Category Archives: Shorties

New White Stripes video: Apple Blossom

Video: The White Stripes – “Apple Blossom”

The White Stripes - Apple Blossom (Official Video)

From The White Stripes Greatest Hits, out December 4 on Third Man.

Hey look it’s a new animated video for “Apple Blossom” to promote the upcoming White Stripes Greatest Hits collection. And why not?

Originally released twenty years ago on De Stijl, “Apple Blossom” is a fan favorite that was performed on all the White Stripes tours following its release. When the band made its television debut on Detroit’s “Backstage Pass” in 2000, they played “Apple Blossom” and not the album’s single, “Hello Operator.” Jack has even dusted it off for some of his solo shows.

I’m not the intended audience for a White Stripes hits comp, but I’m all for them reissuing stuff to appeal to a new generation of fans. I remember being 18 and getting some silly new Velvet Underground collection that totally opened the doors for my impending fanaticism.

So I’m never going to criticize a kid for starting with a “best of” or slam a label for issuing one.

And The White Stripes Greatest Hits track list looks pretty cool. At least it contains a somewhat rare b-side (“Jolene”)… Although in the streaming era can something that is already available for streaming be consider rare? Probably not. So while this collection could just as easily be built as a playlist, I’m sure a bunch of folks will pick it up on vinyl and have a great listening experience with it. Plus, I’m sure Third Man will include some trappings in the physical release that will make it fun to own. And if that drives some people to dig deeper into the catalog? Better for everybody.

The White Stripes: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New White Stripes video: Apple Blossom

Over There

Although it is easy to talk about the “music industry,” just what is it, or, more accurately, what are the elements that establish the whole?

I found an answer in a report prepared by UK Music, a trade organization that represents—yes, exactly what its name unambiguously states.

In its codification there are six primary sectors and then a various number of subsectors in each:

  1. Music Creators: musician, composer, songwriter, lyricist, vocalist, producer, engineer
  2. Live Music: music festival organizers, music promotors, music agents, production services, ticketing agents, convert venues and arenas
  3. Music Publishing: publishing rights holders, publishing companies
  4. Recorded Music: recorded rights holders, record labels, physical manufacturing and distribution, digital distribution, recording studios
  5. Music Representation: collective management organizations, music managers, music trade bodies, music accountants, music lawyers
  6. Music Retail: retail of musical instruments, manufacturer of musical instruments, digital music retail, physical music retail

Of the sectors, Music Creators has by far the greatest number of people employed (“full-time equivalency,” meaning this is what they do), with 142,000 of the industry’s total 197,168. In second, way, way, back is Live Music at 34,000; then Music Retail, 11,300; Recorded Music, 5400, Music Representatives, 3,100; and Music Publishing, 1,368.

The importance of the music industry is really significant to the UK economy. According to UK Music, it contributed £5.8-billion to the UK economy in 2019. To put that into some context, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the UK automotive trade association, the auto industry contributed £15.3-billion during the same period. The music industry employs 197,168. The auto industry 864,300.

But whereas people who work in the auto industry work for employers, according to UK Music, 72% of the people in the music industry are self-employed. When times are good, that is not bad. But when times are bad, that is not good.

And we all know which time we’re living in now.

While the UK government has established the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (yes, Scheme is part of its official name, not some sort of linguistic dodge) as part of its response to the COVID-19, UK Music estimates that only about a third of those working in entertainment and the arts qualify for it.

Continue reading Over There

New Teenage Fanclub: Home

Video: Teenage Fanclub – “Home”

Teenage Fanclub - Home (single edit)

From Endless Arcade, out March 5 on Merge.

You can never go home again. Yeah, it’s a cliche and painfully overused but it’s overused because it’s also painfully true. You can wander the streets of your neighborhood but they’re slightly different, like in a dream. Old haunts are under different names, old friends are…older. So, no. You can’t go home again, but one of the magics of music is you can return to familiar feelings. Neurons deep within the folds and creases of your brain can fire again. You can’t go back, but you can imagine what it would be like if you could. That’s how I feel when I hear the jangle and harmonies of Teenage Fanclub.

Teenage Fanclub - Everything Flows BBC Session

My introduction to the Fannies was like so many bands and artists in my youth: via mixtape. Jake had slipped in an alternate take of “Everything Flows” onto a yellow Maxell cassette. The loud guitars layered with pristine harmonies seeped perfectly into a brain already prepped by an obsession with The Stone Roses.

We get older every year
But you don’t change
Or I don’t notice you’re changing

Nearly thirty years on, Teenage Fanclub is still chugging. Their long Scottish locks are shorn and their skin isn’t as smooth, but whose is? The raucous youths who stormed Reading in 1992 are now more mature, more refined, more…still. And maybe that allows more space for the songs themselves. Maybe I’m just getting older too.

Teenage Fanclub - Reading Festival 1992

The new single, “Home” is classic latter-day TFC. It’s pretty and touching and nostalgic without being morose. Give a listen and feel at home again, if only for four minutes.

Teenage Fanclub: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy video: Deacon Blues

Video: Bill Callahan & Bonnie “Prince” Billy – “Deacon Blues (ft. Bill MacKay)

Bill Callahan & Bonnie Prince Billy "Deacon Blues (feat. Bill MacKay)" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Michael Tully. Single out now on Drag City.

It’s easy to hate Steely Dan when you’re an angry young person. The music is slick and perfect and the lyrics are mean and condescending. It sounds so adult. None of that reckless teenage abandon that makes rock and roll fun and exciting.

But you know what eventually changes your perspective? The Cuervo Gold and the fine Colombian…

These days I can’t even imagine not loving the Dan. Walter Becker and Donald Fagan are hilarious, and that’s something I didn’t pick up on when I was a kid. I even respect Michael McDonald now, which is something I never would’ve believed I’d admit. And it’s not some silly ironic enjoyment of “yacht rock.” They sound great. What’s not to love?

Clearly Bill Callahan and Bonnie “Prince” Billy feel the same way. Here, they take on Becker and Fagan’s tale of a suburban loser who wishes he was a hip jazz cat with a cool nickname, and it’s beautiful.

They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues

Callahan’s broken baritone embodies the character of the narrator perfectly. In the original version Fagan makes you smirk at the guy’s chutzpa, but Callahan makes you feel genuinely sorry for him. What more could you ask for?

Bill Callahan: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Bill Callahan and Bonnie Prince Billy video: Deacon Blues

New Amanda Shires video: The Problem ft. Jason Isbell

Video: Amanda Shires – “The Problem” (ft. Jason Isbell)

Amanda Shires - The Problem (feat. Jason Isbell) – Official Video

Directed by Becky Fluke. Single out now on Silver Knife.

These two! Come on. Tackling a difficult subject with all the empathy you’d expect from two of the most caring and sensitive songwriters in the business, Shires and Isbell put you right there in the room with a young couple figuring out how to deal with an unexpected situation.

Shires told CMT, “The video’s focus on the conversation never drifts and you can really feel the emotion. We recorded the vocals for this while we shot the video.” Wow.

So yeah, pretty raw.

Shires wrote an op-ed on abortion rights for Rolling Stone when “The Problem” was released, and it’s worth reading. Proceeds from the song will go to the Yellowhammer Fund, reproductive justice organization providing services in the Deep South.

Fun fact: That’s Sheryl Crow on bass.

Amanda Shires: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Amanda Shires video: The Problem ft. Jason Isbell

Sporting Events, Concerts & Potential Disinterest

Unless you are a participant, for viewers/listeners/attendees of live events, music and sports are both forms of entertainment, which have many similarities from the point of view of the attendee. They are (and this is in the context of pre-C-19) held in large structures and there are plenty of people also in attendance. There is a multitude of things that you can buy, from overpriced beer (as you’re prohibited from bringing in your own beverages, this is not a price predicted by market forces but by the venue owner or event organizer) to hats, T-shirts and other paraphernalia. Sporting events tend to last longer than concerts (with the average football game taking 3 hours and 12 minutes, for example), unless Bruce Springsteen is involved.

One fairly notable difference is that sporting events start on time, largely because of TV contracts. (This also explains, in part, why the NFL game is as long as it is: the game consists of four 15-minute quarters; halftime is 12 minutes for a regular game, although for the Super Bowl it can run 30 minutes or so.) How many times have you been to a concert when it started within 30 minutes or so of the time on your ticket?

And speaking of tickets, it has been reported that Ticketmaster is considering a plan for concertgoers where by attendees would have to verify that they’ve either tested negative for C-19 within a period of 24 to 72 hours before the show or, whenever this happens, have been inoculated. All of this is smartphone based (e.g., you get a test; tell the lab to send the information to a third party like CLEAR; the third party provides the OK for attendance). A benefit for Ticketmaster is that because this also means that a given ticket is digital, there is no reselling outside of its approved method.

And speaking of selling, it is worth noting that according to Statista, the average price of a concert ticket in 2019 (the last year of normalcy) was $96.17. Not surprisingly, the cost of attendance has gone up over the past few year, but curiously, in 2014 the average price of a concert ticket was $82.07 and it fell to $78.30 in 2015; it rose to $81.27 in 2016 and has gone up ever since. As for the NFL, the average price of a ticket, again according to Statista, in 2019 was $102.35. It has done nothing but go up over the past several years (e.g., in 2014 the average price was $84.43 and it was $85.83 in 2015. No drop. All increase.).

If you’ll accept the argument that there are similarities between things like professional football games and concerts, then there is the very real potential that there will be a profound change vis-à-vis live events.

That is, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult on live sports viewing habits (as in watching things on a screen) of all adults, Millennials and Gen Zers, the latter cohort is not nearly as keen as the Millennials. That is, whereas 50% of Millennials watch sports at least weekly, the figure is just 24% for Gen Z. And while only 20% of Millennials never watch sports, 39% of those in Gen Z never do.

Continue reading Sporting Events, Concerts & Potential Disinterest

A Gift of Neil

Neil Young’s 75th birthday was yesterday. Happy birthday, Neil. Sorry I’m late.

It’s weird to think I’ve been loving Neil for almost 30 years now. Like a lot of dudes who went to college in the early 90s I was heavily into the whole sixties counterculture scene. Jann Wenner’s influence over the rock and roll canon was still unquestioned. It felt important for serious music connoisseurs to know all that stuff.

I remember joining the Columbia House cd club one last time during my freshman year and one of my 12 picks was CSN(Y)’s So Far. I liked the Nash songs best. Clearly, I still had a lot to learn.

By my senior year I had graduated to Neil’s Decade, which became the soundtrack to many smoky evenings huddled around my pal George’s Mac putting together our underground newspaper or playing Maelstrom. George was my Neil Young spirit guide, providing guidance on the path to enlightenment.

After college my friends dispersed across the country but we kept in touch via brand new technology called an email listserv as well as sending handwritten letters through the good old U.S. mail. It was still the nineteen-hundreds after all. I was living at home with my mom, working a shitty factory job (English major), when I received a package from George in Toledo. It contained a cassette he compiled, titled The Killer, as something like a companion to Decade, the next step in my Neil education.

It blew my mind and made me realize the depth and intensity of Neil’s body of work.

Over the next several years as my obsession grew I scoured used record bins to fill in the rest of the blanks, eventually acquiring Neil’s complete discography on vinyl. It was so exciting to find an album I hadn’t heard before. New songs! The two holy grails were Time Fades Away and Journey Through the Past. At the same time, Neil was releasing new music (Harvest Moon, Sleeps with Angels, Mirrorball, Broken Arrow) and touring constantly. It was a great time to be a Neil fan.

And I owe it all to George and that mixtape.

Continue reading A Gift of Neil

And There’s More Evidence of the Decline

ESPN is, of course, the sports channel, network, brand, whatever.

It is primarily owned by Disney, with the Hearst Corporation, another media conglomerate that lacks associated characters (except for fans of Welles’ Citizen Kane).

ESPN, since its establishment in 1979, has spun off a multitude of thin-slices, as in ESPN+, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNews, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, etc., etc., etc.

For purposes of full disclosure, my interest in sports is very evanescent at most. I think the only time I spent any time watching ESPN was some years ago when, for reasons that even I can’t come up with, I’d watch the World Series of Poker.

So here we are, about 100 words into this thing, and you’re wondering what the heck this has to do with music.

It’s this: “ESPN” was originally an acronym for “Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.”

Entertainment.

Presumably, the most amount of musical entertainment associated with ESPN is openings to football games or bumper music on either sides of breaks or during the X Games. Comparatively—as in comparing the amount of time dedicated to baseball and the amount of time dedicated to soccer and the amount of time dedicated to music—the “entertainment,” if “entertainment” is thought to be something different than “sports” (which leads to a question of what “sports” are if not a form of entertainment: although I am confident that the people that I watched on the World Series of Poker all saw sports as a means by which they could achieve a bit more income), is microscopic.

For years ESPN has been something of a sports juggernaut (you don’t have all of those ancillary channels unless you are able to justify it).

But then it has hit COVID-19. Or COVID-19 hit it.

ESPN recently announced it is furloughing (a.k.a., “dismissing”) 300 people and not hiring 200 people for which it has had open positions. 500 people who have lost or who won’t get a job. Which is about 10% of its staff.

Given the decline of the fortunes of other companies in other industries (e.g., Delta Airlines has lost $22.4-billion through the third quarter of 2020—billion), the decline at ESPN is clearly not of the same magnitude.

But it is telling that a brand name in the entertainment sphere is hurting, largely, one guesses, because there are fewer traditional, normal games occurring. And when there are schedules, there are sudden shifts as, say, college players and/or coaches have positive tests.

One company that is certainly now part of the fabric of the quilt that is the music industry is Live Nation, the company that promotes events and has venues, reported its Q3 2020 results: a decline of 95%–which is actually better than Q2, when it saw a 98% decline.

Continue reading And There’s More Evidence of the Decline

The Day After

From the National Affairs Desk:

It’s the day after and where are the good people? We should be cleaning up balloons and confetti and gobbling Excedrin like candies to relieve jubilant hangovers, but we’re waiting. We’re waiting to see if predominantly black voters can save us from the hypocrisy and greed of predominantly white voters. More pointedly, white male voters. It turns out that America is still sick from its original sin and I am not sure if there even is a cure.

Despite what is looking more and more like a win for Biden-Harris, It shouldn’t have ever been in question. That is, if we’re really that Shining City on the Hill. Exit polls are bearing out what the early polls showed re: Trump’s base of support. White males support Trump in large numbers, this despite an economy tanked by Trump’s bungling of a national health crisis, scattered civil unrest brought on by systematic police brutality, and four years of continued ugliness. Somewhere upwards of 60% of white American males looked at the mess Trump has created the last four years and decided they’d like more.

Florida Demo Breakdown
Trump actually gained among white males vs. his performance in 2016.

There was a lot of hope this week that Florida (and Texas!) would be bellwethers of America’s disgust with Trumpism. Serious people who sniff out the political winds really thought we’d see an acceleration of the purpling of these states–not driven by demographics, but by decency! White males instead created bulwarks and stopped the march in its place. While there are some real questions to ask about Biden’s under-performing among Hispanic/Latinos, the fact of the matter is that white males like Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans who enable Trumpism. 

Posts like this are usually met with a chorus of “not all Trump supporters are racist!” I guess. But one thing is as clear today as it was in 2016: Trump supporters are not as disgusted by racism and race-baiting as good people should be. That’s been true for generations in America and it’s true today. 

As I wrote yesterday, every election is an inflection point. It’s our opportunity to right the ship and put us on the path to achieving that “more perfect union.” That very idea is at the core of American Exceptionalism. As a patriot, I love America but have to admit I hate Americans. There is nothing exceptional about people facing permanent and inevitable demographic changes clinging to the scraps they have while the 1% clears the table. That’s begging and it’s demeaning. And I guess that breeds cruelty, but it’s maddening to see the ire misdirected year after year. We have a lot to clean up still and I’m just not sure we’re up to the job.

At What Cost?

You’ve probably not heard of Marc Geiger, unless you’re into the business of the music business: He was, until recently, the head of the William Morris Endeavor Music Division, or more simply: he was an agent. Agent to the stars.

But you have heard of one of the things that Geiger was responsible for creating: Lollapalooza.

Create a phenomenon and make a lot of money.

Geiger has created a new company. He’s accumulated some $75-million in capital for it.

It is called “SaveLive.”

The “Live” is as in “live music.”

And while many of us might think that the way to do that would be to help fund the bands that are not out on stages right now because of the pandemic, finding a way to buy their music or swag or something, that’s why many of us are not clever business people.

Instead of the musicians, Geiger is looking to support the venues where the musicians would perform were it not that the number of venues that have had to keep their doors shut legally or economically is still high and those that are open have had to reduce the number of patrons allowed in, which is making their continued existence iffy at most.

As I’ve written about before, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) has worked with Congress on creating the Save Our Stages Act—sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Roger Williams (R-TX), which just goes to show that music, like viruses, knows no party affiliation—which is wrapped into the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROS Act), which, unfortunately, is stalled in the Senate.

As NIVA recently wrote about its members’ situation and the financial straits that are being caused by the pandemic and how they need more industry-specific help: “Unfortunately, previous Payroll Protection Plans do not work for this industry because we’re shut, so sadly we’ve been forced to furlough about 95% of our employees. While nearly 90% of America’s businesses are operating, as gathering places, we are not.”

The longer this goes on, the fewer venues will remain. After all, the people who own stages may not have to pay many of their employees, but they still have to pay property taxes, utilities, insurance and other things that aren’t going to go away even when the virus does.

So enter Geiger and SaveLive.

At its most simple, the plan is for it to buy at least 51% of venues. That way the previous owner will have income that can be used to do things like keeping the pipes from freezing this winter (yes, yes, there are venues where it doesn’t snow, but you get my drift).

Geiger told the New York Times, “I believe the artist economy is going to be very big when it comes back. Artists will want to tour to get their cash moving again, and people are going to love going out more than ever.”

And so the venues will be there to support those acts. Thanks to Geiger’s company.

This raises some questions.

Continue reading At What Cost?