Some Thoughts on Metal, Distribution and Culture

One of the things I've noticed about my music listening habits is that I don't listen to very much metal at all anymore, and scantly any from this current decade-I doubt that I have more than 5 albums from the last 2 years in my entire collection. Considering how rapacious I used to be about listening to as much metal as I possibly could from all its myriad scenes and subgenres, that's saying quite a bit. I think there might be a couple of reasons for this, and both of them are  directly related to cost and competition. 

First of all, I simply don't have as much money as I used to. I recently moved to Brooklyn (hence the dearth of updates) and I'm living on my own without a steady cache of money I can go to to purchase new albums for the first time in my life(which is not to say that I mooched off my parents, but having a job while living at home leaves one with a fair amount of disposable income). For those of you asking "why should that be any obstacle?" you should know that my stance on free downloading is that I only find it permissible when the artist has given their explicit permission or the release has been out of print/will remain out of print for a considerable length of time. Also, it may sound strange to hear for those of you not familiar with both areas, but there isn't a record store anywhere in New York that I've been able to find that has both the breadth of selection and price range that Amoeba, my go-to record store back in California, used to have. The result is that even when I do manage to make it into one I usually can't find any metal, or if I can it's of the Converge/Isis/Agalloch variety, and more often than not at full retail price. Not that there's anything wrong with so-called "thinking-man's metal," as I count albums from all of the above bands as some of my very favorites, but by God a man needs his meat and potatoes every once and a while and I'll be damned if I've seen nary an Immolation or even a Megadeth CD the entire time I've been here.

The second reason is closely tied to the first, and that is that, as stated, I don't have very much money anymore, and other genres of music-namely hip-hop and electronic-are particularly tuned to the interests of budget-minded, college-age students these days, with some fantastic new mixtape being released every week and a slew of MP3s coming out every single day. They're both genres that, by nature, foster a sense that music should be not only readily available to, but creatable by, the average man and so to some degree it makes sense that they would be able to so easily eclipse their contemporaries in terms of available, cost-effective music. 

That stated, it's not so much that I don't have the time for metal anymore as much as the resources. I'd certainly be devoting as much time to it as I do to hip-hop and electronic music if metal had some sort of equivalent to the mixtape or the gratis single, but for whatever reason-maybe due to the effort needed to create it, maybe due to its status as an already niche, generally unpopular genre of music-metal doesn't lend itself as easily to being cheap and easily attainable as the previously mentioned other genres. Sites like MetalSucks and Decibel will occasionally offer a free album stream but good Lord, I don't want to listen to metal while sitting in front of my computer. I listen to it when I'm walking around, exercising, bringing things to bear in the dead of night. Even the greatest metal album isn't going to inspire what it should while wafting out of my laptop speakers at 128kbps. 

It may seem unfair to ask a genre, particularly one that needs as much support from its fans as it does to thrive, to essentially give me something for nothing, but as a ravenous consumer of music of all different genres, metal's relative lack of availability in the 2010s has or more or less knocked my attention away from it. The sad truth is that today's listener needs music placed in front of them in a way that much of the metal industry and creative community has been unwilling or unable to do. Maybe it's a situation that has more to do with my individual listening habits than any kind of seriously widespread problem, but for someone with as wide a palate as mine, more and more I find my appetite being sated elsewhere. I believe that metal has the ability to not only keep up with but elevate music culture from an artistic position; whether it'll be able to do so from a distribution position remains dubious and, to my mind, worrying.


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