MRC Data have just released a new report in the past few days, analysing trends on in the world of music. I’ve downloaded the whole report and found it quite fascinating reading – and although the report largely deals with the USA, I suspect a lot of it applies to the UK too.
Here’s the bit I found most fascinating at all – and it isn’t the revelation that vinyl sales increased by 108.2% in the USA last year. More on that in a minute. No, it’s the section about the Japanese market – who have stubbornly stayed loyal to physical means like CDs and vinyl whilst the rest of the world embraced digital. It looks like this trend could be changing.
Physical sales in Japan fell 9% between 2019 and 2020, whilst streaming revenues increased by 27% in the same period. It also reveals 64% of Japanese listeners use free streaming services. The industry might welcome this – all that vinyl is expensive to press, distribute and market. But as someone well aware of streaming’s derisory payouts, I can’t say I share their enthusiasm.
Streaming is up, downloads are down and physical sales are up. But anyone thinking this is good news if you’re into dance music had better think again. For starters, the dominance of the majors and the lack of vinyl pressing plants mean that waiting times to get your music pressed onto wax are the longest they’ve ever been.
Also, the first generation of dance music producers had their work on vinyl. Not just because it was the way DJs worked at the time, but because remixes were massively in demand in the 1990s. Sales of vinyl counted when it came to getting songs in the top 40, so drafting in the likes of Masters At Work, Love To Infinity, Frankie Knuckles and so on to make house mixes made sense.
Nowadays? The artists are still dominant on vinyl, but those remixers are nowhere to be seen…
Some of you might not be aware of this, but I’ve been making music for the past five years. That endeavour is currently on a hiatus whilst I get this blog to where I want it to be – exactly what I’m going to do with the currently unreleased material on my computer is not yet known.
I’m not saying I’ll never make another record again, but it’ll be purely for the fun if I do once again load up Cockos Reaper and a couple of VSTs. One such reason arrived in my inbox yesterday. This is an accounting statement for a release that came out a few years ago – exact details have been removed.
Technically speaking, I actually owe the record label €28 on this release. And based on current projections, I will earn the princely sum of 1 cent from this release in the year 4834.
Baba Varga, a mysterious Bulgarian psychic, is once said to have predicted the world will end in 5079. So if that’s correct, one of my ancestors stands to make €245 before being incinerated forever.
If you’ve ever wondered why so much music in the mainstream charts sounds similar, the fact that most of it was written by one of two men might have something to do with it. This suits the record labels fine, as we’re in age where the majority no longer seem to care who writes it.
And this problem could be about to get worse – songwriters just don’t get paid for their work in any meaningful way. Don’t take my word for it. Take it from Bjorn Ulvaeus out of Abba.
In an interview with the New York Times, he tells us in no uncertain terms what will happen if this trend isn’t reversed…
“Everyone is going to find out that more of the songwriters have turned to driving Ubers instead of songwriting… The top, elite layer, they will always make it. But there was a layer underneath that used to be able to live from their songwriting, and sometimes would push their way up to the elite because they had the time to develop.”
He also speaks about how “Waterloo” enabled him and Benny Andersson to make a full-time living out of writing songs – something that most people simply would not be able to do nowadays.
The only question is – is the industry listening? And what on earth are they going to do about it? You can’t have good songs without good songwriters…
You might have noticed a banner appearing at the top of this website in recent days, and wondering what it’s all about. Well, it’s the title of my new two track EP, soon to be released on 3rd Way Recordings.
The first record is called “Shake Your Lettuce”. Why the weird name? Well, I’d made this track with a few rhodes chords and a big bassline on it, but wasn’t quite sure what to call it. Around the same time, my 4 year old son started saying “shake your lettuce” a lot. No idea why, but I recorded him saying it and stuck it on the track.
And if that’s not for you, the deeper alternative track will be. “Danny’s Analogous House” is a throwback to the olden days when that organ bass sound was everywhere – although I’m at pains to point out this is not the constantly recurring Korg M1 organ patch!
If there’s one thing about house music that leaves me feeling particularly angry, it’s this. Carlos Sanchez died recently, and a GoFundMe page was launched to pay for his funeral.
The revelation about crowdfunding is not a surprise – the same happened after Colonel Abrams died in 2016, and several others have happened since. But nonetheless, it’s something that leaves me feeling pretty angry about the inequality in house music.
Defected Records might tell us that “in this house, we are equal”. In reality, some are more equal than others. This was a man who was a DJ, producer and manager of numerous influential record shops in house music’s formative days.
Look at what house music has become since then. It’s grown from a tiny niche genre driven by largely black men with drum machines and cheap synths into an absolute global juggernaut that spawned numerous other genres. By rights, Sanchez should have been an incredibly rich man.
And whilst I mean absolutely no disrespect to Mr Sanchez or anyone who grieves his sad loss, the inequality in house music – where 99 cookies head to the top and everyone else has to fight it out for the one remaining cookie – needs to be addressed.
Why is an entire industry so happy to take the proceeds from the good times whilst refusing to do their part in the bad? In their buck passing, have they no conscience or responsibility at all?
One lesson I’ve learnt from the roughly 5 years that I’ve now been doing this Amateur At Play thing is never agree to do a remix on the grounds that someone is “experimenting” with the idea. They won’t release them.
I can say that with absolute confidence. A few years ago, there was a contestant on a reality TV show who subsequently got on with releasing an album. Her record label mentioned that they wanted to “experiment” with remixes. Apparently, it wasn’t something they had done before, but the artist was very keen to get some done.
Call me naive, by all means. Frankly, I was. I contacted them to express an interest and was contacted by a representative from the label. They sent me a free copy of the album, which was terribly nice of them. I chose two tunes I was interested in reworking. They sent the parts for both and I got to work.
Respecting the copyright of the records means I cannot share them with you, but I can vouch that I did a seriously good job on both. It’s frustrating that I can’t name the singer here, because her vocals are absolutely incredible – easily some of the best I’ve ever worked with. This made the job easier. I sent off my premasters to the label.
I never heard anything back. Follow-up emails asking for updates went totally unanswered. As far as I can tell, not one remix of anything from the album has been released. Talk about a waste of time for everyone involved.
Lesson of the day? Make sure you’re getting paid. That way, even if your remix never sees the light of day, st least you have something to show for your time!
I sometimes get asked what the most frustrating aspect of being a music producer is. For me, the answer is pretty easy. It’s the fact there’s loads of other stuff you have to do which stops you from actually making music – a music producer is meant to produce music, are they not?
Running social media can take a lot of time if you’re not careful. I have to plan this quite regimentally, if I’m honest. I tend to write posts on my website in bulk. I can still make time to write something more spontaneous if need be, but that helps ease the pressure on this front. Releases don’t promote themselves and nor does anything else.
I don’t spend much time label shopping for my demos, which saves more of it. Knowing when to finish a post also saves time. So on that note, see you later!
So, what’s the story behind this one? Well, I came across this one on a search for remix contests. I rarely bother actually entering any of these, but I do occasionally look around to see if there’s anything decent around. And I really liked this one.
So I downloaded the vocal stems and did my remix. I upped the tempo to 126bpm, as I thought that the original tempo was too slow for what I wanted to do with it. I also decided very quickly that I wasn’t doing one of my dubs here. Labels that are unfamiliar with my work are often not immediately receptive to them – so a vocal mix it was going to be.
The drums came together really quickly. The snares were literally the result of looking through various one shot samples I have, and the rest come from the usual sources too.
Strings with a phaser effect thrown on and the modified electric piano come from the Roland JV-1080. As for the bassline which a few people have asked me about? It’s basically two square wave oscillators modified to hollow out the sound. I don’t remember the finer details, but I’ll get back to you on that one!