Photo Credit: Topazia Hunter | Daily Texan Staff

Beyoncé, Rihanna and Madonna rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars every month from Spotify, while lesser-known artists are left struggling for commercial success.

Gary Powell, composer, producer and senior lecturer, said this struggle is not uncommon for most artists. Since licensing his work to Spotify, Powell has received 50 checks, amassing around a dollar in revenue. That figure is then split up between labels, producers, songwriters and artists. Powell said streaming services are just the music industry’s latest enemy.

“In the old days, a hundred purchases of a song paid the owner $90, and now it just gets you a penny,” Powell said. “That model is what we [musicians] are up against, and until it changes, it will continue to add to our demise. It only works for the companies.”

In an attempt to give artists more control over their music, Jay-Z recently purchased the music streaming service Tidal. Jay-Z, along with 15 other big-name acts, such as Kanye West, Coldplay and Alicia Keys, attended a press conference March 30, intending to use Tidal to regain control of their music. The service doesn’t offer a free option, so subscribers must choose between the $9.99 or $19.99 plan.

The service provides users with songs, artist-made playlists, videos, exclusive content and, for premium subscribers, higher-quality sound. Unlike Spotify, Tidal will not rely on ad revenue to pay its artists. Without a free tier, the company claims it will pay its artists more in royalties, but, as it recently revealed, artists are only paid more when premium listeners stream their songs.

While the artists behind Tidal set out to bring value back to music, critics express concern for the future of smaller artists on the streaming service. Currently, the 16 artists who attended the press conference have equal share of the company. Many critics boiled this down to rich artists asking for more money. Mumford & Sons frontman Marcus Mumford recently spoke out against Tidal, saying the service shouldn’t make ownership exclusive to big-name musicians.

“I think smaller bands should get paid more for it, too.” Mumford said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “Bigger bands have other ways of making money, so I don’t think you can complain. A band of our size shouldn’t be complaining. And when they say it’s artist-owned, it’s owned by those rich, wealthy artists.”

Some artists are unconvinced that controlling streaming is the root of the problem. A recent study by record label trade group SNEP revealed that major labels walk away with almost 50 percent of revenue made from Spotify, while artists get 7 percent. Artists enter these contracts with the promise of having their music played worldwide, but Powell said artists are the ones who lose in the end.

“The myth is that streaming will help get your music worldwide,” Powell said. “The likelihood of that is very low for many musicians. There just isn’t a mechanism in place for them to find any prosperity. If you were hungry or starving, you would eat anything; you’d do whatever it took to stay alive, and that’s what musicians have to do now.”

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

Austin PRIDE Week 2013 is finally here. We’ve compiled a list of the week’s go-to events so you can celebrate Austin’s LGBTQ community with plenty of sing-alongs and dance parties.



Get ready to suffer from a case of the giggles, because comedian Nadya Ginsburg will be performing her solo show, Madonnalogues. Based on her hilarious Madonnalogues webisodes, Ginsburg takes on famous lady personas from Madonna to Cher to Winona Ryder. These grade-A impressions breathe new life into over-the-top quirks like Madonna’s phony-baloney accent and an imaginary feud between Cher and her “Burlesque” co-star Christina Aguilera.

When: Doors open at 7 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m.

Where: Spider House Ballroom

Costs: $15 in advance, $20 at the door



“Mean Girls” Quote-Along 

“You go, Glen Coco!” Would any of us really pass up the chance to sing Kevin G.’s infamous holiday rap and shout, “She doesn’t even go here!” in a crowded movie theater? Nope, didn’t think so. Just make sure you don’t wear jeans or track pants because it’s not Friday, or else you can’t sit with us.

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Alamo Drafthouse Ritz

Costs: $12


Way Gay Sing-Along

Come for “Mean Girls” and stick around for the Way Gay Sing-Along. In what is promised to be the “gayest and most dance-worthy sing-along ever,” you can party the night away to music videos from the likes of Madonna, Britney Spears and Wham!

When: 9:45 p.m.

Where: Alamo Drafthouse Ritz

Costs: $12



Werk! - Fashion Show

The fierceness of everything happening at this fashion show is hard to communicate. Project Runway contestants Mychael Knight, Daniel Esquivel and season three winner Jeffrey Sebelia will present some sick looks. To top off all of that amazingness, RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Raja will be emceeing the entire night. 

When: Doors open at 7 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m.

Where: AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center Grand Ballroom

Costs: $30



PRIDE Festival 

Saturday’s a big day for PRIDE Week festivities with the PRIDE Festival. Like country music? Country cutie and “All-American Boy” singer Steve Grand will be there. Anxiously awaiting the sixth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race?” Delectable drag performances from Shangela, Raja and Shannel will keep your withdrawals at bay. Eat, drink and be merry all while supporting the LGBTQ community of Austin.

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Where: Fiesta Gardens

Costs: $20 cash at the door


Group wedding

Prepare to have some seriously fuzzy-wuzzy warm feelings and break out the tissues, because The Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin is performing a symbolic group wedding to kick off the Pride Parade. If the beauty and emotion of a wedding ceremony isn’t enough to convince you to get yourself to the Paramount, there will also be a dance party, and no one can turn down a dance party. 

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Congress Avenue, in front of Paramount Theatre

Costs: Free


PRIDE Parade

Finish Saturday night with the downtown PRIDE Parade. This year’s theme is “LOVE UNITES,” so get ready to enjoy a whole lot of love and joy marching through Austin’s streets. Love unites us all, and that’s a beautiful thing.

When: 8 p.m.

Where: Congress Avenue and Fourth Street

Costs: Free

Photo Credit: Jessica Lynn Duong | Daily Texan Staff

Madonna’s age looms large over her latest album, MDNA. At 53, she has remained relevant (despite protests from her critics to the contrary) in the world of entertainment where celebrities are edged out before you can say “Miley.”

However, on the album, her age does not matter in the wake of the ageist responses that surrounded her Super Bowl performance, which expressed bewilderment that she’s still dancing and singing pop music. No, her three decades in the pop music gives the album a sense of heft. She brings her psyche in all its perfections to MDNA, a pop album willing to try anything and get away with it — something that could only be accomplished by a woman who’s seen and just about done it all.

With that, MDNA has a number of references to Madonna’s vault of past hits, like “Lucky Star” or the lightweight first single “Gimme All Your Luvin.” But musically, the album is tailor-made for the pop music of now. Benny Benassi, Martin Solveig and William Orbit, who produced her critically acclaimed Ray of Light over a decade ago, contributed to the album.

Thumping bass and whirling Ibiza electrobeats pulsate on the second single “Girl Gone World” over a monosyllable-heavy chorus (He-ey, -ey, -ey) while the synths swirl to a bouncy, soaring melody on “Turn Up on the Radio.” These songs, along with a handful of others, are produced for maximum radio impact, the kind of songs Madonna has successfully made since 1983’s “Holiday.”

But they feel derivative, from the dubstep breakdowns to rap guest appearances, a grasp for an inch of space in a time when Katy Perry rules supreme. Only “Gang Bang” in its shrouding, dark beats and provocative lyrics about murder scintillates and surprises listeners.

The Orbit-produced second half of MDNA is when the album finally transforms itself into something a bit more profound without losing its pop sensibilities. Her divorce from director Guy Ritchie permeates the songs.

On “Love Spent,” against jumbling Eastern strings and winding electronic blips, she wonders, “I guess if I was your treasury, you’d have the time to treasure me,” a reference to the millions Ritchie received after the divorce. Her reflections are the messy thoughts of a single mom (who just happens to be a celebrity and millionaire). Album highlight “Falling Free” clears away the dance floor and puts away the autotune for soaring strings as Madonna sings, “When I let loose the need to know, I’m free to go.”

Throughout her thirty-year career, Madonna has realized the power of pop music to reveal or evoke. She doesn’t forget that on MDNA, utilizing the dance floor as her confessional once more.

Madonna's "Gimme All Your Luvin'" Official Video

Editor's Note: This video contains explicit content.

Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: 'MDNA' proves Madonna's relevance

Katy Perry - ‘Part of Me’

Though her last single, “The One that Got Away,” was eerily timed with the announcement of her split from Russell Brand and the tabloid speculation of her shock and sadness, it seems Perry has gotten way over it and released this break-up anthem, “Part of Me.” She sings in her usually shrill vocals that he can “keep the wedding ring. In fact, you can keep everything (yeah, yeah) except me.” Get it, girl.

Producer Dr. Luke doesn’t stray from the formula that gives the duo five No. 1 singles (now six). In fact, you can hear parts of “California Gurls,” “The One that Got Away” and “Teenage Dream” melded into this pop machine of a song. Insufferably reductive? Sure. Painfully addicting? You betcha.

Nicki Minaj - ‘Starships’

Before the release of Nick Minaj’s “Starships,” the latest single off her yet-to-be-released Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, you can assume the conversation between her and the record executives went similar to this: “While we appreciate the frank honesty of ‘Stupid Hoe,’ we’d love to hear another ‘Super Bass.’ So fun — and so successful! If you don’t have any inspiration, take a listen to some LMFAO and Katy Perry.”

Although “Stupid Hoe” was aggravating and annoying, at least it felt genuine. This mess, on the other hand, feels like Minaj turning into yet another alter ego: the record executive drone. The beats are stale, the lyrics cliche. Maybe “Super Bass” was a fluke, but at least preserve the pop sanctity of it by not trying to repeat it.

Usher - ‘Climax’

Knowing Usher’s predilection for bedroom slow jams and the title of his latest single, “Climax,” this song didn’t appear to be anything more than R&B sexy-time jam. But Usher pulled a fast one on listeners and has somehow managed to stay ahead of the curve. A complete 180 degree turn from the Euro-trash of “OMG,” “Climax” drenches itself in the slow, dubstep-inflicted synths of James Blake and The Weeknd.
It’s a smart move for him, as the dance craze wanes down. However, more importantly, it works damn well. Usher’s smooth falsetto, crooning for a lover to stay against the icy beats goes down like a good drink.

Madonna - ‘Girl Gone Wild’

Despite the huge hype of her Super Bowl performance and worldwide radio release that preceded Madonna’s first single “Give Me All You Luvin,” the song has all but disappeared from consciousness after the Super Bowl. For an entertainer that thrives on cultural relevancy (in the best way possible), it was likely a big scare, explaining the rush release of second single, “Girl Gone Wild.”

And oh dear. Against a four-on-the-floor beat heard time and time again from Benny Benassi, Madonna unconvincingly sings, “I’ve got that burning hot fire” in paper-thin and high vocals. Madonna proved with 2005’s Confessions on a Dance Floor that she could still groove even with Euro-dance beats. Apparently, she now equates fun with stupidity, reaching the for the lowest common denominator. Where she once commanded listeners to Vogue, she’s now picking leftovers from Deadmau5’s musical trashcan.

Published on Tuesday February 28, 2012 as: Nicki, Madonna sound stale, Usher impressses with single

Rihanna is horny and gets right into the action on her sixth album in as many years, Talk That Talk.

Apparently, “S&M” and “Rude Boy” were mere foreplay.

Following in the footsteps of the sexualized pop albums of Madonna’s Erotica and Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope, Talk That Talk is just plain down and dirty. On “Cockiness (Love It),” Rihanna, in her most dominating tone, chants “I love it when you eat it” before demanding, “Suck my cockiness and lick my persuasion.” Under a Bangladesh-produced beat that pilfers South-Asian rhythm, the song scintillates. She shows a tad bit more restraint on “Birthday Cake,” which features every possible dessert innuendo stuffed into 90 seconds. And for those who may need a little bit more help, Rihanna offers a how-to on “Watch n’ Learn” telling that “just because I can’t kiss back doesn’t mean you can’t kiss that.”

However, unlike those aforementioned albums, which sought hypersexual lyrics as a path to self-discovery, Talk that Talk has no other end but sex. Like the video for first single, “We Found Love,” the album is all smoke screens, aiming for meaning through the superficiality of calculated, shocking imagery. It gets to the general problem with Rihanna: Despite a long list of No. 1 hits that rival Madonna and Mariah Carey’s records, she continues to be a cipher, a perfect conduit for trends from Caribbean girl-next-door to edgy good girl to now clubbing sex kitten without any lasting impression.

Her aims at warmth and feeling on tracks like, “We All Want Love” and “Farewell” fail because of Rihanna’s lack of vocal charisma, let alone talent. Of course, Rihanna can still bring the big-priced producers who can be counted on to crank out hits. “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been” sparkle with their sweet, simple lyrics and relentless Ibiza-inspired beats. And at moments, Rihanna brings energy when allowed to exhibit a freewheeling, laid back attitude, such as on second single “You Da One.”

But for a singer who has been in the business this long and who has actually released an album of surprising maturity in Rated R, Rihanna should know better than to produce an album so indistinct and even at 37 minutes, with so much filler. For all her posturing on album covers and fashion magazines as an edgy trendsetter, Rihanna continues to produce music that talks the talk without walking the walk.  

Printed on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 as: Sixth album fails to impress, excite

Lady Gaga’s bad romance just got a bit more sinful. “Judas,” the second single off the soon-to-be-released Born This Way takes the melody of “Bad Romance” and adds religious controversy as any wannabe Madonna should. Instead of screams of “ra, ra, ah, ah, ah,” Lady Gaga cries “Judas, ah, ah, ah!” Instead of the Euro-tinged industrial beats, producer RedOne mixes in tribal drums and New Wave influences. Already inciting controversy over Gaga’s worship of the devil, the song uses Judas as an analogy for a deceitful lover and brings absolutely no subversive value to the song. While “Judas” is sinfully delicious as a pop single and hits harder than “Born this Way,” maybe we just went a little bit too gaga over Gaga. The single exposes the innate stupidity of Gaga’s music.

Continuing the chill phase of their career, Radiohead released “Supercollider” on April 16 for Record Store Day. For its entire seven minutes, the song has about as much movement as lava. Built around glitchy electronics and synthesized piano chords, “Supercollider” describes particles smashing into one another. There is an eerie quality beneath the song with Thom Yorke’s echoing lyrics. Though “Supercollider” has a pulse greater than half of their latest album, King of Limbs, that is not saying much. Damn, what happened to the Kid A days when the band had a bit more urgency?

Far removed from the buzz that surrounded their arrival onto the music scene four years ago, The Arctic Monkeys feel free to experiment on “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair,” the first single off of their upcoming album Suck It & See. The band abandons their sugary, hook-heavy Brit-rock sound for heavy, clanging ’90s-tinged rock. Lead singer Alex Turner does his best Eddie Vedder with his deep, foreboding vocals while the guitar chord rollicks along to a Clash-inspired melody. The Arctic Monkeys have moved on from being cute British boys to the rebellious teenagers trying and successfully growing up.