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

Convergence of Forces in 1986/87

After touring with AC/DC and Aerosmith for a year, I felt a little more aggressive. Some nights I would come up with something pretty, but after seeing Angus bash it out, I would say “Fuck pretty”.
Vito Bratta GW September 1989

This quote has remained with me for ages.

Vito Bratta is a guitarist who understands music and loves his instrument. His soloing is liquid joy and his rhythm work is complex.

So how does a musician who uses complex chord inversions and arpeggios to color a song compete for people’s attention against the blues based rock of AC/DC and Aerosmith, especially when those two bands had a head start of 15 plus years building up an audience.

Furthermore while Aerosmith sang about a dude who looks like a lady and a rag doll cutie, White Lion via Mike Tramp sang about the sinking of a Greenpeace ship. While AC/DC sang about woman as fast machines, White Lion sang about broken homes and violence in the home.

I remember a magazine reporter writing about how Mike Tramp introduced “Little Fighter” to metal kids when White Lion was opening for Ozzy. It went something like this;

Tramp: “You like to go to the fuckin’ Jersey Shore?” 
Crowd: “Yeah!” 
Tramp: “Don’t you get pissed off when you can’t swim because of the pollution?
Crowd: “Yeah!” (half-hearted)
Tramp: “Well, here’s a song about a group that’s doing something about it.”

White Lion toured with blues based hard rock bands for 12 months during the “Pride” period and there is no doubt that the rock vibe and party connection with the audience would have influenced Vito with the writing process of “Big Game”. But he didn’t want to just follow blindly what others have done before him so he tried to create something new, something interesting. But the majority of the pop music consumers don’t want interesting. They want carbon copies of what came before, something they can sing too, and something that is very uninteresting.

So “Big Game” was rushed. All because the label wanted to capitalize in the new-found interest in the band. But the label must have forgotten that MTV still controlled the public interest metric. If MTV played your band on the channel, you would sell a million plus. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t sell as much as you expected regardless of the quality of the music.

So with great power, comes great responsibility and MTV became a powerful and corruptible gatekeeper and for all its evil ways, it was still the best marketing tool to turn acts into global superstars.

But MTV didn’t play the video clips from “Big Game” as much as it played the clips from “Pride”.

And it’s funny when you look back to the 1986/87 period, the artists who had their biggest hits and sales during that period, never replicated those numbers again.

Bon Jovi never topped “Slippery When Wet”. Europe never topped “The Final Countdown”. White Lion never topped “Pride”. Whitesnake never topped their “self-titled” debut. Guns N Roses never topped “Appetite For Destruction”. INXS never topped “Kick”. Joe Satriani never topped “Surfing With The Alien”. Def Leppard never topped “Hysteria”. U2 never topped “The Joshua Tree”. Stryper never topped “To Hell With The Devil”.

There was something of a convergence during these years. MTV was well established by 1986 and massive, CD’s had taken hold by 1987, artists that had been around for a while had enough experiences on the board to write their masterpiece and fans of the 60’s/70’s rock movement had teenage families, so suburbia had cash to spend on entertainment due to low employment.

But with all things great, disaster was just around the corner. Black Monday happened on Monday, October 19, 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed. The single day drop was enough to scare people from spending and make people lose their jobs. Maybe it put a dent into the recording business for a few years, because from 1989 to 1999, the labels turned over billions.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

How Long Until The Streaming Well Goes Dry?

“Musicians can go out and play to fill the gaping hole that the lack of record sales has created, but streaming has actually become the saving grace for record companies. But it really is to the point of such diminishing returns for musicians that I have no words to describe it. I would turn around and say, “Okay, let’s make this work,” but now I’m hearing that new contracts that are sent out from friends of mine who are lawyers, that record companies now want to pass on paying even streaming royalties because they consider streaming “promotion.” That is beyond a grey area.”
David Coverdale

Streaming and Spotify is the best thing to ever happen the music industry. It competed with piracy and more or less won the battle. It’s subscriber base is growing and people are moving from freemium to the pay model. Adele’s record label is withholding her album from streaming services, however Pandora is streaming it, because as it happens, Pandora is a radio station.

But it is a long game. As Coverdale alludes too, the record labels want to wither away the streaming money tree as well, claiming all of the licensing fees and royalty payments for themselves. All of those writers and musicians complaining about Spotify or another streaming service, need to complain about their labels and publishers.

Because the people who used to control music, have a short-term mindset. And it all comes down to money. Streaming service Rdio is gone, claiming bankruptcy. It didn’t have the user base to support the licensing fees it needed to pay. Pandora purchased it’s assets, however Pandora has its own problems with court cases (financed by the Record labels and the Publishers) around pre 72 recordings and royalty payments on those recordings and others. And it’s a battle for which service will win the streaming wars, as to the victor, 70% market share awaits them. Like how Facebook and Apple won the social media and phone wars.

The reason why the record labels are so powerful is because they have locked up culture and copyrights for a very long time. As I have posted before, “Smoke On The Water”, a song written in 1971, will still be under copyright once we enter the 2100’s. The writers/creators will have passed a long time before that, and there is a good chance that any heirs of theirs will also have moved on to the afterlife. But the main beneficiary in this copyright hijack, is the corporation.

So what we have in the music industry are Record Label Executives that contribute nothing to music, living it up, flying private, because they satisfy Wall Street and via their lobby group, the “RIAA”, fight to get laws approved to protect their business models.

“The old copyright model – the person who creates something owns it and anyone else that wants to use it or see it has to pay them – has expired in the same way that around the world you’re seeing structures and social norms [lapse] that were standard for many years. The old copyright model has expired. It can no longer exclusively control music.”
Steve Albini

The old copyright model only benefits the labels in this day and age, so it’s no surprise that they are fighting hard to get even longer copyright terms. It’s a monopoly they don’t want to lose, even at the expense of the public domain, because the public domain is how more works are generated.

The power to make change lies with the musicians.

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

Thoughts on Streaming, Longevity and Access to Music

“Rock bands were only supposed to last around 5 years. The Beatles, as far as Americans knew them, were only around for 7 years and that seemed like an eternity to the millions of musicians that they inspired, many of which became famous rock stars themselves.”
Jay Jay French 

Once upon a time, that was the case. All of the good Seventies band had more or less finished up or turned into bad imitations of themselves by the early Eighties. Some of the musicians went onto successful or not so successful solo careers.

  • Eagles
  • Deep Purple
  • ELP
  • Yes
  • Bad Company
  • Led Zeppelin
  • UFO
  • Aerosmith
  • Kiss
  • Pink Floyd
  • Kansas
  • Alice Cooper

Throughout it all, the world was changing.

People suddenly had access to more credit than ever before. Their wages increased at an astronomical rate. Ownership of music became a big thing as MTV put our heroes into our lounge rooms.  On the heels of this new cultural phenomenon, suddenly there was more money to spend on entertainment products.

So what do all of these bands do?

They reformed. It didn’t matter if it was with the original band members (if that was possible at all) or with different musicians. The labels would bring in extra songwriters.

Aerosmith cashed in. So did Alice Cooper. So did Kiss. Desmond Child and Jim Vallance proved to be songwriters most hard rock bands started to use.

Suddenly we had rock bands lasting 20 years, then 30 years and in 2015 we have rock bands that have lasted 40 years.

But, it is the fans of music that made it all happen.

The fans of music made the record labels rich and the fans of music are the ones that ruined the record labels business models that relied on physical sales.

It is the fans of music that turned Spotify and streaming into a billion dollar industry. That’s the power of the people.

We will play the same song over and over again for decades and under the new model we are generating cash for the streaming service who then pass 70% of it on to the rights holders, which in all cases are the record labels and the publishing companies (who are also owned by the record labels). $4.5 billion dollars have been paid by Spotify and Pandora in royalties. All of that has gone to the record labels or to entities controlled by the record labels. You can see why songwriters are frustrated. Where’s all that money going?

Regardless, when it comes to consuming music and what price should be charged, the people have spoken.

The people decide what is of value and what it wants to pay for something. And artists’ should do everything they can to hook them into a new system or their system.

Look at Coheed and Cambria. I am hooked into the way they release their albums with the Super Deluxe Editions, instant digital downloads and VIP membership.

Remember when the book publishers said that e-books are undervalued and people must pay more. Did they ever think that the people don’t want to pay more?

Amazon finally relented and gave the publishers a chance to set their own prices. So what do the publishers do, they set the e-book price the same as a hardcover price. So the people screamed “Rip off” and E-book sales tanked.

Apple Music launches and it has no free tier after the three months sweetener. By default Apple along with the record labels are excluding people and to really succeed, streaming services like the artists need to hook in the casual users. Fans will always pay top dollar. But casual listeners are important as well. Spotify, Pandora and YouTube are at least servicing these listeners.

In the end the recording industry, along with the artists need to get more people paying for streaming. The bigger the streaming pool, the bigger the payouts, as long as the record labels are honest.

But that works by first exposing people to the service. It could take 3 months, 6 months, 12 months or years before people lay out cash. Instead, the labels put a high fee on licensing and then they want streaming services to raise the price immediately.

Did everyone miss the memo?

Music has completely changed. Once upon a time, songs would be sent out to radio or a video would be sent to MTV, with the hope that people would be hooked in enough to go to the record store and buy the album. It was all about monetizing up front. Today, songs are available instantly and monetization comes last. First comes attention. If people are checking something out, and if it sticks…it will grow.

“I think this is the new millennium Number of the Beast. That was one of our best albums and the follow-up to that (Piece of Mind) was probably the best of the lot of them. It has something for everybody. Take Speed of Light, for instance. It is the old Maiden. That intro is a testimony to Deep Purple.”
Nicko McBrain – Iron Maiden drummer

I purchased the album, however I didn’t hear it on CD. As a collector, the CD went straight on the shelf. Through the magic of the internet and Spotify, I can hear the album without paying for it. Isn’t that a better outcome than keeping the music locked up behind paywalls?

If people like it, they will spread the word.

If people like it, they will pay for the CD, pay for the vinyl, or pay to get a higher quality stream.

This is the new world, everything is different now.

The charts are irrelevant, while listens are in. If you don’t believe me, then have a look at the paltry sales that lead to a number one album in Australia.

More people are accessing music through streaming and that is a very good thing. Has anyone heard Iron Maiden complaining about their box office returns after each show, or the fact that they are one of the bands that has huge P2P traffic. It takes a non-rocker to sum up the effect of people accessing music easily.

“I’m playing three Wembley Stadium (shows) on album two. I’m playing sold-out arena gigs in South America, Korea, south-east Asia and Australia. I don’t think I’d be able to do that without Spotify or if people hadn’t streamed my music. My music has been streamed 860 million times, which means that it’s getting out to people. I get a percentage of my record sales, but it’s not a large percentage, (whereas) I get all my ticket sales, so I’d much rather tour. That’s why I got into the business — I love playing gigs. Recording albums, to me, is a means to an end. I put out records so I can tour. For me, Spotify is not even a necessary evil. It helps me do what I want to do.”
Ed Sheeran

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

Rock/Metal Quotes

“Our first deal, for example, was for five records, so there was development there. They looked at it as: ‘Let’s invest in these first two records, and if nothing happens, no big deal. Maybe the third record will be the turning point, and then four and five we’re on the gravy train.’ I think that was the record company’s perspective.”
Alex Lifeson. RUSH

It was always the fan that had the power. Fans invest in the artist. It never mattered what the record company thought or believed as it was the fan who decided if the piece of vinyl was worth their money. The labels had the gatekeeping power to decide who got to a recording studio or who didn’t. And they used that power wisely to accumulate artists’ copyrights.

“If we were to release those same three records now: Fly By Night – the record company would’ve gone, ‘Okay, let’s hang on.’ With Caress of Steel, they would’ve dropped us right away, because it was a commercially unsuccessful record, but we needed to make that record to make 2112. So there would be no 2112 for Rush in 2015. I’d go back to plumbing or some other job. That just doesn’t exist now, whereas back then, as nervous as they were, they still were there to support us.”
Alex Lifeson. RUSH

The labels did not support the artist. They supported a copyright monopoly. Their accountants knew very early on that holding the copyrights for songs would be a big financial winner for them in the future. The labels have used their accumulated copyrights as leverage to negotiate licence fees with Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify, Deezer and all of the other streaming services.

To prove my point, let’s look at an Italian hard rock/metal label called Frontiers Records. Look at the albums they have released, especially in the last five years. You will see a trend of certain artists, re-recording their best songs from the Eighties and Seventies and putting these recorded versions under a new Copyright. Frontiers will pay the artist for their work, and they keep the copyrights of these forgeries for a very long time.

Who is the winner here?

The artist or the record label.

“For new bands, everybody makes CDs. Years ago, nobody had CDs. You had to have a record deal. Everybody’s got it [now]. And there’s so much competition. The Internet is good in a way to get your stuff out there, but the whole music industry is wrecked.”
Vinny Appice. DIO, BLACK SABBATH, HEAVEN AND HELL,

“For me, it’s an interesting dichotomy. Because, on one hand, you’ve got people who are streaming, but then they use that to decide whether or not they wanna buy the album, as opposed to illegal downloading. But then there’s the other side of it where people are kind of using it as, basically, satellite radio, where it’s, like, ‘I’m just gonna listen to this.’ But people still pay a subscription for it. So, in one way or another, the economy is still working. It’s just that… We can’t catch up with the technology; that’s the problem. There’s so many innovations that the powers that be can’t figure out… they can’t get ahead of it.”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

The gatekeepers are no more. It’s an open market and simple economics rule. Supply vs Demand. Music at the moment is in huge supply and the demand from the fans is spread thin.

For example, in the next three months there are about 40 albums that I am interested in listening too.

For August, I am looking forward to Soulfly’s “Archangel”, Bon Jovi’s “Burning Bridges”, Disturbed’s “Immortalized”, Pop Evil’s “Up”, Five Finger Death Punch’s “Got Your Six”, Fear Factory’s “Genexus”, Bullet for My Valentine’s “Venom”, Act of Defiance’s “Birth and the Burial”, P.O.D.’s “The Awakening”, Motörhead’s “Bad Magic” and Soilwork’s “The Ride Majestic”.

For September, I am looking forward to Shinedown’s new one, Iron Maiden’s “The Book of Souls”, Slayer’s “Repentless” and Atreyu’s “Long Live”.

For October, I am looking forward to Children of Bodom’s “I Worship Chaos”, Collective Soul’s “See What You Started by Continuing”, Coheed and Cambria’s “The Color Before the Sun”, Deftones new one, Queensrÿche’s “Condition Hüman”, Sevendust’s “Kill the Flaw”, Trivium’s “Silence in the Snow”, W.A.S.P.’s “Golgotha” and Stryper’s “Fallen”.

Some I would buy and a lot I would just stream WHEN I HAVE THE TIME.

“All due respect to Mr. Simmons, I think when he talks about rock being dead, I think he talks about the old-school way of album-tour-album-tour-album-tour. That’s just not the way you do it anymore. There’s so many other things and ways to continue the history of this industry, and to continue to be on top. I mean, I’m looking out at headlining Download [festival] in the U.K. [Sarcastically] Yeah, rock is dead. That’s why there’s 85,000 people here at 11:30 at night in a downpour, and nobody left. Yeah, rock’s dead. Yeah.”

Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

Spot on. Fans of music haven’t disappeared and they haven’t resorted to freemium as the labels or the RIAA would like us to think. Fans still support music and artists in their own way. I purchase CD’s, I stream music, I download music and I go to concerts. The old model of album sales and then a tour is broken. So a new model is required.

“Well, we have such an incredible reaction to [JUDAS PRIEST’s latest album] ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ that really motivated us to crack the whip and get on with making the next record pretty quickly. The clock is ticking, you know. We can’t afford to wait three years, or five years now, to make the record. And especially while we’re having this great, kind of, vibe with the fans and just this massive PRIEST family love fest type of deal. You know, who wants to go home and sit down for a year?”
Rob Halford. JUDAS PRIEST

“Fewer records get sold or streamed, less money is there,” he continued. “You used to sell enough records to not go on tour. In the 90s, you used to make as much money on tour as you would selling records. Now you make one-tenth of that money on records sales or streaming. The biggest problem with the new record business is that I don’t know who the fans are. Fans are the people who will actually pay for something.”
Peter Mensch. MANAGER

They (the recording industry) have to. But probably the best route they should take, I think they’ve been playing catch-up for a long time — they’re constantly trying to readjust and adapt. I think that probably the truth of the matter, the answer is to start from scratch and create a whole new playbook. Build a whole new business plan off of that. I don’t think anybody, at least that I’m aware of, has done that, started with just a blank slate and just started over. I think that’s really what needs to be done. Just level the building and build something brand new.”
Dee Snider. TWISTED SISTER

Fans are people who will actually pay for something when they want to pay. Growing up the Eighties, I had a circle of friends who would wait with blank cassettes for the latest music I purchased. We had a running joke to say “the leeches are in the house”. These fans copied Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth, Whitesnake, Night Ranger and so many other bands from me. Their whole music collection was dubbed music.

So time goes on, they get older, they get jobs, the internet comes, Napster rises and suddenly they have money to spend. They didn’t start to purchase recorded music, they just downloaded that for free. What they did start to purchase was concert tickets for the bands they liked. When Maiden toured Australia for the “Caught Somewhere Back In Time” tour, they went to the shows in Sydney and Melbourne. I only went to the Sydney shows. When Motley Crue came for the Carnival Of Sins tour they went to the shows around Australia. I only went to the Sydney show. When Metallica came, they went to the shows around Australia, plus the Soundwave shows and so on. When Megadeth came, they went to their shows.

“Because, at the end of the day, it’s about people knowing the music, not owning it.”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

Perfectly said.

“The only thing that’s really been affected is albums sales. Because there’s still just as many rock fans out there as there were, and there’s a whole new generation coming up. I mean, the contracts that you signed back then — even today — you’d have to sell five, six million at a pop to be able to turn a profit. So, for people like me, it wasn’t about making money off the album sales. I mean, it’s be nice, but it wasn’t the essential.”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

“I’m talking about the cost to buy a CD. You can get a brand new record from your favourite band for ten dollars, basically. And even that’s high, ’cause most bands will sell ’em cheaper, especially the first or two the records are out. So, for ten bucks you can get a new record. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that CDs cost $18.99 at the Virgin Megastore. Records cost half what they used to cost, and people aren’t buying them as much, which is crazy to me. It’s never been cheaper. What more do the people want?”
Scott Ian. ANTHRAX

No one wanted to buy an album. WE WANTED TO LISTEN TO MUSIC. It was unfortunate that the music we wanted to listen to was put on a piece of vinyl or a CD or a cassette and sold at a very high price.

“For me, the album is the calling card. You hope people are hearing the music, but it’s not essential to sell the music, and that’s the thing you kind of have to balance today.”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

“Right now I don’t even know what the music business is. I have no idea. There’s no record stores. We live in Los Angeles, and the radio sucks. It’s better elsewhere. The bands put an album out, and they don’t play it. Then everybody downloads it for free. And it’s a mess. ‘Cause people need to earn money when they play music, just like you go earn money when you go to work. It costs money to make an album. You can’t just give it away for free.”
Vinny Appice. DIO, BLACK SABBATH, HEAVEN AND HELL,

But it’s not for free. The album that you recorded has been put up on a streaming site. The label that put it up was paid a fee to license the music they have on that streaming site. Speak to your label and re-negotiate. When people listen to your album, 70% of the monies go to your label. Again, speak to your label and re-negotiate.

What is better?

A million streams or a 1000 units in sales. A million streams shows a large audience supporting your product that is waiting to be monetized in other ways.

1000 units in sales shows a 1000 people who purchased your music and then maybe listened to it once or twice or a lot. The problem is the artists don’t know either way if those 1000 units in sales are fans or not.

“Cause people are still buying CDs, but they’re also buying music on iTunes, they’re paying for accounts on Spotify. So it’s not like they’re not hearing the music. So when they come and see the show, and you play a song that is brand new and you get that huge pop, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about that live show”
Corey Taylor. SLIPKNOT/STONE SOUR

“I understand there’s a thing called the Internet and people have the ability to steal music. So I understand why it’s happening, but you would think that people would just have the attitude, ‘I’m gonna support music, I’m gonna support the bands I love, because if I don’t support this, well, the bands I love aren’t gonna be able to make records anymore and they’re not gonna be able to tour as much anymore.”
Scott Ian. ANTHRAX

Scott Ian is unfortunately stuck in the sales equals success mentality. As Corey Taylor has stated, fans of music support the bands they like in different ways. A typical fan could fit into any of the following combinations;

– Stream for free only
– Stream for free and purchase tickets to a show
– Stream on a paid subscription only
– Stream on a paid subscription only and purchase tickets to a show
– Stream for free and purchase a CD/mp3 only
– Stream for free and purchase a CD/mp3 and purchase tickets to a show
– Stream on a paid subscription and purchase a CD/mp3 only
– Stream on a paid subscription, purchase a CD/mp3 and purchase tickets to a show
– Purchase a CD/mp3 only
– Purchase a CD/mp3 and purchase tickets to a show
– Illegally download for free only
– Illegally download for free and then purchase a CD
– Illegally download for free, purchase a CD and purchase tickets to a show
– Illegally download for free and purchase tickets to a show

“Look, if I was a kid, and it was 1977 and I had a way to get KISS albums for free, I’m pretty sure I probably would have jumped on that bandwagon. But for me to get a free KISS album in 1977 would have meant having the balls to walk into a record store, take a vinyl album, stick it under my shirt and walk out without getting caught. There was a consequence to that. So it’s a completely different thing [today]. There’s no consequence to stealing music online … or anything: movies, or books, or anything.”
Scott Ian. ANTHRAX

Look Scott, when you were a kid, I am sure that you copied an album onto a cassette tape. That is called Copyright Infringement. This is the problem that you face with the internet. People have copied your music and are spreading your music via the Internet. No one has stolen anything. The iTunes mp3 is still available for purchase, the Anthrax albums are still available for streaming and so forth.

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Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Metal Without Limits

Hot Metal was a monthly Australian publication that I religiously purchased each month between 1989 and sometime towards the end of 1995.

The issue I am flicking through right now is the August 1991 issue.

In the mag there is an interview with Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton from Queensryche taking place during the “Empire” tour. The album by this time had moved over 1.6 million copies in the U.S and MTV had “Silent Lucidity” in constant rotation. By December of the same year, the RIAA would certify the album as 2x Platinum.

Chris DeGarmo interviews well. He comes up with a lot of good quotes and truths.

“Rock records seen to have these long legs. We learned that with Operation Mindcrime.”

So true. Rock and Metal records if done right just continue to stick around. While Pop might rule the airwaves and get the mainstream ink, rock and metal records just keep on sticking around. Let me rephrase that; the great rock and metal records just keep on sticking around.

Look at the Whitesnake 1987 album. It came out in March, 1987. By January 1988, it was certified Platinum x5 (for U.S sales). By July 1992 it was certified Platinum x6, By February 1995, it was certified Platinum x8. It just kept on sticking around almost 8 years after its release.

Go on Spotify and YouTube and you will see counts of 10 million plus for “Here I Go Again”, “Is This Love” and “Still Of The Night”. It’s still sticking around.

There is another issue from July 1989 that also caught my attention and that one has another interview with Chris DeGarmo;

“Who are Queensryche? Why, after years of slogging around, supporting everyone from Bon Jovi to Metallica, has “Operation Mindcrime” suddenly captured the imagination of a whole new world of listeners? “

They caught the mainstream by surprise with “Operation Mindcrime”. No one knew what to do with them. Chris DeGarmo was pressured in the interview to describe Queensryche’s brand of music. This was his answer.

“Hmmm, lets see, aggressive pop music? (laughs). No, I wouldn’t call it that. I guess it would be… metal without limits.”

Not too sure how many people read Guitar World. In a December 1991 issue Dave Mustaine referred to Queensryche as “Yuppie Metal” which I found hilarious. But you know what, DeGarmo is spot on with both of his definitions. How cool does “aggressive pop music” and “metal without limits” sound?

“Promised Land” was their real “metal without limit”s album. The overall sound was still rooted within the hard rock/metal genres, however there was a melancholy undertow simmering underneath that dabbled in different styles and song structures. It didn’t have a crossover hit single, but man, it has some killer moods.

It was very interesting how we had been out there working our asses off for the better part of a year and some people thought this new album had just come out.”

You see even back in 1992. getting the news out there was still a challenge. So when you add to that challenge all the noise that the internet creates, you can see that the difficulty in getting your name out there today has grown exponentially. And for any artist in the music game, getting your name out there is still the challenge. Not P2P.

“In a lot of people’s minds we are a new band and we have to get used to that.”

Spot on.

Hell, a lot of people thought that the 1987 Whitesnake album was Whitesnake’s first album. When I looked at the video clip for “Still Of The Night”, I couldn’t make sense why the album shows one guitarist and the video clip has two. The information travelled slow and for me in Australia it was tied up in expensive import magazines.

Bon Jovi broke out big with “Slippery When Wet” and when these new fans found out that “Slippery” was actually the bands third album, they started snapping up the back catalogue. By February 1987, “7800 Fahrenheit” was certified Platinum, while “Slippery When Wet” reached Platinum x6 at the same time.

For Queensryche, “Rage For Order” and “The Warning” achieved a Gold certification in 1991. And that is because of the “Empire” album and the success of “Silent Lucidity”.

Artists could be huge in certain states or countries however it didn’t mean that the whole world or even their own country knew about them. And this was in the era when the record labels controlled everything and even they couldn’t get the narrative out.

“It’s funny when someone comes up to you and says, ‘I heard that song “Silent Lucidity”. Do you guys have any more songs?’. You don’t want to insult them by saying, ‘Of course we do, you fool. We have been around for ages!’ How are they to know, when no one has ever played any of it?”

The importance of MTV during the eighties and the early nineties was astronomical for a band to get that instant payola. If their clip got constant rotation on the channel, then the platinum armies would come a knocking. So while “Eyes Of A Stranger” opened up the MTV door, it was “Jet City Woman”, “Another Rainy Night” and “Silent Lucidity” that took it to a whole new level. However, it was only those songs that MTV played, so if people didn’t go out and purchase the old catalogue how were they supposed to hear it.

“There wasn’t enough people into Queensryche to support coming to Australia. If we came we would like to bring the whole show, but we’re just not sure of our following there”. 

They never came to Australia during the height of their popularity. The first Queensryche album I got was a cassette recording of “Operation Mindcrime”. “Empire” by default became a blind purchase for me.

I watched Queensryche in 2009, a version of the band that was missing Chris DeGarmo. The venue was at 1500 capacity. The ticket cost $80. The tour was billed as songs from “Rage For Order”, “Empire” and “American Soldier”. It was enjoyable to watch and no time would we have known the bullshit that was going to come.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

The Art Of Copying, Tweaking and Creating

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”

“To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.”

One person said all of the above and that person was Pablo Picasso who is seen as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century and who is also known as a co-founder of the Cubist movement. His comments about success leading to copying oneself is spot on. Bon Jovi re-wrote “Slippery When Wet” and called it “New Jersey”. Jovi and Sambora re-wrote “Living On A Prayer” and called it “Born To Be My Baby”, “Keep The Faith”, “It’s My Life”, “Bounce”, “We Aren’t Born To Follow” and so on.

Stryper re-wrote the “To Hell With The Devil” album and called it “In God We Trust”.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”.

Film director Jim Jarmusch said the above and he is seen as one of the most ORIGINAL storytellers in the world of cinema.

Metallica took the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal to new heights.

All of the above sort of led me to Black Sabbath.

“Take a tune, sing high when they sing low, sing fast when they sing slow, and you’ve got a new tune.”

The above advice came from the experienced Woody Guthrie to a young Bob Dylan. And that is exactly what Black Sabbath did. They took the blues, distorted it even more, played it faster and sang it darker.

Now some might dispute this way of songwriting where an artist uses the structural template of older songs to create newer songs. And the funny thing is this, music progressed and developed through the ages because of this. The whole British blues rock invasion of the world happened because those artists copied, tweaked and reinvented blues classics. Prior to the recording industry, music mainly spread from performer to performer without any issue of copyright or licenses.

Music’s history is very much like any other form of creativity – influences and ideas are taken, reshaped and reinvented. All of that originality is simply reinterpretation.

But then came the Corporation and Copyright was remade so that others could get unearned income from someone else’s creations. In other words, enter the RECORD LABEL and the PUBLISHERS.

The lawmakers at the time were quite worried that extending copyright to sound recordings would stifle creativity and it could create monopolies, harm consumers, throttle innovation and competition. It is there to protect the profits of the record labels and the publishers, not the artists. Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman got paid in millions each year due to their involvement with the RIAA.

This is what Copyright has created. People getting paid so much more than the actual artists who created the works. Copyright law originally lasted for 14 years from production. In most parts of the world, Copyright is now life plus 70 years.

Jimi Hendrix has been dead for 44 hears and it looks like his music will not enter the public domain in my lifetime for others to build on and re-invent.

The rise of digital music, both pirated and legal, has led to a steep decline in revenues for artists yet there has been no decline in the amount of music being written and recorded. More people are making music now than in the pre-Napster era and that is all happening with piracy and copyright infringement being rampant.

Copyright needs a re-think and a re-write so that it benefits the artists again.

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

Metal and Rock Quotes That Will Change The Way Artists Think

There is a post over at Music Think Tank called “12 Powerful Quotes That Could Change The Way You’re Promoting Your Music” that was written Lukas Camenzind.

You can read the quotes in the link. All the quotes are great.

Here are 10 of my favorite quotes that have the potential to change the way artists think (with a rock and metal flavor):

#1

“Unless you find another way of making money besides controlling copying, you will not last in the digital age.” – Ram Samudrala (in an article on the first “MP3 Summit” that appeared in the July 18, 1998 issue of Billboard.)

This quote forms part of a speech that was directed at the Record Labels in 1998. 15 years ago. The labels ignored the advice and went to war in 1999 against Napster and innovation.

Do you think they won? If anything they failed the artists that they claim to serve.

#2

“Some people get into this business for the attention, they want the babes or the money or the Porsche, but when we first got together we didn’t know that this was going to become a business. We were just friends who wanted to jam.” – Chris DeGarmo (Queensryche founder, ex guitarist and main songwriter)

Be in it for the right reasons.

#3

“Our web site is extremely interactive right now. We worked very hard on it in order to make it very fan orientated. There is so much stuff that you can do on our web site. We want to talk to fans. We want video blogs. Sell streams on there. You can talk to us personally.” – Brent Smith (Vocalist, Shinedown)

Your fans are your everything. Treat them with the respect they deserve. They are the only ones you are accountable too. Not managers, agents, labels or the press.

#4

“We owe everything we have to those of you that follow us and give us your love and devotion.” – Brent Walsh (I The Mighty band)

This is from a newer band in the scene. They get it. Fans are the only people bands and artist have to answer.

#5

“When I started, I decided to devote my life to it and not get sidetracked by all the other bullshit life has to offer.” – Cliff Burton (RIP) Bassist

There is no plan B for musicians. There is no safety net. Are you ready to fly?

#6

“The hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.” – Eddie Van Halen

Songs don’t have to be Verse – Pre – Chorus. You don’t need to have the same verse riff each time the verse is played. Let your ears guide you. Those bands that have had a long career broke the rules.

#7

“One must feel strongly to make others feel strongly”
Paganini

If you don’t believe in what you are doing, how will others believe in you.

#8

“We view making it like it’s a finish line. It’s not. You never know what it’s going to be. You never know if you need to keep climbing or it’s a sheer drop down the other side. Sometimes it’s a plateau. Few of us have the Ozzy, Clapton, Billy Joel, Elton John careers, that go on for a lifetime. Most of ’em are a few years and thank you, you’re done.” Dee Snider, Vocalist, Twisted Sister

Making it is the start of the chase. That is when you need to keep on climbing in order to stay at the top. Vito Bratta struggled with this. Dee Snider struggled with it.

#9

“A band is a dysfunctional family. A brotherhood, a family business, and a renaissance-era-court. You’re room-mates in studio-apartment-on-wheels for years-at-a-time, 24-hours-a-day. Plus you’re in the pressure cooker of the spotlight, every move analyzed, read into, or attacked. Everybody wants something from you, everybody wants to be your friend, everybody loves you, everybody can do so-much-better-for-you-than-the-people-you-have-now. Some people try and turn you against each other, and everyone wants to take credit for your success.” – Robb Flynn (Machine Head)

The music industry is tough. Are you ready for it? Your best friend in the band will become your enemy, especially if you are the main songwriter.

#10

“To this day I don’t have a guitar idol. I have people who are my favorites.”– Randy Rhoads (RIP) Guitarist

Be influenced. Progress is derivative.

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