Monday, March 19, 2012

They Betrayed Their Fans

The Delicious Invasion

As far as video games go, I have become the guy who buys the hit Keith Urban album at Wal-Mart three years after it came out. I used to be up on video games, buying some on the release date after months of anticipation. Now, I'm playing old Wii games.

But that hasn't stopped me from reading Penny Arcade. Tycho's prose is so compelling to me, and I'm sure it's influenced my writing more than a little. I know nothing about his subject matter, but I understand the discussion nonetheless, and the comics still make me laugh.

On Friday, he was discussing the third game in the Mass Effect series. Apparently there has been an uproar about how the story ends, with fans feeling personally violated. I was intrigued by how his discussion applies to metal, specifically to any situation where a band "changes direction" or a venerated label signs a commercial act. I know I've said things about Century Media and The Haunted that fall into this same category. Here is the crux of what he had to say:
When it comes to Mass Effect 3, certainly they have the "right" however vaguely enumerated to make what they want, and those who consume it have the "right" however vaguely enumerated to say that what they have done is wrong/bullshit/authentically evil. These "rights" don't necessarily overlap: they exist as perfect spheres, bouncing off one another in space. Creating or critiquing is just a way to pass the time until you die. I won't say ne'er the twain shall meet, but they might not, and they don't have to.

Ownership is a very complicated business when it comes to cultural product, though. They succeed by virtue of the fact that we, as players, incorporate these stories into our lives.
How much "ownership" do we have in our favorite bands? Do we really have any "right" to be angry with a band for selling out? Does it make any difference that the fans put them in a position to make selling out possible? I don't know. I feel like we do, in my gut. But then I asked the corollary question: Does a band have a duty to please the fans who invested in them? I don't think so. And if they don't have to please us, then why are we offended?

But then I consider Ozzy. Our cultural investment in him is profound. My personal investment equally so. I can't help but feel betrayed by what he's become.


  1. I don't believe that bands have any duty to please fans, but it is only natural that people are offended when a band sells out. You can compare how people react to bands like Ulver or Boris which invariably do things that fans do not like, with how fans react to bands that sell out. The offense comes from subverting musical/artistic integrity in order to make money. which I think is different from the disappointment that happens when a band goes off into left field for their own reasons. Some fans though get angry with everything they don't like though. Certainly an interesting question you have posed.

  2. Do we have a right to be upset? Of course we do. That doesn't mean the band has to care what we think.

  3. I'm pretty sure most bands write for themselves first and if the fans like it, great. If a band blatantly changes direction strictly for monetary gain, I think that's when fans have a right to be upset. A band like CoC has changed direction with almost every album because they wanted to do so, not for monetary gain. Then there's Metallica...

  4. I think it's valid to be disappointed because artists are so much in the public eye. As they change, you realize that most of its because they've become surrounded by hordes of yes men, management conglomerates, media whores and other moneyed interests whose purpose is to merely keep the cash cow milking. Not to mention huge egos, substance abuse, petulant attitudes and questionable career choices. Rarely do bands reinvent themselves artistically, when they can pound variations of the same riff into dust for cash.