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

The Billions Artists Don’t Get But Should

This is the world that the artists have created when they signed away their masters and Copyrights to a record label. And for this tragedy to be fixed, the artists need to understand that it starts with them.

The labels have been the recording music gatekeepers for decades and they had full control to sign artists to contracts with less favourable terms.

In the process, the labels amassed a catalogue of music which gave them negotiating power at the table and when it came to take overs or selling off parts of the label, these profitable back catalogues bring in a lot of money.

French entertainment giant Vivendi owns Universal Music Group (UMG). Now Chinese tech company Tencent is looking at a 10% stake in UMG worth up to $3.6 billion dollars. The worth of that stake is because of the artists and the works UMG holds on behalf of the artists; works which they more or less paid a pittance for and works which have probably really recouped 100 times over.

How much of those billions would go back to the artists?

But hey, artists instead are forming a lobby group to fight against the tech lobby groups in the U.S. Because the distributor is now a problem. This is the same as the artists forming a lobby group in the past to fight against the truck drivers and the record stores.

I’m all for more power to the artist. It’s the artist that creates the song which connects with audiences and makes dollars. But for the artist to also have a fair say, they need to lobby hard against their employers (if they have a label deal) and the publishers, because these organisations make billions from the deals they organise with streaming companies and by selling off their small stake in the company.

And going back to the Music Artists Coalition (MAC), which also includes high profile managers, I don’t see how they will advocate for the 98% of artists doing it tough, when they represent the 2%.

But it’s a start.

Will MAC get back the masters from the labels. Oh, wait, most of those masters got destroyed in a Universal Warehouse fire.

We’ll lucky for the Public, that there is a copy of the music online. Otherwise, the tunes would be lost forever, in peoples records collections, which either end up in the trash or in a second hand book shop.

Because the labels don’t really care about this history. If they did, they would have stored the masters better, in a climate controlled room instead of a basic warehouse and they would have stored the back-ups at a different location instead of the same building.

All the labels care about is the free Spotify and YouTube users and those users who “stream rip”.

The labels (with their lobby groups) have court granted blocking on their side in most countries, so visits to sites like The Pirate Bay have reduced. However, fans of music just use YouTube and the free tier of Spotify to access music (which are both legal) and the labels don’t like it, because they are unable to find a way to convert the users of the free tiers to paying subscribers, especially in Italy.

So in this case, the labels cant increase the price to access music because people are not paying the current price as it is. So the price needs to come down. But the labels don’t want that. The option they want is to cut off the free-tiers, however this will just drive people back to the pirate sites.

And if the price to stream in Italy comes down, the record labels need to be reasonable here and still pay the artists their fair share, but we know that the words fair and reasonable are not associated with the labels.

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

Compensating Artists

Social media connects artists to fans. And that is a good thing.

The issue is that a lot of artists use social media as a one way street to market themselves and push their product. But for people to invest in you, you need to connect with them, and there are artists who do it better than others.

Dee Snider comes to mind immediately as one who does a great job connecting with fans. Dave Mustaine and Sebastian Bach do a good job as well, while Robb Flynn and Nikki Sixx do a fantastic job. Another artist who has two way comms going is Corey Taylor. There are a lot more, I know and I follow quite a few.

A simple question from a Depressed Reds Fan user account to Corey Taylor on Twitter got me interested;

“Just curious, where does the main source of income come from? I’d assume touring and merchandise, but I really don’t know.”

Corey Taylor responded with the following;

“We HAVE to tour. It’s the only way we can make a living. Merch helps, but the merch companies make the lion’s share. Streaming is pricing artists – old AND new – out of careers.”

Another user “Rock Feed” added that;

“People have this idea that bands are filthy rich. Royalties are so low for bands once all the suits get their take.”

And this started a conversation from the fans about what they try to do as consumers to make it profitable for the artist they support to earn a decent wage and continue creating music.

But, in order to fix the argument about streaming payments or digital payments or how the artist can be compensated, there needs to be a line drawn in the sand, because it is NOT THE CONSUMERS FAULT.

As consumers, we stream, we buy, we go to the shows, we buy the merch and we buy the collector’s edition.

How much more can the consumer do?

Of course, according to the record labels, we should pay more for streaming. Because if we did, more royalties would go to the artists which is all BS. The royalties going to the artist would be the same regardless of what the streaming rate is.

What about the record labels paying more to the artists in royalties?

Then you have the government controlling the rate of payments, which means, music doesn’t operate in a free market, instead it operates in a government granted monopoly.

And Publishers make billions for doing really nothing and pay out nothing because hey, it’s the consumers fault and the streaming companies fault according to them.

Other posts from other artists got screen shotted and re-tweeted.

James Blunt said he got paid 00.0004499368 pounds per stream. Beers are on him. Another user jumped on that and did the math that 1,000,000 streams of a song = 440 pounds. And when you split that amongst band members it doesn’t add up to a lot.

Another user called Source Code tweeted that they read;

“The Who back in the 70’s started a tour 40K in debt. They had a very successful time but afterwards the band were told they were still 40K in debt. It wasn’t the drinking or smashing up equipment that cost them, it was the anonymous greedy suits stealing.”

Corey Taylor re-added that;

“Musicians are LITERALLY the last to be paid”.

And that is true.

Artists are paid once all the expenses are paid. That advance payment has to be recouped. Studio time and promotion needs to be recouped. Legal needs to be paid and Management needs to be paid. Somewhere in between, the digital service provider takes up to 30% of the royalty paid. The label takes the rest and then distributes what the contact states to the artist. Then you have the publishers. Same deal there. The digital service provider takes up to 30% and the publisher takes the rest, distributing the money according to the contract they have with the artist. If the artist sells vinyl and product, they get a higher rate once the monies are recouped.

You know when you see articles like Steve Perry signing a publishing agreement or Nikki Sixx signing a publishing agreement and you can interchange any other artist who has a valuable back catalogue into the phrase.

Well, those artists don’t sign those agreements and get nothing in return. Obviously they are in a position of power to sign an agreement to their terms and get a favourable royalty rate, but there will be rules that the publisher would pay up front an advance fee and recoup that fee over the term.  

And when artists go out on tour and depending on their pull, they even scalp their own tickets to make more money on the show, because why should the booking agent, the venue, the parking stations and the food places make more than the artist. It’s wrong but legal.

Phil Labonte from All That Remains posted that their biggest song has 67 million views on YouTube and they have over 1.3 million monthly listeners on Spotify but see nothing from it.

Phil further mentioned that the band ends up making between 10 to 15% of gross on a tour. Then they need to split that amount 5 ways and pay their taxes. Once that is don’t, they can start paying their bills.

Bigger bands, will take an upfront payment and then negotiate this per show split afterwards.

But for a smaller band, if they have a show that has 1000 people at $20 a ticket, then that is $20,000 in gross earnings. Based on Phil’s numbers, the band stands to make between $2K to $3K for the show. Split 5 ways, it’s $400 to $600 per person. Play 20 shows and if you get the same crowds, then that’s $8K to $12K per person. Gross. Then tax.

And by the end of all the conversations, the artists didn’t care how people got the music, they just wanted to be compensated.

But music operates in a government granted bubble, and not a free market price, so the prices set are relient on Copyright rules (created by the Government) to make up the difference.

Artists tried “pay as you want” bundles (which is a way to test what the free market would pay for your work) and I don’t see too many of those bundles on offer today.

And there was two way communications between Corey and fans, who said, that since Corey plays music in a genre which isn’t popular, how can he expect to make coin on royalties to which Corey replied back with that he doesn’t believe that is the case, as all of the shows sell out and the genre is popular to the masses.

Its back to the same old argument; metal fans don’t stream as much as pop fans. And as an artist, do you want your fans to buy your album or stream it or both.

The best part of all of the conversations was the comment from Corey which said;

“As long as the RECORD LABELS get THEIR money, they don’t CARE if the ARTIST gets paid at ALL. Or who plays their music – unless it’s a critic on YouTube, THEN THEY’RE UP IN ARMS.

So much truth there. The bottom line is this; the Record Labels own a stake in Spotify. And they own this stake, because they had negotiating power from all the Copyrights they held, who really should be owned by the artists.

Did anyone notice that Tool recently entered the world of streaming?

And they would have done it on their terms, and their own rate. And they will be well compensated.

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

Copyright For Nothing And The Chicks For Free

Reading copyright stories elicits two responses from me. The “Are you freaking kidding me?” response and the “This is stupid” response.

The mighty Meatloaf along with writer , Jim Steinman (who is credited as the songwriter) had a copyright spat on their hands for “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”.

An artist called Jon Dunmore Sinclair claimed he wrote the song and Meat Loaf along with Steinman, stole it. Mmm, I am sure Mr Sinclair, still had possession of the song he wrote and it wasn’t stolen, but hey, let’s associate stealing with copyright infringement as well. Oh, wait, it already is associated, because the record labels have done a great PR job convincing people that accessing music illegally is stealing.

The story goes that Jim Steinman and Jon Sinclair had the same attorney, and via this attorney, is how Steinman heard Sinclair’s song called “(I’d Do) Anything For You”. Meatloaf argued that having a similar lyrical phrase is not copyright infringement, however without having access to hear Sinclair’s song, it’s hard to tell.

Meatloaf settled out of court, while Kate Perry and her team went to court and lost.

Now this one is a complete, “what the!, how stupid is that?” verdict.

You see, in this case, an artist called Marcus Gray (who uses the name Flame) claims that Perry ripped off his beat, and a small musical pattern.

These kind of claims trouble me, because the person claiming to be ripped off is stating that their work is so original and free from influence and not inspired by anything else that came before it. But people should check out this Vox article which shows how similar Flame’s Christian rap song is to another song back in 1983.

But hey, while Perry and her team relied on telling the story of how the song was created, Flame (original name as well) relied on pseudo gurus in musicologists to prove that they are similar. And the court agreed with the musicologists.

Which brings me to the next troubling issue, judges and juries changing the intent for what Copyright is meant to be. Then again, the labels have created this litigious monster themselves when they lobbied hard to get Copyright terms extended to life of the artists plus 70 years.

These kind of cases really started when the heirs of artists started suing.

And for the record, this never should have been an issue. If Kate Perry ripped off Flame then Van Halen can claim to be ripped off as well for “Why Can’t This Be Love”, because they have a C to B note transition. Throw in every other artist who has a song with a musical bar passage which goes from C to B in a staccato way. As Dr Luke (one of the writers) said on the stands), its basic building blocks. It’s like saying a writer can’t use the words “the”, “a” or “and”.

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault – Adelitas Way

The self-titled debut was released in 2009. I downloaded it illegally and it got me by the throat, smacked me down and made me a fan.

How good is “Invincible”?

It’s as good as any monster 80’s song, plus it was featured in the WWF or WWC and it just has over a million views on YouTube and on Spotify it has close to 25 million. I guess Spotify is the place fans go to listen these days. But to the labels, YouTube is still a problem.

“Scream” has a lead break that has me playing air guitar. “Dirty Little Thing” is about a woman who takes him to places that he’s never been and it would have been a number one hit if it was on a Motley Crue album.

“Last Stand” has clean tone arpeggios which got me interested, a vocal line and tone in the verses which remind me of Chris Daughtry and a Chorus vocal tone which reminds me of the Hinder vocalist. Basically, these little connections to other bands hooked me in, which is rare for a ballad.

“Hate Love” rocks from the gate and it has a lyric line which speaks truth, “every time that I hate you I love you.”

“So What If You Go” has a riff that makes me want to pick up the guitar and the vocal melody, laced with anger, remains long after the song is finished.

“Closer To You” is slower, but still hooky, while “Just A Little Bit” is one of the best Bon Jovi songs that Bon Jovi didn’t write. Just think of the song “One Wild Night”.

“All Falls Down” is “Simple Man” from Lynyrd Skynyrd re-written into a shorter concise pop rock song and “My Derailment” shows the train wreck a relationship can wreak on the heart and mind of a person. The closer, “Brother” is a cross between “Drops Of Jupiter” and “With A Little Help Of My Friends”.

And I listened to the album on YouTube.

The comments from people who listened to the tracks, couldn’t believe that they didn’t have over 100 million views per track.

With so much music out there, the audience is fragmented and for it to cross over into the pop mainstream, it needs promotion like the old days, but then again, the audience listening to music is different to what it was in the old days and scorched earth marketing polices don’t work.

Also Spotify has overtaken YouTube as the place to listen to music.

“High School Valedictorian” came out in 2011. And album number 2 didn’t disappoint. Like the debut, I got the album for free, but man, I was hooked, and I committed.

Do you feel “The Collapse”?

And I’ll take, I don’t ask
This breath will be your last
Do you feel the collapse?

I know one thing. When I felt wronged in the past, I wanted that person to face hell. But like anything, as you get older, that lizard brain response just seemed so dumb.

“Sick” has 4.8 million views on YouTube. It’s standard modern rock, with a chorus that screams, if you’re sick like me there’s no stopping now. Sort of like in Maths, two negatives make a positive, two sickos make a positive sicko or something else. Maybe the mathematical analogy wasn’t the best.

“Alive” has almost 2.5 million views on YouTube. The theme of “being alive when your with someone you love” might be clichéd, but you can still rock out to it, especially when it is done right.

And three songs in, I remember clearly why this band really connected with me. The first song reminded me of Shinedown, the second song reminded me of Breaking Benjamin and the third song reminded me of Lifehouse. It’s those little connections to past bands that hook me in and then they deliver with a song which hangs around long after its finished.

“Criticize” foot stomps its way through my mind, with the brilliant chorus lines of “I like the way you won’t apologize, I like the way you just demoralize, I like the way you always roll your eyes, Someone as perfect as you is hard to criticize”.

Man, I’ve been on both sides of that. I’ve thrown those words out and those words have been thrown back at me. And there is no winner or making up when it gets to that stage. It’s just a matter of time before the break happens.

“Good Enough” continues the themes present in “Criticize”.

There was a time
When my best was good enough

Damn right, once upon a time, everything was okay.

So how did it all go wrong?

Did responsibilities and pressures of life get in the way of friendships or relationships?

“Cage The Beast” has the theme of being unable to cage the beast inside. Listening to it today, it gets me thinking of The Beast character in the Glass movie.

Check out the breakdown section with the lead break.

Plus it’s one of their top 5 songs on Spotify with over 7 million streams.

“I Can Tell” deals with unreciprocated love. They are still together, but one partner has already left the relationship emotionally and mentally, just not physically.

“Somebody Wishes They Were You” has a lyric line that you can tattoo on your skin.

Life ain’t that bad, look what you have
When the highs aren’t so high, just do what you can

Be grateful each day that you have survived as humans by natures design are meant to survive and produce. And as much as we wish every day to be perfect, and every high to last forever, they don’t.

And then Adelitas Way disappeared. “Stuck” came out on 2014, but I didn’t know about it and I don’t remember hearing it.

“Getaway” came out in 2016 and I was heavily into streaming services. And it was lost in the noise, although I did hear the title track which I enjoyed.

Since then they have dropped “Notorious” in 2017 and a new single called “What It Takes” has hit streaming services recently, so I’m expecting a new album to drop.

And the one song which really stands out during this period is “Ready For War (Pray For Peace)”. If you haven’t heard it, you should.

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

The Record Vault – Anew Revolution

“Rise”came out in 2008.

I downloaded it via a cyber locker like Rapidshare or MegaUpload.

The way cyber lockers worked was;

  • a normal blog site would put up links to the music.
  • The links would refer you to the cyber locker website.
  • You would wait 90 seconds or less for the ads to play and the download link would be made available to you.
  • Eventually the U.S government via the sponsorships of the RIAA and MPAA went after these cloud storage cyber locker sites.

Remember Kim Dotcom from MegaUpload. His house was raided like he was a terrorist in the morning and all because he provided a service to people to store files in the cloud.

A lot of people used these sites to store their photos or work documents and they lost it all when the US Government went after these sites and took possession of their servers.

Anyway, going back to “Rise”. I liked it, so I purchased it. And the below is from a review a did a while back.

Done

You wanna try me you might be the one who goes down
I’ve had it up to here with your rule
You’re such a two face it’s too late to take back those words

We have all dealt with people like this. One thing life has taught me is nothing is forever, and that means relationships.

Nme

I can’t believe I finally see the enemy in you

Yes, that best friend, might scheme and lie. Yes, that great love, might scheme and lie.

Eventually all the lies come down like a house of cards and those people you trusted suddenly become untrustworthy. And it’s hard to take when it first happens. There is anger, a feeling of being wronged and disbelief that it’s happened for so long.

But, humans are resilient and we rise again, better and stronger than before.

Generation

We are the voice of our lives,
But no one’s listening.

Eventually people will listen. It just takes time, effort and commitment. We give up too easily.

And how long, how long,
Can I fake this?

How long can we really fake our lives?

We have so many tools at our disposal to connect with people and we remain even more isolated.

Rise

Hey you
Stand the fuck up and rise
I’m not afraid

It’s pretty simple. Stand up, don’t be afraid. Easier said than done, because of what could come after. Life is always a struggle. People in power versus the ones who work for them. Some abuse the power they have and others are more utopian.

I can’t fake the way I feel inside
Every one of those eyes judging me
It’s funny how things change
I redefine how messed up this life can really be

There was a time when every action and every word that came from me was so thought out because I didn’t want to be judged or questioned for my actions/words. As I got older, I ceased to care about those kind of social arrangements. Life is too short for me to care and there are too many other things I care more about now.

Let Go

There’s history there and no one wants to let go, even though it’s over. The thought of starting over again is too frightening. So you hold on to each other, playing games, blaming each other even more and eventually you both stop trying to save what can’t be saved anymore. So you let go.

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

The Labels Say Infringement Is The Issue. Maybe Not.

The labels still focus on infringement and see that as a big issue. Stream ripping sites are getting a lot of attention right now, especially in Australia.

But the shitty way the labels treat the artists who created valuable art “which is worth something” is not an issue to the labels.

Years ago, the labels went to court against artists like Eminem, David Coverdale and Don Henley concerning digital royalties. The labels always paid low royalties on sales of music CDs and vinyl. However, “licensing” music (once upon a time licensing was for movies or commercials only), offered a higher payout to the artist.

The question the artists wanted to know was how is iTunes treated?

The labels said iTunes is a “sale” like a CD sale and the artist is paid the lower royalty rate.

The artists countered that iTunes is a “license,” like for a commercial, as the labels need to license their music to the tech service for the tech service to sell it. This in turn means the artists are meant to be paid the higher royalty rate of up to to 50%.

In the U.S the labels won at the district court level, while the artists won at the appeals court level.

Now this “sales vs license” scenario was relevant up to about 2011 as newer contracts the labels drew up afterwards avoided this problem. Basically, everything is a sale to the labels even the streams from streaming service all so the labels could rip off artists a little bit more.

Not sure if anyone noticed, but Def Leppard was also caught up in this dispute for years with their label, hence the reason why their music wasn’t on any streaming or digital service for a long time. Def Leppard even refuses to let their label license their music until they sorted out the payment issue.

And the big issue here is that the record labels really owe a lot of money to artists but they still put out lies that infringement is the biggest challenge they face while they go to court against the artists. But they still put out the propaganda that when they ask for longer copyright terms, it’s for the artists, when they ask for stream ripping sites to be taken down, it’s also for the artists. Basically everything the labels do is for the artists, except payments.

Furthermore, all the labels know that their power in the market is based on the content they hold. In this case, it’s the songs they hold on behalf of artists.

So the Copyright Act in the U.S gives creators the right to terminate a copyright grant they have given to a corporation after a 35-year period.

And of course there are a lot of artists who created works which ended up becoming very valuable, who want to reclaim their copyrights.

Basically artists who released music up to 1984 have put in claims to get their works back.

Then it will be 1985 releases and before you know it, the 1990s artists will want to their rights back. And if you grew up in this period, you know that there are a lot of great songs that make a lot of money, which the labels don’t want to lose control of and the artists who want to get those songs back under their control.

But the labels will not let it happen without a fight in the courts.

Universal Music Group (UMG) are going to court to dismiss the termination notices served against it. Sony is also trying the same tactic.

And they are using their own interpretation of the law which could bog down the proceedings for years while lawyers argue words in the Act and how they can be interpreted.

And the big thing the labels are sticking with is the “works for hire” principle which worked a treat for the movie studios.

Basically if an employee creates something as a work for hire, it means the employer is the owner of the work and the work can not be terminated. So the labels are basically saying that the artists are employees, which we all know is bullshit, because I am sure the artists didn’t get monies added to a pension fund or holiday pay and what not.

Also when the artist wrote that hit song, it wasn’t because they were an employee of the label, it was because they had an idea, either at band practice, or at soundcheck, or in their hotel room or bedroom.

But hey, I guess power corrupts and always wins. It’s time all of the artists started terminating their rights with the corporations.

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

Modern Day Rock Star

Game of Thrones was downloaded illegally 54 million times when the first episode from Season 8 came out.

Think about that for a second.

54 million illegal downloads for one episode. “Game Of Thrones” is the modern day definition of being a rock star.

In the same way fans waited for the release of a new album of music from their favorite artists, fans of the Game Of Thrones books and TV shows are eagerly awaiting the release of each episode of the final season plus the next novel installment.

How did it get like this?

How did a TV show and a book replace rock and roll in the public conversation?

By taking risks and nothing being off limits.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Game of Thrones. It didn’t start off with huge numbers and viewership. Because of greed the show was behind paywalls, so it became popular among illegal downloaders. This was built with each season and each episode. As it grew in illegal downloads, it also grew in legal viewership. As a byproduct, the books sold even more which in turn led to more money in the long term and a bigger TV show and a bigger budget.

And for book writer George RR Martin this is bitter sweet, as he wrote stories (which got rejected) for decades before Game Of Thrones became a hit.

Meanwhile, Hollywood is complaining about their low box office returns, as they still go about doing things the old way with cinematic releases and Netflix does things the new way and is cleaning up with viewership.

Videogames outgross movies, Netflix does better than Hollywood and streaming services have put billions back into the recording industry but there’s still no respect to these services. Just ask legacy creator Steve Spielberg who wants Netflix movies banned from being considered for Oscars.

Netflix knows that views are more important than cash, and they also know fans of art have no problem paying to suit their convenience. Going to a cinema at a predetermined time for prices ranging between $13 and $18, paying top dollar for popcorn and drinks and enduring people’s chewing or wrapper noise or talking and all of the other bullshit, well that’s not convenient anymore and society has changed a lot from when going to cinemas was seen as a social hang.

Then again, I took the kids to watch “Avengers: End Game” and it felt like the past, with lots of people, no car spots available and a buzz about what was on offer.

But, like in music, the war is over and Netflix won.

But artists and songwriters are still complaining about the royalty payments they receive from their streaming service, which they seem to forget that the streaming service in most cases will pay their label or publisher, who will then pay them?

Did these artists forget how their label went to war against Napster and then refused to license Spotify to the point that YouTube (which pays less) got traction?

Did these artists forget the advance payment they got from the label and how the labels creative accounting arm is ensuring that the artists stays in the minus, while the label gets the larger share of the streaming payments?

And if you are a creator with dreams of reaching critical mass, well you are contending with streaming platforms churning out content, video games, smartphone makers, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat and the millions of other creators trying to make it, just like you.

Plus a TV show.

Standard