Happy Sunlighter Sunday! Before going on holiday next week, we’re delving into Christmas music this week. Stay tuned for our final edition on New Year’s Eve, where we’ll recap our favorite music from 2023 and look at what 2024 has in store for the music industry. Finally, check out our updated UV Index. We hope introducing ratings from publications across the music industry gives you a more holistic view of the album. As always, let us know what you think in the comments.
Rating Rationale: After dropping her fifth studio album on her birthday, Nicki Minaj is officially back with 22 songs (24 on her deluxe) that feature several of her alter egos, including Red Ruby, Barbie, and most notably, Queen Sleeze. Nicki, now 41, is far from the zeitgeist of her early-2010s era that produced indelible tracks like “Super Bass” and “Moment 4 Life.” When compared to Queen (minus “Chun-Li” of course), we think Pink Friday 2 is surprisingly successful in its sonic diversity, sampling choice, classic Nicki wordplay, and delivery. We encourage you to listen to the whole album for the list of features she brings in as well, including Drake, J. Cole, and Future. Our favorites can be found on our Balanced Breakfast playlist.
Griff shares vert1go vol. 1 live performance from Greenwich
Rising artist and Sunlighter favorite, Griff, released a full live performance of her recent EP, vert1go vol. 1, which dropped on Thursday. Our favorite visual from the series is “Vertigo,” and our favorite track is “Astronaut,” which includes Chris Martin from Coldplay on the keys. We highly recommend catching one of her upcoming 2024 shows in either New York or Los Angeles. Otherwise, catch one of her shows across the pond this winter/spring.
Laufey sells out headline tour in minutes, performs NPR Tiny Desk Concert
We love seeing artists we’ve previously covered on Sunlighter crushing it because it means we’re accomplishing our core mission of helping you discover artists before they make it big. Laufey is in good company with Griff this week as she sells out her entire Bewitched The Goddess Tour in minutes–and the resale prices are absurd. This feat includes what Line Of Best Fit is calling a potentially “career-defining” performance next May at London’s Royal Albert Hall. If you didn’t get tickets, check out her latest performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk as you read our profile on the artist who’s bringing jazz to Gen Z.
Ye reveals Vultures at Art Basel amid controversy
This week, a lot of controversy unfolded with Ye and Ty Dolla $ign’s upcoming album, which has now been named, Vultures. After playing several songs from the album at Art Basel in Miami, the duo revealed their plans to drop the album this past Friday—and in case you haven’t noticed, that didn’t happen. Here’s what’s unfolded so far: North West a.k.a. “Miss Miss Westie” made her rap debut on the record, and a new track called “Everybody,” includes an interpolation of “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” by the Backstreet Boys, which was used without permission. Minutes before Vultures was set to drop on Friday morning, Ye called out Nicki Minaj for delaying Vultures’ release after she refused to clear a leaked track from 2018, “New Body,” replying, “that train has left the station.”
The Christmas Questions
This week, we’re diving into Christmas music through a data-centric lens. We’re seeking answers to some of the common music-related questions that we’re sure have crossed everyone’s mind almost every Christmas:
When is it socially acceptable to start playing Christmas music?
How much does Mariah Carey really make every Christmas?
Before Thanksgiving or After Thanksgiving?
In the years before music streaming, it was typically radio that set the precedent on when we should start listening to holiday music. This year, SiriusXM relaunched their holiday channels on November 8th - unacceptable, if you ask us. There are a lot of theories on how holiday music impacts society: how it impacts your mood or health, how it hurts your wallet, and how it can improve a company’s brand awareness. Millennials seem to love it, and even the weather and daylight hours can affect how we consume it. While there are numerous options available for evergreen Christmas music, the “acceptable” time frame within the United States ranges from “after Halloween to anytime after Thanksgiving” based on who you ask. After aggregating various surveys (many are very subjective), most people agree that it should be December 1st.
How Much Does “The Queen of Christmas” Make?
While society has defaulted Mariah Carey as the “Queen of Christmas,” the USPTO rejected her team’s attempt to officially trademark the title in 2022. Nonetheless, each year, without fail, Mariah’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” moves up the Billboard charts, currently sitting at #2 this year, right below Brenda Lee’s classic “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.” So how much has she made? Between the song’s original release in 1994 and 2016, The Economist estimated that her earnings were ~$60 million. Since then, Forbes has estimated that her annual royalties alone contribute to ~$2.5 million each year. When adding other sources of revenue, including one-off holiday events and concerts, Mariah Carey has likely cleared $85 million (at a minimum) since 1994, averaging out to $3 million a year.
🎮 Music x Gaming: Epic Games and Harmonix (Guitar Hero, Rock Band) have joined forces to create Fortnite Festival, and we kind of want to play. The first AAA music game (produced and distributed by a major publisher) has The Weeknd as the face of its first season. Meanwhile, Roblox continues to make milestones through partnerships with Nicki Minaj, offering the platform’s first-ever virtual shop, “Nicki Minaj’s Gag City,” Cher, providing an immersive virtual experience for fans as she promotes her latest Christmas album, and Beat Galaxy, integrating Universal Music Group’s extensive catalog of music and artists into the gaming platform. All three moves aim to bring an “experience-centric” approach to music in the metaverse.
▶️ TikTok Music: TikTok released its Top Songs of 2023, and the biggest takeaway is that sped-up versions of songs dominated this year. Spoiler alert for our next edition: we don’t see that going away in 2024.
🤖 LimeWire AI: LimeWire is launching an AI music studio for creating original AI-generated tracks. This new platform aims to empower users to craft unique AI-generated music that they can fully own.
🎧 SpotifyGPT: If you’re already enjoying the AI DJ and daylists functionalities (our favorite theme has been “country love songs twang Saturday evening), Spotify is testing a new treat for you. See this TikToker’s demo for what’s called the “Spotify chatGPT.”
✅ Regulating AI: GEMA and IFPI, two music organizations that represent the recording industry and their constituents, are emphasizing the importance of effective regulation of AI-related challenges in the music sector. Additionally, ASCAP defended its position in supporting artists, asserting that the fair market value of music must be recognized in AI training and urging fair compensation to creators for the use of their works.
🌐 Web3 Updates: Sona, a free streaming platform where fans can bid on a song’s digital twin and pool funds for streaming payouts, is partnering with Tuned Global to help with content delivery and reporting services. Sound acquired Soho, a mobile app for digital collectors. Catalog will start 2024 with 2 major product updates: radio and cosigns, both centered on aiding music discovery. Spinamp, an on-chain music streaming platform and playlist app, introduced “Spinamp Wrapped,” so users can review collecting and listening activity. Beatport transformed a Disclosure track into 1,000 unique NFTs, allowing fans to own exclusive digital assets.
💰 Hipgnosis Sittin’ On 23 Mill: Hipgnosis, a pioneer in the long-term investment strategy of purchasing music catalogs, made a move that shows early cracks in its thesis. Earlier this week, the company sold a catalog of 20,000 “non-core” songs for $23.1 million.
📈 Royalty, Royalty, Royalty: That’s what it all boils down to. The US Copyright Royalty Board issued a 3.3% increase in royalty rates on CD, vinyl, cassette, and downloads while streaming rates remain the same (womp, womp).
😬 Music Industry Lawsuits: Lil Durk is facing a lawsuit from Exceed Talent Capital that claims the rapper was in breach of his contract after selling his song, “Bedtime,” to both Exceed and Sony’s Alamo Records. Additionally, Sony Music and Warner Music are jointly filing a $1.6 billion lawsuit against U.S. internet service provider, Altice, alleging music piracy and copyright infringement.
Bring the BEAT In: By acquiring Sola Records’ (CamelPhat, Biscuits, Secondcity) entire catalog, independent dance music label Armada is on track for their BEAT (Best Ever Acquired Tracks) Music Fund’s goal to invest $100 million in dance music rights within the first two years.
☁️ On SoundCloud Nine: SoundCloud is on the rise this year, forecasting annual profitability (€2 million) for the first time since the company’s inception. We recommend reviewing the chart from MBW for the full details on revenue, gross profit, and EBITDA.
💰 Securing the Bag: Mark Hoppus' company, Verswire, secured $12.3 million in funding and is set to debut a publishing arm in partnership with Kobalt.
ATEEZ gets their first #1 album
📈 After narrowly missing a #1 album debut in July, ATEEZ finally achieves their first #1 album, THE WORLD EP.FIN: WILL. This marks the fourth K-Pop group to attain a #1 album this year (the other three being Tomorrow X Together, NewJeans, and Stray Kids), illustrating the continued listener shift towards international music.
The Merch Table
🥾 Mega Crush: Lil Nas X is collaborating with Crocs on what is probably the most comfortable pair of Crocs yet, fully outfitted with shearling.
💿 Vinyl Gift Guide: Searching for vinyl options as a Christmas gift? Here’s a gift guide from Uproxx that might help you along your journey.
📀 Weird on Blu-Ray: We’re not sure how many people have Blu-ray players anymore. We’re also not sure if people still listen to “Weird Al” Yankovic. But here we are, letting you know that you can now purchase his biopic in a retro format.
See ya on the last Sunday of the year 😎