Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
Yesterday, Century Media Records announced the signing of Swedish black metallers Watain. This comes a few weeks after the label’s signing of Buckcherry became public knowledge. It should be obvious to anyone that both bands are on the opposite ends of the rock spectrum from each other (both musically and audience-wise). Yet now the two share a label home.
With that in mind, we couldn’t help but asks ourselves “which signing (if either) has a better impact for the metal label?” That’s what Bram, Kodi and Zach try to determine in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl.
Zach: Will Buckcherry help Century Media’s name gain more recognition? Probably not. Hell, most people who end up buying Buckcherry’s next album probably won’t even notice the label’s logo on the back of the CD (oh who am I kidding, they’ll just buy it on iTunes). So why is Buckcherry’s signing to the label a big deal? One word: profit. There’s no denying that Buckcherry still sell records. And even if the next album doesn’t match their last record’s sales exactly, the number of copies they sell will help Century Media fund more projects.
With that said, I’d argue that the signing of Watain (as well as other heavier acts like Voivod and Dark Funeral) are just as beneficial, but in a different way. How so, you ask? One word (yeah, I’m playing that game): credibility. These signings serve as a reminder to the metal purists out there, that despite commercial acts on their roster like In This Moment and Otherwise, Century Media is first and foremost a metal label. Now let’s be honest, what metal purists think isn’t really that big of a concern as it may have been years ago. However, with Roadrunner Records in the midst of trying to re-find its vision and voice, this is a prime time for Century Media to show off its credibility.
So in short, signing Buckcherry is a solid financial move that will most likely pay off, but signing Watain is a smart PR move.
Bram: I don’t have a set answer one way or the other. I think both signings counteract each other and just help build the label. I think Century Media have been trying to build themselves as a commercially successful label for some time. While (I believe) their biggest-selling album has been Shadows Fall’s The War Within, I’m sure they were hoping that Lacuna Coil would become as successful as Evanescence did, especially since they were around before them. Now they’re finding themselves in a position where they’re becoming a more commercial-leaning label. In This Moment and Otherwise are getting lots of radio play and also selling albums. Buckcherry is just the next logical step, and gives them some some commercial respecatability.
And signing Watain gives them more underground cred. I’m sure that most Watain fans don’t even know who Buckcherry are, which is fine. And while Buckcherry will probably sell enough records for the signing to make sense, it’s not like black metal sells lots of records. It really just builds up Century Media’s reputation. Both bands’ signings could also serve as a notice to other commercial hard rock and black metal bands that the label is serious about expanding their roster, which makes both signings make sense. At the end of the day, there will always be people that hate on labels (just look at the comments about the Roadrunner changes), and while Century Media doesn’t have the same passion that fans of some labels do, like RR and Metal Blade for example, the Watain signing shows that the label are still concerned with keeping an eye on the underground while expanding more into the mainstream.
Kodi: I’d be tempted to agree that both are equally good, but if I had to choose one, I’d probably go with Watain. While Buckcherry will help bring in serious cash flow that can be used to support Century Media’s developing and more extreme bands, that kind of signing is so drastically different from what Century is known for that they almost needed to make a high-profile metal cred signing to back it up. So even though Buckcherry is a positive, following it up with Watain is a great move to keep the good press rolling and keep the roster’s polarity in check. I don’t think anyone wants to see Century Media turn commercial rock, and their ability to credibly host both bands shows they won’t be doing that any time soon.
As both of you guys are touching on, I don’t think metal purists are too critical for most mid-sized-to-larger indie labels to be concerned with these days, unless it’s a label like Relapse or Metal Blade that has built its history on offering heavy music of varying levels of extremity. But the impression of a label as being part of a greater movement is important, and Century Media surely gets that. Even Warner-owned Roadrunner has done an incredible job in recent years of bringing metal back to the forefront, releasing albums from bands like Opeth, Machine Head and Gojira that have the talent to sell a lot of records plus the credibility to attract rabid followings from metal fans. By signing Watain, Century Media is taking a stand and saying that they’re not hanging up their patch jackets just yet, even as they stand poised to make some serious cash from Buckcherry. It’s a great move from a label that’s needed a clearer identity for a little while; Watain is the kind of band serious metal acts will kill to share roster space with, and Buckcherry’s hit making will help Century dish out cash to those serious acts.