The New Yorker looks into the very successful career of NBA YoungBoy: "It is easier than ever to be a hit by all of the industry’s standard performance metrics and still go unnoticed by the general public—to have an enormous following that barely registers within the wider pop-culture ecosystem. This occurrence is, first and foremost, the by-product of a streaming infrastructure that uses a plays-per-song model to approximate record sales—a system that allows artists to bypass the old display stand, even if they risk anonymity. But it also illustrates a gap between what is promoted and what is popular".

Rob Sheffield writes a lovely ode to the CD (not sure he really proved the CDs are back, although in 2021, CD sales increased for the first time in 17 years): "It’s an inarguable fact that music sales reached their all-time peak when the CD was king. No audio device did a sharper job of separating fans from their 20-dollar bills. People loved to buy those digital discs, in numbers that look crazy now. We all spent the Nineties going to the 'record store' ('CD stores' never existed, even though most record stores had no vinyl), browsing the racks, taking something weird home, listening all the way through. You invested time and emotional energy, instead of giving up quick as you do with streams. The disc encouraged you to turn off your 'meh' reflex and let yourself hear whatever weird shit was going on".

Reduse, response, recover
January 07, 2022

Michelle Lhooq: Harm reduction is becoming cool

Rave New World's Michelle Lhooq goes into "hard reduction", a public health philosophy that is moving from the fringes to the center of the cultural zeitgeist. The clubber talked to Ripley Soprano, editor-in-chief of Dirty magazine: "When I think about harm reduction, I think of whore and junkie magic. It exists in some middle ground between science, community work, and public health medicine. Dirty is about broadening people’s perception of joy so they can make their own autonomous health decisions, like whether or not they want to use drugs, and just having stuff to live for. Which feels like a very downtown New Work ethos, not like what exists now".

Music writer Cherie Hu had gathered "over 40 of our community members across industries, geographies, career stages and skill sets... to try to make sense of the immense challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for music/Web3's future. The result is a first-of-its-kind, five-part syllabus on the state of music/Web3, with a selection of clear market maps, best practices and calls to action for music-industry stakeholders to use Web3 as a tool for fostering a more innovative, sustainable and equitable environment for everyone involved". Read it.

The waltz revolution
December 28, 2021

Elizabeth Claire on the dangers of waltz

The MIT Press Reader published what is actually a funny essay about the first reactions to waltz when it came to Germany and France at the beginning of the 18th century: "The German poet Ernst Moritz Arndt described the French 'nationalization of this German dance' in moralizing terms: The closed-couple hold, he said, allowed the male dancers to squeeze “the lady dancers as close as possible against themselves” while placing their hands “firmly on the breasts” of their partners... Partners experimented with a vertigo whose centrifugal force and intoxication 'exhausted' their bodies and 'heated' their imaginations. Through touch, the exchange of perspiration, and a rapidity that solicited the imaginations of the dancers embracing one another, the dazzling intimacy of the waltz was said to produce a ravishment that — according to the doctors who described it — menaced the health of an entire generation of youth" - 🙂 .

Dance me to the end of Covid
December 24, 2021

The Face: The bittersweet return of the rave

"This year, we finally got to dance together again. But due to dodgy drugs, heightened concerns about women’s safety and the politically polarising impact of the pandemic, the euphoria was tainted with a darker vibe" - The Face looks back at the UK dance scene in 2021. The writer Chal Ravens adds: "The history of club culture demonstrates that raving was never intended to be a government-sanctioned activity; dance music has almost always existed in opposition to the state and its racist and homophobic laws. But the healthy suspicion of authority that permeates the nightlife milieu is useless without an analysis on which to base our grievances. A tinfoil hat is not a political position".

"He was easily the most original artist from the West Coast in a generation. In his music, he had the unique ability to make death, with its cheap suit and bad manners, seem like a droll, if malevolent, snake-oil salesman. His low-key register made him sound like he just woke up, looming like a groggy gangster who’d decided to spend the day cracking inappropriate jokes" - Rolling Stone looks back at the music of the slain rapper.

"Rappers like Young Thug and Lil Nas X incorporate rock sounds just as the Beatles and the Stones appropriated rhythm and blues, the category of rock itself seems to be reconstituting itself. Band guys are still around, many making great music. But they're sharing space and the culture is better for it" - NPR writes in its interesting essay about the nature of the band.

"Clearly, we need more tailored solutions for creators. The billions of dollars poured into the creator economy might suggest that the space is oversaturated, but that’s far from the truth. There are tons of burgeoning hobbyists who need help with marketing. For rising multi-hyphenates... the opportunities are there. But the tools are not keeping up" - Dan Runcie said in his call to the tech industry to offer creators technology they need.

A reminder to Dan Runcie's earlier essay: "Jay-Z, Rihanna, Kanye West are on the top shelf of rap’s new-money class. They became world-famous millionaires through the music industry, but realized they would have to sell more than music to become billionaires. The 'Run This Town' trio used music as the gateway, then capitalized on their influence at the height of their fame. Jay-Z made bank from selling Ace of Spades champagne and investing in startups. Rihanna built her Fenty empire into multiple brands. And Ye has sold so many Yeezys he’s probably lost count. The bottom line? Star power gets you in the door, but to maximize your platform, you need to sell something authentic that customers want to keep buying".

Moving meridians
December 12, 2021

Amapiano - the go-to sound of post-lockdown UK

"Having surged in global popularity in the spring last year, the genre – which developed in the townships of Gauteng in the early-to-mid-2010s – became 2021’s hottest sound of London’s post-lockdown nightlife. As Covid restrictions eased in late summer, UK nightlife pounced back into action. Venues like Brixton Jamm, Boxpark Shoreditch and Hackney’s Colour Factory started amapiano parties, while Days Like This teamed up with legendary twin brother-duo Major League DJz for a night of deep excavation into the Afro-house sound" - The Face looks into the South African genre moving into the UK.

The consequence of 2021
December 06, 2021

Consequence's artist of the year: Lil Nas X

"There wasn’t another artist in 2021 who dominated headlines, charts, and streams the way Lil Nas X did, all while delivering thought-provoking art pieces and promises of more to come. A star was born a few years ago, and now he’s arrived, more of a burning comet. Consequence is thrilled to name Lil Nas X our 2021 Artist of the Year".

"The insurmountable rise of Lil Nas X, Billy Porter, and other artists represents a paradigm shift in the culture" - Rolling Stone writes in the introduction of its piece about the year of the Black queers. "Who could have fathomed that Black queer men would be at the top of the charts, in Congress, and on TV and movie screens? We’re living in a world where not only is the Black queer community being embraced, but those who show us hate are being disgraced".

"Songs created Silicon Valley. Without music, it wouldn’t exist. In each key area of technology—semiconductors, storage, handheld devices, video displays, test equipment, etc.—funds to launch and grow the tech titans came from the entertainment industry, and especially the music business... No, you won’t hear that story told inside the fortresses of Google or Facebook or Apple. They battle with Hollywood studios and major labels nowadays, fighting over customers, copyrights, legislation, royalty payments, and many other matters" - music writer Ted Gioia points out in his great post.

"On Royal, the new NFT marketplace, artists can share ownership of their music with fans by issuing NFTs as a limited digital asset. Those NFTs may eventually include invites to events, community access, VIP experiences, merch, and more" - Trapital's Dan Runcie looks into the new platform, and adds - "Royal’s best value-prop is the opportunity for artists to identify and serve their earliest fans".

Muna

NPR delves into "sapphic" or "wlw" (woman-loving woman) music genre, which encompasses lesbians, bisexual women, and other women and femme people who experience attraction to other women. Among lesbian and bisexual musicians, the descriptors of "sapphic" and "wlw" are most commonly associated with the music of rising Gen Z stars like Clairo, girl in red, and King Princess. In September the pop group MUNA, in collaboration with so-called sapphic icon Phoebe Bridgers, released what was arguably the first song specifically engineered to be received as a sapphic anthem: 'Silk Chiffon'.

"Cancel your Dec. 5 performance in Saudi Arabia. This is a unique opportunity to send a powerful message to the world that your name and talent will not be used to restore the reputation of a regime that kills its critics" - Hatize Cengiz, fiance of the late journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, wrote in an open letter to Justin Bieber. "Do not sing for the murderers of my beloved Jamal. Please speak out and condemn his killer, Mohammed bin Salman. Your voice will be heard by millions. If you refuse to be a pawn of MBS, your message will be loud and clear: I do not perform for dictators. I choose justice and freedom over money".

Inspired by the tragedy at the Astroworld, where nine fans died, Slate remembers huge 1960s festivals Woodstock and Altamont where fans also died due to poor organizing and places being overcrowded. The black highpoint of the 1970s arena rock came in 1969 at the The Who concert at Riverfront Coliseum where 11 fans died. When punk came, it brought its own DIY-ethos, much smaller venues, and the podium where "orchestrated chaos" of pogo-dancing seemed dangerous, whereas actually "watch-your-peers" rule made everyone much safer. A great point, Slate!

Trapital's Dan Runcie looks into the latest trend in the music business - bands made up of animated apes: "Last week, the music industry made two big swings with non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Both Universal Music Group and Timbaland’s new company Ape-In Productions have each started new music groups comprised of cartoon ape characters from the Bored Ape Yacht Club digital art collective. UMG’s group is called KINGSHIP, and Timbaland’s group is TheZoo".

"Has the music industry finally started to wake up and smell the burning forests?" - The Face writes in its introduction to the article about music and climate change. The Face breaks down some efforts being made in music streaming, vinyl, festivals, NFT, and touring in order to help the environment.

Trapital's Dan Runcie looks for reasons for the Astroworld Fest tragedy which left eight people dead, and many injured:

  • "More police officers and security guards were needed in the crowd and at the front of the stage
  • Crowds could have been grouped into areas to better manage spacing
  • Astroworld had two stages. One where eight artists performed in succession, and the other where Travis Scott performed at the end. Travis’ super fans posted up at his stage up to eight hours before his 8:45pm start time
  • The last set before Travis ended 45 minutes before Travis started, which created a huge rush of people
  • Astroworld failed to 'spread the field' by having multiple headliners at the same time"

Runcie also has a few predictions: "In the future, we’ll likely see better-positioned security, medical staff, and police officers, and more care put into logistics and spacing. That will translate to higher costs, higher insurance premiums for future events, and higher ticket prices for consumers".

Banksy's hip-hop rat

"Almost since it first emerged on the streets of the Bronx, audiences have expected hip-hop to express a revolutionary purpose. But perhaps this music shouldn’t have to take a political stand" - music critic Kelefa Sanneh argues in his latest Guardian podcast about the expectations from hip-hop. "Rapping often makes people self-conscious" - Sanneh points out. Reads the text version here.

Adele's '30' was turned into manufacturers more than six months ago in order to combat the recent worldwide vinyl shortage — caused by unprecedented, pandemic-related demand, supply-chain disruptions and an increase in manufacturing prices — that has left many artists waiting months after an album's digital release for vinyl records - Variety reports on the curious case. Adele's choke-hold on the music industry meant she was able to book up already-overbooked vinyl plants in order to rush-order pressings so that they would arrive alongside '30''s digital release. Sony also made the decision to "push catalogue titles off its overseas pressing plants to ensure there won't be any shortage of Adele LPs going into the holidays". Over 500,000 copies of '30' were pressed and will now be hitting stores on November 19, while pressings from smaller artists and imprints — who often rely on vinyl sales in order to survive — are now delayed even further (some until 2022) in order to accommodate the blockbuster release.

"The creator economy is growing much more quickly than the music streaming economy right now, by multiple measures" - music/tech analyst Cherie Hu argues in her latest post. She continues: "For instance, while the number of audio creators on Spotify roughly doubled from 2018 to 2021, the overall number of creators using Stripe grew by 8x over the same time period. In terms of revenue, certain subsectors of the creator economy are growing as much as 8x faster as music streaming. According to Stripe, community platforms like Luma have seen a 150% increase in revenue year-over-year in 2021 — far outpacing the 25% year-over-year revenue growth that Spotify reported this quarter, and the 17% year-over-year growth that the IFPI last reported for the entire global music streaming market in 2020".

LGBTQI royals
November 06, 2021

How Abba became gay icons?

"Lesbian separatists and gay male misogynists might grumble, but most of us relish ABBA’s unmatched gender parity and equality. Being strong women and sensitive men who love and respect one another is central to the group’s alchemy as well as its enduring LGBTQ appeal" - LA Times argues in its article about how two Swedish hetero couples became gay icons.

“Whenever my band upload a new video, there will always be comments on how I look,  people debating if they would have sex with me. I never see comments of this shallow nature directed to the three men in Svalbard. Ever. They get treated as musicians, I don't. I get treated as a sex object” - Svalbard’s Serena Cherry makes a perfect point in Loudwire’s article about double standards in rock music, which leads, of course, to sexism.

Back after a server revamp
October 29, 2021

Essay: How pop music embraced grotesque and gory aesthetics

Pitchfork got inspired by the latest Ed Sheeran video and published an essay about gory aesthetics in pop music: "This stylized imagery, heinous and perversely hilarious, was once foreign to the purview of chart-topping pop stars. For years it was weaponized by hard rock and experimental artists who sought similar extremes in their music. Dating back to the late ’60s, metal and its spawn of heavier subgenres have long been the cradle of horrific stimuli—all on some Satanic mission to corrupt the American teen, as the Christian right often argued. But in the past 13 years, the gruesome and gory has been liberated from that stronghold and embraced by the status quo".

Metallica have offered their band wisdom via MasterClass, as the first band to give a class on the streaming platform. In the course, they teach strategies for growing and staying together as a band, how to collaborate creatively, and develop and maintain a relationship with an audience, among other topics. The importance of communication is key - the band members point out.

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