Selling Out?

Underground vs. Pop - What is Selling Out? Does anyone really sell out? This is my two cents on a never ending debate about musicians "selling out".

Ultimate Guitar

It has been said so many times by people around me that it is beginning to sound unbelievably repetitive. "You like _______? I used to like them, but they sold out." Why are so many people against people who suddenly can find themselves succesful?

First of all, what is "selling out?" From what I gather, from a long time of hearing people biyatch about music, that selling out is when a band goes against what they originally began as, and changed in order to appeal to the masses, in other words, the people who get their music from MTV. Selling out is apparently a bad thing. But think of it this way, when a band signs to a record label, they don't do it because the label represents what they believe, they do it because they want to make it their career. In other words, they want to make money from it.

Now, lets take for example the band Good Charlotte. Now, they released 2 albums. The first, frankly, got them a huge "underground" fan base, and they were idolized for being punk. Congrats to them, unfortunately, since they weren't really mainstream yet, odds are they weren't making too much money off of that first album. Then comes "The Young And The Hopeless," their second album. Keep in mind that they recorded the music on that album before it was released and before they really hit big on MTV (not counting MTV using one of their songs for a theme on some cartoon, the name of it escapes me right now). The video for "Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous" shows and becomes a hit. They sell boatloads more albums than they did with their first CD. Congrats to them, they got more recognition, and they were selling out in stores.

But does that mean they were selling out to their fans? Listening to the first and second albums, I think they kept the same basic music, of course some ideas evolved as did the band and their lyrics, but that should be expected of a music group. They recorded the whole album before any real mainstream recognition, before there were millions of girls blabbing about how Benji is cute and guys all of a sudden spiking their hair like in the Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous video. The music which they released after becoming mainstream (The Anthem, Boys & Girls) were all recorded before their success. So how did they sell out?? Granted, their videos do appeal to the MTV audience, but wouldn't you like to make a video for YOUR song that appeals to more people after you realize you can reach so many more?

My point is, most of the time when people go "pop" or "sellout" they do so with prerecorded material. Of course, there is a chance that the dreaded Music Execs and Label Management did influence them somehow, but no matter what the music that comes out on that CD has to be something that the band is proud of and is happy to share with whomever wants to listen. If they are lucky enough to get a hit with one of their songs, and then become a recognized name and ride the fame for a few more hits, whats the problem? Remember, when they signed on the dotted line with the Label, they signed to make money, and to make music by doing what they love, which is making music, and performing that music for their fans. If a band sells out, then that should be a good thing. Remember what Selling Out really is, selling out is when you sell so many copies of your album that the stores don't have any more to sell because there is such a demand for it. That is what selling out is.

Now that i got that out of the way, let me just reference a few other things that I am sure is running through your head. Yes, some people do change their image or lie to appeal to a "target audience" (remember Milli Vanilli?) and they are the real sellouts. They really sell themselves to the company for the label to do with them as they wish. But those who still do what they always do and still manage to appeal to everyone deserve recognition.

And yes some people do change after becoming famous, but then again, put yourself in the artists shoes. If you were under so much pressure to make another hit after going pop with a hit, and if your whole career was on the line, hanging in the balance and depending wholly on whether or not you can sell out the stores again, won't you try to appeal to as many people as you can?

Alot of people only see the videos of the groups which they think sold out. Many don't realize that what they see isn't the whole album. Yes, some artists do make a few songs to be radio-friendly, just so they can sell their albums. But if you look at some songs on their album, they are exactly like what they did before exploding into the mainstream. Many tracks are exactly what you want from them. I myself like alot of Good Charlotte, and Nickelback, and many other artists who have "sold out" but the thing is i give the whole album a chance. Many times i will skip over the current video single, but sometimes i won't.

So please, if you see someone trying to be successful, don't bring them down by saying you hate them and what they are doing. Don't stop listening to your favorite band just because you aren't their only fan anymore. Appreciate that they are succesful, and respect their choices to stick with what they are happy doing, whether it be appealing to as many people as they can, or appealing only to themselves or their hardcore fans. Because no matter what, someone, somewhere will listen to their music, and someone will appreciate them, and you making a stint about them selling out will not stop them from getting a few hundred other fans to take your place. So be happy for them because they are supposedly your favorite band, be happy that they are successful, and be proud that you can say "I loved their music before most other people even heard their name."

61 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Good Charlotte had monsterous play on MTV before their second album... But I dont know why anyone cares, they were pop-punk before and they're pop-punk now. Fuck punk, I bet none of you understand what punk was anyway. Punk is not music or an image so get over it. Punk is dead and gone besides the anachists living it everyday. But I doubt you know what true anarchy is anyway.
    By the way, you all need to learn english and work on your spelling before posting publicly.
    god dammit wtf is yalls problem so wat if they r on mtv and so wat if more people like just cuz they are popular doesnt mean they are Sold Out
    This goes for all of you: Good Charlotte Does Suck!!!! They are the lowest form of life on the planet. May they rest in pieces as Saliva once said. Anyway, about this whole sellout crap. Getting on mtv is nothing. Selling out is when you get money from being in a band and you waste it on buying Yankee Stadium or some crap. U can definitely make money theres absolutely nothing wrong with it. But abusing it is another story. Those of the people who say Metallica sold out: So F@!*ing what!!!! They may have made action figures and crap but that just shows that they were 80s and 90s icons in rock it doesnt mean they purposely wanted action figures. Besides that would be freakin awesome to have metallica action figures that played music on a live stage set in my room! And another thing, they are undoubtedtly one of rocks most important and influential bands so i wouldnt even be surprised if they even had a monument or something that commemorated their musical genius made for them. And besides, tell me, can the crappy guitarist from Good Charlotte play the solo from Master of Puppets? I think not!! The great Ozzman has spoken!!!!!
    lemme fix sumthin. I meant to say that they may have all that crap but that doesnt mean they suck. U will NEVER take away the talent of a band of this caliber!!!! The Ozzman has spoken..again!!!
    marcsucks wrote: By the way, you all need to learn english and work on your spelling before posting publicly.
    just because you like to re-check what youve written for mistakes, doesnt mean normal people do...
    und_keine_eire wrote: who gives a shit if the band sells out or not, thats not what its about, its about the music
    Wow who would of thunk it Music is about music! So the entire idea of selling out is irreverent. Unless you buy the stuff based on their image. But that an entirely different conversation.
    by the way, i dont have anything against thw whole punk attitude, but if youre going to make music at least make that more about the music.
    boyinsin wrote: und_keine_eire wrote: who gives a shit if the band sells out or not, thats not what its about, its about the music Wow who would of thunk it Music is about music! So the entire idea of selling out is irreverent. Unless you buy the stuff based on their image. But that an entirely different conversation.
    boyinsin wrote: und_keine_eire wrote: who gives a shit if the band sells out or not, thats not what its about, its about the music Wow who would of thunk it Music is about music! So the entire idea of selling out is irreverent. Unless you buy the stuff based on their image. But that an entirely different conversation.
    gc intended to sell out. They sound like they write catchy tunes to get played on mtv more than any other band. writing pop and then calling urself punk is selling out, in a way evan though they hav sounded like this all along and havn't changed there direction. come on its pop!
    punk is a dumb genre. its way more about the damn image than the music. think about it. practically no other genres are named after an image, not a sound, unless you count country or folk for some reason. i dont know whats punk about the music besides the lyrics. a lot of "punk" bands are the most happy-go-lucky bands ive ever heard, especially rancid and GC. have you heard rancid's new song?! i know this dont have nuthin to do with the article, but its so stupid, people saying these bands "kick ass". kick ass? 75% of punk singers sound like theyre friggin 7 years old. come on now people.
    Steph Bets
    NO! selling out is NOT when they get their music on mtv.....u people ar so dam anti-mtv... sure a heap of it is mainstream and crap, but just cos aband goes on mtv doesnt mean they sell out! many people say the chillis sold outn when they changed there style, but they didnt do it to get more fans.... they did it because they wanted to change their style... thats calle d acorssover. going to mtv is like getting airplay on the radio..... u havnt sold out just cos ur on mtv... this is making me angry!
    figgenjerk. what are you talking about? Of course the stones changed their sound. "It's only rock and roll but I like it"?! ONLY ROCK AND ROLL???!!! It was utterly depressing to see a band I have so much respect for utter those unthinkable words. I'm still a fan and always will be, but you have to look and the change and see it for what it is.
    Steph Bets
    oooh wait.. sorry i misread..... DISREGARD THE ABOVE POST! im so sorry..... i shouldve put me reading glassess on.....
    yeah, everyone's gay, everyone sucks, everything you like is better than what I like. Same thing every day. Same same same.
    i mostly agree with this article. finally, someone who knows what they're talking about on this subject.
    I don't think you understand how sensible people would define "selling out". I don't think Good Charlotte sold out because to sell out you would have to have integrity in the first place. Selling out is taking your pride and convictions and exchanging them for a quick buck. I am reminded of when the Rolling Stones chose to be sponsored by a major corporation for the first time in the history of rock and roll concert tours. It is something that hinders the respectablility of a group and should be met with disapprovial when neccessary.
    ^ but did the stones change their music because of that sponsorship? no. people gotta eat you know, and the stones, in the 70's, were FLAT broke. they had been ***ed over by their record labels many times, and they literally had no money. i understand that it was a little sacriligious to make a partnership with "the man," but at least it didn't affect their music. the stones didn't start getting too poppy until the mid-80's, well after "Start Me Up" came out. anyways, i see where the writer is going with this, and it's correct in some cases. but then what about the third ablum? or the fourth? when do we decide that they KNEW the ablum would sell millions of copies if they wrote it differently. i'm against throwing the term sell-out around like it's nothing, but consider this: how do we know that Good Charlotte's (or WHOEVER'S) record label didn't just come out and tell them, "hey. if you guys change your sound enough, and do a and b and c for us, then we'll market the hell out of your album, make sure it gets on MTV, make sure it gets exposed, and we can ALL cash in." we just don't know if that happened or not. what knicks3311 said about trading your principles for a quick buck is the truest definiton of selling out. evolution of music, or making a business deal so you are able to eat is different.
    is this like the 5 th artice about this. i think the only sell out are the fans that love a band and than whan the band decids to do something different the old fans say they sucks.
    LOL!!! Thast guy thinks Rancid hasn't sold out. What an idiot. hahahahaha. Rancid has sold out worse then any band around because they were once a RESPECTABLE punk band that basically establish the 90s punk "movement" with Green Day and Blink. The thing is Green Day and Blink never were "hardcore punk" like Rancid was, they might of died their hair, got piercings, and had tattoos; but rancid was the one with the mohawks, the liberty spikes, and the raw punk sound. Now look at them. Shit. Tim helped GC WITH SONGS!!! And you can sell Rancid is great and GC isn't? Lifestyles was almost half written by Tim. Pull your head out of your ass; tim likes good charlotte, they're all friends. Those who hang together, sell out together.
    rancid... i think they sold out. The whole tim/brody deal seems kind of hollywoodish to me the way it was all publisized... also, fall back down was obviously intended to be a single on mtv or whatever from the second it was written i could have probably worded that better... but im tired
    There are so many articles going around with this topic, Good Charlotte and Blink 182 sold out, they're pop punk,bla bla bla whinge ***in whinge. The bottom line is Good Charlotte are making the music they always have and 'selling out' is not what they've done. It seems that people only like bands when they are underground and once they get a larger fan base, get radio play or get a few videos on mtv, all the so-called punks stop liking them because they have to be different to everyone else, they couldnt just like a band because of the music. Blink 182 is playing the same music they always have, and most of that is just taking the piss out of anyone and everyone, including themsleves. All the 'real' punk bands are just bands that haven't hit the MTV top 10 or similar, but are still popular with the punk fans. I've had my say and that'll do
    Let me think here...Nirvana were labeled as sell outs and they were the biggest band in the last 20 years. Pantera never sold out. And from what I know the Ramones never sold out either. A small list I know but anyways... Money and ego can make you happy. But the respect of musicians for generations to come has no price.
    i agree with this article, except for maybe a couple small things. ur right, jsut because a band made it onto MTV doesnt mean they sold out. a true sell out is someone who makes music they dont like just so it will be a hit. a true musician writes and sells something they like, not something they hate and are only playing for other people. it shouldnt matter whether you get famous or make a lot of money. shouldnt you be satisfied enough doing something you love?
    why do all of you morons always talk about this? GC sucks and always will no matter if they sold out or not