"LINKIN PARK HAS SOLD OUT!!!"
If you've been reading through the forums on this site concerning "A Thousand Suns", then the above quote should be quite familiar to you. Ask some on this site what they think of a hard-rock band embracing softer genres of music and what you usually get is commentary revolving around "They sold out to the mainstream". This is the attitude which results from an ill-formed perception of music. The attitude that turns most artists into what I call 'music retailing companies''', something I will address later.
For those unacquainted with the basics of artistic endeavor (and some exist here), art has different sub-forms of which music is one. Music is really a form of expression and communication. A message. Some which people may or may not like. It is a sort of sonic illustration of a picture the artist has in his/her head.
"WE GET THEM WHERE THEY ARE ONLY FOR THEM TO CHANGE GENRE AND ABANDON US."
Another familiar utterance is one which is derived from a "self-proclaimed dictator" stance which some fans hold toward a band. It sends a simple message: "I liked your first CD and supported it/you, so in order to keep my support, you must tailor your 'art' to suit what I want to hear.". In other words, the only real work of art was the first album. Whatever they did in it must from then on exert a sort of gravitational pull around the music. Subsequent music must come not from the artist's heart but must be built around what the fans expect to keep hearing from them, a bribe to keep them from backing away.
I once read an interview with a musician. When asked why he wrote music the way he did, he responded with: "I'd prefer to do something else, but it might not sell because people are not used to that kind of thing. So I just decided to make what is popular so they could buy my music.". Making music basically out of necessity. The music is now a simply just a tool to keep the popularity level in check. This is the perfect 'sell-out' scenario. How ironic that artists that represent themselves rather than the demands of the market are now branded using this outrageous term.
In reference to the title of this post, musicians who sell-out to the demands and expectations of fans and the market are retailing music out for popularity and monetary gain, as opposed to making honest art which comes from their heart. If anyone wanted Linkin Park to conform to this aspect of the music industry's status quo in order to keep their support, then they have some serious re-prioritizing to do.
I'm late but I'd like to comment on your post. I've been wondering myself about that abandoned feelings some fans expressed.
The relation between a popular band and their fans is highly psychological and the band influence is an impressive sociological phenomenon of the modern world. When the fan relates strongly to the band, through the lyrics, believing he and the band share the same experiences, the same taste for music, the same beliefs, he feels like he has a personal relationship with the band members. Most human beings have an innate need for identification, for leadership and models, the band offers that to the masses (even if that influence is denied in "When they come for me", it's there and goes in pair with the popularity). The fan looks up to the band and integrate the words. This occurence might be even stronger for bands like LP, where the lyrics express pain, abuse, and encourages to stand up in a situation of personal oppression. Because of the type of people the lyrics and music style appeal to, LP fans might be more of the fragile, rebellious sort.
So the fan wants to be rewarded for the conditional love (we do spend money on the object of our passion) and the loyalty he/she feels toward the band.
The other reason I see in the negative attitude and the controversy towards the new album is that people don't like change in general. From the side of the band, a change like that takes a great deal of courage, because there's always a risk involved, to make the wrong decision, to lose the gained assets (or the fan base). LP surely assessed the risks and dared changing to remain true to themselves and follow their own personal evolution. Their musical evolution fits perfectly with the natural evolution of an adult. First you fight the demons of the past, you deal with them and you grow into something bigger. It all makes perfect sense, to adults the same age. It's difficult to ingest for younger adults and teenagers who still have this ahead.
As for the mere pecuniary interest that drives some musicians or their producers, while doing something they don't like, I agree, creativity is not the foundation. What's the difference between those guys and a regular 8-5 employee. I saw a video of LP brainstorming about deadlines and the new product,etc. It could have almost been any corporate meeting. LP is also a company but it is made of real artists. They re-invent themselves, experiment, innovate, and enjoy it. They're honest about what they do. I'm pretty convinced about their honesty, about Mike Shinoda's honesty too. If he were aloof and supercilious, he would not talk to the fans like he was the next door neighbour. I find it so cool.
anyway, when I see negative comments about LP, and the beautiful ATS album, I go friggin berserk.