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Preview: PopMatters: Crazed by the Music



Last Build Date: Thu, 19 May 2011 18:53:00 +0000


Fox News flubs rap & New York Times flubs twitter

Thu, 19 May 2011 18:53:00 +0000

You might not be too surprised to see Fox News bend the truth but here was a nice instance where their ignorance and hypocrisy could easy be pointed out- their own furor that they raised over rapper Common being invited to the White House. Luckily, there's writers like Julianne Escobedo Shepherd who can put together a good piece on Alternet to show how not only stupid FN can be but also their two faced nature.

You'd expect better from the New York Times- as least they have Jon Caramanica covering rap and knowing what he's talking about. When it comes to Twitter though, their editor needs to stop being a twit. As this TechCrunch article explains, Bill Keller set off a storm, saying that Twitter makes you dumb, doing it right on Twitter itself. As TC tells us, part of it was to flame up some arguments and get attention (hey, it worked here!) but ultimately, it shows Keller and the NYT by association to be out of touch, tech wise. As if you didn't need proof of that already from their so-called pay-wall...

Writing about writers- perils and revelations

Tue, 17 May 2011 17:29:00 +0000

After writing a list for Flavorpill about 33 Women Music Critics You Need to Read , I realized a few things:

1) It can be dangerous to your ego to write about scribes that you really admire. As you list their accomplishments and great works, you start to get self-conscious about your own work and wonder 'how the hell can I measure up to that?'

2) You realize that some writers should be doing a better job of promoting their own work, by having a homepage with links to their articles and a resume of their work (which reminds me that I gotta do the same).

3) Unless you're willing to do a list of 1000, you'll never get all the items that you'll want to on any list. And even if you do 1000, you'll still be missing some. For this particular list, I started with 15, then 20, then 25, then 30 and ended up with 33. Even then, I started realizing that I missed a number of people that I should have included there. You can't be all-inclusive.

4) A number of the people on the list wrote to thank me profusely and I said to them 'you earned it!' It makes me think that they don't get anywhere near the recognition that they deserve.

More Dates When the Movies Died

Wed, 02 Mar 2011 09:45:00 +0000

Ideally I'd be ranting about the Huffington Post sale or Apple's greedy 30% charge on subscriptions from publications (which I may still do) but for now, I was bowled over by two articles. The first one was a GQ article by Mark Harris called The Day The Movies Died , a sobering examination of the sequel and adaptation mania that's swept Hollywood. An impressive follow-up on this came with Jason Bailey's Flavorwire article Mourning for Hollywood: 10 Days the Movies Died which includes Citizen Kane getting black-balled, sequels, 3-D movies and other low points. From that, I was inspired to come up with a list of 10 more dates that meant bad news for the film business. Some of them are actually what you'd call mixed blessings and there's a lot more villains to be found. I was tempted to add the lawsuits about pirating The Hurt Locker but it doesn't seem (so far at least) that the movie industry is going to make the same mistake as the music industry in overplaying lawsuits about unauthorized downloads. What do you think? Are there any other dates you can pinpoint that fouled up the movie industry? 1. Heaven’s Gate is released -- November 18, 1980 This film is usually used as a poster child for director excess but it is indeed the resting place for the career of Michael Cimino (who had previously scored with The Deer Hunter ) as well as United Artists, which took such a major hit thanks to this major flop that the studio crashed and burned. 2. Motion Picture Production Code is created -- February 1930 Also known as the Hays Code and the precursor to the rating system we know now (G/PG/R/NC-17), which came into effect in 1968. The MPPC was developed as a result of hysteria by religious groups about the deprived morals being flaunted onscreen and put a damper on more daring material appearing there for a while. 3. Ted Turner buys MGM -- August 5, 1986 Not terrible in and of itself except that it led to his decision to colorize their back catalog. The original directors involved (especially John Huston) had an uproar over this as did many film buffs, especially because the technique caused some bizarre color bleeding on some old classics that made them look terrible. 4. Movies on cell phones -- December 2005 Sprint announced then at they were offering a service to watch movies on their phones for about $7 a month. Of course, writers and film nuts scoffed at this but the idea didn’t go away and any smart phone out there now has this kind of service (for a fee of course). Among the numerous problems- squinting to see the film itself, running of juice on your phone after an hour, trying to find a comfortable position or place to watch it. The main problem though is that, as with pre-flat screen TVs, our phones weren’t really meant to properly replicate the experience of seeing the film in all its large, rectangle-shaped glory. Movies like Lawrence of Arabia , a film where the landscape is part of the action, or any decent Westerns are diminished enough on a TV set but on a cell phone, it’s a bad joke. The real worry is that the next generation of movie goers might not mind and get used to this diminished landscape, never really experiencing films as they’re supposed to be. Some enterprising film makers are creating movies specifically for hand held devices and more power to ‘em but for films NOT made for that medium, it ain’t a good thing. 5. YouTube -- launched February 2005 Granted, YT is a place to see some long out-of-print movies in multi-part serials (faves being Death by Hanging and Godard’s British Sounds ) but this site also trained web surfers to lower their attention span to 10 minutes or less. 6. Jennifer Aniston’s sitcom career on Friends ends on May 6, 2004 When she had time to concentrate on her fil[...]

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2010 in Music Journalism - Addenda

Thu, 13 Jan 2011 06:46:00 +0000

PopMatters was nice enough to post my 2010 sum-up of music journalism yesterday. A couple of addenda notes to add:

- As another writer pointed out, Nitsuh Abebe's move from Pitchfork to New York magazine also meant that he went from part-time status with no benefits to having them in a full-time job (he was a freelancer for PF).

- As I noted in the comments, the ad take for Rolling Stone in 2010 actually improved by year's end (thanks to another writer for pointing that out).

- I didn't include the listing of favorite and least favorite articles this time. As I mentioned last year , I've been doing for it for several years and got tired of doing it. I liked sharing info about great articles and praising the amazing writers who did them but the workload was too much. Like I said before, I might go back to it at some point but I doubt that's going to be happening this year.

- In a related note, I was kind of sad to see that there weren't other writers who took up the charge to issue their own list of favorite music writing for 2011. I hope I'm wrong about this (and PLEASE tell me if I am!) and also hope that someone else can take up the slack some time soon.

- Someone commented via e-mail that the anonymous tweeter who became Village Voice's rock crit of the year wasn't that impressive: "was disappointed to see that when I looked at the tweets, it was just the same tired old Rolling Stone approved opinions and prejudices presented in a more abbreviated, Wittgenstein-ish fashion." I'd just say that my interest was more in the fact that someone like that would get so much attention as a suddenly-prominent rock critic though I liked the Tweeter's work more than the commentator.

- I should have added one thing that I usually tack on at the end of my year-end sum-up's. If you see a good article, please contact the writer and editor and let them know that. I guarantee you that they rarely get any feedback for the hard work that they do and that your kind words will nourish them and inspire them, the same way that they've done for you. It might even help to compensate for the long hours and lousy pay that they have to endure.

Publicists Dish on Their Preferences... Print Vs. Online

Wed, 08 Dec 2010 02:25:00 +0000

For anyone who's written a music review in the last few years and approached a publicist for an advance copy of an album or a place on a show's guest list, one question you'll hear back commonly is 'will this appear online or in print?' I've heard this so much that it started to become background noise and standard practice for the biz. But I started wondering about it recently again, especially with print publications sinking so quickly or going the online-only route now. What was the real meaning behind this question of print vs. online? Is one preferable now? If so, why? My guess was that print carried more weight but was that really the case, especially nowadays? Obviously, the best source are the publicists themselves so I asked about a dozen of them if they'd like to speak about this. About half responded and I thought it would be instructive not only for other people involved in the biz but also any music fan to see how these mechanisms work from an inside perspective, including both labels and promotion/marketing companies that work with several labels. Thanks to the people below who participated and opened up about this interesting facet of the music business. And just so you know, this article is appearing online! NOTE TO OTHER PUBLICISTS OUT THERE: What's your take on this? Do you agree with what's said here? Nils Bernstein ( Matador Records ) I would say there's more prestige in having an article appear in print, if only because virtually all print pieces end up on the publications' sites anyway. It would be much trickier to answer were this not the case. It's rarely an either/or proposition; print-only and online-only pieces tend to be quite different (say, concert reviews, slideshows, and news online, vs record reviews and interviews in print). Occasionally a piece intended for print gets 'demoted' to online, but then I find often those pieces end up getting more 'pickup' (Facebook 'like's, re-tweets, etc.) than the print piece might (even if the print piece is online, often it doesn't get as much online 'real estate' as an 'online exclusive'). So I'd say the days of online being print's earnest little brother are quickly fading. If a writer says that the review will be online only or print only, how often do you then have to turn down the request? That's kind of impossible to answer. I never "have to" do anything, it's pretty much just at my discretion. It's really case-by-case based on whether it's expensive (like concert tickets), the bands' workloads, etc... Josh Bloom ( Fanatic Promotion ) When a writer queries about an artist/album/show, how often do you ask them if their article will appear in print or online? Usually I already know based on who is asking. If I truly don't know if it'll be one or the other, I'll ask, but in the vast majority of cases, I'll just know based on the stature of the artist in question and who is writing the piece. When you ask a writer if an article will appear in print or online, who is it that you work with that's trying to find this out? Is it the artist, their management, their label, your own company? Typically, it's me. I'm the liaison between the press and the artist, management, etc., so I'm responsible for reporting this information back to the client and am the party most interested in this info at the outset. When you ask a writer about this, do you feel that there's more prestige in having the article appear online or in print? There's still more prestige with print, even when speaking about press coverage in general. It's still better to get a feature in a fashion magazine like Soma, than it is a review on Pitchfork. Reason being is that print is luxury, it's tactile, it exists in the world as an organic entity. Online is just push button at the end of the day. [...]

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Will an iTunes Model Work for Journalism?

Wed, 01 Dec 2010 08:45:00 +0000

As both the record industry and publishing industry struggle with the question of how they'll survive in the Net age, Scribner Books came up with an interesting idea. This past September, they announced that they would be selling essays by Chuck Klosterman (author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto ) for 69 cents at Amazon and other online outlets. As the NY Times article notes, this seemed like a riff off the iTunes 99-cents-per-song model. Sounds intriguing, right? Especially since there's no easy answers about how to keep the book biz (let alone the music biz) afloat, ideas like this don't seem too far fetched.

When I recently asked Klosterman about this venture, he shrugged off the music comparison:

"People kept trying to compare this to the iTunes music model, but there's really no connection (outside the specific price point). While it's very easy to imagine the person who thinks, "I don't like Taylor Swift, but I love that one song of hers I keep hearing on CMT," there really isn't a literary consumer who thinks, "I'm not interested in reading this man's books, but I do want full access to his specific thoughts about Saved By The Bell." Reading is such a different experience than listening to music. Moreover (and maybe this is ultimately the biggest factor), it seems like most of the people who might potentially download these essays already owned the books themselves."

He went on to say that while a song that you buy from iTunes is something that you'd probably go back to again and again, it's not likely that you'd do the same with an essay. Fair enough but some of us bookworms/geeks like to go back to favorite pieces of writing for inspiration and sustenance- I keep a couple of them in my book bag that I carry around actually.

In terms of revenue, Klosterman said that from his perspective at least, this project wasn't intended as a money maker per se. Royalties being what they are (he'd get 12% of the gross), he'd have to sell a hell of a lot of essays before he gets a return on the 69 cent price tag for each of them. As he noted also, from the stand point of a researcher who just wanted access to an individual essay, the service makes sense. One more effect would be that, as seen by the Times article and this blog entry, an idea like this gets attention. It may also cause other writers and publishers to consider the same idea or tweak it to their own needs. Again, with the publishing biz being so up in the air, don't be surprised if you see more of this in the future.

Beatles for Sale, Again

Tue, 16 Nov 2010 23:00:00 +0000


The Beatles have done it yet again, making headlines with the long-awaited, inevitable deal with Apple to finally offer their music on iTunes. And just in case you think that Gen X/Y/Z doesn't care or that the Boomers don't need the music they already have on CD, the Fabs zoomed onto the iTunes album chart at number 6 ( Abbey Road ), 8 ( The White Album ), 9 ( Sgt Pepper's ), 13 (a $149 box set), 17 (the 'Blue' album), 18 (the 'Red' album), 19 ( Rubber Soul ), 20 ( Magical Mystery Tour , my fave), 21 ( Revolver ), 25 ( Let It Be ), 27 ( A Hard Day's Night ), 28 ( Please Please Me ), 30 ( Help! )... You get the idea. And mind you, this is only after it's gone on sale about 12 hours ago. Not too shabby.

It's quite a coup as iTunes is the only place that offers the Fabs digitally now, even though millions of people have ripped their CD's into MP3 files. For new Fabs fans, Apple's the place to go if they want to go the authorized route though there's no doubt that with time, they'll sign deals with other services (even though Apple is sly enough to offer each song for $1.29 each, which they know that fans will pay up for and no doubt sweetened the deal for the Fabs). Amazon is trying to cash in on the hype without being involved by offering Beatles albums on their main music page for discounts.

Another interesting twist is that Apple loves mystery and drama, not revealing what their big announcement about this until right now, even though places like Billboard and Wall Street Journal leaked the news beforehand. As you see from the iTunes album chart, the company got the recognition and headlines they wanted, not to mention the sales. Girl Talk just did something similar with his latest album, also offering it online with no warning and getting enough recognition to freeze up his label's website for a while (of course, since the hundreds of samples there aren't cleared, he's offering it for free).

As for the Fabs, you gotta admire their biz savvy. After making bundles of money for recently remastering their catalog, the digital offering was the logical next step and amazingly, they garner piles of additional money for the same catalog yet again in a tiny amount of time. Rest assured, they'll find other ways to re-package and re-sell their catalog in new configurations and formats. And don't be surprised if they make money on it again and again, even long after Macca and Ringo are gone.

Follow-up: Wall Street Journal has a good story about how EMI helped to make the Apple deal happen.

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Where have all the bloggers gone?

Fri, 05 Nov 2010 10:45:00 +0000

Well, according to this Forbes article , we're on Facebook and Twitter instead. Maybe not surprising since these two services have led the social media boom.

But it also signals a shift in writers and their readers. We're gravitating there mostly because it's easier and a more fun experience to jot down 140 character notes or easily share links and news with 1000's of 'friends' through Facebook. Blogging is so... last decade by now, right? Admittedly, I've slacked off in this regard but I know I'm not alone- not just the Forbes article but more than one editor at various publications have told us bunch of lazy scribes that we need to be writing more blog posts. And they have a point- we should, if only to help continue the conversation about arts/media. But when print or TV media brag about their online presence, more often than not, they talk about their Twitter or Facebook accounts now and not a blog they do (even though many of them still have one, to their credit).

I don't wanna give up on blogging- it's still fun to share thoughts and ideas here in a longer form like this- but I have to admit that the allure and intimacy of social media is hard to fight off. And now back to tweeting...

Thanks Google But It Ain't Enough

Wed, 27 Oct 2010 09:47:00 +0000

While it's nice to see Google investing five million dollars in news services , it's not all altruistic. After all, if respected news services dry up (as they've been doing for the last several years), Google won't be able to aggregate good, solid news stories through its own service. As the article also notes, it's smart business-wise for Google since to keep their own news service linking to other news services, they stand to gain by giving something back: "(this is) a way for the organization to put some money where its mouth is when it comes to its relations with journalism."

But the main problem is that as generous as the gift is, it's not nearly enough. That's not to say that Google should necessarily have to pony up more money to these other news org's (though it be nice if they would) but that even an amount like five million is a drop in the bucket compared to all the money that the news industry has lost in the last several years. I'm sure that Knight will find a good way to use the money but some publication LOSE about five mil or more each year.

While it's good to have this money floating into the news pool, it's not sufficient because unless you're going to have a constant stream of high profile donations like this, it won't be enough to sustain many news org's. Indeed, it's probably unrealistic to expect such philanthropy nowadays (esp. in the States). And with the current political climate, the thought of another American industry getting a bail out just ain't gonna fly.

Which is why it's (still) boot-strap time for news organizations and publications- they're going to have to pull themselves out of this mess. It ain't a pretty prospect, especially since they haven't shown a great track record for this and the only big idea which is seen as a cure-all right now is pay walls (which itself is a suspect solution). But the ground rules remain the same- innovate, experiment and find new ways to engage readers. That's the only long-term way these pubs are gonna survive and not through the generosity of Google or elsewhere. It's tough love but it's true.

John Mayer & Twitter Quitters... What's It Mean for Fans?

Thu, 16 Sep 2010 01:30:00 +0000


Despite being boosted by Dave Chappelle (and doing a good guest shot at a Buddy Guy show I saw), you might not care much about John Mayer but I found it kind of interesting that he was opting outta Twitter. He's not the first and won't be the last star to do it.

What's really interesting is what this means for fans though. On one level, you could say that it's a canny publicity stunt (it worked not just here but also had write-up's in articles like this one from The Wrap ). Remember also that Trent Reznor got fed up with some of his followers who were dogging him on Twitter, kissing it off but later coming back to it . Similarly, Soulja Boy got mad at people poking fun at him and split the service, only to return later . Also recently, Miley Cyrus decided to deprive the world of her 140 character or less wisdom, also taking down her Twitter account but unlike Soulja or Trent, she's stuck to her guns and hasn't rejoined the service (at least so far).

As the Wrap article points out, if you really miss Mayer, you can still find him on Tumblr and similarly, these artists have plenty of other social media outlets like Facebook to reach their fans (MySpace too but less and less nowadays). Fans themselves aren't necessarily tied to Twitter alone either so that they don't have to feel that their favorite musician is necessarily abandoning though some of 'em will be hurt to see them go.

Why jump the ship with Twitter though? Maybe it has something to do with the nature of the service. Because it's so personalized (as Miley complained) and because you can get immediate feedback that ain't always complimentary (as Trent and Soulja complained), it's not ideal for every musician. Twitter is a good way to get the word out about your work (album, tour, etc) but as these artists find out, mingling with their fans can be kind of thorny sometimes. Or if you wanna be less charitable, you could also say that these artists are just too damn thin-skinned for their profession.

For musicians I follow on Twitter, I'm not so much interested in news they're spreading or peddling (which you can always read elsewhere in more detail) but something more personalized, as Miley fears- seeing what makes them tick and what they have to say about their lives and what they encounter there. That's why I like posts from Weird Al and Kanye West and Questlove . They might not be as weird or funny or enlightening as they think but if you're curious at all about them, they reward the attention for sure and give us a small piece of themselves. And in the end, ain't that what we want out of the artists we love?

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Arcade Fire: Lonely at the Top

Fri, 13 Aug 2010 02:01:00 +0000

After topping the Billboard album chart and selling out two shows at Madison Square Garden, an irresistible David-and-Goliath story emerged (they beat Eminem on the chart though he'd been there for weeks) not just about Arcade Fire but also the indie label that they’re on. But how much of a win is it really for Arcade Fire and Merge Records and where do each of them go from here? When I first heard Arcade Fire’s 2004 debut Funeral , I thought that leader Win Butler’s voice was a pretty repulsive whine, the same type that made me vomit over the Shins in the early ‘00’s. But just as got over (and actually enjoyed) James Mercer’s pipes, Arcade Fire’s songs swept over me and I got the point -- the drama in Butler’s voice matched the melodrama of the tunes. But then I sunk on ‘em again after seeing them at Bowery Ballroom five months after the album came out. They got there a few hours late after taping for a late night TV show and they looked and sounded tired. Several times, Butler chided the audience for not showing enthusiasm and I was ready to yell ‘right back at ya!’ By the time they were finishing up, streams of people were already leaving and not with big warm smiles on their faces (in fairness, a friend who was in the balcony said that people up there were loving it). When I reviewing 2007's Neon Bible (their second album) for Blurt magazine, I knew it was a big deal not just because I had to stay at the publicist’s office to listen to the album (about 5-6 times) but also ‘cause their sound was getting even grander. I gave ‘em another chance live and it really paid off. Their May 2007 show at Radio City Music Hall couldn’t have been more different than the Webster Hall show. Maybe it was because I was up close but they killed it live that time- they not only were on the ball and lively but they had a good stage act and not just with the props there. Butler asked the audience to come up front and dance and they obliged pretty quickly until security chided him for it and he had to say what a ‘bad boy’ he’d been for suggesting it. Their latest one, The Suburbs is a lot less dramatic than their first two and seems to go on for too long at first but after a couple of plays, the tunefulness is definitely still there and you can gradually accept their new phase. When they announced that they’d be playing MSG, it didn’t seem surprising considering the rapturous reception at Radio City but I was surprised that they were able to have a second show and sell that one out too. Having an indie band shoot up the ranks so quickly and with such force wasn’t just a big story, it was music history (compare R.E.M. who took six albums to get to the arenas). Appropriately enough, their label-mates Spoon (who themselves had headlined at Radio City recently and also turned heads with their album sales) opened up as kind of show of strength not just for the label but also the genre. Arcade Fire delivered for their first MSG show too even if it didn’t reach the dizzying heights of Radio City, plus this was obviously a momentous occasion. While everybody was taken up by their most obvious sing-a-long at the end, “Wake Up,” the song that I heard as a show-stopper and climax at all three of their concerts was “Rebellion (Lies)” with the MSG crowd yelling and fist-pumping “lies!” in the chorus- I sure as hell joined in. I was so impressed that I watched the second show almost in its entirety on YouTube the next night, including the cute and corny pre-show bits with Terry Gilliam (who directed the show broadcast and thus helped mint it as a huge occasion). My girlfriend who was a huge skeptic after that first terrible show wa[...]

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Irving Azoff U R A Jerk

Fri, 06 Aug 2010 02:40:00 +0000

Ah, you gotta love music execs these days. They’re so calm, well-mannered and easy-going, except for most of them, especially Irving ‘Sweetheart’ Azoff. Irvy is not only a manager-extraordinaire but also the head honcho of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. None of which makes it a conflict of interest, or so he and LN/TM tell Congress. One other important thing you should know about Irvy is that he happens to be a schmuck. Irvy was railing to a Billboard reporter that the problem with the touring business isn’t the prices, the over-saturation of acts on the road or the economy but instead, it's the press, who've done the terrible disservice of reporting on the facts about the downturn in touring revenues. And now, just to compound it, Irvy's tweeting that that the fourth estate are making him look even worse for reporting what he said before. What’s even funnier is that he insists that his angry, ridiculous comments have nothing to do with his work in the record biz but are just his own personal observations. To be fair, if you spit out crap like this, you’d probably want to retract it too: “so if you want ticket prices to go down, stop stealing music” or (referring to the Billboard writer) “glenn peoples u r a jerk.” Now if you wanna step back and inject some logic into ol’ Irvy’s thinking, you can start with his original premise, that the press is to blame for the downturn in the touring biz. Irvy doesn’t dispute the info that’s being reported about the biz being bad now. Instead he’s mad that the reporters are actually telling people about it. It’s kind of like the Pentagon saying that the real problem with Afghanistan is that writers are reporting on the bad stuff that’s happening there. If only reporters were a bunch of zombie stenographers who would just toe the line on whatever ol’ Irvy wants them to say. Forget about them reporting the facts. Maybe they should just lie and say that the concert biz is doing great and then Irvy will be happy and then the industry will magically pick up again and make lots and lots of money, right? Of course, that’s impossible and it just goes to show not only how out of touch Irvy is but that's also another case of the old guard of the industry blaming every one else for the biz’s problems. That leads into his other stupid tweet about downloading. His ‘logic’ is this- if teens suddenly stopped unauthorized downloads, the touring biz would offer low ticket prices. Mind you, this isn’t something that he’d put in writing or have signed in an affidavit, not when he's sown up the management AND ticket-selling angle. He and his two companies that monopolize the ticket industry still can’t explain or justify all the of the ‘convenience’ fees they heap on to ticket prices so should we trust them to generously drop ticket prices if the CD sales or digital sales rebound? How about the fact that they probably won’t at all rebound soon or maybe ever? Does ol’ Irvy really think much about how he’ll manage otherwise? Probably not. More likely, he’s thinking up a lot of other people to blame. There’s the government, the unions, the artists… He can tweet them all as villains, right? So ol’ Irvy’s lashing out here and pointing fingers at everyone but himself, just as many clueless leaders of the old music industry do so well nowadays (which is one of the few things they do well now). He can cry, scream and whine all he wants but all of his tweets add up to crapola except for one pertinent fact: it ain’t the press or fans that are the real problem Irvy ‘cause U R a jerk. Irvy's Billboard article News about Irvy's Twitter rants [...]

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Lou Reed and Jason Robert Brown: Thoughts on Expectations and Downloading

Fri, 09 Jul 2010 02:40:00 +0000

Here's a little lesson in promotion and audience expectations... Last Friday, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and John Zorn did a performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival that pissed some people off. The Montreal Gazette got in on the action by describing the furor and going so far as having both positive and negative reviews posted by the paper's writers and some of the attending fans in what seemed like a Dylan-At-Newport type incident (though not as historical). The problem seemed to center around perception- should the fans have rightfully expected a more rock-type show with Reed participating or not? Were the festival organizers at fault for now saying clearly enough that this wasn't going to be a typical rock performance (shades of PiL at the Ritz)? For some clues, take a look at the program for the day . The listing is for Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and John Zorn (not that Lou gets middle billing here). If you drill down through the site, you see more about the program for the performance : "The lady is an avant-garde musician and performer with a dizzying, incredibly diverse list of collaborations to her credit: Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, Bobby McFerrin, Jean Michel Jarre, Philip Glass, but also poet John Giorno, choreographer Trisha Brown, writer William Burroughs and surrealist actor-comedian Andy Kaufman. The first gentleman (her husband) changed the way popular music sounds and thinks with the Velvet Underground-whose incalculable influence redefined the music of the late '60s-and went on to write a peerlessly literate and transformative songbook including the global smash Walk On the Wild Side. While these two are making their first visits to the Festival, they can count on the second gentleman as their guide, since American saxophonist John Zorn is making his fifth appearance chez nous. Together, they make up a most intriguing trio of musical explorer-improvisers the likes of which we seldom experience!" Granted, the festival might have had different printed literature in ads and such but from the above description, other than naming Reed's best-known song, what would lead you to believe that the show was just going to be "Lou's Greatest Hits"? For the Montreal gig, maybe the promoters didn't make it clear that Lou wasn't just going to belt out "Walk On the Walk Side" but a trio with Anderson and Zorn should have made that obvious, right? Also, if you're a real Lou fan, wouldn't you be interested in him doing something other than his biggest songs? Maybe it comes down to different types of fans- some who want the performer to keep being a greatest hits jukebox and some who will go along with them on a journey to different, strange places, which Lou has done a number of times throughout his career anyway. For another twist on the story, dig this withering review of an Australian show he did a few weeks before the Montreal show. See, this is why Lou doesn't care for the press... That aside, the tone is pretty brutal, though the writer acknowledges up front that a show based on "Metal Machine Music" which was clearly advertised as such isn't exactly going to be a toe-tapper for the crowd. Still, the writer takes issue with Reed's performance of "MMM," explaining that there's such a thing as good noise and bad noise (which is difficult to define but I agree in theory). Poor Lou. He doesn't get a break when he wants to try out his experimental side. Maybe his next tour needs to have posters saying 'I'M NOT DOING ANY FREAKING ROCK SONGS TONIGHT!' I'll bet that some fans will still pay money and yell out for 'Wild Side' nevertheless. Another musician who's in a controversy [...]

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Robert Christgau and the End of the Consumer Guide

Fri, 02 Jul 2010 09:01:00 +0000

In the latest and probably last edition of Robert Christgau’s Consumer Guide (published yesterday), this is what the noted scribe had to say: Barring miracles unlikely to ensue, this is the final edition of Christgau's Consumer Guide, which MSN will no longer publish following this month's edition. The CG has generally required a seven-days-a-week time commitment over the 41 years I've written it, and I'm grateful to MSN for paying me what the work was worth over the three-and-a-half years I published it here. But though I always enjoyed the work, work it was, and I've long been aware there were other things I could be doing with my ears. So while I have every intention of keeping up with popular music as it evolves, being less encyclopedic about it will come as a relief as well as a loss. Mind you, this is only about 10 weeks after Jim DeRogatis left the Chicago Sun-Times as a columnist. Just as movie journalism had its breath taken away only four months ago when long-time movie critics Todd McCarthy was fired by Variety , it could be that music journalism might be having one of those moments now. In McCarthy’s case, writers were worriedly wondering, ‘if there’s no place for him in the media landscape, is any of us save either?’ After Christgau send out his announcement yesterday to dozens of writers and friends about his column, a number of tributes came back in, copied to the whole list, thanking him for his work and for no doubt inspiring many of those people, including yours truly. It’s obvious that the format was difficult to maintain, for over four decades no less (most of which was at the Village Voice until he was unceremoniously fired from there in 2006). And he certainly made an art out of it- in a few sentences, he could communicate an enormous amount of ideas in a witty, smart way and cover many different genres in each column he did. Nowadays when many struggling print mags keep cutting back their word count to save space and money, he’s become a necessary model of how to keep your writing brief but still informative. And then of course there was the grading system that he did in the Guide. On his site, he details in excruciating detail about how he does the letter grades and later he says that he came to regret ushering it in as a standard for other publications. Like At the Movies , with its thumb’s up or thumb’s down grading system, it was a simple easy way to convey approval or disapproval. Some serious chin-strokers objected to simplifying the process so much and making it into a strict system of evaluating. But like Roger Ebert, Christgau went beyond simple grades and gave you much more in his reviews, almost always rewarding your attention. Now’s not the time to speak about him like he’s dead because, as he noted above, he’ll still be writing. He still does fascinating essays for the Barnes and Noble website and he’ll no doubt have plenty of other publications who’ll want to work with him, not to mention his NYU teaching gig and other opportunities that’ll come up (one of which is something that I’m working with him on). Love ‘em or hate ‘em (as Lou Reed probably still does), his work has changed not just the face of music journalism but also how it’s perceived by fans. There’s no reason that even without the format of the Guide, he won’t continue to do so with his work. ADDENDA: Just to be clear about who actually made the choice to end the Guide, Christgau told me "the decision was MSN's." Consumer Guide at MSN Christgau's grading system Christgau’s intervie[...]

Media Files:

Rolling Stone and the General: Media Lessons for Both of Them

Thu, 24 Jun 2010 09:22:00 +0000

As mags are still scratching their heads about what they’ll do to survive, Rolling Stone proves as savvy as ever. Or does it? After launching a branding initiative a few years ago (something even most national mags haven’t really thought through well), their investigative bureau has been kicking butt lately, which is doubly impressive in this age where this type of reporting is becoming an endangered species at pubs, frequently getting farmed out to 3rd parties to do the heavy lifting. Not only did RS get some good scoops about what the government did or didn’t know about the Gulf Oil Spill early on, but they also made news quicker than even they could report it with the rapid fall of General McChystal, which similar to White House press maven Helen Thomas came about from some stupid remarks that he made. But while Thomas made a few dumb, indefensible comments to a video blogger (which in this visual age is a much worse crime than just having a damning print quote), the General made an endless stream of stupid gaffes to a reporter over the course of a few months, only later realizing that maybe he shouldn’t have been so contemptuous of his co-workers and boss (Obama) in front of a reporter. Even though the RS reporter himself, Michael Hastings, was surprised that the whole incident blew up as much as it did, instead guessing that it would just a be a little firestorm that would blow over in a few days. RS editor Eric Bates rightly pointed out in an interview with CNN that this didn’t seem to be a casual mistake by the general: The comments made by McChrystal and other top military aides during the interview were "not off-the-cuff remarks," he said. They "knew what they were doing when they granted the access." The story shows "a deep division" and "war within the administration" over strategy in Afghanistan, he contended. As part of the blow-back from the story, The Politico wondered if Hastings acted stupidly by getting the scoop and thus 'burning his bridges' by making himself a pariah- i.e. he wouldn't be able to get any more scoops from the military his perch in Afghanistan now that the word was out about his RS story. Jay Rosen covered this controversy well on his blog (see link below). Whatever the case may be (I happen to agree with Bates), RS didn’t just nail the story and get an incredible scoop, they made history with it, even if some of the other editors were thinking (and hoping) that Lady Gaga’s racy cover photo was going to get more coverage in that same issue. Ideally, there’s a lesson here, not just for RS but for other music publications. With the field shrinking more and more, RS is smart for doing these kind of stories which stand out and help them stay relevant and make a big name for themselves. As Talking Points Memo astutely explains though, RS actually blew part of the momentum that they had going for them with the General story- not only did they hold off on posting the article itself online but they were scooped with their own story as The Politico actually posted it only before RS itself did. The Politico had to take it down but by then, the damage was done. It wasn’t just the article that was circulating everywhere but the gist of it was already making the rounds so that when RS finally did post their scoop online, they themselves had been scooped not just by The Politico but by hundreds of other sites reporting the story about the fall of the General and quoting the[...]

Chuck Eddy's Advice to Writers

Fri, 04 Jun 2010 06:25:00 +0000

Thanks to the magic of spam filters, there was one entry missing in my writer's survey that definitely needed to be there. Here's some practical thoughts from one of the best editors that I've ever worked with. CHUCK EDDY (Author – Stairway to Hell : The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe and The Accidental Evolution of Rock’n’Roll ; former music editor – Village Voice ; former senior editor – Billboard ; contributor – lots and lots of other places.) These are just suggestions. Some of them, I probably don’t even follow myself. * Music is kind of crummy these days. But that said, hundreds of good new releases worth writing about (albums, singles, reissues, mixes, whatever) come out every year anyway, and no matter how hard you try you will never hear most of them. Most of them won’t get written about anywhere, either. In fact, some entire genres will barely get written about anywhere. But someday, they will, and that’s where you come in. Figure out what those genres are, and become an expert. Become the go-to person, even. Think about it: If you’re pitching the same music everybody else is pitching, you have a whole lot of competition. But if you’re the only person pitching important music that nobody else knows anything about, not so much. And as history marches on, some genres will obviously increasingly need people who can write intelligently about them. (Fine, two words: Regional Mexican. Two more words: Christian rock. Okay, now you owe me.) * Along the same lines: There is a lot of extremely popular music that you think is horrible, and that I agree is horrible, and so does everybody else who writes about music. Most of it, we’re probably right about. But if four-and-a-half decades of music criticism are any indication, we are all wrong about some of it. In other words, there is music that will be taken seriously, as innovative and influential, 25 years from now that everybody scoffs at now. I guarantee it. It has never not happened. Figure out what that music is, and figure out what makes it interesting, and figure out a place to make a stand for it. * If you have a car, or even if you don’t, listen to the radio. In fact, sometimes even listen to stations you don’t think you’ll like. Let the music hit you by accident, and surprise you, and challenge your prejudices. Blogs and social networking sites are wonderful places to learn about music that’s already specifically marketed to your social class and cultural niche. But to find out about music outside your comfort zone, radio still wins. * Buy a good, cheap, used turntable. Become a regular at stores with dollar bins. Go to garage sales and flea markets. Take chances on whatever LPs look intriguing, but never spend more money than you have to. Again, the idea is to stumble across music that you wouldn’t necessarily seek out on your own – Stuff other people have discarded is always a good start. The more you hear, the more you might be able to formulate a distinctive aesthetic. There is still no more fun way to bone up on music from before you were paying attention. If that doesn’t sound fun to you, maybe consider a different vocation. * I used to get several writers pitching me every week at the Voice . I always got back to them quickly, and always told them I needed to see examples of their writing, preferably as published. Then, if they didn't send ideas , I sent them back to the drawing board. I neve[...]

Media Files:

What's the Write Word- music scribe survey part 1

Mon, 24 May 2010 19:41:00 +0000

Last Thursday, PopMatters posted the first part of my survey of advice from over 100 music journalists . The second part will appear on Tuesday and the other two parts will each appear each in a week's time- they're going through list alphabetically so you'll have to wait a bit for the "W" writers for instance.

Hope you enjoy some of the material there. As I said in the intro there, it's not a complete list because I couldn't get everyone to answer that I wanted to and also because after I finished, I thought about some writers I should have asked but forgot to. Oh well... Maybe you'll learn something from some of the contributors there. I know that I did and some of the writers in the survey have already written back to say that they did too.

In addition to the writers who contributed, I also wanted to thank these wise souls who recommended other writers for this project: Harry Allen, Nick Green, Linda Kaumeyer, Albert Mudrian, Chris Weingarten.

Dear Writer... Some Tips on the Music Scribe Biz

Wed, 12 May 2010 04:57:00 +0000

Pretty soon, PopMatters is going to post a survey I did of over a hundred music journalists who are all answering this question -- "what's the best advice you can give someone who's new to the field?" As you'd imagine, some of the answers are pretty funny -- the phrase 'abandon hope all ye who enter here' came up more than once. But seriously folks, there's a lot of good advice there. After compiling all the answers, I wondered if I had anything to add, especially some things that didn't seem to be covered otherwise. So, here's a few tips that I hope might be helpful. GET A TRANSCRIBING MACHINE (lesson learned from Jim DeRogatis) . If you're going to be doing interviews regularly, this can save you lots and lots of time, plus you won't wear out your stereo playing and replaying the tape so you can catch up with your typing. Transcribers have foot pedals that let you easily control the playback (when you start and stop a tape) so you can type at your own speed. You can buy them online at most electronic stores. And as a bonus, it's a work related expense (even if you're a part-time freelancer like me) so you can write it off on your taxes, which leads me to... KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS FOR ANYTHING MUSIC RELATED. CD or MP3 purchases are 'research.' Ditto for movie ticket stubs. Even if you're writing about concerts, for some reason, it's trickier to write off your taxes for any tickets you buy. Also related to this are dinners where you take out an editor or writer or an artist for a story, cab rides to and from shows, travel and hotel expenses for any music-related convention, any supplies or hardware for the computer you use to work on, etc.. Mind you, you're not gonna get all the money back but you could get a decent refund as part of this. One caution is that if you keep claiming deductions that are greater than your income every year, eventually the IRS is going to consider your work to be a 'hobby' and not a job that you can keep deducting, so watch your expenses. Most important of all, speak to your account about this and get the best advice from them. MAKE THE START AND END OF YOUR ARTICLE PARTICULARLY MEMORABLE (lesson learned from Robert Christgau) . That way the reader is automatically sucked into your work and leaves there with something satisfying too. BEFORE YOU GO TO DO AN INTERVIEW, ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOUR RECORDER IS WORKING (lesson learned from John Storm Roberts) . Back in the 70's, JSR interviewed Maurice White (Earth Wind & Fire) while in Africa. They had a great interview but unfortunately, JSR found out later that his tape machine didn't work. He was pretty sad about this, not only because the material was so good but the setting was poignant too. The upside is that you can now learn from his mistake and never let it happen to you. Take extra batteries with you for the recording machine, just in case. SAVE THE HARDEST AND MOST EMBARRASSING QUESTIONS UNTIL THE END OF THE INTERVIEW. That way the subject won't end things abruptly before you've had a chance to ask all your other questions. In fact, if you're crafty enough, you can word these touchy questions carefully enough not to piss off your subject too much. For instance, instead of saying 'so when are you gonna have a reunion of your old band?' ask them 'What do you say to the people who ask you when you're going to have a reunion?' It might not work but it's worth a try. It worked pretty well with Joe Strummer. ALWAYS MAKE SURE THAT YOUR READER UNDERSTANDS WHAT YOUR PRONOUNS REFER TO (lesson learned from Ch[...]

Media Files:

Bauer Media tries to squeeze freelancers

Tue, 20 Apr 2010 15:25:00 +0000

This Guardian article sums it nicely: "Bauer Media, publisher of Kerrang!, Mojo and Q magazines, is asking its freelance writers and photographers to sign away all rights to their work." Times are tough for the publishing business but the contracts that Bauer is now offering not only means that writers loose all rights to their works but they would also be liable in the instance of a lawsuit.

Truth be known, I'm one of the many writers who said no. I've written for MOJO a number of times over the past several years and was very proud of that- it's a quality publication and I was glad to help out in that regard. I'd like to write for them again. Nevertheless, I want to write for a publication which treats writers fairly so I can't do work for them now, not when they're trying to force these unfair contracts down peoples' throats. Hopefully this will get resolved soon as they realize the value of writers who've contributed to them and can help to keep making it a great magazine.

Do Record Reviews Hold Up Over Time?

Tue, 30 Mar 2010 10:50:00 +0000

Recently, a colleague on a mailing list noted something about a Pitchfork review. For a recent reissue of Elliott Smith's From a Basement on the Hill album, the record was anointed with an 8.4 rating . However, the same record got a 7.2 rating from Pitchfork when it originally came out in 2004. What's up with that? Similarly, each new edition of Rolling Stone 's record guides has starred ratings which give some older records a better or worse rating than they've had in previous guides. It's an old problem in the review biz we're talking about here. First off, everyone changes how they feel about certain records over time. A record that we've loved years ago might be meaningless to us now and similarly, a record that we scoffed at might now hold a special significance for us. Also, some records might vex us a little as we go hot and cold on them- for me, that happens with Wire's first two albums, where one day I love Pink Flag and another day I think that Chairs Missing is a much better record. Another thing to consider is that music/social history has a way of changing the whole perspective about an artist or a record. Does everyone who listens to Smith feel the same way about him before and after his death? Similarly, does that effect the work of Nick Drake or Joy Division's Ian Curtis, not to mention a guitarist named James Marshall or a Texas singer named Janis or a Brooklyn rapper named Biggie? Even something like a car commercial can lead people to re-evaluate the career of Nick Drake- when Volkswagen used "Pink Moon" in a commercial, his sales soared way beyond what they had ever been before and many new fans suddenly took notice. Also, think of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" -- the song (about a terrible flood) was part of his 1974 album Gold Old Boys , but it took on special meaning after Hurricane Katrina. Of course, a review, even for a major publication, is in the end one writer's opinion, even though by default, it stands in for the decision of the publication itself. One of the rare exceptions was when a controversial record would come out (i.e. Coltrane back in the '60s or Liz Phair's major label debut reviewed by three writers in the Village Voice ), more than one reviewer would weigh in. Most publications don't have the space/pay to afford them that luxury anymore, sad to say. Nevertheless, how often do you find that in online publications and zines otherwise? It would be nice and refreshing for Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and other places to acknowledge their changing attitudes towards certain records but then again, it ain't fun to acknowledge any kind of problem with authoritative judgments like that, is it? (one exception is Robert Christgau, who's rewritten reviews in his record guides, noting his original grade/rating and occasionally discussing his different viewpoint) It also leads to my point that despite having some good writers there (i.e. Philip Sherburne) and the fact that they've built themselves up well into a powerful part of the music media biz, Pitchfork is known for single digit integers, aka their record rating system. As such, they might wanna be careful when handing out numbers. [...]

Media Files:

Why Don't Conservatives and Music Mix Well?

Fri, 26 Mar 2010 03:59:00 +0000

"I'm sure that many of the 'liberal elite' won't like hearing this but the decentralization of media sources will also inevitably mean that more conservative music criticism is coming our way. Instead of a knee-jerk disgust with such an idea, I think it would be much healthier to actually welcome this (as long as it has some quality to it) because journalism should thrive on healthy debate and different perspectives." That's me, making a prediction back in '05 (about the 2004 writing landscape) and no, it didn't happen. Maybe it was the flush of the election of Bush Jr for his (soon to be disastrous) 2nd term but I really did think that music scribing would be the next conservative frontier or at least that the party would be able to tweak pop music culture successfully. But instead, when the GOP has mined popular music in the last several years, it's been in a tin-eared and awkward way, by its leaders no less. Think of the last presidential campaign where not only McCain got sued for unauthorized use of a song at his campaign stops (Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty") but Sarah Palin got called out for the same thing (Heart's "Barracuda"). That's not even mentioning the horrible dancing that Bush II did with Ricky Martin at his first inauguration party . Part of the problem for the GOP is that like the movies, the music biz is also full of bleeding hearts. As such, it's much easier to rant against it than to embrace it- witness R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.'s horrible Sept 2002 cover story about the death of rock and roll in his own publication, American Spectator . Even worse, he had to follow it up with the same byline to lambaste rock at least once more in 2006. Note that he had to turn it into potshots at the Democrats too, which he's much better at doing than speaking knowledgeably about music. And so it goes, as with McCain and Palin- blindly using the music for their own agenda and just looking awkward at it. Not that the Dems haven't done the same but at least they're on friendlier ground- remember the impressive roll call of musicians that lined up for Obama's inauguration ? As for music scribes who are out-and-out conservative, does J.R. Taylor have much company? The guy's shtick is kind of amusing but not over the long haul and if you want a great contrarian, you're much better off sticking with Chuck Eddy. I don't think the shallow pool is thanks to some conspiracy theory about liberal gate-keeper editors keeping out GOP scribes so much as these scribes not feeling welcome or comfortable in this realm. As I said in the original piece at the top, I think it would be helpful and interesting to hear from some of these right-wingers and their perspective on music rather than the echo chamber that we're used to as long as they have something or interesting useful to say, which means that morons like Tyrrell need not apply. I mean, if we can appreciate good articles about artists or albums that we don't necessarily like , why can't we also appreciate alternate points of view from another political stripe? [...]

RnR Hall O' Fame addenda

Sun, 14 Mar 2010 06:37:00 +0000

After a year of prepping it and bugging my editor, I finally got my Rock and Roll Hall of Fame piece in the Village Voice. I had 1000 words to play with so I could cram in as many ideas as I liked, including some inside info from the people there and some thoughts from detractors to give it balance. I was pretty happy with the end result, especially as I had to write most of it up in less than two weeks time even though I had some general notes going back to 2008 and recently did about 7-8 interviews to get as much info as I could from sources. I hated the whole idea of the HOF for a while but softened a bit when I visited it years ago and later realized that it's something you can rant against but it won't disappear. Also, it's been around for over two and a half decades itself so it's at least worth pondering.

Even so, I wished I had more time to actually speak to some musicians about the HOF- not just soon-to-be inductees but also past ones and some who hadn't made it. Another thing that I only thought about later is that I found out (off the record) that the HOF nominating committee has several sub-committees for rap, art rock, etc.. so that the art-rock group boosted Genesis and the rap group boosted a certain TV star who didn't make the cut this time. Some committee members also admitted that they were kind of surprised that some performers who were highly boosted in their meetings got shot down in the general vote of 500 or so writers, former inductees and others who have final say over who gets in. As I mentioned in the piece, many committee members don't even know who these people are (other than former inductees).

Another thing occurred to me about the article. I'd been writing for the Village Voice for over 13 years but this was the first time that one of my articles was the main piece in the music section. I was pretty proud of that but it also made me wonder why that was. I figured out the main reason pretty quickly though. Just like in my zine, I like to champion acts that don't get lots of recognition. I understand that isn't lead story material and as such, I can't fault my editors for that but it also makes me wonder if I should turn my attention to stories like the HOF or bigger acts more often when I have something worthwhile to say (like I do sometimes at PopMatters). Not that I'd give up on cult artists to write about- I'll also have a soft spot for them, not to mention the feeling of camaraderie in the kind of work that I do.

Amazon vs. Apple- does it matter who wins the download wars?

Wed, 03 Mar 2010 08:17:00 +0000

Very interesting story from Billboard about Apple's challenging of Amazon of exclusive rights to sell new albums cheaply. The labels clearly want some competition so they're not beholden to Jobs all the time but for now, it looks like he's still got the juice, being able to scale down Amazon's ambitious plans in this area .

So who's the good guy or bad guy here? Keep in mind that these are two big companies fighting to see which one of them will dominate the label-approved download market (which Apple still does by a wide margin), which nowadays is kind of like two dogs fighting over a relatively small (and shrinking) piece of meat from a dumpster. ... which is to say that even with 10 billion downloads sold by Apple, the market for online music sales isn't exactly booming now .

So why are they fighting this turf war? Apple still wants to dominate not necessarily with iTunes but with the iPhone and to a lesser extent the iPod (which ain't the hot new item anymore), which gives them a much higher profit margin than song sales. The fact is, they also need the song sales tied to iTunes to help sell their hardware. Amazon wisely sensed the need for some competition in this market that Apple's dominated for years. They want to sell hardware too (Kindle) though they don't have their own device for music, at least yet. So for now, they'd like you to get accustomed to downloading media from them, be it books or music.

Don't forget MySpace but it ain't the only space

Thu, 25 Feb 2010 07:10:00 +0000

Most people probably didn't notice but for us music junkies, a disaster happened this morning. MySpace was down for at least an hour or so.

I know- that sounds like piddly crap, especially when Facebook and Twitter have overtaken it as the hottest social media sites out there ( Google Buzz hit a bump with privacy concerns after its launch). But despite this, MySpace still has millions of users and it's still an important and easy way for bands to get the word out about their music simply by posting it there to stream for free. In fact, as SXSW is coming up and I always like to remind bands how a bad homepage is no substitute for a no-frills MySpace page with a few of their songs on it.

But back to MySpace's problems... They've had a lot of 'em lately, especially with top execs fleeing or being fired . They're now trying to reposition themselves as a 'discovery' site, which ain't too far-fetched. I still learn about a lot of great bands that I've never heard of before through their service.

But when they went down this morning (EST), I was frustrated because I rely on them so much. I wondered about being so reliant on them and if bands should be so reliant on them. As I said, despite the disses they get now that Facebook's overtaken them, they're still an important resource and any band would be stupid NOT to have a MySpace site. But should we all rely on MS alone for our music needs? Of course not. There's so many other places to get your fix online now (Last.FM, Pandora, Lala, Napster, Rhapsody, Spotify, etc..) so that if Fox/Murdoch decide that they're losing too much money from MS and either close it down or tamper with it too much (i.e. use paywalls or metered service), both bands and music fans aren't necessarily out in the cold when it comes to music. In fact, it's probably healthy to have many online destinations for bands to share music and fans to discover them. Facebook hasn't quite figured this out yet but rest assured, they're working on something.

As such, MS would be wise to stay with their tried-and-true formula and build on it. As for fans and bands, remember that MS is out there but don't let it be your be-all and end-all for your music jones.

UPDATE: As I'm listening to bands that are playing at SXSW, I'm now noticing that a number of their homepages include links to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube but not MySpace. In many cases, they do have a MySpace page but I find it interesting that they don't think it's necessary to list the info on their website anymore.

Superbowl Half-Time Music Revisited

Thu, 04 Feb 2010 22:17:00 +0000

It's that time again and while I'm not football fan, I'm always interested in the music for the half-time show. As such, here's two oldies-but-hopefully-goodies about that:

Stones’ superbowl self-bleep (from 2006)

Paulie cleans and flushes the Superbowl (from 2005)

Notice that I mention the Who in both posts! I wonder if the NFL are reading my posts...

Best Music Scribing- done for now?

Thu, 28 Jan 2010 08:46:00 +0000

The good people at PopMatters put out my listing of best music journalism of 2009 . Hope you like it. After going through the exhausting process of putting it together in late December and thinking about the previous 11 months that I spent compiling the material, I'm thinking that it might be a good time to take a break from doing this list every year. This will be the seventh listing I've done, with the last three of them appearing here at PM, while all the previous ones appeared at . Don't get wrong- I like doing the work as far as I think that MAYBE it provides a good source for anyone interested in music journalism as well as a bunch of well-deserved pats on the back for some great writers (and a couple of pies thrown at some bad ones too). I was also gratified to hear from Greil Marcus, who compiled the latest Da Capo series on music journalism, saying that he found my previous list to be useful in his own research as did the editor at Perseus who said that my guides were regularly used as a reference for the series. I have to admit though that it's pretty tiring work and to be even more honest, I'm not sure what I get out of it anymore. I love to write and edit but I have to try to balance that with the work on my own zine (where I'm finishing up the next issue now), my freelance work (just handed in two assignments and I have two more to do now), not to mention my day job. Also, I want to do more blogging right now (like this) plus add more to the two other blogs that I do, at Ye Wei (centered more on individual releases and musicians) and for Audubon magazine (not to mention the one that I promised to do for WFMU and occ. for Boogie Woogie Flu ). Also, I still feel really bad for dropping the ball on the idea for an NYC music commission (which I'd still be glad to help with if someone else took up the mantle) and I'd still love to do a collection of non-U.S./U.K. music journalism as there's some great writing out there might many music fans never see. I really want to do a good job with these other things and having this extra work detracts from it. This is basically the same reason that I decided to give up on producing reissues, even though I was very proud of those too (Kleenex/Liliput, Delta 5, Essential Logic, Oh OK, DNA). I'm also concerned frankly that I'm getting too glued to my computer as I'm doing all this work and want to free myself up a bit from it. When I'm old and incapacitated, it'll be fine for me to park myself in front of my computer and type away all day. Before then, I'm like to spend more time with my girlfriend, see my friends and family more, experience life outside of my apartment on evenings and weekends, etc.. Not that I'm automatically gonna do all those things but let's just say that now I'll have less excuses to avoid them. I'm not looking for any sympathy here but I would have one request for other writers out there. It would be great if someone else could do these yearly listings- not just compiling a list of noteworthy articles but also come up a decent summation of each year, trying to synthesize the info, look forward and add some suggestions and ideas about what should or could be happening. Da Capo's series does this to some extent but we need more than one voice addressing this each year. [...]

Fighting the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger

Sun, 10 Jan 2010 05:55:00 +0000

For anyone that's concerned that the proposed merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation (two of the hugest companies selling concert tix in the States) might not actually pan out with all the consumer benefits that the two companies promise, there's somewhere for you to sound off about this pending monopoly.

A coalition of concert promoters have formed Ticketdisaster as a clearinghouse of information about the dangers of the merger and info about how to contact the Justice Department to voice your disapproval. Hyperbot has more information about the group.

Why the RIAA really stopped the lawsuits

Wed, 23 Dec 2009 11:02:00 +0000

Greg Sandoval provides great analysis of Net and music issues for CNET and has done another service to anyone interested in these topics with his recent column, A year out, where's RIAA's promised ISP help? . The answer to the question is 'nowhere to be found.' Turns out that it was just hokum, A.K.A. a publicity stunt on the part of the RIAA to continue to put the fear of god into the hearts of unauthorized downloaders (who, according to Big Champagne, aren't really being deterred).

What seems even more interesting is a little tidbit hidden in the middle of the article about why the RIAA stopped pursuing new lawsuits (as opposed to the old ones they're still pursuing).

"The reason that some at the labels wanted an end to the litigation is that for years it brought down mountains of public scorn. The lawsuits were also expensive and RIAA's members wanted costs slashed, which happened earlier this year."

Sandoval also reveals that yet another reason is that the RIAA was trying to get other Net providers to play ball in their imaginary scheme, to have downloaders' account cut off eventually (a three strikes law).

Sorry to burst the bubble of anyone who thought that the RIAA was being good-hearted and offering a peace offering on this. Hopefully, as labels have to keep cutting expenses, their payments to RIAA will dwindle down to nothing. Or at least the RIAA can get back to one of the few things that they were good at- giving out gold and platinum awards (though nowadays, there's less and less of those to hand out).

Why Pay-walls won't work

Wed, 16 Dec 2009 18:00:00 +0000

Last week, the Wall Street Journal had a good scoop about Apple and their purchase of the Lala service but WSJ also made news in another way that they (and especially Rupert Murdoch) didn't intend.

When Apple bought up Lala (a service that offered limited free streaming and shared playlists), the big question in the music biz was 'why?' WSJ seemed to have the answer in a December 11th article , saying that Apple was merely using Lala to retool their iTunes architecture. Like many WSJ articles, this story was stuck behind a pay-wall which let you read the first few sentences and then asks you to subscribe (pay) to read the rest. Murdoch is ultimately planning to put all Newscorp publications into the same framework of pay-to-read.

There was one little problem with the Apple scoop that WSJ had- you could read about it without paying Murdoch. That's because both the Yahoo! Tech blog and Ars Technica had their own stories about the WSJ article itself, quoting and referencing it several times.

In a way, it's a feather in the cap for WSJ to make news themselves but it also points to the problem of pay-wall- you can keep people from getting direct access to the stories themselves via search engines but the info can just as easily leak out to other legit sources and be read without any pay toll in your way.

So does that defeat the whole purpose of pay-walls and make them useless? As this happens again and again, Ol' Rupe might raise a stink and demand that other publications will have to pay him to quote his stories but unless a huge chunk of the articles get copied elsewhere, the law ain't on his side. He and other publications have said that they're ready for a drop in readership (and thus ad dough) as they demand money to read their articles but if the material is getting filtered out to other sources where you DON'T have to pay, what's going to be the incentive to pay up for the original articles?

But give Rupe a little credit- at least he's not as stupid as Variety magazine. According to Folio , they're gonna use a pay-wall too. Variety is more hardcore in its demands for its readers though- 10% of the online readers will be prompted to pay up after reading 2 pages. The price? $248. That's about $50 more expensive than an iPhone. Which one of those do you think will be more useful to you and a better value? And which one do you think will get more sales? And by the way, Variety's price is about $100 more than a WSJ subscription for both their print and online edition.

UPDATE: According to this article from The Wrap , Variety's decision might be a last ditch desperation move.

Why Is Susan Boyle So Loved?

Wed, 02 Dec 2009 13:42:00 +0000



Even if you're like me and you don't care for her music (can't wait for all the hate mail about that), you have to admit that Susan Boyle is easily one of the biggest phenom's in the music biz this year. She didn't do it by letting fans set their price for her album or trying new and innovative things through social media but just the ol' fashion way- selling lots of records. She even beat out Eminem for the best first-week sales of his year.

So how do you explain how she became such a huge star? For one thing, there's no denying that she has a great voice, even if you don't care for what she's singing. But there's lots of great singers out there who'll never reach her level. Here's a few reasons why:

* Simon Cowell and his company deserve lots of credit for setting the whole thing up in the first place. Of course, not every singer he works with through his companies (i.e. American Idol) get to this level but having that platform in the first place was a huge boost for her. Earlier this year, I talked about how Cowell set up the story about her in the first place.

* The Anti-model Factor. I haven't seen any of the record buyers polled about this but I'd wager that since Boyle doesn't look like your typical singing star, lots of people were rooting for her since they don't have hot bods either (I sure as hell don't).

* The story behind her. Again, I think this is another (non-musical) reason that many people were rooting for her. One day, she's nondescript and unknown and then suddenly she becomes a star. And unlike many other instant stars who don't deserve the fame, she actually does.

LATE THOUGHT: After Beyonce and Taylor Swift got all the Grammy nominations, it'll be an interesting battle to see who wins next year and (at least temporarily) wears the diva crown but in the meantime, Boyle has them both beat in initial sales (Swift's last album sold less than Boyle's in first week sales, ditto Beyonce).

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