• Friday, Jun. 18, 2021
Rapper IDK to launch music business program at Harvard
This undated portrait released by Warner Music shows rapper IDK, who is launching a music business program through Harvard University for students of color. IDK’s No Label Academy, a 10-day program, will take place August 21-31 on the school’s campus in Boston and will help students kickstart careers in the music industry. (Jack McKain/Warner Music via AP)

Rapper IDK is launching a music business program at Harvard University for students of color.

IDK's No Label Academy, a 10-day program, will take place August 21-31 on the school's campus in Boston and will help students kickstart careers in the music industry. Applications opened this week and students who are accepted will receive free tuition.

"I decided to create this program for the purpose of letting people in the BIPOC community know that a job in the arts is a lot more realistic than what society makes it seem these days," IDK, 29, said in a statement. 

IDK is partnering with Nike and other brands to launch the comprehensive program. Brian K. Price, clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and director of the Transactional Law Clinics, said he's accepted the invitation to serve as an adviser for the new program "because education is key to launching and maintaining a successful enterprise."

"Anyone aspiring to do music as a business must think like and excel as an entrepreneur. There must be a foundation of knowledge and how to apply that knowledge. Learning from experience is one way; learning from 'the experienced' is another," he said. "I'm happy to support initiatives that help learners understand how to make wise decisions."

  • Monday, Jun. 7, 2021
Barking Owl launches NY studio
Elizabeth McClanahan

Music and sound studio Barking Owl has opened an office in New York, expanding beyond its established L.A. operation. 

Helping to lead the effort at Barking Owl NY is a new hire, Elizabeth McClanahan, who brings with her 13 years of sound experience, most recently as mixer/sound designer at Heard City in New York.  McClanahan has a wide range of expertise, from working on analog jazz recordings in New Orleans to mixing sound for major clients such as Google and Budweiser to leading sound design on award-winning films. Joining McClanahan in the New York studio are executive producer Ashley Benton and sound designer/mixer Dan Flosdorf, who both come over from Barking Owl’s L.A. studio.

“Opening a New York studio was always a dream and it’s so exciting to see it come true,” said Kelly Bayett, Barking Owl’s co-founder and creative director. “When we expanded, we were careful to make sure that the creative and culture of the studio was still at our insanely high standards.  To make sure that everything is consistent and our capabilities flow seamlessly across the nation, our EP Ashley Benton moved to NY from L.A.  You can expect the music, sound design and mix in NY to be as incredible as it is in L.A. as we have picked the very best artists available and we couldn’t be more excited to bring the Barking Owl experience to New York!”

Barking Owl NY is designed around client services and client care as well as being a highly functional space with state-of-the-art audio technology and talented artisans to facilitate and nurture artful, human-centric storytelling. The New York quarters include a luxurious conference room which allows client privacy outside of the editing suite, a full-size kitchen and other assorted amenities.

  • Thursday, Jun. 3, 2021
Songtradr acquires MassiveMusic
Hans Brouwer, founder and CEO of MassiveMusic

B2B music licensing marketplace Songtradr has acquired MassiveMusic, a global creative music agency that helps leading brands become more strategic and effective with the emotional power of music and sound. 

The acquisition of MassiveMusic comes at a pivotal time in the industry where a rise in technologies and channels of content means the number of places where a brand’s sound is experienced is dramatically increasing. With the explosion of content creation across multiple media formats, the size of the music industry is expected to reach $131B by 2030. Marketers more than ever have to cut through and create maximum impact, driving an urgency to optimize the power of music. Combining MassiveMusic’s music for brands footprint with Songtradr’s technologies and data-informed B2B music products creates a complete tech enabled music solution for brands in the digital age.   

“MassiveMusic has built a standout reputation for bold, brilliant, creative music solutions for brands over the last 20+ years,” said Paul Wiltshire, CEO of Songtradr. “The complexities of the B2B music industry have made it challenging to fully adopt and leverage technology, limiting it from experiencing the same growth as the consumer music industry.  Bringing our companies and competencies together creates the scale and trust to enable a true transformation of the B2B music industry and unlock significant growth potential.” 

MassiveMusic has approximately 85 employees with offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. The company creates and curates world class music, strategic sonic branding solutions and music management for global brands such as Nike, Heineken, Apple and UEFA. This year, MassiveMusic launched what it bills as the world’s first data-driven sonic branding tool: MassiveBASS, a revolutionary platform that combines art and science and predicts success in recall, distinctiveness and connection to brand personality. MassiveMusic has also won industry awards such as Cannes Gold Lion, D&AD, CLIO, Transform and more. MassiveMusic has seen impressive growth over the past year, despite the backdrop of COVID-19, delivering double digit revenue growth in 2020 in comparison to 2019.

“At MassiveMusic we are very excited to be joining forces with Songtradr. Our services are fully complementary to each other, allowing us to further enrich the services that we provide to our clients. The global brands and talented creative agencies we work with can all profit from the unique proposition that is created by combining the world’s biggest B2B music licensing technology company with the leading global creative music agency,” said Hans Brouwer, founder and CEO of MassiveMusic. “The thing that excites me the most is how our visions, ambitions and cultures are aligned. From the first meeting onwards our partnership felt like we’d been in a band for a long time already.”

Songtradr has over 300,000 tracks licensed through its ecosystem and more than 1.5 millions tracks on its platform. In 2019 Songtradr acquired Big Sync Music, and has since gone on to acquire Cuesongs, Song Zu, Pretzel, Tunefind and made an investment into ASX listed music data company Jaxsta.

MassiveMusic will lead the B2B Music Services Division of Songtradr Group enabling brands and agencies to dramatically increase their marketing impact and solve their music needs. From artists, music licensing, bespoke music composition and sonic branding to tech, data and real-time insights, marketers can be more efficient and impactful.

  • Wednesday, Jun. 2, 2021
BMGPM, Expand Music boost underrepresented talent

BMG Production Music (BMGPM) has partnered with educational organization Expand Music. The collaboration will see BMGPM provide work and development opportunities for “Expand Access” participants aged 16 to 19 from underrepresented backgrounds as part of its access-to-industry initiative. Expand Music is a London-based organization facilitating interactive music workshops and coaching for schools and businesses in the U.K. The initial aim of the collaboration is to offer new and emerging talent in the Expand Music network the opportunity to get their music onto the BMGPM catalog.

The “Expand Access” project links young artists from diverse and often economically disadvantaged backgrounds with tangible means to earn money from their art via professional relationships in which they are treated with respect and paid fairly. It also celebrates the significant contribution that young musicians and creators make to the rich cultural tapestry of the UK.

Two albums were released last month as part of the Expand Music partnership. Named after the artists, Chiles and OT showcase talents influenced by grime and neo-soul, respectively. 

From the Expand Music roster, Chiles signed to its Rawfire label with numerous releases and placements, wrote a bespoke track for the pilot show of BBC Three’s Fight Dirty, gained professional work experience at a leading production music label, mentors at Progression Sessions and has created an album of production music. Another successful Expand Music network graduate is Hindoloh. Now a talent manager and producer of music and videos, including “No Hook” by Zone 2 that has 1.5 million views on YouTube, he also mentors on Progression Sessions projects and is employed at BSix College as a music technician and workshop teacher.

  • Wednesday, Jun. 2, 2021
Racket Club adds Adrian Womack
Adrian Womack

Boutique music studio Racket Club has added the producing talents of Adrian Womack to its New York-based team. Womack is a New Orleans native who found his passion for media arts early on, which soon led him to the world of advertising. In his first career role, he served as a production coordinator, working with producers and creatives at TBWA\Chiat\Day and 72andSunny in L.A. He collaborated with brands such as Nissan, Airbnb, Google, and the 2028 LA Olympics bid. Growing weary of simply moonlighting in music outside of his regular working hours, he made his way to Mophonics in 2018, working on both their West and East Coast teams. He has since worked on music placement for many of the brands from his agency days, and more, while expanding his connections with new musical talent and the emerging generation within the creative industry. 

Home to talented musicians and music supervisors, Racket Club utilizes a global network of composers and performing artists to create custom-tailored musical identities for every project. 

Racket Club’s sister company is Uppercut, a creative postproduction boutique in New York and Atlanta. Racket Club donates a percentage of all profits to the NAACP Legal Fund, Harlem Village Academies, and Black Lives Matter.

  • Wednesday, Jun. 2, 2021
Songtradr ups David McConnell to chief technology officer
David McConnell

B2B music licensing marketplace Songtradr has promoted David McConnell to chief technology officer. McConnell started at Songtradr in February 2020 as director of technology architect and moved into the role of VP of architecture just five months later. 

A highly skilled technologist with 15 years of experience in software architecture and development across multiple industries, McConnell is passionate about music and creating products that benefit artists on a global scale. In his new role as CTO, McConnell will oversee all tech and engineering teams at Songtradr.

  • Monday, May. 31, 2021
Machine brings Ben Gulvin aboard as sr. sound designer
Ben Gulvin

Sound and music company Machine has added Ben Gulvin to its team of sound designers. 
Gulvin joins Patch Rowland and Alex Bingham as an integral part of the senior creative team in London. 
Gulvin has worked on assorted campaigns throughout his career, spanning TV, cinema, radio and short film. Among his credits are NHS’ “We are the NHS,” Met Police’s “Code Severe,” Smart Energy’s “Powering Cities,” Carwow’s “Car buying tamed” and Lynx’s “Forget about labels.” 
Gulvin joins Machine after a 17 year tenure at 750mph. “I’ve been fortunate to be around the best in the industry. From the get-go I was in an environment where attention to the finer details was a standard expectation. The wealth of talent I was surrounded by gave me the inspiration and drive to learn, develop and refine my career. The decision to leave 750mph was a tough one. However, the opportunity to develop my career further at Machine and be an integral part of their growth was something I could not miss out on. To work with Patch, Alex, Matej (EP Oreskovic) and all the team at Machine is very exciting, I cannot wait to get started.”

A team of sound designers, composers and producers, Machine maintains offices in London and New York.

  • Wednesday, May. 26, 2021
Grammys change rules for album of the year award
In this Oct. 10, 2017, file photo, various Grammy Awards are displayed at the Grammy Museum Experience at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

The Recording Academy has updated its rules for the album of the year Grammy, giving more producers and songwriters a better chance at winning the top award.

The academy announced Wednesday that any producer, songwriter, engineer or featured artist on an album nominated for album of the year will also earn a nomination — even if the music creator co-wrote one song on the 10-track project. Before the change, songwriters or producers would need to be credited with at least 33% or more playing time on the album to be eligible for nomination — a rule implemented in 2017.

The new change reflects how the Grammys handled album of the year before 2017, when producers, engineers or featured artists would earn a nomination for album of the year even if they worked on one song. Songwriters were not included at that time, and were added when the 2017 change was introduced.

Now that all songwriters on an album could earn a nomination, the academy can expect a larger number of nominees for each of the eight albums competing for album of the year. For instance, if Justin Bieber's "Justice" is nominated at the 2022 show, more than 50 creators will be nominated for the project. If Ariana Grande's "Positions" earns a nod, more than 35 people would be nominated for the album. J. Cole's "The Off-Season" or Bad Bunny's "El Último Tour Del Mundo" would give more than 20 participants an album of the year nomination.

That's in contrast to albums like Billie Eilish's "Happier Than Ever," which features songs written by the young star and her brother Finneas, who also produces all of her tracks. Olivia Rodrigo's "Sour," which is expected to debut at No. 1 next week — also features a tight group of a collaborators that wouldn't fall in to the double digits like Bieber or Grande's album. That distinction of using less collaborators could benefit Eilish and Rodrigo at the Grammys, and it begs the question: Would voters rather award 50 players for album of the year, or eight?

The change greatly effects rap, R&B and some pop albums — where songwriters and producers typically vary throughout the project, as opposed to country and rock albums, where fewer creators are present. While the change gives rap and R&B producers and songwriters a stronger chance at earning a Grammy nomination, a chance at actually winning the top award seems less possible.

The change is especially great since contemporary songs feature a large number of songwriters. The Top 10 songs on this week's Billboard Hot 100 chart feature Bieber's "Peaches," a hit written by 10 songwriters; nine writers are credited for Doja Cat and SZA's "Kiss Me More"; and The Weeknd and Grande's "Save Your Tears" was crafted by six writers. Other songs in the Top 10 feature less writers — Rodrigo and Daniel Nigro wrote "Good 4 U," currently No. 1 on the chart, and J. Cole is the sole writer behind "amari," at No. 5.

The announcement comes a month after the academy voted to remove its nomination review committees  — anonymous groups that determined the contenders for key awards at the Grammys.

For the 2022 Grammys, songs and album released between Sept. 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021 are eligible for nomination.

  • Monday, May. 24, 2021
Drake, Pink, The Weeknd win big at Billboard Music Awards
Icon award recipient Pink performs with her daughter Willow at the Billboard Music Awards, Friday, May 21, 2021, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The awards show airs on May 23 with both live and prerecorded segments. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

It was a family affair at the Billboard Music Awards: Pink twirled in the air in a powerful performance with her daughter, and Drake was named artist of the decade, accepting the honor alongside his 3-year-old son.

Drake, who extended his record as the most decorated winner in the history of the awards show to 29 wins Sunday, was surrounded by family and friends who presented him with the Artist of the Decade Award. He walked onstage outside the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles with his son Adonis holding his hand.

“I wanna dedicate this award to my friends, to my longtime collaborators ... to my beautiful family, and to you,” he said, looking to Adonis and picking him up to kiss him.

Drake placed his first song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2009, and since has logged the most songs ever on the chart, with 232 entrees. He’s also logged a record 45 Top 10 hits on the Hot 100 and a record 22 No. 1s on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart.

He was also named top streaming songs artist Sunday.

Pink received the Icon Award and was joined onstage by her 9-year-old daughter — showing off their powerful gymnastic skills as they spun in the air in a jaw-dropping performance. Known for her signature aerial and acrobatic moves, Pink was matched by Willow 
Sage Hart as “Cover Me In Sunshine” played in the background, Pink’s song featuring vocals from her daughter.

“Willow, you nailed it,” Pink said after the performance. “I love what I do and I love the people that I get to do it with, and we’re pretty good at what we do, but it wouldn’t matter if no one came to see us and play with us. So all you guys out there ... thank you for coming out!”

Pink’s performance was one of several pre-taped moments at the awards show, which aired on NBC and was hosted by Nick Jonas. Live performances were held outdoors, in front of feverish audience members wearing masks.

The Weeknd was on hand to accept the most wins of the night — 10. He walked into the show with 16 nominations, winning honors like top artist, top male artist, top Hot 100 song for “Blinding Lights” and top R&B album for “After Hours.”

“I wanna take this opportunity to thank you, my parents,” he said. “I am the man I am today because of you. And thank you to my fans, of course. I do not take this for granted.”

The late rapper Pop Smoke was also a big winner: He posthumously earned five honors, including top new artist and top rap artist, while his debut — “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” — won top rap album and top Billboard 200 album, which his mother accepted onstage.

“Thank you to the fans for honoring the life and spirit of my son, so much that he continues to manifest as if he was still here in flesh,” Audrey Jackson said. 

Another late rapper was also honored during the show. Before presenting top rap song to DaBaby, Swizz Beatz dedicated a moment to those who have recently died in hip-hop, including his close friend and collaborator DMX. And Houston rapper and activist Trae Tha Truth, who earned the Change Maker Award, ended his speech with a powerful sentence: “We still gon’ need justice for Breonna Taylor.”

Other winners Sunday included Bad Bunny and BTS, who both won four awards and also performed. Breakthrough country singer Gabby Barrett won three awards, including top female country artist and top country song for the hit “I Hope.” The song’s remix featuring Charlie Puth won top collaboration.

“Oh my gosh. Thank y’all so much. This means so much to me,” Barrett said as she broke into tears. “I’ve been performing for 10 years really hard. ...We’ve worked so hard to get here.”

Another country star also won big Sunday though he wasn’t allowed to participate in the show.

Morgan Wallen, who was caught on camera using a racial slur earlier this year, won three honors, including top country artist and top country album for “Dangerous: The Double Album,” which has had major success on the pop and country music charts despite his fallen moment.

Wallen was nominated for six awards, and Billboard Awards producer dick clark productions said it couldn’t prevent Wallen from earning nominations, or winning, because finalists are based on album and digital sales, streaming, radio airplay and social engagement. The producers did ban Wallen from performing or attending the show.

The Billboard Awards kicked off with a collaborative performance by DJ Khaled, H.E.R. and Migos, who brought the concert vibe back to life a year after live shows were in the dark because of the pandemic. Doja Cat and SZA — accompanied by futuristically dressed background dancers — sang their big hit “Kiss Me More” inside the venue, where the seats were empty. Alicia Keys, celebrating the 20th anniversary of her groundbreaking debut “songs in A minor,” sang songs from the album including the hit “Fallin’.” The performance was introduced by former first lady Michelle Obama.

Other performers included Karol G, twenty one pilots, Duran Duran, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Jonas Brothers and Glass Animals.

Stars like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Kanye West won honors at the show though they didn’t attend. Machine Gun Kelly, who started in rap but has had recent success on the rock charts, won top rock artist and top rock album.

“I released my first mixtape 15 years ago and this is the first big stage I’ve ever been invited to accept an award on,” he said, kissing his actor-girlfriend Megan Fox before walking to the stage.

“To the box that society keeps trying to put me, you need stronger material because you can’t keep me in it,” he proclaimed.

Here’s a list of winners in the top categories at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards:

  • Top artist: The Weeknd
  • Top Hot 100 song: The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”
  • Top Billboard 200 album: Pop Smoke, “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon.”
  • Top female artist: Taylor Swift
  • Top male artist: The Weeknd
  • Top new artist: Pop Smoke
  • Top collaboration: Gabby Barrett featuring Charlie Puth, “I Hope”
  • Top duo/group: BTS
  • Top R&B artist: The Weeknd
  • Top rap artist: Pop Smoke
  • Top country artist: Morgan Wallen
  • Top rock artist: Machine Gun Kelly
  • Top Latin artist: Bad Bunny
  • Top dance/electronic artist: Lady Gaga
  • Top Christian artist: Elevation Worship
  • Top gospel artist: Kanye West
  • Top social artist: BTS
  • Top streaming songs artist: Drake
  • Top song sales artist: BTS
  • Top radio songs artist: The Weeknd
  • Top Billboard 200 artist: Taylor Swift
  • Top Hot 100 artist: The Weeknd
  • Artist of the Decade Award: Drake
  • Icon Award: Pink
  • Change Maker Award: Trae Tha Truth
  • Saturday, May. 22, 2021
Rock band Maneskin wins Eurovision Song Contest for Italy
Maneskin from Italy celebrate with the trophy after winning the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Saturday, May 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- 

A four-piece band of Italian rockers won the Eurovision Song Contest in the early hours of Sunday, giving one of the countries hit hardest in Europe by the coronavirus pandemic reason to cheer.

Maneskin's win was only Italy's third victory in the immensely popular contest and the first since Toto Cutugno took the honor in 1990.

The music festival was cancelled last year amid the pandemic but this year's event in Rotterdam's Ahoy arena with its regime of testing and strict hygiene protocols was seen as a step toward a post-COVID-19 return to live entertainment.

"We think that the whole event was a relief. We think that we were really thankful ... to have had the chance to be part of this huge event," Maneskin lead singer Damiano David said. 

"This Eurovision means a lot, I think, to the whole of Europe. It's going to be a lighthouse. So thank you, everybody. Really," he added.

Italy, the bookmakers' favorite, trailed Switzerland, France and Malta after the national juries delivered their votes but were propelled to victory by votes from the viewing public.

"The audience is the most important thing, of course," said bassist Victoria De Angelis. 

"So the fact that so many people vote for us, it's the most meaningful, because that means that those people are coming to our gigs, they are listening to our music. And this has much more value than a jury"

A crowd of 3,500 fans, who all tested negative for the coronavirus, watched the finalists perform live.

Maneskin is Danish for moonlight, a tribute to De Angelis' home country. The band, which honed its musical style busking in Rome, won with a total of 529 points from second-placed France. Switzerland, which led after national juries had voted, finished third.

United Kingdom singer James Newman's song, "Embers," failed to ignite any love at all and did not score a single point, finishing last, just as the U.K. did at the previous Eurovision two years ago.

U.S. rapper Flo Rida didn't manage to translate his star power into points for tiny San Marino's entry that was sung by Senhit. They finished with just 50 points.

For lovers of kitsch, German singer Jendrik played a sparkling ukulele and danced with a woman dressed in a giant hand costume optimistically showing the victory sign. He finished close to last.

Lithuanian band The Roop danced in bright yellow costumes in a tongue-in-cheek homage to 1980s synth pop.

Pravi's song. "Voilà," was a restrained ballad that built to a swirling crescendo on a largely darkened stage, but there was still plenty of the over-the-top spectacle that has become Eurovision's trademark.

Norwegian singer Andreas Haukeland, whose stage name TIX is a reference to growing up with Tourette syndrome, sang "Fallen Angel" in a pair of giant white wings while chained to four prancing devils.

At the other end of the spectrum -- Finland's hard-rocking Blind Channel played their song "Dark Side" amid bursts of pyrotechnics and Ukraine's Go_A performed surrounded by skeletal white trees.

Ahead of the show, crowds gathered outside the arena in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Drag queens mingled with families as a man in a gold suit waited to get into the venue.

Milo Mateo and Carlo Sossa, wearing matching sequin-covered hats and draped in Italian flags, came from Italy for the show and were hoping for a Maneskin victory since that would bring next year's contest to Italy.

"If we win, it will be very, very nice, because the next year will be in Italy. That's very good. Let's hope. Fingers crossed," Mateo said as he waited to get into the arena.

The popular Icelandic band Dadi og Gagnamagnid, known for its kitsch dance moves and green leisurewear costumes, could not perform live because one member tested positive for the virus earlier in the week. Instead, viewers saw a recording of one of the band's dress rehearsals.

"The point was to go and actually experience how it was to compete in Eurovision, and that's just really not happening," lead singer Dadi Freyr said from isolation in Rotterdam.

Maneskin lead singer David said the victory was a vindication of the band's career trajectory that started with them busking on the streets of Rome.

"We feel like everything we did since the day we met and since the day we started playing and playing on the streets is really making sense and it's worth it," he said.

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