- James Prince, CEO of Houston’s Rap-A-Lot Records, has been announced as the 2nd keynote speaker at this year’s SXSW festival. Rap-A-Lot Records, which started in 1986 as an effort to keep a group of teenagers from Houston’s 5th Ward in school and off the streets, has produced dozens of gold and platinum albums from artists such as Bun B., The Geto Boys, and Big Mike. Prince is also famous for his hands-on approach towards his charitable efforts, handing out turkeys on Thanksgiving, donating back-to-school supplies, and passing out food and sleeping bags to Houston’s homeless and less fortunate. Bun B. will interview Prince during this year’s music conference on March 17th at the Austin Convention Center.
- The Boston music scene has been buzzing with nostalgia this week. After disbanding in 1996, dream-pop group Belly announced on Monday that they’re not only reuniting for a summer tour across the UK and U.S., but they’ll be releasing new songs on their website one-by-one over the next few months. Pixies also seem to be cooking-up some new material. The band ended their 23-year hiatus in 2014 with the release of Indie Cindi. Now, according to a teaser trailer released two days ago, it looks like the Pixies may be working on an album coming later this year.
- Back in September, a California judge ruled that American Music Publishing company Warner/Chappell had been wrongfully and unlawfully collecting licensing fees for the song “Happy Birthday To You,” saying that the copyright on the lyrics, if there ever was one, would have expired no later than 1921. What Warner/Chappell actually owns is a very specific arrangement of the ubiquitous tune. For decades the company charged anywhere from a few hundred to over a hundred thousand dollars for the use of the song in public performances and motion pictures. Yesterday, Warner/Chappell moved to end the 6-month lawsuit. Not only will “Happy Birthday To You” finally enter the public domain, but the company will pay restitution fees of $14 million to musicians and motion picture companies.
As the 2016 presidential race heats up, America’s most important political class, celebrities and musicians, are beginning to declare their endorsements. Members of Vampire Weekend and The Dirty Projectors joined Bernie Sanders at an Iowa rally to sing “Unbelievers” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” while Kid Rock and country-music legend Loretta Lynn voiced their support for Donald Trump. UK singer Adele is staying out of the frenzy, though, saying that her music is not approved for any political campaign. That means no more “Skyfall” and “Rolling in the Deep” pumping-up the crowds at Trump rallies.
Three more artists join the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame this October. The third annual induction ceremony celebrates B.B. King, Kris Kristofferson, and Bonnie Raitt for their influential performances on PBS’s long-running TV show. Last year’s inductees included Loretta Lynn, Townes Van Zandt, and Asleep at the Wheel.
Boognish, rejoice! Levitation Fest (formerly Austin Psych Fest) continues to add to its already stacked list of high-caliber acts. The festival announced on Wednesday that rising super star Courtney Barnett and Cult Music legend Ween are joining a bill that already includes Brian Wilson, Animal Collective, and Flying Lotus. Ween announced a reunion tour in November after the group broke up back in 2012. Also added this week was Dan Auberbach’s Psychedelic side project, The Arcs.
2016 continues to be a rough year for music lovers, but in the last couple of weeks, the losses have been closer to home. Last week, on January 28, Jefferson Airplane lost two of its founding members, drummer and lifelong San Francisco resident Paul Kantner and singer Signe Toly Anderson. Anderson was in the band for just a year before being replaced by Grace Slick. And Wednesday, Memphis-born Maurice White, the founding member and bandleader of Earth, Wind, and Fire, passed peacefully in his sleep after a 25-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. All three musicians were 74.
Musicians no longer need to sell records to go platinum; they can now be stream-lined to that status. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is now allowing albums to achieve gold and platinum status through streaming. The system is fairly simple: 1,500 streams equals one album sale. 500,000 sales to Gold; 1,000,000 to platinum. The rule went into effect on February 1st, and a few artists have already reaped the rewards of this new rule. Alt-J’s (∆) An Awesome Wave has earned a gold award, while Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly has gone streaming platinum.
Electronic music doesn’t usually get a lot of love from the Grammy’s, so the industry has responded with a brand new award show this spring. FOX and Music Producer Paul Oakland are behind the inaugural Electronic Music Awards and Foundation show that will celebrate the genre’s trailblazers, tastemakers, and today’s hottest DJs with interviews, performances, and of course, awards. The red carpet event will air on Fox on April 23rd.
Boise-based Youth Lagoon called it quits on Monday via Twitter. It’s not necessarily the end of front man Trevor Power’s musical endeavors, but Youth Lagoon’s live performances are strictly numbered. The band will continue the scheduled international tour, so if you find this news especially disheartening, now is the time to snag some tickets.
The Stubb’s vs. Stubb’s lawsuit gets even juicier, South By Southwest says having one keynote speaker is no longer enough, and one innovation makes it easier for musicians when inspiration strikes, while another marries Guitar Hero and music video releases.
In December, One World Foods, the company behind Stubb’s retail BBQ sauces, filed a lawsuit against the Stubb’s restaurant for selling their products at Lala’s Little Nugget and Graceland Grocery. Now, Stubb’s Restaurant Company is coming back with a counterclaim saying there is unfair competition between the two businesses. The ongoing conflict between restaurant and retailer remains on the chopping block.
For the first time ever, South By Southwest with host not just one, but multiple keynote speakers. The first, and only, speaker announced, Music producer Tony Visconti, will kick off the keynote speeches on March 16th, presumably discussing his collaborations and longtime friendship with David Bowie. And as of last Friday, the festival started serving-up big slices of their Artist Showcase line-up. Check their website or app each week between now and March 15th for dozens of new additions.
Apple Music is changing the way musicians jot down inspiration whenever and wherever it may strike. This week, the technology giant released Music Memos, a new app that lets you record with high-quality audio. The app can also suggest chords, add bass and drums, and send files. Collaboration among band mates and getting out those inspiration earworms just got easier.
Guitar Heroes across the nation get to rock out to Def Leppard’s latest music video before anyone else. On Thursday, the band released their video for “Dangerous” through Guitar Hero Live. It’s the first time Guitar Hero has been involved in a music video release, and players don’t just get to watch it first—they can also play along!
In this edition of Sound Check, we look at the upcoming Music Venue Summit in preparation for SXSW, the changes on Bowie Street after David Bowie’s death, and the passing of Twine Time’s Paul Ray.
Barracuda, the new music venue taking the place of Red 7, is open for business. December 14th’s grand opening party will include performances by Leo Rondeau, Sweet Spirit, and Julian Neel.
The GRAMMY nominations are out, and Austin’s Patty Griffin and Hayes Carll both made the list. Griffin’s “Servant of Love” is up for best folk album, and Hayes Carll is nominated for his song “Chances Are.” Conspirarae is also nominated for best choral performance.
The SIMS Foundation, a local organization that provides mental health services to Austin musicians, announced a big expansion this week. Starting in 2016, the nonprofit will supply coverage to all music industry professionals.
Transmission Events and C3 Presents released their lineup for Free Week, which will occur across various downtown venues January 1-10.