Headstock market: Rival Sons' guitars, backstage at Bonnaroo, June 14, 2019.
(FilmMagic/Getty Images)
Headstock market: Rival Sons' guitars, backstage at Bonnaroo, June 14, 2019.
(FilmMagic/Getty Images)
Genius v. Google, Khaled v. Billboard, Too Many Artists?, Taylor Swift, Sleater-Kinney, UMG...
Matty Karas, curator June 17, 2019
quote of the day
To sing explicitly about politics risks alienating nearly half of the folks a performer is trying to reach. But history tells us that the great songs (and great books, plays and other artistic vehicles) that speak to the current public moment have an enduring and vital role.
rant n' rave

Let us start this week by giving praise to the geniuses at GENIUS who protected the company's lyrics database by using apostrophes to hide Morse Code messages (paywall link) in song lyrics. When I was at MUZE in the 1990s, long before the company got swallowed up by the TIVO/ROVI/ALLMUSIC corporate octopus, we protected our album credits database from competitors like AllMusic by adding fake credits to a few random, obscure albums every month. If someone tried to copy our database, which was built by hand by a staff of writers, musicians and other New York day-jobbers, we could catch them red handed by finding our fake credits in their system. But we didn't spell out "red handed" in Morse Code in the credits themselves, which is, literally, Genius. Next level. The stakes are next level, too, these days. I love Genius' annotations and a lot of its other editorial work. But at its core, the company offers a safe and reliable space for searching song lyrics, a search that, before Genius arrived, often meant going to sketchy sites drowning in pop-up ads and other invasive features that wanted to eat your computer screen for lunch. And whose lyrics were often wrong. I automatically look for lyrics these days by Googling the song title plus the word genius. Leave off that last word and you're likely to find yourself staring at a GOOGLE information box with the lyrics right there at the top of your screen, which is super convenient, which is cutting into Genius' business, and which Genius now claims may have been stolen from its own database. Google says the lyrics in its information boxes are licensed from third parties, and after the WALL STREET JOURNAL reported Genius' allegations on Sunday, the search giant said it's investigating and will drop any partners who were "not upholding good practices." LYRICFIND, which has been licensing lyrics to Google since 2016, told the Journal, "We do not source lyrics from Genius." Genius says it first complained to Google in 2017, and complained again two months ago. It baffles me that Google or anyone else is licensing lyrics from any third party providers and not directly from music publishers; more to the point, it baffles that me that a company like LyricFind, to quote the Journal, "creates lyrics using its own content team." What does that mean? Haven't they already been created by someone else? But there's clearly a good business to be made out of re-creating them, which I suppose is why BILLBOARD regularly publishes articles like this and this, which in both cases puts the magazine on the first page of Google search results for those particular lyrics, but below Google's information box and Genius. I'd pay good money for another info box, on top of the first one, that simply said: "Figure 'em out for yourself"... P.S. I checked out two of the lyrics that the Journal cited as potential Genius copies, and was fascinated to find that nearly all the apostrophes have disappeared from DESIIGNER's "PANDA" in the Google info box (twistin' and hittin' are now spelled out as twisting and hitting even though those g's don't exist in the song), and the curly quotes that Genius and the Journal found in ALESSIA CARA's "NOT TODAY" now appear as straight quotes. A rough day, it appears, for apostrophes, and for whatever secret code they may have been carrying... P.P.S. Genius itself was on the other side of similar complaints back before it removed "Rap" from its name... Music publishers, by the way, appear to be rolling in the dough at the moment... ADELE, rolling in the SPICE GIRLS... RIP "DERRICK "SLEEZY D" HARRIS.

Matty Karas, curator

June 17, 2019