The YouTube video above is of Suffocation guitarist Guy Marchais buying his band’s recently released seventh album, Pinnacle of Bedlam, at his local FYE. I myself attempted to do the same thing last night, except FYE didn’t have it and even though Best Buy‘s website said they had it in stock, it was nowhere to be found when I got there, and none of the employees wanted to help me (I saw the clerk I approached for assistance say “fuck” under his breath as I walked towards him; your customer service technique leaves a lot to be desired there, Poindexter); I probably won’t be going back there for anything, ever (sadly these are the only two options for buying metal in Des Moines, the one independent record store we have doesn’t know what the fuck heavy metal is). On top of this, Nuclear Blast for whatever reason isn’t down to supply THKD with promos in spite of my best efforts to work with them (the Fleshgod Apocalypse interview HERE and a Lock Up interview that was never returned). So, in spite of this being what I consider to be a pretty major new metal release that should be available everywhere, it looks like I’ll be Amazon-ing it up to get my Suffo-fix.
Personal bitching about the sad state of my local CD shops aside, that’s not the point of Mr. Marchais’ video. The point is that the artist in question would appreciate it if you bought his record, rather than stealing it, and I completely agree with his point of view. Hey, I know firsthand how easy and tempting it is to go download an album for free from some janky-ass Russian blogspot, and I also know that more and more bands are giving their music away for free via outlets such as Bandcamp, but that doesn’t make it ok to rip off the bands that are trying to make a living off of their music. In the industry I work in, if someone doesn’t pay, we deny them the products and services we provide, simple as that. Why should the music industry be any different?
I guess I’ll never understand the mentality of not wanting to support the bands you love. Suffocation is one of my all-time favorite death metal bands, and I’d buy a copy of their new album whether I got a promo of it or not. Same goes for Darkthrone’s new album, which actually leaked before I even got the promo. Ripping off the bands you love is like stealing from your best friends. Now, I will admit that I have downloaded albums from my favorite bands when I didn’t get a promo and the anticipation of hearing their new album was too much to take, but then I went right out and bought the damn thing as soon as it was available for purchase. I’ve come to realize however that this is still an incredibly shitty thing to do, because the more people download no matter what the intention, the more these sheisty bootleggers are going to keep leaking albums, and even though I’m going out and buying the album, there are still probably hundreds or even thousands of others who aren’t.
All that said, there have also been plenty of times where I waited until release day, because as silly or quaint or even naive as it may sound, I still cherish that feeling of going out and buying an album from one of my favorite bands without having heard a single note; the anticipation as you struggle with the fucking shrink-wrap, the euphoria that washes over you as it blares out of your speakers and you start headbanging and going apeshit. Isn’t that what the band really intended after all? We might not realize it in the age of teaser tracks and exclusive album streams prior to release day, but I think deep down every band wants us to experience their art in this fashion. It’s something that has become all but lost, and unauthorized downloads + the culture that has sprung up around the practice are likely going to destroy it forever.
Of course there’s the now age-old argument of “the music industry is dying because they won’t adapt to the advancing technology, evolve or die, blah blah blah.” I used to go along with this argument too, but at this point I think we can all agree that it’s total bullshit. Bigger metal labels like Season of Mist, Relapse and Earache have begun to embrace cutting edge digital platforms such as Bandcamp and Spotify, as well as a host of smaller labels such as Debemur Morti and Hammerheart. A lot of metal fans in my circle have really come to love Bandcamp, and I highly recommend checking out the excellent Metal Bandcamp blog, which is the only site I know of that’s fully dedicated to covering the genre and the platform in tandem.
I still prefer buying music in physical formats and luckily there are about a million online distros out there offering every metal album under the sun on CD, vinyl and sometimes even cassette if you’re so inclined. Not only that, but new CDs from the bigger metal labels are cheap, usually between $7.99 and $9.99 for the regular editions; surely even your sorry ass can afford to cough up the dough. If all else fails, there’s always the dreaded Amazon and eBay which host a variety of new and used options. Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Hit up the awesome Metal Detektor search engine; it’s just about guaranteed to be able to locate a copy of any album you wish and allows you to compare prices between multiple distros. It also looks for shirts, patches and the whole shebang.
At this point, there’s no reason whatsoever for you to not be able to legally listen to/purchase music online in whatever format you choose, and anything less is being either a cheap bastard or a fucking scumbag thief or both. I worked in retail for around 15 years; I once chased a crackhead that had packages of ribeye steaks stuffed down his pants for a block (before he kicked it into crackhead hyperspeed and left me in the dust; he still didn’t get away with the steaks, but that’s a whole other story). Call me biased, but there are few things I despise more than thieves. This isn’t some moral high horse I’m riding, this is the cold hard truth about supporting and giving something back to the artists that have provided all of us with so much enjoyment over the years, and in some cases even enriched our lives beyond mere entertainment.
Unfortunately the dawn of Napster and the MP3 format ushered in an age of selfishness, thievery and entitlement that I’m not sure we as a culture can ever dig ourselves out of. Things do seem to be ever-so-slowly moving in the right direction, and I know that metal fans are and will always be far more loyal and supportive than any other music fans in existence, but I also know there’s still widespread music pilfering afoot in our beloved scene, most likely being perpetrated by shitty human beings/all-around douchebags that are in it for the wrong reasons and need to be weeded out. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to download something for free… I know I will be.