I Read Dan Ozzi’s ‘Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore (1994–2007)’.

steve cuocci
4 min readMay 8, 2024

I have legitimately never cared about a band “selling out.” I’ll just be upfront. I don’t think I have any integrity when it comes to what I ‘expect’ a band to do. I don’t think I often hold bands accountable for the actions of the people in it, either. Maybe they do too many drugs, maybe they drink too much, maybe they don’t sign autographs for fans, maybe they aren’t good people. I don’t know, until recently, I don’t think I even knew what the people in the bands were like. And whenever I heard about how people in bands were rude to people I knew, my reaction would usually be “oh, that sucks.” But I’d still play their records. Maybe that makes me shallow. Maybe that reduces how I’m “supposed” to craft a relation to a band’s music. At the end of the day, I didn’t read “Sellout” to get a feast of the bands who “sold out.” Instead, I saw Geoff Rickly on the cover and knew a bunch of bands that were listed as the source material and dove in.

I was only actually familiar with a few of the bands and the stories that were told. Green Day, Thursday, Blink-182 and At the Drive-In. During the chapters based on those bands, I was somewhat able to follow along with the events as I remembered them. Thursday was the one that stood out most to me, as that’s a band that I followed from Full Collapse through War All the Time and A City By the Light Divided. It was interesting to see that outlook from the inside of the band, knowing what kinds of lengths bands were being dragged into simply due to the popularity of their music. I remember that each record that followed Full Collapse felt like something was missing and despite how hard I tried to find the same light within the following records, nothing matched up with the raw and vulnerable sound of that, my first impression of them.

At the Drive-In’s chapter was most interesting to me because of how much I learned about the implosion of the band that broke them up at the height of their popularity. I was one of the people who discovered them through their video for One Armed Scissor off of their major label debut, Relationship of Command. Working my way backward through their library, you could see that there was always a spark of friction between two factions within the group, but nothing like the way they spoke about in this book. Ozzi shines light on how desperate everything sounded behind closed doors and between shows.

Anyone can document their findings and file them in an organized fashion. Anyone can retell old band stories from reprinted interviews and articles. But Ozzi’s ability to somehow capture the excitement of the times that these bands were building and growing and amassing a fanbase is something so palpable, so invigorating, that it makes you feel like you’re discovering those bands in their infancy and growing with them, time after time. There were multiple bands in this book that I was so amped to check out because of the way he made them sound like they were going to be incredible, unstoppable acts. Even though I ended up finding that the bands were ultimately exactly what I remember them sounding like, the way that they were written about and the genuine joy that it felt like the words were put on the page were undeniable. He represents these bands so well.

I loved this book. It tells of a time that feels so long ago and it frames it with a distinct perspective by the filter of bands getting signed by majors and fizzling out or finding their way. I highly recommend this book if you’re someone who Follows Music, and/or if any of the bands that he talks about are on your playlists!

I must say, it feels like I go through this same cycle with bands at least once a year. I’m always finding new bands that deserve a massive push, only to find that their follow-up records pale in comparison to what I imagined their core vision was. I also find a bunch of bands who have a New Distinction, some kind of massive Thing where you just know something’s going to happen soon. And I think with each of these bands listed in the book, he’s done such an excellent job of portraying just that feeling. There’s a second stage to a lot of music, not only the music that’s on the record but the way that their fanbases support them, the way the fanbase carries themselves, the way that the band interacts with each other and those around it. And I think Dan Ozzi’s portrayal of that whole life, not only from a Band standpoint, not only from a Journalist standpoint but also from a Fan standpoint. Great read!

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