Music, My Stories

Are We Fans Of The Music Or The Artist or Both?

I never looked to music for the artists. I would wake up and say, I gotta play this song or that song.

I listened and became a fan of hard rock music because the lyrics resonated and gave me something to believe in. The message was in the songs and as a kid growing up, music which was aggressive and laced with attitude, was screaming for attention.

As a by-product of all of these different reasons, I would then follow the artist who wrote those songs and I would consume their other releases.

But eventually I would fall out with the artist because they ceased to connect with me. And sometimes I would fall back in.

And it didn’t matter who was the best player. It never was about that. All the biggest acts didn’t have the most technical players and singers. But they could write.

And if they couldn’t write anymore or they ran out of ideas, then outside writers would come in to assist them. Like Aerosmith, Kiss, Ozzy and Bon Jovi just to name a few. At least no one was assisting Tom Keifer. But the again Keifer disappeared for a decade and a bit, while the other acts continued.

I was listening to “Blizzard Of Ozz” and it never was a hit record. Hit records were irrelevant back then, and only became relevant when MTV became dominant and people tried to rewrite history. The artist sustained their careers because we believed in their message. And who wrote the message is still disputed when it comes to Ozzy. Bob Daisley says he wrote em.

Some artists break the mold and lead us into new sounds and territories while others capitalize on the mold.

Love em or hate em, but you can’t deny Motley Crue and how “Dr Feelgood” took the sonics of heavy rock and made it heavier and punchier, something that got James and Lars very interested. And it took a pop rock producer called Bob Rock to deliver this. He’s a star. He paved the way for other heavier bands to dominate the charts.

Want to talk about stars?

How about Dee Snider?

He said what he thought, and he poured his passion into efforts like free speech. And he got ostracized for it by people tied to the hip to the record label. Like Lars Ulrich and his Napster crusade a 14 plus years later

People like Dee Snider appear in our lives to tests the limits, and not shy away from them. And he got stiffed by the labels during the heyday of hard rock on MTV between 1988 and 1991 because of it.

Artists from back in the day did not kiss ass. Ask Roger Waters. He was his own singularity. He would deliver the album when he decided it was ready. Not when the record label rep said it was ready. Or his Pink Floyd band mates. Or when John Kalodner said it was ready. Although I must admit I am a fan of albums that John Kalodner was involved in.

Axl Rose is a star. He did shit in his own way. He wrote with whoever he wanted and rejected all the norms of the record and tour cycle. But every star is subject to hate and criticism.

The key is not to give in to the pressure.

Kind of like Michael Jordan.

He had the skill, but so did many other players of his era like Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. His performance under pressure, and executing the correct skill under pressure and when the trophy was on the line, well that’s special. A separate skill that is developed with experience. It takes time. It takes some pain and some hurt.

But when he retired, people didn’t stop following the Bulls and those NBA championships he won sustained like good songs. Enough to get a new lease of life via “The Last Dance” documentary on Netflix.

And even though the artists haven’t had the same public acceptance as their earlier songs, those songs that sustain.

So music and lyrics got me interested, eventually I became a fan of the artist and moved in and out of between just liking the song or just liking the artist or both.

Standard
My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Growth Mindsets vs Fixed Mindsets

Take a look at every representative team selection process and there is literature in their guidelines about how the players/kids need to have a growth mindset or exhibit attributes of a growth mindset.

But for some reason, when it comes to picking kids, the selectors themselves have a fixed mindset. Selectors have a mindset that if the kids have been part of their program for a few years, they are better or “way ahead” than the kids that haven’t been in their program.

In Australia, parents pay $2500 for a kid to be in an elite junior team. The fact that a lot of kids don’t even try out for elite teams because of costs is never addressed. This leads to a user pay model, where the parents with money have their children in elite teams. This could be a problem or not a problem depending on the people who select the teams.

What seems to be happening is that the oldest and fastest kid for the age group is selected early on (at U9’s). By U12’s the kid hasn’t learnt how to play football properly, or learned when to use the correct ball mastery move based on what the opponent is doing. But the kid is still fast and is developing/maturing ahead of the other kids. If the selectors had to pick between this kid or the kid born in June, who is playing killer passes and is showing signs of game intelligence, they would still hold on to the kid that has been in the elite program.

Why you ask?

It’s because they have a fixed mindset. The way the selectors see it as like this;

  • Kid is in elite program, training 3 times a week with an accredited coach

versus

  • The kid playing club football, training 3 times a week (most grassroots club train 2 times a week but the high performing clubs train 3 times) with a parent as a coach. In some cases, a parent is accredited and in other cases they aren’t.

Now the accredited coach that the Elite team has can be a great coach or a poor coach. And the thing is, learning is difficult. If it was easy, all the kids would already know everything they need to know.

But unfortunately, there is a pre-judgement issue in the undertow. The kid that runs fastest to the ball is already on the radar because it’s that “easy to measure” skill. The fact that the kid has a poor touch into the opposition, turns into players and turns the ball over is forgotten. The fact the kid is not looking up to see what is happening in the game is also forgotten.

Who cares. He’s faster, he’s older and he’s winning the ball. But those easy to measure skills are not as important as the real skills that matter.

Look at the NFL and how they use data to decide how players coming into the draft should be ranked. The fact that Tom Brady recorded one of the worst scores and went on to become a superstar of the game, shows how people’s pre-judgement affects our choices.

Coaches and selectors need to also have a growth mindset and show some of the attributes the kids need to have. But we live in a society with a win at all cost mindset and a teams performance is viewed through the prism of the result.

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

Critical Mass

There are always different kinds of audiences. You have the early adopters, the first to hear about an artist. These early adopters are looking and wanting a different experience than the people who identify as the critical mass market. Early adopters want something fresh, exciting, new and interesting. The critical mass market doesn’t. They want something that that’s familiar.

Metallica when they started had an audience that adopted them early. Some of those fans stood by them all the way, even when they broke through to the mass market in the 90’s and some of those fans just moved on to something new and different.

Motley Crue had an early start in the Sunset Strip look and sound, so the early adopters saw them as the innovators. Meanwhile bands like Ratt and Dokken appeared when metal and rock music reached critical mass.

Sometimes a person in the mass market becomes an early adopter and sometimes the early adopter becomes part of the mass market. It’s all by choice.

And artists are in it for the art first. And if they get an audience, money might start to come in. And money makes it complicated, because money promises a shortcut. A bigger recording budget, a fancy video clip, a big name producer or better marketing budgets or hire session musicians. We use money to hurry up, but it distracts us from what we actually seek to build. Great art. Without the art, the artist has nothing.

And who should the artist please, the early adopters of their music or the mass market?

Does the artist start creating art for profit?

Profits are fine as they allow the artist to invest back into their art. But if profit becomes the main aim, well, nothing and no one benefits if profits are the only thing the artist seeks.

If you want to be as big as the MTV stars of the 80’s and early 90’s you’ll need to hit critical mass. MTV was the critical mass vessel that spread music to the masses. It allowed metal and rock music to go viral before going viral was a thing. In physics, critical mass has a negative meaning as it describes the amount of plutonium you need in a certain amount of space before a reaction goes out of control, leading to a meltdown or explosion. But when you talk about critical mass in a circle of artists, it’s a positive thing.

There is a belief out there that once enough people who know enough people start talking about your music, your fan base will multiply and growth kicks in.

And that is true from a certain point of view. Like “Game of Thrones”, when it hit the right number of conversations, the buzz creates its own buzz and popularity, which in turn creates more buzz and even more popularity. But “Game of Thrones” didn’t start off with critical mass at the start, even though it was marketed heavily. It was people who spread the word. And it was in full swing by Season 3. Same deal with “The Walking Dead”.

Twisted Sister had this buzz with “Under the Blade”, “You Can’t Stop Rock’N’Roll” and reached critical mass with “Stay Hungry”. “Come Out And Play” should have continued the rollercoaster ride, however poor decisions over what songs to release as singles, over exposure of the band (mainly Dee Snider) in the press, competing against album releases of other artists and an MTV ban on the video clip of “Be Cruel To Your School” hurt the band.

Facebook reached 100 users in a Harvard social circle. It was enough people for it to gain traction and it started spreading all over the campus, the town, the state, the country and then, eventually, the world.

And yes, there are routes to popularity which are random or accidental or luck or being in the right place at the right time.

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

Who Is the Real Star? The Band Name or the Personnel In The Band

There is an article doing the rounds at the Hollywood Reporter about how “The Walking Dead” is TV’s number 1 show and that the stars of the show are still largely unknown.

So it got me thinking. I was very interested to check out the show based on my love of the Horror genre. Once I checked it out, I was hooked. I didn’t start watching the show because they had certain actors in it. The only actor I was aware of was Daryl’s brother and that was from the movie Cliffhanger with Stallone and that was after watching a few episodes. So I got into the show because i was a fan of the horror genre.

However I got into “Sons Of Anarchy” because hard-core friends eventually got me to invest some time in it.

The point I am trying to make is that we get into certain TV shows, movies or artists based on a thousand different reasons. One thing is clear; we don’t get into these cultural icons because of the people in them.

For example, when Metallica started on the scene, no one was walking around saying that they got into Metallica because James Hetfield was such a cool cat or Lars Ulrich was the man. We got into Metallica for multiple reasons. For example, we were fans of the metal genre, the songs connected with us; we wanted to be part of the conversation and so on. From the outset, we become fans because of the music we hear.

That is what culture is all about. Sharing stories about the things we love.

Of course some outliers do exist and some artists have a cultural influence that transcends their music. They become institutions themselves. For example, Slash is now a cultural institution. Ozzy Osbourne is a cultural institution albeit with a lot of help from his “friends”. Nikki Sixx is a cultural institution. Robb Flynn is a cultural institution. Dee Snider is a cultural icon. These artists can all survive on their own. They are brand names themselves.

It’s taken Slash almost 14 years from when he left Gunners to re-establish and re-brand himself as a force to be reckoned with. That happened in 2010 with the release of his solo album and with a little help from his friends.

Randy Rhoads and Bob Daisley helped Ozzy Osbourne break the shackles of Black Sabbath. Jake E. Lee and Phil Soussan enhanced what Randy Rhoads and Bod Daisley created. Zakk Wylde turned it all into a blockbuster with “No More Tears” being the pinnacle.

Nikki Sixx re-invented himself and Motley Crue by first gaining control of Motley Crue’s back catalogue from Elektra Records. A task that no other artist had accomplished before. Then he pushed for the writing of “The Dirt”. Since then, he has become a solo artist with Sixx AM, a song writer for other artists, a social media junkie, a photographer, a literary writer and a radio personality.

Robb Flynn showed the world that he can survive. He really went out of his comfort zone recently and performed acoustically. He survived the “Through The Ashes of Empires” era and lived to tell the tale. Talk about Grit and Roll. It was music all the way, with no safety net. No plan B. His Journals are pure gold. Even if you don’t like Machine Head’s music, you can still appreciate the Journal Ramblings. For any artist starting off, there is information in there that is real. There is information there that is not sugar-coated by a mainstream writer.

Dee Snider, what else can be said. Read his bio.

These artists have all connected with us on different levels. They have become so large in people’s lives that they have become cultural institutions themselves. We then stick with these institutions through the good times and the bad times.

So what about all the other artists. Well for the remainder of the artists it is still about the music. They need to have the music pumping out and they need to make connections.

Dee Snider once said that there are no more rock stars in this day and age. I took that to mean, that in the internet age, there are no real recognizable faces to put to certain bands. While I agree with that comment in parts, I also disagree with it.

For example, Coheed and Cambria has Claudio Sanchez. Watch them live and you get to see the hair. Instantly recognizable.

Five Finger Death Punch has Zoltan Bathory with the dreadlocks and the UFC/mixed martial arts look. They have Ivan Moody and the Mohawk.

Shinedown has Brent Smith, who performs like an adrenaline injected Steve Tyler.

Black Veil Brides have, well they have the whole band.

Avenged Sevenfold have Eighties rock star stage names with instantly recognisable faces.

However if any of the band members in the above mentioned bands, decide to go on their own, it will be a tough slog for them as the bands they are in have all become cultural institutions. Then you have a band like Protest The Hero who look like normal guys going to University.

So going back to “The Walking Dead”. The show is the rock star. That is the cultural institution.

So for any wannabe rock stars, think about all of the above for a second. No one is going to wake up tomorrow morning and think to themselves, “damn, I want to hear some music from Zoltan Bathory, or “Insert New Artist name here””.

We wake up in the morning and think to ourselves, “damn, we want to hear some Five Finger Death Punch. We wake up and go “damn its “The Walking Dead” tonight.”

That is what a lot of misguided artists fail to grasp when they leave a certain cultural institution citing musical differences. They (meaning the person) were never the stars. The band name is the star and it always will be.

That is why Guns N Roses is still rolling along, playing to large audiences.

That is why Tommy Lee returned to Motley Crue.

That is why James Hetfield returned to Metallica after rehab. That is why Lars Ulrich never contemplated anything else except Metallica during this period.

That is why Dave Mustaine resurrected Megadeth after he disbanded the band.

That is why Dimebag didn’t want Pantera to end. He knew that Pantera was the star.

That is why David Lee Roth worked with Van Halen again. That is why Sammy Hagar wants to work with Van Halen again.

That is why Alex Skolnick returned to Testament.

That is why there is a fight over who owns the right to the Queensryche name.

That is why Benjamin Burnley went all legal for the right to use the Breaking Benjamin name.

That is why Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to Iron Maiden.

That is why Rob Halford returned to Judas Priest.

That is why Black Sabbath reformed with three of the original members and released ’13’.

That is why bands like Ratt, Quiet Riot, Dokken, Poison and Skid Row are still continuing.

That is why Joey Belladonna returned to Anthrax and why Scott Ian is still continuing the band.

That is why Slayer is continuing without Jeff Hanneman.

To finish off with the immortal words of Ronnie James Dio “And on and on and on and on it goes….”

Standard