Lately I’ve been having several conversations about the topic of selling out with various people in my network. This naturally got me thinking (as great discussions often do), is money a mandatory component when we reference so-and-so just sold out?
Before tackling the debate, I turned to my favorite Internet resource: Wikipedia.
“Selling out” is the compromising of (or the perception of compromising) integrity, morality, or principles in exchange for money or “success” (however defined).
For me, the most interesting word in the definition is “perception.” That’s where things get a little fuzzy, our perceptions of just about everything in the world are skewed based on our personal experiences and context that surrounds them, and like a snowflake, no two are every the same.
As a food blogger with The Hungry Dudes, we’re constantly looking at what others in the industry are doing from blogging to video to monetizing their business. One of the most popular, as well as one of the most controversial, foodie YouTube sensations is Epic Meal Time. What do they stand for? Their About Us page only has one sentence: “We make your dreams come true, and then we eat them.” They’re known for Bacon Strips and astronomical calorie-laden creations that are videotaped and shared with a huge fan base (most videos have several million views).
Today, the same group that started with nothing is getting paid quite handsomely from YouTube and other sponsors because they draw eyeballs, lots of them. Do you think there was a contingent of jealous people calling them sell-outs when they were able to monetize their vision? You bet. That comes with the territory whether you’re a local musical artist or small timer who strikes it rich. That brings us back to the question at hand, namely, does money have to be part of the equation?
We all know the professional who went from entrepreneur to full time employee overnight. There could be a myriad of reasons why someone makes this move, yet one of the first things you’ll hear is, “they sold out to the man,” or something akin to that sentiment. It’s possible that they could actually make less money accepting the full time gig but the security or opportunity was too good to pass up. Our “perception” may be that they failed as an entrepreneur and took the job because of guaranteed money. For some reason our perception is that more money equals less integrity within the given arena. Whether this is true has yet to be seen, but perception is reality.
Is it possible that the term, “selling out” is nothing more than jealousy? More importantly, is it better to struggle and stick to your virtues or cash-in when the opportunity arises? Today cashing-in might not equal dollars; it might be fame or celebrity that results from your actions. If money is not involved, are we less critical of those who went from obscurity to notoriety?
This is seen repeatedly in the music industry. When a band is lesser known among the masses, but popular among those “in the know” they have a certain appeal. The musicians seem special or avant-garde to some extent. They are higher ranked among those educated in their verse. The exact moment they sign to a major label and/or become part of the radio vernacular they are black listed as sell-outs. Shouldn’t we be happy for them? More people will be able to hear their music and presumable they will be better rewarded for their efforts.
Why is this question important ?
Whether you’re a solo practitioner or part of a group, there may come a time when you have to make tough decisions. Will you allow advertisement on your website, accept sponsorship inquires, strike a deal with the devil because of a big pay day or do nothing of the sort? Will your “perceived” compromises hurt your brand or create a backlash from your loyal fans? These are all factors when determining which direction you want to take your business.
What’s your take on the topic and have you ever been in a situation where this tough decision was required? It’s not always all about the Benjamin’s, but cash is king and we all need to focus on the bottom line (multiple clichés intended). As the photo states, is selling out the new keeping it real?