April 29, 2011

Blog Temporarily On Hold; New Website On The Way!

Blog Temporarily On Hold; New Website On The Way! Please stay tuned and thank you for your patience. You can still connect and chat with me via Twitter at @leejarvis. Lee.

February 15, 2011

Jagoff Video Interview

Chicago musicians JaGoFF are a funky bunch. Their music is George Clinton meets Deadmou5, often with a message akin to lyrical wordsmiths such as Public Enemy. They helped spur mass resistance to the Chicago Promoters' Ordinance, took part in the Warp tour, and are in the process of giving their latest album away. To find out what makes these guys tick, and to see what advice we could gain from their experiences, we sat down with them at the end of last year for a video interview. Enjoy...

JaGoFF links:

This was also only my second foray into video production and editing – feel free to comment or share any tips and advice!

by Lee Jarvis.

(Previously posted at US Music Jobs' blog.)

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February 03, 2011

Ones to Watch 2011

2010 was a great year for British music, and in fact, rounded out an interesting musical decade for this wee island, as highlighted in a recent Spotify playlist on Music Jobs. Moving forward, there are many exciting names that are buzzworthy and talented, and I thought I'd stick my neck out and share a few that are going to be taking big leaps forward in 2011.

James Blake
If you buy one album this year, make it this young (22!) Londoner's self-titled debut LP. James Blake, an 11-track album featuring the single Limit to Your Love, is released in the UK on 7th February, and I dare say that I expect it to fly out the stores as well as pick up some credible awards over the next 12 months.

Jai Paul
Apparently taking time out to record an album after XL singed him up off the back of BTUSU, Jai Paul is making waves with his own futuristic sounds mixed with sultry soulful vocals. And that just about all we know about this new kid on the block! Stay tuned.

January 25, 2011

Warner Music turns to Goldman Sachs for options

warner music group logo

Major record label Warner Music has today turned to investment bank Goldman Sachs to look at its future strategy options, including a possible buyout of rival EMI, and possible sale of its esteemed publishing arm (Warner/Chappell) to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

Warner/Chappell is reported be worth around £1.25bn, the sale of which could provide finance for the EMI takeover. KKR, who, along with Bertelsmann already own half of another major music publisher, BMG, has shown interested in Warner for some time, and had been discussing a joint bid for EMI, when the talks turned to a complete buyout of Warner instead.

The New York Times shares that CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. sent a letter last week to shareholders saying that their "proven ability to outperform the rest of the industry” will see them through the challenges ahead. Mr Bronfman speaks the truth, with Warner's revenue declining much less than the rest of the majors. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, total sales of music declined nearly 23 percent over the last five years, whereas Warner's revenue declined around 9 percent, due to improved profit margins through cost-cutting. Warner reported a $145m net loss last year, compared to the $1.51bn net debt reported by EMI.

Private investors, led by Mr Bronfman, bought Warner Music from Time Warner in March of 2004 for $2.6 billion in cash. The company went public in 2005, trading at around $14 per share. Today they stand at a little over $4 a share, although little of the shares were released into public hands, so the investors have already profited well through dividends

KKR buying Warner as well as EMI would no doubt mean huge savings by combining and streamlining the companies' recorded music divisions, but any bid would face tough regulatory challenges to combining EMI Music Publishing with Warner-Chappell, two of the largest music publishing houses around.

The fact that Warner is looking to either take on another huge music industry empire, or sell itself, is pretty much a 'double down or get out'. Their investors are obviously looking to either go big, pick up EMI, and stick it out in the music biz... or cash in and go home.

Just one thing here....

One of the reasons that the major labels got into trouble in the first place is because they involved people who cared about money more than the creation, exploration, discovery, shared enjoyment and art of music. And now, Warner's solution (after boycotting Youtube and video games) is to involve Goldman? When loyalty is devoted to the bottom line, horrible things can happen to the arts.

Lee Jarvis.

(Previously posted at UK Music Jobs' blog.)

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January 13, 2011

Appleblim Video Interview


UK artist Laurie 'Appleblim' Osborne peddles his blend of dub-house-trip-hop-wobble-electronica-nu-step amongst some of the biggest names in the electronic music scene, both at home and abroad.

I recently sat down with with Laurie to talk about his story of breaking into the music industry scene, his early networking with FWD>>, clubbing in London, starting a record label, his thoughts on physical and digital music products and more. Check out the video interview below...

This was also my first foray into video production and editing - feel free to comment or share any tips and advice!

Lee Jarvis.

(Previously posted at UK Music Jobs' blog.)

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December 23, 2010

Selling Out

the who adverts

'Selling out' is a phrase that often comes up when discussing the 'sponsoring' choices of famous musicians and bands. There will always be the hardcore fans who want their idols to remain underground, yet want everybody on the planet to appreciate their music. Something of a paradox, and near impossible to balance. For smaller artists, a form of 'selling out' has become an important revenue stream; licensing music to TV and radio commercials, films, TV shows, computer games and promotional videos.

However, there is still a backlash against some of the large, 'legendary' artists doing so. One example is often Pete Townshend and The Who. In an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year, Townshend says that between 1982 and 1989, "I was also learning how to run my catalog, learning how to be a publisher, learning how to make money outside of making records and touring. I developed quite a knack for it, and I was actually licensing songs for television, for commercials, for movies well before it was considered to be OK. I was one of the first artists to sit with journalists and answer to the idea that I was selling out a heritage and emotional catalog that didn't really belong to me -- that belonged to my fans, that argument."

Here is a quick rundown of some of the licensing options Townshend has chosen:
- "Baba O'Riley" for use in a commercial for a sports utility vehicle;
- "Bargain" for Nissan Xterra;
- The theme from Tommy for use in a TV commercial for Claritin, an allergy medicine;
- "Who Are You? for use by TNN, a cable TV station;
- "Let my Love Open the Door" for use by NBC-TV;
- "Happy Jack" for use in a TV commercial for Hummer;
- "Won't Get Fooled Again" for use in a TV commercial for a MSNBC news program;
- "I Can't Explain" to the PGA Tour/ABC Sports;
- "I Can See For Miles" to Silverstar Headlights;
- "Pinball Wizard" to Saab;
- "Going Mobile" to CBS-TV in New York City;
- "Who are you?" to CSI: Las Vegas
- "Let My Love Open the Door" to JC Penny;
- "Join Together" to Nissan;
- "My Generation" to Pepsi.
One he did turn down: in 2004, Townshend refused to let Michael Moore use "Won't Get Fooled Again" in "Fahrenheit 911."

On defending the accusation that he’s sold out by allowing the Who’s music to be used in TV commercials, Townshend said "Defend myself against whom? The rock ’n’ roll thought police? I sell out every time I drag my weary old ass out on the road to play classic rock to beer-drinking saps who should know better. This may be art, but I own the copyright. I come from a musical family. I know music is special. But I also know it is how my family lives. I am quite unsentimental about it, unlike some of our fans."

What are your thoughts about using your music for television commercials? Do you view it as selling out? Do you say "Good luck Pete, make all the money you can from any corporation willing to pay you"? Post your thoughts below...

by Lee Jarvis.

(Previously posted at UK Music Jobs' blog.)

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November 24, 2010

iTunes! The Beatles! Downloading! Exclamation marks!

itunes-logoabbey roadexclamation mark

You seem to be web-savvy enough to be reading this blog, so I'm going to assume you've heard all the furor about The Beatles over the last 10 days. Yes, The Beatles have finally released their catalogue of music on iTunes, seemingly ending decades of feuds between Apple Corps (the company owning of much of the rights to The Beatles music) and Apple Inc. (Steve Jobs' computer monster that originally signed a deal to never be involved in music.)

With all the delays in the 'launch' (the iTunes Store went live in 2003, and digital music has been around longer than many music consumers), I wondered if it was a case of too little, too late. Nielsen Soundscan released the figures yesterday, and in the first seven days, The Beatles sold over 2 million singles and more than 450,000 albums. Quite a lot. Well, kinda.....

I'm not a die-hard Beatles fan, but I own 4 of their albums on CD or 12" vinyl. I'm not in a rush to go out and sweep up another 4 or 5 digitally, especially when Amazon played along and dropped the prices of all the remastered Beatles albums on CD to a competitive $7.99 each. I'm sure I'll pick up another one or two at that price soon, but right now I have been sidetracked by their Thanksgiving week sale, where they have slashed prices on various digital albums to just $1.99 each. So far I have picked up LPs from John Legend & The Roots, Gorillaz, Belle & Sebastian, KT Tunstall, Vampire Weekend and more.

Before this starts sounding too much like a promotion for Amazon, my point is this... Album pricing needs to be drastically adjusted. At $1.99 I am (and many others are, i'm sure) sweeping them up: exploring new sounds, current trends and past hits of unknown artists. Discovering new music and taking a 'risk' is fun and easy. Yet, I don't know if the industry can sustain at that price point (at least, not with major labels and their costs involved.) Eight bucks for a CD? I'm still going to have to choose wisely, and just pick up one or two a month that are dead certain. I'm not risking too much - too many memories of being burnt by terrible LPs from the 90s ;)

$12.99 for a digital album that isn't full WAV or FLAC quality, and I may have bought in previous formats over the last 20 years, and could potentially rip a better quality recording from... I'll pass every time. If convenience is king (and, it is), it is not convenient for me to spend 52 bucks to 'replace' my Beatles collection with inferior quality audio, years after I bought the CD/vinyl.

Correcting this price point could inspire a whole new generation to buy a collection of Beatles albums. I'm not saying that younger music listeners aren't into them now, but chances are they ripped a copy of Sgt Pepper about 10 years ago. This year, there have been two much more headline worthy releases - Taylor Swift sold a whopping 1 million albums in the first week with her latest release, and Eminem topped off a $60m tour with another million sales of his 'Recovery' LP - going platinum in just two weeks.

With all the hype for the Beatles, and all the things this could have been, I feel it is much ado about nothing. And so... Apple (Inc. and Corps), if you halved the price per unit and sold twice as many units, would that have been a bad move?

Lee Jarvis.

(Previously posted at US Music Jobs' blog.)

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October 13, 2010

Sound and Health

(photo by Kim Marius Flakstad on Flickr)

Making records has always been part of a bigger picture for me. Learning how people react to music, the science behind acoustics, and music therapy have all been of interest. Understanding how sound works and affects the human brain may sound complex, but there are some basic principles that take the creative process in a different direction, and make sharing the right music at the right time more fun and enjoyable.

Edgard Varèse described music as 'organised sound', and many people would agree that 'un-organised sound' can be unpleasant and even painful. The relationship between sound and health is one that science and medicine are still unravelling, but offering to bring some of the basic understandings and theories, TED presented a talk from business sound expert Julian Treasure. Julian says that "our increasingly noisy world is gnawing away at our mental health -- even costing lives". He lays out an 8-step plan to soften this sonic assault (starting with those cheap earbuds) and restore our relationship with sound.

Something to bear in mind; this TED talk crammed a lot into 7 minutes. Some links and resources for his claims and ideas are shared via http://juliantreasure.blogspot.com/.

I would love to hear more on the subject from anyone involved in music research, lecturers, sound architects, or any other professional. Feel free to comment below...

Lee Jarvis.

(This was originally posted on the UK Music Jobs blog)

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September 17, 2010

Good Old Days

(photo via Ching Chiao)

They don't make them like they used to... records, that is. True or False?

Back when you had to pay $$$$ to use a record studio, if you were lucky enough to have one in your local area, you would only do so if you thought that you had something really worth working on. A label (even independent dance music labels) would only sign your record if they though it was worth them spending $$$$ on mastering and then pressing 3000 pieces of vinyl, and then distributing those promos nationwide and overseas for premium exposure.

Now, you can buy an entire software studio for $500, email your track to a digital label, who will likely release it because it often costs them nothing upfront and only a small percentage to their digital distributors.

This creates a cycle of chasing hits, and it is almost a numbers game of scooping up as many 'maybees' as possible, in the hope that one of them will stick. The ways that digital labels can now cut corners extend to not bothering with mastering a track, badly pasted together 'artwork', and, in my experience, rarely paying the artists, producers and remixers.

Does this mean that every digi-only label sucks? Not at all. It may mean that you have to pick your labels well. Research those in charge of it, who they distribute to, who they master with, do they take out online advertising to help you stand out from the 3000 other digital tracks in your genre being uploaded that week.

Labels that take 15 years to reach 130 releases, such as Freerange Records are real gems - they nurture artists, work on follow-up EPs and albums, and grow organically, thus producing loyal artists and fans.

Maybe they do make them like they used to, but the 'noise' of so many other songs being released by so many labels and artists (on scores of websites) makes "them" harder to find.

Sometimes, less is, often, more. Probably.

Lee Jarvis

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