Thinking back twenty years or so, I remember a period when folks were accusing Bruce Springsteen of having sold out. As far as I could tell, the verb "to sell out" in this context meant the following things:
1. Becoming visible on MTV
2. Having a recording everyone seemed to know about
3. Achieving a name recognition larger than a cliquish or cultic following, meaning in a general sense having fans who would not pass the smell test of elitists.
In context, the verb seems unfair. Exactly what actually had Springsteen sold out?
Again I present another philosophical / etymological / epistemological question about music. With the noise to signal ratio being so bad in claims of performers "selling out," what's the real dividing line?
I would say it doesn't have anything really to do with 1, 2, or 3, although any of these things could get an artist denounced as a sellout. I'd say it has a lot more to do with this:
4. Abandoning one's own artistic inspiration in order to pursue some shallow angle of success; for instance, giving over to a mass produced kind of music in order to spike sales but, in so doing, giving up whatever made an act worth paying attention to. (An exemplary event might be something like firing the band to replace it with a drum machine to streamline production because sequenced music is moving that year when the original concept had little, or nothing, to do with techno sounds).
Note that "to sell out" under definition #4 implies that a talent originally had something to compromise. Acts that were mass produced and formula-conceived to begin with may be immune to selling out until such time as they develop something to sell.
What does "selling out" mean here on the music board? And who has actually done it? And who is actually just trying to survive commercially after having exhausted rather than abandoned his inspiration?