Where is the next Metallica? Where is the next Iron Maiden? Where is the next (insert big rock and roll band here)? They are questions that pop up at least once a year. Usually around the time that Download announces a batch of headliners who are near identical to the ones announced a couple of years before. But the question is, do we need a new Metallica? Do we need Iron Maiden? Or is this obsession with bands needing to sell out arenas preventing the next generation of metal bands making the step up to festival headliners?
If you take a look at Andy Copping’s Twitter page, you’ll see that he’s a man who likes to defend his choices. If people question him he has a whole host of statistics to back up his choice. Now, I respect Mr. Copping and all things told, I reckon he does a cracking job. But this always makes me a bit sad. Music shouldn’t be about numbers on a spreadsheet, it should be about bloody music.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand he has a job and that job is to sell tickets, but can you seriously tell me that if this year’s Download line up was two of the current headliners and then Bring Me The Horizon it would sell fewer tickets? If it was two of the current headliners and Lamb of God would it make a difference? Or Deftones? Or Korn? Or one of those countless bands from the nineties that never got their chance because they apparently aren’t big enough.
It’s the difference that always made me prefer Sonisphere, a festival that always seemed more open to taking risks. Whether it was giving Bill Bailey the second stage headliner spot or having a half day on the Friday headlined by Alice Cooper, they were willing to give people you would never have guessed a headline spot. Christ, they were the first people to put Biffy Clyro on top of the bill and is there a bigger modern British rock band on the go right now? (The answer is no by the way).
This doesn’t just extend to smaller bands. If you listen to That’s Not Metal’s Download special they cover a fair few of these points and Terry Bezer says that Download has still refused to give bands like Paramore, Fall Out Boy or Blink 182 a headlining spot. Despite the fact that these bands sell more tickets than most of these classic acts. Now I’ll be honest, I don’t have much love for those bands. Fall Out Boy were vital for me as a teenager, but their recent stuff leaves me cold while I’ve always found Paramore a bit hit and miss. (I just can’t stand Blink). However, I couldn’t help but agree. Why aren’t these bands headlining? Download has put themselves in a corner that they are going to struggle to get out of. The more you ignore these modern bands the more they’re going to go to Reading or mainland Europe for their festival needs and eventually Metallica and Maiden will retire and Download will be left scrabbling for whoever comes next.
Now, I expect Bring Me the Horizon to headline Download in the next three years. I also won’t be surprised if something a bit more gimmicky like Steel Panther or Babymetal make the step up. But I don’t know whether that’s enough. I don’t want to be the guy moaning on the internet, I really don’t, but until Download changes their expectations for what a headliner should be, they are going to struggle to find the next generation of bands. I love Download. I’ve got some wonderful memories of that festival. But I’m sitting looking at those three headliners and I just can’t get excited and until they are willing to throw a cat in among those pigeons, I’m struggling to see when I will again.