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

Shifting Thoughts with Evergrey, Dream Theater and Five Finger Death Punch – Are Corporate Deals the New Music Business?

The internet is flush with information about artists needing to do what is valuable to them. However what is valuable to them doesn’t always mean that it is valuable to everyone else.

So artists are always going back to square one. This is when artists will start to compromise their artistic vision and produce cookie cutter crap. However what an artist should be doing is to keep on writing. In the end, that valuable song will be written and it will translate to your audience. This is when the thing that you love to do, translates to an audience that loves what you do.

Evergrey is a Swedish progressive metal band. They are eight albums in so far. Their first album The Dark Discovery came out in 1998 and the most recent one Glorious Collision came out in 2011. The mainstay of the band is guitarist/vocalist Tom Englund, who also functions as the main songwriter in the band. Around him, band members come and go, with the most recent change happening in 2010.

Englund is remaining true to his artistic vision. He is not compromising on it and he is not changing his vision to chase any current trends. Drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage left Evergrey in 2010 to form a metal core outfit called Death Destruction with the lead singer from another Swedish band called Dead By April. Chasing trends.

It all comes down to what the artist wants to achieve from their career. Englund is all about the art and to me it seems like he is happy with the level of success he has. Would he like to be bigger? I am sure the answer would be YES to that, however would he complain about his lot in life. I think not. Englund is doing the thing that he loves to do and he has found an audience that loves what he does.

Bands like Coheed and Cambria, Digital Summer and Protest The Hero all get it.

Digital Summer is all fan funded. They have been around since 2006. They have toured strategically since inception as all the band members hold down full time jobs. They are three albums and one EP in so far and based on their business model, they will be around for a long time.

Protest The Hero is also fan funded. Their recent Indiegogo campaign more than tripled their goal (and YES I am one of those fans that donated). They have even rewarded the super fans that have shared the contribution link and gotten other people to contribute with additional perks.

Coheed and Cambria are a very fan centric band. The way they have packaged The Afterman releases with the digital downloads available on the day of release, along with demos and back stories of each song, as well as an 80 odd page hard cover book is just brilliant. They did it their way and with a price that was just right.

Dream Theater is one band that is sitting on the fringe here. They are still doing it the old way as they know their fan base will lap up the new self-titled album. Their recent co-promotion with mainstream entity USA Today to launch their new single The Enemy Within is just another corporate deal in the same vein as Jay Z partnering with Samsung.

USA Today offer a certain amount of dollars so that they are the exclusive and first on line website to premier the new song. By doing this, Dream Theater, their label, their manager and whoever else has a stake in the band will get paid up front and USA Today will get traffic to their website which they can then use to get a higher ad revenue from their advertisers’.

Before all the DT Forum Elitists start jumping up in arms and start calling me an idiot, every band is entitled to earn money in any way they see fit. This is no different to Dire Straits and Phillips teaming up in the Eighties, to push the new CD format onto consumers. If that what Dream Theater’s business model needs them to do, good on them. In the end the fans will decide the fate of the band, as they have done for every band that came before and that will come after.

Five Finger Death Punch did something similar were they teamed/partnered with Loudwire to produce a track by track webisode series. The Five Finger Death Punch co-promotion was super cool as it focused on delivering back stories to each of the songs. As a fan, it is those little extra details that I really like. That could be the reason why Five Finger Death Punch have reached Gold status with each album release. Those little things, like a track by track webisode.

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

Music Business Is A Tough Gig. By the way so is every other business.

What does the recent Jay Z and Samsung deal mean for the rock and metal community?

In the immortal words of Dark Helmet from Spaceballs, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Jay-Z is one of those artists that wants to be paid RIGHT NOW. He is in the mainstream right now and married to another mainstream personality in Beyoncé. The album is certified platinum before it is even released due to the digital download deal with Samsung. This is where it was made available for free to all Samsung customers via the Jay Z Magna Carta app.

How many of those Samsung customers are actual Jay Z fans? How many of those Samsung customers will go out and spend money on Jay Z? When artists want to be paid right now, there is no connection between artist and fan. It’s all about the dollars. My friend at work is a Samsung customer and he downloaded the album because it is free. In the end, this is all about money and nothing to do about having a career.

That is what the metal heads and rock heads want. A career. It doesn’t have to be a career where the yearly salary is a million dollars. We want just a simple career where we can make between $60 to $80K like all the other occupations, however in this we are doing what we love. We want just enough so that we can compete in the housing market, be considered for loans and so forth. We don’t need to keep up with the Kardashians, the Beyoncé’s and the Jay Z’s.

Once upon a time, it used to be clear to the fans that artists created music and that Record Labels were looking to profit from this relationship with the artists. These days, the new artists are the tech heads. The technologists lead the way by creating and it is the artists that want to profit at every turn from it. The artists are starting to become the businessmen/women of the record label era.

Look at the recent Twitter rant of Thom Yorke from Radiohead. According to the gospel of Yorke, there is no incentive for new artists as they cannot make any money due to Spotify. He more or less claims that no new artists can be discovered via Spotify or make a living from Spotify. Hey Thom, Imagine Dragons is a new artist. Look at their numbers on Spotify. Even though they are not making a living off the royalties from Spotify, this tool has allowed them to spread their music to a world-wide audience, which in turn is seeing their album sales go up. Go figure that. People are purchasing albums, when the songs are available for free.

So what does Thom do? He pulls Atom of Peace and his solo work from Spotify. Maybe that is a good thing, as we don’t have time for sub-standard anymore. Hell, Thom Yorke should even blow up at Napster.

The reason why Napster exploded 13 years ago was because it was all about the community and the convenience. Napster was never about the money and it was never about the ‘free’. The fans of music spoke out loudly on how they wanted to consume their music and how they wanted to interact with it. The power brokers still haven’t listened. Today there is still no service that provided those two things the way Napster did.

Artists wrote songs for a cause or a purpose. There was always a war to fight against someone, either against the establishment, the parents or a real war. The sad reality these days is that more and more artists are thinking about the payment instead of the creative process. It’s tough making a living in the music business. That is the bottom line. Just the same way it is tough making a living in any other business.

I work nine to five and get paid a yearly salary. I am meant to work 38 hours a week, however the company encourages us to spill some blood for them which normally means putting in longer hours just so that we can be considered for a bonus. It is a tough gig, and it is a tough way to make a living as well. The music business is no different. Making money in any occupation is a tough business.

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