Machine Head‘s Burn My Eyes is – without question – one of the most stellar debut metal records ever. Over 20 years have passed and it is still praised and revered by fans, critics and a lot of other bands. These days, no one album will set up a band’s career or predict their relevance in the future. There are just so many bands out there and so much material it could make any fan’s head spin. But let’s forget about that for a minute. Amidst the never ending scenes of bands and all the artists that seek to make an actual career out of this, what can they do to assert their position as a career band? What are the steps? There is never any particular scenario or generalization that correctly describes everyone or everything. Most people would say don’t get into music, don’t get into a band. Do something else.
Forgetting the naysayers, there are bands out there that are really creating their own respective institutions, that have become independent, self-efficient entities which are operating effectively in the music business. The recent release Bloodstone and Diamonds (one of our votes for best record of the year, by the way) is another awesome record from the Bay Area quartet. Releasing stellar records is only part of the equation that allows for success these days. Let’s look at some of the aspects of Machine Head that other bands should should aspire to match, as well as base their careers on.
Guitarist/Vocalist Robb Flynn co-produced the effort and actually has been producing the band’s last several efforts – this is essential. Metal bands are one of the few genres in music that are devoid of outside songwriters. You don’t see a massive team assembled to write and record an album for a metal band. There aren’t anywhere near the revenues to even justify this, and metal musicians have always been the predominant vehicles to their own music anyways. That being said, having a band member involved in producing or co-producing your albums is essential. For one, it lowers the cost of such productions or if anything, pays monies that would be going to outside producers into the band members’ pockets or allocates resources to other avenues. It is also one more part of the creative equation the band has control of, as opposed to relinquishing duties to outside personnel.
Machine Head have for many years, dominated Europe. These guys are an absolute force to be reckoned with overseas and from years of incessant touring and hard work, play to huge audiences and high festival billing slots all over the continent. It isn’t as easy as it sounds of course, but the band put in the work over many years and played every corner of Europe. Every band will hopefully have regions of this world where things will take off a bit more than others. Regardless, these guys took every opportunity and did tours in some cases that were at or over 10 weeks long. Most bands would never do that, even given the chance to. Robb Flynn and co. have built their fan base by grinding it out on the road over many many years, taking every opportunity to continue to do what they do best – tour and destroy live. It takes time, it takes years, but a career is defined by those very two things. Other bands should model their touring schedules, goals and aspirations on what Machine Head have done. Every band needs to tour everywhere, all the time and extract as much as possible out of every region. It is a lot harder than picking an actual region and saying “let’s build this territory.” Rather, you should tour your ass off and pay attention to where things take off particularly well. Make it happen!
Bloodstone and Diamonds’ U.S. tour is “an evening with” sort of affair. Yes, bands should aspire to touring without any other bands. Following the band online, a ton of the tour is sold out, setup is easy and they keep all the revenues. Touring these days, especially in the States, is getting harder and harder. In some instances, promoters and club owners are not even paying guarantees to acts and doing door deals. A little background info is required here. Most tours are booked around a guaranteed fee for every appearance for the bands involved and out of that, the band pays expenses and (of course) themselves. Concert attendance is down in general so there is only so much money going around, and when you start having to pay multiple bands it makes things complicated. Machine Head decided they will go out on their own, play two hour sets (extremely difficult for a band of this intensity as well) and thus the entire show is based around them. Sure, a twenty-year-plus career helps, but how much easier would it be to just get other new and popular bands as support and go out and depend on that? These guys are banking on their own fan base, the hardcore “Head Cases” (as they have been so aptly named) to support and enjoy two hours of Machine Head. Following the band on Instagram, it is easy to see that the pre-show meet and greets have been very successful. Let us not forget that the crew does not need to have to worry about any other artists and their gear on stage, either. It’s a win-win.
So yes, this is all easier said than done, but there has to be some rhyme or reason to the madness that involves being in a band these days. Bands cannot just wing it and see what happens. There have to be models, examples, and leaders of the scene that new and upcoming bands can aspire to. Build your own world, your own empire, the more self-reliant, self-sufficient the better proverbial foot you can put forward.
Take an example from Machine Head, they know better than anyone.
Remaining Bloodstone and Diamonds Tour Dates:
17th February – Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO
18th February – The Complex, Salt Lake City, UT
19th February – Vinyl/Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
20th February – The Regent Theater, Los Angeles, CA
21st February – Regency Center Grand Ballroom, San Francisco, CA
Related: Which electric guitar you should buy!