Wal-Mart Tells Sony BMG and Warner Music Group to Take a Hike, Ditches DRM

According to Digital Music News, Wal-Mart has stripped its online music store of all Sony BMG and WMG artists, while also announcing that it's ditching DRM. Although it will surely be a temporary breakup, Wal-Mart decided to do away with the Sony BMG and WMG catalogs because it couldn't strike a deal with the two majors due to its decision to go DRM-free. (Keep in mind that we're talking about the digital catalog -- Wal-Mart still sells Sony BMG and WMG CDs.)

Wal-Mart currently has lower prices than iTunes at 88-cents a track, but its digital selection has now been significantly diminished. And, of course, Wal-Mart's successes in pricing and catalog are in its physical products, so any decisions regarding its digital music store won't be industry-shaking until it makes actual waves in selling digital music. But ditching DRM is a positive sign at the very least.

Thom Yorke Not Dead; Radiohead Announce Second North American Leg

$ Liars

^ Bat for Lashes

& Grizzly Bear

Did Jay-Z And Beyoncé Really Tie The Knot Last Friday?! In Other News, Jay-Z To Sign A $150 Million Deal With Some Little Company Called Live Nation

According to the most reputable news source ever, everyone’s favorite couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé got married in New York City last Friday. Apparently the wedding took place at 195 Hudson Street and some of the notable attendees included Beyoncé’s family, the two other forgettable members of Destiny’s Child, Chris Martin, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Now that we got the important news out of the way, let’s discuss Jay-Z big impending deal with Live Nation.

The New York Times reported last week that Jay-Z is all set to leave his longtime record label, Def Jam, and sign with Live Nation to the tune of $150 million. Expected to be finalized this week, the deal includes financing for Jay-Z’s own entertainment venture, as well as rights to his recordings and touring for the next decade. In addition, the deal would give him money for other business opportunities, such as a record label, music publishing, talent consulting, and management services.

But money or no money, the rapper still likens himself to being in the same league as [insert your favorite indie band here]:

“In a way, I want to operate like an indie band," he said. "Play the music on tour instead of relying on radio. Hopefully we'll get some hits out of there and radio will pick it up, but we won't make it with that in mind."

Maybe a Jay-Z and Animal Collective collaboration could be just around the corner? *Fingers crossed.*

Icelandic rockers Sigur Rós are shedding their sweaters for a worldly jaunt of a summer tour, a timely escape from the upcoming wet season in their homeland. As Iceland is a temperate zone with temperatures huddling between 30-60 degrees Fahrenheit, there isn't a whole lot of fun in the sun (which doesn't set for the months of June or July), though it's no winter wonderland either. I think I'll keep running with this national fact thing for a few more paragraphs.

Iceland is the most developed country in the world according to the Human Development Index, with the 13th longest life expectancy at 81.8 years (Andorra ranks 1st with an overall average of 83.5). The largest city is Reykjavík, with a population of 118,000. Two hundred thousand of the nation's 350,000 citizens are contained within Reykjavík and its greater metropolitan area (a drastically high percentage of these individuals maintain personal blogs).

The largest music festival is Icelandic Airwaves, spanning five days starting the third weekend in October. The first Icelandic Airwaves was held in 1999 in a hangar at the Reykjavík Airport. It has since showcased hundreds of international bands before they were widely recognized in their own countries, such as CYHSY, The Rapture, and The Bravery, as well as a plethora of Icelandic bands.

Icelandic music is traditionally religious and choral, which is why Björk (which pronounced correctly rhymes with "jerk"), müm, and Sigur Rós all sound like sad, harmonious whales. Whale watching, consequently, is a rapidly growing sector of the Icelandic tourism industry.

Sigur Rós see the world:

*Sigur Rós Tour The World. This Is Icelandic, A Language Derivative Of Old Norse

This Is Not a Test: The Futureheads Are Back to Save the Universe… Oh Wait

Hey there, readers. Come on in, and welcome to this rather willfully postmodern news story about the new Futureheads record. Why don't you get comfortable? There's something I want to talk to you about.

Listen, I'd love to entertain the hell out of you today (you know, like I usually do) with a goofy story about lovable Sunderland punk-poppers The Futureheads and their new, third LP, This is Not The World, which was produced by Youth (Primal Scream, the Verve) and slated to be released via the band's own Nul Records May 27 in North America, in case you were wondering.

But, the thing is, I'm a little upset.

Why? I'll tell you why: press releases. If you've ever worked for a music (or related arts) publication, then you can relate to the stacks and stacks of artist-plugging birdcage liner that show up here at our 31st floor TMT offices every day, all with the intent of convincing us, the jaded music literati, that this or that "hot" band is doing this or that "career-defining" thing and releasing this or that "industry-bucking" product. I mean, pretty much every day, the poor guys (and one weird, tattooed girl) from our mailroom bring up literal sacks of these things (along with our Starbucks orders) for us to wade through. These press releases are all packed with insane amounts of information, and each and every one of them makes you feel like you'd be a complete IDIOT not to report on every excruciating iota of these fly-by-night groups' supposedly "storied" histories.

Take this overstuffed Futureheads press release that Tattoo Girl just handed to me. Like, should I report that this next record is going to be their "finest moment"? That's kind of not in my jurisdiction. Or, is it noteworthy that those dudes "embraced the punk-rock ethic like never before" and "took control of their own destiny" by releasing the thing independently? Or maybe you readers would enjoy hearing about how this new record is "the album they've always intended to make"? I mean, come on! That's what every band says about every record, like, ever! Maybe you could trim things down a little bit here? Maybe we could save a tree or two?

The least their press agent could have done was spare me the literally track-by-track breakdown of the record that follows all of this insane hype. Oh, hey, do you want to know what the Futurehead's publicist thinks of the new Futureheads record??

DUH: He thinks it’s fucking awesome, and you should buy it!

Oh, and the band bio going all the way back to the year 2000 isn't exactly helping me contextualize this new record very much either. Remember when the band met Dennis Hopper on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2005 everyone? Well, apparently we're all supposed to! I'm sorry, Mr. over-stuffed press release -- I'll report that right away! Whatever happened to the simple matter of the title, release date, producer/engineer, and trackli...

Oh, damn it! I almost forgot:

This Is Not The World, huh? Tell that to their press release.

Labels to Radio: (You) “Take My Breath Away.” Radio to Labels: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” (Labels Fighting for Royalties, Radio Charging for Airplay)

In the grand tradition of stocks vs. bonds and “Maverick” vs. “Iceman,” the sketchy, often icy relationship between radio and labels may soon reach a boiling point as labels and their artists are increasingly putting pressure on Congress to change existing laws regarding charging radio broadcasters for playing their music. While songwriters and labels have always benefited from the current legal agreement, the artists themselves (unless they share songwriter credits) do not receive airplay royalties from ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, M.I.A., D.R.I., AC-DC, and NWOBHM*.
David Oxenford, music attorney (and to further drive the Top Gun reference above into your minds, we'll call him “Goose”), claims that changing the existing laws by implementing any of the proposed legislation would negate the present label/radio relationship and would cause radio stations to start charging the labels or musicians for promotional play.

"If you get into the sort of situation where you have a performance royalty, but you also give broadcasters the rights to collect money for featuring music on the air without any sort of announcement that you have to do now to avoid the payola rules, you're going to make the richest artists richer because, for example, if you're a rock station you can't avoid playing U2. So U2 gets richer."

Of course this is utter b.s.; U2 cannot possibly get richer, can they?
“Goose” adds, “For medicine and food, the basics of life, no disclosure is required by law, but music, which everybody loves but isn’t life and death -- requires disclosure of you go to jail, and it’s kind of silly.”

Not everyone loves music, although everyone claims to. And for those who do love music, it IS life and death. I hum a different theme song for each of my unique body emissions, and let's just say when someone like “Left-Eye” Lopes and “Dimebag” Darrell dies, not just a little part of me dies, but a whole honkin’ mid-section!

(Note: I picked these artists because when musicians who die have cute nicknames like “Left-Eye” and “Dimebag,” it is even more important to remember and commemorate their lives.).

Oxenford makes some insightful points, of course. Times are funny right now: radio is floundering, as are labels, so both sides are justifiably trying to squeeze any monies out the other if enforceable. Even the most optimistic of music industry cheerleaders cannot pretend that things will get better for either side in the near future. Just think of that when you are downloading the latest Jordin Sparks or Jonas Brothers. YOU hold the power. Think of the “little” people: record company presidents are filling up their Escalades with regular gas, and I have actually heard of radio broadcasting bigwigs feeding their families with store-bought sushi and domestic beer. For shame! When will this madness end?

Things are just heating up folks so as they say in the gutters, “Watch this space for details.” Until then, please support your labels by going to see terrible campy Broadway music-related extravaganzas like Lennon and All Shook Up and The Times They Are A-Changin,' which are horrible, of course, but feature stellar back catalogs that manage to fill the silk pockets of our music industry heroes (not the artists though... let them remain peasants).

* “New Wave of British Heavy Metal,” of course!

Georgie James To Begin Tour Tomorrow (If Today Is April 4, 2008 And The World Doesn’t Unexpectedly Blow Up Before Then)

Do you know Georgie James? Even if their MySpace quote makes it seem otherwise, this is a band, not a person. Comprised of singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn and former Q & Not U drummer John Davis, the duo has proved quite capable of performing various styles of music, making it that much harder to box them in (a prime example being last year's enjoyable Places on Saddle Creek). And if there's one "ever-present" element in a Georgie James tune, it's the "ever-lovable" hook, which will be on full display as they perform their "Duo Set" (acoustic and without additional musicians) on most of the dates on their upcoming tour.

If this whole shebang sounds like your bag, make yourself "ever-present" (maybe just present) at one of their shows -- the first one kicks off this Saturday in Washington, D.C. -- even if your knowledge of them is less than scholarly. Don't be confused; Georgie James scholars are welcome at every show.

* Georgie James Acoustic Duo Set

Silver Jews Get Israeli On Your Ass, Tour Europe With Tel-Aviv Rockers Monotonix

Let's cut the bullshit and forge the nitty gritty here:

Monotonix: Three-piece Israeli classic rock yet punk-at-heart freak-out band; have tendencies to destroy all venues, playing the show from within the audience, dousing themselves in beer, and lighting themselves on fire; while the Tel-Avivers proclaim "classic rock" as their prime inspiration, they don't consider their own music "classic classic rock," which is just about the only way to put it.

----

Silver Jews: David Berman and (at one time) Steven Malkmus' alt-country, indie-rock project predating Pavement; sedated and sardonic with nine years of experience and six albums under their belt (come July); Berman refused to play live until 2006 -- now tours with his wife and fellow Jews member Cassie Berman.

Put it all together and what have you got? Something incomprehensibly epic.

See It To Believe It.

Silver Jews tour:

Watch out Jenny Lewis: The Watson Twins announce the release of Fire Songs

It’s all because of Conor Oberst’s sweaty lovesick lyrics. After releasing four albums with Rilo Kiley, Conor Oberst convinced Jenny Lewis to put together a solo album, 2006's Rabbit Fur Coat. But it wasn’t just Jenny Lewis’ soulful voice that made the record worth playing on repeat. Behind the storytelling of songs like “Rabbit Fur Coat” and “You Are What You Love” were two Louisville Kentucky twins who belted out vocals on their identical sets of tonsils: The Watson Twins.

Consisting of Chandra and Leigh, The Watson Twins drove from Louisville to L.A where they shared drinks and laughs with the likes of Rilo Kiley and Earlimart, which only logically led to concerts in Tokyo and Berlin, and appearances on David Letterman and Conan O’Brien. The whirlwind of traveling with Jenny Lewis led to The Watson twins putting together their own songs, all found on their homemade EP Southern Manners.

Most recently, The Twins sold out a performance at the Getty Museum and appeared at SXSW, and now these folk twins are going to show you how Kentucky girls do it on record. Their first album, Fire Songs, is set to be released June 24 by Vanguard, famous for artists such as Joan Baez and Buddy Guy. Get a taste of it on The Watson Twins' MySpace.

Tracklisting for Fire Songs:

Beirut Cancel European Tour

Zach Condon has announced the cancellation of Beirut's summer European tour. According to a post on Beirut's website, Condon explains how the cancellation is mainly due to "personal" reasons, which include... well, it's probably best if you just read it yourself in its entirety (see below). I can't really relate to Condon's sentiments in any meaningful way, but I can sure sympathize.

...

A Letter from Zach

"It's with great regret that I have to tell all of you that Beirut is canceling their summer European shows. My reasons for doing this are many, a lot of them personal, but I still feel I need to provide something of an explanation.

The past two years have been a mindblowing experience. From the first indications that people were putting songs from Gulag up on their blogs to our incredible tour of Australia and New Zealand that we just completed, everything that has happened has been beyond anything I'd ever hoped could happen with the music I wrote and recorded in my bedroom. Once things started happening, I decided I wanted to do everything as big as possible. So, I set about putting together a large band, and giving that band a huge sound, and making the most spectacular records we possibly could.

"I know this can sound like an artist shithead kind of comment, but going through all that really does have its low points along with the highs. The responsibilities of gathering people around your vision, working with great people like those who work directly for the band and those at the label, wanting to insure that every show is as good as humanly possible so that every single person in the audience sees that we put in a real effort, all of that leads to a lot of issues in terms of doing right by people who have done you right.

"It's come time to change some things, reinvent some others, and come back at some point with a fresh perspective and batch of songs.

Please accept my apologies. I promise we'll be back, in some form."

...

Here are the canceled tourdates:

Thanks Edwin!