Iovine on the Music Business Going Into 2020

Jimmy Iovine Knows Music and Tech. Here’s Why He’s Worried. - The New York Times

And the streaming music services are utilities — they’re all the same. Look at what’s working in video. Disney has nothing but original stuff. Netflix has tons of original stuff. But the music streaming services are all the same, and that’s a problem.
What happens when something is commoditized is that it becomes a war of price. If you can get the exact same thing next door cheaper, somebody is going to enter this game and just lower the price. Spotify’s trying with podcasts. Who knows? Maybe that will work.

The fact that exclusives have not taken off with music streaming services is great for consumers, but it does make we wonder how long this can last. The cost of music is basically free, with many (especially younger) people getting it from YouTube, and things like Apple Music or Spotify are just more convenient ways to listen.

My 10 Favorite Albums of the Decade

It’s the end of the decade and I love lists, so today I’m starting a series of lists about my favorite things. Today we’re looking at my favorite albums of the past 10 years. What I learned more than anything with making this list is that 2010 and 2011 were more amazing than I gave them credit for at the time. 7 of the 10 albums below came out in those two years!

Alway, I hope you like the list and check out one or two of these that you haven’t listened to yet.

1: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West (2010)

Audacious, bold, confident, vulnerable…there are a million ways to describe this record, but to me it’s an artist at his peak in terms of talent and fame getting so many things to fall into place perfectly.

It’s been almost 10 years since I first heard this album and it just has countless moments that still haunt me. Nicki Minaj’s opening poem on Dark Fantasy, the horns at the start of All of the Lights, the energy behind Power, Nicki Minaj again with an absolutely killer verse on Monster, the quiet piano and drop on Runaway, Bon Iver’s crooning on Lost in the World, and more.

For all the hate Kanye gets for being an egomaniac (and he is one) he’s also an amazing collaborator who gets the most out of his partners. It wasn’t just this record, it’s basically all of them, but this one stands out to me as a simply untouchable record on every front.

Even the lead up to this album was perfect! Kanye had a thing called “G.O.O.D. Fridays” where he dropped a couple songs each Friday for months leading up to the album. Some of those songs were b-sides, others were straight from the album, and others were alternate takes on album tracks. It was a great build up to the full album which exceeded my already lofty expectations.

This isn’t just my favorite record of the decade, it’s my favorite record of all time.

#2: The Suburbs - Arcade Fire (2010)

The Suburbs won album of the year at the 2011 Grammys and it was a bit of a shock to a lot of people, but the award was well-deserved as the band put out an epic and beautiful record that was so good that it refused to be ignored.

2003’s Funeral might be the best album of the 2000s and The Suburbs was a remarkable way to kick off this new decade. I wouldn’t count these guys from putting out another classic in the next decade either.

#3: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming - M83 (2011)

This album would almost make the list for the first 30 seconds of Midnight City alone. But M83 delivers over the 22 tracks here with an experience like none other. It’s a perfect double album that ebbs and flows perfectly through its 73 minute run time. If you’re taking a long drive at night, put this on and listen from start to finish.

#4: Bon Iver - Bon Iver (2011)

Justin Vernon has evolved throughout his career and his 2 albums after this took a different tone, but his self titled sophomore album holds a very special place in my heart. As opposed to the three relatively epic albums above, the 39 minutes on this 10 track record are decidedly intimate.

#5: Departing - The Rural Alberta Advantage (2011)

Speaking of smaller, more intimate records, the 33 minute Departing by The Rural Albert Advantage is hit after hit after hit. This is a perfect winter record about small town life.

#6: Trouble Will Find Me - The National (2013)

This album wasn’t necessarily one I knew would be on this list when I started making it, but the more I listen back to this record the more I adore it. I can’t quite explain it, but the instrumentation, writing, and vocal delivery, all come together in a perfect album.

#7: E•MO•TION - Carly Rae Jepsen (2015)

So I was a little late to the Jepsen train. Despite coming out in 2015, I never really listened to this until 2018 and holy shit this is amazing! The singles are some of the best pop songs of the decade and even the deeper cuts like Boy Problems and Warm Blood hold up as pop masterpieces on their own. You can’t really count it, but the 8 tracks on E•MO•TION Side B released one year later just adds to an artist who was just on fire. 2019’s Dedicated is pretty great too…

#8: The Winter of Mixed Drinks - Frightened Rabbit (2010)

Frightened Rabbit songs have always had dour lyrics surrounded by celebratory music, and 2010’s The Winter of Mixed Drinks leans into this perfectly. Sadly, the sadness and desparation expressed in this music was not just an act, as frontman Scott Hutchison committed suicide in May 2018 which makes you look at their entirely discography in a new light. It’s hard to listen to this music today, but it’s impossible to forget.

#9: Celebration Rock - Japandrois (2012)

When your album is 8 songs, each one needs to hit and Japandroids have nothing but hits on this record. In fact, I’d say the last 3 songs (Younger Us, The House That Heaven Built, and Continuous Thunder) are the best 3 three song stretch on any record of the decade. This album is pure joy for all 35 minutes of its short runtime.

#10: This is Happening - LCD Soundsystem (2010)

The drop on Dance Yrself Clean, the wailing guitar riff on All I Want, the desperation in I Can Change, the meta brilliance of You Wanted a Hit, and the “AhhhhAaaaaaaaaa” on Home, there are tons of moments I can’t forget from LCD Soundsystem’s first “last” album.

Honorable Mentions

Cutting down a decade of music into 10 albums is incredibly hard and it necessitates omitting some of your favorites, so here are some of the other albums that just missed the list but I also think you should check out:

  • Here and Nowhere Else - Cloud Nothings (2014)
  • Care - How To Dress Well (2016)
  • To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar (2015)
  • Belong - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (2011)
  • Random Access Memories - Daft Punk (2013)
  • AM - Arctic Monkeys (2013)
  • Sound Kapital - Handsome Furs (2011)
  • In Our Heads - Hot Chip (2012)
  • Evil Friends - Portugal. The Man (2013)
  • They Want My Soul - Spoon (2014)
  • Heard it in a Past Life - Maggie Rogers (2019)
  • Assume Form - James Blake (2019)

Target and Best Buy are Shifting Away from CDs

Best Buy to Pull CDs, Target Threatens to Pay Labels for CDs Only When Customers Buy Them | Billboard

[S]ources say that Target has demanded to music suppliers that it wants to be sold on what amounts to a consignment basis. Currently, Target takes the inventory risk by agreeing to pay for any goods it is shipped within 60 days, and must pay to ship back unsold CDs for credit. With consignment, the inventory risk shifts back to the labels.

I left Target in 2015 and at that point we were already making moves to trim down our selection of CDs. We went from 5 aisles in my store to 4...to 3...to 2 when I left. This is the right thing for them to do, and considering the profit margins are razor thin on music, there is very little reason for Target (or any retailer) to keep physical music in their inventory much longer.

Anecdotally, I had visits from our district manager every few weeks and we would talk about departments in terms of sales numbers. Sales in music were dropping every year and I was asked many, many times what I was doing to drive sales improvements in CD sales. It was one of the stupidest asks I consistently got, and considering the entire company was dropping even faster than my store in revenue in this space, it drove me crazy to have this as an “ask” every visit. “How about we jump in a time machine and go back to 1999?” was my suggestion to my store manager after the head honchos left.

My HomePod Testing Playlist

I’m getting a HomePod in just over a week and I thought I’d share the playlist I’ll be using to test it. These are all songs I love and songs that I think have really good production values that will make the HomePod prove its prowess.

Feel free to recommend your own picks as well and I’ll add them to the playlist!

My Favorite Albums of 2017

I’m not a music expert, but I do pride myself in having relatively good taste in music. As I get further and further away from my college years, I find it harder and harder to keep branching out to new and exciting music, but I’m doing my best to stay young at heart when it comes to my music taste.

With that in mind, here are my top 10 albums of the year (in no particular order):

The Wild - The Rural Alberta Advantage

There’s just something about this band that clicks with me. This is their 4th full length album, and 2 of their first 3 albums were my favorite of their respective years. I’m not officially ranking my top 10 in 2017, but if I had to there is a good chance this would be the third time they took my top spot. I love the emotion dripping from each song. This is simultaneously the album I bet most people haven’t heard of as well as the album I wish the most people would check out.

Standout tracks: Alright, Toughen Up, Bad Luck Again

American Dream - LCD Soundsystem

How do you come back from a highly publicized hiatus? By releasing an intense, passionate, unpredictable, towering achievement of a record, of course! LCD Soundsystem had 3 incredible albums under their belt and huge expectations around this comeback album, and they absolutely killed it. From the opening track on, LCD Soundsystem delivered an album that is both distinctly them, and unlike the 3 records that they released before. Tracks 5-7 are the best 22 minutes of any album all year. My god!

Standout tracks: how do you sleep?, call the police, oh baby, tonite

DAMN. - Kendrick Lamar

I struggle to effectively vocalize my thoughts on hip-hop, but Kendrick Lamar is an artist who just clicks with me. His last 2 records were stellar, and Damn continues the streak from the most exciting rapper out there today. Lamar addresses more than a few current issues throughout, all with clever wordplay and no shortage of fire when the need arises.

Oh, and the last minute of DNA. absolutely floored me. It was the only time this year a song made me stop in my tracks and literally say “oh my god!” out loud.

Standout tracks: LOVE., DNA., HUMBLE., ELEMENT.

Zombies on Broadway - Andrew McMahon In the Wildreness

Andrew McMahon is doing plenty well for himself, but there’s a good chance you have not hear of him either. He also made what I think is the best mainstream pop album of the year. Zombies on Broadway is a non-stop string of catchy, beautiful songs that will get stuck in your head in no time, and take forever to get out

Standout tracks: Shot out of a Cannon, So Close, Walking In My Sleep

I See You - The xx

I’ve liked The xx since their debut, but I never really thought they put together a great full album. In early 2017 they finally did that, and I See You has been on repeat for me all year long. This is a quiet album, but it sticks with you.

Standout tracks: I Dare You, Replica, A Violent Noise

A Deeper Understanding - The War on Drugs

Just like The xx, this was another band that I’ve had my eyes on, but who has never made a complete album I could get behind. This one from The War on Drugs floored me with some of the best songs I heard all year. If The xx is a little too quiet for you, try these guys out.

Standout tracks: Nothing to Find, Pain, Holding On

Reputation - Taylor Swift

Yes, Taylor Swift. People seemed mixed on this record when it came out in November, and I personally was not a huge fan of the lead single, Look What You Made Me Do, but the rest of this record is catchy as hell. Swift doesn’t have anything particularly profound to say here, but that’s okay, it’s a fun pop record.

Standout tracks: ...Ready for It?, Don’t Blame Me, Call It What You Want

Hot Thoughts - Spoon

I love Spoon, and this is one of their better ones. I just love the lead singer’s voice, so basically anything he does has me on board, but this album surprised me more than a few times, and the standout tracks just begged me to crank up the stereo.

Standout tracks: WhisperI’lllistentohearit, Can I Sit Next to You, Shotgun

Life Will See You Now - Jens Lekman

This is by far the most fun album on my list. Leckman has a penchant for humor and he’s in fine form here. Take the song Evening Prayer (the song I’ve had stuck in my head more than anything else this year) which is about someone who laments the struggle of being someone who is trying to figure out how much they can show they care about someone with a tumor:

It’s been a long hard year For a friend who’s not sure if he’s close enough To be allowed to care Or just be there To include you in his evening prayers

It’s not a comedy album by any means, but it’s fun throughout.

Standout tracks: Evening Prayer, How We Met The Long Version, Postcard #17

Everything Now - Arcade Fire

Here’s another divisive album from the year, but I also really liked the latest from Arcade Fire. This is clearly the worst album from them (my opinion, of course), but it’s still better than what most other bands ever achieve. This is a sort of concept album focused around consumerism. This is a grand, delicious album and I love it.

Standout tracks: Electric Blue, Everything Now, Creature Comfort, We Don’t Deserve Love

3 Great Early 2016 Albums

Blue Wave by Operators

Dan Boeckner is one of my favorite individual musicians working today. Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, and Divine Fits is a pretty damn impressive resume, and his latest project Operators, is every bit as amazing as I hoped it would be.

Holy Ghost by Modern Baseball

I had no idea who these guys were before this album, so this hit me by total surprise. If you're into mid-2000s indie rock (even more so if you loved The Weakerthans then Modern Baseball is going to get into your head.

Painting of a Panic Attack by Frightened Rabbit

I thought I was done with Frightened Rabbit, I really did. I loved 2008's masterful The Midnight Organ Fight as well as their incredible follow up The Winter of Mixed Drinks, but it had been 6 years since then and nothing had really impressed me since then. Painting of a Panic Attack is a wonderful return to for this Scottish group.

Spotify is Worthless If You Own Music

Paul Thurrott1 wrote a piece yesterday about how woefully inadequate Spotify is for people like him who want to bring their personal music collection with them.

Spotify, alas, does not provide this feature. I’m actually quite surprised by this, given how popular it is, and initially assumed I was missing something. But no: Spotify will recognize any music that’s on the device you’re currently using. But if you make a playlist that contains that local music, it will not be available from the web or from other instances of Spotify on your PCs, tablets and phones. (Unless you go through the arduous task of copying the music around, I guess.)

That is unacceptable.

He concludes that Google Play Music is the best fit for him, and that he actually likes Apple Music, although its lack of a web player is a deal breaker.

I'm completely behind Paul on this one. Spotify is pretty nice in many ways, but it critically does not allow me to carry my entire collection around with me, and that's a baseline feature that I personally need to be there. The majority of my music is available on most streaming services, but not everything.

People talk about the iPad being able to do 90% of their work, but they keep the Mac around because of that last 10%. That's how I feel about Spotify. It has 90% of my stuff, but I really miss the 10% that's just not there.

And when you think about how many artists are starting to have music that is exclusive to one streaming platform or another, this gets even more dicy. Drake just released his album exclusively on Apple Music streaming, but if you don't use Apple Music, you can buy it from iTunes and upload it to Google Play Music or even Microsoft Groove. However, if you want to listen to it in Spotify, you're shit out of luck. Even torrenting it won't get you very far because you won't be able to get the tracks into Spotify on your phone.

I understand that I am a bit of a relic and "the kids" don't have MP3s anymore, but somebody's buying all those Taylor Swift songs on iTunes! For now, I'm going to stick with Apple Music because not only do I like its streaming options more than anyone else, the ease at which it lets me listen to my entire collection, no matter the source, is critical.


  1. Who I actually like the majority of the time, even if I have written a few critical pieces in response to some of his other pieces. 

A Simple Way to Make Following on Apple Music Way More Useful

The Rural Alberta Advantage is one of my favorite bands, and I just realized yesterday that I was not following them on Apple Music. I tapped the Follow button because that's what you do for bands you like, but I realized that this was a completely empty gesture.

See, following someone on Apple Music means you see them in the Connect section of the app. You know, that thing no one uses and people like me have set up parental controls so they never have to see it.

What I would like that button to do is sign me up for notifications when that artist has new music become available on Apple Music. It could either be a push notification or an email, but I'd like some way to know that my favorite bands have new music I can listen to. This would be such a valuable service for me, because there are plenty of bands who I like, but don't follow on social media or obsessively read updates about to see what they're up to.

The current implementation of the Follow button is a little weird, because it's a truly meaningless gesture most of the time. Most artists are not on Connect, so following them in Apple Music means nothing changes at all. There are no top charts for popular artists, and no way to see what posts are trending on Connect. Connect also can not send you notifications when something new is posted, so you always have to go to it to see if anything new has happened.

Apple may have wanted Connect to take the music world by storm, but it's pretty clear it's Ping 2.0 and is mostly a ghost town1. By adding the ability to get new music notifications for any artist you follow2 (opt in, of course), Apple would make following artists more consequential and provide a benefit to listeners even if the band they're following doesn't use Connect.


  1. Although Ellie Goulding is constantly posting there and is 80% of my feed. 
  2. This is already a feature of the iTunes Music Store. You've been able to sign up for email notifications from the desktop app for years. 

Modern Classic: Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team

The Go! Team made a bit of a splash in the indie music scene in the mid 2000s. They were a part of the mini British invasion of that decade, along with bands like Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, The Kooks, The Fratellis, and Franz Ferdinand, and their debut album, Thunder, Lighting, Strike is one of my favorite albums of all time.

Panther Dash (preview)

Thunder, Lighting, Strike doesn’t waste any time getting out of the gate, with album opener “Panther Dash” really giving you a good idea of what you’re in for over the next 40-or-so minutes: pure, feel-good energy. I still listen to this album over a decade after its initial release because I just love its insistence that I have a good time. It doesn’t matter how my day is going, or how much I have on my mind, all that melts away when this record comes on and everything seems okay.

The Power is On (preview)

Get it Together (preview)

If you don’t know this album, you have probably heard “The Power is On” which was their biggest hit. It was most notably used in the NFL’s Play60 campaign where, you guessed it, it was used for its infectious energy. The song “Get it Together” was used in an early trailer for the PS3 game LittleBigPlanet, causing more than a few gamers to perk their ears up and ask “what is that awesome song?”

And while I enjoy every song on this album, the one that stands out the most is “Huddle Information,” a song that is so good I struggle to explain my love for it. Just listen:

Huddle Information (full)

Now while I am generally comfortable with the all-streaming world we live in today, this is an album that I’m happy to have in MP3 format. The album was originally released in the UK in 2004, but had to be edited for copyright concerns before its 2005 US release. I have the British version of the album, and the samples are just a little better than the US release. Pitchfork touched on this in their review:

These wondrous abilities are what had me dreading the American reissue of the Go! Team’s excellent debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike. If you haven’t heard the backstory, this lawyer-stuffed country made it difficult for the Go! Team to clear the original album’s samples for domestic release, forcing the band to slightly tweak the material in order to purge the recordings of legal pitfalls.

So yes, the album you can stream right now on Apple Music, Spotify, and everywhere else is the slightly less, but still amazing US version[1], but that’s okay. If you only ever hear the US version, forget I ever said this and you’ll never know the difference.

Thunder, Lightning, Strike is one of the best albums I have ever heard, and after 12 years it is still one of the records I keep coming back to over and over. Set aside all the hype over new albums coming out right now and find room for this in your rotation. I think you’ll be happy you did.

Listen to Thunder, Lightning, Strike on Apple Music, Spotify, or buy it directly from the band.


  1. I don’t know if the UK version of the album is streaming on your music services.  ↩