A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Branding

“Initially when we put the band together in ’89, like all bands, I guess, our intentions were to put it together to keep it together. Man, we’ve had such a revolving door… I think this is really the final version of the band that has the same elements that it initially was conceived to have in 1989; it just works, the chemistry works. I haven’t had that in a long, long, long time.”
George Lynch on a revolving door of members

“If people are still in the band it either means they wanted to stay or I wanted them around. If they’re not, it means they didn’t want to stay or I didn’t want them around. It doesn’t mean they’re not good players or that they’re not nice people. Sometimes things run their course — sometimes things are meant to be, and sometimes they’re not.”
Dave Mustaine on departing members

As much as we want our bands to tough it out and stay together, the reality is very different. On some occasions, a record deal and immediate success would make some tough it out, but it would also make people argue over money splits and what not.

So was Dokken really a band?

It’s been a debate I have been having with people for a while now.

Think about it for a second.

The “band” was made up of veterans from different scenes. When Dokken started to get mindshare in 1983 and 84, and mainstream success by 1985, the band members had been trying to “make it” for over a decade in separate bands. In the end, it took Don Dokken (who was tapped to replace Klaus Meine in the Scorpions once upon a time) to get a European recording contract by using songs that George Lynch and Mick Brown had written in Xciter. So the marriage of convenience was already seethed in resentment, which would lead to their break up in 1989 at the peak of their commercial powers.

“Of course, everything we (Lynch Mob) release is always compared to the benchmark “Wicked Sensation” – and that’s a pretty high mark. That record took probably at least a year or more to make, and about a half a million dollars or more.”
George Lynch

George Lynch via Lynch Mob went first with “Wicked Sensation”. Meanwhile, Don Dokken was holed up in a studio with a supergroup of musicians recording “Up From The Ashes”. But he had the backing of Geffen Records and the large advance.

But Lynch was marketable. He was in Guitar Magazines and normal music magazines. Oni and Mick were also in the mags.

Meanwhile, Don Dokken had a supergroup of musicians, however, the magazines didn’t want to interview them. John Norum is a fantastic guitarist, but in the U.S he was virtually an unknown. Most of the public at that time believed Kee Marcello played on “The Final Countdown”, much in the same way, the majority of the new Whitesnake fans had no idea who John Sykes was.

Don Dokken is a great singer, but he wasn’t a marketable singer in 1990. At the time, the magazines glorified, Sebastian Bach, Jani Lane and so forth. He couldn’t use the Dokken name for the new band, because Lynch and Co.. wouldn’t let him and even took him to court.

In the end, a combination of riffs and melodies would sell the “Wicked Sensation” album. The guitar magazines dissected the songs, devoting pages to the makeup of the riffs and the leads. These articles alone sold the album to the legion of guitarists. None of that PR happened with Don Dokken and his supergroup.

That’s not to say that the Don Dokken album is terrible. It is good, but it was no different to the thousands of other melodic rock releases that came out in 1990. In the end, the brand of the “band” Dokken, wasn’t tied to Don Dokken. It was more tied to George Lynch than anyone else. He was the one selling the brand Dokken because everyone wanted to interview him.

When it comes to Megadeth, did anyone know that ex-members of Megadeth formed a band called “Act Of Defiance” and released an album. As a fan of Megadeth, and based on the two songs I have heard so far, I am officially back on the band wagon. Chris Adler on drums is a machine. The songs are proggy which is so early Megadeth and exactly what a Megadeth song should be.

Did it matter that Mustaine had an ever revolving door of musicians?

Of course it doesn’t matter, because the brand of Megadeth is Mustaine.

And if you are an artist, the brand is where it’s at.

“So much of branding is repetition: Repeat, repeat, repeat. I understood why they (other Twisted Sister band mates) wanted to change it up, but they didn’t understand why I didn’t. My face became the face. I carry the legend of Twisted Sister. Nobody knows who the other guys are.”
Dee Snider

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Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Metal Loyalty

Why is it a surprise to people that heavy metal or hard rock fans are the most loyal fans?

There is a pretty good chance that every metal fan has purchased the same album, from acts they like, more than three times.

I am talking from my own experience here. I have the Crue’s Eighties albums on Cassette, LP and on CD.

In the Nineties, these albums got remastered and had some bonus tracks added to them. So I purchased them again. The same albums then got repackaged into Box Sets and guess what I did? I purchased them again.

All up, I purchased each Eighties Motley Crue album five times. Just typing it all out makes me sound silly. Now apply the same counts to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, Bon Jovi, Europe, Cinderella, Kiss, Whitesnake, Def Leppared, Guns N Roses, Skid Row and so on.

Others call it dumb, others call it silly, however I call it loyalty. And guess what? There are millions more people out there the same as me.

Talking about the Eighties, let’s look at the year 1987. The biggest hit singles for that year according to Wikipedia are “La Bamba” from Los Lobos, “Never Gonna Give You Up” from Rick Astley, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” from Whitney Houston, “It’s A Sin” from Pet Shop Boys and “Who’s That Girl” from Madonna.

However during the year, Guns N Roses unleashed their record-breaking “Appetite For Destruction” album and Def Leppard also unleashed their own record-breaking album in “Hysteria”. Both albums are known as slow-burners, meaning that they took their time to hit it big. Something today’s know it all musicians fail to understand.

For Guns N Roses, it wasn’t until “Sweet Child O’Mine” came out as a single in August 1988 that the album really started to sell. And that was 14 months after it was released. Using the RIAA certification system as a metric for success, by August 1988, Appetite For Destruction was certified three times multi-platinum. Not bad, hey. Then “Sweet Child O’Mine” came out as a single in the same month. By December 1988, (four months later) the album was six times multi-platinum.

You see what happens when one song connects.

Continuing on, by July 1989, almost 12 months since “Sweet Child O’Mine” was released as a single and two years since the album came out, the album was certified eight times multi-platinum. Five million units were sold after “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.

For Def Leppard, it wasn’t until the “Love Bites” single came out in 1988 that the “Hysteria” album started to sell by the truckloads.

Also in 1987, Bon Jovi was still riding high from 1986’s “Slippery When Wet” album. Meanwhile, Motley Crue came out with “Girls, Girls, Girls” and U2 released “The Joshua Tree”. All three bands proved massive drawcards on the live circuit.

White Lion came out with “Pride” and surprised everyone with “Wait”. Suddenly Vito Bratta was in everyone’s lounge rooms courtesy of MTV. And because of MTV, White Lion also became a multi-platinum act.

Ozzy Osbourne paid a “Tribute” to Randy Rhoads while Kiss jumped on the Bon Jovi band wagon with “Crazy Nights”. Blues rockers Great White took the charts by storm with their “Once Bitten” album.

1987 also saw Whitesnake released their mega selling self – titled album, Heart released “Bad Animals” and the single “Alone” and Gary Moore released “Wild Frontier”.

Aerosmith also released “Permanent Vacation” signalling that their comeback was complete, while Pink Floyd did the same with “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason”.

Marillion released “Clutching at Straws”, Y&T released “Contagious” and Rush released “Hold Your Fire”.

Savatage started to make a dent in the metal world with “Hall of the Mountain King” and Alice Cooper’s comeback was picking up steam with “Raise Your Fist and Yell”.

I own all of the above albums, more than once.

Metal and Rock music is a lifestyle. Metal and rock bands appealed to my belief systems. It is that lifestyle and belief system that inspires loyalty. Cultural movements have happened on the backs of metal music.

The term heavy metal in the Eighties was used a lot. A record store lumped bands with very different styles into one Metal category. I could walk into a heavy metal section of a record shop and find Bon Jovi, Metallica, Twisted Sister, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Poison, Van Halen and even Boston.

Judging by how big metal became, I guess I was not the only one that had the same belief systems. One thing that metal and rock bands did better than every other genre is the branding. Once we connected with the artists, we wanted to become to a member of the gang. We wanted to be patched in and sworn in. It was a tribe mentality.

You don’t need Spotify to know that metal fans are loyal. Looking at the releases in 1987, artists like Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd, Whitesnake, Heart, Rush, Y&T and Aerosmith had been around since the early Seventies. Yep, 17 years later, they still had loyal fans waiting for new music. Almost twenty years later, those same bands still have millions of fans waiting for a tour or new music. Can’t say much for Rick Astley.

Other artists like Def Leppard, Gary Moore, U2, Marillion, Great White and Motley Crue had been around since the late Seventies or early Eighties.

The reason why the loyalty of metal heads becomes part of the conversation is that us metal heads/rock heads are stereotyped as antisocial who contribute nothing to society. So how does that explain the numbers that metal and rock bands do on the live circuit, sales circuit, streaming numbers and merchandise sales. That is a lot of money that the anti-social misfits are putting into society.

As the saying goes, pop artists come and go, but metal artists remain forever. Once we are a fan of a band, we are fans for life.

I strongly believe that this metal global audience was achieved because of piracy. Illegal P2P in the early days led to bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Motley Crue earning a whole new audience. Suddenly their music was available to people who couldn’t get it. Suddenly these bands who had waning careers, had new markets to hit.

Nicko from Iron Maiden summed it up the best in the Flight 666 documentary. In the documentary, Nicko was mentioning that Iron Maiden hasn’t sold any recorded music in Costa Rica, however they had a sold out show that night.

There is an article over at Mashable that is quoting from Vince Edwards, the head of publicity for Metal Blade Records.

Edwards says that to book live shows, bands need to be able to demonstrate sales, which means using Nielsen’s SoundScan. Spotify streams don’t factor into SoundScan, so any streams that take away from sales also take away from touring. Touring, he says, is “mission critical” for bands. Streams, he says, just aren’t yet incorporated into the system. “It’s such a new metric that people aren’t really sure how to measure that yet,” Edwards said.

Spotify does have some data that can be used to inform bands where it might be best to tour, but Edwards says that doesn’t help metal artists much, since they tend to play smaller venues.

“I think that’s kind of the big disconnect between our world and the mainstream world,” he said.

Seriously, you would think in this day and age that the label bosses would have figured out how to incorporate streaming or even piracy data into their analysis. Online piracy has been around since 1999 and Spotify streaming has been around since 2008. To rely on SoundScan data in 2015 is ridiculous.

Lucky for these clueless label heads that the metal fans are loyal and generate dollars for them.

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

The Content Rockundrum or The Content Metalundrum – Finding an audience for your content.

I just finished reading an article called “The Content Conundrum: How to get people to view what you create”, that was published on the website, Smartcompany.com.au

Of course it got me thinking about rock and metal music and artists.

FACT – It’s getting easier to get content out in the world for musicians. iTunes, CDBaby, Soundcloud, Tumblr, Facebook, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Instagram, website, WordPress and many more. Due to this ease, the web is saturated with content.

As the article alludes, “the challenge is no longer how to publish content, it’s how to find an audience for it.”

FACT: There is so much competition, how does an artist stand out and compete for someone’s time. Back in the glory day of the recording industry, the record labels would be competing for the listener’s dollar. Now it is record labels and artists themselves competing for the listener’s time, attention and maybe their dollar.

For example, it’s funny how a lot of bands or artists don’t think about uniqueness and branding when it comes to deciding what band name or artist name they should go forward with. I was listening to a melodic rock band called “Rain” today. I wanted to know more about the band, so I Googled the words “Rain band.” Of course I knew that the term “Rain” would bring back everything to do with actual rain. To my amusement, the term “Rain band” also brought back everything to do with the weather term “rainbands”. Do you get where I am getting with this? Other bands I listened to today are called “Prime Circle”, “The Black Rain”, “Redline” and “Vaudeville.” Google these band names and tell me if you get the bands website or Facebook page as the first search result.

Motley Crew is not unique, Motley Crue however is.

Metallica is unique. Metal Britannica is not.

Megadeth is unique. Mega Death is not.

Aerosmith is unique. Aeroplane is not.

Coheed and Cambria is unique. That’s it.

Judas Priest is unique.

Queensryche is unique.

Pink Floyd is unique.

Twisted Sister is unique.

Volbeat is unique.

Dream Theater is unique, however Dream Theatre is not unique. Get the difference one little letter change has achieved.

Every artist should aim to have their name to come up as search item result number 1 in Google. If I type in “Tool” in Google, I get 6 returns for the band Tool and 4 returns for other forms of tools, like Tax Tools, Definition of Tool and so forth.

If I type in “Rush” in Google, I only get 2 returns for the band Rush and that is because they have a history in Google’s “SEO” algorithm. I guarantee you, that if a new band called Rush came out on the scene today, there web presence would be lost as the name is generic.

What are you doing different compared to what all the other artists are doing? By using the phrase that you are “putting your heart and soul into the music”, just doesn’t cut it these days. What reasons are you giving for the fans to connect with you and for the fans to buy from you?

If you want to be a millionaire by playing Djent music, then you are dreaming. It will not happen. You could have a career in music, however you will not be rolling in the cash. If cash is the reason why you got into the music industry, then get out right now. There is more money to be made in banking and the technology sector.

Which area or space are you trying to occupy with your music?

Remember the movie Highlander, “there can be only one.” Look at technology. Facebook is unrivalled at the moment. Sure there are other little players on the scene, however all the social media fame goes to Facebook. Amazon has the online shopping experience cornered. Google has the search area cornered. Apple did have the innovation market cornered, however they stopped innovating and Samsung is rising up to take the crown. Blackberry is dead as they refused to see that the future lays in apps. One will become dominant and the other will fall.

Music is the same. Sure, we all have our little niche bands that we love, however there is always one band that rises to conquer all.

Metallica have no challengers at the moment for the Thrash, Rock and Metal crown. Of course, I still love Slipknot, Stone Sour, Machine Head, Megadeth, Slayer, Trivium, Killswitch Engage and so on, however none of those bands can rival the juggernaut that is Metallica.

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch are fighting it off to be the current conqueror of the Modern Metal movement. Of course, other bands exist in this era that fans also like.

Killswitch Engage are the kings of the metalcore movement in the U.S. Of course there are a thousand wannabes however, Killswitch remain unchallenged.

Dream Theater are the undisputed kings of progressive rock and metal.

Coheed and Cambria are kings of their comics and sci-fi world and they get a fair amount of crossover fans.

If any artist looks back at the careers of the bands/artists that influence them they would see that those artists didn’t release the same content as their competitors.

Metallica in 1991 released an album vastly different to what the other thrash bands released in 1991. They are still selling copies of that album, while all the other releases from their competitors have no traction today.

Motley Crue released a sleazy heavy classic rock album with “Dr Feelgood” in 1989, a far cry from the glam rock and pop metal/rock releases that the other competing bands released.

Guns N Roses released a very heavy blues rock album with “Appetite For Destruction” in 1987 and they stood out from the pack. Axl Rose is still doing victory laps on this album.

Dream Theater released “Images And Words” in 1992, which was totally different to the hard rock releases of the day. When compared to the new wave of Seattle sounds coming through, “Images and Words” was a total outlier.

The blog states that “Content should be influenced by a blend of audience needs, brand positioning and values, and corporate and communication objectives – and these are likely to be unique to your business and enable you to find a unique voice.”

The way I view the above comment is as follows;

I call it “The Led Zeppelin Fix.” When you have one of the largest bands in the history of music call it a day in 1980, what are all the hard rock fans of the band going to do. “Zebra” took in a decent cut, however it wasn’t until “Whitesnake” released their self-titled album in 1987 and “Kingdom Com”e released their self-titled in 1988 that fans of Led Zeppelin had their “Led Zeppelin fix”.

When a novice listener hears the albums mentioned above for the first time they will never notice the obvious influences. Kids these days do not know enough about the history of rock and metal music, in order to make the comparisons. They are too busy trying things out.

This is what Dream Theater is trying to do with their new album. They are trying to make it a great reference point for any new fans hearing the band for the first time. Time will tell if they have succeeded.

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