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

Money In Music, Greed, Elitism And A Lifestyle Of Not Taking Things Too Seriously

One thing about the world of heavy metal and hard rock was that we never took ourselves too seriously. It was always a camaraderie, a culture to have “Nothin But A Good Time”. A culture to “Seek and Destroy” and just have some fun “Smokin In The Boys Room”.

So when Zakk Wylde was playing “In This River” at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards for the fallen rockers and a picture of Jani Lane from Warrant came up, and it stated, Jani Lane, Motorhead, 1964-2011, it was just one of those things we had to laugh about. Of course, a lot people these days take stuff a little bit too seriously and the elite Motorhead fans were outraged that a wussy singer like Jani Lane was associated with their band.

Or what about when the Salem Community Easter Drama titled “Lamb Of God” actually used the Lamb of God logo on their tickets. It made everyone have a laugh. Because this is what metal and rock is all about. A lifestyle of not taking everything too seriously.

Then you have the other side of the metal and rock community, which is the elitism view.

First let’s go back to the beginning. It was all just rock, blues and folk.

Then it started to branch out into hard rock, blues rock, folk, R&B, Surf Rock, Brit Rock.

Then metal/heavy metal came into the picture, along with Southern Rock, Americana Rock, heavy rock, progressive rock and so forth.

Then came Funk, disco and punk rock.

Then came the New Wave Of British Metal and everything was just metal again for a few years. Regardless of how different the style of metal was, the audience always crossed over between genres. Fans of NWOBHM, also supported the LA metal and hard rock scene. Fans of that LA scene also supported pop rock and Americana acts like Kiss, Ted Nugent, Styx, Bruce Springsteen, Journey, Survivor, Reo Speedwagon and others.

It didn’t last for long as the genre that defined a cultural movement splintered into Hard Rock, Glam Rock, Glam Metal, Pop Metal, Power Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, Extreme Metal, Progressive Metal, Black Metal, Metalcore, Groove Metal, Industrial Metal, Nu Metal, EMO, Punk Metal, Gothic Rock, Doom Metal, Djent, Technical Metal. Folk Metal and the list just goes on and on and on.

Within each genre, there is a subset of elitism within it. The type of elitism that sees the hard rock style as not just not hard enough for the heavy metal community. The type of elitism that sees Metalcore and melodic death metal as not evil enough for the “real” death metallers out there. Or the type of elitism that sees progressive metal as just not brutal enough compared to death metal or black metal.

Sort of like an episode I saw on the cartoon show “Metalocalypse” where the new song that the band Deathklok was writing just wasn’t brutal enough according to their singer.

The elitism goes both ways, where elitism in hard rock sees other metal bands as not melodic enough.

In some occasions it is simply down to taste. People enjoy the pop structure of the “verse – chorus” sing a long, every day, all year round.

The way I see it, people either praise someone else’s success, or they try to tear it down because they believe they should have been there and that someone stole their ride.

People attach themselves to this cancer within them that says “If this band made it, they suck” because they don’t want to admit that they wish it was them on that throne. They don’t want to admit that they are undeserving because they are not qualified or talented enough or good enough.

From the people that I know, and doing some crude math, eighty percent of wannabe musicians drop out when the going gets tough. The remaining twenty percenters keep at it, networking, planning, practicing, creating and moving on. Then from those twenty percenters, another eighty percent drop out due to starting or having families, which means that they have obligations and the need to have a stable income. So let’s say 100 start off. After the first cut, 20 will remain. After the second cut, only 4 will remain.

See no one tells you that when you reach a certain age, the power players in music don’t really want you. That is why the focus is on the young. It’s like McDonalds. Get em young and work em hard for less money.

Making it is hard work. It involves a lot of variables and the main one is luck. Very few make it and a lot of others have excuses for failing.

Sort of like the people who always scream to anyone who cares about how Spotify is killing the music business and pointing to pay out figures without giving the full picture as to how much the label took, how much the manager took, how much the publishers took, how much the lawyers took and how much went to the slush account for expenses.

Seen what Jared Leto said recently.

“We all know that, as content creators, artists and musicians, a great deal of our work is going to be streamed, but the issue is that artists are getting the short end of the stick. The streaming companies are paying record labels, but record labels are not paying artists.”

I have been saying this for a long time in other posts that the greed of the record labels is putting a stain on the streaming model.

“Record companies are taking giant advantages, they’re taking pieces of stock options or technology companies in exchange for guaranteeing rights to artists’ streams, there’s all kinds of deals being made, and artists aren’t a part of those deals.”

This is a biggie. Spotify needed to give over half of the company to the Major Record Labels so that they could operate in the U.S. What did the Major Record Labels use as their bargaining chip in these negotiations?

Yep, you guessed it, the right to access the music of artists past and present. And as Leto alluded too, artists are excluded from these conversations and negotiations.

Spotify is a great enabler of getting music out to the masses. It’s also set to overtake iTunes in Europe due to the closing of a digital tax law loophole in the UK – that put an end to all song downloads being priced at £0.99 ($1.79AUD). This in turn is means that iTunes is expected to lose consumers opting for subscription streaming services instead of paying for each track as a download.

In relation to the heavy metal and hard rock communities, they are not doing a really good job at promoting Spotify by still relying on album sales as a measure of success. Streaming is a tried and true business model. Hell, the whole free to air TV industry is the same model as the free streaming option. And the TV stations made a monza. In 2014, there is no fundamental reason why music needs a “sales” business model.

And while popular culture artists are raking in 100 million plus streams a song, metal and rock bands are still going the mp3/CD sale route. It is the wrong way. There should be no reason why a metal act should not have a song that has surpassed 100 million streams on Spotify by now. No reason whatsoever.

It’s the selling (instant money in the pocket right now) mentality versus the streaming (money in the pocket later) mentality and everyone wants to be paid right now. From the labels, managers, lawyers and producers, down to the individual band members. Everyone wants money to live on and get by.

But music is a risk game. Music was never an industry that guaranteed an income.

So why are bands pushing that argument.

Guitar World ran an article back in April 1997, about where are the Eighties Guitar Heroes now. Now meant 1997 for the article. One of the questions they asked each guitarist was their FINANCIAL STATUS. This is what they had to say;

WARREN DeMARTINI (RATT) – “It’s not like I never have to work again, but I had the luxury of not doing anything right away and I really enjoyed the break.”

“Out Of The Cellar” sold over 3 million copies in the U.S. “Invasion Of Your Privacy” sold over 2 million copies in the U.S. “Dancing Undercover” sold 1 million copies in the U.S. “Reach For The Sky” sold over 1 million copies in the U.S. “Detonator” sold over 500,000 copies in the U.S.

In total Ratt sold over 7.5 million records in the U.S. Using the average retail price of $10, you can do the math on the gross sales of Ratt’s music.

And that break that DeMartini took was roughly 12 months. After that he was a touring guitarist for Whitesnake in 1994, releasing instrumental albums in 1995 and 1996 and new Ratt albums in 1997 and 1999.

In other words even though he was the main songwriter in a band that grossed $75 million in album sales in the U.S alone, he still had to work his arse off.

REB BEACH (WINGER) – “I’m certainly not set financially. I still have to work. I didn’t sign the best contract. Back then, it was ‘Sign this, or we’ll get another guitar player.”

ERIK TURNER (WARRANT) – “We made millions and we spent millions. Now we’re like everyone else: we work for a living.”

BLACKIE LAWLESS (WASP) – “Slow and steady wins the race. We’re a lot better off that a lot of bands that sold a lot more records at one point because we have a cult following. We have the most devoted fans in the world. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

STEVE BROWN (TRIXTER) – “We came out of the whole thing in decent shape. We all have to work, but we don’t have any day jobs and I have a nice house.”

TRACII GUNS (L.A. GUNS) – “I’m by no means set. But I’ve established myself where people buy my records and come out to see us live.”

There is a lot of money in the music business and the ones that create it are the least underpaid.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Headed For A Heartbreak

Blame Beavis and Butthead. Blame Grunge. The truth is a bit more complex.

Winger was good. Real good, however the band suffered the same unjust fate as all the other Eighties bands. Billy Squire made one ridiculous video with a pink top. A pink top that was recommended by a plethora of enablers, including record label execs. And just like that an amazing voice, with a catalog of songs was gone.

Winger had Kip Winger. A Playgirl pictorial was too outlandish and as glam music was committing suicide by cloning itself over and over again and despite Kip being a great musician, Beavis and Butthead came along and trashed the band. Metallica threw darts at Kip Winger while they recorded the “Black” album.

“Headed For A Heartbreak” is a hell of a good song. On the “Official Winger” YouTube channel the song has 1,506,304 views. On the “80’s Metal Videos” channel it has 347,590 views. On another channel, a live version that appeared on MTV has 245,624 views. On Spotify the song has 173,229 streams.

The song is written by Kip Winger, however it is the performances from the band that captured the imagination and connected on all levels. “Madalaine” was the first single and it failed to get traction. The the track “Seventeen” came out and interest in the band started to grow and while it softened all the hard heads to Winger, it was “Headed For A Heartbreak” that sealed the deal commercially. This business model worked well during this time. Who knew that in 5 years time the band would be headed for a heartbreak.

MTV was king of the airwaves and most people owned little music. The CD’s remained expensive so people only purchased with they really loved or saw as great. Then we would go to the show to hear the songs. Now we only have time for the best. When an album is released we can cherry pick what we like and in a lot of cases it isn’t the single that the record label decided to go with.

People are quick to blame piracy for all the issues currently happening in the music business however the truth is that the audience has outgrown the album format. Why should that outdated format work for us, especially when we can go on YouTube or Spotify to get the hit song we desire.

The audience is king today. Not the artist, not the songwriter, not the record label or the producer. That is why the cycle is so fast. Albums come and by three to four weeks they are gone. Except the real good ones. In the eighties, the big effort was marketing and getting people to buy the record. Today it is all about getting people to listen to the music over and over again.

Winger’s debut didn’t come from out of nowhere. Kip Winger did his time as a songwriter and studio session musician working very closely with Beau Hill who would of course go on to produce the first two Winger albums that went platinum. It is during those studio sessions that he came across Reb Beach. It was still going to be another 4 years before the self titled Winger album was released.

So Winger did time with Alice Cooper’s band, recording and writing two albums. Then in 1987, he left to form Sahara which would go on to become Winger after Alice Copper suggested it.

Guitarist Reb Beach is a graduate from the esteemed Berklee College of Music. He also did his time in backing bands and studio work, until he met up with Kip Winger and started writing demos.

Drummer Rod Morgenstein was the most experienced. Active since joining jazz fusion legends “The Dixie Dregs” in 1974, he was a very accomplished drummer to bring into the fold.

Keyboard player and back up guitarist Paul Taylor was the x factor. He was the touring keyboardist for Aldo Nova during his “Fantasy” success. He did his time with Alice Cooper’s backing band at the same time with Kip Winger and played on the “Constrictor” and “Raise Your Fist and Yell” albums.

Winger like Night Ranger was a pseudo super group of musicians that connected on all levels and it’s important to mention this point to all the wannabe musicians out there.

Another important point to mention is that the songs that made up the debut album were written during a 3 year period by musicians that had experience and that had lived. I rate Winger the same as White Lion, however Winger did have a better all star team, whereas White Lion had Vito Bratta and to some extent Mike Tramp.

Winger is a band that has the songs that you can play forever. In a world that is suffering from information overload, Winger produced a body of work that we can all continue to listen to. Go on Spotify and check them out. Go on YouTube and check them out. Focus on the music and not on the pretty boy images put out there in the video clips.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music

Dee Snider – Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant) – What Do You Mean I Don’t Write Good Lyrics

Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant) is from Love Is For Suckers released 1987. It was supposed to be the opening track on Dee Snider’s first solo album. Instead it was the opening track of the final Twisted Sister album.

Coming into the Love Is For Suckers period, Twisted Sister had released two defining albums in You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll and Stay Hungry. Both of those albums are produced by Tom Werman. They then used Dieter Dierks from Scorpions fame as the producer on Come Out And Play.

Tom Werman assisted the band in fleshing out the songs. Just listen to the demo’s on the Stay Hungry 25th Anniversary edition and you will hear half-finished songs. So Come Out and Play comes out and it doesn’t do as well as Stay Hungry.

Dee cops a lot of blame for the commercial failure of Come Out And Play. He was the one that wanted to use Leader of The Pack as the leadoff single. The songs on the album are all written by him.

In my view, the album didn’t flop. Come Out And Play showed Twisted Sister who their actual fans are. With Stay Hungry, you had two massive anthems that would pick up the casual swinging fan. With Come Out And Play you had the real fans coming back again. However, the tour had a lot of cancellations and half empty arenas. Put that down to more bad management decisions who over inflated the size of Twisted Sister’s fan base.

Rumour has it that Reb Beach, from Winger fame, played guitar on the Love Is For Suckers album. Beau Hill was tapped to produce the album. Beau would go on to produce albums by Winger and Warrant.

Who the hell are they to say
What we can do and how we can play
We got the numbers, yeah,
We got the might
We got the strength and
We got the right
We got the reason, yeah,
We got the night
So wake up the sleeping giant

Dee was always good at writing the anthem of the SMF’s vs the world. Wake Up The Sleeping Giant is no different. The WE in the song, is the fans, the black sheep, the ones that everyone was calling devil worshippers. I am surprised that Dee got pressured into releasing this album as a Twisted Sister album. From the exterior it looked like no one could pressure Dee to do what he doesn’t want to do.

It’s our rights they’re abusing,
It’s our right to fight back
So rally the troops and
Let’s start the attack

It’s the war cry against the censorship that was taking place against heavy metal music. Again it’s about the Rock N Roll show, where the disenchanted youth can go and let their hair down.

Love Is For Suckers had Slippery When Wet from Bon Jovi, Girls Girls Girls from Motley Crue, and Whitesnake 1987 to compete against. All of those albums were in the Billboard Top 10. Look What the Cat Dragged In from Poison was just outside the Top 10 at number 13.

From hearing Hot Love, you can tell that Dee was thinking of that hit pop metal single that all bands started to record.

In the end Love Is For Suckers has good songs that should be part of the Twisted Sister live set. Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant) is one of those songs.

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