"Although free speech remains the fundamental bedrock of a free society, for everyone to enjoy the benefits of freedom, liberty needs to be tempered by two further dimensions: equality and accountability. Without equality, those in power will use their freedom of expression to abuse and marginalise others. Without accountability, liberty can mutate into the most dangerous of all freedoms – impunity... When reason, respect and responsibility are all under threat, accountability offers us a better foundation on which to build a cohesive society, one where everyone feels that their voice is heard" - musician and activist Billy Bragg wrote in Guardian on the issue of "cancel culture", after an open letter that is decrying cancel culture, signed by 150 academics and writers, has been published. Actor Ricky Gervais joined the discussion saying there are “outrage mobs that take everything out of context” and that "some people have lost their sense of irony". Gervais pressed that free speech was not the same as criticism-free speech - “some people think freedom of speech means, I should be able to say anything without consequences and it doesn’t mean that”.

Thanks to the United States’ current perfect storm of dire and radical socioeconomic conditions, the country music industry must immediately broaden its social perspective. For both the genre’s economic preservation and, more importantly, to highlight an intrinsic, industry-wide acceptance of the empathetic kindness needed to define America's future, it's necessary - The Boot argues in a brave text about unity.

"This past week alone, the hip-hop world loudly celebrated Black voices at the BET Awards, in popular interview podcasts, and during Monday night’s Verzuz battle. But the industry continues to be silent on its own transgressions: Those same platforms have also conspicuously amplified the voices of men accused of abusing Black women. In reflexively offering praise and visibility to such figures, hip-hop institutions implicitly condone their alleged behavior. This support reflects a pattern apparent across the music industry of protecting, and even uplifting, men facing serious allegations of assault against women - particularly against Black women" - The Atlantic brings out a serious issue.

Forrest dance
July 08, 2020

Illegal raves are sweeping the UK

Across the UK, young people are ignoring lockdown, strapping on bumbags and making for woods and fields. With the coronavirus pandemic having closed bars and clubs and cancelled or postponed festivals, raves are sweeping the UK - Guardian reflects on illegal raves being held in the UK. There were plenty already - 4,000 people in Daisy Nook; 2,000 people attended a “quarantine rave” in Carrington; 1,000 people raved in Brookhay Woods, near Lichfield; hundreds of revellers danced to house music in a forest near Kirkby; 1,000 people gathered in Stokes Croft near Bristol; police shut down a rave in an underpass of the M1 motorway in Leeds; hundreds gathered in a courtyard in Moss Side in Manchester. One raver Katie, who attended an illegal rave in a forest near Glasgow, summed it up pretty close: “I had this feeling of: wow, people really will go far for a party, won’t they?”.

DJ Flight

Women currently only make up 5% of artists signed to records labels or publishing deals in drum & bass - Beat Portal writes in their praiseworthy article about women in drum & bass and jungle. But, at the start of the genre there were plenty of ladies. DJ Rap released one of the best-selling drum & bass albums of all time with 1999’s 'Learning Curve'. DJ Flight mixed drum & bass dubs on BBC Radio 1Xtra for five years - from its launch in 2002 until 2007 - while touring the world as a Metalheadz resident. Empress and Reid Speed have been playing drum & bass at raves in America and around the world for over 20 years. Metalheadz is widely considered one of the most influential imprints in drum & bass, with Goldie being the symbol of it, but it was Kemistry & Storm who actually introduced Goldie to jungle before the three of them founded and ran Metalheadz together.

“Pop music tends to smuggle in a lot of contraband lyrically. Words that would cause outrage if spoken often get a pass or go unnoticed when sung" - Record producer Ian Brennan told Rolling Stone about racially violent songs. He pointed out 'Brown Sugar' by The Rolling Stones - "almost undoubtedly, the majority of their audience would claim to be ‘liberal’ and ‘not racist,’ but 60,000 people singing along to those words is not an entirely innocent act. That it is tolerated or dismissed is yet another smaller, but nonetheless meaningful example of systemic racism”. Brennan, who’s written several books about racism and inequity, says The Rolling Stones’ well-known track glorifies slavery, rape, torture and pedophilia.

"The UK government’s idea of gigging in the age of coronavirus is an unworkable shambles. And no wonder. It’s an experience and an industry of which they have as much first-hand knowledge as a maggot does of mountain biking... Have you seen a Conservative attempting to enjoy music? It’s like watching a drunk goose try to water-ski" - NME's Mark Beaumont writes about his government's plan to save live music venues. There's a real solution - "Luckily the Music Venues Trust, backed by 500 grassroots venues across the country, have come up with their own roadmap to reopening. It’s a far simpler affair, consisting essentially of just two steps. Step one, the Government provides a £50 million fund to ensure all venues can survive until October, the earliest many envision being able to put on viable gigs. Step two, they fuck off out of it".

The gemstone
June 27, 2020

The 100 Rick Rubin albums

"I’ve always liked doing the stuff that I like" - super-producer Rick Rubin told about the way he chooses albums he produces. There were hip-hop albums, metal, pop-superstars, classic rock - The Ringer listed 100 of those, from best to worst. "If Rick Rubin had assisted no superstars and done absolutely no work in the previous two decades (Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Slayer, Johnny Cash, 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik') or the two decades or so to come (Dixie Chicks, Avett Brothers, Adele, Black Sabbath, 'Yeezus'), his superproducer rep would still be assured for "I’m thinkin’ we start '99 Problems' a cappella alone" - The Ringer writes in a profile.

Let a hundred flowers bloom
June 26, 2020

LGBTQIA artists' influence on music

Janelle Monae came out as pansexual in 2018

REDEF has set up a praiseworthy thread about the LGBTQIA community's influence on popular music - From jazz and blues to punk and disco to pop and techno, the past century of music is all but impossible to imagine without the influence, inspiration and point of view of LGBTQIA artists. Even when their lives were invisible, their music was loud and clear and everywhere.

Serj Tankian / Axl Rose

There are numerous examples of metal bands supporting #BlackLivesMatter and the fight for good in general: Black Sabbath have printed T-shirts altering the logo from their 'Master of Reality' album to read Black Lives Matter; Serj Tankian of System of a Down took a very clear stand: “Coordinate online and block every street everywhere and force the regime to resign. The time has come. Your time has come @realdonaldtrump”; Guns N’ Roses gave support to BLM on Instagram and Axl Rose unequivocally took a side against Donald Trump. But, there are black sheep: John Dolmayan, System of a Down’s drummer, used Instagram to offer his support for Trump’s claim to be the greatest friend to minorities America has ever had; Sandra Araya, the wife of Slayer’s Tom Araya, has been posting racist memes to Instagram. Guardian reports on the clearly dividing issue.

Street fighting women
June 19, 2020

An introduction to women's music

Ani DiFranco

Women's music was born, NPR argues, in May of 1969 when Maxine Feldman wrote a song 'Angry Atthis' about the very injustices and indignities that, one month later, would lead to the Stonewall Riots, the uprising credited with kickstarting the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Since then, there were plenty of women, singing about women - Linda Tillery, God-Des & She, Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, Tracy Chapman - in an effort to make the world fairer place.

Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers wrote an honest and nice essay for the NPR about his band's name, inspired by Lady Antebellum's name change, and what a band's name means in general. A pleasant read; here's a snippet: "Our name was a drunken joke that was never intended to be in rotation and reckoned with two-and-a-half decades later, and I sincerely apologize for its stupidity and any negative stereotypes it has propagated. I'm not sure changing it now serves any higher purpose, but I'm certainly open to suggestions. In the meantime, you're welcome to just call us Lady DBT".

The underside of symbols
June 18, 2020

Algiers: Dismantle public symbols of racial control

"American capitalism was built on slavery and the historical bloodlust persists today in the form of Covid-19 health inequalities, gentrification, mass incarceration, violent policing, colonial conquest and worker impoverishment" - Atlanta band Algiers says in an opinion in the Quietus, about monuments being torn down these days in the U.S., and symbolism behind them. "There is, therefore, not an either/or choice between dismantling public symbols of control and pursuing the tangible demands to bring justice for victims; abolish the police; dismantle anti-black political, financial, health and education institutions; and end the miserable condition that exists for Black and other oppressed people on this Earth".

The end is the beginning - of the best part
June 16, 2020

TV composer Daniel Pemberton: Why doesn't Netflix want us to watch end credits?

"I’m pretty sure it was the time I watched 'Schindler’s List' on Netflix that pushed me over the edge. If ever there was a movie where the credits were an integral part of the experience this was it. However, the second after Steven Spielberg’s name came up, the screen was shrunk to the size of a postage stamp and a massive advert appeared telling you to watch something else" - TV composer Daniel Pemberton writes in the Guardian, annoyed, by the cable-TV practice. "The end credit sequence is an unsexy but still important part of the film-going experience. It can be a key moment of contemplation, to assess, absorb and reflect on everything you have just experienced" - he argues.

NYPD Stalker department
June 15, 2020

New York hip-hop police squad - "out of control"

Busta Rhymes

For over two decades, New York City police has had a unit dedicated to keeping tabs on rappers and the people around them, keeping files on figures like Jay-Z, Cam’ron, Damon Dash, Busta Rhymes, and 50 Cent. To this day, officers create reports about rap shows in NYC, naming artists they believe are gang members or that have rivals who may show up looking for trouble. Derrick Parker, the man who initiated the "hip-hop police", says the squad is "for their [rappers'] safety”. Complex reports they don’t just make reports about who is going to be appearing at a club - they also intimidate club owners into canceling events. “They’re a shadowy specialized unit that conducts overly aggressive investigations that monitor every move of entertainers”, says Dawn Florio, who has represented a number of rappers, “to me, it's like stalking at the highest level... This unit is really out of control”.

The independent music ecosystem has historically provided an alternative to corporate labels, broadcasting networks and other consolidated organs of power - InsideHook argues in favour of indie music scene in times of no shows. But the future is not dark - while small bands and labels might currently run on the thinnest of margins, it’s possible that it is precisely this thriftiness that will benefit them in the long term.

Madame, what's your category again!?!
June 11, 2020

Grammys kick out "urban" in one category, add "urban" in another

Lizzo

The music world is in the middle of a process of kicking out the word "urban" as a denominator used to describe music of black origin, because, as Tyler, the Creator said, "urban" is “a politically correct way to say the N-word to me”. Grammys joined the trend, but it turned more than clumsy. A category formerly known as Best Urban Contemporary Album lost "urban" and became Best Progressive R&B, with Latin Pop Album becoming Best Latin Pop Or Urban Album. Vulture says these changes are just simply wrong - "rectifying these long-standing and persistent issues requires much more than switching a few words around, and thinking deeper than semantics... Until the Recording Academy takes stock of its house, the Grammys will remain a holistically damaged and toxic institution". NPR is much more direct - "On the surface, these seem like clumsy name changes... But their introduction points to larger, systemic issues for an organization that has long struggled to acknowledge and celebrate music made by artists of color".

Resident Advisory has a long read about a new scene emerging in Tokyo, with people coming from a musical background engaging in cultural, social, and political activism, with musical means - "this network of artists and activists have disparate backgrounds and are associated with widely different music styles. They are all committed to their own separate projects while organically overlapping and staying connected".

The UK party scene is rebellious, diverse and decentralised by its nature, including groups of hedonists, hippies, crusties, punks, anarchists, communists, and conspiracy theorists – all of which have little regard for the rules enforced by the police - but largely they have chosen to abide the guidance given on COVID-19. Not all, as Mixmag reports - several illegal raves have been held across the country despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In a joint statement from two party crews, the organizers say that “free parties are about defying bad laws... That’s why we do squat parties - to give each other a sense of our collective power and help defy bad laws". 8sided blog announces The Road Rave, first ever US drive-in rave party.

"Hip-hop has always spoken out on police brutality. But more businesses have partnered with hip-hop in recent years. Those companies have felt the pressure to contribute to the same culture that’s making them rich. It’s one of many factors that accelerated the shift in response to this crisis" - Trapital argues about the power hip-hop has come to possess now. The two main reasons why hip-hop became the dominant culture, Trapital says -empowerment and social media.

A great essay in Electronic Beats about electronic music as a platform to gain freedom: "Nightclubs bear a long legacy of being one of the very few spaces in society where Black and Brown people are able to freely express themselves, where they are able to, for a few short hours, reclaim the bodies that are systematically regulated, attenuated, and deliberately destroyed by the state... Freeform dancing, the process of trusting an innate, rhythmic impulse that shirks a set of codified behaviors, becomes a powerful gesture of resistance".

The Future of Music Coalition explained in a great Twitter thread how is it possible for Bandcamp to waive its share of revenue, and still make it work for itself. A few arguments: a "niche-oriented" business model; a decision to do only one round of VC funding; a commitment to iteratively asking artists what they need. What lies behind it - "smart, idealistic music-loving people". Pitchfork investigates how much more money artists make on Bandcamp, compared to streaming services - experimental hip-hop duo 75 Dollar Bill put out a digital-only album, 'Live at Tubby’s', exclusively on Bandcamp on May 1 and made $4,200 in just two days - more than they made through streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube over the last six years.

"Give black artists their master recordings back tomorrow instead…Those that want out of their contracts, let them out tomorrow" - producer WhoAreI suggested prior to Blackout Tuesday. He might not be entirely right, but there's a sense of fairness behind his words - "These white millionaire major label owners gonna sit down to reflect on black lives tomorrow? is that so…they’re finally going to dedicate a day.. the day of June 2nd, 2020 to think about black lives and the black communities..black pain they constantly exploit??? they’re really gonna take a day to sit down with their company and talk bout it? Well shit…haha let me shut up actually…if they say so ill take it…pls god I hope they do & I hope they listen. Unfortunately they won't. They’re going to sit with their pr and figure out how to deflect the fact they are a clear reflection of the very problem at hand".

Nina Simone

"If anyone’s ever made this hard land great in the past, it’s been Black Americans" freelance journalist Piotr Orlov writes in a great essay about Black music - "the first musical art-form original to the United States". It was born of "a desire to express oneself within a society that did not want to hear any of what you had to say. A society that, in many cases, did not regard you as fully human". Black culture, on the other hand, is characterized by - "creation of culture, the strength of moral character, the depth of communal compassion". Black blues and jazz, Orlov argues, is "the basis of all great new music of the last 100 years—paving the way for the post-modern Black electronic music (hip-hop, house and techno and electro) which is the core of pretty much all popular sounds of the 21st century", but "we don’t get to have this music without the burden that preceded it".

"Wealth and class play vital roles here" - the Quietus says in its analysis of new EP by dance music quartet Housekeeping. The Q is quite annoyed by their "adoption of musical forms rooted in black, queer, and working-class struggles", because "it feels remiss to ignore the absolutely deranged levels of privilege to which all four of its members have access". So, biographies: "Three of them tend to elide or remove references to their surnames, perhaps hoping to draw some distinction between their musical personas and their other public appearances. The mononymous Jacobi is a regular on the society pages under his full surname of Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, usually in relation to his aristocratic connections, while for Sebastian Macdonald-Hall (whose family’s combined wealth of £842m places them at 168th in this year's Rich List), it’s his commercial real estate empire. Carl Waxberg appears positively relatable by comparison, having merely been a director at Citibank for 13 years before launching his own investment fund". The EP they made is "an utterly unremarkable slab of tech-house... a blur of mediocrity, notable only for its steadfast refusal to challenge even the tamest clichés of mainstream club music: tautly-mixed kick drums sit politely alongside shuffling percussion, filter-swept basslines and elegantly narcotised vocals".

Lockdown has made musicians and labels creative in coming up with ways to reach their audience, Vice reports on changes in the music industry. Artists are setting up livestreams and Zoom-based music lessons, labels are waiving their own share of revenue on commission-free days. Coronavirus is also forcing labels to think outside the box, whether that means snapping socially distant press photos or pivoting music videos ideas to living-room productions. Not everything is great - without the option of meeting musicians in person and seeing them play live, many labels are pressing pause on talent discovery and focusing on their current rosters. On the other hand, labels are thinking that when touring comes back, it'll give their albums a second burst of interest...

News was fake, impact was real
May 30, 2020

t.A.T.u. changed Russia forever, does it matter they were fake?

A great read in Mel magazine about t.A.T.u., the Russian band from the early 2000s that featured lesbian identity and image. Lena Katina and Julia Volkova weren't then, and aren't now lesbians (both are married to men), but that project (guided by a psychologist) sparked a cultural shift in their anti-gay nation. Does it matter that t.A.T.u. were never the real deal? - Mel asks Russians from the LGBTQ milieu, whose lives were changed by the band.

Rapper Killer Mike of Run the Jewels has called, in a new op-ed for Colorlines, on black communities in the USA to carry guns. Black people in this country, please take full advantage of your Second Amendment rights. People of color, people who are not in the majority in this country, please take shooting, training, and the protection of your rights seriously" he wrote, adding - "The only person you can count on to protect yourself and your family is you. God gave you the right to use whatever tools available to defend your rights... God gave us the right to use all available tools to defend ourselves and that is what we intend to do".

Some great thoughts on touring, and lack thereof, by Rosanne Cash in The Atlantic: "The essential attitude adopted by most touring musicians I know - just show up and do it, and don’t whine about the lack of sleep, the equipment problems, the long drives, the missed meals, the airports, the delayed flights, the sometimes-weird audiences, the stalkers, the reviews, the food, or the hotel... I’ve long had a complicated relationship with touring, and the pandemic has made it only more difficult. I always knew what life on the road was costing me. But I didn’t fully appreciate what it gave me until suddenly it was gone".

1 problem, 5 opportunities
May 28, 2020

Five drivers of growth in music

MIDiA sees five emerging revenue sectors that could collectively be the music industry’s growth driver in the near future:

Contextual experiences -  Instead of bring your own music, the trend will be the context will bring it

The vast majority of the millions of independent artists will spend much more on creator tools than they will ever earn from their music

Virtual events - the sector is in desperate need of commercial structure and product tiering

Monetising fandom - virtual merch, artist badges, premium chat, artist avatars

Vast amount of music-centred social activity on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok has not yet been properly monetised, which makes for a gaping hole of opportunity

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