A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Changes

Love him or hate him, one thing is certain. Nikki Sixx is a lifer in the music business and once he and Allen Kovacs got back control of Motley’s catalogue in the late 90’s, they went about reinventing his image and persona, until he became bigger than the rest of the Crue guys combined.

Sixx A.M. released “The Heroin Diaries” back in 2007. The album along with the book was an instant purchase because Crue was my favourite band in the 80’s. Their attitude, their pop choruses, the street life lyrics and their simple but effective riffage all connected with me. And even though I had many different guitarists’ as influences, Crue showed the world that you don’t have to be the most gifted musicians to write effective songs that connect.

The 10th year anniversary edition of “The Heroin Diaries” came out today, so I’m giving it a few spins. And you know what; it stands the test of time. It’s a pretty good album. My favourites still are “Life Is Beautiful”, “Accidents Can Happen”, “The Girl With Golden Eyes”, “Van Nuys” and “Pray For Me”. The first three songs I mentioned also get a 2017 treatment.

Man, 10 years is a long time in music. You could be here and then you could be gone. You could be the star of the scene or then you could be forgotten.

Think about it. In 1989, the Crue released “Dr Feelgood”. By 1999, the Crue was creatively non-existent. But that was back in the era of when the record labels controlled the industry.

The internet has given bands a longer life span. Yes, the net has created so much noise, which makes it hard to rise above, however the internet and piracy to a large extent has spread the music of bands to every single corner of the world. Which means that someone right now is listening to an artist they’ve never heard before. Changes are a-happening.

In 2007, Avril Lavigne had the best-selling record globally. She hasn’t released anything since 2013 and you don’t even hear about her in the news. But once upon a time she was everywhere. She might be the star again. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t. Fall Out Boy had the best-selling album in the U.S in 07 however Fall Out Boy has the rock work ethic and they have been consistently putting out new product since then. They have a new one coming in 2018. Some of it sticks and some of it doesn’t.

The TV show that was popular in 2007 is not here anymore and the pirate sites you visited to get your content fix are gone and there is a high chance you are paying monies to a streaming service. Because in the end, that’s all we really wanted, access to products. Not ownership. Changes are a-happening.

In 1997, used to be the sale was the transaction. In 2007, the label still saw the sale as the transaction because that’s all they knew but it was an irrelevant metric. In 2017, the label still sees that sale as the transaction. However, it’s the listen. While society and consumerism has changed at a rapid pace, the labels and the charts are still stuck in an old paradigm. If you don’t believe me, check out the news stories on how the algorithms for the Billboard charts are changing yet again. First they changed to count something like 1200 streams as a sale. Now they are changing again to weight listens from paid streaming services higher than freemium listens.

Seriously WTF.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Attention 

Once upon a time I was thrilled to see my heroes in mainstream publications. But now there are a billion online outlets and we get most of our stories direct from the artist via social media. And the generation born from the mid 90’s onwards want an immediate bond with the artist, a connection. They don’t care about interviews artists do when they are releasing an album with magazines and blogs. By working in the old rules, the artist is handing over their own narrative to someone else to control. It doesn’t make sense especially when the tools are right in front of them to take ownership and tell their own story, the way they want to tell it. 

But humans do tend to be lazy.

EBay has 171 million users and it’s struggling to stay relevant. So how is any different for an artist. I constantly come across news stories of artists telling people who don’t care their streaming payment after a million streams. Want to make money in streaming, get over a 100 million streams. Want to make even more money, get over a billion streams. One thing is certain, streaming will pay you forever, so metal and rock fans need to stream en masse. 

Which means metal/rock bands need to get out of the “album mindset” and focus on the “continuous stream of product mindset”. If you want to win, you need to play, so it means you need to be in the marketplace all the time. The new way is to release music first and the hype comes after. But artists/record labels are still focused on hype first and then release.

There is money to be made, but the music needs to have longevity. It needs to sustain. Bubbling under the surface is better than exploding fast and then falling fast. And if something doesn’t work, you adjust on the fly. That’s how it works in the digital world. Nothing is set in stone. It’s chaos, anarchy. Artists need to create anarchy with their product instead of following the 1930’s marketing 101 rules.

And how many times have you heard of an act employing a scorched earth publicity campaign, which they hope will turn people onto the band or make people believe the band is bigger than what they really are. But they forgot that the music accompanying the release is of substandard quality. And it’s the music that will survive, not the publicity campaign.

Remember, all the digital places that lost our attention. It’s no different for an artist.

People will care about you; love what you do, your music and your connection to them via social media. Then some of those people will grow and change and fall out of love with what you do. You need to accept that and understand that your fans are telling you one thing; your style of music is not for them at this point in time. And once you are aware of this information, what will you do with it to get back their attention.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Streaming Action

All the action is in streaming. The oldsters hate it and the youngsters embrace it. 

Personally, I thought all the old acts I like would re-enter the charts because streaming would allow them to compete with the new acts. But none of the old acts have hit a billion streams. Maybe our favorite acts from the 80s are not as big as we thought they are. Maybe their fans still buy instead of stream.

One thing which is certain is that the new stars release a song and reach a billion streams within a week. 

Used to be you weren’t a star until you got a record deal and heard your song on the radio. We bought the records. That was the badge of honor, ownership. And you could not know the music unless you owned it. 

Then it was MTV. 

Then it was YouTube and now you’re not a star until you see your track in the Spotify Top 50 and just recently your not a star if you don’t have a song with a billion plus streams.

And the media keeps pushing stories about the small payments of recorded music to artists and songwriters, however revenues are going up on the back of streaming. If you ain’t making money, get a better deal because streaming will pay you forever. 

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

Copyright Rants 

Copyright is all over the news again.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is speaking out against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), accusing it of “misstating copyright law” in a submission it made to the US Government around stream ripping sites. 

The RIAA states the popularity of stream ripping sites is high and the traffic volumes the sites get inflicts enormous damage to the US record industry. 

It doesn’t look like the balance sheets of the record labels show any damage whatsoever. 

The EFF states stream ripping has legal uses and stream ripping of music audio might be covered by fair use. The EFF also states the RIAA is asking the US government to apply copyright law the way RIAA wishes it to be applied and the US government needs to apply Copyright law as it’s written.

Then you have the music publishers seeking a new licence for mechanical (songwriter) royalties.

It’s no secret streaming companies are having issues paying royalties on songs. The reasons are many. Some obvious ones are because the data of who wrote the song is not available or if it’s available, it’s not entirely correct. Blame the record labels/publishers for having no duty of care to hold the correct information and when they provided this information to the streaming services, it’s been lacking. So they are happy to take the money from streaming services and then fail the artists they are meant to represent when it comes time to compensate them. Add to the mix how Copyright pre-1972 is driven by state laws and what you have is a litigation mess.

Streaming services are meant to pay both mechanical rights and the performing rights of a song. For the performing rights, there is a blanket licence paid to BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and GMR. For the mechanical rights, rates are set by laws and the streaming service has to get in touch with each individual copyright owner, to tell them a song they are involved with is being exploited and how they will pay the royalty rate to them. So suddenly, a technology that wants to bring music to the masses is tasked with FINDING all of the Copyright owners.  

Makes me wonder what the record labels and publishers have been doing for the last 70 years.

 Of course, a blanket licence would simplify things. This also means another government granted monopoly needs to be created. And from past experiences, the songwriters will still get pennies while this new entity will make billions.

In Canada, the record labels are asking the government to change the copyright laws, so they can “offset internet-driven losses”.

“Our goal was to point at two changes that will put millions of dollars into the pockets of music creators and people who invest in them.”

Graham Henderson – Music Canada’s President

If the music creators got paid on a 70 (to the artist) / 30 (to the label) split, it would put millions of dollars into the pockets of the music creators. However, the splits are more like 80 to 90% to the record label which means the music creators would get hundreds to the thousands, while the label gets millions.

Because if Copyright is there to reward creators then why are the Spinal Tap creators taking Vivendi/ Universal Music to the courts.

“Further compounding this fraud, improper expense deductions were made in Vivendi’s accounting to the creators, allegedly representing print, advertising and publicity expenses (undocumented) totalling over $3.3 million and a further $1 million in freight and other direct costs, more than half of which extraordinarily appears to fall some 20 years after the film’s release. Vivendi has also recently charged over $460k in ‘interest’ on production advances for a film released in 1984 and $165k in ‘litigation expenses’ to the creators’ account. Vivendi clearly has no intention of honouring its obligations to account honestly or to fairly compensate the Spinal Tap creators for their work”.

So let me get this straight.

Vivendi owns the film rights via some past acquisitions and Universal owns the soundtrack (music) rights. Both of them are making up accounting transactions so the creators of the Spinal Tap movie and the soundtrack are shown as being in debt to the studio/label. 

35 years later. 

They are still in debt to the studio/label.

All they guys want to do is take back their copyrights. Copyright law was written to allow the creator to take back their copyrights after 35 years. But the corporate entity which currently holds the copyright is not letting go.

Don’t you just love how Copyright is there to benefit the corporate entity?

The corporation is well compensated while the creator is alive and even more so once the creator is dead.

Yep copyright is so far gone it’s not even funny anymore.

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Music, My Stories

80’s and Today

80’s
It was hard being a musician

Today
It’s still hard being a musician.

80’s
You wrote and performed music.

Today
You write and perform music, maintain an online presence, manage yourself, promote yourself, have to know your legal rights, organise your own shows, licensing, merchandise and more.

80’s
Labels paid money to run ads and the audience came with the time slot.

Today
The ad is free to run. Post your post, upload your video. Free.

80’s
We had a mailing list. Sometimes it would take weeks for mail to arrive.

Today
It takes seconds for a message to arrive and we look at the numbers on social media.

80’s
We did the hard work of building up a local fan base, city by city

Today
We want to take over the world in an instant.

80’s
The labels and the media measured attention via sales of recorded music.

Today
Well, attention is measure by likes, shares, views, streams, sales of physical, sales of digital, sales of tickets and so forth.

80’s
We looked for a record deal and the belief that fame and riches would follow.

Today
We know that there is no single solution. We know how record labels ripped off the artists.

80’s
We had two paths of getting our music out. The record label path or the do it yourself path.

Today
We have hundreds of paths for pushing our music out. We just need to work harder at it.

80’s
We didn’t know what a business strategy was.

Today
If you don’t have a business strategy, you are already behind the eight ball.

80’s
MTV was king.

Today
YouTube is king.

80’s
The entertainment industry could get away with creating laws to benefit their business model and then sponsoring politicians to get their laws passed.

Today
There is customer push back. SOPA and PIPA got squashed because the customers protested.

80’s
To discover new music, we needed to rely on a knowledgeable record store operator, gatekeepers, radio and expensive import magazines.

Today
We don’t know when new music comes out? There is just too much noise. Spotify Release Friday is one avenue. We have Google, YouTube, Bandcamp, Sound Cloud, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, blogs and many more.

80’s
We only had one home phone.

Today
We have smart mobile phones and a lot of other tech devices. We are connected 24/7.

80’s
Artists are the rock and pop stars

Today
Techies have the same adulation as the 80’s rock and pop stars

80’s
Pablo and Colombia was the king of cocaine trafficking

Today
It’s Mexico

80’s
CD’s are seen as angels to the record label CEO’s.

Today
Streaming was seen as the devil and then the monies came in and the record label CEO’s are happy again.

80’s
When you wanted to learn something or check something you went to the library or you purchased a book/manual.

Today
You Google.

80’s
Our rite of passage was to own a car. Without wheels, you didn’t even exist.

Today
Kids drive their parent’s car or Uber. Owning tech is what’s important. Without tech, you don’t exist.

80’s
Retail stores and shopping malls ruled

Today
Online retailers rule and it’s all delivered to your door.

80’s
Bands had hits after hits

Today
It’s too hard to have a hit and then to back it up with another. Blame the internet.

80’s
Gatekeepers decided who would get signed or not

Today
The internet decimated the barrier to entry.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Payment 

Oh man! He’s made a lot of money and he’s kicking back. If I would have made a lot of money, I wouldn’t do this anymore either. I didn’t write a lot of the famous stuff. “Dust In The Wind” and “Carry On My Wayward Son” were both Kerry’s.

Steve Walsh on why Kerry Livgren left Kansas /

 Do you wanna get Paid???

The ones who write the songs always get paid. Steve Walsh’s voice is the one we hear and remember, however he’s singing Kerry’s words and melodies. And Kerry gets paid. The same way Sting gets paid for “Every Breath You Take”. He’s the songwriter, but the guitar arpeggio pattern created over the synth/bass lines from Sting’s original demo is the iconic part of the song. The same way Nikki Sixx and Steve Harris get paid for songs that have them listed as sole song writers. The same way Ozzy Osbourne gets paid for all of the “Bark At The Moon” songs he “supposably wrote” solely by himself. Actually the Ozzy comparison is not an apples with apples comparison. 

There is a general view that the rock stars of the 70’s and 80’s had an “I’ll do what I want to and deal with the consequences later attitude”. The problem is that attitude also got them ripped off by managers and record labels. Bon Scott wasn’t kidding when he said “getting ripped off on the pay” in “Long Way To The Top (If You Want To Rock’N’Roll)”.

But in the 80’s, two things happened to the music scene. 

MTV made artists into global superstars and the CD revolution cashed up the labels/songwriters as all the fans replaced their vinyl and cassette collections with CD’s. Suddenly you had record label execs flying private and living in mansions on the backs of monies earned from songs the artists wrote. By default the artists began to change. It should be them earning more and not the other way around.

The artists started to understand the “creative economics” of the recording business. Some played ball to the record moguls and got paid monies for their obedience. Some voiced their opinions and had their careers sabotaged, while others who voiced their opinions, rose to even greater heights. 

Motley Crue almost had their career derailed when Elektra Records refused to promote the band post Vince. They got Vince back and the label still didn’t deliver on promises. Nikki Sixx along with manager Allen Kovacs went into battle. They got back all the rights to the Motley’s songs, left Elektra Records, formed Motley Records, took control of the Motley narrative and re-invented the band to become a commercial behemoth from 2003 onwards.

Also from 2000’s onwards, the rock star that I knew growing up got replaced by the techies. The techies take to the stage at their product launches and development conferences to applause that was once reserved for the rockers. 

And the rock stars of the past complained at first and then kneeled to the corporations. Not all rock stars did, but a lot of them did. This change was coming since the early 90’s. 

As soon as the truth the news outlets reported became the viewpoint of their multi billionaire owner. As soon as radio stations went from playing personal DJ playlists to playing ads, sponsored playlists and pleasing shareholders. So we turned again to the metal/rock heads for truth. 

It’s one of the reasons social media sites started to take over. It was a rally cry around an institution. We felt connected again albeit for a short time. We felt like we had access to our heroes again because change comes quicker than ever before. We moved from Napster to iTunes to YouTube to Spotify in little over a decade while at the same time MySpace tanked and got replaced by Facebook, Yahoo lost the search battle to Google, video stores lost out to Netflix and Amazon became the one shop store. Instead of a phone book to find someone, we Google them or search for them on social media.

While I enjoy anonymity, the youth who drive online culture are all about bonding and creating societies online. In the 80’s we were determined to not take crap from the institutions. Hell, we have given the recording business and the live business, monies of mortgage sized proportions.

So how many times are we going to listen to the record label/RIAA slogans of “the public expect everything to be free”? If that is the case, why does the public pay hundreds of dollars for concert tickets?

It turns out the public is paying for music. It’s called streaming and if the Spotify royalties the artist is getting are low it’s because not enough people are streaming their songs. Then again, if you are on a label, the label will be taking the lion’s share of the royalty. And with streaming, every artist is competing with Metallica, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, AC/DC and the whole history of music.

The truth is everyone wants to get paid and the way an artist gets paid is to create something that streams in quantity. The power of music is in the song, not the distribution system. And if we are listening, artists will get rich and have more power than they know what to do with. It’s the modern music business.

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My Stories

Parenting 

I like to think I am good at making decisions in life, but to be honest, I am pretty bad and I’m sure a lot of others are as well, especially when it comes down to deciding among multiple options. Maybe I am getting better at it with age, who knows. But one thing I am sure off is I try my best to make the best decision based on the information I have at that point in time. And for some reason it’s easy to make a decision that involves me, but when it involves my children, it’s hard. Actually it’s pretty god damn hard because I am making a decision for someone else’s future.

Ideally it would be great if kids could make their own decisions from multiple options, but according to adults, kids are not capable. Maybe the kids are good at making the correct decision because they don’t over analyse a situation the way adults do.

I am always on my kids’ case about poor judgement or a poor decision. And it upsets me. I feel like the Douglas C. Neirdemayer character in “Animal House” and the Twisted Sister clips. It feels like it’s only a matter of time before my kids rise up and tell me “we’re not gonna take it”.

So what went wrong?

Why did I become the parent that I so didn’t want to be?

Why did I breach my own standards?

How did I fall to the dark side?

It’s funny how the pressures of life outside the family home get vented in the family home. The stress of keeping a job to pay for the mortgage and bills, well the kids cop it. The stress of the workplace, the kids also cop it. I feel like crap even typing this. I purchased them iPads, PS4’s Xbox, Nintendo and what not and then yell at them when they use these tools constantly.

Is their homework done?

Have they read?

Have they done this or that?

Seriously.. Should I expect them to be more responsible?

I had parents that didn’t care about my schooling or even ask me if I did my homework. I think by them not caring, it gave me a certain responsibility to care about myself when it came to school and life in general. But I cannot be like that with my kids. I care too much. I want to know what’s happening. It’s a vicious world we live in and society is a dog eat dog vacuum. Knowledge is power and I want my kids to be armed with it.

So I need to get my act together and change my style. Because the yelling parent is the one I don’t want to be. I asked my kids if I am constantly on their case and they didn’t answer me. I guess they didn’t hear me, because their attention is taking up by the black mirrors on their laps.

Erghhhhh.

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