SXSW: Arcade Fire’s Win Butler says artists that work with brands are ‘selling out’

Win and Will Butler took part in a industry discussion about 'the celebrity economy in music'

Arcade Fire’s Win and Will Butler spoke about music economy with Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman at this year’s South By Southwest festival.

The panel discussion, which also included Berger Management’s Nicky Berger, Nielsen’s Tatiana Simonian, and Grantland’s Rembert Browne, took place earlier today (March 19) and was about “the celebrity economy in music” and questioned how artists are to make a living in the future.

During the hour long session at the Austin Convention Center, Win Butler stated that musicians working with brands was “selling out”. After Simonian spoke about how she saw emerging artists working with big brands as becoming a necessity, but adding that it wasn’t necessarily “selling out”, Win Butler commented: “It is selling out though, just for the record.” Of the involvement of brands in music, Win Butler later said: “Essentially, artists have been getting screwed over at pretty much the same rate, but now slightly different people are screwing us over.”

However, his brother Will Butler added that he didn’t mind if “the art is good”. He stated: “I’m fine as long as the product is good, the only shame is to me that it allows so much boring music to be made!”

Win Butler also spoke about the current vogue for labels signing bands instantly and acts then becoming hyped before they’ve even released their first single. He commented that this approach “benefits the labels way more than it benefits the artists” as it means young bands quickly “get chewed up” before they’ve been given a chance to develop. He then discussed the benefits of not being signed to a label when it comes to being able to focus on making music. “When we first started to deal with the music industry I had so many less hours in the day,” he commented. “That’s the advantage of not having a record deal, because it really does take care of yourself if you’re obsessively [focused on making music]”.

When discussing how artists will make money in 10 years, Will Butler spoke about the unsung heroes of the music industry; parents. “I think a lot of artists will make money from their parents. I don’t know if you know, but that’s a giant way that a lot of bands make money these days and its great… As the rich get richer, their kids can do whatever the hell they want! Big up parents, wherever you are.”

Speaking about making money from live performance, Win Butler later commented: “We have the best record deal of all time, but we still make more from one big festival”.

Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler recently published a mash-up of Kanye West’s ‘Jesus Walks’ and Beck’s ‘Loser’ after tweeting about the state of the music industry post The Grammys. “There’s lots of problems with modern music, but the problems aren’t Beyoncé, Kanye, or Beck,” Butler wrote.

Will Butler released his solo debut ‘Policy’ earlier this week via Merge Records. The singer-songwriter said the decision to go solo was a result of being asked to finish the score for Spike Jonze’s film Her, after his brother Win and his wife Régine Chassagne – who were originally scoring the film – announced they were having a baby. “[Solo work] was kind of forced on me; I feel like my name was suddenly out there,” he said.