A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

What Game Are You Playing?

I just read a book called “The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek.

It’s about businesses and how they need to think more in long term strategies than short term. And when I read these kind of books I think of how can I apply these ideas and mindsets to myself, to my children and eventually I start to think of other areas.

Like music.

So when we play or watch a sport, there are rules that everyone who is playing, know and agree with. If you take football (soccer), the players know that the objective is to win. In order to win, one team has to score more goals than the other. And they need to do it within a time limit and within the rules of the game, which a referee enforces. This is known as a finite game. It has a start and an end and rules to which both teams agree with before they start. At the end of the season there is a winner/champion.

But music or creating art is not a finite game. There are no time limits that all artists agree upon. There are no hard rules that all artists need to follow.

The “creating art” world is, an “Infinite Game”.

There’s no other way to explain it because there are no rules about how to win, no agreed way of keeping score and no time limit. So if you are an artist and you want to create art, you need to be able to stay in the art world for as long as possible.

Profits and sales are not the only targets or the markers of success which show an artists strength. A song which makes a little bit of money and saves a life is just as important as a song which makes a lot of money.

And what does making money really mean?

The sales and profits of the “Metal Health” and “Stay Hungry” album’s made Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister big names. Yet Quiet Riot couldn’t survive the challenges the following years brought upon them because in the end, their own original material didn’t really connect with listeners the way their Slade covers did.

But the mighty Twisted Sister broke through on original material, and even though they did break up they returned to the infinite game post Sept 11, because their original material was strong enough and still forming connections with people via movie placements and peer to peer downloading. And Twisted Sister stayed in the game, until they decided to check out. Like Motley Crue and Kiss and Ozzy. Or wait, those last three bands did retirement tours and came back into the game.

As an artist, create art that would last for generations to come, like how Slade did. They didn’t have the sales success of the artists who covered their songs, but they created art which has lasted almost 50 years. Black Sabbath are bigger now than they’ve ever been, even during their 70s heyday.

But MTV in the 80s and 90s made people think of short-term results.

You really want to know what killed the recording industry?

It wasn’t Napster, the way the labels and Lars Ulrich and Gene Simmons have tried to sell it.

It was no artist development from the labels because every label executive was focused on getting the best earnings for the next quarter. Profits over development.

Even the mp3 tech was offered to the labels, who rejected it, because they put profits ahead of innovation. They even put profits ahead of creating a product/service that people could sink their teeth into.

Create art and create it forever.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Creating

The first song you write and release will probably be ignored.

The tenth one maybe not.

The twentieth will probably do something commercially.

The thirtieth, will probably be ignored.

What is clear is that each song, creates more demand for other songs. Each song released gives you the power to release better songs. And better songs create more demand for other songs.

So in order to survive creating, you need to do something creative.

Simply begin.

And then don’t stop.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Rich And Famous

“Don’t expect to be rich and famous in this day and age, that is a very narcissistic attitude. You get into it because you love artistic expression, actually making music.”
Phil Collen in 2015

It’s a bit misleading when artists that have made money from the music business, state “don’t expect to be rich in this day and age”.

Artists never expected to get rich from creating. The classic rockers from the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties had no idea there was that much money in music. No one thought being a rock musician was a role they could keep till death.

The stardom always came after, but when MTV put the rock stars into our lounge rooms, a hive mindset was created who wanted to be rich and famous without being musicians first. You know the kind of musician I am talking about, the one who practiced alone instead of Facebooking how great their practice is and how a possible song might come out of it. You know, the type of musician who is oftentimes ignored. Sometimes for their entire career.

“Rock ‘n’ roll should never have any limitations. That’s why Elvis took the guitar and not only did he play it, but he swayed his hips with it and he sang cool songs and he did choreography. When you start holding yourself back, then you lose the meaning of rock ‘n’ roll.”
Bret Michaels in 1987

Let me tell you a story about Vincent Van Gogh.

He never sold a painting in his life even though he had family members as art dealers.

He died broke.

100 years after his death, one of his paintings sold for over $100 million.

Did Van Gogh create art expecting to be rich and famous ?

There is a lot of discussion about the state of music today.

  • There are people who are asking where are the Lennon/McCartney’s, the Todd Rundgren’s, the Paul Simon’s, the Tyler/Perry’s, etc. of today.
  • Then there are people who believe that music is in a good place today and because there is so much music out there, it is ignored.
  • Then there are people who believe that artists these days write songs with an ulterior motive, replacing the art of music with the art of a product/service.
  • There are people who believe that there is still good quality music out there but it’s all underground and on the fringes.
  • There are people who reckon that the major labels ruined it all, by chasing what will make them the most money today, instead of years down the track.
  • Finally, there are people born way after the 60’s and 70’s finished who listen solely to artists from that era because they don’t see anything worthwhile/creative these days.

You see, in 2015 fans of music have a problem. Depending on your point of view it could be a good problem or a bad problem. As Steve Albini stated in a recent lecture;

“Now there is so much music it’s hard to be noticed. But that means there’s so much music available because it’s so easy for music to become available. If your music is not special, it’s no longer possible for hype and promotion to do all of the work. There are always going be a few mainstream pop stars, but that is no longer the main focus of music scene. The main focus is going to be people finding music on their own and discovering stuff that they like specifically for themselves.”

There is no doubt we live in a pop-dominated world so who can we can trust to give us the truth when it comes to metal and hard rock music news.

  • If you go to Loudwire or Ultimate Classic Rock or Diffuser, you will see that it is paid advertising from the bands PR companies.
  • Go to Blabbermouth and what you get is a carbon copy of a post that happened somewhere else on the internet. Why give the view to Blabbermouth?
  • Metal Injection and Metal Insider are two cool sites, but they also border on promoting one style of music over another because it suits their ideal.

The speed of change is increasing and the ones that are most adaptable will survive. And that means in the way the artists connect with the fans or market their music.

“They called it ‘nu metal’ is because it damn well was. When we came out of Hollywood, the ‘hair metal’ bands totally killed the scene. The Roxy, the Whisky… nobody was drawing anybody. And here comes COAL CHAMBER, here comes the DEFTONES, selling out shows. The Roxy, the Whisky… Here you’ve got this new scene — ‘nu metal,’ cause it was heavy. But I think the term ‘nu metal ‘is almost, like, pretty badass. Because you’re doing something new within a genre that existed forever and is heavy as hell, but it sounds newer and [with] newer influences.”
Dez Fafara – Coal Chamber

No one saw it coming. Great art comes from a hard life.

Like the British Invasion between ‘66 and ‘72. Like the NWOBHM and Punk movements between ’78 and ’81. Like the Sunset Strip from ’81 to ’87. Like Seattle in ’91.

And the story is still the same.

No one started to create for riches and fame in this “day and age” or in old “day and age”.

Standard
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.

Standard
A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Music Business Is A Tough Gig. By the way so is every other business.

What does the recent Jay Z and Samsung deal mean for the rock and metal community?

In the immortal words of Dark Helmet from Spaceballs, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Jay-Z is one of those artists that wants to be paid RIGHT NOW. He is in the mainstream right now and married to another mainstream personality in Beyoncé. The album is certified platinum before it is even released due to the digital download deal with Samsung. This is where it was made available for free to all Samsung customers via the Jay Z Magna Carta app.

How many of those Samsung customers are actual Jay Z fans? How many of those Samsung customers will go out and spend money on Jay Z? When artists want to be paid right now, there is no connection between artist and fan. It’s all about the dollars. My friend at work is a Samsung customer and he downloaded the album because it is free. In the end, this is all about money and nothing to do about having a career.

That is what the metal heads and rock heads want. A career. It doesn’t have to be a career where the yearly salary is a million dollars. We want just a simple career where we can make between $60 to $80K like all the other occupations, however in this we are doing what we love. We want just enough so that we can compete in the housing market, be considered for loans and so forth. We don’t need to keep up with the Kardashians, the Beyoncé’s and the Jay Z’s.

Once upon a time, it used to be clear to the fans that artists created music and that Record Labels were looking to profit from this relationship with the artists. These days, the new artists are the tech heads. The technologists lead the way by creating and it is the artists that want to profit at every turn from it. The artists are starting to become the businessmen/women of the record label era.

Look at the recent Twitter rant of Thom Yorke from Radiohead. According to the gospel of Yorke, there is no incentive for new artists as they cannot make any money due to Spotify. He more or less claims that no new artists can be discovered via Spotify or make a living from Spotify. Hey Thom, Imagine Dragons is a new artist. Look at their numbers on Spotify. Even though they are not making a living off the royalties from Spotify, this tool has allowed them to spread their music to a world-wide audience, which in turn is seeing their album sales go up. Go figure that. People are purchasing albums, when the songs are available for free.

So what does Thom do? He pulls Atom of Peace and his solo work from Spotify. Maybe that is a good thing, as we don’t have time for sub-standard anymore. Hell, Thom Yorke should even blow up at Napster.

The reason why Napster exploded 13 years ago was because it was all about the community and the convenience. Napster was never about the money and it was never about the ‘free’. The fans of music spoke out loudly on how they wanted to consume their music and how they wanted to interact with it. The power brokers still haven’t listened. Today there is still no service that provided those two things the way Napster did.

Artists wrote songs for a cause or a purpose. There was always a war to fight against someone, either against the establishment, the parents or a real war. The sad reality these days is that more and more artists are thinking about the payment instead of the creative process. It’s tough making a living in the music business. That is the bottom line. Just the same way it is tough making a living in any other business.

I work nine to five and get paid a yearly salary. I am meant to work 38 hours a week, however the company encourages us to spill some blood for them which normally means putting in longer hours just so that we can be considered for a bonus. It is a tough gig, and it is a tough way to make a living as well. The music business is no different. Making money in any occupation is a tough business.

Standard