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Let’s Talk About Slipknot’s Re-Launched Metal News Website

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The metal media world was abuzz yesterday with the relaunch of Slipknot’s Knotfest.com. The second-biggest metal band in the world have rebranded the site into a full-on metal news portal from its previous function as a tool to promote the band’s eponymous Knotfest festivals.

It’s an ambitious project, to be sure. But will it be successful? That’s what everyone wants to know. It’s unprecedented: no metal band has ever attempted to run a media outlet before.

“Music, art, culture, media,” the website header boasts. “Knotfest.com has been relaunched and re-imagined, creating a global meeting place under the banner of heavy culture. In addition to news about Knotfest, fans can now find exclusive performances, videos, artist chats, interviews, merchandise and more from the best artists around the world.”

The News section is already populated with about 30 articles. Five of them are Slipknot-related, sure, and many of the others predictably lean towards metal’s mainstream (Killswitch, Mastodon, etc.), but bands like Napalm Death, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Enslaved are covered too, so some effort is being put into making sure the news coverage appears legit. There’s a section called Electric Theater (a podcast hosted by Clown), and three video/podcast interview series. There’s are several new curated playlists, and features with metal artists like The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad. A significant amount of resources have gone into the new Knotfest.com, that’s for sure.

So, back to the question… will it be successful?

I don’t think it will.

Why not? Precisely because they can’t and won’t ever say things like “I don’t think it will.”

Knotfest.com can’t be critical of anything, and they won’t be able to run the stories that generate traffic because doing so would threaten their relationships. Not only the band’s relationships, but those of their management, agents, record label people, etc. You’ll never see more than cursory mention of Napalm Death’s politics — can’t risk upsetting Slipknot’s fans, who run the whole idealogical spectrum. If it comes out that a member of a band they’ve already covered ends up being an abuser, a bigot, or just a plain old shithead, I’d be surprised if they cover that. How can we trust a “media outlet” that turns away from difficult issues?

Sure, there’s a place in metal media for positivity — I often hear writers say they only want to write about music they like, and I totally understand that mentality — but there are plenty of sites already doing that. There are even more playing the copy/paste press release game, which is basically what the News section of Knotfest.com is.

Does anyone remember Metal Army? No? Didn’t think so, and there’s a reason for that. Metal Army was Century Media’s attempt at launching a metal website in the early ’00s and it failed, miserably. It had no credibility, because fans didn’t trust the source: how could a label running a media outlet be anything other than biased towards the label’s own needs?

Where I do think Knotfest.com can have some success is with their original content. It all depends on how good that content ends up being, of course, but there is always space in the world for engaging new content, and I don’t see why it can’t come from the Slipknot camp. They’re certainly well positioned to get it out into the world; they have a massive built-in audience, and that audience is incredibly devoted.

What I’m struggling to see, though, is what the end-game is. It doesn’t appear that the site is being monetized, which leads me to believe Slipknot view this portal as a loss-leader, another medium they can use to connect with their fans to foster the Maggot community, deepen that connection. That’s a good strategy, generally speaking. More bands should be doing it in some form or another.

But here’s the thing: the way Slipknot are pursuing that strategy is not a cheap endeavor. Nevermind the tens of thousands of dollars this site must have cost to build: keeping up with creating this kind of content on a consistent basis is expensive! The sole writer pumping out news items is getting paid. The hosts of the three video/podcast series are getting paid. All of those require editing, and that costs money. People who already work at Slipknot’s management, 5B, are spending time on these projects, so they’re getting paid, too, albeit indirectly. And even to get Corey Taylor and Clown to pump out some half-assed piece of content once a month using their phone — which is free, strictly speaking — it takes time and effort on someone’s part to wrangle them into doing it, to format those files properly, make them look and sound good, upload them, make graphics, post, share, etc. It’s a lot of work.

So what it really comes down to is how serious about this endeavor Slipknot are, and how much money they’re willing to keep pumping into it with little to no direct return. Once they realize which kinds of news stories get traffic and which don’t, will they adjust (will they even be able to)? If the videos and podcasts struggle to attract viewers and listeners — video interviews are all but a dead format these days, and the podcast field is extremely saturated — will they stay the course? Will they be able to keep up with the rigorous demands of a regular content schedule? Will metal fans trust “news” coming from an inherently biased source that can’t ever be truly critical?

And no, I don’t feel that MetalSucks is threatened by Knotfest.com. That’s not it at all. We cater to different audiences and have different goals. I’m just scratching my head.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe all of those costs are just a drop in the bucket to a band who has been raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars per show for the past decade, and maybe it’s a worthwhile investment in the band’s future. Maybe they’ll do a killer job pumping out quality content, and they’ll stick with it.

It’s a curious and ambitious endeavor, that’s for sure, and the metal media world is watching what happens next.

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