ON METAL AND THE MAINSTREAM
Article by Alan Lisanti
Metal Hammer posed a question. So I answered it. Now when people get pissy because Metal fans are angry about shit like Gagatallica, you may understand why. It is not just a matter of "open-mindedness" that causes the disdain. It is a clear and contradictory conflict of basic fundamental principles:
Metal wasn't intended to be mainstream. It's roots are in the anti-mainstream counter culture. That's why we like it. It's not for everybody. You can't ignore its origin and its nature just for the sake of trying to shove it into a box it was never intended to fit in. If Metal wasn't the alternative to the mainstream, it would not be Metal.
This is not about making more money or transcending the Metal label so that you can try to make "pop star money". Metal doesn't need to cater to mainstream culture for that. The state of the industry has nothing to do with a band's earnings or potential earnings. The nature of Metal and the nature of the industry are two different things. Metal has always been anti-mainstream. The spirit of Metal stands for everything else not what the mainstream represents. Metal bands not earning more has nothing to do with why they're not treating like or making the money that a Pop star does or can make.
What happens when you try to negate its origins for the sake of appealing, not to a wider audience, but to a different audience (one that does not appreciate or understand Metal) is that it becomes dumbed down, watered down, more generic, and less about the music, the art, and creativity. Literally any case where any genre has attempted to cross over has seen this happen. That's because the distinction between Metal and Pop is also that of the distinction between art and product. Product's goal is to sell more units. Art's goal is to express oneself.
In a nutshell, Pop embodies everything we dislike and don't respect about music. Metal embodies and was born from the passion for art not product. It represents all the things we hold in high regard and respect about music. The very basic principle of Metal is that it stands in strong and firm opposition to what Pop music and mainstream culture represents. It was literally born out of the desire to go against these other genres and the mainstream popular culture that embraces them. Metal was the rebellion not the assimilation.
Every time any genre of Metal attempted to cross over to the mainstream, it resulted in the death of that genre because the quality of output went down while oversaturation ran rampant resulting in the genre becoming a parody of it's former self, before it retreated to obscurity and probably eventually resurfaced later on in some form or another. That's because these things also tend to be cyclical. The only time Metal achieved mainstream/pop success was in the 80's when bands were backed by outrageous record contracts and everybody was cashing in. It is the same cashing in and chasing of, as well as exploitation of a certain formula that ultimately killed whatever success it managed to garner.
Nu Metal did it and died.
Death Metal did it and died.
Metalcore did it and died.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
But Metal never dies really...does it?
The underground that supported it in the first place sustained it as well. Unlike the mainstream who's sole motivation and intention revolved around milking it literally til death and then moving on and repeating the cycle.