Report: Aging Heavy Metal Fans Refuse To Give Up

April 10, 2005

Ethan Sacks of the Columbia News Service has published the following article in the Naples Daily News:

Discordant heavy metal music struck a chord with many teenagers during the late '70s and '80s. The loud, fast, guitar-driven music has since languished commercially as successive generations have chosen newer soundtracks to fuel their rebellion against the establishment. Many of the original fans, however, never moved on, even as they aged, started careers, got married and had children of their own.

"If you're seeing a 40-year-old at a concert, you're quite sure at 18 you know what kind of music he was into," said Deena Weinstein, author of "Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture".

"For so many people the music of the most emotional point of their lives is a touchstone that they return to for the rest of their lives," said Weinstein, who is also a sociology professor at DePaul University. "They're keeping their own youth alive."

Eddie Trunk, 40, a disc jockey who hosts a nationally syndicated heavy metal show, said fans of other music, like pop or new wave, don't lose their love of music with age any more than rockers.

"But I think the difference is the audience is not as vocal and passionate about those groups, and doesn't wear it on their sleeve as much as a hard rock or heavy metal fan," Trunk said.

Heavy metal fans wear their passion on more than just the sleeves of skull T-shirts and black leather jackets. For many of them, the music — louder and faster than anything heard before — became a way of life. The mostly white, mostly male and mostly middle-class listeners found a feeling of power over their parents, over their teachers, over the jocks at school that treated them as outcasts.

Metalheads, or headbangers, as they called themselves, built up a community linked through underground tape swapping networks and conversations about METALLICA lyrics while camping out online for concert tickets.

Scott Ian, guitarist for ANTHRAX, asked to explain why so many of the same fans have stuck around for the band's entire 20-year history, used a typical comment, the words "metal" and "rules" with an unprintable word between. "It gets under your skin, it gets in your soul."

That has kept bands like ANTHRAX in the studio and on the road.

The band MEGADETH's latest album, "The System Has Failed", sold a respectable 250,000 copies with none of the MTV airplay that the band enjoyed in the late '80s and early '90s.

Similarly, acts like JUDAS PRIEST and MOTÖRHEAD may not be headlining stadiums anymore, but they still grossed more in ticket sales last month than big-name mainstream acts like ELTON JOHN, TOBY KEITH and ALICIA KEYS, according to Pollstar, the industry's main ticket sales tracking service.

"I just saw IRON MAIDEN with Bruce Dickinson last year, the first time I've seen them back together since the old days. It was like a geriatric ward," said 34-year-old metal fan Joe Bottiglieri, who added that he wished he would see more young fans at shows.

Read more at Naples Daily News (free registration required).

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