The Sons of Odin
Magic Circle Music
The relationship between a band and its fans is a tenuous one at best. On the one hand, many bands want to give something back to the people who got them where they are, but on the other, they still need to sell them something. This confused and capitalist exchange between producer and consumer is perfectly encapsulated by the latest release by long-running metal band Manowar.
In some respects, it is your typical purchase of our modern age: one disc is a CD of five tracks of ridiculous bombastic metal with symphonic overlays and the other is a DVD featuring footage of the band rehearsing with an orchestra and choir, surround sound mixes of the songs from the CD side, and the piece de resistance, a documentary about a fan convention held in Germany in 2005.
The CD side spells out things pretty clearly — it may be sub-par music, but their fan base is so solid that Manowar could put out a collection of drum ‘n’ bass remixes and easily sell 8,000 copies — but the DVD tells us so much more.
The roughly-constructed documentary shows us the planning, construction and the final product of a Manowar fan convention. A female super fan from Germany (with assistance from band leader and bassist Joey DeMaio) brought together truckloads of memorabilia, merchandise and beer to feed to the thousands of people who streamed in from around the globe for the event. Almost all of the members of Manowar from their 27 year history were there to drink in the hero worship and give smatterings of alms to their hungry fans in the form of autographs, photos and Q&A sessions.
What is especially troubling is how quickly the fans fall in line, willfully fulfilling their expected roles in this hierarchical relationship. Yes, the band and their hangers-on probably paid a great deal of money to get things set up there, but, from the looks of the numbers of people who were there, the return on their investment was no doubt hundredfold. Besides the horrifying amount of alcohol that looks like was consumed at the site, you have to figure that the band undoubtedly sold thousands of T-shirts, CDs, DVDs and all manner of other gewgaws to the attendees. And, by the end, it becomes clear that their ploy worked as the fans were instantly clamoring for another convention.
On top of that, the band is now selling back to the fans who came to the convention a DVD of their own experience, as well as giving those folks who didn’t make it a knowing nudge in hopes of convincing them to come to the next one.
In terms of pure marketing, this CD/DVD is an absolute masterpiece. As a piece of art, it hardly rates above a painting found in a cheap hotel room.