A MARKETERS LETTER TO ROCK AND HEAVY METAL

Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

Dear hard rock, punk, and metal.

(I’m talking to you, death, thrash, doom, groove, black, speed, alternative, industrial and nu-metal).

I am writing to you because you have been my travel companion for the last 30 years and I owe you a lot. Since I was young. It was you, heavy metal, who captivated me with those dark images on your vinyls, incredible guitar riffs, and amazing lyrics that spoke to me.

Thanks to you, I had long hair; I got tattoos, and I faced life with a proper attitude and not like a spoiled child. I owe you my love for the color black and storytelling. I owe you my best friends and the habit of collecting music.

Although in my years as a raver and dj in London I put you aside, I came back. I came back because drum n bass and breakbeat did not please me, no soul, many drugs and little rock n roll. Now that I am back, I see you are no longer the same; I see that we have both aged. I see you are no longer the aspiration of those who were like me 30 years ago. They have replaced you, and I do not accept it.

I am not writing to speak ill of those who took your place. I am dropping these lines to help you take back your place in culture.

I want you to keep this in mind. The one constant thing in music and in life is change.

Let’s analyze what has changed in your world, and see what we can come up with to get you back on track.

I want to do an analysis from the point of view of the classic Philip Kotler marketing mix. I will use the 4ps of marketing (product, price, place and promotion) to understand what we can work on, to get you to a better place.

Product

The product of rock is not only the music but also the bands. For those who don’t know you, we can say that we may focus your lyrical content on being festive or celebratory like Poison’s glam rock, but it can also be thoughtful and inspirational like Tool’s progressive metal. You have pro-environmental and ecological themes like Gojira’s or you can be politically active, like Idles or Napalm Death.Like Sepultura’s trash or Behemoth’s black death, you will not bow to anyone. Will always be aggressive, confrontational and rebellious against institutions.

But above all, you will always be cool, like The Stranglers.

All your sub-genres follow the guitar, bass and drums ensemble, and you define yourself by your volume, distortion, and your attitude towards society. These are your bases and it is what have made you an inspiration for several decades.

This is where I want to start my point. There are, according to Philip Kotler, 5 phases in the life cycle of a product: introduction, growth, maturation and decline.

You, my dear Rock, are being kept in a infinite loop. By whom?

By your fans.

Many of the bands that we still love have already passed their moment of maturity and are in decline. Yet we do not let them die for what they represent for us. We created the revival, but this means that we do not give space for new bands to grow.

Part of your problem is that you no longer have so many bands growing up, not likes in past decades at least. Let fresh rock bands sprout so that new generations become passionate about you, kinda like mine did.

For example, check out Wargasm. They are growing and if you let them mature, new bands like them will appear in the future. You just have to make space for them.

Price

This is where you lose ground to the successful genres of today. In the decades when you dominated the sales charts, you made comprehensive albums, very conceptual, where each song told a story and the entire album had a meaning.

You struggled to create a whole concept, from the covers to the photos, everything had a purpose. In the end, you charged for all this through the different formats in which you presented yourself, whether on vinyl, cassettes or CDs.

Unfortunately, the public no longer buys a full-length album.

It is cheaper to download the songs that one likes and discard the rest, but this devalues music, because you cannot charge for a total concept. Now the companies sell singles and the artists do not develop a complete idea.

Also, you have the royalties issue. Streaming platforms get all the money from your listeners and your earnings are minuscule.

New challenges have made you lose monetary value, but you must fight to juggle with past and present technologies. Analog formats still exist. You still have the option to create concepts for vinyl, but you must know how to play with the era of low audio quality singles from Itunes and Spotify.

Some may say that the magic of creating an album with a comprehensive concept is dead. Those who say it are those who have lost the magic and cannot create anything beyond what they do on their own laptop.

Place

Unlike current artists, your career does not begin on a computer. It begins in a garage or a warehouse. From there you move to bars, pubs and small stages.

With some luck, you can get small gigs with other bands, but you always fight to reach the big league festivals and the massive arenas. You know that’s where you are going to make yourself known and you will touch the soul of thousands of followers.

But you have fallen short, you arrive on stage with only your instruments and your music. You have forgotten that you are a concept and that you are in the entertainment business.

Keep in mind that capturing the attention of an easily distracted audience is imperative and leaving a lasting memory in a short-term mind is critical.

When you come down from the stage, people must want to keep talking about you, not only for your music, but for your presentation. Since your income does not depend only on your music but on your show, be more flamboyant and over the top to win over the public, their attention and their pockets.

Promoción:

Your biggest weak point.

Here we talk about the music industry and I will define the industry as them and us.

We are the public and the bands. They are the record labels, promoters, and the technological platforms.

Let’s start with us.
The artist makes the music not only for his ears, but for those of an audience. Without this, the band and the compositions are incomplete.

In the relationship band and public, there are several points to analyze.

The first, gatekeeping.
Your purist public is necessary because it helps to keep the roots and foundations of rock alive. However, too much traditionalism leads to a decline, because it does not allow the entry of new influences that revitalize rock and metal.
Purism does not allow for new audiences, which are the ones that are going to make the shows grow.

What to do then?

This has always been a problem, especially in metal, the answer, accepting the inevitability of change.

The metal and rock that we already love will go nowhere. It already exists. But the new one, the one that is yet to come, needs to have the doors open, otherwise it will never be born.

We accept new times to bring fresh sounds and on the right guitars, these sounds can be wonderful, but you have to let them be.

The next point to analyze between us is rock stardom. After grunge and Kurt Cobain, the desire to be extremely famous and loved was not cool anymore for rockers. The status of rock gods is no longer for rock and this is because your bands are no longer ambitious.

I’m not saying that everyone should sell their soul, but rock and metal need those stars to attract attention, not only from the fans, but from those who are outside, we need more people like Axl Rose, who, in his prime, was a media darling that will attract new audiences to his presentations, same as with today's pop stars.

You urgently need charismatic frontmen and front women who generate headlines and make the new generations aspire to reach their heights. Not all of us were born to be the center of attention, but those called to be, need to get out of anonymity quickly.

Speaking of charismatics, how about Sebastian Murphy a postpunk frontman.

or Amyl de Amyl and the Sniffers

Clearly Punk has got a lot to say in this new era.

Now let’s talk about them. The labels, promoters, venues and the technological platforms (those of reproduction and production).

Possibly we fans blame them for the wrong that has happened to you, my dear, but unfortunately they understood what your heavy metal has not.

This is a business, a business in the middle of art, but a business.

If there is no public that generates royalties, they will look for one that does. If there are no new proposals on rock, they will look for new artists somewhere else. It is not their fault; it is their nature.

That means we cannot depend on them for the rock and metal resurgence. They are just a conduit. They depend on our interest as metal fans to risk investing in rock bands.
All of them, including streaming, are simply transmitters of the rock message. They are not the owners or the creators and they depend on what the public asks for.

To say goodbye

Something like what happens in tennis happens to you, Rock. Nobody has removed Djokovic, Federer or Nadal from the top positions, and this is because these three players are masters of their game. They have so much experience and have been so smart that they can outlast all the new players. Only time can beat them on the courts.

The same thing happens to Rock and metal. Slipknot, Metallica, AC DC, are still strong and only when they die will they stop, but in the meantime, who is going to replace them?

Look at the biggest bands of the 80s and 90s, Guns n Roses, Nirvana, Pantera, Motley Crue. All of them became rock giants, not only because of their music, but because of their star power.

Phil Anselmo, Axl Rose, Kurt Cobain, Glen Danzig, Henry Rollins, Lars Ulrich, these are larger-than-life personalities with incredible star power. But where are the rock stars now? Not in rock or metal, they are in other genres.

So what is going on?

Your bands don’t want to be rock stars anymore. It’s as if bands no longer aspire to be giants, as if that was no longer their goal or as if it was wrong to be successful and famous.

Many criticize our obsession with vinyls, radio cassettes and other analogous media of the last century as well as our obsessions with bands of the same era as that tech. For me, that is not a problem. We still listen to Spotify and download mp3s to our players. In fact, that differentiates us, rock and metal fans from other fans.

What hinders our future is the lack of tolerance for new bands, fresh sounds and new proposals that can enrich rock and metal. The fans are in control, and it appears to be a remote control with dead batteries. A simple example is Ghost, who started out as a metal act and, over time, has softened their sound. This has generated a wave of criticism among the rock and metal community, but who cares about that? At least they are proposing something different. How we categorize them is something else.

Promoters, venues and labels will not invest in new bands if we do not demand it. If we only fill festivals with headliners from 20 years ago, there will never be room for new generations of rockers to lead music into the future.

We all love Metallica, but they won’t be around forever. Who’s going to replace them when they aren’t here?

We must educate the future, children and young people.

We must reintroduce them to your music, and that is the work of rock parents and spaces to open up for this.

A good example of these spaces is Okeefe Music foundation.
A foundation where the new generations are in contact with all things rock and metal, they learn from those old generations and are catapulted as new rock creators.

In this video you can see how these children have already digested all this music and it is part of their life, but there is another point to make with this video, it has 25 million views, those are many people watching that content and many people talking about it. .

That is my last point on this letter to all rock and heavy metal.

You need to be part of the popular conversation again.

There is a concept in marketing that applies very well to a rockstar, it is that of word of mouth. A rock star gives something to talk about.

Heavy metal and rock need to make headlines again, be in the public eye, build a presence, build a brand and a bigger audience.

Remember Metallica against Napster in the 90s or Dee Snider against the United States Congress in the 80s. These were topics that kept rock and metal at the forefront of popular news. This is not the case anymore.

There are those who say that we must decide if we want to be mainstream or underground, but it is not like that. The world is not black and white and Heavy Metal is not either.

Rock has multiple nuances, some fit better in the commercial culture and others are simply dark and by default less popular, and that is the wonder of rock and metal, there is a choice, you do not have to stay in the past or even in a single genre.

There are those who say that we must decide if we want to be mainstream or underground. But it is not like that, the world is not black and white and neither is rock.

Heavy metal has multiple nuances, some fit better in the commercial culture and others are simply dark and, by default, less popular.
That is the wonder of rock and metal. There is a choice. You do not have to stay in the past or even in a single genre.
You have so much variety and creativity that sometimes it is difficult to choose what to listen to, so why stay only with the music of the past, why also not want to stand out from the rest and why not be masters of the world again? .

Always wishing you the best.

Nestor

I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter, let’s connect.

Marketing strategist, storyteller, punk nutcase. I write about life, marketing and Heavy metal . www.nestorlaverdedigital.co

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Nestor Laverde

Nestor Laverde

Marketing strategist, storyteller, punk nutcase. I write about life, marketing and Heavy metal . www.nestorlaverdedigital.co

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