Dear American Metal Fans: Until You Prove Me Wrong, Collectively You Suck
It seems like it has been way too long since I’ve gotten up on my soapbox. Maybe with age I am realizing shit isn’t worth getting worked up over or maybe I’m just getting lazier. However, this is one of those things that I can’t let slide any longer. It has gotten blatantly obvious lately that metal fans here in the States are just as pathetic about attending concerts as they are about buying albums. At least the argument can be made about MP3’s being comparable to albums. Youtube is no comparison for being at a show. When your favorite band stops coming to your town and your twenty minute drive becomes a nine hour road trip, odds are it’s because of you, the lazy “I really wanted to go to that show” fan.
I’ve been going to shows for over twelve years now and I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum in that time. A decade ago I saw a band like Trust Company or Adema who were both, at best, a blip on the musical radar fill 2,000 seat venues. It has since progressed to Hard Rock Live selling tickets for a Danzig and Devildriver show for a penny on the eve of the show. There are so many possible excuses for the apathy of fans that it is hard to blame one individual thing, but at the end of the day it comes down to a lack of desire. When it comes to music there is a supply and demand just like the economy. When a band has to travel out of the way in hopes of fifty people showing up, it is nothing more than a waste of both time and money. Sure, bands always say they will put on the same performance for 15 or 15,000 but they don’t actually want to play for 15. Apparently a lot of people forget that bands also have to pay the same four dollars a gallon that everybody else complains about and uses as one of the many excuses not to attend shows. If people started boycotting McDonalds and sales dropped by 75%, do you think they are going to open more locations or are they going to abandon the small markets and hope the big cities survive? Consider that next time you wonder why your favorite band hasn’t been to your town in five years.
The usual first and most common excuse is “I don’t have any money”. Sure, we all have to use it sometimes and use discretion when it comes to paying a bill or going to a show that you were on the fence about. Also, yes, gas costs three times more than when I started going to shows. One thing I have noticed however is that minimum wage has increased almost three dollars an hour since then, yet the price of a ticket to a metal show is still the same, and even often times less than it was ten years ago. Instead of paying 30 dollars to see a show at a corporate venue like House of Blues, we are now seeing the same bands playing sports bars and local venues that can alleviate the pain of using Ticketmaster and in turn charge 14 dollars. Some of these shows are less than the cover to any sleazy club in the same town, but people will still squeeze in like sardines to listen to shitty house music and watch strobe lights. What do the bands get for taking a pay cut? They get just enough people to pack a show two rows deep and then get to rely on the same people who don’t have any money to buy merch so they have gas money for the next stop. Does that sound like motivation to come to your bumfuck little town because you leave witty comments on their Facebook wall asking them to come?
The second problem is the internet. While the internet is the most wonderful invention ever in terms of discovering new bands, new music and tour dates to every venue in the world, it also makes for a generation of complacent, lazy music “fans”. Seeing shitty phone videos of your favorite band on Youtube is no replacement for going to see that band in the flesh. People who want to have sex generally aren’t satisfied by watching a shitty quality video of the person they want to sleep with pleasuring hundreds of strangers not including them. Guess what? Music is the same principle. RSVP’ing to a show on Facebook, looking up their setlist and watching a video or two isn’t the same as going. If anything, it just makes you look even more pathetic. There is no replacement for the pounding of a double bass as it pounds into your chest or the crushing guitar solo that snaps your neck as you headbang trying to keep up with it. When 75 people show up to a show that 200 people RSVP to, it makes us collectively look like shit. The internet should be used as a common ground for fans of similar music to meet up, carpool and have a good time instead of claiming they will be there from their computer chairs.
Next, Americans don’t appreciate club shows. People have this way of exchanging quality for quantity and wanting to get the most bang for their buck. The Ozzfests, Mayhem Festivals, Warped Tours, radio festivals, etc. have fulfilled the needs of about 90% of people who call themselves concertgoers. Seeing eight to fifty bands in the span of a day is all that people care to see anymore. Of course there is no telling people that while seeing a 15-25 minute set from a non-headlining band technically counts as seeing them, it’s not the same. It’s meant for bands to get their name out so hopefully you will buy their album or want to see them when they come to town on a smaller package. If you took only the musical aspect of a festival into account, most genuine music fans such as me would be perfectly fine with never attending another one. However, when going to Mayhem Festival and one radio show a year means that for about 100 bucks any run of the mill jerk off can see 4 decent headliners, 6 bands that would have been good if they got more than five songs, and about twelve take it or leave it bands who are plagued by stage problems every single year, they can see a piece of what is hip annually until eventually they have seen most of the relevant bands. I write this from Florida, hailed as the death metal capital of the world, yet I will be seeing Obituary in a bar that holds 250 when packed this weekend because the live music scene is dead unless your name is Slipknot, Metallica or Avenged Sevenfold, or a combination of a dozen B-list bands with one current single apiece.
Quite possibly the most annoying of the bunch are the people who will pick one band or the locals out of every single package as their excuse to not go. These people want us to believe that having to withstand a 30 or 45 minute set from a band they don’t absolutely fucking love will ruin their good time from the other bands on the bill. Because a metalcore band is playing a black metal show, the lineup is “terrible” and their favorite band has sold out, which is reason enough to not give their hard earned cash to that one band in question. Instead of realizing that the only way their favorite obscure Norwegian black metal bands will ever be able to afford to tour the states will be to take one of the successful, stateside -core bands out with them, it seems better for them to not support anybody at all rather than one band they hate. There are also the people who refuse to pay ten bucks to see five locals open for one national act because it’s too much to endure. God forbid any of these small bands ever wanted to succeed on your watch, right? After about your fifth show you learn that enduring shitty bands, whether they are local or not, is part of the game. I’ve tolerated countless bands that I have been able to block out of my memory by simply turning my back or grabbing a beer. Apparently that is too difficult for entirely too many people to ever attempt, so sticking it to the band for making a business decision is the most logical idea.
At the end of the day, American fans aren’t nearly as devoted as foreigners. Is it a product of their upbringing where they feel everything should be handed to them and they shouldn’t have to go out of their way to have fun? Probably. From just my two trips barely over the border to Toronto, it’s painfully obvious how much more devoted or just plain crazy they are than Americans. They aren’t hesitant about getting muddy or bloody and headbanging until they snap their necks, even without always having the assistance of alcohol and bathtub drugs. Not to mention thousands of people actually showed up, moshed, crowd surfed, and sang along rather than getting drunk and passing out in the grass. Of course it goes without saying to anybody reading this how much more devoted Europe is to their music, so I don’t need to beat a dead horse. When a band like Motörhead plays to the states, 1,200 people show up. When they play Germany, they fill an arena. The same goes for countless talented bands that are still huge overseas but have been pushed to the point of irrelevance here. Metalheads go on pilgrimages from country to country on the other side of the pond while we live in a country of convenience that doesn’t want to drive into downtown traffic at certain times of the evening to catch a show. I used to be under the impression that bands didn’t play overseas enough and people had to see them when they had the chance, but I’ve seen bands come to the States for the first time in years, and the turnout difference was marginal at best.
We have bred a generation of “metalheads” who find it perfectly acceptable to buy a Pantera shirt at Spencer’s as their lone contribution to the industry. I give the utmost credit to all of the bands who will still extensively tour the States and the small markets out of their love and their passion for the music alone. If you ask the majority of them, they could stay home with their families and work at Walmart for more than they make on the road when lazy metalheads won’t get off of the couch to support the music they “love”. If this article pissed you off, then you are probably one of the people I just called out for being a pathetic stain to the image of what is left of the true metalhead community. When you contribute less than your local groupies, you are the problem not the solution. If “liking” a band on Facebook is the extent of your support for a band rather than ever seeing them or buying an album or a shirt, you shouldn’t call yourself a fan of that band. If you aren’t offended, then you are either a musician or one of about 50-300 people, depending on your location, who are an active part of the community that have crossed paths with everybody else similar to you and can spot the imitations from a mile away. Real metalheads lose count of how many times they’ve seen bands, the rest have seen a bunch of bands once and will tell you how “they really wanted to go, but they didn’t feel good or have any clean clothes or any gas money that day, plus it was kind of cold out.”