I have received hundreds of e-mails from musicians, including some famous Ghanaian musicians who had wanted to purchase the book ‘The Passion Of Music …
Victoria’s Secret models and best friends in fitness Jasmine Tookes and Josephine Skriver know how to have fun at the gym. The pair gathers their favorite exercise moves into a joint Instagram account that’s gifted us with everything from butt workouts to abs exercises.
Most recently, the models shared a video of a move they’ve nicknamed the plank dance. Tookes and Skriver each start in a forearm plank, then do some arm choreography to challenge their cores. They captioned the video with a quick explanation of the move: “Works core but pretty much the whole body! Do it for 1 min x3.”
Check out the plank dance move via @joja, below:
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The plank dance helps build strength and stability in your core.
For a more detailed explanation of why this core move is so effective, we spoke with Kelvin Gary, certified personal trainer and owner and head coach at Body Space Fitness in New York City. According to Gary, this move works the abs, obliques, shoulders, and posterior core (aka spine-stabilizing muscles). It will help you improve your core stability, which is basically just your ability to keep your core engaged and in the right position during movement. Core stability is important for helping you execute pretty much every exercise move with proper form (and ultimately, help you avoid injury) and move about daily life comfortably and efficiently.
“Just holding a plank is great, but this move creates the need for additional stability,” says Gary. In a normal, stationary plank, our legs and feet create four points of contact with the ground. “Think of this like the four legs of a chair, very stable,” he explains. “When you remove one of those legs, you become unstable. That’s what’s happening in this move.” With each arm movement, Tookes and Skriver create additional instability.
Notice how as they lift their arms, their hips sway a bit to the opposite side. Ideally, your hips should remain in place as you move your arms and your core works to keep your body still and stable, Gary says. But it does take a ton of core strength and practice to get to the point of zero sway.
To do this move, start in a forearm plank with your elbows stacked under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart.
Squeeze your core, glutes, and quads to keep your hips stable as you reach one arm in front of you, then to the side, and then repeat with the other arm, reaching to the side first and then out in front. Most importantly, keep your arm movements as slow as possible. “The slower you go, the harder it gets,” says Gary. “A controlled movement is best.” Continue this movement, alternating arms, for one minute. Rest for about 30 seconds, and then repeat two more times (for a total of three).
If you’ve nailed this move—meaning you can keep your hips totally still throughout—and are looking to make it more challenging, Gary suggests moving from a forearm plank to a high plank (arms extended and palms flat on the floor) and bringing your feet closer together. You can also play up the instability component of the workout by lifting your opposite leg in tandem with your arm, says Gary. “Move your arms and legs together, first alternating left arm/right leg, then right arm/left leg, in a clockwise manner.” He also recommends adding an instability tool like the BOSU ball under your arms or feet to seriously challenge your balance.
However you prefer to plank dance, consider taking another cue from Tookes and Skriver and do it with your BFF. It may still be just as challenging, but having some camaraderie may help take your mind off how hard you’re working—plus, there’s no denying the choreo is highly Instagrammable.
BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and 5 Live Breakfast lost listeners this spring, industry figures show.
Today’s audience dropped by 839,000 year-on-year, while 5 Live Breakfast was down 337,000, according to Rajar, which monitors UK radio listening.
The BBC said a quieter news agenda in the second quarter of this year was partly to blame.
Last spring saw a snap general election, the Grenfell Tower fire and three terrorist attacks in the UK.
The BBC said: “There were record figures (7.82 million) last year as the nation turned to Today during significant news events.
“Audience figures fluctuate for news programmes across TV and radio in line with news events and the latest Today figures show a sustained loyal listenership and an overall increase since 2014.”
While news and speech programmes may have recorded a loss, many music and entertainment shows went up.
Compared with spring 2017, Absolute’s breakfast show – presented until recently by Christian O’Connell – added 306,000 listeners, while Kiss Breakfast with Rickie, Melvin and Charlie went up by 42,000.
Capital saw listener figures fall compared to last year, with Roman Kemp’s breakfast show losing 53,000 listeners, but the show was up on the quarter and held its title as the most listened to breakfast radio show in London.
Away from breakfast, LBC attracted 2.1 million listeners across the UK, an increase of 62,000 listeners on the same period last year.
Capital Xtra, the urban music station which rebranded from Choice FM in 2013, recorded its highest ever audience of 1.8 million.
Other specialist music stations to record an annual increase included Radio X, which went up to 1.7 million weekly listeners.
BBC specialist stations also recorded healthy figures, including R&B and hip hop station BBC Radio 1Xtra, which reached 1.03 million listeners – up on both the year and the quarter.
The BBC’s Asian Network recorded 672,000 listeners – also up on both the year and the quarter – while BBC 6Music reached 2.4 million – a drop on the previous quarter but an increase year-on-year.
BBC Radio 1 recorded its highest ever audience across digital platforms, but the station was down overall on both the quarter and the year – reaching 9.24 million weekly listeners.
Controller Ben Cooper said: “At a time of huge change for Radio 1, I’m delighted to see us bringing in 10 million weekly listeners, 10 million social followers, and a record 16 million weekly viewers of our YouTube content.”
Two concerts are taking place this weekend as part of the Malta International Arts Festival.
Today, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and the Malta Youth Orchestra, under the direction of Sergey Smbatyan, are presenting Mediterranean Soul.
The joint concert will explore the musical heritage of the diverse cultures sharing the Mediterranean Sea by drawing on the region’s musical traditions, such as Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, as well as Charles Camilleri’s Mediterranean Dances and Joseph Vella’s Rapsodija Maltija for violin and string orchestra, with the MYO’s concertmaster Stefan Calleja in the solo role.
Mediterranean Soul is taking place at Pjazza Teatru Rjal in Valletta at 9pm.
Tomorrow, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) of Amsterdam is performing for the first time in Malta.
The concert forms part of the orchestra’s ongoing tour of all 28 member states of the European Union, RCO Meets Europe, and will see the participation of members of the Malta Youth Orchestra during the opening work Overture to Don Giovanni.
Milanese chief conductor Daniele Gatti will then lead the orchestra in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony in A Major. The concert will take place at the Manoel Theatre in Valletta at 9pm.
The festival will also see various artists – from singers to dancers to actors – showcasing along the streets of the capital city in a performance titled Artibusk.
Two exhibitions, Exile Homes by philanthropist and photojournalist Reza Deghati, and Watercolour Madness by local artist Kenneth Zammit Tabona, are opening today at the Grand Master’s Palace in Republic Street and at the Malta Society of Arts, respectively. Entrance to both exhibitions is free.
The Malta International Arts Festival runs until July 15. For more information and tickets, visit .
No, you are not becoming crankier as you approach middle age – music is indeed getting worse every year. And the marketing industry’s obsession with optimisation is to blame.
In late 2017, the YouTube channel Thoughty2 published a video exploring how music has changed over the decades. After starting with The Beatles, the narrator continues with an example of classic British understatement: “Fast forward to 2010, when Justin Bieber released his hit single Baby. This is generally considered to be a bad move.”
According to the research in the video, lyrical intelligence, harmonic complexity, and timbral diversity have decreased while dynamic range compression has been used to make music louder and louder. In short, songs are becoming stupider – especially since every hit now includes the “millennial whoop” as well.
“Instead of experimenting with different musical techniques and instruments, the vast majority of pop music today is built using the exact same combination of keyboard, drum machine, sampler, and computer software,” Thoughty2’s narrator states. “This might be considered as progressive by some people, but it truth it sucks the creativity and originality out of music – making everything sound somewhat similar.”
As a rule, businesses do not like risk. The video states that record companies today must spend anywhere from $500,000 to $3m to sign and market a new artist. That is a lot of money to spend on a band without being fully confident of success.
To minimise the risk and maximise the potential return, these companies optimise the music to do whatever seems to have worked in the past. Same set of instruments? Check. Simple lyrics? Check. Is it loud? Check. Simple melody? Check. Can you dance to it? Check. Millennial whoop? Check check.
But that optimisation process is a downward spiral that will result only in songs that will make Rebecca Black’s Friday sound as brilliant as Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. It is creating music by paint-by-numbers. It is ticking boxes rather than being creative. And the same thing is occurring in the marketing industry today.
The rise of optimisation
After my first career in journalism years ago, I went into marketing and at one point met with a recruiter who was looking for a digital marketer. “I need an expert in SEO, ASO, and SMO,” she told me, further rattling off a lengthier list of random acronyms.
“Optimisation” became all the rage after companies discovered in the 2000s how much traffic websites could attract from search engines. After the birth of search engine optimisation (SEO), marketers tacked on the latter word to create “app store optimisation” and “social media optimisation” as well as countless other uses where the term also made little sense.
App store optimisation (ASO) looks for hacks to increase a mobile application’s ranking and findability in places such as the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store – rather than, you know, creating and promoting a real, useful app that people will like. Social media optimisation (SMO) is a useless term because social media is simply a set of channels and tools that can be used for any specific promotion tactic.
Now, businesses have always discussed general best practices. My last job in journalism in the 2000s was serving as the editor-in-chief and executive director of the Boston non-profit newspaper Spare Change News. (It is one of the newspapers in the United States that are modeled on The Big Issue in the UK.)
In that role, I once attended an annual convention of the North American Street Newspaper Association that was held in Halifax, Canada. There, the assembled staffers discussed the best practices in terms of pricing, circulation, and countless other topics. Today, marketers talk about optimisation, which often means the best practices in line with someone else’s algorithms or what has purportedly worked for others.
Buffer has published studies on the ideal lengths of everything from blog posts to tweets to headlines to Facebook updates. HubSpot has reported the best times to post on social media. But in the end, both best practices and optimisation come down to the same thing: doing what everyone else is doing.
The perils of optimisation
Once, I was in a meeting where people were discussing how to get more traffic from blog posts spread on Facebook. The ideas focused on using psychology and gaming the social network’s algorithm: “Let’s ask people to comment on posts to increase engagement!” and “Let’s change the posts so that they are lists whose headlines start with numbers!”
“Make a funny, creative video advertisement instead,” I suggested, noting the reach that humorous videos receive on Facebook. But no one listened. Everyone cared so much about optimising the form of the creative that no one thought about the creativity of the creative. They prioritised the form over the function.
The perfect example of this is when marketers see studies on which headlines get the most “engagement.” In June 2017, Buzzsumo analysed 100m headlines and found this information on which headlines receive the most clicks, “likes,” and shares on Facebook:
Too many digital marketers use such information and focus on producing whatever marcom is cheapest and then optimising it. Here is a sample of recent blog posts on Medium from a certain prolific marketing writer:
- 5 Strange But True Habits of the World’s Richest People
- 5 Smart Reasons to Create Content Outside Your Niche
- 5 Simple Hacks to Sharpen Your Emotional Intelligence
- 10 Insanely Good Reasons You Should Publish On Medium
- 3 Unusual Hacks to Completely Up Your LinkedIn Game
Too many marketers go overboard and focus on optimisation to produce rubbish marketing such as clickbait blog posts with the same headline format such as this: [number] [unnecessarily strong adjective] [noun] to [achieve some goal].
The internet will continue to be flooded with boring, optimised posts that all have the same title formats in an effort to get clicks or satisfy other short-term metrics. But optimisation is the enemy of creativity and leads to worst long-term results. (Just look at how many reboots of successful TV shows from the 80s and 90s have failed today. The studios likely thought that copying what was done before would guarantee another success.)
Redundant optimisation quickly becomes cliched, hurts the brand, and is obvious to consumers. If Oxford Academic were to title journal articles in the above manner, the Oxford brand would become laughable. The only way for BuzzFeed News to be taken seriously – and the publication is indeed doing excellent journalism – has been to decouple its brand from the notoriously clickbait parent company.
Optimised reflects only short-term thinking. Using clickbait to get people to a website is the same as knocking people over the head and dragging them into your store. They may be there, but they will not buy anything because they will hate your brand.
When everyone optimises for everything, it is no longer a competitive advantage. The only true competitive advantage that people will have is what rests in their brains – creativity. Without that, you will only be as good as everyone else.
The benefits of creativity
According to an updated study in Admap magazine by Data2Decisions founder Paul Dyson, creativity is – by far – the second-best profit multiplier after market size:
Optimisation and best practices aim to do what someone else defines or the best of what everyone else does – but nothing more than that.
“Best practice is like training wheels – it keeps you safe whilst you’re learning how to excel in your industry,” Helen Pollitt, head of SEO at the British digital marketing agency Reflect Digital, said. “To really differentiate yourself from the competition you need to be open to experimentation and growth, true optimisation requires facing failure. The issue with sticking to the safe zone of best practice is it stifles creativity.”
The best depiction of the benefit of being different that I have seen comes from this BBH ad:
People notice what is different. And if your marketing does not get noticed in the first place, nothing else you do matters. As BBH London strategy director Lucian Trestler recently put it:
“‘Difference’ isn’t just a two bob philosophy or a frivolous creative penchant. It is the most powerful communications tool there is to deliver commercial results. We have a vast amount of data to support that. Evidence from neuroscience, marketing science and creative effectiveness data all agree on this point; difference is commercially safer than ‘safety.’”
Optimising based on data or algorithms is easier than being creative – but it is not always better, according to Wistia co-founder and chief executive Chris Savage.
“Today, everyone scores their leads with Marketo and A/B tests thirty different varieties of their landing page. You can’t get a competitive advantage doing that stuff anymore. You could say that as the percentage of marketers with a certain tech stack or using a certain tool approaches 100%, the competitive advantage you reap from it approaches zero,” he once wrote. “Using data to scale your marketing is critical. But when we all have access to the same types of data, it won’t be the data that differentiates us — it’ll be the art.”
Tom Goodwin recently said something similar: “A/B testing seems to be getting out of hand. Seems to be a way to offload decision making, not have a strategy, or gut or courage. What great art/music/products would ever be made this way?”
But tell that to those digital marketers who think only in terms of optimisation. Tell that to high-tech chief executives who want to mimic the marketing of competitors and think that they need only a differentiated product to be successful. (Just like record companies, startups are risk-averse because they do not want to lose the millions of investor dollars.)
In a quote attributed to John Ward from B&B Dorland in England, “advertising is a craft executed by people who aspire to be artists but is assessed by those who aspire to be scientists. I cannot imagine any human relationship more perfectly designed to produce total mayhem.”
At Digital Annexe University in 2015, Dave Trott gave a classic speech on creativity. Effective communications, he said, needs to have an impact, needs to communicate, and needs to be persuasive. “Impact” is the most important part.
“Impact will get you on the radar,” he said. “Without impact, there’s nothing there. There might be a bloke outside on the street right now telling us the secret of all life, and we’ll never know because we can’t hear him. Without impact, nothing happens.”
Now, take the desire of so many marketers to optimise all collateral to match some alleged universal standard. How will their work be different from that of everyone else? How will their work stand out? How will their work have an impact?
“Optimisation might work for certain businesses for a certain amount of time,” Steve Daniels, an independent graphic designer in the UK, said. “This course of action may feel safer, but it only remains safe if there are no competitors who disrupt the market or start playing the brand game in a strong way. As soon as that happens, focusing on creativity is a great a way to play the long game – and to invest in your future success.”
If your business wants to remain safe, no one will notice you. Taking creative risks is how you become memorable.
A quick recommendation
So, if you want to listen to an album where the musicians wrote their own material, played dozens of instruments, and created songs that are lyrically intelligent, harmonically complex, and timbrally diverse, I have an assignment for you.
Listen to records or remastered CDs of the Moody Blues album In Search of the Lost Chord (1968) and The Smiths’ song How Soon Is Now? (1985) with a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones and some refreshment of your choice. Maybe it will kickstart some creative inspiration.
After all, the Beatles will be remembered forever. Justin Bieber will not.
The Promotion Fix is an exclusive biweekly column for The Drum contributed by global marketing and technology keynote speaker Samuel Scott, a former journalist, consultant and director of marketing in the high-tech industry. Follow him on Twitter. Scott is based out of Tel Aviv, Israel.
ILOSM, we have some very sad news. One of our favorite actresses and singers Della Reese, has passed away. She was a vocal powerhouse who’s style reflected the influence of such jazz precursors as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.
At age 86, she leaves behind children James, Franklin, and Dominique, as well as husband Franklin Lett. She was predeceased by daughter Deloreese.
“On behalf of her husband, Franklin Lett, and all her friends and family, I share with you the news that our beloved Della Reese has passed away peacefully at her California home last evening surrounded by love. She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” her costar Roma Downey confirmed to PEOPLE.
“She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on Touched By an Angel. I know heaven has a brand new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts. Rest In Peace, sweet angel. We love you.”
She ranged through a series of releases that showed off her mastery of standards, jazz and contemporary pop through the early ‘70s, and over the course of her career she received four Grammy Award nominations.
Her Legendary History
By 1969 she had launched her TV show “Della” – the first talk show hosted by an African-American woman – and had begun a move into an acting career that would take her to even greater national prominence.
After a number of guest appearances, Reese broke into TV full-time with a starring role in the hit 1975-78 Jack Albertson-Freddie Prinze comedy series “Chico and the Man.” Roles on “It Takes Two,” “Crazy Like a Fox,” “Charlie & Co.” and (opposite her good friend Redd Foxx) “The Royal Family.”
She also took starring roles in the features “Harlem Nights” and “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” and appeared in 20 made-for-TV pictures.
Her greatest popularity came as co-star of the inspirational CBS show “Touched by an Angel.” Though the show was axed during its debut 1994-95 season, a letter-writing campaign convinced execs to bring the series back, and Reese prevailed as the heavenly samaritan Tess for a total of nine seasons, winning seven consecutive NAACP Image Awards as best lead actress in a drama and collecting two Emmy nominations and a 1998 Golden Globe nod.
Though she continued to make TV guest appearances and took the occasional film role in the new millennium, she returned to her religious roots as the founding pastor of her own Los Angeles-based church, Understanding Principles for Better Living (or “Up”). In later years, she was frequently billed as Reverend Doctor Della Reese Lett.
She was born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931, in Detroit. She began singing in church as a six-year-old; the glamorous black vocalist-actress Lena Horne was one of the film stars she admired as a girl. By her teens, she was working as a singer in gospel luminary Mahalia Jackson’s unit.
After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School (later attended by Diana Ross), she briefly attended Wayne State University, but soon moved into music professionally, taking Della Reese as her pro handle.
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LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Alicia Keys, Michelle Obama, and Jennifer Lopez speak onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
Alicia Keys had a surprise guest to open the 2019 Grammy Awards on Sunday night: Michelle Obama.
Keys delivered a somewhat rambling speech about music being our “global language,” telling the crowd, “Music is what we all love. Music is what it’s all about … Music is what we cry to, it’s what we march to, it’s what we rock to, it’s what we make love to. It’s our shared global language. When you really want to say something, you say it with a song. “
She then brought out Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Obama and Jennifer Lopez.
Gaga spoke first of the group, telling the crowd, “They said I was weird, that my look, my choices, my sound, that it wouldn’t work. But music told me not to listen to them. Music took my ears, took my hands, my voice and my soul and it led me to all of you and to my little monsters who I love so much.”
Lopez was next to reminisce.
“Back in the Bronx, music gave me a reason to dance … and it kept me moving from the block to the big stages and even bigger screens,” she said. “It reminds me of where I come from but it also reminds me of all the places I can go. Music is the one place we can all feel truly free.”
Pinkett Smith quipped, “Every voice we hear deserves to be heard and respected.”
That’s when the former first lady spoke up, sending the crowd into an uproar.”Amen,” Obama said. “From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side,” she began as the audience stood up and screamed. “Come on, we got a show to do,” she said with a grin. “From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side to the ‘who run the world’ songs of the last decade, music always helped me tell my story. Whether we like country, rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves … it allows us to hear one another to invite each other in it shows us that all of it matters.”
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Famous Writers’ Sleep Habits vs. Literary Productivity, Visualized
7 Life-Learnings from 7 Years of Brain Pickings, Illustrated
Anaïs Nin on Love, Hand-Lettered by Debbie Millman
Anaïs Nin on Real Love, Illustrated by Debbie Millman
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The Silent Music of the Mind: Remembering Oliver Sacks
How Playing Music Benefits Your Brain More than Any Other Activity
“Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.”
By Maria Popova
“Each note rubs the others just right, and the instrument shivers with delight. The feeling is unmistakable, intoxicating,” musician Glenn Kurtz wrote in his sublime meditation on the pleasures of practicing, adding: “My attention warms and sharpens… Making music changes my body.” Kurtz’s experience, it turns out, is more than mere lyricism — music does change the body’s most important organ, and changes it more profoundly than any other intellectual, creative, or physical endeavor.
This short animation from TED-Ed, written by Anita Collins and animated by Sharon Colman Graham, explains why playing music benefits the brain more than any other activity, how it impacts executive function and memory, and what it reveals about the role of the same neural structure implicated in explaining Leonardo da Vinci’s genius.
Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout… Playing an instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once — especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. And, as in any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brain functions, allowing us to apply that strength to other activities… Playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum — the bridge between the two hemispheres — allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. This may allow musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively, in both academic and social settings.
Because making music also involves crafting and understanding its emotional content and message, musicians also have higher levels of executive function— a category of interlinked tasks that includes planning, strategizing, and attention to detail, and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects.
This ability also has an impact on how our memory systems work. And, indeed, musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions — creating, storing, and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently. Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connected brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag — like a good internet search engine.
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Published January 29, 2015