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Music Isn’t Just About Record Sales

Change is hard and in the end it is always worthwhile. There is a cliché that goes that after being fired or rejected or dumped one door closes and a million other doors open that will lead to a better place. It is true, however the main part that nobody talks about is how long it’s going to take to get to that better place.

The highs of success and fame are brief. It begins to fade and then what are you going to do next?

Vince Neil

On July 6, 2013, Vince Neil played a solo show in Mexico City. The venue was Jose Cuervo Salon. The capacity of the venue is 1,500. The attendance was 64 people. That’s right, less than 5% of the total venue size. Total Gross sales for the night was $2,286. There was only one ticket price at $35.72. So does anyone really care about Vince Neil outside of Motley Crue? Based on the ticket sales, Mexico sure don’t.

What a hard truth that is? Music is a tough business and this is what happens when you go out every night with Motley Crue and sing out of tune. Also why is he touring. He hasn’t released anything new recently. Also when he does tour, all he does is play Motley Crue songs. No one wants to hear Vince Neil do Motley again. I don’t know why, as there are some great songs in the Vince Neil catalogue that fans would love to hear live.

His debut album “Exposed” celebrated 20 years this year. He should have commemorated that release? It is a great album and there is an audience for it. It might mean he plays smaller venues that fit a couple of hundred. However he needs to sing in tune to get people to come back time and time again.

It is a good thing he is getting into the restaurant business and the Tequila/Wine business.

Classic Rock and Southern Rock Rule in Gilford, New Hampshire

On July 3, 2013, the Gigantour tour hit Gilford, New Hampshire. The venue was Meadowbrook. The capacity of the venue is 6,657. The attendance was 1,308. That’s right, 1,308 people turned up to watch Megadeth, Black Label Society, Device and Hellyeah. Total Gross sales for the night was $49,860. There was three tiers of ticket prices ranging from $42, $33 and $23.75.

My first opinion was that the low attendance is due to the poor recent albums put out by the bands involved. Don’t get me wrong, all of those albums are worthy of a listen, but there is nothing really engaging to go back for seconds.

This show should have been a sell-out. The Gigantour tour has never hit Gilford, New Hampshire before. So it is not a market that has seen the Gigantour tour before. However, if you take just the town of Gilford and its population of 7000, then you see it is a small market and the attendance of 1,308 people is not a bad result. Add to the mix that other rock shows are playing the same venue in the weeks leading up to the Gigantour show and in the weeks after, you start to form a different viewpoint.

With most shows a lot of people come from surrounding towns as well. I know in Australia that Sydney is the place that most bands play, however the audience is derived from places in NSW that are a decent hour or three or five away from Sydney.

On July 9, 2013, Daughtry, 3 Doors Down, Halestorm and Bad Seed Rising also played the Meadowbrook at Gilford, New Hampshire. The attendance was 2,718 in a venue that fits 6,219 (for this shows the capacity was reduced due to the stage size). Total Gross sales for the night was $142,431. There was four tiers of ticket prices ranging from $59.50, $49.50, $39.50 and $29.50.

Again not even half full. Daughtry is a platinum selling major label backed super star. 3 Doors Down are also in the same league, although they haven’t reached the same heights as the early two thousands and Halestorm are Grammy award winners. So what’s gone wrong. Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company is what went wrong.

On July 26, 2013, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company also played the Meadowbrook at Gilford, New Hampshire. The attendance was 6,671 in a venue that fits 6,671 (that’s right people, classic rock and southern rock sold out the venue). Total Gross sales for the night was $407,641. There was three tiers of ticket prices ranging from $79, $59 and $33.25.

Classic rock and southern rock trumped everyone. Lynyrd Skynyrd released “Last of a Dyin’ Breed” in August 2012 however that album was dead and buried by the July 2013. Bad Company on the other hand haven’t released anything worthwhile for a long time. However when you combine the two acts, put a 40th Anniversary name to the tour and you have people from that era interested. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album release and Bad Company’s formation happened 40 years ago. To prove my point, I am going to watch Bon Jovi in Sydney, because I want my kids to experience it.

Classic Rock Rules Part II

On July 19, 2013, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band played a show in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The venue was the MTS Centre. The capacity of the venue is 8,397. The attendance was 8,397. Total Gross sales for the night was $724,948. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $107.15 and $63.31.

Talk about turning the page. What a comeback from the man with the golden voice? Thank Metallica for their cover of “Turn The Page” in 1998. The Metallica version made Bob Seger cool with the metal community and who can forget the Metallica clip with Ginger Lynn.

Another turning point for Bob Seger’s comeback was 3 Doors Down and heir song “Landing In London” that Bob Seger sang on.

Once “Landing In London” came out in 2005, interest in Bob Seger was renewed. It was followed by a new album in 2006 and a few Greatest Hits / Live packages in between.

Guess what else is happening in the world of Bob Seger? A new album is on its way. Isn’t that like the old guard. He is hot at the moment so let’s release a new album. Why don’t the people that advise Seger release a new song first and see how it resonates with the public before dropping a slab of them.

Classic Rock III

On July 2, 2013, Alice Cooper played a show at South Bend, Indiana. The venue was Morris Performing Arts Center. The capacity of the venue is 2,552. The attendance was 1,662. Total Gross sales for the night was $77,967. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $69.50 and $39.50.

This is Alice Cooper fresh from his run with Marilyn Manson that ended in June. This show was billed as “An Evening With Alice Cooper” and it was his first show in South Bend in 4 years. There is still juice in the tank of a cultural icon.

On July 28, 2013, Ted Nugent and Laura Wilde played a show in Nashville, Tennessee. The venue was the Ryman Auditorium. The capacity of the venue is 2,037. The attendance was 1,254. Total Gross sales for the night was $67,893. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $59.50 and $39.50.

Just like Alice Cooper, Ted was coming off a Classic Rock run with REO Speedwagon and Styx. As with Alice, there is still life left in our favourite gun toting / wildlife hunter.

Wish they would take a leaf out of the Black Star Riders playbook? Their album, “All Hell Breaks Loose” is a great slab of classic rock songs. I was always a fan of Rick Warwick from The Almighty days so it was great to hear him rocking out again with a Phil Lynott swagger this time around, instead of a Brian Johnson swagger.

What Does A Grammy Award or Nomination Mean in 2013?

Halestorm (along with Age Of Days) played a show on June 26, 2013 at Edmonton, Alberta. The venue was the Starlite Room. The capacity of the venue was 700. The attendance was 492 and the total gross sales for the night was $12,778. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $27.61 and $24.76.

Halestorm are still paying their dues. The Grammy win means nothing to today’s music public. The record labels that pay the entry fee are the ones that can compete. It’s got nothing to do with public opinion.

Hell, Dream Theater and Megadeth were nominated for Grammies last year and their current albums can’t move past the 100,000 mark in sales. If the music is great it will sell itself.

Both Dream Theater and Megadeth should look up the Wikipedia entry of “Instant Karma” from John Lennon.
“It ranks as one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history, recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios the same day it was written, and arriving in stores only ten days later. Lennon remarked to the press, he “wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we’re putting it out for dinner.”

This is what both bands need to be doing. Writing some new material ASAP. Forgot about the next album or the tour coming up and go back into the studio and churn a couple of songs out. Surprise us for Christmas.

Alice In Chains is still powerful

On July 11, 2013, Alice In Chains played a show in London, Ontario, Canada. The venue was Budweiser Gardens. The capacity of the venue is 5,248. The attendance was 4,801. Total Gross sales for the night was $237,558. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $56.57 and $30.90.

I can’t say I am a fan of the new Alice In Chains album. It’s pedestrian. However the fans are there. If they are there because of the old or the new or both, it doesn’t matter. The band is a quarter of a million per show band.

Power Metal Rules In Europe

On April 18, 2013, Helloween, Gamma Ray and Shadowside played a Power Metal feast in Hamburg, Germany. The venue was the Docks. The capacity of the venue is 1,500. The attendance was 1,171. Total Gross sales for the night was $51,299. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $52.52 and $43.33.

You have German bands playing in Germany. Enough said. The thing with power metal bands is that they know the size of their audience. You won’t see them playing venues larger than the above size. Maybe 3000 max. it is a niche and it has a hard core and devoted fan base. They even have power metal outdoor festivals where fans even get dressed up in medieval clothing and enact sword fights and so forth.

This is a good indication of bands still carving out a living in a time where they have no promotion in the large US market. This is a good indication of bands still carving out a living in a time where people download music illegally or stream it legally.

The Black Crowes still do good business

On July 19, 2013, The Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band and The London Souls played a show in Nashville, Tennesse. The venue was the Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel. The capacity of the venue is 4,056. The attendance was 3,273. Total Gross sales for the night was $215,641. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $115 and $49.50.

I watched The Black Crowes at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre on April 1, 2008. The venue had less than a thousand people in attendance in a venue that has a capacity of around 10,000, so the stage was moved heaps forward to accommodate for the smaller audience.

It was the best show I saw. They jammed, they extended songs and just had fun. Rich Robinson was the sheriff. He was the one they all looked too for when the jam starts and when the jam ends.

That is a sign of a true champion. The night before, they played to a sold out Sydney audience 70 minutes away. They could have chucked a hissy fit at the small turn out for the Wollongong show, however they didn’t. They came out and they rocked.

There is plenty of money available in music and the more people that have access to your recorded music means more fans that could turn into customers.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Angus Young – Guitar World – March 1986 – Part 3

ANGUS YOUNG – RAW ENERGY IS ALL YOU NEED
Guitar World March 1986
By Joe Lalaina

(All parts in Italics and Quotes are from the March 1986 issue of Guitar World)

To this day. Angus continues to play in shorts, every show. However a lot of AC/DC fans say it s a worn-out routine,

“I guess it depends on which fans you talk to,” counters Angus. To me, it’s comfortable. If I took the stage and dressed like any other guitar player. I don’t think I would be able to be myself. The shorts are as much a part of me as my guitar.”

Lalaina is trying to get a reaction from Angus.  I lived through the Eighties, and during this period, glam and hard rock was becoming king.  All the bands had a similar look.  AC/DC didn’t fit this look and a lot of the journalists tried to put AC/DC down.  Even the sales of AC/DC albums started to tank during the Eighties.  It wasn’t until 1990 when AC/DC released The Razor’s Edge that their career was resurrected.  The response from Angus is typical of the attitude in AC/DC.  They never cared for trends.  To quote Frank Sinatra, the did it their way.

“When I first started playing in shorts, it was a challenge. People would say, Hey, this guy’s a clown—here comes Peepo or something. As a result, it made me work harder to prove to the people that I really did know how to play guitar. I just plugged it into the amp and played. I never used any of those wangy’ bars or stuff like that.”

These days, an artist would change who they are, just so they can please.  No one wants to be hated.  Instead of working harder to stay true to who they are like Angus, 99% of wannabe musicians would change.

In fact, Angus hates tremolo units.

” Those things never appealed to me,” he says. “If I want to get a similar kind of sound, I just de-tune the strings. Cliff Richard used to have this guy in his backing band, Hank Marvin, who used that thing on almost every note. He was like a Buddy Holly clone—he used to do these silly little steps. Guys like Hank set the music world back twenty years. I couldn’t believe guitarists like Beck looked at him as inspiration. Whenever I saw guys like Hank Marvin, I would always go in the complete reverse of what they were doing.”

That is what I am talking about.  By 1986, everyone was doing tapping, whammy dive bombs, sweep picking and had racks of gear to rival NASA.  Angus is totally against it, staying true to who he is, keeping it simple, keeping it real.

Angus says his biggest musical inspiration was his brother George Young, who together with Harry Vanda produced the first few AC/DC albums. Vanda and Young, you may recall, were the guitarists in the Easybeats, one of the most successful Australian pop bands of the late sixties.

That is what a lot of people seem to forget or don’t even know about.  Angus and Malcolm Young had a successful older brother. Does anyone remember the working class anthem, Friday On My Mind?

“We learned a lot from George.” says Angus. “He was the first one who said to us, To be different, you must do everything your own way. When he first heard us, he was impressed with the fact that we could take someone’s song—an old standard like ‘Lucille’ or something and make it sound like a new song altogether. George just let us do what we wanted. He didn’t make us put nice melodies in. If anything, he made us toughen our music up.”

“Although George had more experience as a guitarist and a songwriter, he was also a good producer. A lot of people call themselves producers, but in fact they may be more of an engineer, since they know more about sound than about songs or arranging. George knew about everything. A lot of producers can’t even tell you if your guitar is out of tune.”

“George was great to work with in the studio.” adds Angus. “He always said that since we’re a rock and roll band, the less gimmickry, the better. The last album he did with us was our live album back in 78, If You Want Blood You’ve Got It. I remember George saying, “This is the last AC/DC album I’m gonna produce, since you guys already know enough about the type of sound and songs you want.”

I have a strong viewpoint on producers.  A good, smart producer can really get the best out of a band, and to me, they are the real unsung heroes in the history of hard rock and heavy metal music.  George Young, didn’t try to change AC/DC into another Easybeats.  He made them play to their strengths.  He assisted them in making their sound tougher, rawer, edgier and grittier.

After considering a few producers (whom Angus says he would rather not name), AC/DC settled for Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who produced the bands next three albums, Highway To Hell, Back In Black and For Those About To Rock We Salute You. Of these, Back In Black was the most successful, selling a whopping eight million copies.

“That album is our biggest selling album in America,” acknowledges Angus, “but our European fans preferred our early albums. A lot of the sounds on Back In Black are very much like the sounds you hear on the radio these days.”

Mutt Lange, another master producer.  Of course he went on to massive things with Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and Shania Twain.

How many AC/DC fans knew that Lange, produced three AC/DC albums.

Of course, Back In Black has now moved over 30 million units worldwide since its release.  Highway To Hell, the last Bon Scott album has now moved over  10 million units worldwide since its release and For Those About To Rock We Salute You, has now moved over 7 million units worldwide since its release.

It was another super producer, Bruce Fairbairn that helped re-establish AC/DC in the Nineties with the excellent Razors Edge and the classic Thunderstruck.

Could this be why AC/DC decided to produce their last two albums themselves?

“Not really,” says Angus. “We went from working with Mutt to producing ourselves simply because we wanted to. All the material was ready before we went into the studio albums we did with Matt. He left the music to us because he knew what we wanted. But the difference between us and any other band he’s worked with is that he likes to spend a lot of time in the studio, we don’t. I mean, he’s a good producer and he’s good at getting a great performance out of a band, but he spends too much time recording. We can’t stay in a studio for six months to a year on an album – that’s ridiculous.”

Is Angus happy with how Fly On The Wall turned out?

“We think we’ve done a good job and we achieved what we wanted. We just wanted to make a tough and exciting rock and roll record. And that’s what we made.”

Fly On The Wall had two stand out tracks and the rest was filler.  That is why the Who Made Who soundtrack album that came next sold a lot.  Even though it had a two new songs, it was sort of like a greatest hits album, featuring the best AC/DC songs from Back In Black, For Those About To Rock We Salute You and Fly On The Wall.  It also had Ride On from the Bon Scott era.

It wasn’t until The Razors Edge album released in 1990 that AC/DC recaptured the public’s love affair with them.  Since then they have never looked back.  If any young artist is starting out, these articles form the key component to the A to Z of Making It.  Stay true to who you are.  If you do that, and you write great music, an audience will find you.

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Music

Angus Young – Guitar World – March 1986 – Part 1

ANGUS YOUNG – RAW ENERGY IS ALL YOU NEED
Guitar World March 1986
By Joe Lalaina

(All parts in Italics and Quotes are from the March 1986 issue of Guitar World)

The little guy with the big SG is unconcerned with current guitar hero fashions.  His stock in trade has always been the hard rock shuffle to a boogie beat.  Before you drop the needle on any new AC/DC album, you know what to expect. Rarely has a band maintained such a consistent sound as AC/DC, they’ve been pretty much making the same album for the past ten years. Fly On The Wall, the group’s eleventh release, is no exception.

“I’ve heard people say all our music sounds the same,” says soft-spoken lead guitarist Angus Young, “but it’s usually just the people who don’t like us who say it.”

Not true. It’s just that ever since the band’s High Voltage debut back in 76, AC/DC has been playing the same relentlessly raw and straightforward style on every succeeding album. And that’s the way their fans like it.

I like AC/DC.  They are a talisman to consistency.  Each album is the same, however that doesn’t mean that each album was successful.  You need great songs, and that is what AC/DC delivered on High Voltage, Highway To Hell, Let There Be Rock, Back In Black and on The Razors Edge.  Credit both Mutt Lange for Back In Black and Bruce Fairbairn for The Razors Edge.  Actually, The Razors Edge album is the most crucial album AC/DC ever did.  After a steady decline in fortunes and sales since Back In Black, they kicked off the 1990’s with a bang.  It made them relevant again.  The Razors Edge album sustained them throughout the 90’s and into the now.

“We never go overboard and above people’s heads,” says Angus, who took some rare time out from his recent American tour to discuss musical and other matters.

“We strive to retain that energy, that spirit we’ve always had. We feel the more simple and original something is, the better it is. It doesn’t take much for anyone to pick up anything I play, it’s quite simple. I go for a good song. And if you hear a good song, you don’t dissect it, you just listen and every bit seems right.”

For any guitarist that is starting off, AC/DC wrote the book on beginners guitar.  In the process, they also created songs that are timeless and a soundtrack to a whole generation of people in the seventies, eighties and nineties.  I am just teaching my kids to play guitar and the first song i showed them was Long Way To The Top from AC/DC.

Although this stripped-to-the-bone approach has made AC/DC internationally successful, thirty million albums sold worldwide ain’t bad!, Angus is more concerned with having a  good time than with album sales.

“We don’t go around the world counting ticket and record sales,” he says, “nor do we glue our ears to the radio to hear what’s trendy at the moment; we’re not that type of band. We do run our own careers, but we leave the marketing stuff to the record company. We make music for what we know it as, and we definitely have our own style.”

AC/DC defined a style and in the process spawned a million imitators.  What a lot of people don’t understand, especially the international fans, is that Australia rock bands where all playing the same style.  Rose Tattoo, The Angels, Daddy Cool, Stevie Wright all had that pub rock vibe.  AC/DC just stood out a bit more.  Credit Bon Scott and Angus Young.  Brian Johnson walked into the house built by Bon and Angus.

Is there anything Angus considers special about his playing style?

“In some ways, yeah.” he says. “I know what guitar sound I want right away. And if I put my mind to it, I can come up with a few tricks. I mean, I just don’t hit the strings that my
fingers are nearest to. But the most important thing, to me, is I don’t like to bore people. Whenever I play a solo in a song, I make sure that the audience gets off on it as much as I do.”

Angus exerts more energy in the course of one song than most guitarists do in an entire show.

“I’m always very nervy when I play.” he says. I usually settle down after the first few songs, but it’s hard for me to stand still. I suddenly realize where I am, onstage in front of thousands of people; so the energy from the crowd makes me go wild.  I’m always very careful, though. If you bump an arm or twist an ankle, there s no time for healing on the road. You can t tell the crowd. Hey, people, I can t run around tonight I have a twisted ankle.”

I have mentioned before about bands writing great songs and how that is very different to bands that write great songs that go down great live.  AC/DC is another band, that has that foresight.  The songs are all meant for the arena.  To be honest, i don’t really remember a recorded song fading out, i am sure some do, however it is testament to the band that they write a start and an end.

Malcolm Young, AC/DC s rhythm guitarist and Angus older brother, would rather just stand in one spot and bang out the beat with thuddingly repetitive chord structures.  

“Malcolm makes the band sound so full”, says Angus, “and it’s hard to get a big ego if you play in a band with your brother, it keeps your head on the earth. Malcolm is like me, he just wants the two of us to connect. Although he lets me take all the lead breaks, Malcolm’s still a better guitarist than Eddie Van Halen.  Van Halen certainly knows his scales, but I don’t enjoy listening to very technical guitarists who cram all the notes they know into one song.  I mean, Van Halen can do what he does very well, but he’s really just doing finger exercises. If a guitarist wants to practice all the notes he can play, he should do it at home. There’s definitely a place for that type of playing, but it’s not in front of me.”

Big call by Angus.  Dishing on King Eddie.  Back then, I was like WTF?  How dare he?  Eddie was king back in 1986.  He was untouchable.

I didn’t even like AC/DC back in 1986 and I am Australian.  I was so into the U.S. Glam/Hard rock scene, I failed to see the talent that was AC/DC.  I am glad I made up for it in the nineties, when Grunge allowed me to drop out of the mainstream and go searching for classic rock bands.

These days, no one speaks their mind.  They all want to be loved.  No one wants to be hated.  Guess what people, we can see right through it.  We can tell the fakes from the real dealers.  (Nice lyric line by the way, I will keep it)

Angus would much rather listen to old time players like Chuck Berry or B B King. 

“Those guys have great feel, ” says Angus. “They hit the notes in the right spot and they know when not to play. Chuck Berry was never a caring person. He didn’t care whether he was playing his tune, out of tune or someone else’s tune. Whenever he plays guitar, he has a big grin from ear to ear. Everyone always used to rave about Clapton when I was growing up, saying he was a guitar genius and stuff like that. Well even on a bad night Chuck Berry is a lot better than Clapton will ever be.  Clapton just sticks licks together that he has taken from other people – like B B King and the other old blues players—and puts them together in some mish-mashed fashion. The only great album he ever made was the Blues Breaker album he did with John Mayal and maybe a couple of good songs he did with Cream. The guy more or less built his reputation on that. I never saw what the big fuss was about Clapton to begin with.”

That is what made Angus a legend, he always spoke his mind.  The world we have today is all about yes people and making sure that we don’t offend.  We all want to be loved, hence the reason why one person has 5000 Facebook friends.  Yeah Right.  5000 Friends.  What a load of B.S?  No one speaks their mind these days.  The kids grow up these days, being told by mum and dad what a great game they had in football, and how great they are at reading and how great they are at this, when all they did was touch the ball once and play with the grass most of the time.

It’s easy to get lost in those comments against Clapton and Van Halen.  If you do, you miss the point Angus is trying to make.  He has no time for technical players, but he has time for Chuck Berry.  In relation to Eric Clapton, he didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about, he believed that others where better, like Jeff Beck.

“There are guys out there who can play real good without boring people.  Jeff Beck is one of them.  He’s more of a technical guy, but when he wants to rock and roll he sure knows how to do it with guts.  I really like the early albums he did with Rod Stewart.”

There is that name again Jeff Beck.  When I was reading this magazine, Jeff Beck’s name came up a few times.  I had to check him out.  This is 1986.  No internet to Google Jeff Beck.  No YouTube or Spotify to sample him.  I had to walk down to the local record shop and look for it.  Good times.  I am glad I lived them and I am glad they are not coming back.

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