Steve Reich – “Clapping Music” for MAX

Here’s an interesting rendition of Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music”. If your unfamiliar with this piece, it’s two identical rhythmic patterns in 12/8 time. They start at the same time, but after eight measures, the second pattern starts an eighth note later putting them “out of phase”. You can see this happening in the matrix object in the video. The phasing process is repeated every eight measures (creating some very interesting rhythmic interplay) until they become “in phase” once again. I plan to create a series of variations using this particular Max patch.

This piece is typically performed with real musicians. I decided to create an electronic patch as an experiment to learn more about MAX and its matrix object. Once the patch has been created, it’s a snap to adjust the matrix and create new rhythmic patterns.

Dr. David Mitchell’s Composition “The Bells” to be Performed by Campbell University Chorus

Dr. Mitchell’s original composition, “The Bells” for chorus and violin will be performed by the Campbell University Choir – featuring Lucy Greenleaf-Carter on violin – on Friday, February 19, 2016. “The Bells” was arranged and set to the Edgar Allen Poe poem of the same name.

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Violinist, Lucy Greenleaf-Carter

“Happy Birthday to You” is Now Public Domain

Bet you didn’t know “Happy Birthday”, one of the most recognized songs in the English language, was under copyright with Warner, until last week.

Yep! In fact, it has generated significant revenue for Warner since 1988, especially in movies. The licensing fee can be as much as $1,500 to $5,000, which has inspired a number of productions to create alternative versions of the song.

Check out this video to see some examples:

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, a federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled Warner/Chappell publishing company never had the right to charge for the use of “Happy Birthday to You”.

In 1893, Mildred and Patty Hill published it in a book entitled Song Stories for the Kindergarten. They borrowed the melody from a similar popular song of the era and changed the lyrics to “Good Morning to All”. Patty Hill, a kindergarten principal in Kentucky, encouraged her students to sing it at the beginning of school each morning. It became so popular; her students began to spontaneously sing it at birthday parties, changing the words to “ Happy Birthday to You”.

In 1935, The Clayton Summy Co. published a piano arrangement of “Happy Birthday to You” attributing the composition to Preston Orem and R. R. Forman. The copyright to this particular arrangement was eventually purchased by Warner in 1988. Warner incorrectly charged a fee for any and all versions of “Happy Birthday to You”, but they actually only owned the copyright to a specific piano arrangement. Amazing!

So you can relax. No one’s going to take half of your birthday cake, or a percentage of your birthday presents. : )

A Composer’s Inspiration

Click on the picture to read an article about my composition “Lake Avondale” in Decaturish.com. I’m a featured local composer this week! Pretty cool.
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Lake Avondale: A Beautiful Day

A live performance of “Lake Avondale” for classical guitar and piano featuring Jay Kacherski and Lina Morita at The University of Mississippi for Women.

SHOULD I STREAM MY MUSIC ONLINE?

This is the first in a series of blog posts covering topics related to music marketing. The slides in this post are from a presentation at the 2015 College Music Society Conference in Columbus, Mississippi. I was selected to present on this topic along with my fiancé, Jennifer Jones. Ms. Jones is a marketing expert and principle partner with Anderson Jones PR and Pinpoint Market Research.

Our presentation covered the online music landscape, creative case studies, the social media landscape, the new “publish or perish” model and questions to ask yourself as you design your marketing campaign.

This bog post will focus on the online music landscape, specifically, the pros and cons of online streaming.

The bottom line is online streaming is not profitable for musicians. The decision to stream your music online must be made with this in mind. Here is what the most popular services pay per stream:

The Streaming Business Model:

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These numbers represent an average paid by each service, which can be more or less depending on how many streams you receive per month. For example, Spotify, used by more than 50 million people, takes 30% off the top and divides the remaining 70% of their $10 per month subscription between everyone involved in the recording. They do this by dividing your streams by the total number of streams on their service each month. On average, this works out to be roughly .007 cents per stream. If your song streams 10,000 times you will receive $70 per month on average. This is divided among your band mates, the producer and your label, so you’ll receive enough to purchase a Happy Meal or two, which would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

This is why even major artists like Taylor Swift have removed their music from Spotify. According to Time Magazine, her estimated pay out for “Shake It Off” was roughly $280,000 to $390,000. Her total streams for this song were 46.3 million. If we use the high number of $390,000 and divide that by 46.3 million, the average pay out per stream was .0084 cents per stream. Not good, especially if you consider she must divide it between everyone involved in the recording.

By comparison, Michael Jackson sold an estimated 66 million copies of Thriller according to the New Yorker. Sources have estimated his income from this album was roughly $129 to $500 million. Admittedly, this was an album and not a single, but it does illustrate the fact that streaming pays a fraction of what record sales used to pay.

ENGAGEMENT VS. PROFIT

The upside to streaming is engagement with your fans. Streaming does offer the average, independent artist the ability to reach 50 million potential fans on Spotify alone. In a recent survey conducted by Pinpoint Market Research, 31% of millennials said they listen to music on streaming services and roughly 45% discover new music on streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, YouTube and Soundcloud (see the slide below). So, if your goal is to reach fans and drive engagement, streaming can help, but remember, you’re essentially giving away your music to get people to your shows and engage fans.

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WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

Before you put your music on a streaming service, you should decide what your goals are. Do you want to profit from the recording itself or do you want to reach as many fans as possible and drive engagement? If profit is your goal, consider placing your music on streaming services that pay the most per stream, probably not Spotify, Pandora or YouTube. If Taylor Swift can’t make a significant profit on these services, you probably won’t either.

In my opinion, musicians should never give away their music. It lowers the bar for everyone in the industry. Instead of racing to streaming services, which pay the least, let’s streaming our music on services that pay musicians fairly. Maybe we can reverse the trend toward lower and lower profits, if we insist on fair payment for our life’s work. For example, 10,000 streams on Spotify will net you $70. 10,000 streams on Rhapsody at .69 cents per stream will net you $6,900, significantly better.

If you agree, comment at #fairpay4music. Please share, comment and tweet your thoughts. Follow this blog for more information in the coming weeks. Let’s make a difference.

Boardwalk Empire Opening Theme: Music Sets the Mood

The opening theme for Boardwalk Empire is an excellent example of setting the mood for a television series. The song is “Straight Up and Down” by The Brian Jonestown Massacre, their second album released in 1996, Take It from the Man. According to Wikipedia, this album “is rooted in rhythm and blues and heavily influenced by artists such as The Rolling Stones.”

Click the image below to watch the video in a new window.

This song is anachronistic within the context of the show, but it sets the mood perfectly. From the start, the opening theme song and video draws you in, making you want to watch. It says, “this is hardcore. You’re going to want to stick around and find out what happens next.” It’s also clear that this show is not a sitcom. It’s a serious drama and stuff is about to go down, my friend.

So this theme song does everything a good theme song should do:

  1. It sets the mood.
  2. It let’s you know the type of show you are about to watch (sitcom or drama).
  3. It keeps you in your seat wanting to see more.
  4. It’s also kind of catchy. You can’t help but nod your head and say “yeah man, rock ‘n roll.”
  5. It’s also nice and short, just long enough to do what needs to be done without giving the audience time to change the channel or head for the fridge.

What is most interesting is the juxtaposition of a modern rock song with a television series set in the early twentieth century. Both Nucky’s suit, obviously 1920’s fashion, and the old Boardwalk don’t jive, at first blush, with the music. In addition, the series as a whole takes great care to make everything true to the period from clothing, appliances and cars to music,lingo and mannerisms. If you have watched the entire series as I have, you know it’s almost like looking back into the past, a postcard from the early twentieth century. This juxtaposition is curious and compelling.

So why did the producers choose this song over period music? It’s because period music no longer has the same connotations for a modern audience as it used to have for audiences of the early twentieth century. A modern rock song can reach an audience with more familiar music and push the right emotional buttons which have been put in place by years of exposure to popular music. Period music won’t make an audience think “hardcore, yeah man, it’s about to get real.” Period music does a great job of placing the series within the early twentieth century, a job the producers do so well within the episode itself. It won’t necessarily keep you from changing the channel or thinking “this is a show my grandma would like.”

This juxtaposition is also a classic film trick, namely, combining two polar opposite elements to create a more powerful impact, for example, playing children’s songs during a murder scene. It’s so wrong, it’s right.

In addition, the producers did a great job marrying the video to the music. In most cases, the music is written after the film is shot. In this case, the music came first (1996). For example, the highly distorted guitar is matched by the oversaturated video (nice touch). Also, the violence of the waves and the breaking of the whiskey bottle, at approximately 48 seconds into the video, match the raw sound of the grunge guitar solo which begins at that precise moment reflecting the violent, raw nature of the series as a whole. Also, the solo ends with waves hitting Nucky’s feet at approximately 1 minute 15 seconds with a brief reprise as the camera pans up to Nucky’s face ending at approximately 1 minute 20 seconds. This symbolizes the fact that this series begins and ends with Nucky Thompson. It’s all about his world.

I say bravo to the producers of this opening theme song and video. It serves as an excellent example of how to marry video to music and captivate an audience.