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.