Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's with Springsteen

Happy New Year. I haven't spent very many New Year Eve's listening to live music. As an intern at MTV, I had to work the New Year's Rocking Eves which wound up being a lot of fun. When I was in college, my friend Dino was obsessed with Bruce Springsteen. He must have told me a hundred times that seeing Springsteen live would change my life. I went to school at Fordham in the Bronx. It seemed like every mixer ended with guys jumping in the air to Rosalita. FU was Boss Town.

Dino got tickets for The River tour, which landed at the Nassau Coliseum on New Year's Eve 1980. I have a great memory of Bruce singing In The Midnight Hour, the Wilson Pickett song. I've since seen Springsteen several times: Giant Stadium, Shea Stadium, The Garden, etc. He is a performer! He plays for his audience and he plays for himself. If he doesn't love his job, he is the greatest actor.

Springsteen's latest musical offerings have been downright good. Magic is a great album filled with great songs. His latest single, Working On A Dream is another great song. Lately it's hard to find great songs, so I don't use the term lightly. When In the Midnight Hour was a hit, (much to my surprise it peaked at only #21 in August of '65) great songs were all over radio. Just a sample of what would have been playing on WABC-AM: California Girls, Help!, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Down in the Boondocks and For Your Love. It's a comfort to know that Bruce is writing songs that are as valid as the ones he played on that New Year's Eve in 1980.

RIP: Freddie Hubbard

Jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, who played with legends such as John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey and Herbie Hancock, died Dec. 29 in Sherman Oaks, CA. He was 70 years old and had suffered a heart attack a month ago.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Juliet Ashton, a writer from London, wrote a much needed light-hearted newspaper column under the name Izzy Bickerstaff during WW ll. Her writings were later published as a much read book. While looking for her next subject, she receives a letter from a native of Guernsey, the Channel Island that was occupied by the Germans during the War. The inhabitants were cut off from society: no radios, they lived on turnip soup and without spoiling anything, they formed the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society to cope with life.

This novel depicts life for Juliet and the islanders via letters. It can be read in short spurts as letters are no longer than 3 pages. You will want to read more than one letter at a time. The story is both entertaining, witty and a history lesson. Mary Ann Shaffer, an editor and librarian wrote this book with her niece, Annie Burrows, a childrens book author. Mary Ann's health failed while she was writing the book which caused her to have Annie assist in finishing the book. Unfortunately she did not live to see the book published. She was inspired to write this book after a visit to Guernsey. There is a memorial fund set up in her name to assist female authors.

Guernsey is a very clever book and self effacing - which makes it a delight. Since it's set in England I'm giving myself license to call it a delight. (Regression: Wasn't there a line in Wuthering Heights, where marriage is accepted because "he's handsome and a delight to be with"?) The words flow. The characters are well developed. The setting is well-established. You'll want to believe these are real people and you'll want to spend time with them. This work is heartfelt and enjoyable.

Friday, December 26, 2008

RIP: Bud Prager, Earth Kitt

Bud Prager was one of the classic old school managers. He was once quoted as saying Foreigner is Mick and Me. He passed away this week in Montauk LI after a battle with cancer. Besides Foreigner, his other clients included Leslie West, Cream and Felix Papalardi.

Earth Kitt is always present at Christmastime. Her rendition of Santa Baby is legendary. My first memory of her was as Catwoman. I was a die hard Batman fan and her purrrrrr was much more intense than Julie Newmar's or Lee Merriweather's film version of Catwoman. The part seem to be hers. Moving into her aunt's abusive household in Harlem at age 8, she learned how to be tough and outspoken. The Times recalled her visit to the Johnson White House:

In 1968 she was invited to a White House luncheon and was asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. She replied: “You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot.” The remark reportedly caused Mrs. Johnson to burst into tears and led to a derailment in Ms. Kitt’s career.

She was 81.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Long Tail Theory Questioned

According to a piece in the UK's Timesonline,
173,000 of the 1.23M albums available sold at least 1 copy last year
That means 85% of albums did move a single copy all year.
80% of of all single track sales revenue came from 52,000 tracks

The article states:

The idea that niche markets were the key to the future for Internet sellers was described as one of the most important economic models of the 21st century when it was spelt out by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail in 2006. He used data from an American online music retailer to predict that the Internet economy would shift from a relatively small number of “hits” - mainstream products - at the head of the demand curve toward a “huge number of niches in the tail”.

However, a new study by Will Page, chief economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, the not-for-profit royalty collection society, suggests that the niche market is not an untapped goldmine and that online sales success still relies on big hits. They found that, for the online singles market, 80 per cent of all revenue came from around 52,000 tracks. For albums, the figures were even more stark. Of the 1.23 million available, only 173,000 were ever bought, meaning 85 per cent did not sell a single copy all year.

I would love a more in depth look at the study. As for the 85% who didn't sell one copy are they making a living with their music? Did they give it away free and not make it available for sale. If no one bought a copy how did Will Page know the record existed? Do these acts have a profitable touring history?

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Live Nation Deals: Where Are They Now?

The following AP release is very telling. Apparently U2 has cashed in their stock options on their Live Nation deal. This happens before they have performed one show under the new contract. See piece below:

U2 Divests LN Stock - Promoter Takes A Hit
Posted: December 18, 2008
Irish rock band U2 made a killing in the stock market after they moved to sell the 1,556,386 shares in Live Nation stock. U2 acquired the shares as part of the 12-year 360 deal they signed with Live Nation in March of 2008.
At the time, the company touted the stock holding as evidence of the band's faith in the business model. As a part of the agreement, Live Nation guaranteed that the band would receive at least $25 million for the stock. Unfortunately for Live Nation, their share price has dipped precipitously in recent months and company's shares were trading at $3.80, clearing just under 6 million, leaving the promoter holding the bag for the remaining $19 million.

Despite the sale, the U2's manager took pains to restate the band's commitment to the pact. "We're very much in business with [Live Nation] and we're planning to tour in 2009." Paul McGuinness, the band's manager told the Wall Street Journal.

U2's deal with Live Nation has yet to be very profitable for the promoter as the band hasn't toured since 2006. The Irish rockers have stated that they plan to release an album next year with aforementioned tour to follow and the band has a proven track record of moving tickets so it remains very likely that Live Nation will still post a profit from the U2 deal in the long-term.

Unfortunately, however the other shoe may be ready to drop for the promoter in April, as Madonna becomes eligible to sell the $25 million in stock holdings she acquired from her own 360 agreement with Live Nation. Unlike U2 however, Madonna has been an earner this year, pulling in more than $120 million (and counting) from her "Sticky & Sweet" tour.

Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino tried to offer some perspective to the sale, noting to the WSJ that "Madonna and U2 are the only two deals that did contain this provision. The Madonna business is great, and we look forward to monetizing our investment in U2 next year."

At time of publication, Live Nation's shares were trading slightly higher at $4.07.

DejaVu All Over Again: WMG Battles YouTube

Unable to renegotiate the share of ad revenue it sought, Warner Music Group has pulled all of its content from YouTube. Affected are thousands of songs and artists from WMG's extensive recording catalog, as well as, those published by Warner/Chappell Music who may not record for the company.

Read the full article at

Friday, December 19, 2008

RIAA to Stop Suing Internet Pirates

The RIAA realized that suing individuals who traded music over the Internet, was not the way to go. They have decided to cease suing. According to a WSJ article today, the RIAA opened legal proceedings against approximately 35,000 people since 2003. They are now making deals with Internet Service Providers that will warn their users that they are in violation, rather than having to ask the ISP to divulge the name of the user.

The whole campaign seemed ill advised from the beginning. What did they have to gain from suing a 13 year old girl? Possibly using her as an example, but it wasn't a deterrent. The major labels have been band-aiding situations for years and it is no surprise that they are in bad shape. If they had embraced the technology, put out quality product and engaged the fan, none of this would be happening. Maybe the RIAA should hire Stephanie Meyer as a consultant. She has done all of the above. According to boxofficemojo, the film version of her book Twilight has a domestic total sales of $152,320,664, as of 12/17. Her series of books have sold over 25 million copies. Her latest release, Breaking Dawn, shipped 3.7 million copies with 1.7 of of them being sold on the first day of release. When was the last time an album did that?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Saved By Zero Kills

Apparently I'm not the only one who couldn't get to the remote fast enough every time the car commercial using The Fixx song Saved By Zero came on. Here is a parody of the commercial and the movie The Ring.

It doesn't get much more annoying than that commercial. The Marketing With Meaning Blog has a great piece about the protests annoying commercials have created. There is a Facebook group called Stop Playing Toyota’s “Saved By Zero” Commercial. It has 9300 friends. Music when used well can be one of the greatest ways to market a product. Apple usually hits the mark. As much as people hate this commercial, I have seen more written about it than any other ad in recent memory. The questions remains to be answered: Does this turn the consumer sour on your brand for life?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Insomnia Jeopardy

I'm posting this New Yorker Cartoon because it's that good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jack Black to Star in Heavy Metal Video Game

Reported on

Brutal Legend is described as a third-person Action/Adventure title with Jack Black starring in the role of roadie Eddie Riggs. After being thrown back through time, Riggs uses his knowledge of Heavy Metal music to free an oppressed people and usher in the Age of Metal.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's All About the Apps

Music Apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch are getting a lot of press these days. Nine Inch Nails who always seem to be at the forefront of technology, released one in September. Weezer just put out Christmas with Weezer. Behind most of these apps is Tapulous. They are the creators of Tap Tap Revenge which is the all-time most popular game for the iPhone. I downloaded it today. The first track I got was Nick Galliant-a cross between Earth Wind and Fire and Nick Gilder. With the exception of Weezer's We Wish You a Merry Christmas, I was unfamiliar with the artists. This is the free version of the game. I could have paid $5 for the full Christmas with Weezer. The blog at mentioned the apps as an additional source of income for musicians. This article focuses more on gadgets and games such as rock band. Apps are a great way for fans to stay in touch with what's going on with their favorite artists. Matt Kozlov of Sony/BMG introduced me to the Pink app, Pink's Funhouse. There is music, news, bio and of course lots of photos. Expect a powerhouse app in advance of The Fray's new album.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Discovering New Music While Getting Your Haircut

Radio isn't quite what it used to be for discovering new music. I keep reading that listenership is up, but advertising is down. I'm guessing that Talk Radio is leading the way. I don't know many people who turn on the radio to hear music. People are becoming their own radio stations. iMixes on iTunes are a great example of that. I've known Gabrielle Trujillo and Jeffrey Fernandez, the owners of Sparkle Beauty Studio for over 10 years. Not only will you get an amazing haircut from them, but you will be treated like a king/queen and will be turned on to some great new music. Music is Gabriel's passion and he's an informed and intuitive "DJ". Each month he posts an iMix which is a seamless bounty of new music. He removes it when the month is up and posts a new one. This month I was introduced to Ohm-G & Bruno, McFly and Augustana. Gabriel's iMixes are a great way to catch up on new music if you don't have the time to jump from Internet radio to terrestrial to satellite.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Filming Without Casting a Leading Actress

On this day in 1938, filming began on the epic film Gone With The Wind. The producer David O Selznick had not yet cast an actress to play Scarlett O'Hara. Can you imagine a studio today green lighting a project without a principal actor cast? Needless to say the first scene shot was the burning of Atlanta which didn't require Scarlett's participation. Ironically, that was also the day that Selznick was introduced to Vivien Leigh on the set by his brother Myron, a Hollywood agent. 11 days later she tested for the film and on Christmas day he had selected his Scarlett.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Has Anyone Learned From the Downfall of the Recorded Music Indsutry?

While watching Barack Obama talk about the US auto industry crisis on Meet The Press yesterday, it hit home once again that the recorded music industry led the way to the downward spiral and other businesses didn't pay attention and learn from them. About 10 years ago, the music business denied new technology instead of embracing it (Napster). The major label business was based on a model that was over 50 years old, yet no label overhauled the way they did business. The people at the top made a fortune, middle managers were eliminated, leaving highly paid executives and underpaid assistants to do the job. The record labels put out inferior product. They sold an album off one good song. Consumers had to buy the whole album in order to get the song. The song had nothing to do with the rest of the music on the album. Consumers fought back and decided they didn't need the album anymore, they'll just download the song for free.

The US auto industry seems to have done the same things. They continued making cars bigger instead of environmentally efficient. Foreign cars were proving more reliable than domestic. The auto industry is also based on an antiquated model and their CEOs are over compensated whether the company is turning a profit or not.

The sad thing about all of this is the people who are most effected by these downturns:
The songwriter is the one losing out on royalties from free downloads.
The people who supply parts to the car companies will no longer have a business.
Those on the peripheral who depend on these businesses such as writers, restaurants, freelance tech support, video directors and production companies, recording studios, messengers, cleaning services, copier salespeople, the list goes on. It's not just about those CEOs testifying in Washington last week.

The bottom line: give the consumer good quality products, listen to the consumer, make sure you're up on the latest technology and you'll be productive.

Friday, December 05, 2008

New York Dolls: All Dolled Up

I just discovered this video. Bob Gruen (famed NY Rock photographer) and his wife, filmed over 40 hours of footage of the New York Dolls during their initial go round in the 1970s. His documentary is called All Dolled Up. I remember seeing The Dolls and Mott the Hoople on TV, what seemed like every other week on either the Midnight Special or Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. What great music, energy and fun.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Elvis Costello in Conversation with .....

"Spectacle: Elvis Costello with . . ." debuted last night on the Sundance Channel. His first guest was the shows producer, Elton John. Episode one was an informal conversation between two seasoned musicians who have seen their share of collaborations, toured extensively and have deep rooted fans. They explored Elton John's early career. I didn't know that he toured with Patti LaBelle before he became Elton John or that Laura Nyro was a huge influence (although it wasn't surprising). Elton still seems so excited about music, although he pointed out that the talent and singer songwriters that came out of hte 60's and 70's are sorely missing these days.

Both men also shared their reasons for not performing with their birth name. Elvis said that with a name like Declan McManus, he should be wearing a cable sweater singing Irish folk songs. It just didn't work with his music. Elton said he never wants to be call Reg again. Elton joked about a porn film composer named Costello Presley.

Elvis and Elton performed two covers: Working In Coal Mine along with Down River a song by David Ackles. Elton remembered David opening for him at the Troubadour in 1970 and couldn't believe he wasn't the headliner.

The editing of the show was a bit abrupt and it seemed clipped as it went to a commercial. This took me out of the in-your- living room pace and feel of the show. Beside the abrupt commercial breaks, the show was informative and gave us an insight into what made Reg Dwight, Elton John.

A Late Goodbye to The Shield

It's been a week since The Shield aired it's very last episode. It's taken me this long to digest the finale. This series never lost it's vision or it's integrity. The final episode wasn't so much a shocker as it left me angry (Why was Ronnie thrown under a bus?), a little sick (Seeing Shane's dead pregnant wife in bed with a flower in her hands lying next to their dead son made me queasy and that was after Shane shot himself!) and expecting to see this (Corrine and the kids end up in a witness protection program). I knew that Vic wasn't going to take anything lying down. Seeing him in that pale gray suit enter the ICE for his first day sorting files, did make me chuckle. He looked like the Undertaker gone corporate. You know he wouldn't last a day there. With that determined look on Vic's face and gun in his pocket is he going to free Ronnie, seek out his kids?

Michael Chiklis is the face of The Shield, but the exceptional talent of people like Walton Goggins as Shane played with reckless abandon and empathy and David Rees Snell's understated portrayal of Ronnie set the show apart from other cop dramas. The scenes in the final episodes of this season between Shane and Mara were touching and heartbreaking. I hated the character of Mara and that is testament to the amazing acting of Michele Hicks. She was subtle, annoying and devoted. I also want to include Kenny Johnson's Lem. CCH Pounder played the self righteous Claudette with intensity and yet showed the loyal and vulnerable side to her, which leads me to her partner Dutch. Dutch is one of those roles that I think would be hard to play. It's much easier to play the really good or bad guy. Extremes are easy. Jay Karnes was perfect. He played him as the nice guy, not a pushover and certainly conflicted. Silence was a another key character in the final episodes.
Shawn Ryan give us The Shield: The Movie so we can continue to follow the seedy, inspired life of Vic Mackey. With the exception of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, no TV series has been so consistently great with such an outstanding cast of actors. Kudos to the cast, writers and crew of The Shield for addicting us to corrupt cops with few, if any morals.

NOTE: For more trivia on the Shield view The Watcher blog. There are some fun facts posted: Biggs' lawyer who gave Dutch her card is actually Dutch (Jay)'s wife in real life.
The federal agent that escorts Corrine and family to their new home (which is in Rockford-creator Shawn Ryan's hometown) directed the very first and last episodes of the series.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Pet Sounds for $5

In the great music under $5 bin this week is the classic, perhaps greatest album of all time, Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys at iTunes. The other beauty besides the price is that it is iTunes plus, which means it's DRM free. You own it free and clear without restrictions. If you don't have this record, skip a latte at Starbucks and purchase it. It's timeless, it's beautiful, it's a masterpiece.

Synergy Working for Sharon Little

Sharon Little is signed to CBS Records which is part of the CBS network family. When Los Lobos signed with Hollywood Records, a division of Disney, we were told there would be tons of synergy/opportunity between the film studio and the label. It didn't happen, which is the case most of the time. I'm glad to see that synergy is working for Sharon Little. She is performing with Scott Sax in a subway scene on CSI: NY on Dec 10th.

Odetta Dies at Age 77

Odetta, the honored folk singer and voice of the civil rights movement passed away yesterday in NY from heart disease. According to the NY Times, she was hoping to perform at Barack Obama's inauguration.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Max Tuohy

Max Tuohy is new to the UK music scene. He doesn't have a dedicated website and his MySpace profile has been up since August. He's only 16. He sounds older. He will appeal to fans of Jack Johnson. Definitely has good songwriting instincts to build on. He has one song posted which is a demo: Run Over. In exchange for your email address you can have the song for free.

This is one of those sparse demos that 99% of the time taken up by a big producer, in a big studio with lots of musicians, will kill the raw power of the song. It's catchy, it has feeling. John Hiatt's Have a Little Faith In Me, which is a classic, only worked when it was John, his voice and the piano. A big production would have definitely diminished it's message.

There's not too much info or images of Max in the US, but I hear he just got signed to a UK label, which means a US label isn't probably far behind.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Final Episode: The Shield

Tonight ends my addiction with the Shield. I don't have a choice. It's being taken away from me. The last episode of the series is tonight. It's extended to 90 minutes, but I know that will never be enough. How much pleading would I need to do with Shawn Ryan, the series creator, to bring it back?

Shawn Ryan talks about he end of the show in the Boston Herald. He said there will be many twists and turns and they thought about killing off everyone, but that won't happen. He did say the ending will test hard core fans. I'm guessing Vic Mackey won't be challenging Aceveda for the mayor's job. Actor CCH Pounder (Claudette) said: "I think it's the greatest finale ever. It blew my socks off. This finale is what Vic Mackey deserves."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vactican Forgives Lennon

From the BBC:
A Vatican newspaper has forgiven the late English singer John Lennon for saying four decades ago that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
In an article praising The Beatles, L'Osservatore Romano said Lennon had just been showing off.
Lennon told a British newspaper in 1966 - at the height of Beatlemania - that he did not know which would die out first, Christianity or rock and roll. At the time, the comparison sparked controversy in the US. The semi-official Vatican newspaper marked the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' "White Album" with an article praising Lennon and the Fab Four from Liverpool.

This could only bring to mind the brilliant Rutles: Nasty, talking to a slightly deaf journalist, had claimed only that the Rutles were bigger than Rod. Rod Stewart who would not be popular for another eight years.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Punk at Christies

Punk/Rock is showing at Christies this weekend. I took a look this afternoon. I think I need to clean out my closet and make a small fortune. Most posters are expected to go for $800 to $3000. Here's a few samples:

Expected to get between $400 to $600. How many of you also bought records at Free Being?


Expected to get between $2000 to $3000.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sam Waterson in Conversation wtih Fordham Law

Alumni status has it's perks. Last night The Forum on Law, Culture & Society at Fordham Law School presented a conversation with "Atticus Finch in the Flesh" : Sam Waterson. To start the evening Sam was presented with a faux law degree from the University. The forum director Thane Rosenbaum injected humor, sarcasm and knowledge into the conversation. If Gene Wilder were a lawyer, he would be pretty close to Thane. Topics of fairness in the law and in life permeated the evening. Sam said he plays Jack McCoy, NY DA on Law & Order, as he has been doing it for 18 years, the way the writers intend him to be played. He doesn't believe in imposing his ideals or thoughts on the character. Several clips were played and after two of them, he noted how good the writing was.

He spoke of New York being a big player in Law & Order and how it would be a different show without it. He also likes the outdoor scenes as it's a change of pace. I think everyone I know in NY has seen them filming the show. My brush with the show was a surprise. With no production trucks or crew members visible, I entered Asphalt Green one morning and standing in the lobby in a trench coat was Jesse Martin. I immediately thought I know thus guy and said good morning, He responded. After I got in the elevator, I realized they were filming and I didn't actually know him, but felt like I did as Law & Order is more ubiquitous than almost anything I can think of including Duane Reade or Starbucks. New Yorkers think of Jack McCoy as one of them, which is a testament to Sam's portrayal.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Hair Raising Hobby-Baseball Card Collecting

Collecting baseball cards used to be a passion of mine. Last year I gave my nephew a complete Topps set from 1990 (I think). Space becomes more of a problem these days than accumulating. Collecting cards started with the Monkees. I still have a few of those cards. Much like the Mod Squad cards I also collected, you could flip them over to reveal a piece of the puzzle, which was usually formed a larger than life size head of Julie Barnes. From there, I went to baseball cards

In the 5th grade Sr Pat took all my cards because I was flipping them in the school yard. Her archaic reasoning was that girls don't play with baseball cards. She proceeded to give my cards to the boys. Thank God this was my only encounter with what has gone down in legend as the wrath of the nuns. Never got a ruler across my knuckles, nor did I ever see that happen.

Fearing that their market is ever shrinking, trading card companies are now offering prizes in the packages of baseball cards. Like most industries and baseball itself, they are appealing to those with money. (note: adults with money get hooked as kids, so don't forget kids in the equation) According to today's WSJ: The industry has since streamlined, but "the good old days of building a set, one 15-card pack at a time, are pretty much over," Mr. Kelnhofer [editor of Card Trade, an industry monthly] says. While cheaper packs today go for around $2, he says, "the card makers' survival is predicated on attracting and keeping the collectors who make the big-ticket purchases."

Don't be surprised in your next package if you find a scratch off card letting you know you won a lock of Abraham Lincoln's hair . Topps starting offering DNA packs last year. You could win a lock of George Washington's hair. Does this mean in the future these winners will have in their hands the building blocks of cloning Pres Washington and Lincoln? The article points out that the hair is authenticated, but there is always room for a fake. There is also the issue of who owns the image of that person and for how long, which apparently varies from state to state.

There is a creepy element to these promotions. Most winners get rid of their spoils. The man who won Jackie Kennedy's hair sold it for $201. He thought he'd get more. The woman who wound up with Lincoln's hair accepted $24,000 for it. She's planning on donating some of the money to cancer research and maybe buying more cards with the rest. I'd love to know if including these hidden prizes actually accelerates the purchase of cards. I bought tons of cards to get one Tommie Agee. I'm happy to still have my Tommie Agee cards.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Celebrating Leonard Bernstein

On November 14, 1943 Bernstein subbed at the last minute to conduct the NY Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, replacing an ailing Bruno Walter. Friday night at Carnegie Hall celebrated the 65th Anniversary of that historic debut. My knowledge of Bernstein is limited. I watched two episodes of the very informative Young People's Concerts. It was a series of TV shows he hosted to instill in children (and adults) a better understanding of music. I saw the film West Side Story for which he composed the music. A musical kinship between Brian Wilson and Leonard Bernstein cemented Leonard on my radar.

Brian Wilson is the pop heir to Leonard Bernstein. He appeared on a CBS special of Bernstein's in 1967 singing Surf's Up. Leonard introduced the song: "There is a new song, too complex to get all of first time around. It could come only out of the ferment that characterizes today's pop music scene. Brian Wilson, leader of the famous Beach Boys, and one of today's most important musicians, sings his own Surf's Up. Poetic, beautiful even in its obscurity; Surf's Up is one aspect of new things happening in pop music today. As such, it is a symbol of the change many of these young musicians see in our future." Brian wrote small or pocket symphonies (as Good Vibrations was once called). Had he not left planet earth for a few years, Brian's output may have rivaled that of Bernstein.

Bernstein's music is implanted in pop culture, which became apparent to me during the NY Philharmonic's performance of West Side Story Concert Suites No.1 and No.2. The first notes of I Feel Pretty brought to mind Madelyn Kahn's Bride of Frankenstein singing to a mirror in an SNL skit.

It was very powerful to hear the music of West Side Story performed by the NY Philharmonic. At times I was taken by the score, which seem to rival the best of a Western film. Like Westerns, West Side Story was about rivalries and turf wars. Note of trivia: Originally it was called East Side Story and based the Romeo and Juliet story around the conflict between Catholics and Jews on the Lower East Side. A streak of gang-related violence in 1956 on the Upper West Side changed the course of the musical. Maria featured tenor Paul Graves, who conveyed the song's hopefulness and enchantment. He made you remember how good a song it is. A revival of the play is planned for Broadway in the beginning of 2009.

A year after the film On The Waterfront was released, Bernstein debuted his Symphonic Suite from On The Waterfront, which is the way he intended his music to be presented. Only 35 minutes of the film contain his music. Leonard originally turned down the chance to score the film. The director Elia Kazan had finished the film before he thought about the music. The film's producer first approached Leonard, who declined. He was not a fan of Kazan who had a reputation as a willing informant to Senator McCarthy's House Committee on Un-American Activities. Bernstein on the opposite side, was one of 50 celebrities who in 1947 signed a manifesto condemning those hearings. Apparently the FBI had a 700-page document on him. Never having seen the movie, I felt the grittiness of life in NY on the docks at that time. The music at times was foreboding, signaling something wasn't right, yet life goes on .

The middle piece, Serenade (after Plato's Symposium) for Violin, String Orchestra, Harp and Percussion, was perfectly juxtaposed to the Waterfront Suite: Calming and meditative. Glenn Dicterow was the soloist. According to the Playbill, he first learned the piece for a 1986 Bernstein-led US Tour. Dicterow remembers, "at one point during a rehearsal, Lenny turned to me and said, 'This is the best piece I ever wrote.' " The evening was filled with "best pieces".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

We7 Update for UK users onlly

Per the comment from one of the programmers of We7 (see comment below), it's a UK based service, which isn't fully functional in the US. Let's hope it's available here soon.

We7-Peter Gabriel's New Streaming Site

Albums and songs can be streamed in full on the new site,, which was co-founded by Peter Gabriel. Being that it comes from a musician, the artists will get paid if their music is streamed. It's akin to Internet radio, but on demand. Artists (or their labels) get paid via an advertising based model. In theory it sounds great. There are so many artists I'd love to hear what they or their latest record sounds like. is a great place to stream a new record, but the choices are limited.

I did a search of artists that ranged from the classic to the obscure and here are results
  • Beach Boys delivered a bunch of karaoke versions of their songs.
  • Brian Wilson had similar results.
  • Boz Scaggs-no results.
  • James Morrison -asks if I mean Van Morrison.
  • Florence and the Machine-no results.
  • Kings of Leon-no results.
  • Black Eyed Peas -karaoke versions.
  • My Morning Jacket-no results.
  • Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood -karaoke versions
  • The most perplexing of all is Peter Gabriel yielding a karaoke version of Sledgehammer.
According to the article in NME, the site contains millions of tracks including those from Nickelback. I search Nickelback and karaoke tracks tracks were listed. Thievery Corporation was on the homepage, so I clicked and was able to listen to a track. The list of recommendations of other artists that sound like TC was headed by Zero 7, so I clicked on the link. It brought to a page that had other recommendations, a link to their bio, a button to share or join an email list. There was also a bar that measured the popularity of the band. I'm not sure how they determine that or what it actually means. Bottom Line: I couldn't find a Zero 7 track to listen to. Why would they recommend it, if it's not available to stream? I'm not a neophyte when it comes to the web. My experience on We7 has been frustrating and unproductive. If someone has had a great user experience on the site, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Goodbye Sirius Disorder

There were three things keeping me at Sirius:
  1. Howard Stern
  2. Sirius Disorder
  3. Pure Jazz
2/3 have vanished in the merger with XM. Pure Jazz is now Real Jazz which might be similar. I've threatened many times to cancel Sirius. The reception is awful. It constantly cuts in and out and it's usually right at the punch line of a story on Howard 100. I held on because of this trinity of channels. The Loft which is an XM channel will now take over for Disorder. The sound is more defined. I loved the chaos of Disorder. Having listened to Meg Griffin since she was part of the beloved WPIX in New York during my college days, I'm disheartened to see the station disappear. WPIX was a constant in my dorm room and inspired me when I DJed parties. Beach Party Tonight by Frankie and Annette would seque into Our Lips Are Sealed (where I first heard the original version) into What Do I Get. It was always a party, the DJs were knowledgeable and the music spanned the spectrum. I was a huge David Johansen fan at that time (still am). Must have seen him 40 times in four years. His Sirius Disorder show, Johansen's Mansion of Fun, was a hallucinogenic trip through the canals of his musical mind. An aria by Maria Callas, the first hit by the Cookies and the latest by the NY Dolls: all could be heard in the course of his show. I'm guessing this is gone too.

I thought the merger would be a good thing. I would finally get baseball. It looks like I'll have to get a new player and pay more to get it. I lost my music from XM. I'm enjoying the Loft today, but it's a completely different vibe. You never knew what was coming at you on Disorder and that spontaneity is sorely missing on today's dial.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nic Harcourt leaving KCRW

Nic Harcourt followed Chris Douridas as the host of Morning Becomes Eclectic on LA's KCRW. He's been there for the past 10 years. He also served as music director. In the past few years he's been consulting on films, licensing music, etc. He states having two young daughters as the impetus to leave KCRW and move on to something new.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Warner Music Will Only Do 360 Deals

TechCrunch summarized the interview with Edgar Bronfman Jr at the Web 2.0 Expo last week. Bronfman said that any new artist on the label will have to sign a 360 deal, which means the label would receive a percentage of not only music sales and master use rights, but any stream of revenue the artist might receive: This includes touring, publishing, licenses, merchandise, etc. It is usually management that gets a % of all income the artist receives in exchange for management services. Note that about 95% of the managers, never see a dime in commissions from record sales and this is not a recent development. What will Warner's be offering in exchange for that all encompassing %? Will they offer management services, music publishing, book tours?

I used to think that having management and record company under one roof would be a good thing. In the case of major labels, I no longer hold to that belief. In all cases, both the artists and management have the same goal as the record label: to sell records. How they both want to achieve that goal is usually very different. The one who might be hurt the most in a 360 deal is the artist. The scenarios could be endless. That is of course if every aspect of their career is carried out under one roof.

Having a separate management company who knows the artist well and is willing to fight for what the artist believes in is invaluable to the artist. Having a publishing company that knows how to get a song placed in an indie film even though it might mean making less money for the record company, but more exposure and money in the long run for the band would be a no-brainer for an artist, but might run counter to the labels immediate bottom line. The label wants the band to open for a completely incompatible artist who might be selling tickets, but the audience is wrong. The band might sell a few records on this tour, but doesn't gain fans for life. It would make more sense for the band to break even on a small club tour opening for the artist whose audience would love the band and staying true to their roots. The conflicts would be immense.

Bronfman says it takes a long time and money to develop and artist and he's right, so maybe this in the only way the labels can generate money to survive. The artists that are most successful are those that know what they want and surround themselves with a diverse group of people that are in their corner and help them get there. Team of Rivals, the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin has been cited lately as Barack Obama is an admirer. It's an amazing study on human nature. Lincoln when compiling his cabinet, decided to fill it with people who were his opponents during the presidential race and didn't always agree with him, but he thought they were the best candidates for the jobs. Initially hating him and disparaging him,they learned to appreciate and respect Lincoln for who he was. There is no reason that recording artists shouldn't look at their team the same way. Having one opinion, one option, one voice, one company doesn't seem like it would be in any one's best interest. Setting aside some time to read Team of Rivals is in every one's best interest.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Rising

After President-elect Barack Obama left the stage at Grant Park, Bruce Springsteen's the Rising filled the air. It's been said many times over, but for me this election has truly been a unique experience. I watched more news on TV than I have in years. My sources of news come from the WSJ, The New Yorker and Howard Stern. Close to 11pm last night, Brian Williams said we'll have some important news when we come back from commercial break. When they did come back, there was a photo of Barack covering the TV screen with the words: The 44th President of the United States Barack Obama. Instantly cheers could be heard from York Avenue. I got chills. I don't remember ever seeing crowds gathered in Times Square for an election. This is a new era for our country. Barack is probably facing more hard issues than any other president in my lifetime. A Rising is what this country needs now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Rocking the Vote!

I rocked the vote in about 45 seconds. It's a lovely fall morning in New York City. NY1 was reporting lines 45 minutes to an hour to vote in Harlem. They said that more people voted there by 8am, than have in the enitre last election. I vote on East 88th Street. The lines were longer than I've ever seen in my 25 years voting there. Snaking through the crowds, looking for District 76 and I come upon the only desk where there is no line. The ever so pleasant woman behind the desk asks my name. I sign in and she says you can vote now. I'm out of there in less than 2 minutes. It took longer to get through the crowd than it did to vote. This is my idea of Rocking the vote!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bruce Springsteen's Halloween Treat

Shore Fire Media sent me a link for Halloween.

A Note from Bruce:
Dear Friends and Fans,
If you grew up in central or south Jersey, you grew up with the "Jersey Devil." Here's a little musical Halloween treat. Have fun!

You can download the MP3 for free. The video is a bit creepy, which I'm guessing is the point. It starts off with The Boss emerging from water. It's dark, it looks like it's cold. He sings about witches and the devil. He wears a cross, looks angry and is a bit scary. He makes his point. In the final seconds of the video he submerges himself back in the water. Is it a baptism? Does this exorcise the devil?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Entertainment Lawyers: Hal Kant Raised the Bar

Entertainment lawyers (maybe lawyers in general) are derided, I'm guessing on a daily basis. For the most part, my dealings over the years with them has been nothing but positive. I lean towards being a logical thinker which is a bit of a paradox being in the entertainment business. A lot of the business is illogical, which is why I think I work so well with lawyers. There has to be logic in what they do.

Hal Kant a Queens born/Bronx raised, Beverly Hills attorney who's most prominent client was the Grateful Dead passed away on October 19th. The Wall Street Journal has an informative obit on him. He formed the Grateful Dead's business.

  • He gave his blessing to fans taping the shows
  • He made the band incorporate -which lead to health benefits and pension plans
  • He negotiated so that the band retained their master recordings
  • He made sure managers were paid a flat fee rather than a %.
The key to his success may be his degree in psychology which he obtained before serving in the Korean War. He used his GI Bill money to get a law degree from Harvard. When interns used to work with me. They would always ask "What courses should I be taking to learn more about music management?" My broken record answer was always psychology. I would always get a perplexed look. If you can relate to an artist on his/her level and see things from his/her perspective as well as keeping his/her business in mind, 90% of the time, you'll be successful. There is always that 10% that will never understand the business no matter how it's presented. Hal seemed to have his finger on the realities and the nuances.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Historic Baseball Day

I can't recall a suspended World Series game continuing two days later, but that will happen tonight in Philly. When we last left off Philly and Tampa Bay were tied at 2. The game will air after the 30 Obama infomercial.

In another historic baseball moment, in 1969 Tom Seaver won the Cy Young award. To put his amazing year in perspective, He received the highest numbers from Baseball Writers' Association of America's Hall of Fame vote. Tom Terrific went 25-7 with a 2.21 ERA. He won two more games in his three postseason starts. Here is where the voting stands to this day. It's interesting that two pitchers who started their careers as Mets, lead the pack. Now if only a current Met could throw the teams first no-hitter.

Top BBWAA Voting Percentages for Hall of Famers
Tom Seaver (1992) 98.84%
Nolan Ryan (1999) 98.79%
Cal Ripken Jr. (2007) 98.53%
Ty Cobb (1936) 98.23%
George Brett (1999) 98.19%
Hank Aaron (1982) 97.83%
Tony Gwynn (2007) 97.61%
Mike Schmidt (1995) 96.52%
Johnny Bench (1989) 96.42%

Monday, October 27, 2008

CD Baby's Founder Received $22 Million for Site -Money Going to Charity

From Hypebot:

Entrepreneur Forms Musician's Charitable Trust

$22 million. From a one man operation in his garage to a $22 million sale to Disc Makers in ten years. It's a story that will flame the fires of hope for hundreds of music entrepreneurs The story is made more powerful because Derek Sivers is generous with his time and because he earned it by providing much needed services for indie musicians.

CD Baby sells CDs and downloads for almost a quarter million artists and to date has sold 4.5 million CD's paying out $83 million to them. I don't know about much about purchase multiples, but why would Disc Makers pay $22 million for a company that size whose core business, CD sales, is on the decline? TRUST. Those quarter million artists trust CD Baby to treat them fairly and pay them quickly. Disc Makers may be able to build on that trust and its own reputation to create a one stop shop for independent and d.i.y. music.
What will Sivers do with his big pay day? He's put into Musician's Charitable Trust: "I didn't even want the money... It's all just going back to the musicians," he told Venture Voice

Saturday, October 25, 2008

How Long Has This Campaign Been Going On?

Doesn't it seems like Gilmore Girls ended 4 years ago or is that how long this campaign has been going on? I was listening to Carole King's Tapestry and heard "Where You Lead" which made me think of Gilmore Girls
. On the final episode of the show, Rory is leaving to go on the road as a political blogger following Barak Obama's campaign.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Ever Narrowing Music Business and It's Effects

The fragmentation of the music business has affected so many areas beyond the major labels, which I don’t think a lot of people realize. There was a posting in Celebrity Access today about the uber-concerts/music festivals. Australian promoters such as Andrew McManus have had to renegotiate deals with agents and managers, McManus for the 54 shows he was to promote. The shrinking markets and sinking Australian dollar account for some of it. "The demise of the dollar has given me basically two hours' sleep for 10 days, working round the clock, dealing with umpteen managers, umpteen number of agents, to try to restructure the whole landscape of each deal to the point where I have actually sacked a number of deals," McManus told the Brisbane Times.
"Either the acts have taken a reduction or I've got rid of them … That's how bleak the whole ****ing thing's been."

For the most part, the record companies were doing us a great favor by narrowing the market. They limited the amount of musical offering each month. With new technology and options like CD Baby and TuneCore, anyone can record music on their laptop and have it up for sale/distribution within days. This completely dilutes the market. With so many choices how do you know what’s good, what you like, etc? There are sites like Sonic Boomers that suggest music they think boomers would like and they do a good job of it. For the most part, you could spend all day trying to keep up with every new act that comes out.

The inexhaustible number of musicians out there, which I think is a major reason for the declining interest in festival shows, really hit me when I looked at the list of bands playing CMJ. Here are the names of the acts I recognized for today’s schedule out of approximately 272 listed:

  • Charlie Louvin is 81 years old and he is possibly the Grandfather of alt country
  • George Clinton, know as the godfather of funk
  • Sam Champion I know them because they are named after the once local and now national weatherman
  • It’s Not You It’s Me Took note of their name a few weeks back, have no idea what they sound like
  • The Dears Canadian band that has been around for a few years
  • Juliana Hatfield Started in the Blake Babies
  • Ari Gold I don’t really know this artist, I just know the name as the agent on Entourage.
  • Matt Keating was managed by a friend
  • KaiserCartel is managed by a friend, but my husband saw their show a few years back and liked them and bought their CD
  • Dave Doobinin was on the bill a few times with All Night Chemists
  • Coheed & Cambria on Columbia Records. Richard on the Howard Stern show once wet his pants during one of their shows, as he couldn’t tear himself away from the performance to use the bathroom.

Technically I’ve only heard the music of 8 of 272 of them. Not sure if this means I am out of touch or the market is so saturated that it’s impossible to know. It's also quite a statement that 272 bands will be playing in NY tonight and most of it occurs below 14th St and it does not include all the day parties and performances that are not offical. I realize that my expertise is in adult alternative, but that genre has become pretty broad. A musician I know said that CMJ seems like a bunch of MySpace friends coming to NY to play. I don't know that you can fill a stadium or book a festival around a bunch of MySpace friends.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Surviving Sounds of Haida

Surviving Sounds of Haida is a documentary by Fred Otilius Olsen, JR. This project is near and dear to his heart. As a native Alaskan, he feels the importance of preserving the Haida language. There are only several people left who can speak it and they are over 75 years old. Alaska is in the spotlight these past two months, so the timing of the completed documentary couldn't be better. It gives us a completely different side of Alaska than the Wasillaesque point of view we've been seeing. Watch Fred's documentary. It's an 8 minute labor of love. Also check out Fred's New York Nitty Gritty website. A wry and insightful pictorial of New York.

For more information, the Haida language has it's own website.
I found it ironic that there was a translation of this line on their website:
Díi git dahlgiyáagang -- My daughter is pregnant

Adáahl dláng hl kíngsaang
(I’ll see all of you tomorrow)

Levi Stubbs-Lead Singer of The Four Tops

The music of the Four Tops was omnipresent on WABC radio when I was young. Their lead singer Levi Stubbs had a urgency in his voice especially heard on Bernadette. I remember being a little frightened by that song. Here was a guy who was pleading, on his knees, at wits end. crying for Bernadette with an intensity not heard by me at that time. The Four Tops had their first No. 1 single in 1965, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”. Other songs that will always get the crowd dancing are "Reach Out, I'll Be There" -a favorite live cover for David Johansen, "The Same Old Song", "Standing In The Shadows of Love", etc.

Mr Stubbs passed away on the 18th. No cause was given. His wife of 48 years survives him, as well as 5 children.

According to his obit in the NY Times, Levi's cousin was Jackie Wilson (Higher and Higher). As jazz singers the Four Tops played the Tonight Show when Jack Parr was the host covering In The Still Of The Night.

Billy Bragg immortalized Levi in his song "Levi Stubbs' Tears":

When the world falls apart some things stay in place

She takes off the Four Tops tape and puts it back in its case
When the world falls apart some things stay in place
Levi Stubbs' tears...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lucky Old Sun: A Popular AlbumTitle From A Song That's 59 Years Old

Brian Wilson released his latest album That Lucky Old Sun on Sept 2nd. On Oct 14th Kenny Chesney released his latest album Lucky Old Sun. Huh? Brian Wilson has been playing the song live for over a year as part of a suite of music. He talked about his love for the 1949 song, which is why he included it on his latest record and names the album after the song. So Kenny Chesney decides to do a duet with Willie Nelson of the very same song and takes away the "That" for his album title. Was Chesney inspired by Wilson's song choice?

As Wilson told USA Today: "I always liked that song," he says of That Lucky Old Sun, first popularized in 1949 by Frankie Laine. "A couple of years ago, I went to the record store, got Louis Armstrong's version, brought it home and learned it. I rearranged it and taught it to my band."

Neal Hefti - Composer of Batman Theme Dies

Composer, arranger, big band trumpeter Neil Heft has died at 85. Two of the most memorable theme songs: The Odd Couple and Batman were written by him. Everyone can sing both of them. Hefti said the Batman theme was the hardest music he ever wrote. From the LA Times:

"I tore up a lot of paper," he told Jon Burlingame, author of "TV's Biggest Hits," a 1996 book on television themes. "It did not come easy to me. . . . I just sweated over that thing, more so than any other single piece of music I ever wrote. I was never satisfied with it."

"Batman," he said, "was not a comedy. This was about unreal people. Batman and Robin were both very, very serious. The bad guys would be chasing them, and they would come to a stop at a red light, you know. They wouldn't break the law even to save their own lives. So there was a grimness and a self-righteousness about all this."

Hefti said it took him "the better part of a month" to come up with the theme.

"I was almost going to call them and say, I can't do it," he said. "But I never walk out on projects, so I sort of forced myself to finish."

Hefti's "musical solution to a combined dramatic and comedic problem," Burlingame wrote in his book, "was perfect: bass guitar, low brass and percussion to create a driving rhythm, while an eight-voice chorus sings 'Batman!' in harmony with the trumpets. It was part serious, part silly: just like the series."

Hefti's "Batman" tune became a Top 40 hit -- for both the Hefti and the Marketts' versions -- and won a 1966 Grammy Award for best instrumental theme.

Miles Davis credited him with making the Count Basie Band sound as good as it did. Hefti produced, composed and arranged for Count Basie. He also served as head of A&R for Reprise Records in the early 60's. He also composed music for films including Sex and The Single Girl, Barefoot in the Park and How to Murder Your Wife.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

EMI Starting An Online Music Service

It seems like it's 8 years too late, but EMI is launching an online music service, which according to the WSJ is to gather customer behavior patterns rather than actually make money. There are so many ways to gauge what fans are thinking. Online message boards and postings are filled with kudos and complaints about what works and what does not. Throwing what I'm guessing is large sums of money into an already overcrowded field seems fruitless. There are so many places to buy music, the easiest being iTunes, Consumers will be confused with another entry like EMI's. It used to be the only place to buy music was either a record store or for the big artists a place like Target, now each label has it's own site. Tthe consumer doesn’t look for these sites. The labels have already lost trust with the consumer. Why would they go to the labels website to find out about an artist or buy music? They can go directly to the source meaning the artist or go to iTunes which is a trusted entity. There is also the option of pulling it from someone else for free. It's not trusted, but it is free.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Defamation Emails: How to Bash a Candidate with Falsifications and Half Truths

I'm not going to pontificate on whom to vote for. To quote Johnny Mathis (written by Allen & Stillman), "That's not for me to say". I have been forwarded an extraordinary amount of emails defaming the character of the candidates for the highest offices in our country. I have dissected and followed up on each one of them only to find that the information is either blatantly false or a half truth. What saddens me most is that the majority of people read it, believe it and delete it. I could be wrong, but I don't think people are trying to get to the bottom of the story and prove it's worth.

It's going to get uglier in the days leading up to 11/4. Most important is what the candidate stands for and is it what you believe in. Who do you think will be better at eliminating our dependence on foreign oil and helping to preserve our environment? Who is more level headed to guide us out of economic disaster? The next president will probably appoint 3 judges to the Supreme Court. How do you want them to vote? Who has a better foreign policy and who will help mend our global relations? Let's focus on the issues.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Musicians Unite: UK Leads The Way

Frank Sinatra tried to unionize US musicians. He found no other takers and eventually dropped the cause. Many, Many years later in the UK, musicians are banding together to gain control of their rights and not have the record companies negotiate the deals for them. Radiohead, Billy Bragg and Robbie Williams are just a few name that have signed on. According to the Featured Artists' Coalition's website:

The Featured Artists' Coalition campaigns for the protection of performers' and musicians' rights. We want all artists to have more control of their music and a much fairer share of the profits it generates in the digital age. We speak with one voice to help artists strike a new bargain with record companies, digital distributors and others, and are campaigning for specific changes.

Their manifesto, states that it's now time that the musicians take control of their destiny in this digital age. Radiohead is leading the charge. They are the first major artist to forgo a major record label on their latest release and feel that they should not have to live by rules that were dictated by the labels, which are not supporting their interest. Musicians that are interested can join the cause. Will the US follow?

Friday, October 03, 2008

MySpace Music

MySpace Music finally launched after a few false starts. From comments I've seen, MySpacers who offered free downloads from their page are not happy about the change. Apparently songs won't play, lyrics can't be downloaded and you have to arrange to "sell" your music for free. Expectations were not high for this new music service. It's a shame that artists can no longer control how their music is distributed on MySpace. Through their postings, these are the same people that built MySpace.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Concerts of Note

PHISH: After a 4 year retirement, Phish is reuniting for 3 shows at the Hampton Coliseum March 6, March 7 and March 8, 2009.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: will perform Monday at an Eastern Michigan University rally for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Springsteen will play a free acoustic set and headline the rally at Oestrike Stadium on Eastern Michigan's campus.

Springsteen is also scheduled to perform Saturday at a Philadelphia rally and on Sunday at Ohio State University. Springsteen will team up with Billy Joel in a joint concert at an Obama campaign fundraiser in New York City on Oct. 16 at the Hammerstien Ballroom. It looks like ticket prices range from $500 to $10,000 if there are any to be had.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Miserable Day - Better Evening

Mets fans have been pretty forgiving. I think our patience is spent. To quote ex-Mets' Manager Yogi Berra, It's Deja Vu all over again. How does a team fall apart two years in a row, in the same fashion? At the plate, they looked like all life had been sucked from them. Were they aware they were playing for the post season? It was a suckydo ending to the illustrious history of Shea Stadium. For an short time after the game, the Shea Goodbye closing ceremonies made us put aside the debacle of a game. Mets heros of better days entered the field and crossed home plate. Tom Seaver threw the last pitch at Shea to Mike Piazza and the lights at Shea were dimmed for the last time. Anger and frustration for the 2007/8 Mets. Admiration and fondness for the 1969/86/2000 Mets.

Boosting my spirits for one hour, was the return of Dexter: The craftily written and acted story of a serial killer. Brandi Shearer's song Lullabies may have a whole new place in music as the song to repeatedly have sex to. Lullabies: the aphrodisiac, just ask Dexter's girlfriend Rita.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is Lenka the New Feist

Maybe it's something about using one name. I only listened to one song from Lenka, so it's not a scientific conclusion, but she sounds an awful lot like Feist, especially 1234. You can listen for yourself as she is the hooka of the day.

I decided to listen a little more before posting this and Bring Me Down starts off sounding like the Beach Boys Breakaway and takes a sharp right turn into girlie pop territory. Ukulele infused Don't Let Me Fall brings me right back into Feist territory. Note: strings were arranged by David Campbell who is Beck's father.

Lenka was a teen actor trained by Cate Blanchett in Australia. She now calls LA home and recorded the record in Woodstock. Mike Elizondo who has worked ith Fiona Apple and Eminem produced the record. I like the production, lots of horns and piano. Could be pulled right from a Petula Clark session.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lucinda Williams Protests In Songs

I've been reading a lot lately about the lack or complete absence of protest and energy in songs. The country is in shambles yet no one has written his/her "Eve Of Destruction". It looks like Lucinda has taken up the cause. She is releasing Lu in 08 a week before the U.S. presidential election, as a digital EP with live versions of 3 covers: Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," and the Thievery Corporation/Wayne Coyne collaboration "Marching the Hate Machines Into the Sun." The lone original track will be "Bone of Contention."

Her ninth studio record, "Little Honey" comes out on Lost Highway on Oct. 14th.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Conversation with Ken Burns and Bob Schieffer

Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business Administration hosted a conversation with Ken Burns and Bob Schieffer. I have admiration and respect for both of these men. The questions started off very basic. We found out that both of them realized in 8th grade they wanted to do what they are doing.

The theme of truth in journalism or story telling and how do you keep perspective in this age of technology was a recurring theme. We live in an era of sound bites, which can get us into trouble. Both said they would rather hear a longer version of the answer and not have to live in a 2 minute YouTube world. Bob emphasized that there is so much going on with technology, but at the core of it all is still good reporting. He said you can’t be objective but you can be fair. He feels that the nightly news is one place where both sides of a story and the facts are presented. The nightly news elaborates on stories the viewers are probably already aware of.

The name Sarah Palin seems to invoke passion and this discussion definitely had its moment. Bob spoke of how he though the press had a responsibility to find out everything they can about Palin. She’s an unknown. The facts about her need to be presented. He pointed out that the press was being unreasonably chastised for chasing the story of her 17 year-old pregnant daughter. It was the bloggers who pressed the issue and it was only after the McCain campaign issued a press release, that the mainstream press covered it. This proves that with so much information out there, whether it be truth or fiction, people have to gather the facts and make educated decisions on their own. You can’t believe a commercial that a politician endorses or creates. Question it. I remember having a button in college that said Question Authority. Chasing another aspect of the Palin nomination, Ken said he thought it was irresponsible on the part of McCain to chose a running mate without vetting her properly and one with a seemingly lack of knowledge on most foreign and domestic affairs. As Bob pointed out, Sarah would be a 72 year-old heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world.

Bob Schieffer will be moderating the final presidential debate. He said they have been trying for years to get the candidates to agree on a real debate forum and they have finally accepted. He will ask a question, each candidate will get 2 minutes to respond. After both have spoken, they will debate the issue between them. Bob will make sure they stay on point.

I will badly quote Walter Cronkite, but he said news should be reported without adjectives and adverbs. Watching the local news, it seems like it is one big commentary. Both Mr Burns and Mr Schieffer are at the top of their respective games. I think holding on to their truths and presenting both side of a story got them there.

As an aside Bob mentioned that he will be living a lifelong dream which will take place in Nashville two days before the Tom Brokaw moderated debate there. He and his band, Honky Tonk Confidential, have been invited to play the Grand Ole Opry on October 5th with Trisha Yearwood and Kenny Chesney.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Norman Whitfield Dies-Writer of I Heard It Through The Grapevine

Prolific songwriter Norman Whitfield died on Sept 16th.
This from USA Today:

By Steve Jones, USA TODAY

Norman Whitfield knew how to get the best out of an artist, even if the singer hated him for it.
The opening of Papa Was a Rollin' Stone— "It was the third of September. That day I'll always remember, 'cause that was the day that my daddy died" — coincidentally rang true for Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards, whose own father had died on that date. Whitfield refused to change it, and Edwards' seething delivery set the tone for the stirring tale of paternal abandonment.

It was just one example of how the producer/songwriter steered Motown's sunny sound into darker territory in the late '60s and into the '70s.

Whitfield, who died Tuesday in Los Angeles at 67 from complications of diabetes, wrote and produced some of the label's most memorable pop hits in the early '60s before ushering in an era of socially relevant themes.

Much of what is now regarded as classic soul owes a large debt to Whitfield, who persuaded skeptical Motown founder Berry Gordy to let him stray from a wildly successful formula. His mold-breaking encouraged Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and others to pursue directions that would yield some of their greatest works.

Teamed with lyricist Barrett Strong, Whitfield produced such classics as Gaye's and Gladys Knight & The Pips' I Heard It Through the Grapevine and The Tempts' Ain't Too Proud to Beg.

But his most enduring legacy came with his Sly Stone/P-Funk-influenced shift to the psychedelic funk/soul sound that featured sinister keys, reverberating guitars, moaning horns and haunting strings.

After David Ruffin parted with The Tempts in 1968 and was replaced by gruff-voiced Edwards, the group de-emphasized love songs to deal with poverty, politics, drug abuse and despair.

Between 1968 and 1973, The Tempts took to Cloud Nine, scolded the Runaway Child, Running Wild, warned Don't Let the Joneses Get You Down, partied at the Psychedelic Shack and painted a grim urban Masterpiece. Meanwhile, Edwin Starr raged against War and the Undisputed Truth cautioned about Smiling Faces Sometimes.

Whitfield left Motown in 1973 as artists grew weary of long tracks dominated by heavy instrumentation — and his outsized ego. (The back cover of The Tempts' Masterpiece album was taken up mostly by Whitfield's huge Afro and face, with only a small picture of the band.)

Establishing Whitfield Records, he had his greatest post-Motown success with Rose Royce, who scored a No. 1 pop hit in 1977 with Car Wash and had other classics like I Wanna Get Next to You, Ooh Boy, I'm Going Down and Love Don't Live Here Anymore.

80's Music in Today's Music

Bruises by Brooklyn's own Chairlift is the music behind the recent iPod Nano commercial. I would have guessed them to be a British band as their music is 80's derivative. There is the underlying beat ala Phil Collin's version of You Can't Hurry Love. Thompson Twins and Berlin come to mind. I heard a piece on All Songs Considered which stated that the 80's were the worst time for music. They picked apart songs like Let's Hear It For The Boy, which of course is a very obvious target. Then they proceeded to gang up on Hall & Oates, which is so misguided. The problem in the 80's was not with the music, but with the production. Electric keyboard, drum machine heavy production masked the actual beauty of the songwriting. Say what you will about Rick Springfield, but early on he wrote great pop songs. They will never be timeless because of the production. You can say the same about Madonna. If the 80's were so bad, why are so many young musicians deriving their music from the records of that time?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rights Restricted Music Is Back

Have the labels and studios learned anything over the past few years? An article in today's Hypebot says there is a consortium of the labels and studios who want to, once again, control how you can use what you buy.

It's been said, wants gone is gone. But apparently some in the entertainment industry failed to get the memo. A group of major film studios and record labels have joined together once again in an initiative called the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem to find a way to control what happens after you purchase a digital album or movie.
"The goal is to create for downloads the same kind of interoperability that's been true for physical products, such as CDs and DVDs...Once you've acquired a file, you could play it on any of your devices -- if it couldn't be passed directly from one DECE-ready device to another, you'd be allowed to download additional copies. And when you're away from home, you could stream the file to any device with a DECE-compatible Web browser." - LA Times
Its called domain based digital rights management. Apple already uses a version of it. Total freedom until you want to share what you bought with a friend...or use it on a non-compatible device.This DRM has a new name and may even be a bit less intrusive. But it's still DRM, and as such faces certain consumer rejection. When will we learn?

This is the reason I don't buy from iTunes-I don't want to be told what to do with the music I buy. Once again, those who are willing to pay for content, will be the ones to get screwed. History repeats itself, yet no one seems to learn from the lessons of the past and they continue to make those mistakes again and again. Dante's Inferno comes to mind.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lack of Radio An Issue for Metallica?

This was part of the Lefsetz letter today. He is so spot on when he says the Metallica record probably won't do so well because there is no place to hear it.

I hope the cornucopia of purchase options for the Metallica CD generates a heap of cash, because I don't expect that album to sell in prodigious quantities after the first week or so. Sales will tank soon. Not because the album is bad, but because there's nowhere to hear it. There's no exhibition in areas where people might be turned on to their sound, whether it be for the first time or once again.

When I managed bands such as Los Lobos and Luscious Jackson, I looked to everything except radio to further their careers. Most of the bands I worked with were not going to get the kind of airplay needed to sell millions of records. Building and keeping a solid fan base, touring, film and TV placements, corporate events, etc were the cornerstone of these bands daily routine. While the bands weren't headlining arenas, it provided a very good living for them. The artists kept their integrity. Now this seems to be the paradigm, when there is no alternative. It wasn't an alternative for these acts or me 10 years ago, which we realized and used it to our advantage.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The ABBA Museum

I had no idea an ABBA museum was planned. It's been delayed. Mama Mia!

ABBA (AP) Opening Of ABBA Museum Delayed 09/11/2008 STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- The opening of a museum dedicated to Swedish pop group ABBA has been delayed. The initial target for the opening was June 2009, but project co-founder Ulf Westman said Thursday the renovation of the building will take longer than expected because it is "more complicated than what was predicted earlier." Westman did not say when the museum might open.

I tried to think of other musicians that have their own museum and only country stars came to mind. I will never forget my first trip to Nashville, besides meeting then Senator Al Gore, I walked into the Barbara Mandrell museum and there on it's own perch was the car that she was driving in 1984 when she was involved in a head on collision. Later this was renacted in the TV movie, Get To The Heart, starring Maureen McCormick as Barbara. Needless to say the car was a wreck. I found it to be a very strange introduction to a musician that I had limited knowledge of. Needless to say, I always think of that car when I hear her name.