6
Sep
2008

It would seem that washed up bands with little to no relevancy in today’s music market have totally lost their minds.

First up is news that is seems Lars Ulrich, founder of the heavy metal band Metallica, has completely lost his mind. As I discussed in June of this year in a post entitled “Metallica Backpeddles Their Way To Relevancy“,it seems Lars has completely changed his stance on music piracy.  While people are entitled to change their opinions on a subject, it just comes off a bit oddly when you were the driving force behind bringing down Napster, the original peer-to-peer music sharing service.

The first sign he had possibly changed his mind was the face the band would be selling their newest album, Death Magnetic, as MP3s with no copy protection, making piracy an almost certainty.  Now Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins of Mashable points out a summary from Blabbermouth.net of an interview Lars gave to KITS 105.3 FM in regards to the album leaking on BitTorrent sites 10 days early:

“Listen, we’re ten days from release. I mean, from here, we’re golden. If this thing leaks all over the world today or tomorrow, happy days. Happy days. Trust me. Ten days out and it hasn’t quote-unquote fallen off the truck yet? Everybody’s happy. It’s 2008 and it’s part of how it is these days, so it’s fine. We’re happy.”

Say what?  He’s “fine” with it?  He’s “happy”?  It appears the copy that “leaked” was sold early by a record store in France, and it just seems uncharacteristic that one of the harshest critics of online piracy would do such an abrupt about face.  Does he finally “get it”?  Does he finally know how to work with the Internet?  Could this have anything to do with the poor reception of their last album, 2003′s St. Anger?  Could it have anything to do with the fact they have alienated many fans with their total lack of interest in legally selling their catalog digitally until recently?  This all seems like a well staged PR stunt to me to regain some of their old fans.

Now, on the flip side of the coin, you have news that Guns N’ Roses, which is really just frontman Axl Rose at this point, called in the Federal Beauru of Investigation (FBI) to arrest a blogger who posted some tracks from their long delayed album, Chinese Democracy, according to Techdirt.

Somehow the blogger got a copy of the mythological album and posted it on his site.  While this was a clear violation of copyright, you have to wonder why the FBI would go after such a small infraction with all the other rampant piracy that happens on a much larger scale, drugs, terrorism and so on, but no, let’s go after the guy who posted just one album.  One would certainly think they might have had better things to do with their time.

While what this blogger did was a criminal act, was it worth building ill will in the fan community when your band is already skating on such thin ice?  Bob Lefsetz at Lefsetz.com summed up this thought process really well:

Fans.  They’re the hardest thing to acquire.  You can buy publicity, you can pay off distributors.  There’s mutual self-interest.  You want to sell and they want to profit.  Newspapers don’t do stories on acts no one cares about, and television is only interested in stars.  But fans are not doing business.  There’s no financial payoff for being a fan.  It’s an end-user application.  You don’t build up your fandom and sell it.  You own it.  At least until it fades away when the act does something heinous, like stand up to Napster.

That’s haunting Metallica nearly a decade out.  Metallica was right, but their fans thought they were wrong.  And you always want to come out on the side of your fans.  Metallica has learned its lesson.  But the record labels have not.

Nice how he interlaced both the bands I’m talking about, and I think adds fuel to my fire that Metallica is pulling a marketing stunt more than anything.  You would think maybe Axl would have learned from Lars obvious mistake with the fans, but apparently not.  Lars is not full on trying to bring his fans back in the fold, and Axl is sending federal officers after a guy for posting an album early.  That makes sense, good PR call there Axl.  Perhaps if you would just release the blasted album, no one would have cared.

I find it interesting that both bands involved in both of these stories had their biggest moments in the 1980s, and now here we are in 2008 with them having no clue how to handle the Internet, while other bands are not only embracing it, but turning it into a whole new distribution ssytem.  Do these bands not read newspapers?  Do they not have anyone in their management system who may be a bit more Internet savy and can warn them how fans can turn on a dime against you when you mess with their perceived Internet freedoms?

File sharing, by the letter of the law, is illegal, but as Mr. Lefsetz said, it is sometimes better to turn a bling eye to it for the potential backlash for messing with it, and there is the added bonus of it helping to build hype in advance of an album release.

Seriously, someone get these two bands an Internet consultant would ya?

28
Aug
2008

Edgar Bronfman, Jr is back.

For those unfamiliar with Edgar Bronfman, he is the CEO of Warner Music Group.  Good old Edgar and I have a long history of his amazing comments in that I have written about him numerous times,and I’ll link those as we go.

This time around, the story comes from the Chicago Tribune where Mr. Bronfman was talking about the success of games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero.  These games are built around playing fake instruments to music, and those songs tend to be well known.  While bands have seen an increase in sales for music included in these games, Mr. Bronfman told the Chicago Tribune the following:

“The amount being paid to the industry, even though their games are entirely dependent on the content that we own and control, is far too small,” he said during an earnings call this month.

This is shockingly remiscent of what he said in September 2005 when he thought it would be a good idea for Apple to give music companies a cut of iPod sales because he felt the $.99 price for iTunes songs was artificially low, and everyone knew Steve Jobs couldn’t sell iPods without the licensed music.

Bronfman’s solution? Well, if Apple is “artificially” keeping the price of downloads low to promote sales of iPods (you can debate amongst yourselves whether 99 cents is artificially high or artificially low), then as he sees it, the labels should get to share in those [iPod] revenue streams.

However, back in November of 2007, while at the GSMA Mobile Asia Congress conference, he said:

“We used to fool ourselves. We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong.

How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won.”

Mind you, that was only 10-months ago he said this, so what changed?  What do I mean?  Again from the Chicago Tribune:

Bronfman suggested that he wanted Warner to be less a supplier than a partner.

“If that does not become the case, as far as Warner Music is concerned, we will not license to those games,” he said.

So, here we are again, in the exact same type situation we were in back in 2005 when he thought it was a good idea to mess with Apple.  So it appears his solution is to threaten the video game makers with totally withholding music from them.  Does he not realize this would mean no realized income from this revenue stream?  This is exactly like the article I wrote the other day about how the industry is killing off music discovery methods over greed, and now here is yet another example of them doing the exact same thing.

When is this industry ever going to learn that their greed is doing nothing but angering the consumers, and they keep killing the golden goose that keeps laying eggs for them.  Sure, they’re making money from Pandora, but not ENOUGH.  Yes, they are making money from Rock Band, but not ENOUGH.

Mr. Bronfman said that the music industry wasn’t evolving as fast as the technology and that needs to change.  So here you have two of the biggest promotional tools going right now, and you are realizing revenue from it, but you may kill it off because it just isn’t enough.  I am sick and tired of the music industry being nothing but story after story of greed.  How they are so put upon, and everyone takes advantage of them, boo-hoo, poor them.

Well, apparently history does repeat itself, because Bronfman is sounding like a broken record.  Let him cut off the games from getting music, and your company can continue to lose money.  Oh, did I forget to mention Warner Music Group suffered a net loss of $9 million last quarter?  Yeah, good idea, threaten to cut off even more money to drive those losses even higher, good thinking!

Before I say good-bye to Mr. Bronfman before his next asinine comment calls me to his shores again like the Sirens of myth, let us not forget this is also the man who gave his kids a ‘talking to’ after he learned they were illegally downloading music.  He never did reveal what their punishment was, but I suspect it had something to do with charging them more money.

19
Aug
2008

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is at it again. I know… you’re all shocked.

The RIAA, the goverening body that is charged with the protection of musical copyrights, is again going so far in their efforts to protect music, that they seem to be doing more harm than good.  The latest confirmed casualty is the startup website called Muxtape.

The site, without a doubt, was questionable in its legalities from day one.  It allowed users to upload MP3s to the site and they could then make a “Muxtape” from those.  It was meant to bring back some of the feeling people got from making mix tapes for friends back in the 1980′s and 90′s.  You were limited to putting 12 songs on each Muxtape, and there was no means for downloading the songs present in the site, all in an effort to show the record industry that this was merely a way for people to promote the music they loved.

As of August 19th, the image shown above here appeared on the front page of the Muxtape site.  The problems more than likely stem from the fact that third-party developers came up with ways for people to download the music, even though one of the owners of the site repeatedly pleaded with poeple to not do soThe company blog does make things a little less clear, though:

No artists or labels have complained. The site is not closed indefinitely. Stay tuned.

Whatever is going on with Muxtape involves the RIAA, and that is never a good thing.

So, while clearly Muxtape was on shaky legal ground all along, you then have the case of Pandora, which is 100% legal, but may be shut down by virtue of the greed of the music industry.  According to a story in the Washington Post, last year a federal commission, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB),  ordered that the royalty rate online radio stations pay to SoundExchange be doubled.  Mind you that at this time terrestrial radio does not pay any royalties (although the RIAA is looking to charge radio stations now), and satellite radio, which is subscription based, pays a lesser fee rate than online radio does.

Pandora is free to its one million daily users, and has become one of the most popular applications on the iPhone/iPod Touch app store, and all of this is made possible via advertising revenue.  Under the new fee structure, Pandora will have to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% of its projected $25 million in revenue to SoundExchange.  If this should go into effect, Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora, says he will have to shut the site down because the company will only be wasting money at that point.

Okay, lets do some simple math for the music industry shall we?

Old Pandora fee structure
35% of $25,000,000 is $8,750,000
Sales of music discovered due to people listening to Pandora is impossible to calculate

New Pandora fee structure
70% of nothing due to Pandora shutting down under new fees is $0
No sales of music discovered due to people listening to Pandora is not impossible to calculate, it is $0

Which one looks more attractive to you?  The old fee structure, or the new, greedier structure, that leaves the music industry with earning nothing?  I think I’ll take curtain #1, Monty!

The music industry is going berserk with the online industry because I think they feel like they finally have a way to track stuff.  The amount of piracy that went on while I was in high school was astronomical.  We were all constantly taping off CDs for each other, passing them around, taping music off the radio and so on, but the industry could do nothing about it because they had no way to track it.  Now comes the Internet and they have ways to see how many times everything gets played, how many times something gets downloaded, and they have gone absolutely bat crazy with trying to figure out how to squeeze every penny they can out of it.  Remember when they wanted a percentage of each iPod sold because Steve Jobs couldn’t sell them if it wasn’t for the music to put on them?  Yeah, prove to me they aren’t trying to take insane amounts of money they shouldn’t be able to.

As I see it, the problem here is that the industry is forgetting that without the ability to discover new music, they won’t have any sales.  I have no desire to listen to commercial radio and be forcefed they drivel they program.  Sites such as Pandora are amazing because they learn from you and what you like, and then they will recommend new music based off of that.  I have discovered several bands I had never heard of via this site, and now it may go away because the music industry just simply can’t control their never-ending greed.

Perhaps this actually is there plan.  Perhaps they want to be able to dictate how we discover music so they can continue to force us to listen to the likes of Britney Spears.  There is something horribly broken in the music industry, and it isn’t a couple of stolen MP3s from the likes fo sites like Muxtape, or from Pandora not paying enough in royalties, it is from the music industry having this omnipotent style attitude that essentially everyone in the world works for them.  Enough is enough.

In the above linked article about Pandora, towards the end, there was this quote from a musician (you know, the people this is supposed to all be about?) that I think sums it all up pretty well.

Matt Nathanson, a singer-songwriter who has recorded for both major and independent record labels, said he is worried that the demands placed on Internet radio could “choke” the industry before it gets its footing.

“Net radio is good for musicians like me, and I think most musicians are like me,” he said. “The promotion it provides is far more important than the revenue.”

There you have it folks.  True, this is just one musician, but this is still an actual musician saying that this is more important as a promotional tool than a revenue stream.  Every industry has promotional tools, why does it seem the music industry can’t have one without taxing it to death?  And if they aren’t taxing it to death, they want to sue people who listen to music… or they want to dictate how you can listen to it via Digital Rights Management (DRM)… or they want to impose a tax on all Internet subscribers to help cover “the cost” of piracy… the list of endless as to how this industry is attacking the consumers.

It is time you finally voice your opinion on this in various manners.

  • The best way possible by skipping buying a new album, even if it is by your favorite artist, go to their concerts instead, buy their tshirts, make sure THEY get the money, but try everything you can to make sure the companies don’t see a dime.
  • Write your congressman, let them know you think this new royalty scheme is a joke.
  • Write the music companies themselves and make sure you tell them of your intentions.
  • Blog about it, spread the word.

It’s up to us folks, how much longer will we stand for an industry that so clearly hates us, but isn’t essential to our everyday well-being like food or water, dictate such insane policies?

12
Aug
2008

Everyone seems to be in a tizzy over the fact that the voice we heard come out of 7-year-old Lin Miaoke during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was actually that of Yang Peiyi, another 7-year-old.

Um… hello?  It’s China.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, here is the video of the offending song, “Ode to the Motherland”.

According to a radio interview with the musical director of the ceremonies, Chen Qigang, on state radio in China, it was decided that Peiyi had the voice, but wasn’t cute enough. On the other hand, Miaoke had the face they wanted, but not the voice, so upper level officials made the call to have the cuter girl lip-sync the song.

“The reason was for the national interest,” said Qigang.  He went on to add, “the child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression. … Lin Miaoke is excellent in those aspects.”  Was it his decision, though?  No.  “We had to do it. We’d been through several inspections. They’re all very strict. When we rehearsed at the spot, there were several spectators from various divisions, especially leaders from the Politburo, who gave the opinion it must change.”

I think I’m more surprised at the reaction than the actual act.  No, that doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do, but, come on, it’s a Communist nation, of course they want to portray a vision of perfection.  This is also not that uncommon in music. Anyone remember C + C Music Factory? Zelma Davis appeared in their videos lip-syncing the vocals of Martha Wash as Ms. Wash was heavier than the image the group wanted in their videos. This was only revealed after the whole Milli Vanilli debacle where it was revealed that Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus hadn’t sung one word of “their” hit album.

Again, none of this makes it “right”, but it isn’t especially shocking either.  I’m more shocked/surprised it even got revealed because this reaction isn’t to be unexpected.  China has the eyes of the entire world on it right now, and everyone is looking for things to pick on.  The fact the music director got away with revealing it on state-run radio is far more interesting to me than the story itself.  How did this happen?  Was it intentional?  Was someone just not paying attention?  Will there be ramifications against Qigang?  The interviewer?  All of that is the real story here, and I am dismayed by the lack of follow-up by professional journalists to go to that part of the story.  No no, it’s far easier to just point a finger and go, “A-ha!  See?!? The Chinese are deceiving us!”

Heaven forbid journalists actually ever WORK for a story.

In the end, it’s been revealed, the true singer has gotten her credit, and I think that is a good thing far more than I think it is a bad thing.  Sure, it would have been nice to hace seen the true singer out there, but it’s over and done with, just stop playing shocked by it!

5
Aug
2008

I mentioned back on July 26th that Yahoo Music is shutting down, and due to their Digital Rights Management (DRM) their music files would be rendered unplayable when this happened.  Well Yahoo has come up with a solution… kinda.

Yahoo Music will be issuing coupons to their customers so they can buy their musical tracks again from Rhapsody.  The problem with this is that their tracks, while not protected by DRM, are “tethered” to devices that have PlaysForSure computability.  In other words… not on iPods, the world’s most popular digital music player.  You also can’t burn them to CD… oh yeah, this is so much better!  Great solution Yahoo!

While I understand the prediciment those who already bought the music are in, I would certainly hope no one else would continue to support these types of systems.  It is time for malarkey such as this to come to an end.  Again, you bought the music legally, you should be able to play it as you wish.  Ever bought a CD and been told you can only play it in certain CD players?  No.  So there is no reason digital media should be any different.

1
Aug
2008

ScattercastJust me yammering at you this week folks, and I apologize in advance for my voice starting to go towards the end. Stupid pollen.

This week I talk about this story at Valleywag about people getting angry, again, about how Google Street View violates your “privacy”.

I give some thought to a comment left by Kim Greenblatt in regards to the post I did about The Dark Knight still not being profitable at the $314 million dollar mark.

And lastly I go on about this story of the band Buckcherry “leaks” their own music, and blames pirates. Stupid people.

Here’s

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for those who wish to download it.

26
Jul
2008

Yahoo Music is shutting down, and with them go their Digital Rights Management (DRM) servers.

What this translates to is that after October 1st you won’t be able to authorize new computers to play your tracks on, meaning your songs you bought would be living with an expiration date hanging over your head.  This news was first followed by the suggestion you burn the songs to CDs and then rip them back to MP3 format to remove the DRM protection, which could result in lower sound quality.

Yahoo told InformationWeek that they would not be abandoning their customers will be goign case by case with some sort of compensation or possibly providing DRM free versions of the MP3s.  This, however, will require you contacting Yahoo by using the “Contact Customer Care” button at the bottom of their FAQ page.

This story goes in conjuction with MSN announcing they will only support their tracks for three additional years, and Sony will stop supporting tracks bought at their Connect store at the end of the year.

Folks, when are you going to stop buying tracks with DRM coding?  You are allowing people to tell you how, when and where you can listen to music you legally purchased, and when they decide to stop supporting it, well, too bad for you.  Notice that every solution listed requires the consumer to be proactive in getting their purchases taken care of, not the other way around.  Why isn’t Yahoo coming up with either some sort of file that can be emailed out to consumers so they can strip the DRM without any extra steps, or why not just allow them to go in download versions without DRM?

Every time I write about DRM, some yaabo comes through and “schools” me in the comments on the option to burn to CD and then rip back, and now even Yahoo is suggesting this as an option.  Well, here are the problems with this method.

Blank CDs cost money – If I purchased something legally, why should I have to spend more money to make it work like anything I purchase should?

Burning CDs takes time – It’s not exactly a speedy process.

Ripping from a CD takes time – Again, not a super fast process.

Wear and tear on your equipment – I am using my equipment to correct a company mistake, so not only is it costing me for CDs and in time, but you are also asking me use up some of the life of my equipment.

Potential loss of quality – If your equipment isn’t up to snuff, you could lose some sound quality of the recordings.

So now you have DRM laden music you are facing either losing your ability to play, or having to go through steps you should never have to go through to make it work.  Someone I spoke with said this is no different than people who have vinyl running out of options of how to play it.  Well, the problem is that turntables are still being built, so, yes, that option is still very much alive to people who have vinyl albums.

This is a whole new set of problems that we have not seen before the invention of DRM, and it is just getting worse as challangers crop up to take on iTunes, and then ultimately fail.  This was never a problem before digital files, and it’s the only place that it could surface.  Imaging buying a DVD and finding out you could play it only in a Sony produced DVD player.  How long would you stand for this?  You wouldn’t, you would scream bloody murder about it.  DRM files are exactly this situation and now you are coming to find out that at any time a company could just flip off a server and… oops, no more music for you.

I just don’t get why people are allowing themselves to be shackled by the music companies like this.  Buy used CDs, trade them on sites like Lala, but whatever you do, support sites like the Amazon MP3 store which is DRM free, but just say no to DRM or you may find yourself in a very similar situation one of these days.

26
Jun
2008

Herb Tarlek of WKRP The record industry is making me slam my head into the wall again.

Our friends at the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Society of Singers, Rhythm & Blues Foundation, Recording Academy and others make up a coalition named musicFIRST.  According to David Kravets at Wired, said coalition has decided that it is time that AM and FM radio stations stop getting a free-ride of playing music without compensation to the artists.

You see, for the past 80 years, radio stations have played all of the music you hear for free.  The musicFIRST has now determined this is the equivalent of piracy due to the fact that radio stations earn advertising revenue from the music.  The radio companies claim that it is not piracy due to their playing the music acts as a promotional tool for the recording industry.  Martin Machowsky, a spokesman for musicFirst, said, “Today we gifted them a can of herring, about their argument that they provide promotional value. We think that’s a red herring. Nobody listens to the radio for the commercials.”

This issues is due to be addressed by the United States House of Represnitives, and should it pass, the new law could cost the radio industry in the neighborhood of $7 billion dollars annually.  According to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the AM-FM radio industry grosses $16 billion annually, so you are looking at nearly half of their annual revenue going to the recording industry.

If you hadn’t guessed, I’m against this.  Yes, the radio stations sell advertising and earn a revenue from the playing of the music, but it is no red herring that this is the single biggest promotional tool the recording industry has.  Why do you think bands focus so heavily on the songs they release as their singles?  They know those are what will be played on the airwaves and help sell their albums.

What gets under my skin is that the record industry obviously knows what a powerful promotional tool radio is due to the long history of “payola“.  For those unfamiliar with the term, this was a practice started in the 1950′s where DJs received bribes to play and promote certain songs by artists.  This practice was still well known to happen up through at least 2005, and I highly suspect that it still hasn’t disappeared completely.  If radio wasn’t such a useful entity to the record companies, why would they make these payouts to have certain songs played numerous times?

If radio stations are facing paying such enormous fees for the music, what makes the recording industry not think that stations won’t make tweaks to their format to lower the amount of music they play?  Changes to talk radio formats, playing of more music in the public domain, more remote broadcasts from paid sponsers, an increase in the number of ads verses number of songs played per hour and so on.

While small stations and public broadcast stations will pay a flat fee of $5,000 a year, this is still going to put a hurt on a lot of mid-sized stations.  They will either be faced with selling out to large conglomerates like Clear Channel Communications, or they will simply close their doors, lowering the number of promotional opportunities for an artist, and, in turn, lowering the amount of money the industry collects.

The system was not broken, and it certainly did not need fixing.  The recording industry can claim all day long this is about protecting the artists, but how have they survived for 80 years without this revenue stream? I don’t care how they try to disguise this, but it is just yet another move in the industries endless march of greed. They simply can not let any potential revenue stream set idle, they have to continue to milk every potential source of income they can, and damned the consquences.

This belongs in the pantheon of bad ideas, and all one can hope is that this will never make it out of committee in Congress, but there is every chance that it will.

For those who don’t know who Herb Tarlek is, he was the slimey station ad sales guy on WKRP in Cincinnati.

22
Jun
2008

gene simmonsWhy is it that older bands such as Kiss and Metallica can’t accept that the record industry is changing to finally favor the fans?

In a recent interview with AOL, Gene Simmons had some strong words for the fans of music.

“The record industry is dead. It’s six feet underground and unfortunately the fans have done this. They’ve decided to download and file share. There is no record industry around so we’re going to wait until everybody settles down and becomes civilised. As soon as the record industry pops its head up we’ll record new material.”

Considering that Kiss has not released an album of new material in over nine years, somehow I highly doubt this has anything to do with the state of fans downloading music.  Sure does make a convenient excuse though for a drying up band, doesn’t it?

There was no direct quote for his feelings on Radiohead’s decision to release In Rainbows in a method that allowed fans to name their own price, but that is where my real bone of contention is with Mr. Simmons.  According to the above linked article, he said that this move by Radiohead was contributing to the demise of the record industry, and that his band (should they ever happen to record again – ed) would never follow suit.

I feel the correct wording of this would have been, “they are contributing to the demise of the recording industry as it once was.”  This would have been more spot on, and also less obvious of someone who has tied to the status quo.  All things in the world must grow and evolve, and it is time for the recording industry and artists to accept this.

Isn’t it interesting that the biggest detractors of the industry changing are acts such as Kiss and Metallica?   Bands that have sold tens of millions of albums?  Of course they don’t want it to change, they were able to play the system to their advantage, but what about the thousands of bands and artists that don’t have that luxury?  The bands that are getting no promotion from their labels, that still travel from gig to gig in a beat up van, lugging their own equipment around instead of an army of roadies?

Bands such as these two were once those guys, but they came in to the industry when there were less acts, and it was easier to get promotion.  There are far more acts out there nowadays, and they aren’t getting backing from their labels unless they get a huge hit, so it is up to them to promote themselves as best they can.   Yes, bands such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails are successes, and they have followed this model because they see the writing on the wall.  They can either embrace the fans in the place they are most comfortable, or they can hold on to the outdated, broken method of recording and distribution and earn nothing as they do truly turn to piracy.

radiohead thomWhat these bands has done is tell their fans they understand them and their desires, and under the current recording contracts, they truly aren’t losing much by giving their albums away because they are making up for it in goodwill.  These people will feel warmer feelings towards their favorite band, new fans will be introduced because they can try their musif for free in by a legal means, and really diehard fans wills till purchase the eventual commerical releases or the special gift packs they come out with.

Sure this new method of distribution may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but with constantly declining album sales, it is obvious the old one isn’t right for anyone.  Instead of complaining about what other bands have done to “destroy” the industry, why don’t you try to find some compromise that resides between the old and the new?  Discounted CDs if purchased online?  Exclusive bonus track(s) if purchased online? Day-and-date release of material online and in retail stores, but online is sold at a significant discount due to reduced costs of production?  There are ways to have your cake and eat it to with what is going on, but apparently Mr. Simmons is just too short sighted to see it, as are most of the old guard musicians.

Is piracy good?  At it’s heart, no, but it is necessitating a change in the industry, and one that was badly needed.  People such as Gene Simmons wouldn’t have their enermous mansions and toys without the fans who supported them for years, now that is the landscape is changing, these older bands don’t want to embrace the change.  The answer is simple: evolve or die.  In the case of Kiss, I think this has already happened, someone just forgot to tell them.  (Seriously… no new album for nine years because you want to punish the music industry for changing?  Riiiiiiiiiiight… I got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell ya if you believe that one.)

15
Jun
2008

I noticed that as much as I talk about music, I rarely mention who I listen to. There’s the odd piece here or there that mentions it, but never anything concentrated. So I thought in an odd change of pace, I would share with all of you the latest bands I’ve found that I’m listening to on a regular basis.

I first caught Vampire Weekend on Saturday Night Live this season, and I honestly can’t tell you why I like them. Their name certainly doesn’t speak to their sound, and they aren’t the normal style for me, but their self-titled debut album is infectious. You can also check out their song A-Punk for another sample of their work.

I would have liked to have embedded the original video for That’s Not My Name by The Ting Tings, but for some reason they won’t let you. Either way, I first found out about this band from one of their songs being featured in an iPod commercial, and I was hooked on Katie White’s vocals. She doesn’t so much sing as talk the lyrics, but there is a raw, just-about-to-lose-control, primal feel to her. You can feel a real underlying set of punk roots in their music, especially towards the end of That’s Not My Name. You can also check out Great DJ for another sample.

I just found out about The Pipettes last night, and unfortunately I’ve learned they already have rotated most of the members due to being a managed band. (i.e. someone came up with the idea and hired singers) Nothing horribly original here, but is fun to harken back to the girl bands of the 1950′s and 60′s. You can also check out Because It’s Not Love(But It’s Still A Feeling), ABC, Judy and Dirty Mind.

Don’t forget, whenever possible, avoid supporting the RIAA by buying used CDs, trading on LaLa, or trying one of the sources I mentioned for free music.

7
Jun
2008

Bono and Paul McGuinnessPaul McGuinness, the long time manager of the super group U2, is up to his antics again.

Back in January of this year, Mr. McGuiness made an infamous speech about how all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should institute a three strike policy for people caught engaging in music piracy on the Internet. As I said in my commentary in the incident, The Music Industry Vs Net Neutrality, Mr. McGuinness has no real understanding of how the Internet works, or what role ISPs play in the system, and his new comments just go on to demonstrate this point again.

In his latest diatribe about the industry, given at the Music Matters conference in Hong Kong, he likened ISPs to “shoplifters” that are “turning their heads” to the troubles of his industry.

“The recorded music industry is in a crisis, and there is crucial help available but not being provided by companies who should be providing that help — not just because it is morally right, but because it is in their commercial interest.”

How is huge investments in new equipment necessary for deep packet inspection “in their commercial interest”? Not to mention the potential violations of Net Neutrality that says all information should be treated equally? Does Mr. McGuinness and his ilk propose to pay for the fines that ISPs will run up against for violating neutrality? I sincerely want to know how any of this “is in their commercial interest”.

He also went on to say:

“Cable operators, ISPs, device manufacturers, P2P software companies — companies that have used music to drive vast revenues from broadband subscriptions and from advertising. They would argue that they have been neutral bystanders to the spectacular devaluation of music. I don’t believe that is true.”

Well, Mr. McGuinness, that’s okay, because I quite frankly don’t believe the ignorance that comes out of your mouth. I would like someone to point me to one advertisement from an ISP that talks about stealing music. I have seen ads about getting music, but they are always talking about commercial subscription programs like Napster, and not about things like BitTorrent theft. What devices is he talking about? And, newsflash for this guru of the Internet, P2P software is generally freeware or shareware, costing the users nothing, those companies are not making money. Yes, tracker sites do run advertising, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Torrent people getting rich.

The thing is, he used the line that “they would argue that they have been neutral bystanders”, and the problem with this is that they would be correct. ISPs are nothing more than a portal to the Internet, they have absolutely nothing to do with what their users are doing. This is like saying that the cable companies are responsible for someone recording a television program that they aren’t supposed to. The scale of his “solutions” are so immense and daunting as to be inconceivable. Every single packet of information transferred would have to be inspected, and that just is not even a remote possibility.  Mr. McGuinness has said many times that he is not looking to turn ISPs in to Internet Police, but really, what else could you call this?  He wants them to monitor our traffic, turn over people they find to be sharing music, if that’s not a cop, I don’t know what is.

Let us take the case of someone like my own family and their Internet connection. My parents have a connection because they want to email friends and family, they want to do online shopping, they want to play games, never once have they said, “You know, son, we got the Internet because we want to steal music!” I think you would find the vast majority of Internet users are similar to my parents, but no, the truth is that ISPs are getting rich from all of these people stealing music, silly me.

music piracyMcGuinness paints the entire Internet industry in extremely broad strokes where we are all on the Web for no other reason than to steal from his clients and the rest of the industry. First of all… get over yourselves, the music business is not only industry in the world, though I think you might have a hard time convincing them of that. If anything, I think some one has planted this bug in McGuinness’ ear that this could be a money spinner for the music industry, and like a dog with a bone, he’s just not going to let it go.

As I have said numerous times before, the music industry has to look inside itself to find their problem. The Internet has become an easy whipping boy for them to conceal that their problems go far deeper than they are saying. Quality has slipped, prices have soared, and yet it is those evil ISPs that have caused all the problems for the industry, and it’s now them making all the money from luring in innocent consumers to a life of piracy.

Something about this whole story intrigues me, though. At the conference, McGuinness really harped on how even ringtones are being stolen over the Internet, and Lachie Rutherford of Warners Music said that 2% of ringtone money goes to the artists, and that has to be protected.

Wow… a -whole- 2%? Excuse me, but who are the thieves again, the line seems to be getting a bit fuzzy for me.  Could this possible be a view into who is really upset about music piracy?  Could it really be the record labels, because, I’m sorry, but 2% of ringtone revenue going to the artists is laughable.  Let us say that the wholesale price of a ringtone is 50%, where are the other 48 percentage points going?

Remember folks, it’s all about protecting the artists… pay no attention to the men in suits behind the curtains.

1
Jun
2008

metallicaIn 2000, Metallica founder Lars Ulrich was one of the biggest names and faces associated with fighting the file-sharing site Napster.  I can vividly remember Lars wheeling a cart load of documents (for obvious photographic effect) up to the doors of Napster, proving who had shared his band’s music through the music site.  He then went on endlessly in interviews about the evils of the Internet, and how people should be ashamed of themselves and on and on and on.

Now it’s 2008, and it seems Lars has woken up to the Internet.

The other day I get an instant message from one of my co-workers at Mashable, Mark Hopkins, alerted me to this story, and he had a feeling it was up my alley for one of my usual rants.  In short, Metallica is releasing their new album via a special website, Mission: Metallica, and it will be DRM-free.  It actually took me a few days of thinking to decide how I felt on this because it is such a turn around from their previous decisions, but I pretty firmly decided it meant they still don’t get it.

First off, by releasing the album as digital downloads at 320 kbps, and DRM-free, essentially the band has guaranteed that the piracy sites will have a field day with this.  They are releasing it at CD quality, without digital locks, how can they not expect this to end up all over the BitTorrent sites?  As soon as one or two people have purchased it, they will unleash it to the trackers, and it will spread like wildfire.

Why should people turn to the torrent sites?  Well, they are charging $12 for the digital version of the album in a day and age when you have bands such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails giving away similiar projects for free.  What does this say about Metallica that not only are they charging, but they are putting a price tag on it above the going rate of $9.99 for the majority of downloadable albums on the sites that do charge?  Metallica has had a strained relationship with their fans since the Napster actions, wouldn’t the goodwill they could have built by a free release have outweighed the profit?

This is also a band that has not released a studio album since 2003, and that was the poorly received St. Anger, which is pretty much an unlistenable mess in my opinion.  This is a band in need of good will, and to make amends with their fans, so they do it by showing themselves as hypocritical by seeming to entice piracy with no digital right management and a seemingly inflated download price?  This whole plan seems like a “fine, we’ll follow the trend, but we’re going to do it on our messed up terms” sort of maneuver.

If it wasn’t a band I used to care about so much, I was a big fan up through 1991′s Metallica, I probably wouldn’t care as much.  I would have shrugged off this story and moved on with my life.  This is a band I would like to see regain some of their former glory, and most of all I want them to actually release an album I like, but this just doesn’t seem to bode well for what is to come.

Nice try guys, when you catch up to 2008, let me know.