Monday, March 2, 2015

Spring Forward With March 2015 Music Festivals



Spring's just around the corner and with it the 2015 festival season – but that doesn't mean you have to wait to have great fun! This month brings a variety of great music festivals all across the country. Here are just a few that you should definitely consider attending:

Big Nac Music Festival (3/5/2015 – 3/8/2015) in Nacogdoches, Texas
With over 40 bands across multiple genres, this fantastic three-day festival will have something for everyone. Enjoy live country, rock blues, bluegrass and more in four different venues around downtown Nacogdoches that allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture – complete with delicious food and a friendly atmosphere.

Savannah Stopover Music Festival (3/5/2015 – 3/7/2015) in Savannah, Georgia
If you're planning to head to Austin this year for SXSW, consider stopping first in Savannah to check out some of the country's best up-and-coming bands. This three-day celebration of live music is hosted in iconic venues around Historic Downtown Savannah, and it acts as a warm welcome (complete with tons of Southern Hospitality) to everyone on their "stopover" along the route to Texas.

SXSW 2015 (3/13/2015 – 3/22/2015) in Austin, Texas
Of course, this brings us to one of the country's largest and most anticipated live music and interactive events. South by Southwest (SXSW) has grown so big over the years that it is now divided into three components: The interactive event takes place March 13-17, the film festival runs March 13-21, and the world-famous music festival closes out the event March 17-22. With panel discussions, workshops, the live unveiling of new products and services, music conventions and a line-up that includes everyone from AWOLNATION to MURS to The Zombies, this event is sure to be a major highlight for any music lover.

Spring Concert Series (begins 3/6/2015) in Muskegon, Michigan
Not in the American South this year? You may want to instead check out the inaugural evening of the Watermark Live Spring Concert Series. With a full-service bar, local concessions, special perks for kids and plenty of seating, this live music event is fun for the whole family. Bonus: Admission is free with a jar of peanut butter!

Beach Art Centers 5th Annual Bluegrass Festival (3/14/2015) in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Now in its fifth year, this event just keeps getting better and better. It is once again primed to offer a full evening (2:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.) of lovely live bluegrass and fun in a scenic setting. So bring your lawn chair and head to beautiful Kolb Park, and remember that while admission and parking are both free, a $5 donation is suggested.

River City Blues Festival (3/20/2015 – 3/21/2015) in Marietta, Ohio
With two full days of live blues indoors, this celebration of American music doesn't need to wait for summer. It will be held at the stylish Hotel Lafayette, where attendees may enjoy a large dance floor, a cash bar, food and a great line-up of mostly nationally known acts. From Zydeco to acoustic to electric blues, every nuance of the genre will be represented here.

Phoenix Lights Music Festival (3/22/2015) in Phoenix, Arizona
Offering a brand-new music festival experience, this event promises to be unlike any other. Drawing inspiration from Civic Space Park's prized centerpiece, the festival will include incredible art installations from over 30 local artists – as well as plenty of live music enhanced by cutting-edge visuals, theatrical stage elements, and other features honoring the festival's key theme: the area's infamous UFO spotting nearly 20 years ago.

Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival (3/27/2015 – 3/28/2015) in Wilmington, Ohio
As the area's only indoor music event, this one is sure to draw a crowd. Attendees will enjoy plenty of live bluegrass and acoustic music from surrounding regions and beyond, in a fun and festive setting. Visit the official website to see the latest version of the line-up, and get there early to secure a prime spot.

For more information on upcoming events near you, be sure to visit Festivals.com – and keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records as we bring you the latest news and updates from the world of American music.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

HillTop Records Introduces New Member Services



HillTop Records, known for producing and promoting America’s up-and-coming songwriters, announces the launch of a brand-new membership program. Membership is free, and it includes access to a wide range of exclusive products and services that songwriters may purchase online to further their musical careers.

New products and services available only to HillTop Records members include a computer-generated printed lead sheet of their original song ready to be presented to artists, publishers and record labels; a custom keyboard arrangement written by professional arrangers for the beginner, intermediate or advanced musician; a professional recording of their song; an expertly produced, eye-catching, high-definition music video for their song available on DVD, Blu-ray and HillTop Records’ own YouTube channel; and the ability to add another instrument (whether that be a lead guitar track, a saxophone solo or synthesizer sound – songwriters may choose from a variety of instruments) to an existing recording.

Additionally, members who have written the lyrics to a song but not the music may purchase an original, custom composition that complements their words. These compositions are written by established artists who work with members to adjust the genre and tempo to suit their preferences. Members then receive a lead sheet of the complete song – and as is the case with all of HillTop Records’ new member services, members retain 100% ownership of the finished product.

To further promote independent songwriters, HillTop Records now also offers custom press release packages. These include the professional creation and online distribution of publicity information specially designed to increase awareness around a song or songwriter. Press releases may work in tandem with HillTop Records’ Unique Songwriter Pages, which many songwriters under contract already use for promotional purposes.

HillTop Records prides themselves on hiring only the best in the business, and players on their team of Los Angeles-based musicians have Gold and Platinum Records, Billboard awards and Grammy nominations. The production company’s new member services offer up-and-coming songwriters the unique opportunity to work with some of the musicians who have recorded and performed with the biggest names in the music industry. Songwriters are encouraged to join free of charge and preview the complete list of new member services and features at http://hilltoprecords.com/.


HillTop Records is always on the lookout for new avenues for songwriters, and it maintains a strong online presence that songwriters under contract may take advantage of. For more information about HillTop Records’ services, including how to have original works produced by the company, visit http://hilltoprecords.com. You can also “like” HillTop Records on Facebook, follow @HillTopRecords on Twitter, or catch up on the latest music industry news and updates on the company’s official blog.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Experts’ Music Industry Predictions for 2015



With a new year to look forward to inevitably comes predictions for that year, and music industry professionals are not missing the chance to weigh in. From Forbes to 50 Cent, many big names have already weighed in on what they think (or at least hope) will happen in 2015. Here are some common themes:

Digital services will merge, and big brands will prevail.
The world of online music services has so far been an open market, with countless startups cropping up to compete for a slice of the pie. However, in 2015, it’s likely that some of these will consolidate or be bought out as the biggest names (Apple, YouTube, Amazon, Google) become even bigger. While many have voiced grave predictions about the quality of services like AppleStream or YouTube’s Music Key, that may not even matter as people choose convenience (the platforms offer built-in access to your digital stores) over all else.

Spotify will announce big changes.
There’s already been a bit of buzz around Spotify’s impending IPO, and the changes that typically stem from the public market’s demands. We may see the window for free ad-based streaming shrink, or similar alterations to the company’s offerings. These changes could be good news for artists, as Spotify feels compelled to make (and pass on) more of a profit. Speaking of profit, however: A successful IPO will make all of the company’s early investors and employees a lot of many – which could spur a backlash from artists who have long felt cheated by Spotify’s free streaming service. Time will tell but either way, the company is likely to make major headlines this year.

The RESPECT Act will be reintroduced in Congress.
Here’s a big one for our more mature songwriters and artists. Currently, audio recordings made before 1972 are not covered under federal copyright law – and are therefore not subject to receiving royalty payments. According to HypeBot.com, “The RESPECT Act would mend this issue and enable all digital performances of songs – regardless of the year they were recorded – to become eligible for royalties.”

The RIAA will change its platinum album formula to account for streaming.
Despite the modern shift from downloading to streaming, the RIAA has yet to alter its formula for platinum. This is how an artist like Ed Sheeran can be the most-streamed artist of the year on Spotify but only have his album be certified gold. Predictions have been made that 2015 will be the year that the RIAA makes some (arguably necessary) changes to its formula, thus remedying the situation and properly awarding artists.


Regardless of whether you subscribe to the above predictions, one thing’s for sure: 2015 is bound to be an exciting and innovative year for music. For HillTop it will be the year we launch our new Members Online Services, coming within the next 30 days. Follow along with us here at HillTop Records as we continue to keep you updated on the latest news from the American music industry.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Welcome 2015 With one of January's Best Music Festivals



The ball has dropped, the Champagne been finished, and we are officially in a new year. So what to look forward to now? Well, for starters, we've got our picks for the month's best music festivals:

Holy Ship! (1/3/2015 – 1/6/2015) in Miami, Florida and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
If you're lucky enough to have already purchased a ticket to Holy Ship! 2015, then you already know how amazing it is going to be. This year's lineup features the likes of Pretty Lights, Armand Van Helden and Annie Mac – and the setting will be nothing short of spectacular. What better way to welcome the new year than by spending it on a cruise ship, listening to fantastic live music while touring the crystal blue waters around Miami and the Bahamas? This tour has been sold out, but there is a waitlist available on the festival's official website.

MusicFest (1/5/2015 – 1/10/2015) in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Now in its 30th year, this renowned music festival just keeps getting better and better. Join thousands of other music and skiing enthusiasts as they enjoy six full days of live music (performed by 40 bands, including the best of Texas and Americana music) as well as plenty of fresh powder at the beautiful Steamboat Ski & Resort. You'll have so much fun that you won't even feel the cold.

Jam Cruise 2015 (1/6/2015 – 1/11/2015) in Miami, Florida
Another popular live music event takes to the high seas this January, and this one has been going strong for over a decade. It combines the community, spontaneity and fun of a classic music festival with the convenience, luxury and adventure of cruise travel – and the results make for a trip of a lifetime. This year, the lineup features Elephant Revival, G. Love & Special Sauce, Umphrey's McGee, Pretty Lights, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Snowball Festival (1/7/2015 – 7/10/2015) in Lutsen, Minnesota
Lutsen Mountain's largest music event of the year is returning once again this month. Spend your days hitting the slopes and your nights enjoying back-to-back performances and jam sessions by 10 bands après ski. The lineup features Jon Wayne & The Pain, Wookiefoot, Heatbox, and Pert Near Sandstone. Now in its 10th year, this event is sure to be a hit – and you won't want to miss the chance to party with your fellow skiers, snowboarders and music lovers.

Timbrrr! Winter Music Festival (1/9/2015 – 1/10/2015) in Leavenworth, Washington
Timbrrr! returns once again as the wintry counterpart to the ever-popular Timber! Outdoor Music Festival, held in the same scenic location later in the year. Artists scheduled to attend and play this year include Red Fang, Sol, Deep Sea Diver and Prom Queen. There will also be food and drink vendors, and the "show happens, rain, sleet, snow or shine".

30A Songwriters Festival (1/16/2015 – 1/18/2015) in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
The 6th annual celebration of singers and songs has been deemed "the Sundance of songwriter festivals" and with good reason. It offers a place to see and be seen, and network with other likeminded professionals – while, of course, enjoying incredible live musical performances and informative workshops. This year's lineup features Tucker Ewing, Phil Madeira, the Psycho Sisters, Leon Russell and many more. See the official website for the entire list, and make your travel arrangements ASAP.

MLK Youth Parade and Battle of the Bands Competition (1/17/2015) in Houston, Texas
Who doesn't love a good, old-fashioned Battle of the Bands? This one will be held at Midtown Houston-BBVA Compass Stadium, and accompanied by a fun-filled parade. Attendees will get to witness the finest local up-and-comers struck their stuff – and the best of the best go home with prizes and accolades. It's sure to be a great time.

Sunshine Music & Blues Festival (1/17/2015) in St. Petersburg, Florida
Tickets are on sale now for this anticipated annual event, which features the best in live blues and (Mother Nature permitting) sunny weather. This year's lineup features such celebrated acts as Grace Potter, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Dickey Betts & Great Southern. Can't make it to St. Petersburg that Saturday? The following day (1/18/2015) the gang does it all over again in Boca Raton, Florida.

OC JazzFest 2015 (1/18/2015) in Fullterton, California
Here's an event that helps you give back while also having fun. The proceeds from this festival will go to the Musicians' Relief Fund of the Musicians' Club of Orange County, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping struggling musicians and their families throughout the Orange County area. The venue is the elegant Steamers Jazz Club and Cafe, and the lineup features Hart & Soul, Quartet Mike Peak's – The Peak Experience, and John Noreyko's TUBOP Late Nite Jam Session.

Northern Roots Festival (1/31/2015) in Brattleboro, Vermont
Say farewell to the first month of the new year with an annual tradition, now in its 8th year. The day-long celebration brings together local and regional musicians representing the best of the northern musical styles: Scottish, Irish, English, and French Canadian. There will also be panel discussions, workshops for all instruments, and a fun-filled Family Dance – so bring the entire family to this lively event.

For more information on upcoming music festivals near you, visit Festivals.com. And for more news and updates from the American music industry, be sure to keep following us here at HillTop Records.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Stories Behind Some of Our Favorite Christmas Carols



We've been singing them for generations, to the point where we have the words so perfectly memorized that we no longer stop to think about what they mean. So, in honor of the 2014 holiday season, here are the stories behind some of our most treasured Christmas carols:

Good King Winceslas
Written by John Mason Neale to a traditional folk tune (actually a 13th-century spring carol whose Latin title translates to "It is Time for Flowering") in the time of Victorian Britain, this song hails from the town of East Grinstead, in the county of West Sussex. More specifically, it was born on the Sackville College campus that Neale called home at the time. The story Neale borrowed from to write the song was originally created in 1847 by a Czech poet named Václav Alois Svoboda.

The story in the song, which depicts the King (or Duke) of Bohemia taking food and wood to the peasants on Boxing Day, was most likely completely made up – and the actual story of King Winceslas is actually quite gory. (He was supposedly a kind king despite a sad upbringing, but was eventually murdered by his own brother.)

Jingle Bells
While "Jingle Bells" was not originally written to be a Christmas song, it was written to commemorate winter – and in particular, winter 1850's annual one-horse open-sleigh races on Salem and Pleasant Streets between Medford Square and Malden Square. The Medford, Massachusetts tradition was beloved by many, including James Pierpont, who wrote the song for his father's Sunday School class (and actually, some stories say, for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas.) What was originally called "The One Horse Open Sleigh" was eventually changed to "Jingle Bells", supposedly after a friend called Pierpont's creation "a merry little jingle." No one could have predicted then the long and famous life that this "little" tune would live.

Silent Night
Legend has it that an Austrian priest named Fr. Joseph Mohr wrote this carol in 1816 with the intention that it be sung by the children of his village (Mariapfarr) at the midnight Christmas Eve service as a surprise for their parents. However, in the middle of practicing, the church organ broke and so the children had to learn the carol only accompanied by a guitar. Despite of (or because of) this obstacle, the children learned the song so well that they could sing it without any musical accompaniment at all.

No evidence exists to support this legend, but we do know that it was originally written in German (as "Stille Nacht") and that Mohr's friend Franz Xaver Gruber wrote the music several years after Mohr wrote the words. At Midnight Mass in 1818, Fr. Mohr and Franz Gruber sang each of the six verses while the church choir repeated the last two lines of each verse. To this day, the earliest known written manuscript of the song (written around 1820) is housed within the Carolino Augusteum Museum in Salzburg.

"Silent Night" traveled the western world before it came to the United States, where it was first performed by the Rainer family in 1839. They sang the song at the Alexander Hamilton Monument outside Trinity Church in New York City, and it was around that time that the original tune was changed into the one we know and sing today. In 1863, it was translated into English by John Freeman Young. Now one of the most recorded Christmas songs of all time, the carol was sung during the Christmas Truce of WWI in December 1914 – because it was one that both sides knew.

The 12 Days of Christmas
In England, between 1558 and 1829, it was illegal to be a Catholic. "The 12 Days of Christmas" was written towards the beginning of that era, when Catholics were first beginning to worship in secret, and so some think the carol was meant to help Catholic children learn about their religion in a covert way. However, there is no hard evidence of this – and it's just as likely that the song was originally meant to be a folk song, and those "hidden" Catholic symbols (which could also be interpreted as Protestant or any other Christian symbols) were added later on.

The "12 Days" that the song references are those within the period starting on Christmas Day and ending with the Epiphany on January 6th. The "true love" in the song ("On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...") is meant to be God, and each of the twelve gifts has religious significance: The "five golden rings" are the first five books of the Bible, the "ten lords a-leaping" are the Ten Commandments, and the "partridge in a pear tree" is Jesus who died on the cross (in ancient times a partridge was often used as a mythological symbol of a divine, sacred king.)

No matter which carols you sing to celebrate this year, we hope you and your loved ones all have a wonderful holiday season.

For more information and updates from the American music industry, be sure to keep checking in with us here on our official HillTop Records blog.