The term "sell-out" has always been a dirty word, which must be why painter Steve Worstofall loves it so much. And he's not alone, there are countless people that wish they could sell-out, but sadly, most will never get the opportunity. Unless you have already dedicated your life to something as un-lucrative as painting, writing, music, comedy or sports you will never get the chance to be called a sell-out; sorry. Only by pursuing something that has almost no chance of earning you a living will you even ever have a chance at selling-out.
Also, you can't become a sell-out all on your own. First, you need to be talented and lucky enough to achieve a level of popularity and wealth above your peers. Once you have attained a high level of success in your field, you have only just become eligible to be a sellout. Finally you need the insight of critics, bloggers and members of the general public questioning your integrity as a correlation to your success. Its lonely at the top but The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Lebron James, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol will keep you company.
There are many scenarios that can be labeled selling-out, including: an indie band signing with a major label, a pro athlete leaving a small market team to chase a title, or an artist making commercial work. While there is no Webster's definition, calling someone a "sell-out" in a derogatory way implies that their integrity has been compromised to get where they are.
When confronted with the accusation of selling out in 2001, Mike Dirnt of Green Day said:
"If there's a formula to selling out, I think every band in the world would be doing it", he said. "The fact that you write good songs and you sell too many of them, if everybody in the world knew how to do that they'd do it. It's not something we chose to do ...Selling out is compromising your musical intention and I don't even know how to do that."
Deciding to live off your work is another step towards selling-out. Only those who are fully committed to their art get the chance to make it all the way to sell-out; you're not going to find any half-timers or hobbyists in the hall of fame or a museum. Van Gogh, often romanticized as having never sold a painting, actually aspired to be a "successful" artist more than most, having decided to pursue art later in life with the goal of becoming famous. Where does art for art's sake even exist in the world? Church? Islands? If "selling-out" is compromising your integrity to become wildly popular and successful by dedicating your life to your greatest passion, then that is one dirty word we like.