A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

What’s Next

Gettin’ robbed
Gettin’ stoned
Gettin’ beat-up
Broken-boned
Gettin’ had
Gettin’ took

You paid your dues from hotel to motel, honed your chops playing live, got ripped off on the pay from the promoter, had some fights and some good times and maybe, just maybe, you might have made it to the top to rock ‘n’ roll.

Today, artists expect to get instant success. But, what artists fail to grasp is they get to define their own success.

Is success about reaching everybody and getting rich?

Is success about establishing a career on your own terms and controlling your own destiny?

So forget all the crap about streaming payments, piracy, YouTube videos payments and copyright issues because for any artist, it always comes back to the live show.

For a fan, it’s an experience they can’t get anywhere else. You see, the records weren’t perfect. In some cases, rushed, so the band could go back on the road again. And even the shows had problems, but the bands would take you on a journey and explore new paths with the songs, have sing-a-longs and jam out the endings. Today, the live show is a clone of the recordings, because bands take their time to get the recordings perfect.

Remember when Bob Rock was asked to produce Metallica. He heard the first four albums and hated the sound/mix on them. He watched them live and thought to himself, wow, how can I get the power, the sound and the energy of the live show in the studio.

So stop focusing on Spotify and revenue. That area is a game that some play well. But for most metal and rock artists, they can’t win there, so they need to go the other way and focus on the live performance. Use the data the streaming services give you about super fans and work out ways to reach them and play the cities they reside in.

Opportunities are rampant, if you allow yourself to see the landscape differently because you are investing now for revenue later. If you want it to work immediately, then focus on recordings. And then if you get some traction, you need to be able to play live.

The good thing is the internet allows the word to be spread but there are so many words trying to spread, it’s hard to get people’s attention, so you need to double down and focus on the building blocks, the ability to play your instrument. So focus on chops.

Music is cultures greatest invention and the record labels signed artists based on the music more than the commercial potential. With some A&R development, an audience would come as a career is built.

Now artists are a star today and gone tomorrow. And streaming put the public in control. It took away the power of scorched earth marketing tactics from the labels.

Songs that go nuts on streaming happen months before the rest of the mainstream pick up on them. And every so few years something new comes along that becomes mainstream. Classic rock gave birth to prog rock to punk to metal to hair rock to grunge to industrial to nu metal and so forth.

What’s next.

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

Who Should Be Listed As A Songwriter For A Song?

Metallica want to re-issue their 1982 demo “No Life To Leather”

Dave Mustaine on Twitter, said the talks broke down because Lars wanted song writing credits on two songs that Mustaine wrote every note and word to. So instead of agreeing to share the song writing, Mustaine passed.

If you look at the track listing of the demo, it sure has a distinct Dave Mustaine flavour. Four out of the seven songs, “The Mechanix”, “Metal Militia”, “Jump in the Fire” and “Phantom Lord” have song writing from Dave Mustaine.

I am presuming based on interviews, that “The Mechanix” and “Jump In The Fire” are the two songs written solely by Dave Mustaine.

“Hit the Lights”, “Motorbreath” and “Seek & Destroy” make up the other songs.

Song writing is always an issue with bands.

  • Van Halen had all the band members listed as songwriters on all of their albums. Suddenly, when the band re-negotiated their publishing deals for their earlier David Lee Roth albums, Michael Anthony was removed as a song writer.
  • Skid Row’s Dave Sabo and Rachel Bolan said that Sebastian Bach didn’t contribute to the Skid Row debut album as most of the songs were written before Bach joined. Bach countered to say, that the way he sung the songs, and the way he decided to hold certain notes was enough of a contribution to the debut album.
  • Nikki Sixx said one of the reasons for Vince Neil’s departure from Motley was due to his lack of song writing contributions, which Vince countered to say he had enough co-writes on Motley’s classic era.

100% of the time, when I write a song, I write the music, the words and the vocal melodies. And when I say music, I mean, the guitar riffs/chords and the vocal melodies. Then I bring the song to the band and show them the song. The bass player learns the guitar riffs and starts to play the bass lines in their own unique style. The singer learns the vocal melodies and starts to add their own unique vocal style to the song. The drummer hears the song and puts a beat to it.

Finally the song is played by a band. It’s structure is still the same as it was on the day I wrote it.

Do I need to share credit with anyone in the band?

Is the bass player, singer or drummer entitled to a song writing credit based on the above?

What about this scenario?

I write the song, complete with music, words and vocal melodies. I show it to the band. The drummer doesn’t like the interlude for some reason, so I write new music to the interlude and the drummer is now happy. Also the singer didn’t like the Chorus melody and the words, so I change them as well. We finally play the song as the band and it sounds great.

If you look at the definition of songwriter it states, a person who composes words or music or both.

So am I still the sole songwriter or do I need to share the credit with the two band members?

My view is no, I don’t need to share a song writing credit. The other guys in the band didn’t write a single note or word to the song. They might have made suggestions, but those changes still happened because I wrote extra music and extra words for the song.

Remember Copyright, that wonderful word. Well there is a mechanical copyright and a performance copyright. Mechanical monies are paid when the song is listened to on a streaming service, viewed on a video platform or the song is recreated onto a CD, a vinyl, a cassette and those physical items artists still try to sell sell. Performance monies are paid when the song is played on radio or TV, or in bars and restaurants.

Now, the recording industry and the publishers (yes, those pesky corporations who hold the copyrights to most of the popular songs) have lobbied hard to make these mechanical rights even more complex. Each new work would have a copyright for the composition (songwriter) and the sound recording (the band performance).

So let’s look at a real example. Motley Crue’s “Live Wire” is listed as a Nikki Sixx composition on the album credits. However, the mechanical rights of the song would be worked out in the following way and would be part of a band agreement, while Nikki Sixx is listed as the songwriter.

Nikki Sixx share

• 100% (Composition) + 25% (sound recording) = 125% out of 200% available.

• 125% divided by 200 x 100 =  62.5%

Tommy Lee, Vince Neil and Mick Mars share

• 25% for the sound recording is divided by 200 and multiplied by 100% = 12.5%

So the final copyright allocations for the mechanical license is as follows;

• 62.5% – Nikki Sixx

• 12.5% – Tommy Lee

• 12.5% – Vince Neil

• 12.5% – Mick Mars

Now, the performance rights organisations that collect the royalties for songs, do not allow decimal numbers, so you would assume, Nikki Sixx would get 64% and everyone else would get 12%.

Who would have thought making music involved maths and shares and allocations and what not. So when certain members see the lion’s share of monies going to a single person, they would start to write songs themselves, bring them in and they would either get rejected or re-written that they are nowhere near the original song the member brought in.

And if the song makes money, expect an argument to happen as to who gets what.

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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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