You are in a band and yet get signed. The record label isn’t really known for promoting heavy metal music, but hey, a recording contract is a recording contract and without it, you cannot move forward in your quest for global stardom.
Other bands who play a similar style have already released their albums and are starting to make headway. Meanwhile, the label keeps you in the studio, writing and recording demos before they give the green light for an album to be made.
Those “competing” bands are now onto album number 2 and 3 and your label is watching those other bands with interest, while telling you to write more songs that sound like this band and that band.
They are grooming you to be the labels competition to a band who is selling and making coin on the live circuit.
Then when you are ready to launch your assault, the label is sold to another label and you are dropped from their roster because you are unproven.
What do you do?
Do you pack up, head home and get a job or do you stick to it and restart again?
Not all members have the same drive and hard work ethic to try again, so they leave, replaced by other members with ambition that hasn’t been crushed by a record label.
“We were on MCA (record label) for three records and they were grooming us to be their version of the metal thing in the scene (like Metallica) and we got to a certain point where they’re ready to launch us on the world and then they got bought out by a bigger corporation and all the bands that they had never heard of before they just got rid of. We were one of those bands.
They were grooming us to be something big, [and] then we just got dumped for no reason at the last minute. That was kind of a big, emotional hit for us, I think. It knocked us back down to earth and we had to decide whether we were doing this for the love of music or if we were doing this for the wrong reasons.”
And even when you released albums with a major label, it doesn’t mean that you got paid millions.
“After certain amount of time on a major label like Elektra, you find out how the business works, which in our particular case it was not working in our favour, you learn the definition of the word recoup.
And then you realize there is no way you can make any money unless you break big like Metallica but until then you are operating in Debt and you will never break out. Everybody gets paid first and the band gets paid last. I have the publishing which are not much money but no other royalties.
We are still in debt on the first few albums. Not only that but it’s tough to find out how much debt or profit after all these years. They send statements that you can’t read unless you are a lawyer, so I just wrote it off.
Your in debt for tour support, your in debt for videos, your in debt for everything and those are the reasons why I really like the new music business, there is more good about the new music business than there is bad. It’s more direct artists to fans and us old guys can still have a career.”
In a game that has Corporations acting as gatekeepers, the decks are stacked against the artist unless for some reason a band connects on so many levels that they have the power to demand a better deal.
And when gatekeepers control everything, they also control the legislation which gets passed, filling the pockets of politicians to protect their business models with basically perpetual copyright terms and what not.
But artists are fighting back. Bryan Adams is pushing for Copyright reform in Canada.
He wants a better copyright arrangement that benefits the artists. He argues against longer copyright terms, as they only benefit and make money for the record labels and the collection agencies and not the artists.
Adams wants a shorter reversion term so after a period of time, the artist should have their copyrights returned to them. Adams also states that long copyright terms have no benefit to the creators.
As I’ve said many times on this blog, basically, no one decides to start creating because copyright terms are not long enough. They create because they need to create.
And Adams lays it out that it’s the record labels and publishing houses who lobby hard for longer copyright terms, not the artists.
He even mentioned how Government committees set up to assist artists have a committee made up of record label and publishing people and no artists.
Van Morrison said that when his third album “Moondance” was released, he was paid $100 a week to survive and he earned no money from the album, because the people he trusted signed away his rights for the first three albums to Warner Bros, pocketed the money and Van Morrison got a weekly wage in the process.
And to top it off, for Morrison to get a higher wage, he had to join a Union for session players. So imagine that, Van Morrison had to be a session singer on his own fucking album. He got paid as a session singer instead of an artist. And in order to get paid he had to submit a shitload of forms and then wait for payment.
But he learned from it, has more control and is 40 albums deep into his career.
And you know what he said, when the interviewer asked what drives him to create.
He replied back with “It’s what I do.”
He didn’t mention it’s because copyright terms last 70 years after his death.
It’s because there is a need inside him to create and that is what drives him. Having an audience or the chance of an potential audience who cares, motivates him. Not copyright.