The Civil Wars & the Future of Music

It seems everywhere you look these days there’s a reason to lose hope. One day the economy is improving, the next day it’s spiraling downward. From bookseller giants to the post office, many are cutting back or doing less. And the music industry is no exception.

On the heels of what was a sluggish year in music sales worldwide, it's exciting to see a duo that met a couple years ago at songwriting camp rising to the top.

Last June I had the honor of speaking with the Civil Wars (comprised of Joy Williams and John Paul White) for the inaugural issue of Variance. Eight months later, everyone from USA Today to Vanity Fair is raving about the Civil Wars. One publication called them "the best of what's next." Adding them to her iTunes playlist, Taylor Swift said, "I think this is my favorite duet." And earlier this month, Jay Leno welcomed the pair to the Tonight Show for a bone-chilling debut performance that sent Twitter abuzz.

As Williams and White prepare to light up the Sundance Festival this weekend, I can't help but think of how inspiring a story these two have become. In an industry marked recently by a stream of bad news and increasing obstacles for "do-it-yourself" musicians, the Civil Wars are a breath of fresh air.

From the beginning, they have functioned outside of the box. Having previously fostered solo careers, they know how the industry works (or how it used to work). White admitted, "we’re trying to approach this differently—not being afraid to take chances."

Instead of going the traditional routes, they recorded a live EP (of their second performance ever) at Eddie's Attic in Nashville and gave it away for free online. They made a connection that resulted in having their music on ABC's Grey's Anatomy. They quietly built up a devoted fan base through unconventional means. And by the time their debut--that's right, their first--album drops on Tuesday, February 1, thousands of fans will be eagerly waiting to click "buy" or open up their vinyl record of Barton Hollow.

Yes, the Civil Wars are a melting pot of music styles and brilliantly-blended vocals that send chills down your spine. And yes, they embody everything great about the spirit of Nashville and the power of the American dream. But in my opinion, Joy Williams and John Paul White are even greater examples of something truly rare among their peers--a great work ethic and a commitment to doing the right thing.

"You don’t make relationships so you can ingratiate yourself to get something," said Williams. "But if you treat people right, you never know what can happen."

Speaking with the duo last summer, those words stood out to me. And less than a year later, it's evident those words--those values--are the cornerstone of the Civil Wars' career.

As the music industry struggles to figure out what comes next, music sales won't sustain careers. If you're not performing live (over and over again), building genuine relationships, and working hard for yourself, it's going to be tough. But if you need any amount of inspiration, look to the Civil Wars. And keep your eye on them this year, because they--along with others, of course--are the future. And the future looks very bright.

Make sure to get the debut album "Barton Hallow" Tuesday and check out our original interview with the Civil Wars.

The Variance Yearly Mashup

Whether you whipped your hair back and forth or not this year, you're sure to find something of interest in our 2010 MashUp (which takes the place of this week's regular MashUp). From Betty White to the Black Keys to Double Rainbows, it was an interesting year as the Internet became one big melting pot of information and content. Where as in just a few years ago the web would "report" the year's happenings, now the web creates much of those happenings. And we've tried to compile just a portion of what made 2010 a great and memorable year!

If we missed something you feel was important, please let us know. And check out the new issue of Variance on January 1!

Here is your MashUp for the week ending year 2010:


Top Companies That Crumbled in 2010
Hummer, Blockbuster, MGM, Newsweek, (more...)

Top Gadgets of 2010
Apple iPad, iPhone 4, Microsoft Kinect, Nook, (more...)

Top-Grossing Films of 2010
Twilight: Eclipse, Toy Story 3, Inception, (more...)

Top Billboard Stories of 2010
Artist of the Year: Lady Gaga (more...)
Top Albums: Eminem, Taylor Swift, Sade, Kanye West, Lady Antebellum (more...)
Billboard Launches Social 50 Chart (more...)

Top Viral Ads of 2010
Axe, Nike, Google, Old Spice, Domino's (more...)

...The Year of Betty White
...The Year of the iPad (more...)
...The Year of Billionaire Donations (more...)
...The Year of the Oil Spill (more...)
...The Year of Mark Zuckerberg (more...)

The Weekly Mashup

The day has finally arrived. It's Saturday, December 25, 2010. Hopefully you're reading this between family time and feasting.

If you didn't catch the week's headlines for obvious reasons, you need not worry! Just because you were waiting in enormous shopping--or airport security--lines, doesn't mean you have to be out of the loop!

Of course, there was drama. Since last Saturday, news of a shakeup within the band Paramore has remained a constant headline for fans and critics. But the music industry has had plenty else going on this week as well. Sony made a stunning move against Apple's iTunes and Michael Jackson's new album was unable to nab the top spot this week, while the FCC's new rules had industry leaders on edge.

There was, however, plenty of good to go around this week. And that's great, considering the time of year! Twitter trending topics were dominated by talk of lights in the sky as an early morning lunar eclipse grabbed our attention for nearly two hours. News of "secret Santas" spreading holiday cheer with anonymous donations and $20 tips to a UPS delivery man also made the week worth writing home about.

This week Wendell Smith, the founding pastor of City Church in Seattle and a leader among Evangelicals, died after a six-year battle with cancer. His son Judah Smith, who had assumed pastoral duties at City Church, called him "My Hero, My Pastor, My Role Model, My Dad and My Best Friend" in a tweet following his passing.

However you celebrate this holiday season, we wish you all the best. May it be filled with blessings and enjoyable moments with loved ones. Please note that next Thursday, December 30, we will reveal our Yearly MashUp for 2010--featuring a combination of all the year's greatest headlines, stories, videos, along with contributions from YOU and some of our staff. Then on January 1, 2011, start the year off right with the newest issue of Variance Magazine.

Here's the MashUp for the week ending December 25, 2010:

Secret Santa Strikes Salvation Army with $100,000...Again

>>RELATED: Christmas Cheer in $100 Bills

UPS Delivery Man: Thanks to Customer Who Tipped $20 on Rainy Dec. 24

Sony Launches iTunes Competitor in "Music Unlimited"

The Paramore Split: It's Getting Ugly

Steve Jobs Accused of Discriminating Against Christians

FCC Net Neutrality Rules Spark Debate
>>RELATED: FCC Tampering with Comcast-NBC Merger?

Pat Robertson "Pro-Marijuana?" Statement Causes Stir

New Jackson Album Sells 3 Million, First Non-#1 Debut Since 1982

City Church Founding Pastor Wendell Smith, 60, Dies After Cancer Battle

Rare Lunar Eclipse Occurs on Winter Solstice (VIDEO)

Lauryn Hill Returns to Spotlight, Announces New Tour

Twilight's Jackson Rathbone Starting Record Label

Facebook Second-Largest Driver of Video Traffic (Behind Google)

Indie Music Group Supports Seizing Blog Domain Names

Apple Helps Preserve Native American Language

"New" Sufjan Tunes Debut Featuring Members of National/Arcade Fire

The Weekly Mashup

It's been a busy week. The holiday season is in full swing and most people can hardly keep up. So, allow us to get you up to speed on what you missed while you braving the malls, crawling up the attic to get the Christmas lights, or working overtime to prepare for a chaotic time of year.

Everyone in the music industry is tallying up scores to figure out who broke records and who topped special lists in 2010. For starters, Eminem had the top-selling album on iTunes--although Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" surpassed every other song in downloads this year. Katy Perry saw three of her new tracks skyrocket to Number One on Billboard's Hot 100--an accomplishment not seen by a female artist in over 11 years.

While most mainstream artists (including the Black Eyed Peas, whose new album squeaked out a #6 debut) were focused on selling records, multi-platinum Christian group Jars of Clay were changing lives. They finally completed their "1,000 Wells" project, having supplied clean water for over 700,000 people in South Africa. And they weren't the only ones taking steps to help others. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the Christian billionaire founder of Hobby Lobby stores joined Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in donating the majority of their fortune to charity. Sarah Palin and Evangelist Franklin Graham also made a major trip to Haiti this week and San Diego's The Rock Church gave away 10,000 toys and over 60,000 pounds of food to the needy for the holidays.

Editor's Note: Due the transition into 2011 taking place on a weekend, the final MashUp of the year will be posted on Thursday, December 30, 2010. It will cover the week's events, along with a reflection on the year. The new issue of Variance goes live on Saturday, January 1, 2011.

Here's a look at the MashUp for the week ending December 11, 2010:

Michael Jackson, Akon "Hold My Hand" Music Video Unveiled

"Hey, Soul Sister" iTune's Top-Selling Song of 2010

Jars of Clay Complete 1,000 Wells Project, 700K Have Clean Water

Auburn's Cam Newton Wins 2010 Heisman

Facebook Bullies Arrested!
RELATED: Facebook Gets a Makeover

Google Introduces Long-Awaited E-Bookstore

iTunes Offering 90-Second Song Previews

Katy Perry First Female in 11 Years to Reach Billboard Benchmark

The Black Eyed Peas Hijack MySpace
RELATED: Peas Debut at #6, Kanye Drops 78% to #7

Netflix to Stream Disney-ABC Reruns

Sarah Palin Heads to Haiti with Evangelist Franklin Graham

Mark Zuckerberg to Donate Fortune to Charity
RELATED: Christian Billionaire Giving Away Majority of Wealth

San Diego Megachurch Giving Away Toys, 60k Lbs of Food for Christmas

Blockbuster Once Laughed at Idea of Netflix Partnership

Borders Reports $74.4 Million Loss in 3rd Quarter

Creators of "Fireproof" Announce New Film on Fatherhood

Bon Jovi Top Touring Act of 2010

8% of Americans on Twitter

Latin Music Edging to Crossover into Mainstream

Church "iBand" Performs Christmas Carols Entirely on iPads, iPhones

The Weekly Mashup

It's the weekend before Christmas.

Amid the hustle and bustle, life goes on. And in case you've been too distracted this week to check the latest headlines, we've taken care of that for you.

From Pepto Bismol to Pink Floyd, this week's MashUp is full of more "signs of the times" as digital media and social networking continue to influence the way society functions outside of breathing.

Editor's Note: There will be a MashUp next week (Christmas weekend) followed by the final MashUp for 2010 on Thursday, December 30, which will be our Year in Review. The new issue of Variance Magazine goes LIVE on January 1, 2011.

Here's your MashUp for the week ending December 19, 2010:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is TIME's Person of the Year

RELATED: "Social Network Christmas" Video Spreads Across Web

Billboard London Closing Its Doors

Facebook Enters E-mail Game (VIDEO)

Yahoo! Cuts 600 Jobs

Larry King Concludes 25 Years of Television

Barnes & Noble and Borders Go Head-to-Head This Christmas

Ciara: Touring More Important Than Record Sales

George W. Bush: Religion is Not Course in Self-Improvement

Don't Ask, Don't Tell Military Law Repealed

Pepto Follows Old Spice, Cuts Traditional Ads in Favor of Digital Media

Dr. Dre Teams With Social Gaming Developing to Promote Album

Pink Floyd Wins Case: Albums Only, No Individual Tracks

YouTubes Seeks to Buy Next New Networks, Become Production Co.
RELATED: YouTube Allows Users to Flag Terrorism Videos

168 Hours to Create Film Masterpiece

Myspace Debuts New Tools for Bands

Oops! Facebook Taken Down After Upcoming Features Leak

Hotmail Unveils New Interactive E-mail

Bible Translators Aim to Close Language Gap

Apple Pushes Color E-Books

The Weekly Mashup

The Grammy nominations are in, and with that comes a big week of music news!

Eminem, Bruno Mars, and Lady Antebellum snagged some of the biggest nominations at this week's primetime Grammy announcement. Billboard revealed another sign of the times with its new "Social 50" chart, which rates artists based on social media rankings. The queen of pop Britney Spears announced an upcoming album and Entertainment Weekly's Entertainer of the Year Taylor Swift made a surprise announcement regarding her next tour opener.

It was also announced that file sharing giant LimeWire will shut down at the end of the year, marking the close of a very bitter fight over copyright laws and the open web. Keep in mind, it's the end of a battle but the war wages on.

For everything you missed, scroll down and check out the week's headlines.

This is your MashUp for the week ending December 4, 2010:

Eminem Nabs 10 Grammy Nominations
RELATED: Indie Music = Half of Grammy Nods Grammy Nominees for Gospel

LimeWire to Shut Down Dec. 31

Google Can't Get Groupon, What It Means
RELATED: Google's New Social Project "+1"

Billboard Launches "Social 50" Chart

Celebs Remain Digitally "Dead" as Charity Stunt Flops
RELATED: Seacrest Inks 60 Million Dollar Deal

PayPal Shuts Out WikiLeaks

Britney Spears Tweets of New Album on Her Birthday

Taylor Swift Taps Christian Pop-Rock Band Needtobreathe for Tour

Convicted Killer Posts Facebook Pics in Okla. Prison
RELATED: Seattle Police Using Twitter to Curb Auto Theft

Microsoft Looks to Replace Cable Boxes
RELATED: Angry Birds Coming to Wii, PS3, XBox

YouTube Picks Top Videos of 2010 YouTube's New Skippable Ads

You Never Know Who's on Twitter This Week's Top Twitter Trends

Jewish Band Turns Pop Hot Into Web Smash (VIDEO)

One Click File Sharing Goes Live

Homeland Security Shuts Down Popular Rap Sites

The Band Chicago Back in Studio

Montell Jordan Quits Music to Become Pastor

The Weekly Mashup

In this final week before the 2010 "holiday season" officially begins, there was plenty going on! But if you happen to have missed some of the top stories, don't worry because we've got you covered!

The media couldn't stop talking about the TSA's changes in airport security checks. Blake Griffin shocked fans, commentators, colleagues, and the blogosphere with some crazy moves on the court. And Steve Jobs checked another item off his bucket list this week as the Beatles' entire catalog became available on iTunes.

Meanwhile, the tech world dominated headlines--as usual--with announcements of new features (Amazon's MP3 gifting), new partnerships (Myspace + Facebook), new battles (Facebook v. Google), and new services (Apple + News Corp = iPad Newspaper).

This coming week is a short one. We hope you'll be spending time with loved ones and enjoying some great food. Happy [early] Thanksgiving!

This is your MashUp of all the news you may have missed for the week ending November 21, 2010:

RIAA Continues Crackdown on LimeWire

Blake Griffin Stuns NBA World with Dunkfest

New Harry Potter Film Tops Box Office, Outperforms Previous Sequels

Touched by TSA? Win an iPod

Windows Celebrates 25 Years

Facebook Wants to Be Your Homepage

Boy Publicly Strip Searched by TSA

The Beatles Available on iTunes; Web is Apathetic

TSA Search Leaves Traveler Covered in Urine

Myspace Mashup "Connects" with Facebook

Amazon Introduces MP3 Gifting Feature

Christian Commentator Blasts Medal of Honor as "Feminized"

Apple to Offer Free MobileMe?

Debt Collectors Stop Calling, Start Facebook-Stalking

Hulu Officially Launches Paid Service

Sufjan Stevens Changes Mind, Performs Jimmy Fallon

Groupon Could Be Most Expensive Purchase for Google

EMusic Adds Major Labels, Higher Price Tiers

Start-up Introduces Technology to "Create Studio-Quality Music"

Google Publishes Its Own eBook

Murdoch Plans iPad "Newspaper" in 2011

Facebook v. Google Heats Up: Facebook Removes Gmail Import

Fox Moves American Idol to Wednesdays & Thursdays

Sarah Palin's Made-Up Word Added to Dictionary

Prince William is Engaged

The Weekly Mashup

It has been a whirlwind of a week in news.

Conan O'Brien and George W. Bush both made a massive resurgence this week on television. Music greats of the past (Michael Jackson, Amy Grant) were back in the news. 4,500 people landed safely in San Diego after being stranded for days on a cruise ship without power. And Facebook dominated the blogosphere conversation this week.

Speaking of social media, the power of Web 2.0 was once again in full operation as word spread of Christian missionary Asia Bibi's recent sentence to death (for "blasphemy") in Pakistan. From John Bevere to the Huffington Post and CNN, many are rallying to save this woman's life.

Here's the MashUp for the week ending November 12, 2010:

Conan Returns to TV

Amazon Pulls Pedophile's Book After Uproar

Paisley Finally Wins CMA's Entertainer, Paltrow Goes Country

1 Billion Music Downloads Forecast by 2014

Toys R Us Opening at 10pm Thanksgiving Night

Christian Woman Sentenced to Death in Pakistan for Blasphemy

Windows Phone 7 Devices Make Debut

No More Drunk Posts on Facebook

George W. Bush Back in Spotlight with New Memoir

Yahoo! Pushes Back Against Layoff Rumors, Doesn't Deny Them

Kanye Cancels Performance Because of Feud with Matt Lauer

Amazon Tries to Make Good with Newspapers, Magazines

Ping Connects with Twitter

Focus on the Family to Sponsor Discussion Over Homosexuality

E-book Readers: Better, Cheaper

Facebook Won't Share with Google

Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith Launching 2011 Tour Together

Facebook Post Leads to Firing, Stirs Debate, Prompts Labor Board to Respond

Americans Now Stream as Much as They Download

Google Gives Millions in Raises to Keep Staff From Leaving for Competitors

Michael Jackson Releases New Single with Akon

Stranded Cruise Ship Arrives in San Diego

The Weekly Mashup

As if you needed reminding, your city's major intersections are a lot cleaner and you're probably seeing more Old Spice and eTrade baby commercials--because the 2010 elections have come and gone.

This week was also great for the music industry. Lil Wayne was released from jail. But more importantly, Taylor Swift surpassed 1 million copies of her new album sold in one week. (It's been five years since an artist reached such a benchmark.) By comparison, this year's hit-makers Katy Perry and Eminem sold 192,000 and 741,000 copies, respectively, in their first week this year. Swift sold 1,047,000 last week.

Also in the news this week, Reverend Billy Graham has turned 92. One of most respected and well-known evangelists of the 20th century, Graham says he still has a sermon in his heart.

Here's what you missed for the week ending November 7, 2010:


Weezy is Out of Jail

Billy Graham is 92, Still Has Sermon in His Heart

Microsoft Kinect Goes Live

Justin Bieber the Author?

Kids' Book Prizes to Include Gay, Lesbian Awards

Did Democrats Fail to Reach Religious Voters?

Twitter Ads Becoming More Prominent

Hello, 3D Phones

Michael Jackson Releasing New Album Next Month

T-Mobile Blames Poor Performance on iPhone

Good Charlotte Releases New Album

Idol's Jason Castro Releases New Album to Christian Market

Google Instant Now on iPhone, Droid

Borders Teams Up with Build-a-Bear for Holiday Charity Drive

MGM Files for Bankruptcy

Rolling Stone: 127 Hours A Must-See

Live Nation 2010 Summer Concert Sales Down

Free MP3 Download from Cahn & Yang

Singer Lily Allen in Hospital for Blood-Poisoning

Twitter Following Predicts 2010 Governor Wins

The Weekly Mashup

After a week of dirty politics, costume hunting, and attempted terror plots, hopefully your weekend plans consist of nothing more than relaxing and having fun.

If you're like the rest of America, Tuesday cannot come any faster. Thank God for DVR; otherwise, watching Modern Family with 50 political ads might be somewhat painful. Thankfully, Halloween is Sunday and hopefully you've got your Snooki hair pouf or your Lady Gaga meat dress in tact.

In case you missed the week's news, we've got you covered. You may have heard already, but Celine Dion gave birth to twins, Scott Tissue debuted its new TUBELESS TOILET PAPER, and there's now 3G service atop Mount Everest (because the first thing you want to do when you reach the top of Mount Everest is get on Twitter).

Here is the MashUp for the week ending October 30, 2010:

Sony Music Cuts Staff

Russell Brand Gives Katy Perry Tiger for Wedding

Barnes & Noble Nook E-Reader in Color

Chris Hughes: In 5 Years It Will All Be "Social"

Myspace Unveils New Look & Logo

Tubeless Toilet Paper Makes Debut

Buy Candy with PayPal, Phone, & Twitter

LCD vs. E-Ink: Eye-Strain Debate

Celine Dion Gives Birth to Twins

Facebook, PayPal Join Forces

Facebook Introduces Friendship Pages

Mount Everest [Finally!] Gets 3G

PETA Offers to Foot Lohan's Rehab Bill

Bullock, Winfrey, & Streep to Star in New Film

TJ Lavin Out of Coma

Snooki, Lady Gaga Top 2010 Costumes

Apolo Ohno Tells His Story

Court Orders LimeWire to "Disable Software"

Tell Variance: What are Your 2011 Goals?

Let's face it. The "holiday season" unofficially begins this week. In just a few short weeks, we'll welcome a new year. Have you thought about your 2011 new year's resolutions? What are they? What do you think your chances are of sticking to your goals? Feel free to share. Your thoughts might be featured in the upcoming issue of Variance. :)

Hello, Halloween

It's that time of year again! Yes, the World Series. And Halloween. What are you dressing up as this year? Do you have any favorite traditions? What are you looking forward to about October 31st? You have three days left to plan that awesome costume...Good luck!

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