Tag Archives: Music

“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

I’m Not Sure What I’m Trying to Sell You: The Problem with YouTube Red

What if I told you there was a subscription service out there with exclusive, original video content and a huge library of music you can watch and listen to at your leisure? YouTube has entered the streaming service ring with their own paid subscription service, YouTube Red, that boasts exclusive content, an ad free viewing experience, and offline options that subscribers can enjoy. So where has the buzz been for YouTube Red and why is every video for YouTube Music buried in dislikes?

YoutubeBefore we get into it, let’s go over what YouTube Red actually is and how it works. YouTube Red is a monthly paid subscription service where users are allowed access to YouTube’s exclusive, original content, an ad free viewing experience, background usage on mobile devices, and the ability enjoy downloaded videos and music offline. Since Google owns YouTube, a Red subscription also nets you access to Google Play’s large library of music in addition to YouTube’s selection. YouTube Red is priced at $9.99 per month – the same as Netflix.

Unfortunately for Google, the reception for the announcement of YouTube Red has been less than desirable. The beginning of the marketing hardships began with the announcement of YouTube Red in late October of 2015. The announcement was immediately met with aggressive criticism from both users and content creators on YouTube. Users who were excited by this announcement, however, are those subscribed to Google’s monthly “All Access” subscription, as the two services will be consolidated.

Why are consumers unhappy with this announcement? Apart from a single video advertising YouTube Red, nobody really understands what YouTube Red is supposed to be. The advertisement tells consumers about the advantages of having YouTube Red, but doesn’t do a good job about what YouTube Red is supposed to be. In fact, YouTube itself, disregarding the subscription service struggles to identify itself clearly. There’s educational content, gaming videos, reviews, advertisements, short films, tutorials, music, and so much more. The identity of YouTube depends entirely on the user.

As a music streaming platform, YouTube is number one. To cater to the music listening audience, and make an attempt at viral marketing, YouTube released several YouTube Music ads celebrating diversity involving subjects of different racial backgrounds and gender identities. Considering the timing of these advertisements, you could say this is a direct response to Donald Trump’s political campaign from 2016. Many Internet users rallied behind companies that stood up for diversity, and while YouTube’s approach seemed like a good idea, the campaign was negatively received. The advertisements showed up incredibly frequently, weren’t very well executed, and to add insult to injury, were unskippable. Which is unfortunate considering what appears to be a genuine attempt at acknowledging their diverse user base.

Apart from co-existing with Google Play, which is also owned by Google, and not expressly stated as being independent, or the same service, consumers were incredibly confused at what YouTube was trying to accomplish with these ads other than the aforementioned “celebration of diversity.” Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO said, “YouTube gives people of any race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or interest a place to come together and a place to belong.” An admirable sentiment about an incredibly powerful and diverse online platform that anyone can use. The source of this campaign’s failure lies within YouTube’s failed ability to brand themselves.

If you were asked what YouTube stands for, what would you respond with? Is it what YouTube really stands for or what you think it stands for? I think Observer nailed what was missing when they said, “YouTube carries everything—so it stands for nothing. No one knows what YouTube believes in, so no one cares what YouTube believes in. And you don’t pay for something when you don’t know what it means.”

Ultimately, I conclude that YouTube’s marketing failed in this aspect. Celebrating the one year anniversary of YouTube Red, numbers suggest they have roughly 1.5 million subscribers. Twitch Prime – has roughly 1.9 million subscribers within the first four months of its release. So what do you think? Would you purchase a YouTube Red subscription? Did YouTube’s lack of brand identity cause the negative reception of their service announcement? Comment below!

Kevin Thorn

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

Living Room Raving All the Rage

Miami Music Week draws hundreds of thousands of eager dance music enthusiasts to club, pool and yacht parties to celebrate dance music and everything it represents. And that’s just the first few days leading up to the main event, Ultra Music Festival.

Miami Music Week

Since it’s inception in 1999, Ultra Music Festival has been a dominant and influential power in the electronic music industry. Due to its unique positioning so early in the year, UMF attendees were the very first to hear the latest and greatest tunes that are sure to continue rocking festival stages and dance floors for the rest of the year. That is, until UMFtv broke onto the scene.

Beginning in 2012, the Ultra livestream has quickly boomed from a casual, under promoted fling to a full blown rave-from-your-couch event. My friends and I actually schedule parties around the livestream.

Flash forward to 2015, and Ultra Music Festival officials decided to change the streaming platform from YouTube to a platform called Twitch.tv, exclusively. Twitch has been expanding in growth and popularity recently due to the rise of eSports streaming, which is what the platform was created for in the first place.

According to an interview with BusinessWire, Adam Russakoff, Director of Business Affairs for Ultra said, “We are always pushing the envelope, working with the most innovative companies to stay ahead of the curve and offer our fans as much value as possible.” In an interview with Billboard, Colin Carrier, CSO and Head of Music at Twitch claimed “…being able to host the Ultra Music Festival on our platform with sponsorship from a brand like 7UP is testament to the power of live social video.”

Now, with the entire world glued to their preferred media streaming device, UMFtv broadcasts DJs and other tastemakers showing us the direction that they believe the “in” sound is going. Not to the surprise of anyone, they’re fairly accurate.

In order to demonstrate the magnitude of Ultra’s influence on the dance music scene, a simple search on the electronic music bazaar Beatport is all that is needed.

Considered by some to be the “Biggest Track of Ultra Music Festival 2015,” Valentino Khan’s “Deep Down Low” was officially released on March 17th, 2015 on Grammy award winner Skrillex’s record label, OWSLA. Despite wearing the impressive moniker that is OWSLA, the track initially did not see impressive sales. But when it came time for the headlining acts to take the mainstage at Ultra, “Deep Down Low” became the star of the show. As of February 2016, “Deep Down Low” was the number one most downloaded OWSLA track on Beatport.

With the electronic music industry only seeing continued growth, I don’t think we’ll see the influence of Miami Music Week diminishing anytime soon. Many critics and skeptics point at the electronic music “bubble” popping at any moment due to the amount of corporate money that has been put into the industry, but that certainly will not stop the creatives from putting their passion and energy into doing what they love most. See you all at my Ultra 2016 livestream party!

Cal Gruening

Discover Dylan Again: The Cutting Edge Bootlegs

“To live outside the law you must be honest”, Dylan sneers as he rounds out the second verse of another lyrical masterpiece. Indeed, he’s been doing just that for a career approaching the six decade mark, and “The Cutting Edge,” the newest in a long-running series of official bootlegs and unreleased material, gives an unprecedented look into the mind of America’s greatest living artist from his most eclectic period.

Bob DylanThe trilogy of “Bringing It All Back Home”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, and “Blonde on Blonde”, still stands today as the most impressive creative output by any American artist in a short timeframe. In 1964, Dylan stood alone, armed with only an acoustic guitar, harmonica, and an unbelievable ability to write songs of succinct poetic power. By the end of 1966, he’s touring with a revved up electric rock band, singing twelve minute ballads about literary cornerstones, and has completely changed the face of rock music forever.

The Cutting Edge is the behind-the-scenes look at everything that went on in the studio during that eighteen-month period of creative output.  It includes takes of classic songs that were tossed or rearranged, extra verses and alternate lyrics, and even some songs that were cut completely from the album, and were never heard from again.

We’ve all heard these songs hundreds of times. “Just Like a Woman”, “She Belongs to Me”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, these are all classic Dylan tunes. As such, the original recordings might not have the same surprise or edge to them that they might have once had. We now know every note, every harmonica break, every asthmatic sneer. Getting a new look at these songs is refreshing, and a reminder of what made us all fall in love the first time we heard these songs.

But we didn’t hear these songs by accident, as Dylan was not an underground artist at the time. Many of these songs were on the Billboard 100, if not in the Top 20, unthinkable by the pop music standards of today. As such, we know that then and now Dylan has always had the savvy marketing department of Colombia Records at his fingertips to handle every distribution deal, and every dime dealt.

They once again have done a fine job for this release. They’ve produced a promotional video voiced by Penn Jillette (above) to tell the story of this particular package. Colombia is aware there are many different levels of Dylan fans to engage with in the marketplace. There are always going to be college kids listening to the new album, and for that audience they’ve put out a twelve song “best of” CD. This solely includes the alternate tracks to the most famous songs from this era.

Bob Dylan CDsThey’ve also released a six CD Collector’s Edition for fans that engage beyond just the greatest hits. Where Colombia has really gone all out, though, is the 18-Disc Limited Collectors Edition. This includes every note that Dylan recorded in this period, along with art books, photographs and memorabilia. There are many fans who were just kids when these songs were recorded, who are in positions of relative power now. They can afford the $599 price tag on the collector’s edition and not think twice about something they consider high art. For the rest of us there’s always the distilled CD release, and the internet radio services to rely on.

Dylan has never been afraid to try something new or different. At first glance the inclusion of a karaoke-based mini game on his website to promote this new compilation might seem out of place, but once you remember just who we’re trying to promote it somehow makes perfect sense. The game requires you to hook up a microphone to your computer, and sing-along to “Like a Rolling Stone”. If you can match Dylan’s unique pitch and timbre, you unlock a bonus track to sing to. I personally got 92%, and if anyone reading this can beat me, I’ll gladly lend you my copy of the CD.

The website also includes the ability to play around with the mixes of the song, and the presentation is phenomenal. You can hear tapes winding in the background as well as Dylan’s asthmatic coughing and wheezing. There’s three different “session” types to play around with. The first is called “Jam Session”, where you can jerk around with the different instrumental tracks + Dylan’s voice to create your own arrangement of the iconic tracks. A “Listening Session” mode, where you can scroll through time and listen to the development of some of these songs. If songwriting was a sport, it’s definitely a game of inches, and that’s no more obvious than in this mode here. Thirdly is the aforementioned karaoke session. Who else is doing this kind of interactive promotional material? It’s different, engaging, and most of all fits the theme of the artist and his music perfectly.

If there’s one thing Dylan has done over the past five decades, it’s subvert expectations. From folk music to rock ’n roll, to gospel, Frank Sinatra and more, he’s never looked back to where he had been, only to the horizon. More importantly, when he does pursue something new, he never breaks away from bringing a piece of himself to the new medium. Even now at seventy-five years old, he’s releasing interesting bootlegs of older material, touring like a man in his twenties, and putting out wonderful new records. The marketing is reflective of that, and it all speaks to a man who shows no signs of slowing down or giving up just yet.

Like the song says, “He not busy being born is busy dying”.

Sam Strajack