EspyRock recently conducted an interview with STAIND frontman Aaron Lewis. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
EspyRock: We all talk about how downloading affects sales and how it then affects your career, but it is rarely addressed at a more personal level. Have you or do you still need to make sacrifices today because of what is happening or does the fact that you are still able to sell a good amount records allow you some breathing room compared to other artists?
Aaron: Well, record sales make the machine go around and within the machine, nothing is free. It costs us a lot of money to go make the record, but that’s when we also make our money. We get a little piece of money upfront to go and make the record and what’s left over is what we get as an advance; that’s really the only money we will ever see from the record and sales. The machine will not be able to work without record sales funding the labels, who then help us by contributing to the costs of recording. Nothing is free; we have to spend our money effectively to make this album, but people are not prepared to purchase the album and attain it. They don’t care about the money, blood, sweat and tears that were invested into the process. The kids these days just don’t understand the market and how it works. The biggest sacrifice I’ve had to make over the years is how much time I can spend with my family. I need to work constantly now, and if I don’t, then how can I support them. It annoys me that I have to leave my family so much now and with everything that happened during this album, I think the fact we went back to a heavy and aggressive sound really helped me just get rid of a lot of that anger.
EspyRock: Have you thought about your future outside of a record deal now that your contract is over?
Aaron: I don’t think there’s enough money in a record label’s budget these days to be able to sign me a check big enough for me to return to a record deal. This interview started on the downloading fact and how it relates to personal well being, and I don’t think there will ever be enough money for any label to keep putting out records they way they used to. The business of the record labels is built around a shiny piece of plastic and when they had the opportunity to embrace the fact that people were backing Napster, when there were 41 million people on there with around 85% willing to pay a monthly fee to use the site, the record labels turned round and said, “No, shut it down.” Instead of seeing the way the average consumer was willing to spend their money, they ignored them. Back in the day when the record business was good, people on average were buying two and a half CDs per year, and with the monthly charge that the majority of the people on Napster were prepared to pay, it was two months and they had already covered those two and a half records. Then there was the rest of the year were people would continue paying towards the service and this just accumulated as more CD sales on average than they were before. The record companies missed it. They are still built on a failing and almost dead structure and there are just different ways for us all to do things now. The way that labels now make up for it is by putting bands on the 360 deal, you know what that is?
EspyRock: Yeah, basically labels have the ability to take a large chunk of everything that you earn, not just the money from record sales.
Aaron: Yeah, they rip apart the money you earn from merchandise and touring. It is a bad way to be.
EspyRock: Have you ever been in a deal like that or anything similar when you were starting out?
Aaron: I think we are literally one of the last bands out there who are not on a 360 deal. We refused every time they tried to renegotiate with us and the deal kept heading in that direction. Every time they renegotiated with us it was progressing to a 360 deal or they just laid one out in front of us and I told them, there is no way in hell we will sign a deal like that or even remotely close to that.
EspyRock: It is very dangerous for up and coming bands these days, especially ones who may be able to make something of themselves but for these deals.
Aaron: Sadly, it is their only option. There are, no doubt, many bands out there who could have been huge, but the fact that their record label takes so much money from them, then they had to quit and go work normal jobs because they can’t afford to survive.
EspyRock: Do you see a way forward right now?
Aaron: Right now, nothing will happen with this industry until record labels begin to embrace the changes. A lot of these new services and such will work more in favour of us to get out of the record deal we’ve been in for six records but we are now an established band, people know who we are so we can take advantage of something like that and use it but new bands can’t. The last time we worked with Johnny K, he brought all of his equipment in a trailer to my studio and we set it all up and it sounded amazing. The last record [“The Illusion Of Progress”] and this record were recorded in my barn. We didn’t waste any money converting it into a studio, we just moved everything in. This time, instead of him bringing his stuff, we just gave him a credit card and he bought everything that he had brought last time like all of the vintage compressors, plug-ins and all of that stuff, amps, everything, he just went out and bought it all again. This time when we had all of it, he built a studio and now it is there, it is ours. We have all of the studio equipment we could possibly need, we have everything that we need for recording and we’ve done two records there, in that exact same spot using that exact equipment which sounds as good if not better than any record we have done in a high-end studio. You could go to NRG in Los Angeles, which is $3,000 a day, or you could invest some money and have something that you can use over and over again.
EspyRock: So is the plan now, for STAIND and maybe your solo albums, now that the record deal is over, invest some time looking into all of the services that are out there and now starting your own DIY label and just handling all of the business yourself?
Aaron: That is the plan moving forward; I don’t really see any other way. When all of the record labels dissolved and merged and that whole thing that happened a couple of years back, a lot of good people, people who were incredible at their jobs, lost their positions due to consolidation but what those people did was take their speciality and created the independent labels who do everything exactly the same as a major label without taking all of your money and screwing everything up. These people who lost their jobs saw the cracks in a failing industry and started labels which looked to take advantage of areas that major labels refused to because they were just stuck with this shiny piece of plastic. The whole structure of a record deal is insane. Where we’re at, with the renegotiations that we’ve been able to do and the success we’ve had over the years, we probably see 25 cents on the dollar after the record label is done taking all of their stuff and then management takes their piece and business management takes their piece, lawyer takes their piece and then what is left over we have to give to the record label to pay them back for the advance they gave us in the first place which is the only way we get paid in the whole grand scheme of things. So really you need to hope that you sell a lot of records so that you can get a big advance for the next record because that is the only money that you see.
Read the entire interview from EspyRock.