A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Michael Poulsen

We all come from different bands, mainly death metal bands and punk bands. So we’ve been in the scene for many years since the ’90s. I released my first demo with my first death metal band in 1991 or something. I also released four albums for a death metal band called Dominus back in the day. My song writing was kind of changing. It turned into be a little bit more rock songs. It seemed like all the inspiration that I had from my parents when they were playing their records from the ’50s got to me in a way that when I was writing, I wanted to include that ’50s feeling in my song writing. That came very naturally. But I just wanted to keep a distorted sound from the guitars and the pounding drums.
Michael Poulsen 

Volbeat started to break into the U.S market in 2010 on the back of their “Death Magnetic” opening slot. But the journey to fame/success or world-wide recognition started a long time ago. Almost 20 years before their U.S breakthrough. It started in a totally different scene and in a different continent.

A million bands will start-up today, however a very small amount will stick it out and become lifers in the game of music. And from the lifers who stick it out, an even smaller amount will end up rising above the noise and get some recognition. And even a smaller amount will make some serious money from it.

It turned into a very unique thing where we combined a lot of different styles. We kept the distorted sound, but you could definitely hear inspiration from a lot of the rock music of the ’50s, as well heavier music from the ’70s and ’80s. When you mix all that together, it becomes Volbeat. We never really branded the band in a certain style or direction. It was all about just playing. I think that led us to being who we are today. For us, it’s not important to be 100% metal or 100% rock ‘n’ roll or anything. It’s music, and we’re inspired by so many different styles and bands. You can hear that in the Volbeat music.
Michael Poulsen 

What an awesome concept!!

To take what came before as influence and use it to create something that is different. And the borrowing from different eras and cultural appropriation is what music is all about.

I also like how it’s seen as “Volbeat’s music” and not some term that came from a record label rep or a magazine editor. For those that don’t know, record companies (in most cases) came up with the terms that bands got labelled with. For example, Nikki Sixx is very vocal on Twitter about how “a record company came up with the derogatory term “hair metal” so they could sell new metal rock to a new generation.

A lot of metal histories try to track back the movement of heavy metal to a single artist. In most cases they pick the artist who had the most success. However like any popular invention, it is a combination of many little things. The first Apple Mac didn’t just come from nowhere without any influences. It was an amalgamation of products from other companies with some new additions and interface tweaks courtesy of Wozniack and Jobs. And music is no different. Music is a combination of influences with a few little tweaks here and there.

When you look at metal history, you don’t see a lot of black musicians listed there as influences, yet the whole metal movement was heavily reliant on the blues in those early formative days. Black Sabbath, the band seen as the first metal band, covered blues songs as Earth. But when you look at the written history of Black Sabbath, the writers talk about the blues of white musicians as influences to Sabbath. They talk about the influence of classical music to Black Sabbath which again is mainly written by white people.

The Beatles played Blues, Soul, Motown and Rock and Roll covers in their early days, made up predominantly of black artists. So did Black Sabbath. Hell, the Beatles even took a Chuck Berry song and called it “Come Together”.

Robert Johnson is cited as a large influence to Keith Richards who was introduced to his music by Brian Jones. Eric Clapton worshipped at the altar of Johnson and many years later, re-recorded all of Johnson’s classics. Howlin Wolf had a lot of songs covered by many white artists across many different genres.

We were sacrificing a lot of stuff in the beginning like jobs, education, girlfriends. Being away from family. And it was just to dedicate ourselves to the road and all the hard work there is to be an active band, to survive. We’re from that generation where we built everything up. There was no internet, no mobiles. It was old-school and I’m very proud of that. That could be part of why we’re still around. We earned our stripes.
Michael Poulsen 
Paying your dues and building up experiences matter. Esepcially when it comes to creativity. The pain of loss manifests itself into art. The happiness of life ends up as a song and so forth.

Today, bands are so eager to get the attention, to get the success, before the work. I’m not a fan of that. I think there are too many youngsters who concentrate too much on the success before they actually concentrate on the music. The music is what it’s all about, and it has to come straight from the heart. We started playing in small bars and it was never because we wanted to be a successful band. We just wanted to do something. We wanted to belong somewhere. Friendship, brotherhood. And it just escalated. Somehow we got bigger and bigger, and the success came. So success was never the important thing for us. It came along and of course it feels good now and we do embrace it. But there’s a lot of stuff we don’t do because we still want it to be about the music. There are lot of TV programs in Denmark where we were getting offers to be on every f—–g day. All the commercials. But we turned it all down because it’s not the reason why we started a band. We’re very aware of not overdoing anything that is Volbeat. We want to be on the road, we want to make records and we want to earn the right to be successful. And we did that from the very beginning. So I can only say that too many young bands concentrate on success before they concentrate on the music. They will fail because that’s not what music is all about.
Michael Poulsen 

We’re living in the social media connection revolution. With so many people connected to each other and everyone building monuments of their lives online, young artists believe success is around the corner. Music is seen as a way to become successful. But if you get in the game with the mindset to be successful over creative, you will not last. Your success is based on your creations. Your success is based on your experiences and your community. It’s easy to license your music to TV shows and Commercials. It’s seen as a way to make easy money for a lot of artists. But then your music turns into a jingle. At least you got paid, right.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

2016

2016 will be seen as the year when the populations of the world, fresh from dealing or seeing terror hit their streets, decided to enforce change with their vote. Whatever side of the fence people sat, it was shown in major countries that the major cities and the governments are out of touch with the rest of their country. When people voted in 2016, it was a protest against the last 30 years of democracy and how the ruling classes became richer while the middle classes became poorer.

Megadeth kicked the year off with “The Threat Is Real” and it sure was. Megadeth released the better album this year, however Metallica’s “Hardwired To Self Destruct” would be more popular.

The messiah or mass murderer
No controlling who comes through the door
THE THREAT IS REAL – Megadeth

The shepherd led, we blindly followed
Into the world of no tomorrow
THE ENDLESS KNOT – Haken

Tyrants overtaking intoxicate with lies
There is no escaping, not this time
The simple man receiving, defending every crime
Somehow still believing they are right
THE LAST HERO – Alter Bridge

Omnipresent endless knot
The architect of every thought
Through the prison walls made by your design
A chameleon hides behind Orwellian eyes
THE ARCHITECT – Haken

We give up more of our liberties and privacy, but how secure are we?

For all the spying our governments do, they have no idea when an event will happen. Sure, they might identify persons of interest and then what. No one stopped the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels but somehow the mainstream media and the police read and believed the fake news sites on the internet.

We will grow strong from this
We will not be defeated
However hard they try
Over and over and over a thousand times
RISE OF THE MELANCHOLY EMPIRE – Sixx A.M.

With hands held high, we can rule the world
RULE THE WORLD – Dee Snider

It’s a call to arms for the “good” people of the world to band together and defeat the “bad” people of the world.

When terrorist bombs go off, the lines between good and bad are clear, we are the good ones and the terrorists are the bad ones. During the U.S election lead up, Trump was portrayed as the bad one and Hillary as the good one by the mainstream media. The fact that over half of the country voted for him, does it mean that all of those people are bad.

The bottom line is everyone is clueless and the future is exactly that, with endless possibilities and outcomes.

So together we’ll build a new world
A better world
OUR NEW WORLD – Dream Theater

But for all of Petrucci’s clichés, the world is much more complex. Robb Flynn asked “Is Anybody’s Out There” that feels just like him. One simple song, with two powerful verses addressing abandonment and racism.

Now I stand as a father, to men with no honor
Ashamed of the racists I used to call brothers
Cause no flag can mean bravery,
when bloodied by slavery,
The rebel, a devil, disguised as a savior
IS ANYBODY OUT THERE? – Machine Head

And he didn’t stop there. After Trump’s election win, he released (via YouTube) an acoustic song called “Bastards”. A simple D to A to Bm to G chord progression, underpins some personal viewpoints about the state of his world. And “Bastards” generated some heated discussions amongst the Machine Head fans, especially the ones who voted for Trump.

I am disconnected from a system I’ve rejected.
ALONE WE STAND – Killswitch Engage

A sign of things to come with Brexit, Trump and the Italian referendum serving as perfect examples of the disconnected people rejecting the current systems in place.

  • And the system allows Volkswagen to cheat on their emissions tests.
  • And the system allows the banks to get away with running the country into the dirt.
  • And the system allows lobbyists to lobby/bribe elected officials into writing laws to benefit corporate profits.
  • And the system allows the CEO’s to scream help to the government for a bail out, while the people, the workers, need to sell because they lost their jobs or they can’t make repayments.

I’ve seen rock bottom and I’ve smashed my fists against it
Just keep telling yourself it will be alright
STRENGTH OF THE MIND – Killswitch Engage

And there’s nowhere to turn
At the end of the road, I can’t hold on
MY ALLIED OCEAN – Evergrey

I’m just a creature of a broken past
We’re all looking for a second chance
PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED – Sixx A.M.

Who hasn’t been there?

You know the moment, when you feel like you are not winning and everything you do just turns to crap. And you cant get out of the rut, because you’re spending your days doing things for others, through obligation or duty to the family. And your life is so far away from the world of possibilities you had when you where young.

Somehow through it all
We carry on (we carry on)
WE CARRY ON – Killswitch Engage

And that’s our lives in a nutshell. We overcome setbacks, deaths in the family, wins and losses. Through it all, we still carry on. We rise.

Speak out, don’t let the status quo define you
This is your world, just put the fear back in their eyes
RISE – Sixx A.M.

Did I decide
Or did the road choose me?
1985 – Haken

Free will is an illusion. We believe we have it, but it ceases to exist when we start to follow the rules set by institutions.

 

Falling from the sky
Cast out from heaven’s light
Drenching the soil with blood
Baptized in the fire hole
THE DEVIL’s BLEEDING CROWN – Volbeat

I always looked for acceptance
I understood what it’s like to be different
PASSING THROUGH – Evergrey

From the day we are born we are looking for acceptance especially those outliers cast out from heaven’s light who do not conform to what the institutions what from them. The key is to stay true to who you are and be accepted and not be the artist who created safe art, looked safe, walked away from their fans to be in partnership with the corporation and so forth.

What have I got to lose
When I’ve already lost it all
PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED – Sixx A.M.

When you’re at the bottom, the only way is up. For a lyric to work for me, the person writing it, has to have experienced it.

It’s the worse when you lose when you know how hard you tried
BELIEVE – Dee Snider

So many times when I was misunderstood
I just wish we had spoken so much sooner
DISTANCE – Evergrey

Life is funny in hindsight and sometimes painful to replay. We all would love to live with no “what if’s” however it never happens that way.

Just like tragedy
Folks line up to see
We forget and the problem’s gone
It just ain’t right to move on
MY LAST MISTAKE – Tremonti

We show outrage initially and then we move on like it never happened. It’s a sick symptom of society where we fail to hold to account, the people responsible for the tragedy. The GFC perps went on college speaking tours and high-five jobs at the financial firms they organised laws to benefit. They escaped unscathed, while the middle class and lower class got their homes foreclosed.

Every time there is a shooting there is outrage, however nothing is done after on gun reform.

For all of the laws passed to spy on citizens in the name of terror, not one terrorist act have they stopped. And after each terrorist attack, our privacy and liberties erode a little bit more.

The people need to hold to account the people responsible. But we cannot devote the time because the people responsible have us hooked line and sinker. We can’t take time of work because the income means more to us than the cause.

Sold my soul and signed my name in blood
Stole it back, now praying in the dark
Fooled the devil, begging for a fight
Count the dollars, make your bet tonight
SEAL THE DEAL – Volbeat

Seduced by fame
A moth into the flame
MOTH INTO FLAME – Metallica

Infamy
All for publicity
Destruction going viral
MOTH INTO FLAME – Metallica

If you wanna lead or be a star
They’ll expose all that you are
Are you sure you want this now?
They will only tear you down
CROWS ON A WIRE – Alter Bridge

Facebook and social media has created a culture wherein everything is on show. Ask yourself the question. Is it fame you want or a career as a musician/artist?

Middle fingers in the air, singing we don’t f….. care, when we say “So What”
SO WHAT – Dee Snider

It’s become the soundtrack to “Standing Rock” in 2016, but it’s been my motto since I got into hard rock/heavy metal music.

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

Score Card Inc

Three years ago in November, 2013, I posted a score sheet on certain artists/trends and how they are dealing with the music business.

Three years later, how are the artists fairing.

Robb Flynn
He still understands that it is not all about making records. From Nov 2013 to now, Robb Flynn via Machine Head, kept on releasing his Journals both video and written. In April, 2014, “Killers and Kings” came out for Record Store Day and the band went on tour. He started a clothing range called “Killers and Kings” that didn’t really take off. In November, 2014, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” came out and the band embarked on a lengthy “An Evening With” world tour. In June 1, 2016, “Is There Anybody Out There?” came out as a stand-alone single.

His connection with his audience runs deep. People either dig him or detest him or some people will not just forget him in an orange jumpsuit during the Nu-Metal phase of the band’s career.

Protest The Hero
Back in 2013, “Protest The Hero” showed how the record labels are so out of touch with its customers. PTH was dropped because the label told them they have no audience. However, a fan funding campaign showed a pretty impressive hard-core audience that was willing to cough up some serious dollars for the band. Even the band was blown away at the response.

And they did it again between Nov 2015 and April 2016 with “Pacific Myth” an innovative one song per month release over six months via Bandcamp. Fans had the option of two packages, and I selected the one that also had the six video releases. In between, the guys would upload drum videos, cooking videos, song transcriptions and what not.

Nikki Sixx
In 2013, he talked about a farewell tour. Well that tour finally happened and concluded in 2015. The Crue fan base didn’t really need one more world tour however, they wanted to finish up in their own way and the world tour is what we got, with a new song called “All Bad Things”. The movie is still in the works, they have their own pleasure toys, a rumour of The Dirt 2, plus lawsuits from photographers and opening bands to contend with. Seriously, squirting piss at a bunch of guys who paid $1 million to be on the tour would always end up in the courts.

With Sixx A.M. he has released an albums worth of music and the next album is coming in a few weeks. They are on tour with Five Finger Death Punch, he does his Sixx Sense Radio Show and he doesn’t like to wash his hands after going to the toilet.

Coheed and Cambria
By November, 2013, COCA had been touring non-stop on the back of “The Afterman” two album releases that came out within a 4 month window. Add to that Comic Con appearances, plus Sci-Fi conventions and appearances in Comic Shops and you get the idea that this band realises that it is not just about music and money. It is about creativity.

Since then, Claude Sanchez became a dad. He wrote more comics with his wife called “Translucid” in 2014 and in 2015 managed to release another slab of songs called “The Color Before The Sun” and go on a another world tour.

Metallica
Back in 2013, I wrote;

They need to make new music soon. There are only so many times that a band can go on a worldwide victory lap on the same piece of music. They need to be back in the studio.

Well, we are almost one week away from that new music hitting the streets and in the meantime, we have been treated to three tracks.
It’s a welcome relief to hear Metallica doing what they do best and I believe they have enough new music in their archives for another album to drop within two years this time, instead of eight.

And after hearing the album – yes it is available on the pirate sites, I can honestly say that it’s not worth the 8 year wait at all and maybe 4 song EP’s is the best way to go.

Dream Theater
I wrote in November 2013, that they need a great record soon or they will become yesterday’s news. Dream Theater has a knack for popping up with some goodies, like “Images and Words”, “Scenes From A Memory”, “Systematic Chaos” and “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”.

So in January 2016, they dropped the 130 minute “Astonishing” concept album, about a dystopian future society. Concept albums lead to different revenue spin offs like a stage play, comic book stories, video games, animations, TV series, a movie and so forth. But then again, Slayer are doing a graphic comic book series and have never done a concept album.

Stone Sour
I wrote in 2013, that something went south with their career trajectory. Of course, a beast called Slipknot would devour the creative forces of the band. Their take on modern metal is good, but with Slipknot getting more melodic, is there a reason for Stone Sour to exist.

Five Finger Death Punch
They have an audience who purchases and streams their product. Along the way, each album has received certifications for so many units moved. An onstage meltdown, a record label lawsuit and then a change of label has not slowed the band down in any way. If they can remain together, they will remain a powerhouse.

Trivium
Back in November, 2013, their new album “Vengeance Falls” was called a Disturbed covers album. The truth is, if people are talking about you, it is a good thing. And that album gave Trivium a concert classic in “Strife”. Since then, they released “Silence In The Snow” in 2015. They are always looking to reinvent themselves constantly while staying true to heavy metal. Plus Matt Heafy has a pretty cool Top 10 list of albums that changed his life.

1. Metallica – The Black Album (1991)
“A kid lent me The Black Album at school and it changed my life. I had never heard anything like it before, and I started playing guitar all the time.”

2. In Flames – Whoracle (1997)
“That was at the time of Napster, and I was into the classic great metal bands. I was on Napster and I found In Flames. I had never heard melodic death metal before, and it changed my ear on what kind of music I wanted to play.”

3. Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975)
“What I’ve always loved about Queen is that they’ve never released the same thing twice. Everything is drastically different while still sounding like Queen. Every song on A Night At The Opera sounds different to the next one and they all stand up as fantastic.”

4. Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988)
“With Iron Maiden it’s hard, because I love so many of their records. They’re all so important. Seventh Son, though, is the one that really got me into Iron Maiden. It’s one of their more epic records; there’s vivid storytelling going on. Getting into Iron Maiden helped me trace the roots of the music that I love. I could see where so many metal, death metal and black metal bands had taken things from.”

5. Ihsahn – Eremita (2012)
“Emperor changed my life, and Ihsahn changed my life again with this album. He spun the idea of black metal on its head by incorporating jazz chords, interesting production and clean singing. That record taught me to never be afraid of making whatever I want to make. We’ve always done that, but this album drove that home for me.”

6. Boston – Boston (1976)
“The vocal production is insane. Everything about this record epitomises the best things of rock ‘n’ roll.”

7. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
“The Beatles blow my mind in the same way that Queen do in that every song and record is so different to the last. Both of those bands have incredible songwriters as well. It’s not like nowadays where you might have one songwriter in a band.”

8. Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (1997)
“This is where Emperor really changed the dynamic of where black metal was going. Black metal was the rebellion to rock and metal, and was supposed to be different. “When there’s a movement like that, a lot of bands come out playing semi-similar music. That record opened up with clean guitar and there’s this classical singing; it has chaotic moments and beautiful moments all in one. Emperor makes such interesting black metal with these big dramatic moments.”

9. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
“Listening to Depeche Mode, you can hear that Rammstein is a combination of Depeche Mode and Metallica. Violator is one of the darkest, scariest records I’ve ever heard. It has this different kind of sadness that you feel in the music.”

10. The London Symphony Orchestra – Mozart’s Requiem (1791)
“The gothic artwork of that record is incredible, and this version for me is just the best. Listening to this, you can hear that out of all contemporary music, metal is the closest living relative to classical. It is the most epic moments of music that have always drawn me in, and I feel that with Mozart’s Requiem that is where you’re getting into the blueprint for everything that was to come.”

Shinedown
They have an audience who want to listen to them and so far, no one’s doing hard rock better than them. Their new album “Threat To Survival” has taken its influences from Adele, Imagine Dragons and other pop artists and they still made it rock hard. Daughtry and James Durbin should take note. Along the way, their fans purchased and streamed all the way to certification after certification.

Avenged Sevenfold
Say what you will about the “influences” on “Hail To The King”, doing that album was a bigger risk for Avenged Sevenfold then their new album and it paid off for them.

Fast forward to 2016, and their new album drops early. It is a creative tour de force but to me it’s already in the rear view. All of the good bits in each song are undone by the creativity of trying to push the boundaries.

Piracy
In 2013, I wrote that piracy is not that large of a problem as the majors and the RIAA make it out to be and with revenues in 2016, approaching the pre-Napster era, it’s further proof that piracy does not affect their bottom lines, especially when there are services out there that can compete with piracy.

Evergrey
The pure definition of perseverance with 20 plus years in the music business and still going strong.

By November 2013, the “new” version of the band that delivered “Glorious Collision” had splintered again and lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund was not sure on the next step. A reconnection with drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage (who departed before “Glorious Collision”) spawned the excellent “Hymns For The Broken” in 2014 and a few months ago, “The Storm Within” builds on the atmospherics created by “Hymns”.

Megadeth
In 2013, Megadeth’s new album “Supercollider” was outsold by Metallica’s self-titled “Black” album. In 2015, Mustaine got his metal chops back and in 2016, “Dystopia” came out. Another Mustaine Resurrection was at hand.

Tremonti/Alter Bridge
Mark Tremonti knows it’s about putting new music out there and consistently. In 2013, we had “Fortress” from Alter Bridge. In 2015, we had “Cauterize” from Tremonti and 2016 has given us, “Dust” from Tremonti and “The Last Hero” from Alter Bridge. In three years, Tremonti has been part of 4 albums while Metallica ……

The Night Flight Orchestra
The best classic rock side project ever from Soilwork and Arch Enemy band members. The first album “Internal Affairs” came out in 2012 and the second “Skyline Whispers” in 2015. Essential listening to any hard rock fans of the 80’s.

Sales
In 2013, I wrote that sales are not the best metric to measure a bands reach and pull in the market. In 2016, listens are more important than sales.

Bullet For My Valentine
By November 2013, people had lost their “Temper Temper” with them, but in 2015, the band found their “Venom” again, which leads us to new music hitting the net in November 2016.

Revolution Saints
In 2013, this band existed in the head of the Frontiers President. In 2015, they released an excellent melodic AOR rock album. So much potential, so many good songs, great musicians and it all went to hell because Castronovo couldn’t keep his 5555t together. Let’s hope that Jack Blades and Doug Aldrich forgive him and they try for another album. This time with the three of them writing.

TesseracT
One of the hardest working progressive bands out there, building their fanbase, city by city. In 2011, they released “One”. In 2013, they released the excellent “Altered State” and in 2015 we got “Polaris”.

Days Of Jupiter
An unsung Swedish melodic groove rock band, that’s a cross between Evergrey and Disturbed. In 2012 they released “Secrets Brought to Life” and in 2015, “Only Ashes Remain” came out.

Sweet and Lynch
Another album would be sweet.

Muse
They play stadiums but they don’t have the same sales figures as the 70’s and 80’s legends. A perfect example of the modern world, in which massive single songs sell concert tickets.

Live
In 2013, I wrote;
Remember the excitement and the buzz of going to the show. It was uncontrollable. Everyone waiting in line to get inside, to watch a band that rules, in an era that music ruled. Today, it is too expensive to take kids to a concert and that is only for a glimpse in the back. This business needs a reset.

Concert ticket prices are still high, especially for the superstar acts. The price gauge happened as an offset to dwindling revenues from recorded sales, however with recorded music revenue now as high as the pre-Napster era, there is no reason for the high concert ticket prices.

Slash
As an artist, he didn’t need to go back to Gunners. He had enough momentum to keep going as a solo artist and with Myles Kennedy, a better front man than Axl Rose. Slash kept on releasing new music consistently, while Duff and Axl complained of piracy and artistically were dead in the water. Money triumphs over creativity and in this case, it’s really sad.

Album
Back in 2013, I wrote how everyone talks about the money that is lost due to piracy as album sales shrink. Back then 20% of the tracks on Spotify have never been played. So what is the point of the album, when people ignore the songs that are not “hits”. When I go to Spotify and I come across an artist I haven’t heard before, I go to their Spotify page and hear the tracks in their top 10 list. Those tracks in most cases are pulled from many different albums.

And if any of those tracks connect with me, I might dig deeper into the album.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Created by their love of metal and rock music and when that same genre put up roadblocks to a career in music, they changed tact and went all flamenco acoustic on the world. Talk about paying their dues and taking risks. They moved from Mexico and took a chance in Europe. Over an 8 year Dublin residence, they honed their style and songs, so when their “official” debut album hit in 2006, what seemed like an overnight sensation was 15 years in the making.

There is nothing more difficult in the world then trying to make it as a musician. You need to show up day after day, week after week, year after year. And your brand or movement might just make some small gains. Then it hits a few speed bumps, like Rodrigo and Gabriela’s metal band losing their recording contract in 1997 and suddenly you are back at the start. But they kept on showing up, on the coast of Mexico and playing their acoustic guitars in the bars. Because showing up day after day, is the hardest part of making a difference. If you look at the history of the artists we like and admire, you will see many years in pursuit of their dreams.

It is a work of a lifetime to create an impact and build something of substance. In 2013, they were riding the highs of their 2012 “Area 52” collaboration, which involved re-working their best songs with a full flamenco band. Then in 2014, “9 Dead Alive” dropped and new music is needed ASAP.

Sebastian Bach/Skid Row
They shouldn’t get back together, because no one cares about Skid Row in the way they used too. They might have a large audience in Japan, like Dokken, but the rest of the “Youth Gone Wild” have moved on. Sebastian Bach is actually bigger than Skid Row and releases way better music than Skid Row have done without him. But, what was he thinking when he approved the photo for his memoir’s cover.

The Kindred
From Canada and the healthy progressive scene. They started off as “Today I Caught The Plague” from the ashes of another band called “A Legend Falls”. In 2011 they released the excellent “Lore” and went on tour with one of my favourite bands in Protest The Hero and their “Scurrilous Tour”. Then in 2013, a name change happened to “The Kindred” and the excellent “Life In Lucidity” came out at the start of 2014.

However, PTH needed a drummer for their “Volition” tour and it was no surprise that they tapped Mike Ieradi (who also co-founded the group) to fill the spot. Then in 2015, vocalist David Journeaux departed, with Johnny McArthur as their new vocalist and Kenny Saunders as their new drummer. So now I wait to see what comes next.

Streaming
Back in 2013, I wrote that everyone talks about the money which isn’t filtering down to the artist and how streaming is too entrenched to be replaced. Since then the record labels have grown their revenues on the back of streaming. Artists who negotiate deals with the streaming services like Metallica and Motley Crue have never complained about streaming. Suddenly, luddites Anthrax are not complaining and Scott Ian even mentioned how he believes streaming is the best thing to have happened to the recording industry.

Streaming is the future and those artist who don’t grow with this future will be too busy shrinking.

The Gaslight Anthem
They do the early 80’s Bruce Springsteen better than Bruce Springsteen these days. It was like a supergroup of independent musicians that came together in New Jersey in 2006. Their 2010 album, “American Slang” spawned an unexpected hit with the title track and “45” from their 2012 album “Handwritten” became their biggest hit. Since then, “Get Hurt” came out in 2014 and by July 2015, the band went on an indefinite hiatus.

Since the hiatus, singer Brian Fallon released a solo album called “Painkillers” in March 2016, and on April, 2016, a vinyl EP called “Georgia” was released for Record Store Day 2016 with a limited pressing run of 2,000 copies on 10″ vinyl. Let’s hope that “The Gaslight Anthem” get together for more music over the next three-year period.

Volbeat
Seen as overnight sensations however they are over 25 years in the business. It all started with “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” in 2008 and being added to the Metallica “Death Magnetic U.S. Tour”. Then in 2010, “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” came out and while that was still selling, they released “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” in 2013 and they hit every major music market over and over again. Since then, they released “Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie” and are continuing on their merry ways. For all the newbies, check out their streaming numbers. They are huge compared to other major label metal/rock acts.

Killswitch Engage/Times Of Grace
In 2013, Killswitch Engage released “Disarm the Descent”, their comeback album with Jesse Leach on vocals. And how good is “In Due Time” with brutal verses and an arena rock chorus. Then in February 2015, a new track called “Loyalty” appeared on “Catch The Throne: The Mixtape Volume 2” to promote “Game of Thrones”. They then toured and kept on working on “Incarnate” which finally came out on March 11, 2016. Since then, they toured and are planning on releasing a beer. Meanwhile, “Times of Grace” have five songs completed for a new album to come out, with their last one coming out in 2011.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Volbeat

I’ve got a lot of time for Volbeat. For any aspiring artist who believes all they need to do is write a song and everyone will love it, read no further. For any aspiring artists that wants the truth about the music business and how hard you need to work, then read on.

Volbeat without a doubt are a hard-working band, that tours like crazy, building their audience, city by city, state by state, country by country. Known in Europe prior to 2010, it wasn’t until Metallica put them as openers on the U.S Death Magnetic trek that Volbeat started to get traction in the U.S. And then their albums started selling. And then they went out on their own, and the shows kept on selling out.

But the story of Volbeat goes back a long time.

Michael Poulsen from Volbeat was in a death metal band called Dominus from 1991 to 2000. Then he formed Volbeat in 2001, a pseudo supergroup of extreme metal musicians. His musical journey began 10 years before Volbeat was formed and almost 20 years before he broke through in the lucrative U.S market.

Their first album came out in 2005. American success came knocking in 2012. To U.S audiences, Poulsen became an overnight success however that success was a long time in the making and a large part of those years dealt with being ignored.

The very essence of the internet is that only excellence rises to the top. And that which rises and lasts usually has an innovative twist to it. Volbeat merged rockabilly, country and metal into a commercial property. A band like Coheed and Cambria introduced a whole new style of storytelling, making each album a mass media event that involved novels, comics and music. When Metallica broke out they merged the NWOBHM scene with fast tempos and then with progressive time changes. When Rage Against The Machine broke out they merged rap with classic rock pentatonic riffs aided by Morello’s grasp of effects. When Tool broke out, they merged various prog rock acts with new wave acts with metal acts into a cacophony of sounds and style known as Tool.

Recognition and success comes much later . In Volbeat’s case their entry in the mainstream American market was a long time coming. Hell their first gold certification in the U.S was 20 years in the making. It is the lifers who last. The success they had in the U.S from 2010 onwards, is based on a song that was released on their 2008 album. Eventually the audience will catch up with the artist and when it happens the artist needs to be around to capitalise on it. Volbeat released “Outlaw Gentlemen And Shady Ladies” in 2013, and they still had their 2010 album “Beyond Heaven, Above Hell” selling decent numbers.

How many artists today can claim that stat?

The hardest thing today is to make a new fan or to get people to check you out. So anywhere music can be played, your stuff should be there. Volbeat do just that. Check out their Spotify stats if you don’t believe me.

“Still Counting” is at 52,740,671 streams. From the new album, “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” is at 8,405,750 streams. For comparison, Metallica is the biggest metal band on the planet and “Enter Sandman” is at 87,118,248 streams. As you can see, Volbeat are not that far off when it comes to listens.

And if you haven’t checked the new album, Volbeat sealed the deal with me via three songs.

“The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”

Falling from the sky
Cast out from heaven’s light
Drenching the soil with blood
Baptized in the fire hole

It’s storytelling.

They gathered all the children outside the church
And never would they know what went on in there
Close the door and hear all the angels scream
Oh mercy, mercy, mercy, oh mercy please

I really dig the swampy sludgy feel of the tune. It’s classic metal/rock.

“Black Rose”

A sixties bubblegum vibe/feel smashes head on with a heavy metal freight train. That is the only way I can explain this addictive song.

Left my heart on the shelf for way too long
Sick and tired, picking up from the dirty floor
I saw the line of snakes that came to me

“Seal The Deal”

Sold my soul and signed my name in blood
Stole it back, now praying in the dark
Fooled the devil, begging for a fight
Count the dollars, make your bet tonight

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

RIAA Certifications

There is just so much hoopla about certification these days. The usual media outlets are reporting how difficult it is for artists to achieve a certification due to piracy/copyright infringement. And if the artist is on a major label, the yelling is even louder. And when artists do get a platinum certification these days, it is reported by everyone.

Of course, the certification process once upon a time was based on SALES and sales only. It took into account the people owned the music they purchased and really liked it. The fact that people might not have listened to the music over and over again, didn’t matter.

However, as streaming services have shown due to piracy/copyright infringement, people also like to have access to music instead of owing music. So what we have is the following situation;

  • Ownership of music -> registers a sale, which counts for certifications and generates a lot more money for the artist and the label then streaming services do.
  • Access to music -> registers a sale by following a formula. 1,500 streams equals 10 tracks which equals one album purchase. The one album purchase counts for certifications and the streaming equivalent of sale doesn’t generate as much income for the artist and label then the sale of a mp3 or a CD or vinyl does.

Five Finger Death Punch has a PLATINUM certification from the RIAA. Seven years after the album was released.
FFDP_Platinum_Cert

For a band that plays to a niche audience this is exceptional and proof that metal and rock fans are avid music consumers. The viewpoint from the past always was “if your album goes Platinum, it means the public has accepted it” and when others see the love that people are giving the album, more people are going to go and check it out.

Music is and always will be about longevity.

Will people still be interested in the music, many years after it was released?

Apart from selling a decent amount of product, Five Finger Death Punch are also one of the bands with decent streaming numbers. This tells me that people are listening to them on a consistent basis.

“Fantasy” from Aldo Nova went Gold within the same year it was released in 1982. But it wasn’t until 1989 (seven years later) that it was certified platinum and by 1994 (12 years from when the song was released and 5 years from its Platinum certification) it was certified double platinum.

If you apply that formula to FFDP, then “War Is The Answer” should be certified double platinum by 2021. Is this such a bad thing? According to the ones that want to be paid straight away it is.

For a lot of bands, a loyal fan base is monetized to maximum effect.

Dream Theater and Machine Head are two bands that have a small (compared to other bands) but high net worth fan base. Dream Theater only has a Gold Certification (they have other DVD/Video certifications), that came three years after “Images And Words” was released. This sole certification hasn’t stopped Dream Theater from having a career.

BB_Gold_Cert

Another band, Breaking Benjamin is also the same as Dream Theater and Machine Head. Breaking Benjamin also received a Gold Certification last year for an album they released back in 2002. Yep that’s right people, an album released 13 years ago is still in the public conversation. But what Breaking Benjamin has going that the other bands don’t is the singles. Their singles are pushing on double and triple platinum certifications.

Remember what I mentioned earlier. Music is about longevity and will people still be interested in the music, many years after it was released. But to the ones that want to be paid straight away, this is a problem.

Volbet_CertVolbeat is one of those unsung heroes here.

A hard-working band, that tours like crazy, building their audience, city by city, state by state, country by country.

Known in Europe, it wasn’t until Metallica put them as openers in the U.S Death Magnetic trek that Volbeat started to get traction in the U.S.

And then their albums started selling.

And then they went out on their own, and the shows kept on selling out.

Certifications are nice to have.

But they are not the be all and end all to have a career in music.

Longevity and people listening is the key.

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

Being A Musician Means ….

I still have the debate with people about the economics of being a musician vs earning money and the debate always ends with me asking the question;

Would a musician prefer to have their song or album shared/copyright infringed on/pirated (use whatever word you want, depending on what side of the debate you are on) 100,000 times or ignored and not shared at all?

The same conversations come up over and over again.

Musicians are either complaining about streaming payouts, copyright infringement/piracy of their music or jumping in with the corporations or the lobby groups looking for stronger copyright laws and enforcement. However, the music business wouldn’t be a business if it wasn’t for the fans. The customer. The consumer.

So what value is there to the consumer?

You see once upon a time, the musician and the consumer met with the RECORD. The record was an attempt by the musician to make something unique and likeable that it could be purchased.

A musician and a listener met with a performance via Radio, a TV spot or some other form of promotion.

This kind of listener might not end up as a consumer of the recorded product however there was always a good chance that this listener might end up at a concert hence making them a consumer in a way. From buying the record or from buying a ticket to the show, all of the exchanges are very one-sided. It is all about money leaving the consumer and going to the musician. The musician believes that the value comes in the music they provide.

With so much competition in the entertainment industry these days, surely obscurity is a much larger threat to a musician than copyright infringement will ever be. The more a musicians’ music spreads, the more true fans they will find that will end up becoming consumers. It doesn’t mean that all of those people will become consumers.

There is tons of music available that I will listen to. I enjoy doing that, however it doesn’t mean I like it enough to become a true fan and invest in the artist. However with Spotify I am investing in them by listening to them. In the past, I could listen to an artist from a taped copy or a mix CD and the artist got nothing from those listens. In the end each consumer has so much money to spend on entertainment products.

I like drinking wine and one thing I have learned from all the drinking I have done is that the price of the wine is not always indicative of the quality. So with all of the discussions about taking away Spotify’s free tier, it doesn’t mean that people will suddenly start to pay for a subscription. Just because music has a price, it doesn’t mean that it is something of quality that needs to be paid for.

There are other similarities between the winemaking business and the music business. Even in the wine making business, there are brilliant wine makers from around the world trying to break through the monopolies that control different markets.

Just like artists starting off, young wine makers invest a lot of time and money in their craft/product without knowing if that investment will pay off. They do it because they love it. The weather could be that severe/extreme that years could go by with so little yield and zero income. And once they produce that wine, it doesn’t mean that they have a consumer base to market it too.

Anyone gone wine tasting. You are physically at the door of the wine maker’s house where they open up bottles of wine and allow you to sample them. That is how wine makers form their tribe. By their cellar doors.

Metallica are kings of the hill because they formed a tribe around the people who heard their music and those fans followed the band everywhere. It didn’t mean that all of those fans purchased their music. And then Lars Ulrich did his best to divorce the band from its fan base with the Napster shenanigans. However the boat already sailed, with a lot of free music from Metallica doing the rounds. All of this copyright infringement established a whole new tribe for Metallica that is still sustaining them to this day. Yep those free loaders from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and Central/South America have become consumers to their sold out shows.

The fans are all a musician has.

Warren Buffet (investor) has an investment rule that rings true here when I think about the current status of some of my favourite artists;

“Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.”

Tidal is all about greed. Taking away Spotify’s free tier is all about greed. Destroying the public domain by hijacking copyrights true intent is all about greed. The whole music business is about income inequality.

So can anyone blame us when we, the consumers became fearful of greedy people.

I support what is in my opinion the best music. I know other people’s opinions differ from mine. That’s just life.

As a musician I would be happy if my music was downloaded illegally 100,000 times and I am not one of those deluded people that equates those illegal downloads to 100,000 missed sales.

Do the math.

With no downloads a musician has no fans/listeners/future consumers and no cash.

With a 100,000 downloads via cyber lockers or torrents, the musician has possibly 100,000 fans and no cash at this point in time. I know what I would prefer.

There is a reason why Metallica and Iron Maiden have played to large audiences in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, China and South/Central America respectively and it has nothing to do with sales of recorded music.

Fame always came after however MTV made everyone believe that fame comes first.

And musicians in most cases are ignored for long periods of time before they break through.

Five Finger Death Punch is a band that sells a decent amount of recorded music right now and they have been doing those numbers since 2007. However the musicians in the band didn’t just come from out of nowhere. If you look at the individual band members careers before FFDP, you will see musicians who have been ignored. Their previous bands did not set the world on fire, however it was all stepping-stones. And the musicians that have that mindset end up reaching the top. The ones that want only the fame and the money end up in the rear view mirror.

Europe is a band that I have followed since “The Final Countdown” days. I purchased their back catalogue once that album broke through. I purchased John Norum’s solo output and I hold the “Face The Truth” album (with Glenn Hughes doing vocals on quite a few songs) in high regard. I followed Joey Tempest solo albums and with pleasure I took in their comeback from 2004 and onwards.

The first version of the band came together in 1979 and was named Force. Via a song writing contest they got a recording deal in 1982 with a Swedish label. By 1985, they had some songs in a movie that gave me some more traction. Joey Tempest wrote a song for aid in Ethiopia however at this stage the band was still largely ignored. That all changed in 1986 with “The Final Countdown” album. The journey was seven years long. Compare that to some of the ideals today of musicians. They believe that by putting up a video or a song on YouTube, we should all pay attention.

Michael Poulsen from Volbeat was in a death metal band called Dominus from 1991 to 2000. Then he formed Volbeat in 2001. Their first album came out in 2005. For the next seven years they kept on building on their following and it wasn’t until Metallica took them out as an opening band that American success came knocking. By 2012, Volbeat was a big business.

Do the math on the years in between. Poulsen became an overnight success however that success was 21 years in the making and a large part of those years dealt with being ignored.

That is what being a musician is.

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

What Does Volbeat’s RIAA Certification Tell Us About The Recording Business?

Volbeat just got a Gold Certification for digital sales from the RIAA in relation to their song “A Warriors Call” from the album “Beyond Heaven, Above Hell” released in 2010. So what does this tell us about the state of the metal/rock world in 2014 when it comes to sales.

Recognition Comes Much Later

Recognition and success come much later in the current world. In Volbeat’s case their entry in the mainstream American market was about ten years after they formed. This is extraordinary when you consider that they were very popular in parts of Europe before that. Overall, Volbeat’s first gold certification in the US has been 20 years in the making. The hardest thing today is to make a new fan or to get people to check you out. So anywhere music can be played, your stuff should be there. Volbeat do just that. On Spotify “A Warriors Call” is at 9,630,292 streams. On their YouTube account, the same song has 6,506,260 views.

If you create something that is good you will not be complaining about your income. Write a hit (and when I say hit, I don’t mean number 1 on the charts. I mean, a song that connects with a lot of listeners), you’ll make money in ways you never thought of, and you can sell your rights to the corporations you complain about, license it to every company or TV show or movie. But that means you need to create constantly as you don’t know what could connect with an audience. But that’s much harder to do than complain.

“A Warriors Call” was never a chart hit, however it connected with listeners.

The Bell Curve Is Prominent

With each metal/rock band there is a hardcore fan base that will try the band out straight away. These early fans make up 13% of the total future fan base and they are the ones that believe in the band and its music. Then within time there is a large 34% group called the early majority. These are the fans that will not try something, until somebody else tries it first and recommends it. Then there is another 34% group called the late majority. These fans adopt the band only after they see a clear majority of metal heads fully assimilating the band as a part of their daily life.

Metallica is a perfect example of the Bell Curve in action. From 1981 to 1983 they had a fan base based on early adopters. From 1984 to 1988, the fan base grew to include the early adopters and the early majority. After the explosion of the self-titled Black album that fan base grew even more as the late adopters and any laggards came to the party.

Volbeat is another perfect example. From 2000 to 2006 it was the early adopters. Then between 2007 and 2010 it was the early majority. During this period they also supported Metallica on the North American leg of Metallica’s World Magnetic Tour. And then from 2010 to know, we have the late majority all jumping into bed with Volbeat.

The internet is another perfect example. In the mid-1990s it was first used only by people who had access to and were familiar with personal computers. By the 2000s, the early majority started using it and a lot more development started taking place around communications, banking and financial services, and mass media (music, movies, books, journalism, newspapers, and television). Over the last five years, the late majority, previously unfamiliar with computers and the internet, have adopted computer skills after realizing the technology’s impact on society at large.

Albums

The core audience plus the early hardcore fans want it, but the public at large want the hits. Most people are casual listeners who don’t always go deep into every act they like. However if they want to go deep into an artist’s catalogue they will go onto Spotify. You can amass an albums worth of songs on Spotify and never actually release an album. That’s the new game.

Labels want albums because that is the best way to monetise for them. It is easier to charge money when there is a bundle of songs involved. Artists want albums, because they grew up on them and they want to be like their heroes and make a statement. However the album means nothing to the listener who has a music collection all on an iPod. Fans always wanted access and the internet era has provided that. And then there is the hardcore element that wants a little bit more like the the alternate cuts, demos, unreleased tracks and so forth.

Also remember this. The multi-Platinum “Stay Hungry” was a tight, nine-song, 37-minute set. “Blizzard Of Ozz” was 39 minutes long. Slippery When Wet was 46 minutes long. “Ride The Lightning” was 47 minutes long. All of them were classic albums that broke the bands involved to a larger audience.

What are these numbers trying to say?

You don’t need 80 minutes worth of new music to be released on one slab at one time to connect with fans. People don’t have spare hours anymore. They have spare minutes.

Streaming Is Not The Enemy

Streaming revenues will go up and you will get well paid eventually. But you need to utilize your recordings and mobilise your fan base to start streaming. If you still focus on the album sales, you will be destined for the scrapheap. So don’t keep your music off streaming services. Seriously what is the point in preventing people from streaming your music so that you can sell an extra 10,000 albums.

What advantage does AC/DC have by not being on Spotify?

What did Jimmy Buffett achieve by standing up in all his glory and asking Daniel Ek for a raise?

Record Labels

Are still clueless. Volbeat finally got a major label behind them in Universal for their latest release. The majors have no idea what connects. That is why they look to the independents or their off-shoot labels. In this case, thank god that Rebel Monster Records, which is an offshoot of Mascot Records showed interest.

Artists still want the label to make them famous as the labels have the marketing power and the relationships in place. So don’t bitch that you’re not getting paid by streaming services when in fact the record label is absorbing these payments and then drip feeding you the change.

 

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