A View From Within
May 4, 2012
"I always considered the record company the enemy, to be honest with you. In my experience they were people who didn't do what they said they were going to do. And now that I come in there, half of the things I see, I think, 'Oh, that's why it's got to be done that way.' Certain things that were incomprehensible and seemed evil make total sense. And then the other half is: 'Maybe it doesn't have to be this way. Maybe we can approach this from a fresh point of view.' So maybe that's what we should focus on."
-- Grammy Award-winning producer Don Was, on becoming the President of Blue Note Records, in the New York Times ( http://tinyurl.com/83srqmk )
It's good to hear a former artist/producer/musician of Don Was' stature say what he did in the referenced New York Times article above.
His enthusiasm for what he can do at Blue Note might indeed revitalize a great label. His learning how record companies might change for the better will hopefully contribute to some new ideas that might be put into motion as labels (hopefully) launch new digital platforms for success. (In the article he talks about the Blue Note reissue series "Mastered for iTunes" series, and a partnership with HDtracks, which specializes in digital downloads that surpass the sound quality of CDs)
After reading the above quote from Don Was, I thought I would reprint part of something I wrote about "the record companies" in the newsletter back in 2004:
"Okay ... let me make one thing perfectly clear. The BIG music companies are not the "Evil Empire," and they're not the reason for ALL the problems in the business.
So many of you have written me e-mails with rants about the companies you work for (and then asking me not to print your e-mails even anonymously because your comments are too specific to your label), that I think some perspective is needed.
A few years ago I was an invited guest at an MBA Class in New Mexico on the Music Industry, and I found myself constantly having to make comments to disagree with much of what the professor was telling the class. Since that time, I've heard much about the industry from so many people and sources and a lot of it sounds like a lot of what I heard back in that classroom. So this quote really summed it up: "In business school classrooms they construct wonderful models of a non-world." -- Peter F. Drucker
Myth: Big labels have squashed too many new artists and stifled creativity in the music industry.
Reality: While it's easy to make the big media labels/conglomerates a target for this complaint that's echoed all too frequently, one need only look at some of the artists that have been developed BIG time in the last few years that might not have had a chance on small independent labels because the amount of time, money and resources needed to fully establish these artists was extraordinary. Examples? Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, to name a few. Maybe the list of these types of artists isn't as long as we'd all like it to be (and yes, I too believe the big labels need to reestablish more focus on real artist development and developing less flavors-of-the-month), but the fact is that these breakthroughs open the doors for others. There isn't a label out there that doesn't want to find the NEXT Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, et al. Having artists like these on a roster makes it a whole lot easier for a label to operate long-term in developing new talent. (Editor's note: And today in 2012, that list would be even longer)
The success of these artists also negates the complaint that the only thing the big labels only want to sign is "whatever's hot at the moment." Being in a business of meeting consumers demands means providing a wide range of music to the marketplace, and again, most big labels try to do that. Not all do it to the same degree, and some are more successful in a specific genre of music, but there's an awful lot of musical diversity out there today and it seems there's something for almost everyone. Of course, you wouldn't know that by listening to the radio in most markets today, but that's why the Internet is providing new opportunities for artists and labels.
Myth: The music that gets played on the radio, or on MTV, is getting played because of all the money the record companies spend on those artists they choose to establish.
Reality: I used to hear this complaint ALL the time when I headed promotion at MCA and before that at Capitol (under Bruce Wendell). "You guys spend a ton to get the records you want played, and you don't spend on the ones you don't like." WRONG.
First of all, if all record companies had to do was spend money to make hits, then their batting average would be 1.000, and every artist they signed would be successful. All the money a label spends in recording an album, manufacturing it, marketing it, promoting it, making a video, is absolutely no guarantee that they will get any of it back if it doesn't click with the intended audience. Yes, established artists are less of a risk once they've had retail success. But it's just not that easy, folks. There's no conspiracy on the part of ANY label NOT to sell records by any of their artists. Contrary to what Michael Jackson might think about Sony (editor's note: at the time of writing this, Michael Jackson had stated he thought Sony was not interested in selling his music anymore), they'd like nothing better than to sell gazillions of his CDs and make good money doing so. Yes, labels spend on what's happening, and they should to ensure that once something happens ANYWHERE, they can possibly repeat it elsewhere.
Yes, there are problems ... just don't put all the blame on the "Big Guys" without looking at the "Big Picture."
Yes, the big labels have made far too many mistakes in the past two decades. They replaced good artist development departments and the budgets needed to foster new talent, to make expensive videos for MTV. Results? A ton of disposable artists that did not contribute to any label's long-term roster health.
Yes, they ignored the coming of the Internet -- the greatest direct-to consumer distribution system ever created -- when millions were downloading music on Napster and elsewhere. The opportunities lost cost labels millions in revenues, and lots of good people lost jobs as labels closed and/or were merged into others.
Yes, instead of being pro-active and creating new business models, the big labels continued to support the R.I.A.A.'s suing people for illegal downloading/file-sharing. Millions of dollars were wasted on all the lawsuits and the only people reaping any rewards were the lawyers. Illegal file-sharing will never go away. Steve Jobs knew that, and he still believed people would pay for music if they had a great online store to buy it at, and the price was right. He was right: iTunes has sold 10 billion plus songs to date. The labels should have sold those songs direct themselves and reaped the rewards.
Yes, it seems like far too many artists have had to engage in legal remedies to recoup monies owed by certain labels over the years. On the other hand, there are plenty of artists that haven't had to do so. It doesn't diminish the fact that some artists have had legitimate problems, and that those problems should never have existed in the first place.
But, as Don Was says, "Maybe we can approach this from a fresh point of view.' So maybe that's what we should focus on."
Let's hope Don's thinking that way might work. Not just at Blue Note, but at all labels.
It would mean fostering a new, a better corporate culture at every label in existence.
Maybe, people like Don Was can make a difference.
Let's hope so.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 2
ATTENTION ALL ARTISTS: Music Royalties will start being paid for plays on YouTube
In an effort to begin to manage content on YouTube and start paying copyright holders royalties whenever music is included in a video that is played on YouTube, Google (the owner of YouTube) has purchased RightsFlow (a start-up that processes music royalties to help musicians, songwriters and music labels be compensated for their work).
Read more here: http://tinyurl.com/d96l8ve
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 3
OFFICIAL.FM LAUNCHES ITS ONLINE MUSIC PROMOTION PLATFORM
Official.fm has gone live with its new platform, one that focuses on the management and promotion of music online, following a closed beta involving Wiz Khalifa, AWOLNation and others.
Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/d3vmhnd
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 4
COMCAST/NBC UNIVERSAL CEO/PRESIDENT SAYS THE "MOVIE BUSINESS IS IN A STEADY DECLINE"
It was probably a bummer for all those attending the CAA (Creative Artists Agency) retreat when Steve Burke, CEO/President of Comcast/NBC Universal, spoke.
Burke said the facts of double-digit declining DVD sales, insufficient replacement revenues from online streaming sources, and "profit margins shrinking from double digits to single digits to nonexistent."
Read the rest here on The Wrap: http://tinyurl.com/7g3neqd
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act)
CISPA may have cleared the U.S. House of Representatives, but the fight isn't over.
It's shifted to the U.S. Senate. Here's CNET's FAQ on what you need to know about this particularly controversial Internet bill.
Read the rest here: http://tinyurl.com/clcrqaq
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 6
THE HARD REALITY OF PAYWALLS
Across nine popular online content and service categories, a new report shows the majority of users predominately employ free rather than paid services. (Which other reports have shown over and over again)
Those with the greatest percentage of paying customers include movies (47%), magazines (36%), and music (25%).
Read the report and see the data here: http://tinyurl.com/7ew4625
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 7
HOWARD STERN HEADED TO iTUNES?
Is the "King Of All Media" considering taking his show to iTunes at the end of his Sirius/XM deal later this months?
That's the wild rumor going around the web.
Read more here: http://tinyurl.com/cuz5stc
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 8
5 THINGS SONGWRITERS CAN DO TO HELP THEIR CAREERS
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff's site is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including a brand new video series.
Read his five suggestions here and check out his resources: http://tinyurl.com/7cczuqt
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 9
JOHN PEEL'S RECORD COLLECTION BEING ARCHIVED DIGITALLY SO YOU CAN FLIP THROUGH IT
From the L.A. Times, "After he died in 2004, John Peel's voluminous record collection was left intact, and it is now being cataloged and displayed online as part of a far-reaching archival project called the Space, funded by the BBC and the British Arts Council. As part of the John Peel Archive, a chunk of Peel's roughly 25,000-piece vinyl obsession is being gradually revealed one alphabetical letter at a time in a section called Peel's Record Shelf. The unveiling could bring a better understanding of not only the music that he liked but also how an old-school curator did his job and cataloged his tunes before the drag-and-drop world of MP3s miniaturized music into data crumbs."
Read more here and see how the library is being built: http://tinyurl.com/6wrrooq
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 10
TABLET TV VIEWERS ARE DOING A WHOLE LOT MORE THAN WATCHING TV
What are those reported 45% of U.S. tablet owners who use their devices daily in front of the TV actually doing? Nielsen answers that question with stats showing that, not surprisingly, folks most often check e-mail, followed by social networking activity. Thirty-seven percent spend tablet time "looking up information related to the TV program [they were] watching."
"In aggregate, it's a good reminder that a large chunk of the TV+tablet audience is doing unrelated stuff on their devices," writes Cory Bergman. "While some argue that second-screen experiences are distracting, in reality they have the potential to attract a large chunk of viewers away from completely unrelated interactive activities."
Read the rest here on LostRemote.com: http://tinyurl.com/767fl59
THE 'A-SIDE' - BETWEEN THE GROOVES
PETE FORNATALE'S PASSING
Pete Fornatale passed away last Friday at the age of 66. News about his untimely passing was all over the Internet.
Pete (for those of you who do not know, or have not read about Pete in various media this past week) was a legend in New York radio, loved by everyone who ever heard his show, and by anyone who ever had the opportunity to meet him.
I had the pleasure of meeting Pete and all the WNEW-FM staff when Capitol Records moved me to New York City to become their "East Coast Album Promotion Specialist." Capitol's then Vice President of Promotion, Roger Karshner, believed that FM stations that had come on the air and were programming music from albums -- stations like WNEW-FM in New York City, KSAN-FM in San Francisco, WBCN-FM in Boston, KMET-FM in Los Angeles, and others -- were going to play a big part in developing artists for record labels. He offered me the opportunity to promote all the stations playing albums in the New York City/Tri-State area. It was indeed an exciting time in radio, and as someone who lived in the suburbs less than an hour from New York City, I had been listening to WNEW-FM since it went on the air. I was thrilled that I would be able to promote the station I so loved.
If you were lucky enough to have lived in, or near New York City at that time, you heard one of the greatest radio stations ever created. Scott Muni and his staff were all so damn good, it was hard to ever turn the station off. Each and every DJ on that station ( Pete, Rosko, Vin Scelsa, Dennis Elsas, Jonathan Schwartz, Alison Steele, Scott, Zacherle, et al) had a loyal following, and all were a fixture at the station for along time.
I met Pete twice. Once at what I recall as a WNEW-FM or label party (not sure after too long a time), and once at a James Taylor show in Greenwich Village. We chatted only briefly, but his passion for the music he immersed himself in was grossly apparent.
Pete played lots of new music and exposed it to millions of people. He was, as the New York Times wrote last week, a "pioneer of FM Rock."
Read more about Pete in the New York Times article here: http://tinyurl.com/d5zpvwa
THE 'A-SIDE' - BONUS TRACKS
* In an exclusive excerpt from his new memoir, 'My Cross the Bear,' Gregg Allman recalls surviving tragedy, heroin and a tumultuous relationship with Cher. When he first met her, he writes, "she smelled like I would imagine a mermaid would smell." Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/cnzsg23
* The Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver is a relatively cheap way to add Bluetooth wireless audio streaming to any audio component with an audio input. It's smaller than the competition and graciously comes with a cable. Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/cc95t8r
* If you are a new artist who doesn't have your music on Spotify or as a free download, you're missing the boat. Read why 'FuturehitDNA' and 'HackYourHit' author Jay Frank says so here: http://tinyurl.com/6rksfhl
* Twitmusic is more than a music-sharing application based on and connecting to Twitter. It is a community for music enthusiasts and musicians alike. Fans may discover new music introduced by musicians, which may use the platform as a launch pad for their releases. A broad overview of the service is given by the article below, for more visit Twitmusic here: http://tinyurl.com/7mglkd9
* Spotify aims to make your listening experience more enjoyable on a tablet with the music-streaming service's first iPad app, which includes enhanced social functions and a view in Cover Flow style. http://tinyurl.com/7nfkwt8
* To celebrate the May 1st DVD release of Martin Scorcese's "George Harrison documentary Living in the Material World," Rolling Stone is giving away a Gretsch guitar modeled on Harrison's original 1957 Gretsch Duo Jet. If you want to enter, do so here: http://tinyurl.com/75s7sut
And Now For Some News ...
Short News Items ...
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST, MORE MUSIC PEOPLE OUT OF WORK:
Last Friday, Roadrunner Records owner Warner Music shut down major parts of the label, with in several offices inside and outside of the U.S. closing in the U.K., Germany, Canada and the Netherlands. Billboard magazine estimated 36 people were being let go, 16 of them here in the U.S.
Last week, Apple announced it sold 11.8 million iPads in the first quarter of this year, bringing the total sold to 67 million in roughly two years. It took the company 24 years to sell that many Macintosh computers.
ADELE TOPPLE MJ's UK SALES RECORD:
The Official U.K. Charts Company announced May 3rd that Adele's blockbuster "21" album has surpassed Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in total U.K. sales. "21's" to-date U.K. sales now stand at 4,274,300 -- 500 copies more than "Thriller."
MICK TO HOST SNL FINALE:
Mick Jagger will host the "Saturday Night Live" season finale May 19th.
PEPSI BACK WITH MICHAEL JACKSON:
PepsiCo Inc. is bringing back The King of Pop (sort of). Pepsi announced its deal with the estate of Michael Jackson to use the late pop star's image for its new global marketing push. The nature of the promotion will vary by country, but will include a TV ad, special edition cans bearing Jackson's image and chances to download remixes of some of Jackson's most famous songs.
RINGO & STEWART TO DO MUSICAL FILM:
Ringo Starr and former Eurythmics guitarist Dave Stewart have signed on to create a musical for Paramount, Deadline Hollywood reports. The film, called 'Hole in the Fence,' is based on an original idea by the musicians, who will serve as songwriters and executive producers on the project.
BILLBOARD AWARDS ADDS CEELO:
CeeLo Green has been added to the growing list of performers at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards. Justin Bieber, Carrie Underwood, LMFAO and The Wanted were previously announced performers at the May 20th telecast, airing live on ABC at 8p ET from the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, and Usher, Kelly Clarkson and Linkin Park will also perform.
SERIOUS SIRIUS PROFITS:
Sirius XM Radio saw its Q1 revenues climb 11% to a record $805 million with its subscriber count jumping by 405,000 to a high of 22.3 million. Net income was up 38% to $108 million.
MEGAUPLOAD FOUNDER HAS ASSETS RETURNED:
Kim "Dotcom" Schmitz, the founder of controversial fire sharing website Megaupload, has been awarded back approximately $750,000 of his fortune after a New Zealand court hearing, reports Complete Music Daily. Most of the freed funds are expected to go towards legal fees and possible civil claims, particularly in the U.S.
WILCO ADDS DATES:
Although Wilco are extensively touring the United States and Europe this spring and summer, anybody studying their previous itinerary might have noticed that three major U.S. cities -- Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles -- were overlooked. However, the band announced on Sunday that they have booked dates for those cities as well as several others.
LIONEL OUT, LEGEND IN:
John Legend has joined ABC's new singing competition "Duets" as a mentor, Billboard reports. He will replace Lionel Richie, who had to step down due to "personal scheduling conflicts."
J-LO & ENRIQUE:
Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez have joined forces to co-headline a summer tour. The initial 16 dates of the North America trek were announced on Monday (Apr. 30th), with more dates to be announced soon.
WIZ IS BECOMING THE NEW WILLIE NELSON:
Rapper Wiz Khalifa was reportedly cited in Winston-Salem, N.C. last night for marijuana possession, according to TMZ. Reports claim Khalifa, born Cameron Thomaz, was busted holding 11.39 grams of grass when police searched his tour bus after a show. Khalifa was cited, released and will apparently appear in court at a future date. Just last week, Khalifa was nabbed for misdemeanor possession in Nashville after smoking up his Holiday Inn hotel room. For that offense, he must appear in Davidson County, Tenn. court by May 14th for booking.
VEVO has partnered deal with U.K.'s Ditto Music, which distributes the work of thousands of indie and unsigned acts. The partnership allows musicians to have their music videos viewed by the millions of VEVO users throughout the U.S. and Europe.
JONAS BROTHERS LEAVE LABEL:
Pop stars the Jonas Brothers have parted with Hollywood Records after six successful years together.
ALANIS HAS NEW ALBUM COMING:
Alanis Morissette's next album will be "Havoc and Bright Lights" on Aug. 28th.
OSCAR'S HOME FOR AWHILE:
The Academy Awards have a new home at the same Hollywood address: The Dolby Theatre. Under the new contract with the Academy, the Dolby Theatre will host the Academy Awards through 2033. The Dolby Theatre, formerly known as the Kodak Theatre, features 3,400 seats on four levels and 20 opera boxes. It is one of the largest stages in the United States with state-of-the-art infrastructure designed for a variety of programming including live broadcast.
ALZHEIMER'S CLAIMS BOBBY VEE:
Former 1960s teen pop idol Bobby Vee says he's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The 69-year-old, born Robert Velline in Fargo, N.D., says on his website that he was diagnosed last year.
Alan Mintz, 58, one-time manager of Herbie Hancock, VP Content Development/Head of A&R for Starbucks Entertainment and SVP at Epic Records, has passed away in Nashville from a rare and aggressive form of leukemia.
Charles "Skip" Pitts, the longtime Memphis guitar player for Isaac Hayes whose distinctive sound helped define soul and make "Shaft" cool, died Tuesday in Memphis after a long struggle with cancer. He was 65.
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
"When you think about rock, at its origin, you think of the Beatles and millions of kids screaming as loud as they can and running as fast as they can toward the Beatles. There is no one that is that kind of lightning rod. I contend that the last band to really have that kind of power was Nirvana."
-- Jack Black, talking to Rolling Stone's Peter Travers about why he thinks rock is dead (I guess he completely doesn't get The Foo Fighters, Linkin Park)
"He was one of the greatest, greatest voices in country, rockabilly and rock & roll. Levon's voice and drumming was so incredibly versatile. He had a feel on the drums ... it comes from a certain place in the past and you can't replicate it."
-- Bruce Springsteen, talking about Levon Helm at his concert at Newark's Prudential Center where he performed "The Weight" in honor of Levon
"I don't want to sit up here with a hologram of my dear friend. Were somebody to use a hologram of Freddie, I don't think I would have an objection. But I don't want to. It just didn't sit too well with me."
-- Queen's Brian May, discussing plans for the upcoming Queen Extravaganza tour
"That was crazy. It wasn't hurtful, it was just crazy. [I thought] 'Where did they come up with this?'"
-- Beyonce, on the rumors she was pregnant again. (As if we really cared)
The B-Side - 'Blips'
THE ONION (www.theonion.com) STORY OF THE WEEK:
New Visa Talking Credit Card Urges Buyers To Go For It
SAN FRANCISCO-Financial services giant Visa held a press event Tuesday to introduce "Visa Voice," a new line of talking credit cards that urges shoppers to just go ahead and buy it if that's what they really want. "Whenever you're near an item you're hesitant to purchase, Visa Voice offers words of encouragement, such as 'Come on, just go for it!' and 'Trust me -- you're not gonna regret this,'" Visa president John Partridge said of the groundbreaking new payment product, which allows users to select between a calm, supportive female voice and a morally authoritative male voice.
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."
"Work is life, you know, and without it, there's nothing but fear and insecurity." -- John Lennon