Back in the past there used to be about a thousand metal and rock releases a year and from those releases only a few got traction and if an artist didn’t get traction or press they were doomed. Now there are thousands upon thousands of metal and rock releases. And they are all online and unless someone that we trust verifies their quality or a track becomes a viral phenomenon, we don’t care and suddenly most people don’t care, and then that album that the artist worked on for two years is gone.
The sales model is dead. No artist-album released in 2014 has gone platinum in the major U.S market. Sure, bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch and Volbeat are pushing close to the GOLD mark however their albums came out in 2013. And yes Metallica’s self-titled album is pushing closer to 20 million in sales however that was released back in 1991.
The RIAA began certifying American platinum records in 1976. A long time ago and since then 345 albums have received the award.
Think about that for a second and do the math. Even when the record labels controlled the distribution and set the price, only 345 albums achieved platinum status over the last 38 years. 345 albums out of 40,000 plus albums. It comes to about 1%.
And of course, the record labels and the misguided artists will be quick to blame piracy and simply forget about streaming, the outdated albums format, the quality of the music released or the fact that fans of music prefer access over ownership.
And one of the big changes is the shift in consumer behaviour. It seems that a lot of people don’t miss owning music. We have put our trust in the internet and the speeds they offer. Sort of like flicking a light switch. We have faith that the lights will switch on.
And bands that are still writing long players. You end up putting them online to be cherry-picked. It doesn’t make sense.
We live in a world where what was a hot news item in the morning is forgotten by days end.
Hell, with everything at our fingertips, we gravitate to the few that break through. We only want the very best all the time and therefore it takes an incredible effort to penetrate our consciousness and stay there. Furthermore, the more successful something is, the more it continues to grow, reinforcing its success. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Digital downloads were once hailed as the saviour, however they only provided a bridge between the CD and streaming. And the whole issue about money. Just because you released a song or an album it doesn’t entitle you to be paid. As the Metal Sucks piece notes,
“Nowhere is it written that rock stars should be well-off — the only reason it worked for the 50-year period between 1950 and 2000 is because of a market inefficiency whereby distribution was completely monopolized by the rights holders.”
And here is where the misguided and out of touch people talk about the cost of production, the years of blood, sweat and tears and the entitlement that all of that deserves our attention and our money.
And yes, music is hard. Writing a great song is hard. The new Five Finger Death Punch double albums for me have four definitive tracks. “Lift Me Up”, “The Wrong Side Of Heaven”, “A Day In The Life” and “Watch You Bleed”. On the Avenged Sevenfold album, “Shepherd Of Fire”, “Hail To The King” and “Coming Home” are the definitive tracks.
So as we move forward, more than ever, it depends on the hit. And with so many of us listening to music in different places no one knows how to aggregate all of that data. And because of that the onus is on the fans. That’s right, the fans make and promote the hits. Once the fans find you, you need to feed them and that doesn’t mean one song a month or one song a week, or an album every two years.