That’s what the folks over at AbsolutePunk are discussing. Personally I think that doing something that goes against your morals/ethics just for money or completely changing your style/sound at the direction of a record executive would constitute selling out, but as a parent I honestly couldn’t blame someone for selling out if he/she did. Making a living is hard to do, especially in music. If you have the chance to bank, even if for only a short period of time, you might as well take it – just as long as you’re not stupid with the money and go all MC Hammer because then you’re no better off then you were before…hell you’d probably be worse off.
The thing is there is a line that we all have that we won’t cross for money. For some people there isn’t much that they wouldn’t do for money and generally those people are whores (maybe not in the prostitution sense of the word but I think you get my drift). To me selling out is when someone crosses that line. This probably has less to do with music than with life in general. There are things that we all do at our jobs that we hate and there are probably things that we just refuse to do. Selling out is when you give in and do those things. Now sometimes this has to be done if you are going to continue making a living. And sometimes you learn that whatever it was that you had been so against really isn’t the unethical monster that you first thought and thus you reevaluate your line.
This can easily be the case with music. A band can start out on an independent record label and swear up and down that they will never sign to a major, only to do just that a few years later. Said band could have a) sold out for a huge wad of cash, b) decided that working with a major label probably wasn’t an evil thing to and figured what the heck, or c) realized that in order to continue to function they needed the financial support that a major label could provide in order to continue on in their music career. Only that first option is one that truly compromises the band’s work ethics. Obviously there are other reasons why a band would sign to a major label (some good and some bad) and there have been many times when good bands signed to majors in good faith only to get screwed in the process.
At the end of the day it is all a matter of personal ethics and the lines that we each draw in the sand. And in some cases, at least with music, is selling out really that bad if it means that you are able to support your family?