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

Take A Walk On The Stream Side

You can buy an album and never listen to it, however if you do listen to the purchased album, the artist has no idea how many times you played it.

Streams means you listened, and it tells the artist which song/s you listened to, even if it was in the background. It tells the artists from which area you are from. It arms the artist with tools to plan their tours.

And it’s rare that you will stream the whole album. You probably will only stream the songs which are your “hits” or if the album crosses over, maybe the actual hits.

And in the same way you cherry-picked your favourites and made that awesome mix tape, or CD once upon a time, you do the same in the digital era with a playlist.

And if artists want fans to buy albums, where do they expect the majority to play them?

Most computers don’t even come with a CD drive and most new cars also don’t have a CD drive either. As for those super expensive stereo systems from the 80’s, are now marketed to audiophiles.

And for iTunes files, its an overpriced offering compared to what is available. I stream and still buy some albums on CD throughout the year. It’s because I can’t stop buying. But the new generation is all about on demand and streaming. It’s a different market and artists need to adjust.

And if artists are waiting on just sales to get traction, they are operating in the old world. Without big streaming numbers, acts get no traction in the mainstream, but acts can have a career on the outer edges, satisfying their core, niche market.

Every artist should be getting their fans to stream. But we still get the voices against streaming services and how these services pay poorly. If that’s the case, you need to renegotiate your terms with the corporations which hold your Copyright.

But streaming shows your fans. If anybody is streaming your music a lot, they’re a fan, and they’ll pay to see you live and they will buy VIP tickets and merchandise and any special edition of an album you put out. Don’t you want to know that information?

And the chart that matters is one of listens. But artists still want sales and that number 1 Billboard spot (for bragging rights) and they package their album with tickets. Metallica did it with “Hardwired” and Jovi did it with their last two albums.

But seriously, is selling an album with tickets reflective of the albums success?

Of course not, it’s typical record label creative accounting. It might matter to the artist, but fans don’t give a shit. And remember, for an artist to have a career, it’s a relationship between fan and artist.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Sales in 84 vs Sales in 90

In 1984, over 360 million units of recorded music got sold in the US.

In 1986, about 280 million units of recorded music got sold in the US. A huge reduction from 2 years ago.

By 1988, about 300 million units of recorded music gold sold in the US. Still a reduction from 1984, but an increase from 1986.

By 1990, about 320 million units of recorded music got sold in the US, with the majority of sales made up from CD purchases.

Between 1984 and 1990 there was a reduction of 11% in overall sales of recorded music however a big increase in dollars as CDs started to replace vinyl and had a better return for the labels which they kept in their balance sheets as a return on investment.

So if a band moved a million units of vinyl in 1984, and provided they still stuck together, you would expect their album in 1990 would sell about 890,000 units based on the trends.

And that same band who moved a million units in 1984 had a high chance of selling 834,000 units for their next album in 1986 because the reduction was even greater between these two years.

In relation to hard rock and metal, some bands had bigger reductions in sales than the 11%, some bands didn’t make it to 1990 and some bands bucked the trend and had an increase in sales.

Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister and Ratt are three bands that come to mind which followed this kind of trajectory. High selling albums circa 1983/84 to low selling albums or to just ceasing to be even together by 1990.

“Out Of The Cellar” by Ratt sold 2 million units in 1984 and “Detonator” their most solid album, only sold 500K by December 1990.

Van Halen’s “1984” album sold 4 million by October of the same year. “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” sold 2 million in 1991 when it came out.

“Eliminator” from ZZ Top came out in 1983 and by the end of the year it had sold a million units and by the end of 1984, it had sold 4 million units which means it moved 3 million units for that year. “Recycler” only moved a million units in 1990 when it came out.

Meanwhile, Bon Jovi went from a band who couldn’t move 500,000 units of their debut album in 1984 to selling 3 million units in 1986 with “Slippery When Wet”.

So when you think about the 22.2% reduction in sales from 1984 to 1986, Bon Jovi went against the trend here. With a reduced music buying public, they grabbed a larger share of it, more so than the other bands. And that large share, still provides Jovi with his victory lap.

And Jon Bon Jovi’s “Blaze Of Glory” album moved 2 million units in 1990.

And when fans of Quiet Riot heard “Condition Critical” and “QRIII”, it was a no brainer to jump ship and move to a better sounding and catchy band like Bon Jovi and Europe.

Actually Europe in 1986 didn’t sell much in the US, however by the end of 1987, they moved 2 million units in the US of “The Final Countdown” album.

However their “Prisoners In Paradise” album, didn’t even get to 500K units in 1992.

Motley Crue didn’t buck the trend either as their peak was “Shout At The Devil”. “Theatre Of Pain” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” became album’s to get the band back on the road because bands on occasions have low selling albums but tours that do great business at the box office. It wasn’t until “Dr Feelgood” hit the streets that Motley Crue went against the statistics and sold a lot more than others.

Iron Maiden is a band who didn’t sell multi millions of an album, but they cashed in on the live business and merchandise. Kiss as well.

In the end the base of hard core music consumers in the 80s who purchased music has stayed on average year after year. The only difference is we kept on shifting our allegiances.

The cost of purchasing music increased with CD’s and there was a period when CDs started to takeover people sort of stopped purchasing because of the price.

However when the 70s and 80s generation had grown up and started to repurchase their vinyl collections in the 90’s you get to that magical summit that the record labels always allude to when they talk about pre Napster. Between the years 1999 and 2002, CD units stayed above 900 million units.

And through it all, the record labels and the artists had no idea who their fans were. All they knew was a sale happened. If that sale led to the person listening to the album thousands of times or just once was not known.

So even though an artist might have sold 30,000 units in a city, it didn’t correlate to 30,000 fans. Hard rock bands in the late 80s had to cancel shows or play to half full arenas in cities where their record based on sales stats, sold well. But streaming stats tell the artist who is listening and from which city they are listening. A connection is made immediately.

P.S. Sale stats by RIAA Gold and Platinum database.

P.S.S. The total units sold came from the graph in this Spin article titled “Did Vinyl Really Die In The 90s”.

P.S.S.S. I started this post a while back and kept on returning to it, doing a little bit more than previously and sometimes I struggled with it.

But it all came together recently when a fellow blogger called Deke over at Thunder Bay listed his Top 10 posts of 2018 and he linked to a blog post over at 1001 Albums in 10 years.

And it all made sense how you can use a little bit of math to get your point across. So thanks to the WordPress Bloggers for posting and sharing their minds.

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

Fight The Copyright Powers That Be

I know this is a site about metal and rock but sometimes I need to go outside these styles.

Case in point.

Taylor Swift and her new record deal.

She left Big Machine Record’s and signed with Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group.

In her new deal, Swift owns her Copyright. In other words, those master recordings are hers.

Remember I’ve been saying those who own their own copyright will win in the end. Swift isn’t stupid, she has seen how much streaming services pay the “copyright holders” of recordings. So instead of selling her rights to the corporation for a large advance right now, she’s keeping her future songs in her bank.

But that’s assuming that her future songs will have the same impact and success as her Big Machine Records catalogue, which in this case all stays with Big Machine Records.

The big one for me is how the sale of Universal Music Group Spotify shares are distributed (provided the sale happens).

Basically the label was in a powerful negotiating position against the streaming service because it had amassed a shit load of copyrights over the years. It held the rights of songs other people had written even when those songs should have been in the public domain.

So if Universal sells its Spotify stake, the label must pay all of its artists a cut of the sale as non-recoupable. Universal’s stake in Spotify is estimated to be above $850 million.

Sony already sold its stake for $768 million and Warner Brothers sold some of their stake for $504 million. Both labels, cashed up, distributed monies to their artists differently. Sony artists got monies paid as non-recoupable and Warner Brothers artists got the monies applied to their recoupable balances.

The VOX article gives a great example of why this happens:

When an artist signs with a music label, the label advances the artist some of the money it thinks the artist will bring in. Essentially, if an artist signs a $3 million contract, the label is saying, “We’re pretty sure you’ll earn $3 million in royalties in your first year of sales, so here’s that money early.” But that means the artist doesn’t get any more royalty payments until they’ve earned back that $3 million.

Whenever an artist hasn’t yet earned back an advance, they have what’s called “an unrecouped balance” with their label. As far as the label’s accounting books are concerned, the artist owes the label money.

So when a label sells Spotify shares — which means a big payday — it’s got two possible ways of sharing that payday with its artists. It can either count the money toward any unrecouped balances, or it can choose not to.

Sony decided that when it shared its Spotify money with its artists, it was going to ignore any unrecouped balances and send them the money directly, without applying it to their advances. Warner Brothers did the opposite, and applied the Spotify money to artists’ unrecouped balances before passing any of it along. In practice, that meant Sony artists got a big paycheck out of the Spotify deal, but the only thing that a lot of Warner Brothers artists got was the promise that they were a little bit closer to seeing an actual royalty statement someday.

For Universal, Taylor Swift is forcing their hand to distribute the monies to all artists regardless if they owe the label money or not.

Swift’s spirit here is the rock and roll spirit.

So how did a country artists who crossed over into pop become a rock star in ethos by standing up to the powers that be?

“We’re Not Gonna Take It” was the war anthem for a whole new metal/rock generation. But what are the rockers and metal heads doing right now.

Metallica with their label went to court against their fans, while Swift is seen as an artist standing up for other artists against the Copyright monopolies and greed of the record labels.

Like her or not, she had issues with Spotify and Apple over payments, and then probably realized it’s her label that was the issue.

Regardless, in true rock and roll spirit she asked for her music to be removed and it was. Until she decided it was time to put it back on, at the price she believed it was worth.

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

2018 Spotify Stats

I listened to 6,178 different songs and devoted 43,201 minutes to music on Spotify.

So to all the people who say music is finished, remember there are millions of people around the world with similar listening habits. But “we need stronger Copyright”, the RIAA would say.

I started the year listening to “Dream Evil” by Dio and Headstones became the first new band I checked out based on a review by Deke over at ThunderBay.

I spent 34 hours or 2,040 minutes with Machine Head.

My five top artists for 2018 are Machine Head, The Night Flight Orchestra, Def Leppard, The Butterfly Effect and Dee Snider.

As you can see there are no new artists in the list. It’s a lifers game. If you are in it for a quick buck, get into the stock market or deliver Pizzas.

My top five songs for 2018 based on listens are “Monolith” from Thirty Seconds To Mars, “A Love Unreal” from Black Label Society, “Final Conversation” from The Butterfly Effect, “The Peace” from WASP and “This Is War” from Audrey Horne.

Spotify tells me that I listen to non-mainstream artists 73% more than the average listener – so here’s to being different. I’m sure there are a lot of others who are exactly like me.

Here is my Top 100 playlist Spotify put together for me.

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

Price Reset

All prices have a reset.

The live business greed at the moment is like the record label greed pre-Napster. Releasing albums with two to three good songs and charging too much for it.

If artists allow corporations to keep exploiting their fans in this way, there will be a backlash.

A price reset.

In the same way housing prices and share prices have a reset.

Even the recording business consumer prices have had a reset however the licensing fees the labels charge to services have increased exponentially.

On demand TV has had a price reset because of Netflix. There is a whole new generation who don’t even remember what Cable is.

Artists need to make money, there is no doubt, however just because they release new music it doesn’t mean they are not entitled to make money.

No one has a right to make money from music. Ed Sheeran gave his music away for free and played for free. It was only after Sheeran established his worth in the market that he was able to start making some money.

In other words, just because Ed Sheeran decided to write and produce music, it didn’t mean he had an entitlement to be paid from the start; he had to prove to people that he was worth paying for before people did so.

The internet distribution methods allows everyone to create. There are no gatekeepers. So anything an artist creates is competing with everything released today and in the past.

You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free.

Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.

Francis Ford Coppola on answering a question about how a start up artist can make money in the current P2P 2011 climate.

It’s an old interview from 2011 but Coppola makes some relevant points especially the last line about disconnecting the idea of cinema (and in my view any art in general like music and books) with the idea of making a living or earning money.

And it’s hard for people because we’ve all grown up in an era that showcased the millions movies and bands made.

And there are always different ways around making money. You just need to put the hard work in.

Trent Reznor had some albums released for free on P2P and they proved popular. He released a super deluxe edition afterwards and people purchased this limited edition run and he grossed $700,000.

Amanda Palmer is the crowd funded hero.

Even Protest The Hero was surprised how large their fan base is when they went the crowd funded route after being dropped by their label. For the next release, they did a special Bandcamp release with a 6 month subscription for a song a month. They then released the songs in vinyl and people still purchased them.

I recently did a post about an R&B artist who uses Spotify listening data to organize tours and making some good coin around it.

So what are you waiting for.

You have the tools, it’s time to find the business model that fits.

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

Wildside

I get that hard rock was getting generic and stupid towards the late 80s and early 90s as the record labels signed hundreds of artists and made those artists sound similar to other artists.

But some bands did sound generic but in a good and unique way.

Wildside was a generic sounding band. It didn’t mean they weren’t good like some of the other generic bands like Roxx Gang, Pretty Boy Floyd, Skin N Bones and Sleez Beez.

I’ll even chuck in Bullet Boys, Steelheart and Danger Danger to that list however each band had some real unique talent, like Mike Matijevic on vocals from Steelheart, Andy Timmons on guitar from Danger Danger and Mick Sweda on guitar from Bullet Boys.

But Wildside was different.

Maybe it was singer Drew Hannah, who sounded like a cross between Mark Slaughter/Tom Keifer and Stephen Pearcy.

Then you had Brent Woods who played lead guitar and was capable of acquiring Lynch like status. Benny Rhynedance played rhythm guitar and held the fort well like Malcolm Young, while Marc Simon on bass and Jimmy Darby on drums set the foundations.

They got a deal with Capitol Records who marketed them as the next Poison and “Under The Influence” came out in 1992.

It was produced by Andy Johns and recorded at EVH 5150 Studio. Steve Thompson and Michael Barbierio mixed the disc. It was basically a 5 star production line up.

And the album, just came back into my life via Spotify.

Okay time for a Spotify rant.

I still can’t believe how Spotify keeps on fucking up the generic band names by linking other bands called Wildside with this Wildside. One band is Spanish and nothing like this band. Then you have Fozzy. A metal band created by a wrestler and then you have a serene pop artist called Fozzy. Same name, so they must be the same artist. Dumb and dumber if you ask me.

Spotify rant over.

So like all bands labeled hair, they lost their record deal and by 1994, Brent Woods had also jumped ship to replace Steve Stevens in Vince Neil’s band. But in 2004, the band reformed without Benny Rhynedance and still continue to perform to a certain extent, with Brent Woods probably being the most busiest.

If you want to read a cool history, check out Metal Sludge, as rhythm guitarist Benny Rhynedance recounts the band’s history in a five part series.

“Under The Influence” is a fun album to sink your teeth into, as the band puts all of their influences, ranging from AC/DC, Crue, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Judas Priest and Aerosmith into the songwriting blender to create some cool rocking tunes.

Also if you are a Kiss fan, check out “Clock Strikes”, which is also co-written by Paul Stanley.

And I hope that music like this doesn’t get forgotten in the future as history is always written by the winners.

As those Metal Sludge recaps state, the bands roots go back to 1982, Seattle. It’s a long way to a recording contract and an even longer way to make it to the top.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

A System That Rewards Attention

If you create a system that rewards attention, the easiest way to get attention is to be a bad actor. That underlies our media ecosystem, that underlies our political system and it’s degrading society in so many ways.

EV WILLIAMS – Creator Of Blogger, Twitter and Medium

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the story about “Threatin” an LA band, which is basically the creation of a person called Jered Threatin and how he manages to book a European tour without really having a fan base.

He created a record company web page that was bullshit, he created a booking agency web page that was bullshit, he doctored live footage to make it look like he was popular on YouTube which was bullshit and he created a management company website which was of course bullshit as well. He also paid for Facebook likes and comments and YouTube views and many more wonderful things to do with scorched earth marketing.

And through it all, he convinced stupid greedy venue owners in Europe to book him. He even convinced them the shows were sold out. If they just did some due diligence and checked out Threatin’s Spotify account, they would see stream numbers (less than 10K) that didn’t match the spin coming from his “management” and they could have asked some hard questions. But they didn’t, they got had and they got pissed.

If Threatin did pull it off and sell out the gigs based on the made up hype, maybe there would be a different discussion, but hey, people fail more than they succeed. Just because it worked for Rebecca Black and her song “Friday”, it doesn’t mean it will work for others.

But Threatin did exactly what society rewards.

Going back to Ev Williams quote.

You need to be living under a rock to not know that we are living in a social media system that rewards attention to all the bad actors. For right or wrong, feel good and happy ending stories don’t attract people’s attention like the other stories.

But fan bases are not made by being a bad actor. Bad actors will get some eyes checking out the story and then after a day or two, it’s forgotten as people move on.

Fan bases are relationships which take years to build and those relationships will then sustain the artist for many years to come.

But you need to have the tunes and the story to build it. It takes time.

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