music-business

I look back on that and I’m so glad that I never was jaded. I’m so glad that we thought you could get a record deal by just walking in at 11 years old and singing songs that other people had written. I learned different lessons as the years went by, but I’m glad that I didn’t have it all pressed upon me from the beginning.
—  Taylor Swift talking about how naive she was about the music business when she was 11 (x)

Seattle TimesWho owns the Temple of the Dog album master tapes? Fight is on

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle earlier this week, A&M Records, which claims it bought the album from the band in 1991, alleges a Seattle man, Rajan Parashar—co-founder of London Bridge Studios—has the master tapes and won’t turn them over.

If you have a question about working in the music industry...

by Zack Zarrillo

Hi readers, listeners, friends, and enemies – Off The Record, the podcast I co-host with Jesse Cannon, is taping an episode focussed on what anyone can do in high school, college, after graduation, and in between the three to get involved in the music industry via an internship or an actual job.

We get asked questions in that vein more than any other, so if you have questions, we’d love to hear them. See below for more:

Don’t know what Off The Record is? Now’s the time to find out!

When Apple introduced the iTunes store in 2003, sales of singles were only a small fraction of record companies’ already declining, post-Napster profits. Flash forward to the present, with 1.259 billion digital tracks sold in 2013, and it’s easy to see why singles tracks dominated discussions about music rather than albums. There’s an even bigger reason the industry gets so focused on songs when the weather gets hot: Albums don’t sell in the summer. So, when the weather gets warm, the song becomes almighty, and labels enter a fierce competition to win the title.

How do musicians get paid for their work? It’s a simple question, but the answer is very complicated—and very contentious. Some of the hottest debates in music today—from the value of Spotify to the importance of vinyl to the issue of bands “selling out” by placing their songs in TV ads—revolve around the topic of music rights, and some of the debates get so esoteric that even lifelong music heads feel lost trying to figure out who gets what, and when, and why.

click here to read the whole story, and to see a high-res version of the graphic

Kelly Clarkson has notched another American Idol first. Arguably the biggest star to emerge from the Fox show (she’s tied with Carrie Underwood at three No. 1 albums), Clarkson is the first alum to fulfill the recording contract she won in 2002. And with the release of her seventh studio album, Piece by Piece, on RCA (it debuted at No. 1 the week ending March 8 with 97,000 track-equivalent albums, according to Nielsen Music), she’s now a free agent who could command a hefty new deal.

Just posting this to note that Kelly Clarkson’s record contract was for 13 years! 

Imagine this: canceling your Spotify subscription, and paying $20 for a Tidal subscription instead. It’s more expensive because it’s “higher quality” and “artist-owned,” which is important because Usher, Daft Punk, and Madonna have been living in wretched penury for far too long, and it’s time for people to give back. The modern-day Our Gang (which counted among its members not only the aforementioned supernovas, but also Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Chris Martin, and Jack White) held a “keynote” to promote Tidal, the already extant European streaming company Jay Z recently purchased for $56 million because he’s bored.
new rules for the music business

I launched my music career in 2006, after years of writing and performing just for fun. To my surprise and disappointment, I found that I had launched it to the strains of a funeral dirge. The Old Business was dead or dying, depending on who you asked. It was not yet clear whether there would be a New Business.

Thus, my business strategy for this past eight years has consisted mostly of guessing, experimenting, praying, and failing. Nobody I’ve met, no matter how experienced or successful, has had anything better than an informed guess about how to “make it” as an artist in the 21st century. It’s a strange and confusing new world.

However, thanks to some combination of luck, madness, and pigheadedness, I’ve been making a full-time living at this for about six years. And it’s starting to be kind of fun. I’m not saying I know what I’m doing, but I have ideas, and some people have asked me for advice. So what follows is my best guess at what the fuck is going on here. 

What Changed Exactly: The Market and The Muse

A funny thing happened in the 20th century. Artists - known the world over to be fuzzy-headed, open-handed, penniless fools, with one eye on the sky and the other turned awkwardly inward – were forced to become businesspeople. And I don’t just mean that they had to handle money – I mean, they had to start thinking about markets.

Let me make clear for you how absurd this is. The difference between the concerns of pleasing a muse (which are largely abstract and unnameable), and the concerns of pleasing a market (which are largely concrete and quantifiable) are akin to the difference between a bird and a stone.  

When we serve the muse, we open ourselves up fearlessly to the woes and passions of the world, we experiment playfully and adventure boldly; we forfeit all allegiance to time, money, and external expectation. The poet Mary Oliver put it this way, “If I have a meeting with you at three o'clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.”

When we serve the market, we strive to make something “marketable”: ie: something that meets an identifiable need or demand, is understandable, and is most likely similar to something that came before it. We try to please the fans and the managers and label-heads, because they are providing the money. We cater, above all else, to time, money, and external expectation.

In short, the muse and the market are not just different, they are diametrically opposed. One asks us to proceed boldly, the other to proceed with caution.

But don’t despair, artists. That’s how it used to work. Then, the internet took everything we knew about markets, turned it upside down, shook it hard, and stole its lunch money.

New Rule #1: Create Ceaselessly

These days, instead of appealing to one big market, artists have the opportunity to appeal to any combination of an infinite number of small markets – which don’t even behave like markets, really, but like communities. Our work can reach these communities no matter where they are in the world, how old they are, or what radio station they listen to. And these communities are highly networked within and between each other.

In other words, there are now infinite markets, and infinite ways of marketing to them.

        Work ≠ money:

In the old business, every iteration of your work (every concert, CD, and photograph) could be expected to make you a fixed, knowable amount of money. Now that your work is being dumped into the bottomless maw of the internet, you can no longer count on it returning to you with a handful of cash.

A lot of artists aren’t ready to face this one, which is understandable. It’s devastating and terrifying to learn that the way you used to make money is not going to make you money anymore.

But let me state this clearly: the old world is not coming back. We can either learn to live in this one, or we can get a job.

Now, many of us have been lulled into believing that we already have a job. We do not. We have a calling. If you want to follow your calling, a steady paycheck is one of the many nice things that you’ll be asked to sacrifice.

That said, I believe that the problem of money is working itself out in some new and interesting ways. Fans don’t equal cash the way they once did (they don’t necessarily buy your records or go to your concerts, for example), but a fan is still a person who loves and values your work, and is probably willing to pay for it. Kickstarter, Patreon, and Bandcamp are a few of the models that allow us to experiment with turning fans into income, and I predict there will be many, many more in the coming years.

The trick is, they are not linear models. The more fans you have, the more money you can make - probably - but the ratio is not 1:1. The amount you get paid depends on lots of mushy, musey things, like how inspired your fans are, and how much they like you personally, and what they ate for breakfast.  

I happen to believe that good artists will always be able to make a living doing the thing they’re good at. Maybe not a great living, but a living. That said, I’ll get a job if I need to. I didn’t get into this for the money; and I’d wager that you didn’t either. Like Gillian Welch said, back in 2001 (AKA: the beginning of the end), “We’re gonna do it anyway, even if it doesn’t pay.”

      Two crazy masters:

So in the old business, the market was fairly bounded, and behaved in a somewhat predictable fashion. In the new business, it’s not, and it doesn’t.

We still have to cater to two masters (the market and the muse), but now, at least they are equally insane. They both require from us every ounce of boldness, passion and open-mindedness we can muster, and they both reward us in surprising and unpredictable ways.

We have to learn to treat our careers the way we treat our art: open ourselves up to mysterious forces, work fearlessly, and pray that we’ll be rewarded.

New Rule #2: Share Generously

I’m about to say something that’s gonna get me into trouble.

“Intellectual property” is an absurd concept that only a society of clueless, museless marketers could possibly conceive of. It’s an idea that serves markets, cripples muses, and is willfully ignorant of all of human history.

We are stealing from one another constantly and shamelessly, and that’s a blessed and beautiful thing. Every folk song is a mashup of all previous folk songs. Every film stands on the shoulders of all other films. Every sentence, poem and novel exists only for the creative gumption of all previous speakers of language, which is itself a collaborative invention of the entire human race. The whole history of human invention is characterized by a kind of joyful, infinite plagiarism.

Ideas are not commodities. They are made to be shared, not owned.  

That said, I do get the point. If somebody covered one of my songs and got it on the radio and made millions and didn’t pay me, I’d sue the bajeezus out of the motherfucker. If you’re going to turn my song into a commodity, I expect to paid as though it’s a commodity (even though deep in my heart, I know it’s not). 

BUT, if somebody covered one of my songs and put it on youtube, or wrote a song that was an homage to one of mine, or burned one of my CDs and gave it to a friend, or used a song of mine in their broke-ass indie film, I’d high five them. Why? Because there is a big difference between sharing someone else’s work and profiting off of someone else’s work. And it’s time for all of us to get real, real comfortable with the former.

(This, by the way, is why all of my music is released under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial License. Read about it!)

The old business was set up in such a way that pretty much every time somebody heard one of your songs, you could expect to get paid for it. The new business is not set up that way, and in my estimation, it’s not about to be. But at this point, I’m inclined not to mind. Remember: fans are worth money, just not in a linear way.  That means that I am downright celebratory about people sharing my work. I want my songs to go out there and make fans.

        How to Get Paid for Sharing:

I’d argue that the most effective way to rig this new system in our favor is to create as many opportunities as possible for our fans to pay us for what we do. I think most fans are willing to part with some money, as a show of gratitude for the work that moves them.

When it comes to asking for money, ask with humor, confidence, and a sense of abundance. Try to maintain the sense that what you’re offering is valuable and worthwhile. In other words, “Please buy my CD, which is not that great, so I can buy gas” is much less effective than “I made this album, and I think it’s beautiful, and I want you to have it. If you happen to have made some money, and you want me to have it, I think that’s beautiful too.”

Also, ask often, and in lots of different ways. My ‘asks’ range from the “donate” link at the bottom of this post, to Patreon and Kickstarter, to the pitch I do from the stage at every live show (where my CDs are available pay-what-you-please). For more on the ask, I recommend that you watch this video.

In other words, I don’t require anybody to pay me for any of the work I share. That said, I make it really easy and fun and warm-fuzzy-feeling for them to do so. This has been working for me for the past five years or so, and it works better all the time. I’d wager that if you’re committed, and passionate, and willing to apply a bit of your (abundant) creativity to this endeavor, it can work for you, too.

New Rule #3: Collaborate Selflessly

Back when there was one big multi-billion-dollar market, it made sense to get a little territorial. It made sense that artists talked shit about each other, got into public skirmishes, and were reticent to share their resources. They were competing for their little slice of a very big pie.

These days, however, there are infinite pies. That means that advocating for another artist’s work (or even just tolerating it) takes nothing away from your own work. It means that competition within the arts is outdated and counterproductive. It means that we have to take responsibility for our work, because our work lives or dies on its own merits. That’s true of everybody else’s work, too – regardless of our opinions about it (and we have many).

Furthermore, working with other artists grows both of our pies. Cross-promotion and collaboration are perhaps our very best shots at growing our fan base. Marketing dollars are getting less valuable all the time, but “social capital” is getting more valuable.

So here’s what I recommend: find artists you love (artistically and personally), and make something with them, or for them. Send them fan mail. Tell your fans about their records. Make them a casserole. If you need help, ask them. If they need help, give it to them. 

Furthermore, if you need help and they won’t provide it, be gracious. They are fighting their own battles and have their own reasons. Similarly, if somebody makes work you don’t like, or if somebody you don’t like has some success that seems unwarranted, let it slide. What’s more: applaud them. We are not competitors anymore, and we gain nothing by cutting each other down.

We are all engaged in the hard work of trying to make something beautiful in an often-ugly world. We wake up every day and fight the same demons - some external, most internal. Every scrap of encouragement we come across is infinitely valuable. We may be an introverted, neurotic, solitary bunch, but we need each other.

This is good business, but more than that, it’s good living. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to do this work if it means my heart has to shrivel up like a prune. I make music because music breaks me open to infinity and God and magic and all manner of foolish feelings. If that stops happening, I’ll quit. Until then, I plan to share those feelings with every artist who happens to incite them, and say THANK YOU to every one of my comrades who provides inspiration or encouragement or help or hope or humor (for example, The Wood Brothers, Devon Sproule, Milton, Anais Mitchell, Chris Kasper, Peter Mulvey, Vienna Teng, The Weepies, Seth Walker, Mark Erelli, Shovels & Rope, and David Torkanowsky. To name a few).

New Rule #4 (the most important rule): Be Grateful.

Keep this in mind at all times. It is a blessing to be a creative person. It is a luxury and a privilege to have a calling, to know what it is, and to have a shot at pursuing it. Fame and fortune are a completely ludicrous expectation, and we don’t deserve them. We don’t even deserve to live above the poverty line (at least, no more than anyone else does). 

Whatever bullshit, boring thing you have to do to make it work - be it hooking, tweeting, waiting tables, driving 60,000 miles a year - make peace with it. When you feel bitterness or disappointment nibbling at your heart, fend them off the way you always have: sing, play, and write. 

The world gave you your muse. It has already done right by you, and it owes you nothing else. 

So, let’s review.

The New Rules: 

1)        Create ceaselessly. Approach your career like another aspect of your art: it requires constant inspiration and experimentation, and provides unpredictable rewards.

2)         Share generously. As soon as it’s out of you, it belongs to the world. Write the song, record it, bless and release. Then, make it really, really easy for people who love it to give you money.

3)         Collaborate selflessly. Make friends with artists whose work you love. Make yourself available to them, and ask them for help. When they help or inspire you, be enthusiastically, vocally grateful. When they don’t, be gracious. Let your heart always be open to little birds who are the secrets of living (joyfully plagiarized from e. e. cummings). 

4)         Be Grateful. You are a lucky bastard, whether or not you ever sell a single record or ticket. When it’s not working the way you want it to, fall to your knees and give thanks for your ears and your muse and the infinite gifts of creating.

………………………………….

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How To Take Down The Monster They Call...Touring In 13 Steps

Every band’s dream is to tour but most bands don’t realize how extremely difficult it is, especially when you have no booking agent, tour manager, manager, press, or anything else that could help. So what should you do? I’ve been lucky enough to book 9 tours for my band and we have never lost money. These are the things I suggest you do before you leave, when you are on tour, and when you get off so that you could have a successful run.

1.) Create accounts on all social media platforms

If you are a band seriously thinking about touring I really hope this is something you are already doing. If you don’t have a following on social media then it will be very difficult for you to actually promote your show. Get those numbers as high as you possibly can and connect with those people who are following you. Ask them where they would like to see you tour. Go to the places that most people are asking for you to go. 

2.) Create a bio, get photos done, make a video, develop a website, and for the love of God, have an EPK!!!

A booker is going to want to know everything about you in the fastest way possible. Make sure you have a professional brand. An EPK is a snapshot of everything you have done. A great one is Sonicbids.com! Check those out. Since most likely you won’t be able to do draw very well on tour at least convince the booker you are serious.

3.) Get Merchandise!

Chances are you probably won’t get a great guarantee when you get on the road. Your door deal will probably suck. So the only true way you will make money is from merchandise. If you haven’t been paying attention so far REMEMBER THIS: Musicians are no longer selling music! They are selling their brand. That means give music as cheap as possible and reap the benefits from people loving your brand. So get shirts, bracelets, posters, necklaces, hats, shorts, tank tops, sweaters, ect. Fans are buying into the idea of you not your music. The more options you have the more people are going to buy. Make sure you get professional quality on everything too. That should be a lesson in its self. NEVER BE A CHEAP ASS OVER BEING PROFESSIONAL!

4.) Create a great email.

This email has to be short and to the point. Obviously always be polite but get right to what you want and show who you are. The booker has tons of shows going on and they don’t want to read a book. Most importantly talk about what you will do for them not necessarily what you have done. That’s great you played a show with a national act on the other side of the country but how will that benefit the booker? Short email, post all links, say what date you want, and why they should book you. Don’t get discouraged if you sent out 200 emails and no one got back to you. That is life, my friend. I send out 300 emails, get 5 back, and only 1 says they are interested. This is something you have to devote a lot a time into.

5.) Get local bands from that city on the show

Again bookers are really busy and last thing they really want is to deal with a band from a different city that won’t make them any money. Remember bookers have to eat too. So contact other bands from the cities you want to go and ask them if they would like to be on your show or do a show swap. Those Ernie Ball Battle Of The Bands profiles are the perfect way to find bands and reach out to them! 

6.) Contact the booker

A site I use to contact bookers is indieonthemove.com I’ve been able to book all my shows through there. If there are other sites similar to this please let me know. 

7.) Get ready

Get a van! Make sure this van is in top shape! Don’t cheap out on this either! It will cost a lot more money if you don’t have the van all ready rather than just skipping a mechanic looking at it. Get a trailer! We rent trailers from U-Haul. For a day it’s about $50. Buy groceries! Peanut Butter and Jelly is probably the best food for tour, but you can also get flavored bagels, cutie oranges, beef jerky, muffins, granola bars, snack bag chips, Cheezits, and if you bring a cooler get some lunch meat. Try your best to not eat out all the time. Maybe one big meal after your show, but try to eat what you bought at the grocery store. Make everyone get a small tote to put their food in and keep it in the trailer. DRINK A LOT OF WATER! You need to stay hydrated. Make sure every person going into the van has bought a case of water. When it comes to clothes try to bring the least amount. The most important pieces of clothing you should have are underwear and socks. Make sure you have a lot of underwear and socks! I mean it! On the other hand bring 2 pairs of jeans, one pair of shorts to sleep in, a shirt to sleep in, just the right amount of shirts, one shirt to wear after every show, and if you’re lucky maybe swim trunks. I suggest having two towels. One towel for showers and one for swimming. You can take two bungie cords and stretch them from one side of the trailer to the other and then hang your wet clothes on there to dry. I prefer bringing one suitcase, a backpack, and one bag you put all your dirty laundry in and your toiletries. With toiletries make sure you have face wash, 2 in 1 shampoo and body wash, wet wipes, and every other thing you use every day. Obviously if it is going to be cold bring a jacket and sweatshirt. You may want to consider having flip flops or shoes you can easily take on and off since you’ll be getting out of the van a lot to use the bathroom and get gas. 

8.) Promote

You’re ready to go on tour so now you have to promote. What do you do since you have no money to get someone to do press? PROMOTE EVERYDAY! Get a sweet flier going around. On Facebook you can put up a status and target exactly who you want. Make a post directed towards St.Louis and then another directed towards Oregon or where ever you are going. On Twitter 140 characters get lost so it is definitely more acceptable to tweet often. The best way to promote on Facebook is through uploading a video of your announcements. Don’t just put up a link…that’s actually the worse. Make a video and upload it straight to Facebook. Get fans of yours to help promote the shows. Send them promotional flyers and in return do something special for them. Announce a song right before you go on tour. That always helps!

9.) Organize

Make sure before you leave you advance with the booker. Basically just get all the information and make sure everything is in order. Make a book or a google document of all the information for each show. Put it in your calendar on your phone and let each member access it so everyone knows what is happening. 

10.) How To Survive

Split up your band. We have six guys in the band so three guys always drive and the other three are always that drivers co-pilot. The co-pilot is just as important as the driver. The co-pilot should be in charge of the GPS, changing the radio when the driver wants it, keep the driver aware of everything, and most importantly make sure the driver stays awake. The co-pilot must never fall a sleep. When the co-pilot sees the driver starting to get tired then the co-pilot must figure out ways to keep the driver awake. We switch drivers every four hours. This does not count for breaks! This keeps the drivers fresh. 

If we are not sleeping on someones floor we use Planet Fitness as our stop to shower. Some of the members have memberships at Planet Fitness and they can bring one guest to come in and shower. This has helped so much! 

If you can’t get memberships at Planet Fitness then sink shower! Bring all of your toiletries inside a Wal-Mart and shower in the sink. 

If you can’t get into a Wal-Mart or something similar than take a bottle of water and use that to shower. We have had to do this more times than we would like to admit. 

Eat a pop-tart, or bagel, or something similar in the morning, make a PBJ or lunch meat sandwich for lunch, and if you have some extra cash get yourself something nice at a cheap restaurant. 

Get to shows early and find where kids are hanging out. Go to malls or skate parks or regular parks and promote your band and your show. Tell them that you are touring and give them something for them to remember you by. This surprisingly actually works really well. 

11.) Showtime

Always remember to give the audience a show they will never forget. This isn’t just about you having the time of your life but you need the audience to feel that way as well. DON’T PLAY SHOWS! MAKE THEM EVENTS! Every show you want the audience to be shocked that they have never heard of you. So practice, practice, practice. We rehearse 20+ a weekend, every weekend. You can always get better. This will make people want to buy merchandise which is what you need to survive the tour. If the booker or people at the venue love you then they will want you back and your next tour will be so much easier. Always make sure you introduce yourself to every staff member in the beginning, always be extremely over the top polite, and at the end thank everyone for having you. Make it incredibly difficult for someone to not want to have you again. REMEMBER THE ROCKSTAR IS DEAD! No one cares about a band who has strippers, cocaine, and alcohol. Be the sweetest people ever. 

12.) Create content

Always have content happening on your social media. Tweet constantly, make videos, put up statuses, take photos! Make everyone at home believe that you’re really making it. Once people believe you’re a big deal that’s when they will start supporting you…crazy how that works huh? 

13.) Follow up

At your merchandise table you should have some kind of sign up sheet for a newsletter. When you get back from tour follow up with everyone who signed up and say thank you. Also say thank you to every booker that booked you and make sure you keep that connection. Friends are always stronger than business partners. 


These are the big things to know when you are going to go on tour, when you are on tour, and when you get off. I hope this helps. If you have any questions feel free to ask. I hope to do more of these and dive into more specific things instead of just the broad picture. Best of luck on the road!!


The End
Ryan Argast

8 Ways To Make 2015 Different

The beginning of the year always feels exhilarating. It provokes excitement and enthusiasm for a future that could be—that will be. It also wakes up that crazy inner voice that insists, “this year is going to be different.” That said, here are 8 ways to help make 2015 different:

1) Make NO New Years resolutions. Instead make intelligent choices. You already have a project, a goal, a mission, a plan, or an idea bouncing around between your ears. Commit to that for 2015!

2) The “Internet of Everything” is near: Upgrade your digital world—it’s a wise investment. Everything has become mobile, portable and global and it’s not going to stop—it’s not even going to slow down. Don’t break the bank, however be sure you have thebest tech-tools you can afford; including phones, pads, laptops, apps, software, etc. Plus, don’t resist the opportunity to take a few classes this year to sharpen your skills and deepen your awareness of the ever-growing tech revolution.

3) Strengthen your base: Content may be king, but community holds the keys to the kingdom. We live in a “direct to customer” world, and if you want to expand your empire you must “consistently” interact and engage with your fans, followers and customers. It’s an intelligent investment of your time.

4) Turn Off The News! Really, it’s the worst form of hypnotic poison and the most embarrassing product of the entertainment industry. Say good-by to Wolf, Anderson, Storm, Erin, Forrest, Shepard, and all the other talking heads with funny names. Allow others to gather around the TV and get stoned on the drama while you respectfully step away and return to your studio, office or creative space. You’re an artist, an entrepreneur! You have your own drama unfolding right in front of you; Your Art! Your Company! Your Project! And don’t worry about “staying informed,” if something critical happens you’ll rush to the TV for the latest info.

5) Don’t freak out about money: Just make intelligent choices and decisions regarding your resources, whether you have a lot or a little. Be smart enough to avoid spontaneous, emotional spending, and courageous enough to jump on wise investment opportunities when they come your way. Also, be sure to take my 13-second Money Seminar. 

6) Commitment is EVERYTHING: Doesn’t matter if you’re a fledgling songwriter or the CEO of a mega-corp. The commitment to “get there” is your first priority—HOW you’re going to do it is second. To the degree you are ruthlessly committed to achieving your biggest goals, to that degree you will achieve them. Not like “positive thinking,” more like a smart, sturdy foundation to stand on.

7) Silence The Beast: Learn to quiet the critic between your ears. I began meditating daily in 1985, and the balance I’ve found in my life between the hoopla of showbiz and the silence of my soul is astounding. If you’re interested I’ll send you a copy of my personal meditation practice (exclusively for my subscribers only). All you have to do is ask.

8) Don’t Do Anything Stupid! You’re an artist, an entrepreneur—a crazy, creative, genius! I know it can be tough; however, it’s a GREAT life, and the only life for you! Don’t screw it up!

Happy New Year!

Billion Dollar Composer: John Powell Ranges From Action to Animation

Billion Dollar Composer is known as a diverse stylist

Jon Burlingame

With “Rio 2” in release and “How to Train Your Dragon 2” due in June, London-born John Powell reconfirms his status as today’s leading composer for animated films.

SEE MORE: From the April 22, 2014 issue of Variety

Twenty of his 54 features have been animated. And with a resume that also includes a 2010 Oscar nomination for his soaring “How to Train Your Dragon” score and music for such hits as “Happy Feet,” three of the “Ice Age” movies, two Dr. Seuss entries, “Kung Fu Panda” and the original “Shrek,” it’s hard to dispute that Powell has made a lasting impression on the genre.

“I grew up on ‘The Jungle Book,’ Warner Bros. cartoons, and ‘Tom and Jerry,’” says Powell in his expansive Pacific Palisades studio, the day before leaving for London to record music for the “Dragon” sequel. “I love the artistry of animation, and I prefer the stories. It’s much more joyful. Live-action is just so much about people fighting all the time.”

But, over a 17-year career, he has also proven his expertise in live action, with seminal scores for “The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “United 93” and “X-Men: The Last Stand,” among others.

“He never repeats himself,” says “Bourne Identity” director Doug Liman. “He approaches each project with enthusiasm, as if it’s his first score … or his last.”
Powell’s dry, sometimes wicked, sense of humor punctuates every interview, but the irreverence belies an intense commitment to giving filmmakers his best, regardless of the time and energy it may take. He has spent eight years, off and on, working on the two “Rio” films, says director Carlos Saldanha.

“John is so curious, so passionate, that he immersed himself in Brazilian music,” adds Saldanha. “Every year we went to Brazil. He helped me shape the movie in a way that I would never have imagined. I have never seen somebody work so well and so collaboratively with such a diverse group of artists, from will.i.am and Janelle Monae to Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown; he maneuvered through all those worlds.”

Danielle Diego, exec VP of Fox Music, which has done 14 films with Powell, calls him “a triple threat: supremely talented as a composer, one of the kindest human beings I know — plus he’s become a full-fledged rock-star song producer.”

In “Rio 2,” Diego points out, “songs and score are seamlessly interwoven. It’s a cohesive experience, and so sophisticated musically.”

In the case of “How to Train Your Dragon,” reports director Dean DeBlois, “We’ve involved him from the very beginning. Music does the heavy lifting, both emotionally and narratively, in places where it becomes too laborious or delicate to communicate an idea or a moral shift in a character. John’s been really intuitive in that sense.”

Powell used 120 musicians and a 100-voice choir on “Dragon 2” and is now back in the States mixing and dubbing. “It’s been very interesting, returning to the themes of the first movie, looking at what we had, what would be effective and why, and writing new themes for the new story — quite an experiment in leitmotif, form and structure,” says Powell.

The infectious Brazilian rhythms of “Rio 2” and the medieval-Nordic-Scottish mix of “Dragon” offer a fascinating contrast with Powell’s equally memorable scores for the live-action films: the propulsive minimalism of the three “Bourne” scores, the Latin flavors of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” the poignancy of a little boy’s voice in the climax of “United 93,” the symphonic heroics of “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

On the original “Bourne,” says Liman, “John was tireless. He really became my partner in nailing the tone of the movie, a process we brought to ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith.’ I handed John a scene where a husband and wife are beating the crap out of each other, and I wanted the audience to laugh. That is a helluva challenge to give a composer. The way he approached ‘Bourne’ and ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith’ was the most creatively courageous I’ve ever seen.”

“United 93” may have been one of his biggest challenges. Director Paul Greengrass needed a score that was “very abstract” for most of the film but makes a powerful statement at the very end. “People sat, stunned, at that wonderful last piece, its balm and beauty and peace,” the filmmaker says. “It’s a brilliant piece of music.”

It was Hans Zimmer who first spotted Powell’s potential film-music gifts. They met in London in the 1980s, after Powell’s graduation from London’s Trinity College of Music. Powell had partnered with Gavin Greenaway in a performance-art group and worked as an assistant engineer at George Martin’s recording studio. Later, Powell wrote music for English commercials and assisted other composers including Patrick Doyle (“Much Ado About Nothing”).

“We both had an appetite for geeky gear, obscure British composers and bands, and world music,” Zimmer says. Powell and Greenaway wound up working in various capacities on Zimmer’s London-recorded scores, and both arrived at Zimmer’s Santa Monica studio in 1997.

Greenaway now conducts many of Powell’s scores, and just finished conducting “Dragon 2.” “Over the years,” he says, “John has developed a most unique orchestral style: Very strong on melody and harmony, with clever use of rhythm, percussion and synthetic textures along with idiosyncratic, but nevertheless effective, orchestration — for instance, his fiendishly difficult trumpet parts.”

Powell was at Zimmer’s studio from 1997 to 2001, collaborating with fellow composers Harry Gregson-Williams (“Antz,” “Chicken Run,” “Shrek”) and Zimmer (“The Road to El Dorado”); he reunited with Zimmer on the two “Kung Fu Panda” movies in ’08 and ’11.

“Most of his music is underpinned, if not inspired by, a solid moral stance,” says Zimmer. “He has a lot of the 19th-century English explorer about him: no experiment too foreign, no mountain too dangerous to scale, no abyss too deep and dark to throw yourself into.”

After doing three to five movies a year for more than a decade, Powell took a year off to recharge and, as Liman puts it, “go and pursue his dream of writing symphonies.” He’s now about to take another year off, perhaps longer, to spend more time with his 14-year-old son and compose for the concert hall.

“I’m trying to cut back on the films,” he says. “Maybe one a year. At certain points, I will come back and do film scores, and I hope that they’ll be much more interesting because of this, that I’ll have more to bring to the party.”

An Overview of What the Music Copyright Changes Actually Mean per Yngvolkayno

(this is copied from a conversation I had with Yngvolkayno this morning and I thought she did a great job breaking it down, so with her permission and some minor formatting edits, here it is:)

The copyright article is good, overall. Basically, it’s changing how songwriters get paid for songs being played over things like Spotify/Pandora/YouTube, because right now, most artists are getting screwed. 

The really interesting thing (to me at least) is the clause that moves all pre-1972 recordings under federal law instead of state. Before now, most state laws didn’t require royalties to be paid for anything recorded before 1972 (which technically includes at least 1 year’s worth of Eagles music). Moving it under federal law means that they’ll start getting royalties for them, but I don’t think it’s retroactive, which still kind of sucks, but what can you do. 

Also, one of the clauses gives the label a chance to opt out of certain things being available through programs like Spotify, etc. So basically, artists would essentially have even more leverage to get the royalties they deserve, because if a company isn’t willing to play ball, they can just pull their music and give exclusivity to a competitor who will.

Keep reading

Today I finally committed to my dream college. I put my deposit down at Belmont University!! Since 8th grade it’s been a dream of mine to live in Nashville and in August that’s coming true!! I’m so excited for the adventures that’ll happen and most importantly I am thrilled to be enrolled in one of the BEST music business programs in the country! I am awful at making decisions and I’m always scared I’m making the wrong choice but with this I am actually happy! Being able to call Nashville my home away from home is going to be so fun and I can’t wait! 😁😊

Okay, some interesting music/business history to share. In 1988, Gina Arnold wrote a piece for the August 1988 issue Musician magazine about the economics of indie rock bands, called “First Flight.” The three bands profiled were the Dead Milkmen, Camper Van Beethoven and Dag Nasty – it easily had to have been the first such piece I ever read strictly about the business of music in any context, and as such it delved deeper than I’d ever thought about the issues, if at all. Everything from label deals to how to handle tour merchandising and more, not to mention the simple basics of living expenses. Plus a full breakdown of the equipment the groups were using, as was the common case in most Musician features. I was reminded of the issue it came in by chance the other day and friend Erik Highter specifically remembered that article. Happily I still have it around, and with Gina’s permission – much thanks! – I have scanned the article and made it available for download via the link above. The scanning is not perfect, but everything should be legible. It’s really interesting to read all this with the hindsight of history, from Gina’s thoughts to a lot of the individual band and manager observations, with plenty of anecdotes along the way. Given David Lowery’s own high profile place in terms of musician compensation these days, that his band is featured is fortuitous. A little context as well: inflation rates over time would mean that $100 in 1988 would get a little over $200 now, so double all dollar amounts throughout the article as relevant (this of course doesn’t necessarily address cost of living increases in general, but it’ll help provide some perspective). A further obvious point for any younger readers: NO Internet access or use at all beyond individual enthusiasts and very early commercial networks, all music sold in solely physical form, etc. etc. Enjoy, and please share out as desired.

LOS ANGELES — So what effect will the “Blurred Lines” verdict have on the music industry?

That’s the question being asked after a federal jury in Los Angeles found Tuesday that the 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines” infringed on the Marvin Gaye chart-topper “Got to Give It Up,” awarding nearly $7.4 million to Gaye’s children.

The case focused on the similarities between the song and the legendary soul singer’s 1977 hit. Jurors found against singer-songwriters Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, but held harmless the record company and rapper T.I.

Keep reading

3 Reasons Why Your Music Career is not Succeeding

1. Time

As in you haven’t given it enough yet. Success comes about when you have dedicated enough time (often decades) into many different aspects of your career, so at some point they all click and start to snowball. Generating the amount of connections needed to succeed is a long term commitment, and a common mistake is to think that one person will come along and put your career in overdrive. But it is personal connections accumulated over a lengthy period of time on every level, from fans to professionals, that leads to a tipping point. And it’s not always about people hearing your music, or seeing you play, but about many people being aware of what you are doing, hearing about you from multiple sources, seeing your name around, so that one day they finally do turn up at your show, or click a link to your video, or look you up on Spotify. Be warned that when they do, you must have put the time in to be good enough, so they are hooked as a fan, or as a business associate. These people need to believe that the thing they are to invest their time and money in, is more that just the potential of success, it’s the real thing.

2. Entitlement

As in you think you are entitled to success. The absolute truth is you are not. No one cares what your music means to you, they only care what your music means to them. And those in the business only care about how much money you will make for them. Until you can understand how you appear to someone who has no reason to ever give a shit about what you are doing, you won’t understand what it takes to succeed. You are not better than everyone else. Your music is no more vital to the well being of the world than anyone else’s. When you fill a hall full of people, who have paid their hard earned cash to see you, then you are entitled to a decent cut of the profits. But thinking you are owed success more than others because you are in someway special, just shows how far from success you really are.

3. Work Ethic

As in hard work gets results. If you want success you got to work for it. Relentless, unceasing, ego free, hard work. If you are not making a living making music, then you don’t have the luxury of saying no to things. Steer clear of bad long term deals, and avoid pay to play, but if something comes up that will get you in front of people, or build connections, do it. If you have to work a day job to enable you to keep moving forward with your music, take it. But make sure you work double hard on your music when you get home, and invest some of those earning back into your career. If you are in a privileged position, where you don’t have responsibilities, and can spend your time focused on music, take full advantage of it. If you are frustrated with where your career is at, but spend spare time playing xbox, you only have your self to blame. Successful people don’t have spare time because they are too busy doing something productive with it.

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Begin Again - Opening June 27th, 2014

This movie is not getting enough promotion. It looks amazing and I cannot wait to see it! My favorite people sharing the screen with my profession all over it! This is going to be great!