Are Iron Maiden fans really just paying customers?

Perun

Stepping out bravely
Staff member
We probably all think of Iron Maiden and heavy metal music as something that deeply affects our lives, as an art that transcends beyond the material and in some way, the worldly. Some of us have dedicated considerable parts of our lives to this music and this form of art. There is an important social component to the world of Iron Maiden and heavy metal, and this forum itself is a testament to that. I can say for myself that I wouldn't be the person I am today if it hadn't been for the inspiration drawn from metal and the people I met thanks to it.

However, is that actual reality? Does "Iron Maiden" as an entity of consequence actually exist? Is it not rather Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd.? Do they publish art or rather sell products? Are we really fans, and not simply paying customers? After all, all the people who are part of Iron Maiden - the band members, road crew, other employees - live from selling their products to us, the albums, live shows, t-shirts, golf balls, beers, whatever.

My thought is that someone who defines themselves as a fan is such because they value the integrity of the artist they support, and believe the artists are what we support them for because of their own artistic decisions. But if this is so, then are we, as fans, even entitled to anything? When I think of setlist complaints, the groaning about another 8-minute epic on a new album or the demand that they should play Alexander, then aren't we behaving more like paying customers who want value for their money? Are we really putting our trust into the artists that they know what they are doing and will have made the conscious decision that, say, it would be better to play Afraid to Shoot Strangers than Infinite Dreams? Or are we feeling cheated because we spent so much money on their albums and their live shows that we have a certain idea of what their end of the deal is supposed to be? Is someone who leaves a concert after they play the last rare song and then continue to play the classics a person who is there for the art, or someone who is there because he has a product he has certain demands of?

I admit the post above is a bit wordy, so I hope I'm getting my point, or rather my question, across. To put it in simple words, is there actually such a thing as a pure fan in an artistic process, or are we all just rather paying customers in an economic cycle?
 
Probably not as relevant to Maiden, but it should be pointed out that lots of people pay very little money & listen to lots of music. I have friends who view seeing a band live as a way of paying them (the band/artist) for the enjoyment they've (fans) had from the music; all of which they downloaded or acquired illegally/for-nothing. Granted, now, most of these friends are streaming; that model seems to have been built for them. But how much of that is actually going to artists? Very little by all accounts. I don't know if this is really your typical Maiden fan though. With Maiden being older, & also the way they market & make music (still releasing albums in a fairly traditional manner), they seem to have fans who still buy more physical stuff. So... you could argue Maiden fans really are consumers; more so than expected.

Personally, beyond albums & the occasional concert, Maiden get very little of my money. I know this isn't the case for others tho'.
 

The Flash

Dennis Wilcock did 9/11
I've expressed unorthodox views regarding artistic integrity on the forum before, pretty much dismissing it as an unimportant issue. For me, it's nearly impossible to draw the line between doing it for the money and doing it for personal enjoyment. Going "mainstream" is usually considered by many to be inherently tied to selling out, but is it really selling out if you simply want to reach bigger audiences with your art? Or if the "mainstream" sound is genuinely what you enjoy doing as an artist at the time? What if the artist who didn't "sell out" and "stuck to his guns" is actually treating his fanbase as a cash cow?

The moment you become a professional musician, the money issue comes into play. For a professional musician to act like it doesn't matter is disingenous. I personally have zero issues with an artist building a commercial empire around their art. Why not? If people aren't enjoying it, they won't give you money. If they are giving you money, it means people are enjoying it. Why not do it? To me there's nothing wrong with that dynamic.

But if this is so, then are we, as fans, even entitled to anything?
We are not entitled to anything when it comes to the artist's choices. The only thing the fans are entitled to is to let the artist know about their disappointments, and the way to do that is to not give them money. It may end up influencing the artist, but either way the ball is his court.

But how much of that is actually going to artists? Very little by all accounts.
That is also true for physical copies. Labels take the cake when it comes to album sales. Artists make most of their money from live performances, which is why you see random reunions all the time. The money dries up.
 

Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
However, is that actual reality? Does "Iron Maiden" as an entity of consequence actually exist? Is it not rather Iron Maiden Holdings Ltd.? Do they publish art or rather sell products? Are we really fans, and not simply paying customers?
Why not both? When I discuss one of Adrian Smith’s guitar solos on here, I am talking only about the art and Maiden does exist as an entity of consequence (although it’s really up to the individual to decide what that means). When I drink a Trooper at the Maiden concert, I am a paying customer and Maiden are pushing a product both off and on stage.

Then there’s the issue of who pays what to whom. With today’s music sales, I doubt anyone in the Maiden organization is making much off the albums. To even record an album they have to pay an engineer, a producer, whoever owns the studio they’re renting, whatever equipment they use, and food/shelter/beer for the sessions. Then they have to pay distributors, promotion, etc etc. When you compare all this to the amount of sales, it’s hard to see making new music instead of touring as a worthwhile financial venture. So clearly there are other things motivating them to make the music. A lot of people also consume the music without paying.

That’s not to say there’s no product involved. With today’s technology, buying a CD or LP to hear the music is pointless. Anyone doing that is definitely consuming a product (myself included, I bought TBOS three times). But I don’t believe any of that taints the art. Quite the opposite in Maiden’s case actually. I believe that everything they do with the packaging of the art is in service of the art, like the album covers and booklet designs. You’re not going to see Eddie holding a bottle of Trooper on the next album cover. The tours get a bit dicier here, but I don’t really consider a Maiden tour an artistic endeavor anyway.

As far as the entitlement thing goes, I actually do think you could make the case for fans being entitled to some things sometimes. The excessive whining about setlists and what is or isn’t on a new Maiden album is still pathetic and I think these people need to get over themselves, but the fans do have a say in that they choose whether or not to purchase a ticket or CD. If a big enough chunk of the fan base decided to boycott Maiden until they played Alexander the Great live, Maiden might have the incentive to do so. We kinda saw this in action when they ditched Blaze. So the fans do have a voice there, but whether or not they’re being rational or reasonable is a different story. With Alexander specifically, the simple fact is that most fans don’t care if they play that song so Maiden isn’t going to go through the trouble of learning it to please a few whiners.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
No artist creates art simply to make money. I mean 100%, I-work-a-data-input-job-in-a-cubicle-and-I-hate-data-input-and-I-hate-my-company-but-this-pays-the-bills kind of way. Artists initially make art because they enjoy it/are drawn to it/are called to it/whatever and they put in hours and years of work to enhance that skill to a level that is good enough to make money. Now, once that art makes money does that turn anyone who enjoys that art into a consumer? Of course. But as others have already said, there is no fine, black and white line between being a fan and being a consumer. You pay the artist to make art because you enjoy that art, the artist earns money off of you to continue making more art.

Of course there is the topic of artistic integrity, musical changes to sell more albums, over-merchandising, etc. but those are all a means to an end at a certain point. Once you've reached a certain level of fame or fortune, the only way to progress and evolve and earn new consumers and new fans is to make more fame or fortune. It's the nature of the beast. You have to try new things for this process to work. Those things could be writing shorter songs, slapping your band name on a beer, or making a feature film.

I would argue that bands create fans and that those fans are inherently consumers of a product. Iron Maiden is a product and we, the fans, are consumers. But we are not "simply" consumers and Iron Maiden is not "simply" a producer of goods and/or services. I think Iron Maiden is probably the most successful, respectable band in the entire genre when it comes to drawing the line between fans and consumers. At the end of the day, Iron Maiden is a business and their goal is to make money, but if their goal was "simply" to make money, if they had zero care for what they feel the fans want (the flip side of what the fans believe they are owed), then they would be a joke like KISS or they would be oblivious/try too hard like Metallica.

Iron Maiden does more than any other artist of their size to make their fans not feel like consumers and I think that shows a great level of respect and reverence for their product. They care about what they put out there just as much as the fans do, even if what they put out there is solely meant to help Bruce buy another aircraft.
 

The Flash

Dennis Wilcock did 9/11
Iron Maiden is a business and their goal is to make money, but if their goal was "simply" to make money, if they had zero care for what they feel the fans want (the flip side of what the fans believe they are owed), then they would be a joke like KISS or they would be oblivious/try too hard like Metallica.
In addition, even the attempts that are simply designed to create more revenue usually require a level of good decision making, and if that attempt is through the art itself, a level of creativity. It is entirely possible for an artist to make an attempt for bigger revenue, end up failing to do so, and also alienating their existing consumers (fans) in the process.
 
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soundwave

Educated Fool
I view Maiden like a good author - they've done a very good job with 'world building' over the years. It's a 'world' I enjoy visiting and exploring often, and I'm keen to read'new stories' set in the Maiden universe (i.e. albums). Like any literary world, Maiden's musical world has certain barriers and rules that are part of the appeal. Maiden are very much content to follow their own canon if you will. They are very self-aware and reverential of the art that they have created. I don't mind 'supporting the world' by buying the music, or by consuming the corresponding merchandise if it appeals to me.

Cynics would say that's a cop out way of saying they developed a successful business formula and are simply milking it every record (also known as AC/DC syndrome).

To continue the story metaphor, I would argue that rules/boundaries aren't necessarily a bad thing. I wouldn't want UFOs and sentient robots showing up in the middle Game of Thrones. Likewise, I wouldn't want Maiden to throw in a 10 minute saxophone solo in the middle of a record. If I really want that level of unpredictability, I'll read some China Mieville and listen to Mike Patton or Devin Townsend in the background.

For me, Maiden earned a tremendous amount of respect back in the mid 90s. When nearly every other metal band was attempting to become alternative, industrial, or re-branding as punk, Maiden was taking out ads in Guitar World that said "we're heavy f*cking metal". It didn't matter that they were playing in half empty nightclubs in the States...they were going to go out on their own terms if it came to that. That takes balls. That's an artist that cares about the "world" that they've created and they're not going to alter it based on the whims of the day, even at their own financial detriment.
 

Black Abyss Babe

Ocean soul
Of course we are "paying customers" in that we buy their music ("product"), and don't have to buy it if we don't like it. But that doesn't mean it's all we are. Art and trade have always had a symbiotic and sometimes uncomfortable relationship: few artists would choose to prostitute their art to popularity, but on the other hand everyone's got to eat. The band needs to pay for itself, otherwise they'd all need day jobs and hence would only be able to do a few pub gigs of an evening, and most of us would never have heard of them.

There's a big difference between doing something that turns out to be popular and doing something because it's popular. And one thing Maiden can never be accused of is pursuing the popular. I have always been in awe of how they got where they are while always resolutely insisting on doing things their own way.

No mere "product" is going to create and maintain a worldwide fanbase that unites people from all walks of life across all boundaries of race, class, background and even religion. That's a very special achievement. Maiden is far more than a good band making good music - it's more than that. I'm inclined to agree with @Operations666 - it's a spiritual thing. I can genuinely say that discovering Maiden changed my life and opened up a whole new world to me. If the price of that continuing is that I actually pay something towards the music that they've worked their socks off to create, why should I mind? It seems like the least I can do for them because what they've given me in return is far more than the "product" I'm technically paying for - it's an important part of my life. So I don't see that "fan" and "customer" are mutually exclusive here, I think they can peacefully coexist. And actually, need to coexist.
 

Diesel 11

Und die Welt zählt laut bis zehn...
No mere "product" is going to create and maintain a worldwide fanbase that unites people from all walks of life across all boundaries of race, class, background and even religion. That's a very special achievement. Maiden is far more than a good band making good music - it's more than that. I'm inclined to agree with @Operations666 - it's a spiritual thing. I can genuinely say that discovering Maiden changed my life and opened up a whole new world to me. If the price of that continuing is that I actually pay something towards the music that they've worked their socks off to create, why should I mind? It seems like the least I can do for them because what they've given me in return is far more than the "product" I'm technically paying for - it's an important part of my life. So I don't see that "fan" and "customer" are mutually exclusive here, I think they can peacefully coexist. And actually, need to coexist.
Preach! :notworthy:
 

Brigantium

Grim Reaper
Staff member
The six guys in the band do, but not the hundreds+ employees of Iron Maiden LLC.
I'm not sure that there are that many. It comes across as a very cheaply run organisation with few staff and a handful of interns.
 

Mosh

The years just pass like trains
Staff member
Was wondering about that actually. I’m also thinking about any outside services they use, such as during a tour, not just full time employees.
 
We are all “consumers” of their art but thankfully the product is exceptional! The band will make a lot of money from their tours but it is not like they are putting on half-arsed shows or releasing sub standard new material. They are truly passionate about their output and that shows with the incredibly diverse fan base they now possess. The effort and planning that goes into executing their gigs and the energy they have for a group of guys in their 60s means I will quite happily part with £50 to be a part of it. (Which is pretty cheap these days in comparison to other acts of their relative stature). They are a business with a top of the range product.
 

SirRobbins

Ancient Mariner
Bands like Maiden are still alive because of their brilliant marketing ideas with Eddie. Eddie has kept them alive through tour merch and such. Best financial decision they made was having Eddie as a mascot. I consider myself a supporter by buying merch, going to multiple shows and such because it gives them the money to survive and keep going. Many other metal bands have hardcore fan bases and are not on the financial level they are. Sure they could be doing what others do and stick to smaller venues and not have tour planes, elaborate stage sets and such but with the extra dough, they can do it and I'm glad to be a contributor to that.
 
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