A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Labels Complain Again

It’s typical of the recording industry to complain about anything which benefits the consumer. They seem to forget that the profits they make is due to a relationship between the artist and the consumer. There is a zero relationship between the record label and the consumer. From the consumers point of view, the record label doesn’t even exist in their mindset.  

So the labels license their music to various streaming services for a fee and then pocket the majority of the multi-million fee instead of spreading it to the artists, because hey, why would the labels compensate the artists, since it’s the works of the artists that give them the negotiating power at the table.

Apple is considering putting a bundle together that incorporates Apple Music and Apple TV. More subscribing customers who normally wouldn’t subscribe to a music subscription would increase the pool of money. But then again, how many people would give up their Netflix and Spotify subscriptions for an Apple Entertainment bundle. We wouldn’t know because no one does their due diligence. For the record, I wouldn’t give up my Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime subscriptions for an Apple bundle.

So all of this is based on feelings. And somehow these feelings from the label executives that they will be ripped off are not based on any research or evidence.

Read the article.

Of course, the labels will sell the story that if they lose money, then it would have a flow on effect to the artist. But the labels haven’t been losing money for the last 5 years, so why aren’t the artists getting paid.

And artists bash up Spotify, but no one is speaking up about these bundles that Apple is proposing.

There is a blog post over at Seth’s Blog about ways to grow. It basically states that if you persist and get the word out, you will be the same. There will be no growth. This is the record label model, do what they have always done.

However to grow, they need to change something, like enter a new segment, earn trust or do work that matters to someone.

But it’s hard to grow and help the artists when the label executives are dragged kicking and screaming into a new segment.

Steve Jobs convinced EMI to sign on for $0.99 mp3 digital downloads and the rest came, only after years of negotiations. It took 3 years for Spotify to be licensed in the U.S. and during that time, YouTube became the unofficial streaming provider. And then again, they had to get a stake in the company in order to give the approval.

Artists really need to have a look at what they are signing away, because the label doesn’t care for you at all.

If they did, they would be proud to enter new market segments which could lead to more income. Instead they are scared to lose what they have, so they persist and do more of the same.

Complain.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Creating

The first song you write and release will probably be ignored.

The tenth one maybe not.

The twentieth will probably do something commercially.

The thirtieth, will probably be ignored.

What is clear is that each song, creates more demand for other songs. Each song released gives you the power to release better songs. And better songs create more demand for other songs.

So in order to survive creating, you need to do something creative.

Simply begin.

And then don’t stop.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Marketing

Growing your brand and spreading the word of your art is a marketing problem.

So if that perfect album you spent months writing and months recording is nowhere to be seen, it’s because it’s not marketed properly.

And I am thinking of all of those hard rock and metal albums released between 1992 and 2005, which got released and didn’t really set the charts alight. It’s not because the music was crap, it’s because the labels didn’t care enough to put the money behind the artist to market them. But really was it the fault of the labels. It’s what the artist tells us.

Bands I support have spoken out about the label and the labels lack of enthusiasm at marketing their album. But the label did have the enthusiasm at one stage to put money into the demoing and recording of the album.

So is Geffen responsible or David Coverdale responsible for Blue Murder’s self-titled debut being killed or is the band responsible for not telling a story that connects with people or agreeing to that pirate look?

Is Elektra responsible for Motley Crue’s self-titled 1994 album doing poor numbers after they spent over 2 million dollars on the recording and marketing, or is the band responsible for not telling a story which connects with people?

Is EMI responsible for Queensryche’s “Hear In The Now Frontier” not doing better commercially?

Is Atlantic responsible for White Lion’s “Mane Attraction” disappearing from the charts?

Because marketing isn’t about putting a poster or an ad in a record store or internet site, it’s about telling a story that connects with people. As humans we make choices and the choice to invest in art is made together with other choices. Telling us that this is your best work, or that you put in your blood, sweat and tears is not really a story that connects. It’s a stupid PR spiel that doesn’t resonate at all.

And marketing isn’t about going all nuclear with ads and posters on every website and every print magazine either. It doesn’t equal advertising. Marketing is to spread ideas, serve the fans and satisfy their needs. And you do it by being authentic, respectful and truthful.

Artists need to tell us the story.

They need to own it.

They need to be truthful.

So if you have a marketing problem, you can’t solve it by simply repeating what you did yesterday.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Power Of The Record Labels

It’s 1992.

Hard rock bands are becoming too generic and soulless, especially the newer breed from 1989 and onwards. The fans are looking for something new, but they still have their taste buds all over the hard rock/metal distorted cream.

Meanwhile, the labels are signing Seattle bands, left, right and centre, while they start dropping hard rock bands left, right and centre. Not only could the labels make an artist famous, they could also make an artist destitute. And back then, without the money and power of the label behind an artist, an artist would go unnoticed.

The power the record labels had to kill careers or to destroy styles of music.

So the artist would sign a deal and get a small royalty payment from the label. Today the artists would still sign a deal because they see the label as their ticket to riches, but instead the artists are now complaining of the low royalty payment of streaming services, but it is still the label keeping the lion share.

In other words, you give to get.

You give your rights to the label in order to get a chance at fame and riches. And there’s no use yelling at streaming services. They are not record labels, they are technology companies, using music to influence culture and grow their brand. Once their brand is big enough, they will do away with music.

Because seriously, which company wants to pay billions in licensing and be constantly in the courts?  

HBO paid billions in licensing, until it got to a stage where it was unfeasible and they had to start creating their own content. Netflix at first had only licensed content. And like HBO they saw that it was unfeasible, so they started investing in creating their own, and slowly doing away with the licensing.

Now, more than any time in modern recording history, an artist can do it themselves. They can record cheaply, distribute and get paid. So artists should build their own leverage and then they can decide what is next.

But we have lived in a world where the labels have controlled the narrative for way too long and MTV made everyone think that if they learnt how to play an instrument they will be rich and famous. The majority still hold this view and the minority that don’t, are the ones making it.

People talk up Record Day sales like they matter, when only the label is winning, while digital distribution can offer an artist new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries or rural areas. The end result is growth across the board. Nowadays it’s about reaching as many people as possible and eventually the money will flow in if you do it right. That should have been the role of the labels but instead it’s up to the techies.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Releasing Frequently

There is a lot of discussions happening in the media about artists needing to release new music constantly and how they need to tour more frequently to make up for smaller royalties as sales of recorded music are replaced by access fees to recorded music.

Eddie Trunk on his Twitter account said;

“I think in many ways we are starting to see effects of every artist touring nonstop to offset decline in royalties. But only so much people can do. Mega acts will always draw and command big $. For many others very hit/miss. Only so much fans can see/pay.”

And then I read an article on The Guardian website about how there is a need for artists to release new music constantly.

And the first thing that came to mind was Ronnie James Dio.

1972 to 1979, Ronnie James Dio via Elf and Rainbow released 7 albums.

1980 to 1987, Ronnie James Dio via Black Sabbath and his Dio band released another 8 albums.

In total from 1972 to 1987, over a 15 year period, Ronnie James Dio built his brand and name into a worldwide rock star by releasing 15 albums. And he did it by playing live, by writing new music, recording studio albums and recording live shows (which would eventually be released as live albums).

There is a comment in The Guardian article about how The Beatles released 13 albums over a 7 year period between 1963 and 1970. The Rolling Stones released 10 albums between 1964 and 1970. And as most of the comments stated, there is nothing wrong with releasing music on a frequent basis as long as the quality is there.

So why is it a problem these days to release music frequently or touring more frequently?

Fans have choice and a lot of it. They can pick and choose. In most cases, they choose a higher profile act, not because the act is fantastic in its current state, but because they were fantastic once upon a time and the dad or mum want to take their kids to experience the same electricity. Or the act is such a big ticket that people go just so they could take a photo and show their Facebook and Instagram crowd they went.

But ticket prices are a problem especially if acts scalp their own tickets.

And albums don’t have a long shelf life anymore, like how they did in the MTV era because there are no geo restrictions anymore.

In the past, for an US act starting off, the album would be released just in the U.S.

A video clip starts doing the rounds on MTV and suddenly, the album is selling. 3 months later, it is released across different European and UK countries. 3 months after that it has its Japanese release and then Australian release. An artist, bankrolled by the label is doing promotional for the album 9 months after it has been released and then the tour has already started and then they are on the road for a little bit longer. Once that ends, they go back in the studio for the follow up.

But today, an album is released worldwide, on the same day. Gone is the 9 months of promotions to make the album hang around. Instead it is replaced with 3 months of promotion before the album is released for at least 4 weeks of sales and a charting position to validate the albums worth, which is meaningless anyway. The true test of an albums worth is if people are still listening to it 12 months from now and 24 months from now.

And they say that history can show us where we are going. Well, the 50’s and 60’s model of releasing singles on a frequent basis to see which one connects is the model on show today. The focus on week one sales, is irrelevant if there isn’t a continuous stream of new content.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Greed

Greed threatens everything. The act of wanting more doesn’t work in a business built from emotions. People connect with music because it connects on an emotional level first. And not all connections are transactions. Sometimes it takes years for the music fan to spend money on an act.

So where are we at?

Years ago, in the land that introduced streaming, Swedish musicians sued the major labels Universal Music And Warner Music over streaming royalties. At the same time, major artists around the world also sued their labels over how they paid iTunes sales back to them. Eminem said it should be under the licensing rate (which is higher), while the labels argued that it should be under the sale rate (which is lower).

Then artists started filing “copyright termination” applications (which is legislated, that they are allowed to do so), however the record labels kept rejecting these applications and off to court the two parties went. Some artists won and others like Duran Duran lost. And some are still on going.

Because the labels don’t want to lose control of these rights as the more Copyrights they hold for popular songs, the more power they have at the negotiation table with the techies, so in return they get higher licensing fees, which they really keep to themselves. If the labels really cared about the artists, then they wouldn’t have put the masters of classic albums, plus the back-ups, in a tin shed with no climate control. And when it all went up in flames they employed subterfuge.

But when Napster came and the distribution gatekeeper got abolished, everyone said the major labels would fold. But instead they got more powerful because for any technological service to operate with music, they need to have a licensing agreement. YouTube has one, Apple has one, Spotify has one, Tidal has one, Pandora has one, Shazam has one and so on.

Which is a shame because of all the advances made, the major labels still operate with a business model rooted in the past. The majors still pay about 10% royalties to artists for digital income. The 10% average rate is based on the era’s when the record companies produced a physical product like vinyl or CD, stored it in a warehouse and then transported that product to a brick and mortar store. Of course at that time all of these steps in the process where accounted for.

However in the digital age, there is no need to even produce a physical product like a vinyl or CD, however the labels are still short changing their artists. If the streaming rates paid to the labels were so bad, trust me, the majors and the RIAA would be the first ones screaming theft.

Streaming services pay 70% of their revenues to music rights holders. How much of that money gets passed on to musicians depends on the terms of their contracts with labels.

If you are on a major label roster you should have followed the Def Leppard route. Due to the disagreements they were having on the digital payment terms with their label, they refused to let their label put their catalogue on digital services.

However, in order to cash in on the “Rock Of Ages” movie and the sudden interest in “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Ages”, they re-recorded these songs with the current band and released digital “forgeries” (as Def Lep called em) of these classics. But they did it on their own terms.

And when Def Leppard’s music finally hit streaming services, with the rate that they wanted, well there is no one really complaining about the rate?  

How did it get like this?

Once upon a time, the artists had the power. Read any bio from the 70’s and you’ll see how painful the artists were for the labels to deal with. And the artists never did what the label wanted. The label wanted hits, they wrote noise. The label wanted more like the last album, the artist went in a different direction. Then in the Eighties, the labels stole the power back through economics. With the rise in revenue due to the CD, it made the labels mega rich powerhouses. And MTV was also making artists into platinum starts. And the artists just fell in line. Because they couldn’t handle seeing an executive flying private on the monies earned from artists.

But artists today, can go it alone. Because it is the connection the fan has with the artist which is valuable.

And if more people are paying for a subscription service, then the overall pool of money grows. So if the artist is in control of their rights, then they will be paid forever. If they signed their rights away to the label, then the label will get paid forever and they will pay the artist some.

But there is always the temptation of promised millions right now to sign away your rights forever.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Spotify Family Mix

The Family Mix playlist from Spotify has really opened my eyes as to how kids consume music.

For those that don’t know, Family Mix is a playlist that combines music that a family (in our case, my wife, kids and I) listen to on our Premium family account.

For example, the song “Youngblood” came up from 5 Seconds Of Summer on the playlist, because my eldest (14 years old) listened to it. But, he hasn’t listened to it in the last six months, but before that he did listen to it a lot. And it’s the only song he listened to from that artist.

So is my son a fan or has he moved on to other songs/artists?

When I asked him, he said if they (5SoS) release another good song he will probably check it out. Basically my children are “fans of songs, not artists.”

So while the streaming stats might look great for 5 Seconds Of Summer, and their monthly listeners (worldwide) are high, how many of those listeners would go on and watch the band live?

How many are really fans of the band or just a fan of the song?

I am a fan of the song “It’s Time” but I’m not an Imagine Dragons fan by no means as the other songs don’t connect with me. But “It’s Time” did.

I suppose it’s the same old argument from the sale model.

How many people who purchased an album listened to it once and how many people who purchased an album listened to it thousands of times?

I guess, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In streaming’s case, how many people come back to the streaming account of the artist and listen to their tracks over and over and over again, year on year. As these people are the real fans, the super fans, the ones who will buy those super deluxe packages and what not.

Because Spotify does have an Artist Dashboard, which does offer great numbers on what songs are being listened to, where and by what demographic.

But it doesn’t say which cities and demographic constantly come back to the artist account/songs and on which song.

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