Taylor Swift

7 fascinating points from Taylor Swift's Wall Street Journal op-ed

Why I disagree with her on several issues

Taylor Swift is the voice— or to paraphrase her new pal Lena Dunham’s “Girl’s” character— a voice of her musical generation. That explains why The Wall Street Journal asked her to pen an op-ed piece for its “The Future Of Everything” edition, which heralds the paper’s 125 anniversary.

In her well-thought out, very informed editorial, the 24-year old superstar explains why she is an “enthusiastic optimist,” who believes the music industry is “just coming alive,” despite all evidence to the contrary.

Much of what Swift puts forward is factual: Digital downloads now account for 40% of music revenue, physical sales of CDs for 35% (for as much as every one says CDs are dead, they are still a significant factor..for now), and streaming and subscription make up 21% of revenue.  Music industry revenue was $7 billion in 2013, down from $15 billion in 2003.

Here are the seven most interesting things Swift says in her WSJ piece and why I disagree with her on a number of them.

“There are many (many) people who predict the downfall of music sales and the irrelevancy of the album as an economic entity. I am not one of them”: The facts are irrefutable on that one. While the album is not going away anytime soon, the world is increasingly becoming a singles-driven one. There will always be artists who make albums meant to be heard as a whole, but Apple changed consumer patterns for good with the birth of iTunes. Once iTunes made it possible for buyers to cherry pick singles instead of having to purchase a full album, there was no going back. The key part in Swift’s argument is “as an economic entity.”  It will remain an artistic entity for many artists, but as an economic entity, it will continue to decline.

“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for”:  Bravo. At some point, whether it’s through an act of Congress or other means (and it’s looking more likely to be through Congress), sufficient royalty rates for songwriters and artists will have to be established for streaming services. Right now, they’re all over the place with no consistent formula. Napster somehow created the idea that it’s okay to steal music and even though many people don’t feel that way anymore, they still have no problem using a streaming service that pays the music’s creators a scandalously small royalty. With streaming on the rise—up 42% over last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan— and downloading and physical sales on the continued decline, this is an issue that needs a quick solution. (It should be noted that while Swift does not give her music away, she is on a number of streaming services, like Spotify, which listeners can use for free.)

“[People] are buying only the [albums] that hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they really aren't alone in feeling so alone. It isn't as easy today as it was 20 years ago to have a multiplatinum-selling album, and as artists, that should challenge and motivate us”: Yes and no. What we are increasingly seeing are artists who simply don’t need to be— and shouldn’t be— album artists. They may have a single or two or three or four in them, but their talent isn’t in crafting a full album, it's in crafting hit singles. Swift still has something to say and she says it in album form (even though she has very high digital single sales, as well). Her fans are invested in her, just as Adele’s fans are, and they want to hear what she has to say, every word of it. Not every artist has that much to say.

“Some artists will be like finding "the one." We will cherish every album they put out until they retire…I think the future still holds the possibility for this kind of bond, the one my father has with the Beach Boys and the one my mother has with Carly Simon”: Hmmm. I wonder what’s the last Beach Boys album her father bought? What about her mom and Carly Simon? At some point, most fans, even lifelong ones, stop showing interest in an artist’s new music and just go back to their favorite albums in the artist's catalog. But they do continue to support that artist and show their loyalty when it comes to seeing him/her in concert. And they use the performance of the new material as a chance to go to the bathroom.

“Forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise. No, I did not say "shock"; I said ‘surprise’.”  Is this Tay Tay’s little dig at artists like Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga, both of whom continually up the shock value?

“In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online. To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me.” And this, my friends, is why Taylor Swift is so successful. In a way that few artists have ever harnessed as well, she understands the power of social media. When her first album came out in 2006, she blogged and had long conversations with fans via MySpace while on her tour bus. Once Twitter came along, there was no stopping her. She understands how to make each show a unique event without overdoing it on the hype. The tour before this, she wrote lyrics  from one of her favorite songs on her arm every night. Brilliant-- for both her and the artist she endorsed. This tour, she had guests. She knows she has to keep fans interested and it can be by simple as small as a few lyrics on her arm… and a strong, good, live show.

“There are a few things I have witnessed becoming obsolete in the past few years, the first being autographs… The only memento "kids these days" want is a selfie”: Fascinating info for marketers. I don’t know anyone under 21 who would even consider asking for an autograph. A selfie shows fans' proximity to the artist in a way that an autograph can’t and feeds into the narcissistic needs to chronicle every moment. Proof of the one-on-one moment that can then be shared with the world is the coin of the realm.

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Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd confirms new album, 'The Endless River,' coming in October

Check out who is in on the set of previously unreleased material

After David Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson, spilled the beans via Twitter over the weekend, Pink Floyd confirmed today that the British group will, indeed, release new music this October.

The album, “The Endless River,” will be mainly ambient and instrumental music based on recording sessions that took place during the making of Pink Floyd’s last studio album, 1994’s “The Division Bell,” according to a statement released by the band’s label, Columbia Records.

The sessions feature guitarist Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason, and keyboardist Rick Wright, who died in 2008. Gilmour is producing the album along with Phil Manzanera, Youth, and recording engineer Andy Jackson.  “The Division Bell,”  which featured  lyrics penned by Samson,  was Wright's last work with the band and the last studio album released by Pink Floyd. Co-founder Syd Barrett quit the band in 1968 (and died in 2006); Roger Waters left the band in 1985 and despite a great deal of acrimony with his band mates, has appeared with them on a handful of occasions for charity.

They are still working on the final album, with more details expected by summer’s end.

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Garth Brooks

Will Garth Brooks announce a world tour on Thursday?

How you can watch the press conference


Late last week, Garth Brooks’ website trumpeted “The Wait is Over” with the dates 7/7 emblazoned against a backdrop of a sky filled with lightning and thunder (“The Thunder Rolls,” get it?)

But today, instead of getting news about whatever he’s ready to announce, we got news that the wait is not over, it will be over on Thursday when Brooks will hold a press conference to announce whatever he was going to announce today. Fans can watch the press conference live at 12 p.m. EDT/11 a.m. CDT and 9 a.m. PDT at garthbrooks.com

So what is that something? Chances are very good it’s the details of the world tour he talked about on “Good Morning America” last December. Though he divulged few details, he told Robin Roberts that his one-man show at the Wynn in Las Vegas was over after three years and he was ready to go back on the road with his full band. His last world tour ended in 2001 and he has spent the intervening years raising his three daughters with his ex-wife and current wife, Trisha Yearwood. His youngest daughter graduated from high school this spring, paving the way for Brooks to return to touring.

So why delay the announcement until Thursday? Though Brooks did not give a reason, it’s likely because he is embroiled in figuring out how to save his Dublin concerts. In January, a few weeks after Brooks told Roberts that he was indeed going back on tour, he announced he would play at Croke Park, an 80,000-seat stadium in Dublin, this summer. The Irish audiences love Brooks and totally claim him as one of their own, given his mother’s Irish heritage. Two shows ballooned into five sold-out shows, July 25-29, with the 400,000 tickets moving at a very quick rate.

However, tickets for the concerts were sold before the promoter acquired approval and the license for the shows from the Dublin City Council— a common practice. Due to complaints from Croke Park neighbors and an ordinance that says there will be no more than three concerts at Croke Park each year, the Dublin City Council only approved three Brooks shows. (One Direction had already played three shows at the venue this Spring). Brooks came back and said it was all five shows or nothing because he couldn’t disappoint the 160,000 fans for the two canceled shows. Right now, Brooks and the promoter are in a stand-off with the DCC. A decision is expected to be made no later than tomorrow on whether any of the concerts will proceed. The stage and equipment, designed especially for Croke Park and for an attendant concert special, are already at the port ready to ship to Ireland.  Also at stake? The  $85 million the five shows were estimated to pump into the Irish economy: 70,000 of the 400,000 tickets were sold to people from countries other than Ireland.

UPDATED: Tuesday (8) morning, the promoter of the Croke Park shows announced that all five shows have been cancelled after all parties could not come to terms.

Brooks has been a trending topic all day and even though he hasn’t toured in 13 years and had only one No. 1 song in his time away— 2007’s “More Than A Memory”— there is no doubt that his U.S. tour will be one of the biggest of the next three years. The only questions to be answered are how low will he keep tickets— for his last tour they averaged $25—, if he will scale the house offering different price levels depending upon where the seats are (this is something he has notoriously opposed), and how many dates will he do in each city.

We’ll have more after the press conference on Thursday. But for anyone who doubts that this tour will sell through the roof, we suggest you come back five minutes after tickets have gone on sale. There is tremendous pent-up demand for Brooks’ high-energy live show that current chart toppers like Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean somewhat meet but haven’t replaced.

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Album review: Sia shines brightly on '1000 Forms of Fear'

After guesting on so many hits, she's ready for some of her own


Sia has had more success as a guest on other artists' records-- such as David Guetta’s “Titanium” and Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” or during her stint with Zero 7 on tunes like “Destiny” --than as a solo artist, but with “Chandelier,” the first single from “1000 Forms of Fear,” out tomorrow (8), the Australian singer/songwriter is finally breaking out as a pop star on her own.

“Chandelier” reached the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100, in large part driven by its compelling video featuring 11-year old dancer Maddie Ziegler. Though Sia has had several strong songs on her previous albums, “Chandelier” is her first bona-fide hit as a solo artist.

The good news is there’s plenty more on “Fear,” produced by Greg Kurstin, to continue that path, even if there is nothing that’s quite as striking as “Chandelier,” a tune that sounds similar to Rihanna’s “Diamonds”—a song co-written by Sia— but bolstered by Sia’s brilliant take on a party girl whose lows are as devastating as her highs are exhilarating.

Sia often slurs her words as they roll over the electronic-enhanced melodies like water in a creek flowing over uneven rocks. It can be jarring at times as she breaks words in strange places and swings up and down the scale in unexpected ways, unconfined by any traditional pop singing structure. For example, on “Cellophane,”  Sia sings as if she’s up on the Broadway stage, full of drama, as she delivers lines like “I’m  such a basket case while I fall apart, you hide all my pills again.” Interesting echo-y production with a subtle use of a tremolo guitar make the song a stand out.

“Fear’s” first few tunes, “Chandelier,” “Big Girls Cry” and “Burn The Pages” follow enough of the same script—electronic tracks with pop production— that the album is just starting to feel predictable when it takes a sharp turn with the ultra-poppy, Gwen Stefani-like “Hostage.” The  toe-tapping, peppy, high velocity pop track betrays the downer lyrics on this sure-to-be single. Sia then veers into Lana Del Rey territory on the stately, grand ballad “Straight For The Knife,” about a lover who knows exactly where all her weak spots are and exactly how to inflict  maximum damage. While Sia is just as capable of sounding as mannered as LDR, she always remains inviting as opposed to some impenetrable presence. In fact, if anything, she lays herself bare over and over.

Throughout “Fear,” Sia traffics mainly in matters of love and just how toxic our relationships can be. Whether she’s admitting she doesn’t play fair either on the delicious “Fair Game,” which wraps her voice in a tinker-toy piano, or on the over-the-top, very busy closing track, “Dressed in Black,” where a new love brings her back  to life, Sia is about breaking down the barriers that make us feel alone.  

While she’s always been bracingly honest in her lyrics, on “Fear,” the combo of the music and lyrics seem to have all come together— as if she’s taking a few lessons from the other folks who have had big hits utilizing her words and her vocals. 

Now it’s her turn to shine bright like a diamond.

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Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd to release new album in October, according to David Gilmour's wife

New set would be based on 1994 recordings and first since 'The Division Bell'


Someone can’t keep a secret.

Pink Floyd  guitarist/vocalist David Gilmour’s wife, Polly Samson tweeted on Saturday, “Btw Pink Floyd album out in October is called “The Endless River.” Based on 1994 sessions is Rick Wright’s swan song and very beautiful.”


After she oh-so-casually dropped this news, the internet went up in flames in excitement. The album will be the first album of unreleased material since 1994’s “The Division Bell.”  It’s unknown if  “The Endless River” is composed of tracks recorded during the same sessions for “The Division Bell” and they will now be released as they were recorded then or they will be enhanced with new production and recording, sort of like Michael Jackson’s “Xscape album.”

“The Division Bell” featured Gilmour, Wright, and drummer Nick Mason, with many of the lyrics penned by Samson, and was believed to be Pink Floyd’s last album. Co-founder Syd Barrett quit the band in 1968 (and died in 2006); Roger Waters left the band in 1985 and despite a great deal of acrimony with his band mates, has appeared with them on a handful of occasions for charity.

Wright, the band’s keyboardist, died in 2008, but as the LA Times points out, while the new album may be the last of his recorded output made with Pink Floyd, he went on to release a solo album, “Broken China,” in 1996.

Adding fuel to the rumors: Durga McBroom-Hudson, a vocalist who has toured with the band, also tweeted on Saturday, “Yes. There is a new Pink Floyd album coming out,”  confirming Samson’s tweet.

Samson’s account has since been “suspended,” according to Twitter. Gilmour has a Twitter page, but there are no tweets on it. His website plugs Samson's latest collection of short stories, but has not been updated since May.

Pink Floyd's most popular album remains, of course, 1973's "The Dark Side of the Moon," which has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide.

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Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande dips her toe in EDM waters on 'Break Free' feat. Zedd': Listen

Hear her acoustic version of 'Problem'

Ariana Grande debuted a new song at her MTV #TotalAriana Live concert last night and it’s a peppy, EDM-influenced track, courtesy of Zedd’s involvement. The electronic outro b is going to sound dated very soon, but in the meantime, enjoy.

Now it looks like Grande could have two songs of the summer: “Problem,” featuring Iggy Azalea, will represent the first half of the season, while the instantly catchy “Break Free” will be your song for the second half. Thanks, Ariana!

Lots of other Grande news: She and Nicki Minaj will appear on Jessie J’s  next single, "Bang, Bang." That song, which will be on both Jessie J and Grande's albums, comes out July 29.  Plus, she performed an acoustic version of “Problem” last night, which we’ve embedded as well.


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Linda Perry

Exclusive: Linda Perry on her new VH1 show, Pink, and her issue with 'American Idol'

Why her show will not be a karoake competition

Linda Perry is nothing if not passionate. She is best known as the front woman for 4 Non Blondes, as well as writer and/or producer of some of the most popular songs of the last 20 years, including Pink’s “Get the Party Started,” Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” and Faith Hill’s “Cry.”

Now fans will get to see her in action on her new VH1 series, “Make or Break: The Linda Perry Project,” which debuts July 16. In the 10-week summer series, she coaches several acts she has handpicked on how to write songs, how to record, how to perform, and how to navigate this tricky industry. She is doggedly honest and forthright. She will select one of the artists to sign to her own label.

We recently talked to Perry at her studio in Los Angeles, where the show takes place. She had very strong opinions about how her show will different from other singing competitions, such as “American Idol” and “The Voice.”

Her objection to such shows isn’t that most of these winners aren’t writing their own material, but that the talent level isn’t high enough. “The majority, 89% of the ‘artists’ that show up on these shows would never, ever be sought out by a label or management or agency and said, ‘you are spectacular, we’re going to sign you’ at their local karaoke club in Bumf**k, Michigan. And that’s the truth.”

She’s a little harsh on “American Idol”—- most of us can definitely name several artists who launched their careers from “Idol” aside from Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, but her greater point is that her show will pull back the curtain on how the process works… from songwriting to recording…and reveal the blood and guts it takes to be a true artist.

She’s doing the show not only for the contestants, but to help those watching at home. “If I inspired some 14 year old to not go down the route of selling perfume and using music as a promotional tool and she decided, ‘You know what, I’m not going to take that casting call job, I’m going to sit here in my room that truly inspire me because I’m going to trust that my emotions speak for me’,” then she says she has succeeded.

She promises we will see her unfiltered on the show: “What you’re going to see on the show is exactly how I am with who ever, if it were was Christina, Pink, Alicia Keys, whoever. That’s exactly how I am.”

Speaking of Pink, Perry, who produced much of Pink’s “Missundaztood” album and wrote “Get The Party Started,” had a falling out with Pink after she went on to work with other artists, including Aguilera. The two have since made up and Perry says she would love to work with her again:
“I would love it, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I would absolutely welcome it and love it because I really really love that girl, so who knows.”

We also asked her what advice she would give Aguilera, who has had great success as a guest on songs by Maroon 5 and A Great Big World, but has struggled a little bit lately. In addition to producing Aguilera, Perry wrote one of her biggest hits, “Beautiful.”

An episode of "Behind The Music" on Perry will also air July 16.

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Surprise! 'Frozen' leads list of 2014's best-selling albums

Album and digital sales sink even further

Unless you’ve been living in the great white tundra, it will come as no surprise that the soundtrack to “Frozen” is the biggest selling album for the first half of 2014.

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Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea sets record for a female rapper on the pop charts with 'Fancy'

Who else is making Hot 100 moves?

Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” featuring Charli XCX, has set the record for the longest tenure at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 by a female rapper.

Her breakthrough hit spend its sixth week at No. 1, passing Lil Kim’s 5 weeks at the top as part of the collective that remade “Lady Marmalade” in 2001 for “Moulin Rouge.” Given her comments at the BET Awards on Sunday night, we’re sure Nicki Minaj is gnashing her teeth over the news.

Magic’s “Rude” moves 3-2, which means Azalea’s other major hit, her feature on “Problems” by Ariana Grande, will likely be locked out of the top spot after spending five weeks at No. 2. Billboard predicts that “Rude” will likely topple “Fancy” from the top spot.

Nico & Vinz’s “Am I Wrong” moves to No. 4, while Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” stays at No. 5. (“Latch,” hIs song with Dispatch climbs to No. 11).

As for the bottom half of the Top 10, the song remains the same: Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle,” featuring Snoop Dogg at No. 6, John Legend’s “All of Me” at No. 7, Calvin Harris’ “Summer” at No. 8, DJ Snake and Lil John’s “Turn Down For What” at No. 9 and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” at No. 10.


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Ashanti to Iggy Azalea: 'Hey! I did it first!', plus, prepping video with French Montana

What's the latest on her work on John Singleton's Tupac biopic?

Ashanti has an A.M. booty call on her mind with her new single, “Early In The Morning,” and she tells us all about the “sexy vibe,” the video featuring French Montana will have. “It’s about how sometimes you wake up in that morning and you have that mmmm on your mind,” she coyly says. The track is from her recently released set, “Braveheart,” her first album on her own label.

The singer was in town for the BET Awards and had a few thoughts on Nicki Minaj’s alleged take down of Iggy Azalea in her acceptance speech:  Ashanti felt was fairly typical hip hop behavior.   “It’s tough in hip hop, but for females, you have to have a little bit of swag. You have to have that, I don’t want to say, ‘rivalry.’”

Azalea just matched Ashanti’s 12-year record for being the only female to have the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 for multiple weeks. She praises Azalea’s success, but jokes, “Hey, I did it first!

She has plenty of other activity on her plate. She is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, an effort to fight childhood obesity. She contributed a new song, “Just Believe,” to the cause and serves as a spokeswoman.

Ashanti is also still on board to write the music for John Singleton’s Tupac biopic. “It’s still very early in the development stage,” she says. “They have to move forward to casting and music comes further into it.”

While that happens, she heads back to New York to start filming “Stuck,” with Amy Madigan, a movie that takes place in a subway car in New York City. “It’s a very relatable character. Kind of different for me,” says Ashanti, who has also appeared in such films as “The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz” and “John Tucker Must Die.” “Some of the stereotypes she had in her head were able to be changed.”


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