When the internet first appeared in the mid nineties, I was so excited to finally enjoy up to the moment info, news and details from all my favorite bands. Within a few years, all the big names in rock had some sort of web presence … an official website combined with plenty of fan sites, forums, email digests, and message boards. Keeping up with all your faves was never easier!
Fast forward to the current day climate of rock and roll. Not a week goes by without some sort of band inner-turmoil making the rounds on social media, Blabbermouth, and several other rock websites. Band business has never been more transparent. The Bill Ward and Black Sabbath reunion attempt, Geoff Tate and Queensryche’s onstage showdowns, Dave Lombardo’s firing from Slayer and The Black Crowes breakup are just a few recent examples of drama aired out in public for the rock world’s entertainment.
Back in the day, lineup changes were blamed on a member’s rampant drug or alcohol abuse - or the old standby: “creative differences”, and that was always as far as it went. Nowadays, any freshly excommunicated band member scorned is more than willing to air his grievances in a detailed Facebook post.
There is little doubt the current implosion of the music industry has put an incredible financial strain on legacy band dynamics and relationships - especially the B-level working class bands.
Many of these ex-bandmembers are going public and revealing the inner-workings of the band’s business, most likely in an attempt to sway public opinion to their side, improve their ability to go solo, and maybe even put a dent in the band’s overall revenue to hopefully improve their bargaining power.
Only one problem … most fans don’t care!
Take the Bill Ward/Black Sabbath situation for example. Many hardcore fans (myself included) applaud Ward’s refusal to sign a contract that completely insults his contributions and value to the band. No doubt Sharon squeezed the band splits largely in Ozzy’s favor, and I’m sure Geezer and Tony are just happy to be getting something. But apparently, the like-minded hardcore fans (who believe that Black Sabbath Mark I does not sound remotely close to authentic unless Bill Ward is on the throne) don’t matter one iota to Sharon - least of all, the members of the band themselves. The Rick Rubin produced, Tom Wilk (of Rage Against The Machine) drummed, plodding and overrated reunion studio album “13” garnered the band their first Number One, and the ensuing tour was a sellout. +1000 Sharon Osbourne!
The whole debacle is strikingly similar to the current Kiss situation, with Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer sporting the SpaceAce and CatMan personas onstage. Many hardcore fans are outraged to the point of boycott, yet the band continues to do healthy business on the road (even with Paul Stanley’s insane vocal issues!!), with most (if not all) in attendance completely oblivious that original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are actually being impersonated.
More and more we are seeing the crucial (read: essential) figurehead personalities within each band leveraging their popularity to take complete control of the business.
Shawn Drover and Chris Broderick recently walked away from Megadeth on the eve of recording a new album. Somewhat shockingly (or not shocking at all, depending on how you look at it), Dave Mustaine was quite happy to NOT pay those guys a dime for recording the new record. No worries though - when there are plenty of young and hungry no-name musicians (who apparently still live with their parents) that would leap at the chance to fill a vacant slot in the thrash titan!
For the hardcore fan, all of this insider-knowledge kinda taints the music. Not so much the old stuff we grew up on (man … those first 6 Sabbath records!!), but any new releases or upcoming tours for sure. Unlucky for us, there seems to be an abundance of fairweather fans, more than willing to fill seats and stream the latest record - giving our ‘heroes’ a free pass to completely ignore us, the hardcore fanbase, and go about their business, making all the necessary “tough business decisions” to pad their bottom lines.