A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit, Unsung Heroes

Music Business Brewtality

Put all the myths aside and lets not carry the delusion on any longer.

The music scene is brutal.

Anyone heard the song “Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)” from WASP.

For those that have heard the song you would know what I mean. For those that haven’t heard the song, Charlie is the President of show biz who feeds on the pop stardom dreams in wannabe artists by promising to make them a star. After those artists make Charlie millions, their careers are chopped up by Charlie and his Chainsaw and discarded to the morgue just for someone younger to take their place.

In other words the junkyard of broken rock n roll dreams is piled high with the souls of artists who didn’t meet the commercial milestones that the record labels were after.

And when an artist sees that all they are worth is just an income generating machine, they start to change. Some can’t handle it and they may end up dead. Others deliver albums that polarized their fan base. Others just play the game and keep on delivering the same album over and over again. And then there are others that deliver more ground breaking work.

We all know that in the pre-Internet era, signing with a label was the only choice an artist had if they wanted to have a career in the music industry and of course, like all great monopolies the labels exploited that power and position. And I use the “career” word loosely, because we should all know by now that the monies earned by 1% of the artists prop up the whole business which in turn means that a lot of artists never really had musical careers. Sure they rode on a wave and had some cash thrown at them, however once the wave crashed down, so did their so called careers.

But the internet was supposed to level the playing field and in a way it did, however what didn’t change was the need for artists to still require a record label to be heard above the noise. Of course there are a lot of artists that are DIY artists and are quite happy to be so. However they are competing with a shitload of other artists that are DIY and Label artists.

From October last year you had Sixx:A.M, Exodus, Slipknot, Sanctuary, Texas Hippie Coalition, Scar Symmetry, Devin Townsend, Sister Sin, At The Gates, Black Veil Brides, Cavalera Conspiracy, Machine Head, Pink Floyd, Foo Fighters, In This Moment, Nickelback, AC/DC, Angels And Airwaves, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson, Papa Roach, Periphery, Blind Guardian, Lynch Mob, Alpha Tiger, Sweet and Lynch, Serious Black, Eclipse, Harem Scarem, Level 10, Crazy Lixx, Rated X, Allen/Lande, Vega, Dalton plus a plethora of re-issues, best offs and live releases. All of these releases are on labels.

Then you go onto Bandcamp and you start to see hundreds more being self-released.

Just in one day, February 4, 2015 there were over 40 new metal releases. Now think about all of the new music hitting the net in this fashion and that was just for the metal tag on bandcamp. So with so much new music out there, how can fans find an artist and if they do, how much time will these fans invest in the artist before new music from another artist comes their way.

And that is why the music business is brutal.

Brutality Number 1:

We all know about record label mistreatment and greed. Seen this study recently about streaming monies and how they are actually distributed from the streaming platform. Click on the link and find out who is keeping the majority of the money. Trust me there are no surprises there however the take away of the study is that it was commissioned by a Record Label association and they state that it is perfectly okay for the labels to keep the majority of the streaming money because of the costs they incur to record and  upload the actual music.

Brutality Number 2:

But the real brutality in the music business is finding and then keeping an audience and once that audience is found, it needs to be replenished year after year as original fans drop out, so new ones need to come on board.

The biggest killer of the Eighties bands like Dokken, Kingdom Come, Anthrax, Skid Row, Yngwie Malmsteen and many others that had platinum albums is that their fan base didn’t get replenished as quickly as it was dissipating.

Seen interviews recently of some of the above artists. They are confused and wondering what the hell happened to those million plus fans who purchased some of their Eighties LP’s. They assumed that just because they sold a million records they had a million fans. They cant compute that people might have purchased their record, listened to it once and then never played it again. They cant compute that people might have purchased their record, listened to it once and then hocked it to a second hand store. And seriously how accurate are those stats anyway.

Soundscan metrics came in around 1991 and at least these metrics are based on sales from shops. But the fact that a large part of my metal and rock collection is from second-hand shops, well those sales don’t even rate a mention as an official sale/fan. Dokken and Malmsteen are two artists that came into my life in this fashion. Hell, Twisted Sister, Metallica, Blind Guardian, WASP and Megadeth came to me via dubbed copies of their albums on cassettes. So how does that compute as a sale/fan.

How much money do you think I have invested in those bands afterwards in merch, ticket sales and recorded music purchases? Trust me a lot.

So that is why the music business is BRUTAL towards the artists as the artists who create the music are clueless and the labels are more so, because FANS don’t just come from sales of recorded music.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Music Business Rules Found In Songs

On Motley Crue’s 2008 song ‘Welcome To The Machine’ they provided a few general rules about the recording business and the machine that is the music business.

Rule Number 1: “Sign on the x to sell your soul”.

Yep, if you want a major record deal, prepare to sell out. Major labels want hit acts. Hit acts need to play to a formula. The labels are not interested in the Mumford and Sons or Kings Of Leon outliers. They want the acts that will sing the songs written by a committee.

Rule Number 2: “It’s so automatic, Hocking broken plastic, Royalties you’ll never know”.

Yep, the good old measure of success. Record sales. Still used by the labels as a barometer of success in 2014. And the labels still employ creative accounting when it comes to royalty payments. Dollars for the label, pennies for the artist.

Rule Number 3: “Give your ass like a whore, Once you take a hit, You need more more more”.

Once an artist tastes success, they will go back to the same restaurant over and over again. Because we all want to be loved.

Rule Number 4: “Welcome to the machine, Once it sucks you in you’ll never leave, Grind you up spit you out, After all you’re just a piece of meat”.

You can make a memorial wall as big as the Great Wall Of China that has the name of artists who the recording business used and discarded.

Rule Number 5: “Sell out to the rats, Make em rich make em fat”.

Record label executives earn a lot more than the artists that actually make them that money. Is this the way it should be?

On Motley Crue’s 1999 song ‘Fake’ they seem to provide a few more general rules about the recording business.

Rule Number 6 (supporting Rule Number 1 and 2): “Sold my soul while you sold records, I have been your slave forever.”

Yep, when you sign away your copyrights to the record label and then they lobby hard to have those copyrights extended 70 years after your death. It sure sounds like a slave forever.

Rule Number 7 (supporting Rule Number 5): “What are you fat cats doing anyway?, Take our money and flush it down the drain.”

Yep, fat cats fly private and make the Forbes Rich List.

Ugly Kid Joe asked “Mr Recordman” if he knew who they were or if he gave a damn about them or if he was purely there for the dough. Based on their career trajectory, the answer was obvious. Mr Recordman didn’t give a damn about them once they stopped being “commercially viable”

Rule Number 8 – Mr Recordman doesn’t know who you are. Look at the band “Winger”. When Reb Beach called the label after the Beavis and Butthead episode hit TV screens, the label claimed they never knew a band called Winger.

Rule Number 9 comes from Disturbed and their song “Sons Of Plunder”.

Rule Number 9: “You say you’ve found yourself a new sound, one hundred more all have the same sound”

Yep, like the thousand of hard rock bands that came out in the late nineties. Yep, like all the alternative/grunge bands that came out towards the end. Yep, like all the metalcore bands that are out right now and all of them claim to be different, yet they all sound the same.

The song Chainsaw Charlie from WASP is littered with music business rules. The first three lines, “Will you gamble your life?, Sign right here on the dotted line, It’s the one you’ve waited for all of your life” fall into Rule Number 1. Then the lyrics of “And tomorrow when I’m gone, Will they whore my image on?” brings us to Rule Number 10.

Rule Number 10: The record label will forever whore your image on after they have dropped you or after you have departed this Earth. There is a lot of money to make in death.

Rule Number 11: “We’ll sell your flesh by the pound you’ll go, A whore of wrath just like me, We’ll sell ya wholesale, we’ll sell your soul, Strap on your six string and feed our machine.”

This is relevant today when even the image of the artist is owned by the record label in 360 degree contracts.

Rule Number 12: “Welcome to the morgue boy, Where the music comes to die”

Songs written by a committee. It’s soulless, however it sells.

Rule Number 13: “Ah, trust me boy, I won’t steer you wrong, If you trust me son, You won’t last very long”

Remember the advice by Ugly Kid Joe in Mr Recordman.

Rule Number 14: “The new morgue’s our factory, to grease our lies, Our machine is hungry, it needs your life”

The definition of the recording business.

Rule Number 15: “I’m the tin man, I’ve never had a heart, I’m the tin man, But I’ll make you a star”

The Record Label CEO. All promises and that tin heart doesn’t care if those promises are broken.

Savatage is another band that covers the music business in a bit of detail. Rules 16 to 18 are from the song “Jesus Saves”.

Rule Number 16: “You know Jesus he started changing, Things got really strange, He saw his tee shirts everywhere, He started missing shows, The band came down to blows, But Jesus he just didn’t care.”

Yep, it’s a tough gig keeping a band together, especially when a band member becomes the idol that the fans latch onto.

Rule Number 17: “Things got out of hand, And so he quit the band, Still the critics they would rave”

The uncontrollable egos get in the way of a great band.

Rule Number 18: “Her Him cut through the night, On those late night radio waves”

Eventually, we get old and we become “classic rock”. There is no way around out. Embrace it and play to your core audiences.

The final two rules are from the song “When The Crowds Are Gone” from Savatage.

Rule Number 19: “I don’t know where the years have gone, Memories can only last so long, Like faded photographs, forgotten songs”

Rule Number 20: “The story’s over, When the crowds are gone.”

Pretty self-explanatory.

If you’re looking to embark on a career in the game of music, then use the above as a blueprint to get you going.

Standard
Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

iPod Shuffle – Classic Songs To Be Discovered

When the iPod shuffle gets it right, it gets it right. Driving into work this morning, the shuffle made 6 random songs from different bands, sound like one fluent album sequence.

Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)
By WASP, from The Crimson Idol (1991)

I have no excuse for not attending the WASP concert, when they came to Australia. The Crimson Idol album was going to be played in its entirety. I remember walking out of the Iron Maiden shows (I went to both of those shows) on the Caught Somewhere Back In Time tour, and people where handing out flyers for the WASP shows. I took one, spoke about it with the people I was with and then did nothing. Maybe I was just burnt out from the Maiden shows and wasn’t interested in going or maybe I was broke. I don’t even remember the reasons. The people I was with, have heard of WASP but never heard The Crimson Idol. I was amazed.

Blackie covers the recording business in this song. Chainsaw Charlie is the “the president of showbiz” who is just looking for the next raw talent that he can exploit. Back in 1991, you never really got to hear stories about the labels and how they treated artists. The bottom line was that if an artist wanted to be heard, they needed a label behind them.

“Sign right here on the dotted line, it’s the one you’ve waited for all of your life”

That is how it was. Artists worked hard to get a record deal. In The Crimson Idol story Charlie (the record label honcho) is saying that to Jonathon (the wannabe Idol).

“We’ll sell ya wholesale, we’ll sell your soul
Strap on your six string and feed our machine”

It’s basically the hidden fine print in the deal. The labels owned the artist. They owned their image. They owned the music. They would do whatever it takes to make as much money from the artist as they could. As our access to information has become greater with the rise of the internet, we are now seeing more and more people talk about the creative accounting of the labels.

Def Leppard are doing forgeries of their own songs, in order to circumvent a blockade put up by their label due to a breakdown in the negotiations to the digital rights of the back catalogue.

Eminem took his label to court and won, over the way iTunes payments are treated compared to album physical sales.

Don Henley is going to Court against his old label, to reclaim the Copyrights to his songs due to a clause that the labels are trying to remove, that states after 35 years, the Copyrights of songs are transferred back to the original creator.

California Morning
By The Night Flight Orchestra, from Internal Affairs (2012)

I love this song. It’s got that Deuce feel from Kiss, which was a Rolling Stone bass riff played backwards, so you can say it has that Rolling Stones feel as well. I really like what The Night Flight Orchestra did with their 2012 release. Bringing back the seventies style of music into the NOW.

It’s that slide guitar at the end, that makes me feel like I am catching a wave on a hot summers day. It reminds of Fox On The Run by Sweet and Do Ya from Electric Light Orchestra. It comes in after the lyric line, “I left my heart in L.A.

Even the name The Night Flight Orchestra is a combination of a Led Zeppelin song called Night Flight and the Electric Light Orchestra band name.

The retro style vibe captured by modern recording technology fitted in perfectly as song number 2 behind Chainsaw Charlie from WASP.

We never said a word about it
We knew it wasn’t meant to be

Crazy Train
By Ozzy Osbourne, from Blizzard Of Ozz (1980) – Remastered Version

I’ve listened to preachers
I’ve listened to fools
I’ve watched all the dropouts
Who make their own rules

Randy Rhoads wrote my bible. The Tribute tab book that I purchased was my bible. I learned every note, every lick and every riff. It’s impact was monumental to my guitar playing. It’s funny how history has been rewritten to show this as an Ozzy Osbourne solo album. However, the guys in the band at the time, always believed that it was a band called Blizzard of Ozz.

I grew up listening to people tell me what I need to do. Teachers, instructors, parents, friends or brothers, always leading me onto a path that they want me on. It was a push and shove society. That is why I fell into rock and metal music in general. They wrote the anthems that I could relate to. We’re Not Gonna Take It and I Wanna Rock from Twisted Sister are two songs that come to mind immediately.

Then as time goes by I see all the drop kicks, the ones that everyone said would be unemployed, working for themselves. Some went into the entertainment business and began changing the world with the music/movies they create. And here I am, woodshedding 24/7 to become a guitar god on a music style that killed itself.

Caught In The Middle
By Stryper, from Against The Law (1990)

You’ve been working hard
Trying to make your life appealing

Two simple sentences. That is why we are slaves to the system. We believe that by working hard, we will get richer, we will get promoted and that we will have a better life. What a load of B.S.? My father worked his whole life at the steel mill, and he worked hard. The job was enough to pay the mortgage, pay the bills and keep the wheels turning in everyday life. So my father worked a second job, so that he can make his life appealing. Then when it came to retirement, he was forced into it, by his loving employer.

Cardiff
By Stone Sour, from Come What(ever) May (2006)

This fluid feels like pain
This stoic mood is all in vain
I reach into the dark
I tear the sun and me apart
How many years ago
How many deaths I can’t let go
My flesh is temporary, my God extraordinary

Corey Taylor had a past that involved alcoholism and drug overdoses. These lyrics are depressing as hell. In the end, we are all our own worst enemies. We put so much pressure on ourselves, it’s no wonder that we all break down and end up overdosing on something. How biblical is the last line, the flesh is temporary but our legacy will live on forever in the people that speak it.

Caustic Are The Ties That Bind
By Trivium, from In Waves (2011)

Can you help me find my way
I’ve been lost for so long
I don’t even know where it went wrong

When I first heard Caustic, I saw it as a cut down version of Shogun. It is a Trivium classic and a song that will be part of their set list for a long time to come. I woke up one morning, and I was in a place where I should never be. It was in a hospital room, with a busted eye and a shattered foot. Where did it all go wrong? Was I lost for that long, that I lost my way in life. It’s very easy to do, especially when you don’t believe that nothing is wrong. It’s a lesson learnt. What doesn’t kill me can only make me stronger.

How fitting that this song is like the album closer of this morning drive.

Standard