Hatebreed’s fan-friendly model for survival

Tough economic times affected all branches of the entertainment industry in 2009, and the live music scene is no exception. In a recent MSN Music online poll of metal fans, 33.3 percent of respondents said they were going to fewer shows, nearly 15.9 percent said that if they did go out, they were bypassing the merch table. Bands have been playing smaller venues than they might have hit on previous tours, promoters are trying to add value by creating festival-style bills with five or six artists instead of the two- and three-band tours of the past, and ticket prices are dropping, in some cases to an extreme degree. The admission price for the recently reunited Creed's October show in Birmingham, Ala., infamously fell to 75 cents — and still didn't sell out.

Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta is hoping to buck the downward trend. His band is currently on the road, headlining one of the year's heaviest tours with support from death-metal legends Cannibal Corpse and Hate Eternal, Boston-based metalcore squad Unearth, and technical whiz kids Born of Osiris. He admits to venue downsizing in a few cities, especially for midweek shows, but he's understandably proud of the lineup he's assembled. "On this tour, there's three headliners in their own right," he says. "We stacked the bill and made sure it was more bang for your buck."

And for two stops — one at the Warfield and one at the Hollywood Palladium — Hatebreed is co-headlining an all-day metalfest, joining forces with Trivium, whose own tour offers support sets by Whitechapel, Chimaira, and Dirge Within. "We've never been able to headline the Warfield on our own, so now we're able to do that, which is a huge accomplishment for us," Jasta says, adding that the idea of joining forces came from positive crowd reactions when Trivium and Hatebreed played together in Las Vegas last month: "We said, 'This works; let's make it a big metalfest and move it to a big venue.'"

Hatebreed: More bang for your head.
Hatebreed: More bang for your head.

This kind of fans-first thinking extends to Hatebreed's physical product. The band released two full-length studio albums this year and a live DVD in 2008. "Everybody said it was a little overambitious, and it was," Jasta admits. The all-covers disc For the Lions, released in May, contains 19 muscled-up versions of classic tracks by bands along the hardcore/thrash/death-metal continuum, including Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, the Misfits, Slayer, Sepultura, and Obituary, while Hatebreed's self-titled sixth album of original material arrived in stores only four months later.

Hatebreed is the group's heaviest, most metallic disc to date. For the first time in the band's career, guitar solos appear on multiple tracks, and there's even a shredtastic four-minute instrumental track, "Undiminished." The album follows on the heels of Jasta's 2008 side project, Kingdom of Sorrow, a collaboration with Crowbar and Down guitarist Kirk Windstein. Jasta would like to maintain his group's current level of productivity. "If you look at bands from the '70s and '80s, they did an album every year," he explains. "This whole three years between records is not gonna work. We have tons of songs; we've just always had red tape with the labels, and the drama behind the scenes that kept us from releasing one every year. And now with the downloading, and with kids' attention spans being so short, I think it's better to just keep pumping out music."

Sheer relentlessness may not be a universally applicable business strategy, but it seems to be doing okay for Jasta and company so far.

 
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