Selling out

Selling out

:"Sold Out" redirects here. For other uses, see Sold Out (disambiguation) or Selling Out (disambiguation)."

"Selling out" refers to the compromising of one's integrity, morality and principles in exchange for money, 'success' (however defined) or other personal gain. It is commonly associated with attempts to increase mass appeal or acceptability to mainstream society. A person who does this, as opposed to continuing along his or her original path, is labelled a sellout and typically disregarded. Selling out is often seen as fickle; gaining success at the price of lost credibility.

In various political movements (usually communists and anarchists), a "sellout" is a person or group pretending to adhere to a genuinely pro-working class ideology, only to follow these claims up with actions directly contradicting them, often (whether actually or implicitly) supporting capitalism. It could also apply to any revolutionary group originally claiming to fight for the people of a country, but acting rather differently upon coming to power, mostly because the covert goal of the revolution was not to benefit the people of the nation, but for the national government to be overthrown so that the revolutionary leaders could themselves have the perks and prestige of being in power.

ellout Examples in Entertainment


The phrase is frequently heard in the musical community, where it is used to imply that an artist has compromised his or her artistic integrity in order to gain radio airplay or obtain a recording contract, especially with a major label. Often, the label will force a particular record producer onto the performer, insist on the inclusion of songs by commercial songwriters, or the label may even refuse to release an album, deeming it uncommercial.

A classic example of an artist being accused of "selling out" by his fans was Bob Dylan's well-documented "electrification". Dylan outraged folk music purists by (in their view), selling out their acoustic music for rock and roll when he first played an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. One fan's exasperated cry of "Judas!" is immortalized on the album "". Most modern critics, however, view Dylan's move to electric as part of a creative progression, and his 1965 and 1966 albums "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blonde on Blonde" are frequently considered his best albums.Fact|date=June 2007 Dylan was not accused of selling out when he later went to Nashville to record the country and western album "Nashville Skyline".Fact|date=June 2007

Nirvana made repeated references to the act of selling out (including thanking their audiences for "pretending we're still punks"). One popular T-shirt produced by the band features the slogan "Flower Sniffin', Kitty Pettin', Baby Kissin' Corporate Rock Whores". Frontman Kurt Cobain also proposed the titles "Verse Chorus Verse" (in reference to the formulaic structure fans had come to expect of their songs) and "Radio Friendly Unit Shifters" as possible titles for the album that eventually became "In Utero" Fact|date=February 2007. Cobain further lampooned ideas of Nirvana's new commercial appeal by appearing on the cover of "Rolling Stone" magazine wearing a T-shirt reading "Corporate Magazines Still Suck" [] . The first Nirvana item to be released following Cobain's death was the perhaps satirically titled VHS tape "Live! Tonight! Sold Out!!".

"The Who Sell Out" is a 1967 album by The Who with mock endorsement advertisements on the cover. The album pretends to represent a radio station that plays nothing but Who music, including mock commercials and radio-station promotions. The Who became very prolific at selling their work by the end of the 1990s, including "Love Reign O'er Me" for 7-Up, "Bargain" for Nissan, "Overture" for Claritin, "Happy Jack" for Hummer, "Baba O'Riley" for Hewlett Packard, "I Can See for Miles" for Sylvania Silverstar headlights and "Sparks" for Gatorade's G2.Fact|date=June 2007 More recently, their songs have been used as themes for all three CSI series.

Selling out is a controversial topic within both hip hop music and hip hop culture, with two wholly opposite views on the matter. Traditional "underground" hip hop artists and fans decry "selling out", and heavily criticise artists who change their style just to reach the top. The hip-hop community also considers performers to be a "sell-outs" when they shun hip-hop's traditional African-American and Latino communities and appear to be pandering to a mainstream (usually white) audience. For example, MC Hammer was accused of being a sell-out during the 1990s, and many rappers during the 2000s. "In Living Color" specifically attacked MC Hammer's "selling out" in a fake music video called "Too Sold Out to Quit", a spoof of "Too Legit 2 Quit". The sketch, though, was focused on MC Hammer landing endorsements with Pepsi, Taco Bell and the like.Fact|date=June 2007. Another example is Will Smith: the traditional "undergound" hip hop artist have accused him or selling out and producing "wack" and "fake" songs. However, Smith objected and even mocked it in his album "Lost and Found " in the song "I Wish I Made That Swagga". Mainstream hip-hop music, on the other hand, is stereotyped as embracing materialism and a "bling-bling" mentality. Such visual representations of wealth are seen as status symbols and things to be aspired to, as opposed to the attitude of traditional "hip hop heads" and punk or metal artists. Mainstream artists such as Master P and P Diddy have achieved vast personal fortunes and business empires, and often revel in musical references to their affluence.

Hip-hop's lyrical content has also changed much. New hip-hop is now more popular and the artists are wealthier. Today, the lyrics in hip-hop seem to reference more the wealth and lifestyle of the rappers, whereas in older hip-hop the lyrical content was more about "the ghetto" and anti-establishmentarianism. Long time hip-hop fans express dissatisfaction with this change.Fact|date=June 2007

Mainstream hip hop music's fixation on bling and other material and luxury goods has led to criticism from media pundits, musical critics, and the non-mainstream hip-hop community.Fact|date=June 2007 They charge that the phenomenon promotes consumerism and materialism, and strengthens racist arguments that young black men are incapable of higher or more virtuous or spiritual goals than material gain.Fact|date=June 2007

Tool released an ironic track entitled "Hooker with a Penis" on their album "Ænima" dealing with lead singer Maynard James Keenan's encounter with a fan that accused the band of "selling out". Maynard sings "all you know about me is what I sold you... I sold out long before you ever heard my name", then concludes the song by telling the fan to "buy my new record, send more money".

The American satirist Tom Lehrer released a song called "Selling Out", in which he criticizes commercialization, stating " [he] always found ideals don't take the place of meals".


The term "selling out" is not as often used in sports as much as it is in music and other venues. However, it has been a label used by die-hard sports fans who feel that professional athletes, often in football, have become clouded by often enormous salaries and have lost sight of their sport. Selling out has also labelled top athletes who make no secret of their lifestyles, dating supermodels and Hollywood starlets, which in turn can become a goal for other professional athletes, and a prime motivation for young athletes in professional sport, rather than simply the love of the game.


The term "selling out" is used in a similar sense when discussing the movie industry.

In "Wayne's World", Wayne breaks down the fourth wall, mentioning he would never sell out; in this case, to make his public access television show more successful. To humorously contradict himself, as he talks, he displays several products, with the corporate logos highly visible. Such as Pizza Hut, Reebok, Pepsi, and Doritos. Wayne and Garth also spoof a Nuprin commercial where it is black and white, save for the signature little yellow Nuprin pills.


Stand-up comedians occasionally face accusations of selling out. Comedians who start out in comedy clubs might often use foul language and blue humor in their routines. A comic who alters his or her routine by "sugar-coating" his language and using less-offensive material to obtain mainstream success may be accused of selling out. Some might also argue that comedians who decide to enter the film industry with comedy movies are selling out, depending on the quality and content of their movies.Fact|date=June 2007

George Carlin has been accused of being a sell-out for appearing in television commercials for MCI's 10-10-220. [] [] [] Carlin had previously spoke of his dislike for MCI's commercials in his album "Back in Town". In his album "You Are All Diseased", which contains rants against advertising and business, Carlin admits the dichotomy but makes no attempt to explain himself, stating "You're just gonna have to figure that shit out for yourself". In interviews, Carlin revealed he appeared in the ads to help pay off a large tax debt to the IRS. [] []

In the dawn of Dave Chappelle's highly anticipated third season of Chappelle's Show and approached with a huge salary, Dave Chappelle fled his show, leading many to believe that he feared the "sellout" moniker.

Criticism of the term

An artist may also be accused of selling out after changes in artistic direction. This conclusion is often due to the perception that the reason for the artist changing artistic style or direction was simply potential material gain. This ignores other causes of artistic development, which may lead an artist in new directions from those which attracted their original fans. Artists' improvements in musical skill or change in taste may also account for the change.

Other times, artists resent the term on the grounds that the perceived desire for material gain is simply a result of the band seeking to expand its message. For example, when questioned about signing to a major label, Rage Against the Machine answered "We're not interested in preaching to just the converted. It's great to play abandoned squats run by anarchists, but it's also great to be able to reach people with a revolutionary message, people from Granada Hills to Stuttgart". []

Other bands (including those without politically-oriented messages) may also reject the term, on the basis that "not" going mainstream or signing to a bigger label -- in order to prevent "selling out" -- (a): limits a band's ability to address their wider audiences, regardless of whether or not there is any real artistic change, and/or (b): arbitrarily hampers the artists' course of mainstream success, with the assumption that mainstream success must be against the artists' intentions. When confronted with the accusation of selling out in 2001, Mike Dirnt of Green Day claimed:

"If there's a formula to selling out, I think every band in the world would be doing it", he said. "The fact that you write good songs and you sell too many of them, if everybody in the world knew how to do that they'd do it. It's not something we chose to do."

"The fact was we got to a point that we were so big that tons of people were showing up at punk-rock clubs, and some clubs were even getting shut down because too many were showing up. We had to make a decision: either break up or remove ourselves from that element. And I'll be damned if I was going to flip fucking burgers. I do what I do best. Selling out is compromising your musical intention and I don't even know how to do that". []

ee also

*Jumping the shark
*Recuperation (sociology)
*Tall poppy syndrome
*Indie Cred

External links

* [ The Art of Selling Out: Compromising the Music]
* [ The Balancing Act Between Art and Commerce] (article about musicians "selling out")
* [ 'Selling Out': The New Radicals and Natasha Bedingfield] (article explaining why "selling out" can be confusing)
* [ Paul McCartney? Is That You?: What he's doing in that Fidelity ad] (commentary)
* [ Tangled Up in Boobs: What's Bob Dylan doing in a Victoria's Secret ad?] (commentary)
* [ The Problem With Music] (legendary 'producer' Steve Albini's take on "going major")

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