Music industry

Drake’s ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late': When Contractual Obligation Albums Go Right

Drake releases have long been treated as events, but since the December 2013 SoundCloud premiere of “Trophies,” we’ve experienced escalation. Further drops followed with little to no warning and impressive frequency, often showcasing a sound and flow noticeably tougher and less overtly commercial than 2013’s Nothing Was the Same or 2011’s Take Care. “Draft Day” had Drake on a boom-bap tip, while ballads like “Days in the East” and “Heat of the Moment” explored space in ways radio songs simply aren’t permitted to. “0 To 100” and the aforementioned “Trophies” packed in so much cocksureness and braggadocio that the beats barely had room to breathe. And while his civic pride for Toronto on these tracks felt a touch excessive, it became increasingly more difficult to judge Drake solely by the sensitive sad-boy standards and tropes his critics — professional and otherwise — had come to rely on. Released suddenly Thursday night, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late capitalizes on all of these… Read More

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It’s Not Just About Beck and Beyoncé: Grammy Album of the Year Is a Flawed Award

By now you may have heard Kanye West’s thoughts regarding last night’s Album of the Year Grammy win for Beck, that Beyoncé was robbed again at the hands of a white music industry that’s “disrespectful to inspiration,” that “smack[s] people in their face after they deliver monumental feats of music.” These are salacious sound bites indeed, and they’re only enhanced by Kim Kardashian’s, “Uh oh, don’t let this be another ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people’ moment” face. And really, Kanye isn’t wrongnot even Beck thinks so. … Read More

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How to Get Away With Pop Music Plagiarism

This week, the big topic of conversation among music fans is whether the chorus of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” sounds enough like Tom Petty’s 1989 hit “Won’t Back Down” to warrant the 12.5 percent songwriting credit recently awarded to Petty and his co-writer, Jeff Lynne. Copyright infringement as it applies to songwriting plagiarism goes beyond merely how a song sounds, and if a songwriter even intended to copy the work of another. The field has become more and more litigious in recent decades, and to an outsider, the situation can look a bit creatively limiting. Sometimes people do go to court and win, but many big cases settle out of court on the basis of subconscious plagiarism. What a scary landscape to live in as a musician — being responsible for inadvertently copying someone else’s work you’ve never even heard. … Read More

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Taylor Swift, Steve Albini, Spotify, and the Fruitless Quest for a Music Industry Savior

If you ever need a reminder that all those rose-tinted remembrances of the pre-internet music industry do not account for the full story, look no further than Steve Albini’s seminal 1993 essay for The Baffler. It’s called, simply, “The Problem With Music.” In it, Albini details the flaws of the major-label music system in actual numbers and simple math — something that’s not done often enough in trade and consumer publications alike when it comes to how musicians actually make their money. … Read More

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Taylor Swift Pulling Her Music from Spotify Isn’t About Unfair Terms — It’s Because She Can

Three years ago, just as The Black Keys were in the midst of ascending to their current arena-rock status, the duo did something kind of groundbreaking for a mid-level major label band: they said “thanks but no thanks” to Spotify. It was a strategy their manager, Q Prime’s John Peets, told me they’d be monitoring through the record cycle for 2011’s El Camino. Based on the fact that the band’s No. 1 album Turn Blue, released this past May, does not appear on the streaming behemoth, I’m left to believe the strategy worked for them. Financial outcome aside, the Black Keys bellyached all over the place about Spotify’s unjustly low royalty rates, to the extent that I chuckle when I see what it says on their Spotify page: “The artist or their representatives have decided not to release this album on Spotify. We are working on it and hope they will change their mind soon.” … Read More

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How to Taylor Swiftify Your Personal Brand in 12 Steps

Next week, Taylor Swift will release 1989, her fifth album and her “first documented pop album.” Swift announced the album back in August, but she’s been setting up her grown-ass reintroduction to the public for some time now. To the outside eye, Swift has made some major changes in her life: a move to New York, new famous pals, love life on hiatus, and above all, no more country twang. She’s done it in a brilliant way, with distinct strategies that could be useful to a number of different creators. Let’s go through the 12 steps of Swiftian reinvention as it relates to one’s personal brand. … Read More

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The Best Quotes From Iggy Pop’s “Free Music in a Capitalist Society” BBC Lecture

That’s Prof Pop to you! In addition to his BBC Radio 6 DJ post over the last year, the Godfather of Punk delivered BBC Music’s annual John Peel Lecture Tuesday night (October 13) in an hour-long presentation at the Lowry theater in Salford, Manchester. His topic — “Free Music In a Capitalist Society” — was a fascinating one, particularly for a musical icon who has moved in and out of DIY and commercial realms for much of his career, eventually having little shame over licensing “Lust For Life” to a Carnival Cruise commercial (among other ads). “If I want to make money, well, how about selling car insurance?” he postured. “At least I’m honest. It’s an ad, and that’s all it is. If I had to depend on what I actually get from sales, I’d be tending bars between sets.” … Read More

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Mark Kozelek’s Beef With War On Drugs Is, Above All, Smart Publicity

“The whitest band I’ve ever heard is War On Drugs,” Mark Kozelek utters over and over again in his new beef track, “War On Drugs: Suck My Cock.” With lines like this, it’s difficult to take the song too seriously; by similar standards of “whiteness” — meaning indie rock perceived as music for white music listeners — Kozelek’s Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters aren’t far off. And Kozelek, for all his shit-slinging, must know this. … Read More

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