Monthly Archives: January 2017

Michael Toland: Throwing Horns Pt.666.10

 

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Hard rock! Stoner metal! Crustcore! Psychedelia! Grunge! Thrash! Skronk! Black metal! Trash punk! Bad boy boogie! (huh?) Smell the glove and make the sign of the umlaut, kids, it’s the seventh installment in our latest genre study, with Metallica, Opeth (pictured above), Helmet, Sodom, Wretch, Brain Tentacle, and more. Go here to read the first episode, Pt. 666.1, here for Pt. 666.2, here for Pt. 666.3, here for Pt. 666.4, here for Pt. 666.5, here for 666.6, here for 666.7 , here for 666.8 and here for 666.9—if you dare. Incidentally, following the album and band blurbs are links to audio and video, so check ’em out.

BY METAL MIKE TOLAND

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When Metallica releases an album – something that’s become an oddly rare occurrence in the past couple of decades – it’s an event. The San Fran band is such a major player in its genre – arguably the most important act in metal still in full flower – that the quality of the music is almost beside the point. Fortunately, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (Blackened) finds the nearly 40-year-old band closer to its original mojo than it’s been since the early 90s – maybe even the late 80s. The quartet has made no secret of its desire to revisit the whipcrack thrash it pioneered in the mid-80s – members have filled interviews with assurances of a return to their original sound, and recent shows have relied almost solely on its Reagan-era repertoire. Unsurprisingly for an album with such high expectations, the results are mixed. Much of the record takes the heavier tracks on the massively successful and still controversial Black Album as core inspiration – anyone expecting Master of Puppets II will be disappointed. Plus a lot of the lyrics are seriously dire – the chorus of “Hardwired” (“We’re so fucked/Shit out of luck/Hardwired to self-destruct”) would embarrass a 12-year-old. And James Hetfield’s mighty voice is starting to sound thin on a few tracks – on “Dream No More,” he’s nearly unrecognizable. But when the band locks in on what it does best – the raised-fist power metal of “Atlas, Rise!,” the hatchet prog metal of “Confusion,” the neckbreaking attack of “Spit Out the Bone,” “Moth Into Flame” and even “Hardwired” – with all the power, precision and, most significantly, enthusiasm of their younger selves, all the carping falls away in a haze of headbanging and air guitar. Hardwired…to Self-Destruct may not be the new masterpiece most of us were hoping for, but it’s absolutely the best Metallica record in a quarter of a century. TRACK: Metallica – “Moth Into Flame”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tdKl-gTpZg

 

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Instrumental metal usually takes the form of either prog-like epics or shredfests designed to let the musicians show off. Philadelphia’s Dysrhythmia can certainly be accused of the latter, as the trio is made up of virtuoso technicians who can play nearly anything. But on The Veil of Control (Profound Lore), the band’s eighth LP, guitarist Kevin Hufnagel, bassist Colin Marston and drummer Jeff Eber use their powers for good. Taking cues from jazz in their interplay and punk rock in their elevation of intensity over technique, Dysrhythmia grab hold of riffs that are complex more in feel than in form and don’t let go, driving them to levels of power and tension that takes telepathic reciprocity and a lot of time in the practice space. Anyone looking for insanely complex solos worthy of Guitar Face may need to go elsewhere – Dysrhythmia’s compositional smarts and interwoven musicianship creates a space where solos aren’t needed to make the songs compelling. TRACK: Dysrhythmia – Veil of Control Bandcamp: https://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-veil-of-control

 

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More overtly referencing jazz fusion than Dysrhythmia, Animals As Leaders takes similar influences to different places on The Madness of Many (Sumerian), the D.C. trio’s fourth album. Eight-string guitarists Tobin Abasi and Javier Reyes are quite capable of soloing with GIT-soaked abandon, but are more interested in textures than technique. The axemen’s string slashes – which contribute both bass and guitar tones – clash in a way that creates polyrhythms with drummer Matt Garstka, and a subtle funk undercurrent keeps the tracks percolating. TRACK: Animals As Leaders – “Inner Assassins”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEYt2GtfQJk

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Drawing on different inspiration than its fellow trios, Russian Circles eschews solo-happy arrangements and just goes for the jugular on Guidance (Sargent House), the Chicago band’s sixth record. Guitarist Mike Sullivan, bassist Brian Cook and drummer Dave Turncrantz ride a fine line between doom metal and post rock, infusing the soaring dynamics of the latter with the power chord chug and thundering crunch of the former. TRACK: Sodom – “Caligula”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI6GXnBPDuQ&feature=youtu.be

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Ottawa quartet The Night Watch adds prog rock sweep to its second record Boundaries (self-released). Guitarist Nathanael Larochette and violinist Evan Runge – both also of equally wordless experimental act Musk Ox – balance power chords and soaring string lines over the course of one 36-minute tune that never loses steam. TRACK: The Night Watch – Boundaries Bandcamp: https://thenightwatch.bandcamp.com/

 

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Veteran Seattle black metal duo Inquisition has endured its fair share of bad press lately, due to accusations of Nazism. (Which seems unlikely, given this decidedly non-Aryan act hails originally from Colombia.) While denying all charges, guitarist/vocalist Dagon and drummer Incubus spit out Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith (Season of Mist). The title alone indicates more interest in high-falutin Luciferian fooferaw than National Socialism, and Dagon’s guttural rumble makes meaning hard to discern in any case. In truth, the band’s passion is for grinding but catchy riffs and blastbeat rhythms that conjure up that most rare of demons in black metal: a groove. (All the more impressive given the lack of bass.) “The Flames of Infinite Blackness Before Creation” and “Through the Divine Spirit of Satan a Glorious Universe is Known” don’t court controversy so much as headbanging glory. TRACK: Inquisition – “Power From the Center of the Cosmic Black Spiral”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5C-W3Tq-zgM

 

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Also no stranger to controversy, Norway’s legendary Darkthrone returns with its sixteenth LP Arctic Thunder (Peaceville). Singer/guitarist/bassist Nocturno Culto and drummer/lyricist Fenriz forgo the usual chaotic blast beats for a powerhouse marriage of blackened extreme metal and NWOBHM riffery. “Tundra Leech,” “Boreal Fiends” (which ends with a synth solo!) and “Deep Lae Trespass” sound, a quarter of a century after the band released its first album, less like black metal classicism and more like classic metal. TRACK: Darkthrone – “Tundra Leech”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lwz7gucE7x0

 

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German headbanger vet Sodom also make a big return with Decision Day (Steamhammer/SPV), the trio’s 15th record, released 30 years after its debut. The band’s blackened thrash is as teeth-gnashingly powerful as ever, blazing through ugly anthems “Rolling Thunder,” “Vaginal Born Evil” and “Caligula” with nasty (and faintly ridiculous) intent. What else would you expect from a group whose singer is called Tom Angelripper? TRACK: Sodom – “Caligula”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI6GXnBPDuQ&feature=youtu.be

 

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Witchery keep the Satanic vibe rolling on In His Infernal Majesty’s Service (Century Media), the long-running Swedish ensemble’s sixth LP. The quintet has always blended its bloody black metal with other styles (particularly thrash and power metal) for an evil brew that appeals to more than just the corpsepainted crowd. The powerhouse whipcrack of “Netherworld Emperor” sidles up to the blastbeat explosion of “The Burning of Salem,” both of which contrast with the heads-down stampede of “Zoroast” and the straight-up anthemry of “Oath Breaker.” Good headbanging fodder whether you worship Lucifer or not. TRACK: Witchery- “Oath Breaker”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMBynqpUzdE

 

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Norway’s In the Woods… never bothered with all that Satan stuff, finding its eerie weirdness inside its own collective head. Pure (Debemur Morti Productions), the innovative band’s first album in 17 years, keeps the menacing atmosphere of darkness, but skips most of the other BM signifiers. Exchanging blastbeats and vampire-on-crack singing for sweeping minor-key melodies and a gruff baritone, ItW uses its black metal roots as foundation for moody progressive anthems “Blue Oceans (Rise Like a War)” and the massive “Transmission KRS.” TRACK: In the Woods… – “Blue Oceans Rise (Like a War)”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iY0nBdumDr0

 

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The Gates of Slumber waved the flag for old-fashioned doom metal for over a decade, before the departure and subsequent death of bassist Jason McCash put a period on the end of that sentence. But guitarist/singer Karl Simon isn’t done laying down the thundering riffgroove just yet, picking up exactly where he left off with Wretch, named for TGoS’s final LP. The trio’s self-titled debut (Bad Omen) floweth over with deep sludgy grooves, lava-thick guitar waves and Simon’s plainspokenly gruff ruminations on “Grey Cast Mourning,” “Winter” and “Running Out of Days.” No psychedelic excursions, blackened atmospheres or noise dynamics here – just pure doom done well – better, possibly, than anyone else treading the boards not named Tony Iommi. Check out “Icebound” for a near-perfect encapsulation of everything doom is all about. TRACK: Wretch – s/t Bandcamp: https://badomenrecords.bandcamp.com/album/wretch

 

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Combining progressive rock melodics, death metal aggression and doom crunch, Vancouver’s Anciients blast to life on sophomore LP Voice of the Void (Season of Mist). Alternating carnivorous roars with keening croons, sweeping tunesmithery with thunderous riffology and soaring majesty with grimy brutality, the quartet lifts you up to heaven, only to drag you back through hell, usually within the same song. As such, the band is at its best on longer pieces where it can really flex its considerable muscle – “Worshipper” and “Ibex Eye” are particularly good examples. TRACK: Anciients – “Ibex Eye”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFJaeVS8L00

 

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Veteran Swedes Dark Tranquility skip the doom part of the equation, but aren’t a million miles away from prog metal on eleventh LP Atoma (Century Media). The band’s sense of majestic melody informs tracks like “Neutrality,” “When the World Screams” and “Encircled” – it’s just one clean vocal away from a radio-ready anthem. TRACK: Dark Tranquility – “Forward Momentum”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suhuQlYZwtE

 

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Pioneering avant metal act Neurosis lets enough years go between releases that any new album is a big deal. Fires Within Fires (Neurot), the influential Oakland quintet’s twelfth album and first in four years, serves as a thirtieth anniversary record, and a summing up of the group’s long career to date. Over the course of five long tracks, Neurosis takes a journey through noise and silence, chaos and order, alternating high volume and maximum crunch with delicate beauty and near-ambient intonation. Guitarists Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till interweave steely webs of thorny latticework before crashing into wall-shaking thunder; drummer Jason Roeder modulates the dynamics while still keeping to the crunge. Keyboardist Noah Landis and bassist Dave Edwardson fill out the sound without drawing attention. As vocalists, Kelly and Von Till evoke the album title in their performances, calling up a harsh passion undiminished in their three decades around the metal block. “A Shadow Memory” and “Fire is the End Lesson” present masterclasses in how to manipulate sturm und drang without becoming tiresome, while the awesome closing epic “Reach” is a summary of everything that makes Neurosis great. TRACK: Neurosis – Fires Within Fires Bandcamp: https://neurosis.bandcamp.com/album/fires-within-fires

 

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Every time we think NYC alt.metal icon Helmet has finally given up the ghost, we’re proven wrong. Since its reactivation in the early ‘aughts, Page Hamilton likes to take his time between records and tours, so the confusion is understandable. Six years since the underwhelming Seeing Eye Dog, Hamilton and co. return with Dead To the World (earMUSIC), Helmet’s eighth LP. The guitarist’s voice has gotten rougher over the years – indeed, he’s almost unrecognizable to his former mellifluous yet harsh singing self. Otherwise, though, the song remains the same – growling riffs, grungy melodies, noisy guitar breaks, the occasional unusual lick or chord progression to remind us of Hamilton’s jazz training. “Bad News,” “Life or Death” and “Expect the World” likely won’t change the minds of the unconverted, but fans will feel a familiar warm and steely buzz. TRACK: Helmet – “Bad News”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkFMvststF0

 

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On their last album Clean., Whores. seemed just too angry and spiteful to live. But rage can keeps the blood pumping, as on the band’s follow-up Gold. (eOne). The Atlanta trio pummels its riffs with barbwire-wrapped baseball bats, while guitarist Christian Lembach rants and raves about whatever’s pissing him off at the moment. Same old same old, especially in the noise rawk world, but Whores. (spellcheck loves that period!) definitely possess that certain spark that elevates them above mere Unsane clonery. Maybe it’s because, like Unsane, Wrong and the other heads-above distortion mongers, Whores. writes real songs – “Baby Teeth,” “Mental Illness as Mating Ritual” and “Bloody Like the Day You Were Born” would hold up if they were being played by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Fortunately, they’re not. TRACK: Whores. – “Baby Teeth”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqPVISe4jhI

 

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If metal musicians are playing, is the result still metal? Hard to say, given how many active headbangers like to make goth rock, postpunk, prog, noise rock and various electronic and ambient musics. Case in point: Brain Tentacles, the membership of which includes dudes from Municipal Waste, Keelhaul and Yakuza. The trio’s self-titled LP (Relapse) plays smash ‘n’ grab with elements of free jazz, riff punk, noise rock and thrash for a gleefully frenzied tornado of sonic ass-whuppery. Bruce Lamont’s growling sax leads the charge, dragging bass guitar, drums and occasional synth waves and vocal expulsions in its wake with a chain. Four-stringer Aaron Dallison sometimes challenges Lamont and even threatens to win, but ultimately goes back to his corner, while drummer Dave Witte just keeps his head down and bashes away. “Sleestack Lightning,” “Fruitcake” and “The Sadist” are exciting and goofy and overwrought and brilliant all at once. Exactly what you want from a band called Brain Tentacles. TRACK: Brain Tentacles – s/t Bandcamp: https://braintentacles.bandcamp.com/

 

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Opeth hasn’t really been metal in several years at this point, ever since excising its death metal side with 2011’s Heritage. While the Stockholm quintet still hasn’t rediscovered the magic that made Blackwater Park and Watershed so distinctive and compelling, it gets closer with every post-Watershed album, as latest Sorceress (Nuclear Blast) shows. “Era” and “Will O’ the Wisp” mix progressive rock and psychedelia like there’s no difference betwixt them (is there?), while the Middle Eastern melodies of “The Seventh Sojourn” give the album a different flavor. “Chrysalis” and the title track also remind that Opeth still knows how to rock when required. Sorceress is this metal royalty’s best non-metal album so far. TRACK: Opeth – “Sorceress”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhqijfqecvA

 

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Opeth’s countrymen Witchcraft have followed a similar path from headbanging to headscratching, though starting from 70s doom rather than 80s death metal. Time (Nuclear Blast), Witchcraft leader Magnus Pelander’s first solo album, falls even further from the metal tree, its apple rolling off into fields of lite prog and acid folk. Given how stripped down these tracks are – mostly just acoustic guitar and voice – the nearly nine- and ten-minute lengths of “True Colour” and “Precious Swan” seem excessive. But Pelander’s melodic instincts serve him as well here as they do in his main band, keeping him out of trouble. TRACK: Pelander – “The Irony of Man”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXF7Y_QOV5g

 

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Similarly, Sweden never seems to tire of the heavy classic rock groove, as it spits out bands of that ilk like watermelon seeds. Örebros quartet Captain Crimson is the latest to cross over to domestic shores, via its third album Remind (Small Stone). The band sports a fairly traditional (if you can say that about this music) melodic blues rock sound – songs like “Money” and the title track sound familiar even if you’ve never heard them before. But singer Stefan Lillhager boasts a charismatic tenor and guitarist Andreas Eriksson knows when to let riff and when to let rip. “Black Rose” and “Drifting” score big on both counts. TRACK: Captain Crimson – Remind Bandcamp: https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/remind

 

Fred Mills: What’s So Funny ‘bout Peace, Love, and Overstreaming?

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Musicians hate the royalty structure of online streaming services, which are clearly reaping financial rewards while artists are being ripped off; meanwhile, fans, though potentially conflicted, love those services’ ability to deliver tunes, albums, and artists “on demand,” anytime, anyplace. Is there a middle ground?

BY FRED MILLS

Recently I was engaged in an online discussion about streaming music, and as a number of the respondents are musicians, you can imagine how more than a few of them came down on the side of the anti-Spotify crowd because the royalty rates for streaming plays are so miniscule. The discussion grew from quote by Pete Townshend that musician/label person Pat Thomas posted:

“I’m a user of Spotify,” admits Townshend, “so I feel like a complete hypocrite when I say ‘I think the guy that runs it is probably a f*cking crook’. Take me to court. I was reading about some artist who had 450,000 plays and he got a check for [almost nothing]. It doesn’t make any sense.” There’s also a recent article in The Guardian that adds some perspective to this, “Music Streaming Hailed as Industry’s Saviour as Labels Enjoy Profit Surge.”

Comments came fast and furious. Among them:

Steve Wynn: I love it as a music fan, hate it as a musician. But it makes sense to embrace the former over the latter, y’know?

Bill Janovitz: I’m with you Steve. I pay for premium Spotify but would be glad to play at least twice the $10 a month if I knew more was going to the artists. As an artist and an optimist, I subscribe to the notion that there will be more upside from streaming, each spin bringing at least some money, in perpetuity, as opposed to records, CDs, used ones in particular, being bought once. The real truth of the matter is few recording artists made royalties from sales of their records. If we were lucky, we got good enough advances that never recouped. Many times, this streaming discussion fails to take artist/label contracts into account.

Pat Thomas: As someone (me) who works for several different labels – I’m NOT seeing the upside to streaming at all. “Our” profits (indie-labels I’m speaking about) have gone down….

Paul Kimble : The streaming services are bad enough, but then you have Youtube, where you can listen to anything you want to, for free, instantly. It’s literally nothing more than institutionalized piracy. It’s only going to get worse with the incoming administration…if that’s even possible. GLB has over 10 million plays on Spotify alone, for only 10 songs, I’ve never seen a penny. /shrug. Heads on sticks times, I’m old and don’t have much to lose.

Stan Denski: I love Youtube and the instant availability of stuff. The major trend in the 21st Century is ACCESS over OWNERSHIP. Most of my younger friends don’t understand the idea of a CD or DVD “collection.” Ask them “What Kubrick films do you have?” and there’s a pause and then “…um… all of them?” And there’s nothing inherently evil about pressing a button on a phone or computer to play a film or song, and nothing righteous and “natural” about pushing a button on a CD or DVD player to play it. Personally I am tired of having “collections.” They are millstones carved in the shapes of albatross.

 Kristian Hoffman : You may be shocked that an absolute nobody like me has these numbers, but I have had over 1 million plays of songs I wrote on Youtube – that’s right – over one million. And have never been paid anything because I didn’t post them personally, and I don’t run around taking every single other post of my music down.

 Bob Martin : While I agree with the sentiment, I don’t think folks are looking at this the right way. 450,000 plays, when radio was actually the driving force, would be 450,000 listens. That’s one spin of the record in two major markets. Consider the number of ears. The difference now is that you can listen when you want instead of having to wait. AND you don’t have to listen to things you don’t want to hear.
Let’s do the math really quickly. A hit record in the 60s, for instance, might get played twice an hour all day long. So, that’s 48 plays a day. In a major market, that’d be, depending on size of market, that could be 100,000 people hearing it each time. So, that’s a possibility of 4.8 million listens in a single market… Considering that there are at least 20 major markets in the USA, that’s 96 million listens a day, just in major markets.
NOW… each time a radio station played the song, they owed, for lack of a better argument (but it was a lot less), ten cents to BMI/ASCAP, etc. From that, the record company got, say, nine cents. The artist got one or two cents. So, let’s be generous and say two cents. SO… for each radio station playing his record 48 times a day, the artist would get 96 cents. That’s 96 cents for 4.8 million potential listens. Or… 0.00000002 per listen, per radio station…
People tend to forget just how many ears got to hear music for a very small amount of money. Of course it added up over time, and then there were record sales on top of it. But, 450,000 plays isn’t even a day’s worth of listeners in a single city from the radio days….

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Those are just a small few who weighed in. As I responded myself: Streaming’s a topic that I’ve been interested in for some time, and I have to say, I tend to fall on the “music fan” side of the equation, as Steve Wynn put it, so some of what I’m going to say here may be taken as anti-artist. It’s not intended to be, however. I’m not a musician myself, so perhaps I’m not entitled to presume anything on musician’s parts. In addition to being a fan and collector, I’m also a writer who just “happens” to be the recipient of (cough) free music sent to me by labels, publicists, and fellow music heads. I don’t take any of it for granted, either, and when I want something I didn’t get in the mail, I go out and buy it. Particularly when we’re talking vinyl, I try to order direct from the artist or label if possible; for example, I ordered the Southern Culture on the Skids blue wax LP from the gang even though I had already received the CD as a promo. Like I said, though, I’m pretty damn blessed with all the gratis music, so either through my own (so-called) writing or by publishing my fellow scribes’ reviews at Blurt, I try to repay the generosity as much as possible by helping to get the word out about the artists and the records.

I’m also a lapsed taper of concerts, and I’m militantly pro-bootleg as well precisely because I am a music fan who wants to hear more from my favorite artists than just the official releases. You can probably guess that I subscribe to the theory that, rather than bootlegs cannibalizing sales, they help turn fans into superfans who will in turn go out to the shows, buy merch, etc. I should stress that, other than live shows, I was never a file sharer during the Napster era and I do believe that piracy – which is different from bootlegging – is wrong and that it rips off the artists. I can say truthfully that I have never uploaded an album to the internet other than to transfer digital files to one of my writers who wanted to write a review for us.

Now what does all that have to do with streaming? A lot, actually. Bill Janovitz hinted at one aspect of this – that at least streaming generates SOMETHING in the way of income, as opposed to illicit file-sharing – which is basically what the streaming model replaced because it’s way easier than downloading. Piracy not only generated no income for the artist, it theoretically took money away from artists when it meant someone was getting an album for free off the internet that he might otherwise have gone out and purchased. In fact, for me, streaming has become my go-to means of previewing some new music prior to purchasing it. Two perfect examples: I streamed the new A Tribe Called Quest album when it hit Spotify, and subsequently put in an order for the album that finally dropped last week. And just recently I streamed the new Run The Jewels album (could have downloaded it as well) and immediately went to their site and ordered the super-duper 4LP version; it will hit in the spring, so in the meantime I can enjoy RTJ via Spotify, while the band can bank my preorder dough.

You can see where I’m going with this: Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud and their ilk ARE the new radio – a means by which to be exposed to new music, which typically I listen to at the office where I work and in the car, since I can play my CDs and LPs at home. I’ll add, too, that I am fortunate to be able to tap those audio resources and indirectly promote artists at the Blurt website by posting tracks to accompany our reviews and stories about those artists. Obviously there’s no metric to determine if my posting tracks translates into actual record sales, but I would like to think it has the potential to do so.

I can certainly sympathize with Kristian Hoffman and his YouTube plight here. Ditto all the artists who have seen the math and realized that they’re getting paid next to zip even after a zillion spins. The streaming royalty rates need to be adjusted because the artists are not being compensated adequately. (I will avoid touching on the other issue regarding streaming: whether or not the owners of streaming services are getting rich from them.) It’s all a matter of perspective, which is why I found Bob Martin’s calculations above – traditional radio plays versus streaming plays, and how many ears actually get to hear any given song – pretty enlightening, as it reinforces my contention that streaming is an excellent means by which an artist can get heard in an era where the chances of actually landing on radio are remote. Is it a fair tradeoff? By that I mean, is the knowledge that you are in fact reaching a listenership but still feel moderately ripped off sufficient to just grin and bear it and accept the new paradigm? Or should one stick to one’s guns and remain a purist while knowing that you are not going to be played on the actual radio (and therefore be heard by no one)? All debatable, but it’s definitely an aspect of the argument that must be considered.

And as I previously noted, once someone has been turned on to new music and becomes a fan of the artist, he or she can often turn into a superfan who feels very strongly about supporting the artist by purchasing records, merch, and concert tickets – or maybe even contributing to a Kickstarter campaign.

Ultimately, I think that if the argument is boiled down to intellectual property and the right of a musician to earn a decent living from that intellectual property, it oversimplifies or even ignores part of the dynamic, in that just because an artist has written a song he wants to be paid for performing, that doesn’t mean anyone is actually going to pay him (i.e., buy the album or the ticket). You have the right to create and own your music, but that right doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to turn that song into income. Most consumers want assurance up front that they are going to enjoy hearing that song, and in 2016, streaming seems to be the most efficient way of initially getting the tune in front of the public.

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Coda: Posting one final note was Rob Cullivan who detailed the following: “Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad, which started out playing clubs in Rochester in the 1990s and then became one of the bigger reggae acts nationally, were asked how they survived, and their answer was simple. Never play for free (benefits excluded, of course). But too many bands undersell themselves at so many levels. I can see taking a few free gigs early, but once you’ve established your name, never play for free again. And paying someone else so you can tour with them? No way, that’s just silly. I get that musicians want to be heard through Spotify, but to me it just seems you get lost in a sea of other songs. I think it’s better to get 10,000 paying fans than one million listeners who don’t support you.”

I pondered Cullivan’s additional first person objection to – and valid extrapolation from similar arguments about – streaming services. To which I responded:  That’s a valid point, yeah. I guess what I’m thinking is, first you have to convert those 10,000 potential fans, and there’s so much white noise these days that you have to reach them through the media they use rather than just sit back and wait for them to find you. Let’s say I read about a new band, or perhaps hear the tail end of a song on the local college station: to be able to pop over to Spotify or YouTube instantly and listen to their record is incredibly gratifying and in the immediacy of that initial rush I may even be convinced I should go buy the record. It’s the digital equivalent of being turned on to a band while wandering around the record store. (Let it be known that I have worked in stores three times, early 80s, throughout the 90s, and from 2012-2015, so I am devoutly pro brick and mortar. But that doesn’t mean I don’t accept digital for what it represents to a lot of folks, and to ignore that is to lose a significant percentage of potential fans. I use similar logic when I tell bands they need to release on digital, cd AND vinyl if they can afford it.)

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In the week or so since this original discussion unfolded, I’ve seen several more of similar tenor. Working musicians, almost across the board, tend to fall into the anti-Spotify/streaming camp; I’d be interested to see actual royalty statements from a multiplicity of those folks, not only to give me a clearer picture of their objections, but to bolster the contention (which is also mine, do not mistake me here) that the powers that be need to take a hard look at what fair compensation for our artists should be. Historically, they have been ripped off to a ridiculous degree. I also feel, though, that in 2017, in a lot of instances, lower-radar artists are getting their music heard on a heretofore unprecedented level, with each fresh listen representing an opportunity for a new sale. Admittedly, that’s a bit of a crapshoot, but still… 1% of something is better than 0% of nothing. (Not trying to be facile here.)

I’d also like to see a broader understanding among the general public about what it means to be a fan, consumer, and collector of popular music. Because the music industry has ripped us off as well—just Google terms like “$10.98 list price,” “Napster,” “rootkit,” “RIAA lawsuits,” and my favorite, “Green Day sets list price for new CDs at $18.98,” among many—and it may be time for we fans and you artists to pool our resources and find a new way of doing business together going forward.

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Fred Mills is the editor of BLURT magazine and Blurtonline.com. He receives a shitload of music in the mail each month for free, and he also buys nearly as much each month because he believes in supporting his favorite artists. He has the record store receipts to prove it. What’s in YOUR wallet?