The Christmas Outsiders

By Annie Konieczny

Some facts are ubiquitous:  death comes for us all, it’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is the greatest Christmas pop song of all time. According to research conducted by every organisation that’s every conducted research in this field (it’s a popular subject matter), Mariah’s romantic classic, catapulted to even dizzier heights after its inclusion in arguably the greatest Christmas film of all time, Love Actually, comes out on top again and again and has done for nearly 30 years.

Wham’s Last Christmas features heavily too, as does Bobby Helm’s Jingle Bell Rock, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Band Aid’s Do They Know it’s Christmas. But, what about some of the rank outsiders; the tunes that don’t necessarily get a mention in the research but that really get the Christmas juices flowing; the songs you might hear when you’re buying some over-priced hand cream for Granny just 12 hours before present-giving time and leave you no longer frazzled about leaving Christmas shopping until 11pm on Christmas Eve but, instead, thinking “DECK THE BLOODY HALLS!”

Well, here at Qsic, we’ve compiled a list of ten such classics – thank us later. Happy Holidays!

1. East 17 – Stay Another Day
If you were born in the 80s (the 80s) – this song would have been massive when you were a kid and will bring back all them aged-10 Christmas feels.

2. The Pogues – Fairytale of New York
Great if you want a massive cry. Who doesn’t like a cry at Christmas?

3. Sugababes – New Years
A 00s CLASSIC and another tear jerker.

4. Paul Kelly – How to Make Gravy
Australian, so…

5. Spice Girls – Two Become One
Not Christmas-themed as such but certainly a Christmas #1 in many countries and an integral part of the more indie (whilst not being remotely indie) Christmas playlist repertoire.

6. Run DMC – Christmas in Hollis
A tale of a good Samaritan discovering Santa’s lost loot and then finding out it was all for him anyway – a reward for his good deed. Magic.

7. Chris Rea – Driving Home for Christmas
One for the dads, amirite?

8. Bing Crosby and David Bowie – The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth
Bing’s back, but this time duetting with Bowie. This is literally mind-blowing for some many reasons.

9. The Sonics – Santa Claus
Who doesn’t love a 60s garage rock tune at Christmas? Particularly when the lyrics mention a “twangy guitar” as a key item on singer, Gerry Roslie’s, Christmas wish list.

10. Darlene Love – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Fan trivia: David Letterman had an annual tradition of inviting Darlene on his show every year to perform this hit.

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DJs and lead guitarists are turning to music curation – we asked them, why?


DJs and lead guitarists are turning to music curation – we asked them, why?

By Annie Konieczny

Aside from its industry-disrupting AI capabilities – a gamechanger when it comes to controlling a venue’s audio environment – at its core, Qsic is a music streamer licensed for use in public. The company’s central ethos is to create bespoke audio environments through a careful curation of music most suited to a clients’ needs – no easy task when you’re working with some 1,200 plus venues, many with their own look, feel and commercial purpose. Whether it be choosing laid-back acoustica, old-school rock n’ roll or – as is the case for one of their clients – 60’s psychedelic Greek tunes, Qsic’s content creators are tapped into an abundance of music and are formulating new playlists constantly.

So, who are these music maestros whizzing up hours and hours’ worth of perfect tunes? From whence do they hail? What experience and talents do they bring? What are their favourite tunes of 2018? What are their favourite tunes ever? And, perhaps most importantly, how does one create a 60s psychedelic Greek playlist? To answer these questions we spoke to Todd Watson, Qsic’s Head of Content and Lorenzo Sillitto, a principle music curator at the ground-breaking company.

 

Todd Watson, Head of Content

Both as a recording artist signed to Neon Records with a string of Top 20 singles and national radio play, and as a DJ enjoying residencies at some of Melbourne’s most prestigious clubs, Todd’s experience of the music scene is unsurpassed. Luckily for Qsic, he has funnelled this experience and passion into a body of work that now makes up the framework of the Qsic content library.

Favourite tune of 2018: Don’t Matter To Me – Drake ft. Michael Jackson

Favourite tune ever: M83 – Wait

  1. What brought you to Qsic?

As an obsessive-compulsive music librarian, it just made sense to join a music service that needed someone who could catalogue and find homes for all the wonderful music available on the Qsic platform. That and, of course, the co-founders Matt and Nick, who create such a great energy around them and the company.

 

  1. What does your average day look like?

I like to be the first one in to the office, have a quick read on some music websites before getting stuck in to all the emails from both our valued customers and future clients. I’ll spend a decent part of the day working on bespoke curation for the national brands we supply and also trawling through all the new content flooding in from all the record labels that makes its way into the playlists available to all our subscribers.

 

  1. What did you bring from your previous work in music to your role at Qsic?

As a DJ, the primary modus operandi is to know your audience. You could have all the music known to man at your disposal, but it’s knowing what song goes where and when. That is most certainly the overall strategy when curating playlists for both national retailers with 500+ locations and the local pub down the road. Thankfully for the curation team at Qsic, our AI engine and data flowing in from our customers is helping take the in-store curation to a whole new level.

 

  1. What’s the best part of your job?

I get a real buzz when going out to see our customers in their businesses and seeing the Qsic system add such a great vibe to their in-store experience. I absolutely love the Qsic team, we are all so excited to share more Qsic innovations with our clients in the very near future.

Lorenzo Sillitto, Music Curator

Former guitarist and songwriter for Australian band The Temper Trap, Lorenzo has also worked in artist management and bookings before joining the content team. Bringing his unique experience and knowledge of the Australian and international music industry to Qsic makes him a vital contributor to the organisations musical setup.

Favourite tune of 2018: Sticky – Rayvne Lenae, After the Storm – Kali Uchis, The Wave – Lion Babe. The list could go on and on

Favourite tune ever: Constantly changing

  1. Is there anything similar about curating for Qsic and playing in a band?

I would say curating a playlist is similar to writing a set list. There is a lot of thought and consideration that goes into preparing a set list, getting the peaks and troughs of the show right and sending the audience on a journey. Creating playlists that suit different segments of the day and can fit into a variety of settings requires the same thought and consideration.

  1. How does the music curation process start?

The curation process usually begins by sitting down with the client to discuss the aesthetic of their brand, key demographics and what type of experience they are looking to create in their venue. We use this information to inform the style, genre and tempo of the music required and then send out a range of playlists we feel best suit their needs.

 

  1. What’s the most difficult thing about music curation?

Finding and deciding what tracks to put in a playlist. SO MUCH MUSIC!

 

  1. And, what do you know about 60’s Psychedelic Greek tunes

All I know is that it’s rad and I want to find more of it.

 

 

 

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Qsic’s game-changing Artificial Intelligence (AI)

 

In its early guise, Qsic were capitalising on a simple problem that many businesses didn’t know they had: playing background music in their public venues from streaming services using private subscriptions, which is illegal. Back then, in 2011, there were no smart speakers, talk of automatons was confined to Ex Machina-type dystopian worlds and the idea that a self-driving car would be allowed on our roads was ludicrous.

Today, the number of smart-speaker users is growing at an annual growth rate of 47.9%,robots are in fact being introduced into the work place in droves and self-driving cars are no longer a thing of fantasy. In 2018, it’s hard to miss the buzz around AI and Machine Learning (ML). But what are these terms? How do machines with these capabilities work? And what has Qsic’s patented, industry-leading AI called AVA, Autonomous Volume Control– which can learn, predict and adapt to changing business conditions – got to do with it all?

The concept of AI emerged along with the first computers which were – simply put – remembering information and making calculations. As our understanding improved of how the human brain worked, so did the technology around AI. While computers still make incredibly complex calculations, it’s not these developments which excite technologists. Instead, what gets them going is creating machines that can make decisions like humans and can complete tasks intuitively.

Machine learning is essentially a branch of AI based on this idea of building machines which process data and learn on their own – completely autonomously. After all, it’s moreefficient for humans to teach computers how to think for themselves, rather than for humans to input the data needed for computers to perform tasks, and then making them complete as many tasks as possible. This idea, coupled with what the internet offered in terms of unprecedented information storage, meant machines would be able to look at vast amounts of data, absorb it and then make decision based on what they had learned.  This is where we are today – creating machines which can learn without being programmed, discovering insights for themselves through various data touchpoints.

What’s this got to do with Qsic and AVA? Like all good ideas Qsic cofounders, Matt Elsley and Nick Larkins, fell over AVA. Feedback from clients was that whilst being able to stream curated playlists legally into their venues was a real coup, a major issue for them was volume control. Specifically, that their ever-changing foot traffic affected how their background music sounded, meaning that it often felt too soft when the space was busy and then blaringly loud when say, the lunchtime rush, finished. This left staff having to continuously adjust the volume of their systems when they could be doing much more useful things.

Always at the forefront of developments in technology, the duo introduced decibel readers as a data touchpoint to their systems in these venues and began working on algorithms that would allow the platforms to adjust volume autonomously based on their own learnings. This system independence would allow businesses to vary volume levels across their venues without human involvement – a major win not least because one store may be experiencing a very different level of foot traffic to another, but also because it would enable staff to focus on customers rather than worrying about adjusting the volume of the background music.

Add more data touchpoints such as temperature into the mix plus the potential to feedback to clients the information gleaned from the machine’s learning, the possibilities are endless for AVA and are steering Qsic into a whole new stratosphere of venue environment control, putting them firmly at the forefront of technology for businesses centred around making patrons feel good.  Qsic saw the potential that AI brought and, like all great innovators, evolved with it. Now, Qsic is not only a commercial music streamer but an industry-first, game-changing system, able to listen to a venue and change its environment autonomously.

 

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Qsic offer solution to hairy music-licensing problem

What is now an industry-leading automated and intelligent audio system was, in the beginning, something simpler. Qsic launchedin 2012 on the premise that some business owners playing music in their shops and restaurants would be doing so illegally due to an innocent unawareness of the licensing and copyright regulations involved. Their idea was to offer a legal solution. Fast forward six years – and to a six-figure fine levied on a Melbourne bar – and it looks like their premise was right and their solution more relevant than ever.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen[1]earlier this month, the majority of business owners incorrectly believe that a personal account can be used to play background music in say a café, and only 17 percent of small businesses have the correct licences to play music at all. The study encompassed 5,000 in-store interviews with businesses in the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Spain, Italy, France and Germany and revealed that 83 per cent of businesses are using personal music subscriptions and free music services to play songs in a public setting, costing the global music industry $2.65 billion annually and artists over $100 million a month.

So, how do you get your venue licensed appropriately here in Australia? With great difficulty. Intellectual property law, which creates copyrights to safeguard inventors of music, is a minefield and no exception is made when it comes to playing background music – including radio – in stores, restaurants or other venues constituting a “public performance.” To do it legally, you’ll need to navigate laws regarding mechanical rights which not only grant the licence to copy and distribute music but govern everything from online music streaming to playing CDs, vinyl and even those cassette-tape vestiges in the box under your bed.  If you don’t own the mechanical rights to these devices, you can’t play them.

Where can you buy these rights? You can’t. Not directly anyway – and this is where things get more complicated. Businesses playing background music are required to obtain a licence under the Copyright Act 1968. These range from $80 AUD to over $2,000 AUD annually depending on the size of venue and number of devices used to play the music. Fees are paid to the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) to cover royalties for the composer, publisher and artist and it doesn’t stop there. Music duplication fees must also be paid annually to the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) and Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) via PPCA when copying music onto a smart device, MP3 player or CD.

If this all read like “blah blah blah,” then you’re not alone. Businesses everywhere are up in arms not only about the myriad bodies to which fees are owed and the convoluted pricing structures involved, but because of the lack of guidance – who knew that an APRA licence was necessary when a personal subscription had already been paid? But, as the saying goes, ignorance of the law excuses not and continuing to play personal music in your venue this way will leave you with repeated cease and desist notices at best or –  at worst – a hefty fine as was the case for the owner of Melbourne café-come-bar Hairy Little Sista earlier this month who was ordered to pay a staggering $185,000 AUD for infringements.

In response to the growing concern from businesses, a solution has been proffered by APRA, AMCOS and the PPCA: OneMusic Australia. To paraphrase the website spiel, set to launch in 2019 the combined body will hold more than 140,000 public performance music licences currently held by Australian businesses and will see new licences developed with new fee structures. The aim is to simplify the current model by removing the reporting requirements around the number of devices and different types of spaces used, but overall fees will increase with what appears to be little or no value add.

Cue the QSIC platform, which offers a cost-effective resolution. Not only does the platform keep you on the right side of the law, taking care of all of the above and therefore removing the nuisance from your business administration, but the platform also has the capability to deliver branded curation to subscribers which can be distributed to Australia-wide subsidiaries, giving businesses visibility across their entire network. There are a number of other features for businesses included in the service such as API access, music scheduling, consumer analytics, digital-signage integration, head-office control, audio-advertising functionality, multi-zone audio and much more making Qsic the obvious choice for punters wanting bang for their buck in this messy space.

“It seems obvious that you can’t play Netflix to a large audience but for some reason people don’t apply the same logic to music streaming,” says Matt Elsley, Qsic CEO and Founder.

“Education is necessary but what small businesses want is life to be made easy and that’s at the heart of what we do.

“The case of Hairy Little Sista has been a wake-up call for businesses all over Melbourne and we’re happy to chat to concerned venue owners about their needs,” he says.

Business owners know that music has profound effects on the way customers engage with and enjoy their spaces. What they have been slower to realise is that laws governing playing music in these spaces are complex and purchasing a personal subscription to Spotify or buying a CD to play for your patrons can land you in strife. Who knew an act as seemingly innocuous as a playing “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers could leave you Bay-City-Rolling in a six-figure fine. No doubt, most companies would gladly pay if they knew they were doing something wrong and, hopefully, Hairy Little Sistawill be enough to raise the red flag for businesses wanting to ethically and legally source their music so musicians are getting the money they’re entitled too.

To speak with one of Qsic’s friendly tech team: 1300 113 279

[1]Published on Monday 15 October 2018 by fellow licensing service Soundtrack Your Brand

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Normalisation: fighting the loudness war

Audio normalisation and the loudness wars

There’s a myth that louder music sounds better. And for some people and genres it’s quite possibly true. Yet since the 80s, audio engineers have continually pushed the envelope of just how loud recordings can sound. It’s great if you’re listening to that latest pop album. But when you’re playing a carefully-curated playlist to your customers and the music disappears? Not so good. Let’s take a look at what’s been dubbed the “loudness war”. Continue reading

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Hospitality, Music and its Consumers

Hospitality, Music and its Customers

The Hospitality Industry is rapidly growing and evolving in Australia, leading to an intensely competitive landscape. Venues need to be leading the way in consumer engagement, to avoid being pushed out of the Industry.

Venue presentation, products and service levels have always aided in consumer engagement, but now, the auditory landscape has become equally important to managing your venues’ bottom line.

People spend a lot of time and effort on the visual aspects of their venue, then they negate their efforts by putting the wrong music on.

Continue reading

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