Listen carefully to the wise words of Ursula Le Guin as she accepts the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards.  What Ms. Le Guin says here is a rallying cry for all artists… Bravo Ms. Le Guin, bravo!


The Brutal 35-Year War Between Sony, Stephen Popovich & Meat Loaf Excerpt From Fredric Dannen’s New Edition of ‘Hit Men’ | Billboard.

Last week Los Angelenos woke up to find the octogenarian owner of the LA Clippers, Donald Sterling, is a racist.  No surprise from a dinosaur born 30 years before the Civil Rights Act was passed into law.  And it doesn’t appear like his 33 years tenure of the team has softened his stance on “the culture we live in“; then again Los Angeles isn’t known for holding it’s elite citizenry accountable for much so please do not expect anything drastic to come from the City of Angels anytime soon…  The only way to get thru to a crusty old fart like Sterling is to hit him where it counts and that’s in the pocket book.  If the LA Clippers and their fans really want to get thru to Sterling, then I’d advise them to stop putting money in his pocket starting today.  As players and coaches, stop and play no more.  As fans stop going to games, stop buying tickets, stop buying merchandise, cancel your season tickets, disengage and sever any ties you might have to Sterling.  I hate to ask this of the players and coaches who deserve their playoff run, unfortunately every time they win they add value to the franchise and that’s all Sterling cares about.

The power of a collective boycott would have massive repercussions on Sterling and he would have no choice but to sell the team.

What can musicians learn from this collective bargaining power?  Look no further than the new edition of Fredric Dannen’s classic music industry book HIT MEN for the best ever written account of how major record labels are run and the insatiable greed of the men who helm them.  The Popovich/Meat Loaf story is but one of so many and while Popovich didn’t live to be properly vindicated, his fight demonstrates you must hit the labels and publishers where it counts – in the pocket book!

The issue of how the money flows out to recording artists & songwriters has long been a sore point and will never be resolved unless the artists and songwriters take a collective position against the lack of transparency and dodgy accounting practices employed by the labels & publishers they’re in business with.  Next time a group of recording artists and songwriters are sitting around the campfire wondering why they’re still living in tents instead of owning their homes, I’d recommend a collective audit session of their business partners.  If the request is met in a particularly hostile manner, then I’d venture to say that their partners are likely cooking the books.  Doubt it…just ask Meat!

No Al Gore didn’t invent the internet, however, some little known Frenchman — Louis Pouzin — played a major role in the birth of the Internet that greatly influenced Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn (the birth fathers of TCP/IP).

What I like most about this Wired magazine article is how it acknowledges “simple” as a prerequisite to the open nature of the world wide web: Without Pouzin’s work on datagrams, plus Cerf & Kahn’s work of course, we wouldn’t have networks capable of freely exchanging information.

What did you set out to do as an artist with a label deal — create? connect?? and collect???  Use to be all you had control over was the creative process, then again that was seriously compromised because of the money you were borrowing from your label to connect with your fans; touring, videos, press & promo junkets, radio promotions, etc. – all of it costs money and you pay for it because of the recoupable clause in your recording agreement.  And forget about collecting the money you earned, you’re entirely at the mercy of the labels, publishers and their PRO cronies (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, Harry Fox, and now SoundExchange) which should explain your paltry royalties.

Record labels are banks today, and the terms of their loans are still as bad as they were years ago. Create on your own time and dime; connect directly with your fans; collect directly from your fans, and their friends, and friends of their friends.  Embrace technology; be digital; create content not just music; speak directly and daily to your fans; give some of it away and it will come back to you tenfold.

Remember this tip from my uncle Pouzin: keep it simple stupid 😉

Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Spotify.  Spotify who? Right, did you spot who’s got my royalty check!

If you’re a recording artist looking for a payout from music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Grooveshark,, MOG, Rdio, iTunes Radio (in the works) and the list goes on — have you heard of Soundhalo, that’s the UK start-up Thom York & Nigel Godrich ditched Spotify for? — and you’ve only now begun to complain about the lack of dollars on your royalties checks, then I’ve got one simple question for you: Where the fuck have you been?

Bye bye Thom and Nigel… What’s that Mr. Lowery (of Camper Van Beethoven & Cracker fame), you don’t like the internet “exploitation economy”?  Come again Pink Floyd, Pandora’s founder TIm Westergren is deceitful because he wants to cut Pandora’s royalty rates!!!

Dave, Roger, Nick WTF you’re Pink Floyd, what’s wrong with you guys? I realize you’re just a tad removed from your progressive heyday but that’s no reason to shit on Westergren because the poor bastard is trying to run a business against entrenched radio titans like Clear Channel and Cumulus, who by-the-way (in case you didn’t know) still do not pay a dime of royalty to the artists performing the songs on their airwaves, let alone to the labels.  Did you know the US is the only industrialized nation that does not have a terrestrial broadcast performance right for sound recordings?  This puts us in the same league as Cuba, Iran and North Korea.  I know you think nothing of charging $1,000+ for a concert ticket today and that it’s because of your demi-god status that Pandora should have split its IPO raise 50/50 with you to justify Pink Floyd’s presence on their service, but c’mon!!!

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) recently took out newspaper advertisements claiming having to pay performers when playing their music is “bad for radio, bad for artists and bad for listeners.”  Pandora’s operating at a loss of $36MM for last year and Spotify has shelled out over $500MM since launch.  So where is all this money from streaming services going if not in your artist pockets?

It’s paying to maintain this broken, antiquated, lardish, myopic industry starting with the labels, who this time said we’re getting paid no matter what, and the artists, well, fuck the artists… we (the labels) working in cahoots with our PRO (Performance Rights Organization) partner, SoundExchange, are going to make sure this piggy gets fed right and first… and the artists, well fuck them!  But the industry failing doesn’t stop with the labels.  If a home purchased by Pandora’s CTO is news, then when are the gluttonous salaries of label, music publisher, and PRO Presidents & CEOs going to be news?  The entire edifice is crumbling because no one wants to change.  ASCAP, BMI & SESAC are supposed to be not-for-profit PROs for crying out loud, at the service of their songwriters & publishers membership, yet their collective enforcement power is clearly in NAB’s pocket and they too like radio programmers must be bought.

Artists, when are you going to start talking about boycotting radio and pulling music from the terrestrial airwaves so you’re finally and fairly compensated by an industry that has been milking you dry, sucking at your teet for decades?  Don’t you see the problem isn’t solely Spotify, or Pandora or any of these other streaming services?  When are you going to ask the labels to provide you with transparent accounting so you can see how much they’re skimming from the top?  When are you going to have the guts to say “Fuck this” and find ways to connect with your fans directly and once-in-for-all disintermediate this flailing music industry instead of sending off lame-ass tweets like “It’s up to streaming providers to come back with a better way of supporting new music producers..” (Nigel Godrich)?  In fairness to Godrich this tweet is part of a series in which he points to the salacious behind the scenes deal making major labels did with Spotify to both own a piece of the company and get more favorable royalty rates, but still.

Until that time, do not complain until you’re actively doing something to personally shake up the status quo, and enjoy the simple fact that your music can now be heard by millions more people because Spotify, Pandora and others are actually carrying it.

extraHoly shitballs, can you believe it?  Lucky 13 has finally hit the music business square in the face as IFPI declares the global music industry up in 2012 by a whopping 0.3% to US $16.5B, the first growth the industry has seen since 1999.  That’s 13 long years!!!

And Clive Davis, CCO of Sony Music Entertainment who turns 81 this year, finally admits to the whole world in his new memoir that he’s gay.  D’oh!  Really?  Oops, sorry bisexual – “To call me anything other than bisexual would be inaccurate.”  You go girl!

And, Doug Morris, the 74 years old CEO of Sony Music, reveals in Bloomberg Businessweek that Steve Jobs called him “a f—ing moron” and why.

But did you know Warner Music Group recorded music division CEO, Lyor Cohen 52, was shitcanned last Fall by WMG CEO Stephen Cooper, age unknown?  Stephen who?  You know, the bald headed corporate turn-around artist who’s a member of the Supervisory Board for LyondellBasell Industries N.V., one of the world’s largest olefins, polyolefins, chemicals and refining companies.  I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

And what’s the 53 years old Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group, been up to?  Well, he bought the EMI Music Group for US$1.9B last Fall and just sold off the Parlophone Label Group to WMG for US$765M and sold the popular music compilation series “Now That’s What I Call Music!” to Sony for about US$60M, turning UMG into the world’s largest music company along the way and confirming my long held belief that the music industry would boil down to 3 major labels.

To help you, artists, better understand the zeitgeist of all this news, let me quote here the exchange between Doug Morris and Steve Jobs pulled from the B-berg bizweek piece:

“Are you a f—ing moron?” Jobs asked.

“How could you say something like that?” Morris asked.

“Because you are going to do the same thing three times over,” Jobs said. “You are going to be the CEO of one of these big stupid companies.”

“Well, I guess that’s what I do, Steve,” Morris said.

“Yeah, well, do it for me,” Jobs persisted. “Come here, and let’s start a digital music company.  These old things will break up, and we’ll buy them for a song.”

There you have it.  This short and embellished soliloquy between Sony Music CEO Doug Morris and dearly departed Steve Jobs is what awaits when you do business with the remaining three major labels – your music, sold for a song!!

Senators Grovel, Embarrass Themselves at Dimon Hearing | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone.

Politics and music don’t mix… with what’s happening on Wall Street and with our financial institutions today being such a charade, every time I read a Matt Taibbi piece in RS that reminds me of the f***ed relationship between our politicians and bankers I am inevitably reminded of the equally f***ed relationship between artists and labels and the shenanigans the labels continue to dish out.

The (New) New Music Seminar was in full swing at Webster Hall in NYC last month.  They held a panel aptly entitled – Music Labels The Businesses Formerly Known as “Record Companies” – with 8 label execs (from both indie & major labels) there to discuss the decline of the record business and rise of the music business.  I’m encouraged, 18 years after the first MP3 files made their way onto the Internet, to see such a distinguished group of label execs finally trumpet the demise of the record business.  Well done guys!  The best statement belongs to Benjy Grinberg, Rostrum Music President, who astutely said “The power is with the artist…” followed by “but the infrastructure and guidance [of a label] is still important.”  Nicely done Benjy, you get it dude!

A label is there to help you do two things – make your music and sell your music.  Most artists today can make music for a fraction of the price, so they’re really only beholden to their label for their marketing & promotional efforts, which comes down to what today:

– album recording budget (100% recouped from artist royalties);

– radio promotion (also 100% recouped from artist royalties);

– video production & promotion (check! 100% recouped from artist royalties too);

– tour support (100% recouped from artist royalties & usually capped with a ceiling);

– licensing (split 50/50, but any money you make here will be used to recoup the above costs so you won’t see any of it unless you actually wrote your own music)!

If you the artist end up paying for most everything, then why do you the artist still continue to give away more than 80% of your ℗erforming Rights to labels with zero guarantees from your labels that they’ll even honor their Recording Agreement with you, let alone actually do any fuckin’ work to market & promote your music?

Why is it that your label keeps the ℗-house after you’ve paid the loan back on it?  No bank in the land treats you this way once your home loan is paid off…  Think artists THINK!  And don’t be scared to go it alone, especially today when there are so many easy and powerful ways to connect with your fans!

Puttnam’s Law and the threat to the American imagination –

“Puttnam’s Law: It is more acceptable to fail in conventional ways than in unconventional ways. And its corollary: The reward for succeeding in unconventional ways is less than the risk of failing in unconventional ways. In short, you can screw up with impunity so long as you screw up like everybody else.” – Neal Gabler, Senior Fellow at the Norman Lear Center at USC

I know you’re out there talented geniuses and music demi-gods, purveyors of sound and taste.  I know how hard it’s gotten for you to be heard, to rise above the morass, the banal, the dull, the lame, the putrid, but I have faith in you…and your fans are waiting.  Then along comes Zya Music to remind us that Matt Serletic and his brother Dean with their Wall Street partners Bo & Terry are going to set the music world aflame with their venture backed start-up Zya Music.  You might remember Matt as the producer of Matchbox Twenty who set the music world on fire, but I remember him as the clueless executive who buried my Virgin Records America company into the ground with the help of his brother.  Not content to stop there, him, baby brother & the Wall Street boyz are now giving us Zya Music and I quote:

I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried!  As a producer friend of mine said when I showed him this stillborn of a website: “This is exactly what the problem is with this generation…no real skills just nonsense.”  Ironically like Puttnam’s Law states, when vultures have nothing left to pull from the carcass of this company, the Serletic brothers will continue to ride their taste makers coattails of yore into the sunset only to meet with another pair of Wall Street dummies to fleece.

And all of this they will be able to do thanks to you foolhardy artists, musicians, songwriters who continue to wreak havoc on our cultural landscape because you unwittingly play into the hand of Puttnam’s Law.  You’ve been warned!