Whatever happened to predictability? The milk man, the paperboy, evening TV? (Clear Channel Revises Agreement So Indie Musicians Aren’t Forced to Sign Over Digital Performance Royalties)

When the world ends, when it crumbles and the last musicians are standing on a cliff, damned to hell, a scrappy lawyer will trot onto god's playing field to save them. It will be difficult, a high-wire act over flame. These poor souls, these artists, they will go through trials and tribulations. Eventually, hopefully, our hero lawyer, who never got to be President but was the biggest man, will save them -- when the world ends. Until then, they're stuck in the middle of a singed rope.

These poor souls! How did it come to this? How did these musical artists end up in such a fix? In 50 years, if our giant of a lawyer can help, if the way business is done changes, apologists will say it was bad luck. Bad luck is a quick, blanket statement that covers all the legal turmoil and copyright battles and creative rights wars that small, independent artists struggled with. Our poor artists would sew the seeds of creativity and receive only blight and famine. Stores of music, locked away with no means of broadcast! What but bad luck would drive these men and women to throw their hands up and be done with the whole business?

It's enough to make one sell their rights to the devil. The devil, looking down on his hot rock, sensed a very shrewd business opportunity. Our artists, though as down-and-out as any Dust Bowl farmer -- good people that they are -- were unwilling to sell. Not wanting to miss out on a deal of an eternity, the devil sent his top salesman, Clear Channel.

Clear Channel sidled up to our artists as they tended the fields of the few outlets of broadcast that were still available. The artists dropped their hoes when they heard Big Radio's case: "Sign over your digital performance royalties to us, and we'll play your music!"

One musician loudly objected, "But you're supposed to play our music anyway, on account of your settlement with the FCC for your payola scandal!"

The devil's salesman smirked and boasted, "4,200 hours worth, for free. Alls' you gotta do is sign over your rights, and it's yours! If you want airplay, sign, sign, sign!"

Another interjected, "But this is America!"

The smirk only grew as the salesman exclaimed, "Exactly!"

He had them, he really had them. The artists talked amongst themselves, wondering what they did to deserve such horrid treatment. Bad luck, perhaps. Greed from Big Radio, more likely. Some signed. And yes, life did get a bit better. Others didn't, and all were outraged. Then, shining from above, our giant stomped onto the scene.

A modern-day Daniel Webster, the collective force of the FCC and the Future of Music Coalition, looked Clear Channel in its eyes. This was something the devil's salesman wasn't used to. Perhaps the artists' luck was about to change. Perhaps. Clear Channel stepped back, shuddering, giving way out of surprise. The devil has a keen business sense, and knows that much of a good deal comes from good timing. Today wasn't the right day, tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow.

As for now, everybody is friendly. Clear Channel has revised the agreement: "In the instance when Clear Channel makes the decision to use the content for terrestrial broadcasting and, as a result, for simultaneous transmission through online streaming ... Clear Channel shall be subject to and pay for all applicable current and future statutory royalties as well as public performance royalties." Friends. Tomorrow, the devil's salesman will wait in the tall grass.

How does it end? Unfortunately, we come into this tale in medias res, and only time will tell what will happen. Artists are hoping to extend their public performance rights to include over-the-air broadcasts, but the future looks grim. Bad luck. So much bad luck, hanging over fire, today and tomorrow, stuck between the devil and our Daniel Webster.

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Hey, psssstt.. Over here! Lean in close… don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got a huge secret for you. Just you, though, nobody else. That’s important, because we can’t have this secret getting out… okay, ready? Compact Disc sales are down.

ISN'T THAT NUTS!?

I couldn't believe it either. I mean, I'm an avid CD buyer. Every week I trek down to HMV and sift their goldmine of a selection. Last week, I unearthed a dusty copy of Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy and the new Kelly Clarkson disc. It was only $15, and that new single is pretty swell. However, I've noticed a strange trend at HMV, and at a few other ‘music’ stores; they're selling a lot of movies now. Also a lot of television show sets, posters, bags, headphones, CD players, gift certificates, and banality. Seems to be something wrong with the business model.

I mean, when I wander into the EB Games across the mall hallway, all I can really find is video games. The stores aren't very big, but every inch is filled with a game or a game-related peripheral. Same deal with clothing stores, generally full of clothes. When I wander into Urban Trade and ask for their movie section, I get blank stares. Same with the food courts, hair salons, cell-phone booths, and other retailers.

This brick-and-mortar fall-out is probably because it's 100% easier to buy music online, either digital or physical. I mean, from my chair at home, I type the name of the band I want, then look for the check-out button. Literally 30 seconds and I've made my purchase. Sure, there's no instant satisfaction of getting out to the car and listening on the way home, but there's something about refreshing the ‘track order status’ page every 15 seconds. It's like having a GPS tracking unit on the bottom of Santa's sleigh, and you just hit ‘F5’ to find out where he is. It's invigorating. And I don't have to listen to My Chemical Romance while doing it.

Contrary to CD sales (down 15.6% last month, going up slightly to 14.6% this month), digital purchases are on the up and up, so maybe there's something to this online shopping. The digital sales haven't fully counteracted the downward spiral of the CD, and that's probably because an entire generation of customers have been alienated by retailers. Shitty mall music stores have always catered to the youngest crowd possible, but today's young people don't even know what a CD is. That's old-fart technology. In the process of pushing all the newest pablum, music retailers have relegated good customers (old people) to second class. By placing all ‘their’ music at the back and blasting whatever shite is currently ‘popular,’ you've effectively removed any reason for someone over age 25 to shop at your establishment. Ironically, these alienated customers are the same people that fear technology. My father (who's in his late 40s) recently claimed he will NEVER buy anything online, out of fear of digital theft. His friends/family share similar feelings. He also doesn't go to music stores anymore for the reasons I listed above. He gets me to buy music for him online, or I just download it and burn it (which is legal in this country). Hear that music companies? My father, a music customer for more than 40 years, no longer buys your products. And it's all your fault.

However, harping on the failings of the music industry is like trying to ‘politically correct’ my grandfather. A lot of the ‘old-fashioned’ terminology he uses would land him on TMZ if he were Gibson, but he knows the end isn't that far away, so he doesn't care. I know his end isn't very far away either, so I don't badger him about it (unless we're in public). I know he'll continue in his archaic ways, continually embarrassing himself, and eventually pitter out to nothing. So, I hope you enjoyed your run Compact Disc/Traditional Business Model/Grandad, because you're well past the expiry date.

Too Pure Announces Singles Club; My Birthday Coming Up

A Brief History of the Singles Club:

- Sub Pop had one
- Kill Rock Stars had one
- Several smaller labels currently have 'em
- The Massachusetts/New Hampshire Singles Club is the first result for "singles club" on Google
- Too Pure does one
- First robotic president outlaws distribution and use of all analog media

In a move that warmed the hearts of people the world over who constantly get told they'd like High Fidelity, Too Pure Records announced the beginning of a singles club this October. While artists such as Electrelane, Scout Niblett, and Stereolab have called Too Pure home, the club seems more focused on lesser-known artists the label has deemed worthy of attention. The first handful of artists includes Lone Lady, Vera November (a.k.a. Verity Susman of Electrelane), and It Hugs Back.

Membership costs £30 for British residents, and £35 for international record geeks. The bad news is that it adds up to almost $70 for Americans, but the good news is that you get 12 records, postage paid and the rights to download digital versions of the songs courtesy of Rough Trade Online. Moreover, the records are limited to 500 apiece and will be distributed almost exclusively through the club, with "a very small number distributed to select indies."

Memberships can be purchased via the Too Pure website. And if it's anything like the grilled cheese I purchased for lunch, it will be delicious and have an unplaceable spiciness that will make you want to buy another membership tomorrow or even later today.

Iron & Wine Shaves Beard, Immediately Grows Back In Time For Tour And… The End of the World! Details Below

Late last night, I received a call. No, it wasn’t a “Dear John” from the missus (though that came eventually... look for updates later); instead, a gravelly voice came through the receiver: “Go to YouTube, watch Iron & Wine videos. And wear your 3-D glasses.” I tried to get the caller’s name to no avail, so I gave in and found some videos. The results were shocking.

Luckily, I swiped 3-D specs from my last viewing of Muppet Vision 3-D at Universal Studios. While viewing “Naked As We Came,” directed by Iron & Wine/Sam Beam (not to be confused with Sean Bean), the screen burst into glowing colors; diagrams unfurled before me with dazzling precision... I saw... I saw his plans for the End of the World in the video! Sub Pop scientists explain that they have pinpointed the day of the global-warming apocalypse, just like on the cover of the new Smashing Pumpkins record). The video intimates details of the Iron & Wine Contingency Plan (something about defacing Mount Rushmore like Zod in Superman II, while Beam reigns over South Dakota with an iron beard). It didn’t divulge any specifics, but the closing message promised the answer would be buried somewhere inside the forthcoming Iron & Wine album, The Shepherd’s Dog. Then it was over...

Mysterious 3-D Messages Abound At:

Rilo Kiley to Release Under the Blacklight This August, Five Things Jenny Lewis Did That Are More Valuable than Her Music; Seriously, Jenny, Baby, Sweetheart: There Are Career Opportunities Opening Daily in Real Estate Or As Conor Oberst’s Living Shelf-Doll

Misleading headline:

The remainder of this article DOES NOT provide ANY evidence that Conor Oberst keeps flower-power INDIE!-a-go-go chickys (like Jenny Lewis) on lock-down in His basement to act as concubines-o’-da’-sweet-jams. NO EVIDENCE EXISTS that He sits in that basement, hood-up, playing “First Day of My Life” as many times as He deems fit, while said flower-power INDIE!-a-go-go chickys repeatedly bless themselves on His command to avoid a hefty tongue-lashing, or, another heart-string-pullin’ rendition of “First Day Of My Life.” There is, additionally, NO EVIDENCE that the phrase “flower-power INDIE!-a-go-go chickys” serves as an appropriate catch-all for describing less-fortunate (fictitious) music love slaves of Oberst.

TRUE STORY, though:

Rilo Kiley’s Under the Blacklight is scheduled for release August 21 in the United States. Buy it, reader, else the first time you hear the sweet jams is sure to be on the Grey’s Anatomy-- du jour of the time! GASP!

5 INCENDIARY CAREER MOVES, JENNY:

1. Kicking ass as Hannah Nefler in Troop Beverly Hills
2. Co-starring with Shelley Long in Troop Beverly Hills
3. Appearing on a single episode of Murder She Wrote in 1994
4. (Literally) being in the same room as Angela Lansbury on an episode of Murder She Wrote in 1994
5. (Figuratively) being in the same room as J.B. Fletcher (played by Angela Lansbury) on Murder She Wrote in 1994

Hands down, Angela Lansbury trumps this.

Oh, and Blake “Soper,” nothing beats three episodes on Salute Your Shorts. Puhhhhhleassse.

DON’T NOT QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, UNLESS THE INCENTIVE IS A LUXURY CRUISE WITH ANGELA LANSBURY WHERE YOU BOTH CAN ENJOY FRUIT DRINKS AND BLING SUNGLASSES:

$ Modest Mouse

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