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

RD Friday

There is a saying “Just because you can make it, doesn’t mean anybody cares”. And with music these days, there are so many artists creating, how do they make people care. If the goal of the artist is world-domination, maybe they need to re-assess their goals. All artists have to operate in their niche and maybe they will cross over to the mainstream. And even then, once you crossover don’t expect everybody to know. 

Release Friday is upon us and my Spotify playlist is up and cranking.

Sweet And Lynch – Unified

Another song appeared on my Release Friday playlist today, so I figured I would check to see if the album is out. I clicked here, clicked there and 11 new tracks appeared. Brilliant, because back in the day, I would need to leg it, train it and leg it again only to find out the record store didn’t have it in sold out of it.

The first album caught me by surprise how good it was. It was creative, nostalgic and modern sounding. The second one on its own is a good album but compared to the first album, it’s not as good. But that’s okay, because there’s still good tunes to unpack.

“Promised Land” is the opening track and the first single in the lead up to the album release. This song deserves more attention, but it’s hard to break through the noise. Each new track is competing against all the hit records plus everything in between.

“Take my hand, the promised land”.

“Unified” has this cool Lynch jam like groove that appears a lot in his work post Dokken.

“Defiant we stand, united we will fall”

“Bridge Of Broken Lies” has a cool lyrical theme about strangers hiding behind the faces of trusted people. It’s a ballad, that rocks hard.

“I never guessed you would be someone I’ve never known”

“Better Man” is a clichéd title. Pearl Jam probably has the definitive take, but Art of Anarchy’s version is not that far behind, especially when Scott Stapp sings, “it’s time to come home”. This one is more like a love song.

The first thing that hooks me is the riff. It’s classic Lynch with a lot less distortion.

“When I’m not with you baby, I want to be a better man”

Babylon A.D – Revelation Highway

Their self-titled major label debut I have on LP and man it got a lot of spins. It was a perfect blend of hard rock and melodic rock. I even own it on CD. “Nothing Sacred” is also a favourite, and I have that on CD. And that blend of hard rock and melodic rock heard on the first two albums is evident on “Revelation Highway”. Also, because I’ve been cranking “Whitesnake 87” and “Diary Of A Madman”, I’m hearing influences from both albums on this one.

“Rags To Riches” is one of the singles released in the lead up and it hooked me in with its “Atomic Playboys” style riff. Musically its excellent and that solo break with that riff underpinning it, is just brilliant.

“Rags to riches, young girl got her wishes”

With the whole #METOO movement and people speaking up, maybe the young girl didn’t get what she really wished for. It’s a relevant lyric line regardless in what context you read it.

“One Million Miles” is a pretty cool mid-tempo melodic rock track. “She Likes To Give It” is also cool and basically a clone of “One Million Miles”. Nothing wrong with that at all.

“Floating on a Jetstream with the cool wind in my face, sinking in the green grass in the calm of your embrace”

“Last Time For Love” sounds like the best Def Leppard song that Def Leppard hasn’t written. It immediately transports me back to 1987.

“Last time for love, I won’t be hanging around your door”

And the lead break with the underpinning riff just works a treat. I press repeat just to hear it again.

“Saturday Night” reminds me of those “Saturday Nights” from a time long ago.

“On a Saturday night, we will rock to the morning light”

Shakra – Snakes & Ladders

They are from Switzerland. When I Googled them, I was surprised to read that they’ve been around since the mid 90’s and their first album dropped in 1998. It’s been a long time, but they are playing the game to succeed and picking up fans day by day.

“Cassandra’s Curse” is a terrible song title, but the song is awesome. The music is foot stomping and the melodies are perfect.

“Snakes & Ladders” has one of the most simplest but truthful lyrical lines.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you fall, snakes and ladders”.

“Rollin’” is one of those bluesy hard rock style songs which you can listen too driving your car.

“I Will Rise Again” is the bomb. It’s tempo and foot stomping / back breaking drum beat work brilliantly.

“Open Water” is a ballad but not a clichéd. Lyrically it’s got that Euro Purple/Whitesnake vibe like “Sailing Ships” meets “Lost Without You” from Three Doors Down.

Artists don’t operate in the old world anymore. 

MTV might have made artists global superstars, instantly, but they fell back to earth just as fast as they got outside the atmosphere. Now streaming rules and anybody can play, but only a limited number of artists get attention. Today, these three artists had my attention. Tomorrow it will be someone else. They might come back at another time and get my attention. Maybe they won’t.

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

Difference Between A Million and 7 Million

It’s great to see David Coverdale celebrate the 20 and 30 year anniversary of the 1987 self-titled Whitesnake album.

Dokken and the work Lynch did with the band is another favourite of mine during this period and Lynch’s guitar work is a huge influence on my guitar playing and style. But “Back for the Attack” released on November 2, 1987 gets no anniversary treatment. It gets no attention and is rarely part of the conversation.

But back in 1987 it was everywhere. The momentum started with “Dream Warriors” which was released in February 1987 to promote “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”. Back in those days, fans from different regions had to deal with windowed releases. The U.S got it first, then a few months later Europe got it and a few months after that Asia/Australia got it. Basically, for nine months, Elektra Records flogged “Dream Warriors” to death over a staggered windowed release.

So when the album dropped, people purchased. I was one of those people who devoured all the credits on albums. I don’t know why, I just found it interesting to see who wrote the songs, who produced the album, who mixed it and the places used for recording it. And I always asked myself why a band would use so many different recording studios to record an album. It doesn’t make sense to set up, pack up and reset up at another studio. And I saw a lot of different studios on the “Back For The Attack” credits and I had to google it to be sure.

The band recorded in 5 different studios around LA. The record labels are not stupid. They get the studios at a discounted rate and then charge the band the general rate + 20% for using them, which the labels will then recoup from the sales of the album. Even though the album sold in excess of a million copies in the U.S, I bet ya, the band was still in debt to the label.

So what does 1 million sales in 1987 mean in 2017.

Well if i use Spotify stats, 1 million sales in 1987 leads to 1.7 million streams of “Dream Warriors”. “Alone Again” has the most streams on Dokken’s Spotify account at 6 million plus streams. Being on a Spotify playlist of 80’s Power Ballads does help. What the stats do show is how a million sales in 1987 doesn’t equal a million fans. The same way a million illegal downloads don’t equal a million lost sales. As I’ve said many times on this blog;

  • A person could have purchased the album, heard it once and traded it
  • Another person could have purchased the album, heard it 10 times and then just added it to the collection or traded it.
  • Another person could have purchased the album, listened to it and still listens to it today.

Even in YouTube, “Alone Again” has 1.5 million plus views. “Dream Warriors” (official music video on RHINO’s account) has 985,000 plus views and on the 80sRockClassics account it has 2.72 million plus views. Compared to how big Dokken was in the 80’s, these numbers are anaemic, because “Is This Love” from Whitesnake has 37 plus million streams while the “Here I Go Again” version from “Saints and Sinners” has 40 plus million streams and when you add the 60 million streams from the 1987 radio edit version and 1987 remastered version, “Here I Go Again” is topping 100 million streams.

Why the large disconnect?

Coverdale sang about not knowing where he is going, but he knew where he had been. And he’s made up his mind that he needs to keep going over and over again, so he can keep those promises he made to himself in the past.

And people from all walks of life and different musical genres could relate and connect with the words of Coverdale.

Don Dokken on the other hand sang about how there’s no justice in falling in love because it gives someone blindness when they are the one because a group called “they” are holding the gun. Seriously, they are the dumbest lyrics I have seen/heard, which is a shame because “Heaven Sent” has excellent music and melodies.  Meanwhile in “Kiss Of Death” Don’s telling us about a brief encounter in the woods with a female vampire and in “Dream Warriors” Don’s weary eyes couldn’t face the unknown and he doesn’t want to dream no more. I’ve heard soundtrack songs that don’t follow the movie storyline which work and I’ve heard soundtrack songs that follow the movie storyline which also work and some which don’t work. Musically, Dokken the band was top-notch, but lyrically, not so good. Seriously, “Unchain The Night”. How can you do that?

And the choice of words, my friends, is the major difference between 7 million in sales and 1 million in sales. The major difference between 100 million streams and a million streams. The major difference between albums getting the anniversary treatment or not.

There’s a reason why “Livin’ On A Prayer” is more popular than “You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Wanted Dead Or Alive” and the rest of Jovi’s songs. There’s a reason why “Kickstart My Heart” is more popular than all the other Crue songs. For Metallica, “Enter Sandman” is the most streamed with 185 million streams due to it being on Spotify’s own playlists of metal essentials and also by being very high up on the playlist. However, “Nothing Else Matters” is the song with the words that connect and it has 163 million streams.

In the end lyrics matter and that’s why people who don’t play in bands and write songs for others have a career in music. Because they can write good lyrics. It’s why Sharon Osbourne hired Bob Daisley over and over again to write lyrics for Ozzy. You can beat a good lyricist.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Attention 

Once upon a time I was thrilled to see my heroes in mainstream publications. But now there are a billion online outlets and we get most of our stories direct from the artist via social media. And the generation born from the mid 90’s onwards want an immediate bond with the artist, a connection. They don’t care about interviews artists do when they are releasing an album with magazines and blogs. By working in the old rules, the artist is handing over their own narrative to someone else to control. It doesn’t make sense especially when the tools are right in front of them to take ownership and tell their own story, the way they want to tell it. 

But humans do tend to be lazy.

EBay has 171 million users and it’s struggling to stay relevant. So how is any different for an artist. I constantly come across news stories of artists telling people who don’t care their streaming payment after a million streams. Want to make money in streaming, get over a 100 million streams. Want to make even more money, get over a billion streams. One thing is certain, streaming will pay you forever, so metal and rock fans need to stream en masse. 

Which means metal/rock bands need to get out of the “album mindset” and focus on the “continuous stream of product mindset”. If you want to win, you need to play, so it means you need to be in the marketplace all the time. The new way is to release music first and the hype comes after. But artists/record labels are still focused on hype first and then release.

There is money to be made, but the music needs to have longevity. It needs to sustain. Bubbling under the surface is better than exploding fast and then falling fast. And if something doesn’t work, you adjust on the fly. That’s how it works in the digital world. Nothing is set in stone. It’s chaos, anarchy. Artists need to create anarchy with their product instead of following the 1930’s marketing 101 rules.

And how many times have you heard of an act employing a scorched earth publicity campaign, which they hope will turn people onto the band or make people believe the band is bigger than what they really are. But they forgot that the music accompanying the release is of substandard quality. And it’s the music that will survive, not the publicity campaign.

Remember, all the digital places that lost our attention. It’s no different for an artist.

People will care about you; love what you do, your music and your connection to them via social media. Then some of those people will grow and change and fall out of love with what you do. You need to accept that and understand that your fans are telling you one thing; your style of music is not for them at this point in time. And once you are aware of this information, what will you do with it to get back their attention.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

In The Courts Of The Streaming King

Legal streaming music is hurting. 

Streaming companies need to license music from the legacy players for a substantial fee and then pay royalties to these organizations when the songs are listened/viewed. And these organizations keep the bulk of these payments and pay cents to the artists they represent. 

Netflix has no problem growing its subscriber base and making profits, however it has its own content, which earned it over 90 Emmy nominations. And it’s monthly fees are identical to music subscription services, even though it costs a lot more to create a TV show or a movie than a song/album.

I don’t know what Spotify, YouTube and even Apple are waiting for. They need to get into finding their own artists and get them creating some kick ass tunes. While that will take years to come to fruition, investors of these companies want results now. There is no room in the investor mindset about profits 10 years from now. 

Recently Spotify has been hit with two more lawsuits about unpaid royalties. For a company that has licensing agreements in place with the record labels and performance rights organizations, they are still blamed for not doing enough in ensuring they have all the correct details of who wrote what song. The fact that the labels licensed songs to Spotify and didn’t have the song writer details properly recorded is totally okay to the song writer. Because to them, it’s Spotify’s fault. 

Spotify should just remove the music from latest complainers from the service and seek compensation from the label, because in the end, it was the label who took the licensing money and gave Spotify access to the songs in question. 

Or Spotify should seriously consider shutting up shop in the U.S. 

And the labels/publisher’s believe people will just return to purchasing physical music. 

They won’t. 

There was a reason why Napster was popular and close to 20 years later, the mega corporations who get rich off government granted monopolies still haven’t figured it out. 

And speaking of music not on services, here are a few more albums I tried to listen to recently that I couldn’t find on Spotify. Is it Spotify’s fault or the labels fault or the artists fault? 

David Coverdale

His three solo albums “White Snake”, “Northwinds” and “Into The Light” are not on Spotify Australia. 

Beckett

The band that Maiden borrowed from is not on Spotify, albeit two songs on a British prog album collection.

Adrenaline Mob

After listening to their new album, “We The People”, I wanted to listen to the debut album “Omerta” and found it’s not on Spotify Australia. Another great decision by record labels from denying paying customers music.

Kansas

Their albums with Steve Morse on guitar are not on Spotify, Australia. I have “Power” and “In The Spirt Of Things” on LP, however I was at work and I wanted to listen to the albums.

Scorpions

There is a lot of Scorpions music missing from Spotify Australia. “In Trance”, “Take By Force”, “Tokyo Tapes”, “Lovedrive”, “Animal Magnetism”, “Blackout”, “Love At First Sting” and “Savage Amusement” are all missing. Their 90’s output looks a bit hit and miss as well, however I don’t know all of those albums enough to comment if they are all there.

Frankie Miller

His 1982 album “Standing On The Edge” is not on Spotify and it’s one of my favourites. A few songs appeared in Thunder Alley, the movie about a farm boy who wanted to be a rock star but needed to work on the farm. So he goes to watch his ex-bands gig and their guitarist is passed out, so he grabs the guitar and plays.

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

Streaming and Distribution 

I believe that it’s an excellent time (on the current state of the music scene). I feel that there’s so much out there for people to pick from and choose from its phenomenal. I mean and guitar playing is at such a high level right now. I mean these younger generations are just taking it to a point where you know it’s beginning to explore places that people have never gone before, it’s just fascinating. And the music itself too, you can pick a genre and find so much great music in every genre. People are just pushing the envelope in all directions, so I think it’s very gratifying and satisfying. It’s a little challenging to pick through I mean from this thing back in the day when I was growing up there’s like a half a dozen or 10 big giant great bands that are super groups you know. Now it’s like there are thousands of bands. Picking through everything is hard. It’s stressful trying to find all the right music you know.
George Lynch 

Today, noise reigns supreme. For the ones who have financial backing, they surround us with their nuclear blast marketing. And in most cases people ignore them.

But it’s still a good time for an artist to get their product out. Actually it’s the best time.

For the record labels, they are still trying to get control over the distribution chain after losing it to Napster and other peer to peer file sharing programs. At the moment, technology companies have it and if the labels kill the streaming grape vine, they hope to bring the distribution chain under the record labels. 

Streaming has three main players. Spotify, Google and Apple.

Spotify is losing money each year and relies on investments. The record labels owe a piece of it but they are not investing in it. YouTube is owned by Google (well their parent company) and the record labels hate Google, blaming it for all of their ills. The “take it or leave it” deal with YouTube is not what the labels want, so they lobby hard to get laws passed which can cripple Google. Apple uses music to push sales of wares. However, even Apple is going to the table to get a lower payment rate back to the labels.

Going back to Spotify.

Since it has money woes and it cannot make a profit, it’s offering payola terms back to the record labels to have their music chucked into playlists for a fee. Because taking in money from users and advertisers is not enough to make money in music if you don’t have your own popular content bringing in money. And the labels are getting paid handsomely twice from each streaming provider.

  • Spotify pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • YouTube pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Pandora pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Apple pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.
  • Tidal pays them for licensing their music catalogues and then pays them again as royalty payments based on listens.

I think you get the drift. Maybe that’s why Spotify is paying producers to be fake artists and play popular songs on piano for people to listen to.

And to top it off, the record labels are still using the 100 year old rule of geo restrictions when it comes to streaming. So music available in the U.S doesn’t necessarily equate to being available in Australia. Here is a quick list of albums I tried to call up in the last two weeks on Spotify Australia which are not available;

  • Heaven And Hell – The Devil You Know, released in 2009
  • Stryper – Murder By Pride, released in 2009
  • Three Days Grace – Life Starts Now, released in 2009
  • Night Ranger – Midnight Madness, released in 1983
  • Europe – Europe, released in 1983
  • Helix – No Rest For The Wicked, released in 1983

Isn’t it nice how record labels treat legitimate paying customers?

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Little Streams Of Heaven

Streaming is good for labels and artists. Indie labels are on the rise and artists have options everywhere on which digital aggregator to use when releasing music.

Taylor Swift and Neil Young’s music is back on Spotify and the normal PR outlets are silent but when they took their music off, well the narrative was very strong about poor artists vs big bad faceless tech giving the masses inferior sound quality and not paying enough.

But Pandora is declining in users, looking for a new owner and Spotify is not making money yet because its business model of a streaming service only does not allow it.

Spotify needs to diversify into a record label (like how Netflix diversified into its own content) because it can’t survive as it currently operates.

Apple has its own ecosystem and it bundles music with Apps and hardware sales.

YouTube is still there but viewership of music videos pales compared to streaming listens. Plus Google (apart from search) does everything half-hearted.

In the end streaming is king. The irrelevant sales charts had to amend their formula to include streaming and suddenly an artist is controlling all positions.

The old certification awards now include streaming in their formula and guess what, artists are getting platinum awards on streams alone. That’s right, no sales. Just listens. What a brilliant concept.

But those record label execs and publishing rights organisations want to strangle the streaming golden goose. They have a percentage stake in it, they get upfront license fees and they get royalty payments. Their profits are boosted by streaming and they still want more.

Meanwhile artists and songwriters keep on blaming the tech for the payments made instead of blaming the corporation who controls their copyrights.

Forgetting that Spotify is the new MTV. It’s influential. Think about it. Get onto a Spotify created playlist and watch your streams go into the million to 100 million territory.

Spotify controls data. It knows instantly when songs are skipped and when songs are listened to. The songs that people listen too are added to various playlists it controls. Suddenly those songs become hits.

Jasta’s “Chasing Demons” is the first track on Spotify’s “New Metal Tracks” playlist. It has 227,182 streams. The closest track from the same artist “This Is Your Life” has 22,433 streams.

“Lights Out” from Royal Blood is on 5 plus Spotify playlists and it has 6,435,533 streams whereas “Hook, Line & Sinker” has close to 2 million streams and it’s on 2 Spotify playlists.

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

Release Radar Recap

Gemini by The Night Flight Orchestra

What a classic rock song from my favourite supergroup of metal heads. It’s so catchy. If you haven’t seen the animated film clip, head over to YouTube and check it out. 

The album “Amber Galactic” is out so expect a review to come.

House On Fire by Rise Against

A good listen but not as good as the first single release “The Violence” and the politically charged lyrics, “The bombs are getting closer everyday, That can never happen here we used to say, have these wars come to our doorstep?”..

Blister by Hell Or Highwater

 Another solid track from Atreyu’s drummer Brandon Saller’s other project who takes vocal and guitar duties. Really impressed with this band. 

Chasing Dragons by Adrenaline Mob

Great band. Enough said.

American Dreams by Papa Roach

This is similar to what Papa Roach became famous for. Nu Metal with a dose of Pop.

Halfway Right by Linkin Park

Next…

While You Wait by Dead Letter Circus

Nice acoustic guitars and a Tool/Perfect Circle style vocal delivery makes for a pretty good song.

Choose Your Fate by Warrant

Actually the song is the best one so far from the release but they need to call the project something else guys. It didn’t work for Sabbath without Ozzy, Lizzy with Phil and it will not work for Warrant with Jani.

Indestructible by Harem Scarem

Not as solid as the other tracks released on my radar so far from Harem Scarem but still a good listen.

Something Else by Seether

This band has some great tracks, some good tracks and some tracks that don’t resonate with me. This one falls into the good listening tracks.

Oh Lord by In This Moment

I guess I am a fan of the melodic version of the band and the albums, “The Dream” and “A Star Crossed Wasteland”.

Ever After by Andy James

He’s been around for a while but to me he is one of the new breed of guitar heroes doing the rounds. You can put words to his guitar melodies and have some super catchy syncopated metal songs happening.

God Of Temptation by The Unity

Don’t’ know much about the band, but it’s a pretty good listen.

Stargazer by Seven Kingdoms

Power Metal. Just not in the mood for it. Next

Love Is The Remedy by Jorn

It’s got a tasty riff. For those that don’t know, Jorn is the Norwegian singer that can sound like Dio, Dickinson, Tate or Coverdale on a whim. And all of those vocal influences make him unique. There are some good songs, but this one is a miss.

Still Standing Up by The Ferrymen

The fantasy cover of a masked man ferrying skeletons is hit and miss, but musically, this band is good. Again I know nothing of them, except I have heard three songs over the last three weeks on my Release Radar playlist and saved each song.

Ashes by dEMOTIONAL

Again I know nothing about this band, however each song I have heard on the Release Radar is a good listen, so I will be following up on them.

Days Of Self Destruction by CKY

They have a cool cover in red and shades of black making out dragons. The song is a miss.

Will You Want Me by 7 Days Away

The cover is black with some shades of grey making out the band logo and name. Does it remind you of some other “black” album covers?

I got into this band via illegal downloads. And when I came across them in Spotify, I clicked follow. I’m glad I did.

Skin – Kove Remix by Rag’n’Bone Man

Elton John reckons Rag’n’Bone man has the best new music out there. If you haven’t heard “Human” then you should. It’s a hit and it’s getting there slowly, as all good music does its converting people like me into it. This song is “Skin” and the Kove remix is garbage. Hear the original. Accept no substitute.

New Slaves by Vitamin String Quartet

My kids love the Vitamin String Quartet, especially their take on rock and metal bands. The Iron Maiden tribute brings back memories. For this song, it’s a NO from me.

Clouded Minds by JD Miller

Next.

Endless Roads by Liv Sin

Sister Sin was good. Liv Sin is also good. The music is excellent and rooted in that Euro Melodic Metal sound. Also check out “Endless Roads” and “The Beast Inside”.

Runaway by Bai Bang

Next. Just a bit too clichéd and poppy for me.

I’m Alive by Art Nation

It’s a good listen with a big chorus.

Wolves Reign by Wolfpakk

Musically the song is good. It just needed that Bruce Dickinson style vocal delivery.

Meet My Maker by Life Of Agony

It’s groovy and a good listen.

Blood Sick by Wednesday 13

Skip.

Genesis by Aethere

Next.

Prologue (Deep Sleep) by Lonely Robot

 The end.

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