Editorial: The Age Of Digital Media Piracy & A Special Announcement!

The word piracy always seems to have these weird connotations and it makes you think that a bunch of shady dudes are sitting around in an abandoned warehouse somewhere as they snort coke and download Metallica tunes. Or at least, that’s what Metallica thought when Lars went through the whole “I’m gonna sue Napster” business. But that feels like ages ago, because it was ages ago – and it opened up a new avenue for music in the form of the digital age. That being said, while piracy has not changed, the faces behind it are certainly not what Metallica and the music industry thought many years ago. Though the torrents that they so feared are still around and several people who I’ve spoken with from all walks of life still use them, (our album was leaked on a major one and we don’t care if you did download it, so lose that guilt) more people seem to be taking advantage of file locker sites, which operate by the same rules that rom sites did back in the early two-thousands. Of course, all of our albums have leaked and were downloaded hundreds or even thousands of times by people from all over the globe on these sites, and again – we don’t care either. There’s not much we can do about it and we appreciate an ear for such a small band as ours.

I’ve even seen in Facebook groups where although some of the members are in established metal acts, people continue to talk about and bring up these sites. Hell, another reviewer went and told the whole damn world that he used them (which I forgot to add during the first draft of this piece).There was some backlash to that statement of course, but then you had several people who didn’t really mind it and added that they also used that site and others. This whole thing is being split right down the middle and it doesn’t even feel like any real policing is being done, because there are very simple to access websites that offer computer games from major publishers for the low, low price of free and I haven’t seen even one company trying to shut them down. These are major grade games, which makes it unreal to think that these multi-national corporations would just let their product be thrown onto a not even obscure website to be downloaded for free. I think I explained the reasoning for this in another article, when I was discussing the price difference in other countries and why they simply can’t afford our games because of import costs. So I’m not getting into that here.

As for this one heavy metal related download site in particular, it is very simple to use which is why many people utilize it. And yes, some of these pages are so simple that one only need to click the cover art to start the download of a file. Back in the early two-thousands, we were always asked; “Would you steal a car?” and I think many people in this day and age would say, “Yes, if it’s as easy as downloading an album!” Though it’s not all rotten apples though, as there are actually some good things about these sites. They can expose many new artists to the public mind-bogglingly quickly and several of them also post links to where the material can be purchased. In fact, nearly all of them are doing that right now, from what I can tell from my own research into the subject. Many of these sites also have disclaimers that say “For Review Purposes Only, Albums Must Be Deleted In 24 Hours” much like rom sites first stated years ago. Though I’m quite sure that many of you still have your complete Nintendo and Sega Genesis romsets floating around your hard drives, RetroPies and other plug n’ plays long after the twenty-four hour period. I strongly doubt that anyone is actually adhering to those standards, most of all the kids in this generation.

What’s more, is that all of these websites are run by foreign servers, so it’s fairly difficult to prosecute them here in the US and labels don’t even seem to try anymore. Big corporations know that it’s just too much work and that the site will be back up in another location by the end of the week at the latest. So yes, it is an inevitability that these things leak. Of course, I have to add that myself nor anyone I’ve worked with have ever leaked any discs and furthermore don’t care to. I’ve actually been outraged when I would see albums leak the day as I got the promo. Come on, folks. Give the damn record some time for press coverage before throwing it up online. I was glad that they actually honored us and waited a good while before leaking our album, though again – I did not expect a torrent and I have mixed feelings about that. I mean, you can still download it if you want and if you did, that’s fine. I hope you enjoyed our art. But in the same sense, it means that we’re not really going to make much off this album which we can use to buy equipment or whatever for the live shows. It’s not a big deal, because I do have a job and Bill is also employed so we manage enough to get what is needed for these recordings, but I guess with a bit more cash we could probably get the next one mastered in a professional studio and fix the production value, which is our biggest complaint from reviewers. Though at the same time, I’m sure there are a lot of other artists in the same boat. We’ll row this thing together.

And row we will, because these sites are still active and people are still going to download from them as long as it is easy. Though to be honest, here’s the real kicker – they don’t even HAVE TO DOWNLOAD the music anymore. They can STREAM IT ALL FOR FREE. Now, I’m not talking Pandora or Spotify which are paid subscription services, but something much simpler, like YouTube. I recall a post in one of the metalhead groups that claimed a certain channel was down. This channel offered free music in the atmospheric metal category, to which was monetized and the channel owner MADE MONEY FROM. (As an update, I can say that the channel is now up again, to which many people are quite pleased about, regardless of the situation.) Again, not the bands – the channel owner. Eventually, much to the chagrin of it’s loyal followers, YouTube took it down. It should be noted that there are a lot of these on YouTube and you can more or less just type in a band’s name and album to listen to the whole thing in a high quality stream for free. And yeah, our album wound up on one of those channels too. When Bill first told me about the guy, I was under the assumption that it was to be an album review and he had many followers, so we expected some great promotion from it. Though, what really happened is the guy put our album up onto his channel so that people could hear it for free. If you jammed it there, we don’t care either. In fact, jam it and tell your friends. As long as you’re listening to our music or anyone’s music, I think that’s all that matters here. After all, the first thing that any musician ever wants is to be heard. So I’m not upset at the man, nor his channel or anyone else’s channel for that matter. People don’t usually give the street musician or bar bands much after the first couple of performances, but over time popularity grows and I think that these YouTube channels may even be beneficial to bringing an artist’s music to light and bringing them fans. I learned from various sources like this one, what songs the fans actually liked that the reviewers weren’t denoting. Someone said that they really liked “No More Masters, No More Slaves” from our last album and since then, I’ve even been listening to it more. This revelation also might mean that people will want to hear it live, and that they may even want to wear it on a tee-shirt along with some swanky artwork that fits the piece. After all, as artists we have to be merchandisers in this day and age and I think that a good image coupled with good music makes for a fine showcase. Don’t you?

We don’t sell merch right now but we hope to shortly. It takes a lot of time and money to make money. However, what I’ve been doing lately to support bands because I receive so much music in my inbox, is buying their shirts online. Strangely, I don’t have a lot of heavy metal tees in my closet and I’d love to have more. But please don’t feel the need to send them, because I would rather buy them from you. This is my way of paying back the bands for all of the great music that I’ve been sent over the years. Recently, I purchased a shirt from Oceans Of Slumber, a band that I have personally promoted for a long time and found IndieMerchstore to be a great place to pick up shirts from underground acts and Hell’s Headbangers as well. You can get some great vintage tees there. Especially if you like old man metal, like myself. I also purchased a shirt from SubRosa, a band that I’ve met and was mesmerized by during their live show. In any case, these are great bands and I hope to buy at least one or two of these shirts a week. Shipping is about five to ten bucks, so that’s a buzz kill, but it’s worth it knowing that I’ll get a cool shirt and maybe that band will get a little more money. In fact, I just got my shirts in tonight, even though they were sent to the wrong house.

Thankfully, the fellow who brought them to me did not open the package. I suppose I’ll have to fix that, even though I gave them my proper address. Though it could be the fault of the mail carrier lately, which is why the neighbor had our electric bill and we had theirs. I’m just glad that I got my shirts (this time from IndieMerchStore) and they look just as I expected them to. I’ve read comments from other writers in the business who claim that they’ve never had to buy a record for several years because they were easy to download from websites or the haulix servers, but I can’t just walk through the world knowing that artists aren’t getting at least something in return. I’m trying to do my part to rectify that.

Though when you hear that I’m buying shirts to support these bands, I’m sure that some of you might think, “But don’t you do enough for the industry as it is?” Sure, maybe I did in the past, but I work at Wally World now and I don’t have time for anything other than to be a soulless robot with a number of personality programs. I wish that I could write more reviews and I’m definitely trying. I’ll be turning my phone off Tuesdays and Wednesdays so that I can write without distraction and possibly cover more topics. I have to, because social media addiction is a real deal and I have to work with it. Right now, I have my phone in an out-of-place area, where I would have to stand up and walk over to the desk in order to reach it. This assures me that I will not leave my position or be distracted by it in any way. So I am dealing with that addiction the best way that I know how. I feel that Facebook knows enough about me to write a book and I feel quite ashamed by that. Though something that I still feel should be attempted is bundling and I’m going to discuss that here in this second part of the article as I’ve discussed the digital piracy issue and am now considering a way that it can be fixed from my own experience as a digital consumer.

First of all, I love physical merchandise. My collection of CD’s and DVD’s can tell you that. But I’m literally running out of room in my house. I’ve explained that before and I’m trying to make due. Yet, this is why I like digital bundles. In the past (and I do mean past, as IGN took them over and they really don’t offer this anymore) Humble Bundle used to offer a lot of DRM-Free games as a package deal. You would pay around fifteen to twenty dollars and get a slew of random games. Best of all, some of that money would go straight to charity. They also did it with comic books as publishers like Dynamite, Image and Top Cow got in on the fun. They’d offer libraries of comic books for the same price, more than you could ever read in a year in some cases. They also do manga and are currently offering some Dungeons & Dragons classic comics courtesy of IDW. Again, all of these are digital and DRM-Free, which means that you don’t need to use your internet connection or mobile data to read them. I use YACReader, it is invaluable. They also offer books and other things, so I had no problem spending a few dollars for these and they’ve done quite well minus more than a few fan complaints of a lack of gaming bundles. So as you can see, content in these bundles matters quite a bit. It’s something that I think everyone in marketing needs to take a look at.

Interestingly, Groupees (a Humble Bundle competitor) does the same thing. But what makes Groupees different from Humble Bundle, is that they actually offer music. Yes, independent labels or indie artists can offer bundles of their work, with some of the proceeds also going to charity – and what’s extra cool, is that if the sale makes a certain amount of money, extra albums will be unlocked for all buyers. Plus, big spenders will get special access to exclusive one of a kind content. That’s pretty damn cool. Oh, I need to mention that two artists I have worked with also used the service. The first was Frozen Ocean, who made quite a bit of money selling everything that he’d done as well as some exclusives. I was more than happy to purchase all of those discs and support him with some cash, rather than just words. However, another artist that I have a lot of respect for (and can understand why he would do this) decided to do things a different way. As part of a Groupees special,Klayton offered his Celldweller and Circle Of Dust projects for download, though put some rather exorbitant price tags on these bundles, nearly offering full price for most of the merchandise, though adding a six hundred-dollar plush and other such things to the bundle. Yes, this did manage to make quite a bit of money, but I was quite floored by the amount of money expected for the bundle and did not completely support it. So yes, there are definitely times when artists can get out of hand and I’ve never seen anything like that particular sale since.

Groupees usually doesn’t offer rock music, let alone metal – but if would be nice if they did. A metal bundle would be a great thing and I’d openly support and promote it to the best of my abilities. I’m actually thinking about introducing the idea to Groupees, just to see if they might be interested in doing it. Currently, they offer synthwave bundles, chiptune bundles, celtic music bundles, soundtrack bundles, orchestral soundscape bundles, royalty free music bundles, vocaloid bundles and several artist bundles ranging from indie rock to hip hop and then some. They’re open to ideas and that will definitely get my money flowing, as well as other people. I’d be glad to offer an album in that bundle. Even the newest one. Because I know that money is coming in, people aren’t finding it too difficult to support or too pricey and the site is still around. And once again, charity does get some profit. Aside from GOG games, I prefer to buy most of my content in various bundles or in the physical format. Naturally, other people have their own preferences and these are mine. I just think it would be better than everyone jamming everyone’s music for free, in some instances.

As a special announcement, I have to state that I did approach Groupees with the idea and as it turns out, I’ll be bringing you all the very first Metal Music Bundle on Groupees. I’ve already talked to a few labels and bands who are interested, but we definitely need more acts and hopefully some that will appeal to all different kinds of metal fans, even those who don’t like the metal genre, but would be interested in possibly checking out some unique approaches. I’ve posted about this on our Facebook page, but for those who don’t know of it or do not use social media period, please feel free to use the contact form if you’d like to be apart of this endeavor and of course, you’ll get all the details so that no one comes into this confused or completely clueless. Especially when money is involved.

I must also state that I’ve discussed the topic with friend and fellow journalist FlightOfIcarus, and he feels that a better managed (not Spotify) subscription service would work for musicians. I could see something like Netflix albeit with the ability to download albums (I am old school and use an MP3 player) being worth twenty or thirty dollars a month for access to several albums past and present. It will be a while before this ever catches on, and the download part would still be a but iffy, regardless of the fact that it is just electronic data at that point and the only difference would be that you wouldn’t have to stream it.

That’s all for now, as I’ll be posting another controversial article about the ape in man, and what it’s actually like (at least from my experience) to be a male of the species and have these bizarre mating urges. But in the meantime, keep listening to music and try to support the people who make the things you like, if you can do so. I don’t have much, but I try! I hope that you will try to do the same.

– The Grim Lord

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