General Industry Opinion

Dave Douglas Releases Live Sets Virtually in Real Time

Dave Douglas is doing something I really like and expect to see a lot more of in the future from other artists. That is, releasing live recordings within hours of their performance.

Sure, you still have to buy them, but these “real time” live albums seem to be all the rage. It’s great for the artist, who can get his material out to a wide audience and maybe make a few bucks, and it is great for the fan, who can experience the shows they missed.

Scott Amendola has announced he’s doing the same, and the folks at Open Ears Music post whole shows of top-notch improv. And it’s free, not just in style but also in price.

These examples are only scratching the surface. The next generation of musicians will have the ability to record and release virtually every performance of their entire careers. Will the plethora of options make one’s ongoing search for great music easier or more difficult?

Time will tell.

General Industry

Pepsi Claims Jazz, Issues Cease and Desist Orders

Shocking News about trademark lawyers running amok!! Call your representative today!

PepsiCo, the world’s second largest soft drink company, has claimed trademark protection on the word “Jazz” and has issued cease and desist orders to anyone currently using the word other than in reference to their diet cola product of that name.

PS: Consider today’s date.


The Internet Saves Classical Music

It is no secret that classical is hot on the Internet. This seems to be one of those, “if you build it, they will come” situations.

Visit the Web and you’ll find thousands of classical musicians, critics and fans chattering away in a rapidly expanding classical blogosphere. Internet radio also is streaming performances from major opera companies, orchestras and concert halls. And perhaps most surprising, the Web is fueling a mini-boom in the classical recording industry.

Sales at ArkivMusic, an online classical CD emporium, rose 30 percent in 2007, an astounding figure considering that CD sales in general were down more than 15 percent in the United States last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Classical downloads likewise have been brisk. At eMusic, the world’s second-largest digital music service after iTunes, classical music now represents 12 percent of its overall European sales, and its business in the U.S. is not far behind. That’s a big increase for a genre that rarely made up more than 2 or 3 percent of total sales in record stores.

The Internet, of course, is no miracle cure. Past technological innovations – from the Edison cylinder and the LP to the compact disc – also were hailed as classical music saviors. Once the novelty wore off, the genre usually found itself back in the margins.

But on the Internet, being a marginal or niche interest isn’t necessarily bad.

“What the Internet has done is fragment the entire music and entertainment industry, so in the future, I don’t think we’re going to see as many Michael Jackson-like mega acts,” said Douglas McLennan, founder of the online periodical ArtsJournal and an expert on Web-based arts culture. “On the Internet, everything is a niche, and in that kind of environment, classical music is one of the bigger niches.”

The Internet has fragmented the music world, but it also has opened opportunities for ordinary musicians.

A quarter-century ago, only superstar artists could get recording contracts. Now a musician like Wolcott can record and market his own CDs, since the Internet gives him direct access to the public. Wolcott is selling a locally produced album of children’s lullabies, “Stardust,” on his MySpace page.

General Industry

Brooklyn Alternative Bands

Brooklyn is all the rave these days. An article discusses just of a few of the many innovators coming from the new new music mecca.

To name just a few stars of the class of Brooklyn ’08: Battles, specializing in devilishly convoluted yet playful grooves; Dirty Projectors, led by a Yale music dropout equally virtuosic at punk guitar and classical orchestration; Grizzly Bear, with its layers of haunting, psychedelic harmonies; High Places, a primitivist male-female duo; the punishingly noisy Psychic Ills; Gang Gang Dance, with its polyglot sound collages; and Dragons of Zynth, who borrow some of the swirling atmospherics and cutting post-punk guitars of their mentors, TV on the Radio.

General Industry Reviews

Bang on a Can All-Stars Uses Donation / Commission Model

A review of Bang on a Can’s recent New York performance is available. WHat is interesting to me is that they purport to use a donation / commission model, something I wish more organizations would try.

Bang on a Can’s People’s Commissioning Fund is a lovely idea. Concertgoers contribute whatever they can afford, and Bang on a Can, the new-music organization, commissions a few new works, usually from young composers. The scores are played by the Bang on a Can All-Stars at an annual concert and recorded for broadcast on WNYC-FM.

That’s the theory, anyway, and it’s mostly what happens. But the fine print in the program book shows that the grass-roots ideal is not easily reached. After the long list of contributors, the Greenwall Foundation and the Jerome Foundation are also thanked for their support. Not that there’s any shame in that; it always seemed unlikely that a few hundred small contributions could yield decent commissioning fees.

This year’s crop — works by Tristan Perich, Erdem Helvacioglu and Ken Thomson — were performed on Wednesday evening at Merkin Concert Hall.


Copying CDs could be made legal in the UK

The BBC reports that common sense may reign in the land of fish and chips.

Millions of people already “rip” discs to their computers and move the files to MP3 players, although the process is technically against copyright law.

Intellectual property minister Lord Triesman said the law should be changed so it “keeps up with the times”.

Music industry bodies gave a cautious welcome to the proposals, which are up for public consultation until 8 April.

The changes would apply only to people copying music for personal use – meaning multiple copying and internet file-sharing would still be banned.

Owners would not be allowed to sell or give away their original discs once they had made a copy.


China: the future of free?

Chris Anderson talks about the economics of music in China, and how it may be a hint of how musicians will distribute music and make money in the future.

The Chinese music industry is at the cutting edge of finding ways to make money in every way other than the sale of songs, since the traditional process of selling music as a product (certainly CDs) is considered pretty much of a lost cause.

Industry Releases

Deutsche Grammophon Launches DRM-Free Online MP3 Store

This, of course, is good news, as many out of print recordings can now be downloaded. Their prices are a bit high, but it is a step in the right direction. Quite a number of modern classical releases are included.


Hell Freezes Over: Warner Music Claims iTunes is Digital Music Done Right

Big labels are finally getting it. DRM is bad. Online music is good. Reasonable pricing is good. Changing business models to adapt to the times is good. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Talk about a 180. After months of complaining about Apple’s “indecent” iTunes pricing model, Warner Music Group appears to have had a complete change of heart. On Wednesday, the label actually praised the iTunes store, calling it a prime example of digital music done right, according to MacNN.

“You need to look no further than Apple’s iPhone to see how fast brilliantly written software presented on a beautifully designed device with a spectacular user interface will throw all the accepted notions about pricing, billing platforms and brand loyalty right out the window, said Warner Music Group chairman and CEO Edgar Bronfman.

Considering that quote sounds like it could have come from Cupertino itself, that’s some spectacular brown-nosing for a music exec.


Sued for Sharing Music

By now everyone has probably heard of the Minnesota case where a woman who shared music files was found guilty and fined over $200,000. Perhaps more telling is the reaction posted in blog comments at the New York Times.