Music industry

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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No, Thom Yorke’s ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ Won’t Reinvent the Music Biz Through BitTorrent

“Thom Yorke hates Spotify” is one of the first Google auto-fills that pop up for me when I enter the Radiohead frontman’s name. I can’t say I remember ever googling that particular phrase, perhaps because I know it to be a fact. The series of tweets he rattled off about music’s most popular streaming service, along with frequent producer and Atoms For Producer bandmate Nigel Godrich, have become beef as classic as a Big Mac. Still, Yorke really did put his money where his mouth is when he removed portions of his discography (Atoms for Peace’s AMOK and his 2006 solo debut, The Eraser) from the streaming service. … Read More

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With New Music and No Label, There’s Hope for Azealia Banks Yet

Today, Twitter beefmaster and onetime “one to watch” Azealia Banks released her second post-major label single, “Chasing Time.” On it, Banks returns to the house influences she navigated impressively in her 2012 mixtape, Fantasea, mixing them with fresh new sounds recalling the work of up-and-coming UK producer SOPHIE. But more than that, she channels her frustrations with Universal Music Group, which signed her in early 2012 to Interscope on the strength of single “212” but delayed her debut LP into nonexistence, into its catchy chorus: “Am I chasing time? ‘Cause I wasted all mine on you/ Shut my watch, I had the future in my pocket/ But I lost it when I gave it to you.” Keep in mind, this is the label she begged to be dropped from, repeatedly, via Twitter. When she finally was dumped this past July, after two years and one EP (2012’s 1991), Banks declared, “Free at last.” … Read More

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Robin Thicke and Pharrell Depositions Highlight Blurred Lines of Pop Songwriting

Just when it looked as though Chris Brown would win “pop star wang of the week,” Robin Thicke re-emerged via formerly sealed deposition from his ongoing copyright infringement lawsuit with Marvin Gaye’s estate over “Blurred Lines.” Back in April, Thicke and co-writer/producer Pharrell Williams gave “incredibly hostile” depositions regarding the No. 1 hit’s similarities to Marvin Gaye’s 1977 classic “Got to Give It Up.” Transcripts of their legal questioning have now surfaced, thanks to a new ruling from a judge just as the Gaye family filed a summary motion paper. In addition to revealing a Vicodin addiction at the height of Thicke’s fame, the depositions shed light on a common trend in pop music: Frankenstein songwriting. … Read More

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U2’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ iTunes Release Was About Relevance, Not Altruism

In 2014, it takes Apple and U2 to pull off a musical monoculture that rivals both Beyoncé’s 2013 sneak attack and Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want In Rainbows launch. The tech giants and the world-dominating rockers continued their decade-long business collaboration in a big way yesterday during the launch of Apple Watch, Apple Pay, and two different versions of the iPhone 6. Unbeknownst to the masses, Apple released U2’s unannounced but highly anticipated new album, Songs of Innocence, straight into the music library of every iTunes user worldwide. “This will be the largest album release in history. Over a half-billion people own it. Right now,” Apple CEO Tim Cook announced, before Bono and co. closed out the presentation at Apple’s Cupertino, California campus with the album’s opening track, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).” … Read More

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A Guide to All the Gratuitous Product Placement in Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” Video

Nicki Minaj and her team deserve a Clio Award for the ad they just made for asses. But the “Anaconda” video also serves as an advertisement for many other products, some of them officially linked with Minaj and others that may signal new deals. Let’s delve in. … Read More

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