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

Chaos + Disruption = The Music Business

It’s a chaotic and disruptive time in the music business and with chaos comes opportunity.

On one side you have COPYRIGHT. And that can be broken down into a lot of other little chaotic categories like infringement, the length of copyright terms, copyright monopolies, the lack of works entering the public domain and so on.

The public domain is culture. Keith Richards once said, ‘you can’t copyright the blues.’

Culture is built and expanded by sharing stories and building on the works of others. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and all of the sixties greats like Hendrix, Clapton and Beck used this concept. They built off the blues.

However copyright law and its real purpose got hijacked by corporations and everything changed. Instead of culture being built up in the works that the public creates and shares, the public is now faced with copyright corporations locking away works that should be in the public domain by now. These works that should be in the public domain do not benefit the original creators in any way, however they are beneficial for the few copyright monopoly gatekeepers.

For culture to thrive once again, it is important to respect the public domain.

Then on another side of the music business you have the RIAA who continually push lies out into the world, so that technology companies can do something to protect crap business models. Did you know that the global music industry sent it’s 100 million takedown notice to Google, to remove search links to certain sites. It looks like the RIAA doesn’t get it.

So if a person types in “free mp3” in Google Search what should Google return?

Sites that have free mp3’s or sites that the RIAA want Google to point to when that term is typed in. Maybe when that person types in free mp3, they want a free mp3 and have no interest in paying.

Then you have the ISP’s on another side that are caught up in the middle of all this as they offer the service that provides internet access to users. According to the RIAA and the record labels, the ISP’s allow “copyright infringement” to happen, therefore, they need to do something about it to help out the music industry. In Australia, this is heavily disputed, however in other parts of the world gradual response schemes are in place.

Then you have the technology companies trying to offer low cost services to fans of music. However, low cost to a fan means high costs to the RIAA and the record labels in licensing fees. This is before the new service is even allowed to trade. If the new service starts to trade without licensing in place, expect them to be litigated into submission.

Have you noticed that artists have not been mentioned anywhere as yet. That is how far the music business has come, where the actual music is only a small part of it, however it should be the major part of it. For the business to thrive, you need great music.

I was looking back to some of the releases in 2013 that I liked. Two of my favourites are “Protest The Hero” and “Coheed and Cambria”.

“Protest The Hero” and “Coheed and Cambria” are working to the “Keep your fan base close” mantra. Both of the bands moved from major labels into a DIY independent mindset, realising that their fans are king.

Exceptional fan service is the key driving force behind a bands success. I expect “Coheed and Cambria” will get a lot more fans purchasing the next super deluxe package for the new album because they did such a great job with “The Afterman” releases.

“Protest The Hero” on the other hand have fallen into the fan funded conundrum where the perks always arrive later than expected for international fans. I live in Australia and I am still waiting for the perks to arrive. The band have been clear with their information, advising that it will take 6 to 8 weeks.

It’s good old business 101, “treat your customers right and they’ll stay with you forever”.

Then you have bands like Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater, Stone Sour, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Volbeat, Alter Bridge and TesserAct that have label deals.

Should those bands go independent like Protest The Hero or Coheed and Cambria. It all depends on a person’s definition of success and hard work. Going independent means that you need to build a team around you like any business start-up.

What are the benefits of going independent?

The lesson is simple. Selling your artistic freedom and independence as a “success” strategy can bring lucrative rewards. But it’s not always the best move for your career, as you are also selling off important data to the record label. The record label doesn’t want to know your fans or connect with them. They want you to do it, so that the label can make money of that relationship and then pay you a percentage of it.

Coheed and Cambria moved over 100,000 units of their deluxe “Afterman” editions. At $60 (I think it was $68, however I will use $60 for the example) an edition, that comes to $6 million in revenue. If the band was on the label model, what percentage would the band see from that $6 million.

The music market/business is filled with acts trying to make it. It is going to take a huge effort to stand out amongst the rest. Music is a lifer game. It is a slow and steady approach that builds careers.

Artists should be looking at development. With each song release, artists should never be afraid to try things out. Even try out new technologies that make it very easy for their fans to interact with them and their music. In a company, this is called research and development. Investing in your career is never a mistake.

The artists have the power to make the record labels redundant, purely to be used as a distribution arm if needed, however with the rise of streaming technologies, even this arm can be in danger of disappearing. Bands like Coheed and Cambria, Protest The Hero and Digital Summer have seen the recorded business side of things and have decided, hey we can do it better. That’s what great businesses are made of.

So in all of this chaos, who will rise and who will fall? Time will tell, however if you compare music to technology, you will see only a select few rise to the top. Smartphones and tablets is all Apple and Samsung. Amazon has online shopping cornered. Google is the king of search. Spotify will win the streaming war. Facebook rules social media. iTunes rules the mp3 and app market. Will the same fate happen in the music business?

2019 Crystal ball predictions;

Coheed and Cambria – will get bigger and bigger. Their style is unique, so expect them to keep to that style, sort of like how AC/DC releases music in the same style or Iron Maiden.

Protest The Hero – proved to themselves that they still matter. Will get bigger and more crazier. The future of progressive metal.

Machine Head – will still be bigger then what they are. Robb Flynn understands the internet and understands the change that is coming. He will make sure that Machine Head rides the wave all the way to the shoreline, while Adam Duce circles in the undercurrent, ready to litigate the band into submission.

TesseracT – will become the next Pink Floyd.

Digital Summer – are one of the hardest working rock bands around like Twisted Sister and Dream Theater. They will get bigger as they are lifers.

Avenged Sevenfold – will become the new Metallica.

Five Finger Death Punch – I have a feeling that they will break up after one more album.

Shinedown – will be bigger than what Aerosmith ever was.

Volbeat – will remain relevant in their niche genre.

Metallica – will still be relevant in the same way the Seventies act remained relevant.

Dream Theater – will still tour and do a lot of side projects, however they will be replaced by TesseracT and Protest The Hero.

Black Veil Brides – will take over the void left by Motley Crue and Guns N Roses.

Trivium – will deliver an astounding progressive technical metal album.

Killswitch Engage – will remain relevant in their niche genre.

Alter Bridge – The world needs Led Zeppelin to continue. Expect Alter Bridge to fill this void. They have one of the best vocalists of the modern era in Myles Kennedy. Marc Tremonti is a prolific writer. Call his Creed project, “The Yardbirds” and Alter Bridge as “Led Zeppelin.”

Bullet For My Valentine – will deliver their own version of “Master Of Puppets” and “The Blackening”.

Lets see how it pans out.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Gremlin Day, Generic Metal & Protest The Hero’s “Underbite”

You ever had a gremlin day. I have. You know one of those days when conventional wisdom falls over. One of those days when things that always worked ceased working the same as they always have for no real reason.

It makes you question everything. It makes you feel paranoid and you start to believe that everything you have done up until that point is rubbish.

From my perspective, I work in IT and I have been working on a project since August. We implemented successfully over the weekend, however on Thursday before the weekend implementation I questioned everything and I was about to pull the plug on it.

This is what normally begins to happen when you spend so much time on the one piece of work. This is why Top 40 sounds so bland and processed. Using I.T. speak “the Top 40 has been tested to death.”

The songs go through so many rewrites it’s not funny. That is why you have as many names as “The Last Supper” listed as songwriters of the generic and lifeless Top 40.

However Heavy Metal and Hard Rock music is generally written “in-house”, meaning that most of the material is written within the band. So why are we getting a similar generic output as the Top 40. Why are we getting lifeless and soulless songs that mean nothing and say nothing and to be honest if I heard them live I would probably yawn. The artists that created something great always lived on the edges, merging various influences and styles. However, when one artist sees another artist strike a pot of gold, they follow suit, believing that the same pot of gold would come to them if they replicated what the other artist did.

For example, every band wanted to be like Bon Jovi in 1987 and by 1988 every band wanted to be like Guns N Roses and by 1989 every band wanted to be sober like Motley Crue and by 1991 every band wanted to be Metallica and by 1992 every band started to incorporate grunge influences.

I started thinking about the above, after listening to the song “Underbite” from Protest The Hero and after watching the hilarious puppet clip. The Protest The Hero channel is showing that the clip has had 112,436 views. Not bad for a fan funded band that was told by their record label that are washed up.

Underbite means the projection of the lower teeth beyond the upper teeth. Protest The Hero have taken that term and twisted it up to include the rock n roll show. They are focusing on the generic mediocrity of artists who go out there and fake it. They are focusing on artists and labels that couldn’t care less about the fan experience. They are focusing on artists and labels that care about maintaining the status quo and the profits that came with that.

Jon Bon Jovi is one such artist that comes to mind. Eventually the shows sell out on this tour however for the first time ever, Bon Jovi concert tickets got the reduced treatment on Living Social and other web outlets. If he tours again next year and charges the same high prices, he will be in for a shock.

The Rolling Stones is another.

Motley Crue have gone back to the same marketplace again and again since 2008’s “Saints Of Los Angeles” and with each re-iteration they are getting less and less to the show.

Metallica needs new music to come out. It has been a 5 year victory lap for Death Magnetic and with 2014 approaching, that will make it 6 years.

Black Sabbath is another. Watching Ozzy sing live was a joke and he had the balls to say in interviews that Bill Ward couldn’t perform live because he was old, overweight and he had to use post it notes to remember his drum tracks. Well Ozzy is old, out of key and he never strayed too far from the prompts as he struggled to remember the lyrics.

The song Underbite also focuses on artists who see themselves as gods and their fans as stupid kids who are expected to consume every piece of music they produce regardless if it’s good or not. It has lyrics like “An understanding between you and I that the ground that you stand on is somehow less than mine” and “Now you comprehend our complex relationship—consumer/consumed, You’re just some stupid kid and I’m a megalomaniac.”

The part in the film clip where the fan goes to purchase the merchandise is so spot on. I could relate as it happens to me all the time.

First, the merchandise stand rarely has the size that a person wants. Good luck to all the ones that rush in and get it early and bad luck to the fans who get their later or the fans who just want to purchase merchandise later.

Then the prices are ridiculous. So as the clip shows, you end up forking out a decent amount of cash for a band t-shirt that doesn’t fit or is too large.

I really like the lyrics about “You’re disgracing your effort by conforming to textbook performance of music to fill in the gaps.” This is about going through the same motions and the same dialogue and the same songs day in and day out.

“Let’s not repackage the same old performance, Original content is so much more rewarding.”

While I love Twisted Sister, I don’t agree with the viewpoints put out by them, that there is no need for them to create new music. Dee Snider has mentioned that there is no motivation to write any new songs while Jay Jay French and Mark Mendoza have talked about giving the fans what they want in the live show and how if a new song is played these days from the classic rock bands, the fans see it as a toilet break. While each performance is unique due to Dee Snider’s banter, the songs however don’t stray too far from the first three albums era.

How many times can Iron Maiden revisit their past and repackage past tours as current ones. “Caught Somewhere Back In Time” and “Maiden England” are two that come to mind in the last 4 years. While the “Caught Somewhere Back In Time” tour broke box office records, the “Maiden England” tour not so much.

Their show at the San Manuel Amphitheater, Devore, California on September 13, Iron Maiden got 27,000 fans in a venue that fits 41,000. Megadeth, Anthrax, Testament and Sabaton also appeared on the bill. Of course 27,000 is a massive attendance however the venue is just over 50% full. Iron Maiden needs new content and great content at that.

Listen to the song. There are some hard truths in there and Protest The Hero try to cover them all.

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