Marilyn Manson and the Paparazzi Controversy Machine

Not one to stray from the provocative, Marilyn Manson showed up at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with profanity written across his face in the hopes he’d prevent paparazzi from selling his photograph to the highest bidder. A witness of the encounter, who goes by the name j_patrick_12, wrote:

"I just went through the LAX security line with Marilyn Manson. He had 'F---' scrawled in large letters across the bottom half of his face, with what appeared to be a grease pencil. As we each removed our boots in the security line, he kindly explained that it was not directed at me or anyone else in the airport, but rather at the paparazzi, so that they couldn't sell any photos of him that they took. He was really apologetic about it, and covered his mouth around young children while apologizing to their parents for exposing their child to profanity."

While many celebrities try to seem anti-establishment by doing something controversial, Marilyn Manson puts thought behind what he does—perhaps a lesson many should take in celebrity. Some celebrities will take the spotlight when they can get it, some will shun their celebrity despite fighting so hard to get it, and others, like Marilyn Manson, just do whatever they want. Manson doesn’t go for shock for the sake of shock. His name came up in the media after the recent The Dark Knight Rises shooting—parallels to Columbine were all too apparent. Manson’s open letter to the public after being blamed for Columbine by the media shows the artist’s true colors: 

“When it comes down to who’s to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, throw a rock and you’ll hit someone who’s guilty. We’re the people who sit back and tolerate children owning guns, and we’re the ones who tune in and watch the up-to-the-minute details of what they do with them. I think it’s terrible when anyone dies, especially if it’s someone you know and love. But what is more offensive is that when these tragedies happen, most people don’t really care any more than they would the season finale of Friends or The Real World. I was dumbfounded as I watched the media snake right in, not missing a teardrop, interviewing the parents of dead children, televising the funerals. Then came the witch hunt. Man’s greatest fear is chaos. It is unthinkable that these kids did not have a simple black-and-white reason for their actions. And so a scapegoat was needed.”

There are celebrities, musicians, and artists of all sorts who look for controversy. They live off of it. Marilyn Manson, on the other hand, is equal parts business savvy, thoughtful artist, and outspoken in appearance and words. Perhaps that combination makes for fame, intrigue, and relevance. Or perhaps the man behind the makeup, Brian Warner, is smart enough to appear all those things when and if he wants.


Yup, All Pop Music Sounds the Same These Days

A study coming from Spain uncovered the not-so-surprising truth that pop music all sounds the same nowadays. Reuters wrote that a team of artificial intelligence specialists led by Joan Serra at the Spanish National Research Council took music from 1955-2010 and ran it through complex algorithms to determine various musical attributes. The team discovered that music has not only become louder but also more repetitive in chordal structure and melody. Serra told Reuters:

"We found evidence of a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse. In particular, we obtained numerical indicators that the diversity of transitions between note combinations - roughly speaking chords plus melodies - has consistently diminished in the last 50 years."

There seems to be two forces working in tandem making music sound all too familiar: the notes themselves and modern day recording practices. The four-chord song, parodied so aptly in this YouTube viral hit, is simple enough to write and makes for a Billboard chart-topper. There is no need to experiment outside of this convenient box if you’re looking for pop stardom. That doesn’t mean your song doesn’t have to be catchy, it just has to fit in the right box. Notes alone aren’t responsible for the sameness that is modern pop music—the way sound is treated also plays a key role. 

Sound engineers dubbed the blandness of the sonic structure as the ‘loudness wars.’ Every record is competing to be the loudest record possible, whether it be rock, pop, or metal. On the radio or on your mp3 player, the band wants their sound to pop out at you. By compressing and limiting tracks, producers and engineers are able to minimize the dynamic range of a song and push the overall volume of the entire track up. While this has its benefits – when playing music in the car or on the subway, you don’t have to do much fiddling with the volume knob – it also makes many recordings feel the same sonically, whether or not the music is unique from a melodic standpoint.

The database of music for the study stems from the Million Song Dataset, so the results seem to be statistically significant. But can the next million pop songs change this pattern? Perhaps due to the proliferation of iPods and iPhones, it will be hard to ever reverse the trend of pop music blandness. With music on-the-go, the convenience of homogenization in the sonic spectrum is almost necessary. However, it will take away from the music’s ability to breath and deviate from the norm. The expressivity of a note played at any point of the dynamic range is important for artistic integrity, although this has increasingly become an afterthought in pop music. When it comes to creativity, on the other hand, that must be the initiative of the pop star and his/her respective mainstream fanbase to change the trend of music, and that might be an even bigger impossibility. 


When DJs Just Press Play

Ever since Deadmau5 called out DJs for just pushing play and not actually mixing music live, the Internet’s been chattering about whether electronic dance music (EDM) is getting saturated. More DJs, more producers, and more people trying to rake in money on the dance music touring circuit might create some bitter purists who see many DJs as charlatans. 

Some can use Skrillex to both defend and accuse those who merely put on their hit records and push play (or at least mostly push play with some added pizazz). Skrillex is a producer. He produces original music that is loved by millions and his longtime roots are not in mixing live music, spinning vinyl, or taking advantage of complex MIDI systems to perform. On the other hand, purists for live DJ music can use that as a criticism for the exploding EDM scene.

One of my favorite DJs from Europe, Alex Kenji, recently wrote on his Facebook Timeline:

“wow sometimes i miss minimal, techno and tech house. i like EDM but too many idiots in this scene... jesus christ”

The post gathered many more likes than his average posts and created some back and forth in the commenting. Clearly people have opinions on the matter. And it’s partly true—I’ve very much enjoyed live concerts where you know the DJ is putting in a ton of effort to get an original once-in-a-lifetime sound across, a sound you don’t get by playing the original tracks off of YouTube. Compare this to the party atmosphere where people are in it for a different experience rather than reveling in the DJ’s spinning prowess. 

The question I sometimes ask myself is whether either experience is inherently better. Perhaps if you’re not performing I feel like I shouldn’t pay exorbitant ticket prices, but at the same time, I’m going to a show to have a good time. Have I had less fun at a DJ show where I knew in the back of my head the DJ wasn’t actually doing that much? Not really. It plays a role in the consciousness, but it’s not a dealbreaker.

This might be a crude analogy, but take the business world as an example. You use services like Google and Facebook for free, but what you give up in return is your information. These companies must make money by selling your information to advertisers, plain and simple. Do you still want to use the services for free rather than paying? Most people would say yes despite having a slightly grossed out feeling in the back of their throats about the whole situation. I think the same is true for many electronic music concerts. You know what’s really going on in some cases, but you just don’t want to think about it. You just want a good time. Ignorance is bliss.

8 Music Videos With Fireworks

To cap a fireworks-filled July 4th here in the U.S., what could be more appropriate than a little nostalgia for your Independence Day celebrating. Check out music videos that display fireworks! 

Muse – “Starlight”

Animal Collective – “Fireworks”

Katy Perry – “Firework”

Drake – “Fireworks”

Kelis – “4th of July (Fireworks)”

Audioslave – “Cochise” 

Diddy – “Dirty Money”

“Amazing Fireworks Music Video” 

Kim Dotcom’s Fight for His Business and Quest to Upend the Media Industry

Despite being arrested for criminal copyright infringement, Kim Dotcom has been resilient in his efforts to bring his new service MegaBox to the masses after the shutdown of Megaupload and Megavideo in January 2012. Kim Dotcom tweeted to his followers:

“The major Record Labels thought Megabox is dead. Artists rejoice. It is coming and it will unchain you.” 

What is MegaBox and what is its answer to the current woes of the music industry? Dotcom described the almost too-good-to-be-true business model:

"We have a solution called the MegaKey that will allow artists to earn income from users who download music for free. Yes that's right, we will pay artists even for free downloads. The MegaKey business model has been tested with over a million users and it works."   

Dotcom expects to not only pay artists 90 percent of all download earnings, but also to compensate artists for free downloads. It’s too early to tell how much artists will actually make and which major label artists will support the new service. Despite having artists

like Kanye West,, Jamie Foxx, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Alicia Keys, and Chris Brown defending Kim’s business in their “Megaupload Song,” without major label backing the future MegaBox service might not get the traction it seeks. It does however have beta users like 7digital, Gracenote, Rovi, and Amazon MP3. So even if it doesn’t have Universal Music Group (UMG) on board, it has some goodwill from other important names.

According to Digital Music News, there are already rumors that artists are making money off of MegaBox: 

“…we’ve heard that some major rappers were already making money off of MegaKey, and rumors also point to development efforts by incoming CEO Swizz Beatz. Which sort of corresponds to what Busta Rhymes was angirly tweeting a few days ago. ‘1st of all I am sooooo proud of my brother @THEREALSWIZZZ 4 being apart of creating something (MEGAUPLOAD) that could create the most powerful way 4 artists 2 get 90% off of every dollar despite the music being downloaded 4 free…’”

Regardless of its future success, and whether it will even see the light of day amidst ongoing litigation, Dotcom is showing the feds and the music industry that he doesn’t take a fight sitting down. He clearly has a chip on his shoulder, wants to challenge the status quo, and is willing to do so by jeopardizing his freedom—whether it’s on a quest for revenge or the Almighty Dollar.

5 Apps To Discover Who’s Playing in Town

1) Songkick: The site and app provides a dead simple way to track your favorite artists and sends you notifications when one of your tracked artists books a gig in town. The site also lets you browse through your location to find out who’s playing in your city on a particular day. Other than the tracking feature, which works great, the site also recommends you similar artists to start tracking. When visiting their browser site for the first time, it’s much easier to find artists you already know about than to discover new artists that happen to be in your town. If you download their iPhone or Spotify app or integrate with Facebook, Songkick will scan your music to find artists you listen to who have concerts scheduled nearby. 

2) Bandsintown: This app works similarly to Songkick, where you can track artists that you like for upcoming shows. Bandsintown has a very deep integration with Facebook, with many artists keeping a tab on their Facebook Timeline specifically for tour dates through Bandsintown. One great feature included on the website is a “Concert Cloud”—just like a tag cloud, the Concert Cloud tab includes a list of artists with ones that you track in bigger and bolder typeface. Even better, there are three sliders that let you select the date range, distance from you location, and maximum ticket price to narrow down the search results. If you happen to be in a city like New York, where a lot is going on, the list can be a bit hard on the eyes. The customization on the left, however, makes it easier to tweak your searches without navigating to a new page. 

3) Live Nation: The LiveNation Concert Calendar app pulls in your data from Facebook to recommend you shows in your area via Ticketmaster’s concert and comedy show listings. Although it’s not as snazzy as apps like Songkick and Bandsintown in terms of its functionality, TechCrunch’s review says the graphical interface is worth checking out.

4) ConcertCrowd: This app works mostly on your Facebook ‘likes’ to give you concert updates in your area, but you can also follow what your friends are interested in to get more recommendations. ConcertCrowd works off of new music you discover through the app, your current ‘likes’, and your social graph.

5) SeatGeek’s Columbus: Not to be confused with Columbus, Ohio, SeatGeek expanded their product offering to give you personalized live event recommendations. Submit a few of your favorite artists and performers and they’ll do the rest. SeatGeek provides interactive maps of venues to give you the best deals and information on ticket purchases—now they do live event recommendations as well.

8 Ways to Monetize Your Music Now

1) Come Up With a Clever T-Shirt: Sure, not everyone can be as Internet famous as Amanda Palmer (or real-life famous either), so you might not be able to make $19,000 in 10 hours using Twitter and sell more than half of that from merch alone. However, people like buying band t-shirts. At your next gig, make your t-shirt more than just your name—make it clever, funny, or even shocking. Whatever it is, make it memorable.

2) Sell Track Stems: If you’re a DJ and you have a following, or even if you’re a rock band with fans looking to morph your music into a new sound, try selling the stems of your music on sites like Beatport. This way people can get a hold of separated tracks of your songs and can much more easily remix your music.

3) Fan-made YouTube Video Contests: Have your fans upload their own music videos for your song. Since you, the artist, owns the rights to the music you can make money on advertising showed before each video (see more info about licensing here).

4) Raise Money Online: Use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, IndieGogo, or PledgeMusic to help bring family, friends, and your online following into the mix (pun intended).

5) Create an Interactive App: Know someone who codes? Make an app or use OneSheet Mobile to have an on-the-go app to promote at your shows. Collect fans and try to up-sell fans whenever you can.

6) Teach: Know how to sing, play guitar, or even DJ? Don’t think it’s below you to teach some cool kids how to do what you do. Keep yours creativity going and funds your next tour or album! With apps like BANDHAPPY, you can even teach from the road.

7) Sell the Rights: Have some music that would fit well in a commercial but not on your next album? What about something perfect for an indie soundtrack? Lend your music or take part in recording sessions for some extra dough between gigs.

8) Give Yourself Away: Time isn’t scalable. You only have so much time in a day, but if you want music to be your job, then on occasion you should look for music-related gigs outside you main duties as an artist. Keep money flowing in along with your creative juices.

Amanda Palmer: First Musician to Raise Over $1 Million on Kickstarter

Amanda Palmer, part member of musical duo Dresden Dolls and part solo artist and social media extraordinaire, raised a whopping $1,192,793 on Kickstarter from 24,883 backers who supported her project with contributions of $1 all the way up to $10,000 (with rewards appropriate for the amount given). Palmer set her funding goal at a more modest $100,000, but a tidal wave of support from her cult fanbase and the very word-of-mouth online community helped her smash all notions of what a music project could raise from crowdsourced fundraising and what a record deal means in the modern music industry. To top it all off, the money is going to fund the project, so the lion’s share won’t even end up in anyone’s pockets, just invested into getting rewards to backers. 

After parting ways with her former record label Roadrunner Records, and calling herself a “major label refugee,” Palmer decided to take the conventional idea of a record deal into her own hands. Palmer proved that if you have the right idea and enough of an online presence, you can essentially ask your fans to be your record deal (not your label). I often talk about how up-and-coming musicians should forget about record deals before they even lay as much as a digital footprint. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. You want the record deal to help you get promotion and build a big following, but you can’t get the record deal unless you have a big following. And if you do get a record deal, well.. you can just read this long piece about how you won’t make any money anyway.

If you have the DIY mentality, you don’t need to raise $1 million on Kickstarter, but it’s very possible to raise $5,000 to get things started. Many companies have been bootstrapped off of the gracious lending of family and friends—now you have online platforms like Kickstarter, IndieGogo, and PledgeMusic to give you that same nudge with the added benefit of an online community to get you over the top.

What made Palmer’s Kickstarter campaign work? Other than her prior fame, Palmer set up the campaign for success. This wasn’t JUST a record release or JUST a tour—she was selling an experience. Everything from music to signed memorabilia to concerts to custom painted turntables to house parties to paintings of you on a canvas. This is intimacy, art, and entertainment at its best. This isn’t an impersonal stadium tour, you’re meant to feel part of something. This is a lesson for all musicians out there: people want to be included. Up-and-coming artists without a fanbase might not have as much to offer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bend over backwards for the fans you do have. 

As Amanda Palmer so aptly put it, “This is the future of music.”

Charge for Music to Get People to Listen

Digital Music News wrote an interesting piece on giving away music in the days of declining music sales and illegal pirating. Often times, the mantra these days is to give your music away for free. Since there are more and more artists using readily available equipment to get music into the world and online, it’s harder to cut through the noise as an artist. So the next logical conclusion would be to give your music away for free to get it into the most hands of as many people as possible and to “spread the word” quickly. Apparently that’s not always the wisest decision when it comes to the lessons of supply and demand that Economics 101 taught us so long ago.

One DIY artist commented on Digital Music News: 

“But it's funny that even when I used to give away [my music] for free, there wasn't much traffic nor many downloads, almost nothing. Then we decided that we should put it up for sale so that we might be able to recoup some of the money spent on making the music videos (when it's your brother making the videos, I still consider it DIY). Anyway, as soon as people saw that the music was up for sale, the website and other related social media gizmos received much more attention. Also, people began looking for ways to download it for free, which isn't always a bad sign."

So the people who are willing to pay for music perceive the music from this artist as having greater value because they are charging for it. If a brand name is willing to charge more than the no-name brand, then certainly an artist who charges for something rather than giving something away is brand name caliber too.

The people who don’t pay for music are still interested because of the perceived value of the music and will seek the music out through illegal channels—but there is still a demand there that might not have existed if the music was free from the start. If your goal is to get into the hands of as many people as possible, perhaps having that price tag makes your music seem worth it, regardless of whether someone actually pays for it in the end.

In a world of branding and image, sometimes it’s important to start off with a level of perceived quality. Of course this strategy might work out differently for different artists. If you can’t actually deliver on that quality, perhaps putting a price tag on your music won’t actually tip the scales in your favor (rather you’ll be digging yourself just as fast into obscurity). But if you know your production value is there and your songs are what people are looking for, the right strategy could be to charge. If you notice charging for music in the conventional sense is slowing you down, see if you can give away your music for free but charge for extra perks like bonus packages, behind-the-scenes footage, meet and greets, signed memorabilia, merchandise, or other unique items that go beyond just a digital download. If the money’s not in the music, it might be in the experience you’re selling. 

Top 10 Craziest Moments in Rock N’ Roll

10) Keith Moon’s Drum Kit Explodes

During The Who’s performance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967, the band decided to destroy the set at the end of their finale while playing “My Generation”. Keith Moon had explosives rigged to his bass drum, but apparently there was a little bit too much gunpowder juicing up his kit. Legend has it the explosion damaged guitarist Pete Townsend’s hearing.

9) Guns N’ Roses and Metallica Tour Riot

Montrealers take their hockey seriously and also their hard rock. Hundreds took to the streets after Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose stopped a 1992 set early at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium due to throat issues. This occurred after a long delay following a pyro mishap that injured Metallica frontman James Hetfield. The crowd had enough and stormed Montreal, starting fires, overturning cars, and wreaking havoc on the city.

8) Donita Sparks Throws Tampon into Crowd

Comedians hate hecklers, musicians hate when you throw stuff at them. Well, L7 lead vocalist Donita Sparks took it into her own hands (literally) by throwing her bloody used tampon into the rowdy crowd at 1992’s Reading Festival. Apparently Sparks didn’t take kindly to the mudslinging that was aimed at her.

7) Ozzy Osbourne Snorts Ants

On tour with Mötley Crüe, The Prince of Darkness snorted live ants. Crazier than biting a live bat’s head off or pissing on The Alamo? That’s for you to decide.

6) Mike Patton Eats a Shoelace at a Faith No More Concert

And spits it back out again.

5) Sinead O’Connor Rips the Pope

Sinead O’Connor set late night TV abuzz when she ripped a picture of Pope Wojitila on live television. The Saturday Night Live performance is remembered to this day for O’Connor’s bold statement.

4) KLF Burn a Million Quid

The KLF, comprised of art duo Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, decided to burn one million pounds sterling on the Scottish island of Jura. This was the remainder of the money they made off of record sales after expenses and taxes. The duo stated, “We were just sitting in a cafe talking about what we were going to spend the money on and then we decided it would be better if we burned it.”

3) Nikki Sixx Returns to Life

If you’re a rock star, anything’s possible. In 1987, Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx was revived by a paramedic who pumped Sixx’s heart with an adrenaline shot following a drug overdose. Not only did Sixx survive, he overdosed again the next day and lived to tell the tale. The events would later be the catalyst for writing the popular Crüe tune “Kickstart My Heart”.

2) Kanye West Interrupts Taylor Swift’s VMA Speech

Although not the most extreme of rock n’ roll moments, Kanye’s interruption of Taylor Swift’s VMA speech not only left Beyonce and the rest of the VMA crowd with their mouths wide open, but it further solidified Kanye’s persona as an unpredictable and unashamed celebrity.

1) Jimi Hendrix Sets Guitar on Fire

When people think Jimi Hendrix, they often think Woodstock. While Hendrix pulled off one of the greatest guitar solos of all-time with his rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock, he went a little crazier at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 where he set his guitar on fire.