Categories
Music Education

The Issue With Streaming Platforms

It’s rare to see someone walking down the street with a Discman, boombox, or even an iPod nowadays. Subscription services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music have taken over the music streaming industry. Their convenience and affordability make any other music-listening method seem archaic. Remember when getting a $10 iTunes gift card was one of the best Christmas presents ever? I have a distinct memory of opening up The Black Eyed Peas’ “The E.N.D.” CD on my 9th birthday and feeling like I struck gold. I can’t even imagine being excited about either of these products now, since today we have access to every song ever made at the tips of our fingers.

Royalties & Inequality

Unfortunately, this convenience comes with a price. Recently, there’s been talk surrounding the inequality involved in the music streaming industry. As artists were forced to cancel their gigs and concerts amidst the pandemic, many realized that the royalties they made off streams were abysmal. While issues with the royalty system have been apparent for years, staying inside has made artists take a long, hard look at where exactly the money from their listeners is going.

On average, streaming services take 30% of profits from subscription fees, while the other 70% goes to record labels, who then decide how much goes to the artists themselves. Included in this “artist” category are the producers, lyricists, composers, and performers. Once this process is all said and done, the actual percentage the artists receive is incredibly low, usually around 10%-15%. Considering that Spotify and Apple Music pay creators less than $0.006 per stream, independent and mid-level artists are failing to receive virtually any profits.

How Artists Are Adapting

Besides the economical issues, there is strong evidence that streaming is also changing the way music is written and appreciated. Before Spotify, Apple Music, or even iTunes existed, the act of listening to music was generally done by sitting through entire albums. Almost all traditional forms of media, like CDs and vinyl, followed this system. This made buying music something to be cherished and deeply acknowledged, as it increased the importance of newly released albums. I’m not saying that new albums from our favorite artists are not appreciated today, but the rise of playlist-based listening has changed the way we consume music.

Now, we listen by mood, era, feeling, genre. Just last week I wrote a blog about my favorite Spotify playlists. Playlists are fantastic and easy, but they take away the element of sitting through a single artist’s LP, as we used to do with CDs and records. Consequentially, artists are making less money and streaming platforms are making more. Songs are getting shorter and choruses are coming in earlier. In other words, pop is slowly becoming the formula for producing music, as there’s less risk involved and a greater likelihood of widespread streaming.

Though it’s unlikely that Spotify is going to go away anytime soon (or that we’re going to stop using it) it’s important to be aware of how musicians are being affected by these platforms. The good news is that there still are lots of alternatives to support your favorite artists. Vinyl is making a huge comeback, and there are websites like Bandcamp and Patreon that allow you to contribute directly to independent musicians.

– DJ Butter

All sources for this blog were found in these articles from NPR and Forbes.

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album Review: Bears Like This Too

ALBUM: “Bears Like This Too” by Spillage Village

RELEASE YEAR: 2015

LABEL: Spillage Village Records

RATING: 9.5/10

BEST TRACKS: “Spaced,” “Sky” and “Fryin”

FCC: Explicit

“Bears Like This Too” was the sequel we were all waiting for after Spillage Village released “Bears Like This” in 2014. Filled with psychedelic beats and a laid-back ambiance, it’s one of my favorite lowkey rap albums. The members of Spillage Village, EarthGang, J.I.D, Jordxn Bryant, and Hollywood JB, show their capability for creating an easy listening experience in their solo work, but “Bears Like This Too” is a masterpiece. Though only eight songs long, it’s the kind of album that you can listen to over and over again, volume turned all the way up or as background music.

Each song seems to fit together so seamlessly. Don’t get me wrong, I love some tempo variation, but sometimes it’s nice to hear a steady vibe maintained throughout an album. “Bears Like This Too” accomplishes this perfectly. While the mood is definitely on the relaxed side, don’t let this fool you into not appreciating the lyrical complexity. Each song is a poetic commentary on a variety of topics, from police violence in “Fryin” to untamed lust in “Spaced.” The core members of Spillage Village are fantastic, but my favorite songs are the ones that include guest artists Mereba and 6LACK (very early in his career). They both add a softness to the album, really helping to weave that mellow tone Spillage Village is so good at building.

If you’re in need of an album to accompany late nights spent on the couch, “Bears Like This Too” is the one. Absolute immaculate vibes.

– DJ Butter

Categories
DJ Highlights

DJ Butter’s Record Collection

Inspired by DJ Mango’s vinyl collection blog, I’ve decided to show off some of my own! One of my favorite pastimes is hunting through heaps of used records to find some from my favorite artists, especially if they contain music that’s not been widely heard. Without further ado, here are some of my personal favorites!

Gilberto & Jobim – João Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim

Can you believe I found this gem at the Cheshire Cat for only $1? Truly the best dollar I’ve ever spent. Originally recorded in 1964, this LP is a collection of Gilberto and Jobim’s finest works, including the famous “Corcovado” from “Getz and Gilberto.”

Angel’s Pulse – Blood Orange

This is one of the first LPs I ever bought for my old record player, a silly little Crosley Cruiser. Dev Hynes really puts it all out there on this one. It’s a deeply soulful album and the cover art is to die for.

Jimi Hendrix at his Best Volume 1 – Jimi Hendrix & Saga Studios

Another great steal from the Cheshire Cat at a whopping $5, this Jimi Hendrix record only has five songs on it from his days before forming the Jimi Hendrix Experience. None of them are available on Apple Music or Spotify!

IGOR – Tyler, the Creator

“IGOR” is obviously a must-have, especially since the vinyl version contains “Boyfriend,” an unreleased song that wasn’t included in the digital soundtrack. Unfortunately, a lot of “IGOR” records were poorly pressed so they have some warping and surface noise (including mine).

Jimmy Page Special Early Works – Jimmy Page & Sonny Boy Williamson

I think I gasped audibly when I saw this, once again, in the Cheshire Cat. Jimmy Page is my favorite musician from the 60s/70s era so you can imagine my excitement. This little collection is back from his days before Zeppelin when he was a studio guitarist.

Con Todo El Mundo – Khruangbin

“Con Todo El Mundo” was gifted to me as a birthday present last year! It’s one of the most relaxing records I own and some of Khruangbin’s best work.

Stan Getz With Guest Laurindo Almeida – Stan Getz & Laurindo Almeida

This is another great Bossa Nova album that I picked up at Father and Son in Downtown Raleigh. It’s a bit more upbeat than the rest of Stan Getz’s usual work, but I adore it all the same.

Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin

This has to be the record I play the most out of my collection, being my favorite Zeppelin album. I think my next-door neighbors probably hate me because I blast it every Sunday when I clean my room.

4 Your Eyez Only – J. Cole

You can’t deny how powerful “4 Your Eyez Only” is as an album. I got this one at Nice Price my senior year of high school because it was my favorite at the time. I love the inside and cover art on this one too!

Fresh Air – HOMESHAKE

“Fresh Air” was the first vinyl I bought and I must’ve listened to it a thousand times the day I got it, reveling in the coolness of owning my own record player. Fantastic album, fantastic artist.

Hendrix in the West – Jimi Hendrix

Last but not least, I present to you the crème de la crème of my collection: “Hendrix in the West.” Not only does it include two LPs filled with live versions of some of Jimi’s best work, it also comes with a photobook containing pictures of bassist Noel Redding, drummer Mitch Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix himself.

I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse into what a WKNC DJ listens to when they’re not in the studio!

– DJ Butter

Categories
Miscellaneous

Book Review: Daisy Jones and The Six

What better way to spend one’s winter break than reading? It’s been a relatively uneventful vacation for me, considering most of it was spent at home doing absolutely nothing, but reading helped make life a bit more interesting.

“Daisy Jones and The Six” was the first book I picked up over break, and I couldn’t put it down. Written by Taylor Jenkins Reid, it tells the story of a fictional band from the 1970s called The Six. What’s fascinating is that it’s written like an interview, so the entire novel has a distinctive twinge of reality. In fact, I was actually under the impression that The Six was a real band up until halfway through the book when I googled them because I wanted to see what they looked like (needless to say I felt very silly).

Though the book is told just from the surviving band members’ personal recollections and quotes, Reid does an incredible job building the plot through the unique format. The story revolves around Daisy Jones, a troubled groupie-turned-songwriter, who begins her music career by joining forces with The Six, led by singer Billy Dunne. With a wife and kid at home, Billy struggles to balance the rock n’ roll lifestyle with fatherhood. Daisy, though talented beyond belief, can’t write a complete song and is hardly ever sober. Meanwhile, the other members of The Six have their own drama and exuberant personalities. But amidst the insanity, Daisy and Billy’s passion for songwriting, music, and each other drives the band towards fame.

At first glance, “Daisy Jones and The Six” appears to follow the classic rock band narrative: Band starts off good. Band goes on tour. Band goes crazy. Band starts fighting. Band breaks up. In fact, Daisy Jones and The Six are actually loosely based on Fleetwood Mac. However, what makes this story so interesting is the complexity of the characters and their relationships with one another. There is no perfect love story or fantasy ending. It shows the messiness of human connection on full display without any apology. It’s captivating and real.

If you’re a geek for the 1970s rock era like I am, I cannot give you a better book recommendation. Apart from having a rich plot, it’s also a gratifying read for music lovers everywhere. The details Reid includes about the sound, depth, and meaning of each song Daisy and The Six write make you feel like you can actually hear them. The full lyrics for each one are even in the back of the book!

Seeking a cure for the wintertime blues? Look no further. “Daisy Jones and The Six” will for sure be the antidote you need.

– DJ Butter

Categories
New Album Review

Album Review: The Lo-Fis – Steve Lacy

ALBUM: “The Lo-Fis” by Steve Lacy

RELEASE YEAR: 2020

LABEL: L-M Records

RATING: 8/10

BEST TRACKS: “Infunami,” “When I,” “I Think I Should” and “Uuuu”

FCC: Explicit

Steve Lacy has returned! “The Lo-Fis” is his second full studio album, excluding his first EP “Steve Lacy’s Demo.” If you’re a die-hard Steve Lacy fan, it’s likely that you’ve heard most of “The Lo-Fis” already. Similar to his other releases, it’s filled with the indie-funk vibe that Steve is best known for. However, unlike his previous work, it is comprised solely of beats and songs he wrote in high school and released on SoundCloud.

The album is heavy with his signature falsetto, funky bass lines, and borderline mournful guitar strums. While Steve definitely showed off his hopeless romantic side in “The Lo-Fis,” he pursued other themes in his lyrics as well, such as personal growth in “That’s No Fun.”

To me, what stands out most about this album is how Steve explores instrumentals. In contrast to his previous work, these tracks feel almost like bits and pieces of songs rather than complete works; there are only a handful that have full bridges, choruses, and verses. Each song, though they’re all under three minutes, is completely different from the one before. I love how Steve flips back and forth between raw instrumentals, like in “I Think I Should,” to heavily processed and layered tracks like “Hummer.” It’s a quick album, full of surprises and beat switches, but it works as a whole unit very nicely despite its general lack of traditional songs. I know that all of this can be attributed to the fact that “The Lo-Fis” is more of a compilation rather than an intentional studio album, but I enjoy that it fits together so well.

Give it a listen!

– DJ Butter

Categories
Band/Artist Profile

Artist Highlight: Thee Sacred Souls

When I first heard Thee Sacred Souls’ single “Weak For Your Love,” I thought for certain that they were a soul group from the 1960s. Their sound is so lovely, vintage, and unique. Made up of drummer Alex Garcia, bassist Sal Samano and ethereal vocalist Josh Lane, Thee Sacred Souls is giving new meaning to soul.

The trio first began as a duo when Garcia and Samano formed an instrumental band in 2018, aiming to capture the Chicano soul that they both grew up with. However, after connecting with Lane over Instagram in 2019, the band truly started to evolve. Not only was his soft falsetto a beautiful addition, but his songwriting skills lead to their first single, “Can I Call You Rose?,” a soft romantic ballad.

After receiving a record deal in April of 2019, the group was asked to open for Mac Ayres in San Diego. There, they realized their potential when fans went crazy for their relaxing yet astounding sound. Unfortunately, at the time, the band had yet to put any of their music on major streaming platforms, preferring the authenticity of vinyl releases.

Even amidst pandemic craziness, Thee Sacred Souls has managed to release their previous singles, “Can I Call You Rose?” and “Weak For Your Love,” and two new ones, “Will I See You Again?” and “Give Us Justice,” on Spotify and Apple Music this year. All are twinged with the romantic soul, groovy baselines, and gentle rhythms that they do best. While these four songs are the extent of their discography, the future looks bright for Thee Sacred Souls!

Check out their website and Instagram (which might I say are both wonderfully designed).

– DJ Butter

Categories
Miscellaneous

Album Art Gems Returns!

Miss seeing some of the coolest album covers ever made on your favorite blog? Me too! I’ve found some more fantastic album artwork that I just had to share. Without further ado, welcome back to the slightly extended encore of Album Art Gems.

1. Their Satanic Majesties Request – The Rolling Stones

Does this cover look familiar to you? It should if you’ve ever seen The Beatles album “Seargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club.” Wanting to keep up with the psychedelic trends in the 60s, The Rolling Stones hired Michael Cooper, the same photographer who shot the famous The Beatles album. The original vinyl cover was supposed to have a 3D effect, but due to costs, only about 500 were released with the lenticular printing.

2. 1999 – Prince

Nobody actually knows who designed Prince’s “1999,” but many think that the iconic artist did it himself. It features several hidden references to his earlier and future works, including his eyes from the “Controversy” cover and the name of his band, “The Revolution,” who performed with Prince for the first time in “1999,” written backward in the “I.”

3. Stars Are The Light – Moon Duo

This album cover embodies the dreamy psychedelia that Moon Duo is known for. The spacey feel of their music is clearly reflected in this piece, which looks as though it’s on an alien planet. It comes in four different color schemes (this just happens to be my favorite). The typography is EXQUISITE and I am drooling over the flowy patterns and bright colors.

4. The Crescent Ship – Bad Liquor Pond

There isn’t much information out there on this cover by Bad Liquor Pond, a Baltimore-based band that no longer exists. Nonetheless, the screenprinting collage effect is so eyecatching. I especially love the little demon cat up in the upper right corner.

5. The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest

I don’t know how I forgot to include this cover in my original Album Art Gems blogs. Designed by Jive Records (now known as Zombart), it takes the cake for A Tribe Called Quest’s best album cover. The bright reds and green fluorescent paint on the figure are said to be an homage to traditional African art.

6. Royal Albert Hall May 2-3-5-6 2005 – Cream

This cover, based on one of Cream’s band portraits, was created for their live album, which was recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005. The distinctive line and shadow art is a fantastic use of gestalt principles; notice how you can tell their hair textures apart just by some squiggles? Though designed in the 21st century, it emulates the classic rock style frequently used at the height of Cream’s fame in the 60s.

7. Moon River – Frank Ocean

Last but not least, I just had to include another Frank Ocean cover. His album art never ceases to amaze me. If you look closely you can see what looks like a human figure from the shoulders up in the top left corner. This figure is actually based on a scientific diagram that shows how ASMR travels from the brain to the body. The warm pink pattern also makes an “M,” standing for the song’s title. Pretty cool, huh?

I hope you enjoyed this little additional performance of Album Art Gems!

-DJ Butter

Categories
Miscellaneous

Make a Collage, Feel Better

Creative blocks can be a real pain, especially if you’re getting paid for your artistic skills and need to be productive around the clock. After being a tad bit burnt out from design school this semester, I decided that over winter break I was only going to exercise my creativity in relaxing ways. No coding, no typography, and for godsakes NO ANIMATION. However, when I sat down to start a drawing or painting, I found myself feeling frustrated, impatient, and completely uninspired. Why was the thing that was supposed to make me feel better actually making me feel worse?

I didn’t want to give up on my winter break intentions, so I went down to Reader’s Corner (which you should go to if you’ve never been) on the hunt for vintage magazines. Always being a lover of collaging, I had hope that a new medium might be the answer to unclogging my creative blockage. Spoiler alert, IT WAS!

Vintage graphic design makes me drool, so it was uber inspiring to see it straight from the source. The grainy film, retro fonts, and cigar ads make fantastic collage materials, though it is a bit heartwrenching to cut up a mint condition “Playboy” from 1971. Even if you don’t consider yourself an “artistic” person, collage is a great way to quickly make something that looks great. There are endless things to do with it, like including your own drawings or poetry. My personal favorite thing to do is base my collages off of the music I’m listening to at the time!

There are an infinite amount of techniques, styles, and materials to use while collaging, but I like to let the magazines inspire me rather than plan out what I want a piece to look like. For me, this tends to make collaging a more interactive, spontaneous exercise.

Want to get into collaging? Don’t know where to start? Here are some tips and advice from DJ Butter on how to absolutely rock it:

Q: Where do I get magazines from?

A: If you don’t have any magazines at home that you’re willing to cut up, head over to your nearest thrift store, used book center, or record store. A lot of the time they’ll have super cheap (or free) magazines. Don’t be afraid to use non-magazine items too! I’ve used dried flowers, decorative paper, tea fortunes, and notes from friends in some of my collages.

Q: Which magazines are the best for collaging?

I specifically like to use vintage magazines, especially from “Rolling Stone,” “Playboy,” and “Record Collector.” Any art magazine is great too. Just make sure whatever you choose has lots of pictures!

Q: What materials do I need besides magazines?
  • Paper: Pick something that won’t buckle under the weight of glue, paint, or whatever else you decide to put on. I like to use this mixed media pad from Strathmore, but the paper in my Art Collection Moleskine journal works well too.
  • Glue: Any glue will work, but make sure that it dries clear. Liquid glue tends to work better than a glue stick, but remember that you only need a tiny dot in the corners of your collage cuttings. Too much glue will make the paper wrinkle.
  • Cutting: I like to use regular scissors for cutting our larger pieces and an X-Acto knife for smaller, more detailed ones.
  • Whatever Else: Find a box or pouch to keep your collage cuttings! I know you probably don’t think you need one, but trying to shove all your unused pieces in the folds of your magazines will lead to lost cuttings, ruined photos, and sadness.

I hope this inspired you to make a collage today! If you want even more inspo, here’s a list of my favorite collage artists:

Demii Wiffin

Ben Giles

Juli Baker and Summer

griefmother

Now go make somethin’!

– DJ Butter

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro Review: A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack

ALBUM: “A Charlie Brown Christmas TV Soundtrack” by Vince Guaraldi Trio

RELEASE YEAR: 1965

LABEL: Concord Music Group

RATING: 100000/10

BEST TRACKS: “Linus and Lucy,” “Christmas Time Is Here” and “Skating”

FCC: Clean

With the holiday season finally upon us, I thought I’d highlight the best wintertime song collection ever made. There exists no cozier Christmas album than Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack for “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Many of my own childhood Christmases were spent decorating the tree while “My Little Drum” played in the background. It makes me want to curl up on the couch with a blanket, a nice book, and a cup of hot tea.

Vince Guaraldi, a pianist from San Francisco, along with bassist Fred Marshall and drummer Jerry Granelli captured the hearts of audiences far and wide with their jazz ensemble for the beloved Peanuts movie. While many of the songs are remakes of Christmas classics, like “O Tannenbaum” and “Christmas Time is Here,” they included original tracks too; the lighthearted grooves of “Linus and Lucy” and “Skating” reveal the tender feelings that the holidays can bring. I love how he used a children’s choir in many of the songs to capture the childlike wonder of Christmastime.

What makes this album special is how accurately it reflects the mixed emotions that surround Christmastime. I thought this was fantastic considering how Charlie Brown, the unfortunate, old soul that he is, struggles with “the Christmas Spirit” throughout the whole movie. Each song holds both the joy of childhood holiday memories and the sadness that can accompany Christmas in adulthood. It reaches across age boundaries and is still enjoyed today, 55 years later.

Need a bit of holiday cheer and cozy comfort? Give it a listen!

– DJ Butter

Categories
Classic Album Review

Retro Review: Electric Mud – Muddy Waters

ALBUM: “Electric Mud” by Muddy Waters

RELEASE YEAR: 1968

LABEL: Chess Records

RATING: 9/10

BEST TRACKS: “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Mannish Boy” and “(I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man”

FCC: Clean

“Electric Mud” is my all-time favorite album from Muddy Waters, probably because I’m such a sucker for the reverb of an electric guitar. Though it’s only eight songs long, “Electric Mud” is a fantastic example of how the blues and rock meshed in the 1960s. Most of the songs are remakes of his famous classics, such as “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Mannish Boy” and “The Same Thing,” only twinged with the sludgy feel of psychedelic rock.

The 50s and early 60s proved to be the heyday for Waters, but he saw a decline in popularity as his record label began to fail and the British blues scene took over in the late 60s (ironically, many of the hard rock artists from the UK took bits from Muddy Waters’ work to further their own.) In a last-ditch attempt to capture the hearts of younger audiences, Waters joined forces with band members of the Rotary Connection to create “Electric Mud.” Disappointed in its mixture of psychedelic rock and the blues, classic blues artists disapproved of the album. Muddy Waters himself wasn’t fond of the album because he felt he couldn’t perform it live.

Despite the somewhat negative history behind “Electric Mud,” it helped put him back on the map. After his label, Chess Records, fell, Waters was able to go on and produce some of his most influential work throughout the 70s.

This album holds a special place in my heart because it made me realize how impactful Muddy Waters was on the rock scene in the 60s and 70s. Jimi Hendrix openly covered Waters’ work in both his live and studio sessions. The track “You Need Love” was the bones of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The Rolling Stones even got their name from Waters’ song “Rollin’ Stone.”

All in all, “Electric Mud” is a fantastic album for anyone interested in rock and blues history. Give it a listen!

– DJ Butter