M. Shadows is upset at the way the media is spinning the first week sales of their new album, The Stage. The album sold 75,000 copies with no promotion, since it was a surprise release. The figure was less than half the first week numbers of their 2013 release, Hail to the King, which sold 159,000 copies.
Regardless of what the opinion of the album is creatively (and we gave it a very very favorable review), commercially, it had to be seen as somewhat of a disappointment, especially to the suits at Avenged's new label. M. Shadows was quoted as saying he had mixed feelings about the sales, because he knew if they did proper promotion, sales would've been higher, but they ultimately wanted to try something new. “It’s mixed feelings, but I’m very excited to be doing new things. I would be depressed if we had done the old buildup process. That feels very 2009. Right now we have an album that sold less copies in its first week than the last one. And that’s okay: you can’t break the rules and expect the same result.”
Because all the metal sites jumped on the "mixed feelings" quote, including Metal Injection, Shadows felt he should post a message clarifying what he meant. He posted it on the official site, and I've included it here, with some notes from me in bold:
One thing I have noticed in the last couple of years is that websites that depend on clicks for revenue tend to love weaving narratives that benefit their bottom line. You see it largely in politics and now you see it in metal. I admit that I think these websites are entertaining and don’t hate or even dislike the people that run them or their visitors. None of this is to be taken too seriously but when I am sent the same articles over and over that are meant to sell their false narrative about A7X then I think it’s time for the band to speak up.
There is no false narrative, or weaving of a narrative. There are just numbers. The band sold half as much as their previous record, so speaking strictly commercially, it was a disappointment – not saying it was a failure, it just didn't meet or exceed expectations, thus disappointing.
This is in no way aimed at our fans. By the looks of the comments on these sites you have already figured this out. This will undoubtedly be seen as justification for the album from the people that just hate A7X. Thats ok, we don’t play music for them. So lets break this down.
76k records sold in the first week by a heavy metal band in 2016 is supposedly a failure (USA only). Actually, 76k records on a surprise release with zero promotion and a single that had been out for 13 days with a running time of 8:30 is a failure. This kind of talk is insane and is the exact sort of narrative that plagues the failing music industry. This is the sort of talk that pressures artist to write their songs around “what works financially” and not “what they really want to create.” People want different. People want innovation. People want art. If this wasn’t a huge risk then everybody would be doing it. I haven’t seen the hip hop community or country music community questioning Jeezy or Kenny Chesney about why they didn’t sell more albums and crush a heavy metal band with a surprise release by more then 3k records. Sure, we sold WAY less than “Hail to the King.” But we feel this is a different circumstance.
I know Shadows is speaking in general terms here regarding press and not necessarily pointing the finger at Metal Injection. but we were quick to point out in our original report of the first week sales was nothing to scoff at. 76,000 is a lot of records – most metal bands would be thrilled if that was their final tally, let alone their first week. But it would be irresponsible not to point out the drop from previous records, and if we can't compare sales, how can they be judged? On the business side, it's the one thing most closely analyzed when considering other facets of business like where to tour and how much merch to create.
When “Hail to the King” was released Apple Music did not exist. It now has around 15 million subscribers. Spotify has 40 million subscribers these days. And when these websites try to sell you on the streaming metric its a little more complicated then that. There are plenty of studies done as to why rock doesn’t have as many streams as hip hop. You need 1500 streams to equal 1 album. Who has time to stream a song like “The Stage” or “Exist” that many times? These two songs alone equal 25 min. So should we write 3 min. songs so we can get more streams? Fuck no. Thats ridiculous.
This is where I feel Shadows contradicts himself a bit, because earlier he writes that fans love the new album, and now he's saying most people don't have the patience to sit through a long song. Avenged Sevenfold is a band that broke big on their singles like "Bat Country," so some of their fans could very well be the types that just like singles. So, by creating these longer songs, maybe you aren't appealing to that casual sector of fans? Again, he's confusing creative and commercial analysis.
When I said I had “mixed feelings” about the results I simply meant that there is a part of me that knows a traditional release would have been easier and we could all parade around with another meaningless number 1. But “mixed feelings” in no way indicates that I think this was the wrong approach. I love that we did this for the fans. I love that we did this for our sanity and regardless of how you feel about the music, there is no doubt that this has been exciting. Anyone with a brain knows judging an albums merit or over all lasting impact on first week sales is simple crazy. Hell, I have never judged an album based on sales, period. But, I’m not you, and you have to make your own decision. I just want other artist to be themselves and not be gun-shy of new ideas just because some things work and somethings don’t. Regardless of this rant I want the fans to know we will not change. Evolving album, innovative live show, and playing by our rules will never waver. We have never felt so much love on a release and we truly do appreciate it. We will see you on the road!
P.S. What will the title of the click bait read this time? Lets take bets!
I agree that it was an exciting promotion and it seemed to get the fan base very exciting. Creatively, The Stage is a great prog album that will likely push fans to seek more underground prog music. And that's great for our industry as a whole. But commercially, it sold less than the previous album in the first week, and I don't see why pointing that out is such a big deal? In fact, it seems by publishing a second statement on the matter, Shadows himself is making it a bigger deal than it already is.
I hope he also enjoyed the extra effort I put into making this headline very very clickbaity.
For what it's worth, I really enjoy The Stage, and I hope everybody who digs Avenged Sevenfold checks it out.