The Lies People in the Music Industry Tell Themselves


“This band is good.”

You’re an employee at a label (or agency, or management company, etc) and you’ve got to toe the line. Instead of just being honest that you’ve got a job to perform, you find things to like about a band you’d otherwise completely hate and you convince yourself they’re not so bad after all. Or my personal favorite, “They’re all really good guys.”

“They’re all really good guys,” about a bunch of misogynists, racists, homophobes, etc

I wonder what the poor working folk at Razor & Tie thought about the whole For Today kerfuffle? Or about Phil Labonte’s ongoing ignorance and idiocy? We’ll probably never know, because they keep their mouths shut for the sake of their jobs (and presumably they do enjoy plenty of the other acts on the label). But shit, I feel bad for them.

“The good stuff will always rise to the top.”

To some extend this is true: great music usually finds a way, and in today’s Internet-based music consumption world you can’t force a piece of crap down peoples’ throats anymore. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think that right time right place isn’t a huge part of what leads to success, and that “who you know” — with regards to the band themselves, and their label, manager, agent, etc — isn’t often a major driver of success. There are plenty of very deserving, hard-working bands out there making incredible music who simply aren’t in the right city, didn’t happen to cross paths with the right manager, etc. So much of achieving success in any artistic endeavor boils down to luck.

“Hard work always pays off.”

No it doesn’t. See above. Hard work can pay off, but there are so many more factors that determine whether a band is successful or not than simply hustling and grinding, even with great music. Hard work isn’t enough.

“<Insert young band here> are the next big thing. They’re going to be huge!”

Maybe, but probably not. You’re just newly in love and acting a fool. While I’m sure the band is quite good, the road to sustained success is long, convoluted and completely unpredictable, subject to a variety of factors outside of anyone’s control. Also, more often than not, bands that the industry is most hyped on at first aren’t the ones who end up getting huge; we have weird taste.

“<Insert young band here> are going to be the next Metallica.”

They definitely aren’t. There will never be another metal band as big as Metallica.

“This big tour will break the band.”

It’s possible that big-ticket tour with <insert well-known artist here> will have a great impact on the band’s visibility, but a band’s success is built on years of cumulative touring (and all their other efforts), not one single string of dates.

“Success can be bought.”

This may be true in the major label world, where radio is still a big player and shady practices abound, but it simply doesn’t work in metal. In nearly ten years of running MetalSucks, I’ve seen countless bands come to the table with piles of cash spent on tour buy-ons, fancy music videos, stage backdrops, the best publicists, huge advertising campaigns… and while there’s usually a brief spike in visibility, it never lasts. Good songs and a great live show trump everything, and those cannot be bought.

“Without me, this band would be nothing.”

To be clear, music industry professionals play a huge role in helping a band succeed. But let’s not get too full of ourselves: it all comes back to the band and their talent. I lump MetalSucks into this category, too; there have been certain bands whose success we’ve been a part of, but it’s just that, a part.


“If we do <insert marketing idea here>, then kids will…”

Shut the fuck up! We’re not all “kids,” pawns to the whimsy of label marketing, sheep to be shepherded towards the rich, grazing field of buying your products. Don’t ever say “kids” when pitching your next brilliant marketing idea. Not only are the vast majority of us music consumers not, in fact, kids, but the term is demeaning even to those who are. Today’s kids are smarter than you give them credit for.

“We stand up against <insert emerging, scary trend that would seem to mean less money coming in here> because the artists deserve to be paid for their art.”

While I do believe that most people working in the music industry (especially metal) have a genuine desire for artists to be fairly compensated, these kinds of complaints always have inherent undertones of “But what about our jobs?”

“But what about our jobs?”

At least you’re being honest about your intentions. But here’s the thing: we are SO fucking privileged to be able to work in a field that we love so much, and this is especially true of anyone in metal. The music industry boom of the ’60s through ’00s was an anomaly in history, not the norm, and we really don’t deserve to keep these jobs if the market — via very vocally stated consumer preference — simply won’t support them any longer, any more than a horse and buggy driver deserved to keep his job after the advent of the automobile. We’re very lucky to be in the positions we are, and if it all went away… well, that’d sure fucking suck, but at least we got to do something awesome for a while. The people I’ve worked with over the years in metal are incredibly smart and talented and will have no problems finding employ elsewhere, I’m sure.


“Record stores are still important.”

Yeeeahhhh….. no. They’re a niche market.

“Vinyl is the answer.”

Vinyl has become an important part of the album release cycle, for sure; there is solid demand, and it provides a good revenue stream for both artists and labels. But it’s not going to solve the larger problem of popular culture’s declining interest in music. At least most people in the industry seem to have acknowledged this by now… in 2010 vinyl was being hailed as the great white hope.

“Spotify is the enemy.”

I’ve spent thousands of words discussing this topic already but the tl;dr version is no, it isn’t. It’s what the people want, and there’s no point in fighting that.

“YouTube is the enemy.”

YouTube has become the de-facto industry scapegoat ever since labels got over Spotify and realized that millions of people were pirating their music on YouTube. There is some validity to this argument, but a savvy label (or their distributor) should be able to easily monetize any illegal uploads using the many tools YouTube has available to do so. And the monetization YouTube offers, while not as transparent as anyone would like it to be, can be quite significant… and definitely way better than Spotify.

“Bloggers’ opinions matter.”

We’re just random assholes on the Internet with opinions we enjoy sharing publicly. Sorry.

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