People like to throw terms around and require very simple definitions to use them correctly.
One term that shows up in metal is “selling out,” or changing your music in such a way that you know it will appeal to a broader audience, which by definition has a lowest common denominator taste that is of a very simplistic nature. First, the more people you get involved, the lower the lowest common denominator is, because individuals are so different that you have to really stretch to find something in common; second, when you include the vast masses of asses, you get idiocy because most of them like pre-chewed music and stupid, sentimental memes.
But there’s another form of selling out, which is preaching to the choir. Since dear readers you require very simple definitions, I’m not going to group it under selling out as I have in the past, but instead will give it its own name: selling in. Selling in happens when you change your music to appeal to a captive audience by hitting all the things they love. While selling out happens when bands add groove, dumbed-down riffs, ballads, etc. to make their music more like the majority rock ‘n’ roll, selling in occurs when bands deliberately play up their metal-ness, and make the music more abrasive and less populist so that they can please the metal audience.
A band that mixes country music and hip-hop into its heavy metal and then tells you that its newest album is “unique” and is for “open-minded headbangers only” is speaking in code. They’re selling out. Translation: we added more of what makes other albums succeed with a wide audience, because we want money. So have this simplified dishonest crap that panders to you so you can buy it and we can retire.
A band that suddenly starts wearing bullet belts, xeroxing their black and white covers, and singing adoringly of Satan and suicide while proclaiming “allegiance to true metal” or the “the true kvlt spirit” is speaking in code. All retro bands and ultra-elite occult weirdness fits under this banner. They’re selling in. Translation: we know that all of you who like metal tend to like these surface attributes, so we’ve prepared a hollow course that contains these surface elements so that the broadest segment of this captive audience, being clueless and probably congenitally dumb, will buy it. So have this simplified dishonest crap that panders to you so you can buy it and we can retire.
Selling in really is a subset of selling out. In each case, you know what the audience likes and so you deliver a surface treatment of those techniques, as if selling music by the pound. Gone is the ambiguity, the challenge, the journey between point A and point B that we’re not sure we’ll survive, in which we learn and change inside as we adapt to what we’ve learned. Instead you get music where the starting point equals the ending point. It’s like a television commercial, telling you what you already know so you feel comfortable around it and might buy the product. Needless to say, sold in music is just as bad as sold out music in end result: vapid, depthless, pandering sonic mulch.