On 2008 – a round up of sorts (part 1 of 2)

Writing about myself is a laborious exercise that I do not wish to engage in. I’ve often found that while I have many good tales to tell that actually putting them down into a digestible bits of sentence structure is tricky. Someday I will seek guidance from the gods and take another whack at it, until then I’m going to keep the self indulgence down to the bare minimum and write about things that interest me.

2008 was generally a very good year. Professionally, I found myself unceremoniously jettisoned from the advertising world into the music business. Much to my surprise, it’s worked out nicely. It seems that the music business has room for someone who thinks about branding, campaign ideas and how audiences are spending time in the digital world. There are still dozens of others who make sense out of the touring business, how labels work (or don’t), PR, radio promotion and the other tactics that music relies on to make it into ones earbuds. How it all works together is anybody’s guess. I keep saying that if anyone has the future of the music business figured out they are lying.

I’ve just returned from Sao Paulo, Brazil and San Francisco, CA. Sao Paulo is where I’ve, more or less, called home for the past 15 years. I do reside in Los Angeles but my family house slipped into mythic status some years ago while leaving no physical proof that any of it actually happened. So by default, the lovely home in Sao Paulo where my mother and her companion live is my closest thing to “home.”

San Francisco was home to the two night New Years run of Bob Weir’s Ratdog and Phil Lesh and Friends. No matter how old they get or how far away Jerry seems, I have to attend as many of these dead relics as possible. It’s just so great to hear the songs! Perhaps, a more detailed review will follow. Until then, I’m psyched for The Dead’s 09 run.

People often ask me about the state of Timothy Leary affairs. Unfortunately, this is a slow moving process that I have no answers for. Most hasn’t changed in the past year – there is no update on the archives, there is no update on a feature film project and many of his books are still out of print and hard to get. The good news is that there is perhaps a glimmer of hope with the leary.com site. It seems that the ever passionate Denis Berry and Joi Ito have enlisted the help of one Lisa Rein to direct the proceedings of that site and another more archival effort into reality. Leary.com has only a minor update at this moment but there are some talks with Chris and Joey to give it a decade long needed jump start. We’ll see. The archival site, http://www.timothylearyarchives.org, actually exists and is quite fun. In order to get really deep and sticky it requires a hefty investment to digitize all of the archives in order to get them into a web friendly form. Many avenues are being pursued on that front. If you want more concrete information on any of this you can contact Denis Berry at denisberry1@juno.com.

Culturally, my round up is as follows:

Shows I went to – some more than once and in no particular chronological order. Festival sets are also included.

Radiohead, Kings of Leon, Metric, Vampire Weekend, Duffy, Coldplay, Santogold, Sweetwater, Jenny Lewis, Nine Inch Nails, Jay Z, Death Cab for Cutie, AC/DC, Roger Waters, Ted Brown, Jon Brion, Nick Cave, Cat Power, Spirtualized, The Secret Machines, Prince, Kraftwerk, Gnarls Barkley, M83, School of Seven Bells, Portisehead, Aphex Twin, Kate Nash, MGMT, Minus the Bear, Gogol Bordello, Tom Petty, The Raconteurs, My Morning Jacket, Ratdog, Phil and Friends, Animal Collective, Serj Tankian, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Return to Forever, Judas Priest, Heaven and Hell, Motorhead, Testament, Beck and Spoon.

There might be a few others that I’m forgetting…

Albums I loved – in no particular order

TV on the Radio “Dear Science”, Santogold “Santo Gold”, Metallica “Death Magnetic”, M83 “Saturdays = Youth”, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals “Cardinology”, My Morning Jacket “Evil Urges”, Kitty Daisy & Lewis “Kitty Daisy & Lewis”, Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes”, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”, Of Montreal “Skeletal Lamping”, Coldplay “Viva La Vida”, Jenny Lewis “Acid Tounge”, The Raconteurs “Consolers of the Lonely”, Stephen Colberts “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!”, Apes and Androids “Blood Moon”

And about a dozen others that I can’t recall at the moment…

Products and Trends

Amazons Kindle – I myself do not own of these but i was tasked with bringing one down and loading it up. I give it 8 out of 10 stars. The digital paper screen is extremely readable and as non digital as could possibly be. Something about the quality of it adds an analog texture to it that is certainly conducive to reading books. I would guess that Amazon took some cues from Apple – the opening of the box is quite rewarding, the set up is extremely easy and the product design is elegant. However, Amazon has no Jonny Ives and some of the devices flaws are within the product design itself. There is no reason why the alpha-numeric keyboard needs to be slanted like that, its extremely annoying. Also, there is a “next page” button on the left that does not need to be there – it fucks up the equal weight distribution of “previous” and “next” that should exist. This is a first generation attempt – it will be really interesting to see where this product lands 2 or 3 generations later.

It is a small miracle when you turn it on and it instantly connects to the Sprint 3G network for speedy downloading. That alone is worth the price of admission and the back order wait time. Kinda makes me wanna become a reader.

iPhone apps: Fieldrunners, Bloom, Smule Ocarina, Amazon, Google, MLB at Bat, Shazam, RjDj, Style.com

To be continued…

More MTV Reality

“These new series reflect Generation ‘Why Not?’ — living, working and playing on their own terms, ‘adventure capitalists’ if you will, pursuing a variety of thrill-seeking, 2.0, express-yourself enterprises,” says MTV entertainment president Brian Graden.

I’m not even sure what that means. I’d love someone to tell me. That sounds like lots of buzz words or one of those great marketing cliches that are spawned out of one of those DIY phrase generators. What is a 2.0 express yourself enterprise?

One one hand, I’m glad MTV doesn’t matter much anymore. It’s pop culture relevancy has pretty much gone to shit with emphasis really being handed over to tweens. On the other hand, there was something cool about great videos having a centralized viewing location. I guess that belongs to YouTube now?

Read more on Rolling Stone

On Dock Ellis

ellis-dock-obit
Psychedelic culture loves its mythic stories. This is, arguably, the greatest of them all. In 1970, the story goes, Dock was unaware that the team was playing a double header that day let alone that he was to pitch one of the games. He dropped some acid while in his hotel room with his girlfriend when the two of them realized that “oh shit. i have to pitch today.” It was too late to turn back at that point, so he did what any self respecting athlete would do – he suited up and showed up. The results we all know – he overcame 8 early walks and then notched a no hitter. His only no hitter of his 12 year professional baseball career.

Dock Ellis died yesterday at 63. He went 138-119 with a 3.46 ERA from 1968-79, spending most of his career with the Pirates. After his baseball career he went on to become an anti addiction counselor for young athletes.

Bacon is meat candy

BF_pcake_mix_4up.indd
Do you know about these guys? Baconfreak.com

Goodness. I do love me some bacon but most of all I love the aesthetic sense these freaks are throwing down. Hilarious. Great branding. Great product line too – they even have maple bacon pancake mix. Can you dig it? I have yet to order it. When I do I will take some pics and report back.

Visit Baconfreak.com

Pick of the week: The Faces – Maybe I’m amazed

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLhoLkTyNkM]

Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Kenny Jones and Ronnie Lane tearing this song apart. So good. It’s interesting too that at this time “Maybe I’m Amazed” was a relatively new song, Paul M hadn’t put it out too long before. Really cool how The Faces guys knew it was a gem. Dig it!

A singles business, Part 2

A short follow up to yesterdays story…

I’m of the opinion that you should embrace audience behavior. You should cater to how audiences are interacting with media, go to where the people are, make their overall experience better. At this moment in time that means going wide on your release. There are only a few anomalies where the opposite is true – AC/DC and The Eagles most notably. Those acts are so big and so dominant that they can manipulate contracts and buys ins to work in their favor financially. But, can either band REALLY say that they won new fans with Wal Mart exclusive CD only deals? I say no fucking way. Furthermore it is certain that they left money on the table by not going digital.

New music fans are all over the web, doing all sorts of things. Trust me when I say trying to figure out where they are and what they are doing is a full time job. We do know, however, that the low hanging fruit (i hate that phrase) is iTunes. It’s easy, it’s practically ubiquitous and its fun to use. I 100% wish it wasn’t the only option. It just so happens that no one has come along and done it better. It’s so funny to me when people get on an anti iTunes rant or talk about how Steve is bullying the music business. Steve’s POV is really simply – i’ve made the best product. so I’m going to run it the way I want. If someone comes along and makes a better product they will have leverage and currency to spend. It’s that simple. Take the Kid Rock example – he went CD only for most of his campaign, then gave the digital rights exclusively to Rhapsody which then went on to sell a whopping 3000 pieces. Reason being: Rhapsody sucks.

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is. I know this, anyone who says that they have the current state of the music business figured out is lying. It’s a brave new world. A wide open frontier. Yes, sales will shrink but we still have to find ways to create that passion for music consumption that fans once displayed. It’s still out there. Forcing them to go to Wal Mart isn’t the answer. Selling exclusively on iTunes isn’t the answer either. Finding out what your fan really wants and expects is the answer – how that manifests is anybody’s guess.


Click here to read more on this story via Reuters

Is it a singles business?

This has been flying around for the past couple of days: the Smashing Pumpkins aren’t going to make any more albums. Corgan saying “There is no point. People don’t even listen to it all. They put it on their iPod, they drag over the two singles and skip over the rest.”

There are some case studies to support this attitude and there are some that don’t. First, let’s talk about the ones that don’t. I’ve been listening to TV On the Radios “Dear Science” non fucking stop and I’m not the only one. This is one hell of an album. It flows beautifully. It’s full of soul, electro pop, great guitars, new wave meets the digital age and you can even dance to it. If the Pumpkins last album was even in the same ballpark as “Dear Science” I think Corgan wouldn’t be spouting off trying to place blame,on off all things, iTunes. Why is he blaming iTunes? The a la carte model is such a short sighted and obvious mechanism to place the blame on. So what if it’s new school and flies in the face of the classic album model? The fact is that while today’s audience does have a shorter attention span there are still some music fans out there that will listen to your whole creative statement if it’s good enough. Yes, it is true you will sell exponentially more singles than complete albums, but so what? The Smashing Pumpkins built a pretty substantial legacy with the likes of Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie. Those are some of the great albums of that generation. Giving up now and blaming the audience (and Apple) for doing so is sad.

Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, Ryan Adams, Fleet Foxes are doing it…hey even Axl Rose gave it his best shot. I hope Billy Corgan reconsiders.

To be fair and to look at the pure economics of it – yes, it is a singles business. The emphasis being put on “business.” Coldplay gave away “Violet Hill” to the tune of over a million free downloads yet they sold over 100,000 copies of the single on iTunes. Amazing. An artist can learn more about their audience and how they spend time online by giving away a free track using Top Spin than they can anywhere else. Small little digestible bits of art is where audience mentality as a whole lies, but that does not mean that a great album goes unrecognized.

On Bettie Page

Bettie Page

Perhaps in our wild sexual imaginations of the 20th century there existed no greater icon than Bettie Page. Her window of influence and body of work was indeed very short. The extraordinary gusto and playful naughtiness that she exhibited in her photos got the best of her and resulted in a complete 180 drop-off-the-face-of-the-earth disappearing act. Still, in her less than a decade career she started a genre and aesthete that more or less took the lid off of what everyone was already thinking.

The sexual revolution of the 1960’s could not have existed if it weren’t for Bettie’s over the top brilliance from her 1950’s photo sessions that made her famous. They are more than just camp, they are documents of a repressed time that helped to slowly ease us into a more liberated state of mind.

Kitty Daisy & Lewis – rebirth of the cool?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxW3Ed7GrhQ]

Kitty Daisy & Lewis – Goin’ up the Country

My pick of the week. Totally retro and stylish in the best way. I’m curious to see if these English lads will break out of the classics and start writing their own stuff.