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

Australian Music Scene – The Rise Of The Indies

Australian Music is ALWAYS a rich vibrant scene. And it is a scene that is underpinned by Independent artists. These independent artists are the real battlers, the one’s that carry the load of the vibrant music scene. Financially it is a miserable livelihood however the emotional experience is rewarding. And there is no escaping that Australian Independent artists are some of the hardest working artists and also the lowest paid members of the Australian workforce. The sad thing is that the elite levels of Government have no idea about the Independent artists. Any Government funding goes to the large Industry bodies who don’t really disperse the monies to the artists doing the rounds on the streets.

In music we have APRA/AMCOS, ARIA, AMIN, AIR, AMA and so many other local and state bodies. So all of these industry groups and associations are part of the music industry. Their main source of income is derived from Independent artists and Government Grants. The same independent artists that are living on or below the poverty line. For these artists, the larger music industry bodies are faceless monoliths that put profit first. While they may serve the major players in the Australian music industry, they do nothing for the rest. It is another example of taking care of the one percenters and forgetting about the rest.

The solution is for the mainstream to support and nurture independent artists. These music industry bodies need to ensure that all of the diversity and innovation created by the independent sector is supported and nurtured. Because the independent sector is the oxygen of the mainstream industry bodies. Once you cut them off and the major bodies will suffocate.

That is why it is great to see that 80% of the nominations for the latest ARIA Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album Of The Year category were released “independently”. For the uninformed independent or “indie” is basically an artist or a record label that has no connection to a major label or interference from a major label. In most cases it is the DIY style of artist. However with everything that deals with the music business, the definition is more complex than it should be. Most indie labels operate without major labels interference, however they all still use the distribution and promotion arms of the major labels.

For example, Sumerian Records is an independent label in the US. They have distribution deals with the Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), who is the independent music and film distribution arm of Warner Music Group who is a major label.

Going back to the bands nominated for the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal ARIA, A DZ Deathrays “Black Rat” album was released on the independent label “I OH YOU” who has an affiliation with Mushroom Records who is owned by Warner Music Group. The Amity Affliction’s “Let The Ocean Take Me” and Shihad’s “FVEY” where released on Roadrunner Records who is a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. Sleepmakeswaves “Love Of Cartography” album was released through Australian independent record label Bird’s Robe Records, which is distributed through MGM Distribution in Australia. In 2013, UK label Monotreme Records licensed their album for an international release across the UK, Europe and North America. This is a true independent band and label in my eyes. High Tension’s “Death Beat” is under license to independent label Cooking Vinyl Records, who uses RED Distribution for U.S distribution and it is also owned by Sony.

Look at some of the successful crowd funding campaigns independent artists have taken.

In Australia, heavy rock band, “I Am Voyager” went to their fans with a goal of about $10,000 and ended up getting $18,000 plus. In the U.S, Protest The Hero went to market with a goal of about $115,000 and ended up getting $300,000 plus. Haste The Day went to market with a goal of $65,000 and ended up getting $139,276. Emery went to market with a goal of $50,000 and ended up raising $110,815. Spocks Beard went to their fans for their 11th album with a goal to raise $25,000 and ended up raising $69,119. Trapt had a goal to raise $50,000 and ended up raising $56,634. Chimaira went the crowd funding route for a fan edition CD-DVD of their CROWN OF PHANTOMS album with a goal of $30,000 and they ended up raising $60,758.

Independently minded musicians and label owners are the ones that are pushing boundaries in music because they want control over what’s being released, when it’s released, and how it’s released. And they are not afraid to use the major labels when it suits them, but ultimately they’re calling the shots.

So I am sick and tired of hearing the RIAA and major label rhetoric about how artists put in their blood, sweat and tears into their music and because of piracy they don’t have a say about how it is released. The “Indies” are finding new and creative ways all the time. For a musician it is an exciting time to be a part of the music scene. Especially if you are an indie.

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

A Storm Of Record Label Investment. What About The Artists?

Yep the labels are at it again. Using money that should be paid to their artists to buy shares in another technology company.

Yep the labels are using the power that they have amassed by locking away copyrights for what seems like a lifetime to purchase shares in technology companies.

This time around Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment have each bought $3 million in shares in Shazam Entertainment on top of the stake they own in Spotify.

The record labels still scream that there is no money in the recording business because of piracy.

Yet, Universal Music has also purchased shares in Beats Music and when the Apple billion dollar purchase is complete, it will be even richer.

Yet, the labels spend artist money to go to court via the RIAA against pirate sites.

Yet, the labels spend artist money to hire a company to send down digital take downs.

Yet, the labels spend artist money to lobby hard, in other words pay, for politicians to write stronger copyright terms and enforcement.

Yet, a recent IFPI report shows that the labels invested $4.5 billion in artist and repertoire.

The question is, if there is no money in the recording business,then why would the record labels spend so much money on artist and repertoire.

Because artists are the lifeblood of the music industry. And it is artists that make the record labels money.

The record labels have purchasing power because of the artists.

The record labels have status because of the artists.

The artists have made the record label executives more wealthy than the best-selling artists.

So if the record labels own shares in Spotify and Shazam, does that mean by default, the artists also own those shares.

Of course the answer is no, but it should be yes.

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

The Labels Want To Be The Good Guys

The labels want to be the good guys. They really do. However their lobby group the RIAA does not carry itself it in public in a manner that is acceptable. They put across an image that all the labels are focused solely on the now and what money can be made now. They put across an image that all the labels have no interest in planning for the future. Then the labels follow suit, flying the bullshit flag from the RIAA.

Regardless of the labels motives and business sense, they will survive.

Read the financial reports on Universal Music Group. Spotify has propped up their bottom line and that bottom line will get better each year. And with money, comes power and relationships. So how do the major metal and rock labels rate in relation to influence and relationships.

Century Media Records and Nuclear Blast are still independent labels. While Century Records lost their cash cow “In This Moment” to Atlantic, Nuclear Blast gained a new cash cow in “Machine Head”. Looking at the rosters, Nuclear Blast has surrounded themselves with a stronger group of artists however Century Media are the ones out there trying to identify new talent. Both labels will be around for a long time.

Frontiers have become a major player in the classic rock, melodic rock and hard rock scene. Frontiers kept the flag of melodic rock flying high since 1996, when all of the other major labels put their monies into grunge first and then industrial rock/metal and then nu-metal. Now that they have traction, I am just confused as to what their business model is.

Let’s sign up all the classic popular artists from the Eighties and get them to re-record some of their classics along with new music. CHECK.
Let’s get artists from different bands together to do a super group project. CHECK.
Let’s get female singers to re-record melodic rock songs that the label president likes. CHECK.

What about identifying new talent and breaking that new talent to the masses with creative and innovative ideas? NOT CHECKED.

Metal Blade is still independent however with strong ties to Sony Music and Warner Music Group in relation to distribution while Roadrunner used to be owned by Universal between the years, 2000 and 2006 and after that, they are under the control of Warner Music Group.

Roadrunner is still the major player here, however with ties to Warner, expect them to be “RIGHT NOW” profit driven and be all about the HYPE. With all the corporate deals they organised on the new Dream Theater album, they would have made up the advanced money plus the recording costs and more.

Spinefarm Records is part of Universal Music Group, with a lot of power to operate independently. They are getting out there and signing new talent. However, like all of the above labels, they are stuck in the old way. And that is the ALBUM.

They just need to realise that it is not about the sales anymore. While Steaming numbers and revenue are still small today, in the long term the labels will be able to reap the benefits.

Why?

Because streaming is a regular recurring revenue business.

For example, I have been streaming “Strife” from Trivium non-stop. Each stream is regularly producing revenue for that song. If I purchased that same song as a download, the revenue produced would be at the time it was sold. Every time that I would have listened to “Strife” at home or on my iPod or on my smartphone would not have produced a cent. All that the band or label would have made from me is the sale of the downloaded song. However with streaming they will continue to make money long after the album is released.

So if anyone believes that streaming is bad for music and that it is going to kill the incentive to create new music, tell them they are uneducated. If bands or artists are complaining about their payments, then they need to negotiate better deals with their labels or get back their Copyrights.

Let’s put it this way, if Metallica is on Spotify, then the rates paid back to the COPYRIGHT HOLDERS (and Metallica do own their Copyright) must be good, because Lars Ulrich and Cliff Burnstein would not allow Metallica to enter a business arrangement that is not in their favour.

The real truth is that there is much more music out there than there has ever been, so the issues that are present to artist and labels is how do they get people’s attention directed towards that new music.

Personally, I don’t even know anybody who pirates music anymore. There is no reason to pirate and legitimate customers/fans would always turn to legal alternatives.

In relation to sales figures and charts. Goneski. No longer relevant. Sales (as a stand-alone measure) no longer means anything. Focusing on recording sales is old school thinking. It’s all about everything else today.

“Recording Sales Revenue” plus “Streaming Revenue” plus “YouTube Ad Revenue” plus “Ticket Revenue” plus “Merchandise Revenue” plus “Corporate Deals Revenue” plus “Sponsorship Revenue” plus “Publishing Revenue” plus “Licensing Revenue” and then decide if you are winning or not.

Again, if you are not seeing a lot of revenue, then you need to be speaking to your label, because if you have numbers in all of the above Revenue streams then something is a-miss contractually.

Another thing that the metal and hard rock labels need to understand is that they reside in a niche. The heyday of when that niche was mainstream is long gone. Today, certain artists might have a crossover song that many people will latch onto and then it is back to the niche.

“Adrenaline Mob” released “Men of Honor” last week and by the end of the second week it will be forgotten. The songs are great, the musicianship is great, so what is the problem. The hard core fans picked it up and everyone else doesn’t know about it. It’s a twenty four seven job staying in the public eye and it’s god damn hard. It’s the labels job to figure out it out, however the labels don’t want to spend the money to innovate, so what they do is get most of the hate directed towards them because of their monopolistic extortion like practices from back in the day.

If the labels want to be the good guys, they need to be more transparent. They need to call out the RIAA when they spin shit. They need to do be realists and sensible. And the main thing they need to understand is that the days of when they had control of the distribution channel are long gone. The profit margins from the CD sales are never coming back. So don’t dwell on the past and start to move forward.

http://theconversation.com/music-sales-slump-is-streaming-or-the-music-industry-to-blame-23901

http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/5915732/spotify-drove-universal-musics-75-jump-in-streaming-revenue-last-year

http://torrentfreak.com/artists-think-instead-spewing-spotify-hate-140222

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