sabbathbloody ger vertigo gatefold inside bigIn my teens I was a devout fan of Black Sabbath (I'm still a fan, although I don't listen to any albums released after Sabotage). I used to lie on my bed and listen to their song ”Who Are You” from ”Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” in my crappy headphones and blankly stare at the ceiling. It contains this verse: ”I only have one more question/Before my time is through/Please I beg you tell me/ In the name of hell/Who are you?/Who are you?”. Little did I know that I decades later would ask the same question, but in a completely different context, namely who visits my site. Thanks to my friend Mikael (self-taught website builder and professional web analysts) I now know a lot more. He has been torturing Google Analytics until it confessed. Google Analytics is a freemium web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Here’s a sample of interesting facts (expressed in terms of groups and average means). The visits come via desktop (63,1%), mobile (33,3%) and tablet (3,6%). The visitors can be divided in male (79,7%) and female (20,3%) visitors. I’m pleasantly surprised of the relative large share of women. I would have guessed 5% since women seems to lack the monomanic disposition which facilitates the development of obsession in music. Women have a higher bounce rate (leaving the site after visiting just one page). The bounce rate for female visitors is 75,7% and they visit 1,81 pages (on average). The same figures for male visitors is 69,9% and 2,05 pages (on average). Men tend to stay longer on the site than women (3,04 minutes compared to 1,54 minutes for women). I feel young at heart, but I’m obviously a very old man. 88,8% of the visitors are younger than I am. It’s interesting to study the statistics. Younger people (25-34 years) have the highest bounce rate, 76,6% (probably too used with impatient social media). The older group (45-54 years) visits more pages before they bow out (63,1%) and stays the longest on the site (4,15 minutes), maybe because incipient perception difficulties. Most visits come from USA (31,1%), followed by Sweden (26,4% - mostly me and my entourage), then it's a jump to Russia (5,9%) followed by Germany, Great Britain, Canada, Spain, Brazil, France and Netherlands. There are differences between continents. I'm pleased with the fact that visits come from all countries in Europe. In South America, people in Paraguay, Guyana and French Guyana don’t care much for gothic country. The same is true for North Korea, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in Asia. Africa seems to be very uninterested in my site (only visits from 11 of 55 countries). All joking aside, I think the differences between continents quite accurately captures where people with a weakness for gothic country and access to a functioning internet connection are residing. The main purpose with Google Analytics is to convert web traffic into sales. However, this have never been my goal. I also doubt targeting. In my opinion, the categorization is meaningless (music lovers, shutterbugs, travel buffs etc.). Man is too complex to be classified in that way. All statistics about geography, gender, age, groups and subgroups are fascinating, but it says nothing about you. Well, who are you? I think that you either stumbled across the site by accident and it took some time to realize that it wasn't what you expected or that you actually care for this kind of music. I choose to believe in the latter, put on a record album and blankly stare at the ceiling. Obviously, no change there.

 

 

stop-flogging-a-dead-horseThe Swedish artist Jerry Williams recently released an album called "Ghost Rider" in an unashamed attempt to mimic American Recordings. He is not to blame and only a pawn in their game. The album was produced by Ian Person from the (disbanded) Swedish band Soundtrack of Our Lives. He has a personal responsibility. The album was released on Sonet (Universal). They have a heavy responsibility. I would like to be a fly on the wall when record company survivalists Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy and Dizzy tried to think of something to do ("so what are we gonna do?/I don't know") and then shamelessly decided to capitalize on what has already been done (and so much better). For my non-swedish readers here's a short introduction. Jerry Williams was born in 1942 as Sven Erik Fernström. He made his musical debut in 1962. In 1963 his band The Violents was the opening act for The Beatles (at the time not so famous). Then a long solo career began with touring and albums. His music style is rock 'n' roll from the 1950s. You can buy his albums at gas stations. In 1996 his economic advisor embezzled him of $425 000 (which unintentionally prolonged his career). Jerry Williams is known to flaunt with his working-class background (almost everyone were working-class back then) and speaks with a nearly extinct Stockholm accent. He is also known for his pose holding his hand cupped behind his ear while shouting: "I can jive, I can jive". In later years his target group changed to profitable companies and their employees (a tax deductible activity). In 2013 he finally called it quits and went on a sold-out farewell tour. But in 2015 he was, to his big and unconcealed surprise, suddenly brought out of retirement. He was the perfect victim: man, old and well known. He would play the part of a Swedish Johnny Cash. New music isn't something one associates with Jerry Williams. He was a relic already in the late 1970s when he proudly declared that he liked to ride his motorbike and thought little about new wave music (it rhymes in swedish). However, we shouldn't be to hard on Jerry Williams. He's a professional artist and makes an adroit job. The guilty ones must be sought elsewhere. All you have to do is follow the money. From the artist to the producer and from the producer to the record company and Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy and Dizzy. The love of money is the root of all evil. But, what's the point of replicating, when you have nothing to say? The awkward choice of songs stand out. A random generator seems to have been used. Johnny Cash didn't know all the songs that Rick Rubin suggested, but he made fantastic interpretations of them. Likewise, Jerry Williams didn't know about Suicide, Danzig, Iggy Pop or The Handsome Family. But the intepretations of the songs are not very exiting. The song Bad Moon Rising by CCR (almost over-covered and not the most exiting song to cover) is covered. However, 16 Horsepower made a remarkable version of the song a couple of years ago. Is it pure coincidence that the song ended up on this album? I don't think so. The Handsome Family was formed in 1993 and have released nine studio albums. Accidently, "Far From Any Road" (True Detective theme) has been picked from their very extensive catalogue of songs, which leads me to suspect that the producer didn't know about The Handsome Family before the TV series. Furthermore, to include your own songs on the album isn't very Rick Rubin-ish. But Ian Person presses in three of his own songs on the album. Not good. Anna Ternheim, a very gifted swedish singer/songwriter has lent herself to two duets. Her voice gives some consolidation to what happens here. A dead horse is getting flogged. The flogging isn't exercised in the name of music, but in the name of unrighteous music mimicking. The last drop of other peoples creativity is to be extracted. But, Ian Person isn't Rick Rubin, Jerry Williams isn't Johnny Cash and Sonet (Universal) isn't American Recordings.   

 

       

annus mirabilis2007We are some years inundated with great music albums. Other years are just filled with waiting. Nobody has yet been able to explain the population fluctuations in lemmings and there's no authoritative explanation of the abundance of great music albums in some specific years. It's just a fact of life. For example 1973 was a golden year: David Bowie - Aladdin Sane, Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy, Frank Zappa - Over-Nite Sensation, Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies and Muscle of Love, Bruce Springsteen - Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath among others. The corresponding year for the "gothic country" genre was 2007: Antic Clay - Hilarious Death Blues, Christian Williams - Built with Bones and Defiant, Strawfoot - Chasing Locusts, O'death - Head Home, Those Poor Bastards - Hellfire Hymns, Slackeye Slim - Texas Whore Pleaser, Sons of Perdition - The Kingdom is on Fire and Vic Chesnutt - North Star Deserter among others. This year was really Annus Mirabilis (an amazing year). However, in my darkest moments I think that the best years have come and gone. A person with a more relaxed attitude towards the genre would probably say that this is a normal feeling that comes with age. But, I do worry. There's a peak in the lemming population every three to five years. Many great lemmings are born every year. The same can not be said for the regrowth in the "gothic country" genre. There are not many new artists and bands that holds a sufficient high quality and stand the test of "authenticity". Hope is the only good god remaining among mankind. Let there be another year like 2007. Let's hope for the best and plan for the worst.

 

       

double-dip-daysI read an article which contained unexpected research findings. Country songs are less likely to lyrically incorporate negative emotions during difficult social and economic times. People seem to indulge in escapism in hard times. You can read about the findings here (opens in a new window). The research data indicate that country music is countercyclical. However, I happen to be an economist and there are no theoretical reasons against a procyclical relationship. In fact, you would expect a procyclical relationship. The harder the times, the more depressing the lyrics. A shortcoming with the psychological-sociological study is that the symmetry haven't been tested: that is, if good times is likely to bring forth dark and depressing lyrics. I haven't done any research, but I do know for sure that the study is not applicable to the "gothic country" genre. The genre is totally insensitive to business cycles. It's doom and gloom no matter what. You don't need a degree in economics to understand why. The "gothic country" genre is characterized by economic permafrost. Therefore, general economic growth and income growth doesn't reach the capillaries. I'm afraid that the research team will have to go back and start all over again. I believe the model is wrongly specified. The researchers define country music as songs that topped the Billboard magazine country music chart each year. This is not country music. 

      

 

Blog getupstandupThere was a time when people looked up to and admired creative ability, especially in music. Not in any devout way, but in a decent and uncontrived way. This have changed. The current view of musicians is "bring in the jesters and clowns". After all, they are artists and shouldn't they entertain us? For free of course. Playing for free creates good opportunities to come out with your music. Yeah, right. But how did this shift in the view of musicians happen and what caused it? Internet is not to blame. It's only the gun and not the man behind it. Internet is fantastic. It makes it easy for everybody to find you, but on the other hand it makes it easy for everybody to find everybody. It creates information glut. Myspace was hailed as an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music and videos and a tool to reach out with your music. The life force of Myspace is now draining. There are other examples. Well, what caused the shift? The push back of musicians has economic reasons. The attack came in two waves. First wave was illegal downloading. This led to that people became accustomed not to pay for music. It was nothing more than theft. A musician would run a high risk of being cyber-bullied if he or she tried to claim his or her rights while the politicians stood by and watched. You can read my blog entry here (opens in a new window). Second wave was streaming. Belatedly, people have become accustomed to pay next to nothing for music. I hate streaming intensely. You can read my blog entry here (opens in a new window). These two shock waves led to an especially hard blow for artists that don't sell much. Now they sell even less. However, there are not many musicians in the "gothic country" genre with the goal of becoming stars. There's little, if any, money in the "gothic country" genre. The driving forces for the musicians in the genre are different. You still have to survive. The sarcastic joke "What’s the difference between a musician and a large pizza? A large pizza can support a family” is harsh reality for many struggling musicians. Not many in the genre are full-time musicians. If you can't even afford to make music in your spare time, then I would say that the conditions for music creation fundamentally have changed. Many artists in the genre have been crushed under the wheel of progression. To much work and problems and little or nothing in return. Some artists are so resignated that they don't know what's right or wrong anymore. "Maybe I should play for free or give away my music?" The cynic might object that it's the musicians own fault and it's time to wake up and smell the coffee and to change business model. "Why don't musicians tour instead or sell merchandise on-line?" This argument is too stupid to comment. But maybe the times are a-changing. I think there's a little light in the dark when more and more people recognize the relationship between creative ability and basic economic conditions for musicians. Under all circumstances, I think we all should straighten our backs and follow the late reggae artist Bob Marley: "Get Up Stand Up/Stand Up For Your Rights".           

 

 

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