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Africa’s music industry grows to its own beat

knaan T
By JAKE BRIGHT

Africa’s music business is booming, led by Nigeria, and data on its contribution to growth are starting to emerge

Africa’s contemporary music scene, led largely by Nigeria, is redefining the continent’s creative landscape. With a new generation of artists crafting anthems with international appeal, music is becoming a significant sector driving Africa’s transformation. Some experts believe the industry could emerge as the continent’s new face to the world and a pillar of global pop culture.

“Nigerian soft power, driven by music, is already the dominant soundtrack to young Africa,” says Obi Asika, a Lagos-based entertainment executive who heads up Storm 360 Records. “Over the next five years, as it begins to monetise, create more superstars, and produce more content it will increasingly become one of the dominant cultural platforms in the world.”

This is not the first time African artists have gained pan-African or global recognition. Performers like Youssou N’dour, Ali “Farka” Toure, and Angelique Kidjo became iconic symbols in the 1980s and 1990s, establishing the ‘world music’ genre.

So what is unique to African music now? A survey of musicians and business insiders reveals several dominant trends. A legitimate African pop music industry with global distribution and growing revenue streams is budding. There is an unprecedented volume of new performers connecting globally. Nigeria in particular  has become a beacon of artists, production, and hits for the continent. And these trends mirror the continent’s transformation narrative. Economically, Africa is booming, and the continent is becoming the world’s new consumer market with rising global influence.

While it is still commonly viewed as wanting, there is more of an African pop music infrastructure now than ever before. Less than a decade ago the production and organisation of popular African music would have been difficult for a US or UK industry analyst to track. Outside of South Africa, local or pan-African charts, hit-producing labels, or high grade music videos were largely absent.

Today recording studios, managers, producers, professional music videos, and digital distribution platforms are developing rapidly from hubs in Accra, Lagos, and Nairobi. Online national charts and download platforms like iROKING are surfacing. The music publication Billboard announced its expansion into Africa in 2013, and Nigerian hits are now available on Amazon and iTunes.

African music clearly has momentum, but attempts to gather basic market statistics highlights the industry’s nascence. Few figures pertaining to the size of the industry are available, stemming from weak national structures to regulate music sales and monetise intellectual property, according to Iboro Otu, a Nigerian producer and entertainment consultant at A Billionmen Productions.

“In Nigeria and most African countries accurate music industry data are almost impossible to come by,” says Mr Otu. “The agencies entrusted with these duties and copyright protection do not carry it out. Places like the US aggregate these statistics at the point of sale, but in Nigeria for every single CD or DVD sold legitimately it is estimated at least 10 copies are pirated.”

Mr Otu is trying to fill that knowledge gap by assembling data on Nigerian music for his production company and the World Bank. His homespun statistics indicate that Nigeria tripled album sales to 30m from 2005 to 2008, and that global annual Nigerian live performance revenues reached around $105m. According to Storm 360 CEO Obi Asika, Nigerian mobile operators generated $150m selling pop music ringtones and other music related services in 2011. He estimates the value of entertainment products consumed by Nigerians, including Nollywood films, at $2 to $5bn a year. The $3bn spread in that statistic underscores the challenges in valuing Africa’s creative industries.

If core industry data is lacking, the stable of talented African artists that will drive the industry is not. Akon and K’naan are firmly established as mainstream global stars. Less commercially, there is an African indie/alternative scene taking root, led by artists like Kenya’s Just a Band, Ghanaian hip hop maestro Blitz The Ambassador, Congolese-Belgian Baloji, and Afro-futurist Spoek Mathambo, who signed with Sub-Pop – the US indie label that broke Nirvana. In European pop, the Ivoirian group Magic System registers on French charts. In 2012, Ghana’s Azonto music and dance moves went viral, becoming Africa’s answer to the Psy craze.

The leader of Africa’s new pop music movement is its most populous nation, Nigeria. This became evident at MTV’s first Africa Music Awards in 2008. After performances featuring nominees in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Lagos, and Kinshasa, the Nigerians dominated, taking eight out of 12 top prizes.

taking eight out of 12 top prizes. Nigerian pop has tremendous panAfrican appeal with a deep field of notable artists: 2Face, Don Jazzy, J Martins, Timaya, Naeto-C, Flavour, Iyanya, and young Wizkid. Nigerian musicians are also making significant inroads in global music markets. Nigeria’s two most recognized stars, D’Banj and brother duo P-Square, signed with major labels – D’Banj with Kanye West’s GOOD label and P-Square with Universal Music. D’Banj’s Oliver Twist recently reached number 2 on UK charts, while P-Square’s Beautiful Onyinye surpassed 12m views on Youtube.

So how does Africa’s rapidly evolving music scene fit into its transformation narrative? The continent’s burgeoning technology movement, with a commitment of capital from global tech players – including IBM, Google and Microsoft – and growing proliferation of tech incubation hubs – such as Kenya’s iHub and Ghana’s proposed Hope City – creates promise for modernising monetisation and distribution platforms.

The region also boasts powerful demographics. Africans are expected to number two billion by 2050, the majority under the age of 35,  translating into a new consumer class. Parallel to that is the global power of Africa’s diaspora, sending home tens of billions of dollars a year and growing in affluence.

These factors offer a potent recipe for a lively new music scene with real economic traction. African music, its earning power and artistry, has prospects to develop within and beyond the continent, attracting global mainstream music houses searching for new artists and markets. Warner Music created its own label, Warner Music Gallo Africa, and Universal Music, in partnership with Samsung, launched a African music app in 2013, called Kleek.

Industry analyst and Billboard deputy director Yinka Adegoke is optimistic for Africa’s pop scene, but stresses the need for better infrastructure to reach its global potential. “A lot of big music labels visit Africa and say, ‘the talent is here, but it’s unclear what our legal and revenue situation is,’” he says. “There needs to be monitoring of all platforms: radio, record stores, online and mobile phones. From there, structures for monetising and royalties are needed so artists can make money. These things take time and will require legal help from governments.”

In Mr Asika’s view the key components will come together around the appeal of Nigerian music. “When American hip hop broke out you had people all over the world singing ‘Brooklyn [or] the Bronx in the house.’ It wasn’t because they were from those places. It was because the music had captured that elusive, authentic coolness everyone is looking for,” he says.

“I think Nigerian music has that with the right conditions now. The continent is ready for it; audiences are already embedded for it internationally. Global culture is craving something fresh and vibrant, and African music is it.”

 

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2013 in African News, Music

 

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Música Soul: The Soundtrack of the Black Power Movement in Brazil

by Ann-Marie Nicholson, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

“If we had said ‘Negro power’ nobody would get scared. Everybody would support it. If we said power for colored people, everybody would be for that, but it is the word ‘black’ that bothers people in this country, and that’s their problem, not mine.” —Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) at UC Berkeley, 1966

James Brown released “I’m Black and I’m Proud” during the height of the Black Power Movement in the United States in 1968. Brown’s in-your-face approach to racial pride resonated in the U.S. ghettos as well as the slums abroad. Many black people, all around the world, embraced the Black Power soundtrack and consciousness. Working-class black cariocas (residents of Rio) of Zona Norte began using the English phrases “Black Power,” “brother” and “black is beautiful.” They played African-American soul records at their bailes (dances) and incorporated the lyrics and sounds into their music.

Tim Maia, the godfather of música soul, spent five years in the United States. He came to know the sounds of black America intimately. When he returned to Brazil in 1964, Maia incorporated the soul and funk influences into his songs. By the 1970s, other Brazilian musicians, such as Banda Black Rio, Cassiano, Gerson King Combo, Jorge Ben Jor and Gilberto Gil, began making soul records. DJs started throwing soul-only parties. Thisnova (new) music spoke to an experience—both universal and unique at the same time. The time period was known as “Black Rio” instead of the Portuguese equivalents: negro or preto. Organizations, such as Instituto de Pesquisa e Cultura Negra and Associação Cultural do Negro, met regularly to discuss racial politics and inequality. By the end of the ’70s, funk and disco would take over where soul left off, but it was the latter that helped to shape a generation of artists around a universal black identity.

This signaled a break from the national Brazilian identity and the adoption of a revolutionary one—albeit via the African-American musical and cultural experience. This shift worried the military government, the secret police, the left and the right, and surprisingly many black journalists. The rejection of samba and the acceptance of a foreign music, style and vernacular were antithetical to the unifying image that Brazil projected. Or as Carlos Palombini, a Professor of Musicology at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais and a Fellow of the National Research Council, explains:

The soul-inspired sense of black pride among Brazilian musicians was liberating with respect to the history and the historiography of samba, which had disciplined their lives through the ideology of subaltern integration. By ‘history’ I mean the ways samba has been made permissible, profitable, acceptable, the ways it has been polished to transpose class barriers, to the point of becoming one of the most—if not the most—elaborate figure of national unity.
It didn’t matter that the residents of Zona Sul—white—were adapting and mimicking the rock sounds of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Palombini states that: “In the first half of the decade, black musicians who paraded their blackness onstage—unwittingly perhaps, for the benefit of a regime that wished to project images of unbridled creativity—had their careers and lives shattered. [While] well-established white artists, of all stripes, went black without serious consequences.”

Brazil was the last nation in the new world to abolish slavery, finally doing so in 1888. It passed the Afonso Arinos law in 1951, making racial discrimination a crime. However, racism didn’t disappear. Segregation and discrimination were common in Brazil, but many said it was class instead of race since the symbols of national identity (samba and feijoada) came from Afro-Brazilian culture. Brazil had convinced itself—and its people—that it did not have a race problem.

In her essay, “When Rio Was Black: Soul Music, National Culture, and the Politics of Racial Comparison in 1970s Brazil,” Paulina Alberto notes that:

Being black was culturally and politically different from being preto or pardo, the terms historically used to designate darker- or lighter-complexioned Brazilians of color; it was different, too, from negro, the word that many politically active people of color had adopted since the first decades of the century to designate a proudly unified racial group.To be “black and proud” was both new and liberating. Carmichael took the word black—which the dominant race used as a pejorative—and made it endearing and liberating. It found its way not only to Brazil, but also across the Atlantic into the music and consciousness of young black people who did not speak English and had not witnessed the Civil Rights Movement up close and personal. Although identifying as black has lost the impact it once had here in the United States, it still resonates with those in other countries. Today, the young “noirs” of France refer to themselves as “black”—40 plus years after Stokely Carmichael delivered his groundbreaking speech at Berkeley.

 

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Ziggy Marley Chats Live Album, Dad’s Legacy, More

by Starrene Rhett Rocque, Jetmag.com

Being the son of a reggae legend comes with high expectations but that’s no sweat to Ziggy Marley. The Grammy-winning musician is keeping up the Marley name with his own successful music career and other entrepreneurial endeavors.

JETmag.com caught up with the 44-year-old artist to chat about his latest live album, Ziggy Marley in Concert, his new line of organic coconut oil and hemp seeds, and much more.

What made you decide to go live for this album?

During the last couple of tours and shows we were having a good time and a good vibe and I wanted to document that so that’s why. And I plan to take a break next year.  I want to do some gardening and some other work.

Word is that you live shows are great, so what goes into your shows that makes them so exciting and what can fans expect from the album?

It’s just like a picture, a moment in time. At that moment, we recorded over two shows in the US, but they can see those couple of shows and what it was at that time and get an idea of what it’s like live. It’s definitely an experience and we try to make people enjoy themselves but we try to add something beyond just entertainment with a message in the music and a spiritual flavor to what we do. People appreciate entertainment value because it’s hard out here enough. Entertainment is fine. It’s on TV, it’s all over the place but we want to give people something deeper than that they appreciate that.

You’ve also teamed up with Rotary for their End Polio Now Campaign. Isn’t polio almost eradicated? Enlighten me.

In most of the world it’s wiped out but in Africa it still exists and I believe that it can be taken care of so we’re putting that out there. Some people haven’t had the chance to get rid of the disease, so we want to send the cause to show that there are people who are still suffering.

Do you have a personal connection with polio?

In Jamaica I knew someone with polio back in the day but when a person is suffering—a human being—I have a personal connection with them; I feel suffering with people whether I know them or not. I have a strong connection to all people.

Another endeavor of yours is Ziggy Marley Organics. What products do you sell?

I started about a year ago I’m doing the world’s first flavored coconut oil for cooking. Coconut oil is really good for you. In Jamaica we grew up with coconut oil and coconut before it was bottled. We used to drink rom a coconut, before it was fashionable, and then we have the hemp seed that’s in the shell and roasted. Hemp seed is very nutritious. It’s Non-GMO, which means there’s no genetically modified substances in it and it’s also organic. So, having a food line allows me to talk about food. The main thing in America that I get to talk about is the idea that the food in the supermarket has GMO’s in it. That’s an issue because when pharmaceutical companies get into agriculture and modify the DNA of a plant or food and we don’t know the affects that it has on our children, so we’re asking, at least give us the chance to know what ingredients have been genetically modified in the food that we’re buying. Healthy eating is a part of my lifestyle.

Is it sold in Whole Foods or places like that?

I don’t know about Whole Foods but they can go to ZiggyMarleyOrganics.com.

Lately we’ve been seeing movies about musical icons go to production, like Nina Simone and Marvin Gaye, that caused controversy due to casting choices or the films not being authorized by the families. There must have been talk about doing a movie about your father’s life, so would you go about getting that made and who would play your dad?

I don’t know, I guess we have to research that. There’s been talk but nothing come of it yet. It has to be done right because that’s a high task to do. But I don’t know if we have enough time to do anything right now.

Speaking of music, who would be some of your dad’s favorite artists if he were still alive?

I don’t know. Who’s saying something? Whose music is having a purpose?

That’s hard! [Laughs]

That’s what I’m saying! [Laughs].

Ok, how about K’naan?

There you go, that’s it! [Laughs]

What else are you working on?

I’ve got “Marijuana Man,” which is a graphic comic I put out. And I’m doing some webisodes. I’m using artwork, it’s not fully animated yet but there’s voices and that sort of stuff. So, we’re doing that and also in the next couple of months I’m doing a little kid book. It’s called, “I Love You Too.” It’s a nice little book that children and family can read together.

The digital version of Ziggy Live is available today. Physical copies go on sale January 15.

 

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Pop That: On Misogyny in Pop Culture [OPINION]

SPELMAN COLLEGE OUTRAGE AGAINST MISOGYNISTIC MUSIC PROMPTS MOREHOUSE PROFESSOR DR. DAVID WALL RICE TO SPEAK OUT

ByDAVID WALL RICE
Pop That: On Misogyny in Pop Culture [OPINION]

 

Spelman College’s Market Friday has lasted forever. Students from the Atlanta University Center—Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta and Morris Brown—take time between classes to collapse on Spelman’s all-female campus and kick it. Back in the 1990s, there were black leather medallions sold with Malcolm X T-shirts while students nodded heads to Brand Nubian and MC Lyte, Jodeci and Michael Jackson. Today you can still find Afrocentric fare, but the music this past semester gave some students on campus pause.

There was concern that many of the songs spun for those strolling through booths across from the bookstore and around the corner from Sisters Chapel was too much. The argument went that many of the lyrics violated the women on campus. The songs were positioned as violent exercises toward them that had no place at the historically Black Atlanta University Center, much less Spelman’s all-women campus. A petition was drafted and circulated by student leadership at the school demanding a policy to keep DJs from publicly cross-fading commercialized misogyny with the complicated racism that songs like 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song” represent.

The blowback was disturbing. Twitter responses to the petition graphically demanded the tunes continue. The student leaders who put the document together were labeled with obscene racial and gender slurs from students at neighboring AUC schools, and even from classmates behind the gates at Spelman. It was a hard lesson learned, the petition in part the result of a service-learning component of a Violence Against Women course at the school.

Pop culture is misogynist as hell. This conclusion is hardly an epiphany. The mainstream has a capacity to do so much. Pop entertains, it instructs, it counsels and it can free us if situated just so. But mostly, an unchecked diet of top-10 movies, albums, television shows, games and books oppresses in a devastatingly elegant way. The Spelman situation is just one example.

Certainly there is no need for a Bamboozled retread highlighting gross blackface and Stepin Fetchit-isms. There seems to be a baseline understanding that mass culture has a history of objectifying and “othering” Black people. But (*in Mariah Carey-Precious-welfare-caseworker-voice*), can we talk about the abuse in your household? Pop culture is often relentlessly trained on women. Their rape, or the threat of it, is fair game for entertainment value in top-rated television shows ranging from The Walking Dead to Scandal. Websites get mad hits hosting a video of a bus driver serving an uppercut to a female passenger. Then there are “Bandz a Make Her Dance” and “Pop That.” The dark side of pop culture is like a specialized mash-up of racism and misogyny that we can’t quite get at.

There is the celebration of nihilism through constructed reality shows about basketball wives, hip-hop wives, housewives and bad girls who are pitted against abusers—again, for entertainment. The frame is a familiar one of Black deficiency that, in some crazy way, is normal.

No, it is sick. There are consequences. We become complicit in our own oppression when we insist on women as objects.

The Obama era seems to allow high tolerance for racism because of a sociopolitical fiction of the nation as post-racial. (No matter how much we insist we know we’re not.) But to call this complicated Black-on-Black violence against women racism alone, of course, doesn’t quite cover it. Certainly there are spots of affirmation for Black folk, but too many pop images of us are zip-cooning cocktails of an interconnected Black male privilege, misogyny and cultural racism.

Hussein Abdilahi Bulhan, in his epic Fanz Fanon and the Psychology of the Oppressed, does right in redefining violence beyond the physical to include the social and/or psychological violation of another’s integrity. Pop culture has a whole lot of integrity violation going on.

But this read isn’t to suggest we strip our hard drives of all questionable entertainment. We need not only listen to Channel Orange and A Love Supreme while reading Imani Perry before watching reruns of A Different World on our way to the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit—not that there’s anything wrong with that. Simply, there is the need to take stock of what it is we’re doing with and to ourselves in the name of entertainment, art and culture.

We have to take better care of us.

The Harlem Renaissance and golden era hip-hop this is not, but something just as important is taking place in this post-millennial Obama moment. To find it we have to become aware and honest in our dealings with the mainstream. Respect to the sisters of Spelman College for doing that, situating popular culture just so, toward freedom.

Dr. David Wall Rice is a writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also associate professor of psychology at Morehouse College, where he serves as co-director of the Cinema, Television and Emerging Media Studies (CTEMS) program.

 

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Mint Condition: New CD an improvement, but not a return to glory days

by Dwight Hobbes
Mint Condition

Music @ the Speed of Life is an improvement on 2008’s E-Life, a static, paint-by-number disappointment from a band renowned for fresh, even innovative fare. But, not by much.

With hints of Guy, Earth Wind & Fire and Kool & the Gang, Stokely Williams (frontman-vocalist-drums), O’Dell (guitar), Lawrence El (keys), Jeff Allen (sax, keys) and Ricky Kinchen (bass) haven’t returned to the form that made them international standard bearers of contemporary R&B. They have, however, somewhat returned to credibility.

Intermittently, Williams’ vocals regain some sense of urgency and the songwriting again is fairly imaginative. Ultimately, far from the soul-funk phenomenon they used to be, Mint Condition these days qualifies as a decent pop outfit and not a great deal beyond that.

“In the Moment,” an engaging cut from the outset, opens the album with an anthem-like feel to it, sparking life as it catches and keeps the ear. The second track, “Believe in Us,” has been getting airplay in advance of the album’s Sept. 11 release date, but is not exactly the best this disc has to offer. Featuring guest artist Bobby Ross Avila (he’s also on “Never Hurt Again”), it’s a ho-hum, sing-song lullaby with sadly pedestrian lyrics (ie, “I can take you there, if you open I can show you how I care”). Heavy on production values, light on substance, it’s a run of the mill, throwaway number.

By the third track, “What I Gotta Do,” a pattern has developed of starting songs off drenched in synth to signal, one has to imagine, dramatic presence instead of simply letting the music sell itself. Which this one does quite well. Despite cheesy lyrics, the melody to this ballad truly kicks.

____________________________________________________________________

Mint Condition hasn’t returned to the form that made the band

international standard bearers of contemporary R&B.

They have, however, somewhat returned to credibility.

____________________________________________________________________

With “Blessed,” somebody thankfully stepped in and decided to take a break from over-producing. It’s honestly too bad more of Music At The Speed Of Life doesn’t follow suit. This lean, taut, put-a-funky-foot-where-it-does-the-most-good jam is made for clubbing.

“Slo Woman” similarly revisits Mint Condition’s glory days. It isn’t “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)” by a long shot. But it is close enough, genuine songwriting and emotive delivery. Stokely quits shucking and jiving with formulaic crooning to come across with actual feeling on this sultry, laid-back jewel.

“Girl of My Life” with DJ Jazzy Jeff is boring. There’s clever gimmickry at the engineer’s board and, of course, the guest to enhance things. To paraphrase the old saying, though, you can’t turn tedium into shinola. The song is filler. And ineffective at that, ending with a stilted bridge clearly thrown in just to give Williams a chance to show off on the trap set. “Completely” is more wholly dispensable music.

At this point in the listening, it’s obvious “Blessed” and “Slo Woman” are the best Music @ the Speed of Life has to offer. “Never Hurt Again” really isn’t all that bad, except for Kinchen’s obnoxious showboating on bass.

Bottom line, however, it’s begun to look like Mint Condition, after a rich legacy of excellent artistry, now is only in it for the money. They figured out that even superstars can’t get away with telephoning in such tripe as E-Life. With Music @ the Speed of Life, they got a little more back to being for real. Not nearly enough, though. Unless you’re a die-hard Mint-can-do-no-wrong fan, pass on this one.

 

 

To learn more about Mint Condition’s Music @ the Speed of Life CD, go to http://www.shanachie.com.

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2012 in Music

 

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How The Music Industry Monopoly Really Works

by Jeriko One Source: rap rehab

The truth is that big business controls the types of music and artists that get exposure and become popular. The record industry is a $14 billion dollar business. The five major record labels; Sony, Universal, BMG, EMI and Time Warner dominate 85% of the market when it comes to sales of Compact Discs. Leaving only 15% for the hundreds of independent record labels and thousands of artists out there. And when indies get too big or an artist starts making noise these major companies usually pick up the artist or label. This way they control the artist/label, get a percentage of the sales and keep competition to a minimum.
The Big Payoff (radio payola)
Ever wonder why you hear the same songs on the radio all the time? It’s because major record companies are paying radio stations thousands of dollars to play their records! That’s why you rarely, if ever, hear independent music on commercial radio. Most people don’t know that virtually all the pop and rock songs they hear on the radio have been paid for by the major record companies. The record labels pay millions of dollars a year to middlemen (independent radio promoters), referred to as “indies,” who in turn pass on some of that money to radio stations (they get a portion too), which accordingly play what the promoters ask/tell them to. In exchange for paying the stations an annual promotion budget ($100,000 for a medium-size market), the indie becomes the station’s exclusive indie and gets paid by the record companies every time that station adds a new song.

Launching a single at rock radio can cost between $100,000 and $250,000. If the song’s a hit and gets played at hundreds of stations across the country (with added charges for multiple plays a day) the costs can skyrocket enormously. Mercury Nashville president Luke Lewis told attendees at a music conference that his label spent more than $1.5 million on promotion for a Shania Twain single that crossed over to pop radio!

According to payola laws passed by Congress in 1960, it’s a crime for a station employee to accept payment for playing a song if the station fails to notify listeners about the financial arrangement. That’s partially the reason major record labels use huge indie promotion companies like Jeff McClusky and Associates and Tri State Promotions and Marketing, if shit ever happens the promoters will take the fall for it. But no one wants to rock the boat so everyone in the industry keeps their mouth shut and indies make tons of money for basically being nothing more than pay-off people. Overnighted packages stuffed with cash are shipped off to recipients with phony names, American Express money orders made out to programmers and sent to home addresses, travel and vacation packages… all of this is being used by major record labels and independent radio promoters to buy airplay of their songs on the radio. New and independent artists have no chance to receive airplay on radio and listeners are bombarded with the same music hour after hour.

Who pays for all of this? The artist. Most record companies recoup their costs for independent promotion from the artist’s CD royalties – which of course would not be as high if they did not receive radio airplay. And, ironically enough, the radio stations pay as well, since money that might be used for promotions to build a larger audience is instead diverted into radio programmers’ personal bank accounts.

Big Fish Eat Little Fish (monopoly)
There are three companies that own most the radio stations in the US – EMMIS, Radio One and Clear Channel. Over the past two years the Clear Channel company has been on an acquisition binge, spending almost $30 billion on buying radio stations, concert venues and advertising companies. The company is building a “monopolistic multimedia empire” that has decreased competition, reduced consumer choice, and driven up ticket prices for concerts.

Prior to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a radio company could only own 40 stations nationwide and only four in a particular market. Since that has changed Clear Channel now owns 1,170 radio stations nationwide! One out of every ten radio stations across the United States broadcasts under the Clear Channel’s banner and the company’s approximate 1,170 stations bill a full 20% of total industry revenue. Clear Channel broadcasts in every top ten market and in 47 of the top 50. These stations take to the airwaves across all 50 states, in almost every major market, reaching nearly every demographic. Clear Channel stations broadcast to over 110 million listeners every week.

Clear Channel also acquired SFX Entertainment, the world’s largest promoter and producer of live entertainment events, including concerts, theater and sporting events. Clear Channel now owns 135 venues, producing 26,000 shows last year (attended by 62 million people) – 70% of the total “live concert” market! Buying entertainment giant SFX cost Clear Channel $4.4 billion, making it instantly the nation’s biggest promoter with $2 billion in live-event revenue a year.

Clear Channel Outdoor owns over half a million outdoor displays (770,000 billboards) around the world. This gives them and their customers the ability to, as they state on the Clear Channel website “reach over half of the entire U.S. population and over 75% of the entire U.S. Hispanic population”. Outdoor is more than just billboards, other products they provide include; bulletins, posters, street furniture, airport displays, convenience store posters, mall displays, mass transit displays and mobile ads.
Now there are rumors that Clear Channel wants to start their own record label… hmmm. Think about it. They can play their artists on their radio stations, tour them in their venues and advertise them on their billboards.

What can you do? Support college & non-profit radio stations in your local area. These independent radio stations program alternative music as well as specialty shows (hip-hop, jazz, electronica etc.). Also support your local independent bars & clubs.

Product Placement (retail co-ops)
Isn’t it great when you can buy your favorite artist or a new CD on sale at the record store. Ever notice those special displays (called endcaps) at the entrance, window or at a prime location in a large record chain store. Guess what? It’s not the store that is putting it on sale, record companies have to pay to have it on sale in the store. This is what is called a Retail Co-Op and it works like this. For example if a label wants to put one of its new CD’s on sale in a ‘un-named’ chain store they would have to pay about $3,000 to have its CD in 100 of its’ stores. In exchange for the $3,000 the Chain store would bring in around 1,300 units and give them good placement in the stores, put them on sale and feature them in their listening stations in those 100 stores for one month. There are many different Co-Op programs with independent and major chain stores and they can be very expensive. There are a few problems with this system. First, for the record label it does not guarantee that the CD’s the store brought in will sell. And since stores do not ‘buy” but take product on ‘consignment’ it is all 100% returnable (see Retail Returns below). Second, major record labels spend so much money on Retail Co-Ops so that stores bring their product that stores aren’t left with much money in their monthly budget to bring in independent music.

the big “R” (retail returns)
Most people think that a ‘return’ means that someone returned a CD to a record store because of a defect. That is called a return but in the record business ‘returns’ means something else – death. Music stores do not buy CD’s and then sell them. They take CD’s, sell what they can and return the rest – only paying for what sold. And there usually isn’t a time frame so a company can return CD’s to a label/distributor even a year or more later, usually with cracked jewel cases and all stickered up. The problem with this is record stores/chain stores can (and do) over-order a release because they can always return it. Bomb Hip-Hop spent money with one chain store on a Retail Co-Op for a new release and a few months later the chain store returned 88% of the CD’s! Bomb Hip-Hop ended up being gaffled by the chain store and spent a lot of money it really didn’t need to. The distributor made money, the retailer made money and Bomb Hip-Hop lost money from the program. Returns can kill any record label.

Too Greedy (price gouging)
Major record labels and retail chains stores have become too greedy by charging $18-19 for a CD that usually doesn’t have more than 3 good songs on it. Universal priced Ja Rule’s album Pain Is Love with a sticker price of $19.98! But it is not always the record label overcharging. In the past Bomb Hip-Hop has found its releases that have a suggested retail price of $16.98 being sold for $18.98 in retail chain stores. The price to the store is based on the suggested retail price. For example a $16.98 list price CD is sold to stores for $11 per loose CD or $10.79 per CD by the box (usually 30 CD’s in a box). These chain stores that price the CD at $18.98 will probably not sell very many because it is priced to high for underground hip-hop and/or a new artist. These stores do not care because in the end whatever they took is 100% returnable.

In Conclusion 
There are about 27,000 music titles released every year. Of the 7,000 “new” titles released every year by major labels less than 10% are profitable. Major record labels sign only what they hope will sell, jumping on the latest trend and flooding the market with sound-alikes. Everything radio and video shows play sound and look like they came off an assembly line. Major record companies focus on radio-friendly and videogenic acts and unfortunately exclude new and experimental artists and genres of music. Consumers have become lazy and in turn are easily brainwashed by what they hear on the radio, see on tv and read in magazines. People need to be more educated and take a pro-active approach to music. Seek out new artists and new types of music, don’t let big business influence and control what you think is good music or what you buy. Take what you have just read and tell others of what you have learned – each one teach one. Much respect to all starving artists and independent companies, you are not forgotten and you are appreciated. Keep what you’re doing and have fun making music.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2012 in Music

 

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Fresh Beginnings for Raphael Saadiq

Raphael Saadiq has more than one sound ringing in his head these days. As he begins work on a new album in his Los Angeles studio, he’s already moving beyond the classic soul flavor of 2011′s critically acclaimed Stone Rollin’, which captured the warmth and excitement of Sixties/Seventies funk and R&B for a new generation.

“I’m going to switch it up,” Saadiq tells Rolling Stone. “I want to put everything together and see what I come out with on the other side. It’s a fresh beginning for me.”

That means the new music will encompass a wider range of his influences, going back to the moment Saadiq was first recruited by Prince as a teen to play bass in Sheila E.’s band, followed by his years as a hitmaker mingling classic and contemporary soul in Tony! Toni! Tone! The singer-guitarist has been writing and recording for about a month.

“It’s a little scary. It’s going to still be soulful, but I’m flipping to an Eighties, dreamy type of thing on some stuff,” said Saadiq, whose personal playlist has lately included Reagan-era hits by Duran Duran, the Police and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. “There’s some heavy guitar, Mellotron and actual orchestra stuff mixed in with some distortion. It’s going to be more of a collective sound of what I’ve been doing in the course of my career.”

He spends his days in the studio and crashes there between sessions. “I live there,” he says with a grin. “I have a little tiny room with a shower – that’s it, with Ms. Pac-Man. Every day I get up, go for a walk or a run, livin’ myself up. And later in the day I start recording. I’m a studio hog. I’m all into the gear.”

While in the studio, Saadiq has also recently produced songs for Trombone Shorty and veteran funk singer Chaka Khan, whom he described as “so rock & roll. She’s got that spirit of today and yesterday. It sounds really good, like old-school Rufus.” One of the songs written with Trombone Shorty might end up on the Saadiq album, he says.

Another sound he expects to include on the album was directly inspired by the vivid new Bob Marley documentary,Marley. “There’s one joint they did in the movie that inspired me to do something like they did in the early Sixties in the ska world,” Saadiq says. “I love Bob Marley and the Wailers. I love Peter Tosh. I listen to a lot of that, in heavy, heavy, heavy rotation. And I catch the riff-raff of everything. I really love music.”

His fiery performance last weekend outside the Annenberg Space for Photography in L.A. was a daylong break from his writing sessions. “I’m in the middle of writing, trying some directions and figuring out what I’m going to do. I haven’t really hit it yet, though I have some things that I like,” Saadiq explains. “I just grab a guitar, sit at a piano, play. Different people inspire different things. I’ll drive down the beach for some inspiration – whatever you can pull from.”

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Music

 

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