South by South Milledge: South by Southwest in the Key of Sustainability

UGArden, Athens, Georgia on April 18, 2017

Read it on Medium!


Chord Cases: The Kesha Case (Continued)

I promised not to leave you hanging forever, so here’s part two. If you’re confused, there’s no shame in re-listening to part one.

Guest: Brenton Hund, Senior Counsel & Head of Music Group at Turner

Sources: Rolling Stone, E! Online, Fox News Entertainment, The Hollywood Reporter

Music: Lexi Kelson

Produced on April 6, 2017 in Athens, GA.

This post was written by Lexi Kelson – @lexkelson.

Mindful Music Concert Brings Awareness to Collegiate Mental Health

Concert: Mindful Music will take place on April 8, 2017 at Hendershot’s in Athens, GA. The show will feature acoustic music (originals and covers) as well as spoken word. One of the pieces is entitled “Grandpa Millennial,” and is “from the perspective of a millennial as a grandparent looking back. Instead of going to Vietnam, the war that they fought is mental illness,” says Jaydin Leslie.

Benefit: The Invisible Illnesses is a project started by Emily Torchiana in October 2016. Their mission statement: “The Invisible Illnesses looks to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health by providing a public platform for individuals who suffer from mental illnesses to share their stories and connect with others.”

Research: The study was conducted by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health and can be found in their 2016 Annual Report.




Road to Roo: Athens Finals

Last night, the Georgia Theatre hosted the Athens city finals for the Road to Bonnaroo (#RoadtoRoo) competition. Walden, The Vinyl Suns, J Kyle & Five Speed all played to keep their dreams of performing on the Bonnaroo stage alive.

The winner? Walden! Jamie de Lange, Andrew Mendel, Eric Hangartner and Richard Becker make up the band that describes themselves as “nice-guy rock.” They have two EPs already under their belt, and their song “Green Lights” was even played on the Atlanta alternative station 105.7.

Even though they won the Road to Roo competition in Georgia last year, they stopped short of the stage because of an age disqualification. This year, however, they’re proving that second chances really do exist and battling their way all the way to Roo.

On Thursday, April 6 at 8:30 p.m., Walden will play once again at Atlanta’s Vinyl at Center Stage. In this finals show, they’ll compete against the winner of the Atlanta circuit to leave with a spot at Bonnaroo.

Check out the festival’s entire 2017 lineup and grab a ticket!

By Lexi Kelson – @lexkelson

Hendershot’s Open Mic Night

While some people go to Hendershot’s for the open mic night, others stumble upon it. Either way, they get to enjoy a free show on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Lexi Kelson)

Every Monday night in Athens, Georgia, Hendershot’s hosts an open mic for musicians and poets to share their artistry. Hosted by Larry Forte, the event fosters a community of creative minds performing, planning co-writing sessions and exchanging words of encouragement. Because standing up in front of a crowd comes with its fair share of intimidation, these artists are full of love and respect for not just each other but for their craft as well.

The space features a small stage and plenty of tables and chairs for patrons to sit back and enjoy the show. While most performers choose to fill their 10-minute slot with original pieces, some play recognizable (or obscure) tunes. On Monday, February 6, 2017, 16 artists floated on and off the stage to share in the love of creativity.

Hill Ary’s (cq) unique name is matched by her unique sound. Her two original songs showcase her airy vocals and indie vibes in Athens, Georgia on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. (Photo/Lexi Kelson)
Zach Parks sings with a hefty dose of soul coupled with a slight Southern twang in Athens, Georgia on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. He’s currently in the process of making his debut album, “Sad Southern Songs.” (Photo/Lexi Kelson)
Pharmacy student John Stevick gives a shoutout to his wife who is sitting in the audience with smiles of encouragement as he plays on the Hendershot’s stage for the first time in Athens, Georgia on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. (Photo/Lexi Kelson)
Paul Edgar takes a humorous look at Valentine’s Day with cynical lyrics that make the whole room laugh and tap along in Athens, Georgia on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. (Photo/Lexi Kelson)
Hendershot’s regular, David Lococo, chooses to forgo an instrument sidekick and use a backing track instead on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 in Athens, Georgia. He charms the crowd with classic jazz pieces from Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. (Photo/Lexi Kelson)
With peach-colored shoes and a name that can’t be missed, Salathiel Saldana shows off his guitar picking skills in Athens, Georgia on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. His two original songs feature mesmerizing guitar lines and haunting lyrics. (Photo/Lexi Kelson)
Emily Hansford’s toe taps throughout her set matching her rhythmic guitar playing. Her voice is reminiscent of Florence and the Machine, and it’s clear she means every word she sings on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Lexi Kelson)

Grammy’s 2017: What You Need to Know

Photo courtesy of Colby Sharp via Flickr

If you tuned out after your favorite artist left the stage or prefer the red carpet portion of the evening, here’s what you need to chime in on the chatter. (Comprehensive results here.)

Album of the Year = “25” (Adele)

Why this matters: The ever-classy Adele used two acceptance speeches to profess her love for Beyonce, whose performance centered around motherhood.

Record of the Year: “Hello” (Adele)

Why this matters: The ballad queen had a big night that included beating out Beyonce, Rihanna, Lukas Graham and Twenty One Pilots.

Song of the Year: “Hello” (Adele)

Why this matters: This category is all about the songwriters, especially Adele Adkins and Greg Kurstin this year.

Best New Artist: Chance The Rapper

Why this matters: His mixtape “Coloring Book” won Best Rap Album and is the first streaming-only record with a Grammy nod.

By Lexi Kelson – @lexkelson

The Ingredients in a Soundtrack

Photo courtesy of Shinya Suzuki via Flickr

There’s a cake.

The recipe is foolproof, and it’s followed more closely than a car going 35 mph on the highway. Every step is executed perfectly. The flour is sifted, the seeds of the vanilla bean are scraped out with care, and the eggs are straight from grass-fed, locally-raised chickens. The butter never separates. The cake never burns. Food Network is on its way.

But it’s disgusting. It’s so bad it sends taste buds around the world into cardiac arrest. This cake is a failure.

What went wrong? Nothing. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, and the half-eaten leftovers have to take up residence with crumpled napkins and empty milk cartons.

Because this isn’t baking. This is the music business, and that cake is a failed album.

Glamorous, right?

There’s no formula for a No. 1 song, and there’s no such thing as a hit machine. Throw in a film that may or may not succeed, and it gets even more complicated. Miraculously, people keep making records, and some of them succeed.

“La La Land” held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 album chart at the same time that “Moana” held the No. 3 spot. Having two soundtracks in the top three at the same time hasn’t happened since May 2015. What happened in May?

The “Pitch Perfect 2” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” soundtracks staked their claim on the first and third chart slots. The latter had the largest soundtrack sales debut since “Michael Jackson’s This Is It.”

What made those soundtracks work? Why isn’t Lady Gaga’s song from “The Hunting Ground” stuck in people’s heads?

Just like the cake, there are ingredients. Even though there’s no guarantee of tastiness, the cake has a better shot at success if the recipe is followed than if it’s abandoned.

It’s time to look at the ingredients.

When a film dominates award season the way “La La Land” has, it’s easy to chalk it up to its box office success. It can be argued, however, that the nominations and wins have generated buzz that’s led to the aforementioned success. (It’s the timeless debate of which came first: the chicken or the egg.)

“La La Land” won every Golden Globe Award it was nominated for. Following this achievement, the soundtrack’s sales “increased 83 percent to a total of 42,000,” according to a New York Times article.

“Look at what’s happened with ‘La La Land’ upon the Golden Globe win. Of course that propels that up the chart because people are consuming the album more because of the wins that it had and the people in the media that continue to cover that,” says Alex Vitoulis, research manager at Billboard.

Award shows generate buzz, even in the case of Lady Gaga’s song “Til It Happens to You” from the movie “The Hunting Ground,” which barely charted.

“We didn’t even think it was going to hit the Hot 100 ever, but it did… You look at people who have had number one hits like Lady Gaga, and she puts out this song and it peters out in the 80s or the 90s,” says Vitoulis.

What pushed it over the edge?

“It was nominated last year for an Oscar and that spurred traction on it,” says Vitoulis.

Ingredients: nominations.

Just like any industry, deciding whom to hire is crucial. With a composer like Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s no surprise that the “Moana” soundtrack was so successful. He’s the name behind the Broadway hits “In the Heights” and “Hamilton,” both of which won the Best Musical Theater Album Grammy in 2009 and 2016 respectively. Simply adding his name to the “Moana” bill brings in an already established fan base ready to buy movie tickets to hear what their favorite Broadway brain has come up with.

This move was strategic. As Vitoulis says, “people start knocking when something is successful.” In an industry where success is never guaranteed, paying the big bucks for someone as reputable as Miranda is well worth the cash.

He was also an ideal candidate for this film because he relates to the main character. Plus, since he’s an actor (he starred in “Hamilton”), he knows how to embody a character and tell their story.

“Moana and I share the notion of a calling, a little voice in your gut that says, ‘You are not supposed to be here, you’re supposed to be there,’” Miranda said in an interview with New York Daily News.

Choosing Justin Hurwitz to compose for “La La Land” was also strategic. His repertoire includes the 2009 and 2014 films “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” and “Whiplash,” both of which feature jazz music just like “La La Land.” Circling back to the award show ingredient, “Whiplash” won three Oscars, three BAFTA Awards, one SAG award and one Golden Globe in 2015. Did someone say buzz?

The more commonly known Justin (Timberlake) was recruited to compose the score for the independent film, “The Book of Love.” Even though it’s purely instrumental and won’t feature Timberlake’s heart-melting vocals, Vitoulis believes it will perform better than the average instrumental score.

“Fans are going to go out and buy it because he composed it. He composed it with someone else, but they’re billing it as a Justin Timberlake release… His fans are going to go buy it because he was involved,” says Vitoulis.

Another perk of hiring Timberlake is his acting background. Just like Miranda, he’s able to jump inside a character’s mind to create music fit to underscore a narrative journey.

Ingredients: a successful musician, preferably with acting experience.

Speaking of Timberlake, Vitoulis is confident that the pop soundtrack trend will only continue.

“Artists are looking at other avenues to create and widen their value,” he says.

Because the music industry is fickle, it’s important to have a stake in more than just one project. David Lowery, Cracker band member and music business professor, says, “it’s a numbers game.” Buy enough lottery tickets and maybe, just maybe, the numbers will align.

Having a song attached to a movie can be quite the profitable deal for songwriters, assuming they have top-notch lawyers on their side. When a song is linked to visual media, a synchronization license (‘synch’ for short) is needed. In his book “All You Need to Know About the Music Business,” Donald Passman explains the payoff associated with these types of licenses.

“Motion picture synch licenses for a major studio film generally run in the range of $15,000 (for very minor usage of a song that’s not particularly well known) to over $100,000,” he writes.

When it comes to the actual soundtrack, if it’s not an instrumental score, the royalties are typically between 18 percent and 20 percent with possible escalations if the album passes certain sales thresholds. Other uses of the song can bring in even more revenue for copyright owners. According to Passman, these uses include advertising, trailers, clips, featurettes, deleted scenes and sequels.

Ingredients: a stake in the copyright.

As the saying goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If a song never hits eardrums, it definitely won’t bring in the big bucks. It’s time to make people listen.

The “Furious 7” soundtrack hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart the week of April 25, 2015. Its chart-topping success can be partly attributed to the way the music was marketed. Leading up to the film’s box office debut, several of the soundtrack’s songs were released as singles. Passman notes the typical release schedule is to have a single “promoted about six weeks ahead of the film” to give it a chance to “gather steam by the time the film hits the theaters.”

Three of them, including the international hit “See You Again,” were accompanied by music videos. That way, in case ears tuned out, eyes would still be captivated.

The week of August 27, 2016 featured a No. 1 spot held by the soundtrack for “Suicide Squad,” which also had four singles released leading up to the film. One of them was “Heathens” by twenty one pilots which has been the No. 1 song on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart since the end of August.

“If a song is a hit at radio, it will spur the soundtrack to sell. Look at ‘Suicide Squad’… because of how well ‘Heathens’ has done – it’s still the number one rock song in the country half a year later – that still continues to be consumed so that soundtrack continues to do well on the chart,” says Vitoulis.

Ingredients: a hit single.

Looking at the ingredients and the ever-present possibility of inexplicable failure, it’s a miracle people keep making records. Thankfully, they keep trying new recipes because when a cake tastes like world peace and makes its debut at a party full of gluten supporters, it’s a hit.

Of course, there’s no guarantee. This is the music business after all.


This post was written by Lexi Kelson – @lexkelson.

How A Song Hits The Charts


‘Starboy’ by The Weeknd is the number one album. Aside from the chorus constantly getting stuck in your head, what makes it number one?

It’s time to decode the charts.

First, there are two charts you should know about: Billboard 200 (albums) and Hot 100 (individual songs).

Second, Nielsen is an important company that measures data and relays it to other important companies (like Billboard).

Third, SoundScan is a system used by Nielsen to obtain album sale data. “On a weekly basis, Nielsen collects point-of-sale (POS) data in 19 countries,” according to their website. Basically, UPC codes are vital.

Now that we’ve established some ground rules, let’s get into the details.

The Billboard 200 formula is album sales plus track sales plus streaming.

“Album sales” is self-explanatory – how many albums (physical/digital) have been sold.

You might be wondering what “track sales” has to do with an album chart. Meet the track equivalent album (TEA) unit, which accounts for buying only the songs you like. One TEA unit (a.k.a. one album sale) equals ten digital track sales.

Streaming data was incorporated in 2014 when the chart went “from a pure sales-based ranking to one measuring multi-metric consumption,” according to Billboard.

Remember the TEA unit? There’s a streaming version aptly named a streaming equivalent album (SEA) unit.

1500 streams equal one album sale. Why 1500? Grab your calculator.

When multi-metric consumption was introduced, the average per stream payout (how much money the copyright owner gets per stream) was $0.005. The average wholesale price of an album was $7.50. So, what number do you have to multiply $0.005 by to get $7.50? Let’s set up an equation.

0.005 * x = 7.50

x = 7.50 / 0.005

x = 1500

Good news: no more math.

The Hot 100 formula is airplay plus sales plus streaming.

You already know what the second two factors mean, and the first refers to radio/TV airplay tracked by Nielsen’s Broadcast Data Systems.

Congratulations! Your knowledge of charts is now off the chart.

This post was written by Lexi Kelson – @lexkelson. Featured image courtesy of Brett Levin via Flickr.