By: Tyler Hudson-Naef
The way I see it, Nuclear Blast is the label with the good s**t. They are the ones I would turn to when I needed my fix of melodic death metal, new age pop metal, or just something different. Their focus is metal of all types and they have an amazing roster of artists who never fail to take you to new levels of, “holy crap, what is this?! This is amazing I must buy it!” At least that is my reaction. Until I started researching the label, though, it was my only reaction. I hadn’t realized yet that founder and label president Markus Staiger and his team were freakin’ geniuses that have been at the forefront of many major metal movements. Not only that, but they run this miraculously successful Indie so well that it’s no wonder heavy metal is on the rise again.
Markus Staiger started Nuclear Blast back in 1987 while he was still serving alternative service in the German military. He traveled to the U.S. where he saw his favorite band BLAST play. This inspired him, for no reason other than his shear love of music, to start a label back home in Donzdorf Germany. He managed to take what money he had and use it to release a compilation of hardcore and punk acts called “Senseless Death” that went on to sell all 1000 copies in the first year. At first he simply called his label Blast, after his favorite band but soon changed it to Nuclear Blast (good move). He had a small mail order department fueled by mass amounts of CD’s he bought and sold along with the records he put out. He used this mail order department to pay the advances of the artists he would sign.
The label didn’t see much in the way of money until Grindcore started getting big in the early nineties. This convinced Staiger to start signing heavier bands and capitalize on the death metal bands that were plentiful in Europe. In 1990 he had four or five death metal bands he released sell over 30,000 copies of their album by the end of the year. Also, in the late nineties his label spearheaded the innovation of the metal world by introducing two new subgenres: Black Metal (a darker more atmospheric death metal) and Gothenburg style metal (very melodic metal driven by crunchy guitars). This put Nuclear Blast on the map and gained them worldwide recognition and credibility. The label went on to create a community of die-hards that were loyal to the label and its music. These fans saw current, as well as, older albums as collectors items and bought all they could.
Nuclear blast, now 23 years old, has a central office in Donzdorf Germany, complete with record store/merch shop, as well as branches in the United States and Brazil. They have 50 distribution partners including fellow Indie metal label Century Media. On top of that, they still have a mail order catalogue that they send out every year as well as a complete, extensive online shop. Nuclear Blast has a very serious commitment to artist relations, doing everything they can to help their artist succeed and exhausting every possible opportunity to expose them to the world and help connect them with their fans. They’ve signed and released artists that have had worldwide success and become very popular. Many of their artists headline events such as Ozzfest and Waken outdoor festival. On top of all this attention, popularity, and success, however, Nuclear Blast has stayed on top of the changing industry and adapted to the new ways of marketing and creating awareness.
They have embraced the Internet in all aspects. They have all the major outlets covered and even have some interesting gems others haven’t thought of. Of course they have the obligatory Myspace, Facebook and Twitter, complete with artist links, updates, and label news. They also have their own channel on YouTube and live streams of album, and tour updates on Myspace. They have their own RSS feed through their web site and their own customizable channel on last.fm. To me, however, their own website is the most interesting of all. It is extremely extensive and offers the visitor anything and everything they want to know about the label or its artists. It has links to all their branches and social media. One can watch videos, read news, listen to tracks, shop, enter contests, even join the mailing list or the NB street team. The site is also very well organized. For example, when one clicks on an artist they get a bio/review, side bars with the artists latest’s release and merch photos, band photos, members and instruments, quick links to all the band’s releases, tour dates, news, etc. as well as related artists and news. That’s everything a fan could want (besides free stuff) in a nutshell. See links below for more info.
In addition to spreading themselves all over the Internet, they have spread themselves across the vast expanse of the metal genre. They truly have all the metal niche markets covered. They’ve signed obscure Pagan and Nordic metal as well as folk metal bands, some of which have actually seen some relatively major success. They have bands that appeal to a young female audience as well as bands that appeal to forty-year-old guys who still like to wear face paint and spikes and worship Satan in their mother’s basement. There is something for everyone at Nuclear Blast, and it’s all of good quality, and it’s all readily available through almost every outlet (yes, folks, some of their artists are even sold at Wal-Mart). So do yourself a favor and pay attention to Nuclear Blast because even if you are not into metal, you might learn something from this brutally smart Indie label that is the setting the standard in metal.
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