1998 - 2002
To make a long story short: a negative development in the music industry begins to take effect on several record labels. In a time that doesn’t really show a lot of improvement in music business (CD sales figures begin declining worldwide, illegal downloads and reproduction of CD’s are on the rise), it sadly becomes the ‘trend’ among consumers and forms a needle that bursts the music industry’s bubble. Big enterprises begin to fight only in vain against the really big damages.
However, the true loyalty from Heavy Metal fans proves to be a major phenomenon for the metal community. The fans keep proving that they are unshaken. Anticipated customers who still appreciate music on high class arranged CDs with collectors’ value (and who are less devoted to the download delusion compared with other clientele) stood their ground. Thus, helping NUCLEAR BLAST take a huge step forward despite all generally bad market forecasts.
HAMMERFALL’s second album Legacy of Kings in 1998 enters the charts at the highest position in the company history. The album, in which not only the metal scene had placed their hopes (thanks to the enormous success of their debut) shoots to 15th on the German Media Control Charts and once again totally surprises the music world. Of all the bands, it had to be the one playing the most traditional type of Heavy Metal, one which many critics considered to be “old-fashioned” and “not innovative enough.“ All the assumptions of “nine days’ wonder” are wiped away with one swipe.
“I had the feeling that the band had a lot of potential and that the freshness they brought would take them much further,“ is how company boss Markus Staiger describes his impressions of the time. “That a traditional metal album would bring them as far as it did, nobody even vaguely suspected. It was simply indescribable.“
About the same time, Metal festivals enjoy an upswing (boost). Fans from all over the world went their way for a couple of days to festival sites, giving many festival organizers an unexpected visitor record. NUCLEAR BLAST works closely on such events becoming prime importance for the globalization of Heavy Metal. Towards the end of 1998 the Donzdorf label has a world-wide distribution structure. From this point on, albums are offered for sale all over the world and NUCLEAR BLAST achieves global recognition.
Supporting all this is the cultivation of the NUCLEAR BLAST website. On both the sectors of “Label“ and “Shop,“ Metal fans all over the world can find info concerning the label’s own bands and place orders on products offered from the online web shop. Markus Staiger’s original desire to make his music available to as many other people as possible has been fulfilled. “When I started with my first mail order in the eighties, I wanted to bring the music I was mad about to everybody,“ he remembers. “I wanted everybody to be able to listen to the records that I found worth listening to (enjoyed).”
In 1999, the upward trend continues. As far as presence on the hit parade is concerned, 14 chart entries in one year set the company’s record to date. MANOWAR’s live album Hell On Stage, one of the best known bands in the scene, is one of the NUCLEAR BLAST debuts.
Because of all these happenings, the company’s work quota increases drastically, requiring another increase in staff and the move to new, larger premises becomes necessary. At the end of 1999 the firm then moves into the current building in the Donzdorf industrial park. Here there is room for a shop directly integrated in the building, providing a generous sales area for CDs, merchandise and all types of Metal accessories. And that’s not everything: a ticket agency has also been organized where tickets for events from the entire Stuttgart-Ulm region Stuttgart-Ulm, concerts, football games, musicals, etc., can be booked while browsing through the regular heavy metal CDs.
In the year 2000 the firm takes another step in the right direction: with STRATOVARIUS´ album Infinite, the record label can celebrate its first gold award for record sales in Finland.
At the same time, the NUCLEAR BLAST street team is completed. The Wacken Open Air in August 2000 sees its first big operation distributing flyers and making sure that NUCLEAR BLAST becomes known throughout the festival grounds. By the end of 2001 the street team is made up of more than 50 permanent members spread over the whole of Germany to distribute promotion material and hang up posters on festivals, concerts and in discos and clubs.
In the early years of 2000, on the other side of the globe, Nuclear Blast America, Inc. made the move from the office in Tampa, FL to a new office in Philadelphia, PA.
In late 2000, Nuclear Blast America, Inc. then struck a strategic partnership deal with Century Media Records and thus, relocated once again, heading west to California.
The Nuclear Blast America, Inc. office hit the ground running from a home-based office in Los Angeles, CA shared with well-known metal label, Century Media Records.
In late 2002, both record labels acquired the building / warehouse which currently stands at 2323 w. El Segundo Blvd. in Hawthorne, CA. Since the company continued to expand (both success and staff-wise), everyone eagerly got packing and made the jump from the home office to their new ‘official’ office.
Nuclear Blast America, Inc. were more than ready to take their marketing and distribution needs to another level. The independent Metal label was about to become one of the largest in the nation.
In the USA, 2002 marked another great success with chart topping albums such as SOILWORK’s Natural Born Chaos and MESHUGGAH’s Nothing. To much acclaim, these albums continue to be considered ‘classics’ among the metal community.
In Europe, 2002 also marked the next important milestone in company history: MANOWAR’s single Warriors of The World achieves the highest entry in the German single charts since the founding of the label. The song charts at no. 15.
A short time later, the released album Warriors of The World United picks up the thread of success charting at no. 2, staying on the German hit parade a 25 solid weeks. The release is also later given a gold award.
At the end of 2002, the opening of the South American office in Sao Paolo, Brazil also marked an excellent round-off for the year. NUCLEAR BLAST no longer displayed any resemblance to the former ‘one-man’ show in Donzdorf.