4 Years Ago (2017)
Attention is fleeting.
Attention is there and then it’s gone.
Or it never goes away because fans care about the artist; love what the artists does, their music and their connection to them via social media.
But some of those fans will grow and change and fall out of love with what the artists does.
And what will the artist do to get back their attention.
All the action is in streaming. The oldsters hate it and the youngsters embrace it.
Personally, I thought all the 80s acts I grew up with would re-enter the charts because streaming would allow them to compete with the new acts. But back in 2017, none of the old acts had hit a billion streams.
Used to be you weren’t a star until you got a record deal and heard your song on the radio.
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.
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.
Copyright issues are always in the news.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was speaking out against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), accusing the RIAA of asking the US government to apply copyright law the way the RIAA wishes it to be applied.
Because if Copyright is there to reward creators then there would no need for the Spinal Tap creators to take Vivendi/ Universal Music to the courts.
Both of these corporations are making up accounting transactions so the creators of the Spinal Tap movie and the soundtrack are STILL shown as being in debt to the studio/label.
Yep, you would pay off a home loan in 35 years, but in 2017, the Spinal Tap soundtrack still had a debt to the studio/label.
And all they wanted to do was take back their copyrights. Because Copyright law was written to allow the creator to take back their copyrights after 35 years.
It was hard being a musician
It’s still hard being a musician.
You wrote and performed music.
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.
Artists did the hard work of building up a local fan base, city by city
Artists want to take over the world in an instant.
The labels and the media measured attention via sales of recorded music.
Well, attention is measured by likes, shares, views, streams, sales of physical, sales of digital, sales of tickets and so forth.
MTV was king.
YouTube is king.
To discover new music, we needed to rely on a knowledgeable record store operator, gatekeepers, radio and expensive import magazines.
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.
Gatekeepers decided who would get signed or not
The internet decimated the barrier to entry.
Do you wanna get Paid?
The ones who write the songs always get paid.
Sting gets paid for “Every Breath You Take”. He’s listed as the sole songwriter, but the guitar arpeggio pattern created over the synth/bass lines from Sting’s original demo is the iconic part of the song. And it wasn’t written by Sting, but Sting gets the payments.
Ozzy Osbourne gets paid for all of the “Bark At The Moon” album songs as he “supposably wrote” it all by himself.
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 while 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.
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.
And 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 stop shop.
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 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.
8 Years Ago (2013)
I was listening to “Disarm the Descent.”
I came to Killswitch Engage late. I didn’t listen to their first three albums.
It was a “Guitar World” issue from 2007. At that time the magazine still came with a DVD of bonus content. One of the bonuses was a lesson from the Killswitch guitarists on how to play “My Curse” and after watching it, I was hooked.
So I asked my bass player friend to burn me all of their albums, which he did.
By the time, their 2009 self-titled album came out; I was purchasing it without even listening to a single note. So free does pay as I became a buyer of their next album.
Sales data can show what is in demand at a certain point in time; however the reach and the popularity of a certain band or a certain album cannot be properly measured until many years later.
Remember that history is written by the winners. In music, the winners are the artists or bands that outlast the competition.
The record labels didn’t have no moral obligation to keep their hard rock rosters in tact. The only obligation they had is to their shareholders and their bottom line.
So with every major label signing bands from Seattle, the poor old hard rock bands that made the labels billions over the last 10 years suddenly disappeared. White Lion was one of them. The label never dropped them, however they would have if the band stayed together.
White Lion finished up because Vito Bratta became conflicted. Disillusioned.
The recording business only cared about short-term income and total control.
Vito wanted longevity and he didn’t like how White Lion was seen as part of the same movement of bands that he was commenting about. He was an artist competing in a game of rock stars. He was an artist competing in a game of profits. With each game, there is a winner and a loser.
By 1991, every artist needed a hit to get recognition. The album format was already dead due to MTV playing the “HIT” video. If a band had a hit single then people were interested in buying the album to see what that band is all about.
This was Vito’s disillusionment. When he made an appearance on the Eddie Trunk show, he said words to the effect like “how do you write a hit single” when he was talking about Big Game, the following up to Pride.
White Lion was never a band that played the singles game, however the industry forced them into it and their main musical songwriter started to second guess himself as a creator.
What do the Billboard charts tell us?
On the Rock and Metal chart we had the following list for the week;
- Korn – Paradigm Shift (1 Week on The Chart)
- Alter Bridge – Fortress (1 Week On The Chart)
- Cage The Elephant – Melophobia (1 Week On The Chart)
- Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington – High Rise (EP) (1 Week On The Chart)
- Avenged Sevenfold – Hail To The King (7 Weeks On The Chart)
- Dance Gavin Dance – Acceptance Speech (1 Week On The Chart)
- Metallica – Through The Never (Soundtrack) (3 Weeks On The Chart)
- Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell: Volume 1 (11 Weeks On The Chart)
- Dream Theater – Dream Theater (3 Weeks On The Chart)
- Rush – Vapor Trails: Remixed (2 Weeks On The Chart)
- Asking Alexandria – From Death To Destiny (10 Weeks On The Chart)
- Skillet – Rise (16 Weeks On The Chart)
- Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies (27 Weeks On The Chart)
- Black Sabbath – 13 (18 Weeks On The Chart)
- Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal (27 Weeks On The Chart)
Imagine Dragons – Night Visions (58 Weeks On The Chart)
So the above charts show me a few things:
- That the fans love new music. There are 5 albums that have their first week on the charts.
- After a week, if that new music is not great, we move on very quickly.
- If that new music is great, we spread the word and the album hangs around in the “charts”. Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch, Skillet and Volbeat are a few bands that are hanging around.
- If you create a group of songs that connect, expect to be hanging around for a long time. Imagine Dragons is one such band.
- Artists need to adapt their business practices. Instead of spending months on an album, just to see it fade away within 6 weeks, they should be releasing more frequently. It doesn’t have to be original songs all the time. It could be acoustic versions, cover versions, unique live versions, blog posts and so on.
- Here today, gone tomorrow is the modern paradigm. Artist need to adapt, so that they are here today, everyday.
Expectations (Alter + Adapt) = Survival
So what do all of our favourite bands/artists keep on doing?
They keep on spending a lot of time writing and recording 10 to 15 songs, just so they can group them together and release them as an album.
This “expectation” worked once upon a time.
However it is not working today.
But Metal and Rock artists still have time as metal fans are loyal and still purchase the “album”.
Check out the following comment from Anita Elberse and her book “Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, And The Big Business Of Entertainment”. It is probably the best advice that any artist will get.
“…out of a total of 870,000 albums that sold at least one copy in 2011, 13 album titles sold more than a million copies each, together accounting for 19 million copies sold.
That’s 0.001 percent of all titles accounting for 7 percent of sales.
The top 1,000 albums generated about half of all the sales, and the top 10,000 albums around 80 percent of sales.
Deep in the tail, 513,000 titles or nearly 60 percent of the assortment, sold fewer than 10 copies each, together making up half a percent of total sales.”
513,000 album titles sold fewer than 10 copies each. So if you are one of those 513,000 bands that sold less than 10 copies, what do you do?
You obviously expected a better return on your investment. A lot of artists will give up, a lot of bands will break up and then there will be a small percentage who will adapt and alter their expectations.
The competition for listener’s attention is huge.
Like the Seventies, the Eighties and the Nineties, there are still only a select few of releases that end up selling more than a million.
And that’s another wrap for another week.