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

Expectations (Alter + Adapt) = Survival (with Machine Head and Twisted Sister)

There is an interview with Jay Jay French that is doing the rounds at digiday. In the first question, he is asked what tips he would offer young bands today.

“Alter your expectations, because people make the wrong expectations. We adapted our expectations over the years, consistently, and that’s how we survived.”

Classy words and very simple.

Expectations (Alter + Adapt) = Survival

So what do all of our favourite bands/artists keep on doing? They keep on spending a lot of time writing and recording 10 to 15 songs, just so they can group them together and release them as an album. This “expectation” worked once upon a time. However it is not working today. Metal artists are lucky that metal fans are loyal and that we still purchase the “album.”

Of course exceptions exist, and it only works if all the songs are undeniable.

Machine Head hit the nail on the head with “Unto The Locust”. Seven tracks that will stand the test of time.  For the new album, 5 song titles have been made available and a few more are in progress. So I think it is safe to assume that we will be getting another 7 to 8 tracks as a long player. Instead of providing an album with the “expected” 10 to 12 tracks, Machine Head are focusing on quality instead of quantity. Altering and adapting.

Did “Unto The Locust” set the sales figures alight? Of course not. It did what it needed to do. It satisfied the hardcore audience of Machine Head. Now if metal bands want to reach the 500,000 to 1,000,000 sales targets then they need to have that undeniable crossover song.

Imagine if Machine Head comes out with their own Crazy Train, Enter Sandman, Symphony Of Destruction or Holy Diver. A song like that will satisfy their hard core fan base and it will also satisfy a lot of other people in the hard rock, power metal, heavy metal, progressive and even pop rock genres.

Check out the following comment from Anita Elberse and her book “Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, And The Big Business Of Entertainment”. It is probably the best advice that any artist will get.

“…out of a total of 870,000 albums that sold at least one copy in 2011, 13 album titles sold more than a million copies each, together accounting for 19 million copies sold. That’s 0.001 percent of all titles accounting for 7 percent of sales. The top 1,000 albums generated about half of all the sales, and the top 10,000 albums around 80 percent of sales. Deep in the tail, 513,000 titles or nearly 60 percent of the assortment, sold fewer than 10 copies each, together making up half a percent of total sales.”

513,000 album titles sold fewer than 10 copies each. So if you are one of those 513,000 bands that sold less than 10 copies, what do you do?

You obviously expected a better return on your investment. A lot of artists will give up, a lot of bands will break up and then there will be a small percentage who will adapt and alter their expectations. Remember, I have always said that in order to be successful, you need to outlast the competition.

What about singles? I have been saying for a long time to anyone who listens that we live in a single world. As soon as fans got the option to cherry pick what they like, the “tracks” became the rock stars instead of the album. The below is from the same book written by Anita Elberse.

“In 2011, 102 tracks sold more than a million units each, accounting for 15 percent of total sales. That is not a typo: 0.00001 percent of the eight million tracks sold that year generated almost a sixth of all sales. It is hard to overstate the importance of those few blockbusters in the head of the curve. And the trend suggests that hits are gaining in relevance. In 2007, 36 tracks each sold more than a million copies, together these tracks accounted for 7 percent of total market volume. In 2009, 79 tracks reached that milestone; together they make up 12 percent of the sales volume.”

If the above statement doesn’t make the artist realise that we are living in a singles world, then those artists need to re-evaluate their place in the music world. Even Robb Flynn stated in his most recent post that he doesn’t feel like they have written the definitive track like “Halo” and “Locust” for the new album.

In relation to Twisted Sister, the band kept on evolving over a 10 year period and by 1984, with the rise of MTV, the timing was right for them to take full advantage of it. However for Twisted Sister, the success proved nasty as Jay Jay explains;

“The downside of it is we exploded so fast that – even though the band had been together 11 years at that point – the heat of the immense popularity, the worldwide success put so much pressure on the band. The band couldn’t sustain itself and eventually collapsed.”

Dee Snider joined Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda in 1976. Jay Jay on the other hand was at it since 1972. He finally found success in 1984. Twelve years slugging it out. Twelve years of rejection and broken promises. Do any of the new artists today have that same kind of thick skin? Do they have the longevity to stick it out. To succeed in the music business, you need to outlast the competition and the competition these days is fierce for listener’s attention.

This is what Metallica has done. This is what Machine Head has done. This is what Motley Crue has done. They are outlasting the competition. They are adapting and evolving.

 

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The World Of Prog And Metal Will Be Changed Forever By The End Of October.

The world of Progressive Metal and Heavy Metal will be changed forever by the end of October. It wont be my mammoth sales or by charting in the top 10. That is old school. It will be years later, that the greatness of Trivium and Protest The Hero will be hailed.

We live in a blockbuster world and these two releases “Volition” from Protest The Hero and “Vengeance Falls” from Trivium are two such blockbusters.

The two songs from Protest The Hero released so far are killer. They have that WOW factor. The first one “Clarity” I have already spoken about in my 40 word review.

The second one, “DrumHead Trail” has got this Maiden gallop vibe I am hearing. The drumming on the whole album is by Chris Adler from Lamb Of God.

You can really hear that metal edge that Adler brings to the table, especially around the double kick sections of the first two songs. It is also super progressive. What an excellent job. To be honest I really thought that Dream Theater would be entering territory like this with their self-titled release on at least one song.

Protest The Hero deliver insanity like prog in 5 minutes. I really can’t wait for the fan funded version to hit my mailbox. Hearing the two songs so far from Protest The Hero, it sure looks like a huge stamp for Prog as well.

I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not mainstream and it’s never going to be embraced by everybody, however Protest The Hero have created a niche.

Plus there is still Trivium’s new one to come, which sounds like it will be a huge stamp for Metal.

From what I have heard, I have no issues out laying the money.

“No Way To Heal” is the new song doing the rounds. It follows on nicely from “Brave This Storm” and “Strife.”

“I’m running on empty / I’m chasing a dead dream / I’m all out of time / Clutching the will, only to feel / No Way to Heal!!!”

Trivium working with Dave Draiman was the best thing to have happened to them. Next in line, they should work with Kevin Churko.

Also, for any young kid that is getting into metal and progressive music for the first time, these two releases are perfect introductions. For the hardcore fans, these two releases will satisfy. For the casual metal fan, they will bite at these two new releases.

Life is long and artists need to have perserverance for that delayed gratification.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, Stupidity

Put Your Efforts Into Twenty Little Derivative Projects Throughout The Year

Music and movies just don’t seem to last anymore. The way movies and music are done these days, they don’t fit the modern paradigm of needing to be in the face of the consumer week after week. TV on the other hand has a longer lifespan because it fits the modern paradigm.

George Lucas once said that the $200 million movie is dead. At the moment there are a lot of blockbusters that cost $100 million to $200 million to make that are flops.

Movies like R.I.P.D (a derivative version of Ghostbusters and Men In Black), Pacific Rim (a derivative version of Godzilla and Transformers), The Lone Ranger (a derivative version of The Lone Ranger TV show, National Treasure and Pirates of The Caribbean), Turbo, After Earth and White House Down.

Remember that progress is derivative. Each movie mentioned above is a derivative version of a previous movie that had come before it. So what went wrong. Remember, that this is Hollywood. Hollywood is well known to play on the stupid idea that they need a $200 million movie. So in order to make a $200 million movie, Hollywood focuses on a lot of formulaic material that the public is pushing back on as we are sick and tired of watching it. Meanwhile, the movies that are doing well are the lower budget films.

The Conjuring cost $20 million to make and so far it has made $140 million. The Heat cost $43 million to make and so far it has made $190 million. Now You See Me cost $75 million to make and so far it has made $233 million.

It’s just bad business sense. If you are in the market to sell a product, a better strategy is to test your luck with ten $20 million movies rather than dumping $200 million into just one movie? The public is speaking up. They want the studios to focus on how to make good movies that doesn’t involve following a formula. They want the studios to find quality content.

So what does the failure of several blockbusters have to do with music.

DO NOT PUT ALL YOUR EFFORTS INTO ONE GIANT PROJECT. Put your efforts into twenty little derivative projects throughout the year.

The years of when artists took a year to make an album and went on a three year victory lap as it sold by the truckloads are over. The ones that still take a year to make an album basically have an album that is dead on arrival. The faithful will buy the album and then the victory lap is over.

There is a massive paradigm shift happening in the way the audience consumes entertainment. The best way to sum up the change in consumerism mindset is to use the good old photo analogy. Once upon a time it used to cost a decent amount of dollars to have a photo done. You needed a camera and batteries. Then you had to buy a 35mm film roll for taking the photos and then once the roll was all used up, you needed to take that roll to a photo lab who then converted the roll into negatives and then printed up the photos for you. You then paid the photo lab money and they gave the prints and the negatives back to you. Then we would buy a photo album to store the photos in so that we can view them in the future over and over again. Some people even purchased slide machines to view their negatives on a wall.

Today we just take a photo on our smartphones. Today, photos cost nothing and are oftentimes shot and then discarded. In most cases, they are saved to a hard drive where they will sit forever or uploaded to a social site like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr or Tumblr.

Music is also uploaded to a social site. YouTube is the unofficial and original streaming service. The record labels execs that are doing everything they can to keep their fat pay checks and thinking about yesterday didn’t see that one coming.

The change in consumer behaviour has led to the traditional photo print shop from disappearing. In music, this has led to the reduction in brick and mortar stores that sell recorded music.

Kodak the biggest player in the photography field has disappeared. They made the mistake of ignoring the changes in technology and assumed that people will remain true to the film roll technology. Hang on a second. Isn’t that the same viewpoint the Record Labels hold.

Once upon a time you could only play your music at home. Once upon a time you could only view your photos at home. Today we can view and take our photos everywhere we go. Today we can expect to have all of our music available to us everywhere we go.

So why are the artists creating content with the old Record Label mindset.

Record more frequently, release frequently. Give the people a reason to listen to your music.

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