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

Then And Now: Changes In Music

THEN
Music was all about achieving LIBERATION.

NOW
Music is all about the tyranny of MONEY.

THEN
Money served a purpose and it was a by-product of music

NOW
Money is the primary marker of status and success.

THEN
Music greats led the way in breaking down barriers and enhancing culture

NOW
We inhabit the world that The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Jim Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Free, Bad Company, Van Halen, Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, Doobie Brothers, Electric Light Orchestra, Kiss, Metallica, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and AC/DC created.

THEN
We lied about what we earned.

NOW
We still lie about what we earn as the ability to make money is seen as a primary marker of acceptance. The shame of failing financially is so great that a number of people every year commit suicide because of it.

THEN
Bands/Artists needed to be busy to make it or stay relevant.

NOW
Bands/Artists still need to be busy to make it or stay relevant. Look at George Lynch and the amount of releases since 2008. Look at Mark Tremonti or Myles Kennedy and their involvement in various projects. Avenged Sevenfold are out on the road promoting the “Hail To The King” album, working on the “Deathbat” game and an anniversary re-issue for “Waking The Fallen”.

THEN
The challenge was getting your music heard

NOW
The challenge is still about getting heard.

THEN
No one toured South and Central America.

NOW
Touring dollars are in South and Central America. If you are an established band and are not touring South/Central America, then you are leaving money on the table. M Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold summed it up nicely in a recent Loudwire interview.

THEN
Platinum selling bands/artists were told that they owed the label millions. Check out Van Halen’s story during the Van Halen II era. “We went platinum. We toured for a year, we came back, and Warner Bros. told us that we owed them $2 million,” said drummer Alex Van Halen. “And on top of that, we owed them another record,” added guitarist Eddie Van Halen. “It was the end of the year. We had three weeks to deliver another record…then boom, we went straight out on tour again. The first record took about a week, seven days to do. The second record took about three weeks.”

NOW
Platinum selling bands/artists are still told that they owe the label millions.

THEN
Bands/Artists covered songs as a career choice and made them unique. They made those cover songs their own. Van Halen did it with “You Really Got Me” and again with “You’re No Good”, which Linda Ronstadt also covered.

NOW
Bands/Artists do cover songs as a tribute to their influence.

THEN
Bands/Artists borrowed heavily from other artists and styles without the fear of being sued. It was a cultural thing. Led Zeppelin comes to mind immediately. Jake Holmes played “Dazed and Confused” at a show in 1967 when he was opening up for The Yardbirds who had Jimmy Page on guitar. “Stairway To Heaven” had its whole intro lifted from a song called “Taurus” by Spirit. Again Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit once upon a time. In both cases, the artists didn’t sue.

NOW
Borrow anything, expect a lawsuit. Kudos to Avenged Sevenfold for having the balls to do so. They borrowed heavily and in turn they created an album that works brilliant live. And that is what it is all about. In addition it is one of the best metal sellers for 2013 and it is still selling in 2014.

THEN
The Record Labels didn’t know what would succeed or what would fail. Look at Metallica. “Kill Em All” was independently financed. Look at Motely Crue. “Too Fast For Love” was independently financed. Look at Twisted Sister. “Under The Blade” came out on a small independent label. “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” came out on Atlantic UK. The US arm didn’t want to touch the band. It was after the imported version of “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” started selling like hot cakes that Atlantic US became interested.

NOW
The Record Labels still don’t know what would succeed or what would fail. Five Finger Death Punch is a big seller in the world of metal and hard rock. Their first album was financed by themselves and issued on a small subsidiary label. Volbeat was a supergroup of Death/Extreme metal bands signed to a small sub label of a larger independent label.

THEN
Music was a risk business.

NOW
Music is still a risk business.

THEN
Labels invested in a lot of projects because they didn’t know what would connect.

NOW
Labels invest in fewer projects and blame piracy because they still don’t know what will connect.

THEN
Metal and rock labels signed the act first and then they figured out how to market them and sell them.

NOW
Labels sign an act based on how they decide to market them.

THEN
Recording was expensive.

NOW
Recording is cheap.

THEN
Distribution was expensive and controlled by gatekeepers.

NOW
Distribution is cheap.

THEN
Marketing was all about radio and record shops.

NOW
It is about Spotify, YouTube, social media and virality.

THEN
Labels had executive boards/owners that were music fans.

NOW
Labels have executive boards that are actual business executives with the exception of a few.

THEN
Universality is the key to success.

NOW
We have endless niches.

THEN
The release of music was controlled.

NOW
We have plenty. We are overloaded.

THEN
The song would sell the act.

NOW
The marketing hype sells the act with the exception of a few.

THEN
Rock music was liberating the masses.

NOW
It is known as Classic rock to the masses.

THEN
Acts wanted to lead. They challenged the paradigm.

NOW
No one wants to lead.

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

The War Between Streaming and Black Box Revenue – Will The Record Labels Kill The Streaming Star?

The public has voted. It prefers streaming. The war is over. Case Closed. Maybe not.

Spotify pays millions to copyright holders. Now unless the artist is a DIY artist who controls their own copyright, most of the copyright holders are the major labels. So if the major labels are getting the millions each year for the blanket license to access their catalogues, where is that money going.

There is a term doing the round, called “Black Box Revenue.” This is the name given to income that the record labels collect that cannot be directly tracked to the recordings of a specific artist.

To put it all into context, streaming services pay the labels and upfront fee to access their catalogues. In addition, they then pay the labels royalties for each stream.

In time, this streaming system will be challenged by artists, much the same way the mp3 sales system was challenged by Eminem and other artists like Whitesnake, Rob Zombie and the band White Zombie.

In all of these cases, the artists said that their record label violated their contracts by counting a digital download as a sale instead of a licensing. Most artists get a royalty of 10 percent for the sale of a CD, minus a lot of deductions, while licenses pay a royalty of 50 percent and in most cases are not subject to any deductions.

When the same thing happens to the labels streaming revenue, the long-term viability of streaming services will be less than certain.

The main part of streaming that the critics and the record labels fail to understand is that it is a tool that is in place now, to PROVIDE REVENUE STREAMS later.

Of course the record labels and the executives in charge are all about the NOW, and a lot of their label rosters are designed for the NOW, so they don’t have time to allow things to grow. Spotify is growing in users, however the company still hasn’t made a profit after so many years in operation. The streaming system employed by the record labels that I mentioned above doesn’t allow it to make a profit.

Spotify wants to reduce piracy to ZERO. At the moment the critics of Spotify like Thom Yorke are complaining that it simply doesn’t pay enough. The truth is, creators have always been ripped off. However, if a song is great and it gets some traction, expect it to pay well.

Daft Punk passed 100 million downloads. The $700,000 that comes with that in streaming payments is enough for a band to live off, however artists see very little of the dollars paid to the record labels for the right to stream their content.

However with YouTube dominating in music, why do people need Spotify? Actually, Thom Yorke has no issues with YouTube, an unofficial streaming platform which is interesting. So I am thinking that Thom Yorke’s issue is with the record labels stake in Spotify.

Personally, I am quite content to listen to three songs on Spotify and get an ad break. I have no interest in paying for a package even if Spotify caps the limit of free songs I can listen to in a month. I will just move to YouTube when that happens, or to my iTunes library or to my physical collection of LP’s and CD’s.

What about the songwriters who write the songs? How do they get paid in the streaming age. It’s simple. They get paid, the same way everyone else gets paid that provides a service. Songwriters need to stop being greedy. What they need to do is hand in the song, get paid the agreed monies and off they go, writing more songs for artists. If a songwriter gets paid $1000 for each song they hand in, then they know they need to write 50 songs in order to earn $50,000. If one of the songs gets traction and gets 100 million streams, the songwriters should be using that as a piece of promotion and up their song writing fee. It’s simple business practices.

It is a revolution that we are experiencing.

Musicians can still make a living. Is it harder now compared to the past? My answer is NO. Musicians always had to work hard to get somewhere, that part hasn’t changed and it will never change.

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