Metal Shows In India: The Big Picture

By Aniruddh ‘Andrew’ Bansal

In India, there used to be a time when we felt lucky to get one or two international metal bands per year to perform in our country. Iron Maiden in 2007 was the first ever big metal show, then came Megadeth in 2008, and Iron Maiden also made repeat visits in 2008 and 2009. Gradually, things started picking up and relatively smaller bands like Opeth, Lamb Of God, Enslaved, Amon Amarth played their own headline shows. Even then, the average number of gigs per year was very small. Compare that to this year, and there is a vast difference. Opeth in February, Vreid in March, Wormrot in April, Lamb Of God in May, and Kreator in June. But still, these gigs were not too close to each other, and people didn’t really have to make any tough choices in terms of which show to attend. Enter October 2012. Below is a list of international bands that are slated to play headline shows in the country within a mere two month period between October 14 and December 16, along with the cities and original ticket prices (a couple of these shows already happened) :

1. Megadeth – October 14th – Delhi (NH7 Weekender) – Rs. 2000
2. Children Of Bodom – October 14th – Bangalore – Rs. 1200 (Rs. 1750 on day of show)
3. Slayer – October 20th – Bangalore (Rock ‘N India) – Rs. 2500
4. Behemoth – November 3rd – Bangalore (Indian Music Conference) – Rs. 750
5. Karnivool – November 4th – Pune (NH7 Weekender) – Rs. 1500
6. Wolf – November 24th – Bangalore (Harley Rock Riders III) – FREE
7. Gojira – December 15th – Bangalore (Indian Metal Festival) – Rs. 1250
8. Testament/Periphery – December 15th/16th – Bangalore (NH7 Weekender) – Price TBA

I’ve been keenly following all of these announcements, and when I reflect on this list, I can’t help but think, what is the deal?! Why this Big Bang? Do Indian concert organizers and promoters believe in the Mayan calendar and want to get all of their shows done before D-day? Is this a good thing for the fans and the country’s metal scene? Let’s see.

First off, before I go any further I should clarify that I don’t have any personal bias towards or against any of the people running these shows, and I’ve been promoting the announcements of every single one of these shows equally in the news section of this website and on the Metal Assault social networks. And even for this article, I’ve taken a completely objective look at the topic.

Among the eight shows listed, the Slayer show, a.k.a “Rock ‘N India 2012” was the first one to be announced, in August. The next was NH7 Weekender Pune, followed by NH7 Weekender Delhi. Let’s forget about the Pune show for the time being. The NH7 Delhi announcement, featuring none other than Slayer’s fellow ‘Big Four’ thrash mates Megadeth came even after the Slayer tickets were already on sale. It did not make any sense to do these shows within six days of each other, despite the different cities. I remember Iron Maiden’s first ever India show, in 2007. People traveled from literally everywhere for that one, from all corners of the country, and even from neighboring countries. That’s the kind of atmosphere bands like Maiden, Megadeth and Slayer deserve when they perform in our country, simply because they won’t return often if their trip isn’t worthwhile. This will be Slayer’s first ever visit. It’s Slayer, after all, and I can imagine people from outside Bangalore wanting to travel for the show. But how is it supposed to draw a good turnout when people in Delhi and other northern cities are given the easier and cheaper option of going to the Megadeth show instead? When I first read about this daft move from the NH7 folks, I predicted that the Slayer show would suffer as a result, and we’re seeing that now. From the original ticket price of Rs. 2500, the Rock ‘N India peeps have now bowed down and are offering various discounts to give the sales a push. That is absolutely sad, because Slayer is an automatic sellout no matter what city or country they’re playing in. But I guess it’s fair to say, only India can mess it up and lead to the unthinkable: a poor turnout for a Slayer show.

In this instance, I’m not sure whether NH7’s aim was to cut into the Slayer show’s profits, but even if it was, they didn’t do themselves any favors either, and pretty much shot themselves in the foot. They could have had a better turnout for Megadeth last night if they scheduled the show at a different time. I’m sure quite a few Bangalore people would have traveled to see Megadeth, but not after already having spent Rs. 2500 on a Slayer ticket.

Moving on, the other big clash is between Indian Metal Festival, and again, NH7 Weekender, on December 15th. And what’s worse, this time both shows are in the same city too. To ask people to choose between Gojira and Testament is beyond ridiculous, specially when neither band has performed in India ever before. And once again, IMF was announced long, long back, and the NH7 Bangalore announcement came in only last night. I’m afraid to say, NH7 have come across as the most inconsiderate bunch of people in this unnecessary war of the organizers. I really feel for the IMF, because they are not only bringing Gojira, but five other international bands Cerebral Bore, Xerath, Flayed Disciple, Inner Guilt and Bloodshot Dawn, all for a very reasonable ticket price, even without any apparent corporate sponsorship. And now they have to compete with the mighty NH7 Weekender. Disgusting.

These clashes are just going to affect the upcoming shows, the bands involved, and the fans of these bands, but what’s clear from all this is the big picture, and the attitude of some of these organizers. There is obviously a competition going on, and that’s not healthy. No one needs this kind of competition in our country. Because of how tiny the metal scene is, invariably the same group of people end up attending all of these gigs, and if you’re splitting them up into different shows, the resulting turnouts wouldn’t be great. And poor turnouts will leave a bad impression on these international bands. It’s really not that hard to figure out. It’s common sense, really. Organizers need to work with each other, and not against. Indian metal is not ready for eight big shows in two months. Allow more gap between shows, please.

There are other issues at hand too, like the ticket price. Except for the Indian Metal Festival, the Behemoth show and the free-of-cost Wolf show, all of these shows are overpriced. I’m sure they know more than me about the kind of profits they are predicting with the high ticket prices, but for the greater good of the metal community, they should lower the prices to near Rs. 1000 or below. They have to understand the target audience, which is mostly made up of high-school students, college students and people below the age of 30. That’s why going to so many expensive shows is not a possibility for any of the fans. Lower prices will lead to bigger turnouts, more fans can afford to see their favorite bands, the bands will be happy with the crowds, and the big bosses will still make an equally good profit.

I’ll give an example of the Summer Slaughter tour, which takes place annually in the US. This year, for a lineup of Cannibal Corpse, Between The Buried And Me, The Faceless, Periphery, Veil Of Maya, Job For A Cowboy, Exhumed, Goatwhore and Cerebral Bore, the ticket prices across the country ranged from $25-$30. I know that 9 of these are American bands, but Summer Slaughter doesn’t really have the benefit of major corporate sponsorship, they could easily charge more money purely based on the face value of that lineup of bands, and the prices don’t change much even if international bands are involved. For instance, shows on the Opeth+Mastodon+Ghost tour cost $35, and the Behemoth+Watain+The Devil’s Blood shows cost $25. The owners of such tours in the US understand the financial situation of the target audience, they are aware of the other high-profile bands/tours going around, and this is how they tackle those problems. They keep the competition healthy. Some crucial lessons can be learned from it by our people.

Another issue with shows in India is the choice of opening acts. I’ve been noticing the lineups of shows, and I’m seeing that a number of the Indian bands are being repeated. This isn’t good for anyone, neither for the bands nor the audience. The audience don’t really get to see any new Indian talent coming into spotlight through these shows, and might get tired of seeing the same bands over and over again. Inevitably, whenever such bands come to town yet again as the opening act next time, a large portion of the audience will run to the bars and restrooms, and the bands, however good they might be, will start losing their fan-base. There has to be a better way of handling the lineups and choosing the local openers.

Besides, the Indian bands need to be treated better. I heard of a few bands dropping out of the Children Of Bodom show due to financial issues, which is extremely sad and frustrating. Again, it’s really simple: pay your Indian bands their performance fee, and if you’re including out-of-town Indian bands in your lineup, compensate them for travel and accommodation too. They’re putting on a show for you, and this is the least they deserve. Paying the international band and keeping the rest of the money in your pocket will only hurt the local scene in the long run. Talking of the local scene, something needs to be done about the local shows, the ones featuring only Indian bands, like the upcoming Bevar Sea album launch shows in Bangalore and Mumbai on October 19th and November 18th respectively. There needs to be more interest from sponsors, promoters, venues and media when it comes to funding Indian bands to put on their own shows.

And my final point is, every show doesn’t need to be a massive open-air festival. Yes, I did say after Bangalore Open Air that there’s nothing like the experience of festival shows, but then again, there needs to be a club scene as well. The same bands that are playing open-air shows in India play small club shows in the US. It’s a packed house every time because of the limited capacity, and the intensity of the atmosphere in such shows is absolutely fierce. That’s what the metal culture is all about. It’s a pity that India doesn’t seem to care about embracing that culture. Can’t any of these mega organizers with the big bucks and corporate sponsorship come up with the revenue model, venues and the logistics to host club shows? They sure can, if they want to.

In my opinion, India can easily become the next Japan of the metal world, i.e. isolated yet popular. But not if things continue to be done the way they are at the moment.