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Overdoses or violent crime have claimed Mac Miller, Juice WRLD and Nipsey Hussle. Its not a fairytale lifestyle, admits an insider but should the business do more to protect its stars?

It might sound callous, but Jacob Thuresons parents, Erik and Judy, were not too worried when they heard about his latest overdose. It had happened a couple of times already and the 18-year-old rapper had always made it out of hospital in one piece. Thureson, who performed under the name Hella Sketchy, was among the wave of emo-influenced trap rappers who came up using the music platform SoundCloud. He had recently relocated from the family home in Texas to Los Angeles after being signed to Atlantic Records.

As Erik drove to work, he cycled through a mental list of options: more inpatient treatment? Thureson had already been to rehab, twice. Ketamine therapy?

There would be no further plan of action. Shortly after Erik left for work, Judy received another phone call. Things were very bad, and they should come to the hospital now. Fourteen days later, on 27 June 2019, Thureson died.

Many young rappers have died in the past few years. Mac Miller died in 2018 aged 26 after consuming cocaine and counterfeit oxycodone containing the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Lil Peep died at 21 in 2017 an accidental fentanyl and Xanax overdose. Juice WRLD died late last year after a drug-induced seizure aboard a private jet. It is believed he swallowed multiple Percocet pills in an attempt to hide them as police raided the plane. On New Years Day, a rare female death: Minnesota rapper Lexii Alijai, the victim of yet another accidental fentanyl overdose.

Alongside these deaths by misadventure, there are the victims of violent crime. Despite being accused of horrific abuse by an ex-partner, XXXTentacion enjoyed massive popularity before being killed in 2018 aged 20 as he was robbed outside a Florida motorcycle dealership. Pittsburgh rapper Jimmy Wopo touted as the heir to local forebears Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller was killed in a drive-by shooting the same day. Two weeks later, 21-year-old Canadian rapper and Drake tourmate Smoke Dawg was killed outside a Toronto nightclub. In March 2019, Nipsey Hussle was shot dead outside his Los Angeles clothing store.

Lil
Lil Peep, who died from an accidental fentanyl and Xanax overdose.

Many of these rappers engaged with their own mortality in lyrics that talked about death, drugs and depression. Death is everywhere in SoundCloud rap: the genres unofficial logo is a teardrop. Smokepurpp posed in a coffin in the artwork for his mixtape Deadstar, and Peep often called the Kurt Cobain of his generation owing to his cherubic face, placid manner and dedication to his ever-spiralling nihilism intoned: Everybody tellin me lifes short, but I wanna die, on his 2017 track The Brightside.

Looking at such lyrics, you might reasonably conclude that these rappers wanted to die. But while some of them did experience mental illness and addiction, their death wish was as much of an aesthetic as the pink hair and facial tattoos. So why did the nihilistic pose become a self-fulfilling prophecy, ending the lives of young people barely out of their teens? And what can be done to arrest it?

One problem lies in the way these rappers careers have built with unprecedented speed. While earlier generations of musicians might spend years gigging before being spotted, DIY rap stars have circumvented the record industrys gatekeepers to accrue wealth and success often while still in their teens leaving them struggling to adapt to sudden fame. Peep went from having no manager to being managed by a very large company that deals with high-profile artists, and with that came more money and more pressure, says his friend and collaborator Adam McIlwee, who performs as Wicca Phase Springs Eternal.

In an industry that is ruthlessly dedicated to discovering the hot new thing, pastoral care can be nonexistent. Record labels often dont care about these rappers. They know that when theyre done, the next SoundCloud or Instagram rapper is behind them, says Calvin Smiley, an expert in hip-hop and social justice at Hunter College in New York. On an even more cynical note, he questions why Juice WRLD was carrying his drugs personally. Ive been around hip-hop artists, and the rule of thumb is that there is a friend who holds the drugs and takes the fall, Smiley says. You wonder: where were his handlers? Where were the people giving him direction?

The role of management is also coming under scrutiny. Peeps mother, Liza Womack, is suing First Access Entertainment, who managed the rapper. She claims that they encouraged drug use on Lil Peeps final tour, would obtain drugs for him, and pushed the rapper beyond the limits of what somebody of his age and maturity level could handle emotionally, mentally, and physically. (First Access Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment, but in a legal filing has said its dealings with Peep were purely of a business nature and not the type of special relationship giving rise to an independent duty of care.) McIlwee claims that Peep had a fight with his management shortly before he died. I know there was a show he did not want to play for whatever reason and [the drug-taking] was him just showing the world he didnt really care.

McIlwee says that labels and management should give artists time to recover. If your artist is in trouble, you have to step in and say its time to take a step back or re-evaluate the release schedule, the touring, he says. So the artist can get healthy and have a long career. But that doesnt happen much, because long careers are boring.

There are signs that lessons are being learned. Giuseppe Zappala of Galactic Records manages Lil Tecca, the 17-year-old SoundCloud wunderkind whose track Ransom reached No 4 in the US and has amassed more than 650m plays on Spotify. He has learned to read Teccas moods carefully: if the young rapper appears overtired, Zappala will clear the schedules. He ensures that Tecca has at least a day off between shows and that tours last no longer than five weeks. Sometimes he brings chefs on the road to ensure he is eating healthily. Sleep is another priority, although there is a limit to what Zappala can do, given that Tecca is a teenager. There will definitely be times when Tec wants to go to the studio until 8am, Zappala sighs. I say: That may not make the most sense, because youve got a show tomorrow at 1pm. Its about trying to instil routine in him.

Nipsey
Fans pay their respects to Nipsey Hussle at the spot where he was murdered. Photograph: David McNew/Getty

But young rappers can face just as much pressure from outside the industry: The environments where these kids come from its not a fairytale lifestyle, says Taylor Maglin, who discovered Wopo and managed him until his death. Its a war zone, you know? Rivals get created, enemies get created. He believes that Wopo was murdered by disaffected members of a rival gang, who were envious of his success. (Wopo was allegedly a member of the Hill District gang 11 Hunnit, and was name-checked in a police indictment shortly after his death.)

XXXTentacions lawyer, David Bogenschutz, says the rapper had been concerned that someone would kidnap or kill him. He was generating money and notoriety. The day XXXTentacion was shot, it is believed he was stalked from his bank to the motorcycle dealership.

The rap game isnt like any other industry, says producer Jimmy Duval, who worked with XXX. There are a lot of guns and bullets flying around.

Smiley says that hip-hops relationships with drugs has changed absolutely. Earlier generations of rappers used drugs as a tool to accrue wealth, speaking about selling them as a way out of poverty, rather than using narcotics themselves (bar weed and alcohol). Once success arrived, drugs were used as a social signifier: music videos depicting tables groaning with bottles of Hennessy and cocaine-dusted mirrors. That reality has shifted to a more flagrant form of glamorisation.

A turning point came at the turn of the 2010s, when rapper Juicy J helped popularise lean, then the drug of choice in Houstons chopped and screwed music scene. An addictive and dangerous concoction of soda, candy and prescription cough mixture containing codeine, references to lean oozed into rap: Lil Wayne celebrates it, Young Thug freely drinks it during interviews, and Juice WRLD said he was inspired to try lean after listening to Future. Roddy Ricchs hit track The Box, currently the US No 1, has an anthemic chorus with a line about drinking lean to get lazy.

Rappers also began hitting party drugs such as MDMA and cocaine, as well as the prescription drugs OxyContin, Xanax and Percocet. Future celebrates molly, Perocets in his 2015 smash Mask Off. (That is a horrible combination of drugs, says Duval of Mask Off: The whole hook is you having a fucking heart attack.) The rapper Lil Pump posed with a Xanax-shaped cake to celebrate reaching 1 million followers on Instagram, a particularly brain-dead stunt given that counterfeit prescription drugs containing fentanyl have been blamed for the 10-fold increase in opioid-related deaths in the US between 2013 and 2018.

A culture of performative excess began to strangle the scene, viewed through the panopticon of social media, which encourages risk-taking behaviour, says Smiley: You have to be on 24/7, because everything is about likes, shares and counting how many followers you have. Thureson posted videos of himself drinking lean on Instagram; when his parents confronted him, he claimed it was purple Gatorade. He told me it was just the culture, his mum, Judy, says. Peep posed with prescription pills on his tongue hours before he died.

Braden L Morgan, known as producer Nedarb Nagrom, was Peeps roommate for three years. He believes Peep abused drugs to alleviate the pressures of touring, which he hated, and that hangers-on offering him drugs made things worse. He was really nice and would say yes to everything, so hed do whatever anyone offered him. And as he got more popular, more people wanted to be his friend, so they gave him the stuff more. He calls Peeps death a horrible accident. He got unlucky. I have no doubt that if he hadnt passed away, he was going to chill out.

Lil
Lil Tecca performs at the Rolling Loud festival in New York City. Photograph: Steven Ferdman/Getty

After so many deaths, a brutal comedown. After Peep died, a lot of people stopped partying every day, says Morgan. He has seen drug use tail off among the young rappers he produces; Lil Pump and Smokepurpp announced they were quitting Xanax following Peeps death. The younger kids dont do stuff as much, because they see all the shit that happened in the last few years. For those who do still indulge, drug-testing kits are becoming common. No one was testing drugs before Peep died, says Morgan.

There are promising indications that the rap scene is beginning to course-correct. Theres enough of a bad taste in everyones mouth that saying, go pop a molly doesnt feel right now, says Duval. The backlash has been rumbling for a while: J Coles 2018 diss track 1985 was scathing about SoundCloud rappers. They wanna see you dab, they wanna see you pop a pill / They wanna see you tatted from your face to your heels.

As the narcotic aesthetic becomes less fashionable, rappers are becoming more mindful of the message they are sending to fans. Artists including Isaiah Rashad, Lucki, Travis Scott and Danny Brown have spoken out about prescription drug addiction. Sacramento rapper Mozzy has urged his followers to quit lean. Lucki, considered by some to be the father of SoundCloud rap, talks in Freewave 3 about his mother looking up the effect of lean on his kidneys. Even Lil Xan, easily most cavalier artist in this group, has considered changing his name.

As Miller sang in his biggest hit, it is time to finally start practising some self-care. But the burden should not fall to individuals: as labels and management cash in on this wave, they must take greater responsibility for artist wellbeing. You have to prioritise their health and happiness before music or fame, says Zappala. Its tough being a successful artist, not knowing whether the people around you have genuine intentions.

His goals for Tecca are clear. Im going to develop Tec into an artist who has a 10, 15-year career, says Zappala. When hes 30, hes still going to be relevant.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jan/31/war-zone-music-industry-confronts-a-generation-of-rappers-dying-young

“It was SoundCloud’s opportunity to lose and now it’s ours,” says Audius CEO Roneil Rumburg. Plenty of musicians and fans are sick of SoundCloud’s expensive hosting costs, haphazard content takedowns and lagging user experience as the site’s status withers. Audius wants to be the opposite, and offer a new home for artists where they’ll eventually earn 90% of revenue earned and the startup itself can’t remove songs.

Today Audius launches its music streaming and free hosting service backed by DJs like deadmau5 and Zed’s Dead, plus $5.5 million in A-list venture capital. Music makers can upload their songs at no cost, and users can browse, follow and get listening recommendations. The catalog is small to start, with just a few hundred artists, but Audius has big plans for how to lure artists choosing between other SoundCloud alternatives, from Mixcloud to YouTube.

Audius

The secret sauce is that Audius isn’t just a web and mobile site, it’s an open-source protocol built on the blockchain, not that users need to be versed in cryptocurrency or do anything special to sign up. Audius doesn’t actually host the music, but decentralizes it across independently operated nodes, which it believes will protect it from lawsuits and record label pressure. It’s distributing its own crypto tokens to incentivize artists that join early, as well as the node operators, with the insinuation that these might rise in value if the service grows popular.

Audius is completely free for listening at high-quality 320kbps. For now, artists can’t make money, though many still can’t on SoundCloud. But in early 2020, the startup plans to let artists opt into requiring users to occasionally listen to ads or pay a few dollars per month for an Audius subscription. Ninety percent of revenue will go to the artists and 10% to the node operators, and there are also plans to cut in playlist curators. Audius itself hopes the value of its tokens will rise so it can sell from its stockpile to generate revenue.

Audius

“Audius’ dedication to empowering artists through supporting direct relationships with fans, censorship resistance, and fair pay is so important in a time when artists are being mistreated regularly,” writes dance music superstar deadmau5, aka Joel Zimmerman, who’s on the startup’s advisory board. Other artists like Zeds Dead, Mr. Carmack and Rezz have pledged to put some exclusive music on Audius, ranging from finished tracks to rough drafts. They were attracted by the promise of bigger and faster payouts, plus a transparent copyright takedowns process.

The biggest challenge for Audius will be playing catch-up recruiting artists and listeners over a decade after SoundCloud launched and when Spotify already has 108 million paying subscribers from its 232 million users. For now there’s not much special about the user experience, where you can listen to a feed of what you follow or library of saved songs, or check out trending artists and playlists. At least sign up is easier than most blockchain apps, requiring merely an email address or Twitter sign-in, though crypto kids can use MetaMask. The lack of native mobile apps won’t help, though.

Audius

All the artists-first philosophy won’t matter if it never gains traction. But if Audius does grow, it has a savvy approach to preventing unnecessary content takedowns. Rumburg claims an estimated 80% of takedowns on apps like SoundCloud and YouTube are not actually infringing copyright, leading to great content disappearing. “Audius doesn’t have the ability to deplatform you or censor you,” says Audius co-founder Forrest Browning.

Audius

Audius co-founders (from left): Forrest Browning, Roneil Rumburg

First, because it doesn’t host the songs itself, it will just pass copyright-holder complaints on to the uploaders themselves. Owners can be reassigned the revenue being earned by a song rather than have it taken down. And instead of pulling down a whole DJ set, the rights-holder of a five-minute song in an hour-long mix would get 1/12 of the proceeds. Browning tells me, “A lot of artists are completely fine with their content being remixed or mashed up.”

If disputes aren’t resolved, rights-holders can approach the operators of nodes hosting the music and file a local equivalent of a DMCA takedown request, though the music might still live on other nodes beyond the law. In that case, rights-holders file a complaint to the Audius arbitration committee made up of users. That group can vote on whether a track legally should be removed or its revenue reattributed, and both plaintiffs and committee members must put up a small financial stake they’ll lose if their claim is frivolous or they make erroneous decisions.

We’ll see if this hands-off approach to censorship actually flies with the law. If so, it could give artists confidence in joining Audius that they lack elsewhere. Many are frustrated after constantly having to rebuild their audience on different platforms, from Myspace to iTunes to Spotify to SoundCloud, especially if their tracks are disappearing. One benefit of being open-sourced and decentralized… “Let’s say our company closes up shop in 5 years? Audius and the content will live on forever, as long as folks continue to operate the nodes,” Rumburg explains.

To make sure it stays in business as it stretches its venture funding from General Catalyst and Lightspeed, Audius has plans for additional tools that could make it and artists money. From being able to crowdfund future albums to selling merchandise or VIP experiences, Audius could become a gateway to spending on independent music. It could have to compete with itself, though, since Audius’ on-demand streaming site is just one client built on its open-source protocol. The founders say they hope other people will build Pandora-style radio clients, music discovery apps and more listening options through its APIs.

Audius

Rumburg and Browning met the summer after high school at a camp of Stanford admits. Throughout college, the recent graduates got deeper into dance music subgenres by devouring everything on SoundCloud. But watching their favorite artists get music kicked off that app while their DJ friends struggled to break through the algorithms, Rumburg says they wondered “how can we remove the platform from this equation?”

Music businesses aiming to free art from “the man” so often end up becoming him. But by decentralizing control and funneling money directly to creators, Audius may code its way into music culture.

Audius

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/09/24/audius-music/

SoundCloud moves painfully slow for a tech company, and no one feels that pain more than musicians who are popular on the site but don’t get paid. 10 years since SoundCloud first launched, and four years since it opened an invite-only program allowing just the very biggest artists to earn a cut of the ad and premium subscription revenue generated by their listeners, SoundCloud is rolling out monetization.

Now, musicians 18 and up who pay SoundCloud $8 to $16 per month for hosting, get over 5000 streams per month, and only publish original music with no copyright strikes against them can join the SoundCloud Premier program. They’ll get paid a revenue share directly each month that SoundCloud claims “meets or beats any other streaming service”. However, the company failed to respond to TechCrunch’s inquiries about how much artists would earn per 1000 ad-supported or premium subscription listener streams, or how many streams would earn them a dollar.

Beyond payouts, Premier members can post new tracks instantly without having to wait to be discoverable or monetizable, they’ll get real-time feedback from fans, and extra discovery opportunities from SoundCloud. The company hopes monetization will lure more creators to join the 20 million on the platform, get them to promote their presence to drive listens, and imbue the site with exclusive artist-uploaded content that attracts listeners.

It’s been a year since SoundCloud raised an $170 million emergency funding round to save itself from going under after it was forced to lay off 40 percent of its staff. That deal arranged by Kerry Trainor saw him become CEO and the previous co-founder and CEO Alex Ljung step aside. With underground rap that had percolated on SoundCloud for years suddenly reaching the mainstream, the startup seemed to have momentum.

The problem is the slow speed of progress at SoundCloud has allowed competitors with monetization baked in to catch up to its formerly unique offering. YouTube Music’s launch in June 2018 combined premium major label catalogues with user uploaded tracks in a cohesive streaming service. And last month, Spotify began allowing indie artists to upload their music directly to the platform. Meanwhile, licensing distribution services like Dubset are making it legal for big streaming apps to host remixes and DJ sets. Together, these make more of the rarities, live versions, and hour-long club gigs that used to only be on SoundCloud available elsewhere.

The delays seem in part related to the fact that SoundCloud wants to be Spotify as well as SoundCloud. It’s refused to back down from its late entry into the premium streaming market with its $9.99 per month SoundCloud Go+ subscription. As I previously recommended, “to fix SoundCloud, it must become the anti-Spotify” by ruthlessly focusing on its differentiated offering in artist-uploaded music. Instead, another year has passed with only a light revamping of SoundCloud’s homescreen and some more personalized playlists to show for it.

SoundCloud proudly announced it had reached $100 million in revenue in 2017, and exceeded its financial and user growth targets. But filings reveal it lost over $90 million in 2016 and it was previously projected to not become profitable until 2020. That begs the question of whether SoundCloud will have to raise again, or might once again open itself to acquisitions. With Apple, Google, Amazon, and Spotify all in fierce competition for the future of streaming, any of them might be willing to pay up for music that fans can’t easily find elsewhere.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/10/09/soundcloud-monetization/

YouTube, social media and even Bitcoin are allowing musicians to reject major labels and go it alone but the industry is fighting back. Can artists use technology to stay truly independent?

All the hits … Bugzy Malones video for Moving has been viewed almost 10m times on YouTube.

The guys are cool and massively helpful, he says of ADA. But theyre taking the lead from me and what it is that I want to do. They are there to back up the vision and be on the wagon that is already moving.

Yet record companies still profit from deals such as Bugzys and take a cut of artists earnings. Plus, their grip on companies offering services to independent artists is getting tighter. Sony Music now fully owns distribution firm The Orchard, while, on the label-services side, Warner Music owns ADA, Universal Music owns Caroline International and Kobalt owns AWAL (Artists Without a Label). All the record labels, major and indie, have an equity stake in Spotify.

But while the teeth marks of the old music business can be found in the emerging one, there are still ways acts can remain totally independent.

Benji Rogers set up direct-to-fan platform PledgeMusic in 2009 to allow acts to pre-sell, distribute and market their music. It turns out that direct communication makes the artist the most money, he says. Rogers is also an early investor in SuperPhone a supercharged communication and engagement tool built by musician Ryan Leslie, whereby all contacts and fans are managed through one phone number. He is not in the mainstream, says Rogers. He is literally the definition of independent.

Leslie was signed to Universal, but left to pursue a career where technology would give him the independence to create a new type of fan engagement that he felt the label system was too ossified to bend towards.

Selena Gomez has 128 million Instagram followers, but she is definitely not selling 128m albums, says Leslie of the fundamental disconnect between social media profile and sales, from where the idea for SuperPhone sprang. What I realised is that social media connections are very weak.

Selena
She has 128m Instagram followers, but she is definitely not selling 128m albums … Selena Gomez. Photograph: Chris Polk/Getty Images

In 2013, he gave his phone number to his Twitter followers to sign them up to SuperPhone. Within six months, 35,000 people had texted the number and, of that, 33,000 had responded to an automated request for more information about themselves. The following year, he went on tour and announced it to his fan database. We sold 40,000 tickets with no label, no manager and no PR, he says. All straight off SuperPhone.

After raising $75,000 in seed funding, he opened it up to all artists, including rappers such as Lil Wayne and Cardi B. They are all vetted in advance, so that they dont abuse the tools to spam fans, but rather use it carefully to maintain regular contact with them. Success, in any iteration, happens at the speed of communication, he says.

All this comes as a reaction against the three-card trick Facebook has played on users: if you have a million followers, at best 2% of your audience will stumble across your posts, unless you pay Facebook to boost them, according to research by Ogilvy.

Quick Guide

Five tips for staying independent in music

Think like an entrepreneur

Young aspiring artists are also aspiring entrepreneurs, says Ryan Leslie, suggesting they find at least five key contacts for every part of their career from lawyers and producers to video directors and graphic designers. The top five in each category will hopefully be the nucleus that will catapult your career.

Be a digital polymath

Its about making sure you are across as many platforms as possible and utilising all of them, suggests Luke Hood. No one wants to rely on one revenue stream.

Avoid sales tactics

Dont try and sell anything to people, even music, proposes Sephi Shapira. Just monetise the engagement with the consumer.

Own everything

Its one thing to license copyrights for a while, but its entirely another thing to give them up in perpetuity, says Tim Clark. It is the same thing with data.

Be outgoing even if you dont feel like it

You have to be tenacious, says Brian Message. If you are a bit of a shoegazer in your bedroom, it will be a lot tougher than being a gregarious personality who is driven.

Every artist you know is in some way, shape or form paying Facebook and Instagram to reach their fans, argues Rogers. What you get here is a sickness cycle. Would I build my business on Facebook? Hell, no! Because, in their business, I am the product. What is it giving me back?

In a similar vein, social app EscapeX was set up to decentralise social media and give artists new levels of autonomy by putting them, rather than the major social networks, in charge of their communities. The engagement economy is different, argues Sephi Shapira, the companys CEO. Its not really the amount of fans that you have; its how engaged you are and the spending power of your fans.

Thirteen-year-old Danielle Cohn a megastar on lip-sync video app Musical.ly, where she has more than 8 million followers recently signed up with EscapeX to take more control of her fanbase. In the app, she has a monthly subscription option, but Shapira says this only accounts for 10% of the money she makes there. The other 90% comes from fans paying to rocket themselves up the leaderboard to be in her top-three fans, where, according to the apps description, they will be guaranteed to be seen by Dani Cohn effectively buying their way into her line of vision.

The Faustian pact of these apps and social media platforms is that musicians get data about their fans in return, but become dependent on the service in question still being in business and relevant six months from now. As MySpace crumbled, artists made SoundCloud the main place to upload their music. But SoundCloud is teetering on the brink of insolvency, recently laying off 40% of its staff and raising emergency funding of $170m to stay afloat. If it goes down the tubes, the underground will lose one of its biggest tools.

German
If it goes down the tubes, the underground will lose one of its biggest tools … German songwriter Bibi Bourelly at a SoundCloud event. Photograph: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Musician and tech activist Mat Dryhurst believes, however, that a new wave of funding and technological disruption is brewing that will finally put artists in the driving seat moving them beyond apps and social media altogether and propping up their underground communities in perpetuity.

He laments a world in which platforms rise and fall based, not on a lack of demand, but on a lack of ability to return profits to a small group of venture capitalists. He argues that the cryptocurrency community the people behind online cash such as Bitcoin could create alternative to the ad-funded models beloved of Silicon Valley.

He suggests an ICO initial coin offering to fund a music hosting and sharing platform a kind of cryptocurrency IPO. It would allow for open-source utopian developers to raise significant amounts of money with an engaged user base and build something potentially revolutionary, he says.

Its best thought of as crowdowning we could distribute governance of these platforms to the people who care the most about them. In return for your contribution, you receive something of value that can be used within the ecosystem and also potentially a portion of ownership that gives you decision-making rights.

Royalties are possible under a cooperative model, like Resonate.iss proposed model for more equitable streaming payments. You could also make membership and uploading entirely free in return for contributing value in other ways to the platform. One artist making the first steps into this space is Bjork, whose new album, Utopia, can be purchased using various cryptocurrencies.

SuperPhone, EscapeX and ICO-powered platforms are early indicators of a self-sustaining 21st-century counterculture. In that world, artists own and control everything data, copyrights, fan relationships. For now, however, they are trapped, toggling between Tin Pan Alley and Silicon Valley.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/nov/22/we-could-build-something-revolutionary-how-tech-set-underground-music-free

What the phonk? The genre that’s gripping Generation Z

New data released by SoundCloud suggests last year was dominated by the obscure offshoot of hip-hop. But does it explain the success of Desiigners Panda?

Remember 2016? Almost nobody does. It was a long time ago now and, in any case, what were we all so vexed about? Anyway, unlike many needless recaps of this distant epoch, SoundClouds late-to-the-breakdown analysis of its stats last year offers some insight into the shape of musics future.

Having run the numbers, the streaming site has concluded that, among other hashtaggable, made-up genres such as AfroTrap, retrowave and perennial internet favourite cloud rap, 2016 was apparently characterised by something called phonk.

Not to be confused with funk a movement involving men in white suits playing 16th-note rhythms with emphasis on the upstrokes phonk is an obscure hip-hop splinter cell. Typically, it takes samples from early-90s hip-hop and deploys distorting techniques such as chopped and screwed the song-stretching fad that peaked in 2009 to create a darker, danker sound. The result sounds not unlike Biggie Smalls floating in miso soup.

Genres such as phonk have likely caught on in part because its easy enough for bedroom producers to get something out of a few classic samples by tweaking the dials in odd directions. Miami rapper SpaceGhostPurrp is credited with kickstarting phonk on his 2012 debut album; hes now producing for 2016s most-followed new artist on SoundCloud: Lil Uzi Vert.

With a rudimentary interface that keeps the over-25s at bay, SoundCloud has long been the go-to portal for Generation Z. And, for a generation younger than Google, phonk ticks a lot of boxes. For the Zs, 1967 has always been as accessible as 2017, and they consume content with the same gleeful disposability and fascination with the nostalgia of the recent past. Both of which are very phonky attributes.

The Zs are often portrayed as nice but soft and omnivorous in their taste. Or why the most played single is Desiigners Panda, a track that posits a near-future in which rappers have abolished consonants in favour of a kind of BMW-obsessed baby-talk. And it could also be why Lil Uzi Vert is so popular: he offers a mish-mash of the drill-bit dumbness of trap, the lavalamp beats of cloud rap, the fog of phonk, and an internet sense of not being tied to a regional scene.

But the unlikeliest revelation of all SoundClouds number-crunching is the continued influence of chillwave. Started as a joke, the moniker was rejected by the artists associated with it (Neon Indian, Youth Lagoon, Memory Tapes). Now, its electronic burble, endless reverb and trust-fund hippy vibes make these artists seem like the Sex Pistols of the Gen Z era. SpaceGhostPurrp may at least turn out to be its Rancid.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/jan/27/phonk-soundcloud-spaceghostpurrp-lil-uzi-vert

Listen to DMX’s first new song in 5 years

Read more: http://www.dailydot.com/upstream/dmx-new-song-bain-iz-back/

Spotify in advanced talks to buy SoundCloud, reports say

Swedish music-streaming service provider could acquire German rival, the Financial Times reports, amid competition with Apple and others to turn profit

Swedish music-streaming service provider Spotify is in advanced talks to acquire German rival SoundCloud, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the discussions.

SoundClouds founders and investors were exploring strategic options for the company, including a sale that could value it at $1bn, Bloomberg reported in July, citing people familiar with the matter.

The FT story did not provide more details.

Music-streaming companies have struggled to turn a profit amid rising competition from larger players such as Apple.

Amazon is also preparing to launch a standalone music-streaming subscription service, Reuters reported in June, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

SoundCloud declined to comment, while Spotify could not immediately be reached for comment.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/28/spotify-soundcloud-acquisition-reports