Biologist creates “living music” record and installation using yeast cells – DJ Mag

 The Seoul-based scientist and artist Mikael Hwang, AKA Psients, says it’s “the world’s first playable, living music media”
Seoul-based scientist and artist Mikael Hwang, AKA Psients, has created a record of “living music” made with yeast cells.
The project formed part of a Psients’ recent ‘Signals’ installation with spatial artist Jeffrey Kim. It is “a project at the intersection of biology, sound, and music,” Hwang said on Instagram, “the first iteration of creating an instrument that is alive and also marks itself as the world’s first playable, living music media.” 
Hwang said ‘Signal’ is “inspired by biology lab practices of culturing microorganisms in petri dishes and my persistent love for electronic music,” via his website. The installation featured an obelisk at the centre with an object designed to look like a vinyl record and a petri dish. It was filled with yeast colonies, with more atop the record’s grooves. These “bio-digital instruments” were then “sampled, processed, and manipulated.”
The specially designed, playable vinyl is thicker than the standard 12-inch, and was pressed with yeast organisms housed inside the wax, according to Art Style. It was designed with the help of Bulgarian-based product development firm, SplinePro. 
A digital ‘Signal’ release is out now. The four-track EP features two ambient pieces from the exhibition, which premiered at the  Paradise Cultural Foundation exhibition in Seoul this past May, and two tracks focused on the dancefloor. 
“Clubs and dance floors are essential spaces for people to dance and enjoy music — that’s where my love of electronic music blossomed,” Hwang told Art Style. “I want to evolve from these places to exhibitions or galleries where music and sound can take on a different role; where people can listen, think, and reflect on their environments, rather than react to the immediacy of spaces, such as a club.”
Psients previously released the ‘The Sun (Alex Young)’ single with amu and MOON YIRANG in 2019 as part of the ‘N.A.S.A.’ compilation on his label textures. 
Listen to the ‘Signal’ EP, and watch a film of the installation.
A post shared by Psients (@_adaacid_)
Thrust Publishing Ltd, Unit 3, 30-40 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ, United Kingdom. Tel: +44(0)7940488008

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Vinyl record sales soar in Philadelphia, thanks to Gen Z – On top of Philly news – Billy Penn

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On top of Philly news
Demand is so heavy the industry is struggling with supply chain issues.
Pat Feeney opened Manayunk’s Main Street Music because he couldn’t kick an obsession sparked by seeing the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. Sixty years later, Feeney is selling stacks of Beatles records to people whose parents weren’t even born when that now-iconic performance took place.
His boom in vinyl sales is largely being fueled by Gen-Zers who appreciate the bonus of physical ownership in a world of streaming music.
“The beautiful big album cover is just so nice and pretty,” said Olivia Hoover, a 24-year-old Queen Village resident, who said she also really appreciates the sound quality. “There’s something so fun and magical about having tangible music.”
Vinyl records in 2021 saw U.S. revenues exceed $1 billion for the first time since the mid-80s. Sales jumped by 50% last year alone, surpassing CD revenue for the first time since 1991 — the year Main Street Music opened.
“You could see the interest growing,” Feeney told Billy Penn. “We were probably a little behind at times. We should have been more aggressive on switching.”
Today, about 85% of Main Street Music’s sales are vinyl.
Records sold span all different genres and eras, Feeney said. This year’s best seller is Harry Styles’ airy third album “Harry’s House,” often purchased alongside records from Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish. Classics from earlier decades are also flying off the shelves. Teens and young adults shopping at the Manayunk store are buying hits from rockers like Steely Dan, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
“Our biggest selling album of the last three years is Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumors,’” Feeney said. “Every other day we sell it, and we can’t get enough of them.”
Alexis Burress, a 21-year-old Temple University student who hosts an R&B college radio show, said they first became interested in vinyl in 2014 thanks to Tumblr. Their first record, Chaka Khan’s 1978 self-titled album “Chaka,” was a gift from their grandmother.
“I would just be crate digging for hours,” Burress said about their early trips to record stores. They started off with old soul and jazz albums, but now their collection has turned to more current releases.
Burress said they like the soothing, almost “vintage” sound of vinyl, and noticed other college students starting record collections, too.
Dan Matherson, owner and founder of South Street’s Repo Records, doesn’t need a Gen-Zer to tell him vinyl’s mass appeal stems from its unique aesthetic and experience.
“You have to sit down, put the record on,” Matherson said. “When you’re holding the record, the cover, the artwork, you get the whole feel of what the artist is trying to convey.”
Popular with “the kids” shopping at Repo right now are albums by Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Funkadelic, all artists whose prime eras were before most of them were born.
One side effect of vinyl’s popularity: The increased demand has led to supply chain breakdowns.
Last year, the sheer volume of Adele’s “30” record pressings caused a backlog that had other artists scrambling. Musicians have learned to inform pressing plants months in advance if they want to have records in time for a planned album drop.
Michael J. Wodnicki, who in 2020 cofounded Northeast Philly pressing company Softwax Record Pressing, told Billy Penn supply chain issues started showing up a decade ago.
“It became more and more apparent that there was a problem,”said Wodnicki, who experienced this first hand when trying to get his own music pressed. The struggle led him to partner with fellow music producer Federico R. Casanova to start Softwax.
They cater to smaller artists, and staying accessible for these lesser-known musicians means purposely turning down gigs. “We’re living in this world,” Wodnicki said, “but we’re not necessarily growing as a company like the exponential growth of the industry.”
That exponential growth probably won’t continue forever, acknowledged Feeney, the Main Street Music owner. But he does believe the vinyl love is here to stay, especially when it comes to loyal regulars. “We have so many customers with allegiance,” Feeney said.
The generation of people who fell in love with vinyl when it was the only way to play their favorite songs is now fostering that love among young folks hearing them for the first time, said Repo Records owner Matherson. The intergenerational connection is part of why he thinks it’s a long-term trend.
“Music’s going to be here,” Matherson said. “It’s such an important part of everybody’s life.”
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How NFT Music Is Transforming the Recording Industry – Built In

Months before the June 21 release of his first non-fungible token, or NFT, collection, Julian Lennon spoke to Paul McCartney for the first time in years. They were on FaceTime, discussing, among other things, items from Lennon’s personal collection of Beatles memorabilia that he planned to sell as digitized images on the NFT marketplace YellowHeart.
The so-called Lennon Connection, now sold out, features images of several Gibson Les Pauls guitars his late father, John Lennon, gifted to Julian, a black cape his father wore in the film Help! and the Afghan coat his father wore on the film set of the Magical Mystery Tour, where Juilian was present as a four-year-old.
Lennon’s audio narration explaining the significance of these items is minted as part of the NFT collection, and his musings on a digital replica of McCartney’s handwritten notes for “Hey Jude,” which sold for $76,800, are especially poignant. John Lennon divorced his first wife Cynthia Lennon amid a known affair with Yoko Ono. McCartney wrote the song, originally titled “Hey Jules,” to comfort Julian as a child, and it has left a lasting impression on Lennon. His seventh album, JUDE, scheduled for release in late 2022, is at once a tribute to the McCartney song and a story of his artistic coming of age.
“Paul wrote [“Hey Jude”] from an empathetic point of view, thinking about how I was going to live, how I was going to survive, what I was going to do to be strong moving forward,” Lennon said. “I sort of took those words to heart and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
It’s the potential to commemorate such deeply felt moments, while raising funds for the White Feather Foundation — a social and environmental nonprofit Lennon runs — that convinced the filmmaker, songwriter and philanthropist to dip his toes into NFTs, if cautiously. 
The same day Lennon released the Lennon Connection, he dropped an NFT capturing his first public performance of his father’s “Imagine.” Recorded on April 8 as part of Global Citizen’s Stand Up for Ukraine social media rally, the performance features Julian’s singing and the guitar work of Portuguese-American musician Nuno Bettencourt.
But this is only one element of the NFT. Altogether, it contains visual artwork, video footage and two digital recordings: one, a naked recording of the performance itself, and the second, a recording overdubbed with audio narration in which Lennon describes why he decided to perform the song.
“Why now after all these years?” he asks over the opening chords of “Imagine” in an audio preview of the NFT on OpenSea. “I had always said that the only time I would ever consider singing ‘Imagine’ would be if it was the end of the world or close to it.” 
“The war on Ukraine is an unimaginable tragedy,” he explained. “ As a human and as an artist, I felt compelled to respond in the most significant way that I could.” The rally, along with a pledge event the following day in Poland, raised $10.1 billion for Ukranians displaced by the country’s war with Russia, according to the preview.
But Lennon’s ginger steps into the world of NFTs — which he describes as “a new art form … powering the way forward” — are connected not only to his belief that they can elevate the profile of philanthropic causes, but his own artistic journey, which is deeply entangled in his identity formation and a decades-long struggle to come to terms with a fraught relationship with his father.
In a strange way, NFTs have allowed Lennon to reclaim his personal history on his own terms, taking a sad song, or songs, as it were, and making them better, or at least more accessible to his audience.
more on NFTsWhere to Buy NFTs in 2022: 20 Marketplaces and What They Sell
 
Lennon is far from alone, of course. A growing number of musicians and talent agencies are turning to NFTs as a way to mint and preserve digital music, album art, memorabilia and concert tickets on the blockchain. Stored as unique and non-interchangeable data units on a digital ledger, these NFTs — essentially smart contracts proving ownership of digital assets — are being used by artists as diverse as John Legend, Big Boi, Grimes, Kings of Leon and Portugal. the Man to share rare and exclusive music with fans, raise money and grow their followings.
Part of the lure is financial. “Essentially, creators are looking for new ways to monetize their content,” said Michael Frisch, a partner at the law firm Croke Fairchild Morgan & Beres who advises clients in digital assets, cryptocurrency and Web3 products. 
Artists disillusioned by lopsided royalty agreements or dragged by the spillover fees of record companies, distributors and marketing companies see NFTs as a way to cut out the middle person, said Josh Katz, CEO and founder of YellowHeart.
“I call it the 90/10 rule, where, traditionally, the artist takes home 10 percent of the revenue that they generate and other parties take 90 percent,” Katz said. “With NFTs, the artist takes 90 percent and the platform takes 10 percent.”
Some artists may be perfectly comfortable handing off distribution, marketing and management responsibilities to companies that offer these services. But the opportunity for musicians to retain a greater share of royalty rights and creative control of their music is attractive to many, Katz said, particularly those with loyal, established followings. Plus, NFTs live on blockchain, a publicly accessible and transparent network, making it easier for artists to track sales data and fan profiles on their own.
“You’ve got the ability now for artists to go direct to consumer, which has been around for some time through artist’s platforms, like websites, social media and so forth,” said Saroosh Gull, CEO of the New Jersey-based event management company Eventcombo. “But now, in terms of transactions, you have data tracking that you do not need to rely on a streaming platform for. You don’t need Apple Music to track who’s downloading your music, who’s consuming it, and who’s paying what for it.”
 
With NFTs, as with any contract, the devil is in the details. Several blockchain technology companies offer NFT music, but the way the NFTs are bought and sold on online marketplaces, where they can be accessed and played, and the digital assets and contractual rights they contain, varies widely.
One of the first major records to be released as a limited collection of NFT was Kings of Leon’s album, When You See Yourself. According to Rolling Stone, YellowHeart offered it through three types of tokens: “a special album package,” a second type with “live show perks like front-row seats for life,” and a third type “for exclusive audiovisual art.” Though the album is available everywhere — Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon — the most basic NFT token, available for only two weeks and priced at $50, offered a digital download and exclusive perks, such as a rotating album cover and a limited-edition vinyl copy.
Compared against a forecast of the band’s annual earnings — Kings of Leon reportedly earned about $138,000 in 2021, and roughly $60,000 in 2022 — the album has done quite well. As of last March, the album had generated more than $2 million dollars from NFT sales. But earnings are somewhat elusive with NFTs. The album was sold on the Ethereum blockchain, meaning the album’s estimated U.S. dollar earnings at the time of the purchase, similar to stocks, are relative to market fluctuations.
But regardless of cryptocurrency’s ephemeral value, the fact that many platforms now allow account holders to pay with credit cards has dramatically expanded their potential to attract users. On YellowHeart, once a registered user has downloaded a wallet from YellowHeart, or linked to a wallet on a crypto exchange like MetaMask or Coinbase, they can click a buy button, enter their credit card information (or pay with Ethereum) and the digital asset is added to their wallet.
“Not many people have cryptocurrency,” Katz said. “It’s less than 1 percent of the population. So, using credit cards, this allows for the mass adoption of purchasing NFTs.”
Of course, other music NFT sites operate differently. On Royal.io, launched as a beta, musicians can determine a percentage of their streaming royalty rights they wish to share with fans and collectors. Investors become partial owners of the song, while earning income and curated benefits.
Three tiers of tokens for Nas’s “Rare,” a single off the album King’s Disease, are now sold out. But while available, for $99 and a 0.0133 percent ownership stake in the streaming royalties, users could buy or bid on a token, via a Royal.io link to OpenSea. The token included access to a Hip Hop 50 Discord channel and other perks. A more expensive package, for $9,999 and 1.5789 percent ownership, included two VIP concert tickets, a signed vinyl copy of the single and a video conversation with Nas. Thus far, according to the website, 50 percent of the streaming ownership has been sold for $369,000.
“The first wave of NFT ownership was sort of viewed as [rights to] a collectible, an art piece or an autograph that you might get from a creator … But the thinking now is that NFTs can represent a lot more.”
Then there’s OurSong, a mobile app developed by Our Happy Company, a software firm co-founded by musician John Legend. The app lets registered users build profiles, upload assets to mint as NFTs, host chats, and buy and sell music with Ethereum or OneSong Dollars — a rough U.S. dollar equivalent that includes a nominal fee — and follow and connect with likeminded artists.
These platforms and their users represent an evolution of NFT ownership, according to Frisch. “The first wave of NFT ownership was sort of viewed as [rights to] a collectible, an art piece or an autograph that you might get from a creator,” he said. “But the thinking now is that NFTs can represent a lot more.”
“They can serve as a ticket or entry point into a community, like access to a permissioned Discord channel, or a fan group,” he added. “They could represent a right to obtain physical things, like apparel, or access to special events.”
 
But parsing shared digital asset rights can get legally complicated, Frisch told me. Agreements that divvy up streaming royalty rights among many users have come under scrutiny by federal agencies like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Future Trading Commission for running afoul of securities laws, or, at least, testing their boundaries. 
While Frisch said much of the law in this area is “untested” and “unclear,” the U.S. Supreme Court’s SEC v. W. J. Howey Co. case outlines a four-part test that has been adopted by the courts to determine whether a digital asset meets the definition of a security. The test was initially applied to the Howey Company, which sold land tracts in a 500-acre Florida orange grove to the public, along with a contract to service the groves and sell the produce to foreign investors.
“The idea was that the proceeds of the sales of the oranges would help it to finance additional development for the groves: buying more water, infrastructure and whatever else they’re selling,” Frisch said. “The SEC sued and said, ‘You didn’t register these securities.’”
Now, that 1946 battle over communal orange rights is being reanimated in the context of digital music. To be considered a security, Frisch said an asset has to meet the four prongs of the Howey test, involving (1) “the investment of money” in a (2) “common enterprise” (3) “with a reasonable expectation of profits” that is derived from (4) “the entrepreneurial or managerial efforts of others.” 
Single-edition music NFTs, like those sold on the marketplace Catalog, fall clearly outside this definition. And, for artists, who own copyright to their work under U.S. copyright law, they can be quite lucrative. Cooper Turley, a Los Angeles-based advisor to Audius, stated on Twitter that major artists, on average, earn “7.5 times more from music NFTs than a year’s worth of streams” on Spotify.
“Some of these are structured as investments, and some aren’t. When you structure it in such a way as to make it impossible to earn a return, then it’s almost, by definition, not a security. And that’s one way to avoid these complications with U.S. securities laws.”
But for platforms that share streaming royalty rights, what is and isn’t a security is far less clear. To avoid being treated as securities, which would require registration requirements, fees and financial disclosures many young companies would rather sidestep, streaming royalty agreements are often cleverly structured.
Take, for instance, the one created for Nas’ NFT sale of the single “Rare.” As reported by Samir Patel, an associate at Holland & Knight law firm, in an article titled “If NFTs Ruled the Word: A New Wave of Ownership” published in the International Journal of Blockchain Law, Nas was an investor in the $55 million Series A funding round for Royal.io. He sold 50 percent of his streaming royalties from digital service providers — such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube Music — on the platform. The song was released four months prior to the NFT sale, and purchasers received no publishing royalties or money from TV, radio, video game or movie plays.
Most crucially, Patel noted, NFT holders received only a small fraction of the streaming royalties. For each stream, Nas gets $0.0008 from Apple Music and $0.00318 from Spotify. A gold-level NFT holder, by comparison, nets $0.0000009 from Apple Music and $0.00000036 from Spotify. That’s a lot of zeros before cents, and, in some ways, that’s the idea. As of March 2022, the “Rare” NFT was played almost 12 million times, well short of the 275 million times a gold NFT holder would need to break even. 
“It was structured in a way, whereby it was basically impossible for the purchaser to get a real return to make their money back on their investment,” Frisch said. “Some of these are structured as investments, and some aren’t. When you structure it in such a way as to make it impossible to earn a return, then it’s almost, by definition, not a security. And that’s one way to avoid these complications with U.S. securities laws.”
Other companies attempt to satisfy the requirements of the Howie test through airdrops — sending free tokens to communities to encourage adoption (negating the first prong of the Howie test) — or by arguing that a song’s value, much like a bar of gold, is intrinsic and not tied to managerial efforts (negating the fourth prong of the Howie test). In an age of social media, micro-influencers and hype beasts, this might be a harder argument to swallow, but if you consider the enduring popularity of a song like “Imagine,” whose 2010 remastered version had more than 450 million streams on Spotify as of this writing, compared to, say, 931 million or Adele’s “When We Were Young,” it may have some merit.
At least one company, Opulous, sells NFTs as securities under Regulation Crowdfunding, a lower-bar securities offering which provides exemptions from SEC registration requirements for crowdfunding sales up to $5 million. The company, which allows artists to obtain decentralized finance, or DeFi, loans against up to 12 months of predicted streaming royalty revenue, claims on their website their tokens “will generate ongoing royalty income and increase in value as an artist’s career progresses. So when artists you invest in earn money — you do too!”
 
Most advocates, though, will tell you that, at least for consumers, ownership of music NFTs is not about getting rich. It’s about helping musicians boost their exposure and momentum in exchange for rare and sentimental collectibles, access to an exclusive online community and a chance to forge deeper connections with artists.
To some extent, this is why Lennon decided to dip his toes into NFTs: He wanted to communicate with his audience in a deeper, more intimate way.
“I felt that if I could personalize [the NFT collection] and make it be more of a communication with the audience, or the people that were considering buying this stuff, that was the way forward for me,” Lennon said. “That made it more of a personal deal, rather than just, ‘Hey, we’re selling this.’” 
To that point, the ownership structure of the Lennon Connection NFT collection is intriguing. It lets Lennon retain full rights to the collection’s physical mementos, while sharing their digital replicas — and the stories he chooses to tell about them in audio clips and artworks with fans and investors.
In some ways, Lennon cautious steps into the world of NFTs encapsulates the grand vision of Web3: giving creators a greater share of ownership and control over the products and services they make and, in turn, giving consumers direct access to these offerings in the communities they belong to.
As Frisch put it: “Rather than artists and consumers being beholden to centralized entities, like Spotify, who sits in the middle and takes a cut long term, these things that allow artists to control their own destiny and users to directly interact with artists … I think that’s the future. That’s the real ethos of what Web3 is all about.”
More on NFTsA Beginner’s Guide to NFT Crypto Art
 
Of course, digital recordings and artist memorabilia are only part of the story. The online event ticketing market is projected to reach $68 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research. And as YellowHeart continues to draw artists like Lennon to the platform, they are banking on NFTs to lay claim to a growing share of this windfall.
In June, as part of the annual industry showcase NFT.NYC, the blockchain company partnered with Tao Group Hospitality, one of the world’s largest club operators, to offer NFT tickets for three nights of DJ performances at the Marquee club in New York City – the first release of NFT tickets at such a large-scale New York venue.
Like many digital tickets, NFT tickets provide concertgoers access into venues through a unique QR code. But they also do something else, Katz said, opening a path to ongoing fan engagement and ensuring a secure record of ownership that can be traced to the blockchain and help deter scalping and piracy.
“When you leave Coachella, imagine your ticket opened up local perks from sponsors, from partners. Essentially, it’s a living ticket.”
According to a report from CNBC, the U.S. ticket resale market is a $5 billion industry. On fan-to-fan marketplaces like StubHub, TickPick and SeatGeek, human scalpers and bots can easily gobble up tickets in mass and resell them at a mark up, leading to quickly sold out shows and grossly inflated prices. While there is no federal law against scalping and state laws are loosely enforced, NFT tickets can theoretically ferret out opportunists who may be pricing out loyal fans.
“A blockchain is transparent to everyone, nothing is hidden,” Katz said. “So you can essentially see if somebody bought 12 tickets, didn’t use any of them, then resold them for more money. And bad actors are very quickly identified.”
And by offering tickets as digital vouchers tied to a user’s account, there’s also the chance to stay in touch with fans long after they move through the turnstiles — and, yes, sell them more stuff.
“Look at Coachella,” Katz said. “Coachella is one of the most recognized brand names in the world, especially around music and lifestyle. And they only monetize six days a year. When you leave Coachella, imagine your ticket opened up local perks from sponsors, from partners. Essentially, it’s a living ticket.”
For all the potential advocates see in NFT music, however, the financial horizon for NFTs remains murky. Sales volume sank to a daily average of 19,000 tokens in early May, down 92 percent from their peak of 225,000 in September, according to the Wall Street Journal. And whether fans will be eager to embrace NFTs as an alternative or adjacent to streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music — especially if files can only be accessed as digital downloads — remains to be seen.
Still, proponents like Katz believe NFT music holds tremendous promise, offering a way to correct a lopsided market that for too long has shortchanged artists.
“For years, music has been devalued to the point where most people think it’s free,” Katz said. “And what NFTs do is put value back into the music where people actually have to buy it again.”

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MoFi has been using digital all along, a scandal in the audio community – The Washington Post

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Mike Esposito still won’t say who gave him the tip about the records. But on July 14, he went public with an explosive claim.
In a sometimes halting video posted to the YouTube channel of his Phoenix record shop, the ‘In’ Groove, Esposito said that “pretty reliable sources” told him that MoFi (Mobile Fidelity), the Sebastopol, Calif., company that has prided itself on using original master tapes for its pricey reissues, had actually been using digital files in its production chain. In the world of audiophiles — where provenance is everything and the quest is to get as close to the sound of an album’s original recording as possible — digital is considered almost unholy. And using digital while claiming not to is the gravest sin a manufacturer can commit.
There was immediate pushback to Esposito’s video, including from some of the bigger names in the passionate audio community.
Shane Buettner, owner of Intervention Records, another company in the reissue business, defended MoFi on the popular message board moderated by mastering engineer Steve Hoffman. He remembered running into one of the company’s engineers at a recording studio working with a master tape. “I know their process and it’s legit,” he wrote. Michael Fremer, the dean of audiophile writing, was less measured. He slammed Esposito for irresponsibly spreading rumors and said his own unnamed source told him the record store owner was wrong. “Will speculative click bait YouTube videos claiming otherwise be taken down after reading this?” he tweeted.
But at MoFi’s headquarters in Sebastopol, John Wood knew the truth. The company’s executive vice president of product development felt crushed as he watched Esposito’s video. He has worked at the company for more than 26 years and, like most of his colleagues, championed its much lauded direct-from-master chain. Wood could hear the disappointment as Esposito, while delivering his report, also said that some of MoFi’s albums were among his favorites. So Wood picked up the phone, called Esposito and suggested he fly to California for a tour. It’s an invite he would later regret.
That visit resulted in a second video, published July 20, in which MoFi’s engineers confirmed, with a kind of awkward casualness, that Esposito was correct with his claims. The company that made its name on authenticity had been deceptive about its practices. The episode is part of a crisis MoFi now concedes was mishandled.
“It’s the biggest debacle I’ve ever seen in the vinyl realm,” says Kevin Gray, a mastering engineer who has not worked with MoFi but has produced reissues of musicians such as John Coltrane and Marvin Gaye.
“They were completely deceitful,” says Richard Drutman, 50, a New York City filmmaker who has purchased more than 50 of MoFi’s albums over the years. “I never would have ordered a single Mobile Fidelity product if I had known it was sourced from a digital master.”
Record labels use digital files to make albums all the time: It’s been the industry norm for more than a decade. But a few specialty houses — the Kansas-based Analogue Productions, London’s Electric Recording Co. and MoFi among them — have long advocated for the warmth of analog.
“Not that you can’t make good records with digital, but it just isn’t as natural as when you use the original tape,” says Bernie Grundman, 78, the mastering engineer who worked on the original recordings of Steely Dan’s “Aja,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic.”
Mobile Fidelity and its parent company, Music Direct, were slow to respond to the revelation. But last week, the company began updating the sourcing information on its website and also agreed to its first interview, with The Washington Post. The company says it first used DSD, or Direct Stream Digital technology, on a 2011 reissue of Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” By the end of 2011, 60 percent of its vinyl releases incorporated DSD. All but one of the reissues as part of its One-Step series, which include $125 box-set editions of Santana, Carole King and the Eagles, have used that technology. Going forward, all MoFi cutting will incorporate DSD.
Syd Schwartz, Mobile Fidelity’s chief marketing officer, made an apology.
“Mobile Fidelity makes great records, the best-sounding records that you can buy,” he said. “There had been choices made over the years and choices in marketing that have led to confusion and anger and a lot of questions, and there were narratives that had been propagating for a while that were untrue or false or myths. We were wrong not to have addressed this sooner.”
Mastering engineer Brad Miller founded MoFi in 1977 to cater largely to audiophiles. The company boomed during the 1980s, but by 1999, with vinyl sales plummeting, the company declared bankruptcy. Jim Davis, owner of the Chicago-based Music Direct, a company that specializes in audio equipment, purchased the label and revived MoFi. During the recent vinyl resurgence (vinyl sales in 2021 hit their highest mark in 30 years), MoFi’s specialty releases sell out quickly and can be found on secondary markets at much higher prices.
Marketing has been a key element of the MoFi model. Most releases include a banner on the album cover proclaiming it the “Original Master Recording.” And every One-Step, which cut out parts of the production process to supposedly get closer to the original tape, includes a thick explainer sheet in which the company outlines in exacting detail how it creates its records. But there has been one very important item missing: any mention of a digital step.
The company has obscured the truth in other ways. MoFi employees have done interviews for years without mentioning digital. In 2020, Grant McLean, a Canadian customer, got into a debate with a friend about MoFi’s sourcing. McLean believed in the company and wrote to confirm that he was right. In a response he provided to The Post, a customer service representative wrote McLean that “there is no analog to digital conversion in our vinyl cutting process.”
Earlier this year, MoFi announced an upcoming reissue of Jackson’s 1982 smash “Thriller” as a One-Step. The news release said the original master tape would be used for the repressing, which would have a run of 40,000 copies. That’s a substantially bigger number than the usual for a One-Step, which is typically limited to between 3,500 and 7,500 copies.
Michael Ludwigs, a German record enthusiast with a YouTube channel, 45 RPM Audiophile, questioned how this could be possible. Because of the One-Step process, an original master tape would need to be run dozens of times to make that many records. Why would Sony Music Entertainment allow that?
“That’s the kind of thing that deteriorates tape,” Grundman says.
“That’s the one where I think everyone started going, ‘Huh?’ ” says Ryan K. Smith, a mastering engineer at Sterling Sound in Nashville.
The MoFi controversy has not just exposed tensions between rival record makers, but it has also heightened a rift between Fremer and Esposito.
For decades, as LPs were replaced by CDs and iPods, Fremer, now 75, was a lonely voice pushing to keep them alive.
“Michael’s considered the guy, like the guru, so to speak,” says Dale Clark, 54, a photographer and longtime record collector in Ohio.
But Fremer, now a writer for the online magazine the Tracking Angle, has been bickering with Esposito for months. He was furious that MoFi invited Esposito to Sebastopol and wrote an email to Davis on July 17 to protest.
“You have lost your minds,” Fremer wrote. “Mistakes happen that can be corrected. In this case you have chosen to elevate [an inexperienced non-journalist] to work your way out of a predicament instead of a seasoned journalist and I’m not referring necessarily to me. I could name a half dozen others.”
Esposito never claimed to be a journalist.
He’s a record geek who grew up in foster homes after his father was murdered when he was 11. (His mother, he says, has had drug and alcohol problems.) Over the years, Esposito, who didn’t finish high school, has sold sports collectibles and started a chain of mattress stores. In 2015, he opened the ‘In’ Groove in Phoenix. His regular videos, in which he unboxes reissues and ranks different pressings, have made him a popular YouTube presence, with about 40,000 subscribers. He says he felt he owed it to his customers to pursue the MoFi tip.
“I sell to the people I sell to because they trust me,” Esposito, 38, told The Post. “And if they don’t trust me, they can go anywhere else and buy those records.”
Esposito wants record companies to do a better job labeling recording sources. Some already do. Intervention and Analogue Productions provide details on records or their websites; so does Neil Young.
“The problem is ‘analog’ has become a hype word, and most people don’t know how records are made,” Esposito says. “And you can very factually say this record was sourced from the original analog master tape, and you’re not lying. But that doesn’t disclose to the consumer what’s going on between the beginning of it and the final product.”
There were no ground rules laid out for Esposito’s July 19 visit. He paid his airfare, and Wood met him at the airport. In the car, Wood confirmed what Esposito had reported in his video.
“They didn’t come off to me as if they were trying to hide anything,” Esposito says.
At MoFi’s headquarters, Esposito looked at tapes and machinery the company uses to master its records. He also saw vintage packaging and advertising materials for past releases, including mock-ups for Beatles reissues. Then he took out his Panasonic camcorder and asked Wood if it was okay for him to set up and do an interview with the three mastering engineers he had met. No problem, they said.
The result is about an hour-long conversation that is equally fascinating and confusing. Esposito is not a trained interviewer, and engineers Shawn Britton, Krieg Wunderlich and Rob LoVerde are not trained interviewees. At times, the conversation is stilted and meandering. There are also occasional moments of charm as they connect about their shared passion for music.
Whatever Esposito’s approach, there is no doubt that without him, MoFi’s process would have remained a secret. The engineers, who had stressed the use of tape and working “all analog” in the past, didn’t hesitate to reference the company’s embrace of Direct Stream Digital technology.
Davis, the owner, not only didn’t invite Esposito but also didn’t learn about the visit until after Wood had extended the invitation. He tried to get to Sebastopol for the tour but said that a long line at a rental car check-in left him arriving at MoFi headquarters only after Esposito was finished.
By then, the damage was done. Last week, Wood was asked whether he regretted the interview with the engineers. He broke down.
“I regret everything, man,” he said.
Davis also did not appreciate the interview. Music Direct’s stereo equipment business brings in revenue of more than $40 million a year, and MoFi earned about $9 million last year. But the record company has just a handful of full-time staffers and no crisis-management plan. He doesn’t blame the engineers for what happened
“I mean, it was not a well-thought-out plan,” Davis says. “Let’s put it that way.”
The fallout of the MoFi revelation has thrown the audiophile community into something of an existential crisis. The quality of digitized music has long been criticized because of how much data was stripped out of files so MP3s could fit on mobile devices. But these days, with the right equipment, digital recordings can be so good that they can fool even the best of ears. Many of MoFi’s now-exposed records were on Fremer’s and Esposito’s own lists of the best-sounding analog albums.
Jamie Howarth, whose Plangent Processes uses digital technology to restore sound and whose work has earned praise for Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen reissues, wishes MoFi had come clean years ago and proudly told its customers that their prized records sounded best because of the digital step. He understands why it didn’t. It was terrified of being attacked by analog-or-bust audiophiles.
“One of the reasons they want to excoriate MoFi is for lying,” Howarth says. “The other part that bothers them is that they’ve been listening to digital all along and they’re highly invested in believing that any digital step will destroy their experience. And they’re wrong.”
Wood says that MoFi decided to add DSD not for convenience but because its engineers felt they could help improve their records. He remembers hearing MoFi’s reissue of Santana’s “Abraxas” in 2016. “My mind was blown when we got the test pressings back,” he said.
Wood says MoFi takes great care in capturing the digital file. It won’t simply accept a link from a record company. If a master tape can’t be couriered to Sebastopol, MoFi will send engineers with their equipment to capture it. Having a file allows them to tinker with the recordings if they’re not pleased with a test pressing and make another. He says he is disappointed in himself for not being upfront but that, from here on out, MoFi will properly label its recordings. A revised One-Step card has already been crafted for upcoming releases featuring Van Halen, Cannonball Adderley and the Eagles.
And Randy Braun, a music lover, Hoffman message board member and lawyer in New York, hopes that, in the end, the MoFi revelation will prove what he’s been saying for years: that the anti-digital crowd has been lying to itself. “These people who claim they have golden ears and can hear the difference between analog and digital, well, it turns out you couldn’t.”
Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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Manufacturers struggle to keep pace with vinyl record demand – The Associated Press – en Español

The arrival of the compact disc nearly killed off record albums, with vinyl pressing machines sold, scrapped and dismantled by major record labels.
Four decades later, with resuscitated record album sales producing double-digit annual growth, manufacturers are rapidly rebuilding an industry to keep pace with sales that reached $1 billion last year.
Dozens of record-pressing factories have been built to try to meet demand in North America — and it’s still not enough.
The industry “has found a new gear, and is accelerating at a new pace,” said Mark Michaels, CEO and chairman of United Record Pressing, the nation’s largest record producer, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Demand for vinyl records has been growing in double-digits for more than a decade and mass merchandisers like Target were bolstering their selection of albums just as the pandemic provided a surprising jolt. With music tours canceled, and people stuck at home, music lovers began snapping up record albums at an even faster pace.
Record album sales revenue grew a whopping 61% in 2021 — and reached $1 billion for the first time since the 1980s — far outpacing growth rates for paid music subscriptions and streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
Record albums nearly spun into oblivion with sales overtaken by cassettes before the compact discs brushed both aside. Then came digital downloads and online piracy, Apple iPods and 99-cent downloads. Streaming services are now ubiquitous.
But nostalgic baby boomers who missed thumbing through record albums in their local record stores helped to fuel a vinyl resurgence that started about 15 years ago.
It coincided with the launch of Record Store Day to celebrate indie record stores, said Larry Jaffee, author of “Record Store Day: The Most Improbable Comeback of the 21st Century.”
These days, though, it’s more than just boomers.
A younger generation is buying turntables and albums — and cassette tapes, too — and a new generation of artists like Adele, Ariana Grande and Harry Styles have been moving to vinyl, Jaffee noted.
In Pittsburgh, taxi driver Jamila Grady is too young, at age 34, to remember the heyday of record stores.
But she finds records to be irresistible. She created wall art from some of the album covers from nearly 50 albums she’s bought since 2019, starting with “Lemonade” by Beyoncé. She acknowledges it’s an indulgence since she already listens to music through Soundcloud, Apple Music and Pandora.
“For record players, there’s something so beautiful about taking the record, putting it on the payer, and dropping the needle,” she said.
Manufacturers had to start nearly from scratch.
The major labels shuttered their plants long ago, but new ones are coming online. Record makers launching over the last 10 to 15 years include Toronto-based Precision Record Pressing, Memphis Record Pressing, Cleveland’s Gotta Groove Records and Kansas’ Quality Record Pressing.
Jack White of White Stripes, opened his own vinyl pressing plant, Third Man Pressing, in 2017 in Detroit, and pleaded with the major record labels to reopen manufacturing facilities.
There are now about 40 plants in the U.S. — most of them smaller operations — but challenges remain.
Nationwide, backlogs are six to eight months because of growing demand, and supply chain disruptions of raw materials, including vinyl polymers, have caused problems, Michaels said.
It’s not easy to launch a new pressing plant because there are only a handful of companies — none in the U.S. — that make record-pressing machines. Those machines are backordered, as well.
People can debate the sound quality but it comes down to an emotional reaction, not technical specifications, said Bob Ludwig, a multi-Grammy winner who created Gateway Mastering Studios in Portland, Maine.
A friend who listened to Ludwig’s remastered version of Queen’s “Night at the Opera” called it “stunning” and “electric.”
“I love the vinyl experience. All of it. To me, there is an electrifying sound when I play records that I don’t feel from digital,” said Mark Mazzetti, an independent A&R executive who worked for Sting, Janet Jackson and others at A&M Records.
No one knows the ceiling for record growth because of the constrained supply, said Chris Brown, vice president for finance at Bull Moose Records, a record store chain in New England.
New releases often fail to meet demand, and reorders take even longer, leaving little capacity for lesser-known eclectic albums, he said.
“Part of the fun of collecting records is being surprised,” he said. “But midlevel stuff doesn’t get printed, or there’s a long wait.”
Record producers gather this week in Nashville for their annual trade event called Making Vinyl.
People in the business are excited about the growth, and it’s almost like “printing money” for manufactures as sales soar to new heights every year, said Bryan Ekus, president of Making Vinyl.
No one knows how long the run will continue, so there’s a sense that “we should make hay while the sun shines,” Ekus said.
In Nashville, United Record Pressing launched in 1949 and never stopped producing records. It’s currently in the midst of a $15 million expansion that will triple its capacity in the middle of next year.
Michaels can’t help but to wonder how long the double-digit growth can be sustained, but he said he’s optimistic about the future.
It’s both heartwarming and good for business to see high schoolers and young adults showing an interest in records, he said.
“I believe in music and I believe in the importance of music in people’s lives. I don’t think that changes,” he said.
___
Sharp reported from Portland, Maine.
——
Follow David Sharp on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@David_Sharp_AP

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Drake's 'HONESTLY, NEVERMIND' Sets New Apple Music Record One Hour After Release – HYPEBEAST

Drake has set a brand new Apple Music record just one hour after the release of HONESTLY, NEVERMIND.
The 14-track album broke Apple Music’s first-day worldwide streams record to become the biggest dance album in the platform’s history, adding to his previous feats of biggest album in Apple Music history with Certified Lover Boy, second biggest album with Scorpion and biggest song with “Girls Want Girls.”
The Boy also shared his album notes exclusively to Apple Music fans:

“I let my humbleness turn to numbness at times letting time go by knowing I got the endurance to catch it another time
I work with every breath in my body cause it’s the work not air that makes me feel alive
That’s some real detrimental shit but that’s that shit my perfectionist mind doesn’t really mind because no one knows whats on my mind when I go to sleep at 9 & wake up at 5 – unless I say it in rhyme
I can’t remember the last time someone put they phone down, looked me in the eyes and asked my current insight on the times
But I remember every single time someone shined a light in my eyes
I purposely try to forget what went on between some ppl and I because I know I’m not a forgiving guy even when I try
My urge for revenge wins the game against my good guy inside every single fckn time
I got plans I can’t talk about with more than like 4 guys because the last time I shared em with someone on the outside…well that’s another story for another night
I was tryna get thru that statement to get to saying I’m not @ a time in my life where pats on the shoulder help get me by
I’ll take loyalty over an oh my & emoji fire
I know if it was a dark night where all the odds were against my side & my skill went to whoever took my life they’d done me off with a big smile & maybe evn post it for some likes
I know everyone that tells me they love me doesn’t love me all the time especially when im doing better than alright & they have to watch it from whatever point they at in their life
I got here being realistic
I didn’t get here being blind
I know whats what and especially what and who is by my side
Honestly…Nevermind.

DEDICATED TO OUR BROTHER V
-Drake”

“I let my humbleness turn to numbness at times letting time go by knowing I got the endurance to catch it another time
I work with every breath in my body cause it’s the work not air that makes me feel alive
That’s some real detrimental shit but that’s that shit my perfectionist mind doesn’t really mind because no one knows whats on my mind when I go to sleep at 9 & wake up at 5 – unless I say it in rhyme
I can’t remember the last time someone put they phone down, looked me in the eyes and asked my current insight on the times
But I remember every single time someone shined a light in my eyes
I purposely try to forget what went on between some ppl and I because I know I’m not a forgiving guy even when I try
My urge for revenge wins the game against my good guy inside every single fckn time
I got plans I can’t talk about with more than like 4 guys because the last time I shared em with someone on the outside…well that’s another story for another night
I was tryna get thru that statement to get to saying I’m not @ a time in my life where pats on the shoulder help get me by
I’ll take loyalty over an oh my & emoji fire
I know if it was a dark night where all the odds were against my side & my skill went to whoever took my life they’d done me off with a big smile & maybe evn post it for some likes
I know everyone that tells me they love me doesn’t love me all the time especially when im doing better than alright & they have to watch it from whatever point they at in their life
I got here being realistic
I didn’t get here being blind
I know whats what and especially what and who is by my side
Honestly…Nevermind.
DEDICATED TO OUR BROTHER V
-Drake”
In related news, HONESTLY, NEVERMIND is set to debut at No. 1.

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BTS Radio Breaks 2022 Apple Music Record – HYPEBEAST

BTS Radio: Past & Present has set a brand new Apple Music record for 2022.
The platform confirmed the news on Twitter, announcing that BTS “broke the record for biggest show of the year with their debut episode of #BTSRadio on Apple Music 1.” The specifics of the feat were not revealed, however.
The three-part series chronicles the K-pop group’s rise to fame in and out and of Korea, diving into both their beginnings and the creation of their hits. “We wanted to use this radio show to celebrate nine years of BTS with you guys and with our ARMY all over the world,” RM said in a previous statement.
“Every episode is dedicated to you,” he continued. “And we wanted to share the BTS songs that help tell our story.”
BTS Radio: Past & Present series airs weekly and leads up to the release of their upcoming anthology album Poof, which drops June 10.

#BTSARMY you did it! ?@BTS_twt broke the record for biggest show of the year with their debut episode of #BTSRadio on Apple Music 1.https://t.co/TOArpBXpd8@bts_bighit #BTS_Proof #BTS pic.twitter.com/5mWd7d2gG1
— Apple Music (@AppleMusic) May 29, 2022

In other BTS news, the group visited President Biden at the White House to close out AANHPI month.

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Kendrick Lamar's New Album Smashes New Apple Music Record – Digital Music News





The album has consumed the zeitgeist in many different circles on social media in the last few days. Some circles are upset that the album features Kodak Black, who can be heard on the tracks “Worldwide Steppers,” “Rich (Interlude),” and “Silent Hill.” The response to the feature has been mixed. Some fans were happy to see the young rapper get a spotlight on the album, while others weren’t.
“Kendrick having Kodak on this album is like how Kanye made that song with DaBaby and brought out Marilyn Manson,” someone tweeted about the album, mentioning past controversial artists.”Why is Kendrick talking about sexual assault on this album if he has a Kodak Black feature?” another fan asked, referencing Kodak Black’s sexual assault charges.
Apple Music didn’t share exact numbers, but it did confirm the record on Twitter. The album will likely debut at number one on the charts as the week finishes. Kendrick Lamar has also announced his ‘The Big Steppers Tour‘ with artists Baby Keem and Tanna Leone as supporting acts.
Kendrick Lamar’s tour kicks off in Oklahoma City on July 19 and runs through September 15 in Los Angeles. The European leg of the tour begins on October 10 in Prague and will wrap up in Manchester on November 16. After that, Kendrick will head down to Oceania for dates in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Aukland.
Curious about the tour dates for the concert? Check out our coverage to see if the tour stops in a city near you.

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