September 7th, 2010

The Metal Machine

I wish that IHT still had a website so I could link to this article, but you'll have to take my word that it exists.

It seems they decided to investigate a phenomenon I noticed last week and couldn't figure out.

The phenomenon? That Iron Maiden's newest record is #1 on the European charts and #4 on the US charts.

How is that fucking possible, I asked myself.

So did they and they found out some interesting things.

Metal, in general, has made much, much more money selling albums and on tour in the last two to three years than any other genre (Lady Ga Ga being the exception that proves the rule.)

Why?

It turns out that, for the most part, heavy metal fans don't like to pirate albums. They like to buy them, because they like the artwork, the booklets that come with them and they like to be able to show the CD package off to their friends.

Part of this is that they feel a much deeper connection to the artists than fans of other types of popular music. But most of it is just that they see more value in having the actual CD than other music fans do.

The second thing they discovered is why metal bands are making a shit ton of money while other popular groups have been struggling.

The reason is that the record industry accidentally prepared them for the current marketplace.

You see, for decades the way the music industry worked was they got your single on the radio and people bought your albums and that drove the cash cow.

But, now in the days of music pirating, the way bands make money is through touring and merchandise.

And.... it's always been that way for metal bands, because their songs never got very much radio airplay so for 30 years their entire business model has been based on tours and merch, which means they've gotten very, very good at it. (This probably explains why metal bands ALWAYS have the best T-shirts.)

Therefore their managers have always set up contracts that downplay their income from record sales and the fees radio stations pay to play your songs and focus on touring and merch income.

The bottom line: Music piracy. Shitty for most artists, but something that the metal gods could give a shit about.

UPDATE: Found the link on the New York Times site.