Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Music Legend Earl Scruggs Dies At 88

My first introduction to Earl Scruggs was the theme from the Beverly Hillbillies, The Ballad of Jed Clampett.  That was a time when TV theme songs laid out the premise of the show. We all remember black gold/Texas tea.  Scruggs performed the song along with Lester Flatt; it was sung by Jerry Scoggins. 

Steve Martin called him ''the most important banjo player who ever lived." Scruggs passed away at age 88 of natural causes.  His importance to music cannot be overstated. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Zoe Keating Asks ASCAP To Show Her The Money

Whenever I hear about artists (those that are not in the top 200 grossing artists of the year) not getting their fair share of their performance/songwriting royalties, it points back to ASCAP.  I don't read about too much injustice from BMI or SESAC.

Techdirt points us to a blog by Zoe Keating.  She, as an informed musician, actually broke down her settlement from a live performance. The promoter deducted $86 as an ASCAP payment.  She never sees that money in her ASCAP statements.  She called ASCAP to find out how she can claim that money and was told, "there was nothing for me to claim. He informed me that ASCAP pays out performing royalties only to the 200 top-grossing concert tours, as determined by Pollstar."  How do they determine what to pay the songwriter if he/she doesn't tour?  Does your song have to be performed by one of those top 200 grossing artists?

In some venues, even if you are not registered with ASCAP, the venue is and they still deduct the money.   Why is ASCAP set up this way?

According to ASCAP's website:

A music creator is like a small business, and ASCAP exists to ensure that music creators are paid promptly when their works are performed publicly.  ... ASCAP is committed to nurturing music makers throughout their careers.

It does not specifically state that you have to gross X amount of money before they will consider making a prompt payment.  If you add up all those $86 contributions day in and day out, over thousands of venues, there is a lot of money going to ASCAP.  It seems like in 2012 there should be a legitimate tracking system that could be put in place to pay out royalties properly, especially if the artist is being diligent about submitting song lists, etc as Zoe has. 

If anyone has the answer, let me and the thousands of musicians who'd love to get their piece of their pie, in on the royalty payment secret.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Emotional Punch of Keith Haring

If you lived in or visited New York City in the early 80's, Keith Haring had an impact on you.  He was beyond ahead of his time.  Now it's all about musicians giving away their music to get heard.  Keith was giving away his art when no one else was doing that. He believed in having art accessible to everyone.  This is something he got chastised for when he opened the Pop Shop on Lafayette St.

Keith saw an opening.  There were big black canvases all over the city subway system.  Where there wasn't an ad, Keith saw a canvas.  His atomic babies, spaceships and barking dogs were everywhere. How could you not smile when you saw them?  His art also had a message.  There was lots of love and lots of social awareness to his work. 

The Brooklyn Museum is currently exhibiting his earlier works in drawings, paintings, journals and video.  The Keith Haring Foundation (which he established to carry on his legacy of working with children and AIDS awareness) has created a tumblr account, which posts a different page from his journal for everyday of the exhibit.  Being a New Yorker, I love the poem The Smog Frog. 

I'm sure this exhibit will not only delight, but educate.  Can't wait to see it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

From The Reservation To The Runway

I've mentioned Sparkle Beauty Studio before.  It's a wonderful place to get a great haircut, be pampered and listen to a well-curated mix of music.  Gabriel Trujillo and his business partner/spouse Jeffrey Fernandez have created a unique space for beauty.

Jeffrey and Gabriel in The Green Room at a Letterman Taping
Gabriel and I met when I was managing Luscious Jackson (as an aside, LJ are recording a new record).  Jill heard about Gabriel and got a haircut which led to him becoming an integral part of their look.  I have fond memories of he and Jeffrey keeping it together on the shoot of the Naked Eye video.  The days ran way longer than they should have.  The guys were doing hair and makeup for the Luscious ladies as well as at least 20 extras.  Part of the video was filmed in the lobby of the World Trade Center.  There we were at 1am bleary eyed and losing our minds. At least I was losing my mind, the guys did not.  They continued to make everyone look good at that hour.

Gabriel and Jeffrey have a "Be Beautiful" column in a new magazine called Reality Weekly, which  is available at Walmart, Target and other stores.  Gabriel is profiled in The Minot Daily News.  He grew up on a reservation in North Dakota and lucky for us New Yorkers, he made his way here.

Gabriel has directed music videos (check out Jill Cunniff's Lazy Girls) and taken most of the photos  on the Sparkle website, which he built.  Gabriel is an amazing hair and makeup artist.  It doesn't stop there, add to that writer, director, webmaster and photographer. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Loving Tribute To An Irish Father

The assassination of John Kennedy, the Billie Jean King/Bobby Riggs match, a carpenter/baby sitter named Sue and protesters at the St Patrick's Day Parade all had a deep impact on the life of Kate Conroy. 

In an intimate, endearing and entertaining one woman show at Dixon Place, Kate recounted her Irish Catholic upbringing and the role her now deceased father played in it.  The show was a tribute to him titled:  To Dad With Love.  She wove her biographical tales with a set of not so traditional Irish folk songs: the tunes her dad liked to sing.

She was born the same year President Kennedy was shot.  To her family and millions of Irish Americans, his presidency validated their existence.  They no longer felt like outsiders in this country.  Her family gatherings used to be held in public parks.  Midway through the gathering, a relative would bring out the bagpipes, everyone would gather and Eddie Conroy would take the lead vocal on Moses Ri-Toorah-li-ay.  Kate said it was her favorite of her father's songs and she sang it for us. 

As a person of the same generation as Kate, I loved her memories of the Billie Jean tennis match. The mention of her parents going to a marriage encounter on the same night of the match, which meant hiring the carpenter to babysit, put me right back into the 70's.  Things were happening all around us in the late 60's and 70's, which affected us in small ways at the time, but had big implications in the long run.  Billie Jean was one of the first to physically and mentally prove to all that a woman can do anything, especially when going after a hustler like Riggs.

In bringing this around to a St Patrick's Day post she also told of her sadness and rejection of her Irish background when she saw a group of gay protesters try to join the parade after being told they couldn't because they were gay.  She saw the protesters beaten by the police from her office window.  With some archaic thinking, it looks like LGBT groups are still being banned from both New York and Boston parades this year.  

She started the show off with a sing along, Mountain Dew and ended with a lullaby, Will Ye Go Lassie Go.  If you're a child of the 60's, come from an Irish and/or Catholic background or have strong ties with your family, you will appreciate and enjoy To Dad With Love.  This was her debut and I'm hoping she brings the show back for an encore.