Monday, 29 June 2009

How we used to buy concert tickets before the internet

From a Newsweek archive piece of people buying tickets for the Jackson's 1984 Victory tour:

When newspapers containing the first official ticket order forms rolled off the presses in the early hours of June 19, fans were lined up to buy them. "It's ridiculous!" said disc jockey Roy Leonard, who has been following the Jackson craze for the Chicago radio station WGN: "People were stealing papers off other people's front lawns." When newspapers containing the first official ticket order forms rolled off the presses in the early hours of June 19, fans were lined up to buy them. "It's ridiculous!" said disc jockey Roy Leonard, who has been following the Jackson craze for the Chicago radio station WGN: "People were stealing papers off other people's front lawns."

Big Brother: As every newspaper thief soon learned, Michael's show was no easy mark. Anxious fans were instructed to mail a money order (four tickets for $120), with no guarantee of a specific date, a good seat—or even any tickets at all. Despite the stiff price and chancey prospects (tickets were to be randomly distributed), customers in Kansas City jammed into post offices to buy money orders—15,000 in one day.

Crazy! I remember having to line up outside Blue Moon Records in Port Huron, MI for Depeche Mode tickets back in 1989... with a TicketMaster imposed cash-only policy. Still, I didn't have to cut coupons from newspapers or post off money orders with NO guarantee of getting anything back.

Still $120 for 4 tickets for a top draw artist is a nice indication of the times.
I imagine these days that price would be per ticket.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Indie musicians making money in the new economy

Amanda PalmerAmanda Palmer via

When people talk about the power of the internet to empower musicians, they usually cite bands with existing powerful fan bases, generally garnered during the band's major labels days.

It's nice to see that indie acts can get in on the money making band wagon that the internet and social media can afford. One such act is Amanda Palmer, from The Dresden Dolls, who has written a blog post about how she managed to make $19,000 in 10 hours using Twitter.

It's compiled on another blog site from various Palmer-written entries, and makes for a good read.

It just shows how an act with a fan base of less than the Radioheads and Nine Inch Nails of this world can still eek out a living doing what they love, outside the confines of major labels.

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Michael Jackson

Cover of "Bad"Cover of Bad

So Michael Jackson is dead. All of a sudden 50 evenings at the O2 have been freed up.

I find it quite ironic that every media outlet today is either waxing poetic about how great he was or playing all his hits.

This time yesterday, the guy was a pop culture footnote who was using his forthcoming residency at the O2 as a last hurrah / way out of a massive tax bill.

Today, he's back to being the King of Pop, a title he really hasn't warranted since 1987's "Bad" album - the last of his trilogy of kick ass releases, which also included 1979's "Off The Wall" and 1982's "Thriller".

His music (from these three albums) and his nutty antics will be missed, but I can't help feeling that all this welling of public sadness is a little misplaced.

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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Spotify update

I was reading with interest about Spotify's new handling of playlists yesterday. Now you can see how many tracks are in a playlist, how long the playlist is and whether or not you can edit it.

Upon opening Spotify, I realised I didn't have these cool features. For those of you who haven't upgraded, version 0.3.17 has quietly been released.

The software, still in Beta, doesn't have a live update and you won't find the version update on the site. However, upon downloading it, the installer will feature the new version.

Not sure what other extras are in the new release, as again, have no mention of an update. The playing time / track count for playlists is handy though. Got my 16 hour Factory records sampler going on at the moment.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Gouge away

Pixies' Minotaur boxset
With the crumbling economy around us and the music industry reduced to suing anyone that resembles a fan, it's a good question how bands are prepared to survive.

If you're hooked in like Nine Inch Nails, you go full guns ablazing into that good internet night, doing it right - giving albums away, but having various flavours of physical medium ready for the diehards.

If you're more traditional, you forgo the freebie release and jump straight into the massive bloody wallet-emptying boxset, released in limited quantities. This seems to be the route most acts are going down. Depeche Mode had their £60 "Sounds of the Universe" boxset with CDs, DVDs and booklets, Pet Shop Boys had "Yes" released on 11 separate 12" records in a batch of 300 copies (for £300).

Now, Pixies are releasing "Minotaur," a retrospective of their main output from the 80s and 90s. As is the democratic way, there are two formats for the discerning fan - a deluxe edition for $175 and a limited edition for just under $500. Both formats include the album in a number of formats - vinyl, CD and blu-ray - as well as other extras.

In an interview with Wired, lead singer Black Francis described the forthcoming release as a price-justified "objet d'art". He went on to joking state that if you're not that big a Pixies fan, download it for free off the net.

It seems to be a good time to be a music fan with deep pockets.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Spotify starts the long march to justify charging

I'm a huge fan of Spotify and am loving what it's doing to the music industry - turning the whole access vs ownership debate on its head. I also love the fact that it's free.

Of course, they run a paid for service, at a tenner a month, and it was always seen that the only tangible benefit being removal of ads. Until now.

Spotify are finally starting to justify charging for what is essentially a free service, minus the odd funny ad for Suitopia. This week they announced that those who've stumped up the cash will get a higher bit rate encode - 320 kps Ogg stream, instead of 160 kps, as well as a number of new benefits to be announced / rolled out soon.

This announcement is ripe for fuelling another timely debate - that of the ISPs and bandwidth. With everyone bitching about BBC's iPlayer drinking up as much bandwidth as they can throw, now that Spotify is essentially supplying a double thick stream of audio, how long before the ISO bandwidth complainers have them in their sites too.

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£1.92 million for 24 songs

In what can only be called absurd, music pirate Jammie Thomas-Rasset this week was found guilty, during a re-trial, of music piracy... or more to the point, having songs available for others to download on Kazaa.

Normally, a judgement would be found in replacement value plus cost. So 24 songs, that's about $20, plus a couple of grand in costs. Nope, the RIAA pushed for a much more lenient $80,000 per song, amassing a whopping $1.92 million in damages.

The smack in the face here isn't against Thomas-Rasset, it's against the artists she pirated. You think they've ever seen anything CLOSE to $80,000 for the song they had pirated? Nope. You think they'll see any of the $80,000 per song the RIAA is claiming in damages? Nope. Basically, these 24 songs have facilitated the RIAA to claim an absurd amount of money from someone who couldn't feasibilty pay it off, so they can do what with it?

Update: Apparently Capitol Records were in on the suit with the RIAA. Of course, Capitol's artists - who receive a pittance in songwriting and mechanical royalties will never see a penny of this.

According to an AP report, EFF's Fred von Lohmann believes the verdict may hurt the recording industry, bolstering the argument that the copyright system is broken if it can impose such huge penalties for noncommercial activity.

I understand that breaking the law is wrong and you must pay, but shouldn't you pay against those you wronged, not some shadowy out of touch with reality organisation that doesn't seem to act on behalf on anyone but themselves?

This is just another lit pitchfork in the "down with the RIAA" movement. Good going guys.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Bad Lieutenant formed from the ashes of New Order

It seems you can't keep a bad idea down.

From the ashes of the acrimonious split between Peter Hook and "the other two" from New Order, it seems a new band is rising from the ashes. Dubbed "Bad Lieutenant" (presumably after the Harvey Kietel film), the band features Bernard and Stephen alongside Blur's Alex James on bass.

If Joy Division was the sound of youth finding it's footing, and New Order was the sound of that voice growing up in its 20s, this must surely be the irrelevant voice of your dad telling you to keep it down as he wants a nap at 6pm.

I think Hooky was right to call it a day. 1993's "Republic" should have been the band's swansong (although a couple of cuts from "Waiting for the sirens call" were decent). Having said that, of all the off-shoot acts, only Electronic seem to have made any impact - and then, only their debut album.

It'll be interesting to hear what the band can put together. One of the stalwart sounds of New Order - Hooky's amazing bass playing - is now gone from the picture and it seems Bad Lieutenant are just verging into the realm of Joy Division / New Order offshoot bands that just never should have been.