It always pained me to talk about business models with the bands I was in, especially when the business started to change dramatically from the early two thousands.
The other members just believed that someone will find us, sign us up with millions and off we go recording and touring the world. They still had this view in 2010, when after another argument over business decisions, the band splintered apart.
So after I left, they signed a record deal with a small European label for the album that we just finished recording, and they had to pay $1500 Euro for that deal. WTF. After all of those arguments they still didn’t listen to me and they signed away my copyright to the songs that I had written to that label. Guess they just wanted to say to people that they had signed a record deal.
I contacted a lawyer who charged me $300 just for the consultation, however since the band was only a minor league band, it wasn’t worth pursuing in the courts and attempts at any mediation to have me set the record straight and get back my copyrights ended with further arguments and fisticuffs.
The songs in question are songs that I wrote for previous bands I was in and had them registered with a performing rights association years before my most recent band was even formed in 2008. So imagine my surprise when the performing rights association contacted me in 2010 saying that my ex band members have put in claims as songwriters. Even the bass player that joined after the album was finalised put in a claim for a 25% share of the songwriting.
The ugly truth of being in a band.
Just in case aliens are visiting the Earth right now, the “old record label business model” was to identify an artist, put them in the studio, release their recording on a format that a customer could take home and hope that it connects with an audience. That is what my ex-band mates wanted to happen to them in 2010.
This was the principle revenue stream for a very long time for the record labels. It was the sole purpose of their existence. Now that physical product is a loss leader. It has been reduced to an advertising tool to help the artist build a fan base and sell the live show.
Withholding an album from Spotify in the way that Coldplay or The Black Keys are doing is the wrong line of thinking in 2014. It’s back to the old paradigm of “windowing” and maximizing sales through physical retail or download stores first and then moving over to the streaming service when those sales die down. Windowing is still employed by the TV and Movie industry with zero degrees of success and a high rate of piracy.
However, Coldplay did release the singles to Spotify, so it’s no surprise that “Magic” has been streamed more than 55 million times on Spotify. To me, it seems that the recording industry is trying to re-create that “BARRIER OF ENTRY” around how they distribute new music today.
You see the music business once upon a time had a thing called “THE BARRIER OF ENTRY”. This barrier of entry was around which acts got picked up and which acts didn’t. This barrier of entry was also around which music was released and which music wasn’t.
Now the record labels could argue that this “barrier of entry” was the reason why the music coming out of their stables was of high quality. You know the model I am talking about, the one where the artist got lucky because they had some look that the label could exploit and by default they ended up getting a record label deal and the only way to hear all of their output was to buy an overpriced CD. And now those labels are not raking in the cash they used to get and they are blaming piracy.
Let’s look at three superstar acts today and how the show artists today, that the barrier of entry didn’t exist for them, because if you want it, you will do anything.
“Kill Em All” was independently financed through independent record label Megaforce Records. Megaforce Records was founded in 1982 by Jon and Marsha Zazula solely to publish the first works of Metallica. The Zazula’s even had the Metallica guys living in their house because they believed in the music and the attitude.
Even Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” album was recorded and originally released in 1984 through Megaforce Records. A few months later, Metallica signed with Elektra Records who re-released the album.
The first album “Too Fast For Love” was independently financed via their own Leathur Records imprint in 1981. Leathur Records was a small imprint owned by the band and their original manager Allan Coffman. It was actually Coffman that coughed up the funds for it all.
Elektra Records signed the band the following year.
Five Finger Death Punch
“The Way Of The Fist” was recorded, produced and financed by the band members themselves. Once the album was done, they ended up getting a small independent deal to release the album. In its first week of release it did nothing, but four years later, it was certified GOLD for sales in the U.S.
Only after those bands had proven themselves as viable options did the major Record Labels commit to them. Because they saw dollars and profits. Nothing else.
What all of the bands above had was a product that was ingrained with a cultural movement.
Today, we have musicians promoting themselves on Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets and in reality they still do not have an actual PRODUCT that connects. Getting 10,000 likes doesn’t mean 10,000 fans if no one is talking about your product or sharing what your product with others.
Don’t blame piracy, blame the lack of product because there is so much product out there today, we normally don’t go back to something we checked out once and didn’t like.