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

It’s Time That Artists Leave The Old Way Behind and Be Leader’s Once Again

I still don’t agree with the old business model of putting together twelve tracks just to sell them for ten dollars as a package. I would like to see established bands like Machine Head, Dream Theater, Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown and Trivium lead the way with a new paradigm. Leave the old way behind.

I know that Five Finger Death Punch are about to release a double album and Trivium have a new one coming along as does Dream Theater and Machine Head is not that far away either. All of these new releases are based on the old way. The album still has a place if done right and what that means is that all the tracks have to be of high quality. No one has time for filler these days.

Five Finger Death Punch started the writing process for their new album/s on the Trespass Festival Tour at the start of 2012. They brought out a mobile recording studio with them, to hash out riffs and put bits and pieces together, so when they got into the studio in September 2012, they already had the songs.  This is where they should have been releasing some songs. At the end they had 25 songs written that they are releasing on two CD’s.

Five Finger Death Punch are signed to a label, so of course they will need to release an album, as that is what the labels demand. So keeping that in mind, FFDP should have picked the best 10 songs for a CD release and from September 2012 to July 2013 they should have been releasing a song a month from the other 15 songs they had left. It is a different take on the old way. It is keeping the labels happy as they are still stuck in the past and it is keeping the fans happy as they are living in the future and just want content.

One thing that artists need to be clear on; streaming has won the war. YouTube is the original and unofficial streaming king. That is where the kids go to watch and listen. If artists pull their albums from legal services like Spotify, those same albums will still be available on YouTube to be streamed unlicensed. The fans have spoken. The fans killed off the CD, by embracing new technology. It is time the artists take note.

One more thing that artists need to understand: Spotify gives them 70% of the revenues. The exact same amount as iTunes. The difference is that Spotify pays you over time instead of right now and that is the problem that a lot of artists with the pressure of the label and the manager do not understand. The reason why they don’t understand it, is because the label and the manager all want to be paid RIGHT now.

Go on to Black Sabbath’s Spotify account and check to see which songs are the most streamed from them. It is all the songs written 40 years ago and nothing from the new album. Streaming services do pay.  If the artists have a problem with not getting “paid” by streaming services, they should be checking with the company they sold their rights to. Black Sabbath might scream piracy, however who is collecting the monies from Spotify streams for their back catalogue. The answer: the company that holds the rights is collecting.

I remember a time when musicians used to lead. Now technologists lead, while the artists entourage of money leaches are screaming they are not making any money, while the association who represents the Record Labels (and who claims incorrectly that they represent the artists as well) the RIAA plays Whac-A-Mole with technology. They killed Napster only to get Kazaa and Limewire. They killed Kazaa and Limewire, only to get BitTorrent and The Pirate Bay. They kill one cyber locker like Megaupload and another ten more appear. They send DMCA takedowns to Google and then another 100 new links spring up. Seriously does Google need to be doing all this work, just for providing a service like a search engine.

What artists and the labels do not realise is that Spotify and YouTube has made a dent in people’s downloading habits. Progress doesn’t happen overnight or right now. It takes years and sometimes decades. Invest now for rewards later, however the record labels do not believe in this, the managers do not believe in this and they convince the artists that they sign to not believe in this. So what do they believe in; short term profits.

The answer to success is right there in front of the artist. If an artist wants to make plenty of money in music, they need to be a superstar as no one has time for anything less. Just like there is one Facebook, one Google and one Amazon, the same filtering will happen in music and their respective niches.

Five Finger Death Punch is knocking on that Superstar door for the metal genre. They have competition from Stone Sour, Bullet For My Valentine and Disturbed, however if fan engagement is an indication then Five Finger Death Punch are the new superstars.

Shinedown is already the new superstar for the hard rock genre. Bands like Hinder, Adelitas Way, Alter Bridge, Seether, Halestorm, Three Days Grace, Black Stone Cherry, Saving Abel, Pop Evil, Rev Theory, Breaking Benjamin are the challengers.

Dream Theater is already the superstar for the progressive genre. They are unrivalled and really unchallenged at the moment.

Periphery are the Djent superstars.

TesserAct are the new Pink Floyd superstars.

Machine Head are the new superstars of the thrash genre.

Metallica have surpassed superstar status and have moved into the Legends space.

If you want to survive in the future, you need to live in it. Metallica now understands this, however AC/DC still doesn’t understand it. For some insane reason, AC/DC is holding their music back from Spotify (which is licensed and pays) while it is on Grooveshark and YouTube (which are unlicensed and do not pay).

Spotify might not even win the streaming war. Maybe Google will come up with something better, maybe iTunes Radio will win, or some other new player will come on the scene and blow everyone away. One thing is clear, there will be only one streaming champion. Diehard fans will still pay up front for songs they have never heard, however with so much music coming out at the moment and our time so limited, this is not the business model that artists should base their future on.

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

Persistence, Timing, Diversification and playing to your core audience

I am reading the recent issue of Guitar World and I come across a question where Mick Jones from Foreigner is asked how it was to work with Mutt Lange? For those that don’t know Mutt Lange produced the Foreigner 4 album in 1981.

Mutt had really wanted to do our second album [1978’s Double Vision], I believe. But he didn’t seem quite ready at the time. So we did the next one [1979’s Head Games] with Roy Thomas Baker.

So Lange goes away and he proves himself to Foreigner. He takes on AC/DC and produces Highway to Hell in 1979 (their American breakthrough album) and Back in Black in 1980 (their first with Brian Johnson and their biggest album in regards to sales to date). He also produced For Those About To Rock We Salute You in 1981.

He didn’t just give up. In between the period between 1977 and 1981, apart from AC/DC, he also produced albums for artists like City Boy, Clover, Supercharge, The Boomtown Rats, The Rumour, Savoy Brown, Michael Stanley Band, Outlaws, Deaf School, The Records and Broken Home. He is paying his dues, getting the stats on his side, just so that he can work with a band that he wants to work with.

… then Mutt was kind of knocking on the door again. I must say, he was quite enthusiastic.

Then he gets the gig to do Foreigner4 which came out in 1981. Persistence. Paying your dues. Credentials. Hard work. Timing. They all play important parts in the recipe for success.

Mutt’s persistence to hard work, made him turn over a lot of records as a producer. A lot of those records made a large impression with the public.
Mutt’s timing was off when he first approached Foreigner in 1978. It wasn’t off in 1981. This time around he also had the credentials to back himself. For a producer, your credentials are the works that you produced, for an artist, your credentials is the music that you make.

He was the first producer I worked with who really challenged me. He was not only very insightful with the songs and in helping to bring them to fruition but he was also really great at achieving sounds.

The real rock stars hated to get challenged. The “songs are their children” is a common cliché that so many of them would say. Mutt Lange didn’t give a shit about that. He wanted perfection. He wanted greatness. He wanted to be involved in something that would last forever.

He was just unbelievably dedicated to the process…to the point where I think we kept Def Leppard waiting six or nine months because Mutt was still working with us on 4.

Def Leppard waited for him. Why? They knew. They knew that this guy was special. They knew he was the person that would be able to capture their pop leanings and merge them with their rock and blues influences. All of that pales, compared to what they really needed. Def Leppard needed a song writing partner. Look at the history that they created.

Def Leppard – High ‘N’ Dry, 1981
Def Leppard – Pyromania, 1983
Def Leppard – Hysteria, 1987
Def Leppard – Adrenalize, 1992

Mutt really set a standard with Def Leppard. I called it the layers standard. Others call it the over dubs or over producing standard. Others call it multi-tracking. The fans loved it. They wanted the big vocals, the arena rock chorus’s layered in harmonies. Once Hysteria exploded every other band released albums in the same layered style. Suddenly every hard rock band was doing the Bon Jovi and Def Leppard thing. Kiss went all pop metal with Crazy Nights and Hot In The Shade. Whitesnake did it with Slip Of The Tongue. However, there was one band that was doing things their own way. That one band is called Guns N Roses. I digress.

Once you become successful, it doesnt mean you stop. Mutt Lange didn’t. He kept on going.

Song writing for other artists became a new income stream for him from the eighties onwards. As an artist, if all you do is just write music and perform it live, you are limiting yourself to that income stream. However, if you write songs for other artist, you have an additional income stream. If you produce for up and coming bands, sharing your expertise and knowledge, then you have another income stream. If you are a guitar player, become a guitar teacher on time off from recording and touring. That is another income stream. Suddenly, you have a years’ worth of work. Yes it is hard work. It was never meant to be easy.

Look at the following list of people that keep on working hard;

Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater. He plays keyboards in Dream Theater, he is a solo musician, he is an instructor and he is an app developer.

Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria. He is the founder, singer, guitarist and main songwriter for Coheed and Cambria. He also has a side project called Prize Fighter Inferno. He has written novels and comics. He appears at Comic Conventions. He has just signed a production agreement for The Amory Wars story to be turned into a movie or movies. He is also an app game developer.

Corey Taylor is another. The recent House of Gold and Bones releases by Stone Sour have seen that concept story turned into a graphic novel and comic book, as well as a production deal to turn it into a movie. Apart from Stone Sour, Corey still tours with Slipknot. He is also a novelist.

Nikki Sixx is the leader of Motley Crue. He does Sixx A.M as another band. He does photography and his work is being exhibited on line. He has penned two autobiographies (The Dirt and The Heroin Diaries), as well as a picture book/biography for This is Gonna Hurt. He uses social media to build connections with fans. Finally, he is overseeing the long overdue Motley Crue movie. There is also the SixxSense “radio” gig and a range of other outlets like clothing and accessories.

Phil X is currently fill in guitarist for Bon Jovi. He is a session musician. He is a fill in guitarist .He is a solo artist. He is a band member. He is a guitar teacher. Five different income streams. He endorses different product lines of gear.

Kevin Churko is a producer, sound engineer, masterer, mixer and a songwriter. While his production credits involve the hard rock and metal genre, I bet a lot of people didn’t know that he was involved with Britney Spears when he started off. Yep that is right. In 2000 he was the Digital Editing and Programming guru on Britney’s Oops!… I Did It Again album. He had that same job title for The Corrs, Shania Twain and Celine Dion albums that followed between 2000 and 2003.

From 2003 onwards, he then started getting appointments as an Engineer and a mixer. He had those titles for Shania Twain and Ozzy Osbourne albums.

Then from 2006 and onwards he started getting producing appointments.

Churko built up a credentialed name for himself between 1999 and 2006. Since then he has done I Don’t Wanna Stop, Black Rain and Scream by Ozzy Osbourne. Apart from being the Producer, he was also the Engineer, the Mixer and Composer.

He has filled the same role for In This Moment, Hinder, Beggars and Thieves, Emerson Drive, Five Finger Death Punch, Otherwise, Kobra and The Lotus and Rob Zombie.

The point in all of this. Success in music is not just about writing a song and watching it sell. You need to earn your success. You need to pay your dues. You need to live and experience life. You need to be patient. You need to persevere. The bottom line; don’t quit.

And remember: still play to your core audience. That is what all of the above artists are doing. They are keeping their core audience satisfied.

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Music

Bon Jovi – What About It’s Over

Just finished listening to Bon Jovi’s new album What About Now (deluxe edition).

Lucky I purchased the deluxe addition as the best song on the album is Every Road Leads Home to You, the Sambora penned track from his equally forgettable solo album, Aftermath of The Lowdown.

The next song worth any note is That’s What the Water Made Me. So this is what happens, when 50 year old rockers try to chase the money from the twenty something’s.  Instead of writing for their hard core audience, they are focusing on a different market.

Bon Jovi doesn’t even know who their audience is anymore.  They have lost complete touch with them.  In a world where one to one connections is the new normal (take a leaf out of Nikki Sixx’s twittering and Facebook offerings), Bon Jovi is entrenched in the old paradigm.  Spend months creating an album for an audience they don’t even know. I am not a hater.

I am a big Bon Jovi fan.  I am displeased with this effort.  Hell, the best song they have written in the last 5 years is This is Love, This Is Life from the Greatest Hits CD.  You would only hear this song if you purchased the deluxe edition that had disc 2 and another two bonus songs on that.  The carbon copied Someday I’ll Be A Saturday Night morphed into The More Things Change is also a stand out.

Yeah I know Jovi sell shows out on a regular basis, but you tell me a fan that goes to the show to hear the new songs and I will call them a liar.  A set list of their most recent show (via setlist.fm) on March 10 shows only 3 songs played from the new album (Because We Can, Amen and That’s What The Water Made Me).  That is two too many.

The only tune that they should be pushing is That’s The Water Made Me.

Cause devils in heaven
There’s angels in hell

You don’t know these days, who is righteous or not.  We live in a world of fakes, a world of avatars.  Where people who think they have 1000 Facebook friends are cool, where people pay $800 for a meet and greet just to say they did.  The lines between good and evil are blurred these days.  

Love is like fingerprints It don’t wash away

No one forgets their first love or their greatest love.  It stays forever with them.  Look at the band Hinder.  They have made a career singing about the one that got away. 

That’s what the water made me That’s who I am and what I’ll be

This is it.  We can’t change how we are made, how we have grown up and what we believe in.  Of course we can adapt to situations and sometimes we can fake a different personality but in the end, we will fall back to how we were made and what we are.  Look at how the 80’s glam bands thought they had to go all Industrial or grunge like to keep an audience, further alienating their fan base, until the said Fuck that and returned to their roots. 

This world, it’s cracked and crazy
Say one of your pretty prayers for me
No roles in the garden? Or Wishing well?

Life is no Garden of Eden.  It never was and it never will be.  We have copyright granted monopolies fighting hard to control the internet.  We have people working 12 hour days just to see all of their moneys go to the mortgage, to the utilities, to basic survival needs.   At night, we might feel better saying a pretty prayer, but that is all it is.  The World is cracked and Crazy. 

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