Frank Gutch Jr: Research Turtles: An Update, The Digital Streaming Wars Heat Up, Plus Notes…..

FrankJr2I thought Research Turtles had a solid chance.  I really did.  They had everything going for them— solid music, a great attitude, a growing following.  Evidently, though, you need more than music and attitude in today’s music world.  You need a honey boo-boo (whatever that is) or need to be a two year old master of the guitar or something.  I told Jud that.  He said it was too late, that he was already past the age of incredulity.  It ain’t easy being an adult.

researchturtlescoverJud would be Jud Norman, the man who put Research Turtles together.  He was playing in a band already, The Flamethrowers, and had this epiphany— original music = new band.  Rather than going out and starting one, he took the band he was in and split it in two.  Not physically, mind you, but musically.  One to play covers and one to play originals.  Not an easy decision, really.  He originally thought, what the hell, the band is already The Flamethrowers but then someone brought up the subject of original music.  Separate the originals from the covers, he/she said.  Jud mulled it over and saw the genius in it.  He, along with the other Flamethrowers, tossed around a few thousand ideas.  One day, while watching an old Wes Anderson movie (The Life Aquatic, I believe), it came to him.  Research Turtles!  Of course!  While the rest of the band were at first cool on the suggestion, they accepted it, if for no other reason than to be done with it.  Research Turtles were born!

They finished an album already started by Jud and originally intended to be a solo album— Time Machine.  They soon started working on an other, eventually released as Research Turtles.  And this was where I came in.

In the days when I had time, I spent an inordinate amount of it searching the Net for music.  I scoured CDBaby and MySpace and followed every hint from friends or anyone else who had a tip.  MySpace handed me the Turtles on a platter.  I sent a message to the band through that site, then another.  When I received no reply, I assumed they weren’t interested.  Then, a couple of months later, I get this email heralding the music of the band.  I sent a reply, asked why they had not responded earlier, found that Jud’s father, Rick, had not seen either of the messages.  We sent messages back and forth, then talked on the phone.  I was in.

I was completely bowled over by the self-titled album.  I listened to it incessantly, scattering other CDs to the winds.  I thought and thought and tried to come up with a way to help this band I would call The Boys From Lake Charles.  I contacted Bob Segarini and he jumped on board.  We brainstormed and helped send play copies to newspapers and radio stations.  We wrote about the band and urged others to pick up on them.  Some did.  More than we probably realized.  Soon, a little network formed, a coalition of Turtles fans who talked about the band to whomever would listen.

We tried.  We tried with that album and the two EPs which followed it up— Mankiller 1 and Mankiller 2.  We shared their videos and sent copies to writers and got a decent amount of positive reviews.  Of course, the band, after sinking a ton of money into the studios for those projects, amped up The Flamethrowers because that is where the money is.  Those kids in the South are crazy for partying and as far as I can tell, there are few bands better for partying.

While the money rolled in, the rigors of the road started taking its toll.  Jud, frustrated that the crowds reacted stronger to their covers than to his originals, began to sour on taverns and bars.  He began to tire of the unending long nights and long drives between gigs.  He already had a trunk full of songs ready to be debuted but no real audience to which they could be played.  He wrote more, doubling the anguish.

researchturtlespromowhited1

I knew something was up when the band added a keyboard player.  It was a good add, really, but Jud’s music was never keyboard-heavy.  Not long after, Jud quit the road to work in his studio while The Flamethrowers continued the bar circuit.  Something had to give and it did.

What I’m saying here is that The Flamethrowers and Research Turtles have split.  Not split up, mind you.  Just split.  After a series of negotiations (mainly because the band had incorporated and legal issues had to be addressed), a deal was made whereby Jud would take the name Research Turtles, ostensibly to be used for future recording projects and possibly— just possibly— a band to back those projects live.  The members of The Flamethrowers, a giant among party bands down South, took that name and have continued to spread the legend.

I hated to see it but all good things must come to an end.  You can’t blame Jud.  The road has killed the careers of more than one musician and, in fact, actually killed a few musicians, period.  You can’t blame the other guys.  They are sitting on a music goldmine of sorts and why should they have to starve?  No, it was the best deal they could possibly have made.  For both sides.  I just hate that there had to be sides, that’s all.

flamethrowers

The cool thing is that while The Flamethrowers are helping keep youth off the streets, Jud has decided to continue to allow FREE downloads of all of the albums and EPs!  That’s right!  FREE!  If you have yet to hear them or have yet to purchase any of the CDs, you can download the music on the Research Turtles music page (click here)!

I love(d) these guys!  I still do.  Their successes brought on some of my best days, their lack of success some of my worst.  Occasionally, I advised them (whether they took any of it, I don’t know) but mostly I stayed off to the side and listened.  It ain’t easy being in the music business these days—- in any capacity.  Even writing about it.

You don’t think so?  Just look at the mess the major labels handed us when they refused to embrace the digital format.  Now we have to deal with the asshats who run the so-called digital distribution services (Spotify, Pandora and their ilk).  That’s right…..

The Digital Distribution Shitstorm Is Heating Up!!!!!

atomsforpeaceIf you’ve been paying attention at all, you know it is.  Just a few days ago, Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich of Atoms For Peace announced that their music would not be available from Spotify due to extremely low payouts to artists.  Ex-tremely low.  Why is it news?  Because it wasn’t that long ago that Pink Floyd called out Pandora for their asswipe move backing legislation to lower payments to artists on that site, P-dora saying that they could not survive if they had to pay such exorbitant rates.  The question going through everyone’s minds at this point is how many other artists are going to jump the digital ship.  To understand, you have to separate sales from streaming.  When you buy a download, you pay the market value and royalties are paid on pretty much the industry standard (at least, that’s the way it was explained to me).  The price might be anywhere from 69-cents to a bit over a dollar, retail, a portion of that going to the breakdown of artists involved (performer, publisher, songwriters, etc).  When you stream a song, a set price is tallied up and added to an artists other streaming revenues, that price being somewhere around a hundredth of a penny or so.  Certain artists have complained that such payments are a joke when compared to the amount of money being added to the digital streamers’ coffers.

The strange part of this debate is that, like politics, there are two sides, each side ranging from mild to extreme.  One would expect that the artist would have a side and that the streaming company would have a side, but the surprise is how many musicians are siding with the Spotify’s in the debate.  They seem to want to revel in the fact that Spotify is spreading their music to people who would not otherwise find it and that the loss of revenues are more than made up for through that exposure.  Some have nospotifyeven gone so far as to point to the varied music they have been able to find due to Spotify’s huge cache of songs.  It’s a trade-ff, they say.

Jon Gomm didn’t say that when he, lo-o-ong before this became a real issue, pulled his music from Spotify.  Here is what I wrote when I read Gomm’s comments:

There Is Something Rotten In the State of Spotify…..

“When it rains it pours and shit is pouring down on Spotify lately and not just from anti-corporate commandos.  If you read this column, you might remember my first attempt at trying to figure out the positives and negatives of Spotify.  I wrote that column because Spotify was premiering in the States and I had no concept of what it might do for or against the independent artists I support.  I nreferred to Spotify as an 800-pound gorilla and I do not apologize for that.  When any multi-million dollar entity steps in anywhere to the fanfare from the various forms of the mainstream media, red flags go up in my head.  Over the years I have learned that ‘the present business model’ is more likely a more pleasant way of saying that they’ve found a new way to fuck someone.  After all, they always say, it’s just business.

“Well, that is certainly not what musician Jon Gomm thought.

“’The return on plays is tiny,’ Gomm wrote to me, ‘a miniscule fraction of a penny for each play.  People can listen for free, which I am all for, but you’re better off providing that facility on your own website or bandcamp.com so people are in the right place to make a purchase if they choose to.  (Note:  Spotify does not yet sell downloads through their site in the States.

jongomm1“’The biggest problem for me is that the major corporate labels have, as I understand it, bought up what amounts to a majority stake in Spotify, so they potentially will be paid whether their artists get paid or not.  I, as an independent artist, have made a decision to not be part of the mainstream industry for many reasons— artistic, financial and ethical— and the last thing I would choose to do now is to help fund them or legitimize them.  Indie artists on Spotify lend it a coolness, a cachet and a sense of ‘giving back’ to struggling artists whom sites like CDBaby and bandcamp support.  Spotify does nothing towards deserving that as far as I can see.’

“So did that start a stampede toward the exit doors at Spotify?  Not exactly, but many independent musicians are pulling or refusing to place their music on the site.  In an article written by James Holloway and posted here on Nov. 24, 2011, the question was Is Spotify Fair To Artists?.  The most glaring example that it was not was that Lady Gaga, for a million plays on the site, was paid a mere $167 dollars (Euro).  Unconfirmed, of course.  Spotify stayed strangely silent as that ridiculous figure made the rounds on the Net. Was it true?  According to the article, ‘speculation in the media since has put the actual royalty paid per play between $0.0013 and $0.002, which would mean $1,315 – $1,855’ was actually paid.  Is that fair?  Many people look at the amounts paid through licensing for music venues and radio and say hell, yes.  Those do pay less.  What they don’t understand, though, is that there is a difference.  The music at venues and on radio are not recyclable. You cannot go back to that station or back to that venue and hear the same music on demand.  Does it make a difference?  Of course, it does.

“You have, with Spotify, instant access to their entire library of music (and they say, in the future, videos).  You can program your own station, so to speak, and that is what the public is learning to do.  It is not a crapshoot like radio.  It is not controlled by a manager of a bar.  You hold the magic button that brings the music to you.  Pretty cool, huh?

“Again, Gomm doesn’t think so.  He likes the idea of listeners choosing his music, but, on Spotify, at what cost?  If he gets the magnificent sum of even $0.002 per listen, what is he gaining?  Or losing?  Obviously, he loses the one thing he treasures most— control.  By keeping his music on the site, he gives all control to Spotify (well, within the boundaries of the agreements made by that company).  All control, as regards that site.  That is something he chose not to do.

cowboy1a“Consider that Gomm is relatively new to the music game.  He is not, like Cowboy and Springsteen and Bob Segarini tied to the major label system.  The majors can hand Spotify anything they have.  Will any of those bands or artists see any return beyond mechanical royalties as defined by the digital streamers?  Chances are, no.  The majors have hidden behind their ‘we own you until you pay us back’ mantra for decades.  It is the backbone of their continued existence.  Every format change and new digital subscription system needs the majors.  There is an umbilical cord between them.

“Of course, The Copyright Act of 1976  will change that, right?  No.  The labels are at the present time challenging that act and hope to defeat it and, anyway, it only applies to music from 1976 on.  All of the music recorded before then?  Owned in perpetuity by the labels and their owners.  There does indeed seem to be, beneath the surface, something rotten in the state of Spotify.

“Here’s a red flag.  Spotify, like the major labels, have refused to give access to their records.  Contracts with the labels and with the sites which supply the music for them to hawk (like CDBaby, etc) are, for all practice and purposes, in absentia.  They toss around numbers, yes, but until outside sources can verify them, are they viable?  Hell, I could tell you that I’m paying you a certain amount, but without verification the numbers mean nothing.  Record labels have kept their books closed for decades.  Musicians have tried to gain access just to find out how much they still owed against chargebacks (fees charged for tours, recording, etc).  They haven’t been given jack shit.  Why should we believe the new gorilla in the room?

hannahgillespie1“It’s not all about royalties, either.  This past weekend, Australia’s Hannah Gillespie posted a question regarding the placement of her songs on Spotify.  She is independent and not major label and was told her songs were available through Spotify.  She wondered how.  Is there possibly an implied contract within the CDBaby world which allows them to place her music without her knowledge?  Has Spotify been grandfathered in to the usual basic contracts which promise to sell downloads and physical product at an agreed price?  And if so, are musicians and labels notified?  That is a question which should be addressed if it has not been already.  I mean, I absolutely hate Wal-Mart.  I hate the idea of Wal-Mart.  If I do not want my product to be sold by that company, should I not have the right of refusal?  I think Hannah thinks so.  (By the way, Hannah’s latest album, All the Dirt, is a freaking monster of an album.  Do yourself a favor and check it out)

“Sigh.  You do not know the anguish I experience over such things.  I have watched musicians get the shaft ever since I started buying records back in the fifties and I hate it.  Without the music, the major labels and the new digital subscription sites would have nothing!  And yet they claim everything.

billjacksonnashville“The latest grumblings from the underbelly comes via down under’s Bill Jackson and ex-Seattleite Andrew Davenhall (The Diving Bell), now recording as a solo artist.  Jackson struggled with uninstalling Spotify this past week and had to visit Yahoo to find out how.  He wrote (on Facebook), ‘It ain’t ever too late!!  After hitting the ‘deny’ keychain popup  a hundred times with no success, I found out it was harder to trash this program than just trashing the Application…so here’s the instructions if you need them to uninstall via the Library Folders in your Mac..” at which time he posted the link to the answer he found on Yahoo Answers.  Now, ol’ Bill is a pretty mellow guy and you can bet that if he’s getting pissed at the way Spotify programmed their application so that you could not uninstall it easily, there is a reason.  Bill’s reaction is pure metaphor for Australia’s head of Spotify finding a kangaroo head in his bed (for those who are movie-challenged, think The Godfather).

davenhall1Davenhall, main man behind the rock group The Diving Bell, had a similar problem and posted about it not a day after Jackson.  His Facebook post looked like this:  ‘When Spotify elected to open itself (assuming that it was the most important application) on my dock, it took several flushes before I could send it swirling down the Internet.’  When I asked if I could repost his comments in this column, he replied, ‘Affirmative.  I deleted Spotify.  I thought to myself ‘How fucking arrogant to not only auto-activate a music app (at whatever volume) before my browser but then make the user scramble to shut it off and put it away so the browser could fly.  Who the FUCK do these door to door SALESMEN think they are??? GOODBYE MR. SPOTIFY!’  Man, remind me to never piss him off.

“Here’s the thing.  If Spotify is this golden child we were led to believe, why all the hidden secrets and computer-generated folderol?  Why claim to be the savior and yet embrace the tenets of the devil?

“A few of my good friends use Spotify religiously.  It is their equivalent to radio, as I said before, and a downright wonderful thing as far as they are concerned.  The question is, at what cost?  And at whose cost?  When I first began investigating Spotify, I saw positives and negatives.  Since then, the boat has tipped toward the negative.  Part of it is me, I know, and my continued distrust of anything corporate (Corporations are people, my ass!  The Supreme Court can shove that ruling between their cheeks!).  Part of it is the lack of transparency all corporate structures within the music industry share.  Part of it is my unending faith in music and the people who create it.  A lot can be said for doing things for the right reasons.  Musicians will kick the industry’s ass every time on that score.

“There is one thing Spotify and outfits like them will never do.  They will never kill the spirit of the music.  The music is in our hearts and our souls, a place they will never be able to reach, as much as they would like to.  Support your musicians, local and otherwise.  And please, support live shows.  Live shows are the backbone of the indies these days and they need your support to keep going.  Know what I found out?  They’re fun!  So much fun that I now have a running list of musicians I want to see and their tour schedules to make sure I don’t miss them if they come through Oregon.  You might consider doing the same.

“These thoughts are brought to you by the gallon of coffee I drank this morning.  Caffeine:  My Drug of Choice.”

copyrightI left the caffeine part there because it is my drug of choice.  I am loaded on it right now, in fact, and have one thing to add to this piece to the debate.  We need to start from the beginning.  This whole music industry is based upon rules and regulations basically constructed by the industry itself.  No one in any department of government had any say in the way things are structured except to pass along what the industry demanded.  No one in government, in fact, can figure out how the whole damn thing works!  The industry itself doesn’t know, for Chrissakes!  It just keeps on building upon the lies they implemented from the beginning, and by lies, I mean the advantages they gave to themselves.

We need to tear it down and rebuild it without the built-in stranglehold the companies have placed upon music, new and old.  We need to toss The Copyright Act of 1976 in favor of one that covers the entire existence of the record business, at least.  We need to start giving some of those royalties that record companies have stolen back to the artists who, in any fair sense of reality, own them.

Think it over.  When you take time and look at things calmly, you will agree.  Record companies are no different than railroad companies in that they are stealing music just like the railroad conglomerates stole land.  Look it up.  And don’t rely on the Net.  This goddamn place is full of lies!

Music Notes smallNotes…..  On the No Small Children front, we have another winner!  These ladies just keep knocking them out of the park, this time with an anthemic ballad— Baby I Love You Even Though.  Probably says everything you’ve wanted to say to your significant other but were afraid to.  Stream it here*****  Vinyl lovers, take note!  WarHen Records out of Charlottesville will be pressing only one hundred (100) copies of the new Fire Tapes album, Phantom!  They will be hand-numbered and when they’re gone, they’re gone!  Also be the-fire-tapes1aware that a limited quantity of The Fire Tapes Skull Xbones/Elements 7” 45 are still available.  You can listen to the 45 here.  Good stuff!  I dig it!  And this just in!  The two tracks on the 45 mentioned previously will be available on the album, only in alternate versions!*****  Bandcamp has come up with an interesting approach to getting people to listen.  They call it Bandcamp Weekly and they already have 15 approximately hour long podcasts (?) for your listening and perusing pleasure.  It is intriguing because it is laid out somewhat like the old FM format used to be.  You can lay back and enjoy and whenever you hear something that strikes the ear, all you have to do is look at the screen and it tells you who’s playing.  Of course, for those more adventurous, I recommend digging through their free albums pages— whatever you find you can download for that very low price— free, that is.  You would be amazed at what you can find for that price.  I call it adventures in listening and it’s FUN!  Just log onto bandcamp.com and let yourself go!*****  Speaking of Bandcamp, Planting Seeds Records has just placed their semi-annual (?) annual (?) sampler up for free.  PSR are noted for their work with artists like Linda Draper, The Young Sinclairs, The Lovetones, Mark Crozer, and The International Jetsetters, among others.  Here is the link.  This is only free until the middle of August, so get there early.*****  Kink Ador hits the beach?  Their latest video featuring a Pop tune titled Sunshine captures the now duo (?) frolicking in the sun.  FOAM, a surfing mag (?), is premiering the video.  Perhaps something happened recently and Memphis is now closer to the beach than previously?  Good stuff, nonetheless*****  Toxic Melons own Pablo Melons is readying, as I type, an album of God knows what.  Music.  That’s it!  His last outing (click here for streaming) was a short but successful one and he has pulled out the stops for this one, inviting a string of cameos by musicians he admires.  Be prepared.  He has bits of Pop, rock, space and theater in his past tunes.  He may ouch the envelope even further.*****  The UK’s Lisbee Stainton is readying  her new album for release.  Titled Word Games, it is sure to contain the usual superlative music she always provides.  Follows three outstanding albums:  Firefly (2006), Girl On an Unmade Bed (2010) and Go (2011).  All are good.  Go knocked me ass over teakettle.  You can find Lisbee here*****  Guitar wizard Jon Gomm has just announced his fundraiser for his new album, Secrets Nobody Keeps.  If you haven’t been reading my column, you might not know who Gomm is.  He’s the guy who told Simon Cowell no when Cowell approached him about being a contestant on— was it X Factor?  He’s the guy who pulled his music from Spotify long before Thom Yorke of Radiohead.  He’s the one who set up a system of finding his own opening act on his last tour.  Gomm is everything the music business needs right now.  Check out his Pledgemusic page (click here) and see what you can do.  If you really want to see what he can do, watch this:

I want to congratulate Real Gone Music in their quest to get their releases before the public.  I have been receiving updates regarding their releases each month and have requested files on some of them only to be ignored.  I even went to their PR person to make sure they were receiving my requests and he said he contacted them.  After six or seven requests with no response, I finally pulled my email address from their queue.  Too bad.  Cat Mother‘s Albion Doo Wah was ready for release and I would gladly have told you how impressed I was when it was released and how the band blew me away back in ’73 when they played The Roman Forum outside of Eugene, but I guess now you’ll never know.  Doesn’t matter, really.  Chances are good that the band wouldn’t see any royalties anyway*****  Speaking of Charlottesville, Erin Lunsford is close to having an EP released.  Recording under the name Erin & The Wildfire, she is going solo after a handful of gigs supporting other acts, most notably Carl Anderson, whose Wolftown album wowed everyone who listened.  Erin sang backup on a couple of tracks and raised some eyebrows.  I’ve only heard a couple of Erin’s songs, but I am impressed!  So was Darrell Vickers, another writer here at DBAWIS.  Here is a track from Erin, presented by Gigdog (click here).  Anderson, by the way, has a new album coming out soon also*****  Wow!  The music news ticker is going nuts!  Just got a message from Nick Holmes!  His new album is completed!  Stay tuned*****   

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

One Response to “Frank Gutch Jr: Research Turtles: An Update, The Digital Streaming Wars Heat Up, Plus Notes…..”

  1. Rachael cooper Says:

    I hate it that Jud is no longer playing with the Flamethrowers! Jud is so talented! He writes beautiful songs. He is just awesome!

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