Category Archives: Music industry

Blurt Magazine Announces Industry Of Music Day Parties in Austin During SXSW 2016

Blurt Yellow Logo 2015

At the venerable Ginger Man Pub, as always, suitable for lounging, rocking, or snogging.

By Blurt Staff

A big thanks to our pals at the Ginger Man – we couldn’t do this without you. And we’d also like to thank our official sponsor this year, Karbach Brewing Company — “proudly brewed in Texas,” yessirree! A big Blurt salute.

More details soon, but in the meantime… here’s the list of artists who will be hanging out, sucking down brews, and performing at our annual Ginger Man day party in Austin (that’s a link to our party last year) while that bacchanal known as SXSW swirls around the city. The dates: March 16, 17, 18, and 19. Stop by and say hello to the gang!

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18th Annual Industry of Music Showcase / Austin 2016 – March 16-19

Proudly presented by; Industry of Music and Blurt Magazine

~Wednesday, March 16th
     1pm – The Kickback – https://www.facebook.com/thekickback
     2pm – Freedy Johnston – www.freedyjohnston.com
     3pm – Brett Harris – www.brettharrismusic.com
     4pm – Robbie Fulks – www.robbiefulks.com
     5pm – Supersuckers – www.supersuckers.com

     6pm – Blackfoot Gypsies – www.blackfootgypsies.com

     7pm – Yoko and the Oh No’s – https://www.facebook.com/yokoandtheohnos/
     8pm – Radio Birds – www.radiobirds.net

     9pm – Stolen Rhodes – www.stolenrhodes.com
     10pm – Overtake – www.overlakemusic.com

     11pm – Happy Abandon – http://www.happyabandonmusic.com
     12am – The Head – www.theheadmusic.com

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~Thursday, March 17th (Jon Langford from The Mekons and Waco Brothers will host the day’s event!)
     1pm – Darkwing – https://www.facebook.com/darkwingdarkwing/

     2pm – Walter Salas-Humara (of The Silos) – www.waltersalashumara.com
     3pm – Waco Brothers – https://www.bloodshotrecords.com/artist/waco-brothers
     4pm – Banditos – www.banditosband.com
     5pm – Churchwood – http://www.reverbnation.com/churchwoodtx
     6pm – Bad Luck Jonathan – www.jonlangford.de
     7pm – Ice Cold Singles – (Members of the Waco Bros!)
     8pm – Insects vs Robots – www.insectsvsrobots.com

     9pm – Happy Abandon – http://www.happyabandonmusic.com
     10pm – Caleb Caudle – www.calebcaudle.com

     11pm – Carbon Poppies – www.carbonpoppies.com
     12am – Hank Sinatra – www.hank-sinatra.com

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~Friday, March 18th

     1pm – The Everymen – http://theeverymen.bandcamp.com
     2pm – Dressy Bessy – www.dressybessy.com
     3pm – Dash Rip Rock – www.dashriprock.net
     4pm – Soul Asylum – http://soulasylum.com/ / https://www.facebook.com/SoulAsylum/
     5pm – ‘Mercury Rev Song and Tell w/Simon Raymonde’ – www.mercuryrev.com
     6pm – Luke Winslow King – www.lukewinslowking.com
     7pm – Paul Burch – www.paulburch.com
     8pm – The Bluebonnets – www.thebluebonnets.net
     9pm – The Sidewinders – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sidewinders
     10pmSURPRISE GUEST (Who will it be THIS year???)
     11pm – Hank Sinatra – www.hank-sinatra.com
     12am – The Whiskey Gentry – www.thewhiskeygentry.com

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~Saturday, March 19st

     1pm – Jeremy and The Harlequins – www.jeremyandtheharlequins.com
     2pm – Eli “Paperboy” Reed – www.elipaperboyreed.com
     3pm – Basia Bulat – www.basiabulat.com
     4pm – Hey Marseilles – www.heymarseilles.com
     5pm – The Wild Reeds – www.thewildreedsmusic.com

     6pm – Little Hurricane – www.littlehurricanemusic.com
     7pm – Yoko and the Oh No’s – https://www.facebook.com/yokoandtheohnos/

     8pm – Insects vs Robots – www.insectsvsrobots.com
     9pm – Joy Again – https://www.facebook.com/joyagaintheband/
     10pm – Wailin Storms – http://wailinstorms.bandcamp.com
     11pm – Overlake – www.overlakemusic.com

     12am – Dead Stars – https://deadstars.bandcamp.com

Amazon Finally Sells (and pushes…) Bootlegs

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By Uncle Blurt

If you know yer ol’ uncle, you know that he loves hisself a good bootleg album – CDs of course, but recently the whole new crop of bootleg LPs that have started turning up, most of them sourced out of Great Britain. I’ve picked up at least 10 choice items, from REM to Tom Petty to Tom Waits to Springsteen, just in the last two months alone. And any collector with half a brain has always known how to track the stuff down – and part of that was knowing not to waste one’s time on going to mainstream retailers like Amazon.

Well, whattaya know, Amazon has finally made the plunge. Or, in the case of the online behemoth likely already having bootlegs in its inventory – or perhaps simply turning a blind eye to when some of its official Amazon sellers were offering boots – it’s now blatantly promoting ’em at the site. Over the course of a couple of days I noticed that some boots were popping up in my Amazon recommendation feed, and quite a few of them appear to be those being manufactured by Leftfield Media, which specializes in radio broadcasts. Or, more accurate, it specializes in booting previously booted concerts and then releasing them at price points guaranteed to appeal to the novice collector.

For example, above and below are three Springsteen CDs, each a triple-disc set, that first surfaced back in the day as vinyl boots then, during the ’90s and ’00s as high quality, expanded remasters from such labels as Crystal Cat and Godfather. Passaic Night and Roxy Night are actually the original titles that Crystal Cat assigned to them, and the editorial description for the latter even makes a sly hat-tip to the transparent tabby from Sweden:” a good quality replication of the original FM broadcast reveals a crystal clear presentation…”

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There’s plenty more at Amazon, including Dylan, Ry Cooder, CSNY and others, so happy hunting. Just be aware that aside from the new artwork, these are straight replications of titles you might already have in your collection. Meanwhile, you can check out a fairly comprehensive list of Leftfield Media titles being offered for sale right here on Discogs. The prices at Amazon, though, tend to be a lot better – often half as much as what the individual sellers at Discogs are asking.

And hell, all this talk about Springsteen gets me excited, so let’s just cue up a portion of that awesome-sounding Roxy show from 1978…

TAYLOR SWIFT WHERE ARE YOU NOW? The Straight Dope On Why China Gets The Best Deals On Digital Music

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In China, music piracy has been the norm for ages, and as a result consumers have for a very long time seen little or no value in music—and as a result they continue expect it to be free. The various services have traded off that idea to gather as many people under one umbrella because the hope is to eventually monetize most of what they have to offer. But it’s an uphill battle, and all indications are that it will be that way for some time to come. The normally outspoken—in the U.S.—Swift, however, remains strangely mum. Our correspondent in Beijing investigates.

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Recently I started to think about how the music industry has changed especially in relation to China. These days everything is so fragmented that people just cherrypick the songs they want, and disregard the rest. In America, iTunes’ success prompted attention from the music industry as it showed how a digital portal vending music, if done right, could be very lucrative. CD sales have been dying a slow death ever since, and now in some cases on Amazon, digital prices can exceed the physical price for a disc, which is sort of counter to the digital/eco idea of giving people a choice not to have to put out money for a plastic disc when they could have a digital version with accompanying digital booklet. This seems odd, given the obvious lower costs involved.

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Piracy in America exists, torrent sites come and go—and the RIAA, after losing the PR battle of taking individuals to court, had to try other methods to ensure labels and artists would get paid for their products.

HISTORY

China, Russia, and India are the powerhouses of piracy in the world, and yet they seem to be the ones to benefit from it the most. When I first came to China in 1991, cassette tapes were the norm.  By 1999 I could walk near Beijing University to a massive mall that sold books, music and musical instruments, and would have no less than a handful of migrants asking me if I wanted CDs software or porn. If I said yes (for the music, ahem!), they would ask me to follow them around the corner into an area known as hutongs (alleys) where low rise houses were laid out row after row—a poor area that would eventually see the wrecking ball during modernization. I would walk down these dirty alleys then be escorted into a house where from some back room a man would come out with a cardboard box, filled with the latest music from the West.

Classical, Pop, and other genres were there for the taking. The packaging was in a thin plastic bag with the front cover and tray card inside. The disc would even sometimes bear the ifpi (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) symbol. In 2001 music pirates seemed to take an even bolder approach to selling their wares. Box sets started to appear, and not just shoddy replicas; the quality for many of these sets was flawless with liner notes, inserts, down to the ISBN number. The only way to tell these sets from the real ones besides the price was the occasional typo.

Today, top quality pirate CD box sets are being sold on Taobao.com, China’s Ebay-like portal, which is owned by Alibaba (stock symbol BABA). For a mere $8.00 the US 13-CD Mono Beatles box as well as the Japanese 12-SHCD Led Zeppelin Box can be yours. The officially released Beatles mono set sells for $171 on Amazon.

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http://www.amazon.com/Beatles-Mono-Complete-Recordings/dp/B002BSHXJA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454477337&sr=8-1&keywords=beatles+mono

beatles pirate box set

https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a230r.1.14.15.s1YImm&id=524796607020&ns=1&abbucket=14#detail

led zeppelin japanese pirate boxset

https://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a230r.1.14.35.1wfVY6&id=44777357825&ns=1&abbucket=14detail

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In the ’90s in China, lack of copyright protection and few legitimate releases by western artists initially created a wide berth for pirates to operate. This, coupled with an archaic slot release system by the major labels, basically ensured that by the time a release did hit the shelves in China, the pirate edition was already changing hands down on the street.

Outdustry.com, a website dedicated to examining all aspects of the Chinese music industry, explains in an article on their site, “It is worth noting at the outset that despite the real and persistent challenges that piracy presents to copyright owners in China, there have been notable gains in recent years, and at least some observers feel that the general trajectory in China is toward an improved enforcement environment.”

The most intense crackdown on piracy happened when the Olympics were a mere six months away. It was at that point you could feel the atmosphere tensing up. Soon all of the DVD and music stores were closed down in Beijing. Time was, you could wolf down some shish kabobs on a side street for a few RMB, and then walk a few stores down, duck into a DVD shop, and purchase the out of print, Criterion Collection DVD of Dead Ringers for a dollar.

MUSIC SERVICES

In 2008 Nokia, who at the time was the top cellphone maker in the world, decided to try and compete with iTunes head to head in countries where Nokia was more popular than Apple. When Nokia opened the Comes With Music service, (eventually to be renamed Ovi Music Unlimited) initially in Europe, it was essentially DOA, first because the pricing was expensive compared to iTunes. In addition, the catalog selection was not as comprehensive, and DRM restrictions on top of the convoluted ways of getting the music from your computer to device made the Comes With Music experience synonymous with European bureaucracy. In fact, when the service came to Singapore, Comes With Music devices were being sold for a 25% premium over the same devices, minus the service. So consumers, who were used to getting their music for free, decided, why pay a premium for it—and decided to purchase the cell model without the added cost.

In 2008, the Chinese Comes With Music team negotiated a deal with the record and publishing companies, to not only offer the service, but to do so DRM free and without any computer restrictions whatsoever. Outdustry.com says, “As recently as 2011, virtually all music downloads in China were unauthorized. Subsequently, the international major record labels struck an accord with some of China’s major search engines — one of the most common sources of links to unauthorized music downloads — which resulted in the search engines receiving licenses for at least some music content.”

For Nokia, the payment was a small fixed dollar cut of the device cost that the majors divvied up. The service was as convenient as could be. One could use their cell phone, the OVI player (a standalone digital player), or their browser to download individual tracks or full albums if so desired. The beauty was that if one person had an account on the Comes With Music site, they were granted the rights to their hearts’ content. The promotional materials at the time played up the oceans’ worth of music of over a million tracks available to device owners. Some Ovi Stores in different territories like Russia and India contained up to 11 million tracks.

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I worked as the China Music Editor for the Nokia Comes with Music service, and was shocked by the amount of music being licensed. While most people simply snacked instead of feasting (as management liked to term it), the deep catalog offerings from labels such as EMI and Warner were a treasure trove for anyone with a bit of investigative musical curiosity. Where else could you hear a zither tune and then look up Greek music and find 20 or 30 releases from EMI Greece? How about the entire Serge Gainsbourg catalog, or everything ever released by Stax Records? It was an amazing service that had the misfortune of being provided by a cellphone maker that was taking on water fast and about to sink to the bottom of the cellular sea. The cost for the keys to the kingdom was a low end device that would set you back around $200. Imagine a million tracks all meta-tagged, with cover art and decent bitrate for the cost of what iTunes would charge you for 200 tracks!

In 2010 Boy Genius Reports published an article, “Nokia launched DRM-free Comes With Music in China.” In this article the writer Michael Bettiol asks, “When is this type of business model is coming to the Democratic world?” In China, when Comes With Music launched, according to a Wall Street Journal report titled “Nokia Offers Free Music in China”, the article stated, “The labels have been especially willing to experiment with digital music in China, which has the most Internet users of any nation but is also one of the most challenging markets for the music industry in fighting piracy,” and that, “China is a huge market for Nokia and it’s a huge music market from a consumption perspective.”

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Let’s be careful here, as the default logic that many western companies operate with is: If I could just get each Chinese person to buy my product I would be a billionaire!

How many have believed that mantra and have since gone back to their country, tail between their legs, because the Chinese didn’t want their product or could find a way to do it better? The same faulty logic is to constantly view Chinese as the underdog, the ultimate saver sleeping on a mattress of cash.

In an article by the China Daily, “E-shopping fuels domestic consumption”, it basically states that the Chinese year over year are buying more and more on the Internet, and that, “Chinese shoppers spent 511.9 billion Yuan online in the first six months of this year, up 46.6 percent year-on-year.” That’s 90 billion Yuan, and isn’t it safe to assume that, given the rise in consumption, the Chinese need to learn to shell out for services they take for granted such as music services?

The PR for Nokia’s music service stated when it was launched in China as being the first time labels actually got paid in this market. How did that trickle down to aggregators that rounded up indie content for the Nokia Service? Did these artists ever see a penny? Remember that cut of the device cost well a miniscule fraction of that went to indie musicians.

Nokia’s music service morphed into Mix Radio and has since been sold off to Line a Japanese messaging service and has continued on as a zombie service of sorts, only to announce recently in February of 2016 that the service was being shuttered.

THESE DAYS

in 2016 there’s an incredible music service available in China known as Netease Cloud Music. It’s free to download on all sorts of devices and doesn’t cost a penny to download millions of tracks.

Today I can get the complete discography of The Beatles, all of their bootlegs and singles, in about 10-minutes time—all at 320kbps quality. And even as I was writing this, The Beatles were slated to come to streaming services.

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Netease Cloud Music is easily the top music site in China, with other services like Xiami backed by Alibaba taking a distant second. The site is basically a free-for-all that operates under the concept that unless a rights holder comes forward to take music down, the music will stay up for all to download as many times as they want.

The site has started to also sell albums along with subscriptions that allow the user to download a couple hundred tracks a month. The deluxe service gives users a download ceiling of 500 lossless quality tracks a month for about $20 a year.

Let’s do the math. For iTunes, at an average cost of $1.29 a track, 500 tracks a month would be $645 a month or $7,740 a year.  A small fortune that hardly a soul in the USA could afford. The above pricing does not reflect the music that doesn’t fall under this agreement with the labels; that music is free to download at one’s will until it gets taken down or is shifted over to the for-a-fee concept. So is the pricing fair? Adele’s 25 fetches 15 RMB or $2.30 dollars for the entire album, whereas on the US iTunes page it sells for $10.99.

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Adele Itunes for sale

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Taylor Swift, who criticized Apple Music’s not paying royalties during the trial period, receives a paltry 32 cents a track for music off of her 1989 album. (see photo) Swift’s impassioned, widely circulated plea to Apple stated, “This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.”

One wonders why she would accept so little for her music and yet not apply the same approach asking Netease to start actually paying the ocean of bands that appear on the service an actual rate?

WHY ARE PEOPLE STILL PAYING SO LITTLE IN CHINA FOR MP3S?

Back in early 2000, there was so much Microsoft piracy that the company eventually relented and lowered their prices. If there is a positive side to piracy, it brings sometimes more equitable pricing structures. If there is a democratization that supposedly ensues after rampant piracy (the so-called bringing the mountain to the man), why has that not found its way to places like the USA, where prices for MP3s have actually gone up in cost.

China is a country going through massive changes, and piracy is hard to stamp out. If the concept of services like Netease are to eventually put everyone on a paid subscription and wean people off of free music, then in theory, great. But the reality with a site like Netease is that it is basically left to users to police things, along with the occasional label that complains to take things down. If they really were open to scrutiny and an honest discussion on the music on their site, then they would have created the page for lodging a takedown request in English.

Instead, this is what a Western artist would see if they were so lucky to navigate to the page. The only thing they’d see is an email address way at the bottom and nary a hope that anyone would actually respond to their inquiry, since they don’t write Chinese.

If bands have any hope of getting paid, then artists will have to start understanding the entire global music monetization picture instead of just focusing on Apple, Spotify and the like. I just don’t see how labels, though, can justify cutting such deals overseas. It’s unfair for those who legitimately pay for their MP3s at a $1.29 a pop to have someone in another country be able to get it for free, or for a mere fraction of the cost. Capitulation to a standard that being paid at all is better than the specter of mass piracy has forced many artists, when dealing with Chinese music services, into deals that are being subsidized by legitimate sales in other countries.

To be fair, the Chinese consumers have for a very long time seen little or no value in music, and expect it to be free. The various services have traded off that idea to gather as many people under one umbrella because the hope is to eventually monetize most of what they have to offer. So it’s an uphill battle for companies like Apple (whose users have no problem dropping $1000 for an iPhone in China) to create a revenue generating service that engenders in its users a feeling that most have never had, which is that music should be treated as art and should be curated, collected, and most of all, given its due respect.

So Taylor Swift where are you now? Can you help use your clout to get a better deal for the bands that appear on Netease, Xiami, Kugou and QQ? Because if the industry doesn’t take heed soon and institutes a global standardized pricing structure, then all it takes is a tech savvy American to purchase a cheap VPN ($5 a month), sign on from a China node, download the relevant app from the Google Play or App store, and start downloading to their heart’s content, ensuring the cycle of piracy continues unabated.

The (Record) Empire Strikes Back: Schoolkids Opens 3rd Store in NC

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Make mine vinyl!

By Fred Mills

Biased? Yer goddam right – gotta support the home team here. I’d like to offer a big BLURT salute and tip o’ the Carolina blue hat to my friend and mentor Mr. Stephen Judge (last seen sporting a Wolfpack red hat, but who’s counting…), who some of you readers also know as the owner/publisher of this very magazine. A week ago it was announced that he was buying long-running Chapel Hill independent record store CD Alley and would be changing the name to Schoolkids – Stephen previously bought the Schoolkids in Raleigh in early 2012 not long before my family moved to Raleigh, and I helped him operate the store  for three years until moving back to the mountains last summer.

Meanwhile, a year or so ago he also opened a Schoolkids in nearby Durham, putting in motion a dream he’d had for some time, which was to restore the Schoolkids name as synonymous with “Triangle record store” – back during indie shops’ heyday in the ’90s, S-kids operated a number of locations in the Triangle and elsewhere, but as we all know, the ’00s were rather unkind to the music biz.

So a big salute to Schoolkids – all three of ’em – as well. Someone drop music biz pundit and avowed record store denier Bob Lefsetz a line to let him know that the world is passing him by. Viva le vinyl!

Check ’em out next time you’re in the neighborhood, folks. Make sure you ask whatever happened to that nice, knowledgeable DJ Friendly Fred when you do…

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Schoolkids Raleigh

Schoolkids Durham

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2016 Grammy Noms Announced; 9 Out of 10 Doctors Prescribe for Insomnia

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At least we don’t have to suffer through 18 instances of Adele lumbering up to the podium, eh? Below: that “awesome” graphic from Billboard that everyone is gushing about. Meh.

By Barbi Martinez, Blurt Intern

Sigh. I lost the coin toss to draft this news clip. Admittedly, we here at BLURT, the world’s most in-tune, on-time and uber-relevant music media portal on the planet, would never fail to keep our readership informed—and keeping in line with our ever-popular leadership role, to keep said followers opinionated.

Still, this year’s just-announced Grammy nominees, which comprise artists who released records from October 2014 to October 2015 (sorry Adele, you’ll have to wait for your sweep next year) in order to be eligible for the 2016 awards, are even more a snooze than I, a relative novice to the game, could ever have imagined. (How much of a novice? I wasn’t even born yet that year that my Editor here at BLURT wet his pants over the Jethro Tull nomination for “Best Heavy Metal Album.)

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For the 58th annual Grammys, the nominees (or at least the biggies) are listed below—the full list is at the Grammy site—and the winners will be announced and receive their awards next Feb. 15 in a live broadcast on CBS. Intriguingly, this year pretty much every mainstream media outlet on the planet except yours truly dived wholesale into the horse race business, handicapping the nominees. Billboard predicted that Taylor Swift is a lock for multiples, along with Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran and Jason Derulo, whoever the heck he is, and they weren’t too far off. Other sources weighed in similarly, the bottom line being… meh.

Can I stop typing now? Those nominations:

Album of the year: “Sound & Color,” Alabama Shakes; “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar; “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton; “1989,” Taylor Swift; “Beauty Behind the Madness,” The Weeknd.

Record of the year: “Really Love,” D’Angelo and The Vanguard; “Uptown Funk,” Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars; “Thinking Out Loud,” Ed Sheeran; “Blank Space,” Taylor Swift; “Can’t Feel My Face,” The Weeknd.

Song of the year (songwriter’s award): “Alright,” Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams; “Blank Space,” Max Martin, Shellback and Taylor Swift; “Girl Crush,” Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose; “See You Again,” Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth and Cameron Thomaz; “Thinking Out Loud,” Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge.

Best new artist: Courtney Barnett, James Bay, Sam Hunt, Tori Kelly, Meghan Trainor.

Best pop vocal album: “Piece by Piece,” Kelly Clarkson; “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” Florence + The Machine; “Uptown Special,” Mark Ronson; “1989,” Taylor Swift; “Before This World,” James Taylor.

Best pop solo performance: “Heartbeat Song,” Kelly Clarkson; “Love Me Like You Do,” Ellie Goulding; “Thinking Out Loud,” Ed Sheeran; “Blank Space,” Taylor Swift; “Can’t Feel My Face,” The Weeknd.

Best pop duo/group performance: “Ship to Wreck,” Florence + The Machine; “Sugar,” Maroon 5; “Uptown Funk,” Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars; “Bad Blood,” Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar; “See You Again,” Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth.

Best rock album: “Chaos and the Calm,” James Bay; “Kintsugi,” Death Cab for Cutie; “Mister Asylum,” Highly Suspect; “Drones,” Muse; “.5: The Gray Chapter,” Slipknot.

Best alternative music album: “Sound & Color,” Alabama Shakes; “Vulnicura,” Bjork; “The Waterfall,” My Morning Jacket; “Currents,” Tame Impala; “Star Wars,” Wilco.

Best urban contemporary album: “Ego Death,” The Internet; “You Should Be Here,” Kehlani; “Blood,” Lianne La Havas; “Wildheart,” Miguel; “Beauty Behind the Madness,” The Weeknd.

Best R&B album: “Coming Home,” Leon Bridges; “Black Messiah,” D’Angelo and The Vanguard; “Cheers to the Fall,” Andra Day; “Reality Show,” Jazmine Sullivan; “Forever Charlie,” Charlie Wilson.

Best rap album: “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” J. Cole; “Compton,” Dr. Dre; “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” Drake; “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar; “The Pinkprint,” Nicki Minaj.

Best country album: “Montevallo,” Sam Hunt; “Pain Killer,” Little Big Town; “The Blade,” Ashley Monroe; “Pageant Material,” Kacey Musgraves; “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton.

 

Quote of the Week: “Taylor Swift’s Latest Donation Showcases Her Cultured Side”

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U R kidn me, amirite? Throwing grrrl gang signs, no less.

By Barbi Martinez, Blurt Intern

A headline is worth a million words these days, eh? A musical performer named Taylor Swift made the MTV News feed today for this:

“She reportedly forked over $50,000 to the Seattle Symphony because their Pulitzer Prize-winning song “Become Ocean,” an environmentalism-evoking thought piece, got her attention.”

Eh. Whatever happened to artists making charitable contributions because it feels like the right thing to do and not because it generates them favorable publicity. Oh… sorry, I forgot. We’re talking popular music in America. Never mind… By the way, is that photo pretty “hard” looking, or what? Somebody’s been taking some Katy Perry lessons around the house it seems.

Sly Stone Wins Lawsuit, Hits the Royalties Jackpot

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“A classic case of Hollywood accounting.” Duh. Below, revisit happier times.

By Blurt Staff

You can make it if you try dept.: Variety is reporting that Sly Stone, who in 2010 filed a lawsuit against manager Gerald Goldstein and attorney Glenn Stone over unpaid royalties, was earlier this week awarded a $5 million verdict by a Los Angeles jury. He had accused them of inducing him in the late ‘80s “to sign an employment and shareholder agreement” with the pair’s production company, Even St. Productions, but that they subsequently managed to “divert millions in royalties, leaving him unable to get the money he said was due him.”

The duo’s attorney, however, argued that they had indeed paid Stone millions and he then “broke an agreement to make new records… [claiming] that the singer was not tricked into signing the contract, but was aware of the terms and renewed the agreement 40 times over 15 years between 1994 and 2006.”

Apparently the Superior Court jury agreed with Stone, finding that he was “underpaid by $2.5 million under the employment agreement with Even St. Prods., and that the money was paid instead to Goldstein and Stone… The jury awarded $2.5 million in damages against Even St. Productions, $2.45 million against Goldstein and $50,000 against attorney Glenn Stone.”

“It was a classic case of Hollywood accounting, but I guess it would have to be called record industry accounting,” Nick Hornberger of Hornberger Law Corp. is quoted as saying. Hornberger was Stone’s lead attorney in the case.

 

Bananaphone, Baby: Joanna Newsom Hypes New Album via Click-Bait Quotes

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And all us media types fall for it, naturally…

By Barbi Martinez, Blurt Intern

Can you spell “album launch”? Indie goddess Joanna Newsom has a new album out next week via Drag City titled Divers so naturally she’d been doing plenty of press. (This is good because we have yet to hear the album.) She ensured that the news would go viral by jumping into the streaming music fray—she takes a dim view of Spotify and its ilk—over at The Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, bloggers ‘round the world—including the tastemakers at Stereogum and Pitchfork—have been sharing Newsom’s worldly insight about Spotify: “[It is] the banana of the music industry… it just gives off a fume. You can smell that something’s wrong with it.”

Wait, what? That quote makes no sense whatsoever. Luckily Newsom delved a little deeper into the issue, saying (shades of Taylor Swift):

“Spotify is like a villainous cabal of major labels. The business is built from the ground up as a way to circumvent the idea of paying their artists. The major labels were not particularly happy with the fact that as the royalty money dwindled more and more, their portion of the percentage split agreed upon in their licensing agreement got smaller and smaller. So someone came up with a great idea that if they start a streaming company, they can make those percentages even smaller.

“[Record labels] make their money from advertising and subscription, and they don’t have to pay their artists anything for that.. It’s set up in a way that they can just rob their artists, and most of their artists have no way to fight it because they’re contractually obligated to stay with the label for x amount of time and you can’t really opt out. It’s a garbage system…. I understand why Spotify is great. I wish there was a way to provide the service they provide and have nobody lose, nobody be victimized by that.”

Ah, so that’s how it all works. Gotcha. No word yet on whether or not there will be a banana themed video for one of the Divers track, but you can watch one that does not utilize fruits or veggies as a theme, instead going for “self conscious,” for “Sapokanikan,” directed by none other than Paul Thomas Anderson. Following that, we found the perfect song for her to cover should she want to pursue that banana concept…

 

RIAA: Vinyl Sales Leap Again

LPs

Expect Lefsetz to dismiss the dinosaur trend once again too…

By Fred Mills

Four things are for certain: life, taxes, death, and somewhere in the middle of all that, nonstop commentary by the mainstream media about is-it-a-trend/is-it-hype the current upswing in vinyl record sales. Barely a week ago NBC news ran a feature, “Vinyl Records See a Comeback During Music’s Digital Age,” which is, you guessed it, another tired dad/grandad report on the comeback of vinyl. Gee, we’ve only been seeing those reports for the past, I dunno, 2 ½ years, NBC. Meanwhile, every couple of blog posts, industry pundit Bob Lefsetz, in his “Lefsetz Letter,” decides that it’s all a bunch of hipster hype and that vinyl ain’t never coming back, baby, because all those urban and pop music fans are gone, gone, way gone on streaming, baby. Whatever, Bob, but be honest, urban and pop fans will take anything the music industry decides to shove down their throats because they aren’t interested in the actual music, but the lifestyle, the celebrity and the accompanying trappings of same. If Kanye West and Taylor Swift decided to start releasing their music on player piano rolls you can bet that all their lemming fans would be rushing out to scoop up whatever player pianos still exist.

Anyhow, today the RIAA released an official report which by our way of thinking here at BLURT—and, full disclosure, our sister business is Schoolkids Records of Raleigh, NC, where we are wayyy into wax and our sales justify that dedication—is evidence that this may be a trend, it may even be a bubble, but it’s not something that’s a phenomenon or a fluke. It’s where things stand, and where things will stay for awhile.

For mid-year 2015, we have seen a 52.1% increase in vinyl sales versus 2014, which comes to $226 million and a full 30% of total sales of physical product (which would include LP/EP/Vinyl single, CD/CD single, Music Video, DVD Audio and SACD. Basically, all physical formats except vinyl are in decline… well, DVD audio is apparently on an upswing too, but since in 2014 sales were essentially at, uh, zero, even 5 copies of a title sold would amount to an increase.

The relevant stats, from the RIAA:

Total value of shipments in physical formats was $748 million, down 17% versus 1H 2014. CDs made up 66% of total physical shipments by value. Vinyl was up 52% by value for the first half of the year, and accounted for 30% of physical shipments by value.

Now, let’s be honest: CD sales are way higher than vinyl, at $494.4 million, but as noted above, if you look closer you’ll see that this represents a 30% drop over last year. Everybody knows that CD sales have been nosediving for at least four years now; inroads at digital and streaming account for a good share of the deficit, but that vinyl tally ain’t nothing to sneeze at. Calculate the trajectory of that trend and, if it continues, we could be looking at a serious monster in a couple of years.

In the end, of course, digital sales continue to climb, from 71% last year to 76% now; overall physical sales have actually dropped, from 29% to 24%, so it’s easy to imagine that the digital-vs.-physical trend is where the real argument lies. Who can predict? But it’s still impossible to deny that vinyl has been climbing steadily for at least 5 years now, so it stands a good likelihood of continuing to climb.

Not that the music industry has a clue as to how it needs to be preparing for it, however. The pressing plants can barely keep up with the demand. But that’s another story for another time.

The PDF of the RIAA report, “News and Notes on 2015 Mid-Year RIAA Shipment and Revenue Statistics,” is HERE.

More random vinyl musings HERE.

 

Concert Wars: Pandora Buys Ticketfly

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And Ticketmaster ain’t too happy about it…

By Uncle Blurt

It’s pretty easy to have zero sympathy for any of those mega-companies that sell concert tickets: I’m old enough to remember when you could line up outside a record store or head shop and buy a ticket for that Springsteen concert coming up next month with zero hassle and at a decent price. Those days are long gone, though; I mean, these folks are in bed with scalpers nowadays. You should read the book Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped if you want to get the low-down.

At any rate, it’s pretty interesting to get the news today, via the New York Times, that internet radio Pandora is buying the indie ticket agency Ticketfly, which in recent years has been at least in moderate competition with Ticketmaster, who at one point had a virtual monopoly on the game. Pandora, of course, is doing pretty well for itself—I personally have no use for it or any similar “suggestion” music services, but 80 million folks would probably disagree with me. So Pandora is coughing up $450 million in the deal. As the Times note, “The deal further expands Pandora’s interests in providing services to artists. Last year, it introduced a data system, the Artist Marketing Platform, or AMP, that shows musicians which songs are most popular on the service and where. And in May, Pandora bought Next Big Sound, another data service, which studies the listening and online searching patterns of streaming music customers.”

This will definitely give Ticketfly as it currently exists a massive boost in power and reach. Translation: serious, not moderate, competition for Ticketmaster. Don’t expect the price of concert tickets to go down anytime soon, however….