This is going to sound like a rant – and it probably could qualify as such, but in the end, to me, it’s more than just that. And when the dust settles, it just might be the start of a positive future anyway…
Essentially, my mind went blank for a moment, then the bile started to rise, and I got angry. The cause of all this was a recent post from the Copenhell Festival (Copenhagen, June 23-25), announcing the availability of VIP Meen’n’Greet packages for headliners Black Sabbath. Now let me clarify from the onset: I’m no big fan of paid meet’n’greets, it’s kind of the music world’s equivalent of prostitution (as that daytime job all of us are shackled to is a kind of prostitution too), and seeing someone who has meant as much to me as Sabbath doing this… well, it doesn’t make for any happy thoughts.
But, I of course fully understand the monetary reasons for paid meet’n’greets. It’s a variant of what’s so prevalent in every bit of content marketing these days. It’s content re-use, pure and simple. Sell the same content in as many packagings as possible, and you’ll maximize your profts. As I said, pure and simple. I might find it questionable, but there is a capitalist logic behind it.
So, given this, what brought the shock and the anger? Well, to put it mildly – the extortionate price of the thing. I mean – we’re of course speaking of the people who more or less created the foundations for everything that metal has become, so in a way candidates for a godlike status – but nonetheless, mere mortals, mind you. So, asking for DKK 7,500 (~$1150) was quite simply beyond the comprehensible to me. I remember thinking, this must be a typo, there’s a zero too much at the end or something. But no, not at all – $1150 it is.
Kind of good, in a way, because it does pull Ozzy, Iommi and Butler off their pedestals, revealing that they are but businessmen trying to earn as much dough as possible for their firm (not band, definitely not band). It will not matter when standing before the stage, waiting to say that final goodbye to the legend that has been Black Sabbath. It will not tarnish the art they leave behind, it will not change the past, it will not undo all the good what they did have led to. All it will do, when all is said and done, is bring a little much-needed perspective into things – tearing down the statues of the deities, that their work can live on unhindered.
But, and this is where things start to coalesce into a higher perspective for me, this stuff has wider ramifications than simply toppling a few pedestals.
For some time now, the business part of music has been in an uproar. First it was hometaping. Then it was the digital age – Napster et.al. Then came streaming. And for a few years now, the lament has been: “There will never be another Black Sabbath / AC/DC / Metallica / insert-band-name-here again. You simply can’t do it the way things work today. There’s not enough money in the business”. And along comes the Black Sabbath VIP Meet’n’greet package for $1150, and I go “hmmm – maybe it’s not so bad there will never be another Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Metallica, whatever again. Maybe we’re better off without the mastodons and behemoths (band-name similarities completely coincidental)”.
Because, in the end, we instinctively know Black Sabbath didn’t as much knowingly create metal. AC/DC didn’t create the blues-based hardrock. Metallica didn’t invent thrash. They were great, extremely talented artists who came along at the right time, did first-class, inventive music, and were lucky enough to reap more than their share of profits and success for it. But look at the larger picture of the development of metal and you’ll find plenty of bands that were extremely influential, but didn’t get nearly the same success in terms of money and fan-adoration.
Bands like Celtic Frost. Revered and extremely influential, they didn’t exactly reach superhero status, yet are still to this day mentioned as creative influences by many new bands – and their influence can still be heard in new music too. And Pentagram – they’re only now coming to some kind of real recognition, despite an immense career and influence, when meassured not on their “market penetration”, but simply on the quality of their artistic output. And you could keep finding all these examples – and sometimes you can look at things and say, well, it is maybe because of this or that, and sometimes you have to conclude it must be bad luck or simply something random.
But, and this is pretty important in the grand scheme of things. These artists have simply kept on making their music throughout all those years, and by doing so, they’ve been a real inspiration for other bands and artists to start doing their own thing, to keep doing their own thing. Which brings us full circle to the arguments of the business side of music – that by having an enviroment that might be detrimental to the growing of bands as big as those superstars, we’re somehow hampering the development of music. Which in the end is neither here nor there, because you can simply look at the current undergrowth and decide for yourself whether you think metal (from an artistical point of view) is a dying breed or if its thriving like hell.
In my view, we really don’t need another Black Sabbath, AC/DC or Metallica. What we really need are the Nervosas, the Schammaschs, the Oranssi Pazuzus – to name but a few – that keeps music vibrant, alive and developing.
Which in turn brings us back to those DKK 7,500 (or $1,150), because in the end what we’re left with, is the old superstars cannibalizing on the overall scene, on the up-and-coming bands, on the whole fabric of the future of metal. I might be overly sensitive, but those amounts send shivers down my spine, just thinking of how many albums, shirts and/or concert tickets could be bought with that amount of cash. Money that will now never benefit the development of metal as such, but simply ends in the pockets of those overly greedy.
So, if you’re a huge Black Sabbath fan with a treasure chest’s worth of cash – please, please consider spending the money on supporting the future of metal, and let the last you remember of your idols be what they do on stage, and not an image of slightly pathetic handshakes-for-hire peddlers.