How Artists Make Money on YouTube by Jason Hollis


One billion active monthly users make YouTube a force of nature across multiple industries, music chief among them. It’s far from confidential that Google’s video powerhouse can generate revenue for independent artists. How those dollars find their way to your pockets, however, isn’t always clearcut. AWAL has decoded the platform’s Content ID system to facilitate proper digital rights management. Dive into our breakdown for best practices concerning IP protection and monetization. 

What is Content ID?

YouTube created Content ID to combat widespread rights infringement. The automated system helps copyright owners identify user-generated video content that, without permission, includes music submitted to the Content ID database. To date, this repository contains more than 50 million active reference files, translating to $2 billion in payouts from YouTube to rights holders since 2008. AWAL partners with YouTube to deliver our members’ work to Content ID, ensuring independent artists don’t leave money on the table. 

How does the Content ID systemwork?

Content ID registers an audiovisual fingerprint every time a copyright holder delivers their music to the system, matching that reference to infringing audio embedded in third-party videos. Matches then trigger claims that notify infringing channel owners and activate your desired response. (You must opt in and request monetization. The process automates once you do.) So, if an 11-year-old Kansas resident shares a clip of their dog running into a glass door and your song soundtracks the calamity, Content ID detects the misuse, flags that content, notifies the video’s owner, and monetizes it in your favor. A portion of ad revenue from that clip’s future views diverts to your account. While claiming and monetizing is nine times out of ten the best course of action for an artist, there are a few others YouTube provides you can learn more about below. 

Who can use Content ID?

In order to qualify for Content ID, you must prove you control the exclusive rights to the audio tracks you submit. If you’re looking to share mashups, compilations, remixes, or other audiovisual works that have additional authors, you likely won’t qualify. YouTube might also reject your Content ID application if another tool, such as the copyright notification web form or the Content Verification Program, better suits your needs. These alternatives help when you’re looking to take down a specific video rather than track and manage all of your content.

Although you can submit your own Content ID application, YouTube doesn’t guarantee acceptance. Resultantly, many indie creators choose to go through an official YouTube Partner. AWAL, a YouTube Certified company, handles the legal and technical necessities for our members. Our team delivers audio to YouTube on behalf of our artists, collecting worldwide royalties from user-generated content that features their work.  

Artists must have at least 1000 subscribers and 4000 aggregate watch-time hours over the previous year to enable monetization across your own channel. YouTube enacted this change to increase sales value for current and prospective advertisers.

How do artists make money using Content ID?

Subscriptions aside, artists receive a bulk of their YouTube earnings from ads. Anyone with money to spend—companies, politicians, humble-brag life coaches—can purchase digital real estate in the form of display ads, overlay ads, or pre-roll video ads. A portion of those earnings then redirect to the rights holders who have enabled monetization in the YouTube system to allow advertising to run against their music. 

Artists can monetize more than their own videos: The Content ID system allows you to monetize any upload on YouTube that features your music, no matter the channel. Whether it’s a fan lip-syncing to your song or background music in a tutorial, the corresponding ad revenue can get paid to you instead of the video creator.

Music Blogs That Want Your Music! by Jason Hollis


Getting your music heard is hard. Getting your music heard by the right people is even harder. You hear so many blogs, journalists and other industry big names complaining about unsolicited PR emails from bands, so it’s difficult to know where to tread. This is why we have set up this blog post, containing info and links to all the influential sites and blogs who not only accept these emails but welcome them.

But before you start emailing, here’s a quick word of warning. Never under any circumstances send a group email. It may save you time, but putting all these addresses into a BCC field and firing over a group email would burn more bridges than it would build. Spend some time looking at each site individually, see what sort of music they are into and try to relate. If you are a sensitive singer songwriter crooning over an acoustic guitar, don’t contact a hip-hop blog. Find them on Twitter, look at their recent articles, and try and find common ground between them and your music.

Below is a list of blogs that are accepting submissions.


A&R Factory is a popular music blog with a wide-ranging readership, including record label owners, publishers, radio stations, PR executives, managers and sync licensing firms from all over the globe. 


IndiePulse Music Magazine is an advocate for the independent music scene, featuring news, interviews, reviews and video. IndiePulse also offers a platform for artists to be heard with its online radio station IPM Radio.


HighClouds describes itself as the Music Junkies' Holy Bible. Originally an online radio station, the site now focusses on album and EP reviews for emerging artists of all genres.


Xune Mag accepts submissions from bands and artists of just about every genre, offering emerging, unsigned musicians the opportunity to be reviewed, interviewed and added to playlists.


Indie Music Shuffle is run by a diverse group of people excited about sharing new music. They don’t write bad reviews, so everything you read about is something they like and believe is worth checking out. 


Aquarium Drunkard is an music blog with reviews, interviews, features, mp3 samples and sessions. It accepts all sorts of submissions and covers contemporary sounds with vintage garage, psych, folk, country, soul, funk, R&B and everything that falls in between.


BIRP is a playlist aggregator and blog devoted to new and unsigned artists. The site also acts as a hub for a growing community of people that love to share and talk about music.


Music Emissions was created to present one person's critical thinking on independent music. Up and coming musician can build a profile on the site in the hope of getting featured review.


Aurgasm is an essential destination for passionate music lovers around the world, featuring an eclectic range of tracks from unsigned bands and solo artists all over the globe.


Country Fried Rock is a one-hour, weekly radio road trip that features some of the most exciting off-the-radar artists talking about and playing the music that moves them. 


Drowned in Sound has everything to keep you up to date with reviews, music news and community posts. The site commisions around 15 album reviews a week from submissions by unsigned artists.


Emerging Indie Bands is dedicated to showcasing the very best up and coming independent musicians from across the globe, review and promoting hundreds of exciting unsigned artists.


FACT has built up a reputation for featuring some of the biggest up-and-coming artists. They have offices in the UK, US and Australia and their own online TV channel!


Knox Road is your ideal music fix, and sometimes more. Support what you like. It's pretty simple, really. The website also accepts submissions from unsigned artists looking to promote their music.


HearYa is an indie music blog that gives indie music enthusiasts a destination to cut through the clutter when discovering new music. They’re a community of fans that want to see the music they love reach the ears of new friends and survive.


Indie Music Life is an online music archive filled with awesome new bands, featuring a shuffled new music playlist each time the site loads. The site also accepts submission from unsigned band and artists.


Kings of A&R is a one-stop shop for information about new music trends and finding new music. The site accepts music submissions from all types of bands and artists.


Potholes In My Blog is an award-winning hip-hop blog based in Phoenix, AZ, and “your lifeline to good ass music” as they say.


Metal Injection offer the latest news and reviews from around the metal world, mainly for metal videos. You can also upload your own videos for the site moderators to consider for promotion.


Indie Music Filter is Toronto-based music blog dedicated to finding the best new music available on the internet from the best new up and coming indie bands.


The Music Ninja is a multi-genre music discovery site based in the deep, dark and melodic shadows of the internet.


Pigeons & Planes is a music discovery and the perfect place to go to uncover lots of fantastic new music, whatever genre you're looking for from anywhere in the world.


Songdew is a platform for independent musicians to promote their music and reach masses with various opportunities. With a community of 20,000+ musicians and over 1 million listeners, Songdew helps musicians get discovered.

If anyone has any more suggestions, feel free to post in the comment section below!

Good luck!

The Infectious Arrangements of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys by Jason Hollis

  Written by Scott McCormick

Written by Scott McCormick

Not only is Brian Wilson a unique songwriting talent, he was one of the most influential producers of his era, renowned for his ingenious musical arrangements.

Brian Wilson remains one of the more lauded and beloved figures of 20th Century popular music. His recordings with the Beach Boys have inspired and influenced countless musicians, and continue to do so. What’s especially amazing about the Beach Boys’ records is how much they are the result of the talent and vision of one guy. Unlike the Beatles, where Lennon had McCartney, and they both had George Martin, the Beach Boys only had Brian Wilson. He wrote or co-wrote all of their early songs, and what’s more, from 1963 until the early ’70s, he arranged and produced all the bands’ music. Not only is he a unique talent in terms of songwriting, but he was one of the three most influential producers of his era (along with George Martin and Phil Spector).

We’re going to run a series of articles that focus on different aspects of Brian Wilson’s talents. This month we’re going to dig into one aspect that set Beach Boys’ records apart from their contemporaries: Wilson’s ingenious musical arrangements.

What is a music arranger?

Quite simply, an arranger decides which instruments will be used to perform a piece of music. The role of an arranger was much more important in the swing music of the ‘40s and ‘50s than in early rock and roll. After all, in jazz, artists were frequently recording songs that had already been recorded by other artists. So, if Frank Sinatra wanted to put his stamp on a standard like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” he would contact Nelson Riddle to arrange the song for big band, and his arrangement would be different from, say, the arrangement Dinah Washington had used with Clifford Brown. The arranger was separate from a producer, whose job was to record the band.

In rock, there was never a separate role for an arranger. Records were either arranged by the band or the producer. Occasionally, if the song called for a string or horn section, a pro was hired to arrange that part of the song, but on the whole, rock records simply didn’t have enough instruments to require a lot of arranging. If a band had two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer, you would usually find those instruments, plus perhaps an additional piano or harmonica, on the record.

Phil Spector was one of the first rock and roll producers to spend a lot of time on the arrangement of songs. What became known as the “wall of sound” was an attempt to create a powerful, spacious sound that would still sound huge on AM radio and mono records. Instead of using a small combo group, Spector would double or triple up instruments (even drums), and he recorded them all live in a small room, with instruments bleeding over one another. Finally, he would run the entire recording through an echo chamber to create a huge wash of sound. (Critics often refer to it as the “wall of mush.”)

It’s interesting to compare the arrangements of Spector’s records to Motown’s. Here are two recordings from 1963. Notice how in the Martha and the Vandellas’ song (Motown) you can hear individual instruments and the vocals are much more prominent. In the Spector-produced Ronettes’ song, the instruments that stand out the most are the percussion. Everything else is just massive waves of chords. Even the vocals are drowned a bit in the mix. In the Motown song, it sounds like you might be hearing the group in an intimate night club. In Spector’s, it sounds like you are at the Hollywood Bowl.

Brian Wilson was massively influenced by Spector. He recalls hearing “Be My Baby” for the first time and having to pull the car over because he just couldn’t believe the chorus. He attended every Spector recording he could, and he considered Spector the greatest producer in the world. He loved how Spector would use several instruments to create new and unusual sounds. Spector likes to say that Wilson spent his entire career trying to remake “Be My Baby.” (In fact, Wilson wrote two songs he hoped Spector’s girl groups would sing, including “Don’t Worry Baby,” which was his answer to “Be My Baby.” Both songs were rejected by Spector.)

You can hear one of Wilson’s most blatant attempts to remake “Be My Baby” on this 1964 Honeys’ record, “He’s a Doll.” Wilson wrote, produced, and arranged this hit. Note the similar use of percussion, and the similar vocal interplay on the chorus.

But as much as Wilson was influenced by the enormous sound of Spector’s records, he would find a way to deliver what Spector could not (or, more accurately, would not): he would get Spector’s giant sound, but he also found a way to get the clarity of Motown’s records. Note how, even on this early arrangement, you can hear a difference from Spector. The lead vocals are more intimate, the sax stands out more, as do the amazing drums.

The Brian Wilson sound

Rather than go through a history of the development of Wilson’s sound, let’s start with it at its most baroque: Pet Sounds. Wilson had dabbled in creative, expansive arrangements before this album, namely on the Today! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) albums – “California Girls” and “Let Him Run Wild” are arrangement highlights – but on Pet Sounds he was able to combine all of the elements he had been working towards: personal songs backed by the most intricate and unique arrangements anyone had ever attempted in rock.

Wilson is renowned for using unusual instruments in a pop setting. On Pet Sounds alone he would use bicycle bells, water bottles, buzzing organs, guiros, sleigh bells, timpani, harpsichords, Electro-Theremins, vibraphones, Coca-Cola cans, orange juice jugs, and more.

One of the stories you often hear is how the group initially didn’t care for what Brian had recorded. The band had been on tour in Japan while Brian was busy recording in LA with the Wrecking Crew. Today, it’s easy to dismiss their initial critiques as being short-sighted. But, when compared with their earlier hits, it’s not hard to see why they might have been concerned. 

Listen to just the music of one song from Pet Sounds, “Here Today.” If you didn’t already know the song, you might wonder how you were supposed to sing on top of this busy music, let alone play it live on stage.

For all the talk about how many weird instruments Wilson used on Pet Sounds, what’s striking is his restraint. “Here Today” is a veritable showcase of how to take 13 instruments – most of them “bass” instruments: two baritone saxes, a bass trombone, a double bass, and a bass guitar – and not have it sound like a mess. But Wilson uses space in a way Spector never did. For much of the song, you only have Hammond organ and bass, with occasional tom-tom hits and tambourine. And it’s only on the chorus when most of these instruments are playing at the same time. Thanks to these dramatic dynamics, Wilson was able to get an intimate verse and pounding chorus. 

The bass

The use of bass guitar on Pet Sounds was unique at the time. So unique, in fact, that it floored Paul McCartney, who regularly cites Pet Sounds as his favorite record. “The thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines … and also, putting melodies in the bass line. That I think was probably the big influence that set me thinking when we recorded Pepper, it set me off on a period I had then for a couple of years of nearly always writing quite melodic bass lines.”

Brian was the bassist for the group in their early years, so it makes sense he would choose the instrument to highlight in his recordings. Though he didn’t play bass on Pet Sounds (that was handled by the great Carol Kaye), he composed all the bass lines. On “Here Today” the bass notes are especially high in register, and way out in front of the mix. During the verse they play the same rhythm as the vocals, acting as a melodic counterpoint to Mike Love’s voice, which, again, was highly unusual. (Also fun, though it’s more of a harmonic thing, but from 1:47 to 2:02, the bass, which most artists use for playing root notes of chords, is playing seventh notes: an A note under a B minor and a G under an A major.) 

The drums

Unlike most rock groups at the time, the drum lines for Pet Sounds were composed by Brian, and the drums are used more for their timbre than for rhythm. Note the complete lack of a single cymbal hit. The Beach Boys seldom use cymbals in their songs, often giving that role to the tambourine player, or in some cases, bells. The Beach Boys were first and foremost a vocal group, with a special focus on falsetto singing, so it’s likely Wilson didn’t want anything up in the high register to compete with the singing.

Now listen to the original mono recording of the entire mix, and see how the music fits in with the vocals. Note how the pre-chorus doesn’t work the way you expect it to. Love sings “It makes you feel so bad…” and THEN the music drops out to just the bass and organ. It’s dramatic moment, nicely highlighting the line “It makes your heart feel sad,” and complementing the theme of the song, that love is here today, gone tomorrow.

“Wouldn’t it Be Nice”

Here’s a song you’ve probably heard so often it can be hard to hear it with fresh ears. So let’s just stick with the backing track. That glorious opening… if you’ve ever wondered what instrument is playing those notes, it’s a detuned 12-string guitar. And when the band kicks in, it’s accordions – two of them – that provide the signature rhythm sound traditionally provided by guitars. This is a great example of Brian’s penchant to use instruments in unusual ways in order to create a unique sound.


We can’t talk about the Beach Boys without discussing their vocals. Wilson arranged every single line of every harmony on Pet Sounds. And they recorded them over and over again. Mike Love took to calling Wilson “Dog Ears” because he could hear imperfections no one else could. This brief clip offers a beautiful insight into Wilson’s vocal arrangements (as well as the glories of the Beach Boys euphonic harmonies).

It’s worth comparing Beach Boys records to the records of another popular American vocal group that also featured falsetto singing and that also had its roots in doo wop: The Four Seasons. To get a sense of how much bigger and more complicated – and flat out weirder – Wilson’s recordings are compared to other pop songs of the era, check out “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” which was co-written and co-arranged by Four Seasons’ band member Bob Gaudio. This hit, from 1967, is one of the Four Seasons’ most ambitious, popular, and covered songs. It’s a great song with a complex arrangement, but it’s a lot more traditional than “Wouldn’t it Be Nice.”

“Good Vibrations”

We also can’t talk about Brian Wilson without considering his greatest single. And since this is another song that’s hard to hear fresh, we’ll play just the music again. (Note the similar use of bass and organ as on “Here Today.” Both songs were recorded around the same time.)

Wilson’s use of cellos as a rhythm instrument are counterintuitive (apparently Van Dyke Parks made the suggestion, but hats off to Brian for using it). His use of Electro-theremin, which first appeared on Pet Sounds‘ “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” was as mind-blowing to audiences at the time as the Beatles’ use of sitar. But the most interesting aspect of this song is that it was a pastiche. There are six different sections, which were recorded in a dozen sessions, at four separate studios.

The change in production values is enough to give you aural whiplash, with one particularly jarring cut happening at 2:13. You go from the rather busy third section of the song (“I don’t know where but she sends me there…”) and there’s a cut that actually cuts off the lyric (“Oh my my, what an elation, oh my my what a—”) to a moment that sounds like it’s recorded at night in a church. There’s just an organ and a slowly-shaken maraca (ASMR trigger!) before the vocals come in with, “Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a-happening with her,” followed by a throbbing bass. It’s not just a magical moment in the song: it’s where you first truly realize you’re in the middle of an epic, and there’s no telling where the song may go next.

“Good Vibrations” was the first cut-and-paste song where Wilson recorded snippets – each with different music, instruments, and production values – and it would influence his next attempted project, Smile. Alas, for a number of reasons, the album was shelved (and revisited in 2004), and after his inability to fully realize Smile, Wilson drastically scaled back his ambitions. There are plenty of wonderful songs in the post-Smile era, from Smiley Smile through 20/20, but for the most part, the fire had gone out. 

Smiley Smile’s “Little Pad” offers a nice example of the intimate production and charming arrangements the Boys would use from ’67-’69. Like “Good Vibrations,” “Little Pad” is a pastiche song, but on a much smaller scale. In any given section there are only one to maybe three instruments. Then again, when you have guys who can sing as well as the Beach Boys, you don’t need to dress things up with much more than a ukulele. Note how effective a simple snap of the fingers can be. (Also, for as psychedelic as “Good Vibrations” may have been, no one on the song sounds like they’re on drugs. Not so for “Little Pad.” That percussion (maraca?) that comes in briefly at 1:58 strikes me as a such a stoner touch.)

Sunflower (1970) and Surf’s Up (1971) are a return to form in terms of production and arrangement. “This Whole World,” “Our Sweet Love” (which sounds almost like an outtake from Pet Sounds), “A Day in the Life of a Tree,” and Carl Wilson’s wonderful “Feel Flows,” are highlights – as great as anything they had recorded earlier in their career. But I’ll end this article with the song that is generally considered Brian’s last masterpiece: the glorious “’Til I Die” from 1971. 

Featuring a drum machine, a moog synthesizer, a Rock-Si-Chord, vibraphone, and an organ, the arrangement for this song is a 180 from the dynamics and “wall of sound” arrangements of Pet Sounds. Musically it is very static, with big, lush chords that change subtly throughout the song. (Worth noting is the different vocal arrangements on that giant E minor-ninth chord. It’s a pretty hollow chord at 0:22 during the line “I’ve lost my way.” It gets bigger and more fleshed out at 0:55 and further elaborated on at 1:28.) It’s a dense song that starts big and gets bigger, with no respite, complementing Brian’s haunting lyrics. It’s hard not to listen to this song and mourn for all the music we may have lost from Brian following his Smile implosion. On the other hand, at least we have “’Til I Die.”

For a great insight into Brian’s arrangement and production process, check out this video, which shows the recording of “I Know There’s an Answer” from Pet Sounds. The video is great for not only showing who played on the track (including Glen Campbell on banjo!), but also detailing how Brian beautifully mixed various instruments together to create new sounds.

Scott McCormick is a musician and the author of the Mr. Pants series of graphic novels for kids. He also runs Storybook Editing, offering developmental editing for authors.


What David Bowie Can Teach You About Self-Reinvention by Toby Rogers

In the 21st century, everyone leads multiple lives. Long gone are the days when people would leave school, walk into a job then stay there until they could claim their gold retirement watch. Unless they’re lucky enough to find their vocation early on, modern workers will have many careers before they get the chance to stop. But how do you successfully reinvent yourself over and over again?

One of the most influential artists in pop music history, David Bowie was an icon who remained relevant and contemporary for five decades.

But how did he do it? What can David Bowie teach the rest of us about staying at the very top of our game?

When David Bowie killed Ziggy Stardust in 1973, few would have imagined he’d be able to better it; but he did. The Thin White Duke is as iconic as Bowie’s glam-rock legend and arguably had a bigger influence. And it’s not just his own image that Bowie revitalised. He did the same for Lou Reedand Iggy Pop, whose careers looked all but over until Aladdin Sane stepped in.

So what can David Bowie teach you about reinventing yourself? What can you learn about rebooting your life from the original spider from Mars?

Don’t Be Afraid To Shed Your Old Identities If They’re Not Successful

Just because you’ve got a six-figure salary and you’re getting regular slaps on the back from your boss, it doesn’t mean that’s it. Even the most successful people can reinvent themselves, it’s just a bit harder if you think you’ve got a lot to lose. Job security, though, is an illusion. You might be on a roll now, but don’t ever kid yourself that it’ll last forever. You could be made redundant tomorrow; isn’t there something else you’d rather be doing?

David Bowie was at the very top when he decided to call time on Ziggy Stardust. Across two albums in the early seventies, he single-handedly gave birth to glam rock, setting the blueprint for a host of other artists to follow. Really, he could’ve built his whole career on it, churning out “Jean Jeanie”-esque stomps adinfinitum. But he didn’t. David Bowie had the vision to realise glam had run its course, abdicating before he became the forgotten king of a long-dead genre. His band didn’t like it; the cash cow was being slaughtered prematurely. But history proved him right.

Contemporaries who commanded hit after hit were consigned to the annals of Britrock’s past, while Bowie remained as influential as ever. Reinventing yourself when you’re at the top of your game can be just as successful as doing it when you’re at the bottom, if not more so. Don’t wait until things come crashing down around you before you take steps to live the life you want. If your success isn’t making you happy, then what’s the point?

Repeatedly Reinventing Yourself Is The Key To Longevity

Why just reinvent yourself once? When David Bowie became The Thin White Duke it wasn’t the last character he developed. All your identities have a certain shelf-life. You’re not the same person in your fifties as you were in your twenties, so why try to live the same life? One of the problems with many aging musicians is they’re still clinging to rose-tinted views of the artists they once were. Even icons like Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones have refused to grow old gracefully, instead becoming embarrassing caricatures of their former selves. It’s something that never happened to David Bowie.

No longer able to pull off the androgynous spaceman image, Bowie remained acutely aware of his evolution; always adopting personas that suit his time of life perfectly. Just as trying to squeeze into the jeans you wore in your teens will make you look foolish when you’re in your sixties, so too will trying to reconnect with your former selves. Life’s a journey that doesn’t end until you shuffle off your mortal coil. There’s no point stopping until you’ve explored as many destinations as you can. If you want to have the most rewarding experiences, you’ve got to jump in at the deep end. Just because you’re satisfied with where you’re at, it doesn’t mean you need to stay there forever.

Just Because Your Latest Persona Is Successful It Doesn’t Mean It Always Will Be

The same goes for success. Just because your current persona pays the rent and lets you live the lifestyle you think you want, it doesn’t mean it’ll last forever. The key is to always be aware of when it’s time for a change. Your friends and family may think you’re being rash if you quit a perfectly good job; but if it’s not where you see yourself fulfilling your dreams, why stick around? We’re long conditioned to believe that a good job title, a decent salary and the security of a half-decent pension are the keys to happiness. It’s a myth. Success happens on the inside; you need to be content that the life you’re living matches up to your expectations.

Don’t be afraid to call time on a successful career if there’s something you’d much rather be doing. Waiting until retirement is just wishing the best years of your life awayDavid Bowie was never afraid to reinvent himself, often long before the rest of the world was ready. Even his most successful incarnations benefited from not hanging round too long. His most iconic, Ziggy Stardust, remains so because he never outstayed his welcome.

Don’t ever become stale and bored in a life you find less than fulfilling. David Bowie didn’t, and that’s why his star will shine far brighter than most. So long Starman, you’ll be missed.

Written by: Toby Rogers

Follow Toby Rogers via Twitter @tobiasrogers


How to Build an Audience Through Spotify for Artists… According to Spotify by Jason Hollis

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Today, independent artists are building sustainable, long-term careers through streaming services like Apple Music, Amazon, YouTube, and, of course — Spotify. Through generating high numbers of streams, independent artists like Rex Orange County (200 million streams), VERITE (184 million streams), and Bruno Major (98 million streams), just to name a few, are doing just that.

Earning those high streaming numbers, however, requires more than just getting music up on DSPs and hoping for the best. In order to grow a career via streaming, you have to first work on building an audience through the service. That’s why one of the biggest streaming services — Spotify — created Spotify for Artists. The platform gives artists access to tools and services to make the most of what Spotify has to offer as an artist when it comes time to upload and share your music.

With Spotify being one of the most important streaming services out there for artists, we turned to the expert: Spotify’s Head of Independent Label Development, Jennifer Masset, to get her best advice on how artists can make the most of Spotify for Artists.

Below are advice from Masset and her team at Spotify for Artists for getting set up with Spotify for Artists and on the road to cultivating better audience relationships that will help best reach those goals of streaming success.

1. Claim your profile

The first step to taking advantage of everything Spotify for Artists has to offer is to claim your profile at If you have music on Spotify, you should be on Spotify for Artists. Once you’ve claimed your profile, listeners will see a blue check when they visit your artist page, and you’ll have access to the growing set of tools we’re building to help you connect with your fans.


42 King got their blue check (verified) and are able to access everything they needs to continue growing his fanbase.

2. Add a team member

Once you’ve gotten access to your Spotify for Artists account, add the rest of your team — like management, social media marketers, booking agents, publicists, or anyone else who works closely with you to release and promote your releases.

3. Edit bio and images

Take control of how your music appears to listeners by editing your bio and uploading a gallery of images to your artist profile. Some artists change their avatar and header images at the start of every new release cycle, and some follow their mood and post new images multiple times per week. The most important part is to tell your story to fans through your presence on Spotify and update it whenever you’d like or have news to share.

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42 King shows off their personality and style with fans through an array of images shared. 

4. Integrate your concert schedule

Spotify for Artists provides a map of where in the world your fans are listening from to better help you plan your live dates. You can also make sure your fans know when you’re coming to town by posting your tour dates so listeners can see them when they visit your profile. Fans will also receive emails about upcoming shows in their area.


5. Choose an “Artist’s Pick”

You can use Artist’s Pick to draw your listeners’ attention to what you’re focused on right now. Artist’s Pick gives prominent placement on your profile to any track, album, or playlist you’d like and change it at anytime. This doesn’t necessarily have to be your own music — you can use your Artist’s Pick to connect with your fans over what you’re listening to right now, like an old classic that you can’t get out of your head, or maybe the new album that you’ve got on repeat.


Make the most of Spotify’s Artist Pick feature by pushing fans to your personal playlist.

6. Build your followers

Adding followers on Spotify is the best way to build your audience of fans and get your new music in the ears of your loyal listeners. Fans who follow you on Spotify will automatically get your music in their weekly Release Radar playlist, and they can be notified the day your release drops.


This is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can use Spotify for Artists to accomplish on the platform, and the DSP is consistently rolling out more features and functions that enable independent artists to promote and share their music. Recently, they also launched The Game Plan, a new video series where music legends and Spotify insiders take artists through how to make the most of the platform.

How to Write a Song That’s Fun to Listen to and Fun to Sing by Jason Hollis


When it was suggested I write about songs that are fun to sing, the jukebox in my brain instantly thought of “The Name Game” (recorded by Shirley Ellis, written by Lincoln Chase and Shirley Elliston). Anyone of a certain age remembers plugging his or her name into the formula, “Shirley, Shirley Bo-ber-ley, bo-na-na fanna Fo-fer-ley, fee fi mo-mer-ley, Shirley!”

As I thought about hit songs that were fun (as opposed to being “funny” or humorous) I remembered singing along at the top of my lungs every time “We Are Family” (recorded by Sister Sledge and written by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards) came on the radio. I thought about other infectious sing-alongs such as Cyndi Lauper’s “She-Bop” (Cyndi Lauper, Gary Corbett, Richard Chertoff, Steve Lunt), and Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” (written by Sheryl Crow, David Berwald, William Bottrell, Wyn Cooper, and Kevin Gilbert).

Who could resist singing along when Bill Withers crooned his self-penned #1 classic, “Lean On Me?” and when he sang “I know-I know-I know-I know-I know-I know…” twenty-six times in his 1972 GRAMMY-winning R&B Song of the Year, “Ain’t No Sunshine”(written by Bill Withers). The Beach Boys and Abba recorded a slew of songs that had an entire generation singing along. But these were all from decades ago. I wondered if feel-good songs like these have been relegated to a more distant past.

I asked my Facebook friends (most of whom are songwriters) which recent songs they considered fun—and fun to sing along with. I was bombarded with responses, and as I thought about the songs they mentioned it became clear that music in every genre evolves. It was also evident that although today’s fun-to-sing songs differ from those that were popular decades ago, there are still plenty of hit songs that compel listeners to sing along with smiles on their faces.

When I placed these songs under the proverbial microscope, I observed that the elements that make a song fun to sing are most often found in the chorus, but they can appear anywhere—and everywhere—in a song. Let’s look at some of the components found in both classic and recent songs that made listeners feel good and compelled them to sing along.

Nonsense Syllables

Incorporating nonsense syllables—non-lyric sounds sung by a vocalist—seems to contribute heavily to a song compelling listeners to sing-along. These sounds might include “oh,” “I,” “hey,” “yo,” “ooh,” “na-na,” la-la,” or a phrase such as “Roma, Roma-ma, Gaga, oh la-la…” as in Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” (written by Lady Gaga and Nadir Khayat).

According to David Penn, founder of Hit Songs Deconstructed, in Camila Cabello’s breakthrough hit “Havana” (featuring Young Thug, and written by Cabello, Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Kaan Gunesberk, Brittany Hazzard, Brian Lee, Ali Tamposi, Jeffery Williams, Pharrell Williams, and Andrew Wotman), Cabello sings the nonsense syllable “na” seventy-five times as part of a variety of vocal hooks. Many other contemporary songs that were mentioned repeatedly as being fun to sing include non-lyric vocal hooks. An exceptional example is “Oh-I-Oh-I-Oh-I) in Ed Sheehan’s “Shape of You” (written by Sheeran with John McDaid, Kevin Briggs, Kandi Burruss, Tameka Cottle, and Steve Mac), which reached #1 in 34 countries.

The entire hook of “Da Doo Ron Ron,” (a hit for The Crystals and for teen idol Shaun Cassidy, and written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector) is a combination of nonsense syllables that were initially “dummy” lyrics—placeholders—until the rest of the lyric could be written. But Phil Spector liked it so much he kept it that way.

In Hey Violet’s “Can’t Take Back the Bullet” (written by Jason Blume, Chris Sernel, Audra Mae, and Hey Violet) “Boom, Hey” is the most memorable hook, the part audiences sing along with.

Quirky Rhythms

Catchy, unique rhythms sung by the vocalist also contribute to a song being categorized as “fun.” David Bowie turned a stutter into an iconic hook in “Changes,” while Sir Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” (written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin) and Carrie Underwood’s “Undo It” (written by Kara Dioguardi, Marti Frederiksen, Luke Laird, and Carrie Underwood) include fun-to-sing stutters.

A case could be made that part of the appeal to McDonald’s ubiquitous jingle, “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, etc.” was the challenge of memorizing the lyric and singing the syncopated rhythm of the phrase, which was almost a tongue-twister. This might also be one of the reasons why listeners enjoyed singing along with Toni Basil’s cheerleader chant in the choruses of “Mickey” (written by Michael Chapman, Nicholas Chinn and Carmen Cristina Moreno).


Some concepts, such as partying, dancing, and having a good time are inherently fun to sing about. Bobby McFerrin’s self-written 1988 GRAMMY-winning Song and Record of the Year “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” had people around the world singing along with its optimistic, feel-good message. But it wasn’t only the lyric that resonated with listeners. McFerrin’s classic earned the song a spot in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 15 Best Whistling Songs of All Time.”

Additional examples of songs with “fun” lyrics include Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (written by Cyndi Lauper, Victor Carstarphen, Gene McFadden, John Whitehead, and Robert Hazard), KC & the Sunshine Band’s disco classic “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” (written by Rick Finch and Harry Casey), “Happy Together” (recorded by the Turtles and written by Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon), and the Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun” (written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love).


Melodic and/or lyric phrases that repeat can be found in many, if not all, successful songs. But songs that listeners reported as being fun to sing seemed to include an exceptional amount of repetition.

Song of the Year GRAMMY-winner “Uptown Funk” (recorded by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars and written by Jeffrey Bhasker, Devon Gallaspy, Philip Lawrence II, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson, Lonnie Simmons, Taylor Rudolph, Nicholaus Williams, Charles Wilson, Robert Wilson, Ronnie Wilson) was mentioned by many of the writers as being a favorite “fun” song. The hook-laden track tempts listeners to sing along at almost every turn. But it is especially hard to resist joining the chorus when Mars chants the lines “Girls hit your hallelujah” and “Uptown Funk gon’ give it to you.” Each of these lines is sung three times followed by “Don’t believe me just watch,” which is repeated five times. The repetition of these catchy phrases makes them easy to remember and easy to sing along with.

The chorus of Khalid’s “Young, Dumb and Broke” (written by Khalid Robinson, Tally Riley, and Joel Little) uses both repetition (by repeating the words “young, dumb” then repeating the entire phrase, creating an exceptionally memorable rhythm with a simple melody that invites listeners to sing along. Similarly, “Shake it Off” (recorded by Taylor Swift, written by Swift with Max Martin and Shellback) presents an irresistible hook by repeating “play, play, play, play, play”; “hate, hate, hate, hate, hate”; and “shake, shake, shake, shake, shake” in each chorus. The writers created an additional powerhouse hook that hammers home the title by repeating it eight times in the post-chorus that follows the second chorus.

The exceptional amount of repetition in the chorus, as well as a stutter, contributed to Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder” (written by Alexander Grant, Ben McKee, Daniel Platzmai, Dan Reynolds, Daniel Serman and Jayson Michael Dezuzio) spending months atop the Billboard Hot Rock Songs and becoming the ninth best-selling song of 2017.

Group Vocals

When the Baha Men repeatedly chant in unison, “Who Let the Dogs Out” (written by Ansley Douglas and Osbert Gurley) dance floors fill up, troubles melt away, and audiences can’t resist joining the chorus.

In the chorus of Garth Brook’s classic, “Friends in Low Places” (written by Dewayne Blackwell and Earl “Bud” Lee) the group vocals approximate the sound of a bar full of the singer’s buddies singing along on the final choruses. This technique was also used with great success in Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” (written by Brett Beavers, Jim Beavers, Brad Warren and Brett Warren). The recording featured all four of the writers singing background vocals. Although incorporating group vocals is a production element (as opposed to a writing tool) easy-to-sing choruses lend themselves to a group sing-along and can be irresistible for many listeners.

Easy to Sing Melodies

Sir Elton John has been quoted as saying that he sometimes finds melodic inspiration from hymns. Hymns, nursery rhymes, and children’s songs have melodies a non-singer can easily remember and sing along with. “Jingle Bells” (written by James Pierpont) and the Oscar Meyer Weiner and N-E-S-T-L-E-S jingles are all easy to remember and sing.

Hit songs with simple melodies that also made my readers’ list of fun songs include “Wagon Wheel” (recorded by Old Crow Medicine Show and Darius Rucker featuring Lady Antebellum, written by Ketch Secor and Bob Dylan) and the Lumineers’ “Ho, Hey” (written by Jeremy Fraites and Wesley Schultz) which spent eighteen weeks on top of Billboard’s Rock Songs chart and eight weeks at #1 on the Adult Pop Songs chart fall into this category.

Feel-good songs are as popular as ever and there are tools that can help contribute to a song being “fun.” Nonsense syllables; quirky rhythms; lyrics that address topics such as dancing, enjoying life, and being happy; melodic and rhythmic repetition; group vocals; and easy-to-sing melodies can be the ticket not only to a hit, but to a song audiences love to sing along with.

Try some of these tools—or all of them—and have fun!

Jason Blume is the author of 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs are on Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. He has been a guest lecturer at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and at the Berklee School of Music. For information about his BMI Workshops, additional articles, and more visit

Advice for Moving Up and Not Sliding Off a Popular Playlist by Jason Hollis


With over two billion editorial and user-generated playlists on Spotify alone — and two million more added every single day — curated collections are a hot commodity for artists trying to get their music heard and shared. Landing on a major playlist can help create awareness and engagement around tracks. Previously, we’ve talked about the best tips to get added to a playlist… but what happens after that? Is there a way to help your tracks rise and stay on a playlist longer?

“Tracks move up or down on playlists depending on their performance,” says Amelie Bonvalot, AWAL’s Senior Director, UK/Rest of World (ROW) Digital Sales & Account Management, “because [editors and curators] see that people are more likely to listen to something that is doing well.”

While artists, labels, and companies have no control where a song lands on a playlist initially — those decisions are all made by the individual playlist’s curators and are based on everything from the buzz around a track to their vision for the playlist’s flow — there are a few things you can do to try and improve your chances of either moving up on or staying on a playlist.

It’s important to note that there’s no surefire, one-size-fits-all solution to either landing on or staying on a playlist, but the following tips are meant as best practices that can help shape your playlist strategy.

1. Share the news

When your song is added to a playlist, says Bonvalot, the test is to not only see how well the track performs on its own but within the playlist itself. It’s crucial that you spread the word via social media, your newsletter, or any other channels to let your followers know about the add.

If your song is added to several playlists at once, spread out your posts and announcements according to how timely the add is. For example, New Music Friday playlists are revamped every week, so you’ll want to let your followers know about your add as soon as possible. Other playlists are more evergreen — like genre-based playlists, for example — so there’s more time to shout about those additions.

2. Encourage fans to stream the track

An increased amount of streams for a song is great all the way around, but the key here is to direct followers to listen to the track on the actual playlist. “The more you get your fans to engage with your music on-platform,” says Nicki Shamel, AWAL’s Senior Director, Digital Sales & Account Management for North America “the greater chance of increased exposure you'll have.”

Beyond merely streaming the track within the playlist, it’s also a great idea to encourage fans to add the song to their own collections and playlists. “If there is an add to a collection or a save from that playlist, that's going to contribute to the performance of the track within the playlist,” says Bonvalot.

3. Craft a great message

According to Bonvalot, the way artists message their fans about their playlist adds has a major impact on performance and encouraging fans to stream the track. Beyond fans, calling out the DSP that added the track to a playlist is a great way to show appreciation for the support and demonstrate that you’re driving your fans back to those platforms.

One example of a social post that would tick all the boxes is along the lines of, “Amazing! Thanks, @Spotify, for adding my track “XXX” to New Music Friday! Stream it now using the link below.” Include either a direct link to the playlist or the song within the playlist (now possible on Apple Music) and/or an image of the playlist cover depending on which platform you’re using.

4. Keep building buzz around your track

In our previous article, we talked about “marketing drivers” that help show playlist editors that you, as the artist, are doing your part to build hype around the track. These initiatives can include growing your social following, any press write-ups or reviews, even performing or touring. And while these elements are important for that initial playlist add, you should continue to build on them to show that awareness of your song and music is spreading.

“Any kind of pickup that you see on blogs, magazines, and any other media outlets is definitely going to contribute to the awareness of the track,” says Bonvalot, “Showing DSPs that there is something happening off-platform is definitely a way to justify why they should listen to a track.

“Create some recognition. It's almost like working a track as a brand.”

5. Engage on-platform

Along with cultivating those off-platform marketing drivers, make sure you’re engaging and building your profile within the DSPs. This includes creating your own playlists and even choosing your own, personal “Artist’s Pick” to direct listeners to something you’re listening to or your latest track.

“If you're on tour, share a playlist of the songs you’re listening to when you’re on the road,” suggests Shamel. “If there's a list of artists that you find inspirational or artists that have really had an impact on your career, make a playlist to reflect that. Show that you're engaging with the platform, so not only are you bringing people on board to listen to your music, but you’re also getting people to engage with your profile.”

It’s important to remember that, regardless of your efforts, your track may slip down or off of a playlist. If and when that happens, says Bonvalot, “It doesn't mean it's over. Sometimes, after a while, the track can still become viral if something happens around it.” Continue to work on building that awareness around your track — the buzz may end up translating into a synch placement or radio play, which creates a whole new life for a song that might warrant playlist adds.

If there is one core takeaway that every artist can use to boost their chances of getting added and staying on playlists, it’s simply this: “Keep making good music,” says Bonvalot. And if you’ve been added before, it’s important to stick with that quality and momentum “because that track got on a playlist, so you want to make sure that your next track lands on even more playlists.”

6 Playlisting Tips: How to Land on More Playlists, More Often by Jason Hollis


Today, more than ever, listeners are discovering music on DSPs like Spotify and Apple Music. For independent artists, however, navigating that discovery process is part of the battle to get music heard. How do you compete with the other 20-million-plus tracks on Spotify so your latest single reaches users’ ears?

Playlisting has quickly become a means of discovery that’s reaching massive numbers of listeners. In fact, Spotify users now spend half their time listening to playlists they create themselves, are algorithmically generated, or are curated by “tastemakers.” A spot on a playlist with a large following can help boost a track beyond just organic growth.

At AWAL, playlist pitching is an important part of our services — something we’ve cultivated via strong relationships with curators and DSPs. Last year, we shared four ways to close more playlist pitches. Recently, we took a look at DSP trends and found a few more helpful hints.

While there’s no surefire way to land on curated playlists, here are a few tips from our digital accounts team that have led to playlisting success. Also, because both curated and algorithmic playlists are important to the discovery process, many of these tips can translate to both areas, but we’ll also speak to each type individually below.

1. Build a social presence

Building your presence on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram should be part of your overall marketing strategy, and it’s also important for editorial teams and curators. DSPs generally show favor to artists who are proactively growing their careers using “marketing drivers,” like social media, outside of the streaming world.

“Off-platform activity is integral,” says Nicki Shamel, Senior Director, US Digital Sales & Account Management. “Editorial teams want to be partof the plan, not the only plan. Very few things are successful in isolation, which is why it’s important for artists to build their careers off platform. Playlisting is an excellent way to expose your music, but it cannot be the only thing that drives consumption.”

Other helpful blog posts

2. Engage with blogs and publications

Having a trusted blog back your sound is a vote of confidence that benefits you and your music in many ways. Blog and publication write-ups, reviews, and interviews can help raise your profile and can increase exposure, especially since most articles include an embed of whichever tracks you’re promoting at the moment.

Additionally, press can help drive followers to both your social and streaming profiles plus lead to adds on listeners’ own playlists if they like what they hear. Hopefully, your first piece of coverage from a particular outlet will foster a relationship with that writer and lead to more press — and exposure — down the line.

Other helpful blog posts:

3. Optimize your streaming profiles

In general, make sure you’re keeping your streaming profiles up to date with the most current and relevant info about latest releases, live dates, and anything else that might catch curators’ eyes. The key here is to make sure you’re always active and that your profiles convey that.

Start with these three things:

Get verified

Making sure your streaming profiles are verified is an important part of establishing your presence as an artist on Spotify and Apple Music. Follow our step-by-step guide to get verified.

Attract more followers

Just like you work on increasing your social following, you also want to grow your streaming audience. Try these tactics:

  • Ask fans to follow your artist profile on Spotify and Apple Music along with your socials. Follower counts are important to streaming services, because they see it as a potential to connect new listeners to the service.
  • Make sure your website and socials point back to your content on DSPs. Showing your support to these business partners is an important way of doing your part in marketing your own music.

Create your own playlists

While you’re angling to get onto playlists, start creating a few of your own. It’s a great way to not only show off your musical tastes, but generating your own playlists also:

  • shows the DSPs that you, yourself, are invested in crafting content on their platforms
  • provides your fans (and you!) with shareable, listenable content that’s easy to post each time you update
  • introduces new listeners to your music via genre-based playlists that include your tracks

Other helpful blog posts:

4. Help algorithmic playlists find you

Algorithmic playlists are auto-generated based on everything from listening history to trends to most-shared music.

Discover Weekly

In its first five months of life, Spotify’s weekly, personalized algorithmic playlist was streamed a whopping 1.7 billion times. Released each Monday, Discover Weekly looks at your playlist collection as well as users with similar listening habits and generates a playlist of music primarily made up of developing artists. Release Radar and Your Daily Mix function similarly.

So how do you make it on this popular playlist? “Release some awesome music, and get genuine music fans to share it, and it will end up in Discover Weekly,” according to Matthew Ogle, former Product Director at Spotify.

Fresh Finds

Fresh Finds playlists scour the internet for music shared on social media, in music blogs, and on non-Spotify-owned playlists curated by roughly 50,000 users the platforms singles out for their perceived taste or expertise in a genre.

Although they’re also algorithmically generated, this is where those blogs and social shares come into play, as they’re a great way to not only boost your music’s social presence and alert the algorithm but also catch the eye of users Spotify pools from.

5. Help user-curated tastemakers find you

Curated playlists are created by tastemakers who aren’t among a DSP’s in-house playlisting team. They’re independent, third-party playlisters with a high number of followers whose playlists the DSPs consider trusted sources for new, emerging music.

Reach out directly to a tastemaker by first following them on Spotify and then sharing your track with them. Include a note asking if they will consider adding your track to their influential playlist. Whether or not they read your note or — the ultimate goal — add your track depends largely on their taste (is your music aligned with what they like and playlist?) and is influenced by your social presence. If you have a sizable fanbase, offering to share that tastemaker’s playlist with your fans and followers can, in many cases, help close the deal.

6. Make sure your pitch is thorough

Regardless of whether you, yourself, are pitching your track for playlist inclusion or have a partner pitching on your behalf, you’ll want to make sure all relevant information is included. Some elements, like specific details about your song, will be cut-and-dry, but this is also where you should relate your vision and the story behind the song. What will spark a curator’s interest?

This is where those all-important marketing drivers come in. Be as thorough as you can when describing the overall campaign around your release — DSPs take into account everything from past streaming numbers to social stats to off-platform promotional plans when considering songs to playlist.

It’s also important to accurately describe your sound. “We ask clients to provide tags for mood and genre,” says Amelie Bonvalot, Senior Director, UK/EU Digital Sales & Account Management. “This is the kind of information we relay to the editors, so they know that a specific track would fit intentionally in [their playlists].”

There’s one universal factor that matters most when trying to get on playlists: making great music. If the songs you’re creating are gaining organic traction because listeners love them before they’re even playlisted, it’s going to be that much easier to feed into the points above and possibly catch the eye of an influential curator.

Remember that DSPs want to see a story, so ideally, each song and pitch should tell a larger narrative that you’re building around your releases. It’s crucial that you’re the one driving the streams with your marketing efforts on social media, blogs, and beyond in order to illustrate your story to the DSPs and editorial teams.

Punk Aristocrats Salutes The Record Man: Ahmet Ertegun by Jason Hollis


“I think it’s better to burn out than to fade away… it’s better to live out your days being very, very active — even if it destroys you — than to quietly… disappear…. At my age, why do you think I’m still here struggling with all the problems of this company — because I don’t want to fade away.”
—Ahmet Ertegun

More than most in the $5 billion-a-year global industry he helped build from scratch, Ahmet Ertegun loved the rhythm and the blues. He loved the rock and the roll, jump and swing, and all forms of jazz. More than anything, he loved the high life and the low. When he died at the age of eighty-three on December 14th, about six weeks after injuring himself in a backstage fall at a Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan, the world lost not only the greatest “record man” who ever lived but also a unique individual whose personal and professional life comprised the history of popular music in America over the past seventy years. On every level, the story of that life is just as rich, varied and exotic as the music that Ahmet brought the world through Atlantic Records, the company he founded in 1947 and was still running at the time of his death.


Born in Istanbul on july 31st, 1923, Ahmet Ertegun might never have come to America, which he later called “the land of cowboys, Indians, Chicago gangsters, beautiful brown-skinned women and jazz,” if the Ottoman Empire had not suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Allies during World War I. Occupied by foreign forces, the empire began crumbling in the face of an all-out rebellion led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former army major general who would become the father of modern Turkey.

In 1920, Ahmet’s father, Mehmet Munir (he added the surname Ertegun in 1936), a graduate of Istanbul University whose father was a civil servant and whose mother was the daughter of a Sufi sheik, was sent by the sultan to persuade Ataturk to lay down his arms. Switching sides, Mehmet decided instead to become Ataturk’s legal adviser. Two years later, Mehmet was sent to the international conference at which the Treaty of Lausanne was signed on July 24th, 1923, setting the borders of modern Turkey and extending diplomatic recognition to the new republic.

In 1925, Mehmet was named minister to Switzerland and moved with his wife, Hayrunisa; his two sons, Nesuhi and Ahmet; and his daughter, Selma, to Bern. In rapid succession, Mehmet served as ambassador to France (where Ahmet first learned to speak French, the traditional language of the court in Turkey) and then to the Court of St. James (where Ahmet was taught English, which he spoke with a French accent, by a governess who had worked at Buckingham Palace).


In 1932, when Ahmet was nine, his older brother took him to see Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington at the London Palladium. “I had never really seen black people,” Ahmet recalled, “and I had never heard anything as glorious as those beautiful musicians wearing white tails, playing these incredibly gleaming horns.” Two years later, Ahmet was delighted to learn his father had been posted to Washington to serve as Turkey’s first ambassador to the United States during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration.


Expecting to be thrust into an America he had only experienced through music, Ahmet was sent instead to the Landon School, an all-boys institution run like a British public school. He then attended St. Albans, whose graduates include Al Gore and George H.W. Bush’s father, Prescott. However, as Ahmet would later note, “I got my real education at the Howard.” Located in the heart of the black district, the Howard was the nation’s first theater built for black audiences and entertainers. At the Howard, the greatest stars of the day – Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton – performed. “As I grew up,” Ahmet would later say, “I began to discover a little bit about the situation of black people in America and experienced an immediate empathy with the victims of such senseless discrimination. Because although the Turks were never slaves, they were regarded as enemies within Europe because of their Muslim beliefs.”

Even as a boy, Ahmet wanted to make records. When he was fourteen, his mother bought him a toy record-cutting machine. Taking an instrumental version of Cootie Williams doing “West End Blues,” Ahmet put it on a Magnavox record player, sang lyrics he had written into a microphone and then amazed his friends by playing the acetate without telling them he was singing. In 1940, the year he enrolled in St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, Ahmet and his brother put on Washington’s first integrated concert at the only venue that would allow black and white musicians to play on the same stage before a mixed audience: the Jewish Community Center.


On Sunday afternoons, the brothers turned the Turkish Embassy into an open house where visiting jazz musicians would jam together in a huge parlor. According to Ahmet, his father soon began receiving letters from outraged Southern senators, saying, “It has been brought to my attention, sir, that a person of color was seen entering your house by the front door. I have to inform you that in our country, this is not a practice to be encouraged.” Mehmet responded by writing, “In my home, friends enter by the front door – however, we can arrange for you to enter from the back.”

When Mehmet died in 1944, at the age of sixty-one, the family left the embassy. Ahmet and Nesuhi were forced to sell their collection of more than 20,000 records, which they had amassed by going door-to-door in the ghetto and hanging out in black record shops. Rather than return to Turkey to enter the diplomatic corps, the brothers decided to stay in America. Moving into an apartment near the embassy, Ahmet began doing post-graduate work in medieval philosophy at Georgetown University, but he spent most of his time at “Waxie Maxie” Silverman’s Quality Music Shop, where he learned the retail end of the record business firsthand.

In 1946, Ahmet and his friends Herb and Miriam Abramson talked Waxie Maxie into putting up the money to start two labels: the gospel-based Jubilee, and Quality, which focused on jazz. After their first few records went nowhere, Waxie Maxie decided he wanted out. Somehow, Ahmet persuaded Dr. Vahdi Sabit, a Turkish dentist who had been a longtime family friend, to mortgage his home and loan Ahmet $10,000 to start his own label in New York. In 1947, Atlantic Records was born.

The rise of independent record companies like Chess, King, Vee-Jay, Modern, Kent, Savoy and Roulette in America after World War II came about because of several factors. The wartime rationing of shellac, a key ingredient in the manufacture of records, had forced the major labels to drop most of their “race music” and country & western artists to concentrate on the mainstream audience. The postwar boom in the economy put money into the hands of working people, many of them black. And then there was payola, a practice that enabled even the smallest label to get its records played on the radio – if it was willing to pay for it.


Atlantic set up shop in a tiny suite on the ground floor of the broken-down Jefferson Hotel on 56th Street in Manhattan. From the start, Ahmet had a vision of what he wanted to put out on Atlantic. “Here’s the sort of record we need to make,” he once said. “There’s a black man living in the outskirts of Opelousas, Louisiana. He works hard for his money; he has to be tight with a dollar. One morning he hears a song on the radio. It’s urgent, bluesy, authentic and irresistible. He can’t live without this record. He drops everything, jumps in his pickup and drives twenty-five miles to the first record store he finds. If we can make that kind of music, we can make it in the business.”

The reason for the demand was simple. America was still a racially divided nation. In even so sophisticated a city as New York, as Ahmet would later recall, “Harlem folks couldn’t go downtown to the Broadway theaters. They weren’t even welcome on 52nd Street, where the big performers were black. Black people had to find entertainment in their homes – the record was it.”


Ahmet’s first major signing was the singer Ruth Brown, whom he had seen perform at the Crystal Caverns club in Washington. On her way to New York to perform at the Apollo Theater in October 1948, Brown was in a car accident and broke both her legs. On January 12th, 1949, Ahmet brought her a contract to sign while she lay in bed. He then handed her a book on how to sight-read and a large tablet on which she could scribble lyrics while she recovered. Atlantic paid the portion of her hospital bill not covered by insurance.


When Ahmet had first seen Brown perform, her biggest number was “A-You’re Adorable,” a Perry Como song that was completely mainstream. As he did with so many black artists who had lost touch with their own musical roots, Ahmet pushed Brown toward a funkier and more down-home sound. In October 1950, she had a Number One R&B hit with “Teardrops From My Eyes.” In 1953, she recorded “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” with Ray Charles directing her backing band. The song, which Ahmet had her do at four different speeds until he found the one he liked, stayed at Number One on the R&B charts for five weeks and helped put the label on solid ground. By then, many people were calling Atlantic “The House That Ruth Built.”

Because music publishers were not eager, as Ahmet said, to provide material to “a hole-in-the-wall company called Atlantic,” he began writing songs himself. In a recording booth located in a Times Square arcade, he would make a vinyl demo of a song that he would then play for the artist in the studio. Using the pseudonym “Nugetre,” his last name spelled backward, so he would not embarrass his family, Ahmet wrote “Don’t You Know I Love You” and “Fool, Fool, Fool,” which were hits for the Clovers in 1951.


One Friday during the noon show at the Apollo Theater, Ahmet saw Big Joe Turner, who was already thought to be past his prime and had recently been dropped from Columbia, struggling as the vocalist with the Count Basie Orchestra. After the show, Ahmet looked everywhere for Turner only to find him drowning his sorrows in a nearby bar. Telling Turner he was the greatest blues singer ever, Ahmet said that all he needed was new material and persuaded him to sign with Atlantic. He then wrote “Chains of Love” for Turner, which went to Number Two on the R&B charts.


In 1952, Ahmet signed the artist who would come to define Atlantic: Ray Charles. Up to that point, Charles had been playing in the smooth style of Nat King Cole and Charles Brown, and had recorded a minor hit called “Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand” for Swingtime. Wanting to push Charles toward a grittier sound, Ahmet wrote two songs for him, “Heartbreaker” and “Mess Around.” Although the session is portrayed in a different manner in Taylor Hackford’s 2004 film biography, Ray, Charles had never before played boogie-woogie piano. As Ahmet began explaining the sound he wanted, Charles suddenly began, in Ahmet’s words, “to play the most incredible example of that style of piano playing I’ve ever heard. It was like witnessing Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious in action – as if this great artist had somehow plugged in and become a channel for a whole culture that just came pouring through him.”

When the Army called Herb Abramson up in 1953 to serve in Germany during the Korean War, Ahmet brought in the Billboard writer who six years earlier had coined the term “rhythm & blues.” Jerry Wexler, an intense, brilliant former street kid from Manhattan’s Washington Heights section, became a partner in Atlantic Records for $2,063.25. Ahmet took Wexler’s money and bought him a green Cadillac El Dorado, the only kind of car in which a self-respecting record man could then be seen. Ahmet, who had always been cooler than cool, was now working alongside someone who generated heat like a steel-mill blast furnace. The two made an incredible pair.

 Professor Longhair

The ultimate story of their time together, which both men loved to tell, concerned the night in New Orleans when they went to find an unknown genius named Professor Longhair who was playing in a joint across the river, where no taxi driver would take them. Their cabbie dropped them off in the middle of a field. After walking a mile in darkness, they saw a brightly lit house in the middle of town so full of people that they seemed to be falling out of the windows as music blared. Talking their way past the guy at the door, who assumed they were cops, the pair made their way inside. Out came Professor Longhair, who played a piano with an attached drumhead that he would hit with his right foot. As people danced, Ahmet and Jerry could barely contain themselves. An utterly primitive, completely original artist was making a kind of music they had never heard before. Rushing up to Longhair after his set was over, they told him just how much they wanted to sign him to Atlantic. “I’m terribly sorry,” said Longhair. “I signed with Mercury last week.” In Ahmet’s version of the story, the pianist then added, “But I signed with them as Roeland Byrd. With you, I can be Professor Longhair.”


By the time Herb Abramson returned from the Army in 1955, Jerry Wexler had physically and psychically taken over his role at the company. Rather than break up their studio partnership, Ahmet put Abramson in charge of a subsidiary label, Atco, and gave him the Coasters and a young piano player named Bobby Darin to work with. By then, Atlantic had moved to a brownstone at 234 West 56th Street. Pushing back the desks at night, Ahmet and Jerry would record in a room with a creaking floor, a sloping ceiling with a skylight in the middle and a young genius named Tom Dowd, who was studying nuclear physics, behind the board. Using the third eight-track recording machine ever made, for which he invented faders to replace the knobs, Dowd recorded “Save the Last Dance for Me” by the Drifters.


During this period, those in charge of Atlantic began to realize that their target audience was no longer rural and black. Rather, it was teenage and white. The message had come through loud and clear for the first time in 1954, when Big Joe Turner’s version of Jesse Stone’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” was covered initially by Bill Haley & His Comets and then Elvis Presley. In a 1954 essay in Cashbox magazine, Ahmet and Wexler wrote that the blues would have to change to meet the tastes of the bobby-soxers who were looking to find their own sound. What Jerry Wexler chose to call “cat music” would be “up-to-date blues with a beat and infectious catch phrases and danceable rhythms…. It has to have a message for the sharp youngsters who dig it.” To put it another way, the blues had a baby, and they called it rock & roll.

In 1955, Nesuhi, who had married and moved to Los Angeles after his studies for a Ph.D. in philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris were interrupted by World War II, announced he was going to work for Imperial Records, the label on which Fats Domino recorded. Ahmet could not bear the thought of his brother laboring for a competitor and persuaded him to come back to New York to head Atlantic’s jazz division. Within a year, Nesuhi had signed and recorded the Modern Jazz Quartet and jazz bassist Charles Mingus.


Nesuhi also brought Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had written and produced “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and “Riot in Cell Block #9” for the Robins on Spark Records. Although the practice was then unheard of in the industry, Ahmet signed them to work as independent producers. In 1957, after two of the Robins left Spark to form the Coasters on Atlantic, Leiber and Stoller’s “Searchin’ ” and “Young Blood” became a huge two-sided hit for the label.

Having failed to produce a hit with Bobby Darin, and feeling as though his time at Atlantic had come to an end, Herb Abramson left the company in 1958. Cash-poor, Ahmet and Wexler managed to raise enough money to buy out Vahdi Sabit. In return for his $10,000 investment in Atlantic, he received between $2.5 million and $3 million, quit dentistry and moved to the South of France. Ahmet and Jerry also bought out Miriam Abramson, thereby making themselves and Nesuhi the sole owners of Atlantic Records.

When Ahmet learned that Bobby Darin was thinking about leaving the label, he took him into the studio in May 1958 and cut “Splish Splash” and “Queen of the Hop,” both of which became big hits because Ahmet wanted Darin to aim his music squarely at the kids who watched American Bandstand on TV each day. Ahmet’s great success with Darin led him to Los Angeles, where he began looking for lucrative pop acts. Concerning the early years at Atlantic, Wexler would later write, “We weren’t looking for canonization; we lusted for hits. Hits were the cash flow, the lifeblood, the heavenly ichor – the wherewithal of survival.” Nonetheless, he found it hard to adjust to the company’s new direction. “As Ahmet grew older,” Wexler wrote, “he grew less judgmental and more interested in a wide range of commercial forms, especially white rock & roll. I stayed with what I knew and loved.”


With money now flowing into the Atlantic coffers, Ahmet was once again living the kind of life he had first learned to love while growing up, with “chauffeured cars, servants, cooks and per diem” in embassies all over the world. In a striking photograph from that era, Ahmet, resplendent in a dark suit with a white silk tie and matching pocket square, can be seen doing some sort of dance step with a gorgeous fashion model named Rosalie Calvert. Both hold drinks in their hands.

During this period, Ahmet hit upon the idea of hiring a bus, which he equipped with a bar so he and all his friends could drink as they went from club to club together. On the rare occasions when Ahmet found himself alone at the end of an evening, he would say, “Let’s go home,” and the driver would take him to the very stylish El Morocco (known as “Elmer’s” to its regulars) on 54th Street for more drinks and more fun.

After cutting the classic “What’d I Say” in 1959, Ray Charles chose to leave Atlantic without giving Ahmet and Jerry a chance to match the offer that ABC-Paramount had made him. Although Ahmet was personally devastated by the loss of someone he considered a friend, he would later note that the relationship between a label and an artist was like a marriage. At the start, there was always a great deal of excitement. Eventually, the artist found someone richer or the label found someone younger. Although Wexler feared the company might not survive, Ahmet said, “Somehow, I wasn’t that concerned. I always figured that we were going to make another hit…. New artists somehow magically appear.”

In the world in which Ahmet Ertegun now lived, the change in sensibility that marked the beginning of the Sixties can best be understood by the fact that the fabled El Morocco was suddenly dead and the place to see and be seen was the Peppermint Lounge, an impossibly crowded dance club on 54th Street, where Ahmet could often be found doing the twist alongside the duke of Marlborough, Jackie Kennedy and Truman Capote.


One night, some friends brought Ahmet to dinner with a woman named Ioana Maria Banu. Called Mica by all who know her, she was, in Ahmet’s words, “a natural aristocrat.” Born in Romania to a family of wealthy landowners, Mica had been forced to flee the country after the communist takeover in 1947. With her husband, an older man who had worked for the royal household, she moved to Canada, where for eight years they ran a chicken farm. Although Mica was still married when she met Ahmet, and he had only recently separated from his first wife, the attraction between them was immediate and intense. Ahmet pursued Mica as only he could. During the time they were courting, he once hid a five-piece band that played “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in the bathroom of her suite at the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal. The two were married on April 6th, 1961.

In a nation reinvigorated by President John F. Kennedy’s promise of a “New Frontier,” civil rights became the predominant issue. “Soul lyrics, soul music,” Ahmet would later say, “came at about the same time as the civil rights movement, and it’s very possible that one influenced the other.” In partnership with Stax/Volt, Atlantic began releasing music recorded by Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. In 1962, Atlantic released “These Arms of Mine,” the first hit single by Otis Redding, who, as Ahmet would later recall, “used to call me ‘Omelette,’ but not as a nickname – he thought at first that this actually was my name.” During this era, Atlantic had big hits by the Mar-Keys, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Percy Sledge, and Joe Tex. In 1967, Wexler took Aretha Franklin into a studio in Muscle Shoals to record “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).” While his partner was turning out the greatest soul music ever recorded, Ahmet continued to pursue white rock acts for the label.


Ahmet had first met Sonny Bono through Phil Spector, who had come and gone at Atlantic without producing any major hits. Bono had actually worked as Ahmet’s assistant on recording sessions for the Righteous Brothers, the progenitors of “blue-eyed soul.” When Charlie Greene and Brian Stone, then managing Sonny and Cher, called to say the pair was not happy at Warner Bros., Ahmet signed them to Atco. In 1965, “I Got You Babe” was, as Ahmet would later recall, “a nationwide hit and an international hit – I mean, like nothing we had ever experienced before.”


Greene and Stone then contacted Wexler about another band they had found in Los Angeles. Wexler, who hated dealing with the new breed of stoned-out, longhaired, hippie musicians whom he called “the rockoids,” turned the project over to Ahmet. The band was Buffalo Springfield, and Ahmet was knocked over by the demo of Neil Young’s “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong.” Sitting down on the floor in Los Angeles with Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer, Ahmet pitched them on going with a record company that would understand their music. “I think they liked the fact that I sat down on the floor,” Ahmet would later tell Young biographer Jimmy McDonough. “When I like an artist, I treat them like a star, and to me these guys were exceptional stars. I thought they were going to be a revolutionary kind of group. It was fantastic to have three great guitar players who were also three outstanding lead singers.” Or, as Young would tell the audience as he was being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, “When Ahmet walked into the room, you got good.”

Much to Ahmet’s dismay, Buffalo Springfield broke up after making only two albums. “I think it was one of the few times I cried,” Ahmet told McDonough, “because I just thought that I had the historic group.”

Ahmet, who had been blessed with supreme self-confidence, never worried about failure. The same could not be said about Wexler, who worried about everything, most especially the future of Atlantic Records. By 1967, Vee-Jay had collapsed, and Chess was failing. Wexler told Ahmet and Nesuhi that he wanted to sell Atlantic Records to the highest bidder. When Nesuhi sided with Wexler, Ahmet had no choice but to comply. Atlantic Records was sold in October 1967 to Warner-Seven Arts for $17.5 million, split among Ahmet, Nesuhi and Wexler.

“I didn’t want to sell the company,” Ahmet would later say. “The company was my idea, it was my brainchild, and we were doing well. I saw no reason to think that disaster was imminent. However, they were so insistent on selling, I really didn’t have an option.” In retrospect, with the value of Atlantic Records today estimated between $2 billion and $4 billion, the deal has come to be viewed as somewhat of a catastrophe. Yet Ahmet himself never blamed Wexler for urging him to do it, saying, “I’m thankful for what I’ve got. I’ve lived very well all my life, even when I had no money, and there’s very little I can’t afford.”

In 1969, Warner-Seven Arts was acquired by Kinney National Service, a conglomerate of parking lots, funeral parlors and rental cars, whose chairman, Steve Ross, knew virtually nothing about music. Ahmet announced that he, Nesuhi and Wexler would leave the company once their contracts expired. Faced with the loss of Atlantic’s entire management team, Ross took Ahmet to dinner at 21 in New York along with Warner CEO Ted Ashley. When Ross promised he would give Ahmet anything he wanted without interfering in the day-to-day operations at Atlantic, Ahmet negotiated a new deal for himself, Nesuhi and Wexler. Ross would later claim this was one of the luckiest days of his life.

With the era of the small independent label now officially over, rock & roll was big business. Because Ahmet Ertegun was smart enough to understand he would need corporate money to compete in this new industry, he was able to seduce and then sign the world’s greatest rock & roll band.


In 1970, the Rolling Stones’ onerous long-term deal with Decca finally expired. Intent on landing the band, Ahmet flew to Los Angeles to meet with Mick Jagger at the Whisky a Go Go, where Chuck Berry was performing. Before he got there, Ahmet dined with radio programmer Bill Drake, who challenged him to a drinking contest. Both men chugged several bourbons and then enjoyed a dinner that included some expensive wine and more bourbon. Already jet-lagged, Ahmet dragged himself into the Whisky. When Mick arrived, they drank several toasts. As Mick brought up the Stones’ new recording contract, Ahmet’s head sagged forward and he fell asleep at the table. “I couldn’t keep my eyes open,” he told Vanity Fair in 1998. “Mick thought it was very funny.”

While Mick may have been charmed, the deal was far from closed. In London, Ahmet phoned Jagger to say it was time to sit down and make a deal. Mick replied he would be more than happy to do just that after he spoke to Clive Davis at Columbia. Stunned, Ahmet hung up the phone. As he would later recall, “Whenever I saw Mick with someone else, my heart sank. It was a painful, ecstatic courtship.” Picking the phone back up, Ahmet called Jagger and said that while he completely understood his talking to Clive, he could only sign one major act this year and unless he got an answer in a hurry, it was going to be Paul Revere and the Raiders. Then he hung up. For the next forty-five minutes, the phone rang constantly. Ahmet never picked it up. Not long after, the Rolling Stones joined Atlantic.

Landing the Stones confirmed that Atlantic was now the pre-eminent record label in America. Ahmet was so close to Jagger that he had advised him to drop Marianne Faithfull as his girlfriend, warning that her overwhelming drug habit could ruin everything for them both. Shortly after, Mick married the lovely Bianca Perez Morena de Macias in St. Tropez, France. Nor was Ahmet shy about offering musical advice to the Stones. Andy Johns, then twenty years old, was sitting at the board at Olympic Studios in London, having some trouble mixing “Bitch” for Sticky Fingers, when Ahmet sat down in the control room. “Hey, kid!” Ertegun said to Johns, who had no idea who he was. “What you oughta do is add a little bottom to the guitars and turn the bass up.” Johns did as he was told and, as he says, “Bingo! The thing jelled.” After Ertegun left, Johns turned to Keith Richards and said, “Who the f*** was that?” Keith said, “You don’t know who that is? That’s Ahmet Er-te-gun! And he’s been making hit records since before you were born.”

Ahmet trumped everything he had already done for the Stones by throwing them a party on the roof of New York’s St. Regis Hotel to celebrate the end of their triumphant 1972 tour of America. The guest list included Tennessee Williams, Bob Dylan, Huntington Hartford, Oscar and Françoise de la Renta, and a host of titled nobles, with entertainment by Count Basie and Muddy Waters. Culturally, it was a major step in crossing over what had formerly been outlaw music into the mainstream.


On May 3rd, 1975, Jerry Wexler, feeling as though he was no longer involved in decision making at the label, wrote a letter to Ahmet in which he stated, “Under no circumstances, Ahmet, can I be your employee. That’s the bottom line.” Although Ahmet protested, “Man, you can’t quit. It’s unthinkable,” the greatest team in the history of the record business split after twenty-two incredible years. In 1978, Wexler complained to New Yorker writer George W.S. Trow that he never saw his old pal anymore, stating, “Ahmet sees only two kinds of people – social people and morons. And I ain’t either one.” Nonetheless, when Wexler wrote his autobiography, Rhythm and the Blues, in 1993, he dedicated the book to Ahmet Ertegun.


In 1983, after being approached with the idea of doing a television show called “The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” Ahmet contacted Rolling Stone founder and editor Jann Wenner, Jerry Wexler, record executives Bob Krasnow and Seymour Stein, and music-business lawyer Allen Grubman with the idea of actually establishing an institution to honor the greatest artists, producers and record executives in the field. Going from city to city, they heard a variety of presentations before deciding on Cleveland as the physical home for the building, which Ahmet insisted be designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. The first Hall of Fame class – which included Jerry Lee Lewis, James Brown and Chuck Berry – was inducted in 1986; the museum opened nine years later. “Ahmet was the guiding moral aesthetic sensibility and consciousness of this thing,” recalls Wenner. “In the end, it was always, ‘What does Ahmet think?’ because Ahmet had the vision. Everyone deferred to Ahmet’s taste, his judgment, his knowledge. I don’t think he consciously thought this through, but he was building an institution to something that he had built. And really memorializing the history of an art form which in great part was his doing.” Ahmet Ertegun himself was inducted into the Hall in 1987. The main exhibition space at the museum bears his name.


In 1988, Atlantic Records celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a gala concert at Madison Square Garden, presenting a marathon twelve-hour show that featured, among many others, a Led Zeppelin reunion, Yes, the Coasters and the Bee Gees. Shortly before the show, Atlantic finally came to terms with Ruth Brown, who had waged a long, protracted and very public campaign on behalf of herself and other artists who had been on the label’s early roster. Atlantic agreed to waive all unrecouped costs charged to their royalty accounts and to pay twenty years of back royalties. Atlantic also agreed to begin limited audits on behalf of twenty-eight additional pioneer artists and contributed nearly $2 million to fund the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, which then pressured other labels to bring about royalty reform and gave money to needy musicians. Of all the companies and record men who had been in business back then, only Ahmet and Atlantic were still around.


At an age when most of the others with whom he’d started in the record business had long since retired, Ahmet was still putting out hits by artists such as Debbie Gibson, Twisted Sister, AC/DC, Rush and Skid Row. When Phil Collins, whom Ahmet considered one of the most impressive artists he’d ever known, played “In the Air Tonight” for him for the first time, Ahmet told Collins that if he wanted it to be a single, he would have to put extra drums on it.

“Labels and artists are never going to get along, because they think we’re brats, and we think they just haven’t smoked enough,” Tori Amos, another artist Ahmet championed when he was already old enough to be her grandfather, told Vanity Fair. “But with Ahmet you know he’s smoked more than you ever did.” She noted that although Ahmet was then seventy-four years old, she could not keep up with him on the dance floor. In 1997, the Atlantic Group, consisting of Atlantic, Rhino and Curb Records, was the number-one label in America, with annual global sales rising to $750 million.


Ahmet began cutting back on his daily corporate duties in 1996. In 1997, he suffered a serious bout of pneumonia. As the result of a shattered pelvis and three separate hip operations, he walked with a cane. Always on the go, he continued to live in unsurpassed style. He and Mica shared a townhouse on 81st Street in Manhattan, an apartment in Paris, a country home in Southampton, New York – with a living room he had demanded be enlarged so that there would be room for an orchestra – and a retreat in Bodrum, Turkey, built with ancient stones from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. His homes were filled with works by Matisse, Magritte, Hockney and Picasso.

In 2001, at the age of seventy-seven, Ahmet produced a session by saxophonist James Carter in Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, a club so small that a mobile recording studio had to be set up outside. Although it was 110 degrees inside the club, Ahmet, clad in a long wool sport coat, a crisp white shirt without a tie and pressed light tan pants, looked as cool as a cucumber as he ran back and forth from the mobile unit to the stage. Calling the songs, asking players to sit out for a number, telling Aretha Franklin to sing the blues on this one, Ahmet ran the session just as he had done for more than fifty years. The next day, he hosted a lunch for the singer Anita Baker, Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson. That night, Ahmet went right back to the club and did it all over again.

Unlike so many who made it big in the music business only to cash out by selling the companies they had infused with their own lifeblood, Ahmet held fast to the tiller. Until the end of his life, he was still in charge of what he had built from the ground up. That he died after falling backstage at a show by a band whom he truly loved is an ending too perfect for any self-respecting Hollywood screenwriter to have written. A year before he died, Ahmet told an interviewer how he’d like to be remembered: “I did a little bit to raise the dignity and recognition of the greatness of African-American music.”

Although the music business that Ahmet helped create has completely changed, its success still comes down to the quality of a song that people want to hear again so badly that they will happily pay for the privilege. Better than anyone, Ahmet Ertegun understood that need, having experienced it himself from the time he was a child.


And while the fabulous manner in which he chose to live caused all those with whom he came into contact to love him madly, the real reason Ahmet will be remembered is because by dedicating his life to rhythm and blues, rock and roll, jump and swing, and every form of jazz, from Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner and Ray Charles to the Drifters and Bobby Darin to Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Phil Collins, Tori Amos, Kid Rock, and Gnarls Barkley, Ahmet Ertegun gave people all over the world, many of whom still do not know his name, the soundtrack of their lives.

SoundClash Gives It To You On The Dance Floor by Jason Hollis


Punk Aristocrats: SoundClash

Saturday’s 9PM Pacific

Join some of our favorite artists and the globes top emerging DJ’s as they take control of the Punk Aristocrats decks and mix a multitude of genres to get your ass on the floor.

Punk Aristocrats Honor The Legend of Fats Domino by Jason Hollis

 Fats Domino in his dressing room prior to a performance in 1974.

Fats Domino in his dressing room prior to a performance in 1974.

Rock 'n' Roll Legend Fats Domino Dies at 89

The music world mourns the loss of rock 'n' roll pioneer Fats Domino, who entertained audiences and influenced generations of musicians with hits including “Ain’t That a Shame," “Blueberry Hill” and "I'm Walkin."

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Antoine “Fats” Domino died yesterday at the age of 89. Domino is counted among rock 'n' roll’s pioneers, and in his heyday during the 1950s he racked up more than 100 combined Billboard pop and rhythm and blues hits. Although possessing a more mild-mannered persona than many of his musical contemporaries, with 65 million records sold, Domino was the most successful of them all (except for Elvis Presley), and his music was a primary influence for superstars such as the BeatlesElton John and Billy Joel, to name just a few.

Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. came into the world on February 26, 1928, the youngest of eight children born to French-speaking Creole parents living in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Although Domino’s father was a fiddle player, it was his older brother-in-law Harrison Verrett who taught the young Domino to play piano and sing, eventually introducing him to New Orleans’ thriving music scene. A natural talent, Domino was performing in the city’s honky-tonk clubs by the age of 10, and by age 14 he had quit school to devote himself to music. He worked various jobs during the day to support himself, while at night mastering the New Orleans R&B style that would become his signature. 

By the mid-1940s, things were looking up for Domino. In 1947 he married Rosemary Hall, with whom he would have eight children and stay together until her passing in 2008. He also caught the eye of Billy Diamond, one of the city’s top bandleaders, who bestowed Domino with the nickname “Fats” and invited him to join his group for gigs at the Hideaway Club. While performing at the Hideaway, Domino began to attract crowds in his own right, and in August 1949 local bandleader and record producer Dave Bartholomew helped him earn a contract with Imperial Records. Bartholomew would become Domino’s primary collaborator, and their partnership would prove to be one of the most successful of the era.

 Fats Domino at the piano, circa 1970. 

Fats Domino at the piano, circa 1970. 

In late 1949, Fats Domino’s first single, “The Fat Man,” was released by Imperial Records. The track established Domino’s signature sound, which consisted of his Creole-inflected baritone and New Orleans boogie-woogie piano played over simple saxophone and drum lines that emphasized the downbeat. “The Fat Man”—which has been credited by some music historians as the first rock 'n' roll song—rocketed to No. 2 on the R&B charts and eventually sold as many as 1 million copies.

While more R&B successes quickly followed, it wasn’t until 1955 that Fats Domino achieved his first major breakthrough, with the release of the single “Ain’t That a Shame.” The song reached No. 10 on the pop charts, a true crossover hit that, for the first time, exposed him to a wider—and whiter—audience. “Ain’t That a Shame” remains one of Domino’s best-known tracks, and it has been recorded by numerous artists over the years, including Pat Boone, whose watered-down cover version was released shortly after Domino’s and surpassed the original, topping the pop charts for two weeks.

But the following year it was Fats Domino who topped himself, with his rendition of “Blueberry Hill.” The song reached No. 2 on the charts and went on to sell more than 5 million copies. Domino’s growing popularity also landed him appearances in the 1956 rock 'n' roll films The Girl Can’t Help It and Shake, Rattle and Rock, and over the next eight years, he would compile nearly 40 crossover hits, including “I’m Walkin’” (No. 4), “Whole Lotta Loving” (No. 6) and “Walking to New Orleans” (No. 6). 

In the early ’60s, Fats Domino’s impressive run finally came to end. In 1963, Imperial Records was sold, essentially ending his fruitful collaboration with Bartholomew. The arrival of the Beatles in 1964 and the ensuing British Invasion further eclipsed the careers of Domino and other early rock 'n' rollers, and Domino’s popular successes during the 1960s were relatively few. Somewhat ironically, perhaps, his last song to reach the Top 100 would be a 1968 cover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna.”

During the 1970s a renewed interest in early rock 'n' roll led to cover versions of his songs by artists such as John Lennon and Cheap Trick, and Fats Domino continued to perform in revival shows and record albums. During the 1980s, however, both weary of the road and able to live quietly and comfortably off his royalties, Domino went into semi-retirement, vowing not to leave New Orleans. True to his word, in 1986 Domino did not attend his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1987 he elected to forego traveling to Los Angeles to accept a Lifetime Achievement Grammy. Except for a brief European tour in 1995, his few performances in the decades that followed were almost exclusively in his beloved New Orleans. 

 Fats Domino at the Tipitina's Foundation premiere of 'Fats Domino: Walkin' Back to New Orleans' in New Orleans in 2008. 

Fats Domino at the Tipitina's Foundation premiere of 'Fats Domino: Walkin' Back to New Orleans' in New Orleans in 2008. 

In 2005, however, Fats Domino’s world was turned upside down, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. The resulting flooding wreaked havoc on the Ninth Ward, and it was initially rumored that Domino had drowned. Though in truth he had been rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter, Domino lost everything in the storm, including his piano and all of his gold records. Yet this tragedy only served to deepen Domino’s attachment to the city of his birth, and indeed much of the work he would do for the remainder of his life would be focused on helping to rebuild it. 

In early 2006 he recorded the album Alive and Kickin’ to benefit Tipitina’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting local musicians and culture. In 2007 the Katrina benefit album Goin’ Home, which featured covers of Fats Domino songs by the likes of Elton John, Paul McCartneyNeil Young and Norah Jones, was released. In 2009 Domino took to the stage at “The Domino Effect,” a benefit concert for schools damaged by Katrina.

Fats Domino has been the subject of the documentaries Fats Domino: Walking Back to New Orleans and 2014’s The Big Beat, which was released at the New Orleans Film Festival. He received the National Medal of the Arts and was also inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame. He is survived by his eight children, as well as a profound musical legacy that, among his other accolades, once earned him the No. 25 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest artists of all time.

#MusicMonday Playlist Available ft BATZ, TOWNE, DEMOB HAPPY + More! by Jason Hollis


Discovering cutting edge #newmusic from around the world just got easier. Punk Aristocrats #MusicMonday serves the VERY BEST in breaking bands and cutting edge new music delivered to you all day long on Radio 1. Why? Because you deserve it. #MusicMonday Every Monday, duh!

1pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm Pacific. Stream online or Download our FREE RADIO 1 APP for Your Trendsetting Taste In Music.


October 23, 2017

  1. AKA GEORGE - Stone Cold Classic
  2. Marmozets - Habits
  3. Turbowolf - The Free Life
  4. Estrons - Glasgow Kisses
  5. Nothing But Nets - Get Better
  6. MILKTEETH - Nearby Catfight
  7. Young Dolph - Drippy
  8. Childhood - Don't Have Me Back
  9. Lotto Boyzz - Facetime Me
  10. Shamir - Straight Boy
  11. Baegod - God's Gift
  12. Touts - Bombscare
  13. Tonight Alive -Temple
  14. PVRIS - Mercy
  15. Demob Happy - Be Your Man
  16. BATZ - Gameshow Queen
  17. Muskets - You're So Cool
  18. Dagny - Love You Like That
  19. Barns Courtney - Rather Die
  20. Bully - Kills To Be Resistant
  21. Mallory Knox - Better Off Without You
  22. The Kooks - Be Who You Are
  23. The Pale White - Let You Down
  24. Only Son - Best Laid Plans
  25. Mikky Ekko - Blood On The Surface
  26. HOAX - Sway
  27. Dan Owen - Hideaway
  28. Shamu - The Sorry Window
  29. Towne - I Don't Wanna Want (But I Do)

'Playin' With Fire' New Official Release From AZHIA by Punk Aristocrats

AZHIA - PLAYIN' WITH FIRE (Official Audio)

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MUSIC Produced, Recorded & Mixed by: Jason Hollis and Dan Dixon

Mastered by: Matt Hyde

Recorded at Sonora Recorders


AZHIA - Playin' With Fire
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#MusicMonday Playlist Available NOW + FREE AZHIA Download by Jason Hollis


Discovering cutting edge #newmusic from around the world just got easier. Punk Aristocrats #MusicMonday serves the VERY BEST in breaking bands and cutting edge new music delivered to you all day long on Radio 1. Why? Because you deserve it. #MusicMonday Every Monday, duh!

1pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm Pacific. Stream online or Download our FREE RADIO 1 APP for Your Trendsetting Taste In Music.

This week we debuted the WORLD PREMIER of 'Playin With Fire' form Punk Aristocrats very own AZHIA. TODAY we're giving you the 'Playin' With Fire' download for FREE! 

AZHIA - Playin' With Fire
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October 16, 2017

  1. AK/DK - Morphology
  2. White Room - The Blue
  3. The Shimmer Band - Ya Ya (Uh Oh)
  4. Foo Fighters - Make It Right
  5. RedFaces - Take It Or Leave It
  6. Otherkin - Come On, Hello
  7. Only Shadows - Fight Milk
  8. Grace Mitchell - Capital Letters
  9. Irontom - Hookers
  10. The Stone Foxes - Hypno
  11. Mellor - Bone Idle
  12. She Drew The Gun - Sweet Harmony
  13. Shame - Concrete
  14. Bat$hitcrazy - Bats In The Belfry
  15. Fizzy Blood - Summer Of Luv
  16. Banfi - June
  17. Suzi Wu - Teenage Witch
  18. Curtis Harding - Need Your Love
  19. Azhia - Playing With Fire
  20. Bootsy Collins - Ladies Nite
  21. L’Orange, Oddisee - Look Around
  22. Space - Dangerous Day
  23. Destroyer - Tinseltown Swimming In Blood
  24. Outsider - Miol Mor Mara
  25. HAUS - Don’t Care Enough
  26. Floral Scene -Esteem
  27. Zach Said - Holding On
  28. Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile - Over Everything
  29. Howie Payne - Some Believer Sweet Dreamer
  30. Youth Killed It - Islands
  31. OUTLYA - Howl
  32. Jimmy Sweet - You Say You Don’t Love Me

Azhia Releases Hauntingly Good 'Heart Of Glass' Blondie Cover by Jason Hollis





Blondie - Heart of Glass (Cover)


AZHIA - HEART OF GLASS (BLONDIE COVER - AUDIO ) Visit ► Download Punk Aristocrats Radio 1 FREE APP for iOS or Android

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Check out the new 42 KING - OVER MY HEAD (Official Video) release

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Playing With Fire New Music Release #MusicMonday by Jason Hollis

Imagine discovering cutting edge #newmusic showcased from around the world, every week!? Yes Please! Punk Aristocrats #MusicMondayserves the VERY BEST in breaking bands and cutting edge new music delivered to you all day long on Radio 1. Because you're worth it, you have impeccable taste and the instincts of a Swami. Monday 1pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm Pacific. Stream online or Download our FREE Radio 1 APP

Who  ever said rock n' roll is dead must be getting pretty old. Check out  #MusicMonday on Punk Aristocrats Radio 1 today Oct .16, 2017 at 1pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm Pacific. Basically we'll be spinning new music all day long. 

This week we're featuring music from Suzi Woo, Curtis Harding, The Stone Foxes, The Shimmer Band, Fizzy Blood, Only Shadows, Grace MitchellJimmy Sweet and many more badass new bands. We also have the world premier of 'Playin With Fire'  from Punk Aristocrats very own Azhia

It's going to be an exciting day for show casing new music!

Let us know what you think. 

Scott Waldman Interviews Jason Hollis for idobi Radio by Punk Aristocrats


This week, Scott is joined by Jason Hollis!

Jason began his career in music as an artist manager and is the founder of the lifestyle brand Punk Aristocrats. Since 2014, Punk Aristocrats has been a hub for all things music and media. Their website and social media is filled with eccentric videos and A+ music playlists. Punk Aristocrats continues to grow today and develop into not just a company, but a way of life.

Jason joins Scott to talk about the Pink Spiders, Punk Aristocrats, and fashion.


#MusicMonday October 8, 2017 by Jason Hollis



  1. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - American Girl
  2. Bad Nerves - Radio Punks
  3. Black Honey - Hello Today
  4. Dead Pretties - Confidence
  5. PLS PLS - Exes
  6. Ecca Vandal - Broke Days, Party Nights
  7. Koi Child - Touch ‘Em
  8. Grimes, Aristophanes - Scream
  9. The Bombay Royale - Ballygunge
  10. Bonzai, Big Freedia - I Feel Alright (Big Freedia Remix)
  11. Blood Orange - E.V.P.
  12. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Refugee
  13. Park Hotel - Going West
  14. Jamie T - Tescoland
  15. Interstelar - Hold it
  16. L.A. Witch - Drive Your Car
  17. DZ Deathrays - Blood On My Leather
  18. Formation - Pleasure
  19. The Noise Figures - Shoot the Moon
  20. The Cherry Dolls - Begging You Please
  21. Pale Seas - Someday
  22. Sturgill Simpson - In Bloom
  23. Seratones - Get Gone
  24. Jorja Smith - Blue Lights
  25. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - You Got Lucky

5 Changes to Make for Rockstar Social Media in 2017 by Punk Aristocrats


If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s change – especially when it comes to social media. It seems like every day there’s some new feature or new technology that is taking the digital landscape by storm.

And social media isn’t showing any signs of slowing down yet. Today, one-third of the world’s population uses social media networks on a regular basis.

With so much constant change, it’s the brands that can keep up and roll with the punches that are going to be the ones to succeed on social. But to keep up and stay ahead of the competition, businesses must understand the latest trends and how to use them effectively.

If your brand is still stuck using Google+, it may be time for an upgrade. Here are five of the latest social media marketing trends that I want to incorporate into my strategy this year – you may want to consider them for yours, too.


1. Live Video

In 2016, 14% of marketers experimented with live video, and that number is only going to climb this year.

We saw live video come on the scene last year with Twitter’s Periscope, and soon after, Facebook followed with Facebook Live, bringing livestreaming into the limelight. Instagram has also launched its own live video feature, and other social networks will likely follow suit in the near future.

It’s no secret that audiences love video content. YouTube has been a successful platform for years, and Facebook users watch 100 million hours of video every day. But live video takes video content to the next level.

Audiences crave authenticity, and that’s exactly what live video provides. With no editing or scripting, going live presents your brand in a more personable and genuine way.

Incorporating live video into your social media strategy is easy to do – especially if you’ve already been creating video content. “First and foremost, you’ll want to consider where your audience already spends time on social media – and try to connect with them on those networks,” saysSophia Bernazzani, staff writer at HubSpot.

Once you’ve chosen where to post your video content, you need to decide what to post. If you have an event going on, have a member of your team livestream it. Consider providing a behind-the-scenes look at your office and operations. Try hosting a Q&A with a special guest or demonstrate how to use one of your products.


2. Paid Content

If you’re publishing a Facebook post and just hoping someone will see it, you aren’t doing enough. With more and more changes being made to social networks’ algorithms, the chances that your audience will see your content grow slimmer and slimmer.

While these algorithms serve to ensure the platform’s users are seeing content they actually enjoy, there’s no doubt they make it harder for brands to get noticed.

Plus, other brands and consumers are sharing and publishing more content than ever, so competition for attention is fierce. In the past two years, content consumption on Facebook has increased 57%.

So how do you cut through the clutter? The answer is: you must pay for it. Organic traffic on social can only get you so far. But paid content is well worth the investment.

Promoted posts and native advertising allow businesses to narrowly target a specific audience, so you know the right people are seeing your posts. By paying for it, you can ensure that your posts actually show up on your target audience’s feeds.

I am the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency helping companies leverage the latest and greatest marketing strategy to fuel their businesses.


3. Interactive Content

While I’m on the topic of grabbing your audience’s attention, it’s also critical for you to take an honest look at the content you’re putting out on social. With so much content online already, doing the same things as everyone else isn’t going to make your brand stand out.

Consider spicing it up by creating interactive content. Eighty-one percent of marketers say interactive content grabs attention more effectively than static content. Interactive content could be a quiz, game, calculator or similar.

“Brands not only want consumers to recall [their brands], they want them to be excited and share the content with their friends,” says Russab Ali, founder of SMC Marketing. “They can then ‘compare results’ with friends.”

It’s not enough these days for your audience to just click on your posts. You need to get them to engage, too. By making engagement intrinsic to the content, you’ll increase the likelihood that your audience will do just that.


4. Customer Service Chatbots

When you need customer service, you don’t want to wait on hold for hours on the phone or for a representative to answer your question on social media. Good customer service is fast, but most brands can’t keep up with the demand.

This is where social media can step in and give customer service a boost. Chatbots are a type of AI that can interact with customers via social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Think back to the days of AOL Instant Messenger and SmarterChild – but don’t worry, we’ve come a long way since then.

Using social messaging apps is a smart choice for marketers. In fact, 20% of marketers plan to add messaging apps to their content strategy in the next year. “These apps have a wide audience and offer several attractive features to brands for e-commerce and client support, for example, which allows for economies of scale and the creation of new types of user experience,” sayssocial media strategist Isabelle Matthieu.

Chatbots can guide customers through completing a transaction, answer a question or point people in the right direction. They offer fast, one-on-one service without the need for additional employees. Plus, your customers are a lot happier when their problems are solved right away.


5. Employee Advocacy

There’s a powerful social media marketing tool hiding right under your nose – and it doesn’t cost a penny. It’s your employees, the people who support and work for your brand every day. Why wouldn’t you leverage them as part of your marketing strategy?

By encouraging and empowering your employees to spread the word and share your brand’s messages on social, your brand will be exposed to hundreds or even thousands of potential customers.

Your employees are powerful advocates for your brand. They offer validity and credibility to your brand’s messages. Your audience tends to trust messages that come from personal social media accounts over a brand’s social media accounts.

But you can’t mandate or force it. The employee’s support must be authentic or it will lose that credibility, and your brand will suffer because of it.

“A company’s social media must be ‘cool’ enough for the employees to want to share it on personal platforms,” says Jake Messier, principal & COO of Mungo Creative Group.

Make it easy for your employees to get involved by providing them with easy-to-share updates. Simply ask them to share your posts, and see what kind of a response you get. Chances are you’ll soon see positive results.

Written by: Sujan Patel