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

A Metal Heads Guide To The Key Of Music Success

The technology of today allows for convenient costless copying and transportation of large chunks of data across the internet. Before the rise of streaming, people were still given a raw deal when it came to digital music and forced to overpay. In Australia, an iTunes song costs between $1.69 and $2.69. This price remained the same, even when our dollar was stronger than the US dollar.

Then the ACCC, our competition watchdog launched an inquiry into these geo-blocking price restrictions. Apple went in front of the commission and stated that they didn’t set the price for music in Australia and that the price was set by the Record Labels. It was found by the Commission that there should be no reason why Australians should pay more for software and music. However, nothing has changed in relation to the prices.

When music is offered in a convenient and low-cost legal alternative, the rate of piracy drops because most people do want to support artists and the various research out there points out that is the case.

For example, let’s look at TesseracT, the band. They released a great album in “Altered State”. It didn’t sell huge amounts in the U.S, so based on the record label success model, the album is a fizzer. However, the band knows that touring is where they make their money. And that is what they are doing. Musicmetric data showed (before it went behind a pay wall) that TesseracT’s music was downloaded the most in North America via peer-to-peer Torrent networks. So guess which area’s TesseracT have toured?

Yep, North America. They are touring there again from March and April 2014. The previously toured North America between September and October 2013. Coincidence. Maybe.

In relation to Spotify, they have a combined album stream count of 1,705,734. What this means, is that if you tally up all of the album songs shown in their popular list you will get to that number.

Go on YouTube and you see that the “Nocturne” (OFFICIAL VIDEO) by Century Media Records has 302,002 views. My favourite track from “Singularity” on the Century Media Records channel has 260,817 views compared to the 130,835 on Spotify. These numbers matter. Especially for a band that plays to a niche market.

What about the band Volbeat? They fall on all sides of the equation. They are one of the most streamed metal bands out there, plus they are downloaded a lot via peer-to-peer networks and in addition to all of this, they are still selling albums in the U.S. Their “Outlaw Gentlemen And Shady Ladies” album was released on 5 April 2013 and as at 29 January 2014, it is still selling in the U.S.

Yep, that’s right, in an era were physical sales of recorded music are non-existent, Volbeat has been selling consistently for 42 weeks straight. Prior to the release of “Outlaw Gentlemen And Shady Ladies”, their previous album “Beyond Heaven, Above Hell” was still selling up to and past the release date of the new album.

From a record label point of view, this is pure gold. They have a band that can consistently sell albums and Volbeat has been doing that each week for the last three years in the very competitive US market.

That is why they are hitting the U.S market again for the third time, this time with “Trivium” and the best DIY independent band out there in “Digital Summer”.

Look at their song “Still Counting” on Spotify. It has 21,193,159 streams. On the YouTube channel of Tomas Grafström “Still Counting” has 11,725,300 views.

My favourite song “Fallen” has 12,392,089 streams. On the VolbeatVEVO channel, “Fallen” has 4,583,706 views.

“Cape Of Our Hero” from the new album has 5,838,326 streams. On YouTube, “Cape Of Our Hero” has 2,999,070 views on the VolbeatVEVO channel.

Another band that is doing great numbers both in actual sales, streams and peer-to-peer downloads is Skillet. The album “Rise” was released on June 25, 2013 and at this point in time, 31 weeks after that, it is still selling. That is what the labels want, bands that can sell week in and week out. What does the band want? They want people to listen to their music.

To compare to the current mainstream rock band, none of these bands come close to Imagine Dragons. “Night Visions” came out on September 4, 2012. 73 weeks later, the album is still moving physical albums. At this point in time the album has sold over 1.8 million copies in the US. The main songs are high on Spotify’s streaming chart. They are also very high on the peer-to-peer download lists.

Seriously their Spotify numbers are insane. “Radioactive” is at 172 million streams compared to 128 million views on YouTube. “Demons” is at 73 million streams compared to 50 million views on YouTube. My favourite “It’s Time” is at 75 million streams compared to 59 million streams on YouTube.

Music is now a game of data. The key to any artist is not how many albums or songs are sold. The key is this;

ARE PEOPLE LISTENING TO YOUR MUSIC?
ARE PEOPLE SHARING YOUR MUSIC?
ARE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT YOUR MUSIC?
ARE PEOPLE DOWNLOADING YOUR MUSIC?
WHERE ARE THESE PEOPLE LOCATED?
MUSIC IS A RELATIONSHIP BUSINESS. DO YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THESE PEOPLE?

If you answered YES to the first question, move on to the next question. If you haven’t answered YES to the first question, take a step back and start writing more music.

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Music, My Stories

A Day In The Life of Sevendust, Soundwave and AJ Maddah

I purchased tickets to watch Sevendust open up for Creed as part of their Australian Tour back in March 2002. ONE week before the tour started, Sevendust pulled out due to “undisclosed unforeseen circumstances.” In their place was a band called “Crash Palace”. I was like WHO. I didn’t purchase tickets to watch Creed and Crash Palace. I purchased tickets to watch Sevendust only.

As a Sevendust fan I was disappointed. A week after they announced the “undisclosed unforeseen circumstances” press release, drummer Morgan Rose said that the reason why the band pulled out was that John Connolly’s grandmother passed away and he needed to be there. Also Clint Lowery married his long-time girlfriend and needed to spend more time with her.

In March 2004, Sevendust toured Australia as headliners with support from Sunk Loto and Full Scale. At that time I wasn’t financially viable and I didn’t end up going to the shows.

In May 2006, Sevendust cancelled a planned UK/European tour due to a “lack of tour support”.

In March, 2008, Sevendust toured Australia again.

Then Sevendust where on schedule to appear with Avenged Sevenfold. I didn’t mind Avenged Sevenfold, however I purchased tickets based on Sevendust appearing. Then in July, two weeks before the Australian tour commences, they issued the following message;

“Unfortunately we will not be making the trip to Australia this time with A7X. We will be making plans to come back soon. So sorry for any inconvenience and look forward to our next tour there.”

In 2010, Sevendust pulled the plug on their European tour earlier than scheduled for “circumstances beyond their control” .

In 2011, Sevendust made the trip to Australia, playing Soundwave and they also did a few Sidewave Shows as well.

In November 2013, Sevendust dropped off the “From Death To Destiny Tour” with Asking Alexandria, All That Remains, Emmure and For Today several dates earlier due to a “personal family matter.”

Now we have this issue of the Soundwave cancellation. The way the parties tell it is that the band asked for assistance with additional costs and if Soundwave/AJ Maddah didn’t agree to the request, Sevendust still had a Plan B to get to Australia. However, the rejection from Soundwave/AJ Maddah was a swift denial of their request for additional assistance and a cancellation of their Soundwave spot.

Okay, as a fan it is disappointing when a band you like and purchase tickets to go and watch, don’t end up showing up. Based on the above, Sevendust has built up a healthy trend of cancelling tours. The Australian tour cancellations are always hard to swallow as they happen a week or two before the shows are meant to start while some of the other tours have been cancelled mid-way.

It’s very easy to get caught up on the cancellations and forget the amount of shows that Sevendust play each year. Go to Google and type in “setlist.fm Sevendust”.

In 2013, Sevendust played 116 shows.

For comparison sake, Bon Jovi played 106 shows. Five Finger Death Punch played 78 shows. Coheed and Cambria played 97 shows. Shinedown played 103 shows. Volbeat played 131 shows. Avenged Sevenfold who had the most successful album of 2013 in the metal genre played only 49 shows.

The only band to eclipse Sevendust in the “Road Warrior” title of the year is Volbeat.

2012 was a lean concert year for Sevendust, playing only 19 shows.

In 2011, Sevendust played 120 shows.

To compare again, Bon Jovi played 65 shows. Five Finger Death Punch played 46 shows. Coheed and Cambria played 44 shows. Shinedown didn’t play any shows in 2011, however in 2010 they played 101 shows and in 2012 they played 128 shows. Volbeat played 97 shows. Avenged Sevenfold played 120 shows and shared the honours with Sevendust in the “Road Warrior” title of the year.

2010 saw Sevendust play 69 shows.

So what does the above tell you about Sevendust. They are bloody hard workers, who put in a lot of miles to perform to their audience. Of course it is disappointing that they have had to withdraw from a few Australian tours, however they are in the music business. With any business, why should anyone do something at a loss or if they can’t make any money from it. The only crime from Sevendust is not being transparent enough. We live in an information society and the fans wanted the information straight from the band.

As the war of Twitter words escalated, the story started to become clearer however that was all too late. The band has the attention of their fans via Facebook and other social media outlets. They should use that notice board to communicate with them in a proper personal way, not in the PR way of “unforeseen circumstances beyond our control”.

For any band to tour Australia it is a costly exercise. With our declining dollar, it will make it even more costly. I remember the nineties and the early two thousands. Not a lot of metal bands toured Australia when our dollar was worth 50 cents US. It wasn’t worth it.

AJ Maddah calls Sevendust pissweak for cancelling on him on three occasions. So what about the 314 shows the band has played since 2010. Three Australian tour cancellations vs 314 shows. I don’t call that pissweak.

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Music, My Stories

Dream Theater – Blockbuster, Lackluster Or Just Normal

Dream Theater – Dream Theater

Week 1 – ending 2 October 2013 – 33,950 units sold
Week 2 – ending 9 October 2013 – 8,300 units sold
Week 3 – ending 16 October 2013 – 4,275 units sold
Week 4 – ending 23 October 2013 – 2,950 units sold

On Spotify, all the album tracks combined have been streamed 1,346,248 times which is an increase of 150,031 from last weeks combined total of 1,196,217 streams. However on a week to week basis, the streams are also decreasing like the album sales.

So what is the above data saying about the new album. Before I offer my theory on it, the below data is from an excellent book from Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse called “Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, And The Big Business Of Entertainment”: http://us.macmillan.com/blockbusters/AnitaElberse

“In the recorded music industry in 2011, more than 800,000 unique album titles together sold more than 330 million copies (including both physical and digital copies)… For instance, 513,000 titles – 58% of all unique titles – each sold fewer than 10 copies, accounting for only 0.5 percent of sales.

13 titles selling 1,000,000 copies or more/23,287,000 copies sold/7%

387 titles selling 100,000-999,999 copies/93,992,000 copies sold/28%

4,229 titles selling 10,000-99,999 copies/114,949,000 copies sold/35%

21,042 titles selling 1,000-9,999 copies/61,493,000 copies sold/19%

87,986 titles selling 100-999 copies/27,032,000 copies sold/8%

251,566 titles selling 10-99 copies/8,261,000 copies sold/2%

513,146 titles selling fewer than 10 copies/1,558,000 copies sold/0.5%”

The above analysis is interesting.

1. Look at the number of titles in the mix. The competition for listener’s attention is huge. The supply of music is at super high levels and the demand for music is only for the best music out there.

2. Like the Seventies, the Eighties and the Nineties, there are still only a select few of releases that end up selling more than a million.

3. Dream Theater is one of those 4,229 titles in the third tier, selling between 10,000 and 99,999 copies. Actually a lot of the metal and hard rock bands fall into that category. Their previous album “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” sold in this tier. However “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” sold over 100,000.

4. One of my favourite bands, Five Finger Death Punch fits into the 387 titles selling between 100,000 and 999,999 units.

So Dream Theater is doing what it normally does. The album that was promoted like a blockbuster movie is following the same path of the previous releases. Decent first week sales, with a quick decline. For Dream Theater, this is normal.

 

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Dream Theater – Three Webisodes In and Still No New Musical Snippets

Okay let me get this out in the open. I am a massive Dream Theater fan and as a guitarist a huge John Petrucci fan. However, after watching three webisodes of the new album process, were are the snippets of new music. Each webisode has music from DT’s past. While that is cool as an introduction, I am sure they can throw in a 5 second instrumental passage or a vocal line from a song.

It’s all talk at the moment and with the new album scheduled to drop in about six weeks, I think it’s time they do some walk. Let’s hear a song. Let’s hear 5 second passages of other songs on the next webisode.

Let’s get a track by track breakdown of each song, talk about the lyrics and the story behind the song, the compositions, show some snippets of the songs being recorded. Let us super fans dig deeper into the back stories. Do some of the riffs come from the past and which ones were written during the tour. We want to know. The people are commenting the same. We want to hear some clips, even if its Mangini drumming to intricate music that we cannot hear.

We get the marketing B.S. It is the best album you have created, Mangini is unleashed, it will make a definitive DT statement, it will showcase the level that the Mangini version of DT is at, its got a 20 minute epic and so forth.

You are preaching to the converted. We are fans. Hard core ones at that. We would not expect anything less than quality from DT.

Sack your marketing team. The fans are your marketing team. Give us what we need and we will spread the word for you. We will get you to number 1 if that is what DT desires. The expensive marketeers that DT has behind the scenes believe in smoke and mirrors.

With each webisode release, DT is missing out on opportunities to connect on a grand scale. Look at the YouTube stats. The first webisode had close to 200,000 views, the second webisode has approx. 91,000 views and the third webisode approx. 84,000 views. If anything, as the release date approaches, the views of each webisode should increase.

Now imagine if the webisodes had clips of musical pieces (hell it could be musical pieces from a song that got cut out for some reason), imagine all the reposts and re-tweets these YouTube webisodes would have had. In the end, DT is trying to get the message out that they have a new album coming. The core fan base know that. Now it is time to give the tools to the core fans, give us the snippets and we will spread it even further.

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