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This Week on Vibe.com

Check it! Every Friday on the OurStage Blog, we will be featuring exclusive content from the one-and-only VIBE.com. Stay tuned for weekly photos, music, news and reviews coming straight from the source that’s redefining hip hop.

The WINs & FAILs of Prince’s 20Ten

Maybe Prince’s head-scratching declaration that music distribution on the Internet is  completely over, a statement that was met by howls from the tech brigade, was propelled by solid reasoning. That said, how does the music sound? VIBE breaks down Prince’s latest offering. Continue reading on Vibe.com…

3 Reasons Kanye West’s ‘Mama’s Boyfriend’ Is Already Rhyme of The Year

“Pardon, there’s a lot of use of the N word, but I’m allowed to use it¦”

And on that apologetic and somewhat amusing note, Kanye West, in front of a largely white audience of Facebook employees, unleashes a powerful, barebones testimony of the black experience. Mama’s Boyfriend eschews blatant images of former notorious drug kingpins (sorry Ross), brazen gunplay or the standard female conquest. Nope, Kanye doesn’t take the easy way out. His a cappella performance of a new composition, which is tentatively set for his formerly titled forthcoming album Good Ass Job, is a layered dissection of African-American mother-son relationships fostered in a divorced/single parent home. Equal parts insightful, painfully serious, jocular, and introspective, Mama’s Boyfriend is also a leading contender for rhyme of the year. Here’s why. Continue reading on Vibe.com…

A Short Convo with…Dirty Money’s Dawn & Kalenna

Vibe.com guest editors, Dawn and Kalenna of Diddy’s Dirty Money, aren’t only criss-crossing the globe and wearing the hottest clothes out, they are respected singer/songwriters that were asked by Diddy, himself, to join his group. Sure, you make know Dawn from her Making The Band days but a lot has transpired since then. As for Kalenna, she may be a new face to you but she’s earned her strips writing with the likes of Rodney Jerkins and more. Continue reading on Vibe.com…

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Funny or Die sends M.I.A. to the suburbs

Watch your back, Funny or Die. After a New York Times article hinted that pop artist/politico M.I.A. may enjoy the finer things in life more than she would like known, the singer fired back by publishing the interviewer’s cell phone number on her Twitter page. Nerve=hit. Now Funny or Die is rubbing a little salt in the wound with this video parody of M.I.A.’s Paper Planes, which depicts the singer living in the tony Brentwood neighborhood with an au pair and a predilection for Monet and fine wines. Can’t wait to see M.I.A.’s graceful response to this one . . .  keep an eye on her Twitter page.

The Bad

Justin Bieber tries to escape crazed groupies on a Segway

Run, Bieber, run! Or, stand on a machine that will run for you. That’s what the teen pop star did when frenzied fans caught sight of him in an Arizona parking lot. Apparently being seen on a Segway is less traumatizing than being attacked by rabid tweens. Check out the video below.

The Ugly

St. Louis birds poo-poo Kings of Leon concert

Kings of Leon had to cut their set short in what is now being referred to as Pigeongate. After opening acts the Postelles and the Stills endured a torrent of pigeon droppings during their sets at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis, Kings of Leon took the stage with a little trepidation. Three songs in, an unidentified feathered sharpshooter released a load that landed near bassist Jared Followill’s mouth, causing the band to halt the show. In the words of Stephanie Tanner, How rude!

LiveNation, the promoter of the event, promised fans a full refund.

Miscellany

Lilith Winners Stand Side By Side With Top Female Acts

Last week, we caught up with Ashley Matte, Annie Bethancourt, Terra Naomi and Xolie Morra to hear about their experiences performing at the 2010 Lilith Fair. This week, we are featuring the latest batch of Lilith winners and their stories. In case you haven’t heard, OurStage partnered with Lilith in April to give aspiring female solo artists and female-fronted groups the opportunity to play at the famous festival on stops across the US this summer. Since last week, OurStage winning artists Sarah Swenson, Katie Todd, duo Amanda Lucas and Audrey Cecil, and The Airplanes have all performed their sets, and we caught up with them afterward to hear how things went. From their stories it’s clear that each artist had a unique experience, but what they share in common is the increased exposure to new fans and the chance to stand side by side with some of the world’s top female performers.

"I was the everday girl hanging out with rock stars for a day." ”Sara Swenson

Singer-songwriter Sara Swenson performed at the Kansas City stop of the festival alongside artists the likes of Emmylou Harris, Heart, Sarah McLachlan, and Ingrid Michaelson. It was an unforgettable experience, from the buzz of interviews and excitement of fans beforehand to the fun photos and feedback afterward,” recalls Swenson. “It was a dream to be on the same bill as Sarah McLachlan and the other ladies on the Lilith Tour, and both playing a set to an attentive and enthusiastic audience on a secondary stage and sharing the big stage with all of the headlining artists for the finale were experiences I’ll never forget.

"We had an absolute blast being part of such a high-profile event; it's something we'll never forget." ”Amanda Lucas & Audrey Cecil

Recently, singer-songwriters Amanda Lucas and Audrey Cecil combined forces to perform and write as a duo. At their Lilith performance in Indianapolis, Cecil and Lucas played songs to the largest crowd on the tour for the first performer of the day. Playing at Lilith Fair has created more of a buzz than we have ever experienced up to this point,” commented the duo. “By the time we were two songs in, our stage area was packed. Since returning from Lilith fair, we have had constant fan requests/chatter on our social networking sites and web page. In the upcoming year, Cecil and Lucas have plans to record their first album together and hit the road to play dates in many US cities.

"Performing at Lilith was pretty much one of the best things that has happened in our short career so far." ”The Airplanes

In St. Louis, songwriting duo Airplanes performed for new faces and learned a little about the festival business. Performing at Lilith was pretty much one of the best things that has happened in our short career so far. It was a really nice opportunity to perform with some great artists and to perform to crowds that we may not have been able to perform before otherwise. It gave us a really cool opportunity to gain a new fan base in a sense. I really learned that it takes a lot of hard work from everybody to really get a show of this magnitude up and running. From the sound people, to security, to both festival and artist staffs, it takes a real team to make the shows so awesome and so fun.
“Performing at Lilith felt absolutely incredible and surreal.” ”Katie Todd

At the end of the day, each winning artist had the opportunity to perform a special finale on stage with all the other acts on the bill. Katie Todd, winner for Chicago, recalls the experience: I really enjoyed the sense of camaraderie amongst all of the musicians. For the finale, Sarah McLachlan had all of the artists who performed that day up on the main stage singing ‘Because the Night’ by Patti Smith, and I’m still on a high from that experience. You can watch a video of Todd onstage with McLachlan, Heart and Mary J. Blige, to name a few, here.

Winners Announced For Drake Thank Me Later Artist And Backstage Correspondent Competition

Throughout the month of July, artists have been battling it out in the “Drake Thank Me Later” competition for a shot at opening for the Canadian hip-hop sensation at the Caribana concert in Drake’s hometown of Toronto. The competition was opened to acts in the alternative hip-hop, hip-hop, rap, R&B and soul genres at the start of July and since then, more than 3,000 artists have entered their music. Chosen from the top 30 entrants, Lokz aka Yuri Koller stood out to Drake and his team as most worthy of the grand prize. In addition to scoring an opening spot at the concert, Lokz will receive four free tickets to the show so his friends can join the crowd of thousands in cheering him on. Standing by to cover the whole event from backstage will be Megan Sumpton, winner of the Backstage Correspondent component of the Thank Me Later competition. Megan will receive VIP backstage access to the show and, in addition to chronicling Lokz’s experiences, she will be responsible for interviewing Drake and other artists at the show.  Megan was chosen from a pool of more than 300 applicants, who all submitted audition videos to prove they had the right stuff for the job. She was also hand-picked by Drake and his team for the job. Check out the links to hear Lokz’s winning song and Megan Sumpter’s audition tape.

Winning Artist Lokz

Winning Backstage Correspondent Megan Sumpter

Soul Searching: Edge

While searching for the next talented artists to feature on Soul Searching, the band Edge quickly came up on our radar. Their music seems to have influences from multiple genres, so defining them strictly as an R&B or soul band would be unfair. Edge describes their own music as rock/soul with influences ranging from Dave Mathews Band all the way to gospel music. After listening closely, we think you’ll find that their lead singer, and a few of their chord choices, are undoubtedly soulful. Not being able to place their music into one genre is what makes them unique and a very cool band to listen to. Edge is played on radio stations including KVTT 91.7 FM, 89.7 PowerFM and a few others. They’re also high up on the OurStage Best Of Charts for R&B and have been there for quite some time!

Edge’s lyrics are both uplifting and positive. The lead singer, Colin Edge sounds similar to Adam Levine of Maroon Five, with hints of Robin Thicke (especially on the song, Meant to Do sung mostly in falsetto). Take a listen and let us know what you think!

Festivus: Moogfest

Its been a big 12 months for Moog Music. The electronic instruments company has purchased a new $2.5 million property to house new offices and serve as a musical tourist attraction in Asheville, NC, and it also won the MIX Foundation TEC Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement, Musical Instrument Category. The award joins a long list of Moog achievements, including Guitar Player‘s Reader’s Choice Award, Electronic Musician‘s Editor’s Choice Award, Popular Science‘s Best of What’s New Award and NAMM Best In Show honors. And while rambling off a list of accomplishments similar to these is probably very exciting for industry insiders and instrument enthusiasts, there’s another list from Moog that this festival-goer for one is more excited about.

This past Tuesday, Moog was supposed to release the official lineup for 2010’s MoogFest, a 3-day festival slated for Halloween weekend celebrating the life and vision of the sonic pioneer and grandfather of Moog Music, Robert Moog. The festival has since moved the deadline back to August 10th, saying that still “need a little more time to put it all together”. Headliners Massive Attack, MGMT and Thievery Corporation were announced earlier this year and set the stage for such a synthesizer-heavy gathering, a genre quickly revolutionizing the indie roots of rock and pop. It makes sense, as Moog was one of the first companies to develop the synthesizer and went on to develop some of the most popular synthesizers ever.

MoogFest will take place at multiple venues across downtown Asheville, among them being the Asheville Civic Center Arena and renowned, world-classclub The Orange Peel. According to Moog’s site, the buck doesn’t stop with late-night sets coupled with the undoubtedly stunning lazer shows that accompany this kind of music. Patrons will also be able to attend workshops, engage with artists in panel discussions, take in visual art exhibitions, installations and film screenings and indulge their own musical creativity using an array of Moog instruments. No doubt a weekend providing a stimulating assault on all the senses. Tickets for MoogFest we also supposed to go on sale tomorrow (July 30th) but have been pushed back to August 13th. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

Tune Up: Mastering, Polishing and MP3's

Every recording artist out there knows about mastering. You want to bounce down your audio and create a final master to duplicate the track to your CD’s so that it is of similar volume and quality to the rest of the tracks on that album. Today, though, mastering is a broader topic. Whether for an album or an MP3 download, mastering is a means for preparing a file for its distribution and final format destination. If you recall the Generation DIY post about mastering, you know that it is an art. It’s very tough to master but there are resources for artists that aren’t comfortable doing it themselves. This week, we’ll focus on how to make your final track sound better within the mastering phase. We’ll give you some clear-cut steps to mastering your audio, explain some of the formulaic techniques behind the process and, finally, give you some insight into the different approaches when you’re mastering material for different applications. If you aren’t experienced in the mastering phase and require more of a “step-by-step” process beyond this discussion, please access this great article.

How To:

Without getting too complicated or hypothetical, mastering has a few key steps and some simple tricks. While you may not be a professional mastering engineer, the steps can be used to simply put the final touch on your mixes. Our top three  steps are compression/normalization, equalization and reverb. As far as the tools are concerned, it’s common to go with software. Whether you choose an audio editor or a DAW, you’ll achieve similar results. DAW’s seem to work a little better because you can assign real-time plug-ins and adjust them to taste during playback.

Equalization is usually the first step when to improve the quality of a final mix. Even after all of the notching, panning, boosting and shaping done in mixing, the tracks can often lack a little punch. Therefore, it’s good to have a nice graphic EQ with a lot of bands so that you can use some subtle shaping on the final mix (i.e. make it a little more bass-heavy, or a little brighter, etc).

Compression and normalization for rock/pop applications will essentially just make your track louder. In today’s music industry, tracks are compressed and normalized so much that they are as loud as possible for the entirety of the song. Compression basically sets a volume threshold on an audio file, and any time a signal comes in at a louder volume than that threshold, it dampens it to the volume you specify. Therefore, it flattens out the dynamic range of a file, allowing you to boost the entire thing even louder without clipping. This boosting to maximum volume is called normalization. See pictures of both an uncompressed and compressed audio file for the same portion of the same song below:

Uncompressed, Normalized

Compressed, Normalized

Our final step is usually adding a touch of reverb on the final mix. Even if ambient spacing and subtle reverb was added during the mixing phase, it’s good to apply a small amount to the final mix to give the entire song a space. This isn’t a common practice with some do-it-yourself mastering engineers, but we think it gives songs a bit of an edge (especially in a band or singer/songwriter setting). Be careful here; a little goes a long way because too much will muddy things up.

Applications and Technical Information:

Even if you already know about these steps,  you might still be unsure how it all works. You may also be wondering the best way to master a free Mp3 download. First, let’s briefly clear up the difference between MP3s and CD-quality files. Traditionally, CD’s utilize uncompressed, raw audio files. Whereas, MP3 files are compressed and altered using an algorithm that eliminates certain parts of the spectrum. Let’s go further. An MP3 utilizes critical band information to determine which parts of the audio file can be eliminated without losing much quality. Simply put, our ear picks up certain frequencies within the same range (think about a band on an EQ). Therefore, if a loud frequency and a quiet frequency are heard by our ear within the same band, we won’t hear the quieter one that well anyway. So, the MP3 algorithm eliminates it entirely.

iTunes MP3

What does this all mean for the final song? While the difference is sometimes tough to hear unless you have high quality speakers, MP3s have a decidedly thinner sound. They don’t have all the dynamic range and nuance of, say, a WAVE or an AIFF file (for the algorithmic reasons specified above). So, we need to take this into account when mastering and bouncing the mix. As is the case with many technical topics, this could become an extremely lengthy explanation. However, we’ll give you a few tips. When mastering a WAVE/AIFF file that is, in fact, going to remain in its original format, be sure to record, edit and master at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz  for CD quality. You can also master intuitively. What you hear while mastering is what will be heard on a CD since the format won’t change.

However, if the final file will be in MP3 format (and in today’s industry, chances are it will be), record the raw audio at a higher bit-depth or sampling rate to help compensate for the lost data when converting to MP3 (making sure to keep it at the highest possible quality until the last conversion stage). We would also recommend some more compression and a higher boost in bass, as many people will probably listen to your track on ear buds and you need to compensate for their frequency/dynamic shortcomings.

Overall, when you get to the mastering phase of your recording, there is a lot to it by way of  tech-related information. Do some Google searches or check out the article that we linked you two in the first paragraph. There are many people out there writing other articles but keep in mind that mastering is the final stage. Whatever you do here will be heard. So compress it as much as you like, add as much high-end as you want. It’s the final touch before sending it off into the world.

Behind the Mic: Talking to the Twitterverse

Although Twitter has only been around since 2006, it’s becoming hard to think of a celebrity, store or brand that isn’t tweeting. For bands, Twitter can be an incredibly powerful tool for promotion, networking and keeping in touch with fans.

Let’s take a look at some artists who are experts in the “Twitterverse.”

Boston’s self-proclaimed “piano slayer” and singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer is a prime example of a musician using Twitter in all the right ways”and she has more than 400,000 followers to prove it! In addition to being able to get hundreds of fans to secret shows and last-minute meet-and-greets, Palmer also discovered how to make money on Twitter.

At 9:15 p.m. on May 15th, 2010, Palmer tweeted a call to arms for “the losers of Friday night on their computers.” Thousands of fans responded to her and sent Tweets ending with “#LOFNOTC.” Within minutes, the phrase became the number one trending topic in the world.

One of the tweets that started it all.

Taking a slogan suggestion from a fan, Palmer took out a marker and designed a T-shirt for her legions of fellow “losers” that read: “DON’T STAND UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT, STAY IN FOR WHAT’S WRONG. Her web designer created a simple PayPal site to order the shirts, and more than 400 were ordered in merely two hours. In the same week, she made over $7,000 by hosting a Webcast auction and a “twitter donation-only” gig.

OurStage artist Andrew Belle is also a tweet fiend. Belle keeps his Twitter page filled with continuous updates on where he’s playing next, links to his videos and photo updates from his tour. A few weeks ago, Belle was selected as MTV’s Needle in the Haystack. He joined OurStage via Twitter for a “Tweet & A” interview, which was broadcast to his thousands of followers.

Andrew Belle gives advice to new artists during his OurStage "Tweet & A"

Andrew tweeted about his plans for the future and his touring schedule and he even tweeted a picture of himself bumping into Dave Matthews while having lunch. The “Tweet & A” not only gave Andrew’s fans an update on his musical career, but also allowed them to get to know him better as a person.

Having a Twitter account can be one of the best free marketing tools for your band. Make sure to keep your page updated and use your tweets not only to promote, but to reach out to your fans. Follow Amanda Palmer’s lead and create an engaged fan community around your music.

Happy Tweeting!

Gamine With Guitar

Samantha Kirshtein

Leave it to Samantha Kirshtein to make you feel like a real lazybones. She plays volleyball and tennis. Likes to garden and cook. Fishes and surfs. Gets good grades. Plays the guitar and sings like a dream. And, on top of that, she’s only 13. The South Carolinian was raised on a wholesome diet of classics like Bob Dylan, The Eagles and Hank Williams. But, when you listen to her music, it’s evident that the girl is a Taylor Swift fan at heart. Kirshtein’s voice has a lovely, natural huskiness complemented by her even and pure singing style. It’s simple, but instantly likeable. Her material is made up mostly of bright and sunny folk songs, like “Love Birds””a punchy, much younger cousin to John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane.” “All of the Above” is a similarly upbeat, pop-country ditty with a radio-ready melodic hook. But this teenage ingénue is also capable of tackling serious subject matter while avoiding schmaltz. “I Do Too,” is a delicate, grassy homage to Kirshtein’s grandfather, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s rare to find this kind of poise in an artist so young. Expect big things from Kirshtein in the years to come. We do.

Meet The Finalists Of The Andre Harrell Superstar Soul Search

The judges have made their decisions and finalists have been chosen for the “Andre Harrell Superstar Soul Search” competition. The competition took place in 6 regions (Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.), in addition to a national contest. There was so much talent that some cities had multiple finalists! Ten artists are about to get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strut their stuff in front of music mogul Andre Harrell, the man responsible for discovering such acts as Sean “Diddy” Combs and Mary J. Blige. The competition was fierce for contestants at every step of the way and each finalist rose from a pool of some of the nation’s best undiscovered talent. All 10 artists will compete this Saturday in Atlanta for a shot at becoming the next soul superstar. The grand prize winner will receive a digital single deal with Andre Harrell Records/Atlantic Records, online promotion from Interactive One, and a $10,000 check! You can check out all 10 finalists and their music below.

National Winner
Dyshon Warren
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Charlotte Winner
Amaye
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“The auditions went really well; it was a really good experience and there was a lot of talent.”

Charlotte Winner
J-Remy
Atlanta Winner
Tamar Davis
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“I was raised in a house of soul music so I stuck to that for my audition. I think this gave me a big advantage.”

Atlanta Winner
Mr. Ayers
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“The auditions were really cool; everyone was on pins and needles and you really got to see people adapt.”

Detroit Winner
L’Renee Musique
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“The audition was nothing less than exhilarating! I remember the nervousness building up as time drew closer to show time.”

Detroit Winner
Jusz Wright
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“The competition was really fierce. I performed several cover songs and one original.”

Houston Winner
Nicoya Polar
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Houston Winner
Anzeo David
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Houston Winner
Alycia Miles
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Philadelphia Winner
Fah Lyric
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Washington D.C. Winner
Frank Sirius
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“My experience in this contest has been great; I truly appreciate the opportunity to expose my talent to the world. To be a participant in the soul search has been an educational and mind-opening experience.”