[Editorial] Why There Most Likely Will Never Be Another “Metallica” Level Band

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Let me make things clear right now: This isn’t an article about Metallica. Rather, I use their popularity and influence as the foundation for the very simple statement that there will most likely never be a band that reaches their level ever again. I just can’t see it happening in today’s day and age, not with how band’s showcase their presence and not with how the audience of today functions.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love nothing more than to see a metal band emerge that writes killer material, mobilizes a rabid following, and, over time, becomes an entity that grows to a larger-than-life status. Such bands are few and far between and the problem is that they are becoming rarer and rarer with each passing day. The days of huge, lasting influential bands may very well be at an end.

Let’s open up with what has changed for bands, shall we?

Mystery:
One of the things that many of the great heavy metal bands had that is completely lost today is mystery. Bands would release albums and the only real insight into their lives and/or passions were the pictures of them in a CD booklet and the interviews that you stumbled upon in a magazine. It felt special knowing some little detail that you could tell all your friends about.

What was so special about that mystery? What made it so important? It’s simple: It made these musicians not human. They became otherworldly entities that crafted fantastic songs that thrilled us, moved us, shaped us. Their mystery was almost along the lines of a supernatural phenomenon. We saw them in concerts and almost committed idolatry with our fanaticism.

Alas, that time is gone. Every interview is available online. Pictures of band members going out shopping can be found in a simple Google image search. The shroud of mystery and the veil of suspense is gone. Keep me in the dark and I’m much more intrigued and likely to pay attention to you.

This is due to something else that changed for bands over the past decade:

Social Media:
A blessing and a curse for bands, social media has redefined the music industry. No longer is it enough to play a bunch of shows (garnering a strong fanbase) and have a solid EP (showing that you are studio material and not just a live act). Nope, nowadays, you need to be committed to your YouTube channel, your Twitter feed, your Facebook audience, etc… Hell, if you can answer a ton of questions via Formspring, that’s another drop in the bucket.

So what does that mean for bands? It means that it is more time that they are investing into social media that they could be investing into songwriting, recording, touring, and more. Many of you might say that hitting up a social network with an update takes only a few seconds. Yes, you are correct. Except when certain things are promoted only via socials, things that can take a lot of time, like studio videos and updates, contests, Twitter interviews, Facebook commenting, and more. To make a much more simple retort, I ask doubtful readers, “How much time do YOU spend on your social media platforms?”

So what other effect does all of this social media have upon bands? To connect it with a previous point, it removes the mystery. “Hey, did you see that [INSERT ARTIST HERE] had a burger for lunch and Instagrammed it? He’s just like us!”

It’s almost getting to a point where I ask, “Why even see you in concert? You post live videos. You upload videos of you interacting with fans, so I know what it’s like to meet you. You answer every question I have in ubiquitous interviews as well as on your own socials.

What is there left for me? What is something that I can personally take as my own?”

If a band really wants to use social media to bring back mystery, get a bit creative and make us fans do a bit of thinking, perhaps even a bit of digging. Show us a picture of a guitar. Post a lyric from an upcoming song. Take a screencap from an upcoming video that doesn’t give away too much but leaves us clamoring for more.

We are your fans. Let us enjoy our passion without you spoon-feeding us every step of the way.

But it’s not all on the band, now is it? I’d be completely remiss were I not to talk a bit about the audience/fans and how they are impeding bands from achieving larger-than-life status.

Piracy:
I had to go here and you know it. Over the past 15 years, music piracy has dramatically changed what it means for a band and their margins of profit. It’s not that bands make a great deal from record sales, because that’s simply not true. However, there is a chain reaction of events that occurs that decreases profits.

You see, if 100,000 people pirate an album, that’s a lot of money that the record label doesn’t recoup (there’s a good bit of investment). That means the labels has less faith investing into a band for a follow-up album because the return isn’t as certain. Ergo, no new album.

Also, that money doesn’t just go to a band. It goes to record label employees who work their asses off to try and help bands, be it through merchandise design, PR and marketing relations, etc…

Then the management and publicity companies that bands utilize to spread their music and name to new audiences can’t get paid, meaning they can’t do their job.

This is only a very simply and basic cause-and-effect run. Trust me when I say that the amount of people involved is vast and that every penny does in fact count, especially when it comes to the smaller labels that strive every day to bring you, the fans, what you love.

Streaming:
This is somewhat related to piracy. When a fan listens to music via YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, etc…, usually they are doing it for free or for a pretty low monthly cost. However, try and take into account the price you pay versus the amount of music you listen to. If you pay $9.99 a month but listen to 40 albums worth of music per month, can you honestly tell me that you believe bands are getting their fair cut from streaming services? It’s simply impossible.

On top of that, people upload songs onto YouTube to create basic, often mistake-filled lyric videos. Many of these videos can get tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of views. The thing is, these views are not reflected in the records of the band as accolades. And what money would’ve been made from ads is lost. If you need to look up the lyrics so much, why not load up a lyric page and read them? I’m almost positive that you can read through lyrics faster than it takes for a song to play.

Bands, it would also behoove you to add the lyrics to your songs onto your website so that people would go to your site and see all the other fabulous resources you have available. Don’t think you are guilt-free in this issue.

Impatience:
This is where I’m really gonna stick it to the fans. Please, stop asking for more, more, more. Art is something you cannot rush. Art is an extension of emotion and feeling, not something that can be systematically and coldly churned out based upon popular demand. If your favorite band writes music that moves you, it’s because they’ve experienced the same pains and joys that you have (generally speaking, of course).

When you, the fan, start making demands, you are pushing a band to create when they might not be ready. All that this will do is result in an inferior product, one that won’t touch your soul the way you hope.

We have the very world at our fingertips these days. Haven’t heard a song in ages and can’t remember the name? Look up that one lyric you remember and you’ve got it. Then, just go to YouTube and you can play it. Look up the band on Wikipedia and you’ve got their entire history. Oh, there’s a side project from the singer? Let’s stream that. Love it. Who are the other members? Wiki it. Find a new band to check out. Stream it. Decide you don’t like it. Go back to side project. Check out other songs. Still love it. Torrent it. Add to MP3 player.

Total time elapsed? Fifteen minutes.

Gone are the days when we really pride what we buy. We pay $1 for a song instead of buying a whole album and devoting time and excitement to hearing it. We listen to compressed music with crappy headphones (Beats by Dre are included in that category, I assure you) on low audio quality MP3 players and expect gold. No wonder music is compressed and EQ-ed to all holy hell. The hardware that we use to enjoy music has changed and therefore the quality of music has changed along with it.

Conclusion:
Due to many, many factors, both fans and the bands themselves are holding back the possibility of a next Metallica, Slayer, or Megadeth. We as fans cannot simply continue on the path we are on if we want to see the success of our favorite artists. We have to make sacrifices so that the end result tastes all the sweeter to us. We can have our cake and eat it too but only if we develop patience and appreciation for what we are receiving.

And bands? Help us alter our paths. Don’t cater to our needs but rather cater to your own. If you need to completely expose some parts of the music industry mystery so that our eyes are opened, then do it. Educate us so that we are more aware and cognizant of our actions.

Got any thoughts/questions/concerns for Jonathan Barkan? Shoot him a message on Twitter or on Bloody-Disgusting!

  • Lauren Rae

    Not that I didn’t expect to see the piracy issue brought up in this, but it’s interesting timing. Just a month ago, one of the guys from Like A Storm brought that up on his FB page, kind of echoing your thoughts – but obviously from a much different and entirely more personal standpoint. And the issue launched a HUGE debate in the comments thread following it.

  • Lauren Rae

    Actually, more like a month and a half ago. Mid-February, I think.

  • grayghost

    I believe the only reason Metallica got as big as they did is they sold out to the masses. Once they started making all the videos for The Black album they got a more main stream audience. The metallica before the Black Album would have never been that big. So for a “metal” band to ever be on “metallica level” cut your hair make silly videos and don’t be true to what gave you successes in the first place.

    • VampireJack

      With this whole “sold out to the masses” thing I have to respectfully disagree.
      I’m of the age that I remember Metallica before the Black Album.
      I actually bought Master Of Puppets on release day! I’m so frickin’ old! :)

      My memories of the time, in regards to metal, was that people were sick and tired of all the pop crap and “if more people listened to metal man, Metallica or Megadeth, it would be sweet!”
      When the Black Album came out it was greeted in the metal community, not as a “sell out” album initially, but a high point of Metallica’s career.
      Strange that the same fans who loved the album originally suddenly decided it was a sell-out when it sold 5,6,7 million copies. It was the same damn album!
      Metallica had been called sell outs since KILL EM AL. Damn, they slowed some of the songs down a bit for that album SELL OUTS!
      RIDE THE LIGHTNING had Fade To Black, a “soft” song – SELL OUTS!
      MASTER OF PUPPETS also had a softer, balladic style song – SELL OUTS!
      AND JUSTICE FOR ALL had a music video – SELL OUTS!

      It’s funny that as metal fans we WANT more people to like OUR music, but when they do? Well, obviously the band has sold out!

      Metallica is a band that cannot win.

      Load/Reload – shite, in my opinion. Accused of selling out because they are overproduced.
      Then they released St Anger, which is “underproduced, raw) and they’ve “sold out” because there aren’t any solo’s and it’s a “nu metal” album. It isn’t.
      Then they release Death Magnetic, which is closer to old skool Metallica – and they’ve “sold out” because it sounds like their old stuff.

      Look, a band like Motorhead has been recording the same album for 30 years – and if their next album sold 15 million copies they would be accused of it too. Whether they had or not.

    • JonathanBarkan

      Instead of leaving a full comment, I’ll just redirect you to this article I wrote last year: http://bloody-disgusting.com/news/205989/original-metallica-and-the-case-of-the-entitled-fans/
      I’m not trying to be a dick, I just don’t want to type it all out again, haha!

      • grayghost

        I stopped reading that article when I realized it was for “entitled fans” of Metallica. I’m not a fan of the band at all, I’m a fan of an album. I believe “…and justice for all” is an amazing album, I think what i was trying to say in my comment was the band started making “radio friendly” music.
        @VampireJack dude you threw the word “sell out” a lot in your comment but I’m not really sure your examples are exactly “sell outs”.

        • JonathanBarkan

          I don’t think that type of metal was ever “radio friendly”. What was popular at that time was grunge and the tail end of hair metal, neither of which songs from The Black Album fell under.

    • STRIK9

      The black album has some heavy shit on there guy.’Sad but true’ is one of THE heaviest riffs ever written and grooves like a muthafucker.’Holier than thou’ ‘struggle within’ ‘through the never’ are all heavy as hell. Yeah there was some lighter shit on there but who cares? They wrote the book on metal after Sabbath and Priest so they could do what they wanted.

  • ktn

    If Necrophagist had a fanbase huge as Metallica’s fanbase, besides the PIRACY topic this article would be useless.
    Necrophagist(at least recently) is soooooo mysterious, you cant even tell if the band is over or not, or if there will be a new album or at least one more(studio recorded) song.
    All this internet media thing doesn’t help much, there’s not even one “real” pro-shot or at least a quality fan-recorded live video of anything new.
    No actual news,(if you do a deeeeep search, you may find something, but nothing huge or/and reliable).
    And the BOSS of the band at this point is untouchable as the Bigfoot(LOL), there´s almost no photos, no interviews, just some members(ex-members?) contact him with very little frequency, and others members cannot reach him.
    Also, the guy is so f#cking awesome, so SUPERB in what he does (principally at the guitar) that he kind of reached a GOD status, like Jari from Wintersun(wich is not mysterious anymore, now that they released a new album after 8 years, but i’m very glad for that).

    pardon for my english, not my first language.

    • JonathanBarkan

      Necrophagist, along with Ghost B.C., are groups that are trying to avoid the current state of social media. However, they are the minority in the vast amount of groups out there. It’s hard to use their case as an argument against this article simply because not enough bands are following that trend.

      • ktn

        Well, i was kinda joking about the article being useless because of necrophagist, but it seems that i have failed at that and it sounded a bit serious, LOL.
        And i know there’s a LOT of great bands out there, but from this ‘vast amount’ of metal bands, i think originality is something rare, there’s lots of bands like obscura, very good bands, but sounds too much like necrophagist, or bands in others metal styles that sounds too much like the “big ones”. In the case of Ghost B.C, i cant tell because i never listened to.
        That’s why i appreciate groups like The Faceless, at least in the first two albuns(specially Planetary Duality), they didn’t sound like other millions of tech death, or Wintersun, wich is very different from most of melodic metal, folk metal, or any metal style attached to Wintersun’s large mix of styles.
        But its a shame all the most original and great bands of 90′s-2000′s(like death, maybe opeth, but i have to listen more to them) will probably NEVER reach that “METALLICA” level(of recognition), and one of the reasons is DWELLING in the past, most of people i know, who listen rock-metal, only care for classic bands, and prefer listen to shitty new albums(not saying that all albums are) from classic bands over great albums from new(and almost underground) bands.
        Also they all want classic group who are aparted/ended to reunite again, even if they suck now, instead of suport new bands. Unfortunately people who do the exact opposite of this are the minority.

  • Skullbone

    I think one factor you left out also is the fact there are so MANY bands and the fact it is a lot easier to form bands now. So the the fan bases get strung out over 100′s of bands in today’s time compared to say only a handful of well known acts from the 80′s.

    • JonathanBarkan

      My initial response to that is that people have a much easier way of cataloging their music and tastes. Whereas in the 80′s there was no way to have all of your music with you, now you can carry thousands of bands and tens of thousands of songs in a product the size of a wallet (and most likely smaller). Therefore, the fan base isn’t so much strung out as it is capable of accepting and lauding a great deal more.

      • Skullbone

        My counter point to you good viewpoint is that even though they can catalog things much easier due to tech and also have it with you they still have thousands of bands to which they can’t devout all their attention to like they could say in the 80′s. Like you mentioned in the article where a kid would have an album and have the pics, artwork and lyrics they could sit and spend hours looking over to have their imagination captured by the band today there are too many bands a kid can’t to that or even have the physical stuff like the albums to do so. So while they have the music at their fingertips there is still so much off it they can’t or won’t sit there and spend the same amount of attention to them as if there were fewer bands for them to research.

        • JonathanBarkan

          But taking it with them allows them mobility, which was much harder to attain back in the ’80′s. That allows them to enjoy the music more frequently, thus devoting a great deal of time to it. And, even though I kinda hate this, lyrics, artwork, and the such can be found with those same devices within seconds.

    • ktn

      WELL POINTED.
      Imagine that: some teenage(or more old people, wathever, but teenages are more commom), who is starting to listen rock/metal, will look on the internet for music, and there’s soooooo many choices that he/she will only met BIG, MAINSTREAM bands, unless they do a deep search(wich they almost never do, but i am 17 and even if search and listen to some obscure bands i still dont know 1/10 of the bands i should know).

  • STRIK9

    There are no new bands as big or as influential as Metallica because kids playing and learning metal/hard rock have now forgot the roots of this music. They just imitate what they hear and leave no room for originality.There will NEVER be another band as influential and important to music as Metallica. The first FIVE Metallica albums are groundbreaking and classic. No other band in metal had that many killer albums in a row. No other band could accomplish the same kinda legacy/influence they have had. Yeah, they are slowin down now, so what? They are almost near 50! Fans should feel blessed that this band still takes the time to record new music and still tours relentlessly. Yeah,they have wrote some lame songs since then here and there but I will still take the worst shit they’ve written over all these new American hardcore/metalcore dime a dozen bands.

    • ktn

      a bit hyperbolic, dont you think?
      there IS bands from the very last decades who are influental, grounbreaking, and have a very strong discography, DEATH is almost an exemple, this band actually “started” on the 90′s, and they released ITP, SYMBOLIC and SOUND OF PERSEVERANCE on the last years of their existence, and if you count SPIRITUAL HEALING and HUMAN, which is not as great as the last album you have a band who started well, and then evolved(SPIRITUAL HEALING), and THEN released that 3 mothafckin albums. It’s a shame the band is over, if not, they would probably be the most known band who is actually entirely great(unlike AVENGED).
      But i know some bands of this century who are at the second or third album yet, and i hope “WHEN THE TIME GOT BY”, these bands will be BIG and WELL KNOWN as the new bands who are mainstream(and not so great) will vanish.

    • Skullbone

      Well Metallica, in my opinion, are still just living off the success of the Black Album. Their albums from before that are very influential within the thrash genre itself but before the Black album how far was their sphere of influence within the music world as a whole and who do they influence now per se? I still see bands citing Iron Maiden influencing them more today more than I see Metallica being cited.

      • STRIK9

        Are you insane lol? Their influence was highly heard throughout the states and Europe considering how many bands bit their style and sound and still do. Nobody is citing Maiden as a bigger band or influence than metallica. Maiden never had their ‘puppets’ or ‘lightning’ or a black album and they fell off after ‘powerslave’. I see kids 15 yrs old at the mall and at shows wearing Metallica shirts.

        • Skullbone

          I’m saying if it wasn’t for the Black Album Metallica would be no where near where they are today and they are still riding those coat tails. And for you to say bands aren’t citing Maiden as an bigger influence to this day than Metallica you may be the one that might be insane. Maiden’s influence is huge and still is huge to this day.

  • HorrorFromDownUnder

    I prefer Iron Maiden to Metallica. Maiden have always been down to earth and always stayed true to their fans. Plus Nicko is a real character!

  • HorrorFromDownUnder

    PS. RIP Clive Burr.

  • viking1983

    there was a band that came after metallica that were rising above but due to unfortunate events they never could continue and thats pantera