SNL Takes A Chance

After forty years of hosting some of the biggest names in music history, a true anomaly occurred last Saturday at Saturday Night Live. For the first time ever, SNL hosted an unsigned artist as their musical guest of the night. Unsurprisingly that artist just so happens to be one of the biggest names in music these days: Chance The Rapper.

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Since releasing his debut album, Acid Rap, in 2013, Chance The Rapper has become infamous for his anti-label approach to the music industry. Though the Rapper is not featured on streaming services like Spotify or Pandora, he is perhaps Hip Hop’s hottest new star. Speaking to Billboard in 2014, Chance gleefully remarked, “I can do whatever I want…I can do whatever videos I want, I can play whatever shows I want, I can release when I want, talk how I want, freely about any subject.”

This is of course not the case for many signed artists. For instance, in 2007, pop singer Kelly Clarkson and then-Sony-BMG head Clive Davis publicly clashed over the direction of Clarkson’s album, My December. Though Davis wanted Clarkson to work with Pop-hitmakers, Clarkson stood her ground and came out with an edgy rock-oriented album. Though the outcome was what Clarkson wanted, along the way she had to deal with bureaucratic obstacles, galore.  Davis literally told her, she was a “shitty writer” and she should “shut up and sing”.

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Perhaps Chance’s success is routed in the fact that he has no Clive Davis breathing down his neck for more releases. In my opinion, the authenticity and originality Chance projects are what makes him such an attractive artist. The unsigned approach simply allows that attitude to shine. Nonetheless, it is truly encouraging that an artist with no label ties is able to come to fruition on such a large scale. To tie this into my continuing series of hip hop-related happenings, my first thought (and hope) is that this could be the start of a new generation of hip hop–one without any de facto industry obligations to be signed. If this is the case, what could come next? Artists who were previously too intimidated by domineering labels could look at Chance’s model and try to emulate it. I think it’s a great sign for hip hop and music, overall.

Adeles Clout

Adele has overwhelming clout in the music industry now.  She has sold 5.1 million copies of her record 25 since it’s release this year.  Numbers staggeringly higher than what most other bands are selling.  Fall Out Boy’s release “American Beauty/American Psycho” has sold only half a million copies to date.
Very recently Adele played in NYC at a televised broadcast event with the likes of Tina Fey, Donald Trump, and Jennifer Lawrence in attendance.  The concert was viewed by 11.2 million people which made it the most watched concert event since 2003.  She will then be conducting a 56 day tour of the states starting in Minnesota this July.  The broadcast concert itself was called one for the ages and was opened with an invigorating rendition of her single “Hello”.  Clearly business deals have not been holding Adele back and her loyal fan base still pushes her strongly.

Internet Radio Royalties

Recently streaming services like Pandora and iHeartRadio have started facing a problem of royalty payments going up for internet radio streaming services.  While most people think both will survive the inflated prices they will have to be paying artists it may give their competitors like Sptofiy (who negotiate directly with labels) a chance to keep their premium streaming services lower than that of Pandora.

Pandora says that it pays out $446 million dollars to music makers out of its some $921 million dollar revenue.  With prices for each time a song is played being only around $.0013 a play and $.0023  a play on premium it seems ridiculous that Pandora could be complaining about paying out more money.  Typical to every business situation the government is doing exactly what Pandora doesn’t want but what every artist wants which is a higher rate being paid out to SoundExchange.  However Pandora wants the rates lowered because they are typical greedy business people looking to make more money off of their artists hard work.

The overriding concern for Pandora is narrow margins.  If the payout rises too much more Pandora might find themselves underwater.  However Pandora doesn’t have the best business model.  In many ways Spotify has them beat with their two mobile streaming and on your computer streaming services.  With Apple Music now up and running with a more exclusive catalog it doesn’t seem like there is much Pandora will be able to do to compete.  Even though insider sources say they will survive this inflation, what about the next?

Upcomers at the Grammys

This years Grammy has a handful of up and comers who have been working hard for decades trying to make a name for themselves in music.  My Morning Jacket a great southern rock band from Louisville, KY has been working hard at their career since the late 90’s and over 20 years later are finally up for a nomination.  Their album the waterfall is a continuation of their bridge between southern rock and psychedelic music.  They have stiff competition with the Alabama Shakes who has two separate nominations on two separate records.

This years nominees in the Alternative category seem to be filled with up and comers who have been working around the clock for many years trying to build a reputation.  Tame Impala has been playing for years around the Australian circuit in a number of bands before finally achieving success and Wilco another southern rock band has been around since the nineties.

Florence + the Machine has also been nominated after 10 years of hard work behind the wheel having great success in the UK and three Grammy nominations preceding the four they have pending this year.  Certainly looks like it will be a good year for rock music in the upcoming Grammy’s with James Bay, Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Alabama Shakes, MMJ, Tame Impala, Taylor Swift, and Pink Floyd all having nominations.

PARMA Recordings

PARMA Recordings is a record label local to North Hampton, NH, they have been very active in the growth of the city of Portsmouth (nearest city, five minutes by car) and all around the world.  PARMA, is a mainly classical music label that serves as an umbrella label for Navao and other classical labels having licensed music to MTV and recorded projects with Pete Townshend of the Who.

Being actively involved in the Portsmouth scene has brought CEO Bob Lord into the forefront for his bass playing in the Music Halls house band “Dreadknaught” and he still plays with local musicians in the scene such as ex- Program Director Jon McCormack in “Order of Thieves”.

This is a label that is doing artists right in my eyes because they are honest and upfront with their pricing.  They’ve also found that the Czech orchestra is the easiest to pay fairly and consistently fly artists to the Czech Republic to record their orchestrations.  They even have a layout for what their plans are for recording artists. http://www.parmarecordings.com/whatwedo/

Their licensing team is strong too with licenses being given to Microsoft computers for when consumers start up Windows 7 and many more along MTV.  Independent labels are strong and growing fast.  They benefit artists in a number of ways and people are starting to view them as a good way to maintain a career and climb the ladder.

NPRs Top 50 Records of 2015 and Substance in Music

NPR recently released a top 50 records of 2015 and the list might surprise you in the sense that none of it is from the Billboard charts.  However while not having any records that broke the charts there is something to be said for the 50 records they chose.  Spanning everything from throwback rap artist like The Game to new school hip hop like Kendrick Lamar to indie singer songwriter Sufjan Stevens to Anthony De Mar’s solo piano work.  This list was none of The Weekend or Ed Sheeran.  On a recent analysis of “Thinking Out Loud” (a song by Ed Sheeran) it was seen that it is very typical pop songwriting, the song contains four chords that repeat the majority of the song with a guitar solo bridge and a minor pre-chorus.  NPR seemed to choose their list on slightly different terms.  They went for the atypical thinkers music.  Through Sufjan Stevens layers and lyrical ability to Earl Sweatshirts apathetic appeal to a younger crowd and beats texture NPR choose a list of musicians that is between a pop appeal and an appeal for musicians.  While the Alabama Shakes might be even simpler then Ed Sheeran in many ways they are raw and have a figured out sound with merit, potential and they round out NPRs list.

The reason I personally found this list more appealing then say Spotify or Billboards was because it seemed like it was influenced by people who knew more about music rather than by a range of people who go from being people just getting into music to Berklee professors.  This being said money influences music too much and great artists go unnoticed in this profession.  The music industry has become more profitable to treat than to actually cure.

Secondary Ticketing Needs to Change

As an advocate of the future of Live Music as both a consumer and provider I would like to express my frustration in secondary ticketing. In May of 2014 I remember sitting down at my computer to purchase a ticket to my favorite band, Zac Brown Band at Fenway Park. It was an hour after the tickets went on sale that I went to select “purchase” but soon realized I was an hour too late. 70,000 tickets had been sold within thirty minutes. A ticket that went from a reasonable price of $60 with a decent view, quickly jumped to $170.

The secondary ticket market in 2012 was about a $3 billion to $5 billion business, growing at a rate somewhere between 12 percent and 24 percent. As of 2013, only a few states prohibited reselling tickets or made it unreasonable to do so. The practice is prohibited in Kentucky and Michigan, although Kentucky doesn’t establish any penalties for a violation. Massachusetts limits the markup to $2 but allows a broker to add a service charge to recoup the expense of buying the ticket. Rhode Island and North Carolina both limit the amount charged above face value to $3. New Jersey has a more generous policy that enables brokers to charge up to 150 percent of the ticket’s face value. In Hawaii, Indiana, and Maryland it is currently illegal to resell a ticket for a boxing match at more than its face value (according to the Maryland Code, this law only applies if you are an event “promoter”). Indiana also prohibits the resale of tickets to any sparring or other unarmed combat match for more than face value, while Maryland limits it to boxing, wrestling, and kickboxing. Although, selling a ticket for any other type of event is legal in those three states.

Radiohead have announced a partnership with ethical ticketing company Ticket Trust. The issue of secondary ticketing has become a hot topic, with noise being heard far and near, a number of bands have stepped into the fray. Radiohead’s management issued a statement blasting the practice of secondary ticketing. “Secondary ticketing is wrong on so many levels… the band’s enjoyment of their own shows has been marred by the knowledge that a great many of their fans have been obliged to pay well over face value for their tickets”.

With new ethical ticketing companies such as Ticket Trust there is no reason why artist shouldn’t be protecting themselves. If there is money to be had, then the artist is deserving of it. And as an artist supported by fans of all different economic standing,  one would hope to be represented as an artist that doesn’t rip off their fans. Music is to be enjoyed and accessible to all, not survival of the fittest or… the richest.

The Vinyl Revival is Real, and not Ignored

The Vinyl Revival is not such a new concept. Vinyl took a pretty brutal beating starting in the 80’s and continued through the early 2000’s, given the particularly active evolution of the sound recording medium. From, cassettes to the compact CD and the Sony Walkman, to the digital revolution, the iPod and iTunes, the Vinyl medium was all but eliminated from our culture. It makes sense; vinyl is much bigger, bulkier, more expensive than the current forms of listening to music, and harder to purchase. In terms of most practicality measures, Vinyl doesn’t stand much of a chance.

However, clearly practicality is not everything. Starting in 2006, renewed interest has been instilled in Vinyl and sales have been growing year over year. In fact, in 2015 Vinyl still shows good promise. It is currently the fastest growing music segment. According to RIAA’s 2015 mid-year stats, it has experienced a staggering 52.1% growth in just one year. Even digital streaming barely grew half as fast. Even more incredibly, Vinyl sales are actually larger than revenue from ad-supported streaming (which includes Spotify, Youtube, Vevo, etc) by a good margin (221.8 versus 162.7 million dollars).

Whatever the reasons are that Vinyl has been making a comeback, whether it be cultural importance, heightened sound quality, more meaningful start to finish experience, gift giving potential for friends and loved ones, or just the fact that it is a good-looking physical and material product, it is clear that investor capital will once again flow towards it.

In fact, recently, a number of startups have emerged to take advantage of the Vinyl revival. Probably the most notable of the bunch is a company called “Vinyl Me, Please”. Here is the website below.

Vinyl Me Please Website

Basically, it is a subscription service starting at $23 per month that delivers one vinyl album to your doorstep every month. This general business model is not new to the start-up space and is known broadly as a”subscription box”. Industries such as beauty, coffee, and books have successfully implemented this same idea.

To augment the experience of receiving the album, Vinyl Me, Please record deliveries come in a sort of bundle with other add-ins. For instance, the company gives a special cocktail recipe and an album-inspired 12″ x 12″ art print to compliment the album of the month.

The company has a team of experts picking the albums which takes the difficulty out of picking albums for the customer. The curators do a good job picking albums that are vintage, historic, as well as newly released. Although many consumers enjoy the process of purchasing Vinyl’s at a record shop, there are many more who get overwhelmed by the choices available and frustrated with the hassle involved and would rather have a curated process. Also, the fact that the Vinyl is delivered to the doorstep makes it feel as though it is a gift.

Granted, Vinyl sales growth will likely bottom out much before streaming does, however, this company and other similar ones have been successful, and with each new years’ growth in Vinyl sales and interest, comes new innovative companies hoping to share the fruits of the “new” Vinyl industry.

 

R&B is King

I think growing up I had a major misconception of what R&B meant. At times, I thought it was only Luther Vandross and Quincy Jones slow jams. Then, I heard Prince for the and my perspective on the genre shifted, accordingly. Yet, all the while, my ignorance still brought me to the conclusion that it was a stlye of music which had a devoted following, which solely existed on a niche station somewhere in the XM/Satellite radio-sphere.

Maybe it was D’angelo that finally made realize I had been sorely mistaken. Then came Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Maxwell, and the rest of the neo-soul pantheon, who each left an indelible mark on my heart in the shape of behind-the-beat rhythm sections and make-you-swoon vocals. Whatever it was I was hooked.

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Around that time, an album that sort of fell into the genre, but also had elements of hip hop and electronic and everything else music has ever known, fell into my lap. It was Frank Ocean’s, Channel Orange. I’m not sure this was the advent of the elctronic-infused R&B that dominates radio stations and soundcloud homepages, alike. But it was the freshest (both badass and refreshing) style of music I had heard in years. I was not the only one who had this opinion. The album was ranked number one of the year by numerous critics, won a grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album, and went gold in numerous markets around the world.

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Whether or not Channel Orange catalyzed the most fashionable trend in music today is a subjective debate, but it is undeniable that since 2012 R&B has become the hottest genre around. The past year has been no exception. A review of iHeartRadio’s monthly playlists revealed that the genre was the most popular of 2015, followed by Pop, Rap, Country, and Latin.

As a lover of the genre, my motherly instinct leads me to believe this overwhelming success, a testament to the artistry of R&B, might actually serve to hamper its progress. Not that success is an inherently  bad thing in music, but I feel that in many cases it leads to a diluting of originality–a siphoning out of the elements that made an artists who they were. Since achieving worldwide fame, contemporary R&B superstars such as The Weeknd, Miguel, and, of course, Franck Ocean have put out music that I listen to regularly and really respect. As long as these aforementioned stylistic tastemakers do not succumb to the pressures of stardom, the genre will continue to push musical boundaries for years to come.

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Source: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/6777117/rb-iheartradio-top-ranking-genre-2015

 

Collab, Bro?

A major running joke amongst young producers on the internet is asking to “collab, bro”.

The internet and entertainment industry alike are no strangers to the concept of collaboration, however this year there was a massive stride made for “internet music” and main stream collab-ing.

In reference to the importance of the song “Where Are Ü Now” from one of my previous posts, Skrillex and Diplo (otherwise known as the super-duo Jack Ü) won the Collaboration Of the Year at the American Music Awards. Jack Ü were up against main stream, arena artists such as Rihanna, Kanye, Kendrick, and T- Swift.

The two electronic stars also revealed that the world can expect a new Jack Ü EP coming early in 2016.

Personally, I was stoked to see them win mostly because, though dance music has seen lots of attention in recent years, I still feel like a lot of people tend to not see the genre as an equally legitimate form of attention-deserving (and maintaining) music. Its a monumental accomplishment to see dance music beat out pop, especially in an environment like the AMAs which are apparently determined by fan votes.

See the red carpet interview here: http://runthetrap.com/2015/11/23/new-jack-u-ep-2016/

http://www.youredm.com/2015/11/22/jack-u-justin-bieber-win-best-collaboration-award-at-the-american-music-awards-video/