HAMMERFALL's OSCAR DRONJAK: 'It's Getting Very, Very Difficult For Bands To Survive'

February 14, 2015

Heavyworlds.com conducted an interview with guitarists Oscar Dronjak and Pontus Norgren of Swedish metallers HAMMERFALL before the band's January 28 concert at Live Club, Trezzo sull'Adda, Italy. You can now watch the chat below.

Speaking about how the Internet has affected the music industry and HAMMERFALL's ability to make a living from recording albums and touring, Oscar said: "If you just put it this way, the first time we released an album, getting a gold record [in Sweden] for an album was still a huge deal. Now it's nothing, 'cause they lowered all the levels all the time, so it doesn't matter anymore. [Note: The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in Sweden has revised the sales requirements for albums to reach gold status in the country twice in the last 13 years — from the pre-2002 level of 40,000 to the current 20,000.) And even if you do get a gold album, that just means that a smaller amount of people bought the album. Before it was quite a big amount of people that bought the album. But then again, you never know, with Spotify, or with downloading stuff, you never know how many people actually did get the album in the end. Because Spotify is a Swedish company, so obviously it's really big there, but it's getting big in many other places as well, so it's very difficult to gauge how many different people actually are into the album. I mean, it's easy to count record sales, right?! So that’s' the big different, business-wise."

He continued: "The 'cake' in the '80s was almost unlimited [in size]. When we started out in the '90s, it had shrunk to a certain size. And that's why I think — that's my personal theory — but that's why people stopped flying business class and stopped doing a bunch of stupid things, and buying cars and trashing hotel rooms left and right, because they didn't have an unlimited amount of money anymore. Now, the cake, compared to early 2000s, [has shrunk even further] — you can't get anything anymore.

"[Back in the day] you could count on those actual album sales. Okay, you never know how many albums you're gonna sell, but at least you had some idea of it. Now you have no idea, 'cause we don't get anything from Spotify — it's a ridiculously low amount. But also the touring costs, they haven't decreased any; I mean, it costs still as much as it did touring ten years ago as it does now, probably even more, but the money coming in has shrunk to a little, tiny amount. That is the problem with this, and this is what I was getting at before. I don't know how the music industry is gonna be able to survive this in a couple of years.

"We are probably gonna get the worst-case scenario, but with elevator music — people who just do music without any soul, because that's how they can do it the cheapest way. The passion will be gone."

Dronjak added: "I don't know what's gonna happen in the future with this. I mean, it's getting very, very difficult for bands to survive on this small amount of money that you get. And it doesn't make it easier, when it comes to Italy, and the fucking concession [fee] in this place, [so] that we get to sell shirts here, we have to raise our prices to even get a fraction of what we spent on it to get it back. And that, of course, is taken out of the fans' pockets. And we give money to… I don't know if it's the promoter, venue, or whoever the fuck it is… somebody takes almost 40 percent of our gross income from selling merchandise, only to allow us to do it. And I think that's totally wrong on every level — especially when the 'cake' is shrinking. It's so bad that I don't know if we're gonna come to Italy again. Not just because of this, but partly. All the administration bullshit… The fans are excellent — it's one of my favorite places to play — but I don't wanna be ripped off; that's basically what I'm saying. We play in Germany… You have a concession [fee] in every country, and that's fine — a little bit of money goes that way — but at almost 50 percent, it's not okay, it's not fair anymore. So things like this turn us off on touring in countries where it is like this, and Italy is one of those countries.

"I'm sorry… That's just the way it is. And I think people need to hear this as well. Because they think, 'Oh, this shirt is really expensive.' And yeah, it is, but it's not our fault. We need to at least get the money back for what we paid for it.

"We have a certain amount of money that we need to come in from the merch as well for us to be able to actually do this for a living — we need this money to survive, basically. I mean, it's just one country, one show, but it adds up. And for me, it's moer about the principle than anything else.

"You know, you're Italian, [and] corruption has always been a big problem for you. And this, for me, is corruption, even if it's out in the open."

HAMMERFALL's new album, "(r)Evolution", sold around 1,900 copies in the United States in its first week of release.

The band's previous CD, "Infected", opened with around 1,700 units back in 2011. The CD debuted at No. 16 on the Top New Artist Albums (Heatseekers) chart, which lists the best-selling albums by new and developing artists, defined as those who have never appeared in the Top 100 of The Billboard 200.

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