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

Disruption Eruption

In life we are being disrupted all the time.

Music is no different.

The biggest challenge to artists is that it’s so much harder to reach people because everyone today has a voice. In the heyday of metal and rock it was all about scarcity. You know the drill. The bands and the labels were all about making it to the top of the heap and then once they got there, they aimed to dominate that heap.

The funny thing is that once the bands got to that heap, they would seem to implode and deliver their least valued work.

Pantera worked for years to get to top of the heap. “Cowboys From Hell” opened the door for domination, “The Vulgar Display Of Power” provided the steps to the top of the heap and “Far Beyond Driven” provided the motion to get to the top of the heap. As Vinnie Paul once said in a Metal Hammer interview, “Pantera could have been metal’s next Rolling Stones”. “The Great Southern Trendkill” came after and continued that domination however the fabric of the band was already tearing apart. “Reinventing The Steel” came next and the band split after that.

Metallica on the other hand delivered their least valued work after they reached the top of the heap with the “Black” album.

Twisted Sister struggled for years to get to the top of the heap. They where selling out local bars however they couldn’t get a record deal. In that Seventies and Eighties era you needed a label to go national. Finally, they got that major label deal. It all started via an Independent label called Secret, which led to the European division of Atlantic Records showing interest and eventually signing them, which then led to the U.S arm of Atlantic taking over.

They got on MTV and went multi-platinum.

Then they lost it all. Dee Snider filed for bankruptcy and so did Jay Jay French.

After the fall from the top, both Dee Snider and Jay Jay French had to pick up and start from the beginning again. An old saying always comes back into my head space. It’s not how hard you fall but how you get back up. In the end, failure is never final, however if you allow it to be, then it will be. Jay Jay had to take a job selling stereos before Sevendust came into the scene in the mid nineties and asked him to produce their first album. Dee Snider ended up with a “Reason To Kill” during this period.

The dirty little secret is that one year’s success does not guarantee the next year’s success. It doesn’t in sport, so why should it be any different when it comes to music. If money was the end game, then Jay Jay French made more money producing the Sevendust album than what he did while he was with Twisted Sister.

So what does that say about the correlation between success and money?

It says that while a band is successful, most of the money is going to others. Only when the band is at the stage of Metallica or Motley Crue who both own their masters/copyrights, do the economics change. Otherwise why do you think Tom Scholz from Boston and Don Henley from the Eagles and Jim Steinman for “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” are putting in motions to get back their copyrights. And why do you think the record labels are resisting even though the law states clearly that the labels have to return the copyrights back to them.

It’s all about negotiation power.

The labels don’t want to lose it and the artists that have the big songs want it.

Which means another disruption is around the corner?

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

Build Your Own Music Road

The Madonna leak made something visible that was never there before. The record label along with the artist reacted swiftly. They didn’t react by going nuclear with lawyers. They reacted by coordinating to finish a sub-set of songs and having them available for purchase on iTunes. Hanging over Madonna and her team was the Christmas break and a deadline to get the music to iTunes before they shut down for the period. However they got it done and the result was that the songs dominated the iTunes charts and sales.

In the Eighties when Madonna broke through, the game was about marketing the album to death so that it would have a big first week and by default retailers would order more stock. Today, an album has a huge lead up and then what.

AC/DC had a huge lead up with “Rock Or Bust”. The Malcolm Young illness story was free marketing, the Phil Rudd legal shenanigans was also free marketing and add to that free marketing all the paid for marketing. And if the band expected huge sales on the board they would be seriously disappointed. However is that a true indication of an albums reach or influence.

In the end, its not about how many records or mp3’s got sold. It’s about who is listening to it. Does it really matter to AC/DC because everyone knows AC/DC makes their money on the road?

Machine Head released an album that sold decent in the first week for a metal band. The media were all over it and then it disappeared from the news outlets. However if you go on Spotify, you will see numbers there of people listening to it. Go to YouTube and you will see the same. Go on Facebook and you will see fans engaging with each other and talking about the album. Subscribe to Robb’s blog posts and you will see the discussions they generate among the people.

The game has shifted. It’s all about the audience and if the audience is listening to an album six months or a year after the release date then that is not news to the media outlets like Blabbermouth and Loudwire. What is news to these outlets is the album release and the lead up. But that is not the only news the audience cares about.

Robb Flynn is aware that to triumph in the future you need to be prepared for a long game. Excellence will survive and you need to work it.

Jonathan Coulton is not a name that is popular in metal and rock circles however the way he has embraced new business models is a great example of an artist who is building his own road and making a living in the process.

As with a lot of musicians, Coulton tried to become a professional musician 25 years ago, however he was unable to break through the gatekeepers. Thanks to the internet, he nurtured its power and reach and became a success this time around. This is the beauty of the internet when it is done right. It levels the playing field. Coulton didn’t have the opportunity under the old system however today he has found his niche and is making pretty good money in the process.

In 2010, he brought in $500,000. And guess what, because he doesn’t have the entourage that other artists have, the majority of the money earned was for him. In other words he cut out as many middle men as he could and that meant the record label.

He used the web and connected with people who became fans, however the big break came with a geeky song about an out of love computer programmer called “Code Monkey”. As I have said a million times it is all about the song. In this case, Coulton put the song on his site, techies picked it up and started discussion it in forums and the rest is history.

One other thing to note here, is that since 2003, he has released music consistently and every year. In some years it was multiple releases. How many metal and rock artists are doing that right now.

I know that George Lynch is and he is an established artist. Check out the last eight years:

2007 – George Lynch – Guitar Slinger
2008 – George Lynch – Scorpion Tales
2008 – Souls Of We – Let The Truth Be Known
2009 – Lynch Mob – Smoke And Mirrors
2010 – George Lynch – Orchestral Mayhem
2011 – George Lynch – Kill All Control
2012 – Lynch Mob – Sound Mountain Sessions
2012 – T&N – Slave To The Empire
2013 – George Lynch – Legacy (EP)
2013 – Lynch Mob – Unplugged: Live From Sugarhill Studios
2014 – KXM – KXM
2014 – Lynch Mob – Sun Red Sun
2015 – Sweet And Lynch – Only To Rise

Who else?