Rap Coalition

A HOW-TO RESOURCE FOR RAP ARTISTS, PRODUCERS, & DJs. Since knowledge is power, here is your best defense to succeed in the urban music industry...

Friday, July 27, 2007

A quick lesson in trademarks, thanks to BlackPress.com:

Fight for "Buckwild" trademark rages on

(BlackPressMagazine.com) - Most African Americans know the word, "Buckwild" from the popular song by the go-go group, Experience Unlimited a.k.a "EU." They also were famous for another song called, "Doing the Butt."

Who owns the trademark for the word, "Buckwild"?

According to the an application filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Playboy, Inc., which listed their company as a Delaware corporation with a business address of 680 North Lake Shore Drive Chicago IL 60611, made the last application for the mark for the purposes of "Entertainment services in the nature of on-going reality television programs; production of reality television programs; and providing an on-line computer database in the field of entertainment via a global computer network," according to the application filed with the USPTO.

Playboy created the application related to its adult video program with the same name that set out to target the urban adult entertainment market. Playboy filed the application on August 27, 2003 and first used the mark in public and in commerce on January 9, 2004, according to USPTO application number 78292810. The mark was published for opposition on April 12, 2005 before being abandoned on December 6, 2005.

So, can VH1 reality TV star Becky "Buckwild" Johnston legally use the name to sell music, blogs, podcasts and apparel?

Maybe not.

There is a "LIVE" application for the Buckwild trademark owned by Lamontz Jackson of Detroit, MI. With the help of his trademark attorney, John R. Benefiel, Jackson smartly trademarked the name for musical and sound recordings on November 1, 2004. The service mark was published for opposition on December 20, 2005 under application number 78508969.

That pretty much takes care of the selling of music and podcasts under the name "Buckwild."

In today’s world of fast media through mediums like YouTube, blogging and other areas, does trademark really matter?

You bet your bottom dollar it does.

Jackson could effectively use the trademark to shut down any website, entity or company that is infringing on his lucrative trademark. In addition, he could, and likely will, seek compensation for use of the name for any musical or audio recordings.

Since the United States Supreme Court has ruled that every download is a publication, that could mean that every time a listener has downloaded the Buckwild podcast, Jackson could see big profits.

So why hasn’t Jackson sought to compensation, yet?

Most trademark owners sit back and wait for the most financially lucrative time to reap their rewards, after all obtaining a trademark is incredibly expensive. Plus, every time someone uses the trademark it becomes “watered down” and less effective.

For example, if you like inline skating but use the word “Rollerblading,” you’ve infringed on a trademark. If you reach for a “Kleenex” instead of a tissue you, you’re infringing. And if you want to photocopy a document and use the word “Xeroxing,” you’re also in trouble.

In today’s society, it would be a good idea to swing by the USPTO website when in doubt about who owns a trademark before you find your side getting in deep like Buckwild.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Newspaper gives away Prince CDs

Around three million copies of Prince's new album, Planet Earth, have been given away with the Mail On Sunday.

The promotion is believed to be worth about £250,000 to the musician, whose hits include Purple Rain, Raspberry Beret and Money Don't Matter 2Night.

But the giveaway has angered retailers, who called it "an insult" to high street record stores.

It also dealt a blow to Prince's record label, Sony BMG, which has shelved plans to release the album in the UK.

'Speculation business'

Planet Earth has had largely positive reviews, with The Times saying it was "too good to be so lightly sold".

The US pop star also plans to give away copies to fans attending one of his 21 concerts at London's O2 arena next month.

That means it will reach many more listeners than the artist's last album, 3121, which only sold 80,000 copies in the UK.
"It's direct marketing and I don't have to be in the speculation business of the record industry which is going through a lot of tumultuous times right now," said the Minneapolis musician when asked why he was giving the CD away.

"Prince has done this because he makes most of his money these days as a performing artist," the Mail on Sunday's editor, Peter Wright, told BBC Five Live.

"He's got a fantastic series of concerts coming up at the O2 Dome and this is a way of telling people what he's doing."

Wright confirmed that the newspaper had paid Prince for the licence to produce the CD, and had paid to press and distribute it, but hoped to make money by selling extra copies of the paper and extra advertising.

'Beggars belief'

Nonetheless, the deal has sent shockwaves through the record industry, with the Entertainment Retailers Association being particularly vocal about their dissatisfaction.

Paul Quirk, co-chairman of the organisation, said the decision "beggars belief".

"The Artist formerly known as Prince should know that with behaviour like this he will soon be the Artist Formerly Available in Record Stores," said Mr Quirk, referring to a period in the 1990s when Prince famously stopped using his name in favour of a symbol.

However, music chain HMV has decided to stock Sunday's Mail, even though chief executive Simon Fox previously called the giveaway "absolutely nuts".

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Could this be the next Rap Coalition spokesperson, er, uh, artist? Hmmm...

Unreal / Keep Pushing


I just recently shot a video for a song on the "HoodTREASON warm up album" titled UNREAL. I chose this song because someone offered to do the video for free and I wasn't sure how well it would turn out. I was pleasantly surprised. (thanks Ehab / Nasjota records)

The video starts with me getting a phone call from some "industry" person who tells me he's got the keys to my future. That if I want to make it in this industry I need to see him I need to jump when he says jump. He even barks on me and I'm standing for this cause I want this opportunity. As I attempt to get to his office to see what he needs my car is out of gas and I am forced to try to push the car. When the camera pulls out you realize that I am trying to push a 2 ton car up a STEEP hill.

As the video progresses people come along to help. The first is a truly close friend of mine that has ALWAYS helped me push in whatever I have done no matter how hair-brained the scheme was, this brother always rocks with me with no question. Then came the sister in the suit. That's my lawyer. We grew up together and now she is my lawyer. In real life she stopped what she was doing to support NYOIL because she believes in the project. So on it goes that everyone in the video is someone that is actually in my life that came along to help. Some walk past and don't help at all.

When we finally get to the top of the hill I get a call from the same cat and he's screaming on me. I tell him I don't need him and move on. (FYI the guy calling is my business manager and one of my best friends in life since like 4 years old)

You know, I don't care what you are doing in life.. there are times when you run out of gas or just break down completely and you need help pushing the car. You need help moving your life vehicle up a large hill. How many times have you found yourself in position to take advantage of an opportunity but couldn't get help pushing that car? I can tell you hundreds of instances where that happened in my life and I have learned a few things from those situations.

In the music industry in particular there are a lot of bottom feeding elements that tell you they are the KEY to your success or that they are the only way for you to become successful. So you buy into this and chase after the dream that these types of people sell you. They associate themselves to other peoples success and give off the impression that you too could be as successful if you go through them to achieve it. So you do whatever they say and pay whatever price they charge and in the end the only ones that get anything is them. You jump through a million hoops and rings of fire and the only one that stands to gain is them.

And then some of you give up. Some of you give up because you can't even get the car started so you just throw your hands up and walk away from your dreams. Some of you get out to push and find that you don't have the strength to move the car by yourself and you give up. Some even get help pushing the car but it aint enough or it aint consistent so you can't make any real progress and you eventually fail.

The thing is you have to keep pushing without the hopes for help. You push and you keep pushing till the strength in your arms and legs build up. You keep pushing till you come up with another way to move this car. You keep pushing until people that are really behind you really in your corner and really love you come along to help you push. And even then you don't stop pushing, in fact you push harder so that you can inspire and motivate them to push on.

Yes some people will walk past you and see you pushing and laugh or just wave you off and say "look at these fools tryna do this or that.. " Never mind them. In the literal sense. NEVER MIND THEM.. never give them time in your mind just continue to push. You have to remember that this life is about Goals that are blocked and barricaded against us reaching them. But I tell you that the BEACH was once a bunch of rocks that were beaten by the waves over time until they turned to sand. Because the sea keeps pushing, in low tide and high tide it keeps pushing.

Sometime you won't even move forward, sometimes it is just about pushing enough to maintain position and gathering enough energy to push again.

I'm telling you that if you keep pushing eventually you will make it to the next plateau where there will be new challenges new obstacles to breach and new barriers to push but dammit you won't be at the bottom of the hill any more. And I promise you that when you reach that plateau you will realize that you never needed these bottom feeders that tried to prey on you before because you will realize what you really need. You'll realize WHO you really need.

You see I don't fuck with bottom feeders. They like to call me up and tell me things like "If you pay $200 we'll let you come interview on our radio station.." or "If you take an advertisement out in our magazine we'll do a feature article on you" … "Pay use $250 to be in this showcase and we'll let you do 2 songs" .. "hey you're nominated for this award but you have to sell 10 tickets to come "

Man FUCK your awards and your bullshit radio stations and you weak ass magazines and your fake ass shows. We don't NEED you!! You see I have the people behind me cause I kept on pushing and I'm gonna keep on pushing because I'm built like that.

Keep pushing yall.. keep on pushing!

My name is NYOIL and I approve this message!

To view the video :

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn, Sugarland, Sara Evans, Pat Green

Saturday 7/7/07
Qwest Field-Seattle, WA
Gross: $3,281,121
45,939/45,939 (100%)
Ticket prices: $91.50/$51.50

That's a lot of fucking money.

I'd say if you want to profit in the future, rather than hunt down the latest rap star, you should be trolling for cowboy hats. These guys do well EVERYWHERE! And by that I mean recorded music sales, TV, live gate, merch...

It all works in country music.

But in the pop world?

The labels want to sell records. A lot, quickly. The manager of a developing act might want to move slowly. An act with traction might want to say no. The interests are opposed.

In order to have success today, all interests must be aligned. Do you want these under the corporate umbrella?

Probably not. You want an independent thinker, a MANAGER!

Country speaks to people. Too many Top Forty records make people move, but they slide right off of them. They're background, not primary. Country music is primary in people's lives.

And don't think this is solely about the "festival", the multiple headliners. Kenny Chesney, supported by Pat Green, hardly a superstar, sold out the Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Marysville, CA (17,384) the Tuesday before, and the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA (16,783) the Monday before.

There's something happening here, do you know what it is, Mr. Jones?


Monday 7/2/07
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh, NY
Gross: $860,671
12,300/13,851 (88.8%)
Ticket prices: $125.50/$29.50

They've only sold 213,620 copies of their new album, "Snakes & Arrows", but their fans still want to see them live.

If they didn't have a record deal, I'd tell them to go all Prince on us. Rather than report anemic SoundScan figures, why not just give the album away to the diehard fans, who are paying to see them, who want to see them, oftentimes at high prices.

Otherwise, they'll never be able to play the new material in concert, everybody will go to the bathroom. They'll just be able to play the hits.

It's about getting your music HEARD! It's not about how many CDs you sell. By focusing on selling product, acts are actually hurting themselves. Don't tell their record labels, but the performers have got to know this. Every act that the big label built...unless the big label can provide incredible visibility, should put out its album itself. It'll make all the money. And, as we move to Web distribution, people can find the tracks on iTunes from indies as easily as those from majors. And most of these acts ARE NOT GOING TO GET ON THE RADIO ANYWAY!

John Mayer, Ben Folds, Brett Dennen

Friday 6/22/07
Smirnoff Music Centre, Dallas, TX
Gross: $748,881
19,552/19,552 (100%)
Ticket prices: $55.50/$35.50

Friday 6/1/07 (with Rocco DeLuca instead of Brett Dennen)
Amphitheater in Clark County, Ridgefield, WA
Gross: $384,594
9,505/17,650 (53.9%)
Ticket prices: $53.50/$29.00

He doesn't sell out everywhere, but he averages about 10,000 paying customers a night. And that's VERY GOOD!

Attribute it to his hit songs. Attribute it to his focus on playing. He appears legit in a sea of impostors.

But that's not why I'm writing about this. I'm writing about this tour because of Mayer's endorsement deal with BlackBerry.

Yes, "Hits" mentioned this today. It just shows that other people are noticing. And isn't that the point?

I saw the ad in a magazine and paused for a minute, thinking THAT'S COOL!

Unfortunately, the BlackBerry is cooler than John Mayer AND his music. But I want to applaud the innovative thinking here. If you're going to do endorsements, and I'm AGAINST THEM (you profit, but they cheapen the music) align yourself with a hip company, not just one that will write you a check.

But I'd rather play with my new BlackBerry 8830 World Edition than listen to Mr. Mayer's discs. Although some of the tracks are good. Like "Waiting On The World To Change" and "Slow Dancing In A Burning Room". If only they were as good as the white rock/blues records of the sixties, if only they stretched the format, added something new. Still, you've got to hand it to this guy. He's overexposed, he dates a bimbo, and he STILL sells tickets, he STILL means something. This is tribute to how EASY it is if you just focus on the talent.

People think John Mayer is talented. They don't think ANY "American Idol" winner is talented. Focus on talent.

True Colors Tour: Cyndi Lauper, Erasure, Deborah Harry, The Dresden Dolls, Margaret Cho

Thursday 6/21/07
Chastain Park Amphitheatre, Atlanta, GA
Gross: $486,801
6,687/6,687 (100%)
Ticket prices: $79.00/$39.00

Not every date was a sellout. The tour only did 2,603 out of 4,798 in San Diego. But other gigs varied in attendance from 4,000-10,000. And that's a good sign, if you're BUILDING SOMETHING!

And that's what Cyndi Lauper is doing here. And she needs to be applauded for this. In a business where everybody wants all the money, and they want it now, it's good to see someone try something different, and have promoters support it.

And I know there's something happening here because I WENT! To see Jake's band the Cliks, opening in Los Angeles.

And I've got to tell you, we couldn't leave our seats. Because the show never stopped. In between musical acts, Margaret Cho did standup, oftentimes so blue it's amazing that it's even permitted in Cheney's America. I'd quote a bit of it here, but I'm not sure you can stomach it. But it was funny.

And it was funny hearing it amidst this crowd, mostly society's cast-offs. The gays, the bisexuals, the demonized. It wasn't scary, it was LOVING! Every homophobe should go to a True Colors show to see these people...ARE PEOPLE TOO!

Cyndi Lauper is performing a service. And when she sang "True Colors", there truly was not a dry eye in the house.

Another highlight... Rosie O'Donnell's unbilled appearance.

The only lowlight? Debbie Harry. She's had enough plastic surgery to look in her twenties again, and she played new material that no one wanted to hear. It was the talk of the hoi polloi, how AWFUL she was. Hey Debbie! Even if you made a great new record no one would play it! It's not 1979 anymore!

Def Leppard, Styx, Foreigner

Saturday 6/30/07
First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, Tinley Park, IL
Gross: $614,249
15,848/28,534 (55.5%)
Ticket prices: $264.00/$23.50

This is a fuck of a lot of money. A lot of people.

But how many years in a row can Def Leppard go out? Even farmers let their fields lie fallow. By time they're through overcharging to see these one time poster boys summer after summer NO ONE will want to see them, not for the better part of a DECADE! Like Fleetwood Mac. Who, ironically, share the same manager.

Live Nation needs to fill their buildings. Howard Kaufman wants to get paid. Maybe Def Leppard does too. But even JOURNEY took the summer off. What's that expression, leave them wanting more? Making yourself unavailable makes you DESIRABLE? Def Leppard is breaking every rule.

They're entitled. But do you want to do the same?

Bob Dylan's out constantly. But you never know what to expect. And, he might die any minute, and you want to be able to say you've seen him.

But there's nothing new about the Def Leppard show.

And isn't it creepy it's not the complete Styx, and Foreigner is sans its vocalist. Doesn't anybody get the memo?

Or maybe people just want to remember their youth.

But this is not as strong a package as last year's with Journey. Journey are now the superstars, Def Leppard are not.

And last year it was the FAKE Journey, two different lead singers.

If the original Journey got back together, they could sell out stadiums. Oh, they wouldn't have the cred of the Police, but they've got the FANS!

I'm not one of them. But it might be exciting just to be part of it, to be at the gig to hear the ROAR!

I guess at one time I thought Def Leppard was more than pretty faces. Those two records, "Pyromania" and "Hysteria", are eighties classics. Then again, those are the ones done with Mutt Lange. Just like AC/DC's legendary records were made with the same producer. The more the band's on the road, grinding it out for a buck, the more I'm disillusioned. Maybe Mutt was the true star.

Oh, everybody's got to eat. But I can't tell you how many times I've stood alone in the dark, as "Hysteria" poured out of the stereo, making me feel good, in times when I felt down and at others when I was already elated!

This is our music. The machine thinks it's all grist for the mill. But it's not to us. Protect your legacy judiciously. Know that you can alienate a fan just like that. Casual customers will fill the seats for a while, but when the fans abandon you, you're on your way to extinction.

Nelly Furtado

Thursday 6/7/07
The WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Gross: $316,400
4,992/4,992 (100%
Ticket prices: $65.00/$45.00

That was her best gig.

In Boston, she did 3,644 out of 6,500 (56.1%).

In Sayreville, NJ, she did 1,165 out of 2,050 (56.8%).

In Detroit, she did 1,761 out of 2,585 (68.1%).

In Grand Prairie, TX, she did 2,375 out of 2,503 (94.9%).

In other words, she did SHITTY! And these weren't big halls to begin with, positively small, THEATRES!

Her album has sold 1,873,719 copies, it's still number 50 on the chart A YEAR LATER!

In other words, record sales don't mean shit. Work with Timbaland all you want. Have a hit on Top Forty radio that fewer people are listening to every day. Most people are not paying attention. They don't think you're REAL! Real acts don't conspire with a multitude of people, the usual suspects, to create their of the moment music. No one's even going to REMEMBER her tracks half a decade from now. No one's even going to PLAY them! (Have you heard Eminem recently?)

It's not about music being stolen, that's not the big story in the music business today. It's about the bifurcation in its soul. Touring used to reflect record sales. No longer is this the case. And the real acts, the lasting acts, can all do good live business. The public got the memo, the press has not. As for the major labels? If they want a taste of every piece of the pie they've got to be trustworthy, have the act's best interests at heart. Ain't that a laugh.

Live/Collective Soul

Sunday 6/10/07
NOKIA Theatre Times Square, New York, NY
Gross: $90,255
1,800/2,100 (85.7%)
Ticket price: $55.00

Television kills acts' careers. The more exposure you get, the briefer your career. How come only Pearl Jam got the memo?

These were two of the best MTV acts. Live had not only "Lightning Crashes", but some credibility. Collective Soul had hits, even an anthem. Enough to pay eighty bucks to go to see? OF COURSE NOT! This is a soft ticket show at best.

And eighty bucks? Why is a $55 ticket eighty bucks?


From: Patrick Forte
Subject: TicketMaster


I was turned on to your newsletter by a friend a few months back. I'm never one to write. I'm not an industry insider. I don't work in the music business. I'm just a fan of good music. More specifically, I'm a fan of good LIVE music. I try to get out to as many shows in and around LA as possible, although as a single dad, I definitely have to prioritize.

I logged into TM to grab a couple of tickets to Martin Sexton at HOB in Anaheim. I'm sure you've written about this many times (forgive me) - but this really got my goat.

Tickets: $20 - Great price. Martin Sexton puts on an amazing show.
Building Facility Charge: $2.50 per ticket - OK - I guess HOB is grabbing their share.
Convenience Charge: $8.45 per ticket - I've become accustomed to paying the TM ransom

Tonight I saw an additional fee for the first time

Order Processing Charge: $3.80

I bought these tickets on TM.COM. It's not like I was buying them from a third party was being charged a fee for their service. Just another fee from TM. What a joke. Something has to be done. I'm so tired of the BS associated with TM.

I understand the need to run a profitable business. My problem: for two $20 tickets the total bill came in at $65.70. Money notwithstanding, paying a 64% service charge (for anything) drives me insane!


It's not TicketMaster's fault, it's the BUSINESS' FAULT!

Everyone sophisticated knows those additional charges are profits. In many cases the ONLY profits the promoter will accrue. They're not included in the ticket price because then the act will want to commission them.

So, we have an archaic business model that pisses fans off, which is only HURTING THE BUSINESS!

If there were a P2P for concert tickets, the industry would be fucked. Point is, the industry has to get its house in order. It needs a final price. This standoff is ultimately going to create so much ill will it's going to start cutting down grosses. But then it will be too late. When no one trusts not only TicketMaster, but LiveNation, AEG and the ACTS!

This has gone on too long. How about a standard industry contract. Specifying that certain charges are uncommissionable. Oh, negotiate forever, but if you don't come to an agreement, it's gonna hurt you.

Robin Thicke

Tuesday 5/22/07
Lifestyle Communities Pavilion, Columbus, OH
Gross: $35,873
1,237/2,200 (56.2%)
Ticket price: $29.00

See "Nelly Furtado" above.

He's sold 1,278,633 albums. His record is number 39 after forty weeks on the chart, and nobody cares. And the tickets were CHEAP!

Taylor Hicks

Sunday 6/24/07

House of Blues, Atlantic City, NJ
Gross: $17,507
479/2,380 (20.1%)
Ticket prices: $35.00/$30.00

I got a call from someone at ABC.com today. She repeated the fiction, spread throughout the industry, that Kelly Clarkson HAS a career, that she's entitled to grow, that her new album is just one step in a long career. BULLSHIT!

If you write your own material. And you have true fans. And you have a steady stream of quality product. THEN you've got a long career, you can afford a misstep. THE DAVE MATTHEWS BAND can afford a misstep, not only now, but YEARS ago, before they became an institution. An "American Idol" winner cannot.

An "American Idol" winner is a cartoon, someone for us to invest our gossip time in, a horse in the race, not someone we invest our hopes and dreams in. Yes, to have longevity, the audience must invest its hopes and dreams in the act, people must believe the act is playing and singing from its heart, that it's pure unadulterated truth. If you're not following this paradigm, you'd better take all the money off the table NOW, before there's none left to be gotten.

THIS is the point with endorsements and commercials. They might pay off now, but each and every one puts a dent in your credibility. Your life is shortened, akin to every cigarette you smoke. It's your choice, but there is a cost.

Kelly Clarkson will be able to come back if she releases an album of megahits within a year. But what are the odds of that? In that time frame, no matter the quality of the music.

And as time goes by, not only do people forget, not only are they paying attention to new acts, but MTV plays less music, fewer people listen to Top Forty radio, the mainstream shrinks ever more.

So if you're playing that pop game, YOU CAN'T AFFORD A MISTAKE! You're only as good as what you've done yesterday. You can't coast. You've got to prove yourself again and again. And you STILL might not have any longevity. But Warren Haynes? Someone less than pretty with a bunch of talent? Whom most people don't know the identity of? That guy can play for the rest of his life, every gig registering more paying customers than this one by Taylor Hicks, who's only a year removed from his moment of ubiquity, his peak of stardom.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pirated Music Helps Radio Develop Playlists
July 12, 2007; Page B1

The music industry has long blamed illegal file sharing for the slump in music sales. But now, a key part of the industry is trying to harness file sharing to boost its own bottom line.

Earlier this year, Clear Channel Communications Inc.'s Premiere Radio Networks unit began marketing data on the most popular downloads from illegal file-sharing networks to help radio stations shape their playlists. The theory is that the songs attracting the most downloads online will also win the most listeners on the radio, helping stations sell more advertising. In turn, the service may even help the record labels, because radio airplay is still the biggest factor influencing record sales.

Premiere's Mediabase market-research unit is working on the venture with the file-sharing research service BigChampagne LLC. BigChampagne collects the data while a Premiere sales force of about 10 people pitches the information to radio companies and stations. Premiere declined to disclose how much it charges.

The service has already had an impact. The Huey song "Pop, Lock and Drop It" was in light rotation in April at Power 106, a big Emmis Communications Corp.-owned hip-hop station in Los Angeles, and listeners weren't requesting it much. The station's own research on the best music mix to play indicated the song wasn't catching on with listeners. But data from BigChampagne showed the song was hot on file-sharing networks, including in Los Angeles. Emmanuel "E-man" Coquia, the station's music director, decided to stick with it. Now, three months later, "Pop, Lock and Drop It" is prominent on the station's playlist.

Using data on stolen music to help mold playlists may strike some as ironic. File sharing has likely contributed to the continuing decline in the music business. U.S. music sales were down 7% last year after a 3% drop the year before, according to the London-based music trade group IFPI. But BigChampagne's clients say ignoring file sharing wouldn't make sense. "It's a fact of life at this time," says Rich Meyer, Mediabase's president and executive vice president at Premiere.

Joe Fleischer, BigChampagne's vice president for sales and marketing, adds that the legality of grabbing music is a separate issue from the insight into peoples' taste the downloads offer. He also notes that the company incorporates legal, paid downloads from sites like iTunes into its data, though they represent a tiny fraction of all downloads.

Currently, says Emmis radio head Rick Cummings, the downloading information is one more tool to figure out what to play. It's not yet as helpful as the phone calls known in the business as "call-out" research, in which people listen to clips of songs and rate them, he says. But at some point, the download data are "going to be the primary method of research."

It's getting harder and harder to do passive call-out research, Mr. Cummings says, because "people don't have time, they have their phone blocked." He notes that it also "takes a while to play 20, 30 hooks," a reference to researchers' practice of playing the catchiest part of a song for survey participants.

But Emmis perseveres with the calls, in part because it reaches a slightly different listener that way -- people who don't necessarily buy or download music regularly but who like to listen to the radio and who make up a large part of the station's audience. Filesharers tend to be bigger music fans than radio listeners and generally warm to new songs faster. But basing a playlist exclusively on downloaders' tastes could end up alienating more passive listeners, Mr. Cummings says.

It also isn't easy to tell which medium influences the other more. "When a radio station adds a song, you oftentimes see an immediate bump in downloading activity" in that city, says Rich Meyer, president of Mediabase.

That was the case with "Party Like a Rockstar" by Shop Boyz. Like "Pop, Lock and Drop It," the song wasn't requested much by listeners or popping up in the call-out research, even though it was doing well on BigChampagne. In April, "we were wondering, if this record is supposedly the next big record, why is it taking longer than usual" to catch on, recalls Mr. Coquia. But just about then, requests started swinging up, especially those texted in by cellphone. Power 106 increased airplay somewhat, and downloads in the Los Angeles area kicked up a bit. By May, the song was in heavy rotation on Power 106 -- 18 spins a day -- and downloading continued to increase. "It's still strong, it's still requesting, it's still very big buzz," says Mr. Coquia.

Universal Music Group, the record company that distributes Shop Boyz, also looks at file-sharing data, largely for help figuring out which songs are working best or what to pitch to radio. But executives have mixed feelings about the information. "It's troubling that there is so much activity [that] it's useful" for research, says Larry Kenswil, executive vice president for business strategy.

In "Like This," a follow-up to his hit track "This Is Why I'm Hot," Shawn Mims alludes to scoring music online. Describing a woman who tells him she liked his last song, he sings, "She got it on her phone, Top 10 download, No. 1 ringtone." The new song's history also demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between file sharing and airplay. "When we stayed steady on it, downloads increased," Mr. Coquia says. The station played it occasionally starting in April but now plays it about eight to nine times a day.

Since the business was launched, Mediabase has cut deals with stations at sister company Clear Channel Radio, as well as group-wide deals with Radio One Inc. and Emmis. According to BigChampagne's Mr. Fleischer, the partnership has already surpassed its target of signing up 100 radio stations this year.

RePrinted from the Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Revolution of Greed and the Music Industry
By: Benn Jordan

Huge thanks to Earwax's newsletter for sending this article to me. I found it insightful enough to reprint here. -Wendy

A decade ago, while being an amateur musician and daytime computer technician, a tech-savvy friend of mine called me raving about MP3s. He even sent me some files on my painfully slow dialup connection. He spoke of groups on BBS systems and IRC that were ripping and trading albums. I eventually figured out what they technically were, and how they worked. The technology impressed me, but I didn’t worry about it either. I thought to myself:

“Surely nobody is going to spend 40 hours downloading an album at a horrible audio quality.”

Of course I didn’t speculate how advanced the internet would become 10 years later. Terabytes, iPods, wireless networking, and broadband internet…I just didn’t have the foresight. Those who did either fought it or became millionaires.

Now before you start getting excited about being part of a “music revolution”, I’m going to share my rendition of it, which isn’t going to be inspirational in the least bit. The point of all it all is, well, that nearly everyone involved is unethical and greedy. From the largest corporation all the way down to the consumer.


I was the first guy on my block to be using Napster, and by that point, having started to make a very meek living in the music industry; I started to realize that I was at the beginning of the end. Digital music piracy existed before this time, but Napster made it so damn easy. I’d get into a girl’s car and see a backseat filled with marked CD-Rs. Now you could buy CD-Rs at Walgreens. It became impossible to find a portable CD player as the market flooded with MP3 players. Every software developer in the world was making a shareware CD ripper and encoder.
America stopped buying music, and there was a brand new industry to collect on the money everyone was saving while stealing their favorite band’s new albums.


The few remaining major labels put on a great show over the last decade. They acted scared to death of piracy, when, in my opinion, they knew exactly how to use it as a tool. As if the recording industry wasn’t monopolized enough, the 5 largest media conglomerates used RIAA (an organization that was formed to create technical standards in music production) to join forces and profit off of what we believed to be their worst nightmare.

After enough lobbying to get the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed, anyone who pirates (or pirated) music now legally owes RIAA $750 per song downloaded and $150,000 per song shared.
Since then they’ve aggressively sued the makers of software, media players, and over 20,000 individuals for violating the copyrights of their albums. My favorite example is RIAA VS. AllOfMP3.com for $1.65 trillion. That’s right, trillion.

They’ve raised prices of CDs to punish us for losses to piracy, while of course; this only punishes honest music customers.

RIAA has now stooped to sending out letters at random accusing internet users of sharing files and directing them to a website, where you can make “discount settlements” payable by credit card.

How can they sue you for $750 for downloading a digital song that’s sold to retailers for less than $0.70? I have yet to hear the answer to that question.

So naturally, I think to myself: “Hey! I own a record label! How can I get involved in this profit party?”. Oh, RIAA is a private club. Small businesses don’t seem to be allowed.

So does this mean that if I sign with a major label I’ll get my fair share of these lawsuits battling the theft of my material? Nope. Artists are only compensated for post-recoup sales. 0% of this lawsuit money is trickled down to the artist.

So basically, if you’re not one of these companies, you can’t win.

The Consumer

I’m not going to be one of those artists who pretend to support music piracy. I’m not even going to deny that I’m tempted to stab the occasional person who compliments my music by saying “I downloaded all your albums and…” After all, the greedy consumers are the ones who made all of this possible. Anyone who’s gone through the epic saga of making, negotiating, signing, and promoting an album can surely agree with me. If I wanted my music to be free, I’d have it for free download on my website. I’d give away CD-Rs at my shows. If I don’t personally give you a copy of my album, then I don’t approve of you having it without compensating me for it. Plain and simple. However, I won’t be suing anyone for $750 a song of course.

The problem is, RIAA has been depending on music pirates to destroy the independent market, and the independent music fans have done just that.

When I was on tour with Dillinger Escape Plan, a website in Eastern Europe was hosting most of my albums on an HTTP server for free. These sites were so heavily trafficked that when you searched my name in Google, the pirated albums would show up before my own website would. No label had the funds to help me with legal fees, and I ended up losing upwards of $2,000 out of pocket to pursue just the cease and desist order of this web server. I, nor my labels, could afford an actual copyright lawsuit. The reason this couldn’t be afforded by an otherwise well-run record label was because we were facing a stifling 1 to 9/purchase vs. pirate statistic for the genre.

It only grew worse. Labels started dropping like flies. Successful labels like Schematic and Merck have gone bankrupt from piracy. Now, the greed has hit home.

Sublight Records, R.I.P.

It wasn’t breaking news to me. A while ago I knew that if my next album as The Flashbulb (Soundtrack to a Vacant Life) didn’t sell a miraculous amount of copies, Sublight would be done. I wasn’t expecting to bring miracles. In a way, even though it would be at my own expense, I liked the idea of providing the label’s first and last albums. I felt that since Aaron Rintoul had faith in me to kick start the label, that I should be the one to go into the coffin with it. Unfortunately it was too late.

While attendance on my tours has been rising, and while I can’t seem to make enough T-shirts to sell on my own site, the music sales have again dropped. Aaron came to terms with everything and realized that his love for music combined with the lack of ethics in many of his listeners would result in unrecoverable debt. All releases after this month’s compilation are canceled, including ‘Soundtrack to a Vacant Life’, and Sublight Records will close its doors forever. Music lovers have lost one of the only labels that discriminate strictly on the art of the trade.

The Numbers

As I started meeting more musicians who had well exceeded me in notability and record sales, I noticed that most of them were worse-off than I was financially. This is because a very small part of my work schedule goes to working for film and advertisement agencies. But surely, someone selling 200,000 records should be in a way more secure place than I am! Wrong.

So for the first time in years, I started going through my numbers. Since the Sublight days I never really cared about the specifics of sales since it was pocket change compared to what I was making from touring and licensing. My record label, Alphabasic, has intentionally never shaken hands with a big distribution network, so my head was buried in a hole. A couple years ago, I didn’t think I was capable of selling more than 1,000 CDs. When finally paying attention, I was surprised and to find that most of my albums have sold out and gone through multiple reprinting cycles. You’d expect me to be delighted, but I was horrified. Someone, somewhere in the cycle, was ripping me off…BAD. So in the recent months I began nosing around, trying to figure out where all this money my albums were making was going.

After all, how could I be making a few hundred bucks for every thousand CDs I’m selling when the retail prices of my CDs are upwards of $15?

I always considered myself to be a good businessman. After all, I come from a family and area that did nothing but negotiated and haggled their way through life. My contract with record labels are of the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve always had a very strict policy on the profit and control I retain for my work and name, and I’ve turned down offers from much larger labels for that very reason. Larger labels offer unbeatable promotion to boost sales, but it’s at a cost, and in the end, that cost comes out of my pocket. I don’t release albums with the goal of being in Rolling Stone Magazine or being interrupted by a fan while my girlfriend and I eat dinner. I release albums because I have a passion for writing them, and because it feeds me. Being on top of some pretentious musical hierarchy doesn’t contribute to my happiness; in fact, it waters down the beauty of the creative process. With that being said, what the larger labels offer has no benefit for me and my interests.

So it definitely wasn’t Sublight who was walking away with the loot. Aaron, in fact, was living on much lower income than most of his artists. I moved up a step and started talking to distributors. They made their cut, but again, it was a petty one. In fact, independent music distributors are in the same dwindling shape as independent labels and small record shops that buy direct from labels. So, was it really possible that Best Buy, Amazon, or Borders were making more money than everyone else combined when they sold one of my albums?

You see, since I’m not on a major label, these retailers can consider my albums “rare”. They claim that they’re more valuable, yet they buy them wholesale for the same price, if not less than what they buy a Madonna album for. I’ve seen Kirlian Selections tagged as high as $33.99, and it was on backorder! That means that they take your $34, keep $26 of it, then order the CD for $8 from the distributor, and ship it to you (for a nominal shipping fee of course). In the end, you’ve paid over $37 for a CD that mechanically costs $1.17 to make. All of this while I’m trying to discourage my fans from pirating my music!

It all started making sense. The richer the middleman between artist and consumer, the more they were profiting from my music. How did it get so bad? Music piracy is forcing independent labels to make less quantity of their albums, while retailers claim a higher value and double their profits. My fans spend more money, we make less, and corporate retailers make more.

The iTunes Scam

Since I completed the almost impossible task of trying to figure out where all of my iTunes royalty went, I was equally disgusted as I was with the numbers outlined above. Apple is no different than Best Buy, Wal-Mart, or RIAA when it comes to bleeding the creator of the music for everything they have. Not only is it an unfair share they claim, somewhere in the “digital distribution system”, all of the remaining profit gets eaten up.

Here’s an average example of where your money goes when you buy an independent record label’s song from iTunes (Note that major label’s figures are much worse, and some independent label’s deals are better when using an ethical distributor).

How did it get like this?

When Apple first opened iTunes, I sent them email after email for years asking how I could get Alphabasic’s content in their program. I filled out their applications over and over again, and not once would they grace me with a response. Many of my friends that run other labels dealt with the same problem. Of course the largest labels had no problem getting on iTunes, and took a head start in paving new ways to continue screwing artists out of their cut.
Today anyone can be on iTunes, of course they’ll have to go through a digital distributor or pay a fee through another middleman. Lucky individuals like me can get involved with an ethnical digital distributor such as “Storming the Base”, that doesn’t think its right to take an additional profit off of a download. These distributors are still few and far between, and often only distribute music they endorse.

Last year, Apple’s website promoted iTunes as “Fair to the Artists”. Believe me, nobody hates Apple’s false advertising tactics and poor business practices more than myself, but this one hit home. I sent Apple letters and emails asking them to display an artist’s cut of each album on the iTunes interface if they truly believe that what they’re doing is fair. While, of course, this never happened, they did change the site to remove the false claims of their fairness.
The part of these new music delivery methods that sickens me is that it’s all unnecessary in its current form. If we weren’t so distracted by RIAA’s “Sue America” campaign, we could’ve taken control of the entire industry. Unlike 15 years ago, middlemen between the artist and music-lover are not needed. This technology is incredible, and it should’ve destroyed the financial exploitation of musicians, not perpetuated it. There are no more production costs, distribution costs, or shipping costs in digital media, and promotion is much easier. The major label, the distributor, and the retailer are almost obsolete.
But no. Again, artists are still the ones who work the hardest for their product, but profit the least from it.

New Ideas

I’ve been working on “Soundtrack to a Vacant Life” for about 2 years, much more time and money than I’ve ever dedicated to an album. One would think that the collapse of its record label would upset me, but I’m oddly happier. 3 months ago everything was tightly negotiated and cast in stone. I knew what sales figures to expect, the artwork limitations, and the budget limitations.

The day I got the email from Sublight delivering the bad news, I got excited and inspired, for the first time in my life, to release and promote an album. The album is an attempt to “score” the most inspiring and important parts of my life. For a piece of work that I’ve slowly crafted for 2 years, it’s no wonder my moral was at an all time low. It’d be exploited through piracy, and the small percent of conscientious fans who purchased the CD would get a an economically designed jewel case and pay twice as much for it, in which I would be sparsely compensated.

Amazon and Ebay would take out ads for it on Google, and 20 year old reps from Cingular would probably continue to try and persuade me over email to let them make ringtones out of it. I couldn’t be happier to remove it from the exploitive aspects of the music industry and regain control of what happens to my work. It’s at perfect timing too, as I’ve recently acquired 100% ownership of Alphabasic. If my ideas are too optimistic or pretentious, then I’ll be the only one taking a financial hit. I no longer have to worry about other people’s investments, which allows me to be more creative.

I’m happy to announce that “Soundtrack to a Vacant Life” be released this year in its 100% unaltered format, and it’ll be something you’ll want to buy. I’m going to put a lot of time and money into the artwork, the packaging, and the quality. If all goes well with negotiations, I’ll even release an early limited edition with an accompanied professionally printed book of my photography, custom tailored for the album.

Half Record Label, Half Alliance

I have to admit that Alphabasic’s growth has been stubbed by my own schedule and pessimism. It was never planned to be a record label that sold CDs through retailers, and most of our releases have been sold at live events or on the internet. This led to accidental success. When we released the CD version of “Acidwolf – Legacy, 1995-2005”, we were simply too busy to deal with negotiating distribution deals. The CD was exclusively sold on the website and at some raves.

I made more from the limited pressing of a one-time-alias release than I have from my larger releases as The Flashbulb. That may not seem stunning at first, but think about it. My “The Flashbulb” alias has been used while I’ve supported big acts on tour, and it’s been credited on award-winning ad campaigns that have been viewed by over 100 million people. Those are big numbers, but facing the uphill battle against piracy and financial exploitation, they can’t compare to releasing a creative product to your own network of supporters that grows through word of mouth.
Let’s take a look at where people’s money went for Acidwolf, as you can see, the system is much simpler:

While my customer spent less money and got more expensive, creative, and collectable packaging, I received over 25 times more compensation for the album by cutting out the corporate retailer. The 18% reflects my initial investment for the album, which was returned by nearly 5 fold.
I’m currently trying to release some of the other albums canceled by Sublight under this system. The artists will have the option of working under the profit and distribution methods similar to the one above, or having the CD manufactured by the distributor and shipped to retailers, which is more similar to their original deal with Sublight. As for the four albums I have on Sublight, I will be acquiring the rights to them and may remanufacture them under one of these systems for future sales.

This is Plan Z

At least until there’s a major shift in the way things work in the music industry, it is becoming an increasingly painful experience to be a part of the “system”. I can only hope that decreasing retail price, increasing artist profit, and making a more genuine product will be a good compromise against the staggering effects of music piracy; hopefully enough to keep an independent record label above water to do its job, which is release quality, artistic music that challenges the listener.

My other options require me to sign with a bigger label that will want an exclusive percentage of income made from my name and licensing rights. As some of you would guess, I make most of my living from licensing and composition and would never be foolish enough to sign that income away. So my fingers are crossed. I still love contributing to the world of music.

The recipe is simple. Many of us artists have people who enjoy buying and listening to our music. It’s time to starve out the portion of the music industry that has treated us so poorly, which is nothing short of ironic, because they need us a lot more than we need them. No modern consumer is going to stop listening to their favorite band because Circuit City doesn’t carry their CD.

Thank You

…for reading my rendition of past and current events in the music industry. I hope it helps those who pirate music understand what their actions are doing to smaller artists, labels, distributors, and retailers. I hope it helps people understand where their money is going when they do buy music from larger retailers.

Almost always as a rule, the best way you can support an album is by ordering directly from the record label if possible.

If my decisions with the future of my career and my label’s fate are at all successful, I hope that they’ll stand as an example of how much more artists can be getting compensated for their hard work by refusing to do business with the reptilian giants that are trying to fool us with the illusion that they still control the music industry.


Benn Jordan

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Clear Channel strips local, independent artists of digital performance royalties!

Move runs counter to spirit of the payola settlement

Washington, D.C. - You remember several years ago, in 2005, former Attorney General, now New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer caught several major labels and major radio companies with hands in each others’ cookie jars engaging in payola-- receiving payments from record companies to play certain records?* Sure you do, his investigation garnered national headlines and resulted in fines and penalties from several major labels that exceeded $30 million.

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission joined the fight announcing a settlement with Clear Channel and three other major radio networks after an investigation into the same payola allegations raised by Spitzer’s investigation.

As part of the settlement with the FCC, the radio networks agreed, among other conditions, to air 4,200 hours of local and independent music on their stations. This meant that the talented artists that had long been excluded from the airwaves in favor of payola driven play lists were finally getting a small bone.

(FMC never understood the logic that playing popular indie bands like the Shins and Arcade Fire on the radio was any kind of penalty…but heck, 4,200 hours of good music on the radio is better than none so we weren’t complaining.)

It turns out, we should have been. Recent revelations show that Clear Channel has decided to use its olive branch as a cudgel to force local and independent artists to give up hard won performance royalties as a condition for consideration for play. (Hear the story on NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11250011).

Per the settlement, the broadcaster set up an online application for local and independent artists to submit their music for airplay on each of its stations. The applications are on a web page attached to each Clear Channel station web site (i.e., www.dc101.com/cc-common/artist_submission).

The application requires the artist to approve a licensing agreement that (oops) does away with their digital performance right. In other words, Clear Channel is asking the artists to sign away his or her right to get paid a royalty when it digitally broadcasts the artist’s work.

How does this show contrition for allegedly engaging in an illegal practice?

It doesn’t.

“This is outrageous,” said FMC Executive Director Jenny Toomey. “This is like the fox getting caught in the hen house a second time and arguing that he shouldn’t get in trouble because he was leaving the hens alone…he was just eating all their eggs.”

A further irony is that Clear Channel’s move to require artists to sign away their performance rights is kind of redundant. You see, In the United States the commercial broadcasters have managed to avoid paying performance royalties for over the air broadcast of music. This means that when a song is played on the radio, only the songwriter is paid whereas in 75 other countries both the songwriter and the performer are paid.

More outrageously, in 1995, when the Digital Performance Act was passed establishing a performance royalty for digital radio The National Association of Broadcasters, the lobby group for the radio companies, successfully negotiated an exemption from having to pay the royalty rate on H.D. radio streams. That’s right, the richest, largest and most powerful broadcasters -- including Clear Channel -- secured an exemption for themselves. Other digital broadcasters such as Live365, Sirius and XM pay the royalty.

You may wonder why Clear Channel is asking artists to sign away rights they normally don’t have to pay because of their already negotiated exemptions. Well it may just be because Clear Channel’s move comes as strong momentum is developing in the artist community to demand that radio broadcasters come in line with the rest of the world and finally pay a public performance royalty for terrestrial and digital radio.

The effort to extend the public performance right to over the air broadcasts is going to be a huge struggle, but there is broad consensus in both the artist and the technology communities that the digital performance exemption that the broadcasters enjoy is patently unfair. In other words, if the digital performance right exists, everyone should pay it, particularly the wealthy broadcasters.

Forcing artists to sign away their rights in a application document is just one of the many ways that Clear Channel is helping the artist community demonstrate just how greedy big radio has become.

Now why is it that you can’t afford a performance right again?


*FMC has long fought to rid the airwaves of payola. Our recent study “False Premises, False Promises” documents the role that radio consolidation has played in concentrating radio access into the hands of a very few gatekeepers leaving it vulnerable to financial influence. In this study we identified Clear Channel as the largest and most influential gatekeeper with hundreds of radio stations under their control.

About the Future of Music Coalition
Future of Music Coalition is a national non-profit education, research and advocacy organization that identifies, examines, interprets and translates the challenging issues at the intersection of music, law, technology and policy. FMC achieves this through continuous interaction with its primary constituency - musicians - and in collaboration with other creator/citizen groups.