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

Music Distributor or Internet Brand

Spotify is the largest streaming provider today but YouTube did have that title unofficially in the past. So with any service that is used by the masses, it’s no surprise that Spotify now takes most of the punches while YouTube becomes a takedown haven for anyone who has created anything or wants to suppress free speech.

I’m sure you’ve seen all the headlines.

Spotify should pay more, Spotify is appealing the royalty rate rise, Spotify is getting sued, Spotify settles class action suit against it.

Maybe another take on those headlines might be;

  • How much does the record label keep from Spotify’s licensing and royalty payments?
  • Artists are appealing the low royalty payments they get from their label?
  • Record labels get sued for banking billions from using the Copyrights of artists to negotiate high licensing fees.
  • Artists settle class action suit against the Record Labels for keeping Copyrights longer than they should and for murky creative accounting.

Major labels no longer develop artists but they can make artists bigger. It all depends on how much an artist is willing to give up.

Because the labels will give the artist that large advance, however it will be probably be the last payment an artist will ever see from them.

Just recently, Italian composer Ennio Morricone (Metallica uses his music as a concert intro, plus he wrote the soundtracks to a lot of popular movies) won back his Copyrights. In his termination suit, it was mentioned how in the late 70s he made a deal with a label for an upfront payment in exchange for low royalties which never got renegotiated and of course by the 90s his music was being used for concerts, it became popular again as those 70s movies got re-released on DVD and so forth.

Metallica’s licensing fee would go all to the label and nothing to the Composer. A perfect example of getting a large upfront payment and then nothing in return.

The labels are greedy, who operate on intimidation and since MTV, they have been short-term thinkers. It’s all about the profits.

So what’s next for music distribution and a company living in two worlds. Spotify has a bad rep for its payments models but also a good rep because it’s useful to artists and fans, plus it pays for life.

But Spotify still doesn’t make a profit doing what it does and it still gets extra funding, to invest and grow the business. Their podcasts is a growing business as there are a lot of people who would rather listen to non-musical content than musical.

Maybe the problem with Spotify is that it doesn’t want to be just a music distribution platform. Music is seen as a means to become a global internet brand. Sort of like Apple, who used music to sell hardware.

And all you need to do is have a look at what’s happening with Netflix. The big studios who laughed off streaming once upon a time, are setting up their own streaming services. Expect the labels to do the same, because they want control of the distribution and the murky creative accounting.

And by then Spotify would be in a position to not care, because they would have repurposed the business to be a digital brand and the artists would have it even worse, because if they think Spotify is bad, wait until the labels get control of the distribution.

A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault – All That Remains

The Pirate Bay introduced me to All That Remains circa 2008.

It actually happened in a more complex, funny kind of way, so for any label rep who thinks that scorched earth promotions is the key to get people’s attention, well check out this Discovery. (Spotify Discovery are you reading as well).

I got into Killswitch Engage because the bass player in a band I was in liked em, so I asked him to give me some of their music. He burnt me “The End Of Heartache” and I dug it. This was circa 2005. The hardcore screamo vocals didn’t set my world on fire, but the melodic vocals sure did, the way the songs were constructed hooked me and the music is melodic and heavy at the same time. 

Suddenly I am seeing interviews with Killswitch Engaged founder, guitarist, producer and songwriter, Adam Dutkiewicz in the Guitar mags. And Adam produces other bands. Unearth, As I Lay Dying and All That Remains came into my headspace because of Adam.

So almost three years after getting into Killswitch Engaged, off I went to TPB, typed in All That Remains and their catalogue from start to 2008 was available.

And the first track on the “Overcome” album (released in 2008) is called “Before The Damned”. It’s brutal death metal in the verses and when the Chorus kicks in, its arena rock. I was hooked straight away. “Two Weeks” from the same album is their most streamed song with over 40 million streams on Spotify and 26,644,942 views on YouTube.

In 2010, “For We Are Many” came out and I liked it, but I didn’t commit financially until the 2012 album “A War You Cannot Win”.

Opening track, “Down Through The Ages” has some of the best thrash metal riffage (along with some deep growls)

“So many fall away” indeed. The most likeable kid at school has bi-polar now and looks like Crusty The Clown, all because of too much drugs. But he’s made it, while others have either spent time in jail or hanging on the end of a rope or struggling to breathe, surrounded by carbon monoxide.

Check out the lead break. It’s a hum a long, until the whammy dive kicks in.

“You Can’t Fill My Shadow” has a lead break that keeps me coming back.

“Stand Up” is pretty accessible, with clean tone melodic vocals throughout and great riffage throughout. Stand up and be proud of the choices you made.

To me, this song is a big FU to the people who criticised the band for bringing in some melodic rock influences into their songs. Well if it wasn’t for those influences, I wouldn’t be a fan.

“Asking Too Much” is another hard rock song, easily digested. “Just Moments In Time” is brutal and heavy, with screaming death metal vocals and lyrics which state, “We are all just moments in time, We come from nothing and we’re nothing when we die”. 

“What If I Was Nothing” is almost country’ish in the intro, but a hard rock relationship song in the end. Super melodic, with 24.6 million streams.

“Sing For Liberty” tells people to take back their freedoms.

“A War You Cannot Win” has so many lyrical lines that resonate.

One voice can silence the masses, One voice just scream these words say, No, hell no

“The Order Of Things” was released in 2015 and this album is very accessible for people who like hard rock music but don’t like too much hardcore style vocals or death metal style vocals. 

The piano line intro in the opening track “This Probably Won’t End Well” reminds me of the Paradise Lost “Draconian Times” album, albeit for 45 seconds. Then it’s back to the hard rock/metal that All That Remains does well.

“The Greatest Generation” is a favourite, with a lyric of “remember what made us great”. And we have forgotten that.

“For You” is personal, about a relationship breakdown, and that lyric line of “I won’t wait for you”. “A Reason For Me To Fight” is about making a promise to fight for something you believe in. “Bite My Tongue” has this Jazzy style breakdown which I dig, and when Phil starts singing, “You’re Right, You’re Wrong” it’s time to bang that head.

My favourite track on this album is the closer, “Criticism And Self Realization”. For starters the title hooked me, so it was the first song I listened to. And after that 45 second clean tone intro, the metal arrives. And the verses are heavy with hardcore style vocals, while the Chorus is melodic and emotional. The whole thing connects instantly.

And at 3.20, it goes back to the clean tone intro and it feels like the song is repeating. But it’s not. Its segueing into a new section. And from 4.20, that clean tone intro becomes an outro, with harmony guitars and then lead guitars. By 5.12 the loudness is replaced by a piano, which is playing the same intro music, but slower, sadder, more solemn. And I just want it to continue. But by the 7 minute mark it’s over.

Since, 2015, they released “Madness” in 2017 and “Victim Of The New Disease” in 2018. After the release of this album, founding guitarist Oli Herbert (who also laid down some wicked soloing and riffage on Dee Snider’s “For The Love Of Metal” album) was found dead in a pond. While early reports suggested accidental drowning, an investigation is still pending for foul play. 

And I am glad that vocalist Phil Labonte (also the back up Five Finger Death Punch singer when Ivan Moody goes off the rails) is carrying the All That Remains flame.

And with this post, the record vault for the letter A ends (at this point in time) and I am onto the letter B. My kids reckon I won’t get to Z.

A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Why Do People Get Into Music These Days?

Don Dokken once said that he and the rest of the Dokken band members thought that they would get rich once they signed a recording contract and started selling records.

He then goes on to say that for every dollar the band made, they had twenty cents to split four ways.

Since Don Dokken signed the original contract, Don was forced to sign a contract that was a equal four way split.

Lynch blamed Dokken for using songs that Lynch wrote, to get a record deal under the name of Dokken. And Dokken hated Lynch because Lynch wanted to change the name of the band. And in the end, their hate and blame led to solo careers.

A wise man once said to me that if I’m involved in something which goes wrong, to never blame others. The only person I can blame is myself. Because if I blame myself, then I am in a situation do something about it.

So going back to the original question, why do people get into music?

The answer to me is always the same. There is a need to create and write. As a byproduct, money might come in, but the need to create will always remain.

Going back to Lynch and Dokken, George Lynch hasn’t stopped creating. Don Dokken on the other hand has.

A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Destination

There is a post I read on Seth Godin’s blog, called “The Compass And The Map” about a soldier who escaped a Japanese prison in Burma during World War 2.

For five months, he used a map and a compass that he had found to get him to India as he was too suspicious to ask the Burmese for help. He scribbled on the map, his turns and marked down the rivers he crossed.

When he showed the Intelligence Officers in India his map, it was a map of the streets of London. As Seth Godin concludes, “if you’ve got the wrong map, the right compass will get you home, if you know how to use it.

In other words you need to know where you want to go and be flexible with the route.

Do artists have these same ideals?

The days of a record label A&R person signing you and employing people around you to do the work, while you write and record and tour and make lots of money are long gone. For that era, the artists had the map which was controlled by a gatekeeper, as it was a step by step guide on how to get from playing to your bedroom wall to maybe getting an A&R rep to see you play live, to signing a deal and then playing to thousands of people.

But that map will not serve you well in the music world today. You need that compass that takes you in the direction you want to go, as long as you know your destination.

A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Saying Something Without Giving Too Much Away

Nearly all the writers about the 90’s like to re-write history to suit their own viewpoint especially after Seattle became the new Sunset Strip.

I recall reading hundreds of articles that said the lyrics of the grunge bands became personal, deeper and showed an angst that resonated more with people than the lyrics of the 80’s hard rock bands who focused so much on the usual SDRR (Sex, Drugs and Rock N Roll) themes.

I think there are millions of peaches that disagree.

And I always disagreed with that view point because I felt that hard rock bands from the 80’s did write personal lyrics and on topics different to the usual SDRR themes.

Dee Snider on the “Stay Hungry” album wrote about censorship, rebellion, about being away from his family, his fan base and about keeping the fire burning when you think that goal is unachievable.

Nikki Sixx wrote “On With The Show” about the night that Frankie became Nikki.

People talk about the lyrics that Layne Staley wrote in the grips of an heroin addiction. What about “Dancin On Glass” from Nikki Sixx, which is referencing Nikki’s overdose in London.

Skid Row broke big with a song about rebellion in “Youth Gone Wild”, cemented their rebellious status with their fight song “Piece Of Me” and nailed the power ballad charts with “I Remember You”. But it was their follow up album that covered so many social issues. “Slave To The Grind”.

Guns N Roses built their career on singing about cities and relationships. “Welcome To The Jungle” is about LA and “Paradise City” is about San Francisco, while “Sweet Child O Mine” is basically a love song.

However, the songs are done in a way that they seem general. Maybe that was the difference between the 80’s and 90’s songwriters.

How can you say something effective without giving too much away?

A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Sales Or Subscription

You can’t sell a book if there isn’t thousands of books competing against it for your attention. And LPs back in the day didn’t sell in a place that had just one LP to sell. Hence why the record stores became huge.

To be surrounded by competition is good for business because it’s not about if a person will invest time, it’s about which artist will the person invest time on.

Bands used to play Clubs before. Once upon a time, streets of businesses were lined up with live bands. The people of the time demanded it. And they selected which venue and artists got their attention. People pub-crawled to see different acts and today pub crawls are all about drinking sessions.

Today, you would be lucky to find a live music venue and if you did, the style of music may not be to your liking. And there wouldn’t be another venue to visit if that was the case.

Streaming or digital mp3s follows the same old principle. Put enough music tracks on a platform in which compete against each other and let the person decide on which artist they will invest time on.

Some people can’t handle the noise and just double down on the bands they already like. Some enjoy the search for the next favorite and some are happy for the algorithms to recommend the next song. Some fans refuse digital and still go shopping. There’s no one size fits all fan.

Adobe went from a sales business to a subscription business. In the beginning, income dried up but now it’s at an all time high. The customer is happy and they get updates of new features monthly plus they pay every month, not just once a year or every 2 years.

But artists and the labels just can’t let go of that sales model. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Imagine if an artist did something different.

How would that look a year from now?

A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Andy Warhol Was Right

As I was reading a Copyright story about a suit being brought against Lady Gaga for the song “Shallow”, I was also listening to “Andy Warhol Was Right” from Warrant.

And I couldn’t find any difference between the chords of these songs. And Warrant or the heirs of Jani Lane could have gone to court with Lady Gaga, but they haven’t.

And then you get a nobody like Steve Rosen who reckons that the song he created is so original and free from influence that someone must have copied him.

And he is claiming that his song “Almost” must have been copied. And he uploaded it to SoundCloud six years before “Shallow” was released, to prove that he was first.

Well, Warrant released “Andy Warhol Was Right” 20 years before Rosen’s “Almost”.

Andy Warhol said that every person will have their fifteen minutes of fame. I guess it’s the perfect song to sum up the range of copyright cases. People searching for their fifteen minutes.