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So I had my very first experience with crowdfunding and it turned out to be some of the best damn money I’ve spent in quite a while. So, let me rewind way back to the beginning of the story. In our company’s relentless effort to mercilessly dominate the music licensing business on a global scale, I was in the midst of peeling back the layers of Australia’s music scene to get to the sweet, delicious, indie-nectar at the center when I discovered Hiatus Kaiyote. I, being a connessiur of all things soulful and all things funky and futuristic, was quite baffled by an all-white indie band, fronted by a petite flower outfitted with sandpaper-grade gritty vocals, effortlessly blending soulful, funky, and futuristic. If Sam Flynn had taken Quorra to an Erykah Badu show in the earthy part of Tron, the opening act would sound like Hiatus Kiayote.

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My dude was telling me that he was digging the new will.i.am and Britney Spears record, a fact that he was not very proud of. I can relate to that, most brothers would hope to never be caught singing along to a record featuring Britney Spears; we’d deny such a thing to our graves. However, as Top 40 drilled the song into my skull over the next few days, I thought more about the record and I realized that it’s truly hard to escape this song. Why, you ask? Because the craftsman behind the record is a master at what he does.

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As I was pondering the success of the Black Eyed Peas over the last decade, I realized that music lovers of all backgrounds and tastes should not be surprised at falling victim to a will.i.am record. In the realm of pop and dance records, he is a wizard, adept at weaving musical spells over pop culture. In the middle of this light bulb moment, the wattage of my revelation began to increase. I thought more deeply about the multitude of hits at the hands of will.i.am. Then I got to researching his production credits. Do you realize the will.i.am is one of the most successful producers of the last 10 years, if not the most successful?

Yes. Go on and think about it. Count on your fingertips. Yes, he produced that record. And co-produced that one too. Yep, he co-wrote that record as well. Now do a quick google search. Now that you’re done, how many producers can you name that have produced/co-produced records that have dominated radio and sold singles and records like will.i.am? Not many huh?

Few producers of the current era have achieved Will’s level of commercial success as a producer. Very, very few. But we like to build barricades around art. We slice of pieces of production and put them into separate, tiny compartments. So the guy in the pop compartment gets no love because he’s outside of what we respect as production—you know, sitting in a studio by yourself making magical beats. And as a result, Will gets so very little credit—most “producers” don’t regard will.i.am as a producer, yet he is the epitome.

In the last few years, in my mind, I’ve knocked down those creative barricades around production and I tend to only look at the entire spectrum as art. There’s pop art, there’s hip hop art, there’s EDM art, etc. But at the end of the day, it takes the same genius to craft music;utilizing the same notes and chords—the format adjusts for the audience, but everyone is working with the same base. So yes, in my estimation, will.i.am is most certainly one of the most successful producers of the last…hmm, I don’t know…six, seven or eight years. So nod your head to that Britney Spears record. Don’t be ashamed. Turn it up and roll the windows down. Give the wizard his just due.

Do you have any idea who Nashiem Myrrick is? Nashiem Myrrick is one of the greatest men to stab a rubber drum pad with the tip of a finger. Nashiem was one of the Badboy Hitmen, Puff’s fraternity of outstanding production monsters that defined East-Coast hip hop during the 90’s. Despite crafting hits for a plethora of stars, Nashiem, along with quite a few beat beats from the 90’s, remain unknown to many a current beatmaker.

I’m amazed that in such a short period of time, titans of production can so easily fade to the depths of obscurity. Many producers of that era were far less visible to the general music community. There was no YouTube to demonstrate the ins and outs of their compositions, blogs to be interviewed on, Twitter accounts to build their followings, or Facebook fan pages to be “liked.” Instead of becoming figures themselves, they invested their talents into amplifying the brilliance of many of our brightest stars.

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Spotify, Scissors And Pockets

Posted: January 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

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I was having an interesting discussion about today’s music industry in which I felt like the child learning for the first time that there is no Santa.

What sparked the discussion was my assertion that Spotify has left a gaping hole in the potential earned income of artists with my own experience with the service as irrefutable evidence. I have no incentive to purchase music because I have an unfathomably colossal catalog of music at my disposal at any time and any place, available with an internet connection.  Why buy an album when I can stream as much as I like for the cost of one album a month, $9.99? And surely other people feel the same way and are duplicating my own music consumption habit. Why buy music? Why? Why? Why? Combined with the lack of motivation to purchase and the atrocious royalty rate paid by Spotify for streams, like I said, I believed that the evil streaming giant was cutting big holes into artist’s pants pockets.

John, my adversary and our COO at Music Dealers, begged to differ. He stated that there isn’t sufficient data to support the argument that people aren’t buying albums because they can stream them on Spotify. His evidence–people are still selling millions of records. “Look at the success of Adele and Mumford & Sons.” Hmm. Okay. Valid point, John.

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Cloud Atlas -Jim Broadbent and Ben Whishaw

Am I the only one that gets excited hearing true composers talk about music? No, not a couple of cats who are making beats, I mean full on composers who have spent a majority of their lives mastering the language of music.

Cloud Atlas. Mos def one of the best books I’ve ever read (listened to to be exact). The film was dope as well, although, in my opinion, it couldn’t hold a candle to the book. It’s too challenging to distill all of that magnificent story into a 2 hour film. But between the book and film, there is a section on the book that focuses on a struggling composer that’s wormed his way into being employed as a musical transcriber for an aged composer, Ayrs, who still hears the music but is physically unable to compose.

The character, Robert Frobisher, thinks musically, speaks musically and describes his experiences and surroundings with musical references. What was most fascinating was witnessing the process of Frobisher transcribing note for note what Ayrs was hearing in his head. Ayrs hums out the melody, calls out progressions, barks corrections, hums some more, growls at mistakes, dicates what instruments were playing what, all rapid fire style while Frobisher scribbles furiously on staff paper trying to keep up with Ayrs’s arrangement, which totaled to a prodigious amount of bars. But once the proper key is discovered and Frobisher is able to process the mass of notes in front of him, he’s able to play it back exactly as Ayrs hears the arrangement in his head, note for note, chord for chord. Bananas!

Between the hollow music on the radio, today’s era of musical technology, and lack of formal training among today’s “composers,” we forget that music is truly a language. You forget that trained musicians have the ability to verbalize the music they dream to each other and most certainly themselves. There’s nothing like the creative freedom afforded to a musician with a command of the language of music. Having mastered the rules, they can go anywhere their creative mind can take them. What a gift to give yourself.

West Coast Repping Hard

Posted: January 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

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I wasn’t fortunate enough to catch a lot of phenomenal production during the second half of 2012 and I was in the midst of a drought when I was slapped across the face with two of the best albums I heard all year, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City and Jesus Piece, two drastically different works of art with opposing approaches to production.

There’s something about Kendrick’s production that I’ve had some trouble putting my finger on. It’s not particularly exceptional, well, not in the typical sense of a beat thumping its chest like a gorilla at its own greatness.

Kendrick’s beats play the background, but these beats are masters of background playing beats. This isn’t something an average artist can get away with. These “master background” beats merge with exceptional artistry to form conceptual songs with purpose. Because Kendrick is creating at this level, he often reduces the bravado of his production to leave breathing room for lyrical and conceptual magic.

“The Recipe” might be my favorite record of the year. Between its chops, the kick, the sample selection, the arrangement and sound selection, it strikes that lovely balance between simplicity and power and maintains engagement.

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Stuck In The Trap

Posted: January 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

Trap music. How aptly titled. I admit, it has a certain magic about it. I’m well versed in trap, being that I spent several years in its birthplace, Atlanta. I remember being enchanted by the movement back in 2005. It’s regal, majestic, defined by celebratory horns, high powered synths and thunderous drums. Music looks like things to me and trap music looks like a ghetto king, draped in purple robes, atop his white steed, blanketed in twinkling jewels and Jesus pieces, promenading through his hood kingdom, a marching band at his back with horns blaring and drums drumming, and loyal hood subjects along the sides–dope boys, hoodrats, hustlers, and fiends–applauding his magnificence. It’s dope music without a doubt.

But, all of you cannot be destined to make trap music. The cloning, copying and repetition is disgusting. I can’t believe for a second that so many of you are called to produce trap beats. Not today, not in today’s era of musical possibility. Some of you have got to feel the pull to make something else; pop, electro, dub, something else for god sakes.

This is a magnificent time to produce music. Styles are blending, mixing, manifesting all around us. Cats like Skrillex, David Guetta, and Justice have succeeded in making producers king. Producers have the power to build movements without the support or need of major labels.

My hope is that you are following your heart and making the kind of music that YOU want to make, not what you feel the need to repeat. Are you making trap beats for you?