Iron Maiden‘s Bruce Dickinson has spoken about the lack of arena-level rock and metal bands.
The frontman gave his thoughts in an interview with Swedish radio station Bandit Rock, where he spoke about a recent conversation he had with a Brazilian promoter. Dickinson was in Brazil to promote his upcoming solo album, ‘The Mandrake Project’.
According to Dickinson, the promoter was complaining about the lack of headliners. Dickinson blamed “big corporations”, who he said “took everything over.” Due to their interest in making money, Dickinson claimed such corporations “propagate the big headliners, but they don’t bring on the bands that create the drama to create the fanbase, to create the dedication to bring it up.”
“You don’t become a headliner overnight,” he continued. “You become a headliner by doing loads of gigs at loads of places and fans and people follow you and all of a sudden you’re at Wembley Arena and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my god, these guys are playing arenas. And the next step up from arenas is, ‘Oh, they’re gonna go and headline a festival. Oh, yeah, great. They’re a festival headliner.’ And at that moment you go take a step up into that world.”
Dickinson went on to say promoters have changed. He described Iron Maiden’s ascent to fame, starting off as special guests at shows in Chicago, New York, whose name would then get passed around to a network of promoters. These promoters, he said, would eventually “build” bands until they were able to headline the city.
Nowadays, he theorised, promoters don’t “bring on bands in the same way”: “You have to figure out that promoters, those individual promoters, were all taking individual risks.”
He went on to say he could “see the temptation” when promoters offer musicians “a shitload of money”, but warned: “You can’t do anything after that. You’re kind of gonna work for us a little bit or just take a holiday, ’cause we’re gonna run the show from now on.’ And they just kind of hoovered everything up. I mean, they were smart businessmen.”
Dickinson called these changes “troubling” for the live scene: “I may be unfair, but I get the impression that the scene was much more vibrant in terms of upstart bands that could come up and surprise people.
He also cited the lack of small venues “where bands can just get up and do a gig” as another factor: “That diminishes the grass roots of people who go out and go, ‘Oh, my God. I went to a live gig the other day. Whoa, it was cool. It was so much better than sitting in front of a screen.’ … And you’ve just got to have the places to do that.”
To his point, Dickinson criticised plans for London to build a megavenue like Las Vegas’ Sphere: “I mean, what a waste of time. A waste of time, waste of money.
“You’d be much better off converting half a dozen old pubs into venues and saying to kids, ‘Hey, there’s a free venue. Go play.’”
Dickinson has announced a UK and Ireland tour for 2024 – find a list of dates here and get tickets here.