"Metal for the masses": or, will metal ever be mainstream again? (and why we should want it to be…)

Brown, A.R (2015) "Metal for the masses": or, will metal ever be mainstream again? (and why we should want it to be…). In: Modern Heavy Metal: Markets, Practices and Cultures - International Academic Research Conference, 8 - 12 June 2015, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland.

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Abstract

In a striking series of recent posts, Keith Kahn-Harris has reflected on the question of Metal After Metal. Recalling the searching intelligence of a young Lawrence Grossberg and his anxious ruminations on whether rock was dead, dying or ‘going somewhere else’, Kahn-Harris reflects on the paradox of the abundance of metal music on the net and contrasts this with the 90s extreme metal underground, where the very scarcity of metal and the difficulty of accessing it, served to promote a musical economy – based on international tape-trading and eclipsed capital - that rewarded dedicated fandom with subcultural capital and discouraged casual consumption. This model is redolent of Bourdieu’s account of restricted (art) and large-scale (commercial) cultural production, except that the commerce of net music distribution is based on a subscription rather than a purchase model, so that economic accreditation is not guaranteed despite volume. It maybe that extreme metal, like indie and alt.rock, is an internalized avant-garde within the metal music field, meaning that aesthetic accreditation is only compatible with small to medium-scale success. Or that the impact of the net on the (exploitative) business model that used to underpin the reproduction of the music industry means that we may never see another hard-rock and metal dominated mainstream, as we have witnessed in the past. But maybe that past can offer clues as to why this is a desirable thing (despite the anti-mainstream rhetoric that currently abounds). Debating Lena and Peterson’s AgSIT model of genre trajectories (avant-garde, scene-based, industry-based and traditionalist-academic), this paper argues that innovation, development and change in metal music has always been tied to the formation and demise of music mainstreams: classic hard rock/metal 1969-1976, hard rock/glam metal, 1984-91 and nu-metal/rap-rock, 1997-2001. The problem from this perspective is that NWOBHM, doom, power (including symphonic), thrash, grindcore, death and black metal did not mainstream enough (with the exception of notable bands, like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Pantera, etc) to allow the next cycle of musical innovation to commence. It may also be that the genre pool of classic metal has been over-fished or that what is currently missing is a catalyst-genre, such as hard-rock, punk or hip-hop.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: School of Creative Industries
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2021 19:21
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2021 19:21
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