Music industry

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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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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