NARM (or the National Association of Recording Merchandisers) is an association for music industry professionals that’s been around for more than 50 years. Their annual convention is taking place this year in Chicago from May 14-16. What’s that have to do with metal? Well for the first time, they’re having a “Metal Meetup,” which will be a discussion about the state of the metal industry from people involved in it.
The Meetup, on Sunday, May 16, will be moderated by Metal Blade’s Brian Slagel, and will feature other luminaries including Strong Management’s Vaughn Lewis, Relapse Records’ Pat Egan, Roadrunner’s Austin Stephens, EMI’s Sarah Wefald and *cough* me. There’s going to be a lot of ground covered, so if you’re in the Chicago area, in the music industry, or just want to be, you should register now. For only $99, and you’ll get admission to the Metal Meetup, the two day “Music Business Crash Course,” and a cocktail party following the Metal Meetup. If you’re a student, you can get in for only $49.
NARM Director of Digital Strategy and Business Development Bill Wilson coordinated the inaugural metal event for the association. Wilson has run his own label in the past, and also logged time as the GM of Earache in the mid-90s. We spoke to him about NARM as well as touched on some of the things that will be spoken about on the 15th.
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The most pressing concerns with Slayer’s tour shuffling should obviously be with Tom Araya’s health and fans left in limbo while the Megadeth/Testament tour works out scheduling, but it also creates significant doubt for those who thought a North American “Big Four” of Thrash tour was not only possible in 2010, but imminent.
With the European “Big Four” events scheduled in mid-June, and “American Carnage” still in the way, a Summer option is unlikely (it remains unclear whether Araya’s recovery will affect European plans as well). We hear “American Carnage” is being rescheduled for an August/September timeframe, so Fall 2010 is out. After that, Slayer and Megadeth (the latter of whom is now doing two full US tours) would likely want some time off the road for rest and to avoid over-saturation. We’d also bet the cold months of early 2011 aren’t an option, as the cost of a Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax bill would force the tour into large-capacity venues like stadiums and outdoor amphitheaters, leaving Summer 2011 as the earliest we’d see a “Big Four” tour, if ever.
Now here’s an interesting decade-in-review list. The Village Voice has compiled a list of New Genre Hype in the 2000′s, and rightfully so as one-hit-wonders and genre fads no longer define entire decades or entire years. We now live in an age of hyper-turnover, where the Internet’s constant stream of information makes it almost impossible for any act to hold a major chunk of attention for very long. You can’t predict the “next big thing” anymore, there’s no time for it.
The Voice’s Christopher Weingarten declares a band’s official life span as nine months from MySpace inception:
Faster than you can tweet “Serena Maneesh,” entire genres of music are “discovered” by attention-starved writers; bloggers engage in hilarious slap-fights about who was there first; magazines feel pressured into writing clueless, hackazoid, late-pass trend pieces; bands get elevated to a critical mass of attention they can’t possibly handle; and the phenomenon is promptly abandoned once we find a newer, shinier toy to play with.
Now while I’d personally agree with that estimate, it should be noted that the number isn’t backed by any study. Also, Weingarten apparently thinks hipster metal died in 2007:
What It Was: Dave Grohl’s unexceptional Probot vanity project brought attention to avant-metal label Southern Lord, making it cool for the ironic-ringer-T-shirt set to share warm PeeBeRs with the denim-jacket-back-patch set. Soon, bands like the Sword, Priestess, and Saviours brought all the energy and aggression of metal without zitty geekazoid tropes like “chops.”
Creative Peak: Mastodon, Leviathan 
Typically Effusive Praise at the Time: “If Sunn 0))) is the ZZ Top of experimental metal, with matching beards and Gibson Les Paul guitars, Boris might be the Kraftwerk, or the Ramones, or even the Jimi Hendrix Experience, depending on the album.” —The New York Times Magazine, 2006
What Happened?: For most people, standing through two hours of Sunn O)))’s fog machine and drone turned out to be “not really my thing.” Indie rockers started their own terrible metal bands (David Pajo’s Dead Child, Rob Crow’s Goblin Cock), and the burnouts nerds laughed at in high school resumed shaking their heads at us all.
I completely disagree on that point: hipster trend-ascribing site Pitchfork still hands high marks (and by the way, was giving 9.1′s out to ISIS and the like way before Probot) to acts from the Hydra Head/Southern Lord/Tee Pee camps, and last year’s Scion Rock Fest was a wildly successive, sold-out mecca for that scene.
What do you think? Is hipster metal really dead? Did metal see any “next big thing” in the 2000′s that actually managed to stick around (metalcore?)? Will anything define metal for all of the 2010s?
I’ll credit Hypebot and Suburban Home Records owner (and all-around good dude) Virgil Dickerson for finding this video and the writeup, but the similarities between the independent brewing and music scenes is something I’ve been talking about for some time. I got into craft and micro brewing a few years ago, and the thing that struck me about it was how the scene around it felt exactly like the independent metal scene I discovered so many years ago.
All the same archetypes are there: snobs, posers, industry vets who sit in the back of the bar (concert) and observe… and of course, the passionate, smart, welcoming fans – they’re all there. All the brewmasters know each other, hang out together and pick each other up when times are rough, just like all the great artists and label heads in the underground metal scene. On the business end, craft brewing is closing the gap on conglomerates like Anheuser-Busch, just like independent labels are competing with the majors – all with pride in their work, their product and their scene. Just look at these choice quotes from the video and tell me they don’t sound familiar:
“(mega conglomerates) are only focused on how much they’re selling instead of what they’re selling”
“If you want lowest common denominator beer, that is up to you, I won’t have any part of it.”
“We must educate those who seek to understand”
“We must honor and hold true to our integrity”
Watch the video and read Virgil’s piece here, and support your local brewer (if you’re of age).
Please, no Pyschostick “Music Is Like Beer” jokes…somehow I managed not to.
I’m always fascinated by the conscious decision bands make to be extremely religious, anti-religious or political (or decidedly avoid any such messages). It’s an age-old argument whether it’s an entertainer’s duty, let alone right, to be actively involved in social issues, or if they should just “shut up and entertain”.
Zao has always been in an interesting position, featuring very Christian members in a band lumped in with the Christian metal community, yet spreading a message of modern spirituality and breaking away from established religion. That’s certainly not an easy distinction to grasp right away. Our pals at Noisecreep have a very interesting piece with guitarist Scott Mellinger, where he discusses how quickly people glaze over the “Christian” label, either to write the band off or blindly support them:
People don’t realize that if you listen to ‘(Where) Blood and Fire (Bring Rest),’ ‘Ravage Ritual’ is about the church and how wrong and dead it is. It was different in those guys still had a Christian belief system but I wasn’t offended by that either. A lot of people just thought once I joined the band, ‘Oh, Scott’s a Christian now,’ but it’s all so more complex than that.
The whole interview is seriously worth a read, check it out here.