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

Expectations (Alter + Adapt) = Survival (with Machine Head and Twisted Sister)

There is an interview with Jay Jay French that is doing the rounds at digiday. In the first question, he is asked what tips he would offer young bands today.

“Alter your expectations, because people make the wrong expectations. We adapted our expectations over the years, consistently, and that’s how we survived.”

Classy words and very simple.

Expectations (Alter + Adapt) = Survival

So what do all of our favourite bands/artists keep on doing? They keep on spending a lot of time writing and recording 10 to 15 songs, just so they can group them together and release them as an album. This “expectation” worked once upon a time. However it is not working today. Metal artists are lucky that metal fans are loyal and that we still purchase the “album.”

Of course exceptions exist, and it only works if all the songs are undeniable.

Machine Head hit the nail on the head with “Unto The Locust”. Seven tracks that will stand the test of time.  For the new album, 5 song titles have been made available and a few more are in progress. So I think it is safe to assume that we will be getting another 7 to 8 tracks as a long player. Instead of providing an album with the “expected” 10 to 12 tracks, Machine Head are focusing on quality instead of quantity. Altering and adapting.

Did “Unto The Locust” set the sales figures alight? Of course not. It did what it needed to do. It satisfied the hardcore audience of Machine Head. Now if metal bands want to reach the 500,000 to 1,000,000 sales targets then they need to have that undeniable crossover song.

Imagine if Machine Head comes out with their own Crazy Train, Enter Sandman, Symphony Of Destruction or Holy Diver. A song like that will satisfy their hard core fan base and it will also satisfy a lot of other people in the hard rock, power metal, heavy metal, progressive and even pop rock genres.

Check out the following comment from Anita Elberse and her book “Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, And The Big Business Of Entertainment”. It is probably the best advice that any artist will get.

“…out of a total of 870,000 albums that sold at least one copy in 2011, 13 album titles sold more than a million copies each, together accounting for 19 million copies sold. That’s 0.001 percent of all titles accounting for 7 percent of sales. The top 1,000 albums generated about half of all the sales, and the top 10,000 albums around 80 percent of sales. Deep in the tail, 513,000 titles or nearly 60 percent of the assortment, sold fewer than 10 copies each, together making up half a percent of total sales.”

513,000 album titles sold fewer than 10 copies each. So if you are one of those 513,000 bands that sold less than 10 copies, what do you do?

You obviously expected a better return on your investment. A lot of artists will give up, a lot of bands will break up and then there will be a small percentage who will adapt and alter their expectations. Remember, I have always said that in order to be successful, you need to outlast the competition.

What about singles? I have been saying for a long time to anyone who listens that we live in a single world. As soon as fans got the option to cherry pick what they like, the “tracks” became the rock stars instead of the album. The below is from the same book written by Anita Elberse.

“In 2011, 102 tracks sold more than a million units each, accounting for 15 percent of total sales. That is not a typo: 0.00001 percent of the eight million tracks sold that year generated almost a sixth of all sales. It is hard to overstate the importance of those few blockbusters in the head of the curve. And the trend suggests that hits are gaining in relevance. In 2007, 36 tracks each sold more than a million copies, together these tracks accounted for 7 percent of total market volume. In 2009, 79 tracks reached that milestone; together they make up 12 percent of the sales volume.”

If the above statement doesn’t make the artist realise that we are living in a singles world, then those artists need to re-evaluate their place in the music world. Even Robb Flynn stated in his most recent post that he doesn’t feel like they have written the definitive track like “Halo” and “Locust” for the new album.

In relation to Twisted Sister, the band kept on evolving over a 10 year period and by 1984, with the rise of MTV, the timing was right for them to take full advantage of it. However for Twisted Sister, the success proved nasty as Jay Jay explains;

“The downside of it is we exploded so fast that – even though the band had been together 11 years at that point – the heat of the immense popularity, the worldwide success put so much pressure on the band. The band couldn’t sustain itself and eventually collapsed.”

Dee Snider joined Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda in 1976. Jay Jay on the other hand was at it since 1972. He finally found success in 1984. Twelve years slugging it out. Twelve years of rejection and broken promises. Do any of the new artists today have that same kind of thick skin? Do they have the longevity to stick it out. To succeed in the music business, you need to outlast the competition and the competition these days is fierce for listener’s attention.

This is what Metallica has done. This is what Machine Head has done. This is what Motley Crue has done. They are outlasting the competition. They are adapting and evolving.

 

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Top 10

My 8 year old and my 7 year old love Twisted Sister. It’s the video clips that hooked them, so they started to dig deep into my LP and CD collection. Actually, the first LP they ever saw, was Twisted Sister’s “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll.” So here it is, the Top 10 list of Twisted Sister songs, by an 8 year old and a 7 year old.

1. We’re Not Gonna Take It

When Quiet Riot topped the charts with “Metal Health” and it became the first heavy metal album to do so, it was a game changer for metal in general. For better or for worse a lot of bands got picked up by major labels in the U.S.

Twisted Sister on the other hand were still struggling to get ahead without any real support from their Atlantic U.S.

Not to be deterred Twisted Sister took this new fan interest in metal to a new level. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is all pop and a little glam infused with a lot of rock. It’s tongue in cheek video ensured that MTV played it non stop.

Dee Snider finally fine tuned that Chorus melody he had written back in 1979.

2. I Wanna Rock

Who would have thought that in 1987 when “Love Is for Suckers,” came out that it would be a long time before Dee Snider rocked out again.

Desperado proved unsuccessful due to record label politics taking up Dee’s time between 1988 and 1989. Widowmaker came out in the midst of the Seattle Revolution and an excellent band was ignored.

3. Shoot Em Down

This can be the new anthem for the fight against censorship by the Copyright Monopolies and the Corporations that issue DMCA takedowns.

In 1985, Dee Snider along with Frank Zappa and Bob Denver appeared before a Senate committee to testify against the Parents Music Resource Center’s demands for music censorship legislation.

All of this is happening while Twisted Sister was burning to the ground with low ticket sales and crowd animosity.

In 2013, this fight is still going on. This time it is the RIAA, the MPAA and the Copyright monopolies that are trying to silence free speech with bogus takedowns.

Shoot em down I say.

4. You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll

“You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll” laid the groundwork for the things to come. With the release of “Under The Blade” before it, the band was getting some serious respect with the metal crowd.

During the “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” tour in Europe, especially England, Twisted Sister was the hottest “new” group.

They where selling out 3500 seaters all over the country, they had two hit singles, been on national TV in England and had been in all the papers.

Twisted Sister tour these days and they are more popular than they have ever been. It’s true, “You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll”.

5. SMF

This is the ode to the original tri-state headbangers who would talk at length about the shows that Twisted Sister played in New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester before Twisted Sister became a huge act nationally via MTV. This is their song.

When the band broke through and toured extensively behind “Stay Hungry” the band and Dee Snider especially became overexposed. After being the underdog that gave a voice to every angry teenager in America, Twisted Sister would end up losing the respect of their loyal and possessive core metal fan base.

In other words the SMF’s abandoned them only to return in greater numbers years later.

6. The Kids Are Back

While the record industry proclaims that the industry is dead without any evidence, the kids are all plugging away and creating.

Maybe we will never see another superstar act like the Eighties however we are living in a golden time for creators.

7. Burn In Hell

From reading all the press, it always came across that ”Twisted Sister” was in control of their lives and future. I saw them as a new generation of rock bands due to their hard work ethic to make it.

8. Come Out And Play

When I hear this song, I immediately think of the bands history playing the bar scene, especially when Dee screams out “Join our cavalcade / Enter the world we made.” That cavalcade started when Dee Snider joined in early 1976. That cavalcade kept on growing along with a growing collection of record company rejection letters.

The critics called “Come Out and Play” an uneven album. The weakest tracks on the album like “Leader Of The Pack” and “Be Cruel To Your Skuel” got released as singles. The singles that should have been released are the title track, followed by “The Fire Still Burn” and then “I Believe In Rock N Roll.” Imagine the film clip of “Come Out And Play” if Twisted Sister paid homage to “The Warriors” movie.

In the end “Come Out And Play” didn’t fit the “Michael Jackson business model” of the labels. Twisted Sister went from being hot to being the whipping boys again.

9. The Price

People have a lot of trouble dealing with failure. Twisted Sister had been through so much rejection it made them even more determined to make it. Everything comes at a price.

10. Stay Hungry

It was difficult for Twisted Sister to land a record deal, and the band ended up struggling for nearly a decade before finally getting their big break in the early ’80s.

Unfortunately, when this break finally came, the band would end up being the poster child of record company overexposure.

Stay Hungry stands as a reminder. With each rejection, you need to stay hungry and find the fire again.

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