirt on stage even after Jawbreaker ended their stretch of the tour opening for Nirvana
- The Donnas seem like they're the most normal human beings of the bunch
- Rise Against is good! Why did no one tell me this? Listening to them makes me feel like I'm in a tony hawk pro skater
- I knew there was a connection between At the Drive In and the Mars Volta but I did not realize it's literally the same guys lmao

To sum up:
- Green Day: Unbridled success
- Jawbreaker: Failure, too much infighting and punk scene vitriol despite putting out a great album
- Jimmy Eat World: Slow, arduous start with ups and downs that eventually resulted in success
- Blink-182: skyrocketed because they were charismatic, had no qualms about wanting to be commercial, and they had the Warped Tour and acts like Pennywise to bolster them
- At the Drive-in: Skyrocketed then came crashing down from personal troubles spurred on by disillusionment with the increasing violence and white supremacy in the punk/hardcore scene. Definitely comes off as the most humane band. Surprisingly heartwarming Bono cameo.
- The Donnas: Success hampered by sexism, but also the way sexism isolated them from the rest of the punk/metal scene solidified their solidarity with one another as a group
- Thursday: An unexpected tale of a major label's steadfast belief in a band suffering under an exploitative indie label; band crashed due to a changing music landscape and burnout from relentless touring and recording sessions.
- The Distillers: Ambitious, acclaimed album ended up being their only major label release due to industry exploitation (in terms of "relentless touring," "not giving the band enough creative control," and "literally screwing over their finances because they were all like 25 and couldn't budget for shit.") and drugs that caused the band members to go insane.
- My Chemical Romance: Outrageous success fueled by finally tapping into the market of "hot topic goths," appealing to girls, and knowing how take advantage of the rising online market / social media environment, unlike other bands who let plummeting physical CD sales drown them.
- Rise Against: Success after an initially dodgy major label debut turned an uncharacteristic acoustic single into a hit.
- Against Me!: Label they were signed to stopped caring about them and the band crashed; started their own label and caught a second wind after releasing Transgender Dysphoria Blues.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
168 reviews21 followers
July 28, 2021
Band said they are not going to sign to a major label, band signs to major label, band fails to crossover to prolonged mainstream success- with the exception of Green Day.

Also a lot of discussion of 'what' and 'who' was punk rock and how much.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 22 books277 followers
December 7, 2021
“Selling out” is a phrase whose significance depends on the decade into which you were born. Thirty years ago, when Nirvana broke down the barriers between the mainstream and the underground, the stigma of selling out — at least among certain groups and certain fans — was severe. The decision to sign with a major label broke up bands, split scenes and made a handful of people very, very rich.

To those who came of age during a great recession, a Trump presidency or a pandemic, selling out is as operative a concept as an eight-track tape. At a time when Metallica is cozying up with Mercedes-Benz and Megan Thee Stallion is collaborating with Popeyes on her signature brand of Hottie Sauce, the notion of a band pledging to stay indie forever seems prudishly strange, like a TikTok video of a pilgrim churning butter.

In between then and now came the last great wave of major-label acquisitions — the twilight era of the sellouts. Fans of Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance and other latter-day indie bands read about their struggles in the places where they’d found them: in fanzines or on the internet. Dan Ozzi’s “Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore (1994-2007),” published recently by Mariner Books, offers a corrective, exploring how 11 bands emerged from obscurity to become major-label artists.

Ozzi begins with the moment when the shifting sands of alternative rock made it possible for musicians to consider a career. After Nirvana, independent artists realized that not only could their band be their life, it could be their livelihood as well.

No one benefited more from this frenzy than Green Day, who rose to acclaim at the all-ages punk club 924 Gilman Street, the epicenter of the East Bay scene, where major-label bands were regarded as literal scum. When Green Day signed to Reprise Records, a subsidiary of what was then Warner Bros., the chart-topping singles, multiplatinum records and dozens of awards that followed set a new standard of success for punk bands. These accolades came at a price: Green Day was banned from performing at Gilman Street and shunned by its original fans.

What makes “Sellout” so engrossing is that it profiles both the artists and the suits — the label heads and their A&R reps. Ozzi not only provides a rigorously researched look at how labels targeted bands and fought to sign them; he also amasses an impressive number of firsthand accounts of major-label talent scouts acting like major league sleazeballs.

Tales of steak dinners, helicopter rides and strip club outings on the company dime make it clear the bands and suits came from different worlds. Loren Israel, who doggedly pursued Jimmy Eat World for Capitol Records, recalled his early struggles to get the media to pay attention to the band. “We couldn’t get them any press, so you know what I did. I wrote their press reviews and sent them to Maximum Rocknroll and Razorcake or whatever their f— fanzines were called.”

Israel couldn’t have sent reviews to Razorcake in 1996 because it didn’t exist until 2001. He likely meant Flipside, a zine that Jimmy Eat World and its fans would have read from cover to cover. (Full disclosure: I wrote for Flipside and still write for Razorcake.) To Israel, these were interchangeable rags with a limited reach, stepping stones to bigger and better things. But to fans, they meant (and mean) so much more.

Each chapter in “Sellout” follows a different band, but they share a similar structure: Indie band forms, establishes modest popularity, considers offers from A&R reps and wrestles with the decision to sign. This gives the book a predictable rhythm, but it’s in the aftermath of the signings that the chapters diverge.

It isn’t exactly a spoiler to say that none of the bands featured in “Sellout” became as big as Green Day. Part of the book’s appeal lies in rooting for bands to beat the odds — even when you know they won’t. As a result, the bulk of the stories in “Sellout” are cautionary tales.

Not surprisingly, the bands that were the least worried about selling out became the most successful. The boys in Blink-182 were wannabe rock stars who happened to play poppy punk rock. No hang-ups there. But Jawbreaker, who repeatedly assured its fans it would never sell out and agonized over the decision, was practically pilloried for signing a deal with DGC. Not only did Jawbreaker not hit the big time, the band broke up.

Another factor in weathering the sellout storm was location. Bands from culturally remote places, like Jimmy Eat World of Mesa, Ariz., faced a much weaker backlash. “The very local scene in Arizona was more concerned that we don’t get screwed over rather than selling out,” says singer Jim Adkins. “It was a supportive skepticism rather than thinking we’d abandon our creative ideals.”

As the stories progress, patterns emerge. There’s a fascinating parallel between the labels’ struggles to convince bands of their street cred and the bands’ struggles to convince fans they hadn’t lost it. Who was kidding whom? That’s not a question Ozzi examines.

At the intersection of punk and commerce is a great deal of denial, useful self-deception on both sides. The artists maintain they’ll stay true to their roots, meaning they’ll never change — which is a strange relationship for an artist to have with their art. The labels, meanwhile, convince themselves they can bend the bands to their will and make hits — a strange relationship to have with an artist you’re pursuing for their art. These incompatible positions drive much of the conflict in “Sellout.”

The bands come and go but they don’t get any wiser, while the suits keep moving up the corporate ladder. Ben Lazar, a former A&R rep for Island Def Jam, believes the concept of selling out is a bogus construct that does more harm than good. “For a scene that prides itself on authenticity, it’s such a bunch of f— bull—.”

Of course, there are plenty of indie artists who have never sold out and never will, but for Ozzi, an artist holding a label at arm’s length is like an alcoholic telling themselves they���ll have just one more. “No band ever thinks they’re ever going to sell out,” he writes. “Until, one day, they do.”

To a Gen Xer like me, the “sellout” label still carries the stench of shame. It was a lot easier to swear allegiance to an indie artist when a commercial path to success didn’t exist. Time marches on, and while hearing your favorite punk rock song during a car commercial may be easier to swallow when you’re considering your kid’s college tuition, it still hurts.
Profile Image for Andrew.
60 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2021
This book mentions “Steven’s Untitled Rock Show.” 5 stars
Profile Image for Erik.
331 reviews206 followers
November 16, 2021
Dan Ozzi's Sellout is a stunning look back at the waning moments of the golden age of record labels and their attempts to woo the unwoo-able punk rock scene.

In the early 90s when Greenday was a band of local, Bay-area celebrities it had been decades since the first (and at the time only) era of punk had broken into the mainstream for a few short years. But with Nirvana having set new records for how much record labels were willing to pay to sign a rock band, it was only time until punk came back into favor. And did it come into favor: a litany of bands left their indie roots and signed with major record labels and each time fans lashed out, expressing valid concerns that the anti-corporation bands they loved are suddenly in bed with corporate record companies.

Ozzi does an incredible job tracing the beginnings of the second wave of punk from Green Day through Jawbreaker, My Chemical Romance, Rise Against, and ending with Against Me! (arguably the last punk band to get a million dollar signing offer). Sellout describes how the punk rock movement fought against the itch to sellout to the majors but how in the end selling out provided a way for punk to develop, meld, evolve, and continue to challenge and create new forms of anti-establishment pressure. Though I am still not clear on why Ozzi covered the bands he did while leaving out many, many more well-known groups, the ones he discusses in the book are discussed with a skill for narration and culture critique. Don't miss out on this important contribution to music history.
Profile Image for Sam.
115 reviews
January 8, 2022
A fun book about a bunch of terrible bands*. Gets a bit repetitive after a while.

*Except At The Drive-In, they were good.
Profile Image for Nick Spacek.
300 reviews7 followers
June 14, 2021
got this in the mail on a saturday, and the only reason it took me until monday to finish it was due to the fact that i had familial and work obligations. as it was, every spare minute was spent burning through ozzi's book. i've always been a fan of his writing, but sellout nails every little scene detail, speaks to the proper folks -- both those integral to the main stories at hand, as well as those with a close enough peripheral perspective to offer insights which flesh out the overall narrative -- and just feels as though it was something which has been in the works for ages.

covering as it does the era which started in my early teens and ended in my late 20s, it's definitely a laser-focused set of bands of whom i've always been aware, if not a rabid fan thereof. the throughline narrative from chapter to chapter makes this a book which not only charts the individual successes and failures of each of the bands profiled, but a longer story of the music industry and underground punk scene as a whole.
Profile Image for Courtney.
655 reviews38 followers
September 4, 2022
This was one of my anticipated reads this year and it did not disappoint at all!

Sellout tracks eleven bands with their major label album debut. But it's more than that. Starting with Green Day in the mid-nineties, every major label is looking for the ~next Nirvana~. Like with Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge, there's a Gen X distain of corporations, consumerism, and anything that could be remotely seen as having ambition (or any emotions other than vague disinterest.) Green Day copes a heavy hand for signing to a major. The scene they came from essentially shunned them, their regular venue banning them from playing. Through the course of the time that Sellout covers, Green Day's career has a couple of lows and a couple of highs, really focusing on just how fickle the music industry is.

Jawbreaker was the only band who scored a chapter that I had no knowledge of. Even most of the bands that were mentioned in passing I had some awareness of, if not actively listening to, so this made for extra fascinating reading. Ozzi did an excellent job at really bringing the band members to life, using their upbringing, experiences and personalities to the forefront of how and why their music became what it did and what influenced them to make the decisions they did.

Sellout also has a loose second thread of the decline in the sale of physical music. Sales decline as the rise of downloads begins while the ending just precludes the rise of streaming. Now any money a band wants to make almost exclusively comes from touring and Ozzi doesn't hold back from how gruelling touring can be for a band. Some of the bands we focus on, in between the touring, the pressure from the label and the scathing reaction from hoop holding punk crowds becomes too much and concludes in implosion. Some ride the waves of popularity followed with disinterest to popularity again. And what's left continue a steady grind.

Sellout is my adolescence in a book really. From a friend giving me a copy of Enema of the State on tape, to downloading individual Thursday songs from Kazaa. Being introduced to the Distillers while driving down Bell St with Young Crazed and Peeling blaring to going to Jimmy Eat World concerts, loudly singing along to every song. This book has prompted me to revisit so many albums I haven't listened to in an age and rediscover them all over again.
Profile Image for Tom Forrester.
101 reviews2 followers
February 4, 2022
A meticulous and loving analysis of the post-nirvana big label gold-rush; where every A&R scout was looking for the next big thing.

From the mid-90’s to the mid-00’s, alternative rock of all types were subject to significant attention from the so-called ‘Big Six’ major record labels, as audiences looked for the next Nirvana to be the voice of their generation. From hardcore, to pop-punk, to emo; America’s underground scenes were raided, and money was thrown at acts, as labels tried to fill the post-grunge void.

In ‘Sellout’, Ozzi chronicles the experiences of 11 bands, who were caught up in this music business maelstrom. From those who hit the big time (Green Day, Blink 182, My Chemical Romance), to those who went back to the basements (Jawbreaker, At the Drive In, Against Me!) to those who just about carried on as normal (Rise Against, Thursday); every band has their story to tell, and a multitude of reasons as to why their careers panned out the way they did.

While the concept of selling out is seen as the cardinal sin in punk-the fear being that acts would change their sounds to break the mainstream-for most of these acts, the fear of being seen as ‘sellouts’ mostly prevented them from doing this. In fact, most-if not all-made the record that meant the most sense to them at that point in their lives.

Indeed, while the bands acknowledged that what they were doing could be seen as going against the ethos of their scene, it was much more of a concern for the fans, and the so-called tastemakers (one could cynically call them gatekeepers). Certainly for those bands in the 90’s were often treated to a very hostile and toxic reaction from supposedly tolerant scenes, once the bands decided to take their art to the next level.

Ultimately, this book suggests that rather than being a malign influence on the bands they signed, the labels were mostly indifferent to the band’s sound, and only cared about the bottom line. They would invest lots of money in promoting their new charges, but would rarely interfere with the recording process (occasional disagreements about producers aside). Mostly, the failure of some of these records to catch on can be put down to incompetence, rather than malicious intent. Indeed, a lot of the bands were treated quite well, when the labels decided to drop them.

This was a fascinating read about the scenes I love, and provided a lot of insight to the business side, which I know very little about. It was also a very welcome dose of nostalgia, and provided the perfect opportunity to listen to some albums I’ve neglected recently.
Profile Image for Jack.
215 reviews3 followers
October 2, 2022
Three things:
1) I thought about it and I was reading, and I realized I’ve listened to “Dookie” probably more than any album in my life. It might be my favorite album of all time? I think I just realized that.
2) I think my original 2001 instinct about The Donnas being kinda lame was right, but “Take It Off” actually does really slap.
3) I couldn’t stop thinking about “Protect Ya Neck” when Ozzi kept quoting the A&R guy who said he hated everyone else in Thursday’s scene and didn’t even seem to really like them either: “First of all, who’s your A&R? A mountain climber who plays an electric guitar? But he don’t know the meanin’ of dope / When he’s lookin’ for a suit-and-tie rap / That’s cleaner than a bar of soap.”
February 18, 2023
Made me nostalgic. Gave me the little feeling of fire I had of logging onto the internet to Napster or Kazaa a new band or signing into MySpace to pick the perfect song that said, “this is me”. Coolest thing was actually listening to some bands catalog I just assumed I didn’t like for no good reason to find out, ‘wow, I like this band.’
January 3, 2022
Prior to reading this, all I needed was the fact it highlighted a half dozen albums that changed my life. I remember the day I listened to “Dookie” at Deerfield Beach around the age of 9, I remember the day I heard Blink’s Dammit for the first time in 5th grade. I remember having Thursday change my music world in high school, and the effects “Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge” had on my first relationship. So without reading a single word, I already knew it was a vital read.

With that said, Dan’s thorough research and candid information from some of my musical heroes really sets the stage for a wonderful reading experience. I recommend listening to each record once you finish a chapter, as well as checking out his Spotify playlist that accompanies the book.

Would highly recommend to anyone interested in the scene so many of us grew up in. Even if only one or two of the albums hit home for you, give the rest a chance.
November 11, 2021
Love love LOVED this book. I devoured every chapter of this—wherever it was on bands I loved (Jawbreaker, At The Drive-In), sorta liked (Green Day, Jimmy Eat World), not a fan of but curious to read about (Donnas, Blink-182, Distilers) or even the emo/screamo bands I couldn’t give a shit about (all the rest), this was perfectly written and always completely engrossing. Some nice side stories along the way on 924 Gilman St, Fat Wreck Chords, Epitaph Records, Grand Royal Records, and bonus points for pointing out what a piece of shit Tony Victory is too. Hell, this even made Thursday seem interesting! The ATDI chapter in particular gave me goosebumps and took me back to my last year of college—had tickets to see them twice but they broke up first. Bummer. Ah memories.
Profile Image for Sabrina.
114 reviews1 follower
February 12, 2022
A dive into 11 influential bands from the 90s-2000s, including Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, and Blink-182, from their origin to ‘selling out’ to a major label. I especially loved the Green Day chapter as they are who introduced me to this genre (my AIM screen name was my favorite Dookie song + my grad year and my Tumblr name was lyrics from a 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours song). The writing felt like a friend passionately telling you this as opposed to a wall of information. Absolutely loved this and this is a must read to anyone who loves or loved the punk rock/pop punk/skater punk/emo/post hardcore genre. I want this book for every band in every genre forever.
Profile Image for Brooke.
447 reviews5 followers
January 1, 2022
This was a fun audiobook. I wish they could have afforded rights to play some of the songs! It was great to listen to stories of bands that I had been very invested in.

A very pointed note that the author chose quotes about and referred to members of The Donnas as “girls” throughout their chapter. Although not a surprise, still very disappointing.
Profile Image for Steph.
233 reviews2 followers
July 15, 2022
Recommended for anyone for whom I’ve ever made a mix CD/playlist 😂. Was cool to learn more about some of my faves!
Profile Image for David Agranoff.
Author 22 books134 followers
February 5, 2023
Science Fiction and horror are my longest-running passions. As a child, John Carpenter and Issac Asimov were my heroes not rock stars outside of maybe Weird Al. I wanted to be doing what I do now (11 books in print so far) as far back as dictating stories to my mother before I could really type or write myself. They were terrible but I tried. The one thing that disrupted my path was punk and hardcore. The first time I heard punk was at summer camp, the song was Nazi Punks Fuck off by the Dead Kennedys, but when I heard the misfits it was over.

In my small college town With Authority, seeing my first shows, in a basement or a warehouse it was over. Being that close to the raw power or punk rock, ruined all other music for me. By 16 years old I was singing for my first hardcore band, and it took over my life until I discovered Vegan activism, It would be a few years before I learned to balance all that with the passions for genre.

As the author of Punk Rock Ghost Story, a novel about a haunted punk tour van, that came with a fake punk record ( from1982) we recorded and documentary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKhCH...) I was always interested in the history of this stuff.

As a person in the scene, who realized he was not talented or gifted at the music thing I moved on, but I had friends who were in bands that signed to majors. It is one of the reasons I never felt that star struck at meeting my favorite authors. This is alot of preamble to say I understood what was going on in this book. I accidentally read it just after Jim Ruland's Corporate rock sucks. These two books make great companions.

I admit I have not heard of Dan Ozzi before but one aspect of the book is almost everytime I thought "this would be a good time to compare to Fugazi, or "he should mention AFI" he mostly went right there. That is a way to say he knew his shit.

History is a tricky thing, the first thing a historian needs to decide is this a story that needs telling. In the case of Sellout, it is fascinating for sure. Music has changed, this weird time is so surreal. Before Nirvana, the idea that punk bands would be getting major label deals and becoming huge rockstars was a joke. I Once saw Green Day in a warehouse in Bloomington Indiana when the cover charge was $3 and the door brought in $35. The show was so empty, the promoter was a big Green Day fan begged us to stay.

So this book telling the process of how they became one of the biggest bands in the world was fascinating. How Jawbreaker went from darlings to hated, the history of San Diego punk rocker Blink 182, was interesting to me.

So why do I think Sellout is important? The process of a punk band going from basements to major labels is an interesting journey. One thing that also happened is the band's received blowback, the reality behind these situations. when bands like Green Day got death threats, and Against Me! were getting smoked bombed just for playing shows, there is a need for a historian to talk to both sides and get to a narrative that resembles what happened.

When all these bands are going on 25th-anniversary tours for albums seems like the time. None of these bands were favorites of mine but I did enjoy this book. Even if it means admitting that Punk rock is old even to big thick hardcover history books.
Profile Image for Ray.
193 reviews14 followers
October 11, 2022
In the music biz, the year 1991 is often called "the year punk broke" after the film about Sonic Youth and Nirvana touring by Dave Markey. This book is about some of the key punk (or punk influenced) bands that were signed to major labels afterwards. Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was strong enough to change programming of commercial radio formats signaling a new young audience. Nirvana was not the first trailblazer from the indie scene. Soundgarden, Faith No More and others were gaining fanbases quickly but there seemed to be a ceiling in terms of who these bands could open on a bigger tour and reach an audience that appreciated them. Not that touring bands had to have that much common ground. When you are in a hungry young band, you want to play for everyone. The circuit that Nirvana came from had plenty of bands that drew great crowds for their energy stage shows i.e Butthole Surfers, Jesus Lizard but the bands didn't care about radio friendly songs. Even if they wrote 'em, indie labels were at a disadvantage in the commercial radio world. This book tells the story of a dozen or so bands that built up followings, signed to majors for better or worse. Considering in 1993-1997 bands were heavily criticized by fans for "selling out". The book points out the bands that were affected by that criticism (Jawbreaker) and those that benefitted from major label work to sell many more records than they would have stating on an indie (Green Day). Each chapter is about one band and the opportunities at the time to reach audiences if radio didn't- Warped Tour, skateboard company tie-ins, early internet message boards and the like. The book also covers a successful emo band or two. Bottom line is that these were all great live bands. The author did a great job in connecting the dots between each bands rise with the help of their fans and in some cases, their record labels.
Profile Image for Maude.
53 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2023
As a product of the early 2000s punk scene that pretended to dislike bands that my friends told me weren't cool anymore because they sold out, this book felt like it was written for me. It felt like going back in time to Warped Tour 2003-2006.

I learned a lot about each of the bands and loved the format of focusing on one band per chapter and just covering that pivotal time in their career. So many pieces I'd never heard before! I also really appreciated that the author used correct pronouns for Laura Jane Grace as many writers in this industry don't.

I did get a little frustrated with how often female artists were likened to The Runaways or Courtney Love... I know it was just a representation of media at the time, but it got so repetitive. I also was SO excited for The Distillers chapter and found that the majority of it was spent talking about Rancid. While I appreciated the thoroughness of telling that intertwining story, it felt like the author could have gone a bit deeper into the band the chapter was actually about.

"What [he] failed to grasp is that punk belongs to no one and everyone. It is nebulous and malleable, a reaction to the world around it and a response to what came before it."
Profile Image for John Devers.
25 reviews1 follower
May 18, 2022
I was sold on the title immediately. So much so that I went to compare this to Our Band Could Be Your Life thinking I was really smart and ahead of the curve when it is in fact mentioned in the blurb. Like Our Band which covers pre-Nirvana indie bands and their story, Sellout covers the post Nirvana boom from bands that hit the stratosphere(Green Day, Blink-182, MCR) to bands that didn’t quite reach the heights major labels expected them to(Jawbreaker, Thursday, Jimmy Eat World sort of).

It’s a great read. I would go listen through the bands after I finished each chapter. I already loved bands like Jawbreaker and Rise Against but I found myself getting into bands I never gave a fair shake to. I always wrote off Jimmy Eat World until this book. Big fan now. Check this book out.
Profile Image for Brandon.
896 reviews234 followers
April 28, 2022
SELLOUT covers the major label signings of several punk, emo and hardcore bands between the years of 1994 and 2007.

While I’ve always had a soft spot for pop-punk and emo bands, I’ve been on a pretty heavy kick recently, so when I was looking to read something about genres, Dan Ozzi’s recent release, SELLOUT, came highly recommended by readers.

SELLOUT not only looks at several of the period’s biggest bands like Green Day, Rancid, Blink 182, Thursday, Jimmy Eat World, and The Donnas, amongst others, it also takes a closer look at the scenes in which these bands came to prominence. Ozzi examines the symbiotic relationships between fans and musicians where even the idea of a band commiting itself to a major record label was on par with even the worst, most unforgivable sins.

Even when bands would commit to a label, they were adamant that they retain full creative control, even to the detriment of their future careers. A band like Jawbreaker, who according to their agent, had a potentially monstrously successful song sitting in their back catalog, could not be persuaded to rerecord both it and any prior pre-label songs they had written and released as they felt that they would be taking something away from the fans and the independent record labels who supported them in their infancy.

While many of the bands profiled went on to have long and influential careers, it wasn’t exactly the case for others. The most frustrating to read about was Brody Dalle and her band, The Distillers. While they were able to get their foot in the door with some help from her husband Tim Armstrong’s band Rancid, once their marriage disintegrated and The Distillers moved to a major label, Brody suffered alienation from the punk community. They were essentially banned from being booked on any show or festival that also featured Rancid. It wouldn’t have been so difficult if Rancid wasn’t one of the biggest punk bands in the world.

SELLOUT is an extensive look at a scene that created some of modern rock’s most influential bands. On a personal note, I am not one who would ever fault an artist or band for signing with a label and getting paid for their talent. I find it gross to ostracize an artist for essentially trying to get their piece of the pie. If they change their sound or style, I can see that being frustrating for fans, but realistically, these people need to secure some form of financial stability for themselves and their families if they want to make a long career out of this.
Profile Image for Alanna Why.
Author 1 book113 followers
July 19, 2022
okay but the chapters about Jimmy Eat World and At The Drive-In were actually WILD
Profile Image for Amy.
239 reviews1 follower
August 5, 2022
This was a really engaging look at some influential bands of the 90s and 00s! Each chapter gives a quick origin story for a band, leading up to their major label debut. Although each chapter hits some similar points (take a shot every time someone says “the next Nirvana”) every band’s story was different enough to give good variety to the overall book. I’m not fans of all of the bands profiled, but even then I still found the chapters interesting.
Profile Image for apryl.
148 reviews7 followers
April 21, 2022
nostalgia bait for millennials, in the best way possible.
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