Bloomberg - That’s Business, Man: Why Jay Z’s Tidal Is a Complete Disaster 5-15min

So what is Jay Z thinking? He turned 45 in December. The onetime street hustler is now a husband and a father and hobnobs with world leaders such as President Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France. Some say he has grander ambitions in middle age. “He’d like to be a billionaire,” says Rob Stone, co-founder of the Fader, a magazine that extensively covers the rap world. “He’s talked openly about that. But I think in his mind, it’s no longer just about how much money he’s making. It’s about his legacy and what the name Shawn Carter will mean after he’s gone.” He wants to save the music industry from the brutal economics of streaming—and make himself a fortune in the process. So far he’s doing neither. ... For Jay Z the entrepreneur, the challenge was plain: Find a way to capitalize on the technology industry’s takeover of the music business beyond being a high-priced shill. ... The losses didn’t frighten Jay Z. He offered a 60 percent premium over Aspiro’s market value, according to a filing, and repositioned it as an artist-friendly alternative to Spotify that would pay higher royalties to record labels and artists. ... You can still listen to the catalogs of virtually every Tidal owner on Spotify. ... It’s too early to write off Tidal. But if the company does fail, it may be because Jay Z didn’t anticipate the skeptical response to his claim that he was working for some greater good of all musicians.

The New Yorker - The Man Who Broke the Music Business: The dawn of online piracy. 5-15min

In the fall of 1996, Hughes Network Systems introduced the country’s first consumer-grade broadband satellite Internet access. Glover and Dockery signed up immediately. The service offered download speeds of up to four hundred kilobits per second, seven times that of even the best dial-up modem. ... he could share files. Online, pirated media files were known as “warez,” from “software,” and were distributed through a subculture dating back to at least 1980, which called itself the Warez Scene. The Scene was organized in loosely affiliated digital crews, which raced one another to be the first to put new material on the IRC channel. Software was often available on the same day that it was officially released. Sometimes it was even possible, by hacking company servers, or through an employee, to pirate a piece of software before it was available in stores. The ability to regularly source pre-release leaks earned one the ultimate accolade in digital piracy: to be among the “elite.” ... In 1996, a Scene member with the screen name NetFraCk started a new crew, the world’s first MP3 piracy group: Compress ’Da Audio, or CDA, which used the newly available MP3 standard, a format that could shrink music files by more than ninety per cent. On August 10, 1996, CDA released to IRC the Scene’s first “officially” pirated MP3: “Until It Sleeps,” by Metallica. Within weeks, there were numerous rival crews and thousands of pirated songs. ... At work, Glover manufactured CDs for mass consumption. At home, he had spent more than two thousand dollars on burners and other hardware to produce them individually. His livelihood depended on continued demand for the product. But Glover had to wonder: if the MP3 could reproduce Tupac at one-eleventh the bandwidth, and if Tupac could then be distributed, free, on the Internet, what the hell was the point of a compact disk?

Boston - Blowhards 5-15min

On the road, down the bottle, and across the border with Boston’s greatest competitive bagpipe band. ... the average Bostonian is most likely to associate bagpipes with parades, funerals, and the Dropkick Murphys. There is, however, an insular group of competitive pipers who can harness the sharp, searing cacophony of the instrument—part atonal yawp, part skull-splitting drone—and make it sing. Those graced with such virtuosic skills are rarely the ones performing at your neighborhood bar on St. Patrick’s Day or marching down Main Street on the Fourth of July. To hear their talents, you need to head to far-flung Scottish festivals and Highland Games, where bands battle one another for international supremacy. ... while they may be insane, they’re not crazy in the manner of Sonny Barger or Tommy Lee. Instead, their brand of lunacy is a rabid fanaticism for an instrument rooted in medieval warfare. Each competitor on this bus has devoted an ungodly amount of time, patience, and dollars to one of history’s most misunderstood musical pursuits. For the love of the ancient craft, they don wool kilts and knee-high knit “hose” in the dog days of summer, marching through open fields and baking in the sun. Band members include wunderkind teenagers who attend bagpiping summer camp, drum freaks who spend hours debating color schemes of snare shells, and professionals from every rung of the career ladder, who burn through a year’s worth of vacation days when competition season arrives. ... the World Pipe Band Championships, an annual event that attracted 30,000 spectators last year and was streamed live to U.K. audiences on the BBC.

GQ - Make it Reign: How an Atlanta Strip Club Runs the Music Industry 5-15min

The music you hear in Magic City isn't the music you might expect at a strip club. Magic City Mondays are the most important nights in the most important club in the most important city in the hip-hop industry. Magic City is the place where you hear music before anyone else does, and where it is decided if that music gets played anywhere else. ... Occasionally, City Dollars threw some singles at the naked woman standing in front of us, the way an old man might absentmindedly feed some ducks the crust of his sandwich. ... On the bigger nights at Magic City, you can find Magic patrolling the room in a taupe suit, parting the clouds of hookah smoke with a wineglass in his fist. His trim hair going gray, his lantern jaw set. He played football on scholarship at Duke and at age 60 still has the bearing of a man who knows he's physically more powerful than other people. He is called Big Mag, pronounced "big maj" (Lil Magic is his son), and he is an elder statesman of the street. Atlanta is balkanized—you might not be welcome in Bankhead if you're not from there. But as the proprietor of Magic City, as a man who has, in his parlance, been running around in the streets for thirty years, it's different for Magic. He can pass safely into any zone he likes; he can talk to almost anyone like family. ... If hip-hop were Silicon Valley, Magic City would be the place venture capitalists would loiter, looking for talent.

Bloomberg - China VCs Are Going Crazy for Girl Groups < 5min

Modeled after the wildly popular Japanese group AKB48, Wang’s three-year-old Chinese version similarly auditions young women from across the country, trains them intensively in singing, dancing, and show-hosting for four months, then puts them onstage to perform choreographed routines in live concerts. The regimen—long rehearsals, exercise, and dormitory curfews—seems more akin to the military than to the MTV life. “To make their dreams come true, they need sweat and perseverance,” Wang says. “Most Chinese girls, because the economy is developed and the quality of life is high, lack discipline.” ... During the most recent round of auditions in June, 48 applicants were selected out of 126,000, says Tao Ying, Star48’s chief executive officer. (Applicants can be as old as 22; the youngest band member is 14.) ... Wu is one of the band’s 119 members, who are split into smaller teams, which are rotated in live performances at the band’s 340-seat Shanghai theater, for about seven shows a week. ... plans to start similar girl bands in 10 Chinese cities by 2018. ... Besides keeping up with the band through China’s popular WeChat messaging app and various microblog platforms, fans stay involved through voting for the group’s favorite songs and their favorite band members. That input affects the performer’s career and salary. The most popular ones earn as much as 50,000 yuan a month, and the newest recruits get about 4,000 yuan, Wang says. Fans also meet band members regularly in what Star48 calls “handshake gatherings,” where 10-second individual sessions with their favorite idol are earned after buying a certain number of the band’s songs.

GQ - Willie and the Weed Factory 5-15min

“I’ve bought a lot of pot in my life,” Willie Nelson tells me, “and now I’m selling it back.” ... Willie Nelson has this kind of answer—stock, pithy—for all kinds of questions, and he’s been using them for decades. Bring up his brief abortive stint at college studying business administration? Invariably he’ll soon say, “I majored in dominoes.” Mention the massive sum he owed the IRS in the early ’90s—somewhere between $17 million and $32 million—and you’ll get the one about how it isn’t so much “if you say it real fast.” ... As time passes, the world offers up new questions, and so sometimes new answers are required. Once he reached the age when people began asking about retirement, Nelson would reply that he doesn’t do anything but play music and golf: “I wouldn’t know what to quit.” And now that one of America’s stoner icons is going into the pot business and planning to launch his own proprietary brand called Willie’s Reserve, this bought-a-lot-of-pot-in-my-life line is already on instant replay and you can confidently expect to hear Nelson use it for the next few years, anytime the subject is raised in his vicinity. In fact when we first meet, on the tour bus where he likes to do interviews and live much of his life, less than ninety seconds pass before he deploys it.

Rolling Stone - The Endless Fall of Suge Knight 5-15min

He sold America on a West Coast gangster fantasy — and embodied it. Then the bills came due ... His exploits — some mythic, some real — during the heyday of Death Row Records have become part of hip-hop lore: In the early Nineties, he allegedly shook down Vanilla Ice into handing over publishing profits, walking the rapper out to a hotel-room balcony to show him how far his fall would be. ("I needed to wear a diaper that day," Ice said later.) In his memoir, former N.W.A manager Jerry Heller alleged that Knight and his cohorts, bearing baseball bats, intimidated Eazy-E into releasing Dre from his Ruthless Records contract. (The claims have never been substantiated.) Knight was sitting next to Tupac when he was gunned down in 1996 in Las Vegas; his participation in a fight on the night of the shooting would land him in prison for five years on a probation violation. ... As Knight's fortunes have crumbled, he's gotten closer to the streets, according to prosecutors. In a motion arguing for the high bail (which would later be reduced to $10 million), the L.A. District Attorney's office alleged a recent scheme by Knight to "tax" out-of-town rappers for as much as $30,000 just to work in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. ... former associates struggle to understand why such an undeniably talented businessman can't escape this kind of small-time drama and thuggery. ... Knight already has two prior violent felonies on his record: If any of his current charges stick, under California's Three Strikes law, he could be going to jail for the rest of his life.

Miami New Times - DJ Khaled's Journey of Success Started Long Before Snapchat 5-15min

On paper, Khaled's career doesn't make a whole lot of sense. He's released eight full-length albums but doesn't actually rap on any of them. He's perhaps the most quoted figure in hip-hop, able to create viral catch phrases with an ease that marketing executives dream about. He's played a serious role in the hip-hop industry throughout his career, yet he's perceived almost exclusively as a meme by fans across the nation. He's a human pop-up ad who, to many, is known simply for shouting his own name like a hairy brown Pikachu. And, sure, any fool can stumble into success. ... But that fool won't stay there for nearly a decade, collaborating with the biggest names in the industry: Kanye West, Jay Z, Rick Ross, Nas. If they have a pulse and can rap, Khaled has worked with them. ... It's the tale of a child of immigrant parents who worked his way up from DJing school dances in Orlando to the top of the Miami music scene and, now, into two million (and counting) cell phones, where he delivers daily sermons about the correlation between egg whites and success from a three-inch screen.

Vanity Fair - How Randy Newman and His Family Have Shaped Movie Music for Generations < 5min

Big arrangements came naturally to Newman; his uncle Alfred, the oldest of his father’s six brothers, had from 1940 to 1960 been the musical director of Twentieth Century Fox, overseeing what was widely regarded as the best studio orchestra in Hollywood. Two other uncles, Emil and Lionel, were also composer-conductors. Why not wed that heritage to contemporary pop songs? ... Newman won his first Oscar in 2002, for the song “If I Didn’t Have You,” from Monsters, Inc., after losing out the initial 15 times he was nominated. ... for all the accolades and admiration directed Randy’s way, Newman, by dint of his inherent sardonic nature, can’t help but regard with amused resignation the disconnect between the connoisseur’s Randy Newman and the popularly known Randy Newman: between the fearlessly acerbic cult artist revered in critical quarters for such flawless albums as Sail Away and Good Old Boys and the rumpled fellow in thick eyeglasses who sings those amiably shuffling ditties in Pixar films and managed a fluke hit in 1977 with “Short People,” and whose ambivalent tribute to his hometown, “I Love L.A.,” is the official victory song of both the Dodgers and the Lakers.

Texas Monthly - The City of the Eternal Boom 5-15min

Somewhere in the haze of the last generation, funky Old Austin disappeared and was replaced by something sleek, fast, and unbelievably popular. Suddenly everyone wants to be in Austin, from tech twentysomethings to middle-aged corporate hot shots. Austin is the fastest-growing big city in the country, at the top of lists for things that can be measured (real estate and jobs) and things that can’t (cool and kicks). It has become the City of the Eternal Festival, from South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival to Pachanga, Reggae, and Formula 1. Where else can you eat the best barbecue in the world, watch more than a million hungry bats ascend into the gloaming above the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, hear amazing music every night of the week, and behold Lady Gaga covered in vomit as part of a SXSW show? Two months ago Forbes called Austin the next boomtown, apparently forgetting that Bloomberg ranked us the country’s number one boomtown back in 2013. As of October, the greater metropolitan area had grown to an astonishing 2 million people, which is 1.4 million more than we had in 1980, when I was slacking my life away.

Washington Post - The violin thief 5-15min

When he’s gone, the news will shock them all, from the FBI to his family to the daughters of Roman Totenberg, who stand to inherit the instrument. They will ask how this once-promising, later penniless eccentric stole an 18th-century violin worth millions — and got away with it. After all, he was the only suspect when it was taken in 1980. As death approaches, Johnson, usually the loudest voice in the room, keeps his mouth shut. It is the fall of 2011. This has been his secret for 31 years. ... Johnson, who was never able to hold a job, a mortgage or a relationship, somehow accomplished something most everyone thought impossible: He played Totenberg’s Stradivarius in plain view until the end. ... He did this through chaos and control, by building an impenetrable wall between his past and present. Those who suspected Johnson of the crime lost track of him. Those who knew him during the last two decades of his life had never heard of the Totenberg theft. They just thought Johnson had an old violin. ... Experts estimate that of the 1,000 or so violins crafted before Stradivari’s death in 1737, about 500 survive today. ... Johnson was never meant to be a journeyman. At one time, he was thought by many, including his college teacher Joseph Silverstein — one of the great orchestral violinists of the 20th century — to be a dynamic player with considerable promise.

The Los Angeles Times - It's brother and sister against brother and sister in bitter fight over control of Frank Zappa's legacy < 5min

The Zappa Family Trust owns the rights to a massive trove of music and other creative output by the songwriter, filmmaker and producer — more than 60 albums were released during Zappa’s lifetime and 40 posthumously. Like the intellectual property of many rock stars, the Zappa archives controlled by the trust are potentially worth at least tens of millions of dollars, according to one music insider. ... Since the October 2015 death of Zappa’s wife, Gail, however, their children have become embroiled in a feud over control of the trust, which is millions of dollars in debt, pitting one brother and sister against another brother and sister. At issue is not just a celebrated artistic legacy, but even which of the children can perform using the Zappa name and profit from it. ... Thanks to a decision by their mother, he and his younger sister, Diva, 36, share control of the trust — to the dismay and anger of their two older siblings, Dweezil, 46, and Moon, 48, who got smaller portions of the trust than their younger siblings.

The New York Times - Steinway’s Grand Ambitions for Its Pianos in China 5-15min

Steinway, one of the world’s most prestigious musical instrument brands, is looking to China to breathe new life into lackluster sales. To succeed, the company will need more than smart marketing. It will need to fine-tune a cultural mind-set in a country that once dismissed pianos as bourgeois luxuries. ... Steinway dealers have to convince their wealthier clientele that the instruments make good investments, avoiding the overly aggressive sales tactics that tripped up some early efforts. They have to educate parents about the potential payoff of buying a piano that can cost as much as an apartment. And they need to woo music students who are increasingly turning to lower-cost keyboards and so-called smart pianos, which use lights, iPads and other technical tools to teach basic skills. ... The company, known for its painstaking craftsmanship, has grudgingly entered the digital game. ... Founded in 1853 in a Manhattan loft by a German immigrant, Steinway flourished for generations by selling high-end pianos, each crafted by hand from materials like Sitka spruce and cast iron, in the United States and Europe. But the company has suffered as piano playing wanes in the West. Music schools and concert halls have cut back on orders. Piano stores have closed. ... By some estimates, the country has as many as 40 million piano students, compared with six million in the United States. ... As it pushes to remake the country into a cultural superpower, the Chinese government has encouraged students to take up the piano by building concert halls and investing in music education. Among the country’s wealthiest families, the arts have become a source of spiritual fulfillment and a status symbol. In rich coastal cities, real estate scions and technology executives are buying Steinway pianos — some outfitted with diamonds and wood from Africa and India — to complement collections of Porsches and Picassos.

BuzzFeed - Inside The Playlist Factory 17min

For a while we thought we could choose our own music. Remember that? In the wake of the last century we seized the right to take our pick from all of the songs in the world (All of the songs in the world!) and told anyone who didn’t like it exactly where they could go. And when it turned out that was too many songs after all (how many lifetimes are needed for a complete survey of Memphis soul? Or Brazilian funk?), a new category of music services appeared to ease our burden. But these services were flawed, said someone about to make a lot of money, and could only recommend music based on what we were already listening to. Did they even really know what we wanted? Do we not contain multitudes? And so now we have people like Chery. ... Since he left XXL magazine to join the music-streaming service Beats Music (now Apple Music) as head of hip-hop and R&B programming in 2012, Chery and around a dozen of his colleagues, working largely behind the scenes, have embarked on a never-ending quest to organize every song in history into concise playlists that you can’t live without. ... In 2014, when Tim Cook explained Apple’s stunning $3 billion purchase of Beats by repeatedly invoking its “very rare and hard to find” team of music experts, he was talking about these guys. And their efforts since, which have pointed toward curated playlists (specifically, an industrial-scale trove of 14,000 and counting) as the format of the future, have helped turn what was once a humble labor of love for music fans into an increasingly high-stakes contest between some of the richest companies in the world. ... Try any of the major music streaming services today and you’ll find variations on a common theme: thousands of ready-made playlists (“Rich Girl Pop,” “Inspired by Jeff Buckley,” “Songs to Sing in the Shower”) for every conceivable genre, activity, or mood.

Fader - E-40’s Eternal Comeback 18min

Becoming a rapper today might seem as easy as signing up for SoundCloud and visiting your neighborhood face-tattoo parlor, but only a few artists get to travel the country playing to sold-out arenas. Whichever end of this vast spectrum you find yourself on, it helps to be young and unattached, and able to tour constantly. E-40 is none of those things: he is 49, happily married with two sons. His rap career began when cassette tapes still seemed pretty novel, and now that many of us don’t even have a way of listening to CDs, he’s returned to making music the way he did back in the late ’80s: completely independently, selling his raps more or less directly to his fans.

Motherboard - The Man Who Broke Ticketmaster 22min

For more than a decade, Wiseguy was the biggest name in ticket scalping. The company fundamentally broke Ticketmaster, using one of the first ever automated "ticket bots" to buy and flip millions of tickets between 1999 and Lowson's eventual arrest on wire fraud charges in 2010. ... The scourge of ticket bots and the immorality of the shady ticket scalpers using them is conventional wisdom that's so ingrained in the public consciousness and so politically safe that a law to ban ticket bots passed both houses of Congress unanimously late last year, in part thanks to a high-profile public relations campaign spearheaded by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. ... But no one actually involved in the ticket scalping industry thinks that banning bots will do much to slow down the secondary market. ... Between 2001 and 2010, the company bought and resold roughly 1.5 million tickets, amassing more than $25 million in profits overall

Di Weekend - Max Martin, #1 hitmaker 28min

For the past 20 years, the most widely spread and hummed tunes in the world have been written by a Swede, Max Martin, the recipient of the 2016 Polar Music Prize. It’s his melodies that bottle up our times and preserve it for the future. ... ”Most of the time, I tend to listen to my own stuff, whatever I happen to be working on at the moment.” What he listens for is details that could be improved. Is the bass too loud? Is the intro too long? ... Until now, Max Martin has refused every extensive magazine interview proposal. He did agree to do an interview for Time Magazine back in 2001. Since then: No thanks. Every newspaper, magazine and TV-channel in the world has asked him over and over again: No thanks.

Damn Interesting - The Greatest Baroque Composer Never Known 7min

The Missa Salisburgensis first came to Hintermaier’s attention in 1969, when it was published for the first time as part of a collection of Benevoli’s works. Tucked in among the historical notes was the Mozarteum archivists’ assertion that the original mass was an ‘autograph’—that is, written in the composer’s own hand. As a musicologist whose doctoral research had focused on the Salzburg court, Hintermaier did not especially know the oeuvre of an Italian such as Benevoli, but he was intimately familiar with the manuscript libraries in Salzburg—so familiar, in fact, that he had come to recognize the handwriting of the various composers and scribes whose work was held there, and he knew the Salisburgensis was definitely not written in Benevoli’s hand.

1843 Magazine - The data or the hunch 16min

The gift for talent-spotting is mysterious, highly prized and celebrated. We love to hear stories about the baseball coach who can spot the raw ability of an erratic young pitcher, the boss who sees potential in the guy in the post room, the director who picks a soloist out of the chorus line. Talent shows are a staple of the TV schedules. We like to believe that certain people – sometimes ourselves – can just sense when a person has something special. But there is another method of spotting talent which doesn’t rely on hunches. In place of intuition, it offers data and analysis. Rather than relying on the gut, it invites us to use our heads. It tends not to make for such romantic stories, but it is effective – which is why, despite our affection, the hunch is everywhere in retreat. ... The low level of the validity ceiling makes sense when you think about the web of interacting forces – individual ability, organisational culture, social and economic change, pure luck – involved in any success or failure. Weather forecasters using vast databases can say with confidence if it’s going to rain only a few days in advance. Predicting the outcome of human endeavour is even more complex – imagine if clouds had feelings – yet we desperately want to believe our hunches can tell us what will happen in a year or five years’ time.

National Geographic - What Makes a Genius? 16min

Consider Einstein’s impact on physics. With no tools at his disposal other than the force of his own thoughts, he predicted in his general theory of relativity that massive accelerating objects—like black holes orbiting each other—would create ripples in the fabric of space-time. It took one hundred years, enormous computational power, and massively sophisticated technology to definitively prove him right, with the physical detection of such gravitational waves less than two years ago. ... Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the very laws of the universe. But our understanding of how a mind like his works remains stubbornly earthbound. What set his brainpower, his thought processes, apart from those of his merely brilliant peers? What makes a genius? ... Genius is too elusive, too subjective, too wedded to the verdict of history to be easily identified. And it requires the ultimate expression of too many traits to be simplified into the highest point on one human scale. Instead we can try to understand it by unraveling the complex and tangled qualities—intelligence, creativity, perseverance, and simple good fortune, to name a few—that entwine to create a person capable of changing the world.

Fast Company - Spotify’s Plan To Win Over Anxious Artists–And Win The Streaming War 13min

Amid a slow growth in royalty payouts, Spotify is investing in a range of projects aimed at keeping artists happy, mostly by leveraging the company’s huge goldmine of listener data. The effort includes new metrics tools for musicians, steadily improving fan targeting, and a range of curated and algorithmic playlists to help artists reach new listeners. ... Spotify’s artist-focused initiatives aren’t sheer acts of generosity, of course: They also have a direct bearing on the company’s future success as a business. The Stockholm-based firm, last valued at $8 billion in 2015, boasts 50 million paying subscribers but steep losses ever since it was founded a decade ago. And the competition, which increasingly comes from tech giants like Apple, Google, and Amazon, is fierce. ... The more indispensable Spotify becomes to creatives, the stronger its leverage in negotiations with record labels. The company is currently in the long-awaited process of renegotiating deals with labels and rights holders, who are anxious for better terms. But like every other streaming platform, it’s eager to shift the basic math of the new music economy further in its own favor

HCN - Busting the tree ring 17min

Cutting bigleaf maple is generally legal, with the right permits, on private and state land in Washington. In national forests, however, protections on old growth keep the tree strictly off-limits. But in Gifford Pinchot, the law’s arm didn’t reach too far. Malamphy, who’d served as an officer with the U.S. Forest Service since 2000, patrolled the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, a rough triangle formed by Mount Adams, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. His jurisdiction covered 575,000 acres — one cop, responsible for an area almost twice the size of Los Angeles. He cruised the woods alone in a Dodge pickup, inspecting meth paraphernalia dumps, checking hunting licenses, conducting traffic stops. In some ways, the job has changed little since the early 20th century, when Pinchot himself dispatched a ragged band of recruits to help a strange new agency called the Forest Service wrangle illegal loggers and miners. Everyone Malamphy met in the woods carried a gun or a knife, and usually both. Backup was hours away. In 2008, a Forest Service officer was murdered by a tree-trimmer down a remote road on the Olympic Peninsula. Malamphy was a tough customer — he had an offensive lineman’s physique, and hands that could crack walnuts. Still, he kept his Glock .40 close. ... Forest Service documents suggest that tree thievery costs the agency up to $100 million each year.