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

Streaming and Distribution 

I believe that it’s an excellent time (on the current state of the music scene). I feel that there’s so much out there for people to pick from and choose from its phenomenal. I mean and guitar playing is at such a high level right now. I mean these younger generations are just taking it to a point where you know it’s beginning to explore places that people have never gone before, it’s just fascinating. And the music itself too, you can pick a genre and find so much great music in every genre. People are just pushing the envelope in all directions, so I think it’s very gratifying and satisfying. It’s a little challenging to pick through I mean from this thing back in the day when I was growing up there’s like a half a dozen or 10 big giant great bands that are super groups you know. Now it’s like there are thousands of bands. Picking through everything is hard. It’s stressful trying to find all the right music you know.
George Lynch 

Today, noise reigns supreme. For the ones who have financial backing, they surround us with their nuclear blast marketing. And in most cases people ignore them.

But it’s still a good time for an artist to get their product out. Actually it’s the best time.

For the record labels, they are still trying to get control over the distribution chain after losing it to Napster and other peer to peer file sharing programs. At the moment, technology companies have it and if the labels kill the streaming grape vine, they hope to bring the distribution chain under the record labels. 

Streaming has three main players. Spotify, Google and Apple.

Spotify is losing money each year and relies on investments. The record labels owe a piece of it but they are not investing in it. YouTube is owned by Google (well their parent company) and the record labels hate Google, blaming it for all of their ills. The “take it or leave it” deal with YouTube is not what the labels want, so they lobby hard to get laws passed which can cripple Google. Apple uses music to push sales of wares. However, even Apple is going to the table to get a lower payment rate back to the labels.

Going back to Spotify.

Since it has money woes and it cannot make a profit, it’s offering payola terms back to the record labels to have their music chucked into playlists for a fee. Because taking in money from users and advertisers is not enough to make money in music if you don’t have your own popular content bringing in money. And the labels are getting paid handsomely twice from each streaming provider.

  • Spotify pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • YouTube pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Pandora pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Apple pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Tidal pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.

I think you get the drift. Maybe that’s why Spotify is paying producers to be fake artists and play popular songs on piano for people to listen to.

And to top it off, the record labels are still using the 100 year old rule of geo restrictions when it comes to streaming. So music available in the U.S doesn’t necessarily equate to being available in Australia. Here is a quick list of albums I tried to call up in the last two weeks on Spotify Australia which are not available;

  • Heaven And Hell – The Devil You Know, released in 2009
  • Stryper – Murder By Pride, released in 2009
  • Three Days Grace – Life Starts Now, released in 2009
  • Night Ranger – Midnight Madness, released in 1983
  • Europe – Europe, released in 1983
  • Helix – No Rest For The Wicked, released in 1983

Isn’t it nice how record labels treat legitimate paying customers?

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Distribution

Last year a couple of big corporation plays happened.

The Amazon/Hachette war was not about books. It was about a power play between Corporations. One Corporation has the distribution and the reach, while the other has the content. Somewhere in between are the writers who are paid sweet f.a while Hachette and Amazon rake in millions.

The YouTube/Independent Label war was not about music. It was about a power play between a new cultural gatekeeper and a union of labels that want to play the music game. As with the Amazon/Hachette war, one corporation has the distribution and the reach, while the other has the content. While the major labels got favourable licensing deals because they bring in most of the traffic, the independents got a pittance. Somewhere in between are the artists and the songwriters who are again paid sweet f.a while YouTube and the major labels rake in millions.

What does this tell us about the world?

It tells us that DISTRIBUTION IS KING. It was never content. Content has to go to where people can buy it, see it or hear it and distribution puts it there. However distribution as usual is controlled by corporations. The record labels used to control it and now the techies control it. Copyright infringement was never the issue for the record labels. Their real issue was that their control of the distribution chain was diminished or made obsolete by the internet.

As a by-product, creators may gain fame from the sales of their works however the money remains with the distributor. How do you think the major labels became major labels in the first place? It was due to distribution. Apple promotes itself as a manufacturer and a software maker however underneath all the front end marketing they make their money as a distributor.

So with different corporations controlling the distribution chain what does the mean for us?

The same as it always has. Corporations are not our friends as they are all about the bottom line and with the Internet every store is next door to each other and only a mouse click away. With so much competition only a select few survives.

Napster decimated the record stores. While ignorant media outlets trump up a small vinyl increase, YouTube and Spotify are increasing their power exponentially. That’s right, we have people celebrating the old vinyl format and overpaying while the digital distributors aren’t even paying attention as they grow bigger and bigger.

YouTube is the place we check out to try/sample everything. Google is the place we go to for search. Facebook is our digital home, showing the world what such great and happy lives we lead while under the surface it’s actually hard and depressing. Amazon is where we go and buy everything. Apple is still in front for the smartphone wars even though the Samsung products offer way more features. There is a war between various streaming services going on right now. Expect one to survive and at the moment Spotify is in the lead for music and Netflix for movies.

Is this good for us?

All we have done is replace one cultural gatekeeper with another. But the problem with this replacement is that we are also giving a large part of lives to these new cultural gatekeepers. Google has our search histories in waiting and target ads based on that. Amazon gives us recommendations based on our purchase and view history. Facebook has our private history and so on. We threw away our privacy like it was a piece of trash. We gave it away for free.

Are we really moving into a George Orwell Big Brother world?

We threw our hats in the rings with the techies because they stood for something once. But the truth is money corrupts everything. And our politicians are not going to stand up against the corporations because politics is all about money.

The ignorant still focus on the decline of CD’s and now MP3’s while trumping up the return of VINYL. The wannabe trash all end up on reality TV shows believing that it is a stepping stone to a career in the entertainment business. In all of this, the artists and the writers keep on getting hurt while the powerful fight over their creations. They are just pawns in their game.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a trustworthy shopfront that is reliable with their deliveries, however I don’t like a shopfront that can control everything. And that is the problem in the digital world. No one is looking out for the consumers, us. We believe that the techies have our best interests because so many of the things we do are free, like Facebook and Google and YouTube. However they are not looking out for us and the politicians we vote in are not looking out for us either as they are in bed with whoever contributes to their campaigns. And the big IT companies have no competitors at the moment.

We used to join together under artists however they are all now part of the corporate machine with so many deals crossing over it makes the mechanics of the brain look simple.

Why do you think Dodge and Motley Crue are in bed with each other?

Dodge has realised that Motley Crue fans will be more inclined to purchase high performing cars so the partnership will allow Dodge to distribute more vehicles so that they can make money.

So don’t believe everything you read. Distribution is the reason why corporations become monopolies and the truth is this; the corporation that controls the distribution chain wins.

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

Entertainment Industries Innovation V2.0

Yesterday I posted about how the music industry innovates. If you caught the drift of the post, it was full of sarcasm around their “innovation” practices.

Seriously the music industry thought it was wise to spend money on an anti-piracy app. Paul McGuiness thought it was time to complain again about Google not doing enough to protect his 1990’s income stream and finally a copyright troll called “Rightscorp” is looking to shakedown people that they identify via IP addresses, even though judges across the world have stated that the IP address doesn’t show who the actual infringer is.

So continuing on with yesterdays innovation theme, what goodies do we have in store today.

First off, the Hollywood Reporter has an article about Voltage Pictures shaking down people that are sharing the “Dallas Buyers Club” movie. For those that don’t know, Voltage Pictures made the headlines 4 years ago for “pioneering” a new breed of copyright troll lawsuits around “mass swarms” of torrent users. However the question needs to be asked, IS piracy really hurting the movie? Wikipedia states that the movie cost $5 million to make. In the US it has grossed over $22 million. Now what Voltage Pictures should be doing is making the movie available to the whole world on the day of it’s release.

For example;

Portugal had a cinematic release date of January 16, 2014. Colombia had a cinematic release date of January 24, 2014. The Czech Republic, Netherlands, Singapore and Thailand had a cinematic release date of January 23, 2014. France had a cinematic release date of January 29, 2014 and Italy had a cinematic release date of January 30, 2014. In 2014, Geographical gated releases are stupid. The movie came out in the US in November, 2013. It came out on DVD in the US know in February, 2014. Once the movie is out in a country, it is out to the whole world.

Anyone heard of David Braben. He is known as “The Godfather of Gaming” and at one stage he was a very vocal piracy critic. However he now has a very different view on the issue;

“Piracy, while frustrating, can contribute to game evangelism.”

“It can also help you reach new territories. For example, we are huge in China now. In the old days of silver discs, it would have been impossible to break the whole country. We would have needed an office in every province but through piracy, our games are circulating and fans are now seeking us out.

“Piracy goes hand in hand with sales.”

“If a game is pirated a lot it will be bought a lot. People want a connected experience, so with pirated games we still have a route in to get them to upgrade to real version. And even if someone’s version is pirated, they might evangelise and their mates will buy the real thing.”

As the Techdirt post points out, Braden acknowledges that the piracy of his games is irritating. Every creator and artist can relate to that. However, instead of fighting them, he is putting strategies in place to turn those pirates into customers. His latest project, Frontier: First Encounters, the latest iteration in the “Elite” series was funded via Kickstarter. The initial goal was to raise £1.25m. In the end it raised over £1.5m, however the important part of this, is that once the mainstream media started to report on it, the project got another £700,000+ from investors. And that is what fan funding is all about.

It’s not about the money raised, it is about the marketability of the product. Are people interested in what you have to offer. Protest The Hero fan funded “Volition” and then they got label interest for the physical distribution of the album, along with merchandise interest for the tour.

So while Voltage Pictures are spending their money mobilising their legal teams to capture pirates and make them pay up, David Braden and his company are turning those pirates into loyal customers who are paying up because they want to participate in what Braden has to offer.

Going back to the anti-piracy app launched by the music business, I still can’t believe they actually spent money on that rubbish, especially when you have the company behind the BitTorrent client pushing the boundaries in relation to DIY distribution.

The BitTorrent Bundle has been around for a while and it has been used by various artists and creators to promote their works. Basically it is showing itself as another great distribution product, which gives any creator another way to connect with fans of their content and something to be used in conjunction with Netflix, iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.

This is how the entertainment industries fail. They fail to think with a different mindset. Everything is so locked up with profit margins and sales, they fail to see the many opportunities on offer to their creators. While the executive boards of the entertainment industries focus on profits in return they are exercising a poor duty of care to their creators, who are the ones that actually make money for them.

No one wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “I want to hear some music from Universal artists” or “I want to watch a movie from Fox Studios” or “I want to read a book from Titan Books” or “I want to watch a TV show from HBO”.

We wake up with the mindset of “I want to hear Lynch Mob” or “I want to watch Star Wars” or “I want to read “Darth Bane: Path To Destruction” or “I want to watch “Game Of Thrones”.

In Australia, there has been outrage about how HBO signed an exclusive only deal with our only PAY TV provider FOXTEL for “Game Of Thrones”. Basically, if an Australia resident doesn’t have the stupid and expensive PAY TV contract in place, they cannot watch “Game of Thrones”.

So of course, Australians download it. Illegally.

However if you dig deep into HBO’s exclusive rights deal with FOXTEL, you will see that HBO really doesn’t care about “Game Of Thrones” being locked up behind a paywall. The reason why HBO doesn’t care is that they make a shit load on the DVD/BluRay sales in Australia. The profit margins from a DVD and a BluRay sale are exactly what HBO wants.

So while the entertainment business are trying to teach the consumers that piracy is bad, the technologists (like BitTorrent) are innovating even further and are providing creators even more options to distribute their product and connect with fans.

As David Braden stated; “It (piracy) can also help you reach new territories.” and “It can lead to an increase in sales.”

And that is what HBO is very aware of. They have seen the results, especially in Australia. PIRACY of “Game of Thrones” has led to huge sales of the DVD/Blu-ray releases of each series.

Finally, while the recording industry screams piracy, one of their own executives is accused of using major label money to fund an extravagant lifestyle. While the recording industry ignores innovative ideas like “BitTorrent Bundles”, the ones that do embrace them are seeing their products reach millions of users. For the record the most downloaded torrent for 2013, was a legal one.

The sad thing in all of this is the artist/creator. They are the ones that actually create the content that the people want. When they get into bed with a record label, it rarely ends well for them as the record label is only interested in profits RIGHT NOW.

They don’t care about the exposure that other distribution channels can offer them, which could lead to increased sales in the long term.

http://www.indiewire.com/article/bittorrent-sets-the-record-straight-about-piracy-wants-to-partner-with-filmmakers

http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/bittorrent-looks-to-spruce-up-its-image-with-hollywood-1201086470/

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/box-seat/game-of-thrones-finale-sparks-viewer-frenzy-20130611-2o1bw.html

http://www.tonedeaf.com.au/news/international-news/383823/former-major-label-executive-accused-of-embezzling-1-million.htm

http://nypost.com/2014/02/04/former-warner-music-exec-allegedy-embezzled-over-1m/

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

Time Is Working Against The Artist

It’s 1992. The labels are signing Seattle bands, left, right and centre while at the same time they are dropping hard rock and heavy metal bands left, right and centre. That is the power the record label had. Not only could they make an artist famous, they could also destroy an artist. You see when you control all the points in the distribution and marketing chain, you more or less control everything.

With the massive power that the major labels had, we always saw artist/s as famous. We always thought that once an artist was signed to a label deal, they had it made. It was a big misconception.

Fame for an artist in most cases meant a large advance that had to be recouped by withholding royalty payments. That is why record label accounting gets messy and it cannot be trusted.

So in 2013, things have changed dramatically. With this change, the power is still with the major record labels. They gathered enough power during the Eighties and Nineties to be a force to be reckoned. Then in the Two Thousands the massive mergers and takeovers happened, further enhancing the power of the record labels. Then in order to allow digital start-ups, the record labels did one of three things; charge high licensing fees or litigate the start-up to bankruptcy or negotiate a large ownership stake in the start-up.

So even though the internet has lowered the barriers of entry, without the money and power of the label behind the artists, there is a pretty good chance, the artist would probably go unnoticed. Remember 4 million songs haven’t even been listened too on Spotify.

So when certain artists are complaining about a low royalty payment, maybe that is the royalty payment that is relevant to the niche the artist is in. Maybe it is a royalty payment that they have earned. You don’t see a current household name complaining. It’s because they worked hard at obtaining a certain thing called leverage.

Digital distribution offers an artist new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries or rural areas. The end result is growth across the board, both physical and digital provided that the artist gets noticed.

So is piracy that bad for an artist who is trying to get traction?

The majors and the mainstream journalists attached to news outlets operated by media moguls have done a great job selling the “one pirated item equals one lost sale” statistic and the “illegal downloading (piracy) is theft” argument. It is a statistic that rights holders, lobby groups and misguided artists exaggerate and it is a statistic they use to either kill off innovation or to stifle innovation.

Piracy (better known as copyright infringement) is basically one person (A) copying something of value that another person (B) owns. This leads to a situation that has both people (A and B) having a copy of the same item.

So it is safe to say that one pirated item is not theft. Theft is basically one person (A) taken something of value that another person (B) owns, which means that Person (B) no longer has the item.

So let’s assume that piracy spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who download the music might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. There are a lot of could’s in the above theory. However the music business is all based on could’s.

For example, in the heyday of the record labels, this is how the above would have panned out.
Let’s assume that a record deal spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who hear the music on radio or MTV might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. As you can see, the heyday theory also holds a lot of could’s.

Of course the difference is the money. The labels once upon a time threw money at artists and provided tour support. Today, the labels only go for the sure bet and 360 deals.

From a fan perspective, the main thing working against the artist today is time. Why would a music lover want to invest their time in an artist? I recently invested a lot of time in the TV show “Sons of Anarchy” because knowledge of the show was being shared at work and I wanted to be part of the conversation. I invested a lot of time in the show because fans of the show shared their thoughts with me. They convinced me that I needed to watch it.

One thing is certain in 2013. We move on fast. Look at the Top 10 lists of pirated movies that TorrentFreak publish each week. It’s always changing and very rare for the same movie to be at number one for two weeks in a row. Look at the Top 10 of the Charts published by each country. The artists in the list are always changing.

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Music

Bullet For My Valentine – The Hi Fi – Sydney 27 February 2013

Basically if any member leaves Bullet For My Valentine I will no longer be interested.

Stories abound that the band had issues with each other during the tour of the Fever album and that they where close to breaking up.  Lets hope that they realise that they are a sum of their parts.  Does anyone remember Axewound?

The guitarist Michael Paget is a shredder in the classic Randy Rhoads sense, he was spot on all night, and a pleasure to watch.  The drummer Michael Thomas was a machine.  The whole night he was nailing his parts effortlessly.  Singer / Guitarist Matt Tuck was also in the pocket with his vocals and riffage.  

But the star of the show was the bass player Jason James.  He was the crowd instructor.  He got everyone jumping, he got the mosh pit going crazy, he got all the fists in the air going, plus he killed it in delivering high quality backing vocals and taking the lead on the screamo parts. 

If there was an issue with the show it was the small venue vs the high volumes clash and no Your Betrayel.  Ohh the betrayel…

Their latest album Temper Temper has moved 56,900 units in two weeks in the US and a quick look at The Pirate Bay shows at least 1500 seeders for this album with about 100 leechers.

This is the new world.  When the labels used to control the distribution, albums used to do a two year run via scheduled release windows.  These days with the internet, the album run is over within two to four weeks.

I still don’t know why bands spend three months or more in a studio recording a full album for it to disappear within a month.

Don’t get me wrong, good albums will stay the course like American Capitalist from Five Finger Death Punch has sold 500,000 plus units in the US and it was released in 2011.

Danish band Volbeat’s Beyond Hell/Above Heaven has just cracked the 200,00 mark in US sales, three years after it was released.  This one has been a slow riser, without all the mainstream marketing.  The fans have been spreading the word.  The fans are in control now.  The labels hate it, but if the bands are switched on, they can monetise this to the max.  Anyway i digress.  Back to the live show.

1000 plus people crammed into THE HI FI venue at Sydney’s Moore Park.  They where treated to a good show.  For $63 a ticket it was worth it.  I have no interest in Miss May I and The Cancer Bats.  They opened with Breaking Point and all i can say is they had the audience singing the song with them.  That is one thing that caught my attention, especially on the new album, the songs written are designed so that they work with the show.  All the songs worked and the energy levels where always up.  Highlights for me where Breaking Point, Pleasure and Pain, The Last Fight with it’s ballad like intro,  Scream Aim Fire, Waking the Demon and Alone.  This was a gig for the hardcore fans and BFMV didn’t disappoint.

 

 

 

 

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