My Stories

Football And World Cup Qualification Failure…

Failing to qualify for the World Cup has highlighted how far the US game has fallen and it’s going to happen to the Australia national team soon.   

The signs of a looming catastrophe are everywhere. In Australia, we aren’t qualifying for the Youth World Cups at all and the majority of those youth national teams are made up of the best talent of the parents who can pay for $2500 a year for Elite Football. The current senior national team is made up of players who had parents who could pay the high fees for Elite Football. Not all players, but a large percentage. So is it any wonder that the only player in the current Australian team who took a unique and different way  to make it in football, had the most impact. Of course, I am talking about Tim Cahill. 

But the pay to play culture in Australia is killing the sport. It’s become even more evident over the last 5 years in this country how “elite football” in this country has become a billion dollar industry. And the competitive kids who are selected early because they are born at the start of the year and run faster than all the rest, keep getting retained in these elite programs because they were there first in, even when the kids born later have shown to have better skills and game intelligence. 

This pay to play culture eliminates the potential x-factor player and makes football a sport that kids from upper-middle class parents can play at an “elite level”. That kid that didn’t even trial for an elite team because of the fees or that kid which got selected for an elite team at U9’s and then had to withdraw because the parents couldn’t pay, is now probably kicking goals in AFL or scoring tries in Rugby League.

The biggest problem of “pay to play” is that it removes the individual from the team and from learning the language of football. It makes it all about the individual. With the investment of parents, they expect results for their child, the individual. Australia is a country that has a population which includes every race of the world and somehow the coaches/selectors are not able to find “real talent”.

I wonder why. 

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

What Does A Million In Sales Mean?

It may be a long way to the top, but it’s even harder staying there. A lot of artists talk about the glory days, of selling a million plus albums and “having success”. They are loved and they are all over the press and magazines. Then their “fanbase” based on sale metrics move on and suddenly, the record label is not returning their calls.

Dokken, Ratt, Warrant, Poison, Love/Hate, Slaughter, White Lion, Anthrax, WASP, MSG, Stryper and Yngwie Malmsteen come to mind.

It doesn’t matter what artists did in the past. If their new album isn’t getting played on radio, (not Pandora Radio, actual DJ programmed Radio) then it’s the hard sell of the road for them. And if they don’t have the means and the smarts to hit the road, then it’s even a harder sell.

Y&T is still cleaning up on the road, despite never being on the covers of the magazines, or darlings of MTV or even having a number one mainstream hit. It’s because they are a band made outside the record label system. It was all about touring and gaining fans, city by city, state by state, country by country. Add to that list Tesla.

You notice that the acts that continue to sell and have high streams are constant on radio.

Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Pop Evil, Disturbed and Seether have the top 5 songs on Active Rock Radio right now in the U.S. As a by-product of the radio play, the bands are moving product. Volbeat is another that continues to sell.

This is what Nikki Sixx meant. He saw no point in Motley Crue spending time writing and releasing an album, when Active Rock Radio would just ignore it and the Classic Rock stations would just play the old Crue songs.

Radio was never the be all and end all. The best bands developed slowly. No classic rock band was an overnight sensation. The MTV era, killed off a lot of bands by setting the expectation that all of the artists it played had millions upon millions of fans. MTV video clips sold advertisements. As a byproduct records got sold as well. That led to recorded music revenue.

Recorded music revenue, never got to the bands. Sure the bands got advances to record their albums and they probably felt like rock and roll stars during it, but the truth is the $500K advance or even the $1MIL advance, (that had to be paid back anyway) pales to the revenue the record label got in return. If an album sold a million copies at say $10 gross; that is $10 million in gross sales. Of course some of it would be kept by the record store, some of it by the manufacturers of the LP and all the rest would go to the label and somehow the band would still be in debt.

When Bon Jovi started writing the songs for “Slippery When Wet”, Jon and Richie were still living with their parents and had a million dollar debt to the label, even though they had two albums certified “Gold”. Pretty glamorous right.

In 1987, White Lion released their second album and their first on a major label, “Pride”. It had the single “Wait”, which on release did nothing. It was followed by “Tell Me” which also did nothing. However, the band was still on tour, opening up for Frehley’s Comet, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss, AC/DC and Stryper. It was during this touring cycle that “Wait” started to get some serious MTV rotation, seven months after it was released. Hot on the heels of “Wait” climbing the charts, the label released “When The Children Cry” which ended up pushing the “Pride” album into the two million mark. “All You Need Is Rock ‘N’ Roll” followed and the White Lion tour in support of the album, ended in August 1988. High fives all around. Vito was in every guitar magazine and Mike Tramp was posing in every other magazine. Pretty glamorous right.

By August the following year, “Big Game” was released. The album went Gold right off the bat, based from the goodwill that “Pride” created. The band went from 2 million U.S sales to 500K US Sales. “Little Fighter” didn’t catch on, nor there cover of “Radar Love”. “Cry for Freedom” is one of their best songs, however it looks like their serious subject matter about Apartheid just didn’t resonate with the hard rock community. “Goin’ Home Tonight” also came out as a single and disappeared quickly. The band toured, however as Vito Bratta stated in his Eddie Trunk interview, the songs just didn’t resonate with the audiences. The Monsters of Rock bill that had “White Lion” sandwiched between other bands sealed the deal in Vito’s mind that they needed to go back and write some real rock songs. The downward spiral was starting. Vito still had the Guitar covers but he was questioning how to write a “hit” as the label asked them to do. Pretty glamorous right.

So White Lion took a million bucks and went away to write and record their fourth album, “Mane Attraction”. It came out in 1991 and six months later it was all over. It received no radio play. The real fans of the band loved it. But the band wanted the 2 million fans from “Pride”. The label wanted 4 million fans. As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of the casual listeners like songs more than they like the artist, especially songs that crossover. “Wait” and “When The Children Cry” crossed over and fans of other genres picked up the album. It didn’t mean that White Lion had 2 million loyal listeners. So fast forward to 1991 and White Lion can’t even move, 500K units on their new album. Actually they get nowhere near that figure. They are seen as a failure.

“Love Don’t Come Easy” didn’t sell the message of the new listening public. “Lights and Thunder” came out and no one knew what the hell Mike Tramp meant when he sang, “There’ll be lights and thunder”. The re-recorded version of the band’s debut single “Broken Heart”, also didn’t resonate with the listeners at large. Atlantic Records dropped them not long after.

Once you’re in the spiral vortex, it is not easy to get out off it. And the audience, like it or not, always gravitates to what is successful. Tastes change and moods change. Life becomes complicated. The thing is when an album doesn’t outdo it’s predecessor, it’s labelled a flop. And no one, even the record label can understand why. Once upon a time, the label would probably go for another album to see what happens. Today, as soon as it starts going wrong, no one from the label hangs around. They move on.

So what does the artist do?

They doubt their creative process, quit the business or soldier on for a few more years. But the lifers go on forever.

Music, My Stories

Dave Mustaine

Dave Mustaine will never have to spend another dollar on marketing. I have a Google Alert set up for Dave Mustaine, and man, what can I say, the web is a flux with Dave Mustaine news. The most recent news item doing the rounds is the booting off the band Newsted from Megadeth’s Sidewaves shows, the blame game as to who was responsible and now Megadeth cancelling their Australian tour. All of that in 7 days.

In another interview on the FasterLouder website, Mustaine is asked a lot of hard-hitting questions, especially around the recent album “Super Collider” and how it is seen as a failure. Mustaine responded by saying it debuted at No 6 on the Billboard charts, so he wouldn’t call that a failure.

So I thought I would check out the album again, because after I heard when it came out, I only liked two songs, “Kingmaker” and “Cold Sweat” their cover of the great John Sykes penned Thin Lizzy song. So how is resonating almost a year after its release. Still love “Kingmaker” and “Cold Sweat”.

“Forget To Remember” is on the radar now. Musically the song is pretty sound and the melodies are really catchy, however the lyrical theme of the song just doesn’t resonate. “Built For War” has some cool progressions in it and “Don’t Turn Your Back” has a great intro riff (the fast heavy one) but that’s about it. “Super Collider” is not a bad song, however it is too close to “Almost Honest” for me, and I didn’t really like that song either.

Going back to the comment about “coming in at Number 6, so how can people call the album a failure.” It’s important to note that the charts do not have the same meaning and influence as they once did. When someone comes up with a chart that combines sales, streaming counts, YouTube views along with the conversation occurring on social media, only then can we call the charts sensible.

And the album “Super Collider” is a failure. Megadeth should have release a single of “Kingmaker” with “Cold Sweat” as it’s B side. Let that do its rounds for a month and then hit us with another release, perfecting the other songs and writing new ones at the same time. Megadeth have always had a hard-core fan base. They are the ones that rush out and buy the album in the first week. Then once we have it, what’s next. And that is the dilemma of the recording business in 2014.

In the end, we are mainly interested in what is great and it is better to release great more frequently instead of an album every 2 years that has a couple of great tracks. It is unfortunate that a lot of artists prefer the album format because that is what people are used to.

You know the cycle, spend six months writing and recording an album, so that you can tour the world for 15 months and then start the cycle again. It is not like that in 2014. We only have time for what is great. And as much as I love Megadeth, “Super Collider” is not a great album, however “Kingmaker” is a great song. I love the “Children Of The Grave” influence.

On the flip side, I’ll guarantee you that almost everyone knows who Dave Mustaine is. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because that is another facet of the music business in 2014. Dave Mustaine as a personality has had more traction than “Super Collider”.

A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Great Gatsby and Iron Man 3 and the Lessons They Can Teach

I watched The Great Gatsby on Saturday with my wife and on Sunday, I took the boys to watch Iron Man 3. So what, you say, who cares. I agree. Who cares? This post isn’t about the movies, nor is it a review of the movies. It is about what we music lovers can learn from the movies.

What can The Great Gatsby teach us music lovers? From the storyline, nothing. However, from looking at the story of it’s creator, we can learn a great lot.

The author Scott Fitzgerald, started planning the novel in 1923. He was coming off the commercial success of his two previous novels, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. The book is released in 1925 and it sells poorly. In 1940, Fitzgerald died, seeing himself as a failure and believing his work is forgotten. At the time of his death, The Great Gatsby had sold only 25,000 copies. Today, The Great Gatsby has sold over 25 million copies worldwide and it still sells 500,000 copies annually.

So let’s just say that you are musical creator, either in a band or as a solo artist. You release an album and start to have some success, generating a buzz around you. You release another album, and the buzz starts getting louder. You spend a long time creating your next masterpiece. You then release what you believe to be your magnum opus and the silence is deafening. The buzz starts to dwindle. It doesn’t sell as well as you expected. It doesn’t sell anywhere near the numbers the marketing firm focus group predicted. You believe that you are failure.

Are you really a failure? Is Scott Fitzgerald really a failure? Fitzgerald died believing he was.

Comparing yourself to the instant hit wannabe’s is wrong. Yes, some people can strike gold on the first dig, others, will need to dig a little longer and in more than one place. Persistence is what builds a career. If you want to be around for a long time, doing what you love, you need to persevere. Luck and timing also play a big part in the grand scheme of things. If you create something great, people will find it. That greatness that you create could be something that is so evolved and so out there, that people just fail to understand it right now. Eventually that audience will find it.

Another point to consider here, is that after the failure of The Great Gatsby to sell the numbers that Fitzgerald wanted, Fitzgerald started to focus on short stories as a means to an income. It is in this format, that he made the most of his monies. So instead of focussing on the big novel (the album), he moved onto short stories (great songs), which meant, that he released more content frequently. So instead of spending two years writing a novel, he wrote more frequently, releasing more frequently, while still focussing on the great novel as well. Fitzgerald went on to release another novel while he was alive, and one more was released after his death. However the monies he made came from short stories.

As a musical creator today, that is what you need to be doing. The album format, is still a good statement, however it needs to have quality all around it. Having four great songs and seven fillers, is unacceptable in today’s world. Also being out of the public eye for such a long time, is a bad idea in today’s world. To be relevant, you need to be releasing quality and the fans need to be spreading the word. They are the ones that steer the ship these days. The fans own you. They are the shareholders that the band needs to please and satisfy.

Moving on, both movies combined have earned $1.5 billion in box office takings. That is $1.2 billion to Iron Man 3 and $300 million to The Great Gatsby.

So what can we rock / metal heads learn from Iron Man 3?

So the character, Iron Man, had two of his own movies, Iron Man 1 and then Iron Man 2. Both movies were hits. He then went on to join the supergroup, The Avengers and had another hit movie. So he is back to his own movie, and scores another hit.

So let’s just say that the Iron Man 1 and 2 movie releases are album releases from an artist. The artist already has two hits under their belt. The artist then goes on to become a part of a super group project (think the Avengers movie). The artist then has another hit, bigger than the other two combined. Said artist returns to their solo career or band and they release album number 3, that also makes a lot of money.

Let’s use Ronnie James Dio as an example. He was in Elf. He was in Rainbow and released two albums (Iron Man 1 and Iron Man 2). He was then asked to join Black Sabbath (Avengers). Think of this project as the SUPERGROUP. Dio then goes solo, and see’s even more success with Holy Diver (Iron Man 3). Going back to the Scott Fitzgerald story, initially, Holy Diver, didn’t set the world on fire in sales on its release (like The Great Gatsby). It almost took a year to obtain Gold Status, and six years to obtain Platinum status. The Heaven and Hell album from Black Sabbath also followed the same time line.

In the end, it is okay as an artist to spread your wings, just ensure, that when you do, it needs to be quality 24/7. Be patient and be great.