Music

The Road 

Who would have thought that James Durbin would front the version of Quiet Riot that exists today. 

In case anyone is confused as to who Durbin is, he’s the guy who brought Judas Priest to American Idol. 

There’s a YouTube clip of him doing “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin”. He didn’t win Idol, but he came Top 5. His first album dropped in 2011 and its a hard rock album. “Higher Than Heaven” is my favorite track. It’s melodic and heavy enough to rock. It’s also a co-write with James Michael and Marti Frederiksen. If you don’t know these musicians, I suggest a Google search. 

Then album number 2 dropped in 2014 and it was not what I expected, more in line with the Imagine Dragons style of rock. So I just moved on. And then “The Road” came up on the New Release Playlist as I was driving. I had my headphones on and my phone in the slot on the side so I had no idea who the artist is. 

The song is a slow rocker and as soon as i heard the voice, it was familiar. Isn’t that the great thing about music, when you hear something familiar but you can’t put a name to it. 

I’d like to tell you that I knew it was Durbin on vocals just from hearing him, but I had to google it to find out. Hell I had to Google who was in this version of Quiet Riot. 

It’s a cacophony of noise out there. 

It’s good to see that Quiet Riot is still releasing new music, even when the two founders in Rhoads and DuBrow have both left this Earth for astral planes far and wide and main songwriter from the 80s Carlos Cavazo is now bending strings for Ratt which looks like to be on hiatus anyway. 

So who is in this version of QR?

Frankie Banali has been the drummer for the band since DuBrow reformed it in the 80s after the death of Rhoads. Bassist Chuck Wright replaced Rudy Sarzo and has been in and out of QR since the 80s. Guitarist Alex Grosso has been in a lot of hard rock bands and ended up in QR in 2006. 

So now to the album “Road Rage” that features Durbin on vocals. Go and listen to “The Road” first, then “Renegades” and “Freak Flag”. They are songs that should remain around for a lot longer. 

Who knows if that would be the case in our tech driven lives. I bet a lot of QR fans or even fans of the 80s would not know QR has new music. And for music fans born in the late 90s and onwards, you shouldn’t think of this album as an 80s band releasing new music. You should see it just as new music.

The Road

Feels like we just got back
I’ll kiss my family and I’ll be out the door again
We’re running around in the dark
We are together apart

Unless your family is travelling with you, then the road is just you, the guys in the band, some members of the road crew and lonely miles between cities and fans. 

A lot of artists don’t come back from the road. Randy Rhoads didn’t come back home. Steve Ray Vaughan didn’t come back. Kurt Cobain came back but didn’t want to go back out. Chris Cornell didn’t come back. Chester Bennington didn’t come back. AJ Pero didn’t come back. David Z didn’t come back and the other guys from Adrenaline Mob got pretty banged up. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary for a musician. 

Renegades

The intro riff is the vocal melody of the Chorus.

Line up all the degenerates
Just to prove their innocence

It doesn’t happen much today, but back in the times when I had my long hair and what not, I would not get served in a retail store. I’ve got cash to burn and no one to serve me. If a person was dressed in anything else except a black metal T shirt and jeans, they will get service before me. Judging people on appearance is real. We all still do it, even when we don’t want to. We might have good intentions over it, but we still judge and we always will.

We stand silent
It’s not our problem
Your reliance
Will fall down in disarray
And in silence
We’re raising renegades

Our ancestors went to two World Wars against an enemy who wanted to remake and reshape the world in their own image. That’s how the winners tell it and the losers have no voice. 

And democracy is far from perfect. It’s corrupted by the wealthy that influence legislation in their favour, so they get even wealthier while the working class gets torn apart and devastated. And this is where the next battle is taking place. The war between the haves and have nots is real. It won’t get to the same beheadings of the French Revolution, but change is afoot, because in silence people are raising renegades for the future to come.

Freak Flag

It’s the AC/DC vibe that gets the foot tapping.

Put your hands up and get your freak flag flying

In the 80’s, the metal/rock heads had all kinds of names attached to them. Satanic, anti-social, drug takers, freaks and what not. And when the freaks got together in stadiums and arenas, the establishments trembled because of the devotion people showed their favourite artist.

How can an artist be more powerful than the law enforcement officers and the elected leaders?

The record label honchos who really held the power to make or kill a career suddenly had their power diminish because MTV made artists into global superstars instantly. 

How could these freaks tell the business executives where to go? 

It was real, it happened and then the freaks became business executives themselves. It always happens. The people who control the money can buy out anyone or anything.

In this case, they amped up the greatest Ponzi scheme ever created and started paying millions of dollars to the rights holders. Copyright, Intellectual property, call it whatever you want, basically takes money from one source to give to the rights holder who then gives moneys to the creator as an advance fee on future earnings. And then the people in charge of Copyright (the government and the corporations) find new ways to bring in new sources and the cycle repeats over and over and over and over again.

In the end the road taken by James Durbin to be a musician is a unique one. Each road is unique and personal for all of us. It’s not always right and sometimes you might get stuck on the roundabout. But we keep going forward. It’s human nature. 

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Def Leppard And The Digital World

There is a Def Leppard story that did the rounds at the start of August. Almost four weeks later, it’s forgotten. That’s how fast people move on. If you are an artist and you spend 12 plus months on an album, just be mindful that it could be forgotten within a month, especially if it’s not part of a cultural movement or crossed over into the mainstream.

Anyway, back to the Def Leppard article.

No one can forget how big Def Leppard was from 1983 to 1994. Huge. Even their sound was huge with multi-layered vocals and instrumentation.

Like all the 80’s heroes, they had a bit of a back lash in the 90’s and maybe alienated some of their fan base with their 90’s sounding “Slang” album. But like all great bands from the 80’s they had a renaissance. I wrote a while back about how I believe piracy made Twisted Sister relevant again from 2000 and onwards and that viewpoint is still held for Def Leppard.

It’s actually even more relevant for Def Leppard, because the band refuses to have their 80’s output on digital services due to a payment dispute with the record label. The label (Universal) wants to pay the band a royalty based on a sale, whereas the band wants the licensing royalty payment which is much higher. The band even found it easier to create their own forgeries (re-recording some of their classics) easier than dealing with the record label.

This leads to an interesting position.

If you cannot purchase the Def Leppard 80’s output legally or stream it legally (apart from the few forgeries the band did themselves and the live releases), what should people do?

Well in this case, they obtain the music illegally (provided they haven’t purchased a legal physical copy)?

In other posts, I have mentioned how bands survive by replenishing their fan base with younger fans. It’s the reason why bands like Ratt and Dokken haven’t really gone well in the 2000’s compared to Crue, Leppard and Jovi. Well, it turns out that Def Leppard is doing a pretty fantastic job at doing just that.

“In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fuelled by younger people coming to the shows. We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”
Vivian Campbell

While the band is on the road, it works and their popularity is as big (maybe even bigger) as their 80’s popularity. The band is also a heavy user of YouTube, even though the site is the punching bag for the RIAA and the record labels. As YouTube recently said, they pay $3 per 1000 streams in the U.S. If it’s true or not, we will never know until we see proper financials from both YouTube and the labels. But if it is true, Def Leppard would be getting that cut themselves, and I haven’t heard of them taking YouTube to task over their payments. Even Metallica who controls their own copyrights don’t take YouTube to task. Both bands are heavy users of the platform, constantly putting up new content. But if you believe the RIAA and the record labels, YouTube is evil and due to its high volume of users, the payments are not enough.

But in Def Leppard’s case, you could say that YouTube is seen as a more likely driver of new fans than pirate torrent sites. Because all the research shows that YouTube has a user base made up of young people. They are also fostering a true connection with fans again which for a lot of artists who made it in the 80’s is a frightening prospect.

This model will not work for every band. In this case, each creator needs to look at the problem and find a solution that works for them. Eventually Def Leppard’s music will come to streaming services as the band will not be able to tour. But it will be on their terms and their terms only. Like AC/DC and Metallica. They signed their own streaming deal themselves and it’s got nothing to do with the record label.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

People Create Value

When are people going to realise that music doesn’t create value. Customers do. People. The people who listen and consume the music are in charge of the value tree. They decide what song or album is valuable and what isn’t. And it’s a cold hard truth for any creator out there. You might have a record deal and a massive PR machine, however if no one is interested in what you create, it’s back to the drawing board. 

Do a few more releases that fail to connect and the downward spiral is real. It doesn’t mean you can’t make it back, however when people are in a downward spiral they have a tendency to cut corners and dumb down their art for the sake of making it back. And for a little while, it might pick you back up. But then, demand for your art goes down again, which means you lose again. The great artists are aware that writing a song that connects with millions is magical but it’s not scalable. No one can write hit songs forever. In the 80’s and 90’s, Desmond Child was the hit making machine, along with Diane Warren and Jim Vallance. Today, it’s Max Martin and Dr Luke and others. Even bands like U2, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Ratt and Bon Jovi couldn’t sustain the “hits”, albeit they had a pretty good run which guarantees them a victory lap after a victory lap.

The key to success is random. It’s unexpected when a song connects and breaks through. But instead of having the mindset to keep showing up and creating in the same way you did before, creators try to recreate the unexpected success. Writing songs that become hits is a different mindset to writing a “hit song”.

And artists got those unexpected hits by being imperfect. By paying their dues and honing their craft. By being willing to speak their truth and taking a stance on issues. We need people to believe in. And we believe most in those whose risks resonate. 

The record labels are worried about their stock price or their greatly compensated executive salaries while they underpay creators and drop them at will. Meanwhile we all pay taxes while they pay none. So don’t think the label will have your back when people are not interested in your product. 

Today’s story is about artists who are unable to get traction. It’s because they think the music they create has some value. But it doesn’t. It has no value at the start. It might later, if people decide it’s valuable. 

But the space for attention is cluttered and your new song is competing with the history of music, which is at people’s fingertips. But it can rise to the top. There just needs to be a message to it, instead of the usual clichés. Remember, people create value. It’s not the other way around. 

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

How the Labels and the RIAA Rob Creators?

YouTube tells the world that the service pays more in the U.S for Ad-Supported Streaming than other services like Spotify and Pandora. YouTube points out that they pay about $3 per 1000 ad-supported streams in the U.S.

The record labels via their lobby group RIAA disagree with YouTube’s math

Cary Sherman, the RIAA head honcho had this to say on the matter;

“About 400 digital services have been licensed around the world, many with ad-supported features. Comparatively, YouTube pays music creators far less than those services on both a per-stream and per-user basis, and nowhere near the $3 per thousand streams in the U.S. that Lyor (YouTube) claims.”

Okay so if the RIAA is going to dispute the math put out by YouTube, then what is their math.

How much do they get from YouTube per 1000 streams?

The record labels and the publishing/licensing companies are the first to get paid. And nowhere in this debate have these organisations mentioned what they get. I know I have seen thousands of news articles showing what the artists or the song writers get from YouTube streams in their bank account, but the artists are the last to be paid, once the labels and publishing companies take their cuts.

If the record labels via the RIAA want to be taken serious they need to be transparent.

Instead they counter the math from streaming services with fluff. Yes, that same thing found in people’s belly buttons.

They fluff the conversation about a value gap, talking on and on about how YouTube has billions of users and the amount of traffic they generate should equate to higher payments and because it doesn’t, there is a value gap.

They fluff the conversation about DMCA Safe Harbor provisions being a rigged system and how politicians need to create laws to protect the business model of the record labels and in the process destroy innovation on the internet.

Basically, these organisations are doing the same thing they have always done. Lying and scheming to keep their creative accounting in-house and away from the actual people that made these organisations rich. The creators.

Think about it for a second. The streaming services via their own blog mention how much they pay the copyright holder. The very next day, the RIAA or the Record Labels quickly counter it, but they never mention how much they do get?

So the headline of the next article should be “How the labels and the RIAA rob creators?”

 

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

Cash From The Old

I read on a blog post by Seth Godin that “Book publishers make more than 90% of their profit from books they published more than six months ago. And yet they put 2% of their effort into promoting and selling those books.”

So what do you reckon the numbers would be for music?

Would it be fair to say that 90% of the income that the record labels get comes from music that came out six months ago compared to what is new.

The majority of people don’t normally purchase creative content all the time but when they do, they buy what is popular. It’s the reason why each year the “Black” album from Metallica sells. It’s the reason why “IV” from Led Zeppelin still sells. It’s the reason why “No More Tears” still sells. It’s the reason why “Slippery When Wet” still sells.

Then you have artists putting out new stuff.

Back in the MTV era, the new stuff sold well on the first week. It was marketed heavy by the record labels, all on the budget of the artist. The record labels controlled the distribution channel. So many other industries came to be because of this distribution chain. Vinyl manufacturing plants, cassette manufacturing plants, CD manufacturing plants, video clip services, record shops, delivery drivers, image consultants and so forth.

However we are living in a different era, one controlled by consumers. And the new stuff released by artists in 2017 is originally purchased by a smaller hard-core super fan group. Much like to 70’s. Then in time as word spreads, people will check out the release and keep it in the conversation. Much like the 70’s. You know that person that doesn’t purchase much creative content a year, well there is a pretty high chance they will purchased something that is popular when they decide to purchase. Like Metallica’s “Hardwired” or “Seal The Deal and Let’s Boogie” by Volbeat.

Actually Volbeat is one of those stories that you can write forever about. Death metal musicians in the 90’s. By 2000 they branched out into the Volbeat sound. By 2010 they had an opening slot on the “Death Magnetic” tour and U.S success came. “Seal The Deal and Let’s Boogie” was released June 3, 2016. It’s still in the conversation with physical sales, streams and radio spins. Even their “Beyond Hell, Above Heaven” album released April 24, 2012 was certified Gold in the U.S on March 22, 2016. Yep, 4 years after its release.

“Inhuman Rampage” by Dragonforce was released on January 9, 2006. On July 21, 2017 it was certified Gold in the U.S. Not bad for a power metal act and it happened 11 years after the album was released. “Come What(Ever) May” by Stone Sour was released on August 1, 2006 and on July 21,2017 it was certified Platinum in the U.S. Yep, 11 years after the album was released. “I Get Off” is a single from Halestorm. It was released on February 25, 2009 and 8 years later on July 12, 2017, the single was certified Gold in the U.S.

The one song I want to bring to your attention just to show how out of touch and behind the RIAA and their certification systems are is “Human”.

“Human” is a song by Rag’n’Bone Man. It was released on July 15, 2016. On July 7, 2017, a year after its release it was given a Gold certification for 0.5 million certified units by the RIAA. On Spotify, the song has 206,745,038 million streams. It was in Spotify’s Top 50 hits for six months before radio and the labels and the normal PR label press outlets caught wind of it. To put into context, Metallica’s most streamed song on Spotify is “Enter Sandman” with 166,178,415 streams.

What’s the above telling us?

Recognition doesn’t come on day one or week one or month one or year one. It percolates year after year after year until it boils to the surface. Will you be around to capitalise and monetise? Maybe, but I can guarantee one entity which will be around to monetise. The record label and the publishers. The labels/publishers via their lobby groups like the RIAA have got Copyright wrapped around their little finger so tight and they have the power/money to influence the copyright conversation even more in their favour.

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

TheWay Of The World

If you risk, you could lose. There’s no safety net in life. All of the people who have succeeded say you need to fail to succeed. And we don’t hear from those who risked everything and failed and now have nothing. Hell, we don’t even know their names.

If we want a better future, we need to be able to see the world as it is. It’s easier said than done as we are all products of our tribes. The family we grew up in, the friends we associated with or still associate with, the city we grew up in, the school we went to, the music we listen to, the teachers and employers we had, the books we read and so on. Basically we have so many influences in our lives. The biggest one is money. It’s a system designed to keep us in a cycle of debt. We grow up watching our parents argue over it. We got to school so we get “skills” to earn it. We get jobs so we have it. We get credit cards and loans to have more of it. We invest in shares and property to make more of it. And the cycle just goes on.

To top it off, tech innovation has created a “superstar” lifestyle, which is even more extravagant than the music “MTV superstar lifestyle. We see it all over the news and social media. So we try to be one of the players. We pretend on social media our lives are better than what they really are.

But we are currently living in a “winner-take-all” economy. The internet is controlled by Amazon, Facebook and Google. You can add Apple to the list with their iTunes/App store. Streaming is controlled by Spotify, Netflix and YouTube. Retail is controlled by Amazon. Social media is controlled by Facebook. Search is controlled by Google. We can use their tools for productivity or to make money, but it’s on their rules, which can change any time.

But we still plod on, trying to make it. But we don’t know where to start, so we take all the roads on offer, only to get back to the start.

Everything we were told was wrong. The internet didn’t topple the old players. It just created more of the same and in the process it made the old players even more powerful. In relation to music, the artists created their own problems by signing terrible contracts in the first place. Then when they had songs make it big, they would renegotiate their contracts and resell their copyrights to a corporation for an advance payment plus a royalty cut of any “profits” the song makes, less “expenses”. So they get paid in the short term, but lose in the long term. The record labels knew this.

Why do you think they lobbied hard to get Copyright terms changed to be life of the creator plus 70 years after death?

They will pay the Estate of the artists a few million here and there for a popular catalogue of songs, which will keep the Estate happy while they laugh all the way to the billion dollar profit sheet.

The TV mirror tells us the world is dangerous. We see news of terrorist trying to kill innocents or moments after they’ve just killed innocents. Certain channels will try and influence the debate to suit their point of view. Meanwhile, the internet never forgets. We expose ourselves online and give big corporations all of our private data, which they sell to other marketing corporations or hand over to the government if they are warranted. All the while, we are exposed to fake news or real news and people just can’t read critically enough or care to read critically enough to make up their own minds.

We don’t have enough time to have showers, let alone put together a critique of two conflicting news items.

And somewhere in this chaotic life we all lead, there are artists who want to have a music career. They are sitting at home making music on Apple Logic or Cubase or Pro Tools. They put it out on streaming services via an aggregator like Tunecore or CD Baby. They tell all of their “social media friends” to check out their new song without realising it’s an empty echo chamber and they end up nowhere. The reason is simple. Making music is great, but making connections is even better. It’s the way of the world today.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Outside The Conversation

Are the organisations like the record labels and the publishers doing their best for artists in the long term or are they just focused on the short term profits?

Customers of music showed the recording industry what choice brings to the conversation and the record labels ignored it. It wasn’t until a hardware company created iTunes and then a techie created a streaming service that customers started to get what they want.

Are the record labels and their lobby groups seeking useful outcomes in their fight against piracy or just short term wins?

Seriously, legislation to protect copyright and make the terms longer does not foster creativity. It only gives the current players a longer government granted monopoly.

What about how the record labels keep all the streaming licensing monies and give nothing back to the artists?

Some of the bigger artists might get a fee however the record labels are in this powerful bargaining position because of all the artists, not just the few. Then again, most people want the music of the few.

Is the record label policy of other people losing and them winning a good policy for artists and music in general?

It seems the record labels like to win. To them it’s a battle to get control back of things they lost. And they will do it through the courts and with legislation designed to protect their business model.

And if the record labels get control over the distribution chain and the recording industry goes back to the gatekeeper model of the past, do artists believe they will better off?

It’s easy to fall in love with the ideal of record labels getting artists to sign fair and equitable deals. Of course, that’s not how it works. And if there’s one organisation that hasn’t learned from past mistakes it’s the record labels and their lobby groups.

Instead of following a path that leads to better standards/outcomes for artists in the long term they seek a litigious path that only benefits them in the short term.

And what we have here is tribal identity at full force. Artists are emotional and they react to what is going on in a complicated world. In this case, the tribal identity set up by the record labels aligns itself with a downward spiral of selfish, short term actions. Fans are also emotional. Some attach themselves to the artist/creator point of view while others read wide and make their own choices.

And that’s the disconnect the industry is facing. Choice for fans to decide and make their own decisions and the power to demonstrate what they believe something should be worth.

No one wants to go deep anymore and unpack the facts. They’re too busy building out their identity online.

Trust me when I say this, there are fans who don’t pay for recorded music because they don’t believe they should, however these same fans have no problem coughing up $200 plus dollars for a concert ticket for a larger act and these same fans have no problems coughing up $20 to $70 for independent acts. It’s their choice how they choose to interact with music.

And then there are the fans who have large LP and CD collections, who don’t pay for music anymore, but still pay for concert tickets and what not.

And then there are fans like me who have large LP and CD collections and decided that streaming is the way forward. So I pay for a family account and I have no problems forking out cash for a concert ticket.

And then there are fans who have large LP and CD collections and have decided that purchasing physical is what they want to do. And these fans also have no problem paying for a concert ticket.

Life is fluid and we need to make choices every day.

This is the world we’ve arrived in. We’re dying for entertainment. The recording industry has never been more powerful. There’s all this crap about piracy, streaming rates and the techies taking over. But the techies make tools, not stories or music.

Life is a struggle for everyone, not just creators.

And our leaders have their own agenda while corporations pollute the conversation with their lobby dollars.

Why do you think they pay no tax and white collar crime corrupt bankers avoid jail?

Someone always thinks the rules don’t apply to them. If you listen to the recording industry, they would tell you that the techies believe that rules don’t apply to them. But hang on a second, if the techies are doing it their way, didn’t that used to be the ethos of the musician. To do it their way. So what went wrong? The techies have become the new rock stars. And they built it all themselves.

These days the pop stars become brands and puppets to the corporations. Otherwise there is a high chance they are left off the playlist. At least there are metal and rock creators doing it their way. Outside of the conversation they are building something, going against the grain.

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