It's no secret that artists don't make the money they used to from selling their albums. Instead, their music needs to more or less be a vehicle to propping up successful tours, endorsement deals, merchandising and other (i.e. easier) methods of making a ton of moolah.
While putting songs in commercials was once considered "selling out," the sigma began changing when the Rolling Stones agreed to have "Start Me Up" used in a Windows 95 commercial and Moby proved a techno musician could make a milli when every song on his Play album was sold for advertisements. From Ozzy Osbourne for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter to Justin Timberlake for McDonald's, it's been generally accepted that a musical artist's gotta do what a musical artist's gotta do... but a new EDM feud seems to say differently.
On Monday night (March 21), Diplo took to Twitter to call out Zedd for his song "Candyman," which features Aloe Blacc and is currently being used to promote M&M's. Not only did Diplo allege that the song uses "fake Flume drop," but he also wrote that "it's not all about the money" to the "Clarity" producer.
While Zedd hit him back, calling him "a jealous bitch," Diplo retorted with (in a since-deleted tweet), "Your [sic] young and rich and a great musician."
“You're young and rich and a great musician. Use that to your advantage. Don't be such a pompous cornball loser.”-Diplo to Zedd
In the same (Twitter) breath, Diplo said that Zedd sold out for choosing to work with M&M's and for seemingly snagging another artist's sound while abandoning his own. It's not totally clear what part he was most upset about, but it's safe to say that Diplo was annoyed by what he called a "great musician" dropping parts of his integrity to create something for one of the biggest brands in the world.
From a listener standpoint, "Candyman" doesn't boast the same anthemic feel of past Zedd hits like "Clarity," "I Want You to Know" or "Break Free." While Zedd tried out new sounds on his 2015 True Colors album, none recalled or drew comparisons to Flume. Meanwhile, this new Aloe Blacc collab does in fact boast similarities to what's become Flume's signature waterfall of trippy synths.
So, did Zedd sell out by working with M&M's, or by forgoing his artistic vision to create something for M&M's?
True Colors didn't seem to have the same lasting effect on the pop scene as his debut album Clarity (which boasted big radio hits with its title track and "Stay the Night" with Hayley Williams), so it's possible Zedd was using the opportunity to pivot creatively. But this comes after having a slew of crossover hits, as well as a ton of appearances at major EDM festivals, under his belt. Diplo's main critique is that, while Zedd is still "rich," he's selling out for another paycheck.
One Twitter user called out Diplo for once having an endorsement deal with Blackberry phones in 2010, with which the producer said (in a now-deleted tweet) that he took when he was "broke and now [sic] one gave a shit about me." See it below:
So, is selling out based around context? Zedd certainly doesn't scream "ideal candidate to promote M&M's," nor does it seem like his heart was in the creation of a song specifically for the brand (it doesn't totally sound like Zedd, at least). But where does it end? If Beyoncé makes a really dope song for Pepsi, is that okay? Is Diplo just being an asshole on Twitter, as he sometimes does? Does the Major Lazer maestro just want more for someone he sees as also based in EDM, but helps expands the genre (Zedd's list of collaborators includes everyone from A-list divas to pop-punk princesses to bubbling-under pop stars) with his unique sound?
The answer isn't clear yet, but the feud suggests that, at least in 2016, the idea of "selling out" is back, and some artists may have to answer for potentially doing so... to Diplo, at least.