20 Feet From Stardom

Watched 20 Feet From Stardom last night. I don’t want to be one of those “spoilers”, so for those of you who haven’t seen the documentary, I’m going to be somewhat vague in this post.

First off, it’s a really good documentary. Lots of insights into the world of professional background singing and the music industry in general. And probably more importantly, the film looks deeply into the human, emotional challenges of playing a supporting role. There’s also some thoughtful comments from established artists like Sting, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Bette Midler.

Many of the background singers showcased in this documentary have strong ties to gospel music. Their early musical training in the church clearly worked wonders as many of the singers could (and can) move easily between a wide variety of genres. What was interesting in the documentary was how many of the background singers had not only the ability sing in a supporting role, but could just as easily step out and take the lead.

And this is what 20 Feet From Stardom is really all about. Why does one artist become a “star” and another ends up cleaning houses for a living. Or teaching Spanish. Or singing background. The film touches on a variety of reasons and I think they’re mostly spot on. Some singers get sideswiped by business. It’s no secret that the music industry has its fair share of weasels. Some singers don’t have that centre of attention, look at me thing. And some singers don’t have a distinct point of view. They like blending with other singers and a band and are happy in that role.

20 Feet From Stardom is a good film. Go and check it out!

GROOVESHARK IS DEAD – AND FINALLY SAYS SORRY TO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY (MUSIC BUSINESS WORLDWIDE)

GROOVESHARK IS DEAD – AND FINALLY SAYS SORRY TO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY (MUSIC BUSINESS WORLDWIDE)

One more illegal service down.  The $75 million penalty for any future infringements of the majors music is a nice touch. Not sure what Grooveshark’s founder were thinking when they didn’t secure the proper licenses for the music they were using.  They say they support music and artists in general and then go ahead and not pay for most of the music in their library.

GOOGLE, AMAZON AND PANDORA JOIN FORCES TO FIGHT MUSIC INDUSTRY OVER ROYALTY RATES

GOOGLE, AMAZON AND PANDORA JOIN FORCES TO FIGHT MUSIC INDUSTRY OVER ROYALTY RATES

I suppose this is to be expected. What business doesn’t try to lower their input costs?

In the article several people have some very strong words for the MIC coalition and I mostly agree with the comments. It seems obvious, and it’s been said many times before, that artists need to be paid for their work. What’s also obvious is that great big publicly traded companies who are always trying to push costs down and push up their stock price, ideally want to pay zilch for the content they piggy back on. I have no idea how all of this will play out, but as an artist, I sure do hope that recorded music doesn’t end up going to zero.

The Man Who Broke the Music Business – The dawn of online piracy (by Stephen Witt/The New Yorker)

The Man Who Broke the Music Business – The dawn of online piracy (by Stephen Witt/The New Yorker)

Brilliant article.  Music piracy is complex and the author dealt with the layered issues beautifully. Of course, greed is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about piracy.  And certainly the players in this article all had varying degrees of want.  Either simply wanting something for nothing or wanting to be paid for stuff they had no business getting paid for.

What I hadn’t considered before was the social, one-upmanship of the early days of piracy – pirates competing for bragging rights. Certainly Dell Glover and his RNC pirate group at least had that, having leaked over 20,000 albums.

Around 1980, I had a summer job working for Cinram. At the time they made cassettes and LPs. Maybe they still do. One of my most excellent duties was to grind up LPs that were either damaged or overruns. I would punch out the centre of the record on this one machine and then take the now donut shaped records over to a grinder and well, grind them up. The ground up vinyl would then be taken back to the record presses and be used for new LPs. There really was no check on how many records I would grind up.

So Glover’s account of how he took CDs before they hit the grinder definitely hit home with me. Looking back on it, I could see how, if I was a nefarious sort, I could have taken records, made cassette copies of them and sold them as bootlegs.  Luckily, I’m pure as the wind driven snow.

The other thing that hit me was piracy is not unstoppable. People were willing to pay for the bootleg CDs that Glover made. They just either wanted the CD before the general public (exclusivity) or they didn’t want to pay the going retail rate (price). I think we’re seeing smart companies starting to address both of these points.

AFM Sues Warner Bros, MGM, Paramount Over Film Scores

AFM Sues Warner Bros, MGM, Paramount Over Film Scores (Billboard)

Good for the AFM. In looking at the full complaint, it seems that these films were either scored in Great Britain, Papau New Guinea or Australia. It also seems that that breaches the AFM collective bargaining agreement. There are, of course, great musicians in countries outside of the United States and Canada, but my guess is that’s not why Warner, MGM and Paramount decided to move the recording location. It rhymes with frost.

Will Toronto ever truly be a “Music City”?

Will Toronto ever truly be a “Music City”? (by Aubrey Jax/blogTO)

Maybe.  Right now Toronto is a condo city, not a music city.  As seen in other cities around the world, condo development pushes music and the arts out.  Still, even though it seems unclear to me exactly what the city is doing to support music industry growth, at least they’re doing something.

Change to copyright law in federal budget ‘a really bad idea’ as critics worry about threat to artistic freedom

Change to copyright law in federal budget ‘a really bad idea’ as critics worry about threat to artistic freedom

I don’t agree with many things the Conservatives do, but the extending of the copyright term in Canada makes total sense to me. Equalizing the term length with the US and other countries is going to make things more transparent and ultimately better for content creators.

Op-Ed: SoundExchange CEO Michael Huppe Says the Time Has Come for ‘Fair Trade’ Music

Complex topic, but there should be some kind of leveling of rates. Does the delivery system matter (Internet, FM, satellite, etc.)? To me it doesn’t, so why should there be different rates?

Op-Ed: SoundExchange CEO Michael Huppe Says the Time Has Come for ‘Fair Trade’ Music