With the recent release of Bring Me The Horizon’s fifth studio album That’s The Spirit (2015), and the release of The Devil Wears Prada’s (no…not the movie) Space EP (2015) it made me reflect on how vastly different these two bands have become over the years and how their two approaches have yielded different results in terms of what some people might consider commercial success (billboard ranking, and record sales).
Bring Me The Horizon (BMTH) is a UK early 2000’s band that has made a significant splash with their newest album That’s The Spirit (2015), hitting No.2 on the Billboard 200 and selling 62,000 albums in the first week. This was a huge increase from their previously released album Sempiternal (2013), which only reached No.11 on the Billboard 200 and sold 27,000 copies in its first week. However what is the real different between albums, and adding on top of that how has the band changed from previous, less successful, albums? I believe there are two key factors in this success and the first is simply because this was their first release on a major US Label (Colombia) and was issued on RCA in other global areas. I know me saying that Epitaph (BMTH’s previous label) is not a major label will upset some of my fellow Hardcore fans out there….but come on everyone we can’t argue that they hold a candle to the sheer size to Colombia and RCA (a subsidiary of Sony Music).
The second, and arguably the more influential, reason is simply because they have vastly changed their sound into a more accessible music for the mass audience. As an example of this below you will find two links: the first will be of a song off of their first album Count Your Blessings (2006), and the second will off of their newest album (Viewer discretion is advised).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWggPLXeOkU (Pray for Plagues)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBRAnuT48qo (Happy Song)
Even the song names express a significant difference in song writing and composing. They have gone from a fast paced, heavy screaming band into a more melodic rockish meld that is more pleasing to the general audience.
On the other hand The Devil Wears Prada (TDWP) is a band that has for the most part stayed true to their Hardcore roots, despite the changes that they have introduced into their songwriting. However TDWP has not seen the commercial success that BMTH’s newest album has accomplished, their highest ranked album was No. 10 on the Billboard 200 and sold 32,000 albums their opening week, narrowly beating BMTH’s Sempiternal album.
So do these numbers accurately represent the success of a band, and do Hardcore bands need to adapt to a new less aggressive sound in order to be considered successful?
My opinion is no, and here is my speculation as to why I think that.
While BMTH has increased its fan base, it has also alienated their original, more dedicated, fans. These “super” fans are the ones that generate a large amount of revenue for a band; be it from: VIP tickets, to live albums, to anything that may be more expensive than a normal commodity. Record sales are only a fraction of the total revenue for a band and in today’s music market you must pander to these loyalists or else you will not only be upsetting fans but also be missing out on a large amount of revenue. Also TDWP has not only developed their sound but they are also developing a brand for their band through the creation of a band symbol which has appeared on their last two albums. On top of that this band is releasing themed EP albums between their full length albums, which has resulted in happier fans because of an increase in content and has opened the possibilities of tours that incorporate these themes.
These bands, and the various organizations that influence, while focusing on the fan base, have approached it in two different ways. BMTH has cast a wide net with their music, successfully capturing a larger audience that will hopefully develop into loyal fans; while TDWP has cultivated an environment and content that increases fan loyalty and produces content that is different enough to not become stagnant (which is not uncommon in this genre). These two approaches are successful in their own right, but I do believe that the focus on building a more loyal fanbase and pandering to more loyal fans is a more stable model than just building the fanbase’s numbers.