Band vs Brand: Bob Nalbandian’s new documentary investigates the business side of the music business
Bob Nalbandian loves music. He’s spent his life following the bands he loves, moving from fan, to filmmaker along the way.
In 1982, he was the editor and publisher of The Headbanger, a Los Angeles area metal fanzine. He was only 17 and printed and distributed the magazine on his own, publishing some of the first articles about bands like Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Armored Saint. He went on to become a music journalist, worked at various labels – including Roadrunner Records – and started the Shockwaves / Hard Radio podcast.
The video interviews he did for his YouTube page led to an offer to create a documentary of LA’s metal scene. That project became the Inside Metal series – The Pioneers of L.A. Hard Rock and Metal, The L.A.
The films looked at L.A.’s musical history, from the perspective of the fans. Band vs Brand, Nalbandian’s latest project, steps behind the scenes for an in depth look at the business side of the music business. Nalbandian interviews players like Dave Lombardo from Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies, Angel’s Frank DiMino and Megadeth’s David Ellefson, as well as Shrapnel Records’ head Mike Varney, band manager Adam Parsons (Uriah Heep, Saxon, Thin Lizzy) and Marc Ferrari from Master Source/Universal Music.
The film explores topics that may be unfamiliar to fans, illuminating many remarkable, and sometimes disturbing, facts. For example – many bands make more money selling t-shirts, than they do selling CDs. You can have a worldwide following on YouTube, and other streaming services, and still be unable to get people to come to your live gigs. Many “bands” are still touring without any of the original members on stage and, thanks to holographic technology, you can see dead rock stars, like Ronnie James Dio, performing with a live band.
Nalbandian spoke with The Globe and shared a few thoughts about Band vs Brand and his creative path.
Why did you decide to take on the commercial aspect of the music business?
It was a hot topic, particularly who has the ownership of a band’s name, or the brand. There are cases where you have two different bands touring under the same name – you had two versions of Ratt, two LA Guns and two Great Whites. How did this happen? We thought a documentary on this topic would be educational, especially for new artists, to inform them about the importance of owning your own brand. The music business has always been about the conflict between money and art. And we felt this could educate people who are new to the business side of the music business.
How did you go about making the film?
Cleopatra Records financed it and gave me the freedom to do that I wanted to do. I hired a great team of editors from the Bay Area who do Reality Check TV to edit and co-produced the film with me. They brought in some great live, archival concert footage as well as interviews they had previously filmed from bands like Venom and Ross the Boss from the Dictators that fit in with the theme of this movie. The movie features interviews with the artists, record label people, managers and music publishers. I wanted to get different perspectives on all the angles of the music business.
It took a little over a year from conception to completion.
What do you think about bands playing without any of the original members?
Playing without any original members? It’s ridiculous, but many bands do go out with only one original member and the legitimacy really depends on the band member. Like Y&T, for example, Dave Meniketti is still touring and they sound amazing. The other three original members of Y&T have all passed on and Dave was always the main songwriter and guitarist/vocalist so it depends on who the original member is and what his contribution to the band was.
VIDEO: Y&T – Mean Streak
The digital revolution is having a major impact on musicians. How is it affecting filmmakers and film quality?
It makes it a lot easier. Anyone can be a filmmaker these days. You can make a film and post it on YouTube. It isn’t really a legitimate movie, but some of the things people do are interesting. Band vs Brand is out on DVD, through Cleopatra Entertainment and MVD distribution. You can find it online, order it from all the major retailers and it’s also streaming on Amazon Prime.
How do you listen to music?
I still have my CD collection. I prefer the physical product. I think it’s good that vinyl is making a comeback. There are some great advantages to vinyl, but I don’t know if today’s analog has the same sound as the pre-digital records from back in the day. Bands may release new product on vinyl but they still use digital techniques to record, so it’s not quite the same.
What’s next for you?
We’re currently editing the next title for the Inside Metal series titled Bay Area Godfathers. It explores the 80s San Francisco and Bay Area metal scene. It should be out by the end of the year.