BROADCAST YOURSELF? REALLY?

Back in September 2013, I shot a music video for one of the songs from my ‘Seeing Stars’ E.P. I decided to base the video around my very close friend Steve, and his recovery from emergency heart surgery back when he was 22. Steve’s struggle, strength and determination matched the message behind the song perfectly so I was so grateful that he agreed to do it.

I remember having a conversation with Steve a few days before posting the video on YouTube and he was pretty nervous about what the response was going to be like. We had a viewing with his family the week before and they thought it was great so I just reminded him that the reaction online didn’t matter as much as being proud of the work, and that we both were/are!

On the 16th of November I uploaded the video and published it on YouTube. The immediate reaction was amazing. It seemed to be getting shared a lot and the feedback we were getting was very encouraging. After 36 hours the video had passed 7,000 views. But then, for no clear reason it just froze and for 4 days the play count literally stood still, until one week after originally posting it, the video was no longer available.

Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 1.19.07 PM

As you can see, the notification says “This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of service” Not only is that completely untrue, but it is also quite damaging to my reputation given that the video had been receiving so many views and had been sent to numerous Heart foundations and charities, who would all be seeing this notice. Totally shocked and confused I quickly logged into my YouTube account and checked the video manager page where I saw this… Screen Shot 2014-01-03 at 1.26.57 PMThe video had been “Rejected” and copied, which meant that the 7,374 views, 148 Likes and 10 very kind and supportive comments had been wiped! With absolutely zero explanation or warning!

As you can imagine, this was all pretty confusing given the polar opposite feelings we were experiencing the week before. I attempted to contact YouTube via several different avenues requesting that the video be reinstated and asking for an explanation… but nothing. Not even a response. So after some researching and digging around I found out that I wasn’t the only person who’s video had been treated like this, it seemed that there are other unsigned artists who are experiencing the same frustrating and damaging effects from being censored by YouTube and a lot of them were being accused of paying for plays. Days worth of scouring the internet and YouTube’s labyrinth of contact pages, we had found nothing to directly deal with the issue so we contacted a company who seemed like they could help in this matter. New Media Rights who were very helpful and sent me an appeal form to fill in and send off to YouTube.

Below are links the the New Media Rights website and to the appeal form.

http://www.newmediarights.org/

https://support.google.com/youtube/contact/tou_removal_appeal

Below is my actual appeal form. Questions are in bold and answers in italic.

channel_name: Ryanjohnmusic
web_audience: I am an RnB singer/songwriter and receive views from all over
the world. The main countries that my hits originate from are The UK, USA,
and Australia, but there are many more countries that I receive regular
views from.
users_location: Europe, USA, Australasia, Indonesia, Africa, South America,
Asia, Middle East
users_access: My content is often shared via social media platforms like
Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud etc. Quite often when one of my videos is
posted on YouTube hundreds of Facebook users share the video.
promote: I promote my content via social media networks, then my fans and
followers share and promote via their own social media profiles.
purchased_traffic: no
whom_purchased: I have never purchased traffic.
describe_traffic: I have never purchased traffic, traffic is the flow of
user to your content.
amount_of_traffic: I have never purchased traffic. My video had 7000+ hits,
the majority of those hits to my understanding came from external links
such as facebook & twitter. That is where I shared the video link and that
is where the traffic seems to have come from.
did_you_incentivize: no
traffic_incentivized: I have never incentivized traffic.
third_part_marketing: no
third_party_organization: I do not use third party marketing organisations.
I purely share my music/videos via other social media networks.
explain_marketing: My marketing strategy is to share my music/videos with
my followers. My followers do the rest as I am an independent artist and
not affiliated with any record labels. My followers share my content. That
is it.
what_incentives: I have never incentivized any users to click.
other_possible_incentives: I do not know. I have never used this tactic,
neither have I heard of it.
third_party_incentives: No. My music is produced, recorded, and completely
owned by me. I shot my own video for ‘Faith In You’ too so I am the sole
owner of all content of the video. Nobody stands to gain anything from my
contents increased visibility.
how_deter_invalid_activities: I do not know what potentially invalid
activity means. I cannot control other users of the internet. I make my
music and videos and then share them. That is it. Usually I move on to the
next project but I am unable to at the moment as my video has been unjustly
removed.
violated_tos: no
how_violated_tos: It did not. Inside the ‘Video manager’ section of my
account my video appears as ‘rejected, content copied’ which is a complete
mystery to me. I was not informed that this was going to happen, neither
was I provided with a reason. This has damaged my reputation as there were
highly regarded charities looking at the video as it deals with recovery
from heart surgery. Now all anybody sees is a notice saying that my
content “violates YouTubes terms of service” which is completely incorrect.
who_has_access: Me. Full capacity.
how_often_update: Every time I upload a video I update my account.
Sometimes I update my information in between videos.
noticed_invalid_activity: no
what_invalid_activity: None.
how_stopped_invalid: I have never detected invalid activity.
any_relevant_information: I would like my video reinstated as it has not
violated any of YouTubes terms of service, the notification saying so is
damaging my professional integrity and paints me in a dishonest light. This
is neither fair or acceptable. I would be willing to show any proof
necessary that i have never inflated traffic, nor would i as it would serve
absolutely no purpose to myself, my career or my business. If you could
contact me as soon as possible i would greatly appreciate it. “

To my amazement, a few days later I received a reply from YouTube. But it wasn’t good news. Below again…

“Hi there,

 
We’ve reviewed your appeal regarding your video(s) removal and considered the account history.

The decision to remove your video(s) has been upheld. Removed videos can be reuploaded.

Should your account be found in violation of our Terms of Use #4 Section H again, your account may be suspended without the possibility for appeal.

For your reference, TOU #4 Section H states:

You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, “robots,” “spiders,” or “offline readers,” that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional on-line web browser. Notwithstanding the foregoing, YouTube grants the operators of public search engines permission to use spiders to copy materials from the site for the sole purpose of and solely to the extent necessary for creating publicly available searchable indices of the materials, but not caches or archives of such materials. YouTube reserves the right to revoke these exceptions either generally or in specific cases. You agree not to collect or harvest any personally identifiable information, including account names, from the Service, nor to use the communication systems provided by the Service (e.g., comments, email) for any commercial solicitation purposes. You agree not to solicit, for commercial purposes, any users of the Service with respect to their Content.

Services that attempt to gain views through automated means or that force or trick viewers into watching videos are not ok. This could be through a variety of means, including, among other things, deceptive layouts on third party websites that trick viewers into playing a video when they click unrelated elements on the page. It might also be serving up embedded videos instead of intended content, serving pop-unders, re-directing and/or a variety of other methods people use to try to inflate viewership.

If you are going to contract someone to help promote your content, it should be someone you absolutely trust, as you may be putting the fate of your channel (and your business on YouTube) in their hands. If they are using methods that aren’t within our terms, you will be the one to pay the price, as it will be your videos and your channel that get taken down. And don’t just take their word for it – ask the tough questions, find out how they promote your content and do your due diligence. Ultimately, you are responsible for knowing and abiding by our terms – this means understanding the nature of the traffic on your channel and making sure you are in compliance with our terms. Ignorance of bad traffic or other actions taken on your behalf may lead to your account being removed from YouTube.

For more information on our Terms of Use, please visit:

http://www.youtube.com/t/terms

Sincerely,

The YouTube Team”

So that is that. No proof needed. It seems YouTube are the judge, jury and executioner on the career of anybody they choose, whenever they feel like it. I have never and would never pay for plays as it is completely pointless. I spend days and weeks developing my songs and videos, let alone the days of recording and days of editing, all in the hope of sharing them with the world.

YouTube’s slogan “Broadcast Yourself” is pretty hilarious after reading this isn’t it?! The fact I was threatened that my account could be “suspended without the possibility for appeal” if this happens again, when I clearly have no control, influence or real understanding of what actually happened in the first place, makes it clear to me that YouTube has become a completely different creature than it would lead you to believe.

To end on a positive note, here is the video for Faith In You. The really frustrating thing about this whole situation is that the video was designed to inspire people who have been through a hard time and to remind them that “What don’t kill you makes you stronger” quite ironic given the article above.

I hope you enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEToCZPbRQ4

“WHAT’S THE POINT?”

I had a conversation recently with somebody (no names) about the Mars rover and some of the groundbreaking things that NASA are attempting to shed light upon during the mission. Let me point out, this isn’t a dig at the person I had the conversation with, not at all, more a musing on whether we are becoming collectively complacent in what we think we know, and that maybe, we think we now know enough.

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The conversation mainly consisted of me rambling on like an excitable child about how the Mars rover had observed rock and sedimentary evidence that pointed strongly towards the existence of water on the planet at some point in the past. If that isn’t fascinating enough, the sheer fact that we the human race have developed and mastered the ability to explosively propel a robot off our tiny blue and green planet, through the vacuum of space for 8 months, and to land it on a freezing cold, dusty red rock, roughly 36 million miles away, is pretty mind blowing. Not to mention it got there without a scratch. Just imagine telling that to everyday folk back in the 1950’s, you’d have spent your next 15 years in a straight jacket, rent free in the nearest nut house. The conversation about the Mars rover eventually came to an end 10 minutes in after I was confronted with the question “Well, what’s the point of going up there anyway?” I was honestly taken aback by it, and even more concerning, it was definitely not the first time I’d heard that question/statement in relation to a topic like this. I sarcastically responded with “Yeah, what’s the point, we already know everything we need to know, might as well buckle up and wait for the apocalypse” and changed the subject to something a little less frustrating. I didn’t have the patience at the time to discuss it any further, but it’s something that has kept rattling around inside my fragile little head ever since.

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Just imagine, Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein, after hours of pondering problems and possible fixes to their dilemmas and equations, they just came to the conclusion “Ah sod it, what’s the point” and put their feet up and flicked on the TV. (Please refrain from actually contemplating whether they would have actually had televisions as it was a purely hypothetical anecdote and this may distract from my intended point. I’ll come back to this later.) Where would we be now if it wasn’t for minds like these that endlessly inquired and asked the questions how and why. I think it’s a very dangerous attitude to adopt given the progression the human race has made in the last 100 years, if you take war out of the equation of course. I read recently that it took us 200,000 years to get to a world population of 3 billion, and that it took only 40 more years to get to 6 billion. This statistic alone highlights the dramatic advancements in the field of medicine, or that people generally started humping like obsessively compulsive rabbits from the 1950’s onwards. Either way, we have either become ludicrously horny or remarkably more efficient in keeping each other alive.

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There are so many things to occupy our minds these days, entertainment is everywhere, as is distraction, but so is information and enlightenment. As far as I’m aware, our brains don’t have a definable capacity that we should be cautious of approaching, but it seems like there is an attitude emerging of taking the outstanding achievements of others for granted and feeling as if we are reaching the limits of our comprehension of the world around us. In truth, we have only just started to scratch at the surface of what we think we know.

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 Knowing that our planet is running out of natural resources and the sea levels are rising, as is the global population, and faster than ever might I add, I find it amazing when I hear people say things like “What’s the point?” Especially when it comes to trying to understand and learn new things about the world and universe we inhabit. I’m not sure why the world needs to know which designer brand Kim Kardashian has been rocking lately or who Justin Bieber has been sleeping with. But for some reason nowadays this kind of mundane and irrelevant information tends to generate a much greater level of fascination compared to say, stories of scientific discovery or technological advancements. To any wire tapping, internet monitoring alien life forms conducting intergalactic reconnaissance, these would be exactly the kinds of trivial topics we as a species seem most intrigued by.

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Imagine if that same life form had stumbled across the Voyager 1 space probe on their way to Earth, the only recognisable things from the ingenious golden record attached to the spacecraft would be the “Sounds of Earth” recordings or the languages. I can imagine them intelligently scanning our internet and coming to the conclusion that we couldn’t be the same beings that created the Voyager probe, theres no penis enlargement advert engraved on the record.

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Being asked “What’s the point?” of exploring Mars with the use of the NASA rover is all the more ironic when you point out, the name of that robot is Curiosity. It is our nature to ask questions and to wonder, not to question why we should bother wondering.

 

 (If anybody knows who won celebrity big brother, could you please let me know? I missed it.)

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*Not sure you are what is wrong with the world, that’s a little harsh :-)*

For the record…

Isaac Newton – No.

Albert Einstein – In later life yes, from around 50 years of age onwards.

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THE OBSESSION WITH COVER SONGS…

In the past I’ve sung a lot of other peoples songs. As much as I love singing and putting my own spin on another artists music, I prefer not to do it as much anymore. This is why…

(Not because of this picture, this is just purely for comedic value)

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Ask anyone who can sing to remember how times they have been told that they should go on Xfactor. If they can at least hold a tune, they probably would have lost count by now. After doing gigs for a number of years, I can honestly say that I have heard that sentence thousands of times. It’s a compliment, don’t get me wrong, and I’m always polite and say thank you, but there’s more to it than that, it has become a way of thinking. It is now generally believed by the majority that if you want to make it in the music industry, the best way to go about it is to enter a competition like the Xfactor or The Voice. The trick of these competitions is that they are most definitely not about discovering potential talent, but rather discovering potential sources of revenue for the people behind the shows. They are essentially popularity competitions where the competitors, over a period of weeks and months, gain a bigger and bigger potential fan base, ready to buy anything and everything that they release after the show has finished. Now…

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All throughout the shows and audition processes, we hear people singing covers, very rarely original songs. That’s all well and good, and I do think it’s important for an ‘artist’ to have the ability to adapt somebody elses work into something unique sounding, that is still a talent after all. But there’s no getting away from the fact that it is imitating, just (sometimes) in a slightly different style. The true talent is the creation of the music/song in the first place. I won’t make this about Xfactor or The Voice because that’s a juggernaut that WAY bigger fish than myself have never been able to stop rolling, plus, many artists make good money from the royalties of their songs being performed and broadcast on these shows.

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So after 10 years of these competitions, now it seems all people want to hear are covers. After all, why spend time trying to find things we like when we already know what we like, and there’s a new version of that at our disposal. YouTube is jam packed with covers, and yes I know… I’ve done them in the past too, but I’ve also realised the sad fact that original music largely goes un-noticed because of the demand for cover songs and videos. It doesn’t come down to the quality of the original music by the artists necessarily either, it is down to the mindset of the majority wanting to hear something they know, and something they feel comfortable to be able to judge. I’m not sure if we feel uncomfortable judging the quality of something that we’ve never heard before, or just enjoy the comfort of something familiar. Maybe it’s safety in conformity, or just that we’re happy to sit back and believe that we are the ones deciding what we want to listen to. Either way, it is the reason I feel so strongly about not doing covers anywhere near as often anymore. I don’t want to contribute to, and encourage the current disregard for the talents of creative artists. I would never enter one of the popularity cover song competitions because very few of the people who come out of those machines ever get any creative input into the music that is released under their name, which is supposed to represent them as a person and an artist, not a product.

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I spend hours mulling over one line when I’m writing. In that time I could record a handful of Youtube cover videos, and no doubt they would get way more hits than my original music. But I take that time and care because I love what I do. Without the freedom of expression in music nothing new would ever be created. I’m not trying to change the world or anything, and no doubt very few people will ever read this, but being aware of the reasons why pretty much every human being on the planet is a lover of music of some kind is an important thing. Music is distinctly human, so the creation of music is just about as human as you can get. It’s just a shame that creation isn’t celebrated anywhere near as much as imitation.

On a lighter note, here is a picture of a Koala bear.

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THE INSPIRATION BEHIND SEEING STARS

INTRODUCTION

In late March (2013) I decided it was time to start work on a brand new E.P. The reaction to the ‘SE7EN’ E.P last year was amazing, & the fact that my songs received over 40,000 downloads worldwide hugely overtook any expectations I had. So I thought it was time to try and follow that up. At first I struggled over ideas and concepts, I think I was stuck in the mindset of making another concept based project like SE7EN, constantly trying to think of clever ways to tell a story as a collection of songs as well as by each song individually.

After a few days of racking my brain I realised I was complicating things by trying to do something similar. I did come up with a cool idea based on the ‘6 degrees of separation’ where I thought I could write 6 songs about relationships, but all somehow from different angles and viewpoints and make then work out as some kind of story… As you can see… Complicated. So I started thinking about what ‘SE7EN’ lacked. For all of it’s strength with regard to the subjects of the songs and the meanings behind them, I wasn’t sure of how much it actually revealed about me as a person. Of course I have a personal attachment to the songs and they do reflect parts of me, but the concept of the E.P meant I was restricted to certain subjects i.e, (The 7 deadly sins).

So I decided to stop trying to think up concepts for the project and focus on writing a more personal and insightful collection of songs. This is what they are about…

1. DREAMER.  

I was listening to ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ by Oasis one afternoon and realised that a lot of the lyrics in the song are very abstract, and don’t really make much sense as a story. I love the song because it reminds me of when I was a kid, but analysing it made me realise that the way it was written actually adds to the feel of the song. I thought I’d try to write a song in that kind of style. First step was composing the music, I wanted the song to have a reflective feel but a strong message in the chorus, like ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ so I started out with just keys to set the tone and let the vocal make the introduction. I had wanted to use oxymorons in a song for a while and felt that this would be the perfect time to try it out, luckily for me this was the right song for them as the lines “In a world where time has stopped, still I know it will keep ticking forever” give a feeling of disconnection and escapism which works to pull in the listener.

The feeling behind the song came from me wanting to explain to people that I’m very similar to most other people, I get frustrated, I feel down, and I want to better myself and succeed. ‘Dreamer’ explores these feeling by taking you on a journey through a world that seems make believe.

2. SYNCHRONISED

I’m actually going to make a video about how and why the idea of this song popped into existence, the story deserves it, so that’s all I’m going to say for now… You can see the music video for ‘Synchronised’ very soon though. That is a very big clue to the inspiration behind it.

3. BEST THAT I CAN BE / ME MYSELF & MY MICROPHONE

This song acts as the transition section of the E.P. ‘DREAMER’ & ‘SYNCHRONISED’ which come before are both lighter songs, with equal depth conceptually, but less intensity. I wrote this song quite quickly, I remember it being really easy, probably because it’s such an identifiable subject for myself, and many people to be honest. I used to worry and care about what people thought of me in my teens, I put on a front as if I didn’t but inside I was quite reserved at times, especially with performing or creative arts. Luckily for me, I dealt with that and decided to let go of those thoughts and feelings that held me back. I still remember the conversation I had with my Mum to this day, it’s the reason I do what I do. I know a lot of people who have the same self doubt and insecurities that I used to have and that was the motivation behind this song. After all, people are going to judge you no matter what, you might as well enjoy yourself as they’re doing it. Zay & D did an amazing job on the production for this track. In their own words, “We’ve created a film score type ballad that grows into a modern R&B/HipHop affair. Somewhere between Lana Del Ray & later Michael Jackson.”

4. I’M NOT A MACHINE

There were quite a few strong inspirations behind this song. The main reason was because I wanted to make a statement about how a lot of artists are now being treated like machines. Labels, publishers & managers sometimes treat artist like objects rather than human beings. I understand how business works and that essentially as an artist you are a product, but actually being treated like a product is a completely different thing. With X Factor being so huge in the mainstream these days the creative process is being portrayed to the public as less and less important. The fact of the matter is that it is THE MOST important thing to music, or any other form of art. Without the creation, it can’t exist. Many of the artists that end up winning these TV talent shows go on to release music that they don’t have any creative input in to. Just imagine if John Lennon, Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder weren’t allowed any creative contribution to the music they released. The music world would be a very different place.

I wanted the lyrics to almost have a contradiction to them which would keep the listener guessing. I liked the idea of a machine that thought and believed it was human, so I used word play and double entendres in the verses to emphasise that. A lot of the time as I’m starting to write a song I have to be able to picture it in my head so I try to visualise every song from the start as a film. I regard myself as a humanist so I like to think of this song as a reminder to myself of my faith in the human race.

5. FAITH IN YOU

Everybody deals with issues, the personal and private things that you don’t make public on Facebook. Well some do😉 But what I mean is we all struggle at times, and put on a brave face. ‘Faith In You’ is a song that acknowledges that, but also points out that things can always get better. It’s just up to you to see that and make the changes that are needed to turn the corner. Regardless of your beliefs, the first person you should have faith in is yourself.

Feel free to check out the samples of the songs via the soundcloud link below. If you like what you hear, you can get a copy of the E.P from the iTunes & GooglePlay links below. SEEING STARS is also available on Spotify, Amazon MP3, Deezer & many more digital outlets.

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/seeing-stars-ep/id688965592

https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Ryan_John_Seeing_Stars?id=Bumn54zlsdtnsjbabifldeftani

NEW BLOG… HOW, WHY & WHEN.

More than any other reason, I’ve decided to write this blog so that people who like my music, or those that have an interest in what I do, can have an insight into the way I go about making music and my whole creative process. Not everything I post in this blog will be music related as alot of the inspiration for making music tends to come from everywhere and anywhere, at any given time. Well, for me anyway. So I’ll keep the introduction short and sweet… Welcome to my blog.