Friday, January 20, 2012

The Death of Megaupload: What Does The Future Hold?

A day after the SOPA bill died in Congress, federal prosecutors decided to shutter Megaupload, one of the most popular websites for uploading and downloading files online. Seven people were arrested and those arrested members face up to 55 years in prison if convicted. Megaupload, at one point, was the 13th most visited website in the world.

The story is even more intriguing. Famous hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz (real name: Kasseem Dean) best known for his marriage to Alicia Keys and production credits for songs from Beyonce, Jay-Z, and Busta Rhymes was apparently named the company's CEO. That's currently being called into question, although there's little doubt that he at the very least invested in the site.

Dean's relationship with Megaupload led to a video circulating featuring many of his celebrity friends (ranging from Kim Kardashian to Kanye West) championing the site's usage. The Mega Song featured vocals from Will.I.Am and Macy Gray. This led to a lawsuit from Universal Music Group claiming that their artists had not been cleared to either appear on the video or participate in the making of the song. There was also a takedown notice from Will.I.Am sent to Megaupload.

Of course, Megaupload made the rounds on all kinds of sites, including hip hop sites such as World Star Hip Hop, who among a couple of other websites had been temporarily shuttered by Homeland Security due to copyright infringement last year.

So what becomes of the future of Internet cloud sharing? Many people believe that other sites are soon to follow such as Rapidshare and Mediafire.

What I would be interested in finding out is if any of the entities in the Mega Song video invested in Megaupload and if so, how much? Essentially, they would be making (advertising) money off of some of their own pirated downloads (and potentially more than they would be making off of their legal downloads...except for you Kim Kardashian, no one ever would download Jam legally OR illegally). It sounds completely conceivable given that Swizzy is friends with many of those listed in the video.

A group of hackers known as Anonymous used their hacktivism to take down Universal Music Group, BMI, the Department of Justice, and the RIAA amongst other related websites. The near future for those websites is going to be extremely turbulent.

In the meanwhile, the anti-piracy legislation known as PIPA, the Protect IP Act is currently making the rounds in the Senate.

Trent Reznor, Amanda Palmer and OK Go are amongst the artists speaking out against the pair of anti-piracy bills.

The future of Megaupload hangs in the balance, but where one entity dies, another will take its place and I think this is going to be a long, drawn-out battle. This is not going to be as cut and dry as the Napster case was and because of a legitimate artist like Dean being involved, it will probably have more twists and turns in the case.

I, for one, would like to see how this evolves and if there are any other artists implicated in this.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Dave Grohl: A New Rock Revolution is Coming

In a recent Billboard interview, Dave Grohl compared the current musical climate to what was going on just before Nirvana exploded onto the scene in 1991 with Nevermind.

He believes that a new rock revolution is coming and that rock is not dead.

I believe that rock is not dead as well, despite what naysayers have been saying for a few years.

However, I don't know if rock will ever be as commercially successful as it was back when Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains were platinum players.

It remains to be seen if there's an artist or group of artists willing to take that challenge, but I do know that there are plenty of hard rock and alternative artists that are consistently good at what they do.

One thing is for sure though; the rock revolution will not be televised. It'll be online.

MTV as we knew it died years ago.

My personal opinion is that there should be festivals that continue to be streamed for free online on sites such as Youtube. Last year's Lollapalooza where Foo Fighters headlined a rainy Sunday night is a brilliant example of how amazing a rock band's reach can be with the power of the web watching a rock show. Venues should take advantage of this as well. The Rave is another example of how webcasting can change the industry and the brands of popular venues around the country. It doesn't happen nearly as often as it should. Live music is the cornerstone of rock music's success.

Rock music needs the Internet to embrace it as terrestrial radio has abandoned rock as commercially viable music. Rock is not only getting switched out for pop and urban stations, but also non-music formats such as news and talk.

If Adele can spin the pop music world on its ears, then there has to be a rock artist that does the same to rock as Dave Grohl mentioned.

Is there anyone that you feel could lead the "new rock revolution" that exists today? Is the revolution just a short time away? If not now, when? (No, that's not in reference to the new Incubus album, but you should probably check that out anyway.)

Fave Five: Songs Dedicated to the Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

People would be surprised by how important and inspirational Dr. King is in the music industry. The stories that come from his speeches and his faith live on through music dedicated in his memory. This list of five songs highlights the diversity of the message sent and the attempts that Dr. King made to bring about diversity throughout America.

1. Stevie Wonder-Happy Birthday (1980) - If you hear this song without knowing that this was about the struggle to accept Dr. King's birthday as a national holiday, you'd be surprised by how upbeat it is, but at the same time how angry and pointed it was. Dr. King would be proud of this song because it's every bit as much a protest song as those sang during the actual movement.

Favorite line: Because it should never be
Just because some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
That they should make it become an illusion

2. U2-Pride (In the Name of Love) (1984) - This song is probably the most recognizable and most commercially successful song related to Dr. King's memory. What makes this song so impressive to me is how this band, a band from Ireland, recognized how important Dr. King's message was not only to the United States, but to the rest of the world. It should come as no surprise that not only is it the most popular song in Dr. King's memory that it is also amongst the greatest songs U2 has made in its 30+ year history. The song has been covered by everyone from John Legend to Richard Patrick of Filter with Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf.

Favorite line: Early morning, April 4
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

3. Public Enemy-By the Time I Get To Arizona (1991) - Dr. King's holiday did not become recognized as a national holiday until 1986, but that didn't stop some states from hesitating to recognize it, such as Arizona. In fact, 2008 presidential candidate John McCain originally opposed the holiday back in the 1980s. Arizona's long history of denying the holiday led to this angry Public Enemy song.

Favorite line: They can't understand why he the man
I'm singin' 'bout a king
They don't like it
When I decide to mike it
Wait I'm waitin' for the date
For the man who demands respect

4. Rage Against the Machine-Wake Up (1992) - This song is more of a general song about the Civil Rights movement, but the history mentioned in this song makes it important to recognize in this post. In the fateful year of 1968, in fact, less than a month before Dr. King was assassinated, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover made a memo that targeted civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X and Dr. King (for his support to the end of the Vietnam War).

In fact, lead singer Zach de la Rocha read the infamous memo as the bridge of the song and ended the song with one of Dr. King's most famous lines from his 1965 Selma to Montgomery speech How Long, Not Long.

Favorite line: How long? Not long, cause what you reap is what you sow!

5. Anberlin-We Owe This To Ourselves (2010) - Anberlin released this song off of their last album Dark is the Way, Light is a Place and the song's references to Dr. King's assassination and the civil rights movement may not seem as obvious as the other songs, but the lines expressed here are just as intense as songs released closest to the movement that led states to finally recognize Dr. King's holiday. It should also be noted that U2 is one of Anberlin's biggest musical influences so it also comes across as an upbeat tribute to "Pride..."

Favorite line: If every man became a king,
(We could start it all with this)
We could do more than just dream
(We could start it all with this)
I feel, I feel, the change is here...

I hope that musicians continue to express the gratitude and grace that has come with Dr. King's message.

In fact, the 2012 Grammy Awards have recently honored Dr. King's most famous speech, the I Have a Dream speech from the March on Washington on August 28th, 1963 by adding its recording to the Grammy Hall of Fame. Let the dream live on.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Music Enthusiast: WTF is that?!?

For those of you who've been following me and my articles, I don't classify myself as a music reviewer. Reviewers and journalists are more objective in their approach. I consider myself a music enthusiast.

I don't give out negative reviews because I don't write about music that I don't like. I figure that it's a lot easier to ignore music that I don't particularly care for. Why give music that doesn't deserve praise any more attention than it already gets? That's why I don't give scores for the music I present here, I merely profile it and then attempt to give you a reason to listen to it.

In a sense, I work like a radio station. Why broadcast anything that's not worthy of your attention? That's not to say that I don't post anything negative. There's a lot wrong about the current industry that I address strongly, but when it comes to the music, there's far too much good music out there to bother with the bad.

This is why I consider myself a music enthusiast.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The War on Kroeger

The biggest story of the past week in rock music revolves yet again around the "biggest band in the world", Nickelback.

Patrick Carney, drummer for the band The Black Keys took Nickelback to task by saying that music fans made Nickelback the biggest band in the world and rock music is suffering in large part because of them, also managing to throw the post-grunge era under the bus with Nickelback.

Nickelback responded by actually thanking Carney who solidified them as the biggest band in the world. No band that has sold this many records that has received this much hatred.

So the question to ask regarding this topic would be: Is Nickelback singlehandedly responsible for rock music being on life support? Are they the Biebers of Rock in that they're the scapegoat for EVERYTHING that's wrong with the music industry?

More importantly, is there anything Nickelback can do to save themselves from being the scapegoat of the rock world?

Post-grunge includes bands such as Seether, Breaking Benjamin, and Three Days Grace. Are those bands just as guilty of destroying rock?

My New Favorite Rock Radio Station.

As you know by now, I'm not a big fan of radio. At all. I generally don't care for online radio enough to listen to much of it either.

However, recently my faith has been restored thanks, in part, to

This online station has the perfect balance of playing new songs from established artists, old classics, and exciting new, unsigned talent.

It's the only station that I have thus far that I'm willing to listen to. The only thing I wish that I would be able to hear is some DJ's talking about the music. Playing the music is one thing, but being able to sell it to listeners is extremely important.

I hope that they consider adding DJ's in the future if only for a few hours of the day, but just the fact that they're taking charge in actually playing all of this music, when music critics and journalists claim that rock is dead, that hard rock is dead-er and when rock radio stations in the last two years have followed suit.

It's gotten to a point where even established rock artists on major labels have to fight to get on rock radio. However, rock is NOT dead and Q109 won't let that happen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A band a day...The Memorials

As far as female-fronted bands go, The Memorials are going to be the talk of 2012. They're currently in the middle of recording their second album which should see a release later this year. Last year, they put out their self-titled debut and this year will prove that there's no such thing as a sophomore curse.

The Memorials currently consist of:
Viveca Hawkins - lead vocals
Jordan Ferreira - touring guitarist
Thomas Pridgen - drums

Viveca Hawkins started off singing as an R&B singer, in fact putting out a solo record this past year, but her haunting vocals play a perfect role within The Memorials. If you've not yet heard of Thomas Pridgen, who's previously played drums for The Mars Volta, you probably should.

Progressive rock and R&B may sound like a mix of oil and water to you, but when you hear songs like the psychedelic-flavored We Go To War, it's going to amp you up. Kind of sucks that I missed them in this area playing live at one of the best live venues in the city, The Mercury Lounge.

Many publications will pigeonhole their sound as Afropunk or Afrorock and quite simply, they just rock. Most bands take a couple of albums or more to define their sound. The Memorials hit the ground running. When their second album comes out, they're going to rule the Bay Area music scene with an iron fist.

A band a day...The Intersphere

2012 is looking up for up-and-coming bands. Mannheim, Germany based band The Intersphere will attempt to bring their slice of progressive rock stateside.

The Intersphere is:
Christoph Hessler - lead vocals
Thomas Zipner - guitarist
Sebastian Wagner - bassist
Moritz Müller - drums

The Intersphere will release Hold on, liberty overseas on January 20th in their home country and January 23rd elsewhere in Europe and will release it in North America on February 28th.

The Intersphere is a band that has an artsy approach to rock, but if you've listened to their current single "Sleeping God", you know that they're not afraid of having songs with crushing riffs. The Intersphere compares themselves to Muse, Dredg, and Incubus. I would like to add Karnivool to that list of awesomeness.

The Intersphere has played the Rock Am Ring festival, the biggest rock festival in Germany, so you know that they're capable of tearing stages up.

Momentum is definitely on The Intersphere's side. Now all they would need is the right tour to break them in the States. I think they'd fit perfectly touring with a band like Fair to Midland. Keep an eye on The Intersphere because I think 2012 will be a year for them to blossom at home and in the U.S.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Resolution: Go Your Own Way

Everybody makes New Year's Resolutions, but it would really help if people made New Year's Resolutions that really stuck. For the music industry in 2012, it's for artists to go independent.

While the industry's sales were actually slightly up from a year before, the music industry's system is more broken than ever before. EMI, one of the big four labels dissolved in 2011, leaving only three majors (Warner, Sony, Universal). The system currently in place may not continue to be the same in the future and it may be better for artists to push for self-sufficiency.

I had a wonderful discussion with a friend of mine about this over New Year's where it had become apparent that bands still have a dollar and a dream to make it with a major.

However, those bands will clearly realize that labels won't be so quick to sign them without marketing savvy. At this point, labels are looking for a sure thing. They don't gamble nearly as much as they used to and they want to make sure that they're banking on whatever investment they make.

Bands have to be more self-sufficient because the industry seems to be moving in a way where labels won't exist as they are right now 2-5 years from now.

Bands need to not only market their shows, they need to know how to effectively use band pages on Facebook, Reverbnation, Root Music and the like, and they need to know how to effectively sell themselves to fans before selling themselves to labels. Bands will realize that labels are helpful, but if you can learn how to do a label's job better than a label can for you, you're much better off going it alone.

Let's make 2012 the year of independent bands and artists.