How the Grammys Help Fans Create Visual Stories

Benharper

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards sparked laughter, controversy, eye rolling, and a lot of conversation in our living rooms, pressrooms, and social media worlds. Beyoncé’s risqué performance raised eyebrows, and Lorde’s dance moves caused some serious head scratching. Pharrell’s gigantic Smokey the Bear hat generated instant parodies and its own Twitter account. And Kacey Musgraves officially arrived. But what you see onstage is only part of the experience. Thanks to a live stream available on the Grammy website, Grammy viewers can go backstage with the stars and watch them as they exit the stage, prepare for their official Grammy portraits, and glow for the media in the press room. I used my laptop to become a backstage voyeur and content creator by snapping screen shots of the stars and posting my visual stories across my social spaces. This is the new world of entertainment: empowering everyday fans to create content. Here are a few highlights:

Giants

I captured a brief moment when Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard lingered for a pre-show interview. The Grammy Awards show really begins hours before the telecast, when performers and presenters arrive to rehearse. Moreover several entertainers and industry figures receive awards during a separate ceremony before prime time. Nelson, Kristofferson, and Haggard reminded me of three giant figures from Mount Rushmore. I used a black-and-white filter to accentuate that impression.

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Why the NFL Needs Richard Sherman

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks

Welcome to the new modern-day NFL, where athletes are also entertainers and celebrities who cater to every personal taste. Two high-profile athlete/brands will take the stage February 2 to compete in Super Bowl XLVIII. On the one hand, the Denver Broncos feature Quarterback Peyton Manning, who caters to fans of the strong, silent earnest persona — the Harrison Ford of pro football.

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And as even non-football fans know by now, the Seattle Seahawks feature Cornerback Richard Sherman, the cocky, loudmouthed Kanye West of pro football.

Within hours, Sherman’s emotional, self-aggrandizing interview with Fox Sports triggered an explosion of chatter and harrumphing not seen since Miley Cyrus twerked on the VMAs. As my blog post for Jermaine Dupri’s Global 14 community points out, Sherman’s post-game interview was just the latest in a series of outbursts and stunts that have built his controversial brand. And the Richard Sherman brand is good for the NFL.

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The Long, Strange Trip of the Ron Burgundy Brand

Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy Q&A

What to make of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues?

The sequel to the popular 2004 Anchorman comedy dominated the cultural landscape months before the movie opened December 18 thanks to an inventive marketing campaign. However, after “changing the way movies are marketed” (in the words of Adweek‘s Chris Heine) through original content, viral marketing stunts, and social media, the movie underperformed at the box office during its opening weekend — only to bounce back in following weeks on its way to grossing $122.2 million domestically and $163.9 million worldwide as of January 19. So did the clever marketing make a difference? Yes and no. I believe audience word of mouth and positive reviews were the real story of the movie’s box office success after a slow start. But the marketing blitz galvanized a one-man brand who may generate financial value for Paramount Pictures beyond the movie’s ticket sales.

A Formula for Success?

Paramount Pictures had every reason to believe Anchorman 2 would succeed coming out of the gate. The movie reunited the principal players who had made the original Anchorman a financial success, including Will Ferrell (as both lead actor and co-writer), director (and co-writer) Adam McKay, and producer Judd Apatow, whose work has shaped and even defined comedy for the past decade. And, as Adweek documented well, the run-up to the movie’s opening weekend involved an all-encompassing Continue reading

Why Every Year Is the Year of Miley Cyrus

Mileysinging

It’s time for the Miley Cyrus bashers to wake up to a stark reality: Miley Cyrus ain’t going away. Not in 2014. Not anytime soon. Why? Because when you peel away the layers of twerk-inspired controversy, Miley Cyrus is creating good pop music. And with a major North American tour launching February 14, Miley Cyrus is going to be in our faces even more than she was in 2013.

I waited until now to pass judgment on Cyrus’s latest album, Bangerz, even though it was released three months ago. Frankly I needed some emotional distance from the phenomenon of Miley (which was wearing me out) in order to objectively explore the music of Miley. After listening to the latest edition of her constantly reinventing sound, I have to say, yeah, she delivers some fun, engaging pop on her first non-Disney album — the kind of pop that will endure if she plays her cards right.

You already know about the big moments from Bangerz — how could anyone escape the much discussed and spoofed video for “Wrecking Ball?”

Miley Cyrus swinging around naked on a wrecking ball got tongues wagging. But the video is just a way (and an effective one at that) to get attention amid the white noise flooding our multi-tasking lives. On the song itself, she reveals the kind of talent that will sustain her. Her vocals soar with the kind of epic style that Alicia Keys attempted with “Girl on Fire,” but without any of Keys’s self-conscious posing.

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Dick Wingate Talks Music and His New Record Label BHi Music Group

Wingate

What’s the role of a record label in an era when musicians can manage their careers with platforms like Kickstarter and Soundcloud? According to industry executive Dick Wingate, a good label matters more than ever before, if for no other reason than to help artists break through the cluttered music landscape those digital platforms have ironically helped create.  Wingate has a perspective largely unmatched in the music business. He collaborated with musical giants such as Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Pink Floyd as those artists exploded to superstardom in the 1970s.

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Dick Wingate and Bruce Springsteen at the printing press inspecting the cover of Darkness on the Edge of Town

He held executive positions for labels such as Epic, PolyGram and Arista during a golden era for the music industry, signing and having hits with Eddy Grant and Aimee Mann (‘Til Tuesday), among others. He worked for technology pioneers such as Liquid Audio long before his industry peers were waking up to the disruptive power of digital. And now his storied career is coming full circle with the launch of BHi Music Group, a label he founded in November 2013.

Wingate recently discussed with me why he returned to the label side of the music industry and his excitement about emerging artists on his roster, such as Jon and the Jones and AM Aesthetic. As he explains in the following Q&A, musicians today face a paradox: on the one hand, it’s never been easier for an artist to break into music thanks to do-it-yourself recording and distribution tools such as Tunecore. But as he points out, the flip side to having fewer barriers of entry to the music industry is that “there is so much music available it is almost white noise to the average consumer.” Consequently, not only must an artist’s music be great, but also the artist needs to work harder on marketing and touring to cut through the clutter. And rising above the noise is but one function that someone like Dick Wingate can play for an artist working with BHi Music Group.

Read on for more wide-ranging insights into issues facing artists today, ranging from the impact of streaming services to the very future of music.

Congratulations on the launch of BHi Music Group. Why did you return to the label side of the business?

It wasn’t planned. I was on the board of startup Big House Music Publishing and as I became closer to the founders, Christian Cedras and Krista Retto, we found our musical instincts very much aligned. When a great singer/songwriter (Jon Moodie) came in with literally dozens of great songs, a unique voice and a great look we decided to record him with a band, which we put together as Jon and the Jones. After that we fell in love with AM Aesthetic and suddenly we had the two acts with which to launch the label.

How would you describe BHi Music Group in one sentence? What sets you apart?

We are very hands on with our artists, meeting regularly to review songs, arrangements and stage presentation. So we are focused on artist development above and beyond everything else. Not every act wants that much input from their label.

The BHi Music Group Facebook page says BHi Music Group bridges the gap between DIY and majors. How do you do that? 

DIY usually implies that a band records and releases and does a little bit of social marketing to the extent they can afford it. We provide a great deal of hands-on management and artist development, as well as putting our collective decades of connections and experience to work to create partnerships, get sync licenses, create videos and bring the right tastemakers to see or hear our artists.

What type of artists are a good fit for you?

The genre is pretty open but the artist must be willing to take a lot of direction (if needed) from BHi on songs, performance, staging and appearance. In order to do this we are very focused on the New York City region as we want our artists to be available for regular meetings, showcases, etc.

Tell me more about Jon and the Jones and AM Aesthetic. How did you find each other? What do you like about them?

As I mentioned Jon came in as a solo artist. He constantly writes so many songs there is really a fantastic wealth of material. His attitude towards collaboration with the label and bandmates couldn’t have been better. Most importantly he has worked hard to improve his performance on stage and his songs have become bigger in scale and arrangement, taking advantage of the (now) four piece band. It’s a heady combination of rock, blues and alternative, and doesn’t fit into any defined category.

With AM Aesthetic, the material is consistently compelling. They are a dynamic, loud three-piece band that lights up the room with their melodic alt/rock combination. We see them as playing festivals in the near future, with college kids and young adults as the core audience. They also work very closely with us on songwriting, arrangements and staging and are wonderfully open to suggestion.

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AM Aesthetic

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