Pandora Looks to Mend Broken Relationship

Pandora CEO, Brian McAndrews

Pandora CEO, Brian McAndrews

Aaron M. Kessler and Brian X. Chen from the New York Times note that when Pandora’s current CEO, Brian McAndrews, was hired two years ago, he didn’t realize how many of the company’s employees were musicians. In fact, the Pandora holiday party is delayed until January as so many workers are busy playing holiday gigs themselves. McAndrews takes pride in this fact and believes that this is indicative that Pandora, as a company, truly does have the best interest of the industry and the musicians in mind.
However, Kessler and Chen point out that the music industry have largely been frustrated with Pandora, which was founded and 2005 and quickly rose to a position of dominance in internet radio as it boasts more than 80 million people streaming every month. Desmond Child, who co-wrote Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” notes that over the last 3 months the song has been played more than 6 million times on Pandora, yet he has earned just $100 in royalties. Child believes that the songwriters and the publishers often get the short end of the stick when it comes to music streaming.
McAndrews and his team are dedicated, however, to mending this relationship with music industry persons, and has gone as far as establishing a special division within the company to work one-on-one with artist managers, and labels. Additionally, Kessler and Chen report that Pandora has made its enormous data banks available, and has started to experiment with artist promotions. Just last month, Jack White and Pandora teamed up to stream a live concert from MSG. The company reported that these efforts reached nearly 200,00 people in just a few days.
In the fall of 2014, Pandora rolled out the Artist Marketing Platform. This service allows artists to look at their own data and determine which of their songs is most popular in a certain location at no cost. According to the company’s chief marketing operator Simon Fleming-Wood, Pandora hopes to establish itself as a vital part of the future of the music industry. Shareholders and company executives surely hope their efforts prove successful as Pandora’s stock is down more than 50% since its zenith in 2014.

Country Music and Its Stars of Past

When asking people what kind of music they like, a common response is “everything but country.” However, country music is, in many ways, at the heart of Americana culture, storytelling, and way of life. Admittedly, the emergence of country/pop has severely cheapened the genre’s credibility in recent years, but let’s not forget about some of the greats who wrote the beautiful melodies and heartfelt lyrics that country music ought to be remembered for.

Country singer legend, Hank Williams

Country singer legend, Hank Williams

Hank Williams. It’s impossible to talk about country music without mentioning Hank Williams. Hailing from Mount Olive, Alabama, Hank was born in 1923, and began his career in music in 1937. Notorious for his struggle with both alcoholism and his love life, Hank set the thematic tone for country music, singing earnestly about his grief. With such hits as Your Cheating Heart, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, Hey, Good Lookin’,and Lost Highway, Hank’s career is highly regarded among musicians and fans alike. Though he died at the tender age of 30, Hank Williams made the top ten charts 35 times, 11 of which his songs ranked number one.

Johnny Cash. Perhaps the most talked about country artist of all time, Johnny Cash is held in high esteem by even the most vehement country detractors. Johnny Cash was born in 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas. Famous for the modest way he introduced himself on stage, dressing in black, and of course, his iconic baritone voice, he released such memorable hits as Folsom Prison Blues, Ring of Fire, and I Walk the Line. Johnny Cash had a long career, lasting until his death in 2003.

Willie Nelson. Willie Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas in 1933. After a brief songwriting career in Nashville, Willie returned to Texas to write and perform his own music in his home state. It was after his return to Texas that Willie reached eminent success, with the release of Always on my Mind in 1972, Shotgun Willie in 1973, Red Headed Stranger in 1975, and Stardust in 1978. Willie Nelson is regarded for bringing hippies and cowboys together in music, his affiliation with Texas, and his ardor for marijuana. At the ripe age of 81, Willie continues to record music and play live shows today.

To name a few others, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, John Prine, Hank Locklin, The Carter Family, Dolly Parton, Rita Coolidge, and Roger Miller are great contributors to the country genre.

Spotify’s Ascension, and the Future of Online Streaming Services

Spotify, in recent years, has become the face of the online music streaming business. Just last year, the company reported more than a billion dollars in revenue. However, like many tech company in the nascent stages of establishing their business models, they have yet to make a profit.

Spotify is trending positively though. The company increased revenue, and decreased losses from 2012 to 2013. At year end in 2013, the company had more than 900 employees. However, the founder of Spotify, Martin Lorentzon, has made recent statements that company has grown significantly since then, and will soon boast more than 2000 employees.

These numbers demonstrate the rise in popularity of streaming music online.

The future largely depends on the music industry’s attitude to online streaming, in general. It has proved to be quite a controversial topic, recently.  The company which was founded in Sweden six years ago is currently available in almost sixty markets worldwide.

Spotify co-founders, Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon

Spotify co-founders, Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon

The growth of online streaming has occurred as the use and sales of CD’s and downloads has decreased sharply. Services, such as spotify, may be the next primary source of revenue for the music industry.  The majority of people actually listen to Spotify for free. About eight million of the 36 million active users in 2013 were paid subscribers. However, these subscriptions account for the vast majority of the company’s revenue. 91 percent comes from sales, and only 9 percent come from advertising.

The seemingly low payout from the free online service has engendered significant criticism from prominent music industry figures. Taylor Swift, decided to pull her new album, 1989, from the Spotify this past month after a minor feud. Swift and her representatives only wanted paid subscribers to have access to her new album. Spotify did not acquiesce, and Swift promptly removed her music.   Spotify reacted to the criticism explaining that the company has paid out more than $2 billion in royalties since the company was created in 2008.  Almost a quarter of Spotify’s revenue eventually goes to music publishers and record companies.

The music industry’s frustration will probably continue for the foreseeable future.  With the growth of online streaming, competitors to Spotify such as Rhapsody, Rdio, and Google Play Music have also gained traction. Youtube recently announced a paid subscription for music, and Apple is expected to enter the market soon. Spotify, however, is still the key player in the industry. There are some talks of an IPO, but company representatives refused to comment on their future plans. Spotify was valued at around $4 billion last year.

 

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Greatest Movie Scores of All-time

Whilst watching a movie, people rarely consider the significance of the music behind the picture. Given some thought, the first kiss in a romantic movie would seem less spectacular somehow without a dynamic musical accompaniment behind it, a chase scene less engrossing without staccato orchestra instrumentation and driving percussion beating in time with the footsteps, and a sensual moment less arousing without a delicate melody playing in the background. And think about how a change of music could completely change the mood of a scene. A martial arts fight scene is a riveting moment in any picture, but played over John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” it takes on a sardonic tone of humor.  Below are a few movies whose accompanying scores top the list as some of the greatest of all time.

  1. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – Ennio Morricone had the greatest influence of all in shaping the spaghetti western sound. “Whooo – Haaas” in foreboding succession, the snap of a whip at a dynamic high, a whistle track thrown in the middle of a sad ballad, and practically
    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly had one of the most influential scores in the history of the movie industry.

    Morricone’s score in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was one of the most influential in the history of the movie industry.

    every other cliche we associate with western movie music derives from the compositions of Morricone. His score for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is perhaps his most famous, complimenting wide panoramic shots of beauteous desert with gentle, drawn out orchestral ballads and cowboy style stand offs with quarter notes against a cowhide drum and call-and-response melody between pan flute and vocals, whistling, and instrumentation in turn define the mood of their respective scenes.

  2. The Pink Panther – Everybody knows the tune from The Pink Panther, even those who haven’t seen the movie. Henry Mancini’s sexy, jazzy, finger snapping melody fits in perfectly with the story of a French detective on the hunt for a pink panther.
  3. James Bond, Dr. No – Without question, the James Bond theme is one of the most memorable pieces of film score ever beheld. Monty Norman and John Barry’s theme not only set the standard for James Bond movies to come, but for action movies on the whole as well.
  4. Halloween – John Carpenter’s theme in Halloween is chilling and terrifying, suggesting the fear of impending doom to a tee. The intervaled meter change and haunting key shift inspire the feeling that something isn’t quite right, and that something could be nothing other than Michael Myers around the corner.
  5. Star Wars – How could Star Wars not be mentioned? Triumphant, terrifying, and graceful to compliment the varied themes of the movies, John Williams’ score for Star Wars could almost tell the story without the picture.

Chicago’s Most Influential Artists and Bands

Here’s a list of the best musical acts to come out of the city of Chicago

Smashing Pumpkins: Smashing Pumpkins usurped the role of the world’s leading alternative rock band from Nirvana in the mid 1990’s. They consistently had success during this decade culminating in 1995 when they released the album, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”   This album boasted four hit singles and garnered widespread acclaim.

Bo Diddley: Some people can make the convincing argument that Bo Diddley was, in fact, the inventor of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire: The accolades this group has received over their illustrious musical career can speak for themselves. Earth, Wind & Fire has won an amazing six grammy’s, and has sold around 100 million albums. As no-brainer inductees to the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame, they represent one of the best groups in the history of the American music scene.

Chicago: If you’re compiling a ranking of Chicago’s greatest musical acts, you have to be inclined to include the band that shares the metropolis’s name. Chicago was one of the premier rock bands in the 1970’s. They transitioned to soft-rock later, but were still giants in the industry. They have sold almost 40 million units, and boast more than 20 top-ten singles.

Kanye West: Although he might be a controversial figure, no one can argue the fact that he has immensely impacted the path of hip-hop, and the music industry in general, since his first album release a decade ago.

Wilco: Wilco has been a mark of consistency since their initial founding back in 1994. Although their lineup has changed over the last decade, they are pumping out a good album every few years.  That’s why they belong on the list.

R Kelly: With amazing vocals, R Kelly represents the connection between the current state of Hip-Hop and the old school do-wop crowd. He has sold more than fifty million albums, and with songs like Ignition (Remix), The World’s Greatest, and I Believe I Can Fly, he truly belongs on this list.

Twista: A founding father of the Chicago hip-hop scene, Twista has to be included in the discussion about the most important artists in the recent history of the city. Plus, Guinness World Records officially recognized Twista as the fastest rapper on the planet in 1992. This fun fact, in addition to his extensive influence on the entire hip-hop industry, lands him on the list.

Apple’s $100 Million U2 Blunder

iTunes users are seemingly an ungrateful bunch. After Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announced that the U2’s newest album, and first since 2009, Songs of Innocence would be automatically uploaded to everyone’s iTunes, people quickly took to twitter and other social media outlets to complain about the unwanted album.  Apple, hoping they’d make a splash, revealed the album at the conference at which they revealed their highly anticipated iPhone 6 and apple watch.  Although people seem excited for the release of these new products (especially the watch), the reaction to the U2 gifted album has been unexpectedly negative.

This reaction is even more troubling for Apple when you consider that they paid U2 a reported $100 million plus royalties for the right to release the album in such a fashion. For the most recent fiscal quarter, Apple registered a net profit of almost $8 billion and a revenue of more than$37 billion.  While a $100 million is certainly a large chunk of change, it’s relatively marginal in the eyes of this tech giant.

U2 and Tim Cook celebrate their partnership

U2 and Tim Cook celebrate their partnership

Apple will most likely roll out a marketing campaign pairing the U2 album with featured apple products such as the new iPhone and watch. However, the company may be rethinking this strategy due to the unexpected backlash from the automatic upload of the forty-eight minute album featuring 11 original songs.  In fact, Apple, in a move to appease upset customers, created a website and plugin to help users remove the album from their iTunes.

The unpopularity of this move may be surprising to some, but the zenith of U2’s fame is far behind them.  Some young users reportedly had never even heard of the band. Apple can take a few lessons from this gaffe. First, don’t let the veteran apple executives decide what’s “cool” for their younger customers, and additionally that they probably do not need to spend quite that much money on this type of move even if won’t drastically affect their profit margins. Personally, I, Carl Koenemann, have no problem with U2, and actually enjoy much of their older music. And as a finance professional, I can’t knock a free product.


Thanks for reading. Please free feel to read, share, and discuss more of Carl Koenemann’s blogs about music, finance, and healthy lifestyle choices.

Best Live Music Venues – Chicago

I’ve always had a love for live music. Dating back to my earlier days of competing in Battle of the Bands throughout high school, performing is something that has interested me for a long time.

Over the years, I’ve found some fantastic music venues throughout the city of Chicago. These venues differ in terms of the acts performed as well as the overall feel of the venue itself.

Here is a breakdown of some of the best music venues throughout Chicago. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Metro

Metro is one of those music venues that has an aura about it. Located right around the corner from Wrigley Field, musical legends seem to always find their way to the Metro stage. Performers such as Nirvana, James Brown, Prince and Bob Dylan have all performed within the walls of the Metro. While the venue has been opened for 32 years, it feels as though it has been around since the very beginning.

Smart Bar

Located directly underneath the Metro, Smart Bar has a drastically different feel from its historic neighbor. This club features some of the best electronic music in Chicago and has quite a venue to go along with it. Performers such as Paul Oakenfold, Trent Reznor, Frankie Knuckles and Richie Hawtin have placed some of the best disco, house and funk music to come through the area.

The Hideout is a small music venue that fits the indie scene perfectly.

The Hideout is a small music venue that fits the indie scene perfectly.

The Hideout

For the indie music scene, make sure you check out The Hideout. The venue itself screams indie music (it holds less than 200 people) but attracts huge headliners (The White Stripes and Wilco are just a couple).

The Mid

A newcomer to the music scene, The Mid has been opened since 2010. This downtown club has brought in a young crowd since the very first day to its affinity for electronic music. With headliners such as Afrojack, Skrillex, Avicii, James Murphy, Knife Party and Green Velvet, The Mid has attracted some of the best in the industry.

Lincoln Hall

One of the cleanest and well-lit clubs in the city, Lincoln Hall is one of the classiest night clubs you will ever step into. It has hosted bands such as Mumford & Sons and M83.

Empty Bottle

One of the oddest venues I’ve walked into is the Empty Bottle. With a photo booth and a pinball machine in the front, you have to make your way to the back of  the place in order to find superstars on stage. For over 20 years the Empty Bottle has supplied Chicago with some of the best indie bands around.

Double Door

This place has two doors – enough said. Just kidding. Double Door is a rock venue that is located in Wicker Park and hosts a bunch of headliners — although you’d never know it. Artists such as the Rolling Stones and the Smashing Pumpkins have performed at the Double Door, but both of their shows went unannounced.

Buddy Guy's Legends is the best blues venue in the city... and it has some fantastic Cajun food to go with it.

Buddy Guy’s Legends is the best blues venue in the city… and it has some fantastic Cajun food to go with it.

Buddy Guy’s Legends

As the name entails, this blues venue has hosted LEGENDS. Opened by Buddy Guy in 1989, artists such as Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Lou Rawls, BB King and Stevie Ray Vaughan have all made an appearance. This has some of the best music memorabilia in the city  – and has a fantastic Cajun menu.

Reggies

Located close to Buddy Guy’s Legends, this venue is drastically different – particularly for the music. Reggies has hosted punk, metal and hip-hop events. Many up-and-coming artists in the area break their way into the mainstream through performances at Reggies.

Schubas

The Schuba brothers (Mike and Chris) own a couple of clubs throughout the Chicago area. The setting for the Schubas is always upscale and intimate. After opening in 1989, the Schuba has a rich history in Chicago live music. One of Dave Matthews Band’s first shows was hosted at this venue.

Why You Should Play An Instrument

There are numerous benefits to playing an instrument. The most notable: you’ll have fun while doing it. However, listening and playing music has shown that it can do more than just produce fun. I’ll break down ways that learning a musical instrument can improve your life.

Increased memory capacity

Learning how to play an instrument can drastically improve your memory capacity. It stimulates your brain – whether playing or simply listening. A study conducted by the Brain Connection showed that preschoolers who had weekly keyboard lessons improve their spatial-temporal skills 34% more than those without such lessons. And these effects lasted long-term as well.

The Telegraph, an online magazine, stated that instruments can help shape and power the brain, improving cognitive skills.

By playing an instrument, you are using the parts of your brain associated with motor skills, storing audio info, memory and hearing.

Improve your teamwork

Throughout your life, you will run into scenarios where teamwork is a necessity. Improving these skills early in life is important, as you will run into a variety of teamwork situations throughout your educational career.

When thinking about teamwork, most strictly associate it with athletics. However, playing in a band is a great way to gain experience in a team environment. Working with others to make music teaches you to how cooperating, interact and learn from a variety of people. Also, doing things such as improvising allows you to work closely off of other people’s musical talents. You need to listen to others and learn how to incorporate your sound with theirs.

Improve your mathematics

Counting notes, keeping a rhythm and learning musical theory can dramatically improve your math skills. There have been many studies that show students playing instruments are statistically superior in math to those who do not.

Perseverance

Learning how to play an instrument is a constant struggle. Playing an instrument is a talent that rarely comes naturally; instead, you must work at it constantly. Adding perseverance to your personality is something that will constantly benefit you in life. There will be multiple times that you have to go through even the simplest of pieces before you have perfected them. Once you move on to more advanced songs, artists begin breaking songs down into different sections before putting all the pieces together.

Comprehension skills

Music involves constant reading and comprehension – it’s similar to learning a new language. As a result, your comprehension skills will improve drastically after playing music for only a short amount of time. Turning a written note into something you are playing on an instrument is more complicated than most think.

Self-expression and stress relief

Playing a musical instrument allows you to improvise and constantly try new techniques. When improvising, the notes that you play are an expression of your own thoughts and feelings. It’s creating a piece of art.

However, music can also be used to relieve stress. If you’re having a bad day, get on the drums and beat the heck out of them. It’s a great form of therapy that will help you express yourself and feel relaxed afterwards.

Give yourself a sense of achievement

Mastering a track can be a goal for you to overcome. Presenting yourself with challenges will always give you the opportunity to get a sense of achievement. Creating beautiful music that other people want to hear – now that is truly an accomplishment.