CD Sales Go Down Faster Than _______ in a ___________

Let's take a trip in the DeLorean all the way back to the summer of 2004. Big things were happening in the world: Olympic games were held in Athens, the U.S. had a presidential election coming up, and Ken Jennings (a personal hero) was kicking ass on Jeopardy! for over 70 episodes. Yet, for the movie industry, things were looking rather glum. Much ado was made about falling ticket sales in movie theaters, and industry execs scrambled to pinpoint the cause. There was a substantial amount of pontification on the part of analysts to find the reason for the slide, and one scapegoat quickly emerged more worthy than all the rest: peer-to-peer networks. Here was a direct cause for the effect, an all-but-proven reason for lag in the system.

Sounds reasonable enough... but, just out of curiosity, let's take a quick look at a few of the movies released that summer: There were the comedies, such as Without a Paddle, The Big Bounce, Envy, Eurotrip, Garfield: the Movie, Chasing Liberty, Around the World in 80 Days, White Chicks, The Girl Next Door, Mr. 3000, Connie and Carla, Welcome to Mooseport, and Jersey Girl; action films such as Torque, Catwoman, The Day After Tomorrow, Walking Tall, Flight of the Phoenix, The Perfect Score, The Chronicles of Riddick, and The Alamo; a host of sequels like Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Barbershop 2, Agent Cody Banks 2, Scooby Doo 2, The Whole Ten Yards, The Princess Diaries 2, Spiderman 2, Exorcist: the Beginning, Superbabies 2, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Seed of Chucky, Ocean's Twelve, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason; and of course, Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid. One alternative theory to the reason for the film industry's falling profits, though, never seriously considered by execs themselves, was the... errmm... poor quality of the movies in question. Rather, the prevailing theory seemed to be that the number of tickets sold should always be proportionate to the number of films released in a given time period, regardless of quality or content.

Now let's step back into the DeLorean to three Nickelback Grammy nominations, a Lil Eazy-E album, and a massive payola scandal later -- it appears that not much has changed, only this time the music industry is the industry in question. CD sales have declined by 20%, compared to the same time last year, a loss that couldn't even be nullified by a 54% increase in digital music sales over the same time period. An overall look at music sales taking into account all formats, including formats such as ringtones, still shows a sharp 9% decrease. CD prices have dropped in many markets, likely a response to price drops led by companies such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Russ Crupnick of NPD Group, a firm who recently released a report stating that P2P downloads still outweigh the number of paid downloads in the overall market, was quick to attribute the sales drop to the factors shown in the group's study: "Unfortunately for the music labels, the volume of music files purchased legally is swamped by the sheer volume of files being traded illegally... Five billion files downloaded illegally clearly affect prospects for both CD sales and sales of digital song tracks online."

The legitimacy of such criticism is, of course, based on the assumption that everyone who downloads a track would have likely otherwise bought it in stores or online (and that no consumers both download and buy the album or that P2P actually increases the overall popularity of music consumption), but regardless, it'd be difficult to argue that downloads haven't affected CD sales, at least in some small way. They have, just as public libraries affect overall sales of books, because artistic content has been made more easily available to the public in a way that no one directly or illicitly profits from. Yet when I think back to the unforgettable trip we just took back to the year 2004, I can't help but compare the movies being pushed by the big studios at that time to the albums being pushed today by major studios.

Of all the music downloaders I know, not a single one of them is unwilling to pay market value for an album they really enjoy. But have consumers been given enough reason to do this? A major criticism of the music industry for decades has been their tendency to promote albums through one good single, which when listened to later, after being bought on a CD, turns out to be the only decent song on the album. I don't want to stereotype anyone's musical taste or accuse all major label albums of having one good song a piece, but I do believe the industry is having troubles finding consumers who are jumping at the opportunity to spend the equivalent of three work hours at minimum wage on an album that may or may not have more than one good song; it's not without two generations of prior conditioning.

Whatever the conclusions, questions will linger: Has the drop in sales affected the music? Is the weak first quarter releases a reason for the significant drop? Is the shift to digital music making the CD or full-length album a dying medium? Or a niche medium? Has the growing awareness of how little money the artists receive from CD sales played a role in the drop? Most importantly, why hasn't anyone commissioned my boy Ken Jennings to do a full report on this issue? I'm afraid only time will be able to answer these questions for us, especially that last one. In the meantime, you and I can eagerly await the next quarterly report, while the major labels sit around and merge or whatever it is that they do for entertainment these days.

STNNNG GVE TH FNGR T VWLS, My Cousin gets Sarienistics

When my cousin first told me about STNNNG, I laughed. My usually eloquent relative had seemingly devolved before my eyes to spit out the word "stunning" like a kid with sarienistic syndrome. I asked him if it was necessary to say the band name that quickly, and he just replied with “STNNNG!” like a cheap rip-off of Timmy from South Park. I had a dinner that night with his side of the family and made up my mind to tell my aunt about my discovery. At first, like any parent completely devoted to her only child, she denied any existence of sarienistic disease. So I called on Rich, my cousin, and held a quick interview in front of my aunt to get my point across.

Me: Rich, what is your favorite band these days?

Rich: STNNNG!

Me: Are you going to see them May fourth?

Rich: TRF CLB!

Me: Are they touring to support an album, Rich?

Rich: FKE FKE!

After that last question, my aunt yelled for us to stop, and I could see her eyes were beginning to water. I took her in my arms and began to sing and gently rock her back and forth. She asked me how this could happen, in addition to millions of other questions that were best left for the doctor. I kissed her on the cheek and then found my way to her lips. We fooled around a bit in the living room while Rich played Guitar Hero. He occasionally yelled out one-syllable nothings, but I think my aunt had finally come to terms with his condition and didn’t let it bother her too much.

Me: Whom do we have to thank for this discovery, Rich?

Rich: STNNNG!

NW TH STNNNG TR DTS:
03.31.07 - Eau Claire, WI - House of Rock w/ Drunk Drivers, Belles of Skin City
04.04.07 - St. Paul, MN - Turf Club w/ NOXAGT, Ghostdad, Neglected Receptors
04.14.07 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock Social Club w/ comedian Doug Stanhope
04.20.07 - Lawrence, KS - Replay Lounge w/ You'll Be a Torso
04.21.07 - Norman, OK - The Deli w/ The Purple Cow Story
04.22.07 - Houston, TX - The Mink w/ The Kimonos
04.23.07 - Denton, TX - Secret Headquarters
04.24.07 - San Antonio, TX - Rock Bottom Tattoo Bar
04.25.07 - Austin, TX - Emo's w/ Oh, Beast! and Red X Red M
04.26.07 - Memphis, TN - Gibson Lounge (not confirmed)
04.27.07 - Nashville, TN - Springwater w/ To Live and Shave in L.A., Apollo Up!
04.28.07 - Belleville, IL - Ground Floor w/ The Conformists
04.29.07 - Dubuque, IA - Busted Lift w/ The Blind Shake

Dead Meadow Cancels Remaining Dates of Tour

Dead Meadow: Hey [Mango Starr]. Thanks for the support while Jason has gotten sick recently on this tour making the last few shows a bit of an experiment. He wanted to let you know that he is still here and regrets all of the disappointed fans and hopefully we can make it up to you the next time around. Those of us on the tour have sort of been rolling with this day to day as we try to figure out the situation and when he would be able to rejoin us on the circuit. Unfortunately his return to make the last leg of the West Coast dates is not going to happen and we found this out just before the gig last night in Berbati's Pan in Portland. Due to the audience that showed up we made an attempt to make "something" happen and hopefully it was a little interesting for our fans. Maybe a once in a lifetime show. Consquently we have pulled the plug on the Pacific Northwest gigs and we will be heading back to L.A. to recoup and plan out our next tour after Jason has rested and gotten back to health. Actually there will be an upcoming tour for the support of the new album "Old Growth" and a European tour at the end of summer. Also we will continue to play the last three gigs back to LA but not as Dead Meadow but for fun if you want to come out just for jams and good times. Thanks again.

Mango Starr: No problem, man. Hope Jason gets better. You should check out Matador's website or your own website for the remaining dates of the tour.

Dead Meadow: Huh? What do you mean? Wait a minute -- you're not using our conversation for a TMT news story again are you!?

Mango Starr: Maybe.

Dead Meadow: Ha ha! You are so great -- so fucking awesome. You have my permission to use our conversation.

Mango Starr: I didn't ask.

Dead Meadow: Ha ha! True.

Fennesz Tours A Bunch Of Places You Don’t Live

Oh, boy! Oh, boyohboyohboy. It's that time of year again! Fennesz, the Atomic Austrian, Noise's Nobility, the Fuhrer of Feedback (uh, scratch that one), is on tour again, with Christian Fennesz' Fennocalypse 2007: The Fennal Reckoning (On Ice)! And yes, boys, he's bringing the Fenneszettes!

Those who experienced (or should I say survived!!!) Son Of Fennocalypse 2005 will know exactly what to expect. Holding on to the roof of a flaming monster truck with one hand, busting out massive solos on a Flying V with the other, he'll launch off a ramp (which is also on fire) and land on a custom-built stage covered in pagan iconography and the tour's sponsors' logos (Microsoft, Kinko's>, and his official baked goods sponsor, Dunkin' Donuts). Firing rockets from his gee-tar, he'll immediately launch into one of his huge hits -- most likely "Endless Summer (Of Rock)" or "Rivers Of Sand (On Fire, With Snakes Coming Out Of Them, And Naked Chicks And Stuff)."

Once that's done with, he'll invite his audience to be seated and experience some of his freeform spoken word art, influenced by the work of Bishop Berkeley, interpretations of the Voynich Manuscript and Dunkin' Donuts' new limited-edition Maple Cheddartm breakfast sandwich. At the end of this four-hour performance, a dragon (provided by Weta Workshop; sponsored by Mountain Dew) will rise from the rear of the stage; Fennesz will fight it off with a sword fashioned from the vertebrae of Yamatsuka Eye, Tim Hecker, and Dominik Fernow.

Fennesz will close the set with a medley of covers of showtunes from Grease, Fame, and The Lion King. This has in the past proven to be so awesome that audience members' heads have exploded, so better bring some waterproof clothing! After frenzied screams for an encore, he'll walk back on wearing nothing but a jewel-encrusted loincloth and with a very special guest -- God! After trading licks for a few minutes, Fennesz will bust out a 20-minute guitar solo of such awesome perfection that God will have no choice but to hand over the keys to creation itself. Fennesz will turn him down, declaring himself to be "nothing but a humble noisesmith" and giving God a delicious Dunkin' Donuts Chocolate Coconut Cake Donut and a copy of cendre, his second collaborative album with Ryuichi Sakamoto released this month by Commmons, as a peace offering.

And that's just the first night!

Christian Fenessz' Fennocalypse 2007: The Fennal Reckoning (On Ice), being set in Belgium and Lithuania and everything, is a little, er, out of the way for most of you (apart from you, Gediminas 'akaitien'! Say hiya!), but count yourself lucky. If Lithuania didn't work out, Fennesz was planning on the inky blackness of outer space. He can breathe in space, because he's better than you.

Spoon Me After Your Spring Tour Please

I don't ask for much, honey. I do your laundry, feed the kitty cats, give you those back massages you like so much. Heck, I even made you
your favorite beef stew twice in one week, not one month ago. I tuck
the youngins in at night, and I perform for you in the bedroom as best
I can, so this shouldn't come as such a shock, with that big ol'
question mark on your face there. You hear me, Britt Daniel? Now I'm
not fooling around: I demand some Spoonin.'

It's a natural act, don't you see? The human body's all gangly and awkward enough where you can't sit in one chair for too long without
getting some serious cramps. But I tell you, I could Spoon for days on
end. You just give me the hand signal, Britt, and I will call in to
work and say something's come up and I won't even be lying, because I
tell you I'll be Spooning, and that's not something you take lightly.
Here we are in scenic Portland; you're back from a nice little tour
over yonder, and I've been waiting long enough for the kind of
Spoonin' I know my man can deliver, like he's been delivering up and
down the East Coast.

Oh don't think I didn't hear about that. I ain't as thick as you look,
and I suggest you stop lookin' a gift horse in the mouth like Poppa
Daniel told you when you were still impressionable and not the kind of
two-timing Spoon addict you've turned into as of late. I've seen those
pictures, Britt, with you and everyone else at that Starlight
Ballroom, lying there together on the floor, wrapping arms around
bellies and the like... you make a career out of that position on the
sly, and yet when you get home to your one true inamorata, you act
like a piece of no-good, flimsy plywood.

Now I'm going to lay down on this here bed and turn away from you, and
you can either walk out that door or else you can buck up and be a goddang man and Spoon me 'til Merge releases your new album in July.

Tracklist:

1. Don't Make Me A Target
2. The Ghost Of You Lingers
3. You Got Yr Cherry Bomb
4. Don't You Evah
5. Rhthm And Soul
6. Eddie's Ragga
7. The Underdog
8. My Little Japanese Cigarette Case
9. Finer Feelings
10. Black Like Me

Neil Young’s Shit List: Factory Farms, George W. Bush, and Most Recently, Breast Cancer

Attention, ladies! Wanna be Neil Young's new Cinnamon Girl and do your part for a righteous cause in one fell swoop? Here's the deal: As long as you can scratch out a tune AND you're part of your local Open Mic Night circuit, you can land a spot on Cinnamon Girl - Women Artists Cover Neil Young. All proceeds from the record, which includes covers from the Watson Twins and Jill Sobule, go directly to Casting For Recovery, a national non-profit support and educational program for women who have or have survived breast cancer. The comp is set to be released on American Laundromat Records, and the lucky amateur lady will go home with a shiny new axe from Daisy Rock, a guitar joint that prides itself on crafting girl-friendly musical gear.

Honestly, after reading a book about Farm Aid, I'm about two seconds from recording "Heidi Vanderslice Sings (TMT Exclusive!) - The Kid-Rock-Will-Probably-Outlive-Neil-Young-Blues."

More about the contest here.

  

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