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

Thoughts on Streaming, Longevity and Access to Music

“Rock bands were only supposed to last around 5 years. The Beatles, as far as Americans knew them, were only around for 7 years and that seemed like an eternity to the millions of musicians that they inspired, many of which became famous rock stars themselves.”
Jay Jay French 

Once upon a time, that was the case. All of the good Seventies band had more or less finished up or turned into bad imitations of themselves by the early Eighties. Some of the musicians went onto successful or not so successful solo careers.

  • Eagles
  • Deep Purple
  • ELP
  • Yes
  • Bad Company
  • Led Zeppelin
  • UFO
  • Aerosmith
  • Kiss
  • Pink Floyd
  • Kansas
  • Alice Cooper

Throughout it all, the world was changing.

People suddenly had access to more credit than ever before. Their wages increased at an astronomical rate. Ownership of music became a big thing as MTV put our heroes into our lounge rooms.  On the heels of this new cultural phenomenon, suddenly there was more money to spend on entertainment products.

So what do all of these bands do?

They reformed. It didn’t matter if it was with the original band members (if that was possible at all) or with different musicians. The labels would bring in extra songwriters.

Aerosmith cashed in. So did Alice Cooper. So did Kiss. Desmond Child and Jim Vallance proved to be songwriters most hard rock bands started to use.

Suddenly we had rock bands lasting 20 years, then 30 years and in 2015 we have rock bands that have lasted 40 years.

But, it is the fans of music that made it all happen.

The fans of music made the record labels rich and the fans of music are the ones that ruined the record labels business models that relied on physical sales.

It is the fans of music that turned Spotify and streaming into a billion dollar industry. That’s the power of the people.

We will play the same song over and over again for decades and under the new model we are generating cash for the streaming service who then pass 70% of it on to the rights holders, which in all cases are the record labels and the publishing companies (who are also owned by the record labels). $4.5 billion dollars have been paid by Spotify and Pandora in royalties. All of that has gone to the record labels or to entities controlled by the record labels. You can see why songwriters are frustrated. Where’s all that money going?

Regardless, when it comes to consuming music and what price should be charged, the people have spoken.

The people decide what is of value and what it wants to pay for something. And artists’ should do everything they can to hook them into a new system or their system.

Look at Coheed and Cambria. I am hooked into the way they release their albums with the Super Deluxe Editions, instant digital downloads and VIP membership.

Remember when the book publishers said that e-books are undervalued and people must pay more. Did they ever think that the people don’t want to pay more?

Amazon finally relented and gave the publishers a chance to set their own prices. So what do the publishers do, they set the e-book price the same as a hardcover price. So the people screamed “Rip off” and E-book sales tanked.

Apple Music launches and it has no free tier after the three months sweetener. By default Apple along with the record labels are excluding people and to really succeed, streaming services like the artists need to hook in the casual users. Fans will always pay top dollar. But casual listeners are important as well. Spotify, Pandora and YouTube are at least servicing these listeners.

In the end the recording industry, along with the artists need to get more people paying for streaming. The bigger the streaming pool, the bigger the payouts, as long as the record labels are honest.

But that works by first exposing people to the service. It could take 3 months, 6 months, 12 months or years before people lay out cash. Instead, the labels put a high fee on licensing and then they want streaming services to raise the price immediately.

Did everyone miss the memo?

Music has completely changed. Once upon a time, songs would be sent out to radio or a video would be sent to MTV, with the hope that people would be hooked in enough to go to the record store and buy the album. It was all about monetizing up front. Today, songs are available instantly and monetization comes last. First comes attention. If people are checking something out, and if it sticks…it will grow.

“I think this is the new millennium Number of the Beast. That was one of our best albums and the follow-up to that (Piece of Mind) was probably the best of the lot of them. It has something for everybody. Take Speed of Light, for instance. It is the old Maiden. That intro is a testimony to Deep Purple.”
Nicko McBrain – Iron Maiden drummer

I purchased the album, however I didn’t hear it on CD. As a collector, the CD went straight on the shelf. Through the magic of the internet and Spotify, I can hear the album without paying for it. Isn’t that a better outcome than keeping the music locked up behind paywalls?

If people like it, they will spread the word.

If people like it, they will pay for the CD, pay for the vinyl, or pay to get a higher quality stream.

This is the new world, everything is different now.

The charts are irrelevant, while listens are in. If you don’t believe me, then have a look at the paltry sales that lead to a number one album in Australia.

More people are accessing music through streaming and that is a very good thing. Has anyone heard Iron Maiden complaining about their box office returns after each show, or the fact that they are one of the bands that has huge P2P traffic. It takes a non-rocker to sum up the effect of people accessing music easily.

“I’m playing three Wembley Stadium (shows) on album two. I’m playing sold-out arena gigs in South America, Korea, south-east Asia and Australia. I don’t think I’d be able to do that without Spotify or if people hadn’t streamed my music. My music has been streamed 860 million times, which means that it’s getting out to people. I get a percentage of my record sales, but it’s not a large percentage, (whereas) I get all my ticket sales, so I’d much rather tour. That’s why I got into the business — I love playing gigs. Recording albums, to me, is a means to an end. I put out records so I can tour. For me, Spotify is not even a necessary evil. It helps me do what I want to do.”
Ed Sheeran

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

Trying Something New and Creative To Engage With Fans

This whole buying shares in a song has been going around for decades, especially in the heyday of record label monopolies. The basic premise at that time was that people would buy shares in a song and then any earnings the song makes goes back to the shareholders.

Fast forward to today and Testament is offering up a chance for the fans to purchase shares in the song “Native Blood”. If they sell every single offering they will have raised $57,000 in capital.

However, while the offering is promoted like a Company IPO Share Offer, it is nothing of the sort. It’s all smoke and mirrors. The fans of the band are buying memorabilia. The band is using the connection that a fan might have with the song as its selling point. Being a shareholder on the “Native Blood” song will not entitle you to any royalty payments (provided that a thrash band with a cult status who make their money from touring would get any) however it will give you a chance to buy limited edition merchandise later on.

An artist music and career is a brand and brands aren’t built in a day. Testament has been at for a while. In the beginning they had some growth initially however that didn’t mean that they made it. Music is a competitive industry and consumers are becoming harder to reach. Every business brand is faced with the same problem. Bands and artist are no different to small businesses.

The difference is if the artist is NOT prepared to find creative ways to reach their fans than complacency will bring about the end. So Testament is trying new creative ways to engage with fans, but it’s still based on the one way model of selling something. But by always going back to the old product selling paradigm is precisely the way to go out of business today.

Markets are always changing and fans of music are always changing. What we value as important is changing and what we want to own is changing. I grew up with the focus to have a house and a car. My kids are growing up with the focus to have the latest tech and live at home.

The fans of music spoke out loud with Napster 15 years ago.

WE WANT ACCESS TO MUSIC.

And what does the recording industry and bands do? They fail to keep pace with the changing demands, values and needs of their fans. They chose to hang onto the past and in 2014 they are left wondering where their fans and profits went.

If we want more proof about the sales model for music slowly fading, look no further than all the MP3 stores that are either being killed off or reporting losses. In Australia, BigPond music was operated by our largest ISP, Telstra and they have now shut it down, focusing on MOG, their streaming service which is trying to compete against Spotify. They get it, consumer behaviour is changing, and Spotify has led the way in providing a service that responds to this shift and has had much success doing so to date.

For bands and artists to prosper they need to do things differently. They need to be genuine and willing to connect with their fans. The fans in the end want transparency, not smoke and mirrors. James Hetfield might cringe at the “Some Kind Of Monster” documentary, however that visual and transparent footage of a massive act breaking apart was touching and moving. Hell, there are people at Metallica shows today that have never purchased a Metallica album.

The value of the recorded music product is not the value that it once was. What is valuable is the service and the partnership. That is why we are living in the era of sharing and access. Sharing provided the service that the fans of music wanted. Which was access all along.

And when will artists learn that partnerships are absolutely key to ensure sustainable growth. If small businesses do it, why can’t artists do it. But everybody lives by selling something. So even though I don’t agree with Testament’s song share plan offer and the lack of transparency around it, they are trying something different which for a metal band that goes back into the era of Eighties is good to see.

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