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

Def Leppard And The Digital World

There is a Def Leppard story that did the rounds at the start of August. Almost four weeks later, it’s forgotten. That’s how fast people move on. If you are an artist and you spend 12 plus months on an album, just be mindful that it could be forgotten within a month, especially if it’s not part of a cultural movement or crossed over into the mainstream.

Anyway, back to the Def Leppard article.

No one can forget how big Def Leppard was from 1983 to 1994. Huge. Even their sound was huge with multi-layered vocals and instrumentation.

Like all the 80’s heroes, they had a bit of a back lash in the 90’s and maybe alienated some of their fan base with their 90’s sounding “Slang” album. But like all great bands from the 80’s they had a renaissance. I wrote a while back about how I believe piracy made Twisted Sister relevant again from 2000 and onwards and that viewpoint is still held for Def Leppard.

It’s actually even more relevant for Def Leppard, because the band refuses to have their 80’s output on digital services due to a payment dispute with the record label. The label (Universal) wants to pay the band a royalty based on a sale, whereas the band wants the licensing royalty payment which is much higher. The band even found it easier to create their own forgeries (re-recording some of their classics) easier than dealing with the record label.

This leads to an interesting position.

If you cannot purchase the Def Leppard 80’s output legally or stream it legally (apart from the few forgeries the band did themselves and the live releases), what should people do?

Well in this case, they obtain the music illegally (provided they haven’t purchased a legal physical copy)?

In other posts, I have mentioned how bands survive by replenishing their fan base with younger fans. It’s the reason why bands like Ratt and Dokken haven’t really gone well in the 2000’s compared to Crue, Leppard and Jovi. Well, it turns out that Def Leppard is doing a pretty fantastic job at doing just that.

“In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fuelled by younger people coming to the shows. We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”
Vivian Campbell

While the band is on the road, it works and their popularity is as big (maybe even bigger) as their 80’s popularity. The band is also a heavy user of YouTube, even though the site is the punching bag for the RIAA and the record labels. As YouTube recently said, they pay $3 per 1000 streams in the U.S. If it’s true or not, we will never know until we see proper financials from both YouTube and the labels. But if it is true, Def Leppard would be getting that cut themselves, and I haven’t heard of them taking YouTube to task over their payments. Even Metallica who controls their own copyrights don’t take YouTube to task. Both bands are heavy users of the platform, constantly putting up new content. But if you believe the RIAA and the record labels, YouTube is evil and due to its high volume of users, the payments are not enough.

But in Def Leppard’s case, you could say that YouTube is seen as a more likely driver of new fans than pirate torrent sites. Because all the research shows that YouTube has a user base made up of young people. They are also fostering a true connection with fans again which for a lot of artists who made it in the 80’s is a frightening prospect.

This model will not work for every band. In this case, each creator needs to look at the problem and find a solution that works for them. Eventually Def Leppard’s music will come to streaming services as the band will not be able to tour. But it will be on their terms and their terms only. Like AC/DC and Metallica. They signed their own streaming deal themselves and it’s got nothing to do with the record label.

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

Cash From The Old

I read on a blog post by Seth Godin that “Book publishers make more than 90% of their profit from books they published more than six months ago. And yet they put 2% of their effort into promoting and selling those books.”

So what do you reckon the numbers would be for music?

Would it be fair to say that 90% of the income that the record labels get comes from music that came out six months ago compared to what is new.

The majority of people don’t normally purchase creative content all the time but when they do, they buy what is popular. It’s the reason why each year the “Black” album from Metallica sells. It’s the reason why “IV” from Led Zeppelin still sells. It’s the reason why “No More Tears” still sells. It’s the reason why “Slippery When Wet” still sells.

Then you have artists putting out new stuff.

Back in the MTV era, the new stuff sold well on the first week. It was marketed heavy by the record labels, all on the budget of the artist. The record labels controlled the distribution channel. So many other industries came to be because of this distribution chain. Vinyl manufacturing plants, cassette manufacturing plants, CD manufacturing plants, video clip services, record shops, delivery drivers, image consultants and so forth.

However we are living in a different era, one controlled by consumers. And the new stuff released by artists in 2017 is originally purchased by a smaller hard-core super fan group. Much like to 70’s. Then in time as word spreads, people will check out the release and keep it in the conversation. Much like the 70’s. You know that person that doesn’t purchase much creative content a year, well there is a pretty high chance they will purchased something that is popular when they decide to purchase. Like Metallica’s “Hardwired” or “Seal The Deal and Let’s Boogie” by Volbeat.

Actually Volbeat is one of those stories that you can write forever about. Death metal musicians in the 90’s. By 2000 they branched out into the Volbeat sound. By 2010 they had an opening slot on the “Death Magnetic” tour and U.S success came. “Seal The Deal and Let’s Boogie” was released June 3, 2016. It’s still in the conversation with physical sales, streams and radio spins. Even their “Beyond Hell, Above Heaven” album released April 24, 2012 was certified Gold in the U.S on March 22, 2016. Yep, 4 years after its release.

“Inhuman Rampage” by Dragonforce was released on January 9, 2006. On July 21, 2017 it was certified Gold in the U.S. Not bad for a power metal act and it happened 11 years after the album was released. “Come What(Ever) May” by Stone Sour was released on August 1, 2006 and on July 21,2017 it was certified Platinum in the U.S. Yep, 11 years after the album was released. “I Get Off” is a single from Halestorm. It was released on February 25, 2009 and 8 years later on July 12, 2017, the single was certified Gold in the U.S.

The one song I want to bring to your attention just to show how out of touch and behind the RIAA and their certification systems are is “Human”.

“Human” is a song by Rag’n’Bone Man. It was released on July 15, 2016. On July 7, 2017, a year after its release it was given a Gold certification for 0.5 million certified units by the RIAA. On Spotify, the song has 206,745,038 million streams. It was in Spotify’s Top 50 hits for six months before radio and the labels and the normal PR label press outlets caught wind of it. To put into context, Metallica’s most streamed song on Spotify is “Enter Sandman” with 166,178,415 streams.

What’s the above telling us?

Recognition doesn’t come on day one or week one or month one or year one. It percolates year after year after year until it boils to the surface. Will you be around to capitalise and monetise? Maybe, but I can guarantee one entity which will be around to monetise. The record label and the publishers. The labels/publishers via their lobby groups like the RIAA have got Copyright wrapped around their little finger so tight and they have the power/money to influence the copyright conversation even more in their favour.

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

TheWay Of The World

If you risk, you could lose. There’s no safety net in life. All of the people who have succeeded say you need to fail to succeed. And we don’t hear from those who risked everything and failed and now have nothing. Hell, we don’t even know their names.

If we want a better future, we need to be able to see the world as it is. It’s easier said than done as we are all products of our tribes. The family we grew up in, the friends we associated with or still associate with, the city we grew up in, the school we went to, the music we listen to, the teachers and employers we had, the books we read and so on. Basically we have so many influences in our lives. The biggest one is money. It’s a system designed to keep us in a cycle of debt. We grow up watching our parents argue over it. We got to school so we get “skills” to earn it. We get jobs so we have it. We get credit cards and loans to have more of it. We invest in shares and property to make more of it. And the cycle just goes on.

To top it off, tech innovation has created a “superstar” lifestyle, which is even more extravagant than the music “MTV superstar lifestyle. We see it all over the news and social media. So we try to be one of the players. We pretend on social media our lives are better than what they really are.

But we are currently living in a “winner-take-all” economy. The internet is controlled by Amazon, Facebook and Google. You can add Apple to the list with their iTunes/App store. Streaming is controlled by Spotify, Netflix and YouTube. Retail is controlled by Amazon. Social media is controlled by Facebook. Search is controlled by Google. We can use their tools for productivity or to make money, but it’s on their rules, which can change any time.

But we still plod on, trying to make it. But we don’t know where to start, so we take all the roads on offer, only to get back to the start.

Everything we were told was wrong. The internet didn’t topple the old players. It just created more of the same and in the process it made the old players even more powerful. In relation to music, the artists created their own problems by signing terrible contracts in the first place. Then when they had songs make it big, they would renegotiate their contracts and resell their copyrights to a corporation for an advance payment plus a royalty cut of any “profits” the song makes, less “expenses”. So they get paid in the short term, but lose in the long term. The record labels knew this.

Why do you think they lobbied hard to get Copyright terms changed to be life of the creator plus 70 years after death?

They will pay the Estate of the artists a few million here and there for a popular catalogue of songs, which will keep the Estate happy while they laugh all the way to the billion dollar profit sheet.

The TV mirror tells us the world is dangerous. We see news of terrorist trying to kill innocents or moments after they’ve just killed innocents. Certain channels will try and influence the debate to suit their point of view. Meanwhile, the internet never forgets. We expose ourselves online and give big corporations all of our private data, which they sell to other marketing corporations or hand over to the government if they are warranted. All the while, we are exposed to fake news or real news and people just can’t read critically enough or care to read critically enough to make up their own minds.

We don’t have enough time to have showers, let alone put together a critique of two conflicting news items.

And somewhere in this chaotic life we all lead, there are artists who want to have a music career. They are sitting at home making music on Apple Logic or Cubase or Pro Tools. They put it out on streaming services via an aggregator like Tunecore or CD Baby. They tell all of their “social media friends” to check out their new song without realising it’s an empty echo chamber and they end up nowhere. The reason is simple. Making music is great, but making connections is even better. It’s the way of the world today.

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

Outside The Conversation

Are the organisations like the record labels and the publishers doing their best for artists in the long term or are they just focused on the short term profits?

Customers of music showed the recording industry what choice brings to the conversation and the record labels ignored it. It wasn’t until a hardware company created iTunes and then a techie created a streaming service that customers started to get what they want.

Are the record labels and their lobby groups seeking useful outcomes in their fight against piracy or just short term wins?

Seriously, legislation to protect copyright and make the terms longer does not foster creativity. It only gives the current players a longer government granted monopoly.

What about how the record labels keep all the streaming licensing monies and give nothing back to the artists?

Some of the bigger artists might get a fee however the record labels are in this powerful bargaining position because of all the artists, not just the few. Then again, most people want the music of the few.

Is the record label policy of other people losing and them winning a good policy for artists and music in general?

It seems the record labels like to win. To them it’s a battle to get control back of things they lost. And they will do it through the courts and with legislation designed to protect their business model.

And if the record labels get control over the distribution chain and the recording industry goes back to the gatekeeper model of the past, do artists believe they will better off?

It’s easy to fall in love with the ideal of record labels getting artists to sign fair and equitable deals. Of course, that’s not how it works. And if there’s one organisation that hasn’t learned from past mistakes it’s the record labels and their lobby groups.

Instead of following a path that leads to better standards/outcomes for artists in the long term they seek a litigious path that only benefits them in the short term.

And what we have here is tribal identity at full force. Artists are emotional and they react to what is going on in a complicated world. In this case, the tribal identity set up by the record labels aligns itself with a downward spiral of selfish, short term actions. Fans are also emotional. Some attach themselves to the artist/creator point of view while others read wide and make their own choices.

And that’s the disconnect the industry is facing. Choice for fans to decide and make their own decisions and the power to demonstrate what they believe something should be worth.

No one wants to go deep anymore and unpack the facts. They’re too busy building out their identity online.

Trust me when I say this, there are fans who don’t pay for recorded music because they don’t believe they should, however these same fans have no problem coughing up $200 plus dollars for a concert ticket for a larger act and these same fans have no problems coughing up $20 to $70 for independent acts. It’s their choice how they choose to interact with music.

And then there are the fans who have large LP and CD collections, who don’t pay for music anymore, but still pay for concert tickets and what not.

And then there are fans like me who have large LP and CD collections and decided that streaming is the way forward. So I pay for a family account and I have no problems forking out cash for a concert ticket.

And then there are fans who have large LP and CD collections and have decided that purchasing physical is what they want to do. And these fans also have no problem paying for a concert ticket.

Life is fluid and we need to make choices every day.

This is the world we’ve arrived in. We’re dying for entertainment. The recording industry has never been more powerful. There’s all this crap about piracy, streaming rates and the techies taking over. But the techies make tools, not stories or music.

Life is a struggle for everyone, not just creators.

And our leaders have their own agenda while corporations pollute the conversation with their lobby dollars.

Why do you think they pay no tax and white collar crime corrupt bankers avoid jail?

Someone always thinks the rules don’t apply to them. If you listen to the recording industry, they would tell you that the techies believe that rules don’t apply to them. But hang on a second, if the techies are doing it their way, didn’t that used to be the ethos of the musician. To do it their way. So what went wrong? The techies have become the new rock stars. And they built it all themselves.

These days the pop stars become brands and puppets to the corporations. Otherwise there is a high chance they are left off the playlist. At least there are metal and rock creators doing it their way. Outside of the conversation they are building something, going against the grain.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Short Term

Thinking short term is hurting us. Every leader in charge thinks about the now and never about what’s around the bend. The majority of people in charge of corporations only care about the now. What is our bottom line looking like? There is no care about their environmental footprint or employee well-being.

Record labels are the same. They focus so much on first week sales and charts as they believe it brings in an instant payday, without understanding that the payday they are really earning is from music created 30 plus years ago and it just percolated, slowly rising to the top.

Have you heard of the record labels starting to employ artists as employees and offer them retirement plans? 

Of course not. That’s long term thinking. 

So Disney is pulling its catalogue of movies from Netflix in 2019. As a Netflix user, I say who cares. I never started subscribing to Netflix because they had Disney movies. I started subscribing because I wanted Netflix Originals. And with the addition of a comic book company with a cult like following, Netflix is looking at creating its own shared universe. It’s positive and long term thinking.

How often do we hear that people have no reason to pirate from the movie studios and record labels, as their catalogues are available online legally?

Amnesia seems to be the order of the day for the labels and studios because the online legal alternatives are fragmented. And as long as fragmentation exists, the pirate sites will be numero uno for content consumption. Same deal for music that’s available on Tidal or Apple and not on Spotify and vice versa. It’s ridiculous. So are consumers meant to have three streaming subscriptions for music and another ten streaming subscriptions for movies/TV. I don’t think so.

Consumers don’t want to have a dozen or so subscriptions. Just look at the cable TV industry. Too many subscriptions are expensive and not manageable, especially when these streaming sites are competing with illegal streaming sites who offer everything on the same site. Illegal streaming sites also show the content industries what kind of supply consumers want. At the moment, the content industries are focusing on the payday right now which means limiting the supply instead of the payday in the long term which means to open the supply and get more people to subscribe.

So what would Spotify do if Universal, Sony and Warner pulled their music from the service and started up their own service like Disney?

I don’t think it will happen. The revenues the three majors are getting from streaming licensing deals and royalty payments is insane. They would be crazy to leave Spotify. But if they do, Spotify is in trouble as it has no original content.

Have you seen the revenue numbers from Warner Bros lately?

Streaming grew by almost 60% from $227 million to $360 million. Downloads bring in $88 million, down from $121 million. Forget about vinyl, CD’s and cassettes. They are niche items that collectors would buy, however they will not sustain the business.

Overall income from recorded music grew by 13% to $770 million and it happened on the backs of listening instead of selling. Consumption in the 2000’s is all about access.

So if Spotify doesn’t pay, how did Warner accumulate $360 million dollars in streaming fees? All of those artists who sold their rights to corporations are losing out big time. The corporations who hold the rights are making a lot on streaming. 

The rich are getting richer. Meanwhile, we have clueless sites reporting how legacy artists need to hit the road to keep an income as they have no monies coming in from streaming. Well, these legacy artists need to get with the times. Get their fans to stream instead of buy and the corporation that has your rights will get paid royalties. And if you have a good deal with the corporation that holds your rights, you will get paid as well. If you don’t have a good deal, you will get squat. The game is rigged in the record labels and publishers favour. They are making a tonne.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The internet was supposed to level the playing field, give us all a chance. Instead we have monoliths who control 70% of the marketplace. And the powerful always abuse their position. Look no further than the scandals.

In Australia, we have our largest bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, involved in money-laundering. The deputy commissioner of the Australian Tax Office was covering up the multi-million tax fraud of his children. Politicians are resigning because they developed amnesia and forgot they are dual nationals, which is a breach of the Constitution. And still no word if they get to keep the money they fraudulently earned or they need to pay it back. All short term thinking.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Copyright Lawsuits 

Ed Sheeran writes songs and they become popular. Then he gets hit with lawsuit after lawsuit because his songs are making money and the family members of a departed artist, or the business entity that owns the copyright of an artist who is departed or is not creating anything worthwhile anymore wants a cut. 

If Copyright terms remained how they were originally, this would not be a problem. First, the creator had a 14 year monopoly, with a chance to renew for another 14 years for a total of 28 years. However, once the creator died, all of their works became public property, free to be used by any other artist/creator to create derivative versions. So if the creator passed away during a term, the works ceased to be under copyright and went straight into the public domain.

How do you think the British 60’s invasion happened?

Copyright maximalists and corporations would like you to believe because of strong copyright laws giving the creator an incentive to create works in a vacuum and free from any sort of influence. However, it happened because of the blues songs in the public domain which Keith Richards, John Lennon, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and many others used to create new works. In some cases, similar works.

But then the Copyright laws started changing. On the backs of lobby dollars from the corporations the laws changed to last for the life of the creator and then the laws changed again to last for the life of the creator plus 70 years after the death of the creator.

So who is copyright benefiting once the person who is meant to have the monopoly (the creator) to create works has passed on?

The corporations and estates who control the copyrights of long-dead artists. That’s who.

And because of these non-creative entities controlling copyrights, inspiration is now interpreted as infringement. Music and culture worked because people write songs inspired by past heroes. When I heard “Lift Me Up” from Five Finger Death Punch, I went back and listened to “The Ultimate Sin” from Ozzy Osbourne. When I heard “Kingmaker” from Megadeth, I went back and listened to “Children Of The Grave” from Black Sabbath.

It’s these inspirations from the past that keeps the past relevant.

However due to copyright lawsuits, labels are now even asking the artists to give them a list of songs that might have been used as inspiration, so they could check the possibility of future copyright infringement claims.

So how is this good for music and music creation.

And what about music created by AI machines. Does that fall under copyright or is that copyright free?

And YouTube is still a punching bag when it comes to payments. 

While the labels and publishers took over 3 years to negotiate with Spotify about operating in the U.S, YouTube became the destination for people seeking out music. And while the recording industry patted themselves on the back when they got a percentage stake in Spotify and allowed it to operate in the U.S, YouTube was busying doing what the recording industry should have been doing.

Spreading the love of music to the masses.

So of course, the millions the recording industry gets in licensing isn’t enough and via their lobby group, the recording industry needs to get more in ad supported royalty payments. The musicians are also screaming for a change however it’s their copyright owner that has let them down.

But is YouTube really such a problem

Its popularity is overtaken by Spotify for music alone.

Give people what they want and watch it grow. I still reckon Spotify is priced too high. It’s the same price as Netflix and Netflix spends millions on creating its own content and licensing content. Music production is in the thousands and for DIY artists it’s in the hundreds. But a music streaming service charges the same price as a video streaming service. Ridiculous. But that’s the greed of the labels and the publishing companies.

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

Frequency

Frequency. It’s a bad word for rock and metal artists. Release music frequently. 

It’s still a concept artists are struggling with. It’s even more troublesome for bands. The singer/songwriter can make it happen, but for bands it’s a different story.

Do you think Netflix would get 5.2 million new subscribers in the last quarter, if they released one tv show every two years?

Of course not. 

And their programming rocks. Don’t like this show, don’t worry we have another new show coming in two weeks.

While HBO might have “Game of Thrones”, its old school business model of releasing an episode each week will prove its downfall. 

While content is what brings people in, distribution is king! 

The oldsters did a great job selling the story of platinum records and chart placement = success. While rock gods lapped it up, hip-hop and grunge came to to fill the void and the danger that rock occupied. 

The new world demands more, while the rock and metal heads are still worrying about the chart placements and that build up to the one time release date, where money is supposed to rain down. 

The day of release is when the hard work really starts. You want a story that lasts and if you release a new song, wait for the reaction. 

If you get none, be smart and create more music. Forget the album, you’re looking for a reaction, and if you get none, it’s back to the drawing board. 

It’s an online streaming world. 

And to be in a band, it’s not about the payday so much as access and attention. Metal and rock needs to realize it’s best to have a continuous stream of new tunes being released and making news.

The money will come. But you need to control your copyrights so you get maximum royalties. 

It’s a new world and if you play metal/rock you’ve got to be in the streaming game and releasing frequently. 

The youngsters, the ones who replenish the music base are signed up to streaming. And artists who don’t want to be part of the streaming group are still debating the payouts.

Publishers and labels bitch about YouTube payments however those organizations are purely responsible for YouTube’s growth.

Because of greed, the labels and publishers negotiated with Spotify for over 3 years before it entered the US market. During this time, people turned to YouTube for their music fix. And it’s still number one when it comes to streaming.

The paradigm is different. Your musical output lives online and the money is in what lasts. Success is based upon cumulative streams, not sales of albums, and the streams go on forever.

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