Zola Jesus / Nadya Tolokonnikova / ANOHNI

"I really like the parts of NFT that foreground the support of artists directly, and I love seeing whole new forms of art flourish in a new medium. But I think the financialization around the NFT space needs some heavy auditing... I don’t want people to bet on me like a racehorse” - Zola Jesus says to Pitchfork about NFTs, the latest creative-financial trend in music (and broader). Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova believes "NFTs are good because they claim that digital art is art, and they actually show that there is value in something that no one can touch”, whereas ANOHNI thinks "it’s shit".

Looking for the present
May 12, 2021

Is trap metal the future?

Mimi Barks

The Punk Rock MBA YouTuber this week presents trap metal, a new genre combining trap-rap and metal, especially the industrial segment of it. The video-blogger goes from early pioneers like Suicideboys, Bones, Scarlxrd, Ghostemane, and XXXtentacion, and suggests newer trap metal artists like Mugxtsu, Mimi Barks, Sinizster, Gizmo and Sematary.

Nova Twins

Bands from all corners of metal are creating ferocious music that offers new perspectives on discrimination, race, gender and sexuality - Guardian reports on the changing face of the world's most controversial genre. The change is being fronted by podcasts On Wednesdays We Wear Black and Hell Bent for Metal, online communities like Alt Together, and fanzines such as Blkgrlswurld and Tear It Down, as well as by bands such as Nova Twins (dealing with misogyny and racial microaggressions), Life Of Agony (fronted by a transwoman), Tetrarch (fronted by African-American female metal guitarist), Pupil Slicer (discussing issues such as transgender healthcare) etc.

May 06, 2021

Hip-hop brings pop-punk back

In the past year, pop-punk has made its comeback with the help of hip-hop crossovers by 4kGoldn and iann, Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker, MOD SUN, Trippie Red etc. Also, TikTok, good at nostalgia and promoting subcultures, also helped out bringing pop-punk back. Consequence gets a closer look.

How about an e-bike tour?
April 30, 2021

Can the recovery from Covid-19 be green?

"If the music industry can get its own house in order, maybe it can set the tone for a journey out of the climate crisis" - Guardian argues in an article about the possible transition of the music industry - everything from recorded to live music - from carbon-exhausting to green, and in doing so, set an example for the society as a whole. Some have already started - British independent label Ninja Tune is divesting its funds and pensions from fossil fuels, it is installing renewable energy systems in its London headquarters and it is encouraging the pressing plants that supply its vinyl to switch to green energy. Brian Eno's Earth Percent is aiming to raise $100m (£72m) by 2030 from the industry itself to transition towards sustainability. Beggars Group also announced major new carbon reduction commitments. The dance music scene is taking steps too - Last Night a DJ Took a Flight report argued that tours could be routed more efficiently, local scenes and artists could be better nurtured to reduce the pull of foreign superstars, and exclusivity clauses (where artists can’t play more than one show locally) could be challenged.

The entertainment industry appears to have massively capitalised on memes - Vice points out in an interesting article about how memes are new songs, and live streams. At first, memes were created using some other content intended for something completely different, but over the last year, there’s been a more formulaic approach where tunes are either made with the focused intention of being recreated as memes on Reels and TikTok, or beats are added to popular memes. What happened was that the audiences now expect memes from the producers now, not music, as few producers attest to. "The advantage is that you have better reach, but then people always expect you to incorporate humour into your music” - Anshuman Sharma said, while Sarthak Sardana added - “after I started making memes, my Instagram interactions went up by 3x, but the kind of following I got wasn’t into music”. Rosh Blazze got 7.2 million views for his remix - “now, my audience only wants to listen to my meme remixes, and sees me more as a video editor than a music producer”.

"Genre doesn’t classify the style of music we listen to - it segregates the artists who make it. Our problem is that we’ve conflated these two to mean the same thing" - Sameer Gadhia of the American pop-rock band Young the Giant writes in the Rolling Stone about the issue of "artists of color" in alter-rock. He is about to change the narrative with his SiriusXM Alt Nation feature, 'Point of Origin', where each month, "I spotlight an artist of color from the alternative space and trace their point of origin to their childhood".

Social media has always been less spontaneous than it appears, but from its inception, TikTok has been even more controlled than competing apps. Company executives help determine which videos go viral, which clips appear on the pages of personalized recommendations, and which trends spill out from the app to flood the rest of the world - Blomberg writes in its article about the mechanisms at work on the popular app.

Music technology and music industry Cherie Hu goes deeper into NFT. Her high-points:

  • Musicians have sold over 55,000 total NFTs since June 2020, worth over $60 million
  • Independent artists still run the show, but major artists and labels are quickly catching up
  • Several technical, legal and political challenges remain to mainstream NFT adoption in the music industry

TV needs new content in order to grow, while music, on the contrary, thrives on catalog music, MBW points out the examples of Netflix and music consumption in the US in lockdown. In Q1 2020, Netflix added nearly 16 million global paid subscribers quarter-on-quarter, whereas in Q1 2021, the platform gained just 4 million – 2 million lower than its own forecast. Music, on the other hand, was thriving on catalog music (records released 18 months or more prior to the time of listening) - it claimed more than two thirds (68%) of the US recorded music market (in sales-equivalent terms) in the first three months of this year. Catalog’s total share of US sales-equivalent music consumption in 2020 stood at 63.3%, up from 62.8% in 2019.

“We were the ones most negatively affected by the war on drugs, and America has turned around and created a business from it that’s worth billions” - Jay-Z said explaining his decision to launch Social Equity Ventures Fund worth $10 million, to support minority-owned cannabis start-ups. America’s legal marijuana market is estimated to be worth $61 billion at the moment and heading all the way up. Rapper-turned-cannabis mogul B-Real of Cypress Hill explains - “everybody and their mama is gonna come and stake a claim. The only thing you can do is to stay ahead”. "I’ve got a built-in marketing mechanism" - late Nipsey Hussle said of his cannabis business, now being overseen by his brother. XXL Magazine insists that hip-hop artists getting paid from the cannabis boom is more than just a side hustle - it's a matter of social justice.

A great text in the Quietus about the movie 'Sound of Metal' about a metal drummer losing his hearing. "Yet this film asserts the beauty of silence. The sound design immerses us in the surf of Ruben’s [main character] ears, forcing the undeaf onto [director]Marder’s subtitles, or leaving hearing suspended, making us question how we use noise to avoid life" - Soma Ghosh writes, adding "our worship of the physicality of rock has silenced the deafness in our midst, though deaf artists have shaped Romantic music since Beethoven".

RP's frontman Nick Blinko

"Formed in 1980, Rudimentary Peni shuffled awkwardly at the edges of the anarcho-punk scene, their breathless pace and sheer oddity marking them as something else entirely" - the Guardian looks back at the history of the UK punk band. The Quietus also goes on to explore "the curious case of Rudimentary Peni, a transcendent punk band". Band's first new album in 26 years, 'Great War', is out this week.

"Such high-profile homages to a band long under-appreciated beyond these shores... cut far deeper than any barbs in the script. They don’t just lift The Smiths into the revered echelons of your Beatles, Rolling Stones, Whos and U2s; they remind us how special a band we’ve come to define by their differences really were as a unit" - NME's Mark Beaumont writes about a recent 'The Simpsons' episode (as well as the recent movie 'Shoplifters of The World'), and what it means for the band (Morrissey didn't like The Simpsons, said he would sue, if it weren't so costly). The columnist believes "here’s our chance to rescue The Smiths from the pyre, unshackle them from the conversation around them and let their music settle back into its rightful place, just below the heart of the human condition".

Adam Met from the pop trio AJR wrote an outline for eco-friendly touring, including the ways in which everyone - artists, agents, promoters, venues, fans - can participate in technological, agricultural, and psychological solutions. For agents it would mean connecting flydates in ways that permit less travel, encouraging less private plane usage, and choosing the most direct bus routes. Venues could transition to electricity from renewable sources, standardize the requirements for food and drink vendors to use local farms and move away from single-use plastics...

Different kinds of bites
April 20, 2021

Apple pay per stream calculations explained

Apple Music has published last week that their average per play rate is $0.01, which is roughly double what Spotify pays the artists. But it's not that simple - MBW and Trapital explain Apple Music's and Spotify's models, their reach, the number of users, and how much exactly they pay to the labels (not directly to the artists, actually). Variety also points out, with word of an unnamed executive, that the best option is "a lot of users streaming a lot of music”, which would in return mean a lower per-stream rate. For example, if one artist were racking up a high percentage of streams on a less-popular streaming service, their per-stream rate would be quite high — but they’d actually have fewer streams than they would on a site with more users. Spotify has an industry-leading 155 million paying subscribers and 345 million active users, according to its most recent report, while Apple last reported more than 60 million Music subscribers in June 2019.

Songwriter of, well, the most popular pop band in the history of pop music, has some ideas for underpaid songwriters, which he shared in an op/ed in the Guardian: "Record labels could encourage a 'songwriter in residence' model, where artists are paired with songwriters at the development stage, as a long-term partnership: the writers would effectively become part of the band, paid a regular salary... I suggest that streaming services allocate their royalty payments based on the behaviour of individual listeners. The subscription should be divided by the number of songs the individual listener has played during a month".

Plenty of country for everyone
April 19, 2021

Commentary: Women own the American Country Music Awards

Mickey Guyton

"Though female country stars didn’t compete for the night’s top prize – Luke Bryan was named entertainer of the year – they owned Sunday’s ACM Awards" - Denver Post argues about the nature of last night's ceremony. "Carrie Underwood brought the Academy of Country Music Awards to church. Maren Morris won two honors, including song of the year. Miranda Lambert performed three times and held onto her record as the most decorated winner in ACM history. And Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman to host the awards show, gave a powerful, top-notch vocal performance".

"Cannabis is a very different social lubricant from alcohol. It heightens sensitivity to the emotional states of both yourself and those around you, rather than numbing everything into a blur. The intimacy and introspection that weed brings to a party is a different kind of energy that makes is well-suited to the need for post-pandemic healing in spaces of social reunification" - Rave New World newsletter writes ahead on 4/20 weed parties about to happen next week.

Ardalan in previous life

“I wouldn’t have a job right now if it wasn’t for Twitch” - DJ Ardalan says to Vice in a long-read about the transfer of DJs from clubs to Amazon's streaming service. For electronic dance music, Twitch has become a juggernaut. Paid partnerships with individual acts like Soul Clap, Seth Troxler, Justin Martin, and Ardalan show how Twitch is investing to attract more DJs to its platform.

Where body meets the mind
April 16, 2021

Street-hop - the evolving sound of Nigeria


"People just want to dance" - veteran producer and DJ Sarz says to DJ Mag about street-hop, ever-evolving sound of the 16-million people megacity of Lagos, Nigeria. It’s a mutating sound: even its most basic elements are in motion, influenced by hyperactive, ephemeral street trends. Dance music in Lagos is a percussion-heavy sound with a pitter-patter of percussive progression. DJ Mag speaks to some of street-hop’s key artists, like DJ Kaywise, Rexxie and Sarz, to find out how it’s evolved and where it’s going next.

Conspiracy theories also came from the left...
April 14, 2021

The right-wing is trying to take over protest music

Twisted Sister

The political right-wing has a history of using songs of leftist or rebellious nature for its cause, starting with Ronald Reagan who used Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the USA', to Boris Johnson who co-opted Clash, and Donald Trump who saw it fit to connect himself with Neil Young's 'Rockin' in the Free World'. The latest example comes from anti-lockdown protesters who, positioning themselves as oppressed, have contorted Twisted Sister’s 'We’re Not Gonna Take It' into an anti-mask anthem. Guardian makes a step in trying to explain it. "Co-opting is part of an effort to link conservatism to rebellion and the idea that to be conservative is to be rebellious. This crops up in younger conservatives" - says Jack Hamilton, a professor at University of Virginia. There is a way for the real freedom fighters to reclaim their culture - "what we can do is educate, empower and encourage people to listen with a critical ear” - says Kevin Fellezs, associate professor at Columbia University, who is researching “freedom musics”.

"Lil Nas X used one of America’s most reliable engines for cultural outrage to his advantage: the conservative media ecosystem... With the 'Montero' video, Nas affirmed his personal identity as one of vanishingly few out gay rappers by expressing himself as flamboyantly and unabashedly as possible. He actively courted the controversy, measuring his success by the outrage and teeth-gnashing of his opponents - an approach straight out of the conservative culture-war playbook" - Politico analyses how the rapper turned the weapons against the shooter. He was prepared for this social-media battle - "for years as a teenager, Nas operated a popular Twitter account that reposted and repurposed viral content... He understands all too well that in 2021, there may be no quicker way to pump oxygen into a brand than to let partisan politics do it for you".

Taylor Swift released 'Fearless (Taylor's Version)', a much-anticipated re-record of her 2008 pop breakthrough album. Since 2016, Wheatus have been working on a painstaking re-record of their 2000 debut. KISS, Blondie, DMX, Frank Sinatra and many more have made re-records of their biggest hits for their hits albums. Pre-Beatles rock artists, from '57 to '63, the 90 percent majority of them must have re-recorded their hits at some point or another in the last half century - as Andy Zax, a music producer specializing in historical and archival releases, assesses. In general, NPR puts it simply, the reasons for these re-records are simple: financial control and creative ownership.

Diddy wrote an open letter to highlight the low advertising revenue his network REVOLT gets from General Motors and how it reflects an inequity for Black-owned media companies. "In 2019, brands spent $239 billion on advertising. Less than 1% of that was invested in Black-owned media companies. Out of the roughly $3 billion General Motors spent on advertising, we estimate only $10 million was invested in Black-owned media... It’s disrespectful that the same community that represents 14% of the population and spends over $1.4 trillion annually is still the most economically undervalued and underserved at every level... Corporations like General Motors have exploited our culture, undermined our power, and excluded Black entrepreneurs from participating in the value created by Black consumers... We demand that Corporate America reinvest an equitable percentage of what you take from our community back into our community". His letter has gotten mixed reviews.

Independent touches the sensitive issue of doxxing, searching for and publishing private or identifying information about someone on the internet, typically with malicious intent. Pop critic Ann Powers endured a series of verbal attacks after an essay around Lana Del Rey's album 'Norman F***ing Rockwell!'. Pitchfork writer Jillian Mapes published a mostly positive review of Taylor Swift’s 'Folklore' only to be faced with threats, which included pictures of her home. Ariana Grande fans went after culture critic Roslyn Talusan in 2019 with the singer refusing to tell them to back off. So, journalism stays one of the few professions where the professional is too often expected to do their job not professionally.

"The premature loss of Earl 'DMX' Simmons labors as a frightening reminder that we, Black men, do not grow old, at least not nearly enough of us. Chadwick Boseman, Charlie Murphy, Bernie Mac, Nipsey Hussle, Prince, Heavy D, George Floyd, Gerald LeVert, Tupac Shakur, Notorious BIG, Prodigy (of Mobb Deep), J Dilla, Bernard Tyson, Fred the Godson. MF DOOM" - Consequence's Kahron Spearman writes on the sensitive issue, going into the wider societal and private contexts of the problem.

Master of masters
April 01, 2021

The breakdown: Why are master tapes important?

Master tapes are the direct result of all those hard days, weeks, and months in the studio. They’re the fully realized artistic vision, not just notes on a page, and their mismanagement can have enormous financial consequences - Quartz writes in its breakdown of owning your master tapes.

Can touch this
March 31, 2021

Cassettes' comeback - two explanations

The Conversations looks for reasons for cassette's comeback: Independent musicians have been looking to the sale of physical products and merchandise as a means of generating income. Cassettes actually represented a cost-effective means of providing a physical product, far cheaper than pressing a vinyl record and printing sleeves and packaging... Many people have reported feelings of digital detachment and alienation during the pandemic. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that a desire for something we can actually feel, embellished with a nostalgic glow from a COVID-free past, may also explain the resurgence of the audio cassette.

Call me when you've got better things to say
March 31, 2021

A lesson in social media: Lil Nas X's answers to 'Montero' critics

Lil Nas X had months to plan out a strategy for the release of his latest video 'Montero (Call Me By Your Name)', which sees him ending up in hell (for being gay, right?), and taking the crown of the devil himself, as Mashable has noticed. Rapper Joyner Lucas accused him of cheating on kids who liked 'Old Town Road', to which Lil Nas X answered "i literally sing about lean & adultery in old town road. u decided to let your child listen. blame yourself". South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was offended by the "Satan Shoes"; Lil Nas X believes she's got better things to do: "ur a whole governor and u on here tweeting about some damn shoes. do ur job!".

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