Exclusive: Isaac Hayes Family Pushes Legacy Into the Future With ‘Unvaulted’ Project

Though his discography includes 22 studio albums, five film soundtracks and three live albums, Hayes was a prolific composer far beyond what the public got to hear in his lifetime. His son and company president Isaac Hayes III is deep in undertaking the passion project of changing that, beginning with digitizing hundreds of unreleased master recordings he had unvaulted from Tennessee.

“I was just in awe of the organization and the quality in which he kept things,” recalls Hayes III. “Even [family] photos that I didn’t have or my mom didn’t have that he had, it was kind of just dope. Images and sheet music, photographs, all these masters; there was just so much stuff that he really took pride in preserving and taking care of, some going back to the Sixties.”

Friends, Family Pay Tribute To Isaac Hayes

ISAAC HAYES III (Credit: Carlton Adams)

Among these recordings are albums and songs from Hayes and artists he produced for his record label Hot Buttered Soul, outtakes from work with late jazz trumpeter Donald Byrdand R&B singer Major Harris, and instrumentals ranging from rock, pop and country to disco, funk and electronic music. Not everything has weathered the test of time, but Hayes III has gone to painstaking lengths to restore the recordings that have been damaged. Several reels of analog tape, for example, had to be dehydrated and baked in an oven to rescue the precious, precious arrangements.

Isaac Hayes’ work has been widely sampled for decades and has contributed to the foundation of broad genres including hip-hop and dance music. This top tier access to his masters could have an impact that will be heard and felt widely in popular music in the future.

In fact, it has already sparked the brains of several leading producers in Atlanta who Hayes III recently assembled for a listening session, men who have collectively worked with the likes of BeyoncéJay Z, Kanye West, Mariah Carey and many other top artists.

More elite performers, producers and music supervisors will be invited to hear excerpts of the music at a private event in Atlanta during September’s BET Hip-Hop Awards weekend in Atlanta, and Hayes III is considering listening sessions in New York and Los Angeles. He is open to all serious inquiries to license music, yet plans to be very careful in determining what is right for the brand.

The video below features Bryan-Michael Cox, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Organized Noize, Jazze Pha, DJ Toomp and Drumma Boy head nodding and getting goose bumps as they hear this music. You can practically see the invisible light bulbs illuminating over their domes.

Hayes III says there is the potential to officially release some of this music as well as a tribute album. He plans to relaunch the Hot Buttered Soul label, which will also put out albums that Hayes produced for other artists and intended to release before the fall of Stax Records forced him into bankruptcy in 1976; there are jazz, soul, Caribbean and cover songs hidden in the HBS archive. But, as with every mission of the new Isaac Hayes Enterprises, it’s more important to embark on the right endeavors for the brand than to put out products quickly. Timelessness, after all, does not need to be rushed.

Hayes III, 39, is an accomplished producer in his own right who licenses a steady stream of music to TV and film projects; this year, he has had placements in several Bravo series as well as the films About Last Night and Think Like a Man 2.

His knowledge of the music business (including what he likes to call his “A&R ears”) and entertainment industry are the keys that makes this company different from how other music estates are being managed. His vision and passion is unusually strong for the family member of a late music legend, making him the ideal person to take on such an unprecedented mission.

“The bridge between current culture and my dad’s legacy and heritage that I have and the connection with him and his music is a definite advantage,” he says. “Musically, just being in the industry and the amount of relationships that I have — I always say that I’m a relationship guy — I’m excited because I know so many people. And even having met so many people that I know are relationships that my father had that I might be able to continue or build upon with respect to who he was as a person, it’s good.” He maintains close ties to organizations that closely supported and honored his father, including the Recording Academy and Hayes’ publisher BMI.

Soul Legend Isaac Hayes Dies At 65

“I think the job of any celebrity’s estate is to find their place in pop culture to continue the legacy, whatever that is,” he asserts. “Whatever essence of my father that some 17-year-old can find in his music is the job that I have to do. Someone who is that young is not going to necessarily know the music in the same way that my parents knew it or that I know it, but the essence is still there. You have to find that bridge.”

As part of a total reinvention of the brand, Hayes III is also reviewing merchandising ideas opportunities, citing a lack of black music culture in pop culture — even with items as simple as a t-shirt. “You might see Tupac and Biggieon a shirt, but you don’t see Marvin Gaye, you don’t see Barry White, you don’t see Isaac Hayes.”

For more information on Isaac Hayes Unvaulted, stay tuned to the newly relaunched isaachayes.com or search #IsaacHayesUnvaulted on Twitter and Instagram.

SoundCloud Debuts Monetization Play With ‘On SoundCloud’, Announces $100 Million In Funding


The Soundcloud app runs on an iPad in Berlin, Germany, 17 March 2014.

 Ole Spata/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

The successful audio platform has launched it’s first advertising initiative, and plans a subscription service in the near future.

It’s a new era for SoundCloud.

The audio platform has long been a home to unsigned, independent and even established artists to debut new material — from Lorde’s The Love Club EP (which ultimately earned her a record deal with Lava/Republic) to Drake’s OVO page, which is often the first place the Toronto rapper debuts new material from himself as well as his OVO-affiliated artists. Heretofore, SoundCloud’s revenue was derived primarily from its Pro accounts and private funding. But beginning today (Aug. 21), the company has announced a three-tiered monetization strategy that will introduce advertising to the platform for the first time, as well the news that SoundCloud has received more than $100 million in funding since its 2007 launch.

Jeff Toig, SoundCloud’s chief business officer since September 2013, tellsBillboard that the company’s growth has come in three phases — first was the creation of tools that have allowed users to upload new content and track its engagement, the second was scaling the audience (175 million unique users globally per month, the company has announced), and the new third phase. “This is where we start to figure out how to generate revenue and help our creators make money in order to enable them to build careers with us,” Toig says.  “WhenAlex [Ljung, SoundCloud’s CEO] and Eric [Wahlforss, SoundCloud’s CTO] founded the company, they really saw an opportunity to build a business with a global, open platform that would kind of evolve over time.”

At the center of the new strategy is a partner program called On SoundCloud, which includes a new Premier tier (which is invite-only) for subscribers that will allow them to monetize content of their choosing via select advertising. The new offering reflects SoundCloud’s positioning as a promotional tool for creatives, rather than an all-you-can-eat service for consumers. Until Thursday, advertising had not been part of SoundCloud’s business model. Instead, SoundCloud had offered a “freemium” pricing scheme that charges users for file hosting. Three hours of audio time can be uploaded for free (the Partner tier).

Premier-tiered content will include advertising from five different ad products — native, audio, display, channel sponsorship and contests. Red Bull, Jaguar, Sonos, Squarespace and Comedy Central are the first five ad partners at launch. An example of the sponsorship model can be found on Squarespace’s sponsor pageDan Gerber, SoundCloud’s head of sales (and a veteran of Pandora), notes that audio ads will be similar to YouTube, running at a minimum of 15 seconds, with 30-second ads offering the option to opt out after the first 15 seconds. Additionally, display ads will be offered solely on the mobile platform, which Toig reports has seen audience growth increase by a multiple of six in the first eight months of 2014 alone.

Unlike most other music services, On SoundCloud will not launch with agreements from the three major labels. While major-label artists like Beyonce,DiploKendrick Lamar and Drake frequently use the platform to debut new material, sources tell Billboard that 80% of SoundCloud’s current uploads are from user-generated content, while 20% is derived from labels.

Toig says the company is in “active and ongoing, advanced discussions” with Sony, Universal and Warner Music, but that this week’s launch was meant to illustrate how SoundCloud can be for anyone. “SoundCloud is not just a service that depends on the majors only — although we do work with them and hundreds of their artists all the time, and we’d obviously love to have them onboard,” Toig says. “But there is a much broader creative ecosystem here and we’re really keen to represent that in a full and complete way.”

Instead, initial partners with signed deals include labels finetunes, Red Bull Sound Select, Spinnin and SEED; comedy networks Funny Or Die, Jash and AST Records; podcasts Earwolf and StarTalk Radio; publishers BMG and Sony ATV/EMI; independent artists Little Simz, Big Gigantic, GoldLink, Blackbear, Romiti, Jakubi, Cyra Morgan, Oliver Sadie and audio-based deals with multi-channel networks primarily built on YouTube, including Maker Studios, Fullscreen, INDmusic and EDM Network.

Additionally, Toig says, a paid subscription service is expected to be launched in the coming months, which is where agreements with the majors and other labels will likely come into play. While key executives at the major labels and top indie executives say they fully expect to reach a deal with the music service, they say it could be a couple more months until such agreements are worked out and signed. Sources at the major labels and members of Merlin, the independent label rights management group, says that none of them have yet to sign a contract, even though the basic framework to a deal structure has been agreed upon. Some complex deal points have to still be worked out, they say.

“If they are going to get full industry support, there is still some pretty complicated stuff they will have to deal with,” says one industry executive. “It’s not that I don’t think they will get there, but I think they are still a few months away.”

When the subscription service deal is done, it likely will take the shape of other music service deals, sources say. In most cases, a certain percentage — roughly 10-20% of revenue — is taken off the top to pay for costs in generating advertising and subscriptions, with the remainder of the revenue being split 70% with the music industry and 30% to the service. On SoundCloud’s Premier tier, available this week, will likely mirror a revenue-sharing model more akin to YouTube, which would see SoundCloud keeping 45% of revenue and the remaining 55% going to the creators. Toig declined to comment on specifics, noting only that creators would generate “the majority” of revenue from monetized streams.

Like Youtube, SoundCloud also has a user-generated component where some bands and DJs, might put up alternative versions and mixes of songs, while fans may put up mash-ups. Since the site has been heretofore un-monetized by advertising, SoundCloud has managed to skirt infringement by using the safe-harbor act of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which means complying if a copyright holder serves take-down notice. The site has, however, drawn ire from DJs like Kaskade in recent weeks for issuing take-down notices for remixes and mash-ups of copyrighted material.

That’s why the coming months will be crucial for SoundCloud as it legitimizes its business model, which industry sources suggest has been controversial up until now when it comes to skirting rights issues. “SoundCloud have to be good actors with the rights owners because no one will invest one more dollar in the business if they are at war with the content owners,” argues one major label executive. “If they don’t figure out how to monetize, or if they make enemies of the content companies, they will not be long for this world.”

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