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

The Labels Complain Again

It’s typical of the recording industry to complain about anything which benefits the consumer. They seem to forget that the profits they make is due to a relationship between the artist and the consumer. There is a zero relationship between the record label and the consumer. From the consumers point of view, the record label doesn’t even exist in their mindset.  

So the labels license their music to various streaming services for a fee and then pocket the majority of the multi-million fee instead of spreading it to the artists, because hey, why would the labels compensate the artists, since it’s the works of the artists that give them the negotiating power at the table.

Apple is considering putting a bundle together that incorporates Apple Music and Apple TV. More subscribing customers who normally wouldn’t subscribe to a music subscription would increase the pool of money. But then again, how many people would give up their Netflix and Spotify subscriptions for an Apple Entertainment bundle. We wouldn’t know because no one does their due diligence. For the record, I wouldn’t give up my Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime subscriptions for an Apple bundle.

So all of this is based on feelings. And somehow these feelings from the label executives that they will be ripped off are not based on any research or evidence.

Read the article.

Of course, the labels will sell the story that if they lose money, then it would have a flow on effect to the artist. But the labels haven’t been losing money for the last 5 years, so why aren’t the artists getting paid.

And artists bash up Spotify, but no one is speaking up about these bundles that Apple is proposing.

There is a blog post over at Seth’s Blog about ways to grow. It basically states that if you persist and get the word out, you will be the same. There will be no growth. This is the record label model, do what they have always done.

However to grow, they need to change something, like enter a new segment, earn trust or do work that matters to someone.

But it’s hard to grow and help the artists when the label executives are dragged kicking and screaming into a new segment.

Steve Jobs convinced EMI to sign on for $0.99 mp3 digital downloads and the rest came, only after years of negotiations. It took 3 years for Spotify to be licensed in the U.S. and during that time, YouTube became the unofficial streaming provider. And then again, they had to get a stake in the company in order to give the approval.

Artists really need to have a look at what they are signing away, because the label doesn’t care for you at all.

If they did, they would be proud to enter new market segments which could lead to more income. Instead they are scared to lose what they have, so they persist and do more of the same.

Complain.

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My Stories, Stupidity

Tournaments And Enemies

A few days ago I got back from a football tournament the kids played. The kids won two games and lost two games in the group, but their superior goal difference got them into second place and a Minor Semi Final game.

The Minor Semi game ended in a loss and the tournament was over. All good from my end, as the opposition proved to be a lot better individually and in any sport, when you have individuals losing the 1v1 battle, the problem compounds a lot all over the pitch.

And the lesson I got out of it as a coach, is to inspire the kids to work on their technical game outside of training, sort of like how guitarists practice on their own to get better and to also bring in a session that also aids their technical game. Because it’s these hard skills that need to be nurtured.

But the reason why I am posting this is because of one parent from 24 parents. There is always one parent who will cause trouble and the media that hate soccer/football will generalize it and say parents. Even coaches will apply the same viewpoint to all parents because of one parent.

Let’s call this parent “Snake”.

After the semi-final loss, “Snake” said that he asked his son, “what are the other kids thinking about the game”, and his son said that if the Goal Keeper plays with the Club again, he will leave.

The Goal Keeper’s parents (let’s call them “The Good People”) have BBQ’s and get-together’s with “Snake” and his family, however “Snake” is slithering and conniving to oust their son.

What a brilliant friend to have?

My first thought was to call “The Good People” over and ask “Snake” to repeat to them what he said to me, however “Snake” has this code name for a reason. He is very good at coming across authentic and sincere and when it comes time to be truthful, he will just slither away from it, making it a conversation about how the “Snake” didn’t say that versus mine, “yes you did say that”.

So that didn’t transpire, as a confrontation was the last thing I was looking for.

From my own point of view, I find it hard to deal with toxicity like this, and fake people.

And it got me thinking of “The Enemy” from Godsmack and the lyrics, “you’re another shit talking punk to me, you’re living inspiration for what I never wanna be.”

Communities thrive because of a communal spirit, with people helping each other and today, it feels like its everyone for themselves. In this instance, here is a man close to 50, conniving to kick out a 14 year old child in secret.

In other words, if I don’t select the child next year, I am the bad guy, and the “Snake” comes away unstained.

But the attitude of the children are so different.

The goal keeper is thankful for his opportunity, tries 150% and is respectful. Every time he turns up to training, he shakes my hand, and when it’s over, he shakes my hand again. The child of the “Snake” does none of that. And I am pretty sure, that the goal keeper didn’t want to make the mistakes that led to easy goals. No player/competitor walks out on the field with that viewpoint.

And with each loss, with each failing, there are lessons to be learnt. The “Snakes” child was missing in the game as well, however it looks like the lesson they got out of it, was to blame someone else, when the real lesson is that their child needs to improve, like all the rest of the children, and they need to do these improvements on their own, away from the 4.5 hours of training they do with me each week.

But its easier to blame, because what happened to one person, will never happen to the other person, not in quite the same way. And by relying on the story people tell themselves, the real truth is ignored.

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

The Power Of The Record Labels

It’s 1992.

Hard rock bands are becoming too generic and soulless, especially the newer breed from 1989 and onwards. The fans are looking for something new, but they still have their taste buds all over the hard rock/metal distorted cream.

Meanwhile, the labels are signing Seattle bands, left, right and centre, while they start dropping hard rock bands left, right and centre. Not only could the labels make an artist famous, they could also make an artist destitute. And back then, without the money and power of the label behind an artist, an artist would go unnoticed.

The power the record labels had to kill careers or to destroy styles of music.

So the artist would sign a deal and get a small royalty payment from the label. Today the artists would still sign a deal because they see the label as their ticket to riches, but instead the artists are now complaining of the low royalty payment of streaming services, but it is still the label keeping the lion share.

In other words, you give to get.

You give your rights to the label in order to get a chance at fame and riches. And there’s no use yelling at streaming services. They are not record labels, they are technology companies, using music to influence culture and grow their brand. Once their brand is big enough, they will do away with music.

Because seriously, which company wants to pay billions in licensing and be constantly in the courts?  

HBO paid billions in licensing, until it got to a stage where it was unfeasible and they had to start creating their own content. Netflix at first had only licensed content. And like HBO they saw that it was unfeasible, so they started investing in creating their own, and slowly doing away with the licensing.

Now, more than any time in modern recording history, an artist can do it themselves. They can record cheaply, distribute and get paid. So artists should build their own leverage and then they can decide what is next.

But we have lived in a world where the labels have controlled the narrative for way too long and MTV made everyone think that if they learnt how to play an instrument they will be rich and famous. The majority still hold this view and the minority that don’t, are the ones making it.

People talk up Record Day sales like they matter, when only the label is winning, while digital distribution can offer an artist new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries or rural areas. The end result is growth across the board. Nowadays it’s about reaching as many people as possible and eventually the money will flow in if you do it right. That should have been the role of the labels but instead it’s up to the techies.

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

Greed

Greed threatens everything. The act of wanting more doesn’t work in a business built from emotions. People connect with music because it connects on an emotional level first. And not all connections are transactions. Sometimes it takes years for the music fan to spend money on an act.

So where are we at?

Years ago, in the land that introduced streaming, Swedish musicians sued the major labels Universal Music And Warner Music over streaming royalties. At the same time, major artists around the world also sued their labels over how they paid iTunes sales back to them. Eminem said it should be under the licensing rate (which is higher), while the labels argued that it should be under the sale rate (which is lower).

Then artists started filing “copyright termination” applications (which is legislated, that they are allowed to do so), however the record labels kept rejecting these applications and off to court the two parties went. Some artists won and others like Duran Duran lost. And some are still on going.

Because the labels don’t want to lose control of these rights as the more Copyrights they hold for popular songs, the more power they have at the negotiation table with the techies, so in return they get higher licensing fees, which they really keep to themselves. If the labels really cared about the artists, then they wouldn’t have put the masters of classic albums, plus the back-ups, in a tin shed with no climate control. And when it all went up in flames they employed subterfuge.

But when Napster came and the distribution gatekeeper got abolished, everyone said the major labels would fold. But instead they got more powerful because for any technological service to operate with music, they need to have a licensing agreement. YouTube has one, Apple has one, Spotify has one, Tidal has one, Pandora has one, Shazam has one and so on.

Which is a shame because of all the advances made, the major labels still operate with a business model rooted in the past. The majors still pay about 10% royalties to artists for digital income. The 10% average rate is based on the era’s when the record companies produced a physical product like vinyl or CD, stored it in a warehouse and then transported that product to a brick and mortar store. Of course at that time all of these steps in the process where accounted for.

However in the digital age, there is no need to even produce a physical product like a vinyl or CD, however the labels are still short changing their artists. If the streaming rates paid to the labels were so bad, trust me, the majors and the RIAA would be the first ones screaming theft.

Streaming services pay 70% of their revenues to music rights holders. How much of that money gets passed on to musicians depends on the terms of their contracts with labels.

If you are on a major label roster you should have followed the Def Leppard route. Due to the disagreements they were having on the digital payment terms with their label, they refused to let their label put their catalogue on digital services.

However, in order to cash in on the “Rock Of Ages” movie and the sudden interest in “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Ages”, they re-recorded these songs with the current band and released digital “forgeries” (as Def Lep called em) of these classics. But they did it on their own terms.

And when Def Leppard’s music finally hit streaming services, with the rate that they wanted, well there is no one really complaining about the rate?  

How did it get like this?

Once upon a time, the artists had the power. Read any bio from the 70’s and you’ll see how painful the artists were for the labels to deal with. And the artists never did what the label wanted. The label wanted hits, they wrote noise. The label wanted more like the last album, the artist went in a different direction. Then in the Eighties, the labels stole the power back through economics. With the rise in revenue due to the CD, it made the labels mega rich powerhouses. And MTV was also making artists into platinum starts. And the artists just fell in line. Because they couldn’t handle seeing an executive flying private on the monies earned from artists.

But artists today, can go it alone. Because it is the connection the fan has with the artist which is valuable.

And if more people are paying for a subscription service, then the overall pool of money grows. So if the artist is in control of their rights, then they will be paid forever. If they signed their rights away to the label, then the label will get paid forever and they will pay the artist some.

But there is always the temptation of promised millions right now to sign away your rights forever.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Release Day Friday Garbage

Spotify needs to sort out their algorithms. They really need to get serious music fans involved here.

Every week my Release Day Friday songs get hijacked by crap.

Check out these hip hop/dance artists the algorithm recommended today;

  •  M.O Flashy, Hurricane (because I follow the hard rock band Hurricane)
  • Dope (because I follow the hard rock band Dope)
  • Monteaga K, Asia (because I follow the supergroup Asia)
  • InQfive, Cresta, Heart (because I follow the band Heart)
  • Charlie Puth (because I have no idea)
  • Grant Burgess, Widowmaker (because I follow Dee Snider’s band Widowmaker)
  • Coby Ras, Rainbow (because I follow Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow)

From my understanding, these artists are collaborating with other artists called Hurricane, Asia, Heart, Widowmaker and Rainbow, who have the same names as artists I follow, but in different genres. Whatever the case, surely the algorithm can be tweaked to not screw up my feed with crap.

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

The More Things Stay The Same

Back in 1999, the record labels argued that they lost billions of dollars due to file sharing via Napster. They came up with this figure by saying that one file shared is the same as one lost sale. 20 years later, they are still exaggerating the same BS. And politicians get lobbied hard and suddenly there is legislation to support the record labels business models.

As internet speeds got faster, file sharing then started on movies and TV shows. Suddenly, politicians had even more money thrown at them to pass legislation from the movie studios. In democratic lands, ISP’s are forced to censor the internet, courtesy of the movie studios and music labels, which is no different to what dictatorship governments carry out on a daily basis. And when ISP’s don’t censor the internet, the movie studios and music labels take them to court for facilitating piracy. And while this is happening at the hands of the entertainment industry, the government themselves are stifling free speech by raiding the homes of reporters or by keeping eyes on the public through surveillance. ISP’s are also meant to store text messages, phone calls, web searches and tower pings on its customers.

So much for trusting the good guys.

Meanwhile, the music labels today are raking in billions courtesy of streaming (which started off as a legal alternative to peer to peer file sharing, which brought in $0). This shows, that if people are offered a legal alternative at a price which is right, they will take the legal option.

And those streaming billions were not there in the past. It took a tech company to create this revenue stream, while the record labels (the ones who should have been doing this) decided that the only way they could make money again is to get laws passed to protect old business sales model instead of innovating.

And an artist wants to have a label deal.

Why?

The labels don’t care about you and all they want is to lock up your copyright forever, because without the rights of songs, the labels have no power and if they have no power they cannot negotiate these huge licensing deals with streaming platforms.

Even the movie studios like Disney lobbied hard for laws to get passed to protect their old business models. Then Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Amazon came out with streaming services and brought in billions of dollars that were not there before. And now Disney is entering the streaming market. Enforcement doesn’t work but better legal alternatives do.

And the record labels still complain at the price of streaming. They reckon Spotify should charge more and also do away with the free tier, but are too gutless to bring out their own streaming platform and charge the money that they believe customers should pay. So they bash on Spotify or YouTube or Pandora.

And when politicians leave office, they get a nice cushy job for the very firms that lobbied them hard to introduce legislation in their favour. And this happens in democracy, which brings to mind the “One” video clip from Metallica and the scenes from the movie, “Johnny Got His Gun”.

Little Kid – When it comes my turn, will you want me to go?

Father – For democracy, any man would give his only begotten son.

We might want to re-think what the hell we are fighting for.

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

Who Should Watch Over The Royalties?

Last year, the Music Modernization Act became law, in an attempt to fix some aspects of Copyright. While it had a nice clause about moving some very old music into the public domain, the issue that got all the artists excited was the changes required to the mechanical licensing process for songwriters, making it easier for songwriters to get the royalties they are owed.

But.

In all the excitement no one thought to read the details. The law gives birth to a new collection society for these mechanical royalties. So companies/organizations had to submit their proposals to The Copyright Office. And the one that looks like it could win the “bid” (the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA)) is one of the organizations which caused part of the current mess with royalties.

In other words, it’s another system created to move money to the big music publishers and away from independent artists.

The publishers have the PR down, telling people how they represent all songwriters which is not quite true.

And independent songwriters make up 99% of the music business, but they are all confused about what is going on and what they need to do to collect their royalties. Trusting in organizations to do the right thing is not really a good business model. And in times of confusion, the one that benefits most, is the one in power, which is the NMPA.

As the Techdirt article explains:

There is a pot of unclaimed royalties that have already been paid by music services that is estimated to be between $1.5 and $2.5 billion.

With so much money at play, the new organization will need to create some fancy algorithms to match the monies to the songwriters. However, the new law also gives the new organization a POWER to distribute any unclaimed royalties to themselves after a three year period.

So how proactive do you think this new organization would be to find these independent songwriters?

And this kind of conflict of interest isn’t new. SoundExchange is a good example. In 2005, this new body was formed, a spin off from the labels to collect online royalties and by 2009 it had a lot billions of unclaimed royalties to couldn’t match, even to well known artists.

If the NMPA gets the green light from the Copyright Office they will control billions of dollars in royalties. It’s more power to the old legacy players.

As the are Techdirt article states, the biggest challenge to being a successful independent musician is not piracy, but rather the legacy industry getting in the way and keeping money it owes independent musicians.

The Techdirt article.

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