by Justin Gaines
– Senior Columnist/News Editor —
Editorial Commentary —
I was driving around recently, listening to Saxon (a fairly regular occurrence), when the title track to their 1981 album Denim and Leather came on. It’s one of those signature metal anthems with a chorus that everyone can sing along to. This time though, instead of simply belting out how denim and leather brought us all together, I started thinking about the lyrics to the verses.
Setting aside the bit asking where I was in ’79 (sorry Biff, but this metal warrior was in pre-school), Saxon calls out a very specific set of credentials that the metalheads of the NWOBHM era demonstrated. A lot has changed though in the past 30-odd years. Ask today’s music fan the questions Saxon put forward and you can just imagine the response.
“Did you read the music paper from the back and to the front?” LOL, nope, Internet.
“Did you find out where to see your favorite band?” LOL, nope, Internet.
“Did you listen to the radio every Friday night?” LOL, nope, Internet.
“Did you hang around your local record store?” LOL, nope, Internet.
Now before you point out that a writer for a web-based publication is hardly in a position to criticize people for using the Internet, I’ll freely admit that there are amazing things for music fans online. YouTube and Spotify let you literally listen to almost any song at any time, Facebook and Twitter let you interact directly with your favorite artists and connect with fans around the globe, and sites like this one keep you up to date on the latest news and tell you which new albums are worth hearing. All of these things make it great to be a metal fan in the digital age.
The problem is that this music and information and interaction online, nearly all of it free, is killing the thing we all love in the first place – the bands. Next time you’re chatting on Facebook with one of your favorite band members, ask them if their latest Spotify royalty check was more than a dollar. Or how much they get when you stream an album on YouTube.
As the saying goes, money talks. If we proclaim ourselves fans, we need to show it by supporting our scene. “Likes” and “shares” are all well and good, but they’re not going to finance your favorite band’s next album. Buying their current album is. Sure, stream it on Spotify to see if it’s any good, but if you like it and want to hear it again, buy it. Whether that’s LP, CD or digital, it is the simplest, and best way to support the bands. And believe it or not, those local record stores Biff sang about do still exist, and they could use your support too. As someone who believes music should be seen and heard, I still love browsing the stacks at my local stores.
Supporting the music we love also means getting off the couch and away from the computer and seeing some shows. Which means more that just checking out Maiden or Crüe when their big tours come around. A lot of great European bands tour the States, usually losing money in the process, to show their fans they haven’t forgotten about them. We need to repay them by buying tickets for those club shows and smaller tours. There are also great local bands that need the support. Show up for the bands that have shown up for you. Find out who your local openers are and buy tickets directly from them. Buy a shirt or CD while you’re there! You don’t even have to “queue for your ticket through the ice and snow!”
If you happen to live somewhere that doesn’t get many tours, the U.S. has some really amazing festivals that are well worth traveling to. Metal festivals like Maryland Death Fest, ProgPower USA, Ragnarokkr Metal Apocalypse and Warriors of Metal cover a wide range of metal genres, and on the rock side there are events like M3, Melodic Rock Fest and Skull Fest. These events are a great way to see bands, find new music, meet fellow fans and really feel that Denim and Leather solidarity Saxon was talking about. Where else can you stand in a crowd of hundreds and know you have something powerful in common with every single person there?
We also have the opportunity to contribute directly to the bands we love via sites like Kickstarter that let artists crowd-fund their projects. In a time when label support is shrinking along with album sales, these programs can make all the difference for struggling bands.
The Internet is a wonderful thing, but if you really want to show your support for the scene, it can’t be your entire music fan experience. By all means like that Facebook post or share that YouTube video, but don’t forget to open your wallet and give these bands the kind of support that really “sets the spirit free.” I’m sure Biff would approve.