Good music feels like it was made just for you and in an era right now that has artists coming and going, that song connection is what forms a sense of devotion to an artist. So when a friend of mine said that people are less devoted to artists today and more open to the listening experience I was quick to disagree. Maybe in a pop context that is the case, however when it comes to metal and rock music, that devotion is real. Of course it has changed from the past. In the past, that devotion was fostered over the purchase of an album. Today it is fostered with each song.
Go on Spotify and you can see that “Now We Die” is a song that fans of Machine Head are gravitating too. It already has almost 1.2 million streams. “Halo” has 1.9 million streams and that is from an earlier album. For me the song that I gravitated to is “Ghost Will Haunt My Bones” because god damn, that past of mine just doesn’t seem to leave me be.
Music gives us identity and it expresses how we feel. Generations are defined through music.
The British Rock invasion in the Sixties defined a generation born just after WWII and a whole cultural shift began. Punk Music defined a generation in the U.K that was beset by unemployment and another cultural shift took place. That punk attitude merged with the British Rock invasion gave birth to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal then caught on in the Eighties and in the U.S it defined a generation disenfranchised by the conservative Reagan era. Metal music appealed because it was angry and people were looking for music that they could clench their fists too. Hard rock/heavy metal music was the gang that we all gravitated to.
Music was our patch, in the same way that bike clubs patch in members.
And so much debate is happening around music that really has nothing to do with music.
There is a section of artists who are arguing that they don’t get paid enough from streaming services. Then you have streaming services that are arguing that they have killed piracy. The $2 billion that Spotify has paid to the rights holders is not a number to be compared with how much money the rights holders would have made selling CDs. Spotify is comparing that number with how much money artists would have made from piracy. And as we all know piracy doesn’t pay artists a cent.
So music is going through another cultural shift and a whole new generation is being defined. The recording industry was disrupted by technologies and there are two ways to respond. See the change as a threat or see it as an opportunity. Unfortunately 15 years after Napster, the incumbents still think only in terms of loss and insist on thinking about the industry in the same way as before.
So while a subset of people are decrying the online world, millions and millions of others have decided to embrace it, believing a relationship with their fans is what it’s all about.
And you have different mindsets competing with each other. You have people who broke in the eighties, when we were all glued to MTV and then you have people who broke in the two thousands, in an era that is still defined by turmoil. The Eighties heroes are struggling to get people interested in their new music, so their dollars come from the live circuit where they play all the classics.
We all know the old game was about making a lot of noise. That huge marketing lead up could lead to a big first week in sales. And then the album dies from the news. The normal media outlets don’t care if people are listening to the latest Machine Head album or Vanishing Point.
The game today is that if you’re a musician you would start off in music and then end up doing a lot of different things that involve speaking tours, fan funded projects, book deals and so forth. The fans will keep you alive however you need to be a realist. Musical world domination is a long shot, while being a famous public figure in the internet age is more achievable.