Four Corners

I first heard about Yellowjackets when I was in college. Back then, Ricky Lawson was playing drums with them. I loved the sound of their music with him, but when Will Kennedy joined the group, their sound totally changed. I fell in love with the album “Four Corners” and love listening to it to this day. It’s truly a fantastic album and it brings me back to the late 80’s when I used to run to the record store to buy CDs.

It was such a thrill to know when your favorite groups put out new music, you could only pick up two or three albums at the most. There were things to consider – you had to take the time to go the store, decide which our the 5 new albums you were to choose from and actually pay a whole lot of money for the physical product you were walking out the store with.

That has all changed now. I prefer the way it is now because access to music has never been easier. I still pay for access (though Spotify) and hope that the artists made a good deal with their master, I mean label, to get paid well. I also hope Google is paying this group for what you are doing right now, watching their performance and listening to their songs…for free? Hmmmm. Do you feel bad now?

 

Well, if you feel guilty, go out to your local record store and purchase their first 10 CDs (like I already did) and you’ll see how great they are. Or maybe you can go to Amazon and buy them. Wait….maybe you can pay for access and stream their music!

Whatever you decide to do, sit back and enjoy some incredible melodies and musicianship.

 

I love this period from them. This is a great group of players:

Hit Charade

Meet the bald Norwegians and other unknowns who actually create the songs that top the charts.  
An excerpt from THIS article: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/hit-charade/403192/

Most Americans will recognize their songs, however. As I write this, at the height of summer, the No. 1 position on the Billboard pop chart is occupied by a Max Martin creation, “Bad Blood” (performed by Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar). No. 3, “Hey Mama” (David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj), is an Ester Dean production; No. 5, “Worth It” (Fifth Harmony featuring Kid Ink), was written by Stargate; No. 7, “Can’t Feel My Face” (The Weeknd), is Martin again; No. 16, “The Night Is Still Young” (Minaj), is Dr. Luke and Ester Dean. And so on. If you flip on the radio, odds are that you will hear one of their songs. If you are reading this in an airport, a mall, a doctor’s office, or a hotel lobby, you are likely listening to one of their songs right now. This is not an aberration. The same would have been true at any time in the past decade. Before writing most of Taylor Swift’s newest album, Max Martin wrote No. 1 hits for Britney Spears, ’NSync, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, and Katy Perry.

Read the entire piece here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/hit-charade/403192/

With Downloads In Decline, Can iTunes Adapt?

Anyone who witnessed the transition from the older version of iTunes to the post-Steve Jobs version knows ITunes sucks. It is confusing, cumbersome and frustrating. I think I have purchased about 8 songs from iTunes in my life so my opionion is quite biased.

I have way too much music on vinyl, CD and MP3s imported from those CDS that I really don’t need another song in my collection. Plus, there is youtube and…hmmmm…I’ll whisper it (Spotify).

It’s inevitable folks, streaming is here and not going anywhere. Submit…repent and deal with the reality of life in the new Millenium.

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Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs stands in front of a projection of iTunes at a presentation in 2004.
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Apple’s innovative iTunes music service is still the market leader in music downloads, but after more than a decade of growth, sales of music tracks on iTunes have been declining. Last year saw the largest drop in sales — 14 percent. The drop is attributed to the increasing popularity of streaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. These services give fans access to millions of tracks from any Internet-connected device for a monthly fee or in return for listening to commercials.

But many people say they are leaving iTunes simply because it just isn’t that easy to use. When the late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs introduced iTunes almost exactly 14 years ago, on January 9, 2001, he made fun of the other software-based music players like Real Jukebox and Windows Media Player. “They are too complex,” Jobs declared. “They’re really difficult to learn and use.” Jobs unveiled the first version of iTunes software from a stage in San Francisco, boasting that it was “Really clean. Really simple” and “far more powerful.”

It charmed a generation of music fans like Alex Newsom, who gets nostalgic talking about the first iTunes purchase she made when she was only 13 years old. “I downloaded this song by Liz Phair where it’s like ‘Why Can’t I Breath Without You'” Newsom says. “I thought I was super cool because it was my first kind of grown-up-sounding song that I’d gone after myself.”

Newsom, who lives outside Seattle, is now 21 and increasingly frustrated with iTunes. For example, a recent update moved the playlist feature around. “You can still kind of go do things the old way but you have to go out of your way to do it,” she says. “And it’s clearly not the way that they expect you to do it.”

Newsom is not alone in her frustration. Jason Mosley, a web designer who specializes in user experiences, says the last version of iTunes he used — 11 — made him work harder to do what he wanted. For example, instead of being able to create a stream of songs based on a single song he likes with one click, he now has to hover over the song and bring up a temporary menu and then select from different options.

Mosley says he was “shocked to see that they had this all nested within another link.” The web designer says, “As a rule of thumb for user experience you want less clicks to get to an action.”

Mosley says part of Apple’s problem is that the basic design is old. “It was built for older things,” he says. “I think it’s just kind of been added onto since then, and that’s just going to make it heavy and slow. Spotify, these new applications, they have the advantage. They are starting fresh.”

Read the rest HERE: http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2015/01/06/375173595/with-downloads-in-decline-can-itunes-adapt

The Flying V

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On this day in music history: January 6, 1958
The Gibson Guitar Company registers its design for the Flying V guitar with the US Patent Office. The unique instrument is designed by Gibson president Ted McCarty with the intention of adding a futuristic aspect to the companies image. During their original manufacturing run, the guitars’ body and neck are constructed from African Korina wood and mahogany with either ebony or rosewood fretboards. Guitarists such as Albert King and Lonnie Mack will adapt to them immediately and will become closely associated with both artists. However, initial sales will be slow and they will be discontinued in 1959. When guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Dave Davies of The Kinks begin playing them, it will renew interest in the Flying V and Gibson will reintroduce the guitar in 1967. The instrument will become a favorite of hard rock and heavy metal musicians during the 1970’s and 80’s. Original Flying V’s made in 1958 and 1959 today are valued at between $200,000 and $250,000. To this day, the Flying V remains one of Gibson’s most popular guitars.

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Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars

Not bad…but I heard this already 35 years ago. I ain’t gonna complain too much because I like Bruno. He’s a great performer and songwriter. More power to you soul brother #2!

“Uptown Funk” is the first single from Ronson’s upcoming fourth album, Uptown Special, which drops January 27th on RCA Records. He and Mars, along with a “very special guest,” will perform the track on the November 22nd episode of Saturday Night Live.

The bulk of Uptown Special was co-written and produced by Ronson and Jeff Bhasker over 18 months in studios spanning London, Memphis, Los Angeles and New York City. The LP also features a number of lyrics by American novelist Michael Chabon, along with significant vocal and instrumental contributions from Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker. Other musical collaborators include Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt, producer Emile Haynie, Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford, TNGHT’s Hudson Mohawke and DJ Zinc.

Ronson previously teamed with Bhasker and the Smeezingtons production team for three songs – “Moonshine,” “Gorilla” and the chart-topping “Locked Out of Heaven” – on Mars’ 2012 LP, Unorthodox Jukebox.

YouTube Music Key Is Introduced as New Rival in Streaming

Credit Liz Grauman/The New York Times
Credit Liz Grauman/The New York Times

For nearly a decade, YouTube has offered a smorgasbord of free music, making just about every song imaginable — from Top 40 to ukulele covers — available at a click. But soon the site, whose more than one billion monthly visitors make it the world’s most popular music platform, will start charging for additional perks.

On Wednesday, YouTube unveiled YouTube Music Key, a long-awaited upgrade of its music offerings that will include higher-quality audio for most songs and give users the option of paying $8 a month for extra features, chief among them removing YouTube’s ubiquitous ads.

With its new service, YouTube hopes to reform its reputation in the music industry as a phenomenal free site to promote songs, but one that pays a pittance in royalties. “We want to give fans more ways to enjoy music on YouTube, but also give artists more opportunities to connect with fans and earn more revenues,” said Christophe Muller, its music partnerships director.

As YouTube pushes into paid content, other online music outlets — under considerable pressure from the recording industry — are being forced to defend or change their business models to better compensate artists.

Taylor Swift drew wide support among fellow musicians — and a rebuke from Spotify’s chief executive — after she removed her entire catalog from the streaming service, apparently because Spotify refused a request to keep her music only on its paid level. And SoundCloud, which has never paid royalties, signed its first deal with a major record company, the Warner Music Group, last week, and will begin to pay artists for the first time.

With the music industry suffering a steep decline in sales, it is ever more dependent on payouts from streaming outlets like Spotify, Pandora and Apple’s Beats Music. For a while, free music has been crucial to the marketing of these services, but now music executives and analysts increasingly say that their growing popularity is a deterrent to getting customers to pay.

“As recently as five years ago, free was entirely about piracy; now free is widespread and completely within the legitimate sphere,” Mark Mulligan, an analyst, said. “But we still have the exact same challenge we had in the golden age of piracy, which is, how do you compete with free?”

Online subscription services like Spotify have grown quickly, with 28 million subscribers around the world last year, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. In some countries, like Sweden, a majority of sales revenue now comes from streaming music.

But so far this growth has not been fast enough to make up for a rapid decline in sales of CDs and downloads. In the first half of 2014, for example, album sales were down 13 percent compared with the same period the year before, and digital track downloads were down 10.6 percent, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

YouTube Music Key will be available to users in the United States, Britain and a handful of other European countries. Following Google’s preferred pattern of introducing new products through “beta” testing, it will first be available by invitation only, and is expected to be offered to all users by next year.

For those invitees, it will be free for six months and then cost $8 a month; the cost to the public starting next year will be $10, the same as Spotify and other services. Subscribers will also get Google Play Music, the on-demand audio service that has been Google’s main competitor to Spotify.

Read the rest HERE

Who’s to blame here?

Here is the problem with most of the arguments against Spotify; we don’t know the terms of the deals bands have signed with their labels or publishers. What kind of an advance do artists get for publishing/record deal? What are the exact terms? Without any of this information, we can’t tell exactly what is happening to the money after Spotify writes the check. All we know is – the owner of the publishing on a song or band member should be seeing what they signed up for in their contract. It isn’t Spotify’s fault that the money isn’t making it’s way to artists.

Why is Spotify in the crosshairs because publishers and labels don’t pay the artists/writers? Did writers march on Best Buy or Target headquarters when they felt they weren’t getting a big enough piece of CD sales? What about the payouts from YouTube?

How much of the $11.99 a fan spent on a CD in the 90’s actually went to the group TLC? Weren’t they broke even after selling millions of CDS?

Streaming is here to stay, no matter what the 1 percenters like Taylor Swift do with their millions and private owned jets. I could have sworn musicians weren’t supposed to like millionaire musicians?

I’m Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. And These Are the Facts…

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Taylor Swift is absolutely right: music is art, art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it. We started Spotify because we love music and piracy was killing it. So all the talk swirling around lately about how Spotify is making money on the backs of artists upsets me big time.

Our whole reason for existence is to help fans find music and help artists connect with fans through a platform that protects them from piracy and pays them for their amazing work.

Read what he said HERE: http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/permalink/2014/11/11/im-spotify-ceo-daniel-ek-facts

Why I’ll Never Ever Ever Ever…buy music again

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Oh Taylor Swift. Lots of people are talking about her. She has a great publicist. Nice job!

I wish her well and I am glad she is moving lots of product. She is a winner and is making lots of money. Congratulations.

I won’t be one of the people buying her product. In fact, I will “never, ever ever” buy a Taylor Swift song/album. I won’t even buy a new Stevie Wonder or Prince song/album, even though I love them. Never. I DO love her new song. It’s great. Just for the record, I am done buying music. In my life, I have purchased well over 2500 CDs, 800 cassettes, 1500 LPs and dozens of mp3s.  There isn’t anything new that I would want to own anyway. Renting music legally from Spotify is just fine with this old man. I have, in my possession, just about all of the greatest music ever made…right here on my hard drive ripped from my music collection. This collection was created through decades of actually purchasing product from record stores. Does anyone remember those places?

If someone wants to shut down streaming services, I feel they are one of the many people fighting the wrong fight. I feel the record labels are the ones who are not paying the artists. The labels are the ones who work with services like Spotify. The labels have been the ones who have ripped off artists since day one. It seems as if the artists are the ones who are stupid enough to do whatever t took to be “famous” including singing away all kinds of rights for that sweet Cadillac.

So, go ahead and applaud Taylor. She has the leverage to not have her product distributed through Spotify. Streaming is an option, not a necessity.

Question; how will a band who just recorded their new album right out of their garage get a person like yourself to hear and buy their ‘product?” Spotify is just one of many distribution networks. It is an option. Not the devil.

I found an interesting article about her on CNN:

Technology is transforming the way music is created, shared and enjoyed, and where we will go from here is hard to predict. The latest shock to the system is Taylor Swift’s decision to break up with Spotify, the popular music streaming service that has 40 million active users — one quarter of which are paying subscribers.

With the release of her latest album, entitled “1989,” Swift — arguably music’s most popular artist at the moment — requested that all her back catalog be removed from the service. The move, which would be risky for most other artists, helped boost sales of the album to 1.3 million units in its debut week, the best performance in the industry since 2002. With no legal option other than buying, fans obliged.

Spotify says that over 70% of its revenues go to artists, but just between $0.006 and $0.0084 is paid for each play, depending on the artist. Others before Swift have pulled out: Thom Yorke famously described the service as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse,” and his solo works are not available for streaming. Other no-shows include The Beatles, who have an exclusive deal with Apple.

And yet, Spotify is now earning some artists more money than iTunes in Europe, as was revealed at the Web Summit technology conference in Dublin by Willard Ahdritz, CEO and founder of Kobalt, a company that represents thousands of musicians. That means that streaming is becoming, in some instances, more profitable than album sales.

Predicting the hits

Elsewhere in the digital world, social media is becoming a dominant contributing factor to the popularity of an artist, and it’s also generating a huge amount of data that can be a powerful tool for trend analysis. Public social data is like a crystal ball that can help the music industry predict who’s going to become the next big thing.

A company called Next Big Sound specializes in precisely these types of predictions. By tracking streams and collecting data from the Internet — new Twitter followers, Facebook likes and Wikipedia page views — the company says it can estimate the likelihood of an artist making it into the Billboard Top 200, which charts album releases, over a year before it happens.

Making the charts is not easy. Speaking at the Web Summit, Alex White of Next Big Sound pointed out that in the last year, only 961 artists made the Billboard Top 200, and just 204 of those were entering it for the first time. The Billboard Top 100, which tracks singles rather than albums, is an even more exclusive club: out of 249 artists appearing, just 43 were debuting.

Despite the charts favoring established artists, it’s never been so easy to make, share and discover new music. “At the end of the 90s you needed a full blown musical studio to make real music,” said Eric Wahlforss, co-founder of streaming service Soundcloud, “now all you need is a laptop. Even an iPad can be enough. Music making is for everyone. Technology has made it cheaper, accessible and more powerful.”

Read more HERE