Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The World We Live In

I am over it.

I am over people like APRA/AMCOS CEO Brett Cottle calling on the Australian Parliament to offer legislative support to members of the creative industries.

I know from my own experiences APRA has been negligent for accepting dual song writing registrations on songs that I wrote and registered with them over ten years ago. They had the balls to call me up to ask me if I am okay with their negligence for accepting dual registrations and if I’m not okay with it, they can offer mediation to me to sort it out with the other party at a cost to be paid by me.

Yep, that sure sounds like a lot of support and respect from APRA/AMCOS towards the artists it is meant to represent. The truth of the matter is this.

Small time musicians don’t mean crap to these large organisations. All we do is generate a lot of money for them by playing live and by using our hard-earned monies to promote ourselves and get our songs on radio. Yep, APRA as a publishing and collection association collect those radio royalties (that we as artists worker our backsides off to get on radio) and those live returns from Club owners on our behalf.

They then hold the pool of monies for as long as they can before paying anything out to the artists based on a formula that no one can make sense off. That way APRA can double dip on the pool of money. They do that by earning interest on the large pool first and then they take out their admin fee.

So I am sick and tired at corporate entities that put out crap saying they are concerned about the artists. The music business and the movie business have consistently opted for legislation to combat piracy and when it comes to innovation they are continually dragged kicking and screaming into it.

The major record labels in the U.S killed off the 20 million strong membership of Grooveshark as it wasn’t legit enough for the record labels. Well guess what happened the next day. It was cloned and made available for users to stream music on.

Can we also make the distinction between the recording industry and the music industry?

They are two different categories. The recording industry is part of the music industry. The music industry at a high level also contains the live industry, the merchandise industry, the publishing companies, the collection agencies, the local clubs, etc..

So when I see people saying that the music industry cannot compete with piracy, it is totally a clueless and dumb statement to make.

I don’t see the live industry complaining because of piracy. I don’t see the merchandise industry complaining because of piracy.

Piracy is a recording industry problem. Actually I still find it hard to hear when people in the recording industry still complain about competing with piracy or pirates. People just don’t get it. The recording industry (and by default they acts on their roster) are competing against other products for fans/customers. It has been proven time and time again that if the customer sees value in the offering, they will pay for it.

There is a lot of money in the industry right now. “Blurred Lines” is just one song and it took in over 17 million dollars since 2013.

When it comes to music, I stream via Spotify for free and I buy physical CD’s from Amazon in the U.S or from the band direct. I never got into paying $1.29 or $2.19 for a digital mp3 of the song. However I do have a lot of mp3’s. When you buy pre-release albums from bands directly or via a fan funding campaign, you always get an mp3 version of the album. Amazon offers Auto-Rip and then there is the CD’s I purchased which I rip and put on my iPhone.

While ripping a CD is acceptable to an MP3 file is acceptable in the recording industry, the DVD I purchase is not allowed to be format shifted to an AVI file.

Torrentfreak is a website that I got to regularly to keep up to date on the latest issues around Copyright issues. So it’s no surprise to see that the MPAA is putting their hands in foreign policies. In this case, it was lobbying hard the UK Cameron government to not legalize DVD ripping. However the lobbying efforts didn’t pay off and the private copying exceptions became law in October last year.

Speaking of the MPAA, they are sure doing their best to keep their business model flourishing. Thanks to the Sony email hacks, the world know has official proof that the MPAA are offering grants to academics to write pro-copyright papers that can be used to influence future copyright policies.

As the article points this is nothing new for the MPAA.

Last November we revealed that the MPAA had donated over a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon University in support of its piracy research program. Thus far the Carnegie Mellon team has published a few papers. Among other things the researchers found that the Megaupload shutdown worked, that piracy mostly hurts revenues, and that censoring search engine results can diminish piracy. As expected, these results are now used by the MPAA as a lobbying tool to sway politicians and influence public policy.

So how is Brett Cottle from APRA/AMCOS or those stooges at Village Roadshow any different to the MPAA? All of these organisations profit from the creative works of others however they contribute nothing creatively.

In the end if copyright becomes too extreme, creativity will die.

Thank god in heavy metal and hard rock some common sense is prevailing when we hear similarities between songs. So far we haven’t had the court cases like “Blurred Lines” or the out of court settlements between Sam Smith and Tom Petty for the “Stay With Me” and “I Won’t Back Down” vocal similarities or the other out of court settlement between the song writing committee for Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” and The Gap Band’s 1970s funk hit “Oops Upside Your Head.”

Music survives because the creators are constantly borrowing, sharing, and reacting to the different connections the 12 notes in the musical scale offer.

“The Ultimate Sin” is a forgotten song in Ozzy’s solo career (even though Jake E.Lee does perform it with Red Dragon Cartel) and it was good to hear part of the vocal melody get resurrected by Five Finger Death Punch in “Life Me Up”. Yes, they are similar for those small sections and if anything fair use is the order of the day.

Hell, we all know that Avenged Sevenfold’s latest album “Hail To The King” references a lot of great metal albums from the past. What about Kingdom Come’s “Get In On” and it’s references to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. As I have always said, music is derivative.

It’s getting ridiculous how everyone is slapping copyright lawsuits on everything and the reason why that is occurring is that corporations own the copyrights. Hell, even George Clinton who has been sampled by every hip hop artist known, is fighting Bridgeport Music (a publishing company) to get his rights back. Basically at this point in time, George Clinton has NO royalty rights.

Yep, the person who copyright is designed to protect and the person who actually created the music has NO royalty rights to his music. And of course, in case you didn’t know Bridgeport Music was also one of the plaintiffs in the “Blurred Lines” copyright case.

But hey, Bridgeport Music, like APRA/AMCOS would lead you to believe that they are pushing copyright agendas for the artists and that stronger copyright is needed to combat piracy. On the other side of the fence you have a housewife from the fifties who wrote the lyrics for a song called “G.I. Blues” which was later turned into a hit song for Elvis Presley who is not credited as a songwriter because she didn’t pay the $25 copyright fee back in the sixties.

But, wait, according to the corporations who own the copyrights, the world needs longer copyright terms and stronger enforcement rights.

That’s the world we live in.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit, Unsung Heroes

RANT ALERT: Copyright, Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame and The Walking Dead

BUSINESS MODEL PROTECTIONISM

It’s pretty pathetic how the entertainment industries need to get governments to pass laws and update laws every time there is a shift in technology. Remember, back in the Eighties, when the boss of the MPAA Jack Valenti proclaimed at a Senate Congressional Hearing that the VCR’s are to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone. Yep, that is right, the head of the MPAA said that in 1982.

Fast forward a decade later and VHS sales of movies proved to be a very very large income source for the movie industry. So if the MPAA had their way, this technological innovation would have been killed at the beginning. Sort of like how the music industry reacted when Napster exploded. And due to that poor reaction, they allowed piracy to grow and due to their unwillingness to license Spotify, they allowed YouTube to become the unofficial streaming king.

All of this innovation happened because of copyright infringement. If all of the innovators followed the law or asked permission from the Record Labels to go ahead, well, no innovation would have been possible, because hey, any innovation in the entertainment industry that is not controlled by the gatekeepers is like the Boston Strangler to their business profits.

Let’s get one thing straight. Copyrights have been infringed forever by consumers of music and it still hasn’t killed off the music business. The difference now is that the main holders of Copyright are large corporations called Record Labels, who have the cash to go all nuclear with lawyers on people that violate that copyright.

So when it comes to negotiating new laws for copyright, it is these large and cashed up business entities that are lobbying politicians.

So what we have is a disconnect. The copyright industries want the tech industries to introduce measures to reduce piracy. The copyright industries want ISP’s to introduce measures to reduce piracy. The copyright industries want Governments to introduce measures to reduce piracy. The copyright industries want Judges to introduce measures to reduce piracy. Basically, the copyright industries want everyone else to help them, however they choose to do nothing themselves in terms of innovation.

Call it the last screams of the ENTITLEMENT EXECUTIVES.

That is why take down requests from copyright holders are going through the stratosphere. The Entertainment Industries are abusing a law by trying to catch a site that is NON-COMPLIANT. If the site that is hammered with the robotic takedowns doesn’t comply then they could be held liable.

This is not what copyright is designed to do.

Copyright was always designed so that the creator of a piece of work is granted a certain monopoly on their works and by that grant they can then sell their right to copy their work to another entity in exchange for a fee. A quick search of Google for the definition of Copyright states that it is “the exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.”

So now add “The Record Label” to the definition. The definition would read something like this;

“The exclusive and assignable legal right granted to the originator who then sells that right to a corporation for a fixed number of years (in some cases, for their whole life plus 70 years) so that the corporation can print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.”

Burton C Bell from Fear Factory didn’t know how much his songs were worth when he signed his first contract with Roadrunner Records.

Imagine a young up and coming sports star who is signed to an NBA club for peanuts and then after a season or two, shows that they are really a star athlete. Two things would happen to that sports star. The NBA club that they are with will either up their contract to match their new-found stardom or a new NBA club will swoop in and make them an offer they cannot refuse.

Fear Factory showed Roadrunner that they are a star athlete. Instead of getting a better royalty deal they got the same rubbish for 20 years plus. Instead of being allowed to negotiate with other labels and getting a transfer to test their net worth, they got locked into a restrictive contract with terrible payment rates.

Copyright is too distorted and removed from what it was intended to do. It needs a rethink and a massive re-write. The kids of today, the ones that pirate, will one day step up into government and then, change will happen.

THE WALKING DEAD

It’s passed its prime.

The last half of Season 4 was by far the worst. It is a yawn fest of massive proportions. The only two episodes worth talking about so far is the Rick Grimes House episode. The house when the group that Daryl is with right now decided to crash it.

And the other one was the Carol episode with the two little sisters. However I still have issues with that episode, as I saw it just an episode put there to shock, instead of progressing the story line.

AMC is down two big shows in “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men”, so they are pumping all of their resources into milking TWD.

Seriously spin offs. It only dilutes the main brand. Think of “Law And Order” or “CSI”. They had so many spin offs it got to a point of silliness.

The main show runners in Frank Darabont and Glen Mazzara got booted for various reasons, with TWD comic creator Robert Kirkman being behind the Mazzara booting. One thing I can say is that comic book writers should stick to comic books. They are not TV show runners.

Frank Darabont got the TV show up and running. It is the house that Darabont built in it’s tone, settings and style. Not Robert Kirkman.

Prior to the show exploding, The Walking Dead comics had a cult niche following. Now it has a popular culture following. And that is because of the TV show. Not because of the comics. The comics provided the story, however how original is the story when the whole Zombie genre is copyright free.

I actually went and purchased the comics recently for my Christmas Present. And that is because of the show.

ROCK’N’ROLL HALL OF FAME

They call themselves “leaders in the music industry” that joined together to establish the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation.

Joe Elliott from Def Leppard called it as it is. Elliot called them a “board room of faceless tuxedo-wearing morons” who decide such things based on their own determination of what’s cool. And with that, a final lyrical quote from the great James Hetfield

“Who made you God to say”

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, My Stories

Talking About Riffs – Progress Is Derivative (The Non-Metal Version)

Okay so what do we know.

We know that Robin Thicke released a song called “Blurred Lines” that ended up going nuclear all over the world. That means a lot of dough to share around.

We know that the family of Marvin Gaye have lawyered up with King and Ballow to sue Robin Thicke and song publisher EMI April/Sony/ATV for copyright infringement.

They claim that Robin Thicke committed copyright infringement on Gaye’s “After the Dance” to create his song “Love After War.”

They also claim that Thicke’s “Make U Love Me” shares a similar bridge and identical lyrics to Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You.”

They also claim that “Blurred Lines” was stolen from Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”. To muddle the waters even more, allegations also abound that “Blurred Lines” was also derived from Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways.”

It is pretty obvious that the family of Marvin Gaye don’t care about derivative progress. All they care about is money. This is not about protecting Marvin Gaye and his legacy. A legacy is protected by people and fans of music. By simply having the conversation that “Blurred Lines” sounds similar is proof that Marvin Gaye’s legacy is protected.

Listening to “Blurred Lines” and reading the reviews of the song, you know it got me interested to check out Marvin Gaye and that is what matters in today’s times. Are people listening to the music?

Of course this lawsuit isn’t just about copyright infringement. There is an argument put forward against EMI, about how they strong armed the Gaye family, about how they planted false stories in the media, about conflicts of interest (due to EMI controlling both copyrights), about professional misconduct and breaches of contract

Of course the argument put forward by Thicke and EMI is that the genres of the songs are the same however the notes are different and as far as they are concerned no infringement occurred.

Regardless of how people view this argument. One thing is clear.

The family of Marvin Gaye have been ill-advised. Even if they win the lawsuit, they still lose “financially” in the long run.

The only financial winners here are the attorneys.

The Gaye family will lose out in the long run because artists will stop referencing Marvin Gaye. Once people stop referencing Marvin Gaye this will then lead to people not talking about him. He will be absent from the conversation. The only reason why this has all come up, is that people have talked about the similarities. The Gaye family even used those conversations as part of their counterclaim.

So once people stop talking about someone, in time that person/artist will be forgotten.

The shenanigans carried out by the Gaye family is a far cry to what happened to Bobby Parker. For those that don’t know, Bobby Parker was a blues rock guitarist that passed away recently at the age of 76. He wrote a song called “Watch Your Step” in 1961. The song was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Beatles hit, “I Feel Fine” released in 1964 had that riff. The influence of “Watch Your Step” also extended to “Day Tripper” as well. John Lennon even stated that “I Feel Fine” and “Day Tripper” were songs built on variations of the “Watch Your Step” riff.

Led Zeppelin used the riff in “Moby Dick” released in 1968.

However, in order to show the progress is derivative effect in action, the “Watch Your Step” riff evolved from the Afro-Cuban jazz composition “Manteca.” That is what music is all about. Evolution by derivatives.

However, Bobby Parker reaped few rewards from the song’s success as he sold the copyright to V-Tone records owner Ivan Mogull for next to nothing. In other words, he didn’t know enough about copyright and he got shafted. Sound familiar. Labels shafting artists.

So all you artists that sign record deals remember this. The label owns your copyright. And guess what the labels are pushing for. Long copyright terms. Look at the massive expansion of the “Duration of Copyright Term” between 1910 and 1998. Just at the time that movie studios and record labels started to appear. Just at the time that the RIAA and the MPAA started to appear and become lobby powerhouses.

At the moment, in the US it is sitting over 100 years due to the 1998 Sonny Bono Act. To top it all off, the Copyright monopolies want longer terms. Longer terms means that our culture is all locked up. The whole point of copyright was to serve and benefit the Public while giving creators a short-term monopoly on their creations. There is nothing that is coming off copyright because Corporations own the majority of the copyrights.

Talking about riffs, what about that riff in “I Want A New Drug from Huey Lewis and the News. It was a hit twice. Once for Huey Lewis and the News and another time for Ray Parker Jr., with “Ghostbusters”!

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Top 10

My 8 year old and my 7 year old love Twisted Sister. It’s the video clips that hooked them, so they started to dig deep into my LP and CD collection. Actually, the first LP they ever saw, was Twisted Sister’s “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll.” So here it is, the Top 10 list of Twisted Sister songs, by an 8 year old and a 7 year old.

1. We’re Not Gonna Take It

When Quiet Riot topped the charts with “Metal Health” and it became the first heavy metal album to do so, it was a game changer for metal in general. For better or for worse a lot of bands got picked up by major labels in the U.S.

Twisted Sister on the other hand were still struggling to get ahead without any real support from their Atlantic U.S.

Not to be deterred Twisted Sister took this new fan interest in metal to a new level. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is all pop and a little glam infused with a lot of rock. It’s tongue in cheek video ensured that MTV played it non stop.

Dee Snider finally fine tuned that Chorus melody he had written back in 1979.

2. I Wanna Rock

Who would have thought that in 1987 when “Love Is for Suckers,” came out that it would be a long time before Dee Snider rocked out again.

Desperado proved unsuccessful due to record label politics taking up Dee’s time between 1988 and 1989. Widowmaker came out in the midst of the Seattle Revolution and an excellent band was ignored.

3. Shoot Em Down

This can be the new anthem for the fight against censorship by the Copyright Monopolies and the Corporations that issue DMCA takedowns.

In 1985, Dee Snider along with Frank Zappa and Bob Denver appeared before a Senate committee to testify against the Parents Music Resource Center’s demands for music censorship legislation.

All of this is happening while Twisted Sister was burning to the ground with low ticket sales and crowd animosity.

In 2013, this fight is still going on. This time it is the RIAA, the MPAA and the Copyright monopolies that are trying to silence free speech with bogus takedowns.

Shoot em down I say.

4. You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll

“You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” laid the groundwork for the things to come. With the release of “Under The Blade” before it, the band was getting some serious respect with the metal crowd.

During the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” tour in Europe, especially England, Twisted Sister was the hottest “new” group.

They where selling out 3500 seaters all over the country, they had two hit singles, been on national TV in England and had been in all the papers.

Twisted Sister tour these days and they are more popular than they have ever been. It’s true, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”.

5. SMF

This is the ode to the original tri-state headbangers who would talk at length about the shows that Twisted Sister played in New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester before Twisted Sister became a huge act nationally via MTV. This is their song.

When the band broke through and toured extensively behind “Stay Hungry” the band and Dee Snider especially became overexposed. After being the underdog that gave a voice to every angry teenager in America, Twisted Sister would end up losing the respect of their loyal and possessive core metal fan base.

In other words the SMF’s abandoned them only to return in greater numbers years later.

6. The Kids Are Back

While the record industry proclaims that the industry is dead without any evidence, the kids are all plugging away and creating.

Maybe we will never see another superstar act like the Eighties however we are living in a golden time for creators.

7. Burn In Hell

From reading all the press, it always came across that ”Twisted Sister” was in control of their lives and future. I saw them as a new generation of rock bands due to their hard work ethic to make it.

8. Come Out And Play

When I hear this song, I immediately think of the bands history playing the bar scene, especially when Dee screams out “Join our cavalcade / Enter the world we made.” That cavalcade started when Dee Snider joined in early 1976. That cavalcade kept on growing along with a growing collection of record company rejection letters.

The critics called “Come Out and Play” an uneven album. The weakest tracks on the album like “Leader Of The Pack” and “Be Cruel To Your Skuel” got released as singles. The singles that should have been released are the title track, followed by “The Fire Still Burn” and then “I Believe In Rock N Roll.” Imagine the film clip of “Come Out And Play” if Twisted Sister paid homage to “The Warriors” movie.

In the end “Come Out And Play” didn’t fit the “Michael Jackson business model” of the labels. Twisted Sister went from being hot to being the whipping boys again.

9. The Price

People have a lot of trouble dealing with failure. Twisted Sister had been through so much rejection it made them even more determined to make it. Everything comes at a price.

10. Stay Hungry

It was difficult for Twisted Sister to land a record deal, and the band ended up struggling for nearly a decade before finally getting their big break in the early ’80s.

Unfortunately, when this break finally came, the band would end up being the poster child of record company overexposure.

Stay Hungry stands as a reminder. With each rejection, you need to stay hungry and find the fire again.

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

Living In The Creativity Years – Otherwise You Will Be Here Today and Gone Tomorrow

So it has been almost 20 months since MegaUpload was shutdown. All of its servers and assets were also seized by the US Department of Justice on evidence provided to it by the MPAA.

So what did this shutdown prove? In the immortal words of Dark Helmet, “Absolutely Nothing”.

What the entertainment industries fail to understand is that we live in a global economy. I am not an expert on economics, however in order to compete in this global economy, people need to know how to operate computers and use certain pieces of software. It is expected. Piracy is the leveller between the “advanced” economies and the “developing” economies. Big deal, what does this have to do with music.

Sale of albums in South and Central American countries are normally low for metal bands, however, those bands play to tens of thousands of people when they tour there. How can that be if they have no sales in those areas? I always come back to the Iron Maiden “Flight 666: The Movie” that was filmed during the “Caught Somewhere Back In Time” tour. They played some places on this tour like Costa Rica and India where sales of Iron Maiden recorded music has been low, however they still got tens of thousands of people to attend the shows.

We live in a global pop culture world. This global pop culture spreads via the web.

Artists these days need to forget about the record deals and the hits. We are living in the era that is all about creativity. Artists need to be creating all the time and releasing all the time, otherwise they are here today and gone tomorrow. Metal bands have weathered the storm so far, as fans of these genre’s still tend to purchase albums, however the writing is on the wall. Go on Spotify and you will see the streaming counts of certain songs. Only the great songs get streamed over and over again. The rest, will be forgotten.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy

How bad can piracy be? A Case Study involving Protest The Hero, Iron Maiden and Digital Summer.

The MPAA and the RIAA are trying their best to stop all file-sharing services. They still don’t realise that the moment they shut one down through legal action, several more appear in its place. 

The RIAA has shut down Napster, Kazaa and Limewire. The MPAA has gone to the ISP level, first trying to get verdicts that ISP’s facilitate copyright infringement, then trying to get personal information of ISP customers for copyright trolling lawsuits. When that got complicated, they resorted to getting blockades against certain websites. They have even resorted to using law enforcement agencies to shut down “rogue” websites (MegaUpload comes to mind).

So with all the activity going on, has file sharing ceased? Nope. Sharing still happens. 

I just went onto The Pirate Bay and typed in “Iron Maiden”. The discography is available for downloading and it is free. There are 840 seeders and 290 leechers. So is this illegal sharing of Iron Maiden’s music bad? Is it harming the band?

Okay, so Iron Maiden is a “big” band and they broke through in the Eighties on the back of the dreaded “Record Label”. People can argue that the impact of piracy to a band of Iron Maiden’s stature is minimal. In 2011, Iron Maiden played 33 shows and had total gross earnings of $33,085,671. Yep, that’s right, they grossed $33MIL. The band is still signed to a major label and they have full control of their merchandising deals.

They are on Spotify and “Fear Of The Dark” is leading the way with 16.74 million streams.

What about bands that where on a major label and are now classed as independent? I typed in “Protest The Hero” into The Pirate Bay search engine. Their 2011 album, “Scurrilous” is available for downloading and it is free. There are 64 seeders and 3 leechers. Their 2008 album, “Fortress” is available for downloading and it is free. There are 48 seeders and 1 leecher. So is this illegal sharing of Protest The Hero’s music bad?

Between January and February, 2013, Protest The Hero had a Indiegogo campaign with the following slogan: “Protest The Hero – New Album. We have completed all of our obligations to record labels. It’s time to go it alone and take control of our careers. It’s now or never!”

The goal was $125,000. By the time funding finished, the band raised $341,146. Yep, that’s right. They almost tripled their funding goal. All up 8361 backers.

What about independent DIY bands? I typed in “Digital Summer” into The Pirate Bay search engine. The discography is available for downloading and it is free. There are 12 seeders and 3 leechers. So is this illegal sharing of Digital Summer’s music bad?

In 2012, Digital Summer had a Kickstarter campaign to give fans the opportunity to contribute to the release of their next album (which ended up becoming Breaking Point) in exchange for cool incentives and it also helped the band raise the money they need to finish the album and market it nationwide THE RIGHT WAY. They had a goal of $25,000. They got 340 backers and raised $51,080.

So is this illegal sharing (12 seeders = 12 people) of Digital Summer’s music bad? Is it harming the band?

The band released “Breaking Point”, toured behind it and are now prepping an acoustic album.

The unbelievers would say that the guys from Digital Summer all hold down day jobs, so the RIAA must be correct in their viewpoint as artists are not making enough money solely from the activities in the music business.

If you listen to the stories from the RIAA, you would believe that piracy is harming everything to do with music and this is so far from the truth, it hurts just to think it.

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

What can artists learn from The Pirate Bay?

As most tech savvy people are aware, The Pirate Bay turned 10 years old a few days ago. In all of this, the Pirate Bay has stood strong against the pressure put on it by the MPAA and the RIAA and their sister organisations throughout the world. Much larger organisations have tried to stand up against these bodies and have failed. The fact that the Pirate Bay is still alive is something to respect.

So what can artists learn from The Pirate Bay?

The Pirate Bay spread via word of mouth. It didn’t embark on a scorched earth marketing policy. For an artist there is no better marketing strategy than word of mouth. That is how virality works.

Metallica – built their fan base via word of mouth on the strength of their album releases and live shows. It wasn’t until 1992 that Metallica decided to form a fan club.

Heartist – built their fan base all on line via fan to fan connections. This was all done without even playing a show. It was a total online strategy.

Volbeat – built their fan base via the strength of their material. A song that they released back in 2008 got traction in 2012, which in turn started to bring attention to their 2011 album release. Success comes later in today’s world. In some cases much later.

Galactic Cowboys – Back in the late eighties, Geffen Records signed a band called Galactic Cowboys. I have three of their albums that I picked up in the bargain basement bin. Geffen just kept on pushing the band onto the public with a pretty high profile marketing campaign, however the public just didn’t take to them.

Mutiny Within – I remember the Roadrunner marketing campaign for the band Mutiny Within. The campaign had the band linked to Killswitch Engage and Dream Theater. Instantly this is putting a pre-conceived ideal into the mind of the listener and in my opinion, didn’t do the band any favours. One of the flyers that I saw, had phrasing like “Mutiny Within is the twisted child of Killswitch Engage and Dream Theater.” The public decided that the band was not worthy of that title and the band was dropped from their label deal.

Artists (especially major artists) should seriously consider using The Pirate Bay to market the release of their next batch of songs. There is still a demand for free mp3’s. At the moment iTunes cannot service that demand as the iTunes platform needs to be paid. So what options do the artists have to provide their fan base with free mp3’s.
1. Use their own website and collect geographical information and email addresses. Get to know their fans and survey their fans.

2. Team up with Bit Torrent

3. Team up with The Pirate Bay

4. Team up with a crowd funding platform, where the perks involve t-shirts and so forth, with a free Digital Download of said music.
The Game Of Thrones creators have recently said that the piracy of the show has contributed to the cultural buzz of the show and that it is better than winning an Emmy. The creators have also said that they have seen a high increase in DVD sales. I always bring people’s attention back to the Southern and Central Americas’. Sales of recorded music is not high in countries that fall in the Southern and Central America zones, however bands have had great success in touring these areas.

The recent IFPI report shows Brazil as a market set to surge. Go to http://www.ifpi.org/content One of the comments on the report is a WTF moment. It’s on page 24 and it states the following;
“The launch of iTunes showed that Brazilians are prepared to pay for music. We thought consumers were so used to piracy that they would never buy music again. But this has been proved wrong. Moreover, a new generation of consumers can now have their first music experiences in the legal environment.”

To put the above comment into perspective, iTunes was launched in Brazil at the end of 2011. Seriously this is a terrible business model from the record labels. While they screamed piracy in Brazil and then had a real draconian Copyright law passed that can take down sites on the say so of the entertainment groups, the actual consumers, the music fans, could not download a legal mp3 in the country. Instead of trying to get licensing arrangements in place to launch iTunes earlier in Brazil, the Record Labels spent millions fighting piracy in the courts. Instead of trying to get licensing arrangements in place to launch iTunes earlier in Brazil, the Record Labels spent millions lobbying politicians to vote for SOPA and PIPA.

The Pirate Bay is easy to use. It has an ecosystem built around Trusted and VIP uploaders to Helpers and Moderators that delete hundreds of ‘spam’ accounts and fake uploads every day which in turn keeps the site running smoothly and its users happy. This ensures that the content is exactly what it is described to be. The ranking system of uploaders (which is a skull in different colours like the Karate belt system) allows any novice downloader to form a bond with a certain uploader.

As an artist, you need to have a unique reference point, something that is easy to find. Having a generic band name is not a unique reference point. If you Google names like Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Motley Crue or Metallica you know you get back searches that are related to the band name you Google’d. Google a band name like Today I Caught The Plague or Burnside. Then Google the same names with the term band attached to it. Any artist starting off needs to make it is easy as possible for people to find them online.

There is always room for improvement. The Pirate Bay keeps on evolving as technology evolves. Now it is simply an indexing site, that services the needs of its users, the same way Google service the needs of its users. It is always re-creating itself with the rise of new technologies.

All artists need to be doing the same thing. The web presence of any artist needs to be maintained, updated and recreated. It needs to adopt to changing technologies, to offer as many features as it can to its fans.

Why do so many Dream Theater, Bon Jovi, Metallica, Motley Crue or Five Finger Death Punch fans spend so much time on Forums that have no connection to the main web site of the band. Bands should be fostering these kinds of interactions on their main website. They should even be contributing to it, the same way they contribute to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. At least you know on the band forums, the real fans are there to interact and respond.

The Pirate Bay’s user base is growing because the users are prepared to share and people are prepared to download. This alone should inform the legacy gatekeepers that the fans of music are no longer sheep. The Pirate Bay showed the RIAA and the MPAA that their rules and prices suck and that service is a problem (remember iTunes launched in Brazil in 2011). The old model of basing success on record sales is gone. The old model of going to the record store and planning what albums you were going to buy in the months to come is over.

Artists need to service their fans. Make it hard for a fan to get your music, and they will go elsewhere. Trivium is a great example. They recently had a very complex (also brilliant) smart phone strategy that once you completed all the steps needed, the fan got to hear a sample of a new song. I can tell you that as a fan engagement tool, this attempt failed miserably. It was too hard for fans. So what do Trivium do next. They offer the full song for streaming via their website and as a free download. Now it is easy as hell. To paraphrase the Eagles, keep it easy…

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