Metallian contacted metal experts representing the industry to ask them about the past, present and future of the music - 08.2003

Heavy Metal Industry Panel
-Please compare and contrast the state of heavy metal in the the 80's - generally considered the glory days of the musical genre - with today's metal scene. -What does it take for metal to be successful? -Where do you see metal in the medium-term future?
-Brian Slagel - Founder of Metal Blade Records -I think it is similar. There are many really good new bands and scenes that are coming from the underground today - like they did in the 80's. I think the underground is even healthier now than it was back then. That will help the whole scene to continue and grow as it has over the last several years. There are more outlets now, with the Internet than we had in the 80's and that helps as well. -(The answer is) good bands and good promotion for those artists. As long as there are good artists and albums coming out metal will continue to be successful. Right now there are as many good new bands coming from the underground as there has been in a long time. I am very excited about this and feel the future is very bright. -Like I have said, things are definitely on the up-swing. Several new scenes are exciting and happening and there are many really good new bands coming up. I think the next two years will be a big growth period for metal, especially in the underground. These artists are much more organic then the current major label-dominated stuff.
-Gus G. - Guitarist of Dream Evil -I don't know much about the 80's. I was very young then - like seven years old or something. I didn't get to see much of it. I grew up in the grunge-era. To me 2003 is much better than 1994. Heavy metal is much more underground these days compared to the 80's. Back then Whitesnake was selling millions. Nowadays they are probably doing 100,000 albums - barely. Nowadays if you sell 100,000 albums in metal, you are considered a king. You are considered huge. In the 80's you had to sell five million albums. When you think that the US alone has a population of over 250 million, then you know the sales nowadays are nothing in comparison. -It has to be accepted by the mainstream. I don't know if MTV can accept heavy metal and start promoting it. I guess, they make the trends they want to make. Right now, they are promoting Nelly! Things have to get better with the labels. The scene is overpopulated. We have 250 releases a month in the underground alone. People get confused and don't know what to buy anymore. There is also the music piracy issue. -I don't know. Who knows? We might have a world war in six months. Who knows what will happen to heavy metal or the markets.
-Kurt Phillips - Guitarist of Warhag/formerly of Savage Grace and WitchKiller -I am not familiar with a lot of what I hear described as nu-'metal' as their style is not what excites me. I am encouraged that hard music has shown great staying power. The general style seems mostly based on insane droptunings and singers and guitar players that don't have dramatic skill levels. I don't see the playing level or the quality of composition that attracted me to this style of music. No one is breaking out like Priest/Maiden to lead the charge. However I appreciate how metal needs to break new ground and perhaps the new bands will trumpet their influences so the kids will go back and learn where the roots of metal started. -As a player and fan I think that any style of music has to be played by people that care about that music as a form of love rather than a "product" to move units. This is the force that carries conviction to the labels and buying public and should be what attracts labels' interest. The job of the labels is to find good and true bands, nurture and encourage them and then grow their label at a steady pace. There is an economic consideration, but it is like the farmers field: sow, weed, water, then harvest. We must start with bands which want to carry the torch because they love the music, then labels find those bands and encourage them and leave out concerns for the fickle buying public because, as we know, all things sweep around in cycles. We must support publications and web sites like yours that are absolutely vital as info hubs where fans can check out the new and old stuff. This also must include a way for bands to receive revenue from sales of their products so they can afford to continue to produce music in this new world of technology. Fans, support bands by paying for their work. -I think with the correct use of Internet technology and the falling cost of recording gear, plus the increased skills in home recording recording can be made more cost effectively and with a high level of quality. Artwork can also be awesome. It is conceivable that many more bands will bring a quality finished product to the labels who will be stronger in development and distribution. This will allow metal to flourish in more markets. You know, metal will never go away as it is too powerful. I wish to encourage the genre to carry a more positive message of hope and triumphancy over darkness as it is a better message for people to receive in this broken world. Peace to you all.
-Marco Barbieri - President for Century Media Records -It's really not that different from our perspective. When people think of metal in the '80s a lot of nostalgia sets in and they may also think of the more commercial heavy metal bands which had much more exposure and sales than the standard artists of today. Realistically, Century Media deals in underground music and that is very comparable to the underground metal of that time as far as the daily fight we face trying to gain attention for our artists. We feel we have a number of acts with the potential for greater things and we are attempting to groom them just as Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Anthrax, Death Angel, Megadeth, etc. were developed via indies before moving onto larger labels and greater sales. -The bottom line is a good band with convincing, aggressive music which makes an emotional connection with the listener. We develop this via imaging, artwork, press, underground radio, word-of-mouth and much touring. This all builds a grass roots foundation and gains credibility for the act through hard work and strong bonds with their fans. On a larger level you just need more mainstream exposure and more impressions on a potential consumer, which is generally credited to commercial radio and MTV, as well as larger tours. Regardless, metal is a movement, a crusade, a lifestyle and shouldn't be dominated solely by financial gains in order to be seen as successful. -I see the current talent to be very exciting. Inroads are being made stylistically and commercially so that the barriers are coming down for some to an extent and so that 'metal' is no longer considered a dirty term. There always needs to be new bands to give the scene new blood and new styles and more importantly new, young fans to keep the scene youthful and thriving. I feel a good percentage of people who have been turned on to more aggressive sounds the last few years from nu-'metal' are seeking better and more obscure heavy music and that scene has acted as a gateway to our world, just like Kiss, Quiet Riot, Def Leppard and Motley Crue opened the doors for so many of us in the '80s.

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