Blake Shelton Turned for an Old Bandmate on ‘The Voice’ Blind Audition: Watch

Life is a rollercoaster, full of highs, lows and unexpected mystery turns.

On Monday night’s The Voice, two separate-yet-connected lives came together again in an unusual blind audition.

Singer Pete Mroz performed Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and got quick turns from John Legend and Blake Shelton.

The 45-year-old Nashville native admitted he was the “old guy” on the stage, and in a former life sang under the name “Pete Mitchell.”

Light bulbs went off for Shelton. Mroz was a blast from the past. The pair were bandmates back in the day, in an outfit called The Young Writers. Cue hysterical looks from Kelly Clarkson.

“I haven’t seen this guy for 25 years,” Shelton remarked. “You stole my bass player,” quipped Mroz.

The pair spent a few moments catching up and connecting over Shelton’s old hairdo, and Nick Jonas suggested Mroz get his revenge for bass player theft by going with team Legend.

In the end, explained Mroz, “I gotta go with the old cowboy.”

It looks like they got the old band back together.

Watch below.

The New Science Of Superfans

The Fan Data Goldmine

New tech that allows artists to interact with superfans — and turn their data into dollars — promises to open long-term revenue streams. Read more.

 

Turning Fan Data Into Hits

Analytics from streaming services and the major label groups are increasingly able to deliver numbers-backed answers to questions that once required gut calls. Here’s how artists and their reps are harnessing this information. Read more.

 

How Subscription Platforms Have Become Revenue-Generating, Real-Time Fan Clubs

In the absence of touring, Patreon, OnlyFans and a handful of startups have experienced explosive growth as artists turn to them to make up for lost revenue. But what happens when concerts resume? Read more.

 

From Beatlemania To Beliebers: The Business Of Fan Clubs In The Superfan Era

Fandoms are no longer about stickers and promotional photos. Artists are using their most enthusiastic followers to help make key decisions about release dates, tour launches and merch, to spread the word about key developments and to generate revenue through membership fees. Read more.

After Selling Spinnin’ Records for $100M, Eelko van Kooten’s New Focus Is Influencers

LONDON — After spending 18 years building Spinnin’ Records into one of the world’s biggest independent dance music labels, Eelko van Kooten sold Spinnin’ to Warner Music Group in 2017 for more than $100 million and decided to take a much-needed break from the music business.

“I travelled a lot,” van Kooten tells Billboard. “I spent a lot of time with family and friends. I bought a lot of properties.”

Following Spinnin’s sale, van Kooten’s desire to “de-stress” and lead a more normal life saw him make a clean break with the company he’d grown into a global dance powerhouse — Spinnin’ was the first label to sign Martin Garrix and counts Tiësto among its alums — and begin to contemplate a life of wealthy semi-retirement.

It wasn’t long, however, before the Dutch exec started plotting his return to the music business. “I didn’t want to start a label or a publishing company, for me that was not special enough,” he says. “So I looked around at what was going on on the horizon of the music industry.”

What he saw was a fast-evolving digital market where independent artists struggle to get their songs heard amid all the noise — and where social media stars have the power to break an unknown track or artist worldwide, often overnight.

The solution van Kooten came up with was Ledo, a global digital distribution platform that partners artists, producers and songwriters with social media influencers to enable both parties to reach new audiences through creative collaborations. The Amsterdam-based platform launches on Tuesday (March 2).

“It doesn’t require magic to be on Spotify,” says van Kooten, noting that tens of thousands of tracks are uploaded to Spotify each day. “The magic is in getting people to listen to you.” He cites the success of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and Fleetwood Mac’s re-released “Dreams” as recent examples of songs that have become huge international hits after first going viral on social media channels.

Ledo looks to democratize that process by acting as both a digital distributor and an online marketplace for independent musicians and social media influencers to discover each other and team up. To do so, both parties set up profiles on the platform, which invites artists to upload tracks to Ledo’s Free Music Library, placing their songs in the shop window for influencers and brands to use in social media campaigns (with an artist’s approval).

Artists can also choose to either pay an influencer a fixed fee to promote a certain track or they can negotiate a split of future streaming royalties.

Songs are licensed to the platform for a period of two years, giving Ledo exclusivity on digital distribution across streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, as well as social media channels like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. After two years, the distribution license reverts back to the artist.

For its part, Ledo collects and pays out artists royalties from streaming services on a monthly basis. Ledo will not earn any money directly from content creators.

At launch, Ledo will be a free-to-use platform. Starting in September, artists can either pay Ledo €5 per track per year and receive 100% of the royalties their music generates, or pay zero fees and receive 95% of the royalties, with Ledo retaining the remaining 5%.

“Artists want to enjoy more creative freedom, but also more ownership in their music career,” says Ledo co-founder and CEO Sarah Hildering, who is the co-author of the Association For Electronic Music Code of Conduct. Although the target market for Ledo is primarily independent and DIY artists from all genres, she says the platform will also appeal to established musicians and producers that are not exclusively signed to a label and want to tap social media influencers to gain exposure for a particular song. That includes artists with publishing deals that want to better exploit their master rights independently.

Hildering says Ledo is in discussions about working with a number of Grammy-winning artist ambassadors and publishing companies. The company has around 30 staff spanning customer support, tech, marketing and PR. And van Kooten is already eyeing future growth.

“We feel there’s a big gap in the market at the moment and I’m very motivated to fill it,” he says.

Music Icon Michael Gudinski Dies: Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, QOTSA, & More Pay Tribute

Michael Gudinski, the late chairman and founder of the Mushroom Group of companies, was no ordinary music entrepreneur.

Gudinski, who died on Monday (March 1) at the age of 68, was a force-of-nature character who is being remembered as a trailblazer and a towering figure in Australia’s music industry.

As the sad news broke Tuesday morning local time, artists, executives and politicians from across Australia and abroad turned to social media to pay tribute.

ARIA Hall of Fame inductee Kylie Minogue had worked with “The Big G” since the very beginning. She tweeted, “A Titan of the music industry. One of a kind and forever family to me. My heart is broken and I can’t believe he’s gone. Irreplaceable and unforgettable, I’ll always love you ‘The Big G’”.

Australian Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese wrote, “Shocked and saddened to hear about the death of Michael Gudinski. We were both at the Oils gig in Sydney on Thursday. It’s hard to think of anyone who did more for Australian music than Michael. Vale.”

Albanese’s colleague Tony Burke MP, Shadow Minister For Industrial Relations and Shadow Minister For The Arts, remarked that Gudinski “was one of the most important and formidable figures in the history of Australian music. You simply cannot tell the story of Australian music without Michael Gudinski squarely in the centre of it.”

Born to Jewish Russian immigrants in 1952, Gudinski’s Mushroom Group spans 20-plus affiliated businesses across all areas of the music industry, and it’s the engine room for countless careers.

Burke remembers Gudinski as an advocate for women and First Nations artists in the music industry, and as a “larger-than-life personality and one of Australia’s great larrikins.”

When Gudinski started in showbusiness in his teens, Burke adds, “Australian music was a cottage industry. He was instrumental in turning it into a powerhouse, earning him the title ‘the father of the Australian music industry'”.

Legendary rocker Jimmy Barnes says his good friend MG was the soul of Australia’s music industry.  “Today the heart of Australian music was ripped out,” Barnes tweeted. “I felt it, my family felt it, the music business felt it , the world felt it. Michael Gudinski was not only that heart but he was my friend.”

Oscar winner and occasional rocker Russell Crowe wrote, “Seems almost impossible. A towering figure on the Australian cultural landscape. I’m not sure we ever agreed on anything, except maybe Ed Sheeran. Still didn’t stop us from being mates for 30 years. I’m going to miss him deeply. My love to his family.”

Michael was “one of the last true colorful characters in our industry. He was always full of energy [and] optimism, all with an intense passion for live music,” says Rob Light, CAA’s head of music. “He was one of the great promoters, whose productions were events. He touched every aspect of the music industry, and all with great success. And if you ever found yourself in Australia, there were no better hosts to show you an amazing time than Michael and his wife Sue. My thoughts are with his family. The industry will miss this amazing entrepreneur. “

Foo Fighters toured Australia with Gudinski’s Frontier Touring on several occasions. “Thank you Michael Gudinski for giving us and countless others the best night of our lives. Over and over again. A true fucking legend,” wrote Dave Grohl and Co., leading a flood of tributes from the international artist community.

See the First ‘Voice’ Contestant to Get John Legend to Turn Around for His Own Song

Victor Solomon basked in the glory of a three-chair turn after covering coach John Legend and Common’s “Glory” for his Blind Audition on Monday’s (March 1) season 20 premiere of The Voice.

The North Carolina A&T State University senior wowed Blake Shelton, Nick Jonas and Legend, who all turned around early on in his inspirational performance — but it was quite the rare move for the original singer.

“I grew up singing gospel music, and when we wrote that song, it was meant to evoke the hymns that we grew up listening to and the songs that carried a lot of our ancestors through a lot of tough times when they were marching for voting rights,” Legend told Solomon. “I have literally zero times turned for anyone singing my song. It’s just that I scrutinize it more heavily than I normally would, but I was like, ‘I don’t need to do that.’ I was like, ‘He’s doing some things I haven’t done that are better than what I would do with the song.’ … He was better than me! He was better than me.”

But the 22-year-old singer has had a lot of luck with Legend’s songs in the past: Solomon told him that his performance of Legend’s 2005 Grammy-winning song “Ordinary People” made him win his eighth grade talent show, which prompted the two to sing it together.

Clarkson, who believed she didn’t have a chance once Legend turned around, cut Shelton absolutely no slack for not knowing his fellow Voice coach co-wrote and performed the award-winning song. “I knew an angel wrote that song, is all I know,” the country singer responded in his defense.

“Glory,” the theme song for the 2014 historical drama Selma, won best original song at the 2015 Oscars and Golden Globes and won best song written for visual media at the 2016 Grammy Awards.

Watch Solomon blow away Legend with his cover of “Glory” during the Blind Auditions below before picking the man himself as his coach. Part 2 of The Voice season premiere airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

Interim Grammy Chief Harvey Mason Jr. Expects New Recording Academy CEO by May

In a Recording Academy town hall meeting via Zoom on Monday (March 1), chair and interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. gave an update on the organization’s continued CEO search, among other topics. Mason has been the interim president/CEO since January 2020, when Deborah Dugan – who assumed that role in August 2019 — was pushed out.

“The current search is ongoing,” he said in response to a member question. “We hired a search committee… They formed a job description. It went out to the marketplace. We’ve been speaking to over 100 candidates or potential candidates and then they narrowed it down to a few and we’ve done some interviews. It’s ongoing. It will continue to go on for the next two to three months. Our goal is to have a new CEO in place sometime around May, hopefully.”

Mason pointed out that it was a desire to bring transformative change to the academy that motivated him to run for chair of the board of trustees in the first place. It was clear he was talking about making the academy staff and membership more diverse.

“In these last 12 months we have brought an enormous amount of change forward,” he said. “In April, we brought on Valeisha Butterfield Jones as chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. In July, we formed a partnership with Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. In December, the partnership released the Change Music Road-map, a guide to moving the music industry beyond conversation and intention toward actionable racial justice.”

In one of his most pointed comments, he called the Change Music Road-map “a guide to correcting the undervaluation of the contributions of Black music people to the world.”

Mason also pointed with pride to the 2020 new membership class, which he called the “the most diverse ever,” noting it is “over 48% female, 37% Black/indigenous/people of color, 51% under age 40.”

He said a key to that diversity has been aggressive outreach. “The academy has suffered in the past in specific genres because [people in those genres] don’t feel like they were equally represented or they were reflected properly, whether that’s in the awards, or on the television show, so we’re going into those areas saying ‘We need your help. Otherwise, we’re not going to get the representation and recognition that your genre is looking for.’

“We’re going into those communities, making sure that we’re listening, paying attention to what they’re asking for, paying attention to what their grievances have been in the past, trying to correct those things and trying to invite new people to the table to join and be part of the process. That’s the first step.”

Mason also shed some light on what he calls the second step of making the academy membership more reflective of the broad music community — a long-rumored but heretofore little-explained process of “requalification” for existing members. Membership in the Recording Academy until now has been essentially for life — assuming a member was willing to continue paying the annual dues of $100. But Mason explained that will be changing.

“We are starting a requalification process. If you made a lot of music 25 years ago, you may not be the most aware or most reflective voter for us at this point. So you’re going to be requalifying. [We’re going to] make sure you have updated credits, make sure you’re still creating music so you can continue to vote.

“So it will be a combination of bringing in new members and more representative members and slowly requalifying people [who] have been voting for quite some time. [These two steps] will start to change the make-up of our membership. It will affect the way we do everything.”

Mason also pointed to the formation of the Black Music Collective, which now has multiple members in each of the academy’s 12 chapters. He said its mission is to “raise awareness, acknowledgment and acceptance and make sure Black music is reflected in everything the Academy is doing and across the industry.”

When an academy member asked Mason if there were plans to extend this to Latin music, with some kind of Latin Music Collective, Mason’s response was not as sure-footed as the rest of his presentation.

“To be determined,” he said. “I think at this point, we are just literally getting the Black Music Collective up and running. I can see us doing other collectives as well, if need be. It starts from the outreach and really listening and seeing what the different communities need…. All the different genres, groups, constituencies are important.”

In a lighthearted vein, Mason also made a prediction related to the 63rd annual Grammy Awards on March 14. “Two weeks from today, the morning after our show, I’m pretty sure someone is going to be unhappy. I can bet that some fans are going to be emailing me or tweeting me or asking why I didn’t give the darn Grammy to their artist. Unfortunately, I can guarantee this is going to happen.

“When you’re trying to judge an award or anything that’s subjective like art, it’s always difficult. There’s always going to be one person who’s happy and a lot of people are going to be upset. It’s always been that way for 63 consecutive Grammy shows.”

Mason summed up the 45-minute town hall with his hopes for the academy’s future.

“I want to make sure our membership is even more diverse and inclusive than it is now. I want to make sure that the [award] outcomes are more equitable than they ever have been and I want to make sure that the academy is trusted and respected more than it [has] ever been. There have been times that we’ve been accused of things, or we’ve had people bring things up as far as nominations or they’re upset about one thing or another, so it’s real important to me and I think to everyone at the academy that we continue to communicate, have outreach to different people…We can continue to evolve and transform the academy.”

 

Michael Gudinski, Legendary Australian Independent Music Entrepreneur, Dies at 68

BRISBANE, Australia — Michael Gudinski, the Australian music industry pioneer whose Mushroom Group would become the template for independent companies and who, with his exuberant personality, became the face of his country’s music scene, died Monday (March 1) at the age of 68.

Gudinski died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Melbourne on Monday night, and as word spread it sent a shock throughout Australia’s music industry.

Speaking with Billboard just last week, Gudinski was his typical, enthusiastic self, looking ahead to new TV projects, the vaccine rollout and the return of full-scale touring in these parts.

No other figure has done more to shape the Australian music industry than Gudinski.

In a keynote interview at the 2010 Bigsound conference in Brisbane, Gudinski told this reporter how, at the age of just seven, Michael flexed his growing entrepreneurial muscles on Caulfield Cup day when he charged race goers for parking spaces in a vacant block.

Gudinski would go on to greater things.

In 1972, at the age of just 20 years, Gudinski launched Mushroom Records, which would develop into the largest independent record label in Australian music, and later its publishing arm Mushroom Music, which remains the principal independent publishing company in the country.

Mushroom enjoyed early success with Skyhooks, whose debut album, Living In The 70’s, logged 16 weeks at No. 1 in Australia, selling 240,000 copies, a feat no Australian album had achieved at the time.

Over the decades, Gudinski would guide the careers of countless artists, from Kylie Minogue and Jimmy Barnes to U.K. signings Ash and Garbage.

In 1998, MG sold Mushroom Records to Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited Group (now News Corp), the proceeds from which enabled Gudinski to realize his dream of building an independent music powerhouse, covering touring, record labels, publishing, merchandising, booking agencies, film and television production and creative services.

Today, Mushroom Group spans more than two-dozen businesses and brands from Frontier Touring, to The Harbour Agency, labels I Oh You, Liberation and Bloodlines, Mushroom Music Publishing, neighboring rights operation Good Neighbour, and the new addition, Reclusive Records.

Frontier Touring, established in 1979, is Australia’s leading independent promoter, and a record breaker. Gudinski and Frontier Touring produced Ed Sheeran’s all-conquering Divide tour of Australia and New Zealand, which shifted more than 1.1 million tickets, an all-time record for a single trek.

In 2018, Frontier was ranked as the third largest promoter in the world according to Billboard Boxscore with a gross ticket sales of $245.1 million and 2.77 million tickets sold from 440 reported shows.

The following year, 2019, Gudinski sold a 50% stake in Frontier Touring to American concert promoter AEG, unifying a long-standing relationship that widened the pipeline for both artists and audiences between the two continents.

“Michael Gudinski was one of a kind,” says Jay Marciano, chief executive at AEG Presents who brokered the final details of the merger directly with Gudinski. “In a business built by forward thinkers and risk takers, he still stood head and shoulders above so many of his peers. The global music industry as we know it would not be where it is today without Michael’s vision and creativity. Our business has truly lost a legend, AEG has lost a partner, and I’ve lost a friend. He will be missed.”

The AEG deal came just as Gudinski was reuniting with former partner Michael Chugg, who announced a joint venture in March, bringing their firms together 40 years after forming Frontier Touring in 1979 and then splitting into two companies in 1999.

Eagles manager Irving Azoff said the promoter’s death represented the “End of an era” for Aussie music promotion. “He was everything to importing and exporting music in and out of Australia,” Azoff told Billboard. “My heart goes out to Sue and the family. He was one of the greatest promoters that ever lived.”

The latest jaunt under the Frontier Touring banner, Midnight Oil’s Makarrata Live Tour, kicked off Sunday (Feb. 28) at Mount Cotton in Queensland.

With the pandemic bringing a halt to touring in 2020, Gudinski found a way to keep the music playing. MG spearheaded the small screen properties From The Home Front, The Sound and The State Of Music.

“This is not about my labels,” Gudinski told Billboard in an interview last year. “This is about Australian music.”

And on the pandemic that threatened to take down the live industry, Gudinski mused, “I’ve learned you’ve got to turn something negative into something positive.”

Gudinski achieved almost everything in his extraordinary life and career, including a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) medal in 2006 for services to the entertainment industry and a Melbourne Cup win. With his passing, Gudinski misses out the one thing he quietly coveted: a U.S. No. 1.

Gudinski leaves behind his wife Sue, son Matt and partner Cara, daughter Kate and husband Andrew and their children Nina-Rose and Lulu, and upwards of 200 Mushroom Group staff, who he often referred to as “family.”

“Michael was one of the last true colorful characters in our industry. He was always full of energy [and] optimism, all with an intense passion for live music,” says Rob Light, CAA’s head of music. “He was one of the great promoters, whose productions were events. He touched every aspect of the music industry, and all with great success. And if you ever found yourself in Australia, there were no better hosts to show you an amazing time than Michael and his wife Sue.”

Dave Brooks contributed to this story.