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Feeling the 30s blues, Rock music dead in the USA?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by ShadowImage, Feb 6, 2017.

  1. ShadowImage

    ShadowImage Guest

    Jan 12, 2016
    Alright this is more of a personal rant and vent than anything else.

    My favorite styles of music are some of the more fringe genres of rock and metal; black/death metal and dark/gothic rock (ok maybe I've lost some of you now). I've been making music for two decades now, to varying degrees of success. Each time I've had an original band making traction, there are setbacks to "making it". While I've been "signed" with European labels and released albums, people move, relationships end, members quit, bands break up etc. Despite some good shows, I've never had what I would call a successful tour or many album sales. The only markets I've had minor success with are Germany, Mexico and Brazil (though not enough to afford to tour there). Never my home country of the USA.

    A lot is due to personal issues but some of this I attribute to the genres I play which can't compete with the popularity of Pop, Hip hop and Electronic Dance Music which are big in the USA. I acknowledge I'm not playing very mainstream styles but there are some big festivals in Europe for the music I like such as Wacken, Inferno, Hellfest, Amphi, Wave Gotik, Mera Luna, but here in the States, not so much (perhaps Maryland Deathfest and to a limited extent Ozzfest). Likewise, I've seen bands such as Norway's Mayhem, who headline Euro festivals numbering 50,000 fans bring crowds of only 100 in the midwest USA.

    Fortunately I've had the chance to travel to Europe several times and attend these festivals as well as spend a summer in London. These have been the happiest times of my life but family obligations and lack of a college degree brought me back to the States. Recently I decided to move from the Midwest to the Los Angeles area which had made a big difference in finding musical opportunities but from what I gather, even the LA rock/metal scene is nowhere near what it was in the 80s and 90s. One thing seems clear; Rock music is declining in the USA and the fringe genres of rock and metal that I enjoy are on even more of a decline.

    As I'm getting further into my 30s, I feel the disappointment that I never got to do a big tour in my 20s, play in front of 100s or 1000s a night and feel "successful". There has been this nagging feeling that if I had lived somewhere else and been born 10-20 years earlier, it could have made a huge difference.

    Lately I've had offers to try out for Top 40 cover bands which could lead to good gigs, but given that I don't generally like the music, would this be just giving up? One was even talking about a European tour, but I didn't know that cover bands toured? I guess for me a big part of music is the personal validation, so playing covers feels like it would be empty. Having good shows could be a lot of fun though but playing the inevitable pop, country etc could kill it for me.

    I'm torn. I'm releasing two original albums this year so I hope that it makes a difference. Otherwise I feel like there needs to be a big change.

  2. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Well, at least you aren't a circus performer. At least you have other opportunities.
  3. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Just imagine how all the big band swing jazz guys feel.

    To look at the big picture, there's a lot of things going on here. The music market has contracted; there just aren't as many big stars as there used to be and those that there are, aren't making the kind of money they used to. I mean, that includes pop as well as other genres like rock.

    And then, on top of that, the market has fragmented. Thanks to the internet it's no longer dominated by a few gatekeeping radio stations and big record labels. There is a much wider variety of music being made now, and it's going to a lot of smaller, niche markets. The good news is that it's easier than ever for a band to make an album and find some people to listen to it; the bad news is that it's rare for that audience to reach the economy of scale that enables a band to fill football stadiums or, indeed, make much of a living.

    As for rock itself - fashions change. It's not the music of youth any more. It's been around for sixty years. Metal, to be sure, had its heyday in the 70s and 80s. But it was never the most popular style around, certainly not the kind of black/death/etc/ metal stuff you're talking about. It's funny, to go back and listen to "School's Out for Summer" by Alice Cooper or "Livin after Midnight" by Judas Priest and you could hardly even call them "metal" songs by the expectations of modern metal. Frankly, when metal WAS more popular, it was more "pop" - catchier riffs, and dealt with themes that kids could identify with. Or you had that kind of hair-metal romance-novel-cover balladeering stuff in the 80s. You can't BOTH write for your own personal taste without trying to connect to widespread human feelings, AND complain that the population at large doesn't love your music.

    In my opinion, there's lots of great music being made today, in all genres. It's not generally dominating what's left of mainstream radio and top-40 charts (which, also in my opinion, have become almost meaningless). I would say, don't put yourself in a particular stylistic box, learn to appreciate and enjoy all kinds of different musical expression, and play what you want.
  4. powmetalbassist

    powmetalbassist Supporting Member

    Yep. I know how ya feel. Im a big Power Metal/ guy and find it tough to get out there. Most people don't know what power metal is (beyond their experience with Dragonforce on Guitar Hero) and there just isn't a market for it. If I were in Europe it would be a different story. I have several friends who have played in the Power/Prog/Death/Black metal scene here and can't get beyond playing to a couple dozen people. I have friends who have played Wacken (Vesperia and Crimson Shadows....look them up), got record deals in Japan and Europe (Borealis, Vesperia, Crimson Shadows) and toured with bigger European bands like Alestorm.

    If I had been born in the 70's and raised with the metal scene in its height things would be different and seem more achievable, except.

    Back then it only seems like it was more achievable because you are looking back. Today anybody can record, produce and distribute their albums from their basement without a label (No need to spend $10,000 on one studio session, $5,000 on production and another $250,000 on distribution) This allows a lot more good music (and crap) to get out there, that in the hey day would have never gotten past the basement jams. My guess is that you would have never had the opportunities that you had been given in the past 10-15 years if these modern technological advancements were not available.

    In essence you are lucky to have done what you have done, it is all about perspective.
    karl_em_all and Matthew_84 like this.
  5. rufus.K


    Oct 18, 2015
    You moved to LA to play music (or metal)? Saturated scene .
    monsterthompson likes this.
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    1. Fewer people are making money playing music, and fewer are making big money playing music - that's the nature of the interwebz.
    2. You state you play a fringe style of music, especially in the US, and complain that you can't make money playing in the US. And your point is...? That's like a company complain that they are not making money manufacturing and selling DVD players.

    Popular music changes - cycles come and go. Right now it's pop-country (although I think it is close to jumping the shark).

    When I was young, I thought about trying to make it as a professional musician when I had some opportunities. Then I realized that "starving artist" can be an accurate description.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  7. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I feel fortunate that the reality of "making it" in music caught up to me at a very early age.
    wmmj, pedroims, tedious1 and 4 others like this.
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I hear
    I hear/read this stuff about pop country being the hot thing right now. The top 20 highest paid artists of 2016 include only three country acts, and only one that I would call "pop" country (Luke Bryan). Pop artists (Taylor Swift, Drake, Madonna, etc.) still reign supreme.

    OP, this happens to all of us at some point. It's not depressing or a failure. Your priorities change. 15 years ago your hair was on fire and the only two things you cared about were playing in front of people and having enough food to last until tomorrow. Now, you look at things through different lenses.

    I played for a living off and on for two decades. These days I pack a lunch and work a day job. But I tuck my two daughters in every night. I call it a win win. I got to travel and play a ton of gigs. I had a lot of fun. Now I am getting the rewarding experience of being daddy.

    If you plow forward for a few more years you're not crazy. A 57 year old man still trying to "make it" in death metal is a bit depressing. Watch for changes in your heart and mind. And allow them to happen. Go wherever the joy is and make no apologies.
  9. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Taylor Swift IS country Taylor Swift's 10 Countriest Songs

    Toby Keith, Luke Brian, Kenny Cheney, Garth Brooks, and Swift all on the list. Go back a year or two and you have even more (Jason Aldean, (as I said, it's jumping the shark).

    Throw out the dinosaurs (Springsteen, Macca, Elton John, U2, Stones, AC/DC, Madonna), who are making it on touring their older songs, and what do you have? Boy bands (One Direction, Justin Bieber), hip hop/rap, and country. And the country stars have more staying power - look at Bruno Mars.
    rogerb likes this.
  10. ShadowImage

    ShadowImage Guest

    Jan 12, 2016
    Especially this paragraph, you are spot on. I guess that's the trade off. You remove the gatekeepers and in return bands have to support themselves. It's a win/lose situation.

    Very true. We have had some good gigs in the late 2000s such as the Paganfest tour and opening for Dying Fetus, Kataklysm and a bunch of others. Given the fact I grew up in a small town, without the internet I wouldn't have even known about that kind of music.

    I've been surprised, it's not as saturated as I would have thought. At least not by quality bands. I moved for that and work opportunities. Detroit wasn't exactly full of jobs.

    haha I dated a carnival girl once... lots of fun but *** was I thinking.

    I'm not concerned about making money and am happy being a starving artist. Coming from a lower socioeconomic class my entire life, my expectations are not high at all. All I want is to be able to play good shows with a decent crowd. So my concern is meeting the threshold of success I need to reach an audience which is fragmented.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  11. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Taylor Swift is no longer country....at all...none....zero.

    There is nothing "pop country" or "browse country" about Garth Brooks or Toby Keith and very little about Kenny Chesney. They are much more traditional country artists that pop country. Now, if you just want to lump all country together? Nah. You still wouldn't be correct. Taylor Swift, Adele, Drake, etc. are still the majority of the heavy hitters.

    Pop country simply is not the hottest thing out there at all. Period. Sure, there are super successful artists. But they can't compete with the highest paid pop artists in sales of anything other than concert tickets, and not even there really.
  12. ShadowImage

    ShadowImage Guest

    Jan 12, 2016
    I think the most popular thing right now is hip-hop infused pop. IMO Pop country is in the top 10 but probably not even the top 5.
  13. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    On the brightside you have less competition in your own musical niche.

    There's ALWAYS an audience for everything under the sun. The trick is connecting with them.
    ShadowImage likes this.
  14. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Just another thought - for whatever reason, these days, it's European countries (especially northern Europe) that still seem to have the most interest in metal music. But - sorry if this just makes it more depressing - there's no particular reason why that would always be true. For all we know, ten years from now Finnish kids will find metal passe' and all be listening to country or something. But then, on the bright side, for all we know there might be a wave of retro-revival fashion for metal ten years from now in the US or somewhere else, too. Fashions change.
    ShadowImage likes this.
  15. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    That type of rock music has always been "dead" from the perspective of making a living. As you indicated, it is and has always been difficult to make any money in those genres unless you were one of a small number of exceptions to the general rule, and those exceptions are generally either very "pop" versions of the style or else so incredibly good that they crossed over to a larger audience.

    That said, I play in that scene now and know plenty of people who tour and regularly play in front of 100s or 100s, and most of them are over 30.
    ShadowImage likes this.
  16. BusyFingers


    Nov 26, 2016
    Funny, despite all the anthemic declarations that rock and roll will never die down the decades, it has seemed to have quietly nodded off in a corner, died a silent death, and is slowly rotting away.
    ShadowImage and shawshank72 like this.
  17. Mid career I went to a bass tutor.
    The guy was an award winning, incredible and pretty famous bassist.
    If I lived 3 lifetimes and practiced 8 hours a day, I still wouldn't be as good as him.
    I'm just a working stiff with a music avocation evenings and weekends
    yet my home and bank account were nicer than my tutor's.
    ...just saying
    ShadowImage likes this.
  18. Londo Molari

    Londo Molari

    Jan 1, 2014
    2 blocks east of Mars
    Decendant from the Clovis culture. "Emitting that wonderful bass effect since 1970".
    Consider yourself lucky that your passion isn't fusion or prog.
    wmmj, ShadowImage, Jhengsman and 2 others like this.
  19. I'm sorry you're feeling so down. When I turned 30, I met my future wife, moved cities and went back to school, the realization that I was going to be settling down and likely never go on a three week cross country tour or play huge shows was a hard pill to swallow. I had what you could call a quarter (or third?) life crisis. I played in weird psych and garage rock bands, not to turn this into a pity party, but I saw metal as a gravy train compared to the music I was playing. I had modest aspirations; well-attended home city shows and maybe a good review in the local press and didn't even get that. But Josh Homme said something that I try to remember when I start to feel sorry for myself:

    "When you expect anything from music, you expect too much. I play for myself, I play because I enjoy it and you make the most of it for yourself."

    That quote reminds me of the only good advice I could share: you get to decide what being a success is, and the dirty secret of life (or the music biz) is that making a lot of money, or touring a lot won't make you happy. Playing a great show always feels amazing, be it for 10, 100 or 1000 people. The magic and joy you get out of music won't scale with size, in fact plenty of very successful musicians will attest that they were happiest when they had no money and were trying to figure out how to write songs with their friends in a basement somewhere. If you make music for yourself first, you will be content, and then if other people want to tag along then great!

    And the good news is that music doesn't have to leave your life if you don't do it full time. I know a lot of musicians still, almost all of them have day jobs and they're still active in music to some level. Some only play local shows but a few have done several tours to Europe and Asia, and they're happy to even though they're only slightly more popular across the pond than they are here. I myself continue to practice and make music for myself. With school and work, I can't make the commitment to a band, but I do plan to in the future.

    I know the next year or so is going to be difficult, but I believe if you can sort out your priorities and do the thing that will make you happiest, or at least most content, then you won't regret your path.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  20. MojoPenguin


    Jul 11, 2014
    Europe Bro'
    Age is not an issue, but the model of distributing music has changed. I'd say create for yourself or your band a very active social media profile and bring people from all over the world. Venues will hopefully follow.
    ShadowImage likes this.

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