The sudden death of a popular metal vocalist last week shows how dying too soon can bring artists to mass notoriety.
Unless you’re a fan of metal, you probably haven’t heard of the California band Suicide Silence. Until a week ago, the band was relatively off the radar in the greater music world. But then on Halloween night this all changed when lead singer Mitch Lucker, known for his piercing deathcore growls and screams, crashed his Harley in Huntington Beach and died.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, fans and those unfamiliar with Lucker and Suicide Silence flocked to the band’s social media sites to learn more about the accident and pay their respects. The result was a massive surge across the band’s social presence, a more than 1000% increase in Facebook page likes and talking about, Twitter followers and YouTube video views. Their Wikipedia page views and Twitter mentions increased most significantly, jumping more than 7000% each in the week since the accident, compared to the week before.
From the look of it, as sad as it is to say, untimely deaths can be a boon to musicians’ popularity. Just look at some of the big name artists who have passed this year: Levon Helm, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, Davey Jones of the Monkees and Whitney Houston. As you can see from this graph of these artists’ Wikipedia page views in 2012, they all have huge increases similar to Lucker.
But does it last?
Some artists, too far removed to show their data, have since become legends after death. Kurt Cobain, who died after releasing only two albums with Nirvana, is one of the most legendary rock songwriters of all time. Others like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and, most recently, Amy Winehouse faced the same early fate. Remarkably, these artists all died at the same age of 27, leading to the infamous creation of the 27 Club — a group of rock stars who have all died at that age.
But for Lucker, who turned 28 on October 20 and missed being part of this club by 12 days, it is hard to say. His band’s abrasive brand of metal with often-violent themes is an acquired taste - some like it, some don’t. Because of this, people who gave Suicide Silence a first listen after his death may never listen again. Lucker was also the face of the band. While he may grow to become a legend-of-sorts after death, is it possible that the band may be forgotten in the post-Lucker era?
Likely they will continue on, replacing him like many bands who have faced the same hardship of losing a frontman. And in doing this, it is probable that fans who dearly beloved Lucker will think that the band will never be the same. This very thing happened to the band Drowning Pool, known for the song "Bodies," after vocalist Dave Williams died.
Regardless, after Lucker’s death, Suicide Silence has gotten attention it has never before seen; attention that, sadly, it may have never gotten without losing him. Surely, no band would want to trade the life of one of its members for notoriety, but there’s no disputing it - dying an early death may be the best career move a rock star can make.
Photo Credit: Gunmetal Angel via Wikimedia Commons
Billy Mitchell is the data journalism intern for music analytics company Next Big Sound. Mitchell is currently a graduate student at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute focusing on magazine writing. Before joining the Next Big Sound team, the Newport News, VA native worked with CMJ and Rolling Stone.