Money 4 Nothing
Independent Labels and Electronic Music with Chal Ravens

Independent Labels and Electronic Music with Chal Ravens

June 20, 2022

The music industry isn’t a monolith and few scenes have a more distinctive structure than electronic music. As it developed from house and techno to today’s endless array of genres, the music traded the artist-heavy focus of rap or rock for constellations of high-profile DJs, faceless producers, and—most importantly for today’s episode—a host of iconic independent labels. In a hyper-consolidated, major label world, these indies have not only survived but (sometimes) thrived, defining the aesthetic development of scene after scene both before AND after the internet-driven shifts of the 2000’s. But...how did that work? And how do independents fit into the economy of electronic music more generally? To learn more, we were delighted to talk to music journalist Chal Ravens who hosts the podcast “Relevant Parties” profiling legendary labels from DFA and Ninja Tune to Exit and Ed Banger. Our freewheeling conversation touched on everything from the idea of “curation” in the age of Spotify and how Myspace allowed producers to outflank major labels to the informational economy of the club…and whole lot more.

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Music: CZ Wang and Neo Image - "Just Off Wave" 

 

 

Hard Landing: The End of Free Money and The Future of the Music Industry

Hard Landing: The End of Free Money and The Future of the Music Industry

June 7, 2022

If you haven’t noticed, things have gotten...hairy in the economy. Inflation is up, the stock market is down, and the fed’s money machine? It stopped going “brrr.” All of this suggests that we might be leaving the VERY long, frothy period where companies (looking at you Uber!) didn’t need to muddy their hands with things like “earning profits” in order to reshape our lives, cities, communities, and consciousness. But if that’s REALLY happening…what does it mean for the music industry? Saxon and Sam try to connect macro-economic upheaval to entertainment activity, puzzling through how a return of market-based reality could remake streaming, the financialization of song-rights, the major labels, and maybe—just maybe—open up some space for the kind of limited, tend-your-garden community that has been difficult to conceptualize over the past 14 years of “go big or go home” tech. Are we probably wrong? Definitely. But sometimes the only way to get ready for a change is to make some predictions.

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Music: Hermeto Pascoal - "Dança do Pajé"

 

What Makes a Hit in 2022? (with Andrew Unterberger)

What Makes a Hit in 2022? (with Andrew Unterberger)

May 23, 2022

We all know that the musical landscape has changed in recent years. Tik Tok, Youtube, playlist culture, social media, and on and on and on—they’ve all remade how we listen, and what we listen to. But when folks (including us?) discuss those changes, they all too frequently focus on the big picture at the expense of the details. Streaming is over a decade old now. How…has it changed? That’s why we were so excited to talk to Andrew Unterberger, a journalist at Billboard who recently wrote a fascinating piece exploring why new music is taking longer to reach the top of the charts—and spending so much time there once it does. Where breaking on radio (or Tik Tok!) used to be enough, today’s hits take complex routes across any number of platforms on their way to the Billboard Top 40. Talking our way through them reveals the multi-polar, chance-driven, promotion-filled universe that’s driving our current listening. Turns out, it’s a world that’s far more chaotic (and a lot less planned) than either labels—or their critics— would like to admit.

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Music: Pauline Anna Strom - "Freedom at the 45th Floor"

Mike Park of Asian Man Records

Mike Park of Asian Man Records

May 5, 2022

Mike Park has been running Asian Man Records out of his mom’s garage for over two decades with a refreshing approach that might seem unusual by today’s standards: there’s no advances and every release is a handshake agreement. I do this for the love of music,” writes Park on the label’s About page. “Not for capitalist gain or status recognition. I try my best to do the right things ethically and to believe in helping others instead of striving for profit over people.” Somehow its worked, with Asian Man amassing a small, but powerful catalog/community of underground music comprised of seminal third-wave ska, early Alkaline Trio records, Jeff Rosenstock, Joyce Manor, AJJ and many others. On this episode, Saxon decided to hide the crystal ball, puts away systematic analysis, and erase the galaxy brain chalk board to talk with Park about the very real highs and lows of being an indie label head on the fringes of the music industry. Along the way, the two discuss format changes, early 2K sellout culture, the role of a small label in today’s ecosystem, and lament briefly about the disappearance of Myspace.

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New vs. Old Music

New vs. Old Music

April 21, 2022

It’s a debate that’s all the rage. New data suggests that catalog recordings (anything released over 18 months ago) had begun to outstrip new music in the streaming economy. Is this the end of pop as we know it? Is it because the kids just don’t like culture? Is it because….the INTERNET? Well, maybe. But first we need to look at how we get those stats and dig into some quick boomer-listening habit history. From the vagaries of Tik Tok virality to millennials leaving the pop zone, a lot is going into this moment, and we’re here to speculate wildly about all of it.  

 

Mat Dryhurst and the Case for Crypto in Music (Part 2)

Mat Dryhurst and the Case for Crypto in Music (Part 2)

April 4, 2022

Part 2 of our conversation with Mat Dryhurst on Crypto’s evolving place in the music industry, both major and independent. Dryhurst has long been one of the most active and articulate proponents of these technologies (and the social formations developing around them) and has a deep well of experience and knowledge in this fast-moving space. While we don’t agree on everything, it was very much the kind of conversation that’s needed to push forward our understanding of the billionaire-backed, contractually-decentralized, AI-drenched future that’s beginning to emerge in certain corners of the internet.

Listen to Part 1!

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Mat Dryhurst and the Case for Crypto in Music (Part 1)

Mat Dryhurst and the Case for Crypto in Music (Part 1)

March 28, 2022

Over the past year, we’ve devoted more than a few episodes to discussions about Crypto, NFTs, and Web3—projects that we’ve been, it feels safe to say…fairly skeptical about. Given that skepticism, we were delighted to have the chance speak to Mat Dryhurst, who hosts the Interdependence podcast with Holly Herndon, for a discussion about Crypto’s evolving place in the music industry, both major and independent. Dryhurst has long been one of the most active and articulate proponents of these technologies (and the social formations developing around them) and has a deep well of experience and knowledge in this fast-moving space. While we don’t agree on everything, it was very much the kind of conversation that’s needed to push forward our understanding of the billionaire-backed, contractually-decentralized, AI-drenched future that’s beginning to emerge in certain corners of the internet. (Part 1 of 2)

 

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Bandcamp and Epic Games Get Hitched

Bandcamp and Epic Games Get Hitched

March 15, 2022

When Bandcamp announced a few weeks ago that it had been sold, it came as a deep shock to the wide audience of music fans who had come to appreciate its artist-supporting activities and (relatively) equitable financial policies. When they read that it had been sold to Epic Games, the multi-billion dollar creator of the Battle Royale mega-game Fortnite, the widespread reaction was...huh? To try to make sense of the sale, and to figure out what it might mean going forward, Saxon and Sam dig into the histories of the two companies, identifying some compelling similarities (and some equally worrisome-shared trends) that maybe are the first step towards a newly profitable musical future? But also….maybe a wasteland of shattered dreams and fan service.

 

Neoliberal Jazz with Dale Chapman

Neoliberal Jazz with Dale Chapman

February 23, 2022

As soon as you hear it, the term "neoliberal jazz" makes sense—hip urbanites, attending concerts in revamped art-spaces sponsored by banks and financial services companies. But how did Jazz—a counter-cultural music if there ever was one—get there? And how have its evolving aesthetics enabled these developments?  To learn more, we spoke to Dale Chapman, author of "The Jazz Bubble," a mind-bending book about urban culture, market forces, and...Wynton Marsalis. Come fly with us, as we trace Jazz from urban renewal to gentrification.

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Web 3.Bro with David Turner

Web 3.Bro with David Turner

February 8, 2022

While the boom and busts have come and gone, NFTs haven’t disappeared. A set of crypto based technologies, and speculatively disruptive companies are still out there, working to create a new, on-chain future. We have thoughts. Especially when it comes to how music intersects (or doesn't). And to try to make sense of them, we have on David Turner of Penny Fractions. Moving from specific projects, and working theories to broad-based analysis of tech ideology we... go out there. But to create a future we want to see, you have to start by imagining what you want—and what you don't. 

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Re-listen:  NF(t) DOOM or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blockchain

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