Amazing Stories in and of Themselves
By Jason Gross
- Simon Aughton: "Warner Chief Threatens to Scalp i-Tunes" (PC Pro, September 29, 2005)
The sub-title should be "Music industry wants to kill one of its saviors to milk the consumers again." Maybe the next step is for them to sue themselves.
- Carl Bialik: "Mark Cuban on Grokster" (Gelf Magazine, March 29, 2005)
The maverick billionaire is putting some money where his scruples are, fighting against the majors' battle against Peer-to-peer software. How upfront is he about this? "Most of the problems I have are with copyright law and the politicians who get paid to pimp for the studios and labels." Me-ow...
- Scott Cantrell: "Gay composers Penned Signature American Music" (The Dallas Morning News, July 2, 2005)
Aaron Copeland, Virgil Thomson, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein undoubtedly shaped U.S. musical history and it's good to see that they get props, though their patriotic tunes would be more accepted than their own lifestyles. Still, why is Cantrell framing their tonality work against the serialist camp as sexual warfare, with the later being portrayed as homophobes?
- David Casstevens: "Rick Perry, Meet Your Nightmare" (Star-Telegram, January 30, 2005)
Country singer/joker Kinky Friedman runs for Texas governor, not exactly following in the steps of Dubya. His slogans? "I'm a Jew. I'll hire good people." "If I win, I'll demand a recount."
- Carl Chery: "Essence Magazine Takes On Hip-Hop Misogyny" (Daily Hip-Hop News, January 4, 2005)
Long overdue but certainly welcome. Hopefully, other publications, writers and editors will follow suit and not think it's too unhip to do so.
- Scott Donaton: "Turning Game Characters Into On-Air Celebrities" (AdAge, January 03, 2005)
Who are the next video stars? Video game characters of course. Amazing that no one thought of this natural hit before.
- Baz Dreisinger: "Insight vs. Incite" (L.A. Times, July 17, 2005) [Link not available]
Schools need literacy programs, but how about rap literacy where kids who know lyrics by heart are forced to think about what their heroes are saying?
- Cathleen Falsani: "Jesus Is Everywhere--Except Pages of Rolling Stone" (Chicago Sun-Times, January 21, 2005)
Blender is now cooler and edgier than Rolling Stone because they're going to run a quasi-religious ad? What universe is this? But then, they decided to get religion and saw the light: "Rolling Stone reverses, will accept Bible ad."
- Marc Fisher: "You Don't Know Jack? Programmers Aim to Introduce Listeners to an Eclectic New Format" (Washington Post, January 2, 2005)
Nice to see new radio formats creeping up, but who would have thought that the Beatles would become alternative music?
- Bob Gendron: "Sounds Like the Future" (Chicago Tribune, May 1, 2005)
After crowing about the wonderful new DualDisc format, comes this admission: "DualDiscs don't conform to the industry's compact-disc standard and can't be read by all players. Pioneer, Toshiba and Onkyo were among manufacturers to have initially issued warnings against playing DualDiscs, noting that doing so may damage the machine. But the problem isn't widespread, and has been limited to select older players and multidisc changers." Would you want to spend money on one of those discs and then find out that it won't play for you or that it wrecks your player?
- Charlotte Higgins: "Beethoven (1.4m) Beats Bono (20,000) in Battle of the Internet Downloads" (The Guardian, July 21, 2005)
Yes, it's true. Ol' Ludwig Van is the biggest hit in Net music. Who says classical is dead?
- Robert Hilburn: "Pop's Power Elite" (L.A. Times, July 24, 2005) [Link not available]
Why bother going out and buying music when the heads of the major labels are already predicting what's going to mop up the charts for the next few years? That'll definitely save the rest of us a lot of money, right? Hot: Usher, Eminem, Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Beyonce. Not: Britney, rock groups.
- Dave Hoekstra: "Cyril Neville Says No to N'awlins" (Chicago Sun-Times, December 15, 2005)
One of the Big Easy's best known musical families isn't home and may not go home. Cyril bluntly explains, "People thought there was a New Orleans music scene--there wasn't. You worked two times a year: Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. The only musicians I knew who made a living playing music in New Orleans were Kermit Ruffins and Pete Fountain. Everyone else had to have a day job or go on tour. I have worked more in two months in Austin than I worked in two years in New Orleans."
- Bill Holland: "Top Acts Sign Brief Urging P2P Liability" (Billboard, January 28, 2005)
Why are they jumping on the RIAA bandwagon? They don't like the bad PR of suing fans so they want to go after Kazaa instead.
- Xeni Jardin: "Lyrics Dustup Ends in Apology" (Wired, December 16, 2005) [Link not available]
Contrition from the music industry? Must be a mistake, right? Like Dubya, they're not fond of admitting mistakes or worrying about the long-term consequences to their actions. Not to worry, though--they'll right themselves with thousands of more lawsuits against downloaders that will undoubtedly solve all of their problems.
- Leander Kahney: "Hide Your i-Pod, Here Comes Bill" (Wired, February 2, 2005)
What's the prefered digital music player at Microsoft for its employees? Rival i-Pod of course. Microsoft won't comment on the record about this.
- Jamey Keaten: "Music Industry Wants to Put Tunes Everywhere" (Associated Press,
January 24, 2005)
"'It's become a trilogy: Elvis, the Beatles, the i-Pod--that should really be a band in that third spot,' said Dean Hill, an artist manager who runs the Web site www.tourdates.co.uk. 'The next revolution's not in bands anymore, and I find that quite sad.'"
- Keith J. Kelly: "'Hiccups' For Hip-Hop Mag" (New York Post, April 22, 2005)
As the Source faces questionable circulation reports and financial problems, here's how they respond to an inquiry: "He did not return calls because he said you're irrelevant...Our personal finances are none of your business."
- Stephen Labaton: "U.S. Backs Off Relaxing Rules for Big Media" (New York Times, January 28, 2005)
Amazing enough that Michael Powell and company admit defeat in their media consolidation plans but there's got to be an alterior motive, right? "Officials said one reason the administration decided not to seek Supreme Court review was that some lawyers were concerned the case could prompt the justices to review related First Amendment issues in a way that could undermine efforts by the commission to enforce indecency rules against television and radio broadcasters." Translation: 'morals' might trump economics this time. Stay tuned...
- Stephen Labaton: "Under New Chief, F.C.C. Considers Widening Its Reach" (New York Times, March 28, 2005), and Cathy Young: "Religion in Art? Nyet!" (Reason, March 23, 2005)
Censorship in Russia and America aren't looking too different nowadays. Why are we trying to lecture Mr. Putin about free and open societies when he can rightfully ask us why our government is such a bunch of hypocrites?
- Linkin Park: "Linkin Park Opposes Fleecing of Warner Music, Demands Immediate Release" (Yahoo, May 2, 2005)
Their declaration of independence, standing up to the big bad major? Not only that but they also include this parting swipe at the end: "While there are hundreds of bands signed to the WMG roster, the music business is still a hit-driven industry. For example, the delay of just two new releases from EMI acts Coldplay and Gorillaz recently forced EMI to announce to the marketplace that it would be unable to meet its earlier projections."
- The Londonist: "SCOOP--NME Album of the Year" (The Londonist, November 30, 2005) [Link not available]
Now taken off the site, no doubt at the insistence of NME, is this accusation that the music pub cooked its year-end music poll of writers for "commercial and political" reasons. Exact details aren't included, though, as the Londonist reveals: "We will not be publishing the list we referred to and we won't be revealing how we came about that information either." If they're right, it's great exposť journalism, though their caveat doesn't inspire a lot of faith (not that the accusation is inconceivable). In a response article, (Andrew Dickson: "NME Defends Album of Year Poll" (The Guardian, December 2, 2005), the magazine doesn't defend itself very well. "The mechanics are a reflection of NME editorial policy. It's a very fuzzy process. We take a vote in the office; it's quite informal." Hmmm...
- Errol Louis: "One Voice Pushing Rap to Face the Music" (Daily News, May 31, 2005)
While the Source's David Mays isn't the best person to lecture about morals nowadays, Louis know what time it is: "A handful of record labels and radio stations...have deliberately chosen to sell the world a false vision of black America as a bleak, desperate, violent, and immoral place."
- Katherine MacKlem: "A 'Devastated' Leonard Cohen" (Macleans, August 17, 2005)
Oh what a tangled web he's woven...Accusations and threats all leading up to the poet/singer losing millions of dollars of his retirement money.
- Larry McSham: "Howard Stern: I Was Pulled From the Air Over Satellite Dispute" (SF Gate, January 5, 2005)
What horrible thing did Stern talk about that got him yanked from the radio this time? Satellite radio.
- Cosima Marriner: "TV on Mobiles Proves a Turn-off" (The Guardian, November 7, 2005)
Most people have no desire to watch television on mobile phones, preferring to use home computers to watch TV while on the internet, according to new research. Although 65% of British consumers surveyed cite the mobile phone as their most desired gadget, 70% of mobile owners said they did not want to watch television on their phone at all.
- Bill Morelock: "The Waltz King and the Land of Giants" (Minnesota Public Radio, August 9, 2005)
In 1872, Johann Strauss conducted a 20,000 piece orchestra with 100 assistant conductors. No wonder he was horrified by the excesses of America.
- Scott Morrison: "Music Labels Seek Higher Download Prices" (Financial Times/MSNBC, February 28, 2005), and Lloyd Groves: "Kanye Get $ To Do Mags?" (New York Daily News, February 17, 2005)
What's that bible quote from Proverbs about pride and the fall of man...? Kanye would know.
- Joe Muggs: "Should hip-hop take the Rap For Rioting?" (Telegraph, December 8, 2005)
Once again, rap takes a rap for inciting violence, as if nothing else in society precipitates that. This time, it was the Paris riots of the fall. What's truly newsworthy is a biting little twist: "... with an irony that must make the French government wince, the (rap) music gained an incalculable boost from legislation introduced in 1994 to 'protect the French language.' This enforced quotas on all radio stations, obliging them to play at least 40 per cent Francophone music...Laws designed to protect the 'French identity' thus helped create a movement which is now seen as a threat to that identity." Ain't cultural preservation a bitch?
- Tim Parry: "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll 'n' Marketing" (Chief Marketer, October 2005)
The Stones on a soap opera? Don't laugh. Radio and TV don't care about them, so they have to look elsewhere for some recognition. So do Sir Paul and Dylan, for that matter.
- Alex Pham: "For the i-Pod, the Gear Helps the Gadget Turn Heads" (L.A. Times, January 4, 2004) [Link not available]
"Some people would say that the BMW is the ultimate i-Pod accessory." Does that turn Maslow's hierarchy of needs on its head?
- Catherine Philp: "The woman killed For Pop Music" (Times Online, May 20, 2005)
Afghan VJ Shaima Rezayee was murdered supposedly because she presented racy pop videos and spoke with men who weren't her relatives on camera. I'm all for cultural sensitivity but this is completely abhorrent.
- Jube Shiver Jr.: "Test of Decency Rules Likely" (L.A. Times, February 22, 2005) [Link not available]
The media finally fights back at the FCC, demanding that they come clean about what 'obscenity' is.
- Anita Singh: "Swearing Is Just Pathetic, Says Sex Pistol Star" (Scotsman, February 28, 2005), and Unknown Writer: "Megadeth Mainman Refused Ex-Pistols' Guitarist's Sexual Demands" (Roadrunner Records, Feb. 28, 2005).
Which Pistols tale is weirder?
- Ethan Smith And Sarah Mcbride: "Tale of the Tape: Audiophiles Bemoan The End of the Reel" (Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2005)
In a digital universe, the reel-to-reel tape is disappearing and that has purists who covet its aural warmth hoarding what little is left.
- Unknown Writer: "BBC Asks Long-dead Bob Marley for Interview" (Yahoo News/AFP, April 1, 2005)
"A BBC press officer, contacted by AFP in London on Friday, confirmed that the gaffe was not an April Fool's joke." They should find out what he thinks of his recent duet with Biggie.
- Unknown Writer: "Charlatans gig makes 500 fans sick!" (NME, January 25, 2005)
Insert any joke you like here...
- Unknown Writer: "Downloading 'Myths' Challenged" (BBC, July 27, 2005)
You mean that these millions of audio pirates spend up to five times as much as regular consumers? No wonder the industry wants to sue them into poverty.
- Unknown Writer: "Glastonbury to party in silence" (BBC, March 29, 2005)
To keep the neighbors happy, festival participants were fitted with headphones. A communal and a private concert experience at the same time!
- Unknown Writer: "In London, Uninjured Singer Omarion Seeks Prayers" (Yahoo News, July 7, 2005)
After the London Subway bombings, "American R&B crooner Omarion...would like his fans to pray that he has a safe trip and a safe return home. He appreciates your support...He wasn't hurt or anything, but just the fact that he was there and all that." Can we also pray that he shuts up?
- Unknown Writer: "i-Tunes 'Outsells' US Music Stores" (BBC, November 22, 2005)
Tower Records, Sam Goody, and Borders being beat by Steve Jobs? Well, the first two have declared bankruptcy so they're not exactly sharing great company...
- Unknown Writer: "McCartney, Super Bowl Ads Target Of FCC Complaints" (Associated Press, February 9, 2005)
"...Two people complained that McCartney's performance was too boring. Another two found drug references in one of his songs." Those are 30 and 40 year old songs by the way. One wonders how much jail time the former Beatle will face now. Also, if boring drug songs are punishable, will the Dead face consecutive life terms?
- Unknown Writer: "Media With Strongest Influence: Online or Off?" (eMarketer, January 21, 2005)
Believe it or not, it wasn't online that has the biggest pull, though they probably didn't factor in entertainment purchases. And of course you'd have to wonder what would be the result if they did.
- Unknown: "Musicians Tell How to Beat System" (CNN, October 4, 2005)
Not just musicians but also Sony itself is telling consumers how to get around digital copyright protection (which they paid for) on the CDs the public pays for. Sensing a backlash that could effect sales, it's just the ethical thing to do, right?
- Unknown: "Newspaper Problems Featured in Wall Street Transcript Media Issue" (Yahoo! Finance, December 13, 2005)
Amid the gloom and doom about newspapers' decline, Edward Atorino remains bullish: "I think they (newspapers) are going to continue to be a very dominant local medium. Actually, the newspapers are the dominant local medium but they don't get much credit for that--at least not on Wall Street. They have very large market penetration in almost every area across the country, whereas television, radio and cable are highly fragmented...Circulation will stabilize to some degree. By that I mean the recent rate of decline ought to lessen as newspapers cycle through some of the audit bureau issues and the effect of the Do Not Call legislation."
- Unknown Writer: "Online Music Lovers 'Frustrated'" (BBC, April 25, 2005)
Even more than the article, the readers' comments should be very instructive to record companies. "Digital downloads in its present form doomed to failure. High price, poor quality, and DRM restrictions are the main obstacles to mass market. The reason it is popular at the moment is the novelty, and most young people don't care about quality, as long as it is loud enough." And... "The whole concept is ridiculous. Would you really buy a CD that you could only play on one brand of CD player? That you couldn't play in the car as well as at home and in your CD Walkman? A CD that has sound quality comparable to an old cassette tape at best? No, no, no!"
- Unknown Writer: "School Board Bans Band From Performing 'Louie Louie'" (AP, May 5, 2005)
What year is this again? It's nice to see that this song will probably always shock and infuriate each new generation of puritans.
- Unknown Writer: "Sculptor Cancels Ice-Instrument Concert" (AP, February 28, 2005)
"A sculptor who created an entire orchestra of instruments from ice canceled his show at the last minute because he didn't like the sound of the musicians warming up." Did he mean that literally?
- Unknown Writer: "U.S. Sees Growth in CD Sales Market" (BBC, January 6, 2005)
And why is the industry still crying? Some fun facts too. "The CD format still accounts for 98% of the 666 million albums sold, according to research company Nielsen Soundscan." "A total of 140 million digital tracks were legally downloaded last year, equivalent to 14 million albums." "Downloads of whole albums has been calculated at 5.5 million copies."
- Unknown Writer: "Viacom's MTV China Expands, Strikes Mobile Deal" (Reuters, April 27, 2005) [Link not available]
"Eventually, Viacom hoped to export Chinese-produced content and original programs to other countries, Roedy said, noting that producing animated shows in China cost about one-fifth what it did in the United States. 'China is a huge, huge priority for us,' Roedy said." Does that sound like exploitation?
- Alex Veiga: "File-sharing Case Unites Unlikely Allies" (AP, February 28, 2005)
Hollywood wants to stop file sharing because of missed royalties, while religious conservatives object because of the influx of porno on these services. Though they battle together here, rest assured that they'll soon lock horns again over the 'culture wars.' Compare this with another Veiga story: "File-Sharing Case Worries Indie Artists" (My Way/AP, March 25, 2005). While former heroEs like Don Henley, Sheryl Crow, and the Dixie Chicks once battled major labels' slave-like contracts, they now back their P2P lawsuits against home users. Meanwhile, Wilko, Brian Eno, Chuck D, and other enlightened artists see the promotional potential of P2p, even if it isn't major-label approved.
- Jon Wilde: "Inside Story: Great Rock'n'Roll Swindles" (The Independent, August 31, 2005)
Van Morrison, Mark E. Smith, Joe Strummer, Mariah Carey, Miles Davis, Ice Cube, and The Strokes have what in common? Terrible interview responses that no journalist should live through.
- Jay Wrolstad: "Report: Music Fans Still Rely on Familiar Technologies" (toptechnews.com, July 6, 2005)
Despite the growing throngs of i-Pod-toting music fans, most U.S. consumers continue to get their tunes through tried-and-true technologies, according to a recent survey by research firm IDC.
- - - - -
- - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - -
Choose a Section
Awards: Best Writing of the Year
2. Superior Scribing
Awards: Other Great Pieces of Music Journalism
Stories: Great Writing About the Other Arts
4. Amazing Stories in and of Themselves
5. The Ignoble
Prizes: Worst Music Writing of the Year