Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's all timing (waking up and getting out of bed at the right time)

H/T Stereogum for this video.

Neil Young, who cannot be accused of trying to look younger than his age, covered an old song that was written over forty years ago by two English dudes. Neil sang the first part of the song, then Neil and his band did their take on an orchestra proceeding from a very low note to a very high note. In Neil Young's hands, this can get pretty interesting.

So anyways, Neil got to the second part of the song, and the guy who wrote that part of the song wandered out on stage, at that precise time, and started singing it with him.

Just another day in the life of Neil Young and his buddy Paul.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Looks like I may have to add another disclosure to this blog

If you visit this blog (or my other Empoprises blogs), you will notice a link to a disclosure regarding a particular advertising service that I employ on the blogs. I do not want to mention the service, but the name of the service provider rhymes with "frugal." According to MediaMemo, I may need to add a disclosure about another service that I use, one that provides a vast river of products. MediaMemo:

The FTC, which is prepping new guidelines about the kinds of disclosures bloggers should make when they endorse a product on their site, also wants bloggers to give readers a heads-up when they use affiliate links.

MediaMemo thinks that the impulse for this regulation is the pay-per-post blog posts:

It’s trying to clamp down on pernicious “pay-per-post” setups, which are basically advertorial networks. They want bloggers who get get free trips or products from a company to acknowledge the freebies when they write about said company.

Now some people think that Izea is inherently evil, but I've previously stated that as long as disclosure is made, I have no problem with the practice. Now people certainly have their thoughts on disclosure - just ask Michael Arrington or Loren Feldman about the recent Leo LaPorte incident, which Arrington subsequently explained was a disclosure issue not about LaPorte, but about who Palm chooses to provide with evaluation copies of their products.

So now we've gotten to links in blogs that allow you to buy products, with a benefit to the blogger. I'll admit that my first reaction to the FTC proposal is that it's silly. In my view, I would think that it would be obvious to anyone that if they choose to purchase something from the river of products via my blog, of course I'd get a little benefit from it.

But the FTC doesn't just consider techies. They also consider the non-techies, who constitute the majority of the country. What about someone who is searching for blogs for the first time, finds this wonderful blog called Empoprise-MU that talks about all sorts of music, and then sees that the blog post even allows you to buy some of the music discussed in the blog post! Isn't that pretty neat? Yet those people might not realize that I get a cut of any purchase they make during that link.

And, as far as the FTC is concerned, disclosure is just as important for a small-time blogger as it is for a major metropolitan newspaper.

Let me provide an example. Let's say that at some future time, I write a blog post about the Psychedelic Furs, praising them beyond all compare, and emphatically stating that Richard Butler's voice is the most melodious voice in the English-speaking world - and that after writing this, I helpfully provide a link so that you can buy a box set of everything the Psychedelic Furs ever recorded. Well, if I ever were to write such a post, it would be obvious to anyone who knew me that I was using the prospect of monetary gain to influence the editorial content of my post. (To put it mildly, I do not care for Richard Butler's voice.) And this, my friends, is why disclosure is so important.

Luckily for me, there is so much good music around that when I do post affiliate links (which, frankly, I don't do all that often), I can post them for music that I really like.

So why haven't I posted a ton of affiliate links to just about every song that Michael Jackson ever wrote in the 1980s - many of which I truly do enjoy? I could claim that I'm respecting the sensitivities of the Jackson family or Lisa Marie or whoever, but the truth is that I'm often too lazy to find the appropriate affiliate link and stick it in the post. (Another reason is that at this time, I don't really have much to add to the Michael Jackson discussion beyond what I've already said.)

It doesn't look like I'll have to do anything for a while - the wheels of government grind slowly, and these things obviously go through a review period - but I'd like your take on this. Do the proposed regulations affect you, either as a blogger or as a reader of blogs? What do you think?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I wasn't looking for a Twitter book

Sadly, Röyksopp's "Junior" was not in stock.

Barnes & Noble, Costa Mesa California.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Whitney Houston will have to battle the Beastie Boys in the charts this fall, according to Stereogum:

The gray-flecked MCs have revealed some more details concerning the awesomely titled Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 1: It's out 9/15 via Capitol, it's got 17 tracks, and one of them ("Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win") features the burgeoning queen of collabos, Santigold. Also there's a track called "Funky Donkey," for lovers of funky monkeys and funky bosses.

Hmm...normally our sensitive society refers to the women as old, but this time the men get the "ancient" treatment. But let's see how the music sounds.

Michael Jackson - more, or less, than meets the eye?

I was in the airport in Atlanta when I saw this tweet from @geekandahalf (Derrick):

What the hell done happened to Michael Jackson?

Not knowing the context of what had happened, I first had to search FriendFeed to find the reports that Jackson had suffered a heart attack. In response to the surprise at this happening, I responded in the FriendFeed thread as follows:

50+ year old man, presumably under stress over financial difficulties and career reverses. Formerly addicted to painkillers. Previous legal troubles in criminal and civil courts. Sadly, we shouldn't be surprised.

A little bit later, we learned that the heart attack was fatal.

Now if we think back, there are positive and negative aspects to everyone's life story, including Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. And there were certainly those aspects to Michael Jackson's life - even a few hours after his death, the stories were circulating:

According to unconfirmed reports, Jackson aides told medics he had collapsed after a Demerol injection. “Shortly after taking the Demerol he started to experience slow shallow breathing” an aide allegedly told the media. “His breathing gradually got slower and slower until it stopped.”

One's thoughts potentially return to the painkiller addiction I previously referenced:

[Demerol] is often compared to morphine, and is supposed to be safer and carry less risk of addiction, and is claimed to be superior in treating certain types of pain. Demerol though has come under scrutiny in recent years....

And that noted journalistic source The People's Daily reported the following in 2008:

Michael Jackson is said to be living on a diet of gravy, painkillers and biscuits.

The cash-strapped star...is apparently surviving on the bizarre diet after his spending habits spiralled out of control.

And there are other reports that are surfacing:

Brian Oxman, the Jackson Family spokesman and former lawyer for Michael, told CNN in an interview on Thursday night that "I can only tell you that this is something that was not unexpected." Oxman went on to say that "the medications which Michael was under, this family has been trying for months and months and months to take care of Michael Jackson."

Oxman went on to compare the Jackson situation to that of the late Anna Nicole Smith. "The people who have surrounded him have been enabling him. If you think the case of Anna Nicole Smith was an abuse, it's nothing in comparison to what we have seen taking place in Michael Jackson's life," Oxman told CNN.

It's odd that Jackson was compared to Anna Nicole Smith, a person whose best-known talent was her ability to take her clothes off. A more apt comparison may be Elvis Presley (whose daughter was married to Jackson at one time). Presley was also musically talented, also revolutionary, also a loner, and also had a drug problem.

The painkiller issue goes back to 1993, and was linked by Jackson himself to other personal issues:

Michael Jackson has announced he is canceling his world tour to seek treatment for his addiction to painkillers. He attributed his dependence on the drugs to his anguish over accusations that he had molested a 13-year-old boy.

In a taped statement released late Friday, Mr. Jackson, one of the world's best-selling recording artists, said: "The pressure resulting from these false allegations, coupled with the incredible energy necessary for me to perform, caused so much distress that it left me physically and emotionally exhausted. I became increasingly more dependent on the painkillers."

Sadly, in this case one cannot discuss Jackson's musical career without discussing his personal life. I started a FriendFeed thread on Thursday:

OK, I'll ask this question before boarding my cross-country flight - did Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, or Michael Jackson make the greatest contribution to society? Talk amongst yourselves.

As I flew west, the participants discussed the difference between "contribution" and "impact." As I said when I killed the thread upon my arrival in the West:

Michael COULD have made the greatest contribution, but his effectiveness was muted.

The chief example of Jackson's potential is the Heal the World Foundation, the charity that Jackson created. Here is how the website describes the role of the President Emeritus:

Mr. Jackson officially founded HTWF in 1992, forming the nonprofit, however, the heart of his charity, healing the world, one person at a time, was Mr. Jackson's focus, even before the papers were signed and the foundation formalized, he was serving his fellow man.

HTWF focuses on character development worldwide and addressing high priority global problems and was on target to become one of the largest charity organizations in the world and also one of the greatest 'goods' to mankind and with any great good, comes opposition in that same measure.

Note the reference to "was" on target. In HTWF's terms, Jackson's enemies did the Foundation in:

Therefore, it is NO surprise, that shortly after HTWF was launched in 1992, that Michael Jackson's naivety and altruistic love of others, was twisted and exploited.

The story continues, causing you to wonder - is this the story of a charitable organization, or a Michael Jackson fan club?

Despite the years of repeated attacks of the rapacious and the false rumors of this legendary entertainer and humanitarian, the fact remains that he is one of the most honorable, generous and Godlike men of our time and he will not be put down.

Now while people often praise the founder of an organization, the word "Godlike" is not necessarily used. In this case, however, the word was used, and the Godlike man was...um...crucified:

From 2002-2008 the foundation was fledgling, along with its founder and lost its tax exempt status while reorganizing its focus and upper management.

We continued to develop our initiatives and held many questionnaires and PR 'polls' to gauge the public approval of the charity. Many volunteers continued to hold fundraisers and serve their communities on our behalf and many lives were helped, including all the people on this site currently....

In 2008 based on the demand from our supporters and the devotion of our volunteers, we restructured the charity under a new board of Directors and regained our tax exempt status. However, the charitable giving and work of HTWF was always moving forward and never ceased.

One man can do his part to HEAL THE WORLD and Mr. Jackson did take a step out of the charity for awhile as was necessary and understandable, but will never abandoned HTWF, nor his desire to serve his fellow man. When it is time, Mr. Jackson will lead HTWF into this generation and all generations to come.

This is the text that appeared on the page as of Friday morning. Unless the Heal the World Foundation officially endorses reincarnation, it will probably be edited in the future.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Somehow Joy Brigade didn't seem right

There's a band that has had an interesting career over the last several decades, under several different names. First known as Warsaw, then as Joy Division, this band existed until Ian Curtis committed suicide. The remaining three members re-formed as New Order (previously discussed here), added a fourth member (Gillian Gilbert, replaced a couple of decades later by Phil Cunningham), and existed in some form for several decades until Peter Hook departed.

Now, Stereogum links to an NME article that highlights the next incarnation of this band:

Former New Order members Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Phil Cunningham have formed a new band without ex-bassist Peter Hook.

The collective, Bad Lieutenant, features Blur's Alex James on bass duties, Sumner told BBC Newsbeat that they have already completed recording an album, set for release in October.

"I'm very proud of it, it's a very good album," Sumner said. "It's pretty guitary too because we've got three guitarists in the band."

Even when New Order was primarily known as an electronic dance band, there was always a guitar element in their sound.

One question for Sumner and Morris, who have been through all of these different changes - how does it feel?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The power of the niche - Naxos

People are trying to make money in the music industry, and some of them are using subscription-based music services to (try to) do it. Jon Healey at the Los Angeles Times highlights one service that claims to be successful at this:

[O]ne music industry player says it's actually "extremely successful" with a subscription music-on-demand service for the college market. That would be Naxos, which specializes in ... classical music. And it's prices aren't cheap, either.

This is a lesson in the value of finding the right niche in a time of technological upheaval. Naxos is both an independent classical-music label and a distributor of classical music.

More here. Naxos also offers subscriptions, in some cases using partners to do so:

Imagine leaving a concert and wanting to go right home and hear your favorite parts of the music again and again...Well now you can! As a BSO [Baltimore Symphony Orchestra] subscriber you will gain exclusive online access to the world's largest collection of streaming Classical music with more than 400,000 tracks of music from Classical, Orchestral, Choral, Wind Band, Jazz, and World Music genres from more than 80 top record labels around the world.

Naxos Music Library is a streaming audio music resource that features powerful tools to stimulate music education and research. Recordings are even available for download and purchase. Don't forget to check out our BSO playlist! We've complied a list of all the pieces from our 2009-2010 season for your listening pleasure and easy access. Once you are logged in, scroll over the playlists tab and click "New" from the drop-down menu. Then choose the "Shared Playlists" tab and enjoy.

This benefit has a $300 value per person and is completely FREE to you with your BSO subscription.

They also offer a lower-priced subscription on their web site:

Subscribe to Naxos.com and enjoy these benefits!

Access to listen to more than 5,000 CDs (one track at a time) including all Naxos, Marco Polo and Dacapo recordings in FM quality sound (20Kbps).

Access to about 50 new releases per month as well as next month’s releases.

Access to various genres recording including Classical, Historical*, Film Music, Jazz/Blues, Nostalgia*, Classical Archives*, Rock Legends* and World/New Age.

* Due to the uncertain legal situation regarding pre-1972 sound recordings, Historical, Nostalgia, Classical Archives, Rock Legends and Jazz Legends recordings are not available for audio streaming for any users situated within the United States of America.

Access to sample video clips from the BBC/Opus Arte, TDK, Arthaus and EuroArts DVD catalogues.

For this package, the annual subscription costs US$19.95 or EUR€19.95.

You can see why this niche works. Classical music lovers are used to paying a premium to attend concerts and often offer financial support to symphony orchestras and other music organizations. If you can hear streamed music for your support, all the better.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Some people have been saying that Muzak is bankrupt for years

In my Empoprise-MU music blog, I am trying to cover a wide assortment of music, including music that some people say isn't music at all. Some people think punk isn't music. Some people think classical music isn't music. But there's probably a wide agreement that Muzak isn't music, and that it's a cruel sappy manipulation of the mind.

You'll notice that I am capitalizing Muzak, because there is specifically a company that produces this type of music. And, unbeknownst to me, the company went bankrupt in February 2009. And, unbeknownst to me, Muzak the company has an up and coming competitor:

When Muzak, the company whose name has become synonymous with syrupy instrumental renditions of pop songs piped into elevators, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, Joshua Katz’s phone started ringing.

“I must’ve gotten 25 calls,” said Mr. Katz, the co-owner of El Records, a six-person company that provides custom music for luxury hotels and other high-end brands. “People started addressing what they were paying for and realized they weren’t happy,” he said of the bevy of potential customers looking to flee the monolithic music provider.

It's helpful to review the reason behind Muzak and El Records and all the rest - people are more inclined to spend money in a pleasant aural environment than in a silent one. But it's just a question of what is pleasant. This will vary according to a business' customer base - a youth-oriented store will have a different background music selection than a jewelery store.

But sometimes the music choices can go awry. I remember one time when we were visiting relatives in Henderson, Nevada, and my wife needed to work on a photo album present for one of the relatives. She went to a Starbucks to work, but ended up having to leave because the music was too danged loud. And I would think that many Starbucks customers would be bringing their own music via iPods or whatever, so why drown out your ability to think?

Background music should NOT be set to a volume of 11.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Listening to the Wichita Lineman

Untitled by r fraser used under a Creative Commons License

I was listening to my last.fm radio station, which serves songs up randomly, and it served up "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell. I briefly alluded to the song in an August 2008 post in this blog, linking to a post in The Greatest Songs Ever! that focused on the musical aspects of the song. It did, however, briefly refer to the lyrical content:

“Some time earlier,” [Jimmy Webb] says, “I had been driving around northern Oklahoma, an area that’s real flat and remote — almost surreal in its boundless horizons and infinite distances. I’d seen a lineman up on a telephone pole, talking on the phone. It was such a curiosity to see a human being perched up there in those surroundings.”

The image returned to Webb, and he spent two hours that afternoon “noodling on the green baby” until he came up with a tune....

What Webb didn’t know was that [producer Al] De Lory’s uncle was a lineman in Kern County, California. “So as soon as I heard that opening line,” De Lory recalls, “I could visualize my uncle up a pole in the middle of nowhere. I loved the song right away, and I knew it was right for Glen.”

Boy, was it. The song hit number 3 in the pop charts. But is it, as Wikipedia claims, the first existential country song? Judge for yourself; here's the first verse:

I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road
Searchin' in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin' in the wire, I can hear you through the wine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line

And if you want to see Campbell lip-syncing the song on the Smothers Brothers, go here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Alan Wilder and time lapse

Recently, I was reading Outside the Beltway when I ran across a post entitled OTB Latenight - Recoil. The post included no words - just a Vimeo video that showed a Samuel Cockedey video (static : pulse) showing Tokyo city views with time lapse photography.

static : pulse from Samuel Cockedey on Vimeo.

The underlying music? "Edge to Life" by Recoil, from the 1992 album Bloodline.

Any true music fan who pays attention to gastroenteritis knows that Recoil is the one-man band created by former Depeche Mode member Alan Wilder in the mid 1980s, and his major musical outlet since leaving the band in the mid 1990s.

A year ago, I stumbled upon and friendfed a Side-Line letter from Wilder that was published in February 2008. While noting his unusual position as a person who does not make commercially viable music but who does enjoy a certain degree of fame because of past accomplishments, Wilder went on to discuss the state of the music industry (stating themes that I have subsequently echoed in this blog), and offering some commentary on his record label and its new bosses:

I've long since given up expecting to make a profit from what I do. And you might expect that I would be full of resentment and bitterness toward my own record company but that's not really it. Mute are victims in all this. The reality is that all the companies are suffering and are desperately clinging on by their fingernails trying to come up with solutions as the rug is pulled from beneath them.

In Mute's case, EMI have inflicted so many spending restrictions and are 're-shaping' and 'streamlining' with department 'centralisation' and the reduction of the artist roster. EMI big cheese Guy Hands describes his business as 'an unsustainable model' with a need to 'reduce waste'.... Garbage collection. Thinly veiled rhetoric meaning CUTBACKS! He talks of 'eliminating duplication and bureaucracy'. Bottom line: 2000 jobs have to go.

More worryingly, he also offers us the information that currently about 3% of the entire roster is profitable and that those that never will be profitable, no matter how the model is changed, can kiss their arses goodbye.

That is about as far away as you could ever get from what I understood as the Mute philosophy, where the profit from major selling acts is used to nurture all the other artists on the label. Art. A record company does not sell baked beans, it exposes art to the masses. An unquantifiable thing. Baked Beans - a quantifiable thing.

But is that philosophy realistic in these times? Clearly not if you're ruled by a private equity conglomerate. The Mute home (now part of the EMI building) is a shadow of its former self. A few lost souls wandering around in a post-apocalyptic daze, like a scene from '28 Days Later'. There are some good people at the label who have their hands tied. And their feet bound. And some gaffer taped firmly across their mouths, helplessly kidnapped having been lured into the corporate machine.

Of course Mute can't just up and leave. It would be like trying to put your house up for sale when you're only renting it. I imagine Daniel Miller is as concerned as the next tenant. He is contracted to EMI as Mute's label boss and his own future I imagine is unclear. Maybe he is tired of the whole business, his original vision impaired beyond repair. I'm sure he is just as passionate about music as he ever was, but who would want to start a new record company in the current climate?

I'm not sure that Wilder has had anything new to say on the music industry since that time, but if he does say something, you'll be able to find it on Recoil's official site Shunt, Facebook page, or Twitter account.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Jacko still beats Whitney in the faded glory award

When I previously saw a promotional video (the "sizzle reel") for Whitney Houston's comeback album, I was worried that the marketing for the album presented her as a superstar and emphasized her past glories - the same type of past hero-worship that Michael Jackson has used in his marketing for the past two decades.

But Houston still can't match Jackson in the bizarre demands department:

Michael Jackson has thrown his comeback in to chaos with bizarre demands for his child choir.

In emails seen by the Mirror, the singer wants every youngster able to do sign language....

Jacko, 50, also wants the child singers to be made up of “exactly equal” numbers of black, white, mixed-race and Asian children.

And, even weirder, Jacko is also after six marching snare drummers who are banned from having beards.

And because of child labor laws (or, in this case, child labour laws), more than one choir will be required.

This comeback is shaping up more and more to be a spectacle, and reminds me of something that I saw...oh, about twenty years ago. Jackson was appearing on some big event on either MTV or VH1, and his appearance was preceded by a promotional video. The video showed people screaming, women shouting for Michael, and tons of very loud hero adoration. After the video ended, the camera switched to the audience at the event - an audience that was deadly silent.

That was the scene that was running through my mind when I saw Whitney Houston's promotional video. Will she be greeted with that same silence when she ventures forth in support of her forthcoming album?

P.S. In other Jackson news, he's being sued by a promoter for violating terms of a contract for a Jacksons reunion concert. The promoters claims Jackson was prohibited from solo performances before and after the reunion. However, the Wembley performances are supposedly in violation of this contractual clause.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Adam Lambert, the album

You don't have to win American Idol (or the equivalent in your country) to achieve fame and fortune.

Take Adam Lambert, the supposed loser of American Idol. In addition to addressing his personal life, it has been announced that Lambert has signed a deal with 19 Entertainment and RCA Recordings, with an album expected in the fall.

OK, you may say, but Adam Lambert (and Clay Aiken, for that matter) placed second in American Idol, so they were certainly visible. You aren't going to get much success if you don't get one of those two spots.

Two words - William Hung. Hung released several albums, the first of which included "She Bangs" and "Rocket Man" (I know - I've heard the album). He has a film career. It just goes to show that you have to take advantage of anything you get.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Röyksopp featuring Robyn, "The Girl and the Robot"

Robot in Love Vector by Spacedust Design used under a Creative Commons License

So last.fm is serving up songs, and this one comes up. And I'm blown away, especially by the chord progressions. And I'm not the only one; Mark Pytlik wrote this in Pitchfork back in March:

"The Girl and the Robot" is a frigid, winding bit of electro that combines a powerhouse vocal with some slippery chord changes and one of the biggest choruses of 2009 so far.

And that chorus is as follows:

In the night call you up and
Wanna know when you're coming home
Don't deny me call me back
I'm so alone

While I've found the official video on YouTube, I'm actually more impressed with this live performance from the Norwegian TV show Senkveld:

In case you're not familiar with Senkveld, here's how Wikipedia describes it:

Senkveld med Thomas og Harald (også kjent som Senkveld) er et norsk talkshow som har gått på TV2 siden 12. september 2003. Serien går på fredager og hver gang inviteres flere kjente gjester innen kultur, politikk og sport. Programledere i serien har helt siden starten vært Thomas Numme og Harald Rønneberg.

Hope that helps. At least Robyn sang in English.

I've also listened to some of the remixes. My favorites are the Joakim Remix (which stays true to the original song, but expands it and fills it in) and the Kris Menace Remix (which bears little relation to the original song, but is beautiful).

Will airports post "no harmonica" signs?

I ran across something in the New York Times recently. The title of the post indicated that it discussed ways to occupy time during airline flight delays and layovers. I figured that might be something for my Empoprise-BI business blog, but I was wrong. You see, Bruce Turkel likes his harmonica:

Weird Guy with Box of Harmonicas by sara mattiace (The Divine Miss M.) used under a Creative Commons License

I studied the trumpet and play in two bands in my spare time. But I don’t travel with my trumpet. I travel with about a dozen harmonicas.

I can blame my love affair with the harmonica on business travel. A friend gave me some harmonica music, and then later, when I was in Charlotte, N.C., waiting for a plane I wandered into a small gift shop and found a harmonica instruction book that was packaged with an actual harmonica. The price was right, so I figured why not give it a try?

And yes, he does play it in the airport:

When I was in Heathrow recently, I actually had a little jam session with two fellow travelers who were playing guitars. I whipped out the harmonica and asked if I could join them.

I think we sounded pretty good. But even if we didn’t, it was still a lot of fun.

And Turkel isn't the only person who plays the harmonica in the airport. I was unable to find an appropriately licensed picture of a harmonica in an airport to incorporate into this post, but Flickr does have two "all rights reserved" pictures of people with harmonicas in airports. If you'd like to see them, go here and here.

So there's a lot of harmonicing at airport facilities. However, people at airports are often very tired, and therefore very sensitive. So for every person who would be overjoyed to see Turkel or the other two guys whip their instruments out, there would be another person who would probably scowl at them for the "racket" they're making.

The solution is simple - electronic harmonicas, with headphones.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Empoprise-MU News - 14 June 2009

Empoprise-MU News

The news letter for Empoprise-MU - An Empoprises vertical information service for music news.

Welcome to Empoprise-MU News

Proving that Farm Town music isn't the only music I listen to, I'm still writing about various things musical, and also welcome your comments, either at the blog posts themselves, or via email at the Gmail account with the name "empoprises."

Behind the Scenes

I haven't written about it, but a new Depeche Mode video is out for the song "Peace" - the band only appears on a billboard in the background, but the story is compelling. Stereogum has it.

Special Features

I talked about Whitney Houston last week, and may briefly mention her once in the coming week. And the publicity machine is grinding up. HipHopRx reports that pictures of an album photo shoot have leaked. Oh, and if HipHopRx has the right information, the album name will NOT contain the words "Whitney" or "Houston" in it. They think the album will be called "Undefeated." We'll see.


Whitney will actually be mentioned in this blog in connection with another music star (not named Bobby). I also plan to discuss Alan Wilder, Adam Lambert, and harmonicas. Enjoy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Truth is stranger than fiction - Mozart's Requiem

By the time you read this, I anticipate that I will be at a graveside service for Travis Clark. For this reason, Mozart's Requiem is on my mind. I knew little about it other than the myth:

A strange messenger requested a Requiem that appears to be for Mozart's own funeral.

After some snooping, I found the true story:

On 14 February 1791, Anna née Flammberg, the young wife of Graf Franz von Walsegg, died. Walsegg was an eccentric nobleman living at Stuppach near Vienna, and as a dual memorial to his late wife he planned for a statue to be sculpted, and for a composer to write a Requiem mass which would be performed annually on the anniversary of her death.

Nothing unusual here - noblemen commissioned works all the time. But here's where the story takes a turn:

Walsegg was also an amateur musician and dilettante who often affected the guise of a composer (a “notorious raven who dressed himself in peacock’s feathers”) by pretending to be the author of quartets or other compositions which he had in fact had written for him. From one particular document we know enough of Walsegg’s eccentricities to be fairly certain he arranged for the mass to be commissioned in a particularly secretive way, which would allow him to pass the music off as his own.

Walsegg then employed Dr. Johann Sortschan for a very special task.

Sortschan sent a messenger to Mozart to enquire how soon he could write a Requiem, and negotiate a fee. Part of these instructions must have been to preserve Walsegg’s anonymity (by invoking Mozart not to attempt to find out who wanted the work done)....

But it isn't like Mozart dropped everything to work on the Requiem.

Mozart would also have told the messenger that the composition would have to wait until he had finished various other commitments; just the small matter of two operas, a concerto, a cantata, conducting engagements in Prague... The composition of La clemenza di Tito, Die Zauberflöte, the clarinet concerto, and the Masonic cantata occupied Mozart for much of the second half of 1791....

But it appears that Mozart began to work on the Requiem in late October 1791. By November, he was stricken with a fever. He apparently had no premonition of death:

Allegedly Mozart took to his bed and put aside work on the Requiem in order to recuperate; had Mozart expected to live only another fortnight, it is easy to imagine him taking to his bed, but to stop composing on the other hand?

By December 5, Mozart was dead. It is speculated that he worked on the Requiem a little bit in the days before his death, but the piece was certainly incomplete by that point. Regardless, it appears that portions of the piece were performed five days later:

[I]n the early 1990s several reports were uncovered which confirm that a requiem mass was sung at the church of St Michael on 10 December 1791 (not quite the octave of Mozart’s death, when such memorials are traditionally appropriate) at the instigation the impresario Emanuel Schikaneder. One of these reports indicates that some portions of the Requiem were indeed sung, as the dying composer had anticipated, though it is impossible to establish exactly which parts of the fragment were performed, and with what forces [8].

We may guess that this initial performance organised by Schikaneder might have had orchestral accompaniment for the Introït, but it is also possible that much of the remaining music could have been performed by soloists or chorus, simply accompanied by organ, as numerous musicians would have been able to improvise the accompaniment from Mozart’s figured bass part and the indications of the orchestral motifs given here and there in the manuscript.

Read the rest of Philip Legge's history of the Mozart Requiem for an account of what happened next, and all of the different people who may have helped to complete Mozart's work, in an attempt to secure the remainder of the fee promised by Walsegg. I dont' know if Mozart's wife was successful in obtaining payment, but presumably Walsegg never commissioned another requiem; after the death of his wife, Wikipedia states that he never remarried.

But what of Anna née Flammberg? An account of the Schloss Prenner von Flammberg (with a picture) provides additional detail:

The lady for whom the Mozart Requiem was commissioned, has for long simply been refered to as Anna nee von Flammberg. Her proper family name was in fact Prenner (Flammberg was a title), her full name being Maria Anna Theresa Prenner von Flammberg. She was the daughter of the wealthy Wilhelm and Magdalena and was born on 15 November 1770 at this castle in Niederhollabrunn which was unknown to Mozart historians for almost two centuries. The family was musical and her father was benefactor of the church in nearby Niederfellabrunn. The castle has been turned into a cultural venue....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another variation on Whitney's name? Or will they call this one "Houston, we don't have a problem"?

Whitney Houston has released several albums, among them "Whitney Houston" (1985), "Whitney" (1987), and "Just Whitney" (2002). But, as the New York Times notes, she hasn't released anything new in a while:

[I]n 2002, she was still the happily married spouse of Bobby Brown who had never starred in a reality television series and had never been impersonated by Maya Rudolph on “Saturday Night Live.” Ah, good times.

Well, both the Times and PopEater are reporting that we're only a few months away from a new Whitney Houston album.

"The voice is there; I don’t think anyone could ever take that from her," singer Akon, who recorded a duet with Houston titled 'Like I Never Left,' told Billboard.com in 2007. "As long as we apply that voice to hit records, she’ll be right back where she left off."

Perhaps, although what will actually be on the album is a mystery - one that will supposedly be revealed on Houston's web site in the months before the album release. The only disturbing part? The "sizzle reel" on her website describes her in terms of numeric superlatives and past glories. Just like Michael Jackson has been marketed. Not a good sign.

On or before September 1, we'll know if this is a comeback or a dud.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You can only do so much (the last polka)

Often when you visit a mall, you will see signs that talk about new stores coming into the mall. Or when you go to a store, you will see signs that talk about how prices are dropping. Funny, you never see the malls trumpeting when stores close, or stores trumpeting when prices are jacked up. And so it goes with the Grammy Awards.

While one might think that with the addition of heavy metal, the Grammy Awards were comprehensive, in truth no music award can be comprehensive. In reality the organization can only support a certain number of awards, and at times a previously-award category has to be cut.

1940's Chicago Polka Band by ChicagoGeek used under a Creative Commons License

So, Grammy people, you've had your last polka dance:

The Recording Academy, which bestows the Grammy Awards, announced late on Wednesday that the polka category would be eliminated, saying in a statement that it had been cut “to ensure the awards process remains representative of the current musical landscape.”

To many in the polka world, that read as a kind of industry code meaning that their genre — once capable of supporting artists with million-selling hits, but long since relegated to micro-niche status — had slipped off the mainstream radar entirely.

But critics answer that there's so little competition that a Grammy for polka is meaningless:

The polka Grammy was first given in 1986. (It went to one of the genre’s last big stars, Frankie Yankovic, who died in 1998.) But it has long been under fire by critics of the awards, who say that the field is simply too small to sustain its own category. Some also complain that it has lost its value since the competition has been so dominated by Mr. Sturr, a slick nontraditionalist whose albums feature guest appearances by the likes of Willie Nelson.

Sturr has won the award 18 times. By way of comparison, Bruce Springsteen has won 19 Grammys.

Which suggests a solution - re-record "Nebraska" (which was pretty much a solo effort anyway) as an accordion-dominated piece. Although I'm not sure how the bass part of "State Trooper" would work on an accordion.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Juggling jobs is difficult at times - Max Weinberg

Normally when you become the musical conductor for a band on a late night talk show, that's pretty much your primary job. Doc Severinsen, Paul Shaffer, et al have pretty much been devoted to Johnny, Dave, or whoever.

There's been one notable exception to this rule - Max Weinberg, who has conducted Conan O'Brien's band since the very beginning - a band that's named after him. The reason for the exception is pretty clear - Conan may be one of the most famous late night talk show hosts in the United States (and Finland), but he's not The Boss.

In February 1999, Weinberg took a leave of absence from "Late Night" to join Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for a historic reunion. This was their first world tour in over a decade and one of the most anticipated and celebrated concert tours of 1999/2000. The tour wrapped up on July 1, 2000 after an explosive ten-night-stand at New York's Madison Square Garden....

However, Max's TV boss recently got a promotion, which led to a bit of an issue, since Max's music Boss was on tour at the same time. Ultimately, it was decided that in this case, Conan's needs overruled Bruce's needs. So Bruce had to find a replacement for Max for some of his tour dates.

When Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Izod Center in the New Jersey Meadowlands on May 21, there was one musician conspicuously absent: Max Weinberg, the group’s drummer for more than three decades....

Mr. Weinberg, who was replaced that first night in New Jersey by his son, Jay, 18, who is also substituting for his father on at least the first seven dates that Mr. Springsteen is playing in Europe, on a leg of the tour that began last Saturday in the Netherlands. While Mr. O’Brien and NBC had previously permitted Mr. Weinberg to take leaves of absence from “Late Night” for as many as six months to tour with Mr. Springsteen, the opening weeks of “Tonight” were ultimately deemed too important for him to miss.

So Jay Weinberg is kinda like a Jason Bonham, although happily Jay's reasons for playing with Bruce are different than Jason's reasons for playing with Led Zeppelin, with one exception - during a 1979 sound check, Jason played with Led Zeppelin while John stood back and listened to the band. I know this is off topic, but I love this story:

Knebworth in August 1979 proved a properly memorable occasion, not only because Led Zeppelin performed to record-breaking crowds on two consecutive weekends in what would turn out to be their last concerts in the UK, but also because the young Bonham stepped out on stage with the group for the first time, albeit during the soundcheck.

"Dad and I drove up to soundcheck on the Wednesday. He said: 'Do you know 'Trampled Underfoot'?' I said: 'Yeah.' He said: 'We're going to play it.' So I just got on the drumkit and Jimmy went: 'Right, ready, ready?' And Jonesy [John Paul Jones] started off, and he knew it was me. Robert and Jimmy did not, though, they didn't look around for a while. Then Jimmy saw my dad out front and went: 'Who's playing?' It was great fun!" he remembers.

Unfortunately, John Bonham would never see his son perform professionally again. Although technically, Max won't see his son Jay perform - Max will be working.

Monday, June 8, 2009

How a Third World conflict affected the American record charts (Dschinghis Khan, "Moskau")

It's fair to say that when I went away to college in 1979, my musical knowledge was expanded considerably. College will do that to you, and I was fortunate enough to live in a dorm with some people who had varied musical tastes. One of my roommates came from Japan, and he had a rather extensive music collection with songs from singers and groups from many countries. One of the songs that he had, for example, was a song from a German group that was popular over most of the world. Yet I was probably one of the few Americans who heard the song at the time.

Dschinghis Khan, Back On Thier Saddles by Jhayne (Foxtongue) used under a Creative Commons License

Why? Because the song, by German group Dschinghis Khan, was written in advance of a forthcoming international event. The song's title? "Moskau." The event? The 1980 Summer Olympics.

Now I'll grant that Americans have been notoriously resistant to songs with lyrics in foreign languages (in this case German), and that Moscow was not the most popular city to Americans in the midst of the Cold War. However, there was always the chance of the song making a dent on the American charts, especially since it was a happy disco song, and disco was still enjoying some popularity in the 1979-1980 period.

However, Christmas of 1979 was the date of a significant event:

In Christmas 1979, Russian paratroopers landed in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. The country was already in the grip of a civil war. The prime minister, Hazifullah Amin, tried to sweep aside Muslim tradition within the nation and he wanted a more western slant to Afghanistan. This outraged the majority of those in Afghanistan as a strong tradition of Muslim belief was common in the country.

Thousands of Muslim leaders had been arrested and many more had fled the capital and gone to the mountains to escape Amin's police. Amin also lead a communist based government - a belief that rejects religion and this was another reason for such obvious discontent with his government.

Thousands of Afghanistan Muslims joined the Mujahideen - a guerilla force on a holy mission for Allah. They wanted the overthrow of the Amin government. The Mujahideen declared a jihad - a holy war - on the supporters of Amin. This was also extended to the Russians who were now in Afghanistan trying to maintain the power of the Amin government. The Russians claimed that they had been invited in by the Amin government and that they were not invading the country. They claimed that their task was to support a legitimate government and that the Mujahideen were no more than terrorists.

On December 27th, 1979, Amin was shot by the Russians and he was replaced by Babrak Kamal. His position as head of the Afghan government depended entirely on the fact that he needed Russian military support to keep him in power. Many Afghan soldiers had deserted to the Mujahedeen and the Kamal government needed 85,000 Russian soldiers to keep him in power.

While the Soviet presence in Afghanistan had some long-term consequences, not only for the Soviet Union but for the United States of America, the short-term effect is what concerns us here. President Jimmy Carter, who was at the time benefiting from a "rally 'round the President" surge after the taking of hostages in Iran, decided to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow in response to the invasion of Afghanistan. While that event had its own long-term ramifications, it also pretty much eliminated any chance of Dschinghis Khan enjoying stateside success with "Moskau" - even after the song had been re-recorded in English.

As for Dschinghis Khan's song lyrics, noaura.com summarizes them as follows:

They're a little like a lovechild of Abba and the Village People (the Village People's outfits worn with Abba's sincerity), but there's really nothing in the history of English-language pop music to compare to their monumental lyrics. They sing songs about ancient history ("Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu, where the secrets are at home"), anthems to various cities (Rome ("Romulus and Remus the two brothers, raised among the wolves like no others") and Moscow ("Moscow, Moscow, throw the glasses at the wall and good fortune to us all, ah ha ha ha ha, HA!")) and contemporary explorers ("Thor, Thor He-ey-yerdahl…"), and one doozy from the perspective of Genghis Khan's son, who, and I quote, "wants to drum and sing-oh, just like his idol Ringo" because he's "a rocker and a roller [he's] a rockin' man," which of course causes dramatic family conflict since his father wants him to be the leader of the Mongols and not the drummer for a boy band. An even more dramatic drum-solo follows, by which the rockin' son of Genghis Khan hopes to convince his father that rockin' and rollin' is a noble profession. It says quite a bit about the band that said drum solo appears to consist wholly of someone having pushed a rhythm button on the synthesizer. Apparently synthesizers were still pretty impressive in the thirteenth century, though, because the song ends with Genghis's heartwarming assertion that "You're a rocker, you're a roller, you're a rocking man, and you are my favourite son." Awwww.

As for "Moskau," noaura.com provides an English translation of the lyrics. Here's a portion:

Moscow, Moscow, throw your glasses at the wall
And good fortune to us all,
A ha ha ha ha - ha!
Moscow, Moscow, join us for a kazadchok
We'll go dancing round the clock
A ha ha ha ha - hey!

Moscow Moscow drinking vodka all night long
Keeps you happy, makes you strong,
A ha ha ha ha - ha!
Moscow Moscow come and have a drink and then
you will never leave again, a ha ha ha ha ha!

Put these lyrics together with German disco and outrageous costumes, and you get something slightly different from Silver Convention. OK, drastically different:

Oh, and I haven't even talked about Dschinghis Khan's 4th place Eurovision finish in 1979.

Oh ho ho ho ho. Hey!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Empoprise-MU News - 7 June 2009

Empoprise-MU News

The news letter for Empoprise-MU - An Empoprises vertical information service for music news.

Welcome to Empoprise-MU News

It's certainly been an interesting week musically, between the new Pearl Jam song and everything else. You may have noticed, however, that this blog doesn't always feature the big musical events of the week. Music itself is so broad that I find myself writing about things that interest me, which may not be the things that interest Robert Hilburn or whoever. If my discerning audience wants to bring a musical artist or group to my attention, however, feel free to do so via the "empoprises" email address that the folks at Gmail were kind enough to provide to me.

Behind the Scenes

Last week I talked about the lastfmfeeds group on FriendFeed. But did you know that there's a FriendFeed group associated with this here Empoprise-MU blog? Well, there is - http://friendfeed.com/empoprise-mu. The group currently consists of some music-related feeds that auto-populate the group, plus some things that I find in Google Reader, FriendFeed, YouTube and elsewhere that I share within the group. If I had unlimited time I'd probably blog about everything that appears in the group's feed, but (luckily for you, I guess) some things are simply shared in the group without comment. By the way, feel free to contribute to the room yourself!

Special Features

As an example of something that I read and enjoyed but didn't have a chance to write about, I recently shared an item in the aforementioned Empoprise-MU group. This was an Alan McGee piece from the Guardian entitled "It's time we applauded the genius of George Michael." It describes how George, who was somewhat trapped in the teeny-bopper image that was created when he and Andrew Ridgeley performed as Wham!, was able to update his image with his solo album "Faith." I don't know that I'd necessarily compare "Faith" to "Pet Sounds" as McGee did, but I do agree that it (or at least the singles, which is all I've heard) is a very strong statement. However, McGee noted that "Faith" contained a trap of its own:

Ironically, the success of his new Faith persona locked him yet again into the pop-image ghetto (the same one he tried to escape from with Wham!). His follow-up, 1990's Listen Without Prejudice, made a point of obscuring his image and subsequently Michael was penalised by his record company with lack of promotion (Sony wanting a forced return to the Faith-era image). The result? Michael was prompted (like Neil Young and Talk Talk frontman Mark Hollis) to sue his record company and win back his freedom.

Read the rest here. Perhaps I'll write about Wham! itself a little more at some point.


I've planned a post for this coming week that you may or may not like, but that means a lot to me. It concerns a song that I first heard during my freshman year of college, and that I hadn't heard for decades afterwards - not only because of music tastes, but also because of geopolitical reasons. It's fun when music, politics, and religion all intersect - in fact it's "oh ho ho ho ho" fun. You'll understand when the post appears.

Pardon me for a moment, I'm just trying a widget

I'm playing with some of Amazon's widgets and wanted to try this one out and see if it offers me a way to place music on here which may not be easily accessible otherwise. You may recall that when I last blogged about this song, I only had access to a cover version and not the original.

P.S. If you live outside of the United States, please tell me if the widget above works for you.


Turns out that Amazon, like other selling services of its kind (and yes, I am an Amazon Associates member), only offers brief samples of the songs in question, not the entire song. However, if you haven't heard the song in question, these brief samples do provide a snippet of how the song actually sounds.

Friday, June 5, 2009

All Ken "Ziggy" Jennings, all the time

When I subscribed to Ken Jennings, I figured that he'd provide source material for my Empoprise-NTN blog, which is devoted to NTN Buzztime trivia. But he's popping up elsewhere, most recently in a post in my Empoprise-BI business blog about a Jeopardy-playing computer. Well, now it's Ken's turn to pop up in the music blog.

Not necessarily because of the content of this post, which basically notes that it's been five years since Jennings won fame and fortune on the aforementioned Jeopardy television show. No, he popped up here because of the TITLE of that post:

Five years, my brain hurts a lot

While he didn't cite the source of the title, he did manage to quote a few lines:

“My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare,
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there…”

Well, if you can't question the answer "This singer said that his brain hurt like a warehouse," you can find the question here.

Although whenever I think of the chorus of this song, I think of the Gumbys of Monty Python fame.

But enjoy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

David Carradine, musician

Count on "The Music's Over" to remind us that the late David Carradine was not just an actor:

Carradine was also a singer-songwriter who released at least one album entitled As Is. In fact, he always fancied himself a musician first who just happened to fall into acting when he took a class in college.

BBC News has provided additional information (see picture 6):

He was a keen musician and released the albums Grasshopper and As Is, as well as singles, including You and Me, Troublemaker and Walk The Floor.

If you want to hear samples of Carradine's music, go here.

P.S. There have been conflicting reports on the cause of David Carradine's death, so I'm remaining silent on that aspect of the story at this time.

The Empoprise-MU blog gets into neurosurgery

We've talked about music, of course, and we've talked about the business of music, and now it's time for this blog to get into neurosurgery. No, I'm not going to be performing neurosurgery. Ali Rezai did:

Lately, when neurosurgeon Ali Rezai implants a deep brain electrode into a Parkinson's patient, he plays a special classical composition from the Cleveland Orchestra. The music isn't designed to keep him focused during surgery, but rather to explore the effect it has on the brain. His patients, who are receiving an implant that helps alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, are awake during the surgery and can tell Rezai how the music makes them feel as he observes what it does to the brain.

More here and here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Not one generation, nor two, but three generations of Nelsons

Back when I worked for a poster company, one of the posters that we sold was a poster of the group Nelson, which was fronted by Matthew and Gunnar Nelson. Around that same time, my wife was watching the TV version of Father Dowling Mysteries, which starred Matthew and Gunnar's sister Tracy. It's significant that the three siblings were active in both music and television, since their father Rick Nelson was active in both media.

Now I'm too young to remember the television show "Ozzie and Harriet," but I always thought of the dad, Ozzie Nelson, as a TV kind of guy. However, The Music's Over reminds me that Ozzie Nelson was more than a TV star.

Ozzie Nelson was a popular radio and television personality and band leader. By the early ’30s, Nelson was fronting his Ozzie Nelson Band who had a hits with “Over Somebody Else’s Shoulder” and “It’s Gonna Be You.” In 1935, Nelson married the band’s singer, Harriet Hilliard....

Allmusic has additional details:

[D]uring the 1930's, Ozzie Nelson led what was one of the most popular swing and dance bands in the New York area--a part of the country that, in those days, represented close to 15% of the population of the United States, and the heart of the broadcasting and entertainment worlds, apart from movies.

No less a journal than the jazz world bible Downbeat, in 1935, praised Ozzie Nelson band for it "subtle suggestion of melodic beauty and rhythmic patterns" and wrote that these "get under your skin."

And, in a little bit of irony, Allmusic notes the following about Nelson's TV career:

Ozzie Nelson became one of the definitive pop-culture father figures, a likeable, benign, slightly befuddled character rivaled only by Hugh Beaumont (Leave It To Beaver) and Fred MacMurray (My Three Sons), and a model for the figure of Howard Cunningham (played by Tom Bosley) on Happy Days.

Of course, Bosley would later work with Nelson's granddaughter Tracy.

But Allmusic then notes that I'm not the only person who was ignorant of Ozzie Nelson's recording career:

By that time, his music career had been forgotten by the public, eclipsed by the rock 'n roll success of his youngest son.

So, if you spend this Saturday (June 6) at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, just bear in mind that the support act (now billed as The Nelson Brothers) is the third generation of performers from the musical Nelson family.

Rolling Who? What about 131901319013190's opinion of the Spencer Pratt song?

The Inquisitr recently featured a YouTube video of Spencer Pratt's song "I'm a Celebrity." Now ordinarily, when a song is released, one used to have to wait for Rolling Stone or MAXIMUMROCKNROLL or Trouser Press or Spin Magazine or someone to weigh in on the song and pontificate about it. (You knew that the radio deejays would not give an honest assessment.)

But for Spencer Pratt, I'm not waiting for or Robert Hilburn or whoever to make an official pronouncement on the merits or demerits of this extremely important song. Instead, I turn to noted reviewer 131901319013190.

Now, 131901319013190 (I'll call him 131 for short) was able to get his opinion out there quickly, link it to another YouTube video, and get it positioned in such a way that I could immeidately hear what 131 had to say about the immense talents of Spencer Pratt.

Now, YouTube is not the only place where people can review songs. I have to mention that last.fm has already collected several reviews of the song, a couple of which are even positive.


And, for better or worse, these reviews can be posted by anybody, which means that ANYTHING could be reviewed. I should know:

by breadcrust

The Whimperor's tune are made on a cheap casio with trash can lids clanging for rythm. I thought this music was a joke at first like spinal tap but no,
this loon is serious.

Of course, then there are some accuracy issues:

God, but that voice would peel paint!

That particular CD was entirely instrumental. Whoops...

Now there is certainly still room for the professional reviewer, and I hope that all of the Hilburns don't fade away because of the 131s and breadcrusts of the world. But it's good to know that we have alternatives, and that current technology allows these alternatives to be aggregated or dis-aggregated as we see fit, so that we can find reviews that make sense to us.

Now if you'll pardon me, I have to take my trash can to the trash can tuner...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Revisiting the UK Performing Rights Society (PRS) - YouTube tussle

Brownie points by Ashley Dryden used under a Creative Commons License

In the past, I've briefly mentioned the fee dispute between the United Kingdom's Performing Rights Society and YouTube (March 10 2009 post) and I've also mentioned the huge amounts that YouTube pays to UK songwriters under the existing contract (April 22 2009 post). You may recall that the Rick Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up," which was played tens of millions of times on YouTube, resulted in less than £50 of revenue.

Well, I've lost track of the PRS-YouTube dispute, but Steven Hodson has provided an update to Duncan Riley's March 9 post:

...that groveling sound you hear is the PRS sweet talking YouTube to come back after PRS halved its royalties. Mind you it is no wonder that PRS wants the video giant back as YouTube contributed 40 percent of PRS members’ plays during one point last year.

Surfing from the Inquisitr, I ended up at two Paid Content posts. The first is dated May 26:

Good news for cash-strapped online music services. Royalty collector PRS For Music has bowed to websites’ pleas for smaller charges, more than halving its on-demand streaming music rate from £0.0022 to £0.00085 per track, effective July 1 and lasting for three years.

OK, let's do the math. Let's say that you have a video that pays £0.00085 per track. Furthermore, let's say that it becomes a viral sensation and is played...oh...30 million times, attracting all sorts of attention for the video website in addition to the 30 million visits and resulting ad revenue. Under the PRS proposal, the video service will be...um...GOUGED to the tune (heh) of...£25,500.

So why did Pete Waterman only get £11? I'm not sure. I don't know what the PRS royalty rate was at the time, and I don't know how much of a cut Waterman's publishing company took before paying him his portion of the royalties.

The second Paid Content post, dated June 1, simply notes that negotiations are ongoing.

Ozzy isn't only fighting in World of Warcraft

Perhaps you've seen the commercial in which Ozzy Osbourne is contesting his "Prince of Darkness" claim against an animated character from World of Warcraft. Well, Ozzy isn't only fighting in second life, but also in first life. In this case, he is fighting against Tony Iommi:

With his former Sabbath band mates Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler touring and recording with Ronnie James Dio (Osbourne's replacement in Black Sabbath when he left the band in 1980) as Heaven and Hell, Ozzy Osbourne is suing Iommi over the rights to the Sabbath moniker....

In a suit filed in the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office, Osbourne's lawyers allege that the guitarist for the heavy metal giants has claimed sole ownership over the Black Sabbath name, one of the most valuable and revered in metal music. Osbourne, who states in the suit his "Signature lead vocals" led to the band's "extraordinary success," citing a dive in their popularity during his 1980 - 1996 separation from the group, is seeking 50 percent ownership of the moniker.

Monday, June 1, 2009

More changes in the music industry - follow the money

This blog has devoted a bit of coverage to various issues in the music industry, and in my Google Reader I've discovered a few new items in this regard.

The first item, from the New York Times' Eric Pfanner, notes how the music industry is looking to nightclubs as a new source of revenue. The article starts by looking at fees paid for playing songs in Australia:

To pump music out to their dance floors, Australian clubs used to have to pay record companies and artists a nominal 7 Australian cents in royalties per guest, per night. Under a recent copyright settlement, that rate has risen to 50 cents per customer, and it is set to jump to 1.05 dollars, or 84 U.S. cents, in a few years.

The theory, as expressed in the article, is that customers are paying A$10-$15 cover charges and A$5 drink charges, so why shouldn't the music industry get a cut of the revenue, since they're providing the entertainment?

And more than Australian nightclubs are affected. U.S. radio stations currently pay songwriters when their songs are played over the air, but U.S. Representative John Conyers and others are pushing a bill that states that record companies and artists should also get payment from the radio stations. (The reverse of payola, as it were.)

Steven Hodson of the Inquisitr also examines this issue, but takes a look at the other side of it:

Of course [Michael] Huppe [of SoundExchange, a collector of royalties] doesn’t acknowledge the incredible amount of free advertising that artists, and record companies, get because of all the free airplay they get.

However, if the revenue stream from selling recordings is drying up, then what good is free advertising?

Isn't That Special? (June edition)

Well, it's good to see that the Jerry Dammers-less Specials have managed to stay out of controversy. Not. Got this gem from Terry Hall:

"Thanks very much for Cantona."

He said this at a show in Leeds, referring to a player that was sold to Manchester United in 1992 - a transfer move that later made the Independent's list of the 10 best transfer shocks.

The crowd at the Specials show was not appreciative.

As for Dammers, he was interviewed on May 22 in advance on his May 30 gig at a "Love Music Hate Racism" show. But he's not living in the past:

"You always have to find new ways of saying things and new artists to say them.

Simply repeating the old slogans makes it sound like something from a bygone era, and it's not."