AN INTERVIEW WITH HEAVY METAL BAY.com FOUNDER DENISE DALE
By David Iozzia
Denise Dale is an international booking agent who specializes in heavy metal music. Her company, Metal Music Bookings, has booked artists like Michael Schenker, Cinderella, and Blind Guardian. A few years back, Denise had a brainstorm and the result is a brand new website called Heavy Metal Bay.com. This website is an online marketplace dedicated to the metal community. Now that the website has launched and is open for business, Denise, who is based in London, England, flew to the United States to talk with various media outlets about this venture. Denise was a lot of fun to chat with. I'm glad she had room in her busy schedule to let me interview her for my website.
Dave: Thanks for the interview Denise. You're no stranger to metal music. You're an international booking agent that specializes in the heavy metal music genre. How and why did you create Heavy Metal Bay.com?
Denise: Heavy Metal Bay.com sort of came into my head in a "eureka" moment five years ago. At that time, I was living in Miami and I thought surely there must be a website dedicated to metal fans. We all know how dedicated and loyal heavy metal fans are, me being one of them myself. I'm also a booking agent as you stated, that books pure heavy metal bands. That's all I do. I was lazing around on a Sunday afternoon in Miami and suddenly an idea came into my head that there must be a website that brings all of the heavy metal fans together. I jumped online and I googled it, and to my surprise nothing came up. I was so excited. Within five minutes, I purchased the domain name Heavy Metal Bay.com. The next day I started drafting ideas in my head on how the website is going to look and how it's all going to come together. I hired programmers. It took them two and a half years to build the website. It took another two and a half years to bring the whole thing together. Five years forward, and Heavy Metal Bay.com opened in the spring of 2011. It's a very unique website. There's nothing else like it online. I haven't seen another website dedicated to heavy metal fans.
Dave: As an outsider looking in at the metal community, I've always admired the fan base and their loyalty to their bands. Why Heavy Metal Bay, as opposed to Rock and Roll Bay?
Denise: Metal fans are SO passionate to their musical genre. Metal bands are true musicians. They play their instruments. I don't want to bring down other musicians. If you think about it, pop musicians usually don't play their instruments. Heavy metal music makers play all the instruments live.
Dave: In my limited interaction with metal musicians, I've found most to be aloof. They tend to distance themselves from their fans at concerts and at the social networking websites. I attribute that aloofness that I've perceived to "keeping up the mystery" or "adding and edge," both being factors I don't see as often from classic rock musicians.
Denise: Your perception Dave is interesting, but in my opinion, we cannot generalize it to musical genres. Every musical artist is different. Throughout musical history, certain bands and musicians have placed themselves in interesting and even awkward situations with their fans. But that's their choice. Some musicians embrace fans more than others no doubt. I know musicians that are very fan-friendly and they'll will go out there before or after the show and sign everything. Everybody has different personalities, and that's not limited to the music world. Certain musicians, certain actors and actresses, and certain athletes perhaps have a personality where they don't handle fan interaction in public places well. They might not know how to. There are very approachable musicians and very unapproachable musicians in any given musical genre. That changes from person to person. We're all different.
Dave: Another attribute could be that my limited interaction with metal musicians has been here in the U.S. Those musicians are in bands that are playing in bigger venues to much larger audiences in Europe. Perhaps subliminally, they see the U.S. shows as taking a step back.
Denise: If you're playing in a stadium in Europe one week, and the House of Blues in the U.S. the next week, that's a big change. Psychologically, some musicians might be less able to adjust to that change. I just think it's a character thing that's not unique to a musical genre. Not everybody is the same. I've seen some musicians who are very appreciative of their fans, but I've also seen unappreciative ones.
Dave: Another component of Heavy Metal Bay.com is that it's a concert guide for finding gigs from new and established bands. Also, bands can advertise their shows.
Denise: You don't have to be a concert promoter to use the Heavy Metal Bay.com concert guide. If you're a new band playing a concert in your garage, who cares. Put it up there. If you want people to know about it, Heavy Metal Bay.com is the place to go. I created Heavy Metal Bay.com not just as an auction site for heavy metal fans. I created it as a place to bring together any aspect of heavy metal music.
Dave: Were there any other factors that led you to the venture of creating Heavy Metal Bay.com?
Denise: Yes there was actually. The future is the Internet. Almost everything we do revolves around it. I'm sure that everyone out there is connected to the Internet for at least an hour a day, whether they like it or not. That's just the way it is. The Internet, as a way of conducting business, is the way forward.
Dave: Sports memorabilia in the U.S. marketplace has become such a big business over the last two decades. Can you foresee music memorabilia ever approaching the popularity of sports memorabilia?
Denise: Maybe in some aspects, but that will depend on the musician. Music memorabilia unfortunately gets better after the musician dies. Jimi Hendrix, who is arguably the godfather of heavy metal, was a phenomenal guitarist who really wasn't that appreciated when he was around. We can't generalize that either. If you have Paul McCartney's autograph now, that's pretty important wherever you are. I don't think we'll ever reach a level where we see a music memorabilia shop in every shopping center, as we might with sports memorabilia. Perhaps the reason is that musical tastes are so different. Musical tastes change all of the time. Baseball, for example, is a popular sport amongst families, whether you're a five year old child or a sixty year old grandparent. The sports memorabilia marketplace is international. It may be baseball leading the way here in the U.S., but in Europe it's football, which you of course call soccer.
Dave: I'm going to be a New York Yankee fan all of my life as someone in England will be a Manchester United fan for life. But our flavor of the month musically could change and we'll naturally levitate to a band that plays the style of music we're listening to now.
Denise: That's true. An interesting bit is that music genres come and go, but heavy metal fans don't change their tastes. Anywhere in the world, if we landed in Russia this afternoon for example, we could walk outside and spot the heavy metal fan. They all look and dress a particular way, and they're very dedicated and loyal.
Dave: Another aspect is that one's allegiance to heavy metal may not change. But the allegiance to your favorite heavy metal band could depend on whether your band has released a record in a while, or whether that band has toured in a while.
Denise: I'd agree Dave.
Dave: Sports athletes developed a reluctance to give away their autographs and memorabilia once the marketplace to buy and sell that memorabilia gained in popularity. Have you seen the same trend in the music memorabilia marketplace?
Denise: Yes and no. At the end of the day, musicians and athletes are businessmen. They're out there to protect their name and to make money from their name and their enterprises. Music, in that sense, is the same as sports. Bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and KISS have copyrighted their names.
Dave: Heavy Metal Bay.com is the website name you've chosen, and we've spoken about heavy metal music. Can I assume that the word "Bay" pays homage to the ultra-successful Ebay auction website?
Denise: No actually, but everybody asks me that question. The word "bay" is not copyrighted. If you google that word, you can find hundreds of auction sites that utilize the word. The word "bay" relates to the Bay Area where heavy metal has its roots as well. Heavy Metal Bay.com sounds familiar. It's an auction site no doubt. But we have other things going on as well. It's unique to heavy metal music, and its genres and sub-genres. Whether it's hard rock or classic rock or death metal or speed metal, Heavy Metal Bay.com is the place to go. Ebay is not that. You can buy a kitchen sink at Ebay. If you put up a kitchen sink at Heavy Metal Bay.com, it better have a metal reference to it.
Dave: How is Heavy Metal Bay.com similar to Ebay, and how is it different?
Denise: I would say that we're similar because we're an auction site. We're different because we're a specialty website for music, heavy metal fans, and we have the other two sections: the band corner and a concert guide. Those are things that Ebay doesn't offer. In the future, Heavy Metal Bay will have things like a Youtube-like channel for heavy metal, and blogspots and fan forums for heavy metal fans. The more that we can bring the metal community together, that's what my website is for.
Dave: Will you be diligent limiting items being auctioned to heavy metal and its subgenres, or will I stumble upon Black Eyed Peas and Carrie Underwood CD at Heavy Metal Bay?
Denise: That's a good question Dave and a lot of people ask it. Black Eyed Peas, unless they've done a heavy metal cover, would be classified as unacceptable. So the answer is yes. I am a bit stringent. The homepage looks like a heavy metal website; it says that it's a metal site. I don't think Black Eyed Peas fans will flock to this website to put their things up for auction. But who's to say that they won't someday do a Motley Crue cover. That can happen. If somebody puts up a collection of metal CDs and also puts up their Britney Spears CDs, I'll thanks them for the metal CDs while telling them that their other CDs are not relevant to this website. I think that would be an appropriate response. A specialty fishing store shouldn't be selling surfboards. It's kind of like that.
Dave: We've talked about concepts behind Heavy Metal Bay.com. Let's get real basic. I thought about Deep Purple when I walked past the marquee of the Beacon Theater on my way to meet you for this interview. They are playing that venue soon. If I wanted to dust off my collection of Deep Purple vinyl, what do I do?
Denise: First, you go to Heavy Metal Bay.com and you register. Then you put up your items. For the first couple of months, it'll be free to list your items. You won't pay a penny unless your item sells.
Dave: Are the eventual fees a percentage of the selling price?
Denise: Yes. Nine percent. I think that's really reasonable. All of the terms and conditions and prices are clearly stated at the website.
Dave: What if my vinyl collection of Deep Purple is missing an album. Do I search by artist name or album title?
Denise: Heavy Metal Bay.com is a very user-friendly site. It has categories like CD, DVD, and Vinyl. It has other categories like jewelry and memorabilia. The feedback I've received so far is that it's not difficult to navigate on the website. Ebay is a bit more complicated these days. Users don't want complication. We are into being fast, quick, get what we want, and move on.
Dave: As a buyer, do I incur any fees?
Denise: You would incur Paypal fees if that's how you choose to pay. But you don't need a Paypal account. All you need to buy is a credit card.
Dave: If my copy of Deep Purple's "Burn" was hand-signed by Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale, is there a way for me to auction it off without giving it away to cheaply?
Denise: Absolutely. You can set a reserve price, which is the minimum selling price and starting bid price. The off it goes.
Dave: How will you address sellers with either misrepresented items or fraudulent items?
Denise: I take fraudulent stuff very seriously. Me and my programmers monitor the website every day. If something is fraudulent, we'll ban the seller from the website. Heavy metal fans for the most part know what's real and what's fake. And they're not into faking each other out. In that sense, I don't think it's going to happen at Heavy Metal Bay.com. But if it does, we'll stop it.
Dave: So is it "buyer beware" or do we have buyer protection?
Denise: You have buyer protection for sure. Our site is SSL certicate and everything. It's a very safe website. We monitor everything, We're not a corporate giant like Ebay. I'm very hands-on because my reputation is on the line. If there's a dispute about an item, we'll intervene. Everything will be checked out on both sides since there are two sides to every story.
Dave: And the truth sometimes lies in-between.
Dave: How does Heavy Metal Bay.com handle international transactions with respect to different currencies?
Denise: It's very simple. The website lists prices in both Euros and U.S. dollars. Heavy Metal Bay.com is a very international website.
Dave: Hypothetically, if I had a central New Jersey-based metal band and we just released our first EP which was self-produced, what are the nuts and bolts of me using Heavy Metal Bay.com to promote my band and our record?
Denise: Just register at the website, and go to the Band Corner, where you can put up a link to you band. At the Concert Guide, list your shows and away you go. You don't have to be a signed band to use this website. Any band and anybody can use this website.
Dave: How much will that cost me?
Denise: It's all broken down at the Band Corner and Concert Guide. It's twenty euros a month to list your band and fifty euros a month to list up to ten concerts. That's very reasonable given the amount of hits this website gets. Fifty euros is about twenty-eight U.S. dollars. I think if you're an unsigned band, it makes a lot of sense to put up your band on a website that's getting all of the attention that Heavy Metal Bay.com is.
Dave: You mentioned earlier that the website was a few years in the making. Now that Heavy Metal Bay.com is open for business, how is business?
Denise: Business is good. I'm here in New York City. I've flown all the way from England to do interviews. That tells me the website is already a success. I'm being interviewed about the website by huge radio stations, television networks, and music websites such as yours. That is a success in itself. It's too early to say whether Heavy Metal Bay.com is a success financially. Like any other business, we can't measure that until a few years down the line.
Dave: What's the most unique transaction you've seen so far?
Denise: I've seen so very interesting items listed memorabilia-wise. Check it out when you have the chance. I've seen a copy of Iron Maiden's "The Soundhouse Tapes" for sale. That's an extremely rare EP pressed on pink vinyl. Everyday something else goes up. Today, as we speak, my programmers are putting up 980 CDs imported from Sweden. A metal fan in New York City that wants to by an import copy of a record from a Swedish metal band that they just heard about should run right to Heavy Metal Bay.com. Hard to find music is right at your fingertips and purchasing it is just a click away.
Dave: Are there any other aspects of Heavy Metal Bay.com that I've neglected to cover?
Denise: No Dave, it's been a good interview. I think you covered more things than most people have. You've asked me some interesting questions. Have you registered yet?
Dave: Not yet Denise but I promise I will. Best of luck with the website and I'll see you in cyberspace.
Denise: Cheers Dave.