Posts Tagged ‘CD’

R.I.P. The Music Industry

December 16, 2009

For those who follow this blog, you will be aware that we are currently in the middle of a project that we call ‘The 24 Days of Christmas’ whereby we post ideas for Christmas gifts on each of the 24 days leading to Dec 25th, along with a song that is somehow related to the particular gift. For those who don’t follow this blog, click above to see a list of all the gifts/songs featured so far.

It fell to me to cover day 15, for which I decided to cover a 6-hour recording studio session for budding musicians – after a little thought, I decided to choose Twista’s ‘Overnight Celebrity’ as my song of choice for that gift. Quite apt, I thought. Although actually getting hold of a Youtube link for said video was nigh-on impossible.

Quite surprising, you might think, and you’d be right – produced by Kanye West, the song was a hit on both sides of the Pond, reaching no. 6 in the 2004 Billboard Hot 100 Chart and no. 16 in the UK sales chart. So why couldn’t I find a suitable version on Youtube?

The answer, my friends, is copyright.

Now, seeing as I’m imagining that you’re all young, frivolous and dynamic individuals with a lot of time on your hands, I’m not about to sit here and bombard you with statistics and figures; all I want to say is that it’s about time the archaic and increasingly irrelevant music industry as we know it was finally put to sleep.

When Napster was launched in 1999 and subsequently closed in 2001, it marked the beginning a major shift in consumer attitudes towards buying music; it offered the first user-friendly method of sharing digital music and opened many millions of people to the idea of pirating music. CD Writers were still pretty big, inefficient and relatively expensive, internet dial-up connections were prohibitively slow and chat-based clients such as IRC… well, they looked like this:

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Not exactly easy to follow, I’m sure you’ll agree. Napster, and the other clients that it spawned, were simple; a search field, a search results window and a download progress window. Easy peasy – no wonder it took off the way it did.

Now, with a billion-dollar infrastructure in place to produce, record and distribute music, it is understandable why the music industry was keen to stifle proliferation of web-based music distribution.

However, like the proverbial Goliath, Big Music was slow, unwieldy and unable to adapt to an environment increasingly reliant on the internet; one wonders, if they had embraced the concepts and technology behind file-sharing all those years ago, would we still be in the same situation now? Are its current practices of locking everything down under swathes of copyright red tape really doing anything other than harming its own cause?

Record labels are incredibly vocal about the amount that file-sharing costs them, although when you consider some of the practices that the industry has been involved in to shape the popular music scene over the past few years, it is arguably quite difficult to feel sorry for them.

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They often come across as fairly selfless about the whole thing; placing the ultimate loss with their artists rather than themselves. Although since when did the industry care about the welfare of its artists?

Modern popular music is about fast turnover, not artistic integrity. Artists are milked within an inch of sanity by the terms of their contracts, forced to churn out bland, watered-down and accessible approximations of the music that got them popular in the first place, and when such artists appear to fall from favour, they are tossed away, destitute and worn-out. As soon as a major label gets wind of a particular trend, the market is flooded with identikit acts that loop relentlessly until we’re all sick of it and move onto something else.

However, while I am in one way grateful to the growth of file-sharing for the blows it has delivered to greedy, self-serving and culturally-void media institutions – this goes for Hollywood too, by the way – by providing people with access to any and everything, not just what the big companies deem should be popular, it has had some negative effects.

Aside from the obvious ‘it-takes-money-out-of-the-hands-of-emerging-musicians’ argument, which is nonetheless valid, it has created a climate whereby people think that paying for anything is unreasonable. With so much content on offer for free, many people feel ‘ripped off’ when it emerges that they may have to actually pay for something.

This is not a mindset limited to the world of digital entertainment; cut-price clothing from shops such as Primark nurtures the same attitudes from consumers. Why pay £25 for a top when you can get it for £3 at Primark? Why buy an album when you can download it for free?

Ultimately, the industry in question does suffer, but with a shrewd little shift-around, it can be engineered so that the only people that lose out are those Simon Cowell types who contribute little to the music industry and take a lot. Downloading is rarely identified for its positive traits – for example, it has enormous marketing potential.

Tracking of downloading habits can harvest enormous amounts of data about consumer tastes and should, therefore, be considered a necessary evil in a marketplace where people are unwilling to pay the frankly exorbitant amounts asked of them for media products.

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The launch of Spotify in October 2008 marked an extremely positive step in the right direction. Spotify users don’t seem to be bothered that they can’t download the songs, highlighted by the fact that they have a six-month waiting list for a free account. Users have instant and free access to millions of tracks, interspersed with the occasional advert.

The Spotify method is by no means perfect; it has its fair share of critics but for now it appears to be catering for the best of both; the public gets access to ‘free’ music and musicians get a bit of cash. It may not be a lot right now, but the technology is still in its infancy and let’s face it, a little money is better than none at all.

In short, the music industry has been catastrophically slow in adapting to new consumer trends in music consumption and any money they lose as a result is nobody’s fault but theirs. Rather than spending a bit of cash in R&D, trying to find a viable way to incorporate digital audio and video files into their repertoire and slowly phase out media such as CDs, their attempts to retain global hegemony of the way we listen to music will eventually be their downfall.

Hopefully within a couple of years online products will circumvent Big Music altogether and make way for an industry made up of smaller, independent labels where musicians have more control over their content, their image and their workrate, allowing diverse, varied and user-led content to thrive.

James

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Smurfie Syco Interview for Grime Forum

November 27, 2009

Despite having a new mixtape to promote, a tour to prepare for and an album to complete for next year, 19 year-old Smurfie Syco is unnervingly calm. Embracing a workload that many other artists would find too much to handle, the North London MC positively relishes the challenge “That’s where I want the pressure. Right on my shoulders!”

Fresh off his third tour with Dizzee Rascal and with 3 days before his debut release SmurfieSyco.com hits the shelves, Kristian Samuel-Camps caught up with Dirtee Stank’s emerging star to talk Dubstep, Dizzee and Downloads.

I’m sure you get asked this in every interview, but just to clarify, why are you called Smurfie Syco?

Yeah I do! In my family I’ve got loads of brothers and sisters and we all had nicknames for each other. My one was Smurfie ‘cos I was really short. In my area, when I used to run about with my friends, they called my Syco, ‘cos I was this little terrier. Then, when my friends started to come over to my house, they would hear my family call me Smurfie and get confused. So in the end they called me Syco Smurfie. When I signed up to MySpace I switched it around and it stuck from there.

It’s quite a catchy name isn’t it?

Yeah it is. It works to my advantage.

How did you get signed to Dirtee Stank, and what’s it like working with Cage, Dizzee and the Newham Generals?

It’s kinda like Justice League haha! Or maybe Ninja Turtles – Cage would be Splinter with the guidance and knowledge! I’ve been eager to do things and got excited about situations only for Cage to say three or four things and change my mind completely. He sees things way in advance, and is great at making the decisions – which you can see in Dizzee.

All the decisions Dizzee has made, Cage has been instrumental.

Justice League is a good name for them because they are superheroes to me. Even though we’re friends, it hasn’t clicked for me yet. I’ll hop off the tour bus with Dizzee and see people react crazy…

How much say does Cage have in the camp?

He’s like the final thing. At the same time though, he won’t crush my artistry. Seriously, when my album comes out you will see stuff everywhere! He allows me to do whatever I want and then he’ll give me the guidance. It’s up to me to except it. Karate kid can never tell Mr Miyagi how it’s gonna go. He has to listen and interpret it. That’s what I’m doing.

I’m not scared to take risks.

Conversely do you find it stressful having these guys around you, scrutinising your work?

It is stressful. You do get to a point where it’s a gift and a curse. It depends on the audience, and what part of the audience I listen to. You’ve got the fans that are happy to have new music and see new faces, and then you’ve got these internet critics who don’t know much about music at all. In the grand scheme of things, the things that they say will keep them where they are.

They want to compare, compare, compare. I can’t understand why they can’t accept something for what it is. I can’t address all that because if I did, I would never get an album done.

How would you describe your style of music?

Ooh it’s a crazy mix. I ain’t given it a label just yet but it deserves one though ‘cos it’s really good! Haha! It’s melodic and quite old fashioned. I never really owned any music in my house so I listened to a lot of music that at first, I hated. I didn’t jump out of my mum’s womb and straight into Reggae! Now though, when I hear those sweet melodies on a Sunday morning when my Grandma’s cooking or something I can just vibe.

There is a mad mix in my music – I can hear it all in there. On this mix CD I listened to it top to bottom and it is Grime. It’s not quite what is going on today, but it reminds me of those ‘Boy in the Corner’ days. I know that’s a big thing to say but on one track that Dizzee features on (Clappin), it could have made it onto Boy in the Corner. If not Showtime. It’s definitely that era of music. It’s a conscious tune too – it’s not reckless.

What would you say to those people who say that, because you didn’t climb the ranks, Dizzee shouldn’t have signed you?

I would say to them that Dizzee wouldn’t be where he is today if he couldn’t make good decisions. If you respect him and think he’s a smart guy then respect his decision to sign me and wait and see.

Your hotly anticipated new CD, Smurfie Syco.com is due to be released on the 30th. How you feeling?

Excited man. I just want to see it in my hands and I’ll be like ‘Yes!’ I want to go and see it on the shelves as well.

Promotion across Dirtee Stank media, including Dizzee’s official announcement yesterday, has kick started the hype…So what can people expect?

Expect hype! If there is anything out there you want to get right now, forget that and get this CD! It is a breath of fresh air in music. if you are buying CD’s, buy mine, Chipmunk’s, N Dubz, Tinchy’s, Dizzee’s and Newham Generals and that will be 2009 right there. My mixtape deserves to be next to all those releases.

Are there any guest spots on the album?

One. Dizzee Rascal and that’s it. Together we recorded three to four songs for the mixtape, but I’m a perfectionist. When I first signed [with Dirtee Stank] I told Dizzee ‘Don’t tell anybody I’ve signed’ and for six months, nobody knew. Everybody there thought I was an office clerk or something; sorting stuff out on the phone, helping the tour manager. I wanted to figure out what I was going to do first.

It eventually got round that I was signed and so I got recording. I made my first single ‘Where’s Your Head At?’, and after performing it live it got such a good reception that Dizzee wanted to come onto the tune. So for me that’s a sign I’m doing the right thing.

What will be the first single?

The lead track will be ‘This Way’ but my first single will come next year with the album, which will probably be ‘Where’s Your Head At?’

Your free download ‘Unleash Da Syco’ instrumental EP showcased your loud and brash production talents. Did you produce any beats on the album?

I produced all the beats on the album. I’m a huge Dubstep fan and it’s crazy ‘cos I discovered it through DJ Tubby by accident. I really ignored it for the first part, but I’ve always been attracted to the grimier side of Grime, Bassline and that. So when I found it I was like ‘Rah!’ Nobody was MC’ing on it apart from Newham Generals and Crazy D at that time, so I immediately wanted to.

‘Unleash Da Syco’ has some musical similarity with Dizzee’s earliest work – it’s messy, electronic and sample heavy. Was this one of the things that first endeared Dizzee to you in the first place?

It could have been. To be honest I’m not sure – I’d have to ask Dizzee. In fact I don’t think I’d ever want to know. I’d like that to remain a mystery because it keeps me working and if I stick to one type of music it’ll blur my creativity.

Would you consider yourself his protégé?

Erm…I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think Dizzee’s protégé is still out there somewhere. There’s elements of Dizzee, D Double E and Footsie in my work, but I don’t think I’m his protégé.

Your 300 bars series on YouTube was an innovative online promotion tool and opened you up to audiences in a frank, honest way. Are you going to maintain the series or have you got something new planned?

If MC’s want to talk about MC’ing, then I would love to see another MC do that, and spit for six minutes constantly! That series must have totalled thousands of bars. The reaction from that series was big. I’m still getting tour fans going ‘Wow!’

We are working on something! That was one of 15 ideas we had and even now the ideas don’t stop coming. We will definitely do something for people to subscribe to and I will be going even harder to make sure there are more eyes on me.

The crowds on Dizzee’s tour have certainly been going mad for you, judging by the videos and youtube comments. What was touring with Dizzee like?

It’s the best thing that could ever happen to my music. It showed me that I could do what I was doing in my spare time, professionally. The first Dizzee tour was Boy in the Corner and Showtime fans moshing. The Maths & English tour, girls had started to come in, then on the last Tongue ‘n’ Cheek tour it was chicks 6 rows deep from the front. I’m happy I’ve seen that and it has made me understand where I want my audience to go.

I love all the girls there – I’ve even got my own little group now called The Smurfettes – which are my own female fan club.

Anybody who wants to join by the way, just holla me on Twitter @Smurfiesyco!

Tell us about your album due to be released next year. According to Dizzee’s MySpace, he, along with Cage will be executive producing it. Can you shed any more light on it at all?

It’s untitled at the moment, but we’re aiming for a 3rd quarter release. My single should carry me through until then and I believe there is nothing from the UK that will be as complete as mine.

With that in mind, what does the rest of this year hold for Smurfie?

Just promoting really, speaking to my audience, keeping them in the loop. This is nursery rhymes right now. I want to take my crowd and start singing real music that can stand on its own.

I want to stress that SmurfieSyco.com is the sharpest end of the knife, and will be for some people because it’s Grime. But after this I’m going bigger, wider, and you will like it because I keep things real. I’m heading toward success – if you want in, follow me!

Any shout outs?

Shout out Dirtee Stank – it’s the label! Laurence – number 1 UK label manager. Shout to Musical D, my family, my fanbase and R.O.A.D – the Righteous, Organised and Determined.

Kristian

Shark Major Album Shoot

September 28, 2009

I was approached by Sharky to take some photos for his upcoming album ‘Major League’. Here are a sample of the shots taken that day. Watch out for the CD which is being released soon, and features big guestspots from Ghetts, Griminal, Jammer and Little Nasty amongst others.

For more info twitter me @threefoldmedia.

Big up Shark Major – he’s bound to make moves with this release.

Check the lead single ‘Shark Attack’ here:

Kristian

One To Watch – P-Money

September 24, 2009

Grime music has always had a healthy fascination with violence and videogames. Boy Better Know member JME is renowned for his love of the virtual platform, frequently infusing his lyrics with playful references to Street Fighter and Call Of Duty. ‘Chillin’ Wid Da Mandem’, Dizzee’s romantic ode to his compatriots on latest album ‘Tongue ‘N’ Cheek’, details a particularly boisterous Pro Evo sesh.

Grime’s heady combination of brutal lyrics and synthesized Gameboy beats is almost poetic; a metaphor for how modern consumerist lifestyles and digital entertainment have eroded our sense of empathy, understanding and respect for fellow man and replaced it with a ‘carrot-on-a-stick’ pursuit for 1up-manship.

God I’m good…

And so, on that light and refreshing note, allow me to introduce the number one contender for Grime’s poet laureate, P-Money.

Hailing from Lewisham, South-East London, P-Money’s responsible for some of the most exciting Grime music to have been released this year. His debut mixtape ‘Coins to Notes’ – made available for free download in early 2008 – was widely applauded by Grime fans for it’s diversity in sound and constantly high level of barring. Peppering tracks such as ‘Back in Time’ and raucous street anthem ‘What Did He Say?’ with breathless tenacity, P’s skippy flow was lauded as one of the most exhilarating in the scene.

Since then, P-Money has made 3 releases which, despite some solid features, failed to excite as much his debut. ‘Coins to Notes’ follow-up ‘A Little Back Then With Now’ was exactly what the name suggested and featured a collection of P’s previous hits as well as snippets from the brooding, although ultimately disappointing ‘P-Money Is Power’ album.

His third and latest release however, ‘Money Over Everyone’, signals a return to previous form and is going down a storm in the scene, placing him firmly in the top third of the Grime MC league table.

Don’t just take my word for it. Giveaway paper The Metro did a feature on him last Friday, and lead single ‘1up’ – his Super Mario themed banger (produced by Royal T) – is all over the radio. On it, P displays an aggressive, yet playful wit that is a breath of fresh air in a scene that takes itself too seriously.


P-Money – 1up

It is unashamedly juvenile and all the more appealing for it. Other standout tunes from the CD include ‘Left the Room’ and ‘Fruit and Veg’, both of which are irresistibly catchy and draw P’s larger-than-life persona to the fore. With Funky grabbing all the attention and MC’s flocking to commercial markets, it’s good to see P-Money secure a niche that is hard, fast and wholeheartedly Grime.

P-Money’s appeal therefore, much like Mario after consuming a mushroom, can only get stronger.

P-Money’s CD ‘Money Over Everyone’ is available from HMV and iTunes.
Check out his myspace here.
Search Facebook for ‘King P-Money’

Kristian