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Though an integral part of search engine optimization, the world of hashtags is so cluttered and complex, finding ones that are actually effective can be a struggle. Here are three tools for making that process easier.
Guest Post by Bobby Owsinski on Music 3.0
When it comes to many social media platforms, hashtags are the bread and butter of organic SEO. Finding the ones that work is always a challenge, but a number of websites can help you along the way. Here are 3 that I’ve found to be especially good.
1. Hashtagify.me. This is one of my favorites. Just search for a hashtag and Hashtagify.me will show you its popularity as well as other connected keywords and their relevancy (see the graphic below). It also shows the latest trending hashtags, influencers who use the hashtag, and the latest tweets.
2. Topsy. Topsy is a great tool to check on the popularity of a hashtag. It will give you the number of people who have used it in a tweet in increments from a day to a month as well as a sentiment score. There’s also a trends chart so you can see if there are certain days when the hashtag seems to be working the best.
3. Twitter Advanced Search. I’ve always been big on a basic Twitter search at search.twitter.com, but its Advanced Search takes it to the next level. It allows you to zero in on a keyword phrase, a URL, a person, place or date and see the latest trends and tweets.
The next time you’re going to post anything that uses a hashtag, check it out on a couple of these sites to see how powerful it is or find an alternative. It could mean the difference between someone reading your post or not.
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Kanye West made waves during Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards when he capped off his 13-minute acceptance speech by announcing his plan to run for president of the United States in 2020.
Since then, comparisons between West and GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump have abounded. As Jimmy Kimmel pointed out in a recent video, they do have at least a few things in common, like bombast, a deep desire to be liked and an obsession with media ratings.
A market research firm even got a head start on polling for West’s 2020 bid, and found that Trump would beat West in a hypothetical election held today.
What does Trump think of all this? Rolling Stone got a chance to ask the presidential candidate during an exclusive sit-down interview at his offices in Trump Tower Tuesday. It turns out Trump is a big Kanye fan (these days, at least), and believes the feeling is mutual: “He’s said very nice things about me in the past… extremely positive things,” said the candidate, noting that he doesn’t “quite get” the comparisons between the two of them.
He also thinks he might’ve inspired West: “I was actually watching, I saw him [announce his candidacy on the VMAs], and I said, ‘That’s very interesting. I wonder who gave him that idea?'”
“He’s actually a different kind of person than people think. He’s a nice guy,” Trump said of West. “I hope to run against him someday.”
SoulCycle, the increasingly popular spin-class-meets-dance-party fitness company’s integral use of music in their business is calling into question whether or not the traditional “general licensing” method currently being used by PROs is really the best option.
Guest Post by Andrew Sparkler on Medium
At this year’s SXSW, SoulCycle teamed up with Spotify and some of their favorite DJs at what was dubbed as “an epic music and movement experience.” While the popular fitness club’s trip to Austin underscores the importance of music to its business, it is unclear if the music business is spinning to the same beat.
SoulCycle, launched in 2006, is now filing for an IPO. Its business is primarily based on offering a high intensity spin class led by an instructor who also serves as a DJ. Take a class, glance at their website or read their S-1 filing and it is clear that music is perhaps as essential to their business as the bikes themselves.
SoulCycle’s SEC filing characterizes its product as a “carefully curated ‘cardio party’ [that] is fueled by the personalities of our instructors, their uniquely crafted musical playlists and the energy of the room” and says that “[w]ith inspirational coaching and high-energy music, SoulCycle was created to strengthen both the mind and the body.” Their instructors go as far as to claim that music “is the most important part of what we do at SoulCycle.”
Like other growing fitness movements that actively incorporate music, SoulCycle is licensed by ASCAP and BMI, the two largest U.S. performing rights organizations (“PROs”). The fees they pay fall under “general licensing,” an umbrella classification used by the PROs to cover bars, restaurants, hotels, concert venues, sports arenas and other businesses not classified as television, radio or new media.
General licensing has long accounted for a meaningful share of annual PRO collections. In their respective 2013 annual reports, ASCAP and BMI collected a combined $1.88 billion of which $226 million was attributed to general licensing. This is in stark contrast to the less than $90 million collected from new media licenses in that same period.
And yet the debate these days surrounding PROs is almost entirely focused on their efforts to license websites, streaming music services and other businesses classified as “new media.” While no one questions the growth trajectory of digital services, the jury is still out on whether consent-decree bound PROs are best positioned to represent songwriters and their publishers in this arena.
General licensing, on the other hand, is an area where the PROs have a clear competitive advantage over both music publishers and potential new market entrants. To ensure that they retain this line of business the PROs should pay close attention to how they are managing this overlooked, yet lucrative income stream. A quick review of the licensing and distribution methods surrounding SoulCycle illustrates opportunities across the broader category.
Licensing Fee Structure
As part of its filing, SoulCycle listed total revenues of almost $112 million in 2014 based on 36 existing locations, with projected 2015 revenues of closer to $140 million. The filing predicts an expansion to 250 locations in the near future and thus, if per location revenue of $3.1M holds, the company is expecting annual revenues of at least $775 million. Not only is revenue growing rapidly, but the company’s profit margins (23% in 2014) were described as “fat” in a recent New York Times article.
Currently, BMI’s music license for fitness clubs states that the maximum fee for a gym like this shall not exceed $2,123 per year. This fee represents .01% (that’s 1% of 1%) of a single location’s class revenue alone, barely a rounding error. Surely, this is an unusually low fee for “the most important part” of what they do.
At ASCAP, they also license SoulCycle and other fitness clubs on a flat fee, per location. While rates increase according to an inflation index, they do not take into consideration the premium fees paid by a SoulCycle member or the direct nexus of music and exercise at these facilities as opposed to background music heard at a more traditional health club or gym.
More broadly, looking at several different sources, fitness center revenue has increased over 104% in the US between 2000 and 2014, far outpacing domestic inflation, which has grown only 48% during that same period.
Incredibly, SoulCycle has demonstrated even more impressive growth than the average health club — 108% from 2012 to 2013 (revenue of $36 million and $75 million, respectively) and another 49% from 2013 to 2014 ($75 million and $112 million, respectively).
With respect to distribution, the procedures used by the PROs today are perhaps as inadequate as the licensing fees themselves. While technology makes it possible to track every song actually performed in any given spin class, general licensing revenues are not distributed with this data. Rather, the money received is put into a larger pool, and mostly distributed using a number of inaccurate proxies such as a sample of television and radio performances that overwhelmingly favors “Top 40” hits.
The genesis of this allocation makes sense if you consider that, at the time this licensing category was originally created, there was no cheap, reliable method to track general licensing. Today, several companies, such as the tech start-up Music Play Analytics, are producing inexpensive, unobtrusive and simple song identification technology on a B2B basis. Requiring chain-wide music usage reports, in an easily digestible format, is hardly a burden to either party.
Apart from fitness clubs, many retailers, restaurants, hotels and other general licensees are increasingly personalizing their music offerings. This results in more songs from niche genres getting more exposure than ever before. And nowhere is this truer than at SoulCycle where they have whole classes devoted to a specific artist, DJ or theme (like 90s hip-hop or 70’s funk). Continuing to distribute these license fees by following a homogenized pop radio chart defies logic and underserves the vast majority of PRO affiliate songwriters and publishers.
It’s important to note that SoulCycle is not necessarily a “bad actor” here. They are simply paying the bill that is sent to them by the PROs. It is the responsibility of those organizations to realize the economic realities of this cultural phenomenon and increase their rates accordingly.
Of course, increasing fitness club revenues and improving distribution accuracy are not a panacea for the PROs, but they do represent actionable items that would make a very meaningful difference to songwriters. Thankfully, the new leadership of both ASCAP and BMI have publicly stated their intent to innovate. But in order for them to thrive in this fiercely competitive environment, perhaps both organizations can clip in and start peddling along a bit faster.
Andrew Sparkler is the Vice President of Business Affairs and Operations forDowntown Music Publishing. He previously served as ASCAP’s Vice President, Business and Membership Affairs and began his career as an attorney at Schulte Roth & Zabel. Sparkler is a graduate of Brown University and Fordham University School of Law.
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The Dominican music star continues to inform with his high-brow poeticism and merengue with a message. Charles de Ledesma examines his impressive career…
After studying jazz composition at Berklee in Boston in the early 80s, Juan Luis Guerra’s debut release was Soplando (1985), a jazz-imbued set of merengue fusions with virtuoso saxophone playing. Rather lost on local ears, he was encouraged to focus solely on merengue proper, which the top star of the time, arranger and trumpeter Wilfrido Vargas, had helped make less insular. Consequently Guerra marshalled influences ranging from the Beatles, to American folk, R&B and traditional Dominican modes, and applied his strong tenor voice and flexible guitar work to develop a new merengue balancing fast tempos and busy backline horn work, with softer, slower traditional song. Guerra’s elegant lyricism leads scholar Raymond Torres-Santos to observe that ‘[he] created a merengue which he qualifies as music for the feet as much as for the head; that is, a merengue for dancing but also for listening and thinking.’
Guerra’s first classic Ojalá Que Llueva Café (1989) featured fast, merengue típico – full of virtuoso accordion, a scrapping guira, tambora drum and vaulting saxophone – and love ballads, which, although drawing on Cuban bolero and Mexican ranchera, immediately sounded his own. The title-track, which translates as ‘Let’s Hope it Rains Coffee’ is, as Julie Sellers suggests in Merengue and Dominican Identity, ‘a social criticism of the conditions (in the coffee fields) endured by rural Dominicans.’ The lyrics call not just for the weather and soil in these areas to improve but for living conditions to rise as well.
This emphasis on merengue with a message – whether that be cultural, political or emotional – lies at the core of Guerra’s 90s work. On Bachata Rosa’s ‘Reforestame’ he makes a foray into environment commentary, while on an earlier tune, ‘Guavaberry’, as merengue scholar Paul Austerlitz suggests, ‘Guerra speaks of the regional customs of cocolos – Dominicans of Anglophone Caribbean descent… who remained on the margins of Dominican-ness… after their arrival in the country in the 19th century.’ Then, on the moving ‘Visa Para un Sueño’ (Visa for a Dream), he portrays the bleak situation of many poor Dominicans who, facing poverty, applied for an exit visa at the capital’s US embassy and almost always faced refusal.
Guerra’s foremost social action statement is Areito (1992) – the title referring to rituals performed by the island’s now extinct indigenes, the Taíno. The final song ‘Naboria Daca Mayanimacana’, which some have called the unofficial anthem of the Taíno ‘indigenous resurgence’, is a true triumph, a blistering lament to the early inhabitants, sung with aching feeling in a dialect that approximates the now fossilised Taíno language.
Areito also includes ‘El Costo de la Vida’ (The Cost of Living), which remains a live set favourite. Over a driving soukous guitar hook, accordion flourishes, a nifty tres line, blistering horn arpeggios and chorus refrains, Guerra hits out at the period’s faltering economy, commonly blamed on corruption and inefficiency, while on ‘Si Saliera Petroléo’ (If We Struck Oil) he critiques the dependency on corporate oil in a strong vocal shared with the like-minded elder statesman of Latin protest song, the Panamanian Rubén Blades. The album’s anti-colonial and anti-capitalist hits led it to be banned in several countries that worried that it could offend the US.
As the 90s continued, with increasing numbers of Dominicans now managing to emigrate, merengue grew in stature and range, often sweeping the Latin dance floor as an exuberant, hotter alternative to generic salsa and cumbia. Guerra’s 1994 album Fogaraté, with its lighter mood, musical virtuosity and African fusions, captured the zeitgeist perfectly. Co-produced with the Congo’s Diblo Dibala, soukous guitars and customary baritone ululations worked strikingly well alongside merengue típico tunes like the memorable ‘La Cosquillita’ (The Little Tickle) with quick-fire accordion from Francisco Ulloa, and a witty, double entendre lyric.
No assessment of Guerra would be complete without mentioning bachata, a kind of Dominican blues that privileges virtuoso guitar work and plaintive, often whining vocals. Indeed Guerra’s early album Bachata Rosa – his biggest hit with around five million sales – helped shine a much-needed spotlight on a song form that emerged in the 60s as a rivetingly powerful mode and, today, exceeds merengue in popularity.
Guerra’s best bachatas from this period – ‘Burbujas de Amor’ and ‘Bachata Rosa’ – are in fact less reflective of the emerging mature bachata form illustrated by Luis Vargas, Anthony Santos and Raulín Rodríguez, and have more in common with the generic pan-Latin ballada. However, later attempts such as ‘Bachata en Fukuoka’ (2010), and ‘Tus Besos’, a mega-hit from the most recent album Todo Tiene su Hora (2014), caught bachata’s sensuous power perfectly. ‘Tus Besos’ has the added charm of a doo-wop style refrain.
Juan Luis Guerra is arguably a quintessential example of a ‘creative classicist,’ bestriding two great modes in Latin music: the crisply arranged, perfectly poised dance track and the emotion-wringing ballad. Twinning a strong knowledge of the Dominican Republic’s rather secret and hauntingly sweet ballada tradition with merengue’s hot and triumphant Hispanic Caribbean rhythms, Guerra continues to be an artist on a mission – bringing his sweet blend of hits to concert halls around the world. We hope it rains coffee for him.
Guerra’s fourth release, which catapulted him into a household name in the Dominican Republic, with a perfect title-track, social issues on ‘Razones’ and a storming típico in ‘Reina Mia’.
Renowned for helping promote the often maligned but exquisite local style bachata, and the one that broke Guerra internationally. ‘Burbujas de Amor’ is much-loved in the romantico camp.
This is Guerra’s classic social action album, which promoted indigenous Taíno culture on moving hymns with palos drumming balanced by storming dance numbers and the top ballad, ‘Frio Frio’.
Invited guests on this album include soukous guitarist Diblo Dibala and accordionist Francisco Ulloa who both excel.
(Capital Latin, 2010)
This is a tour de force of a Latin style showcase with salsa, son, mambo and bachata holding place alongside an excellent orchestra and merengue típicos.
This article originally appeared in Songlines #109.