By now, many of you are aware of the things Ash Avildsen said about myself and MetalSucks a few weeks ago; yesterday, reader and “Run MetalSucks for a Day” winner Justin Gosnell even posted an interview with Ash on the subject. And I know that many of you are disappointed that I did not initially respond.

I think it is important that you understand that the reason I did not respond has nothing to do with the fact that Ash said “mean” things about me and or any of the other writers at MetalSucks. We understand that if you say unkind words about people in a public forum such as the internet, some of those people will inevitably be offended, and may say unkind words in response. That goes with the territory, and we can handle it. That’s why I was game to engage in a public debate with Century Media owner Oliver Withöft. (And it may be worth noting that, yes, we are still on great terms with Century Media. We also have yet to receive any cease and desist from Axl Rose about our “Appetite for Deconstruction” shirts… but I digress.)

The reason we didn’t respond is because Ash’s tirade had nothing to do with the subject at hand — namely, Spotify. Instead, he used Spotify and my comments on the current state and future of the music industry as an excuse and a veil to attack my personal character, credibility and that of MetalSucks. Consequently, the post did not warrant a response.

But his tirade against myself and MetalSucks was also full of several factual inaccuracies. And while we have communicated with Ash via e-mail since his post went up, and he is fully aware of the factual errors of his allegations, in yesterday’s interview, he failed to re-address those errors. So now we would like to clear them up.

Neither myself, nor Axl, nor any other writer on the MetalSucks staff is “hiding behind an alias,” as Ash alleges. Anyone with five minutes to spare who knows how to use Google or how to run a “WhoIs” query on domain name registries can easily figure out our real names. Furthermore,  Axl (his mommy and daddy call him Matt Goldenberg) used to write a regular column for Idolator — a site that, we can assure you, gets far more traffic than MetalSucks does — in which he was identified by both his real name and his pen name. And we both appeared on-camera on Metal Injection as recently as last week. Readers regularly approach us at shows — hell, we met one of our writers, Dave Mustein (Another alias! Duh-duh-duhhhh!!!) that way.

So why the pen names? Well, when we first started the site, the reason was simple: We thought they were funny. We hoped that someday we’d have a readership, but we never knew MetalSucks would become as successful as it has. And we certainly never knew that using silly names to amuse ourselves would ever become an issue. We continue to use the pen names because, well, we still think they’re funny, and they’ve become part of the site’s identity. Metal is nothing if not theatrical, and if you asked Alice Cooper, Slash, or Johnny Plague for an autograph, and they signed it “Vincent Furnier,” “Saul Hudson” or “Jonathan Cooke,” you’d probably be disappointed. And so while we’ve joked about hiding our identities in the past, really, we’re very much out there in the open.

And it’s worth noting that there are plenty of writers here (like Anso Di Frances, Gary Suarez, Corey Mitchell, Etan Rosenbloom, and Nicholas Pell) who choose to write under their actual names. (A lot of our commenters, however, do not, which proves a fundamental truth about the internet: For better or worse, people enjoy using handles. It’s really not a big deal.)

Furthermore, I did not, as Ash claimed, start and fail at making a successful record label, although I did work at the label in question for a little over a year some 2-3 years after its inception (also worth noting: I did not sign any bands to the label). As I’ve written about on MetalSucks several times, I used to work at Atlantic Records. I also spent two years working for a management company and two years working at a booking agency. I’ve been inside the belly of the beast and seen what goes on there. Ash’s assertion that I’m not qualified to critique the music industry, then, falls flat.

Ash also wrote the following:

“I’ve bought [MetalSucks’] overpriced ads for new albums before and I’ve even allowed them to sponsor some of my tours like Summer Slaughter in exchange for some free ads to promote the tour. You won’t see that happening anymore. Every company/label with a logo on the SS Tour Poster paid to be there to support and promote the tour and for the marketing of their bands and brand. MetalSucks got there for free, because that’s what they do: figure out ways to make a living off other people’s ignorance.”

Well, hey, guess what? Sumerian Records has never paid for an ad on MetalSucks. They also had the hubris to ask for free ad space in exchange for “letting us” premiere one of their artists’ tracks — as if they were doing us a favor and they themselves got no benefit out of it — something no other label has ever done in the history of this site. Furthermore, we’re not sure how giving Summer Slaughter, or any of Ash’s other tours that we’ve sponsored, free advertising in exchange for having our logo on the tour poster is “making a living off other people’s ignorance.” Everyone involved — including Ash — was aware of, and agreed to, the deal at the time, so who exactly was being cheated? Is Ash saying that he himself was ignorant? That doesn’t make sense, nor do we believe it to be true. It’s worth noting that we believe both sides upheld their parts of those bargains, and there is no ill will about them from our end.

So what was Ash’s rant really about? Again — it wasn’t about Spotify. The fact is, Ash has his Sumerian bands up on Spotify; he’s a smart businessman and understands that the value of these bands being on Spotify extends far beyond the fractions of pennies in payouts they’ll earn. Furthermore, Ash endorses the very business model I’ve been suggesting all this time, namely integrating a record label, booking agency and management company all into one building (although I did erraneously say his management company is Outerloop — it’s not, it’s actually called Sumerian Entertainment. They manage or have managed bands such as Emmure, Born of Osirs and Winds of Plague, among others). I’ve even praised Ash and Sumerian Records many times in the past for embracing this model and looking to a future in which sales of recorded music might not cut it. Which makes Ash and his companies, in my opinion, far more likely to survive the record industry’s current woes than most of their peers — and that business model hasn’t changed one bit since Ash wrote his post. There’s no evidence to suggest that he actually disagrees with a word I wrote about Spotify or the business practices of Century Media, or any other label, for that matter.

So, if Ash essentially agrees with the main two points I’ve been harping on for the past couple of months, why all the anger towards MetalSucks? What exactly is he disagreeing with us over? Think about it.

In conclusion: This is not going to influence how we cover any Sumerian bands in the future. Axl and myself still believe that there are plenty of great artists on the label, like The Facless, Periphery, and Veil of Maya, and we still think that there are plenty of terrible artists on the label, like Asking Alexandria and Make Me Famous. And we will continue to express those opinions on this blog. We just wanted to clear the air, and ensure that any future debate about the state of the music business is about just that: the state of the music business, without dragging anyone’s life outside of that argument into the picture.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


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