A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Bands: Do You Want To Know What It Is Like?

This one gig forever lives in my memory.

After slugging it out in our regional area, we finally had a decent buzz to get a show in the City. Now this venue is renowned for its metal and rock nights so people of those genres always ventured to it. However, it’s location was a deadest nightmare. Without being able to stop in front of the venue due to it being a no stopping zone, our only option was to find a parking station which was a decent 10 minute walk. The venue was basically at the corner of two main streets in and out of the city.

So yippee we had a gig in the city. Great.

We drove two hours to get there. Double Great.

We parked at a parking station that charged us $52 dollars. Triple Great.

We walked for 10 minutes, carrying amps, guitars and drums. Quadruple Great.

We played the show. We got it filmed via the venue and paid an extra $150 for it. Multi-Great x Five.

I never had an image in my head that music was a way to meet chicks and travel the world. My image was one of writing and playing. However on this day, I really needed to reassess the whole playing live part in my life. As this wasn’t fun anymore. And the reason why it wasn’t fun is that the venues just didn’t respect music. Having a venue in the middle of the city with no loading dock for musicians shows that disrespect.

All the years of hard work doesn’t prepare you for the crap you need to deal with in relation to venues and other bands.

It doesn’t prepare you for the sense of elitism between genres. Our style was Progressive Metal. The other bands on the bill were Death Metal bands. Having a chorus that soared melodically was frowned upon because the singer could actually sing. The other bands just screamed and growled their way through.

The years of practicing and writing do not prepare you for the realities of the music business. To me the big one is the sense that bands just can’t get along. Because the odds of success are so rare no one wants to give an inch just in case that inch was their chance at making it. It got to the point where fans of one band were told to wait outside while the other bands played, just in case some magic record label rep was in the audience and saw people having a good time.

I started to see band members from other bands admonish their fans for enjoying our performance. I started to see hostility around start times and set times between bands. For example, the opening band started late but didn’t cut their set which meant the second band got squeezed.

We played one show in Melbourne where there was a management company and a record label A&R dude there. We had no idea that they would be there. Even if we did, I do not believe that it would have changed our performance. Musically we delivered a killer set. Vocally I could never tell, because on stage I couldn’t even hear the vocalist. The in-house monitors just didn’t cut it.

After the show, the Record Label A&R rep and the management team introduced themselves, we went and had dinner and they said that they are interested in the band but a few things need to change.

“The singer was off-key the whole night”, said the prospective manager.

They mentioned that right in front of the singer.

Then they mentioned that they had a singer from another band that would be a perfect fit for our style. Again they said this right in front of our current singer. It was their way of destabilising the band and getting their own guy in.

I said a flat-out NO.

I said that we will fork out the cash to get proper ear monitors for the current singer and work on that as the on stage monitors just don’t deliver when it comes to independent bands.

The drummer looked at me with dagger eyes. This was his chance to make it and I was getting in the way because I stood up for the singer. But the drummer didn’t do anything about his animosity towards me because I was the songwriter in the band. And this upset the drummer to the nth degree.

But this is a reality. There are always people there, ready to push their own agenda. In this case, the manager and the label wanted to push their vocalist into the band that I formed. The drummer and the bass player were happy for it to happen. But for me, it didn’t sit well.

So what happened after that?

Within four months I had left the band because the arguments of holding each other back got to the point of fisticuffs.

They then got a fill in guitarist and within six months they burned everything that I built up over the last two years down to the ground.

And that’s what its like to be in a band.

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.