Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Ripped Off

Cause it’s a rip-off
We’re stepped on and cheated
We’re flat stone cold lied to
The Dream Is Over from Van Halen

Pretty soon I will be begging for people’s change.  I swear getting medical treatments is like getting robbed. In the last two days, I have given $540 for medical services.

A Throat Specialist cost me $200 for a 8 minute appointment. A Dentist appointment for some fillings costs $160 from my Private Health Fund (which I also pay $160 a fortnight for) and $240 from my pocket. X Rays and Ultrasounds on my shoulders cost another $100 out of pocket expenses, while the place also billed the government via Medicare.

And to top it all off, the Dr goes, “I don’t believe it’s a problem but we will follow up in 12 months time with another ultrasound.” It’s all about treatments. It’s where the money is. If you are cured, then the pharma’s are challenged with their business models.

And all because of a Dr’s fear of being negligent, so they monitor. It’s all about prestige, brand damage and insurance. No one wants a tarnished name. Especially in our social media world where everyone wants to be liked.

If you feel so angry
So ripped off, so stepped on
You’re not the only one
Riot from Three Days Grace

No wonder drug dealers have a nickname that involves Doctor. There is no difference in the money outlay. Pay $540 to a drug dealer and he’ll be called Dr Feelgood and on the watch list of every law enforcement. Our Doctors take from the government and from us, they double dip, it’s thievery at its best and it’s allowed, celebrated in fact.

Our banking system bills dead customers for advice fees they received in the grave and their CEO’s get paid multi million salaries while the companies they oversee cheat, lie, thieve and break the law at every turn. All in the name of making money, reaching a target, a figure that someone put out there as a sign of growth. Lower and Middle class people do time for theft, while banking CEO’s take home millions in pay for theft.

Society is a mess and it’s not going to get any better. It’s all because of the value and status people attach to money. It’s borderline suicidal. Everyone wants more of it, and no one wants to lose it or spend it.

Everyone wanted to be a rock star, but being a rock star once upon a time meant pushing boundaries, going against the grain, sticking it to the boss man and living a free spirited lifestyle. Then came MTV and the bossman started sticking it to the rock star. Then came Silicon Valley and the techies sticked it to everyone.

Wall Street wouldn’t have it and for a brief period, bankers made more dough than the techies, but the GFC told us why the bankers made so much. And how many CEO’s went to jail after the GFC. None. Zero. They went on speaking tours to the colleges and are now in government.

Financial Loss Story

Private Health Insurance Increases

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Indie Route

How Grammy Nominee Brent Faiyaz Built His Music Career Off Streaming (HBO) – YouTube

It’s from Vice News and there is so much good stuff in the 5 minute segment.

Brent was offered a major record deal and turned it down. The highest offer was a $250K advance and a $300K recording budget. A lot of people would have taken the offer and become slaves to a system designed to favour the record label. But he turned them down, because the terms bothered him.

He looks at the money from a 100% pot. So when the label is offering him an 18% royalty rate, what is happening to the other 82% of monies earned?

If the artist makes a million dollars in gross, the label will get $820K and the artist $180K. Suddenly, it makes the advance and recording budget look like small change. But the label will not share any of the gross with the artist. They will discount the gross into a net and then share it. And from the net profit, the label will recoup the advance and the recording budget.

So Brent and his manager invested $30K of their own monies to record the debut album.

They then went on a 3 month tour using streaming data to lead the way. Streaming has changed everything. An artist can be a moderate successful indie artist with a few million streams on a few songs. It will not pay much in streaming royalties, but when you take into account the streaming data by city, you can then organise tours based on the data.

“Artists have to be smarter and they have to tour more and they have to do more to make sure fans come”

The lawyer in the segment said the above line. The old plea of “putting in your blood, sweat and tears” into your new music doesn’t cut it anymore with the audience.

Having a million followers on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t mean you have a million fans. I’ve seen Sebastian Bach post something like, a million plus followers on Facebook and only 10,000 people purchased the record. It’s old school, one sale = one fan thinking. Social media gives artists a way to connect and engage with fans. That’s it. That’s all it does. Dave Mustaine is trying to get to a million followers on Twitter. Why? For what reason and if he does get to a million followers, how do you connect and engage with them and turn them into concert ticket sales? A quick look at his posts and he gets comments from less than 30 people at a time.

In January 2018, Brent made $25K from music streaming services like Spotify and Apple music. His team mines the data from those streams to find out exactly where and when a show will sell out, spending $18 a day on ads to target those cities.

The data tells them were the demand is in the market and they use the streaming data to estimate how many tickets they can potentially sell. They look at the analytics of their top 50 markets and spend the money on ads on those markets.

Spotify’s data also highlights the listeners and super fans, city by city.

Super fans are fans of the artist who have streamed the music for 45 days in a row. For example in Philadelphia, Brent has 13,600 listeners and 3,186 super fans. They used this data to target ads in Philadelphia, sold out the venue and earned $3,880 in revenue. In Baltimore, there are 10,000 listeners and 5,743 super fans. Again, they targeted their ads to the city, sold out the venue and earned $5K in revenue. After 17 tour stops and royalties from song placements they walk away with $30K a month. Management takes 20%.

Streaming data also showed strong fan bases in Europe and they sold out shows in London, Paris and Berlin.

There is a reason why Trivium are selling out show after show across the US, Canada and Europe. There is a reason why Machine Head are selling out shows. There is a reason why Papa Roach are selling out shows. Streaming is a game changer.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Constant Releases

It’s been over 2 years since Sykes announced a new solo album was in the works and all we have is a leaked song on YouTube. To add to that, it’s been 18 years since “Nuclear Cowboy” came out. An album I illegally downloaded back then because I couldn’t get it in Australia, not even as an import because the distributor of the album, didn’t distribute into Australia. Seriously WTF.

The new music paradigm is to release music and to keep on releasing music. The listener decides what to listen to. It’s a scary thought for the artist, especially legacy artists who are used to the comfort metrics of the past, like a large advanced payment.

And in the past, the promotion and marketing campaign of the label would cast a net so far and wide, with the hope they would hook people in. I know it would be hard for kids born in the 2000’s to understand, but, if a label got behind an artist, then the scorched earth marketing policy they employed would get the artist a platinum record. But the really good albums, man, they didn’t have large campaigns behind them to begin with.

“The Final Countdown” broke through country by country, until it became a worldwide hit. Same deal with “Slippery When Wet”.

When “You Give Love A Bad Name” hit the airwaves and TV screens with the same promotion budget Jovi had for “7800 Fahrenheit”, something interesting happened. The song was so catchy and so infectious that people started requesting it on video channels and radio stations. Suddenly, there was a demand for the album. And man didn’t it sell, shifting over 100,000 units on a weekly basis. “Wanted Dead Or Alive” was already a hit with fans before it even came out as a single.

What an interesting concept when people/fans decide what is hot or what’s not.

Funny thing is, Europe and Bon Jovi had bigger recording and marketing budgets for the follow up albums “Out Of This World” and “New Jersey” and they didn’t even get close to the traction and numbers of the previous album. It doesn’t mean the albums are bad, but it goes to show a scorched earth marketing policy is not a guarantee of global reach.

They even had more money thrown at them for “Prisoners In Paradise” and “Keep The Faith” and again, they failed to get the public acceptance that “The Final Countdown” and “Slippery When Wet” got.

Hell, White Lion for “Pride” didn’t have an earth shattering budget. The band was just happy to be in the recording studio and to have an album out, but that album sold like crazy, while the follow ups had the advanced payments and the marketing budgets and they didn’t get anywhere near the staying power of “Pride”.

Money thrown at something doesn’t equal public acceptance. There is no magic formula for success, but if I look at the past, all of the bands I liked released music consistently. Led Zeppelin released 4 albums in 4 years, Black Sabbath the same, Deep Purple the same, Rainbow the same, Whitesnake the same, Dio the same, ZZ Top the same, Judas Priest the same, Bruce Springsteen the same and so forth.

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

To The Top

Desperate living- driving me mad
Writings on the wall
Crushed all our hopes and the dreams we once had
Just to watch them fall
Tooth And Nail from Dokken

When your backs to the wall and you have nothing left, you either fight to reach the next step or you give up.

Seriously, what kind of life is it, when someone has so much power to make or break a career. But that is exactly what the recording business came to be. A business with gatekeepers who could crush dreams or make dreams. Like “Chainsaw Charlie” in “The Crimson Idol”. Or like “Mr Recordman”.

If not for the money and not for the show
Are you here for me or here for the dough
Mr. Recordman, do you really give a damn?
Mr Recordman from Ugly Kid Joe

Is the label there for the artist if the money stops coming in and the shows sell a little bit less. White Lion were given a million dollars to record “Mane Attraction”. It came out and it didn’t set the world on fire. Grunge was rising in the distant and suddenly, Vito and Mike couldn’t even get in touch with their A&R rep. When the band broke up, no one from the label called them or even tried to make contact with them. It’s like they never existed. But for a brief period when “Pride” was selling thousands of units weekly, Mr Recordman was there, caring for the band.

You’ll never see a ray of daylight
So far in debt you’re struggling to survive
Dance In The Rain by Megadeth

And so many people define themselves by their status in society. Big house plus expensive car plus management job = powerful status. But, this perceived status is all in their head. No one really cares what you have or what job your do or how long you spend at work.

Why should they?

Life is short and the majority of people are too busy living. But others can’t turn away from it, because they are surrounded by people moving up. And they feel like they need to get on the same ride. So they borrow and then they borrow a little bit more. Because they believe when they get to the top they will repay it all.

The ride to the top is the reason why so many people started to play music.

MTV took the artists from the magazines and brought them into our lounge rooms. And it was free. Yeah I know there was radio, but if people wanted information on artists, they had to buy magazines or their albums. Suddenly, their TV set was doing it all for them. The reason why blank VHS cassettes sold like crazy was music and movies. People dubbed/taped their favourite clips from TV or via VHS to VHS.

And when kids have access to content, they have desires to be like their new found heroes on the TV screen. It looked easy. Learn to play an instrument, write a song and you’ll be signed and become famous.

The truth of it all is this.

If you are working for a corporation, you are building someone else’s dream. The corporation is benefiting from your hard work and the hard work of the rest. Artists have made the record labels into monoliths because they signed away their copyrights for a record deal.

And the internet was meant to level the playing field. Instead it’s made the labels even more powerful as they use the works of artists to negotiate large licensing deals.

What kind of journey do you want to the top?

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Release Day

Spotify has a playlist ready every Friday for me in relation to bands I follow or bands who might be similar to bands I follow. Sometimes there is fluff in those playlists and sometimes it’s like the good old days of being in a record shop and deciding which album to purchase from the many on offer. In this case, I can listen to everything.

And there is a lot of music out there to digest. The enemy to global stardom is not illegal downloading, it’s obscurity.

How are people going to find out who the hell you are?

You are not just battling for listeners attention from the artists who have new music, you are battling for listeners attention from the history of music. Yes, that’s right. We have “almost” the whole history of music at our fingertips. And even though the odds are really stacked against artists from making a living from music, people are still out there creating and releasing. Some artists are ahead of their time, so it might take a while for the audience to catch up. But one thing is certain, creativity is at an all time high.

Which is a good thing, because the recording industry and the copyright monopoly tried their best to convince everyone that creativity would die due to illegal downloading all in their push for government intervention to protect their profits.

And truth be told, while the internet might have given people access to play in the recording industry arena, it didn’t kill the labels. Because the labels consolidated into three majors. And they amassed a lot of power through a little law called copyright. And with this power, they had a monopolistic bargaining position at the table when it came to licensing deals with the techies.

Anyway here are few releases from the most recent release day Friday.

Fake
FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH

Let’s promote the new album with a song that sounds similar in groove and feel to every other song we have written. Maybe some lawyer will sue the band for plagiarising their own sound and feel.

You talk a great game, trying to make a big name, soon you’re gonna run out of time

I’m a fan. Hell my six year old is a fan.

The song has a head banging riff (who cares if it sounds similar to other songs), underpinned by a drum groove that gets the foot stomping and a vocal line full of vengeance about a fake person.

Over It
BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE

I’m still waiting for BFMV to decide what kind of album they want to make. A bone crushing “Heaven And Hell”, a sonic sounding “Dr Feelgood”, a metal sounding “Powerslave” or their own “The Blackening”. While I wait, they still release cool tunes like “Over It”, a product of where the band is right now, with only two original members left.

I can’t take this anymore, I’m over it

Trying to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved or can’t be reached is a difficult process to deal with.

Save Yourself
BREAKING BENJAMIN

So much gloom in the lyrics. For one thing, I’m happy Benjamin Burnley is making music and has kept the band name going after the various lawsuits and what not. And like AC/DC, Disturbed and FFDP, Breaking Benjamin is churning out consistent same music, album after album to great success and platinum awards.

Monolith
THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS

It’s an instrumental which keeps on building like the music in a movie preview.

Personally, I dig it, so I went to hear the album. As a fan of the first three albums and playing “Conquistador” to death from the previous album, the “America” album is not what I prefer in the first half and great in the second half, especially from “Great Wide Open” to the end.

Transition
CRASHCARBURN

South African rock band that fell of my radar the last four years, so it’s good to have them back.

GONE (Radio Edit)
RED

This band has changed a lot during the last 6 years, with more and more electronic elements added to their tunes.

The Human Radio
SHINEDOWN

I don’t mind the kind of rock that Shinedown is morphing into because it’s still Shinedown and it’s still Brent Smith on vocals. And come to think of it, all of my favourite bands took styles and sounds from what is current into their mix as their career went along.

Get the money, throw the tantrum
The human radio is playing your anthem

More Beautiful
HOOBASTANK

Don’t ever think your broken and not good enough
Cause all the things you want to fix are things that I love

Magazines in the 90’s did a great job selling beauty and the social media world created by Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram has only added more fuel to the fire.

And people are dying just to look beautiful, starving themselves to feel beautiful and paying stupid amounts to correct their natural beauty in order to look manufactured.

Liberta
MUSTASCH

A bunch of Swedes with moustaches that play some killer groove metal/rock with melodic vocals. If beards and moustaches worked for ZZ Top, why not for a band called Mustasch.

Set Free
JADED HEART

Experienced melodic hard rock from Germany with Michael Bormann on vocals.

For those who don’t know, Bormann handled vocals in another favourite German band called Bonfire, however it was after their US breakthrough albums.

Sacrifice Me
ISSA with DEEN CASTRONOVO

Cool to see Deen redeeming himself with some cool music over the last 12 months. “Freedom” from the last Revolution Saints album is still doing the rounds in my life and this time, he’s doing a duet with Finnish singer Issa which sounds like it’s from an Evanesence album.

Burn
W.E.T

Another Jeff Scott Soto collaboration, this time with Swedish songwriters Erik Martensson from the band “Eclipse” and Robert Sall from the band “Work Of Art”. It’s another great melodic rock song.

Show Me
NEIL YOUNG

Of course Neil Young surprised me with this cut, which takes the “Rocking In A Free World” chord progression and acoustifies it with some soul and blues and calls it “Show Me”.

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

Stand Your Ground

For a long time, we had no idea how we looked. Then mirrors came about and then we knew how we looked.

For a long time, we had no idea how we really sounded. Then recording techniques came out and over the last 80 years, cassettes showed us how we really sounded.

Cameras also came about and people could suddenly see how they looked and sounded at the same time.

And right now, we are surrounded by sounds and mirrors. If you have a social media account, you have a mirror looking back at you. If you filmed yourself doing something, you have a mirror looking back at you along with sound.

Our personal lives are out there for the whole world to see, regardless of your social media security settings. Even if your posts are secure and only for friends, other people who are not your friends could still potentially see them, because if your friends don’t have the same security as you and you tag them, then it’s on their wall as well.

And how dumb are we. We gave away our privacy and our lives for free to social media platforms like Facebook, who then went and made billions of dollars from our lives. And when people post something on Facebook, they either get likes or blowback. And no one wants blow back these days. Everyone wants to be liked. Even musicians.

Musicians fall into many categories via their lyrics. Some address social ills, some address loss and grief, some address relationships, some address mythology or history and some address partying and having a good time. And it takes guts to put yourself into a mix where your opinions and viewpoints can be attacked. But real artists will look to find a place that creates the change they seek and they will push boundaries in order to do it.

Freedom. It’s our fundamental right.

So what do we do when the politicians we voted in work for the corporations instead of the people?

What do we do when the politicians pass laws to benefit the corporations instead of the people?

This is a world-wide problem.

Our governments are using private companies to harvest our data from social media, based on our posts, comments, likes and friends, these private companies can determine which way you vote.

Stand your ground, don’t let the bastards grind you down, be bold, be strange, don’t let their fears make you afraid

Bastards from Machine Head

We need to stand our ground. The message is nothing new, but we have forgotten it. Machine Head is dealing with some flack in the U.S about their “Catharsis” album. But it’s only in the U.S as the rest of the world relates to the message that Robb Flynn is saying.

And Robb is sending out his message because he cares.

From birth we are taught to follow instructions, comply, obey and to avoid taking risks. The parental system likes it this way. The schooling system likes it this way. The corporate system likes it this way. The Police system likes it this way. And overall, the Government prefers it this way. But sometimes, a change happens.

And when change happens, someone feels it’s for the better and others feel it’s for the worst. And the people who feel the change is wrong, speak up.

The youth of the world have decided they will not wait anymore for adults to solve problems, so they have taken to the streets to demonstrate against guns and call for gun control.

Imagine when these kids get a chance to vote and a chance to enter politics. Change is a happening. Be prepared to change or move out of the kids ways.

We’ve got the right to choose it, there’s no way we’ll lose it

We’re Not Gonna Take It from Twisted Sister

It’s a simple assertion from Dee Snider that mobilised a generation. It’s Dee’s take on society and it comes with an action. Critics blasted the song because it doesn’t define who the “it” is. But that’s the beautiful part of the song. The “It” can be anyone who seeks to control you and take away your freedom.

But to take a stand isn’t easy. Artists are too afraid to stand up for something.

But hang on a second, that’s what being an artist is all about. However the pushback is so ferocious, especially in a social media world, artists just don’t go there.

Well popular artists don’t.

Stand your ground.

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

Twitter Thoughts

As soon as Dee Snider and his Twisted Sister band mates threw the teacher for a three-pointer in the “I Wanna Rock” video, I was hooked. Yeah, he looked all wrong but his attitude and message stuck with me. So it’s no surprise I follow Dee on Twitter and recently a few tweets got some discussions happening.

“Here’s a challenge for you (and no using the internet for the answer): Can you name all 7 (unsuccessful) albums I’ve done solo or been a part of with a band since I left Twisted Sister in 1987? You can use initials. Bonus points for naming the 1 live album. Good freakin; luck.”

You struggle your whole life to “make it”. And once you “make it”, you need to struggle to “keep it”.

And then “keeping the fame” ends up “breaking up” the band that “made it”. So you go solo but it’s many years later from your “making it” moment. And there are people who still crave your product but not as many as before.

For a very long time, the record labels convinced everyone that the only way to define success is sales. But people might have purchased an album, heard it once and never heard it again. The record label never considered that statistic because the sale has given them a monetary value, something they can count.

But as Dee said further on;

“While I’m proud of all the work I’ve done, YES success is defined by sales. I’m long past “making music for my own head”. Once you’ve had public acceptance of your art, you yearn for it. You want the world to see and hear “your children””.

The truth is, there is no secret formula for keeping the hits coming.

Artists always had a short life span at the top. Most of the 70’s acts would have been dead and forgotten if there was no MTV television in the 80s.

But the biggest obstacle is obscurity.

Someone tweeted back, “Didn’t know you did one, lol” in response to Dee’s post about the seven unsuccessful albums to which Dee re-tweeted with the following comments;

“This is the #1 response to my name the seven albums I’ve done since leaving Twisted in 1987. Which brings us to the age old question: “If someone puts out an album and nobody hears it…did it make a sound?””

Which someone else replied that Dee’s last album, “We Are The Ones” was excellent with the following questions;

“Do you consider it unsuccessful? Is success only defined by album sales or rather by the quality of the product?”

Another person commented that just because it isn’t popular it doesn’t mean it’s not valid and that music touches people in different ways.

And here we are again wondering what success is.

Is it sales?

Is it streams?

Is it video views?

Is it concert ticket sales?

Is it just people interacting with you on social media?

For Dee, he hit the mainstream with Twisted Sister and for a three year period he was on top. Success is defined as that same public acceptance for his other music.

So let’s talk about “Blood and Bullets” from Widowmaker.

Post Twisted Sister, it was deafening silence. From being everywhere, Dee was nowhere. My cousin Mega, who has the TS logo tattooed on his shoulder told me about his Desperado project. It was mentioned in a shorts column of a U.S magazine. That’s it. One of the biggest voices between 1983 and 85 was reduced to a paragraph.

Then there was silence again. We got nothing Dee Snider related in Australia.

I then read a “Blood And Bullets” review in a magazine, three months after the Widowmaker album was out. It was in a Guitar magazine, because of Al Pitrelli’s involvement. Nothing from the mainstream metal rags.

So I went looking for it in the mainstream record stores and I couldn’t find it. I asked at the counter if they could get it and they could get it as an import and charge me $50.

I went to Utopia in Sydney, the home of heavy metal, who only had a few copies of the album and already sold them. They said they would order it in for me and it would cost me $30. It took another 3 months for it to “arrive” in Australia and into my hands. Imagine that. 3 months to arrive.

So six months after the album was released I had it. And I played it non-stop and I still play it and I told everyone I could about it. It’s angry, it’s hopeful, it’s sombre and it’s tongue’n’cheek.

For me, it’s highly influential. It’s got the kind of music I like making, all over the album.

“Reason To Kill”, “Blue For You”, “Calling On You”, “Snot Nosed Kid” and “Emaheevul” straight away stood out for me. “Blood And Bullets” and “Widowmaker” grew on me with every listen. The cover of “Evil” surprised me with its energy and increased tempo while another pop rock cover called “The Lonely Ones” was a sleeper hit waiting to smack me in the face. “Gone Bad”, “You’re A Heartbreaker” and “We Are The Dead” while sounding clichéd on earlier listens grew into unique contributions to the album.

Dee delivered a stellar vocal performance and Al Pitrelli also produced the goods in the guitar department, while Joey Franco and Marc Russell underpinned it all. Of course, Desperado guitarist Bernie Torme co-wrote 7 of the 12 songs on the album, so he deserves a huge 10 out of 10 for his stellar riffage and songwriting.

If you’ve read Dee’s book, “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic” Dee had to buy back the Desperado songs from Elektra who claimed ownership of them due to the label financing the demo song writing sessions and the failed Desperado album release.

But the problem with the album not setting the sales department on fire was not Grunge. It was obscurity. People didn’t know about it because there wasn’t a source of truth anymore.

Even in 1992 going onto 1993, we had a lot of different sources for information. The magazines were struggling to sell like they did in the 80’s, hence the reason why so many of them finished up.

So in order to stay relevant, the magazines only reported what was popular so they could sell. And no one bought all the magazines but in the 80s if you purchased Faces, Hit Parader or Circus or Metal Edge, you more or less had your rock/metal “source of truth” covered.

And MTV was moving into reality TV and out of music, especially music made by the metal community.

And speaking of the metal community, we had fractured into different styles. Once upon a time we liked metal. We listened to metal bands.

Suddenly metal (courtesy of magazines and record label A&R reps) had different genres like Glam, Pop, Thrash, Heavy, Hard, Death, Black, Industrial, Hardcore, Grindcore, Rap and whatever other term someone could think of like Sludge, Weed, Fart, etc.

So those metal bands in the early 80s got relabeled to something else.

And it shits me because the Widowmaker debut album is not on Spotify (well I don’t know about the rest of the world, but it’s not on Spotify Australia) and people who are fans of the band and who pay for Spotify cannot listen to it.

But it’s on YouTube and I don’t do YouTube. But I have a CD mp3 rip of the album on my devices and I listen to it that way.

The thing is, a lot of the albums which are really influential to people are rarely commercially successful.

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