Mixtapes the New Radio Single of the Social Media Generation

It seems that the idea od the radio single is starting to fade out of existence for the current generation of music consumers in place of the digital mixtape. Larger Artist have been releasing mixtapes for their Fans for example Drake recently released his mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s too Late” With the music hungry generation always craving more at the stroke of a key and a number of up and coming music producers artist ect. able to create full albums from the comfort or their homes. The current internet savvy generation is use to an overwhelming amount of music nearly instantaneously from multiple free digital download and streaming websites and apps such as sound cloud band camp spotify and many others.

This has led to artist making around 15 tracks the 12 best for their album and 3 to be released as a downloadable mix tape to build hype for the record that will be following it. The mix tape originally created as bootleg 8 track recording that you could purchase in the 1960’s, the mix tape contained all the radio favorites of the time. The mix tape eventually evolved into recordings on cassette tape of hip hop Dj’s club performance to the general releases of a mix of songs for free from an artist to multiple artist to get them notoriety and to get there name out there. Although no longer on tape or in an actually or in physical form the mix tape industry in thriving and becoming an even more impactful force now that most artist are putting them up for free download off of their website.

Mix tapes have allowed for independent artist to find there footing to rise in popularity and success. One of the large utilizers of the mixtape is the rap and hip hop community. One of the artist that uses this tool relentlessly is the independent Berkley California based rapper Lil B, in his 10 year career Lil B has only released 5 studio albums and nearly 50 mixtapes. His career has been centered highly around his mixtapes and has led him to perform in some of the largest venues and festivals in the United States. With the sales of recorded music dwindling the power of the mixtape in combination with the Internet has allowed the independent artist to achieve some acclaim with out the backing or connection and perks of being signed to a huge label.

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Although traditionally mixtapes are thought of as something geared towards the hip hop community other artist in other genres and even labels have been utilizing this tool to help promote albums tours or other projects that they are currently working on. An example of this is the band Hiatus Kaiyote went back to work with it’s old label Wondercore in the middle of a tour to promote the last leg of their tour. This not only helps the larger indie band hiatus Kaiyote but it helps all the other bands on the mixtape that are now associated with the band Hiatus Kaiyote.

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The power of the mixtape has been so monumental that it has started to be incorporated into the mainstream music market as a cheap advertising tool. With mixtapes being easily available to be put up on the internet and downloaded for free rather than the label having to go to the radio station and work under the station stipulation cough payola cough to get a track played at a prime time so the artist gets the marketing they need for their album, tour, or whatever combination of events they are trying to promote the label is able to put a mix tape up on the artist website and have the artist use whatever social media outlet they are connected to advertise the mixtape to his or her multiple fans getting free publicity and coming off as a more generous artist willing to indulge in fan service.

In the case of drake he had multiple events and projects to advertise he was touring with Lil wayne, he had a new album coming out. Although he claims he was releasing the mixtape because a hacker had the tracks already so he wanted to release them before the hacker beat him to the punch. Regardless of if it’s true releasing the mixtape has effectively helped Drake to create buzz on social media and bring attention to the fact that he is on one of his largest tours yet and has created buzz over a new potential album to be released.

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Although conceived originally as an underground or indie marketing tool created by DJ’s in the early hip hop era mixtapes are becoming a standard practice in the music culture crossing over to major artist as a cheap source of publicity. This only makes too much sense seeing as the vast majority of people now would rather have control over what they are listening to while they drive rather than waiting for the local radio station to play the song they want to hear slowly and slowly the mixtape is working it’s way into the mainsteam with the help of streaming and is becoming the way people get to hear singles.

-Andrew Beeh

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The Unlikely Evolution of “Hallelujah”

In starting a blog column focused on cover songs, I would be remiss to not begin with perhaps the most famously covered song of all time: “Hallelujah”. Originally recorded by Leonard Cohen and released on his album Various Positions in 1984, “Hallelujah” was not the immediate hit it would later prove to be. In fact, the arrangement of the song we hear most often today is not even the version Cohen originally released.

John Cale, (known for his solo work, as well as for cofounding The Velvet Underground) had heard Cohen perform the song live using different verses than were sung on the recorded track. Cale asked Cohen to send over the alternate verses he had—upwards of eighty—and with that, Cale pieced together the version we hear at every coffee shop around the world. For comparison:

Original studio version:

John Cale’s version, performed by Cohen:

Despite the song’s metamorphosis which took place between Cohen and Cale, most people associate “Hallelujah” with Jeff Buckley who recorded a cover of the song for his first and only album entitled Grace, which was released three years prior to his untimely death in 1997. However, the song really hit mass-market appeal when John Cale’s version was used in the blockbuster movie Shrek in 2001. Oddly, this still wasn’t the version that charted. The soundtrack to Shrek (which sold two million copies) used Rufus Wainwright’s version of “Hallelujah” instead of Cale’s, despite featuring the latter version prominently in the film. This was the catalyst that launched “Hallelujah” into a level of popularity it had not yet managed to achieve since its release almost two decades before.

This, of course, was just the start of things. With hundreds of covers recorded and performed live by artists spanning almost every genre out there, it’s hard to choose the best renditions, or even personal favorites. The versions I’ve come to know best are the two mentioned above: Wainwright’s and Buckley’s. However, the song continues to reach new ears through each artist who performs it.

Imogen Heap’s haunting a capella version scored a main character’s death in the popular teen drama The O.C. in 2006. Two years later, Kate Voegele performed the song on One Tree Hill—a teen soap known for launching the music careers of artists such as Wakey!Wakey! and Gavin DeGraw. The use of the song in shows whose audiences are predominately teens and twenty-somethings undoubtedly brought, and continues to bring “Hallelujah” to an entirely new group of listeners.

For fans of country, Willie Nelson’s take on the song seamlessly adds steel guitar; his voice quaking on the refrains. He’s also one of the few artists to use Cohen’s original lyrics in his cover. Other notable versions include Beirut’s ukulele cover, in which he uses a playing card to strum. Brandi Carlile’s addition of strings (courtesy of the Seattle Symphony) underlines her loaded and lovely voice, while Bono’s version is at its best when it is ignored entirely. These artists and many more—ranging from Bob Dylan to Paramore to Renée Fleming—have done covers of the song. So what it is about this particular tune that resonates with so many different artists?

I’m inclined to believe it’s the mystery of the lyrics that draws so many people to it. Is the song about religion, sex, lost love, abuse? Cohen won’t be the one to tell you, offering little explanation of the song throughout his years of performing. Perhaps it means something different to each artist who covers it, infusing his or her own experiences into the performance and creating an entirely different song each time it’s sung. Although, it’s possible I’m just overthinking it—something Cohen certainly doesn’t do anymore. When asked what his opinion of the song is nowadays, Cohen offered, “I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it”.

Point taken, Mr. Cohen. Point taken.

Indiefication of Major Festivals

With the warmer seasons quickly approaching comes the breaking out of the shorts and sunglasses, to those of us who are die hard music fans it symbolizes the beginning of the music festival scene, a phenomenon worldwide, where you can see a handful of your favorite acts in one weekend for one larger nominal fee what a convenience.

If you are to look at any of the major festivals one will note that there is a surge of indie bands not affiliated with the “Big 3” major labels. Although these bands are not signed to the majors they have gained enough acclaim and attention to be able to play some of the biggest festivals in the world with some of the more popular artist currently touring and promoting the new projects they are releasing as well as some of the classic bands from previous years. With the power of the Internet and social media, streaming, and other music sharing these bands are able to gain enough buzz to play at these festivals where in the past few generations they would have no place to play.

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With Coachella standing as the symbol to the start of the festival season in the United States this has become one of the largest festivals bringing 254.4 Million in revenue in 2012 alone. It’s interesting to take note that a good numbers of bands on the bill minus the headliners and some of the other larger acts performing at the festival are not connected to the major labels in anyway. A good Majority of the bands just underneath the main headliners on the flyer as seen above have a large following and of there own and are signed to independent labels. A few of these acts that are on their way to becoming household names for any indie music fanatic are, Flying Lotus (Brain Feeder), FKA Twig (Yung Turks), Perfume Genius (Sargent House), Toro y Moi (Carpark). As these act play more festivals they will gain more popularity rising to prominence and helping their careers and their labels career.

The festival scene acts as an amazing proving ground for this new emerging artist signed to independent label to gain a new fanbase that would otherwise never take interest in or be aware of their music. By the draw of the bigger acts that tend to play later at night many festival goers often spend their time when not partaking in some less than legal activities discovering what could be their potential new favorite artist. On an average 75 percent of the bands playing the festival fall under the category of “Indie.” An indie artist can be looked at from the perspective that they are signed to a label that operates without funding or outside the organization of the major record labels.

Some artist especially Indie artist start there journey on the festival scene as the “opening” act or one of the artist playing earlier in the day playing on smaller stages but some can rise to being a headliner. An example of this would be the post hardcore band At the Drive-in who in 1999 where one of the smaller acts playing on a small stage at Coachella and in 2012 they were headlining multiple major festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo behind the likes of acts like hologram 2Pac (but who are we kidding its hard to compete with a guy performing from beyond the grave). They were able to headline while maintain the status of an indie band.

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Although most of the smaller acts are not typically the main draw for those attending the festival willing to spend nearly $500 + on a weekend they do enhance the experience and bring some notoriety to the emerging artist and the labels they represent. Although the bands are performing the festival to get some spotlight there is a benefit for Goldenvoices the festival promoters behind hiring smaller rising bands to perform a few of the key benefits are they can gather more acts for less money, they can fill up the whole weekend with musical entertainment creating a much more enjoyable experience and there are less chances conflicting ego as the stereotype dictates of the larger “superstar” artist.

The festival scene will continue to help promote and aid in the careers of the small rising artist not associated with the major label. Signifying a shift in how the current generation thinks about music and how it’s consumed. Allowing smaller artist who would never have a chance in any other time in history not only to perform to thrive and find a strong fan base and to play some of the biggest shows around.

-Andrew Beeh

Latin Stars at Premios Lo Nuestro

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On Thursday night February 19th the 27th edition of Premios Lo Nuestro was held at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami. This three hour show was hosted by actress Galilea Montijo and actor Cristian de la Fuente. It recognized four musical genres: Pop, Tropical, Regional Mexican, and Urban. These winners are specifically selected by fans who cast the votes online. The biggest winners were no surprise as Enrique Iglesias and Romeo Santos went home with six awards each!

Of course, Mr. Worldwide Pitbull opened the show alongside Gente de Zona (Cuban sensation) with a medley of Yo quiero and Dile la Verdad.

Now, my favorite part of the night was definitely Marc Anthony. Being such a big fan of his I was happy to see him perform his latest hit called Flor Palida. For the first time two big names in Latin music collaborated: Marc Anthony who won Tropical Salsa Artist of the Year and Romeo Santos known as the king of Bachata.

MANÁ PERFORMED! For those who don’t know, Mana has been absent for four years and finally the band came together to rock the stage with their new single Mi Verdad which features Shakira. Throughout the evening Colombian rocker Juanes rocked the stage as well as Dominican legend Juan Luis Guerra.

It was a well produced show with a good environment that left many viewers happy at the end of the night and I of course, couldn’t stop dancing when Victor Manuelle closed the show with his single Que Suenen los Tambores.

Check out these videos and you can read more on Premios Lo Nuestro online.