Sell Out

"Sell out, with me oh yeah
Sell out, with me tonight
The record company's gonna give me lots of money
And everything's gonna be alright."

When you succeed, do you obtain your success without sacrificing your integrity, or does it come about via your skills at sucking up, only doing it for the money, or a number of things that involve selling your soul, either literally or metaphorically?

This is what the kids these days refer to as a Sellout, which is probably one of the most subjective traits in existence. In essence, you could choose to go a certain route and feel you're doing the right thing, and there will always be one person who felt you gave up a little part of yourself to obtain your goal.

Given the contentious nature of the term, there is no completely agreed upon definition of "selling out", but the one that seems to hold the most usage is "compromising your integrity for monetary gain" (usually artistic integrity, although there are other situations in which the accusation is thrown about) and that there are degrees of selling out (From "Sure, I have to make a Silly Love Song to make the rent, but I'm going to make the best Silly Love Song I can" at the lower end to "What's popular right now? Let's put in the minimal effort to cash in on that." at the higher end).

See Money, Dear Boy for a cases of writers, performance and such admitting money is their main motivation and Only in It for the Money for characters.


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    Comic Books 
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi #2 (DC Comics) had "Puffy Ami Yumi Sell Out." With concert revenues on the decline, the girls agree with Kaz to have their names and likenesses appear on merchandise. It all goes well until they see their names and faces on bags of kitty litter. The girls get even—they have Kaz on rolls of "Shiny Heiney Toilet Paper."
  • In Scott Pilgrim, Ramona's second evil-ex, Lucas Lee, is a professional skateboarder turned actor and he is recurringly called a sell-out. This appears to be the main reason he's considered evil, but otherwise he seems nice. However, being called a sell-out is his Berserk Button. Though a little bit of it is hinted at when he says he'll spare Scott a fight if Scott gives him all his money. Scott calls him this and the fight resumes.

  • The Day of the Locust protagonist Tod Hackett is accused of selling out by his Yale School of Fine Arts classmates after accepting a job as set and production designer at a Hollywood studio, as they are convinced he will never paint again if he chooses to chase the almighty dollar instead. However, his interest in painting was fading in his last year at Yale, and moving to Hollywood actually recharges his creative batteries.

  • Take any artist or band who started out as an underground act and who suddenly change to a more consumer friendly sound, have a Black Sheep Hit, cash in on a trend or just reach a larger crowd than before. Without exception several old-time fans will accuse them of having "sold out".
  • John Lennon famously said about Elvis Presley: "He died when he went in the army." What Lennon meant with this was that after Elvis joined the army in 1958 his raw Rock & Roll sound was left in favor for more sappy pop tunes, increasingly embarrassing Hollywood musicals, eventually degrading into the blobby Las Vegas act he became by the end of the 1960s. Elvis tried to return to his roots with the excellent Elvis and From Elvis In Memphis, but these comebacks were brief.
  • Bob Dylan was accused of selling out when he abandoned his acoustic Folk Music sound and suddenly started playing the electric guitar.
  • The Who played with this trope on their album The Who Sell Out, where the cover and the songs imitate a commercial advertisement and a fake radio show.
  • Captain Beefheart alienated his Avant-garde Music fans by making two pathetic and desperate attempts at commercializing his sound: Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans And Moonbeams. It even failed to attract the mainstream crowd and he later regarded them as an Old Shame.
  • Sid Vicious started off as a cool audacious Punk Rock musician, but after Sex Pistols split he was promoted as the new marketable punk star. John Lydon felt his friend was being exploited into yet "another ridiculous rock star". It didn't help that Vicious was drunk and high most of the time and didn't care too much about his public image.
    • Ironically even John Lydon fell more into this trap from the 1990s on. He reunited the Sex Pistols in 1996, but wholeheartedly admitted it was pure for the money. Appearing as a TV presenter or an interviewee in a lot of shows and making commercials for butter in the 2000s didn't diminish these accusations either.
  • Kurt Cobain also lived in fear of being perceived as a sell-out. While he wanted to become successful the explosive popularity of Nevermind in the charts was not what he had in mind at all. Suddenly his music was played by the same kind of poseurs he hated. He tried to keep their sound as alienating as possible, even making In Utero purposefully dark and less slick.
  • Chumbawamba ingeniously subverted this trope not once, but twice. The first time, they signed with EMI and released an intentionally pop-oriented "Thumbthumper" (earning an One-Hit Wonder status with "Tubthumping" in the process and proudly lampshading it for the rest of their career) just to mess around with their new "fans" and completely piss off the label before inevitably getting kicked out. A couple of years later, GM gave Chumbawamba $10,000 for a Pontiac Vibe commercial. Chumbawamba turned that into a donation to Indymedia and CorpWatch who used the money to start an information and environmental campaign against GM.
  • As depicted in the documentary Dig!, Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre was violently opposed to "selling out." The fact that his friend Courtney Taylor-Taylor's band The Dandy Warhols achieved some measure of mainstream success drove a wedge between the two of them.
  • Tool's song "Hooker With A Penis" is about exactly this accusation. To quote from the chorus:
    I sold out long before you ever heard my name
    I sold my soul to make a record, Dip shit
    And you bought one
  • In the 2010s, with mainstream Pop music, and music labels, shifting more towards selling singles, having hits on sites like YouTube, & making returns on their investments, many artists and bands who played different kinds of music have decided to switch to more mainstream-friendly sounds and ways of producing their music. Bands accused of doing this, and may as well have for all we know given the evidence, are Fall Out Boy, Maroon 5, Paramore, All Time Low, Panic! at the Disco, many other former Pop Punk/Emo Pop bands, and bands from other genres who've drastically changed their sounds to mainly radio-friendly sounds that many of their older fans, or fans who get into them later than them who prefer their earlier stuff, don't like because it doesn't sound like the band they've grown to like and respect as musicians, especially when it makes their songs lyrically weaker as a result of most 2010s Pop music mainly favoring a style over substance approach rather than writing more meaningful songs like they have in the past, resulting in weaker content overall. Some of these bands have managed to adapt successfully (See Paramore), while others have made comebacks by ironing out the kinks, or taking steps back towards what they had which have allowed them to bounce back (See Weezer), or they've managed to enrage their fanbases if they haven't done either one of those (See Maroon 5).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This was the gimmick of The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase. "Everybody's got a price. Everyone's got to pay. Because the Million Dollar Man, always gets his what. Muhahahaha!" However, he could never buyout Hulk Hogan.
  • In 1997, Rob Van Dam showed up on Monday Night Raw, supposedly to promote an ECW Pay Per View, leading the rest of the ECW locker room to suspect he had really sold out to the WWF.
  • Mike Awesome was long called a sellout by the mutants for leaving ECW for WCW while he was still ECW's Heavyweight Champion.
  • Mick Foley got chants of "You sold out!" when he left ECW for The WWF.
    " I have a feeling that a year from now, I'm going to have to look in the mirror and admit in my heart that I sold out...I sold out the Garden, I sold out the Coliseum, I sold out every damn arena in this country!"
  • Stevie Ray felt that Booker T had become a sellout during their time in WCW. They both were in WCW, but Stevie Ray still found time to visit his friends from beforehand while Booker T had gotten into his head that he was too good for that now, or so Stevie Ray claimed. This lead to Booker T being kicked out of "Harlem Heat Inc".
  • The attitude era came to an end when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin sold out to Arch-Nemesis Vince McMahon.
  • Brock Lesnar was greeted with chants of "You Sold Out" at Wrestlemania XX for leaving WWE to go play football in the NFL. While its possible Brock could have made more money in the NFL, he was actually leaving for a smaller pay check.
  • Carly Colon was called a sellout in Puerto Rico, particularly in WWC where he worked, for signing a developmental deal with WWE. However, people quickly warmed up to the idea as he continued to show up in WWC even after he made it to WWE's active roster. His WWE persona eventually completely overwrote his original WWC one.
  • CM Punk berated Jimmy Rave for going against all his advice and selling out to Prince Nana in 2005.
  • CM Punk was accused of being a sellout when he won the Ring Of Honor World Title and announced his intentions to take it to WWE before signing his WWE contract on top of the belt.
  • In a Shocking Swerve, Samoa Joe sold out to the Main Event Mafia, who it turned out had just gotten Reality Show Survivor contestant Jenna Morasca on their side and used her winnings from the show to placate him. Morsca would also buyout Awesome Kong, though it would be short lived, as she thought she could get away with hitting Kong now that she was being paid.
  • Gail Kim was called a sellout off set by some in TNA for agreeing to resign with WWE. She was still presented in a respectable manner during the shows though.
  • Portia Perez called Serena Deeb a sellout after Deeb stopped wrestling for SHIMMER following OVW's replacement with FCW as WWE developmental. This was all out of Deeb's control of course and she returned to SHIMMER after WWE terminated her contract, but Perez still managed to turn a few others against Deeb.
  • Tyler Black/Seth Rollins sold out to Jim Jesus at the expense of his long time partner Marek Brave in All American Wrestling and was accused of being a sellout in Ring of Honor when he signed a deal with WWE, which prompted him to threaten to take the Ring Of Honor World Title with him. Once in WWE he would sellout to the authority at the expense of Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns and was again called out on it.
  • Nevaeh called Ashley Lane a traitor on the grounds she left ROH and SHIMMER to go wrestle for TNA.
  • Abyss was called a sellout after he joined up with the TNA World Champion Magnus, the figurehead of the Carter's "Dixie Land" stable.
  • Kane, in something of a Shocking Swerve, sold out to The Authority because he thought ruining people's lives was ultimately best for business. (It makes as much sense as anything else he does except for the fact he was in an unresolved feud with The Wyatt Family and just cut it short to go pal with Stephanie McMahon)
  • Rhyno has sold out fellow ECW Alumni to the bad bosses of TNA twice. The first time he even admitted it, the second time he claimed to have other reasons but Ethan Carter the third cut all pretenses and told Tommy Dreamer and Team 3D he was paying Rhino.
  • Jimmy Jacobs, Roderick Strong and BJ Whitmer developing this opinion towards everyone who was celebrated as they left Ring Of Honor for a larger company lead to the foundation of Decade. Targets include The American Wolves, The Addiction and AJ Styles.
  • MVP was greeted by chants of "You Sold Out" after he revealed he was going to use his position as TNA's Director Of Wrestling Operations to give himself a shot for TNA's World Heavyweight Title. He answered the chants in a manner similar to Mick Foley, except MVP claimed he had already sold out arenas all over the world, including the one he was currently in.
  • Tommy Dreamer called Kenny King a sellout for being billed from Las Vegas Nevada when he's really from Queens New York.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Patton Oswalt had a routine about becoming a sell-out on his album Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time. Patton describes how he used to think that "selling out" was something you only ever had to decide once, but he changed his mind as he got further in his career. The turning point was when he was invited to perform at a casino for a "sacrilegious" amount of money, and he accepted, only for the crowd he was performing for to be so drunk that they just shouted Patton's career at him, without Patton getting the chance to tell a single joke. After the set, the casino offered him the chance to do it every weekend, so the temptation to become a "corporate whore" for them is always there.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In The Last Temptation Of Krust Krusty reinvents himself as an anti-establishment stand-up comedian. While being applauded at first, Krusty eventually is offered a lot of cash for endorsing the product "Canyonero" during his stage shows. As the shows become blatant Product Placement Krusty is accused of being a sell-out, but he gladly gives up his former ideals to get back on top in show business.
  • In the South Park episode "Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls", Stan accuses Cartman of being this when he sells Mr Hankey's current dilemma to a movie producer. Neither of them actually know what a sell out is, except "if you work in the entertainment business and make money" you're one. Cartman decides he likes it anyway.