Volbeat just got a Gold Certification for digital sales from the RIAA in relation to their song “A Warriors Call” from the album “Beyond Heaven, Above Hell” released in 2010. So what does this tell us about the state of the metal/rock world in 2014 when it comes to sales.
Recognition Comes Much Later
Recognition and success come much later in the current world. In Volbeat’s case their entry in the mainstream American market was about ten years after they formed. This is extraordinary when you consider that they were very popular in parts of Europe before that. Overall, Volbeat’s first gold certification in the US has been 20 years in the making. The hardest thing today is to make a new fan or to get people to check you out. So anywhere music can be played, your stuff should be there. Volbeat do just that. On Spotify “A Warriors Call” is at 9,630,292 streams. On their YouTube account, the same song has 6,506,260 views.
If you create something that is good you will not be complaining about your income. Write a hit (and when I say hit, I don’t mean number 1 on the charts. I mean, a song that connects with a lot of listeners), you’ll make money in ways you never thought of, and you can sell your rights to the corporations you complain about, license it to every company or TV show or movie. But that means you need to create constantly as you don’t know what could connect with an audience. But that’s much harder to do than complain.
“A Warriors Call” was never a chart hit, however it connected with listeners.
The Bell Curve Is Prominent
With each metal/rock band there is a hardcore fan base that will try the band out straight away. These early fans make up 13% of the total future fan base and they are the ones that believe in the band and its music. Then within time there is a large 34% group called the early majority. These are the fans that will not try something, until somebody else tries it first and recommends it. Then there is another 34% group called the late majority. These fans adopt the band only after they see a clear majority of metal heads fully assimilating the band as a part of their daily life.
Metallica is a perfect example of the Bell Curve in action. From 1981 to 1983 they had a fan base based on early adopters. From 1984 to 1988, the fan base grew to include the early adopters and the early majority. After the explosion of the self-titled Black album that fan base grew even more as the late adopters and any laggards came to the party.
Volbeat is another perfect example. From 2000 to 2006 it was the early adopters. Then between 2007 and 2010 it was the early majority. During this period they also supported Metallica on the North American leg of Metallica’s World Magnetic Tour. And then from 2010 to know, we have the late majority all jumping into bed with Volbeat.
The internet is another perfect example. In the mid-1990s it was first used only by people who had access to and were familiar with personal computers. By the 2000s, the early majority started using it and a lot more development started taking place around communications, banking and financial services, and mass media (music, movies, books, journalism, newspapers, and television). Over the last five years, the late majority, previously unfamiliar with computers and the internet, have adopted computer skills after realizing the technology’s impact on society at large.
The core audience plus the early hardcore fans want it, but the public at large want the hits. Most people are casual listeners who don’t always go deep into every act they like. However if they want to go deep into an artist’s catalogue they will go onto Spotify. You can amass an albums worth of songs on Spotify and never actually release an album. That’s the new game.
Labels want albums because that is the best way to monetise for them. It is easier to charge money when there is a bundle of songs involved. Artists want albums, because they grew up on them and they want to be like their heroes and make a statement. However the album means nothing to the listener who has a music collection all on an iPod. Fans always wanted access and the internet era has provided that. And then there is the hardcore element that wants a little bit more like the the alternate cuts, demos, unreleased tracks and so forth.
Also remember this. The multi-Platinum “Stay Hungry” was a tight, nine-song, 37-minute set. “Blizzard Of Ozz” was 39 minutes long. Slippery When Wet was 46 minutes long. “Ride The Lightning” was 47 minutes long. All of them were classic albums that broke the bands involved to a larger audience.
What are these numbers trying to say?
You don’t need 80 minutes worth of new music to be released on one slab at one time to connect with fans. People don’t have spare hours anymore. They have spare minutes.
Streaming Is Not The Enemy
Streaming revenues will go up and you will get well paid eventually. But you need to utilize your recordings and mobilise your fan base to start streaming. If you still focus on the album sales, you will be destined for the scrapheap. So don’t keep your music off streaming services. Seriously what is the point in preventing people from streaming your music so that you can sell an extra 10,000 albums.
What advantage does AC/DC have by not being on Spotify?
What did Jimmy Buffett achieve by standing up in all his glory and asking Daniel Ek for a raise?
Are still clueless. Volbeat finally got a major label behind them in Universal for their latest release. The majors have no idea what connects. That is why they look to the independents or their off-shoot labels. In this case, thank god that Rebel Monster Records, which is an offshoot of Mascot Records showed interest.
Artists still want the label to make them famous as the labels have the marketing power and the relationships in place. So don’t bitch that you’re not getting paid by streaming services when in fact the record label is absorbing these payments and then drip feeding you the change.