Tag Archives: music

Much Ado About A Grumpy Old Guy


I really wonder what has happened to the world of pop culture when being annoying during a radio interview turns into a big deal.

I watched with amusement this week the absolute outrage over Billy Bob Thornton’s behaviour on a national radio show.

Sure he was childish and uncooperative, the host pissed him off and he made no effort to play nice.

Did he flip the finger ? Did he trash the studio ? Did he throw a chair ? Did he punch anyone out ? No.

He was, everyone seems to think, snarky and rude.


Having produced hundreds of interviews over the years, this is hardly an earth-shattering event. I can’t even begin to count the number of band interviews that were wash-outs, either because the band wasn’t interested in talking, or just thought the host was a dork. Sometimes we aired them just because, but usually, we just tossed them out. I’ve seen fire extinguishers thrown across the room, equipment knocked over, and more than a few worn-out and tired musicians storm out of studio mid-interview.

Petulance ?

That wouldn’t even warm up the tubes.

I don’t think it’s ok to be rude and uncooperative in an interview, but it happens. It’s not a big deal. After all, the music business should be high octane – bristling with echoes of its rebellious heritage. People living on the edge, staying up late, smoking.

Shit happens.

Given the choice between kiss ass, do as your told, smile at the idiot reading his lines across the microphone, and say, being a little snarky – I’ll take the latter any day.

The New Rock Stars and the Demise of Civil Society

The lights went on for me while standing in a long line with my two sons a few weeks ago.

Video games are the new rock stars.

We were standing outside a tiny game store in North Vancouver, hours before the mall opened, to pick up the newest Super Smash Bros game for Wii.

The lineup wasn’t for the chance to buy the game – my oldest son had pre-ordered and paid for the game months earlier. The lineup was simply to pick up the game, as early as possible, on March 9th, the day it was released.


For pretty much the same reasons people my age, who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, lined up outside the record store to get the latest LP by a cool band. I could, and did, spend hours in the local record store, flipping through album after album.

How much things have changed in one generation is striking.

Today, even finding a record store is difficult. In the US alone, 2,700 record stores closed between 2003-2006. Some people are starting to speculate that video games could save the music industry.

US video games sales have jumped 34 percent in February to 1.33 billion dollars. In their heyday, US-wide record sales were roughly 14 billion annually, according to RIAA figures.

In less than three months, Harmonix’s video game Rock Band notched 2.5 million song downloads at around two bucks per — twice as much as a regular iTunes song retail. (Yahoo news)

My kids have never been to a record store. They’ve never used a turntable. They have no idea what a double album is. They don’t even have audio CD’s. Their music is on their iPod – music is just files. But they have a lot more music at hand than I did at their age, and they’re aware of far more bands that I ever was.

What I realized standing in line on March 9th is this: my kids’ relationship to video game is almost identical to my relationship to music growing up in the 60’s ad 70’s.

Recent surveys show that two-thirds of parents are worred about their kids use of video games. One of the big fears parents identify with video games is how long their kids spend playing.

But is this any different than it was in my day ?

When Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More first came out in 1970, I was 13. It was a three record set, and I could listen to it from start to finish, two or three times at a sitting. Years later, I recall my cousin Roland travelling from St. Boniface to visit me in Calgary. For the entire two weeks he stayed with me, he never once left my apartment. He never got to the rockies, never witnessed big sky country, or flirted with any big boned gals. Instead, he sat with headphone on, listening to my advance release copy of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, over and over and over.

My parents were convinced that the music I listened to as a teenager was ushering in the demise of society as we know it.

This wasn’t even a radical position.

Rock music was responsible for teen pregnancy, vandalism, the F word, the decline of morals in general, and mine in particular. For a while, I stored a couple of crates of records that one of my friends wasn’t allowed to have in his house. His parents banned them from sight, fearing his imminent moral decay at the site of a big breasted woman on the cover of a Santana album.

Instead of realizing that artists were reflecting the world the saw around them, many parents were convinced that lyrics, album art and ‘subliminal messages’ were leading us all into chaos.

But how about a quick reality check.

What was the lasting impact of all those artists who were intent on leading us on an irrevocable march into depravity ?

This is a list of the top 10 selling artists the year I graduated high-school, 1974.

  1. Barbara Streisand
  2. Terry Jacks
  3. Ray Stevens
  4. Paul Anka
  5. Grand Funk Railroad
  6. Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods
  7. Carl Douglas
  8. MFSB
  9. Billy Swan
  10. John Denver

(source: Joel’s Whitburn’s Pop Annual – data from Billboard magazine)

These are the people my parents and all their friends feared would ruin my generation ?

I suspect that in 35 years, when we look back at the rock stars of the day – the video games – we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

(cross posted to my blog at At Large Media)

Free Music Might Just Save the Music Industry


For years artists and industry observers have been suggesting that the only way the music industry as we know it will survive is to completely reinvent itself.

To date, reinvention hasn’t seemed particularly high on the list for major record labels. Mostly they’ve blamed their problems on their customers – chasing down peer-to-peer music sharers and sending teams of lawyers after music fans.

A report from this year’s MIDEM conference indicates there may be some changes coming. MIDEM is the industry’s largest and most influential trade show – and while it doesn’t get the kind of media attention it used to get in the pre-Consumer Electronics Show era – it’s the place where the most powerful people in the music industry gather to cook deals over cigars and cocktails.

As The Guardian reports, this year’s show is buzzing with the idea of saving the music industry by giving music away…

Now a host of new services, with the backing of major labels, are promising to revolutionise how music is distributed by offering millions of tracks, from much-hyped wannabes to established acts such as U2, for nothing.

Competing for attention at the Midem trade show, the services promise a global jukebox, paying for the free music by attracting advertising. Meanwhile, some acts are queueing up to swap their deals with labels for agreements with big advertisers which would further blur the line between bands and brands.

The move into a free service is a sea change for an industry which spent years fighting through the courts with companies offering free internet downloading and sharing of songs. full story here

This idea isn’t exactly new – almost all of us are using free services on the internet that are funded by advertising in one form or another. But go back a few decades and you’ll fine one of the most successful examples of this model – one that endures today.

It’s called radio.

Not only do record companies let radio stations use their music for free, they have entire teams dedicated to ‘serving’ those radio stations with the latest releases, arranging interviews with their artists, and often offering every type of legal incentive they can think of.

I personally know quite a few people who have massive music collections in their homes, provided gratis to them by the record industry, all in hopes of those same people playing their songs on the radio. These same people have been wined and dined for years, given free tickets to concerts, and flooded with music industry merchandise. I also know many people, recipients of these freebies, who augmented their incomes by selling the stuff to used record stores and other collectors, and aside from a few harsh words, the labels never kicked up a fuss. And why would they ?

By giving radio stations music for free, the music industry gains huge benefits. Their music ges ‘distributed’ over the air, people hear it, want it, and buy CD’s, concert tickets and go to live shows because of it.

What’s worked in one industry for the last 50 years will certainly work in this new industry, assuming the record companies adjust their business model to match what’s possible in this technology era. They’ve been actively fighting it for over ten years – and we all know what that’s accomplished. Now it’s time to get with the program – be brave and creative in doing their jobs – so they can reap the benefits for the next 50 years.

And if they need any help, just give me a call.