Since 1996, the so-called “Big Four” Grammy Awards - Album of The YearRecord of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist - have been awarded to 67 recipients. Of these, only five are hip-hop: Lauryn Hill (AOTY, Best New Artist); OutKast (AOTY); Chance The Rapper (Best New Artist); Childish Gambino (SOTY, ROTY); and Megan Thee Stallion (Best New Artist). The Grammy Awards’ holy trifecta – “AOTY”, “ROTY”, and “SOTY” – has eluded him despite nine nominations. How much more impact would Kendrick have had with one – let alone several – well-deserved Big Four win(s)? - Trapital asks in the latest newsletter.

Empty distance
June 23, 2022

Essay: The rise of dissociation music

h threats to our physical, psychological, and emotional well-being, and in order to feel safe and secure, we’ve had to get a bit more resourceful than usual. Enter dissociation, the response at the root of so much trauma" - Pitchfork introduces its longread about "dissociation culture", including "dissociation music". The author finds examples in songs by Mitski, Drakeo the Ruler, Black Midi, and many more.

Tablet Magazine published an interesting longread about Ariel Pink being cancelled after attending January 6 attempted coup d'état. "Rosenberg’s career is the story of how indie rock purged monsters that the culture had wrongly tolerated—or perhaps it’s the story of how even the most supposedly open sectors of the American creative scene abruptly slammed shut, losing any remaining patience for the complexities and cognitive dissonances that form the bulk of human existence. Both are really the same story, of how American culture got so stupid and so boring so quickly".

William Basinski

Ambient music has risen in popularity, Pitchfork is wondering what will this mean to artists and the genre itself: "There’s something perversely thrilling in the idea that listeners with little to no professed interest in experimental music might be served genuinely outré sounds under the auspices of self-care... But I have also wondered—when these playlists command so many listeners, and are so explicit in their presentation of the music as something to play while you’re doing something else—whether they might end up tipping the delicate balance of Eno’s famous dictate about ambient: away from the interesting and toward the ignorable".

Justin Timberlake has sold his song catalog - copyrights on musical compositions he wrote - to Hipgnosis Song Management. Hypgnosis bought 100 percent of Timberlake’s catalog, which includes hits such as 'SexyBack', 'Cry me a River', 'Rock Your Body', 'Suit and Tie' and 'Can’t Stop the Feeling', MBW reports. Justin Timberlake's sales are currently in excess of over 150 million, including 88 million as a solo artist and 70 million with NSYNC. He has 26.5 million monthly Spotify listeners, over 6.4 billion video views, and his total YouTube subscribers fast approaching 10 million.

ces by Pitchfork's Jeremy D. Larson: "As one of nearly half a billion people who pay a small fee to rent the vast majority of the history of recorded music—not to mention the 2 billion people per month who use YouTube for free—I have found that, after more than a decade under the influence, it has begun to reshape my relationship with music. I’m addicted to a relationship that I know is very bad for me. I know I am addicted to Spotify the same way I was addicted to nicotine or Twitter. It makes me happy, aggrieved, needlessly defensive". However - "the beauty of the algorithm of your mind is that it makes perfect sense to no one but yourself".

The Face asks whether Coachella is being transformed from a festival into a platform: "As hundreds of thousands influencers and festival-goers flocked to Indio, California for the festival over the past two weeks, an abundance of content surrounding everything except the music flooded the internet. The veil of manufacturing fun and doing things solely for the internet has lifted, begging the question: has Coachella transformed from music festival to content festival with music in the background? And what does that mean for festival style?".

"Recent rulings may herald a turning of the tide. It is hoped that the US appeal in Dark Horse and the UK court’s findings in Smith v Dryden and Sheeran v Chokri signal the end of a damaging, regressive culture of speculative claims over commonplace and, critically, much-loved musical elements" - lawyers Simon Goodbody and Mark Krais that represented Ed Sheeran in his recent copyright infringement bat

Trapital's Dan Runcie looks into the recent poor performance of Coi Leray's latest album, compared to his social media presence: "On most social media networks, it’s impossible to segment your followers into different categories. Are your fans there because they love your music? Or because they like you as a person? Or do they find your posts entertaining? Do they follow because they find you attractive? Or do they love the Shade Room-worthy posts you share and don’t want to miss the tea? For some artists, it’s all of those combined, but most of the time it’s not".

No Russian circles
April 18, 2022

Is there a point in cancelling Russian artists?

Alexander Malofeev

The Walrus looks into the wave of cancelling shows by Russian artists in tbh West: "If they have any impact at all, the cancellations may play into the Russian regime’s narrative about the 'hostile' acts of the 'collective West'—a characterization of NATO that serves as a philosophical counterpoint, socioeconomic scapegoat, and Russophobic supervillain in Putin’s rhetoric. To the extent that the Kremlin is aware that there’s a little less Tchaikovsky being played or that a Russian kid isn’t touring, the cancellations are serving as confirmation that the West is waging a cultural war against Russia. But the impact on artists is potentially significant, not least because artists are already usually in a state of financial precarity. Undermining them professionally, silencing their work, and pressuring them to speak out against the war at their own risk not only fails to do anything to support Ukraine, it’s also unfair to the artists, many of whose work tends to be antiwar".

March 27, 2022

TikTok "ruining" our favorite artists

"TikTok app is being blamed for the ‘TikTokification’ of music, but not only by adults who don’t understand it" - The Forty-Five notices a trend. "Urban Dictionary defines ‘TikTokification’ as, 'A song that was once amazing is now the worst thanks to TikTok'. While it’s true that trending music can get stuck in your head until you can’t bear to listen to your favourite song anymore, the complaint also reveals an online discourse that treats fans who discover music through TikTok as less authentic and respectful than fans who discover it elsewhere."

"Every time I pop out, I keep running into fools talking on the dancefloor. Just standing around, chitty-chatting" - Michelle Lhooq is frustrated and angry in her latest post. She also gives the oblivious a scientific explanation of the dancefloor: "The key to a popping dancefloor is ENERGY CIRCULATION. The DJ opens the portal and radiates nrg through the speakers, which disseminates through the dancers and twists into an atmospheric vortex. So when Chatty Kathys cluster by the DJ booth, ya’ll create ENERGY BLOCKS right at the power source, siphoning radiance with your black hole of self-absorption. This is not your aunty’s tea party. We out here exorcising demons. Out here for dissolution, for relief, for fucking feeling something—not networking!!!".

"Indie artists like Roc Marciano, R.A.P. Ferreira, and more have incorporated DSP-sidestepping, direct-to-consumer models for years. But now, some mainstream artists like Kanye West, who is selling 'Donda 2' on his $200 Stem Player, are divesting from DSPs, and the reaction to it has been a mixed bag" - Complex goes on to question the motives of artists pulling their music from the big three streaming platforms.

Torquil Campbell

"COVID-19 is only the most recent, and acute, setback for independent acts, some of whom have argued that streaming revenue alone doesn’t provide enough money to pay the bills. That reality, coupled with the loss of earnings from touring, has led... artists to turn to the centuries-old model of individual song commissions – and some are seeing substantial returns" - Billboard reports about artists writing songs directly for their fans. Seemingly, it's working out just fine - Torquil Campbell, co-lead singer/songwriter of the Montreal-based indie band Stars has this year received over 70 commissions for $1,000 each.

Classical music magazine tries to give a distinction between the musician and the country: "On the surface, there is nothing wrong with a Russian government-sanctioned celebration of a celebrated Russian composer. But nothing is superficial in Putin’s Russia. To uncritically hail Rachmaninov as an icon of Russian national culture erases the composer’s own complicated relationship with the land he left behind. It is desperately ironic that Rachmaninov’s experience–being held personally accountable for the actions of a government he despised–is being repeated with Russian artists who have no connection to their government, in the rush to condemn Putin’s horrific invasion of Ukraine".

"Incorporating everything from Mayan flutes to medieval choirs to ancient Mediterranean pots, contemporary producers are looking to the past to help unlock the present"- Pitchfork writes introducing their piece about a new wave of electronic music. "Shuttling between avant-garde contexts and popular celebrations", this new wave is "a link to the past that refused to be stuck there".

Van Magazine talked to four teenage musicians from the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine and their orchestral manager, Alexandra Zaytseva, about the situation on the ground and the small consolations of music in a state of high alert. Uliana (16) from Kyiv who plays viola, shared some sad thoughts: "I played my viola for five minutes yesterday. Just so that my instrument knows it’s OK. My viola was very out of tune; instruments feel. My viola is at home, under my bed. It’s very important to me. It might get damaged, because rockets have been hitting the higher floors of buildings".Give Kyin a chance

Pitchfork looks beyond the news about video-games company taking over beloved music streaming service. "Epic’s history suggests a pattern of reinvention, with several major realignments of priorities based on the gaming industry’s prevailing winds. Bandcamp’s growth has been relatively slow and steady, and runs counter to mainstream business models by putting the needs of artists first".

"Nightclubs and music venues have been closed since March 2020, disco lights are banned, and DJs are prohibited from playing on 'raised podiums' or mixing tracks in case, god forbid, this encourages dancing" - Rave New World's Michelle Lhooq looks across the ocean into Singapore night-scene. She points out "the moratorium on partying feels like a morality-tinged repudiation on the value of electronic music culture: classical music concerts have returned, pop bangers blast at indoor spin classes, church choirs sing maskless, yet the country is still waiting for a tiny cadre of four or five top officials to decide when clubs can reopen".

Forgot about football
February 15, 2022

What did the media say about Super Bowl halftime show?

"This was hip-hop playing the long game, taking its presence and acceptance as an achievement, conceding that the gatekeepers want a level of assimilation with their authenticity" - Pitchfork looks into the Super Bowl, the first-ever hip-hop halftime show. Rolling Stone calls it "a triumph", whereas BBC asks "did too many hooks spoil the broth?". Watch it here.

Black is the color...
February 04, 2022

A new wave of ambient music - uncomfortable!

"For years, ambient music has carried connotations of comfort, even wellness. New Age’s hipper, younger cousin, it’s considered the ideal soundtrack for spas, meditation, and guided trips" - Pitchfork introduces the new generation of ambient music. "Their take is darker, fuzzier, more psychedelic—and more disturbing. It’s also more unpredictable: Variously influenced by genres including industrial, dub techno, and IDM, it’s pocked with trap doors and secret passageways, and released on a network of DIY labels where even the most bucolic chill-out soundtrack might be followed by a harrowing blast of noise".

MBW founder Tim Ingham discusses Neil Young’s decision to remove his catalog from Spotify in protest to what he deems Covid-19 misinformation appearing on the platform, on Talking Trends podcast: “Ultimately, people aren’t loyal to music streaming services, whatever playlists they’ve built – they’re loyal to the artists they love. Fans will spend hundreds of dollars they don’t have, sitting next to a drug addled lunatic on a long night-bus ride, walk hours in the pissing rain, just to attend a Neil Young concert. They’ll switch music streaming provider with a waggle of their thumb”.

Napkin Math and Trapital share an essay on Spotify: "Through a combination of convenience, partnerships with rights holders, and on-demand listening, it outlasted music piracy and beat legacy platforms like iTunes. It has built the business that saved the music industry. In October 2021, the company had 381 million monthly active users and was growing 19% year over year... Spotify wins because it has what matters most—attention. Spotify is the primary distribution tool for the biggest artists in the world. It has amplified attention for genres that were held back before the streaming era. The company is now on a mission to capture attention for all forms of audio. It is the attention king".

Heart at young
January 31, 2022

Ted Gioia: Is old music killing new music?

Give Sons of Kemet a chance

"Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market... But the news gets worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking. All the growth in the market is coming from old songs... Those who make a living from new music—especially that endangered species known as the working musician—should look at these figures with fear and trembling" - music writer Ted Gioia writes about the status of new music in the Atlantic.

Billboard calculates losses Neil Yung and Joni Mitchell are going to have due to their withdrawal from Spotify: "At an estimated $2.8 million in streaming royalties last year, Young’s decision will forego about $1.2 million each year for him and his label, Warner Music/Reprise (Spotify accounted for about 43%). Of that, Young likely received half — $600,000. On top of that, Young earned $308,000 in publishing revenue from Spotify last year. Half of that — $154,000 — he would receive for the songwriter share with the other half going to Hipgnosis Songs. For Young, personally, the decision to pull his music from Spotify will cost him about $754,000 annually. In 2021, Mitchell’s recording catalog earned $373,000 from Spotify revenues. Like Young, Mitchell’s heritage contract likely earns her half of those revenues, adding up to about $186,500 in artist royalties she is foregoing. Her publishing, including her songwriting share, earned about $702,000 annually, of which about 11% — $79,000 — came from Spotify. Mitchell’s personal annual loss, based on her catalog’s performance for 2021, would be about $257,000 in total artist and publishing royalties", Billboard estimates.

LA Times traces Neil Young's fights against corporations throughout his career: "Over the decades, Young has made the news for indicting: MTV’s corporate ties; musical peers including Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones for earning millions selling their music for commercials; record mogul David Geffen’s market-driven tastes; Monsanto and corporate control of family farms; the owner of Lionel trains for announcing its closure (Young ended up buying the company); the sonic inferiority of compact discs; and the ways in which tech companies have been willing to compromise on audio quality for bigger profit margins".

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".

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