The music industry is in a bit of a whirlwind lately. Or some sort of self-imploding time bomb. Take your pick of metaphors, but it can be a complicated subject to follow closely and understand. This weekly column will aim to synthesise that news and make it more digestible for you. In an attempt to not completely bore you with lawsuits and corporate rumors, we’ll mix in some celebrity news and the latests updates from the music charts. Let us know what you want to see here in the comments.
Drake vs. Meek Mill
If you haven’t heard about this Meek Mill vs Drake dispute by now, you obviously haven’t been around a water cooler or say looked at the Internet lately.
Here’s the quick breakdown. Meek Mill, a rapper who prior to the success of his latest album was probably more well-known as the fiance to Nicki Minaj, called out Drake (is it fair to assume we all know who Drake is by now?) for using a ghostwriter during the two artists’ collaboration on “R.I.C.O.” A good ol’ fashioned rap battle broke out from there. Drake dropped the diss track “Charged Up” in response to Mill’s accusations, which is more of a warning shot before the storm to come. Without a response from Mill, Drake drops another diss track “Back To Back Freestyle,” putting Mill down 2-0. Mill responded Friday with his own diss track, which was received less than warmly, mostly because people can’t tell what he’s even saying. All the while, Nicki is most unpleased to see her future husband fighting with her “Anaconda” lap dance friend. At this point, I’m expecting Taylor Swift and Nicki to collab on their own response to the whole affair.
This notion of ghostwriting and public rivalries is nothing new. Artists have been battling since the dawn of blues, when guitarists would go back and forth on stage attempting to out shred the other one and prove their virtuosity. Fans love fighting over who’s better as much as the artists themselves do: Beatles vs. Rolling Stones, Notorious B.I.G. vs. Tupac, Ramones vs. The Sex Pistols. These arguments are as old as rock ‘n’ roll itself and fuel our interest with music.
Ghostwriting isn’t by any means a new phenomena in hip hop either, with its history in popularity dating back to “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang. Of course, an artist’s reputation will be placed in higher regard if they solely write their own lyrics, or elicit the help of credited writers, but plenty of reputable artists have used ghostwriters and will probably continue to. The sheer volume of music high-profile artists are expected to put out these days almost always requires some outside help. It would be nice, however, to see those lyricists get some sort of credit for their work, even if it’s only pay-to-hire. Maybe this outing can destigmatize the whole ordeal.
Writers play an important role, but the flip side of the coin is who is performing the written material, and when it comes to that, I think Drake has Mill beat. In the mean time, at least we’re getting some new tunes out of it.
Music Business News
The “Happy Birthday” song could be made free to use
30 Rock fans may remember an exasperated Liz Lemon trying to stop everyone in the studio from singing “Happy Birthday to You,” in fear that it’ll cost too much to air live. This is a classic Hollywood joke because it’s true. Warner/ Chappell, the publishing group with ownership over the song, is reported to make $2 million a year off the song. However, a filmmaker is disputing Warner Music Group’s right to the song, which could make it free for use in media. Liz Lemon would certainly appreciate it.
Pandora loses legal battle for lower royalty rates
This week, Pandora lost a legal battle against the performance rights organization BMI that would have allowed the popular Internet radio service to pay a smaller royalty rate to BMI and its catalog of artists. This can be kind of complicated, but it’s really pretty simple. Terrestrial radio stations (the stuff you play in your car on traditional FM and AM stations) pay a lower royalty rate than Pandora does to stream its radio service to your phone or computer. Pandora feels it should pay the same rate as most terrestrial radio stations (1.7%). There are plenty of opinions out there about who is in the right on this argument, but for now, all you need to know is Pandora won against the other PRO ASCAP earlier this year and now appears to be losing against BMI. It’s likely Pandora will appeal.
Spain’s music economy is rebounding thanks to streaming services
For the first time, more revenue was generated for the Spanish music industry from digital sources including Spotify and YouTube, marking another victory for streaming music advocates who see these apps and others like them as the future of the industry.
Apple Music hits reported 10 million subscribers in less than a month
If you haven’t tried out Apple Music yet, you’re out of the 10 million club. The new music streaming service is off to a good start, but the real test begins when these initial three-month free trials expire. How many of the early adopters will stick around as the $9.99/month price tag rolls in?
Surprisingly, the biggest news this week comes from the trending charts. Twitter blew up with Drake vs. Meek Mill news and that’s reflected in the charts as Drake’s “Charged Up” slips into a debut spot at No. 3 on the Twitter Top Tracks Chart and as of Sunday night popped up to No. 1 on the Trending 140. It’s still too soon to tell if the charts can declare us a winner in this on-going feud, but Meek Mill’s response track “Wanna Know” didn’t see nearly as much traction on the real-time updated feed. Maybe these Twitter charts will actually be good for analysis after all.
The other big chart news came from none other than One Direction. The newly reformed four-piece band dropped a surprise single “Drag Me Down,” which sounds like the boys back in form — catchy guitar riffs, solid songwriting, and of course, those voices. Looks like the ever popular group will continue on without its bad boy Zayne.
The Hot 100 remain relatively steady with OMI’s “Cheerleader” and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” taking the first two slots. “Watch Me” by Silento shot up two positions from last week to take the No. 3 spot. Three big critically acclaimed albums saw their way into the top 10 of Billboard’s Top 200: Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free at No. 6, Tame Impala’s Currents at No. 4, and Future’s DS2 debuting at No. 1. Be sure to check out all three of those fantastic albums.
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This Week In Music News: Drake vs. Meek Mill Image courtesy of stereochampions.com