A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Convergence of Forces in 1986/87

After touring with AC/DC and Aerosmith for a year, I felt a little more aggressive. Some nights I would come up with something pretty, but after seeing Angus bash it out, I would say “Fuck pretty”.
Vito Bratta GW September 1989

This quote has remained with me for ages.

Vito Bratta is a guitarist who understands music and loves his instrument. His soloing is liquid joy and his rhythm work is complex.

So how does a musician who uses complex chord inversions and arpeggios to color a song compete for people’s attention against the blues based rock of AC/DC and Aerosmith, especially when those two bands had a head start of 15 plus years building up an audience.

Furthermore while Aerosmith sang about a dude who looks like a lady and a rag doll cutie, White Lion via Mike Tramp sang about the sinking of a Greenpeace ship. While AC/DC sang about woman as fast machines, White Lion sang about broken homes and violence in the home.

I remember a magazine reporter writing about how Mike Tramp introduced “Little Fighter” to metal kids when White Lion was opening for Ozzy. It went something like this;

Tramp: “You like to go to the fuckin’ Jersey Shore?” 
Crowd: “Yeah!” 
Tramp: “Don’t you get pissed off when you can’t swim because of the pollution?
Crowd: “Yeah!” (half-hearted)
Tramp: “Well, here’s a song about a group that’s doing something about it.”

White Lion toured with blues based hard rock bands for 12 months during the “Pride” period and there is no doubt that the rock vibe and party connection with the audience would have influenced Vito with the writing process of “Big Game”. But he didn’t want to just follow blindly what others have done before him so he tried to create something new, something interesting. But the majority of the pop music consumers don’t want interesting. They want carbon copies of what came before, something they can sing too, and something that is very uninteresting.

So “Big Game” was rushed. All because the label wanted to capitalize in the new-found interest in the band. But the label must have forgotten that MTV still controlled the public interest metric. If MTV played your band on the channel, you would sell a million plus. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t sell as much as you expected regardless of the quality of the music.

So with great power, comes great responsibility and MTV became a powerful and corruptible gatekeeper and for all its evil ways, it was still the best marketing tool to turn acts into global superstars.

But MTV didn’t play the video clips from “Big Game” as much as it played the clips from “Pride”.

And it’s funny when you look back to the 1986/87 period, the artists who had their biggest hits and sales during that period, never replicated those numbers again.

Bon Jovi never topped “Slippery When Wet”. Europe never topped “The Final Countdown”. White Lion never topped “Pride”. Whitesnake never topped their “self-titled” debut. Guns N Roses never topped “Appetite For Destruction”. INXS never topped “Kick”. Joe Satriani never topped “Surfing With The Alien”. Def Leppard never topped “Hysteria”. U2 never topped “The Joshua Tree”. Stryper never topped “To Hell With The Devil”.

There was something of a convergence during these years. MTV was well established by 1986 and massive, CD’s had taken hold by 1987, artists that had been around for a while had enough experiences on the board to write their masterpiece and fans of the 60’s/70’s rock movement had teenage families, so suburbia had cash to spend on entertainment due to low employment.

But with all things great, disaster was just around the corner. Black Monday happened on Monday, October 19, 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed. The single day drop was enough to scare people from spending and make people lose their jobs. Maybe it put a dent into the recording business for a few years, because from 1989 to 1999, the labels turned over billions.

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

Apple

In order to lead you need to stay ahead of the game. In order to stay ahead you need to innovate/create.

Apple is one such company that is at the crossroads. The iTunes store is seeing a decrease in MP3 sales. Their first foray into streaming, iTunes radio never really took off.

The move into the streaming market dominated by Spotify and YouTube with the Beats acquisition is still at the starting gate and the birth of new products since the death of Steve Jobs has stagnated , however the iWatch is being hyped up by critics and bloggers as a savior.

But what people are failing to see is what Apple is doing behind the scenes. The acquisition of smaller companies into the Apple network forms a picture of a large corporation gearing up to control more of our daily lives.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. IT companies are billion dollar industries because of the data they harvest from us, the people. It is that data that provides a dashboard on how to market a product and to whom. And Apple are gearing up for a mammoth shake on the data front.

They have purchased Semetric, the U.K company behind Musicmetric. For those that don’t know, Musicmetric is a web service that analyses data on the internet around sales of music, P2P downloads, YouTube views, streams, social networks and sells that data to record labels, artists and others.

I saw Musicmetric as a great tool and it’s most valuable asset is that it looks at BitTorrent (p2P) downloads (both legal and illegal). It could tell an artist which countries and cities are illegally downloading their music.

To me, these are fans that can be monetised via live performances, provided the artist has the means to get there. For newer acts it tells them where their music is popular even though they don’t see that popularity translate into sales because in the end a fan base is a fan base. It has been proven that at some time down the line these fans will commit financially to the artist.

Which is a shame because I cant see how Musicmetric will stick around as a standalone service anymore.

Apple has gained a key in-house tool that it can use to track  sales and streams within iTunes alongside social networking stats. But the reason why Musicmetric worked is that it also included Spotify and YouTube activity into its dashboard, however the chances of those two entities remaining with Musicmetric (now that it is owned by Apple) seem to be slim.

Another interesting piece I came across is Apple’s latest patent, which states that it will allow people to legally share music and videos with friends as long as those users have a license. As the Torrentfreak article points out;

While “legalized P2P sharing” may sound appealing, in theory it’s actually quite restrictive. The idea introduces a new layer of content protection which means that the files in question can only be played on “trusted client software.” This means that transferring files between devices is only possible if these support Apple’s licensing scheme. That’s actually a step backwards from the DRM-free music that’s sold in most stores today.

Interesting.

So what we have is a company that has purchased a data analytics company that tracks illegal P2P sharing activity as part of its dashboard and they have just been given a patent to legalize P2P sharing amongst its users provided they have a license.

But seriously, Napster came out close to 16 years ago. Yes, 16 is the number. That is close to 6000 days ago and the recording industries have done nothing to give the fans of music anything that remotely resembles Napster. Meanwhile, technology companies have done all of the innovating.

To me this is another attempt at control and restriction and that is a bad thing.

These new tools will most probably be packaged in with their Beats music service and if my reading between the lines is correct, Beats Music will also be a P2p protocol sharing service provided the user has a license which will probably come automatically with the purchase of an Apple product.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

Blowsight

Nikki Sixx is a fan and he endorsed the band on his Sixx Sense Radio show. Celebrity endorsements in other genres would normally see the endorsed act get some serious traction. However the very divisive metal and rock communities fail to pay the same attention to celebrity endorsements like other genres.

Lorde broke through because of an endorsement. Credit Sean Fanning. I got into the band Avatar because Zoltan Bathory endorsed them during the “American Capitalist” tour. Endorsements from our heroes makes us pay attention. However in the end musicians endorse little. Google “musicians endorsing musicians” and you don’t really see any list that Google can recommend. However you see a lot of pages on musicians that HAVE endorsements with manufacturers.

Anyway, someone who is famous said that Blowsight are great. So the band gets a look. Now it is up to them to capitalise on it. Bands don’t get a lot of chances in the music business. They need to deliver when they do get the chance. And it is always about that one song. If the song is okay, kiss that chance goodbye. And that brings me to Blowsight.

First YouTube. The official video clip for “This Pain” is sitting at 28,651 views. The official video clip for “Hit On The Radio” is sitting at 16,874 views. The official video clip for “Days Of Rain” is sitting at 72,837 views. Hardly earth shattering numbers, especially since “Hit On The Radio” is talked up as “the song”.

However their cover version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” is sitting at 120,231 views on one user channel and 55,918 on another user channel for a combined view of 176,149. Their cover of Britney Spears “Toxic” is sitting at 119,072 views on a different user channel. So for two cover songs, the view counts total 295,551. There is a fan base there for sure that can be monetized.

However the two most viewed YouTube videos are on user channels and not on the official Blowsight channel. Actually there is no Blowsight channel. The official videos mentioned previously are on the Fastball Music Label channel. This is a big mistake on their part.

Spotify has the following list as today;
1,272,112 streams for “Bandit For Life”
1,031,547 streams for “Poker Face”
430,068 streams for “The Simple Art (of Making You Mine)
357,917 streams for “Toxic”
266,551 streams for “I Wish You 666”
143,881 streams for “Invisible Ink”
60,108 streams for “Hit On The Radio”
50,681 streams for “It’s Me You’re Looking For”
49,634 streams for “Through These Eyes”
32,553 streams for “Back Where We Belong”

To put into context the million dollar stream figures for the songs “Bandit For Life” and “Poker Face”. Dream Theater is a world-renowned and Grammy nominated band and their song “On The Backs Of Angels” has 1,205,759 streams. Blowsight is more or less a small-scale Swedish based band.

Remember the best artists of the Sixties and Seventies became famous because of cover songs. Look at Jimi Hendrix. “Hey Joe” and “All Along The Watchtower” come to mind immediately. Linda Ronstadt’s fame came because she took other peoples forgotten songs and made them hers. Led Zeppelin even covered songs and called them their own.

Blowsight – Destination Terrorville

It was late in the afternoon at work, my head was fried and then “Destination Terrorville” filled my ears pace through my budget TDK ear pieces. What can I say, I stuck with TDK during the cassette wars, so their name still resonates with me.

For an album that was released in 2007 it sure sounds fresh and new. Of course, I wanted to know more, so I Googled them.

Of course they are from Sweden. Stockholm to be precise. Another Swedish act like Avatar, April Divine, Takida, Corroded and Days Of Jupiter trying to make a difference in the modern rock scene. The roots go back to 2001 and they released demos of their material on the internet and allowed listeners to freely “collect ‘em all!”. Hey what a great idea, competing with free to get some market share.

Back in 2007, front man Nik Red was known as Niklas Fagerstrom (of course a totally perfect rock star name and a scene from the movie “La Bamba” comes to mind right now. You know that scene where Richard Steven Valenzuela is told to shorten his name to Ritchie Valens, so that he has more mass appeal).

My first impression is that it is very reminiscent to two bands I dig. One is Evans Blue, the other is Breaking Benjamin.

They are a band that is able to take the best bits of the pop, rock, metal and punk worlds. In the end it still comes across as modern rock/metal. That is not a bad thing, however it is a very crowded marketplace and they need to be really great at what they do.

“All That Is Wrong” has got a sleazy middle eastern sounding bass line that is reminiscent to Tool “46 x 2” especially when the guitars crank in. The verses are punchy and syncopated and it makes up for the Chorus that falls flat.

“Over The Surface” has a very classical sounding arena rock chorus that is very reminiscent to the style of Finnish band “The Rasmus.”

“Red Eyes” is Alice In Chains/Soundgarden with a Euro Metal vibe. In the vocal delivery, you can hear the influence of Nick Hexum’s (311), Phil Anselmo (Pantera) and Layne Stayley/Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains)

“Bus Girl” has got this classical Beethoven vibe as well. It is a minor key song and you can feel the sadness fill the headspace. It is one of the best songs on the album and it was a bonus track.

“If You Were Me” is a great track, starting off with echoed natural harmonics but a ballad it is not. It has a lot of different genre hoping styles in it.

“How I Get What I Deserve” is canvassing Three Days Grace and any song off the “One-X” album.

“The Simple Art (Of Making You Mine)” sees Blowsight turning into Papa Roach.

All the songs are good, but not great.

Blowsight – Life And Death

This album was released in 2012 and it’s damn good. It has that anything goes attitude with some tasty shredding along the way.

“Sun Behind The Rain” has an unbelievable pop hook in the chorus and it comes from out of nowhere as the verses are syncopated head banging heavy rock.

“Through These Eyes” is a combination of all the Top 40 genres, ranging from pop rock merged with R&B and hip hop. Think Coldplay, Black Eye Peas, Red and Linkin Park.

“Surprise” has a tasty intro. It grabs you from the outset.

“Hit On A Radio” is a replacement for Good Charlotte since the band is on hiatus.

“This Pain” is melodic metal in a certain “In Flames” kind of way.

“Blackout Time” starts off like a Beyonce/Destiny Child song.

“Red Riding Blues” starts off with a cabaret swing feel.

“Dystopia Part II” starts off with a Muse feel and then it enters Avenged Sevenfold territory. The bio states that the song is “the off­spring of Queen’s “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” mating with “November Rain” by Guns N Roses”.

“It’s Me You’re Looking For” is an energized cross between Avatar, Rammstein and Volbeat.

“Back Where We Belong” is System of A Down on adrenaline.

Singer Nick Red has stated that the band’s focus is “to break down the bar­riers by bringing dif­ferent genres to­gether whose fans would openly fight each other out in the streets”.

So can they break down the doors to the large U.S market?

Why am I talking about them when I am being critical?

Yes they can and I believe in them. I believe in what they are trying to do and that is important.

“Sun Behind The Rain” is the star of the show.

Blowsight needs to get out of the old school thinking, which is to release an ALBUM. The album ideology was built for a different time. This was a time when people waited for radio to play in a “new” single years after the album was released. That worked when albums had gated releases. These days the whole slab is available for free on the very day it comes out.

Do artists seriously believe that people will decide to purchase their albums 12 months later just because they liked a few songs when it came out?

That was the old gated system, where if the artists delivered enough singles, it would convert those who were unsure to financially commit. However the new game is to constantly release music so that the audience will be continually engaged and committed.

Black Sabbath released an album that got a bit of traction out of curiosity, then disappeared. It looks like all the people wanted was the tour.

Avenged Sevenfold had the album hit of the summer and are now following it up with an animated series and a mobile game.

Bon Jovi released an album, but all the people wanted was the tour. The album stiffed, however the tour was the highest grossing tour for 2013.

Dream Theater didn’t really have the material for a follow up album to “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” and the album disappeared from the conversation. They should be back in the studio right now, recording cover songs, some originals and some instrumentals. Kiss your solo albums goodbye and focus on Dream Theater.

Blowsight are going to lock themselves away to record another album. Then what.

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