Britney Spears Forever!...or Till The World Ends (Video Premiere)

Because of current elation which is in direct relation to the fact that Britney has redeemed herself from the "Hold It Against Me" video, I'm skipping all summaries, opinions, etc. and simply posting the "Till The World Ends" video here.  Premiered this past Wednesday and co-written by the one & only Jack Daniels toothbrusher (Ke$ha):


SpriNgYC Tours

If you're one of the unfortunate ones that missed out of one or both of Prince's MSG concerts, one or both of Elton John's 61st & 62nd MSG shows, or even Steve Martin & the  Steep Canyon Rangers gigs at The Highline Ballroom, Joe's Pub, Music Hall of Williamsburg, or on David Letterman, The View, or The Colbert Report (bluegrass breaking in NYC?  Oh yes!) you still have a chance to get your concert-self in gear.  Here's a look at the Spring-filled shows coming through the NYC area this season:

The Hold Steady: 4/8, Terminal 5 - 8pm - $25
Ke$ha: 4/13, Roseland Ballroom - 8pm - $41.50 (Don't forget a bottle of Jack & a toothbrush)
TV on the Radio: 4/13, Radio City - 8pm - $40.50 (Scheduled a day after their long-awaited 4th album, "Nine Types of Light" drops)
Bret Michaels: 4/16, St. George Theatre (Staten Island) - 8pm - $29-$79 (Bring your bandana)
Kid Cudi: 4/20-4/22, Roseland Ballroom - 8pm - $49.50-$75
Diddy-Dirty Money: 4/22, Hammerstein Ballroom - 7pm - $47.50-$73 (Pick this & save $2 dollars from Cudi!)
Lupe Fiasco: 4/24-4/25, Roseland Ballroom - 8pm - $49.50-$75 (New album, "Lasers)
Yacht: 4/27, Webster Hall - 7pm - $16 (Go, you will never get into WH for this cheap again)

Bruno Mars & Janelle Monae: Hooligans in Wondaland: 5/4, Roseland Ballroom - 7:30pm - $35.50 (Common sense is screaming this will be new, hot, funky, and well worth it)
Donald Glover: 5/10, Bowery Ballroom - 9pm - $20 (Appearing as his hip-hop alter-ego Childish Gambino)
Sleigh Bells: 5/11, Webster Hall - 7pm; 5/12, Music Hall of Williamsburg - 7pm or 9pm, differing information - $20 (Indie, high-energy)
Deftones, Dillinger Escape Plan: 5/13-5/14, Best Buy Theater - 8pm - $30-$35
The Fats Waller Dance Party: 5/13-5/14, Harlem Stage Gatehouse - 9pm, 11pm - $10 (Meshell Ndegeocello & Jason Moran pay tribute to Mr. Thomas W. Waller)
Elvis Costello & the Imposters: 5/22-5/24, Beacon Theatre - 8pm - $49.50-$89.50 (The set list is to be determined game-show-style with a wheel featuring hits, rarities, and cover)
Arctic Monkeys: 5/24, Summerstage, Rumsey Playfield - 6:30pm - $35


Music In The Clouds

A little over a month ago, I wrote this article about smart, portable subscription services that included a lot of techy-talk like "cloud-based storage".  After logging on to Amazon.com today, I saw their homepage announcement of the launch of their very own cloud services, Amazon Cloud Drive and Amazon Cloud Player.  As Amazon details, the Cloud Drive is a user's "disk drive in the cloud" storing music collections and other digital documents (photos, videos) in Amazon's datacenters.  Basically, customers can store these files on Amazon's Web servers as opposed to their own hard drives and play them over an Internet connection.  The Cloud Player has two varieties: Web and Android.  For Web, grab your computer with a web browser, worry not about installing anything, and listen.  For Android, pull out your Android phone or tablet, get the app, and do the same as Web. 

Amazon's MP3 Store boasts a catalogue of 15M songs and now offers the option to put your purchases directly into the Cloud Drive.  Amazon is currently giving away 5GB of free Cloud Drive storage and new purchases from the Amazon MP3 Store are free and don't count against storage quota.

Update (3/31): Sony Music isn't pleased with Amazon after they failed to launch the music locker without new licenses for music streaming, spokeswoman Liz Young said.  "We're keeping all of our legal options open." 


X Marks the Spot for L.A.

L.A. Reid, soon-to-be-former chairman of Island Def Jam sent an internal memo on Thursday stating, "I have decided to leave my position as chairman of the Island Def Jam Music Group."  It's becoming more widely spoken that he may be joining the panel of judges on "The X Factor" with Simon Cowell and Digital Spy and Fox have apparently confirmed this. 

Reid has been a prominent figure in the music business since beginning his career in the mid-70s with Cincinnati-based funk rock group Pure Essence.  Reid founded LaFace Records (TLC, OutKast, Toni Braxton) with former bandmate Babyface through a joint venture with Clive Davis in 1989.  He brought artists such as Pink, Ciara, and Avril Lavigne onto Arista after selling LaFace to BMG and becoming the company's President in the early 2000s.  After the Sony/BMG merger in 2004, he became the Chairman and CEO of IDJ Music Group, paving the way for Mariah Carey's resurgence in 2005, Kanye West, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and most recently, Jennifer Lopez, after she left Epic. 

Reid has won 3 Grammys, is a record exec, songwriter, and producer.  He is also the President and CEO of Hitco Music Publishing, based in Atlanta.  He has a cosmetic line named Le Métier de Beauté.  In August 2006, he and Babyface were honored as BMI Icons at the 6th annual BMI Urban Awards, adding his sum of BMI awards to total 18.  He has 33 No. 1 singles.

Update (3/19): It's official, Simon Cowell has announced L.A. Reid is set to be a judge on X. 


"Born This Way" Video Premiere

The video for Lady Gaga's first single "Born This Way" from her upcoming album, Born This Way (May 23) premiered this morning and is over 7 minutes of complete creative freedom and innovation.  While I'm sure she and the video are in for lots of praise and scrutiny for countless reasons, I'm choosing not to pick at this video in either regard.  Instead, I want to focus on the risks Gaga takes, as proven once again in this video.  Not only did she direct along with choreographer Laurieann Gibson, the scene set to the opening monolgue is a shocker...if you've never seen how aliens are born.  Gags then brought in Rick Genest, a.k.a. Zombie Boy to play her skeletal love interest, had her head on display like a revisited episode of Snick At Night's "Are You Afraid Of The Dark?", and had lots of solo power dancing.

I love LG's creativity and how she goes far, far beyond thinking outside of the box, though I still feel the most admirable aspect of the single is simply, the message.  The lyrics, while others in the mainstream have played around the same subject, have stuck with me since the first time I heard them.  They are so bold and yes, we have all heard "be yourself, love who you are, be proud, stand up and believe in yourself" in a million songs, but explicitly hearing, not hinting at, "No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, I'm on the right track, I was born this way".  To be fair, others have definitely slashed open the envelope far beyond the norm in years/decades past, but this is a new age and it's about time we have a voice for embracing everyone for who we are.  We are a blunt people and if it takes blunt words to match, let the slashing continue.


At the Peak of Mount 2010

In continuation of the last post, here is a look at 2010's Top 10s, as well as who hit high and who hit low notes (gracias to Rolling Stone). 

Top 10 Albums
Artist, Album, Total Sales
1. Eminem, Recovery, 3,415,000
2. Lady Antebellum, Need You Now, 3,089,000
3. Taylor Swift, Speak Now, 2,960,000
4. Justin Bieber, My World 2.0, 2,319,000
5. Susan Boyle, The Gift, 1,852,000
6. Lady Gaga, The Fame, 1,591,000
7. Sade, Soldier of Love, 1,300,000
8. Drake, Thank Me Later, 1,269,000
9. Usher, Raymond v Raymond, 1,183,000
10. Ke$ha, Animal, 1,143,000

Top 10 Songs
Artist, Song, Total Sales
1. Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg, California Gurls, 4,398,000
2. Train, Hey, Soul Sister, 4,314,000
3. Eminem ft. Rihanna, Love the Way You Lie, 4,245,000
4. Taio Cruz, Dynamite, 4,083,000
5.  B.o.B. ft. Hayley Williams, Airplane, 4,000,000
6. Usher ft. Will.i.am, OMG, 3,763,000
7. Eminem, Not Afraid, 3,414,000
8. Bruno Mars, Just the Way You Are, 3,276,000
9.  Taio Cruz ft. Ludacris, Break Your Heart, 3,245,000
10.  Lady Antebellum, Need You Now, 3,182,000

Top 10 Tours
Artist, Total Gross, Number of Shows

1. Bon Jovi, $108,200,000, 51
2. Roger Waters, $89,500,000, 56
3. Dave Matthews Band, $72,900,000, 62
4. Eagles, $64,500,000, 42
5. Paul McCartney, $61,800,000, 21
6.  Lady Gaga, $51,000,000, 55
7. James Taylor and Carole King, $50,700,000, 44
8. Black Eyed Peas, $50,500,000, 54
9. John Mayer, $49,900,000, 84
10. Justin Bieber, $48,300,000, 81


Lady Gaga: Amazing 2010, looking like a strong 2011, Forbes estimated her earnings at $100M.
Eminem: 2010's top album, 2 top singles, ridiculous (in the positive sense!) stadium shows with Jay-Z and Co.
Taylor Swift: Lady Swift blasted through another year of incredible highs, including the year's only million-sales week (Speak Now).
Mumford and Sons: The group's debut was 2010's third-bestselling rock record (sales: 626k).
Drake: Hip-hop's breakout star locked in with the eighth-biggest album.

Diddy: Dridful!  Not even SNL, shameless self-promotion, and 5 singles could help Diddy and his album through the last year.
Christina Aguilera: Burlesque didn't show up as well as hoped and Ms. PowerPipes was forced to cancel her tour due to lackluster sales.
Miley Cyrus: Miss Disney decided to sprint to the phone booth and come out the other end Miss Sex Pot.  Unfortunately, her fans didn't follow.  Sales at a mere 302k, meant Can't Be Tamed sold less than her previous album (Breakout) did in its first week.
Kings of Leon: The group was unable to match the success they found with Use Somebody, as well as unable to generate a Top 5 album.


On The Road to Summer 2011

Cross your fingers that the long list of 2011's tours will fare far better than 2010's did.  This year is looking to have a pretty strong hold in arena venues.  Case in point: Taylor Swift sold out 2 shows at New Jersey's Prudential Center within minutes and added 2 more at the same 18,000 seater (which is superb, especially in the current state of the industry).  Although, the 21 year old has been slingshotting up every scale possible since she hit the scene.  Anyhow, with help from Rolling Stone, here's looking back at a pout-filled 2010's touring and sales industries and a surprising sunny side.

Although the previous decade was a mudslide for the music industry - album sales continued their downfall, down 13%, digital music nearly halted, and the concert business took a nosedive - Peter Katsis, manager of Korn and Jane's Addiction makes a good point.  "Everybody's working with less money.  But it's really forcing people to get more creative.  It's kept us all on our toes."  Artists such as Bon Jovi, Roger Waters, DMB, and several others (see following post) had very solid tour runs.  Revenues for the top 100 tours dropped 13% and ticket sales fell 12%, following a successful 15-year boom (Pollstar).  Canceled tours included Christina Aguilera (just after going on sale), Limp Bizkit (before tour even started), Lilith Fair, Rihanna, Jonas Brothers, American Idols Live!, and so many more were forced by promoters to cancel or move to much smaller venues.  After the largest promoter in the world, Live Nation, merged with Ticketmaster in a $2.5B deal, LN did something unheard of, cutting ticket prices to $10 just to get folks in the door.  In 2010 summer, Chief Executive of promoter AEG Live, Randy Phillips, stated "we haven't had this many former headliners having to struggle like this to sell tickets".

Digital sales have been a tremendous success and a bright spot for the record industry...until 2010.  Nielson SoundScan reports just a 1% increase, possibly due to the controversial deal between iTunes and record labels, which raised Hot Track prices from $0.99 to $1.29 in April.  Jack Isquith, formerly with Warner believes this has to do with a maturing format.  "It's no longer new and shiny".

For music buyers, a warm spot was in Amazon's fight for a downloads upper-hand with iTunes.  Consequently, Amazon slashed prices on albums including Vampire Weekend's Contra, Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, Kid Rock's Born Free, and the Rolling Stones' Excile on Main Street to $3.99, meaning the company took a $3-$4 loss on each just to get buyers buying.  Vampire Weekend sold 124k copies in its first week and hit #1.  Kid Rock, who, by choice, isn't available on iTunes, sold 12% of his 189k first-week copies as Amazon MP3s.  Arcade Fire, this 2011's surprise Album of the Year Grammy winner, went to the top spot in its first week with 156k sales.

Eminem proved hip-hop is ready to come back with a vengeance, after its 20-30% sales drop over the past five years.  Mather's comeback album, Recovery, sold 3.4M and was accompanied by solid hits from Kanye, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne.  Hip-hop rose 3%, while its genre counterparts dropped by double-digit figures, except for country, which dropped 5% (thanks Taylor & Lady Antebellum for your combined 6M copies of your latest albums!).

Vinyl, which has been making a very slow and questionable comeback was 2010's fastest-growing format.  It sold 2.8M units, more copies than any other year since SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991.  Fans were ringing up purchases such as Arcade Fire, the Black Keys, reissues such as the Beatles' Abbey Road and John Coltrane's Blue Train.  Says Marc Weinstein, co-founder of California's Amoeba Music chain, "LP sales are going up, up, up."  Seems he may be onto something, after selling an average of 400 LPs a day in his San Fran store alone.


If I Said I Want Your Body Now, Would You Hold It Agai----No! I Wouldn't!

After its premiere on MTV and Vevo.com last night, I am left screaming, "What is up with this video??????"  The entire Milky Way (and beyond) knows my love for Ms. Toxic, but seriously...HUH?  I'm not going to go into detail but for a few points.  While not originally a huge fan of the single, I definitely favor it over its visual counterpart. 

-It's a new Britney video
-The end scene, where Cher has apparently lent Britney & her dancers the Burlesque stage

-Britney fighting herself-why is this happening in the first place and what does it have to do with holding it against me because you/I feel like paradise?
-Britney fighting herself-clearly neither Brits received training for this sequence from Tony Horton's KenpoX
-The child's pottery paint? I guess Britney & Willow Smith traded paint sets at a recent playdate
-The dancers' faceless masks, the TV set scenery, the nonsecretive and never ending barrage of product placement (Lady Gaga's was just funny in Video Phone), the quit cut-to of the ...One More Time video (where did THAT come from???)

Overall, I was very confused from beginning to end...well, at least until the aforementioned Burlesque stage scene.

View for yourself here:

Click here to find out what Billboard readers' voted as the 10 best Britney videos.


Supreme Court vs. You

Snippet: In January, the Supreme Court declined to review a ruling that reinstated an antitrust lawsuit alleging that major record labels conspired to fix prices and terms under which music would be sold over the Internet.  The justices rejected without comment an appeal by companies that included Sony and Warner Bros.

Subscription Service + Smartphone = Music, Music, Music

Rolling Stone recently published an article showcasing several portable subscription services and detailing which is right for smartphone consumers.  While the revenue side of this service is still questionable (subscription services make up a miniscule percentage of the digital music market), there has been a solid development of streaming services and apps, big thanks to smartphones, Apple, and Google.  All services listed below are currently $9.99/month for unlimited access and have the ability to cache songs on your phone for offline pleasure.

MOG: In July, the Berkeley-based service initiated "All Access" smartphone apps giving listeners just that.  Now accessible on iPhone, Android, and Roku TV set-top boxes are more than 9M songs which allow unlimied high-bit-rate (320 kps) downloads.  There is reportedly excellent curation, which includes guest playlists from Thom Yorke and David Byrne from Radiohead and Talking Heads, respectively.  The downside: Searching can be headachy.

RDIO: This service, launced in August by the founders of Skype, integrates with social-networking tools (Facebook, Twitter), letting users connect with friends.  It also will sync up with your iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry and seemingly comes with and easy-to-use interface.  The downside: 7M songs (the least of any service) = lack of indie acts like Arcade Fire and Pavement.  However, with AF's recent Grammy surprise, this info may soon be just the opposite.

RHAPSODY: The long-running service launched a mobile app in late 2009, available with iPhone.  Android and Blackberry apps are coming.  Users will find a huge, 10M song catalog and Pandora-style personal radio stations.  The downside: Too complicated interface; low bit-rate downloads, which means harsh tunes.

THUMBPLAY: Hooking up with your iPhone, Android, or (best choice) BlackBerry, this app started as a BlackBerry native & allows importing of iTunes playlists into non-Apple phones - sweet!  Also has a polished interface.  The downside: Weakest music-discovery tools; little editorial content.

The puzzle of downloadable and streaming music seems to be coming together nicely.  As senior VP of digital music at Warner, Jack Isquith stated, "People ar elooking at the rapid adoption of the smartphone.  I think that has tilted more engergy toward the idea of looking at the streaming model again."  With a quarter of American cell phone users owning a smartphone, iPhone owners already demonstrating a willingness to pay for apps, and phones being viewed as hacker-resistant, easing record label anxiety about unauthorized file-sharing, this seems to be an ideal time for these services to come out in full force.  Interestingly, MOG CEO David Hyman says the record labels are done losing sleep about such hacking.  "Hacking into a mobile phone to get those files out is such a fringe thing...labels have evolved enough that we're past the point where they care about that."  Gartner Inc. analyst Mike McGuire says labels are backing the model and have even relaxed their requirements for upfront minimum guarantees they chage to get access to a catalog. 

While we Americans still await the the stateside availability of Spotify (Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., stated, "Free streaming services are clearly not net positive for the industry, and as far as WM is concerned will not be licensed), Apple and Google are zooming through streamland.  In December, Apple bought the streaming service Lala.  This will let users stream iTunes libraries through their iPhones, potentially blowing out all the services listed above.  With 160M users already in their database, as well as an obviously-needed 500k sq. ft. data center in NC, Apple is completely dominating this section of the industry...or maybe even the whole.  Google, on the other hand, previewed a version of the Android Marketplace in May, which allowed songs bought in the Marketplace to be automatically streamed to a device running the Android interface.  Buy it on your computer, play it on your phone.  In September, rumors spread that Google had pitched labels on a Google music product that would include a cloud-based "storage locker."

Sorry to the small fries, but I'm betting on Apple & Google here.