A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Critical Mass

There are always different kinds of audiences. You have the early adopters, the first to hear about an artist. These early adopters are looking and wanting a different experience than the people who identify as the critical mass market. Early adopters want something fresh, exciting, new and interesting. The critical mass market doesn’t. They want something that that’s familiar.

Metallica when they started had an audience that adopted them early. Some of those fans stood by them all the way, even when they broke through to the mass market in the 90’s and some of those fans just moved on to something new and different.

Motley Crue had an early start in the Sunset Strip look and sound, so the early adopters saw them as the innovators. Meanwhile bands like Ratt and Dokken appeared when metal and rock music reached critical mass.

Sometimes a person in the mass market becomes an early adopter and sometimes the early adopter becomes part of the mass market. It’s all by choice.

And artists are in it for the art first. And if they get an audience, money might start to come in. And money makes it complicated, because money promises a shortcut. A bigger recording budget, a fancy video clip, a big name producer or better marketing budgets or hire session musicians. We use money to hurry up, but it distracts us from what we actually seek to build. Great art. Without the art, the artist has nothing.

And who should the artist please, the early adopters of their music or the mass market?

Does the artist start creating art for profit?

Profits are fine as they allow the artist to invest back into their art. But if profit becomes the main aim, well, nothing and no one benefits if profits are the only thing the artist seeks.

If you want to be as big as the MTV stars of the 80’s and early 90’s you’ll need to hit critical mass. MTV was the critical mass vessel that spread music to the masses. It allowed metal and rock music to go viral before going viral was a thing. In physics, critical mass has a negative meaning as it describes the amount of plutonium you need in a certain amount of space before a reaction goes out of control, leading to a meltdown or explosion. But when you talk about critical mass in a circle of artists, it’s a positive thing.

There is a belief out there that once enough people who know enough people start talking about your music, your fan base will multiply and growth kicks in.

And that is true from a certain point of view. Like “Game of Thrones”, when it hit the right number of conversations, the buzz creates its own buzz and popularity, which in turn creates more buzz and even more popularity. But “Game of Thrones” didn’t start off with critical mass at the start, even though it was marketed heavily. It was people who spread the word. And it was in full swing by Season 3. Same deal with “The Walking Dead”.

Twisted Sister had this buzz with “Under the Blade”, “You Can’t Stop Rock’N’Roll” and reached critical mass with “Stay Hungry”. “Come Out And Play” should have continued the rollercoaster ride, however poor decisions over what songs to release as singles, over exposure of the band (mainly Dee Snider) in the press, competing against album releases of other artists and an MTV ban on the video clip of “Be Cruel To Your School” hurt the band.

Facebook reached 100 users in a Harvard social circle. It was enough people for it to gain traction and it started spreading all over the campus, the town, the state, the country and then, eventually, the world.

And yes, there are routes to popularity which are random or accidental or luck or being in the right place at the right time.

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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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Music, My Stories, Piracy

We Gravitate To What We Believe Is Popular

Artists like Sebastian Bach and Robb Flynn have asked the question, What does a Facebook like mean these days? In the words of Dark Helmet, “Absolutely Nothing”.

Music is a popularity contest. There is no doubt about that, however popularity doesn’t mean Facebook likes. What we do know is that likes are unreliable indicators of a band’s impact. The music business is all about connecting so many different dots to solve the puzzle. This is where we’ve arrived, the data-centric world and these raw statistics leave a lot of artists out. And they don’t like it.

The number one complaint in the music business is that artists can’t make any money. If you want to make money then make music that people want to listen to. Difficult but not impossible.

Revolutions occur in music all the time. Normally those revolutions happened in musical styles. However when it comes to the reporting side of things, well that was all controlled and monopolised by the recording industry.

The Billboard charts reported what was sold and what was played. All the parties involved lied and bribed each other to play certain records or to promote certain albums. This led to an era that if we believed that a song or album was popular we were more likely to buy it. Hell the same parties even controlled MTV.

Now everyone is looking at charts based on what we are listening.

Seen Ratt’s Spotify stats recently. Even though each album from the Eighties moved over a million units, what the fans really wanted was the great songs. And lucky for Ratt, each album had a great or decent song that would be used to market the album.

I want to go back to 1985. Twisted Sister released “Come Out And Play”. The fans of the band purchased it and played it death (maybe except for “Be Cruel To Your School” and “Leader Of The Pack”). However the album was deemed a commercial failure according to the reporting arms of the recording industry.

While the big albums “You Cant Stop Rock N Roll” and “Stay Hungry” are on Spotify, “Come Out And Play” is not available for streaming officially. But that is typical of the industry because Spotify is controlled by corporations and some of those corporations are the record labels. So as is the norm, those record labels think they know best when it comes to music. However on YouTube the whole album is there.

Why is it on YouTube?

Because the fans of the album put the music up. The fans are sharing their love of the album and people are listening to it because while fans have a history of music at their fingertips and can search for any artist they like the biggest playlist on Spotify is “Today’s Top Hits”. On the rock side, there is a rock playlist called “Rock Classics” that has close to 530,000 followers.

So with everything available under the sun, music fans still prefer to listen to what we think everyone else is hearing. Much like how we purchased albums in the Eighties based on what we thought everyone else was buying.

 

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Music Is All About Change

The new music industry is all about change.

Do you think that if you pull your music from Spotify that it is not available on YouTube with ad support (which means income) and with no ad support (which means no income).

The new music industry is about exploring different business models and seeing which one works for you.

Black Veil Brides had a Pre-Order pledge campaign for their new album and the perks on offer just kept on getting sold out. First week U.S sales are anaemic at 29,925 however does that mean that the album is not popular or that it is not a success. Go on YouTube. The BVBArmyVEVO account shows 2,206,786 views for the “Heart Of Fire” video, 1,208,958 for the “Faithless” audio and recently a clip went up for the ballad “Goodbye Agony” and that has already accumulated 464,059 views. Compared to their big song “In The End” with 36,560,728 views, you can see that the fan base is experiencing the band in many different ways. In this case, the band and their team (record labels, managers, accountants, lawyers and publishers) are making money from the Pledge Campaign, YouTube views, streams on other services, physical sales, mp3 sales and radio plays.

Coheed and Cambria had a vinyl remastered re-issue of “In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth” which sold out its first pressing and then they went on a sold out commemoration tour of the album. They are remaining relevant even though their last album came out in February 2013. For them, 2014 was all about touring, vinyl sales, special edition live box sets and merchandise.

Basically new business models from bands are reshaping the way music is marketed and distributed. There are countless new artists emerging and there are countless new ways for fans to listen to those artists.

The music industry of the past consisted of great control. Distribution in those days consisted of record stores. Technology has made way for new opportunities, thus creating new models. The internet has eliminated a lot of past costs within the music industry; this goes for the way music is recorded, the format of music, the marketing, and especially the distribution outlets. New models have taken away the control aspect.

Digital Summer recently asked a Facebook question to their followers about how does everyone find new music. They wanted to know how their fans had heard of them and where they usually hear new music they like? I went through the comments and grouped them into categories.

Radio like Sirius XM Octane, local terrestrial stations, Pandora, Slacker Radio, iHeart, etc got 137 votes for 26%. At this point in time radio is still the best way to get your music out there. However it is the Live show that seals the deal for the band.

Live Shows especially comments around the opening slot that they had on the current Volbeat tour got 121 votes for 23%. It looks like the band really delivers on stage. Also the comments kept on saying that the band members took time out to meet newly converted fans and showed them where they can get free downloads of the band’s music. It’s all about connecting with fans folks.

Word of mouth from fans or band members got 63 votes for 12%. With the internet connecting everyone, I expect this to be more relevant.

YouTube via the algorithm suggestions got 57 votes for 11%. The tech industry is fragmented. When you combine the platforms like YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace, Online publications, other online platforms and Amazon, you get a 37% reach from the Techies.

Spotify via the similar artists feature got 30 votes for 6%

Twitter via the band members following someone and that someone goes on to check the band out got 25 votes for 5%.

iTunes via the Genius or suggestions based on previous purchases got 25 votes for 5%.

Promotions like having cool looking merchandise, flyers, giving away free demo CD’s, having their stickers plastered all over town, endorsement companies, music stores got 16 votes for 3%.

Other Online Platforms like Reverbnation, Soundcloud, Google Play, XBOX Music, Last.fm, Gaming Music Videos got a combined 13 votes which also equates to 2%.

Instagram via the band members liking photos posted by users or following users got 10 votes for 2%. This was a surprise, however the work that the band members have done on this site is astounding. One fan commented that they are a Gemini Syndrome fan and when they posted a photo of Gemini Syndrome on Instagram, one of the Winterstein brothers liked the photo. The soon to be fan, clicked on his account, saw they had a band, checked out the band and then became a fan.

Facebook and MySpace got 10 votes each for 2%. Goes to show that while Facebook is a good tool for connecting with fans once you have them, it is not a good tool for finding new fans.

Online publications like Stereogum, Loudwire, Jango, Revolver, Ultimate-Guitar got 6 votes for 1%. This is another fragmented industry. The online publications offer no substance, no personal opinion. It’s just all thumbs up, pat my back and I will pat yours style of reporting.

The Pirate Bay/Torrents got 4 votes for 1%. Looks like copyright infringement is not such a big issue.

Amazon got 3 votes for 1%. This is how I found out about the band. Their “Counting The Hours” album came up with bands I might like based on my purchases.

So what does tell any new artist trying to build a career in music.

Be ready to change on the whim and be ready to try different ways of promoting, connecting and marketing your music.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Faktion and The Year That Was 2006

They are no more. According to the internet, they barely existed.

Faktion’s self-titled release hit the streets in 2006. I came across it a few days ago, almost 8 years since it’s release. And I have stayed with it, because it is a damn good album. A real strong album. Back in 2006, it might have sounded generic and formula driven against some of the bands that had records out at that time.

It was up against some stiff competition for listener’s attention. The audience that could have gravitated towards Faktion had already devoted their ears to other bands.

Breaking Benjamin released “Phobia”, Skillet released “Comatose”, Stone Sour released “Come What(ever) May”, Daughtry released his self titled debut, 10 Years released “Autumn’s Dream”, Crossfade released “Falling Away”, Pillar released “The Reckoning”, Red released “End Of Silence” and Papa Roach released “The Paramour Sessions”. Already it is a pretty crowded marketplace. BUT it gets worse.

They had a deal with Roadrunner Recrods. Maybe Roadrunner just didn’t know how to promote them against a crowded modern rock scene and it is as dead set shame. Maybe Roadrunner put all of their energies into promoting the ones that already had a following, instead of trying to break a new band to the masses.

Other Roadrunner stable mates that released albums in 2006 are as follows;

Dragonforce – Inhuman Rampage
Stone Sour – Come What(ever) May
Hatebreed – Supremacy
Black Label Society – Shot to Hell
Cradle of Filth – Thornography
Killswitch Engage – As Daylight Dies
Trivium – The Crusade
Madina Lake – The Disappearance of Adalia [Digital EP]
Theory of a Deadman – Gasoline
36 Crazyfists – Rest Inside The Flames
Chimaira – Chimaira
Ill Niño – One Nation Underground
Roadrunner United – The All-Star Sessions
Dresden Dolls – Yes, Virginia… ‎
Satyricon – Now, Diabolical
Fear Factory – Demanufacture
Soulfly – Soulfly
DevilDriver – The Fury Of Our Maker’s Hand
Type O Negative – The Best Of Type O Negative (Comp)
New York Dolls – One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This
Opeth – Ghost Reveries
Black Stone Cherry – Black Stone Cherry
Slipknot – Voliminal: Inside The Nine ‎
Delain – Lucidity
Liv Kristine – Enter My Religion
Bleeding Through – The Truth
Life Of Agony – River Runs Red
Creetins – The Spirit Is Willing ‎(7″)
Caliban – The Undying Darkness
Junkie XL – Today ‎

As you can see from the above list, the label had 32 releases happening for the year that I could locate and in amongst all of them was the monster that is known as Nickelback, who had singles and videos released well into 2006 from their 2005 album. And somewhere in this mix was a band called Faktion. A band that had even more competition from bands on other labels;

Tool released “10,000 Days”,
Rodrigo Y Gabriela released their self-titled debut,
Iron Maiden released “A Matter of Life and Death”,
Europe released “Secret Society”,
Evergrey released “Monday Morning Apocalypse”,
Poets of The fall released “Carnival Of Rust”,
Muse released “Black Holes And Revelations”,
Jet released “Shine On”,
The Killers released “Sams Town”,
Senses Fail released “Still Searching”,
My Chemical Romance released “The Black Parade”,
Smile Empty Soul released the excellent “Vultures”,
Red Hot Chilli Peppers released “Stadium Arcadium”.

I can go on, however the point is made. It’s a pretty crowded marketplace for listener’s attention. And “Faktion” was there, one of many bands in the music business trying to break through the noise.

Add to that noise the other big internet stories.

On September 26, 2006, Facebook was opened to everyone at least 13 years old with a valid email address. Suddenly people (including fans of music) had a new outlet that had nothing to do with music.

Then there was YouTube. The site grew rapidly, since kicking off in 2004 and by July 2006, 65,000 new videos were being uploaded every day. The site was also receiving 100 million video views per day. Suddenly people (including fans of music) had another new outlet to focus on.

MySpace was still a giant back then and the 100 millionth account was created on August 9, 2006.

Also in 2006, a little known company called Spotify was created. From small beginnings, large things grow.

The following year the first iPhone hit the streets and the people (again including fans of music) had another new outlet to spend time on that initially didn’t have anything to do with music.

And the paradigm shift that started with Napster in 1999, became a tidal wave in 2006.

Music really needed to compete against different markets. It wasn’t about a cost issue. It wasn’t a piracy/copyright infringement issue. It was a competition issue. It was economics 0.1. Supply and demand. When supply is limited, demand is higher. With supply in abundance, demand is lower.

Fans of music became early adopters of technological products. If they are spending their time and money on those products, that leaves less time and less money to spend on other products.

So what about Faktion? The post was meant to be about Faktion, however when i started researching some papers around innovation and competition for a different post, everything started to link together. Faktion and 2006 became the catalyst.

Reading one of their earlier bios, they make mention of their MySpace play count metrics and maybe those stats played a key role in getting Roadrunner interested. However those MySpace metrics will never equate to a 1 to 1 relationship with sales, the same way that pirated content will never relate to a lost sale.

Who is Faktion? Ryan Gibbs is on vocals and was the last addition to the band. Marshal Dutton played guitar and was the original vocalist. Josh Franklin was also on guitar, Jeremy on bass and another Jeremy with a surname of Moore on drums.

Does the name Marshall Dutton sounds familiar?

It should.

Remember a band called Hinder. “Welcome To The Freakshow” was produced by Hinder drummer Cody Hanson and Faktion’s Marshall Dutton, with mixing done by James Michael from Sixx AM. What a team?

Also remember when Austin Winkler stepped out of the tour for the album. Guess who stepped in as a fill in vocalist. Yep, that’s right, the same Marshall Dutton from Faktion.

So when Faktion called it quits, he formed a band called “Drankmore” with Faktion’s tour manager Jarrod Denton. In that same band is Cody Hanson, the drummer from Hinder.

Remember that music is a relationship business.

And speaking of relationships, I remember reading an interview that Marshal did and he mentioned that he wouldn’t be opposed to doing Faktion again, so lets hope that happens.

It was the lead breaks in Faktion that got me. It was a pretty ballsy move to do leads for a melodic rock band in 2006. Comparing this album now to the bands that had commercial success in 2006, Faktion is streets ahead. And that is because of the guitar work.

A good band is a band that has a lot of different elements. Having breakdown riffs by 2006 we getting old. While it worked for bands like Red, Breaking Benjamin and 10 Years, the audience wanted “Guitar Hero’s again”. Remember back in 2005, “Guitar Hero” the game was unleashed to a massive audience and to great success.

The song “Always Wanting More” is a stand-out. It’s heavy with great guitar work.

All your pleasures have brought you greed
Only thinking about yourself again
All the things that you say you need
Are the poisons that eat you from within

In the end we all end up in a wooden box. Focus on accumulating experiences instead of wealth. Focus on building relationships instead of enemies. The Recording Industry failed to build a relationship with the people who actually purchased music. They exploited the artists and then abandoned them whenever they felt like it.

The one that resonated with me was “Who I Am”.

I know I’m not prepared for a life
That keeps me far from home
But I know if I just sit there,
I’ll never find out who I am

The life of a musician is a tough gig. I love writing music and playing it, however I hate to be away from home. When I was in bands, I hated touring. And this song is about that life to me, however the chorus is done in such a general way, that it can be interpreted that you need to get out of your comfort zone to make things happen.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories

Is Spotify Suffering From The “Newness Wears Off” Syndrome?

You know the drill. A new technology comes out and eventually it will start to get some traction. Then the word will spread about and everybody flocks to it. It’s new, it’s cool, it’s hip and its innovative. Then when it is at its peak, the people who testified for the new tech, will abandon it, looking for something new and better.

Look at the history of technology innovations and you will see a pattern.

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter are three such platforms that came, peaked and right now are suffering an identity crisis.

MySpace is finished.

Facebook got traction because it connected people in a way that MySpace couldn’t. Now, all of these connected people need to deal with the marketing of products, advertisers, like requests, fake friend requests and spam.

Twitter is well, Twitter. With so many people tweeting or having their tweets connected to their Facebook Posts or their blog posts, everything is getting lost in the mix. When a big news item hits, Twitter is the platform to go to, because people who are directly involved in these big events are the ones that are tweeting.

So what about Spotify. It has been around for a while now and in the last 3 years it set up base in a number of large music markets like Australia, Canada and of course the US.

The people tried it. Some have stuck to it. Some have abandoned it. The ones that speak out against it have never used it.

With the rise of Beats Music, expect the young ones (kids born from 1991 onwards) to go off and explore it. They will give it traction. Then the mainstream will talk about it, trump it up and the young ones will go into something else while the old guard moves in. Like Neil Young who seems to think that people really want large music files taking up large amount of space. Sort of like Facebook. It was the mecca for the youth. Then their parents joined and the youth bailed. No one wants to be friends with their parents on Facebook.

In relation to music, bands on record deals were real slow in adopting Facebook, while the independent bands started using it ASAP. I don’t even have a Facebook account anymore and when I go onto it, it is purely to see what my favourite bands are up to and what people are talking about. In a way it has become like a go to website.

Spotify however needs a game changer. Sort of like how the move to APPS changed the iTunes store. And it’s all about the FREE. Fans of music showed the world that they want FREE music to listen to. And don’t say that FREE doesn’t work. How the hell did Free To Air TV exist and grow over the last 60 years.

Beats Music needs people to vouch for it, promote it. And when people finally get around to using it, it needs to deliver. However, for the kids, YouTube does the job. And that’s the world we live in. One that has all the information that we require at our fingertips and its FREE. Notice the emphasis on FREE again. The public spoke out big time when Napster crashed the party. Our friends testified about it and then we testified about it to others. No one even raised the question of copyright infringement because it was so damn cool.

So what is cool today?

I am all over the shop when it comes to music. I still purchase CD’s from the bands I like. This is more or less done from Amazon and I get the AutoRip feature with it, so then I download the mp3 version of the album to place on my iPhone. I stream music on Spotify. I refer to YouTube. My kids are YouTube fanatics.

And the funny thing is that I don’t use iTunes anymore. Who would have thought that day would have come. And that is what Spotify needs to think about it. Now that the newness has rubbed off, what’s next. Consolidation. How can you consolidate when the modern paradigm is DISRUPTION?

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Sharing Music via Word Of Mouth

I got a 8GB USB stick of music given to me recently by a musician friend who told me that I need to check out the bands on the stick. When I was growing up we used to these kinds of trades on cassettes. Back then we had an hours or hour and a half worth of music. Today 8 gigs worth of music is about 270 songs at 320kbps. Yep, that is how it is done today. People have no respect for copyright law and why should they. For all of us, copyright is present on songs that we like from when we are born and it looks like it will still be in place on the same songs when we die. Is that a law that should be respected?

So I am listening to a few of the bands. “Dirty Passion”, “Degreed”, “Riverside”, “Denial Method” and “Devilicious”. Yeah I know, I caught the same trend as you, most of them start with the letter D.

Anyway, I am trying to put my head space into the same head space as the guys in the band. They obviously want to be in music. They want to be in a band, so they form a band. They write some music, play some shows and spend a lot of time and money to record an album.

THEN WHAT.

What is the plan after that?

Do they wait for all the reviews to talk it up and hope that someone from a label is going to pick it up and promote the hell of it?

Do they promote it via social media and hope that people will buy it, because that is what people needed to do back in the Nineties to get music. Yep, we needed to pay for it, and a high price at that.

However, the same fans don’t want to pay for it today. Okay, let me rephrase that. Fans of music will only pay for what they want to pay for. The bands they like, the songs they like will still get supported. It could be via an iTunes purchase, via an Amazon purchase, via YouTube views, via Spotify streams, via concert attendances and so forth.

So any new band starting out needs to face two hard realities;

1. People will pay for what they want to pay for

2. Getting your message/name out is still hard.

Bands/Acts don’t realise that going viral or hitting the top is all based on the music. The whole marketing shenanigans comes after. Bands need to start with a great tune.

Producer and manager, Marty Thau just passed away and in a 2009 interview, he spoke about what he looks for in artists.

“I’ve always believed there is a fine line between abstract and pure accessibility and that is what I’ve always looked for. An artist who can be abstract and conventional at the same time and, most importantly, reach people. That’s the magic we all seek. It’s called originality … and, of course, it’s still about songs. That’s the starting point.”

For example, I like Machine Head. I like the tarot idea of the four different covers they will be utilising for their Record Store Day contribution. The marketing and the hype behind the release is top-notch. Now if the song “Killers and Kings” is a dud, it’s not going to bode well. The songs are the starting point for everything.

In relation to the vinyl revolution, stats from Billboard.com show that vinyl sales are growing each quarter. In the end the percentages they are talking about is small change in the sea of billions. It’s a hobby thing. I will be purchasing the four editions of “Killers and Kings” purely as collector items. I won’t even play them.

The thing is vinyl never went away. During the Nineties when everyone went to CD’s, it was the Second Hand store that exploded. Any store that stocked vinyls, would be busy as hell. That is when I picked up, 700 plus vinyl records. Between the years of 1992 and 2002, i more or less purchased the whole seventies and the eighties. All for a price less than $5. I even picked up “Quiet Riot II” with “Randy Rhoads” for $10.

During that time, the press and the recording business ignored vinyl, however in 2014 they trump it up. Isn’t that typical.

I digress. Going back to the post, just because a band or an act does make it, it doesn’t mean that the whole world wants to listen to it or own it. It all comes down to time, which a lot of people don’t seem to have. So people will only revert to music that they want.

The reason why pop music thrives is that the audience shares it. From my own experiences, metal and rock fans are very divided. There is an elitism running through the ranks. Because of that elitism, you don’t get that same sharing experience. When I say sharing, I am talking about the sharing of links to the songs, like Spotify sharing or YouTube sharing.

So what about the bands I listened to.

Dirty Passion – Into Wonderland
Released in 2012

They are from Sweden. “In Wonderland” is their second album. The band formed in 2007. Facebook shows 13,000 likes.

So how is it?

It’s melodic rock with a Guns N Roses “Appetite For Destruction” type swagger merged with some Skid Row attitude. The vocals are raw. The songs that stood out on first listen are “Into The Wild”, “When Darkness Falls”, “Shadowland”, “Make It Last” and “Light Of The Candle”.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, it was an enjoyable listen. They won’t achieve world domination, however they will have a career in the niche they are in. The lyrical themes in the songs sounded a bit cliché, however they can only get better.

Degreed – We Don’t Belong
Released in 2013

They are from Sweden. Like “Dirty Passion” this is album number 2 for them. The band formed in 2005 and Facebook shows 1500 likes. Based on the likes, “Dirty Passion” has worked harder to build their social media presence.

Their bio states the below;

It took 5 years of hard work to even get noticed and a bunch of shameful proposals to get where they are today but these 5 guys know how hard you have to work to get what you want and they won’t stop until they get just that, what they want.

Isn’t that the nature of the recording business. Exploit the artist. Some are so hungry for fame, they will allow it. Other artists are smarter and if it means a smaller fan base, then so be it. As long as they did it their way.

So what about the album?

They released an album of twelve tracks however six ended up being a good listen. The standout tracks are “Black Cat”, “What If”, “Inside Of Me”, “Blind Hearted”, “Coming Home” and “We Don’t Belong”. It’s modern alternative rock, mixed with melodic rock (especially around the keyboards).

It is way more polished than “Dirty Passion” with a clear emphasis on arena rock choruses and pop sensibilities. The guitarists wail on the album. Really dig the song “Inside of Me”. It’s got that Imagine Dragons/Coldplay feel.

If I had to pick between “Dirty Passion” and “Degreed”, “Degreed” wins. They walk the fine line between staying true to melodic/hard rock and pop music, filtered with progressive and guitar heroics.

Denial Method – The Surface and The Vision
Released in 2008.

They are from the US. It is their first release and their Facebook page has 90 likes. It’s hard to ascertain if the band has broken up. After hearing their debut, it’s easy to see why the band could be broken up. Only two tracks are worth a mention. You see when you play in a crowded modern alternative rock scene you need to be a touch different, a touch special, a touch unique to stand out.

“The Silence” is a decent track. It is in the vein of bands like Earshot, Breaking Benjamin and 10 Years. That is also the reason why it falls down. Much like in the Eighties. All the bands that came out and started to sound like Motley Crue, Guns N Roses and Metallica, where are they now. Maybe having the guitar hero solo in it, would have made it different and unique enough to stand out.

“So Many Days” is another decent track. I love the acoustic however this song just sounded too strummed.

Moods.

What happened to them? Fingerpicking, single notes arpeggios, little flamenco guitar fills. Let the song breathe. Extend it.

So if I had to place “Dirty Passion”, “Degreed” and “Denial Method” it would be “Degreed” first, “Dirty Passion” second and “Denial Method” third.

Devilicious – The Esoteric Playground
Released in 2012.

They are from Sweden (seriously what a scene in Sweden). It is their 2nd release and their Facebook page has 1,195 likes.

They are basically a metalised version of The Cult. And I dig that

“Succumb”, “Hollywood” and “Post Mortum” all have this Black Sabbath vibe.

So if I had to place “Dirty Passion”, “Degreed”, “Denial Method” and “Devilicious” it would be “Degreed” first, “Dirty Passion” second, “Devilicious” third and “Denial Method” fourth.

Riverside – Shrine Of New Generation Slaves
Released in 2013.

They are from Poland and this is their sixth release. Their Facebook page shows 55,518 likes. I really enjoyed 2005’s “Second Life Syndrome” and 2007’s “Rapid Eye Movement” however after that they just fell off my radar. Blame the internet for allowing bands to release so much music.

Riverside are a damn good progressive rock band. There is a simplicity in complexity when it comes to their music. They know how to take the complex and make it simple, setting moods and letting feel lead the way. Don’t expect anthemic arena rock choruses with Riverside. There is none.

“Shine Of New Generation Slaves” is a brilliant exhibition in Pink Floydism prog. To like Riverside, you need to be in the mood. A “Dark Side Of The Moon” mood. Relaxed and mellowed.

My friend shared these bands with me and that is how we still get the word out today. Word of mouth.

http://ultimateclassicrock.com/marty-thau-dies/

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