Last night Just Blaze held the final goodbye for his legendary Baseline recording studio. Naturally, I found out about the evening’s festivities, which reportedly were a walk-through and tour sort of thing, super late. I wound up making my way over around 10pm, after leaving the ego trip film screening. Timmhotep came with. I entered the studio to see what looked like actual organized confusion in the lounge. Boxes everywhere, records packed up, gear laying around, sneakers, pool balls and assorted memorabilia. I’d once been involved with the closing of a major studio (Mystic Studios, in Staten Island, where a lot of classic material was recorded), and remember the disaster which became of the studio space when the equipment was broken down and storage spaces were cleaned out. It’s really a trip down memory lane.
I wish I could say I had a really close relationship with Baseline, but I didn’t. That’s not to say I don’t have my memories of it like anyone else. Here are a few that come to mind.
– My first time playing beats in the A room. This was around December of 2002. The Blueprint 2 had just come out, and somehow someway a friend of mine met Geda K at a party or something, and asked him for music for these DJ Storm mixtapes we were recording out of the Staten Island studio I had at the time. We wound up at Baseline that night, and playing beats for Geda K and the rest of the Get Low Records artists. That was the first time I met Just Blaze. I recall being ushered out of the studio super late that night- Mariah Carey had arrived and to the best of my knowledge they cut “Oh Boy” in that session.
– I would occasionally go back to check the Get Low Records rappers, and they cut a few songs to beats of mine, but nothing ever came of it. I didn’t get back into Baseline really until the Spring of 2004, when Matt Fingaz brought myself and my then manager, Gello Jones, up there during a session with Ayatollah in the B room. During that session I met the rapper Smitty, who at the time was signed to J Records, and gave him a beat CD, but didn’t really get his contacts or anything. The results of me handing him that beat CD wound up being the song “It’s Alright” which somehow got miscredited to 9th Wonder when it was released on an independent Smitty album in 2006. Till this day I’ve probably had five conversations with 9th Wonder and have never once broached this subject. I don’t even think he knows about it.
– A few months later I wound up interviewing Just Blaze for a XXL article on Beat Society that never made it into the magazine. That was my first front of the book piece for XXL. At the end of our interview I asked if I could play him some beats. He obliged. He picked two that he liked. One he wanted for Saigon, the other he asked me to bring back so he could re-produce it. I remember dropping the files off at Baseline a few days later and exchanging some emails with Just about it, saying that I don’t give files out for anything unless money is exchanging hands, but that I trusted him. A few days later I was at the XXL office and Bonsu Thompson told me Just was talking to him about me. I think he embellished a bit and said Just might want to sign me or something as a producer. That was a nice pipe dream while it lasted. Ha!
– The next fond memory I have of Baseline is coming up there to play beats for Freeway. This was either December of 2004, or 2005. Caveman Rosario, who cut my first check ever for a beat (“Through My Rearview” on Freeway’s Ice City: Welcome to the Hood LP) in 2004, wanted me to get on Free at Last. Free had already recorded to one of my beats and I was there to play more. I waited hours for Freeway to arrive. Scram Jones showed up too. I ended up playing the tracks at like 2am or something. The interesting thing about this night was this was the infamous session Freeway claims he didn’t have with Just Blaze, when he said Just was too busy for him. In fact, Just spent hours working on this one beat for him. So that’s the end of that.
– We also did the Scratch Magazine feature (NOT the cover story with Saigon) with Just Blaze and Roland V-Synth GT that was in the last issue of the magazine ever (with 50 Cent and Timbaland on the cover). I remember Scratch’s Editor-in-Chief looking at me kinda crazy when I suggested Just Blaze to do that review. He was like, “Are you just trying to get the biggest producers possible for your section of the magazine?” I replied, “Ummm… yeah.” And sure enough, Just was down for it. And in that interview is where you first heard him talk about doing more electronic-sounding music, a la TI’s “Live Your Life.”
Outside of that, I can remember meeting DJ Green Lantern at Baseline for the first time. I can remember Dan Solomito allowing me to come play beats for Naledge and Double-O of Kidz in the Hall during their 3-marathon recording session of School Was My Hustle. I remember giving Royce the 5’9 some beats outside of the studio one night. I remember playing beats for Young Guru one night when I was there for god knows what reason.
Let me not forgot, there was also that night I waited outside for something like three hours for Just to show up, just so I could play him some new shit. That was the grind back then.
To sum it up, it was a great place, a sort of crossroads for a lot of different types of folks in the music and media business. There used to be many of those types of studios in Manhattan. Now sadly many of them are gone, and we add Baseline to the list.
Just Blaze with the last call for alcohol
Just Blaze freestyling over Exhibit C
Pardon the terrible quality on these videos. I found out about the baseline closing event super late and was armed with only a blackberry camera phone.
Over at Wired.com, writer Eliot Van Buskirk’s “Inside Big Champagne’s Music Panopticon” provides an in-depth look at Big Champagne’s new dashboard-style music data analysis service. Now anyone who’s been paying attention to digital music news over the past few years should be familiar with the company’s CEO Eric Garland. Dude is the go-to guy when writers need a quote on anything related to music and the internet, which, let’s face it, is practically every day now. There’s also a sizeable chunk of Steve Knopper’s Appetite for Self Destruction dedicated to explaining how Big Champagne came about. Pretty interesting stuff.
To summarize, Big Champagne offers a media tracking service. And through that service, which a company pays a monthly fee for, they’re provided access to data about who’s downloading what songs and videos, and where that activity is happening online. Beyond that, the data gets very specific, in terms of allowing the company to see filesharing data for specific markets.
Data like this is of huge importance because it let’s a company know which band is performing well in which area, rather than having to rely on something like radio charts, a big game of back room handslaps that hasn’t changed in 50 years. Online “buzz” is arguably a bigger indicator of where people’s attention is directed. There are acts with songs on the radio right now, but who have no online buzz, who wouldn’t be able to sell out a local coffee shop.
Big Champagne also provides video charts as well, monitoring big sites like Yahoo and Youtube, as well as smaller ones.
Point being, all this data is coming from many different sources, and it’s being tracked in real time. My question is, just how wide of a net is being cast by this service. According to the article, filesharing networks are included in what’s being tracked. Which ones? And are simple webhosting services like Zshare and Rapidshare being monitored as well. These sites are like filesharing central, the bulk of new music acquisition is taking place there. By the time these songs make it to Yahoo, AOL or any of these big media companies, a lot of the key online traction for a tune has already taken place. Still, a useful service nonetheless. And while a lot of the data their providing is accessible through each separate network (Yahoo, Youtube, etc), having it all in one place, and being able to grasp it in the context of pie charts and graphs is infinitely more valuable. I wish I had 2k a month just to check it out.
Over at the Wall Street Journal today, there’s an article about how the newspaper business is looking to create some sort of intermediary (“To Beat Antitrust Rap, Papers Take Cues From Songwriters” by Russell Adams and Shira Ovide), much like ASCAP or BMI for songwriters, that would monitor a paper’s content, and demand license fees from sites that post, repurpose, and otherwise aggregate said content.
The article mentions that one of the biggest obstacles facing the establishment of a third party entity is actually anti-trust law, which prohibits companies from joining forces to price fix and keep competition at bay. Which to me is sort of a loaded issue, because while there’s certainly a case to be made for big media trying to keep the little guy down, the reality is that the bulk of real news is still coming from big media. It just gets filtered down on so many levels, from blogs, to twitter, and so on.
It’s almost impossible to quantify all the sources that are pulling from this one piece of content– some monetizing it via ad supported business models on websites and the like, some not monetizing it all– all while the originator of the content, and the company that underwrites the creation of that content (via paying that writer a salary, or paying a freelancer, and a photographer and so on) not seeing any real hardline benefit from it at all.
Now some may argue that the content just being out there on the web is free marketing and so on, and I could see a case being made for that. But it’s hard to tell the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times that some small time blogger is helping their brand sell papers in the big scheme of things, particularly when the links get posted on so many blogs that it’s hard to tell where it originally came from. Fact is, crediting on aggregation models is not very effective, nor standardized.
And that’s one of the biggest problems facing music publishers. Sure, some sites pay for blanket licenses. The big ones do. Your Imeems and Myspaces and so on. These are big business, and the agreements are often times a lot more complex than people can even realize. It’s not as cut and dry as a simple blanket license. There’s revenue sharing built into the ad component of the site as well. So it’s really not as easy as just paying a license fee and/or royalty for every time the music is played. The newspaper business will have to take that into account as well. Because those licensing fees may pale in comparison to the site’s overall revenue. And then what’s going to happen? The newspapers are going to come back crying for more money. Just like the labels have done with Google/Youtube, saying they’re not getting enough money out of their licensing arrangements.
The bigger issue, I think, is quantifying the type of “legs” that newspaper content has online. How much news really lives online after a couple of days, and furthermore, if the news does live, will anyone pay to see it?
The New York Times used to make the archives of articles available only via purchase. I was one of the unlucky few who had to pay for content at one point in time, whether it was for a college-related assignment or something else. But how many people would do that on a regular basis? Probably very few. Needing to go into the archives is a very selective thing. It’s not every day that a large body of web users need to look at articles from 1958. Which is probably one of the reasons why they eventually abandoned that model and opted to make everything available for free, monetized instead via advertising. Now that advertising hasn’t yielded the desired results, they’re ready to bail.
Point I’m making is, to create a third party to monitor content would be a great idea, and I think it’s needed. Had I included a quote or something from the WSJ article, I’m technically using WSJ content and monetizing it via google ad sense (I don’t make much from that, but just using it as an example), and WSJ sees nothing from that. I’m using their content to create content, and they get nothing back from it (although I am including a link that is sending people directly to their site).
Practicality is the issue, I just don’t know how practical something like this would be, considering just how much content comes from big media on a daily basis, and how much doesn’t get used for anything. I mean, if I had a news aggregation site, would I pay like a yearly fee for a license to everything from WSJ.com, when I may only use 2-3 relevant pieces from them a week? And would they get royalties or something from me? Like, how does this work?
Overall, it just seems like a mess to me. Definitely needed, but the model has to be worked out.