Last Saturday at the W Hotel Buckhead, the Atlanta chapter of the Recording Academy hosted a series of panel discussions and workshops — Grammy GPS: A Road Map for Today’s Music Pro — created to give career-boosting advice to aspiring and established artists. The event was free for members of the chapter and $100 for non-members.
Depending on your interests and musical tastes, the real reason to be there was one of three discussions: The MusiCares Vocal Tech Workshop, the Producer Super Panel, or Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles with Geoff Emerick. But even better than the supposed professional takeaways were the anecdotes, side conversations, and a sense that the music industry actually gives a damn about what fans want. Here are some highlights and observations:
>> The day started with a panel on Music and Entertainment Law to talk about intellectual property and other unsexy topics. It was one of those things that you know you should attend, but wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if you missed. I spoke to a young corporate attorney who dug the info, but was totally miffed about panelist and GhetOVision founder Kawan “KP” Prather’s frequent comparisons of the music industry to the dope game.
"Is it that time already?" you're asking. "Doesn't the Best of Atlanta issue come out in, like, SEPTEMBER? Do I have to vote again?"
Yes, yes, and yes. But fear not, CL reader. We've made it easier on you. This year, we've broken down the voting over five weeks - one category a week - so you don't have to answer 250 questions at once.
Instead of a six-pack to get through it, now you need a shorty, a pint, or, at most, a growler. So for the next five weeks, you'll vote on your favorite things about the city.
Up this week, it's After Dark. Which dance club is the hottest in town, what local band rocks your socks, or what music blog keeps you in the know? CL, and Atlanta at large, want your thoughts on the things that help make this city great - the best of the best and nothing in between.
Get started, happy voting, and remember - don't vote and drive. Best of Atlanta 2012 ballot.
In case you were wondering, the rest of the voting schedule goes like this:
Week 1: CONSUMER CULTURE (July 2)
Week 2: AFTER DARK (July 9)
Week 3: POETS, ARTISTS & MADMEN (July 16)
Week 4: CITYSCAPE (July 23)
Week 5: ORAL PLEASURES (July 30)
Having been on both sides of the music machine (the music and now, uh, the machine), I'm frequently saddened but rarely surprised by the depth of the devolution from DIY garage band-ism to overpaid PR flackery, from three chords and an attitude to pay-for-play and Dad's credit card. This stuff is wild, y'all! Bands aren't really bands anymore; they're just teeny, tiny corporations. But as we know, corporations are people, so boom-ba-ba-loom-ba-wow.
But I guess I've still been holding out to a degree, harboring some essential smidgen of naivete, some shard of innocence that allows me to get by day to day without giving up and wandering the streets, searching for change on the ground, humming that goddamn Adele song that's objectively pretty good but then you hear it a thousand times and it starts to sound like nails on the world's longest chalkboard but ANYWAY.
The point is, TIME has an awfully depressing story (via Gawker) guest-written by a young and optimistic indie rock band called Two Lights, a band whose music is actually not all that bad (again, objectively, in a Coldplay sort of way), but who claim - nay, boast - that they've spent over $100,000 to date trying to kickstart their music career.
Life is about decisions. Some make you. Others break you. Ask Karen Marie Mason. One of the most influential people in urban music, Mason's career has taken her from the executive offices of Elektra and Epic to her living room where, at the peak of her career, she decided that being a mother trumped the glitz and glam of the industry and stayed home with her daughter. Since rearranging her career to achieve balance, Mason has continued to leave her imprint on such major acts as Mary J. Blige, T.I. and Lil Wayne. But her focus has been on crafting the careers of uber-talented independent Atlanta artists, including Kelly Love Jones, the DollDaze and Queen Sheeba through her newly found imprint, Red Clay Music Group. Ready to share her insight with aspiring talent, her free Red Clay Music Conference — which takes place Sat., June 4 — will be more than another flashy snoozefest, but a real learning tool for artists attempting to take their career and craft to the next level. Mason shares her insights on managing an independent career, breaking out of the corporate box and taking your music beyond your basement.
Red Clay Music Conference: Making the Music Business Make Dollars and Sense. Featured panelists and industry vets include Dee Dee Murray (NARAS), Shanti Das (former marketing exec. with LaFace, Arista, Sony, Universal Motown; founder of ATL Live in the Park), Ian Burke (former A&R at Elektra; president of Launch Pad Records), Kendall Minter (veteran entertainment attorney), Rico Wade (Organized Noize), DJ Toomp (producer for T.I., Young Jeezy, Kanye West), keynote speaker Daddy O (formerly of Stetsasonic; social media strategist) and more. Free. 1 p.m.-7 p.m. Sat., June 4. Auburn Avenue Research Library, 101 Auburn Ave. 404-910-3542. See PDF of Saturday's full schedule.
You worked for major labels for years, but now focus your energy primarily on talented independent acts. Why?
Karen Marie Mason: I have seen and been part of the process where you can take an artist that is virtually unknown, and through a very well-designed campaign and a good team you will see that artist become very successful. So I figured if I could do that for major labels, I could do that for myself and take that same attitude, idea and process and adapt it to independents. And that's where my focus is now.
You've been in the business for 20 years — with all the changes that have taken place, what would you say has been the biggest constant?
I think one of the biggest constants — and artist forget this in this digital fast-paced age — is you have to know and study and rehearse your craft and you have to be willing to share your craft with anyone who will listen. It's one thing to put your music on iTunes, but then no one in your neighborhood even knows you exist. So we have to come out of the shadows and diligently create a market for our craft. Working with the Fugees and Cypress Hill, there was no place that these artists would not play. The Fugees would play at an envelope opening. They were hungry. We put Cypress Hill in a 12-passenger van and sent them to every nook and cranny in different cities and let them play for weeks. You have to roll up your sleeves and get dirty if you want a fan base. I didn't work with Alicia [Keys], but Alicia would play anywhere. We look at where they are now, but nobody remembers what they did to get there, when they played for one or two people. So one of the constants is to know and study your craft and realize that the people that are successful today came from some humble and hardworking beginnings.
There's nothing easy out here. Get out here and work. The Fugees were happy to be on stage, they were just happy, like, 'Hey a microphone!' We've lost some of that. We're at the mic in our basement at the computer. Like, come on, son. Get out here. We act like we get insulted if we're performing for two people. No, you get out there. People have to be able to see you, feel you and touch you — and feel like you're giving them your all.
Atlanta is an interesting mixture of independents, major artists and in-between artists. What's your take on the music and art scene here?
Originality is a hard sell in the music industry. Especially for black artists in an era largely defined by copycat talent and xeroxed trends. With artist development being a dead art, the urban departments of most major labels tend to play it safe, signing one-hit wonders in the hopes of turning a quick profit, or long enough to recoup their losses. All of which makes it that much harder for artists daring to be themselves.
Though the four Atlantic Records artists in the video above certainly fit the bill, they've enjoyed varying levels of success at bursting that mainstream bubble. Produced by Atlantic, part one of the three-part "Game Changers" series features singers/songwriters Janelle Monae and Estelle along with MCs B.o.B and Lupe Fiasco conversing with former Vibe editor Danyel Smith about their struggles and successes with circumventing the industry's cookie-cutter constraints. It's real talk, the kind that programmed music fans could benefit from as much as those responsible for compiling radio playlists and major label promotional budgets. Of course, Atlantic deserves kudos for producing what is essentially a promotional video to push their left-of-center signees during Black History Month. I imagine the label is hoping to parlay some of the critical and commercial success of Monae and B.o.B, respectively, into similar receptions for Lupe Fiasco and Estelle's upcoming 2011 releases.
Last night after the Super Bowl, Fox aired an episode of that "Glee" show because, I'm guessing, the network has had a hard time converting its prototypical Sunday night football-watching demographic over to a weekly TV series in which the cast regularly breaks out in song and dance.
Which is funny because I was just joking the other day that "Real Housewives of Atlanta" probably forced a lot of dudes in Atlanta out of the closet this season, what with it's Sunday night scheduling conflict with professional football and all. Not to say that a man's sexuality can be determined by something as simple as his DVR playlist. And even if that were true, it would be a serious toss-up between that flaming hot-mess of a reality show, "RHOA," and the NFL's weekly humpfest of swollen, ass-grabbers chasing behind each other in sweaty tights and shoulder pads.
But yeah, since "RHOA" was on pause last night (the season-ending reunion show airs next Sunday, so set your DVR early, yo), Fox went for the trifecta with a little pigskin, a lotta "Glee," and a taste of some Kandi Koated Nights. Indeed, "RHOA" cast mate Kandi Burruss got some major play on "Glee" when the show's cast performed "Bills, Bills, Bills," the chart-topping, Grammy-nominated 1999 hit she penned with Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs for Beyoncé's former group Destiny's Child.
Here's what she had to say about the "Glee" performance in a statement released by her publicist:
Actually, it went something like this:
The struggling Decatur-based Paste has been acquired by Wolfgang's Vault, a company whose website boasts "the world's largest collection of live music audio, video and merchandise." WV also owns the awesome Daytrotter.
So, good news? The magazine hasn't really been a magazine for some time now, having abandoned its print version back in September 2010. And there's no indication that the outfit's new owners will bring it back.
Per the press release:
While Paste Magazine retains its editorial focus, it will relaunch with new digital subscription offerings in March of this year, coinciding with the SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Festival.
At least Paste can get back to focusing on creating content (and, uh, paying for it) and not worrying about its finances. Congrats, Paste!
More cool news out of UGA's Music Business Program. First, local producer David Barbe was named the program's director last summer. And now, Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery has been named one of its new instructors.
Lowery has a long and strong affiliation with the Georgia music community, both his bands having been loosely Athens-based for years. This past September, Lowery married 40 Watt booker/Cracker manager Velena Vego. (Vego's also in charge of the booking for the recently opened Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta.)
Bonus video of Cracker's "Low" after the jump, because, despite its persistent FM radio ubiquity some 17 years after its release (feel old, oldie?), it's still a pretty damn good tune. And it's Friday.
This is a really weird interview if you watch it, like I did, assuming that Soulja Boy and WSJ's Lee Hawkins are sitting in front of an audience of typical Wall Street Journal readers. Not until the performance — which really is really weird, due to technical issues — did I realize that the crowd was peopled mostly with Soulja Boy fans.
At 20, he still sounds like a kid when he talks, but he knows his business. Listen to him talk about utilizing newer social media platforms (SayNow) and his reasoning behind having 20 websites.
Hawkins skirts around Soulja Boy's recent Kat Stacks controversy and covers old ground for the most part, crowning SB "the music industry's king of social media" for his inventive use of the digital space to nurture his audience long before major labels got hip. Dude claims he was 16 and making $30,000 per weekend for shows (3 x $10,000), not to mention the money he was splitting with Soundclick on a weekly average of 19,000 downloads.
Considering all the leverage Soulja Boy entered the game with, the real question is what kind of first-time deal did he choose to sign with ColliPark/Interscope? If it's the same seven-album/seven cents per song royalty rate most first-time artist/songwriters get, something's wrong. He pretty much created the model that the industry now exploits to churn out pop stars like Justin Bieber. It'll be interesting to see how long he can hang on to his fan base.
This was not T.I.’s summer. Instead, the season belonged to Rick Ross, who grew into an unlikely critical darling after the release of his magnificent album Teflon Don, and Atlanta rookie Waka Flocka Flame, who energized mainstream radio with a trio of hits (“O Let’s Do It,” “Hard In Da Paint,” “No Hands”) so urgent that they overwhelmed.
All the while, T.I. stayed curiously mute. The 28-year-old was released from an Arkansas penitentiary in December, having served time for gun possession, and moved into a halfway house. Yet he seemed optimistic, an attitude that was reflected in new tracks like the frothy, doe-eyed ballad “Got Your Back” and MOR-friendly, Chris Brown-featured “Get Back Up," the latter of which hit the Internet last week right after his probation was revoked.
Whereas Ross and Waka strived to reach new levels of bombast, T.I. avoided the violent quarrels and legal scrapes that had earned him a rep as hip-hop’s most temperamental MC. In late July, he married long-time girlfriend Tameka "Tiny" Cottle, just as his new film, the action vehicle Takers, was prepping for release.
It wasn’t until September 1 that T.I.’s life completely unraveled. He was arrested on suspicion of drug possession in L.A., a clear violation of the rapper’s probation requirements. A new verdict was reached on Friday, sending T.I. back to prison for 11 months.
T.I. has a perennial dark side; for proof, listen to “Da Dopeman,” from his underrated 2007 disc T.I. vs. T.I.P., or any number of cuts off 2003’s Trap Muzik. On record, he is often elegiac and sympathetic, a victim of bad breaks and an unrelentingly cruel judicial system. He’s tough — singles like “Get Em Out,” “U Don’t Know Me,” and “Top Back” are among the toughest in recent rap history — but also soulful, with an intensely personal touch best illustrated on 2008’s Paper Trail.
That album swapped the lurid, synthy hooks that had previously been T.I.’s trademark for understated choral loops (“I’m Illy”) and more subdued textures, an appropriate backdrop for his lyrical introspection. It wasn’t an immediately satisfying record, but it proved rewarding upon repeated listens.
Of course, all the surface nobleness in the world can’t hide the reality that T.I. is a supremely arrogant man, arrogant in ways that run deeper than mere hip-hop bravado.
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.
All 80s movies want you...
Their show with Chris, Lord about 3 years at the Unicorn was the best.
I am a connoisseur of this real soul music like the comment above I'm glad…
You've got a few of my faves listed here, plus a bunch I've never heard…