Record Bird, An Interactive Music Discovery Tool

Our prayers have officially been answered ~~ there is now a sure fire way to stay up to date on all newly released albums, upcoming albums, and albums from your favorite artist without even leaving Facebook.  God. Bless.  There is now an official Facebook approved music chatbot – basically, think old school AIM chatbots except this guy is all about music.  

Record Bird is a European based music startup that is actually doing very cool things, unlike many of the music startups I’ve seen recently.  I discovered it via Product Hunt which initially took me to the company’s Facebook page, where I was able to start an interaction with their chatbot through Facebook Messenger.  Upon striking up a conversation with the chabot I was given the options to view records announced this week, records released this week, or records by artist, as you can see below.   

Record Bird Chatbot FB

I’m  a huge music nerd and I pride myself on being actively aware of all upcoming releases, recent releases, etc. so I was beyond excited when I saw that I could do all of this in Facebook Messenger.  The most advanced interaction with the chatbot I’ve found thus far is sorting releases by artist.  Here you can enter any artist and it’ll show you their latest release while directing you to the primary Record Bird site, where you can learn more about each album as well as listen to select tracks.  


While both the chatbot and the primary site are still in beta testing I have yet to find any flaws in their service.  It is a perfectly streamlined experience from the chatbot to the site, which contains a full array of information pertaining to the releases listed.  I’m hoping that, with time, they’ll bring an equal amount of functionality to the chatbot, such as streaming the release in Messenger, detailed information on the release, etc. but for now I am, surprisingly, more than satisfied with the product (I’m hardly ever satisfied with anything).   

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Quick tangent, it’s actually quite interesting to look at the current rise of chatbots and messaging as a growing point of sale location.  Recently, in the world of digital marketing, direct to consumer sales, and fan engagement we’ve seen messaging as a growing trend.  Apps like WhatsApp and WeChat have hundreds of millions of users, which, until recently, have primarily been large communities of untapped profits.  I never thought I would jump on the chatbot boat but I have to admit, Record Bird really intrigued me.  I’ve seen lots of talk of chatbots for ordering an Uber, chatbots for ordering takeout, etc. but I have yet to see something like Record Bird.  The closest experience I’ve had was with an SMS messaging service called SuperPhone which allows artists and influencers to promote their content via text messaging to their fans and allow them to purchase their album through a link in the text but quite honestly the service was pretty sloppy and hardly looked optimized for mobile phones, which was the basis of the entire platform.  

Hopefully, Record Bird will continue to grow and offer more in their Facebook chatbot but maybe an SMS chatbot as well? Only time will tell where the company will go but I know their service has already made my life a whole lot easier so I can only imagine it will do the same for others.  In the meantime, I highly recommend you check it out for yourself! You can get started on their Facebook page!

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Playlist: LA in t-1 month

With all of my school work, work work, and life things going on recently I’ve lost all of my inspiration to be a Los Angeles dream queen, swim in my pool of money in the hills, and eat at Nobu every night (this sounds ridiculous but forreal watch my glo up).  Being a homeless bum that smokes weed all day seems a lot easier right now but, unfortunately, I didn’t pay for a private college education just to sit around on the beach (I paid for it so I can retire early on the beach obvi).  

 

Anyway, this week’s playlist is for anyone who needs to be re-inspired to live their California dream life or for someone who’s like idk driving to the beach or something.  

 

Enjoi:

Another Look at ‘Lemonade’

This past week I picked up the most recent edition of Rolling Stone, mainly because I consider it my duty to do so as an aspiring music industry professional.  This year’s May issue particularly caught my eye, boasting a clean, clear cover with nothing but an iconic image of Prince.  Little did I know this issue touched on a variety of my favorite artists, ranging from Tom DeLonge, Florence Welch, Prince (of course), Pearl Jam, The Beatles, and surprise, surprise, Beyonce.

Beyonce, quite obviously, has been the hot topic of late, from discussions on her current relationship status, to the number of songwriting collaborators, to the platforms on which the album is available, we can’t stop talking about the Queen.  Her album has been discussed tastefully and not-so-tastefully (unfortunately) so when I read Rolling Stone writer David Peisner’s article on the topic I was beyond grateful at how appropriately he tackled it. As I touched on in one of my previous articles, Beyonce had tons of collaborators on Lemonade but Peisner accurately portrayed my thoughts and feelings about the album’s collaborators.  While I highly suggest you check out his full article here, I have chosen a select few words that emulate why I was so impressed with Lemonade and the creative direction Beyonce chose to take:

Beyoncé‘s Lemonade, released on April 23rd, was a triumph of sound and storytelling, an intense and adventurous “visual album” (accompanied by an hourlong film) about race, infidelity and marital meltdown. It was also a marvel of project management. Beyoncé, famously controlling and tight-lipped about her creative process, oversaw a cast of nearly 100 collaborators, from Jack White and Diplo to dozens of unknown producers and songwriters. “Beyoncé is really involved at all stages,” says Jonny Coffer, a London-based singer-songwriter who co-wrote and co-produced the stirring anthem “Freedom.” “She runs the show and will say what she likes and doesn’t like and is always making suggestions. She knows exactly how she wants it to sound and how to get there.”

 

Peisner’s article digs deeply into Beyonce’s album, discussing it as a fully encompassing piece of art, rather than a standard musical album.  It also touches on the involvement of Beyonce throughout the entire creative process, showing that while she might not be playing the instruments, writing every line, producing every beat, the album is a complete expression of herself.  She truly put in the hard work needed to create such an iconic album, bringing together collaborators of all genres to produce something beautiful and relevant, yet long-lasting.

 

Long live the Queen.

 

 

Eurovision, Free Your People

When I first read today’s Billboard article on the Eurovision Song Contest, I wasn’t really sure how I felt.  For this year’s contest Eurovision explicitly banned all political songs and, before receiving a great deal of backlash, had banned certain nation’s flags (later revoked).  Reading about the limitations Eurovision was putting on the contests as well as the attendees was honestly disturbing, no political references, no waving your flags too fast, no waving too many of one flag at a time, generally just silencing the voices of the people.  This really struck a chord with me, given that almost all quality music has been shaped by politically charged concepts.

Throughout the somewhat short history of the United States a large majority of our great music has come from some type of political revolution, social change, or general upset among the country’s people.  From the abolition of slavery, to the labor movement and class struggles, to the civil rights movement, to 1960’s counterculture and antiwar movements, politically themed songs have helped our country not only present the social and political issues of the day but forced the general public to confront these issues.  Protest music, in the past, was able to provide an influential voice to the people, allowing individuals to stand up for themselves, united under one song.  Music has helped unify many different political movements bringing together people from all walks of life to come together on one pressing issue.

Recently, however, we haven’t been seeing many artists releasing protest songs.  I’m sure this is partially due to the desire to appeal to the broadest audience possible; certain artists fear speaking out on topics to avoid the backlash that many come with it (and the lack of album sales) which I understand, you have to make a living somehow.  My main issue is not with artists’ lack of protest music, that’s on them (and quite frankly too large of a topic to cover in a silly little blog post), but rather the suppression of artists trying to make a difference.

The Eurovision Contest has been the best example of this as of late, putting extreme and ridiculous limitations on every aspect of the contest.  While I understand (kind of) that things may be different in Europe, given the close proximity of various different nations as well as the recent acts of terror I really don’t agree with their attempt to silence the voices of their people.  Now, more than ever, people need to come together and stand for what is right, not be silenced.  I’m not saying that contestants should be able to compete with hate songs, or directly targeted songs, but allow the artists to represent themselves and their thoughts in a respectful manner.

Just some food for thought.

Playlist: For Rainy Weekends

We’re going on two weeks of solid clouds here in Philly so in honor of such misery, stay in this weekend with a chilled out playlist.  Don’t fight the rain, seriously, it’s not worth it.

Featuring Oh Wonder, Banks, Vera Blue, HONNE, Chloe x Halle, Mansa, & a dope Natalie Imbruglia cover by James TW

~~ only 1 more month until we’re out in LA with no rain #blessup ~~

Live Nation ~~ Local Takeover

This week live music conglomerate Live Nation released their first quarter stats, up $1.2 billion in revenue but still incurring an overall $33 million in operating losses.  People seem confused by this, but it makes perfect sense.  We’ve seen the same thing with Amazon, in the red nearly every quarter due to their investment in innovative technology.  Live Nation continues expanding its empire, buying and building venues such as The Fillmore and the House of Blues, adding new entities such as a “record label” where they sign artists, an artist management firm, and, quite obviously, the ticketing service Ticketmaster.  Despite Live Nation’s losses I can guarantee they’re not even wavering as the dominant player in the live music industry.

In fact, Live Nation has been taking out any and all competitors left and right.  I can only speak for my scene in Philadelphia but Live Nation’s growth has been severely impacting our local music industry.  In the past few years we’ve seen a handful of iconic Philadelphia venues close due to the ever growing presence of Live Nation venues.  Live Nation limits their artists, nearly forcing them to play at their venues, rather than the unique and legendary venues throughout the culturally rich city of Philadelphia.  I’m quite curious when they’re going to be accused of monopolistic actions…for the sake of local music, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Not only is Live Nation acquiring venues to make their own, they are building one large venue chain, The Fillmore.  The Fillmore Philadelphia was recently added to their lineup of cities boasting a venue with the same name and same feel as The Fillmore San Francisco, The Fillmore Silver Springs, The Fillmore Charlotte & The Fillmore Detroit, to name a few.  I’ve only attended a show at the Philadelphia venue but I found it overly corporate, making it quite obvious they’re attempting to appeal to Philadelphians, boasting a large LIVE sign, similar to the LOVE sign in Philadelphia’s Love Park.  The main venue, The Fillmore, holds approximately 2,500 people while The Fillmore’s smaller, more ‘intimate’ club, The Foundry, holds about 450.  Basically, Live Nation has guaranteed a place for both their well known and up-and-coming artists to play while essentially barring all Philadelphia venues from touching any artist they’ve deemed talented.

With the rise of the Live Nation dominance, Philadelphia has seen multiple venues close including The Blockley in West Philadelphia, Legendary Dobbs on South Street, The North Star Bar (claimed they’re re-opening, no update since last November…), and soon to close, one of Philadelphia’s favorite venues, The Barbary in Fishtown.  All of these venues have played an important role in shaping Philadelphia’s music scene and culture, turning up-and-coming artists into the city’s most sought after performers.  There’s not too much I can say about these venues…they were iconic and vital to our ever expanding DIY music scene and now they’re done for (RIP) due to the overshadowing power of the corporate music industry.  The Legendary Dobbs, which once hosted Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the Smashing Pumpkins, & more, is now just an empty, boarded up, old building.  If we, as a music community, can’t preserve some of our most memorable history, what can we do? To simply toss out these venues in exchange for the newest Live Nation chain is embarrassing and disrespectful.

As someone who’s looking to work in the music industry, specifically with pop music, I understand that large corporate entities, while creating many issues for local, DIY, indie scenes, are necessary.  When it comes to booking world tours, making deals with the likes of HBO (looking at you Bey), and similar deals with huge conglomerates, major corporations can get this shit done better than any indie group but I would love to see these huge companies foster local scenes, rather than come in and destroy them.  Instead of building their large chains,  Live Nation could come in and buy local venues, but let them do their own thing, rather than trying to push their corporate standards on them.  This would help the local scene hold on to it’s originality AND Live Nation could still profit, sounds like a win-win, am I right?

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So, to whomever this may concern in the music industry, please get your shit together.  I can guarantee if you help out out our local scene we will help out not only your bank accounts but your talent roster.  Local musicians are the ones that eventually become pop stars so think of it as an investment for the future.

MTV’s ‘Bring Back the M!’ Rebrand

This past Thursday MTV launched a campaign to “Bring Back the M!” in a desperate rebranding attempt.  While I’m 100% on board with returning to actual music television, the shows included on their new lineup seem questionable.  This Billboard article reports that there will be a few new, surprising shows to their lineup including a new murder mystery series, The Investigation, an untitled foodie documentary series, and a series about a drug dealing girl duo, Mary + Jane…not exactly the bold move towards music we were looking for.

However, the music lineup, while minimal, is definitely top quality. They’re bringing back Unplugged and Cribs which has my inner 90’s fangirl screaming.  They’re also adding two new music-centric programs, Studio 24 where celebs are enlisted to make a hit album in 24 hours…not sure how sustainable this will be but a solid attempt, to say the least, and also a new, currently untitled, weekly live series.

I’m not sure how many people realize how freaking awesome this is, but trust me, it is.  MTV is such a strong, well defined brand that, until the “Bring Back the M!” campaign launched, has been wasting away it’s resources and fan base on reality TV.  Clearly their somewhat senseless reality shows were profitable up to a point but they were a fad; you can only watch a bunch of Jersey Shore guidos embarrass themselves so many times.  I’m hoping with this new campaign launch they’ll manage to balance music television and their obscure scripted and reality TV shows, hopefully with a larger emphasis on music.

The origin of MTV is music television and, for quite some time, that’s been forgotten by the company but, for as long as the brand has been ignoring their roots, consumers have been begging to get their old school MTV back.  While their new lineup is an improvement, they’re missing out on a perfect opportunity.  With the current revival of 90’s culture there is no better time to make the bold return to strictly music programming.  It seems to me that MTV, while moving in the right direction, is stepping too lightly, maybe due to the embarrassment of dropping Music Television from their official logo and slogan in 2010, or maybe due to the strict regulations and limitations imposed upon them by media giant and owner Viacom, but something is not right.

MTV, even after the drop of ‘music television’ from their brand, is still one of the most influential music and entertainment companies.  If anyone had the resources to totally revamp their brand image, it’s them.  With their money and influence they could have come back with a bang but instead they’ve taken the safe route to slowly assimilate music back into their lineup, creating very minimal buzz on the topic.  Believe me when I say, if MTV had announced a plan to drop all programs to be replaced by music television, it’d be much more important than whoever ‘Becky with the good hair’ is.  Even if they decided to keep their reality/scripted/weird game shows, they could easily be moved to another MTV channel, such as MTV2 or MTVu.

And yes, you may be thinking, what about MTV Live? Or MTV Hits? Yeah those still exist and they’re great, but where’s my one stop shop for everything music?  The core of the brand is MTV, it reaches more homes and has a higher influence than any of their sister channels; it should be their primary concern.  The music industry and consumers as a whole need MTV more than ever right now.  MTV is the only brand with the potential to bring back the magic and thrill of discovering new music and placing that in millions of homes around the globe, they have a wonderful opportunity to revive not only their brand, but how consumers view music and the entertainment industry.

So please, MTV, I implore you, let out your inner Spaceman and take one huge leap for music (and mankind).

Queen Bee Haters FUCK OFF

Seeing as it’s their job to analyze music over at Billboard clearly they were going to dig into Queen Bee’s latest album Lemonade, which encouraged me to touch on the subject I honestly wanted to avoid.  There have been many speculations about the inspiration for the album but quite frankly, it’s none of our beeswax (however if you really care you can make your own assumptions from MTV’s roundtable discussion).

 

You see, I’m a big fan of music and because of that I’d much rather focus on the actual music so while I refuse to enter the ‘who cheated’ conversation I will butt in on the criticism Bey is receiving for the number of collaborators on her album.  As I said, Billboard obviously needed to comment on the subject and they managed to do so with extreme class (as Beyonce obviously deserves).  Many of their writers took on the topic with their own variations, however Jem Asward’s rendition struck a chord with me, especially when I saw the comments on the article on Yahoo!Tech, where I originally read the article.  Aswad basically just lists all of Beyonce’s songwriting credits, broken down by each individual song ~~ TL;DR a lot of people helped on Lemonade.  Many of the commenters were hating on the Queen for collaborating with other artists:

 

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The topic of songwriters comes up almost constantly when discussing current day pop music, especially during awards season.  Consumers tend to discredit artists who don’t write their own music or don’t provide their own instrumental accompaniment, basically any artists with more than one or two songwriter credits listed.  Critics complain that we should be focusing on “real musicians” and “real songwriters” and to some extent I agree with the basis of their argument; no shit, it takes more musical ability and talent to write your own music and play your own instruments, that should be pretty obvious.  However, as far as overall artistry goes, do not try and claim that because someone doesn’t write every note on their album that their art is less or unworthy, it is simply a different type of art.

Art is a way to express one’s emotions and share your innermost self with the world, why limit yourself by your abilities? By collaborating and working with others an artist, in this case Queen Bee, can better articulate themselves.  Yeah, it’s totally awesome that people can write their own music and they should be commended for that but that doesn’t mean artists with collaborators are any less creative.  Let’s get hypothetical for a second, if 10 doctors find the cure to cancer is it less valid than if 1 doctor found the cure to cancer?? No, it’s not.  It’s even better if 10 doctors find the cure to cancer because it’s been verified by 10 different minds.  Bey’s album has been verified dope AF by at least 30 collaborators, that’s gotta mean something.

 

So to all of you music snobs, please, lay off the criticism.  Beyonce still made every executive decision on what went into that album and put a fuck ton of work into it, think of it as a really cool collage or something?? Do whatever you gotta do to realize that, while she didn’t write every song, this is a different form of art and should be regarded as such.

 

Props to you Queen Bee and the entire team that helped create Lemonade.