For legal reasons I can’t name the A&R rep or the label he worked for (labels can draft up one hell of a non-disclosure agreement), but let’s just say there was a time – years ago when all we had was a demo of our first album “The Unheard Warning” – when I was emailing with a guy from one of the biggest record labels in metal. And he was offering us a deal for an amount of money that would have been utterly life-changing for all of us.
But with a record label, things aren’t always as simple as they appear.
Not even a minute passed after finally Skyping face-to-face before he started telling us to change our sound. He started out subtle, asking little questions like “How do you feel about working with a producer? Would you be open to accepting creative feedback on some of your songs?” Then a bit more obvious: “Personally I loved the track For the Blind. I just wish there was maybe a little less orchestra. I also think Limits of Myself would be quite a bit better with less cleans, more growls.”
Then, by the end of it, he straight-up said something like, “I’ll level with you, man. Look, symphonic metal is dying. It’s just not a genre that makes money anymore, and we’d have to be stupid to invest our money into another band like that. You guys kick ass though. Your riffs are sick, definitely some of the best guitar work I’ve heard. Your singer’s hot as hell, and her growls are straight-up brutal. So here’s the thing: You guys shift things around just a little bit, go with more of an Arch Enemy sound and ditch the Nightwish – we’ll give you a phenomenal deal.”
I wish I could say I turned right back around and told him to shove his “phenomenal deal” up his ass. I wish I could say my artistic integrity was so strong, I didn’t even have to consider it.
The truth is I was torn. Like, it sounded good. Damn good.
We would have shared a label with at least one of our biggest influences. We would, he claimed, have blown up and been the next big name in metal. I’d gotten so much flack from my parents for being “naive” and “unrealistic” about the band, the idea of being signed to one of the biggest labels in my genre sounded like something I could really rub in their faces – that’s not petty at all, right?
But ultimately none of us could go through with it. We love our sound just the way it is! We’re writing the music that we would want to hear, as listeners. Watering that down in any way is unacceptable.
That uncompromising attitude is what drove our songwriting on the final version of The Unheard Warning, and all our subsequent music.
But that’s the best part, right? Something we wrote 100% for ourselves became something other people are LOVING! You guys really blew us away with how you’ve received our music. It never even crossed our minds that we were making an album people would refer to as “some of the most passionate and powerful symphonic metal in years.”
By being true to the sound in our hearts, we’ve found our tribe. The community of wonderful people like you that’s developing around this music is the single most fulfilling thing we could have ever imagined.
And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Personally reaching out and connecting, one listener at a time, is so much more meaningful than spammy mass promotion by some label guy with no personal investment in our music. It’s FUN to build our careers like this! We get to directly share our music and our story. We get to write blog posts like this one, and share them with people like you! Thank you again for being here on this journey.
And of course, no matter what, please leave a comment below! Let us know that you’re here, what you think of this community, and what you’d like to hear about next!