Tag Archives: music

As the Black Music Action Coalition releases a progress report one year on from Blackout Tuesday, the one change record labels could make that no one’s talking about…

July 2nd last year was Blackout Tuesday. It was meant to be a day of reflection for black people and others in the community which would lead to long term changes. In reality? The suspicion that it was just treated as an excuse to stick up a black box on their Instagram and align themselves with a trendy cause persists.

Some companies did make a number of vows and pledges at that time. Now in years gone by, you could make that promise and most people would soon forget it. The adage “today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper” was very much in vogue.

But the internet has shattered that. Groups can be set up to remind people of what they said and they can spread quickly. Black Music Action Coalition knows this and has compiled a report. It doesn’t make pretty reading. It can be summed up as lots of synthetic changes, very few systemic changes.

There is, however, one change that you could make in the music world which would be a real game changer. And not just for black artists, but for everyone else too. Allow artists to retain the rights over their masters.

The music industry frequently claims that the free market decides. So let’s put that to the test. Artists can licence songs to record labels on whatever terms they deem appropriate. The old system of signing masters over in perpetuity (i.e. forever) no longer works. In an age where the lifespan of a song can be just weeks, it makes no sense whatsoever to sign something over forever.

The industry is already doing this with the likes of Taylor Swift. It should start doing it for everyone. This means a fairer share of money for artists – and hopefully less of the disgraceful sight of artists who did well dying without a penny – and gives labels an incentive to work harder. No one’s going to want to licence things to a label which doesn’t succeed.

This also means artists ultimately have much more control over their own destiny. Artists would stand or fall depending on their own decisions, instead of the current system where labels dictate to artists what they can say, what they release and so on. Quite simply, artists would rise and fall on the merit of their own decisions and actions.

Would this be a magic bullet that would eradicate racism in music forever? Absolutely not. But by swinging the pendulum of power away from record labels, that puts a lot of artists in a very different position where they could elicit further change more easily…

Won’t somebody please think of when the DJ can go to the toilet? The 3 minute extended mix phenomenon explained

Friend Within caused a combination of surprise and dismay when he posted on his Twitter feed the other day that he was now being sent records that were less than 3 minutes long.

People keep asking why this is happening more and more. I’ve written in the past about how this is to do with wider trends about music getting shorter. PRS For Music ran the results of a study in 2019 which confirmed the average pop song was 73 seconds shorter than in 1998.

In the past, radio restrictions and the limited room available on a 7″ vinyl record meant records had to be between 3 and 5 minutes long. Those restrictions no longer apply, but songs have still got shorter. I’m certain that streaming is responsible for much of this trend.

But in the case of dance music? I don’t think that’s the sole reason for all these DJ unfriendly mixes popping up. I think it’s basically the resurgence of a past problem, only in a different context.

I frequently remember encountering DJs complaining about records being hard to mix into in the early 90s. This wasn’t because the records weren’t long enough, however. It was because many of them were made by producers who didn’t really understand what DJs were looking for in those early days.

This is why in those first few years of house, it wasn’t unusual for tracks to start with a piano or something like that. Great for starting a set with, great for just throwing into a set with no real mixing – but terrible for DJs who prided themselves on smooth mixing and transitions.

Years ago, there was a disconnect between producers and DJs. You could make enough money from one without needing to get involved in the other. Hence why it took producers some time to start understanding that many DJs needed something to work with on each side of the track.

I believe there’s a disconnect there today as well, only this isn’t to do with money. In years gone by, in order to hear dance music, you had to go to clubs. You had to go to record shops and buy the vinyl. You would undoubtedly hear some on commercial radio, but this was only a thin slice of a big pie.

These days, it’s all much more simple. You can hear the latest dance music online. Spotify has it. Beatport has it. Traxsource has it. iTunes has it. It’s easy to find. Paradoxically, it’s harder than ever to get a hit record, but never easier to give it a try.

Many of the people that want to make records, therefore, don’t especially have clubs in mind when making records. They’re thinking more about streaming services, radio and so on. This is the context they’re operating in – hence why we’re ending up with records where even the extended mix comes up to barely 3 minutes.

So the clock has basically gone back to the beginning – only for different reasons to the past.

Am I right, or am I taking nonsense?

Does the dance music press need a good shake up?

I got an interesting email in the inbox yesterday. It’s from a friend of mine who’s been catching up on the contents of this fine blog. He had one thing to say that particularly caught my attention…

“You should seriously start a dance music news site. You just don’t give a shit about upsetting the big names. Fuck knows the press needs it!”

Hmm. I’ve given thought to the idea more than once. I’ve always considered the dance music press to be utterly sycophantic and lazy. They don’t pursue stories that they know will upset some people and many of them are far too close to the action in order to report on it in an objective manner.

We’ve seen it with Resident Advisor recently writing about plague raves in Mexico whilst taking a 12.5% take of the tickets for aforementioned events.

Or the scandal that surrounds Derrick May? Journalists from all over dance music should be pursuing this story with vigour, maybe even aggression. Instead, it’s left to a small number of people like myself to do it – because the press has absolved itself of the role.

Everything that I’ve been writing about Sterling Void since at least July 2019? That should have been followed up by numerous publications. He should have been exposed and his reputation utterly destroyed. Instead, he remains in his position today.

I’ve definitely considered the idea of running a full on news website, with a regular supply of news and opinion that would be an absolute must read. There’s just two problems I can see…

  1. How to finance the whole operation. Sectors of the dance music press are likely to be reluctant to support an outlet which occasionally might be hostile towards them.
  2. The fact that, in my own small way, I’m involved with music myself. I’d have to step away from production entirely to become the truly neutral observer that this operation would need.

Curiously, I’d probably find it harder to resolve number 2 than 1. Working out how to make it financially stack up – and I mean enough to cover running costs, not to make enormous profits – is possible.

But I’ve hit a new wave recently in my production. I’ve started doing 2-step stuff and I’m really enjoying it. In order to be truly independent and be able to commit to this, I’d have to walk away from making music entirely.

And I’m not sure I’m ready to do that. Well, not yet, anyway…

Amateur At Play & Morris Revy – Perfect Vacation (OUT 22/03)

Thanks to those of you who have been getting behind this forthcoming release. There’s been the odd “not for me”, but I’ve also seen support from some unexpected quarters. Always nice!

Preorders are now being taken on Traxsource. Simply add it to your basket and you’ll have it on the day of release – March 22nd*.

* Traxsource on March 22nd, everywhere else on April 5th.

A Valentine’s Day gift, it most certainly isn’t!

Some people have the strangest perception of music producers. They seem to think that we’re umbilically attached to our own studios, unable to function without them. They also harbour the idea we’re essentially a bunch of willy wavers who are desperate to get one up – pardon the pun – on everyone else by having the latest brand spanking new equipment.

What else explains the love bombing I’ve seen from companies over the past few days with endless offers and discounts on equipment and software? They call it sharing the love of an offer. I call it spam and treat it as such.

Some of us do have lives, you know. Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow, no matter what you’re doing. There’s plenty of reading lined up if it’s not your thing…

IQ Musique Feat. Phie Claire – Makes Me Feel Like This (Amateur At Play’s Sensations Dub) ++ OUT NOW! ++

Fresh out from the Amateur At Play bakery today, it’s this.

You can get it now at Traxsource. Thanks as always to everyone supporting my first release of 2021.

Incidentally, if you want the story behind the remix, I’ll be publishing it on Sunday!