Category Archives: Shorties

The Importance of Numbers & Events

One of the things that is not well known about many publications is that they don’t make money—or at least much money—from the publications themselves, be they the physical object that we know of as a magazine or as a digital variant. You’ve probably noticed various subscription offers—tote bags notwithstanding—that have a phenomenally low price. That’s predicated on the publications needing to get high circulation prices so that they can “sell the audience” to advertisers: “We have X + 1 readers, which is better than our competitor, which just has X, so buy our space.” Cheesy tote bags can go a long way.

Another way that they make money is to hold events of various sorts. They capitalize on the brand that they have otherwise established.

One of the consequences of COVID-19, at least for the organizations that care about the health and well-being of their supporters, is that there have been a vast number of in-person events cancelled or postponed. Let’s face it: any event needs to have a critical mass of attendees in order to pay the venue rental and so on, and that critical mass would be difficult to achieve if there is social distancing involved. Of course, there is the possibility of some promoter thinking, “Well, since we can only have 50% of the attendees, we’ll have to double the price of the event.” And that is unlikely to work particularly well for a variety of reasons, ranging from the fact that there is still a high level of trepidation among those who still have jobs regarding how long that’s going to last (I find it interesting that of late when jobs numbers are reported it sounds as though only low-wage individuals have lost their jobs when there are regular reports, for example, in publications like Adweek about agencies shedding people and offices), to say nothing of the millions who simply have lost their jobs and that restaurant or club just isn’t coming back.

So the alternative that some publications are taking is to hold virtual events. One of them is Variety, which describes itself as “the most authoritative and trusted source of entertainment business news, reaching an audience of affluent influencers. For 113 years, influential producers, executives and talent in entertainment have turned to Variety for expert film, TV, digital, music, and theater business analysis and insights.”

In an interview with Morning Consult, Dea Lawrence, Variety’s chief marketing officer, said that since COVID-19 they’ve held more than 60 “Variety Streaming Room Events.” What’s striking is that there are significantly more people “showing up” for the virtual events than there were for the physical ones.

That is, pre-COVID, only 10% of those who bought tickets for the physical Variety events actually showed up. For the virtual events, the number is 43%. As Lawrence said, “We started pitching all of the advertisers immediately. . . .”

And those numbers look good (i.e., 72,091 unique registrants; 31,238 unique attendees), which undoubtedly make the sponsors of the events happy. What’s more, the virtual events cost Variety less than the physical ones did, which undoubtedly makes Variety‘s chief financial officer happy.

Continue reading The Importance of Numbers & Events

50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, and Liza Minnelli

For the last year or so I’ve been setting the DVR to record “The Johnny Cash Show” on GetTV. Back in the golden era of variety shows, when everybody from Ed Sullivan and the Smothers Brothers to Carol Burnett and Glen Campbell had their own primetime shows, the Man in Black got his own one-hour program on ABC.

And it’s an awesome. Watching it is like taking a time machine back to an entertainment environment that feels almost entirely alien to today’s slick world where everybody on tv has perfect teeth, appropriately plucked eyebrows, and the exact same measurements. “The Johnny Cash Show” is funky and sincere and goofy and weird in the best way.

According to Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn, ABC was hoping to piggyback on the success of CBS’s new hit, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” Cash agreed to do it as long as he could tape the show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and select his own guests. The production company agreed to the former and evaded the latter.

It started out as just a summer replacement series, debuting on June 7, 1969 with guests Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, fiddler Doug Kershaw, and comedian Fannie Flagg, and running every Saturday night through September 27. The show’s initial run created enough buzz to be renewed for another 17 episodes, starting Wednesday nights in January 1970 and running through May 13, 1970.

The final season of the Johnny Cash Show kicked off 50 years ago today on September 23, 1970, from Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. It featured guests Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, and Liza Minnelli along with the usual family of regulars: June Carter, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three.

It was Ray Charles’ 40th birthday. Johnny Cash was 38. Arlo Guthrie was 23. And Liza Minelli was 24.

Like each episode in the series it begins with an instrumental, big band version of “Folsom Prison Blues” conducted by Australian arranger Bill Walker, and then our host introduces himself: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

• Johnny Cash – Medley: “One More Ride” / “Hey Porter” / “Orange Blossom Special” / “Folsom Prison Blues”

• Ray Charles and the Raylettes – “Finders Keepers”

Ray Charles – “I Walk the Line”

Ray Charles – “Ring of Fire”

Ray Charles - Ring Of Fire

From Love Country Style (Tangerine Records, 1970).

Continue reading 50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, and Liza Minnelli

The Question of Spending During a Pandemic

This week I received another offer. This time, it wasn’t for a tote bag. Rather, it was a picture, an 11 x 14-inch print. It was clearly one hell of a deal in that there on the page was $433 and directly beneath it “Only $39.”

A couple of points about that. First of all, who comes up with a price like $433 for something, in this case a photographic print. Obviously the print as object doesn’t cost $433, as there is a piece of paper, 5.5 inches wider than a piece of what has historically been known as “typewriter paper,” and some glossy ink on it. Now the photo as subject and as execution certainly might have some value, but again, given that this is a proposal that was widely emailed out to who knows how many people, it is not as though there is some sort of exclusivity to it, unless you think that ordering a McDonald’s without pickles makes it somehow different than the billions sold. Then there is the question of going from $433 to $39. That is a $394 difference. Or approximately a 90% discount. What can you buy that has a 90% discount? It all seems rather bizarre, and all the more so when you know that if you buy the photo for $39 you get (actually this should be in the past tense because by the time you see this the “deal” will have expired) something that the purveyor says is worth $39, so your effective cost is $0, which is a whole lot less than $433 or even $39.

The picture is that of The Who, taken in 1971 at the Oval Cricket Ground, Kensington, London. There’s Roger with his hands above his head in the foreground, with the Ox slightly behind him to the left, presumably moving nothing but his fingers. Between them in the background is Keith, holding a pair of drumsticks crossed above his head. And to Roger’s right and several feet behind him is Pete in flight. It is an oddly static black-and-white photo, and as it is shot from stage left across the stage rather than from the front of the stage, there isn’t a particularly good sense of the musicians at that particular moment.

Which leads me to wonder about who is going to be interested in that picture of The Who, whether it is for $433, $39 or $0. I suspect that it might be people in my generation (no allusion there) who might want it, but then I wonder. I had the opportunity to see The Who—yes, the real The Who, in that it had that lineup, which is the only authentic one in my estimation, though I will accept the post-Moon Kenney Jones band as somewhat legit—and have an interest in music (or so it seems) yet that photo would hold no value for me. Perhaps had I been at that show on September 18 , which was in support of the people of Bangladesh, I would have been interested in the picture, but having learned that the lineup also included The Faces, I might be a bit more interested in a photo of that, though that is unlikely, too. Presumably some fans would be interested.

Continue reading The Question of Spending During a Pandemic

New Gorillaz video: Strange Timez (ft. Robert Smith)

Video: Gorillaz – “Strange Timez” (ft. Robert Smith)

Gorillaz - Strange Timez ft. Robert Smith (Episode Six)

Directed Jamie Hewlett. From Song Machine, Season One, due October 23 on WMG.

If you would’ve asked me twenty years ago if Robert Smith would still be around and making relevant music in 2020, I would’ve scoffed and said he should’ve retired after Disintegration. If you would’ve asked me the same thing about Damon Albarn, I would’ve replied, “The guy from Blur?”

That is to say: I’m an idiot. And please ignore any predictions I make about the future.

Because Robert Smith is still going at it and doing good stuff and the kids love the Cure more than ever, and the guy from Blur has turned his Gorillaz into a mainstream hit machine. Which boggles my mind, but what do I know? Clearly, not much.

(I am, however, still holding a grudge against Albarn for dropping Del the Funky Homosapien from the project after the first Gorillaz album. Del rules.)

So here we are in 2020 and Robert Smith has teamed up with the Gorillaz for a new Covid-themed single and he even appears in the video as the man in the moon. Which seems perfect.

Battle war of the worlds, surgical glove world, bleach thirsty world
I’m twitching in the grimy heat, I think I might be spinning

It is indeed a strange time to be alive.

Gorillaz: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Video: Deep Sea Diver – “Impossible Weight” (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Deep Sea Diver - Impossible Weight featuring Sharon Van Etten (Official Video)

Directed by Jessica Dobson, Peter Mansen, Tyler Kalberg. From Impossible Weight, out October 16th on ATO.

I saw Deep Sea Diver open up for Wilco back in November, which was the last concert I went to before covid, unless I’m forgetting something, which I totally could be, because this fucking pandemic has obliterated any real sense of time or memory. I would’ve sworn that show was at least three years ago but nope.

And you can hear that maybe a little bit of the headliner rubbed off onto this new song with its swirling chimes and its verses that assassin down the avenue.

But that was then and this is now
I tried so hard not to let you all down
It’s an impossible weight
So I’ll just let you down now

When I was 14 I got into the Monkees when MTV started showing the reruns. Riding the success of that revival, Clive Davis of Arista Records convinced Micky and Peter to a record a few songs for a new hits compilation. “That Was Then, This Is Now” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 5, 1986, peaked at No. 20, and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks. I turned 15 during its reign and I loved it. The album, Then & Now…The Best of the Monkees, stayed on the Billboard 200 for 34 weeks. I played the cassette nonstop.

In not too long I would start to pick up the original albums at garage sales and the Rhino reissues at record stores. My copy of Headquarters had a crack (not a scratch, a crack) that went all the way through, but if I lined it up just right it would still play.

None of that really has anything to do with Deep Sea Diver, but if you’re going to have a chorus that says “that was then and this is now” then you’re going to get a Monkees story out of me and that’s just the way it is.

Oh and also: Sharon Van Etten rules.

Deep Sea Diver: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Somewhat Like a Rolling Stone

1967 was the year The Doors released its self-named album. Elvis and Priscilla were wed. Jimi came out with Are You Experienced? And before the year was out, the Beatles set out on The Magical Mystery Tour. 1967 was the year that Kurt Cobain was born; the year that Woody Guthrie died.

1967 was the year Rolling Stone was launched.

Although the newsprint biweekly seemed rather unusual in a period when Life magazine was thick and glossy and The Saturday Evening Post had some of the best writing going, it became an important voice because Jann Wenner and his editors had the good sense to give assignments to Tom Wolfe—The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities were consequences of writing Wolfe did for the publication—and Hunter S. Thompson, a man who we could use right now to chronicle the mendacious beasts that are slithering on the political scene today. In 1973 Annie Leibovitz became the chief photographer for the magazine, creating images that have become both signature and timeless.

Fifty-three years later, Rolling Stone still exists.

But like anything 53 years on, it isn’t what it once was.

Today Rolling Stone is owned by Penske Business Media, a privately held firm that is headed by Jay Penske. His father is Roger Penske, perhaps the most legendary still existing person in motor sports. Penske pere, for example, as a racecar team owner, has not only won more Indianapolis 500 races than anyone (18 times), but last year he bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The family does it big. To its credit, Penske Business Media owns a range of magazines, from Art in America to Variety. Anyone who keeps journalism alive deserves our thanks.

I recently got an email solicitation from Rolling Stone that said that were I to subscribe post-haste I would get “instant access” (once there would have been a tongue-in-cheek reference to “instant karma”) to:

• Exclusive interviews
• Award-winning features
• Trusted music, TV, and movie reviews
• In-depth political commentary
• Stunning original photography

And I suspect that while all of those areas have sufficiency and probably sometimes excellence, Wenner’s own interviews in the early years are rightfully legendary; the feature writing isn’t Wolfe in his prime; Thompson has never been eclipsed; and, well, Leibovitz.

But let’s put all that aside.

Here’s the thing that really drove the stake through any possibility that I would have considered achieving “instant access.”

Were I to have signed up, in addition to saving 50% on the publication, I would have gotten a “FREE Rolling Stone Tote Bag.”

Yes, the sort of thing that PBS and AARP provides to members who sign up for things.

But then again, it is 53 years old.

Continue reading Somewhat Like a Rolling Stone

WHO MADE WHO: Rock radio, targeted males, and the tyranny of nostalgia

In January 2018, rock radio in Chicago met its eschatological fate when K-Love ran the flaming sword of the archangel Uriel through the prostrate body of WLUP. The Loop had first declared itself the city’s loudest radio mouth in the late 1970s, when Steve Dahl burned disco records in a big fuck you to anyone who challenged the white male’s perceived right to be an obnoxious, ignorant clown. The station’s AOR format downshifted into hard rock, and a steady thrum of AC/DC, Def Leppard, Skynyrd, Foghat, and “Get the Led Out” rock blocks blasted from suburban garages, unfinished basements, and cinder block high school weight rooms, eventually traveling through the cocaine and Aqua Net hair metal era and onward to grunge and “active rock,” i.e. lots of Foos and Nirvana. But by the mid-aughts, radio listenership had splintered, coalesced, and splintered again to form into specific micro-demos, and The Loop’s blunt instrument approach was wavering. Its battering ram dulled, the Christians came calling, and with their “positive and encouraging” CCM niche, they squashed the dude rock bug dead. All stop signs, all speed limits; highway to hell, indeed.

Enter Labor Day Weekend, 2020. With the suddenness typical of terrestrial radio moves like this, iHeartMedia flipped its “Big 95.5” modern country format to “Rock 95 Five” and cued up a core playlist of Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi, Green Day, Def, Foo, and Motley Crue. Radio bigwigs described the move as returning ”a key soundtrack to a large lifestyle group,” and white guys aged 25 to 54 driving around Chicagoland in their grey 2003 Ford Mustangs with a vinyl bumper sticker featuring Calvin pissing on a Chevy logo suddenly felt seen again.

The visual branding for “Rock 95 Five” is all blacks, reds, and bold dips, sort of the typographic version of a football lineman who does up his eye black in tragicomic kabuki. A recent playlist scan featured Foreigner’s loutish “Hot Blooded,” “Beautiful People” from Marilyn Manson (a song which reveals its extreme debt to Alice Cooper schlock as it ages), the Foos doing “All My Life,” and Steven Tyler’s lewd scatting on Aerosmith’s “Rag Doll.” A nod toward relative tenderness (or at least an acoustic guitar) came in the form of the Black Crowes’ heroin paen “She Talks to Angels,” and 95 Five finished out the set with the turgid knuckle dragging of Creed’s “My Own Prison,” a song and band where emo is bruised, battered and recast as the singular right of the white male animal to have what are otherwise known as all of the feels. There are no women here. (Maybe Alanis. Maybe.) There are no people of color, aside from a few Hendrix nuggets. And the imaging positioners that drop in between songs exclusively feature a smarmy white male voice shouting stock phrases like “Do you even lift, bro?” and leering that “we’ll melt your face, and melt it good.” A certain kind of male is in control again. As he sees it.

Continue reading WHO MADE WHO: Rock radio, targeted males, and the tyranny of nostalgia

New Travis video: The Only Thing (ft. Susanna Hoffs)

Video: Travis – “The Only Thing” (ft. Susanna Hoffs)

Travis - The Only Thing (feat. Susanna Hoffs) (Official Video)

Directed by Fran Healy. From 10 Songs, due October 9 on BMG.

I bet you didn’t even realize how much you missed the sound of Fran Healy’s voice. Back in 2001, which--insanely enough--is almost twenty years ago, Johnny Loftus dubbed Travis the kings of “Nice Rock” and welcomed them and their fellow nice rockers Coldplay as an antidote to the Nu Metal clowns hogging the rock and roll airspace. Seems quaint now to even imagine rock and roll having any airspace to hog, but that’s a different story. Or is it?

At a time when the only guitars you’re going to find on the Hot 100 belong to Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, both of whom are perfectly fine and pleasant to listen to, maybe we’re overdue for a Nice Rock revival. Sure, it’s a long shot but wouldn’t it be…well, nice?

And maybe the chances of a breakthrough will be improved with addition of a voice that inspires even warmer feelings of nostalgia: that of tiniest Bangle, Susanna Hoffs, who has inspired everyone from Price to Matthew Sweet.

Aw, who am I foolin’? “The Only Thing” will pick up some plays on SiriusXM’s dadrock haven, The Spectrum (Ch. 28), or maybe Jenny Eliscu will find a place for it once or twice on XMU (Ch. 35). But the days are gone when the mainstream is going to embrace a pretty duet featuring pedal steel and clever lines like this:

You are the record in the record shop
Nobody wants to buy
You are the metaphor, the metaphor
The meta for the other guy.

That’s okay. So it goes. The niche of folks who care about music like this can stayed tuned to Glorious Noise and we’ll keep uncovering gems like this for you.

Travis: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Travis video: The Only Thing (ft. Susanna Hoffs)

New Sylvie Simmons video: The Thing They Don’t Tell You About Girls

Video: Sylvie Simmons – “The Thing They Don’t Tell You About Girls”

Sylvie Simmons: "The Thing They Don't Tell You About Girls"

Video by Ryan Sarnowski. From Blue on Blue, out now on Compass.

Sylvie Simmons is a writer for Mojo and author of the definitive biography of Leonard Cohen, I’m Your Man (Harper Collins, 2012) and recently helped Debbie Harry write her memoir, Face It (Dey Street, 2019). She also plays the ukulele and writes gentle little songs that might sneak up on you and break your heart.

A few years ago her song “Hard Act to Follow,” originally released on her self-title debut (Light in the Attic, 2014), was featured in a Nicky Hornby movie. Which makes sense. Another author who is obsessed with music…

She told Pop Matters, “You shouldn’t make an album if you’re a music journalist and don’t use ukulele to do it. I was expecting to be quite humiliated, and it was quite the opposite. It was an absolute wonder to me.”

Now Simmons has released her follow up, Blue On Blue. Once again produced by Howe Gelb, the recording sessions were interrupted by a debilitating accident that ultimately required her to alter her ukulele style. “There were songs that took a lot more movement of my hand than I was able to do. But they’ll be on the next album.”

Simmons describes her new single as “a sad song that came out sounding happy. Songs do that sometimes; they have no respect for the people that write them.”

Sounds like the song turned out just the way it was supposed to!

Sylvie Simmons: web, twitter, bandcampamazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Sylvie Simmons video: The Thing They Don’t Tell You About Girls

The End of Ownership: Material Gives Way to the Ephemeral

Here we are living through social distancing. Living through a period when we interact with people, primarily, unless those people are part of a small group we are confident of, via Zoom or Teams or from behind a mask, ideally six or more feet away. Masks and sweatpants have become increasingly important to people, the former because of the need to go out and the latter because somehow the “office” is something that is only evident from the waist up.

And when we have to encounter surfaces, there is a frantic look around for some means by which the object is sanitized or our hands are. Or both.

If we need stuff—like, say, food—then it isn’t a matter of just going down the street to the local bodega or hopping in the car and buzzing over to the supermarket. It is something that is carefully planned and executed. And while time has dulled the edge of the potential virus, there is still some hesitation regarding whether the objects should be brought in to the kitchen right away or whether those cans, boxes and bags should be permitted to settle for a period of time.

The material has become suspect.

2

But it wasn’t COVID-19 that had the effect on the music industry in the U.S. that is unfolding. It seems that people have decided that when it comes to music, most are not particularly interested in any sort of ownership. The transient is sufficient. And when the numbers for 2020 are calculated, odds are that what occurred in 2019 will be nothing if not magnified.

In a report from the Recording Industry Association of America for overall economics of 2019, the trade group found “Total revenues from streaming music grew 19.9% to $8.8 billion in 2019, accounting for 79.5% of all recorded music revenues.”

And more telling: “The streaming market alone in 2019 was larger than the entire U.S. recorded market just 2 years ago in 2017.”

The biggest chunk of the monies in 2019 streaming were for subscription services, accounting for $6.8 billion. That in itself is 61% of total recorded music revenues.

Continue reading The End of Ownership: Material Gives Way to the Ephemeral