Time for another of our great in-depth features from our BAMM.tv London correspondent Zakia Uddin. This time around, Zakia looks at the state of modern radio …
Musicians have been singing about the death of commercial radio for over thirty years, but it’s only now that the rest of the entertainment industry is in agreement. Todd Pringle of the online curation app Stitcher can think of few advantages that terrestrial radio has over online radio: “There aren’t too many – from a user perspective, terrestrial radio is pretty poor. You’re beholden to a particular schedule which may or may not fit with yours, often have to stop listening at inopportune times (i.e. arrive at work), and can’t go back and pick up where you left off.”
The projected future of online radio has long been curation. Has curation been displaced by the driving force of personalisation, at a time when we trust algorithms more than DJs? Some of the BAMM.tv team were way ahead of the curve back in the days of Open Thread Radio. One of BAMM.tv’s predictions for 2013 was the rapid growth of online radio and streaming services. The picture online is even more dynamic now, and threatens to change radio as we know it. Has radio failed to stay relevant? And if that is the case, what did manager and business mogul Troy Carter mean earlier this year when he said that radio is ripe for “disruption”?
The phrase ‘Big in Japan’ has always been a bit condescending. Being successful there is supposed to be easy, because of the island’s famed love for anything different and western. The stock description has also been used to imply the artist in question just isn’t very good. But we hear it less and less, as the so-called borderless internet makes it impossible for stars to moonlight as rubber duck pedlars and credible musicians (check the two shameful examples below).
Are the musicians who only become successful abroad actually less cool? Is it just harder to get a successful career off the ground in the diminished pop markets of the US and the UK? And does it even matter anymore where you’re successful, when the music industry is in such a fragile state?
Here’s another of our in-depth articles from our London-based correspondent Zakia Uddin. This time, she looks at the increasingly prevalent modern phenomenon of the comeback artist …
Justin Timberlake announced his comeback this year – yes, JT. Put it this way, the 32-year-old’s first release was back when Dubya had been in power for less than a year and the first dot com bubble had just exploded (‘Like I Love You’, below).
The comeback has always occupied a special place in the world of music. Unlike political comebacks, musical ones rarely the same renewed vigor. You don’t humour a politician (or at least we don’t think we do) but the force of nostalgia is enough to get people excited about a singer or band’s return. We’re never quite sure whether to take it seriously – arguably, we’re even more cynical about musicians’ abilities than we are about those of politicians. Will they be as passionate as they used to be? What if they aren’t as good as we remember? What does that say about us? Worst of all, they remind of us how old we’re getting.
There was a more (or less) cynical time – depending on your point of view – when making a comeback was like doing an encore. Or comebacks were only for the kind of musicians who did encores, who couldn’t get enough, and were willing to spin out the old hits for an unimaginative audience. So what’s changed? It’s a real truism that touring is the only way to generate money – correspondingly many bands have sucked it up and gone touring together, including legendary fall-outs like the Stone Roses (below).
Generally, rock music comebacks have always seemed more dignified. It involves a different kind of struggle, as though they just didn’t want to come back until they were truly inspired. Click on ‘more’ to continue!
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 …
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.
Lots of things change with the dawn of a new year … but some things always remain constant. The BAMM.tv crew, for instance, will still be the same bunch of highly-knowledgeable music masterminds they always were, and we’ll still be sharing a new playlist from one of the team each and every Friday. This week, we ask the multi-talented Ian McPherson to share his current musical choices …
1. “Here I Come” (1996) – Love & Hate: The Best of Dennis Brown
A top male reggae vocalist, Brown is the true king of roots rock reggae and ‘lovers rock’, a sound that was born in the UK, and also one that has been lost in the past. He has smooth vocals that complement the baseline. I love his songs because of the spiritual overtones in his works.
2. “Let’s Stay Together” (1972) Al Green
The harmonies are uplifting and the pure expression in his voice is one of pain, but the words have a comforting vibe that makes a person feel like they are not the only one who suffers. Pure soul in a bottle.
3. “Move on up” (1963) – Curtis Mayfield
Blaxploitation films formed my introduction to Curtis Mayfield. He was a great story teller, painting vivid images with the sound of early New York City, like a roving reporter on the streets. A believable, heartfelt voice with great musical arrangements and melodies, that sadly seem to have been lost to the past.
4. “Microphone Fiend” (Follow the Leader, 1988) – Eric B. & Rakim
I always loved early Hip Hop. There not anyone out there right now in Hip Hop or Rap that has taken nor even touched the crown of Rakim, a Hip hop master of word play with more layers than an onion skin. He’s an artist with a smooth flow … with a message in his story telling … a wordplay wizard with very deep metaphors and cyphers.
5.”Dreams” (1977, ‘Rumours’) Fleetwood Mac
I grew up with Fleetwood Mac and I still have them on my MP3 player today. “You Can Go Your Own Way” and “Dreams” are both epic tunes. A great band bursting with passion, with a sound that takes me back to my youth.
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.
So here’s the sixth day our 12 Day countdown to Christmas - and we’re getting literary. Yep, for the past year we’ve been presenting a whole series of great in-depth articles about various elements of the music industry. Here’s a collection of the best:
Our 12 day countdown to Christmas continues apace, and today we’re focusing on one of the most exciting musical cities in the world. Global Scene London was a series initially released on a week-by-week basis last year, but – if you happened to miss this awesome expose of up-and-coming music scenes in England’s capital city – you can check out every episode below. Kick back, enjoy, and inject a bit of London liveliness into your Saturday.
Come back tomorrow for another installment from the 12 Days Of BAMM …