Over the last two years, Ice Nine Kills have unequivocally established themselves as frontrunners in the melodic metalcore scene. After perfecting their brand and sonic appeal with 2018’s, The Silver Scream, a record that’s a purposeful ode to pop-culture horror flicks, Ice Nine Kills have seen rampant growth in merchandise sales, concert attendance, online streams, and their fan engagement. Apart from the album charting in the top 30 of the Billboard Top 200, The Silver Scream was a turning point for Ice Nine Kills in not only their approach to songwriting, but how they began marketing their brand.
Ice Nine Kills have long been regarded as a crossover horror band, in which they showcase lyrical themes of horror and portray similar aesthetics in their music videos, album artwork, and live performances. However, in large respects, The Silver Scream was the band doubling down on the horror elements, as the entire album has nods to classic horror franchises like Halloween, Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and The Shining (the track “Enjoy Your Slay” even has a guest feature from Stanley Kubrick’s grandson, Sam Kubrick). Everything about the album clearly indicates Ice Nine Kills’ strong passion for horror whether it’s from the artwork, the songs themselves, or the merchandising the band did for this album cycle.
However, what’s most interesting is how fans and newcomers alike have immediately latched on to the band’s pop-culture horror approach. In 2019 alone Ice Nine Kills grossed over $1.75 million in merchandise sales, with an average $12.83 per concert attendee from their live shows, and sold an average of 1,100 tickets per show on their last headline tour. In addition, the band’s online merch drops have been performing staggeringly well; their June drop sold 3,447 units in just four days and grossed just below $129,000.
It’s more than apparent that the band’s latest music and their tight knot to horror culture, more specifically horror franchises, have created a unique one-of-a-kind band business blueprint. While horror movie fans and fans of punk rock, metal, and heavy music have always shared somewhat of a commonality, Ice Nine Kills have possibly unveiled a more ingrained connection between the two audiences.
Speaking more on The Silver Scream’s success, the band’s approach to merchandise, as well as the upcoming new Ice Nine Kills fan app, singer and founding member Spencer Charnas shares some of his thoughts and analyses.
What has been the key ingredient to maintaining such consistent fan engagement with this album cycle for Ice Nine Kills?
SC: I think with whatever I do with Ice Nine Kills, I’ve approached it as what I would want as a fan. Growing up being the kind of kid who would see a horror movie like Scream or Halloween, I’d need every single available piece of merchandise that those franchises offered. From the mask to the fake weapon to the voice changer in Scream, I was one of those kids that had to have all of those things, so whenever Ice Nine Kills releases anything, especially with this album cycle being so involved with film, I approach everything like “what would I want, and what kind of limited edition items would I want and care about?” It’s been really cool to see how my interests as a fan line up so beautifully with the Ice Nine Kills supporters, and it’s been a really great experience to continue to build off of that.
The pop-culture horror aesthetics seem quite appealing to the Ice Nine Kills fan base. Generally speaking, do you think the horror community has always been intertwined with the metal community?
SC: Absolutely, I think those are two sub-cultures that represent a sect of people who have interests that deviate from the normal. That’s why horror and metal have always gone hand in hand, and it was really an interesting experience to put out [The Silver Scream] and see how well those two worlds worked together. For me growing up and idolizing people like Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, and even all the way back to the people who pioneered the shock-rock genre like Alice Cooper, I think horror has always been in the metal DNA and vice versa. They’ve always worked so beautifully together, and I was really glad to see us continue to push the boundary of how much we could put those two worlds together.
For this album cycle in particular Ice Nine Kills started doing limited Merch drops, and you guys are doing them in a fairly unique way. What lead to this decision for the band?
SC: So I moved to West Hollywood a couple of years ago and I fell in love with some of the restaurants and places in Fairfax. When I would go there, almost every time I would see these lines up and down the block and I’d think “what are these people lined up for?” I realized it was coming from the Supreme store, and I sort of just marveled at it, I didn’t think twice about it after the first few times. But then around the tenth time I’m thinking “what is going on with Supreme? They have such a die-hard following.” I just looked into that kind of a business model and found that they build that anticipation, that hype, and that selectable mentality by releasing everything pretty much in a limited form.
In the end, this sort of brought me back to what I wanted as a fan, and I always wanted to feel like I was one of the lucky few that had this special t-shirt that commemorated a particular song, or a particular anniversary of a film. I thought “man this would be such a cool thing to apply to Ice Nine Kills and The Silver Scream.” So with ‘nine’ being in the name of the band, I thought “let’s make an event out of this, and let’s have every month on the ninth be like a mini-Halloween.” So we decided to call it “Nightmare on the Ninth,” and it really changed the way that the band thinks about merchandise. In the past it was more of a scatterbrain thing in the sense that “hey it’s been a little while since we’ve released some t-shirts, let’s start putting together a new line and maybe put it out in the next couple of weeks.”
This changed everything because it became such a regimented and fun activity for our team. We’re lucky to work with a really strong team of people, 10th Street Management has been fantastic, we work very closely with Absolute Merch and they’re very hands-on in terms of putting together items that they think are great, and then sort of the last piece of the puzzle is this phenomenal artist that we work with named Mike Cortada.
He really brings my ideas to life and I’m not the best artist in terms of drawing, but I’ll have some idea like “I want to take this song of ours and incorporate this sort of retro 80’s slasher-feel,” and he’ll know exactly what I want. It’s a real collaborative team effort and I think one of the keys to it is making an event out of it, and usually not only do we have a specific photoshoot with models, but we also film little movie trailers that go along with it to give the merchandise that larger than life feel. It’s as if, this is an item from a new Ice Nine Kills movie, and that’s how we’ve been approaching it.
Is the plan to push the marketing for the merch drops even further with the new Ice Nine Kills App, The Pyscho’s Only Club?
SC: The idea of the app came from our management, and I was just blown away by the pitch and the ideas behind collaborating with TopFan. I think it goes further into that fandom that we’ve been able to create within our world, specifically that Comic-Con ‘want to collect everything,’ ‘want to know all of the little trivia,’ ‘ins and outs’ and the making of the album. It’s going to be that next step in the more exclusive collectible realm that we’re trying to exist in, and I’m really excited for how that’s looking now.
Given that everything surrounding your last album has been a huge success, how do you and the band plan to approach the next Ice Nine Kills album cycle?
SC: I don’t want to give too much away, but I think that the move is to continue to build upon the world that we built with The Silver Scream. A lot of fans are hoping for a sequel, and in true horror movie fashion there usually is one. I won’t say too much more about that, but I think the best thing we can do is take what we did before and take what people loved about it, and put a new spin on it and continue to create a franchise. That’s sort of the way I look at this, I don’t really look at it as a band I look at it as more of a movie franchise like the great franchises Halloween, Friday the 13th, Scream, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and just building that lore around new characters and that sort of meta-vibe that we touched on.
We’re lucky that we have such supportive fans that really get what we’re doing and see that there are serious shades to this, but also remember that there is that tongue and cheek undertone. The music that we’re working on now I’m really excited about, and I can’t wait for people to hear what we’re doing.