Oct. 11th, 2007

hand on head - b&w

When a $300 order is a potentially bad thing

I just had to renew Honey Bowtie’s subscription to Billboard and I did it, of course, on Magazines.com. But that’s a $299 order (side note: yes, Billboard is a ridiculously expensive magazine, but it’s such a great way to follow a broad cross-section of the industry), and because I’m running several tests on the site that I don’t want to skew with such a huge order, I had to very carefully step around all the spots on the site that would have tracked me and added my purchase to test results.

I am such a geek.

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Dec. 20th, 2006

epiphone, guitar, no strings

It's an interesting precedent, at least

Before I even begin, I'll give him this: I think the organ part in "A Whiter Shade of Pale" is fantastic -- key to the success of the song, no doubt. Key to the emotional weight and message of the song. But is it songwriting? Does the organist deserve to be credited on the copyright?

A judge in London today said yes, as the court awarded a 40% share on the song's royalties (dating from May 2006 on) to former Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher.

The judge said the song's organ solo "is a distinctive and significant contribution to the overall composition and quite obviously the product of skill and labor on the part of the person who created it."

Yeah, no doubt. Bully for him. But the tricky thing about this ruling is that it leaves the doors open for musicians who are not a song's writers to claim that their performance on a song's recording is substantial to the success of the song and deserves to be part of the copyright.

In case you're not familiar, here's the scoop. Songwriters don't write pop songs the way classical composers typically wrote symphonies, where every part was composed down to the last sixteenth note. Nowadays, the lyrics, the vocal melody, the underlying chord progression, and usually a characteristic riff or two (such as a "turnaround" to move between song sections) are all that most writers produce. Depending on the genre, you can either add or remove an element or two from that list. But it'd be rare in any contemporary genre to enter the studio with parts fully composed from start to finish -- other than the vocals, and even there some embellishment is expected most of the time. That's what session musicians do; they take what's written and further interpret the song on their instruments -- and all without co-writing credit.

In this case, a very strong case can be -- and obviously was -- made that the organ part on "Whiter Shade" is critical to the composition of the song. But what performances merit that assessment and which ones are just musicians clocking in and doing their jobs? It's a weird slippery slope.

On one hand, I know that a lot of session players are grossly underpaid for the staggering skill they bring to the recording process. If you want to see an example, check out Standing In The Shadows Of Motown. Along with Berry Gordy, Jr.Holland-Dozier-Holland, and the other songwriters and producers behind the scenes, the Funk Brothers were so much of the sound of Motown, and they made chump change for pay.

While situations like that clearly need to improve, I stand with the NSAI motto here: it all begins with a song. If it weren't for the song's writers, no one would be making any money on the song. They're the originators of the idea; they're the creative force that sets the process in motion; at the risk of sounding biased, I think they deserve significant incentive to continue to create.

So while they come off a bit alarmist, I mostly agree with Brooker and Reid's quote at the end of the article: it is a dangerous precedent, from the perspective of protecting a songwriter's livelihood.

Nov. 30th, 2006

epiphone, guitar, no strings

BlackHawk remembers Van Stephenson

From Brad on 2:
Country trio BlackHawk (Goodbye Says It All) will make a $15,000 donation next week to the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in memory of their former member and co-founder, Van Stephenson, who died in 2001 from skin cancer.

The group set up a memorial fund in Van's name when he passed away. The $15,000 will be used for melanoma research.

The two other guys, Henry Paul and Dave Robbins, have taken on a new member, Anthony Craword, and they've now got a deal with newly-formed Rust Records.

[Sorry for the space-wasting picture layout, but for whatever reason, image alignment breaks in this template and I don't know why.]

First of all, I love this news. For obvious personal reasons, it touches me to see the $15K being donated and earmarked for melanoma research.

Secondly, the fact that they've regrouped and have a new deal inspired me to write a song. But it was taken from one of the 13 songs I already drafted this month, so my NaSoWriMo count didn't increase. Oh well.

Thirdly, and I truly don't mean to sound in any way disrespectful, but didn't Van Stephenson (at least in that picture) look a lot like (a younger) Timothy Busfield (with a mullet)?

Nov. 23rd, 2006

daryl close-up

Major micro-management

Good observation from John Oates:

[Hall & Oates] had been in the traditional music business for over 25 years and in the mid-90s it had changed so drastically that it really didn’t have much to do with us and what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do things. The record labels became very proactive with artists, in terms of choosing material and deciding what they were going to be and what type of music they should make, and that really was completely one-eighty from the way we approach music and how we grew up in the business.

In the ‘70s and ‘80s they let us pretty much do what we wanted and they figured out a way of marketing it and that was the kind of the paradigm that we operated within.

I'd read this sort of commentary before, but it usually has more of the flavor of "the labels don't nurture the artists like they used to." This slant on it is different and perhaps more accurate. Increasingly in the past few years I've seen calls for band demos that dictate the sound the artists should have, such as "Looking for male singer-songwriter with Jack Johnson lyrics and John Mayer guitar sound" or whatever. Instead of relying on A&R scouts to find something original and interesting happening in the clubs, the labels have already decided what copycat sound they want to release next, and are out looking for someone to be good impersonators.

Some of my in-the-know friends would probably make the argument that that's always been the case, more or less. But it feels more like truth than ever. If you're a true original, major labels are probably not the place for you.

Yes, I know, the icon is Daryl, not John. But I don't have a John icon, nor do I want one. Daryl is so much nicer to look at.

Nov. 7th, 2006

hand on head - b&w

Corrupted voting? Or, oh no she didn't!

And this is just the CMAs!

I have no idea what Faith was saying before the winner was announced, although some theories are that she was saying "I better fucking win." But there's no denying that she said "WHAT?!" when the winner was announced.

Update: Faith Hill and her manager are both claiming that she was making a joke and that she didn't know she was on camera.

As for the joke: yes, Faith is known as a bit of a jokester, but really, this is a big misstep. For someone who's been in the entertainment business as long as she has, she has to know that #1) perception is everything, and #2) awards ceremonies draw hyper-attention from the kind of casual crowds who have no insight into the personalities of the people involved. As such, most viewers were bound to perceive her reaction as a freakout and, well, see #1.

As for the camera: what human who's ever seen even one awards show doesn't realize that nominees are onscreen while winners are being announced? Not only that, but since she was on camera, that implies that she was standing right in front of a camera. I give her intelligence more credit than to buy that excuse.

In all fairness to Faith, it does seem a little odd that someone who clearly modeled herself after Faith took the award. Moreover, Carrie's performance earlier in the evening was definitely not award-worthy. I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it's rather apparent that Joe Galante has a vested interest in the promotion and success of Carrie Underwood, based solely on the number of photo ops he's posed for with her. A man as powerful as he is could certainly (directly or indirectly) influence block voting and sway a number of groups.

The funniest part of the whole thing, to me, is that a number of my coworkers were at the ceremony and had no idea about any of it until they came into the office this morning and heard it from those of us who watched it on TV or read about it from a liveblogging source. It's probably some consolation to those of us who didn't get to revel in all the glamour that staying home may have been more fun.

Anyway, I wonder what the fallout will be with Faith's fan base.

Oct. 10th, 2006

hand on head - b&w

via Boing Boing: "Disney exec: Piracy is just a business model"

I find this very interesting: according to a story at netribution, Anne Sweeney, the co-chair of Disney's board, has recognized piracy as a "business model" to be competed with, deviating from the entertainment industry's usual approach which has been to classify it as tantamount to theft.

"We understand now that piracy is a business model," said Sweeney, twice voted Hollywood's most powerful woman by the Hollywood Reporter. "It exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do - through quality, price and availability. We we don't like the model but we realise it's competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward."

HT: Boing Boing

Jul. 27th, 2006

epiphone, guitar, no strings

Big news on the Kazaa case

In case you haven't seen it, this is the big news in the music biz this morning:

Major Labels Settle With Kazaa For $115 Million

By Susan Butler, N.Y.

The major record companies and motion picture studios have reached an out-of-court settlement of international litigation, revealed today (July 27) by the RIAA and IFPI, with Sharman Networks and other operators of peer-to-peer network Kazaa.

I especially liked this quote, from Mitch Bainwol, the chairman/CEO of the RIAA:

This is welcome news for the music community and the legal online music marketplace. Steadily but surely, we are passing another important marker on the remarkable journey that is the continuing transformation and development of the digital marketplace. The winners are fans, artists and labels and everyone else involved in making music, and our partners in the technology community.

Hey, as a songwriter who hopes someday to make lots of money from the legitimate distribution of my work, I won't lie: I'm pleased as punch with the outcome. But I think saying that the fans are winners in this ruling is going to take some convincing. But then it's a little like the legalization and control of marijuana and other drugs: the people who are for it (myself included) are often convinced of the value of quality control measures and enforcement of safety and security, while for some people, the thrill and freedom may be tainted by legalization and limitations.

OK, maybe that's where the comparison breaks down. But the point is, this is great news for music creators and everyone else whose livelihood depends on fair compensation for trade of music. It may not be such a party for people who've been building up an enormous MP3 collection without having to pay a cent for it.

What's your take?
hand on head - b&w

February 2011




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