Why is it a surprise to people that heavy metal or hard rock fans are the most loyal fans?
There is a pretty good chance that every metal fan has purchased the same album, from acts they like, more than three times.
I am talking from my own experience here. I have the Crue’s Eighties albums on Cassette, LP and on CD.
In the Nineties, these albums got remastered and had some bonus tracks added to them. So I purchased them again. The same albums then got repackaged into Box Sets and guess what I did? I purchased them again.
All up, I purchased each Eighties Motley Crue album five times. Just typing it all out makes me sound silly. Now apply the same counts to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, Bon Jovi, Europe, Cinderella, Kiss, Whitesnake, Def Leppared, Guns N Roses, Skid Row and so on.
Others call it dumb, others call it silly, however I call it loyalty. And guess what? There are millions more people out there the same as me.
Talking about the Eighties, let’s look at the year 1987. The biggest hit singles for that year according to Wikipedia are “La Bamba” from Los Lobos, “Never Gonna Give You Up” from Rick Astley, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” from Whitney Houston, “It’s A Sin” from Pet Shop Boys and “Who’s That Girl” from Madonna.
However during the year, Guns N Roses unleashed their record-breaking “Appetite For Destruction” album and Def Leppard also unleashed their own record-breaking album in “Hysteria”. Both albums are known as slow-burners, meaning that they took their time to hit it big. Something today’s know it all musicians fail to understand.
For Guns N Roses, it wasn’t until “Sweet Child O’Mine” came out as a single in August 1988 that the album really started to sell. And that was 14 months after it was released. Using the RIAA certification system as a metric for success, by August 1988, Appetite For Destruction was certified three times multi-platinum. Not bad, hey. Then “Sweet Child O’Mine” came out as a single in the same month. By December 1988, (four months later) the album was six times multi-platinum.
You see what happens when one song connects.
Continuing on, by July 1989, almost 12 months since “Sweet Child O’Mine” was released as a single and two years since the album came out, the album was certified eight times multi-platinum. Five million units were sold after “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.
For Def Leppard, it wasn’t until the “Love Bites” single came out in 1988 that the “Hysteria” album started to sell by the truckloads.
Also in 1987, Bon Jovi was still riding high from 1986’s “Slippery When Wet” album. Meanwhile, Motley Crue came out with “Girls, Girls, Girls” and U2 released “The Joshua Tree”. All three bands proved massive drawcards on the live circuit.
White Lion came out with “Pride” and surprised everyone with “Wait”. Suddenly Vito Bratta was in everyone’s lounge rooms courtesy of MTV. And because of MTV, White Lion also became a multi-platinum act.
Ozzy Osbourne paid a “Tribute” to Randy Rhoads while Kiss jumped on the Bon Jovi band wagon with “Crazy Nights”. Blues rockers Great White took the charts by storm with their “Once Bitten” album.
1987 also saw Whitesnake released their mega selling self – titled album, Heart released “Bad Animals” and the single “Alone” and Gary Moore released “Wild Frontier”.
Aerosmith also released “Permanent Vacation” signalling that their comeback was complete, while Pink Floyd did the same with “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason”.
Marillion released “Clutching at Straws”, Y&T released “Contagious” and Rush released “Hold Your Fire”.
Savatage started to make a dent in the metal world with “Hall of the Mountain King” and Alice Cooper’s comeback was picking up steam with “Raise Your Fist and Yell”.
I own all of the above albums, more than once.
Metal and Rock music is a lifestyle. Metal and rock bands appealed to my belief systems. It is that lifestyle and belief system that inspires loyalty. Cultural movements have happened on the backs of metal music.
The term heavy metal in the Eighties was used a lot. A record store lumped bands with very different styles into one Metal category. I could walk into a heavy metal section of a record shop and find Bon Jovi, Metallica, Twisted Sister, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Poison, Van Halen and even Boston.
Judging by how big metal became, I guess I was not the only one that had the same belief systems. One thing that metal and rock bands did better than every other genre is the branding. Once we connected with the artists, we wanted to become to a member of the gang. We wanted to be patched in and sworn in. It was a tribe mentality.
You don’t need Spotify to know that metal fans are loyal. Looking at the releases in 1987, artists like Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd, Whitesnake, Heart, Rush, Y&T and Aerosmith had been around since the early Seventies. Yep, 17 years later, they still had loyal fans waiting for new music. Almost twenty years later, those same bands still have millions of fans waiting for a tour or new music. Can’t say much for Rick Astley.
Other artists like Def Leppard, Gary Moore, U2, Marillion, Great White and Motley Crue had been around since the late Seventies or early Eighties.
The reason why the loyalty of metal heads becomes part of the conversation is that us metal heads/rock heads are stereotyped as antisocial who contribute nothing to society. So how does that explain the numbers that metal and rock bands do on the live circuit, sales circuit, streaming numbers and merchandise sales. That is a lot of money that the anti-social misfits are putting into society.
As the saying goes, pop artists come and go, but metal artists remain forever. Once we are a fan of a band, we are fans for life.
I strongly believe that this metal global audience was achieved because of piracy. Illegal P2P in the early days led to bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Motley Crue earning a whole new audience. Suddenly their music was available to people who couldn’t get it. Suddenly these bands who had waning careers, had new markets to hit.
Nicko from Iron Maiden summed it up the best in the Flight 666 documentary. In the documentary, Nicko was mentioning that Iron Maiden hasn’t sold any recorded music in Costa Rica, however they had a sold out show that night.
There is an article over at Mashable that is quoting from Vince Edwards, the head of publicity for Metal Blade Records.
Edwards says that to book live shows, bands need to be able to demonstrate sales, which means using Nielsen’s SoundScan. Spotify streams don’t factor into SoundScan, so any streams that take away from sales also take away from touring. Touring, he says, is “mission critical” for bands. Streams, he says, just aren’t yet incorporated into the system. “It’s such a new metric that people aren’t really sure how to measure that yet,” Edwards said.
Spotify does have some data that can be used to inform bands where it might be best to tour, but Edwards says that doesn’t help metal artists much, since they tend to play smaller venues.
“I think that’s kind of the big disconnect between our world and the mainstream world,” he said.
Seriously, you would think in this day and age that the label bosses would have figured out how to incorporate streaming or even piracy data into their analysis. Online piracy has been around since 1999 and Spotify streaming has been around since 2008. To rely on SoundScan data in 2015 is ridiculous.
Lucky for these clueless label heads that the metal fans are loyal and generate dollars for them.