A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Lifers and Record Labels

Once upon a time, the record labels searched for talent. Known as the self-appointed gatekeepers of culture; if they believed you were good enough, they would sign you and market you. They would give you money to go away and write songs. Some of those songs would end up on album, some as b-sides, some would be given to other artists and some songs would just remain as demo’s.

What the labels failed to tell the artists, is that the label would own all of those songs and the money the artist received as an “advance” would need to be repaid back to the artist.

Today, the labels are a very different beast. All they want is something they can sell. And they do that by copying what is successful.

So what we have is a plethora of acts that all sound the same.

Sound familiar.

Of course it does. Go back to the Eighties.

In 1983, Motley Crue broke out and suddenly the labels signed bands that looked and sounded like Motley Crue.

Quiet Riot, Ratt, WASP, Kix, Krokus and Mamas Boys are a few bands that benefited from Motley Crue breaking out of the L.A Sunset Strip scene. The labels even made bands that didn’t look like Motley Crue, look like Motley Crue. Accept, Fastway, Helix, Saxon, Kiss, Tygers of Pan Tang and Dokken are a few bands that had a “look and feel change” to their wardrobes.

Then Bon Jovi breaks out towards the end of 1986 with “Slippery When Wet” and suddenly we have the labels signing bands that look and sound like Bon Jovi. Plus they also make bands that didn’t sound like Jovi, create albums that sound like Jovi. Kiss delivering “Crazy Nights” is a perfect example of a pre-existing band delivering a Bon Jovi sounding album.

Then two years later, Guns N Roses breaks out and suddenly we have the labels signing bands that look and sound like Guns N Roses. Roxx Gang, Skin N Bones, Bullet Boys, Plus they also make bands that didn’t sound like Guns N Roses, create albums that sounded similar.

Thrash metal as a moment broke out by 1985 and suddenly we had a plethora of labels signing bands to write thrash music. Then Metallica breaks out commercially with the Black album in 1991. This time the labels didn’t sign any new acts, but all of the trash bands on labels were asked to deliver albums that sounded like the Black album.

Then Nirvana breaks out and brings the sounds of Seattle to the masses. So what do the labels do? They drop nearly every hard rock/metal act and go and sign acts that play the Seattle sound. They even get existing bands to look like Seattle. I remember Megadeth wearing flannel shirts in 1994. Same deal for Motley Crue with Corabi on vocals. Metallica went even more Gothic/Surrealism/Industrial  like with their look in 1995.

See a trend happening here.

The labels didn’t give a shit about the artists. Once the artist stopped selling, the A&R reps stopped calling.

So what do we have in 2016?

It’s all about the money. The label is only interested if you can generate dollars, right off the bat because in the past, all of the money was in the recordings. But the artist also wants to be paid as soon as they put up a song or an album for release. What happened to the saying “It’s all about the music”?

Sure, money is important, but in reality (and between the Seventies and the late Nineties), only 1% of acts who crossed over, got paid some serious dough. The others got advances, which they had to pay back from sales. This in turn led to a lot of artists classed as unrecouped. And while in the past, the money was in the recordings, today the money is in the touring and all the rest that comes with it.

But the money tree is changing. There will be more money from recordings again as streaming gets more market share and revenue rises. The labels are making more money now than they’ve ever been.

While a lot has changed, one thing that hasn’t changed is that good records still sell and remain in the charts and in the public conversation for a long time. While in the past, MTV made bands into Platinum stars and built their careers overnight, today’s quest for stardom is more in line with that of the Seventies era, which was run by rock bands.

And what did the rock bands do?

They wrote music, played shows from city to city. TV was irrelevant for success in the Seventies and it’s irrelevant again in 2016. The only time TV sold music was during the Eighties and Nineties when MTV led culture.

In the Seventies, you built up your career, from band to band, city to city, cover band to cover band and whatever else you could do that put you in front of a live audience. Today you build up a career online, from YouTube video to YouTube video, from Facebook post to Facebook post and whatever else you need to do to get your name in front of people.

We’re never going back to the past. To participate in the present, it’s all about earning and maintaining attention. Financial rewards come many years after, but you need to be around to capitalise on it, building that ongoing relationship with your audience.

Which means you need to be a lifer in music.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Some Thoughts On The Music Business

YouTube

YouTube allows you to go directly to your audience whenever they want and you get paid in the process. It might be small now, however it will grow with time. And surely that is better than having your video on MTV and getting squat.

Longevity

The truth is you get wiser as you get older. You learn from experience and life. Artists done need to tell us how great they are or how great the new album is. The fans are smart enough to decide what is great and what isn’t. In the end, you need to have stayed in the game long enough to win.

Music Is Not Scarce Anymore

The days of growing up at the record store and budgeting what album to buy are gone and have been for a long time. Today our favourite artists release new music and we check it out. If we like it we give it a few more spins and then move on. If we don’t like it, we move on straight away. If we really like it, we commit to it.

Back in the day, music was a commitment. After having laid down our cash on a record, we took it home, dropped the needle and spent months digesting it. But today, music is everywhere.

You Survive On Your Audience

You want to be in their consciousness 24/7 and the majority of albums today just don’t hang around long enough. Sure there are exceptions to the rule. Volbeat has been selling their new album since April 2013. Yep, that is almost 20 months ago. Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch are in the same league. Bands like Trivium and Dream Theater had albums that came, got lapped up by the core audience and then disappeared from the conversation. The audience wants to always talk about you, so give them a reason to talk about you.

Information Overload

People are overloaded with information so they’ve only got time for the best and they want more and more of it on a regular basis.

Start With Your friends

They actually know and care about you. If you’re good, they’ll tell their friends, and some of them will eventually be friends/trusted filters of others and people will hear about it that way.

Overnight Sensations

Overnight sensations are a decade plus in the making.

Timing

The timing was right for metal and rock acts to go multi-platinum in the Eighties. MTV was rising. The disenfranchised youths were looking for a voice, something to attach too. They found it in “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “I Wanna Rock”, “Shout At The Devil” and so on.

Rock Bands Were Never Supposed To Last

The Beatles had about eight years before going solo. Led Zeppelin had about 12 years before calling it quits after the death of John Bonham. Kiss’s original line up had about 8 years before they ended. Motley Crue had 10 years before they fired Vince. Twisted Sister had about 8 years from when the core line up was formed. Rage Against The Machine had 9 years before they split. Soundgarden had about 12 years before calling it quits. That is about the average of a band keeping its original line up in tact before other life events impact the dynamics.

Promote The Why and Not the What

Evergrey went all “why” for the promotion of the “Hymns For The Broken” album. We know the story about how the band was almost over and how the return of two former members gave Englund a new belief to continue. And the fans resonated with this belief.

Protest The Hero sold the why. That is why they the fans pledged over $300,000 to them for “Volition”. We understand as fans why they needed to go down the fan funding route. We understood how the record labels had ripped them off. We believed in their story and wanted to be a part of it.

People will do the things that prove what they believe. We don’t don’t buy what our artists do, we buy why they do it.

Personality

The truth is long-term careers are based on being unique and staying true to who you are.

What seems to happen is that artists try to appeal to everybody and in doing so they rub off their rough edges which is the X factor that makes them unique.

We don’t want fake heroes to believe in. We want real heroes with real personalities.

That is why rock and metal took off in the early Eighties. They represented the working class and the youth that lived under iron fists. The metal and rock got all polished up and all of its uniqueness was planed off.

That is why grunge and alternative took off in the early Nineties. They trail blazed their own path by not sounding just like everybody else. While the metal and rock acts lost their edge and started to sound the same towards the end of the Eighties, the Seattle scene was not afraid to go their own way. They didn’t care if radio didn’t play them and they didn’t care if the media wouldn’t write about them. They forged their own path and made everyone follow them in the process.

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

Time Is Working Against The Artist

It’s 1992. The labels are signing Seattle bands, left, right and centre while at the same time they are dropping hard rock and heavy metal bands left, right and centre. That is the power the record label had. Not only could they make an artist famous, they could also destroy an artist. You see when you control all the points in the distribution and marketing chain, you more or less control everything.

With the massive power that the major labels had, we always saw artist/s as famous. We always thought that once an artist was signed to a label deal, they had it made. It was a big misconception.

Fame for an artist in most cases meant a large advance that had to be recouped by withholding royalty payments. That is why record label accounting gets messy and it cannot be trusted.

So in 2013, things have changed dramatically. With this change, the power is still with the major record labels. They gathered enough power during the Eighties and Nineties to be a force to be reckoned. Then in the Two Thousands the massive mergers and takeovers happened, further enhancing the power of the record labels. Then in order to allow digital start-ups, the record labels did one of three things; charge high licensing fees or litigate the start-up to bankruptcy or negotiate a large ownership stake in the start-up.

So even though the internet has lowered the barriers of entry, without the money and power of the label behind the artists, there is a pretty good chance, the artist would probably go unnoticed. Remember 4 million songs haven’t even been listened too on Spotify.

So when certain artists are complaining about a low royalty payment, maybe that is the royalty payment that is relevant to the niche the artist is in. Maybe it is a royalty payment that they have earned. You don’t see a current household name complaining. It’s because they worked hard at obtaining a certain thing called leverage.

Digital distribution offers an artist new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries or rural areas. The end result is growth across the board, both physical and digital provided that the artist gets noticed.

So is piracy that bad for an artist who is trying to get traction?

The majors and the mainstream journalists attached to news outlets operated by media moguls have done a great job selling the “one pirated item equals one lost sale” statistic and the “illegal downloading (piracy) is theft” argument. It is a statistic that rights holders, lobby groups and misguided artists exaggerate and it is a statistic they use to either kill off innovation or to stifle innovation.

Piracy (better known as copyright infringement) is basically one person (A) copying something of value that another person (B) owns. This leads to a situation that has both people (A and B) having a copy of the same item.

So it is safe to say that one pirated item is not theft. Theft is basically one person (A) taken something of value that another person (B) owns, which means that Person (B) no longer has the item.

So let’s assume that piracy spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who download the music might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. There are a lot of could’s in the above theory. However the music business is all based on could’s.

For example, in the heyday of the record labels, this is how the above would have panned out.
Let’s assume that a record deal spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who hear the music on radio or MTV might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. As you can see, the heyday theory also holds a lot of could’s.

Of course the difference is the money. The labels once upon a time threw money at artists and provided tour support. Today, the labels only go for the sure bet and 360 deals.

From a fan perspective, the main thing working against the artist today is time. Why would a music lover want to invest their time in an artist? I recently invested a lot of time in the TV show “Sons of Anarchy” because knowledge of the show was being shared at work and I wanted to be part of the conversation. I invested a lot of time in the show because fans of the show shared their thoughts with me. They convinced me that I needed to watch it.

One thing is certain in 2013. We move on fast. Look at the Top 10 lists of pirated movies that TorrentFreak publish each week. It’s always changing and very rare for the same movie to be at number one for two weeks in a row. Look at the Top 10 of the Charts published by each country. The artists in the list are always changing.

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

Kirk Hammett = Misguided Fool. We Are Actually Living In The Golden Age of Music Access

The comments from Kirk Hammet have been getting a lot of press/ink lately. They have been re-posted on thousands of other metal news sites by simply copying and pasting what he said.

For those that haven’t read it, this is what Kirk said;

“There haven’t been a lot of really, really great bands that have shown that kind of promise. I think it’s a concern. Because of things like iTunes and streaming and social networking, it’s destroyed music. It’s destroyed the motivation to go out there and really make the best record possible. It’s a shame.”

Okay so lets unpack what he really said.

“There haven’t been a lot of really, really great bands that have shown that kind of promise. I think it’s a concern.”

You see, when you detach yourself from the streets and live in your ivory tower, you don’t see what is happening at ground zero.

Five Finger Death Punch is going GOLD in a tough sales market. They have great numbers in relation to YouTube views and Spotify streams. Their albums have been selling up to the point of when their new one is released. Think about that for a second. Five Finger Death Punch has consistently moved units of their albums every week since 2007. Now compare that to Dream Theater whose new album is already dead and buried after four weeks.

Shinedown are doing super numbers in relation to sales, YouTube views and Spotify streams. They have certifications left, right and centre.

Avenged Sevenfold released a progress is derivative album that is also doing great numbers. In addition, they do super numbers on the live circuit

Black Veil Brides has achieved so much with their first three albums as well as other bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Alter Bridge, Killswitch Engage, Volbeat and so on.

Will we have the superstars of the Eighties and Nineties again? Of course not, it is a different time today, however you can’t tell me that the bands mentioned above don’t have a certain superstar status at the moment.

Will they headline the major festivals? Probably not, because no one really likes festivals any more. The festivals are on their way out. They just don’t know it yet.

“Because of things like iTunes and streaming and social networking, it’s destroyed music. It’s destroyed the motivation to go out there and really make the best record possible. It’s a shame.”

With all the information we get on our favourite artists these days, it makes us realise that our heroes are complete idiots. Kirk just doesn’t understand change. It’s constant.

Kirk’s comments are no different to the comments from other dinosaurs like Jon Bon Jovi, Scott Ian, Duff McKagan, Yngwie Malmsteen, Thom Yorke and David Byrne. Railing against the Internet, Spotify and iTunes and complaining about payments and the lack of motivation to record new music. 

Let’s get one thing clear. Music today can be made for next to nothing. That is why we have so many releases in the market place. Competition for listener’s attention is sky-high. Everybody who records something believes we should pay attention.

Kirk Hammett wants to go back to the Eighties, to a time when bands had to have a record deal to record their music. Kirk Hammett wants fans of his music to buy the whole Metallica album just to find out it was garbage (like ReLoad, St Anger) or for a few songs (like Load).  

If that is the motivation that Kirk Hammett and Metallica needs to record, then they can just give up right now.

It never used to be that way. Metal and rock artists never complained. They always ADAPTED. 

Do you hear Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk, Mumford and Sons, Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Eminem, Halestorm, Killswitch Engaged, Alter Bridge, Slash or Avenged Sevenfold going on a rant about not wanting to make new music or that it is just too tough out there and no one can make it?

Could it be that most people are just not interested in new Metallica music? As Lars said in a Hot Metal interview from June 1992, that I posted earlier. The numbers they are getting for the Black album, will not be eclipsed or bettered.

Could it be that the Napster stigma is still around? The image of Lars Ulrich holding 500 pages of user names that traded in Metallica music is still fresh in people’s minds. 

The comments in relation to streaming are just wrong. Streaming is competing with PIRACY. How is that not good? With Spotify around it just doesn’t make sense to steal. It pays the artist when their music gets played and it pays the artist forever. A sale of an album is just a one stop transaction that inflates the NOW and when you start talking about the NOW, you are thinking like a Record Label.

If Kirk Hammett and Metallica or any artist out there wants to make money from recorded music, they need to find a way to get people to purchase a Spotify Premium account.

Spotify has a mission to have over 20 million premium customers. This will allow artist to take years out to record their masterpieces. Instead of working with the technology, they talk in riddles against it. 

We are living in the golden age of music access. The history of recorded music is at our fingertips and that is a good thing. Finally, there is plan in place to monetize it. If you want to monetize, you need to keep creating.

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

Metallica: Hot Metal – June 1992, the “Through The Never” Stage Idea Goes Back To This Period and Staying Power

I have been re-reading a lot of the magazines I have accumulated during the Eighties and the Nineties. I just finished reading a story about Metallica from the Australian magazine “Hot Metal”. It is the June 1992 issue.

The article is written by Robyn Doreian, who was the editor once however when this story hit the press, she had moved on to Metal Hammer. The story was a combination of two days she spent with the band, plus separate interviews with James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.

The first part that got me interested was the following answers from James Hetfield;

RD – First up, I ask him about the new stage design, which not only challenges conventional rock shows but also has consider-able advantages for the fans.

JH – “We sat down and talked about what we wanted to do. For instance, Lars has his travelling drum kit that was all his thing. I have to make that clear,” he scoffs, “because I find it a little silly. As much as he wants to be in the spotlight, he also gets to travel. He’s basically a front man on drums. We should have thought of it earlier in our careers, I guess.”

“The snake-pit was a combination of ideas from band members and management. Initially that hole in the middle of the stage was meant to be a special effects area, with things like little crosses rising up, or a blow-up ‘Justice’ lady or something.” sniggers Hetfield.

“We said no’ Why not put some kids in there, some fans. That would be cool. We usually put between 40 and 90 kids in there, depending on each city’s fire regulations and stuff.”

RD – What about the area set aside for taping?

JH – “Fans have to buy a special ticket for the tape section. It’s like five bucks more, and there are like 20 or 30 kids who can get in there and video, audio or whatever they want to do. It’s a cool thing to do, to flood the market with bootlegs. And it makes it a little more personal.”

The above got my interest for two reasons;

1. The stage design.
2. Bootlegs.

First, the stage design. The grand stage design that is seen in the movie “Through the Never” was conceived back in 1991 for the tour in support of the Black album. Of course, an idea is just an idea until it is executed and with the exponential rise of technologies, that idea finally came to fruition in 2012.

The point of this is that no one should ever give up on an idea. If it doesn’t work at a particular given point in time, keep it filed away as it could work at a later time.

Second, the bootlegs. The Black tour did something great for the hard core fans that no other band had really done up until then.

Metallica in 1992, wanted to flood the market with bootlegs. Metallica in 2013 has the following disclaimer on their Live Metallica website “Terms of Use”;

Any violation of copyright laws may result in severe civil and criminal penalties. Violators will be prosecuted to the maximum extent possible.

Compare the above to the comments from Hetfield. What a difference between Metallica and the Metallicorporation? This is why Metallica messed up big time with Napster by handing over names of fans at the Senate Hearings.

Next up in the interview was Lars Ulrich. Knowing what we know now, words from the past is always interesting.

RD – Seizing the opportunity I ask him whether, seeing as Metallica have now been so firmly embraced by the mainstream, it’s possible that they are becoming what they once rebelled against.

LU – “I don’t disagree with that, but we were always more into doing our own thing, never about being shocking for its own sake or pissing people off. You should always be yourself.”

Lars admits that he and Metallica are becoming the entity that they rebelled against. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. Can a band remain the same after they accumulate millions? No chance.

RD – Do you ever think that in years to come there is a danger of Metallica being viewed as a dinosaur band, some sort of corporate rock giant similar to what happened to bands like Zeppelin in the 70s?

LU – “I think there are a lot of people in the States right now who, simply because we have gained confidence in what we’re doing, are saying that we are doing the same arena rock clichés that these other bands were doing. My attitude is basically that if people come and see us and think its arena rock crap then that’s fine. It doesn’t affect me; because I know what we’re doing is distinctly different from what everyone else is doing.”

RD – With Grammy awards, cumulative record sales in the millions and adulation the whole world over, what is there left for the band to achieve?

LU – “Staying power. In terms of numbers, it’s not going to get much bigger but its important not to burn out. A lot of bands don’t have the confidence for a long term career, so they try and milk everything while they can. We plan to be around for quite a while, so when this tour is over we’re going to have a long period of inactivity.”

The above is interesting to me for the following two reasons;

1. Be Yourself / Stay true to yourself
2. Staying Power

I was a fan of Metallica coming before the Black album came out. It was “Ride the Lightning” that did it for me. I cannot recall how many arguments I got into over what is the better album between “Master Of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning”.

Then the Black album comes out and I really liked it. I thought it was perfect. The songs hammered the ear drums from start to finish and the groove was undeniable. Metallica wrote and recorded an album that they wanted to write. It was never designed to have a hit single whereas “Load” and “Reload” to me, feels like Metallica had that single idea in the backs of their mind.

The comments about staying power ring true. As Lars said, in terms of numbers, it wouldn’t get any bigger than the Black album. However reaching the top is not the end of the journey. That is when a new journey begins.

Twisted Sister failed after “Stay Hungry” exploded.

Motley Crue fired Vince Neil after “Dr Feelgood”.

Guns N Roses became Adler-less after “Appetite for Destruction” and after “Use Your Illusion,” Guns N Roses became an Axl Rose solo project.

Motorhead had Fast Eddie Clarke play on one more album (“Iron Fist”) after “Ace of Spades.”

Skid Row got one more album out in “Subhuman Race” after the massive “Slave To The Grind” and disappeared.

Van Halen released “1984” and then fired David Lee Roth. They are one of the rare bands that changed lead singers and went on to bigger success, with the Van Hager era.

Poison got “Flesh and Blood” out after the mega successful “Open and Say Ahh” and it was curtains, even though “Native Tongue” with Richie Kotzen was a great album.

White Lion never recovered from the mega success of “Pride”.

Warrant released the excellent and heavy “Dog Eat Dog”, however it was no “Cherry Pie” and they got dropped after Jani Lane left.

Also when a band reaches the top, it opens up the opportunity for some time off. Metallica had been on an album and tour cycle since “Kill Em All” was released in 1983. After 11 constant years, by 1994, they had some time off, before they regrouped for the “Load” albums.

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

Piracy, Business Models, Fair Price and Amazon

Kevin Spacey shared his views recently on battling movie piracy. Spacey has the view that by “releasing films on line, in cinemas and on DVD at the same time would take a huge bit out of piracy.” He further stated that TV executives should “give “control” to their audiences or risk losing them.”

The line of interest is “Releasing films On Line and on DVD at the same time with the Cinema release”.

This is what Napster showed the music world (and at large the Entertainment world) back in 1999. It took the music business a long time to accept this. Fans wanted content and they wanted it straight away. They didn’t want the content to be released in the U.S first, then 4 weeks later in Europe, then 4 weeks later in Australia, then 4 weeks later in Asia and so on. Back in Eighties and Nineties (before Napster), there used to be an import chart. Yes that’s right. Fans of certain bands, had to pay $50 to $60 for a CD, because the music of that band was not available locally due to no distribution agreement or due to geo restrictions.

So the iTunes store came first in April 2003. Between 1999 and 2003, thousands of other illegal file sharing services appeared as the Record Labels negotiated with Apple.

Spotify came in July 2011 (for the US and 2008 in Sweden) after delays and years of negotiation with the four major record companies. In between 2003 and 2011, various other legal players came on the scene, only to be litigated into oblivion when the Labels demanded greater fees. YouTube snuck in the back door and became a streaming “unlicensed” giant. Sharing of music works kept on growing as the audiences expectations were still not met.

That is also what The Pirate Bay has shown the movie world since 2005. The funny thing is the movie business still hasn’t accepted this as fact. Once the movie is out, it is out. As soon as that movie plays on the cinema screens it is released. So why are the movie studios waiting months before the DVD version or the Blu Ray version or the Netflix version is released. If the movie is out, it is out and it should be available on all possible formats ASAP.

Piracy is circumvented by using ever changing, always evolving business models and strategies?

First and foremost, you need to make something that is quality. Then you need to make it available everywhere. You are putting the control and the distribution in the hands of the fans. Letting the fan decide how they want to consume it. For any artist these days, they need an entry point into the music business and that comes via your music. If it is great, opportunities will arise and you will be able to monetize it.

In this day and age, if a fan purchases a CD version of the album, this should result in an automatic mp3 download of the album as well. Amazon has this facility with AutoRip, however this shouldn’t be only limited to Amazon and on line shopping. If you purchase a CD at a brick and mortar store, the fan should be able to go home and go to a website and download the album with their key. All of the releases should be surrounded with perks. Musicians have to give fans a reason to buy. They are no different than an entrepreneur.

Once musicians give the fans a reason to buy, they need to offer it a fair price. I cannot speak highly enough of Coheed and Cambria. What they delivered with “The Afterman” super deluxe limited edition releases and the price they delivered it with was brilliant. Plus we all got to log in to the Transmissions part of the website, and could watch a track by track interview of each song, plus we could get the 320 or 192 rips of the album on actual release date including the demos.

When a Record Label is involved the “fair price” ideal goes out the window and so does any respect to the fans. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I purchased the new Karnivool album Asymmetry from Amazon in the U.S instead of Australia, purely because of price and I also get an AutoRip of the album.

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

Piracy Was Rampant Even In The Eighties

Back in the Eighties, piracy was rampant. Most of my music collection during that period was made up of music taped onto blank cassettes. My “wealthier” older cousin in Sydney always seemed to have his finger on the pulse on the latest releases and every time I visited, I was armed with blank cassettes and proceeded to copy (download) albums that he recommended to me. There was also another shadier character locally that used to sell dubbed cassettes from 50 cents to $1 dollar. He then used the money obtained from his buyers to purchase more albums that he would sell to us on dubbed cassettes.

I was not alone in doing this, nor was I the first. Most of the music from the seventies that was passed down to me by my brothers was in the same format (blank cassettes that got filled with music).

So what did my brothers do in the Eighties, when they were old enough and had their own incomes. They started purchasing the music they listened to in the seventies. It worked like this; for example, they would purchase “Destroyer” from Kiss on LP or CD and once they did that I would get the cassette copied version that they had.

Another interesting thing in the Seventies was that while we all lived together, we only needed one version of the album to listen to the music. So what happens when family members move out. One brother purchases the album, the other brother purchases the album and then I need to purchase the album and so on. You can see the exponential growth here when children grow up and move out.

So what did I do in the Nineties, when I had more cash at hand. I purchased every album I had on dubbed cassettes on CD. I re-purchased every LP I had on CD. I went to second hand record shops and purchased LP’s from the Eighties and Seventies very cheap. If I found a real gem in those purchases, I then purchased that album on CD.

I went to the Record Fairs and Collector Fairs that started to gain traction during this period. Again, I purchased a lot of LP’s very cheap at those Fairs. I saw it as a try before you buy. If I found a real gem, I then purchased that album on CD.

I was not the only one that did the above. Based on sales figures during this period, the Record Labels had their largest ever profits to date. Everything that came after 1999 has been linked back to the unbelievable profits the record labels made during 1998 and 1999.

In the end, did all the piracy from the Seventies and Eighties hurt any of the bands that I supported. These are the bands that where pirated heavily on cassettes (from a list of the shady dealer selling them for 50 cents to $1 dollar);

Motley Crue
Bon Jovi
Iron Maiden
Metallica
Megadeth
Guns N Roses
Van Halen
David Lee Roth
Poison
Warrant
Skid Row
Twisted Sister
Kiss
Dio
Europe
Def Leppard
Dokken
Whitesnake
Judas Priest
Yngwie Malmsteen
Night Ranger
Queensryche
Ozzy Osbourne
Rush
Savatage
Stryper
Scorpions
WASP
Y&T
White Lion
Fastway
Joe Satriani
Loverboy
Meatloaf
Queen
Slayer
Survivor
UFO
Michael Schenker
Quiet Riot
Black Sabbath
Rainbow
Deep Purple
Anthrax
Motorhead

The answer is a resounding NO. All of those bands mentioned above are still around today in some form or another. All of those bands are part of pop culture in some form or another. They still have a loyal cult following and that cult following happened because of piracy.

If it wasn’t for cassette piracy, I never would have heard the full length albums of bands that did the rounds on MTV. I never would have heard “Master Of Puppets” from Metallica (I know own “Master Of Puppets” on CD, mp3 and LP).

The real hurter of bands was the Record Label. It was never piracy. Due to the labels having all the power in breaking a band, plus having all the control over the distribution, they would offer bands an unfair deal that stacked the deck in the Record Labels favour. For any musician that wanted their music exposed to a greater audience, it was the only option they had.

A lot of studies have come out stating that “pirates actually purchase the most.” I know it is a cliché statement at the moment however back in the Eighties I went to an Iron Maiden concert without actually owning an original copy of any of their albums. I went to a Megadeth concert without owning an original copy of their albums. The same with Bon Jovi, David Lee Roth, Guns N Roses and Stryper.

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