All Articles Tagged "music industry"

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"


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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via Instagram

via Instagram

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.

Three DJs Vie For The Grand Prize In The McDonald’s ‘Flavor Battle’

January 14th, 2014 - By Rachael Devaney
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Soul Brother for McDonald's

DJ Clue. Image via Soul Brother for McDonald’s

The 13-week 2014 “Flavor Battle” competition, launched by McDonald’s USA, will come to a close Wednesday as three disc jockeys battle for $10,000 and DJ supremacy at Windmill Studios in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The competition finale, which will air February 13 on, will be hosted by DJ Funkmaster Flex. “Flavor Battle,” which kicked off in November, began with 12 up-and-coming DJ’s who were chosen based on their social media following. Each artist represented a U.S. region and one of McDonald’s new Quarter Pounders:  Bacon & Cheese Quarter Pounder, Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder and the Deluxe Quarter Pounder. Consumers were invited to the website to listen to tracks from each artist and vote for their favorite mix-master.

Three DJs are left standing: DJ R-Tistic of Los Angeles, Niena Drake of Chicago, and DJ Erika B of Newport News, Va. The remaining contestants will now battle it out in front of celebrity judges Spinderella, Just Blaze, DJ Clue and DeeJay Element. Ultimately, one DJ will be crowned the Flavor Battle champion and win $10,000 and $1,000 in McDonald’s Arch Cards.

The DJs already have plans to invest in their equipment should they win. “I would buy a computer,” Niena Drake told MN Business. “My goal is to also be a philanthropists for the arts,” she added, saying she would use a portion of the money to launch a nonprofit for aspiring artists. DJ Erika B also talked about giving back to her community.

DJ’ing has become more popular over recent years, so for these finalists, this competition is also chance to build a platform for themselves in an increasingly crowded field.

“DJ’ing has extended beyond hip hop,” said DJ R-Tistic. “It’s the headliner. It’s where some of the biggest stars are.”

“Technology has made DJ’ing more easily accessible,” adds Niena Drake. “The talent is going to prevail over what someone wants to do for a hobby. This is my life.”

Still, this is an area of music that’s male-dominated. For the women, there are hurdles to overcome.

“I hear jokes,” said Erika B, “but it’s not necessarily harder. Based on the audience, I change the approach. I may incorporate an actual performance rather than just standing there.”

“I get a lot of comments. But I walk tall and strong in what’s assumed to be a man’s job,” adds Niena Drake. “I still wear my heels and perform in dresses… It’s not helping because I’m a woman. It’s harder because of the assumptions.”

The contest has been a lot of work for all three finalists, but worth it.

“It’s been stressful but rewarding,” said DJ R-Tistic.

“To represent your city for a competition like this has been an honor,” Niena Drake chimed in.

Old Slaves: Entertainers Who Signed Bad Record Deals

December 10th, 2013 - By Meghan Williams
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As the saying goes, not all that glitters is gold – especially when it comes to contracts in the entertainment industry. Though many celebrities have inked deals that are making them millions, plenty have gotten the short end of the stick by signing what’s often referred to as “slave contracts.” Here are 15 stars who’ve signed bad record deals.


This is how a group can sell 10 million records and be broke: They sign a slave contract that not only pays their management too large a cut of their money, but also requires that they foot the bill for every one of their expenses and retain little ownership of what they produce. Pebbles may be alleging that the women of TLC were heavy spenders, but she can’t seem to explain away the fact that each member only took home about $35,000 a year – at the height of their careers.

“When You Separate Us By Gender, It Puts Female Rappers In A Box”: Rapsody On The Female MC’s Identity

November 23rd, 2013 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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rap 2

It is often said real hip-hop is dead because the musical genre has gone mainstream. With this notion in mind, MadameNoire got the chance to interview Rapsody, who was featured on BET’s Hip Hop Awards cypher and  Pepsi’s “Who’s Next” Artist To Watch.  Not only is she  a breath of fresh air but she revives a hip-hop generation who has forgotten its roots. Found and signed by legendary producer 9th Wonder,  Rapsody offers up the edge of Lauryn Hill and realness of Lil Kim with her staccato bars.

The North Carolina native, brings people inside a world where millennial women voice their opinions on sex, love and politics with no apologies. Her resume that includes work with the likes of Kenderick Lamar, Erykah Badu and Big K.R.I.T to name a few. Whether it was her thoughts on how to make in the music industry, how to connect with fans or her morning ritual of searching the internet for new artists to collaborate with, Rapsody spoke with humility and raw honesty.

How She Entered The Music Business

I got my official start around 2008 through signing with 9th wonder. I met him in 2005 through friends and from that meeting, we kept in touch and I was eventually signed. I released my first solo project , Return Of The B-Girl, in 2010 and from then to now I have six projects. Because of that meeting, I began my initial introduction to the world as Rapsody.

What Does It Take To Make Money In The Industry

The best way to make money in the industry is to tour. The beauty of touring is, a fan will be able to experience the music and connect with the artist. Because of tours, fans will be able to understand the music they believe in, especially if it is a  powerful fan base. They will follow you ’till the end of the earth. After the tour experience fans will trust anything you put out because they have a better sense of who you are.  The other creative ways to increase your finances as an artist, is to create mixtapes instead of albums. Though, mixtapes may not tell your story the way albums do. Also artists can pave a retail avenue by designing their own merchandise. That is the beauty of the internet, you are able to be creative and  your own boss- cut out the middle man. Whereas, in the past you needed approval from the record label before you did anything. In present times, there are more opportunities to connect with your fans from a business standpoint.

Do you have to be tougher in the entertainment business because you’re a woman rap 3

I never entered the industry feeling like, “Oh I am woman, they will treat me differently.” The way I see it, everyone needs to  read their contracts and find a lawyer. It is important to make smart business decisions. No matter your color or gender, once you are a dope artist you have the potential to make money. You will always meet people who will want to take advantage of you, so you have to be  protect yourself  with the moves you make.

On Rebranding the Female MC’s identity in hip hop

Honestly I do not like  the term “female MC” because I hate to be put in a box. I don’t look at labels. I believe you are either dope or you’re not. I think that is what matters the most. We need to cut the term and view female MCs as artists. To re-brand the image, I suggest we focus on whether female rappers can rhyme or not. Do we make dope albums? So people will not say, “I really like these female MCs.” Instead it will be, “I like Rapsody, I like Nicki just like I like Kenderick.” When you separate us by gender, it puts female rappers in a box.  Then people only expect women to rap about certain things or achieve a certain level of success.

Bebe Winans Teams Up With Brothers To Form New Gospel Group 3WB!

October 6th, 2013 - By MN Editor
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or many years the microphone of Grammy winning vocalist Bebe Winans collected dust as he took on acting, wrote and produced hits for others, became an author and crafted a play about his journey to stardom with his long-time duet partner and sister CeCe (tentatively titled “From Detroit to Pineville”).

“I stopped singing for a long time because it just wasn’t something I was very passionate about,” the baby boy of the first family of contemporary gospel music said.
Winans spoke with about uniting with his brothers to reintroduce their award winning sound to today’s generation.

On the formation of 3WB:

A phone call to Marvin after the thought hit me of coming together with my two brothers and then with that phone call 3WB was born.

How they plan on keeping the music current:

Bringing on producers Daniel Weatherspoon (Marvin Winans, Vashawn Mitchell) Rodney Jerkins (Lady Gaga, Ciara) will help to keep the project current.

What listeners can expect from the new project:

The theme of the album is hope and the title of the album is “Foreign Land” which is a song that Marvin wrote many years ago. The style consists of a combination of The Winans’ style and BeBe & CeCe’s style of music. It will be out in the beginning of 2014.

You can read the rest over on Winans discusses more about whether or not he was denied entry into legendary music group, The Winans, why that group will never exist again, and why he almost quit the music industry.  You can also check out 3WB’s new single, “If God Be For Us.”

Interested in Starting Your Own Record Label? Philerzy Productions Will Guide You On Your Way

August 15th, 2013 - By Candace Smith
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Photo by Kirsten Flippen

Photo by Kirsten Flippen

Many people would love the chance to break bread with the likes of Jay-Z, Irving Azoff, or Simon Cowell. But these music industry magnates come from humble beginnings, learning as much as they could before commanding millions of dollars.

Helen Bruner and Terry Jones, owners of Philerzy Productions and artists in their own right, sat down with us to talk about the tough but fulfilling road to owning your own music label, which is paved in sweat, hustle, and smarts. 

MadameNoire: How did you both get started in the music industry?

Helen Bruner: My first deal, my first record was in 1989 with Warlock Records. At that time I was a kid right out of high school and I had this song called “Over You.” I knew nothing about house music; my cousin took me to a club in New York and I was like “What is this?” [Soon after], I wrote a song, it got picked up.

From there, I went over to Cardiac Records, which was owned by Virgin Records in the 90s. I had my first top ten record, called “Gimme Real Love” on Cardiac. Cardiac was folded into Virgin Records and I recorded an album and in the midst of it all coming in on the second single, I got dropped from the label. I received a check from ASCAP because I wrote and produced my own material and it was quite lucrative, but it was from overseas. So, we [she and Terry] decided to hop a flight and go over to the UK. We found that we weren’t failures. We began to write all around and decided to start a record company.

Terry Jones: My mom was a famous R&B singer, Linda Jones. She passed away when I was a baby. As I grew up I watched her music being played on the radio and on TV. My sister and I were not receiving any residuals because when she passed, she was only 27. My family was not that familiar with the business of music and were so distraught they couldn’t pick up where she left off [in regards to the business]. As a young child I always said, “You know this is what I wanna do and when I grow up I’m gonna make sure that no one takes advantage of me.” So, I actually got a record deal on Atlantic Records.

During that time I had a manager that was handling my deal and the producer of the project received the advance and spent it all on drugs. At that point, because the budget was spent, I was dropped from the label. After that, Helen and I began to work together. We spent a lot of our time in Milan (for ten years!) and just took it all in and worked and decided to start our own label. It’s a global economy, so the experience that we had of being overseas and really learning how to conduct business internationally was really a blessing for us.

The ‘R&B Divas’ Season 2 Reunion Show Last Night Was In One Word — A Mess!

June 27th, 2013 - By La Truly
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If you’ve followed the second season of R&B Divas you know that it has had its awesome moments of support, love, growth, hilarity, and friendship. You also know that it has had its fair share of drama, tears, cusswords, fly makeup/outfits and conspiracy theories. The bad outshines the good – sadly enough.

So, as I watched the reunion show last night I was not surprised that I found myself shaking my head at so many things: Some of the horrible outfits (Nicci Gilbert looked one shade of UniverSoul Circus ringmaster crazy), Joe Clare, the random host who could NOT adequately host a reunion of six Black women with tons of passion and differences alike, and the total disproportion of listening to speaking skills of a few of the women on stage (Nicci and Syleena).

It was what I expected. I expected Nicci (formerly of the group, Brownstone) to be ultra defensive and play the victim as she masterfully has throughout the season. I expected soul singer Syleena Johnson to throw her stinging one-liners out at Nicci (“You foul! But you casket sharp!” to Nicci Gilbert).

I expected neosoul legend Angie Stone to keep her cool no matter how many curse words or accusations were hurled. I expected 90s R&B vixen Monifah to remain true to form in minding her own business and staying out of the drama.

So I suppose TV One delivered the right amount of drama we were all looking forward to during this first part of the “R&B Divas” Reunion show. And even though drama is what we crave to see, we’re still hoping for there to be some sort of resolve between the women before the season comes to a full close.

What was supremely telling, and I applaud Faith Evans for this, was the fact that she did not appear with the other ladies. While it has been reported that she had a previous commitment which did not allow her to be present for the reunion taping, I am almost certain she was protecting her reputation and her business brand by not mingling in all the tom foolery that has taken place on the show. Recording her part of the reunion show separately was extremely smart on her part. While these ladies were fighting over workout DVD releases and tour dates, Faith was performing, taking care of her family and building her own brand. That’s wise, Faith and we ain’t mad at you.

July 10th will give us the second part to the R&B Divas Reunion Show and I was elated to see that production will be swapping out host Joe Clare with actress, philanthropist, and motivational speaker Sheryl Lee Ralph to mediate between the ladies of the show. From the preview clips, it seems like it will make for great television as she raises her voice a time or two and pretty much all the ladies on stage are dabbing at their eyes by the end.

Will you be watching the second half of the reunion or have you had enough of The Divas? Who is your favorite R&B Diva?

India.Arie Talks About Her Musical Journey With Oprah: “There’s Several Months Where I Was Retired”

June 22nd, 2013 - By MN Editor
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"India pf"


From Essence

Oprah Winfrey sits down with recording artist India.Arie in this weekend’s episode of Super Soul Sunday.

Arie talks about her spiritual awakening and why she almost left the music industry. “There’s several months where I was retired,” Arie shared. “I just decided I wasn’t gonna do the music industry. I feel like I’m always gonna sing and write songs because it’s me. But I never felt like I had to be in the music industry, but I understand now that it’s the vehicle for my message and, you know, the more people you reach, the more people you reach.” She goes on to talk about the way she felt during that time and what helped her bounce back.

You can check out the clip over on  India.Arie is a prime example of how you can be making money and affect lives for the better at the same time but find yourself without full, personal happiness. Her new album, Songversation, is out on June 25th and this episode of Super Soul Sunday airs Sunday, June 23rd at 11am.

Are you an India.Arie fan? What’s your favorite song?

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