Another week, another playlist from one of our all-knowing BAMM Team (that’s ‘all-knowing’ in terms of music, by the way … none of us are too hot on quantum theory). This time around, we find out what Editorial Director Christopher Davies is listening to right now …
1. “Hold On, Hold On” (Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, 2006) – Neko Case
One of the many talents behind The New Pornographers, Neko Case effortlessly transposes the melodic pop strains of that particular supergroup into her solo work. Nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking – just great songwriting.
2. “Green Shirt” (Armed Forces, 1979) – Elvis Costello
For a good decade or so, Costello was quite literally at the top of this whole ‘music’ game. He has too many classic tunes to mention, but this one is often overlooked, so I’m going to stick it here. It’s just great: instantly hummable yet undercut with a weird simmering menace (‘you can please yourself, but somebody’s gonna get it ..’)
3. “Shake This” (Street Hop, 2009) – Royce Da 5’9
This is, quite simply, awesome.
4. “Ladybird” – (Nancy & Lee, 1968) – Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood
Hazlewood and Sinatra are maybe one of the best male-female double acts in history. There are lots of great moments on their 1968 album ‘Nancy & Lee’ (everyone knows ‘Some Velvet Morning’ … or at least they should do) but ‘Ladybird’ is a personal favorite.
5. “Careful” (The Warning, 2006) – Hot Chip
Gotta love these techno-geek ravers and their sense of undying fun and experimentation. ‘Careful’ is, in my humble opinion, one of the best opening tracks to any album EVER …
So you’re in an up-and-coming new band. How do you go about making the transition from small, intimate gigs (perhaps playing to a circle of friends) to expanding your horizons? In the latest of our bite-size ‘How To’ vids, BAMM.tv’s Phil Lang offers up a couple of hints and tips about embarking on a ‘mini tour’.
Working alongside and for musicians can be one of the most satisfying creative experiences in the business – provided you get it right. Otherwise … well, otherwise it’s the stuff of horror stories and painful anecdotes in future ‘tell-all’ biographies (assuming your band hit the big time).
One of the most important factors of studio production involves getting the sound levels juuuuuuust right. In today’s BAMM.tv ‘How To’ vid, our very own Sonia sets out exactly how to do that – with a little help from some other BAMM friends too.
Any musicians out there who regularly frequent the studio environment will know one thing: cables get EVERYWHERE. So – what’s the best way to deal with them? In the second of our fast, fresh and funny ‘How To’ vids, we issue BAMM.tv’s very own Jerad the task of cable wrapping. How does he cope? Well – you’ll just have to watch the above video to find out, won’t you?
If BAMM.tv’s Jonathan hates one thing – apart from people touching his meticulously-crafted hair – it’s bad concert etiquette. That’s why he chose to tackle the subject in the first of our bite-size BAMM.tv ‘How To’ videos: a selection of funny and fresh guides to the dos and don’ts of various elements of the music industry.
We’ll be putting one of these bad boys online every day this week, so stay tuned to watch other members of the BAMM.tv crew impart their wisdom. And – in the case of Jerad – throw some expensive cables into a fan. But more of that later. Check out Jonathan’s video above.
There are major shifts waiting to happen this year in how we consume music. 2013 is likely to see the expansion of trends from last year – the shift towards streaming, the rise of social television, and increasing use of video content online.
But the impact of all of these factors means the shape of the digital music landscape will dramatically change before the year is out. Will personal music collections be entirely displaced by portable libraries? Will crowd-funding become a standard procedure for tours? We consider these possibilities and more in a roundup of this year’s expected trends.
Ownership versus accessibility
This year sees big developments in the streaming subscription market with the arrival of Google, Microsoft and Apple’s new loan services. They are all keen to take on the growing might of Spotify, which has so far managed to take the largest share of the market via its partnership with Facebook. Owning music could become secondary to portability and accessibility across multiple devices. Arguably, ownership might even be seen as a burden given syncing and copyright issues.
What does this mean for musicians, given the negligible rates given by streaming services? Last year, Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 highlighted how 680,462 plays of his record ‘Tugboat’ (above) garnered only a soul-destroying $9.99. It’s unlikely the margins will grow – though some might argue a bigger market with more competitors will create more revenue for everyone. However, it could also make it harder for musicians to claim fees as companies compete to keep subscription charges low. Pandora is currently contesting the fee paid out to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for digital radio plays of artists. It is likely only the biggest artists will benefit from keeping their music away from streaming services – as shown by the high sales enjoyed by Adele and Coldplay.
It’ll be interesting to see how many major musicians make their music available and the correlation between sales and their music’s availability on the streaming services. Either way, the year will mark the decisive break with the ownership culture as the biggest technology creators become effectively lending libraries of content.
The first ever fully-sponsored album?
Here on BAMM we’ve previously discussed the increasingly close relationship between brands and bands. Even the most credible of musicians have lent themselves to one-off projects by companies. One of the weirdest collaborations this year has been ‘Gatwick: The Departure Lounge Sessions’, which featured a 30-minute track by Benga which corresponded to the 30-minute journey between Gatwick and London Victoria.
Could we see an extension of that trend so that musicians end up writing whole entire albums themed or inspired by brands? What’s certain is that it’s not just the obvious suspects who would be up for doing product placement. At the moment, it may be musicians who are getting the best end of the deal. Working with brands guarantees a payout at a time when sales are so low. Brands are also stepping in to nurture and develop musicians from the outset, creating long-term relationships in order to tap into younger audiences. Conversely, consumers may take to personalising brands in ways that make image control near-obsolete. Given the power of social media and Facebook, even the coolest brands may have to roll with the punches.
The return of MySpace
MySpace’s acknowledged strengths were always its music sharing and DIY aspects. For many bands, trying to cut out the noise of Facebook activity to get a few ‘likes’ is too difficult. New MySpace has had mixed reviews but its music functionality is better than ever. The new site (as trailed below) is clearly aimed at a younger ‘creative’ demographic – which is ideal for bands who want to take a hands-on approach to their promotion.
Focusing on sound
The rise of the visual is unquestionable – we have ever bigger screens on all our devices to accommodate more video content and visual information. But sound-only platforms have a role to play. Soundcloud has enjoyed its biggest year yet with more exclusives and streaming from performers like Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. One of the major appeals for musicians is the convenience of uploading a track, without the faff of a big launch or shoot. Given low marketing budgets, more musicians could start using sound-only platforms to reach out directly to fans and reward them with special cuts and additional work.
More ethical models
The fightback has begun already. BAMM leads on the way on this trend, giving artists a fair rate for their tracks. Some sites such as Bandcamp are giving bands the chance to sell their music and merchandise directly to fans, taking a much smaller cut of the proceeds than sites such as iTunes.
Digital radio and personalised radio
BAMM was in on this early with its Open Thread radio. The internet has breathed new life into the radio medium. The trend will explode in 2013 with the development of multiple streams, podcasts, and local digital radio stations redefining the relationship between the global and the local. Radio is also relatively low-tech, opening it up to more DIY producers and labels. Personalised radio will continue to grow, but there should be platforms designed entirely for sharing carefully compiled and curated tracks with friends.
While platforms like Pandora and Last FM are dominated by more hardcore fans of music, sites such as Turntable FM (above) which combine gaming and social networking could bring together new audiences. In short, personalised radio platforms could appeal to the entire music-buying community, by offering the chance to discover and customise in easy ways.
More sophisticated music discovery and curation
Music discovery apps, including BAMMs, will become ever more complex and vital to get through the sheer volume of material online. The FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome is the web’s newest disease, and the best way to tackle it is to call in the curators. Music discovery apps will not only select the best material, they will also order it for you, so that you don’t have to wade through numerous disorganised links.
Apps will have to be able to configure music in different ways – for example, adopting mood-based curation as well as genre and decade. They could also take the place of traditional tastemakers such as magazine websites. Expect a lot of morphing between the two formats.
The rise and rise of video
Despite Youtube’s success, few media outlets have really gone for exclusive video. This could change massively in 2013 with predictions from Cisco that video will grow to drive 80 per cent of traffic across the internet. Music will play a major part of this, given that most songs neatly fit the three to four minute limit for a standard online video. Services like XBox Music (below) have also made playing music, watching video and gaming on one device manageable for even the biggest technophobe.
No barriers cosmopolitan music trends
Gangnam Style (below) has become the most popular Youtube video ever uploaded (please let’s not talk about Ai Wei Wei and the Anish Kapoor versions). While Psy has been dismissed as unrepresentative of Korean music or a novelty act, the music has actually seen a wave of interest in non-Western pop.
More specialised crowdfunding
There are already dedicated music crowdfunding platforms, but none which specialise in concert funding yet. Touring is still a tried and trusted way to build up a fanbase. The ideal platform could enable networks of fans to chip in together to bring musicians over, making more bands perform off the traditional tour route.
Outlier trends: The hologram trend
The biggest comeback of 2012 was also the least expected. Tupac appeared at last year’s Coachella, giving rap a genuinely hair-raising edge. The most astonishing thing was that the company Digital Domain Media Group animated the entire performance, rather than pulling it from an archive. Could this be the beginnings of a niche industry, devoted to reanimating and choreographing holograms for old fans and newcomers? You can’t buy charisma but you sure as hell can try to project it.
Tupac (above) was an obvious candidate for revival – in fact, the hologram (when first spoken about) appeared to be a smart joke about the fact that the late rapper sold more after his death than he did before it. The music industry is pretty unconscionable when it comes to making money off the back of its deceased stars, so who knows how far the trend will go?
The deluxe album
The trend for artisan goods shows no sign of abating. Like the similar trend for slow food and slow living, the deluxe album signals leisure time. The box set used to be something to buy the fangirl or fanboy in your life for Christmas. Now almost every physical release aims to be special, limited and good enough to put on your minimalist bookshelves. The physical album has almost become a statement. Beck released his album ‘Song Reader’ as sheet-music only (above) , reminding us that the format is only a vessel for the real work.
Here’s our final BAMM.tv team member playlist of 2012 (don’t worry – we’ve got lots more to come in the New Year). Let’s see out the year by asking Director, DoP and Editor Jason which tunes are currently taking command of his headphones …
Alt-J – Something Good
Deserved winners of the Mercury Prize. Great song from a great album with an uplifting yet vulnerable chorus breaking out of stilted, rhythmic verses.
The Jam – Town Called Malice
For me Weller is the best songwriter that Britain has ever produced and in this song he marries razor sharp lyrics to a fuller, horn driven sound. Just like the man himself, this track is as relevant today as it was thirty years ago.
The Libertines – Time for Heroes
Maybe I’m showing my age but this is the last time that British music felt truly exciting for me. With hindsight, nothing really changed and neither Doherty nor Barat lived up to the hype but for a brief moment they were the centre of my musical world. This track takes me right back to that point.
Braintax, Jehst & Yungun – XFM Freestyle
Not even an official track but a great example of the hidden depths of UK hip-hop – a scene, which has never really broken the mainstream but has bubbled strongly under the surface for years. You get the impression that these guys could go on forever – one whip smart line after another.
Bobby Darin – If I were a Carpenter
It’s so simple but there’s something in his voice here that makes me want to cry. Just an incredibly pure performance with Darin’s truly epic voice cutting through.
You know, we’re something of an opinionated bunch here at BAMM.tv. We know our music, and that means we often have a lot to say on the subject – lots of which can appear on this very site. As part of our 12 Days Of BAMM season (a different selection of highlights from the year gone by, every day leading up to Christmas) we’ve assembled a few of the choicest cuts below. Feel free to join the debates in any of the comments sections.
Here’s another look at what the BAMM.tv team are listening to right now. This week, we asked BAMM Latino producer Sonia to share her current recommendations …
1. No Quise Mirar (Déjenme llorar, 2012) – Carla Morrison
The first time I heard this artist I wasn’t very into the tone of her voice, but after listening to a couple of songs, I realized that the tone only emphasized, for me, the melancholic nature of her music. This song, in particular, I enjoy because the lyrics speak about the moment of loss where we realize that things were falling apart but we were refusing to open our eyes, and see reality.
2. Love Created I (Challenges, 2008) – Tarrus Riley
I have many questions about religion and this song states very simply one of the many points I feel: “Don’t tell me, I was born in sin and shaped in inequity when love created I.” Also, I love that the inspiration for this songs come from words of Marcus Garvey.
3. Yo aprendí (Polvo de la Humedad, 2012) – Danay Suarez
Elegant clarity on a difficult issue. Cuban rappers are on the frontier of expressing social and political issues.
4. Resumen de los 90 (Haciendo Historia, 2009) – Habana D’ Primera
The first time I heard this song, there was no way I could ignore the power of the “new” band. Here was a new flavor but winning me over by having a song praising and quoting all the songs that make me miss my times back home.
5. Sina (Ao Vivo no Morro, 2009) – Grupo Revelacao
Here’s the latest in our occasional series of in-depth articles about the music industry from BAMM correspondent Zakia Uddin. This time around, we look at the present (and future) state of live video performances …
LIVE TO VIDEO
1, 2, 3 … action!
The filmed live music performance has a history stretching back almost as long as film itself. Blues legend Bessie Smith was filmed singing ‘St Louis Blues’ in 1929 (above), essentially creating the first ever music video. Similarly, the history of live music on television is almost as long as that of television’s mass consumption. The ability to play well live on television remains the marker of a genuine musician. Every reality show worth its salt builds up to a live showdown between its contestants. So what do audiences look for in a live performance? And are the people behind the camera the ones who really decide whether a performance will go down in history or not?
Just hangin’ out in the studio
Live music has always been about ‘authenticity’. When you see an artist play, you think you know whether they’re really feeling the music or not. Do they mean what they’re saying or is it obvious they drew the short straw with the songwriter? A live performance has always been counterposed to the glitter and glamour of an expensive video, where you can’t see the sweat coming from the singer’s pores.
Even the ‘in the studio’ music video beloved of pop music stars emulates the ‘realness’ of the live performance. For example, J-Lo becomes Jenny from the block when she’s in her jammies, getting her pitch right with a pair of headphones. Singing live has been all about been demonstrating how much the artist or singer is above the trappings of celebrity fame. When it comes down to it, all they need is a guitar and a mike (and some expensive recording equipment, and a diplomatic producer-type to nod at them appreciatively behind some glass).
Performance is filtering over to other fields, such as dance music. The huge light shows and spectacle of the 1980s sparked off an opposing trend which saw DJs opt for the anonymity afforded by the darkness of a club. But the arrival of the ‘big beat’ DJ playing to crowds on beaches (such as Fatboy Slim on Brighton Beach, above) changed the DJ culture from something faceless to near-inescapable in the mainstream charts. More recent developments such as live-streamed show The Boiler Room have tried to reverse that emphasis on appearance by having the DJ play with their back to the audience – but it still taps into an old trend from live recorded music from television. Audiences love watching audiences no matter how disinterested and cool they act.
Recorded live performances have been most closely associated with guitar music, though. One of the fears expressed by musicians in the early 1980s was that MTV would stop people going to gigs. If you can hear the singles from the comfort of your living room, why would you pay to go to a venue without even the guarantee that the performer will play the hits? Would it be possible for the guitar playing singer to be as exciting as the pop star? However, MTV’s Unplugged series became an integral part of the tradition that made ‘going acoustic’ an index of a musician or band’s real capabilities.
One of the most notable Unplugged sessions was by Nirvana in 1993 (above). The watershed performance marked a moment in which both the audience come to maturity. Cobain wore his influences on his sleeve, using the opportunity to showcase unexpected personal influences, as well as the craftsmanship behind the band’s own songs. Nirvana emerged as a more rounded band, whose music was informed by old greats like Leadbelly as much as it was by its contemporaries Meat Puppets and more recent predecessors The Vaselines. The record of the session has become a critical part of the band’s discography and evaluation as a ‘serious band’ long after other bands associated with grunge disappeared.
Visuals for rock, pop and dance have all been shaped by how live music has been recorded so far. It’s also worth looking at the role of live music in culture, and why bands have seen some performances enter into the annals of rock history. The most famous live performances often mark high points – or pivotal points – in a band or a musician’s career. Oasis’ Knebworth show was recorded because the band were at their career peak in 1996, with an estimated one in 20 people in the UK trying to buy tickets for the two consecutive shows at the legendary venue. Bob Dylan famously ‘went electric’ at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 (below). In one legendary show, included in Don’t Look Now, the audience starts calling him a ‘Judas’ for betraying his folk roots.
Live music videos have also captured venues at their peak – showing how much synergy there is between a venue and the artists who play in it. Some venues really sum up and define an era – whether it’s CBGBs or London’s Albert Hall in the 1960s, equally famous then for tripped out psychedelic sleep-ins as it is now for the Proms. The stadium shot was requisite for live filming in the 1980s, wiping out some of the intimacy of the connection between performer and audience. Not surprisingly, there are few standout live music films made of stadium gigs.
The live recorded performance has often been seen as a complement to a band’s official recording career, despite hardcore fans’ obsessions with bootlegs. However, some live songs have outlived their recorded counterparts – for example, Cheap Trick’s minimalistic ‘I want you to want me’ off their famous Live at the Budokan album, and Pulp’s Glastonbury version of ‘This is Hardcore’, which perfectly distilled the essence of the post-party song (both below). An atmospheric venue and a receptive audience can elevate the live version of a song well above the recorded cut on the album.
Of course, live streaming has made recording any event anywhere under the most casual conditions easy. Death Cab for Cutie recorded the video for their first single ‘You are a tourist’ (below) off their seventh album in a single take, which was live streamed simultaneously to audiences. Band member Chris Walla said: “Most of the time when you have an idea, somebody’s already done it, and it really didn’t seem like that was the case for this. So we needed to move on it if we wanted to do it.” Will we see more experiments like this in the future? And will the predictions of anxiety-ridden musicians in the 1980s start to come true, in the way they least expected? Rather than losing interest in going to gigs, we’re just watching them in our living room.
In our experientially-minded culture, bands are more likely to do reunion gigs than new albums after years apart. Some of the biggest cultural highlights in recent years have been heavily publicised reunion gigs for bands including the Stone Roses, Blur and Pulp. Instead of waiting for the definitive document, we can just record them on our phones as we watch. The Beastie Boys, always ahead of the game, did one of the most definitive live music recordings by getting their fans to film themselves on the day of the band’s legendary Madison Gardens gig (below).
Arguably, MTV-ready popstars might be doing more than anyone else to make sure the live music experience remains sacrosanct. In a media dominated by the reality music contest, being able to sing live is still the final measure of talent. The format translates well because we can all appreciate a contestant’s singing abilities, regardless of their marketability – hence the breakout success of ordinary individuals such as Susan Boyle or Paul Potts.
HOW ABOUT SOME LIVE CLASSICS FROM THE BAMM ARCHIVES?
HOTTUB – ‘1, 2, 3, Go!’
Where to look? This band shocked audiences at SXSW with their sweaty onstage antics and willingness to hump stage floors. Here they are performing their synthy ‘1-2-3-Go’ against some suitably eye-watering graphics.
Afro Q Ben – ‘Futuristic Electro’
This sunny outdoor performance perfectly conveys the festival vibe combined with genuine musicianship. Futuristic Electro’s influences span far and wide. Despite being fun, it never feels flimsy. It also reminds me of an age-old tradition that’s got wiped out in the era of spiralling touring costs for bands: the dancer guy. It’s always a guy, and you’re not sure what else he does when he’s not on stage, but it just wouldn’t be the same without him.
Religious Girls – ‘OG’
It might not surprise you to learn that Religious Girls have a background of noise music. Their music has suitably ethereal vocals counterpointed to more electronic sounds and off-kilter drumming. This performance at the Phono del Sol festival in San Francisco captures the intensity and intricacy of their music.
Great Lake Swimmers – ‘Still’
GLS have already ratcheted up much praise from the likes of Bill Callahan and this BAMM performance shows them at their best, performing at SXSW to an adoring crowd. If Hot Tub are like a tequila slammer, then Great Lake Swimmers are the orange juice for the hangover.
A stripped down version of a deeply felt emotive song, deconstructed and performed in San Francisco’s Engine Works. The band experimented with the parts of the song to make it work within the grand yet warm venue – a great example of how much our experience of music is informed by place.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE BEST LIVE FILMS EVER MADE …?
Thelma Schoonmaker won an Academy Award in 1970 for her remarkable editing of the film which in itself changed how live performance was documented. Schoonmaker adopted a combination of stills, and dissolves to capture the energy of performers as diverse as Richie Havens and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Woodstock wasn’t intended to be free but has come to symbolise the 1960s. Most cultural commentators have put this down to the film’s brilliance. There are a few performances here which perfectly sum up why we see the era as we do: Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
Oasis at Knebworth 1996
The band’s performance at this legendary site coincided with their lager-swilling, tabloid-terrorising peak. Certainly, the Gallagher brothers’ collective egos were big enough to elbow out the audience. At one point, Liam tells the reverential audience: “We’re not arrogant, we just believe we’re the best band in the world.” Class, as they would have it.
Monterey Pop (1967)
Made two years before Woodstock, but somewhat less acknowledged is this video documentary of the festival where Jimi Hendrix famously burnt his guitar and flung its flaming carcass into the crowd. D.A.Pennebaker’s film excited some of its viewers so much that it directly inspired the more famous Woodstock festival – as well as dozens of others across the country. The documentary shows how live footage can be as exciting and motivating as the real thing. Above is the trailer to the miniature masterpiece of musical history. Let’s all say: “It’s groovy, man.”
1991: The Year That Punk Broke
This fun documentary cobbled out of Super 8 footage captures some stand-out definitive performances from the soon-to-be-massive Nirvana and their contemporaries Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. What’s most astonishing is that these bands were already playing to huge crowds at Britain’s Reading festival, despite seeing themselves as punk rock. Like the best music documentaries, it captures a change in the history of music itself.
This documents some of hardcore band Fugazi’s best-known moments on stage, bringing together style and content to convey the band’s unique take on society. The sonic assault is paired with a visual assault and performances that make you wish you’d been there (maybe standing at the back, not so close to the front).
ATP Tomorrow’s Parties
This festival on a chalet site has had some ups and downs in the past ten years but its delivered more than a handful of legendary performances. One of these is by Lightning Bolt, the two man band prone to setting up in chalets or outside the venue or whereever you least expect them to. The trailer shoves our face into their sweaty pits – breathe it in.
Gimme Shelter (1970)
This is the nightmarish counterpart of the dreamy Woodstock vibe. The filmmakers followed the band on their 1969 tour of the US, which ended with the infamous free concert at Altamont. Footage of the ensuing bloodbath was incorporated into the film, which has come to represent the zenith of the hippy era.
Stop Making Sense (1984)
This Talking Heads documentary was shot by Hollywood director Jonathan Demme just when MTV had arrived on our screens. It showed how live footage doesn’t have to be cliched – the camera stays firmly focused on Byrne’s face throughout rather than straggling to the money shots of the audiences. Rather than presenting a loosened up version of the band, we see them at their most stylised and creative – with Demme using chiaroscuro and dramatic close-ups fofor that definitive art school feel.