In both music and manner, Quincy Jones has always registered — from afar, anyway — as smooth, sophisticated, and impeccably well-connected. (That’s what earning 28 Grammy awards and co-producing Michael Jackson’s biggest-selling albums will do.) But in person, the 84-year-old music-industry macher is far spikier and more complicated. “All I’ve ever done is tell the truth,” says Jones, seated on a couch in his palatial Bel Air home, and about to dish some outrageous gossip. “I’ve got nothing to be scared of, man.”
Currently in the midst of an extended victory lap ahead of his turning 85 in March — a Netflix documentary and a CBS special hosted by Oprah Winfrey are on the horizon — Jones, dressed in a loose sweater, dark slacks, and a jaunty scarf, talks like he has nothing to lose. He name-drops, he scolds, he praises, and he tells (and retells) stories about his very famous friends. Even when his words are harsh, he says them with an enveloping charm, frequently leaning over for fist bumps and to tap me on the knee. “The experiences I’ve had!” he says, shaking his head in wonder. “You almost can’t believe it.”
Even though digital is on the upswing, physical is still performing relatively well on a global basis — if not in the U.S. market, where CD sales were down 18.5 percent last year. But things are about to get worse here, if some of the noise coming out of the big-box retailers comes to fruition.
Best Buy has just told music suppliers that it will pull CDs from its stores come July 1. At one point, Best Buy was the most powerful music merchandiser in the U.S., but nowadays it’s a shadow of its former self, with a reduced and shoddy offering of CDs. Sources suggest that the company’s CD business is nowadays only generating about $40 million annually. While it says it’s planning to pull out CDs, Best Buy will continue to carry vinyl for the next two years, keeping a commitment it made to vendors. The vinyl will now be merchandised with the turntables, sources suggest.
Meanwhile, sources say that Target has demanded to music suppliers that it wants to be sold on what amounts to a consignment basis. Currently, Target takes the inventory risk by agreeing to pay for any goods it is shipped within 60 days, and must pay to ship back unsold CDs for credit. With consignment, the inventory risk shifts back to the labels.
According to those sources, Target gave the ultimatum to both music and video suppliers in the fourth quarter of last year that it wants to switch to scanned-based trading, with a target date of Feb. 1. But while it is proceeding to push DVD vendors to switch to scan-based trading terms (i.e. the chain would pay for DVDs after they are sold or scanned while being rung up at the register), it has moved the deadline back to music suppliers to either April 1 or May 1. So far, music manufacturers are not sure what they are going to do, but sources within the various camps say that at least one major is leaning no, while the other two majors are undecided.
If the majors don’t play ball and give in to the new sale terms, it could considerably hasten the phase down of the CD format.
Target has greatly reduced its music presence over the years. Once upon a time carried as many as 800 music titles, and nowadays seems to carry less than 100 titles in most stores. Yet, it can still be a powerful force on big titles. For example, the chain moved over 500,000 CDs of Taylor Swift‘s Reputation album.
If you listen closely enough to Radiohead and Hans Zimmer’s rework of “Bloom” for Blue Planet II, you can hear a really fascinating orchestral trick at work. They call it the “tidal orchestra” — it’s a musical effect created by instructing each player to play their notes only if the person next to them isn’t playing. The result is a randomly swelling and fading musical bed for the entire series that captures the feeling of ocean waves. It’s a captivating way to score a soundtrack for the ocean — but it also fits in with a long history of capturing randomness in music composition.
How Are Millennial Consumption Habits Going to Affect Your Music?
Millennials: Whether you love their tech-savvy, often flighty, always unique habits or shake your head at evidence that the many stereotypes about this divisive demographic are true, it’s unavoidable that they’re usually the key to forecasting trends and serve as the pulse of marketing’s new frontier.
In recent years, the habits of these young tastemakers have become crucial to everyone from retail brands to app developers to, well, musicians and artists, especially because more content is being consumed than ever before.
Recently, Nielsen surveyed a group of these 18-to-34-year-olds to understand their media-consumption habits, enlisting the company’s own Millennial contingent to collect empirical data from their peers and develop a system for analyzing their activities and methodology. Predictably, their findings revealed a slew of insights into this powerful generation.
For example, it might not be surprising that streaming is popular with Millennials, but what’s interesting is that over half use multiple music apps monthly. The real head-turner, however, is the fact that, while digital radio continues to gain listeners among Millennials, 93% still tune into terrestrial radio each week. Those numbers underscore the importance of AM/FM broadcasting even as stations branch out into digital platforms.
Other major areas covered in the report include podcasts (Millennials love them), the demo’s penchant for sharing media like photos and videos over social platforms and texting, and the implications of their non-committal nature. What does it mean when consumption is high but loyalty is low? Will Millennials simply move onto the next best thing if what’s readily available doesn’t suit their needs?
The report takes an in-depth look at those questions and more and hypothesizes what exactly it means for the music industry as Millennials move into the driver’s seat.
Millennials are consuming more content across more platforms — but presume their loyalty at your peril. That’s one of the key findings of Nielsen’s second Millennials On Millennials report. The analysis considers millennials and advertising, social media, communication, entertainment, spending and technology – and there is plenty for the music industry to chew over as well as for the radio business to breathe a sigh of relief about.
Millennials (i.e., those aged 18-34) are now the second-largest generation in the US, but they are not necessarily abandoning “old” media. They might be glued to their smartphones (1,179 minutes each in Q4 2016 on their devices compared to 659 minutes for those aged 35-49), but their consumption of broadcast radio is pretty much holding steady while overall listening to digital radio has grown.
“Millennials are spending about the same amount of time listening to traditional radio as they were a year ago – even with a wealth of new media fighting for engagement time,” says the report. They listen to 10 hours and 14 minutes a week, a figure that is not significantly lower than the 11 hours and 17 minutes that those aged 25-34 spend listening to radio.
Specifically around music, 57% of millennials use two or more apps to stream music while only 39% of those aged 35+ are as app promiscuous. They also over index in terms of podcast listening, with 24% listening to podcasts at least once a week and a further 13% listening every day (it’s 12% weekly and 5% daily for those over the age of 35).
Their loyalty is proving increasingly harder to win, however, which is a lesson that all media and content producers need to take on board. “Millennials are an unfocused audience and they are less likely to stay loyal to specific media the way other generations are,” say the report’s authors.
They are very much not sit-back listeners when it comes to music. “Millennials are active listeners of music streaming services and are 21% more likely to frequently choose songs than to let the music play without making changes,” claims the report. “They also access digital music more regularly than consumers 35 and older.”
They may be zipping across multiple consumption platforms, but the net effect is they are powering through more content. “The reality of today’s media scenario is that the addition of new offerings has actually inspired increased consumption,” runs the report’s conclusion. So, in brief, they are consuming more, but just because they are listening now doesn’t mean they’ll be listening tomorrow.
Historically, music inspires devotion on all sides. There are audiophiles who only buy 180-gram vinyl; those who exclusively attend shows at intimate, non-corporate venues; and folks who pledge unwavering support for their favorite artists… no matter what.
Millennials are changing that mindset by challenging the notion of loyalty above all. Until recently, Spotify lacked Taylor Swift’s catalog, so they found other means of consuming her music. They have no innate allegiance to a particular platform.
As creators, it’s important to keep this finding, in particular, in mind from both an artistic and a business standpoint. Realizing that the most voracious and attractive generation has no figurative country requires a bit of strategy to ensure they’re drawn to and invested in your music. It also underscores the importance of clever positioning and an ear to the ground for the next big thing.
The shifting tides of Millennial media consumption almost certainly guarantee that how you’ll reach your fans and unleash your music is an ever-evolving process.
In ‘The Story Of’, VICE explores the story behind some of the most iconic electronic dance music songs ever created – from inception to global reception. We find the creators, pushers and labels of these anthems, learning how they were made, why they took off, and what happened (or didn’t) as a result. In this episode, VICE travels to Finland to meet the artist behind one of the biggest dance music anthems of all time: ‘Sandstorm’.
For anyone who loves recording and production, digging into the instrumentation of a song is part of the mystery of great music.
Whether or not your list of the top 100 songs of all time aligns with the list Rolling Stone published in 2011, where it listed the top 500 Greatest Songs of all time, a great many of them have to overlap.
Berklee Online went one step further and did an analysis of the instruments used on the top 100 songs from Rolling Stone‘s list. As the Berklee post states, “While a large percentage of the selections use guitar, bass, and drums (no surprise), the 58 instruments in this graphic go beyond the expected. From the swarmandal The Beatles used in ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ to the castanets in The Ronettes’, ‘Be My Baby,’ and mouth harp in The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations,’ these classic songs tap into more than the typical standby sounds.”
Take a look at the infographic below. Any surprises? The glockenspiel on “Born To Run” wasn’t one I would have pulled out of thin air, and the theremin is always a fun one to pick out from the crowd. I recently listened to the original Star Trek theme song with my kids to give them a taste, only to realize it’s not used on the recording! Well, it is in this video.
I also found in the Wikipedia post on the theremin that it wasn’t actually used on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” It may be a picky point, but the entry asserts that the sounds on that song were made by a Tannerin (AKA Electro-Theramin).
Facebook and Universal Music Group (UMG) today announced an ‘unprecedented global, multi-year agreement’ under which UMG licenses both its recorded music and publishing catalogs for video and other social experiences across Facebook, Instagram and VR platform Oculus.
According to a press release: ‘The partnership will facilitate deeper engagement between artists and fans, empowering users to express themselves through music, share the songs they love and build communities around music-fueled culture. Enabling a variety of features across Facebook’s platforms, the agreement is intended to serve as a foundation for a strategic partnership roadmap that will deliver new music-based experiences online.’
Under the partnership, users will be able to upload videos that contain licensed music and ‘personalize their music experiences’ on Facebook, Instagram and Oculus, while sharing videos with friends and family.
Functionality will expand in future to ‘enable access to a vast library of music across a series of social features’.
Tamara Hrivnak, Head of Music Business Development and Partnerships, Facebook, said, “There is a magnetic relationship between music and community building.
“We are excited to bring that to life on Facebook, Instagram, Oculus and Messenger in partnership with UMG. Music lovers, artists and writers will all be right at home as we open up creativity, connection and innovation through music and video.” (…)