Juniper: Streaming Will Drive Digital Music Sales Through 2019…But Sloooooowly 

Ad increase      Juniper Research has released a new report that indicates the digital music industry will experience slow revenue growth over the next five years, expanding from $12.3 billion in 2014 to $13.9 billion in 2019. As reported by Fierce Mobile IT, the research suggests a strong performance in the robust streaming music sector largely will be offset by a decrease in revenues from legacy services, including ringtones, ring-back tones, and music sales.

According to the new report titled “Digital Music: Streaming, Download, and Legacy Services 2014-2019,” the market will be characterized by consumer migration to cloud-based services. Such pure play music providers as Spotify and Pandora increasingly will find themselves competing with personalized services from the leading over-the-top (OTT) players, including Apple and Google. Additionally, piracy will remain a significant factor responsible for “major revenue leakage,” particularly in emerging markets (think China), where only a small percentage of content is legally acquired.

The report strongly suggests music consumption is set to become a highly sociable activity, with features such as music discovery and social media integration that connects music fans. However, finding ways to expand the pool of music subscribers while increasing the ease of discovery remains a key challenge for streaming companies. In a statement, Juniper said smartphones and tablets will be the primary platforms of growth, although digital music revenues on the PC/laptop will remain robust over the forecast period. Additionally, emerging markets are expected to strengthen in terms of digital music consumption, as disposable income levels continue to rise and streaming services expand into these regions.

McDonald’s To Customers: Do You Want Some Digital Music With That?


     Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun…with a side of digital music. McDonald’s apparently has launched an “online music experience” designed to expand its digital presence, modernize the brand, and drive customers through a new online food-ordering app. Specifically, the fast-food chain has hired Ticketmaster’s Julia Vander Ploeg to create a “variety of digital music and entertainment experiences that McDonald’s will provide to customers, to reward the most enthusiastic customers and drive frequency.”

According to several sources, Vander Ploeg joins the company as a chief member of its Global Digital Team, which is focused on customer engagement, eCommerce, service delivery, and digital content. While no specifics are available, the McDonald’s website has posted a listing for a product director for music and entertainment, whose role would include crafting the strategy and product roadmap “for a variety of digital music and entertainment experiences that McDonald’s will provide to customers.” This person also will “establish multi-channel music and emerging entertainment programs to reward our most enthusiastic customers and drive frequency.”

“As digital consumer engagement models and retail business opportunities evolve, McDonald’s will continue to create an eCommerce platform that will enable us to reach even more customers and support McDonald’s global digital business and technology growth,” the company’s website says. “Our eCommerce platform will revolutionize how McDonald’s interfaces with our customers by removing physical boundaries to allow our customers to connect to,, and order McDonald’s any time or place, globally.”


Vinyl Album Sales Grow To Still-MinusculeNumber Because Of “Enhanced Quality”


     Every few months some analyst looking at the recorded music industry notices that vinyl album sales keep ticking upwards, which triggers yet another look at analog music sales within the greater digital universe. The most recent of these reviews is offered by’s Jason Notte, who this week noted that “vinyl record sales have jumped a whopping 40.4% since the first six months of last year.” Noting that vinyl accounts for only a small percentage of total album sales (which in the first quarter of this year were down nearly 15% from the same period last year), he explained that sales of the old LP format rose from 2.9 million records in the first six months of 2013 to 4 million in the first half of this year.

“That’s a fairly small number when you consider that, even without Nielsen Soundscan’s ‘Track Equivalent Album’ and ‘Streaming Equivalent’ album measures that turn individual tracks into album sales, there were 121 million albums sold in the U.S. in the first half of 2014,” Notte writes. “Even the ‘dead’ CD still managed 63 million sales during that time.”

Still, it’s interesting to note – and Notte does – that vinyl sales are up 250% over the past 20 years while overall music sales slid 50%. As music fans have continued to embrace streaming music, “vinyl has become streaming’s aesthetic counterweight,” he says. “It’s a $20 to $30 luxury purchase made not only for its enhanced quality, but for its historic value. It’s a purchase reserved for standout releases and made by only the most dedicated listeners willing to invest in the music and the equipment to play it.”


The Guardian: Hi-Res Digital Music Is Better, But Can Lead To Disappointment


Music Business      “Why are we still listening to over-compressed music through low-quality headphones when advances in bandwidth, storage capacity, and speakers means we could be listening to high-quality uncompressed audio all the time?” This is the very valid question The Guardian recently asked its U.K. readers, noting that in an era of 24-bit audio, virtually all music sold and streamed today is available only in a much lower quality 16-bit CD or even the more highly compressed MP3 format. All conventional industry wisdom, theories, and testing aside, the question remains: can listeners actually tell the difference between high- and low-resolution?

This is the question three audiophiles at The Guardian asked themselves. After listening to a number of tracks played in 128kbps and 320kbps MP3; CD; and 24-bit studio master, the answer was…yes, although not necessarily in a transformative way. “The difference between MP3 and CD was most striking, [but] I struggled to differentiate much from CD to studio master,” said Tim Jonze, The Guardian‘s music editor. “Ultimately the difference is there but it’s subtle and it depends on how you listen to music.” Jason Phipps, The Guardian‘s head of audio, noted “there’s a distinct quality difference between the kind of compressed, middling MP3 commonly downloaded from the major platforms and the 24-bit high-res studio master.”

And Guardian correspondent Samuel Gibbs added, “Overall the studio masters sounded fuller…but that difference wasn’t always a good thing. It was disappointing to hear a recording of Pavarotti’s ‘Nessun Dorma’ sound worse in studio master, as it exposed the fact that the orchestra and the tenor’s tracks were recorded separately in different environments. Still, what was very apparent is just how bad a poor-quality MP3 sounded, how good a 320kbps MP3 and CD sounded, and how cutting out the middle man in the audio production chain with a studio master could have unexpected results.”


Gracenote Hires New CEO To Expand RoleOf Metadata In The “Digital Ecosystem”


     Most online music fans have never heard of Gracenote, but the provider of audio and video metadata and recognition services – owned by Tribune Media Co. – has hired former M-Go chief John Batter, to serve as its new CEO. This is a somewhat big deal because Batter’s new role is to expand the company’s services “internationally and aggressively” and “expand the role metadata plays in the digital ecosystem and experience.”

Consumers encounter Gracenote services via such services as Google Play, Xbox Music, and MTV, usually without even knowing it. As explained by Billboard, the company’s MusicID service uses metadata to let listeners identify songs whether downloaded or ripped from CDs, and its “scan and match” technology helps cloud services (e.g. Amazon Cloud Player) sync offline and online music collections. Such technologies facilitate discovery and ease of use, two vital aspects of today’s digital music services.

“Tribune Media has decided to focus its digital investment strategy on growing its metadata business globally, which today includes Gracenote and What’s-On,” said Tribune CEO Peter Liguori in a statement. “It is becoming very clear that metadata will help drive the evolution of next-generation TV and music experiences and we believe Gracenote is in an excellent position to drive the industry forward.”


A publication of Bunzel Media Resources © 2014


Letter To The Millennials

A Boomer Professor talks to his students

Written by

  • Director, USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. Producer, “Mean Streets”, “The Last Waltz”, “Until the End Of the World”, “To Die For”

So we are about to embark on a sixteen-week exploration of innovation, entertainment, and the arts. This course is going to be about all three, but I’m going to start with the “art” part — because without the art, no amount of technological innovation or entertainment marketing savvy is going to get you to go to the movie theater. However, I think there’s also a deeper, more controversial claim to be made along these same lines: Without the art, none of the innovation matters — and indeed, it may be impossible — because the art is what gives us vision, and what grounds us to the human element in all of this. Although there will be lectures, during which I’ll do my best to share what I’ve learned about the way innovation, entertainment, and the arts fit together, the most crucial part of the class is the dialogue between us, and specifically the insights coming from you as you teach me about your culture and your ideals. The bottom line is that the world has come a long way, but from my perspective, we’re also living in uniquely worrisome times; my generation had dreams of how to make a better life that have remained woefully unfulfilled (leaving many of us cynical and disillusioned), but at the same time your generation has been saddled with the wreckage of our attempts and are now facing what may seem to be insurmountable odds. I’m writing this letter in the hopes that it will help set the stage for a truly cross-generational dialogue over the next sixteen weeks, in which I help you understand the contexts and choices that have brought us where we are today, and in which you help me, and one another, figure out the best way to move forward from here.

When I was your age, I had my heart broken and my idealism challenged multiple times by the assassinations of my political heroes: namely, John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Many in my generation turned away from politics and found our solace in works of art and entertainment. So one of the things I want to teach you about is a time from 1965–1980 when the artists really ruled both the music and the film industries. Some said “the lunatics had taken over the asylum” (and, amusingly enough, David Geffen named his record company Asylum), but if you look at the quality of work that was produced, it was extraordinary; in fact, most of it is still watched and listened to today. Moreover, in that period the most artistic work also sold the best: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper was without doubt the best record of the year but also the best selling, and The Godfather was similarly both best movie of the year and the biggest box office hit. That’s not happening right now, and I want to try to understand why that is. I want to explore, with you, what the implications of this shift might be, and whether this represents a problem. It may be that those fifteen years your parents and I were lucky enough to experience was one of those renaissance moments that only come along once every century, so perhaps it’s asking too much to expect that I’ll see it occur again in my lifetime. Nevertheless, I do hope it happens at least once in yours.

I spoke of the heartbreak of political murder that has permanently marked me and my peers, but we have also been profoundly disappointed by politics’ failure to improve the lives of the average citizen. In 1969, the median salary for a male worker was $35,567 (in 2012 dollars). Today, it is $33,904. So for 44 years, while wages for the top 10% have continued to climb, most Americans have been caught in a “Great Stagnation,” bringing into question the whole purpose of the American capitalist economy (and, along the way, shattering our faith in the “American Dream”). The Reagan-era notion that what benefited the 1% — “the establishment” — would benefit everyone has by now been thoroughly discredited, yet it seems that we are still struggling to pick up the pieces after this failed experiment.

Seen through this lens, the savage partisanship of the current moment makes an odd kind of sense. What were the establishment priorities that moved inexorably forward in both Republican and Democratic administrations? The first was a robust and aggressive foreign policy. As Stephen Kinzer wrote about those in power during the 1950s, “Exceptionalism — the view that the United States has a right to impose its will because it knows more, sees farther, and lives on a higher moral plane than other nations — was to them not a platitude, but the organizing principle of daily life and global politics.”

From Eisenhower to Obama, this principle has been the guiding light of our foreign policy, bringing with it annual defense expenditures that dwarf those of all the world’s major powers combined. The second principle of the establishment was that “what is good for Wall Street is good for America.” Despite Democrats’ efforts to paint the GOP as the party of Wall Street, one would only have to look at the track record of Clinton’s treasury secretaries Rubin and Summers (specifically, their zealous efforts to kill the Glass-Steagal Act and deregulate the big banks and the commodities markets) to see that both major parties are guilty of sucking up to money; apparently, the establishment rules no matter who is in power. Was it any surprise, then, that Obama appointed the architects of bank deregulation, Summers and Geithner, to clean up the mess their policies had caused? Was it any surprise that they failed? Was it any surprise that establishment ideas about the surveillance state were not challenged by Obama? The good news is that, as a nation, we have grown tired of being the world’s unpaid cop, and we are tired of dancing to Wall Street’s tune. Slowly, we are learning that these policies may benefit the 1%, but they don’t benefit the people as a whole. My guess is the 2016 election may be fought on this ground, and we may finally begin to see real change, but the fact remains that we — both your generation and mine — are right now deeply mired in the fallout of unfulfilled promises and the failures of the political system.

So this is the source of boomer disillusionment. But even if we are cynical about political change, we can try to imagine together a future where great artistic work continues to flourish; this, then, is the Innovation and Entertainment part of the course. It’s not that I want you to give up on politics — in fact the events of the last few weeks in Ferguson only reinforce my belief that when people disdain politics, their anger gets channeled into violence. But what I do want you to think about is that art and culture are more plastic — they can be molded and changed easier than politics. There is a sense in which art, politics, and economics are all inextricably and symbiotically tied together, but history has proven to us that art serves as a powerful corrective against the dangers of the establishment. There is a system of checks and balances in which, even though the arts may rely on the social structures afforded by strong economic and political systems, artists can also inspire a culture to move forward, to reject the evils of greed and prejudice, and to reconnect to its human roots. If we are seeking a political and economic change, then, an authentic embrace of the arts may be key. Part of your role as communication scholars is to look more closely at the communication surrounding us and think critically about the effects its having, whose agenda is being promoted, and whether that’s the agenda that will serve us best. One of the tasks we’ll wrestle with in this class will be how we can get the digital fire hose of social media to really support artists, not just brands.

In 2011, the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) gave a lecture at the British Film Institute. He said something both simple and profound:

People all over the world spend countless hours of their lives every week being fed entertainment in the form of movies, TV shows, newspapers, YouTube videos and the Internet. And it’s ludicrous to believe that this stuff doesn’t alter our brains.

It’s also equally ludicrous to believe that — at the very least — this mass distraction and manipulation is not convenient for the people who are in charge. People are starving. They may not know it because they’re being fed mass produced garbage. The packaging is colorful and loud, but it’s produced in the same factories that make Pop Tarts and iPads, by people sitting around thinking, “What can we do to get people to buy more of these?

And they’re very good at their jobs. But that’s what it is you’re getting, because that’s what they’re making. They’re selling you something. And the world is built on this now. Politics and government are built on this, corporations are built on this. Interpersonal relationships are built on this. And we’re starving, all of us, and we’re killing each other, and we’re hating each other, and we’re calling each other liars and evil because it’s all become marketing and we want to win because we’re lonely and empty and scared and we’re led to believe winning will change all that. But there is no winning.

I think Charlie is right. People are starving, so we give them bread and circuses.

​ But I think Charlie is wrong when he says “there is no winning”. In fact I think we are really in a “winner-take-all” society. Look at the digital pop charts. 80% of the music streams are for 1% of the content. That means that Jay-Z and Beyoncé are billionaires, but the average musician can barely make a living. Bob Dylan’s first album only sold 4,000 copies. In this day and age, he would have been dropped by his label before he created his greatest work.

A writer I greatly admired, Gabriel García Márquez, died recently. For me, Márquez embodied the role of the artist in society, marked by the refusal to believe that we are incapable of creating a more just world. Utopias are out of favor now. Yet Marquez never gave up believing in the transformational power of words to conjure magic and seize the imagination. The other crucial aspect of Márquez’s work is that he teaches us the importance of regionalism. In a commercial culture of sameness where you can stroll through a mall in Shanghai and forget that you’re not in Los Angeles, Marquez’s work was distinctly Latin American. His work was as unique as the songs of Gilberto Gil, or the cinema of Alejandro González Iñárritu. In a cultural like ours that has so long advocated a “melting pot” philosophy that papers over our differences, it is valuable to recognize that there is a difference between allowing our differences to serve as barriers and appreciating the things that make each culture unique, situated in time and space and connected to its people. What’s more, young artists also need to have the sense of history that Marquez celebrated when he said, “I cannot imagine how anyone could even think of writing a novel without having at least a vague of idea of the 10,000 years of literature that have gone before.” Cultural amnesia only leads to cultural death.

With these values in mind, my hope is to lead you in a discussion of politics and culture in the context of 250 years of America’s somewhat utopian battle to build “a city on a hill.” I think many in my generation had this utopian impulse (which is, it should be observed, different than idealism), but it is slipping away like a short-term memory. I did not aspire to be that professor who quotes Dr. King, but I feel I must. He said the night before he was assassinated, “I may not get there with you, but I believe in the promised land.” My generation knew that the road towards a better society would be long, but we hoped our children’s children might live in that land, even if we weren’t able to get there with you. It may take even longer than we imagined, but I know your generation believes in justice and equality, and that fills me with hope that the dream of some sort of promised land is not wholly lost. The next step, then, is to figure out how to work together, to learn from the past while living in the present moment in order to secure a better future, and I believe this class offers us an incredible opportunity to do precisely that.

So what are the skills that we can develop together in order to open a real cross-generational dialogue? First, I would hope we would learn to improvise. I want you to challenge me, just as I encourage and challenge you. Improvisation means sometimes throwing away your notes and just responding from your gut to the ideas being presented. It takes both courage and intelligence, but I’m pretty sure you have deep stores of both qualities, which will help you show leadership both in class and throughout the rest of your life. Leadership is more than just bravery and intellect, however; it also requires vulnerability and compassion, skills that I hope we can similarly cultivate together. I want you to know that I don’t have all the answers — and, more importantly, I know that I don’t have all the answers. I am somewhat confused by our current culture and I am looking to you for insight. You need to have that same vulnerability with your peers, and you also need to treat them with compassion as you struggle together to understand this new world of disruption. I know these four elements — courage, intelligence, vulnerability, and compassion — may seem like they are working at cross-purposes, but we will need all four qualities if we are to take on the two tasks before us. One of our tasks is to try to restore a sense of excellence in our culture — the belief that great art and entertainment can also be popular. The second task is for baby boomer parents and their millennial children to form a natural political alliance going forward. As I’ve said, I don’t think the notion that we will get to “the promised land” is totally dead, and with your energy and the tools of the new media ecosystem to help us organize, we can keep working towards a newly hopeful society, culture, and economy, in spite of the mess we have left you with.

This is, at least, the plan. Of course, as the great critic James Agee once said, “Performance, in which the whole fate and terror rests, is another matter.”



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Why moral perversity of U.S. position in Gaza is stunning

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters:

I think it’s safe to say that if U.S. neighborhoods were living under siege, folks like Rand Paul wouldn’t take it

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters: Why moral perversity of U.S. position in Gaza is stunning

Roger Waters (Credit: Reuters/Chip East)

The carnage in Gaza continues after the latest collapse of cease-fire talks and over four weeks of asymmetrical bombardment by Israel. With the death of more than 2,000 Palestinians, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more, the complicity of the American government has been exposed to the world as never before. Yet the mantra repeated ad nauseam by the U.S. government and media alike remains the same: Israel has a right to defend itself.

The moral perversity of the U.S. position is stunning. How can the U.S. government ask Israel to be more careful about civilian lives while simultaneously arming and then rearming the IDF so it can more effectively inflict such devastation on an imprisoned and occupied people?

The U.S. could act to stop the senseless slaughter but it won’t. Instead, it’s cheerleading.  Members of Congress are mindlessly parroting Israeli talking points without a thought given to the Palestinian perspective or to preserving human life. Brimming with righteousness, they argue for turning Israel loose – Sen. Rand Paul in particular – and invoke Israel’s right to self-defense, despite the fact that, as the occupying power, Israel has an obligation to protect the Palestinians it rules, not massacre them.

Do congressional leaders ever stop to wonder what they would do if they were born Palestinian, had their homes and private property stolen from them, and were forced to live without freedom under an illegal Israeli occupation for 47 years? Do they know what it means to be on the receiving end of Israel’s barbaric “mow the lawn” euphemism?  Scarcely a word is said about the rights of Palestinians who are being pummeled from the sky and shot dead in their neighborhoods by the region’s most powerful military.  What, I wonder, would Americans do if it were their neighborhoods being invaded and if they were the ones living under siege? I think it’s safe to say Americans wouldn’t stand for it.

Despite these realities, it’s far more advantageous in Washington to come down like a ton of bricks on the Palestinians and maintain that they are the cause of their own suffering. No politician’s career has ever been hurt by blaming Palestinians or by applauding Israel’s illegal occupation, colonization and war crimes.

Pressure on American politicians to conform to the party line is abetted by skewed media coverage.  For instance, CNN, while purporting to be a news channel, relentlessly churns out Israeli propaganda.

It is easy for those of us who do not live under the tyranny of the occupation to condemn the military wing of Hamas for using randomly fired rockets that might cause civilian casualties in neighboring Israel, and I do unreservedly condemn it. Having said that, an occupied population has the legal right to resist the military of the occupier. The occupier has a legal obligation to protect the occupied. Under these circumstances the reporting on CNN is biased beyond all belief.

Numerically, one can readily see the bias. Far more pro-Israel guests than pro-Palestinian experts are invited on air to make their case.

An exception to that general rule, and obviously not on CNN, is Henry Siegman, a prominent Jewish voice and a former national director of the American Jewish Congress, who recently got the opportunity to expose the shortcomings of Israeli talking points. Siegman was interviewed fairly and in depth by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!  Sadly Democracy Now! is not mainstream media. If only it were!

Contrast that appearance with the reception Yousef Munayyer received during an extraordinarily “unfair” Fox News interview by the execrable Sean Hannity. Actually, to dignify Hannity’s rude and infantile shouting and finger pointing as an “interview” would be wrong.

If only CNN – or Fox, for that matter – would sometimes rely for their analyses on someone as intelligent and humane as Siegman.  Unfortunately, however, CNN persisted for weeks with the extremely biased analysis of Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. Even CNN appears to have recognized how biased a contributor Oren was as it recently changed his title from CNN analyst to former ambassador.

Staunchly pro-Israel voices like Oren’s have resoundingly proclaimed: Any resistance, violent or nonviolent, in fact any criticism of Israeli colonization and denial of Palestinian rights, is off limits. What they are advocating, in essence, is perpetual armed conflict until greater Israel is a fait accompli, and complete Israeli domination over any surviving Palestinians is accepted as a reasonable status quo. Commentators such as Oren feign interest in a two-state peaceful solution but they and the state they represent resist all attempts to implement such a plan.

On a positive note, I take heart from the fact that support for Jewish Voice for Peace has skyrocketed over the last month as members of the American Jewish community, appalled at Israel’s actions, have looked for a place to register their concern. JVP advocates for an end to occupation and the siege on Gaza, for Palestinian rights – as dictated by international law – and peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike. It primarily does so by educating people with basic facts and by using the tools of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions to apply pressure on Israel to cease its human rights abuses.

Additionally, we welcome Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz to the swelling ranks of celebrity dissenters.  Their courageous stand is a beacon to us all. We need many more like them if we are to shift the discourse and persuade the American and Israeli governments to adopt more realistic, humane and hopefully fruitful policies. To paraphrase Siegman, “If you want to stop the rockets, end the siege of Gaza and the occupation of both Gaza and the West Bank.”  He sounds like a sage but this is just common sense. If I might stick in my two pennies’ worth, why not then engage in serious conversations with the Unity Palestinian Government, which up to now Israel has seemed determined to destroy.

The U.S. Congress, far too beholden to the right-wing Israel lobby, will be the last to figure out this tragic jigsaw puzzle and human catastrophe and grasp the critical need for a political solution.  And mainstream media, if unchallenged, will continue to distort reality and embolden the counterproductive, AIPAC-driven unrealistic position that it portrays as fact.

On a personal note, I am pro-human rights for all peoples all over the world.  I am pro-peace for all Israelis and Palestinians.  I am not singling out Israel.  I deplore all abuses and violence, whether in Syria, China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, England, the USA, Egypt, Libya, wherever.  That said, international law was designed to protect against such human rights violations and should be applied fairly to all.

In the case of Israel/Palestine, legal channels have yet to be seriously pursued. Consequently, change will continue to be led by popular efforts.  Specifically, the growing nonviolent BDS campaign offers the best chance of successfully pressuring Israel to alter its ways and allow for Palestinian freedom and rights. Despite major efforts to destroy it, more and more people are joining the BDS movement. It is this growing momentum that gives me hope that, together, the people of the world will eventually help deliver what governments have been unwilling to secure: justice and a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

I wrote a short poem a few days ago that I have been encouraged to append here.

It is called “Crystal Clear Brooks.”  Although it expresses my feelings, I cannot but think that the children in Gaza would give anything but their birthright and their pride and their basic human rights for a glass of crystal clear water. And, I think too, of the Bakr children, the sons of fishermen, who were slain while playing on a Gaza beach.


Crystal clear brooks

When the time comes

And the last day dawns

And the air of the piper warms

The high crags of the old country

When the holy writ blows

Like burned paper away

And wise men concede

That there’s more than one way

More than one path

More than one book

 More than one fisherman

More than one hook

When the cats have been skinned

And the fish have been hooked

When the masters of war

Are our masters no more

When old friends take their whiskey

Outside on the porch

We will have done well

If we’re able to say

As the sun settles down

On that final day

That we never gave in

That we did all we could

So the kids could go fishing

In crystal clear brooks.

Afrika Bambaataa’s Vinyl Collection, Interpreted by DJ Shadow

The beloved DJ teams up with frequent collaborator Cut Chemist for a historical tour unlike any other

by Nara Shin on 19 August 2014


Six years after their last tour together, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist team up again—this time, for a very special pursuit. They gained access to over 40,000 vinyl records from Afrika Bambaataa‘s historic collection (which is in the process of being digitally archived at Cornell University), deemed “the record collection that invented hip-hop” by Assistant Curator of the Cornell Hip-Hop Collection, Ben Ortiz. For their nationwide Renegades of Rhythm tour that kicks off on 1 September 2014, the two DJs will be spinning records pulled straight from the living legend’s collection.

The shows, however, certainly won’t be a throwback night that hits all the classics. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist are known for their turntable skills for a reason and, by adding real-time sampling and effects, they’ll be narrating a musical retrospective from a modern-day context. We spoke with one-half of the tour, DJ Shadow, who made history himself for his innovative use of sampling with Endtroducing….. in 1996. In our conversation, the experimental musician—who just launched his first imprint, Liquid Amber, accompanied by a free EP with the same name—shares a surprising vinyl find within Bam’s collection and his contemplative approach to creating new music.


How long did you spend sifting through Bambaataa’s collection?

Initially, when the idea came to us, the first thing we wanted to do is take a look at the collection and make sure it was what we were hoping it would be.

Before saying yes?

Yes, because lots of times—I’ve been collecting a long time and I’m well aware of stories about a lot of the godfathers of the scene—some of their collections get dispersed or the storage bill isn’t paid or somebody gets in and kind of cherry picks it, and [you're] left with the shell of the collection. So we just wanted to make sure—we really didn’t know what the collection was going to consist of. It would be better—obviously—if it was kind of untouched and pure.

And so we went and looked at the collection for about a day or so and quickly realized that not only was it intact, it was everything we had hoped for. There were all kinds of acetates of stuff that had never come out—and we were looking at each other like, “This is historical.”

The next step was getting Bam’s blessing and to actually go through the collection. It was four days—long, 10-hour days. We were on a mission and we wanted to make sure we got through everything.


Were you surprised by some of the vinyls you found there?

Pleasantly surprised. What a lot of people maybe don’t understand as much about Bambaataa and the scene back then in the ’70s is that it wasn’t just funk and soul and early hip-hop that was played at parties. There was a lot of dub, soca, calypso, salsa… It was basically anything that was happening in the city, in the Bronx, in Harlem. There was a lot of different music being played that you’d walk down the street and hear, and Bambaataa really tried to embrace all of that. And you know, he had rock records, he had punk records. That was, I think, his gift to hip-hop: basically saying that any record can be hip-hop in the right context.

What is the driving mission behind the Renegades of Rhythm tour?

There’s multiple stories that we’re trying to tell. We’re just trying to crack the combination to musically tell the best narrative we can with the records that we have.

We’re surrounded right now with stacks of records in different categories. Any set as a DJ, you’re just trying to find a good mix (that moves, has good variety, is technically sound) that’s sound in terms of the narrative and not jumping around and getting mixed up with different things that don’t matter as much. You end up having to cut a lot of stuff and that’s the painful part. You’re just trying to tell the best story that you can and you only have a finite amount of time to be on stage. Some things make the cut and some things don’t, but that’s what we’re hear to do—we have to be editors.


How would you describe your and Cut Chemist’s roles on stage?

It’s a duet in the sense that we’re both performing the whole time. This is like the fourth set we’ve done together, maybe fifth depending on how you look at it. So we feel like we have a rhythm in a way of working and in a way of being efficient. I think nowadays, a lot of people are used to listening to pretty complicated mixes that were put together digitally. And being aware of that, we want to keep things moving and have as much going on as possible. But, you know, we just last night were talking about the need to make sure that the set breathes, too. We don’t want it to be overload.

What inspired you to start your own imprint?

It’s just kind of a natural thing to do if you’re making music and you’re making art, and you want to share it in the way that you want to share it. You want to be able to steer the narrative in the way that you want it steered.

Way back in the early ’90s, I kind of co-founded a rap label for the same reason. Mainly because we didn’t think anyone else would be interested—and we didn’t want to wait for anyone else. It was just like, “Well, we can do this just as well as anyone else can,” and so we did—or we tried to. It’s the same with this. Every so often, I think it’s good to shake the cobwebs off and do something different and try something different.

Will we have to wait until after the tour to hear the next release from Liquid Amber?

Actually, I’m already listening to music and there’s a lot of people sending me stuff—mostly people who I’ve let them know that I like their music. It’s very informal, it’s not like a big business plan. I’m not trying to take over anything, or have anything huge. It’s not really about that. It’s mainly just about putting my own stuff out and helping, hopefully, shine some light on some artists who I think are doing some really cool stuff. And hopefully that will provide an opportunity for them to open themselves up and do things with other people.


As someone who’s constantly performing and listening to music—do you ever give yourself time to rest your ears and sit in silence every day, and take a break?

Yeah, especially when I’m touring a lot, playing every night in a club or in a venue—even in my early 20s, I wasn’t the type of person to do a show and then go in the back of the bus and work on a beat. I definitely need more space than a lot of people I know to kind of consider what’s important and how things fit in. If I make music too quickly and put it out too quickly, I personally feel like I need a lot of time to consider exactly what I’m saying; whether it’s pertinent, relevant and whether I feel like it occupies a unique space at that time. Because I don’t want to just do things that are going to be…

Adding noise to the internet?

Exactly. I want to opt for something unique at any given time; something that has its own shape and its own space. It might be three releases a year, it might be 10. I have no idea yet. It all just comes down to whatever feels right and whatever I can do well—in the sense that making sure the quality control is there and making sure that I’m equally invested in every release, as opposed to, “Oh yeah, we’ll just throw this out there.”


CH has an ongoing series called “PrivateJam” where we ask notable artists about a guilty pleasure or an especially meaningful song. Do you have one at the moment?

Not to go off-topic, but it’s funny because when we were going through Bam’s collection, I remember seeing Def Leppard’s Pyromania and thinking that there wasn’t too much mid-’80s hair metal in his collection but that one stood out. It was funny because, over the last few weeks, I bought a lot of magazines on eBay that had interviews with Bambaataa—part of the research, and also looking for cool photos of him that we could scan and use in the visuals. And he directly mentions in an interview in like ’87 that he wanted to do a track with Def Leppard.

So then to go back in the collection and pull out that record and be like, “Wow, this meant a lot to him.” The fact that I know that, and the fact that he mentioned it in an interview, directly—it still doesn’t make it any easier for me to figure out how to work it into the set [laughs]. Because it’s just so different.

I feel like a lot of what of Bambaataa’s aesthetic is about, is the same thing as mine or what I aspire to; which is kind of a certain sense of taste. As a consequence of that, you tend to shy away from really mainstream mega rock, mega hits or mega pop. I think that’s the best answer I could give you: is that I’m currently trying to reconcile my own sense of a what a guilty pleasure is.

So if we do hear Def Leppard at one of the shows this September, it means you’ve succeeded in working it into the set.

I guess so—but I can tell you right now, I don’t think it’s going to go in [laughs]. But in the true sense of a guilty pleasure, I can enjoy it in private here, in the room.

The Renegades of Rhythm tour kicks off 1 September 2014 in Toronto. For a full list of dates and venues, visit DJ Shadow’s official website.

Crate digging images courtesy of Joe Conzo, all other images courtesy of Arian Stevens

Why Burning Man is not an example of a loosely regulated tech utopia

The rules are important at Burning Man. But being rich means you get to do what you want, just like anywhere else

Why Burning Man is not an example of a loosely regulated tech utopia
El Pulpo Mecanico, at the Burning Man 2012 “Fertility 2.0″ arts and music festival, August 29, 2012. (Credit: Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

“Burning Man culture,” writes Gregory Ferenstein in Vox, “discourages money or bartering; the entire economy is a gift economy.”

Ferenstein, a regular attendee at the Nevada desert counterculture festival so beloved by Northern California’s tech-hipsters, is defending Burning Man from critics like the New York Times’ Nick Bilton, who have noted that in recent years, rich attendees have been setting up their own luxury camps within the confines of Black Rock City. Ferenstein makes some good points explaining why tech billionaires love Burning Man, but it’s still difficult to square his point on “burning man culture” with the details reported by Bilton.

“We used to have R.V.s and precooked meals,” said a man who attends Burning Man with a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs… “Now, we have the craziest chefs in the world and people who build yurts for us that have beds and air-conditioning.” He added with a sense of amazement, “Yes, air-conditioning in the middle of the desert!”

His camp includes about 100 people from the Valley and Hollywood start-ups, as well as several venture capital firms. And while dues for most non-tech camps run about $300 a person, he said his camp’s fees this year were $25,000 a person. A few people, mostly female models flown in from New York, get to go free, but when all is told, the weekend accommodations will collectively cost the partygoers over $2 million.

Such camps, reports Bilton, also included “Sherpas” that serve as servants.

Ferenstein writes that the tech execs have basically the same experience as everyone else. But he appears to be tone-deaf to the enormous offense of labeling paid employees “Sherpas” and doesn’t bother to mention the female models flown in from New York. That’s not the gift economy, and it’s not the sharing economy. And it’s surely not something that anyone even imagined possible when tripping around a very big bonfire on Baker Beach in the early ’90s.

Ferenstein also wanders into a self-combusting contradiction, of the sort that would look pretty good exploding  in the desert night. Burning Man, he writes, “is an experiment in what a city would look like if it were architected for wild creativity and innovation…. At Burning Man, sharing is the economy. It’s rather appealing to the Silicon Valley elite to see an entire city function on an economic idea that is at the heart of the knowledge economy. It’s an important glimpse of why the founders are so optimistic that a loosely regulated field of tech startups can outweigh the potential downsides of unregulated sharing.”

But Burning Man is intensely regulated. It’s got its own police force. Gun control is absolute. Attendance is limited to a set number of people who can afford the not-cheap tickets. The very layout of Black Rock City is a paean to planning and organization. Central control is as much the essence of Burning Man as is hedonism and fire.

We can argue about the proper extent of regulation. Is Burning Man more like Houston, which scoffs at zoning restrictions, or San Francisco, where plastic bags are outlawed? (The rules on trash at Burning Man might come off as pretty extreme to your typical happy-go-lucky free market polluter, after all.) But to use Burning Man as a model for what tech billionaires want for a greater society is to actually argue that rules are extremely important, and anarchy is a failure!

The key point made by Nick Bilton is that the very existence of a camp inside Burning Man where tickets cost $25,000 and female companionship is imported is a demonstration that Burning Man, far from being an alternative to society, is business as usual.

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

Not Content To Ruin Just San Francisco, Rich Techies Are Gentrifying Burning Man Too

Artist Dadara‘s Facebook like altar from Burning Man 2013. Photo: Bexx Brown-Spinelli/Flickr

This will come as news only to people who have not attended Burning Man in the last couple of years, but the New York Times has just caught on to the fact that Silicon Valley millionaires (and billionaires) have been attending the desert festival in greater numbers and quickly ruining it with their displays of wealth. While we used to call Coachella “Burning Man Lite for Angelenos,” Burning Man itself is quickly becoming Coachella on Crack for rich tech folk who want to get naked and do bong hits with Larry Page in Elon Musk’s decked-out RV.

Burners won’t just be sharing the playa with Larry and Sergey, Zuck, Grover Norquist, and at least one Winklevoss twin this year. There will also be a legion of new millionaires, most of them probably Burning Man virgins, who will be living in the lap of luxury and occasionally dropping in on your parties to ask for molly.

Per the Times piece:

“We used to have R.V.s and precooked meals,” said a man who attends Burning Man with a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. (He asked not to be named so as not to jeopardize those relationships.) “Now, we have the craziest chefs in the world and people who build yurts for us that have beds and air-conditioning.” He added with a sense of amazement, “Yes, air-conditioning in the middle of the desert!”His camp includes about 100 people from the Valley and Hollywood start-ups, as well as several venture capital firms. And while dues for most non-tech camps run about $300 a person, he said his camp’s fees this year were $25,000 a person. A few people, mostly female models flown in from New York, get to go free, but when all is told, the weekend accommodations will collectively cost the partygoers over $2 million.

“Anyone who has been going to Burning Man for the last five years is now seeing things on a level of expense or flash that didn’t exist before,” said Brian Doherty, author of the book “This Is Burning Man.” “It does have this feeling that, ‘Oh, look, the rich people have moved into my neighborhood.’ It’s gentrifying.”

The blockaded camps of the tech gentrifiers have tended to be in the outer rings of Black Rock City, as was previously reported in 2011 when a guest of Elon Musk’s spoke to the Wall Street Journal. “We’re out of the thick of it,” he said, “so we’re not offending the more elaborate or involved set ups.”

But as Silicon Valley assumes more and more of a presence on the playa, what’s to stop them from claiming better and better real estate, closer to where the action is?

You won’t see any evidence of this on Facebook, though. All of this happens without the tech world’s usual passion for documentation, since they do abide by at least that one tenet of Burning Man culture that frowns on photography. And at least, as of 2014, they seem to understand that their displays of wealth aren’t all that welcome, and should probably be kept on the down-low.

But seriously? Models flown in from New York? Gross.



Multicultural Consumers Will Be Majority Of U.S. By 2043, Will Influence Music Trends


     According to current U.S. Census Bureau projections, the American consumer increasingly is a multicultural one. Since 1990, the share of the U.S. population that identifies itself as African-American, Asian-American, or Hispanic has grown from 24% to 37%, and these groups are expected to make up a majority of the U.S. population by 2043. Hispanics currently account for 17% of the U.S. population, while African Americans make up 14% and Asian Americans total 5%. Looking at just those consumers under the age of 18, however, 2012 U.S. Census projections anticipate the minority-majority tipping point to arrive by 2018.

Against this demographic backdrop, a new report generated as part of Nielsen’s Diverse Intelligence Series titled “Listen Up: Music and the Multicultural Consumer” takes on added significance – particularly when it comes to music. The report notes that multicultural consumers account for 31% of the total spend on music and therefore is increasingly influencing the U.S. music market.

African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic consumers “represent the vanguard of musical trends in the U.S.,” the Nielsen report states. “They drive the development of musical taste and they’re readily adopting new ways of consuming music. So as this group of multicultural consumers continues to pioneer pathways of taste and adoption, companies interested in understanding the future of music would be well served to keep this growing demographic at the top of their engagement lists.”


New ASCAP, BMI Consent Decree Rules 

Could Place Pressure On Streaming Costs


     The last few months have seen a major push by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) to modify or eliminate the current “consent decree” structure that determines the rate a company must pay to broadcast or stream a song…or whether a song can be withheld from use entirely. A court decision last year found that neither rights group could selectively deny Pandora (or other streaming companies) the right to play certain works, leaving in place a structure that forces Pandora to pay a 1.85% royalty rate, while Apple’s iTunes Radio plays an industry-wide rate of 10%.

As reported by Wall Street Cheat Sheet, J.P. Morgan analyst Rod Hall says the changes would increase content costs for most music streaming platforms. “Upward pressure on streaming costs could be a negative for Apple’s newly acquired Beats Music unit,” wrote Hall in a research note. “Typically, attempting to pass this sort of cost increase through to customers after the low-price genie is out of the bottle is tough in a competitive environment.”

According to the Nielsen Entertainment & Billboard‘s 2014 Mid-Year Music Industry Report, the on-demand audio streaming market saw a year-over-year usage growth of 50.1%. Meanwhile, sales of digital albums declined by 11.6% and digital track sales fell by 13% over the same period. The motives behind ASCAP’s and BMI’s quest for changes in the rules are obvious, but the threat to Pandora and Apple are just as clear. As Cheat Sheet reports, “there’s no telling how high total royalty fees for all internet-based radio services could go.”

Consent Decree Battle Tied To Shift

From Analog To Digital Distribution


     “Without changes to the consent decree, ASCAP may face the complete resignation of certain of its largest music publisher members, a result that could be as damaging for music users as it could be for ASCAP and its remaining members. Without a robust collective licensing system, the increased cost of having to negotiate licenses with hundreds of thousands of individual copyright owners would likely be passed on to consumers and stymie the growth of innovative new services that would benefit consumer choice and experience.”

That, in part, is how ASCAP positioned its argument that the music licensing consent decree system be modified to allow for its members songwriters to negotiate with Pandora and other streaming services independently of the publishing organizations. But, as reported by the Nashville Tennessean, Pandora argues that if publishers are allowed to withdraw digital rights, it will lead to anticompetitive issues.

“The publishers and publishing rights organizations are frustrated by the extent to which the decrees fulfill their purpose,” Pandora claims in its own public comments. “More to the point, the PROs and publishers are unhappy because the consent decrees prevent them from implementing a scheme that has the purpose (and would have the effect) of raising prices across the board without regard to competitive constraints.”

In support of ASCAP and BMI, Nashville Songwriters Association International also got into the fray, issuing a statement saying, “Digital delivery models continue to evolve while more great American songwriters fall by the wayside. Nashville has lost 80% or more of those who claimed songwriting as a full-time occupation since the year 2000. This startling statistic alone demands changes in an antiquated royalty system.”

Vevo’s Label Owners Could Hamper Sale


     A number of potential suitors for Vevo have surfaced over the past few weeks, but many (if not all) of them might be turned off by one possibly insurmountable issue: the current owners. DreamWorks, AT&T, Yahoo, Verizon, Chernin Group, and Guggenheim Partners all have been linked to the acquisition, which is valued at somewhere between $700 million and $1 billion. But that price tag could be a stumbling block because Universal Music and Sony Music currently hold significant shares of the video streaming company and also control the licenses of much of the music that’s streamed.

As reported by Billboard, “The economics all depend on licenses from the major labels. If it’s sold, at what terms? The sellers can make Vevo look like it’s worth $1 billion or zero dollars…Whoever buys it will have to contend with the complications of dealing with rights holders.”

Music Ally points out that the same argument can be applied to Spotify, whose tires also are being kicked and which also is partly owned by the major labels. While license fees  didn’t stop Apple from paying $3 billion for to get its hands on Beats, the Cupertino-based company already has considerable experience dealing with rights holders (and subsequent complications). “Vevo will surely still find its backer eventually, but [this] is a reminder that while equity stakes make tempting golden geese for music rights-holders, they may still be perceived – within the tech/financial communities at least – as having the potential to scramble the golden eggs in the event of a lucrative exit,” Music Ally says.

Vevo Teams With Vadio To Launch Music

Video Service For Online Radio Services


Mobile Video      Music video website Vevo has formed a partnership with Vadio Inc. to distribute content through online radio services, including Richard Branson’s Virgin Radio. The Portland, OR-based start-up says it is looking to turn internet listeners into viewers by bringing Vevo’s 100,000-plus music videos to services hosted by Lachlan Murdoch’s Nova Entertainment and European Media Group. According to Vadio CEO Bryce Clemmer, the goal of the partnership is to help online radio services host music videos, which command higher advertising rates. Vevo’s videos and the ads that appear on them will provide additional revenue as competition for listeners grows from streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora, he said.

“What we’re doing is taking any audio stream, something like iHeartRadio, Pandora, or Spotify, and evolving it to video,” Clemmer said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Most content delivered through services like Pandora is audio content, and that’s been very hard to monetize profitably.”

Vevo was founded in 2009 and is co-owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Google. and Abu Dhabi Media Co. Vadio is backed by current and veteran entertainment executives, including former NBC Enterprises President Ed Wilson and Robin Richards, the former CEO of Vivendi Universal Net USA Group.

BlackBerry, 7digital “Re-Establish”

Shared Music Service Bond


     “I’m not dead yet.” That seems to be the latest (and ongoing) cry from BlackBerry, which this week inked another pact with 7digital to launch a new music service. The news comes after the Canadian smartphone manufacturer said it is shutting down the music and video sections of Blackberry World last month in lieu of a licensing deal with the eCommerce giant Amazon, giving its users access to the Amazon App Store. That announcement caused 7digital’s share prices to plunge…hence the $1 million attempt to “re-establish the shared bond” between the two companies.

In announcing the new deal, 7digital said users will have to make transitions to new music lockers within the next 12 months. The company also is developing a new app for BlackBerry users for them to continue purchasing music. Additionally, the digital music firm will take over the sales of music from BlackBerry, “retaining all profit margin earned on track sales,” which previously was shared by the two companies.

As reported by Techie News, 7digital CEO Simon Cole said the company is “pleased to have agreed to new terms with BlackBerry and to serve the customers with music access.”



A publication of Bunzel Media Resources © 2014