The Radio Killed That Song, but So Did I

Back in sophomore year of college, my roommate had a bad break up with a guy that she had been on and off with for two years.  During the first three months of their break up all she would play is Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day, on a constant loop.  I wish CDs or records were popular then because I would have smashed it into bits after the first month of her playing it nonstop.  Unfortunately, Limewire and iTunes were blowing up during that time, so everything was digital.  Needless to say, my other roommates and I had to endure the pain and the slow death of this great song for months.  As Billie Jo Armstrong’s soft spoken lyrics and hypnotic guitar chords rang throughout our fifth floor dorm room, we beat our heads in with pillows every time it came on.

Why do we feel the need to play a song so much on repeat till we can barely stand it anymore?  It is because we connect with it in some way, but to someone else it becomes a song they can never listen to again.  Think about the radio.  When a song first comes out and you hear it for the first time on the radio, you just can’t wait to hear it again.  So, you switch stations until you find another station that is playing it.  Ultimately, it becomes popular, gets numerous requests, and becomes a song you can’t stand anymore that you turn off the radio every time it comes on.

What happens between the time you hear the song and the time you can no longer stand the song?  I’m going to let you in on a secret – Your life changes.  Last year, I was obsessed with the songs Blank Space (Taylor Swift) and Steal Your Heart (Ross Lynch – Austin & Ally).  I think back to this time last year and realized that a boy had re-entered into my life that wanted to get into a serious relationship with me.  I had no interest in getting serious with anyone as I had plans to move to Los Angeles by the end of the year.  So, my love life became a game instead where I could “steal your heart” and “…I got a blank space baby And I’ll write your name.”  Do I listen to either one of those songs currently?  Nope.

Now, my new obsessions are Stitches (Shawn Mendes) and Black Magic (Little Mix), but not for the reasons you think.  Yes, these songs reflect images of love, but to me, love can be for anything or anyone.  I have been feeling a little broken lately, and these two songs make me think of being whole again.  As friends get married, have babies, move out of state, or make career adjustments, it becomes difficult to stay in touch.  You miss people that use to always be there that you took for granted.  You question your own choices like you are doing something wrong.  I’m not making excuses for anyone because if you truly want to stay in touch with someone you will make an effort.  Even if it is a phone call two years later, or a text message that says “Remember the time we were singing La Vie Boheim in our dorm room with mops and throwing pixie stick sugar at each other?  Those were good days!  I miss you!”  Needless to say, these two songs remind me that anything can be mended with time, a good friend, or having your family closer.  To those who feel a little broken, know that you are stronger than you feel, you will mend quicker than you think, and that those people who have always been there, will always be there; even if it is just a memory.  Sometimes, you need to kill a song or two to get to a good place.

Artists – The Debacle of Respect

Apple is one of the most innovative companies in the world.  Constantly creating the next new thing that everyone has to have.  So, when the announcement of Apple Music was to be launched I was a little surprised that they were so late in the game of streaming, which has undoubtedly continued to grow.  The thought of paying $10 a month to a streaming service and having unlimited access to thousands of songs is appealing, but in my opinion streaming is more of a discovery service than an actual income stream for artists.  The more I look at streaming, I use it to listen to new music to see if I like it.  If I like, I buy it.  So, should music artist really look at it as a revenue stream, or an audience building tool?

An article by Billboard Magazine discussed how in the first three months of its free streaming trial it would not pay artists for their music that was streamed (this is no longer the case).  The business aspect of this was ‘I’m not making money so why should I give you money?’  Needless to say, it created a big upheaval in the music world and Taylor Swift took it upon herself to be the voice of the artists.  She made a statement on her Tumblr – “This is not about me.  This about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for their success.  This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought royalties would get them out of debt.  This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, but will not get paid for a quarter of a years worth of plays on his or her songs.”  Do you think this was all unselfish?  I think everyone, including the superstars in the industry had a right to be mad, but I still stand by my point that it shouldn’t be apart of the revenue budget, more like bonus income.  My question is was this whole thing a publicity stunt by Apple?  A company that is worth billions of dollars worried about paying artists for three months without a source of income from ONE revenue stream when they have numerous other ways to bring in money?

We all look at artists and think that it is a glamour field of money, fortune, and fame, but in reality it is a life struggle that these people had the courage to pursue a career that they loved rather than a career that makes bank.  Artists like Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift are a small percentage that hit it big in the industry.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2014 musicians/ singers made a median range of $23.50 per hour.  Now add in the cost of studio rentals, producers, songwriters, record labels, executives, managers, manufacturing, equipment, and touring and that is not a whole lot of money.  Every revenue stream counts for any artists.

The one thing that frustrates me about this whole debacle and pretty much any artist issue is that musicians are not the only artists out their trying to survive.  Dancers are in just as much struggle as the musician.  They have similar expenses such as studio rentals, tour costs, costumes, shoes, music licensing, management and development teams.  Also, there is only a select group in the public that has a passion for dance, and there isn’t as many revenue streams that can be tapped like the music industry.  Unlike the music industry where there is streaming, buying albums and individual songs.  Many dancers have to rely on a company for income (salary/ stipend for rehearsals and performances), or an agent getting them a temporary job on film, TV, a music tour, or Broadway.  There is also a ticking time bomb when you can no longer perform because your body just can’t.  Many dancers are involved in other revenue avenues like company contract work, select seasons on Broadway, sponsorship opportunities, teaching, and book writing on their endeavors in the industry.  Just like the music industry, there are dancers that are superstars and have made millions of dollars like Derek Hough or Mikhail Baryshnikov, but it took them years to get there.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary a dancer makes is $13.41/ hour or if you are a choreographer $21.28/ hour.   That is less than a musician/ singer.  Many dancers and choreographers are not on an annual salary because they work based on a contract and are only paid for certain aspects of their job such as rehearsals or performances.   Granted, many orchestra musicians are in the same predicament.  The amount of free projects that dancers get involved in is based on trying to network and meet new artists that could potentially hirer them. Isn’t that the same in the music industry?  You send out samples of your music to try and draw an audience, gather a fan base, and gain feedback from people you respect and admire.  I have personally lost count on how many free projects I have done like choreographing a piece for a fundraising event or driving three hours for a rehearsal for weeks on end and then performing it once or twice at a few festivals.  None of these opportunities I got paid.  Some were friends of mine, while others were endeavors that I fully supported like at risk youth and the arts.  Granted I had other sources of income like teaching ballet and working on the administrative side of the arts industry.

I think we all have to ask ourselves some hard questions – why are we creating art?  Why are we creating music?  Why do you dance or choreograph?  Would I feel this way if this was a hobby and not my livelihood?  I think that the general public looks at art as it is owed to them.  I see it constantly working on the administrative side of the business.  Your taxes dollars do not pay the nonprofit employee’s salary, nor does your tax dollars pay to take care of the art work or support the programming that happens in a dance company or art institution.  People have this thought process that the arts are a right not a privilege.  We are privileged that artists feel strongly about their work that they want to share it with us.  I look at artists as superheroes.  They are brave.  Laying everything they have out in the open for the public to be loved and criticized at the same time.  Apple took a risk.  Was it wrong – yes.  Should we respect artists for their work – absolutely.  The next time you hear someone on the subway stop and listen.  If you enjoy it use your Tumblr or Twitter and promote it.  Don’t steal work that belongs to others.  I think if artists want the industry to respect the art and the artist, it needs to start with the public respecting the art first.

“All I’m askin is for just a little respect…”

VIP Packages – Are They Really Worth It?

VIP-ticketWhen I was a kid, I would have died if my parents got me VIP tickets to a concert.  Then again, how many of your are embarrassed of what your first concert was as a kid?  Not me, I got to see the Piano Man (Billy Joel) and Sir Elton John.  I can say my first concert was far from embarrassing and we had killer seats on the floor.  Anyway, I’m not talking about concert tickets, I am talking about those little add on VIP packages that are outrageously expensive and personally every time I have purchased one I have been disappointed.  At a VIP package event, the managers herd you like cattle to get in line and get a picture taken, sometimes there are weird rules like you can’t put your arms around the perform for the picture so basically you all look like stiff dolls posing for a promotional toy commercial, they play one acoustic song for the group, and then you get a t-shirt, a laminated ticket, and possibly some other merchandise.  If I wanted merchandise I would just buy it and not spend $200 on a VIP Package.

So are there any benefits to the VIP package?  Only if the people who bought the VIP tickets are insanely entertaining.  First you have the older ladies that think they are still 20 but they are really 40 and have kids.  These ladies are usually plastered before the acoustic song is even played and they usually don’t follow the rules that are enforced by the manager.  The road manager doesn’t even fight it he just allows them to do what they want because how can you really fight with a drunk person?  Second you have those moms that bought their daughter(s) the VIP tickets as a birthday present, but they have no idea what type of music the group plays.  Then when that really inappropriate song comes on their face usually says everything you have been thinking.

With physical and digital album sales plummeting, 360 contract deals becoming the norm in the business, and streaming becoming the more popular way to experience music, artists are starting to have to become more inventive with how they are connecting with their fans.  In my opinion VIP events are the perfect way to do that, but they aren’t utilized properly.  Of course social media is a great way to keep your fans interested in lull time while the artist is recording a new album or prepping for a large national or international tour, but VIP events are a way to connect to your fans on a more personal level.

When Taylor Swift did listening parties for 1989 for her fans and invited her fans to be apart of her “Shake It Off” music video, it showed that her business team and her as an artist were thinking outside to create personal connections with fans as well as make recording breaking sales for 2014.  Robert Schwartzman just did the California Roll Tour where his venue was a giant party bus and gave fans an intimate solo acoustic show to no more then thirty people in cities all over the country.  What a way to hear his new album, as well as have the opportunity to be able to talk with him about his artistry, music, and inspiration!  The Cab is notorious for connecting with their fans and every VIP event that is held.  They take individual pictures and go around talking to every fan answering questions about their music writing process, some of their favorite memories on tours, and what it has been like touring with their current co-headliners and support artist(s).  Recently they had a random viewing of “Space Jam” at a venue out in the Los Angeles where they invited fans via twitter to come.  To all the music executives and artists out there – think outside the box.  Don’t just connect through the virtual world.  Obviously the more popular the band or the artists is the harder it is to be safe and connect with the fans so do it in a small setting.  Use the VIP packages to not just give away merchandise because as a fan myself the stuff doesn’t matter.  Human connection is what everyone craves in this world.

What’s In A Song?

We all have those songs that every time it is played it reminds us of a person, an event, or a period of time in our lives.  There are sad songs, party songs, and those never ending songs that stick in your head, but you don’t really want them there.  So, what is so special about these songs?  They are different for everyone, and is it really the song or the memory attached?  For me it has a lot to do with the lyrics.  I’m lyric obsessed and if the songwriter has a great
chorus or verse I’m in, but the memory is just as important, right?

ASDStPatty  Our lives are full of flashbacks and the only thing we have left once something is over are the memories and the pictures.  Fifty years from now someone is going to look through those pictures and have no idea what song was playing, what you were thinking when you decided to wear that skirt that was way too short, or why your friends look like they are being injured because their eyes are shut tight with their fists in the air.  Looking back over my time in college, I met some of the most outrageous and fun girls that are still some of the best friends today; my sorority sisters.  I know it sounds cliche, and there are some of you out there that would say that I paid for my friends, but I can tell you that we always had each others backs even when we were fighting because we were family.   You messed with one of us, then you had to deal with all of us.  I came across some old pictures and it reminded me of the numerous CD mixes that we made for any party that we threw at 47 Monroe, full of rap, top 40s, rock, and of course the Spice Girls!  ‘Wannabe’ was a popular song on our mixes and we would scream it at the top of our lungs (drunkly) along with gesturing every lyric that was sung.  Thank god video cameras were too big to carry around and cellphones had a limited amount of video power that no one wanted to waste on their flip phones.  Needless to say, there are a lot of pictures of us dancing around like fools.  Now every time I hear ‘Wannabe,’ I sing it loudly and dance around (soberly) wishing that I had my best friends with me.

ASDTooCool‘Go Girl’ by Pitbull (featuring Trina and Young Boss) was and still is my “lets get pumped” song.  I was introduce to this song by my pledge sister (in the car).  She put on her sunglasses and started rapping with Pitbull and I couldn’t do anything but laugh because I didn’t know the words.  After that car ride I learned every word and every time I was in the car with her after that we played that song and would again, be hand gesturing every lyric that they spat out on the radio.  This of course made it on our party mixes more than once, and to this day I need to have sunglasses on to sing this song.  I don’t know if it’s an insecurity thing, but I definitely feel cooler with the glasses on.

There is also the “sad song” that makes us feel better when someone breaks our heart.  I have two.  One is ‘The Way We Used to Be’ by The Scarlet Ending and the other one is ‘Gonna Get Over You’ by Sara Bareilles.  Both songs bring something different to the table.  The first one allowed me to wallow in my self pity when that guy broke my heart, and the second one got me out of that funk.  ‘Gonna Get Over You’ makes you want to go around and dance and sing in public, and not care if that cute guy/ girl next to you starts to judge you based on your weirdness.  Newsflash, we are all weird; some of us chose to embrace it publicly more than others.

CJFeolaFinally, there are those songs that you may be embarrassed to sing in public or around your friends because the song is not meant for someone your age or gender.  Luckily, I don’t agree with the status quo, and at this point in my life I don’t find too much embarrassing.  My roommate definitely has video proof of this through a little song called ‘Double Take’ from the Disney Channel show ‘Austin & Ally.’  Yes I know all the words, and even though the show is for twelve-year-olds it has got a great bouncy feel that you can sing to with a ladle in the kitchen.  My little brother and I like to sing Taylor Swift in the car; basically to the point that if she not on the radio station he changes it until he finds one that she’s on.  That is either fan dedication or an unhealthy addiction, either way I understand his obsession.  For example, any time the song ’22’ is played, we both get really high voices when she says,

“I don’t know about you, But I’m feeling 22
Everything will be alright
If you keep me next to you
You don’t know about me
But I’ll bet you want to
Everything will be alright
If we just keep dancing like we’re
22, ooh-ooh”

ASDIceSkatingThis probably sounds more like screaming instead of singing.  Either way I love every second of it.  So, maybe it isn’t about the song at all, but the memories with your favorite people and what those songs represented in that moment in time.  John Lennon was a smart man musically, lyrically, and intellectually, so in his words – “Time you enjoyed wasting was not wasted.”

What are some of your favorite memories and the songs that you associate with them?  I bet there are more then you think.

 

My Top 28 Songs of 2014

It is that time of year where everyone looks back on the past year’s successes, failures, and decisions that we were too scared to take.  This past year has been pretty incredible.  I completed my first year in a management position at one of the world class museums in the world, connected again with my Aunt and Uncle and met their daughter that I haven’t seen since she was a baby, flew a plane, learned how to jet ski, watched two of my best friends get married, had another friend bring their son into this world, saw new choreography, and discovered new music to share.

Everyone does top 10, top 20, top 100 when doing lists, but I am a middle child and I do things differently because I like to throw everyone off their game and maybe be a pain in the ass.  So, I am going to give you my top 28 songs of 2014 since this past year is my 28th year of life on this earth bugging my brothers and gracing my parents with the unlimited chatter about nothing.  I am obsessed with pop and alternative genres, but in my mind music has no boundaries and crossover is in every genre.  These lyrics have made me cry, brought me back to old memories, and have brought me hope for the future in my life.  It also doesn’t hurt that most of these songs have a melody that I constantly hummed when I discovered them this past year, and pretty much annoyed my roommate to the point that she had to go find out what the song was that I was singing around the apartment for weeks on end.  So here goes:

28.  Love in the 21st Century – Neon Trees

27.  Smile – R5

26.  If I’m Lucky – State Champs

25.  Accidental Billionaire – The Summer Set

24.  Somebody to You – The Vamps

23.  Another You (Another Way) – Against the Current

22.  16 Years – The Griswolds

21.  Facedown – The 1975

20.  Carousel – Kate Voegele

19.  That’s What Up – Lennon & Maisy

18.  Don’t Count Me Out – The Downtown Fiction

17.  Bang Bang – Jessie J, Ariana Grande, & Nicki Minaj

16.  London Queen – Charli XCX

15.  Moments – Tove Lo

14.  Back to the Shack – Weezer

13.  Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon

12.  Feel Right – Mark Ronson & Mystikal

11.  FUNKNROLL – Prince

10.  Geronimo – Sheppard

9.  End Up Here – 5 Seconds of Summer

8.  Hey Kid – Bad Seed Rising

7.  St. Patrick – PVRIS

6.  Photograph – Ed Sheeran

5.  Here’s To The Zeros – Marianas Trench

4.  Ammonia and Bleach – Emily’s Army (aka Swimmers)

3.  Lost Stars – Kiera Knightly (Begin Again)

2.  Style – Taylor Swift (1989)

1.  Rollercoaster – Bleachers

All artists (except for Taylor Swift) can be found on a playlist here.  I included one video because I think this song represents how we should all be in the coming year.  Don’t be afraid to say Geronimo.  So, here’s to the coming year.  Taking leaps to new adventures, defying fear, leaving the familiar, and hoping that you land on your feet instead of your head.  And if you land on your head, you always have the music to soften the blow.  As Walt Disney said, “Laughter is timeless.  Imagination has no age.  And dreams are forever.”