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

Billion Dollar Music Streaming Market

There’s billions of dollars to be made in the music streaming market. Apple, Google, and Amazon’s recent moves into digital music will provide a major “revenue boost” to major labels. And do you know what a crowded marketplace of streaming services means to the record labels?

It means competition and that competition is good for the record companies, who charge the streaming outlets substantial licensing fees to use their songs. So in other words, these tech giants are cash rich and they are willing to offer labels high royalties in exchange for exclusive content. Add to that mix the rivalry between the tech companies and what you have is billions of dollars that are paid to the content owners. Now since the record labels are the content owners of a large amount of songs, how much of those monies are filtering down to the actual artists. Because in the end for the record label to license out their catalog it does not require any additional spending. In addition, the record labels use this “content ownership” bargaining chip to also take a part stake in the ownership of the streaming service.

Why do you think that the record labels are really pushing for Spotify to go public?

Yep, it means more dollars for them as part owners. Hell, even Jared Leto, who has battled music label “greed” with Thirty Seconds to Mars, invests in Spotify. As an actor he gets paid for his work however as a musician he has seen the labels take all the money and not share it with them. Seen the film called “Artifact”. After Thirty Seconds To Mars sold millions of albums, EMI/Virgin sued the band for $30 million because according to the label the band was still millions in debt.

That is what happens when the secret deal involves the label giving some money as an advance and then claiming back 80% of the monies earned, and using the other 20% that is for the band to pay back the original advance plus other costs the band might have occurred.

Meanwhile, you have Apple who thinks that spending $10 per month on a premium music subscription is too much for the average listener. The average music consumer spends only around $60 per year on CDs, vinyl, downloads, and streaming services. That’s why Apple is talking with record labels to revamp its Beats Music service with a lower price.

Let’s look at how the recording industry handles conversations of prices.

According to the record labels, there is none — people either like a song and will pay any price for it, or they don’t and they won’t. So when Apple approached record labels at the start of the 2000’s, the labels were resistant to unbundle the album and sell individual song downloads through the iTunes Store, even though the recording industry was spiraling downward, Apple still had to work hard to convince the labels that digital downloads would be a benefit to them.

It is worth nothing that the price of streaming services is not set by the technological companies. The record labels actually set the minimum price these services are able to charge through their licensing agreements.

What about Thom Yorke?

Is he a leader in business model innovations or an out of touch rock star?

We all know back in 2007 that Radiohead shocked the recording business by releasing an album online with a pay-what-you-want pricing model. Not long after, the website Bandcamp allowed lesser-known artists to put their music into the vast expanse of the Internet, even if it didn’t make much or any money.

I think that is pretty innovative.

And a few weeks ago Yorke found a new way to push the boundaries. He put his latest solo album up on BitTorrent for $6.

Is this a new way for people to get the music they want without interacting with all the bullshit of streaming services, mp3 downloads or physical stores?

Is this another brilliant way for bands to have a direct to fan interaction?

Or is it a step backwards to limit access to an artists work because the enemy is obscurity. As we all know, everything is available, so why is Yorke putting up a pay wall, especially when the younger generation are all about racking up YouTube plays, which pay quite handsomely when they’re in the triple digit millions.

It is the consumer who controls the business models today. And the model is not about who buys it anymore. It’s about who is playing it and who is listening to it. And today there are many more avenues to getting paid than there have ever been before. Create something great and you will be paid forever, as people listen down the ages.

And this is the takeaway. People are compelled to make music and to share their music with people. No one is going to stop doing that just because there is some corruption out in the recording industry.

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

Kirk Hammett = Misguided Fool. We Are Actually Living In The Golden Age of Music Access

The comments from Kirk Hammet have been getting a lot of press/ink lately. They have been re-posted on thousands of other metal news sites by simply copying and pasting what he said.

For those that haven’t read it, this is what Kirk said;

“There haven’t been a lot of really, really great bands that have shown that kind of promise. I think it’s a concern. Because of things like iTunes and streaming and social networking, it’s destroyed music. It’s destroyed the motivation to go out there and really make the best record possible. It’s a shame.”

Okay so lets unpack what he really said.

“There haven’t been a lot of really, really great bands that have shown that kind of promise. I think it’s a concern.”

You see, when you detach yourself from the streets and live in your ivory tower, you don’t see what is happening at ground zero.

Five Finger Death Punch is going GOLD in a tough sales market. They have great numbers in relation to YouTube views and Spotify streams. Their albums have been selling up to the point of when their new one is released. Think about that for a second. Five Finger Death Punch has consistently moved units of their albums every week since 2007. Now compare that to Dream Theater whose new album is already dead and buried after four weeks.

Shinedown are doing super numbers in relation to sales, YouTube views and Spotify streams. They have certifications left, right and centre.

Avenged Sevenfold released a progress is derivative album that is also doing great numbers. In addition, they do super numbers on the live circuit

Black Veil Brides has achieved so much with their first three albums as well as other bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Alter Bridge, Killswitch Engage, Volbeat and so on.

Will we have the superstars of the Eighties and Nineties again? Of course not, it is a different time today, however you can’t tell me that the bands mentioned above don’t have a certain superstar status at the moment.

Will they headline the major festivals? Probably not, because no one really likes festivals any more. The festivals are on their way out. They just don’t know it yet.

“Because of things like iTunes and streaming and social networking, it’s destroyed music. It’s destroyed the motivation to go out there and really make the best record possible. It’s a shame.”

With all the information we get on our favourite artists these days, it makes us realise that our heroes are complete idiots. Kirk just doesn’t understand change. It’s constant.

Kirk’s comments are no different to the comments from other dinosaurs like Jon Bon Jovi, Scott Ian, Duff McKagan, Yngwie Malmsteen, Thom Yorke and David Byrne. Railing against the Internet, Spotify and iTunes and complaining about payments and the lack of motivation to record new music. 

Let’s get one thing clear. Music today can be made for next to nothing. That is why we have so many releases in the market place. Competition for listener’s attention is sky-high. Everybody who records something believes we should pay attention.

Kirk Hammett wants to go back to the Eighties, to a time when bands had to have a record deal to record their music. Kirk Hammett wants fans of his music to buy the whole Metallica album just to find out it was garbage (like ReLoad, St Anger) or for a few songs (like Load).  

If that is the motivation that Kirk Hammett and Metallica needs to record, then they can just give up right now.

It never used to be that way. Metal and rock artists never complained. They always ADAPTED. 

Do you hear Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk, Mumford and Sons, Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Eminem, Halestorm, Killswitch Engaged, Alter Bridge, Slash or Avenged Sevenfold going on a rant about not wanting to make new music or that it is just too tough out there and no one can make it?

Could it be that most people are just not interested in new Metallica music? As Lars said in a Hot Metal interview from June 1992, that I posted earlier. The numbers they are getting for the Black album, will not be eclipsed or bettered.

Could it be that the Napster stigma is still around? The image of Lars Ulrich holding 500 pages of user names that traded in Metallica music is still fresh in people’s minds. 

The comments in relation to streaming are just wrong. Streaming is competing with PIRACY. How is that not good? With Spotify around it just doesn’t make sense to steal. It pays the artist when their music gets played and it pays the artist forever. A sale of an album is just a one stop transaction that inflates the NOW and when you start talking about the NOW, you are thinking like a Record Label.

If Kirk Hammett and Metallica or any artist out there wants to make money from recorded music, they need to find a way to get people to purchase a Spotify Premium account.

Spotify has a mission to have over 20 million premium customers. This will allow artist to take years out to record their masterpieces. Instead of working with the technology, they talk in riddles against it. 

We are living in the golden age of music access. The history of recorded music is at our fingertips and that is a good thing. Finally, there is plan in place to monetize it. If you want to monetize, you need to keep creating.

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

The War Between Streaming and Black Box Revenue – Will The Record Labels Kill The Streaming Star?

The public has voted. It prefers streaming. The war is over. Case Closed. Maybe not.

Spotify pays millions to copyright holders. Now unless the artist is a DIY artist who controls their own copyright, most of the copyright holders are the major labels. So if the major labels are getting the millions each year for the blanket license to access their catalogues, where is that money going.

There is a term doing the round, called “Black Box Revenue.” This is the name given to income that the record labels collect that cannot be directly tracked to the recordings of a specific artist.

To put it all into context, streaming services pay the labels and upfront fee to access their catalogues. In addition, they then pay the labels royalties for each stream.

In time, this streaming system will be challenged by artists, much the same way the mp3 sales system was challenged by Eminem and other artists like Whitesnake, Rob Zombie and the band White Zombie.

In all of these cases, the artists said that their record label violated their contracts by counting a digital download as a sale instead of a licensing. Most artists get a royalty of 10 percent for the sale of a CD, minus a lot of deductions, while licenses pay a royalty of 50 percent and in most cases are not subject to any deductions.

When the same thing happens to the labels streaming revenue, the long-term viability of streaming services will be less than certain.

The main part of streaming that the critics and the record labels fail to understand is that it is a tool that is in place now, to PROVIDE REVENUE STREAMS later.

Of course the record labels and the executives in charge are all about the NOW, and a lot of their label rosters are designed for the NOW, so they don’t have time to allow things to grow. Spotify is growing in users, however the company still hasn’t made a profit after so many years in operation. The streaming system employed by the record labels that I mentioned above doesn’t allow it to make a profit.

Spotify wants to reduce piracy to ZERO. At the moment the critics of Spotify like Thom Yorke are complaining that it simply doesn’t pay enough. The truth is, creators have always been ripped off. However, if a song is great and it gets some traction, expect it to pay well.

Daft Punk passed 100 million downloads. The $700,000 that comes with that in streaming payments is enough for a band to live off, however artists see very little of the dollars paid to the record labels for the right to stream their content.

However with YouTube dominating in music, why do people need Spotify? Actually, Thom Yorke has no issues with YouTube, an unofficial streaming platform which is interesting. So I am thinking that Thom Yorke’s issue is with the record labels stake in Spotify.

Personally, I am quite content to listen to three songs on Spotify and get an ad break. I have no interest in paying for a package even if Spotify caps the limit of free songs I can listen to in a month. I will just move to YouTube when that happens, or to my iTunes library or to my physical collection of LP’s and CD’s.

What about the songwriters who write the songs? How do they get paid in the streaming age. It’s simple. They get paid, the same way everyone else gets paid that provides a service. Songwriters need to stop being greedy. What they need to do is hand in the song, get paid the agreed monies and off they go, writing more songs for artists. If a songwriter gets paid $1000 for each song they hand in, then they know they need to write 50 songs in order to earn $50,000. If one of the songs gets traction and gets 100 million streams, the songwriters should be using that as a piece of promotion and up their song writing fee. It’s simple business practices.

It is a revolution that we are experiencing.

Musicians can still make a living. Is it harder now compared to the past? My answer is NO. Musicians always had to work hard to get somewhere, that part hasn’t changed and it will never change.

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

Create The Undeniable Song – It Will Sell

I am listening to “Are You Gonna Go My Way” today, the third studio album by American rock musician Lenny Kravitz, released in 1993.

It’s funny that after all this time I still like only 3 songs from the CD, which are “Believe”, “Sister” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way” in that order. There is also a track called “All My Life” that appeared on some bonus CD’s or as a B-side that is also up there. However, to hear all of the songs mentioned, I had to purchase the record label “promotional tool”; the good ol’ expensive CD.

That is why the album went multi-platinum everywhere.

Consumers of music had to purchase 10 to 14 songs, just to hear 4 to 5 songs. Of course we could have purchased the singles, however at $7 a single (that was the price in 1993), why spend $14 on two songs, when for $20 (on sale) or $27 (as a new release) you could buy the album.

I actually purchased the album for the song “Believe”. That is a great song and a dead sit hit in my book. When that lead break cuts in at the end, along with the strings, it’s goose bumps all the way.

The album went Gold (U.S) in May, 1993, three months after its release. By June, 1993, it was certified Platinum (U.S). By January, 1995, it was certified 2x Multi-Platinum. If you look at Kravitz’s most recent certification, it is for a single. How times have changed?

I don’t want to pay for a batch of songs I don’t like anymore. I didn’t used to be this way. I lived for music.

Misguided people think that piracy ruined the recorded business. What they don’t realize is that most people didn’t want the album/CD. People wanted that unique track. When the CD came and the record labels started charging us a fortune for it, albums suddenly became very long.

Instead of getting 35 to 45 minutes of music every year, we started to get 50 to 70 minutes of music every two to three years.

So the recording business saw the large profit margins and just kept on marching along with the overpriced CD’s business model, using MTV to push and promote the artists. So when people got the option to download, to cherry pick what they wanted to hear, a whole new market place was born.

We didn’t have to pay attention to what the major labels pushed on us anymore or any other label for that matter, because we started to have options. Today, we have options galore. That is why there will not be any super stars like there used to be. Competition in the market place diluted the record sales.

When I see artists like Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich complaining about Spotify, I just shake my head. Thom and Nigel have to be real damn great just to have a little bit more than a tiny audience today. The old paradigm of fans purchasing CD’s that had a lot of filler because very little content was available is over.

To stand out today, artists like Thom and Nigel have got to be incredible. Protest The Hero went via Indiegogo to raise funds for “Volition”. Their goal was $125K and they ended up getting over $341,146 USD from a fan base of 8361 fans. I gave $50. A small audience that was happy to spend money.

The report from the “London School of Economics” called “Copyright & Creation: A Case for Promoting Inclusive Online Sharing” hits the nail on the head. Online piracy is not hurting the music industry. It has put a dent in recorded music sales, however that was inevitable with the shift in technology, the over saturated marketplace and the years of fan abuse by pushing overpriced CD’s. It’s simple economics. There is so much supply and the fans of music demand only what is great.

There is an argument from certain song writers that since people began downloading music without paying, royalties for them have dried up. Some have even had to take full-time jobs. Big deal is what I say. If you are a songwriter, then write more songs and better ones. Copyright was never designed to be a pension fund.

The bottom line is this – if the artist creates that undeniable song, they will have no problems selling it. The song will sell itself. I parted with $27 back in 1993 for the song “Believe.”

Looking at all the certifications around the world from the industry bodies, one thing is certain. The singles are dominating. So all those metal and rock bands spending years and dollars on a long player are doing it wrong.

Even Metallica now, have single Platinum certifications from songs that were released on their first five albums.

The following songs were given a GOLD certification by the RIAA (U.S) on December 13, 2012.

  • For Whom The Bell Tolls
  • Fade To Black
  • The Unforgiven
  • Master Of Puppets
  • Nothing Else Matters
  • One
  • Enter Sandman (was also given a Platinum certification for both digital and physical singles)
  • The Day That Never Comes
  • Until It Sleeps

Five albums are presented in the above list that ranges from 1983 to 2008.

We don’t need new laws to provide better protection for artist copyright. We need artists to create great tracks. We need laws that reduce copyright and puts the focus back on the Public Domain.

We don’t need to encourage internet service providers to make their customers do the right thing. We need to give customers a reason to buy.

If the customers have that reason, then they will buy.

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

Music Business Is A Tough Gig. By the way so is every other business.

What does the recent Jay Z and Samsung deal mean for the rock and metal community?

In the immortal words of Dark Helmet from Spaceballs, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Jay-Z is one of those artists that wants to be paid RIGHT NOW. He is in the mainstream right now and married to another mainstream personality in Beyoncé. The album is certified platinum before it is even released due to the digital download deal with Samsung. This is where it was made available for free to all Samsung customers via the Jay Z Magna Carta app.

How many of those Samsung customers are actual Jay Z fans? How many of those Samsung customers will go out and spend money on Jay Z? When artists want to be paid right now, there is no connection between artist and fan. It’s all about the dollars. My friend at work is a Samsung customer and he downloaded the album because it is free. In the end, this is all about money and nothing to do about having a career.

That is what the metal heads and rock heads want. A career. It doesn’t have to be a career where the yearly salary is a million dollars. We want just a simple career where we can make between $60 to $80K like all the other occupations, however in this we are doing what we love. We want just enough so that we can compete in the housing market, be considered for loans and so forth. We don’t need to keep up with the Kardashians, the Beyoncé’s and the Jay Z’s.

Once upon a time, it used to be clear to the fans that artists created music and that Record Labels were looking to profit from this relationship with the artists. These days, the new artists are the tech heads. The technologists lead the way by creating and it is the artists that want to profit at every turn from it. The artists are starting to become the businessmen/women of the record label era.

Look at the recent Twitter rant of Thom Yorke from Radiohead. According to the gospel of Yorke, there is no incentive for new artists as they cannot make any money due to Spotify. He more or less claims that no new artists can be discovered via Spotify or make a living from Spotify. Hey Thom, Imagine Dragons is a new artist. Look at their numbers on Spotify. Even though they are not making a living off the royalties from Spotify, this tool has allowed them to spread their music to a world-wide audience, which in turn is seeing their album sales go up. Go figure that. People are purchasing albums, when the songs are available for free.

So what does Thom do? He pulls Atom of Peace and his solo work from Spotify. Maybe that is a good thing, as we don’t have time for sub-standard anymore. Hell, Thom Yorke should even blow up at Napster.

The reason why Napster exploded 13 years ago was because it was all about the community and the convenience. Napster was never about the money and it was never about the ‘free’. The fans of music spoke out loudly on how they wanted to consume their music and how they wanted to interact with it. The power brokers still haven’t listened. Today there is still no service that provided those two things the way Napster did.

Artists wrote songs for a cause or a purpose. There was always a war to fight against someone, either against the establishment, the parents or a real war. The sad reality these days is that more and more artists are thinking about the payment instead of the creative process. It’s tough making a living in the music business. That is the bottom line. Just the same way it is tough making a living in any other business.

I work nine to five and get paid a yearly salary. I am meant to work 38 hours a week, however the company encourages us to spill some blood for them which normally means putting in longer hours just so that we can be considered for a bonus. It is a tough gig, and it is a tough way to make a living as well. The music business is no different. Making money in any occupation is a tough business.

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

You Don’t Know Me, But You Will…. From Controversy, Popularity Is Born

I watched Fast 6 the other day, and the final additional scene had me all pumped up. For those that haven’t seen it, I will not spoil it, however it sets up Fast and Furious 7 very nicely. The final words said in the movie, are the words of the villain, “you don’t know me, but you will……..”

Isn’t that what every musician wants. To be known.

So how does it came to be, that the villains end up known to the world and the ones that do real good are forgotten. Does the world at large know the names of the police officers that captured the Boston Bombers? Does the world know the names of the victims that died in the bombing? The answer is NO, however everyone knows about the Bomber brothers, their family links to Chechnya and so forth. Even Rolling Stone has glorified the bombers with their recent front page issue. By doing this, Rolling Stone has sent social media into meltdown.

David Draiman and Nikki Sixx are two rockers leading the outcry against Rolling Stone. It looks like the Rolling Stone magazine is taking the “you don’t know me (or maybe forgot about me), but you will “mantra to heart. Once upon a time Rolling Stone mattered. Today, Rolling Stone is a dead magazine. They needed to do something shocking like Rammstein did with the Pussy video to bring their name back into the mainstream. You can’t get more shocking than putting a terrorist bomber on the front cover, regardless of what kind of story you are trying to sell. The wounds are too fresh.

Another person looking for publicity is Thom Yorke from Radiohead. He has gone onto a Twitter rampage against Spotify and what they pay artists. For those people that didn’t know about Spotify, they sure know about it right now. Every mainstream news story has picked up the story and run with it. Every blog is talking about it, including this one right now.

Thom Yorke on the other hand, should write great quality music as a solo artist and take control of his own catalogue of music. That way he will know exactly what Spotify pays him, instead of waiting for the statements that the labels give him. It’s funny to look back and read stories about how Thom Yorke and Radiohead was praised for releasing an album under a “pay what you want” model. From this recent outburst, it is clear that Thom wasn’t expecting fans to pay nothing for it, however they did. That is why they never tried that model again.

The big grey area that hangs over Spotify is the lack of transparency over the payments made to the labels, because in order for Spotify to operate in the US, the labels wanted a 50% share in the company.

One thing is clear from all of the above, from controversy, popularity is born.

Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career at the beginning was all about controversy. The dove and bat biting incidents, the tragic death of Randy Rhoads, the drinking and partying which lead to the Alamo incident, the court cases about backward messaging on the song Suicide Solution and the drugs.

Motley Crue built a career from controversy with their sexual innuendos, the pentagram on Shout At The Devil, their partying and drug taking lifestyles which lead to the tragic death of Razzle at the hands of an intoxicated Vince Neil and the death and rebirth of Nikki Sixx.

Even Dream Theater experienced controversy when in a Guitar World interview circa 1994, certain musicians from the grunge / alternative scene blasted John Petrucci for playing with no feeling. Since Petrucci responded gracefully that he likes the music that those bands do, all it did was divert people’s attention to Dream Theater.

Did anyone in the mainstream world know that Black Metal existed? Of course the fans of the style did, however it was just a niche. Then churches started to burn and people started to die. So the Black Metal movement is all over the news.

From the Napster controversy, the people got to know that you can find and download mp3’s of music that you liked, from people that had similar tastes. 13 years later, people are still downloading. From the Napster controversy, the people got to know who the RIAA is and how corrupt they really are. Throughout the years, the RIAA popularity as a corrupt organisation has grown tenfold. From the Napster controversy, everyone got to know Lars Ulrich and Metallica. For better or for worse, Metallica had fully become embedded with mainstream media and pop culture. Press Organisations that never reported on Metallica, suddenly where reporting on Metallica.

Metallica in 2013 is now the biggest metal band there is. Did the Napster controversy hurt Metallica? My answer is No it didn’t. It made them bigger, it spread their name out across all the corners of the world and most importantly it made their music available to everyone.

As an artist, that is your mission statement. Your music needs to be available to everyone. It is not about money right now.

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