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

RIAA Certifications

There is just so much hoopla about certification these days. The usual media outlets are reporting how difficult it is for artists to achieve a certification due to piracy/copyright infringement. And if the artist is on a major label, the yelling is even louder. And when artists do get a platinum certification these days, it is reported by everyone.

Of course, the certification process once upon a time was based on SALES and sales only. It took into account the people owned the music they purchased and really liked it. The fact that people might not have listened to the music over and over again, didn’t matter.

However, as streaming services have shown due to piracy/copyright infringement, people also like to have access to music instead of owing music. So what we have is the following situation;

  • Ownership of music -> registers a sale, which counts for certifications and generates a lot more money for the artist and the label then streaming services do.
  • Access to music -> registers a sale by following a formula. 1,500 streams equals 10 tracks which equals one album purchase. The one album purchase counts for certifications and the streaming equivalent of sale doesn’t generate as much income for the artist and label then the sale of a mp3 or a CD or vinyl does.

Five Finger Death Punch has a PLATINUM certification from the RIAA. Seven years after the album was released.
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For a band that plays to a niche audience this is exceptional and proof that metal and rock fans are avid music consumers. The viewpoint from the past always was “if your album goes Platinum, it means the public has accepted it” and when others see the love that people are giving the album, more people are going to go and check it out.

Music is and always will be about longevity.

Will people still be interested in the music, many years after it was released?

Apart from selling a decent amount of product, Five Finger Death Punch are also one of the bands with decent streaming numbers. This tells me that people are listening to them on a consistent basis.

“Fantasy” from Aldo Nova went Gold within the same year it was released in 1982. But it wasn’t until 1989 (seven years later) that it was certified platinum and by 1994 (12 years from when the song was released and 5 years from its Platinum certification) it was certified double platinum.

If you apply that formula to FFDP, then “War Is The Answer” should be certified double platinum by 2021. Is this such a bad thing? According to the ones that want to be paid straight away it is.

For a lot of bands, a loyal fan base is monetized to maximum effect.

Dream Theater and Machine Head are two bands that have a small (compared to other bands) but high net worth fan base. Dream Theater only has a Gold Certification (they have other DVD/Video certifications), that came three years after “Images And Words” was released. This sole certification hasn’t stopped Dream Theater from having a career.

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Another band, Breaking Benjamin is also the same as Dream Theater and Machine Head. Breaking Benjamin also received a Gold Certification last year for an album they released back in 2002. Yep that’s right people, an album released 13 years ago is still in the public conversation. But what Breaking Benjamin has going that the other bands don’t is the singles. Their singles are pushing on double and triple platinum certifications.

Remember what I mentioned earlier. Music is about longevity and will people still be interested in the music, many years after it was released. But to the ones that want to be paid straight away, this is a problem.

Volbet_CertVolbeat is one of those unsung heroes here.

A hard-working band, that tours like crazy, building their audience, city by city, state by state, country by country.

Known in Europe, it wasn’t until Metallica put them as openers in the U.S Death Magnetic trek that Volbeat started to get traction in the U.S.

And then their albums started selling.

And then they went out on their own, and the shows kept on selling out.

Certifications are nice to have.

But they are not the be all and end all to have a career in music.

Longevity and people listening is the key.

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

Certifications, Recorded Music and That Spotify/Sony Contract

I always have a decent laugh when I read music news. It’s always interesting to see how a news item gets copied across from website to website in my Google Alerts with no changes and no critical analysis.

Remember back in the day when all the rage was about how artists are struggling to achieve platinum certifications. All the commentary focused on the moment or within a 12 month period. It was like a platinum certification was the be all and end all.

Now, back in the Eighties, MTV made every act that got rotation into a platinum act. But that was not always the case.

“Ride The Lightning” was released in 1984 and it is my favourite Metallica album. It took five years to achieve a platinum certification. 28 years later, “Ride The Lightning” was certified 6x Platinum. Music simmers away and it just keeps on connecting. It’s not about corporate deals, or mega marketing campaigns. Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning” album is proof. It competed with piracy and it still sold.

Anyway, the RIAA recently re-classed a “sale unit” to be a paid download or 100 audio/visual streams. Based on this new re-classification, did you know that Shinedown’s “Second Chance” was just certified triple platinum?

Not bad for a song that is 7 years old.

So what does this say about recorded music?

If a song connects with an audience, expect it to sell and be streamed. The facts are out there. It doesn’t happen overnight or in a year. In happens over decades.

“Second Chance” on YouTube has 9,766,633 views on the official Atlantic Records channel. Another YouTube user called “McDrinkable” has a lyric video up of the song and it has 2,749,110 views, while another unofficial YouTube user called “Dushan Galappaththi” also has their own lyric video and they have 957,103 views.

“Second Chance” on Spotify has 21,845,406 streams.

So what do we know?

We know that music is not about the instant payola. Great music that connects with an audience will be listened too and purchased for a long time.

The beauty of Shinedown is that a song that wasn’t a single has more streams than the hit radio songs. That song is “Call Me”.

But the record labels still push an agenda that piracy is killing their business, while they make millions upon millions in licence fees from the streaming music services.

If you don’t believe me, read this article on “The Verge”. The advances paid to the record labels do not filter back to the artists at all. But hang on a sec, the record labels have this power to negotiate with the techies because of the artists. And the artists get nothing in return. That, my friends is the recording business.

Which leads me to the dumb journalists and artists that rallied behind artists who spoke out against streaming services. Let me say it again, the streaming services are not the enemy here. The record labels still are.

Looks like Roger Waters never got the memo. Even APRA’s Brett Cottle doesn’t get it. He wants the government to fight against pirates, however it is the labels that are holding back royalties.

Times are a changing people, but the record labels refuse to change.

 

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

What Does Volbeat’s RIAA Certification Tell Us About The Recording Business?

Volbeat just got a Gold Certification for digital sales from the RIAA in relation to their song “A Warriors Call” from the album “Beyond Heaven, Above Hell” released in 2010. So what does this tell us about the state of the metal/rock world in 2014 when it comes to sales.

Recognition Comes Much Later

Recognition and success come much later in the current world. In Volbeat’s case their entry in the mainstream American market was about ten years after they formed. This is extraordinary when you consider that they were very popular in parts of Europe before that. Overall, Volbeat’s first gold certification in the US has been 20 years in the making. The hardest thing today is to make a new fan or to get people to check you out. So anywhere music can be played, your stuff should be there. Volbeat do just that. On Spotify “A Warriors Call” is at 9,630,292 streams. On their YouTube account, the same song has 6,506,260 views.

If you create something that is good you will not be complaining about your income. Write a hit (and when I say hit, I don’t mean number 1 on the charts. I mean, a song that connects with a lot of listeners), you’ll make money in ways you never thought of, and you can sell your rights to the corporations you complain about, license it to every company or TV show or movie. But that means you need to create constantly as you don’t know what could connect with an audience. But that’s much harder to do than complain.

“A Warriors Call” was never a chart hit, however it connected with listeners.

The Bell Curve Is Prominent

With each metal/rock band there is a hardcore fan base that will try the band out straight away. These early fans make up 13% of the total future fan base and they are the ones that believe in the band and its music. Then within time there is a large 34% group called the early majority. These are the fans that will not try something, until somebody else tries it first and recommends it. Then there is another 34% group called the late majority. These fans adopt the band only after they see a clear majority of metal heads fully assimilating the band as a part of their daily life.

Metallica is a perfect example of the Bell Curve in action. From 1981 to 1983 they had a fan base based on early adopters. From 1984 to 1988, the fan base grew to include the early adopters and the early majority. After the explosion of the self-titled Black album that fan base grew even more as the late adopters and any laggards came to the party.

Volbeat is another perfect example. From 2000 to 2006 it was the early adopters. Then between 2007 and 2010 it was the early majority. During this period they also supported Metallica on the North American leg of Metallica’s World Magnetic Tour. And then from 2010 to know, we have the late majority all jumping into bed with Volbeat.

The internet is another perfect example. In the mid-1990s it was first used only by people who had access to and were familiar with personal computers. By the 2000s, the early majority started using it and a lot more development started taking place around communications, banking and financial services, and mass media (music, movies, books, journalism, newspapers, and television). Over the last five years, the late majority, previously unfamiliar with computers and the internet, have adopted computer skills after realizing the technology’s impact on society at large.

Albums

The core audience plus the early hardcore fans want it, but the public at large want the hits. Most people are casual listeners who don’t always go deep into every act they like. However if they want to go deep into an artist’s catalogue they will go onto Spotify. You can amass an albums worth of songs on Spotify and never actually release an album. That’s the new game.

Labels want albums because that is the best way to monetise for them. It is easier to charge money when there is a bundle of songs involved. Artists want albums, because they grew up on them and they want to be like their heroes and make a statement. However the album means nothing to the listener who has a music collection all on an iPod. Fans always wanted access and the internet era has provided that. And then there is the hardcore element that wants a little bit more like the the alternate cuts, demos, unreleased tracks and so forth.

Also remember this. The multi-Platinum “Stay Hungry” was a tight, nine-song, 37-minute set. “Blizzard Of Ozz” was 39 minutes long. Slippery When Wet was 46 minutes long. “Ride The Lightning” was 47 minutes long. All of them were classic albums that broke the bands involved to a larger audience.

What are these numbers trying to say?

You don’t need 80 minutes worth of new music to be released on one slab at one time to connect with fans. People don’t have spare hours anymore. They have spare minutes.

Streaming Is Not The Enemy

Streaming revenues will go up and you will get well paid eventually. But you need to utilize your recordings and mobilise your fan base to start streaming. If you still focus on the album sales, you will be destined for the scrapheap. So don’t keep your music off streaming services. Seriously what is the point in preventing people from streaming your music so that you can sell an extra 10,000 albums.

What advantage does AC/DC have by not being on Spotify?

What did Jimmy Buffett achieve by standing up in all his glory and asking Daniel Ek for a raise?

Record Labels

Are still clueless. Volbeat finally got a major label behind them in Universal for their latest release. The majors have no idea what connects. That is why they look to the independents or their off-shoot labels. In this case, thank god that Rebel Monster Records, which is an offshoot of Mascot Records showed interest.

Artists still want the label to make them famous as the labels have the marketing power and the relationships in place. So don’t bitch that you’re not getting paid by streaming services when in fact the record label is absorbing these payments and then drip feeding you the change.

 

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A to Z of Making It, Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories

Revisionist History when it comes to Metallica

Kill Em All, Metallica’s first album is celebrating 30 years this month. It was released in July 25, 1983. At the time of its release it didn’t really set the world on fire, however if you look at the reviews and praises the album is getting now, it is like the album came out and created a movement called thrash metal right off the bat.

Let’s put into context the lifespan of Kill Em All. It came out on July 25, 1983. By February 1984, seven months since Kill Em All was released, Metallica was in the studio, writing and recording the Ride The Lightning album. The victory lap of Kill Em All was seven months. That’s it. If the band wanted to have a career, they needed to get back into the studio and record a new album.

Of course when the 1991 Black album exploded, new fans started to dig deep and purchase the bands older material. It is for this reason that the bands older catalogue from Kill Em All to Justice started to get RIAA certifications.

Kill Em All finally reached U.S sales of 3 million units in 1999. That pales in comparison to the Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets albums which have moved over 6 million units in the U.S alone by 2012. The ..And Justice for All album has moved over 8 million copies in the U.S and the Metallica black album is pushing close to 17 million units sold in the U.S alone by the close of 2012.

As a Metallica fan, the Kill Em All album is not a bad album. It is a product of its time and its era. However in 1983, heavy metal and hard rock music was becoming a force to be reckoned with. So by 1983 standards, Kill Em All was up against some hard competition.

Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and Def Leppard had break through albums with Shout At The Devil, You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll and Pyromania.

Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss and Dio had new bands and you can call their 1983 releases as comeback albums. Bark At The Moon showcases Jake E.Lee, Lick It Up showcased Vinnie Vincent and Holy Diver showcases Vivian Campbell. In relation to Dio he was continuing his upward trajectory that started with Rainbow, then continued with Black Sabbath and now with his solo band.

ZZ Top hit the mainstream with Eliminator.

Iron Maiden followed up the breakthrough success of their 1982 album, The Number of The Beast with Piece of Mind.

Quiet Riot had a number one album on the back of the Randy Rhoads back story and connection with the band, a cover of Slade’s – Cum on Feel The Noize and a catchy original called Bang Your Head, which was perfect for the time.

Judas Priest was also riding high on the charts and selling well from a 1982 release called Screaming For Vengeance.

Going back to Metallica, the RNR history is written by the winners. Since Metallica is now inducted into the Hall of Fame, everyone that can put fingers to letters on a keyboard is rewriting their back story. Bands like Quiet Riot will be written out. Artists like Vinnie Vincent and Jake E.Lee will be forgotten by the clueless revisionists. The impact of other bands will be diminished because Metallica won.

Is anyone talking about Judas Priest and their impact to the American metal scene? Quiet Riot’s Metal Health was the first American heavy metal debut album to ever reach No. 1 in the United States on the Billboard album charts.

History is written by the winners.

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