Girl Power!

If you haven’t noticed, I love to highlight women who have made a mark on society in music and dance.  There have been many women who have created a legacy, changed the world for future generations, and developed magic for others to experience everyday.  International Women’s Day was on March 8th, but in my opinion everyday is Women’s Day!

Pop music is one of my favorite music genres.  It has broken boundaries and changed over decades, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the harmonizing quality girl groups have incorporated into their sound.  Starting in the late 1930s when the Andrews Sisters changed the music scene and the up-and-coming popularity of girl groups began.  In 1955 was the year that girl groups started to grow.  In 1960-1966 over 750 girl groups charted songs in the United States and the United Kingdom.

While listening to girl groups over the decades, I came across a group called “The Chantels” which was formed in the 1950s.  No words can express how excited I was to find this group.  I have a weird obsession with my name that date backs to when I was a kid.  When you don’t have a common name, you can never find cool things with your name on them.  Having a younger brother who has the most common name to man I was jealous.  Anyways, this girl group was revolutionary since it was the second African American girl group to have success after the Bobbettes.  Their first song to hit the billboard charts was “He’s Gone,” but their most popular hit was “Maybe.”  Many of the girl groups such as the Chantels, the Bobbettes, the Shirelles, and the Marvelettes have that doo-wop groove including the harmonized vocals, the simple instrumentations, and those claps that help to keep the rhythm tied together.

Jumping a few decades to the 1990s through to today, girl groups still have a hold in popular music.  During the 90s the sound of girl groups changed.  TLC brought a contemporary R&B sound to groups.  The harmonies were still there, but the style had more of an edge.  After TLC, one of the top selling girl groups ever hit the scene, the Spice Girls.  The Spice Girls is not only embedded in my childhood, but they were the women who taught the 90s generation about girl power and how important friendship is to your life.  Emma, Victoria, Mel B., Mel C., and Geri created a huge fandom and their legacy still lives on in popularity as the best selling girl group ever.  Their mix of dance party type songs like ‘Wannabe’ and ‘Spice Up Your Life’ to their soft ballads ‘2 Become 1’ and ‘Say You’ll Be There’ resinated with the 90s generation connecting their music to life.  The girl groups continue through today with the up-and-coming group Fifth Harmony who have some of the most amazing voices together.  Their vocal range, projection power, and instrumental simplicity to highlight their voices is something exhibits true talent.

In the US, we rarely see artists from foreign speaking countries (besides EDM) in the general popular music scene, but girl groups are huge in Japan (J-Pop) and South Korea (K-Pop) and have hit the music scene hard in the late 2000s with some catchy dance club tunes which include artists Morning Musume, 2NE1, and Girl Generation.  These girl groups bring in techno sounds of EDM, the R&B edge and rap style that TLC had back in the 90s, and power vocals such as Fifth Harmony and Little Mix.  This sound is going to continue to blow up especially now that EDM is hitting the pop scene with artists like Zedd working with numerous female vocalists such as Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande.

Watch out One Direction, Rixton, and The Wanted the girls are coming for your music crown and I think they have the power to take over.  Click here for a list of girl groups that have affect the music scenes from the 1930s through today, and celebrate the power of women everyday.

*All date information found through wikipedia.

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Dana Wilson – Superwoman to Commercial Dance

Dana-WilsonMany pop music videos and stadium tours have back up dancer who are amazing at what they do from partnering to hip hop stylized dance routines, and in my opinion steal the show.  Dana Wilson is one of those dancers.  She has worked on every avenue of commercial dance including television, film, commercials, international music tours, and music videos.  Some of her most notable work includes dancing with pop superstars Joe Jonas, Brittney Spears, Justin Beiber, Backstreet Boys, Earth, Wind, & Fire, and Justin Timberlake.  She is not only a dancer but has gotten bitten by the choreography bug and has assisted with Justin Timberlake’s World Tour “Future, Sex…” with Marty Kudelka, So You Think You Can Dance Season 5 with Joey Dowling, and Cirque Du Soleil with Wade Robson.

This multitalented dancer and choreographer is not only an artist, but she has brought the dance world to a new level where dancers need to start thinking about their long term futures.  Back when I was finishing undergraduate school with a bachelors degree in dance I was full of excitement.  I wanted to start my own dance company and create this amazing legacy.  After working on the business side of a dance company for almost four years and going to graduate school for arts administration I learned that their are so many other problems in the American dance world that need to be address such as health insurance, retirement plans, and life stability.  I didn’t like the instability that I saw my friends suffering from living from contract to contract, barely being able to pay their rents, and in some cases just surviving, which is why I started working on the business side of the arts industry; I wanted to do something more for the artists and dance companies by developing a more stable environment.

I feel that Wilson is like me to some extent in fighting for the artists.  Wilson started to fight for those rights through the “It’s About Time” campaign back in 2012 when SAG-AFTRA was fighting for performer’s rights in music videos.  In June 2012, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild –  Amercian Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and major record labels (Universal Music Group, Sony Music Enterainment, Warner Music Group, EMI Music, and Walt Disney Company) reached a deal for performers on music videos which included amenities such as minimum daily rates, safety protection and additional compensation for hazardous performances, rest periods, improved auditions conditions such as shelter, start time, and auditions times not being more than four hours.  Durning the negotiation process dancer and SAG-AFTRA member Dana Wilson and friends discussed some of their horror stories such as not getting paid for months for the work that was done in the video, the horrible conditions dancers were given during video shoots such as being out in the elements, no food or meal breaks, no health care benefits, and not having contracts for work that was done the videos.  My motto – get everything in writing.  In any type of business you are working in verbal agreements only go so far, it is always best to get anything that is agreed upon in writing.

For Wilson, creating union contracts for music videos was just the first step in getting more stability for dancers and she took it one step further.  Music tours are some of the most sot after work for dancers.  What dancer doesn’t want to be on tour for sometimes over a year traveling the world and getting paid for doing something they love?  The downside to most tours is there is usually no union contract, and the dancers usually lose their SAG-AFTRA union benefits while on tour, which includes a commercial dancer’s health insurance and retirement plan.  Before Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour, Wilson got busy with other SAG-AFTRA members which came to a Touring Agreement under unionize contract where performers earnings went towards health insurance and retirement plans.  It is amazing how few tours have unionized dancer contracts considering the ware and tear on your body as a dancer, sometimes dancing on dangerous materials such as concrete, plexiglass, wood, or metal.  It is important as a dancer to take a care and protect your body, and these unionized contracts are another form of protection if a dancer is injured on tour.

Dana Wilson is superwoman to me.  She has created a domino effect that I hope will continue to drive dancers to become more business minded.  As a dancer you need to treat yourself as a business.  Take advantage of every opportunity even if that opportunity may not be as obvious such as supporting endeavors of other artists, getting involved in changing the dance scene from not only an artistic aspect, but a thinking and business aspect, as well as become strong by knowing what you believe to be equal rights and opportunities of present and future dancers.  Sometimes you have to push the envelope to make change.  No one said it would be easy, but it will always be worth it.

Check out sagaftra.org!

Should FM/AM Radio be Paying to Play Music?

Radio-mic-imageLegal and by the book mumbo jumbo has always resinated with me.  I like being in control, having the ability to plan for mistakes as well as having the time to fix them without being in emergency mode.  It drives me nuts when people don’t look at the long term affects when making decisions.  Thinking twenty to thirty years out when making a major decision is key to making that decision a smart one.  Will that decision always be successful?  Absolutely not, but at least you can see where and why it went wrong.

Recently, I was reading in Billboard Magazine that the government is in the process of making changes to the copyright laws for music.  One of the topics that are up for discussion is if FM/ AM radio stations should have to pay royalities to play music on the radio.  As I read this, I thought this could potentially bring in another revenue stream for the artists and record labels from the continuing declining music sales, but couldn’t it also hurt the artists and record companies long term?

Record labels and artists usually do some type of radio tour to promote music that they have coming out.  During those radio promotional tours the radio stations will be playing said music all week in preparation for the artist to be in the studio.  This not only promotes to listeners throughout the day to tune in on said day that the artist will be in the studio, but it gives the labels and artists a continuing roll of publicity throughout the week.  Will the radio station be charged for playing the artist’s music during the promotional week to gain listeners?  If the station is charged with a fee every time the artist’s song is played during that week what incentive does the radio station have to play their music instead of just doing a verbal promotional plug?  This could decrease the amount of air time artists could be receiving during a heavy promotional time when labels are pushing fans to buy tickets for tour dates.

The independent promotors (i.e. the indies) who are paid by the labels to get station managers to add particular artists to their playlists could increase their fees.  In turn the station mangers who make arrangements with the indies could request a higher annual sum to play said artists.  I know it’s illegal for stations to accept money to play music, but I’m talking about the promotional support the stations are given by the indies such as gift cards, give away money, and trips to utilize for game prizes on the station.

Finally, four companies own 62% of the top 40 market (according to musicbiz.com).  This could create more wide spread playlists so the radio stations wouldn’t half to pay as much in royalties to one artist or one label, which could create a greater chance for more artists to get radio play time.  This could change the top 40 game since radio is key factor in getting music heard by the general public.  I know what the generation Z is going to say “who listens to the radio when we have iPods, streaming, and YouTube?”  Those adults that sit in traffic going to work still listen to the radio, or the millennial generation who have their favorite talk show hosts that have introduced them to new music since the late 90s such as Ryan Seacrest and Elvis Duran.  What about people who listen to stations for the give aways?  Radio stations have power to get music heard around the world through promotional tools.

I think the royalties would be great as another revenue sources for the artists, but I also think it is a double edge sword.  It could cause increases in fees for not only the labels which in turn could affect what the artists actually receive, as well as increase fee requests from the indies and station managers.  What do you think?  Is this potential change a catch 22 for the artists and the labels, or is it a partial solution to the decreasing sale revenue?