Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Today seemed to be a music day on the web. There's been a lot of focus in the media recently about the legal squabbles between the recording industry and file sharing services, and about digital copyrights. Maybe law plays too large a part in art and entertainment these days. While I was surfing around the web, I came across a number of articles about art and music. The first one is about a program which benefits the arts, and which many perceive to be in danger. It's such a beautiful recognition of what artistic endeavors bring to our society, that I hope it survives:

construction supporting art
I had never heard of Philadelphia's "Percent for Art" initiative, but it sounds like a good idea to me. Unfortunately, it's now facing a challenge. The program has developers within the City using one percent of their construction budget for public art. An exemption has been asked for by the developer of a multimillion-dollar riverfront apartment high-rise. If granted, many are fearful that others will try to skirt around this program, which has been in place for the last forty years and is responsible for making Philadelphia a very interesting looking city. I frequently wondered why there were so many statues and murals in the City of Brotherly Love. Now I know.

I wish more cities would adopt a program like "Percent for Art."

spending billions to make a million worldwide
An article in Billboard Magazine reports that over four billion dollars have been spent by online music providers to see a return of almost one million dollars worldwide, in an article entitled The Music Industry's Web Of Intrigue. An interesting perspective in this rant that takes the recording industry to task for their shortsighted practices:
Recent studies show that even hardcore fans have scant knowledge of the latest releases by established acts. The satisfactions of album-length releases have been systematically obscured in the marketplace by limited public exposure on either radio or TV. Many of the songs receiving the most aggressive pushes are designed to appeal to the prurient interests of nominal/cursory listeners. Such tacky sideshows rarely translate into a stable consumer base.

small screen music sales
And what music is being advertised on the radio and television? Pop Music's New Creed: Buy a TV Commercial, from the Washington Post, is about the appearance of two types of advertisement on television, and it blurs the line between the two without making much of a distinction between them. It does make some thoughtful observations.

A number of acts have turned to TV to advertise their music, including Bob Dylan, and Creed. A popular place to see the ads are during primetime shows like WWF Smackdown. Creed's marketing plan seems to take a clue from the marketing magic of Boxcar Willie, complete with a toll free number.

Another place where music is showing up is as background music in ads for products and services, which can be a risky proposition. The small screen can end your career, as it seemed to do for MC Hammer (Burger King), or it can bring you sales, as it did for Rufus Wainwright (The Gap) and Sting (Jaguar). A volkswagon ad brought Nick Drake back to the public's attention years after his tragic death. And when I see BB King in a Burger King ad, all I can think about is that he is getting well deserved recognition and a payday for years of hard work, rather than seeing him as selling out to corporate interests.

pirate radio
Some interesting going-ons in the world of small band broadcasting and the courts.
Pirate broadcasters get a boost from free-speech ruling
as a federal court made a ruling last month that may return the rights of some people to start broadcasting again.
Microbroadcasters -- a diverse assortment of community groups, churches, music lovers, students, political dissidents and eccentrics -- were driven underground in 1978 when the FCC stopped licensing them and set a 100-watt minimum for most stations.

The FCC's position was upheld in court but came under increasing attack as giant media companies gained control of most of the commercial airwaves. In January 2000, the commission passed new rules authorizing a limited number of noncommercial FM stations of 10 to 100 watts, with a range of one mile to a few miles. Former pirates could apply only if they had shut down when ordered to do so.
The federal appeals court ruling overturned a provision of the laws governing small band broadcasting that limited access, and denied it to those who had continued to carry on as pirates.

james carter, where art thou?
Sometimes in our deepest, darkest moments, something good happens. In James Carter's case, it was his singing "Po Lazurus" while working on a chain gang in 1959, and being recorded by Alan Lomax. Now, almost half a century later, his voice appears on a record that is outselling "the latest records from Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey." Mr. Carter was part of that large crowd that took the stage at the Grammys last week when "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" was announced as the Album of the Year. Congratulations, James Carter.

goodbye sheet music?
Harry Connick, Jr., received a patent (ny times - registration req'd) for a computerized: "system and method for coordinating music display among players in an orchestra."
In fact, Mr. Connick approached Apple Computer (news/quote) about helping him develop the system.

"I love their products and I thought for sure they would go for it," he said. "They put up a lot of `Think Different' posters and I sure think different. But they weren't interested."

On the day his patent was issued, Mr. Connick said, his wife, Jill Goodacre, a former Victoria's Secret model, asked him if he was proud of himself.

"I said not really," Mr. Connick recalled. "It's not like I invented Velcro or anything."

sony and filesharing
Something that may be a good sign for the recording industry: Sony Licenses Music for Song-Swapping CenterSpan
CenterSpan Communications Corp. CSCC.O on Thursday said it struck a deal to distribute Sony Music Entertainment's music on its peer-to-peer service, marking the first time a major record label has licensed its content to a file-sharing company.
I haven't looked at the CenterSpan service yet, but it might be worth taking a peek at.

other opinions regarding music
I came across the neumu site tonight, and it looks like it's filled with some interesting observations regarding modern music. They appear to be just as happy discussing the artistic merits of albums recorded on home boomboxes for fifty dollars as they do new major label releases. One article that caught my eye was It's no surprise major-label music sales are down - the music sucks! The site is filled with some solid writing on music; well worth a visit.

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