The questions we want answering in 2016

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These are the big issues metal faces going into the new year…

Will smaller festivals continue to thrive?

There’s no doubt our big festivals are looking better than ever this year, with Download (June 10-12) boasting Black Sabbath’s live goodbye, Iron Maiden’s first UK appearance since The Book Of Souls and Rammstein’s second fiery Donington showing. “Rammstein will be bringing a full-on show and we can expect some more tricks, too!” enthuses promoter Andy Copping.

Meanwhile, Crossfaith are the first of what will doubtless be many metal announcements for Reading and Leeds (August 26-28), but in 2016 we’ll also continue to see the rise of smaller fests providing intimate, tailored experiences.

Offering headliners Twisted Sister, Mastodon and Slayer for 2016, plus Behemoth playing The Satanist in full and Satyricon performing Nemesis Divina, Derbyshire’s Bloodstock (August 11-14) is one such festival.

“We’re keeping the numbers at 15,000 – for us it’s all about the quality over quantity,” says director Adam Gregory. “We want to maintain the incredible vibe generated at Bloodstock, and getting too big will put that at risk at the minute. Stable, organic growth is our plan.” Iain Game, organiser of Hevy Fest (August 19-20), which is moving to a new site in Newhaven, Derbyshire, reckons once people have been to a smaller festival, they’re more likely to return. “Lots of festival-goers cut their teeth on the larger festivals, but once you attend a smaller event, you’ll never want to go back,” he says. “At Hevy Fest, there’s a sense of camaraderie and community you just don’t get when you’re in a field with 50,000 other people.”

Perhaps the most specialist event of 2016 is London By Norse (March 17-19), a three-day series of events celebrating Norway’s metal scene. As well as three shows from Enslaved, one from Wardruna, and a performance of Skuggsjá – a suite of songs composed by Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and Enslaved’s Ivar BjØrnson – there will be an art exhibition from Gaahl and a series of talks. Co-organiser Simon Füllemann thinks a festival like theirs with a variety of experiences offers “intimacy, closeness and the spirit of having seen something that is not happening again in the same way, ever”.

The festival is also being held across multiple locations rather than one fixed site. “We wanted venues that suit the musical and artistic expression for a particular session. It wouldn’t suit Wardruna to play the same ‘tent’ as Enslaved, for example,” says Simon. “You even have a town to amuse yourself in before and after the events, so this is much more than a secluded event where you depend on the festival for food and beer.”

Other returning smaller UK fests include southern rock celebration Desertfest (April 29-May 1, with headliners Electric Wizard and Corrosion Of Conformity) in London, plus Slam Dunk (featuring Of Mice & Men and Issues) in Leeds (May 28), Birmingham (May 29) and Hatfield (May 30).

On the more underground side, Bristol’s Temples (June 2-5) is back with All Pigs Must Die, Vision Of Disorder and Mgła. Meanwhile, Tech-Fest (July 7-11) blow the candles out on its fifth birthday, and Mammothfest (September 30-October 2 with Textures, Venom Inc, Eastern Front and Conan) is back in Brighton. Oh, and Damnation (November 5, artists still to be confirmed – it’s a way off yet) will be back at Leeds University Union.

Best start saving all that spare beer money…

Will the ticket market finally get more regulation?

Fed up with paying large amounts for resale tickets to see the bands you love? This could be your year, as the government are reviewing the way the secondary ticketing market operates.

Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Ticket Abuse, which has been pushing for increased transparency of the ticketing market, including the names of sellers being shown so it is clear when touts are selling tickets, and enforcement for those who are breaking existing laws.

“The review means there is a chance that in the future fans will be able to buy tickets for the events they love at the face value price, and not have to rely on massively inflated resale prices, or being stopped from buying tickets altogether as prices escalate beyond their reach,” she says. “Culture is not a preserve for the rich.”

Any recommendations will be made in May. In the meantime, Sharon recommends lobbying MPs and the government to get the law changed.

What’s the next big metal movement going to be?

While metal is home to a huge range of sounds, we’re still waiting for the next big movement to dominate our world. In 2016, we could be looking at the revival and evolution of some of our existing scenes instead.

The next 12 months will see the return of hardcore and post-metal/rock “in a big way”, reckons Basick Records founder Barley. “You’ve already seen comebacks from Thrice and Glassjaw on the lighter side of things, and I can see a lot of new bands coming through from the underground to really open this thing out.”

Similarly, one could point to the lasting ripple effect of nu metal, with genre grandaddies Korn continuing to fill massive venues, mainstays like Coal Chamber, Alien Ant Farm, Soil and others putting on hot-selling tours and, most importantly, this generation’s bands channelling the nu metal sound. From modern heavyweights like Of Mice & Men to young guns such as Cane Hill, Issues and The One Hundred, nu metal’s legacy is in rude health, and it isn’t going anywhere.

Meanwhile, djent is shaking off its past and mutating into something new. “Bands like Periphery and Tesseract have broken out,” says Kilimanjaro promoter Alan Day. “The djent scene is spawning some of the next big rock acts. Mastodon were an extreme rock band, and then they broke out of that, and I think Periphery’s on that trajectory – they sold out London’s Koko. And then Tesseract have come out of that movement, but are more towards prog.”

So, perhaps we shouldn’t expect anything entirely alien to crawl out of the underground this year, but with established sounds being moulded into fresh and exciting new noise, the future still looks very bright indeed.

The revenue debate continues to rage

Last June saw Apple Music enter the streaming market in an attempt to compete with services such as Spotify, Deezer, Rhapsody, Google Play and Tidal, as well as broadcast radio. Currently, Spotify remains the dominant service, though some mainstream artists have refused to have new releases on it, fearing it will cannibalise their sales. Adele’s decision to restrict 25 led to record breaking sales, and the service is now said to be considering a tiered approach, with big sellers restricted to paid-for premium accounts.

Management companies such as Raw Power are also concerned with making sure artists are properly compensated. “We are currently negotiating several contracts, and streaming is becoming a key point of those negotiations,” says Raw Power CEO Craig Jennings. “We are looking for more transparency from labels in how those numbers are calculated and are looking to see more of the revenue filtering through to the artists.”

While streaming remains convenient and audience numbers rise, it’s here to stay. Here at Metal Hammer’s parent company, we’ll continue to stream TeamRock Radio via our app – see www.teamrock.com/apps to tune in.

“Readers can expect more metal shows than they’ve ever had before,” says Content Director Scott Rowley. “Podcasts, documentaries, interviews, new shows, specials – and you can listen whenever you like.” Get on this, people!