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

When Did Music Become About “Keeping Your Eye On The Money”?

Starting a band or trying to forge a career in the music industry is difficult. We all know that we have to start somewhere. I had no expectations of MTV stardom, fame and riches. For me music is a need to create something. I like to draw, write music, write lyrics, write short stories, take photos and so on. So I was never deluded that just because I started on a path in the music business that I deserved to be successful.

It’s funny when I think back, but when I started out with bands, the main talking point was distribution.

How do we make our music available?

Today I shake my head that all the talk is about money, streaming royalties, etc.

Now that the distribution problem has been solved, everyone believes that if they write a song and put it out on all the platforms, they should be a star. Guess they don’t know that 20 million songs on Spotify have never been heard.

Thinking about getting paid from the start is wrong. In music, you get ripped off a lot of times before you make any money, provided that you are still around to capitalise. Which doesn’t always happen, as people need to get a full-time job to support their life choices.

Gettin’ ripped off
Gettin’ sold
Second hand
That’s how it goes
Playin’ in a band

Then arguments come about like; “our music is ten times better than the crap on the Top 40”. Artists forrget that the most important thing is to have a track and an online presence.

Once you start talking about the Top 40 at band practice or to your peers, then you need to make music like the Top 40 and that means you need to get onto radio and all of the other old school distribution outlets.

Of course there are outliers; bands or artists that don’t make Top 40 music, however they have the songs, the charisma and the movement of a whole scene behind them, that ends up gaining traction and penetrates the Top 40.

These kind of artists have been off the grid for that long, they have figured out their act, built their fan base and have the experience on the board. You see when you are an outlier from the Top 40, you are constantly building up your fan base and gaining traction a little bit at a time. Your selling your merchandise. You are constantly releasing new songs as your fans demand it. You get your fans to invest in you. You are selling thousands of tickets to your shows.

A listener is someone who hears a song and then moves on the next one. A fan is someone who presses repeat over and over again after hearing your song. A listener will not invest in you, however a fan will, when they feel like it.

Remember, that music is a business and everyone wants to make money. So they look to the artists who can make them some money. And that is the problem the artists have. The majority of artists don’t really know what they are worth and when you add all of the competition they face to get a listener’s attention, the first thing that gets reduced is the value an artist places on themselves.

One more thing.

An artist could have all of the above, but that doesn’t mean that they are rich. All of those years of hard work means that the artist is still stuck at the starting line. The hard work begins when the artist crosses that line of being a nobody to being a somebody that some people have heard of.

That one last step to success is a giant chasm that is never crossed for many.

The music an artist creates is still the key, the doorway into their career. Good is no longer good enough. It’s always been about the best songs.

I dare anyone to name me all of the tracks on “Theatre of Pain” from Motley Crue or all of the tracks on the “The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell” albums from Five Finger Death Punch or all of the tracks on the “House Of Gold and Bones” albums from Stone Sour or all of the tracks from “Super Collider” or “Endgame” or “Th1rt3en” from Megadeth. As much as we are fans of those bands, we still want the best from them.

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.