Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lady Gaga 0, Fan 1

Lady Gaga and/or  her management appealed to the National Arbitration Forum.  Her claim was that, which was started by a fan, was a trademark infringement.  The owner of the site claimed that she was not gaining any profit from the site and using it solely to promote Lady Gaga. 

This is where it gets tricky for an artist who fiercely wants to protect his/her image.  Is it worth alienating a fan who is clearly a superfan?  The website states on the homepage that it's an unofficial site. 

For someone as popular and in the public eye as Lady Gaga, she would have to think situations like this would be sprouting up all over. This fan was smart enough to register  In checking other domains, .net is another unofficial website, .info redirects to a dance website.  It's surprising that Gaga didn't register every domain configuration and redirect them all to her official website. 

The official verdict according to the Hollywood Reporter
Three panelists at the National Arbitration Forum ruled that Lady Gaga had failed to show that respondent lacked legitimate interest in the disputed domain name.

Fan 1, Gaga 0

Monday, September 26, 2011

Losers Take All

In a Six Degrees of Separation moment, I have a few connections to the movie Losers Take All.  It's based on a story by Ed Bradin and Roger Rawlings.  I've know Ed for years. Our first encounter may have been my first day of college.  His sister and I were college roommates.  I had never met her prior to going to Fordham.   While I was out of the room on that first day, Kerri moved in.  You can always judge someone by their music collection and apparently Eddy, who was there to drop off his sister at college, approved of my mine.  There was plenty of Ramones, Blondie, Beach Boys and  Elvis Costello. 

Ed joined us at Fordham two years later and he and Roger formed the band the Altar Boys.  This movie is based on their story.

In another degree of separation, the film director, Alex Steyermark is one of the best music supervisors I know.  He has such a connection between film and music.  It makes sense that two of his directorial stints have been music related.  The other film being Prey For Rock & Roll. 

The movie was seen at the Woodstock Film Festival this past Friday and hopefully it will be at a theater near you very soon.

Movie Trivia:  Billy Kay who plays one of the band members was the baby in the movie 3 Men And A Baby.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Two Lead Singers Are Better Than One

The Jayhawks @ The Greene Space

Two lead singers, singing each song simultaneously is a rarity in music.  The first groups that come to mind were duos in the 1960’s.  Do duos count?  Chad and Jeremy and Peter and Gordon.  The Smothers Brothers also sang together, but took solos.  Squeeze has a few songs that Glen and Chris took leads together such as Take Me I’m Yours.  I don’t remember ever seeing a whole show where two lead singers sang every song in the set. 

Monday night’s Jayhawks performance at the Greene Space had me mesmerized.  Gary Louris and Mark Olson sounded like one.  It wasn’t that they weren’t harmonizing or singing different notes at times, while singing the same lyrics.  It just struck me that they sounded like a single unit.  The drummer, Tim O’Reagan and keyboard player, Karen Grotberg both contributed background vocals. Bassist Marc Perlman did not. 

The intimate show was recorded for a future broadcast for Soundcheck airing on Sept 30th.  They opened the show with She Walks in So Many Ways.  I’ve been hearing the track on WEHM and love it.  It’s from the new album Mockingbird Time which is out this week.  Jayhawks and Mockingbirds are a good combo.  The album is the first full-length studio album featuring Gary and Mark (founding members of the group) since the wonderful 1995 release, Tomorrow the Green Grass. The duo wrote all the songs on the album. 

When asked about the writing process, Gary said it was just the two of them.  Band members add to the recording, but the two are the writers.  Both Gary and Mark said they still write a whole album with a theme, the way they always have.  Mockingbird follows a biographical journey of the band and their lives.  They still spend time on sequencing, even in this age of pick and choose tracks. 

Closer To Your Side brought thoughts of those duos: Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy. The writing is more mature, but it follows in the tradition of great hooks and melodies.

Mark played acoustic guitar and Gary electric.  Both have a great sound to their playing.  The night would not have been complete without the “hit” (or nuggets as Gary referred to their more familiar songs) Blue.  It’s a classic.  One of my favorite covers of all time is their version of Bad Time.  They did not perform it, which was to be expected in 50 minute set.

It’s great to have Mark, Gary and their songwriting back.

Of Note:
Rolling Stone is streaming the new record.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Major Labels Still Using Payola The Same Old Way

TechDirt alerted me to a post by the former president of Rykodisc, George Howard on TuneCore's blog.  As George points out, radio is the last stronghold for the major labels, meaning it's the last place they have some "control".   Getting most records on the radio involves lots of money, hiring "consultants" and being a part of the good old boys network, which still exists and has not been cracked in over 50 years.

In my experience the route to getting a song played on radio has not changed in many years.  It started in the late 80's and was in full swing by the 90's.  George explains the process:

Getting a song “added” to a station’s playlist to get a certain number of plays per week involves a rather byzantine process that brings in various parties, called independent promoters (“indies”).  These “indies” are first paid by the label.  It’s important to note that the money the indies receive isn’t necessarily compensation paid directly to them for getting Program Directors to get a song played.  Rather, they work more like an intermediary to pass the label’s money to the radio station. These indies, with the money paid to them from the labels, pay the radio station money for various listener give-aways, bumper stickers and so on. To top it off,  these very same indies are often also paid a second time by the stations themselves as a consultant to advise the stations on what songs they should play.

This is essentially why very few indie artists are heard on any format other than college radio (there are consultants for that format also).  They have a better chance of being struck by lightening than hearing themselves on Top 40 radio.  The majors have the most money and are tied in to the good old boys network.  If indies have the money, they don't belong to the network.

What George didn't touch on was the cost to the artists.  All this promotion money/payola is recoupable by the artist.  It goes to their bottom line.  It explains why Vertical Horizon had a big hit with Everything You Want and got paid nothing in royalties from their record label.    When I was working with the band, the album had sold about 1.4 million units and the band hadn't seen a penny in royalties.  The flip side of this is you are so happy a label has gotten behind you and is pushing you, that you ignore it as the spread sheet numbers keeps adding up.  It did make them a profitable touring band and the songwriters got nice publishing checks.   As an artist you weigh the outcome.

Things are much different now than 15 years ago.  There are other ways to be heard than on the radio.  The good news for artists is they have access to all of them. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Sensible Musician

After reading the NY Times article on Nick Lowe, I'm beginning to believe he's one of a small breed: The Sensible Musician.  He embraces his age (early 60's).  He had a stroke of luck by having his song (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding covered on the Body Guard soundtrack.  The royalties allowed him to make music the way he wanted.  He didn't have to play the game.  He was financially sound.

Nick's latest The Old Magic came out yesterday.   The cover sports a woman who resembles Karen Carpenter. 

On the heels of Doris Day having a top 10 album hit in the UK this past week, my friend suggested Doris and Nick should record an album and call it Sense and Sensibility.  I think she's on to something. 

For your ears: 
Nick guest DJ's on All Songs Considered.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Happy Birthday Freddie!

Today would have been Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday.  The Google Doodle honors him.

I was lucky to see Queen at Nassau Coliseum during their Night At The Opera tour. He will always be one of the most charismatic front persons in music.  He was a great songwriter, singer and performer.  My friend Adrienne adored him. What's not to love?