All Articles Tagged "music industry"

Hot 97 Execs Share Their Vision & Expectations For Summer Jam 2015

June 3rd, 2015 - By Rana Campbell
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Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Lil Wayne via Hot 97



With this year’s Hot 97 Summer Jam approaching, we reached out to talk to the arms and legs behind the annual hip hop concert at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. This year’s stadium stage lineup includes Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, Fabulous, and more. Behind the scenes, there’s Ebro Darden, on-air personality and the station executive responsible for all event stage management and production. And there’s Deon Levingston, SVP and market manager at Emmis Communications (Hot 97’s parent company).

In an era where music consumption habits are changing, live performances are becoming an even more integral part of artist strategy. “Music doesn’t sell anymore. If you’re an artist and want to be at the top of the game, you have to do live shows,” says Darden.

To that end, a spot on the Summer Jam roster can be critical to a music career.

“There are three different levels to hitting that stage. An artist that is an iconic artist has probably hit that stage before and thought, ‘I’m back!’ An emerging artist is going, ‘Whoa! This is the next step to me becoming an iconic artist.’ A new artist hits that stage and realizes, ‘I made it,’” adds Levingston.

ebro darden deon levingston on summer jam 2015

Deon Levingston (left), Ebro Darden (right)

MadameNoire (MN): What factors go into artist and stage selection?
Deon Levingston (DL):  We look at ticket sales, who’s coming out with new music, and what trends are happening. We do a lot of research and planning to come up with the best lineup that will be appealing to our listeners from a content and ticket selling standpoint.

Ebro Darden (ED): The stadium stage is generally picked based on time in the game and amount of content. You’ve got to be able to do a 20-to-30 minute set of hits. We also look at demand for a specific artist. Can you put together a show that is going to uphold the expectations of the Summer Jam  brand?

MN: What’s the most challenging aspects of planning Summer Jam?
Darden: One of the biggest challenges is artists having this expectation of Summer Jam that it has to be all about their guests or their new music. We’ve had artists that are afraid to do it because they don’t have any new material. We’re like, “The audience loves you. Come party with us.”

The other challenge is the amount of festivals around the world now that aren’t necessarily committed to making the music matter beyond that festival, but want to book hip hop acts. When Summer Jam happens that weekend, there are other big festivals going on in Europe. Those big festivals cut big checks. They are allowing artists to be exposed to another [demographic] and make another fan. Sometimes that’s frustrating because obviously we are just one station in New York City and we can’t afford to pay the big checks. For example, this year we wanted to have Future, but he had a contract somewhere else.

Levingston: Organizing and confirming the talent. People take that for granted. We spend a lot of time in the selection process of trying to figure out talent that works together and rounds out a show that is appealing to our whole audience and gives everyone something they will enjoy.

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Trey Songz via Hot 97

MN: How is the concert financed?
Levingston: There’s a specific station budget for the year. We have to  sell sponsorships and tickets to make it pay for itself. We have done that for the last 22 years. It’s a major outlay for a station to do every year. As the economy has gone south, fewer stations have done it. More stations will do it because it does give a way to touch their audience and have an additional revenue stream if they do it right.

MN: What are the top-line station goals for the concert each year?
Levingston: The goal every year is to sell it out, or as a minimum, exceed what we did the year before.This Summer Jam is on track to be the best Summer Jam we’ve ever had. We’re considerably ahead of where we were a year ago (a couple thousand tickets ahead in sales.) Our momentum is just getting stronger and stronger.

This is probably the most traditional Summer Jam we had in a long time. What we did this year was we took major artists that are staples like Chris Brown, but we added artists who are becoming the next roll of artists like Kendrick Lamar, Trey Songz, and Meek Mill. We have a great mixture of established iconic artists, with artists who are becoming iconic artists, with emerging artists. Our festival village is better than an arena show. Now you’ve got two incredible shows for one ticket and one day.

summer jam festival

Mack Wilds via Hot 97

MN: The festival stage popularity and impact has grown over the years. Why?
Darden: We’ve tried to make sure there is a certain caliber on that stage as well. Last year you had Childish Gambino, Jhene Aiko, Iggy Izalea, Chinx, Mack Wilds… it was a show all by itself that would probably sell out Barclays. That festival pulls about 15,000-to-20,000 people.

We pick those acts based on people who have hits and have their own touring. Joey Bada$$ goes out and sells out shows. Travis Scott is f****** amazing on stage but he doesn’t have radio hits yet. We want to see him have radio hits for us so we want to expose him to the audience and get his name familiarized and keep building with him.

Levingston: My best moment of Summer Jam didn’t happen in the stadium. It happened when August Alsina was on the festival stage. You looked out and there were 20,000 people. It was jam-packed to the point you could not move. The idea started as something small with a couple DJs. To watch it grow from that within 10 years to 20,000 people…good gracious!

MN: Why is Summer Jam so important for hip-hop artists?
Darden: The importance of Summer Jam is being in front of hip-hop fans who are going to sustain your career and be fans of you longer than someone who is going to [another] festival and may just bump in to you for that moment.

The fans at Summer Jam are super-duper fans of the artists, music, hip hop and R&B. That’s important for an artist’s brand. Summer Jam is where you can reinforce your position in the hip-hop culture. You have people who you can count on. If you’re there for them, they are going to be there for you.

I don’t think people know that Summer Jam the largest show in the world focused primarily on hip-hop music. People take that for granted. We’re all about hip-hop culture. It’s a moment for us to celebrate that specific music. There’s some people who debate and say they would love to go somewhere that has more of a music variety. I would argue and say you have those all over the place (Coachella, Governor’s Ball, Lollapalooza.)

It’s special that in New York City, the birthplace of this music culture, you have a show, that is the biggest in the world that is catered specifically to the music that was birthed here.

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Sevyn Streeter via Hot 97

 

MN: Why is the fact that Summer Jam is radio station-produced so important?
Levingston: Hot 97 is known for breaking artists. We do a show at SOBs that is called Who’s Next? That show has had everyone on there from Nicki Minaj to Kendrick, Kanye… Dej Loaf was just on there right before she blew up.

What we started to do with these artists who are upcoming artists is move them along in the process. It’s important because radio has been the traditional means to give those artists that outlet. Fewer and fewer stations are doing shows of this magnitude because of the costs.

MN: How does Hot 97 help featured artists post-Summer Jam?
Darden: We play their music, talk about their relevancy and talk about them. Even after Summer Jam we put events together. We promote their concerts, give away tickets, and play music for these artists to keep them a part of the conversation after it’s over. These other festivals cut a big check but they are not going to do that.

ebro at summerjam

Ebro Darden and Black Thought via Hot 97

MN: How do you foresee Summer Jam evolving?
Levingston: I would not be surprised if Summer Jam becomes a two-day show where the festival stage is extended and grows into its own festival the day before. We’re just getting to the point where there is so much content and talent going on that if you don’t get out there at 2pm, you miss something.

MN: Who do you think will be the audience favorite this year?
Darden: At this point it’s all speculation because you never know who is going to have a great night. Chris Brown is up there doing back flips and he’s got mad hits. That’s obviously something that is very entertaining. Kendrick Lamar having an album that is a debatable classic carries a lot of weight with the hip-hop crowd. People love his content and perspective. Big Sean has hit songs and people love his album. We know for a fact that the reason those people are on stadium stage is because of their caliber, hits, and potential they have to put on amazing shows.

MN: At the end of the day, what is Summer Jam truly about?
Darden: I believe that music is all about life and memories. Summer Jam is part of that music memory. That’s where I get the most joy. That’s the most meaningful piece for people.

You can go on YouTube and see video of people from the 300 section smoking weed with their friends. They’ve brought their whole building and they’re just having a party while the artists perform on stage. You can hear their reaction of people on the stage coming out. Or, you can view people tailgating in the parking lot. One year, there were five cars on fire because people had tailgated and parked their cars over the hot BBQ pit. That’s s*** people remember for the rest of their lives.

If you’re [coming out for the day], wear comfortable shoes and something that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Come with two or three of your friends that you like having a good time with that aren’t too annoyed to walk, stand up and have a great time.

For  more information and full concert lineup, click here.

Rana Campbell is a freelance writer and marketing/branding strategist. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or visit ranacampbell.com.

Music Industry Makes Friday The Day For All New Releases Worldwide

March 2nd, 2015 - By Ann Brown
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Starting this summer all new music releases will be available on Fridays. Tuesdays had been the day for new releases, but the worldwide music industry has decided Friday — the day most music buyers get paid — makes more sense. Seems like a smart move since consumer research has found that Friday and Saturday were the days consumers would be most likely buy new music.

The decision to shift days was announced recently by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). Based in Britain, IFPI, which acts sort of like a United Nations for the music business industry, also says the move will help fight piracy since albums often come out first internationally before being offered in the U.S., reports Rolling Stone.

The new day will also allow artists to focus their social media campaigns more effectively, since their CDs will be released the same day worldwide.

The IFPI made the decision after talking to artists, unions, labels, and retailers. Even the Music Business Association, which represents U.S. music retailers along with such companies as Spotify, Rdio, supports the initiative.

Former Interscope Exec Leverages Her Branding Experience For New Lingerie Line

July 30th, 2014 - By Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
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Just My Jammies Two Piece

Lounge and sleepwear account for about 25 percent of the $29 billion global market in lingerie. With her Just My Jammies line former Interscope Music marketing executive Tiffany Shanelle Johnson enters the market at an auspicious moment. As recording artists wrap their music in super sexy images and videos, and stars tweet ultra-revealing selfies, more and more consumers are seeking a balance between provocative pieces that make them feel attractive, and clothing they can feel completely comfortable in. Retailers and designer brands are paying attention with brands like Gucci, Givenchy, and H&M presenting chic takes on sweats and tracksuits, while lingerie giants are incorporating more relaxed styles to their collections.

Using her experience marketing artists like Keri Hilson and Mindless Behavior, and working with Jimmy Iovine as he built the $3 billion Beats by Dre brand, Johnson hopes to place her effortlessly sexy teddies, jumpsuits, and tee shirts within a lifestyle women can aspire to. With images of celebrities like Meagan Good sprinkled through her site, and brand photography featuring models chilling against a view of the Hollywood Hills, Johnson presents an intersection of luxury and relaxation. What the celebrities she markets slip into after shedding the heavy makeup and Spanx.

We asked Johnson how she applied her background in music to the very different world of intimate apparel.

MadameNoire: Coming up in the music business for the last decade-plus, you’ve not only survived the massive change the industry went through, but been a success. What propelled you to set off on your own to start Just My Jammies in 2014?  

Tiffany Shanelle Johnson: I love music. l will always love music, and am still very much involved. As a marketing director, I design marketing plans, coordinate photo and video shoots, ad campaigns, cross-promotions, and work with the various label departments like publicity and radio to make sure the artists I handle receive the attention they deserve. What I realized is that I don’t just market artists, I help create brands, and that my skills could easily be applied to other industries.

As a modern day woman, the first thing I love to do when I get home from a long day is slip into something comfortable… and whether I’m alone or with my boyfriend, I still want to be cute! I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to find the perfect combo of comfy and sexy loungewear… So I said, “Hey, why not give this a shot.” I think there are a lot of women that can relate.

MN: Most female recording artists at the top of their game push a hyper-sexy image to the masses via explicit lyrics, social media, videos, and photography. Why is it important to you convey an “effortlessly sexy” message and aesthetic with Just My Jammies?

TJ: It is very true that a lot of these artists are pushing hyper-sexual images, but I think it’s just that—an “image.” I believe that they too want to come home and take off the makeup and Spanx, and put on something comfortable. And personally, I think the sexiest girls are the ones who do it effortlessly.

Wearing a tight dress and 6-inch heels doesn’t necessarily make you sexy. I love seeing a chick in jeans, a tee, and minimal makeup. It’s her state of mind, her confidence; the fact that SHE feels sexy, and is comfortable in her skin. Plus, the lingerie market is already saturated with super sexy brands, I needed to do something different in order to succeed.

Up-And-Coming Music Producer Thaddeus Dixon Gives The Inside Scoop On Making It In Music

July 21st, 2014 - By Michelle Alerte
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If you’ve heard Talib Kweli’s recent track, “Violations” or Teedra Moses’ “All I Ever wanted,” then you know Thaddeus Dixon. MN caught up with the budding music producer to get the inside scoop on the music business and learn what it takes to follow your bliss.

Keep Growing
If there’s one thing Dixon’s career trajectory can teach us, it is the importance of growth. Dixon’s love of music began with a passion for drums. With a Bachelor’s of Music from Michigan State University, Dixon got a jump start in the music industry through touring with artists like Sean Kingston, NeYo, Bone Thugs N Harmony, and more. His success in touring allowed him to begin working as the musical director for artists. Dixon began putting together the musical arrangements for shows, making sure the music was in order, and establishing the overall pacing for the performance. As Dixon continued to grow it was a natural transition to begin working off-stage creating the rhythm behind the artists’ flow.

“Just because people respect me as a musician and musical director doesn’t mean they respected me as a producer. It was basically like starting all over,” Dixon said of his decision to push forward into another area of music.

Show Up
“I’ve learned from showing up that even if you don’t get what you came there for, something will still come out of the experience,” he told us.

Yes, Dixon has gotten 95 percent of the shows he’s auditioned for, but he remembers auditions where staying present was just as important as anything related to talent. Specifically when Dixon auditioned for Lady Gaga in New York and there was talk that the band was already fixed, many of his friends decided against even trying out. While Dixon questioned whether it made sense to go, he ultimately made the decision to show up. He didn’t walk away with the Lady Gaga job, but he met someone who enabled him to get a gig touring with Atlantic Recording artist Cody Simpson. Dixon toured with Simpson for a year and a half, not only performing but also as his musical director. The experience landed him appearances on Ellen, The Today Show, and more.

Be Persistent
In 2009, MTV held a nationwide casting call for Diddy’s reality show, Making His Show, about the mogul’s desire to assemble a touring unit for the release of his album Press Play. “When I got there, there were thousands and thousands of people from different cities on line in front of me,” said Dixon.

He admits that if he hadn’t seen a friend on line who encouraged him to stay, he may have decided the experience wasn’t worth the wait. Stepping out on faith, Dixon auditioned and ended up going all the way to the end. He didn’t make the band, but Dixon is grateful for the time he spent watching Diddy in action. “Everyone has their opinion of Diddy, but there’s no denying that he’s an inspiration. He’s young and he’s a hustler and I got the chance to work with him,” Dixon said.

Talent Isn’t Enough
From his experience with Diddy to touring with major artists to making music for stars, Dixon is certain that talent isn’t the only thing that matters. “Having a gift or being talented, sometimes we just rely on that. But there are certain qualities you’ll need to get you to the next level in your career,” he says.

Dixon likens this to playing for the NBA. “You may be a great player in college but there are certain disciplines you’ll need to have to make it in the NBA. The game is more than just putting the ball in the hoop.”

For Dixon this means knowing how to interact with various personality types, how to work professionally, and knowing when to party and when to stay focused. As a touring drummer, he knows that a major aspect of success stems from what you do off the stage. “In 24 hours in a day, you’re only on stage for, at most, an hour. What are you like for the rest of the 23 hours?” According to Dixon, in the music business connections are important. Who you know and who likes you are bricks paving the way to success.

Do You
“The thing about the music business is that there are no set rules. You have to remember that this is what you signed up for, stay in there and don’t be one of the people who drop off,” Dixon said.

While he acknowledges that YouTube and other platforms make the industry a lot more competitive, he contends that those who remain in the game will find the hidden windows and doors that open to the dreams beyond. Whatever else you do with your career, Dixon encourages those coming after him to do their research (i.e. who to work with, should you submit music to an established artist like Beyoncé or be the sound behind a new artist bursting onto the scene?) and take chances.

Artists Aren’t Making Money The Way They Used To — By Selling Records

June 30th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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This ain’t your grandma’s music industry anymore — nor your mother’s, for that matter. The music industry has changed so much it is nearly unrecognizable when compared with the one that existed just 20 years ago.

Music industry analyst Mark Mulligan recently examined the industry and explains things aren’t as bad as they appear. He found the since 2000, overall global music revenues have declined just three percent,  so not exactly a cataclysm, reports Business Insider.

Technology has totally altered the business. As people are turning to downloads and electronically passing around music, artists and their labels aren’t selling as many albums as they used to. Actual recorded music is now just 36 percent of the industry’s revenue stream. More money is being made from shows that product sales.

To that end, revenue from tours has grown 60 percent since 2000. And as such, record companies want a bigger cut. Industry heads have adjusted deal terms with their artists so that, since 2000, they get a larger share of the live proceeds. Because of this shift, artist income in general has been dropping for five consecutive years, according to Mulligan.

Labels now commit artists to “360 deals” that give them control over everything artists do. Prior to this, artists could take home a sizable chunk of money from performing live, nearly leaving out the record companies.

Expect more changes, says Mulligan. “Expect every traditional element of the industry to be challenged to its core, expect dots to be joined and old models to be broken,” he writes. “But be in no doubt that what we will end up with will be an industry set up for success in the digital era.”

And this new state of things shows no signs of changing. “More hours of music are being streamed than ever before, and more people are paying monthly subscriptions to streaming services than ever before. (Spotify alone claims 10 million paid subscribers.),” reports Salon. And while industry veterans used to fear the digital takeover, digital is proving to be the industry’s savior. According to agent and music industry insider Marc Geiger, in less than a decade there could be 500 million  people using streaming services worldwide and this could mean a total global revenue of $72 billion on the low end. Again, the winners are the labels, not the artists.

“They are generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue just from licensing, with no need to pay for distribution or manufacturing. Spotify alone is reported to have paid $100 million to the three major labels to license their catalogs,” reports Salon.

The Evolution Of Gwendolyn Quinn: Moving From Celeb Publicist To TV & Beyond

June 5th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Sometimes entrepreneurialism is planned. Sometimes it’s accidental. And sometimes it comes out of necessity. For Gwendolyn Quinn, cutbacks and a shift in the music business prompted her to launch her own marketing firm, GQ Media & Public Relations, Inc. (now Gwendolyn Quinn) in 2001, opening shop officially in 2002.

Despite the changes in the industry, Quinn wasn’t about to toss away her more than 25 years of experience in media and public relations. At Arista Records, she’d worked for Clive Davis as senior director of publicity beginning in1997. While there, she led campaigns for Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Monica, Deborah Cox and Prince, among others. She also created and launched media campaigns for Bad Boy Entertainment/Arista joint venture artists, including Diddy, Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans, and Mase. In addition, she handled media for a variety of artists with LaFace/Arista, then headed by Antonio “LA” Reid and had experience at Flavor Unit Entertainment, Mercury/PolyGram, and ASCAP

Today Quinn continues to work with legends. Her indie firm works with such greats as Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan.

Quinn also formed the African-American Public Relations Collective (AAPRC) in 2001 as a way to fill the gap in the networking potential among African-American public relations and media specialists.  The AAPRC is an international organization of more than 1,000 public relations and communications specialists that offers professional support.

Quinn next launched The AAPRC Monthly (now titled Global Communicator) in February 2004, an e-publication for African-American public relations, marketing professionals. Global Communicator has interviewed notable figures like media mogul Cathy Hughes, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and ABC’s Robin Roberts.

Now she’s moving into television, having discovered an affinity for creative writing. Next stop: broadcast.

MadameNoire: What led you to create your own company?
Gwendolyn Quinn: Well I left Arista when Clive Davis departed to start a new record label, J Records. It was 2000. I accepted an offer at Capital Records as VP of urban publicity, then 9/11 happened. Capital took that as a time to close their New York office. It was the beginning of a major shift in the record business. But I was still under contract with Capital so I was able to start my own company in 2001 and opened the doors in 2002.

MN: Was it difficult to go from working at a major corporation to running your own company?
GQ: It was very difficult. I was really happy coming to my office at Arista, working then turning off the lights and going home. I had a really cushy situation there, a large expense account, I did lots of traveling. So then venturing out to do everything on my own was hard. I did it out of necessity. And there were so many days I said to myself, “I am going to look for a job.” I must have said that to myself for two years, but I never actually looked for a job or even put together my resume. I realized the music industry had changed. It wasn’t like before when I was out of a job I could land a new one right away. That was when record companies were actually selling records, and artists were going platinum. Now the industry has totally changed and companies have tightened their belts.

MN: Once you got started, you branched off into other ventures, such as AAPRC.
GQ: I saw a void and wanted to fill it. But this also made me realize that I could not pursue every vision. At one point I thought of venturing into providing PR to nonprofits. I did work with a few but this was a whole new skill set for me to learn. And I realized that I just did not have the time nor manpower to take this on. I never wanted to create a large company; I wanted a boutique agency where I could manage all the accounts and do a good job.

MN: You rebranded your company from GQ Media to Gwendolyn Quinn. Why?
GQ: Because I realized I didn’t just want to be limited as a publicist. While I decided not to expand my PR services into other areas, I did decide to use some of my untapped talent. After getting a creative producer credit on a Chaka Khan episode for Centric, Being: Chaka Khan, I realized this was something I loved doing–working in the TV arena, producing and creating content.  So this is where my focus is heading.

… I have partnered with two groups of women to work on various projects. Many of the women are already in the TV industry. We will create content for scripted series, TV specials and docudramas.

MN: What are some of your goals?
GQ: I have a five to seven year plan to retire. I really want to be able to just take on projects that I have passion for. So I am really working toward this and venturing into the TV sector will allow me to do this sooner.

With Changes In The Music Industry, Kelly Lynn Jackson Used Networking Skill To Forge A New Path

April 22nd, 2014 - By Karen Taylor Bass
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Welcome to our column, Reset. Written by Karen Taylor Bass, this column, published each Tuesday, is about life lessons learned and mastered mentally, spiritually, and physically and how they contribute to a successful life and career.

kelly lynn jackson

Let’s face it: there are many who have not mastered the art of networking. According to Webster’s Dictionary, networking is the act of building “a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.” Real talk, networking is working a room, staying in contact with people, and making memorable impressions where you are kept in mind for opportunities.

Upon her arrival to New York, from Flint, Michigan, Kelly Lynn Jackson landed internships through networking with major companies like RCA Records, EMI and Columbia Records, back in the music industry’s heydays.

Jackson worked at StepSon Entertainment, a record label created by marketing genius, Bill Stephney. His eclectic roster of clients has included reggae artist Buju Banton and comic/screenwriter Paul Mooney (who has written for Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and a couple of Wayans brothers). Jackson credits StepSon with teaching her the entertainment business and the art of networking and reinventing. She saw firsthand the changes in the music industry with the rise of technology and music downloading, which has led to anemic sales and massive layoffs. Kelly Lynn Jackson among them.

“The music industry was not healthy in the early 2000s. I saw many people I admired lose jobs, homes, self, and had challenges finding jobs because they were not accepting the change. I had to do something and decided to go back to school and press reset,” she told us

I recently chatted with Jackson, now the supervising producer for SiriusXM’s Shade 45 show “Sway in the Morning,” about how she pressed RESET in her career.

Grammy-Nominated Carolyn Malachi Uses Technology (And Bitcoin) To Further Her Brand

March 31st, 2014 - By Janel Martinez
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Photo: Samuel Copeland

Photo: Samuel Copeland

Carolyn Malachi isn’t your average artist. The Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter has garnered a large following of fans (her tribe, as she affectionately refers to them) with a sound that merges jazz, hip-hop, R&B and spoken word. But that’s not the only reason Malachi, the great-granddaughter of jazz pianist John Malachi, is in her own lane. It’s the fact that the Washington D.C. native enjoys and truly understands the worlds of technology and social media.

Always looking for innovative ways to market her music, Malachi is the first known recording artist to accept Bitcoin payments for her music, giving more people access to her most recent album, Gold, and her catalog of music—a win-win situation for both the songstress, fans and the digital currency company. Her tech and social-savvy ways have led to Flipboard recognition, placing her in its Creator Spotlight section, making her the first African American to be spotlighted by the social magazine platform. She has an Argo Tea partnership that gave customers access to stream Malachi’s entire album from their homepage, as well as a free song download to its patrons through their social media page. And she has a collaboration with social commerce platform Shopcade, which gave a fan the opportunity to style her for the music video “All Right,” a summer appearance on “The Daily Buzz” and a live performance.

We could go on and on about Malachi’s tech know-how and sure her 20.8K Twitter followers could co-sign, but we spoke with the artist to see how she’s used technology to further her brand, why Bitcoin is her new currency of choice and which items she considers her favorite tech tools.

MadameNoire: What peaked your interest in technology and STEM overall?

Carolyn Malachi: The technology at our fingertips enhances our lives. While we know this, we also know very little about how it works. I see STEM as a way of empowering each of us with the skill to engineer real-time solutions to real-time issues.

MN: The music industry has changed tremendously due to technology. Whereas some have chosen to work against the change, you’ve completely embraced it. Why is that?

CM: Consider the first printed sheet music. Think of vinyl records, cassettes, CDs, MP3s — each of these technological developments, while giving the music consumer greater access to the music they loved, also had an economic impact on the music creators. Embracing technology has kept me ahead of the curve. History says that technology will always be with the people. That is where I choose to be.

MN: One platform you seem to be quite fond of is Bitcoin. How have you used Bitcoin? What does it offer you as an entrepreneur and artist?

CM: I began accepting Bitcoin for music sales in October 2013. Because no bank or government regulates the cryptocurrency, I can sell my CDs to people who live in countries where traditional forms of payment are not accepted. When I see that songs like “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Free Your Mind” have reached people around the world, in physical CD format, I smile.

MN: What are your favorite tech tools/gadgets?

CM: Creative collaborations require frequent communication. WhatsApp meets my mobile messaging needs. I have many, domestic and abroad.

I have yet to meet a studio microphone that picks up the extreme lows and highs of my voice with the clarity and warmth of the Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone (the Aston Martin of studio mics). I need a live-performance mic with the same capability.

Coinbase is a digital wallet. I use it to accept Bitcoin for music sales.

MN: How has tech allowed you to take your brand to the next level?

CM: Well, a brand can only thrive if the real product is in top shape. Trying new tech, then adopting the tech that works for me, enhances my creative process. It reinforces the value of trial-and-error. Knowing what works is just as important as knowing what does not. That awareness keeps the music authentic.

MN: What’s next for you? Any announcements we should be on the lookout for?

CM: Absolutely! ​The NCAA invited me to sing the national anthem at the 2014 Women’s Final Four in Nashville. Playing college basketball at Shepherd University gave me the foundation for a successful music career. Still with me are the values I learned as a student athlete: teamwork, precision, endurance, and vision. It is nice to see things come full circle.

Based in New York City, Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist who covers technology and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of “Ain’t I Latina?” an online destination geared toward Afro-Latinas. You can follow her up-to-the-minute musings on Twitter @janelmwrites

Who Needs A Grammy? Award Shows Provide The Exposure That Entertainers Need

January 28th, 2014 - By Candace Smith
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"Kendrick Lamar pf"

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Awards shows are prime breeding grounds for artists to stand out and what better way to do this then through fashion, meme-able speeches, and explosive performances. We live in a time where it’s a bit passé to plug your latest project outright at an event. But the bolder your twerking or aerial tricks, the more off-the-cuff and viral your antics (whether intentional or unintentional), the more popular and marketable you are apt to become.

Whether an artist performs, presents, or just sits in the audience, being a part of the show — any awards show — is crucial to their brand. Leave it to directors to pan to reaction faces and the Internet will light up with “Oh No She Didn’t’s!” and “Oh Yes He Did’s!” Cue the rapid-fire search results and GIF attacks. Taylor Swift, as usual, was the subject of another awards ceremony viral sensation — or rather a few — courtesy of her “I thought I won” gaffe and hyped up dance moves. This further solidified her image as the semi-awkward ,“oh-em-gee” girl we have come to know since Kanye speech-bombed her during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Even though Taylor didn’t win any awards at this Grammy event, she was winning on the Internet long after the evening’s entertainment came to an end.

Esteemed rapper Kendrick Lamar also did not receive any Grammys this year and people were very upset. Even Macklemore, who won the “Best Rap Album” award along with his cohort Ryan Lewis, texted Kendrick to say that the golden gramophone should have been bestowed to him instead. For Kendrick, just being nominated for a Grammy and in the same category with Jay Z, Kanye West, and Drake is an accomplishment. But Lamar may have proved himself in a more significant matter, as his collaboration with Imagine Dragons was dubbed the most talked about and one of the best performances of the night. Without a Grammy everyone is talking about Lamar now, his recognition has advanced, and with his brief, yet effective Grammy mashup, the marketability of his next album and future tour dates will double.

Besides GIF-worthy moments, there are the over-the-top performances. Katy Perry took to the Grammy stage with dancing horses, pyrotechnics, a black and red cross emblazoned over her chest, and a witch’s broom/stripper pole for her song “Dark Horse.” She says this performance is a preview of what audiences should expect on her upcoming Prismatic world tour, of which tickets for the North American dates are now available and selling out.

With Katy Perry in mind, there’s the paradox of Kacey Musgraves, who truly was a dark horse of the awards. Her seemingly demure presentation (check out the lyrics) followed Lamar and Imagine Dragons. After what looked like a ridiculous error on the part of the Grammy show producers, Musgraves had the last laugh after snatching a Grammy for Best Country Album. Now she is known as the girl who either beat out or is the next Taylor Swift. Her shiny new Grammy coupled with a spot on Katy Perry’s 2014 world tour bill is going to propel Musgraves’ status in the music industry.

In retrospect, don’t cry for the singers and songwriters who don’t pick up Grammy awards or whose performances may err on the side of lackluster. Everyone is a winner these days. There are so many chances to pick up fans, gain relevancy, and give people a chance to talk about you. The music and the image are both a part of the whole package of a music artist. And at the Grammys, just showing up and being seen has proven to be one of the best marketing opportunities for today’s stars.

Don’t Let The Sensitivity Fool You: Drake Can MakeHis Own Rules For Expanding His Brand

January 20th, 2014 - By Candace Smith
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Drake — aka Aubrey Graham — was an actor first, as Jimmy Brooks, the TV character disabled after a horrific school shooting. However, Aubrey had ambitions well beyond the hallways of a fictional Degrassi High.

Now past the famous “sophomore slump” period, Drake can manage his career his way. Black and Jewish, of Toronto provenance, with success as a child star on Canadian television… these ingredients normally do not mix to produce a flourishing recording artist. But, let’s face it, we love Drake’s brand of sensitive and we want more!

With his recently released album, Nothing Was The Same, collaborations with equally talented artists such as Jhene Aiko, Jay Z, and Big Sean, and his first hosting and performing debut on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, Drake is at a pivotal stage in his career where he can continue to benefit by expanding beyond his particular brand of “emo rap.” Here’s how:

Get back into acting

If you haven’t seen Drake’s first turn at hosting and performing on Saturday Night Live, you are missing out. Drake reminded us that he was once just Aubrey Graham, a young kid who auditioned while high on marijuana for a children’s television show. Edgy with the ability to show consideration for other’s feelings, Drake could go the way of Kid Cudi and star in a cable television show or take up meetings with buzzed-about independent directors and producers like Justin Simien or Ryan Coogler and audition for roles. After all, he did mention late last year that he’s “dying to get back into acting.” His debut on Saturday Night Live this year proves that the man is ready and able.

Try delving into other art forms

Sure, Drake has been featured in commercials for Sprite and Kodak, showing his business and marketing smarts. But he doesn’t have to simply hawk other products. He could choose to work with innovative leaders within the worlds of theater, photography, or other art forms where he has an interest and shows equal talent.

Open up his collaboration pool

Drake has enough experience and flair to help others in his position, which he is clearly doing by working with R&B soul singer Jhene Aiko. Drake may be inching towards the “Hippie R&B” genre in music, which was christened in 2013. If this is the case, Drake should look into other artists who could only profit from his seal of approval both in business and virtuosity, like FKA Twigs and Toro Y Moi.

Embrace technology 

As Drake’s popularity continues to increase, he should consider the footprints he could leave behind in the technological universe. Drake can explore the options to smartly invest in a commercial music streaming service or the next big music mobile app.

Lay low during non-traditional times

If he is to “expand the Drake brand,” he should definitely be strategic with his publicist. The public has long become savvy to the tricks of the entertainment game. When a new album or tour is on the horizon, controversy and other stunts suddenly appear in the tabloids. Drake can remain relevant, profound, distinctive, and on the beat of his own drum without being so obvious. Pull a Beyoncé and put out a secret mixtape without any warning. Refrain from getting caught up in romantic drama. He can let the work — and his reputation — speak for itself, and grow all the while.

Drake is a talented performer and he has the power to construct his art in new and original ways. Now that “emo-rap” is a credible music genre with Drake as one of its forefathers, he can take it any way his brand and skills allow. Expanding the “sensitive Drake” brand will require courage, further planning, and teamwork with unlikely partners to create what he could be without abandoning his core trademark.