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Industry Vets James Diener and Howard Lipson Launch Alignment Artists Capital, Backed By BlackRock

Posted by Mike McCready | April 7th, 2015 | No responses

billboard.comCourtesy of Alignment Artist Capital

Alignment Artist Capital, a newly launched company created by music industry veterans and backed by the Alternative Investors arm of blue chip firm BlackRock, has announced its launch. The new concern aims to provide artists and songwriters with an alternative option for significant career financing.

James Diener, founder of Octone Records, and Howard Lipson — who helped him finance that label and remained involved right up to the label’s sale to Universal Music Group — have launched AAC, which plans to make available funding of $5 million to 20 million for to artists and songwriters seeking sources of money apart from the typical advances provided by record labels, publishers or merchandising companies — or loans from banks. In exchange, Alignment Artist Capital will be paid back a percentage of the artist’s income streams.

Diener and Lipson say they are sensitive to the fact that artists and songwriters have a rapidly growing interest in owning their publishing and recorded masters. In response, Diener and Lipson looked to create a vehicle that would not use artists’ assets as a semi-perpetual collateral which can be seized if the funds provided to the artist are not paid back in time and in full. To that end, Alignment Artist Capital will come in the form a structured investment vehicle that has some characteristics of a loan, however if the lender is not meeting the payback schedule, the length of the loan is protracted, rather than any assets being seized.

As mentioned, Alignment Artist Capital has secured backing from BlackRock Alternative Investors, a firm with $120 billion in assets which looks seeks to invest in properties which behave differently — such as wind farms and solar energy, hedge funds, derivative contracts, oil and gas royalties, private equity, precious metals — than the stock and bond markets, something that Alignment Artist Capital appears to offer the blue chip firm. This is the first entertainment move that the Alternative Investors arm of BlackRock has taken.

“With Alignment, we wanted to reduce the friction in the process and provide financing that takes a holistic view of an artist’s career and the overall music business,” Lipson said in a statement. “We’ll be investing in artists we believe in within a time horizon that provides a good runway for the creative process and a philosophy that will reap solid returns.”

In addition to his involvement in Octone, Lipson was also a partner and member of the investment committee at Blackstone, served as managing director at the Pilot Group, a media-oriented private equity firm started by iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman, and helped advise and raise financing for the Sony-led consortium that acquired EMI Music Publishing for $2.2 billion. In addition, Katherine Chen has joined Alignment Artist Capital as Chief Investment Officer from The Pilot Group, with previous positions at Moelis & Company and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Diener and former Octone executive vp Ben Berkman also recently started Freesolo, a hybrid label, publishing and management company.

Looking ahead to its first two years, Alignment Artist Capital will aim to make an initial outlay of $80 million to $100 million in financing to artists, according to sources. The two principals say they expect to be able to handle three to four deals a quarter. The Alignment Artists Capital principles say they have designed their vehicle, so it will have a quick turnaround for artists seeking funding.

A key concern that artist managers and business managers will have with these arrangements is at what price the funding will be provided; in today’s low-interest environment, bank loans may provide a lower long-term cost, but those also come with a collateral kicker, meaning artists can potentially lose their assets if their loans don’t perform. Since Alignment Artist Capital funding won’t be collateralized, it will come with pricing expected to carry percentage interest payments of 10-15 percent, say executives familiar with the offering.

One prominent artist manager says that the funding Alignment Artist Capital will provide could be attractive to artists and songwriters, with a caveat that the cost could a deciding factor on whether to do a deal. Alignment Artist Capital will use stringent underwriting measures to determine whether an artist can pay back the money the company would loan. What the artist chooses to use the funding for is entirely up to them.

“The funding can be used to finance a new business they may choose to invest in, or artists could use it to fund their own lifestyle needs,” Lipson tells Billboard. “Even artists get hit with surprises or extraordinary circumstances where this type of funding could prove handy.”

Alignment Artist Capital imposes no conditions on the funding. “There is no obligation to tour or issue records,” Lipson says. “Eventually the artist will do what’s in their own best interest — which will be in our best interests.”

Diener says he foresees three categories of artist who may want to apply for funding from Alignment Artist Capital. It could be an artist that suddenly connects big, like Lorde; an established artist with a strong handful of albums under their belt and a successful touring business; or heritage and legacy artists.

“If an heir [of a legacy artist] wants to run the estate but the other wants to sell and leave, this is a way for both to get what they want,” Diener says; AAC could provide a means for one heir to buy out the stake of another.

If an artist decides that being with a label is no longer the way to go, Alignment Artist Capital can provide funding for the artist to strike out on their own. Conversely, if artists want to stay with their labels, but want be unentangled in label required deal add-ons when seeking an advance, Alignment Artist Capital is also an option to consider.

“This type of financing could be useful for artists looking to do things on their own or considering branching out into other areas,” say Ken Levitan, the founder and co-president of Vector Management, which manages artists like Kings Of Leon and T-Bone Burnett. “It can also be attractive to artists signed to labels. As labels have gotten tighter with their spending, you may want to tap into outside recourses to build and diversify your brand.”

Ultimately, “this financing product is designed for the artist and songwriter and is meant to democratize and emancipate the artist,” Diener says.

Top Reasons Our Public Schools Should Emphasize Music Education

Posted by Mike McCready | April 6th, 2015 | No responses

hypebot.comMusic education in public schools is on its way out. The benefits of having a strong musical foundation are proven. It’s time we join the fight to keep the programs in jeopardy alive.

Music education has been on the steady decline in public schools, and unfortunately, the future looks bleak. When it comes to public budget, the first thing that seems to go are programs that are seen as “extras.” However, the problem is that the programs that seem like extras often provide benefits that go further than a textbook.



A First Look at Jay Z’s Tidal: Definitely Young, Probably Promising

Posted by Mike McCready | April 1st, 2015 | 2 Responses – 

Overall, Tidal has the starting framework of what could be an interesting and engaging artist-led and backed company. With the product as-is, Spotify or Apple launching a lossless quality tier could make Tidal irrelevant– but for one major thing: superstar exclusives.

Right now, Jay Z’s very newly acquired Tidal (which launched in the U.S. in October) is essentially a barebones version of existing streaming services, plus a few interesting features that differentiate the service (and some newly added and exclusive content from its star-studded equity partners).

For $19.99/month, users get “lossless high-fidelity sound quality, high definition music videos and expertly curated editorial.” For half the price, $9.99, users can stream the same content in it’s standard, compressed form.

The service comes with most of the bells and whistles we now expect from an on-demand subscription services: artist and track based radio, cached downloads for offline listening, music segmented by genre, a section for new music, themed playlists, and a way to favorite tracks, albums and artists. It’s easy enough to navigate and has a dark theme that at times looks strikingly similar to Spotify:

Here are some of the things that set Tidal apart:

Credits: Hidden away in a sub-menu that appears to only exist on the mobile app is one really awesome thing about Tidal: song credits. By selecting “Track Info,” songs reveal producer, lyricist, composer and engineer credits, where available, something missing from its competitors. For example, the credits for Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” accurately reflect the addition of Tom Petty as a composer and lyricist.

Audio recognition: Tidal sports a Shazam-like function directly within the app, similar to a feature Genius introduced. Once a track is identified, the “audio search” brings users directly to a stream of the full track.

Audio Quality: The service’s lossless audio does sound noticeably different. How important that fact is to consumers is yet to be seen. The only other streaming service with the same level of sound quality available is Deezer Elite, which currently is only compatible with Sonos speakers.

Ad-Free Music Videos: Tidal streams high definition video as well as music. But the service doesn’t really do anything to highlight the videos beyond placement on the “What’s New” page. Videos appear as a separate vertical when looking at an artist’s page, but aren’t linked to within tracks, i.e. if I stream “Only One” the video does not automatically appear as an option to watch– it’s on a separate page.

Editorial: Earlier today, Tidal displayed original editorial content in buckets at the top of the main vertical, featuring buzzy artists like Courtney Barnett and Natalie Prass and a playlist made by Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster. The home page now features custom content by the new equity partners like Beyonce’s “Festival Favorites” and a video of Jack and Meg White’s first recorded performance.

And some of what the service needs:

Social: Tidal is designed for the solitary listener: there is no social layer (i.e. a “what my friends are listening to” stream or a in-app messaging system).

Desktop App: Tidal only comes in the form of iOS and Android apps and a browser version, there is no desktop application. The link between the browser version and mobile app is weak: users can’t sync to mobile from the browser version, only directly on mobile. Also, a user’s play cue doesn’t sync between mobile and desktop (ie. If i’m listening to a Rihanna song on my computer and I pause to open the app on my phone, it displays the last song I was listening to on mobile, NOT the Rihanna song).

No Extras: Tidal is missing a few nifty integrations Spotfiy has added, like links to tour dates, artists merchandise and song lyrics.

Sorting: For a service that appears to be catered to music fanatics, it is puzzling Tidal does not let users sort albums and songs by release date and does not let users search by label.

Discovery: Tidal is not an easy button like a radio dial. Tidal is a lean forward experience designed for people who already know what they want to listen to. It is not heavy on recommendations.

As announced yesterday, Beyonce, Rihanna, Kanye West, Jack White, Arcade Fire, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk, deadmau5, Jason Aldean, J. Cole and Madonna are all equity partners in the service and will likely contribute windowed and/or exclusive content from all.

The bottom line: A rising #Tide lifts all boats: as more users and artists embrace paid streaming, the overall pie will grow. Competition between services should hopefully breed better products for both fans and artists. If Dr. Dre succeeded in selling $14 headphones to consumers for 200 bucks, perhaps Jay Z can sell a lossless catalog of 25 million songs and growing for $240/year with the same #FOMO marketing and “trust me, this is better” seal of artist approval.

But with Dre’s headphones, I can listen to any music I want to, from any source I want to. As artist exclusives become the standard and catalog is fragmented between services, I may only be able to listen to new music from some, but not all, of music’s “one percent” through Jay Z’s Tidal.

‘The X-Files’ Star David Duchovny Announces Debut Album

Posted by Mike McCready | April 1st, 2015 | No responses

billboard.comPaul Archuleta/FilmMagic




X Files stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson saw a considerable amount of musician fanfare back in the show’s heyday. There was Bree Sharp’s “David Duchovny,” Silent Meow’s “Gillian Anderson,” Human Hamster Hybrids’ “Scully” and, of course, “Mulder And Scully” by Catatonia, to name a few (or possibly all). But now the show’s leading man is trying his own hand at a musical release, with a new folk-rock album called Hell or Highwater.

The release comes at a pretty good time for Duchovny’s profile.


The Ultimate Guide To Creating Your Band’s Facebook Page

Posted by Mike McCready | March 30th, 2015 | No responses – 

Social marketers are concerned with Facebook’s organic reach and ways to adjust messaging strategies to reach the biggest audience. Hootsuite has published a step by step guide to maximizing your Facebook page.

Guest Post by Olsy Sorokina on

This wouldn’t be much help if your business hasn’t completed the first step of the process—setting up a Facebook Page. So this time, we’re taking it back to the basics, and going over every element in your business page on Facebook.

To get you started, we have created a Facebook Page template that includes all important sections to fill out.

7 important areas of the Facebook Page template, explained

Create a Page

Creating a Facebook page is as easy as clicking a button: you can either make a separate page that you and your colleagues manage, or make a page out of your existing Facebook profile. The latter is recommended for personal branding; and even then, consider pros and cons heavily before making the switch—do this only if you plan on doing absolutely no personal communication over the network.

An important step in Facebook Page creation is determining the category of the Page. Choosing the most appropriate category to describe the nature of your business will help users find your Page on the network. The category name is displayed to the right of the profile picture, so it’s one of the first things a user sees when they visit your Page. Make sure the description is accurate: you don’t want people to be unsure about whether they’re on the right Page!

If you have already set up your category upon creation, but later decided it wasn’t reflective of your current strategical pivot, you can change the category of your Page in the About section. Under Page Info, hover over Category until the Edit button appears, and adjust accordingly.

Unlike Twitter, Facebook provides plenty of space in the About section for businesses to describe their company, mention their products and services, and any relevant information that a user might seek on social media. A must-have for any brand Page is a link to the official website, a contact phone number and email address—these fields should be mandatory for filling out, since your current and potential customers need to know different ways they can reach you. If you own or run a brick-and-mortar business, you can include the address, hours of operation, and even parking information in the About section of your Page.

Call to action

A feature recently introduced for Facebook Pages is a call to action (CTA) button. The button is located at the top of the Page, next to other action buttons such as Like and Message. Administrators can choose the text of the button, such as Sign Up, Shop Now, Contact Us, etc. In order to determine which CTA is best suited for your Facebook Page, it helps to know what business goals you set out to achieve with your presence on the network.


Whether it’s your profile picture or photos you share on your Page’s Timeline, you should use high-quality, well-composed images. If you’re promoting a piece of written content as part of your Facebook content marketing strategy, choose the image that can show off the value of the post—for example, if you have a chart illustrating the most interesting numbers, let your Facebook Page fans preview that.


Similar to the personal Facebook profile, the central part of your brand’s Facebook Page is the Timeline. This is where your customers will see the latest posts from your brand, announcements of the events and product launches, and public messages from other customers. You want the Timeline to tell a cohesive story of your business, so pick the best photos, videos and written content to feature on your Page.

Monitor your customers’ posts to your Page, and try to respond to them in a timely manner: whether it’s resolving an issue, answering a question about your product or service, you want to address a customer’s need quickly. Not only does this help the customer, it also shows other visitors that your brand cares about its online audience.

Along with the standard view of the Timeline and the About section, there are other tabs you can add to the top section of your Facebook Page. In order to add, remove, or change the position of the tabs as seen by you and your Page visitors, click on the More button and choose Manage Tabs. Then, select the desired tabs from the pop-up menu, or install new apps.

For example, the Hootsuite Facebook Page has a Community tab, which takes the user to an installed forum-style app that lets our customer success advocates interact with users. If you think that Facebook can be a good channel for customer service, perhaps a similar app is something you’d want to consider installing.


Finally, while this is section is not part of your public-facing Page, it’s an essential element of a successful Facebook presence. Your Insights page will give a summary on the latest likes, post reach and engagements, as well as the performance of your recent posts. You can also see a detailed breakdown of your audience, which includes your fans (people who liked your Page) and people who have seen or interacted with your posts. Monitor this section regularly and carefully, and adjust the frequency and content of your posts accordingly. If your posts are not getting your business the results you want, Facebook gives you an opportunity to boost posts directly from the Insights tab.


Read more at – 


Jay Z’s Tidal Streaming Service Launches With Push From Beyoncé, Kanye, Jack White, Nicki Minaj, More

Posted by Mike McCready | March 30th, 2015 | No responses – 

Jay Z’s newly purchased high-fidelity music streaming service Tidal is being re-launched today. The rollout began with many high-profile artists, including Beyoncé, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Madonna, and Coldplay, as well as Jack White’s Third Man Records, changing their social media profile pictures to a turquoise square. Many also posted about the service.

At 5 p.m. Eastern, Jay Z is making a “special announcement” at a New York launch event.

Tidal offers lossless CD-quality audio and video. There will be no free, ad-supported plan; monthly subscriptions cost $19.95. The service has deals with all of the major record labels. It also offers expert-curated playlists and editorial. Tidal is being positioned as a rival to Spotify. For example, Taylor Swift’s catalog is available on Tidal. (She removed it from Spotify last fall.)

Together, we can turn the tide and make music history. Start by turning your profile picture blue. #TIDALforALL

— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) March 30, 2015

“The Tides They Are-A Changing” #TIDALforALL

— Mr. Carter (@S_C_) March 30, 2015

Read more at – 


When should you release your new music?

Posted by Mike McCready | March 27th, 2015 | No responses – How independent artists can work with (or around) World Release Day

The International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has announced that starting this summer, “new albums and singles will be released at 00:01 local time on Fridays.”

In the US, we’re used to new releases coming out on Tuesdays, but the IFPI is making Friday the international standard for a couple reasons: 1) they hope that releasing new music on payday will equal more music sales, and 2) since everyone is online these days, staggered release dates don’t make a whole lot of sense anymore.

According to Benji Rogers (president of PledgeMusic), in a recent interview he gave on the subject of World Release Day:

… the shift will work well for the major labels that have been lobbying for such a move, since they will continue to receive the lion’s share of attention…

Attention on social media will likely cater to the ones putting significant ad dollars behind it, creating a funnel effect where everyone vies for attention at the same time.

The obvious outcome is that it’s going to unfortunately become too easy for some artists to get lost in the process…

In this way, it’s important for artists to begin to think outside the box when it comes to approaching their releases.

What does Benji mean when he says “outside the box?”

Basically he advises that because all social media, press, and advertising on Thursdays and Fridays will be focused on new releases from major artists and buzz bands, you might want to launch YOUR next single, album, or artist experience at a different time on a different day — preferably a time when your fans are highly engaged online that doesn’t fall on a Thursday or Friday.

“This is an industry-wide decision, but personally I have to question the logic of everyone doing something at the same time,” says Benji. “The Internet just isn’t about that.”


Read more at – 

Troy Carter’s Atom Factory Appoints Everdream as Studio of Record

Posted by Mike McCready | March 25th, 2015 | No responses

billboard.comCourtesy Photo


Last March, James Khabushani and R.J. Collins were a couple of graduate students at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business when they spent $1,500 on a commercial for Tesla that quickly went viral. The clip, which features a boy imagining his father’s luxury electric vehicle as a spaceship, caught the attention not only of Elon Musk but of the Atom Factory’s Troy Carter, who was shown the video while giving a lecture at their new media class. Shortly thereafter, Carter enlisted Khabushani and Collins’ video production company, Everdream Studios, to make a heartwarming video for his client John Legend’s “You & I (Nobody in the World).”


7digital Earnings Show Sharp Revenue Decline from Downloads, New Focus on Streaming

Posted by Mike McCready | March 25th, 2015 | No responses

billboard.com7digital is following consumers and clients into streaming. The digital music service company’s earnings release on Tuesday was its first since merging with UBC Media Group in May, and the first since being listed on the London Stock Exchange. In both numbers and written word, the release was an argument for making its catalog of 32 million tracks available to a growing number of subscription and digital radio services.

Where else could 7digital go? Download sales revenue declined 8.7% in the U.S. last year, according to RIAA figures released last week.

Read more at 


‘Empire’ Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars for Season 2

Posted by Mike McCready | March 20th, 2015 | 1 Response

billboard.comChuck Hodes/FOX

The first season of Lee Daniels and Danny Strong’s Fox hip-hop drama Empire featured seemingly every soap opera trope under the sun. There were breakups and affairs, cat fights and cutting words, mistaken paternity and murder. But it wasn’t just the core cast of the hip-hop musical who were able to play out some of the juiciest storylines: Guest stars and musical collaborators fleshed out the world and added even more decadence — and drama.

As Strong told The Hollywood Reporter, the writing staff on Empire’s first season was open to a number of different power players coming in to perform alongside the likes of Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett, Trai Byers, Bryshere Y. Gray and the rest of the Empire cast. And it was a good thing they had that attitude, as the show had everyone sitting up and taking notice.

“Jennifer Hudson wanted to be on the show before we had even aired! We wrote [Michelle] for her because we heard she wanted to be on it, and we were all so excited because she’s so talented and such an amazing singer. It was like, ‘Sign us up!'” Strong says.

That kind of open-minded approach is something the red-hot series will carry into its previously announced second season. With that in mind, THR caught up with the cast of Empire to see who they wanted to see on the show in season two.

Smollett was the first to bring up Oprah Winfrey. When THR talked with him for Jamal’s coming-out episode (“The Lyon’s Roar”), he half-joked that Jamal should be sitting down with Winfrey for an interview. But of course, he’s not the only one who would want Winfrey to appear on the show — in any capacity. Kaitlin Doubleday (Rhonda) said she didn’t care who Winfrey played, she just wants “to learn about life” from her on set. And Daniels himself has admitted to courting her, noting he is “wearing her down.”

Another name that came up often was Denzel Washington. He and Byers worked together on Antwone Fisher, and Byers wanted nothing more than for Washington to somehow be a part of Andre’s storyline. “Maybe he could play a doctor — a doctor trying to help Andre. He knew me well when I was younger, and he would be trying to help Andre now.”

Grace Gealey (Anika) also picked Washington as her dream guest star, though she didn’t specify that she had to be in a story with him if it ever came to pass. “I just want the genius that is Denzel; I don’t care who he plays!” she laughed.

For the most part, though, the cast kept coming up with names of those who could double as dream musical collaborators for various characters. Smollett rattled off Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Kanye West and Brandy Norwood in quick succession, giving an excited “Hell yeah!” when asked if he wanted to sing with any of them.

“Did you think I wanted them to just come on and cameo and walk around in the background? No, we have to do a song! Father Lee needs to pick up his damn contacts on his phone!” he said with a laugh, adding that Jamal still has to release his album and will need collaborators on the record.

Doubleday seconded Smollett’s choice of Jackson but added Missy Elliott and Justin Timberlake to her wish list, keeping it all in the Timbaland family. “I grew up on music like Timberlake,” she says.

Gealey thinks Beyonce could add some flair and give diva Cookie a run for her money, and Byers agrees. Byers also wants to see Beyonce’s boy Jay Z come with her, as well as the great Aretha Franklin. “How amazing would that be?!”

Although Gray showed love for Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer and Black Thought in the dream guest star/collaborator capacity, he was quick to note that he was open to anyone. “Just talent,” he said when asked what he was looking for in a dream guest star. “Just talented actors and talented performers who will continue to make the show great.”

Who is on your wish list for season two? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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