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Downtown Music Hosts A Free Virtual Summer School For Students & Recent Grads

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Downtown Music Hosts A Free Virtual Summer School For Students & Recent Grads

Running from July 21-31, Downtown Summer School is a free, week-long series of virtual classes designed to provide insightful music business education for future industry professionals

GRAMMYs/Jul 6, 2020 - 10:22 pm

While the ripple effect of COVID-19 has limited, if not eliminated, the possibility of hosting in-person events for some, Downtown Music Holdings has found a way to keep its commitment to providing quality education and opportunity to the next generation. In place of their on-site internship program, the company has announced its inaugural Downtown Summer School, a free, week-long series of virtual classes designed to provide insightful music business education for future industry professionals.

"We’re excited to reimagine our internship program for a virtual audience this year and fuel the next generation of music business leaders and creative entrepreneurs," said Justin Kalifowitz, CEO of Downtown Music Holdings. "Downtown Summer School will help participants understand the building blocks of the industry so we can continue to support a thriving creative class, now and in the future."

Beginning July 27, high school students, college students, and recent grads will have the opportunity to participate in morning and afternoon sessions on topics such as "How Unsigned Acts Distribute, Monetize and Promote their Music Today," "Crafting Hit Songs Around the World," "Music on Screen," "Diverse Career Paths into the Music Industry," and "The Future of Music Streaming." Guest speakers include Molly Neuman (President, Songtrust), Joe Kentish (Head of A&R at Warner Records, UK), Tracy Gardner (Head of Label Licensing and Partnerships at TikTok/Bytedance), and more.

"For many of us at Downtown, internships were our first pathways to exploring the business and developing our networks," Kalifowitz said. "We’ve been offering music industry internships at Downtown for over ten years and have had the good fortune to hire many of our interns to join us full time as the company has grown."

In addition to Downtown Summer School, the company has supported similar education initiatives such as Sound Thinking NYC. The program addresses gender and racial diversity by introducing students to the basics of the music industry and has reached over 500 students from 50 public schools in its first year.

Despite the spread of COVID-19 across the U.S., Kalifowitz sees a silver lining. The decision to utilize an online platform for their initiative creates an opportunity for Downtown to reach a wider audience than their on-site internship programs might have. Virtual or not, Kalifowitz says the company looks forward to "future iterations once we hear feedback from participants, educators, and our colleagues."

With brands such as Downtown Music Publishing (home to John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Benny Blanco, George Gershwin), Songtrust, and CD Baby under its umbrella, there might not be a better company than Downtown to extend its resources to the next generation. Rather than aim to outshine similar programs, the company looks to add a new option for future generations to take advantage of.

"Downtown Summer School is really focused on sharing our company’s unique perspective on the music business," Kalifowitz added. "It has less to do with addressing what’s missing in other programs and more to do with giving people a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re doing across Downtown every day."

Those interested in participating are encouraged to register here by July 22.

Lil Nas X's No. 1 Run Began With TikTok, Now The Music Industry Is Taking Notice

Lil Nas X

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for BuzzFeed

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Lil Nas X's No. 1 Run Began With TikTok, Now The Music Industry Is Taking Notice

"We get 10 to 15 inquiries a day from artists and labels wanting to pay us to use their song," Devain Doolaramani, who manages over 20 TikTok users, recently told Rolling Stone

GRAMMYs/Aug 27, 2019 - 01:22 am

Whether or not you've ever downloaded the app, it's likely you've been hearing about TikTok more and more this year. Though it may be most popular among teens and pre-teens, the short-form video app is not one to brush off as a mindless youth trend. Its users upload 15-second videos set to music (denoted in text at the bottom of the clip) onto the platform, offering the chance for both the uploader and the artist of the song to gain viral fame. And while striving for your moment—however brief—in the spotlight is nothing new, teens' obsession with the year-old app is already making waves in the music industry.

Last month, 20-year-old Lil Nas X broke records as his viral Billy Ray Cyrus-assisted "Old Town Road" took the longest run ever at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100, holding its reign on the all-genre chart for 17 weeks in a row. Back in February, the then-unknown rapper, two months after self-releasing the original version of the country-trap song, uploaded it to TikTok along with a "challenge": to change into Western garb before the drop. The song went viral on the app as users like Michael Pelchat, a.k.a. NiceMichael, added their own versions. A month later, Lil Nas X signed to Colombia Records and in April they released the record-breaking remix.

Lil Nas X is not the only notable artist to effectively harness the power of TikTok. Lizzo joined the platform in June and offered the #DNATest challenge, featuring her 2017 bop "Truth Hurts"—she opens the song with "I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that bitch." This month, the two-year-old song became her first top 10 track on the Hot 100, hitting No. 4 on Aug. 10. "Juice," from her latest LP Cuz I Love You, is her only other song to date to make the all-genre chart, reaching No. 9. The newfound viral moment of "Truth Hurts," similar to that of Lil Nas X, led Lizzo to release a new remix, featuring DaBaby.

A recent Rolling Stone feature examining the app's rapid growth and impact on the music industry highlights the move for labels and artists to push their music on the platform. "We get 10 to 15 inquiries a day from artists and labels wanting to pay us to use their song," Devain Doolaramani, who manages over 20 TikTok users, recently told the outlet. The article explains that the Chinese company Bytedance purchased the lip sync video app Musical.ly in late 2017, and, in August 2018, shut it down and migrated its user base to the new TikTok, giving it a starting point of 500 million monthly global users.

Speaking to both active uploaders and people who support its uploaders, like Doolaramani, Rolling Stone found that the algorithm better supports the chance for 15 seconds of fame, as it "is constantly searching for new clips, rather than just pushing out the latest videos from already popular users." The algorithm also seems to push videos and challenges—and their featured songs—that are already doing well to the next level. Doolaramani noticed that songs featured in around 3,000–5,000 videos seem to get more a bigger boost once they reach that point.

The platform even offers "creator partner managers" for popular users invited into their Creators Program. Pelchat, whose profile says he has over 922,400 fans, is part of the program. As he told Rolling Stone, his manager can help push his videos with lower views to the next level.

"Within the hour, [the video] had 80,000 more likes than what it had before. They have some magical button that they can press and just promote [a video] to the world," Pelchat said, when describing what happens after he reaches out about a video. He added that managers "have a very key part in pushing what [TikTok] wants to do."

Yet, while record labels are currently paying popular TikTok-ers to promote their songs, they could require the platform to pay for the rights to use their music in the future. The article points to a recent Bloomberg report that Universal, Sony and Warner are all renegotiating their existing deals, which expire soon, with the platform.

While it's not clear exactly what the future of TikTok will look like, it is clear that the way young people consume music is ever-changing, and the short-form video app is a major part of that.

Watch: Lizzo & Missy Elliott Turn Up The "Tempo" In Brand-New Video

Dyana Williams On Why Black Music Month Is Not Just A Celebration, But A Call For Respect

Dyana Williams 

Photo: Caliph Gamble

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Dyana Williams On Why Black Music Month Is Not Just A Celebration, But A Call For Respect

The radio legend and Black Music Month co-founder tells GRAMMY.com about the plight to make the month official and who she admires in music’s new generation

GRAMMYs/Jun 10, 2021 - 01:02 am

Black music is the foundation of the music industry, and Dyana Williams isn’t going to let you forget it. Born in the Motown era, the music journalist and veteran radio personality’s musical love affair began by listening to predominantly Black, New York-based radio stations like WABC and WWRL. The Bronx native started building the blocks of her legend status in the early ‘70s, beginning with her first radio gig at Washington D.C.’s 96.3 WHUR in 1973, where she fused her love for jazz with R&B and reggae. When she moved to WRQX-FM in 1978, she made history by becoming the first Black woman rock DJ.

At that time, radio personalities were non-existent, and Williams had to program music she did not feel belonged to her. "I distinctly remember my first show at WRQX: five hours of playing music that was not culturally mine,” she tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom. “I knew some of it, like James Taylor and Carly Simon, because obviously, I listened to the radio growing up."

The job, Williams says, made her more well-rounded as a DJ in the industry, but she wanted to do something to amplify Black music. Williams’ yearning led to the birth of Black Music Month in 1979. Co-founded with radio DJ Ed Wright and her former husband, Philadelphia soul legend Kenny Gamble, the month is meant to be a vibrant celebration of all the genres that thread America’s cultural fabric. But the month also educates and provides resources for those wanting to learn more about Black people’s impact on the industry, which has led to Williams serving on the board of Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music.

"Black music should be celebrated every single day, but it's a concentrated period of time for us to observe the legacy, and mothers and fathers, many of whom never got paid properly or recognized or credited for their contributions," Williams continues, noting that Black music educators, writers and journalists should be celebrated, too. "It is an economic engine for America to the tune of not a million or several million, but billions of dollars."

At the end of the day, Williams just wants credit where it’s due. "[Music] is one of our greatest exports. That's how we need to look at it,” she says. “I want us to be celebrated. I want us to be respected. I want us to get what we rightfully deserve."

GRAMMY.com spoke to Dyana Williams about the origins of Black Music Month and why Black creators still deserve a big chunk of the industry’s money pie.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What are your thoughts on how the new generation, including myself, are interpreting Black Music Month? 

I love them. My core business is artist development and media coaching. So I work with a lot of young artists. That's how I saw your Saweetie article in Harper’s Bazaar. I was working with her around that time. I have great regard for artists like Elaine, Joyce Wrice, Masego, Giveon, Lucky Daye, who I worked with as well. Jazmine Sullivan, one of my clients from Philly. I met her when she was a little girl and now she is all grown up and she is bringing it, okay?

We missed her voice so much.

She needed a break. Sometimes it can be daunting, the industry and the expectations and all of that stuff. I'm a huge H.E.R. lover, I was listening to "Damage" last night. H.E.R. to me, [is] very important because she's a musician as well. She's a songwriter, producer, just [won] an Oscar. She's going to be a GOAT probably before it's all over. But she represents the finest of what young people are doing and [how they are] paying homage. I love the artists of this time that recognize what transpired before them. Now there’s some artists who have no reference. They have no foundation. And probably we'll just hear about them for a quick flash and then they're gone. I'm interested in the artists that are going to have —like with H.E.R.—a legacy that they will be able to leave for the next generation.

What was it like being on the radio in the ‘70s? It’s not as prevalent anymore because of streaming. 

Well, my experience in the '70s was heavenly. To have the opportunity to program music was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn matching sounds and vibes and energy. Plus, I interviewed everybody, and I was on the radio in the nation's capital when it was Chocolate City—so any and everybody that came in to perform at Howard [University] and at the Capital Centre. One of the big first concerts I MC’ed was in the Capital Centre, it was Curtis Mayfield. I mean, major acts. I MC'ed Earth, Wind & Fire. Richard Pryor was their opening act. It was wonderful because I got an opportunity to not just play the music, but to speak with the people who were creating all of this innovation. At that time in the ’70s, we had a lot of bands: the Ohio Players, Parliament-Funkadelic. It was exciting for me. I was a young girl. I was 19. 

I know you went to Philly in 1980. Was it just a next career move?

No, actually I fell in love with Kenny Gamble. [Laughs.] Initially, when I left BLS to go on maternity leave with our first son Caliph Gamble, I moved back to DC for a period of time and then moved to Philadelphia full time in 1980. At that time, I was blessed to hold down a spot at WDAS, which is the heritage station and very similar to WBLS in New York in terms of the adult contemporary format. Not only did we play the current music of the day, but we were entrenched in the community. And for me, that's everything. I'm the radio personality who’d go to the senior citizens’ home, the daycare center, the church, wherever I was invited in the community to talk about music. I would always do and still do to this day.

Even before Black Music Month was formed, I read that you initially co-founded the Black Music Association chapter in Philadelphia, is that correct?

Well, here we go. The Black Music Association was founded by my ex, Kenny Gamble. We were a couple, we lived together so I became a member of the local chapter and I was in the leadership. However, it is Gamble’s conception. We went to the White House for the first Black Music Month event on June 7th 1979. We sat with President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.

But years later, I was producing a celebration[ for] Black Music Month [in June]. I wrote to Bill Clinton: "Can you hold some similar events?" The White House said, "Well, we see that President Carter hosted the Black Music Association. We know that you were his guests." But he unintentionally did not write a presidential proclamation, which would've meant that every president following him would have done similarly.

What was your reaction when you heard that news?

It was official to us because we were the creators. For all those years, there were activities around the country. We celebrated it in Philly. So, when I got that piece of information from the White House, I was blown away and shocked. But as far as the American government and American presidents are concerned, it did not become official until I was asked by the White House to go get legislation. I remember I called Gamble: "Can you believe this?" It just gave a higher level of official recognition or celebration. It's just like Juneteenth. Black folks have been celebrating Juneteenth for a long time, but now it's becoming more in vogue and more well known.

So 2000 was when the bill passed?

To be recognized by Congress and the American people is right, but I had been petitioning for several years. I had even written an op-ed, in Billboard, about why it was significant for us to celebrate it. So yeah, several years of me knocking on congressmen and senators’ doors. I knew nothing about the process of lobbying. So I became a natural lobbyist, just passionate about the music and the cause. And at that point, it was significant for me to get the president to acknowledge us. Not just because of the cultural dynamics, but the economic value and potency of our music. We don't tend to think of it in those terms, but the reality is Black music is big business.

It's still the No. 1 genre and is literally keeping the industry afloat.

Girl, the No. 1 genre in the world. As you know, Bianca, Black music is hip-hop. It’s the music that they thought would go away, and we are about to celebrate 50 years of hip-hop.

Isn't that something? A genre that was once shunned has transformed to be the pillar of what so many artists look to for success. 

Well, the reality is Black music is for everyone. While it is created by Black people, it is a universal language overstood by billions. I have traveled to most of the continents: South America, Asia, Africa, Europe. Europeans know more about our music than we do in many cases. They're very well-versed in the history [of it]. We sometimes as Black folks take it for granted because it's our natural asset and gift. But the reality is that Black music has always been an inspiration, a source of influence for countless musicians. Come on, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, all those major white rock groups.

There’s also the country and the EDM scene, which has become a huge power player that’s built on the backs of Chicago house. 

We are the wellspring, we are the resource and then it is imitated and appropriated. We, the people who create it, are not righteously compensated. This is also one of my issues that we need to address because it's foul. Let's take rock and roll. No, Alan Freed, you did not invent the DJ. You were one of the DJs that played it, but the reality was there were Black DJs playing Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. These are the mothers and fathers of rock music, period. And then you have white artists.

The prime example being Elvis Presley. Even those hip shakes came from us.

A lot of his songs were written by Black people. Clearly, you can look at him and see that he was biting on Little Richard. But they don't want to acknowledge it. And then it is our responsibility to say it. My thing is, don't try to take credit for something that you did not create. I want to make sure that in that process, the songwriters, the producers, the engineers, the people who make the music, are credited, acknowledged and compensated. That's critical and part of the issue of what's missing in today's modern music industry.

I'm so glad that you brought that up because it’s important to have those conversations about what's going on behind the scenes. 

And it's not even an adequate piece of the pie. I don't know if you've ever seen, Bianca, what artists get from streaming? It's like a percentage of a penny.

It's super dismal.

But meanwhile, billions of dollars are being generated by these streaming companies. And the creators of the music are simply not being [compensated]. I'm in The Recording Academy as a member, I'm a past president of the Philly chapter. And part of our advocacy has been to change the antiquated copyright laws that do not serve today's music industry. So we've had some level of success. I really think, Bianca, they need me to go in there and get that st fixed.

You'll set them right, for sure.

Exactly. And I'm an OG at this point. Even when I was younger, I was fearless in my convictions, and I respect everybody's right to their opinions. I saw somebody write a comment on social media the other day: "Well, we need white music month." My attitude was like, "Well, white music month is just about every month but June." I was listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young the other day. And Steely Dan and Michael Franks. I love white music too. But my agenda is to elevate and recognize the forgotten, the deserving of the legacy foundation people. Just to your point, we're the flavor.

We add the salt.

I mean, we are it girl. We the hot sauce, the salt and the pepper.

One Year After #TheShowMustBePaused, Where Do We Stand? Black Music Industry Leaders Discuss

Be Like Björk: Iceland Unveils New 'Record In Iceland' Initiative

Björk

Photo: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

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Be Like Björk: Iceland Unveils New 'Record In Iceland' Initiative

"[Iceland is] a very small place with a huge pool of ridiculously talented people," Australian-born, Reykjavík-based composer/producer Ben Frost said

GRAMMYs/Oct 9, 2019 - 12:49 am

With the avant-garde future-pop of Björk, the dreamy post-rock of Sigur Rós, the moody piano loops of Ólafur Arnalds and the emotive indie rock of Of Monsters And Men, Iceland is birthplace of and home to small-yet-vibrant community of eclectic and experimental musicians.

Now, thanks to a new government-funded program called Record in Iceland, you too could find musical inspiration in the Northern Lights or expansive open spaces, to the tune of a 25 percent rebate towards recording costs, including travel and accommodations.

"[Iceland is] a very small place with a huge pool of ridiculously talented people," Australian-born, Reykjavík-based trippy soundscape composer/producer Ben Frost aptly said in the program's promotional video.

Notable Iceland music studios that could be your future creative home include Greenhouse Studios, where Frost works and Kanye West booked time in 2016 and Sundlaugin, where Sigur Rós recorded for years before they opened the space to other artists, which have included Irish crooner Damien Rice and Of Monsters And Men.

The application must be submitted by the producer of the project, which must be primarily recorded (at least 80 percent) in Iceland and released within 18 months. The majority of expenses, including studio costs, travel and accommodation for the primary performers and instruments, and the wages of additional performers, engineers, mixers and, of course, the producer.

More info can be found in the Q&A doc here and on their website (linked above). The document also notes that music made for film and TV can also be submitted for the refund.

Billboard notes the new program will be officially unveiled at Iceland Airwaves next month, the annual music showcase/industry fest in Reykjavík. They also point out the Nordic country has recently seen success with similar programs that have attracted filmmakers and TV producers, including from "Game of Thrones" and recent iterations of the Star Wars and Thor franchises.

"Because of our glorious isolation, Iceland has nurtured quite a unique music culture," Sigtryggur Baldursson, Managing Director of Iceland Music (Iceland's music export office) said in a statement. "Until now, these studios have been something of a hidden secret, but our aim with Record in Iceland is to open these facilities to a far wider range of international artists and businesses, and to make them a compelling commercial proposition."

Ellie Goulding Talks Songwriting, Loving Skrillex & Björk & Growing Up On Electronic Music

What Music Goes Viral On TikTok?

TikTok

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What Music Goes Viral On TikTok?

Got bass? Here's how songs go viral on the wildly popular new app and how musicians can take full advantage of the craze

GRAMMYs/Nov 6, 2019 - 10:31 pm

By now, you've probably heard Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road Remix" a few times over. The song's viral moment—culminating on its record-breaking run on the Billboard Hot 100—was inescapable for the better part of 2019.

Yet before the young rapper rode his way into the spotlight, he uploaded a clip of the original song, along with a "challenge," to the popular social media video app, TikTok. Users, the bulk of whom are Gen Zers, can upload and view 15-second videos set to music, with the song title/artist displayed.

Consequentially, an ever-growing handful of catchy songs have gained fame within the app and, in the case of Lil Nas X, Lizzo (her #DNATest Challenge recently helped catapult her 2017 bop "Truth Hurts" to the charts) and a few others, in the greater popular culture and pop music landscapes. A recent story on Haulix's blog looks at last month's biggest hit songs on TikTok to unpack the trends behind the trends, to help more artists take a shot at getting their viral moment.

Haulix points to several key elements of songs that have gained traction on the app recently, highlighting the importance of "memorable lyrics," especially ones TikTokers can act out in their videos, as well as a danceable beat and a bass drop.

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Since the video clips can only be 15 seconds long, the app only plays a short segment of the featured song. The audio content of TikTok videos is the song itself and not the user singing, rapping or talking over it, meaning songs with clever or quotable lyrics tend to be the most popular.

While some tracks that make waves on the platform may be fun and catchy and continue to gain traction in its whole form on streaming platforms and the like, what is most important in successful TikTok hits are the catchy bars that hook people in and allow them to use their bodies and facial expressions—from dance moves, costume changes, creative makeup and more—to put themselves in the song.

Read: Lil Nas X's No. 1 Run Began With TikTok, Now The Music Industry Is Taking Notice

As Haulix pointed, "The greatest songwriters from previous generations made an impact on culture with songs and albums that told elaborate, sprawling stories of the human condition. Some of those tracks may find an audience on TikTok as well, but most users are seeking out 4-16 bars that make an immediate impression on listeners. Lyrics that may seem silly or outright ridiculous to average music consumers often take TikTok by storm."

They point to user @schmidtyqueen's video to Yung Gravy's song "Magic" about as an example of how she used his outlandish lyrics ("Heard my voice now she trying to have whoa. / Flexing ain't too complex, baby./ Ala-ka-f*ing-zam") to create a cute, engaging and simple clip.

The article also points to the popularity of rap, EDM and anything with heavy bass on the platform—anything with a catchy trap beat or a big bass drop is likely to get users attention, and find them inspired to try out their dance moves in hopes of gaining other users attention, likes and shares.

Haulix includes a 7-minute compilation video of some pretty fun TikTok clips set to bbno$ & y2k's viral hit "lalala," which features a simple trunk-rattling bassline and nonsensical lyrics with a humorous opening line ("Did I really just forget that melody?"). The video currently has over 39 million views on YouTube alone and found its way to the top of Spotify's Viral 50 chart in June.

Similar to bass drops, drastic beat changes or chord shifts (not unlike the journey of Travis Scott and Drake's GRAMMY-nominated 2018 No. 1 hit "SICKO MODE") can also inspire creative videos and viral moments on the platform. Haulix points to Kesh Kesh's "Vibin" as a popular example of this, where the beat itself (the only words in the clip are "One, two, three / let's switch this up.") leads, switching from banjo-led chords to a spacey G-funk beat.

In summary, if you're trying to give your music an extra push, make sure it's a trunk-slapper, one that could get the club going up or at least has funny, catchy lyrics, you can try your luck and viral fame and upload it to TikTok. It's always time for new challenges!

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