The three members of the Killers sitting in and around an old car.


One of the things that has a certain resonance during a concert is if a member of the band mentions the name of the city where the event is being held. Given that these people are endlessly on the road playing in venues that are probably pretty much interchangeable from the point of view of back stage and on stage, there is something to be said for their speaking the name, as though there is a personal connection.

(This naming convention also carries over to recorded music, even if it is Huey Lewis enumerating bergs.)

The Killers are on a world tour that recently brought them to Georgia. No, not the Peach Tree State. The country that shares a border with Russia, just south of Chechnya. Georgia had been annexed by the Soviet Union in 1922. During the 1980s a successionist effort grew such that in 1991 the country regained its independence. The country turned toward the West, which annoyed the Russians. In 2008 Putin wasn’t the president of Russia because that would have meant three consecutive terms, so he, in effect, turned the position over to Dmitry Medvedev, his First Deputy Prime Minister, and he took the Prime Minister position. In effect, he maintained control. In August 2008 Russia invaded Georgia. As Brian Whitmore, nonresident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council put it: “In 2008 Russia invaded Georgia, occupied 20 percent of its territory, and got away with it.” Arguably one of the reasons why there is substantial Western support for Ukraine today is because of what Putin did in Georgia 15 years ago.

Remember: Russia seized 20% of Georgian territory and still occupies it.

And when Putin invaded Ukraine, the Georgian people became profoundly concerned that they could be next. (The Ukrainian border with Russia is northwest of the Georgia-Russia border.)

Which brings me back to The Killers.

During its concert in Batumi, Georgia, Brandon Flowers brought up a member of the audience on stage to participate in its signature invite-an-audience-member-to-play-drums routine. Flowers told the audience that the man in question was a Russian. Needless to say, many members in the audience were outraged, despite Flowers talking brotherhood.

(One could make the argument that there is a difference between the Russian people and the Russian government, and consequently Flowers didn’t make a mistake by doing what he did—after all, there were protests in Moscow against the invasion of Ukraine. However, Russia is occupying Georgian territory. To put the 20% into context, 20% of the land mass of the United States is 623,977 square miles. So imagine a foreign country occupying a space more than twice the size of Texas.)

Tinatin Japaridze, a Eurasian political risk analyst at Eurasia Group and native Georgian:

“While we cannot expect every rockstar to have an in-house geopolitical risk analyst on speed dial, I find it hard to believe that The Killers had not been at least casually informed that the place where they were about to perform had spent 70 years under Soviet occupation, and relations with Russia — a northern neighbor that invaded my country in 2008 — continue to be tumultuous, to say the least.

“Hopefully, The Killers will spread the word among their colleagues in entertainment and make it public knowledge in the West that for as long as Moscow continues to occupy our sovereign territory, Russians cannot and will not be our siblings.”

Name checking from stage isn’t always a good thing.


Meanwhile, in legal news. . .

What do Frank Sinatra, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong have in common?

Among other things, they’re all dead.

UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Concord Bicycle Assets, CMGI Recorded Music Assets, Sony Music Entertainment, and Arista Music have filed suit in the Southern District of New York against the Internet Archive and associated entities that are undertaking what they’re calling the “Great 78 Project.”

The objective of that project is to digitally copy music  on 78-rpm discs and house it on the Internet Archive.

In the suit the Plaintiffs claim:

“Defendants attempt to defend their wholesale theft of generations of music under the guise of ‘preservation and research,’ but this is a smokescreen: their activities far exceed those limited purposes. Internet Archive unabashedly seeks to provide free and unlimited access to music for everyone, regardless of copyright.”

What’s more, they go on to claim that some of the music being archived is “already available for streaming or downloading from numerous services authorized by Plaintiffs. These recordings face no danger of being lost, forgotten, or destroyed.”

While that’s undoubtedly the case for the “hits” like “White Christmas, odds are things like Bing’s “There’s a Gold Mine in the Sky” from his 1939 Cowboy Songs are likely to only exist in random garage sales.

The Plaintiffs point out, “Internet Archive’s stated goal is to digitize and make available for free every 78 rpm recording ever created.”

Note the agitation related to “free.”

Given the Music Modernization Act of 2018, which federally protects music recorded prior to February 15, 1972 (and which makes you wonder what the “modernization” in the name has to do with), odds are that the record labels, assuming they get the jury trial they’re seeking, will win.

Wouldn’t it be a more beneficial use of their time and money if they were simply to run a program that determines which of the songs recorded on 78-rpm records are the ones that they are making money from and which they are unlikely to (e.g., Bing’s 1938 “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life” from Decca Presents a Collection of Victor Herbert Melodies, Vol. 1) and donate the rights to the public.

But corporations being corporations (i.e., in its first half 2023 earnings report Universal Music Group noted “Revenue of €5,148 million increased 8.7% year-over-year, or 9.1% in constant currency, driven by growth across all segments” with one of those segments being streaming: “Recorded Music subscription revenue grew 11.6% year-over-year on both a reported and constant currency basis and streaming revenue grew 2.3% year-over-year, or 1.8% in constant currency”) a lot of money is never enough.

After all, who knows if Bing’s “Down by the River,” the Rodgers and Hart song of 1935, not Young’s of 1969, will become next year’s “Running Up That Hill”?

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