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Let's Stay Relevant

Posted on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 12:01AM by Registered CommenterAllyson B. Crawford | Comments30 Comments
My friend Vince Neilstein over at MetalSucks wrote a great opinion piece the other day about Iron Maiden's strong album sales and staying relevant. Do yourself a favor, take two minutes and give it a read.


Vince's thesis is this: a band can stay relevant by consistently releasing new music and playing it live. That is, not pandering to fans only screaming for the hits and not falling prey to laziness of the same set night after night. Down with lowest common denominator metal!


So many of us complain about seeing the same set over and over. Think about Poison. We all love them here - they created some of the best party songs of the genre - but the set is tired. You go to a Poison show, you're going for the atmosphere and not the music. You already know what you're going to hear...and probably in what order, too! What if the guys in Poison - and I mean all four of them - set out to write a really strong album of all new material...and then made the commitment to at least play half those new songs live? Would you be interested?


Artists have the right to change up their shows any way they want for their own benefit. I know musicians that are sick to death of their so-called "hits" but fear riots if a popular song is dropped. Fans might be riled at first. Or they might appreciate a band attempting to stay relevant well into a long career.


I think it's time we have a frank discussion about bands and relevancy around here and Vince's article is a great jumping-off point. How do we get kids interested in bands like Motley Crue and Def Leppard? I firmly believe if Iron Maiden can make strong, new records and sell-out arenas, others can follow. But, work is hard and going through the motions is easy. It doesn't take much thought to repackage and repurpose a greatest hits album nor does it take much effort to dust off the same old set list. I'm in total agreeance that Iron Maiden works for their position as kings of metal. Let's all learn from them.

Reader Comments (30)

I totally disagree. I go to a classic rock concert to hear the hits. I don't have any problem with a new song or two (or even 3) but I don't want to hear the bands newest CD in it's entirety. I passed on an Iron Maiden concert as the set list was composed of mostly new songs a few years back and one of my most disappointing concerts ever was Deep Purple in which instead of playing their monster hits, they decided to play a half dozen songs off their latest (as of then) CD. Snooze city boys. Beer tents and hot dogs stands were overcrowded and the boys were roundly booed.
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKen
I think new music is important if the band wants logevity. Saints of Los Angeles is actually one of my favorite Crue albums and gave me renewed interest to see them because I knew the set would be different. Of course I want to hear the hits, but when you go to a Poison show and hear nothing but the hits in the same order it makes you realize their creativity is dead and in my opinion when creativity is dead so is the passion. I need the artists to have passion for me to enjoy them.
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMartell
I get your point, Allyson, but I'm not sure that it's possible. Like it or not, Hair/Glam Metal is an 80's construct, and it will be forever associated with that time. For young people, this means that it's either uncool at worse, or at best, retro kitsch. That doesn't mean that the music isn't great (it is), but it does make it pretty damned hard to gain traction for kids. I think it's similar in many respects to disco, which will forever lumped in with the 70's.

Think of the hundreds of bands that had big hits in the 80's. How many are still around? And of those, how many are actually selling new music? Maiden, U2, Metallica, Crue and a few others. Pop culture moves extremely fast and it's almost impossible to stay relevant/cool for a long period of time. And those that do stay relevant are the ones that put out monumental, essential records (Maiden, U2, Metallica) that kids still buy, or they are pop culture oddities that remain cool for reasons outside of music (Motley, Poison). Ozzy & GNR belong somewhere in between.

And it's not like bands don't try to remain relevant. Most of the bands from the 80's have reunited and put out new music at some point or another, but they don't sell and they wouldn't make any money playing live if they were playing just new stuff.

Great White could put out a killer new album next month that contained their best stuff of all time, but it wouldn't matter. To kids, they are an old band who get played once in a while on retro video shows and on dad's Classic Hair mix. It wouldn't be any different than if Foghat put out an awesome album in 1989. No one would have paid attention because they weren't cool.

Maiden & Metallica are different -- they are the "kings of metal" because they wrote music that every metal fan still needs to have in their collection, and that keeps them relevant. Kids still drive around blasting Ride the Lightning in their parents cars. With all due respect to Poison, they aren't at that level.
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBryon
I'm not a big Maiden fan, but haven't they put out new music all along, and always incorporated new music into their sets (and changed things around). Most bands from that genre haven't done the same, so they have pigeon-holed themselves into being a band that plays their hits. Sure, they may put out a new album, but by and large, the majority of people still want the hits (and the bands know that and they play the sets that will get them the biggest crowds). Ratt's new album is amazing, but i don't want to hear more than 2 or 3 of those songs live (and would be fine with zero). If Ratt kept putting out new music all along and always changed their set lists over the years, then people would expect such changes, but Ratt (like most others from the genre) have dug their own grave in that they have created expectations among their audience members that they will play all the hits.......it's their own fault, and really, it is too late in the game to change it up now.

...plus, remember how many people were disappointed when the Bulletboys didn't play "Smooth Up" at a recent festival...and I believe Allyson was one of those who were disappointed???? :-)
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian C.
I agree totaly with Bryon, but personally I would like to see glam bands bust out some of the album tracks. Like Poison could play #1 bad Boy instead of I Want Action , or The Crue could play on with ethe show instead of Dr.Feelgoood , etc...Bands like Paerl Jam and Metaliica who change their sets nightly keep things interseting.Most of these bands have been out for 30 years and havent released many cds since the 90's so we know the old ones by heart , then they release a half hearted effort in 2010 and expect to play 1/2 of it liek we are gonna go ape shit....no thanks....BTW I love Maiden but 6 songs are way too much , pretty much for any established band, in the day of the ipod...just my two cents
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTommy
Maiden sells out shows....very true. But they are one of the FEW bands that basically markets themselves as that !! They are a worldwide Eddie machine. Sure they sell out. They play limited shows in the biggest markets and they have devoted fans that travel. Its their own kind of formula to stay relevant. Do these fans care about new music ? Not really... If you are going to a Maiden concert, it most likely isn't your first and you are there for more the experience, than the music if they choose to play only new tunes. If it is your first, its highly unlikely you will enjoy yourself, because you miss the performance of songs that made Maiden great and that truly is sad.

I say, play your new music guys...if its good, I'll like it (ie - new Tesla or like the previous poster said the tune - Saints of Los Angeles, heck even Ratt put 2 or 3 tunes that are good). But don't give me a CD side concert, those are based saved for shows later down the line (ie - Rush - Moving Pictures this year or Crue doing the whole Dr Feelgood album recently) But these new albums can't hold a candle when 99% of their fanbase either has the whole collection, the best album they put out, or started liking them upon finding a "GREATEST HITS" CD.

Its like going to see Rick Springfield and he doesn't play "Jessie's Girl"....yeah, I said it. Rick Springfield...
.
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGNR
I am a Die Hard Maiden fan and have been for most of my 32 years... but in saying this I am also a creature of habit. Sadly, when I heard they were playing the new vs the old on thi tour I took it as an opportunity to save some of that money for a beach vacation or something else.
I am like most... i come to hear the hits. The old stuff that takes me back to a certain place or a certain period of time in my life. Good as it may be, the newer music just does not do this for me. It just doesn't have the same feel. Soory guys... I'm a greatest hits !
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDamnp78
Maiden suxx and so does U2 -- So UNROCK!

But if one stops and puts one's "legit" hat on and analyzes U2, they remain relevant because they deliver, for those of the masses who care to like it, new material that is equal to or either comes close to, or surpasses their previous hits.

Going back a bit to the year 2000 to illustrate a point, the album "All That You Can't Leave Behind" with it's hit, "Beautiful Day" won 4 Grammys and is considered their third act comeback after previous albums, "The Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby", which were both from the previous decade.

Even their latest material "rocks out", or whatever their legions of loyal followers mistake it for, now more than ever and if U2 were my cup of tea, I could see myself going to their show based almost solely on the strength of their new stuff.

But, alas, I consider U2, for all their artistic integrity, a complete borefest.

Same with Iron Maiden. Seriously, beyond "Run To The Hills", "2 Minutes To Midnight" and "The Trooper", what the hell else is there?

To me, they just keep rehashing the same stuff over and over, so who cares if they play all new stuff at shows. It all sounds like the same tireless riffless riffing they've been ramming down our throats since '75. Though I can't imagine one of their concerts without, at the very least, "Run To The Hills", thrown in at the end for the encore.

Look at the footage of the endless loop VH1 Classic keeps airing of the Iron Maiden borefest documentaries like "Flight 666" (Har,har,har...), and "Rock In Rio", particularly the latter.

The audience looks like a neanderthal global summit of 200,000 Headbangin' Brethren, age 12 to 47, and like 3 chicks, which should also tell you something. This sight bears witness to GNR's "Eddie Machine" theory of limited shows in key areas aimed at key target audience demographics.

In other words, play where the neanderthals hang out but don't play there too often -- just enough for the idiots to remember who you are when you come around again. This would also lend credence to the fact that a lot of their following is the little brothers, nephews and friends who join together as a primitive bonding ritual at the show, as a kind of Male Rite of Metal Passage, or something.

Since the typical Maiden fan possesses the IQ level of an 8 year old it only makes sense that Iron Maiden would deploy a huge cartoon character as the ambassador of their image.

It's also interesting to note that Iron Maiden and the like, as well as their fans, are regarded as "Greasers" by the British alternative music crowd.

Personally, I agree with some above who flag Ratt as a good example of a band that's putting out new killer material, though, like most of their cohorts, the new album is inconsistent. 3 cuts plus one bonus track are the only keepers.

And as with many of Ratt's cohorts, the album comes almost too little too late, so it can't reverse the perception of them as a legacy act.

Same with "Saints of Los Angeles". That tune is pretty much the album and you wish Sixx could have bothered to rise to the occasion and write 7 news songs on par with the title song or, at the very least, even allow Vince Neil's pearl of an unreleased single, the Desmond Child penned and produced, "Promise Me" on the album.

Wanna stay relevant?

As we were lamenting Bret Michael's near death run-in with mortality earlier this year and how we were hoping his survival would inspire him to write new material again and get Poison to hunker down in the studio to create their "Some Girls". Even if it would wind up merely being their "In Through The Out Door", it would still be a helluva lot better than foisting the whole "legacy act" routine on us for the umpteenth time.

When bands like Ratt, or, even more so, Poison, wait so long to give us new output, we wind up pigeonholing them as "legacy acts". When a band consistently keeps crankin' new records out like it's their best and last, it makes them a helluva lot more relevant.

Aw, the hell with it all, as we have expressed before, where the hell is Poison's "Rocks"?

For that matter, where the hell is Aerosmith's next "Rocks"?!
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
U2 remains relevan because of their stance on political topics it seems,Bono is the humantarian of the year blah, blah etc. Maiden is Rush only British outside of Powerslave and Number of the Beast(hey metalboy nice to see you recognize the trooper as a nonboring song, now if only i could get you into aces high....:), ) Anywho I would love to see Ozzy do some new material from scream, a very good album. He seeems to do at least three songs from the album on the tour -black Rain, Down to earth etc.So heres hoping he sounded amazing at Ozzfest in Pittsburgh much to my surprise and overjoyment.

Anyway in the internet age it seems being relevant is easier than before but the bands mentioned above are probably able to survive without the online buzz cuz they've done it before.

Face it in today's billboard 100 and music industry this genre is automatically handicapped for the image, the music has to outshine it, and for bands like Ratt and Ozzy is has, for bands like U2 and Maiden itr really hasn't and general perception and image has carried them this far.

Only the Shadow knows!! (as far as it seems ;)
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShadow
Allyson, you are completely right. I get so tired of hearing the same 10 songs every time I go see Poison. Bands should change it up. Speaking as a frontman I cant imagine NOT changing it up every night. If a band expects us to support them and buy the new album, they need to have enough confidence in their new material to wedge a few songs in between the hits at the concert. I applaud Iron Maiden for playing all the new shit instead of the hits. Its only natural as a musician to expose the fans to your entire catalog.
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKenny Ozz
wow Metalboy, I am so with you on this one! I've never been a big Maiden fan and find most of their music to be pretty boring. with respect to the dude at MetalSucks, he neglected to mention what I feel is the main reason why maiden still does well in terms of album and ticket sales. Dickinson, while a major loudmouth, is no dummy...He has very carefully created an "Us versus them" mentality amongst Maiden's fan base. In other words, there are Maiden fans, and then there's everybody else -- those horrible people who look down on you because you love Iron Maiden, who would love nothing more than for Iron Maiden to go away...bla bla bla.

The sad part is that the Maiden fanatics buy into that nonsense hook, line and sinker. Don't believe me? Check out any random metal forum. If anyone dares to say anything negative about Maiden, out come the drones with the oh-so-eloquent retort, "up the irons!"

by no means am I saying that this is the only reason for maiden's continued popularity, but the large contingency of human robots who allow themselves to be brainwashed by Dickinson's incessant rhetoric is certainly an important part of it..."dude, we f--kin' have to go see f--kin' Maiden or the enemies of Maiden win! Up the f-kin' irons!"
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob
I stopped going to see Poison a few tours ago for just this reason. They had some good new tunes on Power To The People, and even though Hollyweird was pretty Hollyweak, I wouldn't mind if they actually retired a few old standards to play something from those.

The bands that never change the set could learn a few things from Alice Cooper, who always changes around at least a half dozen tunes each tour; and pulls out some pretty obscure songs in the process.
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack
Yes, Jack!

Alice Cooper!

Our undeniable hero! Totally Glam/Goth/Sleaze/Hair/AOR/Metal/Hard Rock! The man not only does it all, he practically invented nearly every sub-genre of Metal/Hard Rock there is. Hell, you could even give him credit for NWOBHM, as he sounded like that movement of Modern British Metal before anyone else did, including fellow progenitors, Sabbath. And he ain't even British.

He never gets boring because, not only duz he have the brains and emotional instinct Kenny O talks about to change it up, but the catalog to burn he can pull from.

Bob, I'm with you loud and clear on Poison and I am so sick of the "so-weird-it's-normal" hybrid of Pop Rock Country we're now being force fed by the likes of Brett Michaels that's totally crapping up the world of music these days. Seriously, what's the difference between what Brett Michaels does now and old school Garth Brooks (argh!)!

Where is Poison's "Look What The Cat Dragged In II"?

And, OTSK! Shadow! Excellent points! I saw Ozzy 4th row in '92 with Zakk Wilde at The Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden and it was killer. I just saw him perform "Let Me Hear You Scream" from the new album on The Revolver Magazine Metal Awards or whatever the hell it was on VH1 Classic not too long ago (somebody set me straight on this), and he was terrific!

I've heard the new stuff and it seems to me, he's as great as ever, particularly that new single Al promoted on here that he sang at the Revolver show, or whatever the hell it was.

And, Bob! You are so right! Too bad Dickinson duzn't realize what he should be promoting is his solo album, "Tattooed Millionaire", which is vastly superior to any garbage Steve Harris has ever come up with.

Man, these guyz are such phony, hookless, riffless, lickless wonders, it's unbelievable to me how everyone, even on here, is so into them. I'm snoozin' in my chair 3 minutes into the first number, whether it's old or new, I'm sure of it -- no matter how loud it is. Their sh*t all sounds the same to me, and I don't mean in a good way, like AC/DC...

Oh, and, Shadow... I'll listen to "Aces High". Once. Hahaha!!!
September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Hey Metalboy! Up the Fu*kin Irons Dude!! Ha!
September 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike
Metalboy has nailed it, Maiden fucking suck. They're just a joke, and for some reason they have more credibility than glam metal bands. At least glam metal bands were having fun. I love Maiden fans though, they're always bout 14 with facial hair and no friends.
September 2, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterahappypunk
I think the bottom line is that bands have to strike a balance.

I was a big Poison fan. But I stopped going to their post-CC-reunion shows after three consecutive summers of the same set. Yes, I knew and liked every song. But it was the same set!

I was a casual Maiden fan. I went to their recent show, mainly to see Dream Theater. After the first hour of Maiden, when they played six songs none of which I knew, I decided to beat traffic and headed for the parking lot.

If bands like Poison would sprinkle in some new material to keep it interesting for "repeat customers" and bands like Maiden would make sure they play a "hit" every few songs to keep casual fans awake, they both would have better shows.

I think the challenge is that certain bands have new albums that...let's just say, pale in comparison to their older work. I mean, how can you write songs that millions of people love and then put out crap 10 years later? Can you actually forget how to write a catchy song? Or were there "professional song writers" behind their successful music that we don't know about?

Great post, Allyson!
September 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChip DiMonick
Mike! Go back to Metalsuxx with all the other Neandermetaloidz.

Happypunk has it right!

Unironic Maiden BLOWS!

Revelation: Hookless, Riffless, Lickless drivel that all of you imbecilic interlopers adore like Slayer and all that band's knockoffs have more in common with Grunge than Glam/Hair/Sleaze Metal! So go back over to Blabbermouth and all that other crap where you and your other fellow Boremetal Hedz congregate. But before you do, here's a parting gift. At least Maiden, as evidenced by a handful of inadvertantly semi-catchy songs at least has a little something in common with Hair/Glam/Sleaze Metal, along with their NWOBHM counterparts, than the crap you Metalsuckers really love (i.e. Slayer, etc. who's Metal sub genre is basically just ultra high speed Pearl Jam with a barking dog as the lead singer)!!!
September 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Chip makes a good point.

How do bands keep penning stuff as good as their old stuff?

Some can, most can't.

Sixx can get one off every once in a while in between his new day job writing little Nashville ditties he sells to people like LeAnne Rimes, but duzn't seem to have it in him to come up with an entire album's worth.

For example, the Sixx song, "Saints of Los Angeles" is killer and right up there with anything he's written but the rest of the album by the same title, which is the Crue's latest, is far from it.

The only thing keeping us from changing Sixx's last name to "Suxx" is his ability to continue generating the occasional super catchy Glam Metal Anthem, even if he bangs out boring album filler and country crap, too.

Maiden's stuff plain SUCKS so it wouldn't surprise me that Steve Harris can keep generating his Mindless Metal in his sleep now. Thing is, it SUCKS worse than the old stuff. But why should Maiden fans care. They don't know the difference, because all of Maiden's stuff SUCKS, something which Maiden's band members themselves and their diehard fans don't realize, either!

Maiden is LCD...

Lowest Common Demetalizer!

Down The F*ckin' Aluminums, Dude!
September 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetalboy!
Maiden fans are an "us agianst the world" group! On blabbermouth every Ozzy basher seems to be some Maiden zealot!! Its pretty band when BLS with Pinch harmonic mania Zakk wylde (not bashing just calling it) make more catchier tunes!
September 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShadow
Hows about playing a longer set? after over 20 years in the business and a big back catalogue 1,5 hour of all the hits over and over again is pretty pathetic, i mean c'mon just look at Bruce Springsteen! he's 61, his show runs for over 3 hours, plays about 30 songs and he changes the setlist every goddamn night!

Yes i'm looking at you W.A.S.P., Def Leppard and Poison!
September 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNikkeSixx

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