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

Copyright Fakery And Abuses

Fake news is nothing new to the world. It’s been around for a long time.

It’s become a problem now because the people/organisations who invented it, had the tables turned and fake news was/is used against them. That’s right, the media outlets who put fake news out in the world based on PR companies and Ad companies sponsorships, had the tables turned against them. The recent U.S election is a perfect example of how powerful fake news can be.

The recording and movie industries along with their associations/lobby/bribery groups in the RIAA/MPAA have been the largest perpetrators of fake news in the world. When billions of dollars are involved, these industries employ some of the most creative writers in the business to basically creating fictional works of fakery. And people believe it.

Let’s start with a few good ones.

  • Home Taping Is Killing Music And It’s Illegal
  • Copy a CD and get a criminal record
  • Piracy: It’s a crime
  • Piracy kills artists.

In other words, if the consumers of music don’t pay for every instance of music, how can musical artists or movies ever make a living?

These words of wisdom ignore independent research about the power of free music in helping musicians to be discovered in the first instance. The biggest enemy of any artist is NOT BEING DISCOVERED. Once they are discovered, they can then go on and make all kinds of money via the more friendly artist profit outlets in concerts and merchandise. But the RIAA has done such a good job at spreading fake news about Copyright, that many swallow the industry’s words of wisdom whole.

Ed Sheeran is a mega seller in today’s current musical market. I have written about him before on these pages. He began his career without a record label and promoted himself instead.

“Beyond writing the songs, Sheeran also wrote his own rules about how to sell them. Like so many others, he had set off for London as a teenager, singing on street corners and in pubs. But he didn’t knock on record company doors or wait to be discovered. Instead, he began marketing his own stuff, releasing his music himself on websites until — inevitably — a record label came calling. He had already earned half a million from his independent sales, putting the music out himself.”
CBS Article

The labels came knocking after Sheeran had built up a following. And how did Sheeran build up the following?

“It was file sharing. I know that’s a bad thing to say, because I’m part of a music industry that doesn’t like illegal file sharing, but illegal fire sharing was what made me. It was students in England going to university, sharing my songs with each other.”
CBS Article

But the labels and the RIAA want stricter enforcement for piracy and longer prison terms and bigger fines for illegal file sharers.

Because copyright has been hijacked by these Corporate entities for the last 70 years, we have situations that makes the mind boggle. Like how a band in 2017, might not be able to use a song that dates back the mid 1900’s, whose creator is believed to be dead and was passed down for generations orally. Here’s what the Yahoo article has to say on the matter;

“A Gwich’in love song, passed down for generations through oral tradition, has become a copyright roadblock for the Hummingbirds — preventing them from releasing their latest album “One Weekend” in June for months. The song Goodbye Shaanyuu is one of the tracks on the album. It’s a folk song from Fort Yukon, Alaska that dates back to the mid-1900s. But the record company dealing with the band is holding off the official release of the album, says Mumford, until the band solves a copyright issue with the song — which was written by a Gwich’in woman named Annie Cadzow, who is believed to be dead.”

This is the Copyright mess that corporations have created. Even though a corporation could hold the rights to this song, because it makes no money, it is forgotten. And now there is a band that wants to bring it back and they have to go through hell to release. The article further states;

The band has three options:

1) Find Annie Cadzow — or her family members — and get permission to use the song in their album.

2) Find out if Cadzow has died more than 50 years ago, which puts the song into the public domain. Or

3) Just release the song in hopes that no one will come forward and sue, but this is a non-option for the band out of respect for Cadzow and Gwich’in history.

The band is working with researchers in Alaska who are helping track down Cadzow’s only living daughter who’s said to be in her late 80s.

But the bassist for the band Bob Mumford believes that the song known today doesn’t sound nothing like the original song as lyrics were added and melodies got altered. So how does this sit with current copyright law that assumes that all works are so original and if there are any similarities it’s time to sue.

As the article further states;

“Folk music was widely believed to be “national treasure” — or owned by everybody. Until the idea of copyright came along. The practice of exerting copyright is actually pretty easy. The person that transcribes the oral performance, exerts ownership on it. So whoever makes the recording has copyright on it.”

And that person would have a monopoly on their creation for a certain period of time and then that work would become part of the public domain for other people to use and build upon without any restrictions.

And once upon a time it was like that. But then people had money, they purchased sound systems and vinyl records. Recorded music was suddenly monetised. Which led to many artists complaints about record label creative accounting. And it’s still going on.

The Carpenters are taking Universal Music Group and A&M records to court over the monies paid to them from digital sources. As the Variety article states;

“The Carpenters contend that accountants they hired to examine the record label books found multiple errors and that the defendants rejected the claim of royalties. He is seeking compensatory damages of at least $2 million. Among other things, according to the lawsuit, the record labels “improperly classified” revenue from digital downloads of Carpenters’ music as sales of records as opposed to licensing revenue — short-changing them from a higher royalty rate.

The lawsuit also claims that the defendants undercounted digital downloads and that they applied an incorrect base price to the sales of CDs. The lawsuit notes that the lawsuit is similar to litigation involving the recordings of Eminem in which the defendants were several affiliates of UMG. Ultimately, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that digital downloads were a licensing of master recordings rather than a sale of records.”

The labels do what they want to artists who make them millions and then the labels scream loudly to politicians to get laws passed to protect their business models.

So what about songwriters, who write songs for other artists?

As the labels get flush with cash from streaming licensing and royalty fees, they have failed to pass it on to the people who matter. But due to creative fakery of news, the Songwriters lobby group believes that the streaming services are to blame and they should pay more, with the hope that those extra payments are filtered down to the songwriters.

“We should get compensated every time someone streams a song”
David Israelite, CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA)

But wait a minute, some publishers already have their own deals with the streaming companies to compensate the songwriters, so why is there a need to force streaming companies to pay more. Spotify is barely profitable and in order to please the NMPA, a $20 million settlement was announced recently.

As the NY Times article states;

“Spotify will pay publishers between $16 million and $25 million in royalties that are already owed but unpaid — the exact amount, these people said, is still undetermined — as well as a $5 million penalty. In exchange, the publishers will refrain from filing copyright infringement claims against Spotify. The settlement concerns mechanical licensing rights, which refer to a copyright holder’s control over the ability to reproduce a musical work. The rule goes back to the days of player-piano rolls, but in the digital era mechanical rights have joined the tangle of licensing deals that streaming services need to operate legally.”

You can see what a mess Copyright has become, when mechanical rights that go back to the player piano rolls are still discussed about today. And Spotify is just one streaming services. There are others that will need to do these kind of extortion deals and suddenly the NMPA is loaded up with cash in the hundreds of millions. All because the labels, the publishers and their lobby groups don’t pass on the monies earned to the people who actually create.

“I am thrilled that through this agreement, both independent and major publishers and songwriters will be able to get what is owed to them.”
David M. Israelite

I don’t know about anyone else, but what we have is a world of mega associations/corporations and labels living large off the value that music creates without really compensating those creators. Because as we have seen all around the world, these organisations like to accumulate and live the high life, but they don’t want to pay those monies in full to the people who really earn it.

If you don’t believe me, check out this article, over at Torrentfreak, where the Greek organisation in charge of collecting and paying artists royalties, was found to have serious financial irregularities where their operating expenses outstretched it’s income, creating an 11.3 million Euro deficit, while during the same period, the CEO, GM, PR and Secretary pocketed 5 million Euro’s.

As the Torrentfreak article states;

“By Dec. 31st 2014, the undistributed royalties to members and rights holders amounted to 42.5 million euros, and have still not been awarded to members. The nature of a significant portion of this collected revenue of approximately 36.8 million euros has not been possible to assess, because collection invoices weren’t correlated to specific revenues in AEPI’s IT system.”

So next time you read a piece of news about stronger Copyright’s needed to compensate artists, remember the fakery involved in that piece of news and how people who contribute nothing to culture and music, live a jet setter lifestyle on the backs of the artists.

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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

Australian Music Scene – The Rise Of The Indies

Australian Music is ALWAYS a rich vibrant scene. And it is a scene that is underpinned by Independent artists. These independent artists are the real battlers, the one’s that carry the load of the vibrant music scene. Financially it is a miserable livelihood however the emotional experience is rewarding. And there is no escaping that Australian Independent artists are some of the hardest working artists and also the lowest paid members of the Australian workforce. The sad thing is that the elite levels of Government have no idea about the Independent artists. Any Government funding goes to the large Industry bodies who don’t really disperse the monies to the artists doing the rounds on the streets.

In music we have APRA/AMCOS, ARIA, AMIN, AIR, AMA and so many other local and state bodies. So all of these industry groups and associations are part of the music industry. Their main source of income is derived from Independent artists and Government Grants. The same independent artists that are living on or below the poverty line. For these artists, the larger music industry bodies are faceless monoliths that put profit first. While they may serve the major players in the Australian music industry, they do nothing for the rest. It is another example of taking care of the one percenters and forgetting about the rest.

The solution is for the mainstream to support and nurture independent artists. These music industry bodies need to ensure that all of the diversity and innovation created by the independent sector is supported and nurtured. Because the independent sector is the oxygen of the mainstream industry bodies. Once you cut them off and the major bodies will suffocate.

That is why it is great to see that 80% of the nominations for the latest ARIA Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album Of The Year category were released “independently”. For the uninformed independent or “indie” is basically an artist or a record label that has no connection to a major label or interference from a major label. In most cases it is the DIY style of artist. However with everything that deals with the music business, the definition is more complex than it should be. Most indie labels operate without major labels interference, however they all still use the distribution and promotion arms of the major labels.

For example, Sumerian Records is an independent label in the US. They have distribution deals with the Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), who is the independent music and film distribution arm of Warner Music Group who is a major label.

Going back to the bands nominated for the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal ARIA, A DZ Deathrays “Black Rat” album was released on the independent label “I OH YOU” who has an affiliation with Mushroom Records who is owned by Warner Music Group. The Amity Affliction’s “Let The Ocean Take Me” and Shihad’s “FVEY” where released on Roadrunner Records who is a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. Sleepmakeswaves “Love Of Cartography” album was released through Australian independent record label Bird’s Robe Records, which is distributed through MGM Distribution in Australia. In 2013, UK label Monotreme Records licensed their album for an international release across the UK, Europe and North America. This is a true independent band and label in my eyes. High Tension’s “Death Beat” is under license to independent label Cooking Vinyl Records, who uses RED Distribution for U.S distribution and it is also owned by Sony.

Look at some of the successful crowd funding campaigns independent artists have taken.

In Australia, heavy rock band, “I Am Voyager” went to their fans with a goal of about $10,000 and ended up getting $18,000 plus. In the U.S, Protest The Hero went to market with a goal of about $115,000 and ended up getting $300,000 plus. Haste The Day went to market with a goal of $65,000 and ended up getting $139,276. Emery went to market with a goal of $50,000 and ended up raising $110,815. Spocks Beard went to their fans for their 11th album with a goal to raise $25,000 and ended up raising $69,119. Trapt had a goal to raise $50,000 and ended up raising $56,634. Chimaira went the crowd funding route for a fan edition CD-DVD of their CROWN OF PHANTOMS album with a goal of $30,000 and they ended up raising $60,758.

Independently minded musicians and label owners are the ones that are pushing boundaries in music because they want control over what’s being released, when it’s released, and how it’s released. And they are not afraid to use the major labels when it suits them, but ultimately they’re calling the shots.

So I am sick and tired of hearing the RIAA and major label rhetoric about how artists put in their blood, sweat and tears into their music and because of piracy they don’t have a say about how it is released. The “Indies” are finding new and creative ways all the time. For a musician it is an exciting time to be a part of the music scene. Especially if you are an indie.

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

Chaos + Disruption = The Music Business

It’s a chaotic and disruptive time in the music business and with chaos comes opportunity.

On one side you have COPYRIGHT. And that can be broken down into a lot of other little chaotic categories like infringement, the length of copyright terms, copyright monopolies, the lack of works entering the public domain and so on.

The public domain is culture. Keith Richards once said, ‘you can’t copyright the blues.’

Culture is built and expanded by sharing stories and building on the works of others. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and all of the sixties greats like Hendrix, Clapton and Beck used this concept. They built off the blues.

However copyright law and its real purpose got hijacked by corporations and everything changed. Instead of culture being built up in the works that the public creates and shares, the public is now faced with copyright corporations locking away works that should be in the public domain by now. These works that should be in the public domain do not benefit the original creators in any way, however they are beneficial for the few copyright monopoly gatekeepers.

For culture to thrive once again, it is important to respect the public domain.

Then on another side of the music business you have the RIAA who continually push lies out into the world, so that technology companies can do something to protect crap business models. Did you know that the global music industry sent it’s 100 million takedown notice to Google, to remove search links to certain sites. It looks like the RIAA doesn’t get it.

So if a person types in “free mp3” in Google Search what should Google return?

Sites that have free mp3’s or sites that the RIAA want Google to point to when that term is typed in. Maybe when that person types in free mp3, they want a free mp3 and have no interest in paying.

Then you have the ISP’s on another side that are caught up in the middle of all this as they offer the service that provides internet access to users. According to the RIAA and the record labels, the ISP’s allow “copyright infringement” to happen, therefore, they need to do something about it to help out the music industry. In Australia, this is heavily disputed, however in other parts of the world gradual response schemes are in place.

Then you have the technology companies trying to offer low cost services to fans of music. However, low cost to a fan means high costs to the RIAA and the record labels in licensing fees. This is before the new service is even allowed to trade. If the new service starts to trade without licensing in place, expect them to be litigated into submission.

Have you noticed that artists have not been mentioned anywhere as yet. That is how far the music business has come, where the actual music is only a small part of it, however it should be the major part of it. For the business to thrive, you need great music.

I was looking back to some of the releases in 2013 that I liked. Two of my favourites are “Protest The Hero” and “Coheed and Cambria”.

“Protest The Hero” and “Coheed and Cambria” are working to the “Keep your fan base close” mantra. Both of the bands moved from major labels into a DIY independent mindset, realising that their fans are king.

Exceptional fan service is the key driving force behind a bands success. I expect “Coheed and Cambria” will get a lot more fans purchasing the next super deluxe package for the new album because they did such a great job with “The Afterman” releases.

“Protest The Hero” on the other hand have fallen into the fan funded conundrum where the perks always arrive later than expected for international fans. I live in Australia and I am still waiting for the perks to arrive. The band have been clear with their information, advising that it will take 6 to 8 weeks.

It’s good old business 101, “treat your customers right and they’ll stay with you forever”.

Then you have bands like Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater, Stone Sour, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Volbeat, Alter Bridge and TesserAct that have label deals.

Should those bands go independent like Protest The Hero or Coheed and Cambria. It all depends on a person’s definition of success and hard work. Going independent means that you need to build a team around you like any business start-up.

What are the benefits of going independent?

The lesson is simple. Selling your artistic freedom and independence as a “success” strategy can bring lucrative rewards. But it’s not always the best move for your career, as you are also selling off important data to the record label. The record label doesn’t want to know your fans or connect with them. They want you to do it, so that the label can make money of that relationship and then pay you a percentage of it.

Coheed and Cambria moved over 100,000 units of their deluxe “Afterman” editions. At $60 (I think it was $68, however I will use $60 for the example) an edition, that comes to $6 million in revenue. If the band was on the label model, what percentage would the band see from that $6 million.

The music market/business is filled with acts trying to make it. It is going to take a huge effort to stand out amongst the rest. Music is a lifer game. It is a slow and steady approach that builds careers.

Artists should be looking at development. With each song release, artists should never be afraid to try things out. Even try out new technologies that make it very easy for their fans to interact with them and their music. In a company, this is called research and development. Investing in your career is never a mistake.

The artists have the power to make the record labels redundant, purely to be used as a distribution arm if needed, however with the rise of streaming technologies, even this arm can be in danger of disappearing. Bands like Coheed and Cambria, Protest The Hero and Digital Summer have seen the recorded business side of things and have decided, hey we can do it better. That’s what great businesses are made of.

So in all of this chaos, who will rise and who will fall? Time will tell, however if you compare music to technology, you will see only a select few rise to the top. Smartphones and tablets is all Apple and Samsung. Amazon has online shopping cornered. Google is the king of search. Spotify will win the streaming war. Facebook rules social media. iTunes rules the mp3 and app market. Will the same fate happen in the music business?

2019 Crystal ball predictions;

Coheed and Cambria – will get bigger and bigger. Their style is unique, so expect them to keep to that style, sort of like how AC/DC releases music in the same style or Iron Maiden.

Protest The Hero – proved to themselves that they still matter. Will get bigger and more crazier. The future of progressive metal.

Machine Head – will still be bigger then what they are. Robb Flynn understands the internet and understands the change that is coming. He will make sure that Machine Head rides the wave all the way to the shoreline, while Adam Duce circles in the undercurrent, ready to litigate the band into submission.

TesseracT – will become the next Pink Floyd.

Digital Summer – are one of the hardest working rock bands around like Twisted Sister and Dream Theater. They will get bigger as they are lifers.

Avenged Sevenfold – will become the new Metallica.

Five Finger Death Punch – I have a feeling that they will break up after one more album.

Shinedown – will be bigger than what Aerosmith ever was.

Volbeat – will remain relevant in their niche genre.

Metallica – will still be relevant in the same way the Seventies act remained relevant.

Dream Theater – will still tour and do a lot of side projects, however they will be replaced by TesseracT and Protest The Hero.

Black Veil Brides – will take over the void left by Motley Crue and Guns N Roses.

Trivium – will deliver an astounding progressive technical metal album.

Killswitch Engage – will remain relevant in their niche genre.

Alter Bridge – The world needs Led Zeppelin to continue. Expect Alter Bridge to fill this void. They have one of the best vocalists of the modern era in Myles Kennedy. Marc Tremonti is a prolific writer. Call his Creed project, “The Yardbirds” and Alter Bridge as “Led Zeppelin.”

Bullet For My Valentine – will deliver their own version of “Master Of Puppets” and “The Blackening”.

Lets see how it pans out.

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