Oh, What A Night ... The Song Is The Thing
February 17, 2012
Before I Begin
The news of Whitney Houston's passing has been reported on every major news network and news show since last Sunday, and I m sure most all of you have seen the tributes and special shows put together to remind us just how special her voice was, and how it affected so many people.
Many of those shows (still going on as I write tonight) have said more than necessary about Whitney's personal life, and are now focusing on "the cause of death" and any other tidbits than get their hands on. It's a sad state of affairs when so much time is given to speculate "what really happened" when in fact, none of us will ever really know.
I believe it's enough to say Whitney's time here was too brief, but in that time, she made a lot of people happy with the songs she sang and the films she made.
R.I.P. Whitney. You will be missed.
"It was wonderful. Anytime you have Paul (McCartney) and his band playing those songs, something extraordinary happens. It's literally classical music for my generation. They play it note for note, which is how it should be played. You wouldn't improvise on Beethoven's Fifth, would you? It just adds a whole other level of depth to the whole proceedings."
-- E-Street Band member Steve Van Zandt, commenting on Paul McCartney's closing performance on the Grammy broadcast with the "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" medley from The Beatles 'Abbey Road' album
Bruce Springsteen opened with a brand new powerhouse song, "We Take Care Of Our Own," that reaffirmed his status as "The Boss;" Paul McCartney closed with the "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" medley from The Beatles' "Abbey Road" album, Taylor Swift played and sang and exhibited her amazing talent again, The Beach Boys were reunited for "Good Vibrations;" Tony Bennett crooned a duet with Carrie Underwood; Bruno Mars danced up a storm while he sang; Adele knocked 'em dead; the Foo Fighters rocked it, The Band Perry shined in a Glen Campbell tribute, Jennifer Hudson gave an incredible performance of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," and the untimely death of Whitney made this year's Grammy TV viewership the highest since the 1984 show, when 51.67 million watched Michael Jackson take home eight awards, including Record ("Beat It") and Album of the Year (Thriller).
The 41.6 million who tuned in to watch Adele grab six awards is actually higher than the 37.6 million average viewers who watched last year's Oscars. And it will probably be more than watch this year's Oscars, since most of the public has yet to see many of the most nominated films.
If you watched the Grammy broadcast you saw a show filled with great entertainment performed by great entertainers. It was a "greatest hits" broadcast and despite the fact that the show ran three-and-a-half hours, the performances made it fly by (with the possible exception of whatever Nicki Minaj was attempting to convey in her performance.)
Adele's '21' album picked up even more steam at retail after her '60 Minutes' interview with Anderson Cooper, and then her sweep of all the major Grammy award categories. '21' is now in excess of seven million here in the U.S., and next week sales are expected to surpass a half-million. With 20 weeks at No. 1, '21' marks the longest run at the top of the chart since (ironically) Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" drove 'The Bodyguard' soundtrack to 20 weeks at No. 1 in 1992-1993. '21' will easily surpass 20 weeks now and set new records in the process. This week her '19' album also is in the Top-10 at retail.
The success of Adele's album and the great performances on the Grammy show have one simple thing in common: It was all about the SONGS.
It's the songs and Adele's incredible vocal talent that drove her album to seven-times-Platinum and counting. There are no concept videos that make one scratch their head and wonder what they mean, and she doesn't perform with a stage show like many other artists, who do so to distract the audience from the fact that their songs are either weak, or the content is lacking. (And I don't mean that Madonna and Lady GaGa are lacking in those categories when they do shows. They are the best at doing that. Others aren't.)
It was the songs (and the voice) that delivered the same type of overwhelming success to Whitney Houston.
It was the songs sung last Sunday night by Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Tony Bennett, Adele and all the rest, that made the show such a huge success. Because great songs bring the artists and the audience closer together in an emotional bond that so much of today's disposable music can't. As I (and others) have said many times, great songs pass the greatest test of all -- the test of time.
If the music industry wants to rebuild itself in a meaningful form, then every major executive should keep replaying the best parts of the Grammy broadcast in their spare time.
If they seek to increase ALBUM sales year over year again, they need look no further at the success of Adele and realize that even in a world where piracy and illegal file-sharing is still rampant (see next item below), big multi-Platinum sales levels are still achievable.
In a world where much of today's music on the radio has become nothing more than what I call "Chinese food for the ears" (you hear it, but an hour later you're still hungry for something else), great songs still mean more to people than those songs made into expensive videos that market image more than substance.
It's the songs that made Springsteen, McCartney, Taylor Swift, Tony Bennett, Adele, Foo Fighters, Bruno Mars and The Beach Boys all multi-Platinum artists. It's their songs (not their stage shows) that still makes people want to go see them in concert whenever they perform. It's their songs that keep their albums selling long after they have run their course at radio. Because even after they are off the radio, they stay with us.
In our hearts, in our minds, they stay forever.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 1-A
NO, THE MEGAUPLOAD BUST HASN'T DIMINISHED PIRACY (THOUGH THE RIAA WILL TELL YOU OTHERWISE)
From the Daily Mail the following: "The FBI's recent seizure of Megaupload.com and its arrest of founder Kim Dotcom has done little to reduce piracy, says a web-traffic analyst. In the hour after the bust, total Internet traffic around the world fell by two to three percent -- an indication of the scale of Megaupload, which hosted 34%of file-sharing, according to analyst Deep Field Networks. But just a day afterwards, the trade in shared music and films "had not decreased much," says the analyst -- it had just shifted to new services, and to new computer servers in Europe, rather than America."
Read the rest here: http://tiny.cc/tpsk6
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 2
INTERVIEW WITH SPOTIFY CEO DANIEL ELK
Prior to his Entertainment Law Initiative Luncheon keynote during GRAMMY Week, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek talks Spotify, sharing and the dawn of music's new "golden age"
Among other things he said, "Your album's getting shared en masse over BitTorrent, over YouTube. It's there, right now - but you decide that it's the paying, loyal music fans who should lose out. It makes no sense."
In regards to some artists pulling their music from Spotify, "I'd also like to address people who think they'll gain sales by not being on Spotify. There's not a shred of data to suggest that. In fact, all the information available points to streaming services helping to drive sales. Album unit sales [were] up in the U.S. in 2011, the year Spotify launched, for the first time since 2004. More than a dozen albums that debuted at #1 have been available on Spotify at launch."
Read the rest here: http://tiny.cc/5ywk7
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 3
MY SPACE MUSIC PLAYER ATTRACTS A MILLION NEW USERS
From CNN, "Maybe Justin Timberlake and friends weren't so crazy after all.
Myspace, the once dominant social-networking site that faded into obscurity during Facebook's rise to dominance, added 1 million new users over the past month, according to the company."
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 4
GRAMMYS 2012: BIG RATINGS BUT PERHAPS SOME LOST OPPORTUNITIES FOR MESSAGES TO AUDIENCE
Tim Goodman's review of The Grammy broadcast in The Hollywood Reporter is a worthwhile read in my opinion. The Grammys pulled in record ratings, tracking 39 million viewers and a 14.1 rating in adults 18-49 -- numbers second only to 1984's broadcast.
No doubt the huge audience turn-in was triggered in part by curiosity about how the ceremony would mark the death of musical diva Whitney Houston. Tim Goodman argues that while the broadcast did a lot right in paying tribute to Whitney, there was one thing missing: "It might have been cause for applause to hear even one artist use that death as a cautionary tale to every future music superstar recording 'American Idol', 'The Voice' or 'The X Factor' and dreaming of their own chance."
Also, "unfortunate was the inclusion of violence-toward-women poster boy Chris Brown, flopping on the same stage where Rihanna performed. It was like the Grammys inadvertently forgot that the message was going to be, "Oh, here's Rihanna and here's the guy who beat the crap out of her on the way to the Grammys a few years ago."
Exceptionally bad idea. What the Grammys should have said was, in essence, screw Chris Brown. Lots of people up for awards don't get to perform on stage. Not inviting him would have been easy."
Read the rest on The Hollywood Reporter here: http://tiny.cc/5dpno
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
CANADA LAUNCHES CBC MUSIC, A FREE DIGITAL MUSIC SERVICE
The CBC this week launched CBC Music and the CBC Music App -- a free new digital music service designed to connect Canadians to the music they love.
With a choice of 40 different web radio stations, 14 distinct genre-based communities, and music from nearly 1,000 major and independent music companies, CBC Music provides listeners with access to the very best Canadian and International music. Featuring original content from the most knowledgeable and experienced music personalities and programmers from across the country, hundreds of concerts, features, blogs, playlists, and more, the new music service is a place for music lovers to explore, discover and connect with other music fans.
Read the rest here: http://tiny.cc/52t7l
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 6
iTUNES MATCH STARTS PAYING OFF FOR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS
The music distribution service TuneCore posted news at its blog earlier this week that it had received a check from Apple -- $10,000 for two months of royalties on songs that likely had already been sold to the consumer.
Read more here: http://tiny.cc/cjoe1
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 7
LADY GAGA STARTS SOCIAL NETWORK FOR 'LITTLE MONSTERS'
From CNN, "Lady Gaga is already the reigning queen of Twitter, with her nearly 19 million followers topping those of anyone else on the site. Now, she's launching a site of her own.
Little Monsters, now in invite-only beta testing, is the pop princess's effort at creating a network built around her fan base -- which she's dubbed the aforementioned "monsters."
Read the rest here: http://tiny.cc/fs05g
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 8
HOW ARE TODAY'S ARTISTS MAKING MONEY?
Since its inception in 2000, the Future of Music Coalition has strived to provide artists from all backgrounds and genres with valuable information about the issues that affect their ability to earn a living. Consequently, these questions about musicians' ability to make a living from their music in the 21st century are critical. In 2010, FMC launched "Artist Revenue Streams" -- a multi-stage research project to assess whether and how musicians' revenue streams are changing in this new music landscape.
Artist Revenue Streams is a multi-method, cross-genre examination of how U.S.-based musicians' revenue streams are changing, and why.
See the results and get more information on the project here: http://tiny.cc/ssmd5
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 9
HTC MIGHT BE PLANNING A MUSIC SERVICE?
HTC, the struggling smartphone maker, is reportedly working on several new products, including a music streaming service. HTC, which recently acquired a substantial stake in Beats Audio, is developing a streaming service that will be offered as a default music client on HTC phones and tablets, reports OmMalik. "My sources say that the company is still working on pricing plans and other details," Malik writes. "It has long harbored ambitions of offering a music service on HTC devices, folks familiar with HTC say."
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last year, Beats Audio co-founder and Interscope/Geffen/A&M Chairman Jimmy Iovine said: "Getting Beats audio into HTC phones is one of the first things we're going to do ... And you'll see Beats audio in just about every phone or tablet they want it to be in." Malik's sources say the music service could launch later this month at Mobile World Congress. In addition to the streaming service, HTC is expected to announce a number of new products including a new tablet.
Read the rest on GogaOm here: http://tiny.cc/lf3r5
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 10
VEVO CAUGHT IN A PIRACY ACT? WELL, SORT OF...
Crying hypocrisy, TechCrunch claims that VEVO -- the record label-owned video hub -- showed a pirated stream of an ESPN football game at a recent PowerStation event. As we're reminded, VEVO's owners -- Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Abu Dhabi Media Group -- represent the core of the Recording Industry Association of America, which regularly attacks consumers for illegal file-sharing.
Reached for comment, VEVO said that the event was produced by a creative agency called Continuum Entertainment, and that there were several other companies involved. "However, the venue was broken into different sections, and the televisions in question were clearly those belonging to VEVO's PowerStation -- and VEVO confirms that the televisions were supposed to be used to showcase VEVO videos and 'original content,'" according to TechCrunch.
And while the alleged stream was most likely an anomaly born out of convenience or ignorance -- rather than part of a larger piracy pattern on VEVO's part -- it does prove a point ... for TechCrunch. "It perfectly underscores everything wrong with the media industry's approach to piracy," it writes. "They've long made out pirates to be lawless thieves who think they're entitled to receive everything for free. But the reality is far less black-and-white."
Read the rest on TechCrunch here: http://tiny.cc/iwkxu
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 11
'BRIDESMAIDS' GENERATES $40 MILLION FROM VIDEO-ON-DEMAND PAY FOR VIEW
It looks like Video-On-Demand pay for view is now generating a big ancillary revenue stream for studios as DVD sales decline.
Universal Pictures just announced its movie "Bridesmaids" has tracked $40 million through cable and Internet VOD platforms -- big numbers that also represent one of the first time a studio has released VOD figures to the press.
Paid Content's Daniel Frankel discusses the reasons for studios' lack of transparency -- including "the byzantine nature of the old-Hollywood accounting culture, its remnants still intact despite the corporate takeover of the studios by media corporations -- the less the world knows about your revenue streams, the less you have to share them."
Read more on PaidContent here: http://tiny.cc/q5m14
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 12
10 BILLION MOBILE BY 2016
Aided by the popularity of tablets, worldwide mobile connections will approach 10 billion by 2016, according to new estimates from Cisco.
The networking giant expects the bulk of these connections -- 8 billion -- to take the form of cell phones, while it also foresees a significant rise in tablets -- 5 billion -- "and that's not even counting all those WiFi-only models floating around," Engadget notes.
Read more here: http://tiny.cc/swuxk
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 13
WHEN IT COMES TO ENTERTAINMENT, SCREEN SIZE DOESN'T MATTER
Consumers are using their tablets and smartphones to stream video programming at an increasing rate, and they're doing it in their homes, where televisions are available. That's according to a new study conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey.
Read the rest here: http://tiny.cc/z7qxc
Not a huge surprise, new Nielsen research tells us that the rise of gadgets is creating a new generation of children who are "growing up digital." What may surprise some, however, is that seven out of every 10 children in tablet-owning households used a tablet computer in the fourth quarter of 2011 -- a 9% increase compared from the third quarter of the year, per Nielsen.
According to its survey of adults with children under 12 in tablet-owning households, Nielsen found that 77% of those surveyed said children play downloaded games on their tablets, and 57% said children used tablets to access educational apps. "The portable gadget also keeps kids quiet while families are on-the-go," according to Nielsen. Indeed, 55% and 41% of parents report that their children used tablets for entertainment while traveling or in restaurants, respectively.
This can also include watching TV shows and movies, which 43% of children often do, Nielsen reports. Also, communicating with friends and family is a less popular function on tablets, as only 15% of kids engage in this activity.
Read the rest here: http://tiny.cc/8fqxd
THE 'A-SIDE' - BONUS TRACKS
* A great book if you were a fan of popular music in the 1960s and early '70s, because if you were, you were a fan of the Wrecking Crew whether you knew it or not. On hit record after hit record by everyone from the Byrds, the Beach Boys and the Monkees to the Grass Roots, the 5th Dimension, Sonny & Cher, and Simon & Garfunkel, this collection of West Coast studio musicians from diverse backgrounds established themselves as the driving sound of pop music -- ometimes over the objection of actual band members forced to make way for Wrecking Crew members. Industry insider Kent Hartman tells the dramatic, definitive story of the musicians who forged a reputation throughout the business as the secret weapons behind the top recording stars. You can check it out on amazon.com here: http://tiny.cc/e24yd
* Last week I provided you with a link to a selection of Paul McCartney's videos from his four-decade solo career, including some of his biggest hits and best album tracks on Rolling Stone. This week, you can read the Billboard magazine cover story on Sir Paul here: http://tiny.cc/eaocb
* Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled a new version of the Macintosh operating system that incorporates several features from iPod and iPad software in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. They include Apple's messaging service, notifications app, gaming center, sharing features and integration with iCloud. You can read it here: http://tiny.cc/b1599
* Working in the music industry involves a never-ending series of projects. For musicians, managers, and industry entrepreneurs, this could include producing an album, founding a new business, a major marketing campaign, and much, much, more. The Berklee School of Music is now offering the online course 'Project Management for Musicians' which will provide you with an overall approach, with many specific tools, to help you successfully complete your music industry-related projects. Check it out here: http://tiny.cc/jyyer
* Noise-canceling headphones come in all forms, from full size to earbuds. Since you no longer have to crank up the volume to overcome background noise, this type of headphone lets you listen at lower levels, which leads to reduced ear fatigue. You'll also hear more low-level detail in your music. Check out CNET's favorites here: http://tiny.cc/x5hgx
Short News Items ...
DEL RAY STORY CONTINUES:
Lana Del Rey's "Born to Die" has now debuted at #1 in half-dozen countries, including France, Britain and Germany, selling a total of 800k units worldwide, according to Interscope. Her videos have now registered 80 million views, and so far the number rising by 10 million every week.
GREEN DAY HEADED BACK TO STUDIO:
This week Green Day's front man Billie Joe Armstrong announced via Twitter that the trio has begun recording a new full-length album.
BEYONCE GETS BUSY AGAIN:
Though a new mom, Beyoncé continues to put in work. The singer is working on not one but two new projects slated for 2012.
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND HEADED BACK TO THE ROAD:
Dave Matthews Band, one of the most successful touring bands in history, will embark on a full-blown North American summer tour after taking 2011 off the road, save for four regional DMB-curated festivals known as Caravans.
BONAROO LINEUP NAMES MORE:
Bonnaroo has officially confirmed Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Phish will anchor the 11th incarnation of the music festival, which will take place from June 7th to 10th in Manchester, TN. Recent Grammy winners Bon Iver and Skrillex, and a reunited Beach Boys will also appear. More than 150 bands will offer fans continuous entertainment on 13 stages over the course of four days and nights.
A LITTLE TOO MUCH TAKEN FROM LADY GAGA:
Nicki Minaj's performance of "Roman Holiday" at the Grammys has come under harsh criticism from the Catholic League, which took issue with an extravagant production featuring overt Catholic iconography and a dramatization of an exorcism. The rapper arrived at the event wearing a red Versace nun's habit, accompanied by an older white man dressed as the Pope.
KENNY SEZ PAY-UP:
Kenny Rogers has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Tennessee alleging that Capitol Records has failed to pay him royalties for music sold as digital downloads or ringtones. The suit also alleges that the label has not paid the Country star any portion of the monetary awards it has won in piracy lawsuits against companies such as Napster and Kazaa.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON:
The death of Whitney Houston will not deter Fox from going forward with a sequel to the hit 1995 drama "Waiting to Exhale."
GRAMMY SHOW GENERATES ONE MILLION ONLINE BEFORE SHOW:
CBS Interactive attracted over one million viewers to second-screen content for the Grammy Awards over the 72 hours leading up to the broadcast event. Robust complementary programming and a social media effort late last year were keys, and they paid off well.
It's a very good week for Apple. Not only did its share price rally above $500 for the first time, it also pushed Google into second place in the 2012 Harris Poll RQ Study of corporate reputation. And surpassing Samsung, Apple became the world's biggest smartphone vendor in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to new data from Gartner. "Almost a quarter of smartphones sold were iPhones as Apple's market share rose to 23.8% from 15.8% a year earlier," Bloomberg notes, citing Gartner. All told, Apple sold 35.5 million smartphones to consumers while Samsung sold 34 million. Global smartphone sales increased 47% to 149 million units. That said, Apple's sequential growth may slow this quarter as pent-up demand was largely sated by holiday sales, Roberta Cozza, a Gartner analyst, told Bloomberg.
Dory Previn, a singer/songwriter who generated a substantial cult following relatively late in life during the 1970s with her intensely personal songs, died on Tuesday at her home in Southfield, MA. She was 86.
The Music Industry Past, Present & Future, And The Internet I answer questions on EconTalk
I did an interview about the industry and the Internet at EconTalk with host Russ Roberts. Russ is also a professor of economics at George Mason University, blogs at Cafe Hayek, and has written three novels that teach economics. He's also the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap video. (And if your understanding of the economic meltdown that occurred needs to be enlightened, this video will do it)
In the interview we talk about the evolution of the music industry, the impact of the digital revolution, and I give my reasons for believing in the virtues and potential of the Internet in enhancing the music industry. I point out, as I have many times here in the newsletter, that the internet allows numerous artists to make money from their music and it can enhance revenues from live performances by expanding an artist's base. We also discuss the challenges facing record companies and I suggest that the full potential of the Internet as a distribution channel has yet to be fully exploited. There's a lot of ground covered, but based on the comments already posted of those who have tuned in, they've enjoyed it.
Read more about it by clicking here.
Quotes of the week
"To me, this award means a lot because it shows the human element of music is what's important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that's the most important thing for people to do ... It's not about being perfect, it's not about sounding absolutely correct, it's not about what goes on in a computer. It's about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head]."
-- The Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, accepting the group's Grammy
"It was wonderful. Anytime you have Paul and his band playing those songs, something extraordinary happens. It's literally classical music for my generation. They play it note for note, which is how it should be played. You wouldn't improvise on Beethoven's Fifth, would you? It just adds a whole other level of depth to the whole proceedings."
-- Steve Van Zandt, commenting on Paul McCartney's closing performance on the Grammy broadcast with the "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" medley from The Beatles 'Abbey Road' album
"In Liverpool, when we were kids and listening to Buddy Holly and all the other rock and roll greats, I would have never thought the day would come when I'd be getting a star on the Walk of Fame. I thought it was an impossible thing to happen. But here we are today. I couldn't have done it without a certain three boys, so I want to say thanks to those guys, John, George and Ringo."
-- Paul McCartney, talking to the media after getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
"My thinking was, 'I'm going to go on [American Idol] because that will give me exposure. I'll be the slightly chubby pretty girl they give a makeover to.'"
-- 'Smash' star Katharine McPhee, on how she went from singing to acting, to Parade
The B-Side - 'Blips'
THE ONION (www.theonion.com) STORY OF THE WEEK:
New Biography Reveals Einstein Devised Theory Of Relativity On Paper Because He Wasn't Smart Enough To Invent Microsoft Word
PRINCETON, NJ-A new biography by science historian Tanya Medel has rocked the physics world with the revelation that theoretical physicist Albert Einstein wasn't smart enough to invent Microsoft Word and use it to devise his theory of relativity.
Read the rest here and laugh: Click Here.
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"And the beat goes on, the beat goes on ... drums keep poundin' rhythm to the brain."
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