Music, My Stories

Metal And Streaming

What does a metal head and a rocker need to do to play the music game, especially when streaming is dominated by hip-hop/pop?

Metal heads are not 100% into streaming. But a few years back Spotify shocked the world when it said that metal is most loved genre.

But metal doesn’t even exist when it comes to the weekly streaming charts Which are dominated by dance and hip hop tracks. But, when you combine the numbers from the different metal acts, metal music rules streaming because of fan loyalty.

Turns out, that when Spotify analysed the number of streams divided by the number of listeners per artist, the Metal genre is way ahead of hip-hop, country and even rock. It basically means that metal fans listen to their favourite artist over and over and over and over again, until we overdose on their music, while fans of other genre’s hop and pop all over the place.

And metal music still moves vinyl and CD’s, especially deluxe packages or limited edition packages. But the biggest thing that no one picks up is the regeneration of metals fan base. People who are not involved in the metal lifestyle believe it is an aging fan base, but that is so far removed from the truth. It is a fan base that regenerates with each generation and it keeps on growing.

And if you’re in the metal game and you have a small but loyal fan base, then there’s absolutely no reason to sign with a major label. And if you need management, make sure you still own your tracks and pay management a percentage.

And metal acts sell tickets. They may not be big on the radio or streaming, but they’ve got live audiences, and that’s where the money is.

And metal music is going through another re-invention. There is a modern version of the old sound and there are artists who were around when the old sound was the new sound. Regardless, while metal music is not mainstream, it percolates, waiting for the time to rise up.

Like embracing streaming.

As mentioned above, it’s the main genre with the most loyal listeners.

In addition, streaming has removed the costly barriers to acquiring music. Prospective new fans can instantly access the whole history of metal music. And the metal head consumer decides what is popular to them. It’s a beautiful utopian democracy. But metal purists will point out that you don’t own the music you pay Spotify for and how you are basically leasing it. Sound purists will argue the low sound quality of streaming music. But in the end, the 320kbps setting will satisfy 99% of people.

And based on our listening habits, it satisfies us a lot of times.

Streaming Up Your Arse…

Music, My Stories

Rock And Metal, Come Out And Play

If you were a fan of heavy metal or hard rock in the 70’s and 80’s, there was a system of persecution at play from unsupportive teachers, clueless leaders, government agencies and an out of touch mainstream. For every society to thrive there needs to be an enemy and there was no greater enemy once upon a time than hard rock and heavy metal music.

It’s lifestyle was provocative. If you sat on the side of law and order and the schooling system, you saw rock and metal music as disobedient. If you sat on the side of religion, you saw rock and metal music as the devils music, however each rocker and metal head are surrounded by crucifixes. Even Elvis Presley was labelled the devil, while Graceland, was littered with his Christian beliefs. If you sat on the side of government, you saw rock and metal music as protest music.

And people/organisations tried to suppress it. But the music survived and thrived and maintained a fan base for over 50 years. And it’s not just oldies who support it. Each year, a new generation of youngsters take up arms in the name of rock and metal.

Of course, the same hate for metal and rock music doesn’t exist today as it did in the past, so metal and rock is seeing more as a lifestyle than a musical style. Have you ever rocked the look?

And people said that rock will never die, but according to Gene Simmons and other rockers who made coin during the recording industry control of the distribution chain, rock and roll is dead because the distribution chain is open and everyone can participate.

Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Thoughts On Music

Good music feels like it was made just for you and in an era right now that has artists coming and going, that song connection is what forms a sense of devotion to an artist. So when a friend of mine said that people are less devoted to artists today and more open to the listening experience I was quick to disagree. Maybe in a pop context that is the case, however when it comes to metal and rock music, that devotion is real. Of course it has changed from the past. In the past, that devotion was fostered over the purchase of an album. Today it is fostered with each song.

Go on Spotify and you can see that “Now We Die” is a song that fans of Machine Head are gravitating too. It already has almost 1.2 million streams. “Halo” has 1.9 million streams and that is from an earlier album. For me the song that I gravitated to is “Ghost Will Haunt My Bones” because god damn, that past of mine just doesn’t seem to leave me be.

Music gives us identity and it expresses how we feel. Generations are defined through music.

The British Rock invasion in the Sixties defined a generation born just after WWII and a whole cultural shift began. Punk Music defined a generation in the U.K that was beset by unemployment and another cultural shift took place. That punk attitude merged with the British Rock invasion gave birth to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal then caught on in the Eighties and in the U.S it defined a generation disenfranchised by the conservative Reagan era. Metal music appealed because it was angry and people were looking for music that they could clench their fists too. Hard rock/heavy metal music was the gang that we all gravitated to.

Music was our patch, in the same way that bike clubs patch in members.

And so much debate is happening around music that really has nothing to do with music.

There is a section of artists who are arguing that they don’t get paid enough from streaming services. Then you have streaming services that are arguing that they have killed piracy. The $2 billion that Spotify has paid to the rights holders is not a number to be compared with how much money the rights holders would have made selling CDs. Spotify is comparing that number with how much money artists would have made from piracy. And as we all know piracy doesn’t pay artists a cent.

So music is going through another cultural shift and a whole new generation is being defined. The recording industry was disrupted by technologies and there are two ways to respond. See the change as a threat or see it as an opportunity. Unfortunately 15 years after Napster, the incumbents still think only in terms of loss and insist on thinking about the industry in the same way as before.

So while a subset of people are decrying the online world, millions and millions of others have decided to embrace it, believing a relationship with their fans is what it’s all about.

And you have different mindsets competing with each other. You have people who broke in the eighties, when we were all glued to MTV and then you have people who broke in the two thousands, in an era that is still defined by turmoil. The Eighties heroes are struggling to get people interested in their new music, so their dollars come from the live circuit where they play all the classics.

We all know the old game was about making a lot of noise. That huge marketing lead up could lead to a big first week in sales. And then the album dies from the news. The normal media outlets don’t care if people are listening to the latest Machine Head album or Vanishing Point.

The game today is that if you’re a musician you would start off in music and then end up doing a lot of different things that involve speaking tours, fan funded projects, book deals and so forth. The fans will keep you alive however you need to be a realist. Musical world domination is a long shot, while being a famous public figure in the internet age is more achievable.

Music, My Stories

Haunted By Its Melody, Music It Will Set You Free

Metal music has its fair share of musicians that are worth talking about. Put it down to the place that metal music holds in society. From Lars Ulrich turning his back on his fans and going into bed with the record labels, to Dave Mustaine’s views on everything American, to Robb Flynn’s blog posts and the hundreds of comments he gets to them.

That is why I love Robb Flynn. He’s real. He’s honest. He’d say shit and people will either go “WTF” or “Yeah, man he’s spot on.” Whether it was saying “that selling CD’s is non-existent” to “feeling depressed in Beneath The Silt post” to “asking fans if they have sex to any Machine Head song or any other metal band for that matter” to his most recent post on “the music business and how much has changed since the Seventies (basically the danger has been taken out and it is all safe”.

Love him or hate him, Robb Flynn has an edge over other musicians and he is using that edge to get people talking about music again. Obviously Robb Flynn is known to people in the niche that Machine Head plays in and when I mention his name to other people that like classic rock bands for example, they look back at me with blank stares.

His latest blog post is all about how music and the artists drove culture. It was about a time when artists had the control to do what they want, how they want and when they want.


What do we have?

We have the people that sell it, complaining that their profits are sinking, while at the same time they feed the coffers of the RIAA to get favourable legislation passed to protect their business models. Then you get all these reports about how much money streaming is bringing in to the labels and artist screaming up and down that they don’t get a decent portion of it.

What about the construction company that had to call it a day, because the builders they contracted work to, went under. By going under, those builders failed to pay the construction company the work they did and by default, they also went under.

But, hey, that’s okay and no protectionist laws are needed because that is the nature of the building game. However the record labels lose money because they failed to innovate and they scream up and down for new laws. The stain that SOPA/PIPA left on the MPAA and the RIAA will never go away. People will remember it.

Music doesn’t need new laws. It needs a new breed of executives. You see, Music is in a transition. A transition from the old to the new. The people currently in charge still don’t get it. The new breed is slowly rising and in time it will filter into the corridors of power. Those kids that pirated their whole music collection, will be in charge of Copyright Law in the not too distant future. Those same kids will be in charge of the music labels. They will have their coding mates in jobs next to them, innovating away.

So what about the old breed?

Metallica previewed a new demo of a song called “The Lords of Summer” and everyone said “What the hell is that?”. You see Metallica just don’t get it. People go to their shows to hear the classics. No one wants new music from them. If they did, the fans would have voted for the new songs at the recent Bogota show.

Look at the set list (I added the year of the album the song was featured on in brackets);

Blackened (1988)
Master of Puppets (1986)
Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (1986)
Fuel (1997)
The Unforgiven (1991)
Lords of Summer (New song / World premiere)
…And Justice for All (1988)
Sad But True (1991)
Fade to Black (1984)
Orion (1986)
One (1988)
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1984)
Battery (1986)
Nothing Else Matters (1991)
Enter Sandman (1991)

Creeping Death (1984)
Ride the Lightning (1984)
Seek & Destroy (1983)

See any songs from the last two Metallica albums in the list. Hell, there is only 1 song since 1991. Enough said. They’re an oldies act. The fans had a chance to vote for the set list and they voted for the classics. No one wanted to hear the newer stuff and that includes “The Lords of Summer”.

The only band who are aware of that are Twisted Sister. Apart from the song “30” and the obligatory, Christmas album, they have refused to make new music for decades, because no one wants it. And they know it. Dee Snider has said it, Jay Jay French has said it and Mark Mendoza has said it.

The thing is when bands go in to write new albums, they need to realise that we don’t want the generic song that they think will sell millions. We want the song that the creator needs to write, because if they don’t write it, the apocalypse will come into their world.

This is contrary to Rick Rubin’s methods were he more or less gets bands to rewrite their earlier stuff.

Our lives today are surrounded by great TV shows and technology like Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Grimm, Revolution, Arrow, iPhones, iPads, Tablets, Spotify, YouTube, Facebook, Intenet and so on. Music needs to compete on this playing field. It needs to be just as good and it needs to innovate.

Volbeat is a good example of innovation. Their sound is unique. Look at all the elements in their songs. There is no one else quite like em in 2014. Sort of like the Twisted Sister song, “What You Dont Know (Can Sure Hurt You). They fuse a lot of styles into their songs, however they still stay loyal to the hard rock/metal sound.

Don’t write a song with the Top 10 in mind.

Write a song because your life depends on it. Write a song because if you don’t get those melodies and chords out, you will cease to exist.

That is the true essence of music to me. That raw, primal, spontaneous explosion.

As Robb Flynn once said;

So pray to music build a shrine
Worship in these desperate times
Fill your heart with every note
Cherish it and cast afloat

Cause God is in these clef and tones
Salvation is found alone
Haunted by its melody
Music it will set you free

Let it set you free

Alternate Reality, Music, Unsung Heroes

The Metal Manifesto

I can’t recall how many times I have been in a conversation about music and then when I am asked what styles of music I am into, I reply back with “hard rock and metal”. Then I get a smug look and an “Oh”.

In most cases, the people respond back with, “I didn’t picture you as a metal fan” or “You don’t suit the stereotype of a metal fan.” You see to those outsiders, us metal heads are still seen as misfits, criminals, drug takers, mentally unstable, satanic and people who in general do not conform to any standards that society wants them to conform to.

However, if you look into it, the metal heads are the ones that assist society the most. We are the tax payers. We are consumers. We spend the money we earn, in the areas we live and we keep people employed. We spend the money we earn on the bands we like, showing them a devotion like no other, which in turn keeps those bands employed and making music.

Look at the history of metal and rock bands. They don’t seem to disappear like all of the manufactured pop crap that comes and goes. The only metal and rock bands that disappear are the ones that got into the business for the wrong reasons (which for them was pure cash).

And then I started thinking about the quote “metal as a lifestyle”. It is a lifestyle with a million unwritten laws that somehow all of us metal heads abide by.

So without further delay, here is The Metal Manifesto;

Metal music is a way to belong. We wear the patches/colours of our favourite bands on black t-shirts.

Metal heads are rebels. We are the ones that question everything put in front of us, as we strive to find our own place in society and our own road to walk on. It’s okay to be “weird” in the eyes of society. What people see on the outside is just skin. What is on the inside is what matters.

Metal heads are knowledgeable.
A study from 2007, showed that a large number of members in the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth list heavy metal – or “metal”, as their favourite kind of music. Look at other famous people in other industries like Jack Black, Javier Bardem, Jim Carrey, the South Park guys (Matt Stone and Trey Parker) and the current Russian PM who is a Deep Purple fan.

Metal music allows us to make sense of the chaotic and corrupt society that we live in. It is for the outsiders. The underdog. It isn’t about getting rich quick. It is a lifestyle. We live it and we breathe it.

Metal music is empowerment. It is freedom. It is release. The live show is the rally. While generations of children are turned into generations of links and cogs on the factory floors, metal fans are the ones that stand out. The unique ones. While others were brainwashed to fit in, metal music lives on the fringes, as an outlier ready to change the world.

Metal music has its own heavy metal salute, a call to arms, in which the pinkie and forefinger are raised over a clenched fist. Credit Ronnie James Dio for the salute.

Metal music has its own code of conduct when it comes to circular mosh pits. Those who fall, will be helped back up. Those who are violent will be forced to leave. The aim is to vent our aggression and have a good time doing it.

Metal music is confrontational. Deal with it. From listening to our heroes suffering, it provides us with redemption. From listening to our heroes views on the world and their views on governments, it provides us with purpose. We embrace change, while others litigate. From confrontation, innovation is born.

Metal music is diversity. It doesn’t matter what colour, religion or country you are from. We are all one.

Metal will never fade into obscurity. It is always there, a survivor of the times and the mega corporations that tried to kill it after they raped it and abused it and made billions from it.

Metal is derivative. We wear our influences on our hearts.

Metal music is more than just the term of “Heavy Metal”. It is Hard Rock, Heavy Rock, Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal, Technical Metal, Math Rock, Math Metal, Djent, Death Metal, Metalcore, Emo, Melodic Death Metal, Symphonic Metal, Punk Rock, Pop Metal, Industrial, Nu-Metal, Alternative Rock, Alternative Metal and many others. There is no room for elitists.

As Robb Flynn screams out “This Is Who We Are”. Instead of saying the word divided, I will say UNITED WE WILL STAND.