Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

It’s Here and Then It’s Gone

My son wanted to play “Domino” from The Night Flight Orchestra. It is on their “Amber Galactic” album released a few years back.

He went to Spotify search, typed in the band name, when into their account, clicked on discography and couldn’t find the album. He went to his saved playlist of TNFO on his Spotify account and the album wasn’t there anymore. For reasons only known to the band and their label, the “Amber Galactic” album is not on Spotify Australia for Premium Subscribers to enjoy. It was here and then it was gone.

Even though I have purchased the CD, it’s basically remained in its plastic wrapping, and it’s a purchase made because I am a collector of bands I like, not because I want to play the CD and look at the artwork and lyrics. Hell, I don’t even know what the booklet looks like inside.

And the decision by artists to remove their music from Spotify or any other streaming service is wrong. It’s even more wrong when one streaming service has it and another doesn’t. What is even more wrong then all of the above, is that YouTube has the full album, and it pays less and torrent sites have it available for download in mp3 and FLAC, and they pay nothing.

But Spotify started in Sweden, by a Swede and here we have a Swedish band pulling their product from it. Even though the streaming company has turned the recording business around, they still are the punching bag for many.

And the loser here is the fan, who does the right thing, takes up the legal alternative, only to feel short changed or as my son said, ripped off.

Remember if the artist has no fans to connect with, they have nothing and the label has nothing.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity

What Does Democracy Look Like?

While the rich pay for their kids to get into college and use other paid people to pass exams for them, the real and proper generation are out on the streets protesting about climate change and gun reform.

And people might say the Universities admissions scandal is a U.S problem, well it’s not. Trust me, there are plenty of wealthy people from other countries who have bribed University officials to get their children in. Hell, in Australia we even have judges applying the same rules of law differently to wealthy children compared to poor children.

In relation to climate change demonstrations, it’s happening world-wide.  Brexit and all of the crap that comes with it, about millions being lost to the economy means nothing to the next generation. The Wall that Trump wants to build means nothing to them. The state and federal government elections in Australia coming up means nothing to them at the moment, because if the world is not fit for living in, what is the point.

The days of tax cuts to sway voters are over. There is a new voter base in town, and they don’t wear the same clothes as their parents did. It’s about the environment, it’s about feeling safe and it’s about having a home to call your own.

They are showing what proper democracy looks like. Something that their parents have forgotten as they got too comfortable with life, concerned about keeping their job, making that mortgage and credit card repayment and ensuring that all the utility bills are paid.

Did you know that 90% of people live within their comfort zone in such a small crowded circle?

Well the next generation wants to change that. They want to change the status quo. If these old and out of touch politicians believe they have a chance at victory at the next election, well think again. Those 10% who live outside their comfort zone will grow even greater and we will have another defining moment like the 60’s revolution.

And the Governments better watch out when that happens.

These climate change protests started because of one person. A 15 year old Swedish girl called Greta Thunberg, started a solo protest in Sweden in August 2018. This movement by one person striking from school for one day, will have almost 2000 cities striking today.

And it’s needed. The weather is too severe. Summer is not summer anymore, its death by humidity. The rains are not just rains anymore, its flash flooding or severe flooding. Hail is not hail anymore, as they come down in clumps the size of tennis balls and cause severe damage. Everything is changing, except the politicians viewpoint on climate change or the viewpoint of the rich when it comes to getting their dumb kids into Universities.

And right now I feel the need to listen to “Little Fighter” from White Lion.

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

More File Sharing Equals More Music…

One of the main points of organisations or people who support stronger copyright laws and enforcement is the lies that stronger copyright laws act as an incentive for people to be creative or to make art. About 10 years ago, these lies appeared everywhere. What the public didn’t know, was that these organisations had a seat in the Government Policy room, to negotiate a range of bills in secret.

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) got introduced in 2011 in the US Senate for discussion. In January, 2012, people held protests in the streets and online about these bills which would put too much control of the internet into the hands of corporations and governments. Eventually, these bills didn’t pass. TPP was written in secret with the corporations, and it got passed without discussion, only for Trump to squash it and come out with another act, even better for the Corporations.

One thing throughout it all that hasn’t dropped off, is the creative output of people. There is so much more content being produced and created right now than ever before. And the consumers have choice, and a lot of it.

Multiple studies have shown that even though there was a massive increase in infringement once upon a time, at the same time there was also a large increase in creative output as well.

And of course, people will associate output versus money made. Like the way Gene Simmons did when he said “Rock is dead”. Some people create art purely for money. Others create art because they want to create or have a need to create. Money will come, merely as a by-product of creating art.

When the record labels acted as gatekeepers, they could put money behind artists and develop them. It used to happen and some labels did it better than others. But that boom in the 80’s, is not because the labels developed artists, it’s because those artists developed themselves outside the sphere of the record labels.

No one can say that a record label developed Twisted Sister, Motley Crue or even Quiet Riot. Even Metallica did their first album independently and had a cult live following before Elektra came in to sign them for “Ride The Lightning”.

For artists that had break out success in 1986, like Bon Jovi and Europe, I would say, yes, they got developed by the label and got the green light for a make or break third album.

Economist Joel Waldfogelm, did some research a while back.

He wanted to see if the rise in sharing had any drop off on the new music being produced. And the research said, no, as new music was being created continuously. However, the record labels claimed otherwise, a claim not based on evidence.

in my opinion, the study also debunked what Gene Simmons said, about “rock being dead”. Gene’s comments circled around how file sharing and streaming meant that no new acts are being developed and able to grow and release quality albums. In fact, the study finds no support for that claim.

The study looked at the best of lists on popular websites for each decade from the 80’s and found on average, about half of the best-of albums since Napster are from artists whose recording debut occurred since Napster.

The study even went further to check how many albums in the 80’s are from artists from the 70’s and how many are from artists who had their debut in the 80’s. And guess, what, the numbers match the post Napster numbers.

How can that be if no artist is being developed?

Basically, there is no evidence that new artists are no longer being developed or are not creating high quality, successful music. Then again, the great artists didn’t need an A&R rep to develop them. They had their own drive and their own motivations.

But the labels have great PR writers and they sure know how to spin a story, along with the publishers and the movie studios. But their theories are not backed by independent research evidence.

The big difference between pre and post Napster is that most of the new musicians are coming from independent DIY artists, rather than the majors. And the labels don’t like this. And they are taking money away from the legacy artists when it comes to recorded music but the legacy artists still make coin on the live circuit.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Moral Panics

Back in 2011, I started writing all these blog posts from articles I read that I had a laugh with, or disagreed with, or had a reaction to. And I felt they were unfinished to publish or I just didn’t have the balls to put my views out there, but I saved them anyway.

My digital saving life is no different to how people just keep physical items, but for me, a physical item will be thrown away to reduce clutter, but anything I create, I store away digitally, like it matters or means something. Once I am gone, who knows what happens to our digital lives stored in clouds and email accounts.

In 2011, there was an article I read, called “Track Piracy Is Killing The Music Business…. In 1976” over at a site called Techdirt. At that point in time, Spotify was still in the stages of gaining approval from the record labels to operate in America (it actually kicked off in July 2011).

And while the labels bogged down the negotiations to get a stake in the company, YouTube silently became the number one streaming service and it still is to this day. And it’s all because YouTube offers the users exactly what Napster offered its users back in 1999. A chance to share their love of culture, with others.

So while the labels negotiated a billion dollar deal that no artist would ever see the terms too (even though the labels had this bargaining power because of the copyrights they held from the artists), it really was funny to read the moral panic put out there by the labels and their lobby group RIAA.

Of course, every generation sees that moral panic it a bit different.

In the early 1900’s, the player piano was killing live music and the music industry along with it. Then from the late 60’s, the tape recorder and home taping was killing music and the recording industry along with it.

Then in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the MP3 player and mp3 was deemed to be killing the recording industry. At one stage, the mp3 player was deemed illegal. To make, sell and buy guns and knives was legal, but to make, sell and buy an mp3 player was illegal. Imagine how much money the lobby group of the labels would have donated (bribed) to the politicians to get that law passed.

Then in the early 2010’s, it became about streaming and how its payments to artists is killing the industry.  With every moral panic, the industry has survived, because in the end people gravitate to something that connects and they share their love of it. While all of this was happening, unknown to many, concert tickets increased at a rate triple the inflation rate.

Netflix said recently that they are not competing with other streaming providers but with Fortnite for peoples attention. At least they get it. It’s easy to be ignored and when that happens, what’s next. We are saturated with choice and it’s a good thing. For those who remember growing up, with three channels on TV, the current world is exponentially better for choice.

So what does all this mean for the artist?

Remember when Cheap Trick’s album from 2009, “The Latest”,  came out on 8-track as a unique marketing promotion, with the offer to download the digital tracks at a price lower than the standard iTunes price. Well it was a cool gimmick because it got the band back into the conversation. I also remember reading, how the guys we’re worried about being ignored than being ripped off, when the interviewer asked them about giving their digital tracks away for such a low price.

In other words, obscurity is a bigger fear than piracy. Just ask those artists who are part of the group of 30 million songs who have never been heard on Spotify.

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

The Artists Live Forever

The artists have the power. They are the ones who write and record the songs and provide something of value.

So why are the rights holders of the artist’s works (otherwise known as the Copyright Holders, aka, the Labels and Publishers) organizing deals with ISP’s, the Courts, the techies and the Government. These bodies would not have any power if the artists never sold away their power in the first place.

If anyone should be organising deals it should be the ARTISTS/PERFORMERS with the USERS/CONSUMERS first and then with all of the other organizations who make money from their music.

But a lot of artists go about it without a plan.

Or it’s a plan with drama, telling the fan or borderline fan, how hard they worked on the newest album, the cost to them emotionally and financially and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into their newest work. It’s like they want to guilt the consumer into paying for their product.

Or some do it effortlessly, without drama. Both systems work, as it depends on the consumer, how they react or the surplus of funds they have left to spend on entertainment.

And it’s a choice, artists need to make.

And because of money, you start to get artist’s giving their fans what they believe the fans want, so that they don’t lose them. But they seem to forget that the fans came into their lives when they wrote songs when they had no fans. Those songs written meant something personal. Songs written with money as the motive or with the aim of critical mass public acceptance don’t end up getting there. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was written when Dee Snider was still struggling to make it.

Hit songs/albums are not made by label marketing or an artist telling the world it is their best work. They are made by cultures of people that connect with the song and then share their love of that music with others.

I remember “Pornograffiti” from Extreme got no press in Australia and it sold. The follow up “III Sides To Every Story” had a scorched earth marketing policy and while I dig the album, it did nothing in the land of Oz.

Geffen promoted Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Guns N Roses, Roxy Blue and Galactic Cowboys heavily in 1991/92. It was a simple scorched earth marketing policy. Spend money and see what sticks.

But who cares who ran Geffen or worked in AOR. Will people remember Whitesnake or John Kalodner or Dave Geffen?

We know that Metallica released the Black album. Would people care on what label it was on?

We sing along together at a Bon Jovi concert. Do we care or know that it was Polygram who released “Slippery When Wet”?

So while record label people come and go, artists remain, as their music lives forever. But the label heads want to be ones that live forever and all because artists give away their rights and power to them.

And artists need to be creating. These stupid perpetual Copyright laws made artists lazy especially artists who made some dough, during the era when the record labels controlled the distribution.

If you don’t believe me, how many albums of new music did Jimmy Page do after Led Zeppelin disbanded?

From memory, two albums with The Firm, one solo album, a Coverdale Page album and one Page Plant album as the other album was Led Zep songs reworked in acoustics. A total of 5 albums in almost forty years.

The artists are in charge. They need to know that. They can post their tunes to streaming services and make coin, provided they care about making connections with fans.

And it’s exciting.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Burn

We got a blackout. My kids haven’t been through one before. Actually my kids don’t know how good they’ve really had it, because everything works without fail.

As a kid growing up, blackouts happened a lot and then the infrastructure became stable and they stopped. But the storm passing through was crazy and the infrastructure is now old, unable to cope with the demand of a growing population.

And man, our weather in Australia has been even crazier. We get hot, humid days and then a crazy storm in the afternoon. Sometimes hail and cyclonic winds. We used to get these kinds of days before, sporadically, but these days, it’s every fucking day.

We’ve basically become a tropical climate across all parts of Australia, but hey, according to the the politicians who do the bidding for the corporations, our world is fine. All of the damage the Industrial Age has done to our environment is nothing because their bottom lines look great.

At the moment we are sweltering through another extreme heat wave. The last heatwave a few weeks ago brought a dust storm with it and so did the one a few weeks before that.

And I’m thinking of a city ablaze, a town on fire and how the woman who foretold it, we called her a liar.

Time for some Deep Purple.

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Copyright, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

The Hard Reality When You Rely On Others To Build Your Dream

You are in a band and yet get signed. The record label isn’t really known for promoting heavy metal music, but hey, a recording contract is a recording contract and without it, you cannot move forward in your quest for global stardom.

Other bands who play a similar style have already released their albums and are starting to make headway. Meanwhile, the label keeps you in the studio, writing and recording demos before they give the green light for an album to be made.

Those “competing” bands are now onto album number 2 and 3 and your label is watching those other bands with interest, while telling you to write more songs that sound like this band and that band.

They are grooming you to be the labels competition to a band who is selling and making coin on the live circuit.

Then when you are ready to launch your assault, the label is sold to another label and you are dropped from their roster because you are unproven.

What do you do?

Do you pack up, head home and get a job or do you stick to it and restart again?

Not all members have the same drive and hard work ethic to try again, so they leave, replaced by other members with ambition that hasn’t been crushed by a record label.

“We were on MCA (record label) for three records and they were grooming us to be their version of the metal thing in the scene (like Metallica) and we got to a certain point where they’re ready to launch us on the world and then they got bought out by a bigger corporation and all the bands that they had never heard of before they just got rid of. We were one of those bands.

They were grooming us to be something big, [and] then we just got dumped for no reason at the last minute. That was kind of a big, emotional hit for us, I think. It knocked us back down to earth and we had to decide whether we were doing this for the love of music or if we were doing this for the wrong reasons.”

Flotsam and Jetson frontman Eric A. Knutson

And even when you released albums with a major label, it doesn’t mean that you got paid millions.

“After certain amount of time on a major label like Elektra, you find out how the business works, which in our particular case it was not working in our favour, you learn the definition of the word recoup.

And then you realize there is no way you can make any money unless you break big like Metallica but until then you are operating in Debt and you will never break out. Everybody gets paid first and the band gets paid last. I have the publishing which are not much money but no other royalties.

We are still in debt on the first few albums. Not only that but it’s tough to find out how much debt or profit after all these years. They send statements that you can’t read unless you are a lawyer, so I just wrote it off.

Your in debt for tour support, your in debt for videos, your in debt for everything and those are the reasons why I really like the new music business, there is more good about the new music business than there is bad. It’s more direct artists to fans and us old guys can still have a career.”

Metal Church guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof

In a game that has Corporations acting as gatekeepers, the decks are stacked against the artist unless for some reason a band connects on so many levels that they have the power to demand a better deal.

And when gatekeepers control everything, they also control the legislation which gets passed, filling the pockets of politicians to protect their business models with basically perpetual copyright terms and what not.

But artists are fighting back. Bryan Adams is pushing for Copyright reform in Canada.

He wants a better copyright arrangement that benefits the artists. He argues against longer copyright terms, as they only benefit and make money for the record labels and the collection agencies and not the artists.

Adams wants a shorter reversion term so after a period of time, the artist should have their copyrights returned to them. Adams also states that long copyright terms have no benefit to the creators.

As I’ve said many times on this blog, basically, no one decides to start creating because copyright terms are not long enough. They create because they need to create.

And Adams lays it out that it’s the record labels and publishing houses who lobby hard for longer copyright terms, not the artists.

He even mentioned how Government committees set up to assist artists have a committee made up of record label and publishing people and no artists.

Van Morrison said that when his third album “Moondance” was released, he was paid $100 a week to survive and he earned no money from the album, because the people he trusted signed away his rights for the first three albums to Warner Bros, pocketed the money and Van Morrison got a weekly wage in the process.

And to top it off, for Morrison to get a higher wage, he had to join a Union for session players. So imagine that, Van Morrison had to be a session singer on his own fucking album. He got paid as a session singer instead of an artist. And in order to get paid he had to submit a shitload of forms and then wait for payment.

But he learned from it, has more control and is 40 albums deep into his career.

And you know what he said, when the interviewer asked what drives him to create.

He replied back with “It’s what I do.”

He didn’t mention it’s because copyright terms last 70 years after his death.

It’s because there is a need inside him to create and that is what drives him. Having an audience or the chance of an potential audience who cares, motivates him. Not copyright.

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