Jeeni Blog

Helping the next generation of talent to build a global fanbase

A Year In Provence - ‘Bleeding’ Single Review

/ By Doug Phillips
A Year In Provence - ‘Bleeding’ Single Review

The latest of just two electric singles from this emerging Kent rock force, ‘Bleeding’ shows a passion and level of musicianship that can’t be faked. 

As is a recurring development for blossoming artists, the pandemic produced the current, streamlined ‘A Year In Provence’ line-up. All hailing from Kent, AYIP currently consists of: Matt Porter controlling the melodies with his powerful vocals, the bass, handled assertively by Adam Bacon, James Ferner providing groove-essential rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Dan Wing for the commanding lead guitar and Jack Smith’s drumming, rhythmically guiding the entire ensemble through their rock-pop callbacks. 

Brand new to Jeeni, AYIP have contributed both of their excellent tracks to their Jeeni showcase, adding even more substance to the rock channel. Check out their young, yet exhilarating showcase here: https://jeeni.com/showcase/a-year-in-provence/

‘Bleeding’ takes its time, structurally, and interestingly doesn’t typically call back to previous sections, at least not in their initial forms. This single opens with full, proud classic pop-rock guitar chords that ring out mostly in the offbeats, certainly in lieu of Weezer’s ‘Say It Ain’t So’ albeit with a more present energy in the verses.  

As the other parts join, the attention and care taken to the mix is made obvious. Crystal clear vocals show no sign of struggling to be heard over the washy cymbals, or three layers of guitar, not an easy feat for a band so early in their discography. No parts eat into other areas and are individually made clear and present. 

This single is constantly moving and progresses organically much like a live performance, as you can hear the members grow in energy; the alternative to which is to harvest previously recorded parts and use identical pieces of audio in several, different places which, although is sometimes a logistical necessity in a studio, often results in an unplaceable feeling of “sameyness” and a lack of effort, something that cannot be heard at all in ‘Bleeding’. 

As is also a theme with Jeeni’s budding new artists, A Year In Provence have made certain promises with their singles, and something about the five-piece inspires hope about fulfilling such promises. Check out their showcase here: https://jeeni.com/showcase/a-year-in-provence/

How can Jeeni support artists like A Year In Provence?  

JEENI is a multi-channel platform for original entertainment on demand. We’re a direct service between creatives and the global audience. 

• We give creatives, independent artists and performers a showcase for their talent and services. And they keep 100% of everything they make.  
• We empower our audience and reward them every step of the way.  
• We promise to treat our members ethically, fairly, honestly and with respect.  
• Access to artist liaison and a supportive marketing team. 

03
Sep

The Creator of Jeeni.

Jeeni has returned to Crowdcube to raise more funds for helping new talent. Jeeni founding director Mel Croucher says, “I admit we're ahead of our original schedule, but there's still so much more to do. We need to scale our online platform globally now and build our mass artist showcases. Then we can hit all our targets, and give our new artists the recognition they deserve.” It is day 5 today and we have raised 98% of our target £100K. If you want to see our pitch click HERE. Mel has been writing the best-loved column in top-selling tech magazines for over 30 years. Now he's agreed to share his work with all our members. He's a video games pioneer and musician, and to to find out more about Mel check out his Wikipedia page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Croucher. Here's one of Mel's latest! There was once a little Quaker boy called Charlton, who got sent off to a nice school in Oxfordshire. Charlton liked videogames very much indeed, and when he turned thirteen he became a fan of one particular game which was called Deus Ex Machina. It was hopelessly life-affirming and it allowed him to influence the plotline and outcome, just like a load of similar games. But it was also the first truly interactive movie, running in real time, with voice actors and a full music soundtrack. It came with a large monochrome poster of the face of a beautiful, innocent, yet alluring lady robot, which the boy hung on his wall. And that thought pleases me, because I was the creator of the game, and my intention was to blow the minds of children just like Charlton. Ten years later, he was no longer a Quaker schoolboy but a stroppy atheist, and he was making a living writing very naughty cartoon strips and highly scurrilous columns for a computer magazine called PC Zone. I hope his career choice was influenced by the naughty cartoon strips and scurrilous columns I was writing for the rival magazines he devoured, but I suspect he already considered me to be an old fart. Back then I believed it was my mission to take the piss out of anyone and everyone in the computer industry, and so did young Charlton. He was calling himself Charlie by then. Charlie Brooker. Today, Charlie Brooker is probably best known as the creator of the Netflix phenomenon Black Mirror. In a brilliant episode, he didn’t just nick my idea of an interactive movie where players influence the plotline and outcome, he went and did it for real. He set his episode in 1984, which was the year of my game’s release, and he hung my old poster on the wall for a touch of authenticity. And yes, he did ask permission. And yes, I was more than happy to give it to him. And no, he didn’t pay me. Brooker’s use of the branching narrative was absolutely seamless, and when the viewer-player-actor makes a choice via a mouse or remote control there is absolutely no buffering involved. And just like in my old game, if the viewer-player-actor refuses to make a choice, then the movie-game-stage makes it for them. In the future, I am sure this technique will become an active tool of the porn and ultra-violence industries, but consumers of mainstream entertainment have become more and more bone idle over the years. In fact vast numbers can’t even be bothered to select the crap entertainment they watch or play, but allow algorithms to select for them. So no, this is not the future of movies, it’s the past. Charlie Brooker didn’t predict this, and neither did I. It was predicted by Ray Bradbury in his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, where books have been banned because they encourage people to think, and the 1966 film of that story was one of my greatest influences. In the movie, the writer/director François Truffaut introduces us to a world in which the masses consume pap via personal screens, and believe they have choice in determining the outcome of all sorts of vacuous plotlines. They don’t, of course, and the purpose of such so-called entertainments is to pretend the people have a say in the way things are run, what choices they have, and what garbage they believe in. And here we are, more than half a century later, living in just such a society. And we don’t even need movies to condition the masses, we can use videogames. People who live-stream their gameplay are called streamers. People who watch them playing are called lost souls. Today more people watch streamers play sports simulations than watch live sport. This passive practice is ridiculously popular on streaming sites like Twitch, YouTube and a whole host of others. Even back in 2014, Twitch streams for computer games attracted more traffic than America’s leading cable and satellite network HBO, with professional streamers mashing up high-level play and banal commentary. Now they can extort big money from sponsors, subscriptions, and donations. Last year, passive viewers watched active players for more than 450 billion minutes of streamed content on Twitch alone, as the streamers jiggled and babbled while playing with themselves at FIFA 19, Monster Hunter World and all the rest. One such streamer is a charming young man called Richard Tyler Blevins, who sports attractive neon-tinted hair and goes by the name of Ninja. He has minted around ten million dollars from subscribers who pay to watch him play a game called Fortnight. Let me just make that clear – they are not paying to play Fortnite themselves, they are paying to watch Mr Ninja play. Fortnite involves a hundred players at a time who fight and butcher one other to the death until only one is left alive, all in high-definition video. There are currently 200 million players of the game. The youngest players are aged eight, which should worry their parents, but probably doesn’t because mom and pop are too busy passively watching some other streamer. The average age of a Fortnite player is 13, which is the same age as the schoolboy Charlie Brooker was when my hopelessly life-affirming game helped turn him into a potty-mouthed cynic. At least I know I succeeded in something. Click HERE to visit or return to jeeni.com

10
Jun

"YE COMBINATOR" ALREADY EXISTS (SORT OF)

By Cherie Hu Kanye West is back on Twitter for more rants. Water is wet.This time around, though, he’s talking about issues that are hard for the music industry to ignore, in a way that leaves few stones unturned. On September 16 — a frenzied day for music-business Twitter — West tweeted over 100 individual pages (thank you Dani Deahl) of his recording contracts with Island Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella Records, dated between 2005 and 2016. Yesterday, he followed up by laying out a proposal of music-industry “guidelines” that included the removal of blanket licenses, a shift towards one-year, short-term licensing deals and an 80/20 royalty split in the artist’s favor. And today, he proposed forming an artist’s union.Many industry commentators have rightfully pointed out that aside from his contract details, 1) nothing West has pointed out is actually new, 2) some of his guidelines are unrealistic to pull off without collective action and 3) and he may have even put himself at a legal disadvantage by being so transparent with the terms of his own deals. That said, many of West’s critiques around artist equity, transparency and leverage parallel the key pillars behind recent initiatives like The Show Must Be Paused that have put unprecedented pressure on music companies to be more accountable for their actions, or face the consequences.Amidst all this buzz, though, I personally think there’s too much of a focus on how to improve existing recording contracts, and too little imagination of what other models might be possible for growing artists’ careers outside of the incumbent label system.This brings me to the topic I want to focus on today. On September 15, West claimed mid-rant that he spoke with Katie Jacobs — founder and general partner of Moxxie Ventures and board member of Vivendi, Universal Music Group’s parent company — about the possibility of creating “a ‘Y combinator’ for the music industry so artist[s] have the power and transparency to to [sic] be in control of our future … no more shady contracts .. no more life long [sic] deals.” The tweet got excited replies from powerhouses in the tech world like Sam Altman (former president of Y Combinator, now CEO of OpenAI) and Alexis Ohanian (co-founder of Reddit), and the nickname “Ye Combinator” soon emerged from the noise.In case you don’t know already, Y Combinator (YC for short) is a startup accelerator that has funded over 2,000 startups over the past 15 years. Aside from now-ubiquitous tech companies like Stripe, Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit, YC’s current cohort and alumni include several companies like Twitch, Genius, The Ticket Fairy, Jemi and Gigwell that have direct interests in the music, entertainment and culture industries.YC makes its terms transparent on its website: A $125,000 investment in exchange for 7% of the company, through a post-money simple agreement for future equity (or SAFE). There are two YC cohorts a year, lasting three months each, in which startup members get access to the accelerator’s extensive alumni network, weekly speaker sessions and office hours, vertical-specific founder communities and other benefits. Each cohort also concludes with a flashy Demo Day that consistently draws hundreds of investors in person (and many more online, especially this year).One implicit point that West makes in his “Y Combinator for music” proposal is that record labels don’t fit the bill. Indeed, a common misconception is thatlabels are to artists what accelerators or VC firms are to startups. This comparison makes sense in that both labels and VCs tend to take higher risks with more capital on artists/founders that are relatively unproven in the marketplace, while also embracing a high-volume, portfolio approach to diversifying their risk. But the similarities stop there: A record-label advance is not an equity investment, it gives the label a financial interest in only one specific revenue stream in the artist's entire business (for the most part) and the outcome often makes artists feel less entrepreneurial, not more.That said, West’s idea is far from original, as many versions of “Y Combinator” for music already exist outside the traditional label model.Music accelerators began to emerge in full form in the early- to mid-2010s. Some, like Techstars Music, Abbey Road Red and Project Music, service founders of music-tech startups; others cater more to emerging artists looking to embrace a founder mindset in their careers. I reported on this trend for Music Ally back in 2016, and the playing field has widened significantly since then — ranging from formal, focused accelerator programs to more freeform incubators, residencies and coworking spaces, all serving the increasingly influential artist-entrepreneur archetype.A non-exhaustive list of examples: The Rattle (London, UK and Los Angeles, CA, USA)Zoo Labs (Oakland, CA, USA)Backline Accelerator (Cleveland, OH; Milwaukee, WI; Detroit, MI)REC Philly (Philadelphia, PA, USA)Th3rd Brain Accelerator (Los Angeles, CA, USA; ran until 2018)Assemble Sound Residency (Detroit, MI)Heavy Sound Labs (Los Angeles, CA, USA; part of startup studio Science Inc.) [Note: Some people would categorize songwriting camps, rap camps and independent music distributors like UnitedMasters and Stem as the equivalents of a Y Combinator for music. I disagree with this analysis because 1) startup accelerators need to focus on business models, not just on product development; 2) songwriting camps run by major labels benefit major labels, instead of providing an alternative path to success; 3) distributors are mostly self-serve SaaS platforms, not more focused educational programs.] If you click through these accelerators’ websites, something you may notice is that they are not necessarily catering to the aspiring Kanyes of the world. Instead, many of them have the goal of cultivating self-sufficient, local music communities in cities that might otherwise be overshadowed by major industry hubs like New York, Los Angeles and Nashville. Many of these accelerators also intentionally encourage their artists to use startup terminology — e.g. prototyping, testing, customer development, design thinking — as a tool for crafting a self-directed music career beyond just getting signed to a label and hoping for the best. This lies at the heart of what I see as the main limitation of West’s discussion of “Y Combinator for music,” which was ultimately framed within the relatively more conservative context of improving major-label deals. If you take the concept of “artist as entrepreneur” or “Y Combinator for music” seriously, you can’t approach the problem just from the vantage point of making existing label contracts better; that immediately presupposes a business model that doesn’t have to be etched in stone. Instead, the discussion should be more about changing the entire decision matrix altogether, such that an artist starts to question whether they even want to sign a standard deal in the first place. Anything less falls short of the idea’s imaginative, progressive potential. The financial gulf between music and tech When thinking about what “Y Combinator for music” can look like, one immediate red flag that needs to be addressed is that music and tech are vastly different businesses.Major artists and entertainers can build up enviable business empires by diversifying their brand beyond music into beauty, fashion, alcohol and other verticals. But by many investors’ standards, even this massive amount of wealth ends up being relatively paltry and slow to come by.Let’s look at West as an example. According to Forbes, West’s business interests in music and fashion make him one of the wealthiest celebrities in the world, with a net worth of $1.3 billion. But he only got to this point after grinding nonstop in the music business for nearly 25 years. Similarly, Rihanna has a net worth of $600 million, but she worked tirelessly over the course of the last 15 years to get her career to this point. Beyoncé’s net worth is $400 million, and she’s been in the business for 23 years.Measured against Silicon Valley’s expectations, these growth rates and market caps would be considered meager, even abysmal. For comparison: West name-dropped Airbnb and Dropbox in his tweet about Y Combinator. Airbnb is 12 years old, and is already valued at $18 billion (which is only half of its peak valuation of $31 billion three years ago). Dropbox is 13 years old, and is currently valued at around $8 billion. In other words, Airbnb and Dropbox individually achieved more than 6x the value of Kanye West’s brand in just half the time.This is an apples-to-oranges comparison — and that’s exactly the point. Building a celebrity brand is a fundamentally different business from building a tech platform. In being inextricably tied to human talent, celebrity brands are harder to scale, grow much more slowly and end up being much smaller in size than SaaS and marketplace products of comparable fame. Hence, simply copying and pasting the Y Combinator incentive structure for emerging artists is arguably inappropriate, and runs the risk of even more churn-and-burn on the artist side without laying out clear expectations for a different kind of growth and development.This financial gulf also holds true when you expand your view to music corporations, not just celebrities. The market value of the world’s biggest recorded-music company (Universal Music Group at around $34 billion) is only 1% that of the world’s most valuable tech company (Apple at $1.9 trillion), and nearly 25% lower than that of the world’s biggest music streaming service (Spotify at $44.5 billion).In general, investors still view music as a relatively small niche compared to other entertainment sectors like film and gaming, and especially to other industries outside of entertainment like software services. Major music corporations are trying to compensate for this value gap by holding mutual stakes in streaming platforms; celebrities are also investing in tech startups to have an individual upside in Silicon Valley’s growth. Note that the everyday artist, unless they own stock in Warner Music Group or Spotify, is essentially nowhere to be found in this financialized picture.It’s hard to argue against a more even distribution of wealth between the millions of artists around the world and the handful of media and tech corporations that command eleven-figure valuations off the backs of these artists’ works. Indeed, in his Twitter rant, West addresses this issue in a rather capitalistic way (emphasis and punctuation added): “I am the only person who can speak on this because I made multi billions outside of music — no musicians make billions inside of music — I’m going to change this.”That said, I wish West took more time to address the vast majority of artists — hell, the vast majority of people, period — who will never be billionaires. Among the modern generation of music distributors and music-tech startups, there’s increasing discussion about growing the “middle class” of artists and enabling them to live sustainable, healthy lives off their creative work without feeling like they need to chase outsized growth projections. A truth that West neglects in his public discussion is that if the music industry is to be more equitable, you don’t need to make billions of dollars to be deemed “successful.”In general, the music and tech industries both tend to suffer from the same myopic view of success in entrepreneurship — whereby case studies from the top 1% of the top 1% of companies are treated as the rule, rather than as the exception that they truly are. While celebrities’ growth trajectories are certainly illuminating and informative, an education in music entrepreneurship that paints these stories as the “norm” will automatically set emerging artists up for disappointment.This brings us to one last fundamental question:  What is the end game? While YC has transformed how early-stage startups get their footing, the program also arguably serves the incumbent investment world by grooming startups for the next level of more traditional VC deals (Series A, B, C, etc.). Moreover, the notion of a lucrative “exit strategy” (i.e. a big IPO or acquisition by a larger company) being the primary north star for many startups has only become more intense in a world of accelerators, not less.If we made a Y Combinator for music, what would that “next level” look like for artists? Is it still to “exit” to a traditional label deal, or potentially to arrive at a totally different business structure altogether around an artist's work? Is the goal simply to have more leverage against incumbents in deal negotiations, or to decrease reliance on incumbents as a whole and build a fruitful, independent business on one’s own terms?Interestingly, recent history has suggested that independent music companies who claim to be a “one-stop shop” for the next generation of mainstream, culturally influential artists actually have a hard time keeping them from major labels’ grasp. Amuse couldn’t keep Lil Nas X. UnitedMasters couldn’t keep NLE Choppa. Human Re Sources couldn’t keep Pink Sweat$. In all of these cases, the best opportunity to go to the “next level” was to partner with an incumbent.West’s stance on what this “next level” actually looks like in his perfect world isn’t clear. For one thing, West’s solution for “freeing artists” seems to rely mainly on improving major recording and publishing contracts. That is not a startup accelerator — that’s an arduous political debate that requires decades worth of collective action. Moreover, the fact that he discussed this idea with a Vivendi board member implies that an initial iteration would be additive, not disruptive, to a major label’s business. For instance, a company like UMG would likely invest in a YC-type set up as a self-serving A&R funnel, upstreaming the most promising talent directly from each cohort to a more standard deal (major labels invest in independent distribution businesses for a similar reason).I’d like to think that West’s idea of “setting artists free” can have room for multiple different kinds of careers, not just a slightly better or more efficient version of the dominant model. I’d like to see a Y Combinator for music focus on the more than 40 different revenue streams that artists can potentially make from their work — spanning the likes of direct-to-fan memberships, grants and teaching, not just recording, touring or merch — and on the wide range of company structures and fundraising strategies that can support a profitable, “middle-class” artist business. In the tech world, organizations like Indie.vc and Zebras Unite, and movements such as “Exit to Community,” provide a potential blueprint for how to prioritize sustainability and profitability while exploring alternative financing models for startups such as revenue-based financing and equity crowdfunding. (A lot of these alternative models are already underway in music, but not with the endorsement of someone like Kanye.)Journalist David Sax's recent op-ed for Bloomberg, "It’s Time to Reclaim the Meaning of the Word ‘Entrepreneur,'" rings strongly here: “For too long, we bought into the notion that all we needed to do was create and support the entrepreneurs building the biggest businesses, assuming the trickle-down of money, jobs, and innovation would benefit everyone. But a healthy economy needs a full complement of enterprises: the high-tech, rapidly growing companies and midsize manufacturers; the MBA-educated innovators disrupting markets; and the small businesses run by minorities, immigrants, women, and seniors that make our neighborhoods vibrant. Silicon Valley talks a lot about the ‘ecosystem’ for startups, but we need to remind ourselves that the healthiest ecosystems are diverse. They need microbes and ants — not just elephants.” To borrow Sax’s analogy, West is, in multiple senses, the elephant in the room: A problematic celebrity figure whom many of us are reluctant to talk about, and an ultra-wealthy entertainment magnate who is the exception, not the rule, in the vast ecosystem of artist success. Arguing for artists’ freedom and rights without acknowledging the sheer diversity of career paths in the industry runs the risk of feeling like Tidal’s 2015 press conference — shiny, but tone-deaf. This is all to say: When you hear "Ye Combinator" or "Y Combinator for music," I encourage you to dream harder about what might be possible. In a way, West’s tweetstorms and their resulting debates serve as a litmus test for the kinds of solutions that people in the industry want to have come to life. I invite you to take this test yourself: What end game do you see? ✯

05
Jun

How to Stay Sane While Sheltering in Place

by Kelli Richards, Jeeni MD USA Many of us have been going a little stir crazy after several weeks of sheltering in place. But given it’s likely we’ll be in this situation for quite a while longer, it’s to our benefit to find ways to retain our sanity during these challenging times. Here are a few ideas to share that I’ve found have been working for me. Stick with a schedule and routine — what worked for you when things were ‘normal’? Keep doing those things now. For me, it includes getting up early, exercising, meditating, good nutrition, getting outdoors every day, sticking with my work routines (work bursts, scheduling calls and Zoom video chats), stretching, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of sleep. I’m getting an extra hour daily now to boost my immune system — and of course the additional rest has all kinds of extra benefits for your mind and body as well. Reading daily is also an anchor for me, so it’s paramount (at least for me) that I make time for that. Make time to connect with friends, family, colleagues and loved ones. Make sure you balance your time between work and play/rest. Move your body daily, however that works for you. Take time to make nutritious meals for yourself and keep your house clean and tidy. Watch something funny, educational, or inspiring on TV if it moves you. Minimize your exposure to news — limit your intake to maybe 2x/day. Listen to great music throughout the day. Have fresh flowers around and get your nature intake daily. Those are some of my tips — I’d love to know what some of yours are that are helping you in these times. Be sure to leave a comment! Click HERE to visit or return to jeeni.com