JUMPING DARKNESS PARADE: EYAL WONDERS IF TOURING IS REALLY THE BE-ALL END-ALL ITS MADE OUT TO BE
I’ll admit it: I still do check Blabbermouth from time to time. Hard not to. It’s kind of a metal institution at this point. Here and there, when they publish first week numbers, I’ll read those if they concern a band I like, or am curious about for whatever reason.
I’m not a Demon Hunter fan, but I was down at Audiohammer when Jason Suecof was mixing their record, and so I’m familiar with their new record by twist of circumstance. (Believe me, I would have never gone looking on my own.) Anyways, when their first week numbers were published, I decided to check on that, and goddamn guys. 14k approximately. That’s what Suicide Silence does. That’s what DevilDriver does. That’s what bands that tour all the time and are always in the media do. Good for them. Congrats dudes.
Here’s why I find this interesting. Demon Hunter has never really been a touring act. They’ve never really been in the media too much before the present. So what explains them selling records on par with bands that are always out there hustling? To answer this, I thought about what some bands in the past have pulled off without too much touring.
What about Opeth? They never came over to the US during their first four records. Did one support tour with Nevermore for Blackwater Park, and then after that, it was only top gigs for them. What about Gojira? They never engaged in regular US touring and still have managed to catapult themselves to the near top.
So is touring really the be-all end-all its made out to be? I realize that income-wise it’s a major way for a band to make money, but in terms of building a fanbase, is it really needed? How many of you absolutely HAVE to see a band live before deciding to buy their album? Isn’t great music enough? Isn’t it more that the music hooks you and then you are excited enough to go see the band live, and if you get blown away, then you buy their merch? Moreso than a scenario where you’ve never heard or heard of a band, and you see them live for the first time while waiting for the band you actually went to the show to see? If touring was really the factor that made you love a band, then how do you explain loving bands from before your time that don’t tour anymore, like, say, Led Zeppelin, or The Beatles?
I’ll go out on a limb and say that while touring does help to expand your fan base by solidifying people on the fence, reinforcing already existing fans and possibly turning on new people, that its not the one and only answer to having your music spread and be loved. Honestly, I think that the most important thing is writing music at the top of your game, and then making sure that the people who would love it are exposed to it. Luckily, in metal we have this amazing thing called “word of mouth.” That usually will take care of it. How do you think that bands like Opeth and Gojira went so far so fast in the US after not doing endless shit tours in a van? Word of mouth, and their music being delivered to people who would love it are how.
Maybe I’m just finding evidence to support my beliefs, but I’ve always believed that it’s music first, business second. If you don’t have the music to support the business, you may luck out and get carried by the wave of a trend – but when that wave crashes, so will your career. Touring is a great way to connect with and entertain your fanbase, but as a way to build it from the ground up, it may be a bit archaic at this point.