Written by Zinny Bonner

Apple announced its newest feat at taking over the world last week. Okay, not really the world, but might as well be. Improvements to Apple Pay, News Apps and their latest venture, Apple Music, proves that Apple continues to be a force to be reckoned with, not only with their ability to create a new phone every five seconds, but in fact, the leader in creating technology that influences the way we listen to music and ultimately, the way we live our lives.

Apple Music has finally jumped on the streaming train but not without adding their own touch. This new feature available to all Apple products (Android and PC later in the year) will have the entire iTunes library, the music added to your personal library, a radio with live DJs and a social media factor that connects artists and fans.

Apple Music

When iTunes debuted in 2003, it changed the way we listened to music and has now become so embedded in our everyday lives that we forget how much of a game changer it was. Now in 2015, iTunes is old news, and Apple Music is Apple’s attempt at reminding people they are still in the business of providing music. One component of Apple Music is, of course, music. This will give you access to your personal library of music you’ve downloaded and also access to the entire iTunes library for streaming songs on demand. Also, Apple “experts” handpick songs and playlists they think you might like based on what you listen to regularly. Jack Epsteen, SVP/director of production at GSD&M and self-proclaimed “Apple geek,” noted that although he’s excited to see how the music library works, he’s not sure that this latest venture by Apple will tear people away from their routine streaming program. “Unless Apple can do what Tidal and Spotify haven’t been able to do—find a real, sustainable streaming model that also pays the curators—I don’t think this will change how musicians do business,” he said.

Another piece of this project is Beats 1, “The world’s local station.” With DJs from Los Angeles, New York and London, Apple is trying to get people to appreciate a shared listening experience. It will be interesting to see how many people will tune into the 24/7 radio stations.

Beats1DJ

Lastly, there’s Connect. Connect is basically Apple’s own social media and “a place where fans can engage with their favorite artists.” Essentially the feature allows for artists to post directly to the platform, anything from unreleased music to rehearsals in the studio. This is where Apple has taken the risk, as it’s like nothing they’ve done before. As a social media lover myself, I’m curious to know what is going to make people and artists stray away from the traditional tweet or Facebook post that could serve the same purpose.

connect

Jacqueline Coffey, associate media director at GSD&M, said that one somewhat overlooked aspect of Apple Music is that it does not offer on-demand music for free with advertising, and Spotify, YouTube and Pandora do. Although their option of $14.99 for up to six people on a plan is a better deal than Spotify’s $9.99 per person, Coffey said Apple will be playing catch-up and “coming from a Spotify user whose day-to-day life is rooted in digital media, the market is cluttered, and it will take a lot more than the Apple name for users to make the switch.”

On the other hand, David Rockwood, VP/community relations at GSD&M, thinks the goal of Apple introducing this new feature is not to necessarily switch from one streaming program to another, but instead convert all non-Apple device users. “Since there are over 100 million iPhones out there, downloading their new software update with one easy-to-use music service will help them sell even more phones, which is probably their bigger goal, to sell more hardware,” said Rockwood. According to Hardware Top 100, Apple is #20, with HP, Samsung and Foxconn in the top three positions.

So Apple Music could be the next big thing or just Apple’s failed attempt at remaining relevant and shiny in the music business. We’ll find out June 30 when it launches, and I can’t wait to see what it’s all about.

Some of our favorite ads of all time owe their awesomeness to the music supervisor working diligently behind the scenes to secure the perfect track. During SXSW, our VP/Community (and wearer of many hats including music supervisor) David Rockwood met up with the guys at Jingle Punks to talk music and advertising.

 

If you came within a five-mile radius of a WiFi signal Monday, you probably heard about the launch of Tidal, the new music streaming service and Jay-Z’s newest project. Artists turned over their social profiles in anticipation and support, and millions watched the livestream of the big unveiling.Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 11.58.01 AMAnalysis abounds on what this means for the music industry and artists (just Google “Taylor Swift + Tidal” and you’ll see what I mean), but what is the impact on advertisers?

It’s tempting to say “it’s ad-free, so there won’t be one,” but if Tidal wants to survive long term after this initial publicity blitz, it will have to embrace some form of a brand integration strategy. There is room for unique premium branded content plays – not ads per se – but videos, behind the scenes shows… exclusive, engaging content. An off-the-cuff example is Red Bull – I can easily see them pairing up with Tidal for their music integrations or death defying stunts.

Once Tidal embraces brand integrations, we start talking about competition – digital radio is growing and it is sought after environments for brands. It’s effective in longer storytelling and targetable for local, among other things. Another player in the mix will most likely increase audience fragmentation to a certain degree, but ultimately it is also another environment for brands to play with… assuming enough consumers jump onboard to make it worthwhile.

At the end of the day, consumers are value conscious. Yes, most music enthusiasts do want to support their favorite artists (and Tidal’s differentiating factor, aside from superior sound quality, is that it’s the “musician’s streaming service”), but a desire to support artists has yet to be proven to be enough for adoption (especially when subscription price point is fairly high). And in turn, brands follow consumer behavior, so Tidal needs to figure out what its audience is – most likely it will be affluent, 30s-40s – users who want premium content and are willing to pay more for the allure of Jay-Z’s affiliation.

We’re in the earliest stages of Tidal’s launch, so I’m guessing we’ll learn much more in the coming days, but in my opinion, the new kid on the block has some work to do to entice consumers and brands to catch the wave.

It was a long few weeks of welding, soldering, coding, recoding and music mixing. And despite a few close encounters with a blowtorch, we did it. On November 7, Beat Bikes launched at Fun Fun Fun Fest.

Earlier this year, Austin B-cycle, the bike-sharing system here in Austin, enlisted the help of GSD&M. Since then, we’ve been intent on transforming Austin B-cycle into an Austin institution. Like the bike-sharing equivalent of breakfast tacos. Or roller derby. Or chicken $#!% bingo. You get the idea.

As a part of this plan, we set out to expand Austin B-cycle’s presence at Austin’s festival circuit. So we collaborated with our friends at Dell to invent something the world had never seen. We call it an interactive pedal-operated, beat-switching, music mash-up machine. Or if you’re into catchy titles, Beat Bikes. (more…)

Hippies, start braiding your flower crowns – the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Festival kicks off two weeks from today!Since Zilker Park is practically in our backyard and since, as a rule, we love music, the ACL Festival is a very exciting time of year for GSD&Mers. Some folks (I’m looking at you, Elizabeth) are even known to refuse wedding invitations if they conflict with the festival weekends.

To honor the long-awaited return of ACL Festival, I conducted a [very un-scientific] poll to see what acts we’re most excited about…

THE F***ING REPLACEMENTS (emphasis not mine) was the winner by a long shot, followed closely by

–  Beck
–  Interpol
–  Jenny Lewis
–  Calvin Harris
–  Chromeo
–  Trombone Shorty
–  Pearl Jam
–  Eminem (because why the heck not?)

…To name a few. What bands are you most looking forward to seeing?

If you’re a record geek, Record Store Day is the day you look forward to all year like comic geeks look forward to Comic-Con. Only slightly cooler. What started in 2007 as a way to promote independent record shops has today turned into a global event with thousands of stores on every continent (sans Antarctica) serving up specially released vinyl records, CD’s and in the case of Green Day and Skrillex, cassettes. We’re talking exclusive 45s, live 10” and 12” albums, re-issues and lots of color vinyl!  But for every person with a shelf full of albums at home, Record Store Day presents a different experience…

A VINYL LOVE AFFAIR by Bill Bayne, group creative director

The Popularity of Record Store Day is growing exponentially. But my lovely wife really doesn’t “understand” the popularity in general, or more specifically, my fanatical obsession with vinyl. And that’s cool. But ever since I was a little kid and listened to, “Snoopy vs The Red Baron” on my first plastic, portable record player, vinyl has been a talisman for me. Those inky black circles let me connect with my favorite bands and songs in ways that compact discs and MP3s never could. Vinyl is tactile. I can hold it in my hands. Someone “made” it for me and I get to listen to it then flip to side 2. And in doing so I feel a deeper connection to the music I love because of records.

But when I try to suggest to my missus that my mania for Record Store Day, “isn’t really that bad,” by letting her know that some guys have been camped outside of Waterloo Records for 24 hours, somehow it doesn’t have the desired effect. She kindly suggests that I should consider, “growing out” of this vinyl phase (and I will regrettably admit that some of my vinyl brethren do appear to still be sleeping on couches in their parent’s basement and are more often than not, “allergic” to exercise) and just walk away.

Deep down we both know that my love affair with albums and 45s won’t end, we just need to learn to live with it.

Here are few of my reflections on RSD 2014, with the hope that you too will catch the vinyl bug, or at the very least be empathetic towards my wife when RSD 2015 rolls in:

1.     Know your store. When I’m looking for Soul vinyl (Donnie Hathaway Live, 1971) I visit Encore Records. Known for being one of the best places to get Death Metal records this side of SA, the usual suspects who frequent Encore aren’t looking for Donnie Hathaway records. Conversely, when I needed the Gram Parson RSD lp, of rare and unreleased tracks from his two awesome Cosmic American solo records, I went to Breakaway on North Loop known for, you guessed it, Soul and R+B vinyl.

2.     Vinyl Nerds are nice. Yeah, 99% of us may be out of shape and still living with our folks, but we have great taste in music and we’re really polite to one another.

3.     Analog is the future. The same mindset that has made the slow food movement so popular helps fuel the passion for vinyl and Record Store Day. We’re all lucky to live in Austin where having great things to listen to and wonderful food to eat is the rule rather than the exception.

GO EAST YOUNG MAN by Jack Epsteen, SVP production

Record Store Day is quite the holiday in our household.  Until this year, for the last 7 years, my little guy (Levon, age 7) and I have waited for hours outside of Amoeba records in Los Angeles.  We were both excited for our first RSD as Austin residents.

My theory has always been, go to the big stores, they have the most product.  Which is why we’d get to Amoeba a couple hours before opening and enjoy our “boy time” in line.  Yes the lines have gotten longer each year, but we always make friends, have nerdy conversation, eat snacks and wait.  The same was true here at Waterloo.  (Even gained two new Facebook friends!)

Let me stop here and explain how Amoeba handles Record Store Day.  While the first couple of years were the same mad dash into the store at opening time, once the lines got out of hand and the product offerings became vast, they instituted a great system (also in use at many stores across the country, I’ve heard.)  Everyone in line (and there are hundreds now) receives the list of all available titles.  You mark the titles you want on that list and hand it to an employee, who hands you a number.  When you get to the front of the line, you are handed a bag of the selections on your list that are still available.  Perfection.

We still had fun at Waterloo though.  It was a little crazy holding Levon’s hand as I rushed through the crowded isles, but the product was spread out nicely.  Aside from a few bumps, we did just fine and scored everything on the list but one.

Is Record Store Day for 7 year olds?  Probably not.  However, my son and I enjoy the ritual so much, he’s already ready for next year (and Black Friday!)  I will, however nicely mention the Amoeba process next time I’m at Waterloo for a visit.

THE WRONG WAY TO DO RSD by Travis Waid, creative director

A veteran of three Record Store Days now, I thought I had it down. I had a printout of every release with my favorites highlighted in yellow and the true must-have’s marked in red. I knew when the different stores were opening and had a plan. But there’s a right way to do Record Store Day and then there’s my way to do Record Store Day, which turned into the wrong way.

Mistake Number One: Underestimating the hype. Waterloo was scheduled to open its doors at 10:00, so I figured I would stop by Taco Deli for a potato and egg and a Jess Special and then head over with an hour to spare. But when I got to Waterloo, the line was already snaking around back, down the block and around the side towards 24 Diner. I was a good 300 people back holding my tacos.

Mistake Number Two: Succumbing to impulse. I showed up prepared with my printout of the albums I wanted to buy, but as soon as I entered the belly of the best I found myself grabbing whatever looked interesting and forgetting several of the pieces I was there for until I had already checked out. The list never came out of my pocket until it was too late.

Mistake Number Three: Cutting bait too early. Knowing that End of an Ear opened up at 11:00 I checked out after one pass through and raced over there to pick up whatever was sold out at Waterloo thinking the line would be a lot shorter. It was, but it also moved three times slower and the inventory was five times less. I managed to pick up a couple of albums that I had missed, but it wouldn’t have been needed it if I hadn’t committed mistakes one and two.

In the end I walked away with some gems including Hüsker Dü’s Candy Apple Grey (on grey vinyl), The Pogues with Joe Strummer Live (on red vinyl), DEVO Live at Max’s Kansas City 1977, but just as important, a lesson learned and a plan for RSD 2015.

By Randall Kenworthy and Michael Griffith

There are a lot of big names at this year’s SXSW music, notably: Blondie, Coldplay, Willie Nelson, Gary Numan, The Kooks, Foster the People, Imagine Dragons, Mobb Deep, Kurt Vile, Matisyahu, Little Dragon, The 1975, The Neighborhood, Black Lips, Ron Pope, Jake Bugg, Phantogram, Cherub and Aloe Blacc.

Great. You should know them. You should see them. But SouthX is all about broadening horizons, learning new things and finding new passions.

So for this post, we’ll introduce you to 25 bands you may or may not know but definitely shouldn’t miss. And there’s plenty more where that came from (this list started at about 100).

See the unabridged playlist here: Best of SXSW 2014

Images from InSound and The Empty Nest

I hate cubicles. You know that guy who roams around the agency, parking on a random couch? Yeah, that’s me. I hate sitting in one position. In fact, sometimes I hate sitting in general, so I’ll go outside and lay on the grass (author’s note: GSD&M has the most beautiful, manicured plot of grass in Austin; it’s a thick green carpet of natural softness).

Of course, now that you know of my disdain for cubicles I’ll also tell you about my non-love of open floor plans; if I’m writing or creating a new Excel template, I often like to hole up somewhere I can focus and no one can bother me. Let me tell you, the guy walking in to the shower room at 9 a.m. was pretty surprised when I greeted him with a laptop and coffee in hand.

So which is a better office layout, the open floor plan or cube-land? Well, honestly I think both ideas are terrible; the simple fact is no one has truly explored any alternatives. In this world of polarizing opposites, one side always has to win. Those advocating for openness (This guy: Yahoo! article) want no walls and glass everywhere, while those advocating for more privacy (This guy: Fast Company article) desire individual offices with solid oak doors, brandy and leather-bound books. I find it funny because both sides seem to be arguing for the same idea of “freedom,” but with alternate definitions. For some people freedom is open space and insight into what everyone else is doing, but for others it’s the opposite. Office layouts are built to maximize the productivity of people, so to shoehorn a person into a layout that makes them uncomfortable doesn’t make economic sense.

I believe that there’s a third option for office layouts—a combination of free-flowing ideas and focus. Office spaces should be built to be flexible for people to work where and how they want to work. Build different spaces within the office, from sound-deadened small and secluded nooks for those who want to focus, to open-concept spaces with high tables, bar stools and flat screens for those who crave collaboration and conversation.

In my humble opinion, companies should ditch the entire idea of open concept vs. office space because either way, someone’s going to be unhappy; we should build our offices with many organic spaces that people feel comfortable in, whatever their working style is on a particular day. Anyways, since we’re on the topic of comfort, I just bought a hammock; I wonder how I can get that to work in my cube…

At a recent Austin Music People event, we ran into Black Fret Founders Matt Ott and Colin Kendrick and immediately wanted to know more.  

How would you describe Black Fret to someone on the street?

At our heart Black Fret is a social and connected community of music fans dedicated to good music, good times and the sustainable success of Austin’s local musicians. Together our members find great bands, gather to see them in intimate shows and award them grants to help them create and perform new music.(Erin Ivey at the Black Fret launch party, January 2013)

Why is Black Fret’s mission important?

In 2012 the Austin music industry was an almost $1.7 billion dollar economic engine.  It supports over 18,000 jobs**.  Austin is home to thousands of amazing musicians.  Yet many musicians struggle to create and distribute their art.  There is a misconception that the digital revolution has made creating music an inexpensive and easy thing to do.  While the technological advances have made recording music more accessible to more people, creating “professional” high-quality music and then spending the money to tour, manufacture, distribute and promote that music remains an amazingly expensive proposition.  Black Fret grants make a big difference in the success of our local artists and, hopefully, keeps Austin out of danger of losing the talent that makes our creative economy so unique. 

Where did the name come from?

Naming is always a fun challenge.  After starting the Austin Music Foundation over a decade ago, we were looking for something with a little more character.  We wanted a name that didn’t sound like a traditional charity because we aren’t one.  We wanted something that reflected our mission to support local music.  We wanted something younger, edgier and a bit secret society-ish that would align with our limited membership model.  So we started brainstorming and researching.  In the process discovered an obscure thread on the Internet about searching for a black metal that could serve as a fret on the neck of a guitar.  It turns out there is no metal that can sustain a metal to metal vibration and remain black.  So in effect a “black fret” doesn’t really exist.  In that way it is sort of the unicorn of the music world.  So we figured that was a good space for us to live.  “Black Fret” was born.

How do I get involved with Black Fret?

Our business plan is simple and proven: find 1,333 patrons to donate $1,500 annually… raising $2,000,000 each year.  After tax deduction this can cost you less than $100 per month ($50 if you have access to a corporate match).  This allows us to build an endowed non-profit institution capable of supporting more than 50 artists each year.  Those grants will flow to the best of the best of Austin’s internationally recognized musicians allowing us to build an internationally recognized brand around Black Fret Artists that will further enable those artists as they look to build their own brand outside Austin.

In return for their annual dues our members are guided through an annual process to learn, listen, see and share Austin’s best musicians ultimately resulting in a vote to select artists to receive grants.  During that process members will experience regular and amazingly intimate musical events while gaining personal insight into Austin’s music scene.  The member experience is equal parts arts patron, music industry insider, talent scout and connected Austinite.

If you don’t want to become a member or a sponsor, the easiest and most impactful thing one can do to help is spread the word to your friends, family, co-workers and favorite bands.  If you are invited to an event we would love for you to bring people that are interested and able to join.  Ultimately the sooner we get to 1,333 members the sooner we can achieve our full potential.  There is also a Supporter level (annual dues of $300) outlined on our website and any and all donations are welcome.  Lastly we need a few select volunteers at our events.  If you would like to help please email us at sustain@nullblackfret.org.

For more information about Black Fret, membership and upcoming events, visit BlackFret.org.

** Source: THE STATE OF THE AUSTIN MUSIC INDUSTRY” WHITE PAPER; AUSTIN MUSIC PEOPLE, FEBRUARY 2013

In ACL Live’s latest roundup of its upcoming events, you might have seen a listing for the All ATX showcase at Moody Theater on September 24. What is special about this event is that Austin music legends Jimmie Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Ray Benson and Christopher Cross and many others are coming together for a one-night only concert, all in support of HAAM.

On top of that, an album featuring all the great artists from this event is being produced by Gary Keller and available for purchase at Waterloo Records and HAAM’s website, among other local hotspots.

The album design, created by music-crazed GSD&M creatives Ben Hodgin, Sean LaBounty, Hayden Gilbert, and Justin Miller, uses two tones to take the eye on a musical road map.

“HAAM came to us with the assignment of making a ‘best of’ album to promote their benefit and concert,” said Sean LaBounty, creative director at GSD&M. “They knew we wouldn’t be able to fit all the best from the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ onto just one album. That would be a gigantic box set. Too many greats would be left off.”

“So we thought of a cool way to help the world get to know the epic Austin music scene a little better—an annual All-Star list if you will, ‘The ALL-ATX’ with a vintage design through a modern lens—clean, bold and powerful,” LaBounty added. “And we’re hoping to get a [ALL-ATX] baseball team going soon.”

The passion behind this album is no surprise. GSD&M started its relationship with HAAM over ten years ago and since then, will find any way to assist with marketing of the organization.

“There is no other organization that offers affordable healthcare to local musicians like HAAM. This is our hometown too, so contributing to the Austin music scene and its culture is critical to its survival,” said David Rockwood, VP/Community at GSD&M.

“So when we were approached of the idea of a benefit cd, our creative teams jumped at the chance to be part of such an important project,” Rockwood added.

Tickets for this event go on sale Friday, August 2.