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

Rambles About The Industry

How many times do you hear the record label/RIAA people talk about the “music industry” suffering or hurting or getting back on its feet after piracy decimated it?

How many times do you hear the Publishing Rights Organisations talk about the “music industry” suffering or hurting or getting back on its feet after piracy decimated it?

What these “industry people” fail to understand is there is no industry, no economy, no market if there isn’t people who consume music. And people will act with money if they care. People obtaining content without purchasing is nothing new. It’s been happening since the 70’s. People going to the rock and roll show and not owning a legitimate copy of an album is as old as the 50’s.

Think about it. For a person in the 50’s to listen to music, they needed to have electricity coming into the house, a system to play the purchased vinyl and then they had to purchase the vinyl product. So a lot of people couldn’t afford to purchase a vinyl product and a system to play the vinyl and an electricity bill to listen to music at home. But people wanted the experience of the rock and roll show and they went out in droves.

Is it okay for a person to obtain content for free?

There is no right answer. But there are plenty of wrong ones and when it comes to free music, the answers the industry puts forward are around the short-term. How can the current industry executives benefit and get paid handsomely. The answers and solutions are selfish, lazy and have significant holes in them.

I still reckon streaming is priced too high. If it is priced lower, more people will convert to paying. It’s better to have 100 million people paying $5 a month than 50 million people paying $10 a month.

What the “industry” failed to take into account is the shift in people’s attitudes.

Think of the music market in the following three ways;

  • The base is made up of people entering the music market. This is 20% of the music market.
  • The middle is the people who have been consuming music for a while. This is 70% of the music market. They either pay for recorded music or they don’t. They either go to the show or they don’t. They either buy merchandise or they don’t.
  • The top is the super fans who would give extra dollars to get something special. This is 10% of the music market.

Here’s what happens to the three layers when the price goes up happens to the industry.

Since the entry to access music is high, the base of the market will shrink. They base could turn to illegal means of access.

  • Without a base replenishing the middle, the middle decides it’s better to obtain music for free and go to the show instead. Businesses that relied on the middle purchasing recorded product struggle to attract business and they disappear. The “industry” does nothing to bring in new ways to access music to the market place. Instead the “industry” goes screaming to the politicians to act on their behalf.
  • The top then becomes super expensive. Bands super deluxe packages can go for $4000 dollars plus. New ways to access music is introduced by companies not associated with the “industry”. But to participate, a person needs to be part of a walled garden. This could be Apple, Spotify or Tidal. They need to hand over credit card details and other personal information.

And the techies are now trying to convert the middle into the top, so there is only a base and a top. No more middle. Sort of like life. The disappearance of the middle class.

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Thrash Revision

The very first Megadeth song I heard was “Wake Up Dead”. 100% of people would think I heard it via an LP or some other physical format but it was via music television. Yep, Megadeth was a video clip band for me for a few years before I spent my money on their catalogue. And I thought, “what is this rubbish?”

But the next clip that came on was “Peace Sells” and although musically/lyrically it was great, Mustaine’s voice just didn’t resonate. A few years later I saw the film clip to “No More Mr Nice Guy” from the “Shocker” movie and although Desmond Child spoke of all horrors of horrors trying to get Mustaine sober enough to record the Alice Cooper cover, the finished output was nice and polished enough to showcase Mustaine’s voice. It actually sounded pretty good. A few months later, “In My Darkest Hour” came onto the TV and again I was blown away musically and lyrically, but man, Mustaine’s voice and tone was a bit of a miss on it.

All of my doubts got put to “Rust In Peace” in 1990. When “Holy Wars” came out, I was fully converted, musically, lyrically and vocally.

I was in, I was a fan and I was off to the record shop to buy the new album, plus the back catalogue. However, the shop didn’t have “Killing Is My Business”, so I had to make do with “Rust In Peace”, “So Far, So Good, So What” and “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying”. Apart from the brilliant riffs in “Holy Wars”, the main thing I remember from the video clip is drummer Nick Menza (RIP) pounding the skins and the very MTV friendly looking band appearing on the TV screen.

When Dave Mustaine appeared on “S12 Ep5 of That Metal Show” (in 2013) he was asked to rate his top 5 Megadeth albums. Guess which albums made his top 5.

  1. Countdown To Extinction
  2. Rust In Peace
  3. Peace Sells
  4. Killing Is My Business
  5. So Far, So Good, So What

I think you can take “Killing Is My Business” off the list and add “Dystopia” to it. Isn’t it funny how in 2013, Mustaine viewed his 80’s and early 90’s output as his most superior.

And I started thinking about 1986. 31 years ago. Wow. Has it been that long? The 70’s seemed so far away in the 80’s and in 2017, 1986 seems like a few years ago.

Is 86, the year thrash metal became a commercial force of nature. It’s been well documented that “Master Of Puppets”, “Reign In Blood” and “Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?” all came out in this period.

Let’s put into context the commercial side of 1986 (based on RIAA certification in the U.S).

“Master Of Puppets” came out in February, 1986 and by November, 1986 in had a Gold Certification. Two years later in July 1988, it was certified Platinum for 1 million records sold. It’s 2x Platinum came on the backs of the “Black” album in 1991 and it wasn’t until 1994 that it was certified 3x Platinum. Currently it is 6x Platinum and that happened in June 2003.

“Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying” came out in September 1986. It didn’t set any charts alight and by November, 1988, it received a Gold certification for 500,000 units sold in the U.S.

By November 1992 and on the backs of the “Countdown To Extinction” album, it was certified platinum.

“Reign In Blood” came out in October 1986 and it was certified Gold in November 1992.

So while 1986 did have some excellent thrash releases, thrash didn’t take the world by storm in the way revisionist writers like to frame it today. Like it or not, it happened after the “Black” album came out. It was a slow build and that’s how great music works. Slowly percolating outside the mainstream until it becomes the mainstream. Then every label wanted in.

For me, I didn’t own (which means buy with cash) my first Metallica record until “… And Justice For All” came out in 1988. I then went back and purchased the earlier stuff. For Megadeth, as mentioned above it was 1990 and for Slayer it was well into the early 2000’s that I got “Seasons In the Abyss” and again based on the film clip. And before owning their albums, I had dubbed copies of their albums.

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

We Have A Payment Problem

The music business has a payment problem.

Streaming payments from record labels and publishers to artists  have the most focus but man, those live promoters ain’t no angels either.

Twisted Sister is going to the courts to get paid their appearance fee for a festival in the States. Non payments or small payments is a systemic issue in music. Lack of transparency around those payments is another issue. Breaking contracts to suit the organization with the cash is common. Getting DIY bands to pay to play is another.

But then again,  promoters also don’t get it easy.

Councils and Venues all around the world have been accused of exorbitant and extortionist fees for events that cripple the live industry. Then you have the unions to deal with. And then you have the ticketing companies putting their fees onto ticket prices and the secondary ticket market is another industry putting more fees and making millions in the process.

And so many of these organizations employees are flying first class or private on the backs of artists.

The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame business model is built on the hard work artists and songwriters put in, yet it’s an exclusive club based on who is cozy with who.

Steve Miller spoke truth in his acceptance speech. Miller took offense to how he and his wife get a ticket to the show and for anyone else (like his band members) it was $10K. Miller had to make his own way there in second class while RRHOF execs fly private. But its songs from artists that give income to all of these organisations.

The RIAA is a lobby group that is funded by the record labels, distributors and publishing companies. Money meant for artists and songwriters gets funneled into this lobby group. The politicians who the RIAA lobbies to write and introduce bills then end up as RIAA employees when they lose office. What a brilliant concept for some?

And it’s the artists that are shafted once again.

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

Is Copyright A Government Granted Ponzi Scheme?

Culture is all about emulation. Up until 1971, music culture had 11 years of progress by copying what came before and making it better. All you need as proof in the quality of music released around a descending bass line during that period.

In the United States Constitution it states the reasons behind Copyright is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Most countries have similar reasons for copyright. Fast forward a century later and Copyright has become the get rich scheme of the century. It’s being used for everything except what it was originally intended for, “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”.

All of those songs from “Hardwired To Self Destruct” will be in the public domain by 2120 (approx. based on the current terms of life of the creator plus an additional 70 years after death). Even Led Zeppelin’s IV will not be in the public domain until 2110 (approx.). I will be long gone by then, however my great great grandchildren will probably be able to benefit from a robust public domain in the same way that Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones benefited from using blues and folk songs in the public domain to build their career. Then again, the record labels, movie studios and Performance Rights Organisations have done a wonderful job in getting Copyright laws retroactively changed to suit their profits, so by 2120 there could be no Public Domain whatsoever.

The crazy thing is the 10 year difference of the estimated public domain date between Metallica and Led Zeppelin however the albums are over 40 years apart in release date. Remember how I’ve always said Copyright was hijacked by business people in the 60’s and 70’s to benefit a corporate entity. Led Zeppelin created their main profitable catalogue of songs between 1968 and 1976. The copyright terms of the era were 28 years, with the option of another 28 years if the Copyright was renewed. After that, the song would fall in the public domain. So for a song written in 1968, its normal public domain date would have been 2024.

Copyright is an outgrowth of the privatization of government censorship in sixteenth-century England. There was no uprising of authors suddenly demanding the right to prevent other people from copying their works; far from viewing copying as theft, authors generally regarded it as flattery. The bulk of creative work has always depended, then and now, on a diversity of funding sources: commissions, teaching jobs, grants or stipends, patronage, etc. The introduction of copyright did not change this situation. What it did was allow a particular business model — mass pressings with centralized distribution — to make a few lucky works available to a wider audience, at considerable profit to the distributors.
Question Copyright article 

The 60/70’s era had the children of the WW2 survivors turn into teenagers. Add to the mix, all of the nation rebuilding going on and suddenly the modern family had money. And these kids looked for an outlet, which proved to be music. On the backs of Elvis Presley and The Beatles invasion, the sale of recorded music brought in a lot of money to the recording business, so something had to be done to protect those songs bringing in so much gold. The record labels (along with the movie studios who had their own boom in film) took the money meant for the creators and lined the pockets of politicians to write and pass laws.

Hell, the person that co-authored and brought the Copyright Act of 1976 to the U.S Senate was John Little McClellan. The funny thing is he led a Special Committee to Investigate Political Activities, Lobbying and Campaign Contributions many years before he was asked to co-author and submit the 1976 bill. Guess he would have seen everyone on the take, so why shouldn’t he. Let’s look at a few facts. He was 79 years old when approached by the movie studios/record labels. He was the perfect kind of senator to push their case as he was well-respected and in his 35 years as senator he introduced over 1000 bills which 140 were signed into law. A year after the bill was signed into law, he passed away. He didn’t care what damage the bill would cause.

So copyright becomes a government granted monopoly. Its value is based on another government bill that determines royalty rates. There is also the unregulated price labels charge to license music catalogues to streaming services and prior to the internet, the price they charged for recorded music.

A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where the individual/organization, pays returns to its investors from new capital paid to the scheme by new investors, rather than from profit earned through legitimate investments or business activities. Hell, streaming at the moment is a Ponzi scheme. New investor money is given to old investors.

So how can Copyright be a Ponzi scheme?

A Copyright operator is a company that collects royalties on behalf of artists or songwriters and then distributes those monies to the artists whose works were performed.

A copyright operator has the following investors;

Music consumers, TV networks, cable networks, terrestrial and satellite radio stations, streaming services, background music services, colleges, universities, concert presenters, symphony orchestras and hundreds of thousands of bars, restaurants, hotels, circuses, theme parks and any other place that plays music.

The Copyright operators brings in a bunch of venues and organisations and gets them to pay for blanket licences because the Copyright Operator has so many artists on their books, there is a high chance the music being played is an artist from their roster. The Copyright operator then uses the money from the newer venues to pay the Top 1% of the artists so the enterprise looks legit.

In 99% of the cases, the monies collected via the process mentioned ends up going to the Top 1% of earners. This is changing as artists see the value in holding their own copyrights, however the laws are stacked against them in relation to paying stupid fees to Copyright Operators.

As much as everyone hates Spotify, why do you think Spotify had to set up a $50 million fund to pay independent creators?

They had no information as to who the creators were. So what did the Publishing Rights Organisations and Record Labels do with the royalty monies they received from these works in the past (from recorded sales) because how can they pay royalties if they don’t have the information needed to determine who is entitled to the royalty.

Operators of Copyright schemes usually entice artists with the offer of high returns if they sell their copyrights back to the Copyright operator. Steve Perry got millions recently for selling his copyrights to a publishing company, while a brand new artist will get ZILCHO as their songs are not popular right now. But they could be in the future. Steve Perry would then get short-term returns, which will be inconsistent. And when that dwindles down to pennies, a new technology will get blamed for the pittance in payments back to creators, while the Copyright operators swim in cash.

Seriously, how much of the Spotify license fees go back to all of the artists and songwriters (not just the Top 1% of earners)?

It’s because of Copyright laws, that the Copyright operators have this bargaining power?

The Copyright Operators had it easy while the record labels controlled the distribution gate. But the internet became a game changer and suddenly the copyright business was failing to achieve the returns expected. So the business went screaming to the Government to write laws to protect its business model. This time the government didn’t listen and the copyright business still continues to operate under fraudulent terms. But, the money pool is increasing, as music consumers turn to an access model and streaming is providing billions to the old investors.

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

Little Streams Of Heaven

Streaming is good for labels and artists. Indie labels are on the rise and artists have options everywhere on which digital aggregator to use when releasing music.

Taylor Swift and Neil Young’s music is back on Spotify and the normal PR outlets are silent but when they took their music off, well the narrative was very strong about poor artists vs big bad faceless tech giving the masses inferior sound quality and not paying enough.

But Pandora is declining in users, looking for a new owner and Spotify is not making money yet because its business model of a streaming service only does not allow it.

Spotify needs to diversify into a record label (like how Netflix diversified into its own content) because it can’t survive as it currently operates.

Apple has its own ecosystem and it bundles music with Apps and hardware sales.

YouTube is still there but viewership of music videos pales compared to streaming listens. Plus Google (apart from search) does everything half-hearted.

In the end streaming is king. The irrelevant sales charts had to amend their formula to include streaming and suddenly an artist is controlling all positions.

The old certification awards now include streaming in their formula and guess what, artists are getting platinum awards on streams alone. That’s right, no sales. Just listens. What a brilliant concept.

But those record label execs and publishing rights organisations want to strangle the streaming golden goose. They have a percentage stake in it, they get upfront license fees and they get royalty payments. Their profits are boosted by streaming and they still want more.

Meanwhile artists and songwriters keep on blaming the tech for the payments made instead of blaming the corporation who controls their copyrights.

Forgetting that Spotify is the new MTV. It’s influential. Think about it. Get onto a Spotify created playlist and watch your streams go into the million to 100 million territory.

Spotify controls data. It knows instantly when songs are skipped and when songs are listened to. The songs that people listen too are added to various playlists it controls. Suddenly those songs become hits.

Jasta’s “Chasing Demons” is the first track on Spotify’s “New Metal Tracks” playlist. It has 227,182 streams. The closest track from the same artist “This Is Your Life” has 22,433 streams.

“Lights Out” from Royal Blood is on 5 plus Spotify playlists and it has 6,435,533 streams whereas “Hook, Line & Sinker” has close to 2 million streams and it’s on 2 Spotify playlists.

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

Progress Is Derivative 3

Playlist 

Good artists copy, great artists steal is the saying. We can paraphrase it to “Good artists try to sound original by hiding their influences”, while “great artists let their influences show”. It’s how the language of music is learned. We imitate our influences.

If you don’t believe me, what is the first thing a person does when they are learning an instrument?

We start by learning songs created by other artists.

Inspiration is not theft. Theft is me taking something and you not having it to use anymore, like your apple or your car. Taking a musical expression and using it in your own song is not theft, as the original musical expression is still there. Here are some examples of taking musical expressions and re-using them in different songs. And in each example, the original expression is still there.

  • Five Finger Death Punch in the verses of “Lift Me Up” paid homage to Ozzy’s vocal melody from “The Ultimate Sin”.
  • Megadeth in the verses of “Kingmaker” paid homage to Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”.
  • Dave Mustaine wrote “This Was My Life” from his “Phantom Lord” progression that appears from about 2.30 to 3.10.
  • “Live Wire” from Motley Crue borrowed from Girlschool’s “Yeah Right”.
  • “My Sanctuary” from Unisonic released in 2012 has a vocal melody that is very similar to “A Flock Of Seagulls” song called “I Ran (So Far Away)” that was released in 1981.
  • “Hey Hey My My” from Neil Young, released in 1979 is very similar to the song “I’d Love To Change The World” from Ten Years After released in 1971. In addition the riff to Tom Petty’s “Refugee” from 1980 is also very similar to “I’d Love To Change The World.”
  • “Ten Black Roses” from The Rasmus released in 2008 borrows from Muse’s “Showbiz” released in 1998.
  • “Life is Beautiful” from Sixx AM released in 2007 borrows from Duran Duran’s “Come Undone” released in 1993.
  • Even the song “Come Undone” is an amalgamation of other songs. Duran Duran wrote a song called “First Impression” and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo was creating a re-interpretation of the song for a covers album the band was doing which would include some re-interpreted songs. The bass line and drum groove came from producer John Jones and a song demo he did called “Face to Face”.
  • The song “This Is It” from the band Staind released in 2011 has the chorus vocal melody that borrows from The Offspring’s “Gone Away” chorus melody.
  • “Shepherd Of Fire” borrows from everything. The fire and the bell at the start and the feedback riff with the evil tri-tone is influenced from the song “Black Sabbath”. The drum pattern is very “Trust” like from Megadeth which is based on based on AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. The guitar riffs are also very Megadeth like and also based on “Trust” from “Cryptic Writings”. Yep, it’s perfect and it is a perfect example of the “progress is derivative” effect in action.

The list is just a summary of how the creative arts work.

We take what came before and we build on it. And for creativity to flourish and for cultures to grow like the British 60’s explosion, a healthy public domain is needed which means shorter copyright terms or even no copyright terms.

Copyright is never about paying artists/creators. Copyright was designed by the distributors (book publishers, record labels and movie studios) so who do you think benefits most from Copyright.

For centuries, the distributors have campaigned hard to promote how Copyright is there to help writers and artists. They have PR writers who tell the story of the poor artist who needs Copyright to pay the rent and how dare do people, copy a song instead of paying a price set by the industry for it. These PR writers have turning copying a song, (two songs exists) into theft (now product A is not in your possession).

Yes, Copyright operators do pay artists as a means to make it look like it’s doing the right thing, however more monies end up in the pockets of the organisations than artists.

And all of the great PR work the labels, movie studios and book publishers did in selling the copyright story is biting back at them, via the heirs of dead artists (who in reality should have no rights to songs they didn’t create) taking them to court with plagiarism law suits and what not.

Sort of like our governments who finance revolutionaries, only to have those revolutionaries rise up against their financiers once they seize power.

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

Progress Is Derivative – One Riff To Rule Them All

Spotify Playlist

Remember “Progress Is Derivative” means to take the best things of what has come before and merge it all together to come up with something new. In some cases it might sound similar to something in the past and in other cases it might sound unique, original and innovative. And the “One Riff To Rule Them All” is a perfect example of how so many songs can have the same riff conceptually and still be able to stand on their own.

One Riff To Rule Them All…
Yep, it’s the A pedal point riff… It all started with a motor city madman called Ted Nugent, and his song “Stranglehold” released in 1975 (actually it’s a bluesy groove that has been around for a lot longer before then). Since then, the riff has morphed to inspire the following songs.

  • “Hell Bent For Leather” by Judas Priest released in 1978.
  • The intro to “Swords and Tequila” from Riot released in 1981.
  • The main riff to “Never Surrender” by Saxon released in 1981.
  • The main riff to “Riding With Angels” by Samson (with Bruce Dickinson on vocals), released in 1981.
  • The main riff to “Hellbound” by Tygers of Pan Tang released in 1981.
  • The main riff for “Flash Rockin’ Man” by Accept released in 1982.
  • The Intro in “Curse Of The Pharaohs” from Mercyful Fate released in 1983.
  • The main riff in “Power And The Glory” from Saxon released in 1983.
  • The main riff to “Stand Up And Shout” from Dio released in 1983.
  • The main riff to “Seek And Destroy” by Raven released in 1983.
  • The intro and main riff in “Two Minutes To Midnight” from Iron Maiden released in 1984.
  • The main riff to “Heavy Metal Breakdown” by Grave Digger released in 1984.
  • The main riff to “Phantoms Of Death” by Helloween released in 1985.
  • The main riff to “Skin O My Teeth” by Megadeth released in 1992.
  • The main riff to “Break The Chains” from Tokyo Blade.
  • A small variation of “the riff to rule them all” morphed into “Welcome To Hell” from Venom released in 1981.
  • And this morphed into “Looks That Kill” from Motley Crue released in 1983 and became known as the Sunset Riff. So it was no surprise that other Sunset guitarists started using it.
  • “Young Girls” from Dokken in 1983 has a riff that’s similar.
  • “Tell The World” from Ratt, released in 1983 also has it.

I guess you can’t keep a good riff down. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Music is derivative. Always has been and always will be.

Ted Nugent’s originality in the 70’s is due to him writing derivative versions of blues grooves. There would be no metal music without rock and roll and there would be no rock and roll without country and blues. In the early blues (circa 30’s), copying and transforming was the norm. The same blues song would be recorded by different artists in different states. Sometimes, the titles would change. No lawyers got involved and especially no courts. In return, this allowed the blues sound to grow.

If you look at the bands above, they all built careers from the same patterned riff without a lawsuit to be seen.

What an amazing concept?

Stone Temple Pilots
Fans of Kiss smiled when they heard “Sex Type Thing” from Stone Temple Pilots. The main riff is influenced by “War Machine”. How strange it is, that one of Kiss’s heaviest songs is co-written by pop rock songwriters, Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance with Gene Simmons.

Motley Crue
The Chorus riff to “Ten Seconds to Love” sounds like it was influenced by a certain riff in “Rock & Roll” by The Plasmatics. Actually they sound the same, but who cares. Both are different songs and unique and as you all know, I am a fan of the “progress is derivative” viewpoint.

The Led Zeppelin Effect Again
The impact of “Immigrant Song” cannot be underestimated.

Recently I heard it in “Siberian Queen” (2012) from The Night Flight Orchestra. The drum pattern is Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” (1970) and the guitar riffs reference “Achilles Last Stand” in the intro and verse riff.

Meanwhile, John Sykes re-invented himself as Jimmy Page when he combined “Black Dog” with “Immigrant Song” in “Still Of The Night” (1987). In case you are not sure, it’s the riff that comes in after the intro singing.

Then there are the obvious clones of “Immigrant Song” in “Hold Her Tight” by The Osmonds (1972) and “Burning” by Sweet (1973).

Music is and always will be derivative. Enjoy.

Standard