Sony/ATV chief and King of Music Publishing Marty Bandier has been a fierce advocate for songwriters’ rights throughout his career, and with the growth of streaming services has focused his energies on ensuring that creators are properly compensated. When we asked him to weigh in with us, he sparked up a Cohiba and got to business.
Do you share the positions recently expressed by Doug Morris and other major-label leaders that the industry should move to end the “freemium” tier of unlimited, ad-supported, on-demand streaming?
Yes. There is little to differentiate at present between the free tier offered by on-demand streaming services and the paid-for tier. The free service is simply too good and provides little incentive for consumers to upgrade by paying for a subscription service every month. The unlimited part is the big problem. It is not a trial offer and there is no cut-off point. It is simply a free service with no time limit.
What would be the ideal streaming outcome for songwriters? With cover versions and user-generated content, do they derive significantly greater benefit from ad-supported streaming than recording artists who don’t write?
We all love Spotify. We love any service that provides opportunities for our writers, but only if they can earn a fair living from it. In the U.S. we are subject to a compulsory license, which results in unacceptably low royalty rates for our songwriters, whereas in other territories, including Europe, we can negotiate directly with services to agree on royalty rates. We would like to be able to do the same in the U.S. so we can achieve fair market rates for our songwriters.
At present songwriters are not deriving significantly greater benefit from ad-supported streaming compared to recording artists. Although YouTube offers opportunities for songwriters for cover versions and user-generated content, YouTube is an even bigger problem. While YouTube is the biggest music service out there, it continues to have issues identifying the videos posted up and then matching them to the right content owners. That’s our biggest problem. There are millions and millions of plays that are not credited properly, and the money is therefore not flowing to the right people.
How do you respond to the argument that freemium remains valuable as a way of “on-boarding” consumers to the streaming model, and that Spotify is proving successful in moving its users from free to paid? What role, if any, might there be for some kind of free streaming tier?
It can have a role, but not as an unlimited free tier. If you buy a new car you sometimes get a limited, free trial of SiriusXM. Then one morning, when you suddenly find it’s no longer there, your first instinct is to accuse your wife of interfering with the radio, before you realize your free trial has come to an end—and if you want to continue with the service you have to start paying for it. It should be the same with Spotify and any of the other services with free tiers. It should be for 90 days or less and come with certain conditions, like you have to supply your credit card information.
What do you see as the primary challenges of transitioning consumers to the subscription streaming model? What do you anticipate from the forthcoming Beats/iTunes service?
Again, it comes down to there not being enough incentives for someone to upgrade from free to subscription. On Spotify, all the tracks that are available on the paid-for service are available on the free service as well, so why would you want to pay out $9.99 for exactly the same songs?
We love any service that provides opportunities for our writers, but only if they can earn a fair living from it.
Anything Apple ever does is always worth paying attention to, given their incredible track record, so we are anticipating something interesting from them in this space. We expect their streaming service will be strong on curation and we hope for the sake of our songwriters it doesn’t have an unlimited free tier.
How, if at all, do you think the “Blurred Lines” decision is affecting the narrative today?
The case has obviously generated a lot of press coverage, but it needs to be put into some context. It is a one-off decision by a jury, and the verdict has not changed the copyright laws in any way. You still cannot copyright a genre, feel or groove of a song. People have always been influenced by their musical heroes, and it would be wrong if that couldn’t continue. But all the publicity surrounding this case may mean the number of similar cases could increase.
February 27 marked the release of a track that was arguably iSHi’s highest-profile venture to date – “Push It” alongside famed Clipse member and emcee Pusha T. The song’s thunderous production brought in a crisp, old-school drumline paired with reverberating synth harmonies for a rampant marriage of musical elements. Pusha’s unrestrained stanzas and trademark street hustle bravado open the track with “Push it to the limit, if you wanna win it / Harbor no room for the weak, nor the timid.” There’s no doubt about it, this tune claps.
Things are looking promising for Swedish producer iSHi – real name Eshraque Mughal – who is plotting the drop of several more singles throughout 2015, all leading up to the release of a full-length project that calls upon some seriously prominent collaborators, the likes of whom can certainly hold their own in the ring with Pusha T. As the stage is set for some big steps to be made this year, iSHi seems exceptionally comfortable surrounded by his circle of Stockholm creatives, especially director and friend Alex Wessley, as the pair share a powerful vision for the future of iSHi’s sound.
We sat down with both iSHi and Alex in Stockholm at the At Night Management headquarters – home of Avicii – to hear about what is slated for 2015.
What are the origins of the name “iSHi?”
The name actually comes from my mother. She called me iSHi.
How did you first get in touch with Pusha T?
I’ve been listening to Pusha for a long time now, and I’m a big fan. He’s one of my personal favorites. I was fortunate to be in the studio with his management, recording with one of his label mates, and I asked them whether Pusha would be interested in the track “Push It.” It took a lot of work and effort from all parties but when Pusha heard it, he liked the idea, he thought it was fresh. So he got on the track. It came out great.
Was the process any different when working with Pusha versus working with previous collaborators such as Usher or Tinie Tempah?
It’s a bit different. When I started working with Tinie he hadn’t even been signed yet, but we were the best of friends – spent time with each others’ families and everything. “Pass Out“ hadn’t been released then.
He came to Sweden to work with me and it was freezing. Snow everywhere. He was in shock. We spent a week in the studio recording “Written In the Stars.” At the time he showed us his new video, which was for “Pass Out,” and it had 5,000 views. Two months later he was number one in the UK. We ended up spending a lot of time together because Eric Turner sings the hook, and he’s one of my artists. I put him on the hook. After “Written In the Stars” came out we three toured together for a while.
So with Tinie it was more on a friendship level?
Definitely. I think we got in touch through Usher, originally, because he was on a track with him. They got my info through Usher, and it all happened very naturally. With Pusha it was me chasing him because I wanted him on my stuff.
How involved were you with the video for Push It?
I got in touch with Alex Wessely because I needed someone to take my crazy ideas and add visuals. He was best-suited to working with me on this, and we did everything together. We spend a lot of time together. Actually, since last March we’ve probably seen each other almost every day. My whole output is based around visuals.
Who are you inspired by in terms of music videos?
You know, artists like Katy Perry or Ariana Grande have their own way of doing it, and I feel like we just want to do something different. Mix the fashion and the music and the art. Like you said, we are trying to keep it minimal and clean. Every time we make a track I can see the visuals straight away.
What do you have in mind for your next video?
I’m actually working on a short film now. It’s five or six songs strung together. It goes 12 minutes long, and I see a beautiful girl in a high-end fashion piece drowning in a pool. I see wolves coming out of the woods, I see black horses, I see snow. Just crazy things. So I wanted to put it all together so people can see what I hear.
Producer seems to be a more high-profile title now than it’s ever been. What does the job mean to you?
There are so many people out there who call themselves producers. Making music today is much easier than it was before. You get all these groups who sample other music but when I talk about producers I mean people who really make music. People who are involved in the whole musical process. Giving the track its structure from the beginning. I mix stuff, I write songs, come up with visuals. You have to be more hands-on with everything now.
How do you feel about hip-hop today? Is it still as relevant as 20 years ago? Favorite rappers in the game right now?
I would say yes, definitely. In fact I’d say it was bigger than it’s ever been. With the move towards fashion, more people embrace it now than ever before. My favorites are Pusha, Kanye, A$AP Rocky, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Drake. I also love R&B. It’s what I grew up with.
What type of rituals get you in the best zone for creating music?
Doing stuff that has nothing to do with music. It’s the everyday things that put the creative process into perspective. That being said, when I do get in the studio I need to be 100% in the zone. Things have gotten so busy recently that I really savor the time I do get to just get these ideas out of my head and into a record.
What are listening habits like in Sweden? Are people generally aware of what’s going on internationally, or do they mostly prefer local music?
We have many internationally successful producers. Stockholm has a huge number for a city of its size. House, rock, hip-hop. Not just pop music. I wouldn’t consider myself a pop musician because I’ve always wanted to do my own twist on hip-hop. I want people to listen to my music and hear a new sound. For me it’s about having identity in everything you do. I’m not saying it’s the only sound, but it’s the one I want people to be able to pick an iSHi track out of the crowd for.
Have you always had a support base in Sweden, or did you have to wait until international acclaim started coming in for them to support you?
It’s hard to say. I have my close circle. Beyond that, I don’t care enough to say one way or the other.
There is a popular stereotype of Sweden being a stylish, very fashion-oriented country. Do you feel like you’re pre-disposed to fashion, being Swedish?
You know, I think so. It’s all around me, and it’s not something I really think about. Foreigners come here and embrace our fashion. It’s really a way of dressing. Big artists, like Kanye, have embraced the way Scandinavians dress.
Do you think it’s accurate to call Swedish fashion minimalist?
Definitely. We call it that. We like a clean look.
Talk about your relationship with Clothsurgeon.
Yeah, he’s a British designer. He’s amazing. I actually came across his Instagram through some British rappers I was working with. Anyway, I got in touch with him about working on some clothing that I’m doing, and it just clicked. I really like him. He helped me with some jackets I wanted.
You also have some plans for iSHi merch?
There is going to be two versions of this series. The first is going to be on a day-to-day streetwear tip. I like the idea of everybody being able to get into this. The other side will lean towards a more high-end fashion tip. I’m working with a really talented guy called Erik Bjerkesjö on this vision. This will be everything from stage clothes to very exclusive pieces. Every time I see a new design I get more and more excited.
Is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming album?
The only thing I can say is that there will be some cool collaborations. The Pusha song will be the first single. And I’m dropping an EP called Spring Pieces soon. Probably May. It’s going to set the tone for the sound of the album. You can expect it to drop later this year.
“If you have faith in your abilities, if you stay true to the path that feels right, if you channel your passion into action, you will ultimately achieve a breakthrough.”
Ne-Yo returns with the drop of his brand new single called Every Day With Love featuring Sonna Rele.
Chris Brown’s ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran sits down with spiritual life coach Iyanla Vanzant for an OWN primetime television event. For the first time, in an emotional heart-to-heart, Karrueche shares her deeply personal story following her recent high-profile breakup with the singer.
Rapper Rich Homie Quan stands accused of decking a security guard who wouldn’t let him inside a club … and then fleeing in a speedboat!
RHQ and his crew were trying to get into LIV at the Fontainebleau, according to the Miami Beach police report. When they got to the VIP entrance a security guard broke the news … the club was full and they’d have to wait in the regular line with all the plebeians.
The security guard told cops RHQ launched into a do-you-know-who-I-am tirade screaming, “I’m Rich Homie Quan and I’m a rich millionaire, bitch. I’m coming through these doors. I’m with Flo Rida!”
The hired muscle held his ground and says RHQ then socked him twice in the face, breaking his nose and bloodying his lip. He claims a member of the rapper’s crew then hit him in the back of the head for bad measure.
The security guard claims RHQ and his entourage crossed the street and boarded a speedboat and roared off.
Police are on the hunt. Consider them dangerous and really full of themselves.