By September 1986, Yngwie Malmsteen had released Trilogy. As a solo artist that was his third long player in the same amount of years. In total, if you include the Steeler and Alcatrazz releases, that made it six long players in four years. You see, back in the Eighties, it was all about the music. That was the only way that artists could get traction back then. It was Malmsteen’s job to keep himself in the public eye.
So what has changed in 2013. Nothing really. It still is about the music. This is what every artist should be doing in this day and age. Releasing music and doing it frequently.
A big difference between the Eighties and Now is the label support. Back in the Eighties, a label would front the money for recording and tour support, with a view to recoup those monies through sales of the long players. It was a deal stacked in the record labels favour. Today, the labels are all about the safe bet, so even though the recording costs are at super lows, it is expected that the artists would front this cost.
Continuing with the Malmsteen example, he released “Odyssey” in 1988 with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals. The album became Malmsteen’s most successful album of his career. As soon as he became commercially successful, he fired the singer and started over again.
When shredding and neo-classical went out of fashion in the record label controlled U.S market, Malmsteen still forged a successful career in Europe and Japan during the 1990’s. He remained true to himself and he never sold out to cash in. People might disagree with his comments, I sure do, however when everyone is trying so hard to be liked by all, fans never really get to see the artist beneath the silt.
The world is going through a revolution and it is all about intelligence. That is why when an artist makes a remark, one side of the Internet calls it uneducated. That is why people jumped on Malmsteen’s remarks about piracy.
However it’s not about winning every time. The metal record labels and the artists they sign are still clueless. If the first album is not a success, the label just lets them go. They are playing it safe. What the labels should be doing is allowing the artist they sign to take multiple chances. The artist is not going to take risks if they have only one chance with the Record Label.
That is why all the risk takers in metal music are the outliers, the DIY’ers. Then when they break through, the majors come knocking. Look at the Djent movement. It started in forums and soundboards back in 2004 and just kept on growing. By 2009, most of the labels had a Djent artist on their roster.
Look at Machine Head during 2002 and 2003, financing their own sessions and recording of “Through The Ashes of Empires.” When the album started to get traction, Roadrunner U.S came knocking again.
Look at the TV networks from the Eighties. You had 3 to 4 networks, and they all played it safe. In 2013, you have hundreds of TV channels, all looking for an edge. They are all looking for content, and they are giving cash to talented people to deliver. Netflix is a perfect example of taking risks with innovation and content.
If the record labels want listeners, they need to let artists push the envelope and try some stuff out.
If an artist wants listeners, they need to understand that there is just too much information out there. That is why there are over 4 million songs on Spotify that haven’t even been heard yet. No matter how big a story artists have, they will be pulled under by all the information coming down the cyber pipeline, if their music is not great.
Suddenly the album that the artist worked so hard for is in the rear view mirror, 3 to 4 weeks after it’s been released. The only way that sales and charts matter today, is that it shows all the new product released. That is what the public wants. Something new.
Here today, gone tomorrow. Artists need to create constantly now. That’s the only way you can stay in the public eye, in people’s minds. Robb Flynn is doing this with his journals while the world waits for the album. An artist doesn’t want to be forgotten and the album format unfortunately works against the artist today. Somehow other musicians just don’t know it. They want someone else to do the work for them. They don’t want to try new ways and the new way is to bond with the fans. Robb Flynn gets it.
It’s not the media’s job to keep him in the public eye, it’s HIS!
The number one thing a fan wants is more music by their favourite act.
Dream Theater released an album for a new audience. It is the only thing that John Petrucci talked about. “If someone is hearing the band for the first time” was the catch cry in all the press releases. Forget about the new audience, focus on the old. The old will sell the artist to the new. It’s done through music and connection.
If the artist thinks that they gain traction by hanging with the record label, then they are idiots. They are better off blogging, responding on Facebook, spreading news on Twitter. However, there is a still a misconception that getting your story in the newspaper or in the magazines is a sign of traction. Forget that. When a magazine comes out with a three-month lead time, it’s already old news. The magazine is dead on arrival. No one cares about the stories written by the PR/marketing team of the artist.
The way I see it, if an artist is making an album-length statement, they need to have a story or a concept around it. Otherwise ten tracks strung together is not a concept. If you look at society in general, there is almost no place to buy a CD. The world is moving to streaming. Via mp3’s, people will still download/ cherry pick their favourites and there is nothing that artists can do about it.
Nikki Sixx asked his fans to immerse themselves in the whole album experience. In order for them to do, the album needs to be phenomenal, otherwise the fans will just cherry pick the great and leave the rest to be.
We live in a direct to consumer society. Amazon and Google get it. Some artists get it. What about the rest?