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

Streaming and Distribution 

I believe that it’s an excellent time (on the current state of the music scene). I feel that there’s so much out there for people to pick from and choose from its phenomenal. I mean and guitar playing is at such a high level right now. I mean these younger generations are just taking it to a point where you know it’s beginning to explore places that people have never gone before, it’s just fascinating. And the music itself too, you can pick a genre and find so much great music in every genre. People are just pushing the envelope in all directions, so I think it’s very gratifying and satisfying. It’s a little challenging to pick through I mean from this thing back in the day when I was growing up there’s like a half a dozen or 10 big giant great bands that are super groups you know. Now it’s like there are thousands of bands. Picking through everything is hard. It’s stressful trying to find all the right music you know.
George Lynch 

Today, noise reigns supreme. For the ones who have financial backing, they surround us with their nuclear blast marketing. And in most cases people ignore them.

But it’s still a good time for an artist to get their product out. Actually it’s the best time.

For the record labels, they are still trying to get control over the distribution chain after losing it to Napster and other peer to peer file sharing programs. At the moment, technology companies have it and if the labels kill the streaming grape vine, they hope to bring the distribution chain under the record labels. 

Streaming has three main players. Spotify, Google and Apple.

Spotify is losing money each year and relies on investments. The record labels owe a piece of it but they are not investing in it. YouTube is owned by Google (well their parent company) and the record labels hate Google, blaming it for all of their ills. The “take it or leave it” deal with YouTube is not what the labels want, so they lobby hard to get laws passed which can cripple Google. Apple uses music to push sales of wares. However, even Apple is going to the table to get a lower payment rate back to the labels.

Going back to Spotify.

Since it has money woes and it cannot make a profit, it’s offering payola terms back to the record labels to have their music chucked into playlists for a fee. Because taking in money from users and advertisers is not enough to make money in music if you don’t have your own popular content bringing in money. And the labels are getting paid handsomely twice from each streaming provider.

  • Spotify pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • YouTube pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Pandora pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Apple pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Tidal pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.

I think you get the drift. Maybe that’s why Spotify is paying producers to be fake artists and play popular songs on piano for people to listen to.

And to top it off, the record labels are still using the 100 year old rule of geo restrictions when it comes to streaming. So music available in the U.S doesn’t necessarily equate to being available in Australia. Here is a quick list of albums I tried to call up in the last two weeks on Spotify Australia which are not available;

  • Heaven And Hell – The Devil You Know, released in 2009
  • Stryper – Murder By Pride, released in 2009
  • Three Days Grace – Life Starts Now, released in 2009
  • Night Ranger – Midnight Madness, released in 1983
  • Europe – Europe, released in 1983
  • Helix – No Rest For The Wicked, released in 1983

Isn’t it nice how record labels treat legitimate paying customers?

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

It’s Never The Record Labels Fault

There are a lot of stories of how the recording industry has been transformed since Napster.

Most of it is around the losses of income. Most of it portrays the recording industry as the music industry. And all of the stories told from the main news sites, blamed the technology. It was never the fault of the record labels.

Then the iTunes store came and the purchase of mp3’s became legal. And people still complained. You, see the profit margins are nowhere near as good as the CD profit margins. And still the fault was with the technology for not paying enough or not charging enough. It was never the fault of the record labels.

Then YouTube appeared as the earliest form of streaming there is. Users uploaded their fan made clips and their music catalogues. And again, the fault was with the technology and not with the record labels.

Then streaming came on the scene in Pandora, Grooveshark, Deezer and Spotify and the conversation shifted to the pennies paid per listen.

Song writers (people who write songs for other artists) started to complain about what streaming services pay them. Artists complained about what streaming services paid them. And the streaming services keep on saying they are paying 70% of their income to the rights holders, which in 99% of cases is the record labels and publishing companies. Vivendi, the owner of Universal Music is now considering going to an IPO based on the brilliant profits their balance sheet is seeing from streaming licensing and royalty payments.  But the whole time, the technology is to blame for not paying enough. It’s never the fault of the record labels.

Did you know that in 2016, $3.9 billion dollars came into the record label bank accounts from streaming services?

If you don’t believe me, check out the stats from the International Federation of The Phonographic Industry. I wonder who is taking the lion share of those monies.

Here is a dirty little secret from streaming services. They are not making any money. They don’t have the mass, so they rely on capital investments to keep on going. Sort of like a legal Ponzi scheme. Take money from new investors to sustain the business and keep old investors happy with the hope to get legal paying customers to the service.

In the meantime, the much-loved CD product of the record label is getting sold on Amazon and a lot of them are counterfeits, so no money is going back to the record label or the artist. And again, Amazon is to blame for selling counterfeit CD’s because it’s never the fault of the record labels. To the record labels and the artists they represent, it’s Amazon’s fault for not policing this.

So everyone is to blame for the record labels failures except themselves.

Does any remember back in 2015, when Sony’s contract with Spotify leaked?

The record label is getting over $45 million in license fees and there is no transparency if any of these monies make it down to artists and songwriters. The bigger artists/songwriters will have clauses in their contracts for a larger slice of the streaming revenue, and some artists/songwriters are still operating under the old CD-era contracts. You don’t hear Metallica or Max Martin complaining about streaming monies.

In the end if you are signed to a label, creating music which is being listened too and are not getting paid, your issue is with your employer, the record label. But it’s never the record labels fault.

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

Playlists And Streaming

Spotify is growing. The pop artists or the cross-over artists from other genres into the pop world are getting into the 100 plus millions/billions listens. And the high counts are due to two things;

  • Spotify Playlists.
  • Listeners Playlists

If a song is added to the most followed playlists, then the listens go up.

There is a “Rock In The 2000’s” playlist created by Spotify and if you check the songs on it and then check the streams the songs have on the artist account, you will see those songs on the playlist dwarf the rest of the catalogue. For example, “Chop Suey” from System Of A Down is on the Spotify playlist and the listens of Chop Suey is exponentially higher than the remainder of SOAD’s catalogue.

“Drake doesn’t lock himself into an album cycle. When Drake wants to put out music and he feels like it’s ready, Drake puts out music. So it’s not the typical, “I’m gonna put out two singles, then launch my album, then go on tour, then wait two years and go back in the studio and release this music.” I think he really has captured that rhythm of how fans want to consume music.”
Spotify’s Troy Carter on Drake’s Streaming Success

Drake is as metal and rock as the soap in the bathroom is metal, however the lesson should be applied to all. New music is an invitation into the world of the artist. It’s not the only thing. Capture the moment and release when the song is ready, not many months later when the album is ready.

Platinum selling artist Mark Tremonti has released three albums in 2 years, and while Tremonti and Alter Bridge are on tour, he is spending his free time giving guitar lessons/doing guitar clinics as an additional income stream.

It is easier to find and less costly to release new music, leading to unpredictable successes from artists who might not have been discovered or produced an album in an earlier era.
Michael Luca and Craig McFadden – Harvard Business Review

And that’s the cold hard truth about music in 2016. Artists who normally wouldn’t be signed can suddenly record and release music into the world. The supply of new music over the last 10 years is way higher than the demand for new music. Hell, I listened to 950 plus unique artists on Spotify this year. I grew up in the 80’s with no more than 50 or so unique artists. Spotify has over 20 million songs that haven’t been listened to yet.

Sure, some of the Spotify playlists might be a PR exercise for the labels, in the end, it still comes down to the user, who still likes to have some a filter to push new music on them. But then the record labels would like to mislead people about how much it costs them to break an artist to the mainstream.

The truth is the labels don’t break artists. They can spend monies on the artist, the promotions and put them out into the market place, however it is the people who decide if the artist will break on through. And what we are seeing more are artists making it on the back of streaming and no radio support.

But times have changed: in a landscape dominated by services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon, it is possible to have a hit without the press and radio (or much of the public) even noticing you. Kiiara, hardly a household name, is currently enjoying a global hit with Gold, off the back of 312m streams on Spotify alone. (Other services don’t make their numbers public.) You could look at British artist James TW, whose song When You Love Someone has 35m streams. Then there’s Australian teen Joel Adams, whose one and only song Please Don’t Go has chalked up 320m streams on Spotify.
Peter Robinson – Guardian Writer

Yeah, I got no idea who the above artists are and none of them are really rock or metal, but the possibilities are there for unknown metal and rock bands to become streaming behemoths without the support of record labels and radio stations. However, having a high streaming listen count doesn’t automatically correlate to concert ticket sales or sales of recorded music, much in the same way Facebook likes/followers never equal sales. The artist will need to work even harder to convert those listeners into real fans, because a lot of streaming users are casual fans who like to check songs out.

 

In the back-end of Spotify, for instance, fans are split into three categories: streakers (who have listened to the artist every day in the last week), loyalists (who have listened to them more than to any other over the past 20 days), and regulars (who listened to the artist on the majority of the days in the month
Peter Robinson – Guardian Writer

Spotify is building the data banks instead of the labels. Apple already has the databank. The labels have done nothing in this regard. So as an artist, who do you want to partner with?

And finally, there are the playlists. The more playlists the songs are added to, the more exposure the songs will get and this is where the old gatekeeper model comes into play. How does a rock or metal band get their songs onto a Spotify created playlist that has over a million followers?

STREAMING – changing the music business again
STREAMING – artists who made it huge without radio support
STREAMING – Swedish artists benefiting from streaming 
RECORD LABELS – breaking an artist 
SONGWRITER WHO SOLD HIS SONGS FOR A FEE AND IS UNKNOWN

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Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Once Upon A Time In The Recording Industry

Once upon a time, the labels ruled the kingdom unchallenged. Transparency was a dirty word as the labels’ hid from their artists how much money came in and how much money they are entitled to, while at the same time, they charged the consumers high prices.

As time went on, there was talk of unrest over the high prices charged. Talks of revolution started to happen in colleges and universities. Then from out of nowhere, a young, revolutionary upstart called Napster rose up in defiance. It wasn’t long until the people adopted Napster as their means to access the vast archives of the labels and what seemed like overnight, the history of the world’s musical output was at the fingertips of the people. Sharing became prominent. Scarcity was replaced by abundance and cultures flourished. Countries and cities that had no recording industry suddenly had thriving musical scenes.

Napster showed the powerful labels how the people of the world really want to consume their product. Tunes were free and previously overpriced albums with few good tracks became unlocked for the masses to share and enjoy. And the labels had lost control because they did not give the people what they wanted.

But the labels didn’t take this defiance too lightly.

There was no way the labels would step down from their thrones and give away their position of power. There was no way the labels would allow the people to dictate terms to them. Along with Messer’s Ulrich and others, the labels went to war against the people. It was bloody and messy. Relationships strained and the labels, artists and industry would never be the same. The law played its dirty green hand and showed the world that it was never about the law but about the people who had the capacity to pay. Copyright infringers got punishments more severe than murderers and drug dealers.

With a lot of money at stake, the labels had their friends in the High Courts of the Lands pass motions to restrict Napster. But it was too late. The cultural movement Napster started would not be put to rest. A fire was lit and the people responded in the millions as they flocked to AudioGalaxy, Kazaa and Limewire. The labels responded to these uprisings via the courts.

Then from the ashes of defiance, in the country of Valhalla, “the one who has stood defiantly” set sail into “The Pirate Bay”. The sharing of culture and the expansion of the public domain became a new belief system. Political parties formed with the same ideology.

In between the nuclear litigation against the defiant entities, the record labels screamed black and blue to the politicians to pass laws to protect their bottom lines. The politicians always responded by writing laws. But the people now had a powerful voice. With the rise of the Internet, demonstrations went from the streets into the cyber age.

Then an offer came from a technology company and a man called Steve Jobs. The iPod needed a digital store and Steve Jobs dragged the record labels into the digital world. EMI had the foresight and signed first, while Sony and Universal held out until the last-minute. But the labels wanted digital rights on each mp3 and suddenly, people who legally purchased music were punished. DRM actually restricted what people could do with music they purchased legally. One label even put DRM onto legally purchased CD’s and infected the computers of the users.

While the record labels tried to protect their business models with laws and DRM, musicians started to be business people, investing in start-ups and what not. And then they signed their souls to the corporation for a pay-day while the people changed from ownership to listens.

Artists and the labels had to reset their goals. Instead of trying to get people to purchase their product, their main goal became to get someone to listen. But the industry still wants sales, especially first week sales. And that’s the problem with the industry. Not Spotify, not piracy. So much money is spent on marketing that fails to deliver anything worth paying attention to.

If the artist (along with their record label) can’t get the consumer on their side, they’re doomed. The recording industry is living proof of an industry that had to change the way they offer their music to suit what the consumers wanted. It started with iTunes and then it went to streaming. However there are labels and acts who believe otherwise, still embracing the old model instead of embracing the new.

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

Metallica – A Lot Has Changed Since 2008.

Seduced by fame
A moth into the flame

I have been listening to “Moth Into Flame” on Spotify daily. I must say it’s one of the their best songs written since we entered the 2000’s. The structure of the song, the brilliant intro, the lyrics, the barking verses and the melodic chorus all stand out.

Infamy
All for publicity
Destruction going viral

It could be about anyone in the entertainment business. Hell, it could be about Metallica’s Napster lawsuit.

For “Hardwired… To Self Destruct”, I like the lyrical message and the story behind the title more than the song in itself.

“Fifteen years ago, when you put out a record, there was a particular way that you did everything. Now it’s just whatever works for you. We’re in the process of putting a new record out this fall, and we’re just doing whatever we feel is right. There’s no particular way that it should be.”
Lars Ulrich – METALLICA

The last time Metallica released an album was in 2008. First week sales of “Death Magnetic” in the U.S market topped half a million units. But back then, streaming didn’t exist in the U.S market. It also didn’t exist in the major European and Asian markets. Now streaming makes up a large portion of the record label revenue however the price points are still debated. The customer has the option to purchase an album digitally, purchase the album on vinyl or CD, subscribe to a paid streaming service, subscribe to Spotify’s free tier or illegally download the album for free. Depending on the country you are in, the price points range from $0 USD to $10 USD.

As the Forbes article states, there is no alternative price in between even though research has shown that a $4.99 USD monthly subscription fee would convert the 60 million free tier streaming users into paid users.

What is better for the recording industry, 30 million users paying $9.99 USD a month or 90 million users paying $4.99 USD a month?

Do the math.

30 million paying users at $9.99 = $299,700,000

90 million paying users at $4.99 = $449,100,000

Metallica are masters of their own destiny, masters of their own recordings. For them, they do not have the high risk unknown that other labels have. They do not spend close to 20% of their revenue on artist development. They can negotiate their own streaming rate with Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and Google. But they still do it the old way, taking time out to write and record 10 plus songs for a release. They will still judge this album on amount sold, instead of the amount streamed.

The article at Forbes, states what the record labels of the future would look like in six bullet points and one of the points is an artist-run record label.

Metallica own their masters. With the help of their management team, they have set up their own label. This gives the band negotiating power and it allows them to monetise their masters for the best price possible. Spotify has Metallica on it and it was on Metallica’s terms. You don’t hear Metallica complaining about the lack of money given to them by streaming services. Actually Kirk “I need a wah wah pedal for leads” Hammett might complain.

“Back in the day when Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning approached the music industry with a little baby they had called Napster, and the music industry refused to entertain any kind of deal with them on any level. Instead they open-sourced it to the world, and that changed the face of music. And so the industry’s reluctance to go with technology back in the day is something that we’re all, unfortunately, suffering from to this very day. Thankfully, the industry has seen the error of their ways, and they are embracing digital and technology on an unprecedented level, and we’re going through an adjustment period. It’ll take time.”
Dan Draiman – DISTURBED 

Instead of working with Napster, the recording industry got Lars Ulrich on board and went to war against the consumers of music. But in 2016, the recording industry is at another crossroad. It needs to decide on a price point for streaming that converts the 60 million plus free users into paid users. But the record labels want an increase in the current $9.99 price point. As far as the labels are concerned, it needs to be more.

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Music, My Stories

Yesterday and Today

YESTERDAY
We waited in line to get the newest record or we had to get the record store clerk to order an album in.

TODAY
We go to the Internet, iTunes, Spotify, The Pirate Bay, Amazon, etc.

YESTERDAY
We saved our cash and had to make decisions as to what album we purchased based on the funds available. We tried to maximise our purchases.

TODAY
We go to the Internet, Pandora, Spotify, The Pirate Bay, YouTube and have the history of music at our fingertips.

YESTERDAY
The labels believed that people would always want to buy a CD.

TODAY
CD sales are going down as the medium becomes another niche collector’s item for the hard-core fans.

YESTERDAY
We couldn’t live without music.

TODAY
We still can’t live without music.

YESTERDAY
The record labels would “Support” an artist by giving them a big advance, which the artist could never pay back due to some creative accounting from the record label. Thirty Seconds To Mars sold 3 million albums of “A Beautiful Lie” and they still had a debt of about $1 million to the label. Creative accounting I say.

TODAY
The large record labels gives out a small advance and somehow the artist still can’t repay it back due to creative accounting. The smaller record labels tell you to record your album on your OWN budget and then if they like it, they will give you a small advance to license your copyright of the album to them. If it sticks and crosses over, call the lawyers to re-negotiate otherwise, if the band doesn’t experience “success” like the bands of the MTV era, they will break up and by default, the copyrights remain with the label, which they will then use as a bargaining chip.

YESTERDAY
Music came first, money was a by-product. It was never a focus.

TODAY
It’s all about entitlement and being paid. Just because someone wrote a song and released it, it doesn’t meant they deserve the right to make money from it.

YESTERDAY
We shared our record collection with our friends.

TODAY
We share our listening habits and likes online with strangers

YESTERDAY
We lived as a pack, getting together socially, going to the Club to hear live music and building culture as we went along.

TODAY
We build a monument to ourselves on social media and get together via LIKES.

YESTERDAY
No one told us how great they are.

TODAY
Everyone is promoting themselves and telling everyone who doesn’t care how great they are.

YESTERDAY
Youngsters grew up wanting to make music to satisfy a need to create.

TODAY
Youngsters grow up thinking music is about money.

YESTERDAY
Bon Jovi was a band and the creative element behind the music was Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

TODAY
Bon Jovi is known as a solo act and Richie Sambora is being written out of Bon Jovi history. If you don’t believe me, check out all the news recently about a recent Billboard article that talks about “Livin On A Prayer” and the writers are mentioned as Jon Bon Jovi and Desmond Child. But from the interviews I have read, the embryo version of “Prayer” was written by Sambora.

YESTERDAY
There was no overnight success.

TODAY
There is no overnight success.

YESTERDAY
Rock and metal music was a consistent seller.

TODAY
Rock and metal music is still a consistent seller.

YESTERDAY
Artists borrowed from their influences, who borrowed from their influences, who borrowed from their influences and it was okay.

TODAY
Artists borrow from their influences and if they have a “hit”, they get sued for copyright infringement, plagiarism and whatever else the lawyers can think off.

YESTERDAY
RIAA spent a lot of money, taking pirate sites to court and winning default judgement’s but never really getting the cash from those judgement’s.

TODAY
RIAA is still spending a lot of money taking pirate sites to court, winning default judgement’s and then complaining that the three/six strikes policy (that they wanted the ISP’s to implement in the first place) is too expensive to administer.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Lifers and Record Labels

Once upon a time, the record labels searched for talent. Known as the self-appointed gatekeepers of culture; if they believed you were good enough, they would sign you and market you. They would give you money to go away and write songs. Some of those songs would end up on album, some as b-sides, some would be given to other artists and some songs would just remain as demo’s.

What the labels failed to tell the artists, is that the label would own all of those songs and the money the artist received as an “advance” would need to be repaid back to the artist.

Today, the labels are a very different beast. All they want is something they can sell. And they do that by copying what is successful.

So what we have is a plethora of acts that all sound the same.

Sound familiar.

Of course it does. Go back to the Eighties.

In 1983, Motley Crue broke out and suddenly the labels signed bands that looked and sounded like Motley Crue.

Quiet Riot, Ratt, WASP, Kix, Krokus and Mamas Boys are a few bands that benefited from Motley Crue breaking out of the L.A Sunset Strip scene. The labels even made bands that didn’t look like Motley Crue, look like Motley Crue. Accept, Fastway, Helix, Saxon, Kiss, Tygers of Pan Tang and Dokken are a few bands that had a “look and feel change” to their wardrobes.

Then Bon Jovi breaks out towards the end of 1986 with “Slippery When Wet” and suddenly we have the labels signing bands that look and sound like Bon Jovi. Plus they also make bands that didn’t sound like Jovi, create albums that sound like Jovi. Kiss delivering “Crazy Nights” is a perfect example of a pre-existing band delivering a Bon Jovi sounding album.

Then two years later, Guns N Roses breaks out and suddenly we have the labels signing bands that look and sound like Guns N Roses. Roxx Gang, Skin N Bones, Bullet Boys, Plus they also make bands that didn’t sound like Guns N Roses, create albums that sounded similar.

Thrash metal as a moment broke out by 1985 and suddenly we had a plethora of labels signing bands to write thrash music. Then Metallica breaks out commercially with the Black album in 1991. This time the labels didn’t sign any new acts, but all of the trash bands on labels were asked to deliver albums that sounded like the Black album.

Then Nirvana breaks out and brings the sounds of Seattle to the masses. So what do the labels do? They drop nearly every hard rock/metal act and go and sign acts that play the Seattle sound. They even get existing bands to look like Seattle. I remember Megadeth wearing flannel shirts in 1994. Same deal for Motley Crue with Corabi on vocals. Metallica went even more Gothic/Surrealism/Industrial  like with their look in 1995.

See a trend happening here.

The labels didn’t give a shit about the artists. Once the artist stopped selling, the A&R reps stopped calling.

So what do we have in 2016?

It’s all about the money. The label is only interested if you can generate dollars, right off the bat because in the past, all of the money was in the recordings. But the artist also wants to be paid as soon as they put up a song or an album for release. What happened to the saying “It’s all about the music”?

Sure, money is important, but in reality (and between the Seventies and the late Nineties), only 1% of acts who crossed over, got paid some serious dough. The others got advances, which they had to pay back from sales. This in turn led to a lot of artists classed as unrecouped. And while in the past, the money was in the recordings, today the money is in the touring and all the rest that comes with it.

But the money tree is changing. There will be more money from recordings again as streaming gets more market share and revenue rises. The labels are making more money now than they’ve ever been.

While a lot has changed, one thing that hasn’t changed is that good records still sell and remain in the charts and in the public conversation for a long time. While in the past, MTV made bands into Platinum stars and built their careers overnight, today’s quest for stardom is more in line with that of the Seventies era, which was run by rock bands.

And what did the rock bands do?

They wrote music, played shows from city to city. TV was irrelevant for success in the Seventies and it’s irrelevant again in 2016. The only time TV sold music was during the Eighties and Nineties when MTV led culture.

In the Seventies, you built up your career, from band to band, city to city, cover band to cover band and whatever else you could do that put you in front of a live audience. Today you build up a career online, from YouTube video to YouTube video, from Facebook post to Facebook post and whatever else you need to do to get your name in front of people.

We’re never going back to the past. To participate in the present, it’s all about earning and maintaining attention. Financial rewards come many years after, but you need to be around to capitalise on it, building that ongoing relationship with your audience.

Which means you need to be a lifer in music.

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