Music fans in general can be pretty difficult customers. If your new album doesn't sound like your old albums, they might hate you. If your new album sounds too much like the last album, they might hate you. if you don't play their city on your upcoming tour, they might hate you. The list goes on, and as an artist it's likely frustrating because you can't just divulge the whole story. Maybe the label wanted a certain sound on the next album. Maybe you played a fan's city last tour and didn't make shit, so you didn't go there again.
Animals As Leaders' guitarist Tosin Abasi talks about the frustrations of being an artist, and metal fans being a little conservative about the genre and its accepted sounds, in a recent episode of Doc Coyle's The Ex Man Podcast.
"Absolutely. I also had experiences where I'm not necessarily metal enough. It can be just for the fact that I'm not wearing cameo cargo pants.
"They have a reductive idea of what a metalhead looks like. Like, 'You don't have long hair.' And you're like 'Yeah, well, neither does Phil Anselmo. [Laughs]'
"At the end of the day, we basically are creating communities and we define ourselves with these sort of characteristics. It could be aesthetic or it could be like, 'Hey, there's clean singing in this so this doesn't count anymore.' And there are people who are like conformists and they exist in metal. They are the people who want to keep metal a certain way or they want to define what is metal and what isn't metal. So people who don't fit neatly into that mold are either the ones who push metal forward as a genre or the ones who have to basically validate what it can mean to be metal.
"Going back to your point about fear of backlash, there's a reciprocal relationship between the band and their fanbase. So the risk of alienating your fanbase means that you might not be able to make music in the same way anymore. It's a legitimate fear and it's unfortunately needing to be in balance with artistic integrity, meaning you don't make what you make because you are feeding it to someone you know who wants a certain result, you make it because you want to express something authentic. This is like when we get mad when Radiohead writes an album that doesn't sound like the first one. Or Metallica starts doing a thing…
"I think there's a slightly abusive relationship between fans and their favorite bands. It's like the fans need you to be what they need you to be and as an artist you may need to evolve outside of that rigid definition of that breakout album in 2001 that you put out. And your fans are aligned with the static idea of what you are. And as an artist, you're always evolving.
"So the abuse comes in where they attribute motive to your output that isn't necessarily even real. So they're like, 'Oh, they wanted to sell out' or, 'This is for monetary gain.' And it's all conjecture. The internet is this wonderful playground of misinformation. People confidently make shit up. And message boards are just like insane spaces for misinformation to just thrive.
"This conversation is good because you're in bands and you know that internal conflict. And you know about the relationship with labels and expectations that the band might not even want to fulfill. But then the people who facilitate the records want them to fulfill. And all these variables that are really rare that consumers intrinsically know about. So they just think you're not playing in Poughkeepsie because you don't like it. They don't know what tertiary market is."
Just as a personal aside, I think it's pretty funny that some people genuinely still abide by the whole "looking metal" thing. Just because you're not dressed like the second Metallica album just came out doesn't mean you're not metal.