The Best Albums of 2017 (So Far)

This is the first of a series of 3 "Best of" posts that I meant to publish a few weeks ago. I'll overview my personal favorite albums, movies, and television shows of 2017. 

Here's a list of my favorite albums of 2017 thus far. 

  • 10. Jay-Z
  • 9. Haim
  • 8. Forest Swords
  • 7. Magnetic Fields
  • 6. Perfume Genius
  • 5. Father John Misty
  • 4. Paramore
  • 3. Kendrick Lamar
  • 2. Alt-J
  • 1. Dirty Projectors
dirty-projectors.jpg

25 Days of Music is Back!

For those that have been following me for years, you are very aware of my "25 Days of Music" countdown. It's when I spend the month of December counting down my favorite albums of the year - one day at a time. 

Since December is only two days away, I am finalizing my top 25 list right now. Starting on Thursday, you will be able to find each post on my Music's Master blog. In addition to that, I will post a weekly review on my social media profiles.

Then on December 25th, I'll unveil my favorite album of 2016. It's as simple as that. 

I look forward to counting down what was another great year of music. I hope you're excited for it as well. 

Retreat!

Some creatures are passive by nature. Turtles, for example, put their heads back into their shells when they're afraid. Other animals can curl themselves into a ball. Those that are most equipped with defense hide themselves behind harmful spikes. 

Humans weren't built this way. Humans were created with the expectation that we can use our emotions and the power of communication to resolve our physical fears. 

Our version of a turtle shell is often the comfort of our homes, or any other private quiet place that allows us to reflect. We all need the escape, but we should also recognize and embrace that we were designed to face our fears head-on.

And that's because we can handle it.  

Before the Flood

I thought it would be interesting to watch Leonardo DiCaprio's new National Geographic film, Before the Flood. 

It's worth the watch. View the description and the full embed below:

Join Leonardo DiCaprio as he explores the topic of climate change, and discovers what must be done today to prevent catastrophic disruption of life on our planet.
➡ Subscribe: http://bit.ly/NatGeoSubscribe
➡ Get the soundtrack on iTunes: http://apple.co/2e6e9dq

MusicsMaster.com's Pivot

One of my websites, musicsmaster.com, is switching its focus starting today. I released an official announcement earlier this morning and will monitor the feedback throughout the week. 

Below is the message sent to our readers. 

It has been decided by our team that we will be halting the publishing of new blog posts immediately. We discussed the value that we are presenting and have realized that although we enjoy reporting on and reviewing great up and coming acts, we have other priorities to focus on as an operation. This does not mean the review blog will cease to exist. It merely means we'll just be publishing them without any sort of planned schedule.

Our focus moving forward will be our work with our agency, Jiggy Piggy. The goal is to continue helping indie artists make music their career. There is no better solution out there than Jiggy Piggy's, and we realize it takes a lot of effort to do the things we want to do.

So, we're sorry if you will miss our 3 posts per week cadence. While you won't get as much joy out of us on that front, we encourage you to check out what we're doing at Jiggy Piggy and reach out if you think you might need our services.

Thanks so much for your support over the years.

-Logan Lenz

Co-Founder of MusicsMaster.com and Jiggy Piggy

As mentioned within, the team's focus will be on Jiggy Piggy's services moving forward. 

While we will keep the musicsmaster.com blog active and running, we aren't able to predict just how much we'll post yet. 

What we do know is that Jiggy Piggy has a lot of amazing plans for indie artists in the near future. 

spoiler.gif

The Music Map

Musicmap attempts to provide the ultimate genealogy of popular music genres, including their relations and history. It is the result of more than seven years of research with over 200 listed sources and cross-examination of many other visual genealogies. Its aim is to focus on the delicate balance between comprehensibility, accuracy and accessibility. In other words: the ideal genealogy is not only complete and correct, but also easy to understand despite its complexity.

This is a utopian balance that can never be achieved but only approached. By choosing the right amount of genres, determining forms of hierarchy and analogy and ordering everything in a logical but authentic manner, a satisfactory balance can be obtained. Said balance is always the main subject of discussion in music genre genealogies and the capital reason why an absolute visual reference has been absent thus far (and probably always will be).

Musicmap is a platform in search for the perfect balance of popular music genres to provide a powerful tool for educational means or a complementary framework in the field of music metadata and automatic taxonomy.

music-map.jpg

Pretty cool stuff.

Check it out here

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Acceptance Sonnet

Not only am I a big fan of Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda's beautiful mind, but I am a sucker for community building based around love. 

His acceptance speech during the Tony's was perfect. The words were powerful and the emotion was heartfelt.

If there is only one thing I can do acknowledge the recent tragedies, it would be to emphasize the feeling of community that we all embody when we genuinely feel human compassion. 

I can't wait for the country to bounce back stronger than ever from this. I also can't wait to see what Miranda works on next. 

Tegan and Sara

I'm not ashamed to admit it...

Tegan and Sara are one of my favorite musical acts. 

It's unbelievable to me how they've sustained both the same sound and dedicated fan base over the years - all while never actually migrating to mainstream radio.

The irony in that is they are so delightfully poppy. Every single one of their choruses is layered with just the right amount of bubblegum, which makes for the perfect catchiness for any music lover. 

When it comes to pop songwriters, there's almost nobody better right now.

Their new album, which came out today, is no exception. It's the same old amazing Tegan and Sara. 

Do yourself a favor and give them a listen if you haven't done so already. I get that they aren't for everybody, but I if you look past the poppiness and simplicity, hopefully you'll see how difficult what they're doing actually is. 

Prince

It pains me to acknowledge the death of another musical icon today. Prince was one of the most underrated musicians of his generation. I don't say that in a "his fans didn't appreciate him" type of way. I mean in a "he was masterful with instruments and musicality" kind of way. 

At the risk of sounding naive, to me, Prince was one of the best guitarists of his time. After more people become exposed to some of his "under the radar" performances, I feel as if he'll be remembered as one of the greats.

So what if I don't love his original music that much? 

It doesn't mean the man wasn't a super special talent. 

Do yourself a favor and spend the day watching some of his performances. It will be a good way to show your respects to one of the greats. 

An example of one of the best ones out there is embedded below. 

Complete Music's Master Best Albums of 2015 List

Here are my 25 favorite albums of 2015 listed in order.

I'll just list the artists here for ease:

  1. Sufjan Stevens

  2. Kendrick Lamar

  3. Twin Shadow

  4. The Dear Hunter

  5. James Bay

  6. Father John Misty

  7. Chvrches

  8. Jamie XX

  9. Donnie Trumpet

  10. Bright Light Social Hour

  11. Kamasi Washington

  12. Tame Impala

  13. Chris Stapleton

  14. Shamir

  15. Courtney Barnett

  16. Grimes

  17. City and Colour

  18. Vince Staples

  19. The World is a Beautiful Place

  20. Logic

  21. The Staves

  22. Mutemath

  23. Jose Gonzalez

  24. Deradoorian

  25. Muse

The Playbill

Have you ever thought about why Playbills exist? It might seem pretty obvious, but it isn't so much so, when you think about how many other types of events choose not to provide patrons with such an asset. 

If playbills are used to inform, they do a fantastic job. But don't they also remove the element of surprise from the production? 

Just imagine going to a concert and expecting the equivalent. You'd receive a program with the list of songs the band will be playing, their biographies, and mentions of the entire crew. How would that change your experience? I like the concept in theory, but don't think I'd enjoy knowing the songs they're performing ahead of time. But maybe I say that only because I'm not used to having that experience. 

Either way, it's always a good idea to leave your fans with something tangible that they can recall to remember your event. With the rise of digital tickets, we can no longer rely on ticket stubs. 

Therefore, I challenge artists to develop a full-circle experience for their productions. Let's take the concept of the playbill, adopt it to other types of events, and make event attendees everywhere more informed and subsequently delighted. 

Found Them First

Spotify has always done a great job marketing their superior music streaming service. They've done things like connecting singles by their similar tastes in music, listening trends by location around the world, and most recently, a "Found Them First" website.

Everyone knows that music lovers tend to want to say they heard of artists before anyone else. Well, Spotify is now allowing these people to prove it to be true. 

Found Them First is a standalone website that connects you to Spotify and locates the artists you've listened to that they now consider to be "big" or popular. 

foundfirst.jpg

My number was 16. This is the number of artists that I can claim I listened to before over 90% of the rest of the world first did. In other words, they list out any artists you streamed within the first 10% of all listeners globally. 

My artists were:

  • Hozier
  • Royal Blood
  • FKA Twigs
  • James Bay
  • Johnnyswim
  • Glass Animals
  • Mister Wives
  • Years & Years
  • Chvrches
  • Sam Smith
  • Big Data
  • Lorde
  • Sohn
  • Charli XCX
  • Pell
  • Sylvan Esso

It makes me wonder what they use as the threshold of making it "big," because I without a doubt, have a ton of other up and coming artists that I expect to make this list soon. 

Kudos on this one, Spotify! 

2014's 25 Days of Music

Today is December 1st. For those of you that have been following me over the years knows that I run a music blog over at Musicsmaster.com (previously musicmastermind.com). While I don't spend too much time on the blog (regrettably), I do look forward to December 1st so that I can issue my favorite albums of the year a day at a time throughout the entire month of December.

The concept behind "25 Days of Music" is a spin on the 25 Days of Christmas. Beginning December 1st and ending on Christmas day (December 25th), I count down the 25 best albums of the year.

To review what type of music makes the cut, you can take a gander at the last three years and the lists I conjured up.

Best of 2007

Best of 2008

Best of 2009

Best of 2010

Best of 2011

Best of 2012

Best of 2013

Be sure to check in to Musicsmaster.com everyday this month and follow @amusicmaster on Twitter to never miss a post.

My Favorite Albums of 2011

p>In case you don't follow my Music's Master blog, here is a review of my top 25 favorite music albums of the year.

To better keep up with my musical ramblings, subscribe to my Music's Master blog.

25. Childish Gambino - Camp

24. Lady Gaga - Born This Way

23. Mayer Hawthorne - How Do You Do

22. Young the Giant - Young the Giant

21. The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient

20. Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr - It's a Corporate World

19. Smith Westerns - Dye it Blonde

18. Ximena Sarinana - Ximena Sarinana

17. The Belle Brigade - The Belle Brigade

16. Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean

15. Bon Iver - Bon Iver

14. City and Colour - Little Hell

13. A Skylit Drive - Identity on Fire

12. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

11. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

10. James Blake - James Blake

9. Sleeping With Sirens - Let's Cheers To This

8. The Naked and Famous - Passive Me Aggressive You

7. The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow

6. Adele - 21

5. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto

4. Oh Land - Oh Land

3. MUTEMATH - Odd Soul

2. Andrew Belle - Ladder

1. Allen Stone - Allen Stone

Guest Post: Using the Social Media Trend to Save the Music Industry

Kalen Smith is today's guest blogger that has taken the enormous issues surrounding today's music industry and has enlightened us on how social media can save it. Does it sound bold and unrealistic? Continue reading and leave your opinions in the comments below.

As the Internet has permeated every aspect of our culture, the music industry has gone through some drastic changes. For the past decade, it has seemed as if the music industry and the Internet have been at war with each other. Since the development of Napster and its clones, consumers have had no problem downloading music for free off of the Internet. Digital distribution seemed to be the end of the music industry for a while.

That was before the social media revolution. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have had a tremendous impact on the industry and may even save it in the midst of one of the worst recessions in almost 80 years. Not everyone in the industry shares this enthusiasm. Some feel that the social media has obliterated prior structures without leaving replacing them that will last.

However, social media is probably not a fad, but a new reality for the entertainment industry. Those who are used to working with the record producers in LA will just have to adapt to the reorganization of the industry. Smart producers and artists have found ways to create value for the industry.

There are a number of ways that social media can be leveraged to increase sales for record companies or independent artists:

  1. Facebook page music templates. Although Facebook has become an amazing way to engage people and promote music around the world, the layout is not consistent with that of an up-and-coming hip-hop artist. One of the ways that music companies try to change their Facebook image is using a service such as Myband. This tool not only allows you to showcase your bands photos and logo, but also gives you the opportunity to add streaming tools to distribute your music.
  2. New Twitter tools. Twitter has a number of tools that can help artists. One of them is Twiturm, which allows artists to post their music directly on the site. That way, you don’t have to worry about links to your music getting lost in the Tweetosphere. Other musicians use tools such as twt.fm or Song.ly allow you to allow their followers to listen to their music without having to download it.
  3. Foursquare. Foursquare is a newer social network that shows a lot of promise for the music industry. Regularly users of Foursquare are able to get important badges which can help them bring a lot of followers to their venues. Those who benefit from Foursquare use it frequently and know how to promote themselves appropriately.
  4. Measure the impact of your social media campaign. All the social media in the world is useless if you don’t monitor the results. Use tools like Band Metrics to see how your fans are responding to your marketing.

For several years, the music industry has wished that it could shy away from the Internet. The truth is that the social media is taking over the music industry and smart producers have found ways to use it to turn the trend to their advantage.

Being Different vs. Selling Out

During my panel at DMAC on Saturday, I was disappointed to hear about how so many independent artists still strive to be signed to a major record label. When I asked them why this was, they struggled to come up with a response that wasn't some form of "What other options are there?".

Of course, our discussion was focused around artists and the music industry, but everything could be translated into a general principle of life. The principle is that being different is risky and selling out is easy.

To many of the artists in attendance, being a mainstream success was the most important thing to them. Little do they know (although they should), you can't become a mainstream success without giving into "the man" and molding your ideals around someone else's. You really do have to sacrifice your individuality along the way.

At the end of the day, you aren't going to be able to have both. You're not Radiohead. You're not Tool.

You need to reset your goals and decide whether you want to become Nickelback or would like to build a sustainable niche following gradually by creating art that you'll always love.