Wednesday, February 25, 2009

iTunes Pass

Depeche Mode fans can buy an iTunes Pass to get access to everything the band releases on iTunes between now and June 16 (can't find the significance of that date). Sounds of the Universe is their next full length record. Songs are DRM free. Items are delivered as soon as they are made available. There is no mention of what other bits the pass gives takers, beside the initial single, album and a remix. It sounds like an inching closer to a subscription based idea that the major labels are resisting. I'm not sure that success can be measured by using Depeche Mode to launch such a promotion. When I did travel coordination for the band in the 80's, the height of their popularity, they didn't sell a truck load of records, which leads me to think iTunes Pass might not bring in a lot of takers. I do know that this band sold more merchandise that many of the bigger acts in the 80's. They also put on an amazing live show.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Actors Try Singing - Joaquin Phoenix on Deck

There has been a buzz since Joaquin Phoenix stated he's retiring from making films and is recording a rap album. There have been numerous actors who have tried their hand at a singing career with dismal results. There will always be those TV actor one hit wonders, anyone remember the Donna Reed Show with Shelley Fabares and Paul Peterson. It doesn't hurt that they had people like Carole King and Gerry Goffin writing for them. Today on WNYC's Soundcheck they discuss this very topic and the host John Schaefer blogs about it. . Mare Winningham, Rick Moranis and Minnie Driver have all appeared on his show promoting their musical endeavors.

I've thought about this often and have yet to come up with an actor (acting has to have been his/her first career) who had a successful recording career. Rick Springfield is eliminated. He had a hit with Speak To The Sky, long before his cartoon, Mission Magic or General Hospital. Schaefer mentions Eddie Murphy, She And Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) and of course William Shatner. I can list a lot of actors who have had top 10 hits, but never a career singing: David Soul, John Travolta, Vicki Lawrence, Jack Wagner. has a list of Actors Who Tried to Sing, along with their album covers. Check out: Kristy McNichol, Donny Most, Anson Williams, Keanu Reeves, the list goes on. Kevin Bacon and his brother have successfully played live for many years, but never had a hit.

I would love to be enlightened. Is there is a actor who did have a successful singing career post acting? Does this mean it is much easier to act than to perform music? I guess Joaqin is up for taking the challenge.

Friday, February 20, 2009

ELO Bassist RIP

Kelly Groucutt, bassist for Electric Light Orchestra died of a heard attack on February 19, according to his official website. Groucutt was a member of the group from 1974-1983. He passed away in Worcester, England at the age of 63.

I saw ELO in their heyday at The Nassau Coliseum. It was an amazing show. At the time it seemed like there were 40 people on that stage. We see bigger productions now, but it impressed me then. There was so much hair and so much music coming off that stage.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Guitar Hero Misspells Lynyrd Skynyrd

As Rolling Stone points out Lynyrd Skynyrd lost a "Y" on the Guitar Hero artwork and "haven’t they lost enough already?" Lynyrd Skynyrd's name is misspelled on the cover of the latest version of Guitar Hero: Metallica. "Lynyr Skynrd" is listed with the other bands that are represented on the video game. Check the left-center for the mistake. It goes into the word Hero.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quadrophenia: A UK Stage Production Debut

According to Billboardbiz, Quadrophenia will be start it's UK theatrical run on May 9.

The article quoted Quadrophenia's author, Pete Townsend. "It's taken a long time and a lot of wrangling to accept that Quadrophenia is probably never going to work as conventional music theatre," said Townsend in a statement. "So I hope for a grand and chaotic explosion of music and chorus that revives the memories of being young in the '60s, but also brings those memories to life in the 21st century."

Metropolitan Entertainment promoted Quadrophenia at Madison Square Garden when I work there, which is why I saw it. I think it was the summer of 1996. At best I was a casual Who fan. I was blown away by the energy of Roger Daltrey and the writing of Pete Townsend. I now pay attention to the Who. This wasn't even Townsend at his best. He was only playing acoustic guitar as he had hand trouble. Billy Idol and Gary Glitter were part of the show. Zak Starkey (Keith Moon was his godfather) was impressive on drums. Even without it being a full blown Who show, the power of the music hit me. Hearing Bettye LaVette sing "Love Rain O'Er Me" at the Kennedy Center Honors reinforced the ability of Pete's music to strike a chord that resonates deep in one's soul.

Friday, February 13, 2009

iTunes Replay

Apple Insider is reporting that Apple is getting ready to launch a media streaming service called Replay which would work with iTunes 8. This would allow a purchase from iTunes to be streamed anywhere the consumer is logged into iTunes. Right now it seems to be geared toward TV shows and movies. Mobile device users could watch what they bought, but not have to take up precious storage space on their device. It's similar to the Instant Watch service Netflix offers now, but it's mobile. This would be a big boast for the iPhone and iTouch. Apple creates a product and then builds programs to make using them easier and more efficient; therefore selling more products. The major record labels couldn't do it, but Apple did.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Beacon Theater Shines

Tomorrow Paul Simon will be the first person to grace the stage at the newly renovated Beacon Theater on New York's Upper West Side. The theater was designated a landmark in 1979. It seems to me that it was always in a halfway state of either repair or disrepair depending on how you look at it. The backstage areas were on different floors with little staircases that eventually lead outside or to the stage. I've seen many shows there, the last one was Marisa Monte. Whether it was Marissa or Los Lobos performing, the place always looked like it had too many coats of gold paint. From the looks of the photos in the NY Times slide show, the 7 month renovation has made the theater almost unrecognizable to me. It is gleaming in all it's original glory. I wonder if the backstage area got a face lift also?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The New Face of Banana Republic: Liz Phair

Banana Republic is rolling out a new ad campaign called "City Stories". They've enlisted musicians who embody the city and are comfortable in Banana Republic clothing. The article in, quoted Banana Republic’s chief marketing officer Peter DeLuca that the campaign began by targeting “the modern soul”: shoppers between the ages of 25 and 49 who “aspire to a city lifestyle,” says DeLuca. “We’re really trying to establish the brand’s vision of the city as an anchor point. Music is a key piece of the puzzle.” What about those of us who live in a major city? This sounds a lot like a series of ads the Gap (owned by the same company) ran in the 1990's. When I was working with Luscious Jackson they did a Christmas ad, as as well as one called Stone Fox, which was an original song they wrote for the ad. Around the time I was working with Luscious Jackson at Side One Management we also managed Liz Phair, a participant in the new BR campaign.

Other artists participating: Sara Bareilles, OK Go! and Tommy Torres.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Grammy Observations

I wasn't consistent in my viewing of the Grammys last night but here are my various observations:
  • U2's opening number was uninteresting and missing a memorable chorus. I expected more from them.
  • Katy Perry was awkward.
  • Justin Timberlake had the biggest smile on his face while singing with Al Green. He truly looked happy to be there. Keith Urban had a little George Benson thing going on during the same song.
  • Carrie Underwood's guitarist rocked. Her name is Orianthi. I read she just signed a deal with Geffen.
  • MIA was about to drop her baby any second. I think it was her due date.
  • Alison Krauss does not talk very much
  • Jonas Brothers and Stevie Wonder, Huh?
  • Coldplay's Viva La Vida won for song of the year. This award goes to the songwriters. Joe Satriani has claimed they stole his song If I Could Fly. Lawyers are talking.
  • Charlie Hayden is Jack Black's father-in-law.
  • The sound mix was sub par.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Newlywed Game

Bob Eubanks was the probably the most suited host for a game show. He made the Newlywed Game by egging on the contestants in a very playful manner. The show was entertaining and funny. Maybe it gave us more information than we needed to know, but we did find out where the strangest places were to make whoopee.

I was intrigued by the announcement that GSN has tapped Carnie Wilson (Wilson-Phillips), the gregarious and bubbly daughter of Brian Wilson to host the updated version to premiere April 6 on GSN. The real point of interest is the new bonus round where the winning newlywed couple challenges a still-married and a former original Newlywed Game couple (referred to as "Goldywed couples" on the show), going back as far as the 1960s.

Will they still be using Sharpies and placards to write their answers? I think it's a must. What will the wives use to hit the husbands over the heads with?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Live Nation Ticketmaster

Here they go again. History has not been good to music industry mega-mergers. The latest involves Live Nation and Ticketmaster for an all stock offering. No cash would be exchanged. Live Nation just launched it's ticket service and from the postings on message boards, it did not make those purchasing U2 tickets happy. The site couldn't process orders, etc. A lot of people were left without tickets. Live Nation also has taken on Madonna, Jay-Z, etc to promote tours, release records, sell merchandise, etc. They do not have the infrastructure to do it. Tickemaster bought Irving Azoff's ever growing management company. On paper, the merger would help Live Nation on the artist and ticketing side. Ticketmaster gets the benefit of the extensive Irving Azoff roster.

I'm skeptical that this sum is greater than the parts. What does this mean for artists outside this circle? There is an alternative in AEG, the other big promoter. Most of the local promoters who had non-compete agreements when they were bought by what is now Live Nation, have expired. The concert promotion business has vastly changed since the SFX/Live Nation creation, comprised of many, many local promoters. Can these promoters still compete and make money? It used to be that artists would forge relationships with the promoters, which lead to artist development. Start out at a small club and as the career builds, you move up to bigger venues with the same promoter, everyone was happy. The artist and the promoter knew each other which made for good promotions and well run shows. It is such a DIY world for the artist now. They not only have to make music and perform it, but they have to be creative directors, graphic artists, videographers, editors, web designers, merchandisers, distributors, bloggers, accountants, booking agents and promoters.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

50th Anniversary of The Day The Music Died

We lost Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Booper 50 years ago today.

I managed Los Lobos for 8 years. They had a number 1 hit with their cover of Richie Valens version of La Bamba. In 1987 that song was everywhere. I wasn't working with them at the the time, but they said they has absolutely no idea it was a hit. They were out of the country touring and were amazed at the popularity of the song.

In a short music career from 1954-59, Buddy Holly's output is staggering. If just for the number of hit covers of his songs. Everyone from the Rolling Stones (Not Fade Away) to Linda Ronstadt (That'll Be The Day) to the Beatles (Words of Love) recorded his music. He was from Texas and was living in Greenwich Village when he died. His widow Maria Elena Holly (they were married for 6 months when he died) recounted their time together in New York City in today's WSJ:

"We both were night people. We used to roll up our pajamas, put on raincoats, and walk to the coffeehouses to hear guitar players, and in the morning we'd walk to Washington Square Park. Buddy would bring his guitar and just sit there, and all these other young musicians -- a lot of folksingers -- used to come and talk with him and ask 'How do you do that?' because the way he played the guitar was different, with a down stroke. It was like an educational session there every day.

"I used to say to him, 'You're my old-soul man.' He was 22 going on 50, and very serious about his music. I use to say, 'Why are you so particular, so precise and picky?' And he said: 'Why? Because I write music for people to enjoy, and to make sure they're happy -- and I want my music to last forever.'"

A great song is immortal. The artist lives on forever.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Iraq Metal Band Finds Shelter in NJ

Acrassicauda has been running from the devil for the past few years. They are a heavy metal band from Iraq, were the subjects of a documentary made by a Brooklyn media company in 2007 and spent two years as refugees in Syria and Turkey. They are now legal refugees in NJ. Metallica welcomed them to their show in Newark and handed them a signed guitar that said "Welcome to America". I'd be hard pressed to find a band out there with the road stories these guys must have. Read their story in the NY Times.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Springsteen Super Bowl Show

At one point I thought I was hearing echo/reverb in the stadium during Glory Days. It was actually the crowd singing along. The song closed a rousing set of music, complete with pyrotechnics, precisely choreographed to the music. A choir added to the spectacular of Working on A Dream, kept short and sweet. Choirs are the accessory of choice for singers these days. Faith Hill was backed by one for her rendition of America the Beautiful, which preceded a visibly nervous Jennifer Hudson performing the National Anthem. The Boss opened with Tenth Avenue Freeze Out and without missing a beat, segued into Born To Run. Although Bruce is not a football fan, (at the Super Bowl press conference he said if you are going to ask me football questions, this will be a short conference) football fans are Bruce fans. The crowd was enjoying every moment and they looked like football fans. Thank God it was not another one of those crowds brought in by central casting. The excitement of The Steelers; James Harrison's 100 yard return for a touchdown to close the second half had the crowd going. Springsteen kept the momentum going.