The Lucrative Business of Vinyl Resale

The Lucrative Business of Vinyl Resale

Record Stores Cash in on Victoria’s Vinyl Resurgence

Originally published in CVV Magazine on April 15, 2016

Underneath Victoria, the sleepy island city known best for its plethora of all-day brunch spots, its thriving beer and medical marijuana industries, and its booming tech sector, there is a new trend bubbling up that is a little, er… less progressive. The 2000s are over, CDs are dead—and people are buying used records again.

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Ditch Records

Records have been coming back for a few years now. Particularly in smaller cities, people take life a little slower, and tend to have more time for their hobbies and collections. Most importantly, people actually want a physical form to listen to music, whether its CDs or old cassettes to play in their car or a slab of vinyl on the record player at home. With the majority of music going to online streaming services, more people are turning to vinyl because they want a tangible form to enhance the experience of listening to music—and to have their own collections to show off and share with family and friends.

Michael Cline is the owner of Vinyl Envy, Victoria’s newest record store, opening one year ago on April 1st, 2015. Cline has capitalized on the upward trend of record sales, opening a niche-market store in a year where people were once seemingly all going to go digital. “There’s people that gave it up, and sold all their vinyl or gave it away 20 years ago because they weren’t playing it and [the industry] changed over to CDs, and now they go, ‘I kind of miss the whole vinyl thing and I want to get back to where I was before,’” he says. “And so they come into the store buying their old collection all over again.” In fact, 2015 might have been the biggest year for record sales since its resurgence, with more people buying used records than ever before.

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The Turntable

Gary Anderson is the owner of The Turntable in Fan Tan Alley, a local vinyl institution that will have been in the same location for 30 years this September. “I’d say [record sales] have gone up 15 or 20 percent for me in the last year,” he says. “What we’ve seen is basically the demise of vinyl through the 80s and 90s, watching that die out, and then watching CDs grow, the popularity of that, and now watching records [come] back, watching vinyl, so that’s pretty big in the industry to be around long enough to see those items go in and out of favour,” he says. Anderson reckons that last year was the biggest peak he’s seen in 20 years of selling records. “From 7 years ago we started noticing a slight increase in people buying [records], he says. “I think last year could have been a peak, because this year’s not the same as last year.”

Ernie Brach is Anderson’s right-hand man, and handles most of the sales, and he disagrees. “I can’t say it has [levelled off], it is at the moment,” he says. “Last year was busier than this year was, but it’s also this time of year. I’ll be able to say later in the summer, but I don’t think it has,” he says. The vinyl craze sweeping the city is evident in The Turntable’s small store, which is packed with customers browsing the impressive collection on a Thursday afternoon.

The vinyl resurgence is further exemplified by record events such as International Record Store Day, which happens every year on April 16th, and features specialty releases and one-offs. A more locally-focused event is the semi-annual Vinyl Supernova record fair at the Fernwood Community Centre, which draws stores like The Turntable and private collectors alike from all over the island. I caught up with the event’s organizer Ryan Wugalter ahead of this year’s first event on March 26th to discuss some of the changes he’s made this year in response to its increase in popularity in 2015.

“The vintage market was an idea I’d had for a while as a way to attract even more people to the event,” he says. “I’m not sure if it’ll be a permanent change, but I wanted to try it at least once because I have a bunch of contacts in the vintage world. Next time, instead of the vintage market, I might fill the upstairs space with records too and see how that goes,” he says. Hundreds of people flooded the Fernwood Community Centre on the Easter long weekend to browse the predominantly classic rock vendor collections, or to search out specific rarities missing from their own collections.

As Michael Cline says of the experience of opening a brand new store, “that’s the fun of the store, is getting people the collections that they want.” Cline says he’ll often do research and hunt down specific records for regular customers if they can’t find what they’re looking for in the store. “My niche is kind of being able to get people what they want in a collection, but also turn them onto things that they might not have heard of before,” he says. Though he carries many genres including indie, hip-hop, and electronic, he says he tries to buy based on his own knowledge, and carries a lot of classic rock and deep catalogue jazz and blues.

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Vinyl Envy

Even with newer records, there aren’t nearly as many being made as there were back in the 1960s and 70s. “Led Zeppelin records, they made millions of them,” says Brach, “so a certain number have survived to be in good shape, [but] now they’re only making thousands of [popular new records].”

“The industry is very healthy, as long as the major record labels don’t get too greedy,” says Cline. “At this point its being done in about 25 or 30 presses around the world, and they’re running at probably 85 or 90 percent capacity,” he says. “There’s also no new equipment being made—[so] they’re making their own machine shops inside of their pressing plants because they have to make new parts. It’s crazy,” he says.

Anderson agrees that the prices of new records are at a point of becoming dangerously high. “It’s greed,” he says. “Unfortunately the record companies seem to be hell bent on blowing up the industry again.”

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Vinyl Supernova photo by Pete Moore

“As long as vinyl has been around, people have been collecting it,” says Wugalter. “Digital music is more convenient but it definitely isn’t as fun as vinyl. People of a certain generation like “things,” they like to hold them and look at them and buy them. I think that as time goes on and that generation dies out, less people will be interested in vinyl, but not because it’s vinyl, but because it’s a “thing,”” he says. “This is sort of a hey-day for people who never stopped collecting LPs through the years of cassettes and compact discs. They are cashing in big-time and I’m pleased to have created an event that can help them along in that.”

“Last year we were in uncharted territory monetarily,” says Anderson. “I actually have a bank account now. I’ve never had one before, because I just fly by the seat of my pants,” he says. “Sometimes you have to think outside of the box in order to stay alive.” But what he says he doesn’t understand is how new reissues of old records are now being sold for more than the originals themselves.

“Actually the money’s in the old records,” says Cline, who sells both new and used records in his store. “We all make roughly the same margin on the new stuff, it’s all in the same ballpark because we have to be competitive,” he says. “Everybody knows their records well enough and there’s not that many [record stores] in town.”

“We can’t tell what this year’s going to be like because unfortunately more stores have opened up that are selling vinyl,” says Anderson, referring to Cline’s Vinyl Envy and the vintage clothing stores that have started selling records in the past year. He says it will be fine “as long as the big box stores don’t start threatening to sell vinyl,” though.

“Whatever gets more people talking about [vinyl], thinking about it, and doing it more is beneficial to all,” says Brach. “It’s the hot thing right now, and we’ve been through good years, bad years, all sorts of years,” he says. “Last year was a very good year for us, and if this year’s even just 90 percent of that it will be a good year again.”

“I started [Vinyl Supernova] in November 2013 and I’ve just seen bigger and bigger crowds attending,” says Wugalter. He says that the resurgence of vinyl in Victoria has only helped to get more people interested in the event.

Cline, who’s relatively new to the industry by comparison, is just having fun with it. “I’m lucky that I can purchase what I want and play it in the store,” he says. “I don’t see it as a sales job at all, it’s more like, you need to hear this, this is really good!”

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Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly on display at Ditch Records

The vinyl resurgence in Victoria is having an impact on everything from used record sales, which are up by more than 15 percent, according to Anderson, to independent live music in the city, which is showcased at weekly concerts in Cline’s Vinyl Envy store on Quadra. And while a few major record labels currently control the production of vinyl, the future looks promising with new technology being developed that could allow bands to press their own records cheaply at home. “I think we can see another 8 or 10 years here of records being sold,” says Anderson.

Certainly, the vinyl craze in Victoria doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.

“By doing this, I’ve learned that it isn’t really that complex,” says Wugalter. “The people who come to record fairs want one thing: records, lots of records, more records than they can possibly browse through! I’ve learned that as long as I continue to fill the room with records, the people will continue to come. At least for now…”

Click here for more info about Record Store Day 2016

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Freshly Squeezed’s 20 Best Albums of 2015

Freshly Squeezed’s 20 Best Albums of 2015

20. Bjork: Vulnicurahomepage_large.9ee25a14

Bjork’s vulnerable, honest self-portrait on Vulnicura detailed her breakup with longtime partner Matthew Barney, but its scope and breadth of sound make it much more than that. Bjork is a musical genius; socially and consciously relevant in 2015 as she rallied for women’s equality in music and stood up against climate change. However, Vulnicura finds her at her most emotionally raw.

homepage_large.eb62616b19. Mac DeMarco: Another One

Ahh, Mac DeMarco. He won our hearts last year with Salad Days (pronounced Sah-laad days) and is back again already with Another One. Also in 2015: DeMarco directed and appeared in a number of bizarre web videos and released Some Other OnesWatch him dance, grab himself, and play guitar in a creepy Michael Jackson mask in the video for “Another One:”

url18. CHVRCHES: Every Open Eye

CHVRCHES built on their unique brand of modern synth-pop showcased on 2013’s The Bones Of What You Believe for Every Open Eye, reaching soaring new heights. Lauren Mayberry and co. also stoop up for women’s rights, slammed Donald Trump, and defended their right to be seen as a band in the past year, despite Mayberry’s burgeoning stardom.

homepage_large.7389418117. Major Lazer: Peace Is The Mission

Major Lazer’s “Lean On” was everywhere this summer, but there’s more to Peace Is The Mission than just that. Features with Wild Belle, Ellie Goulding, Travi$ Scott, and Chronixx made for other highlights on a diverse album that showed off Diplo’s range and unique production style with Jillionaire and Walshy Fire, and soundtracked the beginning of the summer.

url-116. D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Black Messiah

Technically released at the end of 2014, Black Messiah was too late for the end of year lists last year, coming as a complete surprise and marking D’Angelo’s return after 14 years since 2000’s Voodoo. “Really Love” is now up for a Grammy, and Black Messiah has been hailed as a triumph, its influence on black music over the past year undeniable.

15. Miguel: Wildhearturl-2

Miguel’s Wildheart cements the singer’s sex symbol status, but the arrangements are luscious and diverse, making use of a wide range of production styles, such as funk, R&B, and alt-rock. Album highlights include “Coffee,” “Waves,” and “Simplethings,” but Wildheart is an album to throw on for a party, a chill Friday night, or just a good time.

homepage_large.04db1a4514. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment: Surf

Chance The Rapper has had a busy year. When he hasn’t been talking to high school students, promoting his anti-violence and “Warmest Winter” initiatives, or being a father, he’s been collaborating, and on Surf he puts his fellow artists ahead of himself, resulting in a truly collaborative project which fuses great music with a bit of star power. Still, we can’t wait to see what he does next.

url-313. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell is a hauntingly beautiful depiction of death. Nostalgic, evocative, and heartbreaking, it details Stevens’ relationship with his mother and stepfather. “Death with Dignity” and “Should Have Known Better” are just the portal into Stevens’ family portrait on Carrie & Lowell, which traverses both time and space.

homepage_large.c5d9fc4f12. Panda Bear: Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

The various members of Animal Collective were all fairly active this year, but Panda Bear’s Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper was the project that stood out most as a development of what AC were doing on Centipede Hz. Lennox now lives in Portugal, and his cosmopolitan brand of experimental pop is a natural segue from AC’s previous work to what’s coming next.

homepage_large.97efc20311. Vince Staples: Summertime ’06

Socially conscious, biting, and abrasive, Vince Staples has been hailed as the leader of the new generation of gangsta rap. On Summertime ’06 he fleshes out hooks like “I ain’t never ran from nothin’ but the police” with hard-hitting bars and sharped-edged lyricism. But there’s a lot more to Vince Staples than first meets the eye. Best Music Video of 2015.

homepage_large.283a416f10. Hot Chip: Why Make Sense?

Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense? took soaring singles “Hurache Lights” and “Need You Now” and based a whole album around that retro-modern sound. Hot Chip look to the tradition of artists like Bruce Springsteen and LCD Soundsystem in order to place themselves within the canon of the great electronic bands of the past, and on Why Make Sense? they do just that.

9. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just SitSIJS-2400

Clever and quick-witted, Courtney Barnett has become known as Australia’s indie-rock goofball. However, on Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, Barnett (sometimes) broaches heavier topics, such as environmental threats to the Great Barrier Reef. But she always keeps her distance, never letting on a firm stance. Thus, Sometimes (often comically) explores a large range of contemporary topics.

8. Mark Ronson: Uptown Specialhomepage_large.7045d945

There is more to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special than “Uptown Funk.” A lot more. A truly modern rock record, traversing funk, R&B, and psychedelic rock, Ronson’s sense of what works musically is impeccable. The features with Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow), Stevie Wonder, and Mystikal make for some of the best rock jams of the year, and make the album a remarkably fluid listen from start to finish.

7. Kurt Vile: b’lieve i’m goin down…homepage_large.5f30eab1

Kurt Vile’s b’lieve i’m goin down… opens with “Pretty Pimpin,” a 5 minute long, rollicking track that sets up the rest of the album in its self-aware depiction of the man behind it. “That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say),” “Life Like This,” and “Wild Imagination” are album highlights, but Vile lets you into his head on b’lieve i’m going down, and once you start listening, it will be hard to get it out of yours.

homepage_large.4a7f78fc6. Neon Indian: VEGA INTL. Night School

One of 2015’s most triumphant returns was Neon Indian, with VEGA INTL. Night School, Alan Palomo’s first release since 2011’s Era Extraña (remember “Polish Girl“?). Palomo’s chillwave sound is bigger, funkier, and grander on VEGA INTL. Night School, with catchy hits like “Annie” and the epic “Slumlord.” A very welcome return from one of chillwave’s finest.

homepage_large.8a2cb9945. Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear

What would we have done without Father John Misty in 2015? His wry social commentary, brilliant wit, and cynicism made for one of the best albums (possibly ever) about love and relationships in the 21st century. “Bored In The USA,” “The Ideal Husband,” and “True Affection” are just some of the titles thrown out that encapsulate the magnetic attraction of Father John.

4. Tame Impala: Currents04192b63

Tame Impala’s Currents is Kevin Parker’s biggest statement to date. On it, he takes everything that was central to the Tame Impala project and adapts it to the changes in his personal life, the expectation that has come with his burgeoning success, and the current changes to how we experience music-and blasts off into uncharted territory…

Read the full review here.

3. Grimes: Art Angelshomepage_large.59ef246f

Grimes burst onto the scene back in 2012 with Visions, an album that topped many year-end lists that year. Under enormous pressure, Claire Boucher released Art Angels this year to widespread critical acclaim. An album that takes an immense range of musical knowledge and production styles and distills it into Boucher’s signature brand of alt-pop, Art Angels is one of the most important albums ever made by a female producer.

2. Jamie xx: In Colourhomepage_large.8f09545c

Jamie xx is a master-sampler. On his solo debut, In Colour, he proves that he doesn’t need a band to create anthemic and ground-breaking electronic music. “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” takes a sample of The Persuasions’ “Good Times” and builds it up with Young Thug and Popcaan, while “Loud Places” samples Idris Muhammed’s “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This.” Certainly, listening to In Colour feels like being on a cloud.

homepage_large.d47a58801. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly

It should be no surprise that Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is topping virtually ever year-end list that has come out this year. Why?

The fact that there are still people out on the streets in some parts of the U.S. chanting “We gon be alright” in solidarity with the victims of police brutality is a testament to the power of music to enact social change. Lamar’s “Alright” has become an anthem for the anti-police movement in the United States in large part because it speaks to the universal…

Read the full think piece here.

Honourable Mentions

Best New Artist: Empress Of, Me

Best EP: FKA twigs, M3LL155X

Best Collaboration: Big Grams, Big Grams

Best Mixtape: Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone

Best Cat Album: Run the Jewels, Meow the Jewels

Female Producers Fight Stereotypes with Sound

Female Producers Fight Stereotypes with Sound

Gender Inequality in the Canadian Music Industry

Sitting across the table from Kyla LeBlanc, a local electronic artist known as Kytami, and her ten-year-old daughter at The Guild in downtown Victoria, I thought about the impact music industry stereotypes have on young girls. LeBlanc is an electronic musician and violinist extraordinaire—an unlikely combination of classical and electronic influences. “Do you want to go into music when you grow up?” I asked her daughter, Cypress. “No,” she said shyly, “I want to be a figure skater.”

Girls are now growing up in a society where hyper-sexualized depictions of women—in advertising, music videos, and popular culture generally—are commonplace. In the music industry in particular, it’s clear: sex still sells. But what are the effects of this on young girls and their ideas of what it means to be a woman in today’s society? We talk a lot about pornography and the desensitizing effect it has on young men, but what about the effect these constant images have on the minds of young women?

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“Sexuality is a big part of it,” said LeBlanc. “I really do think there’s a double-standard in the business, because you’re supposed to portray yourself as a sexual being, but maybe not really be one.”

Music is a lens through which to study culture. In the last few months, there have been countless articles written suggesting that 2014 was the year the music industry reached ‘peak ass’—that is, the year we saw more butts in music videos, hip-hop lyrics, and pop culture than ever before. Has the sexualization of the music industry pushed more women away from it, particularly if we already consider women to be a minority in popular cultural discourse?

The problem is that women have never really had a music of their own. Women are as much a minority in the music industry as they are in other entertainment industries, such as the film industry or the video game industry. The rise of electronic dance music, or EDM, over the last 15 years has only made the problem worse. And much like there aren’t very many well-known female film editors or video game designers, there aren’t a lot of women working behind the decks in the music industry as prominent DJs and producers.

Indeed, a quick count of the Wikipedia category for Canadian electronic musicians revealed that out of a total of 106 artists only 13 were female as recently as 2013—that’s just over 12.2%. However, this is beginning to change, as more female DJs and producers are now beginning to emerge.

Vancouver producer Tenley Horsman was walking with her older brother, Chase, one day when she decided to start producing her own electronic music. She was an engineering and computer science undergrad at UBC; he had just gotten out of sound engineering school, and had recently started producing music professionally for Premium Beat, a website that offers royalty free music to companies and individuals. Tenley was interested in producing some beats of her own that she could eventually sing over and turn into songs.

“You should do that, I think you’d really like it,” Chase had said to her, “There’s a science to it.”

Tenley had always been good with numbers, and had played piano her whole life, but only started writing and singing when she was 17. Now, at the age of 20, and recognizing that most of her peers in her engineering and computer science classes were male, she saw music production as something she could excel at.

“There are just no female producers out there really,” Chase had said to her. “It would be cool to try to do something different.”

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“I notice that there’s just not a lot of girls out there who produce their own stuff,” Horsman said in an interview a few months later. “It’s always like they’re featured on a song or they wrote it but it was produced by someone else.”

Chase had helped her to get cracked versions of Logic Pro, a Mac program for audio production, a bunch of plug-in applications, and had shown her the basics, and before long, Tenley was experimenting with the software on her own.

“I use Ableton now, but I started on Logic, and that was great, because I had a lot of help from Chase,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my brother, really, because he gave me all the supplies to do it.”

A few months ago, she started posting some of her downtempo, synth-washed tracks online under the name Lüthian, which have since been garnering quite a bit of attention on sites like Hype Machine and from independent music blogs. Her most recent track, a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Sara,” has now been listened to over 100,000 times on SoundCloud.

“If one person likes it that’s cool, and if a thousand people like it that’s awesome,” she said about her rising popularity. “I don’t want to get too wrapped up in [the numbers].” She says she hopes that if something good happens people will know it was her who did everything, “or at least that I tried to do it,” she said.

Tenley’s unique sound, and light and airy vocal style draws comparisons to Grimes, a Canadian artist and producer who has been outspoken on her views on feminism in the music industry, and whose forthcoming album due later this year promises to be a major popular music statement from a female electronic artist.

“I don’t want to have to compromise my morals in order to make a living,” she wrote on her Tumblr back in 2013, in what has since become a modern manifesto for feminism in the music industry. “I’m tired of men who aren’t professional or even accomplished musicians continually offering to ‘help me out’ (without being asked), as if I did this by accident and I’m gonna flounder without them. or as if the fact that I’m a woman makes me incapable of using technology,” she wrote. “I have never seen this kind of thing happen to any of my male peers.”

Music industry stereotypes can be pervasive. Björk is one of a number of recent major artists to speak out on the industry’s tendency to give production credit to a man over a woman. On her latest album, Vulnicura, she worked with a young male producer named Arca. They co-produced the album together, but everywhere in the media, Arca was credited as the producer.

“I want to support young girls who are in their 20s now and tell them: You’re not just imagining things. It’s tough. Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times,” she told Pitchfork in January.

She compared her own album to Kanye West’s Yeezus, suggesting that there is a difference in the way that they’re talked about because he’s a man.

“I have nothing against Kanye West. Help me with this—I’m not dissing him—this is about how people talk about him. With the last album he did, he got all the best beatmakers on the planet at the time to make beats for him. A lot of the time, he wasn’t even there. Yet no one would question his authorship for a second,” she told Pitchfork.

She said that she learned the hard way that if you want to become successful as a female artist you have to pretend that men had the ideas.

“I come from a generation where that was the only way to get things done,” she told Pitchfork. “So I just have to play stupid and just do things with five times the amount of energy, and then it will come through.”

“I definitely can feel the third or fourth feminist wave in the air, so maybe this is a good time to open that Pandora’s box a little bit and air it out,” she said.

Memphis DJ Lorin Vincent (aka DJ Saturna) said she has been in a number of situations where men have been given credit for her work. She said that she attributes a lot of that to producers and DJs not fully understanding the copyright laws for sampling or using a part of someone else’s track in a song—laws that, according to her, were already in place long before the rise of EDM.

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“I’m glad that there’s more access for anyone to DJ,” she said in an interview over the phone. But at the same time, she said there have been a number of times when she’s felt cheated for her music, or it has been used or sampled without compensation.

“I’ve had a male producer use other women in a video of my song, and lip synching my lyrics,” she said. “I’m happy to see more women taking complete control of the business of their art, but I do not see enough progress in producers (mostly male) in the electronic realm taking the singing and songwriting elements of music seriously.”

She said that there is a problem in the way female artists—singers particularly—are listed as the featured vocalist on a track rather than the songwriter.

“Almost all producers try to list me as “featuring Saturna” when it should be “& Saturna” with equal songwriting credits,” she wrote in a following email.

The problem of credit is one that can be seen as affecting electronic artists and female artists more generally. An article published by Slate Magazine in January called “It’s Not Just Bjork: Women are Tired of Not Getting Credit for Their Own Music,” pulled quotes from M.I.A., Solange, Taylor Swift, Bjork, Grimes, Imogen Heap, and Neko Case, suggesting that “Perhaps the strongest evidence of just how pernicious and pervasive these stereotypes really are is that even women fall victim to them.”

Certainly, it’s an easy trap to fall into. “Everyone is judged and sorted into preexisting categories. Man with guitar: songwriter. Man at a mixing console: Producer and mastermind. Woman with a shiny outfit: pop star” (Wickman).

However, there are real figures underlying our assumptions, and these persisting attitudes might be causing some women to not want to go into careers in music because they feel like the only way they can do it is by flaunting their sexuality.

A recent report published by the online network “female:pressure” called FACTS 2015 counted the number of female electronic artists present on festival lineups, in clubs, and on label rosters worldwide. The survey found that at electronic music festivals in all countries, only 10.8% of the artists listed as playing were female, and in Canada specifically, only 9.4% at major electronic festivals Mutek and New Forms. Similarly, in clubs around the world only 9.4% of DJs were women, while on label rosters the number was almost double, at 18%.

While the survey admits that “counting in this manner is not statistically precise,” it is indicative of a wider trend and is “symptomatic of a broader problem across many sectors and in society” (female:pressure). The numbers published in the survey are also some of the only ones that exist—the Canadian Ministry of Labour currently holds no records on gender inequality in the Canadian music industry, and neither, it seems, does SoCan, a telling point of how far we still have to go before we can reach true gender equality.

Colleen Eccleston is a UVic professor and popular music theorist, who regularly teaches courses such as “History of Rock and Roll” and “The Beatles,” and is currently also teaching a course on rock divas. She is also an established artist in her own right—a folk singer-songwriter who has worked in the music industry and toured with her band, The Ecclestons, for over 15 years. She sees the way the music industry has gone over the last 15 years as being pretty bleak.

“It seems to me that the stereotypes are getting even more rigid,” she said in an interview. “The industry is polarized between big, big money and the individuals on the internet.” She sees female sexuality as a marketing technique. “A lot of women end up being packaged, I know that, as artists,” she said. “Sex always sells.”

Eccleston talked at length about Madonna, another popular artist who has recently spoken out about this issue.

“Sexism: you can’t be sexy and intelligent,” Madonna told Pitchfork in March. “Nothing has changed. I mean it’s fine if you want to go out there and twerk, but the landscape is limited. If you try to embody too many different human aspects in your work, or if you have too many references, people get confused. I see a lot of people getting pissed off at Miley because she kind of just acts like a dude—but if she were a dude, no one would say anything,” she said.

“Madonna was interesting, because she took that idea and said, ‘Okay, you want sex? I’ll give you so much sex that you won’t know what to do with it,’” said Eccleston. But she worries about the message that sends to young girls. “What does it mean when you’re teaching females that that’s what being female is?” she said. “I guess I have more hope for art.” She wonders whether we’ll still be listening to artists like Madonna 50 years from now, and believes that nothing like The Beatles can ever happen again. “Music is culture,” she said. “To hold up music in reverence to the human experience… it offends me. Things are pretty bleak. What is art? And what role does art have in saving us as a species?”

Alison Wood is a former UVic student and local DJ. She sees the electronic music scene in Victoria as being incredibly male-dominated.

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“At first it was kind of hard because I had doubts that people were actually into my sound and my mixes for what they were, rather than the fact that I’m pretty much the only female DJ in Victoria,” she said in an interview. “But since that point, especially having my girlfriend is helpful because no-one’s going to hit on me when we’re both standing there, so then people just start seeing us as a DJ.”

She said that since she’s started doing back-to-back sets with her partner her experiences have been generally quite positive. But there are still times when she feels she’s treated differently because of her gender and her sexuality.

“Like I’ll be setting up my equipment and the sound guy will come over and assume that I need his help or that I don’t know what I’m doing,” she said. “Or like trying to help me carry my stuff.”

She said that she feels as though she’d have very different experiences if she were a different person, though.

“If I was super girly and wearing dresses… I think I would have different experiences,” she said. “There’s those DJs that exist, even like Paris Hilton, like literally no-one cares what she DJs, she’s just hot shit and they want her to play in their club,” she said.

The phenomenon of model DJs is one of the most shocking examples of gender inequality in the world of electronic dance music as well as the use of female sexuality as a marketing tool. Model DJs are essentially DJs—usually conventionally attractive women—who are paid for their looks alone and not for any kind of musical talent. In other words, they are not really DJs at all but rather models pretending to DJ while wearing revealing outfits and flaunting their sexuality—and they can be found in clubs, at massive festivals, and even in clothing stores.

The emergence of electronic music over the last 15 years has, to a large extent, had a detrimental effect on the feminist movements in music that developed out of the 70s and 80s and culminated, to some extent, in the riot grrrl movement of the 90s. Now, fifteen years on, we’re beginning to recognize the current cultural moment as in many ways excluding or lessening the voices of minorities—such as we have seen in the last year in the U.S. through the lens of hip-hop. Electronic music and the role of female DJs and producers within it offers a lens through which to view the current cultural moment, which many have suggested is exhibiting the qualities of a third or fourth wave of feminism.

One of those people is Ian MacKenzie, a prominent filmmaker and new media activist known for his previous work on Occupy Love (2012) and “Reactor” (2013), about post-Fukushima Japan. MacKenzie is exploring this idea of the emerging paradigm, the next wave of feminism, and female sexuality in electronic music in a new film called Amplify Her that will be premiering on the Super Channel in 2016.

IAN MACKENZIE 01

“What we’re seeing with a lot of these emerging female artists is they’re able to bend music, or infuse it, into a deeper connection with life—most spectacularly, I think with Bjork, in particular her previous album, Biophilia,” he said over Skype. “That’s something I think could only have come from a female, or a woman that’s deeply connected with the feminine.”

The film explores this idea of the rising feminine through the intentional festival scene in places like Burning Man and Shambhala. Specifically, it follows four or five women in their daily lives as they grapple with the male-dominated culture of electronic music, as well as their own sexuality. For MacKenzie, electronic music is a Trojan horse for studying feminism in this new cultural moment.

“I think the scene is a little more open to a deeper understanding of the feminine, and masculinity, and that it feels less threatening than for instance shaking up the social structure or political circles,” he said.

One of the artists the film follows for a time is Victoria’s Kytami.

“It’s difficult,” LeBlanc told me. “I have a child. There’s a lot of guys that can go out on the road, because touring is a huge part of getting yourself out there and representing your music, you have to tour,” she said. “I think it’s more common that guys go out and do that, even if they have children, and the wives or mothers stay at home and hold the fort down.”

Indeed, one of the main themes that’s emerged out of Amplify Her, as well as my own research, is motherhood, and the problem of what do you do when you become a mother and you’re doing this type of work? Mothers are also judged on their ability to be caregivers and that’s not always possible when you’re on the road.

“You have to have a really supportive and liberated and understanding guy to be the one who stays at home,” said LeBlanc. “And I think that’s rare to find.”

Rebekah Farrugia is the author of a book called Beyond the Dance Floor: Female DJs, Technology, and Electronic Dance Music Culture. She was able to sum up the problem in her opinion in just a few words.

“The overwhelming majority—nearly all—of the top income earning EDM DJs and producers are straight white men, and for women, they are now expected to conform to and embody traditional beauty standards to make it in this environment,” she said via email.

“This has everything to do with DJs becoming our modern day rock stars and the devaluing of DJing to some extent and the conflation between models and DJs,” she said. “This is commonly what happens as more women enter any profession.”

Perhaps the solution is in education, and encouraging girls from a young age who show an interest in music production, or any other technical discipline for that matter.

“I don’t know if girls just aren’t encouraged to be that way from an early age as much, there’s more emphasis on, like singing is a more viable option, dancing is a more viable option, but actually being a producer, I don’t know why, or maybe it just doesn’t innately appeal to many girls,” said LeBlanc.

What’s clear is that we need to change the culture and its persisting stereotypes and attitudes towards women’s ability and female sexuality in order to achieve true equality. Only then can we pave the way for more women to become DJs and producers, and express themselves creatively through music.

-Owen Hann

 

Artist names (in order of appearance):

Kytami

Lüthian

DJ Saturna

DJ AWood

 

Works Cited

Boucher, Claire. “I Don’t Want to Have to Compromise My Morals in Order to Make a Living.” G R I M E S. Tumblr, 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Hopper, Jessica. “Interviews: The Invisible Woman: A Conversation With Björk.” Pitchfork. Pitchfork Media, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.

Makers, Trouble. “Female:pressure.” Female:pressure. WordPress.com, Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Rachel, T. Cole. “Interviews: Pop Sovereign: A Conversation With Madonna.” Pitchfork. Pitchfork Media, 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.

Wickman, Forrest. “It’s Not Just Björk: Women Are Tired of Not Getting Credit for Their Own Music.” Slate. Slate Magazine, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A., and the Politicization of Popular Music

Kendrick Lamar, M.I.A., and the Politicization of Popular Music

Police harassment leads to crowd singing Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”

2015 was arguably the year of music as political protest. The fact that there are still people out on the streets in some parts of the U.S. chanting “We gon’ be alright” in solidarity with the victims of police brutality is a testament to the power of music to enact social change. Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” has become an anthem for the anti-police movement in the United States in large part because it speaks to the universal. In a world of global terrorism, growing concerns about climate change, and systematic racial violence against minorities and people of color, we need music to express those fears and to stand in solidarity against them. Perhaps this is one reason why albums such as Run the Jewels’ RTJ2, D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, and J. Cole’s 2014 Forrest Hills Drive became so popular in 2015—all albums released at the end of last year that seem to anticipate the radical formal experimentation and political message taken up by Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and the slew of popular “gangsta” rap albums in 2015 that include Joey Bada$$’s B4.DA.$$$, Dr. Dre’s Compton, and Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06.

However, the politicization of music in 2015 extends further to white artists and bands such as the brilliantly-named The War on Drugs, whose highly acclaimed 2014 album Lost in the Dream reached a wider audience this year with its nostalgic 70s-rock sound that has experienced a revival in the last few years with artists like Kurt Vile, Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco, and the Eagles of Death Metal—who gained notoriety in the last few weeks as they were the band playing when the Bataclan was stormed by terrorists that killed more than 120 people in Paris last month. The 70s-rock revival movement that has gained wider popularity in the last year is arguably a result of a desire for peace and reconciliation in the wake of some of the events of recent years that mirrors the sense of a dream of peace that was alive in the 1970s as a result of the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement in the U.S., and other events that shaped the 60s and 70s and the politically-charged music that we tend to associate with those decades.

The expression of political popular music is something that extends to today, as well, with the rise of electronic music and the female auteur, such as M.I.A., the Sri-Lankan born daughter of a political activist who blends Eastern and Western influences in her work. Earlier this week, she dropped a brand new song called “Borders,” which critiques the Western response to the Syrian refugee crisis and has been talked about by Pitchfork in an article called “How M.I.A. Is a Lifeline in Times of Terror.” Revisiting her earlier music, it is worth noting that although political themes underpin much of her work, M.I.A. has never been this overtly political before. In the video for “Borders,” she travels on boats with refugees and poses on barbed wire fences and atop CCTV cameras, while dropping lines like “Borders / What’s up with that?” and “Politics / What’s up with that?”

M.I.A represents pop’s politicization in recent years and can be compared with other women artists making bold statements about pop this year, such as Grimes, Bjork, and FKA twigs.

Bjork is perhaps the most political of the three in her activism for the environment and recent call for global action to save Iceland’s highlands. Artists like David Bowie, Damon Albarn, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Phil Selway, and Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are now urging world leaders to reach a deal on climate change at the current UN conference in Paris. Last week, Thom Yorke and Flea played Yorke’s “Atoms for Peace” on “Le Grand Journal,” where they also sat down to talk about climate change and politics. This weekend, Yorke, Flea, Patti Smith and more played at the Pathway to Paris concert at Le Trianon. The world’s music leaders are urging people to pressure their governments and ensure that the politicians reach some kind of meaningful agreement at the Paris conference, and are leading a political revival of music as a result. However, their messages all seem to be ones of peace and resolution and can only serve to unify people. In the words of Kendrick Lamar, we gon’ be alright.

Freshly Squeezed’s 20 Best Albums of 2014

20. St. Vincent: St. VincentSt_Vincent_artwork

Annie Clark’s self-titled fourth album as St. Vincent blended her unique post-punk sensibilities with her sharp-witted lyricism and edgy guitar playing. Eccentric, dynamic, and calculatedly cool, St. Vincent is a truly modern rock record.


19. SBTRKT: Wonder Where We LandWonder_Where_We_Land

The highly anticipated follow-up to 2011’s self-titled debut SBTRKT showed off a different side of Aaron Jerome’s production, highlighting the names it featured rather than the SBTRKT enigma itself. Wonder Where We Land attempts to redefine the role of the producer in 2014.

Read the full review here.


18. TV on the Radio: Seeds Tvotr_-_seeds

TV on the Radio’s first album in three years following the death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011 found the band back on their feet and still creating some of the most anthemic art-rock around, even after all these years. A band that will define the 2000’s for millennials.

Read more about TV on the Radio here.


17. Phantogram: VoicesVoices_album_cover

Voices embodied a kind of dualism, exploring big themes of life and death, and pushing further into the separate territories of electronic and rock music, seamlessly combined here. A record for music lovers of all kinds.


16. Ryan Hemsworth: Alone for the First Timehomepage_large.ba499333

Ryan Hemsworth has undeniably changed the face of electronic music in the last few years, and on Alone for the First Time, he challenges its conventions further, blending swaddling, pillowy production with guest vocalists from his Secret Songs label.

Read the feature here.


15. Flying Lotus: You’re Dead!You're_Dead!

A jazzy, electronic tour de force, You’re Dead! is a psychedelic trip into the mind of Steven Ellison, and its collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Thundercat are just the tip of the iceberg.


14. Chet Faker: Built on GlassBuilt_on_Glass_album_art 

Chet Faker’s hotly anticipated debut lived up to the high expectations from 2012’s Thinking in Textures EP. A spanning, double-sided album, Built on Glass features Faker’s easily recognizable croon and clever lyricism atop gorgeous electronic production.


13. Spoon: They Want My SoulThey_Want_My_Soul

Hands were clearly a common theme of album covers in 2014.

Spoon’s unique brand of indie rock lived on on They Want My Soul, which soundtracked the end of the summer for the discerning listener. One of the best albums of the year by one of the best bands of the last decade.


12. Glass Animals: ZabaGlass_animals_zaba

Glass Animals’ textured, tropical debut was one of the best breakout surprises of 2014, and one of the most under-appreciated albums of the year. A brilliantly poppy, catchy debut, Zaba combined jungle sounds and drum loops to create a multi-layered, captivating electronic production.


11. Tycho: AwakeTycho_-_Awake

The follow-up to 2011’s Dive, Awake features more of Scott Hansen’s stunning electronic instrumentation as Tycho. Awake is an album to get lost in; for planes and trains and long car rides. Its combination of electronic production with live instrumentation is what makes it a truly modern record, for listeners of all genres.


10. Sharon Van Etten: Are We ThereAreWeThere

Sharon Van Etten’s beautifully honest self-portrait on Are We There made for easily the best singer/songwriter record of 2014, showing off a lighter, more playful side of Etten, but whose sense of lyricism still carries the weight of the world. And it featured one of the best album covers of the year.


9. Alt-J: This Is All YoursAlt-J_-_This_is_all_yours

The hugely anticipated follow-up to 2012’s An Awesome WaveThis Is All Yours took listeners further into the parallel universe in which Alt-J exist, through Nara, its mythical and musical utopia. This Is All Yours is an album to do what you want with, and lose yourself in in the process.

Read the full review here.


8. Jungle: JungleAlbum_66_296_ff6

The self-titled debut from the mysterious London soul collective Jungle redefined the genre in 2014, with timeless tracks like “Time” and “Busy Earnin'” giving listeners just a taste of the funk that permeates Jungle. Dancy, groovy, and so so fresh, Jungle is what’s good in 2014.


7. The War on Drugs: Lost in the DreamLostinthedream

The War on Drugs’ third album chronicled Adam Granduciel’s battle with depression, exploring themes of death and loneliness. A true work of genius, Lost in the Dream channels the greats of 80s-era classic rock in its swirling, authentic production. A record stuck in the past and yet somehow so modern and relevant.


6. Little Dragon: Nabuma RubberbandLittle_Dragon_-_Nabuma_Rubberband

Little’s Dragon’s first album since 2011’s Ritual UnionNabuma Rubberband, was a complex, conceptual record that further cemented the Swedish band’s unique sound and style as one of the most consistently brilliant crossover electronic acts in the world.


5. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2RunTheJewelsRTJ2

Darkly funny, politically timely, and underminingly brilliant, Run the Jewels 2 dropped a proverbial bomb on 2014’s otherwise lacking year of hip-hop. Killer Mike and El-P are “the jewels runners, top tag team for two summers” and have their sights firmly set on taking over the world.

Read the full review here.


4. Mac DeMarco: Salad DaysMac_DeMarco_Salad_Days

Mac DeMarco’s follow-up to 2011’s inspired a whole generation of youngsters to grow their hair out, quit their jobs, and chase their dreams. Well, not really, but listening to Salad Days sure feels like you’re doing everything just right.


3. Todd Terje: It’s Album TimeTodd_Terje_-_It's_Album_Time_album_cover

The Norwegian disco king Todd Terje released his debut album It’s Album Time this year to widespread critical acclaim. A jumpy, playful record that’s almost entirely instrumental, the album’s centrepiece, a cover of “Johnny and Mary” by Robert Palmer featuring Bryan Ferry cements It’s Album Time as an instant classic.


2. FKA twigs: LP1FKA_twigs_-_LP1

If you didn’t like FKA twigs’ debut, then you didn’t spend enough time with it. Cerebral, evocative, and boundary-pushing, LP1 represents an innovative approach to songwriting in 2014 and should be sticking around for years to come. A perfectly crafted pop record, FKA twigs’ debut shows us why we don’t need to listen to Nicki Minaj in 2014.


1. Caribou: Our LoveCaribou_Our_Love

Dan Snaith’s fourth album as Caribou, and the follow-up to 2010’s Swim, Our Love, explored pop music’s most universal theme in its inviting 42 minutes of euphoric dance music. “Can’t Do Without You” and “Our Love” are album highlights, but Snaith entreats you to enter his world on Our Love, and it’s hard to come back.

Read the full review here.

Vancouver Producer Strikes Out On His Own

Ryan Hemsworth shares inspiration for his latest album

homepage_large.ba499333     Alone for the First Time is out now

Ryan Hemsworth released his critically acclaimed new album Alone for the First Time in Canada on November 4th ahead of a series of live dates across North America in November.

The follow-up to 2013’s Guilt Trips, which won the 2014 Juno Award for Electronic Album of the Year finds the young Canadian producer taking a risk that must feel like striking out on his own for the first time, as one of the most exciting electronic artists in the world right now.

Hemsworth describes the new album as an amalgamation of his experiences over the past year of travelling and playing shows. “[It’s] the feeling of moving from one place to another and missing people,” he said in a phone interview from his hotel room in Chicago last week.

His “Sucker for Punishment” tour kicked off on November 5th in Charleston, SC, and includes a stop at Vancouver’s Fortune Sound Club on November 29th.

“I’m used to playing clubs, and people coming out on a Friday night are expecting to dance,” he said about the relatively quieter new material. “It’s scary to play a show in those kinds of venues and not have people dancing.”

It seems to be working, though, and Hemsworth said he’s had a lot of good reactions from people who have been coming up and talking to him after the shows.

“I’ve had a lot of emails from people saying it meant a lot to them and even people who are going through breakups that email me saying it’s good music to get over that stuff to,” he said.

If the new record feels more personal, it’s because that’s what comes naturally to Hemsworth. “I grew up on Eliot Smith and Bright Eyes,” he said about his influences. “They wear their hearts on their sleeve.”

He describes the project as a smaller LP or a bigger EP. “I wanted to make something that people can put on and not have to devote an hour to,” he said. “It’s just kind of getting lost in it for a half-hour.”

Hemsworth is well known for his love of Japan, and is one of a few Canadian artists at the forefront of the recent crossover of Japanese music into Western culture in North America.

“I’ve been following music all around the world for a long time but Japan for some reason has been a huge interest of mine,” he said. “[There are] a huge number of amazing producers coming from there who I think because they’ve grown up on different music are this kind of melting pot of what they’re hearing coming from America and what they’re used to.”

He would argue that this fusion only makes it all the more interesting for North American listeners, and tries to replicate some of these ideas in his own work. “”Blemish” is filled to the brim with sounds and weird little things that I’ve picked up,” he said. “Musical artifacts.”

Hemsworth’s recent travels to Asia inspired the music video for “Snow in Newark,” the lead single from the new album, which was shot in Nepal.

“For my last album, the track “One for Me” we shot a video in Montreal and at the time we had sort of the plan to make a two-parter video, the second half I think what “Snow in Newark” ended up being,” he said.

If “One for Me” shows how Hemsworth used to function as a travelling musician, “Snow in Newark” imagines him “retiring from music and searching for something else in the world.”

“I’ve been going back and listening to a lot of Saddle Creek records,” he said. “The band Cursive is definitely one of the main ones I listened to in the past half-year while working on this.”

What’s next for the 24-year old producer?

“I’m hoping to make a side-project type thing with a producer, a buddy of mine named Lucas who I’ve put out on my Secret Songs label,” he said.

“I’m definitely going to keep collaborating a lot more, that was probably the most fun part of working on this album, was just reaching out to people with really different kinds of voices and production styles, so that’s what I’m really enjoying creating nowadays.”

Ryan Hemsworth plays Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver on November 29th