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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