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

2013 Metal and Rock Releases. Are they Derivative, Evolutionary, Original or Clones?

Artists need to think about their music as a product. In the end we (the fans) are all suckers for good products. Give us a good product and we will reciprocate.

So I am listening to the new Protest The Hero album, “Volition”. What a product it is! For the record, I was one of those fans that contributed to the Indiegogo campaign so you can say that my views are biased.

And what about this for a piece of PR? As soon as they were made aware of a few leaks hitting the internet in bad quality, Protest The Hero hastily arranged a download site for their Indiegogo contributors, sent an email to everyone about it with instructions on how to get their unique download pin and away we went, downloading the album.

The best way to fight piracy is to communicate with your fan base. They are your only concern. In relation to people downloading the album some will come to a show and some will download it and hate it.

So what was my immediate thought on the new album?

Original and evolutionary. This is Protest The Hero continuing on from what they have created in the past by adding a few more bells and whistles. The decision to go the fan funded route was just the beginning. During the recording process they lost a drummer and got an even better drummer in Chris Adler. They then got some friends to build some IT support to store all the data of the fans that contributed via Indiegogo.

So to sum up, Protest The Hero were able to record, mix, master and produce an album without having any record label support and without the need of a record label advance that they would have had to pay back AND they are still able to use the record labels to distribute the standard release worldwide.

Going back to the drumming, what a brilliant job from Chris Adler? It’s inspiring in the sense of “I Want To Break Stuff” inspiring. It just feels very metal like.

While Dream Theater and Korn get a lot of ink in the press, it is bands like Protest The Hero, Machine Head and Digital Summer that are stealing the thunder by reaching out to their fans, connecting and doing it the new way. They are cutting out everyone that gets in the way of them and their fans. It is a band to fan connection. It is a fan to band connection.

On a side note, when I listen to new music from bands, I normally place the music in the following categories;

1. Progress is derivative (to others this is the stolen or copied bucket).

2. Evolutionary (this is bands building on their past a little bit each time. It is the iterative approach)

3. Original (this is something that is so divergent or out there that it hasn’t been done before)

4. Maintenance (this is where the band delivers the same album over and over again)

So looking at my top 20 list of music so far from 2013, in which categories do they fall in.

Progress Is Derivative
Avenged Sevenfold with the “Hail To The King” album.

“Lift Me Up” from Five Finger Death Punch and “Kingmaker” from Megadeth also fit into this category.

Evolutionary

This list has quite a few releases in it.

Protest The Hero leads the way with “Volition”. It builds on all of their previous efforts.

“Vengeance Falls” from Trivium is also an evolutionary album, building on the shorter song structure from “In Waves” with better melodies and technical precise riffage.

The concept album from Black Veil Brides falls into the evolutionary bucket for me. While the overall musical themes of the album are still rooted in the previous releases, there was enough growth to show a band evolving.

Mutiny Within hit the evolutionary path with the release of “Synchronicity” which shows the band moving further away from the metalcore stigma that Roadrunner put on them.

30 Seconds To Mars went all world music on “Love Lust Faith Dreams” which is again an evolution of “This Is War.” My wife loves this album.

Audrey Horne released “Youngblood” which is a further evolution from their previous album, moving more into a blues rock/metal vibe.

The next two albums are debut albums and the reason why I saw them as evolutionary is that the evolve from the sounds of Korn and Genesis/Pink Floyd.

Brian Welch’s solo project, Love and Death released the excellent “Between Here and The Lost” which is an evolution of what Korn was doing prior to Head’s departure. If i had to pick between Korn’s new one and Love and Death, my vote goes to Love and Death.

Sound Of Contact released a sci-fi concept album with “Dimensionaut” that captures the eerie spirit of sci-fi soundtracks merged with Pink Floyd/Genesis and Marillion prog.

Original

I see Volbeat as an original band.

With “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” they merge country with their metal/rockabilly style. This album could have fitted in the evolutionary bucket as well, however in my opinion there is another of a blend of different music styles to class it as another original release.

I just finished reading a post on the Classic Rock Magazine website with Michael Poulsen, the lead singer from Volbeat. In that interview, he states that artists cant make any more money from record sales and that selling records doesn’t put food on the table anymore.

This is strange coming from a band that shifted 300,000 units in the U.S with their previous album. So if you do the math 300,000 at $10 a CD comes to $3MIL gross earnings on the CD. The current album is sitting at about 130,000 units in the U.S so far. So if Volbeat are not getting any money from the sales of recorded music, they should be speaking to their label about re-negotiating their deal.

TesseracT’s “Altered State” to me is a great piece of work. It isn’t just a bunch of songs put together and called an album. This is an album that needs to be listened from start to finish, with high quality headphones. There is so much happening that each listen is a new experience. It’s original to me.

Maintenance

All of these releases are good releases showcasing what the band does best. In a lot of cases, bands produce their greatest album by doing this and in some cases bands produce a few forgettable albums as well.

Coheed and Cambria – “The Afterman –  Descension”

Dream Theater – “Dream Theater”

Bullet For My Valentine – “Temper Temper”

Stone Sour – “House Of Gold And Bones Part 2”

Alter Bridge – “Fortress”

Killswitch Engage – “Disarm The Descent”

Five Finger Death Punch – “The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Vol 1”

Pretty Maids – “Motherland”

Buckcherry – “Confessions”

An artist and their music can move up or down in these categories throughout their careers.

The lessons here are that bands don’t have to be ground breaking original to be successful. They just need a well thought out approach that is executed well.

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

The Good Way and The Bad Way

So if I pay $120 for a Spotify Premium account, it means that i can listen to a lot of songs. If I pay $120 worth of songs from iTunes in Australia, I can only listen to 70 songs. In Australia, we are charged $1.69 for a track. As a fan of music what is the better option.

However, for the artists that were doing well under the old record label controlled system, then Spotify and iTunes is probably not for them and they should retire.

For the larger group of artists that didn’t have the six winning lotto numbers in the record label lottery, then Spotify is the leveller. Spotify is changing the distribution of wealth within the music business. 

For the artists that don’t like the new way they can then go back to releasing their albums with the following advertising from the Nineties;

 

photo (6) photo (5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Ian from Anthrax can get his fans to go to all of the stores mentioned above. I trust that none of them are around anymore. It wasn’t piracy that killed them off, it was new technologies and bad business models.

The major chains all could have innovated, however they didn’t. Steve Jobs and Apple did. Daniel Ek and Spotify did.

In relation to the record labels. Imagine all the poor artists that were on Geffen Records in 1992. Talk about Geffen hedging their bets. That flyer is promoting Guns N Roses and Roxy Blue (Hard Rock) vs Nirvana (Grunge) vs White Zombie (Industrial Groove Metal). Guess we know who was the loser overall. Hard Rock.

The internet has enabled artists to reach out to wider and different communities than they could in the past. Previously, artists had to connect with people nearby and wait on the record label to spread the word.

However in 2013, many more artists are able to connect and build a fan base by finding and bringing together a unique fan base that is right for them and them alone.

Protest The Hero just did it with “Volition” and their Indiegogo campaign.

Coheed and Cambria did a great job with “The Afterman” releases.

Digital Summer is doing a great job at it as a DIY artist.

Marillion started it off in 2001. With everything there has to be a leader and for fan funding, that leader was Marillion.

The purpose of music is not to make people rich. It was always about the social bonding. If an artist can accomplish the bonding part, then the artist is giving the fan a reason to buy. It is human nature to reciprocate, to acknowledge value.

All those artists complaining, that they are losing, is because they are obsessed with the money they are losing. They have no one to blame but themselves. They are losing money because they no longer are making connections. They are just offering a piece of music up for sale without any connections and relationships. That is the bad way.

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

Kirk Hammett = Misguided Fool. We Are Actually Living In The Golden Age of Music Access

The comments from Kirk Hammet have been getting a lot of press/ink lately. They have been re-posted on thousands of other metal news sites by simply copying and pasting what he said.

For those that haven’t read it, this is what Kirk said;

“There haven’t been a lot of really, really great bands that have shown that kind of promise. I think it’s a concern. Because of things like iTunes and streaming and social networking, it’s destroyed music. It’s destroyed the motivation to go out there and really make the best record possible. It’s a shame.”

Okay so lets unpack what he really said.

“There haven’t been a lot of really, really great bands that have shown that kind of promise. I think it’s a concern.”

You see, when you detach yourself from the streets and live in your ivory tower, you don’t see what is happening at ground zero.

Five Finger Death Punch is going GOLD in a tough sales market. They have great numbers in relation to YouTube views and Spotify streams. Their albums have been selling up to the point of when their new one is released. Think about that for a second. Five Finger Death Punch has consistently moved units of their albums every week since 2007. Now compare that to Dream Theater whose new album is already dead and buried after four weeks.

Shinedown are doing super numbers in relation to sales, YouTube views and Spotify streams. They have certifications left, right and centre.

Avenged Sevenfold released a progress is derivative album that is also doing great numbers. In addition, they do super numbers on the live circuit

Black Veil Brides has achieved so much with their first three albums as well as other bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Alter Bridge, Killswitch Engage, Volbeat and so on.

Will we have the superstars of the Eighties and Nineties again? Of course not, it is a different time today, however you can’t tell me that the bands mentioned above don’t have a certain superstar status at the moment.

Will they headline the major festivals? Probably not, because no one really likes festivals any more. The festivals are on their way out. They just don’t know it yet.

“Because of things like iTunes and streaming and social networking, it’s destroyed music. It’s destroyed the motivation to go out there and really make the best record possible. It’s a shame.”

With all the information we get on our favourite artists these days, it makes us realise that our heroes are complete idiots. Kirk just doesn’t understand change. It’s constant.

Kirk’s comments are no different to the comments from other dinosaurs like Jon Bon Jovi, Scott Ian, Duff McKagan, Yngwie Malmsteen, Thom Yorke and David Byrne. Railing against the Internet, Spotify and iTunes and complaining about payments and the lack of motivation to record new music. 

Let’s get one thing clear. Music today can be made for next to nothing. That is why we have so many releases in the market place. Competition for listener’s attention is sky-high. Everybody who records something believes we should pay attention.

Kirk Hammett wants to go back to the Eighties, to a time when bands had to have a record deal to record their music. Kirk Hammett wants fans of his music to buy the whole Metallica album just to find out it was garbage (like ReLoad, St Anger) or for a few songs (like Load).  

If that is the motivation that Kirk Hammett and Metallica needs to record, then they can just give up right now.

It never used to be that way. Metal and rock artists never complained. They always ADAPTED. 

Do you hear Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk, Mumford and Sons, Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Eminem, Halestorm, Killswitch Engaged, Alter Bridge, Slash or Avenged Sevenfold going on a rant about not wanting to make new music or that it is just too tough out there and no one can make it?

Could it be that most people are just not interested in new Metallica music? As Lars said in a Hot Metal interview from June 1992, that I posted earlier. The numbers they are getting for the Black album, will not be eclipsed or bettered.

Could it be that the Napster stigma is still around? The image of Lars Ulrich holding 500 pages of user names that traded in Metallica music is still fresh in people’s minds. 

The comments in relation to streaming are just wrong. Streaming is competing with PIRACY. How is that not good? With Spotify around it just doesn’t make sense to steal. It pays the artist when their music gets played and it pays the artist forever. A sale of an album is just a one stop transaction that inflates the NOW and when you start talking about the NOW, you are thinking like a Record Label.

If Kirk Hammett and Metallica or any artist out there wants to make money from recorded music, they need to find a way to get people to purchase a Spotify Premium account.

Spotify has a mission to have over 20 million premium customers. This will allow artist to take years out to record their masterpieces. Instead of working with the technology, they talk in riddles against it. 

We are living in the golden age of music access. The history of recorded music is at our fingertips and that is a good thing. Finally, there is plan in place to monetize it. If you want to monetize, you need to keep creating.

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

Metallica: Hot Metal – June 1992, the “Through The Never” Stage Idea Goes Back To This Period and Staying Power

I have been re-reading a lot of the magazines I have accumulated during the Eighties and the Nineties. I just finished reading a story about Metallica from the Australian magazine “Hot Metal”. It is the June 1992 issue.

The article is written by Robyn Doreian, who was the editor once however when this story hit the press, she had moved on to Metal Hammer. The story was a combination of two days she spent with the band, plus separate interviews with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.

The first part that got me interested was the following answers from James Hetfield;

RD – First up, I ask him about the new stage design, which not only challenges conventional rock shows but also has consider-able advantages for the fans.

JH – “We sat down and talked about what we wanted to do. For instance, Lars has his travelling drum kit that was all his thing. I have to make that clear,” he scoffs, “because I find it a little silly. As much as he wants to be in the spotlight, he also gets to travel. He’s basically a front man on drums. We should have thought of it earlier in our careers, I guess.”

“The snake-pit was a combination of ideas from band members and management. Initially that hole in the middle of the stage was meant to be a special effects area, with things like little crosses rising up, or a blow-up ‘Justice’ lady or something.” sniggers Hetfield.

“We said no’ Why not put some kids in there, some fans. That would be cool. We usually put between 40 and 90 kids in there, depending on each city’s fire regulations and stuff.”

RD – What about the area set aside for taping?

JH – “Fans have to buy a special ticket for the tape section. It’s like five bucks more, and there are like 20 or 30 kids who can get in there and video, audio or whatever they want to do. It’s a cool thing to do, to flood the market with bootlegs. And it makes it a little more personal.”

The above got my interest for two reasons;

1. The stage design.
2. Bootlegs.

First, the stage design. The grand stage design that is seen in the movie “Through the Never” was conceived back in 1991 for the tour in support of the Black album. Of course, an idea is just an idea until it is executed and with the exponential rise of technologies, that idea finally came to fruition in 2012.

The point of this is that no one should ever give up on an idea. If it doesn’t work at a particular given point in time, keep it filed away as it could work at a later time.

Second, the bootlegs. The Black tour did something great for the hard core fans that no other band had really done up until then.

Metallica in 1992, wanted to flood the market with bootlegs. Metallica in 2013 has the following disclaimer on their Live Metallica website “Terms of Use”;

Any violation of copyright laws may result in severe civil and criminal penalties. Violators will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible.

Compare the above to the comments from Hetfield. What a difference between Metallica and the Metallicorporation? This is why Metallica messed up big time with Napster by handing over names of fans at the Senate Hearings.

Next up in the interview was Lars Ulrich. Knowing what we know now, words from the past is always interesting.

RD – Seizing the opportunity I ask him whether, seeing as Metallica have now been so firmly embraced by the mainstream, it’s possible that they are becoming what they once rebelled against.

LU – “I don’t disagree with that, but we were always more into doing our own thing, never about being shocking for its own sake or pissing people off. You should always be yourself.”

Lars admits that he and Metallica are becoming the entity that they rebelled against. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. Can a band remain the same after they accumulate millions? No chance.

RD – Do you ever think that in years to come there is a danger of Metallica being viewed as a dinosaur band, some sort of corporate rock giant similar to what happened to bands like Zeppelin in the 70s?

LU – “I think there are a lot of people in the States right now who, simply because we have gained confidence in what we’re doing, are saying that we are doing the same arena rock clichés that these other bands were doing. My attitude is basically that if people come and see us and think its arena rock crap then that’s fine. It doesn’t affect me; because I know what we’re doing is distinctly different from what everyone else is doing.”

RD – With Grammy awards, cumulative record sales in the millions and adulation the whole world over, what is there left for the band to achieve?

LU – “Staying power. In terms of numbers, it’s not going to get much bigger but its important not to burn out. A lot of bands don’t have the confidence for a long term career, so they try and milk everything while they can. We plan to be around for quite a while, so when this tour is over we’re going to have a long period of inactivity.”

The above is interesting to me for the following two reasons;

1. Be Yourself / Stay true to yourself
2. Staying Power

I was a fan of Metallica coming before the Black album came out. It was “Ride the Lightning” that did it for me. I cannot recall how many arguments I got into over what is the better album between “Master Of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning”.

Then the Black album comes out and I really liked it. I thought it was perfect. The songs hammered the ear drums from start to finish and the groove was undeniable. Metallica wrote and recorded an album that they wanted to write. It was never designed to have a hit single whereas “Load” and “Reload” to me, feels like Metallica had that single idea in the backs of their mind.

The comments about staying power ring true. As Lars said, in terms of numbers, it wouldn’t get any bigger than the Black album. However reaching the top is not the end of the journey. That is when a new journey begins.

Twisted Sister failed after “Stay Hungry” exploded.

Motley Crue fired Vince Neil after “Dr Feelgood”.

Guns N Roses became Adler-less after “Appetite for Destruction” and after “Use Your Illusion,” Guns N Roses became an Axl Rose solo project.

Motorhead had Fast Eddie Clarke play on one more album (“Iron Fist”) after “Ace of Spades.”

Skid Row got one more album out in “Subhuman Race” after the massive “Slave To The Grind” and disappeared.

Van Halen released “1984” and then fired David Lee Roth. They are one of the rare bands that changed lead singers and went on to bigger success, with the Van Hager era.

Poison got “Flesh and Blood” out after the mega successful “Open and Say Ahh” and it was curtains, even though “Native Tongue” with Richie Kotzen was a great album.

White Lion never recovered from the mega success of “Pride”.

Warrant released the excellent and heavy “Dog Eat Dog”, however it was no “Cherry Pie” and they got dropped after Jani Lane left.

Also when a band reaches the top, it opens up the opportunity for some time off. Metallica had been on an album and tour cycle since “Kill Em All” was released in 1983. After 11 constant years, by 1994, they had some time off, before they regrouped for the “Load” albums.

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

The Lies Of The Beautiful Record Labels And The RIAA

During the recorded music industries heyday, there was this widespread idea, sort of like an unwritten law, that we (the fans of music) could purchase music and own it, the same way we purchased and owned the toaster and any other commodity.

Of course when it comes to music, that was never the case. What the music fans actually purchased was a non-transferable license to listen to the music under very specific and strict conditions. Nothing else was transferred to us with our expensive $30 purchase of a CD, other than the right to enjoy the music in private, over and over again.

So what do we have now. We have sales of music falling. Actually they have been falling for some time. The RIAA and the record labels are attributing this to piracy alone, linking the decline of sales with the increase of P2P file sharing usage.

So for the RIAA and the Record Labels, plus some misguided artists, it is simple, these two events correlate, so it implies that one is causing the other to move.

The thought that fans of music have changed the way they consume music doesn’t compute for the Majors and their association.

The arrival of iTunes and the chance to cherry pick what we want rather than complete albums is a pretty good indication that revenue streams would reduce. Instead of spending money on an expensive shiny piece of plastic for two songs, we could now just download those two songs.

The arrival of YouTube and streaming services have also put a dent into the traditional sales model. Of course, piracy does play its part, however with the increase in people attending concerts and festivals, one needs to ask the question, did piracy assist in this?

Watch the Iron Maiden doco, Flight 666. Nicko McBrian talks about not selling an album in Costa Rica, however they have sold out the local sports stadium. Twisted Sister haven’t released any new music, however in Europe they have a massive fan base that includes both old and young. Did piracy cause this?

The arrival of many platforms that allow DIY bands to release has caused a flood of new music to enter the music business. Competition is now at an all-time high.

What about the price of music? Normally if demand for a certain product drops, the prices for that product fall as well, to reflect the lower demand. It is simple economics. So what do the record labels do? They maintain the high prices so that they can maximise profits. So the recording industry is holding on to high price points and they blame piracy in the meantime for the decline in sales.

So if people are purchasing less music or illegally downloading content, how is this effecting the income of artists? Do artists still have an incentive to create music.

For starters, the majority of artists do not get into music to be millionaires. They get in to music because it satisfies a basic human need to be creative.

In relation to less incentive, this doesn’t seem to be the case. There is so much music hitting the market that no one has enough time to hear it all. In addition, if the artists is doing the live circuit, incomes in this arena are increasing. Some artists that don’t sell a lot sure get a lot of people into their shows.

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

The War Between Streaming and Black Box Revenue – Will The Record Labels Kill The Streaming Star?

The public has voted. It prefers streaming. The war is over. Case Closed. Maybe not.

Spotify pays millions to copyright holders. Now unless the artist is a DIY artist who controls their own copyright, most of the copyright holders are the major labels. So if the major labels are getting the millions each year for the blanket license to access their catalogues, where is that money going.

There is a term doing the round, called “Black Box Revenue.” This is the name given to income that the record labels collect that cannot be directly tracked to the recordings of a specific artist.

To put it all into context, streaming services pay the labels and upfront fee to access their catalogues. In addition, they then pay the labels royalties for each stream.

In time, this streaming system will be challenged by artists, much the same way the mp3 sales system was challenged by Eminem and other artists like Whitesnake, Rob Zombie and the band White Zombie.

In all of these cases, the artists said that their record label violated their contracts by counting a digital download as a sale instead of a licensing. Most artists get a royalty of 10 percent for the sale of a CD, minus a lot of deductions, while licenses pay a royalty of 50 percent and in most cases are not subject to any deductions.

When the same thing happens to the labels streaming revenue, the long-term viability of streaming services will be less than certain.

The main part of streaming that the critics and the record labels fail to understand is that it is a tool that is in place now, to PROVIDE REVENUE STREAMS later.

Of course the record labels and the executives in charge are all about the NOW, and a lot of their label rosters are designed for the NOW, so they don’t have time to allow things to grow. Spotify is growing in users, however the company still hasn’t made a profit after so many years in operation. The streaming system employed by the record labels that I mentioned above doesn’t allow it to make a profit.

Spotify wants to reduce piracy to ZERO. At the moment the critics of Spotify like Thom Yorke are complaining that it simply doesn’t pay enough. The truth is, creators have always been ripped off. However, if a song is great and it gets some traction, expect it to pay well.

Daft Punk passed 100 million downloads. The $700,000 that comes with that in streaming payments is enough for a band to live off, however artists see very little of the dollars paid to the record labels for the right to stream their content.

However with YouTube dominating in music, why do people need Spotify? Actually, Thom Yorke has no issues with YouTube, an unofficial streaming platform which is interesting. So I am thinking that Thom Yorke’s issue is with the record labels stake in Spotify.

Personally, I am quite content to listen to three songs on Spotify and get an ad break. I have no interest in paying for a package even if Spotify caps the limit of free songs I can listen to in a month. I will just move to YouTube when that happens, or to my iTunes library or to my physical collection of LP’s and CD’s.

What about the songwriters who write the songs? How do they get paid in the streaming age. It’s simple. They get paid, the same way everyone else gets paid that provides a service. Songwriters need to stop being greedy. What they need to do is hand in the song, get paid the agreed monies and off they go, writing more songs for artists. If a songwriter gets paid $1000 for each song they hand in, then they know they need to write 50 songs in order to earn $50,000. If one of the songs gets traction and gets 100 million streams, the songwriters should be using that as a piece of promotion and up their song writing fee. It’s simple business practices.

It is a revolution that we are experiencing.

Musicians can still make a living. Is it harder now compared to the past? My answer is NO. Musicians always had to work hard to get somewhere, that part hasn’t changed and it will never change.

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