Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Free Music from The NY Daily News

It started with Prince giving away his album in England with the Sunday paper, now the NY Daily News will be giving away free downloads in conjunction with EMI. It's almost impossible to find info on the Daily New's website, but it's being reported that anyone who buys a Sunday paper on Super Bowl Sunday or Grammy Sunday, will receive a code good for 3 free downloads. Not sure why the paper isn't announcing it all over their website.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


If Mitchell Froom endorses someone, I pay attention. This summer he played me Andy Davis, who he just finished producing. He said this guy has it all musicially and he's super organized. Not to generalized, but organized is not a term generally associated with musicians. On first hearing his music, early Todd Rundgren (We Gotta Get You A Woman-Something/Anything period) and Elton John came to mind. I think the piano had something to do with my immediate association, but he tells stories, much like both of the above mentioned. Listen to Let the Woman I Love.

Andy played the Living Room last Friday so I decided to head over there. It was just him, his guitar or piano. Now I can say I also endorse Andy Davis, not that he's running for anything. His show was about the music. His love for music emanates from him. Not taking himself too seriously, he used miscues to his advantage- a charming touch. He knows how to work an audience. His unassuming way of involving the crowd as an additional musician is such a simple but effective additive to the show. Whether clapping hands or signing along to Mariah Carey, the audience was part of this show.

Andy is a Baton Rogue native who now makes Nashville his home. Nashville could be where he developed his storytelling chops. He said when he was studying music he came across Irving Berlin who composed most of his music on the black keys of the piano, which inspired the song Black Keys. Note: In a 1962 interview, Berlin said, "The black keys are right there, under your fingers. The key of C is for people who study music." Irving couldn't read or write music, neither can John Hiatt and I'd be hard pressed to find better songwriters.
Brown Eyes closed his set. It's a perfect pop song. The stuff I love.
"She had brown eyes, I know she's about my height....
I don't even know her, but I know I have to see her again:"
How many people can relate to meeting someone, being smitten, this person leaves the bar, you may never see him/her again, but you're obsessed?

Believable Doubt began as a love song, but took a sinister turn. Andy's vocals suck you in and make you believe.

The album can only be purchased at Barnes & Noble now, but it's worth walking the 3 blocks in NYC to purchase (there is a Barnes & Noble within three blocks of everyone-I have 2 within 5 blocks of my home). It's impeccably produced by Mitchell Froom. Listen to songs from the album on Andy's website, other tracks can be heard at myspace. If he comes to your town, go see him and be entertained: think Elton John without the costumes. There wasn't enough ceiling clearance for him to jump on a piano, but in the back of my head there was always a thought that he could do it and get right back to serenading without missing a beat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Soundtracks Making a Comeback

Soundscan for the week ending January 20th:

#2 Juno soundtrack -only being bested by Alicia Keys. Why does the Velvet Underground show up everywhere?
#13 Alvin & the Chipmunks soundtrack - holding steady for a second week at this position. It actually ranked as high at #7 a few weeks ago. It's an album of sped up vocals.
#18 High School Music soundtrack - this has surpassed the 3 million sold mark. This brings me to kids TV. While in FL with my niece, she had the TV tuned to Nick and Disney. No matter what the show, someone was breaking out in song. It could be a video or a band performance. I can only compare this programming to Dream Girls meets MTV.

The music business never ceases to surprise.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

EMI: Hands On

A lot is being written about Guy Hands who engineered the buying of EMI. He made a mistake in letting Tony Wadsworth go. With that exception, much of what he is saying and being chastised for is basically true. I read the article in today's WSJ. Most of the press involving EMI include a big photo of the Rolling Stones and claim that the band no longer wants to be at EMI and they are doing a one-off soundtrack for Universal. If Guy is smart and wants to turn around a company that has been in financial disarray for many many years now, signing the Stones would not make sense. I'm assuming the Stones would require large sums of money upfront. The Stones no longer sell enough record to warrant a large advance. EMI would never recoup. I don't think that having the Stones on the label will entice younger, prominent acts to sign with the label. I did read that the Stones have the rights to all their music post 1970. That is a carrot, but still not enough for a failing company to invest in.

In a meeting with band managers Hands sited Terra Firma's (his company) successful track record in his stewardship of UK movie theater chain Odeon Cinemas. "The cinema business isn't the movie business - it's the popcorn business." This did not sit well with the managers, but let's face the state of things: I'm sure theater chains make way more money on popcorn than they do on selling tickets. What other avenue is there for record companies to make money beside the selling of music? The music business doesn't have a "popcorn".

When Jack Welch took over NBC/Universal, the first thing he did was let go of the music arm. One look at the books and he knew the old model from 50 years ago wouldn't work and it would take too long to change things. I don't know how long it will take Guy Hands to re-engineer EMI and turn it into a profit center, or if he ever will, but I will enjoy following his travails.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tom Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll

There are things I've taken for granted which have been part of my birthright: the freedom to listen to whatever music I want. whenever I want and see it performed live. Tom Stoppard's engrossing play Rock 'N' Roll drives home the theory or reality depending on how you look at it, that culture cannot thrive in a communist/dictatorship society. The play is set in a span from 1968 (we are being clobbered over the head with references to the summer of love), when Czechoslovakia had a few months of uncensored creativity under the leadership of Alexander Dubcek to 1990 when the Rolling Stone performed in Prague.

The play revolves around a student, Jan, who leaves Cambridge, England where is he studying with a Marxist professor, to return to his hometown of Prague, even though the Czech government has asked him to stay in England. As an avid music lover, he discovers the band the Plastic People of the Universe and believes they will be the shining light to bring artistic freedom back to the people of Prague.

Milan Hlavsa, who died in 2001, formed the Plastic People of the Universe in September 1968 when he was 19. The fact that the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia had occurred in August was not immediately relevant: ‘We just loved rock’n’roll and wanted to be famous…rock’n’roll wasn’t just music to us, it was kind o ife itself.’ The band was not interested in bringing down communism, only in nding a free space for itsel nside the communist society. But of course there was no such space, and the story that Rock’n’Roll is telling is that, in the logic of communism, what the band wasn’t interested in and what the band wanted could not in the end be separated. The Plastics were among a small number of musicians and artists who wouldn’t compromise at all, so the space for POLITICS, ROCK’N’ROLL AND LIFE ITSELF their music and for ‘life itself’ became harder and harder to nd until it was eradicated. -Tom Stoppard

The clever use of graphics and music help to bridge the segments of this 3 hour play. There is more than one reference to Syd Barrett, the troubled founder of Pink Floyd. Was Stoppard a friend of his? Syd hailed from Cambridge. Pink Floyd's first album was titled The Piper At the Gates of Dawn, which is a reference to Pan and Wind in The Willows. All of this ties into the play. By 1968, he was no longer a member of Floyd. As Jan says, can you imagine getting kicked out of Pink Floyd for taking too many drugs? A key moment for me came when Jan finds his record collection has been destroyed and the only remaining album is the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, which a friend had borrowed and returned. Pet Sounds is the greatest album ever recorded in my humble opinion. Music interwoven throughout the play includes, The Velvet Underground, Sid, Pink, The Plastic People of the Universe (read their history), The Cure, The Beach Boys and the play ends with the Rolling Stones performance in Prague. Having been to the wonderful city of Prague, this lesson in a period of it's life was fascinating.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Another Industy Legend Leaving Label

EMI Press Release: EMI Group announces that Tony Wadsworth is stepping down from his post as Chairman and CEO of EMI Music UK & Ireland.

I only had a few dealings with Tony when I managed Luscious Jackson, but he was always respectful, available and shared his love of music. He was one of the last great music people to hold a prominent post at a major label. Let's hope he finds a better way to share his legacy and continue to bring good music to the masses.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Just when you think the RIAA couldn't go any further....

Can this really be true? I want to believe it's a misprint.

The Recording Industry of America has drawn a new line in the sand for digital music users claiming that the act of ripping a purchased CD onto a PC is illegal, according to lawsuit covered in The Washington Post. The RIAA is seeking legal fees from an Arizona man who simply transferred a collection of 2,000 CDs onto his computer.