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

What Kind Of Time Is It For Musicians To Be Successful?

Today artists have the power to make, publish and become extremely successful from their own music. The need to use the almighty gatekeepers is over. Thank Napster and Sean Fanning for being real game changers and shaking up the recording business. Now every artist cane set up their own home studio and make excellent sounding recordings. They can use digital aggregators like Tunecore and CD Baby and within days, their music is sitting on Spotify and iTunes along with all of the major label backed artists.

It is a new frontier for artists and as more and more people take up these opportunities what we have is a lot of increased competition. With millions of songs still to be heard and only limited ears and time to listen, how can new music get out there. Nikki Sixx believes that everything he writes is off quality and without an avenue to get that quality heard by the fans he doesn’t have an incentive to spend time and money to create new music for Motley Crue. Gene Simmons, Joe Perry and Yngwie Malmsteen blame the copyright infringers.

Sp how do musicians get their songs heard?

There is the marketing (pitching a product) vs connecting debate.

The marketing to fans is seen as the old rock-star model while the new internet model is all about making connections with the listeners who then decide if they want to be patrons. In a nutshell, people don’t have to pay for music any more however if the music can create an emotional connection, then those listeners will choose to pay for music from their favourite artist. Look at Coheed and Cambria. They are a band that are 14 years deep into their career and their fans are loyal. The vinyl release of their 2003 album “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth” flew out the doors. They are content with the world and the connections that they created.

However other artists are not content and they always want more. Blame MTV for making people believe that every musician need to attain platinum sales to have a career in the music industry. This leads to a distorted definition of making it. To some, making it involves platinum albums and covers on magazines. Guess those artists are in for a rude shock. While for other hard-working artists, making it involves earning a living by creating music. If this means playing in cover bands, doing studio work, busking or whatever else needs to be done, they will do it.

Being in the right place at the right time is still bandied about. The difference today is that “place” can be anywhere. It can be a physical place or a place in the digital world. Lorde got traction from being on Sean Fanning’s Spotify playlist. Volbeat got traction in the U.S by opening up for Metallica. Bands like Motley Crue, Ratt, WASP, Quiet Riot and many other L.A acts go traction by riding the wings of a new cultural movement. Five Finger Death Punch opened for Korn and Disturbed and connected with their audiences. Periphery got traction by via online forums, message boards and a regularly-updated Soundclick account.

It’s still all about great songs, a story/narrative to tell, determination, perseverance and luck. Determination is a positive emotion that involves persevering towards a difficult goal in spite of obstacles. Determination occurs prior to goal attainment and serves to motivate the behaviour that will help achieve one’s goal.

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. (Vince Lombardi)

IN THE END, regardless of what the artist does, it is the LISTENERS/FANS that decide. The power is in their hands. And those relationships start like all relationships with a simple hello.

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

Credibility = Musical Differences

Music used to be about finding some Avant garde musical and lyrical edge and pushing yourself and that edge to the limits.

Want to be as big as Metallica. Forget about the Napster court case and remember that Metallica once was a band that had an edge. They were an outlier versus the LA Glam Rock movement.

When did it all change?

Now it’s about what maintains.

Now it is about what can an artist do to ensure that the nice income they got from the last recording and tour cycle remains the same?

So they go away and recreate the same album thinking that is what the fans want.

Now imagine thousands of artists doing the same thing and pretty soon, we, the public will be ploughed under by the plethora of product that all sounds very similar. And we do either two things. We switch off completely and go back to the classics that we know or we gravitate to a few current acts and decide that they will be the ones that we stick with.

Because we don’t have time to sit back and listen to every new album just to find that one song that could blow our mind.

Musicians didn’t want to make the same music everybody else did. It was all about finding your style.

Musicians didn’t care about how they looked. It was all about how they played.

Musicians didn’t want to sell out to the corporation because it took away their street cred.

And credibility is everything.

That is why Rock/Metal bands didn’t really last forever.

Credibility equals musical differences.

How long were The Beatles together? Eight or nine years.

What about the original line up of Kiss? Eight or nine years.

Twisted Sister (the version of Dee Snider, Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, Mark Mendoza and AJ Pero) had a run of 7 years before AJ Pero was booted and another year after that the band itself was goneski for a long period of time.

Motley Crue had a run of 11 years before Vince Neil was outed.

Led Zeppelin had a run of 12 years before the tragic passing of John Bonham and even though they got together with Jason Bonham on a few occasions, you could honestly say that was the end.

The Doors had a run of 6 or so years before the tragic passing of Jim Morrison.

What about Jimi Hendrix? He had a three-year reign before he tragically died.

Dokken had a run of 7 years before they went down in flames just because George Lynch couldn’t get over the fact that the band he was in was called Dokken.

Credibility is the honesty and openness of our past heroes and the lyrics in their songs.

Motley Crue didn’t come out and pretend to live the destructive lifestyle they sang about. They actually lived it. Same goes for Guns N Roses.

Dee Snider wrote his career defining songs when he was poor and broke. He had the anger and the credibility of knowing what it was like to be poor and hungry for success.

With Desperado and especially Widowmaker Dee Snider was in the same position as he was before the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” success and he wrote a lot of great songs for those projects that no one has really heard. Listen to “Reason To Kill” from the Widowmaker album, “Blood and Bullets”. Elektra boss Bob Krasnow at the time would have hired multiple body guards to protect his sorry ass.

This is what music was.

Truth.

The basic human connection to one another.

And now with music available 24/7 everyone is sacrificing that truth in desperation to chase a trend that makes money. But the ones that had longevity in music never chased trends. Like Frankie said, they did it their way.

That is why in most new acts, most people know the singles, the real stand out songs from the album.

That is the difference between the new breed and the old acts. The fans of the old acts know the material. Because when you have that one album for a six month period, it is all that you listen too.

I will let you in on a little secret. All of our heroes are “years in the making” success stories. They started something, failed, looked stupid doing it, dusted themselves off and started something again.

But everyone these days wants to parade themselves as a winner. Which is BS.

What we need are musicians pushing the limits of their art.

We forget the latest song we listened too in a matter of minutes but we are still talking about the latest Game Of Thrones episode.

It needs to be the other way around.

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

So What Is It With Bands And Producers Not Liking Each Other After An Album Explodes?

What is it with artist’s dishing out hate on a producer that was involved in producing their greatest triumph?

A good producer is meant to be tough and opinionated. They are meant to challenge the artist, so that the artist delivers the goods. Look at what Bob Rock did to Kirk Hammet in Metallica, especially around “The Unforgiven” solo piece. If you look at Kirk’s legacy that will be the solo that he will be remembered by. I remember in the “Classic Albums” documentary of the “Black” album, as well as in the video, “A Year and A Half With Metallica”, Bob Rock said something similar like, “it is a great song and it needs a great lead. What Kirk is playing at the moment is not great. He has to live and breathe this solo.”

Bob Rock got the guys to slow down the tempo on “Sad But True” and detune everything down a whole step. He told Lars Ulrich to take drum lessons before he started to record his parts. Which producer does that? Lars Ulrich is coming off 4 definitive thrash albums and there is Bob Rock telling him to take drum lessons. He questioned James on his lyrics and his melodies, something that hasn’t been done before. He recommended vocal lessons as well to the formidable front man.

Lars even said that once the Black album was finished, he couldn’t talk or see Bob Rock for over 12 months. Bob Rock has even gone on record saying that it was a tough album to make. The end result is every bands dream coming true. The biggest selling album of the SOUNDSCAN era with a total of 16 million sales as at December 2012. The Black album still to this day moves 2,000 units per week in the U.S. A a lot of websites pointed out that it outsold, Megadeth’s new album “Supercollider”.

As much as Nikki Sixx dishes on Tom Werman, the facts are out there. With Tom Werman, Motley Crue had three multi-platinum albums in “Shout At The Devil”, “Theatre of Pain” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Each album has sold 4 million copies plus in the U.S. That is a total of 12 million plus sales in the U.S market. Furthermore, the bulk of the “Decade Of Decadence” album is made up of songs from these albums, and that album also sold over 2 million copies in the U.S. In addition, the “Music To Crash Your Car” box sets also had the three albums produced by Tom Werman on them.

If all the stories about the drug use from the Motley Crue members are to be believed, then Tom Werman deserves special recognition for getting anything musical onto tape.

Dee Snider also doesn’t have many kind words for Tom Werman. If anyone has read Dee’s bio, “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic,” you can connect the dots and come to a conclusion that Dee is also blaming Tom Werman for the failure of Twisted Sister’s next album even though Tom Werman never worked on it. The routine used to be that Dee Snider would be working on songs for the next album, while the current album is being mixed.

According to Dee, in his bio “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic” due to Werman being difficult to work with and Mark Mendoza doing his best to sabotage everything that Dee was working on, he couldn’t take the time out from the studio to work on songs for the next album. So when it came time to write the songs for Come Out And Play after the hugely successful “Stay Hungry” tour, Dee’s mindset was in a different place. He had money, he had fame, he had success and he didn’t have the same hunger, anger and motivation that he had during the Stay Hungry recording. If he wrote the songs during the “Stay Hungry” sessions, the output could have been very different. Super producer, Bob Ezrin even passed on working on “Come Out And Play”, because he didn’t hear any great songs.

However, the facts are there. The Tom Werman produced “Stay Hungry”, sold over 3 million copies in the U.S alone. The singles, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” also sold by the truck load and they sounded great on radio, due to special radio mixes that Tom Werman did for them. It’s funny that the song “The Price”, didn’t get the same radio mix and it tanked as a single, even though it is the strongest of all three songs.

In relation to Nikki Sixx and Dee Snider, Werman said the following on Popdose.com;

“There were two individual musicians who had a problem with me in the studio out of about 200 musicians I produced. Nikki Sixx was a friend until he revised history in his book. Dee Snider was a friend, until the Twisted Sister album became a hit, and he couldn’t deal with sharing the credit for its success. Both of these guys were literally back-slapping glad-handers; years later, they soured badly. I had fine relationships with all the other members of those two bands.”

Kix was another band that was critical of Tom Werman. Bassist and band leader, Donnie Purnell hated and distrusted Werman.

George Lynch from Dokken also had a problem with Tom Werman, when Werman requested that he play a better lead break on a particular song. If you believe Don Dokken, George Lynch has an uncontrollable ego. If you believe George Lynch, Don Dokken has an uncontrollable ego. Regardless who you believe, when Lynch was asked to play a better lead break, he had a dummy spit.

And now here are the facts for Dokken’s “Tooth N Nail” and Kix’s “Blow My Fuse”. Both albums on release went to GOLD status within a year. “Tooth N Nai”l was released in 1984 and ended up reaching PLATINUM status in the U.S in 1989 (yep that’s right, four years after its release), after the mega successful “Back For The Attack” album, got people interested in Dokken’s back catalogue. “Back For The Attack” reached PLATINUM status within 2 months of its release date.

“Blow My Fuse” was released on September 12, 1988. By November 2, 1988, seven weeks later, the album was certified GOLD by the RIAA. In May 1989, the single “Don’t Close Your Eyes” was released. By February 5, 1990, eight months later, the single was certified GOLD by the RIAA. Finally, on August 28, 2000, the “Blow My Fuse” album was certified PLATINUM by the RIAA. Yep, that is almost 12 years from when it was released. This is what the artist of today need to take into account. Great music will live on and it will keep on selling for a long time.

However, so many artists and record label executives want the platinum sales with the first release. Dokken’s back catalogue sold well after the mega successful “Back For The Attack” album (their 4th album). Metallica’s back catalogue sold even more, after the mega successful “Black” album (their 5th album). Motley Crue’s back catalogue sold well again after the mega successful “Dr Feelgood” album (their 5th album). However in today’s mindset of profits before creativity, most bands will not get to the fourth or fifth album. Most bands will not have a comeback like Aerosmith or Alice Cooper did in the Eighties. I digress.

Dream Theater, especially Mike Portnoy blasted Dave Prater on the “Images and Words” sessions, however with Prater at the helm, Dream Theater had their biggest album to date. Read the book “Lifting Shadows”. The interviews with Prater are brilliant. The rebuttals of the band members are in some cases subdued but fiery at the same time. Somewhere in between all of the stories is the truth.

Of course, Dream Theater with Dave Prater at the helm have had their most success in relation to album sales. “Images And Words” is the album that Dream Theater is still doing victory laps with in 2013.

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Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Deja-Vu. 2011 vs. 2013 with Dream Theater and Trivium – Random Thoughts on their new songs

It’s like déjà vu again. In 2011, I was listening to new songs from Trivium and Dream Theater. Trivium had just unleashed In Waves as its promotional single for the In Waves album and Dream Theater had unleashed On The Backs of Angels as its promotional single for the A Dramatic Turn of Events album.

I remember listening to both songs back then and taking into account both of the band’s position in the musical landscape. Dream Theater to me, had the most to prove, as this music would be their first without founder Mike Portnoy.

In my opinion In Waves is a stronger song than On The Backs of Angels. The song wins all the time. I was listening to Images and Words yesterday and the reason why that album is awesome 21 years after its release is the songs. Learning To Live, Metropolis and Take The Time are progressive as hell, but man, I can physically hum the whole songs to anyone including the progressive interludes.

Images and Words is Dream Theater. That album represented what Dream Theater are all about and it set in motion everything that was to come. This new album is self-titled, therefore it should represent what Dream Theater is all about.

Anyway I digress, going back to my 2011 experiences. In relation to the albums, both of them had a six week U.S sale run (physical sales) and then disappeared. Will history repeat itself? I think so.

Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn Of Events
Week 1 – ending 21 Sept 2011 – 35,750 units sold
Week 2 – ending 28 Sept 2011 – 8,030 units sold
Week 3 – ending 05 Oct 2011 – 4,430 units sold
Week 4 – ending 12 Oct 2011 – 3,120 units sold
Week 5 – ending 19 Oct 2011 – 2,600 units sold

Trivium – In Waves
Week 1 – ending 17 Aug 2011 – 20,640 units sold
Week 2 – ending 24 Aug 2011 – 6,700 units sold
Week 4 – ending 07 Sept 2011 – 2,890 units sold
Week 5 – ending 14 Sept 2011 – 2,890 units sold

Artists are so scared if an album under performs these days. WHY? The album sales figures quoted above is not the metric to judge success on. Dream Theater have hardly sold any music in South America, however they play to their biggest crowds there. I wonder how that came to be?

As Nicko McBrain said in Flight 666 The Movie, Iron Maiden hasn’t sold an album in Costa Rica, however they are playing a stadium show that is sold out with 30,000 people attending. Put it down to piracy, file sharing, Bit Torrent or copyright infringement. The bottom line is this, if what you create is great, expect it to be shared.

Before the Internet, before YouTube, before streaming services like Spotify, fans had to own the music to hear it. That is no longer the case. The history of recorded music is at our fingertips. Fans are participating in this new arena, while artists and labels are still banging their heads against the wall judging success by album sales.

Even Mike Portnoy asked fans to buy The Winery Dogs as a show of support to the label and to show to them that this project is viable. Why does he care about sales? Look at all his posts, show after show. He is blown away at the reaction they are getting. Isn’t that the validation he should be seeking?

So here we are in 2013. We have Trivium’s new song Brave This Storm and Dream Theater’s The Enemy Within.

So what is the verdict.

I can’t say that The Enemy Within is anything special. Some bits remind me of Scenes from a Memory, but really, I could see this song fitting on A Dramatic Turn of Events. It is not a great leap forward in musical terms. Let’s hope that the other songs make the “definite statement.”

Hopefully what we heard was their “Commercial” piece for the album, in the same way that Forsaken was seen as the “Commercial” piece in Systematic Chaos. If this new album turns out to just be ADToE part 2, then yeah I’ll be pretty disappointed, and everyone will know what a pivotal role Portnoy played in the band and how directionless they are without him.

On the other hand, I was very cautious as to how the Trivium and David Draiman collaboration would work. From hearing Brave This Storm, I would say they are on a definite winner. The song is heavy, it is a progression from what they started with In Waves, it is all math in the verses and it is very melodic. Let’s hope that the other Trivium songs are not Brave This Storm 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on.

For some reason this got me thinking about a song from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called Rebels which is the lead off track on his 1985, Southern Accents album.

With one foot in the grave
One foot on the pedal
I was born a rebel

Are musicians/artists rebels in 2013? It seems that they all want to be winners. Seen any posts from a musician recently about what they think, what they feel, what they are going to do and it doesn’t relate to selling music. Our heroes are even beholden to the Corporations.

Randy Blythe is one artist that shows his humanity. He uses his photographs and puts stories around them, which always relate to a personal part of his life. We are all human. We win and we lose. Blythe focuses on his work, not the sales pitch.

There is new news every day, so if Dream Theater and Trivium want their story to survive, they need to keep it alive by making news every day

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