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Archive for September, 2007

-EaglesLongRoadOutOfEdenAfter almost thirty years, my favorite band of all time, The Eagles, have recorded a new album entitled Long Road out of Eden, which features the single “How Long.”  The song is climbing the Billboard country chart and currently resides at No. 26.  The new single was originally written and recorded by J.D. Souther in 1972 on his self-titled album,  Long Road is scheduled for release on October 30, 2007, exclusively through Wal-Mart and online at musictoday.com.  To quote another seventies powerhouse band, Led Zepplin, it’s been a long time, been a long time. . . .

In connection with the success of the band’s single on country music radio, The Eagles are slated to perform during the 41st Annual Country Music Association Awards airing Wednesday, November 7 on ABC at 7 p.m. CST.  The awards show, back in Nashville after a controversial hiatus in New York. The band is also premiering at the new Nokia Theater L.A. Live with the Dixie Chicks on October 18 and 20.

The Eagles’ country-flavored rock style has always appealed to country audiences, as witnessed by the fact that one of their notable hits, “Lyin’ Eyes” reached No. 8 on the country charts in 1975.  Don Henley has recorded in Nashville, and was nominated for a CMA award in 1992 for his duet with Trisha Yearwood on the song “Walkaway Joe.” In addition, a 1994 tribute album, “Common Thread: The Songs of The EEagles2agles,” won CMA album of the year.

The Eagles in their various configurations have sold more than 120 million albums worldwide, earning five No. 1 U.S. singles and four Grammy Awards. Their “Greatest Hits 1971-1975” is the best-selling album of all time, exceeding sales of 29 million units.  In 1999, RIAA honored the album as the The Best Selling Album of the Century.  Their album, Hotel California, has sold over 16 million units since its release in 1976.

The Eagles currently consists of Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmit, who replaced Randy Meisner after the blockbuster Hotel California album.  Other past members of the band include Bernie Leadon, one of the original members from 1971–1975, and Don Felder, from 1974–1980.

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RIAA

Although the Recording Industry Association of America started going after individual litigants in 2004, no case has yet to go to trial in front of a judge or jury.  This is about to change.

Since 2004, tens of thousands of claims have been filed by the RIAA.  By now, everyone understands the strategy.  The RIAA’s investigators determine that a certain IP address has been used to download and/or upload musical compositions via Kaaza or a similar P2P network.  A Federal lawsuit is then filed under a “John Doe” in order to subpoena the records of the Internet service provider, which is easily determined by the IP address.  Since the ISP has immunity from suit, it usually complies willinginly.  Of course, in some case, the ISP is a college or university and, in some case, the privacy rights of the students have trumped the rights of RIAA and the subpoenas have been quashed, but that’s a different story and I’m getting off subject. 

Once the user’s name is subpoenaed from the ISP, the RIAA begins the process of intimidation.  Letters are forwarded to the various parties stating that a settlement can be reached.  The first offer to the offending party is usually somewhere in the neighborhood of $3000 to $5000 dollars, depending upon the perceived severity of the infringement.  This number is, coincidentally, about what a typical retainer would cost for a good lawyer.  Although I’m not exactly sure of the exact percentage, the greatest percentage of these claims get settled with the individuals and their families.

Now, to say this methodology is controversial is an understatement.  The RIAA is relentless in its pursuit of these infringers.  Rather than teaching a valuable lesson, the recording industry’s methods have aliented and offended the great majority of Americans.  While I agree that songwriters, artists and distributors of musical product are entitled to their rightful compensation for the use of their copyrights, I do not agree with the aggregious methods of the RIAA.

Now, If all goes well, next Thesday, October 2, 2007, the case of Virgin Records, et al. v. Jammie Thomas, Case No. 06–cv-1497, will go to trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.   For the first time, I have a strong suspicions that the methodologies of the RIAA, not so much the infringement of the defendant, will be what stand trial.

Ms. Thomas, like so many other victims of the RIAA dragnet, steadfastly maintains that she has never used Kaaza or any other P2P network.  Of course, those of us who know a smidgen or two about computers know that there can be, quite literally, hundreds of devices behind a single IP address.  The RIAA’s lawyers will have a very difficult time, in my opinion, connecting the dots from the IP address “maintained” by Ms. Thomas, and the actual infringing computer.

One other issue that will arise in this case in particular, and likely in future cases as well, is the issue of ownership of the copyrights.  Since literally thousands of songs are involved, it will be a monumental task to trace the chain of ownership to the plaintiffs in order to show standing.  I don’t envy the Plaintiffs’ lawyers.  If the plaitniffs cannot prove ownership, it might be posssible for Thomas to be awarded attorneys fees.

It is not, again in my humble opinion, in the best interest of the RIAA for this case to go to trial.  If they go to trial and lose on some of these issues, the precedential effect would be tremendously devasting for their cause.  I would be surprised to see the case in the courtroom next week, but I’ll certiainly keep you posted.

For further reading:

Ars technica; Recording Industry vs The People; Slashdot

 

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Radiance

 

 

 

Florida businessmen, David Lowman, Bobby Land, and William Whitacre have announced the establishment of Radiance Records, a new independent country record label. 

Lowman’s music industry experience includes fifteen years as a recording and performing artist.  Land grew up in Tennessee, graduated from Belmont University, and was signed as an artist with Hickory Records in Nashville before going on to become a producer.  William Whitacre is an entertainment attorney based at Universal Studios in Orlando.  His client list includes film, television, and record producers, artists, and Internet/multimedia clients. Whitacre launched Cheetah Records and has produced films starring Ernest Borgnine, Mickey Rooney, and Danny Glover. 
 
Mr. Lowman is serving as Radiance’s president, alongside music business veteran Billy Holland, who will be the general manager.  Land will act as vice president of the label.
 
Holland’s background includes development and management of sales territories for Fortune 500 and Global 1,000 companies including Simplex/Tyco and Minolta Corp.  Most recently, Holland was Executive Vice President of Cupit Records.  
 
“I am thrilled and excited to be part of Radiance Records.  I look forward to many great things to come,” Holland said.


The first act signed to the new label is BlackHawk, a country music band from the 80’s known for such hits as “Goodbye Says It All” and “Postmarked Birmingham.”  The group includes original members Henry Paul and Dave Robbins.  They have just completed work on their new album with Nashville-based producer Dale Oliver which is set for release in 2008.


Lowman and Land formed Radiance Records to take advantage of current opportunities for independent labels.  Lowman noted ,”We feel the time is right for another aggressive independent label to make its mark in the country music format.  We’re really excited to be involved with Country music, and especially thrilled to be starting off with a proven hit-maker act like BlackHawk.”


The label’s offices are located at 38 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203.  The telephone number is 615-255-8404.  For more information about Radiance Nashville, please visit www.RadianceNashville.com

 

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Story.mp3Law on the Row used to be a periodic newsletter in the physical world that I would send to my clients and mailing list.  In the first edition of Law on the Row, published September 9, 1999, I published an article on digital downloading entitled “To MP3 or not to MP3?  The catalyst for a paradigm shift in the recording industry.”  That article was a harbinger of the paradigm which is still melding in the music industry even now.  The focus of this blog is where are we now?

There is a lot of discussion on the web and in the print press these days about the overall health of the music industry, including an article entitled “What’s the future of the music industry” published just last week in the New York Times.  The article points out the Nielson statistics for albums sales which indicate that sales have fallen 18% from 2000 to 2006.  Certainly, everyone in the music industry appreciates the downturn in sales, however, as the article also points outs, sales in other industries are also proportionately down , such as new cars which have declined 22% over the same time period.  Also, downturns in the music industry are certainly not atypical, and the digital download phenomenon is not the culprit of our current downturn.

I have always believed, as I still do, that people are essentially honest and want to pay for things they enjoy.  I believe that people do not mind paying for something of value, including music!  The success of iTunes, emusic.com, and all of the Russian download sites are indicators of the validity of my belief.  Yes, there is illegal activity.   Inevitably there will be people who abuse the system and will seek to get something for nothing.  But the average person just wants value.

I support the artists and songwriter’s rights to be paid for their time.  I even believe that a record label should recieve financial remuneration, even profit, for the marketing, promotion and distribution efforts involved.  The simple fact is that people will not work if they do not get paid.  If people stop getting paid for music, music as an industry will cease to exist.

Returning to the idea of value for effort, the author the NYT article reminisces about the historical “single,” an idea which deserves some consideration.  I remember going to a record store and looking at all of the singles displayed on the wall and picking one or two of my favorites.  The beauty of that system was that you got value for your money — you selected the music you for which you were paying.  In contract, with the industry’s current “record album” paradigm, you have to pay for 8–9 songs for which you don’t care.  Credit digital downloading for bringing back the “single” paradigm. 

But again, people want value even for this paradigm.  Most people I talk to insist that 99 cents for a single may be too much money.  Most people feel that somthing along the lines of 25–40 cents is an appropriate price point.  So, in essence, in considering everyone’s interest, including the songwriter, publisher, distributor (and/or record label) and artist, the question become how much are people willing to pay for a digital single to compensate the varying parties for their considerable effort.

The second component, in my opinion, of value for my money is DRM-free music.  People want their music to be free of any restrictions.  Any form of digital rights management has to be incorporated into this new paradigm.  Finally, selection is imperative.  People want variety.  Apple has only around 500,000 or so songs in their current catalog.  This may seem sufficient until you realize that peer-to-peer networks generate catalogs in the millions!

So, how will the new paradigm work?  The Electronic Frontier Foundation proposes voluntary collective licensing, which is to say that “the music industry forms a collecting society, which then offers file-sharing music fans the opportunity to “get legit” in exchange for a reasonable regular payment, say $5 per month.”  This is, of course, similar to the current method of collecting performance royalties by such giants as BMI, ASCAP and SESAC, as well as a multitude of foreign performance rights organizations. 

The collective licensing system is certainly a valid model, however, there are some disadvantages to consider:  first, with the risk of overgeneralizing, I note that these models typically favor, again, the players with the most power, i.e., the mega-conglomerates – not the independent artists and songwriters.  Secondly, the subscription method favors the supplier, not the demand.  Like most consumers, I personally do not like the “subscription-based” model.  I don’t like being obligated to a monthly fee, even if I can cancel it.  I want an ad hoc pay-as-you-go system — more like iTunes and less like eMusic. 

My personal prediction of how the new music paradigm might shake out is dependent upon the efficiency of search engines and indices on the Internet.  As the online community of music lovers grows, so does the online community of music providers.  Independent producers can sieze the day in many ways.  Myspace.com is evidence of this phenomenon.  but as anyone will tell you, the old addage of “build a better mousetrap” does not apply in the online world.  It less like looking for needle in a haystack and more like trying to find a dime on the ocean floor. 

There are certainly headways being made in this arena:  take the free Internet radio service, Pandora, as an example.  At this innovative site, people find new music similar to the music being played by Pandora’s web-based radio that is based on their selection of favorite music.   Another innovative search site is LivePlasma, which displays a graphical sytem of color-coded bubbles that are more or less related to your favorite artists.  As more of these types of search engines become available and intergrated into the Web, it will be easier for independent artists and producers to get their music heard.   For a much more detailed analysis of this idea, read Chris Anderson’s important book, The Long TailOnce that happens, the paradigm shift from major labels to independents will be complete.

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Eddie Haskell Sues SAG

Althought not particularly related to Music Row or the music industry in general, I find this little tidbit of news interesting, if not a bit entertaining, and I wanted to share it.

EddieThe Associated Press reported yesterday that Ken Osmond, the actor who portrayed Eddie Haskell in the sitcom “Leave It to Beaver,” has filed suit agaisnt the Screen Actors Guild.

The class-action lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of over 30,000 actors. It accuses SAG of unjust enrichment and violations of California’s business code, and alleges that the union is sitting on $8.1 million that it collected from foreign royalties and should distribute to actors.

The suit alleges that since 1996, SAG collected foreign royalties for use of TV and movie productions in the form of levies for video rentals, private copying, cable transmissions, among other things, for which it has not accounted. It further contends that the guild has collected more than $8 million but paid out only about $250,000.

Osmond played the contrite and smug Eddie Haskell on “Leave It To Beaver” in the 1950s and 1960s. After that, he worked as a Los Angeles police officer, but has since retired.

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Suntrust

Luke Lewis, Chairman of Universal Music Group here on Music Row, announced yesterday that the company will be relocated to the new SunTrust Plaza at 401 Commerce Street in downtown Nashville, right next door to the famous Ryman Auditorium.

UMG follows Other Nashville labels that relocated to locations in Nashville other than Music Row: Lyric Street Records, located on Demonbreun, and Capital Records, located on West End.

Reactions of other Music Row residents to the exodus of this powerhouse are reported as being mixed in the Tennessean article entitled Universal will leave Music Row for downtown. Harold Bradley, president of the musician union, is credited with the formation of Music Row in 1954 together with his brother Owen. Mr. Bradley describes the move as “sad news” and as “breaking the ranks.” He remembers a Music Row where walk-about traffic was the way business was done.

Mr. Bradley knows first hand that the country music industry has always been a tight-knit community, somewhat segregated from the “suits” downtown. Not that we aren’t an integral component of Nashville’s business community, but we always did business differently – in a more lay-back fashion. The standard line when making an appointment was, do you want my morning slot or my afternoon slot?

But the country music industry has changed tremendously over the last ten years or so. Nashville is no longer a handshake town. It’s a subisidiiary town. No longer are most of the major decisions about potential artists made on Music Row – the chances are they are made in New York, Japan or Germany. Perhaps this trend to move off the Row is just a reflection of how business is done these days. So, I agree with Harold, it is sad.

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Spiral Frog

The New York-based online music site, SpiralFrog is continuing to grow its catalog of freely downloadable songs. SpiralFrog describes itself as “a Web-based advertising-supported music experience that combines music discovery tools with free and legal downloads of audio and video content.”

Music Row’s own Frances Preston (see my earlier blog regarding her recent award) sits on SpiralFrog’s Board of Directors.

In the past several months alone, SpiralFrog has inked deals with the likes of Universal Music Publishing (8/30/07) and more recently INgrooves, a subsidiary of Isolation Network, Inc. (9/12/07), a digital media distribution and publishing company.

The aggressive expansion gives SpiralFrog subscribers free access to approximately 900,000 songs and videos. Although free, the music has severe limitations, namely, it cannot be played on either the iPod or the Zune, cannot be played on an Apple computer, cannot be burned to a CD, and can only be transferred to up to two of the Windows DRM-approved devices. Finally, NO MP3 format!

This business model proves once again that many executives in the fledgling online music industry do not understand how the consumer wants to use their music. The music must be unfettered! The average consumer is more than happy, in my humble opinion, to pay a fair price (no, not 99 cents Apple!) to purchase and download a song provided that it is not restricted in any way.

While I’m on the subject of restrictions, I might point out that music downloaded to iTunes often falls into this category. The popular software from Apples is quirky, buggy and bloated. Again, if I purchase music, I want it unfettered. I don’t want to be locked in to a really bad piece of programming such as iTunes.

Until a company finds a business model that really provides such unfettered access, they will not succeed. The closest solution I’ve found so far is eMusic.com. All music downloaded from eMusic is MP3 and DRM-free. Of course, because of its business model, eMusic is unable to ink licensing arrangements with most major distributors.

I’d really like your comments and opinions on ths issue.

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