ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante says that “Apple had a big hand in destroying music” nearly 20 years ago when the music business refused to adapt to the changes brought about by the Internet.
The digital music revolution started with Napster — the file-sharing service dreamt up by two teenagers in 1999 and shut down in 2001. A prime example of disruptive technology, Napster allowed people to download just about any track or album they wanted — for free. The music industry never really recovered.
Music-industry lobbying group Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued around 18,000 people between 2003 and 2008 in an attempt to discourage people from downloading songs from filesharing sites like Kazaa. While the legal actions brought widespread attention to copyright theft, many viewed them as heavy-handed.
Benante told “The Metal Command” radio show that “what happened with the music business is the ground kind of fell out from beneath all of us, and everybody kind of scrambled to think of ways of compensating for what had just happened or what had taken place. And I think some bands who thought they were maybe smarter than other bands started to do things where, ‘We’ll give the music for free,’ and, ‘You tell us what you wanna pay for it,’ and I thought that was really stupid to do, because… Maybe they thought that was a great thing at the time, but I felt it was just devaluing music and what we were doing,” he said. “I mean, why… why would you do that? Does that mean that all these chefs from around the world are saying, ‘Just come to my restaurant. If you like the food, just pay what you want or don’t even pay at all. Don’t worry about it. I’ll survive.’ I just thought that was a real ignorant thing to do.”
The drummer went on to say that “you really have to put a lot of blame on the tech industry” for its role in devaluing music by giving free users the ability to play any album or artist catalog on shuffle.
“As much as everybody loves Apple, I also think Apple had a big hand in destroying music, and nobody really says that; everybody’s still on the side of Apple,” Charlie said. “But I believe Apple was one of the big hands in this that helped destroy music. The record companies had a big hand in it, because they got greedy. The artists got greedy when they felt, ‘Oh, I can get a three-album deal for 75 million dollars,’ but at the end of the day, if they’re taking all that money, what happens to the lesser-known bands who are striving to become something? Where does that money come from? I mean, it was just such a mess, and it really dug a hole for itself. And now who is paying for it? Everybody.”
According to Charlie, music consumers still prefer to get their music for free and an increasing number are getting more and more comfortable with paying a relatively low monthly fee to access a catalog of tens of millions of songs, making it unlikely that they will go back to paying a much higher price for a much more limited product like an album.
“I’m an audiophile and I have to have the best quality of a song from my favorite band, but to a lot of people, that doesn’t matter to them — it really doesn’t,” he said. “They’ll listen to music on these little earbuds that really shrink everything, and that’s it, man. It’s, like, ‘Oh, where’s my workout [music]?’ That’s how it is.”
Benante added that record labels can no longer invest in artist development over long periods of time, and they are choosing to invest in fewer artists. As a result, labels can no longer afford to lose money on 90 percent of their signings.
“The reason why the title of our album is called ‘Worship Music’ was because I worship music,” Charlie said. “I need it in my life — I need it every day. And what happens when the time comes when there’s not enough money and people have to have a GoFundMe thing to make some music. Then what happens? I know [there’s bands already doing that], and that’s sad. It’s like the breakdown of the family, when you don’t have a dad or you don’t have structure anymore. That’s exactly what’s happened to music. Now you have to go and independently try and raise some money in order to live. Because it’s all been broken down. The days of artist relations, artist development, all that stuff that was so important to… Let’s say a band had three records on a label that didn’t really do so well, but then that fourth record — bam! — exploded, and then those three records prior to it also start moving. You’ll never have that happen again.”
Benante also touched upon the culture of “V.I.P Packages,” which seems to be the only way for fans to meet the bands they admire these days. Some of these come at a really inflated price on top of the standard ticket costs and include anything from a signed item, a photo to watching soundchecks or a collectable lanyard.
“Nobody knows what to do anymore,” Charlie said. “Everybody’s like scavengers — they’ll pick up whatever. ‘Maybe this will work,’ or, ‘I’ll try that.’ And that’s why a lot of bands on tour are doing these meet-and-greet packages, because they have to find some way to fund the tour. Because records are not selling anymore, so the experience has become what has become profitable for the bands to exist. Which… I have a hard time with that, because there’s a piece of me that just feels like, man, making people pay for coming to see you [backstage] is weird. But now you really have no choice [but] to do that.”
ANTHRAX will release its long-awaited live-in-concert DVD, “Kings Among Scotland”, on April 27 via Megaforce.
ANTHRAX will support SLAYER on the first two legs of the Tom Araya-fronted outfit’s last-ever North American run of dates. Also scheduled appear on the bill are LAMB OF GOD, TESTAMENT and BEHEMOTH (with NAPALM DEATH replacing BEHEMOTH for the second leg).