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Industry Spotlight: Alissa Pollack

At once approachable down to earth, Alissa Pollack is a delight to speak with. We were thrilled to have the chance to catch up with the EVP of Global Music Marketing amidst a busy day that the affable Pollack makes look effortless. The nice guys finish first story begins relatably, with an intended career path shifting organically towards a natural outcome.

“So I got a little side-tracked from law school and ended up as an intern at Z100 and I never left, so I’ve actually been with the company for 24 years. I got my start working with LovePhones, Dr. Judy and Jagger at night at Z100. I have a master’s in health education and counseling, so I was counseling people that either got on air and needed more counseling, or never made it on air but needed counseling.  And because I loved music so much, I thought this would be the perfect internship for me while I was getting my master’s in counseling. And then I ended up graduating and then never leaving.” Never leaving has of course been iHeart’s/Mediabase’s boon.

Asked to distill some of the keys to her success, Pollack humbly shares “I would say a couple of things: passion, tenacity, honesty, and loyalty. I’m very passionate and tenacious when I believe in something. You know, whether that’s an artist or if I’m trying to get a deal done, so I can be a little obsessive and I never really stop until I hit whatever goal it is I’m trying to achieve. So, part of that I think is being honest and loyal with your clients and your co-workers and making sure that you’re always telling them what your true intentions are and what you’re trying to achieve and never really being short-sighted in terms of just trying to get something that’s good for you. So, I always really look at everything with a long-term kind of view, so I won’t ever try and convince someone to do something that they don’t believe in. But I also am very honest if I am trying to get somebody to do something for me. I always give them the truth about, you know, why. Overall, I would say the number one thing that’s been part of my success has been the relationships that I’ve been able to build because of that.”

Those stand-bys have remained so, even as the day-to-day changes. As Alissa describes, “No day is ever the same for me because I oversee Mediabase as well as the Global Music Marketing division for iHeart. So on any given day I could be booking an artist to play a private event for Amex and Hilton to launch a new card, or I could be collecting data to help identify a Pepsi sound drop artist, or I’m working on a Mediabase or a BuzzAngle group deal for radio or with a label. So, my days are never really the same. It’s all over the place which is, I think, the part that I really enjoy. I feel like after all these years I’m still very excited to go into work every day, because every day is a new challenge and a new routine.”

Alissa speaks with equal affection about the personal connections that have woven her career’s tapestry. “I’m actually someone who’s motivated by love and when I say that I’ve always been fortunate that I work for and with people that are like family to me and that I really feel blessed to have. So when I do something that I know is a win, not just for myself, but for the whole team that’s something that I actually find really rewarding. Especially when I know it’s something that someone else would have gave up on, you know, a year ago, and I’m still going until I make that happen. I love delivering for the people around me and above me, but also on the artist side I absolutely love them. I’m very passionate about working with new artists, so it’s great when you can see an artist at the very beginning of their career and really help support them and their dreams. And then to be able to see them play at Madison Square Garden or see them win a Grammy. You know, later on, it’s like “Wow.” And while the road to those successes is no doubt paved in nurturing those encountered along the way, it’s paved in persistence from the outset.  “I think the one thing is that in this industry all you really have is your word, and I think that making sure you have integrity and you follow through is key, because nothing is more important, in the music business, than your relationships, but also hard work. I think a lot of people get in at the ground floor. I also tell people that come into my office, for years I think I was stapling papers ’till 3 in the morning, and I would walk around just like “Anybody need help?” And I was always offering to do something. I think it’s a business where hard work really does pay off.”

Currently, that hard work is due to culminate in the latest and greatest version of the flagship. “We’re very excited that Mediabase 2.0 is going to start rolling out in the next couple of months, and it’s something we’ve been working on for a long time. You know, I like to joke that Mediabase is the stock ticker of the music industry and it’s such an integral part of our business. It’s really exciting that we’re able to kind of have it evolve into the new version that’s coming out, and I think it’s going to be something that everybody’s going to be excited about, because it’ll help them do their jobs even better than it does now.”

Alongside the aforementioned fruits of labor are those extending far beyond iHeart’s and Mediabase’s walls. For one, Alissa is chair of Taste of Hope. The annual gala dinner and silent auction has raised more than $115 million for City of Hope, benefiting the research and treatment of cancer, diabetes, and other serious diseases. “I think one of the things I’m most known for is my charity work, and so over the years I’ve really been able to incorporate that passion into my actual job, you know, raising money through auctions with artists and things like that or putting together campaigns around artists towards or other things that have helped raise money for charity, and obviously being able to raise money at the same time that I’m actually doing my day job is very rewarding.”

As for how Alissa might spend some rare R&R time (and not the radio and records kind)?  “I actually like to joke that I work hard, play hard, and rest hard. I love to travel. My husband and I are at about 36 countries in the last 7 years and 6 continents, so travel is my number one passion, you know, I can’t always do that, and the truth of it is, my life looks very exciting on Facebook, but there’s plenty of Sunday- you know – Saturday, Sunday afternoons where I’m just in my pajamas all day and night, because I need that one day to just absolutely do nothing.”

We think Alissa’s earned it!

Faces of Play MPE: Kultar Chohan

Newest member of the Play MPE family Kultar Chohan spoke eagerly about his arrival and his role as Account Executive.  A native of Ontario, Kultar got his undergrad in math and physics, ultimately realizing his true knack was for business, but noting the one consistent in his life has been music. “When I was a kid I played in a bunch of concert bands and symphonic bands. I played drums for about 10 years. When I was in university I was a DJ, so I had residencies around town playing my favorite electronic dance music. In Toronto I played at a handful of clubs and some events as well. From there I went on to producing and making music on my own and working with a few local artists here and there. My passion, my hobby, was always music.”

Kultar’s career trajectory has subsequently been one of marrying that juxtaposition of his passion for music and that knack for sales. “My career path was always through the corporate sales ladder. I went from company to company until I was at a startup just before this job called Foodee, where I went into sales management a little bit. And then from there I stumbled upon an opening here at Play MPE that was for a different position. It was for a data entry position but I just knew that the company was involved in music and I have been trying to break into the music business any way I could. So I found that opportunity and I ended up being overqualified for it, I think, but they still conversed with me because they liked my passion and my drive for sales. There was a potential opening here in business development so they took a chance on me and I haven’t looked back since.”

We spoke about what drove that trajectory, and where Kultar may have predicted his career taking him as a kid. “It was really more of a journey. I didn’t really know for a long time, but I always did love music. So, I at first I became a DJ, and it was during the rise of electronic music, so I was like I could totally do this for a living. I want to be a touring DJ. So that’s when I started picking up producing and started making beats. I realized quickly that it wasn’t overly sustainable so then I guess I followed a combination of the stereotypical path of getting a good job at a good company, and the path of following your passion, your hobby. I always tried to keep a balance of the two for the most part. So, I always pursued my passion while being realistic with my career choices. I finally was able to combine the two… finding Play MPE was just a perfect fit.”

When he’s not enjoying that perfect fit, Kultar can be found spending some of his downtime gaming and adventuring. “I used to play video games at a professional level. I play video games quite a bit still, but then there’s the obvious stuff. I love to hike and get outdoors as much as possible. And then I go to as many concerts as I possibly can. I think my count this year is close to 30 or 40 concerts so far including festivals. And I still make music as much as I can as that’s always been in me, that drive to create.”

Welcome aboard, Kultar!

All That Jazz

Summarizing Jazz is a bit like tackling the proof of the divine or defining irony. Broad in scope, yet uniquely recognizable, you know it when you hear it and might be hard-pressed to distill it and its significance: born in African tradition against the backdrop of slavery, jazz has gifted us with immeasurable talents, touchstones, and legends. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, and countless others are embedded indelibly beside each other and each nuanced version of the artform into America’s mosaic and beyond.

Genre’s timelessness has made it ripe for rediscovery by each new generation since Miles Davis. As 2018 high school freshman are plunking down cash for vinyl, industry insiders are observing the renewed opportunity for identifying and servicing a fluid jazz listener-base.

Though transitioning to digital at a mild place, and perhaps not the most obviously digital-ready milieu, the world of jazz is indeed proving its readiness for prime time. Streaming numbers continue to increase, shining the spotlight on further opportunities and initiatives seeking to reach terrestrial radio ears.  Spotify recently shared with the BBC that the number UK users under the age of 30 listening to their flagship Jazz UK playlist has seen a staggering increase of 108%.  It’s a number echoed by Amazon as well as Deezer.

Scott Hall, director of Jazz Studies at Columbia, attributes the resurgence in interest to musicians’ improvisation and experimentation. “It seems like the barriers have been broken down,” Hall said. Hall has observed the increased interest in his classroom as well. “The younger generation, they understand and appreciate the significance of the jazz language for developing their own personal style.”

“It’s easier for musicians coming from different worlds to collaborate.” Chris Chisholm, co-owner of Chicago’s Andy’s Jazz Club and Restaurant, recently told the city’s Chronicle that he’s observed a spike in millennial interest in jazz of late, noting more have attended shows at his club as well as others in the area including Jazz Showcase and the Green Mill.  The appeal may in part be due to the youth of the performers. As co-owner (and brother) Brandon Chisholm noted, some of the finest musicians to perform at Andy’s have been between the ages of 20 and 26.

Play MPE is thrilled to be a part in continuing to reach these new jazz audiences digitally. Michael Ambrosino of Jazz Week Summit shared with us recently “Play MPE has done a wonderful job creating a platform that allows record labels, promoters and broadcasters to post, preview and download music in a way that works with everyone’s digital workflow. In an industry that continues to struggle with the dilemma of analog versus digital media, Play MPE has created a clear and powerful way forward.”

Decca Records president Rebecca Allen recently spoke of the transition of traditionally brick and mortar fanbases to digital consumption. “We work really closely with all of our digital partners, and we’ve had loads of positive discussions this year around how we reach the more mainstream audiences that we at Decca have traditionally excelled at with physical sales. I just want to build upon those partnerships and upon those great conversations and the relationships we have with them in the next year, take them to the next level and be able to apply our creative marketing to that.”

The continued increase in the accessibility of tools with which we access music is a continuing and growing factor. As Allen shared, “We know that once somebody has a device in their home that they are more likely to stream music, and we know they are more likely to listen to more music as a whole. So as soon as we can have people interacting with these devices and with the platforms and with their playlists, we know that it means generally that the listening habit will go up. So, it’s just moving that audience, educating them and getting them across that first hurdle. That’s what we like to discuss with our partners and what we are working with them on.”

Ultimately, users continue to evolve at a pace in lock step with the growth of the artform itself. The Thelonious Monk institute of Jazz assures students “traditional, straight ahead, contemporary mainstream and acoustic jazz will continue to prosper just as up-and-coming jazz musicians inspired and influenced by blues, swing, bebop, and hard bop, will continue to push the musical envelop within the traditional acoustic jazz combo setting.”

In sync with an artform devoted to perpetual motion, technology remains fluid, adapting to the ever-changing interest of audiences, those both arrived and waiting.  To check out the latest in Jazz via Play MPE, login into your Play MPE Player!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Santa has plenty to offer radio programmers of all formats this season, and we’re just the elves to help deliver the goods. As you click and shop, prepare your Christmas crackers, spin your dreidels, or put cookies out for Rudolph, make sure you make time to scan the latest and greatest musical treats stuffing our stockings this season.

Where to begin… you know it’s gonna be good when The Monkees are in the action.  It’s been just 2 years since the Monkees gifted us with their 50th anniversary album Good Times (a chart buster reaching Number 14 on Billboard), and they’re already back to give us more, courtesy of -who else?- Rhino.  (They’re always dishing out the best goodies, aren’t they?)

Remarkably, their first foray into the world of Christmas music, Christmas Party features nuggets penned by Rivers Cuomo, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, XTC’s Andy Partridge, as well as healthy dose of cover homages to the classics.  “Silver Bells” and Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” get The Monkees treatment alongside Alex Chilton’s “Jesus Christ.”

Mickey Dolenz shared “It all came together so fast. You have no idea, noting how close the band members remain.  “We’re really like brothers in that there’s so much unspoken and understood that can be said with just a glance.”

Joining in on the holiday action are stars across all genres. Los Straitjackets offer their Complete Christmas Songbook while Engelbert Humperdink chimes in with Warmest Christmas Wishes.

Def Leppard, meanwhile, remind us We All Need Christmas.  (It’s a precursor of sorts to some possible under the tree surprises: The Story So Far: The Best of Def Leppard aaand Hysteria: The Singles on Nov. 30. The Story So Far features a huge 35 classic songs as well as a new cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.”

William Shatner & Henry Rollins have teamed up (because of course) to cover “Jingle Bells” on Shatner Claus. (FTW) Rollins joins fellow Shatner-duet participants Iggy Pop, Judy Collins, Brad Paisley, Yes’ Rick Wakeman and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.

The Beach Boys’ Mike Love gives us “Reason for the Season” just 54 years after the release of the Beach Boys’ Christmas Album.

John Legend is going big and touring behind his A Legendary Christmas.  Kicking off November 15th at the Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida, the tour includes stops in Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, New York City, and Los Angeles.

More holiday releases not to be missed this season include those from Ingrid Michaelson, Martina McBride, Michael Longoria, and the Mavericks.  Head to your Player for the latest and greatest!

No Kidding!

Over at the “this just in desk” is the news of the not-so-new kid on the block gettin’ his stripes: DistroKid is the recipient of a “passive minority investment” via a small startup named Spotify.

Announcing the partnership online, Spotify posted: “For the past five years, DistroKid has served as a go-to service for hundreds of thousands independent artists, helping them deliver their tracks to digital music services around the world, and reaching fans however they choose to consume music. The service has been a trusted and reliable partner to Spotify, which is why they’re a natural choice to enhance the experience for artists using our beta upload feature.”  Spotify promises the integration with DistroKid will commence “in the near future.”

Spotify also promises the start of a beautiful relationship, by way of “Spotify for Artists.”  Though still in beta, the goal is for “seamless distribution of music to other platforms through DistroKid.”  Founded in 2013, DistroKid serves over 250,000 artists, competing with the likes of CD Baby, Ditto, and TuneCore.  The DistroKid promise to artist includes “We’ll get your music into iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Amazon, Google Play, Tidal, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Deezer and 150+ other stores & streaming services.”

DistroKid has received nods as industry players continue to take notice of the momentum.  Notably, Forbes has opined “With the proliferation of music production software like GarageBand and Ableton, the image of a bedroom music maker is an increasingly familiar one. But how can these artists sell their tunes? DistroKid has a solution.”

Endorsements and praise flow in from blogging industry-temperature-takers as well.  Digital Music News hails “DistroKid is best for constant creators,” while the folks at Performer Magazine exclaim “A million-dollar record label for $20 with DistroKid.” TechCrunch cuts to the chase, reminding folks that it its core, DistroKid is “an affordable way to upload music to stores like iTunes.”  DistroKid also reminds its users that they can “Sell their music elsewhere.” (not just the stores to which DistroKid distributes). “You own the rights to your own music.”

Music Business Worldwide reports that Spotify has agreed to fund 50% of pro-rated net revenue generated by directly-distributed artists to the performer/recorded music rights-holder concerned as it’s noted that majors receive a 52% pro-rated net revenue share. This also extends to independent labels via Merlin.  Heady stuff. Still being debated? Word is that signed artists will see just a certain % of that 52% in their royalties.

And to quell the fears of those wary of Big Brother, Spotify did assure media outlets that “DistroKid remains independent” and that Spotify has no rights to see the data from other digital service providers” as “DistroKid will not share confidential information.”

Stay tuned as Distrokid continues to show signs that it’s all grown up!

Mo’Mentum

OK, who doesn’t love a trip to Universal Orlando?  Who doesn’t also love the chance to rub elbows with the best and brightest in your field, all while learning the latest in industry trends…set to an awesome soundtrack? That’s what’s ahead for one and all as part of Momentum 2018. Nearly 10 years in, Christian Music Broadcasters’ premier event spans 4 days, drawing hundreds of industry luminaries representing no small fraction of listeners. (32 million weekly, to be exactish) It is after all the one and only conference devoted solely to the format. It all takes place September 5th-8th at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando. Let’s also not forget that two of those elbows you’ll be rubbing could belong to our own Laurie Gail, VP of Label and Radio Relations. (So, make sure you say Hi and line up all those upcoming releases!)

Mz. Gail will also be on hand to capture the glory that is the audio from the always captivating keynote speakers. This year promises to be no exception. Sure to offer many pearls is psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman. Leman is the New York Times best-selling author of Have A New Kid by Friday and is also an on-air personality in his own right.  He has appeared on Fox and Friends, Oprah, The View, and many more. The founder of Couples of Promise, Leman is committed the noble effort to helping couples remain happily married.

Leman joins a myriad of standout speakers, including Tony Banks, director of talent development at iHeartMedia, don’t ya know.  Previously the Senior Vice President of Programming for iHeartMedia’s Midwest Division, Banks cut his teeth as the Regional Programming Manager. The Rhode Island College grad is now iHeart’s go to for mentoring, coaching, and training existing talent, as well as recruiting new talent.

Erica Farber will be on deck as well. The President and CEO of the Radio Advertising Bureau is tasked with the formidable responsibility of increasing the bottom line, and effectively communicating radio’s changing digital landscape.   Farber’s resume boasts all manner of Radio Sales and Management positions including Executive Vice President at the INTEREP Companies, where she landed following her days at KIIS-AM, KRTH-FM, and KABC-TV in Los Angeles.  Farber also spent time in Boston where she served as General Sales Manager and General Manager of WROR-FM, leading to her role as Vice President and General Manager of WXLO in New York.

The aforementioned is just a sampling of notables due to speak at Momentum.  There are more audio nuggets for you by way of, of course, musical talent.  Dozens of performers are slated for the festivities, including Chris Tomlin, Hillsong Worship, Stars Go Dim, Casting Crowns, The Afters, and many more.

Todd Stach, WAY-FM Network Program Director, encapsulated the well-rounded event, sharing “Momentum is a place to either walk away with confidence or challenge the way you’re doing business. It reminds you to unite as a format, in an ever increasingly competitive environment, and to focus and refresh your life, station and career goals.”

While focusing and refreshing their lives, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in the Annual 4k and 1 Mile Run/Walk (no pressure!) through Universal Studios. In an effort to get the most out of the unique experience Momentum offers, participants may also employ the services of a “Momentum Guide.” Guidance may lead one to the scheduled “Digital Checkups,” courtesy of Jacobs Media. It’s a chance for attendees to meet one-on-one with a specialist who’ll assess station’s digital sich and note potential growth areas.  (Suh-weet!)  Also in the “more bang for your buck category” and always in high demand, Aircheck Clinics feature talent-coaching and feedback to on air peeps and Program Directors.

For more deets and your chance to register for this unmatched celebration of Christian Music Broadcasting, head to http://cmbonline.org/.

AmericanaFest 2018

Like the bee girl finding her fellow bees in Blind Melon’s vibrant misfits-take-all video for “No Rain,” attendees of conventions–particularly format specific conventions- are offered a welcomed opportunity to frolic with their own, and perhaps win over potential converts.

As noted previously in MPE Today, Americana has, of late, soared via its eagle wings: Rolling Stone devoted some space to its rising popularity, noting recently that “it’s become a commercially viable format in the pop marketplace.”  Sure has. Enough so, even, to cement itself in Merriam Webster’s annals, and secure a Grammy category of its own.  Called by The New York Times “the coolest music scene today,” Americana is celebrated annually at, naturally, AMERICANAFEST. ®

This year’s AMERICANAFEST or American Music Festival & Conference goes down September 11th-16th in Nashville. Thousands will descend upon music city: artists, industry folk, and fans alike, to celebrate the genre, beloved for its broad yet unmistakable alchemy of folks, roots, country, soul and blues-based music.  Revellers will include managers, agents, publishers, all manner of peeps behind the curtain taking in seminars, panels, and, of course, live music.  Performers fittingly straddle genres and generations, from John Prine (and his friends), to Alejandro Escovedo, to The Band of Heathens, to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, this year’s AMERICANFEST promises live music spawning stories to break bread over this Thanksgiving.

Sure to be a standout among standouts is this year’s Americana & Awards Show, the “marquis event.” It’s a night to pay tribute to “distinguished members of the music community,” chosen by the Americana Music Association. The event includes 6 member-voted awards and multiple Lifetime Achievement Awards. And they mean business. (Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash performed together for one final time as part of the event). But, they’re not to be outdone by fellow legend alums Stephen Stills, Joan Baez, Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt, and Dr. John (with Dan Auerbach) to name a few.

The event features near countless parties to make all feel welcome, complete with a perpetual soundtrack. There’s the AMA UK Welcome Party, Tales and Ales with Paul Thorn and Tony Magee (omg, sign me up for anything thusly named); Sounds Australia at the BlueBird Cafe…we could go on! And we will! Alejandro Escovedo’s appearance is actually an in-store– at Crimey’s New and Pre-Loved Music.  (And, ok, can I get a witness- greatest store name ever.)

P.S., Mary Gauthier hosts Songwriters in the Round.  And as if all of this weren’t enough, the whole shebang culminates in something a bonus charity event: WoofStock. That star-studded affair happens September 16th at Ascend Auditorium, featuring Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt and the Goners, Jamey Johnson, Lee Ann Womack, John Paul White, The Lone Bellow, Ida Mae, Tommy Emmanuel, Elise Davis, and Jerry Douglas– whew!

And, all moolah goes the dog rescue founded by Mz. Emmylou Harris, Bonaparte’s Retreat, and to Crossroads Campus, a homeless animals rescue which teaches job skills to undeserved or at-risk youth.  Come on!   As if you needed more reasons to register now!  So do so now at americanamusic.org!

Industry Spotlight: Henco Harmse

We had the sheer delight recently of speaking with Henco Harmse. He’s a promo powerhouse, based in Johannesburg, where he serves as Label Manager at Universal Music South Africa.  Harmse caught us up on all things promo, and the interests that capture his attention outside the world of music.

“I was in the international department for about ten years and I’ve recently moved over to the Afrikaans department. The Afrikaans department is a local language division. Instead of working with the artists from overseas, I’m basically working with the artists on the ground in South Africa now.”

Harmse got his start in the giant world of the record industry like many a self-respecting teenager: at a record store. “I did that for about three years. It was a little bit like Empire Records, to be honest. Maybe not that wild, but it was fun. And then my big break in the music industry was I worked for a small, independent record company and I was a sales rep going from store to store selling CD’s. Started at the bottom and now I’m somewhere in the middle.”  (Modest, for sure).

“It’s kind of strange that my time in the CD store was definitely the time when I learned the most about music, when you’re on the front line. I didn’t know anything about different genres of music, to be honest, and then when you’re doing on the front line you’re experiencing what people want. You’re figuring out what works, what doesn’t work. Even today, I still think about my time in the CD store when I’m thinking about marketing plans or strategies or anything like that.”

Harmse reflected on his notion of his future as an adolescent, invoking relatable memories that would make Holden Caulfield proud.  “… I never really had a dream of working in the music industry. It’s almost like the music industry picked me. It’s sort of the other way around. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was a kid. Working at the CD store was just a part time job and from there, it grew. As a kid, I was pretty obsessed with music. I came from a pretty small town and I didn’t really feel like I related to a lot of the people in the town and in the community and bunch of friends and myself, we started listening to punk and metal music and it became this whole thing where it’s like, ‘You don’t understand us and you don’t understand our music.’ It became a way of finding an identity or whatever. So music has always been important to me, but it was never a dream of mine to work in the music industry. I count myself very lucky, now that I am in it, but just sort of picked me, I guess.”

All those who relate, raise your hands.  OK, attendance taken.  We reflect, too, on the fact that our teenaged brains are wired to emblazon memories indelibly. Henco shares “There’s gangster rap songs that I can still recite off by heart. And today I can’t even remember that the song was called that I listened to five minutes ago.”

More a music fan than a musician, Henco said his discovery was largely self-realized. “Growing up, my parents weren’t that into music. They would listen to the radio or things like that, but we weren’t a very musical family at all. Which is very, people find that sort of strange and when I tell people I work in the music industry, people go, ‘Oh, you must be really good at music.’  I’m terrible at music. I used to own a bass guitar and I can’t say that I played it, but I owned it.”  It was later in life that Henco was really bitten by the bug– and he remembers the precise moment. ‘I remember being about 12 years old and I listened to an awful track by 2 Unlimited, ‘No Limits.’ And I remember that was the first song where I was like, ‘Whoa. I can feel something.’ That was the first time where a song actually made me feel something. I very rapidly moved away from European techno, luckily, but I was only about 12 or 13 the first time I actually feeling passionate about music.”

That passion brings us to today, and Henco’s role at Universal, and to Play MPE. “The reason I’m helping out in South Africa is genuinely because it’s such a fantastic product. It’s really, from a marketing and promotion side, it’s been a great tool. I started using it years ago when it was introduced to Universal Music and just loved it from that point on. It can sometimes be a struggle to get the media to try it because people are so in their ways and people are quite scared of change, in general. But every person that I’ve gotten to use Play MPE has stuck with it. They always go, “this is easy, and it makes everything so much better and easier. I think I’ll use this from now on. The whole reason why I’m trying to build it in South Africa and then later on, hopefully, across Africa is just because it’s easier. It’s easier and better for everyone; for the record companies that are using it, for the media guys who are ingesting the music. And the more people we get to use it, the more record companies that we get to use it, the better it’ll be for everyone. Sort of trying to make an industry standard across the board.”

Harmse is quick to share a fave among current projects on the docket. “We’ve got one project at the moment that I’m really excited about. It’s a rapper from Port Elizabeth called Early B. He raps in the Afrikaans language, but I always say he’s not an Afrikaans rapper; he’s a rapper in Afrikaans. He’s got some of the best lyrics I’ve ever heard of any rapper. He’s just so good, he so quick and if you know the Afrikaans language, his usage of words and metaphors is just incredible.”

As for Harmse’s regular day-to-day, when he’s eagerly pursuing outside passions and interests in history and archaeology, and when he’s not busy fighting the good Play MPE and Universal fights, or in the studio with artists (whew!) …well, there’s really no typical day. “Every day is different, which is great. I’ve been with Universal for ten years now and I don’t really ever get bored because every day is different, and I face different challenges every day. But there is the red tape, the grind, the minutia. I think that’s the one thing that people don’t realize about the music industry, is there’s a lot of admin. There’s a lot of nitty-gritty Excel sheets that you need to fill in. There’s budgets. So, it’s not just fun and roses all the time; there’s a lot of hard work that goes unseen sometimes…Basically, what I used to do was just promote and market and think of interesting and innovative ways of pushing international artists. Now, on the Afrikaans side, on the local side, I’m having to learn and relearn a bunch of new things, which has been a great learning curve that I’ve had to get through and I’m obviously still learning, but I’m really enjoying it.”

All one could aim for, in this crazy thing we call the music business, right?

Full Stream Ahead

So, ever since Al Gore “invented the internet”, we’ve moved about our careers with something of a real or imagined dark cloud (pardon the digital storage pun) overhead, signifying the end of record biz revenue. Well, Heraclitus was on to something with that whole “There’s nothing so constant as change” thing.

Reports flooding in of late show a far less bleak future, and a booming one perhaps for the likes of the digital world. Spotify and Apple have been in a healthy neck and neck race for world domination, while Citigroup has released something of a stealth white paper report delving into the world of music rights and revenue. An RIAA spokesperson recently told Billboard “We welcome investment community interest in the music business, but it’s unfortunate that some of the methodologies and analysis within this report are incorrect or incomplete…”  The exhaustive 88-page undertaking is cleverly named, if daunting: “PUTTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER Remastering the World of Music.”

Confident predictions counter current data by claiming that streaming will plateau, while live music and artist-steered DIY approaches will reign.  They predict too that platforms will consolidate, and blockchain will assert itself and its transparency further.

Meanwhile, the statistical meat of the matter is, according to Nielsen Music’s latest half way point report, this year’s U.S. market shows streaming’s, well, booming. There were 403.4bn total music streams in the States in the six months to end of June, up 41.6%.   41.6%!  There were stream increases across both audio and video platforms.  For those keep score, by the way, it’s Post Malone who boasts the United States’ biggest sales across all formats these last six months, per Nielsen/Billboard.

For the nitty gritty perspective, the leap from last year to this is in increase in streaming volume 118 billion plays. Yes, billion.  From 295 billion in 2017 to 403 billion in 2018.  And just to bring us earthward regarding physical music consumption, physical album sales in the U.S. fell 14.6%….although, vinyl is still experiencing its resurgence, with an increase of 19.2%.  And of course, representative of the digital Rent-A-Center way of life we now call normal, as streaming increases, digital sales continue to decrease.

Predictors assert that Spotify’s stock value could, if the course remains as it is, multiply itself within the next 5-10 years.

As the great George Carlin said, “…That’s all you need in life…a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is:  a place to keep your stuff.   If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house.  You could just walk around all the time…”

Despite my now paying Spotify and Amazon to rent a near infinite amount of music annually, my sentimental nature keeps me tethered to shelves of CD’s, vinyl, cassettes, reel to reels, not yet able to repurpose that real estate. But perhaps, I’ll rent some additional space from Spotify….

Some Are Hits

Albert James Freed was born on December 15, 1921 in Windber, Pennsylvania.  The world would never be the same.

In 1945, Freed–now Alan- went on air at WAKR Akron, where he cut his teeth playing jazz and pop records.  It was during his WAKR years that Freed met Leo Mintz, owner of Record Rendezvous, one of Cleveland’s largest record stores.  Mintz shared with Freed something he’d noticed:  an increased interest in the rhythm and blues records he’d recently started selling.

And the rest, as they say, is history.  Via Freed, listeners were introduced to the very phrase “rock and roll,” and it’s no accident that the Rock and Roll hall of fame makes its home in northeastern Ohio.

In the decades since Alan Freed took to the air with Bill Haley & His Comets, The Platters, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless other legends, an immeasurable audio tapestry of radio hits has been woven. And, it’s in the heat of the summer, with the windows down, those beats have resonated the most.

Summer hits have a way of either defining their era, serving as an escape from it, or standing completely on their own for decades to come.  2018 has served up a banquet of faves, from Cardi B, to Drake, to Kacey Musgraves.

And there’s of course a gift from Taylor Swift (and Sugarland), “Babe.” And while we’re on the superstars subject, Justin Bieber serves up “No Brainer,” via DJ Khaled.   Post Malone continues to prove unstoppable, this time with “Better Now.” And truly, what summer (or season, really) would be complete without some wisdom from Kanye?  “Ghost Town “delivers.

“One Kiss” from Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa joins “NC-17” from Tavis Scott in the perfectly named summer hits category.  And Ed Sheeran would never leave us in the dark, gifting us with “Perfect.”

This year, as ever, the songs of summer serve as a veritable audio snapshot of where we are a culture, how we seek to relax and celebrate.  A thermometer reading of why, when, and how we chill.

There are the obvious shoo ins, destined for greatness by hook and title:   “Summertime” (1991), DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince; “Summer in the City” (1966), Lovin’ Spoonful”; “Summertime” (1957) Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong; “The Boys of Summer”(1984), Don Henley, “Dancing in the Street” (1964), Martha and the Vandellas.

And there are the endearing, lasting novelties: “Wipe Out” (1963), The Surfaris, “Drop it Like It’s Hot (2004) Snoop Dogg, featuring Pharrell; “Baby Got Back”(1992), Sir Mix-A-Lot; “Ghostbusters” (1984), Ray Parker Jr; “Macarena” (1996), Los Del Rio. Sandwiched in, though, are those songs that we may not associate with convertibles and daisy dukes, but that were forever burned our brains and our cultural consciousness from the moment they greeted our ears: “Every Breath You Take” (1983), The Police;  “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965) The Rolling Stones;  “When Doves Cry” (1984), Prince; “Waterfalls” (1995), TLC;  “Shout” (1985), Tears for Fears.

There’s just about a month left of summer…so, get out there and roll those windows down, and turn the music up!

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