Tag Archives: Prince

Celebrity Cyber Report – Serena Williams, Wendy Williams and JayZ

Serena Williams

Serena Williams and SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie (Image courtesy of Recode)

Tennis superstar Serena Williams has taken on the challenge of diversity in the technology industry. Williams has joined the board of directors of SurveyMonkey along with Intuit CEO Brad Smith.  Williams says she wants to help solve the diversity problem in Silicon Valley.

SurveyMonkey employs about 650 workers. Women represent 27 percent of its technology jobs. Just 14 percent of its total payroll consists of African-Americans according to numbers the company provided.

“I feel like diversity is something I speak to,” Williams said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Change is always happening; change is always building. What is important to me is to be at the forefront of the change and to make it easier for the next person that comes behind me.”

Although Williams exact goals are not clear she feels that her presence on the board can help open up the valley to more diversity.

Williams is pregnant and engaged to technology entrepreneur, Alexis Ohanian co-founder of the online forum Reddit. Williams expressed her disappointment in the lack of diversity in high paying technology jobs.

SurveyMonkey, like many technology companies, are looking for a way to change the diversity equation. Williams’ appointment is part of the solution, according to SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie. “My focus is to bring in change agents around the table who can open our eyes,” he said.

Williams’ became linked to to SurveyMonkey through her friendship with Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, another member of SurveyMonkey’s board.

“I have been really interested in getting involved in Silicon Valley for years, so I have been kind of in the wading waters,” Williams said. “Now, I am jumping into the deep end of the pool. When I do something, I go all out.”

Wendy Williams

Day time talk show host Wendy Williams is reaching out to her audience using a new app. Williams just launched ‘Wendy Digitala new entertainment and lifestyle app. Williams is deploying the technology to strengthen her already powerful connection with her audience. 

‘Wendy Digital’ will allow her audience to get to know her better by extending the show to their smartphones and mobile devices increasing interactivity. The app will offer staples of her television show that includes the very popular Hot Topics. Fans will able to participate in the often saucy discussions. The app will also offer shopping from her HSN Collection and outfit of the day or “OOTD.” The ETrivia function permits her audience to test their celebrity knowledge and win prizes. Wendy is using the app to share a little of herself by offering ‘Suddenly Wendy” that gives her fans exclusive video and behind scenes  views of “Wendy’s World.” 

‘Wendy Digital’ is free and available for Apple and Android devices.

JayZ and Tidal

JayZ continues to struggle with his Tidal Music Streaming service. The company announced the loss of yet another CEO. Tidal confirmed that it had jettisoned its third CEO in two years, Jeff Toig. In a statement to Billboard.com  the company wrote, “As part of Tidal’s continued expansion this year we will be announcing a new CEO in the coming weeks. We wish Toig all the best in his future endeavors.”

Toig took the reigns of CEO in January 2016 during its rocky launch. Toig replaced Peter Tonstad who replaced Andy Chen.

JayZ purchased Aspiro a Swedish ­technology company and its Winamp ­streaming service in 2015 for $56 million dollars. He renamed it Tidal and added powerful music stars like his wife Beyonce, friend Kanye West, Daft Punk, Nicki Minaj, Prince and many others. All seeking a away to get their fair share of music streaming revenue.

However, Tidal has struggled in the highly competitive music streaming business. Most importantly Tidal has struggled to attract and hold paid subscribers. Tidal has an estimated one million paid users falling far behind streaming leaders Spotify, 50 million subscribers and Apple Music, 20 million subscribers.

Adding to JayZ’s headaches is a report from a Norwegian newspaper saying Tidal has been inflating subscriber numbers to the media, the public and investors.

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Prince

Prince was one of the greatest and most prolific artist of our time. According to some sources the Great Purple One has enough unpublished music to release albums for the next one hundred years.

Prince reportedly has a vault that contains songs, albums and even movies that have never been seen by the public. According to Prince’s sound engineer  David “David Z” Rivkin, “We used to do two songs a day, and he just put them away,” he said. “Maybe he instructed his lawyers to never release them. I hope that’s not the case. I’d like to see some of them come out, a lot of them were pretty great.”

The existence of Prince’s hidden treasure was confirmed by Mobeen Azhar an investigative reporter and filmmaker. Azhar produced a documentary last year entitled  “Hunting for Prince’s Vault.”

Azhar was able to confirm that Prince had produced some powerful music. So powerful that he did not think the public was ready for it.  Among the mysterious recordings is an album by the name of “The Dream Factory.” According to Azhar Prince reportedly felt another song, “The Divine,” had harmonies so intense that “people weren’t ready to hear this song yet.”

But Prince was not just recording his new music. Prince also recorded every concert he ever performed.

As we have written Prince has been reborn in online music streaming. A platform he was never really pleased with and even banned his music from being played there. But on the anniversary of his death a new Prince album is being released online.

Entitled “Deliverance” the six-song album offers music recorded between 2006 and 2008. The title track is currently available on iTunes and Apple Music. Fans can see a short video and hear what is described as Prince’s “unheard spiritual voice.”  According to PrinceRogersNelson.com  the album is only available in the U.S.

Celebrity Cyber Report – Barry Jenkins, Prince

Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkins, director of the Academy Award winning film “Moonlight” has signed a deal with Amazon. Jenkins will write and direct a dramatic series based on the best selling book “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. The streaming television series will follow the life of a young escaped slave named Cora.

Jenkins was a relative unknown until he directed “Moonlight.” His work includes the film “Medicine for Melancholy.” He directed one episode of the Netflix series “Dead White People“, and one episode of Futurestates on PBS

If you follow the Oscars you will remember that “Moonlight” was at the center of an onstage debacle at the Oscars.  The award for Best Picture was mistakenly given to the film “La La Land“. The mistake was quickly corrected and the statuette was handed over on stage. Moonlight also won for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor.

Jenkins’ Pastel Productions will executive produce the series in cooperation  with Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment. Pitt and Plan B also produced “Moonlight.”

Jenkins praised the partnership with Amazon saying the streaming service’s “reference for storytelling and freeness of form” as being “wholly in line with our vision.”

Prince

Prince is reborn online. His Royal Purpleness had a rocky relationship with the Internet and his music was rarely found online. But since his tragic death Prince’s music has returned to online streaming.

Prince’s music hasn’t been on Spotify  or any music streaming service for years. Prince fans can still buy it on iTunes,  but its availability on Apple Music is very limited. 

Prince was always very protective of his work and felt the Internet cheated artists of their true value. He removed his music a from the major streaming services, with the exception of  JayZ’s Tidal. But with his death things are changing. The Purple One is back.

Prince’s albums and compilation albums from Warner Bros., 27 of them, have returned to to streaming sites. Albums now available include some his most popular including “For You”, “Prince”, “Dirty Mind”, “Controversy”, “1999″, “Purple Rain”, and others.

Prince, the man is no longer with us. But Prince the artist lives on and continues to produce music. CEO of Warner Bros. Records, Cameron Strang  said in a statement that the company is “deeply aware of our responsibility to safeguard and nurture his incredible legacy.” Warner Bros. is planning to release a re-mastered edition of Purple Rain. In addition the company is also working on two albums of Prince’s unreleased music,  and two live concert films scheduled for relaese early this summer.  Prince has an agreement with Warner Bros. to license his pre-1996 music releases. 

Prince’s music catalog, including unheard rare releases, landed on the streaming services after the Grammy’s. You can hear his mighty Purple legacy on streaming music services, including Apple Music, Amazon Unlimited, Deezer, Google Play, Pandora and Spotify.

Sprint Buys a Piece of Tidal

Cellphone carrier Sprint just dropped $200 million on JayZ for a nice chunk of his Tidal music streaming service.

JayZ purchased Tidal in 2015 for the purpose of getting artist a greater share of the music royalties. He was effective in getting numerous artists to join the service including his wife Beyonce. But his investment seemed to turn sour from day one as Tidal encountered one crisis after another. The service has been mired in lawsuits from various artists including the Prince estate. Tidal has also been accused of falsifying the number of  subscribers. Several executives have been fired or resigned. And to top it all off the service has yet to turn a profit.

It appears that after two years of negotiations Sprint has made a substantial investment in Tidal. For their $200 million Sprint takes a 33 percent stake in the company. That cash will help shore up Tidal which has had problems paying music labels. For almost a year Tidal has been looking for a partner and briefly flirted with both Apple and Samsung before Sprint returned to the table.

For Sprint the deal could be used as an incentive to grow its subcribers by offering access to early tickets sales or private shows from some of Tidal’s artist/owners. This type of incentive has worked with other cell carriers. This not new territory for Sprint which partnered with Spotify for bundle offerings within its “Framily plans” in 2014.

According to Billboard.com the additional cash will allow Tidal to create of a $75 million marketing fund for Tidal artist exclusives and initiatives. This initiative could mean more exclusive releases coming to Tidal in 2017 along with more concerts and music videos. Billboard.com estimates Tidal’s market value to be nearly $600 million.

Officially Sprint and Tidal have not released any details as to how the two would mutually benefit but Sprint says more information will be “available soon.”

Breaking It Down

JayZ is fighter. Tidal has not been the jewel he thought it was when he purchased it but it is a jewel just the same. With all the problems and the money issues the streaming service has JayZ understands that music will always be in demand. He just has to figure how to tap into that demand. His fight is to find Tidal’s niche. Let me tell you this, if Apple and Samsung both were considering buying the company then it becomes obvious that it has value. This value includes a nice list of artists that both own a piece of Tidal as well as provide content.  So what is the niche? Well that answer is yet to come but one thing is for sure; $200 million will certain help find it. Sprint understands that to survive in the cellphone industry it must expand its offerings. Keep in mind that cellphone carriers are in a life and death struggle to survive against the constant rise of smaller carriers serving market niches with better prices and no contracts.  Offering the latest cellphones just doesn’t cut it anymore. Content is king. Tidal has content.

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Andre Iguodala, JayZ vs. The Prince Estate

iguodala-suit

Andre Iguodala

NBA players, like most pro athletes, make a nice income. Well lets be real; they make a helluva lot of money. Now one of their own, Andre Iguodala, is introducing them to a new game, tech investing.

Iguolada, the Golden State Warriors All-Star and NBA Finals MVP, is an investor in several companies with his business partner, Rudy Cline Thomas. Recently Inguodala and Thomas participated in a question-and-answer session with startup owners at LinkedIn headquarters in San Francisco.

Iguodala made a savvy business move by joining the Golden States Warriors. He became part of one of the greatest teams in NBA history but also moved closer to the Silicon Valley. Iguodala came to the Bay Area with his eye on a championship and the tech start up investment opportunities.

The NBA star is doing his best to get other players interested in the start up game as well.

“I’m just trying to get my colleagues to understand that there is a space for us outside of our normal investing,” said Iguodala. “You normally see players investing in the barbershop. You see the music companies. You see a lot of real estate. You don’t see many go outside of their comfort zones. We want to change that.”

Since joining the Warriors Iguodala has jumped on the Silicon Valley tech scene like an errant pass.  He joins other NBA stars that include his teammate Steph Curry who invested in a online coaching service app, and a  social media platform. L.A. Clippers star Chris Paul co-created Game Vision, an app that uses games it claims will increase court vision awareness. Laker great Kobe Bryant has launched a $100 million dollar venture capital firm and Carmelo Anthony has created his own firm, Melo7 Tech Partners.

Many NBA players and other professional athletes have made millions outside of playing sports. But Iguodala points out that there is more to be made than just standing in front of a camera and endorsing a product.

“That’s the biggest thing, because the way we dealt with businesses in the past is a direct transaction: You pay me this amount and I’ll take a picture or endorse your product. I think the landscape has changed as far as endorsements are concerned because consumers are smarter. They know what’s authentic, what’s organic and what’s genuine.”

Because of this belief  Iguodala and Cline Thomas launched the National Basketball Players Association’s inaugural tech summit. This gathering took place last July and hooked up current and former NBA with key tech execs in San Francisco. Using his influence as the vice president for the player’s union Iguodala made it happen.

More than 30 NBA players participated in the three-day event.  “The response was amazing,” said Iguodala. “A lot of them, said, ‘Wow, we didn’t know what you meant?'” Cline Thomas added, “Some players are already investing. All it took was some exposure.”

JayZ vs. The Prince Estate

Prince’s record label NPG has gone to war with JayZ’s Roc Nation and it’s parent company Tidal.

Prince’s record label, NPG Records, filed the lawsuit in Minnesota accusing Roc Nation and Tidal of copyright infringement. NPG claims Tidal streamed Prince’s music without permission after his death. NPG Records gave Tidal exclusive streaming rights to the album, Hit ‘n Run Phase One, but for only 90 days. But NPG claims that after Prince’s death, Tidal began streaming as many as 15 of Prince’s other albums. NPG never agreed to that and characterized the move as exploitation.

Roc Nation disputes the claim. JayZ’s label says they have paperwork proving “various agreements between the relevant parties”  giving them rights to the music. NPG says it hasn’t seen any of these “agreements.” Roc Nation/Tidal and NPG have been at odds for some time, but Tuesday’s lawsuit has opened a new front in the battle.

Like all wars the sides and the issues are often complicated. This legal battle is complicated by a recent deal between Prince’s estate and Universal Music Publishing Group. According to Minneapolis Star Tribune Universal was named “the exclusive worldwide publishing administrator” for all of Prince’s music. Tidal took issue with the agreement and filed its own paperwork claiming that a previous contract gave it exclusive streaming rights. 

After the death of many celebrities and artists their estates become worth far more than they ever were in life. And Prince is no different. So the war has begun.

Celebrity Cyber Report – It was Prince vs. The Internet

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Prince Rogers Nelson, June 7th 1958-     April 21st, 2016

Prince Rogers Nelson departed our realm on April 21st, 2016. Departed, yes. Dead, never! We lost something more than an artist. We lost the sound, the theme song, of a generation. He was a relentless artist and warrior for freedom of expression, his expression, which so many embraced but could never copy. Prince was unlike any other and to him I say; “Nothing Compares 2 U!”

But the Prince we loved enjoyed was not one we knew very well. That was his choice and his right. Prince was a business man and he understood the music industry and he hated it.

Prince fought an epic battle with his recording company whom he labeled “slave masters.” His anger was so deep that he wrote the word “Slave” on his face and refused to use the name Prince. He became simply, “The Artist.”

And along came the Internet and the fight was on! Prince did not go to war with Warner Bros., and win, to become a slave to the Internet. It was his music, he owned it and he was not about to give it away to anybody.

“I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else,”  said Prince. “They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it.”

When it came to his music and the Internet Prince was all business. He once sued 22 fans for $22 million dollars for sharing his music and recordings of his live performances online. The Purple One was not playing around.

Prince’s aggressiveness and penchant for take-down notices earned him a “Lifetime Aggrievement Award” from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for his efforts in “silencing speech.”

But Prince was not the enemy of free speech or technology. Instead he was the protector of his name, his music and his legal ownership of it. He, like many musicians, felt the technology, the Internet in particular, was robbing them of their rightful income and royalties for the music they created. It was the reason that rap mogul Jay-Z founded Tidal music streaming service. Jay-Z re-launched Tidal this year and offers artists a greater slice of the pie for the use of their music. Tidal is only music streaming service that can offer Prince’s music legally.  Prince praised Jay Z for creating Tidal, telling a group of journalists, “We have to show support for artists who are trying to own things for themselves.”

In a 2010 interview Prince boldly declared “the Internet is over!”  But that does not mean he was against technology. His relationship with technology was misunderstood. Prince embraced digital distribution.

Prince set recording industry precedent in 1994 by releasing Interactive, a CD-ROM that contained unreleased music, interviews, a video game, and a virtual tour.  In 1997, Prince released Crystal Ball, a five-CD box set of outtakes and rare cuts exclusively through a website or by calling 1-800-NEW-FUNK. In 2001 Prince unveiled NPG Music Club, a monthly subscription service by which fans could get exclusive Prince content. NPG won Prince a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Prince was about his music. Many people believed he hated the Internet. That is not completely true. What he hated was the fact that his work, his artistry, was being stolen and the Internet was the tool used to do it. Prince went after bootleggers,  bloggers, YouTube and anyone who dared to use his artwork without fair compensation. It was not a war against technology. It was about getting paid fairly. And he was not alone. There are hundreds of other artists who feel the same and are still fighting to keep their work under their control.

Prince was great beyond music. He understood what technology was doing to musicians and he fought like hell to change things. For himself he won the battle. But the war wages on.

See also – Celebrity Cyber Report, Prince

Celebrity Cyber Report – Prince

 

Prince

It’s rare for Prince to have anything to do with the Internet. The artist has forbade streaming of his music or concert videos. And he’s got some nasty lawyers backing him up. But lately Prince has been showing up online and giving some serious backing to Jay-Z’s Tidal music streaming website.

Prince has released two new albums this year on Tidal. First to hit cyberspace was the surprise release Hit N Run: Phase Two. Of course Prince, being the Prolific One, the record was the follow up to Phase One released in September on Tidal. Both albums can be purchased as bundle on the Tidal website.

In the music industry Prince is power. His signing with Tidal this past summer signals that he is backing Jay-Z’s  effort to make Tidal work for artists. In a statement Prince said,  “After one meeting, it was obvious that Jay-Z and the team he has assembled at Tidal recognize and applaud the effort that real musicians put into their craft to achieve the very best they can at this pivotal time in the music industry.”

In a September press release Jay-z said,  “Prince has always been a visionary, a free-thinker.  We’re honored to offer his breadth of work, “1999,” “Purple Rain,” etc., music that has inspired so many, on Tidal.  We’re also excited to be the home for his new upcoming album, HITNRUN.  Both Prince and Tidal share the belief that all creatives should have the opportunity to speak directly to those that love and support them.  This partnership with Prince represents Tidal’s philosophy in its truest form, a 1 to 1 connection and direct delivery of artistry to the world.”

This move is not the only thing  indicating that his Royal Purpleness has soften his attitude toward cyberspace.  Prince has permitted his legendary Coachella 2008 rendition of Radiohead’s Creep to finally enter the cyber realm. Prince is not normally open to having his work on the Internet and has sued those who have posted his work online.  The performance dates back to 1992 and the Royal Rocker has blocked it from being seen online until now.

 

 

 

Jay-Z Taking the Hard Knocks of Music Streaming

jay-z-600Rap mogul Jay-Z is learning the music streaming business is a tough game. In March of this year Jay-Z purchased Tidal the subscription music streaming service for $56 million. This was clearly a bold move considering the competition from Spotify, Google, and Apple.

Jay-Z’s plan was to address complaints from artists that they are not getting paid, or not paid enough, for their music.

Music streaming apps and websites original purpose was to  make music cheap, or free, for consumers while assuring artists would be fairly compensated for their work. That’s not happening. Musicians and songwriters claim they’re barely seeing any money from streaming.

Some muscians have openly revolted. Singer Taylor Swift pulled all of her music from Spotify. Taylor claims the ability to stream her new album, “1989,” threatened to hurt sales. Spotify claims 50 million users paying $9.99 a month for the service or listening for free with advertisements.

In a move to back Jay-Z’s service Prince removed all his music from online streaming services except Tidal.

Jay Z’s strategy is to have Tidal be a company with majority ownership in the hands of the artists. Prior to a news conference anouncing the service Jay-Z said “This is a platform that’s owned by artists. We are treating the people that really care about the music with the utmost respect.”

But the streaming game has no gentle side and Tidal has struggled. To begin with the company has seen the loss of executives recentlyCEO Andy Chen left the company and was replaced by Peter Tonstad,  former CEO of Tidal’s parent company Aspiro Group, as an interm CEO.

At the time the company stated Tonstad “has a better understanding of the industry and a clear vision for how the company is looking to change the status quo.” But shortly thereafter Tonstad was fired. He was there less than three months. Currently day-to-day operations are being handled by Vania Schlogel, Roc Nation’s chief investment officer.

Right now Tidal is in desperate need of leadership. Though the company has significant artist backing it is tiny with a subscriber base of about 750,000 listeners. Spotify claims to have 20 million paying customers.

Another problem is that App Annie rankings reported that Tidal quickly dropped out of the top 500 most downloaded apps in the U.S. on April 18. In three days, it plummeted to no. 870.

For Jay-Z there seems to be no light at the end of the streaming tunnel. Currently the company is in a nasty dust up with rapper Lil Wayne’s record label Cash Money. The label has filed suit against Tidal for releasing Lil Wayne’s latest album “The Free Weezy Album.” They are asking $50 million in damages. Jay-Z only paid $56 million for the service.

Cash Money’s lawsuit claims that Tidal did not have the right to license the music and owes the label for the unapproved debut of the album. Tidal however claims that the rapper granted exclusive rights to the album in exchange for partial ownership of the company. Cash Money records called Tidal’s deal with Lil Wayne “a desperate and illegal attempt to save their struggling streaming service.”

Sadly Jay-Z and Tidal may have gotten caught up in a dispute between Lil Wayne and his record label. Lil Wayne claims his record label is holding back his money. The dispute has even led to the revelation of a possible murder conspiracy against the rapper.

Anyway you look at, if it gets to court, the outcome could have a major impact on the music business especially streaming services and music labels. When it comes to music streaming Jay-Z is learning, its a hard knock life.