Your music is a reflection of who you are, so if you want your music to be a certain way, you have to be that way.
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Friday May 26, 2023
It's time we should be going: David Bowie leaving King's Cross station, London, May 15, 1973.
(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
quote of the day
Your music is a reflection of who you are, so if you want your music to be a certain way, you have to be that way.
- Kamasi Washington, (this is true for so many things besides music, including, for example, newsletter writing)

He was young and a little disheveled. It was the beginning of the millennium and I was working as a news editor at SONICNET, an early (maybe too early) internet music hub that had been acquired by MTV. If memory serves, he was wearing a rumpled gray sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers, and shuffling along the concrete floor of our Park Avenue South loft as someone shepherded him from office to office and desk to desk to meet various people. He was a babyfaced 20something and I thought he might be a new intern—until they got to me and I was told to say hello to the new president of the company. That’s how I met JASON HIRSCHHORN.

Appearances are deceiving. Book, cover, yadda yadda yadda. Clothes don’t make the man. Curiosity and generosity do.

He wasn’t a news guy but he was fascinated by our music news operation and wanted to know exactly how it worked. He was endlessly curious. He was obsessed with musicians—from LIAM to NOEL, from K-CI to JOJO—and equally obsessed with the music business and the people who made it work. He soaked up stories about them and never, ever forgot one. And he looooooved to talk about music. Hip-hop, R&B, rock, dance, anything with a serious groove. We hit it off fast.

Jason was, and is, one of the least snobby music heads I’ve ever met. One of my guiding principles at SonicNet was that BRITNEY SPEARS was every bit as important to her fans as OUTKAST or PJ HARVEY were to theirs and we should cover her and them accordingly, with equal degrees of seriousness. He got that. We bonded over things like that. He became a friend and a kind of personal rabbi to me within the ever-shifting walls and loyalties of MTV Networks, where he eventually became the network’s first chief digital officer, and a zealous protector of our work.

At SonicNet, he maintained the kind of wall around the news operation that editors dream of. At URGE, the MTV streaming music service (speaking of too early) where we reconnected a few years later, he gave my programming/curation team the freedom and space to follow the grooves wherever they led, which was often far to the left or right of what anyone else at 1515 Broadway was programming. He wanted us to go there.

(He also could be a little difficult. To know me is to have heard me complain about him, and I have reason to believe the reverse is true as well. But the complaints are always in search of a common purpose, a common cause, and always end softly. He’s a tough but generous boss and a loyal and generous friend.)

Music Redefined

At every company, there’s someone, usually a random middle manager or comms person, who sends emails to half the building every morning with way too many links for anyone to read. At MTV, it was the chief digital officer. And they were good links, all of them. A couple corporate presidencies and board appointments later—I assume everyone at those companies got daily links from him, too—Jason had his lightbulb moment. Those daily emails could be a job. Maybe even a company. Maybe even one that serves a crucial public need.

There are a lot of ways to describe what we do at REDEF. We curate news and ideas. Jason, who favors music metaphors, likes to say we DJ the news. (It’s no accident that we refer to the collections of stories we share every day as mixes.) We read the internet so you don’t have to. We sift through the noise in search of the signal.

We do this manually, with no algorithms and no particular interest in metrics. (Clicks matter a whole lot less when you don’t have advertising, it turns out.) But there are guidelines and intentions. A REDEF ethic that drives everything we do. For starters, we’ve never thought of ourselves as a news service. More of an idea service. A REDEF news motto: “Not that it happened, but why it happened and what it means.” We share thinkpieces we don’t necessarily agree with and ask questions of our audience. We seek depth and perspective and we seek it from a diversity of voices and a diversity of POVs speaking to a diversity of subjects.

We take great pains to share the original sources of news and ideas—the reporters and sites who’ve done the actual reporting and the original thinking. We make sure the reporting is solid and transparent and the stories are true, which gets harder and harder, and therefore more and more important, with every passing year. We avoid gossip and rumor and remain ever wary of simple lists and other fast-food content. We pore through thousands and thousands of headlines and stories every day and swipe left on most of them. Curation is, in part, cultivation. We don’t share it because it’s there. We share it because we want it to be there.

We think long and hard about how we present the links in our mix. Like DJs, we talk about segues and flow. Which story should follow which story? *Whose* story should follow whose story? We lose sleep over this. It’s worth it.

And for eight and a half years, I’ve been granted nearly total editorial freedom with my writing. The template is Jason’s. The voice is mine. I’ve written about whatever has piqued my own curiosity on any given day, in the hope it will pique your curiosity, too—and maybe, in my perfect world, the industry’s curiosity. I've offered my own history and perspective. I’ve shared my discoveries in real time. I’ve asked questions that I think need to be asked. I’ve ranted. I’ve raved. I’ve been given access to a bully pulpit and I’ve tried to use it wisely and judiciously. If I’ve been lucky, someone has listened once in a while.

Before I give up that pulpit for good, I want to thank the people who’ve made REDEF what it is over those years, starting with the journalists, essayists and storytellers whose work is the very heart of everything we do. So much of our work is literally theirs.

The artists whose stories and music have filled, and inspired, our newsletters.

The entrepreneurs, insiders and outsiders alike, who’ve invited us into their offices and their worlds and helped shape and reshape the way we think about the industry’s problems and challenges.

And my REDEF colleagues past and present: tech guru MARCUS SMITH, right-hand man CARL DAVIS, curators ADAM WRAY, MIKE VORKUNOV and HK MINDY MEISSEN, and, of course, my friend JASON HIRSCHHORN, our founder, CEO, chief curator and sushi pal.

And, finally, our readers. Even those who skip the rantnrave altogether and head straight for the mix. And the ones (I’ve met some of you) who always start with the obituaries. Thank you for every email and DM telling me how right or wrong I am, and every link, and every attempt to nudge me in one direction or the other. I appreciate every note I’ve ever received. They’re part of the curation, too. This is a team effort.

This is officially it for me though, as I mentioned yesterday, I’m going to continue to collaborate with Jason on REDEF’s future and maybe step back in with a thought from time to time. The MusicREDEF newsletter is going on a short hiatus but our Twitter feed will continue while Jason and I search for the right person to pick up the reins.

Ciao for now and thank you for reading!

- Matty Karas, curator
hello, i must be going
The New Yorker
The Untouchable Tina Turner
By Amanda Petrusich
Some people perform music; some people become music.
The New York Times
Tina Turner: Tornado. Treasure. There Was Nobody Like Her
By Wesley Morris
She enthralled the masses like she was a wonder of the world, bringing her singular electricity to songs about survival, freedom and bravery. It’s hard to believe she’s gone.
NPR Music
'He gon' get these beats 'n' rhymes'
By Rodney Carmichael
How young is too young to talk to your kids about rap? For a Louder co-host, the arrival of a Biggie-loving toddler changed everything about how he hears hip-hop - especially women's place within it.
For d4vd, Making Sad Music for 'Fortnite' Compilations Turned Into Full-Blown Stardom
By Julie Fenwick
d4vd found fame on Soundcloud and TikTok with songs like "Here With Me" and "Romantic Homicide".
Music Business Worldwide
‘We must make life fair for creators, or we will lose the next Paul McCartney’
By Björn Ulvaeus
CISAC President Bjorn Ulvaeus looks ahead to next week’s CISAC General Assembly in Mexico.
The State of Music (with Will Page)
By Dan Runcie and Will Page
Author, economist, and industry thought leader Will Page's latest report discusses the impact of glocalization: creating products for global markets that bring local cultures together. Today’s Trapital episode is our breakdown on the state of the music industry.
FACT Magazine
Interview: Holly Herndon & Mat Dryhurst
By Scott Wilson
The solo artists and collaborators, whose work is often concerned with the effects of disruptive technologies, discuss AI art and digital sovereignty.
Austin Chronicle
Daniel, Kurt, and Jeremiah: Why 'Hi, How Are You' Matters
By Joe Gross
Austin's most famous mural is a case study in art preservation and cultural impact.
5 Magazine
Beyond Heaven: Discovering the hidden history of Chicago house music through flyer art
By Terry Matthew
In Beyond Heaven, Mario Luna and publisher Brandon Johnson collect artwork from more than a decade of Chicago house music history, from the early days of legendary pioneers to lost icons of dance music.
Styles P is working to make hip-hop, and Black communities, healthier
By William E. Ketchum III
The legendary member of The Lox is on a mission to help our communities heal.
ev'ry time we say goodbye
Music Business Worldwide
There are now 120,000 new tracks hitting music streaming services each day
By Murray Stassen
A total of 10.08 million new songs uploaded to the likes of Spotify, YouTube Music and other music streaming services in the first three months of the year alone.
How Hip-Hop Podcast 'Louder Than A Riot' Cuts Through The Digital Noise
By Gary Suarez
As legacy music/culture media outlets shrink, wither, and fold at an alarming rate, podcasting has arguably emerged the primary, or at least the preferred medium for covering hip-hop and rap music today.
The Tennessean
Tina Turner's country music legacy
By Marcus K. Dowling
The now deceased soul icon made significant mid-70s forays into country music that could've expanded her career into the genre.
Alternative Press
How boygenius are breaking big
By Ilana Kaplan
On a mid-April evening three nights before they’d play their first Coachella, boygenius cruised down the I-10 to a soundtrack of Neutral Milk Hotel’s acclaimed album "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea." The song lyrics returned to the trio, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, like muscle memory.
Los Angeles Times
After two 'catastrophic' years for Broadway, have the Tonys become too big to fail?
By Ashley Lee
The threat to this year's Tonys underscored their sway over the industry. Some say making them the 'be-all, end-all' of shows' survival is risky business.
DJ Mag
How RP Boo’s footwork classic ‘Baby Come On’ changed Chicago dancefloors forever
By Bruce Tantum
When he sat down in 1997 to produce a track for the Chicago dance battles that he was DJing at, RP Boo had little thought of helping to forge a new genre of music. But his Ol’ Dirty Bastard–sampling ‘Baby Come On’ did more than challenge dancers — it helped bring footwork into existence.
Music Industry Moves: Matty Karas Stepping Down From MusicREDEF
By Jem Aswad and Thania Garcia
Matty Karas, editor of the popular MusicREDEF website and newsletter since 2014 and a veteran music and music-industry reporter and critic, is stepping down from his post on Friday.
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Music of the day
“Gone, Gone / Thank You”
Tyler, the Creator
Video of the day
“The Last Waltz”
Martin Scorsese
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“REDEF is dedicated to my mother, who nurtured and encouraged my interest in everything and slightly regrets the day she taught me to always ask ‘why?’”
Jason Hirschhorn
CEO & Chief Curator
Redef Group Inc.
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