Monday, May 21, 2012

Rise of the Digital Music Database Bootlegger scam & Copyright Troll legal scammers.

Question:  Have you read the news about Nuclear Blast suing 80 illegal down-loaders of All Shall Perish tracks in the courts for $150,000 each, without the band's permission. I know Earache gives away some albums for free, so what is your take on this?
From: Dave Buckingham

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. 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.

There's also a dark underbelly of shady companies wielding meta-data, either with no rights whatsover, or with threadbare licenses achieved by ill-gotten means. Earache has recently been victim of  companies who we have never even heard of  trying to exploit the loopholes in  YouTube's fact-checking system by falsely scamming and claiming ownership of Earache's own © material.

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 for full 320 Mp3 albums by Wormrot (grind) Savage Messiah (modern-day Heavy Metal) and Gama Bomb (thrash).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Morbid Angel - various pressings on vinyl explained.

Question from Mark ( :

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.

On a related subject,  Earache just announced  pre-orders for the two Iron Monkey albums  which will  be pressed for the first time ever on vinyl - incidentally, all proceeds  go to Kidney research charity.  Denizens of the Doom forums immediately began to question the audio quality, since its not advertised as an audiophile edition, rightly assuming its cut from CD, and bemoaning the lack of analogue signal and  'warmth' which will no doubt result.  This is a hilarious notion when you consider the original master is a DAT tape, as in DIGITAL audio tape. As an aside, it was one of the first productions by an up-and-coming fella by the name of Andy Sneap.

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.