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

TheWay Of The World

If you risk, you could lose. There’s no safety net in life. All of the people who have succeeded say you need to fail to succeed. And we don’t hear from those who risked everything and failed and now have nothing. Hell, we don’t even know their names.

If we want a better future, we need to be able to see the world as it is. It’s easier said than done as we are all products of our tribes. The family we grew up in, the friends we associated with or still associate with, the city we grew up in, the school we went to, the music we listen to, the teachers and employers we had, the books we read and so on. Basically we have so many influences in our lives. The biggest one is money. It’s a system designed to keep us in a cycle of debt. We grow up watching our parents argue over it. We got to school so we get “skills” to earn it. We get jobs so we have it. We get credit cards and loans to have more of it. We invest in shares and property to make more of it. And the cycle just goes on.

To top it off, tech innovation has created a “superstar” lifestyle, which is even more extravagant than the music “MTV superstar lifestyle. We see it all over the news and social media. So we try to be one of the players. We pretend on social media our lives are better than what they really are.

But we are currently living in a “winner-take-all” economy. The internet is controlled by Amazon, Facebook and Google. You can add Apple to the list with their iTunes/App store. Streaming is controlled by Spotify, Netflix and YouTube. Retail is controlled by Amazon. Social media is controlled by Facebook. Search is controlled by Google. We can use their tools for productivity or to make money, but it’s on their rules, which can change any time.

But we still plod on, trying to make it. But we don’t know where to start, so we take all the roads on offer, only to get back to the start.

Everything we were told was wrong. The internet didn’t topple the old players. It just created more of the same and in the process it made the old players even more powerful. In relation to music, the artists created their own problems by signing terrible contracts in the first place. Then when they had songs make it big, they would renegotiate their contracts and resell their copyrights to a corporation for an advance payment plus a royalty cut of any “profits” the song makes, less “expenses”. So they get paid in the short term, but lose in the long term. The record labels knew this.

Why do you think they lobbied hard to get Copyright terms changed to be life of the creator plus 70 years after death?

They will pay the Estate of the artists a few million here and there for a popular catalogue of songs, which will keep the Estate happy while they laugh all the way to the billion dollar profit sheet.

The TV mirror tells us the world is dangerous. We see news of terrorist trying to kill innocents or moments after they’ve just killed innocents. Certain channels will try and influence the debate to suit their point of view. Meanwhile, the internet never forgets. We expose ourselves online and give big corporations all of our private data, which they sell to other marketing corporations or hand over to the government if they are warranted. All the while, we are exposed to fake news or real news and people just can’t read critically enough or care to read critically enough to make up their own minds.

We don’t have enough time to have showers, let alone put together a critique of two conflicting news items.

And somewhere in this chaotic life we all lead, there are artists who want to have a music career. They are sitting at home making music on Apple Logic or Cubase or Pro Tools. They put it out on streaming services via an aggregator like Tunecore or CD Baby. They tell all of their “social media friends” to check out their new song without realising it’s an empty echo chamber and they end up nowhere. The reason is simple. Making music is great, but making connections is even better. It’s the way of the world today.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Short Term

Thinking short term is hurting us. Every leader in charge thinks about the now and never about what’s around the bend. The majority of people in charge of corporations only care about the now. What is our bottom line looking like? There is no care about their environmental footprint or employee well-being.

Record labels are the same. They focus so much on first week sales and charts as they believe it brings in an instant payday, without understanding that the payday they are really earning is from music created 30 plus years ago and it just percolated, slowly rising to the top.

Have you heard of the record labels starting to employ artists as employees and offer them retirement plans? 

Of course not. That’s long term thinking. 

So Disney is pulling its catalogue of movies from Netflix in 2019. As a Netflix user, I say who cares. I never started subscribing to Netflix because they had Disney movies. I started subscribing because I wanted Netflix Originals. And with the addition of a comic book company with a cult like following, Netflix is looking at creating its own shared universe. It’s positive and long term thinking.

How often do we hear that people have no reason to pirate from the movie studios and record labels, as their catalogues are available online legally?

Amnesia seems to be the order of the day for the labels and studios because the online legal alternatives are fragmented. And as long as fragmentation exists, the pirate sites will be numero uno for content consumption. Same deal for music that’s available on Tidal or Apple and not on Spotify and vice versa. It’s ridiculous. So are consumers meant to have three streaming subscriptions for music and another ten streaming subscriptions for movies/TV. I don’t think so.

Consumers don’t want to have a dozen or so subscriptions. Just look at the cable TV industry. Too many subscriptions are expensive and not manageable, especially when these streaming sites are competing with illegal streaming sites who offer everything on the same site. Illegal streaming sites also show the content industries what kind of supply consumers want. At the moment, the content industries are focusing on the payday right now which means limiting the supply instead of the payday in the long term which means to open the supply and get more people to subscribe.

So what would Spotify do if Universal, Sony and Warner pulled their music from the service and started up their own service like Disney?

I don’t think it will happen. The revenues the three majors are getting from streaming licensing deals and royalty payments is insane. They would be crazy to leave Spotify. But if they do, Spotify is in trouble as it has no original content.

Have you seen the revenue numbers from Warner Bros lately?

Streaming grew by almost 60% from $227 million to $360 million. Downloads bring in $88 million, down from $121 million. Forget about vinyl, CD’s and cassettes. They are niche items that collectors would buy, however they will not sustain the business.

Overall income from recorded music grew by 13% to $770 million and it happened on the backs of listening instead of selling. Consumption in the 2000’s is all about access.

So if Spotify doesn’t pay, how did Warner accumulate $360 million dollars in streaming fees? All of those artists who sold their rights to corporations are losing out big time. The corporations who hold the rights are making a lot on streaming. 

The rich are getting richer. Meanwhile, we have clueless sites reporting how legacy artists need to hit the road to keep an income as they have no monies coming in from streaming. Well, these legacy artists need to get with the times. Get their fans to stream instead of buy and the corporation that has your rights will get paid royalties. And if you have a good deal with the corporation that holds your rights, you will get paid as well. If you don’t have a good deal, you will get squat. The game is rigged in the record labels and publishers favour. They are making a tonne.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The internet was supposed to level the playing field, give us all a chance. Instead we have monoliths who control 70% of the marketplace. And the powerful always abuse their position. Look no further than the scandals.

In Australia, we have our largest bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, involved in money-laundering. The deputy commissioner of the Australian Tax Office was covering up the multi-million tax fraud of his children. Politicians are resigning because they developed amnesia and forgot they are dual nationals, which is a breach of the Constitution. And still no word if they get to keep the money they fraudulently earned or they need to pay it back. All short term thinking.

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

The History Of Music

What if you put out new music and no one cared?

Getting people to pay attention is your main priority. Who cares if they do not pay for music? They will eventually.

If you’re a middle of the road artist that was around in the pre-internet era, making money on streaming payments will not be as good as it was on sales pre-Napster. But, in saying that, you are competing with all the superstars in the history of music for people’s attention. There are no more gatekeepers deciding what music should be in print and what music should be out of print.

If you make money from recordings, is not really relevant, because most of the money is in touring, merchandise and sponsorships. And it always will be, because human experiences will always get people to pay. So you know that streaming fan who hears your music on YouTube. Well they could be the fan that shells $500 on a VIP ticket. And you could have thousands of those fans waiting for the human experience to roll into town.

But if you do want to make money from streaming music, then stay independent and don’t sign to a label. Especially, if you own your copyrights, Spotify pays pretty good, provided people are listening. And the more people who embrace streaming, the greater the pool of money to divide. Remember when AC/DC refused to have their music on iTunes and even streaming services? Now they’re on all of them. Holding out for big dollars from recorded sales is a detriment in the long run, especially when YouTube and pirate sites have their catalogue for free.

But false narratives thrive in the music business like Spotify doesn’t pay enough, that it should give more of its revenues to artists. But Spotify already pays 70% of its revenues to rights holders. The enemy is obscurity.

Malcolm Gladwell said in “Outliers,” timing is everything. All the hours of practice to be proficient at your art, will give you expertise, but it will not make you famous. Twisted Sister played the club circuit for 10 plus years and they put in their 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. It didn’t stop every label in the country from rejecting them. But no one could see the opportunities MTV would bring to rock and metal music. And Twisted Sister was there to make the most of the opportunity. Timing is important and so is change.

And change is everywhere. Bands used to have places to play live. By the time those bands got heard by a larger audience, they had already played thousands of gigs and were good. Then between 1983 to 1991, hard rock bands got signed by the hundreds. Musicians jumped from band to band to band to band in order to get the timing right and get signed. And artists who thought that hard rock and metal got too commercial branched out and played a more abrasive style. Thrash, Techno-Thrash and Death metal bands started springing up all over the place. This rise in the creative arts also led to many new record labels to capitalise on these new scenes. In the process the metal community fractured even further.

Remember when the first Metal Massacre album came out it in 1982, it had bands that played rock and metal on it. Ratt and Steeler held the flag for hard rock and Cirith Unglo and Metallica held up the flag for some of the different styles coming through. In between was the standard metal bands. It was a unity. But by the time, Metal Massacre 7 came out in 1986, hard rock ceased to be on it. It was more of the extreme styles of metal.

Everyone went into their own bubble, trying to promote their own scene and dishing the other scene. Some artists made money and some didn’t. Meanwhile the record labels rolled in it because the economy was good and people had money. But everything changes. And the kids of those 80’s music consumers see music as infinite, while we saw it as a rarity. While I used to decide which albums to buy for my $20, my kids can stream the history of music for less.

And that is your competition. The history of music versus your new release.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Metal Music

Heavy F…. Metal.

In 2018, it will be 50 years from when Steppenwolf, screamed the words, “Heavy Metal Thunder” in their iconic “Born To Be Wild” song. And while the reference to “heavy metal thunder” was the loud sound of the motorbike, it seemed to stick for a style of music that was just around the corner.

But heavy metal goes back a bit further than that. You see, in the 1930’s there was a guitarist called Django Reinhardt.

He was a jazz shredder who passed away in 1953, well before heavy metal became a tour de force. But to become a shredder, wasn’t easy for Django. You see, a fire in the late 20’s extensively burned his left hand and other areas of his body. His right leg was paralysed and his fourth and fifth fingers on his left hand were badly burned. The Doctors told him that he will never play guitar again and they wanted to cut his leg off. Django refused the surgery and within a year, learned to how walk again with the help of a cane. But his two fingers remained paralysed. So Django had to relearn how to play the guitar by using his thumb and two fingers.

Fast forward to the 60’s and an unknown Birmingham guitarist tore off the tips off his middle fingers in a freak factory accident. A visit from the company foreman, alerted Tony Iommi to Reinhardt.

“It really inspired me to really get on with it, and start trying to play.”
Tony Iommi VH1 in 2015.

Although Iommi’s problems weren’t as severe as Django, he still had to do things a bit differently. While Django had to relearn how to play the guitar from scratch using less fingers, Iommi just needed to innovate. The first innovation was the creation of the plastic finger tips. The second was the down tuning of the guitar from standard pitch to accommodate the plastic finger tips.

And while Sabbath are seen as the forefathers of heavy metal, metal in general was more than just Sabbath. It was the attitude, the rebellion, the free-spirited nature, the community and gang-like mentality. And this attitude goes back to the early 60’s. In 1964, Beatles records accounted for 60% of all music sales in the U.S. according to Billboard magazine. Rock became a commercial force, priming the U.S kids for the more abrasive, distorted version of rock would enter in a few years’ time.

But to understand the Beatles, you need to go back to Chuck Berry, the father of rock and roll. The Beatles covered “Rock And Roll Music” and “Roll Over Beethoven”. John Lennon ripped off Chuck Berry for “Come Together”.

Hell, the Beach Boys ripped “Sweet Little Sixteen” from Chuck Berry and called it “Surfin’ U.S.A.”.

ELO’s career was jump-started when they covered “Roll Over Beethoven”.

Let’s not forget “Johnny B. Goode”, a hit when it came out, and in 1977 the song was launched into space with the Voyager I and II spacecraft to await discovery. Chuck Berry was a metal head before metal was even around. He sang about fast cars, women and teenage rebellion. In other songs, he questioned the status quo. And since those days, metal has grown worldwide. It’s the new world music. As an article in the Wall Street Journal states;

“Today’s “world music” isn’t Peruvian pan flutes or African talking drums. It’s loud guitars, growling vocals and ultrafast “blast” beats.”

The internet and mp3 sharing has spread heavy metal music to all corners of the world. Music in general was locked up, behind gates, but now we can hear every song ever recorded online, even the songs from “out of print” albums. People from oppressive countries who wouldn’t normally have access to metal music suddenly had access via their fingertips. Metal music is a lifestyle. You live the way you look and look the way you live. There are no pretensions. And you can’t get more metal and no bullshit than Ginger Baker, a person who inspired future metal drummers going on record detesting the style. That’s exactly the free-spirit of a metaller.

“I’ve seen where Cream is sort of held responsible for the birth of heavy metal. Well, I would definitely go for aborting. I loathe and detest heavy metal. I think it is an abortion.”
Ginger Baker – Cream 

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Speed Of Moving On

Once upon a time, there was the BlackBerry. It was the phone for professionals with a full miniature keyboard and an operating system that provided emails and messaging functionality. But, the iPhone’s launch with apps in 2007 changed the game. It showed the world, that people didn’t just want a phone for emails and messaging. They wanted to do more. And that more came from apps. This brand new ecosystem, put tools into the hands of their users. Developers and companies rose up all around the world, just to create apps for the iPhone. But they couldn’t do the same on the Blackberry.

So while the Blackberry executive brass said that users would not want an iPhone, they totally missed the boat on how app developers increase the value of their own product.

In 2007, Blackberry was number 8 in global smartphones sold. Fast forward 10 years later, it has 0.0% market share.

Google dominates the numbers game because it gives out Android to phone makers for free, making it the operating system of choice for low-cost handsets in the developing world like India and China. Apple, on the other hand, keeps iOS in-house and its prices high — limiting its reach but maximising its profits.
BUSINESS INSIDER ARTICLE

The speed at which people abandon one thing and move on to another is huge. Remember MySpace. Remember Yahoo. Remember dot-matrix printers. Remember film cameras.

We are living in the generation of kids born from 1997 onwards. A generation who wants to consume music but not in the same way that their parents did. Their sense of community is all online. These kids weren’t alive when the Record Labels ruled the day, so they have no desire for yesterday, they are all about today and what lays beyond.

And the biggest story of the past five years that hasn’t been told is the seas of information that makes it nearly impossible to get any message heard. The main newspapers articles are written by publicists. The artists chime in to help Metal Hammer rise again, but they keep on forgetting that it’s the people who used to purchase the magazine that have moved on. We are sick and tired of the publicist articles. There is nothing new there. We can get all of that information from Wikipedia. Hell, artists who have a following, don’t need to do interviews, just start-up a blog and control your own news.

Success tomorrow means having an opinion today.

Attention is first. The money comes later.

This is 2017, where even the biggest acts in certain genres are unknown to many. It’s different to the mid 80’s, when MTV ruled and a limited number of acts had constant rotation on the channel.

I dare most people to sing two Shinedown songs and the average person has no idea who Five Finger Death Punch is, however both bands get as many RIAA certifications as bands in the 80’s did. In the same way, that most people don’t know which is the biggest video game, or the biggest online game or the biggest app or the biggest book. There’s just too much information.

Businesses depend upon customers. If no one is buying, companies fail. Artists depend upon audiences. If no one is listening, artists fail because the money is in the mass. The more people who listen, the more money the artist will make. But they need to get people’s attention.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Piracy Incorporated

The Pirate Bay (TPB) is going to turn 14 years this year.

From its inception, it was a facilitator, spreading the disruption caused by Napster years earlier to even larger audiences. It showed the entertainment industries how they needed to change. But they didn’t change and it took companies like Netflix and Spotify to make this happen. And they did it by using the same technology made famous by The Pirate Bay. But while Netflix realised that money is in producing your own content, Spotify and other streaming providers have not. Licensing content from someone is not a satisfactory business model. Just ask HBO, formerly known as Home Box Office. Their early business model was all licensed content and they lost money year after year, while the movie studios got richer. It wasn’t until HBO went into original content, that they started making some serious cash. As soon as Spotify, Apple, YouTube and Pandora realise that they need to enter the recording business to produce their own content, the music industry will change and disrupt even more.

TPB had to stand strong against the pressure put on it by the MPAA and the RIAA and their sister organisations throughout the world. It has stood firm against government officials (loaded up in lobbyist dollars) trying to prosecute it. It was taken down, raided and it still survives. And it keeps on innovating even when court orders become the new normal, requesting ISP’s to block the web address or domain registries to deny any applications for TPB domains. Even in it’s home country of Sweden, court appeals and cases are still ongoing. Google was even pressured to alter (in my view censor) its search algorithm, so TPB doesn’t come up.

But TPB is still alive. It has become a vessel for people to access content they normally wouldn’t have access too. In the process, it has made the world a better place.

Metal music in general has grown to all corners of the world. Suddenly, every country has a metal scene and the larger metal bands that have the means to tour are suddenly hitting markets they’ve never hit before.

The high rates of software piracy in Eastern Europe caused an IT skills explosion.

Romanian President Traian Basescu, once told Bill Gates that digital pirating helped his nation build a budding software industry.
REUTERS Article on Eastern European Piracy

The high rates of music creation software piracy led to the electronic dance explosion coming out of Europe.

In the process, artists have gained decent followings. However, while bands in the past had followings, it was assumed that every single follower had purchased recorded music and that the band had made money. But that was not the case in the past and it still isn’t today.

I had music recorded on cassette tapes and video tapes to begin with.

  •  If the radio played a song I liked, I recorded it on cassette. I did this by pressing record every time a song started or was about to start and if I dug the tune, I kept the recording going. If I didn’t dig it, I stopped the recording and rewinded the tape to the last song, so I can start again. The rewinding part was easy when the tape was new, but when you started to record after a previously recorded song, you had to rewind to that point in time. The same process was carried out with video tapes. I was explaining this to my kids and they didn’t look amazed at all by my rewinding abilities.
  • I had friends of my brothers who had dubbed music on a cassette from someone else who copied it from someone else who copied it. So on some occasions the music I got was a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. It sure sounds like mp3 downloading to me.
  • My brothers had one friend who purchased a lot of music, but he wouldn’t let no-one copy it. I remember one time I borrowed the “Fireworks” album from Bonfire and “Blow My Fuse” from Kix from him, without asking or telling him. He reckons I stole it. What kind of thief am I, when I returned the borrowed goods?

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. With social media, it can spread even faster. But you need to be able to follow it up, quickly and with quality.

  • Volbeat got traction in the U.S in 2012 on the backs of a song they released in 2008. This in turn started to bring attention to their previous albums. Success comes later in today’s world. In some cases, much later.
  • This is very different to say, Galactic Cowboys. Back in the late eighties, Geffen Records signed them to a deal and just kept on pushing the band onto the public with a pretty high-profile marketing campaign. The marketing budget was huge, the recording budget was huge, but the public just didn’t take to them. There was no word of mouth. No one spoke about them and when you brought them up in a conversation, it was a “who”. In saying that, I thought the band was innovative and excellent.

The Pirate Bay’s user base is growing and replenishing.

  • For the thousands that stop using the service, another thousand start using the service.
  • For the thousands that stop listening to Metallica, another thousand started listening to Metallica.
  • For the thousands that stop listening to Ratt, another 10 started to listen to em.

You do the math as why certain things get bigger or remain bigger, while other things reduce in scale.

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

And Comparisons For All….

What a month in the world for new music.

After Bon Jovi withheld “The House Is Not For Sale” for a week from Spotify, the band managed to land the Number 1 spot again and sold over 128,000 units via a concert ticket promotion campaign that included a physical copy of the album with every ticket purchased. And the mainstream press lapped up the news.

While today, both Metallica and Sixx A.M. released new albums. “Hardwired To Self Destruct” and “Prayers For The Blessed” hit the streets. Meanwhile, Avenged Sevenfold’s unexpected album drop “The Stage” has had two consecutive weeks in the Top 10 Billboard charts. But those anyone care about the charts.

Is anyone listening to the albums?

At least Metallica, Sixx A.M. and Avenged Sevenfold didn’t withhold their album from Spotify like Bon Jovi did and treated their paying streaming fans the same as their fans who purchase a physical product.

“Hardwired” is up to 11,526,511 streams on Spotify and 21,076,824 views on YouTube, while “Moth Into Flame” is at 7,531,372 streams on Spotify and 12,859,400 views on YouTube. “Atlas Rise”, a song which came out a week ago has 6,793,498 views on YouTube.

Bon Jovi’s new music on the other hand pales compared to Metallica. The “This House Is Not For Sale” video came out three months on YouTube and it has 5,115,129 views. “Atlas Rise” from Metallica which came out a week ago has already overtaken this song. Other pre-release singles, “Knockout” has 793,789 views on YouTube and “Labor Of Love” has 480,060 views on YouTube.

This tells me that Bon Jovi is not gaining any new fans while Metallica still is. Even Lars Ulrich admitted as much when he was at a loss to explain how their self-titled “Black” album was still moving 2000 units a week 25 years after its release.

Avenged Sevenfold’s “The Stage” video that came out a month ago is up to 9,292,711 views and it has way more than Bon Jovi’s three videos combined.

If you want to compare listens, Avenged Sevenfold’s “Hail To The King” music video released 3 years ago has 67,228,814 views on YouTube. Bon Jovi’s “Because We Can” music video, also released 3 years ago, has 14,483,692 views. So it’s pretty safe to say that Jovi’s last proper album was a dud of epic proportions and it looks like “This House Is Not For Sale” is headed for the same fall. But those charts show it’s a number 1 album and the mainstream press is all over it. That’s the one part the big legacy players still control in music. The news cycle and their belief is he who reaches the most people wins today. But there is no story in Bon Jovi’s Number 1 album.

I heard the album today and it’s already in the rear view, fading fast. It was withheld from Spotify for 7 days and it comes out on the service when Metallica and Sixx A.M release albums that are way better than Bon Jovi’s offering. So my listening attention will be diverted to those bands for the next few weeks.

Streaming services are now the biggest contributors to the record labels bottom line. Streaming has won. The majority of people who like music, listen to recorded music via a streaming service. And if Scott Ian and the other guys from Anthrax can get behind streaming, anyone can be converted. Maybe not Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

A scorched earth publicity campaign might get a decent return on first week sales and then what.

Selling a 130,000 copies in a week or even a million copies in week, in a country of 300 plus million is a needle in a haystack. But the news reports it. If the news cycle wants to report on bands selling, they should report on Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Shinedown, Skillet and Volbeat, who still have their albums on the charts, after months and in same years over a year and half since release date. Yep these artists are still selling units or racking up enough streams to count as a unit sale. But those bands don’t own the news cycle and they didn’t make it big in the 80’s, so why would the media report on them.

There is a common misconception that fans of artists who made it big in the 80’s or the 90’s don’t care about their new music. That’s not true, we do care about their new music. But it needs to be good for us to care and it needs to be good enough to attract a new generation to care as well. An artist’s career is dependent on the need to replenish their fan base as fans drop out and new fans drop in.

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