Subscribe to Music on Mars

It’s been an amazing few years writing content on this site, but it’s time to take it to the next level. Beginning this week, I’ll be blasting out a brief email (and may come back here to post some deep dives into artists) with a simple format:

four emerging songs + an artist spotlight

I’m constantly asked about the best songs / artists that haven’t hit mainstream yet. This letter will be the forum to expose those artists, and share content around the world.

Visit https://tinyletter.com/musiconmars to subscribe.

-MM

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It’s The 20th Anniversary Of Michael Jackson’s Most Controversial, Savvy, And Personal Album: ‘HIStory’

Went through a bit of nostalgia reading this article about Michael Jackson’s release of ‘HIStory’ 20 years ago – an album that ultimately went on to sell 30 million copies. There are so many directions we can take in discussing the obstacles he faced in changing not just music, but the world itself. To keep it short, one of the biggest surprises for me in reviewing this album release was how much backlash “They Don’t Care About Us” received. It’s incredible to think that MJ’s cry against racism immediately led to the world pointing the finger AT HIM, deeming him the racist.

My quick take: when the world doesn’t want to speak about the truth, it’s easy to turn the truth on its head, and make up a defensive lie. One would like to think that MJ was able to overcome it all, but alas, ‘HIStory’ wound up being one of his last great works – perhaps speaking to the detrimental power that opinions, hurtful words, and crowd mentality can have on one’s psyche. In defense of “They Don’t Care About Us,” Michael stated the below in a NY Times interview…somehow, it feels like he could say it today and it would still ring true:

“The idea that these lyrics could be deemed objectionable is extremely hurtful to me, and misleading. The song in fact is about the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems. I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the black man, I am the white man. I am not the one who was attacking. It is about the injustices to young people and how the system can wrongfully accuse them. I am angry and outraged that I could be so misinterpreted.”

UPROXX

mj-history-scream

In 1995, Michael Jackson was the biggest celebrity in the world, but not in the same way he was in 1985, or 1975. Mainly, because of this:

Michael had always been engaged in battles with the press, but when the accusation emerged that he had sexually abused a child, public perception shifted from him being eccentric to something far more sinister. The 1990s also brought the scrutiny of the 24-hour news cycle, intensifying the scrutiny of a megastar like Jackson tenfold.

Combining this with his codependency on painkillers, the Michael Jackson that most knew and loved almost became a memory. Knowing that his next album could make or break his entire career and livelihood, he decided to create the biggest album he possibly could. These are the origins of his ninth studio album, HIStory, released 20 years ago this week.

The first, and perhaps smartest, move he made was…

View original post 679 more words

Jay Z Mocks Apple, Google, YouTube, Spotify In Tidal Freestyle

I get why Tidal is ‘good’ for artists – cut out the middle man, own your content (well, at least it’s good for the established artists anyway). But I’m still at a loss as to what the consumer proposition of Tidal actually is? Where is the value to the consumer? Better sound quality…huh? Would love to see some examples of direct to consumer models (where the ‘disrupting’ companies weren’t that different from competitors) that START right off the bat with a subscription model. Yes, iTunes started with subscriptions, but I’d argue they had a stickiness factor for a time with the iPod…that is, before streaming services made the music listening process even easier/convenient. Artists can complain all they want about the middleman, but arguably, it’s the consumer way of thought that matters. Just confused as to why Tidal doesn’t build /scale its subscriber base first (i.e. offer the service for free, unlimited), before going after the direct revenues.

That said, when everyone is complaining about your startup, but paying attention at the same time…perhaps that’s the affirmation you need to believe you’ve got something special.

U.N.I.T.Y. – Queen Latifah x HiFadility

Recently, HiFadility released a new track, U.N.I.T.Y., a flip of the classic Queen Latifah humanist anthem.  We have posted about HiFadility several times over the past couple of years, and we are always excited about new releases because of the unique sound.  In a very pleasant way, you never know what to expect!  In this track, it’s really interesting how this production retains the 90s boom bap sound, and at the same time blends the echo-y 808s and stuttering high hats of trap and a jazzy sound.

HiFadility keeps Queen Latifah’s vocals, continuing his sonic tradition of including spoken thoughts on social equality from notable figures. We saw a lot of this on his earlier works Where The Soul Lies (2012) and C’est La Vie (2012), so it’s interesting to hear how artists evolve their sound and production. Continue reading

If It’s Magic, Why Can’t it Be Everlasting?

Today’s post features a musician on tour right now that you may have heard of: Stevie Wonder. Not to be too dramatic here, but I think seeing Stevie Wonder in concert should be at the top of the bucket list for anyone who appreciates music and the powerful impact it can have on the world. There is little debate that Stevie will go down as one of the greatest musicians of all time…but it’s not just his gift for music that he’ll be remembered for; he’ll also (and perhaps moreso) be remembered for his heart.

I had the pleasure of seeing him in concert. While he often deviated from the intense Songs in the Key of Life album that the tour is based on, his speeches about love, “hate no one,” justice and equality reverberated around the stadium, and I hope it continues to penetrate the world. In particular, he sang the below song – “If It’s Magic,” with the background harp played by Dorothy Ashby who died of cancer at the tender age of 55.

Stevie Wonder is one of those artists that takes you into another place and another time when he sings. He has an incredible gift that cannot be duplicated.

Music Streaming Wars: What Jay Z’s Tidal, YouTube Music, Beats, etc are all Missing

tidal-share.e86656feIt’s interesting to see the amount of streaming services coming to the market this year – particularly led by the support of the musicians themselves. Feels like it was just yesterday when artists were complaining about streaming / unlimited subscription fees, doesn’t it?

As outlined by the Atlantic, several subscription services are hitting the market that may change the industry…

The latest is Jay Z’s Tidal, announced a week ago with a splashy press conference involving some of today’s most popular musicians. In the coming months, Google will take its YouTube Music Key service out of beta and Apple will put on an ambitious relaunch of Beats Music.

Right. So that’s three huge market disruptors arriving in the space of one year. More competition means more choices for consumers, but possibly more confusion…

In an interview with Billboard, Jay Z made clear that Jimmy Iovine, the legendary record executive who now works with Apple, had been competing with Tidal for celebrity-musician endorsements. This might explain why big names like Taylor Swift and Drake didn’t join their friends Nicki Minaj and Madonna at last week’s press conference; it’s possible they’re aligned with Beats instead.

So what do you do? Go for Taylor or Nicki? (Nicki clearly) …should consumers have to make a choice? My view is that there is a fundamental problem with artists shifting from one platform to another. Artists themselves are the product being sold (yes, artists are a product, a brand, an image defined by the work they create…) I’m all for giving artists power over their work, but it seems they are indirectly about to engage in a competition with one another. And in truth, I’m not down with doing an easter egg hunt to try to listen to my favorite ones.

Then again, maybe there’s another issue here. The last line of the article puts it well…

When artists lament Spotify’s meager payouts, the real culprit isn’t the streaming service, which pays out 70 percent of its revenue to labels and musicians—it’s the fact that streaming doesn’t make a whole lot of revenue to begin with. The most likely way for that to change is for there to be more paying users in the system. So if the golden age of simplicity for streaming’s early adopters is coming to an end, the health of the music industry might be worth it.

What will it take to get more users to pay for streaming services? There are people dropping close to $1000 at Coachella…I’m struggling to believe that the price of streaming really the problem. Maybe it’s just the experience? Perhaps people do want to support artists, who often get paid a lot more doing shows than making albums. Paying Spotify / Pandora just feels distant…like paying for the convenience of using a big machine.

Case of the Mondays: Focus Artist – Courtney Barnett

It’s a little late for a Case of the Monday’s post, but I have to say that I’m a new fan of Courtney Barnett, who performed at the SXSW festival this year. The artist just dropped her new album today, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. Her lyrics are incredible, intricate, thought-provoking…and just downright good story telling. Even better, she released the album through her own label Milk Records through indie stalwart Mom + Pop.

One of songs garnering a lot of attention on the album is “Depreston.” Pitchfork writes:

“Depreston” is Barnett’s somber tale of house-hunting in the suburbs of Melbourne, a sad neighborhood with few cafés and visible crime, heavy with an emptiness you can feel in this spacious, mid-tempo music. The song is rooted in a dilemma of all artists—that of finding a cheap place to live on the outskirts, of embracing domestic self-reliance and just brewing your own coffee—but it winds its way into a poignant ballad of memory, death and growing.”

I’m also a huge fan of Avant Gardner, a song from her last EP, and “an autobiographical account of trying to turn a life around through gardening, only to be foiled by a severe allergic reaction.”

For reference, born in Sydney but raised in remote Tasmania, Barnett started playing guitar at 10 and was in several bands before settling in Melbourne, where she enrolled in art school and eventually took a job at a shoe store. “I was good at it but started hating myself,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘This is f—ed corporate shit, selling overpriced shoes to kids who saved up their pocket money.’ ”

In other words, Barnett is the artist that really doesn’t care what others think..which ironically, will probably make people care about her more.

Calling all Artists in NYC

my friend is hosting an awesome event series titled Art We All (Human) at 3:15 pm EST today (update: it will be hosted every week). Details below. Email barsandchords@gmail.com if you’d like the location

Summary Paragraph: 

Art We All (Human) is an inter-genre collective of millenial artists looking to use the power of artistic expression to activate social change and challenge the status quo. In a salon setting, artists meet to discuss and deconstruct notions of power and privilege, and then use collective energy to create fluid, conscious art.

Rules of Engagement 

  1. Open minds build movements

No bigotry, no hatred, no subversive power plays. We are all here to make something beautiful, and can only do that in a space where we all feel free.

  1. YOUR truth, not THE truth

This is space where vulnerability and honesty are inextricable from the final product. Speak your truth to the extent that you are comfortable, but please don’t take it upon yourself to make that normative.  

  1. Embrace the Awkward

We will always open our space to new voices. Embrace the awkward conversations, talk to the new guy – everyone in the space has a gift to give.

  1. The Commons

This is a project centered on the creative commons. The work we do is the product/journey of the collective, and we will always come back to the commons as a locus of self. So, be self-aware and self-interested but never self-ish. If one of us wins, we all will – this is not about a profit margin.

  1. By the people, for the people, of the people

The art will always speak to whatever moves those in the room, but the responsibility of the collective will always be to the community. 

  • Do you have any questions after this? 
  • Is it too wishy-washy?  

How it Works

 

Who Comes?  

  

a)      15 artists are invited at random, from a larger cohort of 30-45 artists

 

Every quarter, there will be a larger, open session with an open mic component

 

c)      Each session will have a theme, all participants will be advised of it before the session in an invitation email

 

d)     Each session will have a different facilitator from the group – keeps it honest/non-hierarchical (first few will be me, once we have a reliable amount of people involved I will hand it over)

 

[is this naïve? Should I retain control? Very anti-hierarchical spaces but it needs to work, every time]

 

e)      Each session will be documented in some way – photographer, visual artist, videographer, writer etc (appointed in the email)

 

What Happens?

 

Each session will last three hours, comprised of the following

 

Free thought exercise (20 minutes)

 All attendees will be asked to provide a statement around the theme (can be a line of song, small picture, actual line, line of poetry, whatever) – theme will be put up on the board and the other items will surround it (20 minutes)

 

Introductions (15 minutes)

             Name, craft of choice

 

Updates + Theme (55 minutes)

Participants update the group on current projects/projects from the last session

Space for participants to vocalize what they’re looking for in the space

Participants can talk about their feelings on the theme/issues that have come up with existing projects in a group setting

 

Studio Session (1 hour)

Break away from the group into individual/studio sessions (people can do what they want, work together in groups from the last time)

The Come-Down (30 minutes)

 Take someone’s initial thought/experience from the beginning and use it to express where you are now.

 

What then?

 

  1. Follow up email called the After Thought (circulated a few days after the meeting)
  2. Provide the dropbox link to the group (will contain whatever the documentarian has chosen to create to honor the session)
  3. Provide a dope quote/video/picture to the group
  4. Provide the contact list for everyone in attendance so attendees can follow up if needed 
  5. Allow participants to opt-in a referral (invite someone to come to the next one) 

Upcoming themes: 

  • IDentity 
  • Abstraction 
  • “Dat New New” 
  • Vintage? 
  • Love and other drugs
  • Other drugs