Album Review Of The Week – Animals As Leaders – The Joy of Motion

This week has been particularly exciting. As I recover from my yearly spring/early summer cold, as my system realises that the ‘Fallas’ have actually eaten away chunks of my higher auditory spectrum (16kHz-20kHz), as school kicks back into gear, and as we launch Berklee Valencia’s very own Record Label named Disrupcíon Records, one of my most cherished artist/band releases their third opus through Sumerian Records.

Animals As Leaders and their third release named The Joy of Motion is an ode to the greatest of all lost arts (I don’t mean Lower Defintion’s amazing album, I’m talking about Music), and full of maturity and humility (at times) Tosin Abasi, along with Javier Reyes and new addition Matt Garstka have put together a truly immersive experience.

With phrases, chord changes or cadences that echo some from the previous releases, one can recognise the Tosin Abasi songwriting and find himself at home. But you’ll find tunes off this record mirroring some of Javier’s personal stuff (Mestis, EP: Basal Ganglia). A few solos on the record also let me wonder whether there were any guest players at any point. Track number 3, Air Chrysalis echoes Intervals’ Epiphany, and track 12 (the closer) ‘Nephele’ sounds strangely similar to a Vai-Petrucci progeny. Mystery to be solved…

Overall musically the album is very strong, and so is my wording to describe it, I realise that… Garstka’s involvement and participation in the writing definitely shines through a lot more on this release and it does it a tremendous amount of good. That classic AAL quarter-note pulse is still present, but less important. When straight feels good, straight is played, no unnecessary polyrhythmic aberrations and convolutedness.

I must also admit that I’m super thrilled and amazed that they collaborated with Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood for the production of this opus. Adam is THE guy when it comes to producing this type of music, hands down, no questions asked. Forget Joey Sturgis, he is just good. Nolly is the exegesis of a mix that packs a punch. And for the guys in AAL to realise that, then get him on-board is the best move that could have been made. Allegedly it mustn’t have been a huge stretch of the mind since Misha Mansoor plays alongside Nolly, but anyway… I’m glad for both posses involved, it is in their best common interest, not something that you see done a lot in the music industry these days (cf. The Prisoner’s Dilemma, Economics 101, Somewhere along the course of every Economics syllabus), and the production is just MASSIVE, mate!

The album came out on the 25th of March, so two days prior to this post. The ’single’ (I guess you could call it that), Tooth and Claw had been out for a little bit of time before that, and it was just the perfect song to release to build a hype and amp things up. I’ve already rinsed the life out of it. It was available for stream on YouTube, however I’ve never been a fan of pre-release streams for music that has value. I get that it would make sense if you’re anticipating a specific single featuring two of your favourite artists, but here it’s the whole artefact that is important. So I waited patiently while all my friends were posting about it on what has become the most important book to all of us these days, got it on Spotify, and am heartlessly taking away what could’ve been a full 7,99$ from this band that I hold so dear…

A few tunes to look out for on this album/my personal favourites so far:

Ka$cade
Tooth and Claw
Para Mexer (8 nylon-stringèd bonanza, it’s got Javier Reyes/Mestis written all over it)
The Woven Web (Slappin’ that bass mon’)
Mind-Spun (Just a power tune, simply put)

If you want to have a listen, head over to Spotify and punch this URL in: spotify:album:6amcjpW1tFWbKniDMn9CE4

heck, even purchase it on iTunes: http://smarturl.it/thejoyofmotionitunes

or have a gander on the YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbA3jxab4A0&list=PLH22-xSMERQpG4M9HshhXUJ9OKMNlwU8T

 

As for myself, I’ll probably be getting the Vinyl, transparent Red sounds like it looks sexy. DJ kTunes said it first, they’re making a come-back.

 

Animals As Leaders – The Joy of Motion – The Woven Web

Is Spotify’s long tail bringing benefit for New and Indie artists?

 

Thanks to the internet, anyone can have access to a big diversity of music content at anytime, anywhere. In addition, this technological tool has changed the music industry helping to bring out new and independent projects. This recent phenomenon is thanks to the easy accessibility and cheap distribution of tons of music.

 

Back in time, as soon as a CD album decreased in popularity, it was released from the retailers giving no chance for long tail revenue. Thanks to the digital catalogues the music could still being purchased long after it was first released and its buzz decreased. Basically, the tail of distribution is the time when non-common product sales become profit due to the low cost in distribution and marketing. The long tail is when these sales are made giving us the context of how consumers interact within the digital tools.

In theory, this situation would give a chance for new music to appear in the scene making a more balanced market against the blockbusters-hits. The creation of these niches was supposed to grab new consumers that can follow a diverse content on the web. Social media, blogs, forums and platforms such as Youtube and music stream channels like Spotify seem to build a perfect environment where new projects will finally fight for some space in the market against big labels.

 

The problem is that the mainstream music is pushing down from the top instead of the bottom (new artist) pushing up and fattening the tail of the indie music. The consumption of the product on the head of the tail (commercial-mainstream music) has increased due to several reasons including:

  •       Mediocre content in the middle of the tail
  •       High level of competition within the Indie market
  •       Low barriers to enter into the Indie market
  •       People used to listening to the same music. For instance classic and commercial music.
  •       Consumers are still influenced by the trend of blockbuster-hits
  •       Water cooler effect: people adapt their tastes to fit in social groups
  •       Consumer’s “Tyranny of Choice” in which excessive choice actual hinders discovery.

Statistics show that 1% of the music projects represent 75% revenue in recorded music and 79% in the subscription revenue.  This means that in the economic sense it has become an unrewarded situation for most of the projects especially for the non-commercial ones.

In an era where digital music and streaming is increasing each year, Spotify seems to be the perfect window where new music will be exposed. Unfortunately 5% of the music streamed through this website are the most popular tracks representing 80% of the streams. One fifth of the 25 million tracks available have never been played. In addition, the revenue per streams is ridiculous. As it is shown in the following chart, a song should be streamed around 145 times in order to equal the payout from one iTunes Store song download.

 

In conclusion, although there are people that still believe that long tail is working well for music aficionados and undiscovered projects, it is a fact that it works much better for super projects backed for the big companies that can still make money for many time after the date when the music is released.

“Bey Great!”–Beyoncé Releases Surprise Visual Album

beyonce-booklet-main-picThe internet went into a frenzy on midnight, Friday the 13th when music icon Beyoncé Knowles-Carter released an unexpected self-titled, visual album with absolutely NO PROMO OR MARKETING!! Her eager fans (The BeyHive) shut down iTunes while waiting to purchase her album for $15.99 (14 songs/17 music videos).  The digital version was released today, but physical copies (CD/DVD formats) will not be available in stores until December 21st  (Just in time for the holiday season!–A great stocking stuffer for Bey fans!)

It’s amazing that no one caught wind of her project and that it was kept a secret! Beyoncé managed to film 17 videos around the world from Houston to New York City to Paris, and Sydney to Rio de Janeiro, all before the album’s release. Impressive!

beyonce-booklet-19

Track listing:
01 Pretty Hurts
02 Haunted
03 Drunk In Love [ft. Jay Z]
04 Blow
05 No Angel
06 Partition
07 Jealous
08 Rocket
09 Mine [ft. Drake]
10 XO
11Flawless [ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche]
12 Superpower [ft. Frank Ocean]
13 Heaven
14 Blue [ft. Blue Ivy]

Here’s what Bey had to say about her new visual album:

“I see music, it’s more than just what I hear. When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion, a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to music.”

beyonce-booklet-25

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it. I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans.”–Beyoncé

Check out an more in-depth exclusive video that Bey released in her own words about her new album, as well as previews of ALL of the videos that she has made available to her fans from her official YouTube channel.

Some of my faves so far: “Drunk In Love” ft. Jay-Z, Flawless,” and “Blow”

To get a sneak peep at the album booklet photos click here!
Purchase the album now on iTunes!

Bey Great!

Billboard’s 2012 Maximum Exposure

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Billboard’s Maximum Exposure chart ranks the 75 most effective platforms in music discovery. Essentially this chart rates the best ways to generate buzz and drive sales of a music release for established stars. The panel who creates this list is made up of prominent artist managers, record label executive, publicists and agents.

They compare various platforms such as TV advertisements, Super Bowl performances, coverage on Fox’s Glee, YouTube videos, social media activity, and many other platforms that help generate excitement to an artist’s release.

The top ten promotional platforms for this year where:

1.  A Superbowl halftime-show performance

2.  A Grammy Awards performance

3.  Homepage placement on iTunes

4.  Placement in TV commercial that runs during a special event

5.  A performance on Saturday Night Live

6.  An artist’s first arena-level headlining tour

7.  Placement in a high-rotation TV ad for a leading car company

8.  A performance during the Country Music Association Awards

9.  Placement in a high-rotation TV ad for a leading shoe brand

10.  A performance on Coachella’s mainstage

Simon Cowell is trying to launch X Factor USA winners using maximum exposure platforms, last year’s winner performed during half time at the Superbowl and this year’s winner will be performing at the Grammy’s next year.

PSY_Gangnam_Style_Billboard_Magazine_Cover

Sources: http://persisholdings.com/news/billboard-taps-golnar-khosrowshahi-for-maximum-exposure-issue/

CDs, the Zombies of the Music Industry

No matter how hard we try to kill it, it just doesn’t stay down

If you were born in the early 90’s or the late 80’s, it’s very possible you have the option to list that you’ve got both a collection of CD’s at home and a lot of digital downloads on your computer.  Chances are that if you’re reading this blog, you’re very into music and it possibly broadens the chances of this being the case.  What’s most unique about the late 80’s and 90’s generation is that, with our growing up to see the rise of digital, we have developed very strong opinions on whether to accept or reject the digital format versus the CD format.

In case you were saying “It doesn’t matter, CD’s are dead now,” well, I have a refreshing and shocking statistic for you.  In the United States as of 2011, CD sales were still more than 66% of purchased music over digital downloads, which were only a bit over 30%.  1% of music purchased is in vinyl (sorry my hip friends, it’s just that Vinyl is only for the die-hards these days).  Strangely enough though, in the first quarter of 2012 in the United Kingdom, digital sales actually out performed CD sales (an article I read credits Adele’s success and XL records to be part of the reason for this).  So, why are America and the UK’s takes on CD’s so different?

I didn’t understand this until I came to Spain to study abroad (I’m from the United States).  There wasn’t a single record store I could find, which is insane because the US still has record stores here and there.  Eventually, I found out that the general department store has a decent music section.  I found the album I was looking for, but amazingly enough, it was 20 euros!

If you live in Europe and you think that’s ridiculous, think about my take on it.  In the United States, the cost of an album on iTunes is usually a dollar more or less than a physical CD.  It’s roughly $9.99 per album, maybe more depending on deluxe or whether it’s a huge amount of songs.  At that point, you might as well just not be lazy and walk down to your local Newbury Comics/Rasputnam/(insert indie CD store that still somehow exists), and buy the album in CD format for the same price; but the exception here is that you get a nice physical booklet along with it, lyrics, and some physical artwork to use.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying CDs are an obvious choice here, it’s just that in the US it seems a bit more cost efficient to get more for what you pay for.  In Europe, the few times I have been to France, Spain, and England, the CD prices are far more expensive than the cost of downloading things digitally.  From what I hear from Japanese friends, the records there don’t come cheap either.

For this reason, I say that the United States will probably not adapt to going fully digital as fast as the rest of the world will.  It just doesn’t seem possible when prices are very close with each other.  For the rest of the world, I do believe that digital will be making its take over within the decade, especially with the statistic from the beginning of this year.  However, with major labels still running the business, I feel that the physical CD will always have its place in the business.  The major label has always had distribution as one of its largest advantages: they will not leave behind the CD format so easily as it is still considered a partial advantage especially in a place like the United States.  It’s also a possible part of the reason why it’s so hard to break through in the United States.

Therefore, in a way, we could say that the relationship to CDs in the market and major record labels (pardon me, Entertainment Groups) are completely direct proportions, with independent music and digital being the other direct proportion as well.  This is made clear with Adele and XL Records: I’ll place bets that the rise of digital in the UK earlier this year has something to do with two of Adele’s albums placing in the top 10 albums sold in the year.

Personally, I love CD’s, but I’ve come to accept that their time is running out.  What do you think?

http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2012/120104twothirds

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/uk-digital-music-sales-first-quarter-332180

Spotify is popular – But will it be profitable?

Image

To most music fans getting used to Spotify or similar services, it feels like music streaming services business is healthy and just starting to take off.  Within the music industry however, it is no secret that music streaming leader Spotify in its current form is an unsustainable business model, losing millions of dollars each year…

Reputable financial analyst PrivCo released an overview of Spotify’s financial situation showing roughly $37.5 million net loss in 2010, and a whopping $60 million net loss in 2011. The financial firm stated that the 2011 numbers were “alarming” and “unsustainable”.  Granted, the company is going through an extensive growth phase, expanding to new countries and hiring new employees, however this is shadowed by the fact that almost every new dollar of revenue is going directly towards paying music companies, largely, the three major industry recording giants holding the rights to most of the world’s popular music repertoire.  PrivCo CEO Sam Hamade expressed one of two things needs to happen to keep the company afloat – “Either the online music royalty payment model to artists and music companies needs to change, which is highly unlikely in the near term given that digital royalties are record companies only growing revenue stream, or Spotify needs to ASAP introduce a tiered subscription system, as opposed to its current flat monthly fee model, which is clearly a broken business model.”

It isn’t clear whether Spotify will introduce a tired subscription system yet, the company is currently betting on turning free users in to paid subscribers.  Entrepreneur and investor Sean Parker has predicted Spotify will take over iTunes in terms of revenue within two years, however this could be majorly derailed if the rumors around iTunes launching it’s own streaming service are true – An Apple streaming solution would be an undeniably hard competitor to beat in winning over the masses of consumers happy with their other Apple products.

 

References/Further Reading

http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2012/121005alarming

http://thenextweb.com/insider/2012/10/05/the-royalty-squeeze-spotify-booked-a-59m-net-loss-in-2011-on-244m-in-revenue/

http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/digital-and-mobile/business-matters-can-spotify-catch-itunes-1006493952.story

http://www.nme.com/news/miscellaneous/65990

Are You Scrobbling Yet?

Last week I talked about Contract Riders.  It was fun to write about and hopefully a good read for you guys and I’d like to keep things in the scheme of funny/casual things; it’s nice to talk about the lighthearted things in the industry considering we’re peppered with record label conspiracy a lot.

Today I’d like to bring up Last FM and its popular feature, Scrobbling.  This feature has been around for quite some time and I feel that it has been often neglected in the every day conversation with your fellow audiophiles; it’s a real downer to be honest because this is such a cool feature.

Now the word itself just sounds plain weird.  I’m positive someone who has no clue about it or didn’t see the banner I posted up ahead about it being a feature from Last.fm would assume it’s a code word or slang for some disturbing sexual or criminal act.  The good thing is that it isn’t.  Scrobbling is the feature Last.fm has which transfers your Spotify, iTunes, and various other media players’ data to the Last.fm database.  You first create an account on Last.fm, then you download the Scrobbler app online.  Once you install the Scrobbler, you’ll be given the option to import all the playback data from your iTunes that you’ve been using since you first opened the application.  This includes all of the “column” options in iTunes, from number of plays, number of artists in your library, the date you had each individual play for each individual song, your ratings for your artists, and your trends in genre choice from the relationship between each artist you’ve listened to.  It’s extremely extensive.

On top of taking in all this data, it will from then on work in the background, constantly “scrobbling” your iTunes plays, continuing to update your Last.fm profile with newer data each time you get hooked on the next song.  You can also select tracks you “love” while also “banning” songs you dislike.  It basically serves as a piggyback app that opens automatically as you open iTunes to keep your Last.fm data as an accurate representation of your taste in music, not to mention it runs a neat notification in the upper right area of your screen to let you know what song just started playing.  It even works offline by caching your playback data for up to 2 weeks without wifi/data.  And recently, streaming app Spotify has been optimized for scrobbling through this app as well.

With this data, Last.fm can create custom playlists based on your preference.  It is unlike the regular Last.fm radio because it won’t just stream a random artist that’s “recommended” because you listen to another artist of a similar genre.  It’ll go through your data and pick the artist with the most plays, focus on artists you’ve played recently, and skip out on the songs you clearly haven’t paid a lot of attention to.  The cool part is that if you can get a big enough network of friends on Last.fm, you can check out what your friends are currently listening to and check out their data as well, along with checking your “compatibility,” or common interests in music, with one another.  Of course, Spotify allows you to see what your friends are checking out too; but again, this is an app that piggybacks on Spotify and iTunes: it is constantly shaping an accessible representation of what you believe is good music.

People who are taken aback by this feature are most likely to say “well what if I don’t want people to know what I’m listening to?”  My answer would be: is that really the case?  Why would you be afraid or upset about sharing what you’re listening to or representing what you think is good music?  I always found the point of listening to music is finding out how to be social without needing to be unique or vice verse with fitting in.  There really should be nothing to hide with what we listen to, it is about spreading the word after all.

At first it does not seem like much, and there might be a few of you who have already been using this; however, the true fun of this scrobbling feature will be obvious once a big enough network is created where you can really check out what the identity of your friends’ tastes in music are.  So go to Last.fm right now, set up an account, download the scrobbler, import your iTunes data, and then hop on to iTunes or Spotify and continue to be the audiophile you are, because now you’ll be able to really keep track of what you’re interested in.  Last step?  Tell your friends!

Windows and Other Transparent Ideas

What could these two albums possibly have in common?

Ever heard of “Windowing”? Yeah it’s this cool new thing some signed artists are doing that lets them feel like they have some control over the business aspect of their music.

Basically these artists figure that delaying the release of their music on streaming services like Spotify and what’s that other one again? Oh yeah; Rhapsody, will lead to increased downloads on online stores like iTunes. There is not any evidence that this is true really, and if anything an artist that isn’t already a filthy rich millionaire probably just wants their music as available as possible, but anyways in my humble opinion I think the whole idea is another crap way to play around with the industry cause we’re bored with it.

All I mean is that the general population will not substitute a streaming service for an iTunes download. They will substitute it for a listen on YouTube, or Grooveshark, or a download from a BitTorrent site. It has been like 13 years since Napster and people still have not seemed to figure this out.

Another good point brought up by Ken Parks CCO of Spotify out of New York is that the people that are paying for Spotify are kind of getting ripped off with a late release and the last thing you want to do is rip off your fans. I’m not a fan of the bastard after hearing him speak at Rethink in Boston, MA. last August but he does make a good point here.

On the other hand the Track Record for artists doing this is pretty impressive so who knows, it might be valid. I’d like to think the general public isn’t so easily pushed into a market but who knows. People like Paul McCartney, Adele, Coldplay, Deadmau5, and The Black Keys are all taking part in this idea. And Adele and Coldplay had 2 of the top 5 selling albums this year.

I say get the music to your fans in every way you can. If it brings in any income then it’s only a bonus. The real money is in live music and merch anyways.

Phillip Richard

————–

I want to know what you people think of Windowing. Do you think that delaying the release of music on streaming services can help significantly increase the total number of downloads? Take into consideration the different levels of fame an artist has because that definitely plays a factor. But yeah comment and share your thoughts.

Sources and Additional Links:

<http://www.fastcompany.com/1818163/rhapsody-spotify-netflix-and-28-day-waiting-game>

<http://www.prefixmag.com/news/spotify-lashes-out-at-artists-windowing-their-musi/62552/>

<http://www.fastcompany.com/1821063/spotify-exec-ken-parks-windowing-mind-boggling-very-bad-hostile>

<http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2012/120925deadmau5>