Music, My Stories

I Want My Spot-I-Fy

Streaming is here to stay. YouTube was the first unofficial and unlicensed streaming service and it got traction to billion plus users.

All because the record labels negotiated forever to get a stake of Spotify. And while YouTube gives users access, it also allows them to upload the music they have.

MTV had this kind of power once and the artists featured on the service went from nobodies to platinum stars especially during MTV’s critical mass period of 1985 to 1993.

Or if you built some momentum, MTV took your career from a small act with a core following, to platinum darlings. If you don’t believe me, Bon Jovi went from a 500,000 album band and a million debt to the label, to a 10 million album band.

But with any service which has critical mass, how can these services get artists heard as the labels and the publishers take in all the income.

Artists should be doing their bit to get users to Spotify or any other streaming service in the same way they did commercials for MTV, saying “I Want My MTV”. And they should control their own copyrights. They will get more of the share.

Netflix understood that they cannot run a business just by licensing content from TV stations and the Movie Studios. The same way HBO realized it back in the early 90s. So they started spending to create their own content. And they made a lot of money from subscribers doing it.

And of course as expected, Disney, one of the critics of streaming early on but also one of the main content creators right now, decided they need to get into the streaming action. Add HBO to that list and people need to pick between three streaming providers.

But the biggest users of the services are between the ages of 19 and 28. Technology has been part of their life since birth. A connected audience with everything being just a click away. And if music wants to put up paywalls and take away free tiers, they are putting up resistance to a generation who follows the path of least resistance.

Music is accessed everywhere. In a persons house, their car, the train trip home from work, at work and so forth.

Now it’s all about the song. The connected music consumer doesn’t care about the catalog of songs or albums.

As for Spotify, remember that here is no Spotify without the major labels giving access to their catalogs. It’s how the major labels got a stake in the company.

So if an artist is upset about Spotify’s payments, they should tell their label to pull out their catalogs from the streaming service.

But they won’t.

As for labels, they have been creative in their accounting to artists since day dot.

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

Take A Walk On The Stream Side

You can buy an album and never listen to it, however if you do listen to the purchased album, the artist has no idea how many times you played it.

Streams means you listened, and it tells the artist which song/s you listened to, even if it was in the background. It tells the artists from which area you are from. It arms the artist with tools to plan their tours.

And it’s rare that you will stream the whole album. You probably will only stream the songs which are your “hits” or if the album crosses over, maybe the actual hits.

And in the same way you cherry-picked your favourites and made that awesome mix tape, or CD once upon a time, you do the same in the digital era with a playlist.

And if artists want fans to buy albums, where do they expect the majority to play them?

Most computers don’t even come with a CD drive and most new cars also don’t have a CD drive either. As for those super expensive stereo systems from the 80’s, are now marketed to audiophiles.

And for iTunes files, its an overpriced offering compared to what is available. I stream and still buy some albums on CD throughout the year. It’s because I can’t stop buying. But the new generation is all about on demand and streaming. It’s a different market and artists need to adjust.

And if artists are waiting on just sales to get traction, they are operating in the old world. Without big streaming numbers, acts get no traction in the mainstream, but acts can have a career on the outer edges, satisfying their core, niche market.

Every artist should be getting their fans to stream. But we still get the voices against streaming services and how these services pay poorly. If that’s the case, you need to renegotiate your terms with the corporations which hold your Copyright.

But streaming shows your fans. If anybody is streaming your music a lot, they’re a fan, and they’ll pay to see you live and they will buy VIP tickets and merchandise and any special edition of an album you put out. Don’t you want to know that information?

And the chart that matters is one of listens. But artists still want sales and that number 1 Billboard spot (for bragging rights) and they package their album with tickets. Metallica did it with “Hardwired” and Jovi did it with their last two albums.

But seriously, is selling an album with tickets reflective of the albums success?

Of course not, it’s typical record label creative accounting. It might matter to the artist, but fans don’t give a shit. And remember, for an artist to have a career, it’s a relationship between fan and artist.

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

The Copyright Empire

I have a Google Alert set up for Copyright and everyday there are ten or more stories on Copyright issues, ranging from Ed Sheeran settling with artists over a copyright suit to a song of his which has become super popular, to Led Zep asking a judge to throw away the Stairway appeal, to local restaurants playing music and asked to pay for a Copyright licence, to parents breaking the Copyright law when they film their kids dance to music, to ISPs being asked to block websites, to Google being told to remove search links to certain sites, to people being charged with piracy and to whatever else the Copyright Industry wants.

If the above doesn’t tell you who copyright benefits, then reread it again.

You see when Governments get involved and pass laws around copyright, there will always be an entity or corporation that contributes no music to the public that will benefit from this monopoly.

The new emperor in town is the Music Modernization Act (MMA). If it will deliver more streaming revenue to music publishers and songwriters as stated, remains to be seen, however for it to happen their has to be a price contraction somewhere else in the recording business market or a price increase passed on to the customer.

As the Billboard article states;

Apple Music has already negotiated to pay a smaller share of its revenue to labels in order to offset undetermined increases to publishers, targeting a rate of 55 percent to labels.

So in this case, Apple will pay less to the labels and more to the publishers.

As the article further states;

Publishers, which have been getting 12 percent of Apple Music’s revenue, could therefore see their slice of Apple’s streaming revenue grow to 15 percent.

But …..

Those three big publishers are owned by the three largest record labels. So for those publishers to get more in their profit and loss means their owners will get less. It’s all the fucking same, isn’t it. The money is still within the creative accounting teams.

So how much more will songwriters really get?

It’s still a great mystery.

And these amounts the publishers get could be greater in the future because hey, judges are allowed to decide the rate regardless of the economic market. So lobby hard and get the rates you need.

Remember folks, Spotify is yet to make a profit and somehow they have higher rates to contend with. So Spotify has two options, keep their monthly prices the same and negotiate with the labels for a reduction in their rate (like Apple) or increase their monthly prices to cover these extra costs but risk losing customers.

But art is a relationship between artist and fan. And somehow these two parties cease to exist when corporations control the copyright monopoly. If the artist has no fans, there is no money to be made.

Another thing the Billboard article states is;

The MMA also mandates that unmatched royalties be divvied up after three years to publishers according to their market share, which could produce close to $100 million in new annual revenue.

Are you fucking serious?

This is revenue earned by the corporate copyright holder because they cannot find the original writers due to death, bad book keeping on behalf of the label and publisher and what not.

So instead of these songs being in the public domain as they should be, corporations are forming new income streams. All in the name of Copyright. All in the name of intellectual property.

What a fucking joke.

If you want to read about why we should stop using the term “intellectual property” around Copyright, then give this story from Aeon a read.

Because the recording and movie industries have tricked everyone into believing that artistic expression of an idea is like real property.

Remember how these industries linked downloading a song or a movie to stealing a car. It never was the same thing, but people fell for it. Even artists fell for the “stealing” part.

The article further states about how the limited copyright terms have sort of become forever terms;

Copyrights, intended to be temporally limited, have grown nearly without limit. Congress drastically increased copyright terms in 1976, and again in 1998. The latter piece of legislation was the infamous Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, passed thanks in no small measure to the Disney Corporation lobbying to retain exclusive hold over its ‘property’, Mickey Mouse, and not to allow it to pass into the public domain. Elsewhere, users of ‘intellectual property’ suggest that protections be passed on to a so-called heir: so that the notion of inheritance has been carried over from real estate and now, ‘copyright trusts’ battle for the intellectual property rights of the long-dead original holder, placing onerous restrictions on those who would seek to make derivative works based on material that should long ago have passed into the public domain. But if that rights-holder is not present, then the original motivation for that legal protection – the encouragement of the further production of artistic works by the artist – is clearly not met.

Damn right.

If the artist is not around then their creations should be in the public domain like the way it was up until 1976.

Basically there should be no Copyright transfer to the heirs as Copyright was created to encourage an artist to produce more works for a limited time monopoly. Not for heirs to sue other artists and use it as a pension fund.

I guess their building, empire, empire.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Copyright For The Corporation

The standards of the recording industry and culture were set a long time ago. It was so long ago, people forget why it was brought in and as time goes on, we fail to preserve its original intent.

Copyright was designed to protect the artist and to enhance culture. The artist had a monopoly on their works, so they could make money and have an incentive to create further works. This was for a period of short period with the option to renew. Once the expiry date passed, the works became part of the public domain for future generations to build on and use.

But corporations started to rise because of these monopolies and what we have now is a copyright standard so far removed from what copyright was meant to be.

Hell, if a monkey uses a camera put in his enclosure and snaps a selfie, does he own the copyright?

This even went to trial and then to appeals and finally a judge ordered that the monkey has no right to the photos he took as the Copyright Office will not register a copyright claim if a human being didn’t create the work. This also means machine created art is not covered.

The actual text is works “produced by a machine or mere mechanical process that operates randomly or automatically without any creative input or intervention from a human author.” But a poem written by an AI was accepted by editors for publishing in a literary journal because they believed it was written by a human.

As the WSJ article states;

The question isn’t whether computers can own copyrights, but whether humans (or corporations) should be able to claim ownership of works created by computers. Copyright laws already provide that in the case of “works for hire,” the employer owns the copyright, even if an employee actually created the work. Shouldn’t similar reasoning allow copyright protection for humans who employ computers to create valuable works?

But corporations do claim ownership of works created by humans, so claiming ownership of works created by AI is just a matter of time and a few million to their Senate buddies on lobbying dollars.

And for over a century the record label has built up a history of owning songs it shouldn’t be owning. It’s ridiculous. An artist signs a deal, pays off all the costs associated with the album and somehow, the label still owns the copyright. The battle is happening. Check out the article over at Billboard.

“Why would a label be insisting on keeping a property that has stopped selling, that they don’t have any plans to re-promote except when the artist dies?”
Todd Rundgren

For those that don’t know, the 1976 Copyright Revision Act in the US allows the artists after 35 years to take back their copyrights after so many years, by serving the company that holds their copyrights with a termination notice. And even though artists are filing termination notices, so few are succeeding. For example, Duran Duran failed while Tom Scholz of Boston didn’t.

“Of all the creative work produced by humans anywhere, a tiny fraction has continuing commercial value. For that tiny fraction, the copyright is a crucially important legal device”
Lawrence Lessig

And it’s funny how the 1976 Act on purposely ignored all the different state laws for the pre72 recording, because those copyrights didn’t need any extra enforcement at that point in time. But for some reason, the pre-72 copyrights needs some extra beefing up in the digital era.

The Music Modernization Act will come into law in the US. And don’t kid yourself here. The songwriters and the actual artists will still not get what they are due. The Publishing Corporations will take their slice and the Label Corporations who still hold the copyrights will take their slice and the greatest generation of songwriters will still NOT be paid what they deserve.

There is poor record keeping from the record labels and the publishing organisations, but the blame is on the technology companies for not doing enough to seek out the songwriters.

Are they fucking serious?

I guess they are, because with this new bill, a new database will be created, paid for by the technology companies that will store all the information for the songwriters. But with every piece of government legislation, a monopoly is waiting to happen and in this instance, the publishing corporations will have a lot more influence.

And of course, the real purpose of this bill was to delay the copyright expiration of the pre-72 recordings, which based on the law in force at the time, should have been out of copyright a long time ago.

One thing the Act preaches is fair payment for songwriters from streaming services based on the database the streaming services create. And if artists and songwriters get what they are due, it’s good news, but if the past tells us one thing, the corporations standing in between like the labels and publishing houses, will not allow their billions to disappear.

Streaming services in every country are injecting hundreds of millions into the recording industry. Innovation is the key and getting more people to use these services will increase the pool of monies on offer.

But the publishing companies still preach the same rubbish. Something along the lines of “without strong copyright law which enables songwriters, performers and recording artists to control how their music is used and how they make a living from their creativity, the local industry will suffer and go backwards.”

Yeah right.

And at the moment the monthly price to use Spotify has remained the same for a few years. But we all know the recording industry is pushing for higher monthly prices as they demand more in their licensing arrangements with the service. So while streaming is injecting a lot of money to the recording industry, the recording industry is also doing its best to kill it.

All because a profit driven corporation owns the copyrights. In other words, corporations own culture. Maybe George Orwell was right all along.

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

Labels

Every industry has rules and the recording industry has a lot of them. And there was a saying once that if you followed enough of the rules, you would get a recording contact, millions of dollars and the red carpet. Perhaps one in a 1,000,000 pull this off. Actually you have a higher probability of being hit by a comet than making a lot of money in music.

So, the record labels wanted to maintain the sales model but they  got dragged kicking and screaming to downloads. Credit Apple for pushing it and credit Warner Music for being the first major to sign. Suddenly their revenues went up. But they still complained. They screamed to their friends in politics for laws to be passed. Then streaming came out and they got dragged kicking and screaming to streaming. They even got a percentage of the company and surprise, surprise, the revenues went up again.

Times are changing. Nothing will look the same in relation to labels and streaming companies in the next ten years.

Spotify is connecting tours to the Super Fans to sell tickets. The data tells Spotify who the super fans are, they share that information with the artists and they all come after us. Meanwhile, the labels owned and controlled the recording industry for a hundred years and they had no idea who the super fans were for their artists.

Seriously, the good times are just starting. There is a lot of people to reach with music and Spotify is connecting people to artists and along the way, they are paying artists every month providing an organisation (who might hold the copyrights for the artist) doesn’t get in the way and take the monies first.

For a fan, how good is it. Instead of playing the same album, over and over again, because we had so little product, we can now play the whole history of music. The only thing stopping us is time and distractions. On some days, I’m even confused to what I should listen to, as there is so much to select from.

As for the labels, they are not going away. Morphing more into marketing companies, who could help with your world domination ideals, but do you need them.

Remember that one of the biggest hurdles for any artist pre-internet was getting your music into a record store. It’s a much different today as every artist can get their music on streaming services for a small yearly fee and they can get paid direct from the streaming services and on a monthly regular basis. This is much different to the record label machine who used to do their accounting twice a year and be very creative with it at the same time.

And for over a century the record label has built up a history of owning songs it shouldn’t be owning. It’s ridiculous. An artist signs a deal, pays off all the costs associated with the album and somehow, the label still owns the copyright. The battle is happening. Check out the article over at Billboard.

Todd Rundgren wants his masters back.

“Why would a label be insisting on keeping a property that has stopped selling, that they don’t have any plans to re-promote except when the artist dies?”
Todd Rundgren

According to Nielsen Music, almost 70% of the monies received by the labels is because of older catalogue items. So giving back the artist their copyrights as dictated by law is bad business for the labels. As the article states, around 20 artists have reclaimed their rights from the thousands who are entitled to.

And the labels pull out all the tricks, like telling the artist they will pay them a higher royalty rate (which is useless if the label does nothing to re-promote the tunes) or paying the artist a large advance to hold on to profitable masters.

And as soon as Spotify goes public expect the majors to check out their ownership of the service.

Why.

All of their employees are focussed on the now, not for the long haul. And that is the label business.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Indie Route

How Grammy Nominee Brent Faiyaz Built His Music Career Off Streaming (HBO) – YouTube

It’s from Vice News and there is so much good stuff in the 5 minute segment.

Brent was offered a major record deal and turned it down. The highest offer was a $250K advance and a $300K recording budget. A lot of people would have taken the offer and become slaves to a system designed to favour the record label. But he turned them down, because the terms bothered him.

He looks at the money from a 100% pot. So when the label is offering him an 18% royalty rate, what is happening to the other 82% of monies earned?

If the artist makes a million dollars in gross, the label will get $820K and the artist $180K. Suddenly, it makes the advance and recording budget look like small change. But the label will not share any of the gross with the artist. They will discount the gross into a net and then share it. And from the net profit, the label will recoup the advance and the recording budget.

So Brent and his manager invested $30K of their own monies to record the debut album.

They then went on a 3 month tour using streaming data to lead the way. Streaming has changed everything. An artist can be a moderate successful indie artist with a few million streams on a few songs. It will not pay much in streaming royalties, but when you take into account the streaming data by city, you can then organise tours based on the data.

“Artists have to be smarter and they have to tour more and they have to do more to make sure fans come”

The lawyer in the segment said the above line. The old plea of “putting in your blood, sweat and tears” into your new music doesn’t cut it anymore with the audience.

Having a million followers on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t mean you have a million fans. I’ve seen Sebastian Bach post something like, a million plus followers on Facebook and only 10,000 people purchased the record. It’s old school, one sale = one fan thinking. Social media gives artists a way to connect and engage with fans. That’s it. That’s all it does. Dave Mustaine is trying to get to a million followers on Twitter. Why? For what reason and if he does get to a million followers, how do you connect and engage with them and turn them into concert ticket sales? A quick look at his posts and he gets comments from less than 30 people at a time.

In January 2018, Brent made $25K from music streaming services like Spotify and Apple music. His team mines the data from those streams to find out exactly where and when a show will sell out, spending $18 a day on ads to target those cities.

The data tells them were the demand is in the market and they use the streaming data to estimate how many tickets they can potentially sell. They look at the analytics of their top 50 markets and spend the money on ads on those markets.

Spotify’s data also highlights the listeners and super fans, city by city.

Super fans are fans of the artist who have streamed the music for 45 days in a row. For example in Philadelphia, Brent has 13,600 listeners and 3,186 super fans. They used this data to target ads in Philadelphia, sold out the venue and earned $3,880 in revenue. In Baltimore, there are 10,000 listeners and 5,743 super fans. Again, they targeted their ads to the city, sold out the venue and earned $5K in revenue. After 17 tour stops and royalties from song placements they walk away with $30K a month. Management takes 20%.

Streaming data also showed strong fan bases in Europe and they sold out shows in London, Paris and Berlin.

There is a reason why Trivium are selling out show after show across the US, Canada and Europe. There is a reason why Machine Head are selling out shows. There is a reason why Papa Roach are selling out shows. Streaming is a game changer.

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

Fortnite

There are still complaints about the monies streaming services pay to the rights holders of music. There are still complaints about how YouTube and Spotify have a free tier and how it devalues music.

My kids play a game called “Fortnite” on the PS4. It’s “Battle Royale” mode is free to download.  The free mode works by all players starting with no equipment except a pickaxe for resource gathering and they parachute onto the map. Once they land, they can scavenge for weapons and resources.

Over time, a “storm” surrounds the area and the players need to get to a safe area. Those caught outside the safe area take damage and potentially die if they remain outside it too long. Players can use real money to purchase in-game currency, which can be used to purchase cosmetic items. The last one standing is the winner.

I was interested in how a game which is free to download, is making some serious dollars for the development company.

Freemium

Since the game is free to download, it’s already at everyone’s price point. It can’t get any lower so it costs nothing to try it.

But hang on a second, an artist put their blood, sweat and tears into their music and because they did, they should charge for it. Then again, so did the video game developers, and they haven’t charged for it. Actually video game developers spend years on games only to see them disappear on release day, because like music, no one knows which game or song/album will be a hit or a miss.

Fortnite was originally a game for purchase. Within a six months of its release in 2017, it had over a million users, that means user = sale. But then in September 2017, Epic (the game developer behind it) did something different. They released a free-to-play “Battle Royale” mode. Within 2 weeks of its release, it had over 10 million players.

On any given day, it has over 500,000 players playing the game. By January 2018, Epic added a micro transaction system to purchase items for the game. For Epic, the “Battle Royale” mode is a major hit. It’s like Bruce Springsteen, “Born In The USA” or Bon Jovi, “Slippery When Wet” or Europe, “The Final Countdown” style of a hit.

And it’s still going strong. And Epic is hoping the more support they give it, the better the experience will become and players will stick around.

You need to get people’s attention first.

So you have a product, release it for free and nothing happens.

How do you get people’s attention?

In Epic’s case, they had a well known brand and released the free Battle Royale mode for Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One platforms on the same day. By doing it like this, they beat out other games with similar Battleground concepts tied in to a console. In other words, they were everywhere.

Then they controlled the narrative themselves. No one was waiting for a website or a magazine to interview anyone. The company controlled the story.

In music, we still get staggered releases to digital services. Hell there is a lot of music of bands I like which isn’t even on Spotify Australia, so in this case, I even get geo-blocked, which is ridiculous in our digital age. I can transact with Amazon US, purchase the album, but I cannot get legal access to music available in the US in Australia via a streaming service.

And in music, artists still do interviews with various press outlets, which means the press outlet controls the story.

Your best marketing tool is word of mouth.

Fortnite spread because the people who played it, enjoyed it and then they asked their friends to create an account and play with them online.

And their friends said “why not”, it’s free, let’s give it a try. And the ones who became hooked and enjoyed the online social experience, did the same to their circle of friends. And the process kept on repeating. 10 million users in 2 weeks.

Some people believe that marketing is about advertisements. It’s not.

Be social.

The game works because it connects people socially (albeit in a digital world). And when these people get together, face to face, they talk about it. Good music connects fans socially and crosses borders. There is a pretty good chance you would find an Iron Maiden fan in every country on planet Earth. For music, the social connection comes in two ways. In the digital world, it’s online communities and in reality it’s the live show.

Imagine listening to the song on a streaming service and you have the chance to view the sheet music and play along with it. Imagine listening to the song on a streaming service and you have the chance to remix a 5 second snippet of the song with someone else from another part of the world and make your own song.

Follow up the initial offering with more content.

The game keeps growing in popularity because its upgrades happen on a regular basis. In other words, the fans of the game are not waiting 2 years for a new upgrade. In some cases, it’s monthly and in the worst case it’s quarterly. And the upgrade enhances the original game and it doesn’t take away from it. Remember PokemonGo.

In music, fans are divided into camps of people who want albums or camps who just want content.

I come from the era of the album, but all I want is frequent content. It’s the reason why the bootleg industry was huge in the 80’s and 90’s. Hell, my record collection has hundreds of bootlegs, from live recordings, to demo recordings, to sound check jams and what not. It was the need to fill the gap between albums.

Build On What Came Before

And like all hit’s there is a writ. The developers of another game have threatened Epic over the game due to its similarities. But the other game has similarities to other games and those games had similarities to other games and the process just keeps on repeating.

One thing is certain. What used to work to break bands doesn’t work and artists need to think differently and take control of their story.

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