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Rock may struggle to gain traction on streaming services, but the digital world has also helped win vital exposure for the international scene. Ahead of the inaugural Metal World Congress on March 22-23, event founder Alexander Milas explains why metal is now a truly global phenomenon…
It’s been nearly 50 years since Black Sabbath’s first record dropped on an unsuspecting public, and a half century later it’s the riff that’s truly been heard around the world. Much more than a mere genre of music, it sparked a cultural phenomenon that easily occupies every territory regardless of culture, colour or creed.
Curiously, it’s also one of the least-celebrated success stories in the music industry – and I’m not talking about the BRITs’ metal myopia or the Grammys’ grating tokenism. Metal requires no such obvious industry validation. In fact, you could argue that its consistent marginalisation by the mainstream media is actually responsible for its unparallelled longevity. The kiss-of-death toxicity of tastemaking and subsequent rapid disposal has been side-stepped in favour of consistent support from niche outlets and specialised movers-and-shakers.
As a consequence, a half century since Tony Iommi committed the spine–tingling opening notes of Black Sabbath to reel, a truly stunning echo is about to come thundering back from every timezone – and it’s truly like nothing else out there.
It’s called global metal, or what I prefer to call heavy metal from unlikely places – if judged by normal western standards. In fact, this peculiarly overlooked phenomenon – a story perhaps best told by Iron Maiden’s epic Flight 666 documentary a few years back – represents such a huge opportunity for the industry and fans alike that myself and a group of partners from the world of politics, live promotion and academia have created a platform to celebrate and investigate the opportunities represented by these remarkable developments.
It’s called the World Metal Congress and takes place in London this week. The case for its existence was self-evident enough that even Arts Council England agreed to get on board. Joining our panels will be key decision-makers and artists from Singapore, Indonesia, Nepal, Afghanistan, Lebanon and India, just to name a few. As well as some of the best and brightest from our world including Steve Strange, Sammy Andrews, Julie Weir and many more who’ve unanimously seen the point in all this.
Take The Hu for instance – no, not The Who founded by Daltrey, Townsend and Entwhistle in 1964. I mean The Hu – a Mongolian folk metal band who’ve racked up tens of millions of streams in the last few months, are now represented by William Morris and will be making their UK debut at Download Festival this June. They’ll be joined there by the likes of Underside (figureheads for Kathmandu’s burgeoning metal scene) and Alien Weaponry – certainly the first Maori metal band I’ve heard of – plus Lovebites from Japan, among many others.
They’re not there because they’re international – they’re there because they deserve to be. So, while Metallica are playing their biggest stadium tours of all time; Wacken Festival is selling out all 75,000 tickets for its 2019, 30th anniversary edition (just five days after announcing); and the UK’s own Bloodstock festival (longtime champions of the underground) maps a remarkable pattern of growth; there’s now even more reason to be excited. The rest of the world has heard the call.
All this, of course, is nothing new if you’ve been watching closely. Over the course of 17 years as a music journalist for Kerrang!, editor-in-chief at Metal Hammer and now a documentary producer, I’ve had a front row seat for heavy metal’s unique ability to renew interest in successive generations of music fans while retaining the interest of the old guard.
Nowhere was that more apparent than over 10 years ago, when I attended my first music conference in Mumbai. It’s home to a startlingly large and prolific metal scene possessed of an independent DIY spirit, but confounded by the questions that perplex almost every one of these scenes: how to engage and get noticed when it seems so much is out of reach.
Much has been written about the relative lack of popularity of rock and metal on streaming services although, as recent Spotify research has shown, heavy metal fans are also the most loyal of all music fans, returning to releases time and time again.
What’s less evident, though, is how access to streaming has transformed the way fans in developing countries access and discover that music as well. So, if you’re looking for a case in point, I invite you to join us when WMC will be hosting the UK premiere of Syrian Metal Is War, a gripping documentary film on metal’s incredible triumph over adversity in Aleppo.
For them, playing in bands is more than a passion – it’s a political act and a dangerous one. It’s a story worth knowing, with music worth listening to.
In an unchanged top four, Lewis Capaldi’s Someone You Loved spends a third straight week at the summit.
After 10 consecutive weeks of growth, its consumption is down 4.42% week-on-week to 62,336 (including 52,919 from sales-equivalent streams) but Someone You Loved maintains a small but significant lead over Giant (2-2, 56,710 sales) by Calvin Harris & Rag’N’Bone Man, while Don’t Call Me Up (3-3, 40,299 sales) by Mabel and Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored (4-4, 38,861 sales) by Ariana Grande complete a logjammed leading quartet.
All of the top four suffer a decline in consumption with Calvin Harris & Rag’N’Bone Man’s Giant holding up best, with a 3.60% decline week-on-week, leaving it at No.2 for the third week in a row, 9,03% in arrears of Someone You Loved on overall consumption, Giant is nevertheless No.1 on paid-for sales for the fifth time in six weeks, with 14,118 downloads in the week. It has had upwards of 10,000 sales in the format for eight weeks in a row.
It’s a great week for London rapper Dave, who tops the album chart with Psychodrama and has three new entries to the singles chart. No.1 with Funky Friday (feat. Fredo) last October and No.6 with Headie One collaboration 18 Hunna in January – his first two Top 10 singles – Dave doubles his tally with Psychodrama album tracks Disaster (feat. J Hus, No.8, 35,474 sales) and Streatham (No.9, 34,769 sales). The third and final track he is allowed to chart under primary artist rules is Location (feat. Burna Boy, No.11, 31,860 sales). The other eight tracks on the album are all, of course, ‘starred out’ of the singles chart but in the Top 200 combined tracks list – which has no upper limit on number of tracks, and where ACR is disregarded – all 11 tracks from the album are in the Top 75. Black, which entered the Top 75 a fortnight ago at No.40 for Dave and dipped to No.71 last week, increases consumption by 160% to 19,438 units but it’s starred-out between No.19 and No.20.
Dancing With A Stranger rallies 7-5 (36,650 sales) for Sam Smith & Normani. The track, which peaked at No.3, has been out of the Top 5 for the last three weeks.
The rest of the Top 10:, 7 Rings (5-6, 36,334 sales) by Ariana Grande, Sucker (6-7, 35,650 sales) by Jonas Brothers and Just You And I (8-10, 34,470 sales) by Tom Walker.
Falling out of the Top 10: Walk Me Home (9-12, 25,224 sales) by Pink and Options (10-14, 24,377 sales) by NSG feat. Tion Wayne.
Rapper Juice Wrld’s existing hit, Robbery, breaches the Top 40 for the first time (42-39, 11,310 sales) helped by streaming of newly-released parent album, Death Race For Love, which also provides the rapper with two more Top 75 hits in the form of Fast (No.41, 10,749 sales) and Hear Me Calling (94-58, 8,299 sales).
Also new to the Top 75 are: Boasty (No.33, 12,759 sales), by Wiley, Stefflon Don & Sean Paul; Here With Me (No.42, 10,727 sales) by Marshmello feat. Chvrches; So Am I (No.50, 9,237 sales), Ava Max’s follow-up to her chart-topping debut, Sweet But Psycho; My Bad (No.61, 8,189 sales). Khalid’s 17th hit; Two Of Us (No.64, 8,045 sales), Louis Tomlinson’s 33rd hit, including 29 as a member of One Direction; Exits (No.70, 7,526 sales), The Foals’ fourth hit in total, and their first since 2013; and Only Want You (90-74, 7,099 sales), Rita Ora’s 21st hit.
I’m So Tired (14-13, 24,432 sales) reaches a new peak for the sixth week in a row for Lauv & Troye Sivan.
Up 31 places last week, Don’t Feel Like Crying makes further progress for Norwegian singer Sigrid, becoming her second Top 20 hit (34-20, 18,091 sales).
Billie Eilish lands her third Top 40 hit with Wish You Were Gay jumping 61-26 (14,266 sales).
There are also new peaks for: Nights Like This (29-25, 14,886 sales) by Kehlani feat. Ty Dolla $ign, Baby (53-48, 9,347 sales) by Giggs,
Overall singles sales are down 0.86% week-on-week at 17,775,443, 7.95% above same week 2018 sales of 16,466,769. Paid-for sales are down 7.43% week-on-week at 750,911, and are 25.56% below same week 2018 sales of 1,008,708. They are below same-week, previous-year sales for the 293rd week in a row.