Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Copyright Games

It is big dollars to an artist when they sell their copyrights to a business entity to administer. For example. Downtown Music Publishing will have paid Nikki Sixx some dollars to acquire his Motley Crue song catalogue.

Deals like these are meant to be a partnership between publisher and artist where both benefit. The Publisher forks out some cash as an incentive and then aims to recoup that investment by licensing the songs to commercials, movie/tv placements, gaming or some other outlet that requires music. The publisher keeps a portion of the income and then charges an administration fee on the rest.

But, these days, publishers and record labels have amassed a lot of copyrights and when they have business models based on holding these copyrights, you have a copyright system that benefits a corporation more than an artist. So that gives them power in negotiations.

And is YouTube really that bad to the recording industry. Read the Guardian article about how the existing power players believe YouTube is “anti-artist”.

So can someone tell me how these existing power players find  a hardware maker called Apple as “artist-friendly” and how those same people find a music service like Spotify and Pandora as “anti-artist”. Let’s not kid ourselves here. Most artists (old and majority of new) want the 1980’s pay structure, the signing bonus, the $20 CD, even though it cost the label, $1 to make. But these same people love free gmail, free Facebook, free something else. And yet they still scream to be paid like it’s the 80’s. As the Guardian article states;

“Although many have a conflicted relationship with YouTube, there is a generational conflict dividing the field. Those in the “old” music industry want to keep things the way they always were, nailing down copyright in every way possible. Yet around them a “new” business is emerging – prescient and whip-smart artists, managers, labels and media organisations – who see YouTube as a facilitator of a creative renaissance rather than a death sentence.”

Is the system perfect?

Of course not, however neither was the music eco-system when the record labels controlled it and due to lobbying the labels had a government granted monopoly on it. But would the artist prefer. Napster like piracy that offered $0 into the eco-system or a platform that offers millions. And when you combine this platform with other streaming platforms and other ways to monetise music, you get to see different income streams. Because the people have spoken and they don’t want overpriced CD’s.

“With all the major label contracts coming up for renegotiation it makes absolute sense [to attack it]. These are huge businesses run by intelligent people and as much as it’s a mud-slinging exercise at the moment, I am hopeful they will reach a middle ground where artists are being [properly] remunerated and YouTube continues to grow its platform and its offerings to artists. YouTube has given us and many independent artists an audience and an opportunity to build a brand. That’s allowed us to exercise a business that goes far beyond what’s on YouTube.”

And with all of these deals being made, the companies holding the copyrights want the Government to step in and change the royalty rates because the artist is getting screwed and not them. So, on one side you have Music publishers like ASCAP and BMI, along with their “stars” arguing that streaming has led to a reduction in songwriters’ income. Lucky the Justice Department of the US declined their request.

“And in a move that has caused widespread worry throughout the music publishing world — the side of the business that deals with the lucrative copyrights for songwriting — the government has also said that, according to its interpretation of the consent decrees, the music agencies must change a major aspect of how they license music. The agencies must now adopt a policy known as “100 percent licensing,” which means that any party who controls part of a composition can issue a license for the whole thing. In the case of major pop hits, which tend to have many songwriters, there can sometimes be a dozen or more parties involved.”

And now the business model based these publishers have based on a government granted monopoly by extending copyright laws is threatened by another government decision. But hey, “artist friendly” Apple is putting in their own request to increase the royalties because if that does happen, it will kill off all of Apple’s competitors like Spotify and Pandora. And then Apple will have a business model based on another government granted monopoly.

Seriously to see how fucked up copyright is, the fact that a politician needed to settle with Rude Music, the company owned by Frank Sullivan from Survivor for $25,000 because of “copyright infringement” is a joke. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used “Eye of the Tiger” during a rally. And this is somehow copyright infringement because Rude Music believes he should have asked for permission. The truth is, Frank Sullivan doesn’t agree with views of the politician and wants the populace vote.

And Queen has joined a long list of artists to send cease and desist letters to Donald Trump because even though his campaign does the right thing and pays a licensing fee to the publishers to use songs in their catalogue, if the artist disagrees with the views of the politicians they believe they have a power to stop it. All in the name of being liked.

To close out my rant, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation sums up my copyright argument in one nice paragraph.

And on it goes. Again and again, large content owners seem to think that the only way to fight unauthorized media consumption is to expand copyright. But more copyright won’t change users’ behavior. What it will do is chill innovation and free expression online. The way to bring in more paying customers isn’t to write new law; it’s to build a better product and get it to more customers at the right price.

 

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Volbeat

I’ve got a lot of time for Volbeat. For any aspiring artist who believes all they need to do is write a song and everyone will love it, read no further. For any aspiring artists that wants the truth about the music business and how hard you need to work, then read on.

Volbeat without a doubt are a hard-working band, that tours like crazy, building their audience, city by city, state by state, country by country. Known in Europe prior to 2010, it wasn’t until Metallica put them as openers on the U.S Death Magnetic trek that Volbeat started to get traction in the U.S. And then their albums started selling. And then they went out on their own, and the shows kept on selling out.

But the story of Volbeat goes back a long time.

Michael Poulsen from Volbeat was in a death metal band called Dominus from 1991 to 2000. Then he formed Volbeat in 2001, a pseudo supergroup of extreme metal musicians. His musical journey began 10 years before Volbeat was formed and almost 20 years before he broke through in the lucrative U.S market.

Their first album came out in 2005. American success came knocking in 2012. To U.S audiences, Poulsen became an overnight success however that success was a long time in the making and a large part of those years dealt with being ignored.

The very essence of the internet is that only excellence rises to the top. And that which rises and lasts usually has an innovative twist to it. Volbeat merged rockabilly, country and metal into a commercial property. A band like Coheed and Cambria introduced a whole new style of storytelling, making each album a mass media event that involved novels, comics and music. When Metallica broke out they merged the NWOBHM scene with fast tempos and then with progressive time changes. When Rage Against The Machine broke out they merged rap with classic rock pentatonic riffs aided by Morello’s grasp of effects. When Tool broke out, they merged various prog rock acts with new wave acts with metal acts into a cacophony of sounds and style known as Tool.

Recognition and success comes much later . In Volbeat’s case their entry in the mainstream American market was a long time coming. Hell their first gold certification in the U.S was 20 years in the making. It is the lifers who last. The success they had in the U.S from 2010 onwards, is based on a song that was released on their 2008 album. Eventually the audience will catch up with the artist and when it happens the artist needs to be around to capitalise on it. Volbeat released “Outlaw Gentlemen And Shady Ladies” in 2013, and they still had their 2010 album “Beyond Heaven, Above Hell” selling decent numbers.

How many artists today can claim that stat?

The hardest thing today is to make a new fan or to get people to check you out. So anywhere music can be played, your stuff should be there. Volbeat do just that. Check out their Spotify stats if you don’t believe me.

“Still Counting” is at 52,740,671 streams. From the new album, “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” is at 8,405,750 streams. For comparison, Metallica is the biggest metal band on the planet and “Enter Sandman” is at 87,118,248 streams. As you can see, Volbeat are not that far off when it comes to listens.

And if you haven’t checked the new album, Volbeat sealed the deal with me via three songs.

“The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”

Falling from the sky
Cast out from heaven’s light
Drenching the soil with blood
Baptized in the fire hole

It’s storytelling.

They gathered all the children outside the church
And never would they know what went on in there
Close the door and hear all the angels scream
Oh mercy, mercy, mercy, oh mercy please

I really dig the swampy sludgy feel of the tune. It’s classic metal/rock.

“Black Rose”

A sixties bubblegum vibe/feel smashes head on with a heavy metal freight train. That is the only way I can explain this addictive song.

Left my heart on the shelf for way too long
Sick and tired, picking up from the dirty floor
I saw the line of snakes that came to me

“Seal The Deal”

Sold my soul and signed my name in blood
Stole it back, now praying in the dark
Fooled the devil, begging for a fight
Count the dollars, make your bet tonight

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

Albums

“Blizzard Of Ozz” is 39 minutes long. A year later, “Diary Of A Madman” comes out and it clocks in at 42 minutes.  Ozzy built his career on these albums. Two albums in two years.

“You Can’t Stop Rock’N’Roll” from Twisted Sister is 38 minutes long. A year later, “Stay Hungry” comes out as a tight, nine-song, 37-minute set. Like Ozzy, Twisted Sister built their career on the backs of these albums.

“Kill Em All” is 51 minutes long. “Ride The Lightning” is 47 minutes long. “Master of Puppets” is 54 minutes long. Three albums in the space of three years and Metallica’s career is defined and built. In comparison, “Death Magnetic” is 75 minutes long and we are approaching EIGHT years between releases with the opus scheduled for an October release.

“The Number Of The Beast” is 39 minutes long . “Piece Of Mind” is 45 minutes long and “Powerslave” is 51 minutes long. In the space of three years, Iron Maiden built a career on the backs of these three albums. In comparison, “Book Of Souls” is 92 minutes long and it was released six years after their previous album.

“Highway To Hell” is 41 minutes long. “Back In Black” is 42 minutes long. “For Those About To Rock” is 40 minutes long. Three defining albums in the space of three years and AC/DC went from an Australian band to global superstars. In comparison, “Black Ice” is 55 minutes long and “Rock Or Bust” is a return to a normal time length of 35 minutes long. Although the quality is just not there and their main riff meister is missing in action.

“Heaven And Hell” is 39 minutes long and a year later “Mob Rules” came in at 40 minutes in length. Two albums in two years and Black Sabbath’s career is resurrected as a commercial force. For Ronnie James Dio, it was 5 studio albums and six years, and when the 42 minute long “Holy Diver” dropped in 1983, the foundations to Dio’s solos career are set.

What are these figures trying to say?

You don’t need 60 to 90 minutes’ worth of new music to be released on one slab at one time every two to three years. People don’t have spare hours. They have spare minutes. You need 30 to 40 minutes of new music to be released more frequently. Based on the past, bands got traction by releasing new music every 12 months.

Labels want albums because it is easier to charge money RIGHT NOW when there is a bundle of songs involved. Artists want albums, because they grew up on them and they want to be like their heroes and make a statement.

However the album means nothing to the listener who has a digital music collection. While the label heads and the artist want to be paid right now, the fan/listener thinks differently. And the difference between now and the past, is that the listener can influence the outcome.

You buy a track or an album and you could play it once. Maybe you could play it a hundred times or a thousand times or a million times. The artist and their label will never know how many times you played the track. All they will know is the ONE sale and all the money they would have received is from the ONE sale. But if you stream a track a million times, the artist will know. But listens pay less than sales and listens pay when a track is streamed! And if it is streamed a lot it will pay.

So…

Focus on listens. Fans are made by listens. We can talk about albums, but most people are listening to songs. And if a track has longevity, then so does the career of the artist.

Like when I go to “Blizzard Of Ozz”, I listen to “Goodbye To Romance”, “Mr Crowley” and “Crazy Train” as a must.

When I go to “The Number Of The Beast”, I listen to “Children Of The Damned” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” as a must.

Of course there are other tracks that I like depending on moods, but the ones mentioned are essentials for me.

Listens are everything and based on how copyright law is designed to last the life of the artist plus 70 years after death, the copyright holder will get paid on each and every listen, forever. And the focus should not be on making an album-length statement of 60 to 90 minutes. It should be about putting out a song that can be listened to, over and over again.

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Music, My Stories

Dokken 2016

It’s October 1989 and the issue of “Guitar World” hits the newsstands. It was a period of change for a lot of guitarists. Steve Stevens was on the cover with the headline, “Life After Billy Idol” and right next to Stevens was a boxed picture of George Lynch with the headline “Bye-Bye Dokken”.

Hard rock and metal was a commercial behemoth in the 80’s and in a lot of the bands that tasted “success”, you always had a guitarist that could have, should have, would have, stolen the spotlight from the lead singer. So it was no surprise towards the end of the Eighties, those guitarists actually breaking free from the band and going out on their own or via a new band where they are the band leader.

Think Jake E. Lee, Steve Vai, George Lynch, Steve Stevens, Zakk Wylde and Slash all going their own ways.

But this post is about Dokken, a very talented band mired in chaos and resentment. The fact that Don Dokken got a record deal under his own name via songs written by George Lynch and Mick Brown was enough of an earthquake to shake the foundations.

So when a band from this era gets back together for the money, what should we expect?

As Don Dokken puts it;

“I approached George and Jeff, and I said, ‘You guys wanna make a s—load of money for about one week of work?’ And I told them the price, and I told them how much I wanted and how much they’d make, and, basically, they could make more money in one week than they’d probably make in several years. And so everybody said, ‘Okay,’”. So I said, ‘Well, I’ll do it on the condition that I don’t wanna do it in America or Europe or anywhere else. Just six shows in Japan.’ ‘Cause we were very big in Japan, and it’s just a reunion tour. So they agreed, and we’re gonna do six shows in Japan.”

25 plus years from 1989, one thing is certain; the sound and the songs do not remain the same. I for one would pay to see the band live if they came to Australia, however it would be for nostalgic reasons more than anything.

The last time the members of the classic 1980s lineup got together was for on November 29, 2009 at the House of Blues in Anaheim, California for a two-song encore of “When Heaven Comes Down” and “In My Dreams”. Reunion talks happened and went.

A recent set list from Lynch Mob show attended by 200 fans, shows that George Lynch should be in fine form to play the songs.

Included in the 12 song Lynch Mob set are “When Heaven Comes Down”, “Into the Fire”, “The Hunter”, “Mr. Scary” and “Tooth and Nail” from Lynch’s Dokken days. Would “Mr Scary” make an appearance in a Dokken concert in 2016. Even Don Dokken had a dig at the Lynch Mob “bar gigs”.

“I feel bad for my agents, ’cause they’re getting bombarded from these offers for us to play these big festivals all over the world as a reunion, but I’m just not interested. I’m sorry, I’m just not. Jeff’s busy. He plays like crazy in Foreigner. He’s on the road. George is out, you know, playing the bars with Lynch Mob, so everybody’s busy.”

I am just picturing Lynch asking Dokken why he said what he said before the first show of the reunion. Because if you believe what Jeff Pilson said on Mitch Lafon’s podcast, there should be no more digs at each other;

“We’re actually working really hard to try and pull something together right now. It has to fall in spaces where there is time off [from my gig with FOREIGNER], so I don’t know for sure whether it’s gonna happen. So let’s just say we’re all friendly now, we’re all past all the decades-old crap, and we all talk and everything’s great. Now it really is just down to scheduling and trying to figure it out. Because, you know, you’ve gotta do it right, if you’re gonna do it. We all feel that way.”

Guess Don Dokken has gotten over the decades old crap.

Is the drama of Dokken worth it?

A Japanese promoter believes so. But being huge back in the 80’s doesn’t mean you are still huge right now because bands need to replenish their fan base with the younger generations.

Has Dokken done enough to replenish its 80’s fanbase with kids born in the Nineties and Two Thousands?

Is it about the fans or more about the payday?

So many questions, yet so few answers. One thing is certain, expect to hear more Dokken stories as the shows get closer.

Pilson is already talking about a musical track that he and Lynch wrote and sent to Don for lyrics and vocal melodies. If Don, doesn’t complete it, would there be resentment?

For me, Dokken holds a special place and the fact that on their day they could be one of the heaviest speed metal bands around (think “Tooth and Nail”, “Turn On The Action”, “Lightning Strikes Again”, “Kiss Of Death”, etc…) or the most melodic poppy metal band out there with “In My Dreams”, “Just Got Lucky”, “Alone Again”, “Into The Fire”, “Heaven Sent”, etc.. is brilliant.

I suppose we all should get ready for Dokken 2016 and the stories the reunion would bring to our lives.

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