Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron RIP

I remember reading the profile on Gil Scott-Heron in the New Yorker about a year ago and thinking it's amazing he's still alive.  Sadly he passed away on Friday.  Read the obit from the Alec Wilkinson author of that profile.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Adele's Jerk Ex-Boyfriend Feels Entitled To Royalties

As Techdirt points out, this is a few weeks old, but still worth mentioning. In this litigious society we live in, it seems that exes are taking it a little too far.  As if a breakup isn't bad enough, the person who caused the heartache tries to sue you for ownership of the songs you wrote because of the breakup.

Adele's ex is claiming he "inspired" the songs and therefore should get partial ownership. Isn't he embarrassed to make such a claim?  Isn't he embarrassed that he caused such pain?  Guess not.  He wants a cut of the royalties.

Adele's response to him: Well, you made my life hell, so I lived it and now I deserve it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gaga For A Dollar

Lady Gaga's album Born This Way is available on Amazon for a $.99 download today.  The only way to secure the download is to load it on to the Amazon cloud.  From there you can download to your computer.  Let's assume that this was the biggest way possible for Amazon to get consumers involved in their cloud service. It does one up Google for the day. 

Follow this link to get the offer. It's not that easy to find.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wendy Corsi Staub on Writing, Optioning And The Importance Of A Dog

Live to TellInspiration comes in many places.  Realizing that Grand Central Station no longer had baggage lockers, author Wendy Corsi Staub thought about where she could stash a bag while she went about her business in the city.  As she walked through the terminal, she passed the sign for the Lost and Found, which got her thinking about the process of turning something in to the Lost and Found and then trying to retrieve it.  Wendy now had the opening of Live To Tell, the first in a trilogy of thrillers. 

Wendy was the guest author at book club last night. She is a prolific writer having authored books in different genres:  thriller/mystery, chic-lit, young adult as well as ghost writing biographies. 

Authors have so many different writing processes.  John Irving always knows the ending of his book before he starts writing. Wendy explained her method. “I edit during the writing process.  The story is ever evolving and I'm constantly rereading, rewriting, cutting and pasting, adding and deleting.  When I reach the end of the manuscript, it's DONE.  I wish I could be one of those authors who writes a complete first draft, then goes back and does a second draft and then a third, but that's just not comfortable for me. I edit as I go and the first draft is my final draft, then it goes straight to my husband for a read. I tweak for typos and continuity per his feedback and then it lands on my editor’s desk.”   She said that when you first get published, you have to turn in outlines. She’s not big on outlines. Her editor, Lucia Macro (book club member) said it’s rare that any of her authors work with outlines; in fact she could only think of one who plotted a whole book before writing it.  Wendy submits story summaries and a first chapter.

Surprisingly Lucia told us that authors do have the final say on their content. (Not always the case for musicians working with a record label.) The editor and author share the same vision for the book, but it’s the editor’s job to make sure the author is not taking it in a very wrong direction. Wendy was once an editor and she believes in working with her editor.  As with most musicians, I’m assuming most writers are precious with their art.  Editors are there to make the art more sellable and readable.  Artists don’t always see it that way.  Aren’t two heads better than one?  Wendy thinks so. 

Live to tell is set in New York City and it’s suburbs.  Lauren Walsh is recently divorced from Nick, the on again/off again dad.  She’s in what she thought was her dream house, a sprawling suburban Victorian in need of upgrades.  Is she a little woe-is-me?  Probably, but she had the rug pulled out from under her. Her husband leaves her for an older woman, gets an apartment in a doorman building in White Plains and takes the kids whenever he gets around to it.  She’s got the responsibility and he has the girlfriend. 

Her youngest daughter Sadie loses Fred, her beloved stuffed animal.  It’s more than a toy.  It was a gift from Nick and it’s one piece of her dad she can hold on to.  Nick reluctantly goes to the Lost and Found in Grand Central to claim what he thinks is Fred.  It’s not Fred and it’s filled with more than just stuffing. 

As with any good thriller, Live To Tell engaged me.  It’s hard to write about the story without giving it away.  To coin a phrase, the plot thickens, the kids are involved and a ruthless politician needs to get his way.  There seems to be no shortage of inspiration from stories in the news regarding politicians and their sordid lives.  Wendy mentioned that when she was writing this book, the Eliot Spitzer scandal was in full swing. 

Live to Tell would be a perfect cable TV movie, actually it would perfectly play out as a mini-series.   I asked Wendy if she was approached about optioning her work for film or TV and she said there has been interest. A lot of times she’s told what I have heard too many times as a manager and it’s ridiculous, “You need to have a strong male lead.  We can’t have just a female lead.”  I’ve worked with many female musicians and used to hear from radio stations,  “Even though we love the record, we can’t add it this week as we already have two female musicians on our play list”.  Why is the entertainment industry still so female-phobic?  A look at today’s iTunes chart shows who is leading the pack.  Six of the Top 10 downloads are from female artists (I’m including Black Eyed Peas).  At number one is Adele and Lady Gaga has two slots. Get over it Hollywood. We love our female leads. 

The characters are very believable, the story is cohesive and I was cheering for the good guys. I can’t think of a better summary for a mini-series. 

Apparently you can judge a book by its cover.  Lucia told us that the book cover is really important, especially in the thriller and chic-lit world.  People do buy a book based on its cover.  Buyers at stores pay a lot of attention to book covers.  A few authors have told me that if a book cover is approved and it isn’t a true representation of the story, it is easier for the author to amend his/her story to include something from the artwork rather than change the cover.  Art influencing art? 

Since many of us in book club are dog lovers, we had to ask about Chauncey, the Walsh’s pet.  I won’t say what happens to Chauncey, but I will say that once Wendy had a dog killed in one of her books. She got so much negative mail that she would never go down that path again. 

Scared to DeathWendy Corsi Staub’s most recent book is Scared To Death, the follow up to Live To Tell.

Fascinating piece on Grand Central's Lost and Found and other secrets.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oh my god. Who let me out of the house?

This exclaimed Rosanne Cash after finding some publicity photos of herself at age 20, 21.  At the time she was promoting her first record which initially came out in Germany.  Read full tweet.

I think we've all had that moment.   I look back on photos from 6th, 7th, 8th grade where my hair was all over the place or pulled back in a pony tail. It looks awful. I once asked my mother why she didn't insist on cutting my hair.  Her response, "I had to pick my fights."  

Here is the cover of Rosanne's first record.  She looks pretty amazing.  She's giving Linda Ronstadt a run for her money.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Record Labels Settle with LimeWire, What Does That Mean For The Artists?

According to the NY Times,  the major record labels won a $105 million settlement against the file-sharing network LimeWire.  The article asks the age old question: What will the artists see?  As most lawyers, managers or artists will tell you, they will see nothing.  Legal fees have to be paid first and I'm sure those are hefty, but what the labels keep and what gets to the artists are two different amounts.  I'd love to hear from any musician who saw money from a record label after his/her label successfully sued a company in a case where money should have gone to the artist. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

John Carter: A Great Music Man

 Carter, as everyone seemed to call him, was one of those rare A&R guys whom really knew his stuff. Talk about putting in your hours.  He was about as well rounded in the music biz as one could be.

  • He was a musician
  • He wrote songs (Incense and Peppermints)
  • Worked as a promotion man for Atlantic Records in the 70’s in San Francisco
  • Was an A&R man, first at Capitol Records
  • Produced records, first being Sammy Hagar who he signed to Capitol
  • Signed Tina Turner and produced Private Dancer
  • Managed artists

I’m sure all of the above made him the perfect A&R guy.  He knew what songs to pick for the artist and he knew when a song needed help.

On co-writing songs with artists he produced, “I really harassed and harassed people to improve their songwriting over the course of a project...and maybe in the eleventh hour, I finally said, "That's it. I can't stand it anymore. Here's a lyric. What do you think?" So really, it was usually as a last resort—not a first choice.”  (Read more of this interview on Taxi’s website)

Carter passed away from cancer. I never had the pleasure of working with him, but people I know did, and loved him. 

For a personal account, read Bob Lefsetz column.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Musicians: Make The Effort For Yourselves

The life of a musician can be solitary.  If you're in a band, you can collaborate with band members, you're on the road with them, but when it comes to the end of the day, it's you.  Seth Godin's Self Directed Effort is the Best Kind, got me thinking about the musicians that have a career and those who don't.

Seth asks if you need a boss, trainer, etc to stand over you to make you go the extra mile.  Do you need incentives to reach your goals?  Can you attain your goals by yourself? Are you motivated and regimented enough? 

Seth writes:
Effort's ephemeral, hard to measure and incredibly difficult to deliver on a regular basis. So we hire a trainer or a coach or a boss and give up our freedom and our upside for someone to whip us into shape. Obviously, you give up part of what you create to the trainer/coach/boss in exchange for their oversight.

Do we need the taskmaster? 

I've been a freelancer for quite a few years now and sometimes it would be nice to have a taskmaster telling me what to do.  It is easy to look at the check list and keep moving items around that you don't necessarily want to deal with.  But what about the satisfaction of crossing those items/tasks off your list?  Doing it yourself.  That's a great feeling. 

Do musicians have lists?  Being a musician these days means more than just making music.  Each day a musician needs to send out emails, update twitter/blog, make a new video, write a song, prepare for a tour, get to the next venue, etc.  I could argue that this is where a manager comes into play, but the manager can't force a musician to do something. She/he can suggest things and point out what will help  a career and propose great deals, but ultimately it's up to the musician to make it happen for herself.  

The successful musician does not give in to leaving it up to others or the taskmaster to make it happen. Where is the satisfaction in that?  If the musician believes in what she is doing, then she must  ultimately be the one to carry out her plan/ideals.  She is the one who has to go the extra mile, not because someone is monitoring her, but because she believes. 

Thursday, May 05, 2011

American Idol Sells Records

The April 27th episode of American Idol featured the songs of Carole King.  Billboard reports that on the heels of that show, her records "Live at the Troubadour" and the iconic "Tapestry" have both re-entered the Top 200:  "Troubadour"  at No. 170, up 106% and her No. 1 1971 effort "Tapestry" No. 178, up 135%.  There are still people out there who do not own Tapestry?

 Great songs endure. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

BMG & Universal Want In On Warner Music AND EMI

According to Bloomberg, BMG Rights Management and Universal Music Group might make a joint bid for Warner Music AND EMI.  There are two other groups in the bidding.  Both Live Nation and another group led by Sean Parker have backed out of the race.