Life always throws curveballs. I have reached the stage in my life where I don’t have the time to do my full time IT job. I wouldn’t have it any other way with all of the family distractions, however my blogging has suffered a fair bit in 2022, from the usual daily posts to a post or two in a week and then back to daily posts and then to one or two a week again. Even reading and commenting on posts has gone a bit slack, but I will get around to reviewing it all.
So here is a two week review of Destroyer Of Harmony History.
4 Years Ago (2018)
Copyright was designed to protect the artist and to enhance culture. It did this, by giving the artist a monopoly on their works, so they could make money from their works and have an incentive to create further works. This monopoly was for a short period with the option to renew. Once the expiry date passed, the works became part of the public domain for future generations to build on and use. Like how the 60’s musicians took all the Blues classics from the 30’s that had terms which expire in the 50s and the “British Invasion” was born.
Corporations started to rise because of these monopolies and what we have now is a copyright standard so far removed from what copyright was meant to be. For over a century the record label has built up a history of owning songs it shouldn’t be owning.
“Why would a label be insisting on keeping a property that has stopped selling, that they don’t have any plans to re-promote except when the artist dies?”
“Of all the creative work produced by humans anywhere, a tiny fraction has continuing commercial value. For that tiny fraction, the copyright is a crucially important legal device”
The songwriters and the actual artists will never be properly compensated because of poor record keeping from the record labels and the publishing organisations, but these same organisations blame the technology companies for not doing enough to seek out the songwriters.
But the labels licensed their catalogues to the techies, so wouldn’t they have the information as to who wrote what. Especially for the lesser artists.
There is a scene in the “Uncensored” video with Vince Neil cruising down the Sunset Strip in a limo with a spa pool and he’s talking about the name of the next album, called “Girls, Girls, Girls”.
On May 15, 1987, “Girls Girls Girls” comes out and the world was treated to two video clips. The “Censored” clip and the “Uncensored” one. MTV had a ball with it.
And the clip is misleading. While it looks like the guys are having fun, attending strip clubs and dropping bills into knickers, Nikki Sixx was in the spiralling grip of a heroin addiction, Mick Mars was blacking out from alcoholism, Tommy Lee was coking it up, screwing anything that moved and somehow managed to get married and still screw anything that moved, while Vince Neil was still on probation from his car crash homicide and pretending to be sober. In other words, life in the Crue was chaos with a capital MC.
The best track on the album is the opener, Nikki’s religious sermon to the street life of L.A. “Wild Side” is perfect, from the riffs, the drum groove, the vocal melodies and of course, the lyrics.
Kneel down ya sinners to streetwise religion
Greed has been crowned the new king
From a commercial perspective, “Girls” was competing against “Slippery When Wet” from Bon Jovi, “The Final Countdown” from Europe and Whitesnake’s 1987 self-titled album for listeners attention. “Look What the Cat Dragged In” from Poison was also rising. But it not only competed, it went toe to toe with all of those releases and Motley came out on top in the live box office. Hell, even Whitesnake was opening up for them.
And who can forget the words from management, that if the band went to Europe to tour, they will come home in body bags. “Girls” would be the end of the Motley band as we knew it. A snapshot of how a band can take alcohol and drugs to the limits.
Artists always had a lot of songs in the bank. Sometimes they didn’t even release their best song. They always withheld some for the next album and the album after. And they kept on writing.
Majority of artists 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.
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.
Remember music is forever, and it needs people to like it. Be creative and never stop.
It takes artists a while, but they eventually realise how much their copyrights are worth. Nikki Sixx on Twitter 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 went into administration. As part of bankruptcy, Downing sold the rights to 136 songs he co-wrote. According to the article, these songs generate $340K to $400K in royalty payments annually back in 2018. Those numbers are only growing and the Copyright holders, (the Labels and The Publishers) are making their money back tenfold.
On the other side, is the graphic artists who normally get 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 graphic 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.
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. Fancy that. A label claiming to own the artistic rights to art.
When it comes to artists and copyright law, it’s very messy, especially for famous works as the companies don’t want to lose the rights to valuable works. So the corporations always try to extend Copyright terms.
As much as I like using Spotify, once they reach critical mass, the prices will go up. But it’s easier said than done, as there is a lot of competition in streaming these days. And one of the key role of our governments is to make sure monopolies don’t exist, but every time they pass a piece of legislation, they more or less give rise to monopolies. Copyright monopoly anyone.
And back in 2018, my Netflix subscription went up and it went up again last year, while the shows I watched they keep cancelling like “Altered Carbon” or “Sense8”. 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.
Cinderella’s “Long Cold Winter” had its 30th Anniversary on May 21, 1988. It’s was good then and it’s still good today, a timeless album.
And 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 hated this album.
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 Can’t This be Love” for attention. Because in the MTV era, songs had some legs.
And everything these bands represent is opposite to what is popular on the charts today. Today it’s all about the beat and it doesn’t feel personal which is opposite of what music should be.
Playing in a band is tough. Everyone wants to do it, but the long road to make some money 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. 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 home 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.
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.
Did anyone hear about the copyright infringement suit between The Script and James Arthur.
Back in 2018, James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go” released in 2016 had 846 million streams on Spotify and on YouTube it had over 600 million views.
Meanwhile “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” from The Script, 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 they sing there 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.
The reason why music became such a large commercial force is because songs sounded 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?
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.
8 Years Ago (2014)
Remember the days of purchasing an album based on a heavily marketed opening track and to find out that the album had 1 great song and 2 to 3 maybe 4 decent songs. And the rest were there as pure filler.
After being burnt so many times on purchases like these, did the labels or artist need any more evidence as to why people took to cherry picking when the mp3 became available. And with streaming, we have taken it up a notch.
The big songs just keep getting bigger and the album cuts are forgotten. A lot of music listeners wouldn’t even be able to name the album that had “Don’t Stop Believin’”.
Yep the labels are at it again. Using money that should be paid to their artists to buy shares in another technology company.
This time around Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment have each bought $3 million in shares in Shazam Entertainment on top of the stake they own in Spotify.
The record labels still scream that there is no money in the recording business because of piracy. Yet, Universal Music has also purchased shares in Beats Music and when the Apple billion dollar purchase is complete of Beats, it will be even richer.
Yet, a recent IFPI report shows that the labels invested $4.5 billion in artist and repertoire. If there is no money in the recording business,then why would the record labels spend so much money on artist and repertoire.
Because artists are the lifeblood of the music industry. And it is artists that make the labels money. No one buys an album because Elektra released it.
The labels have purchasing power because of the artists.
The labels have status because of the artists.
The artists have made the label executives more wealthy than the best-selling artists.
So if the record labels own shares in Spotify and Shazam, does that mean by default, the artists also own those shares. The answer should be YES.
Every corporation in power, when faced with the inevitabilities of competition, have a nasty habit of pushing backwards. They assume that by killing off any competition before it gets some momentum, they have done enough to protect their business models. They assume that if they lobby or bribe hard enough and get even more draconian laws passed, it will give them more power to prevent any further problems down the line.
But change is eternal. It is progress and it cannot be stopped. Try as the corporations will, change always happen.
The recording industry built an empire decades ago based on the control of the media and the distribution chains. Teenage kids from 1999 built a better system.
And the system allows for the transitioning of power and control back to the audience and the actual creators. But the artists want to apply the old charging system to the new system.
It should be the norm that in 2014, if a person still buys a physical CD or LP of the artists, that same person should be able to download that whole album via a download site that the artist controls. Coheed and Cambria did this with “The Afterman” releases. Amazon offers it via the AutoRip option however not all artists opt in.
It should be the norm that in 2014, if a person wants to download an MP3 rip of an album for free, they should be able to do it. If Pirate sites make so much money from advertisements, then why don’t the record labels provide the same service that they pirate sites provide and even reward those uploaders for continuing to spread culture instead of locking it up. These people would never have purchased physical anyway.
Music is cultural. It was always possible to identify people’s musical tastes by the clothes they wore and the style of their hair. Our musical identity was a source of pride.
The definition of a casual music fan twenty to thirty years ago meant having a high music IQ and typically purchasing a seven inch single on a weekly basis. The definition of a casual music fan today means having a lower music IQ about who was involved in the song’s creation and focusing all on the song.
Nobody owes a musician a living and what is valuable is subjective.
From the beginning of time, musicians always made money from public performances.
Copyright at its basic level ensures that people receive compensation for a valuable good that they spend time and energy to create. This creates an incentive to put more time and energy into producing new work. Longer Copyright terms do not benefit the original creator in any way whatsoever.
People start to create for the sake of creation rather than money.
Whether people want to admit it or not, every song that is written relies on some sort of connection to past works.
Piracy has never been the problem. The RIAA just found it convenient to blame Piracy. It was all a smokescreen to fool the politicians into action so that they can get control back over the distribution/gatekeeper monopoly they had.
Recording revenues never recovered because it turns out that most people just want the best songs and not all of the songs.
There is a big difference between getting paid a “living wage” and earning one. Just because a musician creates a song or records an album, it doesn’t mean that you need to get paid a living wage. You need an audience that believes that you have provided a service to them by releasing your music.
Music is something people choose to do free and money is a by-product of doing music. A wage is something your employer pays you for doing your part in bringing him profit. If you want a wage for playing music and you are not a superstar act, then you need to put in your 40 hours a week. Be a music teacher, gig every day.
Being paid is good, but being known is better.
You could say wrong time, wrong place.
I am always into bands that can take the AC/DC style of rock n roll and spruce it up with their own twists without sounding too much of a copycat. Junkyard was such a band that did it really well with their debut album released in 1989.
A lot of people believe that the Guns N Roses comparison is the reason why Geffen Records became interested. To put it into context, Guns N Roses didn’t really take over the world until 1988 and by then, Junkyard already had a record deal in place with Geffen records.
The excellent Tom Werman was on hand to produce the debut album that came out in 1989. The engineer was Duane Baron who was also no slouch in the producer chair either.
While others complain about Werman’s work ethic or input, the Junkyard team had nothing but praise. However, another candidate that was considered was Matt Wallace, who did the initial demos that Geffen financed before they gave the go ahead for the full album to be recorded. Matt Wallace was a more eclectic producer, being involved with artists like “The Replacements”, “John Hiatt” and “Faith No More”.
They wrote and recorded material for a third album with the working title “103,000 People Can’t Be Wrong” (which was a reference to the first week sales of album number 2) but the record never got made for various reasons.
The band wanted to produce it themselves so Geffen gave them an ultimatum.
Record it with a real producer, however they will give no marketing support or touring support.
Or they would release the band from their deal and allow the band to shop the record to other labels.
But no other label would come forth to support them as all of the labels had moved on to find the next Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice In Chains.
It’s there Eighth album.
How many bands out there had their biggest album on their 8th release?
Just to put it into context. Metallica’s 8th album was “St Anger”. Motley Crue’s 8th album was “New Tattoo”. Aerosmith’s 8th album was “Done With Mirrors”. Black Sabbath’s 8th album was “Never Say Die”. Ozzy’s 8th album was “Down To Earth”. Bon Jovi’s 8th album was “Bounce”.
When I heard the “Fireworks” album from Bonfire I got the impression that they were superstars already. The album to me is a definitive piece of hard rock, melodic rock, heavy metal and euro metal all merged into one cohesive package.
I had a friend who had a friend who had a friend that made me a copy of the album on cassette. I had no idea who was in the band, who wrote the songs, who produced it and on what label it was on.
What I did know was the music. And the music was great.
In the end, Bonfire was one of the thousands of bands that signed contracts stacked against them and of course they got ripped off.
The “Breaking the Chains” clip was all over MTV but no one was buying the album of the same name.
The band was doing an arena tour with Blue Oyster Cult and the label still wanted to drop them.
“Tooth and Nail” was Dokken’s last shot. The band recorded it and then they went back to their day jobs. Mick Brown and George Lynch went back to driving trucks while Don Dokken went back to buying, fixing and selling cars.
Then the album blew up.
Put aside the band politics and the legendary Lynch/Dokken wars. Just pay attention to the songs, especially the backs to the wall attitude that you can hear emanating from the speakers.
And that’s a wrap.