Download. Download. Download. That's right, I said it. Maybe you can't say bomb on a
plane, but I will most definitely say DOWNLOAD on an internet site dedicated to reviewing
and educating the masses on everything heavy metal both new, old, and in between. I say
download. Download new albums. Download new music. Download the new bands. Download it all
baby! The tables have turned and even this patient, ever loyal metal collector has been
forced to lock up the check and credit cards and simply click GO, DOWNLOAD, and BURN!
Why is that you might ask? What has shifted the tides and created such a change of heart
for this loyal leatherneck? Well the answer is rather simple really. Where else can I get
my heavy metal fix?? Trust me when I say this. I would most certainly BUY instead of
DOWNLOAD. But realistically our chances of buying new heavy metal has simply spiraled down
This metal journalist would easily shell out up to $35 for an imported Loudness or
Impellitteri release without a second thought. For years and years I would call in orders
to metal mail order stores the world over. It was easy then. You called and TALKED to
someone, they played a tune or sample over the phone, you said "Hell Yeah" and
proceeded to read off your card digits and location. Simple enough. Now, in the year 2007,
that idea is rather preposterous. A fantasy. A dream. It just doesn't happen like that
anymore. Instead what I have realized is this:
It would be much easier for me to run a kick-off return for a touchdown without being
touched against the New England Patriots than to simply order and receive a CD online in a
timely manner without complications.
In the last five years I have found that when ordering a CD online there is a 70% chance
that the following will occur:
A) The CD store site will falsely claim that they have an item in stock.
B) You will receive the wrong CD for the right price.
C) You will receive the right CD for the wrong price.
D) Your CD will become lost in the mail.
E) Your credit or debit card will be charged weeks before an actual shipping date.
F) Your order will simply disappear.
G) Your credit card information will be seized by Russian terrorists.
I have had all of the above happen at one point or another. I think the only reliable way
to obtain new heavy metal records is by downloading them. Let me break it down for you:
You can obtain even the most obscure albums that are only available in Russia, Sweden,
Japan, Finland, South America, etc. by downloading. Let's face it, when you see an item on
a metal store site you immediately think it is in stock and ready to ship. WRONG! Plenty
of times I've discovered that most sites list everything that there distributor carries
and not just what they currently have in stock. So the average consumer simply clicks ADD
TO CART and moves on. A few days later the consumer receives an email stating that said
item is out of stock and will return in a few weeks. Worse yet, on a multiple item order
where one or two items are out of stock, the entire order gets held up until all items are
finally in stock, and then and only then is the order shipped to the customer. As bizarre
and ridiculous as this sounds, it is most definitely the truth.
On a recent downloading venture I stumbled upon a band called Stoner Kings. I have never
heard anything from the band prior to taking a chance and downloading the album. Sure, I
could have stumbled on the band's site through trial an error and maybe, just maybe, found
a sample to download. However one particular "sharing" person had a few albums
that were simply unavailable to purchase anywhere. That person also had Stoner Kings
listed in a specific share folder. I thought the name sounded great so I downloaded it.
Love the band, love their albums! Being the supporter of good quality metal, I searched
for the album to purchase. I was unable to locate the album at The End Records, Impulse
Music, Sentinel Steel, Metal Merchant, Nuclear Hell, CD Inzane, or any other bargain bin,
CD clearance, innovative metal mail order retail shop on the planet. EBay? At that
specific time there were no sellers listing a Stoner Kings release. I finally found the
item at a rather popular metal store online and proceeded to put the item in a shopping
cart and hit CHECKOUT. One week later I checked my order status to find nothing had been
ordered. My card had not been charged, nothing had been shipped, and I had 0 items in my
shopping cart. Apparently on a secure server with my financial info disclosed on a final
webpage that stated ORDER PROCESSED the actual order never made it to the location of
"the checkout clerk". Where did the order go? Russian terrorists? Mars? Your
guess is as good as mine. By the time I was finally able to decipher the errors on that
site's ordering system, I found a copy on Ebay for $3.75. I waited five days for my bid to
become the winner and presto, I apparently have the CD on the way by mail. During that
whole spectacle of insanity I was still able to listen to my downloaded copy just fine.
Beyond this initial example there are hordes of new metal sitting in share folders across
the digital domains. I have found not only Stoner Kings but other great bands like
Twinball, Star Ratz, and Machine Men to name a few. Again, I may have stumbled on those
bands through trial and error on other metal sites similar to Maximum Metal, but in just a
few hours I was able to download the full albums and really rally behind the band and the
release. Of course I can't purchase the albums anywhere right now. The first Star Ratz
album isn't available on any website I've seen. Twinball? Not a chance. Machine Men's new
album? I can pay Impulse Music $10.99 for a four song teaser of the new album, or I can
just continue to play my free copy of the entire record until it becomes readily available
This is really the bread and butter of the whole exchange between heavy metal loving
paying customer and heavy metal selling proprietor. Why can't two parties work together to
deliver one item from one location to another? As easy as this sounds it really isn't.
Again, we have the issue of availability. Then selection. So what happens if a site
actually has what you are looking for? This is where the proverbial sh@# hits the fan. You
could order your CD and have it arrive in mere days. Fat chance but it could happen. Here
is what I have had happen. Let's say you order from Metal Merchant in Germany. They have
nice selection and decent prices. You are an American. You load up your shopping cart,
finalize your order, and receive a confirmation that your order has been shipped. Now
comes the tricky part. Metal Merchant must box up your CDs and send them across the German
border in route to the US. Germany (and other Euro countries) has a customs department
that must open and inspect a vast majority of packages leaving the country. This is where
the infamous DELAY happens. Metal Merchant may say shipping is 7-10 days in there eyes.
Customs could have your package 60 days before taking the time to inspect it, leaving you
with a 70 day wait period for the items you ordered. Metal Mayhem here in the US has taken
up to three weeks to send me one CD. After repeated calls and emails I was finally able to
have my CD shipped to me. In the meantime the owner of Metal Mayhem banned me from his
site and asked me to never order from him again. Pretty nice guy huh? CD Inzane placed an
order for me a couple of years ago. They told me they had two brand new releases in stock
and ready to ship. A month later CD Inzane was still waiting for those brand new releases
to be shipped from their distributor to them. Molten Metal USA and Restless And Wild were
decent mail order stores here in the US, but unfortunately they have went out of business.
This isn't necessarily a direct attack on music retail sites online. Troy Cole, a former
manager of retail giant FYE for eight years can explain to you the horrors of the retail
side of things:
"After several years of trying to pry my way into controlling the inventory for a
metal section in my particular store, Corporate always found a way to squash such things.
They always have a "vision" of what should sell and that is why they employ
buyers. These buyers are responsible to stock stores with product that will sell based on
demographics and such and remove product that doesn't sell, not based on being in the
stores to supply what people are actually asking for. This is common place for all retail
stores with the exception of your local Mom and Pop store that usually will take the time
to order stuff that their customers actually want. Even expanding on what a basic retail
store carries, I was unable to sufficiently stock or even order titles that were
"wanted". If I was able to get one copy of a cd from Locomotive Records I was
lucky (our max order limit was 2 if you ordered after the release date) and if we sold
that title it took months to get back. Retail chains have this thing called recall in
which product that doesnt sell is sent back but thats not always the case. If
corporate can get most of its money back on something that doesn't sell (or hasn't sold
out yet) no matter how long it has sit on the shelf they will take the opportunity to
recover their money. For example, how can I order 6 copies of the Hypocrisy
"Virus" CD and have to send the last copy back that didn't sell in a three week
period? If anything they should be sending me more. Now on the other hand since there is
no return value for the 1993 Infectious Grooves "Sarsippius' Ark" it can sit on
the self and rot for 4 years since the last time we sold a copy. That is just retail
ethics in a nutshell."
"Now that was basically dealing with new releases when it comes to special orders and
re-stocking most of that nightmare is encountered again and more. What also happens are
things like EC has pointed out: You order a CD but the store receives the regular version
instead of the import version or vice versa. The wrong CD is shipped and you are not aware
until you come to pick it up. The CD you ordered was available at the time you placed the
order but since so many retailers order from the same distributor the product is actually
out of stock when they go to ship it and your order is now on a convenient backorder for
up to 6 weeks. Granted you don't encounter these issues all the time but they do happen
"Retail may not have what you want all the time but you know what is there and what
you can actually take home with you instead of having to wait for an invoice to generate
what they are shipping or getting an email saying that a particular item was listed online
but is currently out of stock. Selection though is usually slim for metal unless it's
mainstream stuff, which usually pushes people to the online market."
"Retail is where service should be the best, after all you have a person to actually
communicate with. Right? Wrong. Sometimes you might as well be asking my 8 year old son
where to find the new Mob Rules CD. Usually the answer is the same "uh, what is
that?". 90% of your employees at Best Buy, Wal-mart, Target, Circuit City have no
clue or desire to know anything about anything. Don't believe me, I guarantee if you go
ask someone at each of these stores if they have "Chinese Democracy" from Guns N
Roses one of them will tell you "Yes, we had that but we sold out and are expecting
more". That just boils down to people not caring about anything except for what time
they leave work and when the next check arrives."
"So you can see how retail also compares to the points EC brings out about
availability, selection, and service. The only choice is downloading, it's the only way to
get what you want when you want it and most of the time before it even ships out to be
sold. So why give yourself a bad case of irritable bowel syndrome dealing with all these
possible misfortunes of buying first? If you like it, buy it later when you find it on the
shelf or maybe even save yourself some cash finding it second hand."
Obviously downloading isn't helping out the bands or the smaller labels. But until
something better is put in place on the retail side of the market, downloading just makes
sense to me. Sure a lot of bands have stepped up and decided to just sell the CDs
themselves. But is that just as bad as the above examples? I downloaded the new Riot album
"Army Of One" a few weeks ago. At that time I could have bought the CD from CD
Universe for $35 or CD Japan for $24. That is a rather hefty bill for a Riot album. Now
Riot has disclosed (months after the initial Jap release) that they are now selling the
new record on their official band site. Being the loyal metal fan that I am I said to
myself, "Great. I can buy directly from the band and help out all parties
involved". I proceeded to checkout where a disclaimer reads PLEASE ALLOW 4-6 WEEKS
FOR DELIVERY. 4-6 weeks!!! Riot is in New York. I am in Virginia. This is a 12 hour drive.
I am supposed to pay them through Paypal and wait 4-6 weeks for my CD to arrive? That is
In closing, I want to challenge everyone involved in the metal scene to step up and
brainstorm for some type of better solution to this problem. How can we help the bands and
smaller labels by giving them our money in a justified manner, yet still be treated as an
important customer? I ask the online metal mail order stores to get involved, change their
customer service methods, and make a change! Email me at email@example.com if you have any suggestions,
solutions, or plain 'ole gripes about this column.
-EC & Troy Cole 2.28.07
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