A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Guess What: Not A Lot Has Changed

“In 1981, there was a crackdown after the big payola scandal of the late 70s. Right at the beginning of the 80s, the record companies were being safe. They were not handing out advances. They would advance your recording budget, but that was it.”
Brian Forsythe – Kix

So what has changed in 2015.

The record labels are still being safe and with recording costs so low, the recording budget is even lower.

Yeah, of course, we all know that the record labels had a massive boom that started with “Thriller” in 1984 and that allowed them to take more risks. And for some reason it looks like musicians and the labels are only looking at the boom when they compare now vs then. Typical revisionist history.

“None of us knew what we were doing. We were just so excited to have a record deal. There are writer’s royalties, and the mechanical royalties that go to the band. The record company gets paid back through the mechanical until the bill (advancement) is paid off. Donnie was the main songwriter, so he was still getting his (writers) money. By the time we got to “Blow My Fuse” – our biggest selling record – we were two million dollars in debt.” 
Brian Forsythe – Kix

Even in the era of information, with everything is at our fingertips, artists are still unaware of their entitlements. And when they do find out, it is the crux of every argument. Especially between band members because every band has a person that just writes better songs than the others at certain points of time, or in some cases always. Kix’s bass player Donnie Purdell, was another Nikki Sixx. He was crucial to Kix.

It should act as no surprise to anyone that bands in the Seventies, Eighties or Nineties, ended up with such large debts to the label. That is the label creative accounting machine at its best. And the shameful part of it all is that current musicians still look at the past to gauge what success means in 2015.

“Go pull up the sales for 1985, 1986 for heavy metal bands. I guarantee you it’s ten times what it is now. That doesn’t mean there’s ten times less fans — in fact, I think there’s more heavy metal fans now than possibly there ever was. But the bottom line is the numbers show that metal bands are not selling what they did back in the day, and that’s because of Internet piracy. I don’t wanna get on that subject, because it always turns into a depressing, negative subject, but it is a fact. So the answer to the question, ‘Would that record sell more in 1985?’ I would say the answer would be yes.”
Shawn Drover – Act of Defiance

Shawn Drover, wishes it was 1985 and 1986 because for some reason, he believes that he will have more money in his pocket and if his new band “Act Of Defiance” sold a million copies of an album, they would be mega rich and popular. Brian Forsythe from Kix, lived that period and ended up with a $2 million debt, even though they had albums that sold in excess of a million.

And guess what venues they are playing right now?

Clubs and theaters.

Dokken albums achieved Platinum awards and the band today plays clubs and theaters. Stryper and Ratt albums achieved Platinum awards and the bands today play clubs and theaters.

A sale of a record never equaled a fan. It’s the usual comparison between;

  • a person that purchased a record, heard it once and hated it
    vs
  • a person that purchased a record, heard it, loved it and listened to it every day
    vs
  • a person that purchased a record, heard the popular songs and then moved on to whatever else was popular

So why do artists still see sales as important today?

Metal and rock artists still sell. There is no doubt about that. Especially the ones that connect with audiences. But sales is not the only stat that artists should be basing their careers on.

With all of the streaming services out there, the most important stat is how many listens an artist is getting and in which cities they are getting those listens.

The second most important stat is how many illegal P2P downloads an artist is getting and in which cities they are getting these illegal downloads. These listeners/downloaders need to be monetized in different ways.

Otherwise if you are an artist and you are waiting for profits to come in from recorded music sales, then you need to change your business model.

“I’ve never seen a check. Donnie probably still gets writer’s royalty checks. The rest of the money is going back to the record company. Donnie was such a better songwriter. For every 20 songs he would write, I would write one. We were working on his songs all the time and we never even had time to write our own stuff. Back in the early days I may have gotten a couple checks. The biggest one was maybe $350. One time I remember getting one for $1.99. I could count the amount of checks I’ve received on one hand.”
Brian Forsythe – Kix

Remember all of the stories that have come out over the last five years from artists complaining about their low royalty payouts from streaming services. Guess that in 30 years nothing much has really changed. For the small amount of 1% artists that have broken through to mega status, it’s all good.

For the rest, it is still the same story.

“The standard stat given is that 90% of major label deals “fail.” That does not mean they are not profitable for the label. The way RIAA accounting works, the labels can make out like a bandit on many of those record deals, while the artist gets hung out to dry.”
Mike Masnick, Techdirt

Nothing has changed on that front, even with the rise of the internet, Napster, P2P illegal downloading and so forth. The 90% stat was relevant even in the golden years of recorded music sales and it is still relevant now.

“We never expected to get rich, but we certainly didn’t expect to be millions of dollars in debt.”
Jared Leto – Thirty Seconds To Mars

No artist expects to get rich. The need to create is the calling card. However, when they start making money and they see the recording executives living it up while the actual creators are not, then money becomes an important conversation point.

The recording industry has always been known for its creative accounting.

Remember when Tom Petty declared himself bankrupt to get out of a recording contract because he had no money to show after two very successful albums in the seventies.

It all goes against what Gene Simmons said about rock music in general being murdered due to internet piracy. It’s a very narrow-minded and hostile view to have to all of the change that has happened in music. It also mimics, the view that the record labels have held.

A hostile one.

However as Tim Westergren, the Chief Strategy Officer – Pandora (until last year) states;

“I think we’re moving out of an era where the music industry is looking for enemies and into one where it’s now looking for allies.”

The record labels have been dragged kicking and screaming into cassettes, mp3’s and then streaming. Guess what happened. It increased their bottom line on all occassions. Guess that not much has changed in the era of change when it comes to record label abuses.

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Music

Some Hard “Music Business” Truths – Dave Lombardo, Tom Araya and Band Agreements

Dave Lombardo hasn’t been silent when it comes to the financial “behind the scenes” happenings of Slayer. It doesn’t matter on which side you are on in this argument, one thing that is true is that these kinds of issues are real. Bands cannot exist without a band agreement in place. And when a Band Agreement is drawn up there are a few main players in it.

1. The Band themselves
2. The Manager
3. The Lawyer
4. The Accountant

Musicians are always taken for a ride when it comes to management, lawyers and accountants. The whole Adam Duce vs Machine Head saga is down to the same questions that Dave Lombardo is asking. What happened to all of that money that was grossed?

Let’s look at some of Lombardo’s claims.

He claims that in 2011, the band Slayer grossed $4.4 million and that he only earned $67,000. He also claims that he earned that same amount from the band when he rejoined the band. Sounds like a pretty shitty employment contract if you ask me.

So what do we know about 2011?

In 2011, Slayer played 62 shows based on the website Setlist.fm. Doing some simple math, Lombardo came away with $1080 per show. For a lot of independent musicians this is a nice pay-day for the whole band, however in this case it is for an individual in a band that grosses over $4 million dollars.

Now let’s do some math around the gross earnings per show from Slayer. In order to do the math, I searched the internet for a Slayer Billboard Boxscore and I found one.

Slayer in November 2013 played a show in Winnipeg, Canada and the gross sales for the show came to $57,100 and the venue was half full. The data is available on the lambgoat.com blog. So let’s just say that $60,000 gross is an average intake for a Slayer show. Multiple that gross amount by the 62 shows and you get a figure of $3.72 million. Add merchandise, licensing, publishing and royalties and you get close to the $4.4 million mark. So it is safe to say that Slayer is a million dollar business. And Dave Lombardo was just paid $67,000.

Back in February, 2013, Lombardo first announced his findings that 90% of Slayer’s tour income was being deducted as expenses, leaving 10% for the band to split amongst the four of them.

Again, going back to the math, if Slayer grossed $4.4 million, that would mean that $4 million went to expenses and $400,000 was left to be split between the original 4 members (I am assuming that the touring guitarist “Gary Holt” is part of the Expenses). So Dave Lombardo gets $67,000. That leaves $333,000 to split amongst 3. $111,000 each sounds about right.

Tom Araya claimed Dave was a working member of the band and never a partner, making mention that when Dave joined again during the ‘Christ Illusion’ album, Slayer offered Dave a contract with the band, hence the $67K amount.

This is in contrast to Lombardo’s claims who also mentions that Araya got his silence bought, when management handed over a lot of money to go against Lombardo. Lombardo claims that he was a percentage holder within the band and all that he asked for was to see the detailed expenses.

The thing is Araya is pulling a double face here, as he blasted the band’s management when it came to Jeff Hannemann’s tributes. This is what he said in an interview on Classic Rock;

“I wanted to do more – I was hoping to do more. But the nature of the business… the management gets involved in anything we do and they fucked it up. I’m throwing them under the bus. It really upset me, because it would have been more than just that.”

Money talks. Slayer is a machine that is all about the business and making profit. The person that has the cash has the leverage and in this case, the Slayer management team has that leverage. So why would they use some of the cash that Slayer earns to pay a tribute to the most important member of Slayer. Jeff Hannemann gave them all a career with his great songwriting skills.

It’s bad enough that record labels rip off artists. It’s bad enough that accountants, managers and lawyers rip off artists. But it is the worse when band mates rip off band mates.

If Kerry King and Tom Araya stuck with Dave Lombardo, they would have had the leverage. It’s like the Machine Head song, “Who We Are”.

DIVIDED WE STAND.

But it should be UNITED WE STAND.

In the same way that the audience all stood united to watch the original four at the Horden Pavillion in Sydney back in 2007, with Mastodon opening.

http://loudwire.com/dave-lombardo-claims-only-made-67000-slayer-4-million-gross-2011/
http://loudwire.com/slayer-tom-araya-elaborates-dave-lombardo-exit/
http://loudwire.com/slayer-tom-araya-why-dave-lombardo-ousted/

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

Record Label Innovation – Kill Music Service to Protect Old Business Models

What are the Record Labels worth without the talent? ZERO!

So what do the Record Labels do to their talent?

They treat them to a world of creative accounting.

They treat them to a world where they spend monies on DMCA takedowns and litigation to protect the old income streams, instead of nurturing new income streams for their talent. Throughout life, people are always looking for something new, however the recording industry believe in selling the same old thing in music. When something different comes out like Mumford & Sons, Adele, PSY and Imagine Dragons it triumphs in unforseen ways.

The whole approach of the Record Labels and the RIAA has been if they can’t control a business, their next best option is to kill the business off. Napster showed the music business what the fans wanted, however they killed it off and to this day, not one legal service has risen to offer what Napster offered, which was Community and Convenience.

There is a song called Red City on the new Stone Sour release, House Of Gold and Bones II. In the story line, our hero is in the clutches of the bad guys and the song Red City marks the beginning of the end for the main character. If the Entertainment Industries and their stooges get their way, it is the beginning of the end for the Internet and the opportunities it gives to creators.

Sort of like the lyrics in the new Black Sabbath song, End of The Beginning that states “rewind the future to the past”. That is what the Entertainment industries want. The past to return. That is the future they want.

Look at the recent behaviour of the one they call Prince. Even the Electronic Frontiers Foundation has inducted Prince into its “Takedown Hall of Shame”. To sum up, Prince has issued DMCA takedowns on six second clips of a Prince concert, on fan recorded concert videos of him covering Creep from Radiohead (which by the way he doesn’t even own the rights to the song), threatening to sue people for thinking of doing a tribute album to him and a takedown of YouTube video of a toddler dancing to a Prince song (which is in the Courts at the moment).

The reason why I am mentioning Prince is to show people what a misguided artist he has become. The labels send millions of DMCA takedowns each day and in a lot of cases they censor free speech under a copyright claim. They have even taken down their own websites. Universal Music Group even took down Black Sabbath’s God Is Dead YouTube stream from the Black Sabbath YouTube page.

When is the Recording industry and people like Prince going to stop complaining? When are they going to stop lamenting the passage of the good old days? When are they going to stop blaming the technologists and the fans for ruining their business models. There is a reason why Indie labels have claimed a large slice of music sales this year than the three majors. It’s because they are working on the outside, digging deep and finding those real stars, the real golden nuggets.

Music used to be cutting edge and it used to drive the conversation and the culture. These days music is just another consumable, ready to be consumed like milk. Musicians like Prince, Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Z and so forth are trying to get in bed with the Fortune 500. Where is it written that musicians must be rich? You create quality that resonates and connects, then you will be a star.

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