Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Walt Disney Company: Global Communications and Branding | Music Marketing - Gen-Y Rock Stars


Certain Songs #994: Low – “Words” | Medialoper

Album: I Could Live in Hope
Year: 1994

Often credited with helping to invent the sub-genre known as “slowcore,” a reaction to the noisy noisiness of grunge, Low had their sound dialed in from the very start of their debut album, I Could Live in Hope.

With Alan Sparhawk’s guitar tuned way down, John Nicols bass dominating the mix and Mimi Parker’s drums approximating someone walking down the street lost in thought, “Words” was a perfect way to introduce them to the world.

And while it might have seemed too much to have every song on I Could Live in Hope have only a single word as the title (and only two of those titles have words of more than one syllable), those titles helped contribute to the overall world-weary vibe of the record.

Also contributing: the spooky echoed vocals, especially as Sparkhawk and Parker harmonized on the chorus.

And I can hear ‘eemmmmmmmmmmm
And I can hear ‘eemmmmmmmmmmm
And I can hear ‘eemmmmmmmmmmm
And I can hear ‘eemmmmmmmmmmm

And while you might expect those harmonies to be John-and-Exene dissonant, they were actually incredibly lovely, and revealed a sharp melodic sense, which of course is absolutely going to be needed when you’re eschewing any kind of flash in your music.

I didn’t find out about any of this for years: in 1994, I had very little interest in what I’d been told Low sounded like, and didn’t really have the opportunity to come across them accidentally, either. It wasn’t like they were being played on the radio. So I remained blissfully ignorant of their first decade’s worth of records until — well, actually, I’m still working through those records, not having listened to them until 2005’s The Great Destroyer.

In any event, all these years later, a song like “Words” resonates with me way more than it would have back then, especially the way it just unfolds, never even bothering to hurry for even a second, because hurrying would have been beside the point.


Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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Certain Songs #993: The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Do You Believe in Magic?” | Medialoper

Album: Do You Believe in Magic?
Year: 1965

Ah, folk rock. It was once such a thing that MTV dedicated the debut episode of a show called Rock Influences in 1984 to the genre, then thought to be undergoing a resurgence due to a little band from Athens, GA called R.E.M.

Whether or not R.E.M. were really folk rock is a thing we’ll get to when we get to R.E.M., of course, but for now, one of the highlights of that episode was an excerpt from a R.E.M. concert where they brought Lovin’ Spoonful singer-songwriter John Sebastian to do an incredibly awkward version of “Do You Believe in Magic?” Side note: he seemed so old compared to R.E.M. at the time, but of course he was 15 years younger than I am now.

“Do You Believe in Magic?” was the first of several smash singles by the dirtily-named The Lovin’ Spoonful, and even now, it’s almost preternaturally catchy, with its bouncy chord changes, perfectly-placed “ahhhhhhhhhhhh” backing vocals, and guitarist Zal Yanovsky’s hooky licks and low-down guitar solo.

And of course, lyrics about getting lost in the music.

And maybe, if the music is right
I’ll meet you tomorrow, sort of late at night
And we’ll go dancing, baby, then you’ll see
How the magic’s in the music and the music’s in me

As sung with an open-hearted smile by Sebastian, that last line doesn’t come across as a brag, but more like him matter-of-factly pointing out how connected he is with his muse and the music that comes from it.

A half-century later, a sentiment like believing in the magic of rock and roll probably seems trite and silly, but there is a purity to the performance that I think still can melt even the most cynical heart.

“Do You Believe In Magic?”

“Do You Believe in Magic” performed live in 1965

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page


Greg Kurstin launches JV with Sony/ATV, extends publishing deal | Music Business Worldwide

One of the most in-demand writers/producers in the world, Greg Kurstin, has launched a JV with Sony/ATV to sign songwriters and musicians.

The news comes as Kurstin extends his existing worldwide deal with the major publisher.

Kurstin won four honors at this year’s Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Record of the Year for his work with Adele and scoring a global No. 1 hit as the co-writer of Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”.

The first new signing to Kurstin and Sony/ATV’s JV is songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Wendy Wang.

Songwriter Jesse Shatkin, who was brought by Kurstin to Sony/ATV and has had hits with acts such as Sia (“Chandelier”, “Alive”), One Direction (“Perfect”) and Fall Out Boy (new single “Champion”), has moved across to the JV.

Sony/ATV Chairman and CEO Martin Bandier said: “Greg is simply the best at what he does. He is an incredible songwriter, a producer extraordinaire and has an amazing ability to discover and nurture new talent.

“I’m so proud to be associated with this great guy and can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.”

Martin Bandier, Sony/ATV

“I’m so proud to be associated with this great guy and can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.”

Sony/ATV Senior Vice President, Co-Head of West Coast A&R Amanda Berman-Hill said: “It has been such a great honor to have worked with Greg all these years because there is not a more humble, gracious and talented songwriter and producer in the industry.

“We now have the opportunity to develop songwriters and producers with him with the launch of our new joint venture, which is already off to a great start with Jesse Shatkin and Wendy Wang. We are so excited about what the future holds.”

Greg Kurstin said: “I have had a long and great relationship with the Sony/ATV team who have always been incredible supporters of my career. I have no doubt that they will give the same kind of backing to the songwriters and producers signed to the JV as they have given me.”

His manager Rachel Kurstin, of No Expectations, said: “Working alongside our team at Sony/ATV has been hugely rewarding and we have achieved so much already. So I cannot think of a better partner for this new joint venture, which I am confident will uncover many great new songwriters and producers.”


Having initially experienced success as a recording artist, firstly with the band Geggy Tah and then alongside singer Inara George as the duo The Bird and the Bee, Kurstin achieved his first notable breakthrough as a songwriter/producer for other acts with Lily Allen, beginning with her 2006 debut Alright, Still.

He co-wrote Allen’s 2009 follow-up It’s Not Me, It’s You, which topped the U.K. chart and included the No. 1 single “The Fear”. The project won the pair three Ivor Novello awards, including Songwriters of the Year.

Kurstin and Allen both collaborated with Pink on the hit “True Love” from Pink’s Grammy-nominated 2012 album The Truth About Love. It was one of several contributions by Kurstin to the album, the most successful being the transatlantic top five hit “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”.

Among the many other artists who have recorded his songs are Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson (including the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 and Grammy-nominated “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”), Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding (including the U.K. No. 1 single “Burn”), Lykke Li, Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani and Tegan & Sara.

He also works regularly with songwriter and producer Jesse Shatkin, including on projects for artists such as Sia. Shatkin, who was brought to Sony/ATV by Kurstin, will be part of the new JV.

Kurstin contributed to Kendrick Lamar’s album DAMN and Halsey’s hopeless fountain kingdom, which both debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. this year, has worked with former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher on his forthcoming debut solo album As You Were, including co-writing and producing the hit single “Wall Of Glass”, and has spent much of 2017 producing the new Foo Fighters album Concrete and Gold. He is also the main collaborator on Beck’s forthcoming album.

[Pictured, left to right, in the photo are Sony/ATV Senior Vice President, Co-Head of West Coast A&R Amanda Berman-Hill, Greg Kurstin and Greg’s manager Rachel Kurstin.]Music Business Worldwide


More Mighty | Lefsetz Letter


It works!

Now I grew up in the dark ages. When music ruled the world, our idea of tech was a component stereo and nobody I knew applied to business school.

So today I drove today to Culver City to the Mighty offices. Well, “office,” in a loft above another startup, in the Helms Bakery area. If you had told me back in the seventies that one day Culver City would be hip, I’d have laughed, after I went to see a movie in Westwood, after watching tumbleweeds roll down the Third Street Promenade. And those locations might mean nothing to you, but the truth is all the action is happening in the cities, which is why the younger generation is here. San Francisco, Brooklyn, Los Angeles?

Well, Mighty has a CTO up north, but the business is based down here. And you might say you can be anywhere these days, and I’d agree with you, but only halfway. The truth is life is about people, and despite video-conferencing and all the modern communications techniques, there’s nothing like up close and personal.

So Anthony Mendelson, the majordomo of Mighty, is 33, he got his MBA at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, as did his compatriot, the other Anthony, Pu, and new hire Lachelle.

It’s always about your network. Just ask a musician. Know nobody and you’re nowhere.

So everybody had history. Anthony #1 worked at Google in ad tech. Where he met Rich. Lachelle worked at Unilever before business school. They all paid their dues. Which is quite a contrast to today’s music business where pre-teens without portfolio believe they should be household names overnight. And even if you break through, like Rebecca Black, with “Friday,” you’re usually thrown on the scrapheap shortly thereafter.

You see all the smart people are not in music. Where some baby boomer runs the label and you do the grunt work. Where there’s adherence to old paradigms, where radio rules. Just ask a label head, they pray at the altar of over-the-air, it’s insane.

So, where do the smart people go?


And smart people are taking over the world. Doesn’t matter if Trump is President, if he’s elected by his lauded “uneducated,” you can’t mess with someone who’s gone to school and learned how to analyze, how to put the pieces together, which is the key these days, since you can look up all the facts online.

So, all the creativity is in tech. Which the musicians hate. As they replicate old, tired sounds and expect us to be interested.

So Anthony Mendelson had an idea. He got a team and raised some money and went on Kickstarter, where he asked for 300k and got nearly a million.

And that’s when the hard part started. Not only did they have to design and manufacture the product, they had to make a deal with Spotify!

That’s right, they broke the rules, something that’s anathema in today’s music business. They raised capital and sold the product on air.

They needed Spotify to say yes.

That took a long time. Negotiating.

And when the streaming giant put its thumb up, there were issues. Of compatibility between Spotify’s software and Mighty’s, which is why you cannot shuffle quite yet, although it’s coming along quickly.

As for voice control…

That’s in version 2, about a year off. Yup, the new product sells at the old price and the old product’s price is dropped, just like Apple.

Anyway, the clock is running. Kickstarter was back in 2/16. The product didn’t launch until 7/17, but the team said they’d give the cash back if they couldn’t launch.

Now you’d say iPods are history. You can use your Apple Watch. But a Mighty is much cheaper, at $85.99. And how did they come to that price? There’s a calculator you use. Why are these people so smart and everybody in the arts so dumb? It’d be one thing if the artists were just that, but scratch one and you’ll find they want to sell clothing, perfume, concentrate on everything but their own work, while the truth is these educated youngsters can run circles around them.

And the stunning thing is set-up was seamless. You download the app, go through the prompts, and voila!, it works, right out of the box. It’s glitchless, although the transfer of songs from Spotify is slow, and if you crank the music up to the max you’ll get some distortion, but…

We keep hearing about the downtrodden. People say they hate school. And I don’t want to sound like a Republican here, I believe in a safety net, maybe even a universal income, but if you want to have cash to buy these goodies, you’ve got to climb the ladder.

So, let that be a warning to you.

Now, back to the product.

You go through the prompts, and then you can synch playlists. You can’t shuffle the songs in those playlists, not yet, but you push a button and a voice comes on to tell you you’ve switched to the next playlist, its name is spoken.

And the rest is…intuitive. Forward and backward buttons, up and down volume buttons, and a pause/play button at the center.

And one other thing, it takes a while to power up. But for a 1.0 product, it’s pretty impressive.

But not as impressive as the team.

So, if you don’t want to carry your phone around. If you want to jog or ski or hike or… The Mighty is tiny and water resistant, and the next iteration will be waterproof, and on one hand you say the product is redundant, but the truth is your phone now costs a grand, is heavy and a specialized accessory…

Might be just the trick.

Check it out.

P.S. You don’t have to use Bluetooth headphones, although I can’t see why you wouldn’t. And the headphone jack is how you charge the Mighty, via a USB port.

P.S. Here’s the team:

The Mighty Team

P.P.S. And here’s the Crunchbase:

Crunchbase – Mighty Audio

That’s right, millennials are all about transparency, and when they take over the music business it will be to everybody’s advantage.

P.P.P.S. Next step is a series A, the initial round was from angel investors. That’s right, these people know how to do this, they learned this in school. And I’m not sure a school can teach you how to be an artist, I actually think schools can drum the inspiration out of you, but when it comes to business…

P.P.P.P.S. I just got this note from Anthony Mendelson:

“I’m glad that you’re up and running!

Re: audio quality, Mighty’s codec is similar to what you’d find in current iPhones. We allow users to adjust Spotify audio quality by navigating to the Connections tab (bottom left), clicking the Spotify logo at the top of the screen, then clicking Download Quality. High and Extreme sound better but reduce battery life. Users also want the ability to adjust EQ settings – we’re working on that right now.

Our next big software update will include shuffle mode and the ability for Mighty to wake itself up and update your playlists overnight, no manual effort required. Want to chat again before we make that release?

Thanks again for stopping by.”


Broadchurch | Lefsetz Letter

Everyone just wants to talk television. Everywhere I go. They used to ask if you’d heard this or that, records and artists were top of mind, now we all just want to sit in front of the big screen.

And not go to the theatre.

I’d love to see Darren Aronofsky’s new pic. But if you think I’m gonna make an appointment you’re still watching Must See TV, now that Don Ohlmeyer is dead and Seinfeld is on Netflix. Things change. And whereas the sixties and seventies (maybe even the eighties!) were about music, the twenty first century is positively about television.

“The Sopranos” was the Beatles. And like that band, they can never get back together, because Tony/James Gandolfini, is dead. You think you want Led Zeppelin to get back together, but you really don’t. Oh, the kids will enjoy it, before they go back to their hip-hop, and the out of it oldsters who weren’t there the first time will go to crow and get a notch in their belt, but fans will be disappointed, because you can’t go back, you can never go back, you can’t marry your high school sweetheart after reconnecting on Facebook and you can’t run the mile like you used to and if you think you can, you’re delusional.

So we forage for things to watch.

Now I don’t sit in front of the screen much. Because we’re all time-challenged. The idea of flipping from channel to channel is anathema, and I don’t want to waste any precious moments, but if there’s something worth seeing…

It’s like going to the movies in the seventies.

Only in this case, the critics are irrelevant. Unless they’re aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes. How often have I opened the paper to find the latest Netflix show denigrated and then watched it and enjoyed it? But usually, it’s word of mouth.

You know the biggest word of mouth show?

“Black Mirror,” but I can’t say I loved the episode I watched. I’m planning to give it another try. When I finally finish “Breaking Bad,” now that I’ve caught up with “Broadchurch.”

That’s right, I didn’t catch “Breaking Bad” the first time through. Sling arrows all you want, but no one’s seen everything, even though there are many fewer shows than records.

But after “Broadchurch” I watched a Netflix show I highly recommend, this documentary “Heroin(e),” about the opioid crisis. Three women in West Virginia trying to make a difference. You’ll wonder about your life choice, chasing the buck, first and foremost it’s about meaning. And when you do your best to help other people, you’re fulfilled.

Now why is it that English shows are always better than American ones? With exceptions, of course, like the aforementioned “Sopranos.” Is it because everyone doesn’t have to be beautiful, because the productions are not over the top, because the stories are real?

All of that and more.

“Broadchurch” is a genre show. I.e. murder and trial. But it’s well-nuanced. And it’s ITV, not BBC, so there are fade-outs for commercials. But you watch it and you get hooked.

I want to be hooked. I want to go down the rabbit hole. I want to be taken away from this everyday life, the endless pings on my iPhone, I ironically want to live life by experiencing it through others.

Now my sister recommended this show. And when I started to mention it, after viewing a few episodes, I was stunned who had seen it. It’s like music in the sixties and early seventies, an alternative universe that gets little publicity, but drives the culture. Sure, you might see a review, but then it disappears.

And I prefer Netflix and Amazon. Because I don’t want to tune in every night to see Ken Burns’s documentary on Vietnam, I don’t want to even DVR it, I just want to dive in and go on a ride, episode after episode. Why has Hollywood got it so wrong? Dribbling out product. Refusing to make films day and date online. The record business learned, if you try and protect profits, play to the usual suspects, you’re dead. Labels played to Tower Records and then the chain went under. They played to radio and then Spotify broke records. No one I know goes to the movies, other than my mother and her aged cronies, who became addicted back in the thirties. You make your impact online, via streaming. And when your product finally comes to TV… HBO premiered “La La Land,” I’m not even gonna bother, that’s so last year.

Now the star of the second season of “Broadchurch” is Charlotte Rampling, yes the sexy ingenue I saw at a midnight screening of “The Night Porter” in Westwood. She’s on a comeback tear. And she’s had no plastic surgery.

And she’s more beautiful for it.

American actresses get nipped and tucked to appear young, to get gigs, and we can’t help but look at them and point out the deficiencies. Plastic surgery is a crapshoot, and the odds of winning are about those in Vegas, i.e. not good. But Rampling looks her age and has gravitas, she’s lived a life, she’s not chasing a dream, SHE’S LIVING THE DREAM!

Now on one hand I hate these whodunits. Because you’re hooked and there’s a twist.

But it’s life in the Dorset area that is so riveting. A small town in the U.K. where everybody knows each other and everybody is imperfect and the attorney wants a shag and the barristers, even women, wear wigs and…

Police don’t normally work to music. And the law is boring.

But life is fascinating.

Art, when done right, reflects life, it gives us insight into the human condition.

How can TV get it so right and music get it so wrong?


Yoga Pants | Lefsetz Letter

I get it.

I read about a year ago that yoga pants were eclipsing jeans, that’s what “Bloomberg Businessweek” said, and they rarely get it wrong.

This was confusing. Wasn’t Lululemon on the verge of bankruptcy, having made clothing that was too sheer, where you could see women’s derrieres?

Although I always found stretchy material to be somewhat see-through, undies visible, but I didn’t think too much about it. I mean the pants were on the market for months, it took that long for people to figure out there was a problem?

I’m a jeans and polo shirt kind of guy. That was a big breakthrough in high school, the ability to wear jeans to class. But back then we called them “dungarees.” And by time I was a senior you could learn sans socks. But jeans were our uniform. I preferred Lee, never Wrangler, sometimes Levi’s.

And then the designer jean tsunami hit and lifted all boats. I bought pairs of Chemin de Fers, never Sasson, but definitely Guess. Jeans were forever…

Until yoga pants.

Now let me tell you, we men have no problem with yoga pants. Once we figured out what they were. The way they hugged your curves. But I don’t pay attention to fashion, I read about yoga pants before I could pick them out in the wild. And then I had Felice point them out to me, nice, but I didn’t care.

Until we went to Lululemon.

They opened a store in Vail, right across the street from the condo. Felice wanted to visit, I tagged along. I didn’t even KNOW they made men’s stuff, but waiting while Felice shopped I tried stuff on.

And decided to buy a pair of shorts.

It was a whim, something you do on vacation. I could wear them in Vail, nobody would notice, there’d be no cred at risk.

But now I wear them all the time.

That was my first pair, which the cleaning lady burned with an iron. Melted, that is. And she was apologetic, but there was no point in excoriating her, I’d just buy another pair.

But you couldn’t get them.

I thought this was a fashion issue, whatever you like they stop manufacturing, but they were out of stock!

Now the model I wear is just above the knee. But they didn’t even have the short-shorts available. That’s right, this year in Vail the store was wiped clean. But the clerk was a maven, he was going to open a store in Oklahoma in days. He checked inventory. They had one color in Santa Monica, a few online. And I meant to buy them immediately…

But I didn’t.

And Santa Monica was wiped out and they had one color available online so I clicked.

And now I can’t take them off. BECAUSE THEY’RE SO COMFORTABLE!

I know, I know, you’re supposed to look good, that’s what it’s all about, especially in Los Angeles. But first and foremost you’ve got to FEEL good, at least I do.

The material is soft and stretchy, it doesn’t irritate my skin. Since I’ve gotten my new pair I’ve worn them every day, for weeks. (Of course I wash them, don’t even think otherwise.) And I regret when I have to wear long pants, and am thinking that maybe I should buy some long pant Lululemons (no, the men’s are not hip-hugging).

So either you’re in the know or you’re not. Either you get what I’m talking about or you don’t.

Once upon a time you had to dress in black, that was the rock and roll ethos. Before rock died and everybody listened to different music and didn’t care about what you were wearing. The older you get you realize no one is really paying attention to you, unless you’re famous, and I’m not, and if you are they love you until they hate you and then you’re nobody and irrelevant once again.

So I guess you’d call this a sales pitch.

But it’s really a testimonial.

Lululemon is not cheap.

But like divorce, IT’S WORTH IT!

The Works Short – WARPSTREAM 11″