A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Labels Complain Again

It’s typical of the recording industry to complain about anything which benefits the consumer. They seem to forget that the profits they make is due to a relationship between the artist and the consumer. There is a zero relationship between the record label and the consumer. From the consumers point of view, the record label doesn’t even exist in their mindset.  

So the labels license their music to various streaming services for a fee and then pocket the majority of the multi-million fee instead of spreading it to the artists, because hey, why would the labels compensate the artists, since it’s the works of the artists that give them the negotiating power at the table.

Apple is considering putting a bundle together that incorporates Apple Music and Apple TV. More subscribing customers who normally wouldn’t subscribe to a music subscription would increase the pool of money. But then again, how many people would give up their Netflix and Spotify subscriptions for an Apple Entertainment bundle. We wouldn’t know because no one does their due diligence. For the record, I wouldn’t give up my Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime subscriptions for an Apple bundle.

So all of this is based on feelings. And somehow these feelings from the label executives that they will be ripped off are not based on any research or evidence.

Read the article.

Of course, the labels will sell the story that if they lose money, then it would have a flow on effect to the artist. But the labels haven’t been losing money for the last 5 years, so why aren’t the artists getting paid.

And artists bash up Spotify, but no one is speaking up about these bundles that Apple is proposing.

There is a blog post over at Seth’s Blog about ways to grow. It basically states that if you persist and get the word out, you will be the same. There will be no growth. This is the record label model, do what they have always done.

However to grow, they need to change something, like enter a new segment, earn trust or do work that matters to someone.

But it’s hard to grow and help the artists when the label executives are dragged kicking and screaming into a new segment.

Steve Jobs convinced EMI to sign on for $0.99 mp3 digital downloads and the rest came, only after years of negotiations. It took 3 years for Spotify to be licensed in the U.S. and during that time, YouTube became the unofficial streaming provider. And then again, they had to get a stake in the company in order to give the approval.

Artists really need to have a look at what they are signing away, because the label doesn’t care for you at all.

If they did, they would be proud to enter new market segments which could lead to more income. Instead they are scared to lose what they have, so they persist and do more of the same.

Complain.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Power Of The Record Labels

It’s 1992.

Hard rock bands are becoming too generic and soulless, especially the newer breed from 1989 and onwards. The fans are looking for something new, but they still have their taste buds all over the hard rock/metal distorted cream.

Meanwhile, the labels are signing Seattle bands, left, right and centre, while they start dropping hard rock bands left, right and centre. Not only could the labels make an artist famous, they could also make an artist destitute. And back then, without the money and power of the label behind an artist, an artist would go unnoticed.

The power the record labels had to kill careers or to destroy styles of music.

So the artist would sign a deal and get a small royalty payment from the label. Today the artists would still sign a deal because they see the label as their ticket to riches, but instead the artists are now complaining of the low royalty payment of streaming services, but it is still the label keeping the lion share.

In other words, you give to get.

You give your rights to the label in order to get a chance at fame and riches. And there’s no use yelling at streaming services. They are not record labels, they are technology companies, using music to influence culture and grow their brand. Once their brand is big enough, they will do away with music.

Because seriously, which company wants to pay billions in licensing and be constantly in the courts?  

HBO paid billions in licensing, until it got to a stage where it was unfeasible and they had to start creating their own content. Netflix at first had only licensed content. And like HBO they saw that it was unfeasible, so they started investing in creating their own, and slowly doing away with the licensing.

Now, more than any time in modern recording history, an artist can do it themselves. They can record cheaply, distribute and get paid. So artists should build their own leverage and then they can decide what is next.

But we have lived in a world where the labels have controlled the narrative for way too long and MTV made everyone think that if they learnt how to play an instrument they will be rich and famous. The majority still hold this view and the minority that don’t, are the ones making it.

People talk up Record Day sales like they matter, when only the label is winning, while digital distribution can offer an artist new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries or rural areas. The end result is growth across the board. Nowadays it’s about reaching as many people as possible and eventually the money will flow in if you do it right. That should have been the role of the labels but instead it’s up to the techies.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Greed

Greed threatens everything. The act of wanting more doesn’t work in a business built from emotions. People connect with music because it connects on an emotional level first. And not all connections are transactions. Sometimes it takes years for the music fan to spend money on an act.

So where are we at?

Years ago, in the land that introduced streaming, Swedish musicians sued the major labels Universal Music And Warner Music over streaming royalties. At the same time, major artists around the world also sued their labels over how they paid iTunes sales back to them. Eminem said it should be under the licensing rate (which is higher), while the labels argued that it should be under the sale rate (which is lower).

Then artists started filing “copyright termination” applications (which is legislated, that they are allowed to do so), however the record labels kept rejecting these applications and off to court the two parties went. Some artists won and others like Duran Duran lost. And some are still on going.

Because the labels don’t want to lose control of these rights as the more Copyrights they hold for popular songs, the more power they have at the negotiation table with the techies, so in return they get higher licensing fees, which they really keep to themselves. If the labels really cared about the artists, then they wouldn’t have put the masters of classic albums, plus the back-ups, in a tin shed with no climate control. And when it all went up in flames they employed subterfuge.

But when Napster came and the distribution gatekeeper got abolished, everyone said the major labels would fold. But instead they got more powerful because for any technological service to operate with music, they need to have a licensing agreement. YouTube has one, Apple has one, Spotify has one, Tidal has one, Pandora has one, Shazam has one and so on.

Which is a shame because of all the advances made, the major labels still operate with a business model rooted in the past. The majors still pay about 10% royalties to artists for digital income. The 10% average rate is based on the era’s when the record companies produced a physical product like vinyl or CD, stored it in a warehouse and then transported that product to a brick and mortar store. Of course at that time all of these steps in the process where accounted for.

However in the digital age, there is no need to even produce a physical product like a vinyl or CD, however the labels are still short changing their artists. If the streaming rates paid to the labels were so bad, trust me, the majors and the RIAA would be the first ones screaming theft.

Streaming services pay 70% of their revenues to music rights holders. How much of that money gets passed on to musicians depends on the terms of their contracts with labels.

If you are on a major label roster you should have followed the Def Leppard route. Due to the disagreements they were having on the digital payment terms with their label, they refused to let their label put their catalogue on digital services.

However, in order to cash in on the “Rock Of Ages” movie and the sudden interest in “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Ages”, they re-recorded these songs with the current band and released digital “forgeries” (as Def Lep called em) of these classics. But they did it on their own terms.

And when Def Leppard’s music finally hit streaming services, with the rate that they wanted, well there is no one really complaining about the rate?  

How did it get like this?

Once upon a time, the artists had the power. Read any bio from the 70’s and you’ll see how painful the artists were for the labels to deal with. And the artists never did what the label wanted. The label wanted hits, they wrote noise. The label wanted more like the last album, the artist went in a different direction. Then in the Eighties, the labels stole the power back through economics. With the rise in revenue due to the CD, it made the labels mega rich powerhouses. And MTV was also making artists into platinum starts. And the artists just fell in line. Because they couldn’t handle seeing an executive flying private on the monies earned from artists.

But artists today, can go it alone. Because it is the connection the fan has with the artist which is valuable.

And if more people are paying for a subscription service, then the overall pool of money grows. So if the artist is in control of their rights, then they will be paid forever. If they signed their rights away to the label, then the label will get paid forever and they will pay the artist some.

But there is always the temptation of promised millions right now to sign away your rights forever.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The More Things Stay The Same

Back in 1999, the record labels argued that they lost billions of dollars due to file sharing via Napster. They came up with this figure by saying that one file shared is the same as one lost sale. 20 years later, they are still exaggerating the same BS. And politicians get lobbied hard and suddenly there is legislation to support the record labels business models.

As internet speeds got faster, file sharing then started on movies and TV shows. Suddenly, politicians had even more money thrown at them to pass legislation from the movie studios. In democratic lands, ISP’s are forced to censor the internet, courtesy of the movie studios and music labels, which is no different to what dictatorship governments carry out on a daily basis. And when ISP’s don’t censor the internet, the movie studios and music labels take them to court for facilitating piracy. And while this is happening at the hands of the entertainment industry, the government themselves are stifling free speech by raiding the homes of reporters or by keeping eyes on the public through surveillance. ISP’s are also meant to store text messages, phone calls, web searches and tower pings on its customers.

So much for trusting the good guys.

Meanwhile, the music labels today are raking in billions courtesy of streaming (which started off as a legal alternative to peer to peer file sharing, which brought in $0). This shows, that if people are offered a legal alternative at a price which is right, they will take the legal option.

And those streaming billions were not there in the past. It took a tech company to create this revenue stream, while the record labels (the ones who should have been doing this) decided that the only way they could make money again is to get laws passed to protect old business sales model instead of innovating.

And an artist wants to have a label deal.

Why?

The labels don’t care about you and all they want is to lock up your copyright forever, because without the rights of songs, the labels have no power and if they have no power they cannot negotiate these huge licensing deals with streaming platforms.

Even the movie studios like Disney lobbied hard for laws to get passed to protect their old business models. Then Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Amazon came out with streaming services and brought in billions of dollars that were not there before. And now Disney is entering the streaming market. Enforcement doesn’t work but better legal alternatives do.

And the record labels still complain at the price of streaming. They reckon Spotify should charge more and also do away with the free tier, but are too gutless to bring out their own streaming platform and charge the money that they believe customers should pay. So they bash on Spotify or YouTube or Pandora.

And when politicians leave office, they get a nice cushy job for the very firms that lobbied them hard to introduce legislation in their favour. And this happens in democracy, which brings to mind the “One” video clip from Metallica and the scenes from the movie, “Johnny Got His Gun”.

Little Kid – When it comes my turn, will you want me to go?

Father – For democracy, any man would give his only begotten son.

We might want to re-think what the hell we are fighting for.

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

Music Distributor or Internet Brand

Spotify is the largest streaming provider today but YouTube did have that title unofficially in the past. So with any service that is used by the masses, it’s no surprise that Spotify now takes most of the punches while YouTube becomes a takedown haven for anyone who has created anything or wants to suppress free speech.

I’m sure you’ve seen all the headlines.

Spotify should pay more, Spotify is appealing the royalty rate rise, Spotify is getting sued, Spotify settles class action suit against it.

Maybe another take on those headlines might be;

  • How much does the record label keep from Spotify’s licensing and royalty payments?
  • Artists are appealing the low royalty payments they get from their label?
  • Record labels get sued for banking billions from using the Copyrights of artists to negotiate high licensing fees.
  • Artists settle class action suit against the Record Labels for keeping Copyrights longer than they should and for murky creative accounting.

Major labels no longer develop artists but they can make artists bigger. It all depends on how much an artist is willing to give up.

Because the labels will give the artist that large advance, however it will be probably be the last payment an artist will ever see from them.

Just recently, Italian composer Ennio Morricone (Metallica uses his music as a concert intro, plus he wrote the soundtracks to a lot of popular movies) won back his Copyrights. In his termination suit, it was mentioned how in the late 70s he made a deal with a label for an upfront payment in exchange for low royalties which never got renegotiated and of course by the 90s his music was being used for concerts, it became popular again as those 70s movies got re-released on DVD and so forth.

Metallica’s licensing fee would go all to the label and nothing to the Composer. A perfect example of getting a large upfront payment and then nothing in return.

The labels are greedy, who operate on intimidation and since MTV, they have been short-term thinkers. It’s all about the profits.

So what’s next for music distribution and a company living in two worlds. Spotify has a bad rep for its payments models but also a good rep because it’s useful to artists and fans, plus it pays for life.

But Spotify still doesn’t make a profit doing what it does and it still gets extra funding, to invest and grow the business. Their podcasts is a growing business as there are a lot of people who would rather listen to non-musical content than musical.

Maybe the problem with Spotify is that it doesn’t want to be just a music distribution platform. Music is seen as a means to become a global internet brand. Sort of like Apple, who used music to sell hardware.

And all you need to do is have a look at what’s happening with Netflix. The big studios who laughed off streaming once upon a time, are setting up their own streaming services. Expect the labels to do the same, because they want control of the distribution and the murky creative accounting.

And by then Spotify would be in a position to not care, because they would have repurposed the business to be a digital brand and the artists would have it even worse, because if they think Spotify is bad, wait until the labels get control of the distribution.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

The Billions Artists Don’t Get But Should

This is the world that the artists have created when they signed away their masters and Copyrights to a record label. And for this tragedy to be fixed, the artists need to understand that it starts with them.

The labels have been the recording music gatekeepers for decades and they had full control to sign artists to contracts with less favourable terms.

In the process, the labels amassed a catalogue of music which gave them negotiating power at the table and when it came to take overs or selling off parts of the label, these profitable back catalogues bring in a lot of money.

French entertainment giant Vivendi owns Universal Music Group (UMG). Now Chinese tech company Tencent is looking at a 10% stake in UMG worth up to $3.6 billion dollars. The worth of that stake is because of the artists and the works UMG holds on behalf of the artists; works which they more or less paid a pittance for and works which have probably really recouped 100 times over.

How much of those billions would go back to the artists?

But hey, artists instead are forming a lobby group to fight against the tech lobby groups in the U.S. Because the distributor is now a problem. This is the same as the artists forming a lobby group in the past to fight against the truck drivers and the record stores.

I’m all for more power to the artist. It’s the artist that creates the song which connects with audiences and makes dollars. But for the artist to also have a fair say, they need to lobby hard against their employers (if they have a label deal) and the publishers, because these organisations make billions from the deals they organise with streaming companies and by selling off their small stake in the company.

And going back to the Music Artists Coalition (MAC), which also includes high profile managers, I don’t see how they will advocate for the 98% of artists doing it tough, when they represent the 2%.

But it’s a start.

Will MAC get back the masters from the labels. Oh, wait, most of those masters got destroyed in a Universal Warehouse fire.

We’ll lucky for the Public, that there is a copy of the music online. Otherwise, the tunes would be lost forever, in peoples records collections, which either end up in the trash or in a second hand book shop.

Because the labels don’t really care about this history. If they did, they would have stored the masters better, in a climate controlled room instead of a basic warehouse and they would have stored the back-ups at a different location instead of the same building.

All the labels care about is the free Spotify and YouTube users and those users who “stream rip”.

The labels (with their lobby groups) have court granted blocking on their side in most countries, so visits to sites like The Pirate Bay have reduced. However, fans of music just use YouTube and the free tier of Spotify to access music (which are both legal) and the labels don’t like it, because they are unable to find a way to convert the users of the free tiers to paying subscribers, especially in Italy.

So in this case, the labels cant increase the price to access music because people are not paying the current price as it is. So the price needs to come down. But the labels don’t want that. The option they want is to cut off the free-tiers, however this will just drive people back to the pirate sites.

And if the price to stream in Italy comes down, the record labels need to be reasonable here and still pay the artists their fair share, but we know that the words fair and reasonable are not associated with the labels.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Gaming The Charts and Losing The Masters

Any person involved within the recording industry and the music industry overall, is looking to make money from the hard work of an artist. Especially an artist who has tunes which make some coin.

And the record labels, well they are even looking at making money in any way they can for doing even less then what they did before.

I’m not sure if people have realised, but depending on the artist, there is a high chance that you might have purchased a concert ticket which included a free download of the most recent album of the artist. You see, artists and the labels alike, still think the charts matter and that a platinum record hanging up on someone’s wall is super important.

Bon Jovi and Metallica are two artists that come to mind quickly who have done ticket/album bundles.

And concert promoters don’t like these bundles. The fan is unable to say no, and since the price of the concert ticket looks to be the same, they are thinking free album.

But ticket pricing is a tough gig. If the price is too low, the show sells out and the scalpers along with the reselling market make the money because of the demand.

If the price is too high, then the show is at risk of not selling out and the money lost is carried by the promoter who is taking the risk. And when it comes to bundles, the labels just want the promoters to add extra dollars to the tickets. But, if the promoters thought the tickets would sell for $5 more, the tickets would be sold at that price.

So the $5 album charge comes out as a tax against the show takings. If you are like Bon Jovi and you get 20,000 people to your show, the show’s takings will need to pay $100K to the record label. Do 30 shows in the tour with the same numbers and that’s $3 million, the record labels get and as a byproduct the artist gets a platinum record on their wall.

And the label didn’t spend a cent on marketing but still made a cool $3 million in album sales, because of the hard work done by others on the road.

So if the money comes out of the concert takings, who is actually paying for the albums. Basically, the cost is absorbed by the artists , who are actually buying their own albums.

There is a great blog post over at Bob Lefsetz about it.

Then you have the pop artists who have all agreed to have T-Shirt and Album bundles, beanie and album bundles and so forth. If you don’t, believe me, check out the story over at the NY Times.

Gaming the system, are they….

The article states that from the 39 album releases that went to number 1 with a bullet last year, half of them had a concert ticket or clothing bundle attached to the sale. One artist, sold album bundles with key chains, hats and tickets. Another artist had the album bundled with energy drinks.

Bon Jovi is also mentioned in the story, about how their 12 month old album returned to the top of the charts in 2018 because of a concert ticket/album bundle and how the following week it more or less disappeared from the charts.

And maybe if the record labels cared about keeping the masters of some of the best music safe instead of gaming the system, the masters of some of the most popular recordings wouldn’t be lost.

Universal Music didn’t care enough to keep the masters of the recordings safe, and they got destroyed in a fire. I suppose the New York Times article, “The Day The Music Burned” sums it all up.

And talk about a cover up.

The fire happened in 2008 and finally, we are getting to hear about the lost Vault recordings. Even the acts weren’t aware. Acts like Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow and Eminem.

From reading the articles, it looks like any artist who released on Geffen Records, has no original masters, unless the artist had never handed the master tapes over to the label or took the masters back at a particular point in time. When you look at hard rock and heavy metal, we are talking about big artists like Guns N Roses, Whitesnake and Aerosmith who had released career defining albums on Geffen. Add to that list acts like Y&T, Pride and Glory, Blue Murder, Black N Blue, Galactic Cowboys, Asia, Coverdale/Page, Nelson, Salty Dog, Tesla, Sammy Hagar, Tyketto and Junkyard.

So are all the remastered editions coming out recently, really remastered from the original source tapes. Because Universal hasn’t come clean on what has been lost. And when artists were questioned on Twitter by their fans, if their masters were safe, they either answered “no” or “I don’t know”.

But hey, piracy is still the issue.

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