Buying original metal CDs: Why labels and artists guilt-trip their audience


There are many criteria for judging true fans of heavy metal, but, funnily enough, the size of somebody’s record collection has never been one to occupy first place in my book. The hows and the whys, the sincerity underlying the gimmicks, these are the things that start mattering the more you engage with the music. In any case, long-time, real fans of metal invariably end up buying metal. It’s a fait accompli to this music: METAL BREEDS LOYALTY. Though life becomes adverse to this pursuit in spurts, for a wide range of reasons, die hard fans, given large spans of time, manage to funnel enough aggregate revenue into the genre. Those that don’t, simply don’t feel strongly enough about the music, so, if you think practically about it, their abstention doesn’t comprise any real loss to the maker or the seller.

Casual, fairweather, and pirate listeners represent little more than a fictional, potential pool of income existing only in the maker-seller’s mind. Admittedly, it’s a tempting fiction to buy into; every illegal download, after all, is money that the maker-seller will never get to see. Considerations pertaining to the consumer’s ideological allegiance and sincerity – important considerations from a long-term buyer-seller perspective – don’t enter the equation, because the maker-seller begins to view his offering as a physical commodity. This purely materialistic interpretation then naturally follows into aiming to move that physical commodity off the shelves as fast as possible, so that the costs that have gone into the making-selling are recovered, thus freeing up the maker-seller to continue his business cycle.

This model makes obvious sense in a market environment with competing products. In such a setting, there is genuine incentive in selling product as fast as possible, so that returns are invested to expand the existing base of capital, continue meeting consumer demand, innovate to stand out, and, if possible, diversify.

Where the metal maker-seller errs is in conflating his product i.e. art, with a market of physical products that are fundamentally unsentimental and “mechanical” in nature. The more he subscribes to this fallacy, the more he thinks of music in the short-term, as a perishable product that has to be disposed of quickly to make room for more. Like ketchup.

But art, by definition, is imperishable! It does not have a shelf-life, it is not bound by spatial or temporal rules. It does not even have to actualize its full potential in the moment that you purchase it; it can exist for years, in limbo as it were, before finally coming into its own real effect. By not treating art so, however, the maker-seller conjures a phantom competition in an area of experience where there can’t be any competition, at least not any that can be measured by tangible means.

But the maker-seller needs this competition because of the market philosophy that he has so gleefully embraced. To that end, then, he begins selling sophist platitude and sensationalism to peddle an inferior product. The self-driving spiral that he has launched himself on requires that he flood the market with poor imitations and outright debaucheries, because, by this stage, he has stopped caring about metal, and has started obsessing over money and saving his skin, instead. Guilt-tripping and fooling the gullible into supporting his shill-like mechanisms effortlessly become his twin promotional appendages.

Metal is not pop, therefore it offers the maker-seller no guarantee of immediate compensation. It is a multi-generational, bittersweet transactional dynamic, remuneration from which the artist in question might not even see in his lifetime. To even think of entering into the making-selling “business” without adequate recognition of this fact, is pathetic naivete. To attempt twisting somebody’s impressionable, half-formed conscience so you can meet your break-even figure is a dirty con job. The overwhelming elements have to be love and respect for the music, and a zen-like acceptance of market and genre reality.


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1 Response to Buying original metal CDs: Why labels and artists guilt-trip their audience

  1. VicSnaggletooth says:

    Excellent point of view.

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