What’s going on?

Over the weekend I sat down to work on a mix for a CD that I and another DJ are trying to put out together. Since he is the lesser experienced D,J I asked him to make a mix and then I would design my mix around his. We’re based in Atlanta so I knew it would be mostly down south rap, which I don’t have a problem with. In fact I had a playlist in my mind, but had to switch it up because he ended up using some of the same songs I was thinking of. This caused me to have to go digging for some other tracks online. I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find something worth adding to the mix but I was oh, so wrong.

 I honestly don’t know where to begin so I’ll just be blunt. Today’s rap and R&B music sucks. It doesn’t just suck its plain horrible. As I listened to the music previewing it for some new hotness I was bombarded by unoriginal lyrics, extreme use of vulgar profanity, over sexualized themes, and wack beats. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a DJ and I believe in freedom of expression just like anyone in the industry. I just can’t see how some of this stuff made it out of the studio. There used to be balance in the music world. For every NWA, there was a Public Enemy. For every “Between the Sheets”, there was a “What’s Going On”. What happened to the music you could play in front of the kids or your parents? What happened to singing and rapping about social ills, and just plain old love? Why is everyone claiming to be a drug dealer or killer in our music? And yes the problem is mainly in OUR music. Black Music, Urban Contemporary, or whatever you want to call it, is OUR music. You don’t hear this much killing on the pop charts, and Country music sells way more than Rap and yet they don’t have to cater to the lowest common denominator. Why do we feel the need to only entertain ourselves with violence, drug dealing, and sex, sex, sex?

I’m well aware that there are many exceptions to the rule, but if you turn on “The People’s Station”, or the station “Where Hip-Hop, and R&B Live” you will not hear them; unless the artist is doing a big show in town which rarely happens. Lupe Fiasco doesn’t get major play on the radio; neither does Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Jean Gray, or any other artist with good sense. But you know who does get major play on the radio? Lil, Wayne or anybody he does a song with. Nikki Minaj and her self loathing lyrics get spun every day all day. Black radio will play songs with a black woman calling other black women nappy headed hoes before they will play a song that refers to black women as queens, princesses, or just plain sisters. Make a song about young black men going to college and taking care of their kids and it won’t go anywhere, but make a song about poisoning the community with crack, disrespecting women, or black on black violence and it has great potential to become a hit. Why is that?

As a DJ I take partial responsibility for this because I play some pretty ignorant music from time to time as well. I think what separates me from the radio is the fact that I keep it balanced. I admit that I do like a lot of Jeezy’s songs, and even some Lil Wayne songs. I also like A Tribe Called Quest, and The Roots. See that? That’s called balance. There is a time and a place for everything. You can’t just thug it out all day and all night. There needs to be a compromise somewhere. When will there be a Trey Songz song that doesn’t push sex to the kids? 7:30 in the morning and V-103 is reminding my daughter that Trey invented sex. Don’t they know that parents are riding in the cars with kids going to school?

Chuck D once said that hip-hop is the CNN for the ghetto, and that does remain true even today, but even CNN has some happy ending stories run throughout the day. When is hip-hop going to do that? If rappers want to be mad and have their voices heard why aren’t they getting mad and speaking out against the real problems in the ghetto? Where’s the message about the senseless killings of our youth? The corrupt cops and politicians can do their dirt in the hood and no one would know because most of the ‘hardcore, OG’ rappers are too scared to speak up about that. It’s easier and more profitable to brag about killing your own. We can’t even blame The Man anymore. Most of the crap rap that is put out today is from independent artists that have their own labels or are on local street labels. We’ve been trained long enough by the powers that be to the point that we no longer need guidance on self degradation. We’re on auto pilot now.

I can only imagine what ‘music’ will sound like 10 years from now. Hopefully people will wake up and realize that there is more to life than what we are currently being presented, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. For now I can only do the best that I can and heavily filter the music that goes in my library. I’ll most likely be turning off the radio and digging deeper for musical gems. We all have to do our part and I need to define my role in all of this musical madness.

[\end rant]

Getting My Music On Internet Radio

In the year 2011 I spent a lot of time trying to break into internet radio with the hopes of increasing my fan base and brand awareness, while also increasing my royalties. I knew that SoundExchange existed for the purpose of collecting royalties from internet and satellite radio so there had to be a way to break into that system.  I wasn’t very sure of how or where to start so I approached it the same way I did with music licensing.   I googled it.  It turns out that there are many different internet radio services out there and they all differ in the way they let you listen to and share music.

I looked over the more popular ones and checked out their requirements for submitting music.  It seemed like the easiest way for me to get taken seriously and get my music on some good stations was to release some music commercially.  I chose to use Tunecore to distribute some songs just to see what can happen. About a month after distributing two singles through Tunecore I started seeing my music pop up on sites like Spotify, and Jango. My songs were live on the iTunes store and several other big music stores like Amazon.com. Once I had this foundation built up, I was able to go to sites like last.fm  to submit tunes. After of week of internet hustling I had music on Spotify, Last.fm, Jango, and turntable.fm.  Pandora rejected me for whatever reason but I figured it was because I don’t have a big enough following or enough music released yet. The response from the listeners was positive.  I’ve gotten some good response from people all over the world and it feels good to know that someone out there enjoys my work. I believe some of those listens were even converted into sales and that was nice to see.

Promoting the music on internet radio stations can be tricky or costly.  With Jango, and last.fm you can buy promotion packages that give a guaranteed number of spins.  I guess this can be helpful if you have the money for it, but I’m too cheap and broke to go that route. What I did was set up a couple of computers at home and set them to play the Logistical Styles station. I also had another computer running playlists of all of my music on Spotify all day long.  In the end this didn’t accomplish much.  I can see the increase in spins and listens but over a year later I have still yet to see very many results from my efforts.  Tunecore paid me 2.85 for 2766 streams through Spotify.  I have not seen any results from the other stations.  I believe this may be like the licensing world where it takes a while to see the results of your work.  In the licensing world it may take a year to see the end results from a license sale.  I have noticed that Sound Exchanges PLAYS database now shows some of my music.  I’m hoping this means that the spins are now being recorded and royalties are being accrued. I’m hoping to one day come home to a nice royalty check for the past year. I’ll just have to wait and see.

For now my strategy will be to continue running my computers listening to Logistical Styles radio on last.fm and jango, and to keep running playlists through Spotify.  I really don’t have enough time to work turntable.fm like I want to but it’s good to know that the music is out there.  I think I will continue to upload some new music through tunecore and try to increase my efforts to promote it.  The whole process is fun and has been a learning experience. If you are a listener of Jango or last.fm check out my station to see if you like the tunes.

Licensing music…

As I have mentioned in my introduction and in a previous post, I create music and get it licensed for use on TV shows. It can be a lucrative hobby or profession depending on how you approach it. I try to work the business from both angles. Because I have a day job I am not pressured to churn out tunes to get paid therefore, I’m able to move at a slower pace than a full-time musician. However, because I understand the importance of having your paperwork in order and can appreciate the efficiency of a well run business, I try to operate as professionally as possible. This includes doing research and taking the time out to learn how things work in this industry. Taking this approach is what gives me the advantage in the industry. In this post, and future posts I hope to drop a few gems of wisdom for getting your music out there.

I‘ve been a ‘beat maker’ or ‘producer’ way before I sold or licensed my first beat. For almost as long as I’ve been a DJ I’ve been experimenting with various pieces of equipment with the goal of making my own music. I started out with a Tascam 4 track cassette deck and a Gemini sampler, then gradually progressed up to gear like the MPC 2000XL. All of this time I was making beats and getting people to rap on them, but we could never gain any traction or see any real results from our hours of hard work in the studio. At this point, even though I was spending full time working hours in the studio I was still just doing the music thing as a hobby. There was no professionalism about what we were doing. We were using professional grade equipment and software but we were still on the amateur level. Something was missing or holding us back from reaching the next level.

It wasn’t until I was selected to attend the Red Bull Music Labs here in Atlanta that I found the missing link. Paul Anthony, the owner of Rumblefish, was a guest speaker at the music lab and he introduced me to music licensing. His speech on becoming working-class musicians really struck a chord with me. Until this time I had only sold one beat to an ad agency and that was done through the help of a friend of a friend. I didn’t have any direct contacts or connections in the industry. Rumblefish would eventually become that contact for me. Rumblefish is a company that licenses music made by independent artist such as myself to music coordinators for TV shows, movies, commercials, and other uses. At first I was slow to gather my beats. It was a chore for me to organize them and fill out the paperwork, but gradually I got it all together. This for some reason seems to be the biggest hurdle for the hobbyist producers that I meet. Every time I try to teach someone about getting music licensed we always hit a brick wall when it comes time to gather, organize, catalog, and mail off beats. These same beat makers that claim to have hundreds of songs can’t come up with a CD of 10 songs to send to the licensing companies. They always say they have to sort through their beats and then I don’t hear from them again for another year or so. The sad part is once you get past this stage everything else is much easier. Rumblefish handles the rest of the process for you. They shop the beats and make the deals. They also make sure to handle your Performance Rights Organization credits as well.

There are other companies out there like Rumblefish such as Pump Audio, Jungle Punks, and Splother. They all operate similarly with slight changes in the payouts and the results. So far I’ve found Rumblefish and Pump Audio to be the most effective when it comes to music licensing. I highly recommend signing up with as many of these companies as possible. You can even send them the same songs. It‘s like having multiple agents out there shopping your material. You can’t lose!

The best part about licensing your music is the residual royalties that keep coming years after you initially license the beat. Sure you get scheduled payouts from the music licensing companies for the initial sale, but you also get recurring royalties from your Performance Rights Organization. I’m registered with BMI, so I get quarterly payments from BMI for music that was licensed way back in 2007 even today in 2012. These TV shows get broadcast and rebroadcast all over the world all the while earning you money for the performance of your material. Once I realized how this part of the system worked I became even more motivated to create and send out new material.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are more things you can do with those same tracks that you licensed to generate more money from your work. I’ll be going further in depth on these topics which include getting your music on internet radio and getting into films. Until the next post, please check out www.musiclicensingstore.com, and www.pumpaudio.com . Gather your beats and songs. Organize your music and start sending out your tunes. There’s money to be made in the music industry and it isn’t coming from selling CDs.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow me on twitter @logisticalstyle.

In the begining…

This is my first blog post and I’m pretty excited about it. I hope I don’t bore you all to death with the details of my life. This blog is meant to be informative and entertaining. I hope you learn something from reading it and I hope I can learn something from you all. Just bear with me as I work my way through all the finer points of blogging. It’s definitely a learning experience.

I’m probably going to be writing mostly about, DJing, music, and technology. These are topics that I spend a lot time researching and obsessing over. I’m a gadget fiend and the DJ world has plenty to offer so hopefully I can do some really interesting product reviews.

Another thing I hope to write about is the sorry state of the black music industry.  I am a child of the 70’s and ’80s.  I grew up listening to the early forms of rap, and Hip-Hop.  I’ve seen it grow and progress and I’ve also seen it take a turn for the worse.  As a DJ I get lots of music from established and new indie artists and it’s scary to see the vicious cycle of BS and mediocrity that is being pushed out these days.  Please believe I will have plenty to say about all of that.

I’ll also be chronicling my adventures in the music industry not only as a DJ, but also as an artist.  I make beats and I license my music for TV, Radio and other multimedia projects.  I used to work with rappers and singers but drama always seemed to get in the way of productivity so I have been working solo lately.  I’ve had more success as an independent artist that produces instrumental music than when I worked with all of those talented artists.  I learned how to get into the REAL music biz and  how to get REAL royalty checks.  I often get lots of questions from people about how I did what I did and I just want to give that knowledge out so we stop being starving artists.  There is money to be made in this industry and it isn’t coming from selling CDs. Let’s see how we can be a part of that money.

Hopefully this brief introduction will give you some insight as to what to expect from my totally awesome blog.