WELCOME TO 2014 ... EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN
January 3, 2014
It's a new year, but in case you missed it, a couple of things that happened during the holidays: a) In the first 10 days after its surprise release, Beyonce's new album sold just a shade under a million copies, according to Musicmetric and Billboard; b) In her latest video, Miley Cyrus writhes beneath the covers, clad in just skin-colored undergarments as she simulates masturbation.
Beyonce, of course, is a much bigger music star than Ms. Cyrus, but she released her album without any hype and fanfare just before Christmas, and it sold NOT just because it was Beyonce, but because the MUSIC on her album made consumers want to buy it.
Once again, quality of content wins over all the hype/twerking in the world.
Of course, Miley's done everything possible in 2013 to sell her music, but nudity is already passé. Now, even Ke$ha is even (almost) doing it in her latest video. (Ugh)
Let's hope the trend in 2014 is people in clothes making better MUSIC. As the Wall Street Journal's Ethan Smith writes in an article (see TRACK 2 below) "The lesson for record companies and artists appears to be: making disposable hits may once have been a viable business, but new technology could demand tunes built to last."
In the meantime back in the real world, the debate about the Internet and streaming services goes on (and on ad infinitum).
This from Salon.com, "As the debate rages over the plight of musicians in the digital age, the battle lines have begun to harden: Call it the war of the three Davids. But instead of involving biblical kings, this one has provoked musicians from three high-credibility bands of the '70s and '80s. David Lowery of Camper van Beethoven and David Byrne of Talking Heads have taken a position critical of what the online world has done to musicians and their livelihoods. (Byrne takes a more complex and ambiguous position in his book "How Music Works" than he does in his recent Guardian pieces.) Dave Allen, bass player for Gang of Four's first two albums, has offered retorts to their arguments, especially in his opinion pieces in the Guardian." ( Read the source here )
Click on the "retorts" link to read Dave Allen's article in full. (Allen, by the way, also teaches at the University of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest College of Art, also blogs at the Portland, Ore., branding company North)
Whether or not you agree with Mr. Allen, he has made some very good points in his response to Byrne and others.
AND AGAIN, FOR ALL THOSE WHO KEEP TELLING YOU ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING IS DECREASING...
While "Beyonce's new album sold just a shade under a million copies, according to Musicmetric and Billboard" as noted above, during that same period "fans also illegally downloaded nearly a quarter of a million times over the same span."
In addition, Bruno Mars and Rihanna were illegally downloaded more than five million times each in 2013, making them the two most-pirated artists of the year. (That's five million times on just two artists. Throw in all the top artists and you can see the real numbers are in the tens of millions)
According to Musicmetric, which analyzes BitTorrent data, Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake and Flo Rida rounded out the top-five musicians. Kanye West, Eminem, Jay Z, Drake and Pitbull also earned the dubious distinction of high illegal downloads.
So, despite the millions of the labels' money the RIAA spent on lawsuits over the past decade, piracy still runs rampant.
If only some of those millions had been spent developing technology and creative strategies to SELL more music online direct to consumers, perhaps, just maybe things would be a tad better.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 2
THE ECONOMICS OF STREAMING MUSIC & WILL THEY EVER MAKE MONEY?
Ethan Smith wrote a terrific article in The Wall Street Journal over the holidays titled 'Dollar-and-Cents Secrets of Music Streaming.'
In it he talks about how the staying power of artists on streaming services like Spotify, and says "The lesson for record companies and artists appears to be: making disposable hits may once have been a viable business, but new technology could demand tunes built to last." (Editor's note: Amen to that!) Read the article
AND From CNET...
Online streaming music grew in popularity and reach in 2013, but examples of those doing it profitably are still scarce.
Here's what may make next year different. Read more
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 3
A VINYL BUTCHER SHOP? WHAT?
Want to buy a pound of old vinyl LPs by Conway Twitty or the Everly Brothers?
The "Elpee's Beat Shop," on Capitol Hill in Seattle, is selling records as if they were cuts of meat in a butcher shop. Read the article
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 4
HERE'S ONE CRITIC WHO IS NOT THRILLED WITH THIS YEAR'S ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
If you're not happy with this year's inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, you're not alone.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
INSTAGRAM: TAKE THAT, TWITTER
I've always said that the relevance of Twitter has been hyped than almost any other social media app.
And with all the fake accounts, and Hollywood PR people using it to hype their clients, it's simply, in my opinion, just another blip on the Internet Radar screen. (Of course that doesn't mean I'd be very happy to have a piece of Twitter!)
Now, analytics firm Nielsen finds that the photo and video-sharing app has an average monthly smartphone audience of 32 million, compared with Twitter's 30.8 million. Read more
Twitter and Instagram appeal to the same audience and are used by a similar percentage of online adults, says a new Pew Research survey. Read more
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 6
NETFLIX FINDS BINGE VIEWERS HAVE A LOT IN COMMON
Couch potatoes of the world, unite.
A study shows that 61% of TV streamers binge-watch regularly -- and that half of bingers want company when they indulge. Read more
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 6
FACEBOOK '"DEAD & BURIED" WITH OLDER TEENS IN EUROPE
The Guardian reports that an extensive European study has found that Facebook is 'dead and buried' to older teenagers, as they move on to Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and other social media.
The Global Social Media Impact Study studied the Facebook use of 16-18 year-olds in eight EU countries and found that as parents and older users saturate Facebook, younger users are shifting to alternative platforms. Read more.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 7
WARNER MUSIC SETTLES DIGITAL DOWNLOAD SUIT FOR $11.5 MILLION
Warner Music Group has agreed to a $11.5 million settlement of a class action lawsuit over royalties for ringtones and digital downloads, according to court papers filed this week.
The company agreed to establish the $11.5 million fund for the plaintiffs to settle past damages as well as increase the royalty rates of class members going forward. Read the story at TheWrap
THE 'A-SIDE' - THE BONUS TRACKS
* Jimmy Iovine Interview: What I've Learned
* 'Beyonce' Fastest-Selling Album Ever In iTunes Store: 828,773 In Three Days
* The Eagles' 'Hotel California' Made Into 'World's Largest Vinyl'
* Bruce Springsteen on 'Anomaly' of a New Album 'High Hopes': Exclusive
* Paul Simon Looks Back at 9 Classic Solo Albums
* Dave Matthews Forms Supergroup with Jakob Dylan
* Lady Gaga Rules Billboard.com's Readers Poll 2013
* Alicia Keys Ends One-Year BlackBerry Deal: Inside The Troubled Partnership
* Beck's John Lennon Cover
* Music Photos of the Week
* 64 Years of Music Innovation in One Playlist
* How 10 Musicians Make Good Livings In Today's Music Industry
* 15 Best Albums of 2013: Critics' Picks
* The 27 Best Albums You Didn't Hear in 2013
* Where Indie Artists Are Making Most of Their Money
* Best Moments From Kennedy Center Honors
* Candidate for best budget, pro quality desktop speaker: Alesis M1 Active520
* Everything you know about earbuds is wrong
* Once science fiction, it'll be reality in 2014
* 5 Amazing Pieces of Good News Nobody Is Reporting
* Why Apple's 2014 won't be like 2013
* The most beautiful gadgets of 2013
* Will 'air' display replace screens?
* This DVR+ is what cable-cutters have waited for
* The most useful iPad accessories
* 20 TVs tested: Which sets can pass surround sound to a sound bar?
* Samsung aims to make 2014 smart TVs even smarter
* The 13 most anticipated tech innovations of 2014
* Attack of the 105-inch televisions
* Top 5 soon-to-be obsolete technologies (video)
* Smartphones at CES and beyond: Big, bendy, 64-bit
* Consumer Electronics Show 2014: 10 Prominent Companies, Technologies
Short News Items ...
HYPEDMUSIC SHUT DOWN:
GigaOm reports that the free music application, Hypedmusic, has shut down after receiving a cease-and-desist notice from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) alleging that the service is violating copyright. Hypedmusic is an Android, web, and iOS application that allows users to discover music accessible on services like YouTube, SoundCloud, and Tumblr through a simple UI. Read More
U2 will accept the Sonny Bono Visionary Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival on Saturday. Previous recipients include filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Baz Luhrman, M. Night Shyamalan, Gus Van Sant and Danny Boyle, among others. The group's foray into cinema this year was the song "Ordinary Love," which they wrote for the film 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.'
ALLMANS SET FOR BEACON:
The Allman Brothers, now in their 45th year as a band, are returning to New York's Beacon Theatre for a 10-show residency beginning March 7th.
BOSS MUSIC ON "THE GOOD WIFE":
In a promotional tie-in with the legal drama "The Good Wife," Bruce Springsteen's new album, High Hopes, will stream in full on CBS's website on January 5th. The album, due on the 14th, accidentally went on sale on Amazon's mobile site a week ago. Read More
Paul McCartney's excellent year just got even better: The former Beatle has earned the #1 spot on Billboard's final Hot Tours ranking of 2013, racking up $40.6 million in ticket sales from the final six shows of his 'Out There!' tour. The tour's final leg took place in Japan, where McCartney hadn't performed in 11 years.
IN THE 'WHO CARES' DEPT., NO.56934:
Katy Perry is this year's reigning Twitter celeb of the 140-character social-media service, attracting over 1.5 million followers per month this past year.
AND MORE IN THE WHO CARES DEPT:
Miley Cyrus defended introducing Joe Jonas to pot when they were teenagers, telling the New York Times, "If you want to smoke weed, you're going to smoke weed. (Editor's note: Yawn)
THERE'S HOPE FOR HUMANITY:
The New York Post reported that "Not only are the Kardashians' TV ratings sinking, but their faces are failing to sell supermarket weeklies. "It's over. The fatigue factor has really set in," one magazine publisher told me. "None of the Kardashians, either alone or together, is selling." Sources say Jann Wenner paid $110,000 for a heavily retouched photo of Kim Kardashian in a white bikini, which he splashed on the Dec. 23rd cover of Us Weekly under the headline, "My Body Is Back." But the glossy, which usually sells about a half-million a week, sold fewer than 400,000 copies" ( Read it here )
ABC and Dick Clark Productions have announced the 2014 Billboard Music Awards are set to return to ABC and will be broadcast live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, May 18th.
GAGA AND CHRISTINA:
Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera have taken their "Do What U Want" collaboration one step further and released an official version of the reinterpreted Artpop single. Their duet -- on which Aguilera replaces original singer R. Kelly on the hook -- was first featured on last month's season finale of 'The Voice.'
Hypebot reports that Beyonces self-titled album, BEYONCE, is the fastest selling album on Apple's iTunes, selling over 828,773 albums in its first three days. The album, which was released only on iTunes, is the artist's fifth solo studio album from Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records. Read More
ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES:
The latest Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductees include Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, KISS, Hall and Oates, Cat Stevens, Linda Ronstadt and the Beatle's manager during their heydays, Brian Epstein.
AND THE E-STREETERS GET RECOGNITION:
Steven Van Zandt has been closely involved with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for years. Now the E Street Band is set to receive the Award for Musical Excellence. "Most people assumed we're already in," he tells Rolling Stone. "It's good to get it officially done." Read More
Little Hoquiam, Washington, where Kurt Cobain once lived, has declared April 10th "Nirvana Day." Never mind that Cobain is more closely associated with nearby Aberdeen: "I think it's good to honor our sons and their great accomplishments," said Hoquiam's mayor.
BRITNEY IN VEGAS:
Britney Spears opened her Las Vegas residency "Britney: Piece of Me" at Planet Hollywood on Friday night, December 27th. Read a review and see who was the premier at TheWrap
ACADEMY AWARD SONGS:
Taylor Swift, U2, Coldplay, Jay-Z and the Kings of Leon could all end up performing on the Academy Awards next year, if Oscar voters choose them from the list of 75 eligible songs released by the Academy on Friday. All of those pop stars perform songs that qualified in the much-maligned 'Best Original Song' category, which over the last three years has ranged from a low of 39 in 2011 to a high of 75 in 2012 and now 2013.
BEATLES RELEASE EARLY 'BOOTLEGS':
The Beatles have released a surprise collection of 59 songs on iTunes called 'Bootleg Recordings 1963.' Speculation is rampant that Apple Records made the move to ensure the band could reestablish copyrights for the recordings, per European Union law. Read More
MERCURY BIOPIC UPDATE:
"I think people will find it very touching," says Queen guitarist Brian May about the Freddie Mercury biopic set for production. He and bandmate Roger Taylor are planning a second album of posthumous Queen material, and they're looking at U.S. tour dates. Read More
'SURVIVOR' BARELY SURVIVING:
In its 27th edition, 'Survivor; fell to the series' lowest-rated finale ever. According to preliminary numbers, the finale of 'Survivor' earned a 2.5 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic. Last fall's finale earned a 3.2. For what it's worth, the spring finale got a 2.7.
'THE VOICE' HITS NEW LOWS:
The Voice" hit an all-time performance finale low. 'The Voice' earned a 3.3/9 and 12.7 million viewers. On Tuesday's finale, 'The Voice' hit its second-lowest rated finale ever, down 20% from last year's fall finale. Read the story at TheWrap
GOOD RIDDANCE (IN MY OPINION, ANYWAY):
Demi Lovato won't be back on the 'X Factor.' The pop star confirmed reports that the current season is her last on Wednesday after taping the show's finale performance episode. "In 2014, I'm going to dedicate it entirely to music, touring and making a new album," Lovato told reporters. (Editor's note: Good luck)
KANYE SUED FOR SAMPLING:
Kanye West's "Bound 2" might have to pay for sampling a former child star without permission? Ricky Spicer, 56, filed suit accusing the rapper of using his voice without permission. Spicer recorded "Bound" with his boyhood group, the Ponderosa Twins Plus One, when he was 12. Read More
AND KANYE & KIM LEAST DESIRABLE NEIGHBORS:
Americans would rather live next to the cast of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo than Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, according to a survey by real-estate blog Zillow. On the site's annual Celebrity Neighbor Survey, one quarter of respondents claimed the couple, which is engaged to be married, made for the Worst Neighbors of 2013, bumping them up from second place last year. A mere two percent of the Americans surveyed said they would enjoy living next to West and Kardashian in 2014.
DIRECT TV TO STREAM?
VentureBeat reports that DirecTV is considering launching its own streaming video service to boost revenues outside its major satellite TV business. The plan is for an open TV streaming video service that will provide access to certain channels at a reasonable rate. Read More
CHINA NEXT FOR iPHONE:
VentureBeat reports that Apple and China Mobile announced that they will partner to launch the iPhone on the world's largest mobile network, China Mobiles 3G,and 4G networks on Jan. 17th, 2014. Both companies stated that China Mobile users can now pre-register for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c starting on December 25th.
CHINA BOX OFFICE SURGES:
The LA Times reports that China's box office for movies reached $3.6 billion in 2013, up about 27% over 2012, lead by Chinese movies which drove down Hollywood's share of the market. Seven of the 10 highest-grossing films were Chinese, according to data from box office analysis firms Artisan Gateway and EntGroup.
Ray Price, one of the greatest voices of country music, who revolutionized the genre with #1 hits like "Crazy Arms" and "City Lights," died at home in Mt. Pleasant, Texas on December 16th after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, his family said. He was 87.
Benjamin Curtis, the former Secret Machines guitarist and Tripping Daisy drummer who most recently made up half of the dream-pop duo School of Seven Bells, died at age 35 on December 30, in New York City. He had been battling T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Quotes of the week
"'The X Factor' has a better global track record of breaking stars and Cowell's bread and butter comes from being a record exec, whereas the coaches on 'The Voice' are singers trying to elevate and maintain their celebrity status and probably don't really want other artists nibbling on theirspread."
-- From the Rolling Stone article "X Factor' Finale Recap: Alex and Sierra Win Season Three', in Rolling Stone 12/20/13
"I couldn't go 30 minutes to an hour without cocaine."
-- Demi Lovato, in a December interview with "Access Hollywood," where she went into detail about her dependence on drugs and alcohol. (No wonder she was a complete waste of time on 'The X Factor' )
"Miley Cyrus is here ... and we don't know what she'll be wearing ... stay tuned."
-- Ryan Seacrest, on 'Dick Clark's Rocking New Year's Eve' this week, saying the preceeding at least three times on the telecast about this year's most-hyped artist, and NOTHING about the MUSIC she might perform.
"And because you've been playing every day, sometimes two or three shows a day, ideas are flowing. One thing feeds the other. You might be having a swim or screwing the old lady, but somewhere in the back of the mind, you're thinking about this chord sequence or something related to a song. No matter what the hell's going on. You might be getting shot at, and you'll still be 'Oh! That's the bridge!' And there's nothing you can do; you don't realize it's happening. It's totally subconscious, unconscious or whatever. The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off. You hear this piece of conversation from across the room, 'I just can't stand you anymore' ... That's a song. It just flows in. And also the other thing about being a songwriter, when you realize you are one, is that to provide ammo, you start to become an observer, you start to distance yourself. You're constantly on the alert. That faculty gets trained in you over the years, observing people, how they react to one another. Which, in a way, makes you weirdly distant. You shouldn't really be doing it. It's a little of Peeping Tom to be a songwriter. You start looking round, and everything's a subject for a song. The banal phrase, which is the one that makes it. And you say, I can't believe nobody hooked up on that one before! Luckily there are more phrases than songwriters, just about."
-- Keith Richards, from his book 'Life' by Keith Richards by Back Bay Books. Read more of the excerpt on delanceyplace.com
The B-Side - 'Blips'
THE ONION (www.theonion.com) STORY OF THE WEEK:
Race For Oscar Heats Up As Tom Hanks Traps Robert Redford In Cellar
Read the rest here and laugh: Click Here.
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.
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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