BRIT Trust Diaries: Music For Mental Wealth's Laura Westcott

In this month’s BRIT Trust Diaries, Laura Westcott, founder of Music For Mental Wealth, shares her story of overcoming stage fright, using ADHD as a ‘superpower’ and helping musicians with their mental wellbeing.  Laura Westcott has a BA (Hons) in ...

RSD Black Friday: Michael Simon of HFA and Rumblefish on 5 reasons why vinyl rules

For Record Store Day – Black Friday, Michael Simon, president & CEO of HFA and Rumblefish, looks at the format’s importance for artists, rights-holders and fans…  It’s almost Record Store Day – Black Friday. Time for another hockey stick growth story? Nope. Instead of yet another report about vinyl’s “amazing resurgence”, let’s consider what it means to many of its makers and buyers: an artisanal fan engagement endeavour.  Vinyl remains very important—even for artists who don’t have Taylor Swift level sales. For members of the independent artist community, vinyl’s revived cultural cache means more than a straightforward commercial opportunity.  Making vinyl is, after all, expensive, whereas current home recording rigs enable bands to make studio-quality records at a fraction of the cost. Yet digital streams and pixelated micro squares don’t satisfy tactile cravings. And, in a largely digital audio landscape, releasing vinyl adds some heft to a band’s body of work and distinguishes them from the pack. Vinyl can be a key contributor to an artist’s overall creative and business strategy Michael Simon Vinyl can do five things really well, things we need now more than ever as attention spans shrink and fans hunger for true connection in a disconnected world… Vinyl means visual artistic expression: Packaging size and construction presents a broader canvas for the creation of an artefact fans can display even when they don’t own a turntable. Vinyl means deeper engagement: Remember liner notes, lyrics, study worthy cover art and even secret messages scribed in the dead wax?  Restoring this lean-forward experience to music delivery connects fans to artists in multiple, emotionally intense ways. As a collector’s item, it hooks completists who can obviously listen to records online but have to get their hands on everything released by their favourite local ska band.  Vinyl is an admission ticket to the record bin community: We thought that bin-flipping was passé but we’ve been schooled. Vinyl allows artists to be physically among their heroes. Record stores foster community among music heads and let bands join the community by getting a physical product added to inventory. Add an in-store visit and some autographs and the store and band get fans for life. Vinyl allows fans to take the show home: Even for artists whose primary income source is playing live, vinyl is a great merch table item – and fans ask for it. They want a memento – maybe something exclusive that isn’t even available elsewhere. The band wants to narrow the gap between post-show euphoria and the need to (eventually, maybe) find a record. Vinyl means revenue diversification: For indies riding the long tail, the band can earn more per track or per product with vinyl than they earn from digital formats. With vinyl, there’s a direct relationship between consumer behaviour and band revenue. In fact, vinyl can be a key contributor to an artist’s overall creative and business strategy – helping them do more at a time when artists need tangible, exciting, and creative ways to reach and engage fans. And, when all’s said and done, records are cool.  

Digital Discourse: Sammy Andrews on the pros of AI

Deviate Digital CEO Sammy Andrews guides you through the ever-changing tech world. In this edition of Digital Discourse, she dives into the pros of AI… AI is evolving faster than ever. It is the biggest game-changer for civilisation since the Industrial Revolution and I wholeheartedly believe the education system will [soon] have no option but to value the ability to use information over memorisation. Some aspects are terrifying and there are numerous perils if we don’t guide AI in the right direction. But there is a world out there filled with opportunity, so for now, let’s set aside the hair-raising threats. It might surprise you that I can be a ‘glass-half-full’ kind of girl when it comes to AI’s potential for creativity and productivity, and people frequently ask me for AI tools to explore. So, let’s look at some incredible technology that’s accessible to everyone. If you’re reading a lot about AI right now and itching to dive into this brave new world, I would first suggest you check out a brilliant book called Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat. Then go to a Discord server called AI Hub – it’s like dipping your toes in the AI music ocean. They’re not just swapping tools and techniques there, they’re also tossing around code templates for Google’s Colab platform and cooking up AI voice models for artists in their spare time.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a league of bedroom creators crafting tunes and sharing them across Discord, Reddit and YouTube communities. There is also a growing army of industry players looking to protect and monetise their existing assets and future output. The reason for this unstoppable boom in creativity is a plethora of AI softwares that are being designed to supercharge creativity each day. If you’re reading this thinking, “What is she talking about?”, let’s take a moment to spotlight some of the game-changers making waves right now…VOICE GENERATION AND CLONING  Musicfy is an AI app that can clone a voice and produce an output. It is a go-to for AI covers. Also check out Revocalize.AI, Voicemod, Uberduck and Supertone.STEM SPLIT RipX is an unbelievably sophisticated stem extraction tool that is loved by musicians. Other players in this area include Lalal.AI, Spleeter (by Deezer), Moises and Demucs.TEXT TO MUSIC Suno is a text-to-music model that lives on a Discord server allowing users to generate speech, music and sound effects.MUSIC GENERATORS Meta’s MusicGen will generate 12 seconds of audio based on a description that you provide. You can also supply a reference audio from which a broad melody will be extracted. And yes, you read that right, Meta. This is part of their open-source AudioCraft suite of research products.  There are so many people in this space right now – just jump on any search engine and have a look for yourself. And if you want to smile, head to Riffusion and enter a prompt.MASTERING AND PRODUCTION Masterchannel is exactly what you think it might be, mastering AI. There are an increasing number of names in this space, as well as plugins for existing software, and they’re getting seriously clever. If you’re into checking them out, go have a look at BandLab Mastering, RoEx and Songmastr.VIDEO AI Video, image editing and generation tools are making giant bounds daily, and big companies have been investing in this for some time. Some platforms include Midjourney and Photoshop’s Beta AI generation tools. I don’t know any designers not using the latter already. It’s a simple but clever tool as part of the Adobe suite. Here are a few more...  Videoleap – a phone app that recently integrated a load of AI tools, which is no surprise as it’s made by the same people who were behind the making of Facetune. Vimeo’s Beta AI generation tool – this allows you to edit videos by deleting scripts and automatically removing filler words (“ums” and “ahs” in audio recordings).  Lumen5’s video generation – a big hit with big brands and die-hard PowerPoint enthusiasts already. Kaiber – a video generation tool that is used for music videos in particular.  Flickify – an increasingly interesting text-to-image video generator that also offers URL to video [converting], avatar creation, voice cloning, prompt-to-script generation and far more.AI IN A WIDER CONTEXTIf you’re not across AI outside of audio and visual generation yet, what are you waiting for? OpenAI’s ChatGPT 4.0 is an obvious starting place for everything from content suggestions to scripts, translations, lyrics, grammar, image upload, coding and even legal documents.  Whilst it has its own limitations, if you have not tried it yet, trust me when I say try it out – even if that is for no other reason than to understand what’s coming. And all of this is a tiny slice of what is out there. If you search for wider productivity AI you’ll find a wealth of offerings, from the likes of Otter.AI, which provides incredible speech-to-text transcription services (including transcribing meetings from platforms such as Zoom), to Interprefy, a live-time AI providing language translations (I actually know of an artist who is using AI to translate albums into other languages). And on that note, just for fun – and to have your mind blown – now go and check out Stable Doodle.  

Centre Stage: Mark Davyd

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