Director: Bob Nalbandian
Title: Band vs. Brand
Studio: Cleopatra/MVD Visual
Reviewed: March 2019
Reviewed by: JP
This month I’m going to look at two relatively new documentaries that focus on the Hard rock and Heavy Metal music industry. They are BAND VS. BRAND (2019) and HIRED GUN (2016). They work well together in back-to-back viewings and both are available on DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming services. Feel free to enjoy both reviews in this feature.
Producer Bob Nalbandian has been pretty busy lately. Hot the on the heels of Part II of his Thrash documentary he has completed work on his newest creation BAND VS. BRAND.
It is an ever-changing world and some suggest physical media is dying, namely the DVD and Blu-ray format in favour of streaming services which eliminate the cost of packaging, production and distribution to the consumer. I however, still hold out and was glad to see BAND VS. BRAND get a DVD release. The packaging is not much to speak of, a simple cover and no booklet. There are no bonus features to speak of, except a couple of trailers. This short documentary film runs about 90 minutes.
In terms of production and presentation this is a little low-budget, in terms of graphics and so on. This falls easily into the category of ‘talking head’ documentary with many straight up interviews of people talking. Some interviews are more formal, some are more casual, in a pub (Hawkwind) or backstage (Venom), but what is critical about the film is not the look or production values but the content. This is an extremely interesting topic and very timely as the music industry still experiences after-shocks following the almost complete destruction of the industry with the advent of on-line music piracy. The old model of consumers actually paying for a product and service are is having it’s death-rattle and now a new phenomena has arisen of bands being ‘brands’, more than bands. Or..is it new?
Nalbandian has gathered a wide variety of people producers, music industry executives, managers, producers, and of course musicians to discuss this simple but important topic of the evolution of band into brand. The brand concept is not as new as some might think and with a bit of a historical overview of how this trend has been happening since the 50’s and 60’s. The film is broken into easily digestible chunks, like logos, merchandising, tribute bands, and many more.
What is interesting for our purposes as a Metal site is that virtually everyone interviewed is related to Hard Rock and Heavy Metal in some way. The list of artists he spoke with is pretty phenomenal. There must be 30 Hard Rock/Metal bands represented. Most, but not all are bands and people who are older or heritage bands that have first hand experience of that evolution. There are great sections of the new technology of holograms replacing deceased band members, sections on Intellectual Property rights, a section on Kiss, arguably the #1 Rock brand of all time, and many more. It is all backed with a full-on heavy soundtrack, but not always the artists in the film. Music licensing is expensive and is discussed in the film by Marc Ferrari (Ex- Keel, Cold Sweat), just another way for the holder of the music to monetize the song/band into a brand.
Side note: I just reviewed the reissue of Marc Ferrari’s Cold Sweat album BREAK OUT this month as well if you are interested. Another cool segment is about when two bands exist at the same time as members fight over ownership; Great White, Ratt, Saxon, Venom and many more. I’m not surprised he didn’t include Gorgoroth!
Speaking of Gorgoroth, perhaps the only bit of constructive criticism I might add is that Nalbandian tends to sticks with who he knows and what he knows. As a veteran, L.A. supreme rock dude (I mean that as a sincere compliment) he doesn’t cast his net too far and there are many, many newer, international bands that would have good insight into this international phenomena, not just the regular faces we see in his movies. I feel some newer, heavier bands just might be outside the realm of his interest and/or hard to get on screen. There are many, many active, heavier bands he could have interviewed that have no original members (GWAR, In Flames, Judas Priest, Enthroned, Finntroll, Napalm Death, Norther, Sepultura, Stratovarius, etc ) such as that could have some very interesting insight from the perspective of a band that has completely transitioned from band to brand. Chalk it up to a missed opportunity.
As a music industry guy, I found this movie very interesting. I’ve been around long enough to see the fall of the industry and I have seen first hand the stories that these artists speak of. I feel BAND VS. BRAND will play well to any fans of documentaries. The movie will entertain non-Metal viewers who want a good insight into the evolution of the industry and it has the added bonus for Rock/Metal fans, spotlighting the people we know and love telling their own stories. Well worth your time!
Run time: 90 min
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