Music On The Goe

David Goe on music

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Musician Deaths Remind Us To Enjoy Those We Have

By David Goe
Friday, August 12, 2016

David Bowie is just one of many legendary musicians that have passed in 2016.

 

Every time a musician who has impacted our life passes away we react basically the same way. First there is shock and disbelief. Shortly after come the acceptance and sadness stages, followed by celebration of their work, and, finally, curiosity over what they’ve left behind.

Take the case of Prince. Since the world found out he had passed away we went from laying flowers outside his Paisley Park studio, to watching “Purple Rain” on an endless 24-hour loop, to celebrating his career by buying out his entire back catalog of music. Once the celebratory phase passed and we burnt through “When Doves Cry” one too many times, our curiosity started to get the best of us.

“How did he die?”

“Who gets all his money?”

“What’s in his secret vault?”

Ah, yes, Prince’s secret vault of unreleased music, a vault so full it could produce new albums for the next 100 years. Like so many other musicians that have left us too early, that last question is the most tantalizing to answer.

There is an undeniable craving for any fan to bend an ear to those elusive unreleased songs. Surely someone as prolific as Prince has a back catalog of music loaded with hits just as good as “1999,” “Raspberry Beret,” and “Kiss.” At least that’s the lie we sell ourselves even though we know that’s not the case.

There is a reason that Prince did not release that music. It’s not up to the impossibly high standards Prince set for himself. Sure, there are probably some decent songs in there, but they were likely more ideas for songs than polished singles.

Inevitably these legendary troves of unheard music let us down, but it doesn’t stop our curiosity. Music fans everywhere would kill to hear unreleased Jimi Hendrix, Tupac, and Nirvana recordings just in case there is a “Purple Haze,” “California Love,” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in the bunch.

While it is fun to speculate, we will likely never know for sure what those catalogs hold, as most of that material will never see the light of day due to family members and record labels squabbling over controlling rights in whichever legal court will hear their case. Prince’s catalog in particular seems destined to never see the light of day. With no will and no clear heir to his estate, don’t expect his vault to crack anytime soon.

Usually if unreleased material makes its way to the public, it does so by happy accident. For example, just last year a lost arrangement by Mozart surfaced in the Czech Museum of Music and a score by Igor Stravinsky was discovered amongst a pile of untouched manuscripts in a storage area of the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

Similarly, a new double album from jazz legend Charlie Parker is set for release on Verve after being hidden away for nearly 65 years. The album, “Unheard Bird,” included 58 previously unknown takes recorded in the late 1940s and early 1950s. How someone could lose such a substantial hoard of music recorded during the heyday of one of jazz’s most brilliant performers is beyond me, yet here it is, newly discovered and finally ready for consumption.

While these types of discoveries rarely lead to historically significant treasures or change our opinions of the musicians who recorded them, they do give us, if only for a moment, the chance to reconnect with someone vastly important to our lives.

This year has been incredibly unkind to musicians, as we’ve already lost icons like David Bowie, George Martin, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, Glenn Frey, Lemmy Kilmister, and Natalie Cole.

It’s true that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, so if anything don’t take for granted the work of the few true music icons we have left. Don’t lose them to time like we’ve already lost so many.  

283 comments

The Beat is Strong With Electronic Music

By David Goe
Friday, August 12, 2016

DJ Chris Epic has been performing since the early 2000s.  

 

In a recent interview with Billboard magazine, Diplo, the renowned solo DJ and performer with Major Lazer and Jack U, and producer for acts such as Beyonce and Justin Bieber, had some unkind words for the state of electronic dance music.

“It’s a sinking ship. It’s a really lame culture. I’m sad that I’m part of it, but I play the game.”

For a genre that has dominated pop music over the past decade and grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, to have the Billboard Dance Artist of the Year and one of its biggest stars say that EDM is on its way out is noteworthy.

“The DJ world is the corniest (expletive) group of people. We’re not celebrities, we’re not famous for any good reason. We’re just really lame,” Diplo said.

Diplo’s “lame culture” comments mirror criticism by others for the EDM genre: It’s cookie cutter music that lacks creativity and individuality. It is easily made, meaning anyone can do it, and those who do are talentless producers in it for the wrong reasons (money and fame).

To be fair, those blanket statements could be applied to any genre of popular music. For example, hip-hop, grunge and boy-band groups all took turns being the “in” sound, just like EDM is now, and each one received a fair amount of criticism during the height of its popularity.

The timing of Diplo’s comments also is interesting. Just last weekend the Electronic Daisy Festival in Las Vegas celebrated its 20th anniversary with over 400,000 EDM fans in attendance. The biggest rave in North America shows no signs of going down, and in fact, seems to be sailing on stronger than ever. This year’s lineup again featured the biggest acts in the world such as Tiesto, Zedd, DJ Snake and Martin Garrix, and with general admission tickets topping out at more than $400, fans are still paying big bucks to see DJs perform.

So what exactly is the state of dance music in America? Is the EDM bubble about to burst like Diplo says, or is the industry as strong as ever?

To gain some perspective, I reached out to our local DJ community, which seems to be plugging along as well as ever.

Chris Lawrence, who performs as Chris Epic, has been involved in the Grand Junction dance scene as long as anyone. Starting out in 2000 spinning vinyl sets, Epic has seen genres move in and out of fashion. Grand Junction’s dance scene has evolved from trance and house raves in the early 2000s to what Epic calls a “dirty bass haven” today.

“While I can’t relate to EDM today, I respect it has its own identity, it’s far removed from the tradition I came” from, Epic said. “I think Grand Junction DJs are going in the right direction here by being more eclectic and incorporating multiple genres.”

Josh Beckner, who DJs in the duo Gargantuain’t with Cole Wilkinson, doesn’t see any bust in sight, and actually expects the opposite.

“I would describe the state currently with a single word: potential. Electronic music is huge in the U.S. right now, and with the college growing, there’s definitely a market. I think that because this scene is not established, there is a lot of opportunity and options, which is cool.”

Many other local DJs echoed Beckner’s optimistic thoughts about the future of EDM.

Is EDM about to burst? I don’t think so. Maybe what Diplo is worried about is a culture that is become a parody of itself. Some elements of EDM culture are admittedly ridiculous (the fashion and drug culture immediately come to mind), but it is clear that dance and EDM culture hits home both nationwide and in Grand Junction.

307 comments

What Does the Future of Streaming Music Look Like?

By David Goe
Friday, June 10, 2016


Roy LaManna, the CEO and founder of Vydia.com, a new online platform that helps musicians of all levels create, monetize and distribute their video content.

 

Have music and technology finally figured out how to get along? Possibly.

Access to high quality streaming music services, access to cheaper tech devices such as smartphones and affordable access to high speed internet have all contributed to the rise of streaming music, now the fastest growing revenue source for the music industry.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, 2015 was the first time that streaming music content was the largest revenue source for the recorded music industry.

Comprising nearly 35 percent sales, streaming music through sites such as Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music accounted for more than $2 billion in revenue.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry similarly reported that globally, revenue from streaming music was up 45 percent in 2016.

As the momentum for streaming music grows, it is clear that going forward consumers will have little choice but to get their music digitally from streaming music sites. Musicians also will need to figure out how to maximize their exposure on streaming music sites if they want to be successful.

In April, I wrote about the strengths and weaknesses of various streaming music sites, however the future of streaming music is much more complex than settling on a subscription plan.

Bigger questions still need to be answered. How does technology dictate the way we consume music? Are music downloads now passé? What will the future of streaming music look like for musicians and consumers?

So I reached out to Roy LaManna, the CEO and founder of Vydia.com, a new online platform that helps musicians of all levels create, monetize and distribute their video content.

Vydia currently represents more than 100,000 artists and focuses primarily on promoting video content through popular music discovery sites such as Vimeo, YouTube and Facebook.

LaManna also is the former music video commissioner for Island Def Jam Music Group and over his 15 years in the entertainment industry has worked with performers ranging from Justin Bieber to Ludacris.

To help understand what the future of streaming music will look like both for musicians and consumers, LaManna answered a series of questions.

Goe: As the major streaming sites continue their arms race to lock in exclusive rights to major artist’s catalogs, how will streaming work for the consumer in the next couple years? It looks like consumers may be forced into subscribing to multiple outlets just to listen to music. Is that the best model or are we seeing another example of the music industry failing to take into account the end consumer, again?

LaManna: I think this is an example of the music industry failing to take into account the end user. The reason being is that you’ll find people are going to subscribe to the service they feel has the best user experience and if the content they want is not available, you’re going to find that they’re just going to get it illegally. I don’t think people want to have multiple subscription services.

Goe: How do independent artists fit into the streaming system? If steaming sites are paying on a per stream basis, that model seems to heavily benefit major musicians. Independent artists on the other hand, artists who don’t have the additional revenue streams of a major musician and rely on sales, seem to lose out in that scenario. What can independents do to make sure their voice isn’t lost?

LaManna: Independent organizations, they’ll band together. If you go through an aggregator, even a company like ours, you could have a bigger voice by banding together a bunch of independent artists. That’s what other companies like Merlin and organizations like ATYM do. They essentially try to give a voice to the independents by grouping together and organizing in that fashion.

The biggest place where independent artists get hurt is when the payouts are not a per stream basis, but are calculated on a market shared basis, which means that the amount of streams are sometimes calculated not by the amount of streams you get on that service, but the amount of exposure you get on, as silly as it sounds, things like radio airplay, sales, downloads, etc ...

Goe: In order for the streaming system to really take off, the American data system needs to keep pace with technology. For example, there are parts of America that still do not have quality access to high speed internet, let alone fiber broadband speeds. This means that Tidal’s hifi service is not accessible for at least a quarter of American citizens. How does access to affordable high speed internet affect what these streaming companies plan to do in the future? Do our own data networks limit the growth of this new service?

LaManna: Google is coming out with their Fiber network and I think people are going to get access to the internet over time. Even in third world countries, companies like Facebook have their Internet.org initiative. While that isn’t true internet, a lot of it’s just access to Facebook, I think you’ll find that people will start finding and discovering their music on Facebook. This is why international countries discover a lot of music on YouTube, because that’s what is available to them.

For a complete interview transcript see below. 

2494 comments

Complete Q & A With Roy LaManna

By David Goe
Friday, June 10, 2016

Roy LaManna, the CEO and founder of Vydia.com, a new online platform that helps musicians of all levels create, monetize and distribute their video content. LaManna also is the former music video commissioner for Island Def Jam Music Group and over his 15 years in the entertainment industry has worked with performers ranging from Justin Bieber to Ludacris.

To help understand what the future of streaming music will look like both for musicians and consumers, LaManna answered a series of questions.

 

Goe: Just to define the term, when we talk about streaming are you referring to subscription based sites like Tidal/Spotify/Apple or does this also include sites like Band Camp, Reverberation, Soundcloud, etc...

LaMana: When I refer to streaming, I’m referring to the Tidal, Spotify, and Apples of the world; however, my area of expertise is in video streaming sites, like YouTube.


Goe: It sounds like Apple Music is getting ready to phase out music downloads within the next couple years even though the iTunes download market still projects to be worth $600 million in 2019. If that is the case, how does the industry make up for nearly half a billion dollars in lost revenue? How would axing the download store affect other music markets? DJs for example still rely on downloads to run through their dedicated software and independent artists dangle downloads as a carrot to help sell vinyl and cassettes.

LaMana: My guess is that if Apple is going to be shutting down download services, it's because the renewal of the licensing fees from the major labels would prohibit them from making the profit that would be necessary for them to continue the venture. If that’s not available, someone else is going to pick up the slack. So, what I would guess is that it would be a very profitable area for a company like SoundCloud to get into specifically, because DJ’s utilize SoundCloud primarily and offering a fee to download content would be key. It’s also, quite frankly, a good extension of businesses for companies like Spotify and Tidal, and so on and so forth, that for an extra fee would allow you to download the content and keep it on your own servers, which is something that I know Amazon and other companies have already done for movie streaming sites.


Goe: As the major streaming sites continue their "arms race" to lock in exclusive rights to major artist's catalogs, how will streaming work for the consumer in the next couple years? It looks like consumers may be forced into subscribing to multiple outlets just to listen to music. Is that the best model or are we seeing another example of the music industry failing to take into account the end consumer again?

LaMana: I think this is an example of the music industry failing to take into account the end user. The reason being is that you’ll find people are going to subscribe to the service that they feel has the best user experience and if the content that they want is not available within the exclusivity window you’re going to find that they’re just going to get it illegally. I don’t think people want to have multiple subscription services.


Goe: How do independent artists fit into the streaming system? If steaming sites are paying on a per stream basis, that model seems to heavily benefit major musicians. Independent artists on the other hand, artists who don't have the additional revenue streams of a major musician and rely on sales, seem to lose out in that scenario. What can independents do to make sure their voice isn't lost? 

LaMana: Independent organizations, they’ll help them band together. So, if you go through an aggregator, even a company like ours, for instance, Vydia represents over 100,000 artists, you could have a bigger voice by banding together a bunch of independent artists. That’s what other companies like Merlin and organizations like ATYM do. They essentially try to give a voice to the independent by grouping together and organizing in that fashion. The biggest place where independent artists get heard is when the payouts are not a per stream basis, but are calculated on a market shared basis, which means that the amount of streams are sometimes calculated not by the amount of streams you get on that service, but the amount of exposure you get on, as silly as it sounds, things like radio airplay, sales, downloads, etc. That’s where the independent artist is really getting hurt when there’s a market share payout on a service.


Goe: Is music streaming the key to finally eliminating online music piracy? 

LaMana: You’re not going to eliminate online music piracy. I feel like that’s just going to go on just like people are just going to steal and do things forever. I mean you could minimize it, and the way you minimize it, is you recognize that if you make the content convenient for the users, you set it at a reasonable price or what’s deemed to be a reasonable price, and you didn’t force people to do things that they didn’t want to do. As I mentioned before with the exclusivity windows, I know it makes sense for different platforms to try and secure exclusive windows, but I do think that’s going to force consumers to start moving towards piracy if it’s not on the platform that they want.


Goe: In order for the streaming system to really take off the American data system needs to keep pace with technology. For example, there are parts of America that still do not have quality access to high speed internet, let alone fiber broadband speeds. This means that Tidal's hifi service is not accessible for at least a quarter of American citizens. How does access to affordable high speed internet affect what these streaming companies plan to do in the future? Do our own data networks limit the growth of this new service? 

LaMana: Google is coming out with their Fiber network and I think people are going to get access to the internet more and more over time. I mean, even see in third world countries, companies like Facebook have their internet.org initiatives. While that isn’t the true internet, a lot of it’s just access to Facebook, I think you’ll find that people will then, in these countries who have access to only Facebook and a handful of other sites, will start finding and discovering their music on Facebook. This is why international countries discover a lot of music on YouTube, because that’s what is accessible and what is available to them. I also think there’s potential in the idea of sponsored data, I know that some of the cellphone and smartphone companies have gone this way, meaning that you actually stream songs and listen to music, but it doesn’t count toward your data streams and then that data usage is sponsored by either an artist, an organization or a company. 

116 comments

The Streaming Music Wars Have Begun

By David Goe
Friday, April 29, 2016


Beyonce's new album "Lemonade" is just the latest album to stream exclusively on Tidal.

 

This past week Queen B Beyonce released her sixth studio album, “Lemonade” to the public ... sort of.

Currently, the album is only streaming on Tidal, Jay-Z’s subscription-based, music-streaming site, and unless you want to fork over $17.99 for the download, Tidal is your only option to hear “Lemonade.”

Recently, Tidal has made news for its exclusive album releases. For a long time, Tidal was the only place to stream Kanye West’s latest album, “The Life of Pablo,” and Rihanna’s “Anti.”

Eventually, both of those albums ended up on other music streaming sites, but those customers had to wait months to get their hands on the records.

As it happens, Tidal also is the exclusive holder of Prince’s complete catalog, so those looking to mourn the icon’s passing through his music could, again, only do so on Tidal.

While Tidal currently is riding a hot streak, the site is still relatively small. With only 3 million reported subscribers, Tidal falls well short of the number of subscribers on Apple Music (11 million) and Spotify (30 million), the other two major players in steaming music.

Last year, revenue from streaming music increased by 45 percent. Digital music as a whole accounts for nearly 50 percent of the music industry’s total profits.

If you’ve yet to jump into the music streaming market, it’s time to consider signing up for a service. Companies such as Tidal, Apple and Spotify all have their pros and cons. Deciding which one of the three to pick can be difficult, so here are some things to consider.

Tidal has two subscription plans, a premium plan for $9.99 and a hifi plan for $19.99 a month. Both plans offer basically the same features, a decent catalog of popular musicians, high-def music videos and curated playlists from A-list musicians. It claims to pay the highest royalties to musicians and songwriters. The hifi plan comes with lossless streaming audio, which is noticeably better than standard streaming quality.

Basically, Tidal is the bottle-service of steaming music. If you are willing to pay a little extra for lossless audio, then you really get a VIP experience.

The downside of owning a Tidal subscription is that you need a really strong internet connection if you want to take advantage of the lossless audio (its debatable whether Grand Junction provides a strong enough connection). Lossless files are much larger than standard audio files and require more bandwidth to stream uninterrupted.

Also, because Tidal is a Swedish-based company, if you pay for your subscription using a credit card you may be subjected to an additional international transaction fee. You can get around this fee by paying with a PayPal account, but it’s an added layer of annoyance.

Much like Tidal, Apple Music has its own stable of exclusive artists. Apple is home to artists such as Taylor Swift and Dr. Dre and will be the exclusive location for Drake’s upcoming album, “Views From The 6.”

Apple has a partnerships with the BBC Radio One’s Zane Lowe, who curates a 24-hour streaming radio station (which is pretty amazing), and NBC’s smash hit “The Voice.” Apple also provides handpicked playlists sorted by genres or activity and boasts a much more robust catalog than Tidal.

The downside of Apple Music includes one of the lowest music streaming qualities and a website and mobile interface that aren’t very intuitive to navigate. If you don’t care about audio quality, at $9.99 a month, it’s a good bargain.

The best thing about Spotify is they give you a paid option at $9.99 and a free-streaming option. The free option does subject you to numerous annoying ads, but you get complete access to the site, including its playlists, which are the easiest to find and navigate.

Spotify boasts one of the larger streaming libraries with more than 30 million songs and reportedly adds 20,000 new songs a day.

The knock against Spotify is a rather big one, however. A number of the biggest musicians refuse to stream their catalogs to the site because of Spotify’s reputation for unfairly compensating artists.

If you are looking for quantity, Spotify is for you. However, if you want to listen to the biggest names in the business, then Apple or Tidal are probably better options.  

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