A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Some Thoughts On The Music Business

YouTube

YouTube allows you to go directly to your audience whenever they want and you get paid in the process. It might be small now, however it will grow with time. And surely that is better than having your video on MTV and getting squat.

Longevity

The truth is you get wiser as you get older. You learn from experience and life. Artists done need to tell us how great they are or how great the new album is. The fans are smart enough to decide what is great and what isn’t. In the end, you need to have stayed in the game long enough to win.

Music Is Not Scarce Anymore

The days of growing up at the record store and budgeting what album to buy are gone and have been for a long time. Today our favourite artists release new music and we check it out. If we like it we give it a few more spins and then move on. If we don’t like it, we move on straight away. If we really like it, we commit to it.

Back in the day, music was a commitment. After having laid down our cash on a record, we took it home, dropped the needle and spent months digesting it. But today, music is everywhere.

You Survive On Your Audience

You want to be in their consciousness 24/7 and the majority of albums today just don’t hang around long enough. Sure there are exceptions to the rule. Volbeat has been selling their new album since April 2013. Yep, that is almost 20 months ago. Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch are in the same league. Bands like Trivium and Dream Theater had albums that came, got lapped up by the core audience and then disappeared from the conversation. The audience wants to always talk about you, so give them a reason to talk about you.

Information Overload

People are overloaded with information so they’ve only got time for the best and they want more and more of it on a regular basis.

Start With Your friends

They actually know and care about you. If you’re good, they’ll tell their friends, and some of them will eventually be friends/trusted filters of others and people will hear about it that way.

Overnight Sensations

Overnight sensations are a decade plus in the making.

Timing

The timing was right for metal and rock acts to go multi-platinum in the Eighties. MTV was rising. The disenfranchised youths were looking for a voice, something to attach too. They found it in “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “I Wanna Rock”, “Shout At The Devil” and so on.

Rock Bands Were Never Supposed To Last

The Beatles had about eight years before going solo. Led Zeppelin had about 12 years before calling it quits after the death of John Bonham. Kiss’s original line up had about 8 years before they ended. Motley Crue had 10 years before they fired Vince. Twisted Sister had about 8 years from when the core line up was formed. Rage Against The Machine had 9 years before they split. Soundgarden had about 12 years before calling it quits. That is about the average of a band keeping its original line up in tact before other life events impact the dynamics.

Promote The Why and Not the What

Evergrey went all “why” for the promotion of the “Hymns For The Broken” album. We know the story about how the band was almost over and how the return of two former members gave Englund a new belief to continue. And the fans resonated with this belief.

Protest The Hero sold the why. That is why they the fans pledged over $300,000 to them for “Volition”. We understand as fans why they needed to go down the fan funding route. We understood how the record labels had ripped them off. We believed in their story and wanted to be a part of it.

People will do the things that prove what they believe. We don’t don’t buy what our artists do, we buy why they do it.

Personality

The truth is long-term careers are based on being unique and staying true to who you are.

What seems to happen is that artists try to appeal to everybody and in doing so they rub off their rough edges which is the X factor that makes them unique.

We don’t want fake heroes to believe in. We want real heroes with real personalities.

That is why rock and metal took off in the early Eighties. They represented the working class and the youth that lived under iron fists. The metal and rock got all polished up and all of its uniqueness was planed off.

That is why grunge and alternative took off in the early Nineties. They trail blazed their own path by not sounding just like everybody else. While the metal and rock acts lost their edge and started to sound the same towards the end of the Eighties, the Seattle scene was not afraid to go their own way. They didn’t care if radio didn’t play them and they didn’t care if the media wouldn’t write about them. They forged their own path and made everyone follow them in the process.

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

YouTube

Do you want an audience or a fan base?

An audience will go and check out a song after being instructed to do so. The fan base will choose what song to play or what album to play when they want to.

It’s always the techies that are getting it right for the music industry. They can see how to make dollars in between all of those ones and zeroes.

“An audience changes the channel when their show is over. A fan base shares, it comments, it curates, it creates.”

YouTube’s global head of entertainment Alex Carloss said the above.

So where do you stand as an artist.

Do you have an audience? People who are directed to check you out?

Or do you have a fan base, people who share, comment, create playlists and do everything else.

It is a global world and YouTube is a platform that can reach all corners of the world. The reason why it is so popular is that while the major labels procrastinated over how much they would get from the streaming services, YouTube entered via the backdoor and became the leader. And it wasn’t even licensed.

Recent research has shown that by not having your music on YouTube could lead to an increase in music sales. What this clearly shows to me is that there are more factors out there that have led to reduced sales of recorded music than piracy alone. It also shows the shift of people’s listening habits. But wait, Neil Young and the Ponos team still reckon we need studio quality files. Yep, good luck with that.

If you are not using YouTube to promote yourself, then you are doing it all wrong and your career is challenged.

Even if the record labels do not renew their licensing agreement with YouTube, it will still survive. Because it is the fans that want it. YouTube’s success is made by the people, who apart from going to listen to music or view videos, they also upload as well. If I want to hear a new release before I buy it I normally go to YouTube. The whole album is there. Spotify is good as well, however it’s search algorithms are rubbish, plus it doesn’t have everything there.

I wanted to listen to Badlands “Voodoo Highway” album recently. It’s not on Spotify, however YouTube has it. Unlicensed.

I wanted to listen to Don Dokken’s “Up From The Ashes” album recently. For both, I could have gotten the CD and played it or I could have plugged in the portable drive and played it from there, however that was too much effort. Spotify didn’t have it, but YouTube did. Again unlicensed.

The record labels get wined and dined by Apple for exclusivity around their streaming service. And then when the cash rolls in from another licensing agreement to them, the artists will complain that streaming is killing the music business.

NO.

The Record Labels are still killing the music business. Their own greed will kill off streaming services. A stream is not a sale, so the royalty rates that labels pay artists are bullshit. Because the labels classify a stream as a sale which in turn brings with it a lower royalty rate.

Because if a band can stand to make $24,000 for putting up a silent album on Spotify that has been streamed for a combined sum over 4.7 million, then surely the larger acts that have 40 million streams will be making better dollars.

But they don’t.

Because that low royalty rate per stream that Spotify pays, gets further diluted when the Record Label applies it’s 80/20 split to it. Then that low 20 percent is split again by managers, lawyers, band members, etc..

What about illegal downloading of music?

It is still going on and it will never stop because people still want to have the mp3.

14 years have passed since the Napster revolution and music lovers still don’t have a legal ad-supported peer-to-peer download service for mp3’s. It’s leaving money on the table if you ask me.

Do you know what one of the main income revenues is for the record labels?

Yep, its YouTube fan clips that go viral. The ones that have unlicensed music playing in the background. With the YouTube Content ID system, labels can claim the clip as theirs and then reap the benefits that the clips views bring in.

Even Governments fear it. Turkey’s government blocked access to YouTube when an audio recording of top civilian and military officials appeared, which involved high-level security talks on Syria. The Government has classed it as illegal content. I see it as a form of censorship.

YouTube was seen as the enemy to TV stations and to the Music Industry. Now it is their greatest ally, only if they know how to use its potential. Expect to see the various YouTube networks become bigger than the movie studios in the future. Because they realise that it’s not all about the blockbuster effect. Releasing content more frequently is king.

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

Create The Undeniable Song – It Will Sell

I am listening to “Are You Gonna Go My Way” today, the third studio album by American rock musician Lenny Kravitz, released in 1993.

It’s funny that after all this time I still like only 3 songs from the CD, which are “Believe”, “Sister” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way” in that order. There is also a track called “All My Life” that appeared on some bonus CD’s or as a B-side that is also up there. However, to hear all of the songs mentioned, I had to purchase the record label “promotional tool”; the good ol’ expensive CD.

That is why the album went multi-platinum everywhere.

Consumers of music had to purchase 10 to 14 songs, just to hear 4 to 5 songs. Of course we could have purchased the singles, however at $7 a single (that was the price in 1993), why spend $14 on two songs, when for $20 (on sale) or $27 (as a new release) you could buy the album.

I actually purchased the album for the song “Believe”. That is a great song and a dead sit hit in my book. When that lead break cuts in at the end, along with the strings, it’s goose bumps all the way.

The album went Gold (U.S) in May, 1993, three months after its release. By June, 1993, it was certified Platinum (U.S). By January, 1995, it was certified 2x Multi-Platinum. If you look at Kravitz’s most recent certification, it is for a single. How times have changed?

I don’t want to pay for a batch of songs I don’t like anymore. I didn’t used to be this way. I lived for music.

Misguided people think that piracy ruined the recorded business. What they don’t realize is that most people didn’t want the album/CD. People wanted that unique track. When the CD came and the record labels started charging us a fortune for it, albums suddenly became very long.

Instead of getting 35 to 45 minutes of music every year, we started to get 50 to 70 minutes of music every two to three years.

So the recording business saw the large profit margins and just kept on marching along with the overpriced CD’s business model, using MTV to push and promote the artists. So when people got the option to download, to cherry pick what they wanted to hear, a whole new market place was born.

We didn’t have to pay attention to what the major labels pushed on us anymore or any other label for that matter, because we started to have options. Today, we have options galore. That is why there will not be any super stars like there used to be. Competition in the market place diluted the record sales.

When I see artists like Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich complaining about Spotify, I just shake my head. Thom and Nigel have to be real damn great just to have a little bit more than a tiny audience today. The old paradigm of fans purchasing CD’s that had a lot of filler because very little content was available is over.

To stand out today, artists like Thom and Nigel have got to be incredible. Protest The Hero went via Indiegogo to raise funds for “Volition”. Their goal was $125K and they ended up getting over $341,146 USD from a fan base of 8361 fans. I gave $50. A small audience that was happy to spend money.

The report from the “London School of Economics” called “Copyright & Creation: A Case for Promoting Inclusive Online Sharing” hits the nail on the head. Online piracy is not hurting the music industry. It has put a dent in recorded music sales, however that was inevitable with the shift in technology, the over saturated marketplace and the years of fan abuse by pushing overpriced CD’s. It’s simple economics. There is so much supply and the fans of music demand only what is great.

There is an argument from certain song writers that since people began downloading music without paying, royalties for them have dried up. Some have even had to take full-time jobs. Big deal is what I say. If you are a songwriter, then write more songs and better ones. Copyright was never designed to be a pension fund.

The bottom line is this – if the artist creates that undeniable song, they will have no problems selling it. The song will sell itself. I parted with $27 back in 1993 for the song “Believe.”

Looking at all the certifications around the world from the industry bodies, one thing is certain. The singles are dominating. So all those metal and rock bands spending years and dollars on a long player are doing it wrong.

Even Metallica now, have single Platinum certifications from songs that were released on their first five albums.

The following songs were given a GOLD certification by the RIAA (U.S) on December 13, 2012.

  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • Fade To Black
  • The Unforgiven
  • Master Of Puppets
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • One
  • Enter Sandman (was also given a Platinum certification for both digital and physical singles)
  • The Day That Never Comes
  • Until It Sleeps

Five albums are presented in the above list that ranges from 1983 to 2008.

We don’t need new laws to provide better protection for artist copyright. We need artists to create great tracks. We need laws that reduce copyright and puts the focus back on the Public Domain.

We don’t need to encourage internet service providers to make their customers do the right thing. We need to give customers a reason to buy.

If the customers have that reason, then they will buy.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Music Is A Long Road – A Trip Down Memory Lane with Fates Warning, Tom Petty and Dream Theater

For any artists these days, be it Bon Jovi or Metallica or Dream Theater or Motley Crue or Imagine Dragons or Shinedown or Machine Head or any new band starting off right now, they all need to understand one thing. We are living in the generation of kids born from 1997 onwards. This generation wants to consume music. Their sense of community is all online. Anyone that says they don’t have a Spotify account is not living in the modern age. These kids weren’t alive when the Record Labels ruled the day, so they have no desire for yesterday, they are all about today and what lays beyond.

For any artist these days, their whole career is about relationships. If you want an audience to invest, you need to establish a relationship. You need to make the effort. The days of touring a city based on the record sales figures for that city are long gone. Ask Dream Theater or Iron Maiden how many albums they have sold in South America? Then ask them how many people came to their shows in those countries.

Mike Portnoy stated in the linear notes on the released bootleg recording of Dream Theater’s Santiago, Chile show from June 2005 that they didn’t know what to expect from South America due to the low number if records they had sole there. They even went to the show with a cut down stage set to save money. In the end, they played to their biggest headlining audience ever.

It’s all about roots. If an artist doesn’t have any, the audience is not interested. Experience moulds the artist, it influences them. Music is an end unto itself. When done right, the sound and the feel is enough. It doesn’t need the videos, the PR sell and all the pyro that comes with the rock n roll show.

Tom Petty sang that Love Is A Long Road. That is the aim of every artist. To foster the love of the audience into a sustainable career. To paraphrase Tom Petty, Music is A Long Road. The same way that a relationship with a partner has its ups and down, so does the relationship between artist and fan. The same effort that an artist puts into a loving relationship is basically the same effort they need to put in to their music career.

The music community has shifted to being a song centric community. We just dont know it yet. The album format that used to make the most money for the record labels is almost a dead format. However artists still go back and release a collection of songs as an album.

In order for the album format to work for you, you need to create an album that is playable throughout. You need to create an album that needs to be heard over and over again. You need to create an album that stands up years after its release.

Fates Warning released an unbelievable album called Disconnected in 2000. However talk to anyone these days and it is like the band never existed. It’s been years since I’ve heard Disconnected and to my amazement, it sounds as fresh and innovative today as it did 13 years ago. Jim Matheos is the pure definition of the progress is derivative statement. He has the ability to take good things from songs that came before and mould them into something great, unique and innovative.

In the Year 2000, progressive music was at opposite ends of the spectrum. You had the Dream Theater style of progressive music on one side and the Tool style of progressive music on the other side. In between you had a band like Porcupine Tree, merging Tool like aggression with Pink Floyd like atmospherics. The mainstream was ruled by Nu-Metal bands. The missing link was Fates Warning.

With Disconnected, Jim Matheos merged the Tool and Porcupine Tree progressive elements with the Dream Theater progressive elements and put them through the Fates Warning blender.

Disconnected is a fusion of all the best progressive elements at the time into a cohesive piece of work that can be listened to over and over again from start to finish. It is a tragedy that this album is so overlooked these days. In the same way that each lick and melody from Images and Words by Dream Theater sticks in my head, Disconnected from Fates Warning does the same.

I am looking forward to hearing “Darkness In A Different Light” when it comes out on September 27. Nine years is a long time between albums. Nine years in the music business is an eternity. So much has changed. Love is a long road. Music is a long road.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Blueprints

Rule 1:
Create something great and watch your core audience spread it to the masses.

Rule 2:
Don’t spread your wings too far. Focus on your core audience. That is your foundation.

Rule 3:
Their is no such thing as “job security” in the music business.

Rule 4:
Reminder: Don’t spread your wings too far. Focus on your core audience. That is your foundation.

Rule 5:
The music business is a game. Artists are competing each day with other artists for attention.

Rule 6:
Another reminder: Don’t spread your wings too far. Focus on your core audience. That is your foundation.

Rule 7:
Traditional education is becoming less relevant to career success. If you still want to be in banking and the legal system, go to College/University. If you want to change the world, education is not the place for you.

Rule 8:
Reminder Number Three: Don’t spread your wings too far. Focus on your core audience. That is your foundation.

Rule 9:
The concert experience is not about the songs sounding exactly as they do on the radio or the CD. This type of show will keep the swinging musical fan satisfied but not the core audience. These are the people that artists should be focusing on. Extend the ending of the song into a lead break jam.

Rule 10:
Just because the charts don’t have a Guitar Hero at number 1, it shouldn’t mean that you should stop being one. You have practiced your art, now play it.

Rule 11:
Don’t be interested in the clicks. It’s just a number, another statistic that means nothing. What is the point of having 1,000 views a day if no one is connecting and interacting? What is the point of having of 1,000 views a day if no one is talking about you?

Rule 12:
If you are in music to be rich, walk away now. Get into banking or the legal system.

Rule 13:
One last time – Don’t spread your wings too far. Focus on your core audience. That is your foundation.

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