Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Behind the Music: Special Art Exhibits to See Now

The music industry is abuzz with the news that a new exhibit is coming to the Country Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee – and it's not about country music.

Instead, the special exhibit – which is entitled "Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City" – is all about rock, in terms of how it affected the scene in Nashville and other parts of the country. Of course, there will be some crossover into the country music genre, but the focus will be shifted onto a part of the city’s musical history that is a bit lesser known.

Says Museum Director Kyle Young in a recent interview with BillboardBiz: “Nashville has always been a more nuanced music center than it commonly gets credit for, and the same thing could be said for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We strive to tell the full story of country music’s evolving history using a mix of provocative learning experiences, and this exhibit is a great opportunity to talk about the early confluence of country and rock.”

“Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City” won’t be coming to the Country Music Hall of Fame until March 2015, at which point it is scheduled to run through the end of 2016. However, if you are itching to explore the history of rock music in an educational and interactive way, here are some other museum exhibits that are worth checking out:

“David Bowie Is” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
September 23, 2014 – January 4, 2015

Lauded as one of the most pioneering and influential performers of our time, David Bowie has a story that simply does not fit into words. Instead, this incredible exhibit showcases the legendary artist’s influence on music, film and fashion through a state-of-the-art combination of sound, video, lighting and props. Listen to the voiceover tour that follows from room to room via advanced headset while touring the impressive collection of artifacts from Bowie’s own private collection, which MCA’s website describes as:

Alongside such prominent examples are more personal items such as never-before-seen storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics, and some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores, and diary entries, which help reveal the evolution of his creative ideas. His chameleonic character transformations throughout the years are central to his contribution to contemporary culture and highly relevant to contemporary artists such as Cindy Sherman, Wu Tsang, Janelle Monae, and Lady Gaga.”

This is apparently the only U.S. stop that this tour will make – so if you’re in the Chicago area, you won’t want to miss it.

“Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience” at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Opened April 25, 2014

Instead of focusing on a singular artist or genre, this well curated exhibit gives us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of music festivals – all kinds of music festivals, from Muddy Waters at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival to Deadmau5 at Lollapalooza in 2011.

From the official website: “Whether it’s forging human bonds, building a sense of community, providing broad exposure for musical artists – both old and new – or as one of the most important economic engines of the music industry, the story of the music festival is inextricably linked with music’s powerful cultural impact around the globe.”

“Common Ground” is currently one of the major exhibits at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but certainly not the only one. While you’re there, you can also view Beyone’s personal fashion collection as well as the “Right Here, Right Now” exhibit featuring contemporary artists like the Black Keys, Lady Gaga, and Bruno Mars.

For more information on upcoming events and news from the American music industry, be sure to keep checking back with us at HillTop Records.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Beyoncé, iTunes, and the Future of the Album Release

Last December, internationally renowned recording artist Beyoncé took an unprecedented risk: She released a self-titled album on iTunes without any pre-release promotion at all. The surprise album had the potential to completely flop for lack of advertising – but, of course, it didn't. Instead, it sold 80,000 copies in the first three hours and 828,773 copies over the weekend – completely shattering iTune's previous record. To this day, it remains iTune's fastest-selling record.

There were many reasons for this massive success, not least of which were Beyoné's immense talent and fame. It is not likely that an artist with a much smaller existing fan base would have been able to achieve such a feat. However, the accomplishment still shed light on what had been until then an unexamined system: the traditional album promo cycle.

"I didn't want to release my music the way I've done it," she said in a press release following the event. "I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There's so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn't want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it's ready and from me to my fans."

While this may have indeed been the singer's primary motivation, the unconventional method of release also served (perhaps inadvertently) to address one of the music industry's most pressing concerns: piracy.

Traditionally, when an album is released, it hits different markets on different days: The first sale is usually on a Friday, in countries like Australia and Germany. Three days later, the U.K. will release that same album – and then a day later, on Tuesday, the U.S. will release it. A negative side effect of this staggered system and its affiliated promotional campaigns is the fact that certain markets (the U.S. in particular) are forced to wait days for music that has already been released in other countries – and most likely been leaked onto file-sharing networks. And it is exactly this sort of delayed gratification that prompts illegal music downloads.

So what if the system were changed, and instead albums were released to all markets on the same day? Well, that is the question that the global music industry is currently discussing – and rumor has it that the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry is planning to revamp the old schedule, beginning July 2015. From then forward, we may be seeing a kind of album release date – the kind that hits the whole world at once. Beyoncé proved that it can work (and what's more, see incredible success) and it may even help to curb music piracy, as American fans will no longer be asked to wait to hear music that has already been released overseas.

Another novel idea introduced by last year's Beyoncé phenomenon is that of a completely ad-free release. While this may not be feasible for a lesser-known artist, we may soon start to see a shift in how bands promote new albums. As more and more brands turn to social media to connect with consumers, marketing as a whole becomes quieter and more personal. The music industry is certainly no stranger to that trend, long using guerrilla methods to leak news of secret shows and bonus tracks. In the age of Facebook, Twitter and the like, the entire concept of "word of mouth" is changing – and it is an exciting time for newcomers to the scene, who are likely to make up for lack of a large marketing budget with ingenuity and innovation.

Be sure to keep checking back with us at HillTop Records as we continue to bring you the latest news and ideas from the world of music.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Emerging Trends in Social Media – and How They May Impact the Music Industry

For quite some time now, the world has been going digital at a rapid pace. Social media is an ever growing and evolving realm – one wherein entrepreneurs and artists are able to make their mark in an immediate, impactful way that was once practically unheard of. And it appears that at least in this regard, things will only get better.

In particular, here are some emerging trends in social and digital media that will most likely change the music industry:

24-hour, multi-channel engagement
Only a mere few years ago, you could only go shopping for certain items (groceries, home renovation supplies) during certain hours – and many local stores still only accepted cash. Nowadays, that's simply not the case. You can order a gallon of milk online to be delivered to your doorstep the next morning, with a few simple swipes across your iPad. You can even schedule automatic refills of grocery and drug store items that you purchase the most, so that you no longer have to think about buying them each month. We have become accustomed to being able to get everything at any time, and in a variety of ways. The music industry has only scratched the surface of what this means, and it will be interesting to watch how this 24/7 mentality becomes a bigger focus for artists and producers.

Streaming vs. packaging
The music industry still has yet to figure out something that its counterpart, the film and TV industry, has seemingly mastered: the art of "windowing," or releasing products to different markets or methods of distribution at different times. When a film is first released, it is only available in theaters; it then becomes available on DVD, then Video-On-Demand, then pay-TV, and so on. Each of these "windows" lasts a finite amount of time and sets a new (lower) price point – thereby reaching a wide variety of fans and viewers, but at different times. Diehard fans are willing to pay more to see something first, whereas casual viewers are willing to wait longer to pay less – but in the end, both parties will watch the same film.

Meanwhile, when a song or album is released, it tends to be available on all channels (streaming, radio, MP3 download) at once. If and when the music industry figures out how to re-configure this, it will be a game-changer.

The "Internet of Things"
There has been a lot of recent chatter surrounding the "Internet of Things," the term used to describe the relationship between the digital and tangible worlds. Cars, televisions, watches and now even household appliances are being designed to be connected to the web. Apparently, it won't be long until your dryer can send you a text message to tell you that the laundry is done!

What does this mean for the music industry? Well, for one thing, many possibilities are presented by the new Facebook-connected wristband concepts that have been popping up at this year's more innovative music festivals and events. Add to these our growing tendency to share our habits and preferences via social media (think Spotify's Facebook integration) and we're sure to see new opportunities for web-based engagement among music fans in the near future.

Increased mobility
Each year, reports show an increase in mobile app sales and profits – and music-based mobile apps are currently one of the fastest-growing app categories out there. From apps that let songwriters compose new music on the fly to those that allow for constant streaming to those that help artists connect directly to their fans and followers, the variety and success of these apps are stunning. We have no doubt that the music industry is going to continue to shift and evolve to better accommodate this increase in mobile technology – and, perhaps more importantly, our dependency on it.

Check out our recent review of the latest and greatest mobile apps to hit the music scene, and remember to keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records as we continue to bring you current news and updates from the industry.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September 2014 Music Festivals to Fall For

Summer may be ending – and with it the warm, sunny weather that allows for outdoor concerts and events – but the party's far from over. Put one or more of these upcoming music festivals on your calendar, and you'll have plenty to look forward to this September:

Brews and Blues (9/6/2014) in Saratoga, California
Attendees of this fun-filled event, hosted at lovely Wildwood Park, will enjoy four full hours (from 3:00 to 7:00 pm) of craft beer tastings along with the musical stylings of an impressive lineup. Headlining act the Shakedancer Blues Revue features Grammy Award nominee and Blues Music Award winner Mark Hummel on the harmonica. Breweries scheduled to attend include local favorites Santa Clara Brewing Company, Firestone, and Faultline Brewing Company. Tickets are on sale now for $30, and you must be 21 or older to attend.

Sessions in the Park (9/6/2014 - 9/7/2014) in Memphis, Tennessee
Providing a fantastic platform for up-and-coming artists of all genres, this annual event represents all that makes Memphis great. The two-day festival will feature everything from Gospel and R&B to Rock & Roll at the heart of historic Beale Street. Independent artists will not only be able to perform in front of a sizable audience, but they will also get to make industry connections as there are sure to be plenty of representatives from well-known labels, companies and organizations in attendance.

8th Annual Bluegrass Adventure & Roots Festival (9/11/2014 - 9/13/2014) in Algoma, Wisconsin
True to its name, this event is sure to be an adventure. It will include three full days of live bluegrass and roots music along with camping, craft and music workshops for adults and children, and special activities like carriage rides and informal jam sessions. There will also be a Friday fish fry, a barbecue on Saturday, raffles, arts and crafts vendors, and free music on Thursday night.

Fall Music Festival (9/19/2014 - 9/21/2014) in Katonah, New York
This three-day music festival will combine American roots, jazz and classical music together to create a truly one-of-a-kind event. Not only will the different genres all be represented, but they will be combined and arranged in a way that you have never heard before. In addition to enjoying unforgettable live music, festival-goers will be able to explore the sound art exhibition in the Garden of Sonic Delights and also tour the historic Rosen House.

2nd Annual Oak Cliff Jazz Fest (9/20/2014) in Dallas, Texas
In response to the great success it enjoyed in its first year, this event is back – and it promises to be even better. Set within a 5-acre campus and hosted by the Labyrinth Walk Coffee House, the festival will feature 10 live musical acts and an array of vendors selling arts, crafts, and items made out of recycled materials. It's a family-friendly affair, so feel free to bring the little ones.

Bigfork Charlk n Rock Festival (9/20/2014 - 9/21/2014) in Bigfork, Montana
What if you combined fantastic live rock music with a love of original chalk art? Well, that's what this charming event does – and it does it well. More than three dozen street painters (or "Madonnari," as they are called in Italy) will come together to beautifully decorate the town of Bigfork, Montana. They will create spectacular pieces of impermanent art while a lineup of 6 musical groups provides a lively backdrop. You won't want to miss it.

Teddy Bear Two Music Festival (9/27/2014 - 9/28/2014) in Lebanon, Tennessee
Just as you might expect given its name, this music festival is all about the kids. The free event is being held to raise funds for the Monroe Carell Jr. Childrens Hospital at Vanderbilt, and all donations will go directly to the cause. The lineup includes Leona Williams, Lonesome Road Bluegrass Band, and the Antique Medicine Show as well as many others. While the concert is free to attend, onsite RV parking is available for $25.00 per night.

AZ Reggae Fest 2014 (9/26/2014 - 9/27/2014) in Phoenix, Arizona
Taking advantage of Arizona's still-warm weather, this 2nd annual event will be held outdoors. Guests may spend the two days shopping for clothes, crafts and art while sampling local cuisine, watching live demonstrations, and (or course) enjoying plenty of live music. This year's lineup is impressive, featuring the likes of Yellowman, Sister Carol and Barrington Levy. There will also be a beer garden and plenty of room for your lawn chairs and picnic baskets.

EarleFest – A Celebration of Americana Music (9/27/2014) in Santa Rosa, California
Billed as Northern California's premier Americana music festival, this event features a stellar lineup amid the beautiful grounds of the Earle Baum Center. Headliners include Todd Snider and The Brothers Comatose, and wonderful Sonoma County vendors will be there to sell delicious food, beer and wine. Without a doubt, this will be an ideal way to celebrate the last unofficial days of summer.

Oakland World Percussion Festival 2014 (9/27/2014) in Oakland, California
This free event has certainly got the beat! Attendees will enjoy four full hours of live drum and dance performances that will make it impossible to stay sitting down. Sounds from around the world – from Japan to Brazil, Guinea to Oakland's own neighborhoods – will set a festive scene while demonstrations and workshops will educate concert-goers on the art of percussion. There will also be vendors selling world cuisine, a community drum circle, and all manner of souvenirs and trinkets (including CD's and DVD's, handmade craft items, skin care products and more) for sale.

Other great events to keep an eye out for this month:

Miles of Memories Country MusicFest (9/4/2014 - 9/6/2014) in Hastings, Nebraska
Huntington Beach Food, Art & Music Festival (9/5/2014 - 9/7/2014) in Huntington Beach, California
3rd Annual Brazilian Beat (9/6/2014) in Boca Raton, Florida
Grinders Switch Music & Arts Festival (9/6/2014) in Centerville, Tennessee
Kayak, BBQ & Blues Festival (9/6/2014) in Pensacola, Florida
Soundwave Music Festival (9/11/2014 - 9/13/2014) in Berlin, Maryland
Coleman Hawkins Blues Festival (9/12/2014 – 9/13/2014) in Saint Joseph, Missouri
Annual ETC – Indie Music and Arts Festival (9/13/2014) in Norfolk, Virginia
Annapolis Craft Beer and Music Festival (9/13/2014) in Annapolis, Maryland
Berkeley Old Time Music Convention (9/16/2014 - 9/21/2014) in Berkeley, California
FreshGrass BlueGrass Festival (9/19/2014 - 9/21/2014) in North Adams, Massachusetts
36th International Folk Festival (9/26/2014 - 9/28/2014) in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Long Beach Folk Revival Festival (9/27/2014) in Long Beach, California
New England Acoustic Music Festival (9/27/2014) in Putnam, Connecticut
Harmony Music & Arts Festival (9/27/2014 - 9/28/2014) in Harmony, Florida

For more information and updates from the American music industry, continue to keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer's Last Hurrah: The Best Music Festivals Happening This August

We're officially entering the final leg of Summer 2014 – and while it may not feel like it, the weather will soon be changing. The days will grow colder, and weekend festivities will more likely be indoors than under the blazing sun. So if you feel like you have not yet taken full advantage of all that summer has to offer, now's the time!

Here are our picks for the best music festivals happening around the country this August:

Bass Mountain Music Festival 2014 (8/7/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Franklinville, New York
Originally started in 2012, this festival skipped a year – and now it's back! With four full days of camping and live music at the Woods at Bear Creek, this event promises to be one unforgettable party. The lineup (which includes over 50 international and national EDM acts on tour) features KJ Sawka, DJ Baily, Protocol, Subset and more. If you like electronic music, you will not want to miss this.

Mile of Music (8/7/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Appleton, Wisconsin
Billing itself as "the premier, handcrafted Americana festival of the Midwest," this annual event will showcase the best of American music – from over 200 artists, on over 60 stages throughout Downtown Appleton. From singer-songwriters to multi-piece bands, indie rock to soul and jazz to folk, there is sure to be something for everyone. Some of the shows require a ticket, while many others are free to the public. Check the official website for the full lineup and more info.

27th Annual Long Beach Jazz Festival (8/9/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Long Beach, California
A time-honored tradition that Long Beach residents wait all year long for, the Long Beach Jazz Festival is a local institution. Now in its 27th year, the event will return to its beautiful setting on a grassy knoll overlooking a sparkling lagoon. There it will feature a fantastic selection of live jazz music as well as food, art and more. Bring the whole family and make a day of it!

Sweet Auburn Music Fest (8/9/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Atlanta, Georgia
One of the largest multi-cultural festivals in the Southeast, this one always draws an impressive crowd to the historic streets of the Sweet Auburn district of Atlanta. The family-friendly event will once again feature national recording artists as well as up-and-comers, as well as a delightful array of food and drink vendors. If you're looking for a way to soak up some local flavor, this is it.

Soulshine Farm Music Festival (8/14/2014 - 8/16/2014) in Green Mountain, North Carolina
Set within the picturesque grounds of Soulshine Farm, this three-day festival offers so many things to see and do. It will have wonderful live music, spectacular hiking trails, crafts for sale, organized workshops, local brews and healthy food, and even a special area for kids. The atmosphere is laid-back and family-friendly, making it a lovely way to enjoy the final days of summer.

Hudson Valley Jazz Festival (8/14/2014 - 8/17/2014) in Warwick, New York
With four full days of live jazz in a picture-perfect setting, this music festival is the ultimate summertime event. This year's lineup features New York City's famous Vanguard Jazz Orchestra from The Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center, as well as other renowned acts (Adam Nussbaum, Jeff Ciampa, Peter Levin, and many more.) Venues are spaced throughout various Hudson Valley towns, allowing you to enjoy the scenery and culture while attending the shows.

COUNTRYGRASS 2014 (8/15/2014 - 8/17/2014) in Jefferson, Maine
Now in its 7th year, this much-anticipated event will once again be held at the Broken Acres Farm. Against a scenic backdrop, concert-goers will be able to enjoy the musical stylings of Leona Williams and her Son Ron Williams (who are among this year's headliners.) Also on the lineup: Fred and Pat Thomspon, Bob Elston, Slim Andrews, and many more renowned performers. The festival also offers free camping, but no seating – so bring lawn chairs and a tent.

Chicago Hip Hop Day Festival (8/16/2014 – 8/17/2014) in Chicago, Illinois
Love hip hop? Then you'll definitely want to get to this event! The free festival pays tribute to the genre's four elements, and especially the legendary contributions made by the city of Chicago. Located in historic Garfield Park, the grounds are divided into four sections that will feature b-boy and b-girl exhibitions, emcee battles, turntablism, and graffiti artists. From live entertainment to local vendors to educational workshops, this hip hop festival has got it all.

Blissfield Bluegrass on the River (8/23/2014) in Blissfield, Michigan
Just like its name indicates, this festival is held on the scenic banks of the River Raisin – and its pretty location is only one reason to attend! The family-friendly event, now in its 4th year, will feature the likes of the Bridge County Bluegrass Band and Fossil Creek. With 8 different stages featuring the best of bluegrass, you're sure to feel inspired. Luckily, you're also welcome to bring your own banjo or fiddle and join in on one of the festival's lively jam sessions.

17th Annual Rhythm and Roots Festival (8/29/2014 - 8/31/2014) in Charlestown, Rhode Island
One of the hottest music and dance festivals in New England, this event serves as the unofficial end of summer in Rhode Island. It's got two and a half days of live music on five stages, and guests of all ages are welcome to attend. It's expected to welcome thousands of music lovers from around the region, many of whom choose to camp and thus transform Ninigret Park into a colorful, impromptu village. Come to enjoy world-class roots performers on several stages, lively dance floors, family-friendly activities like storytelling and crafts, and plenty of vendors selling everything from ice cream to clothing.

Cornstock Folk Festival (8/29/2014 - 8/31/2014) in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania
Described as an "annual acoustic and roots movement," Cornstock is a festival for die-hard music lovers. It comprises three full days and nights of concerts against a stunning backdrop in Lazy Brook Park. Come to the picturesque gateway to the Endless Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania to enjoy not only beautiful scenery but also incredible music, workshops, and other activities.

North Branch Bluegrass Festival (8/29/2014 - 8/31/2014) in Bridgewater, Vermont
Family-friendly fun and good, old-fashioned bluegrass music are the cornerstones of this annual festival. It's become a Labor Day staple for Vermont residents, who continue to love the 3 full days of live performances and 16 music workshops. Free camping is available, so bring your gear and the entire family to celebrate the final days of summer in outdoorsy style.

... Not what you had in mind? Here are other music festivals worth checking out this August:

East Ports Blues Festival (8/1/2014 - 8/3/2014) in Port Sanilac, Michigan
Tampapalooza (8/2/2014 - 8/3/2014) in Tampa, Florida
Jazz on the Lawn (8/3/2014 - 8/31/2014) in Santa Monica, California
Peninsula Music Festival (8/5/2014 - 8/23/2014) in Fish Creek, Wisconsin
Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival (8/7/2014 - 8/10/2014) in Richmond, Minnesota
4th Annual Rocky Mountain Music Festival (8/10/2014) in Littleton, Colorado
Lake George Music Festival (8/14/2014 - 8/21/2014) in Lake George Village, New York
Centenarys WNTI Stage Summer Music Festival (8/15/2014 - 8/17/2014) in Columbia, New Jersey
Rock on the Fox Music and Camping Festival (8/22/2014 - 8/24/2014) in Yorkville, Illinois
Bluegrass 101 Bluegrass Festival (8/23/2014) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky

For even more upcoming festivals and events, be sure to visit – and also keep checking back with us at HillTop Records as we continue to bring you news and updates from the American music industry!