It’s an overcast Day Two for VH1 down here at the 2012 South By Southwest Festival, but we’re not complaining. Every minute that the sun isn’t shining is a minute where we don’t mind being inside, nerding out listening to some of the most influential and interesting people who operate in the music world.
Case in point, today’s panel discussion about the new VH1 Rock Doc Downloaded. We mozied our way over to the Austin Convention Center to watch Downloaded director Alex Winter moderate a discussion with the two co-founders of Napster, Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. This full length documentary film will premiere on VH1 later this year — the only footage screened today was a five-minute long teaser clip — but Fanning and Parker had a lot to say about their invention, their company, the effect that it had on the music business, and companies —like Spotify and iTunes— that were launched in their wake.
In particular, the always controversial Sean Parker made a couple of statements during the panel discussion that made the audience gasp and will certainly get tongues wagging. Here’s a sample of his five most controversial quotes.
“There’s definitely some sort of dissent brewing between record labels, publishing companies and artists [about the compensation they get from streaming services] … Spotify is returning a HUGE amount of money [to the record labels]. If we continue growing at our current rate in terms of subscriptions and downloads, we’ll overtake iTunes in terms of contributions to the recorded music business in under two years.” —Sean Parker throws down the gauntlet that Spotify will drive more revenue for the record industry than iTunes
“Even the iTunes store, to this day, is SO SLOW [compared to Napster]. I’m amazed. It’s like this embedded website within their client that when you click buy [makes spinning motion with his hands].”—Sean Parker on Apple’s laziness with regards to improving the iTunes Store
“In some sense, YouTube is much more liable [than Napster]. If you’re hosting the content, you’re liable, potentially, for direct infringement. We had to be sued for the much more esoteric contributory, vicarious copyright infringement … The funny thing about YouTube is that all of the user-generated content was accounting for such a small fraction of [their traffic]. In reality, it was a smokescreen. They had all this UGC, tons of it, and they were able to make a case in the various lawsuits against YouTube that that was the bulk of their content. When, in actuality, the traffic was largely being generated by SNL clips and other copyrighted content.” —Sean Parker on the injustice and inconsistency of the United States legal system
“Suddenly, [Napter] was taken over by lawyers. Our CEO was literally an attorney. Not to begrudge our CEO at the time, but one of our important lessons learned is that your CEO should never be an attorney. It became like a law firm.” —Sean Parker on how NOT to run a business that depends on creativity and innovation
“The record business was terrified of it. And there wasn’t even room for conversation. These guys were such dinosaurs that they were just for the first time waking up to the idea of digital media. They hadn’t even considered the implications of what was coming … [But during our meetings with the major labels], they were grinf*cking the sh*t out of us.” —Sean Parker on the record industry’s reaction to Napster
And one bonus quote for you after the jump! Read more…
behind the scenes on the set for The Fray‘s “Run For Your Life” video, and now we’re even luckier to be able to present you the full video! From their new album Scars and Stories, “Run For Your Life” is an inspirational ode urging you to get up out of your seat and run — not away from anything, but towards something, or even just for the simple joy of it. While there’s a lot of literal running going on in the clip, we have a feeling the message is more figurative, hinting at a more spiritual sort of running, if you will. As such, the video is inspirational, driven by hope and the sprawling beauty of the wide open expanse of the Californian desert. As Isaac Slade’s raw vocal sings “You don’t have to go it alone,” and is coupled with the slow motion running of some regular people, just try not to pump your fist in the air, and run towards whatever it is you’re looking for.
Madonna is ensuring that 2012 is the unofficial year of the Material Girl, first with her “Give Me All Your Luvin’” video, then her Super Bowl half time show, and soon the release of her new album MDNA and world tour. To add to the drama and anticipation, Madonna has now also added the premier of the video for “Girl Gone Wild” to the list of awesome things to look forward to. The official video will drop on March 20th, and you can watch a teaser for the track here. The video is shot in black and white and features a decidedly vintage looking Madonna gyrating amongst a slew of buff, oiled male bodies. While the track is a club-thumping anthem with hints of dub, the visual harks back to 80s Madonna, and we’re hoping there’s some of the boundary pushing Madonna is known and revered for in the aesthetic theme.
Well. It’s happened. The thing we thought might never happen: Adele‘s 21 has been knocked off the top of the Billboard chart. Sure, there’s every likelihood she’ll reclaim the throne but for now, it’s The Boss who is king. 21 has been number one for 23 weeks, but, somewhat aptly, has been smashed off the top by a Wrecking Ball. Bruce Springsteen‘s new album, after a shaky start and only 196,000 copies sold in the first week, has managed to oust Adele from what seemed like a never ending reign. If Adele wants to get back on top next week, her sales will have to outstrip new releases including The Shins’ Port of Morrow, One Direction’s Up All Night, and The Hunger Games soundtrack (which might be a hard one to beat given the prolonged hype surrounding the movie).
It’s no “Lotus Flower” — that is to say, Thom Yorke isn’t writhing around and pulling crazy shapes — but it’s an intimate and compelling video nonetheless. The clip for “Staircase” from Radiohead‘s The King Of Limbs sees the band performing in an enclosed setting, surrounded by a myriad array of instruments and technical equipment. And yes, Thom Yorke is moving in the way only Thom Yorke can move. “Staircase” is as close to a Radiohead renaissance as one could hope for, with Yorke’s chilling, heart palpitating vocals against a dynamic backdrop of broken beats, synthesisers and soaring orchestral compositions, and the video staying true to a music-centric credence, the visual taking nothing from the sound. Lighting appears to be the key here, with bright lights breaking through the dusty air to backlight the band and create an otherworldly presence that amplifies as Yorke’s falsetto croons towards the end.
We all remember Lana Del Rey’s controversial Saturday Night Live performance, right? Or has selective memory caused you to block it out? Either way, Lana Del Rey seems to be stepping up to the plate again, with reports that she’ll be performing this week on American Idol, although it’s not clear what that performance will entail. According to rumours, it may be a live performance, or it may be a pre-taping for a later show. Lana’s appearance on Idol was drawn to public attention when her name was listed on tickets along with Demi Lovato and Daughtry. We’d love to see Lana get up on stage and deliver an amazing vocal performance — it’s about time she won America back after the vitriol with which she was met following SNL.
We landed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport yesterday afternoon around 2 p.m. Central time or so, but the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 35 as we entered downtown Austin reminded us more than a little of rush hour in Los Angeles. It’s no surprise that the infrastructure of this college town is stretched to its limits during the annual South By Southwest Festival, as upwards of 50,000 people temporarily relocate to Austin from wherever they normally call home during this ten night extravaganza. After having their run of the town for the last few days, technology companies began ceding ground to the music industry yesterday as the Music portion of SXSW began in earnest.
When we finally got settled yesterday afternoon and picked up our badge from the cavernous Austin Convention Center, we made our way over to the Warner Sound Showcase at La Zona Rosa, located at the far east end of 4th Street. The showcase wasn’t set to start until 7:30, but when we strolled up at 7:00 or so, there were already hundreds of people lined up in the street hoping to see the likes of Neon Hitch, Theophilus London and Santigold.
After a dubstep-heavy DJ set from Alex English (Note: NOT the same Alex English that was the highest-scoring player in the NBA during the 1980s), Neon Hitch took the stage promptly at 8:30 p.m. Flanked by two shirtless dudes with tribal paint on their faces and drums around their waist, Neon Hitch opened her three-song set with “Bad Dog”, an electro stomper in which she declares “You know I’m yours so rip my clothes off.” Well, truth be told, she wasn’t exactly wearing a ton of clothes to begin with, but nonetheless, she succeeded to whip the crowd into an early frenzy with her provocative attire and compelling stage presence. She proceeded to belt out the hook to “Ass Back Home”, her hit with Gym Class Heroes, before closing her too-brief set with her current single, “Love U Betta.” She curiously refrained from dropping the f-bomb that appears in her unedited version of this song in front of the live audience, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind.
On Monday we reported Billboard’s top music earners of 2011, and there were more than a few surprises. One in particular was Adele coming in at number 10 — which The Guardian has also pinpointed as a notable occurrence, given that 80s-90s star Sade came in at number 6, making her England’s biggest music export to the US. And all this despite Adele’s staggering US chart success and multiple Grammy wins. The Guardian says, “What’s really surprising is that the No 1 British act in America isn’t Elton John or Paul McCartney or any of those obvious British behemoths abroad (although Irish band U2 did come in higher and Coldplay haven’t released anything recently). Nor is it a young stealth interloper such as Mumford & Sons. It is, in fact, Sade, who many of you will have forgotten decades ago.”
Sade made a comeback in 2010, including new album, greatest hits album and a tour, and for one reason or another — The Guardian cites Sade’s culturally ambiguous looks and the “sophistication” her music embodies — the soulful singer found a huge following in the US, which incidentally also dwarfed her comeback in the UK. The Guardian points to Billboard’s ominous opinion of Sade’s comeback, “It’s been 10 years since Sade released an album, but be forewarned – the giant has awoken.” Indeed, last year Sade made $16.4 million from combined album and ticket sales, while Adele’s sales, especially in the tour sector, were hampered by her throat surgery and late-year commitment cancellations.
The Guardian opines on Sade’s success, and throws her up as the antithesis of Adele; “The music industry still talks in hallowed tones about “cracking America”, something Adele has done with huge impact, but when Sade did it, she wasn’t so obviously British. She didn’t court the chatshow circuit with a gobby accent in the way that Adele does, so her speaking voice went largely unheard.” The publication quotes journalist Paul Simper who agrees, “Her Englishness was never a selling point. CBS just wanted to sign her and build her up to be somebody like Whitney, get her a professional studio band, but she resolutely stuck to her guns and stayed with the band from London she’d always had. And she still has – she’s always done it on her terms. Being successful in America didn’t involve any compromise or sounding any more American; her sound was always the same throughout.” Ineed, Sade has been a surprising alternative to Adele — and an unexpected candidate to usurp her throne as America’s favorite Brit.
Irish band The Chieftains are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band with the album Voice Of Ages. The iconic band stopped by The Late Show With David Letterman to play “School Days Over” with The Low Anthem. The song is folksy and pleasant, with a rural, almost medieval vibe. The perfect way to celebrate their anniversary, the performance was filled with soul and reverence, and if you close your eyes, will take you back to a rolling, misty, fantastical landscape filled with magic.
On April 22nd New York’s Roseland Ballroom will host The T.J. Martell Foundation’s 13th Annual Family Day in honor of Train. As well as performing an intimate acoustic set, multiple Grammy Award winning band Train will be acknowledged for their charity work. And there’s even more cause for a Train celebration, as their new album, California 37, will be released on April 17th, mere days before the iconic event. Train front man Pat Monahan said of the occasion, “Train is honored to be part of T.J. Martell’s Family Day. The T.J. Martell Foundation has been doing incredible work in the medical community and we are inspired by their dedication. We hope to make this the best Family Day ever.” Joining Train on the day will be a Cobra Starship, who will put on a special DJ set, and Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande who will also play live. And along with Train, Crush Management (who represent both Train and Cobra Starship) will also be honored. The event will raise money for leukemia, cancer and AIDS research and tickets can be purchased via TJMartellFoundation.org or by calling Foundation at (646) 841-1394. We suggest you try to get involved — it’s a great opportunity to contribute to a good cause while seeing your favorite musicians perform!