A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Unexpected Slow Metal Hit

We live in a world that is all about the NOW. Music quickly comes and it quickly goes. Look at all the Top 10 Lists or the Charts for each week and you will see that it is a different list each week. There is just so much new music coming out at the moment and people are just churning it up.

For example, I didn’t get a chance to get into the new Trivium album because a week later, I had the new Protest The Hero album and that has taken all of my attention.

However, there are always songs that sit on the outside. Songs that the artist or the band didn’t believe could be a “hit” (I use that term lightly) or a song that should be used as a promotion tool.

But they didn’t count on the fan choices. The fan that today has the power. The fan that could pick and choose what track they could listen too.

Killswitch Engage released “As Daylight Dies” in 2006 and it is there cover of “Holy Diver” that proved to be the sleeper hit. Don’t believe me, check out Spotify. it has 6,136,523 streams. Still don’t believe me, go on YouTube and you will see it has 9,013,222 views.

Alter Bridge released “One Day Remains” in 2004. “Open Your Eyes”, “Find the Real” and “Broken Wings” followed as promotional singles. However it was the metal heavy “Metalingus” and the moving ballad “In Loving Memory” that the fans selected as the hits. Don’t believe me, check out Spotify. “Metalingus” has 3,362,193 streams and “In Loving Memory” has 2,690,909 streams. Still don’t believe me, go on YouTube and you will see that “Metalingus” has over 5,500,000 views from all the combined channels and “In Loving Memory” has over 6,000,000 combined views.

In 2011 Trivium got blasted for the “In Waves” album, however the title track is their biggest so far. On Spotify “In Waves” the song has 3,038,061 streams. On YouTube, the Official Video on the Roadrunner Records channel has 3,423,215 views and a live version of the song on the Trivium Official channel has 2,767,455 views.

Volbeat broke through in the U.S on the back of “Still Counting”. The song was released in 2008 on the “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood” album and on 21 July 2012 “Still Counting” was the number-one song on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks US chart. Go on Spotify and it has been streamed 19,779,202 times. Go on YouTube and count the views from all the various channels. They add up.

Bullet For My Valentine led the promotional campaign for their “Temper Temper” album with the song “Riot”, however the fans didn’t care about that song as much as they cared about “Breaking Point” and “Tears Don’t Fall (Part 2)”.

As much as Dream Theater is trying to promote the current version of the band, they can’t escape their past. The Spotify Top 10 of Dream Theater has the 9 songs from the new self titled album (that proved to be a dud), plus “On The Backs Of Angels” from the previous album. However if you go on YouTube the fans don’t care about the new album currently. “Wither”, “Pull Me Under” and “Another Day” still get the attention.

This is very different to Avenged Sevenfold, who have people very interested in their new album. In addition, all the other media outlets and bands that are talking about the album, all they are doing is adding to the legend of it. Hail To The King I say. “Shepherd Of Fire” is doing the rounds on my iPod.

Protest The Hero have led the promotional campaign of their new album “Volition” with “Clarity”, “Drumhead Trail” and “Underbite” however, it is “Mist” and “Skies” that is getting the conversation.

The market place today isn’t about the hit song now. It is about new songs vs old songs. Metal and rock songs are always late bloomers. There is no formula as to why certain songs resonate more than others with fans.

I like the story about how Dave Mustaine assisted Stryper in selecting their lead off single from the “No More Hell To Pay” album. They had a different song choice for the lead single and changed their minds after they had a chat with the Megadeth front man. Dave told them that his favourite track is “Sympathy”. This made Michael Sweet change his mind for the lead off single. That track is listed as Number 11 on the album and to be honest it is a kick arse song.

Sure, back in the day when the record labels ruled, they would employ a scorched earth policy to market a band and the lead off single and naturally we would bite as we had the time to invest and there was nothing really else out there.

YouTube and Spotify play a big part today in transforming a song into a phenomenon. Television also plays it’s part. Look at all the hit shows and they all have a section where a certain song plays and it conveys the emotion of the scene that no other music can.

Sons Of Anarchy comes to mind here, especially at the end of Season 2, when the song “Hands In The Sky (Big Shot)” from Straylight Run played in the epic last 5 minutes of the final episode.

Look at what Breaking Bad did for “Baby Blue” by Badfinger.

My wife was a fan of Grey’s Anatomy and because of that show she got into Snow Patrol (“Chasing Cars”) and The Fray (“How to Save a Life”).

In the end all artists need to do is create great music. The fans will latch onto it eventually.

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

Time Is Working Against The Artist

It’s 1992. The labels are signing Seattle bands, left, right and centre while at the same time they are dropping hard rock and heavy metal bands left, right and centre. That is the power the record label had. Not only could they make an artist famous, they could also destroy an artist. You see when you control all the points in the distribution and marketing chain, you more or less control everything.

With the massive power that the major labels had, we always saw artist/s as famous. We always thought that once an artist was signed to a label deal, they had it made. It was a big misconception.

Fame for an artist in most cases meant a large advance that had to be recouped by withholding royalty payments. That is why record label accounting gets messy and it cannot be trusted.

So in 2013, things have changed dramatically. With this change, the power is still with the major record labels. They gathered enough power during the Eighties and Nineties to be a force to be reckoned. Then in the Two Thousands the massive mergers and takeovers happened, further enhancing the power of the record labels. Then in order to allow digital start-ups, the record labels did one of three things; charge high licensing fees or litigate the start-up to bankruptcy or negotiate a large ownership stake in the start-up.

So even though the internet has lowered the barriers of entry, without the money and power of the label behind the artists, there is a pretty good chance, the artist would probably go unnoticed. Remember 4 million songs haven’t even been listened too on Spotify.

So when certain artists are complaining about a low royalty payment, maybe that is the royalty payment that is relevant to the niche the artist is in. Maybe it is a royalty payment that they have earned. You don’t see a current household name complaining. It’s because they worked hard at obtaining a certain thing called leverage.

Digital distribution offers an artist new audiences in places where brick-and-mortar stores would be impossible or unsustainable, like foreign countries or rural areas. The end result is growth across the board, both physical and digital provided that the artist gets noticed.

So is piracy that bad for an artist who is trying to get traction?

The majors and the mainstream journalists attached to news outlets operated by media moguls have done a great job selling the “one pirated item equals one lost sale” statistic and the “illegal downloading (piracy) is theft” argument. It is a statistic that rights holders, lobby groups and misguided artists exaggerate and it is a statistic they use to either kill off innovation or to stifle innovation.

Piracy (better known as copyright infringement) is basically one person (A) copying something of value that another person (B) owns. This leads to a situation that has both people (A and B) having a copy of the same item.

So it is safe to say that one pirated item is not theft. Theft is basically one person (A) taken something of value that another person (B) owns, which means that Person (B) no longer has the item.

So let’s assume that piracy spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who download the music might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. There are a lot of could’s in the above theory. However the music business is all based on could’s.

For example, in the heyday of the record labels, this is how the above would have panned out.
Let’s assume that a record deal spreads the artists’ material to places that are unknown to the artist and the people who hear the music on radio or MTV might become a fan and share their thoughts with others. They could even go to a show or they could go and purchase the next album or the artists back catalogue. As you can see, the heyday theory also holds a lot of could’s.

Of course the difference is the money. The labels once upon a time threw money at artists and provided tour support. Today, the labels only go for the sure bet and 360 deals.

From a fan perspective, the main thing working against the artist today is time. Why would a music lover want to invest their time in an artist? I recently invested a lot of time in the TV show “Sons of Anarchy” because knowledge of the show was being shared at work and I wanted to be part of the conversation. I invested a lot of time in the show because fans of the show shared their thoughts with me. They convinced me that I needed to watch it.

One thing is certain in 2013. We move on fast. Look at the Top 10 lists of pirated movies that TorrentFreak publish each week. It’s always changing and very rare for the same movie to be at number one for two weeks in a row. Look at the Top 10 of the Charts published by each country. The artists in the list are always changing.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Who Is the Real Star? The Band Name or the Personnel In The Band

There is an article doing the rounds at the Hollywood Reporter about how “The Walking Dead” is TV’s number 1 show and that the stars of the show are still largely unknown.

So it got me thinking. I was very interested to check out the show based on my love of the Horror genre. Once I checked it out, I was hooked. I didn’t start watching the show because they had certain actors in it. The only actor I was aware of was Daryl’s brother and that was from the movie Cliffhanger with Stallone and that was after watching a few episodes. So I got into the show because i was a fan of the horror genre.

However I got into “Sons Of Anarchy” because hard-core friends eventually got me to invest some time in it.

The point I am trying to make is that we get into certain TV shows, movies or artists based on a thousand different reasons. One thing is clear; we don’t get into these cultural icons because of the people in them.

For example, when Metallica started on the scene, no one was walking around saying that they got into Metallica because James Hetfield was such a cool cat or Lars Ulrich was the man. We got into Metallica for multiple reasons. For example, we were fans of the metal genre, the songs connected with us; we wanted to be part of the conversation and so on. From the outset, we become fans because of the music we hear.

That is what culture is all about. Sharing stories about the things we love.

Of course some outliers do exist and some artists have a cultural influence that transcends their music. They become institutions themselves. For example, Slash is now a cultural institution. Ozzy Osbourne is a cultural institution albeit with a lot of help from his “friends”. Nikki Sixx is a cultural institution. Robb Flynn is a cultural institution. Dee Snider is a cultural icon. These artists can all survive on their own. They are brand names themselves.

It’s taken Slash almost 14 years from when he left Gunners to re-establish and re-brand himself as a force to be reckoned with. That happened in 2010 with the release of his solo album and with a little help from his friends.

Randy Rhoads and Bob Daisley helped Ozzy Osbourne break the shackles of Black Sabbath. Jake E. Lee and Phil Soussan enhanced what Randy Rhoads and Bod Daisley created. Zakk Wylde turned it all into a blockbuster with “No More Tears” being the pinnacle.

Nikki Sixx re-invented himself and Motley Crue by first gaining control of Motley Crue’s back catalogue from Elektra Records. A task that no other artist had accomplished before. Then he pushed for the writing of “The Dirt”. Since then, he has become a solo artist with Sixx AM, a song writer for other artists, a social media junkie, a photographer, a literary writer and a radio personality.

Robb Flynn showed the world that he can survive. He really went out of his comfort zone recently and performed acoustically. He survived the “Through The Ashes of Empires” era and lived to tell the tale. Talk about Grit and Roll. It was music all the way, with no safety net. No plan B. His Journals are pure gold. Even if you don’t like Machine Head’s music, you can still appreciate the Journal Ramblings. For any artist starting off, there is information in there that is real. There is information there that is not sugar-coated by a mainstream writer.

Dee Snider, what else can be said. Read his bio.

These artists have all connected with us on different levels. They have become so large in people’s lives that they have become cultural institutions themselves. We then stick with these institutions through the good times and the bad times.

So what about all the other artists. Well for the remainder of the artists it is still about the music. They need to have the music pumping out and they need to make connections.

Dee Snider once said that there are no more rock stars in this day and age. I took that to mean, that in the internet age, there are no real recognizable faces to put to certain bands. While I agree with that comment in parts, I also disagree with it.

For example, Coheed and Cambria has Claudio Sanchez. Watch them live and you get to see the hair. Instantly recognizable.

Five Finger Death Punch has Zoltan Bathory with the dreadlocks and the UFC/mixed martial arts look. They have Ivan Moody and the Mohawk.

Shinedown has Brent Smith, who performs like an adrenaline injected Steve Tyler.

Black Veil Brides have, well they have the whole band.

Avenged Sevenfold have Eighties rock star stage names with instantly recognisable faces.

However if any of the band members in the above mentioned bands, decide to go on their own, it will be a tough slog for them as the bands they are in have all become cultural institutions. Then you have a band like Protest The Hero who look like normal guys going to University.

So going back to “The Walking Dead”. The show is the rock star. That is the cultural institution.

So for any wannabe rock stars, think about all of the above for a second. No one is going to wake up tomorrow morning and think to themselves, “damn, I want to hear some music from Zoltan Bathory, or “Insert New Artist name here””.

We wake up in the morning and think to ourselves, “damn, we want to hear some Five Finger Death Punch. We wake up and go “damn its “The Walking Dead” tonight.”

That is what a lot of misguided artists fail to grasp when they leave a certain cultural institution citing musical differences. They (meaning the person) were never the stars. The band name is the star and it always will be.

That is why Guns N Roses is still rolling along, playing to large audiences.

That is why Tommy Lee returned to Motley Crue.

That is why James Hetfield returned to Metallica after rehab. That is why Lars Ulrich never contemplated anything else except Metallica during this period.

That is why Dave Mustaine resurrected Megadeth after he disbanded the band.

That is why Dimebag didn’t want Pantera to end. He knew that Pantera was the star.

That is why David Lee Roth worked with Van Halen again. That is why Sammy Hagar wants to work with Van Halen again.

That is why Alex Skolnick returned to Testament.

That is why there is a fight over who owns the right to the Queensryche name.

That is why Benjamin Burnley went all legal for the right to use the Breaking Benjamin name.

That is why Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to Iron Maiden.

That is why Rob Halford returned to Judas Priest.

That is why Black Sabbath reformed with three of the original members and released ’13’.

That is why bands like Ratt, Quiet Riot, Dokken, Poison and Skid Row are still continuing.

That is why Joey Belladonna returned to Anthrax and why Scott Ian is still continuing the band.

That is why Slayer is continuing without Jeff Hanneman.

To finish off with the immortal words of Ronnie James Dio “And on and on and on and on it goes….”

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

Hands In The Sky Big Shot – Great Music Will Live On Forever

I have been on a Sons Of Anarchy binge lately. Just recently I finished Season 2 and the final episode had an unbelievable piece of music that complemented and enhanced the desperation of the final scenes. You need to see it, to understand what I mean.

Of course I wanted to know more about this piece of music. So I Google “Sons of Anarchy Season 2 Music”. I come across a WIKIA page that shows me each episode and the songs that played on each episode. I click on the final episode of Season 2 and I see that the last song listed is from a band called “Straylight Run” and that the song is called “Hands In The Sky”.

So I go onto YouTube, type in the band name, and there it is. I came across 16 videos with a combined play count of 1,498,818. Spotify streams have the count as 110,507.

I want to go deeper, because that is what we do, when we come across something that connects with us.

The song was released on an EP, called “Prepare To Be Wrong” from 2005. God damn. I am hearing this song in 2013. That is 8 years after its release.

The audience (both legal and illegal) who watched “Sons Of Anarchy” on December 1, 2009 heard the song for the first time. If you dig deeper you will see that the actual song hit YouTube from December 4, 2009, which is right after the “Sons Of Anarchy” episode.

By February 2010, the band went on indefinite hiatus due to money complications. This is strange, especially when “Hands In The Sky (Big Shot)” was doing the rounds courtesy of the TV show.

Of course, with Victory Records being the label that released the EP, it would be safe to assume that Victory Records would have kept their reputation intact by pocketing handsomely and not giving a cent to Straylight Run.

Straylight Run started off on Victory Records due to a contract that John Nolan and Shaun Cooper had with the label courtesy of their other band “Taking Back Sunday.” That contract was fulfilled with the EP release in 2005. Then Universal Republic picked them up for their 2007 release “The Needles The Space” only to be dropped when vocalist, guitarist and pianist Michelle DaRosa left. They went all independent for their next two EP releases and then called it a day after that.

Great music will always be found. “Hands In The Sky (Big Shot)” will live on forever. It is now a part of pop culture. It really captured the desperation of the scenes and now I can’t stop playing the song, along with Neil Young’s “Hey, Hey, My, My” which was used to close Season 3.

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