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Pop and Payola, Part XXIX July 29, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Dueling music payola editorials in my local tabloids. Errol Louis at the Daily News does the usual evil-suits-ruin-good-music routine:

    If we’re lucky, the scandal will start a revival of the music business as a place where extraordinary talent and unique voices can be discovered, promoted and shared with the world.

Yeah, right. If you believe that, let me introduce you to a friend of mine with a great deal on a bridge.

Meanwhile, over at the Post, Ryan Sager goes all capitalist on the industry’s @ss:

    Payola regulations haven’t made radio better, they’ve just made it more homogenous.

    So why not embrace the free market?

    Placement of everything is bought and sold in America. Bookstores sell the space at the front, just like groceries sell the space at the end of the aisle, without any disclosure to consumers. Product-placement trends have turned TV shows and movies into animated billboards, with your favorite actors sipping, say, Starbucks while typing on their Apple iBooks.

    …Wouldn’t it be better, perhaps, to free up radio stations’ hands and maybe even clear the way for them to give the controls back to the DJs — even if it means song-selection is sometimes going to be based on something other than merit?

    Ultimately, the music industry truism holds: You can’t buy a hit.

    Spitzer should concentrate on more important things. Meanwhile, let a thousand flowers bloom. And let them bid for their places in the sun.

I couldn’t agree more. The industry is coin-operated. If the masses don’t buy the promoted star, the star won’t be promoted anymore. This isn’t art, folks, it’s pop music. Art finds its own way; pop culture is made by the marketplace.

Scandal Rocks ABC Smash Hit July 28, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Slow news day? An attempt to reach downscale readers mass audiences? The Times spends 937 words on the latest reality TV voting scandal. A must-read. You’ll learn that there’s only one time zone in Britain, and that there are producers with funny names on that side of the pond. But you won’t hear that this is only the latest in a series of shocking revelations.

    ABC and the show’s judges strenuously denied that the result had been rigged in any way. “There is no conspiracy here,” said Stephen McPherson, the president of ABC Entertainment. But all those involved agreed that the scoring system was fraught with problems: a viewer phone-in vote based on the previous week is combined with the votes of the judges, who watch the dances in a live show.

    “It isn’t a perfect situation, and none of us feels it is,” said Izzie Pick, a supervising producer of the series, which originated in England on the British Broadcasting Corporation.

XM Hooks Up with Napster July 27, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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This could be cool.

    XM Satellite Radio and digital music provider Napster Inc. on Wednesday said they would launch a service that lets XM subscribers buy music they hear on XM radio, sending Napster shares up 7 percent…The plan calls for the joint launch of “XM + Napster” in the fourth quarter of 2005 in conjunction with the availability of new XM/MP3 digital music players that let users bookmark songs they hear on the radio for future purchases online.

Bookmarking a song you heard on the radio for later purchase is a great idea if it’s implemented smoothly. Radio is still by far the number one music purchase influencer (see Fig. 8), cited by 57% of adult music buyers, twice as much as the next leading category, music videos (cited by 26%). Radio is more important for heavier spenders.

Comcast Sports Net? July 27, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Comcast may be thinking about launching an ESPN competitor. While Comcast owns some regional sports cable nets already, and there is a small package of NFL games still on the table, it would be almost impossible to challenge ESPN soon with a national, major-sport approach. Still, there might be some wildcards:

– On-demand everything
– Aggregating up a bunch of regional nets, focused on college and minor leagues
– Giving a big piece of the network to one of the major leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB)
– The FCC mandating a la carte cable packaging

I disagree with this:

    Comcast “may be the one company in the country that can put together a viable competitor to ESPN,” says Marc Ganis, a sports-franchise consultant who has worked with the NFL and NHL.

Fox is better positioned, with DirecTV and regional sports. Finally, I have to say sadly – my shallow Canadian roots showing – hockey won’t cut it.

Fortune Hearts Yahoo July 26, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Fortune’s cover story on Yahoo is a total puff piece, but, you know, it’s not far off base. One concern: Lloyd Braun is still listening to Bad.

    The 46-year-old Braun certainly has the charisma to bring anxious media execs to the table. In his capacious Santa Monica, Calif., office, whose terrace is the size of many New York City apartments, he ranges around like a pent-up teenager. Dressed with the studied schlumpiness—untucked shirt, spotless shoes—that is the uniform of Hollywood creative executives, he fiddles with a golf ball and putter, a chair, and a Magic Marker; he plays Michael Jackson’s “Bad” from his Yahoo music collection. “Right after the trial I downloaded it and started blasting it, and everyone has been loving it,” he screams over the King of Pop’s familiar sound blaring from the speakers.

What You Have To Do To Get Audioslave on WKSS July 25, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Memo to would-be bribers: delete your emails. From the LA Times coverage of Sony BMG settling with Spitzer over latter-day payola:

    “Two weeks ago, it cost us over $4,000.00 to get Franz [Ferdinand] on WKSE. That is what the four trips to Miami and hotel cost . . . At the end of the day, [David] Universal added GC [Good Charlotte] and Gretchen Wilson and hit Alex up for another grand and they settled for $750.00. So almost $5,000.00 in two weeks for overnight airplay. He told me that Tommy really wanted him to do it so he cut the deal.”

    Another Epic employee who was trying to promote the group Audioslave to a Clear Channel network programmer asked in an e-mail:

    “WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET AUDIOSLAVE ON WKSS THIS WEEK?!!? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen.”

Karmic-ly Bad Product Placement July 24, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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There’s no Google-branded information booth in “The Island.” Nope, it’s MSN. Butterfly and all. The movie tanked. (I’d say “deservedly so” but I’m not supposed to write movie reviews in this space.)

Music Cred – Zero, Marketing Synergy – ? July 24, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Prominently featured today on the top of the iTunes Music Store is an “exclusive video single” from Bratz. (You can’t watch it unless you buy the download.) It’s exclusive all right, as least as far as I could see. No Bratz videos on AOL Music, Yahoo/Launch, MTV.com, VH1.com, or Much Music. You can’t even get it at the official Bratz site.

Who is this hot band, you ask? From the artist biography at AOL Music:

    MGA Entertainment’s Bratz line of dolls and accessories debuted in 2001 as a hip alternative to Mattel’s Barbie, and quickly became the longstanding doll brand’s biggest competitor…In July 2005 MGA introduced the “Rock Angelz” line of Bratz dolls. Decked out in vintage leather and newsboy caps and sporting electric guitars, the quintet became their very own rock band. Coinciding with the doll line’s introduction was a third-person exploration video game, a full-length animated film, and the Rock Angelz soundtrack, which featured the single “So Good” as well as theme songs tailored to and “sung” by each character. The album included contributions from ace pop songwriters like Jörgen Elofsson (Britney Spears’ “[You Drive Me] Crazy”) as well as Matthew Gerrard, who’d worked with Hilary Duff and Kelly Clarkson.

Apple claims it doesn’t take marketing co-op dollars for the iTunes Store. (I think it should, but that’s another story.) So maybe this is a self-initiated tween-targeted marketing effort. Or maybe this is ironic programming for 20-somethings. Maybe. Last time I poked fun for marketing synergy trumping music cred. And what marketing it was that time!

I hope there’s something cool going on this time, but I can’t figure out what it is.

Racy Podcasts? Where? I Can’t Find ’em July 22, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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My apologies. Don’t believe everything you read. I searched desperately for pornograhphic content on the iTunes podcast directory, and have yet to find any. All I can find is really tedious, boring, dull, unprofessional, totally un-erotic, meanderings from self-proclaimed sex experts. Perhaps the Journal inhabits a world of “higher” community standards….

Extra, Extra, Racy Podcasts on iTunes July 22, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Whoops, maybe you want to hire some more editors, after all. After promising no sexy podcasts, Apple seems to be hosting quite a few.

    It is difficult to say just how popular the steamy broadcasts are. ITunes recently listed “Open Source Sex” as the 21st most popular of the 6,000 podcasts in its directory — ahead of podcasts from Newsweek, ESPN and ABC News. The Wall Street Journal Online also distributes a podcast through iTunes. Of the 100 top podcasts, 13 were recently marked as explicit, though some have nothing to do with sex, and earned the “explicit” label for using profanity.