Selling Out – Elitists, Get Over Yourselves

I remember watching one of those mind numbing VH1 specials a few years ago and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich was being confronted with the term sellout.  To which he replied: “Am I a sellout? Sure! Every night on tour we sell out arenas.”  Of course since then they have gone on to have their own video game, merchandise sold in every store known to man, and songs used for NASCAR telecasts.  Hell, their name is even included in Microsoft Office’s spell check and lets you know when you didn’t properly capitalize it.  Does that make them sellouts?  I don’t think so.  Does their change in musical direction taken in the early to mid 90’s that spawned a few good but mostly shitty singles makes them sellouts?  Yes.  Unfortunately, when metal bands who aren’t Metallica or AC/DC accomplish greatness and are given a rightful chance to only grow exponentially, they get the wonderful term of being a ‘sellout’.

There is a pretty distinct line between being a sellout and being popular that is overlooked by most of the metal community today.  It is too easy to label a band as a sellout because they finally landed on the Billboard charts or because they got signed to a major label.  Personally, one of my biggest pet peeves is going to a metal show and listening to metal ‘elitists’ with their noses up in the air pissing and moaning about how everything Mastodon has made since Leviathan has been awful, or how Opeth used to be the best metal band in the world until they signed to Roadrunner Records.  I completely understand the personal attachment that comes with loving a band that hasn’t made it to the grand stage yet.  I also understand the distance that comes with watching a band you used to party with on their shiny new bus and how you got negated to peasant status with them and the resentment that goes along with it.  I know the awesome feeling that comes with sharing an up and coming band with your buddies compared to talking about a band that anybody who has a radio has heard to death.  I also know the disheartening feeling of seeing somebody who likes one song by your favorite band wearing their shirt because it’s the trendy thing to do.  Any band worth their weight in Creed albums (sounds more vile than dog shit doesn’t it?) is expected to mature and get better with each album.  This means if a band is as great as you believe they are, and each album keeps getting better, they will ultimately become sellouts to somebody.  It’s hard to fault any band for working towards a goal rather than complacency.  If a band has to choose between their local bar crowd of fifty basement dwellers with no jobs or direct support for Slayer, I think the choice is pretty simple.

Sellout – a person who compromises his or her personal values, integrity, talent, or the like, for money or personal advancement.

Sure, there are plenty of bands who fall into the definition of being a sellout and the title fits them accordingly.  Not many bands go through the drastic changes of a Lick It Up era KISS in search of a quick buck anymore.  However, the majority of the bands labeled as sellouts are only riding the wave of success and popularity that comes with being talented.  For every good metal band that ‘makes it’ there are hundreds more in their local scene that will never make it outside of their local American Legion, which represents a large part of the animosity in the metal community.  The remaining portion of the animosity can usually be found festering inside the ‘elitists’ who take obscure metal way too seriously and would rather namedrop a shitty death metal band of midgets from Bolivia than be caught dead listening to Pantera.  These people are usually spotted at a small club show waiting for one of the obscure openers while bashing the headlining band of the same genre.  These people make up the minority of the metal fan base, yet the majority of internet metal boards.  They follow bands from obscurity until prominence and then turn against them instantly.  Most bands they have labeled as sellouts have developed a loyal fan base, have a catchy live show and have albums that will actually be found at Best Buy rather than on a Myspace page written in Serbian.  Also, a shift in sound shouldn’t be considered selling out either unless it’s for mainstream success.  I remember Behemoth being accused of selling out around Thelema.6, yet I’ve never heard ‘Christians to the Lions’ on my local rock station no matter how many times I request it.

Whether a band is a ‘sellout’ or not is always going to be a topic of discussion, but what is most important is that new listeners don’t judge a band on its sellout status.  Numbers don’t lie, but forums are often full of shit, which needs to be taken into account when getting into new bands.  Ask 1,000 new bands if they’d take fame and notoriety while keeping their original sound at the expense of being dubbed a sellout, and there will be a lot of disappointed elitists in the metal world.  Whether you’re an elitist, a mainstream metal fan, or anything in between, at least the metal community has the personal values, integrity and talent required to sellout which can’t be said for many other genres out there.

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