90 Years In The Making: Q&A With the Grand Ole Opry’s Radio Show Runner Pete Fisher

Originally posted on Billboard.com written by 
Phyllis Stark

Lady Antebellum

Come Nov. 28, the Grand Ole Opry will celebrate 90 years on the air at WSM-AM Nashville.

Pete Fisher has been the show’s vp/GM for 16 years — his anniversary was June 28 — and in that time, the Opry has expanded from two nights a week to additional shows on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the season.

The challenge, of course, in an era of great technological change is to ensure that the show does not become a historical artifact. Thus, in addition to bringing in new members who are making current hits — such as Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town,Blake Shelton and Rascal Flatts — the Opry is taking steps to put a new face on the brand. The ABC-TV drama Nashville has helped. Trace Adkins inaugurated an Opry circle throwdown, a marketing effort that brings a little Opry magic to a remote location.

Also new is Opry 9.0: Discoveries From the Circle, a new-artist series that will present live Opry performances from three acts per release. The first volume, featuring Chase Bryant, JT Hodges and Drake White, arrives June 30.

Fisher discussed the Opry’s unique past and hopeful future in a recent interview.

A 90th birthday is really interesting. How do you celebrate something that old — or that established — and have it not seem like it’s dated?

I’ve been in this job 16 years now, and I remember uttering the words, “Legacy can be an anchor or an asset.” I think one of the real testaments to the team here at the Opry is that we celebrate legacy, but we strive for relevance each and every day. We love celebrating the rich history of the Opry and country music, but equally we love finding ways to grow the Opry’s value composition to the music industry and thereby growing a value proposition to the fans that come and see the Opry or listen to us.

In terms of the value to the artists, the weekends are the best time for them to hit the road and maximize their earnings. How do you make it attractive so somebody like Carrie Underwood or Brad Paisley will make the Opry part of their ongoing plans?

It’s really a variety of things. We especially try to develop deeper relationships for the artists who share kind of a common set of values with the Opry, and Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban — those are examples of artists that really share the core values of the Opry. So, there’s that emotional connection. But we also recognize that we can’t live on charity alone, or emotion alone, and so over the past 16 years we have focused on things like improving the production values of the show and creating an environment backstage that meets the needs of a real diverse community of performers. Our programming philosophy for the show is quite broad-based, and I think that broad base serves to celebrate the legacy, but also drive the relevance of the Opry. It’s new stars, superstars  and legends sharing the same stage, presenting music from yesterday, today and tomorrow to the future. We have over 2,000 artist slots that we book in a given year, so we’re able to take chances and have a healthy offering of debuts throughout the course of the year.

What do you define as Opry core values?

I would say honoring tradition, celebrating legacy, respecting elders, certainly values that make America what it is — patriotic values, and in differing ways, values of faith: God, family, country, so to speak. It’s perpetuating a legacy, being involved in something bigger than our own careers.

In addition to being the Opry’s 90th anniversary, this is the fifth anniversary of the Cumberland River flooding the Opry House. It’s impressive that the Opry has in some ways turned what was a really horrible tragedy into an opportunity to build the brand. Was any of that intentional?

We can talk about another core value, and that is resiliency. The Opry throughout its history has had various challenges to overcome, and the flood was probably one of the most significant, but I think it really showed the strong connection that the artists and the employees and the fans have for the Opry … I think that everybody on our team was resolved to overcome this and bring the Opry back stronger than ever. We’re certainly enjoying that silver lining, so to speak, with a very beautiful [renovated] backstage [area], probably the finest of any venue in the world in terms of accommodations.

Your boss, Steve Buchanan, is executive producer of the Nashville TV show. What kind of impact has that had on the Opry?

We sought out a hit television series to help grow the Opry as a business. We recognized that if demand for the destination of Nashville grew, that could really help transform the business, and it really has. We have seen transformational attendance growth, starting with the first episode. More people started coming to Nashville, and then the ripple effect of the Nashville show has been tremendous when you think about the cast of performers who have graced the Opry stage. It’s really helped shine a spotlight on country music as well and shown that there’s a little bit of country music in everybody.

I’m not sure that the show’s characters have the type of values that you necessarily would want in the real, live Opry.

I think what you see are characters who are human, who make mistakes, and most of the time they come back with some sort of resolution or reconciliation about that … There are many artists in the country format who have similar stories. And there’s nothing like dialing up the drama a little bit to keep the audience engaged, too. I think it does a remarkable job of representing the industry side. I really commend Callie Khouri and the writers, who really have hit a stride this year. A fourth season has been the reward.

Will a new Opry member be welcomed between now and the official 90th birthday?

I honestly do not know. It’s really interesting how the next member candidate kind of shapes up. The right people at the right time have come to meet the Opry. One thing that doesn’t change is we continue to reach out to the new artists in the community and nurture that relationship, and as their career grows, we hope that they grow even closer to the Opry, [but we recognize] how demanding that can be with all that an artist has to do to sustain their career. I remember back with Brad Paisley or Carrie making their debut on the Opry, or Taylor Swift even, and seeing them all fill stadiums now, so it’s fun to see that maturation of careers and to know the Opry’s played a part of it.

17 Young Innovators Shaking Up the Music Industry

originally posted on Rolling Stone

Meet the next generation of app inventors, startup founders, label owners, tastemakers, managers and promoters

Music innovators

The music industry isn’t dying; the old way of doing things is dying. Just ask these 17 movers and shakers, all under age 30, who are changing the game and keeping the music biz alive and well. None of them is a professional musician; they’re all power players making an impact through other avenues. Some are inventing novel ways of distributing and consuming music with forward-thinking technology. Some are making old formulas new again by embracing the beauty of vinyl, or throwing dance parties – in the morning. Some are shaping the tastes and trends of rappers and ravers to come. All are bringing a fresh dose of blood, sweat and tears to the creation, discovery and sharing of music, and all see a future wide open with possibilities. Continue reading

5 Hit Songwriters Talk “Blurred Lines,” Creativity And Copyright

In the wake of the $7.3 million “Blurred Lines” verdict, songwriters for Beyoncé, Sam Smith, Bruno Mars, and more talk candidly with BuzzFeed News about the trouble with copyright law and the inevitability of influence.

Jimmy Napes (Sam Smith, Mary J. Blige, Disclosure)

On where he gets his inspiration:

It’s a lot easier to get inspired by the greats than it is to get inspired by quite a large proportion of modern-day pop music. Carole King and Burt Bacharach are the people I really look to in terms of crafting a song and what it really takes to make a great record. I like to work and rework songs until the point where every element feels right, even before you put production on it and make it more radio-friendly or whatever.

You do have to sort of isolate yourself, because if you’re trying to create something inspired and original, it doesn’t really make sense to be listening to pop radio every day. The worst thing you can do is repeat something that’s already been done. It just feels wrong and tired. You want to do something fresh and exciting, which is why we make music in the first place.

On being accused of copying elements of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” for Sam Smith’s Grammy-winning 2014 hit “Stay With Me”:

It’s obviously not ideal, and I was shocked to find out that the melodies lined up. It wasn’t intentional, but at the same time there’s 12 notes on the keyboard and unfortunately sometimes things do overlap. But where I really get my buzz from is concepts, and conceptually “Stay With Me” is so refreshing because it feels like a piece of work that’s quite classic, but at the same time, I don’t think many people have written a song like that about having a one-night stand. It sounds old-fashioned, but it’s very contemporary lyrically, which is why I think it worked.

On the “Blurred Lines” verdict:

I was quite surprised, because I didn’t feel like it was justified, personally. It’s just my opinion, but I didn’t feel like he’d ripped off the song. They’d obviously been inspired by it, but I was a bit disappointed to hear the verdict, to be honest, because it just didn’t add up to me. If you’re gonna say he was inspired by that record, but actually none of the melodies or chords or anything line up, but he’s still broken the rules somehow, all of a sudden you start looking at anyone who’s ever sampled an Amen break. The Beatles could make a lot of claims on that basis. So it’s hard to draw the line, isn’t it? I think you have to be very, very specific about what justifies [an infringement claim] and I personally didn’t hear it there.

On originality in contemporary pop:

There’s a lot of copying that goes on in pop music, but there’s so much great original stuff, as well, and a lot of it is being made right now. Hozier is a great example. When I first heard “Take Me to Church” I was just so impressed with everything about it, the lyrics everything. I remember looking straight away trying to find out Who wrote this song? because the quality was just so high. So yeah, there is music that’s derivative, but then there’s also excellence all the time, as well.

On whether copyright law helps creators more than it hurts them:

I think there’s an argument for both sides, isn’t there? If I heard someone who had ripped off one of my songs, I wouldn’t feel great about it. It’s not a cool thing and I would want to be compensated for that. But equally there’s that saying “Where there’s a hit, there’s a writ,” which I’ve learned about recently. There are people who scour the top five looking for similarities as a sort of calculated business. So I think there’s an argument to be made that you can never justify stealing anyone’s music, but at the same time, sometimes I feel like people can take things a little bit too far.

Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars, FKA Twigs, Eminem)

On where he gets his inspiration:

I grew up making hip-hop music and I come from a really sample-driven background — early ’90s East Coast hip-hop. So I was always into digging for records and looking for samples. That made me really get into soul music, jazz music, and also weird psych-rock records, and Italian disco records. It was always for samples in hip-hop, but I got obsessed with different instruments and genres of music and I apply that to what I do now.

On borrowing from the past:

I never want to copy anything or just do quote-unquote “retro” sounding music, but I’ve pulled from pretty much every genre of music over time and applied it to what I do. I don’t really like when things are overly retro or forced to where it sounds like an attempt to re-create the past; I’m never really into that. But I do like using certain aesthetics and principles that were around before I was born. For one thing, I just think the late ’60s, early ’70s was the best music ever made. There was a sweet spot, for me at least, between 1968 and 1973 where you just had the greatest music — the sound, the way it was recorded, everything about it was just phenomenal.

In the studio, though, I’d rather be talking about the emotion and what the singer is writing about and going through in life than talking about specific music references. If someone came to me and said they wanted to make something that sounds like 1972 I’d be pretty bummed, ya know? I tend to stay away from those conversations. Everybody has their favorite sound, and favorite tone, and classic albums that really inspire them, but I don’t really like to talk about it too much. I don’t dig it when artists come in and are like, “I really wanna do like a Kate Bush thing.” For me it’s like, that’s just not really gonna happen.

On “Blurred Lines” and subconscious influence:

There’s only so many chord progressions and a lot of songs that sound alike. [With “Blurred Lines”] I can’t imagine that anybody sat down and was like “I want to do something that sounds exactly like this.” These things just happen. If you look throughout history there are so many songs that sound similar and I do think it can be a real coincidence. Unless it’s a sample, I’ve never seen anybody like straight copy a song intentionally, but I do think it happens subconsciously, it happens through coincidence, and it’s always going to happen. It really only comes into play, though, when the newer song is a massive hit like “Blurred Lines.” I’m pretty sure there’s cases we don’t hear about for every No. 1 record.

When you write songs you just have stuff stuck in your head, and I would imagine most of that comes from a weird, warped version of something you’ve heard in the past. It’s just your own take on it. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing, but I do think that’s music and that’s art. Whether you’re painting, or playing the piano, or singing a melody, you have all these things from your past swimming around in your subconscious and, whether you like it or not, you channel them.

On catching yourself copying:

I’ve had times where I’ve completely ripped off something by accident and realized it later or someone told me, “Hey that sounds like such-and-such song,” and I go, “Oh shit, you’re right! That didn’t come to me in a dream, that came to me because I just like that song and I ripped it off.” And then you’ve gotta shit-can it before it gets too late.

Ricky Reed of Wallpaper (Jason Derulo, Fifth Harmony, Pitbull)

On borrowing from the greats:

It can be very hard making music when you feel like everything’s been done … But the originators of Rhythm and Blues were pulling from the New Orleans jazz sound, and the originators of rock ‘n’ roll were pulling from rhythm and blues, and you had the white rock ‘n’ rollers pulling from the black rock ‘n’ rollers, and disco was derived from funk; so it’s a chain that’s been going on since popular music began. For me, personally, I do my best to try and always be pushing forward. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people pulling from the great songs of the past, by any means. That’s music.

On inspiration vs. imitation:

Me and all of the writers and producers I know, we hold all of these legends in such high regard, not only do we of course not want to get sued, but we also don’t want to disrespect the artists that we grew up listening to. That’s really important to the community.

On accidentally copying Fatboy Slim:

I had a Cobra Starship song featuring Icona Pop called “Never Been in Love.” We wrote this whole song and everyone was loving it and somewhere along the line someone said, “You know what, the keyboards in this sound like the chord progression from a Fatboy Slim song. What song was that? I can’t remember. Oh well.” And we just kept working. We finished the song and the ball started rolling on it. Both artists raised their hand and said they wanted the song for their project. But then when that time came the publisher was like, “OK, we’re actually going to have to pay [Fatboy Slim] because this is the exact same chord progression from their song ‘Praise You.’” We were like “Oh, shit. Fair enough!” And it was true, even the rhythms and the harmonies, everything. A musicologist could have looked at it and said, “This is too similar.” We were having so much fun, we didn’t even stop and google it.

On the “Blurred Lines” verdict:

I think the system does a great job of protecting the copyrights that are in place for songs that other artists are inspired by or sample. But the “Blurred Lines” case makes me a little nervous because those songs aren’t really musically related in any way when it comes to the chords or the melodies. There’s nothing similar aside from the good feeling that it gives you when you listen to it. That for me is pretty scary because it could open up a whole floodgate of people being like, “Well, this song kinda feels like this old song.” What’s made music great for generations and generations is that young musicians are inspired by the old dogs and make records that show their influence. If people start suing based on a feeling, that will be a dark day for creators.

I would hate to see lawsuits make things harder for producers and songwriters. The funny thing is, a lot of times musician-to-musician, we respect one another. The village elders, so to speak, respect the up-and-coming cats and vice-versa. If it was up to us, we would probably sort things out most times. But people bring in publishers, and lawyers, and estates, and all this kind of stuff and it becomes a money thing. That’s when it gets scary.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

Taiwo Hassan of Christian Rich (Earl Sweatshirt, Childish Gambino, J. Cole)

On “Blurred Lines” and the constraints of pop:

There’s only 12 scales in music; there’s only so many chords and so many arrangements, so you’re bound to run into other people’s ideas. The thing about the “Blurred Lines” case is the lyrics and most of the production weren’t taken into account, which seems wrong to me. Personally, I can’t believe they lost that case. It’s baffling.

[As a songwriter] you just have to focus on being creative and not think too much about what other people are doing. Do what you do, then you can go back and ask whether it sounds too similar to something else. But in general, I’m all for just putting out dope, creative stuff and dealing with the madness later.

On inspiration vs. imitation:

When Mustard came out, those guys who did [Iggy Azalea’s] “Fancy” song were obviously copying him. That was obvious. No shade to those producers, because I think it’s an incredible song, but it was obvious they just listened to him and said “Oh let’s make a song like that and just get a big hook on it.”

But on the other side of it, as a songwriter, you have all these musical references in your head from when you were 10 years old. So, for example, when I’m making a beat or writing a song, I have Michael Jackson melodies in my head sometimes. I might end up writing something that feels like Michael Jackson, but it’s just inspiration. And there’s a difference between inspiration and copying. The law should know how to differentiate between the two.

It’s impossible to avoid being influenced. When you’re 2 or 3 years old, you don’t even know that you’re listening to Phil Collins or Genesis in the background. If you do a record 30 years later, you don’t realize you got that feeling, those ideas from Genesis. You’re just making music.

That shit happens all the time to everyone. They can’t even remember where they got the idea from, it’s just in the air. The only way to avoid it is to quit doing music and go and do something else.

The-Dream (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Usher)

On inspiration vs. imitation:

In my household growing up, it was Otis Redding, and Sam Cooke, and Michael, and Prince — that stuff has a way of getting into your head. My head is kind of like a jukebox, but I think it only puts me in the realm of greats. I never bite anything. I’m definitely inspired [when it comes to] what I think a hit should do and how it should move you, but I try to make sure that I’m pushing the envelope, even if I have to fail three times to get there.

It’s a conscious effort to stay pure, and clean, and new as an artist. There’s nothing new under the sun, as my grandfather always said, but there is such a thing as being original in how you pull the notes from the stars.

On being copied:

There’s definitely a lot [of people who sound like me], whether it’s the way I say certain things or the tone that’s used, or an “Ayy” here and there. I understand that how I used it is how someone else is using it. Somebody will call me and say, “Hey, did you do this song?” And I’ll say, “No.” And they’ll say, “Well you should have, or you should have someone call them.” But no, it’s no biggie to me. It’s definitely flattering and I really appreciate it as long as it doesn’t go too far where it’s just another song of mine.

But sometimes [copying] helps the culture get to the next thing. “Umbrella” started a trend of a whole bunch of analogy songs about love, if you think about it. So it helps us get to those songs, and I love some of those songs to death. So I’m happy that it could fuel that particular thing in another songwriter or an artist or whatever.

On why pop has a copying problem:

There’s nothing and no one that really celebrates originality. Not in a pop space. When you’re growing up and the things you see on TV are imitations, you’re going to imitate because that’s what gets you on TV. Nobody celebrates when people do something really new.

And some people need money to pay bills. They may have songs that they love to death but no one else loves, so if they have the ability they go and make a record that sounds like another record. That’s just us as listeners being so close-minded that there’s no place for artistry.

You can say hey let’s go out on a limb and make something that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before, but truthfully, if you go and play something like that for radio or for a label — they definitely can’t take chances because they’re not making money. There are only a few of us who are really in a position to push things forward.

On sampling from the greats:

There’s certain people that we’ve asked for certain things and they’re like, “Nah, we’re not giving you that,” and we’re like, “OK, well cool and we make something new.” It’s fine. It’s no big deal.

And there’s certain people who are just happy that you even remembered them. They’re like, “Sure, man. Go ahead and put that on the bridge if you want to.”

I remember on my first album Love/Hate we had a record called “Ditch That.” In the bridge going into the next song, we put a little of the “The Humpty Dance” record in it. It was crazy — we were trying to bring that ’90s urban pop sound back. And it was just us paying homage, it wasn’t that we had a lack of ideas. But they were like, “No, you can’t use it.” So we went, “OK, cool.” And now you don’t miss it in the record. You would never know.

originally posted on BuzzFeed News

Here’s What Makes A Song A Ripoff, According To The Law

originally posted on BuzzFeed
Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Music is art, and art is for people — not lawyers. But musicians have long relied on the law to protect their creations. For nearly two centuries, courts in the United States have heard cases from songwriters seeking to defend their compositions from thieves, cheats, and liars of all stripes. It’s a tradition that continues today — with recent disputes between Tom Petty and Sam Smith (settled amicably out of court) and the Marvin Gaye family and Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, T.I., et al(currently at trial) — putting the modern music industry on high alert.

In those cases, and in most disputes alleging copyright infringement of a musical composition, a few perennial questions arise: When can a person be said to ownsomething like a chord progression or melody? And in a world where everyone is inspired by someone else, where is the line between plagiarism and influence? To help us answer these questions in plain english, we spoke to Paul Fakler, a veteran copyright lawyer with a specialty in music law, of the law firm Arent Fox.

What we learned underscores the gap between how casual music fans think about music, and how it’s treated as a matter of law.

“Of all the kinds of law I’ve practiced over the years, copyright law is by far the most metaphysical,” Fakler said. “It can get pretty freaky.”

Music compositions*, like other forms of creative expression, are protected by copyright under the law.

Music compositions*, like other forms of creative expression, are protected by copyright under the law.

Pictorial Parade / Getty Images

Under the Copyright Act of 1976, which took effect in 1978, anytime a person writes or records an original piece of music, a copyright automatically exists. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is optional, but does come with certain benefits in the event of an infringement dispute. Copyrighted elements of a musical composition can include melody, chord progression, rhythm, and lyrics — anything that reflects a “minimal spark” of creativity and originality.

“It really doesn’t have to be a whole lot,” said Fakler. “If a single chord progression were elaborate enough and unconventional enough, it could be protected.”

One important instance where copyright doesn’t apply is public domain. If a song was published prior to 1923, it is considered to be in the public domain and is not protected. Federal law says that creative works, including music compositions, enter the public domain after the life of the creator plus 70 years.

It’s important to remember that copyright doesn’t protect ideas, but rather creative expressions of ideas. Copyright is designed to prevent people from copying a creative work, or specific elements thereof, without permission.

*Since the 1971 Sound Recording Amendment to the Copyright Act of 1909, there has been a second copyright protection for sound recordings — that is to say, a performer’s recorded interpretation of a musical composition — which is governed by its own set of rules and standards, particularly with regard to sampling. For the purposes of this article, however, we will focus primarily on original music compositions only.

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Why Must Country Singles Be ‘Worked’ By Labels to Be Played on Commercial Radio?

originally posted on Billboard

Dwight Yoakam and Brandy Clark perform "Hold My Hand" onstage during The 57th Annual Grammy AwardsWhen Brandy Clark teamed up with Dwight Yoakam on the Feb. 7 Grammy Awards to perform her album track “Hold My Hand,” it was a revelatory moment for many in country radio. Based on the chatter on social media that night, many programmers were discovering — or came to appreciate — Clark for the first time in that moment, even though her single “Stripes” got a bit of attention in 2013 when she was still signed to tiny indie label Slate Creek Records. (Last November she shifted to Warner Bros. Records, but was signed to the label’s Burbank, California, division, not its Nashville branch.)

Some broadcasters posed telling questions on Facebook on Grammy night like this one from an assistant PD/music director: “Why does no one work Brandy Clark music?” That question raises another: Why should it matter?

With as much love as there appeared to be for Clark among country programmers in the wake of the Grammys, there was no corresponding spike in airplay for any of her songs in the week after the show, when “Hold My Hand” got just 11 spins on monitored country stations, six of those from one station (KRTY San Jose, Calif.).

Warner Bros. serviced “Hold My Hand” to radio via Play MPE the day after the show, but it’s unclear what radio formats it was emailed to and whether country was among them. (Clark’s Nashville team hadn’t gotten an answer about that from Burbank by press time.) Unusually, the Play MPE notification — which came with the subject line “Who is Brandy Clark?!” — included no impact date and no label contact information, giving it what one radio industry insider called “the softest possible launch.”

But the questions remain: If radio finds an act like Clark that it loves, why can’t or won’t they go off the menu and play something it’s not being “worked” by Nashville record promoters? And how much, if any, musical discovery is still happening at terrestrial radio outside the normal channels?

The answers center on some of the things radio is most often criticized for: politics, centralized programming decisions and busy programmers’ lack of time to devote to music discovery.

Veteran country radio consultant Joel Raab admits, “Sometimes music decisions are made for political reasons. So naturally songs that are ‘worked’ are often more likely to get airplay… About two years ago I was on a music call with a station, and the moment happened when we all realized that our adds, drops, etc. were being too political. We continued to do the call by making the adds we thought were only the best for the audience at that moment and tuning out other factors. Some people got upset.”

“Realistically, you can’t completely tune out the politics,” Raab continues. “Radio and music companies have to work together but never lose sight of the notion that the best music is what needs to go on the air.”

One country assistant PD/music director who works for one of the big three radio chains says, “For many of us, we don’t have the approval to just play a record we love. It is the bane of corporate radio.” She says that just a few years ago, her station would have easily added an artist like Clark following an attention-grabbing awards show performance. Now, however, “We can’t do that anymore.”

“We were much better [music] champions several years ago,” she says. “Not so much today. But then… we had the freedom to add songs without corporate oversight. It is my hope that radio can get back to that and programmers can find artists that they believe are deserving of airplay. One of the best things in our profession is seeing a young artist you believe in go to the heights of the biz, and knowing that you had a small hand in exposing them.”

Radio consultant Pam Shane, who works with many independently owned stations, says it’s more a question of time constraints than corporate oversight for her clients. “I think the principal reason radio in general wants to be worked is that people involved in music decisions have so much else to do that they no longer can spend the time listening, making comparisons, and then choosing intelligently to find music that will interest their listeners,” she says.

KPLX (The Wolf) Dallas assistant PD/music director Smokey Rivers also cites lack of time on the programmers’ part for the shortage of musical discovery. “We just don’t have the luxury of listening to loads of music like we used to have,” he says. “So, it’s nice to know that if we are going to give up a valuable portion of our playlist real estate that we’re not alone. We want to know that there is some real substantial effort going on to give the artist and project some traction.  Otherwise, we’re just preaching to our own choir about a song. While you may want to champion a single once in a while, most times you just want to know that there is a plan going on behind it.”

Edison Research vp, music and programming Sean Ross notes that programmers sticking to playing what’s being “worked” is an issue in every format, not just country. “Even with the phenomenal, a label has to follow up and impact a record or nothing happens,” he says. “Top 40 doesn’t play organically developing YouTube oddities… but when there’s a major [label] involved, and they ask for the order, it will play ‘Gangnam Style.'”

Ross dates “the end of the enterprising PD or MD” back to the time of the Eliot Spitzer payola crackdown. “Even though the real problem was PDs and groups playing ‘whatever it takes’ label priorities, it was somehow made to look like the PD who went off the menu had gone rogue,” he says of that time. “The irony was that these were songs that were being added for the right reasons — because listeners wanted them, and not because there was label money.

“In country, it’s probably worse because there are so many planes stacked up at any given time, waiting for half a year to even get out of lunar [rotation],” continues Ross. “Brandy Clark would be a 46-week-process under the easiest circumstances. If the label doesn’t want to go through that, a PD doesn’t want to get screamed at for taking a slot from the label that does want the add.”

Shane thinks the rise of automation is another contributing factor for the dearth of musical discovery. “There is a lack of talking one-on-one with listeners in contemporary radio that leads to leaving them out of the equation,” she says. “If every station still had live jocks who take phone calls, then radio would hear lots more about people like Brandy.”

Rivers cites Nielsen’s Portable People Meter as another component. “We’re getting so much information now that reaffirms the old adage that ‘what you don’t play won’t hurt you’ that stations are sticking closer to home with familiar artists and themes,” he says. “Programmers can’t spend a lot of time waiting for an artist or song to catch on. You only have so many bullets in your gun. You have to aim wisely.”

On a brighter note, Shane notes that “music discovery is greater at independent stations… PDs there generally are empowered, are listening to more music and to their listeners, and are ready to take a few risks. More often than not those risks pay off.”

Billboard’s 2015 Power 100 List Revealed

The execs who rule music now? Just follow the money, where new No. 1 Lucian Grainge keeps grabbing market share (while upending every business model), 31 first-timers break into the list and innovation — not fear — is now the force propelling these players forward.


 Lucian Grainge: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Michael Rapino: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 1 No. 2
Lucian Grainge Michael Rapino
 Irving Azoff: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Martin Bandier: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Jimmy Iovine: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Coran Capshaw: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
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Irving Azoff Martin Bandier Jimmy Iovine Coran Capshaw
 Doug Morris: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Bob Pittman: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Rob Light: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Eddy Cue & Robert Kondrk: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 7 No. 8 No. 9 No. 10
Doug Morris Bob Pittman Rob Light Eddy Cue & Robert Kondrk
 Len Blavatnik: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Michele Anthony & Boyd Muir: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Marc Geiger: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Stephen Cooper: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
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Len Blavatnik Michele Anthony & Boyd Muir Marc Geiger Stephen Cooper
 Avery Lipman & Monte Lipman: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Steve Barnett: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Rob Stringer: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Guy Oseary: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
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Avery & Monte Lipman Steve Barnett Rob Stringer Guy Oseary
 Jay Marciano: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Daniel Ek: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Julie Greenwald & Craig Kallman: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Jennifer Breithaupt: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
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Jay Marciano Daniel Ek Julie Greenwald & Craig Kallman Jennifer Breithaupt
 Scott Borchetta: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  John Janick: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Michael Mahan & Allen Shapiro: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Arthur Fogel: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
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Scott Borchetta John Janick Michael Mahan & Allen Shapiro Arthur Fogel
 Cameron Strang: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Jody Gerson: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Tom Poleman & John Sykes: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Jay Brown: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 27 No. 28 No. 29 No. 30
Cameron Strang Jody Gerson Tom Poleman & John Sykes Jay Brown
 Tom Corson & Peter Edge: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Joel Katz: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Mike Dungan: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Dan Mason: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
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Tom Corson & Peter Edge Joel Katz Mike Dungan Dan Mason
 John Dickey & Lewis Dickey Jr.: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Chip Hooper: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Brian O'Connell: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Charles Attal, Charlie Jones & Charlie Walker: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 35 No. 36 No. 37 No. 38
John Dickey & Lewis Dickey Jr. Chip Hooper Brian O’Connell Charles Attal, Charlie Jones & Charlie Walker
 Richard Griffiths & Harry Magee: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Brian McAndrews & Tim Westergren: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Scooter Braun: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Hartwig Masuch: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 39 No. 40 No. 41 No. 42
Richard Griffiths & Harry Magee Brian McAndrews & Tim Westergren Scooter Braun Hartwig Masuch
 Robert Kyncl & Christophe Muller: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Russell Wallach: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  John Branca: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Jon Platt: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 43 No. 44 No. 45 No. 46
Robert Kyncl & Christophe Muller Russell Wallach John Branca Jon Platt
 Paul Tollett: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Dennis Arfa: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Allen Grubman & Kenny Meiselas: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Frank Cooper: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 47 No. 48 No. 49 No. 50
Paul Tollett Dennis Arfa Allen Grubman & Kenny Meiselas Frank Cooper
 Steve Bartels: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Natalia Nastaskin & Gavin O'Reilly: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  David Massey: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Kevin Kelleher, Dennis Kooker & Julie Swidler: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 51 No. 52 No. 53 No. 54
Steve Bartels Natalia Nastaskin & Gavin O’Reilly David Massey Kevin Kelleher, Dennis Kooker & Julie Swidler
 Mark Campana & Bob Roux: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Ken Ehrlich, Neil Portnow & Jack Sussman: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Rich Riley: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Cliff Burnstein & Peter Mensch: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 55 No. 56 No. 57 No. 58
Mark Campana & Bob Roux Ken Ehrlich, Neil Portnow & Jack Sussman Rich Riley Cliff Burnstein & Peter Mensch
 Pasquale Rotella: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Scott Greenstein: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Antonio 'L.A.' Reid & Sylvia Rhone: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Anne Stanchfield: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 59 No. 60 No. 61 No. 62
Pasquale Rotella Scott Greenstein L.A. Reid & Sylvia Rhone Anne Stanchfield
 Martin Mills: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Ken Bunt: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Rich Lehrfeld: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  John Esposito: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 63 No. 64 No. 65 No. 66
Martin Mills Ken Bunt Rich Lehrfeld John Esposito
 Lia Vollack: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Tifanie Van Laar-Frever: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Raja Rajamannar: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Robert F.X. Sillerman: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 67 No. 68 No. 69 No. 70
Lia Vollack Tifanie Van Laar-Frever Raja Rajamannar Robert F.X. Sillerman
 Jesus Lopez: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Willard Ahdritz: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Brandon Creed: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Louis Messina: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 71 No. 72 No. 73 No. 74
Jesus Lopez Willard Ahdritz Brandon Creed Louis Messina
 Troy Carter: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Clarence Spalding: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Monica Escobedo & Julie Gurovitsch: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Chris Oliviero: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 75 No. 76 No. 77 No. 78
Troy Carter Clarence Spalding Monica Escobedo & Julie Gurovitsch Chris Oliviero
 Bradford Cobb: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Joe Belliotti & Emmanuel Seuge: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Afo Verde: The 2015 Billboard Power 100  Rob Wiesenthal: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 79 No. 80 No. 81 No. 82
Bradford Cobb Joe Belliotti & Emmanuel Seuge Afo Verde Rob Wiesenthal
Johnny Wright: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Stephen Hill & Debra Lee: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Lorne Michaels: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Steve Boom: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 83 No. 84 No. 85 No. 86
Johnny Wright Stephen Hill & Debra Lee Lorne Michaels Steve Boom
Daniel Glass: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Raul Alarcon Jr.: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Sarah Moll: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Bryan 'Baby' Williams & Ronald 'Slim' Williams: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 87 No. 88 No. 89 No. 90
Daniel Glass Raul Alarcon Jr. Sarah Moll Bryan “Baby” Williams & Ronald “Slim” Williams
Charlie Walk: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Danny Strick: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Clint Higham: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Jared Smith: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
No. 91 No. 92 No. 93 No. 94
Charlie Walk Danny Strick Clint Higham Jared Smith
Joel Klaiman: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Steve Berman: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Jose Valle: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Tom Windish: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
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Joel Klaiman Steve Berman Jose Valle Tom Windish
 Michelle Jubelirer & Greg Thompson: The 2015 Billboard Power 100 Peter Shapiro: The 2015 Billboard Power 100
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Michelle Jubelirer & Greg Thompson Peter Shapiro

The Civil Wars Break up but Don’t Break Our Hearts

The band The Civil Wars has split up.  A press release was posted to their website today, which states

The Civil Wars—made up of duo partners Joy Williams and John Paul White—have regretfully decided to permanently part ways. The difficult decision ends a tumultuous period for the four-time Grammy Award-winning band, who has been on indefinite hiatus since late 2012. As a thank you gift and farewell, the band is offering a download of their rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.” Recorded in 2010, the track was originally released in 2011 as a b-side to the band’s limited edition Barton Hollow 7” vinyl. This is the first time the song has been available digitally in the U.S. Both Joy and John Paul have added their personal words on disbanding here below. Joy Williams comments, “I am saddened and disappointed by the ending of this duo, to say the very least. JP is a tremendous musician, and I will always be grateful for the music we were able to create together. I sincerely hope that ‘You Are My Sunshine’ will be accepted as a token of my gratitude for every single person that has supported our duo throughout the years. I’m so thankful and my heart is full. Looking ahead, I’m excited to share the music that I am writing and recording in the midst of this difficult transition. I’ve loved being back in the studio, and have missed performing live. I look forward to seeing you soon.” John Paul adds, “I would like to express sincere thanks to all who were a part of the arc of The Civil Wars—from the beginning, to the end, and all points in between. My deep appreciation goes out to all who supported, disseminated, and enjoyed the music. Whatever shape or form the next chapter takes, thanks for being a large part of this one.”

Additionally, the duo shared one final song, a cover of “You Are My Sunshine”. Listen Below

This Day in Music — July 30

1942 : Frank Sinatra ends his association with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, recording the last two of over 90 songs before moving on to great acclaim as a solo star at Columbia.

1986 : RCA releases John Denver from his contract, possibly over his new single, “What Are We Making Weapons For?,” which he recorded with the Russian singer Alexandre Gradsky. RCA had recently been acquired by General Electric, which was a top military contractor.

1987 : David Bowie played the first show of his North American “Glass Spider” tour in Philadelphia, PA.

2003 : Remember SARS? When the disease spread to Toronto, it scared a lot of people away. To get people back, the city put on a huge open-air concert featuring The Rolling Stones, The Guess Who, Rush, The Isley Brothers, The Flaming Lips and Justin Timberlake (who was jeered and had muffins thrown at him). About 450,000 people attend.


This Day in History — July 28th

1750 : Johann Sebastian Bach died after an unsuccessful eye operation.

1939 : Judy Garland recorded “Over the Rainbow.”

1970 : Jimi Hendrix played his last concert in his hometown of Seattle, Washington.

1979 : Ted Nugent, Journey, Aerosmith, and Thin Lizzy were among the headliners at the World Series of Rock concert in Cleveland, Ohio.

1987 : Surviving members of The Beatles took legal action to block Nike from using the song “Revolution” in a commercial.

2000 : A U.S. federal appeals court granted a last minute stay of an injunction that ordered Napster, Inc., to shut down. The order to stop operations came on July 26, 2000



12 Things We Know About Hilary Duff’s Comeback Album

via Buzzfeed

1. She has a record deal!

After months of writing and recording new material, Hilary announced she had signed a record deal in March of this year. While the label has yet to be announced, it’s a major step forward for Hilary who has been unsigned since she left Hollywood Records in 2008.

She has a record deal!

2. It’s not going to be a dance album.

While she was originally planning on releasing an EDM-influenced album, in May she told MTV News that her new music now has an “earthy, indie-pop” sound.

It's not going to be a dance album.

3. Pop genius Charli XCX wants to be involved.

Last year the singer-songwriter tweeted her desire to write for Hilary’s upcoming album. While there Hilary’s team never publicly responded, Charli doesn’t seem deterred — in January she told BANG Showbiz that writing for Hilary “would be awesome.” Maybe the with “Fancy” blowing up the charts, Hilary will finally start paying attention.

12 Things We Know About Hilary Duff’s Comeback Album

4. Ed Sheeran wrote a song for her.

While Hilary might not work with Charli XCX, at least we know she’s worked with another indie-darling-turned-major-popstar: Ed Sheeran. That’s right, Hilary recorded a song written by Taylor Swift’s BFF! In May she Instagrammed a picture of herself in the recording studio with Sheeran.

Ed Sheeran wrote a song for her.

5. Get ready for “So Yesterday Pt. II”

It’s been ten years since “So Yesterday” made her a major pop star but instead of trying to forget the past, Hilary’s trying to relive it! She’s confirmed this month that she’s reteaming with “So Yesterday” writer Lauren Christy to write songs for the new album.

12 Things We Know About Hilary Duff’s Comeback Album

6. She’s coming for that Top 40 smash.

The album may have an “indie-pop vibe” but Hilary is working with some of the best hitmakers in the business. A shortlist of songwriters includes Ian Kirkpatrick, Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins and Billy Mann.

She’s coming for that Top 40 smash.

7. She’s been an active part of the writing process.

While Hilary is working with some of the best songwriters in the business, she’s clearly taking a hands-on approach to the songwriting process. She’s credited as a co-writer on all the new songs registered with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

She’s been an active part of the writing process.

8. Lots of confirmed song titles!

Between Hilary’s Instagram and the songs registered with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, we already know the titles of twelve songs: “Better Days,” “Hurts,” “Outlaw,” “Tearing Down Walls,” “Take It For What It Is,” “Breathing Room,” “Northern Star,” “Night Like This,” “Snow Globe,” “This Heart,” “Wild Night Out” and “It All Starts Tonight.”

12 Things We Know About Hilary Duff’s Comeback Album

9. There might be a duet.

Back in March Hilary posted photo of herself in the recording studio on Instagram. In the caption, she wrote, “‘Night like this’ complete now need a male vocal! Any takers?” Here’s to hoping she found a singing partner!

There might be a duet.

10. She’s not holding back lyrically.

If you were curious to hear how she feels about her separation from husband Mike Comrie, it looks like you’ll get your answer in the form of a song. Between the lyrics she’s been posting on Instagram and all the song titles, she doesn’t appear to be holding anything back.

She’s not holding back lyrically.

11. It’s probably gonna sound something like this:

Last month music producer Jerrod Bettis posted an instrumental snippet of new Hilary song to his Instagram. When news of the clip broke, he took the clip down but not before a quick-acting fan uploaded it to YouTube.

12. Her comeback can’t come soon enough!

Fans have been waiting for this album for the better part of a decade. Hilary released her last album, Dignity, in 2007. While there have been soundtrack singles and a “Best Of” album, it’s been over seven years since Hilary’s last major release. Her fans have been waiting a long time to make this new album — whatever it sounds like — a major hit.

Her comeback can’t come soon enough!