When you see Downloaded, the VH1 Rock Doc that made its world premiere at the 2013 SXSW Festival last night, director Alex Winter presents some clear lines of demarcation between who he views as the heroes and villains of the story. Shawn Fanning, co-founder of Napster and the “face” of the company, is presented as a sympathetic figure, and the frightened “old world” mentality is personified by Metallica‘s drummer Lars Ulrich, who famously led the charge against the file-sharing service. We caught up with Shawn Fanning last night and asked him if, after all these years, he still had beef with Lars.
The world premiere of Downloaded, the latest entry in the Emmy award winning VH1 Rock Docs canon, went down at Austin’s Paramount Theater last night as part of the 2013 SXSW Festival. We were there on the red carpet, where we caught up with the film’s primary subjects, Napster co-founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, and asked them each about the single biggest lesson they learned during this equally exciting and chaotic time.
Youngblood Hawke is a five-person, indie pop act that hails from the Los Angeles area hipster enclave of Silverlake. The group is also VH1′s featured You Oughta Know artist for the month of March, and we got to know them quite well over a course of a day they recently spent with us here in New York City.
It’s less than one week until your friendly VH1 Tuner team will be packing their bags and hopping on a flight headed south … South By Southwest, actually. That’s right, we’ll be in Austin all next week to get the lowdown on the hottest bands (and best barbeque, natch), and a doozy of an announcement just landed in our inboxes. On Tuesday, March 12, we’ll be in attendance at the MTV/VH1/CMT Present: Live in Austin event, which will be headlined by Jim James of My Morning Jacket fame. Read more…
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!
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!