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.

Taylor Swift Angers Photographers

Everyone admires Taylor Swifts standing up for the artists that aren’t selling out arenas when she publicly announced her disapproval for Apple’s new streaming source.  However what was overlooked is that Taylor Swift is controlling about the content of her shows, limiting photographers to only two songs worth of material and strips them of their rights to use the photographs more than once while she is able to use them endlessly.  In simple terms Taylor Swift can use the pictures endlessly without paying the photographer any form of compensation.  This might not seem like an issue but if the photographer uses it for the one publication that is the only time they will be paid.  So if in future another publication looks to use the photographers photo for some sort of historical publication of the singer the photographer will not be paid.  This was stated on her Firefly Management contract.

Taylor Swift’s management group responded quickly, slight too quickly apparently mixing up the U.K. tours with other tours.  In their response they said the contract was amendable and could be negotiated to which the head protestor Jason Sheldon replied on twitter “If you have a contentious contract that you present to people, yet say that it’s amendable for anyone that objects to certain parts of it… then you’re clearly aware that it’s not a fair contract and if it IS amendable, then there is no point having it in the first place.”

In the contract the points argued as unfair were that the photographs were used on a “one time basis” and further more “If you fail to fully comply with this Authorization, authorized agents of FEI, the Artist or the Related Entities may confiscate and/or destroy the technology or devices that contain the master files of the Photographs and other images, including, but not limited to, cell phones and memory cards, and the Photographs and any other images.”  Joel Goodman a U.K. freelance photographer tweeted this contract as he was handed it at one of her shows.

This seems like an egregious act for anyone to do and given the circumstances it takes away a lot of credibility from her open letter, making it appear as much more of a publicity stunt then anything else.  You can’t pick and choose which artists are better than others and I’d have hoped for more from Taylor Swift.

Bostons Economic Race to the Bottom

Bostons music scene has a terrible trend amongst local artists.  Most artists are taking advantage of themselves by being willing to sell out for free shows and free music.  Most independent promoters in the area are a scam, sometimes even following the pay to play model.  Most of the time it’s sell a number of tickets to get on the show.  Some of these names could be the leader of WEMR radio station or Richard Collier.  Richard Collier has been known to make band sell a certain amount of tickets before paying them.  I personally do not believe this is because he is a bad person, I think it is because he doesn’t know how to better break an artist/ takes on too many shoes and therefore puts on a lot of bad shows instead of a few great local shows.

This trend is not only limited to local shows at the Middle East or T.T. and the Bears place.  We are all familiar with the music streaming and sales site Bandcamp.com.  However independent artists could be harming themselves more than helping with this new internet distribution system.  The band Bat House (a math rock band from Boston) has been giving away their demo online for free.  However Bat House is only one of many bands that are devaluing the oversaturated music that is Boston. Everyone in Allston is in a band, they’re all really good bands.  However if they are all doing everything for free this doesn’t put pressure on promoters to hire bands and pay them.

Some bands like Grey Season (a folk rock band from Boston) have been at it for a while giving away their music for free and climbing ranks having recently played SXSW and Boston Calling.  However this was limited to a demo which was quickly followed up with a release on Green Line Records (Northeasterns student label) which was sold for $6.  This accelerated their growth greatly.  Recently they bumped the cost up to $10 to make it a better source of income.  This is only IF you have the income to to keep up creating music and pay Bostons high rent costs.  Boston musicians should consider selling their music as opposed to giving it away for free.

http://greyseason.bandcamp.com/

http://bathouse.bandcamp.com/

Taylor Swifts Letter and How the Industry Responded

Taylor Swift recently wrote a letter to Apple Music protesting against the unfair use of her material for their new streaming service while not giving her a cent. Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple swayed Apples decision to not pay the artists for their three-month trial and in doing so extended her reach as an artist and kept her relevant.

Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple was a much-needed look at Apple’s ethical value as a company and honed in music as a commodity rather than an art. Apple is a company that strives for honest and innovative ways to keep up with the technologic market they are a part of. They’ve been very innovative in the past starting with iTunes and the iPod, as opposed to Microsoft media player and Zune. Apple Music is virtually indistinguishable from Spotify. Other than Apple Music now has Taylor Swifts 1989 it is relatively the same catalog. Both streaming services have around 30,000,000 songs and one of the only differentiating features is that if you have Siri on your iPhone you can tell your phone what you want to hear and Apple music will find it in it’s extensive catalog and play the song you requested.

Record labels such as XL recordings (Adele) and Domino (Arctic Monkeys) have spoken out against Apple Music’s three-month free trial saying that it would leave them crippled. While other artists in an economic race to the bottom have jumped on the chance to be featured above other artists hoping the exposure they get from Apple Music will give their careers a needed boost.   This however is a fallacy; for example One Direction charges ticket prices that border on extortion while local artists are willing to play for free. Artists must become an escort service for the wealthy to actually get anywhere. Being too easy for exposure gets an artist nowhere.

Taylor Swift said that consumers do not ask Apple for free phones why should Apple ask Taylor Swift for free music, which seems to be a false comparison because the relationship of Taylor Swift to Apple is very different then Apple to consumers. A better suggestion might have been Apple doesn’t ask any of its service providers to provide for free why should another business relationship be any different (though I would’ve just left that part out completely).

Overall I applaud Taylor Swift for maintaining her image while bringing to light some serious issues in the music industry. If she had not written this letter it probably never would’ve been reversed as a decision.