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.

soulquarianssoulquar

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.

Frank-Ocean-Channel-Orange-Album

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/

 

Rick Ross: A Ghostwriter All Along

A dull moment is never something one would associate with Rick Ross. With his eighth studio album, Black Market, on its way, slated for release December 9th, Ross has been very vocal about one of the album’s tracks, “Ghostwriter.” Naturally, the song discusses its namesake and its author’s role as an uncredited writer of many of today’s top rap verses.

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Rick Ross Mastermind Press photo 2014

Recently, in an interview with Time, Ross elaborated on the topic. The hip hop mogul states, “I finally wrote a record telling the way it feels for me to be a ghostwriter, and not only a ghostwriter, but one of the biggest in the rap game.” He goes on to put his role as a ghostwriter in the context of his one career, justifying the practice as something that made sense due to his status. “Because of my own personal success I’ve always been able to keep that in the shadows. On this record, I just felt it was so current. It was needed.”

Ross further added his take on the discrepancy between ghostwriting in pop music versus that of traditional hip hop. In his eyes, the practice is more acceptable in the former, which places its emphasis on the music as an entire entity as opposed to the latter. Specifically citing the rap of artist, DMX, Ross claims ghostwriting is less morally sound to its focus being on the lyrics–words, which in this case, aren’t authored by the stated performing artist.

To put the issue in the context of record label operations, at the end of the day, the artist who performed the lyrics will be the one making the bulk of the song’s consequent revenue. In the Rick Ross conceptualization of ghostwriting perhaps this is only fair with some artists as lyrics solely contribute a piece to the puzzle that is the song as a whole. However, imagine a rapper who’s main selling point is the craft and wit of his lyricism. If these lyrics are not truly authored by that artist, it would seem that the artist’s publishing and recording earnings should be split between the performer and the writer. At least that’s how it works in traditional songwriter scenarios. With ghostwriting, the compensation is different. It is not dependent on the revenue generated from record sales, but rather the compensation is awarded in a one time lump sum prior to the record hitting the shelves. With some artists, such as MF Grimm, who in an interview with Forbes revealed, “I think I set a rate, every bar a thousand dollars”, the payment could be severely disproportionate to the song’s eventual earnings. Additionally, aside from the the money, an artist builds their fan base on the records under their name. If an artist is only writing songs for other artists, how can their own performance career come to fruition?

All this said, I am approaching this from an outsider perspective. In no way have I ever been involved in the hip hop industry and thus, perhaps their are legitimate benefits to being a ghostwriter. Maybe this is the ultimate sign of credibility in terms of hip hop lyricism? Maybe this is the only way to break into the business? Whatever it is, the tradition of ghostwriting is certainly as prevalent as ever with the biggest artists in the world–i.e. Rick Ross–taking part in the practice.

 

Sources:

http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/6770409/rick-ross-ghostwriter

http://www.forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2015/09/22/phantom-rappers-inside-the-business-of-ghostwriting/

Life with a Sound Track

Imagine if your everyday life had a soundtrack. The places you visited from Paris to Hollywood, the same everyday route you took to school or work, the local park down the street or even the closest beach you jog in the morning had a specific soundtrack associated to that location.

Musicians and music lovers alike have had a form of doing this for years through playlist. A group of college students going on a road trip might construct a playlist, or a compilation album that would then become the sounds of a memory forever associating to that road trip. A sixteen year old girl going through a break-up might decide to create a playlist of heartbreaking pop hits.

Adding location awareness to music apps is fast becoming a major mobile trend, as is evident by a rash of new mobile music apps hitting app stores of late. Use of location technology is taking many forms. Many, if not most, are designed to let users tag a location with a song. The result can be a localized, crowdsourced playlist, add context to the discovery of a new song or even be used as a way to find concerts and live shows. Other apps flip it around a bit by letting users in the same area determine what the venue should play. Think about the data local businesses could collect.

For those Spotify Premium listeners, Spotfiy early this year created a new feature for their mobile device app that has tempo detection to the rhythm of your Stride. Here is how it works: Pick from a playlist, such as “Recommended For You,” “Pop Hits,” or “Electronic Moves,” and you’ll hear a woman’s voice say, “Start running to detect tempo.” Your stride shows up as pulses on the green circle until she says that she knows your stride. It takes a few seconds—about ten paces. Then you’ll get a track with matching beats per minute. Genius.

Imagine if these two amazing app features together in one. As a provider of music and sound catalogs such as Spotify, this would open up a whole new world of revenue for musicians. This would create jobs for composers, DJs, playlist makers from all over the world giving them the opportunity to compose and invent infinite sounds/compositions for streaming services. This could re-inspire the consumers value of music and appreciation for it; along with allowing non musicians to compose and create the film score of their own life using the catalog provided by the service.

The Zoo

Childhood stardom has always been a tricky topic. Its undeniable that there is so much young talent in the world and that many if not most young people want to be a star in their own right.

Our general industry (Music/ entertainment) is also notorious for finding and exploiting much of the young talent and creating super performing machines out of them, all the while (sometimes not so) secretly screwing them out of rights and a ton of money without them even knowing.

Dutch Big-Room House DJ Superstar Martin Garrix is a prime, current example of this situation. He has just announced his split from one of the biggest labels in Electronic Dance Music, Spinnin Records. This is the same 17 year old phenom the world was freaking out about two summers ago for the mega hit “Animals”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCYcHz2k5x0

Earlier this year, Garrix announced his split from Spinnin and, now-former, manager Eelko Van Kooten of MusicAllStars and has taken the two to court. He is claiming that the label has refused to grant him the rights to his own music, and even after acknowledging his request, has failed to do so. He’s also claiming that Van Kooten had given him “false and misleading information”.

While as unfortunate of a situation for the young star as this is, it is not particularly surprising, as Garrix had had little to no major music industry experience prior to “Animals”.

My personal take on the situation is that, while it is unfortunate for the young DJ, it is not surprising in the slightest, as Spinnin is an incredibly powerful, money making machine in the EDM world. It will likely be a while before Garrix gets to see the money that he is owed. He is obviously not the first, and is, unfortunately, certainly not the last.

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/dance/6760688/martin-garrix-reportedly-files-lawsuit-against-ex-manager-spinnin

http://www.youredm.com/2015/11/10/martin-garrix-is-suing-spinnin-records-former-manager/

How is Music Valued?

At minute 4:24 infamous DJ speaks clearly, “This is a beautiful thing, we all have love and unity… showing your flags, representing your country, WE ARE ONE!”  Music lies at the heart of human emotions and relationships, connecting us all regardless of what language we speak or country we come from. The epicenter of music is emotion and how and what it makes you feel; and that very primal power is where the real value of music lies.

We find ourselves in an up hill battle, where in 2015 music is less valued than ever before. There is a shift from sales to streaming and the dominance of social networks as the channels via which we consume media are diminishing the value of each of these platforms. Because of this downward spiral in revenue, major artist and labels are focusing on one thing, and one thing only, how to make money. Artist need to make a living and are absolutely deserving but I think with this new generation we should reconsider what is truly valued.

With the capabilities and the rapid growth in technology there is still a hope for music to be deeply appreciated both emotionally and financially: Artist-fan relationship, Live concert production, and great music. I am not at all saying these are the three and only three avenues to making money but this is a start. I believe that we should no longer treat an artist and its fan as a product to buy and sell, this is where music has lost its value, but we should treat this love for music as both our weakness and strength.

My first reaction to this was that it is wrong on varying levels. Firstly, the haunting effect of Tupac being back from the dead is absolutely terrifying. I do believe that carrying on a legacy is righteous and if we do so otherwise history could be lost; Eine Kleine Nachtmusikand and the works of Mozart would not have blessed present day society hundreds of years later if human kind did not carry on that legacy. But I do disagree that bringing Tupac back from the dead for his estate to make a profit is horrid. That being said, what if the industry used this technology for current living artist? The idea of a live performance no longer actually being live, sickens a generation such as my parents. They wouldn’t go to the show. But the generation that has grown up in a society where they see the world from behind a screen, may feel differently.
This is where our love and emotional attachment for music is valued differently in every individual. A fan of Tupac that was born a few years too late may have never had the opportunity to see him live in concert but now has that opportunity. A lover of EDM music may not be so concerned about what his favorite DJ is doing up on stage but rather goes to a festival for the pure experience of listening to great music and connecting with others that have similar interest. Music touches us individually and I truly believe there is a way to monetize that love without diminishing the value or reason we listen to music.

The Zoo

Childhood stardom has always been a tricky topic. Its undeniable that there is so much young talent in the world and that many if not most young people want to be a star in their own right.

Our general industry (Music/ entertainment) is also notorious for finding and exploiting much of the young talent and creating super performing machines out of them, all the while (sometimes not so) secretly screwing them out of rights and a ton of money without them even knowing.

Dutch Big-Room House DJ Superstar Martin Garrix is a prime, current example of this situation. He has just announced his split from one of the biggest labels in Electronic Dance Music, Spinnin Records. This is the same 17 year old phenom the world was freaking out about two summers ago for the mega hit “Animals”.

Earlier this year, Garrix announced his split from Spinnin and, now-former, manager Eelko Van Kooten of MusicAllStars and has taken the two to court. He is claiming that the label has refused to grant him the rights to his own music, and even after acknowledging his request, has failed to do so. He’s also claiming that Van Kooten had given him “false and misleading information”.

While as unfortunate of a situation for the young star as this is, it is not particularly surprising, as Garrix had had little to no major music industry experience prior to “Animals”.

My personal take on the situation is that, while it is unfortunate for the young DJ, it is not surprising in the slightest, as Spinnin is an incredibly powerful, money making machine in the EDM world. It will likely be a while before Garrix gets to see the money that he is owed. He is obviously not the first, and is, unfortunately, certainly not the last.

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/dance/6760688/martin-garrix-reportedly-files-lawsuit-against-ex-manager-spinnin

http://www.youredm.com/2015/11/10/martin-garrix-is-suing-spinnin-records-former-manager/

Bald And Grey But Still Rocking

Throughout the semester, I have had the pleasure of helping to manage and advise Rick Treffers. Rick is the lead singer and creative force behind MIST. Check out his latest music video here

Rick is in his late 40’s and has never had any hit songs or major label deals. Nevertheless, he has managed to pay his rent and feed himself throughout his career as an artist. The key for him has been his songwriting catalogue. The majority of his income now comes from publishing royalties.

Over the years Rick’s music has been used in many TV shows and movies. Here is an example of his song Heart Surgery being used in the German Crime series Tatort.

Rick owns both the publishing and masters of his music which means you only need his permission to license a MIST song. In contrast to Rick, a song with multiples songwriters, publishers and a label might need 10 different licenses. That takes too long for music supervisors who often work on short deadlines.

Rick doesn’t look like a typical indie rock star anymore. For starters, he is bald and grey. However, Rick’s career will continue to flourish while many younger and better looking rockers will abandon their dreams. The key for Rick is a catalogue of songs that don’t discriminate based on appearance or age.

Russian Collection Society Blues

There is news lately that the Russian culture ministry has made new proposals concerning the Collection societies in Russia. One of these proposals is that the collection societies like RAO, VOIS and RSP should pay out 75% of what they collect to the authors and composers.

In principle this would be a positive step forward. 75% should be a very achievable target considering that collection societies in Canada pay out 90% of what they take in. In Socans’ 2014 annual report they said that “SOCAN’s Corporate Net Expense Ratio was 9.5 percent, below 10 percent for the first time in the history of the organization, positioning it as one of the most cost-effective major music rights organizations in the world.

The part of Russia’s proposal that doesn’t seem to make sense is that they want the 75% to apply every type of authors right separately. Collecting licenses from radio has a very different cost ratio than restaurants for example. It shouldn’t really matter so much that each area reach 75%. The only thing that should really matter is the total average because it is out of that average that authors are paid.

Bogus Lawsuit Filed Against Taylor Swift

R&B singer Jesse Braham is currently planning a lawsuit against Taylor Swift for a whopping 42 million dollars in copyright infringement for a song written by himself.

“”Her hook is the same hook as mine,” he said, claiming Swift uses it about 72 times in her song. “If I didn’t write the song Haters Gone Hate, there wouldn’t be a song calledShake It Off.’ “”(USA Today)

Braham claims he wrote to Taylor’s representatives and got blown off. He demanded recognition as a writer of Swift’s song as well as a selfie with the singer herself. When he was ignored, he sued on October 28th, from Los Angeles. The lawsuit claims he is representing himself, without a lawyer. All ‘evidence’ provided is handwritten and not notarized by a lawyer.

Braham also claims he is also pursuing a lawsuit against CNN for their morning program called New Day, which infringes against his non-denominational church called New Day Worldwide.

Neither CNN Nor Taylor Swifts representatives have responded for comment. Most media outlets are presenting both lawsuits as absolutely ridiculous and won’t hold in court. This is an example of people taking advantage of the legal system for their own benefit and extorting money out of people for their own work.

Below are both songs for comparison:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=taylor+swift+shake+it+off