A Misunderstanding Between Friends.

Hello,

Here is a post that Dj Vibes put up a few weeks back:

I made it clear that I was unhappy about it, and it was removed. But still, I know it was seen by a number of people because a number of people sent me screen captures and asked me what the fuck? Which, incidentally, was also my feelings on first reading it lol.

Shane Vibes apologised, and replaced it with this one:

Its all good, I understand how things can come out wrong, so no big deal. The dudes a legend, I have known him for years and I am not about to start a tedious and childish grudge with one of the few hardcore Djs who has stayed true to it all this time. So there are no hard feelings.

Nevertheless, the original post upset me. It upset me on two levels – the first was the implication that I had ripped Vibes off – which I have since been assured was an unintentional implication. And the second was the massive over estimate of how much money was made on that release. If someone like Vibes, who is a veteran of the industry, can get it so wrong, then many people must also have a false idea of  the profits the old skool made.

And because some people read it, I want to correct some of the things that were written. And also, its a good opportunity to tell people about the way the industry works because there is a great deal of misconception about it. I may well do a series – this one was triggered by an ill-worded post, but I have read plenty of arguments online about the music industry and found myself wanting to should at the screen “IT DOESNT WORK LIKE THAT” lol. So I am going to break the first post down, and tell you all the bits that are not accurate 🙂 I am even going to go into actual costs and sales figures, all be it roughly. Its a bit long…sorry!

So first up, the remix fee. It is mentioned in both posts, and I understand the frustration with this one. It is true that remix fees are a one off payment, and it is also true that this can be unfair. The problem is there is no other way to do it. Its a little complex, so bear with me:

The first option other than a stand alone remix fee is to give a royalty. The problem is, you cannot easily give a royalty for a remix because the remixer did not write the original track, nor did they do any of the promotion or work for that track, nor were they part of the deal when the track was signed to the label. The record label (me) did not sign Dj Force and the Evolution and Dj Vibes & Wishdokta.

Of course you could put that aside and give them royalties anyway, just because it would be nice, but it quickly becomes a practical (and maybe a legal) nightmare. Do they get a royalty of the entire track or just that remix? Because royalties are based on the track and all versions of it, not just a remix version, unless you are now going to make it a separate entity. But okay, suppose you do that –  what percentage is fair? 5%? 50%? And who decides this, and is it a standard thing? Are all remixers getting the same percentage – or put another way, are all remixers of equal value?

And do we do this with every remix that gets done of a track? Which would mean each time a remix was done, you would have to write a new contract, redo all the legal paperwork and forms, and change ownership and percentages of the recording.

This is obviously a terrible and impractical idea. One track might end up being remixed 20 times, which would mean the record label is, in effect, dealing with the original artist, 20 new artists, and all of their individual splits for each remix in each format.

Still, it could technically be done with the royalties from a record label, the money made from physical sales that is. It would be horrendous, but it could be done. Of course, you would then have to ensure the original recording artists and the record label were agreeable to that. But I cant think many artists or labels would want this arrangement. Even between the best of friends that is a nightmare of organisation, contracts, management and royalty accounting. I think in almost every case, if the remixer asked for a percentage or a royalty, the answer would be “you know what, I will get a different remixer” lol.

But even if all agreed to do that and were happy – there is publishing to consider, which is a whole other thing. Publishing is the ownership of the composition of the recorded work, and it remains in the hands of the person who wrote the music regardless of who remixes it. In this case, the publishing is owned by Dj Force & The Evolution – not me, not Vibes & Wishdokta or any remixer, not Kniteforce Records. It is usually collected by a separate entity (a publisher) on behalf of the writer. And the collection of publishing royalties simply does not allow for this situation. Someone wrote the track, someone else cant come in later and also have written the track, unless they actually wrote the track lol. It just doesn’t work like that, the end. Even if all parties wanted it to, it still doesn’t work like that. The worldwide systems for collecting publishing – the PRS and all the rest etc – are not set up to accommodate that arrangement. And again, if they were, what artist or record label would want that? Very few I think.

This is why remix fees are usually one off, single payments. To make it royalty based is extraordinarily difficult within the systems in place to collect money worldwide.

So okay, a remix fee is the best way, even though its not great. Its main problem is, a remix fee is paid for BEFORE the sales happen, before the remix is released. And no one knows how well a remix will sell. So judging how much you will ask for is very difficult to do. This is why the remixer usually sets the price, and the record label decides if it is worth paying or not. This is what happened in this case – I called Vibes, he set the price, I agreed to it, the remix got done, I paid the fee, the remix got cut, then the sales come in. Or not lol.

Its all guessing game based on the remixers pedigree and all the other factors that may help or hinder a release. In this case, I paid Vibes & Wishdokta a set fee and I got a brilliant remix for it. I cannot remember if the fee was £300 or £500. I do remember that Slipmatt was £500 back in those days, and he was the highest paid because he was the king lol, so it was most likely I paid VW £300, and I am certain it was not more than £500 for reasons that will become evident. It was a good deal for me, and actually a fair deal for Vibes & Wishdokta (although if you read this whole blog, you can come to your own conclusions about that).

However, lets use the other side of this particular release as an example of how it can all go wrong – I paid £600 – so more than Slipmatt –  for the Ramos and Supreme Remix because after agreeing to do a swap deal (where they remix for us and we remixed for them) they then delayed and delayed getting me the remix until after I had already printed the labels and sleeves, and then demanded £600 rather than do the agreed swap. For this princely sum, they made what is, in my opinion, a crap remix that no one plays and it is only on the record at all because it would have cost too much money and time to not use it.

I learned my lesson, and I have never let anyone put me in the position where I have to take whatever crap piece of music they farted ever again lol.

So in that case, I paid Ramos & Supreme a set fee and got a poo remix. It was a poo deal. I paid the money, and I lost out.

And that sums up the risk with the remix fee system. Some you win, some you lose. Welcome to the music industry, ain’t it grand? lol.

One last note on remix fees: They are very hard to judge no matter how reasonable you want to be. Because in the end, the reasons this particular record did well are many and hard to categorise or value. It sold because Dj Force & Evolution made a great track, Vibes & Wishdokta made a great remix, it was one of the first hardcore releases of that era to have a proper colour sleeve, it was part of a series which featured Slipmatt who was the biggest name at that time, it came out on a label that was doing well already, and one that had a good distributer. All of these things helped. The Ramos & Supreme Remix might even have helped a bit I suppose lol. But I suspect…not…much. And what would have changed it? What if Force & Evolution did the remix? What if Tango and Ratty did it? What if there was no sleeve? What if it was a 4 tracker instead of a 2 tracker? So many variables that would have effected the sales for better or worse. But still, the excellent remix from Vibes & Wishdokta is a major factor, and the original track being brilliant is also a major factor. That is undeniable.

All of that long winded explanation is to show why a remix fee is paid as a single one off fee, rather than any other way of doing it. I can think of numerous cases where I have remixed for a fee and I probably should have been paid more. I can think of numerous cases where people have fallen out over a remix fee as well. I can think of one particular case where the remixers absolutely deserved to be paid as recording artists because the remixes were the only reason the record sold at all, and it became a huge anthem – but nothing could be done. The artist made a fortune, the remixers much less, and it truly didn’t matter what either artist or remixer wanted because the laws and rules are all in place and simply don’t allow for these sorts of arrangements and situations.

That was a behind the scenes shit storm I can tell you.

Bottom line? Its shitty. A single one off payment for a remix is not a good option, but its the least shit way of doing things out of the options available. I had no idea Vibes was miffed about it, but you know, thats the way it goes. It was Vibes & Wishdokta that set their fee, not me, and I paid it. That was the deal. Thats always been the deal.

Lets move on…

Im going to skip past the bits about the remix outselling the original. Once you add up represses, album licensing and digital sales over the years, I am confident that the original outsold the remix. But this is a minor quibble – the Vibes & Wishdokta remix is a stunning bit of work, more remarkable because it is very difficult to remix a bona fide classic like “Perfect Dreams” and do a good job at all – and they did a fantastic job.

I am also going to skip quickly through the “thanks” bit, because I did thank Shane outside a club a few months after the release. I remember it because other things happened that were only slightly related, and to recall all of that is pointless. Instead, I will simply say I don’t drink and never have, so I have never asked anyone to go for a drink in thanks or otherwise lol. Some of the KF crew occasionally dragged me to a pub where I would stay for an hour then go home to the studio. I am legendary within my circle of friends for “going home” lol. Basically, I am hopeless at the whole “socialising with business people” thing which is pretty obvious when you look at my career ha ha. I am content with it but I recognise it can seem rude to others. So it is possible I did not thank Vibes & Wishdokta enough, or gave the impression I was not grateful. And If so, my bad.

What I did do though is ask Vibes & Wishdokta to remix that track in the first place, which in itself was a thank you for the excellent work they had already done for me remixing “We’re Flying” and “Swift Half” by Future Primitive. Vibes & Wishdokta are one of the very few artists who were asked to do multiple remixes for Kniteforce. The list is short – Vibes & Wishdokta, Slipmatt, and Sublove…hmm…I cant recall any others from that time. There were VERY few people who’s skill and talent I respected enough to come back for more.

Moving on…

Okay, lets talk about sales: This is really the bit that bummed me out from Vibes’s post because it was so far from the truth. I would love to have made £12000+ out of that record. I definitely did not, nowhere near. I am, like most record label owners, guilty of exaggeration with sales figures from time to time lol. But if I am honest, I cannot remember how many we sold altogether, but I am pretty sure it was under 5000 because I remember we originally pressed 3000 of Part 1, which featured Slipmatt – then got another 2000 pressed of that one. At a later date, we may have repressed again on that, 500 here, 500 there. I think that first Remix EP ended up selling close to 8000, but it also easily outsold the others in the series. That release, KF27, was our best seller for a long time, maybe ever.

So I guess it is possible we sold 6000 units of KF28, the Vibes & Wishdokta remixes? I have doubts, I would guess nearer to 4000 – 5000. But anyway, lets be generous and go with the figure of 6000 that Vibes used. My memory is lousy and I fucked up a lot of things back then, so fairs fair lol. Here are rough profit and expense figures:

Profit

I sold to Mo’s Music Machine (my distributor) at £1.80 per record.

6000 x £1.80 = £10800.00 profit. So even without paying for anything, I wouldn’t have made £12000.00

Expenses

Ramos & Supreme Remix Fee £600 (I am still annoyed lol)

Vibes & Wishdokta Remix fee – £300 (I will go with the lower figure of £300 – they did undervalue their work, thats for sure)

Record pressing £0.42 per unit x 6000 (I remember the unit price for sure, oddly enough): £2520.00

Cutting, processing metalwork, artwork design (had to be paid for back then, I couldn’t do it), films for artwork, full colour sleeve pressing x 6000, label pressing x 6000, promos, postage, shipping etc etc: Fuck knows. But at a guess another £1500 – £2000. Maybe less. Possibly more.

All those expenses add up big time, and we are looking at  roughly: £5420.00

Total profit from that record? Using these (admittedly rough) figures? £10800.00 minus £5420.00 =£5380.00

Of course, The Perfect Dreams Remix is only one side of the record, so it only earns half of that profit, so: £2690.00

And that gets split in half again, 50% KF, 50% Dj Force & The Evolution: £1345.00

Thats a good figure. But its pretty far away from the £12000+ claimed in Shanes post.

Oh, I forgot that i would have paid VAT tax on all the expenses – that was 17.5%. Sigh. I cant be assed to go back and do the math. So lets ignore it.

In the end, we got less than that £1345 figure, actually. If we sold 6000 units. Because lets not forget, this figure is the high end – it would be much less if we sold 4000 units. And sure, it would be a bit more if we did 10,000, and maybe I have some of the expenses wrong. But even then, it would still be a far cry from the £12000.00 mentioned. Also, I want to point out the label wasn’t paid in one lump sum. This is the sales over a period of months, and years actually if we are including sporadic repressed which we are to reach anywhere near that figure.

And I wouldn’t have seen any of that money until months after paying for the entire project to be pressed, including paying for the remix fees.

Now, finally, the big question: Should I have paid more for the Vibes & Wishdokta Remix? Maybe. I paid Slipmatt extra for his when it went on to sell so many by just giving him another couple of hundred pounds. And honestly, I feel like I probably should have given Vibes & Wishdokta a “bonus” for the remix as well. An extra couple of hundred maybe. To be clear, I was under no legal, or even moral obligation to do so. But still, it would have been a nice thing to do. If it was me now, thats what I would have done. I am older, wiser and maybe a little kinder than I used to be.

So why didn’t I back then? I don’t know. Maybe because I was very upset with Ramos & Supreme’s nonsense on that same release, and it soured me on that particular EP – that’s not Vibes & Wishdokta’s fault at all, but there it is. Maybe I was going to give them extra and just forgot. Its not like there was Paypal – you had to actually meet up with cash or send a cheque. Maybe I was skint – those 2 releases were a huge upfront expense, and I was also paying for the next releases after that – KF29 and KF30, and Remix Records releases, and the Slipmatt Remix of Take Me Away was selling faster than the VW remix, so my confidence in it was higher while my wallet was slimmer. But it took months to get paid after you spent the money to press back in those days and I was fucking terrible at accounts. All of those things may have played a part.

Or maybe I was just being greedy. I was greedier back then, and more selfish in a number of ways.

Simply put, I don’t know.

But what I do know is: Dj Vibes post upset me. And it had a lot of incorrect information in it. And after I got over being annoyed, I realised there are so many misconceptions about how things work in this industry, so perhaps it was a good way of explaining some of those things. And also, I thought I would clear it up because it made me feel bad. Finally, I hope it makes Shane feel better too – I would hate for him to feel like he was ripped off. I know that feeling well (hi Suburban Base! lol) and its not very nice.

Lastly, after getting over my annoyance, I want to make it very clear I have no ill feeling towards Shane Vibes. I am just sad he felt like this and could not say anything to me directly. This is yet another problem with the industry – it is complicated, and it is hard to know if you are in the right or wrong, and then it is hard to say anything. But there we are. With any luck, this should clear it up.

Thanks for reading,

Luna-C

12 Responses to A Misunderstanding Between Friends.

  1. Phil Blunt July 5, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    Thanks for doing this post Chris, it’s genuinely interesting to hear about figures and process in underground music. I REALLY wouldn’t like to say if I personally preferred the original or the remix, tough call on this one. Big up as always.

  2. Lee July 5, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

    I appreciate your honesty but £300 for the artist and £1000+ for the sales man.. that’s what I don’t agree with and that is what I call greed.

    £300 lousy pound for the creative aspect? If you had any decency left you would pay the £300 bonus out of your own pocket rather than spending hours writing an explanation of your bad desisions.

    I can understand on one level where you’re coming from but if these guys made you who you are then they deserve more financial credit. They contributed more to the scene, not you my friend.

    • luna-c July 5, 2017 at 10:51 pm #

      I think you are ignorant in this old chap. So let me address things: 1. “If these guys made me who I am” – they didn’t. They did 3 releases in total for me in well over 600. I also have my own music that I sell myself – this was remixes for one of my artists.
      2. If you read the article, you should have understood the risk – it was possible I would spend the money to press the record, and lose the money when no one bought it because it was not a good remix. This is why record labels get 50%. It is the record label that puts up 100% of the money, and the record label that loses 100% of the money if it does not sell. This is quite apart from doing the entire “work” part of organising the release, accounting and everything else. The music is of course important, essential. But that is why the musician gets 50% as well. And remixers get less because they neither create the entire piece of music, not do they take on any of the risk. An argument can be made as to what is fair, but we are talking about how it was in 1995, not how it is now – and they are two very different situations. 3. The remix fee was decided by Vibes and Wishdokta. As I said, maybe they should have charged more. But this is about standard in the music industry – your complaint is perhaps with the whole system, which I understand, but dont necessarily agree with. Lastly, not sure how it was a bad decision on my part? I did nothing illegal or immoral, and paid the fee they asked for, and then sold the records, and got paid. It was, in fact, a very good decision. As for contributed more to the scene than me? Right there you show vast ignorance and I will leave it to you to either address that or not. 🙂

      • luna-c July 5, 2017 at 10:52 pm #

        One more thing – if anyone wants to click this guys name, it goes to a porn site. So….yeah….lol

        • thedjscoundrel July 6, 2017 at 12:06 am #

          Though he sounded like a dick…. Lol get it

        • Doug-e July 14, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

          300 doesn’t seem a lot. I understand your figures etc but goodwill comes into this and a little bonus wouldn’t hurt.

          Big respect for all yur musical output over the years tho bro, it was such a big influence growing up in th midlands, i remember peeps wearing the kniteforce hoody ;->

          • Luna-C July 15, 2017 at 11:03 am #

            I agree to a point – but a few things to consider – 1. Slipmatt, who was the absolute top dog, was charging £500, and that was regarded as expensive (this was 1994 after all) 2. VW were not the big name they are now, but they were a solid act and 3. I used the £300 figure to be nice, it was the low end based on my poor memory! I expect I paid more than that actually as I said in the article. One other note: I firmly believe when you set a price for yourself, thats what you get. In no business do you get to set a price for your work, and then, after it is done, say “I did well, I should get more” unless it is work that pays royalties. Its not a fair system whether you worked your ass off in a supermarket, or slacked off – you get the same pay. In the music world, Djs dont get extra for events that sell out, and remixers get the fee they asked for, or dont get the remix at all. It sounds harsh, but thats how it has always been. Its certainly not a perfect system, and again, I have also done remixes for a smaller fee and then watched that release do very well. I have never been given extra, and I have also never made a public complaint about it, because that is the system. However, and as I said in the article, I do agree that a bonus would have been nice. It would have shown appreciation, and that would have been a good thing. But there it is, even though what I did was correct business wise and legally, I certainly don’t get everything “right”, for want of a better word 🙂

  3. freakionutbutter July 7, 2017 at 5:30 am #

    Avery interesting read. Didn’t Vibes also deliver the remix to you while wearing a terrible pair of shorts?

  4. Markus July 9, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

    I posted the purple Pants thing on there and thought that’s why vibes pulled it haha
    I haven’t dared post since
    People understand back then no one made a lot of money unless they ripped people off or were fraudulent with the tax man or were djing every weekend
    Chris is being honest most people I know who put tunes out in the day either just made costs back or made a little profit or lost out
    The music industry is not a fair field of play and in the rave scene even less so I think we were blessed that people even tried to put records out and kept doing so like Chris and the rest of them back then it only took 1 bad selling tune to put them in debt .

  5. Dean July 15, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    Good read. and a perfect example of how things get misunderstood/lost in translation/twisted over time.

    Maybe Vibes should make an album and charge 150 quid for it to make up for all the pain and loss that a 20 odd year old remix has caused him….

  6. Phizmo July 15, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

    Let’s be honest, it can be tough to make money out of music. Vibes should *somehow* get the Above The Clouds ’96 Remixes rereleased on iTunes or CD or something, instead. I’d buy a couple of tshirts too!!!!

  7. Nick Name September 10, 2017 at 11:40 pm #

    I’ve always respected Chris’s candidness when it comes to things like this. As he’s already stated, he’s not perfect and he doesn’t always get things right. However, its obvious to me that he is a very decent, fair and honest chap with lots of integrity and morality, and wouldn’t knowingly piss people off or make them feel used. I agree with him that if an artist states a price that they are happy with to do a remix, then they should be satisfied with receiving that amount that they’ve asked for! Sure, a bonus would be nice too if it sells well. Maybe a part of the deal could be that if a remix does really well and sells a certain amount of copies, the remixer would get another couple of hundred bonus or something? Rather than waiting to see if the label is going to give a bonus out of goodwill, make it part of the contract.

    There are very few people that have contributed more to this scene than Chris. His legendary status is already assured!

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