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

If You Want To Succeed In 2014

I was listening to Fuel’s new album “Puppet Strings” today.

Fuel was one of those rock bands I latched onto in the late nineties, early two thousands.

Why call it Fuel without Carl Bell?

Why did Carl Bell call it Fuel without Brett Scallions for the “Angels and Demons” album cycle?

Keeping a band together is a job in itself. No one tells you how hard it is. Read about the making of “The Wall” from Pink Floyd. Watch, “The History Of The Eagles” documentary. Read, “The Dirt” or “Face The Music” or “Lifting Shadows” or “Enter Night” and you will see countless examples of bands trying to hold it together.

Listening to the Fuel album got me thinking about the current state of the music business.

We live in an age where only blockbuster albums make serious money.

The income gap divide between the bands that release blockbuster albums and the ones that don’t is growing wider and wider.

The days of paying your dues and breaking through are over.

Now it is all about being great 24/7.

The internet noise has made it almost impossible for messages to rise above it and new releases come out one week and if they are not great, they are forgotten the next.

It’s a cold hard truth. In 2014, you have to be great.

Five Finger Death Punch. Great.

Volbeat. Great.

Avenged Sevenfold. Great.

Skillet. Great.

Gemini Syndrome. Great.

Halestorm. Great.

In This Moment. Great.

All of the bands mentioned above have had albums out for at least 10 months and more, and they are still part of the social conversation.

If you are one of those people who uses sales as a metric of success then all of the above bands are still moving units. However sales are not the only measures of success these days.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, understand how streaming royalties work.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, stop bitching about streaming royalties and re-negotiate with the record label.

Ever heard the story of Loreena McKennitt, who is a Canadian Folk/Celtic/World music artist.

She couldn’t get a record deal. She spent a long time networking and building a connection with her audience. Eventually she created a substantial fan base that started to purchase her music and she was getting 70% of it. When Warner Bros. came knocking, she showed the label what she was making and the “crap contract” that the label came with got torn up and she negotiated a new deal with the label that benefited her as well as the label.

In the end a harp playing harpist had enough bargaining chips on her side that she was able to negotiate a real deal. And then you have people like Scott Ian and other metal heads complaining about piracy and the state of the industry.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, know that it is a relationships business with the fans first and foremost.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, know that the press doesn’t matter. It might make you feel great and it might please your vanity, however it is the fans that break acts.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, you only get ONE SHOT to make a first impression.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, you need to know how to write, play and sing.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, take a note from the Dave Matthews band. They are huge because they have fostered an audience that is more or less a cultural movement.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, you need to keep creating hits. The biggest songs of a band’s career are the ones that didn’t rise up the charts. The fans made them hits in their cultural universe. Seen a recent set list of Metallica or Megadeth. None of the songs ended up as Chart Hits, but they are still hits.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, know that streaming revenue is just going to keep on rising. If you are on a label and an old contract start re-negotiating right now. Otherwise you will be left behind.

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Music

Randy Jackson from Zebra

No, not the American Idol judge. Randy Jackson from the band Zebra. He does Robert Plant better than Robert Plant!

It was Dream Theater’s cover of their song “Take Your Fingers From My Hair” in 2009 that re-awakened my interest in Zebra. Isn’t it funny how a cover song brings back the original song and the band into the psyche. Something that Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have the foresight for, as he thought tooth and nail to stop Shinedown covering “Wanted Dead or Alive”, believing that Shinedown’s cover song would take away income from the Bon Jovi original.

In an interview with The Great Southern Brainfart Randy Jackson was asked how did he feel about Dream Theater’s version and has Zebra seen a new horde of young fans because of it.

“Certainly. A lot of people who were unaware of Zebra were definitely made aware of us by Dream Theater doing that cover. We were really flattered that they did it. They stuck to the original version but added their own touch to it so I thought they did a great job with the song. I really liked it.”

Jackson founded Zebra in 1975. They had a very large following before their first record ever came out in 1983 on Atlantic Records. Like most bands in the later part of the Seventies and the early part of their Eighties, most of their fan base had been developed from their live shows.

In addition, the majority of the bands had been slugging it out for a decent time in the clubs before getting their recording contract. Look at Twisted Sister. How many artists today are prepared to put in 8 years of hard work before they actually get a chance to record. The answer is NONE. Artists today record straight away, release it and expect something to happen. They might do it that for a few years and when nothing happens 90% of those artists would walk away. The 10% that continue are the ones that become lifers.

The follow-up album “No Tellin Lies” in 1984 stalled in the U.S and by 1986, their 3.V album wasn’t even noticed and Atlantic dropped them.

Zebra should have toured Europe after the second record got released, instead they stayed in the U.S and as Randy has said in a few interviews, it was probably their worst decision ever made. Maybe they never should have released the second album. As with all things in the music business, once a band has an unexpected hit, they are put under serious pressure to release a follow-up.

Zebra fell into this category, pressured and rushed to get album number 2 out. The label also didn’t ball in the promotion game. The fan base of Zebra was still in New York and Louisiana and that is where the promotion efforts should have been focused on. A lot of Zebra’s hard core fans didn’t even know that they had album number 2 out. .

As history would have it, they put out their second album and went on tour with “REO Speedwagon” and “Sammy Hagar” during 1984. Air play for the new album was not a lot compared to the self-titled album, so after the US tours, the band had to go back in and record album number 3.

This was February 1985. As Randy Jackson was writing the third album they also looked for a producer. The band couldn’t come up with anybody. For five months the band was in limbo. It wasn’t until December 1985 that the band hit the studio for album number 3. That was a false start and the band went back into pre-production to work on the material. Finally in February 1986 they went into the studio and stayed there until August of the same year. By then it was all over.

If Atlantic was hanging out Twisted Sister to dry, what did that mean for a band like Zebra?

The album “3.V” just died. Radio ignored it. The week that it was released was the same week that Bruce Springsteen released his live box set. Three months earlier, Bon Jovi released “Slippery When Wet” and that album was picking up some serious momentum by November 1986, Europe’s “The Final Countdown” had broken world-wide as well. Radio put them in constant circulation.

The press didn’t want to give Zebra the time of day as “The Boss”, Bon Jovi and Europe became the darlings at that time. At this time as well, a lot of the radio program directors weren’t in charge of the play lists anymore and this really Zebra because back in 1986, bands really need airplay in order to get record sales. In addition, another program called MTV also ignored the band.

While most people would know Zebra by the songs “Tell Me What You Want” which Randy wrote it 1978 at 6:30 am after a gig at “Speaks” (New York) and “Who’s Behind the Door” that deal with the big questions about life there are other songs to sink your teeth into. There is the “Yes” inspired “The La-La Song”, “Take Your Fingers From My Hair”, “Lullaby”, “Time”, “Hard Living Without You”, “But No More” and “One More Chance”.

Then it was over. China Rain never got a fair shake. Randy Jackson finished the China Rain record in 1990 and Atlantic Records decided not to release it. Sound familiar. Gatekeepers controlling the fate of musicians. Dee Snider suffered the same fate with his “Desperado” project.

From 1992 to 1996, Randy was involved in the development of an interactive musical instrument called “The Key”. The instrument allowed anyone to play a guitar-like instrument (The Key) along with videos or CDs.

“Zebra IV” started recording in 1996. The drums were done in a week in 1996 and the rest of the album was done sporadically after that. In a MelodicRock.com interview, Randy said it was “a good 9 months of actual studio time but spread over a period of 7 years”.

The album didn’t see the light of day until 2003.

Throughout the Nineties, Randy built up his acoustic shows. Nobody wanted to book him in the beginning, even his trusted agents in New Orleans who had booked Zebra for 20 years rejected him. Now he is playing places like Japan and criss crossing the US and he hasn’t even put out a recording of the acoustic project. Yep, while labels and artist still believe it is about the album, here is Randy Jackson delivering a show that is spreading via word of mouth.

The same major labels who have been scared to search out and develop new music and bands. The rock that kids listen to today is the rock that we listened to growing up. Record execs are so afraid of losing their jobs that they wouldn’t think of trying something new. All they want is for their profits to sustain or get better, because in the corporate world that we live in today, everyone is replaceable.

In between Randy did “The Sign”, a melodic rock supergroup. He also handles the vocals for the wildly successful Symphonic Music shows of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Eagles performing to packed houses across the country (from 1996).

He is a lifer in the music business. Prepared to do what he needs to do to get. He is 38 years deep in his music career. He didn’t get the fame that other bands did, however it didn’t mean he didn’t have success.

http://www.famousinterview.ca/interviews/randy_jackson.htm
http://thegreatsouthernbrainfart.com/?p=7752

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