Pretty much every discussion about metal among those in the industry comes down to “who’s the next X?” Not the ’80s punk band X, but whoever the next arena-filling marquee act will be, be it the next Metallica, Pantera, or even Mastodon. That was the topic for the metal panel at today’s CMJ Music Marathon convention, which kicked off a week of metal in New York. Titled Reinventing the Steel: Finding Metal’s Next Big Bands, the panel was moderated by Kodi McKinney, manager of promotion and marketing at Metal Insider‘s parent company, The Syndicate. It was rounded out by a pair of label executives (Good Fight Entertainment founder Carl Severson and Spinefarm director of A&R Darren Dallessio), a syndicated metal show host and active rock radio music director (Hangar 19’s Andrew “Cutter” Puyleart) and Revolver magazine’s assistant editor Sammi Chichester.
The answer to the rhetorical question posed wasn’t specifically answered, nor did it need to be. Dallessio pointed to Bring me the Horizon, a band that started out making music that was anything but mass appeal, but have built up to the point where they’re headlining Warped Tour and making music that can, for the first time be played on commercial radio stations. Meanwhile, Avenged Sevenfold are well on their way to being able to play arenas. Severson shouted out Clutch, saying they’ve continually built up their audience, and while they’ll never have a gold album, they’re very successful at what they do.
Via their magazine and radio station, respectively, Chichester and Cutter serve as tastemakers, which was another topic of discussion. Chichester said that while Revolver is a mainstream metal magazine, their goal is to turn the Slipknot fan on to something new they might like. The magazine will let their personal taste make it into the magazine, but will try to present it in a way so that it’s alongside something else familiar. Cutter said that’s a little bit harder for an active rock and metal audience, who’s attitude is “we like what we like and fuck you if you don’t.” However, he aid the lines have blurred since the ’80s and ’90s, when hardcore and metal had no crossover. As far as who he considers tastemakers, Severson said the YouTube channels of Rise Records and Sumerian Records will see bands get millions of plays nearly overnight and are a good indicator of who the next popular band might be, at least on their respective labels.
When asked what kind of band they’re looking to sign, Good Fight’s Severson and Spinefarm’s Dallesio had different answers. Severson said he’d rather have a band that might be a little rough around the edges but was willing to put in a lot of work, take advice, and be shaped into a better band, as opposed to one that might have instant hype, but no work ethic. Dallessio said he was looking for bands that aren’t putting limitations on themselves, or identifying themselves with a particular scene, but are “trying different things and creating great music.”
With Slipknot’s .5, The Gray Chapter out earlier today, that album, and the expectations it had for the industry, was discussed. Why are they such a force? Well, intentional or not, they didn’t oversaturate the market. While bands like Five Finger Death Punch haven’t gotten off the road and have released four albums in between the time Slipknot released their last album, Slipknot are choosing their tours carefully, and haven’t released an album in six years.
As to where the panel looks for new music, McKinney, a Brooklyn native, stated that he enjoys going to a show where he might not know any of the bands. Cutter, who lives in Wisconsin, doesn’t have the ability to do that, so he pays attention to social media, the Spotify top 100 for metal, and listens to the people he has promoting records to him. Chichester listens to the labels as well. If a band or label is hiring a publicist, that helps show that there’s a concerted effort being made to break an artist. She also said that social media helps, so if you’re in a band looking to get Revolver coverage, you might want to get your socials up.