Category Archives: Music

Music Trends & Issues on Modern Media Mix

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

Explicit Faith: The Christian Rap Industry

Christian rap

Rapper NF boldly proclaims in one of his songs, “When I die, put my ashes in a trash bag. I don’t care where they go. Don’t waste your money on my gravestone. I’m more concerned about my soul.” This is a message one could call atypical of the rap genre, but starkly characteristic of the Christian music industry.

christian rap NF
NF performing at the Sonshine Music Festival. Photo Credit: Leziga Barikor.

The rapper Nathan Feuerstein, better known for his stage name NF, had his newest album Therapy Session reach the top of the rap charts this spring. The growing integration of Christian rap into the secular music industry is an important step towards the refinement of the rap industry as a whole into a more respectable music genre.

Artists like NF who reach secular success often find themselves having to make distinctions of where their faith comes to play and where it doesn’t. The simple explanation is that these people are simply musicians who just so happen to be Christians. But this is unfortunately where they lose most of the crowd.

The paradox that Christian musicians can find themselves in is: non-Christians don’t want to listen to Christian themed music and Christians don’t want to support artists who refuse to brand themselves explicitly as “Christians.” For rap in particular, there is the added struggle of trying to find acceptance in two starkly different cultures.

“Being an outspoken Christian in the music industry means always feeling out of place,” according to Lecrae Moore in his autobiography Unashamed. He goes on to recount a visit to a mainstream radio station where he was told “we just don’t play Gospel here,” but it just got worse as he was informed that their sister station that did play Gospel music “don’t want to hear rap.” Lecrae is the biggest name in the Christian rap industry today, but even throughout his rise to fame and now, he is still faced with this challenge.

Despite the heavy culture collision, it is undeniable that artists like NF and Lecrae are breaking through to the secular divide. The truth is that the Gospel has been influencing the rap industry for a while now, most recently with Kanye West. Now having Gospel influences in music does not a Christian artist make, but rather, it is the faith the artist professes off and on stage.

A niche within a niche, the Christian rap industry is not losing ground yet. In fact, the entire Christian music industry as a whole has made huge strides since its inception amidst the Jesus Movement. For talented musicians, why should it matter if their message is founded in their faith? Besides making good trivia for gossip magazines, the motivation behind the music shouldn’t limit the acceptance.

So why does your favorite music matter to you? Does it resonate with your life story, or is the beat easy to dance to? Christian rap is one side of a broad category of Christian music that covers everything you could think of. Maybe with the growth of Christian rap, people can expect to see the growth of respect for rap itself as medium of expression. These artist are unashamed and here to stay, so there’s only one question I have left for you — what do you think about Jesus music?

Leziga Barikor

Innovation or Inevitability?: The Future of Selective Music Pricing

There aren’t many business models that would ever propose you let the consumer name their price as low or as high as they want for a product or service, yet that’s exactly what the artist Pretty Lights (Dereck Vincent Smith) has done with his label Pretty Lights Music.

In an ever-changing digital music market, the artists and music producers of today face overwhelming odds when it comes to distributing their music in a way that differentiates them and appeals to consumers, especially in a world of torrenting and mp3 conversion.

music pricing torrentDereck Smith and some of his fellow producers such as Griz and Gramatik of Grizmatik think they’ve found a solution through selective pricing, giving far more power to the consumers in the way they can freely access music.

When it comes to the consumption of music, the early 2000s marked a strange time in the Industry with the emergence and rise of illegal downloads through torrenting. Since then, it’s safe to say illegal downloads have become a regular means of obtaining music with millennials and younger generations in general. As early as 2006, Pretty Lights sought to adapt to this drastic change in consumption by adapting the way his music was priced along with two of his friends and fellow producers Griz & Gramatik.

pretty lights music pricing

“There is no escaping that reality” according to Gramatik. From artist Gramatik’s standpoint and the standpoint of many, the issue comes down to the idea that in music consumption there are two types of people; Those who will pay for the music they love no matter what to support those artists, and then there is now individuals who avoid paying for music as much as possible.

The shift in consumption has been partially because of the technology available for obtaining music, and much of the change is simply due a strong disinterest from millennials to pay for all of the music they have such easy access to.  With the rise of digital distribution and streaming services, the amount of music millennials find themselves having access to compared to older generations is staggering.

Though there have been those who have shown a fair amount of success through choosing to distribute their music through a selective pricing options , there remain many skeptical of the direction of selective pricing. Some believe selective pricing doesn’t offer a large enough portfolio for artists, putting them at a disadvantage against other artists by not providing a large enough portfolio of music at a consistent and predictable price.  But observing the success of artists like Pretty Lights, it seems hard to deny that selective pricing may become the primary distribution channel for artists to reach consumers.

Tom Randolph

NAB Show 2016 Recap

Ten students from the University of Northern Iowa had the opportunity to participate in the 3rd Annual Expedition to the NAB Show in Las Vegas this spring. They studied everything from post production editing and media distribution to the latest trends in virtual reality. Check out their videos on the UNI Digital Media Leadership YouTube channel and like our Facebook Page for more post-show updates!

NAB Show 2016 Overview

Here is an overview of the NAB Show 2016. This will give you look and the size and scope of the convention and a taste of the fun these students had.

 

Post Production Overview

Check out the latest in post production software and equipment. These students got a firsthand look at the latest products from companies like Black Magic, Adobe, and GoPro.

 

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality was a hot topic this year at the NAB Show. Media producers are experimenting with new ways of storytelling and incorporating VR into new media work flows.

Media Distribution

The world of media distribution is constantly changing and the sources of revenue for content has shifted a lot in the last few years. See how come companies are staying ahead of the curve.

 

Special thanks to the IBA for making this trip possible! We’re looking forward to next year’s trip and planning to bring you more great content straight from the NAB Show floor.

NAB Show 2016 UNI Digital Media Leadership