Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Prices Go Up, Innovation Goes Down

Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google have a monopoly on the market and when this occurs, we no longer have a choice, so prices would eventually go up. As much as I love using Spotify, what do you reckon is going to happen when it reaches critical mass and they have a monopoly on the market.

The monthly price would go up, as history is only too keen to tell us.  And when prices go up, innovation ceases and the consumers are then left with no voice and we then silently wait for the next revolution to take away this monopoly. Of course a key role of our governments is to make sure monopolies don’t exist, but everytime they pass a piece of legislation, they more or less give rise to monopolies. Don’t even get me started on the copyright monopoly mess governments have created.

Spotify, as much as I like using the service, gets on my nerves because it can’t distinguish the difference between artists with the same names. On my recent release radar I had “new releases” from dance acts called Tesla, Keel, Vandenberg, Exodus and Badlands. I like and follow the ROCK and METAL bands, not these crappy dance artists.

Even Kingdom Come’s Spotify profile is corrupted with music from another act called Kingdom Come which has nothing to do with Lenny Wolf’s version and their styles are completely different. So for all Spotify’s innovation, they fail on the most basic task. Keeping the acts unique, regardless of similar names.

Also, I still cant understand how acts can have some of their albums on the service but not the other albums in this day and age. Night Ranger’s biggest albums are not on the service. Y&T’s Geffen output is not on the service. Yngwie Malmsteen and Cinderella had their music on the service and some of their definitive albums from the 80’s are now absent. I don’t believe this is Spotify’s fault. The blame is on the artist or their label or some contractual clause over what monies are owned.

And while I type this, I got an email from Netflix saying my monthly subscription is going up to $13.99. The reasons for the increase was a one line paragraph, saying “to keep on delivering the best service possible”. So I’m working the numbers through in my mind. I might watch a TV series once every 3 months because of the time investment needed. The last one I watched was “Altered Carbon” and that happened over 10 days, and I started “The Rain” three weeks ago and I’ve only watched one episode.

So the price increase based on what I watch is not worth it in my mind. My kids rarely put it on anymore as they are hooked on Fortnite and YouTube videos of people playing Fortnite. Yep, you’ve read that correctly. It doesn’t make sense to me either.

But like all technology companies, once you reach critical mass, the price goes up. Maybe it’s time to reassess my financial commitments to these organizations.

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

Defenders Of The Copyright Faith

In 1998, the US Congress passed the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) which extended the 1976 Act’s terms of life of the creator plus 50 years after death to life of the creator plus 70 years after death. The CTEA also increased the extension term for works copyrighted before January 1978 that had not already entered the public domain. Basically under this act, works made in 1923 or afterwards that were still protected by copyright in 1998 would not enter the public domain until 2019 or later.

You can see how this little act changed copyright law to benefit the corporation. It’s nickname is the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, because Disney lobbied hard for this extension to protect Mickey Mouse, who made his debut in 1928. Of course, sane people argued that long copyright terms don’t provide any incentive for the creator to produce more works.

Remember that TPP (Trans – Pacific Partnership) deal that was negotiated in secret when Obama was in power, Trump then killed it and then Trump brought it back bigger and nastier. Well, there was a clause in there, where the US is saying to nations, if they want to be part of this partnership, they need to change their Copyright laws to be the same as the US.

Of course, the Movie Studios and Record Labels argued that by lengthening copyright terms they would invest more in creating content. As I’ve said before, when a person sits down to create, they do not go to themselves, “Geez, thanks to Copyright Terms being extended to 70 years after I’m dead, I have an incentive to create”. The creator sits down and creates because it is a need to do so in their life. There is no movie studio or record label investment when the creator first creates. It is just the creator fulfilling a need to create.

But corporations who control the copyrights of works are addicted to copyright term extensions and here we are in 2018, 20 years from 1998 and guess what is happening again.

Yep that’s right, US Congress looks like it is going to please the corporations instead of the public.

Little do people know that there was a court challenge to the 1998 extension and the Court rejected the challenge because they did believe to think that Congress would need to extend terms anymore. As the Wired article states;

After all, with a term of 95 years for work created before 1976, and life of the author plus 70 years for work beginning in 1976, how much more time could possibly be needed?

But guess what, buried in the otherwise harmless “Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act” is a few words which would give organisations (yes, corporations) the right to control music recordings made before 1972, up until 2067.

As the Wired article states,

“These recordings would now have a new right, protected until 2067, which, for some, means a total term of protection of 144 years. The beneficiaries of this monopoly need do nothing to get the benefit of this gift. They don’t have to make the work available. Nor do they have to register their claims in advance. That this statute has nothing to do with the constitutional purpose of “promot[ing] Progress” is clear from its very title.”

The worrying part is what does this mean for the future. As the Wired article further states;

“If this bill passes, we can expect other copyright owners to complain about the “unfairness” in the gift given to the creators of legacy recordings. And in the clamber to harmonize with this 144-year term, a swamp of extensions is certainly on the way. No doubt, the beneficiaries of these gifts will be grateful to Congress, and show their gratitude in the campaign-finance-ways of Washington. Equally without doubt, this is not what a system meant to “promote the Progress of Science” was ever intended to be.”

Yep, creators are so lucky to have these kinds of organisations looking out for them.

It takes artists a while to understand, but they don’t need a record label these days. Nikki Sixx on Twitter recently said that the best industry lesson he learned was that Motley Crue didn’t really need a record label after the first two albums. And this antipathy towards labels ended up with Motley Crue getting their rights to the Masters back in 1998 from Elektra.

And then you have instances where artists need to sell their songwriting credits because of bad business decisions. K.K. Downing, founded Judas Priest. He left the band in 2011 due to issues with the other members and he purchased a golf course, which is now into administration. As part of bankruptcy, Downing needs to sell the rights to 136 songs he co-wrote. According to the article, these songs generate $340K to $400K in royalty payments annually.

So remember Downing has a copyright on his works. This copyright gives him a monopoly on his works so he can earn money from them, which in turn gives him an incentive to create. And now he needs to sell this right to someone or something (being a corporation). Yep, that’s exactly what copyright is for.

And then what about artists on album covers. Artists normally got paid a flat fee for their services to create/design an album cover. At the time of designing the cover, no one really knows the impact the album might have on culture. So is the artist to get paid extra when the album they designed the cover for broke through and sold millions. Case in point, Jethro Tull and the iconic “Aqualung” cover.

Read the article.

In the 70’s a young artist was hired by Chrysalis for $1,500 via a handshake deal to create three paintings to his style and content for Jethro Tull’s new album. The album went on to become Jethro Tull’s best-selling album, with over 7 million copies sold and so many anniversary editions issued. And apart from the great music, the album cover has become iconic, being re-issued on cassettes, CD’s, T-shirts and what not. And the artist who painted it, well, the label contends it was a “work for hire” agreement. And with no written contract, the label can say anything, so Chrysalis (now Warner Brothers) said the copyright for the paintings belonged to them.

As the article states, when it comes to artists and copyright law, it’s very messy, especially for famous works because the companies don’t want to lose their valuable rights to those works. So the answer always is for corporations to extend them. For how long will the public tolerate this, I don’t know. Countless people and organisations are out there protesting these extensions, but the public is still relatively silent. And it’s the public who are getting robbed.

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

Public Domain 2018

In the US and Australia, we don’t get nothing entering into the Public Domain. The US from next year (unless Disney, the MPAA and the RIAA lobby really hard) will get works released in the 1920s entering the public domain. For Australia, I think we had works up to 1955 in our Public Domain and then the law got changed to be plus 70 years after death, so we will not get any works into our public domain until 2026. And these works will be from 1956.

And the Copyright industries are still pushing hard for longer copyright term extensions because once the person who created the works to be under copyright passes, it’s the corporation who benefits.

Duke University has a cool list of what could have entered the public domain on January 1, 2018.

Now you need to remember, these works would have been in the Public Domain, under the Copyright Law that existed until 1978.

Basically all works from 1961 would be in the Public Domain this year.

“Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1961 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2018, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2057. And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in other countries are different—thousands of works are entering the public domain in Canada and the EU on January 1.”

Duke Public Domain 2018 webpage

So what books would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?

  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22
  • J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
  • Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  • William S. Burroughs, The Soft Machine
  • Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach

“The Soft Machine” by Burroughs broke all Copyright rules back then anyway as it was created by using the “cut-up technique,” where existing text from books got cut up and rearranged to create a new work.

The above books are but a fraction of what would be entering the public domain on January 1. And if they did enter the Public Domain, people would be free to use these books for whatever they want. Re-write their own versions of the books, modernise them, make them into space operas, make a film from them, create a stage play from them, write a concept album from the stories and so forth.

Instead, people from the U.S will have to wait until 2057 to have these works enter the Public Domain.

What films from 1961 would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • West Side Story
  • The Guns of Navarone
  • The Parent Trap
  • Splendor in the Grass
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
  • The Misfits
  • The Hustler

“If these films were in the public domain, you could use them in your own works, just as they used earlier works in theirs. West Side Story (music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents) was free to draw upon Romeo and Juliet because Shakespeare’s work was in the public domain. And as Judge Richard Posner observed, if the underlying works were copyrighted, “Romeo and Juliet itself would have infringed Arthur Brooke’s The Tragicall Historye of Romeo and Juliet . . . which in turn would have infringed several earlier Romeo and Juliets, all of which probably would have infringed Ovid’s story of Pyramus and Thisbe.” One work inspires another. That is how the public domain feeds creativity.”

Duke Public Domain 2018 webpage

While popular films have a larger shelf life and commercial life, 90% of films made are forgotten. The true tragedy is that these films are disintegrating while preservation libraries wait for their copyright terms to expire.

What 1961 music would be entering the public domain if the U.S had the pre-1978 copyright laws?

  • Patsy Cline’s classic Crazy (Willie Nelson)
  • Stand By Me (Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller)
  • Runaway (Del Shannon, Max Crook)
  • Let’s Twist Again (Kal Mann, Dave Appell)
  • Surfin’ (Brian Wilson, Mike Love)
  • Crying (Roy Orbison, Joe Melson)

Again, it’s just a sample; however you would be able to use the above songs in your own songs and perform them without permission or a fee. The same way the above songs used other songs as inspiration, you would be free to use them as inspiration. Instead these musical works remain copyrighted until 2057.

Like West Side Story, some of the hit songs from 1961 borrowed from earlier works. Elvis Presley’s Surrender (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) was adapted from the 1902 Neapolitan ballad “Torna a Surriento” (Ernesto and Giambattista de Curtis), and his Can’t Help Falling in Love (Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss) is derived from the 1784 French song “Plaisir d’amour” (Jean-Paul-Égide Martini).

Duke Public Domain 2018 webpage

A U.S Congressional Research Service study showed just 2% of works between 55 and 75 years old still make money. So for the sake of a few films and few corporations who benefits, the Public, which is millions upon millions strong is robbed.

“Locking up culture does no one any good, except for a small number of copyright holders on the few works that are still economically viable.”

Techdirt

The Public Domain Review page as a Class of 2018 article. Check out the class that should in the Public Domain all around the world, not just in some countries like the UK and Canada.

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

Copyright Rants 

Copyright is all over the news again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graham Henderson – Music Canada’s President

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

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

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

So let me get this straight.

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

35 years later. 

They are still in debt to the studio/label.

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

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

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

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

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Alternate Reality, My Stories, Treating Fans Like Shit

Movies

My wife really wanted to watch “Baby Driver” when it came out in the cinemas but after I saw the preview, I was a bit sceptical. There was nothing in the preview to entice me to go and watch it. So I did what any male would do, make excuses of being busy because going to the movies costs me a lot. Even though my kids would have no interest in the movie, they would scream and complain to come. As my eldest would say, it’s for the experience. So from buying two tickets, I would need to buy 5 tickets at $17.99 each. Then the kids want popcorn, drinks and my wife wants popcorn and ice cream and suddenly I am out of pocket by $100 plus. However, if I had the option to pay $9.99 and watch the flick at home instead of the cinema, I would have done it straight away.

Anyway, we finally watched “Baby Driver” a few days ago (at home) and it was totally crap. With the rating it has on IMBD and all the critics raving on about it, I expected a lot more even though the previews failed to deliver anything of interest. I know there is a huge car enthusiast market which will dig these kinds of movies, plus there is the anti-superhero market which will give everything else a try that isn’t a DC or Marvel property. “Baby Driver” capitalises on these two markets. But seriously, if “Baby Driver” is seen as a good movie by fans and critics that vote on IMBD, either the;

  • the movie industry is really in trouble or
  • the people who rate movies also have no idea or
  • I have no idea what’s a decent movie anymore

I know, I like a storyline that can be followed, with little backstories here and there that unfold as the main story moves forward. It’s the reason why TV is getting traction. Imagine the Godfather as a HBO show for 7 seasons, producing 10 hours of content each season comparted to the 9 hours of content over 3 movies. Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino are two directors and writers who make great movies with good scripts, great casting, great direction and a story a person can follow and be invested in.

So where are we at with the movie industry?

I hate going to the cinema, to have to deal with crowds, overpriced tickets and food and then have to sit through people talking, whispering or making a racket as they consume their food. While the “magic of film” worked once upon a time, the business model from the 1930’s is still the same. Here it is a nutshell;

  • Studio (via their own monies or investor monies) finances a movie.
  • Studio releases movie to cinemas
  • Studio expects people to line up, purchase a ticket and watch movie in cinema.

It still generates a lot of money for the blockbusters, but imagine how much it will work if people are allowed to watch the movie on the same day it’s released in cinemas at home via a streaming service or a special pay per view. I can hear the chorus of disapproval of how cinemas will shut down and how instead of selling 5 tickets to a movie, a family would pay only once to watch it from home (and there is a high chance they could invite friends and cousins as well).

People watch old movies and listen to old music, but getting these people to consume the new stuff is incredibly difficult, because the providers no longer understand the star system. For a while, the superhero was the franchise however the last few Northern Summer’s proves otherwise.

Everybody’s got a theatre at home and the only reason to go out and watch a flick in cinemas is to just go out, have maybe dinner before it and a few drinks after it. Instant access, in our own home is the new king in town. Netflix knows it and soon they will have the movie that seizes that market.

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

How the Labels and the RIAA Rob Creators?

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

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

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

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

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

How much do they get from YouTube per 1000 streams?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Outside The Conversation

Are the organisations like the record labels and the publishers doing their best for artists in the long term or are they just focused on the short term profits?

Customers of music showed the recording industry what choice brings to the conversation and the record labels ignored it. It wasn’t until a hardware company created iTunes and then a techie created a streaming service that customers started to get what they want.

Are the record labels and their lobby groups seeking useful outcomes in their fight against piracy or just short term wins?

Seriously, legislation to protect copyright and make the terms longer does not foster creativity. It only gives the current players a longer government granted monopoly.

What about how the record labels keep all the streaming licensing monies and give nothing back to the artists?

Some of the bigger artists might get a fee however the record labels are in this powerful bargaining position because of all the artists, not just the few. Then again, most people want the music of the few.

Is the record label policy of other people losing and them winning a good policy for artists and music in general?

It seems the record labels like to win. To them it’s a battle to get control back of things they lost. And they will do it through the courts and with legislation designed to protect their business model.

And if the record labels get control over the distribution chain and the recording industry goes back to the gatekeeper model of the past, do artists believe they will better off?

It’s easy to fall in love with the ideal of record labels getting artists to sign fair and equitable deals. Of course, that’s not how it works. And if there’s one organisation that hasn’t learned from past mistakes it’s the record labels and their lobby groups.

Instead of following a path that leads to better standards/outcomes for artists in the long term they seek a litigious path that only benefits them in the short term.

And what we have here is tribal identity at full force. Artists are emotional and they react to what is going on in a complicated world. In this case, the tribal identity set up by the record labels aligns itself with a downward spiral of selfish, short term actions. Fans are also emotional. Some attach themselves to the artist/creator point of view while others read wide and make their own choices.

And that’s the disconnect the industry is facing. Choice for fans to decide and make their own decisions and the power to demonstrate what they believe something should be worth.

No one wants to go deep anymore and unpack the facts. They’re too busy building out their identity online.

Trust me when I say this, there are fans who don’t pay for recorded music because they don’t believe they should, however these same fans have no problem coughing up $200 plus dollars for a concert ticket for a larger act and these same fans have no problems coughing up $20 to $70 for independent acts. It’s their choice how they choose to interact with music.

And then there are the fans who have large LP and CD collections, who don’t pay for music anymore, but still pay for concert tickets and what not.

And then there are fans like me who have large LP and CD collections and decided that streaming is the way forward. So I pay for a family account and I have no problems forking out cash for a concert ticket.

And then there are fans who have large LP and CD collections and have decided that purchasing physical is what they want to do. And these fans also have no problem paying for a concert ticket.

Life is fluid and we need to make choices every day.

This is the world we’ve arrived in. We’re dying for entertainment. The recording industry has never been more powerful. There’s all this crap about piracy, streaming rates and the techies taking over. But the techies make tools, not stories or music.

Life is a struggle for everyone, not just creators.

And our leaders have their own agenda while corporations pollute the conversation with their lobby dollars.

Why do you think they pay no tax and white collar crime corrupt bankers avoid jail?

Someone always thinks the rules don’t apply to them. If you listen to the recording industry, they would tell you that the techies believe that rules don’t apply to them. But hang on a second, if the techies are doing it their way, didn’t that used to be the ethos of the musician. To do it their way. So what went wrong? The techies have become the new rock stars. And they built it all themselves.

These days the pop stars become brands and puppets to the corporations. Otherwise there is a high chance they are left off the playlist. At least there are metal and rock creators doing it their way. Outside of the conversation they are building something, going against the grain.

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