Austin, TX troubadors The Wind & The Wave kicked off their "Happiness Is Not a Place" Tour in Denver with two sold out shows at Lost Lake.Read More
I caught Flay and some of her friends - new and old - dancing together at The Black Sheep in Colorado Springs, CO. Since my first encounter with her one early morning on Warped Tour 2014, what immediately stood out was her lyrics: brutally honest, uniquely witty, and above all else, so personal and introspective it’s as if she’s speaking to your own life experiences.Read More
It's been awhile since I last checked in. While in Australia I mentioned that I didn't want that big adventure to be my last major "leap of faith" to happen in 2016. Where here I am, eight months later, and things are happening. Since we last talked I've changed jobs, lost my last two grandparents, stood by her side as my best friend since kindergarten said "I Do," and had a few minor freakouts that led to my favorite band's lead singer's handwriting being permanently outlined on my skin. It's a season of change, people, and in the last month, there's been a few more additions to that list.
After six years, countless concerts, thousands of photographs, and a whole lot of fun, another major change has been deciding it’s time to say goodbye to Ultra5280. As someone who’s first passion was writing and later assumed I’d go to school for photography, Ultra5280 became my treasured creative outlet when I chose to academically focus on music instead. Even while watching Blink-182 recently, I found myself analyzing the show, taking mental notes like I was going to go home and write – it’s pretty clear my love for celebrating music through words and photographs will never die. The Ultra team has been family to me, and I’m excited to watch them continue to grow from the sidelines. I'm so thankful that Robert Castro took a chance on a wily college freshmann, giving me a platform to grow my skills and share my passion while having adventures I could have only dreamed of. Saying I’m thankful is an understatement.
I couldn’t stay away from music journalism if I tried, (insert Arnold’s “I’ll be baaackk” quote) so this isn’t my finale, but it’s time I re-learn how to prioritize “me” while exploring what I want my next chapter of life to look like.
Speaking of next chapters…I’m heading back out on the road. I’m thrilled to get back to tour life, and honored to get to do so with a spectacularly talented group of Brits. I really hope this time out will be clarifying, mind opening, and answer some offers I've been looking for.
For the better part of the last year and a half, I've struggled internally trying to understand if my passion for tour is something I needed to chase more intently, or if that season of life had passed. I needed to be home for the last year. For me, for family, for that wedding, to truly work through some major life moments. But now the dust has settled, and the things that were holding me in Denver have slowly dissipated – it's time for me to get back to my quest of working to find my next path. Do I stay on the road? Do I move to LA? Do I stay in Denver and work to find new ways to pursue my passions in this city? No more wondering "if", it's time for me to explore these questions, make a decision, and just go.
In the past I’ve blogged while on tour and will try to keep up this round as well. Regardless, this website will host any writing or photos I create while on my editorial sabbatical, so hopefully you'll see more updates more often on this here little page.
To celebrate my time at Ultra5280, I've compiled a few of my favorite things I've written for the blog, and photographs I've taken.
- FIRST SHOW COVERED FOR ULTRA5280: Yeah, Great, Fine with Mr. Right and Popcult at Moe's BBQ. "What's a Popcult?" This is the first time my byline appeared on the Ultra5280 site.
- FAVORITE "ULTRA5280 SESSIONS": I Fight Dragons. Once upon a time we did a video interview series called "Ultra5280 Sessions," hosted by yours truly. This is one of my favorites because it was my first time seeing the boys live, and I went on to then tour the country with them - twice!
- FAVORITE SXSW INTERVIEW: Kris Orlowski sitting on a street corner after playing phone tag all day. We laughed. We joked. It was the most fun I've ever had interviewing someone.
- WHAT I CONSIDER MY FIRST "LEGIT" REVIEW: I may have loved writing, but it definitely took me awhile to figure out how to do more than just re-tell what happened at a show. Mat Kearney at The Black Sheep still does a lot of that, but goes deeper into his story as an artists as well.
- FAVORITE "I SAW THEM BACK WHEN..." STORY: Seeing AWOLNATION play two sold out shows at The Summit Music Hall felt like a big deal back then, but what hadn't been totally realized yet was that their little opener, Imagine Dragons, would go on to become one of the biggest pop acts in the world over the next two years.
- FAVORITE CRAZY MOMENT AT A SHOW: I've seen Atlas Genius quite a few times at this point, but nothing will top their show at the Bluebird in 2013 because of the on-stage proposal I caught on camera.
- FAVORITE SHOW REVIEW: I've reviewed a lot of shows, but I always come back to this piece about Lorde at the 1stBank Center. I just love it, and really did love that show. Much yes.
- FAVORITE FEATURE: It's neat to see this band continuing to work their way into alternative relevance, but even as they grow, I don't think I'll ever write a better piece about Night Riots. This combined a show review, album review, and interview all in one.
- THAT TIME I GOT TO COVER MY FAVORITE BAND: Technically I've photographed or reviewed Jimmy Eat World four times now, but you know your life has come full-circle when you're able to review the show where your favorite band of all time plays your favorite album of all time front to back. It's even better when you're professional enough to eloquently fangirl through you're writing so you still seem legit.
- FAVORITE BAND TO SEE GROW: In 2013 an opening act asked me to come review them at the Bluebird, opening for some band I'd kind of heard of called Twenty One Pilots. That show was the start of it all. Since then, I've watched them grow into headlining Red Rocks three times, and become arguably the most popular band in the world in 2016. That show at the Bluebird is still my favorite. This review is about my second favorite show, their first performance at Red Rocks, and their first tour supporting the now Platinum-selling record Blurryface.
Let me start this by saying that I want Apple Music to work. I really, really do. A streaming service built by a company that essentially owes it's standing as #1 in the world to music fans feels like it should be something to get excited about. Apple saved us from the dark and scary depths of illegal downloading, and made a "single" more than something you heard on the radio, and it didn't have to be seven inches wide. Apple re-imagined the world of mobile listening, and created the first line of products that made mobile listening, let alone music streaming feasible to begin with. Apple got us to the point where we can argue about streaming services and their pay rates and what's the best for us all, and at the end of the day, I'm hoping that Apple Music can be the thing that makes these debates a non-issue. I want them to be the good guys. But there are certain things that I feel need to happen in order for that to come true.
1) Don't be Beats Music with an Apple logo slapped on top
In case you missed my review of Beats Music here on my blog when it first launched, there were plenty of thins about the service I wasn't loving. The curation felt entirely robotic, and the playlists offered up to you were felt basic. I told Beats Music that I was a massive fan of Jimmy Eat World, so their app continuously offered me the "Jimmy Eat World hits" playlist on my "Just For You" page, not even "Deep Cuts" - an obviously unnecessary listen for anyone who took the time to tell the app that they were one of your top artists. Although Beats Music allowed you to "follow" fellow users, you weren't able to see what they were listening to, rather you were only granted access to view their profile and any playlists they took the time to make. Even taking the time to "like" a Beats "Genre Channel" or artist didn't seem to generate much additional curated content. Yes, Beats allowed you to stream music, and sure, they had a decent selection upon launch, but what makes me choose to use a streaming service over my own library is not necessarily the access to unlimited music, but rather, how it's presented to me.
2) Successful, Deep, Personal Content Curation
Like I said, my choice in using a streaming service is not necessarily all about my easy access to an unlimited music. Sure - that's the initial draw. You can listen to anything you want? No more buying albums? Incredible! But many users have said that after their initial dive into a streaming community, they become "overwhelmed" by the sheer volume of choices (something now referred to as "Choice Paralysis"), and actually tend to stick with the same albums they're already familiar with rather than continuing to explore new media. That is why successful and personalized content curation is so necessary for a streaming service to succeed. Like I said, Beats tried to curate content for me, but their content - although it was promised to be curated by thought leaders in the musical community - still felt too broad and impersonal for me to feel any benefit from their offerings.
Spotify easily has won me over in this category, and maybe not for the reasons you'd think. Do I want more generic, top-hit playlists for things like New Years Eve celebrations with friends, or backyard parties? Yes. Yes I do. I need those generic, all-appealing Top-40 hit riddled playlists for those moments in my life, and Spotify's team does an excellent job of making those easily accessible....but so did Beats, and so will Apple Music. The thing many folks who don't frequent Spotify tend to miss is the incredible wealth of both staff-made and user-made playlists that are tracked by a well executed algorithm, not produced by them. The difference really does lie in that personal touch.
Do I need to see an acoustic set from Alabama Shakes? Or watch Dan from Bastille talk about this 10 second riff they just finished in the studio? Nah, not really. I have Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, and 1 million other apps/sites to show me that. That is not the kind of content that I want in my music listening app. Sure, it's neat, but it's not why I'm there. What could be neat would be knowing what that band listens to when they're on the road so I could listen to what inspires them, or being able to have public playlists where fans of the same groups can share their other interests and grow each other's musical library. These are things being whispered about on Apple's "Apple Music" page of their website, but we won't really know Connect's full benefits until Music launches on June 30. Above all else, Apple needs musical content that will draw in their users, not random bits of everything else that already exists....where's the excitement in that?
3) A Strong, Influential Community
I mainly work from home now-a-days, which means that I have had more time than ever before in the last six months to listen to music. Even though I have moments where I know exactly what album or playlist I want to listen to in that moment, I still have 6+ other hours of work or driving in my day which my brain will require music for...and even my favorites started feeling a little stale after just one month. Spotify's playlists and personal interaction between users truly allows you to deliver the most personal experience currently available from any music service. Users are able to go through hundreds of millions of playlists based on genre, mood, title, or user, and their introduction of the "Top 50 Vial Tracks" chart is a revolutionary way to track music that's breaking on the internet before it breaks in the mainstream. If that isn't enough for you, the list of songs that my friends are currently listening to scrolling down the side is always a place for me to easily seek listening inspiration, or be reminded of an album someone recently told me "I have to listen to".
Does that sound familiar? Maybe it reminds of you the old days of Grooveshark? Those social features were some of Grooveshark users' favorites, and one of the reasons they fought so hard to keep the service alive. My little brother's biggest complaint about the sudden shutdown of the company was the loss of the playlists he'd collected and created, not the loss of his ability to stream, which seems to be a shared sentiment from the entire Grooveshark community. Spotify has created a legal (albeit poorly paying) system that mirrors these features, and I see that as one of the many reasons so many chose to adopt their platform so early on. I firmly believe that the ability to keep users listening to more music, and more new music will be what defines the success of any streaming service from here onwards, and Beats Music didn't seem to understand that...so will Apple?
4) Fair Streaming Pay Rates for Artists
The thing that will sell this for me, along with the hundreds of thousands of people working in the music industry as artists or otherwise will hopefully be the pay rates artists see per each stream. The average pay per stream between all streaming services sits somewhere between $.0013 - $.04. That's less that a half a cent per each song play. This is why streaming service rates, and streaming pay structures are so highly debated at the moment. Although Beats Music was allegedly paying out much higher than Spotify when they initially started, we can assume that pay structure is to be long forgotten with the arrival of Apple Music. Will Apple truly help pay back the industry that essentially re-booted their entire company? Or will we see similar, shockingly low pay-rates compared to their competitors? This will weigh heavy in my decision about which streaming service to financially support, but this conversation is for another day, another time, and honestly doesn't matter much until the Government is finally ready to do something about the long neglected laws in place allowing such poor pay rates to exist in the first place.
I want AppleMusic to work, I really do, but can they really be the first step in fixing an all-to broken system? Can one streaming service truly rule them all?