Michael Nelson

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Universal Reportedly Bans Its Artists From Any More Streaming Exclusives

A couple weeks ago, Chance The Rapper's manager, Pat Corcoran, talked to Billboard about the Chicago rapper's decision to release his recent mixtape, Coloring Book,…
Michael Nelson | August 23, 2016 - 7:08 pm
33

But Who's Buying?

No Control: Thoughts On The End Of The Headphone Jack And The Future Of Digital Music

Do you know who Lyor Cohen is? This isn't a rhetorical question. I have no perspective here. If you work in the music business, he's…
Michael Nelson | August 12, 2016 - 11:29 am
91

The Smiths & PETA Launch Meat Is Murder Videogame

For many of us, the '80s were largely defined by the Smiths and 8-bit video games, but it's been quite rare to see those two…
Michael Nelson | August 10, 2016 - 10:51 am
23

But Who's Buying?

Skewed VIEWS: The Huge Truth About Drake’s Record-Breaking Chart Run

There's no point anymore in trying to keep up with the records broken and set by Drake's VIEWS because its legacy further swells every week.
Michael Nelson | August 5, 2016 - 12:03 pm
85

Alcest – “Oiseaux De Proie”

Look, under normal circumstances, new music from Alcest would be my cue to write a 5,000-word essay, but I'm crunched for time at this particular…
Michael Nelson | August 4, 2016 - 3:17 pm
5

Comments from Michael Nelson

Haha yeah those quotes are gold but that's Lefsetz, and he's just a reporter. It would really be something if Sir Lucian Grange went in on Frank Ocean (publicly).
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August 23, 2016 on Universal Reportedly Bans Its Artists From Any More Streaming Exclusives
I'm on vacation or else I woulda written about it here. Not gonna go deep on my immensely complicated feelings about it from my motel in Cape Cod, but because you asked (and because I really WANT TO talk about it): I'm into it! But super reticent to commit for obvious reasons. Leaving it there for now but will return to it later I promise.
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August 18, 2016 on Metallica – “Hardwired” Video
Thanks Piney! You are truly too kind and I'm sincerely flattered. You shouldn't refrain from commenting either!
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August 17, 2016 on The Shins Album Postponed To 2017 So They Can Get Better Coachella Placement
Will, please don't apologize -- I'm super-flattered that Mick and passivepinetree are familiar with my byline, but I'm pretty sure they're in the minority, and that's totally fine with me. Also, please don't refrain from commenting. You brought up a great question! FWIW, I think commenters here are generally really friendly/informed/engaged. It's my fault for not responding sooner.
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August 16, 2016 on The Shins Album Postponed To 2017 So They Can Get Better Coachella Placement
It's definitely a chicken-and-egg thing, and both parties are using the other to boost their own profile. One thing I left out of my assessment: If the Shins released their album next month, it would (presumably) be followed by a tour, so that by the time Coachella rolled around, lots of people would have seen the Shins touring behind the album already, thus making their appearance at Coachella less of an event. But if the tour is built around a headlining spot at Coachella, that becomes THE event. And it helps the band too: a Coachella topliner can probably book bigger venues than a Coachella midliner, in part because they'll probably be booking a lot of AEG venues (and AEG runs Coachella), so there's maybe a little quid pro quo going on. I don't mean to imply anything shady, it's just a mutually beneficial arrangement that the band probably has little control over.
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August 16, 2016 on The Shins Album Postponed To 2017 So They Can Get Better Coachella Placement
Hey guys! Just saw this. Will, your question is a good one, although it would be impossible to track whether festival flier placement had any effect on album sales. My GUESS is it's like this: The festival wants its big-font acts to be prominently in the news -- doing interviews and late-night appearances -- not least because the album (or reunion) PR cycle helps them promote the festival. The label wants its high-priority acts to get big-font placement because those fliers act as advertisements outside the festival. They're extremely visible to millions of people who don't even attend Coachella. Being at the top implies you're an "important band" while being in the middle means you're either "on the way up" or "on the way down" and in the case of the Shins, it would be the latter. For Sub Pop (and the Shins) there's definitely real value in having the Shins at the top of the flier, but again, there's no way you could actually track whether it has any effect on sales because every case is unique. I mean, that's my guess anyway. Hope it helps!
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August 15, 2016 on The Shins Album Postponed To 2017 So They Can Get Better Coachella Placement
I still use a Classic too and when that dies I'm gonna splurge on one of those Sony Walkman 128gb mp3 players. They're kinda pricy ($700 I believe) but the specs look great and the reviews are uniformly superlative. I'm lucky though that I don't have any DRM on my library and I can move my files to a non-Apple device without the hassle. Still, not looking forward to that day.
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August 12, 2016 on No Control: Thoughts On The End Of The Headphone Jack And The Future Of Digital Music
This is what I mean about questions that deserve more attention than I can give them in the comments. Please don't mistake my brevity for anything other than me just having a ton of stuff to do -- this is really well-organized and compelling and it deserves more. 1. Lyor: I mean, come on. I'm not trying to deify the guy but I do think the POV of a four-decade biz veteran -- especially one with his resume -- is meaningful inasmuch as it pertains to an invasive species like iTunes and a music dilettante/opportunist like Jobs. But honestly, I mostly quoted him because I just read the piece last week and it stood out to me as something I wanted to think/talk about and it ultimately provided a good framing device for the bigger story. 2. If it doesn't matter to you, it doesn't matter to you. It mattered enough to me that I did switch to Android. (This is partly because -- no joke -- I needed a new phone anyway because my iPhone 6's Lightning Connector stopped working.) 3. Sure, there will always be workarounds -- you ever see the workarounds for people who run into HDCP walls? They're like these piece-of-crap splitters you get from Radio Shack for 25 bucks. Apple stuff never plays real well with non-authorized gear though, or at least, that has been my experience in buying gas station iPhone chargers. Moreover, it's just a headache to be forced into using workarounds simply to get outside Apple's ecosystem. 4. I just threw in the Mike Herring quote because it was recent enough that I thought people might remember it and it helped give some context to Lyor's quote: I wasn't saying, "Let's pile on with all the old beef we can find," I was saying, "Beefing with Dead Steve Jobs is commonplace, but Lyor's quote stands out to me as characterological rather than a broad critique of his business model." Again, though, it was primarily a tool employed in the service of establishing a narrative arc. If I'm more critical of Apple than I am their competition, it's because Apple have "a finger in every tart" as they say. Spotify doesn't make headphones or hardware. Apple does. Samsung doesn't run an online radio station that employs Zane fucking Lowe. Apple does. Google doesn't sign artists to $20 million partnership deals that include vastly more millions in promotions. Apple does. Sirius Radio doesn't run an on-demand streaming service. Apple does. Etc. It's hard to NOT talk about Apple. The old-school sharks were surely monstrous people but the reach of those businesses was limited by federal regulations. That's not the case anymore. And somehow, even stripped of federal regulations, nobody else is playing on Apple's level. Apple is the biggest (second-biggest?) company in the world, and it has made music its most visible priority. But like I said in the comment above, I do feel like I come off a little fixated, and I really don't mean to do that, so I apologize. There's a lot about Apple that I respect, and more importantly, I use Apple machines every day (even after switching phones). I mean, honestly, we agree, the music industry was never great. The music industry 100-percent fucked itself and all its artists and basically put everyone in this position. I'm not talking about the prostitutes, I'm talking about the boilerplate contracts and the systemic arrogance and frankly the fact that the whole business is built on taking advantage of 20-year-old kids. I don't think that has entirely changed, it's just that it's scalable now. Anyway, I guess that wasn't so brief, and yet somehow, still probably too brief. Seriously thanks for reading and sharing yr thoughts.
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August 12, 2016 on No Control: Thoughts On The End Of The Headphone Jack And The Future Of Digital Music
Thanks! And please, throw 'em at me: article ideas, specific questions, general questions, whatever. I can't promise I'll address everything, but it's tremendously helpful. I was thinking of maybe doing like a "mailbag"-style column now and then because there are so many good questions in the comments already, and I really don't have time to answer them with the attention they deserve, but that would give me a forum to get to some of them. Like, I never got to answer this one guy's comment-question about Live Nation's insurance coverage from three weeks ago. And that was a great question! I mean, I thought it was anyway. I dunno, maybe it wouldn't work, but yeah, by all means, just hit me with whatever ya got in the comments, or if it's way off-topic, just email me or @ me on Twitter or whatever. I truly appreciate it. Thanks again!
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August 12, 2016 on No Control: Thoughts On The End Of The Headphone Jack And The Future Of Digital Music
Hi guys, thanks for reading! Just wanted to say a few things here at the top of the comments. First off, I want to thank you all for the enthusiastic and thoughtful comments on this column week after week since it kicked off six weeks ago. I'm truly humbled by them. Second, I'm not gonna do a column next week, so the next one might not be till the 26th, or even the first week of September. I'm not sure. I love writing this but it's not possible to do it at the level I want to do it on a weekly basis, so I gotta pace myself a little bit. I apologize. It's still a regular feature, just not a weekly one, which was never the intention in the first place. I just find a lot of stuff to write about every week, so I've been pushing myself to do a column every week. Maybe it'll be every other week or something. I dunno. It'll still be a lot. Third, this is the second week in a row I went in a little bit on Apple Music, and I just want to clarify that it's not intentional. This time, it was actually an accident. I started writing about something else, but kept finding myself saying, "But let me back up a step..." and by the time I finally got to where I needed to start, I was here. I don't have anything against Apple; I have friends who work at Apple. They're cool people and I never hear them complain about their jobs. Apple makes great products and they employ talented people. It can just be hard talking about the business of music without talking about Apple, because Apple is so involved in so many aspects of the business of music. But I've got plenty of problems with Samsung and Spotify and Youtube and the RIAA and the labels and everybody else, too. I also have a ton of respect for the people at those organizations, too. I guess that's it. Thanks again for reading. You guys are the best.
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August 12, 2016 on No Control: Thoughts On The End Of The Headphone Jack And The Future Of Digital Music
Can't be worse than fucking Kozelek writing a diss track about me.
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August 5, 2016 on Skewed VIEWS: The Huge Truth About Drake’s Record-Breaking Chart Run
I mean that doesn't really answer your question regarding particulars, I guess, but it gets at the greater issue. I'll try to answer it more clearly later. Sorry!
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August 5, 2016 on Skewed VIEWS: The Huge Truth About Drake’s Record-Breaking Chart Run
I'm in the middle of three other things and this is super complicated but fortunately my friend Aaron just Gchatted me something that might help, so I'm just gonna copy-and-paste (the answer to his first question btw is "yes" so everything that follows is sound):
royalties question for you: don't spotify royalties just divide up a portion of the revenue available in a given month, so that the more streams that happen in a given month the less each stream is actually worth? like there's no actual minimum amount for a streaming royalty, right? if drake is basically crushing Apple Music but nothing else, it basically just means no one else is making shit off of Apple Music. i dunno how many total streams apple music gets, but i assume he's gotta be something like 50% of them (who knows honestly), so if every stream of his just lowers the total royalty rate, every smaller artist just went from making very little to making virtually nothing meanwhile a bigger percentage goes straight to drake, who gets the blessing of Uncle Apple The whole idea of exclusive deals gets into weird variations on a payola theme. And those exclusive deals almost certainly include actual cash in exchange for the exclusivity too. So it's like weird reverse payola that still has the same anti-competitive effects.
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August 5, 2016 on Skewed VIEWS: The Huge Truth About Drake’s Record-Breaking Chart Run
Re: 2: For real? That would be a game-changer. Thanks man!
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August 5, 2016 on Skewed VIEWS: The Huge Truth About Drake’s Record-Breaking Chart Run
Nah, this is in reference to the billion-or-whatever pre-release YouTube streams, not the 7 million Spotify streams that Nielsen tracked in week 1.
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August 5, 2016 on Skewed VIEWS: The Huge Truth About Drake’s Record-Breaking Chart Run
Counter to your counter: 1. I didn't mean to imply that Beyoncé's numbers were "within the range of reason." I said those engagement numbers challenged the laws of physics and I tried to illustrate that, based on appearances, even the people behind the scenes at Nielsen weren't entirely convinced by them. I apologize if that was unclear. We could do a breakdown on Lemonade's numbers if you want. I'm not really sure the results would inspire confidence in Nielsen's methodology. 2. Can't really compare Adele and Drake because 25 was physical-only whereas VIEWS was available for sale in iTunes store and on Apple Music. You're talking percentages, but a data set of 4 million can't be expected to behave the same way as a data set of 400 million. Do I think it's unusual that an album did 245.1 million streams in week 1, then dropped to 140 in week 2, when the previous all-time best was 77 million on a service with exponentially more users? Drake LOST more streams in week 2 than Bieber did in week 1, and Drake week 2 STILL beat Bieber week 1 by nearly 100%. Yeah, I think it's nuts. But I didn't imply anything beyond that; I said it's profoundly fucking weird. It is! 3. "You're not taking into account piracy..." is not a great argument in favor of exclusivity deals. Was VIEWS cannibalized by piracy? Then Drake seriously fucked up by not going wide in week 1. 4. Glad you brought this up, because I wanted to mention it too but the piece was already running a little long. "If You're Reading This" DID set a new first-week streaming record in February 2015 on Spotify. How many streams did it get? 15.8 million. How many users were on Spotify in February 2015? 75 million. A year later, on a service with 15 million users, VIEWS did 245.1 million in one week. That's also profoundly fucking weird. 5. Ugh yes I know; this is how everything gets obfuscated in the press btw and this was some of the small-sample data I chose to exclude. So you wanna say VIEWS did 200 million on Apple Music rather than 245 in week 1, and the other 45 were from Spotify? I'll give you that. Did three old VIEWS songs do 15 mil apiece in one week on Spotify? I kinda doubt it, but I'll give it to you just because it doesn't change anything: 45 mil in the context of a billion is peanuts. You want to challenge that, though, I'll get the actual data from Spotify.
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August 5, 2016 on Skewed VIEWS: The Huge Truth About Drake’s Record-Breaking Chart Run
The "Hotline Bling" streams only count toward RIAA sales certifications (i.e., Gold and Platinum awards). The RIAA numbers are WAY MORE skewed if anything, but nah, they don't factor into this.
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August 5, 2016 on Skewed VIEWS: The Huge Truth About Drake’s Record-Breaking Chart Run