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How Could Anthrax Better Deal With Downloaders?

4 like 0 dislike

The guitarist for Anthrax, Scott Ian, recently went on a bit of a diatribe about how evil fans who downloaded his stuff without paying were.  It feels reminiscent of Lars Ulrich going after Napster and losing a ton of fans in the process.  Ian seems pretty angry that he can't sell records like he did in the past:

There is no argument. I'm not even going to get into that conversation. You're stealing! It's stealing, that's what it is. It's not free for us to make these records. These records are on sale in many, many places where you can pay your money to buy the product that we are selling. Anything outside of that is stealing. There is no conversation to be had. There's no, "Well, I just wanted to check it out, and then I liked it so I bought the record." I don't give a fuck. It's stealing. Everyone can say that, "I just wanted to check it out," or "There's no way for me to get music where I live." That's bullshit. It's fucking bullshit! I've been doing this for way too long. I sold records in the '80s and '90s before there was an Internet, and no one seemed to have a problem going out and buying a shit ton of records back then. The whole record industry has collapsed because people are stealing. That's the end of the story.

So, with that in mind, I thought perhaps we could try something a bit more positive than the expletive-laden angry screed above.  If you were managing Anthrax these days, what might you do to build on your long-term success in the modern era without attacking all your fans as thieves?  What practical suggestions do you have for how Antrhax might be able to make more money (since that seems to be the root of his complaint), without going ballistic about file sharing.  Ian doesn't seem willing to listen to "arguments" from the other side, but I still think it's a worthwhile exercise to see what suggestions folks here might come up with.

initiated Nov 7, 2011 in Connecting with Fans by Mike Masnick (22,930 points)   59 99 160

5 Responses

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Studies by both the RIAA and the MPAA show take downloads of unofficial copies encourage more sales. The first thing Scott must do is apologize. The second thing he must do is apologize. The third thing he must do is apologize. And so on.

Next they should set up a live-video streaming session where their fans can ask questions via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. And they should mention where their fans can buy high-quality, virus-free copy of their songs. Finally, I would try to set up a live jam session via some web-video conferencing such as Google Hangouts.

They have to create a happening. An event where their fans can go and be thier fans. Such events will definitely increase their sales.
response added Nov 7, 2011 by shawnhcorey (620 points)   1 3 8
@shawnhcorey and the likelihood of any of the above?
@mmasnick Very little. Not that I proposing anything new. For years bands have been doing live radio interviews where their fans can call-in questions. All they need do is transfer this to the internet. And, also for years, musicians have been doing web-based video jam sessions. All they need do is put it all together. And it would take less effort than organizing a concert. But until someone else does it first, nobody's going to do it.
@shawnhcorey:  That is great for marketing...but does it help the band?  Nope.  The band needs to tour and perform, get their name out there.  Influence the fans to buy their albums.  Of course the marketing is a good thing but it only helps the marketeers not the band.  The band needs to do their thing outside the bounds of services like marketing and management.  The band needs face time with the fans on a stage.  Thats how albums are sold.
Did I say the band should stop touring? However, the internet should be the best way to increase its fans. But since everyone knows the best way is touring, nobody tries. And because they don't try, the internet doesn't give them more fans. Catch 22.
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Here's the simple crux of the matter: musicians can look at piracy and see all the frustrating harm in it, or they can choose to see the positive.  Imagine if Scott considered this about piracy:

Aggregating Fans: This really is the beauty of sites like The Pirate Bay and others, in that they pool your fans together for you.  How wonderful of them!  And they do it for free, too!  So, with an aggregate of customers and/or potential customers in one place, who by definition want the music, you can market to them directly.  Imagine if Anthrax engaged threads on torrent sites, including links to their latest tour dates, or places to by Anthrax merchandise, or simply thanked fans and let them know where they can buy the digital tracks if they choose?  Imagine the goodwill generated?  Imagine if they had a monetized YouTube channel, or some other video streaming location on which they sell advertisement, and they went out of their way to post their own music videos of the music being pirated to monetize the interest?

Potential Free Distribution For Marketing Programs: What if they used teaser songs/files/etc. and distributed them via bittorrent themselves?  Since they can do that for free, what if these files ended with a short request from the band to buy music/merch/whatever, in a way that did not destroy the musical experience, say at the end of the track?  What if they drove traffic to their site through the "pirate sites" and offered incentives for both fans of the pirate tracks and legitimate tracks, or concerts, or merch?  A Facebook badge says you're a fan if you pirated an album, but the "True Anthrax Fan" badge is only attainable with a purchase or a concert visit?  Remember, fans of music LOVE to share that fanship.

response added Nov 9, 2011 by Timothy Geigner (500 points)   2 3 5
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"I sold records in the '80s and '90s before there was an Internet, and no one seemed to have a problem going out and buying a shit ton of records back then."

I would start by accepting the fact that the 80's are over.  People have the internet now. They have 500 TV channels, streaming videos, games, laptops and social media.  

Content is no longer the scarce resource; attention is.  We only have so much time in a day, and if Antrax wants to earn my attention, they had better make it worth my while by doing something remarkable or unexpected. 

response added Nov 7, 2011 by Kyle Clements (2,460 points)   3 9 17
@kyle_clements - Attention is key. If people even had half the number of distractions back in the 80's and 90's, record sales would have been markedly lower. If they had access to the sheer amount of music that's available today, again, record sales would have been lower.

It's easy to blame piracy, but it takes a lot of effort to rise above the noise and make yourself heard. Plenty of bands used to sell lots of records. Lots of those bands no longer exist. At least, Ian still has Anthrax and they've got more opportunities.

Biting the hand that feeds you (even if it doesn't seem to be) is never a good idea.
@capitalisliontamer Tim, I think the other thing that's important to note is that it's not just rising above the "noise", it's rising above all the other "really good noise" that's out there.
There's this idea still out there that there's label-produced music and home music and one is good and the other is crap, but it's just not true anymore. Yes there is still a lot of crap, but there's also vast amounts of really good stuff out there too. It's not enought to be good, you have to be great.
I would suggest that Anthrax need to find those fans who think that they are great (hmm, maybe some of the ones doing the downloading) and find out what they want and how to supply that demand.
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Since the 80's didn't put an end to Antrax and their ilk, might I suggest a little ciprofloxacin, doxycycline or penicillin ....

What Scott Ian needs to realize is that people have only so much time and money for entertainment. Percentage spent on entertainment, based on take home pay,  has remained pretty much static for the past 20 years. The time people have is now distributed between, online video (youtube), gaming, blogging, websurfing, reading news, facebook apps (farmville, mafia wars, ick ..etc), texting, talking on their cell phones, tweeting, chatting, skyping, and much more.

The other set of problems  the music industry faces are, mp3 music singles have replace album sales, there is no need to repurchase music in newer formats, the loss of "media failure" resales (scratches, unwinds, etc), artists giving their music away online as advertising for scarce goods, and 4 million other artists competing for the same eyes and ears.

What Scott Ian is now facing is a failure of the monopoly status of the record labels due to competition, and efficiencies creeping into the system. It will only get worse as time goes by and new business models are developed. Business models that the record labels cannot use, as they need to be geared to the individual artist.

So my suggestions are learn about facebook, twitter, and Google+ or hire someone that knows how to use them. Learn how to post your albums on Amazon, iTunes. And most of all connect with your fans. See what they like, take advice on the way the next album should go, allow them to participate in it creation. Hold a best lyrics contest, best rift contest, best remix contest.
response added Nov 9, 2011 by David Fuchs (180 points)   1 1 2
edited Nov 9, 2011 by David Fuchs
@hephaestus42:  Its really funny you mention this.  Multimillion record and CD sales is a recent event.  Back in the day, where one person on a block may have owned a record player, performers did not make millions of dollars and produced the music because it was their calling.  These days, bands like Anthrax, who in comparison to others shouldve ended long ago, complain about the millions of dollars lost when in reality their product never owned up to the sales numbers.  Bands like Anthrax were developed in the hair days with one hit wonders.  Some fans may believe otherwise, but I myself cannot abide stale talent.  Look at Sammy Hagar...he has reinvented hisself and his music ten different ways and STILL sells millions of albums and fills concert halls.  Artists need to get away from the record sales as income idea and start performing before crowds to earn their keep.  Just like it was in the old days.  Try a show at Folsom Prison and see where your career goes.  I know one man that did that and became a superstar.
Folsom, Yeah Go Jonny!! ... :)

I do not believe it is stale talent, as much as the end of the sales curve. All products have life cycles. Old music slowly moves towards the end of long cats tail. Artists like Sammy Hagar are the exception, not the rule. In his case, by not being static, by changing, he can bring a new and fresh audience to his older music keeping it relevant longer. Artists who just did a couple albums and retired hoping for sales eternal, are deluded.
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As a wannabe musician I do find this kind of diatribe so frustrating. These guys have such a head start it's untrue, if they (and their label) actually decided to go out and try some of the new options they could really turn it around. If individuals and small groups can make a living (not necessarily make millions, but make a living) doing this, imagine what could be achieved by a major label and established band if they actually grasped the opportunity? They have the advertising connections, the established fan base, the distribution power, the cash to front-up for tours and promotions, etc etc etc.

The 80s are gone, but they could still be doing very, very nicely in the 2000's if they really wanted to and had the balls to try.

sheesh. rant over! sorry.
response added Nov 24, 2011 by drew stephenson (3,370 points)   3 10 22

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