Post-Hardcore Covers: A New Spin on an Old Promotion Technique?

Post-Hardcore is a genre that is a derivative of the hardcore punk movement back in the 1980’s; it is usually comprised of: fast tempos, distorted guitars, and double bass peddle oriented drums. Although this genre has had a cult following over the years, it has not truly become “mainstream” until later 2010’s with albums such as Feel by Sleeping With Sirens, and Collide With the Sky by Pierce the Veil. With such commercial success there have been an influx of bands that are not only inspired by but also are attempting to capture some of the same success, and as such there has been an ever increasing similarity between bands. Now this is to no fault of the bands, this is just the nature of having a saturation of the genre; however, these bands must ask themselves how they may separate themselves and make their music unique and innovative.

The band Our Last Night has been able to capture this through the very well produced covers of popular, non-Hardcore, songs. Through these covers, and posting them on YouTube, this band is able to not only get their particular sound and style to the masses, but also capture potential fans that are searching for covers of these songs. Their YouTube Channel currently has ~500,000 subscribers, with 9/10 of their most played songs being covers; these covers dwarf the views of their originals with the the most viewed of ~10,000,000 views versus their most viewed original of ~4,400,000.

This however isn’t a singularity in the music industry, with the exponentially increasing number of people using digital platforms the sheer amount of exposure that people are subjected to, bands are having to adapt and change in order to capture this audience; from pop to metal, the cover is a powerful tool that an artist can use in order to gain a fanbase via these covers and then transform them into fans of the original compilations. Bands that do covers are always walking a fine line where they want to gain exposure but at the same time not have their originals overshadowed by these covers. Our Last Night is just one of many bands in the Hardcore genre that do covers, in fact there is a whole album series based off of this concept (which I will discuss in my next post), but does this hinder a bands ability to strive to create their own songs due to the success of covering popular songs, or is this simply another tool in an arsenal of ways in order to reach out to a mass audience?

Advertisements

Consumption By The Song

In today’s music market we are highly susceptible to only consuming music by the singles; starting from iTunes to now Spotify, most people do not sit down and listen to an album from start to end. Despite how I personally do not like this new trend of music consumption, I do understand the appeal of only listening to the one or two best songs of an album and moving on to the next artist or playlist. But what do we lose when we focus on the song versus the album in its entirety; will we never have a life changing experience while listening to Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, or will this focus on single songs have artists not impact the integrity of an album because artists are trying to make a compilation of great singles in one album? Personally I believe that this disjunctive approach to an album will result in a loss of a certain appeal and creative outlet, such as the concept album.

adestria

Adestria is a San Diego founded band that made a huge impact with their full-length debut album Chapters (2012). This album not only combined the eclectic talents of each individual member, but it also goes one step further and infuses literature with Hardcore music. This album takes famous literary pieces from the past, such as: Outsiders, The Odyssey, Scarlett Letter, etc. and offers their own rendition of these works in a passionate format. This album is comprised of both heavy rifts and hauntingly melodic verses, with each song being able to stand on its own, while also creating a whole new experience by being put into a concept album format.

This album made me want to go and read these different pieces of literature just so that I could further understand the emotion and intellect that was used in order to create this album, and this wouldn’t have been the case if I just listened to one of the songs on their own. We do miss out on a different experience and lose an aspect to music that should be preserved; the stories, or the way that each song can accent each other and portray a new meta message is simply to important to let go. There is nothing wrong with listening to music by the singles, but I do think that it is important to understand that there will be ramifications and a loss of an experience; however, with bands like Adestria and albums like Chapters there is still a chance that people will see the validity in listening to complete albums.

The Tale of Two Hardcore Bands

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.