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

The Music Industry Is A Competitive Marketplace. Just ask “Burning Yesterday”.

I have had some music laying around that I earmarked once upon a time for a re-listen in a proper way. Proper to me in this day and age means headphones.

Burning Yesterday is the first band and their album from 2009, “We Create Monsters Not Machines.” Burning Yesterday is based in Nashville. The sound is polished and for an independent band, they sure sound like a major label act. All the songs are pretty solid.

If you like bands like Red, Papa Roach, Breaking Benjamin, Skillet and Disciple then you would rate this album very highly. If you don’t mind those bands, then you will not mind this album. If you don’t like those bands, then you will not like this album.

From all the bashing that the album format has gotten, one thing I do like are the connections. For example, on this album Robert Venable was the producer. For those that do not know, Robert Venable has worked on the following albums;

  • Megadeth – The System Has Failed
  • Spoken – Illusion
  • Love and Death – Between Here & Lost
  • Disciple – Horseshoes And Handgrenades
  • Disciple – O God Save Us All
  • Seventh Day Slumber – Love and Worship
  • Seventh Day Slumber – Anthem Of Angels

A point of interest is that in their electronic bio, it states the following;
“We Create Monsters Not Machines” was produced by Travis Wyrick (P.O.D., Disciple, Pillar, Since October, 10 Years).”

CD Baby also states the above comments, while Allmusic and Wikipedia has the producer as Robert Venable. My interpretation is that Travis Wyrick was used in a songwriter/executive producer role, while the actual album was produced by Robert Venable.

So if the album is good (and it is that good that it made my Top 20 for the year) why didn’t it set the world on fire? The answer is simple. COMPETITION IN THE MARKETPLACE and TIME.

2009 was a tough year for any new artist releasing music. Actually every year is a tough year for any new band. For the fan base that Burning Yesterday is trying to appeal to, they had to compete against the following bands and their releases for that year;

  • Red – Innocence and Instinct
  • Pillar – Confessions
  • Breaking Benjamin – Dear Agony
  • Casting Crowns – Until The Whole World Hears
  • Thirty Seconds To Mars – This Is War
  • Seether – Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces
  • Daughtry – Leave This Town
  • Stryper – Murder By Pride
  • Chevelle – SciFi Crimes
  • Veer Union – Against The Grain
  • Adelitas Way – Adelitas Way
  • Three Days Grace – Life Starts Now
  • Skillet – Awake
  • Madina Lake – Attics To Eden
  • Halestorm – Halestorm
  • Thousand Foot Krutch – Welcome To The Masquerade
  • Smile Empty Soul – Consciousness
  • Decyfer Down – Crash Love
  • Ten Second Epic – Hometown
  • Cavo – Bright Nights, Dark Days
  • Papa Roach – Metamorphosis
  • Muse – The Resistance
  • Burn Halo – Burn Halo

The thing is I could go on forever about similar sounding bands and styles that had reasonably good albums released in 2009. For any artist that is starting out, piracy should not be their biggest concern. Their biggest concern should be competition. How do they compete in the market place in this day and age. Piracy should be used as a metric of demand.

So Burning Yesterday spend their time and money on getting a good production team and recording an album of good tunes. They actually entered the studio with producer Travis Wyrick in 2007. The album came out at the start of 2009. So they release it into a market place, that is saturated with hundreds of new releases on a daily basis. Apart from the core audience who are aware of the band, it doesn’t spread.

My view has always been the same. Musicians are entrepreneurs. They are people who organize and operate a business, taking on the financial risk to do so. They have to give people a reason to buy their product against all the other competing products. The Michael Jackson superstar business model created by the record labels in the early Eighties is dead and buried. It is never coming back. Different superstars will rise within different genres and communities, however they are the ones that will need to create the buzz.

The days of record labels breaking really great bands to the public are over. It is the bands that need to break themselves. Sure, Record Labels can be useful as distribution agents, however the final marketing starts and ends with the band.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Spotify – Will Rock and Metal bands reach a 100 million downloads in such a short time frame?

Daft Punk’s track Get Lucky has been streamed 104,233,480 times so far. Spotify generally pays 0.004 a stream to the rights holder. So by doing the math that comes to $416,933.92 in payments from Spotify to the rights holder. How much of this money is distributed is given down to Daft Punk from Columbia Records is unknown. For a song that was released in April, this has proven to be a pretty good earner.

YouTube also shows Get Lucky getting close to 112 million plays. What YouTube will end up paying for that is unknown, as the payout figure is calculated on the type of advertisements shown.

To me, the Spotify and YouTube stats prove that if a song makes a connection with people, people will be going back to the song over and over and over again. As an artist, this is the statistic you want reported to you as you know that people are playing your song or songs.

In relation to sales they come a distant last, however just to make this post complete, Get Lucky has been downloaded over 2.4 million times in the US and over 1 million times in the UK. This means that the song in combined sales (US + UK) has earned roughly $2.4 million (that is based on using the iTunes 0.7 formula).

So if your view of the recording business is that “I WANT TO BE PAID RIGHT NOW” then the sales figure is your brass ring. However, in time the sales figure will die down.

If your view of the recording business is that “I WANT PEOPLE TO PLAY MY SONGS FOREVER and BE PAID FOREVER” then the streaming figure is your brass ring. Streaming has taken the concept of listening to a song a million times at home on your stereo into the digital world.

For all the complaints about streaming payments, an important note to make is that there is NO RELIABLE data from the PRE-NAPSTER era, that suggests that musicians received more money from recorded sales. The good old ADVANCE from the Record Labels always clouded the creative accounting employed by them.

Sound recordings these days are purely for promotion purposes. If you can make money from it, like Daft Punk has, great. In the end, once artists start looking for sales of their recorded music they start to become entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is an individual who organizes and operates a business, taking on the financial risk to do so. As an entrepreneur you have to offer something which somebody else wants to buy. If you want to make money you need to provide something of value that somebody else wants to pay for.

In relation to radio plays, yes terrestrial radio does pay more, however with the rise of internet connections in all new automobile’s, terrestrial radio is dead. They just don’t know it yet. The world has shifted online and with all things online there is always one winner that comes out on top. Google, Facebook, Amazon, iTunes and Twitter are just some names that come to mind.

So what are the rock/metal numbers like for new music that came out in April 2013.

Bring Me The Horizon is sitting at 3.2 million for the song Shadow Moses.

Paramore is sitting at 7.6 million for the song Still Into You.

Fall Out Boy is sitting at 20.1 million for the song My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark.

Killswitch Engage is sitting at 1.2 million for the song In Due Time.

Volbeat is sitting at 2.63 million for the song Lola Montez.

Device is sitting at 525,000 for the song Vilify.

Rob Zombie is sitting at 347,000 for the song Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown.

If it is a numbers game, metal and rock has a long way to go to get to the 100 million streams of Get Lucky. One thing is clear, online streaming will not slow down. If you are a DIY artist, you need to play in this field. Streaming is just one cog in the complex machine that the music business has become.

If one of the bands above had that crossover songs, then….

 

For some artists it works really well, for others not so well. In relation to sales, Killswitch Engage, Rob Zombie, Volbeat and Device are still selling physical and digital units as they tour around the U.S. All of the bands have moved over 100,000 units each for their albums released in April.

If you are comparing sales numbers to streaming numbers, the streaming numbers are way more spectacular. In the end, all artists want to be heard. So what are are the artists doing, to give the people a reason to listen to them.  

The live business, the merchandise business and the recorded music sales business are other cogs in the complex machine that the musical business has become. 

One last note, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid has earned close to $44,000 from Spotify. Not bad for a song that was released forty odd years ago. Now who gets that money and how it is distributed amongst the band members is a different story entirely.

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

Musicians can’t be immune to reality – Say Hello To The Entrepreneur

Piracy can never be handled with a one size fits all business model. Each product that is released needs to have its own strategy to combat piracy.

Sending a million takedown requests to Google will not solve the problem. It is a waste of money and resources. Even a recent study by the Computer and Communications Industry Association challenges the long-held perception that search engines actively promote unlicensed content. According to the paper, even if all capability to search for pirate sites is removed, sites like Isohunt and The Pirate Bay would still survive.

So how will artists get paid?

If the artists’ works are copied, does it mean they need to be paid and if artists are not paid, is going after the people who shared their content going to get them paid?

The answer is NO. The only ones who get paid are the lawyers.

So if artists are not paid for the songs they write and record because, hey, they spent money doing these songs, so they should be paid. If they are not getting paid then the industry needs to get powerful people to write up laws that give those same powerful people even more power and we will say it is for the poor old artist who will still not paid.

In the end, once artists start looking for sales of their recorded music they start to become entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is an individual who organizes and operates a business, taking on the financial risk to do so. As an entrepreneur you have to offer something which somebody else wants to buy. If you want to make money you need to provide something of value that somebody else wants to pay for. I want to show the difference between the mentality of the majority of artists and a software developer.

John Saddington is a software developer from the U.S. He loves to snap photos of his life. As a WordPress blogger, Saddington grew restless with the services available for uploading images to his blog and the lack of ownership he had over them. So what did Saddington do? He decided to build his own iOS app. Read the full story here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/toyota/2013/08/19/entrepreneur-develops-new-way-to-share-images-online/

Saddington started doing it part time, then went on a Kickstarter campaign, got backers/funding and has now spent all his time working on the app. By July 2013 it was in testing. He wants to monetize the app, however he wants to avoid advertising and purchases inside the application. Saddington is also looking for venture backers, however many are waiting to see whether the app gains traction after its August launch in 2014.

The last part of the story is a great piece of advice for any artist starting out:

“In the end I may be called a simple-minded fool, a perennial idealist that believes in a simple rule that seems to work quite well: If you reward and treat your users with respect and create exceptional value for them that they will return that in spades,” Saddington said. “The challenge is finding a way to extract that tangible value without offense. That’s the entrepreneur’s challenge, that’s their mission, that’s the goal. It’s a noble one, at the very least.”

The reason why I am highlighting the above example is to show artists the amount of work that has gone into this iOS application and there is no guarantee that it will make any money apart from the $56K it got from KickStarter. However a lot of misguided musicians and record label executives believe that just because they spent their time and money writing and creating a song they need to be paid, over and over and over again for it.

Musicians can’t be immune to reality. If they want to stay in the game, they need to innovate on the rules that came before. NOT FOLLOW THEM. Innovate on them. Great artists innovate. Entrepreneurs innovate. Entrepreneurs take what has come before them and create something new. Hell, that is the Steve Jobs model.

Singing generic songs about relationships and heartbreak over and over again is death. How many times is David Coverdale from Whitesnake going to search for love or ask for love to be given or to be in love? Is there any motivation to create something different.

Knowing how to play and writing a song is not enough these days. The public needs a point of view, something of substance. Musicians need something to say. This is getting harder in an era where people are concerned more about stardom. Just because music saves your soul and rocks your world it doesn’t mean that the rest of the population is interested.

Dream Theater recently had a listening party in New York. In the show bags given out, the attendees got a CD. Those CD’s had the attendees name on it. It also had a certain form of DRM. The only way to play the CD was via a good old fashioned stereo. If the disc was put into a computer CD tray it wouldn’t play. You can say that this is a way to control any leaks of the album.

So let’s just say that if I put the CD through the stereo and plugged the stereo output into the computer. I think I would be able to record the music on my hard drive. I also believe that it would be decent quality.

Or let’s just say that if I put the CD through the stereo, cranked it, had the microphone out and recorded the album into the computer. I think I would have a pretty decent recording on my hard drive as well.

So what Roadrunner Records would have done is given some company a lot of money for this form of DRM and charged it back to the band. To be honest it can be easily circumvented if people WANTED to do it.

Piracy is hard to be stopped however it can be competed against. Piracy is a service issue. Pure and simple.

Read this story from the Economist. http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21583688-internet-really-so-different-phonograph-pennies-streaming-heaven

The internet is just another disruptive service to the entertainment industries; you know like the time that the VCR was going to destroy Hollywood. Instead the VCR opened up a whole new ownership and rental income stream for Hollywood. Or when Cassette tapes came out and home taping was said to be killing the music industry. With all new technologies, the entertainment power brokers try to destroy it at first. When they release that they are going to fail, it then becomes part of the new market. In 2012, recorded music had its first year of small growth.

Music-streaming services will reduce piracy. The free option is already there for Desktop users. It is ad supported. The next step is to move this free option to smart phones as that is where the market and subscriber base resides. Otherwise, you will lose the customers to YouTube, which is unlicensed.

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

Rock N Roll Lessons from a Clothing Billionaire and a D.I.Y band like Digital Summer

Article on Zara Billionaire

All of our Rock N Roll heroes should read the above article. For those that don’t want to click on the link I will sum up the lessons that all rock n roll and heavy metal super stars or wannabe superstars can take from it.

First the backstory, Rosalia Mera is the co-founder of fashion giant Zara. At the time of her death at 69, she was estimated to be worth around US$6.1 billion thanks to her stake in the Zara chain. 

Focus On The Core

The article has the heading “Embrace what you know best.” Back in the 1960s, Mera and her former husband, Armancio Ortega, started a small clothing business producing lingerie and dressing gowns from their home. Mera focused on her core skill of being a seamstress.

Bands start getting traction by focusing on an audience that is similar to their core influences. This becomes the bands core audience. These are the people that will spread the word every chance they get. This is what bands should focus on. Songs that cross genres are songs that exceed the hopes and desires of the hard core audience.

Finding A Niche

By focusing on the core skill to create music which is a sum of their influences, in time this will lead to a niche. For the Zara founders, this didn’t happen overnight. It took about 15 years before it exploded.

The L.A Glam Scene was a sum of its influences. On one hand you had the American Classic Rock influences of Kiss, Journey, Styx, Aerosmith, REO Speedwagon, Boston, Alice Cooper and The New York Dolls. On the other hand you had the British influence in the form of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Sweet, Mott The Hoople, David Bowie, Rolling Stones and Judas Priest. These two worlds collide, with the addition of The Sex Pistols punk attitude and the LA Glam Scene is born.

You need to be prepared to live in your niche until you get lucky. Lucky comes to those who keep at it. The more art you create the  more opportunity to succeed. It’s always something that you didn’t want to do that ends up breaking through. Nothing is a waste of time.

Everyone says Metallica’s breakthrough happened with the Black album. I say it happened with Metallica creating a video clip for the song One. Suddenly, you had them on MTV. This was something they didn’t want to participate in originally.

The reason why music exploded in the Seventies and the early Eighties is that record companies didn’t ask the band for a hit single. The bands got the money and the Record Labels hoped that the band delivered. That is why the gatekeeper model was born. The Record Labels needed to select people that they believed in. One thing is clear, the Record Labels steered clear of the creative process.

Get the name right

Zara was going to be called Zorba originally. Can you imagine that, a fashion label with a very masculine name. Can you imagine Queensryche as The Mob or Def Leppard spelt as Deaf Leopard?

What about Van Halen as Mammoth or Night Ranger as Stereo or just Ranger?

What about Bon Jovi as Johnny Electric or Aerosmith as The Hookers or Spike Jones or Led Zeppelin as The New Yardbirds or Lead Balloon?

If Dream Theater came out with the name Majesty on their first release, I would have been dismissive, as that name alone puts a preconceived notion of a Lord Of The Rings style band in the style of Blind Guardian or a Rainbow and Dragons band like Dio and to me, you can’t top Blind Guardian or Dio. However Dream Theater is perfect.

What about The Facebook vs. Facebook?

Getting the name right is crucial. Do your research? Get the spelling correct. Get it unique.

Lars Ulrich took the Metallica name from a friend of his who wanted to start up a metal fanzine. His friend provided Ulrich a list of names he was considering. Metallica is a combination of the words Metal and Britannica. The name stuck out so Ulrich recommended Metal Maniacs as the name of the fanzine and kept Metallica for himself. Motley Crue was going to be spelt to Motley Crew originally and then Motley Cru.

You need to be willing to adapt if the name is already taken. I am sure there are many of other bands out there that have had different names.

Art can last forever, so you need to have the name to last with it. To put it into prospective, does anybody remember who was the richest person in the Seventies. Of course not. Everybody with money has been forgotten after they die. However, ask anyone on the street if they remember John Lennon, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Marc Bolan, The Who, Keith Moon, The Eagles and so on.

Does anyone remember Al Coury? He was a record executive back in the seventies. He recently passed away, almost unknown by the masses. If I ask the question if anyone remembers the soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever” I am sure everyone will be saying YES. He was the person behind it, the mastermind. Those songs are forever, the artists are forever, however Al Coury is unknown.

In the current era, it will be the tech heads that will be remembered. They are the new artists like Steve Jobs with the iPod, iPhone, iMac and iPad.

Mixing friendship and business can be trouble.

The actual title was mixing love and business can be fraught. In the Zara example, Mera and Ortega created an empire, and had two kids during it. However by 1986, they separated. One stayed on in charge while the other became a board member.

In a band context, transpose the love part for friendships. All bands are a bunch of friends jamming with each other in the beginning. Then they start to get traction. Then they start to make money. Then they get outside influences. Then the arguments start. One person does more than the other, so why should the other person get the same amount of money and so forth. One person is the main songwriter however the other people in the band want to be credited as well.

Then there is still the mindset of the Seventies and Eighties were successful musicians are portrayed as rich, however that is so far from the truth. The musicians were in debt to their label, so they had to work and create to pay it all off, which meant getting even more into debt. So that leads to the current situation were musicians are not satisfied with their incomes. Everyone is always comparing themselves to others that are earning more.

Don’t Give Up Your Rights

Copyright was designed to protect the artist. However, as soon as the Recording Industry started to grow, business people came out from their corporate offices and stuck their claws into Copyright and now you have these same business people defending the copyright monopoly, while they are robbing artists and their fans dry. These same defenders of the copyright monopoly are laughing all the way to the bank while exploiting the system in a legal way.

Artists create not because they can make money off it as individuals, but because of who we are. We have been creative creatures from the start of civilisation. 

Be A Voice

The article had the title of “Use your power for good.” The Zara founder was a voice for topics close to her heart. In this case, it was questioning Government policies and trying to raise awareness on the loss of education services. Of course, the more money you have, the better the platform from which you can speak from. However, even a small artist can make a difference.

Piracy is a term that is screamed out by the rich corporations. However where is the voice of the artist on this subject.

The Live Business is overpriced and it needs a reset, however artists are blaming everyone else except themselves. The problem is, no wants to upset anyone.

The frequently heard notion that you don’t create culture if you’re not paid for it comes from those who exploit artists, and never from artists themselves. Artists need to speak up.

Enjoy what you have

Enjoy your life. Socialise, be seen. Life is too short, so enjoy your family. It’s not about the number of digits in the bank account.

Digital Summer to me is a band that enjoys what they have. They are professional musicians who also manage to maintain additional professional careers. Digital Summer is building a career without the support of a record label. When they began back in 2006 (before the explosion of social media), it was all about burning CD’s, passing them out and getting their name out. So when social media became the new marketing platform, the band took the same grassroots self-promotion into the digital realm. They know have established their name and they are still working hard to keep that name afloat.

http://hardrockdaddy.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/independent-artist-spotlight-digital-summer/

Read the above interview, it is essential reading for any DIY artist.

I really like the part when the band is talking about being on the road with signed bands. It was an eye opener to see bands with number 1 singles struggling financially. It squashed any perception they had of the rock star lifestyles and it made them realise that they can do all of that and still have the freedom and full control of the band.

The other part of interest is that the band is 100% fan funded. The professional careers the members have outside the band fund their home lives and the band career funds the band. Their latest album Breaking Point was funded via Kickstarter. They had a project goal of $25,000 and by the time the campaign was over, they had raised over $51,000. I have all of their albums, so you can say that I am a fan. The band is basically a machine running itself. Whatever money the band makes goes back into the band.

Another interesting part is the balance between their professional careers and touring. As the band answers, “it’s tough, but we make it work”. That is how it always has been for a musician. It’s a tough gig, how hard do you want to work at it.

One thing that I took out of the interview is the honesty of the band. This alone speaks of the integrity.

They formed a company called Victim Entertainment, that they use to publish anything that is Digital Summer. They have a business model that sets out what the individual roles are of each member. They even had feelers from other signed bands and Grammy winning artists asking if they could sign with Victim Entertainment. They answered NO, because it will take away from Digital Summer. Remember point one in this post, Focus on the CORE. I am sure other artists would have said YES, as the prospect of riches could be too much to ignore.

They have a substantial social media following. They even mentioned that the word of mouth from fans alone has brought them tons of new fans. Their social media presence brings in an income which they use to advertise and promote the band. That’s right kiddies, they are not spending their money on drugs, football team franchises or million dollar penthouses. They are spending it on the band.

Their focus was always the live show. That is why they have been on big tours. The final part of the interview is about what advice would Digital Summer give to other hard rock artists who want to remain independent. This is their answer;

Be ready to work your ass off!  The more you put in, the more you will get out. Never settle for promoting your shows on Facebook or text messages only. A lot of people don’t check that shit anyway (especially with Facebook constantly changing). Spend a little bit of cash, get some decent flyers printed, record a decent quality demo, and get your ass out there on the street and physically hand stuff out! You meet a lot of cool and interesting people doing this too.  Just remember, not everyone is going to like it, and some may put it down, but at least you’re getting your name out there one step at a time.

Know The Truth

Don’t get caught up in the saga of how artists will be paid. You are an artist so keep on creating. We live in a market economy. Everybody is responsible for finding a way to make money by providing value that somebody else wants to pay for.

Once artists start making some money from their art they will eventually become entrepreneurs. That means that you have to offer something which somebody else wants to buy. Writing a song and releasing it, doesn’t mean that people have to buy it to hear it.

Know the truth that business is business, and there is nothing that entitles an entrepreneur to sales. You need to work hard at it.

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