Category Archives: Music

Music Trends & Issues on Modern Media Mix

The Grammys are Becoming Irrelevant: What can the Music Industry do to Fix That?

There was a time when the Grammy Awards was the pinnacle of musical recognition. All of the country’s biggest artists coming together for a night where the lives of many would be changed forever. A night where music lovers would tune in to watch memorizing performances and their favorite artists win music’s most prestigious awards. Now, it’s safe to say that the Grammys do not hold that kind of significance, both to musicians and fans alike. How could this be? 

Problem: Voting System

One potential reason could be that the voting system has been under heavy scrutiny for years, and people are fed up with it.  It’s clear that the voting system centers around giving the awards to artists who sit at the top of the charts and sell the most records, even though the Grammy’s claim to consider talent and originality more than anything else. Year after year, artists like Pitbull or Cardi B are winning over more talented, distinguished artists in the industry. Fans take notice to this, and it hurts the Grammys’ credibility.

It’s also been said that the people behind the voting process aren’t necessarily the most experienced in the music business. According to an article by Vox, those who apply to become a Grammy voter must fit into only one of four listed criteria provided on the application. This could make a myriad of different personnel eligible to be a Grammy voter, which again takes a jab at the credibility of the award process. How are we supposed to know if the people voting really should be doing so? Learn more about how the voting process is tainted here.

Problem: Lack of Diversity

Another problem dogging the Grammys is the lack of diversity within their nomination lists. In 2017, only one female performer was given an award on air, with only 10 female winners in total. This follows a trend from previous awards shows in the past, with males earning a majority of the awards and nominations. 

Hip-hop, recently taking over rock as the most popular music genre in the world, still doesn’t get its due recognition by the Grammys. In 2019, there was a massive uptick in hip-hop artist nominations and winners, but one year of recognition doesn’t make up for the years of discrimination that hip-hop faced in the past. Some of hip-hop’s biggest names, including Drake and Kendrick Lamar, refused to perform at this year’s show. Although the artists themselves didn’t comment on why they refused to perform, it can be speculated that they did not want to support a show that has continually written their genre off by not including it in the most serious awards of the night. An article by NPR  also mentions how Childish Gambino was asked to perform his latest hit single “This is America” but declined, with his producer citing how Gambino did not want to tarnish the message of the song by performing it on a show whose producers are the exact people the song is calling out.

As a result of these issues, the viewership of the Grammys has cut in half since 2012:

So, what can be done to change the tide?

Solution: Quality over Quantity

It’s seems simple at this point: completely dismantle the current voting system and bring in professionals from the industry with no agendas (for example, if they’re an executive from a major recording label, to not vote for an artist from their label strictly for the potential growth in popularity/sales) that are knowledgeable in the business and whom fit more than just one given piece of criteria. Proving to artists and audiences that the Grammys give a hoot about their voting process by working to make it legitimate will assuredly help in the revival of the show’s relevancy.

Solution: More Women, Hip-Hop Nominations/Victories

This should be done not to simply coerce the nay-sayers of the show- it should instead be done to be in line with the changing culture of the music industry, one that has continually recognized women and hip-hop artists as premiere musical creators that are creating some of the best music available today. To give the Grammys some credit, hip-hop and female nominations were at its highest in some time at the 2019 awards, but this doesn’t erase the decades of segregation that these demographics have been subject too, and therefore makes the case that more than this has to be done to change the tide.

What other issues do you think the Grammys are dealing with? In what other ways do you think the Grammys could improve? Let me know!

-Brandon Lynch

Should I Stay or Should I Go? 6ix9ine’s Trial and What It Means for his Future Music

Daniel Hernandez, otherwise known as 6ix9ine, is a rapper that was born and raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The New York-based rapper didn’t grow to fame until his first single “GUMMO” was released in 2017. From that point on, 6ix9ine’s career rapidly progressed to new heights. What was once an underground secret became an overnight sensation.

6ix9ine was quickly known for his outlandish statements, videos, and appearances on social media. With 6ix9ine’s growing popularity, however, he also gained the scrutiny of the government and public eye.

Before 6ix9ine’s most recent trial, he had run-ins with the law. There were a few occasions where 6ix9ine was arrested on assault charges. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that 6ix9ine and other members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods were arrested for racketeering, narcotics distribution, and other federal offences.

Facing a potential sentence of 47 years in federal prison, 6ix9ine decided to cooperate with the federal government in order to obtain a deal. To reduce his sentence, 6ix9ine agreed to testify against fellow Nine Trey members Anthony “Harv” Ellison and Aljermiah “Nuke” Mack in a trial that would take place over several weeks.

On September 16th, 2019, the trail began. Over the course of the trial, 6ix9ine had testified that Anthony Ellison had robbed and kidnapped him in July of the previous year. 6ix9ine also claimed that Aljermiah Mack had previously dealt heroine cut with fentanyl and MDMA over the course of several months.

It was also stated during the trial that Anthony was once a part of 6ix9ine’s security detail and was heavily affiliated with the Nine Trey gang and the series of crimes they committed. Aljermiah oversaw the production/distribution of narcotics in Nine Trey. By the end of the trial, both defendants (Anthony and Aljermiah) were convicted and currently await sentencing by the end of this year.

In addition to his testimony, 6ix9ine was required to plead guilty to all charges and crimes committed, including previous crimes. He also had to renounce his affiliation with the Nine Trey Bloods and not commit any further crimes. If the federal government decides that 6ix9ine has fully cooperated, they may give him 5K1 letter to give to the judge. If all goes well, he might get his sentence dropped all the way down to a “time-served” sentence which is simply a sentence that he has already served while awaiting trial.

After everything aforementioned, 6ix9ine quietly awaits his sentencing in federal prison. Some sources claim that the sentencing won’t take place until January of 2020, but 6ix9ine’s attorney believes that they will move the sentencing date to December of this year.

In the meantime, the biggest decision that 6ix9ine must make is whether he will go into Witness Protection or not once he is released from prison. Regardless of his choice, 6ix9ine will be a walking target due to the Bloods wanting revenge for his testimony during the trial and betraying Nine Trey.

Most believe that the smartest thing for 6ix9ine would be to go into hiding through Witness Protection and start a new life. However, in recent articles, it is stated that 6ix9ine wishes to continue making music after prison and may not go into Witness Protection. Instead, he always plans to have 24/7 security protection with him.

Though 6ix9ine’s plans may be a death wish, others seem optimistic about 6ix9ine’s situation. Irv Gotti, head of the record label Murder Inc., said in a recent interview that he thinks 6ix9ine will be okay because society has become more tolerant of snitches in the current generation. Though 6ix9ine’s future may be nebulous, if he can make music again, Irv believes that the people will more than likely overlook his label of being a “rat” if he continues to produce hits.

What do you think? Should 6ix9ine go into Witness Protection or continue making music? Is society as lenient on snitches as Irv claims, or is it solely based on the success of 6ix9ine’s music post-incarceration?

-Xavier Pestana

Changing the Music Distribution Game

Thanks to the rise of the Internet and digital distribution, it is now easier than ever before for music artists to get their music to the masses. Since the beginning of the music industry labels have had to use artists to survive and artists have needed labels to be relevant. The case is not so today! Today having a label is almost an obsolete practice.

musicThere are some pros to having a label. They can manage an artist’s marketing and show promotion, they can help set up tours and manage tours, and they can manage the distribution of an artist’s music in stores and online. The issue is that a label usually takes a large chunk of the artist’s revenue leaving them only the revenues from live shows. Today, a successful indie artist can just hire a tour manager and a marketing and promotions manager, instead of dealing with a substantial decrease in revenue that comes with a label. The lack of a label also allows an artist complete creative control with their music so they don’t have to change something just because the label thinks it could reach a wider audience.

There are a number of options when it comes to indie music distribution. One of the most popular digital distributors is Distrokid. Distrokid offers multiple levels of subscription based service the lowest being pay $20 a year and upload as much music as you want to any of its over 150 partners. These partners include Spotify, iTunes, Google Music, Pandora, and many more! The only downside to this service is that they do not produce physical copies of discs, however artists like Chance the Rapper have found success without even releasing physical copies of their albums so this may be less of a drawback than people think. If you’re looking for a service that makes physical copies CDBaby and Tunecore, however these services are on a per album basis rather than a yearly subscription.

Other services that have risen to help independent artists include music sharing websites such as Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Soundcloud is a music sharing community where people can just put up what they have been working on free for anyone to check out at anytime. Bandcamp, on the other hand, is more similar to something like iTunes. It’s a place where artist can sell their music, as well as set up a profile where they can sell merchandise. The artists have complete control over the prices they set on Bandcamp and can even do a pay what you want option. Many artists like this website because they feel it helps foster community.

Based on the information provided by Samuel Orson in this article, we can get an idea of the payout with some of the digital services. With iTunes an artist receives %77 percent of the revenue for each purchase, with Spotify and artist receives about $.004 per stream, and with YouTube artists receive $.0004 per stream. Samuel also gave insight into some of the revenue breakdown for Bandcamp. He mentions how Bandcamp give you a larger chunk of the profit the more people pay for your music. So an artist can get about %77 for an album that sells for $5 and close to %80 with an album that sells for $10.

musicBut who would I be if I didn’t put my money where my mouth is? You can check out my artist profile and my EP Reset Navigation on Spotify and iTunes, distributed through Distrokid. As well as, my Bandcamp profile here. Who knows maybe I’ll write the next indie hit?

-Jonathan Carpenter

Tuition Costs Suck, But College Students can Save on a Spotify + Hulu Bundle

The cost of college can be expensive, but the cost of streaming unlimited music, movies and TV is now more affordable for U.S college students than you would think. Just recently Spotify joined forces with the TV streaming service, Hulu, in hopes to gain more subscribers on both platforms, and create a new partnership.

spotify huluOn September 7th, these two different entertainment platforms officially opened up their brand-new deal, $4.99 a month for access to both Spotify and Hulu, for U.S college students only. This bundle is the same price for regular Spotify, but now you get Hulu added on for free through this new offer. Both companies continue to have their own separate apps, so there will be no technology integration, where you would see Hulu suggestions within Spotify’s app. So, in a sense, yes they are bundled together, but each still operates completely separated from the other.

In the past, Spotify has tried to push their original videos into the spotlight and grab their listener’s attention. But if you watch one of their original short episodes, you would understand why nobody would sign up to Spotify strictly to watch any of these episodes. It has long since abandoned those plans for combining music and TV. With this new plan with Hulu, Spotify may not need to start from scratch on their TV channel idea. We could be seeing something big in the near future with these two platforms partnership that has already been created.

SpotifyThe landscape in the music streaming business can be very competitive. When you look at the number of subscribers for Spotify (60 million) and Apple Music (27 million), however, you can see that this entertainment bundle is only going to increase their numbers and widen the gap between their competition. Apple hasn’t announced anything about what they might potential do in reaction towards this new bundle.

Hulu’s plan in all of this is to hopefully gain a larger number of subscribers and make a habit of students continuing to use Hulu after they graduate college. By getting access to Hulu for free, students will get introduced to streaming TV and will hopefully enjoy the experience and want to keep Hulu. On the other hand, Spotify is trying to do a similar strategy. Students get half price to Spotify premium, but once they graduate it goes back to normal price. Spotify is hoping to draw in those students at a cheap price and access to Hulu and keep them once they graduate. Spotify is paying for all the advertising and digital promotion, while Hulu doesn’t have to pay anything. But Hulu is not getting any revenue by letting Spotify subscribers gain access to their streaming network.

With such a low cost, college students can get the perfect entertainment bundle with music and TV streaming ability. We will see if these two companies continue to share their networks and advance their market to more than just U.S college students. This entertainment bundle is nothing like we have seen before, and we will see if it works out for both Spotify and Hulu.

-Nick Langel

Why Watch when you can Listen? The Evolution of Podcasts

With the holiday season right around the corner, Americans across the country are traveling for hours to visit friends and family. For me, I have a few gruelingly long trips ahead of me. When I was younger, I would spend the time playing car games with my brother and sister or pestering my parents. Today, I listen to podcasts.

podcastsA podcast is “a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.” According to the History of Podcasting, podcasts are the “method of spreading information, has become a recognized medium for distributing audio content, whether it be for corporate or personal use.” Today, the podcast industry is booming. There are about 250,000 unique podcasts spread over 100 language and iTunes had over 1 billion podcast subscribers in 2013.

How podcasts came to be was not as staggering as its current listening reach. The beginning of podcasts come from small internet sites who were creating podcasts about specific topics and people for people who cared about the niche topic or person.

Podcasts did not garner national recognition until 2015 when This American Life, a public radio show, developed the podcast Serial. This podcast used investigative journalism to explore the murder of a young high school girl and the boy convicted of that murder. The listener had to listen to each episode in order to understand and follow the story. This podcasts was the catalyst that helped slingshot the industry to what it is today.

podcastsWhile there are many reasons for podcasts popularity, here are a few of the basic reasons I believe podcasts work:

  • Podcasts cover a wide range of topics. The thousands of different podcasts available cover a variety of topics that can pique the interest of any person. Some of the more common topics for podcasts are: religion, comedy and humor, crime, educational, feminist, history, horror, and science fiction. Christianity leads the way in active podcasts on iTunes in 2015 with 23,200 active podcasts.
  • Podcasts are portable. Unlike television where you need to sit down to enjoy it, podcasts allow listeners to listen to the podcast during any part of their day. I listen to podcasts when I’m working out, shopping for groceries, waiting in line at the bank and during my very few attempts at cleaning.
  • Podcasts are relatively inexpensive. For the podcaster, podcasts are easy and relatively inexpensive to make. All a person needs is equipment to record and edit the podcast and a way to publish it online. For the listener, podcasts can be found free online. If you want to create a podcast, Sound Cloud, is a great place to start.

While podcasts had humble beginnings, they have escalated into a thriving industry. An estimated 50 million people listen to podcasts each month. This high number of people listening to podcasts is reflected in the growing revenue of the podcast industry. In fact, estimates put the 2017 podcast revenue at 220 million dollars, an 85% growth from the previous year. Looking into the future, companies are working to determine how ads on podcasts can be effective. Until then, podcasts will continue to thrive as a way to educate listeners around the globe on a variety of topics.

-Daniel Roers

“LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO”: IS TAYLOR SWIFT A COPYCAT?

We all know by now that Taylor Swift is in love with her two cats, Olivia and Meredith, due to her abundance of cat pics on Instagram, but since her new song, “Look What You Made Me Do”, was released on August 25th, many listeners have been calling her a copy-cat. Why?

Taylor Swift

The song from her new album “Reputation” has accumulated almost 600 million views since its release date on YouTube and has given the 27-year-old, T-Swift, her biggest music video debut to date, according to Variety.  However, it is impossible to miss the similarities it possesses with one of the biggest hits of the 1990s, a song that almost everyone has danced to in the mirror at least once in their life: “I’m Too Sexy,’ written by Fred Fairbrass, Richard Fairbrass, and Rob Manzoli.

Copyright laws have been a fundamental part of the music industry, allowing musicians and writers to have full legal rights over their creation. In fact, according to Gallagher, Callahan, & Gartrell Law, copyright begins at the moment of fixation- when the music and lyrics have been set down on paper, recorded, or stored on a computer, and laws protects the musician even if the song was never registered.  The copyright will also continue to protect the composition for seventy years beyond the life of the author. One example of copyright infringement was in 2015 with the hit song “Blurred Lines,” written by Robin Thicke, with co-songwriter, Pharrell Williams. The song had copied elements of one of Marvin Gaye’s hit songs, and his family sued Thicke and Williams for $7.3 million, according to the New York Times.

So how did Swift get around this law without legal punishment? The members of Right Said Fred are each credited as co-songwriters and, according to Vulture, they were not aware of Swift’s interest in the soundtrack until two days before its initial release date. In fact, they heard the finished mix the exact same day the rest of the world were listening to it on the radio driving home from work, as Swift had reached out to their publishing company, Spirit Music Group, and asked them for permission to integrate the song.

Although “I’m Too Sexy,” has been illegally incorporated in creative mixes since its inception twenty-five years ago, this is one of the few times they have actually been compensated for their share. One of the members from the British group stated, “It will affect our royalty stream, we’re very aware of that. We’ve seen bumps in our royalties when the song is used in a movie or a commercial, but this is going to be of a different level,” he says. “But we’re an independent band, we’ve paid for everything since we started; we’ve never had a major record deal. So, for us, this is cash flow that will fund our successes and our failures.”

The new hit song will continue to rake in the revenue as its popularity continues to rise, while Taylor’s personal messages from her past experiences will spread across the globe. This new album is a force to be reckoned with. Let us know what you think of her new hit song and how effective the background music was to her new hit single, “Look What You Made Me Do”.

-Savannah Necker

DIY Punk in Eastern Iowa

Independence, self-expression, and just plain not giving f*ck. These virtues help drive the spirit of DIY Punk as it thrives in eastern Iowa. But what is DIY Punk? Where did it come from? Why would anyone want to pile into a sweaty basement with strangers? Glad you asked because that’s exactly what I did on the night of September 23rd!

PunkThe event was Sister Wife at The Black Hole. Scheduled for seven “so obviously, that meant it really started at eight.” In fact, I arrived to the event so early that Sister Wife actually thought I was the house owner since there were so few people at seven.

The Black Hole is a home music venue set up in a basement using two large speakers, string lights, and a small wooden stage in the corner of the room. There was also plenty of graffiti on the walls and charming, to say the least, decorations with an overall bohemian atmosphere.

PunkThe event was put on by a group known as Cedar Valley DIY, a network of people that host underground shows as well as other events.

There were five bands that performed that night, Canids, In the Attic, The Hex Girls, Sister Wife, and Shutup. I was invited by my friend Nick Fisher who plays bass/vocal for The Hex Girls. “Cedar Valley DIY is a very loyal audience. Same with places like the Octopus.”

The Octopus is another local venue with a solid music community as well as a place where a number of starting bands get their first tastes of stage time. Every month they host an open mic night and once every year they host a new band night; which is how The Hex Girls first got involved with them.

Bands like The Hex Girls first found their inspiration from other huge punk band, Green Day. Green Day started out in the East Bay of San Francisco playing shows at a local venue that didn’t allow signed bands and worked with a small studio that helped them produce their first few records. Green Day recently released an entire video series on their early years on Spotify that I would highly recommend.

Cedar Valley DIY themselves have also helped to launch a number of local performers on tour nationally. One such band is Avoid, a five-person group from Cedar Falls. You can check out their bandcamp here.

DIY Punk and DIY music in general has been seeing a great rise thanks to the Internet and home recording equipment being cheaper than ever. For only a few hundred dollars a person with a laptop could record an album and put it online. They can also perform as well thanks to communities and venues like Cedar Valley DIY, The Octopus, and all the bands that perform in and around Iowa.

If you want to support Cedar Valley bands like The Hex Girls, the best way to do it is go to a show but if you can’t do that you can stream them here on Spotify. I highly recommend making the effort to get out to a show because when the music is blaring and the crowd is dancing the night can be an experience you’ll never forget! Just don’t forget ear protection!

-Jonathan Carpenter

The Arm-Chair Festival Experience and the Success of Ultra Live

Over the past few years of growth of the festival scene and development of the festival marketplace as well, Ultra Music Festival of Miami Florida has constantly grown and shown itself to be wildly successful in both defining itself as the premiere United States electronic music festival.

The rapid and wild success of Ultra Music Festival has been largely associated with the rising festival economy. There is much more to the growing success of a festival of this scale than a simple rise in demand, as it maintains its status as the premiere electronic music festival in the United States.

Ultra has thrived, not only by connecting with fans during the festival, but also by keeping the hype for the Miami location of the festival going year-round, through a creative approach of expansion paired with successful marketing techniques.

Ultra

One of the most important elements in the success of Ultra Music Festival and Ultra Music Worldwide over the past years is the way they have maintained a strong social media presence with old and new fans on a worldwide scale.

Over the past few years Ultra has grown their live streaming and recording in Miami and at worldwide events such as Ultra Brazil and Ultra Japan. The main event of Ultra Miami itself garners a staggering 14 million unique viewers over the course of the weekend in 2016 while being streaming in an impressive 152 countries around the world.

A strong media presence has helped the continued expansion of Ultra Worldwide events, with some of the lowest undercard names such as Party Favor (seen in the video embedded here) getting entire dedicated streams early in the day as well as published later through. Big-name artists of Ultra have received some viewership over the  years.  They have become thorough in covering the entire experiences, with such low-tier artists receiving this kind of exposure with the additions of new streaming features as well.

2016 marked another year of expansion into the streaming experience that Ultra offers for a fair bit of reasons as well. With Ultra Live including interviews and exclusive content behind the scenes with the creative talents behind ultra, even those who couldn’t make it to the crowned jewel of the Ultra Miami event, there was still advertising done on a massive scale through those who streamed and enjoyed Ultra Music Festival from the comfort of their homes.

Winning the DJ Mag #1 music festival worldwide in 2016 shows much of the success of these expansive and staggering social media campaigns that Ultra Music Festival has garnered over years past. With Ultra Music Festival selling out to the maximum 165,000 sized crowd for the 4th year in a row, it’s sure that the festival streaming and immersive media experience they provide will only bolster the already monumental hype for the annual event.

Tom Randolph