We Made Entertainment Weekly's "Must List"

In Entertainment Weekly's February 17th issue, they listed Between the Liner Notes as number four on their "Must List." That's the issue with the cast of Stranger Things on the cover.

"This ultimate listen for rock-doc lovers dives deep into the world of music, musicians, and the industry. Each monthly episode of the podcast investigates a fascinating story you’ve never heard before."

The New York Times mentioned BTLN in their "What We’re Reading" section

To view on the New York Times website click here

Lifted Voices

From Between the Liner Notes: In the latest episode of this documentary-style podcast about music history, you’ll learn about the first black opera troupe in America. The Colored American Opera Company was formed in 1873 at a church in Washington D.C., and it performed for racially mixed audiences, drawing enthusiastic reviews and raising money for the church. This 19th-century story may have been lost entirely if not for some 21st-century curiosity and ingenuity. — Gina Lamb

A.V. Club reviews episode 15: Boy Bands, Blimps & Ponzi Schemes

To view the review on the A.V. Club website please click here.

Lou Pearlman died in August. He was in prison for running a half-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. You probably remember him, though, as the leering, boisterous lug behind ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, not to mention the man who helped change the fabric of mainstream music in the late ’90s. In this episode of Between The Liner Notes, host Matthew Billy interviews both Pearlman’s former talent manager, Jeanne Tanzy-Williams, and his biographer, Tyler Gray, to help flesh out the Svengali’s life, career, and downfall. Fascinating anecdotes abound, including the story behind how Pearlman made his fortune and the formation of the Backstreet Boys (both involve blimps). While the episode certainly humanizes Pearlman, it’s not attempting to tug any heartstrings; he was shitty to almost everybody in his life, especially Tanzy-Williams, who still somehow manages to shore up a little sympathy for the man. Still, Pearlman was a visionary, an idea man of rare drive. Sure, he bilked all the kids he worked with to some degree, but he also invested millions upon millions of his own dollars into the ventures. His legacy lives on, whether we like it or not.
[Randall Colburn]

Podcast Fights to Exonerate Iconic Labor Activist Joe Hill

Recently, we stopped by The Takeaway's studio to discuss Joe Hill. 
The original post can be found here.

Shows like Netflix's "Making a Murderer," and Sarah Koenig's "Serial" prove that good journalism can put pressure on the scales of justice.

Matthew Billy, host of the podcast "Between the Liner Notes" is hoping to do just that, with a petition to exonerate Joe Hill, over 100 years after his execution by the state of Utah.

Hill arrived to the United States in 1902 as an indigent, unknown Swedish immigrant. By the time of Hill's death in 1915 — a penalty for a murder that historians, including Billy, say that he did not commit — Hill had become the leader of the labor union Industrial Workers of the World, commonly known as the "Wobblies."

The Wobblies were known for their use of song as a form of protest, the lyrics of which — penned by Hill — they circulated through the "Little Red Songbook." Though before recording technology existed, Hill's legacy lived on through his songs made famous through the likes of Joan Baez and Pete Seeger.

Click on the 'Listen' button above to hear Matthew Billy discuss the Joe Hill saga, and click here for the full "Between the Liner Notes" episode on the labor activist. 

Wired Magazine lists BTLN as one of five "Podcasts to Play Alongside the Olympics This Week"

Click here for original post

Between the Liner Notes, "3,000 Beatniks Riot in Village"

On April 9, 1961, the folk singers of Washington Square Park protested against the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to defend their right to play. Listen to Izzy Young, who led the 3,000 rioting beatniks, tell the story of that day—and hear how the same conflict between musicians and New York City government played out in 2011. Featuring excellent 1960s archival audio of outraged, heavily accented bohemian New Yorkers.

A.V. Club's Podmass reviewed episode 10: Jingle Brains

The original review can be found by clicking here.

There is a moment in the 1993 movie Demolition Man when Sylvester Stallone’s John Spartan—newly experiencing the future following a period of cryogenic incarceration—listens to an oldies radio station composed entirely of commercial jingles. To the viewer it seems a patently ridiculous idea that the lowly jingle has been somehow misinterpreted as a form of entertainment. But in listening to this week’s installment of the relatively new show Between The Liner Notes, host Matthew Billy takes a deep dive into commercial jingles and points out several times in their history when the songs themselves were as beloved as any other pieces of contemporaneous pop music. The episode provides a thorough and thoroughly engaging history of the jingle’s development, from the etymology of the word—featuring Helen Zaltzman of The Allusionist— to its current function as an impressively bad promotional song for the bathroom odor control spray, Poo-Pourri. The history of these micro compositions affords great insight into the dual life cycles of advertising campaigns and their delivery mechanisms, especially in the case study of Coke vs. Pepsi and their attitudes toward rock ’n’ roll music. In all, it makes for an enjoyable exploration of a fading relic from mid-century advertising.

The Mirror Awards nominated BTLN for 'Best Single Story'

Our "I Want My MTV" episode is a finalist for a Mirror Award in the category of 'Best Single Story – Radio, Television, Cable or Online Broadcast Media'

Here is the list of all finalists. 

The Mirror Awards are the most important awards for honoring excellence in media industry reporting. Established by Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, the awards honor the reporters, editors and teams of writers who hold a mirror to their own industry for the public’s benefit.

This Local Podcast Network Wants to Find Producers Where Others Aren’t Looking

This article was written for the Washingtonian by Greta Weber. The original can be found here.

Since Serial catapulted podcasting into the mainstream, more people than ever are trying to enter the field. That’s where Goat Rodeo comes in. It’s a new DC podcast collective trying to wrest a piece of the audio storytelling market away from public media. To do that, they’re bringing on independent hosts with little podcasting experience and providing them with the tools, platform, and audience to make a show. If you have an idea for a locally focused podcast, Goat Rodeo wants to be the first place you’ll go. 

Podcast networks are not a new idea, nor is competition for innovative producers. Radiotopia, a podcast network from PRX, is always searching for fresh and inventive shows. So is Alex Blumberg’s podcast company, Gimlet, a magnet for former public media veterans looking to get in on the resurgence of the medium.

“We want to find radio producers where PRX and Radiotopia aren’t looking,” says Ian Enright, the 25-year-old co-founder of Goat Rodeo. “If there ever was a network out there to kill your idols and do something different, I really think and hope we are that.” Enright says the group is experimenting with non-narrative forms told from singular perspectives, rather than trying to include voices from all sides of an issue. They’re also trying to stake out a place in the local media sphere—something not many podcast networks are doing.

Goat Rodeo launched last fall and has since released three shows: A music history podcast called Between the Liner Notes, a show called Revivalism that collects audio stories from an American road trip, and Your Story Here, which features interviews with strangers around DC. The network doesn’t yet have advertisers, but Enright says local businesses have already expressed interest in buying in. Goat Rodeo’s strategy is to first build up a solid collection of shows, attract a listener base, and then seek funding and advertisers.

It also needs to prove that it can be a sustainable company that produces consistent, high-quality audio. “It’s hard to tell who’s kind of bullshitting and doing this thing on the side, and who’s doing this thing for real. We want to prove to our producers that we’re legitimate.”

Lauren Ober, a WAMU producer and host of The Big Listen, a show about podcasts and how they’re made, says that if Goat Rodeo is going to succeed, it has to provide the networking, branding and marketing support for the shows it’s bringing on. It also has to find a lot of listeners. “I could start a podcasting network tomorrow,” Ober says, “but if I don’t have anything to offer people, then I’m just a person with a collection.”

That’s exactly why Enright wanted to start a network instead of producing yet another independent show. He and his co-founder, Carlisle Sargent, will promote and brand the shows while the producers focus on creating them. Producers aren’t getting paid yet, but Goat Rodeo does have a steady stream of revenue from a consulting arm: Small companies and nonprofits hire the co-founders to help them get their own podcasts off the ground, which Enright says has proved lucrative. They have a meeting with World Bank next month, he says.

Lizzie Peabody, the producer of Your Story Here, says she probably wouldn’t be in podcasting if it weren’t for Enright and Sargent: “They really nudged me to do this, and when I say nudged, they like drop-kicked me.” Before joining Goat Rodeo, she dabbled in audio and made a New Year’s’ resolution to record an interview with someone every single day. She’s now trying to translate what she calls a compulsion to record her own life into a show that people are going to want to listen to.

It can be hard to do that with one-off interviews with complete strangers. “When you’re interviewing a stranger, it’s like you’re feeling around in the dark the for magic button that’s going to open sesame,” Peabody says. She starts every interview with the question “Who are you?” and goes from there. The result are these small auditory windows into someone’s life. She also mixes the stranger interviews with conversations with friends and family. In her pilot episode, she included an interview with her grandma alongside a bookish bike courier and a Ghanaian immigrant.

By the end of the year, Enright says the network hopes to add three more shows and attract around 15,000 listeners for each one. Right now, he says, they have an average of about 8,000 listeners between their top two shows, which puts them in the top 3 percent of podcasts. Because there are so many podcasts out there that have few to no listeners, that figure is somewhat skewed. Still, they’re off to a good start.

“You can create a podcast and get people to listen to it in a real organic way,” Ober says. “So if there’s a local network that’s trying to facilitate that, then I say more power to them.”


Review in The Guardian

Melissa Locker wrote a review of Between the Liner Notes for The Guardian U.S. Edition. The original post can be found here.

Listen to this: Between the Liner Notes, a podcast that takes you inside the music

Have you ever really wondered about the best method for tuning a musical instrument? Or speculated about how MTV got record companies to give them music for free? Or asked, whatever happened to Sharkey, why isn’t Happy Birthday sung in movies, or who invented the tape recorder?

If you’ve ever wondered about those things – or about music, history and how the two collide – then Between the Liner Notes is the podcast for you.

Why you should listen: Matthew Billy, who worked as an audio engineer at New York radio station WFUV for years before moving to Sirius XM Radio and Sony, started a show called Between the Liner Notes in 2012.

“That was a different incarnation of the show,” he said. “I started it as an interview show about people in the music industry.” The show lasted about 18 episodes, but never found a foothold with fans. “I don’t think it ever got more than 500 listeners.”

He moved on from the show, but soon found that he missed podcasting and decided to revive the show in August with a different focus. Instead of simply interviewing music industry players, he takes a topic and dives in, mixing interviews with music and information.

Whether he’s exploring Panart Records, the largest and first independent label in Cuba and the home of legendary artists such as Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot; or discussing the early days of MTV; or getting to the bottom of who actually owns the song Happy Birthday, Billy’s show is fun to listen to and typically enthralling.

The change in format worked. “The response to the show has been great,” he said. Part of that success is due to Billy’s commitment to the show and crafting elegant, well-researched stories. That, of course, takes time.

“I don’t time it out, but it’s a significant amount of time. I’ll read a book or two and if there are no books on a topic I’ll spend forever looking at archives on the internet,” he said. “I spend as much time as I need to to feel like I have a command of the information.”

That means that Billy can now wax on about the intricacies of the Equal Temperament tuning system, can tell you the Nazi-filled history of the Magnetophon, the first reel-to-reel tape recorder that realistically recorded sound, and the Great Radio Boycott of 1941.

The story ideas come from diverse sources – an article, a conversation, remembered factoids and sometimes even “a single line in a book”, Billy said. He has a list of 150 ideas in his iPhone, but admitted only one in 20 is any good.

“I follow the Quincy Jones theory,” he said. Jones gets goosebumps when a song resonated with him and Billy does more or less the same thing with stories. “I find a topic, I start researching it, and if I feel a magnetism, that’s when I know.”

Because of the amount of research and interviews each episode needs, he only releases one a month. “I don’t think I could do more than that with a job,” said Billy, who said managing a podcast and a full-time job is an art. “You use your time on the weekends, you use your time after work, you use your vacation days very strategically.”

Billy said it’s worth the effort. “I’ve gotten to meet a lot of very interesting people that have had a very important impact on history and music. The opportunity to speak to these people who are heroes of mine or legendary or just very interesting people, I think that’s worth a vacation.”

As a relative newcomer to the world of podcasting – with only six episodes under his belt so far – Billy is genuinely touched during some interviews, as when the founders of MTV spoke to him about the network’s creation.

“They are all very wealthy people and very, very busy people with successful businesses that they are running, and when I reached out to them it was just this amazing, ‘Yes of course! When do you want to do it?’ That’s amazing to me.”

While Billy has what he describes as “zero background” in journalism, the questions he poses are things that every fan wants to know. “It’s just a love of the information.”

It’s been a steep learning curve as he’s figured out how to write scripts, host a show and put together a podcast. But his background in audio engineering makes production a breeze. Billy is emblematic of the old chestnut that when you do what you love, you’re never working.

“I love it. I love talking to these people. I love the information,” he said. It’s a passion that shows in each episode and one that will make other music fans feel right at home.

The Atlantic names "I Want My MTV" the 20th best podcast episode of 2015

The Atlantic's list of 2015's top 50 podcasts can be found here

20. “I Want My MTV” by Between the Liner Notes

Finding great indie podcasts can be a head-scratching challenge to listeners combing through the thousands of iTunes offerings. Between the Liner Notes is the succulent fruit of that labor. Taking us from the rough-and-tumble, pre-launch MTV into its iconic 1980s heyday, “I Want My MTV” pinpoints decisive moments that led to the birth of Music Television, with the host Matthew Billy interviewing key players from the network’s origin story. MTV once reigned over youth culture with nothing more than four-minute videos, and now, there’s a great documentary-style podcast  to show for it.

New Music Put the Seal on US Collective Management - The 1709 Blog

This article originally appeared on The 1709 Blog, a blog about copyright. The author is Amanda Harcourt.

Matthew Billy, who hosts a podcast called Between the Liner Notes, contacted the 1709 Blog to inform us about a podcast episode on the turf battles between BMI and ASCAP. Explains Matthew:

"It details the events that led up to the great radio boycott of 1941 and how that event impacted the development of American popular music for the rest of the century. It dives into the history of the 1909 Copyright Act and the resulting Herbert v Shanley Co. Supreme Court case. It also makes clear what the differences between ASCAP and BMI are". 

Fellow copyright enthusiast and 1709 founder-blogger Amanda Harcourt kindly listened to the podcast and has written the following review:

Bills, bars and Bourget

If I had a pound (even a Euro) for every time I have told students the story of the French composer (Ernest Bourget) arguing with the patron of the café concert Ambassadeurs over his bill (as opposed to his public performance fees) and the consequent founding of collective management organisation SACEM, I wouldn’t need to work. It was fun to learn that ASCAP’s foundation was similarly triggered by a row in a bar. What is it with songwriters and composers? Spending inordinate amounts of time in bars seems to be a sine qua non for creation. 

Sidebar: In the mid-1990s, the USA came full circle in this respect – restaurants and bars got their own back with the passing of the US act exempting certain shops, bars and restaurants from paying public performance fees. 

There are similarities. Bourget’s music was being performed at the Paris Opera Comique when the row erupted over the bill. In parallel, , shortly after the founding of ASCAP, the American composer, Victor Herbert challenged the use of his song “Sweetheart” in the fashionable Times Square restaurant Shanleys (where Herbert was dining with Puccini). Composers should thank famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes who delivered the majority opinion (he did not recuse himself , which maybe, as his father made a living from copyright, he should have done). The right to be paid for public performance of a copyright work, was set, in circumstances where those supplying the music did so for profit – a condition that became a key plank in challenges to ASCAP’s desire for fees. 

The podcast coverage of the 1909 Copyright Act is brief but Sharkey, a performing seal, takes centre stage in the story. 

The rise of radio in the US led to case after case being brought by ASCAP, as stations sought to demonstrate they were not using music “for profit”. They also argued they were not broadcasting “music” but that “particles of the air” were being stimulated! They argued they were a “public service” and that they were helping citizens ease their “pain” by distracting them. Fortunately, we have yet to see a variation of those arguments coming from today’s streaming services. ASCAP won in lower courts and the US Supreme Court supported the lower court’s decision. Licence fees were negotiated and, reluctantly, paid by the radio stations. As the profits from radio grew, so ASCAP got bolder and at the end of the 1930s sought to double their radio licence fees. 

The broadcasters looked for a way to challenge what they saw as an abuse of ASCAP’S monopoly power and found what they believed to be the society’s Achilles Heel. ASCAP membership was not open to all – the society had rules about a potential members catalogue size, value and even, whether the works were recent. Most members were white males who wrote Broadway successes or music for Hollywood. They were “skimming the cream” and there were scores (no pun intended) of US songwriters who could not collect. 

BMI is born 

In 1939, at the radio industry’s annual meeting ,the broadcasters founded a new collective management organisation, Broadcast Music Inc or BMI. In what proved to be a key move for the future of music, BMI signed writers of roots music, blues, country, jazz and the aspiring writers ruled too young and unproven to belong to the ASCAP “club”. 

Confident in the quality of their repertoire and sure of their hold on the public’s taste, in 1940 ASCAP put the broadcasters on notice that, if they refused the increased licence fee, they would not be permitted to broadcast the ASCAP catalogue past the end of the year. One radio station in Montana brought felony extortion charges against the President of ASCAP, and he was arrested and jailed in Arizona – though the charges were not pursued. 

As the year and the argument dragged on, fewer and fewer ASCAP songs were being broadcast and by December 1940 radio bandleaders were instructed to stop playing music in the ASCAP catalogue. At midnight on December 31st 1940 the ASCAP licences expired. 

To the astonishment of ASCAP the public were not as upset as ASCAP expected, the new music captured the public’s heart and revenues from the ASCAP songs plummeted . This was a row that, with a PhD in hindsight, by briefly changing the landscape of American music being broadcast, may have fundamentally influenced the country’s public taste and the longer term strength and popularity of the genres added to the BMI repertoire. Maybe even the birth of rock and roll with this change in America’s “collective musical ear”. 

Enter the seal. 

An animal trainer, who had lost all but two of his performing seals in a devastating fire, opened a nightclub in Kingston, New York state. But by the time of the radio boycott he was determined to re-establish himself in the work he loved and built a large seal training facility – a Seal College. The scout for talented “pupils” began and Sharkey was discovered. He was an intelligent pinniped, was trained and learned to play a homemade instrument. Guided by a conductor, Sharkey pressed levers to create the musical notes and “Where the River Shannon Flows” became his standout performance. It was an ASCAP tune. On a national tour in 1941 Sharkey was booked to perform on a radio station in New Orleans. On March 5th, with the boycott still in place, the station contacted the ASCAP lawyers asking for an exception. They refused and the press, instead of the crowd, went wild. 

The public outcry that had failed to materialise with the boycott now kicked in over Sharkey the seal and his heartless Louisiana legal ban. The radio boycott endured for 10 months and by November 1st 1941 a new ASCAP national radio rate was agreed, nearly identical to that which had applied before the radios went silent on ASCAP’s repertoire. But it was 1949 before Sharkey was completely exonerated. Sharkey finally got his chance to perform on the networked Ed Sullivan Show, juggling, playing Frisbee and…..performing “Where the River Shannon Flows”. 

The podcast goes on to explore the flawed membership policies of both societies in a fast changing music landscape. It highlights the link between broadcasters, record labels and the BMI repertoire and ASCAP’S misguided attempts to clip BMI’s wings on anti-trust and collusion grounds. BMI embraced African Americans as members but the integration was limited – publishers would be signed up but often it was left to the publishers’ discretion about whether the songwriters were sharing revenues. ASCAP was slow to recognise the “new” music until the 1960s when new leadership led to a change in policy that ultimately meant that ASCAP and BMI became equivalent – so-called “parity products” – save for the Board composition at the two societies.

The Timbre's Best Podcasts: October 26 - November 1

We were honored to be awarded Honorable Mention in The Timbre's Best Podcasts list for October 26 - November 1 for episode 04: Why Don’t They Let Sharkey on the Radio?

“Why Don’t They Let Sharkey on the Radio?” chooses an unlikely conduit, a musically trained seal, through which to understand a seminal moment in the evolution of radio. Starting in January 1941, broadcasters boycotted an exorbitant raise in song royalties and, by doing so, altered the course of popular music. The episode does an excellent job of drawing out a long chain of events that started with the earliest days of songwriting and then drops you off comfortably in 2015. As a series of audio documentaries on the music industry, Between the Linear Notes is taking shape as a project that burns the midnight oil researching its material. It calls to mind the research put into podcasts like You Must Remember This, Memory Palace, and Lore—lofty company, to be sure. Like those podcasts, BLTN dares to be epic when other franchises are content to skew slice-of-life.

This review was originally posted on The Timbre

The Timbre's List of Best Podcasts for September 28 - October 4

We were very honored to be included in The Timbre's best podcasts list for September 28 - October 4 where they wrote a review of our "I Want My MTV" episode: 

Two months ago, Between the Liner Notes made the transition from interview-style podcast to documentary, and if “I Want My MTV” is the result of that move, it was unquestionably worth the change of direction. The episode is 52-minutes long and unputdownable. There’s something magical about finding this month’s BLTN and wanting to disappear into your headphones for an hour of audio on the birth of MTV. In retrospect, music television was a homerun, a no-brainer to hook teenage coach surfers desperate for music on their cable box. Yet, at the time, MTV was considered a long shot. Everything the network did before launch was a gamble, too. From the gigantic M logo, to trying to woo an uninitiated public towards video, to a desperate appeal to Mick Jagger for a much-needed celebrity endorsement, nothing about MTV was certain, despite its later dominance of the 1980s. “I Want My MTV” is a brilliant way to discover early-era MTV. It’s also an open and shut case for radio documentary.

- Originally posted on TheTimbre.com

Review of "The Tuning Wars" episode on NOLApiano.com

Ryan Peterson, a piano tuner in New Orleans, wrote a review of The Tuning Wars: This text originally appears on Ryan Peterson's website NOLApiano.com

As a follow up to my recent book review of Stuart Isacoff's Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization, I'd like to share a podcast from the folks over at Between the Liner Notes. The episode is called “The Tuning Wars.” In the episode, the host, Matthew Billy, interviews Stuart Isacoff who elaborates on various aspects of the book.

Billy begins with the effect that Temperament had on the public immediately following publication. People across the world lashed out at Isacoff, attacking him via blog posts, tweets, and Amazon reviews. One opponent may have even gone as far as comparing Isacoff's language to that of the Third Reich. To many, the issues discussed in Temperament are far from resolved and these people took Isacoff's claims as an attack on their beliefs.

The most interesting part of the podcast is when a portion of a Bach composition is played with several different tunings and in different keys: first with Pythagorean tuning and in a key that the piece was not intended to be played in, second with Pythagorean tuning and in the key that the piece was intended for, and finally in Equal Temperament.. Here, the listener can actually hear what Isacoff's entire book is dedicated to describing – the “wolf” intervals, the beautiful harmonies, and the compromise between the two. In addition, Billy describes the origin of the word “temperament” and its relation to the system of medicine known as “humorism” common to ancient Greek and Roman societies.

The Catholic Church was fiercely loyal to the Pythagorean tunings. The Church believed that the “godly” whole-number ratios that formed consonant musical intervals were a gift from Christ himself and were not to be tampered with. At one point, there was even a “Battle of the Organs” in which two leading organ-builders with differing opinions on temperament competed for their instruments to be permanently installed in London's Temple Church. Calling it a “battle” is only a slight overstatement, as one side went so far as to sabotage the other's organ the night before the contest.

Many famous names were involved in the battle of Equal Temperament. Galileo's father, Vincenzo Galilei, had a long and bitter dispute about the topic with his teacher Gioseffo Zarlino which often devolved into one attacking the other's character. Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler respectively claimed that the intervals of western music were proportional to the distance between colors in the spectrum of light and between planets in the solar system. Kepler went as far as to attribute male qualities to certain intervals and female qualities to others.

Between the Liner Notes does a fantastic job of expanding on some of the most interesting points from Temperament. I highly recommend listening to the podcast in full and am looking forward to their next episode this coming Monday.

By Ryan Peterson and originally written for his website NOLApiano.com