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

Past Success

Is past success a good indication that you will have success again in the future?

Netflix thinks so, with the signing of the “Game Of Thrones” TV show creators to a $200 million deal. Their track record on reinterpreting other peoples material is pretty good, but their original content is pending review especially how they reinterpreted the last two seasons of GoT without really having source material to fill in the details.

This is like signing an artist to a $200 million deal when all of their songs are written by outside writers.

Remember the band Bananarama. They had a hit with “Venus”, a cover song and then their other hits were songs written by a British songwriting team called Stock-Aitken-Waterman. Well they got the mega deal, but didn’t really get the hits again.

Kevin DuBrow was given a million dollar contract to form his own band DuBrow but what the label failed to notice was that Quiet Riot’s two biggest songs are cover songs. Or offering Jay Jay French from Twisted Sister the same deal when Dee Snider wrote the material which made the band famous.

When Dokken splintered, Geffen went after Don Dokken and Elektra went after George Lynch, but what both labels failed to notice was that Jeff Pilson was the maestro, with a hand in co-writing all of Dokken’s most successful tracks. But no label went after him.

Even when Vince Neil left Motley Crue, he was courted by label’s and Warner Bros eventually signed him. But his fame is based on tracks Nikki Sixx had written.

Good business sense would be to see what their original shows or movies end up like.

But businesses don’t think like that. Netflix is losing subscribers for the first time in 11 years, Disney is taking back their content for their own streaming service and HBO and Amazon are also keen to get the GoT guys.

So by Netflix having these guys on board, by 2022 they would expect something in return. And Netflix would count on people keeping their subscriptions because of what they have in the pipeline.

But it’s all based on one key metric, as long as the GoT TV show creators brand doesn’t get further damaged in the meantime.

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

The Billions Artists Don’t Get But Should

This is the world that the artists have created when they signed away their masters and Copyrights to a record label. And for this tragedy to be fixed, the artists need to understand that it starts with them.

The labels have been the recording music gatekeepers for decades and they had full control to sign artists to contracts with less favourable terms.

In the process, the labels amassed a catalogue of music which gave them negotiating power at the table and when it came to take overs or selling off parts of the label, these profitable back catalogues bring in a lot of money.

French entertainment giant Vivendi owns Universal Music Group (UMG). Now Chinese tech company Tencent is looking at a 10% stake in UMG worth up to $3.6 billion dollars. The worth of that stake is because of the artists and the works UMG holds on behalf of the artists; works which they more or less paid a pittance for and works which have probably really recouped 100 times over.

How much of those billions would go back to the artists?

But hey, artists instead are forming a lobby group to fight against the tech lobby groups in the U.S. Because the distributor is now a problem. This is the same as the artists forming a lobby group in the past to fight against the truck drivers and the record stores.

I’m all for more power to the artist. It’s the artist that creates the song which connects with audiences and makes dollars. But for the artist to also have a fair say, they need to lobby hard against their employers (if they have a label deal) and the publishers, because these organisations make billions from the deals they organise with streaming companies and by selling off their small stake in the company.

And going back to the Music Artists Coalition (MAC), which also includes high profile managers, I don’t see how they will advocate for the 98% of artists doing it tough, when they represent the 2%.

But it’s a start.

Will MAC get back the masters from the labels. Oh, wait, most of those masters got destroyed in a Universal Warehouse fire.

We’ll lucky for the Public, that there is a copy of the music online. Otherwise, the tunes would be lost forever, in peoples records collections, which either end up in the trash or in a second hand book shop.

Because the labels don’t really care about this history. If they did, they would have stored the masters better, in a climate controlled room instead of a basic warehouse and they would have stored the back-ups at a different location instead of the same building.

All the labels care about is the free Spotify and YouTube users and those users who “stream rip”.

The labels (with their lobby groups) have court granted blocking on their side in most countries, so visits to sites like The Pirate Bay have reduced. However, fans of music just use YouTube and the free tier of Spotify to access music (which are both legal) and the labels don’t like it, because they are unable to find a way to convert the users of the free tiers to paying subscribers, especially in Italy.

So in this case, the labels cant increase the price to access music because people are not paying the current price as it is. So the price needs to come down. But the labels don’t want that. The option they want is to cut off the free-tiers, however this will just drive people back to the pirate sites.

And if the price to stream in Italy comes down, the record labels need to be reasonable here and still pay the artists their fair share, but we know that the words fair and reasonable are not associated with the labels.

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

Compensating Artists

Social media connects artists to fans. And that is a good thing.

The issue is that a lot of artists use social media as a one way street to market themselves and push their product. But for people to invest in you, you need to connect with them, and there are artists who do it better than others.

Dee Snider comes to mind immediately as one who does a great job connecting with fans. Dave Mustaine and Sebastian Bach do a good job as well, while Robb Flynn and Nikki Sixx do a fantastic job. Another artist who has two way comms going is Corey Taylor. There are a lot more, I know and I follow quite a few.

A simple question from a Depressed Reds Fan user account to Corey Taylor on Twitter got me interested;

“Just curious, where does the main source of income come from? I’d assume touring and merchandise, but I really don’t know.”

Corey Taylor responded with the following;

“We HAVE to tour. It’s the only way we can make a living. Merch helps, but the merch companies make the lion’s share. Streaming is pricing artists – old AND new – out of careers.”

Another user “Rock Feed” added that;

“People have this idea that bands are filthy rich. Royalties are so low for bands once all the suits get their take.”

And this started a conversation from the fans about what they try to do as consumers to make it profitable for the artist they support to earn a decent wage and continue creating music.

But, in order to fix the argument about streaming payments or digital payments or how the artist can be compensated, there needs to be a line drawn in the sand, because it is NOT THE CONSUMERS FAULT.

As consumers, we stream, we buy, we go to the shows, we buy the merch and we buy the collector’s edition.

How much more can the consumer do?

Of course, according to the record labels, we should pay more for streaming. Because if we did, more royalties would go to the artists which is all BS. The royalties going to the artist would be the same regardless of what the streaming rate is.

What about the record labels paying more to the artists in royalties?

Then you have the government controlling the rate of payments, which means, music doesn’t operate in a free market, instead it operates in a government granted monopoly.

And Publishers make billions for doing really nothing and pay out nothing because hey, it’s the consumers fault and the streaming companies fault according to them.

Other posts from other artists got screen shotted and re-tweeted.

James Blunt said he got paid 00.0004499368 pounds per stream. Beers are on him. Another user jumped on that and did the math that 1,000,000 streams of a song = 440 pounds. And when you split that amongst band members it doesn’t add up to a lot.

Another user called Source Code tweeted that they read;

“The Who back in the 70’s started a tour 40K in debt. They had a very successful time but afterwards the band were told they were still 40K in debt. It wasn’t the drinking or smashing up equipment that cost them, it was the anonymous greedy suits stealing.”

Corey Taylor re-added that;

“Musicians are LITERALLY the last to be paid”.

And that is true.

Artists are paid once all the expenses are paid. That advance payment has to be recouped. Studio time and promotion needs to be recouped. Legal needs to be paid and Management needs to be paid. Somewhere in between, the digital service provider takes up to 30% of the royalty paid. The label takes the rest and then distributes what the contact states to the artist. Then you have the publishers. Same deal there. The digital service provider takes up to 30% and the publisher takes the rest, distributing the money according to the contract they have with the artist. If the artist sells vinyl and product, they get a higher rate once the monies are recouped.

You know when you see articles like Steve Perry signing a publishing agreement or Nikki Sixx signing a publishing agreement and you can interchange any other artist who has a valuable back catalogue into the phrase.

Well, those artists don’t sign those agreements and get nothing in return. Obviously they are in a position of power to sign an agreement to their terms and get a favourable royalty rate, but there will be rules that the publisher would pay up front an advance fee and recoup that fee over the term.  

And when artists go out on tour and depending on their pull, they even scalp their own tickets to make more money on the show, because why should the booking agent, the venue, the parking stations and the food places make more than the artist. It’s wrong but legal.

Phil Labonte from All That Remains posted that their biggest song has 67 million views on YouTube and they have over 1.3 million monthly listeners on Spotify but see nothing from it.

Phil further mentioned that the band ends up making between 10 to 15% of gross on a tour. Then they need to split that amount 5 ways and pay their taxes. Once that is don’t, they can start paying their bills.

Bigger bands, will take an upfront payment and then negotiate this per show split afterwards.

But for a smaller band, if they have a show that has 1000 people at $20 a ticket, then that is $20,000 in gross earnings. Based on Phil’s numbers, the band stands to make between $2K to $3K for the show. Split 5 ways, it’s $400 to $600 per person. Play 20 shows and if you get the same crowds, then that’s $8K to $12K per person. Gross. Then tax.

And by the end of all the conversations, the artists didn’t care how people got the music, they just wanted to be compensated.

But music operates in a government granted bubble, and not a free market price, so the prices set are relient on Copyright rules (created by the Government) to make up the difference.

Artists tried “pay as you want” bundles (which is a way to test what the free market would pay for your work) and I don’t see too many of those bundles on offer today.

And there was two way communications between Corey and fans, who said, that since Corey plays music in a genre which isn’t popular, how can he expect to make coin on royalties to which Corey replied back with that he doesn’t believe that is the case, as all of the shows sell out and the genre is popular to the masses.

Its back to the same old argument; metal fans don’t stream as much as pop fans. And as an artist, do you want your fans to buy your album or stream it or both.

The best part of all of the conversations was the comment from Corey which said;

“As long as the RECORD LABELS get THEIR money, they don’t CARE if the ARTIST gets paid at ALL. Or who plays their music – unless it’s a critic on YouTube, THEN THEY’RE UP IN ARMS.

So much truth there. The bottom line is this; the Record Labels own a stake in Spotify. And they own this stake, because they had negotiating power from all the Copyrights they held, who really should be owned by the artists.

Did anyone notice that Tool recently entered the world of streaming?

And they would have done it on their terms, and their own rate. And they will be well compensated.

A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Anyone Still Watch Film Clips?

Once upon a time music videos used to cost anywhere between $100K to a cool million. Of course all charged to the band by the record labels. There was no way the label would pay this out of their goodwill bank account or the bank account which shows how the labels have recouped the monies spent on the album a thousand times over.

And a good song with a good clip would push a bands record into the platinum sphere.

Twisted Sister went platinum on the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” album because the film clip of the title track was excellent.

It had a story theme of the “noise police” chasing the band around the city for “noise violations”. And while the noise police were doing their job, the rock and roll/heavy metal music they were exposed to, was slowly converting them into metal/rock heads.

As MTV grew in its reach, so did the artists that got rotation on it. They went triple platinum on “Stay Hungry” from the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” film clips.

But artists believed that the film clip existed to break them into the mainstream. It didn’t.

How their music connected with fans was the secret sauce that would provide the artist with an audience that could sustain their career.

Because while music film clips could propel an artist’s career forward, it could also kill an artist’s career.

Did someone say Billy Squier?

So what is the aim of the film clip these days?

Queen recently had a post that stated “Bohemian Rhapsody” had surpassed 1 billion views on YouTube.

So is the point of the film clip to get as many hits online as an artist possibly can.

If it is about marketing the band and promoting awareness, what comes next?

There’s no doubt that a music video can be crucial to an artist’s success.

Just think of “Gangnam Style”. The dance moves is a huge reason why the song went into the stratosphere. And you saw those moves in a film clip.

If you are not using the music clip to connect with your audience and build a fan base, then it is a large expense for zero results.

I haven’t watched a film clip since I stopped watching music television in the late 90s. Maybe seeing Steve Tyler coveting his dick in Living On The Edge” was enough for me to know that this medium had done its course.

In saying that, I do believe that the music video is a valuable tool especially in these current times even if they don’t watch it and use it to listen to the music.

Because fans want instant access, instead of waiting for a music television show to play their favorite clip, or requesting a music television show to play their favorite clip, they can just call it up on YouTube.

A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Saying No

Everyone wants to be good, but how many are ready to make sacrifices to be great. Even before social media, a lot of people wanted to be liked so they tried to be nice. And being liked is different to being good which is different to being great.

I read an article on Warren Buffet a few days ago. Basically he states, the habit that separates successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.

Would that work in music when artists are tempted to say yes to everything and everyone wants to be liked, too scared to hold a point of view.

Label: Sign your rights away for life plus 70 years and we’ll give you a million dollars.

Artist: Yes please.

And the only way to be great is to build your experiences, learn from them and make mistakes.

Because somewhere in the back of your mind, you had a vision of what you want to be. Read the stories of your heroes and make your own judgements about how they used their experiences and mistakes to be who they are. Be critical in your reading.

Nothing is impossible.

Which is different to what they tell you at school. At school they tell you things and ask you to remember them. The better you can remember things, the better the marks you get and the better the qualifications you get.

And the people who can remember things get employed because of their past wins (qualifications) and not on their future desire to be somebody.

Because the people at school who had no interest in remembering things, had a greater desire and ambition to be somebody who will eventually overtake the qualified people.

To paraphrase Jen Sincero from “You Are A Badass”, you need to do things you’ve never done, to live a life you’ve never lived.

And remember you start with nothing and from that nothing, you find a way to make something.

So get to it.

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

Copyright And Hell

When I was writing this post I was listening to “Heaven And Hell” from Black Sabbath, so “Copyright And Hell” felt right for a title. Because when you start to get into the Copyright World, it’s hell.

So here we go on another post about Copyright absurdity in the music business. If I start including the art world, the photography world and so forth, I’ll never be able to finish a post.

YouTube has finally changed its content claim system, which now puts onus on the copyright holder to prove which section of the video broke Copyright laws.

In case you didn’t know, Copyright claimants had it all in their favour and they used this power to censor YouTube videos.

If you want to know what kind of a mess it became, a video of bird calls and white noise had takedown notices sent to it. Other videos that used 5 seconds or less of music as part of a news story or comedy routine (which is fair use) got taken down.

And every one wants a piece of the pie.

Here’s a lawsuit from a Christian rapper who claims that Kate Perry stole his beat. Yep, people are claiming beats as copyrightable. I guess when you move into a pop world which is all about beats and vocals and no music, suddenly everyone who creates a beat (either using a live drummer or samples) has a case.

Even insurers are caught in the crossfire. A rapper took out an insurance policy which covered any liabilities related to their professional music career. The rapper was involved in a copyright dispute which incurred costs. He asked the insurance company to pay, and the insurance company said no, accusing the rapper of withholding important information when purchasing his insurance policy. And now the rapper is suing the insurance company for not paying. And both will have spent more dollars fighting each other than paying the bill.

But each time I do these posts, there is a story about Copyright which defies the logic of fantasy fiction.

The issue that Taylor Swift has with a competitor manager buying out her old label is old news today. But two weeks ago and for a 48 hour period it blew up in my Google Alert Copyright feed.

It just goes to show how quickly content becomes irrelevant in the internet age. So when you spend 12 months perfecting that album, remember that it could be hot for a week or two and then crickets.

So, an artist writes a song, records it and they release it as DIY and they own the publishing and the masters.

But if the artist signs a deal, writes a song, spends the money advanced to them to record it and then spends more money of the advance to release and market it, well the label owns the master recording for a very long time and the artist still has their publishing rights as the songwriter.

If the songs make no money, the label wouldn’t care much about them, but they still wouldn’t let go of the masters easily, just in case those songs make millions later.

However if the songs make millions, then the label has a good income stream and they would fight tooth and nail to keep those masters. Which is ridiculous, especially when Universal kept it secret that a fire at one of their storage facilities wiped out the Masters of some of the greatest albums. And the back up Masters Universal made got placed in the same facility, next to the original Masters. In other words, the labels don’t care about the Masters, because if they did, they wouldn’t have burned like that.

In relation to Big Machine (Swift’s Old label), 80% of its income came from Taylor Swift’s catalogue of songs. So it’s selling point to any buyer is that catalogue.

So what say does the creator have about who buys their most profitable work, the songs which made them popular?

John Lennon and Paul McCartney got a buyout back in the day before the owner of their songs ended up changing hands so many times that eventually Michael Jackson (realizing how the recording business works) purchased them.

Well if you are a creator and you sign a basic deal, you basically have no say whatsoever in who owns the master copyrights to your songs. However if you had the negotiating power, you can add these terms into your contracts. But in most cases it’s stacked against the artist.

The best advice is to build your brand so it’s strong enough to negotiate in your favour, so you own your masters and your publishing when the label comes calling.

But everyone is tempted by money and the patience and discipline is hard to maintain.

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

The Labels Say Infringement Is The Issue. Maybe Not.

The labels still focus on infringement and see that as a big issue. Stream ripping sites are getting a lot of attention right now, especially in Australia.

But the shitty way the labels treat the artists who created valuable art “which is worth something” is not an issue to the labels.

Years ago, the labels went to court against artists like Eminem, David Coverdale and Don Henley concerning digital royalties. The labels always paid low royalties on sales of music CDs and vinyl. However, “licensing” music (once upon a time licensing was for movies or commercials only), offered a higher payout to the artist.

The question the artists wanted to know was how is iTunes treated?

The labels said iTunes is a “sale” like a CD sale and the artist is paid the lower royalty rate.

The artists countered that iTunes is a “license,” like for a commercial, as the labels need to license their music to the tech service for the tech service to sell it. This in turn means the artists are meant to be paid the higher royalty rate of up to to 50%.

In the U.S the labels won at the district court level, while the artists won at the appeals court level.

Now this “sales vs license” scenario was relevant up to about 2011 as newer contracts the labels drew up afterwards avoided this problem. Basically, everything is a sale to the labels even the streams from streaming service all so the labels could rip off artists a little bit more.

Not sure if anyone noticed, but Def Leppard was also caught up in this dispute for years with their label, hence the reason why their music wasn’t on any streaming or digital service for a long time. Def Leppard even refuses to let their label license their music until they sorted out the payment issue.

And the big issue here is that the record labels really owe a lot of money to artists but they still put out lies that infringement is the biggest challenge they face while they go to court against the artists. But they still put out the propaganda that when they ask for longer copyright terms, it’s for the artists, when they ask for stream ripping sites to be taken down, it’s also for the artists. Basically everything the labels do is for the artists, except payments.

Furthermore, all the labels know that their power in the market is based on the content they hold. In this case, it’s the songs they hold on behalf of artists.

So the Copyright Act in the U.S gives creators the right to terminate a copyright grant they have given to a corporation after a 35-year period.

And of course there are a lot of artists who created works which ended up becoming very valuable, who want to reclaim their copyrights.

Basically artists who released music up to 1984 have put in claims to get their works back.

Then it will be 1985 releases and before you know it, the 1990s artists will want to their rights back. And if you grew up in this period, you know that there are a lot of great songs that make a lot of money, which the labels don’t want to lose control of and the artists who want to get those songs back under their control.

But the labels will not let it happen without a fight in the courts.

Universal Music Group (UMG) are going to court to dismiss the termination notices served against it. Sony is also trying the same tactic.

And they are using their own interpretation of the law which could bog down the proceedings for years while lawyers argue words in the Act and how they can be interpreted.

And the big thing the labels are sticking with is the “works for hire” principle which worked a treat for the movie studios.

Basically if an employee creates something as a work for hire, it means the employer is the owner of the work and the work can not be terminated. So the labels are basically saying that the artists are employees, which we all know is bullshit, because I am sure the artists didn’t get monies added to a pension fund or holiday pay and what not.

Also when the artist wrote that hit song, it wasn’t because they were an employee of the label, it was because they had an idea, either at band practice, or at soundcheck, or in their hotel room or bedroom.

But hey, I guess power corrupts and always wins. It’s time all of the artists started terminating their rights with the corporations.