The Face looks into the revival of pop punk with artists such as Machine Gun Kelly, Meet Me @ The Altar, Pinkshift, Lil Uzi Vert, and others, yet this time around the ecology of the genre is different. The artists breaking through 15 years ago were almost exclusively straight, white and male. But the new wave of pop-punk artists coming from many sides of society are eager to make the scene a safe space.

Between 2011 and 2015 in Argentina more than four million students received a computer, a netbook - measuring in at 10 inches, with a 1.66 Ghz processor, a 300K pixel camera, one to two-GB of RAM, the netbook didn’t pack much of a technological punch. But, for most kids, it meant they didn’t have to ask for permission to use a computer for the first time. And - these were exactly the years that saw the rise of a budding generation of rappers, trappers, and freestyles. The Rest of the World tells the encouraging story.

Someone does it right
June 17, 2021

What can music learn from video games?

Video games is a sector which targets fundamentally the same market as music, and has done so outrageously well over the past two decades, Music Business Worldwide argues and looks to find lessons for music. MBW picks out five potential areas:

1. Embracing technology -  every great new technology ultimately expands the market for entertainment

2. Diversity of channels - the increasingly overwhelming dominance of premium streaming means music is well on its way to being effectively a single format business again

3. Proactive marketing at all demographics - music may be universal but only a minority have an active commercial relationship with it

4. Deal with the limitations of exclusive rights - copyright needs to be used to facilitate new ideas, rather than to block them

5. View the consumers as an equal - more than ever, popular culture is about the fan as much as it is about the art itself

6. Music needs to embrace its future - the example of the games business shows the benefits of developing a portfolio of channels to market

Boomer rock acts such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Paul Simon have made the biggest splash selling their music catalogs for 9-figure sums. Synchtank explores the possibility of catalogs of hip-hop artists reaching those levels. Trapital's Dan Runcie believes hip-hop catalogs are indeed undervalued and that the "music that came out from the mid-90s to mid-2010s will be especially popular with the Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z. Some investors may undervalue hip-hop because they identify more with Paul Simon than Paul Wall. Another group of investors will recognize the opportunity".

Music Business Worldwide goes into the reasoning around the precedent business move by Sony Music, as the big publisher has announced it is disregarding unrecouped balances for heritage catalog artists. "This would see modern-day royalty earnings of these acts get paid into their pockets, rather than being swallowed by a record label with whom they may have ended dealings decades ago". MBW argues that's a "small reduction in Sony Music’s margin today is worthwhile if it means that his company establishes a long-term reputation amongst the artist community – where power keeps growing – for generosity and fair dealing. (Quick math: if there’s, say, 2,500 legacy Sony artists who will benefit, and they’re paid through an average of $5,000 to $10,000 each per year that they weren’t getting before, the move will cost Sony Music $12.5m to $25m per annum)".

"Three weeks ago everyone talked about J. Cole’s 'The Off-Season', but the moment has now passed even though the album and rollout were praised. The people who still have 'The Off-Season' in regular rotation are Cole’s day-ones and diehard fans" - Trapital goes into the longevity of today's music, adding - "some believe that this is a quality issue, but it’s less about quality, and more about control".

The vinyl boom only accelerated during the pandemic, generating $626 million in revenue in 2020 in the United States. Sales are on track to hit $1 billion this year - Billboard dives into the issue of vinyl production. The article looks at the limited editions and exclusive pressings driving the market; the supply-chain problems and manufacturing delays that could threaten sales; the way labels use data to decide what gets pressed on vinyl; and the move for greener pressing plants.

Rolling Stone looks at the music industry's trend of trying to "concoct new ways to profit from the legacy of rock stars from days past. Some well-heeled investors are shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars for lucrative publishing catalogs; others are making use of TikTok and developing technologies like holograms; others envision deepfake software that could create 'new' songs by departed artists. Industry experts say that’s just the beginning".

REDEF Set started a new curated collection of articles Live Music 2.0(21), about the state of live music in the (vaccinated part of the) world. There are several paths that could be taken: vaccinated fans in the orchestra section wearing black wristbands, non-vaccinated (but negative-tested) fans in the balconies, everybody in masks (like the Los Angeles Opera); Springsteen on Broadway will reopen end of June - attendees will need proof of vaccination and a photo ID to get in; club doors open to a full-capacity crowd, masks encouraged but not required.

Several companies have spent billions of dollars buying music catalogs of established pop stars. Variety goes behind the new model in the music business: "A song catalog is an asset much more complicated than, say, a Picasso or even many real estate properties, and some investors seem to enter the arena on the mistaken premise that all songs, or even all hit songs, are created equal. In reality, they are demanding, ephemeral assets that require a lot of attention — pitching, repackaging, finding new opportunities — without oversaturating and thus damaging the artist (a.k.a the brand) or the songs".

The World Intellectual Property Organization, a United Nations agency tasked with the protection and promotion of intellectual property, issued a lengthy report Artists in the Digital Music Marketplace, where its authors Chris Castle and Claudio Feijoo took a clear stand: "Why does everyone in the streaming economy seem to be prospering except performers whose work drives it all?". The report recommends a new streaming music royalty that would be paid directly to "performers (and potentially to producers)" without going through labels or publishers.

Jacobin magazine goes into a quest to find socialism in hip-hop, starting with the most famous examples - Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. - and taking a left turn to find some new ones in underground hip-hop: "A handful of artists have been unequivocal in their willingness to operate under a red flag. Paris, Immortal Technique, and the Coup have been recording radical songs since the 1990s".

Guardian goes into reasons why movie studies are remaking classic rock songs into epic pop songs for movie trailers. Nirvana's 'Something in the Way' got a completely new identity in last summer’s teaser for 'The Batman'. Teaser for Marvel Studios’ 'Eternals' revamps Skeeter Davis’ country ballad 'The End of the World', the preview for 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' took Harry Nilsson’s 'One' and added an arsenal of menacing symphonics, the teaser for The Suicide Squad twisted the easy grooves of Steely Dan’s 'Dirty Work' into pummelling beats and the trailer for last year’s 'Wonder Women 1984' featured an epic reimagining of New Order’s 'Blue Monday'. Will Quiney, the theatrical music supervisor at trailer house GrandSon, explains: “You can create a narrative with your music selection. If you can come up with an amazing idea for a song and have that trailerised in a really cool way that blows them away, you’re going to beat the competition, you’re going to win that trailer.” says . “agrees: “Music is the secret sauce to a great trailer and the best trailer editors know how to make the most of it”.

"It may have been only 10 minutes, but I'll be thinking about my One-to-One Concert with Mario Gotoh for a long time to come" - NPR's Jeff Lunden wrote after attending a concert where there was a musician - and himself. These concerts are the brainchild of German flutist Stephanie Winker and a couple of colleagues, who wanted to create an unusually intimate musical experience. Launched two years ago in Stuttgart, they've been done in Australia, Japan, India, across Europe, and the US, and have proven quite suitable in corona-times

Eurovision

"Apparently, this Eurovision-backed project called American Song Contest will air on NBC in 2022 and feature one 'incredible solo artist, duo, DJ or a band' to perform an original song from each of the 50 states, five U.S. territories, and D.C." - Emily Alford writes in the Jezebel, begging America not to do it! Because - "what concerns me is that America, as is its wont, will take this missive humorlessly, and every armpit of the country will try and send the closest it has to an Ariana Grande or Kacey Musgraves, when they should be giving us Yank versions of Jedward and A.B.B.A. It does make one wonder if the whole of Europe isn’t doing this on purpose for their own mean little amusement".

Sweden's Tusse

"Eurovision Song Contest 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel — the last time the event took place — was broadcast live in 41 countries and watched by an audience of 182 million, making it the world’s biggest live music event" - Billboard explains big labels' new-found interest in the European yearly pop song contest. By comparison, this year’s Grammy Awards drew 9.2 million viewers, whereas February’s Super Bowl, the biggest U.S. television event annually, drew 96.4 million TV and online viewers.

“There was a 360 portal and you could go step on stage with them, and you could pick your camera angles” - Christian Guirnalda, director of Verizon’s 5G Labs, told Rolling Stone about the recent Black Pumas show, recorded at company's Los Angeles 5G Labs. Producers filmed in 4K video on a camera connected to Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network, which can create a “visually lossless” experience that “eliminates the side effects of image compression that’s visible to the naked eye”. There was no postproduction, either - all the visuals were rendered in real time. Rolling Stone believes this is the future, even after the live shows return.

Covid-to-the-floor
May 19, 2021

DJ Mag: Can we finally go raving again?

“It really comes down to WHO is at these events" - DJ Cakewals says to DJ Mag about clubbing events coming back in the US, in light of the pandemic slowing down there. It's the nuances that will matter: "How serious is the crowd and promoter taking precautions? And for how long? Will the security or person [in charge of] monitoring the crowd just get lazy after a couple hours? Hold each other accountable, even if it’s uncomfortable!”.

Land of the vaccinated, the home of the gigs
May 18, 2021

Live music is back - in the US

New concerts are being added on a daily basis to the touring schedule in the US, mostly by American artists, thanks to the high vaccination rate. Trapital's Dan Runcie asks, rightfully so, "will you have the energy (and money) to still attend all their shows in the post-pandemic boom?". Live Nation's CEO Michael Rapino sits down with Recode’s Peter Kafka to talk about the industry’s comeback and how he’s figured out new tricks.

Apple Music announced it’s adding both Lossless Audio and Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos to its service. From June 1, Apple is bundling these HD formats into its standard $9.99-per-month streaming subscription price. Amazon Music moments after confirmed that a range of HD audio options on Amazon’s Music Unlimited Service will now all be available for just $9.99 per month. Music Business Worldwide's founder Tom Ingham believes this is bad news for music in general and predicts that "over the next decade, we can now expect a slow war of attrition to trundle on between music rightsholders and the world’s largest tech giants over precisely this value calculation". Ingham also believes selling pricey hardware is the wrong way to go.

The Foreign Desk podcast looks into the Eurovision Song Contest from a point of geo-politics, with a witty twist from the hosts, coming from the least-successful country. TFD asks what the dos and don’ts of using Eurovision to project your nation are, and does it really have real-world political potency? Europe’s most popular cultural event will take place in Rotterdam next week, following last year’s cancellation.

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.

Tik-punk
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
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