A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories

The Gatekeeper Society

The artists have the power. They always had. They are the ones that create the works, the songs.

But there used to be a gatekeeper society when it came to music, and this society said to the artists, “if you want to play this game of fame, sign your life away on the dotted line.” And to make it worth your while, here is an advance payment. But the devil doesn’t tell you that they will recoup this advance payment for your whole life plus 70 years after your dead.

And this gives the rights holders of the artist’s work (otherwise known as the Copyright Holders, aka, Record Labels) the power to negotiate with ISP’s, the Courts and the Government. The artists sold away their power and the record labels make billions in streaming revenue. And because of this power the record labels amassed, they can influence law makers in passing laws to protect the record labels business models and on occasions the labels via their lobby groups, get the law enforcement arms to act as a piracy surveillance force.

Now if an artist was “out there” and didn’t fit the norm, that’s when new record labels would be formed, like Metal Blade Records by Brian Slagel (a record store employee) so he could promote the local metal bands from LA.

Or Megaforce Records, by Jon and Marsha Zazula, so they could release Metallica’s first album. Or Sanctuary Records by Rod Smallwood and Andy Taylor, who discovered Iron Maiden and named their label after Maiden’s song, “Sanctuary”.

And the gatekeeper society rules would transfer over to these new labels and suddenly we have gatekeepers here deciding which bands would get signed and which bands wouldn’t and which bands they would manufacture, amassing a large catalogue of copyrighted songs in the process.

But today, the artists themselves can write, record and release, without the need for a label (however they need a digital distributor/aggregator) to get their music on digital platforms, and of course, they will need to source their own supply of organisations who deal with physical products like vinyl, CD’s and clothing.

And it might sound daunting for some, but it’s focused work. So if anyone should be organising deals it should be the ARTISTS/PERFORMERS with the USERS/CONSUMERS.

And if the artists have their music on legitimate channels with fair and just price structures for people to access content, well the problem of piracy goes away. Then it’s up to the artist to decide what is next and how to further monetise their fan base.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Back In Black

By early 1980, the band’s hard work ethic and songs about life had them on the summit. The next album was crucial. Bon Scott was living the dream with women and booze, Angus Young was getting married and the band started writing the follow-up to “Highway To Hell”.

Bon Scott was involved in early sessions (as a drummer) for songs that would become “Have A Drink On Me” and “Let Me Put My Love Into You”. After those sessions, Bon said to meet up in a weeks’ time as that would give him time to write some lyrics, however that next session never eventuated.

By mid-Feb, 1980, Bon Scott was found dead in his car, and depression set it on the Young brothers. By mid-March, and on the back of words said by Bon’s father, Malcolm called Angus to start working again, just the two of them, no one else. In these sessions post Bon’s death, “Back In Black” would be written.

They finally auditioned some singers and Brian Johnson was hired. With the band complete, they went to the Bahamas to start writing and recording in stormy weather. And as much as the storms come to disrupt our lives now and then, they also clear the path. The bad weather led to “Hells Bells”. “Rock And Roll Aint Noise Pollution” was the last song written.

For the lyrics, a lot of ideas, choruses and melodies were already written by Malcolm and Angus before Brian joined. Stories exists that the brothers took the lyrics from Bon Scott’s notebook, which Angus denied in a Guitar World interview, saying, that all of Bon’s notebooks went direct to his parents.

Released in July, 1980, it was certified as Gold and Platinum in October, 1980 in the U.S. 

And these U.S certifications continued as AC/DC kept on releasing albums in the 80’s which no one bought, because everyone was still buying “Back In Black”.

By October, 1984, it was 5x Platinum and by October 1990 it was 10x Platinum. 10 million in sales. By June, 2004, it was 20x Platinum. The period between 1990 and 1999 is the” CD’s replacing vinyl/cassette’s period”, so it’s hard to quantify the real fans.

And now in December, 2019, its 25x Platinum.

I think it’s important to recognise the commercial and cultural impact of “Back In Black”. 

The cover.

All black, to signify a band in mourning due to the passing of Bon Scott. The opposite of the white album from The Beatles, and it’s funny how another band would use a similar black cover for their biggest selling album. And the label didn’t want it all black, so the grey outline on the logo was created.

Acca Dacca weren’t the first, as Pink Floyd employed a similar concept for “Dark Side Of The Moon” and so did Black Sabbath for “IV”

Even though the album isn’t a heavy metal album, it is still seen as an influential metal album. But it’s the crossover appeal which sent the album to the stratosphere. Guitarists who don’t normally play rock or metal, would still learn the songs from “Back In Black”. There is no escaping the title track, “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Hells Bells” and “Shoot To Thrill”. Actually there isn’t a song on the album that I would skip or not wanna play.

Mutt Lange’s production on the album is still seen as the go to sound for how hard rock should sound and he did it in six weeks, which is short for Lange’s standard.

And how hard rock should sound, Lange style, is the same as Bob Rock’s production on “Dr Feelgood” and the self-titled “Black” album and how those albums are seen as the heavy rock/metal standard.

Lange’s focus on perfection for each breath, each note, changed the way bands would record in the 80’s, and his attention to detail, pushed recording budgets into the millions. Good for him, as he got paid well and bad for bands who didn’t sell what the budget paid for. And Lange, brought his methods to the mainstream in a super big way on the backs of AC/DC, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and Shania Twain albums.

And AC/DC is still doing its victory lap on the back of this album. They kept working, put their emotions towards creating and in the process delivered an album for the ages.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, Unsung Heroes

2019 – Part 3

Remember the movie Blade Runner, released in 1982 and set in 2019. Well I guess we are now living in the future.

Anyway, moving on from useless facts, here is Part 3 of my 2019 list for albums released in 2019.

Hey You (You Make Me Rock)
When I Think Of You (Color Me Blue)
Trouble Is Your Middle Name
Flesh And Blood
Well I Never
Sands Of Time
Whitesnake

David Coverdale started writing songs on his own and revisited songs he wrote in the past for this album and it’s a welcome return, as the fans get a very diverse album, with some all-out rockers and shred feasts when DC collaborates with Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra and some gritty blues rock gems when DC takes the reins himself.

And the stand out song is the epic sounding “Sands Of Time”, a co-write with the mighty Reb Beach and a lyrical theme of two lovers living in the same time in parallel worlds.

Purpose For Pain
Red Clouds
Scott Stapp

His career, both public and private always made the news. His baritone voice (more like Eddie Vedder’s voice) was so far removed from the helium banshee screams of metal vocalists like Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford and I liked it.

I followed Creed because of Mark Tremonti’s guitar playing and I follow all of his works post Creed. And I also follow Scott Stapp’s career, as a solo artist and vocalist for Art Of Anarchy.

On this album, “Red Clouds” is the song.

These are the days we live in
Sliding, winding, finding our way through the maze

And the maze is more convoluted than ever because we are constantly distracted. It’s like the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. The system is designed to keep us poor, and the world we currently live in is designed to keep us confused and distracted.

We Can Make It
Keep On Dreaming
Roulette

Another band from Sweden, with a very generic sounding band name which makes them very hard to find on Google.

These songs are from the “Now” album and they play a style of American Rock that even US bands cant capture at this point in time.

Rolling down the highway
We just leave it all behind

From the song “We Can Make It”. It was a rite of passage, to grow up and get your driver’s licence, as it gave you the passport to escape the borders of your town. Even if it was for just one day.

Cut It All Away
Rearview Mirror
Art of Dying

From the “Armageddon” album but the “Vices and Virtue” album is still my favourite and nothing they have done since has topped that album.

However, each album always has a few songs that get my attention, and these two are the ones from this album.

I will outrun the battle from within
The beginning of the end is to cut it all away

When we are left to our own devices, our own thoughts, we are different creatures. Some people never recover from the darkness, and some people just deal with it and some people seek help from it.

But you need to start somewhere and it starts with recognizing that a darkness exists.

What comes next is up to you?

Die Young (Acoustic)
Machine Head

An acoustic cover by Robb Flynn of a classic Sabbath/Dio era cut. It’s raw, its emotive and powerful all at once and it was released as a sort of pseudo B-side to a live re-recording of “Davidian”.

Robb Flynn also posted in June in one of his email blasts that the song on Spotify had passed over a 100,000 streams within a month of its release. And it all happened from people’s word of mouth and sharing it on our own playlists.

That’s the power of fans.

Watch Your Back
Black Oak County

From Denmark and so far removed from the 262 population of Black Oak a town in Craighead County, Arkansas. I guess you better “Watch Your Back”. (Yep, I know. Bad joke.)

Shutting Down Our Town
I’m In A Bad Mood
Jimmy Barnes

From the “My Criminal Record”. It’s a crazy world when one of my favourite rockers in the 80’s who lost me when he reconnected with his soul influences, drops one of his best albums since the early 90’s.

The song on the album is “Shutting Down Our Town” and it’s written by Australian country artist Troy Cassar-Daley.

This used to be a place where a man could find some work
Put together Holdens or a foundry job at worst

Australia was built on the backs of our steel and car industries.

Eat, sleep, work, drink, that’s all they ever did

And it was okay. People looked happy. It felt like we had each other’s backs. Then the kids grew up and we all moved out, into different towns and with neighbours we don’t even know.

Oh, they’re shutting down our town
They’re cutting down our town
No more production line blue collar can be found

For some people, they couldn’t get reskilled and ended up on the unemployment line.

Herded all together
From many different lands

Australia’s intake of immigrants changed the dynamics of the country.

Satellite
Cabin Pressure Drops
The Night Flight Orchestra

TNFO are building up to something, with two singles released over the course of 8 weeks. “Satellite” is your typical TNFO fare, a new take on an old sound, with heaps of melody and arena rock choruses, while “Cabin Pressure Drop” is an instrumental.

Can’t Sleep
Lay It On Me
Keep
Blacktop Mojo

From the “Under The Sun” album. I became a fan of this band when one of their songs came up on a Discover Playlist a few years back, and the new album, has a few good rockers on it.

That’s it for part 3.

Parts 4 and 5 to come.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

My Streaming Decade

So Spotify has collated all of my data since I joined in 2013 and here it is.

In 2013, my favourite artist was KISS and the song I listened to most was “A Day In My Life” from Five Finger Death Punch.

In 2014, my favourite artist was Black Label Society and the song I listened to most was “Angel Of Mercy” from Black Label Society.

In 2015, my favourite artist was Trivium and the song I listened to most was “Down From The Sky” from Trivium.

In 2016, my favourite artist was Kingdom Come and the song my 5 year old listened to most was “The Mighty Eagle Song” from The Angry Birds Movie. And this was the reason why I went to a Spotify Family Account.

In 2017, my favourite artist was The Night Flight Orchestra and the song I listened to most was “Gemini”.

In 2018, my favourite artist was Def Leppard, which is no surprise as their catalogue was finally issued on digital services, but the song I listened to most was “A Love Unreal” from Black Label Society.

Finally, in 2019, Free Spirits Rising is listed as my favourite artist and “We Are Here” from Free Spirits Rising is the top song.

Overall, my top five artists for 2019 are, Free Spirits Rising, Everygrey, Whitesnake, Aerosmith and Tool.

But my favourite stat is the time spent listening to music on the service.

  • In 2016, it was 37,977 minutes.
  • In 2017, it was 77,234 minutes.
  • In 2018, it was 52,316 minutes.
  • In 2019, it was 64,753 minutes.

Let’s put some of these numbers into context.

A 38 hour working week equates to 2,280 minutes.

So 64,753 minutes divided by 2,280 minutes equates to 29 working weeks of listening. Over half a working week year of listening to music and somehow working at the same time.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault – Breaking Benjamin

I downloaded the first three albums via peer to peer networks, because of “Breath” and the “Phobia” album immediately became an influence. And when “Dear Agony” came out, I purchased it on release day along with the back catalogue, via Amazon U.S.

And you know how people complain that piracy has killed their career, well, Ben Burnley and his band Breaking Benjamin must be an anomaly. Check out the list of certifications for Breaking Benjamin, achieved in a market which is apparently “dominated by piracy”.

The albums;

  • “Phobia” is Platinum.
  • “We Are Not Alone” is Platinum.
  • “Dear Agony” is Platinum.
  • “Saturate” is Gold.
  • The comeback album, released in 2015, “Dark Before Dawn” is Gold.

The songs;

  • “The Diary of Jane” is 3x Platinum.
  • “I Will Not Bow” is 2x Platinum.
  • “So Cold” is Platinum.
  • “Breath” is Platinum.
  • “Blow Me Away” is Gold.
  • “Until The End” is Gold.
  • “Give Me A Sign” is Gold.
  • “Angels Fall” is Gold.
  • “Failure” is Gold.
  • “Dance With The Devil” is Gold.

Saturate

The debut album, released in 2002.

And the best songs to me are towards the end of the album.

“Home” is by far my favourite, followed by “Phase”, “No Games”, “Shallow Bay”, “Forever”, “Natural Life”, “Next To Nothing” and “Water”.

We Are Not Alone

The second album, released in 2004 and the sad ominous minor key intro of “So Cold” starts it all off, as singer Ben Burnley holds the so cold hand of an unnamed character. “Follow” rocks out of the gate with its staccato intro. “Forget It” soothes along. “Sooner or Later” brings the nu-metal flavour.

Phobia

“Breath” was the drug that hooked me in to Breaking Benjamin. And the album released in 2006 had a lot of good songs on it, like “The Diary Of Jane”, “You”, “Evil Angel”, “Until The End”, “Dance With The Devil”, “Here We Are”, “Unknown Soldier”, “Had Enough” and “You Fight Me”.

Yeah the whole album.

Dear Agony

Released in 2009, with an image of Ben Burnley’s brain and it’s the last album before a long hiatus that involved a chronic pain condition to band founder Ben Burnley that is still undiagnosed and a court case between Ben Burnley, the record label and the band members who are now ex-band members over their involvement in a Greatest Hits release, without Burnley’s approval.

And if it’s not broke, why fix it, as the album is basically a re-write of “Phobia”, the same way bands in the past re-wrote popular albums, with little tweaks and improvements here and there.

“Fade Away” is a perfect opener like “The Diary Of Jane”. “I Will Not Bow” lines up with “Breath”. And all the songs on the album are favourites, like “Crawl”, “Give Me A Sign”, “Hopeless”, “What Lies Beneath”, “Anthem Of The Angels”, “Lights Out”, “Dear Agony”, “Into The Nothing” and “Without You”.

Yeah, the whole album again.

Dark Before Dawn

The comeback album released in 2015. And like the previous two albums, its taking what came before, made a few small tweaks and a new song is born.

“Failure” stands up there as being in the same vein of “Fade Away” and “The Diary Of Jane”. And the album flows like the previous ones. “Angels Fall”, “Breaking The Silence”, “Hollow” and “Close To Heaven” follow.

“Never Again”, “The Great Divide” and “Ashes To Eden” finalise the album.

And the songs from Breaking Benjamin, like Everygrey, are melancholic and therapeutic.

To be complete, “Ember” came out in 2018. I don’t own it, however I streamed it and it’s my least favourite. The saving light is “The Dark Of You”.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Listening Habits

It’s a tough crazy world.

Artists spend their blood, sweat and tears into their new product and no one seems to be paying attention.

How can they, with all the music coming out.

For 2019, I listened to 5,783 different songs on Spotify. To put that number into context that is roughly 16 different songs, each day, for 365 days. In the old vinyl LP days of 8 songs each, this would be two albums every day of different artists.

Streaming allows this diverse listening experience and for the fan, this is a good thing.

It’s also a good solution compared to peer to peer downloading. But people complain about the payments they receive, however there is no denying that streaming services have put some serious money back into the recording industry.

Prior to Spotify, the recording labels got nothing. And it’s a shame that those same labels don’t funnel those monies back to their artists. Because if wasn’t for the artists, the recording labels would not be in the position of power to negotiate anything. And if it wasn’t for the artists forming connections with people, then the labels would have no business model.

If you take streaming services out of the industry, people will not start buying CD’s again en masse.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Fans

Fans maketh the artist and the fans taketh the artist.

For all artists, the need to create music is enough of a reason to start. Then some artists will have acceptance of their music. And suddenly artists have a thousand plus hard core fans.

Artists are normally happy to sell out the limited run of super deluxe editions of albums.

For the medium to larger acts, this is about 20,000 copies of an album between the prices of $50 to $200 each, and you can see a cool gross income between $1 million and $4 million. If the artists own their rights and are in control of their masters, then the deluxe editions if done right, can be a nice little supplement.

And streaming also gives the artist control of where their fans are, in which cities they live and which songs these fans are listening to. If the artists have the resources, then they can tour these places. Scorpions and Whitesnake are coming to Australia and I am pretty sure it’s on the back of some impressive streaming numbers, because it wouldn’t be on sales.

More so than ever, the fans decide how they want to commit to their relationship with the artist. And a lot of fans of music are also pretty content to listen to music at home, without feeling the need to go out and watch an artist live.

It’s part of the new world.

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