Music, Unsung Heroes

Demo’s

I reckon Napster became popular because of all the unreleased material on the site like live bootlegs, alternate takes and demo’s. 

In the race to offer legal streaming/digital options, we’ve lost access to these kinds of takes forever. Then again YouTube does have a lot of this stuff and if people prefer to go to YouTube and search that way they can.

And the reason why these demo’s, unreleased songs, B-sides, live takes and what not became so sought after is because bands/artists held songs back. In some cases these are the personal tracks were the artist is laying it all out for people to hear. That’s why the music became so big back then. When we got access to these hidden closet tracks, we felt close to our heroes. But somehow we’ve lost that magic. 

Today, everyone releases everything they record. Go on social media and 90% of artist accounts are controlled by their publicity agents, so it’s all about the money, the success, the marketing and no personal opinions are offered. But the ones that control their own social media accounts, I believe, they are leading better creative lives and are having more success doing so. 

Their engagement with their fans, smack downing trolls and their opinions is the same as those unreleased tracks and demoes. I follow a few on Twitter like Dave Mustaine, Zoltan Bathory, Mike Portnoy, Nikki Sixx, Dee Snider, Phil Soussan, David Coverdale, Jason Bieler and Lzzy Hale. All of them control their own accounts and they engage with their fans. Most importantly they offer their opinions. You might disagree or agree with them, but in the end you value them more because they are laying it all out there. Like those outtakes and demos that never made the album once upon a time.

And we all need that other perspective and other viewpoint. We live in a world that has so many niches and everyone believes they are a superstar. But people only care about you when they see you as human, when they see you offering your opinion. That’s what sells your brand, your music, your live show, your comic and what not.

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

Michael Poulsen

We all come from different bands, mainly death metal bands and punk bands. So we’ve been in the scene for many years since the ’90s. I released my first demo with my first death metal band in 1991 or something. I also released four albums for a death metal band called Dominus back in the day. My song writing was kind of changing. It turned into be a little bit more rock songs. It seemed like all the inspiration that I had from my parents when they were playing their records from the ’50s got to me in a way that when I was writing, I wanted to include that ’50s feeling in my song writing. That came very naturally. But I just wanted to keep a distorted sound from the guitars and the pounding drums.
Michael Poulsen 

Volbeat started to break into the U.S market in 2010 on the back of their “Death Magnetic” opening slot. But the journey to fame/success or world-wide recognition started a long time ago. Almost 20 years before their U.S breakthrough. It started in a totally different scene and in a different continent.

A million bands will start-up today, however a very small amount will stick it out and become lifers in the game of music. And from the lifers who stick it out, an even smaller amount will end up rising above the noise and get some recognition. And even a smaller amount will make some serious money from it.

It turned into a very unique thing where we combined a lot of different styles. We kept the distorted sound, but you could definitely hear inspiration from a lot of the rock music of the ’50s, as well heavier music from the ’70s and ’80s. When you mix all that together, it becomes Volbeat. We never really branded the band in a certain style or direction. It was all about just playing. I think that led us to being who we are today. For us, it’s not important to be 100% metal or 100% rock ‘n’ roll or anything. It’s music, and we’re inspired by so many different styles and bands. You can hear that in the Volbeat music.
Michael Poulsen 

What an awesome concept!!

To take what came before as influence and use it to create something that is different. And the borrowing from different eras and cultural appropriation is what music is all about.

I also like how it’s seen as “Volbeat’s music” and not some term that came from a record label rep or a magazine editor. For those that don’t know, record companies (in most cases) came up with the terms that bands got labelled with. For example, Nikki Sixx is very vocal on Twitter about how “a record company came up with the derogatory term “hair metal” so they could sell new metal rock to a new generation.

A lot of metal histories try to track back the movement of heavy metal to a single artist. In most cases they pick the artist who had the most success. However like any popular invention, it is a combination of many little things. The first Apple Mac didn’t just come from nowhere without any influences. It was an amalgamation of products from other companies with some new additions and interface tweaks courtesy of Wozniack and Jobs. And music is no different. Music is a combination of influences with a few little tweaks here and there.

When you look at metal history, you don’t see a lot of black musicians listed there as influences, yet the whole metal movement was heavily reliant on the blues in those early formative days. Black Sabbath, the band seen as the first metal band, covered blues songs as Earth. But when you look at the written history of Black Sabbath, the writers talk about the blues of white musicians as influences to Sabbath. They talk about the influence of classical music to Black Sabbath which again is mainly written by white people.

The Beatles played Blues, Soul, Motown and Rock and Roll covers in their early days, made up predominantly of black artists. So did Black Sabbath. Hell, the Beatles even took a Chuck Berry song and called it “Come Together”.

Robert Johnson is cited as a large influence to Keith Richards who was introduced to his music by Brian Jones. Eric Clapton worshipped at the altar of Johnson and many years later, re-recorded all of Johnson’s classics. Howlin Wolf had a lot of songs covered by many white artists across many different genres.

We were sacrificing a lot of stuff in the beginning like jobs, education, girlfriends. Being away from family. And it was just to dedicate ourselves to the road and all the hard work there is to be an active band, to survive. We’re from that generation where we built everything up. There was no internet, no mobiles. It was old-school and I’m very proud of that. That could be part of why we’re still around. We earned our stripes.
Michael Poulsen 
Paying your dues and building up experiences matter. Esepcially when it comes to creativity. The pain of loss manifests itself into art. The happiness of life ends up as a song and so forth.

Today, bands are so eager to get the attention, to get the success, before the work. I’m not a fan of that. I think there are too many youngsters who concentrate too much on the success before they actually concentrate on the music. The music is what it’s all about, and it has to come straight from the heart. We started playing in small bars and it was never because we wanted to be a successful band. We just wanted to do something. We wanted to belong somewhere. Friendship, brotherhood. And it just escalated. Somehow we got bigger and bigger, and the success came. So success was never the important thing for us. It came along and of course it feels good now and we do embrace it. But there’s a lot of stuff we don’t do because we still want it to be about the music. There are lot of TV programs in Denmark where we were getting offers to be on every f—–g day. All the commercials. But we turned it all down because it’s not the reason why we started a band. We’re very aware of not overdoing anything that is Volbeat. We want to be on the road, we want to make records and we want to earn the right to be successful. And we did that from the very beginning. So I can only say that too many young bands concentrate on success before they concentrate on the music. They will fail because that’s not what music is all about.
Michael Poulsen 

We’re living in the social media connection revolution. With so many people connected to each other and everyone building monuments of their lives online, young artists believe success is around the corner. Music is seen as a way to become successful. But if you get in the game with the mindset to be successful over creative, you will not last. Your success is based on your creations. Your success is based on your experiences and your community. It’s easy to license your music to TV shows and Commercials. It’s seen as a way to make easy money for a lot of artists. But then your music turns into a jingle. At least you got paid, right.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Get People’s Attention First

Tom Petty sang “Love Is A Long Road” and it should be the aim for every artist. There should be a need to foster the love of the audience into a sustainable career. But it takes time. In the words of Bon Scott, it’s a “Long Way To The Top”. You’ll get ripped off and on some occasions you’ll get paid. You will have highs and you will have lows. Relationships will break down, friends will leave you and your fans will fall in and out of love with you.

But no one wants to take the time to build the love. There is a general viewpoint that artists believe if they record an album and it gets released, they are entitled to some form of payment. It doesn’t work that way. It’s never worked that way. It’s the audience who decides who gets paid. I am sure the majority of artists understand it.

Relationships are hard. Anybody who tells you they’re easy is lying or has a bad one. And for any artist these days, it is all about relationships. If you want an audience to invest, you need to establish a relationship. You need to make the effort. The days of touring a city based on the sales figures of recorded music in that city/state are long gone. In vogue is data.

How many people are listening to your music in the city?

How many people are downloading your music in the city?

Ask Dream Theater, Metallica, Rush or Iron Maiden how many albums they have sold in Central and South America?

Then ask them how many people came to their shows in those countries. Mike Portnoy stated in the linear notes on the released bootleg recording of Dream Theater’s Santiago, Chile show from June 2005 that they didn’t know what to expect from South America as they haven’t sold many records there. They even went to the show with a cut down stage set to save money and proceeded to play to their biggest live audience.

All the technology companies have a simple method. Get people’s attention first and the money will come later. It’s not any different for musicians. Instead of breaking down what streaming companies pay per listen, focus on what people are listening to. Because everybody like me wants to find the good stuff, the kind of good stuff we can talk to others about.

Think about the times we live in. This news story has been in my inbox for a while, and it fits perfectly with what I am trying to say above.

Ryan Adams has 695,000 Follower on twitter and he posted a few tweets about “Christopher the Conquered” and how his album “I’m Giving Up on Rock N’ Roll” is blowing his mind. So how did Christopher The Conquered life change from this free promotion to 695,000 followers of another artists.

Here are the results that “Christopher The Conquered” shared;

• Website Page Views – 2489 views
• YouTube Videos: 1653 new views
• Sound Cloud: Single from album – 572 Plays
• Facebook: 82 new likes
• Instagram: 40 new followers
• Twitter: 31 new followers
• Spotify: 28 new followers
• Email Newsletter: 12 sign ups
• Internet Sales (Not including iTunes, Spotify, etc. – that takes a while to get those numbers): $86

So going back to my message, “Get people’s attention first and the money will come later”.

The numbers above show me that Ryan Adam’s doesn’t really have 695,000 followers who are invested in what he does and in what he says. The numbers show me that Ryan Adams fan to artist relationship  is more like 1 to 5% of that number.

This also applies to metal and rock twitter users.

Dave Coverdale has 180,600 followers but only 5% of that 180,600 number are interested in what he has to say or in what he does. Others might check out his tweets, but only a few engage.

Papa Roach has 566,000 followers but again, if you look at their account and the people engaging with them, the numbers are so much smaller.

Dave Mustaine recently posted a tweet so he can get to 1 million followers (at the moment he has 867,500 followers) but like all of the other Twitter users only a small percentage are engaging with him. However, in saying that, Dave’s entry into wine and beer making has given him a stronger following and there is more fan engagement because of it. In other words, fans of Dave Mustaine are engaging with him over music, beer and wine.

Persistence and perseverance are the key to life. If you give up when it gets hard, you will accomplish little and you’ll get nowhere. And you need to keep working on getting people’s attention every single time.

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

Have Digital Will Travel

Megadeth is in the news sections of the metal and rock websites a fair bit. It could be interviews, reviews of live performances, commentary about the album Super Collider, critical analysis on the current album versus the earlier stuff, reactions to comments made by Dave Mustaine and anything else that happens in the world of Megadeth which is a big one when you take into account the amount of musicians that have been involved with the band.

Regardless of what people think about Dave Mustaine or Megadeth, they can never take away the historical fact that Megadeth were early web pioneers.

Does anyone remember their old “Megadeth, Arizona” site that was launched in 1994 and then re-designed and re-launched for the “Cryptic Writings” release two years later. Apart from the normal pieces of information, it was also a place for fans to check in, hang out and interact with the band along with other fans. Something that social media has built on and improved.

Which leads us to today and how customers/fans now demand full access 24/7 and at a low price. We all live in a digital world and that means our lifestyles are all digital. We listen to music on our smartphones. We buy concert tickets online. We interact with acts via social media. Our mobile devices are no longer accessories. They are the first things we reach for when we wake up and the last things we touch before we go to bed.

So is the music business catering for this need.

YouTube is. We can all access songs on YouTube for free. Some are of high quality and others are not. The majority of the services when it comes to music are all pay models. To have Spotify on your mobile means that you need to have a paid subscription however Spotify has just announced that they are also moving to mobile ad-based subscription.

Fans need to have ZERO rules as to how they consume their music… It’s a brave new world! That is why three new players are set to enter the market in 2014.

It’s a swarm mentality. Once people see people gravitating to a certain act or platform others will follow. Marketing in the traditional sense cannot achieve this. Since fans are connected 24/7, if they are unhappy with the act they normally like even for just 2 minutes, expect a tweet or a Facebook post to hit the internet. If a lot of negative tweets happen, expect the swarm to fly in.

If a lot of them get out, it could lead to brand damage. Look at Queensryche. How far have they fallen especially when Queensrcyhe were also an early adopter of technology. They had the Ryche online boards and the whole Promised Land album came with a CD Rom adventure game.

If an act does not have delighted customers/fans then they have no market. The way that acts delight customers is by making sure every interaction leaves the customer happier than they were before. Bands that neglect to get to know their customers will discover they have customers who are sensitive to nothing but price.

Back in 1989, people paid $27 for a CD and everyone knew that the artist was getting $1 of that price to split amongst 4 to 5 individuals. However, for some reason that was okay back then and now artists are complaining about how unfair the payout is. Spotify pays 70% to rights holders. So if the rights holder is not paying you a decent cut, then you need to negotiate a better contract.

Remember fans have zero rules when it comes to consuming music.

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

Kirk Hammett = Misguided Fool. We Are Actually Living In The Golden Age of Music Access

The comments from Kirk Hammet have been getting a lot of press/ink lately. They have been re-posted on thousands of other metal news sites by simply copying and pasting what he said.

For those that haven’t read it, this is what Kirk said;

“There haven’t been a lot of really, really great bands that have shown that kind of promise. I think it’s a concern. Because of things like iTunes and streaming and social networking, it’s destroyed music. It’s destroyed the motivation to go out there and really make the best record possible. It’s a shame.”

Okay so lets unpack what he really said.

“There haven’t been a lot of really, really great bands that have shown that kind of promise. I think it’s a concern.”

You see, when you detach yourself from the streets and live in your ivory tower, you don’t see what is happening at ground zero.

Five Finger Death Punch is going GOLD in a tough sales market. They have great numbers in relation to YouTube views and Spotify streams. Their albums have been selling up to the point of when their new one is released. Think about that for a second. Five Finger Death Punch has consistently moved units of their albums every week since 2007. Now compare that to Dream Theater whose new album is already dead and buried after four weeks.

Shinedown are doing super numbers in relation to sales, YouTube views and Spotify streams. They have certifications left, right and centre.

Avenged Sevenfold released a progress is derivative album that is also doing great numbers. In addition, they do super numbers on the live circuit

Black Veil Brides has achieved so much with their first three albums as well as other bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Alter Bridge, Killswitch Engage, Volbeat and so on.

Will we have the superstars of the Eighties and Nineties again? Of course not, it is a different time today, however you can’t tell me that the bands mentioned above don’t have a certain superstar status at the moment.

Will they headline the major festivals? Probably not, because no one really likes festivals any more. The festivals are on their way out. They just don’t know it yet.

“Because of things like iTunes and streaming and social networking, it’s destroyed music. It’s destroyed the motivation to go out there and really make the best record possible. It’s a shame.”

With all the information we get on our favourite artists these days, it makes us realise that our heroes are complete idiots. Kirk just doesn’t understand change. It’s constant.

Kirk’s comments are no different to the comments from other dinosaurs like Jon Bon Jovi, Scott Ian, Duff McKagan, Yngwie Malmsteen, Thom Yorke and David Byrne. Railing against the Internet, Spotify and iTunes and complaining about payments and the lack of motivation to record new music. 

Let’s get one thing clear. Music today can be made for next to nothing. That is why we have so many releases in the market place. Competition for listener’s attention is sky-high. Everybody who records something believes we should pay attention.

Kirk Hammett wants to go back to the Eighties, to a time when bands had to have a record deal to record their music. Kirk Hammett wants fans of his music to buy the whole Metallica album just to find out it was garbage (like ReLoad, St Anger) or for a few songs (like Load).  

If that is the motivation that Kirk Hammett and Metallica needs to record, then they can just give up right now.

It never used to be that way. Metal and rock artists never complained. They always ADAPTED. 

Do you hear Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk, Mumford and Sons, Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Eminem, Halestorm, Killswitch Engaged, Alter Bridge, Slash or Avenged Sevenfold going on a rant about not wanting to make new music or that it is just too tough out there and no one can make it?

Could it be that most people are just not interested in new Metallica music? As Lars said in a Hot Metal interview from June 1992, that I posted earlier. The numbers they are getting for the Black album, will not be eclipsed or bettered.

Could it be that the Napster stigma is still around? The image of Lars Ulrich holding 500 pages of user names that traded in Metallica music is still fresh in people’s minds. 

The comments in relation to streaming are just wrong. Streaming is competing with PIRACY. How is that not good? With Spotify around it just doesn’t make sense to steal. It pays the artist when their music gets played and it pays the artist forever. A sale of an album is just a one stop transaction that inflates the NOW and when you start talking about the NOW, you are thinking like a Record Label.

If Kirk Hammett and Metallica or any artist out there wants to make money from recorded music, they need to find a way to get people to purchase a Spotify Premium account.

Spotify has a mission to have over 20 million premium customers. This will allow artist to take years out to record their masterpieces. Instead of working with the technology, they talk in riddles against it. 

We are living in the golden age of music access. The history of recorded music is at our fingertips and that is a good thing. Finally, there is plan in place to monetize it. If you want to monetize, you need to keep creating.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

Social Media is Not Just About The Broadcast – What Dream Theater can be doing better compared to other bands?

Dream Theater is all about the advertisement/broadcast. Look at their Facebook account and it is all about the sell. This is expected as they have a new product and they are trying to push it. However, have they spent any time reading, listening or understanding what their fans are saying? The fans are the best advocates and for some reason bands are not realising it.

Compare what Dream Theater is doing to what Robb Flynn is doing for Machine Head with The General Journals: Diary Of A Frontman… And Other Ramblings. He is engaging with his fan base through personal stories. Of course they still have the sell aspect going on for their Mayhem shows and no one is expecting the artist to stop the sell. The difference is those personal touches and stories.

Compare what Dream Theater is doing to what Randy Blythe from Lamb Of God is doing on Instagram. He takes unbelievable photos and the stories he shares with those photos via Instagram is all about engagement with people. There is no sell here. It is authentic and heartfelt. This is pure gold.

Compare to what Dream Theater is doing to what Trivium is doing on Facebook. Both bands have the same label and both have albums coming out within a month apart. Trivium had the official download of the song Brave This Storm (it was just one post and the post was called Transmission #2) and then it has all been fan and band pictures posted from various shows. Dream Theater have plugged the new song post after post after post. We get it, you have a new song.

Also when Dream Theater had the corporate deal with USA Today to stream the song, a lot of their fans from other parts of the world couldn’t listen to it. Of course that problem was fixed within a couple of days and then Dream Theater started re-posting links for the song.

I recently posted that the years of when artists took a year to make an album and went on a two to three year victory lap are over. The artists that still take a year to make an album in this current climate are doing themselves a great disservice as they will have an album that is basically dead on arrival. The faithful will buy the album and then the victory lap is over.

It looks like the bigger the network around a band, the less they focus on fan engagement. Bands or artists cannot expect to use their social media accounts only when it suits them, just because they have a product to push or a song to push and expect that the fans will remain engaged.

A perfect example is Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden or Bon Jovi. Dream Theater is trying to play in this field, however they don’t have the runs on the board to play against Metallica or Bon Jovi.

Bands with better runs on the board than Dream Theater like Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, Halestorm, Lamb Of God, Sixx A.M, Kid Rock and Stone Sour are still looking at ways to engage with their audience on different levels. Don’t focus on how many followers or likes you have. It’s all about connections and trying to make those connections bring value to the relationship.

Bands like Metallica and Bon Jovi use PR agencies to run their social media accounts. Of course the whole business model of the PR company is the less is more model and to have total control over the message. This is in contrast with the social principles of giving out as much information and seeing what connects and what misses.

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