"Gig-going has become kind of… chaotic recently. Audience members heckling artists with crude comments, people playing games on their phones mid-performance for TikTok clout, fans bombarding artists with objects (yes, literal objects) – unhinged behaviour at live shows seems to have become commonplace. Expected, even. So what gives?" - Vice tries to find some answers.

We are never ever getting apart
November 29, 2022

Denisha Kuhlor: The sky’s the limit for the depths of fandom

The founder of Stan, Denisha Kuhlor, shares her thoughts on Taylor Swift's relationship with her fans: " Streaming and social media have ushered in a new era of fandom for which long-term value is being created in real-time. As a result of how parasocial relationships are now formed and cultivated, the sky’s the limit for the depths of fandom that can be sustained over time through individual artists. If done right, artists can use these tools to effectively maintain a relationship with their fans during the different cycles in their career allowing them to unlock their patronage at the precise time that they are ready regardless of how long that time is".

Money makes the ball go round
November 28, 2022

The Face: Why are international acts performing in Qatar?

An interesting text to think about in The Face about musicians taking part in the 2022 World Cup: "Looking at the expansive musical programming around the Qatar World Cup, it seems like international acts taking these dirty cheques has become more normalised. The question for artists is whether they want to be complicit in this culture-washing, and whether or not they actually believe that reaching fans in far-flung places is a good enough excuse. When it comes to moral gymnastics, it seems a big booking fee can be quite the performance enhancer".

New Tedium writer Chris Dalla Riva looked at what has caused the disappearance of key change in pop music: "As hip-hop grew in popularity, the use of computers in recording also exploded too. Whereas the guitar and piano lend themselves to certain keys, the computer is key-agnostic. If I record a song in the key of C major into digital recording software, like Logic or ProTools, and then decide I don’t like that key, I don’t have to play it again in that new key. I can just use my software to shift it into that different key. I’m no longer constrained by my instrument".

Ramy Essam, Egyptian musician and revolutionary

Mark Levine, author of 'We’ll Play Till We Die' and 'Heavy Metal Islam' looks into the power of music in Muslim countries. "The training and skills necessary to create a DIY music scene in a culturally and politically hostile culture overlapped significantly with the skills needed to create independent political subcultures capable of challenging and transforming patriarchal and authoritarian systems"- Levine writes. However, "looking back on the last two decades, it was clear that while music and art can help make revolution irresistible to large numbers of people, they don’t make its success inevitable or even likely. States often ramp up violent repression and deploy equally powerful aesthetic and affective tropes, imagery, narratives and identities to counteract the power of art".

The price of prices
November 22, 2022

Dan Runcie: How concert demand has skyrocketed

Trapital's Dan Runcie looks into the Taylor Swift - Ticketmaster situation in his latest memo, and points out to the decision that most artists need to make:

  • "If artists keep ticket prices lower, then more of their superfans who aren’t as rich can attend. The drawbacks are that lower revenue will put pressure on the artist to keep production costs low. That means that the artist’s show may not keep up with peer artists who still have lavish productions and may make more revenue as a result and capture more headlines.

  • Alternatively, if artists keep prices higher to match demand, then the artist can maximize their profit per show, spend less time on the road, earn more money to put toward other interests. But this creates a concert experience for the fans most willing to pay, not necessarily the most passionate fans".

A very interesting Complex essay: "The exploitation of Black rappers’ deaths is part of a larger societal truth as it pertains to modern day media and social media consumption. When digital natives are committed to documenting each and every moment, death simply falls in line with that as one of the more grander, more scandalous forms of activity. In a toxic environment prioritizing clicks, engagement, and reach, blogs and individuals fall in line, scrambling to be first—however disastrous that quest is. In the content economy, rap is discarded, as a lack of due diligence echoes on and a lack of care toward Black rappers—and presumption that these rappers are destined for death—lingers. (Artist relations specialist Karlie) Hustle concludes, 'Death as ‘online content’ is a cultural failure in an attention economy'”.

In 2021, music copyright was worth $39.6bn, up 18 percent from 2020, and considerably more than 2011, when global value of recorded music was $28.3bn. Labels are seeing 65% of all the value, whereas publishers are at 35%. Another number - streaming is making up 55% of the total. Tarzan Economics has all the numbers.

"Although the lack of tourism had a catastrophic effect on jobs and livelihoods, it had a positive influence on biodiversity and the environment. Now Ibiza is facing something of an identity crisis. The question has been raised: is this model of tourism actually sustainable? And if not, how does Ibiza move forward while keeping its title as the world's greatest clubbing destination?" - Mix Mag asks the essential question in the wake of the climate crisis and biodiversity crises, ath the closing of Ibiza's longest ever season.

"If I were in a particularly cynical mood, I might claim that Milli Vanilli anticipated the future of the music industry better than any other new act from that era" - Ted Gioia argues in favor of the German band, asking for their Grammy award be returned. "True, they put more faith in technology than authenticity, but couldn’t you say the same for the algorithm-crazed music business of the current moment? By the same token, they knew how to act the part of celebrities, with the right attitudes and moves, while relying on a team of helpers to fill in the gaps—much like most superstars do today. Most important of all, they had more skills as influencers than vocalists, but that too shows how much they were ahead of their time. Back then it was fraud. Nowadays it’s a winning formula for Instagram and TikTok".

Bigger and not bigger
November 02, 2022

Trapital: Where does hip-hop go from here?

In 2018, hip-hop became the U.S. most popular genre of music. In 2022, hip-hop is still on top, and its revenues
are still growing, but after nearly a decade of market share growth, hip-hop’s share of total revenue has declined. Trapital’s first-ever culture report found three key drivers behind the trend:

1. Streaming’s continued growth

2. Early-mover advantages don’t last

3. The end of bundles and the limited vinyl supply

Life and death
October 25, 2022

Eamonn Forde: Live music is falling apart

musicians: "One is left with the impression of live music very quickly switching from a wheel that raises artists to a wheel that razes them. The paradox of live is that it is squeezing the very life out of musicians. Live = death... Previously the bulk of what the live business had to worry about was breaking even; now everybody in live must be focused on preventing everything and everyone in the ecosystem from breaking down"

What it means to be a man
October 18, 2022

Ann Powers: Love songs of a dirtbag

"Critiquing masculinity while maintaining his position within the enduring hierarchies that put those bad boys on top, he's the one you love to roll your eyes at. He's a dirtbag, baby, in a long line of antiheroes who interrogate the shapes of male privilege from the inside, even as they benefit from its persistence" - NPR's Ann Powers writes in a great text about Matt Healy, and his latest album with The 1975, 'Being Funny in a Foreign Language'. She questions the "dirtbag": "When it comes to creating alternatives to the patriarchal status quo, men actually have to surrender some privilege, not merely question the effect an elevated status has on their own souls. This can be a painful realization, a disappointment. But it also opens up new possibilities, pointing toward a life that might be less damaging to others, and less lonely".

"I’m sorry to break the first cardinal rule of Berlin nightlife—you don’t talk about Berghain—but when I pull up to the club and see a factory line of black silhouettes wearing the exact same BDSM harnesses from Amazon.com … biiiiiitch! I cannot resist going in. I mean, come on. That shit looks like a meme" - clubs&drugs lover Michelle Lhooq writes in her latest Instagram about the famous club. "I hit the Berg three times during my trip, and every occasion felt like a hollow simulation, like taking a soulless ride through techno Disneyland. It was as if a meta-level of self-consciousness was hanging over the club - an acute awareness that THIS IS BERGHAIN. Half the dancefloor looked like they stepped off the Balenciaga runway, and the bug-eyed models stomping around on designer amphetamines were actually terrifying. Dabauchery didn't look like an act of debasement but a way of fitting into a proscribed lifestyle".

Seriously funny
October 13, 2022

What is "viral jazz"?

WRTI shares a lovely text about "viral jazz" describing it as "aesthetic rather than a set of quantifiable viewer metrics". DOMi & JD Beck, and Louis Cole are two of the acts from the new movement, which The New York Times Magazine has described as "both radically sophisticated and full of jokes, a combination of qualities you find in both the 20th century's jazz greats and the 21st century's extremely online teenagers".

Mistakes throw
October 13, 2022

Piotr Orlov: Are errors ever actually errors?

"An entire history of innovations in recorded music could be told through the lens of so-called musical mistakes. Do they even exist? At the level of intention, are errors ever actually errors?" - Piotr Orlov writes in a beautiful essay about 'Dilla Time', the new biography of legendary Detroit hip-hop producer James Dewitt Yancey, Jr. (aka J Dilla or Jay Dee) by journalist and NYU professor Dan Charnas. "What might the musical future look like when its supposed mistakes and proficiencies are based primarily on sets of data? ... Aren’t what previous generations’ power brokers dictated as errors turning out to be some pretty decent guides to a mindful development of th

"Among Kanye’s West’s defenders, the thinking goes like this: He is a genius, a freethinker, an elevated conscience" - The New York Times' opinion piece goes. However - "Kanye is just a Black man who discovered Black conservatism and thinks it’s enlightenment. There is nothing complex or mysterious about it. He’s a Black man parroting white supremacy, while far too many brush it off, continue dancing to his music, and wear his clothes. West is a Black man sampling vintage anti-Black racism, remixing and releasing it under a new label: the tortured Black genius".

White noise is the music industry’s next big thing. Streaming services have seen an explosion of tracks in the last year consisting entirely of hissing, humming, fizzing and other varieties of radio static, as well as recordings of rainfall, ocean waves and crackling bonfires. Some of the recordings have earned their creators millions of pounds. Record companies and tech firms have taken notice" - Guardian is looking into the into the interesting phenomenon.

"When we try to define what country music is, what could possibly tie together a genre with such wide aesthetic variance and complex history, those two occasionally contradictory arcs—nostalgia for some mythic, bygone rural idyll paired with unapologetic candor and sharp observation—more or less sum it up. When we’re looking at Loretta, we are indeed looking at country" - Esquire writes after the passing of Loretta Lynn. Vulture goes deeper:  "She wrote true stories ripped from real rural life about what it meant to be a woman".

Dedicated music listeners are quitting streaming services trying to grapple with the unethical economics of streaming companies, and feel the effects of engagement-obsessed, habit-forming business models on their own listening and discovery habits - Guardian looks into the change of music hearts. “With streaming, things were starting to become quite throwaway and disposable. If I didn’t gel with an album or an artist’s work at first, I tended not to go back to it” - says Finlay Shakespeare, Bristol-based musician and audio engineer who quit his streaming service account, after he realised that a lot of his all-time favourite albums were ones that grew on him over time. “Streaming was actually contributing to some degree of dismissal of new music.” The G suggests six ways to find new music…

"Music is now so abundant as to be completely overwhelming in its availability, and that listeners, faced with everything at once, are increasingly playing it safe and sticking with the tried-and-tested" - Guardian's Alexis Petridis writes exploring the supposed disappearance of music discovery. He believes getting music placed on a TV show, film, advertisement or TikTok video can help. However "music discovery and consumption in 2022 is a weird, confounding, counterintuitive and strangely fascinating place, where the traditional ways of doing things have been completely overturned, but it isn’t entirely clear what’s replaced them".

MBW investigated a curious case of an obscure artist/record label, variously known as Diversify and Variegate, who was/were profiting by purposely tagging big-name artists as primary collaborators, thus reaching said artists’ fanbases via algorithmic music delivery systems like Spotify’s Release Radar? "One suspects DSPs will eventually offer some widespread form of 'profile locking' that prevents fake uploads. But until then,  highly inventive 'artists' can  drive millions of streams – conservatively earning tens of thousands of dollars each – from the distribution of songs with intentionally incorrect metadata".

Beyoncé and Lizzo amended their songs following criticism by fans on social media. The Face argues in favor of the (responsible) power of the people: "In the case of ​“sp*z” and derogatory terms in music, cultural customs (i.e. the use of problematic terms when ignorant) don’t necessarily align with the ​“right” and ​“justified” action in real time. Values change over time, and so does the context of certain words. It’s OK for artists to learn, like every flawed human on the planet. Evolution and dismantling harmful practices is something to be embraced and welcomed, not scrutinised. These days, artists are scanning social media for feedback and potential edit suggestions. Let’s hope the fans use their power responsibly".

Trapital's founder Dan Runcie stopped to think about this Talib Kweli's quote: “I was touring before the pandemic. I was doing 200 shows a year… how was I doing that? That’s not sustainable. I was on some superhuman shit… I got a lot of shows coming up, but I can’t let it get back to 200 a year… 20 years straight, I did that for 20 years”. Runcie concludes "artists really have to love living on the road to do it for that many nights per year. It’s ironic to think about the touring grind given the remote work vs in-office debates in Corporate America. Many 9 – 5 workers will never go back to a job that requires them to commute 200+ days per year again. Imagine doing that in a different city every night?! Artists’ travel is on another level".

Leave out zeros and ones
July 27, 2022

Essay: Do we want what the machines tell us we want?

generated recommendations, means: "Besieged by automated recommendations, we are left to guess exactly how they are influencing us, feeling in some moments misperceived or misled and in other moments clocked with eerie precision. At times, the computer sometimes seems more in control of our choices than we are".

In no mood for genre
July 19, 2022

Essay: Why mood is the new musical genre

"Listeners—especially young ones—are not concerned with what category each track falls under, but instead in how each track makes them feel. The abundance of homemade playlists coupled with the popularity of experimentation has made the fixation on traditional genres akin to insisting that the guy has to pay for dinner on a first date... Organizing music by mood finds promise in one simple fact: some people can’t tell you what genre a song falls under, but everyone can tell you how it makes them feel" - Tiffany Ng points out in her new essay about genre-less times.

“We’ll be hearing about it for the next 10 years at least, in terms of a reference point in marketing meetings” - Jonathan Palmer of record label and music publisher BMG, said about the "boom" of Kate Bush's 'Running Up That Hill' after being used in 'Stranger Things'. The same is happening with Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' since being used in the show's finale earlier this month. Last year we've seen a similar pattern with TikTok. "The triple bonanza of a TV sync spiralling into music streaming services and TikTok is something that cannot be orchestrated though, only capitalised upon" - Guardian points out.

People are strange, wher your music is strange
July 06, 2022

An interesting thought about "weird" music

Jennifer Lucy Allan shared an interesting thought about "weird" music in a Music Journalism Insider interview: I think there’s something deeply conservative about pointing out something’s weird, I always imagine it being said in inverted commas, or with a sneer. Even worse is using it with pride to distance yourself from so-called pop music. It’s not weird music, it’s unfamiliar music—often unfamiliar to you. The logical conclusion of this is a stagnation of the mind and the ear. Total nightmare.

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.

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