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

Greed

Greed threatens everything. The act of wanting more doesn’t work in a business built from emotions. People connect with music because it connects on an emotional level first. And not all connections are transactions. Sometimes it takes years for the music fan to spend money on an act.

So where are we at?

Years ago, in the land that introduced streaming, Swedish musicians sued the major labels Universal Music And Warner Music over streaming royalties. At the same time, major artists around the world also sued their labels over how they paid iTunes sales back to them. Eminem said it should be under the licensing rate (which is higher), while the labels argued that it should be under the sale rate (which is lower).

Then artists started filing “copyright termination” applications (which is legislated, that they are allowed to do so), however the record labels kept rejecting these applications and off to court the two parties went. Some artists won and others like Duran Duran lost. And some are still on going.

Because the labels don’t want to lose control of these rights as the more Copyrights they hold for popular songs, the more power they have at the negotiation table with the techies, so in return they get higher licensing fees, which they really keep to themselves. If the labels really cared about the artists, then they wouldn’t have put the masters of classic albums, plus the back-ups, in a tin shed with no climate control. And when it all went up in flames they employed subterfuge.

But when Napster came and the distribution gatekeeper got abolished, everyone said the major labels would fold. But instead they got more powerful because for any technological service to operate with music, they need to have a licensing agreement. YouTube has one, Apple has one, Spotify has one, Tidal has one, Pandora has one, Shazam has one and so on.

Which is a shame because of all the advances made, the major labels still operate with a business model rooted in the past. The majors still pay about 10% royalties to artists for digital income. The 10% average rate is based on the era’s when the record companies produced a physical product like vinyl or CD, stored it in a warehouse and then transported that product to a brick and mortar store. Of course at that time all of these steps in the process where accounted for.

However in the digital age, there is no need to even produce a physical product like a vinyl or CD, however the labels are still short changing their artists. If the streaming rates paid to the labels were so bad, trust me, the majors and the RIAA would be the first ones screaming theft.

Streaming services pay 70% of their revenues to music rights holders. How much of that money gets passed on to musicians depends on the terms of their contracts with labels.

If you are on a major label roster you should have followed the Def Leppard route. Due to the disagreements they were having on the digital payment terms with their label, they refused to let their label put their catalogue on digital services.

However, in order to cash in on the “Rock Of Ages” movie and the sudden interest in “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Ages”, they re-recorded these songs with the current band and released digital “forgeries” (as Def Lep called em) of these classics. But they did it on their own terms.

And when Def Leppard’s music finally hit streaming services, with the rate that they wanted, well there is no one really complaining about the rate?  

How did it get like this?

Once upon a time, the artists had the power. Read any bio from the 70’s and you’ll see how painful the artists were for the labels to deal with. And the artists never did what the label wanted. The label wanted hits, they wrote noise. The label wanted more like the last album, the artist went in a different direction. Then in the Eighties, the labels stole the power back through economics. With the rise in revenue due to the CD, it made the labels mega rich powerhouses. And MTV was also making artists into platinum starts. And the artists just fell in line. Because they couldn’t handle seeing an executive flying private on the monies earned from artists.

But artists today, can go it alone. Because it is the connection the fan has with the artist which is valuable.

And if more people are paying for a subscription service, then the overall pool of money grows. So if the artist is in control of their rights, then they will be paid forever. If they signed their rights away to the label, then the label will get paid forever and they will pay the artist some.

But there is always the temptation of promised millions right now to sign away your rights forever.

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

It’s An Artist World, So Why Are You Giving Your Rights Away

When you have a non-major label song enter the much loved “major record label” chart, you get a sense that something is happening in the wind.

Especially when its a kids song, released in 2016, written by a South Korean company who does children music, with 50 plus million Spotify streams and over 2 billion YouTube views.

The song is stupid and not my cup of tea, but this post isn’t about the song, it’s about how a non major label song can breakthrough in the internet era. These anomalies that happen few and between will end up being the norm. If the artists allow it to happen.

Because at the moment, we still have our favorite bands drip feeding a pre-release single every 4 weeks of their upcoming album and unless it’s ubiquitous, the music is instantly forgotten. Can anyone say “Bullet For My Valentine” had a new album out last year?

We also have these “newbie” acts struggling for years to get their songs noticed and then they build a loyal audience, get an offer from a label or a publisher, sign away their copyrights and they forget why they broke through in the first place. Which was their music to fan connection.

In other words, if you are not being heard, you can’t solve your marketing problem tomorrow.

Some acts could not have made it without a label, but the label is not keeping these acts going anymore, the fans are.

But the recording industry is the same as it ever was by focusing on radio and charts while the internet allows acts to put out new music every day if they desire.

Every artist riding high on the “much loved” charts started by giving their music away for free. No one waited for a label rep to say yes, or for a label to give them money. They just started, they wrote, they played, they recorded, they released and they repeated. And they failed, and they tried again.

And if you have a deal, you need to know that the labels work to a calendar about what to release and when to release it. It’s never your choice.

Record Labels want to sell, while an artist is looking to have a career and fans are looking for access. And remember if there is no artist and fan connection/access, the labels will have nothing to sell and the artists will have no career. It’s an artist world right now, so why are you giving away your rights.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Copyright Suits

Poor old Lana Del Rey. Radiohead are suing her for copyright infringement in her song “Get Free” which has a verse that sounds similar to “Creep” released in 1992. On her own Twitter page, Del Rey mentioned the below;

“I know my song wasn’t inspired by Creep, Radiohead feel it was and want 100% publishing – I offered up to 40 over the last few months but they will only accept 100. Their lawyers have been relentless, so we will deal with it in court.”

Boy George had the best quote on his Twitter account. “Radiohead were sued by The Hollies and now Radiohead are suing Lana Del Rey. Utter Madness!”

For those who don’t know, when “Creep” came out in 1992, everyone said how similar it sounded to “The Air I Breathe” from The Hollies, released in 1972. So of course if a song shares a chord progression and melody with another song, the artist must be sued for copying.

So the song’s writers Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood sued and received co-writing credits and a percentage of the song’s royalties. And now, Radiohead are doing the same.

But Radiohead claim they are not suing Lana Del Rey. All they want is a credit, and Radiohead’s Publisher disputes what Del Rey put on her Twitter account.

And how many copyright infringement court cases does “Uptown Funk” need to get through. The song came out in 2014. In 2015, members of The Gap Band were added as songwriters of “Uptown Funk” because The Gap Band had a song with the lyric “Oops! Upside Your Head” and so does “Uptown Funk”.

In 2016 it was certified Diamond for 10 million track sales in the U.S. Also in 2016, the funk band Collage sued claiming “Uptown Funk” was a copy from their 1983 song, “Young Girls”.

In 2017, Lastrada Entertainment, owner of the copyright of Roger Troutman and Zapp’s “More Bounce to the Ounce”, put papers in court claiming the first 48 seconds of “Uptown Funk” and the repetition of the word “doh” crossed the line into infringement.

Seriously, this is how messed up it all is. “Oops, upside your head” and “doh”, crosses the line into infringement. And suddenly the songwriters of “Uptown Funk” is starting to resemble a football roster.

And now at the end of December 2017 and going in to 2018, 1970s rap group The Sequence are suing Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson, claiming “Uptown Funk” is infringing on their 1979 single, “Funk You Up” and of course everyone wants credit and monetary damages.

The thing that is scary is that the people who sued Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson, believe that their words and music are totally original, created in a vacuum and free from any influence. I don’t think so.

And for even more stupidity, Taylor Swift has a lawsuit to contend with based on words and phrases.

The two songwriters Nathan Butler and Sean Hall believe they should be credited on Taylor Swifts song “Shake It Off” because a song they wrote in 2001 called “Playas Gon’ Play” has the phrase, “Playas, they gonna play/And haters, they gonna hate” which they believe Swift ripped off by having the phrase, “Players gonna play, play, play, play, play, and haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,”

Wow. Just wow.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Saying One Thing At Time

There is a common view in economics, if something is difficult to get, it’s better because in the mind of the customer, the goods or service they cannot get becomes a powerful want.

How does this work for an artist?

If an artist is creating songs and making those songs difficult to get, the audience would surely move on to something else.

Super fans of artists make up 10% of their audience base.

I believe the way the artist releases songs is out of sync with the time.

If a person talks for 70 minutes we will hear nothing. If an artist releases 70 minutes of music, we will remember some and forget the rest. Because most of the time, we’re hardly listening. If you don’t believe me, ask a Metallica fan to name all the tracks of “Hardwired To Self-Destruct” and then ask them to sing the chorus of every track.

Back in the 80’s we had time to listen. When we dropped the needle on our latest purchase, we laid back, looked at the album cover, the lyrics, the credits and listened. There is a study out there that states we enjoy music even more when we have this information at hand and we know the story behind the songs. But back in the 80’s all we really had was our music and movies for entertainment. Technology and the home PC was starting to enter homes, however it wasn’t big enough to take up the conversation. Also, some of favourite albums lasted between 30 to 40 minutes in total. So what the artist had to say back then was less than what they say now.

But today, the youth are not like the youth of the 80’s. Hell we are living in times were a country (Saudi Arabia) made a robot a citizen. All new music is competing with the history of music, plus TV shows with movie budgets, plus blockbuster movies, plus technologies and social media, plus AI created news stories and the history of print.

Maybe music works are better when they are released frequently and when an artist tries to say one thing at a time, instead of 10 different things at once.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Our Best Work

Systemic change is a process, not an event. It’s a long-term, consistent and persistent effort that makes real change happen.

You want to lower carbon emissions. Then small changes need to be made. If every single person and corporation made some small changes today, carbon emissions will be reduced in a year. Make some small changes again the year after and carbon emissions will reduce again. Keep these small changes happening year after year and watch carbon emissions come down to acceptable levels.

You want to write a book. Try to write 500 words every day. At the end of the year, you will have written 182,500 words. A 300 page book is between 90,000 to 110,000 words.

In Sweden, a company called “Plantagon” is building a skyscraper to grow food to provide the city with fruit and veg. A small change now can help the future because our world population is getting bigger. And as we populate more and more spaces, questions are asked as to how nature can support our infinite growth. For every human pound, there is 30 pounds of infrastructure in roads, concrete, cables, pipes created.

But everyone just thinks about the now. It didn’t used to be this way. But today it is. It seems like every conversation is centred around “how can you be paid today” or “how much money can you make” or “how can you monetise your latest idea or creation” or “how can you pass a law that a corporation paid you handsomely to bring to the Senate floor?”

Even our emails are offering us ways to make money. I am sure every single person on email has come across one that says, “Take this survey and get paid”.

The best are the news stories of 20 something millionaires who purchased goods from retail stores at a discount and then sell them on line for a profit. But the news story is a PR stunt, paid for by the 20 something marketing team to increase awareness of their brand. And in a lot of cases, if people dig deep into the stories, those twenty something millionaires are children of multi-millionaire parents and grand-children of multi-millionaire grand-parents.

Our best work is the heart of what we do and sometimes getting it out there is a long difficult journey full of scams and rip offs, highs and lows, good and bad people, rejection and acceptance. But you will not get there if you quit. It’s what you do in the dark, which will make you shine in the light.

Because when you create your most important work, it could be ignored by the audience because it’s ahead of its time. It requires people to change their thoughts and beliefs. But all important work ends up rising above the noise.

Black Sabbath’s debut album didn’t reach platinum in the U.S until October 13, 1986. Yep 16 years later, the most influential heavy metal album had moved a million units in the U.S.

But their tours sold out, which goes to show that people didn’t always buy recorded music. It goes to show that music was always a live business. Compared to the 80’s hard rock scene, Ratt went platinum within a year and multi-platinum within two years on “Out Of the Cellar”. Their shows sold out and by the 90s it was all over.

You could be an artist creating work which is popular, and it resonates with the audience who already like what you do. “Dr Feelgood” was always going to be Motley’s best seller. They spend 7 plus years building an audience with each release and tour. And it also became their most important work as well. In addition, it spawned a new production sound that would become known as the “Black” sound after Metallica’s self-titled album destroyed our senses.

A recent addition to the list is the viral sensation. This happens when the audience can’t stop talking about what an artist did. Remember, “Gangnam Style”. Umm, where is PSY now.

On occasions, all the planets align and all three things will co-exist in your career. But the truth is you’re going to need to choose which kind of art you want to produce.

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

Rock/Metal in the early 90s

In 1990, the biggest hit singles in relation to sales and chart placement where “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor, “Vogue” by Madonna, “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice, “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer and “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette.

In 1991, the biggest hit singles where “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams, “Black Or White” by Michael Jackson, “Joyride” by Roxette, “Wind Of Change” by Scorpions and “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.

In 1992, the biggest hit singles where “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men, “Rhythm Is A Dancer” by Snap! and “To Be With You” by Mr Big. And of course let’s not forget “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus.

By the early 90’s, I always believed that the remnants of the dominant 80’s rock movement was looking for ways to fit in and get back people’s attention. A lot of the acts signed towards the late 80’s had already splintered. Some got dropped and tried to get a new deal or they just left the recording business for good. And you had a lot of acts from the 80’s, who had platinum success and somehow were still together and looking for ways to survive in the 90’s. You also had the 70’s acts that re-invented themselves in the 80’s thanks to MTV and were looking to keep the momentum going well into the 90’s. Aerosmith and Kiss come to mind here.

However, rock and metal bands was a big album business. Because in 1987, after Bon Jovi’s and Europe’s explosion in 1986, the biggest hit singles in relation to sales and chart placement where, “La Bamba” by Los Lobos, “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody Who Loves Me” by Whitney Houston, “It’s a Sin” by Pet Shop Boys and “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna. But Jovi was selling “Slippery” by the truckload.

In 1989, the biggest hit singles where “Like A Prayer” by Madonna, “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles, “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins, “The Look” by Roxette and “Love Shack” by The B-52s. So rock and metal music did do well commercially selling albums, but it paled significantly compared to the pop world.

Meanwhile, the recording business was in a race to the bottom with a winner take all mentality. Label after label started to get sucked into the vacuum of the larger label. Changes in personnel happened so fast that once an artist was signed, a few weeks or few months later, the people who signed the artist are no longer working at the label and the interest to develop and promote the artist disappeared. So the artist is in limbo. But the label is not letting the artist go, just in case the artist makes it with another label. It’s one of the big no-no’s in the recording industry.

A record company in the 80’s would get you on radio, music television, magazines and they would push the album hard enough to achieve platinum sales. If it didn’t “sell”, they would put you in the studio again, get you further in debt and if you failed again, you would be dropped. A record label in the 90’s would sign you and then drop you before you even released anything or had a chance to get your message across.

And in today’s world it’s getting even harder to get your message across. It’s weird, because everyone has smartphones and everyone is connected however this great digital era also means that the users are the product. Facebook makes billions selling your data. 

 

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Changes

Love him or hate him, one thing is certain. Nikki Sixx is a lifer in the music business and once he and Allen Kovacs got back control of Motley’s catalogue in the late 90’s, they went about reinventing his image and persona, until he became bigger than the rest of the Crue guys combined.

Sixx A.M. released “The Heroin Diaries” back in 2007. The album along with the book was an instant purchase because Crue was my favourite band in the 80’s. Their attitude, their pop choruses, the street life lyrics and their simple but effective riffage all connected with me. And even though I had many different guitarists’ as influences, Crue showed the world that you don’t have to be the most gifted musicians to write effective songs that connect.

The 10th year anniversary edition of “The Heroin Diaries” came out today, so I’m giving it a few spins. And you know what; it stands the test of time. It’s a pretty good album. My favourites still are “Life Is Beautiful”, “Accidents Can Happen”, “The Girl With Golden Eyes”, “Van Nuys” and “Pray For Me”. The first three songs I mentioned also get a 2017 treatment.

Man, 10 years is a long time in music. You could be here and then you could be gone. You could be the star of the scene or then you could be forgotten.

Think about it. In 1989, the Crue released “Dr Feelgood”. By 1999, the Crue was creatively non-existent. But that was back in the era of when the record labels controlled the industry.

The internet has given bands a longer life span. Yes, the net has created so much noise, which makes it hard to rise above, however the internet and piracy to a large extent has spread the music of bands to every single corner of the world. Which means that someone right now is listening to an artist they’ve never heard before. Changes are a-happening.

In 2007, Avril Lavigne had the best-selling record globally. She hasn’t released anything since 2013 and you don’t even hear about her in the news. But once upon a time she was everywhere. She might be the star again. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t. Fall Out Boy had the best-selling album in the U.S in 07 however Fall Out Boy has the rock work ethic and they have been consistently putting out new product since then. They have a new one coming in 2018. Some of it sticks and some of it doesn’t.

The TV show that was popular in 2007 is not here anymore and the pirate sites you visited to get your content fix are gone and there is a high chance you are paying monies to a streaming service. Because in the end, that’s all we really wanted, access to products. Not ownership. Changes are a-happening.

In 1997, used to be the sale was the transaction. In 2007, the label still saw the sale as the transaction because that’s all they knew but it was an irrelevant metric. In 2017, the label still sees that sale as the transaction. However, it’s the listen. While society and consumerism has changed at a rapid pace, the labels and the charts are still stuck in an old paradigm. If you don’t believe me, check out the news stories on how the algorithms for the Billboard charts are changing yet again. First they changed to count something like 1200 streams as a sale. Now they are changing again to weight listens from paid streaming services higher than freemium listens.

Seriously WTF.

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