Friday, July 31, 2009

All apologies

You've probably heard by now that Adam Yauch (MCA) of the Beastie Boys is getting treatment for cancer. I guess the thing that got to me was that Yauch apologized for all of this. Hey, that's OK.

The Inquisitr has both a link to the YouTube video, and a quote from Rolling Stone.

Yauch said in a statement following the YouTube announcement; the album was originally scheduled for a September 15th release. "It’s a pain in the neck (sorry had to say it)...."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

No. No.

That idea melted away

When the Iowa State Fair arrives, don't expect to see Michael Jackson's likeness in butter:

“We started hearing concerns from the public that he wasn’t an Iowan and didn’t have a connection to the fair,” said Lori Chappell, the fair’s marketing director, explaining why organizers ultimately put the question to a public vote.

Technically, the Jackson Five DID perform at the Iowa State Fair in 1971. But I guess the people of Iowa decided that Jackson was just too weird.

No comment on how odd the whole idea of butter sculpture is in the first place.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Never Gonna Give Your Teen Spirit Up (Nirvana vs Rick Astley courtesy DJ Morgoth)

Yes, I know this DJ Morgoth mashup was circulating some time ago (the video is dated July 2), but I'm not trendy.

Here's a Nirvana/Rick Astley mashup:

DJ Morgoth didn't assemble the video, but has commented on it.

The page for the mashup is here (free download available).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Arrrrrr! Listen, mateys! But casually, please.

I just ran across a new term - "dinner party pirates." I found it in this New York Times article:

Record company executives say there are three kinds of music fans. There are those who buy music, and those who get a kick out of never paying for it. And then there are those whom Rob Wells at Universal Music Group calls “dinner party pirates”: the vast majority of listeners, those who copy music illegally because it is more convenient than buying it.

Well, we know what the RIAA's solution is to the whole mess, but the record companies themselves, as well as some musicians, are taking a different tack. The article names several services that are trying to cater to these dinner party pirates by offering music fixes:

Legal services offering free, unlimited streaming of music, rather than downloads, are proliferating. According to a survey published last week, they are taking some of the wind out of the pirates’ sails.

“Consumers are doing exactly what we said they would do,” said Steve Purdham, chief executive of We7, a service that says it has attracted two million users in Britain in a little more than half a year by offering unlimited access to millions of songs. “They weren’t saying, ‘Give me pirated music’; they were saying, ‘Give me the music I want.”’

The music industry has high hopes that the growth of sites like We7, whose investors include the former Genesis musician Peter Gabriel, can change the reputation of Europe as a hive of digital piracy. Similar businesses include Deezer, in France, and Spotify, which was started by two Swedish entrepreneurs and has grown rapidly in Britain and elsewhere. All of them are licensed by the music industry and hope to make money from advertising....

Spotify says it has two million registered users in Britain and another two million in Sweden, Spain and France. Paul Brown, managing director of its British arm, said it wants to expand to the United States by the end of the year.

There, it would go up against a number of digital businesses that also offer free music in various ways, including MySpace Music, Imeem, Last.FM, Pandora and others.

More here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Forget the CW moments

The key parts in this video are Timbaland's unbeatable vocal stylings.

And, of course, embedding is disabled by request. Danged YouTube.

Friday, July 24, 2009

No, not a purple people eater - although it's possible that it could resurrect the purple people eater

There are people who work in the recording industry, and their job is to serve YOU. They use advanced measurement techniques, as well as extensive industry experience, to figure out the songs that YOU like and to play them for YOU.

But what would happen if they asked you what you liked? Enter the purple people eater - whoops, I mean the Portable People Meter.

At the opening of this year's Musexpo conference in London, a heated argument broke out when manager Jazz Summers declared that "all US radio is shit". Jimmy Steal, VP of programming for LA radio station Power106fm and New York's Hot97, didn't take the accusation sitting down. Later on, Steal told me about an invention starting to be used in the US, which could change music programming profoundly: Arbitron's Portable People Meter (PPM)....

[T]he PPM is a mobile phone-sized device that consumers wear throughout the day. It works by detecting signals embedded in the audio portions of transmissions. It detects what you listen to on the radio, what you watch on broadcast, cable and satellite TV, what media you stream on the internet, and what you hear in stores and entertainment venues. At the end of the day, the survey participant places the PPM in a base station that recharges it and sends the information to a hub that transmits it to Arbitron.

Of course, they could get some of this information for me by checking my scrobbles - but I digress. And actually, it can detect something that can't:

The information it collects is so specific that it can report if a listener switches stations in the middle of a song. This is the part that is of utmost importance to music programmers.

Well, you can measure all of this stuff, but how do you interpret the measurements?

Steal says he's concerned that it could be detrimental to new music, since it can sometimes take people a while to warm to a new artist or song. When radio stations use the PPM to determine what songs should remain on their playlists, new artists could be taken off the air before they even have a chance to make an impression.

Of course, it could work the other way around. When the purple people eater detects that someone switches off The Big Hit That's Been Around For Three Months Already, perhaps that will send valuable data to the surveyers.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'll tell you something I think you'll understand

Time passes, and if there's anyone who knows this, it's Paul McCartney.

Paul McCartney had never been to the United States before 1964 (for the record, George Harrison had). When he initially arrived in this country, one of his first tasks was to perform with his bandmates on a television show called the Ed Sullivan Show, which was broadcast from New York City. A little over a year later, he and his bandmates were again in New York, but this time they played in a slightly larger venue - a baseball stadium.

It's been over forty years since the Beatles played Shea, and a lot has happened since then, to Paul McCartney and to many of us. McCartney broke up with his then-girlfriend and married...a New Yorker. Paul was the fourth of the four Beatles to quit the band (although Starr's and Harrison's departures were temporary). He formed another band, took a trip to Japan, and went solo. His New York wife died, and he married and divorced an Englishwoman.

Then, four decades after his last date, Paul McCartney returned to the theater from which his Ed Sullivan appearance was broadcast. Ed Sullivan had long since died, and he was instead welcomed by a gray-haired man named David Letterman. Oddly enough, his setlist did not include any of the songs that he had played back in 1964.

[T]he ex-Beatle performed "Get Back" and (the Fireman's) "Sing The Changes" for broadcast, and "Coming Up," "Band On The Run," "Let Me Roll It"/"Purple Haze," "Helter Skelter," and "Back In The USSR" for the gathering crowd.

Not sure how Ed Sullivan would have reacted to some of those songs, but presumably Letterman liked them.

But then it really began to get strange. Because then Paul relived another professional triumph - sort of.

Nowadays it's not unusual for bands to play outdoor stadiums - in fact, several musical artists (including McCartney himself) have played football stadiums. But it's still something for a 64-plus year old musician to play a large sports stadium when the NFL is not involved.

But even Paul McCartney can't play Shea Stadium any more, so he did the next best thing. No, he didn't play Yankee Stadium. He played Citi Field.

As a 23-year-old Beatle, Mr. McCartney introduced rock to a stadium audience on Aug. 15, 1965, when the Beatles played a 34-minute set at Shea Stadium, which Citi Field replaced. The Beatles returned to Shea in 1966 on what would be their last tour.

Mr. McCartney was also at the final concert at Shea Stadium, joining the headliner, Billy Joel, on stage last year....

On Friday night, in the first of three shows at the stadium, Mr. McCartney reminisced about 1965, imitating the muffled and distorted sound the Beatles got through the old stadium’s P.A. system, which by all accounts was drowned out by screaming girls. (Nearly 44 years later, somewhat older women seized their cue to scream.)

McCartney then recalled many people who had passed away, including John Lennon, George Harrison, and Linda McCartney.

Sadly, after that show was completed, another former McCartney associate passed away. The Music's Over chronicled the hit years of Gordon Waller:

Since [Peter] Asher’s sister, June Asher dated Paul McCartney at the time, Peter and Gordon were lucky enough secure unrecorded Lennon-McCartney songs for their own use. One of those songs, “A World Without Love” became their biggest hit.

In an odd coincidence, Waller was sixty-four when he died - an age with which McCartney fans are familiar. And the Englishman died not too far away from Citi Field and the Ed Sullivan Theater (and, for that matter, the Dakota) - Waller lived in Ledyard, Connecticut, and died in Norwich.

Now I am not as old as McCartney, and there has only been one time (last summer) where I have had the opportunity to visit a place that I was familiar with over forty years ago. For McCartney the issue is especially odd, because while very few people care about what I was doing in the 1960s, there are some people who don't care what Paul McCartney did AFTER the 1960s.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Um...there ARE headphones

The Guardian recently wrote an essay about music in the office.

Do you ever, while in the middle of compiling a particularly puzzling Excel spreadsheet, think you'd get things done a bit quicker with Dizzee Rascal bonkering on in the background? Have you found your typing speed increases in direct proportion to the donks per minute in the latest Blackout Crew single? Would you make fewer spelling mistakes if you could listen to James Yorkston all day?

Here on the music site, we think the answer to all these questions is "yes". Admittedly, this is because we want a reason to be allowed to play music on an office stereo all day (at the moment the Powers That Be at the Guardian say it's not allowed, probably because it distracts other people from working – yeah, whatevs).

Perhaps I'm missing something here, or perhaps it's a weird Yank thing, but I listen to music in the ofice and don't get into trouble from the Powers That Be (Prince Charles?).

Perhaps I should describe my work environment. I work in a room that has seven cubicles around the edges of the room...and a conference table in the middle. The conference table is used to hold conferences, and at such times the room can get a bit noisy. It could have been worse - some people who don't work in the room thought that we should put a ping pong table in our room. Instead, the ping pong table is next door, and we just hear the sound through the wall.

In a cubicle environment, headphones are a necessity. While one can quibble about productivity with or without headphones, I submit that you are more productive with headphones than you would be if you were forced to listen to someone else's meeting.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Accordions and the King of Pop

Once upon a time there was an accordion player who happened into a recording career, part of which included parodies. He ended up doing a few parodies of songs from a really really popular artist who liked him. While the accordion player branched into other areas, his relationship with this artist was obviously significant. This is what Al Yankovic said:

The first time I met him in person was long after I had gotten permission to do "Eat It" back in 1984....The first time I actually ran into him was backstage at one of his concerts, this was maybe four years later, when Even Worse came out with my second parody, "Fat." I went backstage, and he was seeing a lot of people, but I brought along a gold record of Even Worse to present to him, and he was very gracious and thanked me for it and said some nice things. After the fact, I thought, "That's probably the last thing Michael Jackson needs, another gold record for his storage locker." Seeing him in person was amazing, it was otherworldly. He was and continues to be so iconic, it's hard to even conceive of him as a human being. He always was bigger than life.

Yankovic also discussed the Michael Jackson song that he didn't parody:

I considered parodying "Black or White" around that time. Michael wasn't quite so into it, because he thought "Black or White" was more of a message song, and he didn't feel as comfortable with a parody of that one, which I completely understood, and in a way, he did me a huge favor, because I was already getting pegged as the guy who did Michael Jackson parodies, and because he wasn't so into it, I decided to go with Nirvana, which wound up revitalizing my career.

More here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I want you to REALLY want me

While I never actually owned an 8-track tape during my younger years, I theoretically could have done so. And if you want to own one, you can do so today. Outside the Beltway noted that Cheap Trick, a band which saw major success when 8-track tapes were still in style, is releasing its latest album - with the creative title "The Latest" - in an 8-track version. Of course, retro has its price - in this case, $30.

Now certain people, possibly including myself, will get all amused over this thing and laugh at people who seek out 8-tracks when CDs are plentiful.

Or maybe not. Guardian Unlimited reported that "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" was able to chart with only 64 CD sales. The caption for the accompanying photo:

Florence Welch hopes nobody realises she bought all 64 singles herself.

Oh, if only Brian Epstein were alive today. He'd be buying 8-tracks like tomorrow never knows.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Empoprise-MU News - 19 July 2009

Empoprise-MU News

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

Welcome to Empoprise-MU News

Music soothes the savage beast. Ron Perlman recited poetry on a "Beauty and the Beast" TV show soundtrack. But that's beside the point, sort of.

Behind the Scenes

I've referred to my long-tail reduction and fattening-up project, but I haven't really explained what I'm doing to my library.

First, I took a look at all of the artists that I had only played once. Some of the artists were eliminated from my library altogether. For all of the rest, I made sure to play the artist a second time. Therefore, when my library is the way I want it to be, I have a bunch of artists with two plays, and exactly zero artists with just one play. Of course this goes out of balance from time to time, and then I have to revisit my one-play artists again.

In a perfect world, I would then move on to the two-play artists and bump them up to the three-play level, or can them altogether, in an attempt to shorten and fatten the tail still further.

The one advantage of this exercise is that I get to listen to a wide variety of music as I check out each of these minimal-play artists. I mean, you can't listen to "The Girl and the Robot" ALL of the time.

Special Features

Just a reminder that if you're on Facebook, be sure to fan the Facebook page for the Empoprise-MU blog. The fan page is at the URL.


Old artists, old technologies - I'll try to throw something new into the mix.

Friday, July 17, 2009

O.P.E. - you don't have a clue about my love for Synthia

As you know, I've been listening to my new CD acquisition, Röyksopp's "Junior," fairly extensively over the last few days despite my computer problems. Much of this time has been spent listening to "The Girl and the Robot," but I have actually listened to other songs on the album - more than once.

Lately, I've been placing the song "You Don't Have a Clue" on constant repeat. This song, one of several collaborations between Röyksopp and Anneli Drecker, occurs toward the end of the CD. I guess the best way to describe the song would be otherworldly polar electrofolk. "Polar" because the song sounds like it was written back in Tromsø (x, x, and Drecker are all from this northern Norwegian town), and "electrofolk" because it sounds like the song (especially the chorus) was conceived during a power failure and fleshed out when the power came back on.

As for the "otherworldly," you just need to wait for the first chorus to kick in, and listen to the very high vocal stylings in the background - about a half octave higher than Anneli Drecker is singing. While the backing vocals are credited to Röyksopp, I think that a little bit of artificial help was involved (even the late Michael Jackson didn't sing that high - in fact, most women don't sing that high). So, I personally credit the backing vocals to someone that I call "Synthia."

With all due respect to all of the other females on the album, Synthia clearly holds her own on this song. OK, she may robot, but I guess I'm in love anyway. users can hear the song here, or you can listen to this live performance (including audience participation from a not-so-talented audience).

As for the lyrics, they deal with a continuing or non-continuing relationship:

It's late in the night,
The dancing is done,
The music has died,
We're ready to run.

But you don't have a clue,
This party hasn't ended yet,
Not for me and you,
And now you're just pretending, yeah.

But even they turn otherworldly:

You're hiding from yourself,
Guess you are, yes you are,
Like golden rays of sun,
in the cloud,

We're meant to be one,
I know we are,
If I am the sky,
Then you are my star...

Or perhaps the people of Tromsø just have deeper thoughts about the sun and the lack thereof, which is understandable. As I write this, the sun is not scheduled to set in the town until 12:45 AM...on July 26. Of course, by November 26 it will be a different story.

Svein Berge spoke about his hometown in a 2005 interview:

I grew up in Tromso, really far north up in Norway. To us it was perfect, great scenery, great space. This was obviously prior to the Internet and so on, so one was quite secluded in many ways, particularly culturally. Impressions from what was going on in the UK had to be chased and sought after, which for people like us – interested in club culture and club music - made it very hard....

[O]bviously when you’re 14 you cannot really just piss off to London and go raving. In Tromso they were scarce – but we knew some guys who arranged rave parties every 3 months or so that probably had 50-100 people attending at most. And up in Tromso it would really be quite drug-free, and more about the joy of playing live music, the atmosphere and the strobes, which meant the scene was very healthy.

As for Drecker, I couldn't find her views on her hometown, but she does appreciate the sunflower, according to

Anneli accepted to be the protector of the sunflower. In a role play Anneli was handed over a flower pot with a small sunflower, and she had to promise to take good care of it, give it light and water to make it grow.

The sunflower protectors are ambasadors for SOS Children's Villages, and Anneli was excited to participate as she is already supporting a child through their program.

More information here (in Norwegian).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wanna check the beta of the Empoprise-MU Facebook page?

If you read my Empoprise-BI business blog, you may have seen my July 7 post which announced the creation of a Facebook fan page for the Empoprise-BI blog.

Well, I've now created a Facebook fan page for the Empoprise-MU music blog. It can be found at

And I must again give props to the makeuseof post which guided me through the whole fan page creation process. (I had to hunt a bit for the Notes settings, but eventually found them along with the general settings.)

So what does this mean? It means that there is a specific place for people on Facebook to read the contents of this blog. This saves me having to feed all of the posts through my regular Facebook stream, since many of my Facebook friends don't really care about my musical preferences.

So if you're on Facebook, and interested in my musical theories, go to

Oh, and by the way, if you're on Facebook and want to read my business ruminations, go to

This means that two of my four blogs have Facebook fan pages at present. Inland Empire and NTN Buzztime readers, stay tuned.

Do you know the Thriller man?

I confess that I would have failed this test. How would you do?

But, fatefully in 1979, [he] was recruited by Quincy Jones to write for Jackson, and he never looked back. He wrote three songs for Off the Wall and the title track of Thriller, the biggest selling album of all time. As if this wasn't enough, he penned hits for everyone from Donna Summer to Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin to Anita Baker, Herbie Hancock to good ol' Quincy Jones, George Benson to LL Cool J. Remember Stomp! by Brothers Johnson or Masterjam by Rufus? That was [him] as well.

And the guy sounds...a little odd:

Not bad for a self-taught muso whose first job was in a fish factory in Grimsby.

However, the reclusive, Grammy-winning genius has always shunned the spotlight, is rarely sighted in public and almost never speaks to the media. The few photographs that exist of him depict his appearance changing with an array of hairstyles and moustaches. He is rumoured to own properties around the world – France, Fiji, Kent and an address on LA's exclusive Mulholland Drive – although not, perhaps, in Cleethorpes. North Lincolnshire Council have barely heard of the richest man ever to come from that town.

So, do you know his name? If you don't go here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

If Alexa's Wish ever goes electronica, I'll be there

Several years ago, I would go to the occasional Alexa's Wish show in southern California. One interesting thing about the band is that because the band members were not high school kids, some of the fans of the band such as myself also skewed older. (I was probably in my late 30s when I was going to Alexa's Wish concerts.) Because many of us had jobs to go to in the morning, our ability to see the band was somewhat affected on weeknights.

It looks like I'm not the only one who has issues with this. For example, although I listen to the electro techno music at times, I've never been to a 3:00 am club date ("It's 3am, and DJ Whoever is spinning"). Turns out I don't have to:

Aficionados of dance music are used to waiting until the wee hours to catch top-of-the-line talent. But especially in summer an array of early parties, some outdoors, offer a respite from late nights and expensive clubs, allowing people with day jobs the opportunity to hear the latest in experimental beats and still be at the office on time in the morning.

“I go to the clubs, but not very often; it’s hard to fit it in for a working person like myself,” said Matthijs Koopmans, 52, an educational consultant from the Bronx and a fan of D.J.’s like Sasha and Digweed and Danny Tenaglia.

Now if only Major League Baseball would learn that you can only attract the younger generation with day games, the world would be a better place.

Monday, July 13, 2009

On Casey Kasem as THE source of information

Why was Casey Kasem's American Top 40 important to people like me who grew up in the 1970s? Mike Hale reminded us in his retrospective look at Kasem:

[B]ack in the day — before the Internet, even before “Entertainment Tonight” — there were better reasons to listen to Casey Kasem. For one thing: as bizarre as it now seems, millions of people didn’t know what the No. 1 song was each week until they heard that drumroll on “American Top 40.” It was appointment listening, as much of a weekly communal experience as “All in the Family” or “M*A*S*H.”

That's something that even those of us who lived through the 1970s often forget. In addition to not having "Entertainment Tonight" and Mary Hart's legs, we didn't have anything called where we could look stuff up. In fact, if you took a time machine back to 1976 and mentioned "billboard dot com" to me, I'd probably think that you were talking about a Soviet music publication that said what May Day parade tune was at the top that week. (Yeah, Russian music has changed also.)

Hale makes another point:

As square as it was, by playing the entire Top 40 it gave many people a greater variety of music than they could get from listening to their local radio stations for a week.

Now I grew up in the Washington DC area, so I could probably flip my radio station around from WPGC to several other radio stations and get a good approximation of a variety of music. But in the 1970s, that was all that I could do. I couldn't go to Digitally Imported or or Pandora, and I couldn't listen to Australian radio stations on my telephone.

It's weird to just think about the changes in the entertainment industry in the last 30+ years, and how important any one news source could be. Just like we'll never have an equivalent of Walter Cronkite again, we'll probably never have an equivalent of Casey Kasem again.

Keep reaching for the stars, Casey.

More here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Empoprise-MU News - 12 July 2009

Empoprise-MU News

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

Welcome to Empoprise-MU News

I'm going to try to write an entire newsletter for the Empoprise-MU music blog without mentioning a recently-deceased chimp-owning, moonwalking, controversial musical king. We'll see how far I get.

Behind the Scenes

Actually this should be fairly easy, because I've been concentraing on the Royksopp CD "Junior" for most of the week, as this blog and my feed will attest.

But by the time you read this, I should just be getting over a period of semi-withdrawal - a period during which I will have gone almost two day without having the "Junior" CD, or MP3 versions of the songs, with me. I'm writing this in advance of a planned weekend trip out-of-state, a trip in which the CD will be left at home, and any computer containing the CD tracks will also be left at home.

Never fear, however - I've loaded "The Girl and the Robot" on to my ancient Motorola Q phone, where it is not only available for listening whenever I like, but where it is also serving as both a ringtone and a wake-up alarm. So I'll get at least a partial fix during the weekend, when I wake up (not that I will have fallen asleep watching MTV) or when someone calls me (not that I'm so alone).

Special Features

OK, I'm not the only person who has scrobbled "The Girl and the Robot" in the last few days. If you search the lastfmfeeds group on FriendFeed, you'll find at least a couple of others.

And if you check the page, I'm not even one of the top listeners.



I compare Casey Kasem to Walter Cronkite. Really. Think about it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I go through these phases. This will pass.

I quoted the chorus, but let's quote the dudes.

So you want to understand me
You just see what you want to see
There's no way I can help you out
You don't know what it's all about


Pandora's 40-Hour Box

Companies that used licensed music need to figure out how they're going to pay for the use of it, and different companies have worked out different ways of doing it.

MediaMemo reported that Pandora has hit upon a new strategy:

Web radio darling Pandora has good news for its users: We’re saved! And a slightly different message for its heaviest users: Pay up.

Both messages are a result of long and tortured negotiations with record labels that have finally come to a close with a deal Pandora says it can live with, though it’s different than the one founder Tim Westergren said the site had nailed down in November. The flip side is that the service will now require users who listen to the service for 40 hours a month to pay 99 cents if they want to hear any more tunes that month.

The New York Times reported on the specifics of the deal with Pandora, and other services:

Webcasters with significant advertising revenue, like Pandora or Slacker, will pay the greater of 25 percent of revenue or a fee each time a listener hears a song, starting at .08 cent for songs streamed in 2006 and increasing to .14 cent in 2015. Pandora had $19 million in revenue last year and expects that to rise to $40 million this year.

Small sites with less than $1.25 million in revenue, like AccuRadio, Digitally Imported and RadioIO, will pay 12 to 14 percent of it in royalties. All stations will be required to pay an annual minimum fee of $25,000, which they can apply to their royalty payments.

That $25,000 minimum bugs Duncan Riley of the Inquisitr, who believes that this will establish a non-innovative online radio industry:

$25,000 may not sound a lot for bigger online radio stations, or similar services such as Pandora, but for the small indie online radio market, it will be a killer because many would be fortunate enough to make $25,000 a year to begin with, but even if they did make more, $25,000 out of a profit of $30,000 or even $50,000 (profit before the royalty payment) is a massive burden.

Existing players aside, the imposition is even greater on new internet radio stations. Innovation often comes from below, and new stations (not unlike blogs) take time to establish an audience, and even longer to earn money.

Riley went on to argue that online radio stations still get a raw deal, something that BusinessWeek also noted:

In its heyday, broadcast radio was the only game in town to connect an artist with listeners. As a result, radio stations didn't compensate artists, since it was believed that radio exposure lead to increased album sales for the performers.

That premise has been basically true over the course of radio's history, but now that new forms of radio are developing, traditional radio is on the decline. But still the old business model persists. Now, a movement called musicFIRST is trying to change that model, but their success is still in doubt.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Subject to change ("Junior" stats)

For the last two hours I have been listening to Royksopp's "Junior" on a CD player while using my elderly Motorola Q to post to Twitter, Facebook, and even this blog. One of my tweets read as follows:

mobile doesn't offer complete chart access, so i don't know many songs from junior were scrobbled in my sleep.

Well, now I'm on my computer, and I can see exactly how many times I've scrobbled songs from "Junior."

As you can see, not that many.

However, those statistics are subject to change, since I'm going to be ripping the CD contents shortly, which will allow me to scrobble all the songs, or any one song, to my heart's content.

Oh, and if you don't know what track 2 on the "Junior" CD is, my previous post from June 15 should provide a clue.

Play Track Two. Repeat.

This is our living room CD player.

My wife bought Röyksopp's "Junior" for me. Since she's on the computer, I'm listening to the CD on our CD player. I just listened to the whole thing, and am now repeating track 2 until my household gets sick of it. (I actually like the whole CD, but I also enjoy playing a song to death.)

Eventually I'll rip the CD. Expect some scrobbles...

Surprise - Bill O'Reilly is not a Michael Jackson fan either

I've previously noted how Pete King criticized the adulation of Michael Jackson.

Well, the Inquisitr noted that Bill O'Reilly has also criticized Jackson.

Interesting comparisons between the post-death reactions to Michael Jackson's death and Jerry Falwell's death. I do disagree with Bill O'Reilly on one point - there was a racial component to our reactions to Jackson. Note that Jackson, while popular with a white audience, didn't get REALLY popular until he got a white guitar player to help "Beat It" penetrate audio and video audiences.

For Swedish music fans, this was an easy guess

The New York Times reported:

At least two members of the Swedish pop group Abba will be making an appearance in London as part of a tribute concert, BBC News reported.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to guess which two - namely, the two that have continued to work together since the group split up, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.

Although Frida has worked with the two at least once - check the backing singers in this video of "One Night in Bangkok."

Note: previously shared in an old FriendFeed account.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It's not Fontana, but it's (not) close - Fiddler's Grove

Certain music is regional, and although you'll find the exceptions - I'm sure there is an excellent hip-hop artist in Bozeman, Montana - most talent for particular musical genres tends to be localized.

Take bluegrass. Years and years ago I attended a bluegrass concert in Fontana, California, but if you really want to find bluegrass music, you don't go to Fontana. You'd have better luck in, say, Leesburg Virginia. And even the people from Leesburg go to Union Grove, North Carolina:

“First contest, first first-place,” said Brennen Ernst, a 15-year-old banjo player from Leesburg, Va., minutes after picking up a blue ribbon at the 85th annual Ole Time Fiddler’s and Bluegrass Festival in Union Grove, N.C. It was afternoon on the festival’s second day, and Brennen, wearing a black derby and a pink T-shirt, had been playing all but nonstop since before the festival opened....

Brennen wasn’t the best musician I heard over four days at the festival, known to most simply as Fiddler’s Grove, but it was clear that he was off and running, caught in an obsession on display around the 45 acres of rolling hills at the festival site. Countless string-band jam sessions ebbed and flowed from the morning’s first rooster crow until late at night, when a sequined blanket of stars draped the blue-black sky.

And Fiddler's Grove isn't even the largest festival:

Old-time and bluegrass music festivals have become a summer ritual all around the country, but nowhere is the experience quite the same as in the Southern Appalachians, the music’s birthplace. Popular events in Galax, Va.; Mount Airy, N.C.; and Clifftop, W.Va., draw zealous fans and gifted musicians. Fiddler’s Grove may not be the largest or best known of the major festivals, but its claim to fame is that it’s the oldest continuously held one.

More at the New York Times, including a brief account of a family feud between two descendents of festival founder H. P. Van Hoy, which resulted in two competing festivals. (Sounds like the Indy war, except this is in the NASCAR world.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why Pete King will not be speaking at the Michael Jackson funeral

"Fan" is short for "fanatic," and this is best exhibited by those who are fans of Michael Jackson. Sure, there are some who may have been moved to buy a CD over the last few days, but then there are those who dress in the Sergeant Pepper reject outfits and fly across the world to gaze at Neverland Ranch or whatever.

Congressman Pete King is not a Michael Jackson fan. Far from it. This video was posted on July 5:

If you're not able to view the video, the Huffington Post summarized it:

Over the weekend, King said that the media had gone far over the top in glorifying Jackson, who he deemed a "low-life" pervert who "may have been a good singer" and "did some dancing."

The Huffington Post goes on to report that this has inspired some political action:

Now, an ActBlue fundraising site has been set up by "A fan of Michael Jackson" titled "Michael Jackson Fans AGAINST Peter King."

"Peter King ought to let Jackson rest in peace, and focus on the needs of his constituents. As we mourn the loss of an American legend, political grandstanding is not what we need right now!" the page reads. "Fans of Michael Jackson and his legacy stand united against Peter King's hateful words. Please donate here to show Peter King that true MJ fans won't stand for the smearing of a pop sensation!"

H/T PopEater, which conducted a poll. And for those who think that music publication readers would be sympathetic to Jackson, check the results:

Are King's comments too harsh and out of line?

No. Peter King is right.
69% 131,978

Yeah. Michael deserves respect.
31% 60,100

Granted that this is unscientific, but consider that for every sobbing moonwalking fan that you see on TV today, there are two people elsewhere muttering, "That freak!"

And for the 87 people that donated $2,075 to the ActBlue page for a Peter King opponent, remember that this is small peanuts in a political campaign. At list price, that would only buy about 100 copies of the Thriller 25th Anniversary Edition.

(Oh, and regarding questions of blogger ethics, re my recent blogger disclosure post, you'll note that I chose NOT to post an Amazon link to the album here. Somehow it wouldn't seem right.)

Allen Klein, 1931-2009

In the midst of the Steve McNair controversy, I learned (via The Music's Over) of the death of Allen Klein on July 4.

The Music's Over touches on the highlights, and much more can be learned via various Beatles and Stones biographies (Bill Wyman's autobiography is an excellent reference on the highs and lows of being represented by Klein), but the part that made me take note was the comment that Klein suffered from dementia in his later years. Whatever you think of Klein, he certainly had a razor-sharp mind in his heyday. Here are some highlights of his Beatles years:

Allen Klein's records showed the Beatles earned £7.8 million between 6/62 and 12/68 not including songwriting. During the 19 months of Klein's involvement the Beatle earned £9 million with £8 million coming from record royalties....

Allen Klein renegotiated the Beatles contract with EMI as follows: The royalty rate went from 17 1/2% to 25% on U.S. sales. The Beatles were to do two albums per year as a group or individually. The Beatles would receive $0.58 per album until '72 when it would increase to $0.72. Reissues would be paid at a rate of $0.55 when it would increase to $0.72.

Now perhaps anyone could be a financial genius when compared to Brian Epstein, but he certainly had his accomplishments on the financial level. Then again...

Allan Klein, the sharp-talking American lawyer brought in by Lennon (much to McCartney's annoyance) to get rid of "the hustlers and spongers" who were buying houses and charging them to Apple's account, left his own troublesome legacy of financial mis-management. Klein was eventually condemned, in the High Court action McCartney instituted in 1971, for "lamentable" book-keeping. Lawsuits between Klein and Apple kept Aspinall busy through until 1977....

Out of all the Apple departments that were cut by Klein, his decision to effectively close down Apple Publishing made the least sense from a business perspective...Apple also held the European publishing rights for several promising American acts, including the Steve Miller Band...Although Apple Publishing was a large department with a staff that ranged from five to seven people, it was one of the few Apple divisions that saw any return on Apple's investment. According to Mike O'Connor, Apple was ready to sign UK publishing agreements with both Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson when Klein shut the department down.

But the Beatles were not Klein's first client...and neither were the Stones. Before he crossed the pond, he was working with American acts:

Through a friendship with publisher Don Kirshner, Mr Klein became involved in the music business. A meeting with Bobby Darin started him on the path of auditing record companies on behalf of recording artists and he developed a fervent following among these clients based on his uncanny ability to identify unpaid royalties. In 1962, Klein met Sam Cooke and would soon become his manager. On Cooke’s behalf, he secured an unprecedented agreement with RCA Records providing for not only artistic control but Cooke’s ownership of his own masters via Tracey Records, a label that Klein set up for this purpose. That contract forever changed the traditional relationship between label and artist that had been in place since the birth of the industry.

Cooke later died, and Darin would eventually die himself, but Klein had already moved across the pond, most notably as the manager of the Rolling Stones...then the Beatles (or three quarters of them, anyway).

After leaving the Stones and the Beatles, Klein continued in the music business. Here's what mental_floss had to say (in a November 2008 post) about his later years:

investigated by the IRS in the 1970s for embezzling money from George Harrison’s benefit show The Concert for Bangladesh. In 1997, Klein was still up to his old tricks, suing British indie rock group The Verve over their hit “Bittersweet Symphony.” The band had sampled orchestration from “The Last Time,” a recording by The Rolling Stones that Klein controlled. After winning the lawsuit, Klein licensed The Verve’s masterpiece to Nike for millions. Now age 76, Klein lives in Los Angeles, where he has one remaining client—wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector.

The Independent provides further details about Bangladesh and Spector:

In 1979, he served two months in prison in America for income tax evasion on income from illegally selling $216,000 worth of promotional copies of George Harrison's album, The Concert for Bangladesh (royalties are not paid on promo copies). But he's still in business, living off the back catalogue of the Rolling Stones and Sam Cooke, and managing the producer Phil Spector, who was owed royalties Klein retrieved in traditional fashion.

So if you're wondering where Spector got the money for his outlandish wigs, blame Klein.

The funeral is taking place on July 7.

Monday, July 6, 2009

OK, this is getting really old

There are various periods of music that I know something about. Although my greatest knowledge concerns music composed in the 1950s and later, I have a smattering of knowledge about 1930s and 1940s music, and music from the 18th and 19th century. But I have to rely on an NTN Buzztime trivia expert, RoadDog, to answer questions such as "Who had the number one song in the United States in 1919?"

The answer is here.

The song is "Beautiful Ohio." And you can hear it here.

To my younger readers, I should explain that the disc in the video above is called a "record." Cool kids today refer to it as "vinyl." And the record label, Columbia, is now called "Sony" (which is Japanese for "Columbia," I think).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Empoprise-MU News - 5 July 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 been a few weeks since I've had an Empoprise-MU newsletter, and I apologize. If you have complaints or praise about this newsletter, or the blog itself, contact me via my gmail account empoprises.

Behind the Scenes

I briefly mentioned the appearance of "Ontario Emperor" on in this blog previously, and I am now proud to say that has now automatically identified similar artists to Ontario Emperor. My own experience shows that's algorithms can be somewhat flawed when they don't have a lot of data, since the most similar artist to me has been identified as Helen Sventitsky. While Helen and I do tend to use synthetic sounds, and while we both use social media services, the similarities pretty much end there, since most if not all of Helen's songs include vocals, and (most importantly) Helen has talent. Check out her page.

Special Features

Obviously the music world - and much of the rest of the world besides - is dominated by the news of the death of Michael Jackson. I had written about Michael Jackson before his death - for example, one June 17 post talked about the support people who were being engaged for his Wembley dates - but I obviously wrote more after his death. Not in a non-stop manner like some of the news services, but I did have a few mentions about Jackson - the initial reaction to his death, my answer to the question of when Jacko went wacko, a post on those who influenced Jackson (and others), and a tangential mention. Even I was unable to completely avoid the more circus-like moments of the last week, but my blogging didn't go as far as my tweeting.

a circus may get bumped for the #michaeljackson funeral. perhaps they can use the unicorn.

Somehow the need to bump the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus to accommodate the Michael Jackson funeral seems fitting. I dread Tuesday.


I cover a lot of music in this blog, but this week I'll talk about some music from 1919. That's older than I am...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Standing on the shoulders of giants

I was recently reading an account of the BET awards/Michael Jackson tribute in which many of the attendees stated how much Michael Jackson influenced them. But what some forget in 2009 is that Jackson himself, and his brothers and sisters, consistently acknowledged how much they were influenced by others. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame page on the Jackson Five notes some of these influences:

Michael Jackson studied the moves of the masters: their onstage choreography, how they phrased a song, the way they worked a crowd. His heroes and tutors included James Brown, Sam and Dave, [Jackie] Wilson, Etta James and his older brother, Jermaine, who himself was a disciple of Marvin Gaye. The Jackson 5 also absorbed a considerable measure of influence from another “family” act: the prototypical soul/funk crossover band Sly and the Family Stone.

But the "family" Stone influenced more than the Jackson Five, as this 2006 record review notes:

Now we have a shell that moonlights as a “return,” channeling “modern” pop tropes, already channeled through Prince’s 28-yr career, into something slightly refreshing. And then Prince calls his new album an homage, of sorts, to those that influenced him, like Sly and the Family Stone or Al Green.

But these are just a couple of P.R. Nelson's influences. Just ask Joni Mitchell:

Prince attended one of my concerts in Minnesota. I remember seeing him sitting in the front row when he was very young. He must have been about 15. He was in an aisle seat and he had unusually big eyes. He watched the whole show with his collar up, looking side to side. You couldn’t miss him—he was a little Prince-ling. [Laughs.] Prince used to write me fan mail with all of the U’s and hearts that way that he writes. And the office took it as mail from the lunatic fringe and just tossed it!

And if you think Sly and the Family Stone was influential, check the list of people who cite Mitchell as an influence:

Through the '80s and '90s, Mitchell's influence could be seen in a range of artists beyond the legion of female—and male—singer/songwriters who claim her. Prince, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Janet Jackson, John Mellencamp, Donna Summer, Cassandra Wilson, and a host of jazz musicians acknowledge her.

Now you can, of course, continue to trace back and see who influenced Mitchell, and who influenced Sylvester Stewart, and so forth. Presumably it all ends up around King David, but it's important to remember - in music and in other fields - that all advances are based on the advances of those preceding you. Perhaps if it hadn't been for Sylvester Stewart and his bandmates, a certain family in Gary, Indiana would have continued to be everyday people.

P.S. That last link was to Sly and the Family Stone's MySpace page, Somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that said page was created by Sony, not by Sly himself. As eclectic as his music may be, I can't see Sly choosing Savage Garden as one of his top friends...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wanna be chartin' something, and when did Jacko go wacko?

From the other side of the pond, the Guardian's Rob Fitzpatrick reports that Michael Jackson has, post-demise, entered the charts.

A lot.

[The] Official Chart Company's midweek sales report [is out] and Jackson is right there at one (with Man In The Mirror), nine, 10, 11, 13, 19, 21, 22, 23, 28, 31, 34, 38, 41 ... shall I go on?

In total, he has 31 records in the Top 100 singles chart and 10 albums in the Top 100 albums chart, with four in the Top 10.

Yet Fitzpatrick feels a little odd about the whole affair.

With three 'best of' albums back to back, it also highlights how ruthlessly Sony Music have milked his work.

It's odd, because one would think that one would be celebrating the music of Jackson - and he was clearly musically talented - but the emphasis on superlative numbers that colored all perception of Jackson throughout his life continues to haunt him after his death. Sadly, part of this was Jackson's own fault - even Prince wouldn't name his best-of album "HIStory" with a capital "HIS."

But the music...the music. Over the last few years, my favorite Michael Jackson song has been "Stranger in Moscow," one recorded years after "Thriller" and "Bad" and child abuse charges. A powerful musical work - but, as I noted earlier, the product of a completely paranoid mind. Let's look at those lyrics again (historical note: this song was written AFTER the fall of the Soviet Union):

I was wandering in the rain
Mask of life, feelin' insane
Swift and sudden fall from grace
Sunny days seem far away
Kremlin's shadow belittlin' me
Stalin's tomb won't let me be
On and on and on it came
Wish the rain would just let me be....

Here abandoned in my fame
Armageddon of the brain
KGB was doggin' me
Take my name and just let me be
Then a beggar boy called my name
Happy days will drown the pain

One theory is that Jackson was an OK guy, and then at some point became Wacko Jacko. But if so, it happened before "Stranger in Moscow." And it happened before he invited boys to the Neverland Ranch. And it happened before the oxygen chamber. And it happened before he went to the White House wearing Sergeant Pepper rejects. And it happened before he got acne - something that he claimed completely changed his life. (Yes, I bought the autobiography.)

Sadly, Michael probably became Wacko Jacko much earlier in his life.

Joe was determined to turn his sons into a successful pop group and forced his children to rehearse to the point of exhaustion, and would whip them if they missed a step or note....

In an interview with British TV journalist Martin Bashir, Michael said his father was a bully who emotionally and physically abused his sons. 'If you didn't do it the right way, he would tear you up,' he said....

Michael told talk show host Oprah Winfrey he was so afraid of his father that he was sometimes sick when he saw him.

Perhaps I'm being an armchair psychologist, but it's quite possible that the insomnia, the drugs, the boys, the single glove, but most importantly the drive to be number one - all of that can probably be traced to his childhood. Whether that excuses Jackson's actions as an adult is an open question.

Normally on this blog I try to concentrate on the music, and not delve into the personal issues regarding the musicians. But in the case of Jackson, the music and the personality are intertwined in life, and in death.