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

Thoughts on Streaming, Longevity and Access to Music

“Rock bands were only supposed to last around 5 years. The Beatles, as far as Americans knew them, were only around for 7 years and that seemed like an eternity to the millions of musicians that they inspired, many of which became famous rock stars themselves.”
Jay Jay French 

Once upon a time, that was the case. All of the good Seventies band had more or less finished up or turned into bad imitations of themselves by the early Eighties. Some of the musicians went onto successful or not so successful solo careers.

  • Eagles
  • Deep Purple
  • ELP
  • Yes
  • Bad Company
  • Led Zeppelin
  • UFO
  • Aerosmith
  • Kiss
  • Pink Floyd
  • Kansas
  • Alice Cooper

Throughout it all, the world was changing.

People suddenly had access to more credit than ever before. Their wages increased at an astronomical rate. Ownership of music became a big thing as MTV put our heroes into our lounge rooms.  On the heels of this new cultural phenomenon, suddenly there was more money to spend on entertainment products.

So what do all of these bands do?

They reformed. It didn’t matter if it was with the original band members (if that was possible at all) or with different musicians. The labels would bring in extra songwriters.

Aerosmith cashed in. So did Alice Cooper. So did Kiss. Desmond Child and Jim Vallance proved to be songwriters most hard rock bands started to use.

Suddenly we had rock bands lasting 20 years, then 30 years and in 2015 we have rock bands that have lasted 40 years.

But, it is the fans of music that made it all happen.

The fans of music made the record labels rich and the fans of music are the ones that ruined the record labels business models that relied on physical sales.

It is the fans of music that turned Spotify and streaming into a billion dollar industry. That’s the power of the people.

We will play the same song over and over again for decades and under the new model we are generating cash for the streaming service who then pass 70% of it on to the rights holders, which in all cases are the record labels and the publishing companies (who are also owned by the record labels). $4.5 billion dollars have been paid by Spotify and Pandora in royalties. All of that has gone to the record labels or to entities controlled by the record labels. You can see why songwriters are frustrated. Where’s all that money going?

Regardless, when it comes to consuming music and what price should be charged, the people have spoken.

The people decide what is of value and what it wants to pay for something. And artists’ should do everything they can to hook them into a new system or their system.

Look at Coheed and Cambria. I am hooked into the way they release their albums with the Super Deluxe Editions, instant digital downloads and VIP membership.

Remember when the book publishers said that e-books are undervalued and people must pay more. Did they ever think that the people don’t want to pay more?

Amazon finally relented and gave the publishers a chance to set their own prices. So what do the publishers do, they set the e-book price the same as a hardcover price. So the people screamed “Rip off” and E-book sales tanked.

Apple Music launches and it has no free tier after the three months sweetener. By default Apple along with the record labels are excluding people and to really succeed, streaming services like the artists need to hook in the casual users. Fans will always pay top dollar. But casual listeners are important as well. Spotify, Pandora and YouTube are at least servicing these listeners.

In the end the recording industry, along with the artists need to get more people paying for streaming. The bigger the streaming pool, the bigger the payouts, as long as the record labels are honest.

But that works by first exposing people to the service. It could take 3 months, 6 months, 12 months or years before people lay out cash. Instead, the labels put a high fee on licensing and then they want streaming services to raise the price immediately.

Did everyone miss the memo?

Music has completely changed. Once upon a time, songs would be sent out to radio or a video would be sent to MTV, with the hope that people would be hooked in enough to go to the record store and buy the album. It was all about monetizing up front. Today, songs are available instantly and monetization comes last. First comes attention. If people are checking something out, and if it sticks…it will grow.

“I think this is the new millennium Number of the Beast. That was one of our best albums and the follow-up to that (Piece of Mind) was probably the best of the lot of them. It has something for everybody. Take Speed of Light, for instance. It is the old Maiden. That intro is a testimony to Deep Purple.”
Nicko McBrain – Iron Maiden drummer

I purchased the album, however I didn’t hear it on CD. As a collector, the CD went straight on the shelf. Through the magic of the internet and Spotify, I can hear the album without paying for it. Isn’t that a better outcome than keeping the music locked up behind paywalls?

If people like it, they will spread the word.

If people like it, they will pay for the CD, pay for the vinyl, or pay to get a higher quality stream.

This is the new world, everything is different now.

The charts are irrelevant, while listens are in. If you don’t believe me, then have a look at the paltry sales that lead to a number one album in Australia.

More people are accessing music through streaming and that is a very good thing. Has anyone heard Iron Maiden complaining about their box office returns after each show, or the fact that they are one of the bands that has huge P2P traffic. It takes a non-rocker to sum up the effect of people accessing music easily.

“I’m playing three Wembley Stadium (shows) on album two. I’m playing sold-out arena gigs in South America, Korea, south-east Asia and Australia. I don’t think I’d be able to do that without Spotify or if people hadn’t streamed my music. My music has been streamed 860 million times, which means that it’s getting out to people. I get a percentage of my record sales, but it’s not a large percentage, (whereas) I get all my ticket sales, so I’d much rather tour. That’s why I got into the business — I love playing gigs. Recording albums, to me, is a means to an end. I put out records so I can tour. For me, Spotify is not even a necessary evil. It helps me do what I want to do.”
Ed Sheeran

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

The Art Of Copying, Tweaking and Creating

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”

“To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.”

One person said all of the above and that person was Pablo Picasso who is seen as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century and who is also known as a co-founder of the Cubist movement. His comments about success leading to copying oneself is spot on. Bon Jovi re-wrote “Slippery When Wet” and called it “New Jersey”. Jovi and Sambora re-wrote “Living On A Prayer” and called it “Born To Be My Baby”, “Keep The Faith”, “It’s My Life”, “Bounce”, “We Aren’t Born To Follow” and so on.

Stryper re-wrote the “To Hell With The Devil” album and called it “In God We Trust”.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”.

Film director Jim Jarmusch said the above and he is seen as one of the most ORIGINAL storytellers in the world of cinema.

Metallica took the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal to new heights.

All of the above sort of led me to Black Sabbath.

“Take a tune, sing high when they sing low, sing fast when they sing slow, and you’ve got a new tune.”

The above advice came from the experienced Woody Guthrie to a young Bob Dylan. And that is exactly what Black Sabbath did. They took the blues, distorted it even more, played it faster and sang it darker.

Now some might dispute this way of songwriting where an artist uses the structural template of older songs to create newer songs. And the funny thing is this, music progressed and developed through the ages because of this. The whole British blues rock invasion of the world happened because those artists copied, tweaked and reinvented blues classics. Prior to the recording industry, music mainly spread from performer to performer without any issue of copyright or licenses.

Music’s history is very much like any other form of creativity – influences and ideas are taken, reshaped and reinvented. All of that originality is simply reinterpretation.

But then came the Corporation and Copyright was remade so that others could get unearned income from someone else’s creations. In other words, enter the RECORD LABEL and the PUBLISHERS.

The lawmakers at the time were quite worried that extending copyright to sound recordings would stifle creativity and it could create monopolies, harm consumers, throttle innovation and competition. It is there to protect the profits of the record labels and the publishers, not the artists. Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman got paid in millions each year due to their involvement with the RIAA.

This is what Copyright has created. People getting paid so much more than the actual artists who created the works. Copyright law originally lasted for 14 years from production. In most parts of the world, Copyright is now life plus 70 years.

Jimi Hendrix has been dead for 44 hears and it looks like his music will not enter the public domain in my lifetime for others to build on and re-invent.

The rise of digital music, both pirated and legal, has led to a steep decline in revenues for artists yet there has been no decline in the amount of music being written and recorded. More people are making music now than in the pre-Napster era and that is all happening with piracy and copyright infringement being rampant.

Copyright needs a re-think and a re-write so that it benefits the artists again.

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