Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Recording Industry Dumb and Dumber – The Sequel

So the Recording Industry in Australia is welcoming new anti-piracy legislation. High fives all around for site blocking laws. Add to those Recording Industry high fives, Movie industry high fives and any other legacy content owner.

The question I have is this;

  • With site blocking now becoming law, what does the Recording Industry believe would happen to their businesses profits?
  • Would people suddenly return to buying CD’s?
  • Would people suddenly buy an expensive Foxtel subscription to watch ten episodes of “Game of Thrones”?
  • Would people who normally don’t go to the movies, suddenly start going to the movies?
  • Would people suddenly go out and buy books, or e-books?

Site blocking laws are designed to stop people from accessing websites that film, TV and music companies say are hosting their content without permission. Surely, our government officials would have looked at the U.K before deciding if site-blocking was the right way forward.

In the UK, The Pirate Bay has been blocked since 2012 however people have found ways to get around that block. Even though site blocking laws exist in the U.K, sales of music are still declining. However, if the industry puts more emphasis into their streaming business, then some different results could appear. Lucky for the U.K, they have a lot of popular artists right now and these artists are really pushing the streaming side of their music.

So in return the U.K have more people streaming more music than ever before. By 2019, streaming is expected to account for 49 per cent of music revenue in the U.K, compared to 22 per cent in 2014.

Digital music downloading (both legal and illegal) is a thing of the past. It’s history. Why would we want to pay for an mp3, when the history of music is at our fingertips with streaming and we, the fans, like it.

It’s easy and uncomplicated.

So since streaming is king, can someone tell me why we need the Entertainment Industries going to the courts to block websites based on their own evidence?

I think the catch-cry put out by the government is “the laws will protect the viability and success of creative industries while restricting the profitability of sites that facilitate piracy.”

Yep, Mr Government, as long as you and your financiers know what that means, it’s okay, we believe the shit you say.

I would be interested to see the model they used to show how the laws would protect the creative industries especially since Australia is a huge market for DVD and Blu-ray sales.

How can the entertainment industries explain the HUGE profits they get from DVD/Blu-ray sales in Australia?

Let’s use Game Of Thrones.

The TV show is hidden behind an expensive Pay-tv paywall in Australia. The actual subscriber numbers for that Pay-tv provider are lower than the sale numbers of the DVD/Blu-ray season releases.

Where did all of these extra fans come from?

The content owners need to be talking about lowering their licensing fees so that the monthly streaming plans are cheaper and that all content is available in the one place.

I have a Netflix subscription and a Spotify subscription.

The content industries should be pushing more people to these services. In return, the money pie will get bigger. It’s simply economics. These industries cannot pretend anymore that the old business models are coming back.

Let’s use Game of Thrones for another example.

If HBO wants to stamp out piracy, ensure that the show is available to everyone globally from the one HBO source.

Not from a reseller.

HBO makes, it, so they should sell it, to the people who want to watch it, when they want to watch it. I cannot for the life of me understand why people need to pay another company who paid HBO a fee to re-broadcast it. It’s a business model that is doomed.

Why do you think Netflix started to make their own TV shows?

Hell, why do you think HBO started their own TV shows? Remember, HBO was once a Home Box Office re-broadcaster.

Because re-broadcasting is not a viable business models. Same deal for music streaming services.

Expect Spotify to start to sign bands and really shake up the streaming world.

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

Random Thoughts

The Grammy nominations are out and as usual the metal category reads like a comedy. Why even bother, no one cares. The Grammy’s are as relevant as the sales metric. Maybe next year they will be renamed into the Streammy’s and some magic formula will be used to find nominations.

What is it about people or organisations sense of entitlement these days?

Consumers of music are finally given a choice (legally and illegally) on how to consume their music and all the middlemen come out screaming for the Governments or the courts to write new laws or set precedents that protect their business models. In the current case, you have the publishers BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music via copyright troll “Rightscorp” using a 1998 law to compel ISPs to support its pre-internet business model. These organisations think that shaking down people is the way forward.

Sort of like Billboard. Seriously, what kind of fucked up maths goes into their charts. Hello, look at everything that is successful and you will see one common theme. They all kept it SIMPLE. Steve Jobs knew it. Daniel Ek knows it. Sean Fanning knows it. Mark Zuckerberg knows it. However, the people at Billboard have no idea. Someone, decided that 1,500 streams of any song equals an album sale. WTF. How does the stream count of any song reflect the influence (if any) of an album?

It’s good that Billboard is focusing on what people are listening to however it is bad that they are trying to recreate that listening metric to show a fake album purchase. Buying an album does not mean one listens to it, oftentimes people only listen to the hit. Report that.

The charts are there to purely satisfy the recording industry. It was never about the consumer. The recording industry and their press outlets all want to “high-five” each other on the number ones. And then what. 99% of the classic albums never got to Number 1. “Back In Black” from AC/DC never reached Number 1 in the U.S. “Led Zeppelin IV” never got to Number 1 in the U.S. “Master Of Puppets” from Metallica never reached Number 1.

I get it. Change is inevitable. For all the talk about monies, and what are those “poor start-up independent bands going to do” in the current free music industry it’s funny to see that more indie/self-funded music is being made now than ever before. Do you think the new breed of musicians are sad because recording studios or CD plants have closed?

Of course not.

While the recording industry promotes what it has lost, it fails to see what fans of music have gained. And by those fans gaining , the recording industry gains.

In Australia, the Government posted all of the individual submissions to the Australian Government’s Piracy Discussion Paper online and one of them caught my attention.

“I have spent a lot of time and money on my song to be mastered and distributed through CDBABY and iTunes. In the last 4 months since my song was released there has been over 30,000 hits on Utube [sic] where someone has uploaded it. To make matters worst [sic] there is only about $80 in the bank from the sales. Can someone tell me how to stop this.”

The first thing that comes out of that rant is how misinformed the “musician” is.

First, if someone put the song up on YouTube, then they are obviously a fan. Connect with them.

Second, YouTube’s has a Content ID system. There are players out there that can assist with this. Find them.

Third, 30,000 views on YouTube means an audience. Surely that is a good thing. What steps are in place to mobilise and grow that audience?

Fourth, without YouTube, how would that artist reach 30,000 people. Of course that would be via a record label. Which means gatekeepers and the chance of not being signed.

Final point, no one is rushing out to buy CD’s again or mp3’s.

Another that got my attention was the following;

“I am a writer so I want copyright to be protected to protect my livelihood.”

It’s hard to believe that people are in an industry without fully understanding why Copyright came into being. In a nutshell, Copyright was always about promoting the progress of society by returning works into the public domain once their copyright expired. Once upon a time, it did and it worked brilliantly and now (since about the Seventies), not so much as Copyright got twisted into what it is now.

Copyright was never about having people’s livelihoods depending on it.

Also there is no evidence that stopping copyright infringement leads to more purchases of music, movies or books.

After reading through a bit more of the submissions, I was dismayed at some of the words used like STEALING and THEFT.

It’s COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.

No one has stolen nothing. iTunes still has the song for sale, Spotify still has the song for streaming, YouTube has multiple copies of the song for viewing. Amazon still has the book for sale in both hardcover and e-book format.

What the people have done is COPY the work.

It’s not that hard to understand, however people need to do the research to educate themselves.

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

Educate Yourself

It’s the same old debate. An artist puts their “heart and soul” or their “blood, sweat and tears” into a body of work only to see it end up on p2p sites, on YouTube unlicensed or just plainly ignored.

First thing first.

No artist is guaranteed to make any money from recorded music. This was the rule of thumb 50 years ago and it still is now. Once upon a time the record labels invested in an artist only after the artist invested in themselves and got a decent following/buzz happening. Today, the artists are investing in themselves and the record labels are sitting in the wings, watching and waiting for what they think is the sure bet.

So what you have is a lot of artists on independent labels or their own labels self-funding their recordings and press, without recognition. And they don’t like it. The thought that maybe they are just not good enough doesn’t even come into their thought process. Sort of like the stars of the past complaining that piracy killed the recording business. My answer to all of that was, no, piracy didn’t kill the recording business. The recording business like all great empires committed its own downfall. Since the price offered by record labels didn’t correspond with the value that consumers have for the music, the record labels were seen as an irrelevant part of the music industry. The adoption of the Internet and newer technologies lowered the value of music and consumers were willing to pay even less for music or in a lot of cases nothing at all.

Which leads me to Spotify.

On the one hand, we have Spotify users who are happy with the service and on the other hand we have content creators who are complaining about it.

And the story that has been doing the rounds for a while is that Spotify rips off artists.

NO, P2P rips off artists.

Take away Spotify or YouTube and then what does the artist have?

If they think that sales of recorded music would start to happen again, then they are mistaken. Napster got shut down and sales of recorded music still continued to decline. Spotify by the way pays more to the artist than YouTube does however it’s funny how people trump up high YouTube counts as a marketing coup, while a high Spotify stream count is seen as “I had a billion plays on Spotify and I only made X amount of dollars”.

Spotify pays, while P2P does not pay at all.

Sure, sales still continue, but for how long. Each year the sale numbers show a decline. Each year the numbers show an increase in streaming revenue. MP3 sellers are dying. In Australia, BigPond music is gone and iTunes is bleeding around the world. In some European markets, monies earned from streaming have overtaken monies earned from mp3 sales.

And yes the labels in the U.S do own a share of Spotify, however that income comes from the 30% that Spotify keeps from the artist royalty payments. It’s not a bad deal at all if you are a record label. They get a percentage cut of the 30% cut that Spotify gets and when Spotify pays them the other 70% as royalty payments, it looks like they more or less keep that as well. All this power that the record labels have amassed is due to the artists. The artists created the works and sold their copyrights for next to nothing, because at the time they sign a contract, no one has any idea how big a song could be.  The great rip off record label freight train just keeps on rolling on.

The truth is all artists need to be informed. Don’t take the spoon fed information as gospel. Do your own research. You’re responsible for educating yourself, all the info is online. There is no excuses these days.

And if you put the content behind a paywall, well just look at the newspapers to see how that turned out.

Streaming is here to stay.

Revenues will go up if the pot is increased however every artist needs to be aware that the barrier to entry is so low that artists today are competing with many more competitors plus they are also competing with the complete history of recorded music.

And we the fans are overwhelmed that we do the only thing we know, which is tune out and listen to the classics that we grew up with.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Look at any band that is successful and you will see a band member with an entrepreneurial spirit. There is always that person in the band that just has that extra drive. They would go ahead and start their own label as a way to get their music out there.

Some do it out of necessity.

Twisted Sister kept on getting rejected by all the labels so Jay Jay French went and formed their own independent label to release their early singles.

Metallica couldn’t get a record deal. Then came Jon Zazula, otherwise known as Jonny Z onto the scene. He ended up hearing the demo tape “No Life ‘Til Leather” which then led to him founding Megaforce Records so that he could release their work. However, Lars Ulrich was always on the lookout for a better deal and eventually that persistence would lead to a deal with Elektra Records. Jonny Z gave them their break however it was the entrepreneurial spirit from Lars Ulrich that took them to the stratosphere.

Motley Crue had a real estate agent called Alan Coffman. He helped finance the “Too Fast For Love” album and assisted them with obtaining gear and going out on the road. Then once Motley Crue got picked up by Elektra, Coffman ran off with their advance money which led to a song called “Bastard” on “Shout At The Devil”. The band  also had Vicki Hamilton on board, who managed to get their self-financed debut album into record stores through her position as music purchaser for a chain of record stores.

Throughout it all, it was Nikki Sixx who had the entrepreneurial spirit and when Allen Kovac came on board in 1994, Sixx was given a tie-breaking vote in collective decisions of the Operations that Kovac’s was setting up. All of these changes led Motley Crue to operate independently and by the late Nineties, they gained ownership of their masters and publishing rights back from Elektra.

Joan Jett had 23 labels pass on releasing her first solo album. Out of a need to get her music out, she founded Blackheart Records with producer Kenny Laguna. This was 34 years ago. By 2014, her label is now a force to be reckoned with, via its music, clothing and film divisions.

In 2014, NO artist can afford to sit back and expect someone else to make them a star. Read any story on successful artists and you will see just how extraordinary that person has to be to overcome the odds stacked against them. If you want a real day example, look no further than Pomplamoose.  Read the article about the financial realities of an independent band. And the take away;

“We, the creative class, are finding ways to make a living making music, drawing webcomics, writing articles, coding games, recording podcasts. Most people don’t know our names or faces. We are not on magazine covers at the grocery store. We are not rich, and we are not famous.

We are the mom and pop corner store version of “the dream.” If Lady Gaga is McDonald’s, we’re Betty’s Diner. And we’re open 24/7.

We have not “made it.” We’re making it.”

Write your own story and defy the dominant culture.

Pomplamoose is the definition of being in a band today. The faces might not be as recognizable as the bands of old, however that doesn’t mean that they are nobodies. They are writing their own story.

Motley Crue didn’t go on VH1 and throw trash at each other. They did that via “THE DIRT” which ended up launching their comeback in 2004.

And never give in to impulses.

Motley Crue could have licensed their music to the “Rock Of Ages” movie and made millions, but they didn’t.

Lars Ulrich rushed in with Napster without looking at events critically and analyse both sides. Metallica is a bigger band today because of piracy. Get the statisticians to explain how Metallica can play sold out shows in China without selling any music.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Music Is All About Change

The new music industry is all about change.

Do you think that if you pull your music from Spotify that it is not available on YouTube with ad support (which means income) and with no ad support (which means no income).

The new music industry is about exploring different business models and seeing which one works for you.

Black Veil Brides had a Pre-Order pledge campaign for their new album and the perks on offer just kept on getting sold out. First week U.S sales are anaemic at 29,925 however does that mean that the album is not popular or that it is not a success. Go on YouTube. The BVBArmyVEVO account shows 2,206,786 views for the “Heart Of Fire” video, 1,208,958 for the “Faithless” audio and recently a clip went up for the ballad “Goodbye Agony” and that has already accumulated 464,059 views. Compared to their big song “In The End” with 36,560,728 views, you can see that the fan base is experiencing the band in many different ways. In this case, the band and their team (record labels, managers, accountants, lawyers and publishers) are making money from the Pledge Campaign, YouTube views, streams on other services, physical sales, mp3 sales and radio plays.

Coheed and Cambria had a vinyl remastered re-issue of “In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth” which sold out its first pressing and then they went on a sold out commemoration tour of the album. They are remaining relevant even though their last album came out in February 2013. For them, 2014 was all about touring, vinyl sales, special edition live box sets and merchandise.

Basically new business models from bands are reshaping the way music is marketed and distributed. There are countless new artists emerging and there are countless new ways for fans to listen to those artists.

The music industry of the past consisted of great control. Distribution in those days consisted of record stores. Technology has made way for new opportunities, thus creating new models. The internet has eliminated a lot of past costs within the music industry; this goes for the way music is recorded, the format of music, the marketing, and especially the distribution outlets. New models have taken away the control aspect.

Digital Summer recently asked a Facebook question to their followers about how does everyone find new music. They wanted to know how their fans had heard of them and where they usually hear new music they like? I went through the comments and grouped them into categories.

Radio like Sirius XM Octane, local terrestrial stations, Pandora, Slacker Radio, iHeart, etc got 137 votes for 26%. At this point in time radio is still the best way to get your music out there. However it is the Live show that seals the deal for the band.

Live Shows especially comments around the opening slot that they had on the current Volbeat tour got 121 votes for 23%. It looks like the band really delivers on stage. Also the comments kept on saying that the band members took time out to meet newly converted fans and showed them where they can get free downloads of the band’s music. It’s all about connecting with fans folks.

Word of mouth from fans or band members got 63 votes for 12%. With the internet connecting everyone, I expect this to be more relevant.

YouTube via the algorithm suggestions got 57 votes for 11%. The tech industry is fragmented. When you combine the platforms like YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace, Online publications, other online platforms and Amazon, you get a 37% reach from the Techies.

Spotify via the similar artists feature got 30 votes for 6%

Twitter via the band members following someone and that someone goes on to check the band out got 25 votes for 5%.

iTunes via the Genius or suggestions based on previous purchases got 25 votes for 5%.

Promotions like having cool looking merchandise, flyers, giving away free demo CD’s, having their stickers plastered all over town, endorsement companies, music stores got 16 votes for 3%.

Other Online Platforms like Reverbnation, Soundcloud, Google Play, XBOX Music, Last.fm, Gaming Music Videos got a combined 13 votes which also equates to 2%.

Instagram via the band members liking photos posted by users or following users got 10 votes for 2%. This was a surprise, however the work that the band members have done on this site is astounding. One fan commented that they are a Gemini Syndrome fan and when they posted a photo of Gemini Syndrome on Instagram, one of the Winterstein brothers liked the photo. The soon to be fan, clicked on his account, saw they had a band, checked out the band and then became a fan.

Facebook and MySpace got 10 votes each for 2%. Goes to show that while Facebook is a good tool for connecting with fans once you have them, it is not a good tool for finding new fans.

Online publications like Stereogum, Loudwire, Jango, Revolver, Ultimate-Guitar got 6 votes for 1%. This is another fragmented industry. The online publications offer no substance, no personal opinion. It’s just all thumbs up, pat my back and I will pat yours style of reporting.

The Pirate Bay/Torrents got 4 votes for 1%. Looks like copyright infringement is not such a big issue.

Amazon got 3 votes for 1%. This is how I found out about the band. Their “Counting The Hours” album came up with bands I might like based on my purchases.

So what does tell any new artist trying to build a career in music.

Be ready to change on the whim and be ready to try different ways of promoting, connecting and marketing your music.

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

The Changing Times and The Record Label Business Model of STEALING From The Artist.

I remember waiting in line for an in store appearance of the band Sepultura at Utopia Records back when Utopia Records were situated on Clarence Street, Sydney. It was the early nineties and the in-store had the classic Sepultura line up. My cousin at that time (who was a drummer) had a real bashed in snare skin for Igor to sign, I had a couple of CD’s and a poster and the others all had various forms of music (LP’s or CD’s or drumsticks or guitar cases and so forth).

Sepultura was cult like popular then. They sat in an area that satisfied a few different markets. You had the “betrayed” original Metallica fans. You had fans of the original “thrash” movement. You had fans of the “Death Metal” market. You had fans of the “Extreme Metal Market”. And you had fans of the new “Groove Metal” market. Shredders appreciated them.

I remember asking one of the Utopia guys who was doing line management outside the building, why so many people came to Utopia on a daily basis just for chit-chat. He replied that they come to buy CD’s and I disagreed with him. I told him that nobody wakes up in the morning and says to themselves I need to spend $30 on a CD. We wake up in the morning and we say to ourselves, we want to hear the new Sepultura album, the new Motley Crue album and we want to hear it right now. And in order to hear that song, we HAD to buy a CD or an LP. Because radio sure wouldn’t play it.

So a bit of talking goes back and forth and the Utopia dude goes on to tell me I have no idea what I am talking about as Utopia sell hundreds of thousands CD’s a year.

The recording industry failed to realize that it existed not to sell records or CDs but simply to find the fastest, easiest way to let fans hear the song we wanted to hear. If they realised that, then they would have invented the iPod and iTunes. Instead history shows that a company not even in the music industry, did that instead. And now Apple makes billions of dollars selling music. So going back to my Utopia example, they are nowhere near the force it was back in the early to mid nineties and I wouldn’t be surprised if it shuts its doors eventually (which I hope never happens \:::/).

Apple has been selling tracks at the iTunes store since 2003. Apps, books, movies and TV shows came after. Yet, no one complained about the accounting and to my knowledge no one has sued Apple for unpaid royalties. Artists may complain about Apple taking a 30% cut, however that was the deal.

YouTube and Spotify have been streaming songs from about 2006 and 2008 respectively. Of course there are others on the market as well that offer streaming services like Pandora, Google, Deezer and so on. However, one thing these companies have done is they pay. They honour their deal. Which is the reverse of what the record labels did.

You know, those record labels that got sued by artists for their accounting practices, claiming they’ve been screwed over by the label. You know those record labels famous for paying late or paying at all. You know those record labels for never honouring a deal. You know those record labels that threatened to derail your career and you end up settling for less than you deserve.

What pisses me off is that while people complain about Spotify stream payments and YouTube stream payments and Pandora royalties,  at least these techies are honest in their deals at this point in time. It just seems that the record labels who are the majority rights holders are not passing on the monies.

Because a deal is never a simple deal to the recording business. The labels don’t want simple. The labels don’t want royalties to be computerised because that would mean there is transparency and with transparency, profits would disappear. The major label business model is based on STEALING from the artist. That is why you have artists like Eminem, Dave Coverdale and others suing their labels for unpaid iTunes royalties. That is why you have artists suing their labels for unpaid monies due to creative accounting practices.

Believe me, if an CEO’s pay packet was suddenly short, he’d drop everything and do his best to get it right if the problem wasn’t immediately rectified. But if it’s the artist?

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

Are You in Music To Create Art Or For The Money

Blame MTV.

In the Eighties MTV made everyone believe that the music business was all about platinum albums. It made everyone believe that they had an entitlement to be paid if they just created music. It made everyone believe that success was measured on where you sat on the charts and how many records got sold. What got lost in all of this was the real people of the music business. While MTV celebrated the bands and artists that got the platinum and gold awards, it sent out a message to all aspiring artists that if you just write a song and get signed the same thing would happen.

From day dot, musicians always earned their keep by creating first and than performing. A lot of the times they performed for free. Times have always been hard for creative musicians. Just because some artists have Diamond Certifications on their walls does not mean that the rest of the musicians do. And the truth is money has ruined art. It doesn’t matter how good or bad something is, it’s all about how much money it makes. And songs written in that fashion will not last.

Which is a shame as a lot of up and coming artists are all about conformity. They want to be a member of the group. They don’t want to let their freak flag fly. Everyone wants to be liked. All this does is make everybody just like everybody else. The reason why artists became superstars is that they had a uniqueness about them. They had rough edges that connected with people.

And for all of those people who see live music as the saviour obviously haven’t toured. Touring is a tough gig because so many people who shouldn’t take a piece of the pie do. The label gets a cut (why), management gets a cut (why), the booking agent gets a cut (on top of the booking fees they charge the fan), the crew gets a cut (which is expected), the lawyers get a cut (why), the tour budget gets a cut (so that the band rolls from one city to another) and the band gets a cut (to keep up their repayments and for life expenses). But people know all this and they still get involved with music.

Why?

Because they want to create art.

So if you are an artist and you care about money then you don’t belong in the music world. Fakes, artists with no backbone or artists with an entitlement complex, please do not apply. Music is not a safety net or a pension scheme.

If you care about art, then welcome and start creating.

Take a leaf out of the Coheed and Cambria playbook.

They buck social trends with their concept albums, their comic book stories and their creative ways of releasing their albums. Even in a world that is stopping to buy albums, Coheed and Cambria have found unique ways to feed content to their fan base and this results in a ton of cash to them in the process. But it all comes down to the art and now that they are on their own, they are exploring more possibilities. They signed with Columbia Records as a successful indie artist and then when it came time to part ways from the majors, they ventured off on their own and became independent. What they do works for them and their fan base. It doesn’t mean that it will work for everyone.

Artists are more known today for a song or a body of songs instead of a body of albums.

There is a fan base out there that will like the song “Lift Me Up” from Five Finger Death Punch and not know from what album it came from.

There will be fans at a live gig that have never paid for recorded music.

That’s life right now.

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