Friday, 27 April 2012

Roadrunner Records- The Beginning of the End?



So, if you are following some metal acts and a bunch of metal music industry people on Twitter or Facebook, you couldn’t possibly have missed the story about Roadrunner which has been going around the net today (26th April 2012). Originally started as a rumour in the early morning hours, and eventually being confirmed by a vast amount of Roadrunner workers via Twitter, Roadrunner Records is shutting down its European and Canadian offices.  For some this may not seem like a big deal but honestly it is a pretty big deal for anyone involved in metal. First of all, think of all the people that are losing their jobs. People who have devoted their lives to metal and to getting you the best acts that, they thought, deserved to be on stage. People who have made metal what it is today and who have worked their asses off, just because they love metal. So our initial thoughts go to all of them and we wish them only the best. Secondly, this is a very sad day for metal and for metal fans regardless of whether they like Roadrunner or not. Roadrunner has been one of the leading metal labels out there, and it has been responsible for the fact that many of us are metalheads today. 

So what happened? In 2010 Warner Music Group (WMG) bought Roadrunner Records in an attempt to get its foot in the heavy metal door. Today 2 years later, WMG seems to be unhappy with the ways things are going at Roadrunner and therefore are closing down its international offices and firing another 16 people in the US. Why? Well, WMG could be doing this for a variety of reasons with the most dominant being that they just want to reduce RR’s budget.

Whatever the case may be, the sheer fact that the metal label is the one that gets hit should be very worrying to all of us. If the majors start to disregard metal like this, it can only mean that we’re not  progressing very well, despite the fact that metal has been one of the most stable genres in the world. Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel very rightly twitted today that “What happened today to Roadrunner is one of the biggest reasons I never sold to a major” while Chimaira’s lead guitarist Emil Werstler wondered:  “[…] why people are so concerned about RR. It's 2012. It sucks for our pals there, but did we not see this coming?”.  Well, Emil is right and so is Brian. Did we not see this coming? Probably not, but it makes sense. When Roadrunner got bought by WMG in 2010 it could only go towards a very limited amount of directions. Unfortunately it went towards the direction we would had wished it never went, and this was a gamble that Roadrunner took when they signed the deal with WMG.

For the RR bands this is very bad news too. If this is indeed a reduction of budget, then a bunch of them will be dropped and many bands will have to look for new homes. The big ones obviously don’t have much to worry, but the smaller RR bands should be considering some other labels right now. This could also potentially mean the end of Signmeto which has been recruiting young bands and signed them to Roadrunner for a few years now. It could also mean that the remaining RR bands will get a smaller advance for their next album, which could lead to smaller tours, less products and limited reach. So this automatically takes us to a very limited quantity of metal being released and with one less label, it makes it harder for every band to get signed anywhere else, since competition will be tougher.

For the fans, I think it’s pretty obvious what will happen. Less metal, less gigs, less ways to express yourself, less freedom. Might sound a bit dramatic, but don’t tell me that you don’t feel free and relieved after listening to metal.

So from all points of view we are in deep shit. Who is to blame? Well, first of all, I get very annoyed with all the people tweeting that piracy is to blame. This is bullshit! Although piracy might have something to do with it, it is definitely not the reason why this happened, so stop mentioning piracy as the reason for this. In my opinion, the main reason for this situation, is corporate greed. WMG doesn’t really care if what they do, means anything to anybody or if it will affect thousands of people.  We are in a changing industry where the future is uncertain and definitely very exciting. The majors are struggling to retain control and as they are losing money they are becoming greedier. As long as something saves them money, they’ll go for it and they’ll be happy about it! And by reducing the RR offices and incorporating all the Roadrunner activities within their own offices, well let me tell you that they will save money.

Concluding this blog post I just hope that this will be the end of this story and that the whole label won’t get absorbed into WMG and become history. Roadrunner is a historic label, and maybe in the last few years they haven’t been what they used to, but nevertheless we should honour and respect the label for what it has done and for bringing us some of the heaviest, craziest and best metal acts that ever walked on stage.

“Money should not dictate art. Art should dictate money.” - Shawn Crahan (Slipknot)

Posted by Nick