Apple’s Bright Idea for Recession-Hit Music Fans: Raise Prices!

In an economy hit with swinging job cuts, collapsing demand, and negative growth, the geniuses at Apple Inc have decided to give their customers a much-needed break by raising the price of the hottest, newest songs to $1.29 on iTunes. April 7 will see the introduction of a “variable music pricing” system, where individual tracks will be offered at 69¢, 99¢, and $1.29 depending on their popularity.

The creators of everyone’s favorite monopolistic media player seem to have caved in to the pressure from record companies, who have been arguing for a long time that this type of scheme will enable them to entice consumers to spend more by offering packaged downloads of songs.

Russ Crupnick, a senior analyst for NPD Group (or should that be senior apparatchik for global corporations), argues “If you're not drawing new people and your spending isn't growing, it's a natural part of the product life cycle [to raise prices].” Crupnick estimates spending has hit the ceiling at $41-per-customer, despite U.S. digital music sales increasing by 27% in 2008 to $1 billion. As a payoff for increasing prices, the tracks will now be offered without anti-piracy mechanisms, which will bring smiles to the faces of those of us who get a kick out of seeding major-label content across the internet.

It does seem a bizarre decision, nevertheless, when you consider the economy is in a worse state than at any time since the 1930s, and consumers can already access many of these tracks for free from streaming services like Spotify and Imeem. Furthermore, Amazon’s MP3 store already offers variable pricing, but no individual track exceeds 99¢.

Former EMI Music executive Ted Cohen predicts, “This will be a PR nightmare. It is for the music industry what the AIG bonuses are for the insurance industry.”

So, yeah, basically in support of no record in particular, Radiohead seems to be effortlessly shouldering the responsibility of headlining the crème de la crème of famous UK summer festivals. Both Reading and Leeds Fest, which will feature the same lineups over a span of three days, have decided that Radiohead, along with fellow headliners Arctic Monkeys and Kings of Leon, are more culturally relevant to the crowds across the pond than that washed-up Bono character with that shady smile and those suspiciously-shaded eyes of his.

Additional acts that may or may not be quite as home-grown as the headliners include Fallout Boy, Vampire Weekend (they’re still milking that whole “relevant band” thing, I see), Block Party, Kaiser Chiefs, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Maximo Park, and, er, those good ol’ Defones. To check out the schedules and, you know, plan your Best Summer Ever, click here and here. And if you’re a U2 fan, don’t worry; I’m sure they’re probably playing... somewhere this summer, right?

Meanwhile, Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood spoke to the NME about the gigs and the possibility of playing new material:

I’m very happy to be playing the festival, for lots of reasons. It’s close to home, and it’s great to be sharing it with Kings and Arctics. It should be darker and louder than our London shows last summer, too – a good thing! I think it’s the chance for people to see our show in the UK, in the dark, that’s the coolest thing about doing the festival. [...] I’m not allowed to do setlists, I’m too indecisive! We are trying out a few new things, but we’re still at the stage of casting about for a way forward. It’ll be brilliant to play something new at the festival though.

If You Pirate It, They Will Cave: Google China Cracks Down on Online Piracy by Giving Music Away for Free

In these dour days of unplenty, it's become a duplicitous cliché to draw fearful comparisons between the USA’s sorry state and the preening dragon that is the People’s Republic of China. The same goal is achieved whether one chooses to vilify China as a thickly polluted, despotic hellhole where infanticide is as common as putting on a shirt or as an invincible money-making monster that will heave and sweat and swell until it’s finally big enough to devour the entire world’s supply of cash in one sloppy gulp. Millennia of cultural and scientific innovation and a nation of more than one billion souls gets oversimplified into a McCarthy-era nightmare, where not only does the oppressive Communist menace prevail, it also manages to wield the hammer of capitalism against the West in a manner so dastardly that not even the boldest Bond villain could e’er imagine it. It’s a xenophobic cartoon that we as Americans simply should not stand for.

That’s why it pains me so much to ask this question: What gives these monk-punching, toy-soiling pinkos the right to get free, legal music from both Google and the big four record companies, while all us free market/expression-loving Americans get are lawsuits and condescending media guilt trips? Apparently, a big part of it has to do with the overwhelming amount of media transferred via piracy in China, with pirated MP3s accounting for 99% of all music files distributed. Even though a fifth of the world’s population lives in the PRC, their legitimate music industry’s annual revenue of $76 million accounts for less than one percent of global record sales.

So, how have Chinese industry heads attempted to resolve this troublesome issue without resorting to their (and the RIAA’s) time-honored tactics of needless threats and intimidation? After years of trailing the traffic numbers of Chinese search engine Baidu, Google has decided to mimic Baidu’s strategy of offering free music along with their web search function -- except Google decided to do it legally. In conjunction with Sony Music, Warner Music, EMI, and Universal Music, Google is offering free downloads of 350,000 songs from Chinese and foreign artists, with that number expected to grow to 1.1 million soon. Google hopes to draw Chinese downloaders to its site with higher quality music files, and the record companies will get a cut of the ad revenue. Everybody wins, everybody’s happy. Gee, I wonder if this sensible strategy could work anywhere else in the world...

I think you know what this means, America. Stop buying records in stores, stop going to iTunes, just pirate, pirate, pirate until Google decides to foot the bill for our insatiable appetite for pop music. Hell, we’ve already copied gunpowder, paper, and the compass from China. What’s one more thing?

The Roots Team with Public Enemy to Perform It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Avoid Jimmy Fallon’s Awkward Karaoke Night Excursions

Unless you've been living under a rock or in a recession-proof 1990s-themed bunker, you already know that The Roots are holding it down as the backing band on the new Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show. And perhaps you've heard that the guys are doing a regular residency at New York's Highline Ballroom. If you're a superfan, you're also aware of the Whole Foods-exclusive multigrain cereal they're putting out, called "Root-ios" and possibly even about ?uestlove's upcoming series of home-gardening DVDs*.

But did you know The Roots are fleshing out the lineup of their Philadelphia-based Roots Picnic with the announcement of acts like TV on the Radio, The Black Keys, Santigold, a crazy band called The Pipes (which features Lenny Kravitz's daughter Zoe and indie rapper Busdriver), DJ Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money, Asher Roth, Kid Cudi, Busdriver (again), Making Time, Back to Basics, and Writtenhouse?

But hey folks, the real story here -- as you may have guessed from the headline -- is that The Roots are backing up headliners Public Enemy, who'll be performing their seminal album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in its entirety. Don't believe the hype, sure, but this outing sounds like the safest bet you can make when it comes to awesomeness

06.06.09 - Philadelphia, PA - Roots Picnic at Festival Pier

*Not strictly true.

Fucked Up Goes on Short Tour, Opts for More Canada Dates

Hot damn, Fucked Up are going to have a busy April after the inevitable jetlag of their recent shows in China. The hardcore band's got a show almost every night for a solid two weeks, trekking through our northern states before spending most of the tour in their home country of Canada. The travels will conclude on "the good" Coachella day. Last time I saw them, they had to pause the show because of an altercation, and I got in a mini-altercation with some dudes clad in leather and patches, so you know it's gonna be good.

Last we heard from them, Matador released the "No Epiphany" 7-inch (with a No Age remix B-side).

Fucked Up tourdates:
04.06.09 - Detroit, MI - Magic Stick
04.07.09 - Milwaukee, WI - The Borg Ward
04.08.09 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock Social Club
04.09.09 - Winnepeg, MB - Royal Albert Arms
04.10.09 - Regina, SK - The Distrikt
04.11.09 - Calgary, AB - Royal Canadian Legion No. 1
04.12.09 - Edmonton, AB - The Pawn Shop
04.14.09 - Vancouver, BC - The Biltmore Cabaret
04.15.09 - Seattle, WA - Neumo's
04.19.09 - Indio, CA - Coachella

Former Ghosts = Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart + This Song Is A Mess But So Am I’s Freddy Ruppert + Zola Jesus’ Nika Roza; New LP Coming on Upset The Rhythm

Remember the supergroup The Dialectic Immaterialists? It contained members of Relish X, Senatori Strides, and Inhaler, as well as collaborations with John Kinsen (Pensive), Mary Schilling (Dark Eyes), and producer Phil Bark. Doesn't ring a bell? Well, that's because I made all of that up, but if The Dialectic Immaterialists did exist, they'd do well to get the fuck out of the way, as Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart has teamed up with Freddy Ruppert (This Song Is A Mess But So Am I) and Nika Roza (Zola Jesus) to form a new "supergroup" called Former Ghosts

Former Ghosts' debut full-length is scheduled for release "later this year" on Upset the Rhythm, according to Ruppert. You can check out a few tracks at their MySpace. As you can tell by the tracks, you'll see that all three of 'em take on vocal duties.

Meanwhile, Ruppert will play some solo shows. The dates are listed on Former Ghosts' MySpace, but it's unclear whether he'll play FG songs or not. So, go and find out for me, could ya?
04.10.09 - Los Angeles, CA - The Smell %
04.12.09 - Los Angeles, CA - The Smell - L’Keg Gallery !
04.14.09 - Los Angeles, CA - Silverlake Lounge @
04.16.09 - Costa Mesa, CA - Detroit Bar #
04.18.09 - Los Angeles, CA - Echo Curio &

! White Leopards

@ Pulse Out

% Railcars, Br’er, Felt Drawings

# Los Campesinos!

& Xiu Xiu

Also, don't forget about Jamie Stewart's solo dates (TMT News):
04.02.09 - Greenville, NC - The Spazzatorium
04.03.09 - Norfolk, VA - The Boot
04.04.09 - Richmond, VA - The Triple
04.05.09 - Philadelphia, PA - First Unitarian Church
04.06.09 - Brooklyn, NY - Monkey Town
04.09.09 - Durham, NH - The Stafford Room
04.10.09 - Chicago, IL - Ronny's Bar
04.11.09 - Grinnell, IA - Gardner Lounge (Grinnell College)
04.14.09 - Seattle, WA - The Vera Project
04.15.09 - Portland, OR - Backspace
04.17.09 - San Francisco, CA - Cafe Du Nord
04.18.09 - Los Angeles, CA - Echo Curio
04.19.09 - Tucson, AZ - Solar Culture
04.21.09 - Austin, TX - Salvage Vanguard Theater
04.23.09 - Tallahassee, FL - Club Downunder
04.24.09 - St. Augustine, Florida - Cafe Eleven
04.25.09 - Atlanta, GA - Wonderroot

Finally, keep an eye on Zola Jesus' tourdates to get confirmed here.

The National Announce New Tour, Offer Sneak Preview Of Their New Album

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard anything from The National. In order to drum up interest for their yet-to-be-released new album, the band decided to send TMT a rough copy of the album and has allowed us to describe several of the songs for our readers:

- Track 1: Slow, churning guitars start this song, followed by singer Matt Berninger’s signature baritone, singing something about being tired and saying goodbye to a lover.
- Track 6: Slow, wistful guitars start this song, followed by Berninger’s baritone, lamenting the loss of a lover.
- Track 10: Slow, brooding guitars start this track, as Berninger's pines for an ex-girlfriend.

I think you get my point.

New tourdates:
05.03.09 – New York, NY – Radio City Music Hall &
05.21.09 – Toronto, ON – Kool Haus
05.22.09 – Montreal, QB – Metropolis
05.23.09 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
05.24.09 – Washington, D.C. – 9:30 Club
05.25.09 – Washington, D.C. – 9:30 Club
05.27.09 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse
05.28.09 – Raleigh, NC – Lincoln Theater
05.29.09 – Philadelphia, PA – Electric Factory
07.18.09 – Chicago, IL – Pitchfork Music Festival

& Dark Was The Night Live with Dirty Projectors, Feist, My Brightest Diamond, Sharon Jones, Dave Sitek

Meet Billy Corgan’s Ego, Up Close and Personal: Audition to Be the New Smashing Pumpkins Drummer

You know how your mom always said that all those hours you spent drumming along to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in the garage wouldn’t get you anywhere? Well, fuck you, Mom, because I’m going to LA to audition for The Smashing Pumpkins!

...Okay, that’s a lie, I never played drums. But if you do and you want to experience Billy Corgan’s ego firsthand, feel free to email your background info, photos, and performance web links to Auditions will be held Friday, April 10 in Los Angeles.

As you may know (TMT News), the auditions are to replace Jimmy Chamberlin, who announced last week that he was quitting the band, stating “I can no longer commit all of my energy into something that I don't fully possess. I won't pretend I'm into something I'm not.” With Chamberlin gone, Corgan is now the last original member in The Smashing Pumpkins. How shocking!

Destroyer Destroy the Past, Create New Future-Past With Reissue of 2nd and 3rd LPs! Confused?? Hey, Don’t Be! Read on! Outta Sight, My Man!

Dan Bejar is Matador’s best friend. Destroyer, Swan Lake, New Pornographers... dude’s got that record label covered in the hits department, recessions be damned. So it was probably high-time that they did him a solid and reissued those second and third Destroyer albums, right? Right.

Bejar-boosters may know that Destroyer has released four albums and an EP on Merge Records since 2002, with a new album slated for release later this year. Here to whet that good appetite of yours is the original City of Daughters (1998) and Thief (2000) LPs, which are back on vinyl where they belong and have been updated in all sorts of hyperbolic ways! For instance, vinyl-obsessed, condo-owning Destroyer fans may well-recall that the original City of Daughters suffered from some frequency-related glitches that caused it to skip on many turntables, thus ruining their indie-fondue parties.

And the original Thief mix? Well, that was never satisfying, was it? And besides, the LP/CD was shoddily mastered into mono. What a drag! But don’t worry. Thief has now been remixed by the original team of Daniel Bejar, David Carswell, and John Collins at JC/DC Studios and is available in the intended stereo mix for the first time ever.

What’s more, both albums have been remastered by Roger Seibel at SAE Mastering and have never sounded better. Additionally, the two covers have been reworked by original artist Lester Smolenksi and printed by Stoughton as an "old style," tip-on, gatefold jacket. Sweet. And all you have to do is spend your money on them all over again! Check it out at Nominal Records.

Family Counseling Group Schedules Online Protest of David Lynch’s Transcendental Meditation Benefit Concert with McCartney and Ringo

Kat Gardiner recently reported that on April 4 David Lynch will throw a star-studded shindig at Radio City Music Hall to benefit his foundation for "Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace." With acts ranging from Paul and Ringo to Donovan and Eddie Vedder (picture that lovechild, if you will!), who wouldn’t be pumped about such an exciting affair?

Apparently Knapp Family Counseling in Malone, NY, that’s who! On April 2, Knapp will hold an online protest to teach participants “a side of the Transcendental Meditation story they won't tell you.” (I have no idea who “they” is referring to in that quote.) The site also warns of the “secret agendas” of TM leaders and equates Lynch’s commitment to TM with Tom Cruise’s devotion to the Church of Scientology. Damn son, that’s some straight up dubious claims right there! For as much crazy may be floating around in Knapp and company’s allegations, their assertion that teaching TM in schools violates separation of church and state laws is up for debate.

Still, I think it’s unfair to compare TM to any kind of religious praise. TM isn’t about forging a connection with God or some other divine force. A person meditates to connect with the deepest parts of one’s mind to reach a state of transcendental being. I suppose, though, the facet of TM that challenges people the most is the role of the yogi, which could be construed as a pervasive influence to an organization like Knapp’s (the center appears to specialize in cult recovery).

Anyway, it seems like this event could turn out to be kind of interesting, as long as these folks don’t get too out there with their accusations. The panel Knapp has assembled seems pretty interesting, and, hey, maybe David Lynch will toss his hat in the ring and defend his passion. Stranger things have happened.



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