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!
(Clockwise, starting Upper Left: Fallulah, St. Lucia, Of Monsters & Men, The Lumineers)
We’re still recovering from the week we just spent down in Austin, Texas, for the 2012 South By Southwest Music Festival. It’s been four days since we got home, but our ears are still ringing and the taste of barbeque is still fresh in our mouths. During SXSW, most of the headlines were dominated by Fiona Apple’s stunning return to the scene and Eminem’s surprise appearance during 50 Cent’s front-to-back performance of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, but now that we’ve had a few days to put the fest in perspective, some of our favorite performances came from bands that have not yet reached household name status.
We asked a few members of VH1’s CMI (Creative Music Integration) group —they’re the people who determine which songs appear in our on-air programming— to give us a quick summary of acts that they really enjoyed during their time down in Austin, artists whose music seems likely for future sync opportunities in commercials, TV programs or films. So, fire up your Spotify and start sampling bands that you’re likely to hear a lot more from as 2012 progresses.
Swan Dive, an official SXSW venue, was packed to the brim, sweltering hot, and buzzing with energy in anticipation for Doomtree, a hip hop collective out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Armed with an eclectic sound that blends hip hop, R&B, and bluesy rock, this group of seven distinct MCs preformed with the aggressive energy of a punk act and just the right amount of hip hop swagger. Songs like “Little Mercy” with its blues-inspired vocals and dramatic, motivational lyrics (“We’re so hungry / We’re so thirsty / But I’m gonna hunt until it hurts me”), Doomtree’s music might fit perfectly in a commercial for an upcoming sporting event or a Nike commercial if they went down an edgier route.—Monsé, Creative Music Integration Assistant
For Fans Of: Grieves
This Copenhagen-based songstress impressed a sizable crowd during her short Saturday night set at SXSW. She performed a few songs off her debut album Black Cat Neighbourhood (2010) and one new song although she added, “I suppose it doesn’t really matter because I’m new to all of you.” Songs like “Only Human” and “I Lay My Head” showcased her strong lyrical skills, expressive vocals, and vibrant instrumentation peppered with catchy handclaps and whistling. Fallulah has managed to create a richly layered musical landscape that has the potential to fit nicely within shows where it could add that extra oomph to a light hearted, upbeat scene in a female driven dramaedy (think Grey’s Anatomy) or teen drama (Pretty Little Liars).—Monsé, Creative Music Integration Assistant
For Fans Of: Florence + The Machine, Lykke Li, Marina and the Diamonds
Train‘s long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Save Me San Francisco album will be coming out in less than a month. As a means of road testing their new material, and as a way to play live in significantly more intimate venues than this arena band is used to, the guys made their way down to the 2012 SXSW Music Festival last week for a handful of dates. We caught up with the three guys from Train —from left to right, Jimmy Stafford (guitar), Scott Underwood (drums) and Patrick Monahan (lead vocals)— down in Austin and asked them to tell us a bit about their new record, California 37 (which is due out on April 17, 2012).
“California 37 is a road that brought us to one another,” Pat Monahan explained. “This record is more of an expression than it is a ‘Can we come back?’ [kind of thing]. The songs and the stories are just better. They’re more refined. It’s a dance record, but it’s also singer-songwriter at the same time.” After hearing the propulsive and upbeat first single “Drive By”, we’re excited to see how the rest of the album incorporates the dance-y elements that Monahan referred to in our chat with him.
Now, this is where things got a bit awkward in our interview. You see, we’ve always thought that Train‘s gargantuan 2010 hit, “Hey Soul Sister,” is one of the most subversive songs to get mass airplay since “Summer of ’69.” A few years back, Bryan Adams admitted to a shocked Maggie Rodriguez on CBS’s The Early Show that his song was about a sexual position, NOT a year, so we thought we’d try to get Train to do the same thing about “Hey Soul Sister.” Our theory has always been that the song is about a particularly memorable blowjob, our evidence being the line in the song that goes “Your lipstick stains on the front lobe of my left side brains / I knew I wouldn’t forget you / And so I went and let you blow my mind.” So, is it? See how the band responded in our video below!
Some bands make music that simply sounds better while you’re listening to it outside, with a breeze in the air and a beer in your hand. California natives Best Coast definitely fall into this category, with their fuzzy, stoner-friendly riffs and the mellow, sweetly expressive voice of lead singer Bethany Cosentino. The band broke through with their 2010 Crazy For You LP, which scored an 8.4 and a coveted “Best New Music” notation from the tastemaker site Pitchfork, and just played a handful of gigs at the 2012 SXSW Music Festival in support of their new LP, The Only Place (the release date of which is still TBD).
“The record was written in a place of being homesick,” the 25 year-old Cosentino explained to us over the weekend. “‘The Only Place’ is supposed to mean my bedroom, my home, Los Angeles, California. It’s the place where I feel the most comfortable and confident. I wanted to make a record that reflected that this place is my safe place, and all these songs that are written about more darker, kind of lonely feelings, those all go away as I get back to this only place.”
Well, it’s pretty clear that while Cosentino feels most comfortable in California, she’s been widely accepted the world over. Her 2011 video for “Our Deal”, which was directed by Drew Barrymore and stars Chloe Moretz, picked up a 2012 Woodie Award for Best Video while down in Austin, an award she accepted from the luminous DJ Pauly D. If you’re not yet familiar with the group (or even if you are!), we’ve got some video of Best Coast performing “Our Deal” live from last week’s SPIN party at Stubb’s for you below.
You would’ve been hard-pressed to find a person who had performed more times at the SXSW Music Festival over the years than Gary Clark Jr. The 28 year-old artist is, without a doubt, one of the best musicians to ever emerge from the fertile Austin scene, and his 2011 Bright Lights EP was so well-received that he was invited to play for President Barack Obama at the White House just last month. So, we thought, who better of an authority to convince us that there’s a bright future for rock music, a genre which seems to be falling a bit out of favor with the youth of today.
“I don’t really think rock music has gone anywhere,” he told us over the weekend at the 2012 SXSW Music Festival. “It’s just that people are interested in other things. Musically, you can do so much more, there’s new technologies and ways to express yourself, but it’s not going anywhere.”
Well, there you have it, straight from Gary Clark Jr.’s mouth! He’s currently in the studio working on a full length follow-up to his most recent EP, due out this summer. “There’s no real theme to the album,” he told us. “I’m trying to do what I did with the Bright Lights EP, which is kind of give a little taste of my influences and what I love musically, which is blues, soul and rock n’ roll music.”
The 2012 SXSW Music Festival is in the books, y’all. Your friendly neighborhood VH1 Tuner team was down in Austin for five days, but it felt more like a month (in a good way!). By that, we mean that Austin is a very inviting place, the kind of city that is big enough that you don’t get bored by it, but small enough that you get familiar with the layout quickly. In short, by the time we left the city on Sunday afternoon, it sort of felt like home.
If you’ve never been down to Austin —this was actually the first time down there for both myself and our ace photographer, Jen Marigliano— we wanted to give you a vibe of what the city is like during the festival. So, in this special SXSW edition of our long-running Music Seen feature, you’ll get a sense of what we experienced during our short trip to the Lone Star state. You’ll see some of the artists that we spent time with (like B.o.B, T.I., Neon Hitch, Train, Kimbra and more!), the crowds of people who fly in from all over the world to see live music at intimate venues, and how music truly takes over this awesome college town for six days each and every March. Enjoy!
VH1’s current You Oughta Know artist, Graffiti6, is pretty new to American audiences. Their debut full length album, Colours, came out in January and the band has been touring the States with bands like Augustana in order to get the word out. “It’s been an experience, man, it’s been amazing,” Graffiti6 frontman Jamie Scott told us about the touring experience when we caught up with him at the 2012 SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas over the weekend. “I was never really ready for the reaction we’ve gotten in America with this record, purely because I’ve never [toured] here before. It’s a daunting place, when you think about it, but we’ve had the most amazing reaction. So far, man, it’s felt pretty incredible.”
Jamie and his bandmates in Graffiti6 played a grand total of 10 shows (!!!) during their trip to Austin this year, which marks their third trip down to Texas for the annual confab. With each passing year, their stature here in the US of A has grown, and based on the reaction they got from crowds this year, it sure seems as if they’ll continue on this upward trajectory over the course of this month and beyond.
RELATED: Music Seen: Graffiti6 Visit VH1 And Make Everyone Swoon [VH1 Tuner]
The brand new album from The Shins, Port Of Morrow, is their first since 2006’s Wincing The Night Away. Frontman James Mercer kept busy in the interim, teaming up with super-producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse on the Broken Bells project. So, the first thing we asked James when we caught up with him over the weekend at the 2012 SXSW Music Festival was what made him feel that the time was right to revisit The Shins?
“During the Broken Bells project, everything that I did creatively, I did on the spot with Brian [Burton, aka Danger Mouse],” he explained. “Since I made that conscious decision that I wouldn’t be bringing ideas I made up at home into the studio, all of the stuff that I came up with on my own went to The Shins. I just had a build-up of ideas for songs, and parts, and choruses and verses.”
Well, judging by the reaction to the new material —the band just graced the stage of Saturday Night Live a few Saturdays ago—he picked a perfect time to rededicate himself to this particular creative outlet of his. Port Of Morrow, which comes out tomorrow, is not only the name of the album and a song on the record, but also a real-life industrial port in Oregon. “[Port Of Morrow] is so poetic sounding, it sounds like something out of Shakespeare to me,” Mercer revealed. “I thought about it like this departure point that you would leave, but I also thought about the river Styx. So, it came to symbolize death, I guess? [Laughs] Maybe I shouldn’t have called the record ‘Death.'”
Fun.‘s sophomore LP, Some Nights, just came out to strong reviews and even stronger sales, buoyed by the phenomenal success of the album’s first single, “We Are Young” (which recently hit #1 on the Billboard charts). The song’s subject matter is a bit mysterious in nature, so when we caught up with the three gents who make up the band in Austin during the 2012 South By Southwest Music Festival, the very first thing we asked them was to clear up the debate surrounding the meaning of the song’s line, “I know I gave it to you months ago.”
“[It’s about] The Clap,” Fun. lead singer Nate Ruess deadpanned when we asked him. Admittedly, our jaws instantly hit the floor, but then the guys started laughing. “It’s not literal, having written it,” Nate confessed. “The whole song, also isn’t necessarily about something specific. I think it’s taking insecurities and nights out and combining them into one night. It’s not literal.” PHEW.
There was great music, great food, and great times to be had at the 2012 South By Southwest Music Festival. However, it’s important to note that as hard as people partied while they were taking in the sights and sounds in Austin, there was one particular activity over the weekend that raised tons of money for a cause near and dear to our hearts. On Saturday night, Perez Hilton teamed up with the VH1 Save The Music Foundation for his annual One Night In Austin party (which featured performances by B.o.B., Ed Sheeran, Timbaland and more!). For the first time ever, Perez sold tickets to his SXSW mainstay and graciously donated all of the proceeds —over $46,000!— to VH1 Save The Music. That’s more than enough to restore an instrumental music program at a middle school or high school!
Even if you weren’t able to make it down to Austin this year, you can still help this very good cause. Simply follow VH1 on Foursquare, check into a music venue ANYWHERE across the country, and you’ll receive your own personal Save The Music badge. Then, on your behalf, VH1 will donate $1 to the VH1 Save The Music Foundation. It’s that easy!