Donny Hathaway: Smooth Command

Donny Hathaway’s life was tragically short, but in his 33 years on earth, he was able to leave a sound and feel to his music that is still revered today.  Like many great musicians, Hathaway got his music start in the church. Raised in St Louis and Chicago, he began singing in the choir and studying piano at a very young age.  He would later attend Howard University to further his jazz studies. 

 Hathaway began working professionally in the music business as a producer, arranger, and a session musician in the early days.  He was a talented pianist and worked with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, and the Staple Singers before he started his singing career.  Hathaway’s experience working with such talented people set him up for his own success. Hathaway released his first studio album in 1970 titled “Everything Is Everything.”  The album received excellent reviews and put Hathaway in the center of the music scene.  

Hathaway had a smooth, gospel-inspired voice.   His strong command of the music resonated with audiences, and he gained in popularity after the release of his first album.  Two years later he would begin a collaboration that would last for a decade with Roberta Flack. The two recorded many times together and released their first duet album in 1972 titled “Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway.”  The album was a smash hit and was certified Gold. Another collaboration in 1978 titled, “The Closer I Get to You” would go on to be a number one track. Their last compilation was in 1980 with the release of “Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway” which was also certified Gold. 

The tragedy of Hathaway’s story is the difficulty he had working through his mental illness.  He was an incredible musician who had to wrestle with the strain of depression. His depression was enough to require hospitalization for extended periods during his life.  Hathaway ended his own life in 1979. He was only 33 years old. Donny Hathaway’s music still lives on and continues to influence R&B and jazz music today. 

Music Streaming Service Power Shift: Tencent IPO

The Chinese internet behemoth, Tencent Holdings, is about to invade the online music streaming business in the US with a ton of muscle behind them. The music industry has changed dramatically with the popularity of streaming services. Tencent Music Entertainment Group is about to jump into the US market with their IPO. The company is expected to be valued at more than $25 billion, which would make it not only one of the biggest tech IPOs this year but one of the largest ever. Tencent is a massive company with a collection of prosperous apps, including its QQ Music and an online karaoke system that is hugely popular. The company has over 800 million users on its Chinese-based streaming music service and will be the biggest on the block after the IPO is complete.

List of Popular Streaming Services User Amounts Compared to Tencent Music:
1. Spotify – 217 million (56 Million Paid Subscriptions)
2. iHeartRadio – 128 million
3. Pandora – 66 million (6 Million Paid Subscriptions)
4. Apple Music – 56 million (All Paid Subscriptions)
5. Tencent Music’s 800 million-user base in China (28.4 Million Paid Subscriptions)

Tencent Music is a goliath. With so many subsidiaries, the company can put considerable weight behind its decisions to dive into the US market. Tencent also has a slightly different business model then Spotify and other US-born streaming services. The platform is focused on converting free tier members to a paid level by limiting the amount of current hit music that can be heard for free. Tencent also has a popular video streaming service. The company will be able to up-sell other services, such as gaming and streaming video, creating discounted pricing based off bundling. With America’s present level of subscription fatigue, this strategy could give Tencent an edge. If the company’s future plans reflect its present IPO, we can expect to see them shift into the US video streaming service and go up again the likes of Netflix and Amazon. One thing is clear, Tencent will have a tremendous influence on the streaming music business, which, to this point, has been dominated by American companies. This may be a first for a foreign tech company to make such a massive push into the American music market. The company will be able to reach and engage with an unprecedented number of American users. Hopefully, the increased competition at the top will stream down to the end-user with lower prices.

Michael Brigger