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

Creativity

HAVE ALOT OF SONGS IN THE BANK

It’s always been told that all the artists who had a few classic albums in a row had a lot of songs in the bank. So when album number 1 comes out, the first inclination is to release the songs the artists views as the best. But they didn’t. They withheld some for the next album and the album after that while they kept on creating even more classics.

COPY AND BE INFLUENCED BY YOUR INFLUENCES

Because being creative is all about taking your influences, your lifestyle, your experiences and putting them together.

“What does this remind you of” should be the conversation. And by creating something that reminds a person of something that came before, it is still original. However, if you are too original then the audience will have no idea what you’re doing.

BE IN THE GAME FOR THE RIGHT REASONS

You will make it on creativity, credibility and by not selling out. Because if a musician has some public acceptance today, they’re eager to make a deal with a corporation or what not.

But artists are not motivated by money when they create music. They 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.

STREAMING PAYS

And music is entering a good era. There’s a lot of people who are using streaming services and as these services grow, more people will feel they would need to join, so they become part of the club. And as long as you control your copyrights, Spotify will pay you every month.

And it might sound scary to artists to go it alone. Especially legacy artists who had the labels in their corner and all the beggars and hangers on attached to them. But you need to go it alone. You need to have control over your copyrights. The artists like Motley Crue and Metallica will be cashing in millions while the rest cash in thousands.

SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS

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.

In the 60’s the youth questioned the norms and the authorities and changed everything. The clothes people wore changed, the hairstyles changed and the music changed. And it kept happening, with every decade. And at the forefront of each cultural change was music.

So as an artist, the question should be what is it, you hope to accomplish, and not the clicks, views and likes you hope to measure on your social media account. Because we have been conditioned to compare ourselves against metrics. It’s easy, but irrelevant. Hell, if the techies accepted the standard metrics they wouldn’t have made a difference. If the earlier musicians accepted that all guitars need to have clean sounds, then we wouldn’t have had distortion.

Remember music is forever, and it needs people to like it. If you don’t have any, you still have your music. Be creative and never stop.

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

Labels

Every industry has rules and the recording industry has a lot of them. And there was a saying once that if you followed enough of the rules, you would get a recording contact, millions of dollars and the red carpet. Perhaps one in a 1,000,000 pull this off. Actually you have a higher probability of being hit by a comet than making a lot of money in music.

So, the record labels wanted to maintain the sales model but they  got dragged kicking and screaming to downloads. Credit Apple for pushing it and credit Warner Music for being the first major to sign. Suddenly their revenues went up. But they still complained. They screamed to their friends in politics for laws to be passed. Then streaming came out and they got dragged kicking and screaming to streaming. They even got a percentage of the company and surprise, surprise, the revenues went up again.

Times are changing. Nothing will look the same in relation to labels and streaming companies in the next ten years.

Spotify is connecting tours to the Super Fans to sell tickets. The data tells Spotify who the super fans are, they share that information with the artists and they all come after us. Meanwhile, the labels owned and controlled the recording industry for a hundred years and they had no idea who the super fans were for their artists.

Seriously, the good times are just starting. There is a lot of people to reach with music and Spotify is connecting people to artists and along the way, they are paying artists every month providing an organisation (who might hold the copyrights for the artist) doesn’t get in the way and take the monies first.

For a fan, how good is it. Instead of playing the same album, over and over again, because we had so little product, we can now play the whole history of music. The only thing stopping us is time and distractions. On some days, I’m even confused to what I should listen to, as there is so much to select from.

As for the labels, they are not going away. Morphing more into marketing companies, who could help with your world domination ideals, but do you need them.

Remember that one of the biggest hurdles for any artist pre-internet was getting your music into a record store. It’s a much different today as every artist can get their music on streaming services for a small yearly fee and they can get paid direct from the streaming services and on a monthly regular basis. This is much different to the record label machine who used to do their accounting twice a year and be very creative with it at the same time.

And for over a century the record label has built up a history of owning songs it shouldn’t be owning. It’s ridiculous. An artist signs a deal, pays off all the costs associated with the album and somehow, the label still owns the copyright. The battle is happening. Check out the article over at Billboard.

Todd Rundgren wants his masters back.

“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?”
Todd Rundgren

According to Nielsen Music, almost 70% of the monies received by the labels is because of older catalogue items. So giving back the artist their copyrights as dictated by law is bad business for the labels. As the article states, around 20 artists have reclaimed their rights from the thousands who are entitled to.

And the labels pull out all the tricks, like telling the artist they will pay them a higher royalty rate (which is useless if the label does nothing to re-promote the tunes) or paying the artist a large advance to hold on to profitable masters.

And as soon as Spotify goes public expect the majors to check out their ownership of the service.

Why.

All of their employees are focussed on the now, not for the long haul. And that is the label business.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Free Will

Remember in “The Social Network”, the final scene, Zuckerberg is alone in his house, surrounded by darkness except from the light coming from his computer and he is still sending friend requests to his ex-girlfriend who told him she doesn’t want to see him or hear from him again because he is a sociopath. It sure seems a very social way to communicate with someone.

But he was a misfit in his circle. He didn’t fit in with those Winklevoss brothers (or whatever their surname is). And a lot of people identify with the misfits. It’s a big reason why rock music became a commercial force. Today, those metal and rock T-shirts are available everywhere as designer clothing, but once upon a time, they were patches earned from a lifestyle lived. Because it was all about the group. All of our different backgrounds didn’t matter when it came to the rock and roll show. We were one big group. Divided we lived, but united we stood.

Then we grew up, started to earn money, started to borrow money and suddenly we became part of the rat race. And no one forced us to enter the rat race. Hell, we even bought into it with loans and credit cards and once we were in, we tried to climb a greasy pole, believing if we worked hard enough, we would get to the top. And this pledge to dollars, changed the way we behaved around those who had it, because we believed they knew better.

How can you be free if you are living to please others in a reward and recognition vertical relationship?

I had a job, I had a girl
I had something going, mister, in this world
I got laid off down at the lumber yard
Our love went bad, times got hard
Downbound Train by Bruce Springsteen

You might live in a country that is a democracy, however as long as you are living to please others and to build other people’s dreams then you are not free. Without realising it, your whole life is tied to a job.

Sentenced to work a dead end 9 to 5
Trapped in a dingy corporate cubicle hell
Then go to work in the darkness on the midnight shift
Any chance you get, selling gas at the corner Shell
Dance In The Rain by Megadeth

Everyone has a story and the less you have in possessions and dollars, the more you have struggled, the better the story is. So the story of this generation should be about standing up against injustice. When pushed to the wall, how do you react?

In Australia, our Liberal Government vetoed any Royal Commission into the banking sector for years. They protected their friends and sponsors. Hell, the current Liberal leader and Australian PM is from the banking sector. And now that we have the Royal Commission, the banking sector is being exposed for the thieves they really are. But it’s in the news today and forgotten tomorrow. Longevity is a problem in today’s society. Nothing has staying power. People are outraged at the banking industry but by next week, it’s in the rear view.

And the facts are trying to be covered up with misdirection from the government and the rich. Well the people are not taking it anymore. Because we have the right to choose our paths. Our privacy and freedoms we will not lose. Our ancestors went to war in foreign lands, well now the war is right here at home.

Something doesn’t read right, something smells.

A culture made of cover-ups
Will leprosy touch their flesh?
For backroom meetings and rendezvous
The vultures have come home to nest
The Threat Is Real from Megadeth

It sure reads like the banking system to me. People are “resigning” or “stepping down” from their positions. It’s funny how the newspapers don’t have the guts to say, “fired” or “pushed to leave”. It’s because the news outlets chiefs are all friends with the banking sector chiefs. And if Australia’s banking system is this bad, I am sure the other banking systems around the world are in the same state.

Life is a process, with ups and downs. We fall in and out of love. We make money, lose money. We have children, watch them grow up and then we are alone. And somehow through it all we survive almost anything thrown at us and come out of it for the better. As long as we made a choice.

You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that’s clear-
I will choose free will
Free Will by Rush

So many people have grown up in countries where free speech was respected. But today, people are scared to speak freely, scared to be attacked by the bots, the trolls, the politically correct hipsters, the angry left, the angry right and whatever else the internet social media predators can throw at you.

Maybe it’s time to say we’re not gonna take it anymore.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Musical Conversations

Sykes first official band was an outfit called “Streetfighter”. They played mainly cover songs and an original song called “She’s No Angel” appeared on a compilation album called “New Electric Warrior”.

In 1980, Sykes saw an ad for a lead guitar position. He auditioned and ended up joining Tygers Of Pan Tang for two albums, “Spellbound” and “Crazy Nights”. Although good albums, they didn’t sell like the record label wanted them to sell.

Meanwhile, Sykes was getting some recognition and was even asked to audition for Ozzy Osbourne’s band.

In the book “Thin Lizzy” by Alan Byrne, its mentioned how Sykes was brought into Thin Lizzy on the suggestion of producer Chris Tsangarides.

“It was on my suggestion that Sykes was brought in. I was after sorting out some stuff for Sykes and eventually I secured a deal with MCA to release a song that he had written. We were in Dublin when he asked me if Phil might be interested in recording and contributing to it. So I got in touch and Phil decided he was up for it and we recorded the track with Brian Downey on drums and I think Darren Wharton played keyboards on it.”

It wasn’t long after, that Sykes was offered the Thin Lizzy gig.

This is the way Scott Gorham recalls Sykes impact on the band in the same book.

“After Snowy left, John came on board for the “Thunder and Lightning” album. To me, John was great because he had a real hard rock edge to him, he had a great attitude and was a very funny guy, though most importantly, he was a great player.”

“Thunder and Lightning” comes out and it started to re-establish Thin Lizzy in the 80’s. At the same time, David Coverdale tried to hire Adrian Vandenberg and Mama’s Boys Pat McManus on guitar however they both rejected the offer. John Sykes was then offered a million dollars advance payment to join Whitesnake.

Sykes introduced a new technical level to Whitesnake, fresh ideas and a polished image.

For the US version of “Slide It In”, Sykes and bassist Neil Murray re-recorded the guitar and bass parts. I have both versions, the Moody/Hodgkinson European release and the Sykes/Murray release.

Of course, having producer Keith Olsen remixing the album, gave it a more radio friendly sound for the US market.

Mel Galley eventually left the band during the tour and Sykes went on to handle the guitar parts himself. Jon Lord also left to reunite with Deep Purple, thus making Whitesnake a four-piece of Coverdale, Sykes, Murray and Powell.

Money plays a part in every band and Whitesnake was no different. Cozy Powell didn’t like what he was offered to continue with the band and left. Aynsley Dunbar got his chance and ended up being the drummer for Whitesnake’s most successful album.

The 1987 Whitesnake sessions had delays, illnesses and personality issues. Murray didn’t know if he was in the band or out of the band, however he kept on turning up to the studio and completing his bass parts.

Sykes heard stories that he was out, but until Coverdale told him personally he was still in. Meanwhile, Coverdale did tell them all to pick up or explore other projects if they got a chance as the money from Geffen was running out, so Coverdale couldn’t keep them on the payroll.

In the end, the Whitesnake album was reported via “Chinese Whispers” to have cost 3 million dollars to write and record. It also cost the song writing partnership called Coverdale/Sykes. It could have been one of the best song writing partnerships in hard rock music for many years after, but we’ll never know. David Coverdale called it a “musical conversation” between themselves. Well the conversation ended as quickly as it began because Whitesnake is David Coverdale and David Coverdale is Whitesnake. It was David Coverdale that John Kalodner signed to Geffen, not John Sykes. It was David Coverdale that John Kalodner supported all the way through.

And from David Coverdale, the world got to hear John Sykes.

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