I’m proud to say that I’ve been a user of SoundCloud for five years. That may not seem like a lot of time, but concerning the music industry, that means ages. Back then, this platform was the solution to everything I could have possibly wanted from a music platform: it was clean, stylish, easy, intuitive, and even came with two free hours of upload space.

But as the years flew by and I started taking my music career more seriously, I noticed that SoundCloud just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I was now paying attention to new details because my career called for it. Upload caps had become a nuisance, yet because of the entire platform’s distinguishable drawbacks, I could never justify paying them monthly to expand my track capacity.

Now, for the record, I understand why SoundCloud needed to charge for additional storage space. In its early years, they needed money to fund their venture. But fast forward through my five-year membership and a lot has changed. They now sport 175 million registered users and some serious changes in business models. Today, SoundCloud makes money primarily through 1) an ad-based platform with an additional premium ad-free service called SoundCloud Go and 2) the premium creator perks service SoundCloud Pro.

SoundCloud Go is an appeal to the new age of “the streamer.” After all, society is way past iTunes. It’s been ditched for the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora—you name it. It makes sense that SoundCloud would try to grab a slice of the cake themselves. But right now, it just seems like they’re experiencing a major identity crisis.

Any experienced user will tell you that it’s teetering on that fine line between a creator-based platform and a streamer-based platform. There’s nothing wrong with being both, but there are still a serious amount of issues that plague both sides of whatever SoundCloud is trying to be.

Let’s start with the creator side:

The current time cap for artists is now three hours of music, up only one hour more since when I began using SoundCloud—and that’s nothing compared to services like Mixcloud which allows for unlimited uploads of typically hour+ DJ mixes. Regarding general tech, storage space is getting cheaper by the hour and global compression algorithms are getting better every week. It doesn’t make sense to starve creators of additional free storage space.

And you know how any regular person can promote a post on Facebook or Twitter or somewhere else? Not on Soundcloud. Any promoted posts are only done by (at least semi-) decently well-known artists. It seems they’ve gone the way of YouTube and put their efforts into supporting their cash cows. There’s no more going viral. Plenty of us are willing to pay to get a new leg up on plays. It’s odd that regular musicians can’t pay SoundCloud to promote their tunes at the top of a search list.

Since we’re on the topic of other social media platforms, let’s talk about analytics. Virtually every social media platform in existence offers free analytics for their users. SoundCloud is still set on making you pay for anything above generic song-plays charts. Not attractive to frequent users.

Let’s move on to the streamer side:

I’d like to start off with the biggest no-brainer of this entire situation: playback quality. Even the crispiest song files uploaded to SoundCloud sound like a 1960s radio through playback. With a lot of streamers being fellow musicians or people just super passionate about listening to music, odds are they either have a good set of headphones or a good set of speakers. Low-quality playback is not only an embarrassment to the site; it’s an insult to the creators who have spent years honing their musical craft.

Then there’s the quality of the mobile app. At first glance, it’s pretty well put together, but as you try and access more of the features you’re familiar with from the browser version, you’ll soon find that many just don’t exist on the app. There is only ONE feature that I have been waiting for to be added since the app’s origins that has never once been touched: the ability to access a user inbox. I still do a lot of collaboration through SoundCloud, and yet I can’t even check my messages which away from my computer. Simply put, the app contains plenty of bugs and has remained very clunky. The only info I get from their iOS updates is that they’ve tweaked stuff for SoundCloud Go users. I say again: not attractive.

In summary:

A company will do the best it can to raise money and maximize value—this is a general principle of business. It is clear that SoundCloud Pro is no longer profitable, as it just doesn’t appeal to users. If that statement were false, SoundCloud wouldn’t have changed their business model. I don’t remotely disagree with the choice to become an ad-based platform, or for pivoting more towards streaming. It was a good idea that follows modern trends and if anything, it will help artists interact with their audiences even just a little bit more. That being said, there are still so many things fundamentally wrong with the platform. As a veteran user, it pains me to see so much that still needs to be improved being forgotten about. So much focus has gone into SoundCloud Go that it just seems pointless for creators to continue pressing on. I fear that SoundCloud will continue to deepen its identity crisis, by putting on blinders, dumping all of their eggs into the basket of streaming, and forgetting about the masses they originally intended to serve: the underground musician.


To stay updated on my meandering thoughts, head down to the comments section and subscribe for future weekly Write-ups. See you next week!

Zach Ciampa produces and licenses music under the pseudonym Haelphon. He has spent the last ten years working both independently and with global brands and agencies helping them amplify their message and excite their audiences through the power of successful music selection and integration into their videos, social media, and events. To view his audio collection, visit the Music Library tab on the top menu.

 

Read more

He’s been on all of our minds since the release of his debut album Coloring Book. And the moment hip-hop superstar and Chicago native Chance the Rapper won his first Grammy, we would never forget him. In February, the future changed forever. For the music industry, for society, and for us.

So far in his brief five-year career, Chance has had several incredible feats: he has self-published his music, he has won three Grammys, and he has done all of it alone. No labels, no strings. In other words, Chance is self-reliant.

The funny thing is, I don’t even listen to his music. It’s not that Chance makes bad tunes—he doesn’t. What draws me to Chance is his story; his music just doesn’t fit my personal tastes, yet he remains a role model because of both his philosophies of being an independent artist and his unique success story in the music industry.

In an interview with ABC News, Chance lists the benefits of his independence, stating, “I get to choose how much my music costs, I get to choose when my music gets released, I get to choose when I go on tour, who I work with, what movies I want to work with.” For many of us, musicians or other, this sounds like the perfect dream. We’d love to be our own bosses. We’d love to set our own schedules every day. And while many of us aren’t quite there yet, we can look to Chance as the first real beacon of hope.

“This is for every indie artist,” Chanced stated upon his Grammy win.

Because of the way the music industry is set up, anomalies like Chance The Rapper are not supposed to happen. If you head onto music forums, thread participants will slam optimistic artists down with “the odds” of a new artist’s success. Like every sitcom band ever, musicians put on blinders and maintain the lone goal of getting signed.

Is a record deal a bad thing? Not at all. It’s a journey many would like to take as an optimal way to advance a career. That being said, record labels are still notorious for taking a massive portion of proceeds made from an artist’s music; there is certainly a price to pay. Some labels have been exposed for taking as much as 90% of the total cash, leaving a signed artist or group with as little as 10% for themselves, which they must then use to pay for music videos and promotional materials personally. In my opinion, it’s a giant funnel that sucks the life out of musicians and leaves them for dead. Today, labels have a serious grip on the industry, but that grip has begun to loosen.

Quartz Media states that Chance “in uncharted territory” with his breakthroughs. Nobody has done this in the modern music era. We are certainly in a generation of innovation—it was only a matter of time before it hit the music industry. Here we have an artist who not only innovated by giving out his music for free but innovated by doing everything himself and crushing obstacles.


In conjunction with Chance’s newfound success, many are frantically trying to prove that he’s not independent. For example, FactMag wrote an article stating that because Chance signed a pre-release streaming contract with Apple Music, he’s not truly independent. Sorry, FactMag, that’s been debunked. Signing a contract to put your music on a streaming service two weeks early doesn’t mean you’re any less independent—it means you’ve kicked ass enough to get a $500,00 deal without anyone else dipping their hands in your pot.

Others also argue that Chance also had an advantage because he came from a bit of money. Plenty of famous musicians have come from wealthy backgrounds and still signed to labels. Many may have given him an edge, but he’s still independent. He may have managers, he may have agents, but Chance without a doubt runs the operation himself. His ‘independent’ credibility is not at risk just because he’s made smart moves.

We can learn a lesson from Chance, whether we’re musicians, accountants, or anything else. Our society has many rules that say “This should be impossible,” “Nobody can do this alone.” Isn’t that what they said about many factors of entrepreneurship?

There are machines in place which are meant to define norms. Chance’s success shows us all that if you can stick with whatever you want to do, you can get there with the right amount of grit. His accomplishments so far tell us that we (especially musicians) don’t have to adhere to industry standards to get somewhere. Chance The Rapper is the first, but from here on out, we’ll see more and more artists follow this path because the myth of the traditional journey has been busted wide open. We are now free to forge our own paths. In ten years, we may very well see independent artists finally take over a good chunk music scene, claiming what was rightfully theirs all along. The future of music is now a wildcard.


To stay updated on my meandering thoughts, head down to the comments section and subscribe for future weekly Write-ups. See you next week!

Zach Ciampa produces and licenses music under the pseudonym Haelphon. He has spent the last ten years working both independently and with global brands and agencies helping them amplify their message and excite their audiences through the power of successful music selection and integration into their videos, social media, and events. To view his audio collection, visit the Music Library tab on the top menu.

Read more

You’re doing your daily social media binge, and that same old sponsored post pops up on your feed: “follow so-and-so for daily motivation!”

Daily motivation. A vague couple of words to say the least. But hey, we’re all human—we all need a little motivation sometimes.

As a young small business owner, running a music library puts me in an intensive industry. Much of my day is spent working on the exciting yet treacherous journey of small business growth, and sometimes I too find myself needing an extra push.

So there I go, pursuing some “daily motivation” and I come across the same exhausting content every time: supposedly self-made millionaires flaunting stacks of cash, cars, and mansions. Or in other words, flaunting money, money, and money. This wealth pandering has become a dangerous new social media trend.

These “self-made millionaires” post photos of their precious possessions with only two objectives in mind. The first is to trap people in an inescapable box of desire. The second is to get them to buy into whatever they’re offering by playing to subjects’ wants for wealth.

Here’s a prime example: there’s a notorious day-trader whose idea of “daily motivation” is flashing his cash. Intrigued, users try to learn penny stocks on their own, but find it nearly impossible. Then they try day trading, but fail miserably, so they buy into his baseline service. The service doesn’t cut it, so they buy his next package to continue chasing a materialistic dream.

Before they know it, they’re paying $150 a month to a man who has convinced them that this is the only way to be successful.

This is a dangerous thing for all of us with dreams, and even more so for us trying to grow businesses. We follow these pages and get lost in someone else’s grandiose way of life. Through that, we lose our focus, lose our money, become greedy, and forget our original goals of what we were trying to achieve in the first place. One of the fundamental rules of selling is to solve a customer pain. But how can a business solve a pain if its primary objective is to make money? It won’t even get its foot out the door. People will make the decisions that get them rich in the short term, rather than making a decision which could be exponentially better in the long run. This “money over everything” mindset is setting us up for failure.

In the words of innovator Mark Organ,

“I have seen highly successful people leap into entrepreneurship with the only goal of attaining personal wealth. They lose heart when faced with the inevitable setbacks. The most successful entrepreneurs are not motivated by money. It’s about the experience, the way of life, the chase, the identity, the rush.”

If our primary motivation is wealth, we’ll spend the rest of our days unsatisfied with the successes we’ve had, and in turn, we’ll be highly susceptible setbacks. Subscribing to this kind of content will only make us feel trapped if we aren’t yet living that high roller lifestyle. It’s a distraction from real objectives we should be following to grow our careers, business, or whatever we seek to accomplish someday.

By buying into “entrepreneurs” who spam our feeds and feed to our materialistic sides, we give in to an unrealistic expectation of our future status and forget about what we should be focusing on presently.

Think about it. You follow two pages. One of them posts a quote by Warren Buffett with a photo of him smiling in the background, the other posts a quote by Warren Buffett with a fancy car. You’ll probably subconsciously be more interested in the page with the car, because that’s how our minds work—especially for those of us with far-out dreams. We get sucked into a tornado of luxe.

According to Forbes, “most successful entrepreneurs say that their primary motivation has been to build something lasting, not to make a lot of money.” By opting into countless images of luxury, we back ourselves into a corner. They’re trapping our minds and limiting our thoughts until we end up drained and unhappy with where we are in life. Our businesses and ambitions fall because we chase the wrong dream; we follow the wrong journey.

It’s not bad to have epic goals for future wealth, but don’t make that as your only source of motivation will only lead to an unsatisfactory end. For so long, I was someone who felt that the idea of money was all I needed to persevere. When it constantly avoided me, I became frustrated. Forgetting about all of the small victories that grew with my music and my business, I put my focus on the fact that I didn’t live in a nice apartment building, or I wasn’t able to buy tables at clubs, or I wasn’t buying expensive clothing. It backed me in a corner and I could never focus properly on growing my agency.

Don’t get backed into a corner like I did. Break out of the cycle and push forward on your own terms.

If you’re looking for real business motivation, don’t fall for these desire panderers. Focus on real entrepreneurs like Daymond John, Elon Musk, and Aaron Marino, who use their content to inspire the masses and foster a more positive influence on us as future innovators. Stop feeding the fake entrepreneurs getting rich off of other people’s ultimate goals. The more you feed them, the less you have to feed yourself.


To stay updated with my meandering business thoughts, head down to the comments section and subscribe for future weekly Write-ups. See you next week!

Zach Ciampa produces and licenses music under the pseudonym Haelphon. He has spent the last ten years working both independently and with global brands and agencies helping them amplify their message and excite their audiences through the power of successful music selection and integration into their videos, social media, and events. To view his audio collection, visit the Music Library tab on the top menu.

Read more

In my early adult life, I went through several personal fashion evolutions. When I started freshman year of high school, I had no sense of style and no idea where to find one. Sophomore year, I gained a weak sense of style started tweaking my wardrobe. I broke out the classic flannel and jeans virtually every day and continued that trend for two more years.

A few weeks before I began college, I decided it was time for another wardrobe update; I knew more about style and had a better idea of how I wanted to present myself. I also conveniently now had Instagram, which played a vital role in my fashion evolution. Easily-accessible images meant I had an actual platform where I could learn more about men’s fashion.

Fast forward to now, where my styles have evolved rapidly to be both unique and trendy. Like my music, which is currently being used by fashion companies in their brand videos, my sense of style was evolving. Today, I’m obsessed with all facets of the industry, and as both a creative and a fan, I follow brands that captivate me through content.

Here are five fashion brands that have officially raised the bar on Instagram:

Calvin Klein.

 

A post shared by Calvin Klein (@calvinklein) on

This piece says a lot in its brief noir tone. The positions of the models tell viewers that these lines make individuals, yet function well together. The supporting song, You’re Mine by Oscar And The Wolf, emphasizes the very prevalent heat, tension, and edginess. Let’s not forget that powerful moment as the chorus drops and the models finally form up together. By far one of my favorite fashion videos this year.


Chanel.

A post shared by CHANEL (@chanelofficial) on

Chanel’s new sunglasses line featured serious callbacks to some of their iconic styles. Ringing in the new season was the incredible Lottie Moss, sporting the retro shades to the classic rock tune Too Many Girls by The Mystery Lights. Everything about this video, from the music, to the glasses, to the colors, is perfection.


Nike.

A post shared by nike (@nike) on

This is how you inspire. In 29 seconds, Nike made me connect to their product more than I ever had before. As Eliud Kipchoge runs, we are met with cheers and an emotional musical score. If that doesn’t motivate you to go out and tackle your day, I don’t know what will. Simple and beautiful—that’s all we ever need.


Steve Madden.

 

A post shared by Steve Madden (@stevemadden) on

Here comes Steve Madden’s Summer 2017 wave. Bold clothes means making a bold statement, right? This is exactly what a fashion line announcement should be down to the editing. Through their strong styles and amazing video, Steven Madden is pulling audiences directly into their collection of hip clothing.


Tom Ford.

A post shared by TOM FORD (@tomford) on

A good perfume is immersive. The team at Tom Ford understands this. There’s charming narration by Tom Ford himself. There’s a musical piece that conveys infinite elegance. And to top it off, there are pure, captivating visuals. I am positive that you, like me, were immersed in the wonders of Neroli Portofino.


There are plenty of brands making serious strides through content. These five have published videos that have stood out to me in many ways, leaving me both inspired and eager to see what they will do in the future.

To learn more about the power of music and media, head down to the comments section and subscribe for future weekly Write-ups. See you next week!

 

 

Zach Ciampa produces and licenses music under the pseudonym Haelphon. He has spent the last ten years working both independently and with global brands and agencies helping them amplify their message and excite their audiences through the power of successful music selection and integration into their videos, social media, and events. To view his audio collection, visit the Music Library tab on the top menu.

 

Read more

Rooftop deck of Boston’s Collonade Hotel. Courtesy Bushari.

One great thing about living around Boston is the constant availability of beautiful apartments, condos, and other real estate. At least once a day, I poke around various websites looking at new developments; however, there’s something that has always bothered me about a majority of luxurious living sites: lack of any sort of video or music.

Now I’d love to sit there and browse through your gallery of images, but that’s tedious. As a millennial (your target market, by the way), my attention span is pretty limited.

Here’s an example of what I’m getting at: when ultra-luxury developer Millennium Partners began their Millennium Tower project in Boston, I was beyond excited. My very first visit to their website was greeted with a stunning slideshow of the new tower, with its incredible views and superior design. It was backed with perfect music. Sunset shots of my favorite city through the view of Millennium’s floor-to-ceiling windows instantly caught my attention, and I fell in love. I was taken on a journey away from my studio and placed directly into their new tower. That was two years ago. To this day, I still sit on Millennium Tower’s website dreaming of the condominium that could someday be mine. Here’s the video in question:

Having a well-rounded video with the right music showing off your luxurious living spaces may be the deciding factor when it comes to potential lessees and buyers. The effect background music has on consumer purchasing decisions has already been proven. All you need is a simple video to get potential customers to fantasize about living in your spaces. You’ll win them over quickly, and your competitors won’t be able to keep up.

One could argue that pricing, location, and additional amenities have the greatest impact, but those will seldom matter if you can capture the emotions of your potential customers and put them right in your space. If you’re feeling particularly bold, place a music player on your site to provide background music anyway, regardless of any video—it will be just as effective.

Keep the photo gallery, but put emphasis on the following:

  1. Get videos on your leasing site—it can be a series of images or a montage of video clips.
  2. Put a contemporary ambient track in the background—make sure you license it properly.
  3. Share your simple, killer new marketing piece.

Browse your competitors’ sites. How many are already doing this?

My guess is very few. I’ve done a lot of investigating, and I’m still surprised at the low amount of developers taking this route.

Don’t know where to start looking for music? I can help with that. Last year I started writing my own series of tracks specifically for this use. You can check out that library here.

To learn more about the power of music and media, head down to the comments section and subscribe for future weekly Write-ups. See you next week!

Read more

My primary duty to you, aside from bringing you great new music of my own of course, is to bring you next-level tracks from other artists. This week is no exception.

Usually, when I hear a track I know I’ll like, it will only take one listen. Tracks I really love will take several listens before I’ve truly fallen for them.

This week, I bring you “Nissim” by The Gaslamp Killer, an artist I never knew of up until recently. I’m positive that Nissim is one of the more unique tracks I’ll ever have during my weekly music picks, but I’m positive that if you take it for a spin, you’ll fall in love.

When the song first fell on my ears, a group of friends and I were enjoying some late-night hookah, listening to my curated playlist for these exact nightly sessions. I cannot recall which friend of mine put it on, but I’ll use this Write-up as an opportunity to show my appreciation:

Thanks, friend.

Nissim begins with a clean-cut sitar solo which lasts nearly two-minutes—I can’t get enough of its steadily-building, crazy long intro, but what happens afterwards is perfect: the track breaks into the full beat of grooving drums, sitar, guitar, and piano. Each piece of the song is wildly complimentary to one another, which is reflective of Gaslamp’s true production ingenuity. There are no fancy transitions or pounding 808s; just a pure, Arabic-infused alternative instrumental.

William Bensussen (the real name of The Gaslamp Killer) has an incredible ancestry of Turkish, Lebanese, Mexican and Lithuanian, so it is very clear where he draws his influences from. And I, someone who just discovered a significant sliver of Arabic in my own lineage and no formal knowledge of my own heritage, can certainly say that Nissim is everything I’d hoped for in a modern spin on Middle Eastern music. That’s why it’s my Spotify Pick of the Week.

 

Read more

Every day, I wake up and immediately dive into my social media ritual: I respond to my Snapchat streaks and then browse my Instagram feed. Ask a majority of my fellow millennials, and they’ll say something very similar.

Instagram is undeniably one of the most important social media sites of the decade. With its exciting range of visual content, Instagram holds the most weight with consumers and influencers.

Taking this into consideration, photo-based Instagram added fifteen-second video to compete with the old social media craze that was Vine. Three years later, in 2016, they lengthened their video time limit to sixty seconds. In an interview with Forbes, Instagram stated that “the amount of time users have spent watching Instagram videos has increased by 40%.” When asked why they settled on a sixty-second limit, they attributed the decision to their primary user base of millennials, telling Forbes “Unlike YouTube where users jump from video to video, Instagram wants users to finish videos.”
Millennials are known for their short attention spans, surely, but are you putting yourself in the best position to keep their focus?

If you want to truly capture the attention of consumers in both my demographic and others, you need to avoid this one big mistake: posting a video with no background music. Too many producers don’t give the audio track that same attention because they underestimate its importance to video. The power music has in your media is incredible. Don’t believe me? Watch these two videos below that have no music, and then watch the following two that do have music.

NO MUSIC:

A post shared by forever21 (@forever21) on

A post shared by Toblerone (@tobleroneglobal) on

MUSIC:

A post shared by Valentino (@maisonvalentino) on

It’s crazy how different the energies of each piece are. Each one is certainly visually appealing, but there’s just something about the ones with music that are far more engaging; it’s as if a new dimension has been added to the piece.

For the record, this isn’t the case for every piece of Instagram content that moves. If you have a quick GIF or short image slideshow, music isn’t necessary. But for the sake of your brand, in the future, please put music on your future Instagram videos.

To learn more about pairing the right music with your video, head down to the comments section and subscribe for future weekly Write-ups. See you next week!


Zach Ciampa produces and licenses music under the pseudonym Haelphon. He has spent the last ten years working both independently and with global brands and agencies helping them amplify their message and excite their audiences through the power of successful music selection and integration into their videos, social media, and events. To view his audio collection, visit the Music Library tab on the top menu.

Read more

I first heard AJR’s indie pop track “Weak” last Friday as I was listening to Kiss 108 and gunning it through Boston’s Callahan Tunnel. All I’ll say is I’m lucky Siri can work hands-free because I would have been pretty bummed if I wasn’t able to figure out what this track was.

AJR’s “Weak” is the perfect blend of indie vocals and synthpop arpeggios, backed up by a stellar electronic bridge and even a key transposition of the final chorus, which is rarely used in modern hits these days.

The song is undoubtedly catchy—I think all popheads will agree on this. But I wasn’t totally sold on everything until the third listen. As I listened to “Weak” more and more, I realized how much I connected with the lyrics. To me, AJR’s hit track might be the perfect college anthem. It provides just the right level of comfort to anybody and everybody who’s recently done something so stupidly college. The song just seems to understand us university students as a collective group.

“But I’m weak, and what’s wrong with that?” Absolutely nothing, in my opinion, AJR.

After all, “Weak” does hail from their EP ‘What Everyone’s Thinking.’

People are hearing the lyrics and reflecting on their questionable decisions they may have made themselves, whether recently or years ago. It’s almost like an induced form of method acting —the vocals just happen to connect on a deep level, and the memories fall in place.

But anyway, getting out of the psychological analysis, this song simply works. The vocals are comforting. The melody is catchy. The energy just all-around makes sense in a very relevant, modern way. That’s why AJR’s “Weak” is my Spotify Pick of the Week.

Read more

Well, that was short lived.

Hello, Haelfriends! Because my tunes will once again be returning to Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, and many other digital music stores, there is no longer a need for an on-site store.

I have deactivated the payment gateways.

Keep an eye out for some great new music coming soon! I am very excited to complete my third album, which is by far the best collection of work I have ever done.


And if you haven’t heard my newest single “The People I Love” featuring Canadian artist AML, you can listen to it below! Enjoy the rest of your week.

-Haelphon

Read more