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

Money In Music

“I’m not lying when I say I’ve got £100 in my bank account right now. In the six years I’ve been doing this, I’m not anywhere near the wage that I used to be on when I was a copper.”
Dan Tompkins – TesseracT’s old vocalist who has become the new vocalist again.

You see, being a Police Officer is a job on a salary. It is a community need to have Police Officers. They are there to keep public order and to enforce the rules. Now, being a singer in a progressive rock band means that you are one of many in a crowded marketplace. There is no salary and no guaranteed income. Everyone needs to make a living, however you need to be in the industry for the music first. Money comes a distant second.

Simply economics 101 dictates, when there is unlimited supply of a similar product, demand is low. When supply is limited, demand is high. At this point in time, there is a lot of new music coming out everyday.

So what are the fans going to latch onto?

We don’t know, there is just too much noise, so we wait. Meanwhile that act is percolating, spreading slowly from city to city, country to country. But that takes time. In some cases, a lot of time.

So, it’s time to bust a myth.

Being in a band is a financial struggle.

Being in a band with a label behind you is also a financial struggle, unless you are in the one percent of acts that cross over. The label will give you an advance that they will need to recoup from sales, touring, etc. However if you are in a band and you have an audience that cares, you can monetize that audience so that life is not a financial struggle.

In today’s market, the audience needs to go and find you. The hype and marketing of the past doesn’t work anymore.

TesseracT is a good band who are good musicians and songwriters. However, the big money-oriented labels find these kinds of acts no longer acceptable, unless they start making millions on an indie label.

It’s just a shame that so many fall by the wayside because there’s just too much saturation. It’s always been that way. There’s plenty of good music, it’s just in different places than the equivalent of what being on the radio used to be.

Being an artist means that you have to work for free and if you have worked for free and have built up an audience, then it’s up to you to monetize them. Normally, the record label would enter at this point in time. However, the myth of the label as the hero is greatly exaggerated. I remember the transitional period in the early 80s after MTV broke and made everyone a star and music become a sales driven vehicle.

Look at Protest The Hero. They had a label deal. They sold decently. They had decent film clips. They toured a lot. Then the sales dried up. By the end of it, they had no label and no money. They could have packed it in and done something different.

So what did they do?

They went to their fans to see if anyone cared. They set a target of $125K. They got a lot of hate in the process. Days after launching Indiegogo, they broke past their target. The fans cared.

Just this week, I got an email from Protest about another campaign, a subscription based service. I signed up straight away for the $25 package. Imagine they get the same 10,000 people signing up. You do the math.

Coheed and Cambria broke away from the label’s and went DIY for “The Afterman” releases. Claude got creative with the release package for the double album release and offered up an excellent Super Deluxe package at $70.

And they get opening week sales of 49,500. Assuming those sales are a mixture of Super Deluxe and Normal releases, the gross return is still pretty impressive. Then they had second week sales of 10,200. Third week sales of 4,000. Fourth week sales of 2,800. After four weeks, the band had moved over 60,000 units of the “Ascension” album. Then they went on a year-long victory lap around the world. During that tour, “Descension” comes out, three months after “Ascension” and it moves 40,600 units.

Again, you do the math on gross sales.

It’s hard making money in music, there is no doubt about it, but so is every business enterprise. There is no guarantee that every start-up will succeed, and it’s the same deal for artists. But history has taught us one thing. The artists that stick it out, percolating on the fringes, do end up crossing over. Pink Floyd, Yes, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails and Disturbed are just a few acts that come to mind quickly. And then, the sky is the limit.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Intervals

I hate the name “Djent”. I actually hate names given to types of music full stop, however we all use them in conversations to distinguish between styles because the media that reports on music also use them.

All the bands that fall into this “Djent” category are just metal bands with a progressive technical edge. (Yeah I know, more names for types of music).

To me the difference between a good band and a bad band is the song. Regardless of how virtuoso the members are in each group and how great they can play, if they can’t write a good song then what is the point.

I don’t mind Periphery and I never got into Animals As Leaders. However, TesseracT, The Kindred (formerly known as Today I Caught The Plague) and Intervals are my top three at this point in time. Some might say what about Protest The Hero. Well for that band, they are already in the Hall Of Gods, so let’s leave it at that.

I have already written about TesseracT, The Kindred, Periphery and Protest The Hero. Now it’s time for Intervals which is another band I really dig that of course comes from Canada.

Intervals began as an outlet for founder and guitarist Aaron Marshall to create music under. As with all musicians, no band is forever, and Marshall had just parted ways with a band that he was in for many years with his high school peers. Musical break ups are always difficult and as Marshall was trying to figure out what to do next, a friend of his convinced him to shoot a video of him playing one of his newer songs. That track led to Marshall meeting Anup Sastry who would end up being the drummer of the band.

Instead of touring and building an audience, Marshall and Anup built it up online. The first piece of music officially released is an instrumental EP called “The Space Between” in 2011. In the liner notes of this EP, the band expressed that they were open to a vocalist. In 2012, came another instrumental EP called “In Time”. All self released.

Then in 2014 came the album, “A Voice Within”. The big difference here is that as the title suggests, there are vocals on the album and really good clean tone ones at that. Mike Semesky (Ex-The HAARP MACHINE) who played live bass was introduced as the vocalist. The album explores the idea of self-discovery and refers to a person’s inner self and staying true to who they are. They composed three songs by locking themselves in a home studio. They collaborated on the others through file sharing. That’s the modern music business.

It’s a typical DIY attitude. No label involved, no middle men. It is a direct to fan connection. In an interview with “The Wellz Street Journal” from October 24, 20132013 this is what Marshall had to say about it;

We’re really into the DIY approach, for now. Direct support from our fans has been the number one reason we’ve been able to tour and sustain the band. We couldn’t be more grateful for that, so maintaining a direct rapport with our supporters is important to us. We’re not ruling anything out, but we’ve always approached things with that mindset, as opposed to rushing into a deal with anyone. I think it’s much better to be cautious and make the right moves in today’s music industry, as there appears to be more wrong ones to make, than the right ones.

“Ephemeral” kicks off the album. It’s only fitting that a song with title that means “nothing lasts forever” starts off the album. Co-guitarist, Lukas Guyader described the songs meaning in an interview on February 28, 2014 by The Wellz Street Journal;

“The meaning of ‘Ephemeral’ is something that is fleeting. We’re referring to the moments that pass by in day-to-day life, and how you have to make the most of those, even though they are exactly that – fleeting.”

The music might seem disconnected however as the song progresses, you just get it and understand it.

“Say goodbye to the world as we knew it
To the eyes that couldn’t see”

That’s right, time marches forward and it doesn’t break for no one. The chorus is a combination of twisting melodies and syncopated riffs, all topped with a captivating voice.

“It is our duty to live while we can”

Perfect lyric. If you are on cruise control, you need to shake it up because you never know when your time is up.

“Automaton” is by far my personal favourite.

There is a problem in the music business right now that any artist which is not mainstream is almost forgotten on arrival. That is the power of the ones that control the narrative. They only talk about the ones that will give them clicks.

With a title that more or less describes a person who acts mechanically or leads a routine monotonous life, the music underlying the song is chaotic and unpredictable. Nothing like the title suggests.

It’s all about the riff, with that syncopated poly rhythms and perfectly executed technical arpeggios.

The gears pulling forward
Always falling into place
This battle I know is over
Despite the effort and the haste

I always connect to songs that have a “slave to the grind” kind of vibe. I saw my father and my grandfather do the grind each day as they set up a family and a life in a new country. I swore that I would not be like them and when I realised that I was, I switched off the cruise control and shook things up a little bit. However, in time, despite the effort and the haste, as the song lyrics state, the gears start pulling forward and I am back in the same place, doing the grind. And I repeat all the above steps again.

“The Self Surrendered” is both striking and transcending especially from about the 4 minute mark when it goes into this clean tone jazz fusion post rock section. Intervals are not about the single, but the body of work.

The self surrendered are after all
Minds reduced to marionettes
Forever performing on our stage

A common theme of dancing like marionettes to the symphony of destruction.

“Breathe” is just brilliant. The song opens up with arpeggio lines that sound like rain drops. It’s an instrumental, it only goes for about 2 minutes and it acts as an intro to the more frantic song called “The Escape”. But it’s two minutes without any filler. Quality all the way.

With “Atlas Hour” Intervals scores a hit that lives in our head space and that’s the most important one.

Through functional dependency
We endure conformity
A greater purpose will be served
Within this life and the next

“A Voice Within” is a song that can cross over into the mainstream. It has all the elements of being unique enough to be rooted in technical metal, mainstream rock and (cough, cough) pop rock.

In time we all will hear what resonates from within
The voice that we must find and embrace to guide us

To feel, to see, to create, to dream
It is our duty to live while we can

And as quickly as Mike Semesky came in as vocalist, he was gone and the band is currently a three-piece with the original crew from 2011. The announcement said that the remaining three members are looking for a new vocalist that can dedicate themselves to Intervals. Maybe, dedication played a part in the departure of Semesky.

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

Chaos + Disruption = The Music Business

It’s a chaotic and disruptive time in the music business and with chaos comes opportunity.

On one side you have COPYRIGHT. And that can be broken down into a lot of other little chaotic categories like infringement, the length of copyright terms, copyright monopolies, the lack of works entering the public domain and so on.

The public domain is culture. Keith Richards once said, ‘you can’t copyright the blues.’

Culture is built and expanded by sharing stories and building on the works of others. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and all of the sixties greats like Hendrix, Clapton and Beck used this concept. They built off the blues.

However copyright law and its real purpose got hijacked by corporations and everything changed. Instead of culture being built up in the works that the public creates and shares, the public is now faced with copyright corporations locking away works that should be in the public domain by now. These works that should be in the public domain do not benefit the original creators in any way, however they are beneficial for the few copyright monopoly gatekeepers.

For culture to thrive once again, it is important to respect the public domain.

Then on another side of the music business you have the RIAA who continually push lies out into the world, so that technology companies can do something to protect crap business models. Did you know that the global music industry sent it’s 100 million takedown notice to Google, to remove search links to certain sites. It looks like the RIAA doesn’t get it.

So if a person types in “free mp3” in Google Search what should Google return?

Sites that have free mp3’s or sites that the RIAA want Google to point to when that term is typed in. Maybe when that person types in free mp3, they want a free mp3 and have no interest in paying.

Then you have the ISP’s on another side that are caught up in the middle of all this as they offer the service that provides internet access to users. According to the RIAA and the record labels, the ISP’s allow “copyright infringement” to happen, therefore, they need to do something about it to help out the music industry. In Australia, this is heavily disputed, however in other parts of the world gradual response schemes are in place.

Then you have the technology companies trying to offer low cost services to fans of music. However, low cost to a fan means high costs to the RIAA and the record labels in licensing fees. This is before the new service is even allowed to trade. If the new service starts to trade without licensing in place, expect them to be litigated into submission.

Have you noticed that artists have not been mentioned anywhere as yet. That is how far the music business has come, where the actual music is only a small part of it, however it should be the major part of it. For the business to thrive, you need great music.

I was looking back to some of the releases in 2013 that I liked. Two of my favourites are “Protest The Hero” and “Coheed and Cambria”.

“Protest The Hero” and “Coheed and Cambria” are working to the “Keep your fan base close” mantra. Both of the bands moved from major labels into a DIY independent mindset, realising that their fans are king.

Exceptional fan service is the key driving force behind a bands success. I expect “Coheed and Cambria” will get a lot more fans purchasing the next super deluxe package for the new album because they did such a great job with “The Afterman” releases.

“Protest The Hero” on the other hand have fallen into the fan funded conundrum where the perks always arrive later than expected for international fans. I live in Australia and I am still waiting for the perks to arrive. The band have been clear with their information, advising that it will take 6 to 8 weeks.

It’s good old business 101, “treat your customers right and they’ll stay with you forever”.

Then you have bands like Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater, Stone Sour, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Volbeat, Alter Bridge and TesserAct that have label deals.

Should those bands go independent like Protest The Hero or Coheed and Cambria. It all depends on a person’s definition of success and hard work. Going independent means that you need to build a team around you like any business start-up.

What are the benefits of going independent?

The lesson is simple. Selling your artistic freedom and independence as a “success” strategy can bring lucrative rewards. But it’s not always the best move for your career, as you are also selling off important data to the record label. The record label doesn’t want to know your fans or connect with them. They want you to do it, so that the label can make money of that relationship and then pay you a percentage of it.

Coheed and Cambria moved over 100,000 units of their deluxe “Afterman” editions. At $60 (I think it was $68, however I will use $60 for the example) an edition, that comes to $6 million in revenue. If the band was on the label model, what percentage would the band see from that $6 million.

The music market/business is filled with acts trying to make it. It is going to take a huge effort to stand out amongst the rest. Music is a lifer game. It is a slow and steady approach that builds careers.

Artists should be looking at development. With each song release, artists should never be afraid to try things out. Even try out new technologies that make it very easy for their fans to interact with them and their music. In a company, this is called research and development. Investing in your career is never a mistake.

The artists have the power to make the record labels redundant, purely to be used as a distribution arm if needed, however with the rise of streaming technologies, even this arm can be in danger of disappearing. Bands like Coheed and Cambria, Protest The Hero and Digital Summer have seen the recorded business side of things and have decided, hey we can do it better. That’s what great businesses are made of.

So in all of this chaos, who will rise and who will fall? Time will tell, however if you compare music to technology, you will see only a select few rise to the top. Smartphones and tablets is all Apple and Samsung. Amazon has online shopping cornered. Google is the king of search. Spotify will win the streaming war. Facebook rules social media. iTunes rules the mp3 and app market. Will the same fate happen in the music business?

2019 Crystal ball predictions;

Coheed and Cambria – will get bigger and bigger. Their style is unique, so expect them to keep to that style, sort of like how AC/DC releases music in the same style or Iron Maiden.

Protest The Hero – proved to themselves that they still matter. Will get bigger and more crazier. The future of progressive metal.

Machine Head – will still be bigger then what they are. Robb Flynn understands the internet and understands the change that is coming. He will make sure that Machine Head rides the wave all the way to the shoreline, while Adam Duce circles in the undercurrent, ready to litigate the band into submission.

TesseracT – will become the next Pink Floyd.

Digital Summer – are one of the hardest working rock bands around like Twisted Sister and Dream Theater. They will get bigger as they are lifers.

Avenged Sevenfold – will become the new Metallica.

Five Finger Death Punch – I have a feeling that they will break up after one more album.

Shinedown – will be bigger than what Aerosmith ever was.

Volbeat – will remain relevant in their niche genre.

Metallica – will still be relevant in the same way the Seventies act remained relevant.

Dream Theater – will still tour and do a lot of side projects, however they will be replaced by TesseracT and Protest The Hero.

Black Veil Brides – will take over the void left by Motley Crue and Guns N Roses.

Trivium – will deliver an astounding progressive technical metal album.

Killswitch Engage – will remain relevant in their niche genre.

Alter Bridge – The world needs Led Zeppelin to continue. Expect Alter Bridge to fill this void. They have one of the best vocalists of the modern era in Myles Kennedy. Marc Tremonti is a prolific writer. Call his Creed project, “The Yardbirds” and Alter Bridge as “Led Zeppelin.”

Bullet For My Valentine – will deliver their own version of “Master Of Puppets” and “The Blackening”.

Lets see how it pans out.

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

The Lies Of The Beautiful Record Labels And The RIAA

During the recorded music industries heyday, there was this widespread idea, sort of like an unwritten law, that we (the fans of music) could purchase music and own it, the same way we purchased and owned the toaster and any other commodity.

Of course when it comes to music, that was never the case. What the music fans actually purchased was a non-transferable license to listen to the music under very specific and strict conditions. Nothing else was transferred to us with our expensive $30 purchase of a CD, other than the right to enjoy the music in private, over and over again.

So what do we have now. We have sales of music falling. Actually they have been falling for some time. The RIAA and the record labels are attributing this to piracy alone, linking the decline of sales with the increase of P2P file sharing usage.

So for the RIAA and the Record Labels, plus some misguided artists, it is simple, these two events correlate, so it implies that one is causing the other to move.

The thought that fans of music have changed the way they consume music doesn’t compute for the Majors and their association.

The arrival of iTunes and the chance to cherry pick what we want rather than complete albums is a pretty good indication that revenue streams would reduce. Instead of spending money on an expensive shiny piece of plastic for two songs, we could now just download those two songs.

The arrival of YouTube and streaming services have also put a dent into the traditional sales model. Of course, piracy does play its part, however with the increase in people attending concerts and festivals, one needs to ask the question, did piracy assist in this?

Watch the Iron Maiden doco, Flight 666. Nicko McBrian talks about not selling an album in Costa Rica, however they have sold out the local sports stadium. Twisted Sister haven’t released any new music, however in Europe they have a massive fan base that includes both old and young. Did piracy cause this?

The arrival of many platforms that allow DIY bands to release has caused a flood of new music to enter the music business. Competition is now at an all-time high.

What about the price of music? Normally if demand for a certain product drops, the prices for that product fall as well, to reflect the lower demand. It is simple economics. So what do the record labels do? They maintain the high prices so that they can maximise profits. So the recording industry is holding on to high price points and they blame piracy in the meantime for the decline in sales.

So if people are purchasing less music or illegally downloading content, how is this effecting the income of artists? Do artists still have an incentive to create music.

For starters, the majority of artists do not get into music to be millionaires. They get in to music because it satisfies a basic human need to be creative.

In relation to less incentive, this doesn’t seem to be the case. There is so much music hitting the market that no one has enough time to hear it all. In addition, if the artists is doing the live circuit, incomes in this arena are increasing. Some artists that don’t sell a lot sure get a lot of people into their shows.

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

The War Between Streaming and Black Box Revenue – Will The Record Labels Kill The Streaming Star?

The public has voted. It prefers streaming. The war is over. Case Closed. Maybe not.

Spotify pays millions to copyright holders. Now unless the artist is a DIY artist who controls their own copyright, most of the copyright holders are the major labels. So if the major labels are getting the millions each year for the blanket license to access their catalogues, where is that money going.

There is a term doing the round, called “Black Box Revenue.” This is the name given to income that the record labels collect that cannot be directly tracked to the recordings of a specific artist.

To put it all into context, streaming services pay the labels and upfront fee to access their catalogues. In addition, they then pay the labels royalties for each stream.

In time, this streaming system will be challenged by artists, much the same way the mp3 sales system was challenged by Eminem and other artists like Whitesnake, Rob Zombie and the band White Zombie.

In all of these cases, the artists said that their record label violated their contracts by counting a digital download as a sale instead of a licensing. Most artists get a royalty of 10 percent for the sale of a CD, minus a lot of deductions, while licenses pay a royalty of 50 percent and in most cases are not subject to any deductions.

When the same thing happens to the labels streaming revenue, the long-term viability of streaming services will be less than certain.

The main part of streaming that the critics and the record labels fail to understand is that it is a tool that is in place now, to PROVIDE REVENUE STREAMS later.

Of course the record labels and the executives in charge are all about the NOW, and a lot of their label rosters are designed for the NOW, so they don’t have time to allow things to grow. Spotify is growing in users, however the company still hasn’t made a profit after so many years in operation. The streaming system employed by the record labels that I mentioned above doesn’t allow it to make a profit.

Spotify wants to reduce piracy to ZERO. At the moment the critics of Spotify like Thom Yorke are complaining that it simply doesn’t pay enough. The truth is, creators have always been ripped off. However, if a song is great and it gets some traction, expect it to pay well.

Daft Punk passed 100 million downloads. The $700,000 that comes with that in streaming payments is enough for a band to live off, however artists see very little of the dollars paid to the record labels for the right to stream their content.

However with YouTube dominating in music, why do people need Spotify? Actually, Thom Yorke has no issues with YouTube, an unofficial streaming platform which is interesting. So I am thinking that Thom Yorke’s issue is with the record labels stake in Spotify.

Personally, I am quite content to listen to three songs on Spotify and get an ad break. I have no interest in paying for a package even if Spotify caps the limit of free songs I can listen to in a month. I will just move to YouTube when that happens, or to my iTunes library or to my physical collection of LP’s and CD’s.

What about the songwriters who write the songs? How do they get paid in the streaming age. It’s simple. They get paid, the same way everyone else gets paid that provides a service. Songwriters need to stop being greedy. What they need to do is hand in the song, get paid the agreed monies and off they go, writing more songs for artists. If a songwriter gets paid $1000 for each song they hand in, then they know they need to write 50 songs in order to earn $50,000. If one of the songs gets traction and gets 100 million streams, the songwriters should be using that as a piece of promotion and up their song writing fee. It’s simple business practices.

It is a revolution that we are experiencing.

Musicians can still make a living. Is it harder now compared to the past? My answer is NO. Musicians always had to work hard to get somewhere, that part hasn’t changed and it will never change.

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

It’s Not The Media’s Job To Keep Artists In The Public Eye. The Difference Between The Past and The Present.

By September 1986, Yngwie Malmsteen had released Trilogy. As a solo artist that was his third long player in the same amount of years. In total, if you include the Steeler and Alcatrazz releases, that made it six long players in four years. You see, back in the Eighties, it was all about the music. That was the only way that artists could get traction back then. It was Malmsteen’s job to keep himself in the public eye.

So what has changed in 2013. Nothing really. It still is about the music. This is what every artist should be doing in this day and age. Releasing music and doing it frequently.

A big difference between the Eighties and Now is the label support. Back in the Eighties, a label would front the money for recording and tour support, with a view to recoup those monies through sales of the long players. It was a deal stacked in the record labels favour. Today, the labels are all about the safe bet, so even though the recording costs are at super lows, it is expected that the artists would front this cost.

Continuing with the Malmsteen example, he released “Odyssey” in 1988 with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals. The album became Malmsteen’s most successful album of his career. As soon as he became commercially successful, he fired the singer and started over again.

When shredding and neo-classical went out of fashion in the record label controlled U.S market, Malmsteen still forged a successful career in Europe and Japan during the 1990’s. He remained true to himself and he never sold out to cash in. People might disagree with his comments, I sure do, however when everyone is trying so hard to be liked by all, fans never really get to see the artist beneath the silt.

The world is going through a revolution and it is all about intelligence. That is why when an artist makes a remark, one side of the Internet calls it uneducated. That is why people jumped on Malmsteen’s remarks about piracy.

However it’s not about winning every time. The metal record labels and the artists they sign are still clueless. If the first album is not a success, the label just lets them go. They are playing it safe. What the labels should be doing is allowing the artist they sign to take multiple chances. The artist is not going to take risks if they have only one chance with the Record Label.

That is why all the risk takers in metal music are the outliers, the DIY’ers. Then when they break through, the majors come knocking. Look at the Djent movement. It started in forums and soundboards back in 2004 and just kept on growing. By 2009, most of the labels had a Djent artist on their roster.

Look at Machine Head during 2002 and 2003, financing their own sessions and recording of “Through The Ashes of Empires.” When the album started to get traction, Roadrunner U.S came knocking again.

Look at the TV networks from the Eighties. You had 3 to 4 networks, and they all played it safe. In 2013, you have hundreds of TV channels, all looking for an edge. They are all looking for content, and they are giving cash to talented people to deliver. Netflix is a perfect example of taking risks with innovation and content.

If the record labels want listeners, they need to let artists push the envelope and try some stuff out.

If an artist wants listeners, they need to understand that there is just too much information out there. That is why there are over 4 million songs on Spotify that haven’t even been heard yet. No matter how big a story artists have, they will be pulled under by all the information coming down the cyber pipeline, if their music is not great.

Suddenly the album that the artist worked so hard for is in the rear view mirror, 3 to 4 weeks after it’s been released. The only way that sales and charts matter today, is that it shows all the new product released. That is what the public wants. Something new.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Artists need to create constantly now. That’s the only way you can stay in the public eye, in people’s minds. Robb Flynn is doing this with his journals while the world waits for the album. An artist doesn’t want to be forgotten and the album format unfortunately works against the artist today. Somehow other musicians just don’t know it. They want someone else to do the work for them. They don’t want to try new ways and the new way is to bond with the fans. Robb Flynn gets it.

It’s not the media’s job to keep him in the public eye, it’s HIS!

The number one thing a fan wants is more music by their favourite act.

Dream Theater released an album for a new audience. It is the only thing that John Petrucci talked about. “If someone is hearing the band for the first time” was the catch cry in all the press releases. Forget about the new audience, focus on the old. The old will sell the artist to the new. It’s done through music and connection.

If the artist thinks that they gain traction by hanging with the record label, then they are idiots. They are better off blogging, responding on Facebook, spreading news on Twitter. However, there is a still a misconception that getting your story in the newspaper or in the magazines is a sign of traction. Forget that. When a magazine comes out with a three-month lead time, it’s already old news. The magazine is dead on arrival. No one cares about the stories written by the PR/marketing team of the artist.

The way I see it, if an artist is making an album-length statement, they need to have a story or a concept around it. Otherwise ten tracks strung together is not a concept. If you look at society in general, there is almost no place to buy a CD. The world is moving to streaming. Via mp3’s, people will still download/ cherry pick their favourites and there is nothing that artists can do about it.

Nikki Sixx asked his fans to immerse themselves in the whole album experience. In order for them to do, the album needs to be phenomenal, otherwise the fans will just cherry pick the great and leave the rest to be.

We live in a direct to consumer society. Amazon and Google get it. Some artists get it. What about the rest?

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