A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Metallica – A Lot Has Changed Since 2008.

Seduced by fame
A moth into the flame

I have been listening to “Moth Into Flame” on Spotify daily. I must say it’s one of the their best songs written since we entered the 2000’s. The structure of the song, the brilliant intro, the lyrics, the barking verses and the melodic chorus all stand out.

Infamy
All for publicity
Destruction going viral

It could be about anyone in the entertainment business. Hell, it could be about Metallica’s Napster lawsuit.

For “Hardwired… To Self Destruct”, I like the lyrical message and the story behind the title more than the song in itself.

“Fifteen years ago, when you put out a record, there was a particular way that you did everything. Now it’s just whatever works for you. We’re in the process of putting a new record out this fall, and we’re just doing whatever we feel is right. There’s no particular way that it should be.”
Lars Ulrich – METALLICA

The last time Metallica released an album was in 2008. First week sales of “Death Magnetic” in the U.S market topped half a million units. But back then, streaming didn’t exist in the U.S market. It also didn’t exist in the major European and Asian markets. Now streaming makes up a large portion of the record label revenue however the price points are still debated. The customer has the option to purchase an album digitally, purchase the album on vinyl or CD, subscribe to a paid streaming service, subscribe to Spotify’s free tier or illegally download the album for free. Depending on the country you are in, the price points range from $0 USD to $10 USD.

As the Forbes article states, there is no alternative price in between even though research has shown that a $4.99 USD monthly subscription fee would convert the 60 million free tier streaming users into paid users.

What is better for the recording industry, 30 million users paying $9.99 USD a month or 90 million users paying $4.99 USD a month?

Do the math.

30 million paying users at $9.99 = $299,700,000

90 million paying users at $4.99 = $449,100,000

Metallica are masters of their own destiny, masters of their own recordings. For them, they do not have the high risk unknown that other labels have. They do not spend close to 20% of their revenue on artist development. They can negotiate their own streaming rate with Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and Google. But they still do it the old way, taking time out to write and record 10 plus songs for a release. They will still judge this album on amount sold, instead of the amount streamed.

The article at Forbes, states what the record labels of the future would look like in six bullet points and one of the points is an artist-run record label.

Metallica own their masters. With the help of their management team, they have set up their own label. This gives the band negotiating power and it allows them to monetise their masters for the best price possible. Spotify has Metallica on it and it was on Metallica’s terms. You don’t hear Metallica complaining about the lack of money given to them by streaming services. Actually Kirk “I need a wah wah pedal for leads” Hammett might complain.

“Back in the day when Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning approached the music industry with a little baby they had called Napster, and the music industry refused to entertain any kind of deal with them on any level. Instead they open-sourced it to the world, and that changed the face of music. And so the industry’s reluctance to go with technology back in the day is something that we’re all, unfortunately, suffering from to this very day. Thankfully, the industry has seen the error of their ways, and they are embracing digital and technology on an unprecedented level, and we’re going through an adjustment period. It’ll take time.”
Dan Draiman – DISTURBED 

Instead of working with Napster, the recording industry got Lars Ulrich on board and went to war against the consumers of music. But in 2016, the recording industry is at another crossroad. It needs to decide on a price point for streaming that converts the 60 million plus free users into paid users. But the record labels want an increase in the current $9.99 price point. As far as the labels are concerned, it needs to be more.

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

The New Music Labels

There are a lot of discussions happening around the film industry.

For example, would the new Star Wars movie be better served as a HBO/AMC/NETFLIX/etc TV Series?

Instead of a two-hour movie for Episode 7, would it serve the Star Wars story line better if it followed the Game Of Thrones formula and produced ten 1 hour episodes.

Two hours vs Ten Hours.

What would the customers want?

In relation to music, Napster pretty much showed the recording industry what customers want. More single songs than a slab of songs.

It’s pretty obvious that CD’s are not making a comeback. Yes, they are still selling, however so is vinyl. Both niche markets for the time being. The majority of the listeners have moved to streaming services, digital downloads, YouTube or P2P downloading. Whatever the method used to consume music, access is the key word.

Do we want to watch a movie in our home theatres or do we want to put up with dirty Cinema’s, people talking and deciding that the movie experience was the perfect time for them to have a Subway Roll, Satay Chicken from the Thai restaurant next door or some other kind of lunch/dinner.

What people want is instant access. But the content providers would rather sell 5 movie tickets ONCE to my family than get a percentage cut from a monthly license fee from a streaming service over and over and over and over again.

The content providers would rather sell my family ONE Blu-Ray/DVD than get a percentage cut from a monthly license fee from a streaming service over and over and over and over again.

I was talking to me kids about a movie called “Who’s Harry Crumb?” a few days ago. It got them excited to watch it. So i pulled up Netflix, searched for it and it is not there.

Bummer.

Did I got out and buy a copy of it?

Of course not. We just moved on to another movie, which in this case was “The Replacements”.

Same deal with music.

The best emails I get are the ones from Spotify when they tell me a certain album from the bands I follow is available for streaming;

In the last week, those emails have covered the following releases;

  • Survival by TesseracT
  • The Book Of Souls by Iron Maiden
  • Got Your Six by Five Finger Death Punch
  • Life, Love, Loss by Degreed
  • Here To Mars by Coheed and Cambria
  • Love, Fear and the Time Machine by Riverside

I remember the old days when we all rushed to the record store or to the cinema so we could purchase the latest music or watch the latest movie just to be part of the conversation. Why would I want those days back again.

Change is happening quicker than ever before.

We went from Napster to iTunes to YouTube to Spotify. We went from MySpace to Facebook to Twitter and back to Facebook. The major labels have withered down to three. The movie studios are doing the same.

Watch out for television to do the same. Funny thing to note, is that the channels leading the way, are channels that originally started off licensing movies from the Hollywood studios. HBO, AMC, Showtime and Netflix found out that original programming is where it’s at. Create a show that connects and watch it become part of the cultural conversation. Amazon is now involved and Apple is due to enter this market.

So what does this have to do with music and artists?

Expect Spotify to lead the way and start signing up artists because even though artists can cut a record without a major label or corporation behind them, they cannot be heard without the help of the label machine. There is a lot of money in music if you control the copyrights of artists you break through. Spotify can break an artist, they just need to start signing them and developing them.

It’s just a shame that the power players in music would rather spend their resources and monies to shut down illegal music websites through the Courts while websites controlled by terrorist like ISIS are allowed to operate. It’s a shame that the power players in music have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new digital world post Napster.

Especially when illegal music websites have allowed fans of certain styles of music to access bands they never could before. Metallica and Iron Maiden are two examples of illegal music websites growing their fan bases in countries where they sold no physical product.

So what did these bands do with that high rate of P2P piracy?

They toured those countries.

Being an artist is a business and making money in a business is hard.

The good thing for musicians today, is that all of the craziness that happened since Napster is all over. Musicians now know what the recording industry looks like and how it all hangs together within the music industry. In my view, the current ecosystem would remain stable for the next 50 years or so.

The big change that would happen is when technology companies like Spotify, Apple, Pandora, Google and Samsung get into signing and developing new artists. When these techies become like labels they will be powerful. Because of the data which they will have and control. Will the record labels then start to litigate against these techies.

Once these companies become like labels, expect them to enter the live arena as promoters. Apple and Spotify are both involved in the festivals scene.

Times they are a changing.

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

Reach, Vinyl and Record Label Lies

Before Napster, the only way a band knew that their music was spreading was by record sales. However, the fact that if a person purchased an album and listened to it once or a million times was never taken into account.

Today, there are so many different distribution outlets. The old way has been blown to bits and 15 years after Napster the record labels are still failing their artists because they haven’t done their due diligence properly in creating tools that can measure “REACH”. Yep, that is the new catch cry for 2015, REACH, not sales.

However, the labels are still confused and the artists more so. Imagine the conversation;

BAND: We should tour [insert country or city or state].
LABEL: Why, you have sold no albums there?
BAND: But we are one of the most downloaded artists there?
LABEL: Well those downloads are not legal ones and P2P is illegal.
BAND: What about Shazam look ups? I see our name all over that report on your desk from Shazam. Our songs are one of the most looked up songs in [insert country or city or state].
LABEL: Look all of this doesn’t mean you have a fan base there that will support you financially.
BAND: But, our streaming numbers are huge there?
LABEL: Leave it with us, I might get the lawyers to get together a 360 degree that will protect us both.

And the cycle of the record label shafting the artist starts again.

The record labels need the artists. It is from all of the copyrights that they own the record labels have achieved this power. With power comes great reach. And the labels abuse that power.

They increased the price of music to cater for the “start-up costs” in the CD manufacturing process back in the early eighties. It was only meant to be temporary and they promised the consumers that the price would be cheaper once they started manufacturing at a certain scale.

However that price never came down when they saw these unbelievable profit margins from CD sales and guess what they decided to do. They colluded to price fix the price on a CD and they killed off vinyl.

And now they are using overpriced vinyl again to increase their bottom lines.

Guess what.

Vinyl isn’t making a comeback just because there are dedicated people out there that purchase it. I purchased the four vinyl singles that Machine Head issued for the “Killers and Kings” demo. I still haven’t opened them and the reason why I haven’t opened them is that vinyl has become a souvenir item.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the sound of vinyl. I have so many great memories around dropping the needle however the turntable that I have at home just doesn’t get used. It’s easier and convenient to bring up the music on the phone and to be honest, I can’t see myself sitting back on the coach, listening to the record and reading the credits while following the credits. I am pretty sure I would end up on my iPhone.

 

We multitask. Yesterday I was cooking a BBQ and I called up the Evergrey Channel on iTunes Radio and listened to that. While the meat is sizzling, I am writing lyrics and listening to music at the same time.

 

Kids today have grown up with the internet. They are full-blown digital natives. They know nothing of the music business before Napster. If they did, then P2P downloads would have dried up when The Pirate Bay was raided in mid-December. Instead, the kids just found different outlets because the past is never coming back.

 

I have three boys aged 9,8 and 3. The older two are high YouTube and Spotify users. The younger one knows of YouTube and everyday he asks me to find Thomas The Tank Engine, Batman, The Wiggles, Planes, Garbage Trucks, Twisted Sister or whatever else has his interest for that moment.

And I am pretty sure that my kids are not the only kids that access content via these outlets.

I’ve said it many times, we always gravitate to something that has reach and YouTube and Spotify have got the reach.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Distribution

Last year a couple of big corporation plays happened.

The Amazon/Hachette war was not about books. It was about a power play between Corporations. One Corporation has the distribution and the reach, while the other has the content. Somewhere in between are the writers who are paid sweet f.a while Hachette and Amazon rake in millions.

The YouTube/Independent Label war was not about music. It was about a power play between a new cultural gatekeeper and a union of labels that want to play the music game. As with the Amazon/Hachette war, one corporation has the distribution and the reach, while the other has the content. While the major labels got favourable licensing deals because they bring in most of the traffic, the independents got a pittance. Somewhere in between are the artists and the songwriters who are again paid sweet f.a while YouTube and the major labels rake in millions.

What does this tell us about the world?

It tells us that DISTRIBUTION IS KING. It was never content. Content has to go to where people can buy it, see it or hear it and distribution puts it there. However distribution as usual is controlled by corporations. The record labels used to control it and now the techies control it. Copyright infringement was never the issue for the record labels. Their real issue was that their control of the distribution chain was diminished or made obsolete by the internet.

As a by-product, creators may gain fame from the sales of their works however the money remains with the distributor. How do you think the major labels became major labels in the first place? It was due to distribution. Apple promotes itself as a manufacturer and a software maker however underneath all the front end marketing they make their money as a distributor.

So with different corporations controlling the distribution chain what does the mean for us?

The same as it always has. Corporations are not our friends as they are all about the bottom line and with the Internet every store is next door to each other and only a mouse click away. With so much competition only a select few survives.

Napster decimated the record stores. While ignorant media outlets trump up a small vinyl increase, YouTube and Spotify are increasing their power exponentially. That’s right, we have people celebrating the old vinyl format and overpaying while the digital distributors aren’t even paying attention as they grow bigger and bigger.

YouTube is the place we check out to try/sample everything. Google is the place we go to for search. Facebook is our digital home, showing the world what such great and happy lives we lead while under the surface it’s actually hard and depressing. Amazon is where we go and buy everything. Apple is still in front for the smartphone wars even though the Samsung products offer way more features. There is a war between various streaming services going on right now. Expect one to survive and at the moment Spotify is in the lead for music and Netflix for movies.

Is this good for us?

All we have done is replace one cultural gatekeeper with another. But the problem with this replacement is that we are also giving a large part of lives to these new cultural gatekeepers. Google has our search histories in waiting and target ads based on that. Amazon gives us recommendations based on our purchase and view history. Facebook has our private history and so on. We threw away our privacy like it was a piece of trash. We gave it away for free.

Are we really moving into a George Orwell Big Brother world?

We threw our hats in the rings with the techies because they stood for something once. But the truth is money corrupts everything. And our politicians are not going to stand up against the corporations because politics is all about money.

The ignorant still focus on the decline of CD’s and now MP3’s while trumping up the return of VINYL. The wannabe trash all end up on reality TV shows believing that it is a stepping stone to a career in the entertainment business. In all of this, the artists and the writers keep on getting hurt while the powerful fight over their creations. They are just pawns in their game.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a trustworthy shopfront that is reliable with their deliveries, however I don’t like a shopfront that can control everything. And that is the problem in the digital world. No one is looking out for the consumers, us. We believe that the techies have our best interests because so many of the things we do are free, like Facebook and Google and YouTube. However they are not looking out for us and the politicians we vote in are not looking out for us either as they are in bed with whoever contributes to their campaigns. And the big IT companies have no competitors at the moment.

We used to join together under artists however they are all now part of the corporate machine with so many deals crossing over it makes the mechanics of the brain look simple.

Why do you think Dodge and Motley Crue are in bed with each other?

Dodge has realised that Motley Crue fans will be more inclined to purchase high performing cars so the partnership will allow Dodge to distribute more vehicles so that they can make money.

So don’t believe everything you read. Distribution is the reason why corporations become monopolies and the truth is this; the corporation that controls the distribution chain wins.

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Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Thoughts On Music

Good music feels like it was made just for you and in an era right now that has artists coming and going, that song connection is what forms a sense of devotion to an artist. So when a friend of mine said that people are less devoted to artists today and more open to the listening experience I was quick to disagree. Maybe in a pop context that is the case, however when it comes to metal and rock music, that devotion is real. Of course it has changed from the past. In the past, that devotion was fostered over the purchase of an album. Today it is fostered with each song.

Go on Spotify and you can see that “Now We Die” is a song that fans of Machine Head are gravitating too. It already has almost 1.2 million streams. “Halo” has 1.9 million streams and that is from an earlier album. For me the song that I gravitated to is “Ghost Will Haunt My Bones” because god damn, that past of mine just doesn’t seem to leave me be.

Music gives us identity and it expresses how we feel. Generations are defined through music.

The British Rock invasion in the Sixties defined a generation born just after WWII and a whole cultural shift began. Punk Music defined a generation in the U.K that was beset by unemployment and another cultural shift took place. That punk attitude merged with the British Rock invasion gave birth to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal then caught on in the Eighties and in the U.S it defined a generation disenfranchised by the conservative Reagan era. Metal music appealed because it was angry and people were looking for music that they could clench their fists too. Hard rock/heavy metal music was the gang that we all gravitated to.

Music was our patch, in the same way that bike clubs patch in members.

And so much debate is happening around music that really has nothing to do with music.

There is a section of artists who are arguing that they don’t get paid enough from streaming services. Then you have streaming services that are arguing that they have killed piracy. The $2 billion that Spotify has paid to the rights holders is not a number to be compared with how much money the rights holders would have made selling CDs. Spotify is comparing that number with how much money artists would have made from piracy. And as we all know piracy doesn’t pay artists a cent.

So music is going through another cultural shift and a whole new generation is being defined. The recording industry was disrupted by technologies and there are two ways to respond. See the change as a threat or see it as an opportunity. Unfortunately 15 years after Napster, the incumbents still think only in terms of loss and insist on thinking about the industry in the same way as before.

So while a subset of people are decrying the online world, millions and millions of others have decided to embrace it, believing a relationship with their fans is what it’s all about.

And you have different mindsets competing with each other. You have people who broke in the eighties, when we were all glued to MTV and then you have people who broke in the two thousands, in an era that is still defined by turmoil. The Eighties heroes are struggling to get people interested in their new music, so their dollars come from the live circuit where they play all the classics.

We all know the old game was about making a lot of noise. That huge marketing lead up could lead to a big first week in sales. And then the album dies from the news. The normal media outlets don’t care if people are listening to the latest Machine Head album or Vanishing Point.

The game today is that if you’re a musician you would start off in music and then end up doing a lot of different things that involve speaking tours, fan funded projects, book deals and so forth. The fans will keep you alive however you need to be a realist. Musical world domination is a long shot, while being a famous public figure in the internet age is more achievable.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

A Shutdown Equals New Technologies

On December 15, 1877 Thomas Edison patented the phonograph. This simple innovation would give rise to the Copyright Industries and the Recording Labels many years later. On December 10, 2014, the Pirate Bay went offline due to a police raid based on evidence gathered by the Copyright Industries. Meanwhile, P2P sharing has remained at the same levels before the The Pirate Bay shutdown.

Goes to show that the copyright industry really hasn’t learned nothing from the past fifteen years.

Napster came and challenged everything the recording labels and the copyright industry stood for. These industries had two options, embrace Napster or crush Napster. Napster was the sharing community cultural centre for people. If the industries embraced it, then they would have been at that centre. Instead they decided to crush it and Napster’s centralised server proved to be its Achilles heel.

What the Copyright industry failed to conceive was the post Napster generation who innovated even harder, and it is no coincidence that Bit Torrent and The Pirate Bay rose a few years after Napster and the cornerstone of their innovation was decentralisation.

When The Pirate Bay came to prominence people stopped developing because the site was good enough. Everyone became complacent. But now it is down and the same catch cry is heard across the world from developers.

“NEVER AGAIN”

Already the talk around the web is that these new P2P initiatives will protect privacy, free speech, encrypted trackers and block chain technology (Blocks in a block chain are ‘sealed’ with a cryptographic hash). The legacy of Napster will live on and so will the legacy of The Pirate Bay.

Because the funny thing here is that the recording industry had a chance to control digital music. In late 1993 two audiophile computer science students were fascinated by the code that shrunk huge sound files and they started testing compressed songs to see if they could spot the difference. In time, they could no longer tell the difference and that is when it was realised that CD’s could go online. This gave rise to the first mp3 website, the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA). The vision was that by putting songs online anyone could share their music online and potentially build an audience. Bands could upload and advertise their tunes, build their own pages, sell merchandise and, eventually, let people play tracks right from the site. Bands could choose whether to charge or give away their music, in order to build a following for live shows.

With all new technologies it didn’t take long for the record labels to notice. They recognized that the free flow of music would destroy their business. But they passed on the technology and in 1999 the music industry changed forever.

Napster showed the world  how easily one could share music. However, Napster did not last long, but it altered forever the way in which people consumed music and what they should pay.

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

Trying Something New and Creative To Engage With Fans

This whole buying shares in a song has been going around for decades, especially in the heyday of record label monopolies. The basic premise at that time was that people would buy shares in a song and then any earnings the song makes goes back to the shareholders.

Fast forward to today and Testament is offering up a chance for the fans to purchase shares in the song “Native Blood”. If they sell every single offering they will have raised $57,000 in capital.

However, while the offering is promoted like a Company IPO Share Offer, it is nothing of the sort. It’s all smoke and mirrors. The fans of the band are buying memorabilia. The band is using the connection that a fan might have with the song as its selling point. Being a shareholder on the “Native Blood” song will not entitle you to any royalty payments (provided that a thrash band with a cult status who make their money from touring would get any) however it will give you a chance to buy limited edition merchandise later on.

An artist music and career is a brand and brands aren’t built in a day. Testament has been at for a while. In the beginning they had some growth initially however that didn’t mean that they made it. Music is a competitive industry and consumers are becoming harder to reach. Every business brand is faced with the same problem. Bands and artist are no different to small businesses.

The difference is if the artist is NOT prepared to find creative ways to reach their fans than complacency will bring about the end. So Testament is trying new creative ways to engage with fans, but it’s still based on the one way model of selling something. But by always going back to the old product selling paradigm is precisely the way to go out of business today.

Markets are always changing and fans of music are always changing. What we value as important is changing and what we want to own is changing. I grew up with the focus to have a house and a car. My kids are growing up with the focus to have the latest tech and live at home.

The fans of music spoke out loud with Napster 15 years ago.

WE WANT ACCESS TO MUSIC.

And what does the recording industry and bands do? They fail to keep pace with the changing demands, values and needs of their fans. They chose to hang onto the past and in 2014 they are left wondering where their fans and profits went.

If we want more proof about the sales model for music slowly fading, look no further than all the MP3 stores that are either being killed off or reporting losses. In Australia, BigPond music was operated by our largest ISP, Telstra and they have now shut it down, focusing on MOG, their streaming service which is trying to compete against Spotify. They get it, consumer behaviour is changing, and Spotify has led the way in providing a service that responds to this shift and has had much success doing so to date.

For bands and artists to prosper they need to do things differently. They need to be genuine and willing to connect with their fans. The fans in the end want transparency, not smoke and mirrors. James Hetfield might cringe at the “Some Kind Of Monster” documentary, however that visual and transparent footage of a massive act breaking apart was touching and moving. Hell, there are people at Metallica shows today that have never purchased a Metallica album.

The value of the recorded music product is not the value that it once was. What is valuable is the service and the partnership. That is why we are living in the era of sharing and access. Sharing provided the service that the fans of music wanted. Which was access all along.

And when will artists learn that partnerships are absolutely key to ensure sustainable growth. If small businesses do it, why can’t artists do it. But everybody lives by selling something. So even though I don’t agree with Testament’s song share plan offer and the lack of transparency around it, they are trying something different which for a metal band that goes back into the era of Eighties is good to see.

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