Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Copyright For The Corporation

The standards of the recording industry and culture were set a long time ago. It was so long ago, people forget why it was brought in and as time goes on, we fail to preserve its original intent.

Copyright was designed to protect the artist and to enhance culture. The artist had a monopoly on their works, so they could make money and have an incentive to create further works. This was for a period of short period with the option to renew. Once the expiry date passed, the works became part of the public domain for future generations to build on and use.

But corporations started to rise because of these monopolies and what we have now is a copyright standard so far removed from what copyright was meant to be.

Hell, if a monkey uses a camera put in his enclosure and snaps a selfie, does he own the copyright?

This even went to trial and then to appeals and finally a judge ordered that the monkey has no right to the photos he took as the Copyright Office will not register a copyright claim if a human being didn’t create the work. This also means machine created art is not covered.

The actual text is works “produced by a machine or mere mechanical process that operates randomly or automatically without any creative input or intervention from a human author.” But a poem written by an AI was accepted by editors for publishing in a literary journal because they believed it was written by a human.

As the WSJ article states;

The question isn’t whether computers can own copyrights, but whether humans (or corporations) should be able to claim ownership of works created by computers. Copyright laws already provide that in the case of “works for hire,” the employer owns the copyright, even if an employee actually created the work. Shouldn’t similar reasoning allow copyright protection for humans who employ computers to create valuable works?

But corporations do claim ownership of works created by humans, so claiming ownership of works created by AI is just a matter of time and a few million to their Senate buddies on lobbying dollars.

And for over a century the record label has built up a history of owning songs it shouldn’t be owning. It’s ridiculous. An artist signs a deal, pays off all the costs associated with the album and somehow, the label still owns the copyright. The battle is happening. Check out the article over at Billboard.

“Why would a label be insisting on keeping a property that has stopped selling, that they don’t have any plans to re-promote except when the artist dies?”
Todd Rundgren

For those that don’t know, the 1976 Copyright Revision Act in the US allows the artists after 35 years to take back their copyrights after so many years, by serving the company that holds their copyrights with a termination notice. And even though artists are filing termination notices, so few are succeeding. For example, Duran Duran failed while Tom Scholz of Boston didn’t.

“Of all the creative work produced by humans anywhere, a tiny fraction has continuing commercial value. For that tiny fraction, the copyright is a crucially important legal device”
Lawrence Lessig

And it’s funny how the 1976 Act on purposely ignored all the different state laws for the pre72 recording, because those copyrights didn’t need any extra enforcement at that point in time. But for some reason, the pre-72 copyrights needs some extra beefing up in the digital era.

The Music Modernization Act will come into law in the US. And don’t kid yourself here. The songwriters and the actual artists will still not get what they are due. The Publishing Corporations will take their slice and the Label Corporations who still hold the copyrights will take their slice and the greatest generation of songwriters will still NOT be paid what they deserve.

There is poor record keeping from the record labels and the publishing organisations, but the blame is on the technology companies for not doing enough to seek out the songwriters.

Are they fucking serious?

I guess they are, because with this new bill, a new database will be created, paid for by the technology companies that will store all the information for the songwriters. But with every piece of government legislation, a monopoly is waiting to happen and in this instance, the publishing corporations will have a lot more influence.

And of course, the real purpose of this bill was to delay the copyright expiration of the pre-72 recordings, which based on the law in force at the time, should have been out of copyright a long time ago.

One thing the Act preaches is fair payment for songwriters from streaming services based on the database the streaming services create. And if artists and songwriters get what they are due, it’s good news, but if the past tells us one thing, the corporations standing in between like the labels and publishing houses, will not allow their billions to disappear.

Streaming services in every country are injecting hundreds of millions into the recording industry. Innovation is the key and getting more people to use these services will increase the pool of monies on offer.

But the publishing companies still preach the same rubbish. Something along the lines of “without strong copyright law which enables songwriters, performers and recording artists to control how their music is used and how they make a living from their creativity, the local industry will suffer and go backwards.”

Yeah right.

And at the moment the monthly price to use Spotify has remained the same for a few years. But we all know the recording industry is pushing for higher monthly prices as they demand more in their licensing arrangements with the service. So while streaming is injecting a lot of money to the recording industry, the recording industry is also doing its best to kill it.

All because a profit driven corporation owns the copyrights. In other words, corporations own culture. Maybe George Orwell was right all along.

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

Labels

Every industry has rules and the recording industry has a lot of them. And there was a saying once that if you followed enough of the rules, you would get a recording contact, millions of dollars and the red carpet. Perhaps one in a 1,000,000 pull this off. Actually you have a higher probability of being hit by a comet than making a lot of money in music.

So, the record labels wanted to maintain the sales model but they  got dragged kicking and screaming to downloads. Credit Apple for pushing it and credit Warner Music for being the first major to sign. Suddenly their revenues went up. But they still complained. They screamed to their friends in politics for laws to be passed. Then streaming came out and they got dragged kicking and screaming to streaming. They even got a percentage of the company and surprise, surprise, the revenues went up again.

Times are changing. Nothing will look the same in relation to labels and streaming companies in the next ten years.

Spotify is connecting tours to the Super Fans to sell tickets. The data tells Spotify who the super fans are, they share that information with the artists and they all come after us. Meanwhile, the labels owned and controlled the recording industry for a hundred years and they had no idea who the super fans were for their artists.

Seriously, the good times are just starting. There is a lot of people to reach with music and Spotify is connecting people to artists and along the way, they are paying artists every month providing an organisation (who might hold the copyrights for the artist) doesn’t get in the way and take the monies first.

For a fan, how good is it. Instead of playing the same album, over and over again, because we had so little product, we can now play the whole history of music. The only thing stopping us is time and distractions. On some days, I’m even confused to what I should listen to, as there is so much to select from.

As for the labels, they are not going away. Morphing more into marketing companies, who could help with your world domination ideals, but do you need them.

Remember that one of the biggest hurdles for any artist pre-internet was getting your music into a record store. It’s a much different today as every artist can get their music on streaming services for a small yearly fee and they can get paid direct from the streaming services and on a monthly regular basis. This is much different to the record label machine who used to do their accounting twice a year and be very creative with it at the same time.

And for over a century the record label has built up a history of owning songs it shouldn’t be owning. It’s ridiculous. An artist signs a deal, pays off all the costs associated with the album and somehow, the label still owns the copyright. The battle is happening. Check out the article over at Billboard.

Todd Rundgren wants his masters back.

“Why would a label be insisting on keeping a property that has stopped selling, that they don’t have any plans to re-promote except when the artist dies?”
Todd Rundgren

According to Nielsen Music, almost 70% of the monies received by the labels is because of older catalogue items. So giving back the artist their copyrights as dictated by law is bad business for the labels. As the article states, around 20 artists have reclaimed their rights from the thousands who are entitled to.

And the labels pull out all the tricks, like telling the artist they will pay them a higher royalty rate (which is useless if the label does nothing to re-promote the tunes) or paying the artist a large advance to hold on to profitable masters.

And as soon as Spotify goes public expect the majors to check out their ownership of the service.

Why.

All of their employees are focussed on the now, not for the long haul. And that is the label business.

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

To The Top

Desperate living- driving me mad
Writings on the wall
Crushed all our hopes and the dreams we once had
Just to watch them fall
Tooth And Nail from Dokken

When your backs to the wall and you have nothing left, you either fight to reach the next step or you give up.

Seriously, what kind of life is it, when someone has so much power to make or break a career. But that is exactly what the recording business came to be. A business with gatekeepers who could crush dreams or make dreams. Like “Chainsaw Charlie” in “The Crimson Idol”. Or like “Mr Recordman”.

If not for the money and not for the show
Are you here for me or here for the dough
Mr. Recordman, do you really give a damn?
Mr Recordman from Ugly Kid Joe

Is the label there for the artist if the money stops coming in and the shows sell a little bit less. White Lion were given a million dollars to record “Mane Attraction”. It came out and it didn’t set the world on fire. Grunge was rising in the distant and suddenly, Vito and Mike couldn’t even get in touch with their A&R rep. When the band broke up, no one from the label called them or even tried to make contact with them. It’s like they never existed. But for a brief period when “Pride” was selling thousands of units weekly, Mr Recordman was there, caring for the band.

You’ll never see a ray of daylight
So far in debt you’re struggling to survive
Dance In The Rain by Megadeth

And so many people define themselves by their status in society. Big house plus expensive car plus management job = powerful status. But, this perceived status is all in their head. No one really cares what you have or what job your do or how long you spend at work.

Why should they?

Life is short and the majority of people are too busy living. But others can’t turn away from it, because they are surrounded by people moving up. And they feel like they need to get on the same ride. So they borrow and then they borrow a little bit more. Because they believe when they get to the top they will repay it all.

The ride to the top is the reason why so many people started to play music.

MTV took the artists from the magazines and brought them into our lounge rooms. And it was free. Yeah I know there was radio, but if people wanted information on artists, they had to buy magazines or their albums. Suddenly, their TV set was doing it all for them. The reason why blank VHS cassettes sold like crazy was music and movies. People dubbed/taped their favourite clips from TV or via VHS to VHS.

And when kids have access to content, they have desires to be like their new found heroes on the TV screen. It looked easy. Learn to play an instrument, write a song and you’ll be signed and become famous.

The truth of it all is this.

If you are working for a corporation, you are building someone else’s dream. The corporation is benefiting from your hard work and the hard work of the rest. Artists have made the record labels into monoliths because they signed away their copyrights for a record deal.

And the internet was meant to level the playing field. Instead it’s made the labels even more powerful as they use the works of artists to negotiate large licensing deals.

What kind of journey do you want to the top?

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music

Live Albums

Live albums are coming out thick and fast these days. People tell me it’s because bands need to get product out on a regular basis because there is not much money made from recorded music sales. So getting new product out yearly instead of every two to three years is the new option. But it still doesn’t solve the problem of people not buying albums.

My answer always is, there never was much money made from recorded music sales.

The difference between the glory years of recorded music sales and now, is the ADVANCE. Once upon a time, the labels paid it, and now not so much.

Yes, that sweet million a band would get before the recording process even started. You see, the ADVANCE would be used to fund the demos (studio time), recording (Producer, Studio Time, Engineer, Mixer, Mastering), their lifestyles (rent, mortgage payments, addictions) and all other expenses like manager, lawyer and whoever else makes a claim.

The ADVANCE would be given on the basis that the record label would recoup those monies from the sales of the album. However, the fine print is the recouping monies would come from the bands 2% royalty percentage payments.

So if a band moves a million CD’s at $10 a CD, the gross income earned by the label is $10 million. However, the bands royalty percentage is taken from the Net income. So the label adds CD manufacturing, transportation, marketing, pizza deliveries, carpet cleaning, hairdresser bills and whatever else they could think off, in order to reduce gross to the final net income.

Let’s be generous and say the net income is $1 million.

And the band gets 2% of that. Which is $20,000. And from that $20K, the manager gets their 30%, the Producer the band wanted and the label agreed to, as long as the payment comes from the bands percentage gets 20%, the lawyer another 20%, which leaves 30% for the band.

It comes to $6,000. And from that $6K, the band needs to repay the $1 million advance. For the band to repay that advance, they would need to sell a lot of recorded albums, otherwise they would be listed as un-recouped by the label.

Not bad for the label. Invest a million and make 9 million profits. Of course, this is contingent that the band moves product. In other cases, it will be a bad loss for the label.

Don Dokken’s “Up From The Ashes” was a big loss for Geffen commercially, while Whitesnake’s “87” and Guns N Roses “Appetite For Destruction” was a big win. Lynch Mob’s “Wicked Sensation” cost Elektra a lot of money with all the advances paid to get Lynch to sign and it didn’t do great  commercially as the label wanted, while “Dr Feelgood” and the soon to be released “Black” album from Metallica would be a great win.

“Crazy World” from Scorpions and “Heartbreak Station” from Cinderella got Mercury/Vertigo what they wanted, while others disappointed. White Lion’s “Mane Attraction” cost Atlantic a cool million and it disappointed commercially, while “Pride” was done cheap and it was a win.

Everyone knows about the Motley Crue period with John Corabi. Nikki Sixx has developed amnesia to it, Tommy Lee doesn’t talk about it, Vince Neil wasn’t involved with it, so for him it doesn’t exist and the only two people who talk about it are John Corabi and Mick Mars. The album cost a lot.

Musically, it’s one hell of an album. Mick Mars has gone on record to say the album has some of his best guitar work, and god damn it, the man is right. So it’s good to see the vocalist behind it, paying tribute to it.

John Corabi does a fantastic job giving his Motley Crue recorded output some overdue respect in “Live 94 (One Night In Nashville)”. And to be honest, songs that I thought were overproduced on the guitar side, sound massive, heavy and melodic live. It’s all raw, no crap rock and roll.

There are mistakes, there are voices hitting the pavement, but it’s totally worth it. “Power To The Music”, “Hooligan’s Holiday”, “Hammered” (love the story about the Crue audition and how this song came to be), “Till Death Do Us Part”, “Smoke The Sky” and “Droppin Like Flies” are still my favourites.

And I have a new found respect for “Poison Apples”. I always thought the original version was too over-produced, and after hearing it live, the song is a deadest killer. “Welcome To The Numb” live could have come from an Aerosmith album.

This is what music has always been about. Getting out on the road and doing it sweaty.

Whitesnake is a band which keeps firing out live recordings year after year. “Made In Japan”, “Made In England”, “Bad To The Bone 84”, “Castle Donnington 90”, “Live In The Heart Of The City” and “The Purple Tour” have been released as stand-alone albums over the last 10 years.

Of course with each album release there is a chance to cash in via the pockets of the super fans who pay for everything their heroes produce. David Coverdale knows it.

But “The Purple Album” is good. Really good. I reckon it’s because Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra are a perfect fit for the band. Veterans of the scene, they know how to deliver the goods. If you don’t believe me, check out Reb Beach’s solo on “Mistreated”. He burns and the song sounds so fresh and modern, but it was released in 1974 or 5.

There has been a lot of talk on social media about the upcoming Whitesnake release and how songs are being written by Coverdale and Beach, Coverdale and Hoekstra and with all three of the guys contributing  together.

With the talent there, it should make for an interesting listen.

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

Rock/Metal in the early 90s

In 1990, the biggest hit singles in relation to sales and chart placement where “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor, “Vogue” by Madonna, “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice, “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer and “It Must Have Been Love” by Roxette.

In 1991, the biggest hit singles where “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams, “Black Or White” by Michael Jackson, “Joyride” by Roxette, “Wind Of Change” by Scorpions and “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.

In 1992, the biggest hit singles where “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men, “Rhythm Is A Dancer” by Snap! and “To Be With You” by Mr Big. And of course let’s not forget “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus.

By the early 90’s, I always believed that the remnants of the dominant 80’s rock movement was looking for ways to fit in and get back people’s attention. A lot of the acts signed towards the late 80’s had already splintered. Some got dropped and tried to get a new deal or they just left the recording business for good. And you had a lot of acts from the 80’s, who had platinum success and somehow were still together and looking for ways to survive in the 90’s. You also had the 70’s acts that re-invented themselves in the 80’s thanks to MTV and were looking to keep the momentum going well into the 90’s. Aerosmith and Kiss come to mind here.

However, rock and metal bands was a big album business. Because in 1987, after Bon Jovi’s and Europe’s explosion in 1986, the biggest hit singles in relation to sales and chart placement where, “La Bamba” by Los Lobos, “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody Who Loves Me” by Whitney Houston, “It’s a Sin” by Pet Shop Boys and “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna. But Jovi was selling “Slippery” by the truckload.

In 1989, the biggest hit singles where “Like A Prayer” by Madonna, “Eternal Flame” by The Bangles, “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins, “The Look” by Roxette and “Love Shack” by The B-52s. So rock and metal music did do well commercially selling albums, but it paled significantly compared to the pop world.

Meanwhile, the recording business was in a race to the bottom with a winner take all mentality. Label after label started to get sucked into the vacuum of the larger label. Changes in personnel happened so fast that once an artist was signed, a few weeks or few months later, the people who signed the artist are no longer working at the label and the interest to develop and promote the artist disappeared. So the artist is in limbo. But the label is not letting the artist go, just in case the artist makes it with another label. It’s one of the big no-no’s in the recording industry.

A record company in the 80’s would get you on radio, music television, magazines and they would push the album hard enough to achieve platinum sales. If it didn’t “sell”, they would put you in the studio again, get you further in debt and if you failed again, you would be dropped. A record label in the 90’s would sign you and then drop you before you even released anything or had a chance to get your message across.

And in today’s world it’s getting even harder to get your message across. It’s weird, because everyone has smartphones and everyone is connected however this great digital era also means that the users are the product. Facebook makes billions selling your data. 

 

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Changes

Love him or hate him, one thing is certain. Nikki Sixx is a lifer in the music business and once he and Allen Kovacs got back control of Motley’s catalogue in the late 90’s, they went about reinventing his image and persona, until he became bigger than the rest of the Crue guys combined.

Sixx A.M. released “The Heroin Diaries” back in 2007. The album along with the book was an instant purchase because Crue was my favourite band in the 80’s. Their attitude, their pop choruses, the street life lyrics and their simple but effective riffage all connected with me. And even though I had many different guitarists’ as influences, Crue showed the world that you don’t have to be the most gifted musicians to write effective songs that connect.

The 10th year anniversary edition of “The Heroin Diaries” came out today, so I’m giving it a few spins. And you know what; it stands the test of time. It’s a pretty good album. My favourites still are “Life Is Beautiful”, “Accidents Can Happen”, “The Girl With Golden Eyes”, “Van Nuys” and “Pray For Me”. The first three songs I mentioned also get a 2017 treatment.

Man, 10 years is a long time in music. You could be here and then you could be gone. You could be the star of the scene or then you could be forgotten.

Think about it. In 1989, the Crue released “Dr Feelgood”. By 1999, the Crue was creatively non-existent. But that was back in the era of when the record labels controlled the industry.

The internet has given bands a longer life span. Yes, the net has created so much noise, which makes it hard to rise above, however the internet and piracy to a large extent has spread the music of bands to every single corner of the world. Which means that someone right now is listening to an artist they’ve never heard before. Changes are a-happening.

In 2007, Avril Lavigne had the best-selling record globally. She hasn’t released anything since 2013 and you don’t even hear about her in the news. But once upon a time she was everywhere. She might be the star again. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t. Fall Out Boy had the best-selling album in the U.S in 07 however Fall Out Boy has the rock work ethic and they have been consistently putting out new product since then. They have a new one coming in 2018. Some of it sticks and some of it doesn’t.

The TV show that was popular in 2007 is not here anymore and the pirate sites you visited to get your content fix are gone and there is a high chance you are paying monies to a streaming service. Because in the end, that’s all we really wanted, access to products. Not ownership. Changes are a-happening.

In 1997, used to be the sale was the transaction. In 2007, the label still saw the sale as the transaction because that’s all they knew but it was an irrelevant metric. In 2017, the label still sees that sale as the transaction. However, it’s the listen. While society and consumerism has changed at a rapid pace, the labels and the charts are still stuck in an old paradigm. If you don’t believe me, check out the news stories on how the algorithms for the Billboard charts are changing yet again. First they changed to count something like 1200 streams as a sale. Now they are changing again to weight listens from paid streaming services higher than freemium listens.

Seriously WTF.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Attention 

Once upon a time I was thrilled to see my heroes in mainstream publications. But now there are a billion online outlets and we get most of our stories direct from the artist via social media. And the generation born from the mid 90’s onwards want an immediate bond with the artist, a connection. They don’t care about interviews artists do when they are releasing an album with magazines and blogs. By working in the old rules, the artist is handing over their own narrative to someone else to control. It doesn’t make sense especially when the tools are right in front of them to take ownership and tell their own story, the way they want to tell it. 

But humans do tend to be lazy.

EBay has 171 million users and it’s struggling to stay relevant. So how is any different for an artist. I constantly come across news stories of artists telling people who don’t care their streaming payment after a million streams. Want to make money in streaming, get over a 100 million streams. Want to make even more money, get over a billion streams. One thing is certain, streaming will pay you forever, so metal and rock fans need to stream en masse. 

Which means metal/rock bands need to get out of the “album mindset” and focus on the “continuous stream of product mindset”. If you want to win, you need to play, so it means you need to be in the marketplace all the time. The new way is to release music first and the hype comes after. But artists/record labels are still focused on hype first and then release.

There is money to be made, but the music needs to have longevity. It needs to sustain. Bubbling under the surface is better than exploding fast and then falling fast. And if something doesn’t work, you adjust on the fly. That’s how it works in the digital world. Nothing is set in stone. It’s chaos, anarchy. Artists need to create anarchy with their product instead of following the 1930’s marketing 101 rules.

And how many times have you heard of an act employing a scorched earth publicity campaign, which they hope will turn people onto the band or make people believe the band is bigger than what they really are. But they forgot that the music accompanying the release is of substandard quality. And it’s the music that will survive, not the publicity campaign.

Remember, all the digital places that lost our attention. It’s no different for an artist.

People will care about you; love what you do, your music and your connection to them via social media. Then some of those people will grow and change and fall out of love with what you do. You need to accept that and understand that your fans are telling you one thing; your style of music is not for them at this point in time. And once you are aware of this information, what will you do with it to get back their attention.

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