Friday, December 2, 2016

Goodbye, 2016! The Best Music Festivals Happening This December

December is a month that conjures up many things: wrapped gifts, twinkling lights, brightly colored decorations – and, of course, holiday music. But along with listening to beloved renditions of classic carols at home (and at the mall) we recommend also checking out some of these great music festivals.

Channel 93.3’s Not So Silent Night (12/2/2016) in Denver, Colorado
Brought to you by one of Denver’s most popular radio stations, this annual rock festival always draws a crowd. This year’s lineup features Empire of the Sun, Kaleo, The Strumbellas, JRJR, and 888 at the giant 1st Bank Center concert hall. Along with hours of incredible live music, the festival offers a beer garden and other concessions.

Frost Fest (12/2/2016 – 12/3/2016) in Palestine, Texas
After three successful years, the Frost Fest returns to charming Palestine, Texas. This year’s theme will center on the turn of the century, with d├ęcor and costumes to match. Attendees may enjoy snowman building, an open-air holiday film festival, an historical tour of homes, hot cocoa and cookies, games, food trucks, and the Freeze Your Buns 5k run. There will also be lots of live music and entertainment, and the piece de resistance for the little ones: a 110-foot snow hill for sledding.

Astoria Starving Artist Faire (12/2/2016 – 12/4/2016) in Astoria, Oregon
Like its tongue-in-cheek name indicates, the Starving Artist Faire serves to showcase the work of local artisans. Attendees (there will likely be 500 – 700) may browse over fifty vendors selling arts and crafts, and food. Meanwhile, live music by local performers will lend a lovely soundtrack to the biggest local event of the season. If you’re coming with children, know that Santa will be onsite both Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

Humboldt Artisans Crafts and Music Festival (12/2/2016 – 12/4/2016) in Eureka, California
Now in its 36th year, this festival is always held over the first weekend of December – and it keeps getting bigger and better. This year attendees can expect over 130 booths of handmade gifts by talented artisans and craftspeople from around the Pacific Northwest, live music by local bands, and delicious food. Admission is just $3, and kids and seniors get in free.

Winter Block Party (12/3/2016) in Lancaster, South Carolina
Lancaster Performing Arts is swapping its usual venue for the streets of downtown Lancaster, where you’ll find a stage set up during the Red Rose Holiday Tour. The free block party begins at 10 a.m. and goes till sundown. Plan to spend an entire day shopping for holiday gifts, sampling tasty local foods, and enjoying the live music and festive atmosphere.

Bluegrass Christmas in the Smokies (12/7/2016 – 12/10/2016) in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
The Ramada Inn & Smoky Mountain Convention Center is the venue for this fun-filled festival. The lineup features Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Paul Williams, The Grascals, SIDELINE, Bluegrass Mountaineers, Garrett Newton Band, and so many others. If you’re a fan of bluegrass, you should definitely try to make it to this event.

NewSong Music (12/10/2016) in New York, New York
The NewSong Music showcase and competition is one of the country’s premier events for songwriters, created to identify and recognize excellence in songwriting. It’s a day that twelve songwriters have been waiting and working a long while for; they will compete as finalists and perform at world-renowned Lincoln Center – and no matter who wins, it’s sure to be a great time for all.

Winter Wonderland Festival (12/17/2016 – 12/18/2016) in Fort Valley, Georgia
Georgia residents, consider this your all-in-one wintertime festival. It features an ice skating rink, numerous attractions for kids of all ages (including those who are technically no longer kids), rids, food, arts and crafts, and great live music. The event promises to be fun for the whole family, and a fantastic way to embrace the holiday spirit. You won’t want to miss the Jumbo Tubing Slide, Bungee Jumping or SnowGlobe Live (a human-sized snowglobe.) Yes, Santa Claus will be there as well.

For more information on music festivals near you, visit – and for more news and updates from the American music industry, keep following along with us here at HillTop Records.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Silicon Valley’s Influence on the Music Industry

If you read the news today, you might think that the industries of music and technology are at war with one another. But while the two may have a few differences of opinion, music and tech intersect in many ways – and Silicon Valley loves music just like the rest of the world.

Home to companies like Dolby Laboratories, Pandora and Smule, Silicon Valley is constantly turning out new ways to discover, make and listen to music. They’re even home to a non-profit organization specially designed to help technology professionals (and those who want to be) lend their efforts and expertise to the music industry. Real Industry offers informative courses that teach students how to create new music apps, produce music, and even design new instruments. It and similar programs serve to combat the opinion that Silicon Valley’s corporations are at odds with music and art.

If you live in Silicon Valley, you know that good music isn’t hard to find. The area is home to fantastic live music venues like the TrianonTheatre in downtown San Jose, the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, and Stanford’s Frost Amphitheatre. San Francisco is, meanwhile, a short drive away.

However, what really makes the music scene in Silicon Valley – and, for that matter, around the country – special these days is how it is affected (and even molded) by the area’s main export – and while naysayers may insist that music and tech can’t get along, a new generation of startups is out to prove them wrong.

Here are just a few of the newest, most exciting companies blurring the lines between music, tech, and things in between:

In an industry known for cloud-based innovation and intangible products, Heard Well does the unthinkable: It makes physical products. The company sells compilation albums hand-picked by the company founders and popular YouTubers on iTunes as well as actual things like CDs, vinyl and T-shirts – and it’s doing well, proving that nostalgia still plays a large role in how we buy, listen to and love music.

Headed by a former designer at Nokia, The Sync Project has a lofty mission “to develop music as medicine”. Its website offers “a million songs to unlock the health benefits of music” and its plans are backed by extensive research on the profound cognitive effects that music has on the brain. From pain to fatigue to anxiety, music has been shown to help treat a variety of ailments – but this should come as no surprise to any music lover.

Virtual reality has been getting a lot of press lately (Pokemon Go, anyone?) and this well-funded startup brilliantly sets the technology to music. Its main offering is the unique ability to “experience” a live concert from the comfort of your own home (or, well, anywhere.) Paul McCartney, Jack White and other world-renowned artists have already come on board to produce virtual versions of performances.

In the same vein as WhatsApp and Snapchat, La-La looks to change the way we communicate with one another. Instead of sending written words, however, users message snippets of songs that they like to their friends (and they have the option to include a photo as well.) Consider it a fun, new way to discover fun, new songs.

For more updates and news from the American music industry, be sure to keep checking back with us at HillTop Records

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thankful For These November Music Festivals

As the weather grows colder, we’ll need to head to warmer pastures to enjoy this month’s music festivals. If you’re able, add these fun-filled events to your November 2016 to-do list. You’ll be glad you did.

Fall Swamp Pop Music Festival (11/4/2016 – 11/6/2016) in Hammond, Louisiana
This camping festival invites you to party for a good cause. The lineup features great artists like Gregg Martinez, Mike Broussard & Night Train, Big River Express, and South 70 Band – and proceeds from ticket sales will go to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Moab Folk Festival (11/4/2016 – 11/6/2016) in Moab, Utah
The lineup for the 14th Annual Moab Folk Festival is good enough to draw any folk music lover to the Utah desert. Enjoy the musical stylings of James McMurtry, Rising Appalachia, John Fullbright, Anne McCue, Jeffrey Fourcault and more amid the scenic splendor of Moab’s national parks.

Deland Original Music Festival (11/5/2016) in Deland, Florida
Billed as “The Largest One-Day Independent Original Musical Festival in the Southeast,” this event lives up to its mouthful of a title. It features back-to-back shows from 1pm to 1am; there will be 160 live acts on 28 stages. Of course, this means there will definitely be something for everyone.

Moss Rock Festival (11/5/2016 – 11/6/2016) in Hoover, Alabama
An eco-creative festival that combines art and nature, Moss Rock will be a beautiful, family-friendly event. Come for the homemade crafts and live music on the Crescent Stage; stay for the Sweetery (an entire tasting events just for desserts!)

Mesa Music Festival (11/10/2016 – 11/12/2016) in Mesa, Arizona
This free festival and music symposium is held annually to showcase some of the best up-and-coming talent from around the country. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some major headliners, though. This year’s lineup features Fuel, John Easdale and keynote speaker Chester Bennington.

Fall Bluegrass Festival (11/10/2016 – 11/12/2016) in Mountain View, Arkansas
For three days of live bluegrass and fun, head to the Ozark Folk Center Auditorium. The lineup for this year’s Fall Bluegrass Festival includes Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road Band, Monroe Crossing, and Jeff Brown & Still Lonesome.

Riverhawk Music Festival (11/10/2016 – 11/13/2016) in Brooksville, Florida
A laidback, family-friendly festival in a scenic setting, this three-day event offers a welcome break from your November routine. Gather up the friends and kids for a long weekend of campfires, jam sessions and over 60 memorable performances.

Southern Ohio Indoor Fall Music Festival (11/11/2016 – 11/12/2016) in Wilmington, Ohio
Ohio’s not really known for its warm fall weather, but that’s not stopping this annual music festival! Head indoors to enjoy a fun (and sheltered) experience full of the best bluegrass the Midwest has to offer. Sugar Creek Bluegrass, The Spinney Brothers, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, and more will be playing live.

Four Corner States Bluegrass Festival (11/11/2016 – 11/13/2016) in Wickenburg, Arizona
One of the oldest bluegrass festivals in the Southwest, this event is now in its 37th year – and it just keeps getting better. Attendees will enjoy great live music and a fiddle championship, many food, drink and craft vendors – and for the little ones, a designated Kids Zone.

San Diego Jazz Fest (11/23/2016 – 11/27/2016) in San Diego, California
Discerning jazz fans flock to San Diego every year to attend this “crown jewel of jazz festivals.” This year marks the event’s 37th anniversary, and it will include a special Swing Extravaganza as well as a Thanksgiving Day Jazz Champagne Buffet.

For even more festivals and events near you, visit – and keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records as we bring you the latest news and updates from the American music industry!

Monday, October 17, 2016

10 Famous Songs You Didn’t Know Were Covers

It’s no secret that the music industry is rife with imitation – and in most cases, it really is the highest form of flattery. From samples to remakes, artists pay homage to others in myriad ways – but you may not know that some of our most beloved pop songs are outright covers.

Here are ten popular songs that we all know and love, that are not as original as we may have thought.

1. Tainted Love by Soft Cell
Easily one of the most recognizable synthpop tunes ever, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” is an iconic 80’s anthem. But what if we told you that not only was the song first recorded by a soul singer named Gloria Jones, but that it’s not a 1980’s song at all? The first recording of “Tainted Love” was, in fact, released in May 1965.

2. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
It’s hard to imagine “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” being sung by anyone other than Cyndi Lauper, and even harder to imagine it being sung by a man. But the song was actually first recorded by Robert Hazard in 1979. Cyndi made a few minor lyrical changes to tell the story from a female perspective, and turned the song into a smash hit.

3. Torn by Natalie Imbruglia
The song that catapulted Natalie Imbruglia into superstardom wasn’t originally hers. It was first released by Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Ednaswap in 1995, but very few people ever heard that version of the song on the radio. A few years later, it was virtually impossible to be stuck in traffic without hearing Natalie’s cover at least once.

4. Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Conner
One of Sinead O’Conner’s most powerful ballads was written by Prince – and while you may have already known that, you probably didn’t realize that the song was also recorded by someone other than Sinead first. In 1985, Prince’s side project The Family made the original.

5. Step By Step by Whitney Houston
British soul singer Annie Lennox originally recorded and released this song in 1992, but it didn’t take off the way she likely wanted it to. Instead, it gained far more traction after Whitney recorded a cover for the chart-topping soundtrack for The Preacher’s Wife.

6. Superstition by Stevie Wonder
No, don’t worry – we’re not saying that Stevie Wonder didn’t write this song. He did, but as a commission piece for guitarist Jeff Beck. Jeff created the drum beat and recorded the track in 1972 – but at the insistence of his record company, Stevie took the song back and recorded his own version. And the rest is history.

7. Cum On Feel The Noize by Quiet Riot
One of the hair rock movement’s most celebrated anthems is typically associated with Quiet Riot, whose breakout hit lit the airwaves on fire in 1983. But “Cum On Feel The Noize” was actually first recorded a decade earlier, by the British glam rock band Slade.

8. It’s My Life by No Doubt
The catchy, upbeat rock anthem released by No Doubt in 2000 instantly became a favorite of karaoke bars and road trip sing-a-longs. But have you ever sung along to the original? It was first released as a new-wave synthpop song by British band Talk Talk in 1984 – and once you hear that version, you might just fall in love with it as well.

9. Time Is On My Side by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones released “Time Is On My Side” in 1964 but just a year earlier, someone else beat them to the punch. Soul singer Irma Thomas recorded the original vocal version – and just a year before that happened, trombonist Kai Winding and his orchestra played an instrumental version of the song. Listen to all three versions in chronological order for an illuminating musical experience.

10. Whatta Man by Salt-n-Pepa
Would you believe us if we told you that one of Salt-n-Pepa’s most famous songs was originally recorded by a white girl? Well, it’s true. Linda Lyndell sang the original for Volt Records in 1968, over two decades before the hip hop trio put their funky spin on the song.

For more fun facts and updates from the American music industry, be sure to keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records.

Monday, October 3, 2016

No Trick, All Treat: The Best Music Festivals This October

Whether you’re seeing (or feeling) the evidence or not, summer’s officially over – and with it the hectic, jam-packed summer music festival season. But as we begin to slow down, stay in and prepare for winter’s chilly approach, let’s not miss out on the great seasonal events happening across the country. From indoor music festivals to fall concert series, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your favorite genres in good company.

Here are our picks for the best music festivals happening this October:

Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention (10/07/2016 – 10/08/2016) in Athens, Alabama
Just as you’d expect, this event is for lovers of the fiddle – and there are apparently a lot of you, as the convention attracts around 15,000 people each year. Expect to enjoy 150 arts and crafts booths, excellent live music, and the main event: the Alabama State Fiddle Championship competition, with additional categories in harmonica, mandolin, bluegrass banjo and dulcimer.

Daytona Blues Festival (10/07/2016 – 10/09/2016) in Daytona Beach, Florida
For red-hot blues in a scenic setting, look no further than Daytona Beach in the fall. Each of this festival’s three nights features a fantastic lineup of world-class musicians including Shura S’aida, Carolyn Wonderland, Joe Louis Walker, Marcia Ball, Victor Wainwright & The WildRoots, and the Sugaray Rayford Band. There will also be quite a few food and drink sponsors, so plan to come hungry.

The Woodlands Jazz Festival (10/8/2016) in The Woodlands, Texas
A one-day festival featuring some of the finest local and national artists, this event promises great fun for all ages. Attendees may enjoy food, art, beverages and unique activities while reveling in the smooth sounds of live jazz. The lineup features Vandell Andrew, Bobby Lyle, Ruben Moreno, Vel Lewis, Joe Carmouche and The Bruthers. Tickets are currently available for purchase online and kids age 12 and under are free.

Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival (10/13/2016 – 10/23/2016) in Avalon, California
As if you needed another reason to book an island getaway… Catalina, located off the coast of Southern California, is hosting the 30th Annual Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival this October (10/13 – 10/16 and then again 10/20 – 10/23) and it’s sure to be an incredible event. Unplug under the stars on Descanso Beach while listening to the likes of Peter White, Marc Antoine, Keiko Matsui, the L.A. Collective and more perform acoustic and alfresco.

Musicfest El Dorado (10/14/2016 – 10/15/2016) in El Dorado, Arkansas
Winner of the Arkansas Festival of the Year Award a whopping seven times, this much-anticipated event is once again returning to Downtown El Dorado and bringing with it a full weekend of fun and live music. This year’s lineup includes America’s Sweethearts, Sugar Ray with Mark McGrath, David Nail and other popular acts, as well as appearances by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and Dallas Cowboys Tailgate Nation.

Arbuckle Mountain Fall Bluegrass Jam (10/16/2016 – 10/22/2016) in Wynnewood, Oklahoma
Amid the beautiful scenery of Arbuckle Mountain Park, festival-goers are treated to a laidback and lively festival atmosphere. Feel free to join in and play (acoustic instruments only) or sing, or just sit back and enjoy the music. Live bluegrass, gospel and old time country jams are the focus here, but tours, instrument workshops, a golf cart parade, and the Bluegrass Queen contest will round out the weekend.

Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival (10/19/2016 – 10/23/2016) in Sun Valley, Idaho
Many styles of jazz are represented at this music festival. From vintage to contemporary, cabaret to Western swing, big band and zydeco to blues, you’re sure to hear some tunes you love and have a wonderful time. And if your idea of listening to live music includes dancing, make sure to check out the festival’s fun-filled dancer’s package (more information available on the event’s official website.)

Nebraska Country Music Festival (10/21/2016 – 10/22/2016) in Aurora, Nebraska
Country, gospel, variety music entertainment – you’ll find that and more at the Nebraska Country Music Festival. The annual event also features dances both nights, a banquet and Hall of Fame inductions. Previous Hall of Famers will also be performing! Don’t miss the special performances by Ray Mullen, Bill Chrastil and Jr. Hall of Fame member Alexa Kriss.

We hope you’re able to attend one of these fine events, and that you have a beautiful October. Remember to keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records as we continue to bring you news and updates from the American music industry.