The album “1989”, a gold mine for Taylor Swift, Max Martin and Ryan Adams

Imagine how Taylor Swift and Max Martin (the King writer of pop songs) must feel right now. They co-wrote the majority of the tracks of the successful album “1989” (along with Shellback, Ryan Tedder, …). When Ryan Adams came with the idea of cover, they immediately saw the opportunity of a gold mine. Both RA and TS albums are in the top 10 charts (it’s the first time that situation ever occurred). Let’s do the math : double publishing income for Max Martin and Taylor Swift and huge record royalties for TS and RA. This is literally the dream.

This collaboration is not surprising because the two stars were already friends. They were working on a few demos before her album Red, unfortunately those songs were never released. Actually, Ryan’s work had always been an inspiration for her.

Ryan Adams was a bit bored to play his own compositions (as he delivered enough albums to his label) and then decided to cover “1989”  in its own way : creating a dreamy atmosphere pointed out by the echoes of past. He wanted to change the “colors” of the lyrics.

Ryan Adams said  : “I wanted the music to sound like … inside the movie of my mind … what the parallel universe of my 1989 could be. (-). Where it might have been hopeful before, it might sound more filled with regret, like ‘How You Get the Girl.’ Or like ‘Shake It Off,’ like the way I read the lyrics out loud to myself, I was compelled to side more with the anxiety and the pressure of a feeling like you are the subject matter of people’s conversations that maybe aren’t in the best light. I liked the pressure of that and wanted the music to sound like it was running away from that… That’s a feeling and a place and a time that was inside the movie of my mind — what the parallel universe of my 1989 could be.”

It’s also important to mention that 7 songs of Ryan Adams’s “1989” are in the Billboard charts right now. That album release attracted the curiosity of a lot of users who wanted to hear the way he was transforming the initial records of TS. Surprisingly, songs of Taylor Swift made their way to the alternative songs chart thanks to! “Bad Blood”.  This is an incredible cover success that brings benefits to both parties and it really enlightens the fact that cover projects should be always encouraged by the original artists.

Sources :

http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/6714591/more-than-half-of-ryan-adams-1989-debuts-on-hot-rock-songs-chart

http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/6715334/before-1989-did-any-identical-album-titles-share-space-in-the-top-10

http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/6708212/ryan-adams-cover-of-taylor-swifts-bad-blood-debuts-on-adult-alternative-songs

Who Run The Industry?

Sadly, unequivocally, and unsurprisingly: men. Whether you’re scanning the Top 40 list, or searching for the names of the people in charge of your favorite record labels, you’re more than likely to read an overwhelming amount of male names. We have our lady diva pop stars, sure. And there are people like Michele Anthony and Julie Greenwald– but the thing is, women on top are few and far between in any industry. And these two aren’t even the head honchos- they’re assistants to them. “How progressive,” said Peggy Olson.

Billboard cultivated the Women In Music awards as well as a series of articles on their website in 2007 in order to shed some well-deserved light on the female musicians, executives, and everyone in between in the industry. You’d recognize Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and others who have won the award- but skimming their list of the 50 Most Powerful (Female) Executives from last year, after first being blindly impressed, you begin to realize something terrifying- you’ve never heard of any of these people.

Okay, perhaps you’re a little more well-versed in music industry businesspeople than I am and you do recognize them. But chances are, each name is equally unfamiliar and frankly disturbing in this right. But it’s easy to rattle off the names of Brian Eno, Quincy Jones, Mark Ronson, and so many others.

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That’s why organizations like Women In Music are so important. We need more females not only stepping up as musicians, but on the business side of things as well. Started in 1985, Women In Music is a collective of women in all fields of the music industry, working to make what they do seem more attractive and plausible. They host events such as workshops and panels to encourage girls to break into the industry, no matter how off-putting it can be.

Although, it’s worthwhile to note the growth we’ve seen in the past few years. With pop powerhouses like Beyonce and rap queens like Nicki Minaj promoting feminist ideals (more on that in another post) in their music, and heartwarming singer songwriters like Taylor Swift proving that girls can pick up a guitar and make a song just as catchy as any flannel-clad, horn-rimmed glasses wearing guy can, this past decade has certainly seen lots more girl power. Not that girl groups or female-fronted groups haven’t been present in the past- each decade has certainly been host to some talented ladies. It’s just that we seem to be on the cusp of an estrogen fueled revolution in the music industry, as well as the world. There’s recently been a noticeable influx of these female artists, and certainly more of them stepping up in business.

And we can’t lose momentum. Billboard took a step in the right direction with their awards, Women In Music is a beautifully empowering organization that only has room to grow and everything to gain, and there are emerging publications like She Shreds that showcase some talent that might not get picked up in Rolling Stone. More and more ladies are picking up the microphone, the guitar, the drum sticks, you name it. But we need more. We need to keep going until Queen Bey is satisfied, and the industry, and maybe some day the world, is run by girls.

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Artist Matchup of the Week: Charity Vance vs. Tori Kelly

First Up…
Name: Charity Vance
Age: 20
Label: Independent
Sounds Like: Taylor Swift, Ingrid Michelson, Regina Spektor
Website: http://www.charityvance.net/

Charity

  Charity Vance is a classifies herself as an Indie Pop artist hailing from LIttle Rock Arkansas.  At first glance she looked really familiar, with a little bit of research I realized she competed the 9th season of the reality singing competition juggernaut that is American Idol.  Since then she has worked the music scene attempting to release a full length studio album.  So far she has released a slew of singles and and 2 EPs’.   As I listened to her singles I would find myself thinking, man she sounds like (Insert any modern female single here).  In one song she sounds like Taylor Swift then like Katy Perry, then like Avril Lavigne. Check out some of her stuff and maybe you can hear what I’m saying.

  Very Avril meets Taylor if you ask me, no?  Then we go to…

  This song could have literally been taken out of Katy Perry´s Teenage Dream. 

  I think the problem here is that her team is trying to make her fit into the various sounds happening in the music industry at the moment rather than trying to develop her own sound and lyrical content. In my opinion she has everything you would want to make a female pop star she just needs to find her own sound to get her there. Something that will at least set her a part a little for all the rest of the pretty girls trying to break in.  She definitely has what it takes check out her cover of Hold on We’re Going Home by Drake.  Still plenty of pop but just different enough to make her stand out.

THEN I SAW THIS…

  Charity teamed up with singer April Kry to record a couple of videos together, and they were probably my favorite to watch.  They were all covers like the Justin Beiber one above but the harmonies and creative choices they made with the songs impressed me.

Next Up…

Name: Tori Kelly
Age: 21
Label: Major
Sounds Like: Jojo, Leah Labelle
Website: http://torikellymusic.com/

Tori+Kelly

  Tori Kelly is an Pop singer with an R&B influence. She competed in many talent competitions but her most notable appearance was on the the same season of American Idol that Charity was in, with both being  eliminated before the live shows.  Since American Idol Kelly has gained much attention  with her covers  and originals on YouTube.   Her channel has more than 600,000 subscribers and over 48 million views to date.  She has released some singles and an EP with the newest, Foreword  coming out October  22nd via Capitol Records, take a listen here.  Currently she is being managed by none other that Scooter Braun a.k.a. Justin Beiber’s manager and with that kind support skyes the limit.  Check out some of her videos, new and old.

My personal favorite.

Dear No One Off her new EP.

  She definitely has her own style that set her part from a lot of the girl in the music industry doing the type of pop music.  She has some R&B and soul influences in her music style and vocal inflections that I really like.

Conclusion

  This one is tough  because they both have established somewhat of a fan base following their short stints on American Idol.  They are both young talented girls that have a lot to offer.  Solely based on the music I should go with Tori just because she has her own laid-back R&B/Pop style that is almost absent in music today when it comes to popular females in music. After listening to her new EP I´m not sure if the content is strong enough to really make any impact, she definitely has the potential to do better.  On the other hand if Charity created a duo with the equally talented April Kry I think there could be something there! Their voices complemented each other very well and at least it sounded more original than Charity’s individual work, and it was a cover. Maybe then we would have a different outcome. There also has never really been a big female duo, at least from my knowledge so that would be interesting dynamic to work with.  For now though  I think I would go with Kelly, even though I’m not too fond of her new material.  She  already has a good fan following and with right material I think she could blow up.

Artist Matchup of the Week (Country Edition): Katie Perkins Vs. The Whipps

First Up…
Name: Katie Perkins
Age: 23
Label: Unsigned
Sounds Like: Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and Miranda Lambert
Website: http://katieperkinsmusic.tmgartist.com/

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Katie Perkins’ music is a perfect  mixture of old and new mainstream country music.  When she was It was 16 it was discovered that Katie had a hole in her heart and needed open heart surgery.  Without this surgery her life expectancy would have been 13 years.  After her surgery she want back to singing and attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. Check out her first single of her new album Breathe called Hello Heartbreak.

 

In the second video we see Katie covering a Carrie Underwood song  which  is where I think she could fit in the industry. It definitely shows she has the cross over potential and the attitude to be country cross over artist.

Lyrically and musically her content meets today’s  pop/country standards but still has a throwback feel with her instrumentation.   She definitely ticks a lot of boxes.  She  is pretty, pop cross over appeal, friendly demeanor, and a great backstory.  When thinking of the country music industry as it is today it is hard to say if I would sign her or not.  Her music is honest and you can tell it means a lot to her.  Her voice is good and fits all the songs really well, overall she’s a complete package. But her talent and ability are not the only factors at play, the state of the country music industry also plays a huge factor.

The female side of the industry is dominated by  Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, and most recently newcomer Kacey Musgraves.     With the latter two barely making any impact on country radio.  Let’s face it, in today’s country music it is hard for a female soloist to have careers like Reba Mcentire,  Trisha Yearwood, and Faith Hill.  For more information about this competition checkout this blogpost focusing on the potential signing of a female country artist Kree Harrison who was a ruunner up on AMerican Idol and the uphill battle she faces by clicking here.  Can Katie pull of a crossover like Carrie, Taylor, or even Shania have done? I’m not so sure.

Next…
Name: The Whipps
Age: 23
Label: Unsigned ( In talks )
Sounds Like:
Website: http://www.thewhipps.com/

the whipps

  The Whipps come from Greenup County Kentucky,  formed in 2009 with  singer Don Hanshaw, bassist Eric Daniels and guitarist Larry Collinsworth.  They self-released their debut album Ghettobillies a few months after their creation. The Whipps describe their debut album  Ghettobillies as a country crossbreed that cracks with hick hop (Country Rap)  and rock. In their sound you can hear a blending of traditional instruments like banjo, dobro and mandolin with newer hybrid elements. t.  Check them out below.

The Whipps:  Honestly 

The Whipps: Got Mudd 

  They are definitely bringing something new to the table with songs like Ghettobillies while still showing they still have some country pop appeal with songs likes Honestly.  And in an industry where most  successful country groups are mixed groups  i.e. Sugarland, Little Big Town, Lady Antebellum, and The Band Perry.  The most recent group that even remotely comes close to them is Rascall Flatts but even then The Whipps is able to be more diverse in their sound.  There is definitely a gap in the market for an all male country groups, especially for one bringing something new to the genre.

Conclusion

  So who would I go for? This is a tough one! On one hand we have a female country with crossover appeal and on the other a band working within their own niche in the market but still diverse enough to be successful (in my opinion). I think I would have to go for The Whipps on this one! They country genre is just too competitive for females now a days and to go with Katie would a huge risk, I can see her having a better shot going on a reality singing show competition and establishing a fan base that way. While The Whipps are definitely doing their own think and I like what I hear!

Till next time…

Strategy: Authenticity

Dangers in product partnerships 

The Chill

Without providing any specifics, there has recently been a growing trend of misuse surrounding the word authenticity and its applicability to artist branding. Increasingly often, music business professionals are throwing this word around without feeling the substance of its meaning.

I’m mainly talking about people taking the concept of an artist is a business too far, pairing them up with brands as if they were no different from a car manufacturer or software developer. Art – arguably the core of our business – is exceptionally human in its nature. It’s effectiveness [and thus, it’s profitability] hinges the intangible responses of real people. There’s a remarkable intangibility present in the biz since people all have distinct emotions; music is particularly non-categorical. 

Nevertheless, the cold grip of business has seeped its way invasively into the personal space of artistic expression. Continuing, most people have the capacity to see this contaminant immediately. This is the chill. It’s easy to feel and nearly impossible to avoid unless you take a second look at how you approach artistry and branding.

Please test yourself – watch this.

This is Taylor Swift’s particularly cumbersome attempt to appear excited about her brand partnership with Diet Coke. A board room of suits spent some amount of time with a whiteboard and some coffee mixing and matching target markets and brainstorming where more logos could possibly be squeezed. Draw a few conclusions for yourself – what did this accomplish for either Coca-Cola or Swift?

Branding doesn’t need to be cold; it doesn’t need to be unnatural. In fact, the objective of a brand alliance [a cross-collateralization of constituencies, resources, etc.] is within reach without the need of a focus group or a contract. 

Not All Is Lost
Sigur Ros 

This documentary Heima [an Icelandic word meaning “Home”] chronicles the story of Sigur Ros’s return to Iceland, their home country, to perform a series of free surprise concerts. The film clearly convey’s the source of the band’s success both domestically and as an internationally renowned indie act. Internally, Sigur Ros truly is authentic in their approach to creating music. None of the four members concerns himself with fame or money, instead they collectively form a band driven by creativity and a love for music. They’ve developed a position based on their pride and connection with the culture of their country, refusing to alter their actions to appeal to target marketsIn doing so, they’ve achieved one of the greatest brand partnerships imaginable; one with the entire nation of Iceland

The main objective of a brand partnership – a symbiotic win-win – is present here, minus the chill.

The Lesson Here Being…

False authenticity  [much like that originating from the more outdated, misguided conference rooms across the music industry] creates awkwardness and chill while simply staying devoted to natural human passions creates much more desirable outcomes. An artist that ignores the temptation to treat him or herself as a business instead of, perhaps, a commercially conscientious artist will maintain a certain competitive edge in the days to come as people become more and more fed up with corporate conjecture. It’s clear to me to which artists I resonate most – with which artists I feel most connected. Conclusively, I can say that Drake doesn’t make me want to drink Sprite, and The Dropkick Murphy’s do make me miss Boston.

I suppose I can also say that Run DMC makes Adidas look pretty cool.