Another Rambling From A Crazy Metalhead: The Why We Steal Music Edition

Just like finding out that Casey Anthony lives close to me now, the new Lamb Of God album Resolution being leaked almost a month early hit me with both surprise and excitement.  I am still left wondering if the RIAA intercepted my mixtape to her because of illegally downloaded songs but it’s still the thought that counts right?  It goes without saying that newly self-appointed Twitter spokesman of metal Randy Blythe was none too happy about this.  Sure, I don’t blame him and he has more than enough good reason to be rightfully pissed off.  But the reality of it is there is no stopping the trend of dying music sales for non mainstream music.

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The bleak outlook on metal is that album sales are dead.  Unless you are a touring machine with great promotion, odds are your band isn’t going to survive on album sales.  Even “metal” bands like Disturbed or Korn that are landing on Billboard these days are selling 30,000 records compared to Lady Gaga selling 300,000 or so in the same week.  Usually the pessimists are the first to state the obvious “metal is dead” by looking at these numbers.  The truth is that metal couldn’t be any further from dead – just not from a financial standpoint.  For every metalhead who can afford to buy each new release they want there are 5,000 people like my boss who will buy the new Katy Perry album as they desperately claw at being hip, cool and relevant even into their fifties.

There is one thing that most of the critics are missing when it comes to metal.  Metal is sold to a tough demographic that generally has to choose between going to a show or buying groceries that week.  Metal is a voice for the people who are down on their luck. The fortunate ones are usually working a terrible job for a bunch of assholes and then the less fortunate are playing Xbox and Googling cures for their obesity instead of going for a walk.  Spoiled rich kids have nothing to complain about so they listen to repetitive garbage about partying and chasing boys as their only hardship in life.  That’s why unfortunately my dream of finding Jason Mraz dead of an apparent nobody loves me anymore suicide in a hotel bathtub won’t come true for a few more years still.

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Dropping fifteen or twenty bucks on an album someone didn’t even know was released until they walked into Best Buy just so they don’t cut out of their busy social life by searching torrents is a logical decision for someone who isn’t checking their bank account seven times a day to make sure it’s above eight dollars.  Metalheads are a much more devoted group who eagerly await each release and count down the days until the release – or leak – of an album.  While Randy Blythe preaches patience as a virtue that makes a new release even sweeter when you do have the album in hand, most of us have little else in life to look forward to.  For the artists who sell millions of albums it’s generally less to do with talent and more because their music is suitable background noise for the everyday life of everyday individuals.  Metalheads aren’t everyday individuals because we take the music and its emotion to heart as a lifestyle which is why we constantly search out new music, new sounds and new bands.  That’s why there is evolution in metal and not any other genre.  If a pop artist wrote the same song ninety times and changes the lyrics for each of them (ahem, Nickelback), their fans and critics will still be satisfied.

With evolution however comes disappointment.  That is the fear behind buying metal albums when it might be the last fifteen dollars in the bank.  While I know if I purchased the new Flo Rida album it would be exactly the same pile of shit as everything preceding it, I can’t be sure of that with any given metal album.  Go through your music collection of every complete band discography you have and find a band without at least one bad album.  I know that personally aside from Opeth that narrows the list way down for me.  Lots of bands keep trying to find something new that is actually kind of awful to set their band apart from the rest.  Most of the others fade into the boring blend of everything else that is already out there at some point.

That makes for one of the hardest parts of me writing album reviews for Braingell.  It’s so hard to pick enough good spots out of an album to make it worthy of an even neutral review sometimes; it’s often easier to forego writing it altogether.  I know how hard it is for bands to make a living off of their passion so I feel like an even huger dick than I already am when I know that I can publicly bash a make or break album by an artist and hurt them much more than helping them.  If I feel this way about fifty percent of the new metal releases at any given time, I definitely sympathize the pain that people feel of spending the end of their money on an album and later pawning it for a dollar.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of fucking over the artists and downloading illegally here, but I do understand better than most people why it’s done in the metal world.  I’ve also ranted on here before about the death of the CD due to a lack of incentive to buying them anymore.  A bare bones album with the same generic liner notes has the same feel as a high quality MP3 version on your IPod does to me and I’m sure most people feel the same.  My take on it all is this: if you aren’t going to afford an album by a band that you like enough to keep downloading, make Goddamned sure that you find a way to support them by buying their merch and going to their shows.  If you can’t do any of those three things, you’re just a douchebag.

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