A weekly update on all things music, entertainment and technology, coming straight to you from Anthony Vanger at MassiveMusic. #TWIM
ARTIST OF THE WEEK: U2
Bono’s proposition is as follows: despite the fame, the fortune and the experience of being the biggest rock band in the world for almost 30 years, it is still possible for U2 (and its fans) to feel the same innocence they did when the band first hit the scene in 80s. Last night’s eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE show in London’s O2 arena, the second of two sold-out concerts and the end of nearly 4 years of constant touring, was an attempt to prove that the four “lads from Dublin” could do just that. Having played Joshua Tree in its entirety in 2016, the quartet played a selection of hits from their catalogue, but consciously avoided any tracks from that seminal album.
U2 has always pushed the boundaries of technology, and last night’s staging was no exception. The big innovation was a rectangular screen/riser – think of the monolith from 2001 Space Odyssey laid on it side – that dissects the main standing room area from one end of the arena to the other, with each end culminating in a stage. Onto this structure the band is able to play, strut from one stage to the other, and project images onto a huge screen. The effect turns the show into part concert, part cinema experience. For the most part, the technology and visuals worked, allowing the band to play some of its lesser known songs whilst delivering a strong political message (no to Brexit/pro women/pro freedom/anti-war and anti-far right, anti-Trump/Putin/Bashar al-Assad to name a few of the world’s current baddies). Much of the imagery, by OBE London-based artist and designer, Es Devlin, was spellbinding. But it was when the screens went dark and the lights shone on the “four boys from the north side of Dublin”, that the magic really happened. Straight up rock and roll with great melodies, virtuoso guitar work from the The Edge, driving bass lines from Adam Clayton, pounding drums from Larry Mullen Jr and Bono’s soaring voice singing “One” to a stadium full of 50-something fans. Is it the same innocence as when we first heard it, all those years ago? No. But looking around at the delirious fans, hands outstretched, it seemed like the band had managed to pause our collective experience, if only for a few hours, and offer up the thrill of hearing U2’s music, as if for the first time.
AD OF THE WEEK
Take Notice Breast Cancer awareness campaign
This week’s Ad of the Week comes from Irish agency Rothco and cancer advocacy nonprofit, the Marie Keating Foundation, to promote breast cancer awareness. The ad is brilliant and very effective, turning an unusual tradition into a way of bringing awareness to a disease that affects over 55,000 women in the UK every year according to Breast Cancer Now.
Additionally, the creatives reached out to Irish singer Imelda May, who agreed to record a new version of the 18th century song “Molly Malone” which gives the ad a slightly tense and melancholy edge. When the ad ends, the awareness campaign and the point it was designed to make is clear: breast cancer is easy to overlook and if you do, the results can be deadly.
SPOTIFY HAS LOST $9BN IN MARKET CAP VALUE IN LESS THAN THREE MONTHS
Swedish Streamer Valuation gets hit hard
When Spotify debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in April 2018, it finished its first day with a market cap value of $26.5bn, or $149.01 per share. From there, it only got better and by July 26, the Swedish streaming service was trading at $196.28 per share, with a market cap in excess of $35bn. The company was close to topping $200 per share and Wall Street was licking its lips. Now Sony, which sold a tranche of Spotify shares in April for around $750m and Warner, which sold all of its shares for around $500m before the end of June and looked as if they had both made a huge mistake are now thanking their lucky stars they sold “too early”.
Since that late July peak, Spotify’s share price has tumbled dramatically, falling by circa 25%, amid a sore time for tech stocks in general. At the close of the NYSE yesterday (October 24) Spotify’s share price was at $146.32. Its market cap: $26.1bn. It is unclear what is pushing the stock price down. Fears about its business model? Competition? Morningstar analyst Ali Mogharabi said Spotify appears to be discounting many full-price music subscriptions and extending the length of free-trial plans to convert free, advertising supported users into paying subscribers. The main reason appears to be slow growth in North America, where the company has to compete with Apple and Amazon.
Ed Note: The long term outlook for Spotify looks solid, but the competition will be fierce. Ultimate winners in this fight between tech giants? The customer. Lots of freebies and incentives to keep your paid subscription with one provider.
SOUNDCLOUD ANNOUNCES INTEGRATION WITH INSTAGRAM
The music platform integrates like Spotify and Apple Music
SoundCloud users will no longer have to settle for screenshots when they want to share music on Instagram, as the company announced today that tracks can now be shared to Instagram Stories directly from the SoundCloud app. Instagram announced at F8 that it would start letting users post to their Stories from third-party apps, including Spotify, Apple Music and GoPro, now SoundCloud has now jumped on board.
ARTICLE 13 POSES ‘A THREAT TO YOUR LIVELIHOOD’
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has warned content creators that the “unintended consequences of Article 13 poses a threat” to their livelihoods.
The European Parliament passed Article 13 into law in September, granting rights and remuneration to content creators whose music was being used on the web, specifically on YouTube. This was widely seen (and reported on this blog) as a boon to songwriters. And now comes the predictable backlash as the top brass at YouTube try to convince the general public that the law will only hurt the ones it was designed to help. A couple of the quotes demonstrate the level of disdain for the legislation.
Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said that “the ability for creators and artists to find fans and build a business online is now at risk” thanks to Article 13. CEO Susan Wojcicki added, “Article 13 as written threatens to shut down the ability of millions of people – from creators like you to everyday users – to upload content to platforms like YouTube.” The tech giant strategy is clear: try to get the law amended so that it does not have to pay. If Wojcicki turns out to be right, maybe she will have a chance. If songwriters end up better off, the law will stand as it is written.
UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP PARTNERS WITH MARVEL TO REINTERPRET CLASSIC HIP HOP ALBUM COVERS
Three legendary hip-hop albums will get a comic book makeover
In a new partnership between Marvel and UMG division Urban Legends, three legendary hip-hop albums will get a comic book makeover. The Marvel-inspired series will feature variant covers of some of the Urban Legends most legendary hip-hop releases. Each album release will boast a pair of collectible options, the first one being a double colour vinyl Variant Cover Collector’s Edition that replaces the album’s original image with Marvel’s variant hip- hop cover art.
Second, a Deluxe Variant Cover Collector’s Edition will sport the featured album itself housed in a gatefold LP with the variant cover printed directly on the front. The deluxe collector’s edition will include double color vinyl, along with a copy of the limited-edition corresponding Marvel comic book that ties in with the artwork. The deluxe version will also include a 3D lenticular print of Marvel’s variant cover artwork. Each initial Collector’s Edition will be capped at 3,000 units.
ROLI’S BEATMAKER AND SONGMAKER KITS LET YOU CREATE MUSIC ANYWHERE
Perfect for those looking for the freedom to create
ROLI has been making waves in the MIDI controller space since the release of its uniquely tactile Seaboard keyboard interface in 2015, and now counts artists as varied as Stevie Wonder, Hans Zimmer and Grimes among its many fans. The London-based company has now bundled its BLOCKS series with a suite of powerful production software in its new Beatmaker and Songmaker Kits.
Combining ultra-portable hardware with ROLI’s custom-built software synths and Ableton Live Lite, the kits contain everything you need to get started producing your own tracks on the go. Check out the cool Beatmaker Kit video above.
Written by Anthony Vanger
Additional reporting by Adam “Badger” Woolf
Artwork by Gustav Balderdash
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