The Black Keys aren’t your boring, middle-of-the-road rock stars, not by a long stretch. Their new album, El Camino, debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts when it was released in December, making them arguably THE biggest rock band in the United States after 10 years of toiling in indie semi-obscurity and earning themselves a headlining spot at the 2012 Coachella Music Festival. They’ve also proven to be unafraid of courting controversy, whether by blaming Nickleback for the demise of rock music or by being the most vocal detractor of the game-changing music streaming service, Spotify. Regarding the latter, Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney recently lit into Spotify board member Sean Parker for making his fortune on the backs of hard-working musicians during an online rant.
“Because [Spotify board member and Napster co-founder Sean Parker is] an asshole. That guy has $2 billion that he made from figuring out ways to steal royalties from artists, and that’s the bottom line. You can’t really trust anybody like that. The idea of a streaming service, like Netflix for music, I’m totally not against it. It’s just we won’t put all of our music on it until there are enough subscribers for it to make sense.”
During a panel discussion at SXSW, Sean Parker —whose exploits will be profiled in the upcoming VH1 Rock Doc Downloaded— caused some waves when he told audience members that “There’s definitely some sort of dissent brewing between record labels, publishing companies and artists [about the compensation they get from streaming services] … Spotify is returning a HUGE amount of money [to the record labels]. If we continue growing at our current rate in terms of subscriptions and downloads, we’ll overtake iTunes in terms of contributions to the recorded music business in under two years.”
So, who to believe? Are you on #TEAMKEYS because you feel that you should always purchase the music of bands that you support? Or are you on #TEAMPARKER because you feel that non-pirated music should be more easily accessible to everyone? To find out the opinions that bands like Train, The Shins, Fun. and more have on Spotify, watch the video we just shot of them answering this very question down at the 2012 SXSW Music Festival earlier this month!
While there seems to be near-universal consensus about the benefits of Spotify from a consumer-perspective, the same cannot be said for the artists whose work actually appears on streaming services. There are varied reports as to how much money musical acts actually make from services like Spotify, MOG and Rdio —one widely circulated report last summer claimed that Lady Gaga only made $167 after her song “Poker Face” was spun one million times on Spotify— and some acts like The Black Keys have been very vocal about the reasons they have NOT chosen to make their music available there (“For a band that makes a living selling music, it’s not at a point where it’s feasible for us.”)
This hot button issue was on the top of everyone’s mind at this year’s SXSW Festival, where the worlds of technology and music collided for a few days earlier this month. Spotify executive Sean Parker explained during a VH1 Rock Docs panel audience that “There’s definitely some sort of dissent brewing between record labels, publishing companies and artists [about the compensation they get from streaming services] … Spotify is returning a HUGE amount of money [to the record labels]. If we continue growing at our current rate in terms of subscriptions and downloads, we’ll overtake iTunes in terms of contributions to the recorded music business in under two years.”
But what do the musicians themselves think? We sat down with a number of artists at varying stages of their careers —veteran acts like Train, The Shins, and Keane, as well as relative newcomers like Alabama Shakes, Best Coast, Fun. and Gary Clark Jr.— to get their perspectives on this controversial subject. Find out what they have to say in this exclusive VH1 Tuner video!
Pitbull Will Sing The Men In Black 3 Theme Song
Yes but no! What about Will Smith? With Pitbull touted to sing the Men In Black 3 theme song, we’re going to miss Smith’s cheeky sound. Guest verse maybe? [Popdust]
One Direction Offers Free Download
If you haven’t heard of One Direction then we suggest you get out from under that rock you’ve been living beneath (seriously, it’s not good for your back). To make your emergence from the substrata even easier, the guys are offering a free download of an acoustic version of their song “One Thing.” Get it. [Idolator]
DJ Spooky, aka That Subliminal Kid, is a man of many talents: World class DJ, multimedia artist, writer, and technology entrepreneur. Now you can add Music Supervisor to that list, too, as Paul D. Miller (his real name) is currently hard at work putting together the score for the upcoming VH1 Rock Docs documentary film, Downloaded. We got a chance to speak to him just before midnight last night at a party celebrating the film’s upcoming release, which was also attended by the likes of Ed Sheeran (check out our interview with him!), comedian Reggie Watts, actor/director Alex Winter, multi-gazillionaire investor Sean Parker, and more. We asked him about his thoughts on Napster, what he thinks of the explosion of popularity of DJs here in America, and much more.
VH1: You’re working on putting together the score for the film Downloaded. What was it that drew you to this project?
DJ Spooky: Alex [Winter] is somebody who digs in the crates. He’s always checking out different styles. He got in touch and told me how he had a lot of my music at different times in my career. We just got along. We did a quick interview/discussion, and it just seemed like there was good energy, good dynamics, but above all, a good flow of information.
Were you a Napster user back in the day? Being a recording artist and an avid digger, I can only imagine that your relationship to such a controversial product must have been complicated.
Most of the stuff that I was really interested in was the idea of the “archive” and the “exchange.” And when I say “exchange,” I mean this networked system that somehow enabled so many people to really begin to understand how deep the networks were. Napster, to me, was one of those seminal moments where the extreme volume of information that everyone has about music was able to come alive.
Napster is no longer a living, breathing product, but thanks to some breakthroughs in both technology and record label innovation, streaming services like Spotify now exist. As an artist, what’s your view on streaming versus physical media?
As an avid record collector, the thing that comes to mind is scarcity. Records have made a comeback and have become collector’s items. Vinyl versus digital files? To me, the greatest selling album all time is the blank CD. You can put anything you want on it, but vinyl had this artwork, all sorts of beautiful graphic design, things that are difficult to replicate in digital files. Actually, I believe apps have taken over the role of diminishing vinyl in the culture.
Ed Sheeran is a 21 year-old singer-songwriter who, over the course of the last nine months or so, went from being an aspiring musician to a household name in his native England. His grippingly dark single, “The A Team”, debuted at #3 on the UK charts last June and it’s been a rocket ride for the fresh-faced troubadour ever since. His first full length album, +, is currently available as an import, but will be on shelves and in the iTunes store here in the U.S. soon. We caught up with him last night at the W Hotel here in Austin, where he performed a spirited and energetic set as part of the the VH1 Rock Docs party at the SXSW Music Festival.
VH1: Is this your first trip to SXSW?
Ed Sheeran: This is my first time anywhere other than New York or LA. Not only is it my first Texas show, it’s my first middle America show I guess. It’s been going great. I just did my first gig and I’m really looking forward to this one. I’m lovin’ it, it’s a crazy vibe out here.
How many shows are you playing this weekend?
Seven. It’s cool. My one addiction is to live shows, and I love getting out there and doing ‘em.
So, the song that really broke you in the U.K. and will be your first single over here in the States is “The A Team.” The subject matter of the song is very dark, lyrically, but also incredibly compelling. What was it about this song that resonated so well with audiences?
The whole kind of ethos around it is that it encompasses pain and suffering. I know that that sounds really deep, but with enough dance tracks on the radio, sometimes people need a little bit of raw, real stuff. It’s sort of the same thing as The Police and their song “Roxanne”. People can’t necessarily relate to it 100%, but they can relate to the feeling of it.
We’ve noticed the same thing, too. With the proliferation of dance music on the airwaves, do you feel like there will be a counter-movement where fans will be drawn to more “authentic” music, the kind of stuff that you excel at?
In every single generation, when there’s been a really big seller, there’s always been singer-songwriters. Before me, there was James Morrison. Before him, James Blunt. Before him, it was Damien Rice and before that, it was David Gray. It just goes back so, yeah, you’re always going to get the kind of raw, acoustic singer who comes out at the time where everything else seems to be headed in another direction. It always cuts through, there will always be troubadours.
It’s an overcast Day Two for VH1 down here at the 2012 South By Southwest Festival, but we’re not complaining. Every minute that the sun isn’t shining is a minute where we don’t mind being inside, nerding out listening to some of the most influential and interesting people who operate in the music world.
Case in point, today’s panel discussion about the new VH1 Rock Doc Downloaded. We mozied our way over to the Austin Convention Center to watch Downloaded director Alex Winter moderate a discussion with the two co-founders of Napster, Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. This full length documentary film will premiere on VH1 later this year — the only footage screened today was a five-minute long teaser clip — but Fanning and Parker had a lot to say about their invention, their company, the effect that it had on the music business, and companies —like Spotify and iTunes— that were launched in their wake.
In particular, the always controversial Sean Parker made a couple of statements during the panel discussion that made the audience gasp and will certainly get tongues wagging. Here’s a sample of his five most controversial quotes.
“There’s definitely some sort of dissent brewing between record labels, publishing companies and artists [about the compensation they get from streaming services] … Spotify is returning a HUGE amount of money [to the record labels]. If we continue growing at our current rate in terms of subscriptions and downloads, we’ll overtake iTunes in terms of contributions to the recorded music business in under two years.” —Sean Parker throws down the gauntlet that Spotify will drive more revenue for the record industry than iTunes
“Even the iTunes store, to this day, is SO SLOW [compared to Napster]. I’m amazed. It’s like this embedded website within their client that when you click buy [makes spinning motion with his hands].”—Sean Parker on Apple’s laziness with regards to improving the iTunes Store
“In some sense, YouTube is much more liable [than Napster]. If you’re hosting the content, you’re liable, potentially, for direct infringement. We had to be sued for the much more esoteric contributory, vicarious copyright infringement … The funny thing about YouTube is that all of the user-generated content was accounting for such a small fraction of [their traffic]. In reality, it was a smokescreen. They had all this UGC, tons of it, and they were able to make a case in the various lawsuits against YouTube that that was the bulk of their content. When, in actuality, the traffic was largely being generated by SNL clips and other copyrighted content.” —Sean Parker on the injustice and inconsistency of the United States legal system
“Suddenly, [Napter] was taken over by lawyers. Our CEO was literally an attorney. Not to begrudge our CEO at the time, but one of our important lessons learned is that your CEO should never be an attorney. It became like a law firm.” —Sean Parker on how NOT to run a business that depends on creativity and innovation
“The record business was terrified of it. And there wasn’t even room for conversation. These guys were such dinosaurs that they were just for the first time waking up to the idea of digital media. They hadn’t even considered the implications of what was coming … [But during our meetings with the major labels], they were grinf*cking the sh*t out of us.” —Sean Parker on the record industry’s reaction to Napster
And one bonus quote for you after the jump!
For each and every show that airs on VH1, a team of music supervisors here at the network have spent countless hours determining exactly what pieces of music best complement the footage that we have shot. This team —the CMI (Creative Music Integration) group— listen to thousands of songs each month in an attempt to figure out how best to utilize musical cues to reinforce the emotion and drama on shows like Mob Wives and Basketball Wives, so we thought it would be a cool idea to give you an inside glimpse into their world.
Each month, we’ll put together a list of all the songs that have been featured on the programs and promos that you see on VH1, which will be accompanied by two things: Specific commentary from the music supervisor as to why they selected a particular song for a particular scene in a show, as well as a Spotify playlist for you to sample these songs. Without further ado, here are all the songs that we featured on VH1 during the month of February!
VH1 SHOWS PLAYLIST: FEBRUARY 2012
(Listen to the playlist on Spotify)
- Deluka‘s “OMFG” in the theme for 40 Greatest TRL Moments
- Ellie Goulding‘s “Starry Eyed” is featured in VH1′s 100 Greatest Women in Music promo
- Carmen Liana’s “Who I Am” in Black History Month Promo
“When the promos department approached us for ideas on a song to be used in several Black History Month promos, Carmen Liana’s ‘Who I Am’ immediately came to mind. It’s a driving track with a touch of attitude in the hook that catches your attention. Lyrically, the theme of the song, which celebrates embracing your identity, ties in nicely with Black History Month.“—Lacey, VH1/CMI Department Assistant
When Whitney Houston passed away yesterday, we lost a once-in-a-generation talent, a singer whose voice was so pure and emotive that it was heralded by people of of all ages, races and nationalities. During a remarkable stretch from December of 1985 until March of 1988, Whitney scored a record seven consecutive #1 Billboard singles in a row; she ultimately finished her career with 11 #1 songs, good for 7th place on the all-time list of history’s most popular recording artists.
As we all struggle to cope with the sudden loss of Whitney Houston, we put together the following Spotify playlist as a way to remember Whitney at her finest — Dance With Me Baby: All Of Whitney Houston’s Top 40 hits. The playlist consists of 31 tracks, and is organized in order of chart success. It ranges from “I Will Always Love You”, which spent an astounding 14 weeks at #1 in 1992-1993, to “Queen Of The Night”, a deep cut from The Bodyguard that peaked at #36 on the Billboard charts.
The playlist’s tracklist is as follows:
Song: “I Will Always Love You”
Released: November 14, 1992
Peak Position: #1 for 14 weeks
Song: “Greatest Love Of All”
Released: April 5, 1986
Peak Position: #1 for 3 weeks
Song: “How Will I Know”
Released: December 28, 1985
Peak Position: #1 for 2 weeks
Hot on the campaign trail pending this year’s election, President Obama is yet again proving why he’s a cut above the rest by releasing a Spotify playlist to soundtrack his campaign. No matter what you think of the Obama presidency, you can’t accuse the man and his minions of being inept when it comes to new technologies and social media. Indeed, the Spotify playlist, which itself is the primary “of the moment” device for music sharing, was promoted using Obama’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, giving the incumbent somewhat of a modern edge against would-be Presidential candidates. Not to mention making him unspeakably cool, which counts for almost everything to the social media generation.
The list has some notable inclusions as well — especially Al Green‘s “Let’s Stay Together”, which the President recently worked out his vocal cords to. Bruce Springsteen seems like a must for any “all American” campaign, and The Boss’s new track “We Take Care Of Our Own” is right at home in a play list that covers the USA’s musical heart from the middle to the coasts — from soul to country to indie-pop. Showing that he’s “down with the kids” Obama’s playlist includes Arcade Fire and Wilco and even some of our favorite DIVAS: Ledisi, Florence + The Machine, Sugarland and Jennifer Hudson. The only minor criticisms we have of the list is that there’s no representation for Watch The Throne — it seems that Jay-Z and Kayne West‘s Frank Ocean chorused “Made In America” would have been the perfect track to accompany Obama’s campaign. Also, where’s Beyoncé?
You can see the full track listing after the jump.
VH1′s latest entry in the award-winning Rock Docs franchise, The TRL Decade, premieres tonight at 9:30 pm. The hour-long special takes a look back at the colorful history of the long-running MTV video request program and the effect that it had on the music industry, and features insightful interviews from former VJs like Carson Daly and Dave Holmes, as well as some of that era’s most popular musical acts.
In order to get you in the mood for tonight’s premiere, we built this special
Spotify playlist for The TRL Decade, which features many of the songs that you’ll hear in this documentary feature. Get your ’90s nostalgia on with boy band faves like “Larger Than Life” by the Backstreet Boys, rap-rock smashes like Korn‘s “Freak On A Leash”, hip hop hits like P. Diddy‘s “Bad Boy For Life”, sugar coated girl pop classics like Mandy Moore‘s “Candy”, and many more.
The TRL Decade [Spotify]
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]