Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

What We Know

Machine Head is a premium metal band. They have earned their spot through killer releases since 2003. Slipknot did sell more with their new one however the quality of the music this year was with Machine Head while Slipknot became an institution like Metallica.

Big Corporations fail to learn. Sony got hacked in 2011 and did nothing to tighten up their security or to encrypt their data. In the 2011 hack, all of the Playstation user names, passwords and credit card details were stored on a text file with no encryption. Fast forward to 2014, and a lot of the sensitive information around salaries, payroll numbers and social security numbers were stored on a text file with no encryption.

No one cares that Chris Broderick or Shaun Drover left Megadeth. In the same way no one cared that Jason Newsted left Metallica. Hell no one cared when Dave Ellefson was not a part of the band. Just because they can write riffs it doesn’t mean they are any good. And there is no doubt that Chris Broderick can play and is very technical. But can anyone name a definitive song or riff that he wrote in Jag Panzer or in Megadeth.

The most pirated TV shows are also the most successful commercially and financially. And seriously isn’t it any surprise that the most locked up show behind paywalls and corporate deals is the most pirated. For anyone living under a rock, that show of course is Game Of Thrones.

The most pirated movies this year are movies from 2013. So when are the movie studios going to make these movies available on proper streaming services. The Wolf Of Wall Street finally made it to Netflix just a few weeks ago and it is a 12 month old movie.

Vinyl. Do you see dial-up internet and analog mobiles coming back or Amiga 500’s?

Speaking of vinyl, the fans as usual are getting ripped off. Vinyl is way overpriced, and if you purchase a vinyl record, you don’t get a digital download code. Some bands do it, especially in Pledge Music campaigns however if you purchase vinyl from an online store or a brick and mortar store, you get nothing.

Hellyeah’s “Blood For Blood” is a very underrated album and Tom Maxwell rose to the occasion as a songwriter and a guitarist.

Making money in music is still the same as it has always been. Jesse Leach from Killswitch Engage provides some truths.

Irving Azoff and Global Music Rights (his company) is representing artists in their demands that YouTube take down their music. If YouTube doesn’t comply they will be suing YouTube for billions. And the reason why they are going after Google is that they have been the least co-operative and that Google has failed to license the works properly, while Goolge maintains it has. Yep this is another lawsuit to protect the 1% and nothing else.

The streaming argument is always loaded with emotion and no intelligence. Look at the facts. Pandora pays differently, Spotify pays differently and so does YouTube. Artists get a different payday and the songwriters get a different payday. If the artist is also the songwriter then they get a different payday. But when you add into the mix the record labels (who normally get the monies as the copyright holders) and the Publishing groups (who get a share) and the Performance Rights groups (who also get a share) and the Managers and the Accountants and the Legal teams and you get to see how decent payouts trickle into low payments back to the artist.

To prove my point a silent album experiment earned an independent band $20,000 for a 3 month period. And there stream counts had nothing on the numbers that the bigger artists generate. Goes to show what can happen if you cut out a lot of middle people.

Old men attached to the old ways are still running the music business. Take away their radio lifeline and the labels would be clueless as to what to do.

Data is sales. Why do you think Metallica and Iron Maiden hit markets and sell out straight away? Hell, Metallica is going to hit the road again in 2015. When a band can see huge numbers in certain cities from P2P traffic, streams, Shazam look up and they have the means to hit the road, they do.

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Music, My Stories, Piracy

We Gravitate To What We Believe Is Popular

Artists like Sebastian Bach and Robb Flynn have asked the question, What does a Facebook like mean these days? In the words of Dark Helmet, “Absolutely Nothing”.

Music is a popularity contest. There is no doubt about that, however popularity doesn’t mean Facebook likes. What we do know is that likes are unreliable indicators of a band’s impact. The music business is all about connecting so many different dots to solve the puzzle. This is where we’ve arrived, the data-centric world and these raw statistics leave a lot of artists out. And they don’t like it.

The number one complaint in the music business is that artists can’t make any money. If you want to make money then make music that people want to listen to. Difficult but not impossible.

Revolutions occur in music all the time. Normally those revolutions happened in musical styles. However when it comes to the reporting side of things, well that was all controlled and monopolised by the recording industry.

The Billboard charts reported what was sold and what was played. All the parties involved lied and bribed each other to play certain records or to promote certain albums. This led to an era that if we believed that a song or album was popular we were more likely to buy it. Hell the same parties even controlled MTV.

Now everyone is looking at charts based on what we are listening.

Seen Ratt’s Spotify stats recently. Even though each album from the Eighties moved over a million units, what the fans really wanted was the great songs. And lucky for Ratt, each album had a great or decent song that would be used to market the album.

I want to go back to 1985. Twisted Sister released “Come Out And Play”. The fans of the band purchased it and played it death (maybe except for “Be Cruel To Your School” and “Leader Of The Pack”). However the album was deemed a commercial failure according to the reporting arms of the recording industry.

While the big albums “You Cant Stop Rock N Roll” and “Stay Hungry” are on Spotify, “Come Out And Play” is not available for streaming officially. But that is typical of the industry because Spotify is controlled by corporations and some of those corporations are the record labels. So as is the norm, those record labels think they know best when it comes to music. However on YouTube the whole album is there.

Why is it on YouTube?

Because the fans of the album put the music up. The fans are sharing their love of the album and people are listening to it because while fans have a history of music at their fingertips and can search for any artist they like the biggest playlist on Spotify is “Today’s Top Hits”. On the rock side, there is a rock playlist called “Rock Classics” that has close to 530,000 followers.

So with everything available under the sun, music fans still prefer to listen to what we think everyone else is hearing. Much like how we purchased albums in the Eighties based on what we thought everyone else was buying.

 

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Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Chapter 1

Metallica has been in the news recently with the release of the updated “Some Kind Of Monster” and it got me thinking about their movie “Through The Never”. Apart from the live footage, the movie was pretty shit, but man, it could have been so much better. There is a wealth of material and inspiration to be found in Metallica songs.

And that is the purpose of this post. Me playing around with Metallica songs to come up with a little story.

Enjoy.

CHAPTER 1

— 1961 —

A striking Asian woman is holding her baby that she has just given birth to. Dr Hetfield has just entered the room, observing the scene and then looking at the woman.

“Do you have a name?” asks Dr Hetfield. The woman smiles for the first time.

“Walter” replies the woman as she hands him the wrapped child. The baby starts to cry as Dr Hetfield starts to walk away.

“Where are you taking my baby?” asks the woman, feeling a bit agitated.

Dr Hetfield ignores the question and keeps on walking down the hallway. The baby keeps on screaming. The mother is screaming for the nurses to help her however they just stand and stare.

“Please bring him back?” howls the woman. She tries to get up and realises that she is now restrained in the bed. When did that happen?

The doctor finally turns around. He makes eye contact with the woman for only a second. It’s enough. A chill goes through her as the eyes of the doctor fade to black. It unsettles the woman. The baby cries even louder and then the doctor disappears around the corridor and the cries of the baby cease.

The room the woman is in then returns back to normal. The nurses that just stood still and stared seem bewildered. The woman is screaming at them that a doctor took her baby. The nurses look confused and whisper to themselves.

“I’m sorry, that can’t be possible”, answers the taller nurse. “No paediatric doctor is on duty today”.

The woman screams.

— Current Day — The City Of Carpe Diem

The 8.32am bus starts to approach the bus stop. The cigarette smokers take their last desperate drags before they board. Women grab their children by their hands and school students with backpacks hang back. A face inside the train watches the stream of passengers enter the bus. The amount of people entering is way more than the available seats.

Fixxxer is a man in his early thirties. The bus starts to pull out as a pretty brunette takes the spare seat next to him. She pulls out a magazine to read.

“You into sports?”

“I work for an agency that deals with a lot of sports people”, answers the woman.

“I had to make a decision once about being a pro athlete or trying to make it in the music business.”

The woman smiles. “Is that right? It looks like you regret the choice”.

Fixxxer laughs.

“Which star are you meeting today?”

“I’m meeting a player. He’s a midfielder. You like football?” replies the woman.

There is a loud sound as a truck passes them at high-speed in the opposite direction. It breaks the mood of the conversation and the woman goes back to her magazine. An awkward silence.

Fixxxer is about to ask her another question, however the woman points to her ring finger.

“I think you got the wrong idea”.

The woman is a bit unsettled as she gets up and moves to the back of the bus. She balances herself against the bars as the bus picks up speed to get past the orange light.

Fixxxer feels like an idiot. He rests his head against the window. The vibration of the bus calms him. The shaking of the glass is getting stronger. Fixxxer looks out the window. The outside scenery is all a blur. The bus is picking up speed. And then the high-pitched sounds of tyres screeching as the bus takes a turn.

A few heavy-set dudes at the front try to make a pass at the driver however they cannot get to him. It’s like some invisible force field is present. The driver turns for a brief second and Fixxxer is certain that the driver’s eyes faded to black.

Fixxxer looks to the passengers around him as their side of the bus starts to rise.

— 1974 —

E.B is shaken and bloodied. His last mission in Vietnam went bad. Real bad. In three days, he will be boarding a plane back home. He doesn’t even know what home means anymore.

Edward Breadfan, otherwise known as ‘E.B’ is the son of the town mayor and in high school he was the local sporting hero. However, like all good young kids, he was drafted into the army and sent to the frontlines of Vietnam.

E.B in the end wanted to go, so whatever strings his father pulled to get him out of duty, it was all for nothing. That was four years ago and how E.B wishes that he could go back and accept his father’s offer. A body is pulled from the chopper. It is actually the torso of E.B’s best friend, Kirk One-Ta.

E.B told the superiors that it was an enemy landline that did it.

And those black eyes on the Vietcong soldier E.B will never forget. He was told that they didn’t exist and now they know about E.B as well.

— CURRENT DAY — The City of Devils Dance

Stone D.F believes that all truth is lies, a bunch of invalid viewpoints that the rich and powerful have put together to show their viewpoint of the world. Throughout his life, Stone has been called a liar. The scars of life are all over his body.

“You see, Orion, I took chances, risks, you know what I’m saying” Stone grunted in between a drag and blow of his cigarette.

Orion certainly believes that Stone took chances. Any person that just glances at Stone sees it.

“The last chance I took almost got me through the never,” continued Stone.

For Stone, when he refers to “the never” it means the end of the line because no one can know what comes after death. Heaven or hell is again another viewpoint put out there by wealthy organisations as a form of control. In this case it is packaged nicely as a little black book called the Holy Bible. Hell, the most definitive version of the Holy Bible is the King James Version. That is enough proof for Stone that it is all bullshit.

“If only I would have known what was in store for me when I took that offer.”

 

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Music, My Stories

Life in December

I am physically rooted.

December is a hard month on the body.

It all started on December 4. That was my nieces birthday. Plenty of food and drink. Drink for me equals alcoholic drink.

Then on December 10 it was my other nieces birthday. Again plenty of food and drink.

On December 12, it was my work Christmas Lunch that ended up going into the night. That was one more drink than food.

Then on the 17th it was my IT team lunch. This was in-house so plenty of food and soft drink.

Then I had my sixteen year anniversary on December 20. Again plenty of food and drink.

For the first few years of my marriage, my wife and I exchanged gifts. Sometimes we agreed to not worry about it. Other years I got her gifts or flowers and got nothing in return. Which is okay for me, if I don’t get nothing back. This year, we agreed that no gifts is to be on n the menu. So the day comes, we wake up and wish each other happy anniversary.

However, my wife is acting strange. I ask what is going on and she keeps on telling me that she is just tired. We got out to dinner later that night with the kids. We came home and my wife goes to bed while I stay up with the kids. The next day at her sister’s house she drops the bomb. She is upset because I didn’t get her flowers.

Then on December 25, we had Christmas lunch at our place. Again more food and drink.

And today, December 28, we had my youngest son three-year birthday party. Again more food and drink and New Years is still to come.

My body is rooted.

And one last thing,  all the best to everyone for the New Year.

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

The War Between Money and Art

The music industry is a thriving industry. It always was and still is. History has shown that musicians have expressed themselves lyrically without interference in their vision. They have been creative and innovative. However, with the rise of the recording industry and the money pyramids that industry created, the musical vision was compromised. Greed became more important than the vision. Once our heroes attained riches, the songs post “most successful album” just didn’t connect or resonate anymore.

As kids growing up, we fall in love with music, the melodies, the riffs, the lyrics, the phrasing and that free rebellious feeling that it inspires in us. Music always captured a sense of time and place. I could hear a song that I haven’t heard in ages and immediately it places me back in a time and a place of my past.

Music is about the creative individual and how they express their creativity. Great creativity equals success and success equals profits. When money enters the game and people who contribute nothing musically start to live a very comfortable life from those profits, then all they care about is keeping those profits the same plus a little bit more. That is why pop music suffered in the Eighties while Metal and Rock took a foothold. Metal and hard rock was honest and real. However once it became a commercial viable product, commerce took over and metal/rock became stale, until Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Guns N Roses blew open the paradigm again and suddenly every label was chasing similar style of bands or getting their current roster to emulate those two bands.

Impose any financial and marketing frameworks on creativity and you get compromised art.

Conformity.

A business that is 100% about profit.

And the very thing that brought money into the industry in the first place and made the industry so popular is sacrificed. What was free and rebellious becomes controlled and processed. In 2014, the songwriters from Sweden have this down pat, which is no surprise as Sweden did give the world IKEA, which sells generic and bland ready-to-assemble furniture, much like the pop industry right now, bland ready to listen music.

The songwriter of the two thousands is without doubt Max Martin, a Swede. Taylor Swifts pop career has been written by Max Martin. Britney Spears career has Max Martin all over it. Bon Jovi’s comeback hit “It’s My Life”, yep that had Max Martin as well on it. Pink’s “Please Don’t Leave Me” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” also had Max Martin all over it.

And where did Max Martin start his career. It was as a singer in a metal/rock band called “It’s Alive”. The band was a stepping stone to meeting other people and eventually he got into song writing and at the moment his team is known as an “assembly line song writing team”. Martin is that big in Sweden, that the Swedes will now be able to lick him via his own postage stamp.

It’s a thin line as artists want to be paid for their creations and record labels want to make money of art that they have funded. Add to that mix songwriters like Martin who also want to get paid along with the publishers. However all sides are forgetting the crucial unknown, the FANS.

The casual music fans will lap up the trashy, mass-marketed pop music and any other music that crosses over into the pop stratosphere. The niche fans will bank roll their heroes forever and a day. Think of Shinedown as an example. They crossed over with “The Sounds of Madness” album and had platinum parties for singles and album sales in excess of a million. The follow-up, while still popular moved half of its predecessor. What that means is that the original niche fans of the band still purchased the album, the merchandise and the concert tickets while the casual fans streamed it and purchased the concert tickets, as Shinedown did big business at the box office on the Amaryllis tour.

But the question in all of this is that labels are seeing a future where the artists are tied to corporate ‘brands’. With this kind of business mindset, would another Dream Theater, Pantera, Machine Head or Metallica even come to be.

How can an artist be free to express their musical vision if they are tied to a corporate brand whose only interest is profit and commerce.

George Orwell said that “Myths which are believed in tend to become true” and the recording industry via the RIAA and the Publishing firms are all about making myths into truths. However Orwell also said that “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act” and that is what the Internet has allowed. The internet has allowed people to tell the truth or to offer a differing viewpoint then the one that is pushed by the lobbyists and the copyright industries.

For artists it is all about the song. That is your ticket and your bargaining chip. The song is your entry into the business. A lot of songs equals a body of work (not an album). But you need to work it, and you need to connect.

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

The Master At Re-Interpretation: Joe Cocker (R.I.P)

When I started to play guitar in the Eighties I was obviously into the whole metal and hard rock scene. As far as I was concerned, it had to be all pedal point riffs, fast eighth or sixteenth notes and a whole lot of shred thrown in. I was self-taught for about three years however my dad kept on pushing me to go to a guitar teacher.

My dad got the number of a teacher from a work colleague of his, who had has son visiting the same teacher. To cut a long story short, the lessons were structured on theory, rhythm, scales and it ended with the teacher (his name was Michael) showing me a song to play. Michael asked me in advance to give him a list of hard rock and metal songs that I want to learn so that he could figure them out and show me. I told him that I got that part covered and I would like him to show me songs that he likes regardless of what styles they are or from what artist they are.

I must say it was a dead set eye opener. Apart from sitting down and learning songs outside of the style I was interested, I also learnt the art of melody, better chord placements and vocal phrasing. Overall these sessions made me a better musician and a songwriter. It changed my viewpoints from being just a guitar player to being a band player and to play for the song instead of the glory of the solo.

“Bad Moon Rising”, “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay”, “Mr Bojangles”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “I Shot The Sherriff”, “Knockin On Heavens Door”, “Imagine”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Lambada” happened in the first 9 weeks. Then we started with some Beatles songs like “Yesterday”, “All My Loving”, “Come Together”, “Let It Be”, “Day Tripper”, “Eight Days A Week” and eventually we got to “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

And that is where Joe Cocker comes into my life. It was his version of the song that I remembered. So I started to study some of his most well-known songs and I found out that he didn’t write any of them. But it was his re-interpretations of those songs that made him a superstar. Some people are great at just writing songs, some people are great at writing and performing their own songs, while others are great at re-interpreting other people’s songs. That is Joe Cocker.

His fame is tied to what he did with the words of other songwriters. And Cocker (along with his collaborator’s) chose well.

“She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “With A Little Help from My Friends” released in 1969 and 1968 respectively. “She Came In” was Cocker’s big U.S hit at the time, while “With A Little Help” was his big U.K hit.

“Delta Lady” released in 1969 was written by Leon Russell. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” also released in 1969 was written Nina Simone and covered in 1965 by the Animals. “Feelin Alright” was written by Dave Mason with Traffic.

“The Letter” released in 1970 was a song from 1967 by the band Box Tops. An upbeat rock version of “Cry Me a River” was released in 1970 by Cocker however the song’s roots go back to 1953 and it was written by Arthur Hamilton. “You Are So Beautiful” released in 1974 was written by Bill Preston whose original version first appeared in 1974 however it was Cockers slowed down version courtesy of producer Jim Price that made the song a hit.

Cocker’s biggest single came in 1982, when ‘Up Where We Belong,’ a duet with singer-songwriter Jennifer Warnes’ from the movie ‘An Officer and a Gentleman,’ stayed at No. 1 for three weeks. This is one song that wasn’t a cover of a previous song, however it was written by a song writing committee in Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings.

Then in 1986, “You Can Leave Your Hat On” came out. The song was written by Randy Newman and it goes back to 1972. “Unchain My Heart” was released in 1987. The song was written by Bobby Sharp and recorded first in 1961 by Ray Charles. Then in 1989 came “When The Night Comes” a song that wasn’t a cover, however it was written by hit songwriters in Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance and Diane Warren.

The point of all this.

In the mid-nineties I was in a band. We played three sets each night and got paid $150 each. The set up was bassist/vocalist, drummer and myself on guitar. The first set was originals. Hard rock originals. Think about that for a second. The mid-nineties was very hostile to hard rock bands, however we didn’t care. Anyway the second set involved covers from the sixties, seventies and eighties and the last set was all nineties modern rock songs. It was the second set that got the best applause.

The bassist and I had a knack for re-interpreting  songs. “Stormbringer” and “Knockin On Heavens Door” became one song with music coming from Deep Purple and the lyrics coming from Bob Dylan.

“Foxy Lady” and “Immigrant Song” became another song. “Born To Be Wild” and “Cum On Feel The Noize” was one more. “We Will Rock You” and “Long Way To The Top” also got merged. I am seeing a lot of this cross merging on the internet, especially between Metallica and Megadeth. Fans of the bands are doing their own merging and re-interpretations of the bands classic songs. One song that we didn’t change at all (and played within our originals set) was “Breaking The Law” from Judas Priest. And the grunge/industrial crowds we played to at the time lapped it up. They thought the songs were our own song and we didn’t tell them any different.

Throughout this whole phase, Joe Cocker was in the back of the mind. I kept on asking myself, how would Joe approach this song. Would he slow it down, speed it up, funk it up or just fuck it up.

Hell, our heroes hooked us with cover songs or crossed over into the mainstream because of cover songs. Motley Crue with “Smokin In The Boys Room”, Tesla with “Signs”, Machine Head with “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, Killswitch Engage with “Holy Diver” and many more.

As a musician, there is a lot to learn from re-interpreting other people’s songs. There are some songs that are just perfect for you and relate to you in a way that they could have been written by you. It’s okay to cover songs and to have a career based on your re-interpretations of cover songs.

Rest in peace Joe Cocker, you showed me that music is much more than the clichéd “these songs are my children” point of view.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

D.A.T.A

In a November 1992 issue of the Hot Metal magazine that I used to buy, there was a quote said that stuck with me for all of the wrong reasons.

“We want to make money”
Star-Star vocalist Johnnie Holliday.

The reason why it stuck with me was that every single musician I was working with during that period and beyond had the same viewpoint.

Blame MTV.

Suddenly our musical heroes became TV stars. Artists that were big in the Seventies crossed over to super stardom during this period. New artists starting off would end up moving millions of units because of a video clip. Suddenly every prospective musician wanted a piece of that money pie, without fully understanding that the decks are stacked against them from the start.

Fast forward to 2014 and the making money argument is still there. The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn 77 percent of all the revenue from recorded music.

Just because a person decides to create music, it doesn’t mean that they will make money from it. There is no guarantee and there never was. A music career is no different to a small business start-up. Some will succeed and others will not. Some of those that succeed will go on to greater success and from those that go on to greater success, you will get maybe 1 or 2 that will crossover in a big way.

But to make money, the artist needs data and they need to understand what that data means. Basically, data is king and it is a shame that the recording industry has taken so long to understand that.

Universal Music Group uses a database called Artist Portal that was built by interns (who are employees now) five years ago. About a year ago Warner Music created “Artist Dashboard”. Sony Music Entertainment on the other hand has so many separate dashboards in play that they need a whole analytics team to eyeball everything. Guess they have more important issues on their minds right now dealing with hack after hack after hack.

However the labels are still not getting the full picture. What they should be doing is to also compare the artists reach on P2P networks and the countries where it’s happening, even down to the cities. And the data has to be made available to artists in real-time. In the end, the artists are the ones that keep the wheels rolling on the label machine.

And the question needs to be asked. What are the metal labels like Nuclear Blast, Roadrunner, AFM, Metal Blade, Century Media, Spinefarm, etc. doing for their artists? How are they capturing and analysing data for the artists on their roster?

20 million searches take place on Shazam every day. So how many metal and hard rock labels use the data that Shazam generates?

It has been downloaded over 500 million times and even though it’s main user interface is about identifying unfamiliar songs, it’s big secret is that it is an early detection tool for songs that could break through.

Think about that for a second.

By using the data that fans generate, Shazam can identify which songs are having an impact and in what cities/countries. Of course it is great for the pop music business however I am sure it is an under-utilised tool when it comes to metal and hard rock music. How much more evidence does the recording industry need to know that “the wisdom of the fans” is law.

Bands can target what cities to promote in and eventually play in if they had that data. The future is here and data is directing the music business. That is why the big labels still rule. They have the money to throw at compiling DATA.

The barrier to entry may be low, but the barrier to success is higher than ever.

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