Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Piracy Incorporated

The Pirate Bay (TPB) is going to turn 14 years this year.

From its inception, it was a facilitator, spreading the disruption caused by Napster years earlier to even larger audiences. It showed the entertainment industries how they needed to change. But they didn’t change and it took companies like Netflix and Spotify to make this happen. And they did it by using the same technology made famous by The Pirate Bay. But while Netflix realised that money is in producing your own content, Spotify and other streaming providers have not. Licensing content from someone is not a satisfactory business model. Just ask HBO, formerly known as Home Box Office. Their early business model was all licensed content and they lost money year after year, while the movie studios got richer. It wasn’t until HBO went into original content, that they started making some serious cash. As soon as Spotify, Apple, YouTube and Pandora realise that they need to enter the recording business to produce their own content, the music industry will change and disrupt even more.

TPB had to stand strong against the pressure put on it by the MPAA and the RIAA and their sister organisations throughout the world. It has stood firm against government officials (loaded up in lobbyist dollars) trying to prosecute it. It was taken down, raided and it still survives. And it keeps on innovating even when court orders become the new normal, requesting ISP’s to block the web address or domain registries to deny any applications for TPB domains. Even in it’s home country of Sweden, court appeals and cases are still ongoing. Google was even pressured to alter (in my view censor) its search algorithm, so TPB doesn’t come up.

But TPB is still alive. It has become a vessel for people to access content they normally wouldn’t have access too. In the process, it has made the world a better place.

Metal music in general has grown to all corners of the world. Suddenly, every country has a metal scene and the larger metal bands that have the means to tour are suddenly hitting markets they’ve never hit before.

The high rates of software piracy in Eastern Europe caused an IT skills explosion.

Romanian President Traian Basescu, once told Bill Gates that digital pirating helped his nation build a budding software industry.
REUTERS Article on Eastern European Piracy

The high rates of music creation software piracy led to the electronic dance explosion coming out of Europe.

In the process, artists have gained decent followings. However, while bands in the past had followings, it was assumed that every single follower had purchased recorded music and that the band had made money. But that was not the case in the past and it still isn’t today.

I had music recorded on cassette tapes and video tapes to begin with.

  •  If the radio played a song I liked, I recorded it on cassette. I did this by pressing record every time a song started or was about to start and if I dug the tune, I kept the recording going. If I didn’t dig it, I stopped the recording and rewinded the tape to the last song, so I can start again. The rewinding part was easy when the tape was new, but when you started to record after a previously recorded song, you had to rewind to that point in time. The same process was carried out with video tapes. I was explaining this to my kids and they didn’t look amazed at all by my rewinding abilities.
  • I had friends of my brothers who had dubbed music on a cassette from someone else who copied it from someone else who copied it. So on some occasions the music I got was a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. It sure sounds like mp3 downloading to me.
  • My brothers had one friend who purchased a lot of music, but he wouldn’t let no-one copy it. I remember one time I borrowed the “Fireworks” album from Bonfire and “Blow My Fuse” from Kix from him, without asking or telling him. He reckons I stole it. What kind of thief am I, when I returned the borrowed goods?

So what can artists learn from The Pirate Bay?

The Pirate Bay spread via word of mouth. It didn’t embark on a scorched earth marketing policy. For an artist there is no better marketing strategy than word of mouth. That is how virality works. With social media, it can spread even faster. But you need to be able to follow it up, quickly and with quality.

  • Volbeat got traction in the U.S in 2012 on the backs of a song they released in 2008. This in turn started to bring attention to their previous albums. Success comes later in today’s world. In some cases, much later.
  • This is very different to say, Galactic Cowboys. Back in the late eighties, Geffen Records signed them to a deal and just kept on pushing the band onto the public with a pretty high-profile marketing campaign. The marketing budget was huge, the recording budget was huge, but the public just didn’t take to them. There was no word of mouth. No one spoke about them and when you brought them up in a conversation, it was a “who”. In saying that, I thought the band was innovative and excellent.

The Pirate Bay’s user base is growing and replenishing.

  • For the thousands that stop using the service, another thousand start using the service.
  • For the thousands that stop listening to Metallica, another thousand started listening to Metallica.
  • For the thousands that stop listening to Ratt, another 10 started to listen to em.

You do the math as why certain things get bigger or remain bigger, while other things reduce in scale.

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

Enter Night, Exit Copyright

It’s funny how the billionaire music collectives wanted to meet with President Elect Donald Trump straight after the election. Did they ask for the meeting to work out ways to help the songwriters they represent get more money?

Of course not.

The music lobby groups and organisations backed Hillary Clinton with bribes and voices. It was pretty clear they wanted another Clinton in power. Actually if Hillary won, the U.S would have been ruled by two families (Bush and Clinton) for 20 plus years.

The two main performing rights organizations (PROs) in the industry are the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). These special interest groups collectively represent over one million songwriters, composers, and music publishers and control the rights to approximately 90 percent of all musical compositions. Originally formed to protect music artists and producers by facilitating licensing deals between them and entities that play their music for the public, such as radio stations and restaurants, ASCAP and BMI have swiftly mutated into a government-recognized (and government-created) monopoly.
Jillian Lane Wyant – American Thinker

In other words, a government granted private monopoly really interferes with the rights of the artists and destroys the public domain. But these organisations have done a wonderful job of spinning their stories, all in an attempt to protect the billions they get for really doing nothing.

So how much is the global music copyright business worth?

It’s an important question because since Napster, the only press we seem to hear is about declining CD/mp3 revenues and how those streaming billions still end up as cents to the songwriters. What seems to be selectively missed is the value of copyright.

The international record label lobby group is telling the world, the music business is worth $15 billion. However, Spotify’s Director of Economic, Will Page, has performed his own analysis and global revenues generated by music copyright in 2015 is at $24.37bn.

Who do you believe?

A record label amount shrouded in secrecy, smoke and mirrors or a report from a service that offers music, and based on statistical data models.

The $24.37bn figure is made up of $13.975 billion to the record labels, $8.257 to the performing rights organisations and $2.139 billion to publishers via direct licensing. It doesn’t even include the multi-billion dollar live industry.

So if 70% of the $24 billion was paid to artists, then $16.8 billion would be in the hands of artists. However, 90 to 95% of the monies earned from copyright goes to the Labels and the Copyright monopolies and the end result is pennies for the actual songwriters.

And if you believe the crap the labels push to their loyal news outlets about the costs of breaking an artist, then the labels are actually losing money. But, the labels and the publishers still have their sky-high towers, with their staff flying private, while 99% of the artists they hold copyrights for, fly economy or don’t even have the funds to pay for a flight let alone tour.

And think about how much power the Publishing side of music has. $10.397 billion is not small change and it’s in the hands of people who contribute nothing to music and culture.

Because it’s not the entertainment industry or the music industry; it’s the copyright industry, plain and simple. And they don’t safeguard their rights or their copyright; they safeguard their monopolies, clarified as their copyright monopoly.
TORRENT FREAK ARTICLE

Because if the copyright industry did care about the artists, why would they go to court against the artist in a bid to prevent the artist from terminating the copyright agreements.

Case in point is Duran Duran.

All they wanted was to end a longstanding contract that gave a music publishing company permission to exploit their work. Because artists who control and own the copyrights to their own catalogues, especially a catalogue full of hits, can negotiate their own streaming licensing rates and so forth. Motley Crue and Metallica are two such artists who own their copyrights and can negotiate better rates.

But in the end, Copyright laws that are designed to benefit the songwriters have been washed in waters polluted with other contract laws and what we have is a mess designed to safeguard the monopolies of the copyright industry. Because in the U.S, Copyright law specifies that artists can reclaim their copyrights after 35 years. So Duran Duran issued a termination notice to their label for their copyrights.

“What artist would ever want to sign to a company like Sony/ATV as this is how they treat songwriters with whom they have enjoyed tremendous success for many years? We issued termination notices for our copyrights in the US believing it simply a formality. After all, it’s the law in America. Sony/ATV has earned a tremendous amount of money from us over the years. Working to find a way to do us out of our rights feels like the ugly and old-fashioned face of imperialist, corporate greed. I thought the acceptability of this type of treatment of artists was long gone – but it seems I was wrong. Sony/ATV’s conduct has left a bitter taste with us for sure, and I know that other artists in similar positions will be as outraged and saddened as we are. We are hopeful this judgment will not be allowed to stand.”
Simon LeBon

If the copyright industry did care about the artists, then why would they lobby governments to write laws that kept on changing the expiry of copyright terms from 14 years to 28 years to “on death of the artist” to “death plus 70 years” and in some countries it is now “death plus 90 years” . It’s all about safeguarding their monopolies and nothing to do with protecting artists.

There is no academic evidence that proves longer copyrights leads to greater rewards or provides incentive for the creator. It’s not like the 19 year old James Hetfield said to himself, “gee, lucky copyright lasts for 70 years after I die, so I have an incentive to write “Hit The Lights” and create music”. No songwriter thinks of copyright when they sit down to write a song or to create anything worthwhile. They do it because of a need to be creative.

Remember a few years ago when Larrikin Music (a publisher) purchased to the rights to an old 50’s folk song (where the creator had died a long time ago) and then sued the songwriters of the band Men At Work for an 11 note flute sequence that sounded similar to their own flute solo in their 1980’s hit “Down Under”. Yep, that’s just one of many copyright abuses happening in the world.

However the biggest one is the “Blurred Lines” trial. Suddenly Marvin Gaye and his songs are so original. The lawyers on behalf of Gaye’s estate are spinning the story of how Gaye created in a vacuum and without any influence from artists that Gaye might have heard. And suddenly anyone who writes a song that sounds similar or has a funk/R&B feel, is copying Marvin Gaye.

Once upon a time, in 1790, the law for copyright was the creator had to register the work and they got a 14 year monopoly. They then had an option to renew for an additional 14 years for a maximum copyright of 28 years. And Copyright was never about making sure that content creators get paid. Copyright is about forcing works into the public domain so that everyone can use them. Fast forward to pre-1976, the law for copyright was 28 years (with proper registration), then another 28 years (with renewal registration) for a maximum copyright of 56 years. After that, the work entered the public domain. If the creator failed to renew at the 28-years, the work fell into public domain earlier.

Did anyone hear about the country songwriter in the 50’s who wrote songs and then sold them on to other artists for a small amount. Those other artists would then pass the songs off as their own and in some cases, those artists would end up hitting it big on a song they didn’t write. As the Knoxnews story states;

Arthur Q. Smith’s name doesn’t show up in country music history books too often, because Q, as his friends called him, sold his biggest songs outright for $25, $15 or even less. Sometimes he sold them just for the price of his bar tab. Q was a man of extraordinary talent, but also an alcoholic of legendary proportions. For years, his children only heard tales of his drunkenness from his colleagues; his accomplishments were simply well-known secrets among musicians.

An average weekly pay check in 1946 was approximately $50, and probably less in Knoxville, so $25 was a considerable pay check. Royalties were generally small unless a song was a big hit, and the pay trickled in slowly.

You see, Q didn’t just sell the song he wrote to one artist, he sold it many times to different artists, who then registered their version of the song with the Copyright office as their own composition. In effect, the same song was registered many times with many different writers, but never with the person who actually wrote it. Looks like a copyright mess to me.

And what about Orphan Works.

“These are works that are not available any more, and where it simply is not possible to find the copyright holder to seek out a license. Of course, this problem is almost entirely self-created. It’s the result of a forced switch from a system that required registration to get a copyright, to one where everything is automatically covered by copyright. Combine that with ever-expanding copyright terms and you have a recipe for a world in which the vast majority of works become “orphaned” while just a tiny few have any legitimate reason to remain under copyright protection. Millions of books, millions of photographs and hundreds of thousands of films are now considered orphaned works — unable to be either used or licensed — with many simply fading away.”

But if you listen to the copyright monopoly and their lobby groups, the world needs longer copyright terms and stronger enforcement. And yes, in order to protect the corporation, that’s exactly what Copyright needs, however in order to protect the artist, no, it’s exactly what they don’t need.

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

Playlists And Streaming

Spotify is growing. The pop artists or the cross-over artists from other genres into the pop world are getting into the 100 plus millions/billions listens. And the high counts are due to two things;

  • Spotify Playlists.
  • Listeners Playlists

If a song is added to the most followed playlists, then the listens go up.

There is a “Rock In The 2000’s” playlist created by Spotify and if you check the songs on it and then check the streams the songs have on the artist account, you will see those songs on the playlist dwarf the rest of the catalogue. For example, “Chop Suey” from System Of A Down is on the Spotify playlist and the listens of Chop Suey is exponentially higher than the remainder of SOAD’s catalogue.

“Drake doesn’t lock himself into an album cycle. When Drake wants to put out music and he feels like it’s ready, Drake puts out music. So it’s not the typical, “I’m gonna put out two singles, then launch my album, then go on tour, then wait two years and go back in the studio and release this music.” I think he really has captured that rhythm of how fans want to consume music.”
Spotify’s Troy Carter on Drake’s Streaming Success

Drake is as metal and rock as the soap in the bathroom is metal, however the lesson should be applied to all. New music is an invitation into the world of the artist. It’s not the only thing. Capture the moment and release when the song is ready, not many months later when the album is ready.

Platinum selling artist Mark Tremonti has released three albums in 2 years, and while Tremonti and Alter Bridge are on tour, he is spending his free time giving guitar lessons/doing guitar clinics as an additional income stream.

It is easier to find and less costly to release new music, leading to unpredictable successes from artists who might not have been discovered or produced an album in an earlier era.
Michael Luca and Craig McFadden – Harvard Business Review

And that’s the cold hard truth about music in 2016. Artists who normally wouldn’t be signed can suddenly record and release music into the world. The supply of new music over the last 10 years is way higher than the demand for new music. Hell, I listened to 950 plus unique artists on Spotify this year. I grew up in the 80’s with no more than 50 or so unique artists. Spotify has over 20 million songs that haven’t been listened to yet.

Sure, some of the Spotify playlists might be a PR exercise for the labels, in the end, it still comes down to the user, who still likes to have some a filter to push new music on them. But then the record labels would like to mislead people about how much it costs them to break an artist to the mainstream.

The truth is the labels don’t break artists. They can spend monies on the artist, the promotions and put them out into the market place, however it is the people who decide if the artist will break on through. And what we are seeing more are artists making it on the back of streaming and no radio support.

But times have changed: in a landscape dominated by services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon, it is possible to have a hit without the press and radio (or much of the public) even noticing you. Kiiara, hardly a household name, is currently enjoying a global hit with Gold, off the back of 312m streams on Spotify alone. (Other services don’t make their numbers public.) You could look at British artist James TW, whose song When You Love Someone has 35m streams. Then there’s Australian teen Joel Adams, whose one and only song Please Don’t Go has chalked up 320m streams on Spotify.
Peter Robinson – Guardian Writer

Yeah, I got no idea who the above artists are and none of them are really rock or metal, but the possibilities are there for unknown metal and rock bands to become streaming behemoths without the support of record labels and radio stations. However, having a high streaming listen count doesn’t automatically correlate to concert ticket sales or sales of recorded music, much in the same way Facebook likes/followers never equal sales. The artist will need to work even harder to convert those listeners into real fans, because a lot of streaming users are casual fans who like to check songs out.

 

In the back-end of Spotify, for instance, fans are split into three categories: streakers (who have listened to the artist every day in the last week), loyalists (who have listened to them more than to any other over the past 20 days), and regulars (who listened to the artist on the majority of the days in the month
Peter Robinson – Guardian Writer

Spotify is building the data banks instead of the labels. Apple already has the databank. The labels have done nothing in this regard. So as an artist, who do you want to partner with?

And finally, there are the playlists. The more playlists the songs are added to, the more exposure the songs will get and this is where the old gatekeeper model comes into play. How does a rock or metal band get their songs onto a Spotify created playlist that has over a million followers?

STREAMING – changing the music business again
STREAMING – artists who made it huge without radio support
STREAMING – Swedish artists benefiting from streaming 
RECORD LABELS – breaking an artist 
SONGWRITER WHO SOLD HIS SONGS FOR A FEE AND IS UNKNOWN

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

And Comparisons For All….

What a month in the world for new music.

After Bon Jovi withheld “The House Is Not For Sale” for a week from Spotify, the band managed to land the Number 1 spot again and sold over 128,000 units via a concert ticket promotion campaign that included a physical copy of the album with every ticket purchased. And the mainstream press lapped up the news.

While today, both Metallica and Sixx A.M. released new albums. “Hardwired To Self Destruct” and “Prayers For The Blessed” hit the streets. Meanwhile, Avenged Sevenfold’s unexpected album drop “The Stage” has had two consecutive weeks in the Top 10 Billboard charts. But those anyone care about the charts.

Is anyone listening to the albums?

At least Metallica, Sixx A.M. and Avenged Sevenfold didn’t withhold their album from Spotify like Bon Jovi did and treated their paying streaming fans the same as their fans who purchase a physical product.

“Hardwired” is up to 11,526,511 streams on Spotify and 21,076,824 views on YouTube, while “Moth Into Flame” is at 7,531,372 streams on Spotify and 12,859,400 views on YouTube. “Atlas Rise”, a song which came out a week ago has 6,793,498 views on YouTube.

Bon Jovi’s new music on the other hand pales compared to Metallica. The “This House Is Not For Sale” video came out three months on YouTube and it has 5,115,129 views. “Atlas Rise” from Metallica which came out a week ago has already overtaken this song. Other pre-release singles, “Knockout” has 793,789 views on YouTube and “Labor Of Love” has 480,060 views on YouTube.

This tells me that Bon Jovi is not gaining any new fans while Metallica still is. Even Lars Ulrich admitted as much when he was at a loss to explain how their self-titled “Black” album was still moving 2000 units a week 25 years after its release.

Avenged Sevenfold’s “The Stage” video that came out a month ago is up to 9,292,711 views and it has way more than Bon Jovi’s three videos combined.

If you want to compare listens, Avenged Sevenfold’s “Hail To The King” music video released 3 years ago has 67,228,814 views on YouTube. Bon Jovi’s “Because We Can” music video, also released 3 years ago, has 14,483,692 views. So it’s pretty safe to say that Jovi’s last proper album was a dud of epic proportions and it looks like “This House Is Not For Sale” is headed for the same fall. But those charts show it’s a number 1 album and the mainstream press is all over it. That’s the one part the big legacy players still control in music. The news cycle and their belief is he who reaches the most people wins today. But there is no story in Bon Jovi’s Number 1 album.

I heard the album today and it’s already in the rear view, fading fast. It was withheld from Spotify for 7 days and it comes out on the service when Metallica and Sixx A.M release albums that are way better than Bon Jovi’s offering. So my listening attention will be diverted to those bands for the next few weeks.

Streaming services are now the biggest contributors to the record labels bottom line. Streaming has won. The majority of people who like music, listen to recorded music via a streaming service. And if Scott Ian and the other guys from Anthrax can get behind streaming, anyone can be converted. Maybe not Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

A scorched earth publicity campaign might get a decent return on first week sales and then what.

Selling a 130,000 copies in a week or even a million copies in week, in a country of 300 plus million is a needle in a haystack. But the news reports it. If the news cycle wants to report on bands selling, they should report on Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Shinedown, Skillet and Volbeat, who still have their albums on the charts, after months and in same years over a year and half since release date. Yep these artists are still selling units or racking up enough streams to count as a unit sale. But those bands don’t own the news cycle and they didn’t make it big in the 80’s, so why would the media report on them.

There is a common misconception that fans of artists who made it big in the 80’s or the 90’s don’t care about their new music. That’s not true, we do care about their new music. But it needs to be good for us to care and it needs to be good enough to attract a new generation to care as well. An artist’s career is dependent on the need to replenish their fan base as fans drop out and new fans drop in.

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

Score Card Inc

Three years ago in November, 2013, I posted a score sheet on certain artists/trends and how they are dealing with the music business.

Three years later, how are the artists fairing.

Robb Flynn
He still understands that it is not all about making records. From Nov 2013 to now, Robb Flynn via Machine Head, kept on releasing his Journals both video and written. In April, 2014, “Killers and Kings” came out for Record Store Day and the band went on tour. He started a clothing range called “Killers and Kings” that didn’t really take off. In November, 2014, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” came out and the band embarked on a lengthy “An Evening With” world tour. In June 1, 2016, “Is There Anybody Out There?” came out as a stand-alone single.

His connection with his audience runs deep. People either dig him or detest him or some people will not just forget him in an orange jumpsuit during the Nu-Metal phase of the band’s career.

Protest The Hero
Back in 2013, “Protest The Hero” showed how the record labels are so out of touch with its customers. PTH was dropped because the label told them they have no audience. However, a fan funding campaign showed a pretty impressive hard-core audience that was willing to cough up some serious dollars for the band. Even the band was blown away at the response.

And they did it again between Nov 2015 and April 2016 with “Pacific Myth” an innovative one song per month release over six months via Bandcamp. Fans had the option of two packages, and I selected the one that also had the six video releases. In between, the guys would upload drum videos, cooking videos, song transcriptions and what not.

Nikki Sixx
In 2013, he talked about a farewell tour. Well that tour finally happened and concluded in 2015. The Crue fan base didn’t really need one more world tour however, they wanted to finish up in their own way and the world tour is what we got, with a new song called “All Bad Things”. The movie is still in the works, they have their own pleasure toys, a rumour of The Dirt 2, plus lawsuits from photographers and opening bands to contend with. Seriously, squirting piss at a bunch of guys who paid $1 million to be on the tour would always end up in the courts.

With Sixx A.M. he has released an albums worth of music and the next album is coming in a few weeks. They are on tour with Five Finger Death Punch, he does his Sixx Sense Radio Show and he doesn’t like to wash his hands after going to the toilet.

Coheed and Cambria
By November, 2013, COCA had been touring non-stop on the back of “The Afterman” two album releases that came out within a 4 month window. Add to that Comic Con appearances, plus Sci-Fi conventions and appearances in Comic Shops and you get the idea that this band realises that it is not just about music and money. It is about creativity.

Since then, Claude Sanchez became a dad. He wrote more comics with his wife called “Translucid” in 2014 and in 2015 managed to release another slab of songs called “The Color Before The Sun” and go on a another world tour.

Metallica
Back in 2013, I wrote;

They need to make new music soon. There are only so many times that a band can go on a worldwide victory lap on the same piece of music. They need to be back in the studio.

Well, we are almost one week away from that new music hitting the streets and in the meantime, we have been treated to three tracks.
It’s a welcome relief to hear Metallica doing what they do best and I believe they have enough new music in their archives for another album to drop within two years this time, instead of eight.

And after hearing the album – yes it is available on the pirate sites, I can honestly say that it’s not worth the 8 year wait at all and maybe 4 song EP’s is the best way to go.

Dream Theater
I wrote in November 2013, that they need a great record soon or they will become yesterday’s news. Dream Theater has a knack for popping up with some goodies, like “Images and Words”, “Scenes From A Memory”, “Systematic Chaos” and “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”.

So in January 2016, they dropped the 130 minute “Astonishing” concept album, about a dystopian future society. Concept albums lead to different revenue spin offs like a stage play, comic book stories, video games, animations, TV series, a movie and so forth. But then again, Slayer are doing a graphic comic book series and have never done a concept album.

Stone Sour
I wrote in 2013, that something went south with their career trajectory. Of course, a beast called Slipknot would devour the creative forces of the band. Their take on modern metal is good, but with Slipknot getting more melodic, is there a reason for Stone Sour to exist.

Five Finger Death Punch
They have an audience who purchases and streams their product. Along the way, each album has received certifications for so many units moved. An onstage meltdown, a record label lawsuit and then a change of label has not slowed the band down in any way. If they can remain together, they will remain a powerhouse.

Trivium
Back in November, 2013, their new album “Vengeance Falls” was called a Disturbed covers album. The truth is, if people are talking about you, it is a good thing. And that album gave Trivium a concert classic in “Strife”. Since then, they released “Silence In The Snow” in 2015. They are always looking to reinvent themselves constantly while staying true to heavy metal. Plus Matt Heafy has a pretty cool Top 10 list of albums that changed his life.

1. Metallica – The Black Album (1991)
“A kid lent me The Black Album at school and it changed my life. I had never heard anything like it before, and I started playing guitar all the time.”

2. In Flames – Whoracle (1997)
“That was at the time of Napster, and I was into the classic great metal bands. I was on Napster and I found In Flames. I had never heard melodic death metal before, and it changed my ear on what kind of music I wanted to play.”

3. Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975)
“What I’ve always loved about Queen is that they’ve never released the same thing twice. Everything is drastically different while still sounding like Queen. Every song on A Night At The Opera sounds different to the next one and they all stand up as fantastic.”

4. Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988)
“With Iron Maiden it’s hard, because I love so many of their records. They’re all so important. Seventh Son, though, is the one that really got me into Iron Maiden. It’s one of their more epic records; there’s vivid storytelling going on. Getting into Iron Maiden helped me trace the roots of the music that I love. I could see where so many metal, death metal and black metal bands had taken things from.”

5. Ihsahn – Eremita (2012)
“Emperor changed my life, and Ihsahn changed my life again with this album. He spun the idea of black metal on its head by incorporating jazz chords, interesting production and clean singing. That record taught me to never be afraid of making whatever I want to make. We’ve always done that, but this album drove that home for me.”

6. Boston – Boston (1976)
“The vocal production is insane. Everything about this record epitomises the best things of rock ‘n’ roll.”

7. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
“The Beatles blow my mind in the same way that Queen do in that every song and record is so different to the last. Both of those bands have incredible songwriters as well. It’s not like nowadays where you might have one songwriter in a band.”

8. Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (1997)
“This is where Emperor really changed the dynamic of where black metal was going. Black metal was the rebellion to rock and metal, and was supposed to be different. “When there’s a movement like that, a lot of bands come out playing semi-similar music. That record opened up with clean guitar and there’s this classical singing; it has chaotic moments and beautiful moments all in one. Emperor makes such interesting black metal with these big dramatic moments.”

9. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
“Listening to Depeche Mode, you can hear that Rammstein is a combination of Depeche Mode and Metallica. Violator is one of the darkest, scariest records I’ve ever heard. It has this different kind of sadness that you feel in the music.”

10. The London Symphony Orchestra – Mozart’s Requiem (1791)
“The gothic artwork of that record is incredible, and this version for me is just the best. Listening to this, you can hear that out of all contemporary music, metal is the closest living relative to classical. It is the most epic moments of music that have always drawn me in, and I feel that with Mozart’s Requiem that is where you’re getting into the blueprint for everything that was to come.”

Shinedown
They have an audience who want to listen to them and so far, no one’s doing hard rock better than them. Their new album “Threat To Survival” has taken its influences from Adele, Imagine Dragons and other pop artists and they still made it rock hard. Daughtry and James Durbin should take note. Along the way, their fans purchased and streamed all the way to certification after certification.

Avenged Sevenfold
Say what you will about the “influences” on “Hail To The King”, doing that album was a bigger risk for Avenged Sevenfold then their new album and it paid off for them.

Fast forward to 2016, and their new album drops early. It is a creative tour de force but to me it’s already in the rear view. All of the good bits in each song are undone by the creativity of trying to push the boundaries.

Piracy
In 2013, I wrote that piracy is not that large of a problem as the majors and the RIAA make it out to be and with revenues in 2016, approaching the pre-Napster era, it’s further proof that piracy does not affect their bottom lines, especially when there are services out there that can compete with piracy.

Evergrey
The pure definition of perseverance with 20 plus years in the music business and still going strong.

By November 2013, the “new” version of the band that delivered “Glorious Collision” had splintered again and lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund was not sure on the next step. A reconnection with drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage (who departed before “Glorious Collision”) spawned the excellent “Hymns For The Broken” in 2014 and a few months ago, “The Storm Within” builds on the atmospherics created by “Hymns”.

Megadeth
In 2013, Megadeth’s new album “Supercollider” was outsold by Metallica’s self-titled “Black” album. In 2015, Mustaine got his metal chops back and in 2016, “Dystopia” came out. Another Mustaine Resurrection was at hand.

Tremonti/Alter Bridge
Mark Tremonti knows it’s about putting new music out there and consistently. In 2013, we had “Fortress” from Alter Bridge. In 2015, we had “Cauterize” from Tremonti and 2016 has given us, “Dust” from Tremonti and “The Last Hero” from Alter Bridge. In three years, Tremonti has been part of 4 albums while Metallica ……

The Night Flight Orchestra
The best classic rock side project ever from Soilwork and Arch Enemy band members. The first album “Internal Affairs” came out in 2012 and the second “Skyline Whispers” in 2015. Essential listening to any hard rock fans of the 80’s.

Sales
In 2013, I wrote that sales are not the best metric to measure a bands reach and pull in the market. In 2016, listens are more important than sales.

Bullet For My Valentine
By November 2013, people had lost their “Temper Temper” with them, but in 2015, the band found their “Venom” again, which leads us to new music hitting the net in November 2016.

Revolution Saints
In 2013, this band existed in the head of the Frontiers President. In 2015, they released an excellent melodic AOR rock album. So much potential, so many good songs, great musicians and it all went to hell because Castronovo couldn’t keep his 5555t together. Let’s hope that Jack Blades and Doug Aldrich forgive him and they try for another album. This time with the three of them writing.

TesseracT
One of the hardest working progressive bands out there, building their fanbase, city by city. In 2011, they released “One”. In 2013, they released the excellent “Altered State” and in 2015 we got “Polaris”.

Days Of Jupiter
An unsung Swedish melodic groove rock band, that’s a cross between Evergrey and Disturbed. In 2012 they released “Secrets Brought to Life” and in 2015, “Only Ashes Remain” came out.

Sweet and Lynch
Another album would be sweet.

Muse
They play stadiums but they don’t have the same sales figures as the 70’s and 80’s legends. A perfect example of the modern world, in which massive single songs sell concert tickets.

Live
In 2013, I wrote;
Remember the excitement and the buzz of going to the show. It was uncontrollable. Everyone waiting in line to get inside, to watch a band that rules, in an era that music ruled. Today, it is too expensive to take kids to a concert and that is only for a glimpse in the back. This business needs a reset.

Concert ticket prices are still high, especially for the superstar acts. The price gauge happened as an offset to dwindling revenues from recorded sales, however with recorded music revenue now as high as the pre-Napster era, there is no reason for the high concert ticket prices.

Slash
As an artist, he didn’t need to go back to Gunners. He had enough momentum to keep going as a solo artist and with Myles Kennedy, a better front man than Axl Rose. Slash kept on releasing new music consistently, while Duff and Axl complained of piracy and artistically were dead in the water. Money triumphs over creativity and in this case, it’s really sad.

Album
Back in 2013, I wrote how everyone talks about the money that is lost due to piracy as album sales shrink. Back then 20% of the tracks on Spotify have never been played. So what is the point of the album, when people ignore the songs that are not “hits”. When I go to Spotify and I come across an artist I haven’t heard before, I go to their Spotify page and hear the tracks in their top 10 list. Those tracks in most cases are pulled from many different albums.

And if any of those tracks connect with me, I might dig deeper into the album.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Created by their love of metal and rock music and when that same genre put up roadblocks to a career in music, they changed tact and went all flamenco acoustic on the world. Talk about paying their dues and taking risks. They moved from Mexico and took a chance in Europe. Over an 8 year Dublin residence, they honed their style and songs, so when their “official” debut album hit in 2006, what seemed like an overnight sensation was 15 years in the making.

There is nothing more difficult in the world then trying to make it as a musician. You need to show up day after day, week after week, year after year. And your brand or movement might just make some small gains. Then it hits a few speed bumps, like Rodrigo and Gabriela’s metal band losing their recording contract in 1997 and suddenly you are back at the start. But they kept on showing up, on the coast of Mexico and playing their acoustic guitars in the bars. Because showing up day after day, is the hardest part of making a difference. If you look at the history of the artists we like and admire, you will see many years in pursuit of their dreams.

It is a work of a lifetime to create an impact and build something of substance. In 2013, they were riding the highs of their 2012 “Area 52” collaboration, which involved re-working their best songs with a full flamenco band. Then in 2014, “9 Dead Alive” dropped and new music is needed ASAP.

Sebastian Bach/Skid Row
They shouldn’t get back together, because no one cares about Skid Row in the way they used too. They might have a large audience in Japan, like Dokken, but the rest of the “Youth Gone Wild” have moved on. Sebastian Bach is actually bigger than Skid Row and releases way better music than Skid Row have done without him. But, what was he thinking when he approved the photo for his memoir’s cover.

The Kindred
From Canada and the healthy progressive scene. They started off as “Today I Caught The Plague” from the ashes of another band called “A Legend Falls”. In 2011 they released the excellent “Lore” and went on tour with one of my favourite bands in Protest The Hero and their “Scurrilous Tour”. Then in 2013, a name change happened to “The Kindred” and the excellent “Life In Lucidity” came out at the start of 2014.

However, PTH needed a drummer for their “Volition” tour and it was no surprise that they tapped Mike Ieradi (who also co-founded the group) to fill the spot. Then in 2015, vocalist David Journeaux departed, with Johnny McArthur as their new vocalist and Kenny Saunders as their new drummer. So now I wait to see what comes next.

Streaming
Back in 2013, I wrote that everyone talks about the money which isn’t filtering down to the artist and how streaming is too entrenched to be replaced. Since then the record labels have grown their revenues on the back of streaming. Artists who negotiate deals with the streaming services like Metallica and Motley Crue have never complained about streaming. Suddenly, luddites Anthrax are not complaining and Scott Ian even mentioned how he believes streaming is the best thing to have happened to the recording industry.

Streaming is the future and those artist who don’t grow with this future will be too busy shrinking.

The Gaslight Anthem
They do the early 80’s Bruce Springsteen better than Bruce Springsteen these days. It was like a supergroup of independent musicians that came together in New Jersey in 2006. Their 2010 album, “American Slang” spawned an unexpected hit with the title track and “45” from their 2012 album “Handwritten” became their biggest hit. Since then, “Get Hurt” came out in 2014 and by July 2015, the band went on an indefinite hiatus.

Since the hiatus, singer Brian Fallon released a solo album called “Painkillers” in March 2016, and on April, 2016, a vinyl EP called “Georgia” was released for Record Store Day 2016 with a limited pressing run of 2,000 copies on 10″ vinyl. Let’s hope that “The Gaslight Anthem” get together for more music over the next three-year period.

Volbeat
Seen as overnight sensations however they are over 25 years in the business. It all started with “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” in 2008 and being added to the Metallica “Death Magnetic U.S. Tour”. Then in 2010, “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” came out and while that was still selling, they released “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” in 2013 and they hit every major music market over and over again. Since then, they released “Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie” and are continuing on their merry ways. For all the newbies, check out their streaming numbers. They are huge compared to other major label metal/rock acts.

Killswitch Engage/Times Of Grace
In 2013, Killswitch Engage released “Disarm the Descent”, their comeback album with Jesse Leach on vocals. And how good is “In Due Time” with brutal verses and an arena rock chorus. Then in February 2015, a new track called “Loyalty” appeared on “Catch The Throne: The Mixtape Volume 2” to promote “Game of Thrones”. They then toured and kept on working on “Incarnate” which finally came out on March 11, 2016. Since then, they toured and are planning on releasing a beer. Meanwhile, “Times of Grace” have five songs completed for a new album to come out, with their last one coming out in 2011.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Using Our Influences

From the 50’s onwards, the Copyright industry morphed into large corporate entities. These corporations got laws passed which gave them a powerful monopoly instead of the artist. Laws which changed when copyright expires had the intention to purely to benefit the record labels and no one else. But in order to hide what the true intent of the law was, the labels sold it as a benefit for the heirs of the artist.

So what we have happening right now are lawsuits orchestrated by the heirs of the artists along with their serpent eyed lawyers. And then we have judges and juries deciding how music is created. And suddenly, the music of the departed artist is showcased as being so original and without influence that anything which came after had copied the departed artists’ music.

However, one thing cannot be disputed, all music is a sum of our influences. There is not a single musician alive who creates music without hearing any music whatsoever before. But in 2016, to be influenced by what you have heard in the past is reclassified as “plagiarism”.

Led Zeppelin built a career on copying blues and folk standards while Metallica built their career by copying their NWOBM influences and many others. Oasis built a career on copying from “The Beatles”. The Beatles built a career on copying from blues and rock standards that by the 60’s had become copyright free.

Bon Jovi built a career because Desmond Child re-used songs he already wrote for Bonnie Tyler and others. Then when Jovi had hits, they went to town, re-writing their hits. Seriously, if you look at their catalogue, “Living On A Prayer” has been rewritten for every album that came after “Slippery When Wet.” “New Jersey” had “Born To Be My Baby”. “Keep The Faith” had the title track. “Crush” had “It’s My Life”. “Have A Nice Day” had the title track. “Bounce” had the title track. “The Circle” had “We Weren’t Born To Follow”.

Five Finger Death Punch – “Lift Me Up” has a vocal melody in the verses similar to “The Ultimate Sin” from Ozzy Osbourne. A lot of people call it theft, I call it influence. Imitation is a form of flattery. The song is getting the plays. People are paying attention and that is what artists want. It is not about sales anymore, it is about listening. Are people listening to your music?

Megadeth paid homage to Black Sabbath’s, “Children of the Grave” in their new song “Kingmaker”. Alter Bridge also paid homage to Black Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Revelation Mother Earth” in their song “Fortress”. Continuing on with Alter Bridge, the song “The Uninvited” has a strong resemblance to Tool’s “Schism”. And all of Tool’s songs have similarities in groove and feel to King Crimson. Motley Crue borrowed from Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” and Stevie Wright’s “Eve” for their song “S3”.

Do these odes to their influences make them unoriginal?

The history of metal and rock music occurred because of some serious copying. My favourite saying is that all “progress is derivative.” What I mean by this term, is that all the music we love is an amalgamation of music that has come before. In a lot of the cases, this amalgamation involved some serious copying.

It is a shame that we have a generation of people who have grown up with a belief that music is created in a vacuum and they decide that legal threats is the best way forward.

Songs are not created in vacuums. The fun and games for the listener is in pointing out the resemblance.

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

Money Pool

“One of the biggest myths about being a rockstar would probably obviously be the word ‘rockstar’ itself. You know — that everything is given to you. You make free records, or you win a Grammy, or you have a platinum record and then everything’s sort of easy. I remember when we first got signed in 1995 in my mind I thought, ‘Wow, we made it.’ and then I realized that we left our town of Sacramento and went to the Midwest of America and we’re playing for 2-3 people a night sometimes.”
Chino Moreno – DEFTONES 

Def Leppard released two albums before they started to write the songs for “Pyromania”. And to top it off, they had a 700,000 pound debt to the record label. Bon Jovi had a US$500K debt to their label and still living at home with their parents when Jon and Richie started to write the “Slippery When Wet” album in the basement of Sambora’s mothers place.

“I mean, somewhere along the way, people just played music for the love of playing music and somebody else recognizes that you can make money from it, and it’s been a developing thing to the point where, in the ’90s, music business was making so much money that it was bigger than the movie industry, bigger than any of the entertainment industries. There’s the business and there’s the music. I was raised in the business and I remember seeing how there were clashes between people — this is the way to make money and da da da… there was so much money involved. And then the Internet came along and just F–#d the whole thing up. So now the industry is struggling to figure out how to make money off of it and artists have actually gone to the point of conforming to the industry — how they can make money — so they’re all working together. I think there’s still this whole creative side that hasn’t changed which doesn’t really want to fit into that category, but it’s hard to make a living. So a lot of people do that by playing clubs. But it’s just harder, the opportunities are different from when I started.”
SLASH 

All hell broke loose in the late nineties. According to the recording industry and the media outlets that spin their garbage, Napster killed everything. But music is powerful and fans still gave their favourite artist money. It was just a shame the recording industry didn’t know how to deal with it or how to track what was popular via the pirate sites and try to monetize those fans. And we all know how the recording industry responded.

“When we started, being in a rock band was one step away from being an outlaw. No one ever said, ‘Oh good, you’re playing in a rock band, how wonderful!’ But music was so important to the fans, that was our marching music to the revolution. Stuff moves along, technology moves along. I think there’s still going to be an excitement created by seeing your favourite performer live. It might not be the kind of music that you and I like, or Gene likes, but it’s still going to be there.”
Joe Perry – AEROSMITH

And the kerfuffle with bootlegged CD’s at Amazon. That is another recording industry screw up. Fans purchased a product that they believed was legit.

“On a commercial level, rock and roll is all safe, but underneath all that, there is a great hard-core young movement that is doing rock and roll in earnest. It’s just that the way the business is right now, it’s so corporate that none of these bands will get a shot to do what I got to do, you know? Be discovered in a club and have an A&R person develop the band and get them ready to go into the studio and make a record. And then make a second, third record ’till they really come into their own. Now it’s all about commercial one-hit wonders, and it’s a whole different industry now. But there’s a lot of great rock and roll bands out there that have to go the way it should be done; for the passion and not for the money. It’s not for the glamor of it but because you love it. A lot of people are doing it because they have an agenda.”
SLASH 

And almost 20 years later, the song remains the same. The youngsters surge forward into the future with little experience and plenty of hope. The only difference is they document it via social media. Back when I was growing up, we did it anonymously.

“Any useful technology that’s successfully adopted by a culture won’t be abandoned. Ever. The technology might be replaced by a better alternative, but society doesn’t go backwards. After books were accepted, few went back to scrolls. After air conditioning is installed, it’s never uninstalled.”
Seth Godin

Streaming has won and artists are recognizing the difference between “one” sale transaction and the unknown of how many times that person listened to the music vs a person listening to the music multiple times via a streaming site.

Streaming has been adopted and the majority of people are not going back to vinyl, CD’s, cassettes or mp3’s in the same way the majority of people are not going back to Kodak cameras with films or purchasing an expensive camera when their phones will do a job that is “good enough” and “convenient”.

I’m still in between. I love the convenience of streaming however there is a part of me that still yearns to have an actual product of my favourite band on a shelf. I am sure my kids would dump my music collection after I pass, but while I am alive, I am still a collector, but a picky collector.

“It’s really not fair when an artist is making a deal based upon ‘take it or leave it.’ I don’t believe that most artists are getting what they deserve; they’re getting what they can. And that’s a–backwards. That’s the tail wagging the dog. When somebody is, in essence, saying, ‘I will do this with or without you’ — well, you don’t have much to stand on, and that’s the unfairness. That’s the injustice of the Internet.”
Paul Stanley – KISS

With more people streaming and paying for a subscription, the pool of monies will grow.

Money was low when vinyl came out. Not everyone had surplus cash to purchase vinyl in 1948. Eventually as the economies rebuilt post WW2, people started to spend money on “entertainment”. By the time Paul Stanley got into the music business, vinyl was over 20 years in the market and there was a lot of cash to go around. Then the vinyl cash dwindled until CD’s became the cash king and the record labels rode that wave until Napster came and showed them what people want.

Let’s judge streaming in 2030.

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