Sunday, February 12th of this fine year (2017) held the 59th annual American Grammy Awards ceremony. Self-proclaimed as each year's "biggest night in music", the awards show featured some fantastic performances by the likes of Metallica/Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, A Tribe Called Quest (& friends), Katy Perry/Skip (grandson of Bob) Marley and several others. If you haven't checked out the performances of this year's spectacle, I highly recommend at least going to check out a few.
Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the winners in contrast to the choices laid out by the NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) voting board. Adele dominated every category she was nominated for, Chance The Rapper won Best New Artist AND best Rap Album, making Coloring Book the first free mixtape to both be nominated for and win a Grammy. David Bowie received some post-humous love and even meme-of-the-decade "Hotline Bling" took some awards away. It was a little bitter to see Megadeth and Cage The Elephant overshadow some of the talent they were up against, but I digress. As much as I love douche-ily voicing my opinion on the Internet, I actually wanted to take this article as a chance to divulge the inner workings of the Grammy Awards, along the way highlighting some flaws in the process as well as acknowledging the immense amount of gratitude we owe the ceremony for it's contributions to the medium.
The "Gramophone Awards" (as they were originally called) were derived out of the Walk of Fame project on Hollywood Boulevard back in the 1950's. The recording executives in charge of assigning sidewalk stars to icons in the music realm felt that a few names on concrete vastly understated the amount of talent that was constantly popping up in the music industry. Some of these executives got together to create the Grammys we know and...have varying emotions towards. The first ceremony was held simultaneously in two separate locations, while the event was televised live as early as 1971. The design for the actual trophy was revamped in 1990, leading to the development of a new alloy metal trademarked as Grammium. To this day, there have been nearly 8,000 Grammy Trophies awarded to artists.
Fun facts aside, there are inherent criticisms that come with any competitive art awards ceremony. Such talking topics include the legitimacy of evaluating a subjective product on a seemingly objective scale, as well as the fear of corruption within the voting committee. These kinds of umbrella-critiques will not be explored much in this article, although they are important to acknowledge when discussing artistic awards, especially those that are televised. That, I believe, is the primary short-coming of the Grammy Awards: the ceremony has become remarkably more important than the art that is being judged. And it's to be expected, in all honesty. The Grammys have consistently accrued over 17 million live viewers every year since 1979. The broadcast attained an all-time high of ~51 million viewers in 1984, the year that Michael Jackson's revolutionary LP, "Thriller", raked in a whopping 8 awards, a record that has since remained unbroken. In 2014, 30 seconds of Grammy ad time sold at an average of ~$800,000. The year after that: an average of ~$1,000,000/30s. The year after that: an average of ~$1,200,000/30s. See what I'm getting at here? By nature of featuring a performance art, the Grammys have always held their presentation of the ceremony in the highest regard. If NARAS doesn't feature pop-culture icons like Drake or Beyoncé on their broadcast, they lose the trust of their mainstream viewership and, ultimately, their primary source of revenue. This is a consistent root of controversy, causing some artists like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Maynard Keenan of Tool, and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver to denounce the ceremony even after having won awards. Further criticism was born out of the Academy's decision to cut the number of awards distributed from 109 to 78, combining awards such as Best Hard Rock Album and Best Metal Album, while all R&B sub-genre awards into Best R&B Album. Some categories were outright eliminated, including Best Classical Album and Best Rock Instrumental Performance (sorry, Tosin Abasi). While the current number of awards has grown to 84, there is a conjectured lack of consideration by the NARAS for artists in a medium that is perpetually diversifying and fragmenting into an unbelievable number of very unique sub-genres, some of which even have a major following. For example, contemporary emo (like Tiny Moving Parts and American Football) and progressive metal (like Protest The Hero and Meshuggah) both have undeniably large followings. The Grammy Awards hand out four (five if you count the Alternative award) trophies to all sub-genres of rock (being responsible for 30% of CD, Digital and Vinyl sales according to Nielsen Music), but also distribute five awards to all sub-genres of Jazz (responsible for just 2% of music sales). Granted, this is just a sales-based scale, but it really says a lot about how much rock music is being created in comparison to the amount of Jazz. This is not to say that Jazz should be marginalized or appreciated any less, but to highlight that five awards for the most over-saturated and fragmented genre in the world is just ludicrous.
Once upon a time, I would have quickly fallen into a red-pill catharsis by having an opportunity to publicly rant about the dark corruption behind the Grammy Awards. But I'm a changed man (I swear). What I've found is that it's incredibly easy to point out where the Grammys fall short, but so easy to forget what it truly means. We can't just gloss over that >17 million annual viewership as a sign of corrupted agenda; that's >17 million people who are interested enough in contemporary music to tune in live. To think that more than 50million people were invested enough in Michael Jackson's artistic recognition to watch him win 8 awards live is absolutely insane. The cold, hard truth is: music was meant to become commercial. Any successful art does to some degree. If you've read my recent write-up on ["pop music" with hyperlink to article embedded], then you should know my platform on the mainstream impacting artists. It's inevitable. It's something to be revered, even. If the mainstream is impacting an art form, you know that art form is alive and well in the world. Not to mention that Periphery, a contemporary progressive metal band, was nominated this year for best metal performance, while Chance The Rapper, the flagship artist for independent hip-hop, walked away with several awards as well as an shamelessly honest performance at the ceremony. Last year, Kendrick Lamar and Ghost won Best Rap Album and Best Metal Performance, respectively. This may be telling us that the "mainstream" audience has gotten too fragmented to appeal to with the run of the mill pop-culture icons in music. They're addressing revolutionary contemporary artists and giving credit where credit is due.
So, who cares if they have a bias? Winning a Grammy doesn't suddenly make anyone successful anyway. Music should be done out of passion, not for some piece of engraved metal. The mainstream favor in awards like these don't really do much for artist's career like an Oscar or Emmy would do for an actor. That's why some artists, like the ones I've mentioned above, can denounce the show and still sustain the following they've always had. The independent band model is more sustainable than it has ever been! Fear not the longevity of your favorite artist; they've gotten where they are because of their fans. Not from some award or advertisement or any other mainstream exposure. The bands we love will have a career in music for as long as we love them. So, I'll continue treating the Grammy Awards Ceremony for what it is: an entertaining series of ridiculously expensive performances by (usually) talented musicians with some breaks in between to hand out little statues.
Although, if they screw up James Hetfield's microphone next time, I can't say much for the longevity of the Academy members. James is not a docile soul.
Let's talk about Fueled By Ramen.
For context, I should shine the spotlight on a few key components of the alternative music scene:
But wait a minute...I can't turn on the radio for a solid 15 minutes without hearing "Heathens" or "Stressed Out"! Doesn't that go against our first principle as alternative music listeners? Why do they get to break the rules? What makes twenty one pilots exempt from the barriers of the mainstream while still pulling a gigantic portion of the alternative music crowd?
Come to think of it, this series of questions can be identically expressed towards the likes of Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and Paramore. Multiple hits by each of these bands have blown up on the radio in recent years. From "Centuries", to "Miss Jackson", to "Still Into You", it's difficult to argue that any of the bands above haven't achieved massive mainstream success. None of it is by chance, either. Through careful presentation of the material, Fueled By Ramen is a master in the art of curation.
Curation is a very unique concept to us as consumers, whereas it's incredibly important to us on a subconscious level; We rarely give it a conscious consideration unless it's explicitly brought up in conversation. Above all, it's absolutely necessary for any medium or platform to thrive. Nobody wants to sift through the staggering masses of content in any medium to find the good stuff. The foam must have some channel through which it may rise to the top...and for us alternative music kids, that channel is Fueled By Ramen. They curate in parallelto their passion for the art, not in spite of it. Just compare FBR's roster to that of, say, Interscope Records. It sort of hard to believe that the employees of Interscope collectively and concurrently support The 1975, ScHoolBoy Q, Ellie Goulding and Imagine Dragons on an artistic level. They each embody vastly different mindsets when it comes to writing music. And it shows in their business model for curation: blow up pop stations across the world with highly-accessible music, and people will accept the artist as a pop-culture icon. Get pop-culture icons to feature in songs with other pop-culture icons...and the revenue flows exponentially.
On the FBR side of things, the model is noticeably different by a pretty wide margin. The music is curated in genuinely interesting music videos and wacky, yet, clean production choices that align with the artists' vision. The artistic ideas are sought after organically by dedicated fans, who care enough to share that music with their closest friends, then those friends share it with their closest friends and so on. It's a beautifully natural growth in presence for the artist. In establishing an organic fan base for their artists, they provide longevity in the form of a dedicated audience on top of the company's industrial prowess in distribution and exposure. In simpler terms, FBR is incredible at exposing bands to consumers who will genuinely care about their music and consistently desire more.
Now, of course, there will always be that one fine samaritan who is too busy jamming to the artistically profound Atilla to accept any pop-like music as anything short of "hot garbage, bro". But I say screw them. I mean, there's nothing intrinsically bad or artistically lacking about pop music. It's a genre just like any other, except that it's defined by the ebb and flow of what the majority of music consumers enjoy. And I don't see anything wrong with that. The structural elements are integrated by legends of other genres, such as the fathers of djent in Meshuggah, the pop-punk powerhouses in Jimmy Eat World and even the post-hardcore kings within Thrice. In these cases, I would go so far as to define pop music by, simply, great songwriting. Let's face it: most of us don't remember the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody because the song breaks a plethora of traditional songwriting rules. We're able to belt out every word because it's presented in a way that we can be passionate about. It's an incredibly fun and triumphant song, accompanied by explosively dynamic instrumentals and vocal melodies that can sit in your head for days on end. Those are the elements of great song-writing: carefully formatted pieces of a congruent and cohesive puzzle that are not just easy to remember, but enjoyable to reiterate.
To bring it all back home, Fueled By Ramen is important because they understand the value in artistic integrity. They understand that artists like Lil Yachty and Ellie Goulding are only good for as long as their genres are relevant. They're names. They're icons. They're not presented as people. Brendon Urie, Tyler Joseph, Hayley Williams...those are people. We care about them, as well as what they have to say, how they're feeling and, through the arguably invasive avenues of Twitter and Instagram, we even care about little things like what kind of dog they have. And it's not by accident. It's through the careful and masterful curation of Fueled By Ramen that we are presented with these amazing, charismatic musicians that we can relate to and care for on an intimate level. That is why FBR has been and will always be one of my favorite major labels.
If you'd like to learn more about the art of curation, YouTuber "kaptainkristian" released a heartfelt video about Toonami that provided some heavy influence for this article. I highly recommend checking it out, as it's incredibly insightful for anyone interested in the entertainment industry.
Otherwise, thanks for reading. You may now go back to your regularly scheduled scrolling down your Facebook feed.
written by jo trumble
When Liv asked me to write for Wolfsbane I'm sure she was thinking "oh, there's no way James can screw THIS up", while I was thinking "ehhh, let's see, I can think of a few ways". I was also going to write an article about the very severe lack of light saber duels in the pit, then after a cup of coffee, figured I'd leave that for another day, but anyways, here it goes.
I remember being at my first show, Warped Tour 2004, my uncle took me and was having fun consuming what he and my mom called "Parent Juice" I'm sure you can do the math. I was just amazed at how energetic and insane all of the bands were. There was Avenged Sevenfold, All-American Rejects, Anti-Flag, Alkeline Trio and of course Fall Out Boy to name a few. I was sold, from that moment I knew that was all I wanted to do and it truly saved my life. I, of course wouldn't realize this until much, much later.
Now here I am, 13 years later, and thanking bands like Gwen Stacy, Forevermore, As The Fallen Rise, Foreveratlast, The Day After and for alot of you here lately Vices To Veils and Home Sweet Home(formerly Crunkasaurus Rex), just to name some from the extensive list that saved my life. I have a literal list of albums that forever changed, shaped, and made me into the oh so wonderful ball of anxiety, pizza, coffee and tasteful dad jokes I am today.
Marilyn Manson, Fleetwood Mac, and Haste The Day are some of the bands that made it on that list and have made a lasting impression on me and got me through some extremely rough times. It's incredible how Important music is for our growth as people. It is amazing that one single word sang musically can change someone forever. Music gives us an outlet and a sound track for our lives. It warps and shapes itself as we grow. Our music tastes, our emotional periods, significant events, etc. As a time-line of sorts, certain albums for me mean more than others. Certain bands kind of create a "flashback" into the past for me, hence the "time-line effect". It blows my mind what an affect the psychological aspect of music can have on us. To some people it's just a "song", but for me every riff, word, snare hit, and punchy bass chord truly saved my life, and I know I'm not alone in this. Music brings people together, it allows us to share certain moments we never thought we'd be able to bring up without judgment to people that we would have never met if it weren't for something that seems so minuscule, but is really a pinnacle for a lot of people. I might not be alive today and music is the sole reason for that, it runs through my blood and veins, and is with me down to my very core. For those who are near and dear to me, I know you feel the same way.
I'm going to stop writing now and find a snack. If you read this entire thing, bless you. I love you all.
(Also thank you to DJ Kennedy and Tony Gebhard for their input while I wrote this)
Photos by Jeremy Keeney**
Written by James Fritz
As an audio engineer, I frequently come upon a lot of misconception online as far as the role of a "producer", and what kind of hand they have in the final product that is a song. An overwhelming majority of consumers on YouTube comments and online forums throw around diction like "over-produced" without a fully fleshed-out comprehension of their connotation. I figured, "What better way to pop my Wolfsbane cherry than to write up a short exposition on the relationship between producer and consumer?". While I won't be going into all the technical hoopla of sound design, I intend to dissect the creative process of a song as it goes from band practice to iTunes.
"Producer" could once be tangibly defined as "guy who assists in recording the band and polishes their creative vision". Beyond that would be a separate team of recording engineers (to actually record and arrange the instruments), editors (to polish takes and line them up in-time), mixing engineers (to process and balance each element of the song) and mastering engineers (to "polish the finish" and bring the song up to consumer volume). With the increased accessibility of recording technology, plenty of big studios have closed up shop for the age of the "bedroom producer" (whom, of course, ride entrepreneurship into anything better than a bedroom). These types of producers could offer what a whole team of engineers can while only paying one salary, giving them a minimal overhead and the ability to harshly undercut the rates of bigger studios, without sacrificing much quality at all. This has effectively molded the role of "producer" into an independent, often freelance individual with the ability to deliver creative influence, high quality recording, mixing and mastering all for a concrete price. Somebody call Walmart; they need to take lessons on this value.
Brian Lee White, the man behind the music in several installments of the Halo series of games, broke down the particular process of mixing into 3 fundamental categories with his Lynda Class in 2009: Corrective, Creative and Cohesive. In laymen's terms, Corrective embodies an objectively problem-solving approach, while Creative features an art-centric mindset and Cohesive lies somewhere in the middle. It's important to understand that every mixing engineer (and likewise, every "producer") lays focus somewhere along this spectrum. Some may be on contract with a major record label and have no creative input, while some may serve as a heavy creative force in each project: something that producer Kane Churko (Papa Roach, In This Moment, Five Finger Death Punch) is well-known for. Kane openly speaks about writing several songs for these bands WHILE being the sole producer for several of those projects.
My goal in laying out this seemingly disjointed pile of steamy information is to convey an undeniable reality: producers rarely have a consistent amount of creative influence on the projects they work with. It varies from producer-to-producer, as well as project-to-project. Rest assured, however, that most rock or metal bands hold the seed of influence primarily within the band members or, in a handful of unfortunate cases, the record label.
To start summing things up, "over-produced" is a bad word in my circle. It's far too vague and gives consumers a lazy phrase to reach for when justifying their distaste for a record or song without consciously identifying why they don't like it. The producer is so typically blamed for bastardizing music with over-accessibility, over-polish, excess loudness, inclusion of samples, and etc., but modern record producers don't go through the hell of entrepreneurship to ruin your favorite bands' music; if an album sounds "over-produced", it was very likely the desire of either the band or record label. Not the producer.
So, the next time you're considering why your favorite punk band has 808's and bass drops in their new album, do some research! Through watching studio updates and/or interviews with the band/producer, you can typically tell where in the chain this new influence is coming from: whether it's some seedy label guy, the ever-evolving artist, a line-up change within a band or the rare producer who throws their weight around a little too much. As producers, it is absolutely our job to guide artists as they lay into their canvas. However, it's only guidance. At the end of the day, we're paid to deliver a product to a client. If the client isn't happy, the job is re-done or outsourced nine times out of ten. By law of Adam Robinson's philosophy, there's nothing that doesn't make sense. There are variables everywhere, and only when you identify those variables can you make an educated assessment.
In conclusion, I implore you to go out and make those assessments for yourself! Only informed consumers can change the shape of the industry. If you think artists deserve a little more creative sovereignty, let that affect your decisions as a consumer! Write an email to a record label; open a dialogue through which you can express what you really want from your music. Take a lesson from my vegan friends and buy organic. Music, that is. Or groceries too. I'm not your mom. Do what you want.
Why are you still reading? Article's over. Goodbye!
Written by Jo Trumble
Written By Aubrey Mayes
Flip though the gallery, just like you would a book, and read about the story of when Dad Nick came to town. Make sure to hang your Converse, and leave out the vape juice, and maybe.. just maybe.. Dad Nick will leave you some good merch this year.
From everyone at the Wolfsbane Team, we hope you have a very happy holiday season. We hope this tale brings a smile to your face and gives you a good laugh. And remember to have a very punk-y New Year!
Wolfsbane Music Co. is looking for weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly writers.
Some awesome perks of writing with us include; access to new and unheard music to be reviewed, ability to apply for press passes, ability to interview and communicate with bands, artists, and record labels, sharing your thoughts with 500-1,000+ people at a time, building a resume for a growing career in the music community, creating relationships with others in the music industry, and being a part of our loving and fun family!
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In the past few years, the rise of social media has very much impacted the music scene as a whole. It has made finding new music a thousand times easier, but it also made it a thousand times harder for people to find your band specifically. The bands that stand out on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are going to get more exposure on the internet. It is a great tool for when you are booking tours for your band as well. Just simply messaging a promoter through Facebook can get you a show in another state just like that. Be sure to watch for some promoters who want you to email them, because if you message them, they will not answer most of the time. This is something I really messed up with a lot when I first started booking tours for Goodbye, Goodnight. The key is turning those internet fans into the kind of people that will actually go to your shows.
With that being said, it brings me to my next point. DO NOT BUY ANY FORM OF LIKES. It is going to be quite obvious that you are purchasing likes when you have 20,000 followers on Twitter and still manage to draw about five kids in your hometown. Those numbers do not match up and people are going to notice.
The simplest thing you can do is just have everyone invite all of their friends to your page. It might annoy some people, but hey it is literally just clicking a button so why not go for it. A technique that some use, but we hardly find it anymore is spamming. This does get really annoying. If you are gonna message someone out of the blue that you have never met, at least start a conversation with them instead of just sending a copy and paste of all your links. Typically, it will just get opened and ignored.
Now, there are some bands you know who are super sick and actually do have a draw in their hometown, but only have like 200 Facebook likes after being a band for over a year. I mean you can always settle for that or really try pushing your music through Facebook groups and your personal pages. Every post by the band should be shared by every member of the band. Most of you share memes all the time, might as well share something promoting yourself. Facebook makes it hard for people to see the things on your page so it is important for you to actually take a few seconds to hit share or retweet.
I am not saying I am a social media genius or even like the best musician in the world, but I do know that when you utilize social media more, it helps your band grow. Have photos taken of your live shows and upload them. People like pictures. Share your band's new music video on Facebook. I am not saying you have to upload the entire thing, but just like thirty seconds and a link to your band’s Youtube. This article was not meant to come of pretentious or anything like that, I just want every band to be the very best they can be.
written by kyle goffinet
Once again, MSMFest is coming to the Morristown community park this summer. For the eighth consecutive year, MSMFest has been giving music lovers of all ages a summer to remember.
The festival was started by Jason Chisham, when he wanted to bring something special to his hometown of Morristown that also included the thing he loved most, music. For eight years now, Chisham has devoted countless amounts of blood, sweat, and tears into the festival. As well as so many others who have helped make everything happen over the years. With people who have helped behind the scenes, as well as a whole team of volunteers each year, the planning of the festival is a team effort with Chisham being the ringleader in the madness of MSMFest.
Some of the MSMFest alumni include, Tiny Moving Parts, Real Friends, Modern Baseball, Indian City Weather, Hotelier, and so many more. With the numbers reaching over one hundred bands almost every year, they do not disappoint with their variety of music.
When I was 16, MSMFest was my first local endevour. I was fresh into the music community and the first experience of a local crowd and music came from this festival. Now, here I am, 4 years later, and I'm writing about the festival on my own website, to my own viewers. I can truly and honestly say that without MSMFest, I would not have the experience I do, and I wouldn't be where I am without having them to break me into the music community.
I was honored with the opportunity a few years back to do interviews at the fest for my old music media site, and being involved with that festival was truly the most rewarding and enjoyable experience I have ever had.
Now, you might be asking yourself, "Why are they talking about a summer festival in December?". Well, I will tell you, imaginary half of this conversation. We want YOU to get involved!!
MSMFest is currently accepting submissions from bands to play. So it doesn't matter where you are from, the genre you are, YOU can submit your band to play.
submit your band to play msmfest here
written by olivia mayes
By Kyle Goffinet
With Thanksgiving being over, we are finally allowed to get into the holiday spirit. A certain record label came in and decided to get us even more excited for the Christmas season. On Black Friday, Invogue Records released one of the best Christmas compilations I have heard in a very long time. It was filled was original Christmas songs by artist one the label. All the songs are terrific, but I want to talk about some of my favorites from the album.
The first song I want to talk about is In Her Own Words cover of Yule Shoot Your Eye Out by Fall Out Boy. Joey’s vocals were a perfect fit for this song and staying away from the original acoustic style was such a great idea.
Secondly, I want to talk about the original Christmas song that Chase Huglin wrote. He takes his try at a full band song on Christmas Eve/Pierceton Queen and it turned out phenomenal. This really makes me excited to see what he will do full band related in the future.
Another stand out song was by the pals in Woven in Hiatus. They wrote an original song entitled Joy and just crushed it. Vocalist Luke Nagel has such a soothing voice and I was excited to hear the Christmas song the second it got announced. I expect BIG things from those guys in the future.
Hotel Books, Punchline, Convictions, and JT Woodruff all had great songs as well. Honestly ever artist on it did very well with their songs and it was so great to see my favorite record label put out an album for my favorite time of the year.
You can download the entire album on Bandcamp for FREE and it is also available on all streaming platforms!
By Kyle Goffinet
This past Saturday, I was able to attend the 11th annual Little Heart Records Anniversary. It was filled with some of the best bands in the area and some of the best people. This was no ordinary anniversary show. This was a room of people that all came together to support the man who gave them their first shots. Bryan Puckett, founder of Little Heart Records, died earlier this year and it left a music community in deep, emotional pain. However, Saturday night was filled with more love and compassion for music than I had ever seen before. There were the younger bands, the experienced, veteran bands, and even the ones who had moved onto bigger labels. No matter what, everyone was there to celebrate Bryan Puckett’s life the best way we know how and that is through the power of music.
Along with myself and many other musicians, the best way we have been able to deal with our emotions is through music. Sometimes we can begin to question whether or not it is the correct escape from our everyday struggles because of the stress it can bring. That show was everybody's reminder of why we are all here powering through the trials and tribulations of being a musician. Music is a community that brings the people who feel left out together as one. Bryan Puckett has been the man to do that for the Louisville scene and countless other bands across the country. There is a line in an Everyone Leaves song that I believe will stick with the Little Heart family forever and that is, “You’ll live forever in things I do.” Thank you Puckett for everything you have ever done and although you are gone, your work will continue to be the motivation that keeps so many bands going. Your legacy will never be forgotten.
Below are some screenshots of members of the Little Heart family following the show.