The Hodgepodge: 100 Percent Licensing

Since 1941, laws for songwriting copyrights pretty much haven’t changed. It’s because of the copyright protection that songwriting and licensing is controlled through the government, which should pretty much explain why change has been hard to come by. However, a new proposal is in the works which is called 100 Percent Licensing. The gist of this law is that any songwriter or producer for a song is able to give consent for the song to be used however someone has requested. As the law is written now, writers and producers must agree for a song’s use in a commercial or streaming site. If they don’t agree, then a producer or songwriter can still agree for their particular work on the song to be used, but not the whole song.

Saving Country Music wrote a great exposé on the situation that I encourage you all to read. I mainly encourage this because I will not be going into much depth here; I don’t want to be repetitive because I’m still learning about the law and implications should it be passed. The big black cloud hanging over this new law are streaming companies like Pandora, Spotify and Google pushing for the change. What this means is that should the law be passed, Spotify can possibly get songs onto their program at a lower copyright cost to them, which will help maximize profits.

Taylor Swift is an artist who’s been more vocal against music streaming than just about anyone else. She doesn’t want her music on those applications, but any of her co-writers could potentially get the music on there with the 100 Percent Licensing law. So if Max Martin wants “Blank Space” or “Shake It Off” available on Spotify, he can make that decision as a co-writer, and Taylor Swift would have no say to the contrary. Essentially, this is a law that’s meant to benefit the streaming sites and subsequently further marginalize the songwriters. Everyone working in the music industry agrees that a law like this would be a terrible move, but unfortunately the final decision rests with the folks in Washington D.C.

Whether or not the law is passed, what is clear is that streaming companies are looking for that next big rise in cash flow. The leaders of these companies want money, that’s it. Streaming companies like Spotify are slowly gaining more traction and control in the music industry. And as we’ve said time and time again on this site, there needs to be a change in the way these companies payout artists and writers.

One suggestion I have is making streaming something you pay for no matter what; get rid of free streaming. Spotify should at least charge users $4.99/month for access to what is now free streaming. Call it a standard subscription, then charge those wanting a Premium, non ad-based subscription more than that. They can keep it at $9.99 or boost it up a few dollars. This would accomplish one of two things. Either greedy music fans will refuse to pay five bucks a month for streaming and go elsewhere (back to radio?) for free music, or Spotify brings in a ton of money with all of their millions of users now paying for access.

If the second option were to happen, then perhaps a company like Spotify can afford to payout artists better while still maintaining their salary at the top.

That’s just one idea I have for a way to start improving the streaming problem that’s growing. And I get that these CEOs want artists like Taylor Swift to be available on their service in order to get fans to listen to Taylor Swift through their platform. They’re business people first, and this is a move in an effort to improve their business from their point of view. But these companies are merely looking for ways to get more money without a care for how their actions will affect the music industry. There’s no way to know how this will actually affect the way music is produced, but a drastic change in copyright law will certainly dictate a change from producers, singers, writers, and labels.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Texas country singer/songwriter Sean McConnell will release a new self-titled album tomorrow.
  • Mark Chesnutt’s Tradition Lives will also be released tomorrow.
  • Next week, David Nail’s Fighter will be released.
  • Big Shoals’ Hard Lessons will also be released next week on July 15.
  • Kenny Chesney’s newest album has been pushed back for release until October.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Hell on Heels” by Pistol Annies. Country super trio consisting of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley, the Pistol Annies have released two albums. This was the title track of the group’s first album in 2011. I wouldn’t hate it if we were treated to a third album from them soon.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Blink-182 California. Punk rockers Blink-182 released a new album, their first album without singer Tom DeLonge. Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio joins the band taking the lead vocals on this new album. As an album, I like California; I think it has a good sound to it. It’s hard for me to call this Blink-182 because I associate that band primarily with DeLonge’s vocals.

Tweet of the Week

Eight great years of making fun of crap and supporting good music.

iTunes Review

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Steven Tyler’s first country solo album will be released tomorrow, and Jerek Naim apparently believes it’s the best country album of all time. There are no words for how dumb of a claim that is. Any album with “Red, White, and You” on it is no where close to the best.

The Hodgepodge: Streaming Is Proving To Be Too Much of a Good Thing

Spotify

I make my return to The Hodgepodge! And this isn’t just a one-off appearance either, as I will be taking it over for the rest of the year. You’re probably wondering what’s up? Well Derek has a lot on his plate in the next month and I’ve got a few ideas that I’ve been wanting to write about, so this felt like the right thing to do for both of us. Don’t worry you’ll still see Derek around, as you’ll be seeing more reviews from him in the next month instead of The Hodgepodge. Derek has been doing a fine job with The Hodgepodge and will return to writing it in 2016. So what’s on my mind…

Streaming is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Of course I’ve discussed this before in The Hodgepodge. The first Hodgepodge column ever touched on it. So I wanted to revisit it now after I’ve had a lot more experience with a variety of streaming services. What inspired me to write this post was the following tweet I saw weeks ago:

For those unfamiliar with Zac Wilkerson, he’s an artist from Amarillo, Texas who’s music is a combination of soul, country and folk music. He’s an independent artist who doesn’t have a large following. So you can see how Spotify screws him and other independent artists over. Only $310 for over 60,000 streams is ridiculously low and is not enough to financially support anyone. To give you an idea between the difference of money between streaming and buying an album, let’s divide 63,640 by 1500. According to Billboard, 1500 streams equal one album sale. The result of the above equation is about 43 albums sold. The average album costs $12. So multiply 43 by 12 and this gives the amount of money made from the sales, which is $516. It’s not a huge increase from the $310 made from Spotify, but this is just a very basic comparison that doesn’t factor in many variables and other factors involved here. Did the people who stream Wilkerson’s music go onto buy an album from him? Or even merchandise or concert tickets as a result of discovering him? Unfortunately this is something that we can’t determine.

So the obvious downside of streaming is less money for the artist. The other downside of course is streaming is eating into music sales badly. According to Nielsen/Billboard data, digital song sales have gone down 10.4% and on-demand audio streaming has ballooned up 74% to 58.6 billion plays in 2015. Vinyl sales have once again increased this year, up 38.4% in sales. Also it’s worth pointing out that CD album sales are trumping digital album sales. So it’s a tale of two schools of thought in 2015: the casual listener who uses Spotify, Apple Music or some other streaming service and the traditional listener who prefers a physical media. There are a lot more streamers though than physical media purchasers. It’s the clear dominant preference of the average listener right now.

You could make a big argument that streaming has become so popular because the quality of music is down and people are reluctant to trust the music marketplace. But that involves a lot of opinions and it’s an argument that will just go round and round. I prefer to point out something more factual: streaming is simply too convenient. For $9.99 month you can get all the music you want from Apple Music, Spotify or Google Play. Spotify sweets it up even more by offering new users three months up front of Spotify premium for only 99 cents. These streaming subscriptions allow you to download unlimited music for offline play as long as you continue to pay a monthly fee. If you download just one album and you listen to it, you’re already getting your money’s worth. It’s ridiculously friendly to customers and inherently unfair to artists who aren’t named Katy Perry or Taylor Swift.

After years of dismissing streaming, I gave into streaming this year even, as I subscribed to Google Play music. It’s kind of important to have this as a music reviewer though. Do you really think I’m going to buy Luke Bryan albums to review them? This is where I point out the good side of streaming, which is discovery and quality control. I’ve discovered numerous new artists via streaming and I never would have been able to find them without streaming. Buying blind is something I was never a fan of and streaming allows me to listen to the music before deciding if I want to purchase the album. So when an artist puts out a bad album now, you can stream it instead of buying it and wasting your money. Of course this isn’t possible with Garth Brooks albums, as he’s an old man who refuses to get with the times and is forcing his crappy GhostTunes down everyone’s throats. But you get the point with the good side of streaming: it allows you to be a smarter customer and expands your music collection with easy discovery.

Streaming is obviously proving to be too much of a good thing. There isn’t any balance here, as the customers are reaping all the rewards and artists aren’t reaping enough from it. That’s not to say customers shouldn’t be getting a lot out of it, as they’re the lifeblood behind every artist. The customer/listener should be the priority. But if the artist isn’t making any money, there isn’t any music for the listener to consume. So here’s my solution to this ongoing problem: limit the amount of streaming. It shouldn’t be taken away completely, as I believe it has its place in the music industry. Instead let’s just put a cap to how many times you can stream an album and songs before you have to purchase it. Bandcamp, my personal favorite streaming service, has something similar in place right now:

By default, fans can play tracks on Bandcamp only a few times in full, after which they get a dialog prompting them to buy. As the artist, you can up this limit, or remove it entirely, from your Profile page (you of course always get unlimited plays of your own tracks, but for the curious, here’s what the purchase prompt looks like). When a fan makes a purchase, they get unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app for Android, iOS and Sonos, an optional download in a variety of high-quality formats including lossless, and of course the satisfaction of directly supporting an artist they love.

This is a great idea that is fair to the artist and listener. Make it to where an album can only be played, let’s say six times before the listener can no longer stream it. Also the option to download songs for offline listening and paying a monthly fee to keep them in your library should be banned, as this is just too much for the listener. They must be forced to buy the album after so many streams if they want to keep listening. By doing this the listener still gets plenty of streams to determine whether or not to buy the album, while the artists will get more sales. Artist discovery would still exist too. This is a win-win for everyone involved. I plead to the streaming companies and the artists to heed my advice and make the music environment an even better place for all involved.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Jason Boland & The Stragglers will release their new album Squelch tomorrow.
  • Corb Lund will release his new album Things That Can’t Be Undone tomorrow.
  • Toby Keith will release a new album tomorrow titled 35 MPH Town.
  • Jana Kramer will be releasing her sophomore album thirty one tomorrow.
  • The Voice alumnus Jake Worthington will be releasing his self-titled debut EP next Friday. Based on what I’ve heard from it so far it’s very good.
  • Alt-country band The Yawpers will be releasing a new album on October 30 titled American Man.
  • Josh Abbott Band announced they’re releasing a new album on November 6 titled Front Row Seat.
  • The Band Perry will be releasing a new album on November 20 titled HEART+BEAT.

Great Music Currently At Country Radio

You know I spend so much time (rightly) ragging on all the crap on country radio at the moment. But I realized I need to spend more time promoting the good at country radio too, even if there isn’t a lot of it. So a new feature I’ve added here to The Hodgepodge is a playlist of the songs I consider good currently at country radio. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly. So check it out below!

Throwback Thursday Song

“I Will Always Love You” – Dolly Parton – I’ve been listening to the new Don Henley album a lot and of course as I said in my review of it that my favorite song on it is the duet with Henley and Dolly Parton, “When I Stop Dreaming.” This made me want to listen to more music from Dolly and one of my favorites from her is this song. Everybody loves to say this is Whitney Houston’s song and it isn’t. This is Dolly’s song and she does it best and I will argue this with anyone. I also discovered Dolly sang this with Carrie Underwood a few years ago and you can see that here. Listen to both, as the first one is not only Dolly performing it, but explaining the story behind the song.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

“Born to Shine” – Big Grams, Big Boi & Phantogram featuring Run The Jewels – One of my favorite groups in all of music and my current top favorite in hip-hop Run The Jewels is featured throughout this song, so I checked out this entire album from Big Gram, Big Boi & Phantogram. I didn’t like the album, except for this because it’s Run The Jewels and everything they touch is gold. I can’t wait for RTJ3.

Tweet of the Week

Drunken Martina is the best and if you’re on Twitter, the account is a must-follow. Also it was so great to see Rhett get outsold by Strait and Henley. Quality wins again!

iTunes Review That Rocks

Great Strait Review

Now here’s someone who gets it. I love this review even more because it’s someone who says they aren’t even a country fan and they know Strait is the real deal. This is why Strait is one of the all-time best.

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

The Hodgepodge: What I Think of Apple Music

In this streaming era of music, I don’t think it came as a surprise to anyone that Apple added music streaming services in conjunction with iTunes. In fact, last year on my iPhone, I ventured into an iTunes radio option that basically worked like Pandora. This was at least a year before Apple Music was announced. Now I enjoyed the iTunes Radio better than Pandora; I felt the musical selections within the station were more consistent with Apple. So when Apple announced their own music streaming service, I was curious and anxious to give it a go.

I’m about a month into my 3-month free trial, and I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on the basic ins and outs of the service. If you haven’t jumped into the service yet, allow me to provide a brief overview on how things get started. Firstly, Apple will ask you to essentially ‘ignore’ ‘like’ or ‘love’ (these are done through tapping bubbles once or twice) genres of music. Most of these genres are based on the criteria iTunes separates music within its store, though there were some variations. For me, I chose “Country”, “Rock”, “Oldies”, and “Indie” thinking it might give the best shot to find my favorites. There is no option for “Americana” or anything of that realm off the bat. Next, Apple will prompt you to, again, ‘ignore’ ‘like’ or ‘love’ artists within those genres. While the country artist offerings were many of the mainstream acts, George Strait, Johnny Cash, and Alan Jackson were offered up.

Now once you’ve gone through to select your fields, the main portion of the service are pre-made playlists based on that field. Some of the offerings I’ve had range from titles of “Intro to Conway Twitty” to “Country Hits: 1972” to “Country BBQ”. These playlists are pre-selected lists of about 15 songs. Apple also suggests specific albums from the artists/genres you selected. Luckily, one may expand this field by searching artists and “following” them on Apple Music. That’s the only way I was able to get Jason Isbell to pop up, which opened up some doors for Americana themed playlists. It was frustrating that artists like Isbell, and many of the Texas country stars had to be sought out initially rather than creating an offer for it. As for the playlists themselves, they’re hit or miss for me. The artist themed ones are good (Chuck Berry proved to be an excellent sound track to cooking dinner one night). And maybe it’s because I can be picky, but playlists like “Country BBQ” had only 5 songs I found worth listening to in that theme.

The Apple Radio function is a favorite of mine. “Red Dirt Radio” played many songs from Johnny Cooper, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Turnpike Troubadours and others while I only had to skip one song from a metal band that had the words “red” “dirt” in an album. I’ll still argue that Apple Radio is a better internet radio option over Pandora.

One other big offer from Apple within this music service is the option to basically add any song/album to your personal music library on your phone. As someone who has a 2 hour total commute to/from work, this is an enticing offer that I’ve been taking advantage of, as I listen to my personal music more than the radio while driving. Thinking about it financially, $9.99/month for the subscription means all you need to do is download two albums from Apple Music each month into your music and the service is worth the money. The downside, though, is they’re just digital files in the cloud that you can’t add to your physical music library. The other, more noble, downside is that getting albums this way also means that it’s not $10 directly spent on a specific album for artists I care about supporting.

Essentially, from what I can tell, Apple Music works well for those who live in the digital world of music. The monthly subscription gives you access to just about any music you could ask for short of Garth Brooks. However, for those like myself who have built an extensive physical music library over the years, it’s a bit of give and take with the service. In order to use the download option from Apple Music, I ended up losing many of my personal playlists I made with my music on iTunes that were currently synced onto my iPhone. The best thing about Apple Music, to me, is the Apple Radio function. The worst thing is the digital battle you have with Apple about giving up the music you want on your phone if you choose to add music via the subscription. Adding music from my iTunes by the “add artist” way works and those selections are untouched. All in all, there’s a good chance I won’t renew my Apple Music subscription after the trial period ends. Though, it’s been fun to experiment with the new service.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Lindi Ortega’s new album, Faded Gloryville, will be released tomorrow. You can be certain we’ll have a review of the album soon.
  • Luke Bryan and Michael Ray will also release albums tomorrow.
  • Jason Boland & The Stragglers have announced the title of their next album.  Squelch will be released on October 7.
  • As we mentioned last week, Alabama, will be releasing a new album on September 18 called Southern Drawl. The lead off single for the album is “Wasn’t Through Lovin’ You Yet.”
  • The Band Perry announced via Twitter that their new single will be called “Live Forever.”
  • Thomas Rhett unveiled the track listing from his upcoming album. Included is a duet with American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, a song that samples War’s “Low Rider” (which results in 14 credited songwriters), and a song featuring Lunch Money Lewis.
  • Zac Brown Band will release “Beautiful Drug” as their next single.
  • Reba has announced her next single will be “Until They Don’t Love You.”

Today in Country Music History

  • George Jones earned his first number one album with the 1966 release I’m a People.
  • Willie Nelson’s Always On My Mind was the number one album in 1982. His album ended up being Billboard’s #1 country album of that year, topping the chart for a total of 22 weeks!
  • In 1990, Garth Brooks releases the, arguably, biggest song of his career in “Friends In Low Places.”
  • In 1993, Alan Jackson tops the charts with “Chattahoochee.”

All information for this section is gathered from This Day In Country Music.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson. Country music lost another legend on July 30 after Lynn Anderson lost her life to a heart attack. “Rose Garden” was one of her big hits in country music. This week’s Throwback Song is in her honor today.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


Tyrone Wells Roll With It.  I was introduced to Tyrone Wells’ music about a year ago, and I think he has an enjoyable Adult Contemporary/Pop sound. Wells is a singer/songwriter from Spokane, Washington. Roll With It, released back in March, has a bit more pop influence on the production than several of his previous albums, but that doesn’t hinder this album at all. Some of the songwriting on this album, though, isn’t as strong as previous albums from Wells. This is good pop music in a genre where pop music should rightfully exist.

Tweet of the Week

Instead of commenting on one tweet, I’ll give you a few of my favorite CMA Fest tweets from the TV broadcast Tuesday night.

iTunes Reviews to Make You Smile

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The first review was left under the Eli Young Band “remix” of Andy Grammer’s “Honey, I’m Good.” Personally, I think the original song is unnecessary manufactured noise, but Muduck147 makes a great point.

The second review, if you couldn’t tell from the title, was left under Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free. All I have to say is that’s a hell of a compliment from this reviewer.