Music Mondays: Sydney Jones

Hi Sydney! Tell us a little more about you.

Hey! I’m an artist from Toronto who started with a sketchbook and I’ve been drawing ever since. I’ve worked in a lot of different positions internationally, and I consider myself pretty multifaceted. My degree’s in graphic design but I often find myself working on every kind of project, from editorial work to storyboarding to photography. I’ve worked with outlets such as Thump and Beatport, and am currently working with musicians like Ducky and Selfish Things. Most recently I’ve been doing a lot experimental storytelling, writing a few original ‘comics’ (for lack of a better term), and organizing a show of my work. My most recent personal work is my comic I’m Angry All The Time, which I’m continuing with a sequel in the near future. 

As an artist and designer, what drew you to the music industry? 

When I draw I always need the perfect song playing, the perfect playlist — sometimes my mood can turn on a dime and I have to capture the feeling of a song right there and then. It could be a sound or a lyric but I always advise those viewing my art to experience it both with and without the context of its soundtrack to get the whole experience of my work.

As an artist I’ve always been obsessed with multimedia experiences. Maybe it’s a result of playing so many video games growing up; to me, they’re one of the ultimate expressions of many art forms coming together to create unforgettable experiences for their players. As I got older and started going to electronic shows (in no small part influenced by listening to video game soundtracks endlessly as a teen), I found myself encountering similar experiences to those I’d only found in games: art working in perfect harmony to create new meanings. Album art is part of this, identity is part of this, show visuals are a part of this. I fell in love with that indescribable feeling. I knew that by working in music I could realize my talent for marrying art forms together, becoming something bigger than the sum of their parts.

 

You've produced work for a number of clients, including AT&T and an ongoing collaboration with Ducky. When starting a project, how do you begin the collaboration process, in order to find the root of what the client is hoping for? 

A big part of this is simply cultivating good communications skills. A lot of times when I’m approached by a new client, they know that they need a brand or a cover and aren’t sure what they’d actually like to have visually representing their work. My favourite thing to do with new clients is have a chat with them over the phone about what their music means to them. I find this is where a lot of designers end up fumbling the tablet pen (so to speak). It is essential to anyone collaborating with each other to be on the same page, especially with aesthetics in something as emotionally charged as music. If you’re not intimately acquainted with your client, their look and their needs, your end result is always going to come out sub par.

After the initial conversation I like to have my clients write me an email with a larger selection of their music so that I can get a feel for their sound. I also get them to curate a selection of images that they personally like, not necessarily what they think their sound should look like. Oftentimes, this creates a more accurate window into their true aesthetic preferences than anything else. Lastly, I brainstorm with them to create a set of 1-5 ‘keywords’ that serve as touchstones for us both to refer to just incase anything gets muddled in translation.

In the end, the most important thing for me is keeping a dialogue open between yourself and your collaborator. It keeps you honest. Half of your job as a designer is parsing visual language for your client. If you can summarize your ideas in a way that everyone can understand and appreciate, then it’s far easier to create a zone of constructive criticism. You’re not going to get a better end result if you’re intimidated by your client. You have nothing to be scared of! If you conduct yourself professionally, your iterations on designs will be key to your success. Trust me, I’m the most externally chill, existentially anxious person around.

Do you have any sources of creative inspiration that might surprise people? 

Of course! Any artist worth their salt carries their entire life experience in what they do. I’ve talked about my adoration of video games a multitude of times. To this day I still believe they are an under-appreciated storytelling format. Most recently I’m realizing so much of my art style/storytelling preferences are heavily influenced by Japanese RPGs, which is a trend you’re seeing more and more in electronic music as well. You’re getting the same thing with Japanese animation becoming slowly more legitimized in the art world

I personally have been an avid ballet dancer for 23 years. Whenever I’m feeling stuck in something I’m doing, going to a dance class helps clear my head. The expression of music through the physicality of movement reminds me of my own goals in art. Going to the ballet is one of my favourite things to do and any performances by the National Ballet of Canada (especially to Tchaikovsky! He’s so dramatic just like myself) hold a special place in my heart.

I think that’s a big problem in the art world; it’s really easy to get caught up in your own industry bubble. Just like the music world, the design and art world is a far smaller place than it appears to be. It can extremely quickly turn into an echo chamber of art being based off of other, derivative art; event after event of illustrators lamenting how hard art is (I mean, it’s true, but that’s not the point here). Art is at its most powerful when it carries the passion you have for everything else in your life into itself. Do you protest? Do you knit? Do you love going running, or travelling, or collecting silver dollars? Boom, there you go. I mean, look at it this way — the most popular anime of last season was based on an animator who just really, really, really loves professional figure skating. Bring your love into your art and the world will always benefit.

Walk me through your creative process. 

The best starting point for me is twofold: experimentation, and research. I usually start by loosely sketching and compiling ideas and compositions as fast as possible. If I get stuck on the computer end of things, I go to physical mediums, and vice versa. If I’m struggling with concepts or compositions I like to reference back to folders I make full of inspiring images. I have it organized fairly neatly, full of everything from a landscape I like the lighting of to an interesting pose to use as a reference photo to some art I love the line quality of. If I don’t know enough about the topic I’m working on — research it! For example, I’m drawing a comic on figure skating right now, so I have folders and folders of video performances, still shots, and reference photos of everything from jumps to how skates are constructed.

After that point my process usually gets me a few sketches which I clean up on my computer, then ink and finally colour. If it’s a design such as a logo, I make a couple of options and try to iterate on past designs as much as I can. An idea is nothing unless it’s pushed as far as it can go, or else it’s all just unrealized potential.

Ideas can come to you all at once, it’s true, but anybody who says that an idea isn’t improved upon by editing is an awful liar. Every single good idea I’ve had has started as either a bad one, or after long awful strings of bad ones. Refinement and editing are the best tools an artist has in their arsenal, and being able to look critically at your own work is a learned skill. 

 

What advice would you give to other freelance artists interested in working with musicians?

My best piece of advice to an artist trying to work in this industry is this: learn how to value yourself. You are a working professional, and any musician worth their salt will know that their image is one of the first points of contact between themselves and a potential listener. Just like an artist who sends away their music for mastering, or trusts a label to license their tracks, or has a PR agent for promotion, you provide a valuable service in the music industry. You have to respect your own time and theirs by making sure that you know not only the artistic process, but everything that surrounds it. Learn how to write your own contracts. Keep your paperwork in order. Make sure you have an email in place for explaining to clients how you work with them and exactly what they’re getting for their money. Read up on copyright laws and licensing for your own work. And if absolutely nothing else, charge a fee that matches the value of your work! There are a lot of people who will work for free out there, and the key difference is that you’re offering professionalism, responsiveness, and a high quality of service to your client. Respect is a two way street.

Other than that — know when you’re being taken advantage of. Set up boundaries around your work, when you can be contacted, and agree on reasonable deadlines. Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean that you’re any less valuable as a part of a team. Work with others how you want to be worked with. Keep going! You’ve got this. Trust me.


Connect with Sydney on Twitter and Instagram.

Words: Staley Sharples

App Review: Stash

Want to start investing your money, but confused about where to begin? Stash can help you get started. Touting itself as a way to "empower a new generation of investors", the service allows users to purchase pre-bundled ETFs, or exchange-traded funds. Much has been said about the positives of investing in ETFs, particularly for millennials

Encrypted with 256-bit security, this SEC-registered investment advisor app allows users to start investing with as little as $5, and is quick and easy to sign up for. The company also offers a business option, giving small business owners and their teams a simple way to begin investing. Groups can start Stash accounts for free, at a low cost to their employer, and Stash allows the option for an employer to contribute to an employee's account—a cost-efficient way to provide investment benefits, incentivizing more talent to work for small businesses. 

For singular users looking to build their investment portfolios, Stash offers pre-bundled ETFs based on personality profiles and personal beliefs. Some of the featured profiles and their corresponding ETFs include: The Activist, The Techie, The Globetrotter, and The Trendsetter. 

Stash helps its users learn how to manage their investment for the future, providing in-app financial education tailored to your personal interests and goals. For those looking to get started saving for the future, Stash is an approachable introduction to financial advising—great for any millennial interested in starting managing their money.

Learn more about Stash here. 

Words: Staley Sharples

Music Mondays: Ava Tunnicliffe

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

My name is Ava Tunnicliffe and I run Tallulah PR & Management. I work with up-and-coming talent across a number of genres. At the moment I manage one artist, Kyan Palmer, but do PR for numerous others: Caroline Lazar, Pierce, Frankie + The Studs, Julianne Glass and Haley Vassar. I strive to provide be a 360-resource for my artist, often going above and beyond. 


How did you get your start in the music industry?

Well, I was basically born into the music industry as my dad and brother are both deeply involved in music. I got my real start when I started interning at Republic Records, which soon parlayed into a job in the digital marketing department. Alongside my full-time job I ran Tallulah PR & MGMT as a side gig. While I cherish how much I learnt working for one of the best music labels in the game, I always had a burning need to give it a shot on my own in this crazy industry, so I made the leap and decided to make Tallulah PR & Management a full time gig instead of just a side hustle.


What are the three biggest business lessons you've learned in your own personal experience?

1. Who you know will get you through the door, but only you can keep yourself inside (thanks to Daniel Glass for that one).
2. Running your own business is not just a job, it's a lifestyle choice.
3. Networking is everything.


What trends do you see the industry gravitating towards in terms of digital marketing strategies?

Social media is everything, and I think that is still something that is unfortunately overlooked. The ability for fans to be able to "interact" with artists on socials is invaluable. I recommend to all my artists to put their best foot forward with social media. While it can be disheartening to put in so much effort and not get enough "likes" and "retweets" off the bat, it only takes one retweet from an influencer, celebrity or brand to catapult an artist to a new level of fame. It's fascinating. 5) Do you think that having an editorial background influences your approach to PR? Why or why not? I think having an editorial background has definitely helped my approach to PR. First off, I understand what it's like to be on the other side of the email. I understand the magazine world timelines, the publication timelines, and the pitches that are the most effective for journalists. Working in editorial as an intern and freelancer for so many years also helped me to solidify genuine relationships across the industry, which has definitely helped me to be a successful publicist.

Interviewed by: Staley Sharples

Facebook Wants To Sell Your Emotions

Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, showcased the multitude of new products the social media company plans to roll out over the course of the next year. Staying on-track with its quest to dominate over all in the technology industry, new bot features in Messenger and an updated version of the AI assistant M aim to make Facebook your go-to for all things communication. The common thread among all of Facebook’s newest products, however, was the intensive focus on augmented reality (AR). As Wired claims, “the camera is now the most important thing on your phone. Sharing photos and videos with your friends will continue to be huge, sure. But soon the camera will begin powering new augmented reality experiences inside Facebook. You’ll get games and photo filters, and your surroundings will soon be awash in playful and informational metadata that you can only see by lifting up your handset, opening the Facebook app, and viewing the world through the camera.”

 

AR and VR (virtual reality) are buzzwords thrown around often in tech, particularly when applied to gaming systems like Playstation. They’ve been in commercial use for a while, but the technologies haven’t really taken off in the way the tech industry had predicted…. yet. Facebook’s latest offerings of products subtly integrate AR and VR into the way we communicate, ranging from the gimmicky VR-centric Facebook Spaces to the already popular Snapchat-esque Frame Store app. However, it’s the way in which Facebook is creating a new kind of usability with AR that could be exciting—or frightening. Similar to Pokemon Go, the 2016 AR smartphone game that sparked a nationwide obsession, Facebook’s new tools will allow users to “place virtual objects into the real world when you view your surroundings through your phone. Leave messages on the fridge for your spouse, or tag businesses with floating notes and tips written on walls. We’ll get AR games that incorporate real-world objects thanks to a technology called “SLAM” (simultaneous localization and mapping) that lays a 3-D grid over the table in front of you, turning it into a gameboard. Also, we’ll get AR art, pieces only viewable through your phone.” While these features might be convenient, it begs the question: how does Facebook intend to use all this new, AR-generated data?

 

The best guess is simple: Facebook, like many other technology companies, wants to track far more than just your location data. It wants to profit off of your emotional data.

 

Emotion tracking in advertising isn’t a new concept; Apple’s acquisition of the emotion-tracking technology Emotient went under the radar last year, and companies such as Procter & Gamble are tracking emotion data through Realeyes. Facebook has even indicated well before F8 that it wants to use AI to analyze your photos and videos, in an effort to better understand what ads you might engage with. But teaching technology to have empathy, and using that empathy to sell, is the next great frontier in targeted advertising. Facebook makes a profit off of the user data it generates, so it would only make sense to continue invading user privacy in order to sell their emotions. Take a look at Facebook’s privacy policy sometime—you might be horrified by how much information you agree to handing off to them. For free.

 

A recent rollback of Internet privacy laws by Republican lawmakers isn’t a great sign, especially when partnered with Facebook’s latest data-gathering techniques. Trump’s signing of a bill that strips the Federal Communications Committee’s online privacy regulation is cause for concern; without regulation, “we're building an internet that senses, thinks, and acts. We're building a world-size robot, and we don't even realize it.

 

Unless you want to go completely off the grid, it’s unavoidable to have your data tracked by whatever social media platform you use—and even if you did disappear into the ether, there are still surveillance cameras that track and store your facial image in their database. Facebook will continue to serve as a disrupter in the technology industry, and we will adapt. With a lack of foreseeable online privacy regulatory action, these new tools are indicative of the ethical dilemma in technical innovation: we’re creating a more convenient and innovative way to communicate, but at what cost? 

Words: Staley Sharples

In New E-Commerce Acquisitions, Walmart Is Set To Go Head To Head With Amazon

In the past year, American multinational corporation Walmart has been steadily adding to their retail empire, expanding aggressively into the e-commerce frontier. In 2016, Walmart acquired Jet.com, one of the fastest-growing e-commerce companies in the United States, for $3 billion. Since the acquisition of Jet, Walmart has set their sights on online retailers with strong, loyal consumer followings. Now the proprietor of five major online companies and a sixth acquisition in talks, along with the creation of a Silicon Valley technology incubator by the name of Store Number 8, Walmart is making it clear that the concept of “retail” as we know it is about to be dramatically altered.

Pushing to compete with Amazon, the online retailer and production studio that allows you to buy groceries and stream movies all on the same site, Walmart has set its sights on a varied number of companies. Perhaps the most controversial was Jet's acquisition of Modcloth, a feminist-identifying women’s retailer known for their body-positive clothing and diverse range of sizes. Other companies acquired by Walmart include Moosejaw, an outdoor retailer selling products from Patagonia and North Face; shoe retailer Shoebuy; Hayneedle, a furniture company; and as of press time, Walmart is in discussions to purchase men’s retailer Bonobos as well.

The rapid growth of Walmart’s new e-commerce sector will certainly require the creation of additional jobs, allowing the company to square up to Amazon’s 2017 initiative in making 100,000 US-based jobs available to workers. In a press release issued in January, Walmart claimed that “investments in the coming year will support an estimated 34,000 jobs through continued expansion and improvement in the company’s store network, as well as e-commerce services, while providing specialty training for more than 225,000 of the company’s frontline associates.” As in-store retail jobs dwindle in the face of technology and globalization, the development of more e-commerce jobs could aid workers forced out of retail.

With a brand-new executive order signed by President Trump this week, Walmart’s tech incubator could be another answer to the pressure for US-based companies to “Buy American, Hire American”. Store Number 8’s push to cultivate and analyze new retail technology could lead to even more tech-sector jobs in the US for American workers. The practice of hiring foreign tech workers has been a controversial one, with some claiming that the popular H-1B visa program utilized for high-skilled foreign tech workers takes away opportunities for many American workers, especially minority STEM graduates. However, by hiring the black and Latinx STEM graduates who are often overlooked for technology jobs, Walmart’s incubator could quickly be revered as a major influencer for technology in Silicon Valley.

To disrupt Amazon’s stronghold on the digital retail market, Walmart will have to quickly, and smoothly, integrate their new acquisitions into their already-existing brand, both online and off. They’ll also have to continue to match Amazon’s incentive of new jobs with benefits, which may be a tougher feat for a multinational that’s taken on nearly six e-commerce companies in a year. Regardless, Walmart is set to prove that through digital growth and strategy, we’re about to face a brave new world of retail in the US.

 

Words: Staley Sharples 

Amazon Recognizes The Power Of The Freelancer Economy

Amazon is tapping into the booming freelance worker economy in their ongoing creation of 5,000 work-from-home part-time jobs with an elusive perk—health and career development benefits. The online corporation set their sights on the growing workforce looking for part-time incomes to supplement their income, with the flexibility to cater to those who may be disabled and unable to travel, parents with young children who wish to work again, or college graduates living at home and figuring out their next steps. Tom Weiland, Amazon Vice President for Worldwide Customer Service, stated in n a press release, “There are lots of people who want or need a flexible job—whether they’re a military spouse, a college student, or a parent—and we’re happy to empower these talented people no matter where they happen to live.

The percentage of American workers who telecommute is steadily rising, and understandably so In 2016, it was found that 35% of Americans (55 million) were freelancers. Whether they’re working a second night job, supplementing a family income, or making their living as an independent contractor, freelancers enjoy a relatively low barrier to entry in the “work from home” job market, which makes these positions so desirable. There are a number of benefits to working from home: remote work allows employees to forgo transportation costs, and gives them the freedom and flexibility to develop their own schedule. It also creates jobs for Americans living in areas outside of major cities who struggle to find office employment. However, working from home has its challenges too: isolation, burnout, and unproductivity can all plague the home-based worker. While it serves employers well and saves them money to allow more workers to telecommute, there are costs on their side as well. To effectively work from home, an employee must be self disciplined in making sure they stay productive—or, on the other hand, don’t work themselves too hard.

However, Amazon’s recognition of freelancers in their development of these jobs sends a message to other companies, too: by recognizing a population of Americans who are actively seeking employment that reflects their lifestyle, they are stimulating the freelancer economy and benefitting a vast number of people who had previously been written out of the workforce. 

Apply for jobs on Amazon's website today—applications can be found here. 

Words: Staley Sharples

Music Mondays: Zach Swezy

Zach Swezy, Editor in Chief of Chicago-based blog 1833 and author of I Want To Die Now in 300 Years, chats with us about supporting minorities in the music industry.

Tell me a little about yourself and what you do at 1833. 

Talk about myself, huh... Well I am 26, an avid reader, writer, and music listener. My role at 1833 is basically meant to cater to those interests. My main job is to curate music for our website, edit reviews, interview artists, gather guest mixes, host our radio show and write jokes on Twitter and email blasts. I guess the job title would be "Editor-in-Chief".

What do you like best about running 1833? 

 I love that I can use my small website and social media reach to help put on for people of color, femmes (no terfs tho), and queer people. Some of the most brilliant and talented people in the world come from the margins and if we are going to heal our planet we have to put them at the forefront. To me, elevating these people is the most rewarding thing to do in music industry.  

Have you faced any challenges as a promoter in Chicago? What would you say are the skills required to be a successful promoter? 

Well I can't say I'm on promotion side of things too often. I've organized a few charity events and I know some people don't like to collaborate with me on those anymore because I insist on giving all the money away. Zack Eastman and Blake Witsman are the skillful promoters of 1833, also the founders, also they are my "dad". Karolina Naumowicz is also super essential to the promotion team and has shaped 1833 in a fundamental way. In watching Zack deal with agents, I can tell you promotion is a tricky game, one I probably don't have the skills to play. You have to be a shrewd business person while maintaining an air of extreme likability. You have to know when to bend and when to be rigid. You can't take gruff from anyone. If I'm being totally honest it helps a lot to be a tall, handsome, kind, white man. I think lastly, aside from networking skills the most necessary skill as a promoter is to know how to take a loss and to know you're going to face a lifetime of them. Not every show is a winner and not every city loves a certain artist as much as you might, such is life.   

How do you hope to further your artistic mission through 1833 as well as your personal projects? 

I hope to become a widely read and published author one day, sooner than later. With 1833 I just want to continue to be an alternative to the payola blog game. I want young artists without PR agents to feel comfortable coming to us and showing us their songs. Sometimes we post stuff as favors to our PR friends if we like it but the majority of our finds are from soundcloud/bandcamp digging or from musicians we've witnessed live or become friends with on Twitter. It's not nearly as lucrative as writing a few words about every Future song that's ever come out but I'm pretty stubborn and set in my ways at this point. The lucrative part of our blog comes from throwing banging shows around Chicago, which kind of eases the financial pressure of the blog, though I would like to make more advertisement money -- so FWM s/o @complex Advertisting Network let's build.  

What is one thing everyone that's considering a career in music should know? 

If you're considering a career in the music industry you should know that it is an industry. Like all industries you will encounter deeply entrenched racism, homophobia and sexism. Things in the art world seem to finally be slowly moving to a more egalitarian place, but I could very likely be wrong about that. What is cool though - is that a lot of people on the margins are now becoming more vocal, we are demanding change. We'll see if things improve in the next decade or so.

Interviewed by: Staley Sharples

#DeleteUber: Are Boycotts Effective In Creating Social Change Within A Company?

Following an essay detailing extensive sexual harassment by a female engineer formerly employed by Uber, there is a call throughout social media to #deleteuber.

A few weeks ago, that same hashtag was trending as a response to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stating he intended to meet with President Donald J. Trump as a part of Trump's advisory board, after President Trump had signed his Executive Order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. The initial Uber backlash of 2017 prompted some negative media attention, but it proved to be fleeting. Through this hashtag, users of the ride-sharing service hope to stand up for their principles and initiate social change within the company. 

With the hashtag #deleteuber trending once again due to the female engineer's viral blog post about Uber's sexual harassment within the company, it serves to consider the effectiveness of a boycott in the 21st century. An episode of Freakonomics' podcast, released in January 2016, explores the impact of boycotts on a company - both in reputation and in financial profit. 

"Now, our question of the day, you’ll remember, was simply this: “do boycotts work?” Here’s what the evidence seems to suggest: The typical boycott is more smoke than fire. And it doesn’t often seem to financially hurt the targeted company. But, humans being human, and the court of public opinion working as it does, a boycott can color the reputation of a given firm —  as it has for Monsanto, and for its new plant scientist Ben Hunter. And a boycott, when it reflects dissatisfaction with a larger social issue, can become some wind in the sail. The way the Montgomery Bus Boycott did. The way that even — perhaps, maybe, who knows, maybe just a tiny bit —  the Chick-fil-A boycott did."

Listen to the podcast, or read the transcript, now. You can learn more about Uber's response to Ms. Fowler's essay here.

Words: Staley Sharples

Music Mondays: Nick LeTellier

Nick LeTellier is the founder of website Festival Snobs, and enjoys event photography. Read more in our conversation below. 

What was the inspiration behind Festival Snobs?

Basically ever since my first music festival which was Bonnaroo in 2009, I've had an obsession with live music and the music festival experience. As time went on, I would constantly be posting to my personal social media pages about upcoming music festivals, but it was falling on deaf ears as the majority of my friends couldn't have cared less. So I decided to instead use that time and effort on a blog so that others could enjoy my travels and adventures when it came to music festivals. As it began to become more popular, it more morphed into an e-magazine rather than a blog as I brought on more people to write and photograph while keeping all of our followers up-to-date on any and all music festival news in North America.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

 

How did you first get into photography?

So back in 2013 I had applied to cover a music festival in Portland, OR called MusicFestNW as online media. I had always dreamed of visiting Portland and this seemed like a good excuse considering how much I loved their lineup that year. The plan was to go and just use my smart phone for social posts through the festival, but when I got my acceptance e-mail for my media application, it noted that I had been granted one photo pass as well as my media pass. Knowing that there was no way I could get away with entering the festival's photo pit with just an iPhone, I literally paid to rent a DSLR without any experience and on the plane from Nashville to Portland I watched numerous YouTube video tutorials on how to use the camera I had rented, as well as just general photography tips and editing suggestions. Needless to say, my photos from that festival were absolutely terrible and it's pretty amusing to look back at them now, knowing what I do now. But being able to get that perspective at a concert and snap photographs directly in front of the artists inspired me to eventually purchase my own DSLR camera and pick up the hobby so that I could continue doing it at future music festivals.

 

What are some of the most important lessons you've learned as an event photographer?

Really to just stay laid back, go with the flow, and allot some time to NOT be taking photographs. Photographing music festivals, especially the big ones, are so tough because there are bands performing non-stop on different stages throughout the festival site, and you're usually only allowed to photograph the first three songs. So once you're done shooting one band, typically you're running to the next stage or tent to shoot the next band before they kick all the photographers out. If you're not careful, you'll spend the entire weekend running around photographing and after it's over realize that you never actually took any time to step back, take it all in, and enjoy yourself

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

 

What are your favorite festivals to photograph and why?

The music festivals I enjoy shooting the most are the ones that can incorporate numerous things other than just music. I love being able to take photographs of stuff other than the artists performing, whether it be the city the festival is in, the festivals patrons themselves, jaw dropping interactive art, or even food. As far as specific festivals that I can recall, I always loved shooting Moogfest back when it was in Asheville, NC. They did an amazing job of incorporating the city's downtown area into the festival by using numerous venues that required you to be constantly exploring the cities streets.

 

What advice would you give to someone just getting started in event photography?

Know exactly what you're getting into. It's not as easy as going to Wal-Mart, buying the cheapest Canon Rebel camera they have in stock, and showing up at the festival with said camera ready to get front row access to bands. The hobby can be extremely expensive once you start diving into it, purchasing lenses, and upgrading gear. Unfortunately the return on investment can also be little to nothing, as more and more music outlets are bombarded with hobby photographers willing to photograph for free, asking only for access and exposure in return. You're going to need to know what you're doing in order to stand out because there are always hundreds of other photographers there, shooting the exact same bands at the exact same time as you, from mostly the same angles. This is where focusing your skills on the editing aspect of photography can help.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

Photo by Nick LeTellier.

Decoding the Dodd-Frank: Understanding Trump's Latest Executive Orders

Following a series of controversial Executive Orders within the first few weeks of his presidency, President Trump signed two more on Friday, February 3rd that show he intends to issue a review of the Dodd-Frank Act, as well as delay the implementation of the Fiduciary Rule. Both of these Obama-era regulations were direct responses to the global financial crisis of 2008. The Dodd-Frank Act, or the Wall-Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, is a 2,300-page piece of legislation first issued in 2010, with its’ provisions set to be put into place over the course of several years. Two of the most controversial regulatory bodies that the Dodd-Frank Act created are the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), as well as a special branch of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that solely reviews credit ratings. Along with the Dodd-Frank Act, the Fiduciary Rule was developed to make sure financial advisors would act in the best interest of their clients regarding retirement accounts, only selling financial products that matched the exact need of the client. The Fiduciary Rule differs from the Suitability Rule, which is more relaxed and allows advisors to sell financial products that are similar in meeting the needs of the client, but may not be the exact product that the client has requested. 

The review of the Dodd-Frank Act and the halting of the revisions in the Fiduciary Rule appear to be in line with the Trump administration’s determination to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act. Critics of the Dodd-Frank have claimed for years that its’ regulatory demands are too strict and uncompromising; while others state that repealing the legislation could result in another financial crisis akin to 2008’s collapse. Trump has additionally proposed bringing back a version of the Glass-Steagall Act, a financial regulatory legislation that was repealed in 1999. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who aided in writing portions of the Dodd-Frank Act, has also shown support for a re-institution of the Glass-Steagall Act. To note, the Glass-Steagall Act was issued in 1933 following The Great Depression, and separated investment banks from commercial banking activities. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act was a key factor in developing the conditions that allowed for the predatory, fraudulent lending in the subprime mortgage crisis, which in turn set off the global financial crisis of 2008. 

Trump has expressed his distaste for Dodd-Frank throughout his campaign, but in order to repeal it, he and his administration face considerable obstacles. To start, his memorandum to the Department of Labor for a review of Dodd-Frank and the Fiduciary Rule was vague in its’ aims. Regarding the review of the Dodd-Frank, the still-unconfirmed Treasury Secretary Steve Mneuchin is meant to meet with regulatory boards created by the Dodd-Frank, such as members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, in 120 days. 

There is outrage and skepticism facing Trump’s decision to review, and perhaps repeal, the Dodd-Frank Act, with some claiming that this may spark a global pattern of deregulatory action. As a relatively new legislative action, it can be argued that a review of the Dodd-Frank is a good idea; the primary purpose of the Dodd-Frank is positive and helpful, but perhaps its’ functions could be more efficient. However, it appears that Trump’s administration is less inclined in maintaining fair regulations on the financial services industry, but only time will tell. Keeping banks and financial advisors accountable and honest through law is crucial, but as Robert K. Merton’s theory implies, the only law that’s never been broken is the law of unintended consequences.

If you are disheartened by Trump’s Executive Orders and his plans for the Dodd-Frank and Fiduciary Rule, this may ease your worries: once a rule is created within government, it takes many, many years to actually undo it. You can learn more about how undoing a rule works in this episode of Planet Money. 

To learn more about the financial crisis of 2008 and the effect the repeal of Glass-Steagall had on it, watch Charles Ferguson’s documentary Inside Job. Inside Job is available for streaming on Netflix.

Words: Staley Sharples

Music Mondays: DJ Kryptk

DJ Kryptk is a DJ based in the DC area, and has played a number of high-profile events. Her focus on activism and community, coupled with her excellent DJing, makes her one to watch. Read on for our conversation, and listen to her playlist below. 

You're active in the DC music scene, but you're politically active as well, having played at events such as the White House for the Trans Community Briefing Session. What inspires you to use music as a form of activism? Are there specific causes that you're especially passionate about? 

I was asked to perform at that event by Lourdes Ashley Hunter of TWOCC (Trans Women of Color Collective), who was a key organizer of the briefing. A few other performers were  Shi-Queeta-Lee, who gave the first ever drag performance at the White House and Venus Selenite, a DC based writer that shared some of her poetry. I never would have thought I'd witness that and also be able to play Migos for all to enjoy. 

Music has a way of opening us up to an emotional depth that is unlike any other. Often the stories that communities I love have to tell are present in the music, between methodical and meaningful rhythm. At its core, music is a scientific means of portraying and documenting human emotions and experiences.  If music and creativity can help us retrieve our past and be optimistic about our future, why not indulge?

Some of my first DJ gigs were in support of local social justice organizations, such as Empower DC. Those communities were loving enough to take a chance on me. I particularly support with either my time or money causes, organizations and businesses that promote autonomy and leadership for Black people and people of Color. A respectful cohabitation with the environment and the resources it continuously provides is at the center of how I view leadership and autonomy.

Do you find that living in DC makes creative communities inherently political due to your physical proximity to the US Government? Why or why not? 

I don't think it's possible for me to exist neutrally in any space because both I'm queer and Black.  I'd venture to say I'm not alone in that thinking. I also don't want to be neutral.

There is actually a powerful artistic foundation that exists quite harmoniously with political organizing in D.C. For example, Go-Go, the music native to the city and largely credited to Chuck Brown, originated in the 1970's and coincided with a increased pride in Blackness and self love. Go-Go has a West African influence and also Blues and Jazz undertones that speak to the lived experiences of Black people in the United States. Go-Go performances easily drew thousands of people and from these crowds, people were able to organize efforts to connect people to employment opportunities, art programs for youth and a sense of fellowship across neighborhoods. 

Art, music and creativity can serve as a vessel of replenishing our minds and bodies while we each contribute to a greater good in our respective ways. That feels pretty political in any realm or geotag. 

What first drew you to DJing? 

I began DJing without the intention of doing so by being placed on a bill through a friend and learning the basics on the spot. I now joke that DJing sought me out. Music allows me to share parts of myself without using words or blundering through intense social interactions.  I have a musical background from years of arts programs, but I had forgotten about that part of myself. DJing feels like a small personal renaissance.  It also reminds me of the days we'd burn CDs filled with carefully curated songs for our crushes. Rather or not the mixtape got sent or the feelings were reciprocated, for a brief moment, our feelings and thoughts became a sincere gift to another.

As a DJ, what do you hope to achieve in 2017? 

I'm launching and participating in a few residences this year, which is an important landmark for me. I'll be announcing those very soon. There is a validity in having a home away of home, of sorts. I also will continue planning events that highlight artists and venues that I value, particularly in D.C. and Baltimore through meaningful collaborations.  This year I will continue to build discipline in my craft and over my body. I'm sure this shocks no one, but DJs can live some pretty hectic and unhealthy lives - A delicate balance of allowing for rewards and being my own best caretaker is my tactic to thrive.  

Do you have any advice to women hoping to start DJing? 

1. Be diligent in learning the ins-and-outs of how your equipment works. The ability to troubleshoot technical issues has helped me feel more independent and confident in my craft. It also helps avoid any bloopers that later could damage costly equipment. 

2. Value yourself and your gifts. Don't feel bad for asking for compensation and being willing to turn down opportunities if people are not willing to pay you for your labor. The idea of "working for free to get your foot in the door" just doesn't work for everyone, especially in these hard times. If someone can't offer you money, perhaps negotiate a barter like access to a venue to host your own event later. Not every opportunity is a good one, so learn be discriminating if your intuition feels unsettled.

3. Strive for excellence and dignity, not perfection. The latter will always leave you lacking. 

Follow DJ Kryptk on Facebook and Twitter, and catch her DJ set at The Coven on February 11th.

Music Mondays: Jorge Meijas

Jorge Meijas is a talented multi-tasker - balancing university studies, writing for Nest HQ, event planning, and managing an artist, he's proven himself to be a mature and progressive presence in the dance music community. Read on for more about Jorge, and listen to his playlist on Spotify

Hey Jorge - thanks for talking with us! Can you give us a little background on you and your role in the music industry? 

Hey - Beyond glad to be doing this so pleasure is all mine! I'm a mere 20-year old NYC student working on my undergrad as I try to find a balance between managing Aire Atlantica, event curation in NYC, and the accounting field. 

What first drew you to the music industry? How did you get started? 

Growing up I was always into the punk-rock and pop-punk scene (tbh who wasn't) but it wasn't till 2011 that my oldest brother introduced me to that mainstage-EDM sound. The next few years I would spend hours browsing forums or zippyshare trying to find quality, yet obscure, electro and French house songs for me to mix in my bedroom after being inspired by Nero’s 2011 Essential Mix. It was moreso the virtual crate digging aspect that really drew me in. The years that followed I dabbled with some production but found myself getting frustrated more often than not. Then roughly 1.5 years ago, with a little bit of luck and the right timing, I began writing for NestHQ. Almost half a year after that I began managing Aire Atlantica with my close-friend Brian and then as the months went by I also ended up working at MagnumPR handling some PR campaigns. After realizing PR isn't quite for me, I left to focus on school, management, and some other personal projects I have in the works. It's been through the help of people like Brian, Nathan from NestHQ, and David from Magnum that I have always found a way to keep moving forward.


Are there any challenges that are specific to artist management? What led you to pursuing management?

From personal experience, management is the one path that requires you to be a jack of all trades. You need to have an understanding of PR, booking, marketing, law, etc etc to make sure no one ends up trying to screw you over in one way or another. Similarly, the more time you spend making friends from every corner of the industry the easier your life will be down the road. It was the idea of needing to understand the big picture and who contributes to it that drew me into managing.

Where do you hope to be in your career in the next 5 years?

Hopefully within the next five years I'm running a few events year round in NYC while still being able to focus on management and climbing the corporate ladder. We have a few exciting projects within the team that we are working on and I am helping develop an app with my friend that we hope will bridge the gaps across the current streaming services.

Connect with Jorge on Twitter

App Review: Digit

Trying to save up for a getaway this summer? Hoping to buy a house in the next few years? Remembering to save is hard, and keeping that money you’ve set in your savings account is even harder – when the going gets tough, it’s always tempting to dip into your savings account for a little extra cash to get you through to next month. However, with Digit, you can set goals and save up your money without even having to think about it.

Digit is an app that connects to your checking account, and uses a chat bot to communicate with you about your finances and help you start saving. After analyzing your income and spending patterns, Digit will start saving a bit of money for you every two to three days, with the saved amount ranging between $2-$17. You can also set specific savings goals with a deadline, symbolized in the app with an emoji of your choosing, through Digit, or directly tell the app to transfer a desired amount of money from your checking account to your savings. The Digit app then transfers your saved money into an insured FDIC account, which you can access at any time. 

To connect to your checking account, the app uses 128-bit encryption, and does not save your online banking details. Once the connection has been made, Digit uses a chat bot that you can either text or message in the app to check your account balance or your savings, pause Digit’s saving for a time period, or see how you’re progressing on your different savings goals. The chat bot, while cute, only recognizes specific commands, which you can send through the Digit keyboard in the app. You can also send said commands through your iMessage conversation with Digit, but I prefer just using the app itself.

Digit is a great app for someone like me, who is still learning what financial management techniques and patterns work best with my lifestyle. Very low maintenance, with a daily check-in on your account balance, it simplifies and develops your relationship with your own finances. Digit’s reminders and interactive nature instills a discipline to track your savings and gives you the boost you need to start tucking money away for your goals, both short and long term. A bonus with Digit – when you refer your family and friends to the app, you receive $5! 

Digit is available for Android and iPhone

Music Mondays: Nina Sung

Nina Sung is an artist. Coming from a very organic place, Sung's approach to music, despite her reputation as a sought after #EDM vocalist, gives her work an independent and personal touch lost on many major mainstream releases.

With experience at L.A.'s Icon Collective, one of the music industry's leading production schools, Nina Sung's ear for hooks, finesse, and polish are highlights in her music, but more importantly her experiences there gave her a feeling of communion. An outspoken advocate for groups like Nap Girls, Sung uses her visibility and her talent to push the boundaries of the music industry and create new, exciting opportunities for her peers.

An incredible voice with an amazing entrepreneurial spirit, and forward thinking aesthetic, Nina Sung is the focus of this week's Music Monday.


For readers unfamiliar with your work, tell us a little bit about yourself. What makes Nina Sung tick? What makes you unique?

I’m a singer-songwriter and musician, turned producer. I’ve been low-key writing and singing for other people for quite some time now, but I woke up one day and realized that I just couldn’t keep doing that. I needed to make my own music and it was definitely time. So I dove straight into Ableton and Logic, ditched my social life and before I knew it, I had more songs than I can keep track of.

I love dark themes—themes about heartbreak, being alone and then throwing yourself into toxic relationships just to cope, drugs, separation, angst. I  love that inner conflict that happens between what you know and what you feel, and it stems from my real life experiences. But out of all of that, I still came out ok, and there’s something really hopeful about that. Despite the dark times, light was still at the end of the tunnel for me every time, and that’s why I’m still here.  

The gender divide is a very sensitive subject when it comes to the music industry - especially in dance music. In your opinion, what can we do as music appreciators, producers, and industry professionals to help make further progress?

Ask this question to men as well as women? Seriously though, it’s made into a much bigger deal than it actually is—and to women, no less—and I feel like we keep talking about the difference like it still matters.

The truth is, yes, there is still a lot of stigma about being a woman in this industry and you better believe I’ve definitely faced them. Everything from the way I’m talked to in email threads sometimes, to how often I’m repeatedly asked as being the artist that also engineers, mixes and produces her own music, to even just how little I’m included in backstage social conversations. It’s not easy, and I’m not trying to discredit how hard women have it. However, I do feel a way we can help make further progress is by being careful about asking that question, simply because it could even help perpetuate the stigma by making it THE topic, instead of really letting the issue at rest. Everyone takes it for granted that a male will produce or DJ his own music. But when it’s a female, it’s like a huge deal. But why? It’s nothing crazy anymore. At least I don’t believe it should be. And one thing that I’m very open about is that if someone or their team is sexist or exhibits behaviors that allude to this archaic notion that women are inferior, I simply won’t work with them. Period. I would never associate with them. I don’t care who they are or how much money they’re willing to pay me. I just won’t do it.  

I love seeing people act all surprised when there’s a female producing and making moves on her own. Because it honestly exposes an ignorance that is deep within our culture still. And you better believe that I’ve had to deal with a slew of questions like “Did you do this ALL by yourself? Like, REALLY. Who produced this? You couldn’t have produced this”

It’s an insult to be honest. But I know it’s not about me. I think the first thing we have to do is recognize that there are tons of women who WANT to produce and create music—but for some reason, aren’t expected to educate themselves in the field and to be serious about it. Which, in my opinion, is bullshit. I went to Icon Collective, a music production school in LA, where there were some of the most talented, hardworking people I’ve ever met, and there were a good group of females in the game. We knew we were outnumbered but that didn’t change how we were treated.

The issue has a lot to do with visibility I feel. There’s simply not enough coverage of females killing it in the industry, and perhaps females aren’t getting the show and air time to really shine. And for the ones that are, I’ve seen a really nasty backlash of people saying that they’re only given the chance because they’re attractive—as if men don’t also have the pressure to look a certain way to get ahead.

Dig deep, and you’ll soon find that there are tons of female producers, writers, singers and even engineers who are really changing the game as we speak. So if anything, I’d say educate yourself on more than what you just see, on more than what you read on your Facebook news feed. I guarantee you that you’ll find that there are equally as many dope artists that identify as female as there are those that identify as male.

There are very few producers who make distinctive music. There are even fewer who have the confidence to sing on their own material. What’s your approach to crafting your sound and to songwriting?

Well, like I said, I was a singer-songwriter and musician first, and then a producer. So my approach follows that similar order of procedure. I start with a concept for a song. It can start with anything really—a visual, a journal entry, a phone conversation I had with my brother. Most of the time I’ll just do some stream of consciousness writing where I jot down whatever comes to my mind for about 10-15 minutes. There aren’t any rules, it’s just about writing faster than your brain can judge what you are spitting out. I tell myself that no one but myself is going to read it so anything goes, and from there, I’m able to really figure out what’s going on inside of me in that moment.

My process never starts in the DAW, it always starts from a real place, hence why every single one of my songs has a very real thing that is attached to it.  It’s not enough for me personally to get inspired by a particular Serum patch or clap sample, which I know a lot of producers out there are like. And it certainly doesn’t start with someone else’s music. Don’t get me wrong, I admire tons of artists but I’m careful to create something after listening to someone else’s music because I just feel like it would taint my project. I try to keep my creative space, free of outside influence, so to speak.  

I’ll then move to the guitar or piano and find chords, either within, or around my key. I record the progression into Ableton and loop it a bunch of times until I find a strong top line—and through that process, I’ll usually figure out the arrangement as well. To me, the hook is the most important thing so I will usually try and find that pocket first, but it’s tricky because not every song has a hook. I’ve had people disagree with me on this, but I’m a strong believer in that some songs and progressions have a hook, and others simply do not. The trick is to not force it because then you’ll start feeling like you’re beating a dead horse. And that is when I’ll need to step away for a bit, or change something from before. But from that point, once I have a song—the heart and soul so to speak—I’ll move to the drum pattern, bass line and synths (if necessary). But the most important thing is that the sound design and groove need to fit along the same theme of what the song is going for. I’m not going to put in crazy super saws for a song that I feel needs to be received in an intimate light. So basically, my process is just that I need to play the song acoustically on the guitar or piano, and sing it from start to finish for it qualify to the next step—which is production. Otherwise, it just stays as a half idea.

We understand you have a bevy of unreleased material. What can you tell us about the music you want to share in the upcoming months?

Oh man, there is so much music—enough music for at least 2 full length albums so I’m very excited for everything to come together and for everyone to hear all of this.  What’s been heard from me so far has only really been from my “EDM vocalist” days but that’s no more. I mean, I now have 100% control of what you, the listener, gets to hear on these new songs. And that’s very exciting for me. So many times before it was very clear that I was doing something for someone else, much like a job, or work for hire. But if there is anything that I’d have to say about this new music is that it is exactly what I’ve been meaning to show the world this whole time.

Last, but not least, what nugget of guidance, wisdom, inspiration do you have for persons who are interested in pursuing the music industry as a life path?

Life is short, don’t do something JUST because you think it’s going to gain attention, even when you don’t believe in the project. It’s tempting, but cutting that out and not wasting your time by doing exactly what you want to do first is a surefire way you won’t end up bitter about who you’ve become. Also, try to create from an honest space without judging what you make. So many times we love to judge ourselves for what we do (like does that snare really work? Maybe that lyric is too cheesy, etc) even before we really let something grow and develop! And as artists, I believe that is a huge mistake. Something that others or even yourself at the time deem as being stupid or silly, could actually turn into something super unique and a game changer in a big way. But because of insecurity or fear of scrutiny, it gets axed and the world will never experience the product of your totally unique moment of inspiration.  Don’t judge it. Just flow.

Remember that haircut and outfit you had in middle school? Pretty cringe worthy right? Well musical development is no different. You need to keep writing and producing music to get better. It’s honestly as simple as that. You’re not going to see immediate results. And I believe that’s with a lot of things, but I had to write maybe close to 200 songs before finally writing my first real single, and I didn’t cringe. If you keep going, you’ll hit this threshold point—call it your 10,000 hours, or whatever—but you’ll be able to tap into something that is totally unique and special, and that’s when you know you hit gold.


For more on Nina Sung, visit her on SoundCloud and Facebook. Be sure to check out her curated list of tracks below as well!