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

Music Scales

There was a line of thinking in the early 2000’s that the value of recorded music would be zero. That the album would be used purely as a promotional tool to get the artist on the road. That no one would make music anymore because why would they, if they can’t make any money from album sales.

Time Warner got so scared of these kind of conversations and Napster and illegal downloads and peer to peer sharing, that in 2004, they sold their music division of Warner Music/Atlantic/Elektra and their many associated labels for approx. $2.6 billion. In 2018, that same division, is valued at $15 billion.

Today, we have so much new music that it’s hard to keep up. The money received from recorded music is going up, because of streaming. And apart from the ones who made it or had public acceptance of their music or the oldsters, no one really creates to be paid.

They create because they need to create. It’s an outlet for them. It’s a way to express who they are, to put their thoughts and ideas into characters and into stories in the songs. If they do get paid afterwards, well that’s a by-product of their need to create.

And music gets bigger. If the artist has a song that connects or becomes a hit, it costs the label or the artist nothing to continue to sell that hit. Word of mouth would do that.

Think about the first two Black Sabbath album’s. Both albums were recorded and mixed in a short amount of time. The costs would have been minimal. And fast forward 50 years later, “Paranoid” has 362 million streams on Spotify. “Iron Man” has almost 220 million streams. “War Pigs” has 122 million streams. “N.I.B” has almost 50 million streams.

In other words, the costs of making the album evaporate quickly and the rest is almost pure profit, especially in the era of digital, where music lives forever and pays forever. So the labels have assets that will never go down to zero.

A few weeks ago I was thinking how Frontiers from Italy is constantly putting money out to get artists to record new music. From looking at the metal and rock genre, Frontiers have the most releases from any label that I am aware off. They even get artists from different bands to work together, like Michael Sweet and George Lynch. Well, the Frontiers execs are aware that by having assets like the copyright of the music in their building, those assets will never go down to zero.

And Frontiers is thinking, we need to have a catalogue of songs like Universal and Warner’s.

Warner Music has the history of recorded music as an asset. Led Zeppelin. They have it. Prince. They have it. Twisted Sister. They have it.

You get the drift.

And people will always want to listen to songs from artists, so Warner will get paid for decades, until the copyright runs out, which in my lifetime will never happen. In other words, music is a better investment than anything else. If you buy physical property, you would need to maintain it, renovate it and keep paying bills for utilities, however music just scales.

And people will keep on creating and the labels will get bigger if they are the ones funding the creating. But creators are smarter these days and they know that if they give up their copyrights for a fee right now, they might miss out on millions later.

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

Progress Is Derivative

Coney Hatch released “Friction” in 1985.

The song “Monkey Bars” has a riff and vocal melody that sounds like a Beatsie Boys tune called “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” which came out in 1986.

Kingdom Come released their self titled debut in 1988.

“Get It On”, takes the entire chord progression from “Kashmir” and “What Love Can Be” takes from “Since I’ve been loving You” and “The Rain Song”.

Bon Jovi released Slippery When Wet” in 1986 and Desmond Child just took the music and melodies of a song he wrote for Bonnie Tyler called “If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man)” and used it for “You Give Love A Bad Name”. Then Belinda Carlisle and her team came out with “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” a year later.

Basically be influenced and take what came before and make it better.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Randy Rhoads

“Crazy Train” just got a 4x Platinum award in the U.S. And my favourite track “Mr Crowley” also achieved a Gold certification in the U.S.

People are still listening.

These songs didn’t top any chart nor did they get extensive radio play. I don’t think they even got a proper single release.

They are album cuts and the popularity of these songs is due to the fans.

Metal fans are the most loyal. We are the ones that still like to buy because we are completists. The collection needs to be complete.

And Data is the new recording business.

Streaming services will tell the artist how many listens and in which cities and countries.

280+ million streams on Spotify for “Crazy Train”. Add in the counts from other streaming services and the number will keep getting bigger.

It’s taken a long time but it’s happening.

Expect to see more old songs and favorite album cuts rise to the top.

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

Certified Sales And Reach

I’m digging the data that comes from Stream N Destroy.

Based on RIAA certifications (total album units certified by the RIAA) Iron Maiden has 6.5 million sales in the US.

Megadeth and Tesla are also sitting at the same certification amount across their catalogue.

Who do you reckon has the biggest audience when it comes to playing live from the 3 bands?

Which tells me that Iron Maiden must be the most heavily pirated band there is. Their sales of recorded music compared to their sales of concert tickets and merchandise just don’t correlate. They get the same attendance as Metallica would get, yet the difference in certified album units between the bands is huge.

Metallica is at 63 million certified units.

While Megadeth and Tesla do play live, the crowds they get compared to Maiden are very different but they have the same amount of certified album sales.

So sales of recorded music does not correlate to massive concert attendances.

David Lee Roth, Muse and Dokken are sitting at 3.5M certified units but Muse plays gigs to 15,000 people and are headliners for certain European summer festivals.

Dokken even at their height didn’t play venues that big nor did David Lee Roth as a solo artist.

Like with Maiden, the sales of certified units don’t correlate with the concert attendances.

Since the sales don’t correlate to the increased demand for concert tickets, is it illegal downloading or the access to music via streaming driving the growth?

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

The Fall

Six years between albums.

“Distant Is The Sun” came out in 2014 and now we have “Dead Elysium”.

Before “Distant Is The Sun”, “The Fourth Season” came out in 2007, a seven year wait.

The thing with Vanishing Point is that they write the music that makes them happy. With Silvio Massaro behind the mic and Chris Porcianko on guitars, they act as the mainstays and the main writers within the band which came to my attention in 1997 with their debut album “In Thought”.

And while Massaro was on vocals for the debut the guitarist wasn’t Porcianko. The guitarist’s on the debut were handled by Andrew Whitehead and founder Tom Vucur. Porcianko joined the band after the debut album was done and never left.

Vucur left during the writing of “Distant To The Sun”, which meant they had to restart again as they couldn’t use his riffs.

And here we are in 2020, so far removed from normality. Our grandkids will be asking us, what was it like in the pandemic.

While the title track could have come from an Evergrey album, it’s tracks like “The Fall”, “Salvus” and “Count Your Days” which provide the variation.

I should of seen the signs

Foresight is a wonderful thing but in real time we aren’t the best at seeing the subtle signs.

“I can make believe or I can take the fall”

How I would love to escape sometimes instead of facing reality.

Throughout my life I’ve been knocked on my arse so many times by people and by society in general, that once I’ve fallen the only way up, is to stand again.

Slowly.

Sometimes with broken bones.

“I won’t give up, give in”

It’s repeated in the outro, like a mantra, a new awakening and a new awareness.

Don’t give up and don’t give in. I swear by these words.

And the guitar work from Porcianko is brilliant. A true guitar hero.

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

Originality And Competing With The History Of Recorded 🎶

Everyone who wants to play can play in the music industry. It doesn’t mean you’ll get paid for it. It doesn’t mean that you are entitled to be paid for it.

Creating art and finding connections with art happens at curious times for people. When we lived in the monoculture created by MTV, the chances were high for an artist to connect based on their music video being put on rotation.

How long those connections lasted was a different thing entirely?

And the system of the old legacy players would like to tell artists that if they don’t chart they don’t exist, but if you look at what’s in the streaming top 50 it doesn’t correlate to the Billboard charts top 50 or any other chart. And what was old and done is back again. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is back and so is “In The Air Tonight”. And the Black album outsells them all.

Previously the general viewpoint was that the artists new release was competing against other artists new releases for people’s attention. Now, the new release is competing against the whole history of recorded music for people’s attention.

It’s always been about longevity.

The first week numbers in 10 years are irrelevant, but whether you can last and sustain, is important.

How relevant are the first week numbers for Dokken, Quiet Riot, Skid Row, Ratt and White Lion today?

Zilch.

And there will be heirs of artists and failed artists who believe that someone else’s hit song is from an idea of theirs.

To quote Adam Grant, “Originality doesn’t mean being first, it means being different and better.”

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

Streaming Hate Continues

The record labels and music news sites that benefit from reporting positive articles about the labels, talk about the billions of dollars the music industry made in the financial year just before Napster hit.

So from a simple viewpoint, when Napster hit, sales of music started to decline. For the RIAA and the record labels, these two events correlate, so it implies that one is causing the other to move. But the sales of music had been falling for some time.

What happened during the 90’s just before Napster went worldwide was a lot of re-purchasing.

People started to re-purchase the music they already owned on vinyl and cassettes on CD’s. These re-purchased items, in most cases re-mastered or super deluxe editions with bonus content at higher prices would skew the record label figures to make it look like new recorded music was bringing in billions of dollars when in fact it was people purchasing old catalogue items. And once we had those albums on CD, we didn’t really need to re-purchase them again.

But Napster also highlighted a gap in the business models of the labels. People liked to have access. If anything, people liked to have terabytes of culture saved on disk drives.

Some artists maintain that it was the right action to go after Napster. Others can’t wait for Spotify to die. They must think that people would just go out and buy their albums on physical again. The hard core always will but the majority won’t. They’ll revert to downloading.

The Napster gap allowed people to share their music collections (bootlegs and original recordings) in a very simple and convenient way. Napster got popular because of it, and the labels should have created something to match it.

But the labels did nothing, and more sharing applications kept coming. Then a small company called YouTube did fill the gap that Napster was really servicing. YouTube allowed people to upload their music collections. And YouTube today, generates billions of dollars. These billions could have been in the profit and loss statements of the record labels but they messed up.

We are 22 years post Napster, and the record labels did absolutely nothing to counter it, except scream for legislation and gestapo like police powers.

You want to know who is the labels biggest client. Spotify and the other streaming services.

You want to know who artists see as their biggest enemy. Spotify, but not the other streaming services..

The arrival of YouTube and eventually streaming services put a dent into the traditional sales model, but did these sharing and access platforms assist in increasing the crowds for artists?

Iron Maiden came back with Bruce Dickinson on “Brave New World”, bigger than ever and played to sold out crowds in countries they’ve hardly sold any recorded product in. Even the album “Brave New World” did nothing sales wise.

Twisted Sister and Motley Crue also came back bigger than ever post Napster and played to their biggest ever crowds until they retired. Then again Motley Crue just faked their retirement.

Did sharing of music assist in these high concert attendances as well?

To use the record label analogy of post Napster sales and pre Napster sales, these two events correlate, so it implies that one is causing the other to move. The same can be said about music being shared illegally and bands playing to their largest audiences ever. One event is causing the other to move.

And here we are in 2020 with a pandemic killing off the live show and no one really knowing how it will look once it is over. And the record labels are winning, making money from streaming revenue while the hard rock artists who have a presence want streaming to die.

But it’s the labels with the greatest share of the streaming revenue.

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

The Record Vault – Cerebus


It was a random purchase at a record fair in the 90’s. The bin had a large sign that said 7 records for $10.

How could I refuse that offer?

The dystopian landscape cover painting got my attention, as its reminded me of various movies.

I dropped the needle and I was pleasantly surprised.

I was hearing early Judas Priest, Saxon, Motorhead, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and Riot.

The raw production and the treble biased mix had me thinking of those Metallica albums. Which means that the bass player is hardly heard, which is a shame as Eric Burgess is the main songwriter in the band.

Cerebus is an American act. There is also a deathcore band with the same name that came out in the 2000’s who have nothing to do with this 80’s version.

They released a Demo in 1985, a full length album “Too Late To Pray” in 1986 on a label called New Renaissance Records, an EP in 1987 called “Like a Banshee On The Loose” on a local North Carolina label, another demo in 1988, another EP in 1991 called “Regression Progression” on a local label and a best of album in 2019 called “From Beyond The Vault Door” on a label called “Heaven And Hell”.

And their label “New Renaissance Records” was created by Ann Boleyn after her band Hellion had a record in the British Music Charts, but was unable to find an American deal. So Boleyn sold her car and musical instruments to fund the initial pressings of compilation albums and eventually full releases by bands. King Kobra (the band founded by Carmine Appice and Mark Free) was an act that was on the label as well.

So the label signed the band to an 2 album deal, but the label offered no tour support. Cerebus played an extensive US tour on their own budget but going to Europe proved impossible as they didn’t have the means, which is a shame, as the majority of their sales were in Germany and Western Europe. After the U.S run of shows, the band and label parted ways.

The band kept writing and releasing, but in a market dominated by gatekeepers, they needed a label and a distributor. Which didn’t come as easy as they thought.

And as the EP releases kept coming, the band kept tweaking their sound, moving from their Iron Maiden/Saxon style to a more Deep Purple, Whitesnake and UFO sound.

Running Out Of Time

Its speed metal and those harmony leads from Andy Huffine and Chris Pennell (RIP) in the solo section sound like they came from a Saxon album.

The vocal lines from Scott Board are like the chainsaw vocals of James Hetfield from the first two Metallica albums, with the Rob Halford banshee wail.

And the double bass drumming from Joby Barker just keeps pummelling along.

Taking Your Chances

A different style of cut, in the hard rock vein with a melodic rock style chorus.

Distant Eyes

Acoustic arpeggios kick it off with a guitar solo before it explodes into a UFO style cut merging “Lights Out” and “Too Hot To Handle”.

Too Late To Pray

It also starts off with acoustic guitar arpeggios, before it moves into a military style drum beat. Then the harmony guitars kick in, but it’s all part of a long intro, before the main song kicks in with a head banging riff.

And the vocal line is ball tearing.

Rock The House Down

It has the “One Riff To Rule Em All”, which a lot of people would know as “Two Minutes To Midnight” but it goes back all the way to the 70’s.

Catch Me If You Can

Sounds like “Running Out Of Time”.

Talk Is Cheap

It sounds like “Running Out Of Time”, but with no singing, and bass solos which you can actually hear.

Longing For Home

It has these “I Still Love You” arpeggios in the intro which I like.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Rock Rap

Rock was/is built on sex.

Like “Slide It In”, “Slow And Easy” from Whitesnake style of sex. Or the “Liquor And Poker” tour from Whitesnake on the back of the “Slip Of The Tongue” album.

Or “She Goes Down” for some “Sticky Sweet” from Motley Crue.

Or pulling the trigger of someone’s “Love Gun” while getting a “Plaster Caster” done from Kiss.

Or how she’s got the “Big Guns” from Skid Row.

But Rap is also built on sex and it has taken over rock when it comes to the mainstream.

Rap artists used any means necessary to spread the word and they embraced the internet.

They had their tracks on SoundCloud for people to listen to and they gave away mix tapes for free to download. This Vice story covers what a mixtape is/means in the world of rap.

In case you don’t read the article, MixTapes are “street albums,” that don’t use the label distribution process for albums. In comparison, albums are designed to move units and issue singles. They are designed to chart. And depending on the artist/label, an approval is needed from the label, before the artist can start recording it.

MixTapes are not designed to do that. They operate outside this sphere.

Mixtapes bring in new fans and provide something for the core fan base to talk about on social media.

MixTapes give the artist a reason to tour.

MixTapes can be jams with other arists.

Basically in the rap world, MixTapes move a rapper’s career forward and it’s done without selling a single copy. Although Bootleg copies of these MixTapes do make their way to iTunes and Spotify from opportunistic people. But the rappers don’t care.

“Embrace the future and don’t complain about it”, is a phrase I hear a lot. The general view from journalists is that rock and metal artists didn’t embrace this future and that’s why the genre is in the rear view mirror but it makes bank on touring.

And there’s been a lot of discussions recently on social media about the comments of Daniel Ek for artists to create more content.

But rock and metal fans are loyal and if they have the means, they will find a way to support the artists they like.

There’s a cool post at Seth’s Blog about deliberate lo-fi.

He talks about communication and how it’s gone downhill.

Like face to face contact went to landline phone calls to cell phone calls to text messaging and to Zoom calls.

And how music went from a live setting to vinyl to cassettes to CD’s to mp3 to streams.

This transition is because people want more and more, so things get condensed to fit this new norm.

But there’s always a shift. Because something that was better in the past will always be better in the future.

Maybe it’s a pretty good reason as to why vinyl has a Cult following. It won’t overtake streaming revenues but it will exist because it’s better.

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

Streaming Continued

I posted a few days ago about Streaming and some comments from Daniel Ek about what artists should be doing based on the data provided to him.

For example, releasing an album every 2 to 4 years is not a viable solution these days based on the data, and the data tells Spotify that a continuous engagement with fans with frequent releases is more viable.

Spotify thrives if content is delivered, so you need understand that Ek is also playing the role of a sales person in his quarter earnings speech.

And I’ve been following the reactions of artists on Twitter since Spotify quarter results, just to see what their view is, because the reason why we have Spotify accounts is that we like music and we want to listen to music.

Spotify grants access to music, along with the other streaming providers.

Dee Snider as usual is at his best.

Before streaming providers, consumers had, iTunes, pirate sites, cyber lockers and physical purchases. Artists got paid on a transaction once the label recouped.

But does that one sale equal a true fan.

Most of my record collection is from second hand record shops and market fairs of used records. So the person who purchased the record from a shop is listed as a fan via Soundscan metrics, but in reality, they are not a fan as they sold their record to a second hand shop who then resold it to me. And this sale is not captured as a Soundscan metric. So artists didn’t have any idea who their fans were.

Then came YouTube.

An uproar started there, when music became available on the service. YouTube got traction and to this day it is still the number 1 streaming service. The labels eventually negotiated a license deal and artists got rorted again. And pirate sites never went away.

Then came Spotify. The labels took ages to license the service as they wanted a stake in the company and a profit share arrangement with the service and so many other wonderful ways for the label to make money from the service.

First the labels and the publishing houses get a fee for allowing the service to license the music they hold the copyrights for. And this fee goes straight to the labels/publishers without any distribution to the artists.

And everyone is trying to do the math of how much does an artist get paid per stream?

But it’s the wrong train of thought to have.

Whoever holds the rights, the monies are getting sent there. But, the labels and publishing companies also have a profit share arrangement with the streaming service (and it’s not just Spotify, all streaming services have this arrangement, especially Tidal who have a lot of artists involved with it as investors) where they split the monies between each other.

And are the people at Tidal complaining?

Eventually the streaming market will fragment like the movie and TV streaming market and the streaming companies will start to make their own content and will become labels themselves.

Then we’ll have a different conversation.

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