Exclusive Interview Series: The internet and the music industry – Conflicted

As part of a new series of interviews EspyRock commander-in-chief Michael Hughes, who is currently writing a dissertation on the effect of the internet on the music industry for the University Of The West Of Scotland, will be getting the views of artists on the internet’s effect on the music industry. The interview series will cover what is currently going on with the band at the moment but will also feature a questionnaire ranging from topics as to illegal downloading, social networking, technology and the future of the industry.

Next up in our series of interviews was Candian award winning mental band Conflicted. With the release of their brand new album ‘Never Be Tamed’ through Nightmare Records. I had the chance to question the band about the upcoming release of their album on Rock Band, the album, their awards and what makes them stand out in the crowd.

Be sure to follow the band on Facebook and listen to their music on MySpace. If you like what you hear then pick up a copy of their new album at the Nightmare Records store.


It might be unlikely that many readers here in the UK will have heard of Conflicted so can you tell us a little about the band and why people should listen to you?

Conflicted draw from our influences which span from Deep Purple, Queen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dream Theater, Judas Priest to Beethoven to the Beatles without sounding like we’re copying any of them. We’re a Heavy Metal band that plays progressively. Our approach to music is quite different from much of our contemporaries as we put the song before the pieces. The intricacies are arranged after a strong song is written. Lyrically at this point we stay away from the typical “dungeons and demons” themes and focus on “real life” issues without falling into political landscapes.

With songs being at the forefront, the musicianship and virtuosity is not lost. Live showmanship and studio performance is always a priority in execution.

Conflicted Never Be Tamed Artwork‘Never Be Tamed’ is the bands new release, what can you tell us about the album from the sound to the lyrical message.

The sound has been produced to replicate the intensity of our live show. It sounds raw in spots and very produced in others. Lyrically the messages are conflicted….

Can you give us a little information about the writing process?

Each song is written unto itself. All of the lyrics used to date are written by Jason Orton. As for the music some songs like “Fallen” are composed by one writer and lyrics added afterwards while others are co-written by as many as 3 writers. Many of the songs were brought in to the band as demos at which point the band assesses the potential and arranges accordingly. Conflicted really have no rules in regards to composition.

Did you do anything different in your writing or recording process from your two EPs?

Yes, the EPs were recorded as demos. They sounded pretty good so we released them as EPs. They were both recorded by the band with in our personal studios. Some of the songs from the EPs (or demos) were cleaned up and re-recorded for the new release. With “Never Be Tamed” we took the best songs from the EPs and added some brand new material. We recorded the album with in multiple facilities. Each facility offered “the right sound” for some specific elements.

You were named the best metal band at the Toronto Independent Music Awards and you also won three ImageFM independent music awards, does that add any pressure to this album release knowing that you have a lot of hype and promise surrounding it?

Yes, and no. There is really no one who adds more pressure to our performances than us. The acknowledgements for our effort are very encouraging though. We love the audience, we love critics and we love music. So you could say that there is always a pressure from within.

What do you think makes Conflicted stand out above all the other bands performing today?

Conflicted have influences, but we are not making any effort to emulate them. We have fine tuned the elements of music which we love into one package: Conflicted. From the upfront 4 octave vocal range of Jason Orton, to the neo-classically driven guitar work of Mark Owen to the driving rhythm section and keyboards reminiscent of Deep Purple. Arguably we are in a genre of our own.

With the mention of the awards that the band has received, I’ve also read good words about your live shows. How would you describe a Conflicted live show?

Each show is “the last show that we’ll ever do”. We leave everything on stage. You won’t hear note dodging from Jason or short cuts from any of the remainder of the band. We’re sweating before the middle of the first song and keep up the momentum ’til the last note of the last song. Our live show is what our disc was produced to emulate. Our previous “demo” recordings were no match for our live show, and no match for the new disc.

Does the band have any rituals before going on stage?

Ha-ha, kind of… Stretching, specific diet before the show…. and have a good laugh, because this is what we love!

One big to note for the band later this year will be the full album being ported to Rock Band so fans can perform all the songs in the game. Are you excited about being one of the bands the game chooses to feature?

Absolutely! We were approached about 6 months back. After hearing a hand full of the songs the authors asked us to release the entire album. It’s unclear at this point whether we will release all 10 or 11 songs, but we are planning on a release within the Rock Band online store every 3 months for the next year or so!

Where do you stand on the Rock Band and Guitar Hero games as a lot of artists are heavily against it because they feel it stops kids picking up real instruments and learning to perform.

It’s silly to blame a game for kids not picking up the real instrument. The same kids (if not playing with a pretend guitar) would be shooting people down (in game). With the state of popular music any exposure kids can have to music is great! It’s about evolution.

With the album due this week and touring as the main course of action for 2011, where do you think you will perform or where do you hope to perform before the New Year?

We have our eye on Europe. For no other reason than the constant “they’d love you in Europe” that we hear!. Of course, it’s nice to go wherever we are asked. There are a lot of festivals worldwide that really interest us too!

Internet and the music industry

The biggest issue with the internet for artists is of course illegal downloading and there has been a rapid decline in value of the industry as the internet expands throughout the world. Several artists I have spoken to have stated that it has become part of life and that now selling albums is no longer a profitable business; money is solely earned from touring. What are your views on the matter of illegal downloading?

I don’t download. I won’t. I am strongly irritated to hear that anyone does. Would you go into a bakery and steal a loaf of bread? Or a car from a car lot? It’s ridiculous.

Conflicted bandDo you feel that any of the current methods such as watermarking or streaming based models which have users paying a fee to stream music will take off and help stop the illegal sharing of music files? Or do you see any strength with the idea of giving away your music for free, having it shared around the world and again relying on touring to make money?

Honestly, I feel that we have to adapt. It’s kind like separating the boys from the men. There are many artists that can write good material and record it well too. But can they perform it? We can. So, if our music is ripped off – we can tour and make a living provided that the same pirates will buy a ticket to the show.

The global recorded music industry saw a 31% decline in value from the years of 2004 to 2010 but the digital music market has seen a 1000% increase in value over the same period. Do you see the internet’s influence on the industry as the sole cause of this decline or do you believe there are any other factors which you consider an issue?

It’s likely that the music industry has declined due to the poor taste in artists they support. At least that seems to be the case here in North America. Artist support is poor and so is the end product. Albums aren’t written anymore. Instead the big artists release singles with the hopes of getting that big hit that will raise their stock. It’s a business, not an art. The shame is that the business people have fucked up the art!

With such a growth in the digital music market, many artists have already stopped creating physical albums; the most notable is Rob Zombie who stated his most recent release would be his last physical album as the growing popularity of iTunes and Amazon is now controlling album sales. The IFPI recently published findings that 16.5% of internet users in the United
States purchase their music digitally than physically.
Firstly as an artist and music fan, do you still buy physical albums or do you download from digital music stores? Secondly, do see the digital music markets as something positive for the industry and your career as a new and cheaper distribution method?

Yes, I do buy CD’s still. In fact, I have never downloaded (paid for, or not) online. Yes, as a matter of fact I was marvelling to myself over the past weekend that this disc we are releasing may very well be the last physical disc we print? I say that because of the emphasis with online sales. If our printed product sits in warehouses, and our online sells, there’s not much point in printing next time. Though, I like the physical copy much like our father’s prefer the LP’s artwork!

As the digital music stores assist in distribution, other factors that come into releasing an album are marketing and promotion of any sort. What are your views on the ability to use the internet to promote and market yourself?

The internet is white noise to me. I have to hear about an artist from a reliable source. There are way too many websites pushing or promoting stuff that just doesn’t cut it.

Social networking has naturally become a massive asset in the industry for labels and artists to be able to interact with fans on an everyday basis from anywhere in the world. Do you feel that if the social networking boom hadn’t taken place that it would effectively hinder careers as there would have been no direct route to communicate with fans?

Social networking is a great way to reach the people that wish to be reached. Unfortunately many people become far less social with social networking!

A big development in recent years has been the hardware and software that has been created for anyone and everyone to purchase. We now find aspiring artists building their own home studios at their computer by purchasing top of line software, sound cards, microphones and such. What are your views on the technology advancements in recent years from software,
hardware and even to the MP3 itself? What positives or negatives if any do you see from these advancements?

This is not a new concept. Much of the Beatles work was recorded in Lennon or McCartney’s home studios and brought in for George Martin to work with. According to legend Boston recorded their first album on an 8-track in a garage, when they did get a budget; they couldn’t surpass. The end product is what matters, not how you get it. I don’t mind paying $20 for an album I like, it doesn’t matter to me where or how it was recorded. But I love hearing the stories afterwards!

While purchasing hardware/software and recording in your own home studio is a method of removing big studio costs and staff costs, recently fan funding in return for incentives has become a new way forward. Recently in the UK bands such as Madina Lake, Funeral For A Friend and The Blackout have used Pledge Music (Kickstarter in the US) in which fans contribute towards the cost of the studio in return for signed albums, special gifts and more. Do you think this method of involving fans more intimately in the creation of an album and offering them incentives to do so could be a way forward to combat the losses through piracy?

Ahhh, it’s stock market mentality. Sounds like a great method.

Conflicted bandIn the United States from 1999 to 2009 there was a 17% fall in the number of people hired as a musician and in Europe, while not directly musicians, the estimated number of jobs likely to be lost due to piracy in the creative industries will reach 1.2 million by 2015. Do you worry as an artist that you will ever be swept by this wave and be forced to leave the industry you love in order to provide a better living for yourself?

Of course. But I would hasten to guess that most musicians play music because of the music and not because of the pay cheque?

When you consider the industry previously to the time before the internet and to now with the internet in full swing, what do you see for the future of the industry?

This is what the industry created. It’s for guys in suits and ties to figure out while the talent keep creating for the love of music and not of money.


About ??

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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