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

Crooks Continued

The “playing live” income stream is non-existent at the moment. But it’s not just artists who are losing out.

Venues also make money by having live music and collection agencies also make money by charging venues a license fee which allows the venues to have live music.

But the collection agencies feel they should be making more money in a pandemic from live performances.

PRS is an organisation in the UK which collects and distributes artists’ royalties. And they thought it was a great idea (a lot of sarcasm here) to introduce a new fee for livestreams because “hey how could they miss out and not get a slice of the pie”.

As the Vice article states;

Livestreams with a revenue below £250 will need to pay a flat rate of £22.50 for this licence, which doubles to £45 for revenues between £251 and £500. This means that for those hosting an online event with a revenue of £250 or less, a minimum of 9 percent will go to PRS.

So do you reckon the independent artists are happy about this cash grab from PRS.

And what makes it worse, artists need to wait at best, six months before they receive any royalties less admin fee from these collection agencies.

And the new tax is basically a punishment to the grassroots artists who would have a small turnover.

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

Crooks

There’s always crooks in the music business woods and they are finding creative ways to steal.

Judas Priest posted a message recently about a fake “Glen Tipton Foundation” account doing the rounds and asking people to donate. Metal fans (like most music fans) are loyal so they give. I’m not sure how many fans have given monies to this fake foundation but it’s not surprising that the crooks are targeting artists.

Because if this artist loyalty didn’t exist, platforms like Kickstarter, Pledge and Indiegogo who allow fans to fund their favourite artists would also not exist nor would they make any money in the process from their percentage cut. And even then, these platforms take a long time to make the payments they gathered to the artists. So for all their good intentions as enablers, these platforms also act like crooks, keeping money which is not theirs for a longer term to earn more money from it.

Even the platforms that allow you to upload music to digital providers, keep your royalty payments for at least three to six months before clearing them for payment. The collection agencies are also the same.

And it doesn’t end there.

The record labels always want a deal which favours them more than the artist.

An 80/20 royalty deal is normally the case, which means that 80% goes to the label and 20% to the artist. This deal is also seen as “artist friendly”. But before any royalty is paid back to the artist, all of the advances given to the artist, plus recording costs and marketing costs need to be recouped back by the label.

And the way the monies are recouped by the label is via the royalty split.

For example, let’s just say that the artist is given a $60K advance, $20K recording budget and a $20K marketing budget. All up these payments totals $100K. All of these monies need to be paid back to the label.

So if the artist makes $100K in their first week sales, the label makes a profit of $80K which they bank, and the $20K the artist makes, also goes to the record label to pay back the $100K in loans given. So at this point in time the artist has only paid back $20K of their $100K loan.

For the artist to pay back the label the original $100K loan, they will need to generate $500K in sales.

And from the $500K sales, the record label has banked $400K as pure profit, and the artist has repaid the $100K loan.

And now, the artist can start earning a split of all future sales made from this point on. But the labels will add video shoot costs, photo costs, car hires, plane tickets, consultant fees, lawyer frees and everything else to the bill, to ensure the artist stays in a state of debt, so that the label could keep banking the 100%.

Let’s not forget that the artist themselves will also have an entourage of people waiting on advances and payments, like managers, accountants, lawyers.

Crooks everywhere.

P.S.
Here is a pretty cool article about these kind of record deals from the recent UK Government inquiry into the music business.

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

Copyright Again

I love Copyright.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving forever. Many years after the creators death, people who created nothing are still making money from it. And now we have investment firms buying the rights to songs from creators for large sums. And suddenly there is a new emperor in town when it comes time to discuss copyright terms at a political level.

One thing I know about hedge funds and investment firms; they don’t like to lose and they don’t like to give away what they have.

Bob Rock sold his shares in the Metallica “Black” album to Hipgnosis Song Fund, an investment firm, founded by Merk Mercuriadis a former label head, joining people like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Shakira, One Republic, Dee Snider and many others.

Music today, is like real estate, generating money on a consistent basis. Streaming has shown how much money can be generated if you own the rights to the songs.

Previously an album would be released, if it didn’t sell, it would be removed from shelves and replaced by something else and eventually deleted from production. Well today, nothing is deleted and storage space is infinite. Suddenly every song is available again. Well almost every song. But you know what I mean.

Remember there are two types of copyrights in music.

One for the songwriter of the song, which is known as “publishing” and the other for the sound recording, the final track which ends up on albums and streaming services.

For example, a songwriter like Steve Harris, will own this copyright or he might lease it to a publishing company for a limited term in exchange for a large up-front payment. The publisher will make their money back by collecting and keeping the royalties it collects on behalf of the artist.

The sound recording should always be owned by the artist/band who recorded the song, but in most cases, it’s the label who has it, because they paid the money to get the artist/band into the studio to record their songs and they will also own it for a larger time frame. And they will also collect royalties on this for an even longer time, still claiming they the artist hasn’t recouped.

In this Pitchfork article, it mentions that “Hipgnosis calculates that it will own the songs in its catalog for an average of 101 years before losing copyright protection.”

101 years.

God damn. That’s a long time.

So Bob Dylan’s songs released in the 60’s will be under copyright all up for about 160 years.

Think about that.

And even then, there is always a politician looking for a large hand out to write and introduce laws to keep copyright forever.

Meanwhile artists still can’t get their copyrights back from the labels, even though the law states they can.

Dwight Yoakam is another artist suing his label, this time its Warner Music, because they refuse to accept or acknowledge that copyright law allows the artist to reclaim their works after 35 years.

And if you are not aware, Universal and Sony are also in the courts because of the same thing; not allowing artists to reclaim their rights.

And the world just keeps creating money out of thin air, as Tik Tok now has a licensing arrangement with Universal Music Group, along with Sony, which it announced in November. So here is another revenue stream for the major labels.

How much of it gets filtered back to the artists?

Probably none.

That’s why they are selling their rights for a large upfront payment. Take the money and run.

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

What Are You Willing To Do?

I saw a quote in reference to Tom Brady and his seven Super Bowls.

“If you want to be average, then just do average work. But if you want to be great, you got to do what the rest aren’t willing to do”.

I’m not sure which coach said it.

I am presuming they are talking from an effort and practice point of view. But after reading a lot on self-development in the last six years, is it really about doing something what the rest aren’t willing to do.

So much more goes into development than just doing more in practice. In the early years, the early maturers and those born at the start of the birth year are identified as “elite” only to be replaced by others once all the growing has finished.

But self-development is a billion dollar industry and the industry needs to keep the profits coming in, so the same message keeps coming out about mindsets, grit, deliberate practice, 10,000 hours, mental toughness, talent codes, culture codes and what not.

Applying that quote to music, I am sure there are a lot of artists who did things that others weren’t willing to do (from a practice point of view) and are still unknown. Hell, YouTube has shown me so many talented artists each day and by tomorrow they are forgotten, replaced by someone else.

“Black Sabbath” was a horror show to the establishment back in the days and the anti-heroes to the “flowers in your hair” hippie movement and the sugar sweet pop charts. Other artists would have existed at that time who put in a lot of hard work to be excellent musicians, but it was Sabbath and Purple and Zeppelin and Rolling Stones and ELP and The Doors and Yes and Pink Floyd and Kiss that kept on rising.

Maybe that bit of extra was the drinking and the drugs.

In 1981, there were a lot of musicians who were far better/superior than the Motley Crue guys, but hey, Motley Crue made it and the other artists didn’t. Maybe because the Crue had the gimmick of “the outcasts standing against society” plus they used the pentagram to its full effect with the “Satanic Panic” in full swing in the U.S and they had the words of the youth in their lyrics. Who didn’t want to take their fists to break down the walls and get on the prowl tonight.

This process of “artists with lesser technical ability” making it over “artists of higher technical ability” kept on repeating in cycles.

I guess it’s not all about technical ability and how good you play your instruments. It’s about those soft skills, the experiences and the ability to write songs with a message that is understood.

Because even these artists who do make it and reach the lofty heights of commercial stardom, struggle to write songs with the same message, as their ivory tower glasses are unable to see that far.

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

Working Class Man

It’s about Jimmy Barnes and his life from leaving Adelaide in the early 70s with Cold Chisel and his solo career.

“Working Class Boy” is the book the covers his childhood in Scotland, the trip to Australia and growing up in a broken and violent home. This one was a tough and uneasy read because of the stories he told.

Chisel like all bands of that era started off as a cover band. They introduced originals for one gig and the audience was disappointed. Back to covers they went.

Jimmy Barnes left the band early on to fill the Fraternity vocal spot left vacant by Bon Scott joining AC/DC.

But it didn’t last long and he was back with Cold Chisel albeit a more focused singer courtesy of the tutelage given to him by Fraternity bassist Bruce Howe who was the taskmaster in that band and he wanted the singer to sound a certain way. Barnsey reckons that Howe also assisted in Bon’s singing prowess.

Like all bands of the era they gig and get crowds and they get managers who promise things and deliver nothing and they kept changing them with the hope that one of em would push the band with the labels.

And a post party gathering at a posh apartment involving sex and drugs which Don Walker attended, ending up being the event that sealed the deal for them in relation to management.

Rod Willis was at the party and he was bemoaning the lack of great managers in the Australian business. Walker was listening and after watching the band play live, Willis became their manager for 32 years.

And in Willis, main songwriter Walker had an ally when it came to implementing new music into their sets. So they started rehearsing.

And all of this is up to 1976.

They got their deal in September 1977. And got a crash course in copyright. There are two copyrights for each song.

The first belongs to the artist who recorded the song, which the record label controls as they paid the money for the recording and they are meant to keep it for a limited time before returning it back to the artists.

The second belongs to the writer/s. And this is controlled by the music publisher.

Barnes sums up his first recording experience in the best way.

“Recording was making something in a dark room with no one to bounce things off, and then waiting three months until it was finished, and then another three months until it came out – only to listen six months later and say to yourself, “Oh, I wish I’d done this or that”.

He wanted to put the producers head in his hands for the second record “Breakfast at Sweetheats”.

Live music television was unmasked as miming to a recording version of the song and Chisel did that for their first appearance but the higher they got the more power they had and when it came to the Countdown awards Chisel was allowed to play live so they upped the ante by walking on with half a bottle of Vodka, and then proceeding to play a song which they changed halfway to slag off the Awards and then smashed their instruments and everything else. .

The more popular Chisel got, the more wilder Jimmy Barnes got. And you need to read his recollection of their North American tour starting with the first show in San Diego, opening up for Loverboy, and ending with their last show in LA in which their Elektra label rep didn’t even turn up for, because it was his Djs friends dog birthday.

The US tour put the writing on the wall. Chisel then imploded and he went solo. His first release “Bodyswerve” went to number 1 in Australia.

And while he’s doing songs in the U.S with Jonathan Cain and other writers for what was hoped what be his break through album in the North American market with Geffen Records, Eddie Van Halen and Ted Templeman paid him a visit, asking him to audition for the vacant singers spot in Van Halen.

According to Barnesy, EVH mentioned it’s gonna be a new band and their gonna do ballads.

He said “no”.

“For The Working Class Man” came out in 1985 and Barnesy became a legend in Australia. It was everywhere and it debuted at Number 1. But it bombed in the U.S.Apparently it sounded too Australian.

Whatever that means.

Eventually the Geffen deal went bad when Barnes took the masters for the “Freight Train Heart” album back to Australia because he wasn’t happy how Jonathan Cain was producing it.

In Australia, he could do no wrong and his manager organized another US deal with Atlantic this time. In the space of 12 years, Barnes had deals with Elektra with Cold Chisel and Geffen and Atlantic as a solo artist.

Like Ozzy and Black Sabbath, the more records Barnesy sold as a solo artist and singing a few Chisel songs live, generated to a lot of sales of their former bands catalogue.

Black Sabbath and Cold Chisel grew during the 80s and 90s because of the deeds of their singers.

But for all his successes, by 1994 he was almost bankrupt. And he was still out of control.

A lot of rebuilding commenced.

Read the book to find out.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, Unsung Heroes

Brian Wheat on Lefsetz

Here is the link to the Spotify podcast.

We are all flawed. As fans of music, we used to see our favourite artists as indestructible and confident, free of any issues and ailments and worries.

And then the books started coming and we started to read that was never the case.

They all suffer from confidence issues, fearful of their next step and they cope with various health and growing up issues by medicating themselves via illegal drugs, alcohols or prescriptions.

Brian Wheat has health issues and he’s had them for a long time. And you wouldn’t even know he had any issues. On stage, he always smiled and rocked out.

A lot of ground is covered.

Wheat talks about how Tesla make more money now than what they did on Geffen Records. “Mechanical Resonance” sold a lot and they didn’t make no money, because they were naïve.

They thought that when David Geffen and his team did something for them, it was out of the goodness of their hearts. But the labels don’t do anything without charging for it and the band was in debt.

He talks about Cliff Burnstein, Peter Mensch and Tom Zutuat and how Tesla wouldn’t be where they are today without them, but Burnstein didn’t want to work with them after they reformed, calling them a nostalgic act, in the early 2000’s.

Burnstein, Mensch and Zutuat didn’t want to put “Love Song” on the album. According to them, it was three songs in one song and it didn’t belong. The band stood their ground and they threatened to drop “Lazy Days, Crazy Nights” which was Burnstein’s favourite song.

But “Love Song” blew up (there was also a story there, about how the band and Burnstein had to go to Zutuat to get label budget approval to release another single as the first two singles bombed and the label was preparing to stop pushing the album).

And the band made sure they reminded management and the label about “Love Song” whenever they disagreed on things.

Wheat said that Tesla was difficult for Q Prime to manage because they were sort of a B Level band, as Tesla never got to the level of success of Def Leppard, Metallica and Guns N Roses.

The Tesla break-up is discussed which was strange to listen to as they just made a new deal with Geffen, released “Bust A Nut”, they toured hard and it went Gold, but it wasn’t platinum and they heard along the grapevine that Geffen was going to drop em. Burnstein even said to em, “that they are done. Their career is over.”

And I’m like “wow”. Even though there’s a cult like fan base for the band, the label and management decided that it’s over. Tesla is a working band. They make their money, on the road.

But the band already had some issues with each other and as soon as they lost label and management support they went on hiatus for 5 years.

And during that time Wheat had no money.

He got some publishing money but in order to survive he had to mortgage his house and hustle with others to produce bands and do demos. Jeff Keith even got a job as a DJ in a strip club, Frank Hannon was landscaping and Troy Lucketta was roofing.

Because Tesla’s bread and butter is the live arena.

Wheat talks about his relationships, his friendship with Ross Halfin, his small label to help young bands, his recording studio and actually being the son of the milkman.

Give it a listen.

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

Bodyswerve

I’m reading the book “Working Class Man” from Jimmy Barnes. A review will be coming soon.

And I just finished the chapter that covered his first solo album “Bodyswerve” released in 1984.

I always saw Barnesy as indestructible, taking the world head on, with no fucks given.

But there was fear. He was like all of us. Unsure of choices and decisions.

He had the uncertainty and fear of going it alone after Cold Chisel broke up and the fear he had of coming up with songs for his first solo album.

He kept comparing his writing to Don Walker’s from Cold Chisel, but they are very different writers.

He persevered and kept on writing and he delivered.

Once the songs were written, he had to assemble a band.

He got people he felt “safe with”.

Drummer Ray Arnott recorded with Barnes on Cold Chisel’s final album, “Twentieth Century”. Bruce Howe was the bass player and founder of Fraternity, a band that Barnes had sung with for a short time in 1975 after Bon Scott left.

Bruce Howe was a hard taskmaster back in the day and he should be credited for pushing Bon Scott and Barnesy vocally, and by doing so they both developed their high octane singing style.

Mal Eastick had played with “Stars” and second guitarist Chris Stockley, was selected because he played, “old-style rock, like Little Richard and Gene Vincent”.

And then they went on the road, playing small pubs. They fine tuned the songs and when they went into the studio to record, the energy of the band and their tightness, transferred onto the tape.

And the rest is history.

The album dropped, people were expecting it and went straight to Number 1 in Australia. Jimmy Barnes was reborn as a solo artist.

Listen to the riff and groove of “Vision”.

Then there’s this soul style groove for “Daylight” which reminds me of “Mustang Sally” but it’s more hard rock as the guitar riff wouldn’t be out of place on an AC/DC album.

And what a beautiful combination it is, merging soul with hard rock.

“Promise Me You’ll Call” is a slower tempo song, ballad like, with a soul rock vocal melody.

“No Second Prize” has that “Stand By Me” feel, all rocked up, 80s style. And it became an Aussie pub rock classic.

“Boys Cry Out For War” has a riff which reminds me of “T Rex”. And I like it, as it romps it’s way through my brain.

“Paradise” is a rewrite of his “Rising Sun” song from his Cold Chisel days. A 12 bar rock and roll blues romp.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” is another blues like ballad.

“Fire” and “World On Fire” close the album.

Two great rockers which are virtually ignored.

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

Jay Jay French Podcast

The French Connection is a newer podcast from Twisted Sister founder and guitarist Jay Jay French.

In this episode he interviews Dee Snider.

Dee talks briefly about his litigation with Clive Palmer, the Australian businessman and wannabe politician who used the vocal melody of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” with some word changes for his political slogan “Australia’s Not Gonna Cop It”.

Years before, Dee had already sold his catalogue to Universal Publishing, so he wasn’t missing out on any unpaid royalty fee but felt compelled to stand for the message of the song and for any unlawful use of the song.

Anyway, the case is over and the Australian judge will take about 6 to 18 months to come up with a decision and then if the decision goes against Palmer, he will appeal it and the case restarts again.

Jay Jay talks about being business partners with Dee as well as being band members for 45 years.

They talk about touring and playing shows during the “Son of Sam” murders, even taunting the “Son of Sam” killer from the stage, by saying “if you come here motherfucker, well kick your arse”.

They talk about politics and the artist role within that environment especially these days.

Artists are faced with a decision to either avoid talking about it in case they alienate a percentage of their fanbase (which is at about 40%) or to take a stand.

The general rule is if you keep quiet, the unacceptable becomes the acceptable.

Snider believes that a large majority of Trump supporters are metal fans because of their blue collar background. He doesn’t have the statistics to back it up, but it’s a general viewpoint he has.

Regardless Twisted Sister and Dee Snider’s success is more international than North American.

These two dudes can talk and it’s a blast to listen to.

Check it out.

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

Selling Your Songs And Creative Copyright To Get Around Laws

Richie Sambora sold his 200 song catalog to an investment fund called Hipgnosis Songs for a large undisclosed sum. Hipgnosis was founded by a former manager called Merck Mercuriadis, who has spent over $1 billion on catalogs over the past 4 years.

So did Bob Dylan for $300 million and Stevie Nicks sold 80% of her stake for $100 million. Desmond Child sold his share in his songs a long time ago and regrets it.

All of this activity is because of streaming.

Spotify is the great paradigm shift.

Streaming scales and it pays for the big songs. The publishing companies and investment funds are not stupid. The return on their purchases of catalogues can now be quantified because of the data available. It’s not hidden and shrouded in record label secrecy anymore.

Desmond Child mentioned in the linked article how in 2017, the publishing company that purchased his songs in the mid 90s made up that huge purchase price x 20.

And since Copyright terms last forever, these purchases are guaranteed to keep bringing monies into the companies for the life of the creator plus 70 years after death.

And Copyright law is designed for songs to fall into the public domain but artists and labels are finding different ways to circumvent these laws.

Like Bob Dylan.

His label released a collection of songs/jams with George Harrison in Europe. This release was in response to a European law which states that recordings will enter the public domain if they aren’t officially released by the copyright holder 50 years after their creation.

Since 2012, the Dylan team have been avoiding copyright laws by releasing albums in limited runs to avoid these songs from the entering the public domain.

I guess it’s not a bad time to be a musician with a huge catalogue of songs and a popular one at that.

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

Popular

I came across a post on Seths Blog about popular versus good.

This is what the post says;

They’re not the same.

We often strive to have both, but that’s unlikely. The price of having one almost certainly involves losing the other.  We often end up compromising something to get both and fail.

Better to have one than neither.

What are your thoughts when it comes to music?

Bands break through and become popular because they created a song or an albums worth of songs, which connected with enough people, to make those songs popular.

The labels had no idea what would become popular, because it’s a personal connection between fan and artist. So they kept putting money towards new content.

“Slippery When Wet” became a popular album.

Based on the post, does that mean it’s not good?

The label, the producers and management would have been happy if the album went Gold in the U.S.

But instead of selling 500,000 copies, it moved 12 plus million in the U.S.

Or does the post try to highlight the situation that after an artist becomes popular, it’s the follow up album which tries to recapture the zeitgeist and compromises on the good, in order to remain popular.

Standard