Hashtags Are Officially #Over. So Now What?

Photo by Marco Torres
Jennifer Lopez, shown in 2012, hopped on the hashtag bandwagon with 2013's "#liveitup."
PREVIOUSLY: Why #Hashtags Are So Damned Irresistible to Record Companies

This social sphere of readily available media makes it easier for artists to reach their fans on a whole new level, but it also makes those fans able to reach other things with just the click of a button which in turn lessens the modern day music listener's attention span by a pretty big percentage.

The only way Katy Perry's new #smash would benefit from its hashtag would be if her listeners constantly banded together and sent out thousands of tweets about the song to make #smash a trending topic on Twitter, which we all know people besides her diehard KatyCats would not do.

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Why #Hashtags Are So Damned Irresistible to Record Companies

Photo by davitydave via Flickr
This "human hashtag" is proof that even a great idea can get out of hand.
Picture this: you are in a Capitol Records executive meeting. Katy Perry is sitting at the table with her big shot manager L.A. Reid right next to her. It's the final meeting before the label drops the press release announcing Katy's huge comeback single, and there are papers with different versions of the single cover scattered all around the table, white boards with graphs predicting one of the largest first week sales in music history, and Ms. Perry with pen in hand, ready to sign the papers that will give the label the "go."

But right before she touches pen and paper, a scruffy intern with three empty cans of Red Bull next to him stands up with the most groundbreaking look on his face. "Wait, wait, wait everyone...should we add a hashtag?"

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"Surprise Albums" Might Be the New Normal

Photo by Marco Torres
Kendrick Lamar, shown at Warehouse Live in December 2012, has also been the subject of recent surprise-album rumors.
If you're reading this and are just now finding out about Drake's new album, you're a little late.

In your defense, the Canada-based rapper just dropped his new mixtape, If You're Reading This It's Too Late, via Twitter in the late hours of last Thursday night, creating a bit of a shock to fans who had been anxiously awaiting his purported album Views from the Six.

Because it's not your run-of-the-mill album, If You're Reading This It's Too Late is tougher to dive into when compared to prior Drake releases. With biting lyrics that are more aimed and specific, it doesn't pan out as smoothly and cohesively as his most recent effort, 2013's Nothing Was the Same. Even so, certain moments within the 17-song Too Late give the impression that this could contain some of the most important work in Drake's career thus far.

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Stop Complaining and Just Enjoy the Grammys

Photo by Groovehouse
Does Miley Cyrus deserve her Grammy nomination? Does anyone over age 18 even care?
This Sunday the 57th annual Grammy Awards will take place, which for me translates into an awful amount of unnecessary rants on social media and memes being posted over and over on Tumblr, but most of all lots of complaining. What is supposed to be "music's biggest night" has turned into a "Who Wore It Best?" competition combined with an Illuminati conspiracy-theory fest (oh, the big bad tyrannical music industry machine), and every year there seems to be more and more criticism the morning after the broadcast.

But is this because every year, the nominations are consistently getting more bland and lowbrow than the year before? Or is it just that the number of critical music bloggers has increased tenfold, making the awards show seem like the most awful thing ever to air on television and a disgrace to music itself? Really, it could go either way. It could even go both ways. But to better analyze the situation, we should take a look at the two different types of Grammy Awards viewers who come out to play every year.

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Music Trends That Should Stay In 2014

Photo courtesy of Big Machine Records
Will we hear even a little less about Taylor in 2015? One can only hope...
Despite what the editors of Rolling Stone want you to believe, 2014 was not, in fact, "another great year for music." In all honesty, it was one of the worst on record for new creations that innovated or inspired. Sure, there were some highlights: Jack White, FKA Twigs, Schoolboy Q, St Vincent. But overall, the year was somewhat of a bust.

The good news is that there is no need to abandon hope for popular music. All that needs to happen is that these dreadful pieces of 2014 need to stay on this side of the calendar when the clock hits midnight on December 31. Here's to 2015!

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A Few Things Local Bands Should Know About Opening for National Acts

Photo by Clever Cupcakes via Flickr
As close as a typical opening band might get to meeting KISS.
Your band has been playing shows for a while, and seems to be getting popular. Perhaps you're still just rising stars on the hometown circuit or have hit the road a few times to try your luck at touring. Eventually, the day comes when you get a dream gig opening up for a big national act -- a band with a certain amount of fame and success that you've always looked up to, or at least respected.

Does this gig mean Death Hippie has finally made it and superstardom is around the corner? Can you and your bass player finally quit your jobs cleaning up "accidents" at the porno theater where you both work? Will you at least make industry connections and become friends with your rock and roll heroes after your band opens for them?

Probably not. But as with most things involving the music biz, you'll probably learn some lessons along the way. I certainly did.

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Five Sample-Using Songs That Deserve Grammys Now

Photo by Marco Torres
Wu-Tang Clan
Recently the Grammy Awards announced changes to the annual music awards' criteria and categories, the most notable being now permitting songs that utilize samples in the songwriting categories, specifically Song of the Year. This is huge news for many electronic artists and rappers, obviously.

But why wasn't this always the case? It seems like the often stodgy judges behind the Grammys have unfairly excluded a lot of amazing works of art from winning awards just because they featured samples or interpolations. Here are some of the best songs which should have won that couldn't before this rule change.

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Springboard South Hopes to Silence Critics, Not Performers

Photos courtesy of Springboard South
When it comes to Houston's music scene and the lack of respect it gets, you can do two things -- complain or do something about it. Organizers and participants of the Springboard South Music Festival and Conference choose the latter. They want local musicians, music-oriented enterprises and music fans to follow their lead and do the same.

This year's event, the third annual, begins today and runs through Sunday. The music fest features more than 120 acts from across the southern U.S. performing on five stages at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Warehouse Live and nearby venues. It aims spotlight on-the-cusp artists from more than a dozen genres, all in the air-conditioned, rain-free comfort of downtown Houston's showcase sites.

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Austin Weirdos The Hard Pans Know From "Mount Bullshit"

Photo courtesy of The Hard Pans
L-R: Claude Barnard, Jimmy Smith and Mark Creaney, keeping Austin weird
The Hard Pans do just about what their quizzical name implies. To quote Mike Stinson, "they scratch and cuss and fight and moan," hoping to get by in this crazy, confusing, mixed-up maze people call a business.

In the eternal quest for gas money and beer, they'll bring a new album, Budget Cuts, to Cactus Music Wednesday for an in-store performance prior to an evening gig at Under the Volcano.

An offshoot of Austin Music Hall of Famers the Gourds, the Pans are led by bassist Jimmy Smith and keyboard hoss Claude Bernard. If you know anything about either of these guys, you already know they'll never be forced into any kind of George Strait lookalike contest, nor will they dumb it down so the Josh Abbott fans feel safe.

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Wait...When Did Houston Beer Fest Become a Music Festival?

Photos by Francisco Montes
The Houston Beer Fest crowd watches Action Bronson Saturday afternoon
Houston Beer Fest: It's not just for beer-induced dehydration anymore. It seems that while people were busy side-eying the folks over at Houston Beer Fest for the antics that happened in years prior -- overcrowding, oversold tickets, lack of beer, etc. -- something kind of amazing happened: they started giving a shit about the music.

No, seriously.

Going into HBF's fourth year this past weekend, we didn't expect to find much. After all, anecdotes about overcrowded entrances, drunk festivalgoers (ourselves included, mind you), and irritated would-be attendees stuck outside the gates run rampant when Beer Fest is mentioned.

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