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

It’s Never The Record Labels Fault

There are a lot of stories of how the recording industry has been transformed since Napster.

Most of it is around the losses of income. Most of it portrays the recording industry as the music industry. And all of the stories told from the main news sites, blamed the technology. It was never the fault of the record labels.

Then the iTunes store came and the purchase of mp3’s became legal. And people still complained. You, see the profit margins are nowhere near as good as the CD profit margins. And still the fault was with the technology for not paying enough or not charging enough. It was never the fault of the record labels.

Then YouTube appeared as the earliest form of streaming there is. Users uploaded their fan made clips and their music catalogues. And again, the fault was with the technology and not with the record labels.

Then streaming came on the scene in Pandora, Grooveshark, Deezer and Spotify and the conversation shifted to the pennies paid per listen.

Song writers (people who write songs for other artists) started to complain about what streaming services pay them. Artists complained about what streaming services paid them. And the streaming services keep on saying they are paying 70% of their income to the rights holders, which in 99% of cases is the record labels and publishing companies. Vivendi, the owner of Universal Music is now considering going to an IPO based on the brilliant profits their balance sheet is seeing from streaming licensing and royalty payments.  But the whole time, the technology is to blame for not paying enough. It’s never the fault of the record labels.

Did you know that in 2016, $3.9 billion dollars came into the record label bank accounts from streaming services?

If you don’t believe me, check out the stats from the International Federation of The Phonographic Industry. I wonder who is taking the lion share of those monies.

Here is a dirty little secret from streaming services. They are not making any money. They don’t have the mass, so they rely on capital investments to keep on going. Sort of like a legal Ponzi scheme. Take money from new investors to sustain the business and keep old investors happy with the hope to get legal paying customers to the service.

In the meantime, the much-loved CD product of the record label is getting sold on Amazon and a lot of them are counterfeits, so no money is going back to the record label or the artist. And again, Amazon is to blame for selling counterfeit CD’s because it’s never the fault of the record labels. To the record labels and the artists they represent, it’s Amazon’s fault for not policing this.

So everyone is to blame for the record labels failures except themselves.

Does any remember back in 2015, when Sony’s contract with Spotify leaked?

The record label is getting over $45 million in license fees and there is no transparency if any of these monies make it down to artists and songwriters. The bigger artists/songwriters will have clauses in their contracts for a larger slice of the streaming revenue, and some artists/songwriters are still operating under the old CD-era contracts. You don’t hear Metallica or Max Martin complaining about streaming monies.

In the end if you are signed to a label, creating music which is being listened too and are not getting paid, your issue is with your employer, the record label. But it’s never the record labels fault.

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A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

STREAMLINE

Where do you want your fans to go?

Give people too much choice and they don’t buy at all. It’s one of the reason’s why a lot of people are still sitting on the fence when it comes to streaming. They’re not sure if it’s going to stick. My musical journey started with vinyl and cassettes, then I had to upgrade my vinyl/cassette collection to CD’s, then I ripped all of my CD’s into MP3’s and now I’m doing streaming. As just one music consumer from the millions in the world, I have Megadeth’s “Rust In Peace” on vinyl, on CD and on CD again as a remastered release. Actually, this is the same deal for all of Megadeth’s output up to “Rust In Peace”.

For Motley Crue, (it’s the same deal for all of their albums up to 1989) I have “Dr Feelgood” on cassette, vinyl, CD, CD remastered, in the box set “Music To Crash Your Car Too” and on CD again remastered with bonus tracks.

For the 1994 Motley Crue CD, I have it on cassette, the CD with the red writing and the CD with the yellow writing. Plus I have the super expensive Japanese EP, “Quaternary”.

So you can see how band sales are really inflated when you have other people in the world doing the same thing I am doing, which is re-purchasing the music in different formats and in some cases with bonus tracks upgrades.

I will used “Shout At The Devil” and “Dr Feelgood” from Motley Crue as a case study.

“Shout At The Devil” came out in January 1984. By November 1989, it was certified triple platinum for 3 million in sales in the U.S. You could safely say that Motley Crue had 3 million fans. However in May, 1997, it received its 4x Platinum award for 4 million U.S. sales. While the label and the band would believe they had picked up an extra million fans, the truth is, those million sales over 8 years came from their original 3 million fans, re-buying the same album in a different format or packaging maybe once or twice.

“Dr Feelgood” came out in November 1989. By January 1991, it was certified 4x Platinum for 4 million U.S. sales. Its next certification came in May, 1997, for six million U.S sales. Again, the band didn’t just pick up 2 million new fans. Instead it was the hard-core fans re-purchasing an album they already owned on normal CD and then with the remastered bonus tracks.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the late 90’s they had too many models, all with design and functionality issues, that even Apple couldn’t keep up servicing them. So, it’s no wonder that Jobs streamlined the product range. And then Apple started to make money again. Now that Jobs is gone, Tim Cook is following the same mistakes of the other clueless leaders Apple had when Job’s wasn’t in charge. Too many products with too many bugs.

Look at the band releases these days and how many different offerings they have. The recent Metallica release has the following packages;

  • CD – normal album
  • Vinyl – normal album
  • CD – Deluxe album
  • Vinyl – Deluxe album
  • iTunes – normal album
  • iTunes – Deluxe album
  • Streaming – normal album
  • Streaming – Deluxe album

Why is there a need to have a normal album release and a deluxe album release these days?

Why can’t the album just be the album? If the band wants to put out three discs, let them and call it THE ALBUM…

Price and the how people will pay high prices for what they deem superior or rare is one of the reasons mentioned for the deluxe edition still existing but these days the deluxe edition is not in limited supply anymore. Millions are in circulation. The real main reason is due to artists and labels refusing to abandon the past.

Jobs refused to be chained to the past. Legacy ports were axed on the iMac. CD Rom drives got axed on later versions. The iPod was murdered by the iPhone. If Jobs let the past dictate the future, Apple would have been left dead and buried. But the past is the Achilles heel for the music business. The public is moving on. It doesn’t care if HMV goes under. It doesn’t care if mp3’s are declining. Hell, mp3’s via Napster is nearly 20 years old. The public at large doesn’t care about deluxe editions. Super fans and fans of bonus tracks do care but the music business cannot roll on these fans alone. It needs the majority, hence the reason why streaming has become a big player, because it offers access.

Trust me the labels would prefer to not have streaming, because the listens are anaemic on signed acts. Hell, there are DIY bands who have more listens on their account than label backed bands. But streaming exists, because the majority wanted it.

Don’t let the past dictate the future.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Once Upon A Time There Was A Rock Band

A rock band signs a record deal.

They are so happy.

All of the years of hard work has finally paid off and now they can go about writing, recording and touring while the record label foots the bill. And by default of having a recording contract, the masses will gravitate to them without question, especially once they do a music video.

But the months of hard work for the current version of the band goes back to many years before, when a group of friends decided to have a life by travelling the country side in a van, just to play in front of zero people on occasions. They believed if they put the hours in, they would gain attention.

Then a member leaves. It was obvious. They needed to get a real job as they started to have commitments. From 4 original members, they are down to three. The new replacement is good, a better musician, but not a friend. Months go by and the new entity has bonded like never before.

Then another member leaves. As people grow older, their priorities change. The band is not fun anymore and the member who left was doing music for fun, not for a recording contract and not for arguments about how many fans did they befriend on social media. The band is down to two original members who by chance are the two main creative forces.

With the addition of another new member, to join the two original members and the old new member, the band seems to have lost some momentum. The dynamic within the band changes. The new member and the old new member have gravitated to one of the original members and suddenly, the two original members are at each other.

But they are lifers. Music is all they ever wanted. They sacrificed school, normal jobs and family for music. Plus they have invested heavily into the band. So they keep on going. They have no other choice if they ever want to recoup. And they keep on arguing. But they are getting some success and the way they see it, the success outweighs the issues the dysfunctional band is having.

So they sit down with their manager to go through the contract once the negotiations are done with. Their manager is a man who lives a simple, non extravagant life and he tells them the cold hard facts of their recording contract.

The advance would just cover studio time, with an unknown producer, an unknown engineer and an unknown person to do the mastering. Of course that unknown producer, masterer and engineer will end up being the same person, who is extremely talented and keeps on telling the band how he is doing this project as a favour. Don’t you just love it how favours cost money.

“But what about living expenses”, asks one of the members’.

“Of course there are some living expenses included”, states their manager. 3 month’s rent for all of the members while they are recording the album. Of course, all of the monies are payable back to the label from net profits the band makes selling their music.

The manager congratulated the signed band and told them to not quit their day jobs.

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

Money Pool

“One of the biggest myths about being a rockstar would probably obviously be the word ‘rockstar’ itself. You know — that everything is given to you. You make free records, or you win a Grammy, or you have a platinum record and then everything’s sort of easy. I remember when we first got signed in 1995 in my mind I thought, ‘Wow, we made it.’ and then I realized that we left our town of Sacramento and went to the Midwest of America and we’re playing for 2-3 people a night sometimes.”
Chino Moreno – DEFTONES 

Def Leppard released two albums before they started to write the songs for “Pyromania”. And to top it off, they had a 700,000 pound debt to the record label. Bon Jovi had a US$500K debt to their label and still living at home with their parents when Jon and Richie started to write the “Slippery When Wet” album in the basement of Sambora’s mothers place.

“I mean, somewhere along the way, people just played music for the love of playing music and somebody else recognizes that you can make money from it, and it’s been a developing thing to the point where, in the ’90s, music business was making so much money that it was bigger than the movie industry, bigger than any of the entertainment industries. There’s the business and there’s the music. I was raised in the business and I remember seeing how there were clashes between people — this is the way to make money and da da da… there was so much money involved. And then the Internet came along and just F–#d the whole thing up. So now the industry is struggling to figure out how to make money off of it and artists have actually gone to the point of conforming to the industry — how they can make money — so they’re all working together. I think there’s still this whole creative side that hasn’t changed which doesn’t really want to fit into that category, but it’s hard to make a living. So a lot of people do that by playing clubs. But it’s just harder, the opportunities are different from when I started.”
SLASH 

All hell broke loose in the late nineties. According to the recording industry and the media outlets that spin their garbage, Napster killed everything. But music is powerful and fans still gave their favourite artist money. It was just a shame the recording industry didn’t know how to deal with it or how to track what was popular via the pirate sites and try to monetize those fans. And we all know how the recording industry responded.

“When we started, being in a rock band was one step away from being an outlaw. No one ever said, ‘Oh good, you’re playing in a rock band, how wonderful!’ But music was so important to the fans, that was our marching music to the revolution. Stuff moves along, technology moves along. I think there’s still going to be an excitement created by seeing your favourite performer live. It might not be the kind of music that you and I like, or Gene likes, but it’s still going to be there.”
Joe Perry – AEROSMITH

And the kerfuffle with bootlegged CD’s at Amazon. That is another recording industry screw up. Fans purchased a product that they believed was legit.

“On a commercial level, rock and roll is all safe, but underneath all that, there is a great hard-core young movement that is doing rock and roll in earnest. It’s just that the way the business is right now, it’s so corporate that none of these bands will get a shot to do what I got to do, you know? Be discovered in a club and have an A&R person develop the band and get them ready to go into the studio and make a record. And then make a second, third record ’till they really come into their own. Now it’s all about commercial one-hit wonders, and it’s a whole different industry now. But there’s a lot of great rock and roll bands out there that have to go the way it should be done; for the passion and not for the money. It’s not for the glamor of it but because you love it. A lot of people are doing it because they have an agenda.”
SLASH 

And almost 20 years later, the song remains the same. The youngsters surge forward into the future with little experience and plenty of hope. The only difference is they document it via social media. Back when I was growing up, we did it anonymously.

“Any useful technology that’s successfully adopted by a culture won’t be abandoned. Ever. The technology might be replaced by a better alternative, but society doesn’t go backwards. After books were accepted, few went back to scrolls. After air conditioning is installed, it’s never uninstalled.”
Seth Godin

Streaming has won and artists are recognizing the difference between “one” sale transaction and the unknown of how many times that person listened to the music vs a person listening to the music multiple times via a streaming site.

Streaming has been adopted and the majority of people are not going back to vinyl, CD’s, cassettes or mp3’s in the same way the majority of people are not going back to Kodak cameras with films or purchasing an expensive camera when their phones will do a job that is “good enough” and “convenient”.

I’m still in between. I love the convenience of streaming however there is a part of me that still yearns to have an actual product of my favourite band on a shelf. I am sure my kids would dump my music collection after I pass, but while I am alive, I am still a collector, but a picky collector.

“It’s really not fair when an artist is making a deal based upon ‘take it or leave it.’ I don’t believe that most artists are getting what they deserve; they’re getting what they can. And that’s a–backwards. That’s the tail wagging the dog. When somebody is, in essence, saying, ‘I will do this with or without you’ — well, you don’t have much to stand on, and that’s the unfairness. That’s the injustice of the Internet.”
Paul Stanley – KISS

With more people streaming and paying for a subscription, the pool of monies will grow.

Money was low when vinyl came out. Not everyone had surplus cash to purchase vinyl in 1948. Eventually as the economies rebuilt post WW2, people started to spend money on “entertainment”. By the time Paul Stanley got into the music business, vinyl was over 20 years in the market and there was a lot of cash to go around. Then the vinyl cash dwindled until CD’s became the cash king and the record labels rode that wave until Napster came and showed them what people want.

Let’s judge streaming in 2030.

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Music, My Stories

Yesterday and Today

YESTERDAY
We waited in line to get the newest record or we had to get the record store clerk to order an album in.

TODAY
We go to the Internet, iTunes, Spotify, The Pirate Bay, Amazon, etc.

YESTERDAY
We saved our cash and had to make decisions as to what album we purchased based on the funds available. We tried to maximise our purchases.

TODAY
We go to the Internet, Pandora, Spotify, The Pirate Bay, YouTube and have the history of music at our fingertips.

YESTERDAY
The labels believed that people would always want to buy a CD.

TODAY
CD sales are going down as the medium becomes another niche collector’s item for the hard-core fans.

YESTERDAY
We couldn’t live without music.

TODAY
We still can’t live without music.

YESTERDAY
The record labels would “Support” an artist by giving them a big advance, which the artist could never pay back due to some creative accounting from the record label. Thirty Seconds To Mars sold 3 million albums of “A Beautiful Lie” and they still had a debt of about $1 million to the label. Creative accounting I say.

TODAY
The large record labels gives out a small advance and somehow the artist still can’t repay it back due to creative accounting. The smaller record labels tell you to record your album on your OWN budget and then if they like it, they will give you a small advance to license your copyright of the album to them. If it sticks and crosses over, call the lawyers to re-negotiate otherwise, if the band doesn’t experience “success” like the bands of the MTV era, they will break up and by default, the copyrights remain with the label, which they will then use as a bargaining chip.

YESTERDAY
Music came first, money was a by-product. It was never a focus.

TODAY
It’s all about entitlement and being paid. Just because someone wrote a song and released it, it doesn’t meant they deserve the right to make money from it.

YESTERDAY
We shared our record collection with our friends.

TODAY
We share our listening habits and likes online with strangers

YESTERDAY
We lived as a pack, getting together socially, going to the Club to hear live music and building culture as we went along.

TODAY
We build a monument to ourselves on social media and get together via LIKES.

YESTERDAY
No one told us how great they are.

TODAY
Everyone is promoting themselves and telling everyone who doesn’t care how great they are.

YESTERDAY
Youngsters grew up wanting to make music to satisfy a need to create.

TODAY
Youngsters grow up thinking music is about money.

YESTERDAY
Bon Jovi was a band and the creative element behind the music was Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

TODAY
Bon Jovi is known as a solo act and Richie Sambora is being written out of Bon Jovi history. If you don’t believe me, check out all the news recently about a recent Billboard article that talks about “Livin On A Prayer” and the writers are mentioned as Jon Bon Jovi and Desmond Child. But from the interviews I have read, the embryo version of “Prayer” was written by Sambora.

YESTERDAY
There was no overnight success.

TODAY
There is no overnight success.

YESTERDAY
Rock and metal music was a consistent seller.

TODAY
Rock and metal music is still a consistent seller.

YESTERDAY
Artists borrowed from their influences, who borrowed from their influences, who borrowed from their influences and it was okay.

TODAY
Artists borrow from their influences and if they have a “hit”, they get sued for copyright infringement, plagiarism and whatever else the lawyers can think off.

YESTERDAY
RIAA spent a lot of money, taking pirate sites to court and winning default judgement’s but never really getting the cash from those judgement’s.

TODAY
RIAA is still spending a lot of money taking pirate sites to court, winning default judgement’s and then complaining that the three/six strikes policy (that they wanted the ISP’s to implement in the first place) is too expensive to administer.

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

The Past Is Done. The Future Is Here.

The Internet age.

Where everything is thrown against a wall and whatever sticks, ends up lasting forever.

In other words, first week sale numbers don’t mean a thing. The scorched earth publicity and marketing push by the label for an album release don’t mean a thing.

If any artist is focusing on the here and now, its contra to the way  the music business works in the connected Internet era. We’re (the fans) are only concerned with what lasts.

But the media tries to sell it so that everybody who is involved in music deserves to be rich from music. But how many are willing to do the work, especially when nobody’s paying attention to them.

Being in music isn’t about the highs or lows, winning and losing. It’s about surviving.

Here is a little secret.

The ones that end up winning in the future are creating their catalogues away from the radar, in stealth mode.

And it’s not easy.

Every musician is competing against the means of production. The costs to create content are low and we (the people) are overwhelmed.

What do we read, what do we watch and what do we listen to?

Everybody’s got a book to read, a documentary to watch, a track to listen to and no one’s got time to do it all. The last four years of my Guitar World subscription are still in the plastic wrappers the magazines came in.

Unopened. As a subscriber since 1986, I thought I would keep it going until this year is over. So January 2017 is my last issue.

The last time I read the magazine, it sounded like the article was written by the PR company instead of the actual journalist. There was no guts to the story and there was no in-depth analysis. Nothing at all. Gone are the days when Wolf Marshall used to go In Deep into players styles and so forth.

But the press over the last fifteen years believes it must promote everything and is rarely critical. And the press is missing the point how we are in the midst of a revolution, living in an era of chaos that will not last forever. But no one is reporting it. It’s all about piracy, copyright trolls, Spotify royalties or something so far removed from the real issue.

Fewer people will be successful from now on than before, despite everyone being able to create. We are going to have just superstars and niches.

And for all of those rock bands and metal bands, guess what, it’s still about the one song that hooks people in. But not all people. The entire world doesn’t live and breathe music. Remember that in your quest for global dominance.

And one last thing.

Spotify is not the problem, YouTube is. YouTube has more visitors and pays less. At least on Spotify you get the whole album along with the “song” that draws people in. Notice on YouTube it’s never the whole album. Yeah I know that some user accounts on YouTube have the whole album up but you need to look for them, go deep. So if you are in the album game, then you want your fans going to Spotify. But not a lot of artists are willing to say that.

But the album is fading. Yeah I know it makes great profits, but a 70 minute album with two good songs is a bad fit for today’s listeners. We don’t have time to listen to an album twenty times to get it. That’s what we did when we had no cash and could only afford one disc. But that was in the past. You don’t see the telegram and analog mobiles coming back.

The past is done. The future is here.

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

CrueVice

“I don’t tell artists what they want to hear, I tell them what I know to be true.”
Allen Kovac – Manager 

By the end of the Eighties and the early Nineties, Motley Crue was an arena band. By the beginning of the two thousands, the arena crowds of the Eighties and early Nineties had withered down to the loyalist crowds of a club/theatre act. The change of musical climate didn’t help matters. The change of lead singers during this period also didn’t help matters. The polarizing “Generation Swine” album and the B grade “New Tattoo” didn’t help matters. Cancelled tours and shows also didn’t help matters. As a fan, you had a sense that the glory days of the past were over.

But little did the fans know that in 1994, Nikki Sixx cleaned out the old management team and in comes Allen Kovac.

“At the time, they were very dysfunctional. I said (to them) I wasn’t going to take them on unless they had an operating agreement that allowed us to make decisions in a more businesslike way, with shareholders meetings and board of directors meetings. There’s still plenty of chaos in this band, but because of the operating structure, they succeed.”
Allen Kovac

Nikki Sixx was given a tie-breaking vote. From then on, Motley Crue was reborn and the decisions made during those years came to fruition in 2003, when a newly reformed Motley Crue started to play sold out shows around the world. It’s important to note that two very important events also happened during this 9 year period.

  • In 1998, Motley Crue got control of their recorded masters and publishing. This was unprecedented in the recording business as all the income the record labels derive is from exploiting the recorded masters, however Motley Crue pulled it off and a few years ago so did Metallica.
  • In 2001, “The Dirt” brought a worded element to the visual and audio shenanigans that is Motley Crue.

“Without owning their own masters and publishing, I don’t know if there would have been a Mötley Crüe in the lean years. It’s part of having multiple sources of income for your business, not just one.”
Allen Kovac

“That book became a tent post. We marketed it like a record and we dropped a greatest hits album with it. Some people said, ‘This book could be career suicide for you,’ but it has connected with so many people.”
Allen Kovac

In 2005, after 25 years of Motley Crue, Nikki Sixx wanted to do other things.

“We had to face reality. I told Nikki the truth: out of all of Motley, you’re the least known. The guitar player [Mick Mars] was in all the guitar magazines, the drummer [Tommy Lee] had been a celebrity for decades and the singer [Vince Neil] is the front man. We had to think creatively to get over that barrier.”
Allen Kovac

To get over the barrier, Kovac encouraged the book and music release of a journal that Sixx kept from 1987. “The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star” was released in 2007. The rise of Nikki was beginning. Kovacs then pitched the idea of a radio station on iHeart Radio. Sixx Sense arrived in 2010.

“Nikki now makes more money from his radio show than he does in Motley Crue.”
Allen Kovac

The radio franchise gets half of the generated ad revenue.

And guess what Sixx AM are doing next?

Yep, that’s right, they are releasing a double album in 2016, months apart.

Allen Kovac tested the waters of a double release with Five Finger Death Punch a few years back to great success. In 2013, Kovac pushed to the band to record 2 albums worth of material and release them only months apart. Then he put them on the road supporting Avenged Sevenfold, which saw less money in appearance fees but more money in from merch sales. In 2015, “Got Your Six” was one of the biggest selling metal/rock albums for the year.

“I met with Jeff [Kwatinetz, FFDP’s label boss and former manager] and said, look, I can make Five Finger a global arena band, but there’s no way to do it if the label deal keeps taking merch and touring income so aggressively. Eventually, he agreed; it became a true partnership.”
Allen Kovac 

People can jump up and down about streaming payouts or piracy.

Others just move on to other revenue streams. They adapt.

In music it’s always been about the art (song writing/music) first and money and commerce is a by-product of the song writing.

When the music business was controlled by the record labels, it was booming because of the income derived from CD sales and block buster albums. So the advances/budgets were huge and people were conditioned to believe that it was all golden brick roads forever.

The truth is, music is still booming. There is more money in music right now than there has ever been. However the labels don’t control the distribution. There are other key players. Instead of the brick and mortar record shops, we have online music shops. Instead of ownership we have access.

Tell me how many anti-piracy laws have been passed over the last 50 years and then tell me how many of those laws have had an effect on piracy. Think back all the way back to when cassettes came out.

In my view, the legacy players have no desire to stop piracy. It is an excuse they use to take back control of the distribution of music. The record labels want it be like the old way, where the only way to create quality music required expensive studios and the only way to be heard was to sign a recording contract stacked in the record labels favour. So what is an artist to do where exploitation is the name of the game when it comes to music?

Arm yourselves with information. Don’t buy in to every headline that reads “Piracy decimated the music business”, “Spotify decimated the music business” and so on. Read more and read far and wide. Google is at your fingertips.

If you start to make money, surround yourself with people who challenge you and tell you the truth. And be prepared to adjust your vision time and time again and be prepared to fail as well because if failure is not an option, then neither is success. I think Seth Godin said that once. Because in the band that created “Dr Feelgood” also created “Generation Swine”.

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