Question: Hi, how do you feel about the news of the Rihanna album being the lowest selling number 1 album of all time? Does this affect metal labels as yourself?
From: Tim Lineingham
Answer: Earache is not really interested in how Pop stars are performing in the charts, but the news of Rihanna selling a paltry 9,000 albums to claim the top spot in the UK chart last week (the lowest ever since records began) sent a ripple of concern around the Music Biz generally here. Frowns all round.
People were quick to comment that its the traditional mid-summer slump because people are on the beach or out and about on holidays, so not bothering with buying records, which is true, and sales do dip mid-summer every year anyway, but this was more dramatic than before. Also true is the fact that the UK is currently in recession, and spare money is hard to come by. Both decent explanations.
The way that fans consume music is also changing - although CD sales and legal iTunes downloads count towards the Official UK chart, streaming music services like Spotify do not yet. Legal streams have their own brand new UK streaming chart, but that is not widely circulated outside the biz. Illegal torrents or audio which is file-shared of course does not count towards the UK Official Top 40 chart, even though billions of songs are consumed that way daily, because they are not paid for, and not trackable (yet). YouTube views don't count to any chart either.
Prior to 91-1994 the Official Top 40 charts were compiled the old school way, by each record store tallying by hand their over the counter sales each week, and handing the scores over to the chart company. It was a simple task, subject to human whims, so every week the charts were skewed by enthusiastic record store owners passing on false and inflated sales numbers of their favourite artists, usually white middle-class Indie Rock.
However, in 1991 (US ) and 94 (UK) the chart system was revolutionised because barcode reading at the checkout came in. This Soundscan era democratised the charts, finally giving a true-ish reflection of national music tastes, and its safe to say that it totally rocked the Biz. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, albums of Rap artists began to dominate the upper echelons of the US Top 40. They were selling beforehand, but just not even counted before under the old -often fraudulent -system.
In the UK around the same time, a nationwide survey was carried out to investigate what is the best selling music in this country. The surprising result was that a form of Punjabi Traditional folk/dance music known as Bhangra is the biggest selling music here, selling enormous amounts of Cds via small Indian retail stores around the country. Almost none are sold in the traditional record shops, so the sound rarely dents the UK Top 40. I'm sure the Artists involved aren't too concerned about it.
Many types of music exist under the radar of the Official chart compilers- rave and grime had been massively popular in the clubs and on the streets here for decades, but only in recent years have major labels drawn upon the large fanbase of artists like Dizzee Rascal to release his records and hence end up topping the charts. His hit ' Bonkers ' was even aired during the London Olympics opening ceremony.
Metal is traditionally a very under-represented genre in the UK Top 40 chart, relying on the sheer numbers of fans who buy on week one to sporadically chart. Sadly, those albums then promptly drop out of the chart next week, because the genre receives very little or no mainstream Radio or TV to support it.
It's been this way for ever, until last year in Germany where the chart compilers made a subtle change to the rules whereby the overall revenue of an album counts to its chart tally, rather than purely the number of units shifted. This was made to counter the unfair advantage of Major Labels who could routinely discount Pop albums by huge amounts (often selling for equivalent of $3) and so gain unfair leverage at stores, and gain sales advantage from that.
Metal fans in Germany have traditionally bought high value items, special editions and limited box sets by their favourite bands, often direct from mailorders or direct from the labels. Low in units but high in value- and due to the rule change, the income from those sales now counts towards the chart tally, giving a welcome boost to the chart prospects of metal bands.
The great benefit was that was that big selling metal acts now tend to place higher in the German charts than ever before. Century Media pulled off a miracle with it's impeccable marketing campain to secure In Flames "Sounds of a Playground Fading" the bands (and label's) first ever Number 1 chart placing in German National charts, where previously they had only graced top 10.
As far as Earache is concerned, we are gearing up for Rival Sons Head Down next month and we fully expect it to chart in 5 countries across EU, but personally its the sales of the album over time which interests me most, because I'm too aware that chart positions are a purely artificial and fading concept in the coming era of streams and Youtube view counts. You could even argue that merch sales and concert ticket sales are more important to a bands long term career than a one-shot chart number that only exists for 7 days anyway.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Monday, May 21, 2012
From: Dave Buckingham firstname.lastname@example.org
Answer: Yes this story has been breaking on news sites for a while and is actually quite shocking to me, something very sinister is going on, because this so-called © owner, the one bringing the case against the 80 fans, is a company called World Digital Rights, Inc -based out of Panama of all places. My guess is it's a new breed of opportunistic digital rights troll company operating a shakedown of fans on a grand scale. Nuclear Blast claims to have not given any rights to this company, which I believe, but some of these copyright troll type companies make heavyweight legal claims using the most threadbare of rights. Either way, its shady and murky and stinks.
Quick history lesson. The rise of digital music being consumed as files was popularised around the turn of the millennium by Napster, - a site which operated without permission from the labels and was closed down for it. It's fair to say the whole paradigm shift from CD to downloaded files, which Napster pioneered, caught the record labels- both Major and Indie - off guard. Luckily, within a few years some of the world's biggest tech companies had filled the void with legit music services and these do actually pay all parties- artist, label, © owner etc properly.
Emusic.com was first to offer fans a legitimate download site, it only carries Indie labels catalog, including Earache's, then in 2003 Apple launched the first comprehensive legal music download site iTunes Music Store -this boasted the entire catalog of all the major and Indie labels, fans flocked to it in their millions driven by the must-have gadget of the era, the ubiquitous iPod. By 2010 iTunes had become the world's biggest grossing record store, it dwarfs any bricks and mortar chain you care to mention. Serious money is now earned by record labels both major and Indie from the sales of such legit files. In the UK digital revenues clocked in at over 50% of label revenue for 2011, overtaking physical sales revenues, all this happened in an 8 year span.
In 2009 Spotify joined the fray with a radical free & premium music streaming model, now boasting 3 Million paying subscribers, Spotify is also earning labels significant income, but nothing like iTunes yet. Plus, many of the world's biggest tech firms such as Nokia, Google and Microsoft launched legitimate music services with millions of tracks available to buy. In recent months the Google-owned YouTube finally -after years of denial- acknowledged and legitimised the several tens of million music files it was streaming to fans on a daily basis, monetising them with paid-for pre-roll advertising. This has generated a windfall of unexpected income for the Labels from their catalogs of recordings and video clips, which is long overdue if you ask me!
There is one snag in this scenario - which is the matter of sorting out who gets paid the money earned from all these new audio streams, views and downloads which are occuring in their billions. Labels claim their catalogue by supplying each platform a meta-data file which is basically a database list confirming it's ownership of tracks as well as relevant information like artist, song name, and info like the ISRC code for each track.
This is separate from the actual music audio files. It simply contains the information about
the music, in our case the meta-data file weighs in at a mere 100k in size. In the digital sales era, this tiny .xml file has become our most prized asset of all, because its how we get paid.
Back when physical CD's dominated, payments from distributors would be based on each album's barcode or catalogue number, in Earache's case that's around 450 albums, a large but not un-manageable number of products. With the rise of iTunes, individual tracks can be purchased aswell, so if you assume 10 tracks per album, and 50-odd iTunes stores reporting monthly, this results in a possible quarter of a million product lines incoming every month.
When you add in millions of Spotify streams as well as sales from other platforms, even a medium-sized label can be flooded with tens of millions of lines of sales data per month. Database management is a prime concern of labels these days, many Indies don't posses the tech skills to manage this flood of incoming sales data. Booming digital music sales has created the need for a new type of middleman service, these legit services - like C.I. or Ingrooves carefully store and control database warehouses of music meta-data on behalf of labels, with their permission.
On the right are examples of Decapitated and Deicide songs being claimed by 'Music Publishing Rights Collection Society' and 'Internet Anti-Piracy APCM Mexico' - both grandiosely named entities, no doubt designed to instill an air of authenticity to the claim. Both are blatantly false digital scammers who quietly withdrew the claims when challenged by us.
Music Publishing Rights Collection Society is a blatant scam operation, it even has a Facebook page (right) where it gleefully states they take pleasure from monetising other people's music videos. Videos they have no business in, in the first place.
This is the new face of rampant piracy in the YouTube era. Pirates are so audacious nowadays, as well as uoploading, they actually try to claim the income from other people's works aswell.
Earache does still give away a few selected albums away for free. Fans should head to earache.com/free for full 320 Mp3 albums by Wormrot (grind) Savage Messiah (modern-day Heavy Metal) and Gama Bomb (thrash).
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
So, back in 2002, you guys reissued Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness on vinyl. Despite not having a turntable at the time, and being something of a collector at the time, I decided to snag one when I came across it in the store while they were still around.
Fast forward ten years, and I finally got my first record player. I started back on the other collector-type vinyls I had acquired in the intervening period, like Relapse's Atheist collection boxset -- I was blown away at how brilliant they sounded! I eagerly waited for Piece of Time to finish so I could finally unseal my transparent-blue pressing of Altars and finally experience it in its original form... Well, I'm sure you know where this one is going.
Honestly, it sounds like garbage. It's full of scratches and pops and just sounds brittle and harsh. None of that characteristic analog warmth, no phrases popping out that got lost in translation on their journey to digital in the CD pressings, or anything. In fact, it sounds markedly worse than the three or four different CD issues I own.
So, I ask you, my dear Earache representative: What gives? Was the original pressing just truly awful? Did you guys royally screw the re-pressing on this edition? And are the recent vinyl reissues of the other Morbid classics subject to this same treatment?
I'd love to buy them all to support one of my favorite (and, let's be honest: probably one of the single most important bands in death metal history) bands of all time, but that seems a rather tall order after the 2002 edition has left such a foul taste.
Answer: Well first of all thank you for purchasing the vinyl back in 2002 on blue wax- but you were mistaken to think you could " hear the album in its original form". Maybe this blog is too truthful for its own good, but the reality is buying a vinyl is not a ticket for time travel back to the 1980s.
We've sold many thousands but you're the first person to complain to us about the quality - sorry to hear it's not to your liking, but it was never advertised as the definitive audiophile edition or from original analogue tapes. What you have is a USA pressing made by Earache's office/licensee stateside and was part of a series of approx 10 early Earache albums re-issued in 2002, and the motivation was simply to make them available again on wax, with nice big artwork, nothing more.
Trends in vinyl come and go, shaped vinyl was all the rage in the 80s, picture discs abounded, whereas coloured wax was a rarity- you could have any colour so long as it's black. Nowadays coloured wax, swirls and splatter are everywhere, but the fastest growing trend is the audiophile analogue crowd who favour supreme audio quality over gimmicks. Our recent 2012 Napalm Death FDR (Full Dynamic Range) editions of Scum and Feto were made from original era analogue tapes and are audiophile editions with all dynamics preserved, and have been so well received, we'll do more of those soon, and advertise them as such. To be honest the explanation for any unsavoury sound on the 2002 editions was simply because the loudness war was in full swing in that period.
See pics above of the actual original metalwork (mother/ stamper) used to press the Carcass Mosh 18 2002 Uk edition, and the info for Mosh 21 Entombed UK 2002 edition at the plant- Damont Audio.
The audio signal is basically this: 1101011000100101010010110101101010 ( the 01011101001 bit is my fave part) so to pretend its an analogue audiophile edition would be misleading.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Answer: Thursday 26th April 2012 will go down as the day the global metal scene went into shock as Roadrunner Records closed its doors in the UK and EU after being absorbed into its parent company Warner Music Group.
For over 30 years since Dutch native Cees Wessels (pictured) founded RR as an Indie label in the early 80s, Roadrunner Records led the way and shaped the tastes of every metalhead across the globe (including myself). Behind the scenes, the successful careers of the metal artists we all know and love was achieved mainly because of the unseen army of staffers (A&R, Marketing, Distribution, Promotion, Touring, Videos, Accounts etc) toiling away in various RR offices- many of whom dedicated their working lives to promoting metal - but were sadly let go yesterday as Warners Music Group closed the RR offices across Europe and UK. Dozens of staffers were made instantly redundant, presumably as part of cost cutting/ consolidation measures.
RR ceased to be a true Independent in 2006 as the founder sold the majority of his company to WMG, and by the end of 2010 Warners had completed the buy-out, to assume 100% ownership. Consolidation was inevitable ever since WMG took sole control, because RR simply couldn't decide its own destiny any more. The July 2011 $3.3 Billion purchase of WMG itself by the chemical/media group Access Industries added another top-level hierarchy and no doubt spurred this decision.
I'd speculate that the decision made by WMG execs to shutter the UK/EU offices and dramatically downsize the USA HQ has been prompted by concerns over falling profits at the group as a whole in tough trading conditions. Sales-wise, Roadrunner is massive, by far the biggest Metal label in the world - dwarfing Earache and even the German powerhouses too - but what everyone overlooks is that Metal is almost a niche genre when compared to the gargantuan sales of Pop/ R&B and Electronic music which dominates the airwaves and TV channels. Metal acts sell concert tickets and pack out summer festivals, but traditionally sell zero singles for example. Even on albums, Metal lags behind Pop- Nickelback's "Here And Now" (RR/WMG) has sold 150,000 copies to date in the UK, which is decent, but pales in comparison with say, Bruno Mars' 1.5 million selling "Doo Wops and Holligans " (Elektra/WMG)- that number is more in the ballpark of what these Major labels are used to dealing with.
Europe is also a tough place to do business currently, due to recession and rampant downloading which has decimated profits in the recorded music biz. Compared to USA, Europe has always been a tricky territory to operate in anyway, there are different laws, something like 25 languages and a different culture every 200/400 miles or so in every direction. Pan-European operations come with a hefty price tag.
To answer your question-- cutting back on staffers doesn't necessarily mean a cull of bands will follow. Fans won't have to worry- I guess the majority of bands will continue to record and be released on the RR imprint label of Warners -much like Elektra and Atlantic was absorbed before it in the 1970s. On a day to day basis WMG staffers will take on the back-office functions, while most of the marketing & promotion functions will inevitably transfer to WMG staffers instead. The execs will gamble on the fact that Warners do have a history of promoting million-selling radio-friendly Rock acts like Linkin Park and Green Day- but does that mean they can promote the likes of Dream Theater, Opeth or Machine Head too? Time will tell if they are right.
As the old adage says: "It's the Music Business - 10% Music, 90% Business."
I wish all those affected by the cutbacks the very best of luck.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Question from Chris (Weezr51574@aol.com) :
I'm VERY pleased to see the re-release of the first two Napalm Death records in FULL DYNAMIC RANGE on CD. I have yet to hear one, but it really sounds like you are going in the right direction with these. Do you plan on releasing any other bands with the FDR mastering...Carcass' "REEK OF PUTREFACTION" Please Please please!! Do you have to have access to the original master tapes to do this kind of mastering?
I really wish ALL of Carcass' "REEK" songs were put on the original COMBAT press of "SYMPHONIES OF SICKNESS". That is by far, to this very day the BEST sounding version of that CD. I own them all too. I HATE the loudness war and I hope you continue to do more of these with your back catalog. I'm not afraid to purchase a second, third or fourth version of any of them to get a good sounding release. Thanks!
Answer: Glad you're pleased with the new Napalm Death re-issues Chris - actually it was partly because so many fans on this blog requested Earache makes some proper old school audiophile editions, that we decided to issue FDR (Full dynamic range) editions of the bands first 2 albums, from original masters, and leave the audio intact. The resulting CD and vinyl is fully dynamic, just as it was intended. We've been blown away by the response, many of the limited coloured vinyls sold out in record time.
There is a saying which Earache adheres to religiously now- "playback volume should be in the hands of the listener, not the producer". More dynamic also means lower overall volume, so be prepared to select the playback volume which suits your listening environment. The loudness war was more or less a reaction of labels (and the artists themselves let's not forget) because the fashion during 90s and 00s was for Cds to be mastered as LOUD and POWERFUL as possible.
The problem stems from the fact that a louder mix does sound "better" to the untrained ear on first listen than a dynamic mix with lower overall volume. It's our job to educate people that it's not a design fault if they have to reach for the volume control. If you can stomach the technical details, topics such as 'RMS vs Peak' are discussed in depth on studio forums.
As for Carcass, we have no plans for any vinyl re-issues of their catalog at present, but we have access to the master tapes of course (see pic, its a betamax tape with digital audio as PCM- it was a common master format of the era) so we might consider it maybe next year, and maybe other bands.
Thursday, February 02, 2012
Question from C (Pitchshifter93@hotmail.com) :
Hello, Dig. This question is in reference to a previous band on your roster,
Scorn. Scorn quickly became a favorite band of mine, unfortunately after the
closing of the band. While glancing at the wikipedia article during my
general exposure to the band, I noticed that it was stated that after the
release of 'Logghi Barroghi' Scorn parted ways with earache. My apologies
for the long intro; my question is as follows: Would it be possible for you
to go into the reasoning behind Scorn leaving Earache? I read this blog
quite regularly and I have yet to find the answer to this intriguing
question. I do realize that as you previously stated in a blog entry that
Earache was moving on from the Electronic scene and focusing your attention
back to Metal and it's various sub-genres. Would this be the basis for the
departing of Scorn? I thank you for your time and consideration.
Answer: Scorn mainman Mick Harris finally and officially closed the book on Scorn in November 2011, so if they became your favourites in the last 60 days, that's pretty bad timing dude, because they were around, on and off, for almost exactly 20 years. While on Earache Scorn released 5 albums and 4 EPs during a 4 year period, plus, I released Napalm Death records before that aswell. All in all, I spent around a decade supporting and promoting Mick's musical endeavours across two radically diverse genres. Napalm Death was successful, Scorn less so. It was either a gutsy move, or sheer stupidity, depending on your point of view, to quit the exploding death metal/grind scene he more or less helped create, to explore the abstract/dub/experimental scene as Scorn instead. During the decade he was on the label he invented and popularised two brand new genres of music - grindcore and (proto)dubstep - that's not too shabby is it?
If you are seeking some kind of juicy story to explain the end of Scorn on Earache, you're out of luck. The reality is far more mundane - after a decade of dwindling sales, interest just kind of fizzled out and it became obvious it was time for everyone to move on.
Minimalist, abstract, bass-heavy, dirty electronic music was simply not a thriving scene at that time. Scorn had nothing in common with the commercial dance scene which was booming in UK clubs by the mid-90s, nor did it fit in with the college/hipster crowd who were all into Apex Twin /Warp records. If anything Scorn was nearest to the then underground jungle/drum & bass scene which was mostly promoted on pirate radio and at illegal raves. I mentioned in a previous blog posting how Earache found it difficult to market and promote this music, we are a Rock/Metal label after all.
Here's 'Nut' from Scorn's final CD for the label, 1996's 'Logghi Barogghi'- so named after Mick overheard an American tourist mispronounce the town of Loughborough, which he thought hilarious.
In 1997 Scorn released the follow up album 'Zander' for new label Invisible Records (label of Martin Atkins, ex-Pil & NIN drummer). In my opinion the opening song Twitcher displayed the most vicious bass sound for over a decade, until the likes of modern-day dub-step producers like Skream came along. It was so far ahead of its time, its positively scary. Plug your sub-woofers in and watch your walls crumble to this:
If you fancy more bass-quakers, heres my faves in a Spotify playlist
WARNING: may damage your audio equipment and/or hearing!
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Question from chris Schneck (email@example.com) :
Hello, just a few questions about woods of ypres products. I'm looking to get all the albums on vinyl but haven't been able to track the older ones down. If you have any leads, please let me know. Also, could you tell me if you're going to sell the vinyl of grey skies and electric light? I definitely need a copy. One last thing, Davids death rocked our circle of friends as we'll as the metal community, if there is anything I can do to help his family in any way, please let me know. Thank you,
Answer: Hello Chris, like yourself, our thoughts go out to all those affected by David Gold's tragic death on Dec 21st 2011- his family, friends, bandmates, and fans have all been devastated by the news, but it has been reassuring to watch the metal community worldwide rally round and show support. To be honest, it still doesn't seem real, feelings are raw.
David was putting the final touches to the magnificent Woods 5 album, checking out the mixes from John Fryer, planning the track sequence, choosing artwork and that kind of stuff, meanwhile we were planning the debut UK showcase gig for Woods Of Ypres to take place in February. Things were looking up for the band after a decade of being a struggling DIY outfit, because a global release and touring was on the cards. Not to mention they'd just put to bed their most evocative, emotional and best album ever.
The first time we noticed something was amiss was when metal journalists reported back to us in mid-December, genuinely worried about David's severely downbeat and world-weary outlook during their phone interview. A few days later David Gold was tragically killed on the highway outside Barrie, Ontario in his homeland of Canada.
Like many, I only got to know David through his music and art in the last couple of years- but I'll always remember him as a highly intelligent and frankly, a creative genius. Woods 4 was my album of the year 2009, and Woods 5 was already a quantum leap above that.
Immediately after his death, I tweeted the download link for the promo version of the Woods 5 album as I felt people should get to check it out right away. Now a month later we have the physical album on vinyl and CD in production for a February 13th UK release date -2 months later in USA stores - this delay is due to longer pressing plant lead times stateside. iTunes and most of the leading digital outlets will carry the album from Feb 13th, we hope. There is also an extra track 'Keeper Of The Ledger' which didn't make it onto the promo version- it was being held back for an iTunes exclusive - and the song sequence is slightly altered to reflect David's final track-listing preference. Fans might consider it weird that there's no picture of David on the sleeve or packaging, this is because David had yet to chose which pics to use prior to his passing, so for the label to add a pic he'd not personally chosen, made us uneasy.
To clear up any misunderstanding, Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye) on the final release is parts 1 and 2 segued together, making an epic 10 minute track. I should stress that the promo album file which was leaked (legally, by me) right after we got news of Davids passing was exactly that- a promotional version of the album- designed solely for journalists, who are notoriously hard to impress. It even had the band name in an 'easy to read' font on the cover instead of the logo. What you downloaded was a work-in-progress, what is being released on CD/ LP/ DL is the final, official Woods 5.
Another subject of heated debate is the future of the band. Within a few days of David's passing, while feelings were still raw, his family and fellow Woods Of Ypres band-mate Joel Violette made a statement. In it, Joel mentioned the vague possibility of carrying on with the band because he and David had so much unfinished material they were planning and working on. Even though his statement was extremely respectful, heartfelt, and included many caveats, it came under criticism from online bloggers for some reason. Such criticism was harsh and unfair in my view. Please read David's final email interview for UK's Terrorizer magazine, where he mentions Joel's contribution to Woods 5 - see pic above. STOP PRESS: At the time of writing, Earache understands there are no plans for Woods Of Ypres to continue.
As for the previous albums- Woods 4 : The Green Album is already available to buy on vinyl, with several special coloured wax options, see pic.
For the early albums Woods 1,2 3, there were vague plans in place for Earache to issue them on CD and vinyl during the rest of 2012, which we will certainly do to honour David Gold's legacy and make his body of work complete for fans to enjoy.
Here's a poignant song from the album - Adora Vivos:
and here's Woods of Ypres on tour in March 2011.
David Gold RIP. #adoravivos