A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Releases 

Just put out the damn album. 

When we laid out cash for the 10 to 15 albums we used to buy a year, we had time to digest and live with the music for a long time. So back then we would endure the two month hype run and sales would keep the LP going for a while. But the old hype model doesn’t work anymore. People seem to forget it’s called the music business, not the hype business.

The 8 week lead up to the release is extensive especially when the LP run could be over in a month after it’s released. The first week sales while they might look great on paper are irrelevant. Check the second week streaming numbers. Then the third, then the fourth and so on. Those numbers will show you if the fans care for the music or if only the press (that your marketing team has paid to promote your product) cares.

And people will complain about streaming revenue and how it doesn’t pay enough. Control your rights, have a song that people connect with and you will be paid well and forever.

That’s right. YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music will pay forever. Isn’t that better than the one off transaction between the record store and the fan. That fan could have purchased the album, taken it home, played it once and traded it. Maybe that fan played the album a million times. You as an artist wouldn’t know that behaviour. 

But with streaming you will know how many times fans are streaming your music and from what cities and states they are from.

The truth is today’s hit artists will be paid by streaming services forever and this is a good thing. Data tells us what’s hot and what’s not.

And like it or not, it’s always been about the hits. To me a hit isn’t the song that takes the number 1 slot on a chart.

“Fear Of The Dark” or “Hallowed Be Thy Name” or “Creeping Death” or “Fade To Black” or “Master Of Puppets” didn’t set the charts alight but the fans made those songs hit’s, especially with the sing along guitar harmonies of the Maiden tunes. They are songs that connected and spread like wildfire amongst the fan base.

We don’t live in 1989, where mediocre stuff on the radio gets some traction because of the marketing/hype dollars invested into the promotion. We live in the era of connectivity and virality and hits and streaming that pays forever.

But you need to release a continuous stream of product to win.

Advertisements
Standard
A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Tribute

It’s my bible.

I played the cassette tape to death trying to learn every riff and lick. And when I couldn’t pick it all up, I shelled out $50 on Wolf Marshal’s transcription of the “Tribute” album and I spent a lot of hours woodshedding to it. Even though Ozzy re-cut his vocals for the release there is no denying Randy Rhoads and his love for his instrument. The way he re-imagines his multi-layered guitar riffs from the studio versions and turns it all into one definitive guitar cut is brilliant. For any guitarist, new or old, this is it. It gets no better than this.

I Don’t Know

The “A” pedal point riff in the intro is an example of effective simplicity that Randy flourishes with harmonic pinches, artificial harmonics, legato licks and whammy bar dives.

Crazy Train

The demonic scary F#m intro merges into an A major trippy/happy major key verse before it morphs back into the minor key for the pre-chorus and chorus. How can you not like it?

And then you have that logically laid out, super melodic and shred happy solo section. What more can be said?

Listen and enjoy and play air guitar.

Believer

The bass line is hypnotic and sets the tone for RR to colour and decorate.

Mr Crowley

This is the first song I got stuck into. It has two shred leads and the way Randy combined those guitar lines into one definitive track for the “was he polemically” section is brilliant. 

Then the outro lead is just one of those songs within a song lead breaks.

Flying High Again

The AC/DC style groove allows Randy to flourish the spaces with trills and little licks. Again the solo section is one of those lead breaks that just blows you away.

Revelation (Mother Earth)

The finger picked part at the start is breathtaking, the interlude is subdued and relaxing but that outro is breathless. And the live tempo is much better than the studio tempo. 

Steal Away The Night

I love the intro riff and how the outro of Revelation (Mother Earth) transitions into this song. Unfortunately I can’t say the same thing for drum solos or guitar solos just on their own. I would rather hear those things along with music. John Petrucci on the live Budokan album nails it with his extended guitar solo as part of “Hollow Years” song.

Suicide Solution

The riff and the groove just nails it for me, plus the lyrics from Daisley about Ozzy’s addictions are brilliant. Again, would have loved to hear Randy solo while the band played the main riff of “Suicide” instead of being on his own.

Iron Man

Would you believe that the first time I heard these Sabbath song’s is via Ozzy?

Children Of The Grave

After “Mr Crowley” this was the next song I needed to devour. I loved the way Randy plays the riff in C#m on the 5th string. That’s how I learned this song. It wasn’t until many years later I heard the Sabbath version and Iommi is down tuned to C#. I must say, I love the tempo of this live version. 

And that outro improv lead is brilliant especially when Randy starts to reference Ace ala “Love Gun”.

Paranoid

Again, Randy goes to town on the lead and he fills the spaces of the main riff with trills and licks. Brilliant improv.

Goodbye To Romance

The piece d’resistance in guitar playing. The jazz like chords in the verses, the arpeggio chorus riff and that guitar solo.

No Bone Movies

For a last minute addition to the album, the song rocks hard in a live setting. It’s sleazy and perfect for the era.

The album ends with some outtakes of Randy playing his acoustic instrumental “Dee”.

These day’s guitarists can do unbelievable and very advanced things on the guitar but none of them have the magic and song sense of Randy Rhoads.

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

Results

Someone said to me “Nothing matters except the result”. And it got me thinking. For a result to be earned, what needs to happen before hand?

Remember in math tests, you would get marks for showing your workings even though the result could be wrong. For some reason the math marking system doesn’t translate into the adult world. Maybe it does in some utopian workplace. Who knows, the world is vast and I am just one.

If it’s a football team, what do they need to do to get a result?

A team cannot exist without a sense of co-operation and community. They need to trust in each other to do their individual tasks and each player needs to contribute the relevant part needed to get the result. They need to be confident, have enjoyment in the process and hopefully by performing at their imperfect best each week, the output is quality. On top of that, you have the coaches preparing the team and the families supporting their loved ones.

So in order to achieve something that matters, to achieve a result, we need to do it with people we care about and a lot of things need to line up.

So the saying “nothing matters except the result” is not really correct because in order to achieve a “result”, suddenly all of these other things matter more than the results because if they are not carried out with a certain degree of quality, no result would be achieved.

So imagine a music business executive saying to an artist, nothing matters except the sales or listens.

The connection a fan makes with the music and the artist doesn’t matter. The community built around the artist and their songs doesn’t matter. The community built around a scene doesn’t matter. The quality output that happens daily doesn’t matter. The time spent away from loved ones doesn’t matter. The support of other artists, songwriters and families doesn’t matter. All the hours the artist spent in the dark to get to the light doesn’t matter. Rather than treating the artist as an asset that companies should invest in, artists are seen as costs that should be minimised. The trust in the record label to promote the artist and make decisions in the best interests of the artist is also not important.

Hell, its 99% like that in the corporate world. A $20 pay increase a fortnight for the workers while the workers slave away building someone else’s dream. All because we lack confidence and are fearful of failure. It’s even more so when we have children who rely on us. Only the self-centred focused individual can throw away their family to build their own dream or the family throws them away to let them work on their dream. Some find a balance, but not a lot.

Whatever is the case, I know I am surrounded by people who focus on the result. And it’s a shame. When you explain all the things that need to be done to get the “result” you are labelled as an excuse maker, someone not showing enough leadership. Seriously people have a flawed definition of what leadership is or they have a strict dictionary view of leadership. But leadership is a word that needs to be unpacked and explored.

Then again, if showing leadership is doing the same thing and expecting a different result then I would rather not be part of that group. People have made millions from selling books on 10,000 hours or repetition to be a master. Its common sense that if you practice something for a lot of hours you will get good at it. But it doesn’t mean it will bring in the funds you desire. Being an expert doesn’t correlate to success. But for people who focus on the results, it does.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Def Leppard And The Digital World

There is a Def Leppard story that did the rounds at the start of August. Almost four weeks later, it’s forgotten. That’s how fast people move on. If you are an artist and you spend 12 plus months on an album, just be mindful that it could be forgotten within a month, especially if it’s not part of a cultural movement or crossed over into the mainstream.

Anyway, back to the Def Leppard article.

No one can forget how big Def Leppard was from 1983 to 1994. Huge. Even their sound was huge with multi-layered vocals and instrumentation.

Like all the 80’s heroes, they had a bit of a back lash in the 90’s and maybe alienated some of their fan base with their 90’s sounding “Slang” album. But like all great bands from the 80’s they had a renaissance. I wrote a while back about how I believe piracy made Twisted Sister relevant again from 2000 and onwards and that viewpoint is still held for Def Leppard.

It’s actually even more relevant for Def Leppard, because the band refuses to have their 80’s output on digital services due to a payment dispute with the record label. The label (Universal) wants to pay the band a royalty based on a sale, whereas the band wants the licensing royalty payment which is much higher. The band even found it easier to create their own forgeries (re-recording some of their classics) easier than dealing with the record label.

This leads to an interesting position.

If you cannot purchase the Def Leppard 80’s output legally or stream it legally (apart from the few forgeries the band did themselves and the live releases), what should people do?

Well in this case, they obtain the music illegally (provided they haven’t purchased a legal physical copy)?

In other posts, I have mentioned how bands survive by replenishing their fan base with younger fans. It’s the reason why bands like Ratt and Dokken haven’t really gone well in the 2000’s compared to Crue, Leppard and Jovi. Well, it turns out that Def Leppard is doing a pretty fantastic job at doing just that.

“In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fuelled by younger people coming to the shows. We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”
Vivian Campbell

While the band is on the road, it works and their popularity is as big (maybe even bigger) as their 80’s popularity. The band is also a heavy user of YouTube, even though the site is the punching bag for the RIAA and the record labels. As YouTube recently said, they pay $3 per 1000 streams in the U.S. If it’s true or not, we will never know until we see proper financials from both YouTube and the labels. But if it is true, Def Leppard would be getting that cut themselves, and I haven’t heard of them taking YouTube to task over their payments. Even Metallica who controls their own copyrights don’t take YouTube to task. Both bands are heavy users of the platform, constantly putting up new content. But if you believe the RIAA and the record labels, YouTube is evil and due to its high volume of users, the payments are not enough.

But in Def Leppard’s case, you could say that YouTube is seen as a more likely driver of new fans than pirate torrent sites. Because all the research shows that YouTube has a user base made up of young people. They are also fostering a true connection with fans again which for a lot of artists who made it in the 80’s is a frightening prospect.

This model will not work for every band. In this case, each creator needs to look at the problem and find a solution that works for them. Eventually Def Leppard’s music will come to streaming services as the band will not be able to tour. But it will be on their terms and their terms only. Like AC/DC and Metallica. They signed their own streaming deal themselves and it’s got nothing to do with the record label.

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

People Create Value

When are people going to realise that music doesn’t create value. Customers do. People. The people who listen and consume the music are in charge of the value tree. They decide what song or album is valuable and what isn’t. And it’s a cold hard truth for any creator out there. You might have a record deal and a massive PR machine, however if no one is interested in what you create, it’s back to the drawing board. 

Do a few more releases that fail to connect and the downward spiral is real. It doesn’t mean you can’t make it back, however when people are in a downward spiral they have a tendency to cut corners and dumb down their art for the sake of making it back. And for a little while, it might pick you back up. But then, demand for your art goes down again, which means you lose again. The great artists are aware that writing a song that connects with millions is magical but it’s not scalable. No one can write hit songs forever. In the 80’s and 90’s, Desmond Child was the hit making machine, along with Diane Warren and Jim Vallance. Today, it’s Max Martin and Dr Luke and others. Even bands like U2, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Ratt and Bon Jovi couldn’t sustain the “hits”, albeit they had a pretty good run which guarantees them a victory lap after a victory lap.

The key to success is random. It’s unexpected when a song connects and breaks through. But instead of having the mindset to keep showing up and creating in the same way you did before, creators try to recreate the unexpected success. Writing songs that become hits is a different mindset to writing a “hit song”.

And artists got those unexpected hits by being imperfect. By paying their dues and honing their craft. By being willing to speak their truth and taking a stance on issues. We need people to believe in. And we believe most in those whose risks resonate. 

The record labels are worried about their stock price or their greatly compensated executive salaries while they underpay creators and drop them at will. Meanwhile we all pay taxes while they pay none. So don’t think the label will have your back when people are not interested in your product. 

Today’s story is about artists who are unable to get traction. It’s because they think the music they create has some value. But it doesn’t. It has no value at the start. It might later, if people decide it’s valuable. 

But the space for attention is cluttered and your new song is competing with the history of music, which is at people’s fingertips. But it can rise to the top. There just needs to be a message to it, instead of the usual clichés. Remember, people create value. It’s not the other way around. 

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

How the Labels and the RIAA Rob Creators?

YouTube tells the world that the service pays more in the U.S for Ad-Supported Streaming than other services like Spotify and Pandora. YouTube points out that they pay about $3 per 1000 ad-supported streams in the U.S.

The record labels via their lobby group RIAA disagree with YouTube’s math

Cary Sherman, the RIAA head honcho had this to say on the matter;

“About 400 digital services have been licensed around the world, many with ad-supported features. Comparatively, YouTube pays music creators far less than those services on both a per-stream and per-user basis, and nowhere near the $3 per thousand streams in the U.S. that Lyor (YouTube) claims.”

Okay so if the RIAA is going to dispute the math put out by YouTube, then what is their math.

How much do they get from YouTube per 1000 streams?

The record labels and the publishing/licensing companies are the first to get paid. And nowhere in this debate have these organisations mentioned what they get. I know I have seen thousands of news articles showing what the artists or the song writers get from YouTube streams in their bank account, but the artists are the last to be paid, once the labels and publishing companies take their cuts.

If the record labels via the RIAA want to be taken serious they need to be transparent.

Instead they counter the math from streaming services with fluff. Yes, that same thing found in people’s belly buttons.

They fluff the conversation about a value gap, talking on and on about how YouTube has billions of users and the amount of traffic they generate should equate to higher payments and because it doesn’t, there is a value gap.

They fluff the conversation about DMCA Safe Harbor provisions being a rigged system and how politicians need to create laws to protect the business model of the record labels and in the process destroy innovation on the internet.

Basically, these organisations are doing the same thing they have always done. Lying and scheming to keep their creative accounting in-house and away from the actual people that made these organisations rich. The creators.

Think about it for a second. The streaming services via their own blog mention how much they pay the copyright holder. The very next day, the RIAA or the Record Labels quickly counter it, but they never mention how much they do get?

So the headline of the next article should be “How the labels and the RIAA rob creators?”

 

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Cash From The Old

I read on a blog post by Seth Godin that “Book publishers make more than 90% of their profit from books they published more than six months ago. And yet they put 2% of their effort into promoting and selling those books.”

So what do you reckon the numbers would be for music?

Would it be fair to say that 90% of the income that the record labels get comes from music that came out six months ago compared to what is new.

The majority of people don’t normally purchase creative content all the time but when they do, they buy what is popular. It’s the reason why each year the “Black” album from Metallica sells. It’s the reason why “IV” from Led Zeppelin still sells. It’s the reason why “No More Tears” still sells. It’s the reason why “Slippery When Wet” still sells.

Then you have artists putting out new stuff.

Back in the MTV era, the new stuff sold well on the first week. It was marketed heavy by the record labels, all on the budget of the artist. The record labels controlled the distribution channel. So many other industries came to be because of this distribution chain. Vinyl manufacturing plants, cassette manufacturing plants, CD manufacturing plants, video clip services, record shops, delivery drivers, image consultants and so forth.

However we are living in a different era, one controlled by consumers. And the new stuff released by artists in 2017 is originally purchased by a smaller hard-core super fan group. Much like to 70’s. Then in time as word spreads, people will check out the release and keep it in the conversation. Much like the 70’s. You know that person that doesn’t purchase much creative content a year, well there is a pretty high chance they will purchased something that is popular when they decide to purchase. Like Metallica’s “Hardwired” or “Seal The Deal and Let’s Boogie” by Volbeat.

Actually Volbeat is one of those stories that you can write forever about. Death metal musicians in the 90’s. By 2000 they branched out into the Volbeat sound. By 2010 they had an opening slot on the “Death Magnetic” tour and U.S success came. “Seal The Deal and Let’s Boogie” was released June 3, 2016. It’s still in the conversation with physical sales, streams and radio spins. Even their “Beyond Hell, Above Heaven” album released April 24, 2012 was certified Gold in the U.S on March 22, 2016. Yep, 4 years after its release.

“Inhuman Rampage” by Dragonforce was released on January 9, 2006. On July 21, 2017 it was certified Gold in the U.S. Not bad for a power metal act and it happened 11 years after the album was released. “Come What(Ever) May” by Stone Sour was released on August 1, 2006 and on July 21,2017 it was certified Platinum in the U.S. Yep, 11 years after the album was released. “I Get Off” is a single from Halestorm. It was released on February 25, 2009 and 8 years later on July 12, 2017, the single was certified Gold in the U.S.

The one song I want to bring to your attention just to show how out of touch and behind the RIAA and their certification systems are is “Human”.

“Human” is a song by Rag’n’Bone Man. It was released on July 15, 2016. On July 7, 2017, a year after its release it was given a Gold certification for 0.5 million certified units by the RIAA. On Spotify, the song has 206,745,038 million streams. It was in Spotify’s Top 50 hits for six months before radio and the labels and the normal PR label press outlets caught wind of it. To put into context, Metallica’s most streamed song on Spotify is “Enter Sandman” with 166,178,415 streams.

What’s the above telling us?

Recognition doesn’t come on day one or week one or month one or year one. It percolates year after year after year until it boils to the surface. Will you be around to capitalise and monetise? Maybe, but I can guarantee one entity which will be around to monetise. The record label and the publishers. The labels/publishers via their lobby groups like the RIAA have got Copyright wrapped around their little finger so tight and they have the power/money to influence the copyright conversation even more in their favour.

Standard