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SXSW Day Four! Don’t Mess With Texas.

Friday’s keynote was incomparable, as the conversation between Houston legend Bun B and James Prince, founder of Rap-A-Lot Records and one of the most respected figures in the industry. Nikhil reports, that over the course of the conversation they reflected on what it means to be among the older generation of hip-hop and what their legacies each demand of them when it comes to educating the younger generations. They noted this especially in their roles as fathers and grandfathers, and reminded the audience “Keep your focus, wise men have many counselors….and when the time comes, that focus and counsel will bear fruit.” Prince shared a fascinating story of how his son Jazz Prince discovered and vouched for Drake repeatedly, and his incessant calls to Bun B and Lil Wayne on behalf of the at the time unknown Canadian. However, bearing in mind some risk tolerance, it ended up being an opportunity for everyone, which the speakers cited with emphasis to underscore the importance of leeking mentorship in everything and everyone.

Shay attended “Copyright Reform and Other Underwhelming Developments,” hosted by Jacqueline Charlesworth, Robert Lind and Tim Matso, which covered the copyright section 512: limitation on liability relating to material online. This includes takedown notices: when copyright holder (artist or label) finds that someone has used their material outside of the fair use clause, an appeal is made to the internet service provider, who transfers the message that person who has reproduced that material must take what they’ve posted. Google is on track to receive one billion takedown notices by the end of the year due to unlicensed use of copyrighted material. Will this system continue to work? With a growing number of individuals using copyrighted material, with or without maintaining fair usage, is it worth attempting to regulate copyrighted material on the internet at a federal level? We at KZSC know that it is necessary to give credit where credit is due, but given that number of online users and creators will continue, it may become difficult to regulate copyrighted material.

Ahh, T-Pain. We all remember that time he was on NPR’s Tiny Desk, but did you know that he popularized the use of auto-tune? Interviewed by Sway, T-Pain spoke about his childhood and his bumpy road to stardom. When he couldn’t afford to pay musicians to lay down simple instrumental tracks, he taught himself how to play keyboard so that he didn’t have to shell out what little money he had. Now financially stable, he’s careful to teach his kids that most people have less than they do. T-Pain definitely became more relatable during the interview, bringing up the incredibly accurate point that SpongeBob SquarePants must be, like, 45 or something, and no, he didn’t learn that through his children.

I sat in on “Social Media Campaigns for Multicultural Niches” was hosted by Carl Williams, a digital content strategist, Erin Crawford, general manager for Nielsen Music, Kathryn Hamm, publisher of GayWeddings.com, Malika Quemerais, who leads music partnerships for Facebook and Instagram, and Nate Auerbach, head of music at Tumblr. The discussion focused on developing efficient social media campaigns by keeping the desires of your audience in mind. Hamm pointed out that an artist’s authenticity is what connects them to niche communities on social platforms. Artists should do research into the communities they engage with on their social media platforms, identifying and addressing the needs of certain social niches. Social media can be a bit daunting, as there are many platforms to utilize, so it is important for creators to only use the ones they can do well, instead of spreading themselves too thin.

FullSizeRender-1After that I attended an interview with Angelique Kidjo, who walked on stage singing powerfully. Kidjo is a Beninese born Grammy award-winning singer, actress, and UNICEF Ambassador. She was interviewed by Ann Powers of NPR Music. The discussion began with recollections from Kidjo’s past, and how she became so engaged with music. Her brother had an obsession with Jimi Hendrix. The concept of being African American was not yet understood by Kidjo, leading the nine year old to start asking questions about race, she says “History is oral. So if you don’t ask a question, you won’t know who you are.”  One of the hardest parts of her life was leaving her country in exile, and not being able to speak to her parents for six years. Kidjo’s powerful life experiences are present in her charater; whether exciting or terrifying, she has found a way to find humanity and positivity in all events. Kidjo is so dramatic, hilarious, and captivating that Ann Powers adds, “there should be a movie about you.”

Chelsea attended “The Art of Impactful Content: Standing Out in 2016,” which talked all about how to utilize social media as an outlet to create an artist brand. As mentioned multiple times in past panels, starting with a song that is worth distributing and marketing and then thinking about who the song appeals to and what style the artist is trying to create, and the lifestyle you want your fans to connect with. Creating consistency in the message you are trying to send creates a promise to the audience, which in turn, creates the artist’s brand. For example, if you are an artist that favorites fans’ tweets, you have to keep that going to maintain your “brand.” Also touched upon was the idea that the things discussed are all America-centric, in that some people don’t have the same resources as Americans, such as having to choose between a laptop or a mobile phone due to income, and how one might choose one over the other and that’s how they would see the content. They then discussed how putting out polarizing content is impactful because you are standing for something you believe in… thus you should  “create, and be judged.”

Chelsea also checked out. “Free Pizza & Beer: Promoting Your Music On Campus” highlighted ways to market yourself as a musician to the college demographic. This panel focused on creating close relationships with people in local communities, never thinking that anything’s too small to connect with. The panelists also talked about how radio is still the number one way people discover music, and college radio is the best way to spread your music to a local community because as they said, we are “music snobs” and people respect their opinions about music. Creating relationships with young people in the music industry is important because they are future people of high power.

Nikhil attended a panel including the A&R reps of RocNation, DefJam, RCA Records, and Dreamville who represent huge stars such as Jay-Z, Rihanna, J. Cole, Bryson Tiller, Jhene Aiko, and many others. A&R as they defined it was finding and curation of talent, assisting and funding the magic as much as they can. Artists are no longer as naive as they once were, so labels are able to help they reach each of their vision in a much more definitive manner than before. Moving decisively to construct and preserve your brand is pivotal to an artist’s success, for missteps are what separate those who are next up, from those who are next up to fail.  For those seeking to reach the top of the charts, an A&R representative can take you there.

Later in the evening, Nikhil checked out a panel hosted by the head of Rawkus Records, Jarret Myer, and of the label’s earliest stars, Talib Kweli. They talked about the birth of Rawkus and the window of time in which they essentially dominated the hip-hop scene with the Blackstar record, as well as how they each needed to adapt to a shift in market after the onset of 50 Cent and G-Unit’s pop acclaim. The main takeaway was to pick one thing that defined what you brought to the table, and to align with that mission statement in times of difficulty. With social media, it is much easier to have your message and music heard by a diverse audience, and if that audience that you’ve connected with sense that you are authentic and consistent, you’ll never sink no matter how choppy the waters get.

FullSizeRender-2Friday Night had great music in store for us…. all of our ears are ringing. Friday featured some heavy showcases, including Bombino, The Blind Shake, La Luz, and bay area noise-monsters: Thee Oh Sees. John Dwyer, Oh Sees frontman, stomped around stage with his guitar strapped as high as his throat, looking like a tattooed velociraptor. The crowd was a little nuts. My watch broke off during the mayhem, but luckily, Chelsea found it in the mud after the show. Big ups Chelsea. And big ups Austin! I still can’t hear anything. 

Stay tuned for coverage of the last day of SXSW Music. This was written and published by Lennon Stankavich of KZSC, with collaboration from Shay Stoklos, Nikhil Viswanathan, and Chelsea Valenzuela.

 

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Day Three Updates! From Texas!

The morning began with a keynote address by Tony Visconti, a high profile record producer who has worked with countless artists. Visconti was extremely close to David Bowie, producing many of Bowie’s records, including the late artist’s final work, Blackstar. Visconti’s speech began with hilarious accounts from his past in the music industry. About halfway through his talk, the initial jubilance wore away, and Visconti began speaking on darker subjects. He read the audience a story he had written about the bleak existence of the industry’s future. However, he still called for optimism, acknowledging many newer acts, such as Sun Kil Moon, that continue to push boundaries and give him hope for new generations of talent, which he expressed in a concise adage “You don’t need to be psychic to be a prophet. You just need to follow the signs.” The story reflected experiences of Visconti’s past, and eventually brought the keynote speaker to tears as he alluded to the death of David Bowie. The ballroom cleared after a standing ovation.

I then attended an excellent panel titled “Nigeria’s Music Industry: Ready and Open for Business.” The panel included Ademola Ogundele and Ovie Ofugara, CEO and owner of Not Just Ok, a popular Nigerian music site, DJ Cuppy, artist and DJ, and Michael Ugwu, general manager for Sony Music West Africa. The conversation began by addressing how African music is often over-generalized by westerners as “Afro-Beat”, specifying that African music is far more complex and diverse than that title expresses. In explaining the structural differences between the Nigerian and American music industries, the speakers highlighted African music’s collaborative aspects that foster community and interaction between artists. One of the largest issues in Nigerian music is the piracy’s popularity as a method of distribution and consumption. Because of this, Nigerian artists and record labels have a lot of work ahead in creating and enforcing structures of distribution that bring more credit back to the authors of the music. The role of government in Nigeria’s music industry was also discussed, as well as music’s role as exportable culture. This led me to think about how media outlets abroad influence other country’s music industries.. We at KZSC are fanatics and consumers of many different foreign sub-genres of music; but how do we impact these foreign music industries?

Shay attended “Creative Convergence: Artists as Labels” which highlighted the pros and cons of being a self-releasing artist. Anna Vogelzang, an independent artist, spoke about the preparation that comes with self-releasing and engaging with Kickstarter and related funding sources. It has a high reward, as an artist can avoid signing contracts, but does mean that the artist has a lot more to push before the online campaign begins. What do you think? Would you be willing to support an artist who utilizes online funding as their main source?

In “Radio Re-tuned for the Multi-platform Ecosystem,” panelists touched on when to go to radio with new artists’ work. The end message: when you’re ready. However, from Shay’s point of view as the music director, it is always best to submit your work to college radio when you’ve reached a point of audience support that you’re comfortable with and feel your work is strong and relatable enough to garner a larger fan base.

In another radio-related panel, “How is Radio Shaping the New Entertain Me Button,” panelists Simon Cole, Larry Marcus, Nico Perez, and Kevin Stanley talked about the future of personalized radio. One prediction: voice interface in automobiles. This would be something similar to Siri, but in cars, so that individuals can request what song, artist or radio station they want to hear at any given moment. Is this a threat to traditional radio? Shay thought so, but given that one of the panelists had their start in college radio, and later founded Mixcloud, it could provide a hopeful future with public radio’s potential integration. They also highlighted the importance of podcasting as a means of archiving, so that listeners have an additional means of tuning in to their favorite programs.

Shay also sat in on “Goodbye to Your Tunes: Techs Race to Save Music.” Analog music lovers spoke about preserving music collections. Cheryl Pawelski of Omnivore Records suggested that the most important collections to preserve are the ones with the most impactful stories. Scott Goldman of the Grammy Foundation said what was on all of our minds: streaming services are not archives. Although the majority of people look to services like iTunes and Spotify for collections of music, these can often be changed and pulled as the music politics change. Andy Leach of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame echoed this, suggesting that libraries are unable to provide access to such collections. This, in Shay’s opinion, is why college radio is essential: we are able to share rare collections with an audience. Pawelski suggested that re-releasing or debuting records on vinyl is a way of archiving, stepping away from the digital world into something physical. However, there is one main issue: the actual preservation of said wax. For how long can we maintain this method of listening to music?

Nikhil’s first panel of the day was a discussion of the newly premiered film Miles Ahead, directed and starring Don Cheadle, who also co-wrote the script with Steven Baigelman. The panel consisted of Cheadle, Robert Glasper, (who composed the original score), Keyon Harrold (who acts and pays trumpet in the film) Skip Livesay, (sound editor) producers  Erin Davis and Vincent Wilburn Jr. (Miles’ youngest son and nephew) and Felix Contreras of NPR Music who hosted. A majority of the session was spent discussing the intricacies of capturing the music in the film, and the arduous process of paying homage to one of history’s greatest trumpet players. Each panelist echoed a sentiment of wanting to deliver a film that emoted “what it feels like to listen to Miles”, deciding that in their individual capacities they would strive to produce a similarly intoxicating experience. They didn’t want it to be a didactic retelling of his life, and instead focused on the relationships in his life that influenced his diverse output.

After the Radio…Entertain Me session, Nikhil headed to Can’t Tell Me Nothing: Independent Hip-Hop which boasted a panel consisting of Brandon Hixon, founder of We Make Music and manage of De La Soul, Amaechi Uzoigwe, manager of Run the Jewels, Naomi Zeichner, editor-in-chief of The Fader, and Hayley Rosenblum, head of music outreach for Kickstarter. They stressed the importance of building a relationship with your audience and avoiding the stagnancy of trying to figure out mass appeal, which is constantly in flux. Often times they’ll give their music away for free and make most of their income off of ticket sales, merch, and fans serious enough to pay for the music even when given the option not to. What they underscored is having a dedication in your work ethic, for in time, passion and focus can perfect any product. Zeichner and Rosenblum discussed the need to keep an ear to the ground, which means being active on Twitter, speaking to friends whose taste are aligned with your own, and keeping an ear to your local scene just as often as you do for musicians getting national recognition. They were in consensus that at the end of the day, fans drive everything, and that the artistry of music is a constant process of giving back.
Chelsea went to a panel called “24/7/365 Promotion and the Always-On Artist”, which spoke about how having a small roster avoids problems with cycles of artist promotion. This entails a focus on making the music the best that it can be, before trying to market the artist. With a 5 year plan in mind, it is difficult to make a cookie cutter market plan, but easier to think about what the band wants to accomplish. Ask the artist what they want to say and how they want to promote themselves –quality over quantity– don’t make music to fill a schedule. The idea of using social media for instant feedback can be discouraging, so they advised not to rely on public feedback for art: make art for yourself, if others enjoy it, view that as a bonus.

The next panel that Chelsea went to was “She Who Goes First Sets The Rules: Women Innovators,” which focused on how women should rebuild the entire music industry infrastructure to fit women exactly as they are. Women shouldn’t have to be more masculine to be taken more seriously, but instead they should be able to write their own rules. They then discussed how there are often few women on festival lineups, and furthermore, how of Billboard’s 100 Most Powerful Influential Executives in the Music Business, only fifteen were women. Women, however, are arguably better than men at certain jobs because some women can be more in touch with their emotions, or empathetic, which makes them more valuable in understanding what consumers need.

Thursday night’s musical showcases were the bee’s knees… but the evening coincided with Texas’ celebration of the late Saint Padrick. Thus, alcohol-fueled crowds were piling into venues. We were able to catch Loretta Lynn, who at 83 years old performed with enough sass to make Beyonce proud. Cocorosie played in an interesting showcase located inside a Presbyterian Church, creating awe-inspiring sonic acoustics. Other great acts we caught were Faith Healer, Mitski, Lionlimb, Lapsley, Lissie, L.E.J, La Luz, Shannon and the Clams, Nef the Pharaoh, Divine Council, Nick Grant, DOOMSTARKS (MF Doom and Ghostface Killah), and Lil B.

 

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Wednesday Highlights from South by Southwest!

We need to talk about Michelle Obama’s biceps, and that moment she held Missy Elliott’s hand.

Photo Mar 16, 1 29 35 PMAfter a full-body pat down by the Secret Service to begin the morning, we were breathing the same air as Michelle O. The first lady came all the way to Austin to speak about the Let Girls Learn initiative, which promotes and provides education for girls all around the world, bridging the gap between socially-marginalized young women, and the resources needed for healthy and prosperous futures. Obama was joined by the likes of Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Diane Warren, and Sophia Bush. The talk wrapped up with questions from the audience. When asked how she felt about her time in the white house coming to an end, Michelle concluded that she was very excited for the future, and will be “blazing” into her fifties and sixties.

Continuing on to the conference, Nikhil and Shay attended “Feeling Ourselves? Black Girl Power in Music” with Whitney Gayle Benta, Janeé Bolden, Shanti Das and Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis. The panel spoke to the lack of black female representation in mainstream media, and white girls as the “standard”: the show Girls does not need “white” in the title, because it is already assumed. All of the panelists recognized a need for diverse imaging and representation of women of color, in contrast to the typecasting that often takes place.  Simultaneously, Shanti Das brought up the importance of feminism, supporting fellow women in media and in the workplace, and that sometimes, celebrating women is more important than focusing on racial difference. It was multi faceted, yet concentrated view of sexism and music industry cultural appropriation, as well as a call to nurture sisterhood.

After seeing the stellar “Feeling Ourselves” panel, Nikhil continued on to another insightful session discussing the new film “The Art of Organized Noize”, which followed the rise to acclaim of influential production team, Organized Noize. Their impact on the music and culture of not just their native home of Atlanta, but all of hip-hop, is unquestionable. The panelists, consisting of director Josh Krause, members Sleepy Brown and Ray Murray, Ms.Shanti Das once more, and moderator Nick Huff, were humble and knowledgeable, sharing unique production tidbits amidst the Dungeon Family’s remarkable story.

After the First Lady’s Keynote, Chelsea attended a panel called “Sell Those Tickets! Marketing Your Tour and More,” which focused on the key aspects of how to successfully promote a show. Some key notes mentioned were how to leverage artist’s content and music to foster popularity on the road. Whether it be releasing a music video or a special version of a song, having fresh content pushed out with tour dates engages fans on multiple levels.IMG_3549

Chelsea then attended “Music & Activism: Amplifying Your Voice for Social Good,” which included Chadwick Stokes, frontman of Dispatch and State Radio, as well as a human rights activist; Marika Anthony-Shaw, violinist of Arcade Fire; Marta Riggins of Pandora Radio. They spoke about how artists should be allowed to wear their value systems on their sleeves. Some organizations mentioned as examples include Pandora’s Little Kids Rock, which funds music education in public schools. Plus One was created by the band Arcade Fire in support of Haiti, encouraging $1 donations from each concert ticket sold. Ultimately, the speakers told everyone that making a difference is simple— it’s all about bridging a gap between like-minded people, or finding musicians or causes that have the same values as your organization. It is better collaborate with others, rather than trying to reinvent too much, as there is strength in numbers.

Shay and I then attended “Is Rock & Roll on Life Support?” which turned out to be the let down of the SXSW Music Conference. LA Lloyd, Chuck Loesch, Jason McMaster and David Rath essentially complained about the lack of good white male artists in the rock industry. After crying over the lack of a modern Van Halen, their sexist rant ended when a member of the audience said aloud: maybe women would be more interested in working with you if you stopped calling them “chicks.” Snaps to that guy, and cue our exit.

IMG_3522Meanwhile, Chelsea was in a much better discussion called “Representation of Women in Media,” led by founder of She Shreds Magazine, Fabi Reyna. The panel also included Kiran Ghandi, Michell Fleischli, Sadie Dupuis, and Tom Barnes. The discussion started with, “until we see that there are as many women as there are men in the industry, with positions of power, there will be no change” They then started off discussing a question about how they feel about feminism beginning to seep into the mainstream. Giving diverse depictions like “ Beyonce feminism,  Taylor Swift feminism, Queer feminism, and Riot Grrl feminism,” makes one understand feminism in their own way without having a narrow view of feminism. Reyna believes that having one single view of feminism won’t work. They then spoke about the frustrations when constantly being asked “what it’s like to be a woman in music and how gender is only indicated if the person identifies as female?”. They emphasized that gender should never be a topic of discussion in an interview, unless the subject would like to go that direction. Women should be able to talk about what matters to them, and writers should be mindful of their own transparency. Later they discussed how being a woman in music, it is often difficult to be yourself for fear of not being taken seriously, resorting to dressing a little more masculine to fit into a “dude’s world.” Gandhi talked about how she believes in a “3D femininity” where some days she can dress more masculine and some days she can dress more feminine, it doesn’t matter, she can do whatever she wants.

Late in the afternoon, Shay and I checked out “How 3D Printing Can Transform the Music Business.” This seminar with Isaac Budmen and Errol Kolosine laid out 3D printing for those of us who are more or less clueless about what that actually entails. After laying out some of the materials that can be used in 3D printing—everything from chocolate to plastic—the duo gave examples of instruments that have been created using digital 3D design and printing: Ernie Ball’s new signature St. Vincent guitar, as well as custom sculptures that are also programmable midi controllers.

NikhiI’s last session on Wednesday was “Rewriting Hip Hop History.” He had the chance to hear from some of hip-hop’s leading historians and journalists as they spoke on the importance of comprehensive and accurate documentation of not only the origins of hip-hop culture, but it’s entire journey into the present. A major aspect of the panel was citing the many contributions of women to the genre, as well as acknowledging the contributions of regions, other than the generalization of the West and East coast. The panel consisted of  Ben Ortiz, curator of Cornell’s Hip-Hop Collection, and is currently working on the digitizing of Africa Bambaataa’s discography and record collection. Also in attendance was Maco Faniel, author of Hip-Hop in Houston, and longtime respected journalists Johnathan Shecter and Dan Charnas.

The final panel Shay attended was a band website critique, which offered many suggestions for streamlining your website on both computers and mobile devices. While KZSC looks into the future of our online design, what do you want to see on our website? What would make it easier for you to learn, listen and support KZSC? If you have an idea please send an email to newmedia@kzsc.org!!!

Wednesday’s evening showcases were epic, including but not limited to: Mitski, who wore a knee length tweed skirt and played bass and it was the most punk rock thing that ever happened; The Parrots, who carried the intensity of a bull fight across the atlantic, from Madrid, Spain, to my earholes in Texas; Alex G; Froth; Gwenno; Moving Panoramas; Frankie Cosmos; and Erykah Badu, who played an excellent show to a venue well over capacity. 

Here are some lo fi cell phone pictures. Stay tuned for more from Austin City!

Article written as collaboration of KZSC staff: Shay Stoklos, Nikhil Viswanathan, Chelsea Valenzuela, and Lennon Stankavich.

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Jazz & Blues Update

Here’s the top 10 from this past week:

1 ERENA TERAKUBO Time For Love
2 SWEET BABY J’AI Straight To The Place
3 ADISON EVANS Hero
4 AVERY SHARPE Sharpe Meets Tharpe
5 CYRILLE AIMEE Let’s Get Lost
6 GLENN WHITE Quirk [EP]
7 GRACE KELLY Trying To Figure It Out
8 JASON MILES AND INGRID JENSEN Kind Of New
9 JENNY MAYBEE & NICK PHILLIPS Haiku (feat. Paul Eastburn)
10 PIXEL Golden Years

Check ’em out.

 

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KZSC Show Reviews: Animal Collective

The legendary indie noise harmonious electronica rock band Animal Collective made a rare tour appearance at the Fox Theater in Oakland this past week to promote their latest album “Painting With“. The group, featuring Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Geologist, have been making music with each other for years but came into popular acclaim after albums like Strawberry Jams and Merriweather Post Pavillion were released in the late 2000s. The group released their latest album last month after a three and a half years of anticipation. Songs like “Golden Girls” and “Floridada” off of “Painting With” quickly became favorites here at the station, so we were very excited to have the opportunity to be able to review a show of a long time favorite band of the station all the way back to “Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished” in 2000.

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Dead Kennedys: KZSC Show Reviews

This past Saturday, the Catalyst was moshed to the point of near collapse because the Dead Kennedys rocked the house harder than any band at the Catalyst. With a combination of the pent-up energy exerting from the crowd and the stacked line-up to make any punk fan envious, including Reagan Youth, Anti Social, and the Defenders, I walked out the door of the Catalyst witnessing the best concert I’ve seen so far.

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