Fellow music writer David Turner joins the inaugural episode of the Water & Music podcast! We unpack Ariana Grande's record-breaking, rapid-fire release strategy, debunk the stereotype of pop music as "lagging behind" in the streaming era, debate the pitfalls of manufacturing virality and flooding the market at all costs, and emphasize the importance of giving fans multiple entry points to participating in your story as an artist. As part of a new segment, we also share one piece of recent music-industry news that we think is over- and/or underrated (hint: our answers this time around involve Fortnite and holograms).
Original song: youtube.com/watch?v=CwaS3G2TG-c
Guest: David Turner
Footnotes + corrections
[2:40] David Turner wrote an issue for his Penny Fractions newsletter about how Ariana Grande's "thank u, next" presents a potential new model for pop music.
[3:36] INTERVIEW BEGINS
[3:50–4:55] Over the last month alone, Ariana Grande has broken streaming and chart records previously held by Drake, The Beatles, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.
[5:01] Are pop stars having an identity crisis in the wake of hip-hop's rise? Some people think so.
[6:13] YouTube is looking to take its Premiere feature more seriously in 2019, in the wake of one-off successes with artists like Ariana Grande and Dua Lipa.
[8:15] Leading up to the release of her album Witness, Katy Perry hosted a 24-hour livestream on YouTube that featured her simply living around a house, occasionally changing outfits and interacting with viewers. Critics largely interpreted the stream as a "last-ditch effort" to direct audiences' attention toward the album, after a series of singles that flopped.
[10:14] Coachella's 2018 livestream attracted 41 million viewers in total over the course of two weekends.
[13:49] One example of a successful 24/7 channel on Twitch is that of electronic and gaming label Monstercat.
[21:49] THE PUMP PLAN!! No other words needed.
[22:54] Netflix deliberately planted memes across the internet in its marketing of original film Bird Box, which did attract views from anywhere between 26 million and 45 million Netflix accounts within its first week of release.
[24:24] You can listen to Lil Pump's new album Harverd Dropout here.
[25:56] Ariana Grande one taught me love etc meme viral, resonated across fandoms.
[27:12] Illustrator Andy J. Pizza's podcast Creative Pep Talk has become one of my favorite podcasts not just for motivation and inspiration, but also for tactical advice on running an independent career in any creative field. Here I cite his recent episode about what questions artists must ask themselves before pursuing "more followers."
[31:29] Chris Molanphy, chart analyst and host of Slate's music history podcast Hit Parade, discusses his concept of a celebrity's "imperial period" in this episode about Elton John and George Michael.
[32:38] In June 2018, Spotify infamously plastered Drake's face over dozens of their biggest playlists, to promote the rapper's album Scorpion. The marketing move was controversial both to industry insiders and to fans, and some Spotify users even wanted refunds on their Premium accounts for getting bombarded with what was essentially an ad.
[34:36] Vulfpeck, one of my fave bands out there right now, will be playing their first-ever Madison Square Garden show in September 2019. As I mention in this episode, they largely cultivated their fanbase through their YouTube channel, without much care for playlisting.
[39:34] DJ KHALED!! 'Nuff said.
[40:11] I have to credit Allegra Rosenberg with articulating the importance of "horizontal" vs. "vertical" artist-fan engagement so clearly early on, and making me think about the concept ever since.
[44:02–44:44] Here are some links to 88rising and Thrice Cooked Media, two boutique companies with expertise both in artist management and creative video production.
*CORRECTION: I said in this episode that these two companies started as artist management companies before evolving into video production companies, but I actually meant the other way around.
[49:00] OVERRATED + UNDERRATED
[49:44] The massively popular game Fortnite is currently facing a series of copyright infringement lawsuits from dancers and entertainers who claim the game "stole their moves," including the Carlton, the floss and the Milly Rock.
[50:14] Drake's record-breaking appearance on gamer Ninja's Twitch stream arguably set the stage for Ariana Grande's rapid-fire sequence of YouTube Premieres.
[52:22] Jet Li revealed the logic behind his decision not to film future installments in the Matrix series in an interview with Chinese media.
[52:52] More info about likeness rights and potential implications for musicians:
[54:19] On February 21, the late Amy Winehouse's hologram tour was put abruptly on hold, due to "unique challenges and sensitivities" that were not named. *strokes beard*
[54:58] I interviewed execs from BASE Hologram and other companies involved in the Roy Orbison Hologram Tour for a piece in Billboard last year. I highly encourage you watch a video of a show from the tour for yourself.
Thanks for listening! :)
What is Water & Music?
The fine print of big ideas in music and technology, hosted by Cherie Hu and featuring a curated selection of leaders, innovators, artists and thinkers from across the music business. This is an ad-free audio companion to the eponymous email newsletter.