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

The Age Old Problem Of Music

The recorded music industry has finally stabilised and it is competing with free. Whatever arguments are put forward for recorded music to go behind paywalls, the world we live in demands that music be free. Piracy of music is no more.

Why would people bother?

My kids are happy with free and putting up with a few commercials. I am happy with it as well, and on the occasions that some of my favourite artists release an album that has a super deluxe edition, I purchase it.

All of this low price points does lead to a mathematical outcome. Profits are tighter, which in turn means  large recording budgets go down. Who cares, right? With pro-studio equipment so cheap, 95% of musicians are DIY’ers’

But, are profits really tighter for the record labels. The whole Spotify/Sony contract highlights just how much money Sony is getting from being the holders of so many copyrights. Sony’s negotiating power is strong because of the artists that create musical works.

Unions have negotiating power because they have the workers behind them. Sony has negotiating power because they have accumulated the copyrights from artists that signed contracts with terms stacked against them. The unions fight for workers’ rights and better wages. Sony fights for a higher fee to their music catalogue and then fails to pass on the monies to its artists, both old and new.

The power of the labels has been accumulated by paying low dollars for a song. Take “Louie, Louie”. The song was written on toilet paper in 1955, recorded in 1957 as a B side and it did nothing. In 1959, Berry sold the rights to the song for $750. In 1963, the song became a hit. By 1987, Berry was living on welfare at his mother’s house. However, Berry did have some luck in a lawyer friend who managed to get his rights back just in time for the song to be licensed to an alcoholic drink commercial. Berry in this instance is part of the rare 1% that do have some luck. For the other 99%, no dice.

You know what the funny thing is, someone like Frank Zappa back in the early Eighties had the foresight to offer a proposal to the record labels to replace the LP model. Zappa proposed that the labels should store their recorded music vaults in a central location and offer the music via phone or cable TV straight to the user stereos via a subscription model. In Zappa’s words “providing material in such quantity at a reduced cost could actually diminish the desire to duplicate and store it, since it will be available any time day or night.”

The reason why Zappa was thinking outside the square back in 1982 was that the recording business was already in a state of bother, that the Internet and Napster brought to the forefront, 20 years later.

Change is constant. News used to be slow, we had three TV channels, music, books and films had gated/window releases, fewer people travelled and fewer people finished school. Not anymore.

You see, change for one side of the debate is always better and for the other side not so much. For the music consumer, the shift to access models over ownership models with lower price points is for the better. But it is far from perfect for the record labels and other gatekeepers. Even old school artists don’t like these changes. People have argued that it has led to unemployment or that creators have no incentive to create new music.

The age-old problem of music was always access. How do people hear it?

MTV broke down a lot of those access problems and made musicians into global superstars. MTV, P2P downloading and streaming are new approaches to age-old problems. While the record labels ignored the volcanic ash of Napster, the techies escaped the volcano blast and thrived.

The error of the record labels was in believing that what was familiar would not change. They got used to the high profit margins of the CD, so they found it hard to believe that in the space of a few years, those profits could disappear. Those marketing strategies and gated releases that have proven themselves over so many years, no longer bring in the sales the labels wanted. Instead it leads to an increase in P2P downloading.

Streaming has competed with P2P. Spotify has pumped millions upon millions into the recording industry. Money that was not there before. So what do the record labels, along with Apple and other misguided artists supporting Pono or Tidal want to do. Their solution to the age-old problem of access is to put it behind a pay wall.

Nice one. Let’s see how well that goes down.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Top 10

My 8 year old and my 7 year old love Twisted Sister. It’s the video clips that hooked them, so they started to dig deep into my LP and CD collection. Actually, the first LP they ever saw, was Twisted Sister’s “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll.” So here it is, the Top 10 list of Twisted Sister songs, by an 8 year old and a 7 year old.

1. We’re Not Gonna Take It

When Quiet Riot topped the charts with “Metal Health” and it became the first heavy metal album to do so, it was a game changer for metal in general. For better or for worse a lot of bands got picked up by major labels in the U.S.

Twisted Sister on the other hand were still struggling to get ahead without any real support from their Atlantic U.S.

Not to be deterred Twisted Sister took this new fan interest in metal to a new level. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is all pop and a little glam infused with a lot of rock. It’s tongue in cheek video ensured that MTV played it non stop.

Dee Snider finally fine tuned that Chorus melody he had written back in 1979.

2. I Wanna Rock

Who would have thought that in 1987 when “Love Is for Suckers,” came out that it would be a long time before Dee Snider rocked out again.

Desperado proved unsuccessful due to record label politics taking up Dee’s time between 1988 and 1989. Widowmaker came out in the midst of the Seattle Revolution and an excellent band was ignored.

3. Shoot Em Down

This can be the new anthem for the fight against censorship by the Copyright Monopolies and the Corporations that issue DMCA takedowns.

In 1985, Dee Snider along with Frank Zappa and Bob Denver appeared before a Senate committee to testify against the Parents Music Resource Center’s demands for music censorship legislation.

All of this is happening while Twisted Sister was burning to the ground with low ticket sales and crowd animosity.

In 2013, this fight is still going on. This time it is the RIAA, the MPAA and the Copyright monopolies that are trying to silence free speech with bogus takedowns.

Shoot em down I say.

4. You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll

“You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” laid the groundwork for the things to come. With the release of “Under The Blade” before it, the band was getting some serious respect with the metal crowd.

During the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” tour in Europe, especially England, Twisted Sister was the hottest “new” group.

They where selling out 3500 seaters all over the country, they had two hit singles, been on national TV in England and had been in all the papers.

Twisted Sister tour these days and they are more popular than they have ever been. It’s true, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”.

5. SMF

This is the ode to the original tri-state headbangers who would talk at length about the shows that Twisted Sister played in New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester before Twisted Sister became a huge act nationally via MTV. This is their song.

When the band broke through and toured extensively behind “Stay Hungry” the band and Dee Snider especially became overexposed. After being the underdog that gave a voice to every angry teenager in America, Twisted Sister would end up losing the respect of their loyal and possessive core metal fan base.

In other words the SMF’s abandoned them only to return in greater numbers years later.

6. The Kids Are Back

While the record industry proclaims that the industry is dead without any evidence, the kids are all plugging away and creating.

Maybe we will never see another superstar act like the Eighties however we are living in a golden time for creators.

7. Burn In Hell

From reading all the press, it always came across that ”Twisted Sister” was in control of their lives and future. I saw them as a new generation of rock bands due to their hard work ethic to make it.

8. Come Out And Play

When I hear this song, I immediately think of the bands history playing the bar scene, especially when Dee screams out “Join our cavalcade / Enter the world we made.” That cavalcade started when Dee Snider joined in early 1976. That cavalcade kept on growing along with a growing collection of record company rejection letters.

The critics called “Come Out and Play” an uneven album. The weakest tracks on the album like “Leader Of The Pack” and “Be Cruel To Your Skuel” got released as singles. The singles that should have been released are the title track, followed by “The Fire Still Burn” and then “I Believe In Rock N Roll.” Imagine the film clip of “Come Out And Play” if Twisted Sister paid homage to “The Warriors” movie.

In the end “Come Out And Play” didn’t fit the “Michael Jackson business model” of the labels. Twisted Sister went from being hot to being the whipping boys again.

9. The Price

People have a lot of trouble dealing with failure. Twisted Sister had been through so much rejection it made them even more determined to make it. Everything comes at a price.

10. Stay Hungry

It was difficult for Twisted Sister to land a record deal, and the band ended up struggling for nearly a decade before finally getting their big break in the early ’80s.

Unfortunately, when this break finally came, the band would end up being the poster child of record company overexposure.

Stay Hungry stands as a reminder. With each rejection, you need to stay hungry and find the fire again.

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