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

Metallica and Bob Rock

I ended up re-watching the Metallica documentary around the making of the “Black” album.

The album is what it is because of Bob Rock. He drove it, he knew from the start exactly what every song needed, he pushed Metallica to the limit and I can understand why Metallica invested so much trust in the direction of the band with him.

Hell, the Producer role should be expanded to state, dealing with egos and arguments.

The demo of “Sad But True” (I had a drummer who always thought it was called “Sad Patrol”) was heaps quicker. Bob heard a “Kashmir” feel and asked James to slow it down and make it crunchy.

Rock kept on telling James to re-write lyrics to songs. He told him to use fewer words in the choruses and to use stronger words. He questioned James on what the song is about. He asked him how the verse lyrics referenced the song message. James didn’t like this line of questioning. If James couldn’t explain it simply, it means he hasn’t nailed the lyric.

Rock told Lars to take drum lessons and he told James to take singing lessons. In my view, Metallica needed that kick up the butt and the amount of physical product the “Black” album has moved is a pretty good indication of that butt kick.

Personally, I would have loved to have seen a doco on the making of the “Load” album just to see the influence Bob Rock had on that album and how those studio sessions went.

Rock’s mentor was another Canadian called Bruce Fairbairn. Most of the records Bob engineered, Bruce was the producer. Fairbairn produced “Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet” and “New Jersey”. Total sales of over 30 million for both albums and Bob Rock engineered both of these albums.

Without Bob Rock, Metallica wouldn’t be as big as they are today and without Metallica, metal music would not have become as mainstream as it is today.

However, having said that, Metallica’s demise music wise (my opinion) during the following years is also attributable to Bob Rock and the reasoning comes from this;

  • The songs designed for the “Black” album were originally designed following the process of good old fashioned Metallica songs.
  • The style of the “Black” album songs weren’t too far apart from the old Metallica songs that appeared on “Justice”, “Master” and “Lightning”, heavy with thrash elements.
  • The song writing process was that James and Lars would take all the riff ideas they accumulated in between albums and go away and listen to all of the ideas. They would make notes as to what riffs where good and take the good ideas and start to turn them into songs. The returned to this songwriting process with the “Hardwired” album.
  • So when Bob Rock came in after the songs were written and added his influence, changing the songs tempo and asking for better lyrics and melodies, he created what I call the “gap” between the earlier albums and the “Black” album. But because the songwriting process was the same as the earlier albums, the songs still are Metallica.
  • However following the “Black” album, when Metallica designed the songs for “Load/Reload”, they didn’t follow the original good old Metallica song writing process. Rather they wrote songs from the place I call the “gap” which is now influenced by commercial expectations.
  • So when Bob Rock gets involved this time around, he amends the sound and feel of the songs even further, creating a greater divide from their original sound then the “Black” album. In other words, the “gap” got bigger.
  • Coming into “Load”, Metallica has never written 30 demos for an album. They always wrote enough songs for the album. For the “Black” album, they had 12 songs, nothing more. For “Justice”, all the songs they wrote for that album are on the album, no leftovers, same for “Master” and “Ride The Lightning”. So when a band writes 30 songs for an album they are writing for a hit.
  • I also think there were other motivators behind the influence of the sound of “Load” and “Reload” as well, and that had more to do with the longevity of the band, I remember seeing an interview with Lars years ago which gave this impression on me, basically following the “Black” album, Metallica became one of those all-time great bands like the Rolling Stones and potentially they can be riding the waves of this success in their 60’s. BUT, when they are 60 years old, how are they going to tour playing thrash all the time? The songs the Stones produced are not that hard to pull off when your 60+, but how is Lars going to cope drumming “Battery” every night on tour when he is 60+? How is Hetfield going to growl every night when he is 60+?

It’s very rare I play any songs from “Load” or “Reload”, and I’d say that would be the same for the majority of Metallica fans, whether they are hardcore or new, the album sonically might sound awesome but the songs would be ranked at the bottom of their entire inventory, other than 5 or 6 songs.

I think James summed it up with the following comments about the whole Load and Reload era…

“Lars and Kirk drove on those records. The whole ‘We need to reinvent ourselves’ topic was getting discussed.  Image is not an evil thing for me, but if the image is not you, then it doesn’t make much sense.  I think they were really after a U2 kind of vibe, Bono doing his alter ego. I couldn’t get into it. The whole, ‘Okay, now in this photoshoot we’re going to be ’70s glam rockers.’ Like, what? I would say half — at least half — the pictures that were to be in the booklet, I yanked out. The whole cover thing, it went against what I was feeling.  Lars and Kirk were very into abstract art, pretending they were gay. I think they knew it bugged me. It was a statement around all that. I love art, but not for the sake of shocking others. I think the cover of Load was just a piss-take around all that. I just went along with the make-up and all of this crazy, stupid shit that they felt they needed to do.” James Hetfield

Is Hetfield passing the buck with his comments?

He recorded the songs, wrote the riffs, he did the vocals and so on. Whether he lost interest or passed the controlling influence to Lars, regardless he was on board with the direction, it’s his band, regardless of who’s pulling the strings in the background. Without James, there is no Metallica, all the rest can be replaced in my mind.

I also watched “Get Him To The Greek”, Lar’s gets told off by Russel Brand. “Go sue Napster and your fans”, and that is the stigma that will forever stick with Metallica. They got so out of touch with reality that they sued their own fans for sharing their music. Nicko McBrain sums up piracy in Flight 666 “We sold out in Costa Rica but haven’t sold an album in this country…“

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

Copyright Rants 

Copyright is all over the news again.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is speaking out against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), accusing it of “misstating copyright law” in a submission it made to the US Government around stream ripping sites. 

The RIAA states the popularity of stream ripping sites is high and the traffic volumes the sites get inflicts enormous damage to the US record industry. 

It doesn’t look like the balance sheets of the record labels show any damage whatsoever. 

The EFF states stream ripping has legal uses and stream ripping of music audio might be covered by fair use. The EFF also states the RIAA is asking the US government to apply copyright law the way RIAA wishes it to be applied and the US government needs to apply Copyright law as it’s written.

Then you have the music publishers seeking a new licence for mechanical (songwriter) royalties.

It’s no secret streaming companies are having issues paying royalties on songs. The reasons are many. Some obvious ones are because the data of who wrote the song is not available or if it’s available, it’s not entirely correct. Blame the record labels/publishers for having no duty of care to hold the correct information and when they provided this information to the streaming services, it’s been lacking. So they are happy to take the money from streaming services and then fail the artists they are meant to represent when it comes time to compensate them. Add to the mix how Copyright pre-1972 is driven by state laws and what you have is a litigation mess.

Streaming services are meant to pay both mechanical rights and the performing rights of a song. For the performing rights, there is a blanket licence paid to BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and GMR. For the mechanical rights, rates are set by laws and the streaming service has to get in touch with each individual copyright owner, to tell them a song they are involved with is being exploited and how they will pay the royalty rate to them. So suddenly, a technology that wants to bring music to the masses is tasked with FINDING all of the Copyright owners.  

Makes me wonder what the record labels and publishers have been doing for the last 70 years.

 Of course, a blanket licence would simplify things. This also means another government granted monopoly needs to be created. And from past experiences, the songwriters will still get pennies while this new entity will make billions.

In Canada, the record labels are asking the government to change the copyright laws, so they can “offset internet-driven losses”.

“Our goal was to point at two changes that will put millions of dollars into the pockets of music creators and people who invest in them.”

Graham Henderson – Music Canada’s President

If the music creators got paid on a 70 (to the artist) / 30 (to the label) split, it would put millions of dollars into the pockets of the music creators. However, the splits are more like 80 to 90% to the record label which means the music creators would get hundreds to the thousands, while the label gets millions.

Because if Copyright is there to reward creators then why are the Spinal Tap creators taking Vivendi/ Universal Music to the courts.

“Further compounding this fraud, improper expense deductions were made in Vivendi’s accounting to the creators, allegedly representing print, advertising and publicity expenses (undocumented) totalling over $3.3 million and a further $1 million in freight and other direct costs, more than half of which extraordinarily appears to fall some 20 years after the film’s release. Vivendi has also recently charged over $460k in ‘interest’ on production advances for a film released in 1984 and $165k in ‘litigation expenses’ to the creators’ account. Vivendi clearly has no intention of honouring its obligations to account honestly or to fairly compensate the Spinal Tap creators for their work”.

So let me get this straight.

Vivendi owns the film rights via some past acquisitions and Universal owns the soundtrack (music) rights. Both of them are making up accounting transactions so the creators of the Spinal Tap movie and the soundtrack are shown as being in debt to the studio/label. 

35 years later. 

They are still in debt to the studio/label.

All they guys want to do is take back their copyrights. Copyright law was written to allow the creator to take back their copyrights after 35 years. But the corporate entity which currently holds the copyright is not letting go.

Don’t you just love how Copyright is there to benefit the corporate entity?

The corporation is well compensated while the creator is alive and even more so once the creator is dead.

Yep copyright is so far gone it’s not even funny anymore.

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

How the Labels and the RIAA Rob Creators?

YouTube tells the world that the service pays more in the U.S for Ad-Supported Streaming than other services like Spotify and Pandora. YouTube points out that they pay about $3 per 1000 ad-supported streams in the U.S.

The record labels via their lobby group RIAA disagree with YouTube’s math

Cary Sherman, the RIAA head honcho had this to say on the matter;

“About 400 digital services have been licensed around the world, many with ad-supported features. Comparatively, YouTube pays music creators far less than those services on both a per-stream and per-user basis, and nowhere near the $3 per thousand streams in the U.S. that Lyor (YouTube) claims.”

Okay so if the RIAA is going to dispute the math put out by YouTube, then what is their math.

How much do they get from YouTube per 1000 streams?

The record labels and the publishing/licensing companies are the first to get paid. And nowhere in this debate have these organisations mentioned what they get. I know I have seen thousands of news articles showing what the artists or the song writers get from YouTube streams in their bank account, but the artists are the last to be paid, once the labels and publishing companies take their cuts.

If the record labels via the RIAA want to be taken serious they need to be transparent.

Instead they counter the math from streaming services with fluff. Yes, that same thing found in people’s belly buttons.

They fluff the conversation about a value gap, talking on and on about how YouTube has billions of users and the amount of traffic they generate should equate to higher payments and because it doesn’t, there is a value gap.

They fluff the conversation about DMCA Safe Harbor provisions being a rigged system and how politicians need to create laws to protect the business model of the record labels and in the process destroy innovation on the internet.

Basically, these organisations are doing the same thing they have always done. Lying and scheming to keep their creative accounting in-house and away from the actual people that made these organisations rich. The creators.

Think about it for a second. The streaming services via their own blog mention how much they pay the copyright holder. The very next day, the RIAA or the Record Labels quickly counter it, but they never mention how much they do get?

So the headline of the next article should be “How the labels and the RIAA rob creators?”

 

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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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