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Mavis Staples to Receive Independent Icon Award at A2IM Libera Awards

Soul and gospel great Mavis Staples is slated to receive the independent icon award at the 2021 A2IM Awards, which are set for June 17. Staples is the seventh recipient of that award, following Naughty By Nature, Nick Lowe, Funky 4 +1, Alejandro Escovedo, Suzanne Ciani and John Prine.

As lead singer for The Staple Singers, Staples achieved stardom on Stax Records with such classic hits as “Respect Yourself” and “I’ll Take You There.” Two of the group’s singles, “I’ll Take You There” and “Let’s Do It Again,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. In recent years, Staples has recorded critically acclaimed music with Jeff Tweedy, Ben Harper, Run the Jewels, Arcade Fire and Hozier, among others.

The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) also announced the performers for this year’s event — Grammy-nominated rock and soul duo Black Pumas, Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Lecrae, 2021 Brit Award winner Arlo Parks, three-time Grammy-winner Fantastic Negrito, Grammy nominated singer Lido Pimienta, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna, and the Memphis-based Stax Music Academy Rhythm Section.

“We are grateful to have such a stunning and diverse array of artists perform at this year’s A2IM Libera Awards,” Richard James Burgess, A2IM CEO, said in a statement. “…We are proud to use this platform to showcase and honor some of the brightest lights in the independent music world.”

The A2IM Awards honor “the hard work and boundary-breaking vision of independent artists.” The awards will be presented by Merlin and streamed exclusively on YouTube for the second year in a row. Fans can watch the show on A2IM’s official YouTube channel on June 17 starting at 6 p.m. ET. This year’s show is produced by The Control Room.

The Libera Awards are sponsored by Merlin, ADA, Spotify, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, Ingrooves, The Orchard, Facebook, Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP, Qobuz, Redeye Worldwide and Virgin Music.

Sweet Relief returns as A2IM’s official charity partner for the Libera Awards. All proceeds raised during the show will be donated to career musicians and music industry professionals in need. Fans can donate directly to Sweet Relief on the Libera Awards watch page via the YouTube Giving donate button.

“Every year, the A2IM Libera Awards are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the immense talent that flows from independent artists — and this year is no exception,” said Jeremy Sirota, Merlin’s CEO, in a statement.

The Libera Awards are the culmination of Indie Week, the largest independent music conference in the world, set to take place from June 14 to 17. Indie Week, which will be held virtually for the second year in a row because of the COVID-19 pandemic, is sponsored by SoundExchange.

RSVP to the Libera Awards by visiting A2IM’s YouTube page or by visiting liberaawards.com.

Joyner Lucas Wants to Be a Legend on His Own Terms

The word “legend” can be frightening for most. Many become intimidated by the challenges of reaching that status of acclaim, because it’s a tireless pursuit. But if you listen to Joyner Lucas’ record “Legend,” it’s a test that he relishes and hopes to conquer one day in his rap career. So far, the Worchester, MA, product is off to a great start.

In 2019, Lucas netted two Grammy nominations, most notably for best rap song as a feature on Eminem’s “Lucky You.” Last year, he scored a top-ten debut on the Billboard 200 with his independently-released album ADHD. The project was anchored by his platinum single “ISIS,” featuring one-time foe Logic and his tuneful banger “I Love.” He also nimbly threaded together a wildly entertaining record titled “Will,” where he paid homage to Will Smith. The innovative video went viral and caught the attention of Smith, who later joined the burgeoning MC on the song’s remix. 

His latest win came this week when his new record “Ramen and OJ” with Lil Baby debuted at No. 67 on the Hot 100. The motivational record finds the rap stars trading stories about their humble beginnings. “Ramen and OJ” was also the result of Lucas’ new app Tully. Catered to independent artists, Tully is a communication channel that organizes and gives Lucas access to his masters, stems, contracts, and song splits without relying on managers, lawyers, or major record label hurdles or confusion. It also enables him to focus solely on creating the best music possible while watching the business side unfold in real-time.

“I would tell other artists to trust your gut and believe in your art,” Lucas tells Billboard. “Find the right tools to help you create and manage and distribute your music. That’s why we created Tully.”

Billboard spoke to Lucas about his new record “Ramen and OJ,” what it means to be a legend, working with Will Smith and Mark Wahlberg, and more.  

If you had to rank your own top three videos, which three would you choose and why?

No. 1, “Will.” No. 2 has gotta be “Fall Slowly” and No. 3 I would say “Forever” with my son. All three are really personal to me.

“Will” is a personal record to me because I spent a long time thinking about creating something for Will [Smith], because he’s such a huge inspiration to me. When I finally figured it out and executed it, and it came out the way that it did, it was very special to me. That was a very pivotal point in my life. Before that, I never met him. I just grew up watching his movies and Fresh Prince, and being such a fan. Being able to create something that could catch his attention and get his respect was very personal to me. 

“Fall Slowly” [with Ashanti], because I actually went through those things in the music video. It was a very toxic point in my life, and a real toxic relationship. To be able to recreate that with one of the baddest R&B legends in the game [is dope because] she don’t do videos like that. So getting her to do that was major for me. I grew up loving Ashanti and loving her music. Everyone crushed on Ashanti, so being able to shoot a music video and have her play the role of what I went through with my ex was fire. “That was another one.” [DJ Khaled voice]. 

[Actually] you could put “Forever” at the top, being No. 1. “Will” could be second and “Fall Slowly” third for sure. That’s the order. “Forever” is the most important to me because it captures a point in time when my son was one years old. I got to shoot a video to a record that was about him and my feelings toward him, his mother being pregnant, and the emotions I was dealing with. That captured a real point in my life and he’ll always be able to go back and watch that video and capture that point in time when he was that small. That’s why “Forever” goes at the top.

Let’s touch on the “Ramen & OJ” record with Lil Baby. Nobody wants to go back to the bottom, but what’s a low moment in your life that you keep on the forefront of your mind every day?

What’s interesting about that — I purposely put myself in places that I was when I was hungry. I’ll literally go back to old apartments I used to live at, and seek out the old car I used to have and sit in there. Maybe borrow it or drive around so I can feel what it feels like. I would go to Florida and go to my old apartment complex and sit on the steps so I could get that energy.

I’ll purposely seek out old friends I went to school with so I could feel the energy of that point and time. It keeps me grounded so I never forget where I come from. When I go back to these places, I’m bringing my Lambo. I’m bringing the foreign and my neck is dripping. Life is different now and s–t has changed. It’s kind of like a time capsule for me where the new me is able to go back in time, with all of the assets and my accomplishments [I have now], and to put myself back in those places and soak in the vibe. 

You speak about reaching the next level on “Legend.” When did that moment hit you that you were a legend?

I feel like that if I died, I would be a legend. I feel like there’s so much content — and I honestly feel if I go early, that’s when people do their research for real and get hip to you. Then they’ll see the gems and the s–t that went over people’s heads. They’ll be able to see a lot of the s–t that I created. The same thing that happened with Nipsey [Hussle].

When Nip was alive, they didn’t appreciate him. The ones who knew, they knew. He didn’t start shining until he damn near passed away, which is horrible. I feel like I’m guilty of that too. When XXXTENTACION died, I went back and started listening like, “How did I miss this?” I didn’t give it a chance really. Not that I didn’t want to, I don’t really listen to too much like that, because it’s my job and life. I kind of just listen to R&B and island music to clear my mind.

I heard a few XXX records and I thought he was dope, but I never dove into his discography until he died. Once that happened, I felt like, “Wow, this dude was different!” I’m guilty of that and I feel like a lot of people are guilty of that. Believe it or not, when DMX died, a lot of people didn’t know his discography either — a lot of the young kids. 

You bring up XXXTENTACION, and you used an old clip of him on your song “On This Way.”

XXXTENTACION was very aware of me, and he talked about me in a few interviews I had seen. Days before he passed, he sent me a message reaching out on Instagram, and told me verbatim, “You’re better than 2Pac, I don’t give a f–k what nobody says.” Instagram didn’t have the feature at the time to see messages from verified pages, so I didn’t see it. When I read that message, I was like, “Damn.” I wish I would’ve seen it — because I definitely would’ve worked with him for sure.

To answer your question, I feel like it’s too early for me to consider myself a legend. I feel locally, where I’m from, that I’m a legend… there’s a lot of talented artists trying to really break from Massachusetts, and nobody’s really done it. I’m talking about rappers. You got New Edition, Bobby Brown and all of them cats, but Benzino I don’t think was fully mainstream in the door. He was the biggest from Boston at that time.

I feel like his daughter Coi Leray is more famous than he ever was. She’s got more records, more popular, and his daughter surpassed him. It’s a different wave now. Around his time, I could say the same for me. I know how difficult it was at that time with no internet to break [artists]. In Benzino’s defense, it was probably extremely hard to break into the industry at that time. As opposed to now, you could go directly to the fans. You had to rely on the record label. Maybe that’s the reason why I’ve become the biggest artist out of Massachusetts to actually break through.

Let’s get back to “Ramen and OJ.” I think Lil Baby has really proven himself on the lyrical side. When did you have that “aha” moment to where you wanted to collaborate with him? 

When I heard “Drip Too Hard,” I was like, “I like this guy.” Then I started getting into everything. Listening to his records and pretty much being a fan. On The Breakfast Club, I told Charlamagne, I’m my own worst enemy. He said, “I don’t understand why you’re not bigger than what you are.” I told him, “I can’t blame anybody for that but myself,” and told him I needed to work harder. I decided that I was going to play the game. Beforehand, I stuck to myself and built my own fan base up and did my storytelling joints, and joints with bars… After working with Chris Brown, [Eminem], Logic, Will Smith and a lot of legendary people that I respect, I said one thing I haven’t done was tapped into the new generation that’s doing it right now.

So basically, I’m getting tapped in and I’m just creating records with the new generation. I’m not gonna give you any more names, but just know Lil Baby was No. 1. There’s about seven more. It will probably be next month — I got some solo stuff coming and another joint with somebody else with somebody new that’s a popular face and killing it. I got another one coming with somebody that’s considered a GOAT. I’m tapped in, completely.

I always ask the wordsmiths this, do bars matter in 2021? If so, why?

I think bars matter, but it’s subjective, though. I think it depends on who’s listening. It might not matter to a Soulja Boy fan. He’s a swag rapper, and he lets that be known, and he’s good at what he does. Maybe not even to a Migos fan. It may not matter to an NBA YoungBoy fan, and there’s a whole lane of cats like that that don’t really spit bars. It’s all swag vibe records. None of their fans really give a f–k if there’s bars or not. 

If you’re a fan of [Eminem] or [JAY-Z], absolutely you care about bars. You heard the Twitter uproar about what he was saying on the “Sorry Not Sorry” with Nas. So when it comes to bars, it absolutely matters. When it comes to Kendrick, it absolutely matters. If they’re deprived of some Kendrick bars, they’re gonna be pissed. If J. Cole don’t come with the fire bars on his album, his fans are gonna be tight. 

The other guys I mentioned, nobody gives a f–k if they spit bars or not. If I don’t come through with some bars, they’re gonna be pissed. I figured out how to blend the two worlds together. 

Talk a little bit about the Tully platform you put together, and what you really learned from putting this “Ramen & OJ” record together on there, with you being independent. 

Tully was built as a way to provide more tools for artists at scale. It works for me, and therefore I hope it helps thousands of artists. As an independent artist, it’s not really easy. Hence, why most artists are signed. Labels are essentially business and marketing teams. If I’m able to manage my business with Tully and able to independently market myself, then the use of a label is only money and they’re only a bank at that point. It should be considered a loan, and I don’t know of any other business that allows a bank to own an artist’s intellectual property. 

My goal has always been to show it doesn’t require a major label to be a successful artist. When I signed to a major label, it was a bucket list thing for me as something I wanted to do as a kid. If I didn’t do it, I would always have that question of what if and feel like I missed out on something. 

When So So Def was popping, I wanted a So So Def Chain. When Roc-A-Fella was popping, I wanted a Roc chain. I wanted to be part of all these labels. I wanted to be on Ruff Ryders and I wanted to be on Cash Money. My newest jewelry is getting made right now, and is all of those labels.

Regarding tech and all the tools an artist has, we do what a lot of major labels use. Regarding the release with Lil Baby, that was [done] independently and my plan is to continue to release music independently. Hopefully it inspires other artists to have that self-confidence to do the same. 

I heard you have a new video with some big people in it. Do you wanna talk about what shooting it was like?

Yeah, Mark Wahlberg is my brother. He’s a Boston native, and he is somebody that is an extremely dope guy. He reached out to me when I dropped “Will” and was like, “Let me get this straight, you couldn’t drop this record called ‘Mark?'” We built a relationship from there. He talked about, “Coming where we’re from, what you’ve been able to do musically, I haven’t been able to do.” He wrapped his arm around me and played a big brother role. Any way he can help me in any form, he’s there. I asked him to be in this music video and he was there.

In 2017, I did an interview with XXL and they asked me about my music videos and movies and I told them, “The first actor I know I’m going to work with is Mark Wahlberg.” I said, ‘Mark my words.'” Sure enough, Mark Wahlberg is the first actor I’ve used in my music videos. This is the first time I said, “Let me get some actors now.” He gave me his time and I got to act alongside him. I got to act alongside George Lopez. It was amazing, bro. 

Is there anything you want to say before I let you go?

I want to go on record and say that I personally feel like I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it weren’t for my manager, Drew, and my business partner, Sean. I can’t really take the full credit for being where I’m at. Those two were really essential in helping me. I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if it weren’t for those two. Sean and Drew are the two guys that really helped me get to the next level. I wouldn’t have been here and been able to do all I’ve done without them in my life. Buying my first mansion, or being able to retire my mother, or buy all the dream cars I wanted, and to work with who I want. I have the stress relief of real life s–t, so I wouldn’t be able to do this without them, and I’m happy they’re part of my journey for sure. 

Janet Jackson’s Brothers Thank Justin Timberlake For Apology: ‘It Takes a Man to Step Up and Do That’

Tito, Marlon and Jackie Jackson appeared on Andy Cohen’s SiriusXM Radio Andy show on Wednesday (May 12) to talk about their embrace of Justin Timberlake’s apology to their sister Janet. Cohen asked the brothers to react to Timberlake’s public apology in February to both former girlfriend Britney Spears and Jackson, the latter for the seeming pass he got from the music industry and media in the wake of the fallout from his 2004 Super Bowl halftime performance with Janet commonly referred to as “Nipple-gate.”

“First of all, I just want to thank Justin Timberlake. … It takes a man to step up and do that, so we do thank him,” Marlon told Cohen about Timberlake’s long-coming mea culpa for the halftime show in which he exposed his co-star’s breast on live TV, which resulted in Jackson getting uninvited from that year’s Grammy Awards and having her videos pulled from Viacom properties including MTV, CBS and Infinity Broadcasting.

“But we’d like to move forward because that was out there, the negativity about it,” Marlon added. “As they say in the old days, ‘Long as they’re talking about you, good or bad, you still in the public’s eye.'”

Following the so-called “wardrobe malfunction,” Timberlake went on to appear at that year’s Grammys, where he issued an apology, and headlined the SB halftime show again in 2018, while Jackson has never been invited back.

“I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism,” Timberlake said in his apology, which he had posted to his Instagram account. “I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed.”

Jackie said he thought the apology — which Saturday Night Live poked fun at — meant “a whole lot” to the family given how much it hurt their younger sister and hung over her for years to come. In a 2006 Oprah Winfrey interview Janet was asked if she felt that Timberlake had “left her hanging” in the incident. “

“To a certain degree, yeah,” she said, noting that she felt the emphasis was put on her “as opposed to us” after the reveal. To this day, it remains somewhat unclear if the exposure was part of the choreography meant to shock or if it was truly an accident, though Jackson told Winfrey that “more came off than was supposed to.”

Watch the Jackson brothers’ interview below.

Live Nation to Open 5,000-Cap Venue in Houston

Houston is getting a brand-new music venue this November. Live Nation has revealed plans for the 5,000-capacity Terminal venue, housed in the city’s latest major downtown development project: POST Houston. 

“The Terminal will be a great addition to the live music scene in Houston giving artists and fans more options to connect at concerts,” said Venue Nation president Sherri Sosa in a release. “We look forward to the Terminal bringing hundreds of shows to the city once it opens its doors, not only delivering some great live music but also creating new jobs for the community.”

The Terminal will be an anchor in the transformation of the historic former Barbara Jordan Post Office into a hub for culture, food, shopping and recreation. The venue was designed by firm OMA and led by OMA partner Jason Long.

The venue was designed so that when artists stand on The Terminal’s stage, in their line of site, guests will literally appear to “wallpaper” the room with virtually no visible blank spaces or gaps as all balcony aisles and walkways have been designed at angles so that the artist only sees people (or seats). 

The Terminal will combine industrial materials such as fiberglass grating, polycarbonate and aluminized fabric with an array of ephemeral multi-colored lighting effects to create a machine for spectacle. 

Above the general admission space, there will be seated balconies called “Tribune Tiers” that have been designed and constructed to provide fans with an intimate viewing experience, despite not being on the floor of the venue. 

The Terminal’s show scheduled is expected to be announced in July. 

Nick Jonas & Priyanka Chopra Raise $1 Million For COVID-19 Relief in India

Nick Jonas and his wife Priyanka Chopra Jonas have raised $1 million to aid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in India.

India’s second wave of the virus in February caused the country’s death toll to reach 250,000 on Wednesday (May 12), the deadliest since the pandemic began, according to Reuters, with more than 23 million total confirmed cases. On Tuesday, Johns Hopkins University reported that on India saw a record high of 4,205 deaths in one day.

The Priyanka Chopra Jonas Foundation partnered with Give India to raise funds for oxygen supplies, bipaps, vaccine support, testing centers and more. On Wednesday, their fundraiser crossed the $1 million marker with contributions from more than 14,000 donors across the globe.

“Thank you for your overwhelming support. With the combined efforts of over 14,000+ donors from across the globe, we have reached our goal of raising $1 Million to support the people of India as they battle the ongoing COVID-19 crisis,” Jonas wrote on Twitter.

Due to the overwhelming generosity, the couple announced they will be raising their donation goal to $3 million.

“Through some of the darkest days in our history, humanity has once again proven that we are better together. @nickjonas and I are so humbled by your support and by the outpouring of help for India from so many parts of the world,” Chopra added on her own Twitter account.

See their messages below.

Showx Lets Artists Sell Tickets Directly to Fans

New app Showx is putting artists in control of their own ticketing. Launching today, the Showx platform allows independent artists the ability to sell tickets directly to fans and grants artists access to fan’s email data.

“Musicians controlling ticketing and owning the data of their fans is about more than a business opportunity. It’s the right thing to do,” said Showx founder Lincoln Foley Schofield in a release. “Sustainable careers are built on the relationship artists have with their fans, and our goal is to use technology to remove all barriers to this relationship.”

Showx believes that artists give up the control of their fan data when they pursue ticketing through a venue or promoter. Through the new ticketing platform, artists will have greater access to their fans to develop new markets and keep fans engaged.

Musicians can set a date and city for each performance without a venue listed. Showx provides the musician a link to sell tickets to each performance, which can be easily shared on social media and through email. As fans buy tickets, venues receive alerts of the ticket counts and determine whether they want to book that date or not, reducing venue risk.

Showx also gives artists a chance to network and build through the app’s professional musician social media platform, access to a database of venue contacts, aid in the creation of content for social media or selling merchandise.

For venues, Showx can provide passive notifications whenever a meaningful amount of tickets for a particular show or artist has been sold in their city. Venues can also proactively search for bands and post open show dates within the app so musicians can see what nights they can still book. Venues can also use Showx for opening act verification, allowing musicians that want coveted opening slots for well-known musicians to prove they can sell tickets before confirming.

The Showx app can be found through the Apple Store or on Google Play.

BTS Get Real About ARMY’s Devotion, Military Service & Anti-Asian Bias: ‘There Is No Utopia’

In a new Rolling Stone magazine cover story, BTS open up about the devotion of their fan ARMY, looming compulsory military service and how the recent wave of anti-Asian violence has impacted them. The profile of the group’s formation and rise to prominence — which began with the signing of rapper RM in 2010 — opens on a serious note, with the deep-thinking 26-year-old band leader taking on the recent wave of violence against people of Asian descent.

“Now, of course, there is no utopia,” RM said of the juxtaposition of the band’s breakout success in the U.S. as the nation has suffered through a historic wave of anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The seven-man band has exploded on these shores and received a warm embrace in the U.S. over the past several years, reaching a pinnacle last year when their first English-language hit, “Dynamite,” gave them their first No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit.

“There’s a light side; there’s always going to be a dark side,” said RM. “The way we think is that everything that we do, and our existence itself, is contributing to the hope for leaving this xenophobia, these negative things, behind. It’s our hope, too, that people in the minority will draw some energy and strength from our existence. Yes, there’s xenophobia, but there are also a lot of people who are very accepting. … The fact that we have faced success in the United States is very meaningful in and of itself.”

The piece delves into how the group’s management company HYBE (formerly Big Hit) built the group around RM, bringing in fellow rappers Suga and J-Hope and singers Jungkook, V, Jimin and Jin, pivoting from the initial goal of putting together a solid rap crew to forming a world-beating dance-singing machine. And, with so many personalities to juggle, it also reveals that the differences that define the men are also the thing that have made them form an even tighter bond.

“We were very different people that came together,” said Jimin. “We argued a lot in the beginning, of course, but I think now, because we have spent so much time together, I began to like even the things about the other members I used to hate. The time we spent together really made us close, like a family. No matter where I go, there is someplace that I can come back to. I’ve come to feel that way about our group.”

And while they’ve developed a familial bond at this point, the one thing that threatens to tear them apart is the rift that every South Korean group before them has faced as well: the specter of compulsory military service at age 28. Jin just turned 28 in December, Suga is already 28, J-Hope is 27 and RM will turn 27 this year. Luckily, the South Korean government passed a new law last year that allows pop artists who’ve “enhanced” the image of the country from the inside and outside to put off service until age 30.

“I think the country sort of told me, ‘You’re doing this well, and we will give you a little bit more time,’ ” said Jin, while calling his pending military service an “important duty for our country. So I feel that I will try to work as hard as I can and do the most I can until I am called.” He also understands that BTS could soldier on without him for a while, even if it will bring a tear to his eye. “I’ll be sad,” he said of the potential for the group to slim to a six-piece in his absence. “But I’ll be watching them on the internet and cheering them on.”

V added that while the group haven’t discussed the logistics of their army duty internally, he’s sure “it’ll work out eventually.” Jimin, however, said that for him, BTS is forever. “I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of being not a part of this group,” he said. “I can’t imagine what I would do on my own … I would like to think that at the end, when I’m too old to dance, I would just like to sit onstage with the other members and sing and engage with the fans. I think that would be great, too. So I’d like to keep this going as long as I possibly can.”

The men also described how their penchant for makeup and brightly colored hair dye is an attempt to reject the traditional concept of masculinity. “The labels of what being masculine is, is an outdated concept,” RM explained. “It is not our intention to break it down. But if we are making a positive impact, we are very thankful. We live in an age where we shouldn’t have those labels or have those restrictions.”

After weeks of slow-drip teases, what ARMY really wanted to know was what they can expect from the group’s upcoming second English-language single, “Butter,” which is due out on May 21; they will perform the song remotely at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards on May 23. The piece described the track as a “pure, swaggering dance-pop celebration in the retro vein of Bruno Mars, with layers of Jam and Lewis-style synths” in which BTS boast of being “smooth like butter” and having a “superstar glow.”

RM revealed that the song is “very energetic” and “summery,” calling it a “dynamic performance.” That is all they will offer for now, but Jin assured ARMY that despite being locked down and off the road for more than a year, they have their diehard fans in their hearts all the time. “When we couldn’t go on tour, everybody felt a sense of loss, a sense of powerlessness,” said Jin. “And we’re all sad. And it actually took us a while to get over those feelings.”

Jungkook added, “The roar of the crowds and ARMY is something we loved. … We miss that more and more. And we long for that more and more.”

The BTS cover story will be included in a special collector’s box set that includes eight copies of the issue — one group cover and seven additional ones spotlighting each member — which is available here now.