“Former BBC executive Paul Campbell launched a new company in the United Kingdom in 2007, looking for ways to help musicians find a wider audience for their work. He established a website allowing select unsigned acts to upload their music, sell it — and keep the proceeds. Two years later, Campbell founded a radio station using a playlist built exclusively from the offerings on his site. He further developed his audience by adding a few shows carefully curated by a mix of ex-BBC and up-and-coming DJs. The result: Amazing Media, a powerful promotional machine that has become one of the A&R community’s most crucial tools for developing new talent and has helped propel the likes of Chvrches, Daughter and Alt-J to deals with major or independent labels.
Now, five years later, Campbell is launching in the United States. He has raised $9 million in funding with backing from investors including Sting, AOL founder Steve Case, producer Billy Mann, music lawyer John Frankenheimer and former EMI CEO Elio Leoni-Sceti. They’re joining a board to be run by former Shazam chairman John Pearson.
As part of its launch stateside, Amazing Media has acquired Boston-based OurStage.com for an undisclosed sum. OurStage gives fans the opportunity to vote for their favorite unsigned performers on the site — and allows bands to compete for the chance to tour with more established acts.”
Ok, so Sting having a musical is a little weird. But if you’re as intrigued as I am, you can catch his Broadway debut of “The Last Ship” on October 26th, with previews beginning September 30th at the Neil Simon Theatre. Inspired by Sting’s personal memories of growing up in a northeast England shipbuilding community, the story follows a man who travels the world for 14 years before returning to find the shipyard’s future in shambles, and his love engaged to someone else.
“People ask if it’s autobiographical. The only real answer is I think it’s emotionally autobiographical but it’s not autobiographical,” explains producer Jeffrey Seller. “There’s no rock singer in ‘The Last Ship.’ But I certainly think that Sting is inspired by his youth and he’s working through a lot of emotions that all of us are working with as we get older.”
Before making its Broadway debut, the play will premiere at Chicago’s Bank Of America Theatre next summer, and include lead cast members Michael Esper (American Idiot, The Lyons) and Rachel Tucker (Wicked). Of course, the musical will also include several songs from Sting’s latest release, The Last Ship, which inspired the show, along with several new songs.
“I have continually been impressed by and rewarded by Sting’s depth of musical knowledge,” Seller said. “Sting certainly came to this never having written a musical but he has been an extraordinary student of musical theater, he’s an extraordinary collaborator and he has been an ideal artist in making this play.”
Will you be checking out Sting’s new musical?
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Set for release September 24 via Cherrytree/Interscope/A & M Records, The Last Ship puts to rest rumors that Sting would soon be announcing his retirement from music. Billboard reports that the music tells the story of the declining shipbuilding business in Wallsend, England, where the real life Gordon Sumner grew up. No further details are currently available.
If there was ever a time when an aging music icon was needed to prove lasting songs can still be made for the pop world, it’s now. That said, I’m not sure Sting is the man for the job. Comment below and let us know your thoughts.
While Hurricane Sandy’s destructive path through the East Coast delayed or cancelled almost all live music events in the Mid-Atlantic tri-state area, there is one show that will still go on. This Friday, Jersey boys Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi will play a massive televised benefit concert to benefit those affected by the record-breaking storm. Billy Joel, Sting, and Christina Aguilera will reportedly join the Garden State natives at the show, which will broadcast live on at 8 p.m. EST on NBC and NBC.com, as well as network affiliates USA Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, E!, Style Network, and G4. All proceeds from the telethon will go to the American Red Cross, which has been assisting victims in the aftermath of its devastating landfall this past Monday. Last night, at a concert in upstate New York, Springsteen dedicated “My City of Ruins” from his album The Rising to the storm-battered Asbury Park, the seaside New Jersey town where he and his band gigged regularly at the beginning of their career. To quote another appropriate song from The Boss, the Jersey faithful always seem to take care of their own.
If you dig Springsteen, check out OurStage artist Blake Guthrie!
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This morning, inside of a Russian court surrounded outside by furious protesters, a judge declared Russian punk band Pussy Riot guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The charge ultimately came with a sentence of two years in jail, and the ruling comes five months after band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were initially imprisoned for performing a “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In the February 2012 performance, the group donned neon“colored balaclavas and played a song entitled “Mother of God, Chase Putin Out,” which resulted in their immediate arrest and detention at the hands of Russian police.
Over the course of their time in custody, the band members have received support from numerous high“profile musicians, including Paul McCartney, Peaches, Madonna, Sting, Peter Gabriel, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Bjí¶rk. Despite the mounting global pressure from celebrity musicians and human rights organizations on Russian authorities to release the women, the judge declared that the two“year sentence is a “caution to others” according to the Wall Street Journal’s live blogging of the trial.
In their closing statements preceding the sentencing, band members defended their actions against the prosecution’s accusations of religious hatred. Samutsevich declared that Vladimir Putin‘s government had appropriated the Orthodox Church as a political tool in order to control the Russian populace, and repress human rights and civil liberties. The band’s performance, Samutsevich continued, was an attempt to reclaim the Orthodox culture, which the government had co“opted as an oppressive arm of the Putin regime. Contrary to the charges against them, the band members claim, their performance was meant to reunite the church with the Russian spirit of “civic revolt and protest.” Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova also drew parallels with persecuted Soviet“era poet Joseph Brodsky and the absurdist Oberiu poets of the 1920s and ’30s. Brodsky was denounced and eventually expelled from the USSR, while the Oberiu poets were condemned for “literary hooliganism” and arrested.
Russia’s notably troubled history with media censorship has been worsening, as the trial’s outcome suggests. The Huffington Post claims that recent laws have increased fines to almost $9,000 for those who take part in unauthorized demonstrations, and that NGOs must register as “foreign agents” if they are to engage in any political activity. Though the three members of Pussy Riot supposedly laughed after their sentence was announced, it remains to be seen whether their sentencing will trigger a larger backlash against Russia’s draconian censorship laws, as they implied in their closing statements.
Below, watch a bystander video of the protest gig that resulted in the band’s arrest.
After sentencing, the band remained defiant, with Alyokhina stating bluntly, “I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this ˜so-called’ trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass.”
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Lately, it seems that we are hearing more and more from new and unexpected partnerships between artists of different genres. This is why, through Superlatones, we are creating our very own directory”a musical wish-list, if you will”of artists who have yet to join the collaborative bandwagon.
As musicians, we come to understand music in a myriad of different ways. Depending on what instrument we play or value most, we tend to tune in to specific parts of a song: a drum solo, a complicated guitar riff, a fun bass line. This week, we feature artists known for their catchy tunes and great production quality; but instead of analyzing the composition of their songs, we are focusing on a different aspect of their music that the rest of the world seems to take for granted: their voice.
The Dynamic Duo:
Foster the People and Gotye
There have been so many live performances at the MTV Video Music Awards that I couldn’t possibly remember them all. But according to a quick sampling, most of them were mediocre, some offensively so. The best and worst, however, stand out in the cultural memory. There were certainly some good ones and some horrible ones not on this list, but here’s what made the biggest impression:
6. The Hives, 2002 “ Main Offender
A pretty rocking performance, but what puts this one over the top is singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist announcing that they’re out of time, so everyone can turn their televisions off, knowing full well that The Vines were just about to start playing.
- Kelly Clarkson is either way wittier than we thought, or a closet boozer. We’re fine with either one.
- No baby Bieber? Damn, we were really looking forward to what an infant with that hair would look like.
- Way to be a music tease, Dr. Dre. Geesh.
- Are we the only ones weirded out by the fact that Michael Jackson’s new album is called Immortal?
- Mariah Carey loses 30 pounds and gains a Randy Jackson.
- You go, Mac Miller.
- Not sure we’re interested in an “almost acoustic” Christmas. Give us electric or give us death.
- Apparently we were out to lunch when Miley Cyrus got “fat”. Hate on, haters.
- Canceling Community? We will slap your face right off of your face, NBC.
- Courtney Love rants about… oh who cares.
- Get well soon, Friendly Fires.
- That’s a pretty fancy schmancy iPad app, Sting.
Using your voice to sing is one thing, using your voice to bring an important issue to light is quite another. While it seems pretty common for artists to be involved in all sorts of charitable causes”from volunteerism and activism to foundations and benefit shows”celebrity involvement isn’t always a clear case of best intentions. Some artists get involved simply to increase their popularity and fan base while others hope a healthy dose of charity can help negate some bad publicity. So, it’s always nice to see a standout in the sea of fair weather philanthropists”someone who is not only donating money, but who speaking about things he or she believes in, and is not afraid to ruffle some feathers.
Historically, there have been many different artists who have been vocal proponents of change. John Lennon is a great example of one of these standouts. Lennon actively made his political views known, and truly cared about the impact of not only his music, but his voice when he wasn’t performing. For example, he and Yoko Ono‘s famously staged Bed-ins for Peace, where they were filmed in bed in their pajamas speaking out against the Vietnam War and taking a stand for world peace, during their honeymoon.
I’ll never forget the day Basia lied to me. Twice. I was interviewing the Polish singer (best known for her 1988 hit “Time and Tide”) shortly before the release of her 1994 album, The Sweetest Illusion, which was coming five years after her previous album, London Warsaw New York. That day, she promised me two things: First, she would never again make me wait so long for new music. Second, she’d never release a run-of-the-mill greatest hits album featuring, well, her greatest hits. She felt that at the very least, artists owed it to their fans to reprise their hits as brand-new tunes, not just repackage the same old songs.
Her next studio album, It’s That Girl Again, wouldn’t arrive until 2009, nine years after she had released Clear Horizon”The Best of Basia, one of those run-of-the-mill greatest hits albums featuring, well, her greatest hits.
The morals of this story: 1) You can’t rush inspiration. 2) The first cut isn’t only the deepest”sometimes it’s the best, too. That’s a lesson Mariah Carey may have learned last year when she scrapped plans to release Angels Advocate, a remixed version of her Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel album, after a new version of “Up Out My Face” (Memoirs‘ best song) featuring Nicki Minaj limped onto Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 100 and refused to go any further.
But apparently, Lady Gaga, the reigning queen of remix albums and EPs, still hasn’t received the memo. When she released Born This Way back in May, she put out a special edition that included a separate disc with remixes of five of the album’s songs. (Bryan Ferry did a similar thing with last year’s Olympia.) Divine inspiration or clever marketing ploy? Perhaps a little of both, but “Born This Way”-with-a-twang never would have spent six weeks at No. 1. The “Country Road Version” makes for an interesting one-time listen, but I never need to hear it again.