A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Thoughts on Streaming, Longevity and Access to Music

“Rock bands were only supposed to last around 5 years. The Beatles, as far as Americans knew them, were only around for 7 years and that seemed like an eternity to the millions of musicians that they inspired, many of which became famous rock stars themselves.”
Jay Jay French 

Once upon a time, that was the case. All of the good Seventies band had more or less finished up or turned into bad imitations of themselves by the early Eighties. Some of the musicians went onto successful or not so successful solo careers.

  • Eagles
  • Deep Purple
  • ELP
  • Yes
  • Bad Company
  • Led Zeppelin
  • UFO
  • Aerosmith
  • Kiss
  • Pink Floyd
  • Kansas
  • Alice Cooper

Throughout it all, the world was changing.

People suddenly had access to more credit than ever before. Their wages increased at an astronomical rate. Ownership of music became a big thing as MTV put our heroes into our lounge rooms.  On the heels of this new cultural phenomenon, suddenly there was more money to spend on entertainment products.

So what do all of these bands do?

They reformed. It didn’t matter if it was with the original band members (if that was possible at all) or with different musicians. The labels would bring in extra songwriters.

Aerosmith cashed in. So did Alice Cooper. So did Kiss. Desmond Child and Jim Vallance proved to be songwriters most hard rock bands started to use.

Suddenly we had rock bands lasting 20 years, then 30 years and in 2015 we have rock bands that have lasted 40 years.

But, it is the fans of music that made it all happen.

The fans of music made the record labels rich and the fans of music are the ones that ruined the record labels business models that relied on physical sales.

It is the fans of music that turned Spotify and streaming into a billion dollar industry. That’s the power of the people.

We will play the same song over and over again for decades and under the new model we are generating cash for the streaming service who then pass 70% of it on to the rights holders, which in all cases are the record labels and the publishing companies (who are also owned by the record labels). $4.5 billion dollars have been paid by Spotify and Pandora in royalties. All of that has gone to the record labels or to entities controlled by the record labels. You can see why songwriters are frustrated. Where’s all that money going?

Regardless, when it comes to consuming music and what price should be charged, the people have spoken.

The people decide what is of value and what it wants to pay for something. And artists’ should do everything they can to hook them into a new system or their system.

Look at Coheed and Cambria. I am hooked into the way they release their albums with the Super Deluxe Editions, instant digital downloads and VIP membership.

Remember when the book publishers said that e-books are undervalued and people must pay more. Did they ever think that the people don’t want to pay more?

Amazon finally relented and gave the publishers a chance to set their own prices. So what do the publishers do, they set the e-book price the same as a hardcover price. So the people screamed “Rip off” and E-book sales tanked.

Apple Music launches and it has no free tier after the three months sweetener. By default Apple along with the record labels are excluding people and to really succeed, streaming services like the artists need to hook in the casual users. Fans will always pay top dollar. But casual listeners are important as well. Spotify, Pandora and YouTube are at least servicing these listeners.

In the end the recording industry, along with the artists need to get more people paying for streaming. The bigger the streaming pool, the bigger the payouts, as long as the record labels are honest.

But that works by first exposing people to the service. It could take 3 months, 6 months, 12 months or years before people lay out cash. Instead, the labels put a high fee on licensing and then they want streaming services to raise the price immediately.

Did everyone miss the memo?

Music has completely changed. Once upon a time, songs would be sent out to radio or a video would be sent to MTV, with the hope that people would be hooked in enough to go to the record store and buy the album. It was all about monetizing up front. Today, songs are available instantly and monetization comes last. First comes attention. If people are checking something out, and if it sticks…it will grow.

“I think this is the new millennium Number of the Beast. That was one of our best albums and the follow-up to that (Piece of Mind) was probably the best of the lot of them. It has something for everybody. Take Speed of Light, for instance. It is the old Maiden. That intro is a testimony to Deep Purple.”
Nicko McBrain – Iron Maiden drummer

I purchased the album, however I didn’t hear it on CD. As a collector, the CD went straight on the shelf. Through the magic of the internet and Spotify, I can hear the album without paying for it. Isn’t that a better outcome than keeping the music locked up behind paywalls?

If people like it, they will spread the word.

If people like it, they will pay for the CD, pay for the vinyl, or pay to get a higher quality stream.

This is the new world, everything is different now.

The charts are irrelevant, while listens are in. If you don’t believe me, then have a look at the paltry sales that lead to a number one album in Australia.

More people are accessing music through streaming and that is a very good thing. Has anyone heard Iron Maiden complaining about their box office returns after each show, or the fact that they are one of the bands that has huge P2P traffic. It takes a non-rocker to sum up the effect of people accessing music easily.

“I’m playing three Wembley Stadium (shows) on album two. I’m playing sold-out arena gigs in South America, Korea, south-east Asia and Australia. I don’t think I’d be able to do that without Spotify or if people hadn’t streamed my music. My music has been streamed 860 million times, which means that it’s getting out to people. I get a percentage of my record sales, but it’s not a large percentage, (whereas) I get all my ticket sales, so I’d much rather tour. That’s why I got into the business — I love playing gigs. Recording albums, to me, is a means to an end. I put out records so I can tour. For me, Spotify is not even a necessary evil. It helps me do what I want to do.”
Ed Sheeran

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Some Thoughts On The Music Business

YouTube

YouTube allows you to go directly to your audience whenever they want and you get paid in the process. It might be small now, however it will grow with time. And surely that is better than having your video on MTV and getting squat.

Longevity

The truth is you get wiser as you get older. You learn from experience and life. Artists done need to tell us how great they are or how great the new album is. The fans are smart enough to decide what is great and what isn’t. In the end, you need to have stayed in the game long enough to win.

Music Is Not Scarce Anymore

The days of growing up at the record store and budgeting what album to buy are gone and have been for a long time. Today our favourite artists release new music and we check it out. If we like it we give it a few more spins and then move on. If we don’t like it, we move on straight away. If we really like it, we commit to it.

Back in the day, music was a commitment. After having laid down our cash on a record, we took it home, dropped the needle and spent months digesting it. But today, music is everywhere.

You Survive On Your Audience

You want to be in their consciousness 24/7 and the majority of albums today just don’t hang around long enough. Sure there are exceptions to the rule. Volbeat has been selling their new album since April 2013. Yep, that is almost 20 months ago. Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch are in the same league. Bands like Trivium and Dream Theater had albums that came, got lapped up by the core audience and then disappeared from the conversation. The audience wants to always talk about you, so give them a reason to talk about you.

Information Overload

People are overloaded with information so they’ve only got time for the best and they want more and more of it on a regular basis.

Start With Your friends

They actually know and care about you. If you’re good, they’ll tell their friends, and some of them will eventually be friends/trusted filters of others and people will hear about it that way.

Overnight Sensations

Overnight sensations are a decade plus in the making.

Timing

The timing was right for metal and rock acts to go multi-platinum in the Eighties. MTV was rising. The disenfranchised youths were looking for a voice, something to attach too. They found it in “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “I Wanna Rock”, “Shout At The Devil” and so on.

Rock Bands Were Never Supposed To Last

The Beatles had about eight years before going solo. Led Zeppelin had about 12 years before calling it quits after the death of John Bonham. Kiss’s original line up had about 8 years before they ended. Motley Crue had 10 years before they fired Vince. Twisted Sister had about 8 years from when the core line up was formed. Rage Against The Machine had 9 years before they split. Soundgarden had about 12 years before calling it quits. That is about the average of a band keeping its original line up in tact before other life events impact the dynamics.

Promote The Why and Not the What

Evergrey went all “why” for the promotion of the “Hymns For The Broken” album. We know the story about how the band was almost over and how the return of two former members gave Englund a new belief to continue. And the fans resonated with this belief.

Protest The Hero sold the why. That is why they the fans pledged over $300,000 to them for “Volition”. We understand as fans why they needed to go down the fan funding route. We understood how the record labels had ripped them off. We believed in their story and wanted to be a part of it.

People will do the things that prove what they believe. We don’t don’t buy what our artists do, we buy why they do it.

Personality

The truth is long-term careers are based on being unique and staying true to who you are.

What seems to happen is that artists try to appeal to everybody and in doing so they rub off their rough edges which is the X factor that makes them unique.

We don’t want fake heroes to believe in. We want real heroes with real personalities.

That is why rock and metal took off in the early Eighties. They represented the working class and the youth that lived under iron fists. The metal and rock got all polished up and all of its uniqueness was planed off.

That is why grunge and alternative took off in the early Nineties. They trail blazed their own path by not sounding just like everybody else. While the metal and rock acts lost their edge and started to sound the same towards the end of the Eighties, the Seattle scene was not afraid to go their own way. They didn’t care if radio didn’t play them and they didn’t care if the media wouldn’t write about them. They forged their own path and made everyone follow them in the process.

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