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

Convergence of Forces in 1986/87

After touring with AC/DC and Aerosmith for a year, I felt a little more aggressive. Some nights I would come up with something pretty, but after seeing Angus bash it out, I would say “Fuck pretty”.
Vito Bratta GW September 1989

This quote has remained with me for ages.

Vito Bratta is a guitarist who understands music and loves his instrument. His soloing is liquid joy and his rhythm work is complex.

So how does a musician who uses complex chord inversions and arpeggios to color a song compete for people’s attention against the blues based rock of AC/DC and Aerosmith, especially when those two bands had a head start of 15 plus years building up an audience.

Furthermore while Aerosmith sang about a dude who looks like a lady and a rag doll cutie, White Lion via Mike Tramp sang about the sinking of a Greenpeace ship. While AC/DC sang about woman as fast machines, White Lion sang about broken homes and violence in the home.

I remember a magazine reporter writing about how Mike Tramp introduced “Little Fighter” to metal kids when White Lion was opening for Ozzy. It went something like this;

Tramp: “You like to go to the fuckin’ Jersey Shore?” 
Crowd: “Yeah!” 
Tramp: “Don’t you get pissed off when you can’t swim because of the pollution?
Crowd: “Yeah!” (half-hearted)
Tramp: “Well, here’s a song about a group that’s doing something about it.”

White Lion toured with blues based hard rock bands for 12 months during the “Pride” period and there is no doubt that the rock vibe and party connection with the audience would have influenced Vito with the writing process of “Big Game”. But he didn’t want to just follow blindly what others have done before him so he tried to create something new, something interesting. But the majority of the pop music consumers don’t want interesting. They want carbon copies of what came before, something they can sing too, and something that is very uninteresting.

So “Big Game” was rushed. All because the label wanted to capitalize in the new-found interest in the band. But the label must have forgotten that MTV still controlled the public interest metric. If MTV played your band on the channel, you would sell a million plus. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t sell as much as you expected regardless of the quality of the music.

So with great power, comes great responsibility and MTV became a powerful and corruptible gatekeeper and for all its evil ways, it was still the best marketing tool to turn acts into global superstars.

But MTV didn’t play the video clips from “Big Game” as much as it played the clips from “Pride”.

And it’s funny when you look back to the 1986/87 period, the artists who had their biggest hits and sales during that period, never replicated those numbers again.

Bon Jovi never topped “Slippery When Wet”. Europe never topped “The Final Countdown”. White Lion never topped “Pride”. Whitesnake never topped their “self-titled” debut. Guns N Roses never topped “Appetite For Destruction”. INXS never topped “Kick”. Joe Satriani never topped “Surfing With The Alien”. Def Leppard never topped “Hysteria”. U2 never topped “The Joshua Tree”. Stryper never topped “To Hell With The Devil”.

There was something of a convergence during these years. MTV was well established by 1986 and massive, CD’s had taken hold by 1987, artists that had been around for a while had enough experiences on the board to write their masterpiece and fans of the 60’s/70’s rock movement had teenage families, so suburbia had cash to spend on entertainment due to low employment.

But with all things great, disaster was just around the corner. Black Monday happened on Monday, October 19, 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed. The single day drop was enough to scare people from spending and make people lose their jobs. Maybe it put a dent into the recording business for a few years, because from 1989 to 1999, the labels turned over billions.

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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, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Unsung Heroes

And Comparisons For All….

What a month in the world for new music.

After Bon Jovi withheld “The House Is Not For Sale” for a week from Spotify, the band managed to land the Number 1 spot again and sold over 128,000 units via a concert ticket promotion campaign that included a physical copy of the album with every ticket purchased. And the mainstream press lapped up the news.

While today, both Metallica and Sixx A.M. released new albums. “Hardwired To Self Destruct” and “Prayers For The Blessed” hit the streets. Meanwhile, Avenged Sevenfold’s unexpected album drop “The Stage” has had two consecutive weeks in the Top 10 Billboard charts. But those anyone care about the charts.

Is anyone listening to the albums?

At least Metallica, Sixx A.M. and Avenged Sevenfold didn’t withhold their album from Spotify like Bon Jovi did and treated their paying streaming fans the same as their fans who purchase a physical product.

“Hardwired” is up to 11,526,511 streams on Spotify and 21,076,824 views on YouTube, while “Moth Into Flame” is at 7,531,372 streams on Spotify and 12,859,400 views on YouTube. “Atlas Rise”, a song which came out a week ago has 6,793,498 views on YouTube.

Bon Jovi’s new music on the other hand pales compared to Metallica. The “This House Is Not For Sale” video came out three months on YouTube and it has 5,115,129 views. “Atlas Rise” from Metallica which came out a week ago has already overtaken this song. Other pre-release singles, “Knockout” has 793,789 views on YouTube and “Labor Of Love” has 480,060 views on YouTube.

This tells me that Bon Jovi is not gaining any new fans while Metallica still is. Even Lars Ulrich admitted as much when he was at a loss to explain how their self-titled “Black” album was still moving 2000 units a week 25 years after its release.

Avenged Sevenfold’s “The Stage” video that came out a month ago is up to 9,292,711 views and it has way more than Bon Jovi’s three videos combined.

If you want to compare listens, Avenged Sevenfold’s “Hail To The King” music video released 3 years ago has 67,228,814 views on YouTube. Bon Jovi’s “Because We Can” music video, also released 3 years ago, has 14,483,692 views. So it’s pretty safe to say that Jovi’s last proper album was a dud of epic proportions and it looks like “This House Is Not For Sale” is headed for the same fall. But those charts show it’s a number 1 album and the mainstream press is all over it. That’s the one part the big legacy players still control in music. The news cycle and their belief is he who reaches the most people wins today. But there is no story in Bon Jovi’s Number 1 album.

I heard the album today and it’s already in the rear view, fading fast. It was withheld from Spotify for 7 days and it comes out on the service when Metallica and Sixx A.M release albums that are way better than Bon Jovi’s offering. So my listening attention will be diverted to those bands for the next few weeks.

Streaming services are now the biggest contributors to the record labels bottom line. Streaming has won. The majority of people who like music, listen to recorded music via a streaming service. And if Scott Ian and the other guys from Anthrax can get behind streaming, anyone can be converted. Maybe not Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.

A scorched earth publicity campaign might get a decent return on first week sales and then what.

Selling a 130,000 copies in a week or even a million copies in week, in a country of 300 plus million is a needle in a haystack. But the news reports it. If the news cycle wants to report on bands selling, they should report on Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Shinedown, Skillet and Volbeat, who still have their albums on the charts, after months and in same years over a year and half since release date. Yep these artists are still selling units or racking up enough streams to count as a unit sale. But those bands don’t own the news cycle and they didn’t make it big in the 80’s, so why would the media report on them.

There is a common misconception that fans of artists who made it big in the 80’s or the 90’s don’t care about their new music. That’s not true, we do care about their new music. But it needs to be good for us to care and it needs to be good enough to attract a new generation to care as well. An artist’s career is dependent on the need to replenish their fan base as fans drop out and new fans drop in.

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

Score Card Inc

Three years ago in November, 2013, I posted a score sheet on certain artists/trends and how they are dealing with the music business.

Three years later, how are the artists fairing.

Robb Flynn
He still understands that it is not all about making records. From Nov 2013 to now, Robb Flynn via Machine Head, kept on releasing his Journals both video and written. In April, 2014, “Killers and Kings” came out for Record Store Day and the band went on tour. He started a clothing range called “Killers and Kings” that didn’t really take off. In November, 2014, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” came out and the band embarked on a lengthy “An Evening With” world tour. In June 1, 2016, “Is There Anybody Out There?” came out as a stand-alone single.

His connection with his audience runs deep. People either dig him or detest him or some people will not just forget him in an orange jumpsuit during the Nu-Metal phase of the band’s career.

Protest The Hero
Back in 2013, “Protest The Hero” showed how the record labels are so out of touch with its customers. PTH was dropped because the label told them they have no audience. However, a fan funding campaign showed a pretty impressive hard-core audience that was willing to cough up some serious dollars for the band. Even the band was blown away at the response.

And they did it again between Nov 2015 and April 2016 with “Pacific Myth” an innovative one song per month release over six months via Bandcamp. Fans had the option of two packages, and I selected the one that also had the six video releases. In between, the guys would upload drum videos, cooking videos, song transcriptions and what not.

Nikki Sixx
In 2013, he talked about a farewell tour. Well that tour finally happened and concluded in 2015. The Crue fan base didn’t really need one more world tour however, they wanted to finish up in their own way and the world tour is what we got, with a new song called “All Bad Things”. The movie is still in the works, they have their own pleasure toys, a rumour of The Dirt 2, plus lawsuits from photographers and opening bands to contend with. Seriously, squirting piss at a bunch of guys who paid $1 million to be on the tour would always end up in the courts.

With Sixx A.M. he has released an albums worth of music and the next album is coming in a few weeks. They are on tour with Five Finger Death Punch, he does his Sixx Sense Radio Show and he doesn’t like to wash his hands after going to the toilet.

Coheed and Cambria
By November, 2013, COCA had been touring non-stop on the back of “The Afterman” two album releases that came out within a 4 month window. Add to that Comic Con appearances, plus Sci-Fi conventions and appearances in Comic Shops and you get the idea that this band realises that it is not just about music and money. It is about creativity.

Since then, Claude Sanchez became a dad. He wrote more comics with his wife called “Translucid” in 2014 and in 2015 managed to release another slab of songs called “The Color Before The Sun” and go on a another world tour.

Metallica
Back in 2013, I wrote;

They need to make new music soon. There are only so many times that a band can go on a worldwide victory lap on the same piece of music. They need to be back in the studio.

Well, we are almost one week away from that new music hitting the streets and in the meantime, we have been treated to three tracks.
It’s a welcome relief to hear Metallica doing what they do best and I believe they have enough new music in their archives for another album to drop within two years this time, instead of eight.

And after hearing the album – yes it is available on the pirate sites, I can honestly say that it’s not worth the 8 year wait at all and maybe 4 song EP’s is the best way to go.

Dream Theater
I wrote in November 2013, that they need a great record soon or they will become yesterday’s news. Dream Theater has a knack for popping up with some goodies, like “Images and Words”, “Scenes From A Memory”, “Systematic Chaos” and “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”.

So in January 2016, they dropped the 130 minute “Astonishing” concept album, about a dystopian future society. Concept albums lead to different revenue spin offs like a stage play, comic book stories, video games, animations, TV series, a movie and so forth. But then again, Slayer are doing a graphic comic book series and have never done a concept album.

Stone Sour
I wrote in 2013, that something went south with their career trajectory. Of course, a beast called Slipknot would devour the creative forces of the band. Their take on modern metal is good, but with Slipknot getting more melodic, is there a reason for Stone Sour to exist.

Five Finger Death Punch
They have an audience who purchases and streams their product. Along the way, each album has received certifications for so many units moved. An onstage meltdown, a record label lawsuit and then a change of label has not slowed the band down in any way. If they can remain together, they will remain a powerhouse.

Trivium
Back in November, 2013, their new album “Vengeance Falls” was called a Disturbed covers album. The truth is, if people are talking about you, it is a good thing. And that album gave Trivium a concert classic in “Strife”. Since then, they released “Silence In The Snow” in 2015. They are always looking to reinvent themselves constantly while staying true to heavy metal. Plus Matt Heafy has a pretty cool Top 10 list of albums that changed his life.

1. Metallica – The Black Album (1991)
“A kid lent me The Black Album at school and it changed my life. I had never heard anything like it before, and I started playing guitar all the time.”

2. In Flames – Whoracle (1997)
“That was at the time of Napster, and I was into the classic great metal bands. I was on Napster and I found In Flames. I had never heard melodic death metal before, and it changed my ear on what kind of music I wanted to play.”

3. Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975)
“What I’ve always loved about Queen is that they’ve never released the same thing twice. Everything is drastically different while still sounding like Queen. Every song on A Night At The Opera sounds different to the next one and they all stand up as fantastic.”

4. Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988)
“With Iron Maiden it’s hard, because I love so many of their records. They’re all so important. Seventh Son, though, is the one that really got me into Iron Maiden. It’s one of their more epic records; there’s vivid storytelling going on. Getting into Iron Maiden helped me trace the roots of the music that I love. I could see where so many metal, death metal and black metal bands had taken things from.”

5. Ihsahn – Eremita (2012)
“Emperor changed my life, and Ihsahn changed my life again with this album. He spun the idea of black metal on its head by incorporating jazz chords, interesting production and clean singing. That record taught me to never be afraid of making whatever I want to make. We’ve always done that, but this album drove that home for me.”

6. Boston – Boston (1976)
“The vocal production is insane. Everything about this record epitomises the best things of rock ‘n’ roll.”

7. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
“The Beatles blow my mind in the same way that Queen do in that every song and record is so different to the last. Both of those bands have incredible songwriters as well. It’s not like nowadays where you might have one songwriter in a band.”

8. Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (1997)
“This is where Emperor really changed the dynamic of where black metal was going. Black metal was the rebellion to rock and metal, and was supposed to be different. “When there’s a movement like that, a lot of bands come out playing semi-similar music. That record opened up with clean guitar and there’s this classical singing; it has chaotic moments and beautiful moments all in one. Emperor makes such interesting black metal with these big dramatic moments.”

9. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
“Listening to Depeche Mode, you can hear that Rammstein is a combination of Depeche Mode and Metallica. Violator is one of the darkest, scariest records I’ve ever heard. It has this different kind of sadness that you feel in the music.”

10. The London Symphony Orchestra – Mozart’s Requiem (1791)
“The gothic artwork of that record is incredible, and this version for me is just the best. Listening to this, you can hear that out of all contemporary music, metal is the closest living relative to classical. It is the most epic moments of music that have always drawn me in, and I feel that with Mozart’s Requiem that is where you’re getting into the blueprint for everything that was to come.”

Shinedown
They have an audience who want to listen to them and so far, no one’s doing hard rock better than them. Their new album “Threat To Survival” has taken its influences from Adele, Imagine Dragons and other pop artists and they still made it rock hard. Daughtry and James Durbin should take note. Along the way, their fans purchased and streamed all the way to certification after certification.

Avenged Sevenfold
Say what you will about the “influences” on “Hail To The King”, doing that album was a bigger risk for Avenged Sevenfold then their new album and it paid off for them.

Fast forward to 2016, and their new album drops early. It is a creative tour de force but to me it’s already in the rear view. All of the good bits in each song are undone by the creativity of trying to push the boundaries.

Piracy
In 2013, I wrote that piracy is not that large of a problem as the majors and the RIAA make it out to be and with revenues in 2016, approaching the pre-Napster era, it’s further proof that piracy does not affect their bottom lines, especially when there are services out there that can compete with piracy.

Evergrey
The pure definition of perseverance with 20 plus years in the music business and still going strong.

By November 2013, the “new” version of the band that delivered “Glorious Collision” had splintered again and lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund was not sure on the next step. A reconnection with drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage (who departed before “Glorious Collision”) spawned the excellent “Hymns For The Broken” in 2014 and a few months ago, “The Storm Within” builds on the atmospherics created by “Hymns”.

Megadeth
In 2013, Megadeth’s new album “Supercollider” was outsold by Metallica’s self-titled “Black” album. In 2015, Mustaine got his metal chops back and in 2016, “Dystopia” came out. Another Mustaine Resurrection was at hand.

Tremonti/Alter Bridge
Mark Tremonti knows it’s about putting new music out there and consistently. In 2013, we had “Fortress” from Alter Bridge. In 2015, we had “Cauterize” from Tremonti and 2016 has given us, “Dust” from Tremonti and “The Last Hero” from Alter Bridge. In three years, Tremonti has been part of 4 albums while Metallica ……

The Night Flight Orchestra
The best classic rock side project ever from Soilwork and Arch Enemy band members. The first album “Internal Affairs” came out in 2012 and the second “Skyline Whispers” in 2015. Essential listening to any hard rock fans of the 80’s.

Sales
In 2013, I wrote that sales are not the best metric to measure a bands reach and pull in the market. In 2016, listens are more important than sales.

Bullet For My Valentine
By November 2013, people had lost their “Temper Temper” with them, but in 2015, the band found their “Venom” again, which leads us to new music hitting the net in November 2016.

Revolution Saints
In 2013, this band existed in the head of the Frontiers President. In 2015, they released an excellent melodic AOR rock album. So much potential, so many good songs, great musicians and it all went to hell because Castronovo couldn’t keep his 5555t together. Let’s hope that Jack Blades and Doug Aldrich forgive him and they try for another album. This time with the three of them writing.

TesseracT
One of the hardest working progressive bands out there, building their fanbase, city by city. In 2011, they released “One”. In 2013, they released the excellent “Altered State” and in 2015 we got “Polaris”.

Days Of Jupiter
An unsung Swedish melodic groove rock band, that’s a cross between Evergrey and Disturbed. In 2012 they released “Secrets Brought to Life” and in 2015, “Only Ashes Remain” came out.

Sweet and Lynch
Another album would be sweet.

Muse
They play stadiums but they don’t have the same sales figures as the 70’s and 80’s legends. A perfect example of the modern world, in which massive single songs sell concert tickets.

Live
In 2013, I wrote;
Remember the excitement and the buzz of going to the show. It was uncontrollable. Everyone waiting in line to get inside, to watch a band that rules, in an era that music ruled. Today, it is too expensive to take kids to a concert and that is only for a glimpse in the back. This business needs a reset.

Concert ticket prices are still high, especially for the superstar acts. The price gauge happened as an offset to dwindling revenues from recorded sales, however with recorded music revenue now as high as the pre-Napster era, there is no reason for the high concert ticket prices.

Slash
As an artist, he didn’t need to go back to Gunners. He had enough momentum to keep going as a solo artist and with Myles Kennedy, a better front man than Axl Rose. Slash kept on releasing new music consistently, while Duff and Axl complained of piracy and artistically were dead in the water. Money triumphs over creativity and in this case, it’s really sad.

Album
Back in 2013, I wrote how everyone talks about the money that is lost due to piracy as album sales shrink. Back then 20% of the tracks on Spotify have never been played. So what is the point of the album, when people ignore the songs that are not “hits”. When I go to Spotify and I come across an artist I haven’t heard before, I go to their Spotify page and hear the tracks in their top 10 list. Those tracks in most cases are pulled from many different albums.

And if any of those tracks connect with me, I might dig deeper into the album.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Created by their love of metal and rock music and when that same genre put up roadblocks to a career in music, they changed tact and went all flamenco acoustic on the world. Talk about paying their dues and taking risks. They moved from Mexico and took a chance in Europe. Over an 8 year Dublin residence, they honed their style and songs, so when their “official” debut album hit in 2006, what seemed like an overnight sensation was 15 years in the making.

There is nothing more difficult in the world then trying to make it as a musician. You need to show up day after day, week after week, year after year. And your brand or movement might just make some small gains. Then it hits a few speed bumps, like Rodrigo and Gabriela’s metal band losing their recording contract in 1997 and suddenly you are back at the start. But they kept on showing up, on the coast of Mexico and playing their acoustic guitars in the bars. Because showing up day after day, is the hardest part of making a difference. If you look at the history of the artists we like and admire, you will see many years in pursuit of their dreams.

It is a work of a lifetime to create an impact and build something of substance. In 2013, they were riding the highs of their 2012 “Area 52” collaboration, which involved re-working their best songs with a full flamenco band. Then in 2014, “9 Dead Alive” dropped and new music is needed ASAP.

Sebastian Bach/Skid Row
They shouldn’t get back together, because no one cares about Skid Row in the way they used too. They might have a large audience in Japan, like Dokken, but the rest of the “Youth Gone Wild” have moved on. Sebastian Bach is actually bigger than Skid Row and releases way better music than Skid Row have done without him. But, what was he thinking when he approved the photo for his memoir’s cover.

The Kindred
From Canada and the healthy progressive scene. They started off as “Today I Caught The Plague” from the ashes of another band called “A Legend Falls”. In 2011 they released the excellent “Lore” and went on tour with one of my favourite bands in Protest The Hero and their “Scurrilous Tour”. Then in 2013, a name change happened to “The Kindred” and the excellent “Life In Lucidity” came out at the start of 2014.

However, PTH needed a drummer for their “Volition” tour and it was no surprise that they tapped Mike Ieradi (who also co-founded the group) to fill the spot. Then in 2015, vocalist David Journeaux departed, with Johnny McArthur as their new vocalist and Kenny Saunders as their new drummer. So now I wait to see what comes next.

Streaming
Back in 2013, I wrote that everyone talks about the money which isn’t filtering down to the artist and how streaming is too entrenched to be replaced. Since then the record labels have grown their revenues on the back of streaming. Artists who negotiate deals with the streaming services like Metallica and Motley Crue have never complained about streaming. Suddenly, luddites Anthrax are not complaining and Scott Ian even mentioned how he believes streaming is the best thing to have happened to the recording industry.

Streaming is the future and those artist who don’t grow with this future will be too busy shrinking.

The Gaslight Anthem
They do the early 80’s Bruce Springsteen better than Bruce Springsteen these days. It was like a supergroup of independent musicians that came together in New Jersey in 2006. Their 2010 album, “American Slang” spawned an unexpected hit with the title track and “45” from their 2012 album “Handwritten” became their biggest hit. Since then, “Get Hurt” came out in 2014 and by July 2015, the band went on an indefinite hiatus.

Since the hiatus, singer Brian Fallon released a solo album called “Painkillers” in March 2016, and on April, 2016, a vinyl EP called “Georgia” was released for Record Store Day 2016 with a limited pressing run of 2,000 copies on 10″ vinyl. Let’s hope that “The Gaslight Anthem” get together for more music over the next three-year period.

Volbeat
Seen as overnight sensations however they are over 25 years in the business. It all started with “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” in 2008 and being added to the Metallica “Death Magnetic U.S. Tour”. Then in 2010, “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” came out and while that was still selling, they released “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” in 2013 and they hit every major music market over and over again. Since then, they released “Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie” and are continuing on their merry ways. For all the newbies, check out their streaming numbers. They are huge compared to other major label metal/rock acts.

Killswitch Engage/Times Of Grace
In 2013, Killswitch Engage released “Disarm the Descent”, their comeback album with Jesse Leach on vocals. And how good is “In Due Time” with brutal verses and an arena rock chorus. Then in February 2015, a new track called “Loyalty” appeared on “Catch The Throne: The Mixtape Volume 2” to promote “Game of Thrones”. They then toured and kept on working on “Incarnate” which finally came out on March 11, 2016. Since then, they toured and are planning on releasing a beer. Meanwhile, “Times of Grace” have five songs completed for a new album to come out, with their last one coming out in 2011.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

It’s A Singles World

All of the “billions lost” post Napster can all be tracked back to the SoundScan era. According to Wikipedia, on May 25, 1991, Billboard started to use SoundScan data to work out the Billboard 200 Top Albums. Finally the music industry had a proper sales metric to gauge what was popular.

Prior to the SoundScan era, the charts were formulated by an honesty system from every record shop in the land. This meant that the manager of the record store had the power to decide what was popular. So the record labels swooped in and started corrupting the process.

But when it all went to SoundScan data, the record labels saw a lot of people were buying metal, rock and country than the old corrupted honesty system claimed.

Metallica had a large audience before the “Black” album came out, however their “sales” just didn’t match the concert attendances. Why would a record store manager tell Billboard that a band who had no MTV presence was moving product out especially when the same record store manager is encouraged by record label executives to report something different.

And like everything else in music, the record labels were dragged kicking and screaming into the new SoundScan era. SoundScan actually presented their proposal to the record labels in 1990 and of course the labels rejected their proposal. The MP3 technology was also presented to the record labels once upon a time before Napster and it was also rejected. But when Billboard made the deal with Soundscan a year later, the labels had no choice but to comply, although with much complaining. Gone was the “fixing” of the system by record label executives and “in” was the “people power” of the system, which put the careers of artists in the hands of consumers.

If this sounds familiar, Steve Jobs and Apple did the exact same thing to the record labels with the iTunes store.

Suddenly, the labels and the press had no idea what was happening.

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In the first month of the SoundScan era, Skid Row’s “Slave To The Grind” skyrocketed to number 1. In the space of two months, it was purchased over a million times. Trackable purchases, not inflated ones based on a store manager opinion.

For comparison, the self-titled debut album was listed to have sold “3 million” records under the good old honesty system. Really.

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And popularity is a monolith that dominates. If the album is selling and doing well, more people will turn to it. And in the internet era, this is so true. The chaos era means we return to what we know. Sure, we might listen to some obscure acts or certain scenes. Like for me, Swedish Hard/Heavy Rock has me hooked at this point in time. But that’s via my choice and not by some flash marketing campaign or by some feature in a magazine.

And the reason those acts are not getting rich is because just a few people are. It’s always been that the one percent of acts that become global underpin the whole industry. And SoundScan showed the recording industry just how global Metallica really is.

“Enter Sandman” comes out two weeks before the album release and it gets added to radio. Metallica have a listening party in Madison Square Garden. The song and the pending album release is building a buzz like never before. MTV takes notice and suddenly mainstream radio stations that play “pop” music have the single in rotation. The album comes out and it debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Suddenly, the “Black” album is selling by the hundreds of thousands. It’s trackable. And then, the back catalogue of Metallica started selling. Normal rock music lovers couldn’t avoid it. Pop fans couldn’t avoid it. Skater fans couldn’t avoid it. Suddenly fans of all genres are embracing Metallica.

I recently had a look at the recent RIAA certifications and it more or less confirms we are living in a “singles” world.

Check out all of the certifications that Shinedown received recently.

There is a platinum certification for “Simple Man”, a song released in 2004. This is what music is about. The longevity. 12 years later, people are still listening to the song and are still purchasing it. However, the record labels and a lot of misguided artists believe it’s about the instant payday. It’s not.

Next up is a Platinum certification for “The Sound Of Madness” single. Again, it’s been a long time between certifications but this song is a monster and as classic as anything from the classic rock era. Like “Simple Man” before, it’s about the longevity. 7 years later, it’s still listened to and it has close to 26 million streams on Spotify.

It’s just a matter of time before “Call Me” gets a certification and it was never even released as a single, however it has been streamed close to 33 million times on Spotify.

Then you have a few Gold certifications for the songs “Bully”, “The Crow And The Butterfly” and “Diamond Eyes”. “Bully” is a favourite of mine. It’s message is powerful.

 

Speaking of singles, Disturbed is killing it on the back of “The Sound Of Silence” and their album is moving units on the backs of their cover.

And Muse are now moving into album certification territory on the backs of some very large singles. “Absolution” gets a platinum gong, 12 years after it was released. Again, the longevity is more important than the payday.

So again, on the strength of a few songs here and there, artists are seeing an interest in their back catalogue. It happened to Metallica with “Enter Sandman”. It’s happening to Disturbed with “The Sound Of Silence”. It’s continually happening to Muse and Shinedown. This is music and music is for the lifers.

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

Fame Game

“You let them know you are large and in charge. It’s the way you stand, the way you carry yourself. Being a front man is less about your voice than your ability to connect with a crowd. A front man is a salesman. Steve Jobs was a front man. Wozniak was the great songwriter, but he couldn’t sell the thing he created. He needed the cock rocker Jobs to say, “Pay attention to this!” I wasn’t always confident, but confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It starts as false bravado—you’re acting like you’re cool and confident even when you’re not—but if you’re convincing enough, people start to believe it. Then you start to believe it and then it’s the reality.”
Dee Snider on his philosophy on how to connect with an audience

You see, fame ain’t what it used to be. In the past, very few people made it and when they did, we all knew their name, regardless of their style of music. Now, no one even knows who the “stars” are. The odds of breaking through your inner circle are tiny, but people keep trying.

So where does that leave the artists who are trying to sustain a career in an ever-changing marketplace because fame is a game. It’s not always about the music, but more about communication and participation.

Sully Erna is a salesman. He goes on a radio show and Nikki Sixx becomes the topic of his conversation. He generates a ton of interest, a lot of discussion and he played the fame game. But that was weeks ago. The feud is old news again. Forgotten for the time being. The audience moved on to another topic, to another artist.

Remember when music records and singles used to be number one for ages. Well, that doesn’t happen anymore in music and it definitely doesn’t happen when it comes to information. News is an on demand item. The only question is where are we going to get it from. The usual suspects are far from impartial. Look at the Top 20 lists at Loudwire and Noisecreep and Ultimate Classic Rock and you will see that the lists are made up of the bands that had big PR campaigns with the website; not because the albums are worthy of being in the top 20.

Music is not the leader anymore. Information is. And with a million ways to occupy ourselves, artists need to find a different way to make us pay attention. So with everything available, we are drawn to very few.

Like James Hetfield.

The “SoWhat” fan club magazine interviews offer up personal viewpoints and feelings that people can connect with. He doesn’t do side projects because it needs to add to what he is about and not detract from Metallica. However he is now okay with his band mates side projects. He told us that Metallica lost millions doing the Orion Music + More festivals and he offers his insights as to why that might be the case. He gives us his feelings on “Lulu”. Then there is the movie “Through The Never” that cost the band millions. Again more insights or “excuses” as some metal websites called them.

So even though Metallica hasn’t released new music in seven years, Hetfield is constantly out there playing the fame game.

Whether you agree with the viewpoints or not, it’s actually good to listen to artists having a say instead of not saying anything. Even artists like Scott Ian, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley who fail to understand or realise that the record company model is based on stealing everything from the artist, are good at playing the fame game, especially when they have nothing new to offer musically.

Because it is virtually impossible to get mindshare in todays cluttered and chaotic world. We had MTV, Hit Parader, Circus, Rip and Metal Edge magazines and they reached everybody. Today, we get the popular squeezing out the less popular and what we have are people complaining there is no money in music.

And who cares what sales record is broken. Adele is all over the news about her sales figures. Star Wars the same. Michael Jackson and Thriller just passed 30 million.

Does anyone know who many records Black Sabbaths “Paranoid” sold, or Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil” or Dream Theater’s “Images and Words” or Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” or Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry” or Journey’s “Escape”.

Hell, even the bands won’t know how many albums they would have sold, as the accounting of it all was dodgy and secretive. But the music has maintained. Dream Theater is still doing victory laps from the success of “Images and Words”. I just forked out $170 for “The Astonishing” pre order of the deluxe edition.

In the end, everything is a game, with winners and losers.

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

It’s Always Been About The Songs

“The biggest thing that surprised me about fame was that it was fleeting. You work so hard to get there and you just assume that it’s some sort of finish line, or you take a victory lap and maybe spike the ball, run around the field screaming ‘Goal,” I don’t know.”
Dee Snider 

It is pretty well-known how long and hard Twisted Sister worked at getting their sound and image out to the masses. It is also pretty well-known how short their fame was in the Eighties and how quickly they faded from the conversation.

You see, the biggest untold story in music is that when an artist hits a high with one album/song, it doesn’t mean that the next album/song will also hit that same high.

“Stay Hungry” sold over 2 million copies when “Come Out And Play” was released in 1985. At that point in time, “Under The Blade” was still selling, “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” was still selling and so was “Stay Hungry”. Because when an album crosses over into the mainstream, the back catalogue of the artists suddenly become popular.

Then a new album drops and suddenly the sales are not as high as the previous album. It doesn’t mean the band is not famous or popular anymore, it just meant that a re-adjustment was going on with the fans.

A lot of fans were still digesting the back catalogue and a lot of fans moved on to the next flavour of the year.

So instead of Twisted Sister’s management team booking a normal theatre and shed tour, they booked an arena tour for “Come Out And Play”. And when the arena shows failed to sell out, the tour got canned which cost the band money. The merchandise agreement for the tour became null and void which cost the band money.

“The reality is that rock and roll, in the mainstream, it’s in a difficult place right now. People don’t buy music, and they certainly don’t buy rock bands’ music in the way that they used to. And so, for our genre, it’s kind of… We’re limping along when it comes to public appeal. I believe that rock and roll is alive and well. I just think that people need to show their support and let the genre keep thriving.”
Andy Biersack – Black Veil Brides

People never wanted to buy music. I know I never did. I wanted to listen to music. However, corporations got involved with music, and a big business was born from it. Guess how many records Kiss sold from their first album, before they started to record their second album.

If you answered 70,000 units, then you are correct. If you don’t believe me, read Paul Stanley’s “Face The Music”. Metallica’s “Kill Em All” didn’t set any sales records when it came out either. Nine months after the album’s release, Metallica went back into the studio to record “Ride The Lightning”.

But today, bands want instant success. They want their first album to sell like Metallica’s “Black” album or Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet”.

“Metal was really strong in the 80s and kind of had hard times in the 90s. I think we treaded water and kept alive and kept focused on being Testament, and writing songs that we wrote without thinking or trying to change and play with what’s current at the time. It really hurt a lot of bands trying to do that. Fortunately, we didn’t do that. We went opposite. We went a little darker and heavier at that time. Then the metal got healthy again, and coming out the other end, we were in the right spot with the direction we were going, and the history we had, it just carried through. Metal has been real strong since the early 2000s. It’s been gradually picking up. I see the generation changing with a lot more younger fans coming to shows now over the last ten years.”
CHUCK BILLY – Testament

The crux of longevity is the replenishing of your fan base, year after year. And you do that by being in the game. Each album release will do some of the following;

  • Pick up new fans and keep all of the old fans
  • Pick up new fans and lose some of the old fans
  • Pick up new fans and lose all of the old fans
  • Keep all of the old fans
  • Lose some of the old fans

It’s just the way it is. You see for me, I lost interest in Testament after Alex Skolnick left. My cousin Mega, still purchased their albums, I heard them and forgot them. It was just part of getting older. Musical tastes changed for a while. That is why in 2015, my music collection has everything from folk, blues, classic rock, metal, hard rock, glam rock, thrash metal, death metal, metalcore, progressive rock, etc…

So in 2015, the album is just not as important as it was once was. With streaming it is all about the songs. For all the artists that complain about sales, the truth is if you’re popular, people want to listen to your music and they want more of it, if it is good. My kids don’t even care if the songs all came from the same album.

Today, the artists get paid every time we listen.

Elektra sold Metallica’s self-titled album and the band only got paid once for the sale. Today, Metallica is cleaning up, as fans are streaming their tracks over and over again. They are getting paid continuously. And right now payments are low, but they will grow as more people subscribe. And if we are listening to our favourites music, they will get paid forever.

So it all comes down to listens and good songs have a long listening life, a long time to make money.

And it’s always been about good songs.

Metallica did not break big until “Enter Sandman” crossed over. Twisted Sister did not break big until “We’re Not Gonna Take It” crossed over.

We all want more if the artists are great and the hard truth is that very few are.

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