Looking for non-sellouts.
April 4, 2008 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Looking for examples of people who didn't take the money.

There was a post a while back the talked about Ben & Jerry's and Tom's of Maine both selling out to major conglomerates.

I am interested in hearing examples of people/companies/artists who didn't take the money. Especially if they were persistently offered the opportunity.
posted by Roach to Society & Culture (44 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I think Craigslist would be a great example of that.
posted by jedrek at 2:43 PM on April 4, 2008

Pat Tillman? Not a corporate idealist, but certainly a person who sacrificed a lucrative career for his convictions, a decision which ultimately cost him his life.
posted by mosk at 2:47 PM on April 4, 2008

As jedrek said, I think Craigslist is the poster-child for not selling out despite massive pressure to do so.
posted by AaRdVarK at 2:52 PM on April 4, 2008

Here's a story of a couple of relatively poor independent bands (Trans Am and The Thermals) who told GM to suck it when offered substantial sums of money to have their music used in Hummer ads.
posted by dersins at 3:02 PM on April 4, 2008

from pitchfork's interview with the thermals:

Pitchfork: You guys have had some success yourselves. Was it weird to be approached by Hummer [to have your music used in a commercial]?

HH: We sort of expected it. Other Portland bands had done commercials, so we expected to hear something, just not Hummer. Plus, they asked for a weird song-- like, are you sure that's the one you want for your national campaign? ["It's Trivia", from 2003's More Parts Per Million]

Pitchfork: But you have more of an issue with them than with, say, a hockey video game?

HH: That to me, I didn't have any real problem with. I'm not trying to cut myself off from the rest of the culture by not licensing. Licensing can be great. You get money for work that's already done. It's not a horrible thing to me, there's just some things I don't want to soundtrack.
posted by ncc1701d at 3:04 PM on April 4, 2008

Clif Bar. The story goes that the company was hours away from being sold to Quaker Foods back in 99/2000, for somewhere north of $100M. It's now seen as a model of a modern, successful, environmentally sustainable, private business.
posted by toxic at 3:08 PM on April 4, 2008

Response by poster: These are great so far.

I should also say that non-famous, anecdotal examples are more than welcome as well.
posted by Roach at 3:24 PM on April 4, 2008

Bill Watterson.

Because of Watterson's strong anti-merchandising sentiments[4] and his reluctance to return to the spotlight, almost no legitimate Calvin and Hobbes merchandise exists outside of the book collections. However, the strip's immense popularity has led to the appearance of various counterfeit items (most notably window decals) that often feature crude humor and other themes that are not found in Watterson's work.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:53 PM on April 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Fugazi and their frontman Ian MacKaye are pretty famous for never selling out. Not only have they never signed to or partnered with a major label, but they also purposely keep their ticket prices for shows at around $5, sell their CDs for cheap, don't sell any tshirts or stickers, and only play all-ages shows.
posted by burnmp3s at 3:53 PM on April 4, 2008

Weird Al Yankovic refused to shill for a beer company back in the 80's, turning down a lucrative deal. He's actually a pretty conservative, clean-cut guy and ddn't want to encourage drinking among his younger fans.
posted by Asparagirl at 4:20 PM on April 4, 2008

Dr Seuss turned down just about every offer to market his work outside of his books while he was alive
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:29 PM on April 4, 2008

Tom Waits turned down money from ... I can't remember. I think it was a chip company. Frito Lay maybe? Going further, he sued his own label (Island, at the time) when they sold the rights to one of this songs without his permission. He won. He also sued another company who approached him for a song which he declined, when they hired a sing-a-like to do a track.
posted by dobbs at 4:41 PM on April 4, 2008

There is a concept in (American) sports called the "hometown discount." It refers to a player turning down more lucrative offers from other teams in order to stay with their current club. There are many examples lately in the Boston area -- one particularly common reason for a player to give a hometown discount is to stay on a winning team -- Randy Moss (Patriots), Mike Lowell and Curt Schilling (Red Sox) leap to mind.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:58 PM on April 4, 2008

Supposedly Facebook has received buy offers of $750 million and $1 billion, and turned both down.
posted by autojack at 5:02 PM on April 4, 2008

Tom Waits turned down money from ... I can't remember. I think it was a chip company. Frito Lay maybe?

It was indeed. In fact, Frito-Lay hired an impersonator to record a song in Waits' style, and he sued them and won a $2.375 million award -- in 1988, when that was real money.

This sort of thing has apparently happened to Waits more than once.
posted by kindall at 5:05 PM on April 4, 2008

Jeffrey Lee, the sole surviving member of the indigenous Djok clan of Australia, was offered $5 billion dollars by the French mining company Areva for extraction rights to the uranium on his ancestral lands. Mr. Lee refused.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:38 PM on April 4, 2008 [7 favorites]

Can't find the story, but I recall hearing about this guy being offered upwards of $1million. Apparantly since that didn't work, he's now being sued for $10million
posted by jpdoane at 6:40 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Eli Herring. He was a football star at BYU who made it clear that he wasn't going to play football on Sunday and was still drafted in the sixth round by the Raiders in 1995. He now works as a schoolteacher and assistant high school football coach.
posted by 4ster at 6:59 PM on April 4, 2008

tom waits took the money once.
posted by kamelhoecker at 7:14 PM on April 4, 2008

David Swensen of Yale University. He manages Yale's endowment and has had amazing success. He has been courted with insane amounts of money by mutual funds / investment banks / hedge funds but has turned them all down, preferring to stay at Yale.

From http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/02/19/for-yales-money-man-a-higher-calling/: “People think working for something other than the most money you could get is an odd concept, but it seems a perfectly natural concept to me,” says Mr. Swensen, a slender, soft-spoken man who looks and dresses like a high school teacher. “When I see colleagues of mine leave universities to do essentially the same thing they were doing but to get paid more, I am disappointed because there is a sense of mission,” in endowment work.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 7:47 PM on April 4, 2008

I don't see how Craigslist is an example. Yes, CL has retained its morals... but Craig did take the money, yes? He sold 25% of CL for ~ $10M.
posted by dobbs at 8:01 PM on April 4, 2008

I have heard it said that George Washington Carver was offered a huge salary and his own lab if he would come to work for Thomas Edison. Carver refused because he didn't want any of his work to be patented. I think you could check this story pretty easily. (I see where Wikipedia lists it as unconfirmed.)
posted by LarryC at 8:12 PM on April 4, 2008

I heard a story a couple of years ago about Corey Hart (two links, Sunglasses at Night fame)who refused a deal with a sunglass eyewear company (RayBan maybe?).
posted by bitteroldman at 8:13 PM on April 4, 2008

Rudy Giuliani:
When Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal suggested that the attacks were an indication that the United States "should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause", Giuliani asserted, "There is no moral equivalent for this act. There is no justification for it... And one of the reasons I think this happened is because people were engaged in moral equivalency in not understanding the difference between liberal democracies like the United States, like Israel, and terrorist states and those who condone terrorism. So I think not only are those statements wrong, they're part of the problem." Giuliani subsequently rejected the prince's $10 million donation to disaster relief in the aftermath of the attack.
posted by Class Goat at 8:29 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Doors

Densmore has been steadfast in refusing to license The Doors' music for use in television commercials, including an offer of $15 million by Cadillac to lease the song "Break on Through (to the Other Side)," feeling that that would be in violation of the spirit in which the music was created. Densmore wrote about this subject for The Nation. He later gave an interview about this to LA Times:

People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music. I've had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn't commit suicide because of this music…. On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That's not for rent.

The Nation article
posted by SageLeVoid at 8:35 PM on April 4, 2008

dobbs, CL had been essentially held by a handful of people. One of them 'sold out', if you will, when he sold his 25% stake to eBay. But that was one individual's decision, on behalf of his own interests, not a corporate decision. So it's fair to say, and debate, that CL remains one of the non-sellouts
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:28 PM on April 4, 2008

Mrs. Wuping.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:40 PM on April 4, 2008

If I remember correctly, the fellows at both Penny Arcade and Homestar Runner have been approached about TV deals and passed on the offers.
posted by lore at 10:58 PM on April 4, 2008

Gianfranco Zola. He was a legendary striker for Chelsea FC (English Premiership club, for those of you who don't follow the game).

From his Wikipedia entry:

In the summer of 2003, amid rumours of an impending takeover at Chelsea, Zola left CFC to join Cagliari, a club from his native Sardinia. Within a week CFC was purchased by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Unable to persuade Zola to renege on his verbal contract with Cagliari, Abramovich allegedly attempted to purchase the entire Cagliari club. His offer for the club was rejected. Zola subsequently led Cagliari to promotion to the Italian Serie A. Then he renewed his contract for Cagliari Calcio for one more year. He retired in June of 2005

He could have named his price with Abramovich at Chelsea, but he'd already committed to a B-league team and wouldn't go back on his word.
posted by essexjan at 12:40 AM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sid and Marty Krofft.

I was listening to an old Sound of Young America interview with Marty Krofft this afternoon, in which he claims to be one of the very few people not to have sold his rights to the big guys.... most other production companies have apparently been subsumed within Disney / Warner / etc., but for what it's worth, the Sid and Marty Krofft IP and library is all theirs. They partnered and contracted with bigger fish, but never sold out, and consequently are reaping the rewards of DVD sales, remake movies and the like. At least, that's what Marty said... I kinda wonder how many Land of the Lost and H.R. Pufnstuf box sets they've sold recently.
posted by mumkin at 1:19 AM on April 5, 2008

Dr Kawashima of braintraining fame refused his royalties for the game.
posted by ham at 2:19 AM on April 5, 2008

I think Craigslist would be a great example of that.

They sold a 25% chunk of the business to eBay.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:33 AM on April 5, 2008

Tony Benn campaigned for the right to renounce a hereditary peerage, and then did renounce his peerage, so that he could continue serve in the House of Commons, instead of the House of Lords.
posted by roofus at 2:35 AM on April 5, 2008

Alan Moore now refuses to take any money and receive any credit for film adaptations of his work.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:37 AM on April 5, 2008

After The shins hit it sort of big, being featured in garden state and scrubs and that, they stuck with their indie label, sub pop when their appeal was that of many major label bands.

does that count?
posted by Iananan at 6:14 AM on April 5, 2008

Neil Young

I think I read it in his biography, Shakey... and I'm a little fuzzy on the details... but I think it was around the time that he made Trans, the studio offered him 500,000 to do the album their way and he asked for half that if he could have artistic control.
posted by ndicecco at 6:18 AM on April 5, 2008

Underground rapper Eyedea supposedly turned down a record deal offer from Bad Boy.
posted by lunchbox at 6:28 AM on April 5, 2008

Ani DiFranco has run her own record label for about twenty years now and was famously perplexed when Ms. magazine framed it in terms of her financial success.
posted by clavicle at 6:53 AM on April 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Matt actually alluded to this re Metafilter in a recent podcast, saying he would not sell it even for... and Jess laughed and said something about 5 million dollars.

While in his 2002/3 crisis of faith Matt "couldn't find anyone to buy it who wouldn't ruin it" this implies that there were offers on the table. Jess's comment implies that they were significant.

I am paraphrasing here, have done no research, and am connecting dots that may have no connection, but I surmise that Matt turned down substantial offers to maintain MeFi's integrity and is a homegrown example of not selling out.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:40 PM on April 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Steve Albini: Sound Engineer Extraordinaire

The sessions for Nirvana's In Utero provide the most famous illustration, because Albini refused the offer of a royalty percentage, at the time (1993) estimated to be worth about $500,000, and instead proposed a flat fee of $100,000. These days Albini doesn't only turn down any royalty fees, he's also prepared to forego his $450 daily fee (already peanuts in comparison with other 'name' producers and engineers) if a band say they can't afford it.

Apparently he turned down a "produced by" credit for In Utero, which would have resulted in millions in royalties, instead to take an "Recorded by" (engineering) credit.

I've heard some other stories of Albini turning down gobs of money for projects he had no creative interest in, such as Depeche Mode.
posted by 3rdparty at 10:34 AM on April 7, 2008

R Crumb!
posted by Jupiter Jones at 1:14 PM on April 7, 2008

Um, Giuliani on a "not sellout" list? Not in this lifetime! Note that he refused money, not for his personal political warchest or for speaking fees, but for disaster relief. That's not a case of "not selling out" so much as rejecting help offered to other people.
posted by history is a weapon at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2008

I would say that Facebook and Alan Moore don't count, because:

1. Facebook didn't sell for a billion because Mark Zuckerberg knew his value would jump immensely just by turning down the offer. It's kind of one of those weird logic things. But it turned out to be true, and now they're valued at (a vastly inflated, IMO) $15b.

2. Alan Moore doesn't "not take credit for" the films based on his stuff, he just thinks no one could make a movie as good as his books were/are, and doesn't want to be attached to ineptitude.
posted by joshrholloway at 11:10 AM on May 16, 2008

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