Monthly Archives: August 2012

Publish And Be Damned

Subtle

Subtle

I believe I may have caught a record label trying to thieve money from me the other day. But first, a caveat:


When I started this blog I was determined to write about anything I wanted without being encumbered by industry politics or possible ramifications to me or my bandmates. So many things happened during both my time with The Berzerker and during the first release of The Senseless that I felt should be put on public record for everyone to know, namely how various industry figures conduct business. I believed that one of the upsides of The Senseless being unsigned was that I could now report or talk about whatever I wanted without worrying about sinking my own non-existent career, or taking any friends down with me. This time, I thought, I could name and shame any industry figures without a care in the world.


I still feel that way to a degree. For instance, I have an article about a well-known Norwegian band that has been in draft status for the last month entitled “The Biggest Dickheads In Metal”, with a list of their considerable transgressions. But a recent incident has occurred which has made me think twice about my ‘publish, and be damned’ approach.


This rethink is because the incident not only involves me and an entity with whom I have considerable history, but also three friends. While I mightn’t care about my future in music – indeed, I think making music works better with such a mindset – I’m sure they all care for theirs, so I’m writing this with as much tact as I can muster. Additionally, although I’m 99.9999% sure of what happened I will allow myself a tiny bit of doubt as to whether the interlopers in this tale are as venal as I feel they are. Therefore I will to present this tale without my usual eye for hyperbole, and merely try to represent what I found out and the ensuing communications with as little bias as possible. Fortunately, the mail I opened proceedings with is colorful enough to carry this story.


Enough caveats. Lets do this.


For those who aren’t already aware, The Senseless is an independent band. We are not on any label. We do not have management or any sort of representation. The ‘We’ I’m talking about are myself and Leon Macey, who drummed on the latest release ‘The Floating World’. My debut release ‘In the Realm of the Senseless’ was released by Anticulture Records in 2007, and I ended my contract with them by 2010 (which is another great story which will have to wait for another time). Since then, the band has been completely unaffiliated. Even the mixing and mastering of the latest release ‘The Floating World’ was done by Leon. The only outsiders who had anything to do with us were Ol Drake and Matt Wilcock, who traded off lightning guitar solos on one song : ‘Far From Over’. Ol Drake is from the band Evile on Earache Records. Matt was originally with Berzerker, moved on to Akercocke – both of them were Earache bands – and is currently with Ted Maul. So these guys constitute about twenty seconds of non-independence on one track on a thirty-something minute album.


Around the 25th of July, I was made aware that Earache Records were attempting to collect MCPS royalties for the Senseless track ‘In Our Hearts’. They had registered themselves as the Publisher of the track, and listed the composers as myself, Leon Macey, Ol Drake, and Matt Wilcock. MCPS is publishing, so they were trying to collect publishing royalties on a track I had composed and performed. I had received no communication on this. I contacted Leon Macey and Ol Drake. They had not been contacted about this either. I didn’t bother contacting Matt. I knew that he would have sent me a text if he’d known anything about this, probably indignant that anyone could possibly think my hack songwriting and guitar playing had come from him.


Earache had my email address. They had talked to me back in the days when I was in Berzerker and was on Earache Records. Why had they registered themselves as Publisher for one of my songs but didn’t tell me? Or any of the other composers? It was my band after all, isn’t that the done thing? They didn’t have a mailing address for me or bank account details, so how were they going to disburse royalties to me once collected? And could such an egregious error be innocently made? I checked everywhere online, and in no location anywhere was it stated – even by an erroneous website – that the composers and performers were anyone other than myself and Leon.


I went into a fit of rage lasting a few days, completely out of proportion to the small amount of publishing that was no doubt being claimed. On July 27th, I posted the following on my Facebook wall:


I have been alerted to quite possibly the most underhand act by a record label ever involving one of my bands, and I’ve seen some amazing ones in my time. Stay tuned.”


Naturally, some clarification from Earache was required. I don’t always send the smartest emails when I’m sizzling with fury, so I sent three prototype mails to Leon and asked him which one I should send. The first email was a heaving string of abuse (closing line: “I’m on the next plane over to beat the shit of your entire office. Not even Dan Hardy can save you, you inflatable cocks”). The second mail was a pisstake. The third mail was a serious one requesting that they amend the MCPS publishing details ASAP. Leon responded that the second mail would be best, with a dash of the third. I sent Dan Tobin at Earache Records the following mail:


“Subject: A chat about publishing
 

G’day, Sam Bean from Berzerker and the Senseless here. I’d like to congratulate you on licensing the latest Senseless album “The Floating World”!

That is why Earache is currently collecting MCPS for it, yes?

I decided it was finally time to start registering tracks with MCPS, and saw that you’re kind enough to be collecting for the song ‘In Our Hearts’ on behalf of Bean/Macey/Wilcock/Drake. This is despite the fact that the entire album is composed and performed purely by Bean/Macey, and the only appearance by Wilcock/Drake is guest solos ONLY ON THE TRACK ‘FAR FROM OVER’, which total to about twenty seconds of playing. To rephrase it, all guitar performances over thirty-something minutes that you hear – solos, rhythm, weird noises, etc – are mine, Samuel Robert John Bean’s. Except for a 20 second burst, generously donated with kind permission from the artists involved and their management.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw that Earache had taken the initiative and listed yourselves as Publisher! Obviously when you heard how utterly blastastic the album is, and how it reduces all modern metal to molten rubble, you knew that you just Had To Have It. And showing how proactive you are with publishing was a way of getting my attention! Shucks guys. You don’t have to try so hard. You know I’d love to work with you again.

Therefore, I am taking Earache listing themselves as Publisher of my independent track by my independent band featuring no performers currently on the label roster as your expressed desire to license The Senseless ‘The Floating World’ for an initial pressing of minimum 1000 copies. Please email me the licensing agreement ASAP so we can sign it and formalise this business arrangement which you have instigated. Then we can talk about press and promotion, further publishing opportunities, and me claiming mechanicals on that initial pressing.

yours faithfully,
Sam Bean

|
|
|
|
V

 PS: OK, seriously now:- The Senseless “The Floating World” is fully composed and performed by Sam Bean and Leon Macey
– there is a 20 second contribution of duelling guitar solos from Matt Wilcock (not currently on Earache’s roster) and Ol Drake on the track “Far From Over”
– Earache have listed themselves as publisher with MCPS for the track ‘In Our Hearts’, and have listed the composers of the track as Macey/Bean/Drake/Wilcock
– Earache are not the publisher for the track ‘In Our Hearts’ and the composers for the track are Macey/Bean
– Earache need to remove themselves as publisher for the track, and remove Ol Drake and Matt Wilcock as composers
Can you sort that for me? Please let me know when that’s done. Ta”


Dan was out of the office for a few days so couldn’t instantly get back to me. When he did, he referred me instantly to their accounts guy Ashley. Ashley came back with this:


From: Ashley
To: Dan Tobin ; sam bean
Cc: Ol Drake
Sent: Thursday, 2 August 2012, 1:58
Subject: Re: a chat about publishing
Hi,
Earache were informed that Ol Drake performed on this recording and had an equal share with the three others in writing the music for the track as well. As Ol’s exclusive publisher we registered his share in the writing of the music for the track (12.5%) with MCPS when the work came up in our account with them suggesting that we might have an interest in it since our exclusive publishee was listed as a writer . . .
I’ve copied Ol on this email so he can confirm that he didn’t in fact write 1/4 of the music and then we’ll gladly withdraw or amend our claim.
Hope that clears up any confusion.
Ashley”


It didn’t clear up my confusion. Now I was even more confused. Who informed Earache as to the composers of my song? Was it actually anyone? Does that mean if one of the many voices in my head tells me that I composed Napalm Death’s back catalogue I can launch a publishing claim for it? And why was Ashley withdrawing the claim dependant on Ol confirming that he didn’t take a part in that track? Isn’t the onus on Earache to prove – despite all the evidence being to the contrary – that one of their artists was a composer on the track? Wouldn’t they at least establish contact with him to confirm whether or not he had? He is one of their biggest artists, after all. The music industry confuses me sometimes. Ol sent back this delightfully to-the-point mail:


” From: Ol Drake
To: Ashley ; Dan Tobin ; Sam Bean
Sent: Thursday, 2 August 2012, 3:03
Subject: Re: a chat about publishing

Hey all – I had no part in the writing of the record.
Ol Drake”


Case closed! Ol added another mail to me saying he never knew about it and would have requested the publishing change himself if he had known. I sent the following back to Earache:


” Sweet.
If you can also remove Matt Wilcock as a composer, that’d be tip-top. Let me know if you need contact details for him.
Thanks for the quick response guys, I appreciate it.
– Sam”


Well, that should have wrapped it up there. I even managed to be moderately polite about it. There was one last communication though, from Ashley:


“No problem . . .

once we remove our interest in the work there’s nothing more to do . .  I need to stress again that it wasn’t us that set the song up on MCPS’s system, we didn’t add anyone in the first place, we just got contacted by MCPS saying “One of ytour (sic) writers is on this work, are you claiming his share?” . .
will do what we can from here to withdraw our claim”


I had the full email trail open. I saw two sentences from Ashley and my eyes kept going from one to the other:


“we didn’t add anyone in the first place, we just got contacted by MCPS”…
“As Ol’s exclusive publisher we registered his share in the writing of the music for the track”…
“we didn’t add anyone in the first place”….
“we registered his share in the writing of the music for the track”…
“we didn’t add anyone”…
“we registered his share”….
“we didn’t add”…
“we registered”…


At this point, I gave up. I have a cool girlfriend I wanted to chat with, it was a rare sunny winters day, and there’s better things to do in life. I wrote this blog down and went outside and enjoyed myself instead. Is there a moral to this story? Not really. Maybe check publishing for your band if you’re independent. If you’re not claiming it, someone else might be. I could even say something pithy about this being the state of the music industry these days but nah. It has always been like this, as far as I know. That’s why I’m happy to be working outside of the industry, relying on the real world for an income. One of many reasons, anyway.


Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

How To Get Big, Part 1

I’ve heard this question from young bands a few times and I’m not sure why I’m asked it, to be honest. Berzerker never had a magazine cover, we never had roadies, never had a headline US tour of our own. We were rather notorious though and many people had heard of us even if they hadn’t actually heard us. In retrospect, I can say that if we remained full time as a band we would have been making a decent living from music by 2007 mostly from live performances. Problem being we hated touring, each other, metalheads, the industry, and ourselves so it wasn’t really an option. Anyway, if the ability to make a living from music and worldwide notoriety is ‘big’, then at that level we were big.

So I get asked the question from young bands, how do we get big? We’re just starting out, how do we get to Berzerker size? If you do a search on the net you get all sorts of advice from all sorts of industry figures, and they’ll all say different things depending on which part of the industry they’re in. I’m not going to give advice on making the best PR sheet or website, or how to get a facebook page with thousands of likes. Other people can give better advice on that than me. My advice however is untainted – I’m not a band manager writing a column telling you that surrounding yourself with great managers trustworthy people is the way forward. The advice I’ll give in this post covers two fundamental principles which, if adhered to, will immediately put you at the top of the pack of your music genre in your country. I will cover further actions and further principles in further posts, but for now here are the Big Two:

 

BE DIFFERENT

There are millions of bands out there. Why should I listen to yours? If you’re just making Slayer songs, or At The Gates songs, or Burzum songs, sorry, but why don’t I just listen to the original bands you’re copying instead of listening to you hmmm? Be different. The world doesn’t need another cover band.

When you’re a deathcore band, you are competing with the hundreds of thousands of other deathcore bands out there. You have to rise above all those thousands of other bands to get your piece of the pie. If you’re a band like Genghis Tron or Melt Banana, then you are plowing virgin territory and your only competition is yourselves.

Ask yourself, who are the biggest bands out there? The ones who pioneered new forms of music, or the ones who have copied them? It’s the pioneers who go down in history, my friend. There are bands who play established styles and don’t bring new forms to the table, but let’s face it – if you are copying the pioneers you have to be twice as good as them. Sepultura swung from Slayer’s nuts, but does your band honestly have a Max and Igor Cavalera? Evile are playing Metallica-style thrash, but you’d never see Metallica able to perform an Evile song because Evile are twice the musicians they are. It’s a fact. If you’re not an innovator then you better be world-class musicians with a lot of other things going your way.

So is it just the music that has to be different? Consider this statement: many people, to varying degrees, define their identity from the bands they listen to. That’s why people have these big retarded arguments about genres, and which band fits in what genre. This is why people like a band’s old stuff better – before they got popular, and the scene kids came in, and the person realised that the original identity they created by following the band had now changed. It’s easy to see with the ‘uniform’ or identity that people adopt when listening to their music in a live setting. Classical music enthusiasts will be suited or well-dressed, metalheads will have their distincitive hairstyles and black bloody band-shirts, the psytrance crowd will be dressed in furry bright colours with props, the country music crowd is in their moleskins, flannelette shirts, and boots. No, not everyone dresses as per their genre. Thank you Captain Obvious. And yes, it is totally possible for someone from one group to appreciate another genre of music. I’m not here to coddle your politically correct pedantic ass. I’m here to tell you that many people form their identity off the music they listen to. If we are talking about being different, then realise that this covers not just the music that you do but also the identity that your band provides. If you haven’t realised, this is why so many genres of metal have sprung up….power metal, battle metal, folk metal, blah blah blah blah blah. It’s a lazy way for bands to try to define both their music and identity. I don’t recommend doing this by the way, it has been done to death already.

Every band thinks they’re different, everyone thinks they’re special. Here’s a quick exercise for you:

Tell me in one sentence what makes your band different from everyone else

How’d that go? Did something just flow off the tongue? Did you have to think for a minute or two? Even worse, did you give the answer that I get from so many people: a shrug, followed by “we just are”?

Here’s an example. For my longtime band The Berzerker, this would be my answer:

“We are the heaviest and most extreme band in the world, we hate absolutely everyone, and write industrial death-metal with big speedcore kicks at the fastest speeds in music and the sickest samples”

Dissecting that, you get the following: I name the two elements we do that no-one else does, namely the industrial death-metal and the speedcore kick samples. When I name other factors that other bands may share (heavy, fast, samples) then out come the superlatives – we are the heaviEST, the fastEST, etc. Are we really the heaviest and fastest? Who knows? I’m not writing a thesis with footnotes to back my claims. This isn’t wikipedia. To hell with facts. By describing common factors as superlatives then we identify with the crowd who are in search of the absolute limit in extremity. We know people define their identity as being into the sickest music, or the most intense experiences. The superlatives help them identify with us in response. We put the cherry on the icing by saying what we’re about: “we hate absolutely everyone”.

With The Senseless, it’s simple: “super-happy metal”. Any description of the band or music will include the word “happy” somewhere. Are all the songs happy? Hell no. There’s usually only about four or five cheerful tracks on each album, the rest of it is usually extremely mental or miserable. However, that distinguishes me from every other metal band and attracts a distinct crowd.

If you want your band to be big, make the effort to be original and different.

 

Tour Overseas

I can’t say this one enough: the fastest way to get big in your home territory is to immediately play outside it without delay.

DO NOT wait until you think your gig is ready.

DO NOT wait for someone to pick you up and book you for an overseas tour just because you’re rocking your local pub.

Playing overseas is daunting. It is easy to make excuses not to do it. It is very easy to put it off until next year, then the year after that. But here’s the fact: the sooner you tour overseas, the sooner your career starts. The world doesn’t care what you do in your hometown. They barely care what you do in your country. This goes double for Australian bands…you can play one thousand of the most amazing shows around Australia for five years and I guarantee you the rest of the world DOES NOT CARE. Most of the world barely knows Australia exists. We only pop up on the news whenever someone gets eaten by a crocodile or a shark.

I’ve known a few bands that paid their dues, worked their home territory, spent years getting their gig together, and then disbanded after their first overseas tour when they realised that their career was only starting with that tour. Simply put, original bands who tour globally have a greater profile and a greater income from music than original bands who stay put at home. To try and keep my rant sharp, here’s a few bullet points for why you want to tour overseas ASAP:

  • You make more contacts in one week of overseas gigging than in a year of domestic shows
  • International bands always get interest wherever they play by dint of being international. Think of when you heard that a band from Japan or Brazil was playing at your local pub. You were curious to see them, and you felt that you should know who they are. This is an assumption people will make about your band when you play overseas
  • You gain greater profile with your domestic scene if you play internationally
  • You give all news websites and magazines a reason to report on you if you’re playing international shows. Touring is still the most guaranteed way for a band to generate attention
  • International touring is an essential part of being a world-class professional band. It is also one of the more stressful parts. Want to know if you can all cut it on the road? Don’t waste time putting in years at home then having the drummer and vocalist quit after their first overseas tour. Do those overseas shows first and see if you all have what it takes
  • Having trouble getting on domestic festivals? Then apply for overseas festivals and get on those instead. Can’t get support slots for domestic tours? Then get on support slots for overseas tours instead. This is the quickest way to get your domestic industry to sit up and take notice of you, and start booking you for the good stuff. You may be thinking, how is it possible for us to get on overseas shows if we can’t get on good domestic ones? As mentioned above, bands always get greater interest in different territories by dint of being international. Your nationality becomes a selling point for potential promoters. Apart from the logistics, it is often easier for a little-known band to get overseas slots as opposed to decent domestic ones.

Here are rubbish reasons for not touring overseas:

  • No money. If you think of your band as a business startup, then you may need to do as businesses do and loan that money. Personal loans, government grants, loans off friends. Don’t wait for a record label or booking agent to offer you money to tour overseas. This does not happen anymore.
  • Losing one of the band members a week out from tour start. This is something almost all bands go through. We had to deal with losing a drummer with Berzerker ten days out from a European headline tour, and we were in a foreign country with no money. We found a guy. The tour went ahead. Nile lost bassist/vocalist Jon Vesano a few days out from tour, guitarist Dallas stepped up on vocals and they found a bassist with a day to spare. Both those bands have considerable global profiles. Legendary Australians Damaged lost a guitarist (they had two) a week or two out from their first US tour, and cancelled the tour. Their career success was miniscule compared to what it could have been.
  • Need more practice. Practice on the road, I say. OK, if you’re unable to complete one of your songs in its entirety then maybe you need to stay in the rehearsal room a little longer. But if you’ve done two or three shows locally and managed to make it through to the end of your set without utterly falling to pieces, then you’re ready. Don’t worry if you’re not polished, you’ll get polished doing five gigs in a row in some place you’ve never been, trying to win over a crowd that doesn’t know you.

 

So there’s my two bits of advice. Be different – more importantly KNOW what your difference is-  and tour overseas. You may have noticed I did not give any advice on HOW to tour overseas. That’s what the internet is for. The advice differs a little depending on your style of music, which country you’re in, and which area you wish to tour in. My mission with this article is to make bands realise that if they wish to get ‘big’, then these are essential components that cannot be shirked. The sooner they are faced, the sooner success comes.

Tagged , , , , ,