Travel to, and transit through, Europe is difficult for Africans. The top three countries with the highest Schengen visa rejection rates are from the continent: Guinea-Bissau had 53% of its applications rejected, Senegal 52% and Nigeria 51% - Guardian looks into the problem of African musicians trying to play in Europe. To get a Schengen visa, a host of documents is required, and can include bank statements, return flights, addresses while abroad, travel insurance policies, and the threshold is getting higher and higher.

Beyoncé headlined the private concert in Dubai to mark the opening of the luxury hotel Atlantis The Royal last weekend, which was her first full concert in more than four years, BBC reports. Beyoncé reportedly received $24m for her performance. She performed 19 songs, but the show did not contain any material from Beyoncé’s 2022 album 'Renaissance', which is purported to be a love letter to Black and queer dance music pioneers and communities. Homosexuality is illegal in the United Arab Emirates and considered a crime punishable by death.

A great new episode of How to Get Good at Music - Adam Neely and Elliott Klein discuss the legitimacy of writing your own solo. "Your ability to communicate an idea is based on your confidence in articulating it, and when you write stuff out ahead of time you fill a lot more confident... When you say things in your voice, you have to have your own way of saying things, and the way you develop that is by practicing and writing it out yourself" - Adam shares his advice. The two music experts also suggest you should sometimes fight to keep the imperfections in music.

The Doors / Yes

Primary Wave Music has acquired the music rights of Robby Krieger and the late Ray Manzarek of the legendary US rock band, The Doors, Variety reports. Primary Wave says that the “monumental acquisition” includes Robby Krieger and the estate of Ray Manzarek’s interests in The Doors’ music publishing catalog, recordings, trademarks, and merchandise rights and income, among other things. Warner Music Group has struck what it calls a “milestone deal” with legendary British progressive rock band YES. The deal sees Warner acquire the recorded music rights and income streams from the band’s “complete” Atlantic Records era catalog (Variety).

Liv.e/Akai Solo

Pitchfork has chosen 25 artists they’re "keeping a keen eye on this year... from twisted R&B auteur Liv.e to club rap regenerator Bandmanrill to indie rock realists Wednesday". Some are quite new in music like Akai Solo, and Grace Ives, a few have been around for a while but this year just might be the one for them, like Yasmin Williams, and Soul Glo.

Spotify has announced today (January 23) that it is in the process of reducing its employee base by “about 6% across the company”. At the end of Q3 2022, Spotify employed 9,808 full-time employees globally - six percent of 9,808 is 588, the MBW reports. In the last six months, music and tech companies have been hit with a series of layoffs. SoundCloud started reducing its global workforce by approximately 20%. BMI will lay off 10% of its workforce. Alphabet is letting 12.000 workers go, Microsoft 10,000, Amazon is cutting its workforce by 18,000...

Yis Kid is a London-based photographer with an interesting new project Faceless Techno - photos of clubbers shot from the shoulders down. “People who go to a techno party aren’t the type of people who want a portrait photo,” he explains.​“Usually, most people in the techno scene prefer to remain anonymous. It makes them feel more comfortable to fully express themselves in terms of aesthetics, and be more playful with their identity.” The Face talked to the artist.

Edward Avedisian played with the Boston Pops for 35 years and the Boston Ballet Orchestra for 43 seasons, performing with Aerosmith, Whitney Houston, Tony Bennett, Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, and Big Bird from Sesame Street over the years. He earned a modest salary, however, last year he has donated $100 million to he to Boston University. Unbeknownst to many, Avedisian found stunning success through his personal investments, turning the modest salary of a musician into a fortune. He was self-taught as an investor, reading books and Investor’s Business Dailyand regularly watching CNBC and Bloomberg for tips. Avedisian was a buy-and-hold investor, focusing on initial public offerings (IPOs) and taking a lot of risk by buying on margin. His secret was - “success is the intersection of opportunity and preparation”. Avedisian died late last year. Boston University Today has the story.

Vibrato is that natural oscillation of pitch that singers often use when singing sustained notes - music theorist Adam Neely points out in his latest video. He gives examples like Schubert's 'Ave Maria', and Duke Ellington's 'Caravan', and how much they lose without using vibrato. YouTuber/musician also offers some advice on the approach to music - "Take music very seriously, but maybe don't take yourself so seriously as you do it", and about a career in music - "You should be passionate about what you do and you shouldn't make any decisions out of fear".

American-Kameroonian singer-songwriter Libianca has released the visuals to her viral hit 'People (Check on Me)'. Libianca's emotional music video shows the singer struggling through isolation, loneliness, and depressive moods. At the video's conclusion, the singer shares a heartfelt message saying, "Check in on your people. What they may be dealing with internally could be much more than American-Kameroonian sing-songwriter meets the eye. Your sense of kindness can break the wall of isolation and the feeling that no one cares."

"Las Vegas wedding chapels recently received an unusual letter. It contained a cease-and-desist order—demanding that they stop using Elvis Presley impersonators to conduct marriages... I won’t get involved in the legal niceties here, but I seriously doubt any law firm is powerful enough to stop Elvis impersonation. Fake artists are as old as music itself" - Ted Gioia writes in his latest memo. Greece and Egypt are the earliest examples, with the blues being the fresher one. "You might even say that this practice is what made the blues a genuine tradition—artists preferred to take something pre-existing, and maybe change a few tiny details, rather than invent a new song from scratch. And we can’t really complain, because this is what allows oral traditions to last over the generations. Many of these blues songs would have disappeared if somebody hadn’t stolen them".

Singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Art School Girlfriend has shared her new single 'A Place To Lie'. Clunk Magazine describes the song beautifully: "This whimsical and mysterious track feels like real soul searching piece, with a fast paced synth backing that feels as though Art School Girlfriend, aka Polly Mackey, is flicking through your mind and surfacig any stresses currently pressuring you. Her floating melodies, that have defined her previous work, flow graciously and guides the pace of the track throughout. The climax feels like the beginning of an epiphany, a complicated arrangement of electronics and strings that emerge from the background to the centre of the track, the coming together of every wandering thought, until finally at the end of the piece, everything resolves itself neatly".

Amazon Music is raising its standard individual Amazon Music Unlimited monthly subscription price from $9.99 to $10.99 in the US, and from £9.99 to £10.99 in the UK, Engadget reports. Amazon's Student Plan is going from $/£4.99 to $/£5.99 per month in each respective territory. Amazon is also increasing equivalent pricing in Germany and Japan. Apple Music announced late last year that it was upping its standard monthly subscription price from USD $9.99 to $10.99 in the US, and GBP £9.99 to £10.99 in the UK. Spotify for now refuses to do the same.

"Every digital streaming provider has a treasure trove of data on their deep catalogs and how their users interact with each song. This same data, along with their relentless A/B testing, has upped the effectiveness of personalized algorithms to keep users on the platform" - Trapital's Dan Runcie points out in his latest memo. He talked to Ari Herstand, an independent artist, course instructor, and author, who believes that algorithmic shift works in favor of independent artists who may not have the ear of the top playlist editors, but have a better chance to show up in one of your Spotify Mixes. It’s a numbers game, and numbers games benefit indies who are less reliant on gatekeepers.

It’s good to witness the current flourishing of what we might call Green Pop – though others may prefer Eco-Pop, Eco-Rock, etc... - challenging the current state of our environment - PopMatters writes proudly about the new wave of music dealing with climate change, and nature protection. PM presents American folk musicians that preceded them - Woody Guthrie, Neil Young, Chris Webby, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Malvina Reynolds, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, and Don Maclean.

"We will learn what happened on the record, but once it comes back into the live show, it really starts to change again, and it evolves because, in a live show, you’ve got to bridge all of the tracks. Things start to happen spontaneously in the show. Sometimes by accident, sometimes we allow things to happen. I think of that as decomposition, where you had the finished composition and now it’s starting almost to disintegrate” - the Comet is Coming drummer Max 'Betamax' Hallett says in the PopMatters interview. The band is deep in the tour part of the writing-editing-touring cycle, and they will be back to writing - “but to do that, we need to be ready, but we also need to be blank. The canvas needs to be white; there needs to be nothing there, so we’re ready to do something new".

"Truculent, technically gifted rapper who appears ambivalent about his chosen career... Spends most of these 90 minutes poring over his bad behaviour with much wit, if little humour... The chill, sparse productions foreground Clavish’s economical delivery beautifully, as he flirts with imploring vulnerability and vicious querulousness without ever committing to either" - Guardian's Damien Morris points out about Clavish's mixtape 'Rap Game Awful'. Alexis Petridis hears a voice of the generation - "his worldview is strikingly drawn and bleak, devoid of politicking, expressions of anger at societal injustice or indeed optimism: this is just what it’s like, he seems to say, and it’s unlikely to change. Life on the streets is an endless, numbing round of cheffings and nittys and opps getting splashed".

"Sure jazz is a big body of music, but it is full of wonders. If you’ve always wanted to get interested in jazz, just jump in. Don’t approach it with fear or a sense that you don’t know enough about it. It’s just a smorgasbord of stuff to enjoy. Or not. Take your pick from the variety" - PopMatters dares you to give jazz a chance. There are two lists - "the historical canon for those who want to be students [Coltrane, Holiday, Davis, Ellington...], but first I’m giving you a list designed to draw you in [Billy Cobham, Louis Jordan, Cassandra Wilson, Aaron Parks...]. No lessons here. No crusty things that don’t groove or only appeal to the brain. But, yes, it’s JAZZ, with the improvising and the daring but without the scary stuff".

Singer-songwriter-guitarist David Crosby, a founding member of two popular and influential ’60s rock units, the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, has died aged 81, The New York Times reports. Alexis Petridis points out that "Crosby genuinely was brilliant. He was blessed with a beautiful voice and an uncanny gift for harmony... a fantastic, forward-thinking songwriter". Rolling Stone picks out 20 essential songs by the folk-rock legend. The New Cue revisits an interview from a few years ago with the witty guy.

US rapper Flo Rida has won a lawsuit against US energy drink company, Celsius, with the jury awarding the rapper $82.6 million, CBS Miami reports. Flo Rida was a brand ambassador for Celsius from 2014 to 2018. During that time, Dillard played an instrumental role in launching a new era for the company's brand development, growth and expansion, introducing Celsius to millions around the world, the complaint said.

"I must disclose that my mental health has rapidly deteriorated over the past several years. So, to avoid fading away and never returning, I will be taking a break from work which regrettably includes stepping away from Fall Out Boy for a spell" - Fall Out Boy guitarist Joe Trohman posted on his Instagram. Just a few hours earlier the band announced their first new album since 2018, titled 'So Much (for) Stardust'.

Sade/Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg, Gloria Estefan, Sade, Jeff Lynne, Glen Ballard, Teddy Riley and Liz Rose have been chosen to join the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Snoop Dogg, whose hits include 'Drop It Like It’s Hot' and 'Gin & Juice', is one of the icons of hip-hop. Soul-jazz vocalist Sade's 1980s soft rock hits include 'Smooth Operator' and 'The Sweetest Taboo'. Lynne, of ELO, penned 'Mr. Blue Sky' and 'Evil Woman'. Estefan is credited for popularizing Latin rhythms with such crossover smashes as 'Rhythm Is Gonna Get You' and 'Let’s Get Loud'. Ballard helped write Alanis Morissette’s monster 1995 album 'Jagged Little Pill' and was involved in the recording and writing of several Michael Jackson albums, including 'Thriller', 'Bad' and 'Dangerous'. Riley, the singer, songwriter and producer, is credited with creating New Jack Swing and its top anthems like Bobby Brown’s 'My Prerogative' and Keith Sweat’s 'I Want Her'. Rose co-wrote many songs with Taylor Swift, including 'You Belong with Me', 'Teardrops on My Guitar' and 'White Horse'. The seven songwriters from the class of 2023 will be inducted at a gala June 15 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.

Pouch Envy

The Quietus' dance music columnist Jaša Bužinel sheds light on the "small Slovenian electronic music scene and shares his favourite recent releases from the likes of Vid Vai, POUCH ENVY, dvidevat and Black Dot". "By including mainly names which you may never have heard of before," the writer says he hopes "to shed some light on all the talented Slovenian producers and artists who really deserve to be heard abroad".

"The Brits have always been good at repacking Black American music and then selling it back to the US. If you think about the Beatles and the whole British Invasion of the ’60s, those artists were all massively inspired by rhythm and blues and other forms of Black American music, but the white audiences that loved them wouldn’t necessarily go back and support the records that inspired these groups in the first place. The same thing happened with dance music" - Matt Anniss told First Floor. He also talks about the "Ibiza origin myth", music journalism, “hardcore continuum”... Anniss is the author of 'Join the Future', a history of bleek techno, which is being reissued this month.

"It’s great to see the artists who turn down deals because they have the means to maximize the asset on their own. They likely understand its full value... But keeping the asset just to 'keep it,' or shaming others who decide to sell, may be missing the forest from the trees. This isn’t about selling grandma’s house. This is about maximizing value for an asset that will inevitably lose its value 40 years from now. By then, those masters may be more valuable as family heirlooms than as consistent revenue-generating assets. But it all depends on the artist’s goals" - Trapital's Dan Runcie offers some views on (not) selling music catalogs. He gives some recent examples - Dr. Dre, Diddy, Justin Beber...

"I have no technical ability. And I know nothing about music" - THE producer Rick Rubin told Anderson Cooper in an interview tied to his new book 'The Creative Act: A Way Of Being', the CNBC reports. What he knows, Rubin says, is "what I like and what I don’t like. And I’m decisive about what I like and what I don’t like." He points out what he's being paid for - "The confidence that I have in my taste and my ability to express what I feel has proven helpful for artists." Watch the interview - here.

"There's plenty of good examples of incredible rock music that came out in the '80s, but the songs that stood the test of time have mostly done so by avoiding many of the cliches of the era. But what about the songs that are '80s to the core and yet still rule? Well, if you're looking for that, then we're gonna have to talk about Duran Duran," - music analyst 12tone introduces his latest video where he takes apart the quintessentially 80s song 'Hungry Life The Wolf'. Watch the video below.

YouTuber Rob Scallon shared a new video with Tom Grosset, the world record holder in fast drumming. Grosset offers technical tips on the position of the hand and the wrist, and suggests it all comes down to practice and time, of course. Impressive drumming!

Duo Molly from Innsbruck, Austria play an especially majestic style of dream-pop with a post-rock approach to structure and scope - Stereogum points out about their latest Album of the Week choice. It is "a chance to be overwhelmed by elegance and power and an otherworldly glow". 

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Raye was signed to Polydor Records as a teenager, she wrote songs for Beyoncé and Little Mix, sang on top 10 hits by David Guetta and Jax Jones, but her label refused to release her debut album. After she extricated herself from Polydor and struck out as an independent artist, she had the biggest-selling single in the UK within 18 months - 'Escapism', a hard-hitting account of abusing drink, drugs and meaningless sex to get over a break-up. Her long-awaited debut album, '21st Century Blues', is out this Friday, with hard-hitting stories of sexual abuse, self-doubt, misogyny...

DOMi and JD Beck

"This movement has been bubbling on YouTube and TikTok for years, but is now more prevalent than ever. Its exponents are musicians, many but not all of them quite young, who have jazz educations and aren’t afraid to show them off, but sense something faintly ridiculous in their own virtuosity. They love pop and bebop equally; they roll their eyes at the mere mention of the lick; they regard Thundercat as an elder statesman and the meme-fluent jazz YouTuber Adam Neely as a wisecracking uncle. They have managed to once again make jazz, or something like it, seem cool to their fellow kids" - Pitchfork introduces the new weird jazz movement/genre. Some of the weird jazzers are DOMi and JD Beck, Spilly Cave, MonoNeon, and Louis Cole.

Guardian shares an important piece about a rap group P38-La Gang, that touches on the essential issue of freedom of speech. The Bologna-based band who go by the stage names Astore, Jimmy Pentothal, Dimitri and Yung Stalin, are between 25 and 33. They describe the idea behind the group as “very simple: creating a far-left and communist form of trap,” a counter-narrative to the “individualistic, gangsta-mafia and misogynistic” themes of Italian trap. On 25 November, the band members were identified by police and had their homes searched. They are currently under investigation by the Turin prosecutor’s office, accused of instigation to commit a crime, with an aggravating circumstance for terrorism. Their concerts are routinely cancelled, with venue managers fearing police reprisals. The band denies they're terrorists: "While the Italian music scene is overrun by very explicit references to rape, the trafficking of large-scale narcotics and mafia crimes in lyrics sung by the most listened-to artists, we are the ones being investigated because we refer to the Years of Lead.” (Social turmoil during the 1970s and 1980s when Red Brigades, the far-left terrorist group, shocked Italy with kidnappings, kneecappings and more than 80 political assassinations).

Ozzy Osbourne has announced on social media that he is retiring from touring due to declining health. The 74-year-old Black Sabbath singer was due to embark on a tour of the UK and Europe later this year, but has “come to the realisation that I’m not physically capable … as I know I couldn’t deal with the travel required.” Osbourne is looking into “ideas for where I will be able to perform without having to travel from city to city and country to country”.

An Iranian couple in their 20s have been given jail sentences totalling 10 years after posting a video of themselves dancing in the street in Tehran. Astiazh Haqiqi, 21, and her fiance Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, 22, were arrested after they posted the video to their Instagram accounts, which have a combined following of nearly two million. Haqiqi and Ahmadi are said to be convicted of "promoting corruption and prostitution, colluding against national security, and propaganda against the establishment". They were also handed a two-year ban on using social media and leaving the country. Dancing in public is illegal for women in Iran, as is men and women embracing, and women leaving their hair uncovered.

Elton John's Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour is the highest-grossing concert tour of all time - it has grossed $817.9 million across 278 shows so far, more than any other tour in Billboard Boxscore history (Ed Sheeran’s The Divide Tour made $776.4 million). Billboard has another fascinating statistic - dating back to reports for Elton John’s Ice on Fire Tour (1986), and including his share of co-headline runs with Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Tina Turner, and Billy Joel, John has grossed $1.863 billion and sold 19.9 million tickets over 1,573 reported shows. That’s the highest career gross and attendance for a solo artist in Billboard Boxscore history, having passed Bruce Springsteen and Madonna while on this tour.

Spotify’s number of premium subscribers increased to 205 million as of December 31st, the company announced in this week's earnings release, representing a 14 percent increase year-on-year. That helped increase its monthly active users to 489 million, a 20 percent rise. On the other hand, Spotify posted €3.17 billion in revenue, up 18% from the year-earlier period, and a net loss of €270 million, Variety reports. Spotify is widely considered to be the largest music streaming service in the world, and the first one to reach 200 million subscribers.

"The glacial post-punk that first launched the band to greatness remains, but this time it’s augmented by a host of different aspects. These fresh angles have pulled the band out of the increasingly overdone genre and have seen them start to carve out a space that they can truly call their own" - Far Out magazine reviews the second album by the Dublin quintet. Guardian argues in a five-star review that it "extends their post-punk palette brilliantly beyond the monochrome grief and pain of their 2019 debut. Piercing the gothic gloom are new textures that broaden and deepen their sound", whereas Louder Than War hears duality in its lyrics - "self-discovery full of uplifting highs clash with moments where self-doubt threatens to crucify an uncertain and wavering mind. Gigi is a metaphor for one of us or all of us."

BandLab is a music creation platform that offers a suite of tools for creators to “make music, share their music with fans, earn a living, and even top the charts”. It now boasts over 60 million registered creators on its service, which are now responsible for creating approximately 16-17 million songs on the platform each month, or around 500,000 songs per day. That’s around 200 million new songs a year, double the number of total tracks currently available on streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. MBW reports on the astonishing numbers.

Drayk.it is a funny little AI tool that allows users to create Drake songs inspired by customized or random subjects. The music generator created by Mayk.it allows users to select a topic of their choice, which its GPT-3 will create a song about in the style of the rap star’s own hits. Each generated song will be performed in the voice of Drake and will span one-minute in length.

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