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
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
Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for BuzzFeed
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
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.
Photo: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images
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
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."
Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Getty Images
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
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.
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.
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!
By the Mayan calendar, 2012 was supposed to have been apocalyptic. By the measurement of music mastering engineers, however, it was instead a turning point in the history of how good iTunes music can sound. That’s because file-based music and iTunes in particular now have the tools needed to make AAC mp4s and other compressed file formats sound far better than they have in the past.
“This year it’s different, this year it all changed,” exclaims Eric Boulanger, a mastering engineer and manager at the The Mastering Lab, a Los Angeles studio facility where records receive their final polish before distribution. The facility, where artists including the Eagles, the Rolling Stones, Al Jarreau, James Taylor, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett have had their sounds perfected by mastering legend Doug Sax and his staff, was the first to employ Mastered for iTunes, the software toolkit released earlier this year by Apple and developed with significant input from mastering engineers affiliated with The Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing.
“There’s been a movement towards this for some time now,” Boulanger continues. “The market has been demanding higher-quality sound. You see it in the resurgence of vinyl: vinyl records are being bought by teenagers who, other than maybe a few times in their lives when they’ve listened to a CD, have spent their entire lives experiencing music through mp3 files and earbuds. When they hear what music can sound like on actual records played through speakers, they say, ‘We want that!’”
And that’s what everyone will soon have access to, thanks to new tools that let mastering and other audio engineers approach file-based music formats as their own entities, instead of simply taking the 44.1 kHz/16-bit .wav files that are the basis for Compact Discs and jamming those larger files into the confines of a 128-kb/sec or 256-kb/sec file. Andy VanDette, chief engineer at New York’s Masterdisk who has mastered records for artists including Rush and the Beastie Boys, says attention began being paid to the mastering of music files when artists began to complain about how their recordings sounded on iTunes. “It took a long time for the market to pay attention to how file formats affect sound quality,” he says. “But then artists began to tell us, ‘This doesn’t sound like my music anymore,’ when they heard it on iTunes.”
According to Boulanger, Apple’s own engineers had been looking into the issue of how data compression affects music for a couple of years. However, computer engineers understandably would look at a challenge from a coding point of view, not necessarily from an artistic perspective. When they began to collaborate in earnest with members of the P&E Wing, progress accelerated. It reached a turning point in January 2011, when Colbie Caillat’s producer (and father) Ken Caillat met with iTunes executives to discuss how to improve the sound of Colbie’s music when it was distributed through the iTunes store. Ken Caillat referred Apple’s people to Boulanger, who conveyed to them his concern that since the iTunes’ encoding process to the AAC file format took place after the mastering stage was completed, the esthetic intentions of the artists and engineers for the music could be distorted by the additional data processing. He suggested that if Apple could make that encoding process more transparent, and offer access to it to mastering engineers before it was delivered for AAC encoding, music could better accommodate the process. The ultimate goal, Boulanger says, was to establish iTunes as a primary format for mastering purposes, on a par with the CD and vinyl, rather than as an afterthought.
From that larger collaboration Apple created Mastered For iTunes, a software kit that lets artists and engineers preview how their tracks will sound once they are encoded for iTunes, allowing them the opportunity to make informed decisions regarding levels and how hard to hit the AAC encoder, thus adapting the music for the medium ahead of the iTunes encoding process. Mastered For iTunes also standardizes certain protocols suggested by mastering engineers, such as delivering masters at 24-bit resolution.
A combination of new tools and a heightened awareness of what’s necessary to make music sound good on files is opening a new chapter in music production. The dialog opened around the mastering of Colbie Caillat’s LP All Of You led directly to the creation of a toolkit from Apple now downloadable by anyone who wants to optimize their music for iTunes distribution. It reflects insights offered by collaborating engineers, resulting in tools such as AFClip, which allows engineers to measure whether or not a high-level master will clip the encode and decode stages of AAC, causing distortion.
Apple’s cooperation was critical -- in the second quarter of 2012, by Apple’s own estimate, iTunes accounted for 64 percent of the entire digital music market and 29 percent of all music sold at retail (including both digital and physical formats). And the company, often known for its diffidence to outside collaboration, cooperated by making its ALAC (Lossless) encoding process transparent. It has not only embraced the quest to improve the overall sonic quality of file-based music but has included in the on-line toolkit, AU Lab, a free digital audio application that can be used to perform key quality-enhancement tasks such as detecting peaks and clipping, and performing double-blind listening tests. This injects optimization for file-based distribution further up the music production chain and, combined with Mastered For iTunes, will take sound quality even further.
“Apple is huge in music, so when Apple changes, the entire industry changes,” says Boulanger. What consumers can expect as Mastered For iTunes becomes more ubiquitous is a big change, too -- a change for the better.