"The style Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo minted on their 1997 debut album Homework – house music heavy on the filter effect, which involved the bass or treble on the track gradually fading in and out, mimicking a DJ playing with the equalisation on a mixer; drums treated with sidechain compression, so that the beats appeared to punch through the sound, causing everything else on the track to momentarily recede – is now part of pop’s lingua franca" - Guardian's Alexis Petridis argues in his article.

Pension funds will own it!
February 24, 2021

How will resales of publishing rights shape the future of music?

Hu / Turner

Bob Dylan has sold his entire songwriting catalogue to Universal Music for $300 million; Beach Boys sold their masters and brand to Irving Azzoff to $100 million; Taylor Swift is re-recording her older records; Round Hill has bought some Beatles The Rolling Stones, and Backstreet Boys classics for $282 million; Neil Young has sold 50 percent of his catalogue for $150 million - these are only some of the deals in the music business last year. Music business podcast Money 4 Nothing talks to Cherie Hu of Water & Music and David Turner of Penny Fractions about whether this makes any business sense, and how will it shape the future of music.

Rap from the crypto
February 23, 2021

NFT's potential in hip-hop - ahead of most genres

Trapital believes there is great potential for Non-fungible tokens in hip-hop: "The late MF DOOM had just held an auction for augmented reality NFTs for his signature masks. Soulja Boy recently minted his own NFT. Hip-Hop Legends NFT is also selling several collectibles on its marketplace". An NFT is a unique and not interchangeable digital asset that relies on blockchain technology, which makes it easier to verify authenticity. Cherie Hu said in Water & Music on NFTs that hip-hop is ahead of most genres.

"She enjoyed fashion and had a performer’s joy in being looked at, in satin, silks, heels and hairstyles" - the Guardian writes about the fashion choices Billie Holiday made, and what they meant. "For a Black woman in the US at that time, this glamour could be seen as a kind of resistance, too... People said, ‘How dare she wear diamonds, how dare she wear fur,’ but she dressed as a woman of her stature should have. She represented herself exactly as she wanted to and that in itself was revolutionary”. Lee Daniels’ film 'The United States Vs Billie Holiday' is released this week.

Death is not the end - of music
February 19, 2021

Pop Smoke a year after - a superstar

A year ago Pop Smoke was shot and killed at age 20, as he was preparing to release his debut album. Although he died, his music reached high levels in the meantime, as Independent sums it up. Last summer, the rapper’s breakout 2019 single 'Dior' became fuel for the Black Lives Matter movement. His posthumous single 'What You Know Bout Love' reached the top spot on the US rhythmic radio chart last month. Song 'For The Night' is now a staple among the top five played songs on urban radio stations. His posthumous album 'Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon' has topped the Billboard 200 twice...

"Paid memberships - the decades-old model in which fans contribute a regular fee directly to their favourite creator or brand in exchange for exclusive content and experiences - are back in vogue in the music industry" - Cherie Hu writes in DJ Mag about the lifesaver of electronic musicians in lockdown - Patreon. In the seven years since it launched, "Patreon has facilitated total membership transactions of over $1 billion between 6 million fans and 200,000 creators, half of which launched their respective pages in the last six months. The music category has grown by 200% over the past half-year (by the number of creator pages), making music one of the top two categories on Patreon for the first time in the company’s history".

3.650 days after that Friday
February 17, 2021

Rebecca Black spent 10 years recovering after her song 'Friday'

A great article in Stuff about Rebecca Black who went through ten years of recovering after her song 'Friday' brought her unwanted attention as "the worst song/video ever" (she was 13 at the time of the song). She says "It's not normal for a person - for a kid, especially - to have the entire world make fun of them and then just laugh along with it... What it did was dehumanise me even more into some version of a spectacle because none of that is real". She was also bullied in school, started with home-schooling, and it took her years before she dared to make music again.

The island is floating farther away
February 15, 2021

Visa costs for UK musician to play in Spain - £600

British pianist Joseph Middleton describes the hassle he would have to go through to play a recital in Spain: "Even though I would only spend 24 hours there, my agent would be required to work on a raft of extra paperwork, my accountant to furnish me with documents giving proof of income, and my bank would need to provide me with recent certified bank statements (no pesky home printouts here, thank you). My passport would need to be submitted to the Spanish embassy and held there until the visa was processed, causing problems for when I had to travel for other work". And it's an expensive hassle as well - £600 just for visa costs.

"But frankly, the whole list made me wonder what the hell the Hall Of Fame has been doing all these years, getting a bowling alley fitted? I mean, Iron Maiden? Chaka Khan? Todd Rundgren? Fela Kuti? All still in the queue? What is this, The Great Escape for pop legends?" - NME columnist Mark Beaumont comments on this year's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. How it's set-up now - "it’s just making successful rock’n’roll look like a thing of the increasingly distant past".

The first home
February 11, 2021

Essay: We have to give Africa its music back

"Western bands, largely blessed with unrivaled marketing and export power, won over ears and hearts worldwide. Had African bands had similar reach and clout, at worst they would have gone toe to toe with Europe and North America’s most revered. At best, you may have never heard of your favorites. I would argue without respite that what was happening in the buzzing cultural citadels of Africa—the railway station hotel of Bamako with Rail Band, Mogadishu’s Jazira Hotel with Iftiin Band, Dakar’s Le Miami nightclub with Star Band, the recording studios of Cotonou with Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo, the musseques of Luanda with Jovens do Prenda—was simply a notch above" - Africa is a Country argues quite confidently, asking for a return of physical recordings of African music from independence onwards, large catalogs of which are no longer on the continent.

Young Dolph

Their predecessors once flaunted such signifiers as cars and diamond chains, while the new generation of hip-hop artists is flaunting ownership of their masters. High Snobiety names several artists who kept their music sovereignty, quite successfully so, like Russ, Young Dolph, JACKBOY, Rich the Kid, King Von, 21 Savage, J Cole, and expects the list to grow bigger in time.

Country singer Morgan Wallen got pretty much cancelled after using a racial slur (toward a white friend) taking "what was too far of a public step in what had largely been a possibly too narrowly divided space", Medium explained in an essay. "Regarding the first of what should be many reparational steps, Rissi Palmer offers a concise yet definitive proclamation. 'White people lost the privilege to use the n-word the moment that they enslaved and hung Black people. They don’t get to say it. They don’t get to say it for fun or with an ‘a’ or ‘er’ at the end. It’s simple. White people just can’t say it anymore'”.

Last weekend Bruce Springsteen appeared in a commercial, 71-year-old's first such appearance, and his first-ever product endorsement. Pitchfork isn't happy with the American institution trying to sell people a car. UPDATE: the automotive company has pulled the spot after it was revealed Wednesday that Springsteen had been arrested for driving while under the influence last fall, Rolling Stone reports. Springsteen was charged with DWI, reckless driving, and consuming alcohol in a closed area, while his blood alcohol content was 0.02 – one-fourth of New Jersey’s legal limit and the equivalent of one drink. Since the arrest occurred in a national park, federal prosecutors will pursue the case.

The 50th anniversaries of the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison straddle 2020 and 2021. In April, it’ll be 27 years since we lost Kurt Cobain - Variety reminds us of the tragic losses of artists due to substance abuse. However, Variety argues, it has in the meantime become cool to be sober, although a path to sobriety isn't that easy. Alice Cooper explained: “All my other addictions, like cocaine and alcohol, were killing me. I knew I had an addictive personality — my stage show is a very addictive thing to do — so I had to find positive addictions”; he found golf!

The talk of the city
February 09, 2021

Half a million new podcasts were started last year

The podcast industry thrived throughout the last year, The Chartable Blog reports. 2020 saw a more than 280% increase in the creation of new podcasts - from just over 300,000 new podcasts started in 2019 to almost 900,000 in 2020, which is 17,000 new podcasts each week. Just under half of the 900,000 new podcasts were in languages other than English. Many of these new podcasts have just one or two episodes - about 30%. However, 23% of podcasts started in 2021 have already published more than 10 episodes.

"Like Hamburg to the Beatles, Europe was crucial to our growth as a band. It allowed us to see ourselves untethered from our UK roots and to imagine a life in music that could reach audiences everywhere" - Radiohead's Colin Greenwood wrote in Guardian about the big bureaucratic wall now erected between the UK and the EU. Elton John, also in Guardian, is worried about young bands: "I don’t want to live in a world where the only artists who can afford to tour properly are those who have been going for decades and have already sold millions of records".

Sony Music acquired Kobalt’s indie distributor AWAL and its rights business for $430 million, continuing a trend of major labels acquiring the companies built to disrupt them (AWAL, ironically, stands for Artists Without A Label). Music analyst Bob Lefsetz says "this is a bad sign for artists. The more power major labels get, the worse it is for them... But now the people who left major label distribution to go to AWAL…are back where they started, and there’s no viable alternative. Never ever forget that distribution is king". Billboard naturally approves the acquisition.

"The common thread between those I spoke to about making music or writing in the midst of grief was that the art became a tool to make sense of the trauma. It was not made 'great' because of the pain but instead became a method to begin to understand what they had been through" - Welsh indie-rock multi-instrumentalist The Anchoress (real name Catherine Anne Davies), writes in the Quietus about the idea that it is great pain what is needed to make great idea. She has also started her career with that idea, but nos she believes there's a way out of it - "rather than chase down the 'chaos' of our adolescent 'dancing stars', under the illusion that it might make us burn brighter, write better, I’ve come to learn that we should instead acknowledge those deep scars that they leave upon the body of our lives so that we can in time turn our gaze once more towards the light".

Decades before Merch Mercuriadis's Hipgnosis Fund started spending billions of dollars on famous artists' catalogs, David Bowie did a similar thing. In 1997 he sold 10-year-security on his entire catalog for $55 million to Prudential Insurance at a fixed interest rate, backed by the royalties from his pre-1990 master recordings and publishing. In essence, he gave up a decade's worth of royalties on 'Heroes', 'Life on Mars', and everything else in exchange for an immediate payout, MusicREDEF reminded us and started a thread about it. Last 12 months Bob Dylan, Shakira, Imagine Dragons and many others did a similar thing - it's a lasting deal, not just 10 years.

Disney Channel actor Olivia Rodrigo released her single 'Drivers License' to attract 82 million domestic streams across all platforms, the biggest US streaming week ever, and it had 15.17 million global Spotify streams on Jan. 11, a record for a non-holiday track. Stereogum argues the 17-year old's moody indie-pop ballad will have a big effect on pop music this year, and sees the song as a clear sign of a turn in pop-music: "Depressive guitar balladry might be a more reliable pathway to mainstream success than sparkling synth-pop. For years cultural critics have been noting that streaming, social media, and a lifestyle dominated by screen time were fostering a moodier, blearier mainstream".

Mariah Carey entered a controversial relationship as a young artist

"Spector’s living legacy is that of music industry abuse going unchecked because the art is perceived as worth it – or worse, considered “proof” of wild and untameable genius... Spector created not just a sound but the enduring paradigm of the exploitative music svengali whose work is too lucrative for him to be held to account, his victims little more than unfortunate collateral" - Guardian wrote after the death of famous producer, calling for the industry to stand up for women.

"By trying to tell the entire life story of a rock legend in less time than they would’ve spent onstage most nights, they inevitably come across like facile ‘Greatest Hits’ tributes" - NME's Mark Beaumont argues in favor of music biopics without any of the subject's music, because - "Cinema rarely turns out convincing biopic performances, so why not cut the cringe, ditch the hits and concentrate on the stories instead? ... In fact, I’m all for more musical biopics without any music. After all, why limit cinema to the biopics of listenable bands?".

Jagger sang "I'll stick my knife right down your throat, baby" but it doesn't mean he was involved in gangs
January 13, 2021

The history of UK trials for drill lyrics

BBC has looked into details of dozens of prosecutions in the UK for drill and rap music lyrics from the last decade. Police often blame drill for fuelling violence, and when it comes to court, it is also increasingly being used as evidence. Defense lawyers say it stops defendants from getting a fair trial, while also limiting rappers' freedom of speech.

Digga D

There have been at least 30 cases where rap music or videos have been used as evidence in England and Wales, exclusively against Black men, according to research by London School of Economics and Political Science - Huck magazine is warning about the dangerous practice in the UK. Prosecutors are allowed to present lyrics as evidence of someone’s character, the logic being that because you rap about violence or criminality you are a criminal. There also seems to be racial bias to this - no other fictional form is targeted in this way in court. On the other side, the harassment and targeting of Black people is done with little or no accountability.

Cookiee Kawaii

Playboy explores the possibilities for artists to earn money from streaming their music or videos online. Some artists managed to reach millions of streams if they obey one basic principle - "You just have to be on your phone all the fucking time" - as 32-year-old New York-based electronic musician Marc Rebillet said. Also, it doesn't take much - Cookiee Kawaii kick-started her career thank's to 'Vibe', an 83-second burst of murky R&B and trap beats. Music Business Worldwide emphasizes the importance of fans' diverting to different ways of listening to music - "full-fledged consumer embrace of streaming helped avert a total collapse of the music business".

"The State of Maryland’s highest court ruled that rap lyrics may be admitted in court as evidence of a defendant’s guilt. This blatantly racist decision is a travesty that sets a dangerous precedent" - veteran attorney Dina LaPolt writes for Variety about a recent case of conviction of one Lawrence Montague partly based on his rap lyrics. LaPolt continues - "great music is more often than not rooted in storytelling, and by imposing criminal consequences for a story told through an artistic medium, the court here threatens to stifle creativity and limit the scope of artistic expression". She also sees racial bias here: "I would invite anyone suggesting that this ruling is not limited to rap music to find an example of a court admitting lyrical evidence of a country singer driving drunk or shooting a cheating spouse".

Surviving the Covid
January 08, 2021

How are indie artists surviving the pandemic?

Marisa Anderson / Facebook

PopMatters has an extensive article about how American musicians are surviving in a pandemic shutdown which is closing in on a full year. They talked to guitarists Marisa Anderson, Sarah Louise, Bill MacKay, Jackie Venson, and Ryley Walker, to singer-songwriters Jerry David DeCicca and Simon Joyner, the folk songster Jeffrey Lewis, and experimental/free jazz/session cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm about their income, music streaming, indie labels, Bandcamp etc.

An interesting webinar 'Why Artists Are Selling Their Music Catalogs' about reasons why so many artists sold their catalogs in 2020, the companies that want them, and where this trend is heading. Two main reasons for artists - loss of income due to the pandemic, and lower taxes in the US (which will probably be raised soon).

Doom in bloom
January 05, 2021

MF Doom's best songs

Pitchfork presents the career of the recently deceased rapper MF Doom with a selection of 10 of his best songs. It covers his beginnings as a teenage MC Zev Love X from 1989, his transition to MF Doom in 1990s, and his numerous collaborations - including the ones with Madlib and Sade, and identities such as King Geedorah and Viktor Vaughn. Here's a 2009 extensive interview with MF Doom where we discusses his identity, music etc.

In the year of big fear and great isolation, musicians turned to producing ambient music "to soothe us where human connection couldn’t", as Guardian puts it. There was consolation from the usual suspects like Brian Eno, his brother Roger Eno, the NYC mystic Laraaji. Dance producers like Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini switched to ambient music as well, Manchester jazzman Matthew Halsall created a weekly playlist, DJ and musician Auntie Flo launched a new digital radio station Ambient Flo with two channels - ambient music, and birdsong...

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