Streaming Continues To Grow

IFPI Logo

This year Apple announced that it would stop supporting the iTunes app and replace it with three separate apps: Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts. All three of these apps will most certainly be centred around one thing – the streaming of content.

As streaming continues to grow and gain in popularity physical sales and digital downloads continue their downward slide. Paid streaming services have grown by 32.9% whilst physical revenues have shrunk by 10.1% and download revenue has also shrunk by 21.2%s as reported by IFPI. In addition streaming revenue now makes up 46.8% of global revenue.

This year’s report by global music industry body IFPI follows a now predictable trend that has seen physical sales (largely comprised of CDs) and digital downloads decline as streaming continues in its upward surge.

Some of us are lucky enough to have grown up or at least witnessed multiple different media platforms. Growing up in our household one could find cassette tapes and CDs and if one were to visit my maternal grandparents home then they would also find an antiquated collection of Vinyl records.

The change from then to now is striking and it remains to be seen what tomorrow has to bring. Only time will tell.

Quick Mixing Tip: Low Cut High Cut

There’s nothing worse than struggling with unwanted frequencies at the polar extremities of the audio spectrum. How you structure your mix at the start can save you a lot of headaches later on.

A quick tip to remember when mixing is that the average human (depending on) hears audio from 20Hz up to 20,000Hz. Most people however, can’t hear as low, nor can they hear as high. That’s because audible frequency range for most people tends to diminish with age. When mixing most instruments, apart from the bass or sub bass, simply apply a low cut on the EQ at around 60Hz.

Low Cut 60 Hz Screenshot.png

Applying this low cut will create more space toward the low end of the mix for the bass to come through more audibly. Similarly, you should also apply a high cut on the EQ at around 16000Hz (as illustrated below)toward the high end. This will simply smooth things over toward the high end.

High Cut 16000 Hz Screen Shot.png

 

The Beauty of Vinyl

Ever since I started buying vinyl in my late teens I’ve been hooked. When asked why I love collecting records I can almost never give a straightforward answer, but please allow me to at least try.

Smokey Robinson – Being With You LP Cover

The unique sonic characteristics are by far the most alluring aspect of records. When comparing the digitised versions of albums to their vinyl copies the difference is as a clear as night and day. For some it’s the soothing crackling noise, and for others it’s the so called “warmth” of vinyl, but for me it’s anything and everything to do with the distinct sound of a record.

Album covers are also somewhat of a lost art when it comes to digital only releases. Now that’s not to say that modern day musicians are no longer offering artwork alongside their music, but that simply stated; a jpeg image just doesn’t evoke the same emotion as a physical and tangible album cover. Reading a band’s press release on their website, for me at least, is just not the same as reading a carefully curated series of stories in an LP’s sleeve notes.

Paul Hardcastle – Zero One LP Cover


So far all of the points covered could easily be rebuffed by pointing out that digital has an equivalent. That opposing view would be valid but that’s besides the point. All of the different aspects of a vinyl LP come together to create a unique auditory, visual and overall aesthetic sensory experience in way that the digital platforms can only hope to imitate.

The final point that makes record collecting so alluring and magical for me is the hunt. I spent countless days and money in my late teens and early twenties building up my collection. Most of my records were sourced from darkly lit and shady looking rooms passing for record stores. But whenever I came home from one of my record hunting adventures it was always with a keen sense of accomplishment, one that I’ve never achieved from downloading WAV files or streaming a new release in mere ‘seconds.’

Stream Bittersweet on Spotify!

We’re pleased to announce that Bittersweet by Kudzai Albert is now available to stream on Spotify and all major platforms.

Please use the link below, and thank you for your continued support!

https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/7rJWZ3d8ab9mcYe0Ip89Z8

New Project In The Works

So I’ve been compiling this project on and off for about a year and a half now. This will be an instrumental album or a beat tape for all you cool kids out there.

Why a ‘beat tape’ and and not a conventional vocal album? The reason is not all that compelling. Part of it is because I want to improve as a composer, writer and producer. The other part of it is because I sometimes find myself writing music that I kind quite set lyrics to.

Why I Write Music

The question “why do I write music?” can be easily answered with just a few words – “because I love to express myself.” But that’s no fun is it. So what I’m going to do instead is to briefly turn my family history, upbringing and personal tastes inside out in an effort to pinpoint some of the things that drive me.

For as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed listening to music. One of my fondest memories is  when I was around six years old sitting on a bus with my mother and both of us where singing along to K-Ci and JoJo’s All My Life without a care in the world.

Fast forward to the age of eleven and I was getting influenced by my older brother’s obsession with 2pac’s music. Around that time something clicked in me that caused me to pick up a pen and start writing lyrics over Changes by 2pac and thus began my love for writing lyrics.

Around the  time I started secondary school my family moved to Ashford, Middlesex where I met my dear childhood friend Luciano. This is also when I’d started dabbling in making instrumentals and recording my own music albeit using the most elementary studio equipment.

Unbeknownst to me Luciano was fortunate enough to have his own bedroom recording studio which was a massive step up from what I had to work with. This early collaboration helped us to grow as both friends and as musicians [he went on to score music for films.]

In my early teens my mother saw how passionate I was becoming about music and decided to pay for my first professional recording session in a garden shed recording studio in Hampton Court, London.

Despite it’s garden shed status this studio was fully kitted out. Going based on memory the studio was equipped with a multitrack mixing desk, some channels strips, compressors and mic amps. Even though I only had an one hour to work with I managed to get two songs recorded, edited and mixed with the help of my sound engineer.

These two songs were burned to a few CDs that somehow made their way around my school. I became somewhat of a school celebrity – I guess I must have enjoyed the attention as it only spurred on.

That same year I attended my first live performance in Central London in front some five hundred odd people. I remember forgetting one of my lyrics but my years of practice saved me as I quickly recovered and the crowd was none the wiser.

Around the age of sixteen the family decided to move to Basingstoke. This period between sitting my GCSEs and contemplating which course to study at college was very transformative for me.

Because family had moved whilst I was sitting my GCSEs and I had to stay behind and finished my studies. I briefly moved in with my aunt who lived in Slough.

The commute to my school in Ashford  was tedious. Everyday I had to take the number 81 bus from Slough to Hounslow and then the number 203 from Hounslow to Ashford Hospital where I’d then walk about ten minutes to get to school.

During this time I remember the visceral emotion of feeling conflicted. On the one hand I had the opportunity to move to a brand new town and meet new people but on the other hand I remember not wanting to lose my friends in Ashford.

Around this transitional period whenever I had some spare money – which was a rarity at this point – I bought myself some music. I remember buying a copy of Common’s Finding Forever. I had never really bought a Common album before this. It was this album that helped me navigate this “transformative period.”

One song in particular stood out for me – Forever Begins.  This was written as a tribute to the late great J Dilla, a close friend of Common. The song dealt with the emotion of loss and how to come to terms with such great change.

Fast forward a few years later and I was starting my studies at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford. This is where I really honed my craft as a songwriter, performer, sound engineer and as a producer. Yet when I graduated all I remember is this intense feeling of burnout.

It was around this time that mother told me how my Grandfather had been music teacher. Now that I look back I can’t help but wonder if there Is there a connection between my Grandfather’s profession and my love for music? I couldn’t answer that convincingly. However, in a roundabout way I guess one could make the connection between my grandfather influencing my mother into loving music and how me and my mother grew to share that same love for music years down the line.

All I can say is that when I first sense the makings of a new song ‘I feel alive.’ In stark contrast though whenever I finalise a project I feel rather empty. I feel as if music is something that I have to live and express in order to be fulfilled. It is an integral part of my identity.

The above is simply a brief glimpse into the events that have shaped and built me into the man I am today. In conclusion I’m almost certain that were it not for my family’s influence on me as a young man I wouldn’t have taken my love for music as far as I have.

Book Reviews: Black Box Thinking

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“In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm… in the real world all rests on perseverance.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

What are the two things that all successful women and men have in abundance? Ideas and perseverance by the bucket load.

When you’re considered the best in class and you hit a brick wall it takes a little more than doing what you’ve always done to cross the finish line. The idea of marginal gains is at a first a foreign one especially for the more recent generations – the Millennials and Generation Z.

In a world where everything is geared toward instant gratification Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed takes us back to the basics. The idea od marginal gains requires that one demonstrates superior levels of patience, as does the concept of Black Box Thinking.

When a tragic plane crash occurs it takes patiently scouring through heaps of debris and analysing mounts of black box data in order to piece together a full picture of events in chronological order.

The idea of painstakingly analysing plane crashes is not to point the finger of blame but rather to point in a direction that may bring about change. It’s all about making sure that we don’t repeat our errors. When there are hundreds of lives on the line the stakes are as high as could be and that requires thinking outside the box.

These very same ideas practised in industries such as aviation, formula one and competitive cycling could be introduced into different fields. Join Matthew Syed in Black Box Thinking as he takes you through various different tragedies and challenges in various industries to show you how you could learn from them.

How I Compiled My Debut Album Bittersweet

My debut album Bittersweet was released in September of 2018. On it are featured an array of songs that I had been hoarding for the past five or so years.

What took me so long to compile this album you may ask? Well life has a habit of getting in the way when you least expect it. The bulk of my songs were written whilst I was living in Mitcham, London between 2016 and 2017.

I’ve always found London to be very inspiring. There’s just so much going on there and you really have to run to keep up. That kind of energy either makes you or breaks you. In my case I like to think that it accomplished the former.

A few of the songs were written in Basingstoke, that’s right in good ol Hampshire. Having been born in the city (Harare) and having grown up not too far from there (Ashford, Surrey) I’ve always been a city boy but I’d be lying if I said I don’t have a soft spot for the countryside.

Whilst the madness that is London might have sparked a lot of the ideas that make up Bittersweet, Basingstoke allowed them to take shape and solidify into something releasable.

Danny Brown – When It Rain [Single Review]

Not too long ago news broke of rapper Danny Brown joining Warp’s roster. Apart of Flying Lotus, Warp is not traditionally known for associating itself with Rap or Hip Hop acts. And even the works and collaborations that Flying Lotus has produced on his own and in collaboration with rappers such as Kendrick Lamar (Never Catch Me) could hardly be called Hip Hop.

The first single to come from Brown is the offbeat anthem “When It Rain”. It’s an adrenalin charged dystopian plethora of weird yet wonderful sounds. It is only after listening to this song many times over, that you get somewhat of an understanding of how Brown will fit in perfectly with the bunch of misfits on Warp’s roster.

Sonically speaking, this song is very aspiring, with it’s drone like bass-line and piercing lead synth. All of these elements are glued together by a fairly prominent swing on the entire arrangement which manages to throw the listener off a bit. Brown’s high pitched rap always feels like it’s going to get ahead of the music, but instead he manages to mould himself perfectly into the arrangement as if almost effortlessly. It’s this perfect blend of uncanny eccentricity and an unmistakable sense of confidence that has gained him notoriety amongst critics and listeners alike.

Kanye West – No More Parties In L.A ft Kendrick Lamar [Single Review]

Kanye West - No More Parties In L.A

 

If there can only be one man in music with the ability to instantly perform a musical u-turn then that man can only be Kanye West. A follow up to the more sombre “Real Friends”, “No More Parties In L.A” is completely different, both musically and lyrically. This song perfectly encapsulates Kanye’s unpredictability. After his last album “Yeezus” which was more experimental than anything he’d ever done before, a traditional sample driven song such as the one we now find ourselves preoccupied with almost seems like a step backward.

The song samples significantly from ‘Suzie Thundertussy’ by Walter “Junie” Morrison. And whilst this Madlib produced song manages to retain some of the vibe from the sampled composition, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar’s efforts manage to create a unique atmosphere primarily driven by both energetic and witty verses.The two did away with the more traditional three verse structure or what some like to call the “pop format”. Instead they opted for two very long verses. Kanye West opening Kendrick Lamar’s verse with a couple of lines is reminiscent of the back to back rap verses from times past. But this is only momentary and Kendrick Lamar is quick to take over and perform the rest of his breath taking verse.

The unmistakable swing on the drums gives the entire arrangement a very old school feel. The way in which the kick and snare are slightly syncopated is very reminiscent of a J Dilla production. The irony of this is that the late great J Dilla was a frequent collaborator of Madlib’s, and they were both known for their very distinctive styles of production which relied on heavily swung drums. And almost as if to drive home the fact that this is indeed a signature Madlib production, there is a more than prominent vocal sample repeating in the background. The bass line is very present, and apart from glueing the song together, it’s also one of the driving factors. The drums are very subdued in comparison to aforementioned elements.

Kanye seems to focus his lyrical efforts on painting an image of transition.  The lyric “Thinking back to how I got here in the first place. Second class bxxches wouldn’t let me on first base” is very poignant, and could easily be construed as attempting to pander to the male ego. But look beneath the surface and it’s clear that this is undoubtably a reference to his great success and the disparity between his past, and his present. Or perhaps it really is just another attempt by Mr. West at reminding us of how he made it. However, whilst not often credited for his technical ability as a rapper, one cannot deny that Kanye has a way with words . Nowhere is this more evident than in the lyric “When did I become A list? I wasn’t even on a list”. That is further elaborating on the contrast between his going from being a fairly average Joe to being incredibly successful.