Royalties & Schmoyalties

I played music today, that I own, does the publisher, label, or artist know? Nope. Let’s say the internet is where I go instead, is that traceable? Yes.

I own a collection of music, that I should be able to upload to Youtube, in a playlist form, and generate enough views to bring on sponsors and advertisers. These are the original recordings, capable of being captured by Youtube’s content ID system. The rights owners retain the right to say if the playlist is taken down or allowed to generate income through sponsors and advertisers.

If I make the same playlist on Spotify, I do not get the right to bring on sponsors or advertisers capable of generating an obvious difference in income due to a better product offering. There is no doubt I’m better playlister than your average college grad, computer science geek, or video gamer. But, Because there are faux experts at the top of the record industry, they allowed, for money, a fake award presented to the nerds, as the best at deciding how music is delivered.

The problem was that Spotify (who recently blocked me on Twitter) paid an enormous amount of upfront money for plays to happen in the future.  VCs somehow fell for this and the money went straight to the labels, to prop up their dying business model. Why didn’t VCs just bail out the labels and help them build a streaming service….because due to lack of an R&D model that would have never happened, but it indirectly did. Spotify was funded through VCs believing they were a music player software not a predictor of rockstar success. Now, if the nerds’ data crunching analysis & predictions were a real business model, they would be as close to forecasting rockstars as your local fortune teller. Every musician should beware of the ponzi scheme that is Spotify.

 

Advertisements

Conjectures & Surmises

I seek fame like the rest of you. I have worked with famous people for a long time so I am going to tell you how to do it. I care what my peers think, they are the arbiters of my fame. Their decision to like me or not will determine how famous I become. I need the support of everyone else’s decisions to bolster mine. I need them to see that I am trying to do the right thing. Where is everyone moving to right now? Nashville, San Francisco, Denver? They will approve of my move if I pick one of these cities. CNN always gives air time to celebrities & people looking to be famous. I am from the south, maybe I know someone indirectly who can get me some air time. Nashville is the closest to CNN, that is where I’ll go.

This is how I will do it, by doing whatever works to get famous. The only way, follow the already famous. Get my follower count up, worry with externals, feel anxious, run marathons, call everyone that doesn’t agree with me, racist, sexist, or another ist. The only way to become an elitist is to dismiss what is not a norm. Norms are going to push my eliteness into the stratosphere. I’ll be the most famous musician ever. None can compare. Forget equal, I want to be greater than you. I must train myself to think like the growing crowd. No one else voted for the libertarian candidate, why was I trying to be different. Why was I trying to stand out and be ostracized for not agreeing with the guy next to me. Why did I put that hardship in my life.  I’m finally learning you can do anything as a recording artist and get away with it & you can do anything as a democrat and get away with it. I really need to start getting away with anything and blaming others who try to set me straight as being in the wrong. It all seems so simple now. Examine nothing independently. Everything is an already science.

As a musician in the modern era / internet era, I should focus on taking pictures, at the beach, with crabs, to show people I’m socially capable of making faces with nature involved. I should relegate my wardrobe to brands that deserve and get attention in the current market. As a musician in the modern era I should keep a camera or pay a camera-guy/girl to follow me around & capture anything that makes me seem more to-date. I must forget about how music used to work, I must change for the greater role of the modern man in music. I must learn the ways of the internet musician. To stay with the future growth I must follow what the industry is doing.

We should all do this, record in a studio, vote the same, & forget that to have a recording we should play live first. We should concern ourselves with video first principles. We should do so because the label & streaming industry is growing and we want to see it grow. We want to talk about its growth with others, and validate each other with our decision making skills. This is what we all must do, read current articles, blogs, newspapers, the dailys. Books are old, the internet is new. Throw away the books and get an e-reader. We all must abandon what feels good and natural for the sake of the industry.

Monoculture and monolithic thought is something to aspire to, you will not have to argue with that many people, you won’t live in fear that everyone is different than you, and you don’t have to worry about being unpopular. You can drift through life carefree and careless. Easy street. I wasn’t challenged in school so why should I be challenged in life. Challenges are tough. Life is supposed to be easy. Follow the crowd, mimic what they say, blame everyone else for my shortcomings, use circular reasoning to win arguments. Forget winning at life I want to win now.

This is how the internet works. The internet dictates what music is. Music has changed since the internet, and will keep changing. The business will remain the same. The experts tell us to capture video, forget about the song/sound & put audio last. Don’t focus on writing a song to stick out amongst the 40 million, just record a great video. Label deals have the most money set aside for marketing & the least amount for touring. Focus on your video/image not on your performance. If I can only record a forgettable song & shoot an amazing video, It all seems so simple, so easy to do. Why didn’t I think of this earlier. Why didn’t I take the easy route. Man life is tough, If only I knew earlier that I could get away with doing wrong by voting for Obama/Hillary.

I need to take out a student loan and go to film school, learn pro-tools, how to code software, and create a video game app based around music. After attending an Ivy league or prestigious enough university that people will gawk at my credentials, I will go to Sweden and look for opportunities in video game companies where I can intern, but I won’t be an intern without getting paid. I just paid for college, for f**** sake, I’m learning something new, and must be paid to do so. Maybe I’ll be an intern for life. This seems like the best paying job in the current market. Once I’ve created and coded my own video game, I will then code a music player that I can game with algorithmic metrics. I will then approach the music catalogue of the world and proceed to game it to where the majority will use my app. No one is doing it like this, I will be famous for fixing the music industry. When I stand on stage, I want others to look at me and see how famous I am. I will tell them they can’t be like me, even though I am constantly trying to be like them. I will put them down because they exalt me. I will use their feebleness to my own acclaim & I’ll be famous soon, like Obama or Ek. The transition has begun. Be on the look-out for my new single. Look for it, don’t listen for it. Listening is not a part of music anymore, just look at my funny hat and be amazed. Watch out Rihanna, my Icon status is not far off.

These record labels & songwriting foundations are 100 years old. They have been doing this a lot longer than I, but not longer than music, but it’s not music I am seeking, I am seeking fame. Fame today is not musical but cinematic. I must craft a narrative instead of a song. Damn, I need to get internet at the cabin so I am not distracted to play music or practice. I need internet so I can upload videos and images. QUIT PLAYING LIVE MUSIC & FOR GOODNESS SAKE, WORK ON YOUR VIDEO!!!! Man, what a day to be alive. How has this epiphany been avoiding my thoughts for so long. How come I didn’t just open my eyes to what others are doing, and focus my sights on being like them. If I want to do something, just study how someone else is doing it. Geez this way is so obviously right. I can already see the narrative developing, “Musician turns his sights on becoming famous, goes to college, codes software and in the process develops thousands and thousands of fans.” I will then start a foundation based around children and homeless people and out of guilt it will pressure other artists to give to my foundation. I don’t want to worry anymore with trying to be good, being good is hard work. It’s much easier to be bad & forget that reasonable mindset called goodness. I seek fame, popularity, followers, measurable metrics such as views, streams & impressions. I’m almost there, just gotta keep lying to myself.

 

 

Economics & Music

A hoodwink has taken place.

Things are a lot worse in the music business than people would think. We are being fed a digital representation but with nothing to prove a physical engagement. The music business rebound is being done with the public paying the price. HUH? The labels debt is being transferred to the subscription audience. A captive crowd? Like a casino, cruise ship or better yet a PAC (performing arts center). PAC’s can book some stellar music but also have to fill a quota and bring in sub-acts for the already paying audience. If you have a PAC membership or subscription (think season ticket holder) this is what a captive audience is. They don’t have a choice in the music because they are paying for the subscription, to be a part of an audience, regardless of what comes down the channel. You went to a football game but have no care who sings the anthem. The label would like you to follow the visual entertainment so you do not care who is singing or what they sound like. Ariana “freakin” Grande. I think it was Barnum who would hire bad sounding musicians to play outside his circus show so people would hurry inside for better entertainment.

So the digital representation of new media is filled with visual acts who cannot back up a physical presence in music. Bad music hurts the inner ears. If you can listen between your ears, and follow them deeply inside your head, you’ll come to hear so much trash it will change how you listen. Kind of like the technology is changing how we listen to records. Please take the volume down in your headphones to the lowest setting. When we have a choice we are going to choose what sounds best not what someone says I should sit down and listen to, just because I have this season ticket/subscription/membership, or that you should buy a pair of headphones b/c sports players have them. Your ears will thank you as you get older.

Let’s use the hypothetical but relatable case of a clothing subscription model. If you subscribed to an online service and ordered a pair of pants, the model guarantees, if they don’t fit, send them back. You do not have to pay for something that you do not have an experience with. In this option, the clothing company guarantees your physical relationship with the product. If it does not work, no harm, no foul. Now take the label model at streaming services. You pay a subscription, are fed mostly label style (same sound) music, aren’t being allowed to get a refund if you don’t like the music being pushed, and are being spoon fed as if you were a baby in a high-chair. Your choices have diminished and they have removed the variability of bottom-up choice or natural selection that the internet is suppose to provide. The radio is broadcast, the internet is choice. Labels are restraining a natural system and making the audience pay the price. This system will not work. You hear this music and then go see an artist live and you feel cheated. No one forces you to buy a ticket and makes you sit in a seat if you do not like the show. You have the option to leave. The prison model of label/streaming, forces us the same sounds with very little options. I skipped 7 songs last night inside a Pandora app, just to change rhythm. Seven songs, same exact tempo, same beat….low dimensionality.

The label missed the boat and began to sink but their transfer to a subscription platform is a tell that they are not primarily interested in the best, but in a quota-to-fill model. The stiff arm tactics with the label owning equity in streaming services will again benefit the label but not the artist and is all paid for by the audience and advertisers. In a live concert setting (where complex systems thrive through interactivity and variability) the promoter makes a lot of money but the artist is usually the bigger winner (In most cases and in the long run). The seasons changed with interactive technology, but labels have been propping up their antiquated model with audience subscriptions and technology they did not create. Independent artists cannot rise through Spotify due to agreements with label music. Agreements like a lower royalty rate if the song plays more in the service. These non-interactive plays inside playlists are being modelled so the label gets the dollar no matter what plays and when. They are ignoring the data and taking the money.  This disregard, of what interactive systems need to thrive, is another tell of their misunderstanding the market. The labels are essentially pulling the same business model that Vulfpeck did. They do not care who is listening and when (the context doesn’t matter) they only care that the money comes from streams. Streams of what? Blank 30second spaces?  Question: What are they counting (keeping track of) inside streams? Answer: The artists on their roster or anything that benefits their bottom line.

The NDA deals with Spotify, and the like, basically stifles all new sounds from coming up and thus Artisans are headed to Youtube.  The artist and Youtube split the share down the middle. That’s agreeable, who argues with equality in the system. This is also why labels hate Youtube, they don’t get they money, the artist does. Youtube will break Artists before the label, and the label will come running. Take the Bieber kid for example. The label came in and marketed something without letting it develop. The poor kid remains in the news, probably due to an inability to deal with the audience. Just like your girl Ariana. The stifling of letting an organism develop naturally, truly harms these acts in the long run. It’s hard to be a long-term artist in a model where the label is only concerned with the short term dollar.

This is a fragile system that concentrates errors with artificial structures around music. Music starts with performance, not records. Music starts with rhythm, not melody. Primary parts and path dependence. The sequence matters. You wash your shirt then you iron it. You do not push a song when you have zero demand live. You do not make the packaging bigger than the product. And the artist never comes before the song, ever, ever, never, ever.

Standards & Practices

“If you never say anything where you’re going to be wrong, you’ll never say anything interesting.” Peter Thiel

There was a man who apologized (in his way) for something America has been doing for centuries, voting.  He didn’t like how they voted and felt that he could speak for them (since he obviously saw that they didn’t know what they were doing when they did it). He is a smart, all-knowing being who works for Pandora (the music service). He is there to tell computers what to do with music. He decides things like how, when, and what you will be listening to. If you use his company’s technology service, his goal is to make sure that his preferences are the ones you enjoy and that you do most of what he is not willing to do. He wants to introduce social justice when he benefits from a kushy job at a tech firm. I doubt he will be relinquishing this position to someone less fortunate than he. He wants everyone to vote like he and his peers do. He agrees with everything said about music from his peers, and they rarely argue or introduce new sounds to one another. Everything around them is derivative in some form, from how they dress, to what they listen to. This is evident in the selection of music they choose to distribute. He and his co-workers want to introduce a term that they cannot live by (interactive). They will claim to be something they are not and they will do this all on the backs of college dropouts who make music. They feel their college degree affords them the privilege of getting to choose which music (music made by college dropouts) is heard by larger swaths of the general population. Again, they are the current privileged class, who believe that others, not them, should go about with such a silly mission as to reverse historical events which have nothing to do with modern people. These practices are not democratic, enlightened, or with a respect for individuals.

The partner to the above is a lover of neomania. They too feel science is everything, so much so that their business model is propped up by focus groups, who seem to be researching the same sound for over fifteen years (Aguilera-Ariana). With nothing to show for it (their income has drastically dropped) they have had to let many of their staff go. Many of them can be found working at similar services like the above. They do not play music themselves (very well) but are prone to purchase the newest device and listen to music that their friends do. They also have a college degree and have been slowly eroding their understanding of the primary function surrounding music. In the early 80’s they allowed a music video distribution system to dictate how their artists should look. They capitulated and became a lover of looks instead of sounds. This attitude and mindset makes them a poor judge of character, as reality does not rely on looks, or looks have nothing to do with reality. They did not invent the new music distribution technology and are beholden to those who did. They use old sounds to prop up a new technology and fund their antiquated model with old (catalogued) money. They know the new technology is the future but they missed the boat. They also will claim to be an interactive function of the music industry, when never before have they been interactive with music. They dumb down the fact that America is about talent not image. They have very weak ideas about how America should be represented in the music space. When they are approached about their lack of understanding about music, they cower. They are most likely to be a pacifist, or the dog in the fight that has to lie down so they don’t succumb to injury. They hire, exclusively, college graduates which will not know how music was done before. They distribute art in a music space that looks good, but cannot perform, sing, play, etc. to the standard that got us here in the first place. They even keep an artist on their roster who vocally admits to hating America.

As the world looks to societies to emulate, we in America are sorry for the above partnership and their direct attempt to stifle innovation, do only what others are doing, or carry on a legacy of quality. This is not who we are, as Americans involved in music, this is not what we believe. We aren’t in the business of having to apologize for historical events, but we are in the business of debunking falsehoods about our country and defending its standards & practices. We do not believe that computers should decide what you hear no more than you should decide what you hear and we do not believe that image is more important that sound.

Gifts & Works

Did you do something for that trophy? Did you earn what was given to you? How much work did you do?

An apprenticeship model is surely needed in many areas of daily work. Where it is needed the most (for me) is in music. Never in the history of music has there been so many non-musicians making decisions about music for musicians. Never in the history of the industry have we seen such a lack of talent in music and the arts. The idea that a product can just be marketed to solve all ailments is a new argument. This is also why it will not last long. Tonight at the restaurant gig I felt the pressure from those types who believe all you need is a little marketing to bring in the crowd. First off I play a dinner music set not a feature. I’ve turned down musicians who want to sit in, merely because they aren’t interested in playing soft, and in the background. What if that is what the audience wants? Would you deny your song to be played on a plane, while boarding. Would you deny your song to be played while someone did homework? Would you deny your song to be played over an office or restaurant radio? This is all background, non-interactive, lean back approaches, and roughly more than 80% of music played is played in this form. The interactives are of course the ones who activate the song to be disseminated in such a manner. What these musicians did not want to do is be in the background, they wanted to be featured, they wanted their fifteen minutes. This mentality is where we are in music today, with those trying to get noticed so quickly they start wearing meat dresses.

Gone are the days of the A&R man who went to the shows and who was also a musician. Nowadays the idea of someone who scouts music has a college degree and does not play an instrument (well). With this background, this is the type of musician they will mostly come across and sign. John Legend is a perfect example, college educated and a below average singer/musician. This scout will tell you all you need is the marketing arm of the label and you’ll be a star. I can’t even go in to counting the thousands of acts like this, but they do not, and will not have long careers. They will not have a greatest hits album, and will see profit if they get on “Now (that’s what I call music) 52” and book some tertiary market shows. Giving the label some credit is the last thing I will ever do. They have put their investment in short-term artists and in marketing. Remember inside a label deal, marketing is the heaviest amount advanced and tour support is the least amount. They do not invest in touring (performance) because they have never had a business that revolves around it. Their business solds records, how many records do you buy? Why would you listen to what they are saying about music when they are missing a key first step, performance. Label vets are also at streaming services like Ek’s place and still trying to tell musicians what to do with their music. While we live in this trophy era, no one is getting the negative feedback they need to be better. This information is missing. Let’s say you lost your keys and in the process of looking for them you turn over a chair to find out, unfortunately, they are not there. So what does not work (if used correctly) will lead you in a better direction to finding your keys. The label only tells you what works, like Audiokite, but what works today may not work tomorrow, music business is no science. Labels cannot tell you what doesn’t work and what doesn’t work is better info because you won’t look under that chair again for your keys.

The future of anything valuable is the real transaction, and long-term artists get this. Artists who perform then record can have a career that lasts (you only have to be right once and in this model it is much harder to be right again). A hit that pops can be the artists gravy train for decades and decades to come, as long as this artist is a real transaction performer.

The institution of the record label does not value performance and therefore do not value the artist in the long term. The idea that a label can propel a musician to the heights of music is a falsehood. This arena of transferring fragility to artists (if they cannot perform) has been growing steadily inside labels. Artists in the 60’s and 70’s were real-time performers, that’s why most of them still perform today. The artists we have today are more often going in to film, movies, tv, and everything other than performing the hit/song the record label help them make. This recording artist has bypassed the first step of music and has made many believe you do not have to perform to get paid. Sure, but you won’t be respected by real musicians either. You will not go down as an ICON in music, and will more likely be known for some lesser medium of entertainment.

With respect to the current system in place. There is a new distribution in digital music called streaming, the advances in this technology are wonderful but not for the current recording artist as stated above. Real transaction (performance/tour/ticket) data shows us who went to see Green Day at Joe Louis Arena (Detroit) last Friday at 8pm. Interactive streaming data shows us that Jill Steiner (fictitious) pays for a subscription and pulled up Snoop Dogg at 8:08am last Tuesday just to play the song “Beautiful” featuring Pharell. Not everyone can go to the show (it’s exclusive to people who have interest) and their interest made them purchase a ticket, they made a choice. Jill did the same thing, she wanted to hear that specific song at that exact time of day (maybe while getting ready for work, or driving, or). The radio system never could do this and that was our whole distribution system of media outside of making an album purchase, which is the record label’s specialty. But in this speciality they have made themselves vulnerable to change, the change being the choice to listen to whatever we want vs. having a silo of information and a top-down distribution model. The bottom up approach relies on people wanting to go to the concert. This means the artist has to be a performer to stick out amongst 40 million songs. The audience that carries the most value interacts with the music. The way to that audience is through those who have experience interacting with the music and the audience in real-time. The label cannot understand this concept and will crash the streaming side of interactiveness. It’s propped up by quick money right now, Spotify generates most of the revenue for these labels and Spotify is propped up with quick cash in an era where VC’s had access to low interest dollars. Spotify isn’t profitable and is being pressure to have an IPO, this is scary stuff as the artist hasn’t benefitted and won’t in this model. The artist only benefits when they can turn that interactive data into a ticket sale.

The idea is simple, but to allow record institutions to be the pilots of this plane is asking for a crash. Nothing about the label institution can help an artist be a better performer, which is what an artist needs in order to have a sustainable career. You may sell a track or two, but if you can’t perform it, you are already washed up, or will be the writer to someone else’s performance. A musician who has been on the ground in the mode you will be in, carries more value than any label person’s idea of what college musician’s do. When there are 40 million tracks available to everyone, what will it take to make it, or stick out amongst the crowd. What will the audience want to interact with? For this we will want to go to the closest engagement between the audience and the music. Where real transaction data brings a better understanding of context. What does the label teach, marketing, not performance. To stick out in today’s music industry it will take learning from those who have been involved in live music, not marketing. Make sure they have musical experience, can play an instrument and be able to “talk music” and not “talk about music”. These practitioners are aware of the real transaction, and in the real transaction there is real value.