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

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

Fragile Attention

If the stories are true, then Netflix has a debt problem. And we all know Spotify hasn’t turned a profit and neither has Pandora. Meanwhile, Soundcloud is for sale or closing up shop, depending on which stories you believe.

Will Netflix survive long enough to turn a profit?

I hope so. Their own catalogue keeps growing but does the money spent on original content turn into profits or is their debt due to infrastructure and network costs. The ISP’s charge Netflix (and all the other streaming providers) a lot of money and then they charge us to you use the internet and access Netflix. It’s a double dip of epic proportions. Netflix also has investors and shareholders that it needs to placate.

Radio is a perfect example of how it went from a format that broke acts and drove culture to a format that focused on profits to please shareholders.

Gyms make their money from customers who pay and never use the facility. However, the customers who are at the gym for 4 hours a day end up costing the Gym in the long run.

Is this the same deal with Netflix?

Streaming services might have 100 million subscribers, however they might have only 2 million subscribers accounting for 95% of the usage.

Then again it’s been proven that the type of user you want is the person who uses the service daily instead of once a week.

Netflix lives in the current world, where everything’s instantly available, just a click away. But they have the same issue every other service and artist has. People can’t slow down their lives long enough to immerse themselves in their content at a rate they would like. If Netflix has this problem, imagine every up and coming musician.

And sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do. If someone doesn’t want to hear from you anymore, you’ve lost the ability to reach them. For a brief time, an artist or a service might have a person’s attention. However attention is fragile. In a monoculture, when we had 5 channels and gatekeepers, attention could last longer. However it today’s world, it’s gone within an hour, sometimes even a week.

Attention is fragile. We give it and then we take it away only to give it to something or someone else.

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

A Life’s Shadow Hangs

When is inspiration/influence just that and when is inspiration/influence copying? 

“Hallowed Be Thy Name” has six lines similar to “Life’s Shadow” from Beckett. 

Mark my words my soul lives on 
Please don’t worry cause I’ve have gone 
I’ve gone beyond to see the truth
When your time is close at hand
Maybe then you’ll understand
Life down there is just a strange illusion

– Beckett, “Life’s Shadow” (1974)

Mark my words, believe my soul lives on
Don’t worry now that I have gone
I’ve gone beyond to seek the truth
When you know that your time is close at hand
Maybe then you’ll begin to understand
Life down here is just a strange illusion

– Iron Maiden, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” (1982)

In a song that has many verses, is six similar lines copying or influence?

The fact both songs have similar themes about a person dying is irrelevant. There are thousands of songs that have that same theme.

In every case of copying, I am sure people could find hundreds of other songs that have something similar. Everything, in any artform, are ALL inspired by something or someone who touched on the same matter, subject or concept.

It is possible and part of music history to borrow without “stealing”. When ideas appear in ones mind, quite often they are unconsciously inspired by a piece of music the artist has heard. And it’s perfectly okay and very common to take an existing idea and turn it into something new. 

In the liner notes for Miles Davis “Star People” album, he mentions how the bass line in “Come And Get It” is taken from an old Otis Redding lick. And he even mentions how the chord sequence from “It Gets Better” was taken from a Lightning Hopkins song. Miles Davis basically took ideas from early blues recordings and turned them into something modern. What a brilliant concept.

Metallica took a progression and a feel from “Tom Sawyer” and used it for the Bridge section of “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”. Plus they took the whole intro/verse section from a Bleak House song called “Rainbow Warrior”. And the Metallica song sounds nothing like Rush or Bleak House in the end.

In the outro solo of “Runaround”, Eddie Van Halen quotes a piece of Paul Kossof’s classic solo from Free’s “All Right Now”. No biggie. This is seen as paying homage to his influence.

Michael Schenker took a David Gilmour lick from “Hey You” and used it in “Lost Horizons”. But the song and lead break sound totally different to what Gilmour did, and it’s the same notes and same phrasing. Exactly the same.

Black Crowes Rich Robinson took his Keith Richards influence “Twice As Hard”. The song is in Open G tuning, a staple of the Keith Richards rhythm guitar sound. The opening riff in the song is generic Keith and the end of the phrase is lifted right off “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin” from the “Sticky Fingers” album. I can just predict people bringing lawsuits against artists for using a certain tuning in the future.

Artists should be free to use their imaginations to recreate a song to suit their own vision.

Like Miles Davis, Steve Harris used his influences to create something new and modern and perfect for the era his band was in.

And here is a mash up of the two songs lyrics from me? 

Is it copying, stealing or unique enough to be original or original enough to show inspiration?

A Hallowed Shadow Of Life

See the people walking past
While I wait in my cell
And the bells begin to chime
On a life that doesn’t have much time

As I look in the mirror
A fallen angel is getting clearer

As the sands of time run low
One by one, people pass me by
Strangers of a world that has gone very wrong for me

Some breakdown and start to cry
When the priest comes to read me my last rites

Somebody please tell me I’m dreaming
As I walk, my life drifts before me
I’m trying to be strong
After all I’m not afraid of dying

Hear these words
For I have seen
My soul lives on
In your dreams
And even though I’m gone
I live beyond
For the truth is easy to see
When I am free

And I finally understand
The invisible hand
Turning life
Into a strange illusion

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

In The Courts Of The Streaming King

Legal streaming music is hurting. 

Streaming companies need to license music from the legacy players for a substantial fee and then pay royalties to these organizations when the songs are listened/viewed. And these organizations keep the bulk of these payments and pay cents to the artists they represent. 

Netflix has no problem growing its subscriber base and making profits, however it has its own content, which earned it over 90 Emmy nominations. And it’s monthly fees are identical to music subscription services, even though it costs a lot more to create a TV show or a movie than a song/album.

I don’t know what Spotify, YouTube and even Apple are waiting for. They need to get into finding their own artists and get them creating some kick ass tunes. While that will take years to come to fruition, investors of these companies want results now. There is no room in the investor mindset about profits 10 years from now. 

Recently Spotify has been hit with two more lawsuits about unpaid royalties. For a company that has licensing agreements in place with the record labels and performance rights organizations, they are still blamed for not doing enough in ensuring they have all the correct details of who wrote what song. The fact that the labels licensed songs to Spotify and didn’t have the song writer details properly recorded is totally okay to the song writer. Because to them, it’s Spotify’s fault. 

Spotify should just remove the music from latest complainers from the service and seek compensation from the label, because in the end, it was the label who took the licensing money and gave Spotify access to the songs in question. 

Or Spotify should seriously consider shutting up shop in the U.S. 

And the labels/publisher’s believe people will just return to purchasing physical music. 

They won’t. 

There was a reason why Napster was popular and close to 20 years later, the mega corporations who get rich off government granted monopolies still haven’t figured it out. 

And speaking of music not on services, here are a few more albums I tried to listen to recently that I couldn’t find on Spotify. Is it Spotify’s fault or the labels fault or the artists fault? 

David Coverdale

His three solo albums “White Snake”, “Northwinds” and “Into The Light” are not on Spotify Australia. 

Beckett

The band that Maiden borrowed from is not on Spotify, albeit two songs on a British prog album collection.

Adrenaline Mob

After listening to their new album, “We The People”, I wanted to listen to the debut album “Omerta” and found it’s not on Spotify Australia. Another great decision by record labels from denying paying customers music.

Kansas

Their albums with Steve Morse on guitar are not on Spotify, Australia. I have “Power” and “In The Spirt Of Things” on LP, however I was at work and I wanted to listen to the albums.

Scorpions

There is a lot of Scorpions music missing from Spotify Australia. “In Trance”, “Take By Force”, “Tokyo Tapes”, “Lovedrive”, “Animal Magnetism”, “Blackout”, “Love At First Sting” and “Savage Amusement” are all missing. Their 90’s output looks a bit hit and miss as well, however I don’t know all of those albums enough to comment if they are all there.

Frankie Miller

His 1982 album “Standing On The Edge” is not on Spotify and it’s one of my favourites. A few songs appeared in Thunder Alley, the movie about a farm boy who wanted to be a rock star but needed to work on the farm. So he goes to watch his ex-bands gig and their guitarist is passed out, so he grabs the guitar and plays.

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

Streaming and Distribution 

I believe that it’s an excellent time (on the current state of the music scene). I feel that there’s so much out there for people to pick from and choose from its phenomenal. I mean and guitar playing is at such a high level right now. I mean these younger generations are just taking it to a point where you know it’s beginning to explore places that people have never gone before, it’s just fascinating. And the music itself too, you can pick a genre and find so much great music in every genre. People are just pushing the envelope in all directions, so I think it’s very gratifying and satisfying. It’s a little challenging to pick through I mean from this thing back in the day when I was growing up there’s like a half a dozen or 10 big giant great bands that are super groups you know. Now it’s like there are thousands of bands. Picking through everything is hard. It’s stressful trying to find all the right music you know.
George Lynch 

Today, noise reigns supreme. For the ones who have financial backing, they surround us with their nuclear blast marketing. And in most cases people ignore them.

But it’s still a good time for an artist to get their product out. Actually it’s the best time.

For the record labels, they are still trying to get control over the distribution chain after losing it to Napster and other peer to peer file sharing programs. At the moment, technology companies have it and if the labels kill the streaming grape vine, they hope to bring the distribution chain under the record labels. 

Streaming has three main players. Spotify, Google and Apple.

Spotify is losing money each year and relies on investments. The record labels owe a piece of it but they are not investing in it. YouTube is owned by Google (well their parent company) and the record labels hate Google, blaming it for all of their ills. The “take it or leave it” deal with YouTube is not what the labels want, so they lobby hard to get laws passed which can cripple Google. Apple uses music to push sales of wares. However, even Apple is going to the table to get a lower payment rate back to the labels.

Going back to Spotify.

Since it has money woes and it cannot make a profit, it’s offering payola terms back to the record labels to have their music chucked into playlists for a fee. Because taking in money from users and advertisers is not enough to make money in music if you don’t have your own popular content bringing in money. And the labels are getting paid handsomely twice from each streaming provider.

  • Spotify pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • YouTube pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Pandora pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Apple pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Tidal pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.

I think you get the drift. Maybe that’s why Spotify is paying producers to be fake artists and play popular songs on piano for people to listen to.

And to top it off, the record labels are still using the 100 year old rule of geo restrictions when it comes to streaming. So music available in the U.S doesn’t necessarily equate to being available in Australia. Here is a quick list of albums I tried to call up in the last two weeks on Spotify Australia which are not available;

  • Heaven And Hell – The Devil You Know, released in 2009
  • Stryper – Murder By Pride, released in 2009
  • Three Days Grace – Life Starts Now, released in 2009
  • Night Ranger – Midnight Madness, released in 1983
  • Europe – Europe, released in 1983
  • Helix – No Rest For The Wicked, released in 1983

Isn’t it nice how record labels treat legitimate paying customers?

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