Posts Tagged ‘V.O.D’

The 2nd part of my ramblings on music, my perception of it, and whether it is becoming a throwaway commodity…

7th Log
MUSIC’S WORTH  Part 2 – Paul Blom
Access Part 1 Here
Access Part 2 Here

Access Part 3 Here

Paul Blom

Paul Blom

To some music is a calling, to others a gift… Many are so fascinated with it they simply need its presence to the extent that they want to become a part of it, by creating it… Not everyone can be successful at it, sadly… Some have a natural feel for constructing tunes, beats and words that will attract the most listeners, while others can get lost in the process, leading to epic swathes of virtuoso technicality (that the everyday listener simply won’t grasp when simply looking for a thumping beat and a phrase to repeat)… The former will get media coverage and sales while the latter will have a niche following that appreciate their craft but are not enough in numbers to sustain it.

Almost all Metal musicians have to hold down day jobs (especially in South Africa).  Why should it be an expensive hobby rather than a career?  Live shows can’t keep an alternative band afloat – there are only as many venues, as many supporters, and playing 3 times a week is impossible (unless you have a cover band on the side).

Album sales are essential to enable a band to develop into an established act.  Is that possible on our turf?  And is it possible if hundreds of people rip and upload it to be accessed for free by all, downloaded to thousands of other listeners who can also do so until it’s saturated?  Terminatryx discovered some locations like one in Russia that had our “Shadow” album up almost the same week of its release! – its download counter racking up eye popping amounts that outweighs our actual sales.

On a related illustrative issue, the quality of many porn companies’ output dropped dramatically because of on-line piracy – they simply cannot plough money back into new content because that stream is drained…

For a band, if they can’t at least break even on their current album, how do they fund the next one? (let alone pay rent or eat).  Racking up more debt for people to hear their music?  Does it make sense?  No wonder so many bands go as quickly as they come.  Would you blindly agree to work for your employer without compensation?

Some would say: “If you can’t draw enough listeners, then you suck and shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing” – It’s not that simple.

Would you feel offended, violated, outraged if the same guy that made the new Carcass album available for you to download for free hacks your computer or smartphone and rummages around your personal files, taking it and making it available to the rest of the world without your permission?

I’ve been in Metal / Alternative / Industrial bands since the ’80s (incl. Moral Decay, Metalmorphosis, V.O.D – Voice Of Destruction, K.O.B.U.S., Terminatryx, The Makabra Ensemble, my solo project F8) – I’m no accountant and haven’t done a debit and credit spreadsheet of the last 30 years, but I reckon it’s safe to say that I’ve put more into it than I got out (in financial terms).  But, because I love the music, I keep doing it, resigning to the fact that here in South Africa that seems to be the norm (although it shouldn’t be).  Most bands get despondent and give up.  Would it be a different story if they could sell their music like any other product and get fairly compensated for it?  Or get equal radio spins like that which everyone deems to be acceptable or “normal” music?

It is also interesting how people outside of South Africa seem far more enthusiastic about our music than the locals – don’t get me wrong, we have die-hard local fans and love each and every one of them, but foreigners on the one hand find the location intriguing, but are even more impressed when the music actually speaks to them (as we found with our IndieGoGo supporters on our Terminatryx “Shadow” album).  We’ve had people who initially grabbed an illegal download of our music, but then ended up ordering hard copies and merch from us afterwards – Granted these are isolated cases, but encouraging.

When everyone grilled Metallica’s Lars Ulrich for lashing out at Napster, I understood where he came from, having struggled in bands for many years up until that point (but hardly reaching their level of popularity).  Sure, they were millionaires and wouldn’t technically miss the income, and he did go about it in his somewhat arrogant ‘Lars’ way, but that’s not the point.  The oil companies of the world are some of the biggest money spinners (not musicians or movie-makers) – does anyone drive in at a gas station, fill up and leave, telling the attendant not to worry because the oil companies make enough money?  That would be a conversation with the cops or the hot end of a bullet a block down the road…

While his bank balance was not exactly in jeopardy, Lars in effect spoke up for all musicians, including the smaller struggling bands whose music was also being shared without their permission – bands who are struggling just like Metallica did when they started out.  If a band says: “Sure, here it is, do with it as you please”, that’s fine – it is not however a declaration of carte blanche for all music.

When Taylor Swift recently had a mini furore with Apple regarding musician remuneration (whether it was a marketing ploy or not), she was hailed a heroine… but Lars was deemed a whining wealthy pariah who just wanted more money…

So why is it so easy to grab someone’s music (or movies) from a file-sharing location or elsewhere at no cost?  Is it because these files are virtually invisible (and not tangible and packaged like a CD), that it seems harmless?

Has music become worthless?  Or at least perceived as such?  It is hardly a scarce commodity.  Shouldn’t musicians be able to make a living with their craft? (whatever genre).  It is the norm with every other job, isn’t it? From truck drivers to video store clerks or insurance salesmen.  The starving artists schpiel is not a romantic notion.  And to create original music can be even harder – A friend from a prominent ’90s rock band recently revealed he’s made more money playing just a few shows in his new cover band than his entire early band “career”…!  Fucked-up or what?

So, there are hundreds of different ways we justify grabbing a song, an album, a movie or TV series from somewhere on-line, but deep down, does our conscience gnaw at us?  If not, should we be worried that this is having a global effect on our moral compass?  And can this expand to other parts of life?  Just like we won’t stroll out of a record store with a stack of CDs or DVDs, is it that faceless anonymity that makes it so much easier to do via the internet?

Is a new generation growing up expecting their music to be free at all times?

Sure, the music industry is going through serious changes and large exploitative labels that cashed in on artists for decades have to reconsider their approach.  Whether the musicians will really take it back, we’re yet to see.  Marketing seems to have outweighed the actual music, so those who reach the people wins…?  Some bands eventually have to resort to gimmicks to get attention amid the clamouring horde, or bending their identity to sound like the flavour of the moment – Selling out is relative, and I won’t condemn someone who decides they want to adapt their music to get more listeners – It’s their business (literally!).  But they run the risk of losing their hardcore fans that may have been with them since the beginning – Celtic Frost and “Cold Lake” anyone?

Vinyl’s resurgence has added a tangibility to music.  I loved the gatefold sleeves, large format artwork and details you got to peruse while listening to your brand new album for the first time (and if it strikes a chord many more spins thereafter) – and the smell of those import sleeves and vinyl still lingers – an all round sensory experience.  Even if this resurgence is just a fad, a hipster trend, or another way to cash in, in one way piracy in that particular format is not as easy as ripping a file.

By playing a vinyl record, you regain a physical connection with the music.  An iTunes playlist on random becomes mere background wallpaper and can drone on for weeks non-stop.  With the records you peruse the shelf, pick out what you want to hear (to fit the current mood), physically cue it up, and at the end of side A, you have to get up and turn it over.  Lazy asses would scoff at this laborious, antiquated task.  But, I feel this reconnection brings you closer to the music again.

Band_live_4up_1

Terminatryx Live

Sure, we live in a world of fast-faster-fastest, more convenience, quicker this & that.  Sometimes you need to kick back and take it easy.  When you go out to see live bands, you get ready, drive out, link up with friends, maybe queue outside, have drinks, chat and catch up – only several hours after your journey began do you get to see the band, starting when they’re scheduled – the entire night’s experiences wrapped around this group and their music, sometimes resulting in indelible and lasting memories.  This could be the moment you fall in love, meet someone who will impact your life forever, or simply have an experience you can think back on as “one of the best nights of my life”.

That’s surely worth something…?

Drop us a reply if you agree or disagree with any of these ramblings…
To be concluded in the 3rd and final part

Access Part 1 Here
Access Part 2 Here

Access Part 3 Here

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(Initially this piece was pushing 4000 words… but I though maybe it’s best if I edit it some more and split it up into 3 parts to make it easier on you! The word count actually grew – So, here goes Part 1)

6th Log
MUSIC’S WORTH  Part 1 
– Paul Blom
Access Part 1 Here
Access Part 2 Here

Access Part 3 Here

TERMINATRYX_Paul

Paul Blom – Terminatryx co-creator

Music…  something most of us cannot live without, yet it can so easily be devalued in so many ways.  From dismissing something as shit because it doesn’t fit your genre preference, to illegally downloading it.

 

My love of music and movies are very much on a par.  And while the music I make usually have a Metal edge or movie soundtrack elements, and music videos or movies I produce and direct have a Horror flavour, my taste in audio and cinema is as wide as Weird Al Yankovic’s prosthetic butt in his “Fat” music video parody of Michael Jackson’s “Bad”… OK, even wider – from Classical music to Grindcore, or Romantic Comedies to Eastern Extreme films – and loads in between.

With the digital and on-line age, access to music (and movies) has become effortless, swift, and also, potentially at no cost…

It’s not up to me to condemn anyone when they decide to grab illegal downloads in stead of buying it, but in that respect can only relay my perspective on it from the other side.

Across the 1980s when we took the weekly pilgrimage into Cape Town’s CBD by train, we’d head straight for Ragtime Records looking for new albums (located in the Old Mutual underground mall, below the Golden Acre on Adderley Street), raiding the import bins, searching for our favorite bands at the time (incl. Kiss, Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., Metallica, Slayer, Overkill, Megadeth, Anthrax, Manowar, Accept etc.) or discover new ones (sometimes just judging by the killer artwork alone! – often less successfully so, as with the Krokus live album).  Still in school, pocket money was tight then, and when you managed to find that gem that very few people would have on their record shelf (with only a few of them flown into the country), you cherished it and savored every note (and I still have most of those vinyl LPs).  And when friends and acquaintances surfaced with rarities like Venom’s live Hammersmith Odeon show on Betacam videotape, or Hardcore / Punk EPs from Sweden on 7-inch, these were copied onto cassette (something many compare to the current on-line sharing habits – albeit a much faster, unencumbered and easily proliferated trend than the old-school method).

 

LPs

My vinyls

 

These trips into the city hunting for music was an adventure with a great reward at the end of it – the music becoming an integral part of our lives, identity and soundtracks to our youth (with albums like Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” and Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets” still as brilliant as they were on their release 3 decades ago, and not just because it has a sense of nostalgia attached to them, but because they really are fantastic albums with great songs and production).

Virtually anything you’re looking for today can be found on-line with a few key strokes.  Searching for new music however can become a task as you now have to wade through a vastly increased morass of bands – some brilliant, some good, but most terrible imitations of imitations in a perpetual cycle of regurgitation – buying all of these albums blindly is obviously not practical or financially viable (that’s why there are sample streaming options to check out first as a test drive – like the headphone listening corner record stores used to have).  But with technology’s advances everything is speeding up and we all demand everything right here, right now, no waiting period to be tolerated – even on-line stores race to ensure overnight delivery of your physical CDs / DVDs / Blu-rays… I still find an excitement in waiting for something you ordered, like an import taking longer than usual – maybe forgetting about it as you get on with other things, you know, like life – pleasantly surprised when the courier arrives with your package(!)

But, when looking at what it takes to create an album, be it a work of genius or a bland offering, one produced in a home studio or at a multi-million dollar professional facility – is one of lesser value than another?
Then of course the shift towards digital files as opposed to physical CDs are an issue (not just related to cost, accessibility and space).  And we all have our preferences – yet I don’t understand why we cannot embrace all of these formats to serve different purposes… Maybe because the hardware producers need a new component to sell us each time, scrapping the previous one in favour of the “new and improved” technology?, and with living spaces shrinking, can we all fit a variety of players on the shelf? (Ours contains: a DVD player, PS3/Blu-ray, X Box, PS2, Wii, HD Media Player, and yes, a VCR – with all the discs, tapes and files to go with it – While I have loads of vinyl records and still a few cassettes from back in the day, I haven’t re-purchased a turntable yet).


TX_Shadow_CDs

Terminatryx – “Shadow”

 

It is often assumed that the musicians and moviemakers on these media delivery systems are wealthy… Even Metal bands you consider to be huge are not all millionaires.  Industrial acts can be even more niche (unless you’re Trent Reznor or Al Jourgensen, running your own show).  Record companies don’t throw money at non-commercial bands and musicians.  They have to work their asses off and whatever the record company puts in, they take back tenfold before the musicians can profit from their art.  So if the cost outweighs the return – the band can end up owing the record company! (while none of the executives and employees miss a paycheck or bonus).  A master-slave relationship often resulting in relentless touring to pay the bills, not necessarily for the joy of playing to fans and making a living at it (some record deals even hijack the band’s merchandise rights).  In the early-’90s when my band V.O.D (Voice Of Destruction) was (kind of) signed to local label Inhouse Records, we had to get up to Johannesburg on our own steam, record, play live shows, then having to hint with label owner Philip Nel that we’ll need cash for gas on the long drive back to Cape Town!  We never saw any returns from album and compilation sales.  When we took the plunge in the mid-’90s and flew off to Europe to record for our new German label Morbid records and do a full Euro tour (with Katatonia and In The Woods), again, all costs had to get covered first.

V.O.D Bloedrivier

The indie route is becoming the norm with more freedom, but even so, that places all the burden on the band.  It takes focus, determination, double the hard work, and a thick skin to take many hits.

Even though it has a more visceral approach, Metal / Industrial / real alternative music is more challenging and (yes) intellectual than your average shit-pop tunes aimed at the lowest common denominator (although generic satanic content can be negated as equally frivolous as mainstream themes of dancing or proclamations on how much “swag” you have… a line screeching “Satan!” often coming across just as meaningless as “Up in the club!” – but each to their own).  The musical input and technical execution of Metal far outranks commercial drivel following whichever trend seems the most likely to cash in with a single release or (the once popular) ringtone download.  I accidentally passed Idols while channel flipping and judge Jennifer Lopez’s vacuous new video was being screened – holy shit, the same old pathetic crap with the most soulless “music” behind it, and yes, the “lyrics” are about fuckin’ dancing!.  At the end of the day, that song is literally worth gold to her (in revenue earned), however base, simple, dumbed-down or commercially pandering it may be – while to me it isn’t even worth a turd, and I wouldn’t want it for free (even as a legitimate give-away, let alone an illegal download…)

The days of an album that was constructed to take the listener on a  journey of musical and emotional highs & lows across 9 to 12 tracks seem to be disappearing in favor of an instant fix.  But it looks like Metal is the bastion where this experience would survive (with concept albums also not forgotten).

And besides, Metal was never radio’s friend – Iron Maiden and Metallica built their fan base on the road with a lot of blood and sweat (and I’m sure quite a few tears).  While on-line stations have done a lot to get new music heard, not many pay the artists royalties like regular stations (who also knew how to cut corners).  So, the discrimination of heavier music being barred from regular airwaves (and removed from the revenue stream where others benefit), increased plays and streaming on-line may get them noticed and heard, but not necessarily paid – so, the hope would be that listeners do further investigation and buy the album if they like it – but, increasingly, in stead opt to find it somewhere for free… So, if your job doesn’t pay that well or payday is still far off, and a cool new album comes along that you can’t afford, how easily do you hit the browser and see where someone has uploaded it?

Paul Blom

Paul Blom

I’m still puzzled as to how anyone justifies taking someone else’s work, dropping it on-line for anyone to do with as they please… Do they feel they’re doing the musician a favour to get it out there?  Or get ego points for being a sharing person, or maybe even get it out there before the official release date?  Or even think they’re fulfilling a public service?  Is it a power trip? Who knows…

Creating an album however, is not exempt of substantial cost.  Even if you record at home – the equipment, software, your instruments and the many hours dedicated to writing, rehearsing, recording, honing your skills, as well as mixing, the mastering, the reproduction (if you press physical CDs), all add up to a handsome sum that has to be covered.  Recording in a professional studio ups that even more.  Terminatryx has done both of these and the recoup process can sometimes lead to simply taking the hit and writing it off… Is that right and justified?  Even with merchandise sales, new T-shirts need to be printed with the income from those sold, so the cycle rolls on.

It costs a lot to do what you love, and to have fun at it! – but debts can take the joy out of making music, and lead to so many bands throwing in the towel.

Drop us a reply if you agree or disagree with any of these ramblings…
To be continued in Parts 2 and 3…

Access Part 1 Here
Access Part 2 Here

Access Part 3 Here