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

The War Between Money and Art

The music industry is a thriving industry. It always was and still is. History has shown that musicians have expressed themselves lyrically without interference in their vision. They have been creative and innovative. However, with the rise of the recording industry and the money pyramids that industry created, the musical vision was compromised. Greed became more important than the vision. Once our heroes attained riches, the songs post “most successful album” just didn’t connect or resonate anymore.

As kids growing up, we fall in love with music, the melodies, the riffs, the lyrics, the phrasing and that free rebellious feeling that it inspires in us. Music always captured a sense of time and place. I could hear a song that I haven’t heard in ages and immediately it places me back in a time and a place of my past.

Music is about the creative individual and how they express their creativity. Great creativity equals success and success equals profits. When money enters the game and people who contribute nothing musically start to live a very comfortable life from those profits, then all they care about is keeping those profits the same plus a little bit more. That is why pop music suffered in the Eighties while Metal and Rock took a foothold. Metal and hard rock was honest and real. However once it became a commercial viable product, commerce took over and metal/rock became stale, until Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Guns N Roses blew open the paradigm again and suddenly every label was chasing similar style of bands or getting their current roster to emulate those two bands.

Impose any financial and marketing frameworks on creativity and you get compromised art.

Conformity.

A business that is 100% about profit.

And the very thing that brought money into the industry in the first place and made the industry so popular is sacrificed. What was free and rebellious becomes controlled and processed. In 2014, the songwriters from Sweden have this down pat, which is no surprise as Sweden did give the world IKEA, which sells generic and bland ready-to-assemble furniture, much like the pop industry right now, bland ready to listen music.

The songwriter of the two thousands is without doubt Max Martin, a Swede. Taylor Swifts pop career has been written by Max Martin. Britney Spears career has Max Martin all over it. Bon Jovi’s comeback hit “It’s My Life”, yep that had Max Martin as well on it. Pink’s “Please Don’t Leave Me” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” also had Max Martin all over it.

And where did Max Martin start his career. It was as a singer in a metal/rock band called “It’s Alive”. The band was a stepping stone to meeting other people and eventually he got into song writing and at the moment his team is known as an “assembly line song writing team”. Martin is that big in Sweden, that the Swedes will now be able to lick him via his own postage stamp.

It’s a thin line as artists want to be paid for their creations and record labels want to make money of art that they have funded. Add to that mix songwriters like Martin who also want to get paid along with the publishers. However all sides are forgetting the crucial unknown, the FANS.

The casual music fans will lap up the trashy, mass-marketed pop music and any other music that crosses over into the pop stratosphere. The niche fans will bank roll their heroes forever and a day. Think of Shinedown as an example. They crossed over with “The Sounds of Madness” album and had platinum parties for singles and album sales in excess of a million. The follow-up, while still popular moved half of its predecessor. What that means is that the original niche fans of the band still purchased the album, the merchandise and the concert tickets while the casual fans streamed it and purchased the concert tickets, as Shinedown did big business at the box office on the Amaryllis tour.

But the question in all of this is that labels are seeing a future where the artists are tied to corporate ‘brands’. With this kind of business mindset, would another Dream Theater, Pantera, Machine Head or Metallica even come to be.

How can an artist be free to express their musical vision if they are tied to a corporate brand whose only interest is profit and commerce.

George Orwell said that “Myths which are believed in tend to become true” and the recording industry via the RIAA and the Publishing firms are all about making myths into truths. However Orwell also said that “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act” and that is what the Internet has allowed. The internet has allowed people to tell the truth or to offer a differing viewpoint then the one that is pushed by the lobbyists and the copyright industries.

For artists it is all about the song. That is your ticket and your bargaining chip. The song is your entry into the business. A lot of songs equals a body of work (not an album). But you need to work it, and you need to connect.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit, Unsung Heroes

Invasion Of The Swedes – The First To Embrace Streaming and Guess What… Their Scene Is Flourishing

What do all of these bands have in common?

Evergrey, Corroded, Yngwie Malmsteen, Crashdiet, Avatar, In Flames, Europe, Soilwork, Jeerk, John Norum, Angeline, Baby Jane, Arch Enemy, April Divine, Cervello, The Night Flight Orchestra, Pretty Maids, Wig Wam, Fatal Smile, H.E.A.T, Hardcore Superstar, Scar Symmetry, M.ill.ion, Machinae Supremacy, Meldrum, Meshuggah, Overload, The Poodles, Shotgun Messiah, Sister Sin, Coldspell, Kee Marcello, W.E.T, Work Of Art, Audiovision, Dream Evil, At The Gates, Angelica, HammerFall, Tad Morose, Hollow, Pain Of Salvation, Opeth, Sonic Syndicate, Dead By April, April Divine, Bonafide, Crazy Lixx, Diamond Dogs, Plan Three, Treat, Takida, Royal Republic, Renegade Five, Vains Of Jenna, Amon Amarth, Bathory, Candlemass, Karmakanic, Degreed, Diamond Dawn, Eclipse, Gemini Five and House Of Shakira.

They are all from Sweden. And it was “Tearing Down The Walls” the fourth album from the band H.E.A.T that got me thinking about this invasion.

And the thing is they have always been producing so many good bands and great music. But when the record labels controlled the market, we didn’t know of the bands unless they broke big like Europe, Roxette, Yngwie Malmsteen and so on. Now with the internet, we know a lot more.

“Address The Nation” from 2012 was the first piece of music I heard from H.E.A.T and then I went back and heard their 2008 self-titled debut and it’s 2010 follow-up “Freedom Rock”. I liked them all, so I had high hopes for the fourth album. Going in blind, “Point of No Return” didnt disappoint. After listening to Bonfire a few days ago, I can honestly say that H.E.A.T reminds me of a cross between Europe and Bonfire. And that is a good thing.

Which melodic hard rock band these days isn’t from Sweden. It’s a Viking musical invasion in so many ways.

Max Martin is rocking the Billboard Top 10 charts with his pop formula. Other artists are also breaking through. Avicii and Swedish House Mafia are the big EDM artists that have crossed over recently.

And a lot of the hard rock and metal bands that I mentioned earlier would probably not tour the Americas or Australia on a frequent basis however they have a career touring around Europe and Japan. And trust me, they are big markets to hit.

H.E.A.T for example have shows all over the continent. And you know their name is built on the backs of song number 14 on album number 1. Yep, “1000 Miles” almost has 3 million streams on Spotify.

And for a Swedish band, H.E.A.T’s new album is not even available to be streamed.

Which is a big contrast to say the band called “Takida”. Yep, they are another Swedish band and their song “You Learn” from their 2011 album “Burning Heart” has 21,853,323 streams on Spotify. WTF.

I can tell you that a lot of American major label acts do not have those stats. I just checked Five Finger Death Punch and they are nowhere near this figure. To prove that it is not a one-off fluke I checked out some of their newer material from 2014 and the song “One Lie” is sitting at 900,000 plus streams. I went deeper and the song “Curly Sue” from their 2007 album is sitting at 7,677,597 streams. Bands would kill to have these stats and I bet a lot of people reading this would be saying, who the fuck is Takida?

The same could be said for the band “Mustasch”. Their song “Double Nature” from 2007 has 8,627,129 streams. Yep they are another rock band from Sweden. If you want to compare streams, Dream Theater’s “On The Backs Of Angels” has 1,419,649 streams.

Then what about the band called Sabaton? Their song “Ghost Division” has 7,817,664 streams. Or the Swedish band “Dream Evil” that features Gus G. Their song “The Chosen Ones” has 1,161,146 streams. Or the band “Dead By April” and their song “Mystery” that has 11,643,378 streams.

Isn’t it funny how the home country of Spotify also has one of the most vibrant rock and metal scenes in the world. But wait a second. I am sure I have heard the RIAA and their proponents scream that because music has been devalued, no one will create anymore.

Well it looks like someone forgot to tell the Swedes.

But, the RIAA and their proponents still screams piracy and the copyright industry still screams for stronger copyright enforcement. But the truth of the matter is that all eyes should be on Sweden. Here is a country that has embraced streaming and guess what, their musical scene is flourishing.

Once you add in all of the crossover artists like Swedish House Mafia and Avicii, along with songwriting king Max Martin (aka Martin Sandberg) it is safe to say that free music to a consumer DOES NOT MEAN THAT CREATORS HAVE NO INCENTIVE TO CREATE.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Avatar

It’s hard to believe that “Black Waltz” is Avatar’s fourth release. Of course as is the norm these days for me, they are another band from Sweden and the famous Gothenburg melodic death metal scene. It looks like my love affair with Sweden continues. Of course, no one can touch my favourite band, which is the mighty “Evergrey”.

I was interested to check this band out after the guys from Five Finger Death Punch mentioned in an interview that Avatar’s new album is doing the rounds while they are on tour and that it is influencing them in the riff department.

The best way to describe their music is like a circus freakshow. Even one of their songs is titled “Smells Like A Freakshow”. Like Blowsight, Avatar has just so many elements in their music.

Industrial rhythms (like Rammstein) – check

Old Time Rock N Roll boogie – check

Swedish melodic death metal scene (like In Flames) – check

Twisted evil persona’s (like Marilyn Manson) – check

Hyperactive metal (like System of A Down) – check

Modern Metal elements (like Disturbed) – check

Technical Metal elements (like Meshuggah, Sikth) – check

Melodic, arena sized choruses – check

And that is what I got from listening to Black Waltz. A bizarre, melodic, psychotic freakshow.

They started out as a traditional melodic death metal band back in 2001. Since then they have tweaked their sound up to something very unique. Vocalist Johannes Eckerström (the Clown), growls his way through verses and when the choruses come, he turns on the melody.

“Paint Me Red” is about a girl hurting inside and pictures suicide. “Smells Like A Freakshow” is about standing up for yourself and not letting people get you down because they think you are an oddball or a freak. Other favourites include “In Napalm”, “Let It Burn” and “Torn Apart.” Seriously that section from 3.43; it’s like Enya/Enigma with a gothic metal touch. If anyone claims that part doesn’t get their attention they are lying.

So I went on Spotify to see how the band rates there.

So all the above songs except “In Napalm” are in the Top 10 of songs streamed the most.

“Paint Me Red” has 126,338 streams.

“Let It Burn” is the champion at 630,427 streams.

“Torn Apart” has 259,870 streams.

“Smells Like A Freakshow” has 229,755 streams.

We are all looking for greatness. We all want to share what we love. The biggest strength of the album is how it is able to be experimental, yet feel perfectly designed.

That is how you triumph today. You need to be experimental and spontaneous, however it needs to feel cohesive. The Top 40 is all about committee writers and generic songs. When an artist comes from left field, the Top 40 is shocked to its core.

The world today has people paying to get their story spread. Anyone heard the recent viral sensation called “Batkid”. It turns out that viral sensation had a lot of help from some paid friends. Read the story yourself. It was manufactured.

http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/2013/11/22/Batkid-Brand-112213.aspx

There is always someone ready to take someone’s money, however what does all of it really do for an artists’ career and what does it do for an artists’ longevity. Manufactured superstars do not have a long shelf life.

Hell, even Bob Seger knew that when he wrote the words to “Old Time Rock N Roll”.

“Today’s music aint got the same soul, I love my old time rock n roll.”

Robb Flynn is doing wonders with his General Journals. It is working for him, and it is engaging his fan base. It doesn’t mean that it will work for every artist however artists need to play in order to win.

That is what Avatar encompasses for me. An eagerness to play and try out some new moves. Like all game winners, it is those moves that come from left field that end up winning the game.

So now that everybody is watching, what will Avatar do?

It comes down to the music. That is what builds careers. Today being an artist means that you need to be creating constantly, building an audience and holding it.

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A to Z of Making It, Music

Blowsight

Nikki Sixx is a fan and he endorsed the band on his Sixx Sense Radio show. Celebrity endorsements in other genres would normally see the endorsed act get some serious traction. However the very divisive metal and rock communities fail to pay the same attention to celebrity endorsements like other genres.

Lorde broke through because of an endorsement. Credit Sean Fanning. I got into the band Avatar because Zoltan Bathory endorsed them during the “American Capitalist” tour. Endorsements from our heroes makes us pay attention. However in the end musicians endorse little. Google “musicians endorsing musicians” and you don’t really see any list that Google can recommend. However you see a lot of pages on musicians that HAVE endorsements with manufacturers.

Anyway, someone who is famous said that Blowsight are great. So the band gets a look. Now it is up to them to capitalise on it. Bands don’t get a lot of chances in the music business. They need to deliver when they do get the chance. And it is always about that one song. If the song is okay, kiss that chance goodbye. And that brings me to Blowsight.

First YouTube. The official video clip for “This Pain” is sitting at 28,651 views. The official video clip for “Hit On The Radio” is sitting at 16,874 views. The official video clip for “Days Of Rain” is sitting at 72,837 views. Hardly earth shattering numbers, especially since “Hit On The Radio” is talked up as “the song”.

However their cover version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” is sitting at 120,231 views on one user channel and 55,918 on another user channel for a combined view of 176,149. Their cover of Britney Spears “Toxic” is sitting at 119,072 views on a different user channel. So for two cover songs, the view counts total 295,551. There is a fan base there for sure that can be monetized.

However the two most viewed YouTube videos are on user channels and not on the official Blowsight channel. Actually there is no Blowsight channel. The official videos mentioned previously are on the Fastball Music Label channel. This is a big mistake on their part.

Spotify has the following list as today;
1,272,112 streams for “Bandit For Life”
1,031,547 streams for “Poker Face”
430,068 streams for “The Simple Art (of Making You Mine)
357,917 streams for “Toxic”
266,551 streams for “I Wish You 666”
143,881 streams for “Invisible Ink”
60,108 streams for “Hit On The Radio”
50,681 streams for “It’s Me You’re Looking For”
49,634 streams for “Through These Eyes”
32,553 streams for “Back Where We Belong”

To put into context the million dollar stream figures for the songs “Bandit For Life” and “Poker Face”. Dream Theater is a world-renowned and Grammy nominated band and their song “On The Backs Of Angels” has 1,205,759 streams. Blowsight is more or less a small-scale Swedish based band.

Remember the best artists of the Sixties and Seventies became famous because of cover songs. Look at Jimi Hendrix. “Hey Joe” and “All Along The Watchtower” come to mind immediately. Linda Ronstadt’s fame came because she took other peoples forgotten songs and made them hers. Led Zeppelin even covered songs and called them their own.

Blowsight – Destination Terrorville

It was late in the afternoon at work, my head was fried and then “Destination Terrorville” filled my ears pace through my budget TDK ear pieces. What can I say, I stuck with TDK during the cassette wars, so their name still resonates with me.

For an album that was released in 2007 it sure sounds fresh and new. Of course, I wanted to know more, so I Googled them.

Of course they are from Sweden. Stockholm to be precise. Another Swedish act like Avatar, April Divine, Takida, Corroded and Days Of Jupiter trying to make a difference in the modern rock scene. The roots go back to 2001 and they released demos of their material on the internet and allowed listeners to freely “collect ‘em all!”. Hey what a great idea, competing with free to get some market share.

Back in 2007, front man Nik Red was known as Niklas Fagerstrom (of course a totally perfect rock star name and a scene from the movie “La Bamba” comes to mind right now. You know that scene where Richard Steven Valenzuela is told to shorten his name to Ritchie Valens, so that he has more mass appeal).

My first impression is that it is very reminiscent to two bands I dig. One is Evans Blue, the other is Breaking Benjamin.

They are a band that is able to take the best bits of the pop, rock, metal and punk worlds. In the end it still comes across as modern rock/metal. That is not a bad thing, however it is a very crowded marketplace and they need to be really great at what they do.

“All That Is Wrong” has got a sleazy middle eastern sounding bass line that is reminiscent to Tool “46 x 2” especially when the guitars crank in. The verses are punchy and syncopated and it makes up for the Chorus that falls flat.

“Over The Surface” has a very classical sounding arena rock chorus that is very reminiscent to the style of Finnish band “The Rasmus.”

“Red Eyes” is Alice In Chains/Soundgarden with a Euro Metal vibe. In the vocal delivery, you can hear the influence of Nick Hexum’s (311), Phil Anselmo (Pantera) and Layne Stayley/Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains)

“Bus Girl” has got this classical Beethoven vibe as well. It is a minor key song and you can feel the sadness fill the headspace. It is one of the best songs on the album and it was a bonus track.

“If You Were Me” is a great track, starting off with echoed natural harmonics but a ballad it is not. It has a lot of different genre hoping styles in it.

“How I Get What I Deserve” is canvassing Three Days Grace and any song off the “One-X” album.

“The Simple Art (Of Making You Mine)” sees Blowsight turning into Papa Roach.

All the songs are good, but not great.

Blowsight – Life And Death

This album was released in 2012 and it’s damn good. It has that anything goes attitude with some tasty shredding along the way.

“Sun Behind The Rain” has an unbelievable pop hook in the chorus and it comes from out of nowhere as the verses are syncopated head banging heavy rock.

“Through These Eyes” is a combination of all the Top 40 genres, ranging from pop rock merged with R&B and hip hop. Think Coldplay, Black Eye Peas, Red and Linkin Park.

“Surprise” has a tasty intro. It grabs you from the outset.

“Hit On A Radio” is a replacement for Good Charlotte since the band is on hiatus.

“This Pain” is melodic metal in a certain “In Flames” kind of way.

“Blackout Time” starts off like a Beyonce/Destiny Child song.

“Red Riding Blues” starts off with a cabaret swing feel.

“Dystopia Part II” starts off with a Muse feel and then it enters Avenged Sevenfold territory. The bio states that the song is “the off­spring of Queen’s “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody” mating with “November Rain” by Guns N Roses”.

“It’s Me You’re Looking For” is an energized cross between Avatar, Rammstein and Volbeat.

“Back Where We Belong” is System of A Down on adrenaline.

Singer Nick Red has stated that the band’s focus is “to break down the bar­riers by bringing dif­ferent genres to­gether whose fans would openly fight each other out in the streets”.

So can they break down the doors to the large U.S market?

Why am I talking about them when I am being critical?

Yes they can and I believe in them. I believe in what they are trying to do and that is important.

“Sun Behind The Rain” is the star of the show.

Blowsight needs to get out of the old school thinking, which is to release an ALBUM. The album ideology was built for a different time. This was a time when people waited for radio to play in a “new” single years after the album was released. That worked when albums had gated releases. These days the whole slab is available for free on the very day it comes out.

Do artists seriously believe that people will decide to purchase their albums 12 months later just because they liked a few songs when it came out?

That was the old gated system, where if the artists delivered enough singles, it would convert those who were unsure to financially commit. However the new game is to constantly release music so that the audience will be continually engaged and committed.

Black Sabbath released an album that got a bit of traction out of curiosity, then disappeared. It looks like all the people wanted was the tour.

Avenged Sevenfold had the album hit of the summer and are now following it up with an animated series and a mobile game.

Bon Jovi released an album, but all the people wanted was the tour. The album stiffed, however the tour was the highest grossing tour for 2013.

Dream Theater didn’t really have the material for a follow up album to “A Dramatic Turn Of Events” and the album disappeared from the conversation. They should be back in the studio right now, recording cover songs, some originals and some instrumentals. Kiss your solo albums goodbye and focus on Dream Theater.

Blowsight are going to lock themselves away to record another album. Then what.

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