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

Time Is Your Greatest Friend

The recording industry is a mess, known for its creative accounting, manipulative one-sided contracts, it’s lobbying efforts to enact favourable laws that benefit the executives and do nothing for the artists and it’s monopolistic control over any new technologies that seek to bring a certain value to the consumer of recorded music.

Streaming service Grooveshark is no more.

The service had over twenty million users. Surely that is ample proof to the record labels that there is a large market for a service/product to offer what Grooveshark offered. However, the record labels have the dollars and the power behind them and any legal war of attrition will end in a record label victory.

Grooveshark’s sin was that they didn’t license the music on the service from the record labels. All the music was uploaded to Grooveshark by its “users”.

Grooveshark contended that if they paid royalties for the plays on the service they would be legit. However, the labels wanted Grooveshark to also pay for the licenses to have the “user uploaded” music on the service. On paying royalties, Grooveshark was also hit and miss, playing the same record label games against them.

But in all honesty, paying royalties is a contested issue. There is no transparency around it so the system is open to abuse.

Nick Menza (former Megadeth drummer) is complaining on social media that Dave Mustaine is ripping him off when it comes to his publishing royalty payments.

Add to that the unsignable contract that Menza (like Bill Ward and Dave Lombardo before him) were given and you can see that when money clashes with art, you have winners and losers on many different sides.

You have winners and losers between the executives and artists. You have winners and losers between the managers and artists. Finally you have winners and losers between the individual artists themselves and it all cases the main creative force is the winner.

If you want an example of the discontent, look no further than the guitar riff in “Every Breath You Take” from The Police.

That riff has been sampled in a lot of pop and rap songs. All of the monies earned from those samples goes to Sting as the sole songwriter and not to Andy Summers as the creator of the riff.

You see, Sting wrote the vocal melody and played the chords on a keyboard. That demo version of the song was then worked on by the whole band to get it to the level that we know today.

That iconic guitar riff follows the keyboard chords that Sting laid down.

A, F#m, D and E.

However the way Andy Summers chose to play it by adding the ninth note of each chord is iconic and innovative. That extra tone and the palm muted arpeggios tweaked the simple chord progression into an Aadd9, F#madd9, Dadd9 and Eadd9 chord progression. But Sting is the songwriter and he gets all the royalties for when that riff is sampled.

Sales of recorded music always goes to the record label and very rarely back to the artist.  So why are artist complaining about copyright infringement.

Monies for the artist come from other opportunities like licensing out music for advertisements of products. Australian band Tame Impala has made nothing from overseas sales however the monies they received from licensing out a song to Blackberry and to a Tequila maker ended up allowing the songwriter to buy a house and set up a studio.

As Kevin Parker from Tame Impala put’s it;

“I know what you’re thinking… “wait so…when I bought an album I was helping some businessman pay for his mansion on an island somewhere, and when some dude bought a mobile phone he was helping to pay an artist? WHHHYY?” I’ll tell you why, IT’S MONEY. It doesn’t always go where you want it to go.”

And the best take away from that Reddit session is the following;

“As far as I’m concerned the best thing you can do for an artist is LISTEN to the music…fall in love with it…….talk about it”.

The above sentiments are a far cry from what the classic rockers are talking about.

Roger Waters is angry at the techies for creating tools that facilitate “stealing” and he is angry with the “whole generation that’s grown up who believe that music should be free.”

I enjoy Pink Floyd. I like Roger Waters while he was in Pink Floyd.

I picked up Pink Floyd’s seventies output on LP from a second-hand record store (which meant that I picked up someone’s unwanted Pink Floyd records) in the Nineties and the only Pink Floyd CD that I own is “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” which I picked up from a discount bin.

Man reading his rant, he comes across as not sure if he should love his fans or hate them, because in the end it is the fans who love everything that he has recorded and spend $200 plus on a concert ticket that are downloading his songs. Not the tech companies. So which way does Waters want it.

Change is forever. Every other business can embrace change and move on however the recording industry is still fighting it. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Roger Waters, Joe Perry and others all state that they are thankful they came out in a different time. Illegal copyright infringement is a record label problem, not an artist problem.

It’s actually one of the best times to be involved in the music business. The barriers of entry are low and recording technologies are affordable. You can physically create and distribute your music without a record label and do it for almost zero dollars. However, 99% of artists would still look for a record deal and then complain against the techies when the labels don’t hand over some of that streaming money that they have collected twice, once in licensing and then again in royalty payments for the listens.

The recording industry thrives in making their world look difficult and important. They will use trumped-up numbers of job losses, creative accounting charts and blame everyone else for the reasons why the artist is not getting paid. And the stupid thing is that the artists would sign up again for another term with the label with poor royalty returns.

The music business is not rocket science. Like any form of outlet there are some golden rules and the main one is to keep a decent cash balance.

So, yes that means the artist needs to work.

George Lynch had a record deal with Elektra and was driving trucks during this period just before Dokken broke through with the “Tooth N Nail” album.

Dee Snider worked many jobs while Twisted Sister was establishing itself as a serious live band.

Even Gene Simmons had a decent cash flow happening in the early days of Kiss. If you don’t believe me, then read “Face The Music” from Paul Stanley.

Music is an investment for the long-term that involves winners, losers and more importantly re-investment back into your career.

Time is your greatest friend.

Remember that.

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

If You Want To Succeed In 2014

I was listening to Fuel’s new album “Puppet Strings” today.

Fuel was one of those rock bands I latched onto in the late nineties, early two thousands.

Why call it Fuel without Carl Bell?

Why did Carl Bell call it Fuel without Brett Scallions for the “Angels and Demons” album cycle?

Keeping a band together is a job in itself. No one tells you how hard it is. Read about the making of “The Wall” from Pink Floyd. Watch, “The History Of The Eagles” documentary. Read, “The Dirt” or “Face The Music” or “Lifting Shadows” or “Enter Night” and you will see countless examples of bands trying to hold it together.

Listening to the Fuel album got me thinking about the current state of the music business.

We live in an age where only blockbuster albums make serious money.

The income gap divide between the bands that release blockbuster albums and the ones that don’t is growing wider and wider.

The days of paying your dues and breaking through are over.

Now it is all about being great 24/7.

The internet noise has made it almost impossible for messages to rise above it and new releases come out one week and if they are not great, they are forgotten the next.

It’s a cold hard truth. In 2014, you have to be great.

Five Finger Death Punch. Great.

Volbeat. Great.

Avenged Sevenfold. Great.

Skillet. Great.

Gemini Syndrome. Great.

Halestorm. Great.

In This Moment. Great.

All of the bands mentioned above have had albums out for at least 10 months and more, and they are still part of the social conversation.

If you are one of those people who uses sales as a metric of success then all of the above bands are still moving units. However sales are not the only measures of success these days.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, understand how streaming royalties work.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, stop bitching about streaming royalties and re-negotiate with the record label.

Ever heard the story of Loreena McKennitt, who is a Canadian Folk/Celtic/World music artist.

She couldn’t get a record deal. She spent a long time networking and building a connection with her audience. Eventually she created a substantial fan base that started to purchase her music and she was getting 70% of it. When Warner Bros. came knocking, she showed the label what she was making and the “crap contract” that the label came with got torn up and she negotiated a new deal with the label that benefited her as well as the label.

In the end a harp playing harpist had enough bargaining chips on her side that she was able to negotiate a real deal. And then you have people like Scott Ian and other metal heads complaining about piracy and the state of the industry.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, know that it is a relationships business with the fans first and foremost.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, know that the press doesn’t matter. It might make you feel great and it might please your vanity, however it is the fans that break acts.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, you only get ONE SHOT to make a first impression.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, you need to know how to write, play and sing.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, take a note from the Dave Matthews band. They are huge because they have fostered an audience that is more or less a cultural movement.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, you need to keep creating hits. The biggest songs of a band’s career are the ones that didn’t rise up the charts. The fans made them hits in their cultural universe. Seen a recent set list of Metallica or Megadeth. None of the songs ended up as Chart Hits, but they are still hits.

If you want to succeed and make money from recorded music in 2014, know that streaming revenue is just going to keep on rising. If you are on a label and an old contract start re-negotiating right now. Otherwise you will be left behind.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Who Is the Real Star? The Band Name or the Personnel In The Band

There is an article doing the rounds at the Hollywood Reporter about how “The Walking Dead” is TV’s number 1 show and that the stars of the show are still largely unknown.

So it got me thinking. I was very interested to check out the show based on my love of the Horror genre. Once I checked it out, I was hooked. I didn’t start watching the show because they had certain actors in it. The only actor I was aware of was Daryl’s brother and that was from the movie Cliffhanger with Stallone and that was after watching a few episodes. So I got into the show because i was a fan of the horror genre.

However I got into “Sons Of Anarchy” because hard-core friends eventually got me to invest some time in it.

The point I am trying to make is that we get into certain TV shows, movies or artists based on a thousand different reasons. One thing is clear; we don’t get into these cultural icons because of the people in them.

For example, when Metallica started on the scene, no one was walking around saying that they got into Metallica because James Hetfield was such a cool cat or Lars Ulrich was the man. We got into Metallica for multiple reasons. For example, we were fans of the metal genre, the songs connected with us; we wanted to be part of the conversation and so on. From the outset, we become fans because of the music we hear.

That is what culture is all about. Sharing stories about the things we love.

Of course some outliers do exist and some artists have a cultural influence that transcends their music. They become institutions themselves. For example, Slash is now a cultural institution. Ozzy Osbourne is a cultural institution albeit with a lot of help from his “friends”. Nikki Sixx is a cultural institution. Robb Flynn is a cultural institution. Dee Snider is a cultural icon. These artists can all survive on their own. They are brand names themselves.

It’s taken Slash almost 14 years from when he left Gunners to re-establish and re-brand himself as a force to be reckoned with. That happened in 2010 with the release of his solo album and with a little help from his friends.

Randy Rhoads and Bob Daisley helped Ozzy Osbourne break the shackles of Black Sabbath. Jake E. Lee and Phil Soussan enhanced what Randy Rhoads and Bod Daisley created. Zakk Wylde turned it all into a blockbuster with “No More Tears” being the pinnacle.

Nikki Sixx re-invented himself and Motley Crue by first gaining control of Motley Crue’s back catalogue from Elektra Records. A task that no other artist had accomplished before. Then he pushed for the writing of “The Dirt”. Since then, he has become a solo artist with Sixx AM, a song writer for other artists, a social media junkie, a photographer, a literary writer and a radio personality.

Robb Flynn showed the world that he can survive. He really went out of his comfort zone recently and performed acoustically. He survived the “Through The Ashes of Empires” era and lived to tell the tale. Talk about Grit and Roll. It was music all the way, with no safety net. No plan B. His Journals are pure gold. Even if you don’t like Machine Head’s music, you can still appreciate the Journal Ramblings. For any artist starting off, there is information in there that is real. There is information there that is not sugar-coated by a mainstream writer.

Dee Snider, what else can be said. Read his bio.

These artists have all connected with us on different levels. They have become so large in people’s lives that they have become cultural institutions themselves. We then stick with these institutions through the good times and the bad times.

So what about all the other artists. Well for the remainder of the artists it is still about the music. They need to have the music pumping out and they need to make connections.

Dee Snider once said that there are no more rock stars in this day and age. I took that to mean, that in the internet age, there are no real recognizable faces to put to certain bands. While I agree with that comment in parts, I also disagree with it.

For example, Coheed and Cambria has Claudio Sanchez. Watch them live and you get to see the hair. Instantly recognizable.

Five Finger Death Punch has Zoltan Bathory with the dreadlocks and the UFC/mixed martial arts look. They have Ivan Moody and the Mohawk.

Shinedown has Brent Smith, who performs like an adrenaline injected Steve Tyler.

Black Veil Brides have, well they have the whole band.

Avenged Sevenfold have Eighties rock star stage names with instantly recognisable faces.

However if any of the band members in the above mentioned bands, decide to go on their own, it will be a tough slog for them as the bands they are in have all become cultural institutions. Then you have a band like Protest The Hero who look like normal guys going to University.

So going back to “The Walking Dead”. The show is the rock star. That is the cultural institution.

So for any wannabe rock stars, think about all of the above for a second. No one is going to wake up tomorrow morning and think to themselves, “damn, I want to hear some music from Zoltan Bathory, or “Insert New Artist name here””.

We wake up in the morning and think to ourselves, “damn, we want to hear some Five Finger Death Punch. We wake up and go “damn its “The Walking Dead” tonight.”

That is what a lot of misguided artists fail to grasp when they leave a certain cultural institution citing musical differences. They (meaning the person) were never the stars. The band name is the star and it always will be.

That is why Guns N Roses is still rolling along, playing to large audiences.

That is why Tommy Lee returned to Motley Crue.

That is why James Hetfield returned to Metallica after rehab. That is why Lars Ulrich never contemplated anything else except Metallica during this period.

That is why Dave Mustaine resurrected Megadeth after he disbanded the band.

That is why Dimebag didn’t want Pantera to end. He knew that Pantera was the star.

That is why David Lee Roth worked with Van Halen again. That is why Sammy Hagar wants to work with Van Halen again.

That is why Alex Skolnick returned to Testament.

That is why there is a fight over who owns the right to the Queensryche name.

That is why Benjamin Burnley went all legal for the right to use the Breaking Benjamin name.

That is why Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to Iron Maiden.

That is why Rob Halford returned to Judas Priest.

That is why Black Sabbath reformed with three of the original members and released ’13’.

That is why bands like Ratt, Quiet Riot, Dokken, Poison and Skid Row are still continuing.

That is why Joey Belladonna returned to Anthrax and why Scott Ian is still continuing the band.

That is why Slayer is continuing without Jeff Hanneman.

To finish off with the immortal words of Ronnie James Dio “And on and on and on and on it goes….”

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