A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

War Of Attrition

If we are to stop using Spotify or Netflix, would we miss them?

For a certain percentage of people this would be catastrophic, while for another percentage it wouldn’t matter and for another percentage, it would matter but it wouldn’t be catastrophic.

I am a heavy user of Spotify. For Netflix its hit and miss. Sometimes I could go weeks without using it and on other occasions it’s every day. Of course it depends on the content they have coming out. However if Spotify does disappear, I still have a large LP and CD collection which I could always bring out. Plus I have ripped all of my CD’s to mp3 and downloaded my LP collection titles from the net.

If Netflix goes I wouldn’t miss it. After watching a TV show or a movie once, I haven’t gone back to watch it again. The connection I have to art is via the song or the movie. I have no connection to the medium.

Being missed when you’re gone is a worthy objective for any organisation. It also should be an objective for any artist. If I stopped listening to music in general, I would miss it. If I stopped listening to music from certain artists I would really miss it. And that’s a good thing for the artist. They have established that connection with me. When I hear that slow ballad like lead interlude in “Glasgow Kiss” from John Petrucci’s solo album “Suspended Animation”, the hairs on the back of my neck rise. (And as I write this the album is not on Spotify).

When I hear the solos from Randy Rhoads on “Mr Crowley” and “Goodbye To Romance” from the “Tribute” album, I am immediately transported back to my bedroom, with a guitar in hand, trying to figure it all out and doing a lame job at it.

It’s the job of the artist to create connections like these for the listener.

And I am sure artists have created works which they believe are excellent, but those songs are out on streaming sites and no one is really paying attention except for their family and friends. Hell, Netflix releases so much content every week and a lot of it doesn’t even get viewed, so it gets canned or they go back to the drawing board to come up with something better. The only golden rule here is to keep on creating and to keep on releasing.

And the ones who will survive are not those looking for short term profits, but those that realize it’s a war of attrition

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Prices Go Up, Innovation Goes Down

Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google have a monopoly on the market and when this occurs, we no longer have a choice, so prices would eventually go up. As much as I love using Spotify, what do you reckon is going to happen when it reaches critical mass and they have a monopoly on the market.

The monthly price would go up, as history is only too keen to tell us.  And when prices go up, innovation ceases and the consumers are then left with no voice and we then silently wait for the next revolution to take away this monopoly. Of course a key role of our governments is to make sure monopolies don’t exist, but everytime they pass a piece of legislation, they more or less give rise to monopolies. Don’t even get me started on the copyright monopoly mess governments have created.

Spotify, as much as I like using the service, gets on my nerves because it can’t distinguish the difference between artists with the same names. On my recent release radar I had “new releases” from dance acts called Tesla, Keel, Vandenberg, Exodus and Badlands. I like and follow the ROCK and METAL bands, not these crappy dance artists.

Even Kingdom Come’s Spotify profile is corrupted with music from another act called Kingdom Come which has nothing to do with Lenny Wolf’s version and their styles are completely different. So for all Spotify’s innovation, they fail on the most basic task. Keeping the acts unique, regardless of similar names.

Also, I still cant understand how acts can have some of their albums on the service but not the other albums in this day and age. Night Ranger’s biggest albums are not on the service. Y&T’s Geffen output is not on the service. Yngwie Malmsteen and Cinderella had their music on the service and some of their definitive albums from the 80’s are now absent. I don’t believe this is Spotify’s fault. The blame is on the artist or their label or some contractual clause over what monies are owned.

And while I type this, I got an email from Netflix saying my monthly subscription is going up to $13.99. The reasons for the increase was a one line paragraph, saying “to keep on delivering the best service possible”. So I’m working the numbers through in my mind. I might watch a TV series once every 3 months because of the time investment needed. The last one I watched was “Altered Carbon” and that happened over 10 days, and I started “The Rain” three weeks ago and I’ve only watched one episode.

So the price increase based on what I watch is not worth it in my mind. My kids rarely put it on anymore as they are hooked on Fortnite and YouTube videos of people playing Fortnite. Yep, you’ve read that correctly. It doesn’t make sense to me either.

But like all technology companies, once you reach critical mass, the price goes up. Maybe it’s time to reassess my financial commitments to these organizations.

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

Across The Years In May

I knew that Cinderella’s “Long Cold Winter” had its 30th Anniversary on May 21, 1988. So I went to Spotify to give it a listen and it’s no longer there. But it was there before. I can’t understand why artists withdraw their albums and then bring them back when they feel like it. Go on YouTube, and the whole album is there, and it pays less. Talk about leaving money on the table. I guess it’s Cinderella’s loss.

Anyway, I also knew that on May 23, 1979, Kiss released “Dynasty”. It was my first Kiss album on LP and of course, due to having so little product to listen to, it became a favourite. However, my brothers friends who had the earlier Kiss albums up to “Love Gun” hated this album. And the good thing is, when I went to Spotify, it was there, available, to be listened too. Gene and Paul are very critical of the current business models, but they are also business minded people who don’t want to leave any source of income unattended.

It’s like going back in my room, dropping the needle and being greeted with the fast picked E note that is “I Was Made For Loving You”. While “Loving” is modern and of the times, “2,000 Man” is a rock and roll relic out of place on this glitzy melodic rock disco album. And back then, the year 2000 seemed so far away and now we are 18 years past it.

“Sure Know Something” has that groovy sleazy bass line in the verses and when the guitars start crunching in the Chorus the song moves from a disco R&B feel to Hard Rock. And when “Dirty Livin’” starts up, I am floored by the diversity of the album. It’s covered a lot of ground musically. Actually, when I heard “The Night Flight Orchestra’s” debut album back in 2012, I was immediately reminded of “Dynasty”.

“Charisma” and “Magic Touch” keep the momentum going. “Hard Times”, “X-Ray Eyes” and “Save Your Love” bookend the album, but I would have been happy if the album finished at “Hard Times”, with one of my favourite lyrical lines in “the hard times are dead and gone, but the hard times have made me strong”. Damn right they did.

Continuing with May releases over different timespans, on May 24, 1988, Van Halen released “OU812”.

The piece d’resistance is “Mine All Mine”.  It wasn’t just competing with the singles from this album for attention, it was competing with “Jump”, “Panama”, “Dreams”, “Summer Nights” and “Why Cant This be Love” for attention. Because in the MTV era, songs had some legs.

The drumming is frantic, making a clichéd keyboard riff sound heavy as hell.

Oh, you’ve got Allah in the east
You’ve got Jesus in the west
Christ, what’s a man to do?

Exactly, what is a man to do when belief systems go to war. Sort of like Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s famous film clip “Two Tribes” when Reagan and Gorbachev went at it.

And how good is the guitar solo from EVH?

Then the single “When It’s Love” keeps the pop metal momentum going, but “AFU(Naturally Wired)” is vintage EVH. Its chaotic and yet so focused. And how cool is that bridge riff just before the crazy solo. I know Sammy loves “Cabo Wabo” and I love the solo section of the song and I dig the music, but man, I don’t like the lyrics.

“Source Of Infection” is wild abandonment on the steroid level scales of “Hot For Teacher”.  “Feels So Good” is a favourite of mine and “Finish What Ya Started” is groovy and sleazy. To be honest, I’ve overdosed on these songs as the clips always appeared on the TV shows, but man, those verses on “Feels So Good” just get me all the time.

“Black and Blue”, “Sucker In A 3 Piece” and “A Apolitical Blues” close out the album, and the star here is “Sucker In A 3 Piece”. It should have come after “Finish What Ya Started”.

And everything these bands represent is opposite to what is adored today by the masses. Today it’s all about the beat and it doesn’t feel personal which is opposite of what music should be. Music is personal. So while some people go to the show to have a good time, the majority of people still go to connect with the band on the stage.

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Music, My Stories

Music And Life

Gettin’ old
Gettin’ grey
Gettin’ ripped-off
Underpaid
Gettin’ sold
Second hand
That’s how it goes
Playin’ in a band

Playing in a band is tough. Everyone wants to do it, but the long road and no safety net scared a lot of people off. And the ones who stuck it out, are still sticking it out.

Some broke through, some got signed and released music on a label and some still play the bar/club scene. These days, artists can record and release their music themselves, while holding down a full time job that pays.

Music is a lifers game. You are either in it 100% otherwise it’s a hobby. Because it’s alienating. When you write music, you are normally alone, surrounded by feelings. When you are on the road, you end up alone in a hotel room and for some artists they never come out alive. It’s hard to even speak about depression today, especially when you are surrounded by social media and it’s “everybody’s a winner” message. It is the curse of modern society.

Love is all around you,
Love is knockin’ outside your door

We seem to forget it on the days we feel lost and alone in a room. But the truth is there are millions of people in the same situation, looking for a connection. It’s important that we don’t let our aggressive instincts get the better of us. If we let go of our hang-ups and go with the flow, we can be happy.

The artist always walks alone and the truth is we’re all insecure inside and lonely. We might put on a brave face and try to pretend to fit in, but we are always looking for something more.

From our earliest days, it was no different. We laid in our bedrooms, dropping the needle on our favourite records and enjoying just being alone, with an album cover and the lyrics. If we didn’t have lyrics, we would listen to the song and write out the lyrics on a sheet of paper. We didn’t want to confide in our parents as we saw them as too restrictive and we had feelings we couldn’t express. They wouldn’t have understood anyway, nor did they want to listen. But we had our records.

For me, listening to music is a form of escape. I also wanted to have fun in the city with those girls so pretty and escape the burden of suburbia, the disapproving looks from teachers and neighbours for having my hair long, the financial situation at home and all of the other issues the chaos of life throws up. If it wasn’t music, it was films. But films are about story and music, when done right is about life.

So while society might base itself around the winners on social media, the truth is we all lose, each and every one of us at some point in time.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

For Whom The Copyright Tolls

I read an article today on The Guardian website about another copyright infringement suit.

In this case, The Script is suing James Arthur.

Now, the facts.

James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go” released in 2016 has 846 million streams on Spotify and on YouTube it has over 600 million views.

Meanwhile “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” released in 2008, doesn’t even rate a mention in the Top 10 streamed songs for The Script and even their biggest song, “Hall of Fame” released in 2012 is sitting at 419 million streams on Spotify. On YouTube, “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” has 172 million views.

G, D, Em and C is the chord progression under question. The Script are adamant that the way they use the Chord progression with the vocal melody is unique and original and they are the first ones EVER to do it. Go to a Christian church and a lot of the songs use this chord progression. Pick up any album from any era and this chord progression will be there.

The songs do sound similar, but any song which uses this chord progression will sound similar. Of course it’s no surprise that the attorney’s representing “The Script” are the same ones Marvin Gaye’s heirs used for “Blurred Lines”. According to The Script’s legal team, at stake is $20 million dollars.

You see, The Script’s acceptance by the public is diminishing. They haven’t really had a hit since “Hall Of Fame”. It doesn’t mean the songs since have been poor, it’s just the public hasn’t embraced them like “Hall Of Fame”.

Sort of like Twisted Sister. The public embraced them with “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”. Subsequent albums didn’t have the same public acceptance, but it didn’t mean the songs were bad. Subsequent solo albums from Dee Snider also suffered the same fate.

But in this case, The Script hired a forensic musicologist to report back on the similarities. Seriously, WTF.

Anyway, it sure is a great time to be a forensic musicologist. Every label is hiring them to check an album worth of songs for their artists, just in case the song might sound similar to something else.

The reason why music became such a large commercial force is because songs sound similar. In the book “Hitmakers” by Derek Thompson, it mentions how our tastes in music are based on something we’ve heard before with some slight variation.

How many times have we stumbled upon a new song that we like, listen to it constantly on repeat while we try to figure out what other song it sounds like?

And we seek out songs with similarities. So when you have an environment with millions of songs sounding similar and using 4 chords in a progression, you will start to create songs using those same 4 chords. For me, it was Em, D, C, C. Then it went to Em, G, C, D. Then it went to G, D, Em and C.

But we live in a world that if someone is winning, someone must be losing. So in this case, James Arthur is winning and The Script are losing, because he is winning with a song that sounds similar to their song and their song sounds similar to another song and that other song sounds similar to another song and so on.

Think of the mess that Copyright is in right now being due to how Corporations hijacked Copyright terms to be 70 years post death. Because, all of this mess was started from the heirs of dead artists, because songs that should have been in the public domain were not. If the songs were in the public domain the “Blurred Lines” case wouldn’t have happened and this case wouldn’t be happening.

Seriously how bad is the “Blurred Lines” case.

Let’s put it into a metal context.

It’s sometime in the future, and the Black Sabbath members are all passed on, and the rights to their songs are with their heirs. A band writes a song which sounds stylistically like Sabbath’s debut album. The heirs sue for Copyright infringement, because even though the songs are different, they have a similar 70’s groove, feel and style of Black Sabbath’s first album.

But a groove is not copyrightable.

Expect to see even Marvin Gaye’s heirs sued now, because even Gaye’s grooves were inspired by other artists. If there is money to be made, a writ will follow.

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

Defenders Of The Copyright Faith

In 1998, the US Congress passed the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) which extended the 1976 Act’s terms of life of the creator plus 50 years after death to life of the creator plus 70 years after death. The CTEA also increased the extension term for works copyrighted before January 1978 that had not already entered the public domain. Basically under this act, works made in 1923 or afterwards that were still protected by copyright in 1998 would not enter the public domain until 2019 or later.

You can see how this little act changed copyright law to benefit the corporation. It’s nickname is the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, because Disney lobbied hard for this extension to protect Mickey Mouse, who made his debut in 1928. Of course, sane people argued that long copyright terms don’t provide any incentive for the creator to produce more works.

Remember that TPP (Trans – Pacific Partnership) deal that was negotiated in secret when Obama was in power, Trump then killed it and then Trump brought it back bigger and nastier. Well, there was a clause in there, where the US is saying to nations, if they want to be part of this partnership, they need to change their Copyright laws to be the same as the US.

Of course, the Movie Studios and Record Labels argued that by lengthening copyright terms they would invest more in creating content. As I’ve said before, when a person sits down to create, they do not go to themselves, “Geez, thanks to Copyright Terms being extended to 70 years after I’m dead, I have an incentive to create”. The creator sits down and creates because it is a need to do so in their life. There is no movie studio or record label investment when the creator first creates. It is just the creator fulfilling a need to create.

But corporations who control the copyrights of works are addicted to copyright term extensions and here we are in 2018, 20 years from 1998 and guess what is happening again.

Yep that’s right, US Congress looks like it is going to please the corporations instead of the public.

Little do people know that there was a court challenge to the 1998 extension and the Court rejected the challenge because they did believe to think that Congress would need to extend terms anymore. As the Wired article states;

After all, with a term of 95 years for work created before 1976, and life of the author plus 70 years for work beginning in 1976, how much more time could possibly be needed?

But guess what, buried in the otherwise harmless “Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act” is a few words which would give organisations (yes, corporations) the right to control music recordings made before 1972, up until 2067.

As the Wired article states,

“These recordings would now have a new right, protected until 2067, which, for some, means a total term of protection of 144 years. The beneficiaries of this monopoly need do nothing to get the benefit of this gift. They don’t have to make the work available. Nor do they have to register their claims in advance. That this statute has nothing to do with the constitutional purpose of “promot[ing] Progress” is clear from its very title.”

The worrying part is what does this mean for the future. As the Wired article further states;

“If this bill passes, we can expect other copyright owners to complain about the “unfairness” in the gift given to the creators of legacy recordings. And in the clamber to harmonize with this 144-year term, a swamp of extensions is certainly on the way. No doubt, the beneficiaries of these gifts will be grateful to Congress, and show their gratitude in the campaign-finance-ways of Washington. Equally without doubt, this is not what a system meant to “promote the Progress of Science” was ever intended to be.”

Yep, creators are so lucky to have these kinds of organisations looking out for them.

It takes artists a while to understand, but they don’t need a record label these days. Nikki Sixx on Twitter recently said that the best industry lesson he learned was that Motley Crue didn’t really need a record label after the first two albums. And this antipathy towards labels ended up with Motley Crue getting their rights to the Masters back in 1998 from Elektra.

And then you have instances where artists need to sell their songwriting credits because of bad business decisions. K.K. Downing, founded Judas Priest. He left the band in 2011 due to issues with the other members and he purchased a golf course, which is now into administration. As part of bankruptcy, Downing needs to sell the rights to 136 songs he co-wrote. According to the article, these songs generate $340K to $400K in royalty payments annually.

So remember Downing has a copyright on his works. This copyright gives him a monopoly on his works so he can earn money from them, which in turn gives him an incentive to create. And now he needs to sell this right to someone or something (being a corporation). Yep, that’s exactly what copyright is for.

And then what about artists on album covers. Artists normally got paid a flat fee for their services to create/design an album cover. At the time of designing the cover, no one really knows the impact the album might have on culture. So is the artist to get paid extra when the album they designed the cover for broke through and sold millions. Case in point, Jethro Tull and the iconic “Aqualung” cover.

Read the article.

In the 70’s a young artist was hired by Chrysalis for $1,500 via a handshake deal to create three paintings to his style and content for Jethro Tull’s new album. The album went on to become Jethro Tull’s best-selling album, with over 7 million copies sold and so many anniversary editions issued. And apart from the great music, the album cover has become iconic, being re-issued on cassettes, CD’s, T-shirts and what not. And the artist who painted it, well, the label contends it was a “work for hire” agreement. And with no written contract, the label can say anything, so Chrysalis (now Warner Brothers) said the copyright for the paintings belonged to them.

As the article states, when it comes to artists and copyright law, it’s very messy, especially for famous works because the companies don’t want to lose their valuable rights to those works. So the answer always is for corporations to extend them. For how long will the public tolerate this, I don’t know. Countless people and organisations are out there protesting these extensions, but the public is still relatively silent. And it’s the public who are getting robbed.

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

Creativity

HAVE ALOT OF SONGS IN THE BANK

It’s always been told that all the artists who had a few classic albums in a row had a lot of songs in the bank. So when album number 1 comes out, the first inclination is to release the songs the artists views as the best. But they didn’t. They withheld some for the next album and the album after that while they kept on creating even more classics.

COPY AND BE INFLUENCED BY YOUR INFLUENCES

Because being creative is all about taking your influences, your lifestyle, your experiences and putting them together.

“What does this remind you of” should be the conversation. And by creating something that reminds a person of something that came before, it is still original. However, if you are too original then the audience will have no idea what you’re doing.

BE IN THE GAME FOR THE RIGHT REASONS

You will make it on creativity, credibility and by not selling out. Because if a musician has some public acceptance today, they’re eager to make a deal with a corporation or what not.

But artists are not motivated by money when they create music. They are intrinsically motivated. The joy of creating a new song is what motivates them. If the song gets public acceptance, and it brings in money, great. As long as they are still motivated by the joy of creating a new song, they will be fine. As soon as they are motivated by the need to match or better the popularity of the “hit” song, then they are in trouble.

STREAMING PAYS

And music is entering a good era. There’s a lot of people who are using streaming services and as these services grow, more people will feel they would need to join, so they become part of the club. And as long as you control your copyrights, Spotify will pay you every month.

And it might sound scary to artists to go it alone. Especially legacy artists who had the labels in their corner and all the beggars and hangers on attached to them. But you need to go it alone. You need to have control over your copyrights. The artists like Motley Crue and Metallica will be cashing in millions while the rest cash in thousands.

SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS

Social media is there to give you instant feedback. After the show is over, people are commenting. After a song is released, people are commenting. It gives you the ability to connect and know your fans, to interact with them and to get a feel for what they like and want from you.

In the 60’s the youth questioned the norms and the authorities and changed everything. The clothes people wore changed, the hairstyles changed and the music changed. And it kept happening, with every decade. And at the forefront of each cultural change was music.

So as an artist, the question should be what is it, you hope to accomplish, and not the clicks, views and likes you hope to measure on your social media account. Because we have been conditioned to compare ourselves against metrics. It’s easy, but irrelevant. Hell, if the techies accepted the standard metrics they wouldn’t have made a difference. If the earlier musicians accepted that all guitars need to have clean sounds, then we wouldn’t have had distortion.

Remember music is forever, and it needs people to like it. If you don’t have any, you still have your music. Be creative and never stop.

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