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

How Do You Know If An Album Is Successful?

You are an artist performing solo or within a band.

You decide to record an album.

You spend time and effort writing, recording, producing, mixing and mastering your latest opus.

You do some promo and release it.

Then what do you do.

It doesn’t sell what you expected. Once upon a time, the definition of a successful act was based on how many records they sold.

Sebastian Bach still can’t get his head around why he has 800,000 Facebook Followers and only 6000 people in the U.S purchased his new album “Give Em Hell” in the opening week. For the record, it is a great album. I have heard the album, but I didn’t purchase it. I went to Spotify and streamed it.

So if it doesn’t sell as expected, it doesn’t that mean the album didn’t do well. What it means is that fans of music have consumed it in many different ways. I actually liked it enough to go onto Amazon and add it to my shopping cart. I haven’t purchased it yet. I will wait until the price drops below $10 before I do. And then it will go on the shelve in its wrapper.

In this day and age sales can never be used a metric for success. However, if there are songs there that are undeniable and an audience starts to resonate with those songs, then expect to sell.

Five Finger Death Punch came out in the piracy era. In the same era that has greedy corporations telling politicians that piracy is decimating the music industry.

Well, this piracy era hasn’t stopped Five Finger Death Punch from moving over 500,000 units in the U.S alone for each album. Yep that’s right, Five Finger Death Punch have been selling records since their debut album came out in 2007. Even the recent “Wrong Side of Heaven” Volumes 1 and 2 are moving close to the 500,000 mark for each of them. Combined these two albums have moved over 700,000 units.

So I am really over bands or artists who lament that no one buys their music. People do buy music. People do stream music. People do download music without paying for it.

And all of those people who access an artists music both legally and illegal will also invest in concert tickets and merchandise. They will even invest in REAL limited/deluxe edition perks. Not the kind of perks that just come with a DVD or a T Shirt.

Artists should take a leaf out of RatPak Records. They have various packages available with each release and at a price that isn’t extortion.

In my opinion, an album can be defined as a success if people are coming to the shows and singing the songs of the album.

WASP released “The Crimson Idol” in the early nineties. Commercially it didn’t do anything however if you talk to any WASP fan and I bet you they can sing the songs from that album. In 2014, it is seen as Blackie Lawless’s finest achievement.

Machine Head released “The Blackening” in 2007. It didn’t sell in the millions, however it allowed Machine Head to go on a three-year victory lap on the back of it, touring the world over and over and over again. It was hailed by Metal Hammer as the album of the decade. It is also seen as Machine Head’s definitive masterpiece.

One of my favourite independent bands “Digital Summer” have been managing their own career and their own releases with great success. Recently they just had a run of dates with Volbeat and Trivium. Prior to that, they have done tours with Shinedown, Three Days Grace, Three Doors Down and many other acts. They have done shows on their own. And they manage themselves. They finance their own recordings. They ask their fans to help out via fan funding campaigns. So big deal if their albums haven’t sold in the millions. They are over 10 years deep and still rocking.

So how do you know if an album is successful in 2014?

If people are listening to it, coming out to the shows and singing the songs.

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

Musicians can’t be immune to reality – Say Hello To The Entrepreneur

Piracy can never be handled with a one size fits all business model. Each product that is released needs to have its own strategy to combat piracy.

Sending a million takedown requests to Google will not solve the problem. It is a waste of money and resources. Even a recent study by the Computer and Communications Industry Association challenges the long-held perception that search engines actively promote unlicensed content. According to the paper, even if all capability to search for pirate sites is removed, sites like Isohunt and The Pirate Bay would still survive.

So how will artists get paid?

If the artists’ works are copied, does it mean they need to be paid and if artists are not paid, is going after the people who shared their content going to get them paid?

The answer is NO. The only ones who get paid are the lawyers.

So if artists are not paid for the songs they write and record because, hey, they spent money doing these songs, so they should be paid. If they are not getting paid then the industry needs to get powerful people to write up laws that give those same powerful people even more power and we will say it is for the poor old artist who will still not paid.

In the end, once artists start looking for sales of their recorded music they start to become entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is an individual who organizes and operates a business, taking on the financial risk to do so. As an entrepreneur you have to offer something which somebody else wants to buy. If you want to make money you need to provide something of value that somebody else wants to pay for. I want to show the difference between the mentality of the majority of artists and a software developer.

John Saddington is a software developer from the U.S. He loves to snap photos of his life. As a WordPress blogger, Saddington grew restless with the services available for uploading images to his blog and the lack of ownership he had over them. So what did Saddington do? He decided to build his own iOS app. Read the full story here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/toyota/2013/08/19/entrepreneur-develops-new-way-to-share-images-online/

Saddington started doing it part time, then went on a Kickstarter campaign, got backers/funding and has now spent all his time working on the app. By July 2013 it was in testing. He wants to monetize the app, however he wants to avoid advertising and purchases inside the application. Saddington is also looking for venture backers, however many are waiting to see whether the app gains traction after its August launch in 2014.

The last part of the story is a great piece of advice for any artist starting out:

“In the end I may be called a simple-minded fool, a perennial idealist that believes in a simple rule that seems to work quite well: If you reward and treat your users with respect and create exceptional value for them that they will return that in spades,” Saddington said. “The challenge is finding a way to extract that tangible value without offense. That’s the entrepreneur’s challenge, that’s their mission, that’s the goal. It’s a noble one, at the very least.”

The reason why I am highlighting the above example is to show artists the amount of work that has gone into this iOS application and there is no guarantee that it will make any money apart from the $56K it got from KickStarter. However a lot of misguided musicians and record label executives believe that just because they spent their time and money writing and creating a song they need to be paid, over and over and over again for it.

Musicians can’t be immune to reality. If they want to stay in the game, they need to innovate on the rules that came before. NOT FOLLOW THEM. Innovate on them. Great artists innovate. Entrepreneurs innovate. Entrepreneurs take what has come before them and create something new. Hell, that is the Steve Jobs model.

Singing generic songs about relationships and heartbreak over and over again is death. How many times is David Coverdale from Whitesnake going to search for love or ask for love to be given or to be in love? Is there any motivation to create something different.

Knowing how to play and writing a song is not enough these days. The public needs a point of view, something of substance. Musicians need something to say. This is getting harder in an era where people are concerned more about stardom. Just because music saves your soul and rocks your world it doesn’t mean that the rest of the population is interested.

Dream Theater recently had a listening party in New York. In the show bags given out, the attendees got a CD. Those CD’s had the attendees name on it. It also had a certain form of DRM. The only way to play the CD was via a good old fashioned stereo. If the disc was put into a computer CD tray it wouldn’t play. You can say that this is a way to control any leaks of the album.

So let’s just say that if I put the CD through the stereo and plugged the stereo output into the computer. I think I would be able to record the music on my hard drive. I also believe that it would be decent quality.

Or let’s just say that if I put the CD through the stereo, cranked it, had the microphone out and recorded the album into the computer. I think I would have a pretty decent recording on my hard drive as well.

So what Roadrunner Records would have done is given some company a lot of money for this form of DRM and charged it back to the band. To be honest it can be easily circumvented if people WANTED to do it.

Piracy is hard to be stopped however it can be competed against. Piracy is a service issue. Pure and simple.

Read this story from the Economist. http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21583688-internet-really-so-different-phonograph-pennies-streaming-heaven

The internet is just another disruptive service to the entertainment industries; you know like the time that the VCR was going to destroy Hollywood. Instead the VCR opened up a whole new ownership and rental income stream for Hollywood. Or when Cassette tapes came out and home taping was said to be killing the music industry. With all new technologies, the entertainment power brokers try to destroy it at first. When they release that they are going to fail, it then becomes part of the new market. In 2012, recorded music had its first year of small growth.

Music-streaming services will reduce piracy. The free option is already there for Desktop users. It is ad supported. The next step is to move this free option to smart phones as that is where the market and subscriber base resides. Otherwise, you will lose the customers to YouTube, which is unlicensed.