Archive and Search
« Motley Crue Swag Up for Grabs | Main | Metal: A Headbanger's Journey »

Big Break?

Why do some bands hit it big and others just sort of get passed over by the label machine? Right now, you're probably thinking "Allyson, why are you still so naive? Why do you believe bands are signed based on merit and not luck and connections?"

Well, I'm a romantic.

So there.

I still believe true talent rises to the top of just about every industry and eventually it's that skill that separates the wheat from the chaff.

In all seriousness, I always wonder why certain Glam bands got major deals and why others were sort of passed over despite having a good sound, cool look and great songs.

Since Glam is back in style these days, a few labels are popping up to promote classic 80s bands that never really got a fair shake at the big time. We already know a lot of these bands are slated for side stages at both Rocklahoma and the South Texas Rock Fest...and most likely Rock the Bayou. The fact that a promoter wishes to book such bands tells me there is a definite market for Glam talent. So, why can a band like Blue Tiger play a side stage at a major festival now...but couldn't break big back in the day when the genre was huge?

So, was it truly a case of right place, right time for bands like Winger and Warrant or was it just a sign of the times? Sure, bands like Quiet Riot, Motley Crue and W.A.S.P. most definitely came first, but they presented a unique sound that the second wave of Glam manipulated and turned into almost a new subgenre. Most would agree you can cut classic Glam into three waves, starting with the early 80s and going through '85 and then to '88 and finally ending with the early '90s bands to about 1992. In each case, the bands were Glam but had a distinct sound...presumably label sharks were looking to replicate that sound to cash in big.

Ok, fine. Replicate the sound, therefore we've got a genre we all know and love. The guitar tone of Glam bands is so recognizable, it takes just a few bars of music to determine the genre. The same is true of grunge, thrash and alternative Metal just as it is for rap and country. So, why are certain bands signed and others unfairly passed over for no seemingly good reason?

Alleycat Scratch and Big Bang Babies are good examples of talented bands being ignored. Perhaps it was just the time they hit the scene, but I still think there's some mystical factor between bands and the machine. Hell, maybe it is luck. I just wonder if a band like Nickelback would have landed a deal in 1988? Would they have been as successful as they are today?



Reader Comments (10)

it has virtually nothing to do with true talent unfortunately. it has a lot to do with timing and what the record labels are loking for. there are tons of stories from bands that got signed and then the suits start telling them to "change this" or "change that." before you know it they don't sound like themselves anymore, they sound like another group that's already popular. some of these groups do this willingly, some fight but give in and a very few say no and fight the uphill battle.

i can agree with your 3 periods more or less and for those that were in the last group it was just a matter of timing. if they had released a record 2-3 years earlier they could have been big. but the suits jumped on "the next big thing" and started dropping bands left and right. a lot of these groups continued on but without major label help and quite a few gave up. for me the really good ones that loved playing stuck it out, they persevered and kept going no matter what. it didn't matter if they sold 50,000 or 5,000,000 million copies so long as they could keep playing. that's not to say that only truly talented bands and individuals kept going, for various reasons some very good groups didn't make it.

to me it proves that you don't have to be talented to make it when i look at groups like 98 degrees or britney spears or creed (or a ton of others) and how huge they were. you just have to become what you're told.

that's just the way it is in the music business whether we like it or not.
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdon
I don't think it's just music. In many areas of life, it's not what you know, but who you know, that will help you rise to the top. Talent and intelligence have precious little to do with it in most cases. It's all about how much you're willing to give up, and what you're willing change about yourself to make the ones in charge happy.
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
i must say i prefer Alleycat scratch to big bang babies - got both on cd and im sure they would both have made had they been earlier. i mean Warrant made it and i dont rate them at all - saw a vid of them just recently and Jani is back off the wagon.
Record companies did try to rule what we listened to but sometimes a band just cant be ignored - GnR for one - they didnt fit the NORM at the time but they still went global.
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred6ixx
It all boiled down to marketing, really, and who the labels thought could sell, no matter what the talent level was. Sometimes it worked. Would Winger have flown if Kip hadn't been young, dating an up-and-coming British model and fairly good looking? ;) Probably not, since the type of music was common enough, but marketing saw something they could use and did they ever use the point where Winger can't be accepted seriously as musicians.

Sad to say, the dollar (Euro, Franc, Mark, Pound, etc) rules the marketers.
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChessie
Success has quite a bit to do with timing. Of course, preperation, talent, and tenacity has much to do with it, but if it isn't the right season then it is hard to breakthrough and get your music out there.

The story of John, Paul, George, and Ringo to me is interesting. They were playing early rock 'n' roll songs in clubs, but so were a lot of other bands. So they started writing their own material. Even after the beginning of Beatlemania, it was their decision not to tour and spent time innovating new music that has sustained them as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands. I imagine that if they had continued to tour and not spend time experimenting with music that they would still have been great, but they might not be as iconic as they are now.

I always think of the artist who creates a great record and then tries to duplicate that song, which usually never works out too well. I imagine it is difficult to try to break new ground while the label wants another of what you did before. I am a fan of different artist over a broad range of genres, but it takes something unique to really catch my ear.

One of my favorite young artists, Erin Boheme, sings jazz. She has a wonderful voice, but there is only a section of people who listen to that genre of music. Sixty years ago, she would have been Rosemary Clooney. Now, she's trying to work her way up the jazz charts. Her debut reached #17, but it's disappointing that no one has really heard of her, which I am sure you feel towards some glam bands.
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTommy
I remember reading an article where Elvis said he just came around at the right time when people were looking for something new..Funny how the big wigs tried to kick our Glam bands to the curbs around 91 and now want them back so bad..LONG LIVE GLAM!!! =)
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Allyson...I agree with you..I LOVE Alleycat Scratch..Another band I loved who should have been bigger is Roxx Gang too..Great sound and Great look..Kevin Steele is a super cool guy too =)
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Interesting article Allyson. I have those same questions as you do. There are so many bands that had a lot of talent that just didn't get the "big break". There could be several different explanations as to why that happened...
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenteraXe mAn
God. Where to start....
July 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterValentine
I just can't get enough of Dirty Penny...They kick so much ass...LOVE their music.
July 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.