Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

What is going on in Australia?

I’m trying to figure it out. Corporations and Unions run this country. The Courts have been compromised by money. The mainstream media is all about half-truths and likes. No one reports with any substance or an opinion anymore. The Labor Party has knifed themselves into oblivion, deciding in house what the people of the country desire, by throwing out people elected Prime Ministers on two occasions.

Game Of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world, with Australia leading the way. Why? Unless you pay $300 to $500 to Foxtel/Austar to have a PAY TV subscription, you can’t really watch it.

Everyone is talking about the opportunities that the Internet has given people. An artist puts up their music on Spotify and YouTube. They talk about it, post about it and tweet about it. They think the people are paying attention. They are delusional. The Web is all about sell. They are competing with billions of sellers for the attention of millions of payers. The math don’t add up. As for those people who think they have a career making money from Google Ad’s, they are also delusional.

Everyone starts off with a dream to do something that matters, however, as they grow up, we all fall into the trap of being too busy trying to be rich. There is a change coming. As much as we have celebrated the fall of the old gatekeepers like the Record Labels, the Publishers and the Movie Studio’s, new gatekeepers are starting to rise. Facebook, Google, Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, Spotify, Reddit, YouTube, Twitter. All of them are gaining power. Will they be tempted enough to turn to the dark side the way Anakin Skywalker did.

A term that is always banded about, is that the youth are inheriting the earth. They are so computer literate, that they are going to build a new world that will level the old world.

What kind of new world will emerge? One that is embedded with social media, where a person’s status is assessed on the number of friends they have and where they check in from.

One thing is certain, the Global Financial Crisis showed how skewed our ideals have become, and a new discontent has risen from it.

As the lyrics from Do Me A Favor, (Stone Sour) say, I am the anti-everything man, a scab on the lips of the lord.

It is the information age. So much information is out there, we don’t know who to believe and who to trust. Everyone is pushing their own agenda, hence the reason why we are lashing out. We are sick of all the corruption that goes on behind closed doors.

Another lyric from Do Me A Favor is the ignoring your history is killing your past line. It looks like no one is learning from the past. Have we learned anything from the GFC. Hell no, that is old news. We are back chasing the pot of gold.

In the House of Gold and Bones story arc, the character of Alan, is this snake like person, that creates a sense of negativity and distrust to the main character. Transpose Alan with any corporation or money hungry backstabbing friend and you can see why this country needs a reset.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Record Label Innovation – Kill Music Service to Protect Old Business Models

What are the Record Labels worth without the talent? ZERO!

So what do the Record Labels do to their talent?

They treat them to a world of creative accounting.

They treat them to a world where they spend monies on DMCA takedowns and litigation to protect the old income streams, instead of nurturing new income streams for their talent. Throughout life, people are always looking for something new, however the recording industry believe in selling the same old thing in music. When something different comes out like Mumford & Sons, Adele, PSY and Imagine Dragons it triumphs in unforseen ways.

The whole approach of the Record Labels and the RIAA has been if they can’t control a business, their next best option is to kill the business off. Napster showed the music business what the fans wanted, however they killed it off and to this day, not one legal service has risen to offer what Napster offered, which was Community and Convenience.

There is a song called Red City on the new Stone Sour release, House Of Gold and Bones II. In the story line, our hero is in the clutches of the bad guys and the song Red City marks the beginning of the end for the main character. If the Entertainment Industries and their stooges get their way, it is the beginning of the end for the Internet and the opportunities it gives to creators.

Sort of like the lyrics in the new Black Sabbath song, End of The Beginning that states “rewind the future to the past”. That is what the Entertainment industries want. The past to return. That is the future they want.

Look at the recent behaviour of the one they call Prince. Even the Electronic Frontiers Foundation has inducted Prince into its “Takedown Hall of Shame”. To sum up, Prince has issued DMCA takedowns on six second clips of a Prince concert, on fan recorded concert videos of him covering Creep from Radiohead (which by the way he doesn’t even own the rights to the song), threatening to sue people for thinking of doing a tribute album to him and a takedown of YouTube video of a toddler dancing to a Prince song (which is in the Courts at the moment).

The reason why I am mentioning Prince is to show people what a misguided artist he has become. The labels send millions of DMCA takedowns each day and in a lot of cases they censor free speech under a copyright claim. They have even taken down their own websites. Universal Music Group even took down Black Sabbath’s God Is Dead YouTube stream from the Black Sabbath YouTube page.

When is the Recording industry and people like Prince going to stop complaining? When are they going to stop lamenting the passage of the good old days? When are they going to stop blaming the technologists and the fans for ruining their business models. There is a reason why Indie labels have claimed a large slice of music sales this year than the three majors. It’s because they are working on the outside, digging deep and finding those real stars, the real golden nuggets.

Music used to be cutting edge and it used to drive the conversation and the culture. These days music is just another consumable, ready to be consumed like milk. Musicians like Prince, Jon Bon Jovi, Jay Z and so forth are trying to get in bed with the Fortune 500. Where is it written that musicians must be rich? You create quality that resonates and connects, then you will be a star.

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

House Of Gold And Bones – (CONNECTIONS, COLLABORATIONS and MAKING IT)

Corey Taylor wrote the story line around the recent Stone Sour concept albums, The House of Gold and Bones. By the end of the story line, the main character has made a decision but it is unclear what it is. The important thing is that the main character stood his ground, however Taylor wanted to leave it up to the listener to decide what choice the main character has made.

To me the house of gold and bones represents life. The Gold can be anything that you make it to be, like family, children, fun, good times, doing something that you love, wealth, success, standing up for what you believe in and love. The Bones represents hardships, doing it tough, climbing up hills with no end in sight, destitution, depression, sadness and death.

The issue with today’s society is the worship of the GOLD (money) above everything else. It is the main motivator for the paths and actions we take. Seriously what is someone like Jon Bon Jovi or George Lucas going to do with all that money? Once upon a time, all of our heroes just wanted to create.

Chris Kael is the current bassist of Five Finger Death Punch. For those that don’t know Kael joined at the tail end of the American Capitalist recording sessions. How did he get the gig? He heard FFDP were looking for a bass player and he contacted FFDP guitarist Jason Hook on Facebook. He didn’t know any of the other FFDP guys. Hell, Kael was only know to a small Las Vegas circle of musicians. He asked Hook to check around with those musicians as he was sure he would get a good review and basically he got his foot in the door, he got the audition and then he got the gig. Connections however small they seem at the start all pay off in the end. Was Kael motivated by money? No. He was motivated by performing, by creating and by wanting to be in a band.

Imagine Dragons independently released three EPs and toured extensively before signing with Interscope. Then the band received an email from Alex Da Kid. He liked their music and wanted to write with them. If you know of Eminem’s, “Love the Way You Lie” song, then you know of Alex Da Kid. So the collaboration initially was for other artists on Alex Da Kid’s roster. It soon turned into the Imagine Dragons song writing effort. Were Imagine Dragons motivated by money when they started playing the Vegas casino circuit? No. They were motivated by the need to create and play live.

Connections leads to collaborations. For whatever purposes these collaborations begin with, they seem to take a life on their own. Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora initially started to work with Desmond Child so that they can write songs for other artists to sing. The first song they wrote was You Give Love A Bad Name. The next song was Living On A Prayer. In the end, Bon Jovi ended up releasing the songs. When Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora started their collaboration with Desmond Child, they were broke, still living at their parents’ house and after two Bon Jovi albums, they were in debt to their record label by about half a million. Do you think that Jon and Richie cared about that? No. They wanted to create great music and with Slippery When Wet they did. With New Jersey, they tried real hard to rewrite Slippery When Wet and that is when greed comes into the picture.

People shine in so many ways and while society is spending it’s time going all practical, the ones that shine become the new Alice Cooper, the new Nikki Sixx, the new James Hetfield, the new David Mustaine, the new Dee Snider, the new Robb Flynn and so on. Practical doesn’t fit in the lives of our heroes. We all need to find our own house of gold and bones and live with the choices that we make.

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

The Uncanny Valley – Be brave, make the decision, stick with it and move on

The Uncanny Valley is a song from Stone Sour and it appears on the House of Gold and Bones II album. Corey Taylor explained it as a song that is about fighting off pessimism and trying to reach for positivity and being brave enough to make a decision and stick with it. If you are a musician starting off, that is the unwritten rule. Make a decision, stick with it, be positive about it and don’t let the haters drag you down.

Five Finger Death Punch recently covered Mama Said Knock You Out. When Nu-Metal came on the scene 15 years ago, this would have been an accepted practice. Nu-Metal was riding high in the charts, it was a successful genre and it was the norm mixing hip hop with metal. These days, you don’t see any bands mixing rap with metal anymore. So what does Five Finger Death Punch do. They do the uncool thing and cover a hip hop song, in a metal fashion. Being brave enough to make a decision and stick with it. Being strong enough to fight off all the haters and pessimists. Being positive about it. Raising their stiff middle finger at what the norms are. This is what artists need to do.

As Ivan Moody and Zoltan Bathory have stated in countless interviews, there is no grey area when it comes to Five Finger Death Punch. People either love them or hate them, and all that matters to them is to focus on the people who get excited about music that comes from Five Finger Death Punch. In an age where people are supposably not buying music, Five Finger Death Punch have been able to achieve sales of over 500,000 in the US alone for each album cycle. It is clear that that the fans are supporting them and that is because they have been brave enough to make decisions and stick with those decision.

Dream Theater is also a band that has gone through a period of a dramatic turn of events. The departure of Mike Portnoy was unexpected to say the least to the fan base. However, Dream Theater soldiered on, held auditions and hired the mega talented Mike Mangini. The haters and the pessimists came out. Dream Theater continued on. Then Mike Portnoy reached out and asked back in. Dream Theater showed how brave they are and said NO. They made their decision to hire Mike Mangini and they are sticking with it. They see positives in this change.

So fast forward three years and Dream Theater is at another milestone. September 24, is when the self-titled album drops, the first to involve Mangini for the writing process. In the press statements, Petrucci is saying that this album is Mangini unleashed. They have come to this point in time, by making the brave decisions back in 2010/11 and sticking with them. It would have been easy from a fan point of view to bring Portnoy back into the fold.

Which brings me to Mike Portnoy. Yes, I am critical of his decisions, however one thing the Portnoy cannot be faulted with is making a decision. Love him or hate him, he makes career defining decisions and sticks with them.

Hell or Highwater is the band that Atreyu drummer Brandon Sailer formed. The difference here is that Sailer is the lead singer and songwriter on this project. He wrote 8 of the 11 songs, before he even had a band together. While Atreyu was known as a metal core act, Hell Or Highwater is heavy melodic rock. It’s no frills hard rock, and that is what people are gravitating towards again. The big difference between Hard Rock now and Hard Rock in the Eighties is the subject matter in the songs. It is back to being personal, it is back to conveying a feeling, it is back to storytelling. Gone are the goofball Eighties style lyrics of Slipped Her The Big One and sticky side up.

The reason why this is mentioned in this post is the brave decision Brandon Sailer needed to make when Atreyu went on hiatus. He stepped away from the drum kit and became a front man. He started writing songs that are connecting with people and he is sticking with it. He is seeing positivity in this change, already thinking ahead to the next record. If you haven’t heard Hell or Highwater check out the tracks Gimme Love, Find The Time To Breath, Hail Mary, Go Alone (with M.Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold), We All Wanna Go Home and Rock Waters Edge.

Be brave, make the decision, stick with it and move 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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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Music, Stupidity

Why do creators still follow the old way?

I just listened to the new Megadeth album.  Apart from the opener, Kingmaker and the cover, Cold Sweat from Thin Lizzy, I don’t really like it.  For me to say that, is a big thing.  If anything, you can call me a Mustaine Fanboy. I still cop flack for liking Risk.

The idea of the album has evolved since Megadeth released Killing Is My Business in 1985.  In this day and age, the fans want more.  Our time is valuable.  TV shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead can take us away from listening to music.  Gaming can also limit our time.  We live in a world of choice.  If something is not good enough, we just move on.  It could be another band, a movie, a TV show, a game, a book, a magazine, a holiday and so on.

I still purchased the physical CD of Super Collider, so that I can have it as part of my Megadeth collection, however I cannot recommend it.  I wish I could.  What disappoint’s me is that Chris Broderick is still utilised purely for his lead breaks.  Is that all he is capable off?  I don’t think so, however that is how it remains in Megadeth.  Dave Mustaine is the riff meister.  He is the songwriter, however in this case, I believe that the songwriter of the band has gone missing.  It’s not a bad album and it’s not a good album.

Going back to the meaning of the post.  Why did Megadeth and Dave Mustaine follow the old way?  He could have recorded and released more frequently and still toured behind Gigantour?

For example, he could have recorded and released Kingmaker one month and then released Cold Sweat from Thin Lizzy the next month.  During that two month period, the band could have fine tuned the other songs, written better ones or just kept them as the same, if the initial songs connected with the fans.

There is no need to follow the “spend six months creating and recording an album”, release it, watch it fade away from the minds of people’s within weeks and then go on tour of the world and hope that the tour will rekindle sales.

Don’t get me wrong, the above format still works for great albums.  Five Finger Death Punch released American Capitalist in October 2011, and it is still selling.  They got five singles out of it.  The fans spread it via social media.  They have a new album coming out in July and then another album scheduled for either a November 2013 or February 2014 release.  I really liked how Coheed and Cambria did the same thing with The Afterman releases and Stone Sour did the same with House of Gold and Bones.  The bands need to be here today, everyday.  If you are gone tomorrow, in this day and age, its game over.

Megadeth in this case didn’t have enough material for a great album, and that is all we have time for these days.  I still love the band, I will still purchase tickets to Gigantour if they bring it to Australia and I will be hoping that Megadeth return to writing great songs.

Keeping with the creators following the old way theme, there is an interview doing the rounds at Loudwire, with Shinedown singer Brent Smith.  Basically, back in April, Shinedown allowed their Facebook fans to vote on which songs the band should cover.  So after the results came in, the band went away and filmed themselves playing the cover songs.  They have no plans to sell the songs. All they want to do is release the video’s of them performing the cover songs on YouTube, so that they releasing content each week. However, they cannot release the songs due to licensing issues.

The licensing part of music, is the old way of thinking.  This the way it works in two sentences.  The creators write the songs and then sell the songs for a fee to a publisher.  The publisher then licences the songs to advertising, TV shows and collects monies for them.  In my view, Publishers should be all shot and buried.

If anything, Shinedown will bring more attention to the original versions of the songs they cover.  I know that I am keen to hear them do Nothing Else Matters from Metallica.

Shinedown is trying to do things the new way, releasing content more frequently.  Amaryllis came out in March, 2012.  It’s still in the minds of the public.  As at last week, it was sitting at 410,000 sold in the U.S. alone.  Now they are going to be involved with the Carnival of Madness Tour.  In between they also released the Warner Sound’s Live Room Sessions EP  and Brent Smith has been very vocal about getting fans to speak up and stand up for rock music via social media and the hashtag (#theriseofrockandroll).  They also have the covers YouTube clips up their sleeve.  

The game is changing every day. The old wayers’ need to get in bed with the new wayers’ and start thinking differently.  It’s not all about the initial pay-day on release day.  It’s about staying in the minds of the public and the fans.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

What Can Daft Punk teach the rock/metal heads?

Daft Punk entered the charts this week at Number 1, moving 339,000 copies of their Random Access Memories.

So what can other genre’s learn from Daft Punk.

1. You need to be in it for life.  That is the committment needed to music.  Instant successes do not end up having a career. There will be times when doubt rears its head, and trust me, it is a hard obstacle to overcome.  It’s a normal feeling to just walk away.

Vito Bratta from White Lion is one example.  He just walked away from it all, where Mike Tramp (White Lion vocalist) and James  Lomenzo (White Lion bassist) have just kept on going.  Mike Tramp formed Freak Of Nature, then went solo, then reformed White Lion with a whole new suite of musicians and is not running solo again.  James Lomezo went with Zakk Wylde into Pride and Glory which morphed into Black Label Society, as well as a stint in Megadeth.

How many bands break up because they do not have instant success?

2. You need to engage your fan base.  The fans are loyal to the artist, not to the record label.  The fans will talk about the new song or the new album, they will spread the word and share the new video clip.  That is how marketing is done today.  Forget about the scorched earth marketing policy of Bon Jovi, David Bowie or even Black Sabbath. If no one is sharing your work, it’s time to create new work that is better.  It’s time to start engaging.

3. Excellence.  I don’t even like dance/electronica music, however I still dig the single Get Lucky.  It’s got that classic seventies funk disco vibe in 2013.  You need to be able to find your voice.  For any artist starting off in music it normally means writing songs in a style similar to what your heroes write about.  If that is your voice, cool.  However i suspect it isn’t.  Refer to point 1, you are in it for life.

TesserAct said that they put screaming vocals in their songs when they where starting out, because that is what was expected of bands in the Djent movement, however they never liked screaming vocals.  Check out their new album, Altered State.  There is not one screaming vocal line in it.

4. Streaming is king.  65% of Daft Punk’s sales came from digital downloads.  In addition, the buzz created by the fan base caused high streaming on Spotify. The Get Lucky – Radio Edit has been streamed over 33 million times.  Other songs from the album have been  streamed more than 10 million times.  Of course the RIAA will still scream piracy, and order that Google take down links via its search engine.

Compare this to say Stone Sour (I’m only using Stone Sour as an example as they have a new release), where Absolute Zero is getting close to the 2 million streams.  The only song from Stone Sour that has broken through the 10 million stream mark is Through Glass and that is from an album released 7 seven years ago. Songs from House of Gold and Bones Part II are not even in the million stream range and I really like that album.     

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