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Going Digital: 31 Years Of Format Changes In The Music Industry

Somehow we missed this chart when Digital Music News posted it last week, but luckily Fast Company‘s Co.Design blog noticed, and shared it today. As Co.Design’s Cliff Kuang put it, “It doesn’t happen too often, but once in a blue moon a hideous chart contains such a novel conceit that we have to post it.”

So what are we looking at? Not “the music industry’s death,” as the Co.Design headline proclaims. In fact, this animation contains no information about total sales. Digital Music News simply took screenshots of the pie charts with which the Recording Industry Association of America represents its data (see this slide). This explains why the size of the pie fluctuates despite no corresponding data point (and why the occasional data point is out of frame).

Despite these interpretation-hindrances, we are sort of fascinated by the way in which the chart models the formats through which consumers purchase music: the cassette’s rise to plurality (and, briefly, slight majority) and very slow recession from market share; the CD’s complete domination (95.5% of the market share in 2002!) and swift downfall; the intransigence of the LP in the last twenty years; the rise not only of digital downloads, but also of other ways of monetizing music in the digital age (such as subscription services, which may get a bump in 2011 thanks to the launch of Spotify and other developments); and the comparative popularity of the paid single download vs. any physical single format (from 1980 onwards, physical singles commanded less than 8% of the market, but in the six years that digital downloads have been widely available for sale, they have grown to command 20% of the market). All that, and a somewhat effective use of a pie chart!
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by (@Lacezilla)

The Muppets Recruit OK Go For Wacky “Theme Song” Video

By now, OK Go’s creative video aptitude has likely made its way to your world in one way or another. Be it through your TV screen via their 2006 VMA reinactment of the attention-grabbing treadmill dance from “Here It Goes Again,” or more recently, through your inbox via either of the one-shot versions of “This Too Shall Pass,” pooch-friendly “White Knuckles,”or kaleidoscope-esque “All Is Not Lost,” it’s becoming clear that the visuals they cook up seem to continuously out-do the last. So naturally, when we got word that they’d be collaborating with The Muppets, we didn’t know what kind of madness to expect.

Muppets: The Green Album hit stores today, and besides OK Go, also features artists like Weezer, The Fray and My Morning Jacket, all covering Muppet classics that we know and love. Batting first, OK Go kick-off the album with the “Muppet Show Theme Song” and synchronized with the album’s release, liberated a video for the lively collaboration earlier today. Piggy-backing on throwback visuals from the band’s previous viral hits, the colorful clip shows some (adorable) intermingling with the entire cast of characters, and reeks of childhood-awakening, make-you-smile potential. Go ahead: press play and don’t act like you forgot about the most sen-sational, in-spir-ational, celeb-rational, Muppet-ational show that life has to offer.

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by (@unclegrambo)

Quakin’ – Songs To Help You Cope With Today’s Eastern Seaboard Earthquake

If you were anywhere on the Eastern seaboard in the last hour or so, you no doubt felt the effect of an earthquake that registered 5.9 on the Richter Scale. Here in Times Square at VH1 HQ, we felt the building sway and bounce uncomfortably for a good five or six seconds. Everyone seems to be okay, if a bit freaked out.

In order to help you (and us!) calm down on this hectic afternoon, we just created the following playlist of earthquake-themed songs for all you Spotify users out there:
Quakin’ – Songs To Help You Cope With The 2011 New York City Earthquake

(If you’re not on Spotify, this room on Turntable.fm also just cropped up: Earthquake 2K11.)

Full playlist for you after the jump:

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Tuned In: Joe Jonas Rocks The Ed Sullivan Theatre For “Live On Letterman”

The late-night music showcases have gone relatively quiet, with most of the shows in reruns for the back half of August. In fact, only The Late Show with David Letterman is new this week, which might be why they chose this week to reprise their Drum Solo week. (Last’s night’s solo was courtesy Tony Royster Jr., who’s played with the likes of En Vogue and Jay-Z.) Yesterday Letterman sweetened the pot, though, with a 30-minute Joe Jonas concert broadcast live from the Ed Sullivan Theatre at 9pm ET?and luckily for fans of both dance-pop and La La’s Full Court Life, which aired on VH1 at the same time, the whole set?including new songs “I’m Sorry” and “Kleptomaniac”?is streaming, above and at the “Live on Letterman” website. If his fanbase at large is anywhere near as enthusiastic as the mostly female crowd (who knew all the words to “When You Look Me In the Eyes” and single “See No More”), Jonas’s solo outing could have some real legs, and given the strength of some of the songs, that success won’t be undeserved.

Set list:

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Legendary R&B Songwriter Nickolas Ashford Dies at 70

We’d only just begun to mourn the loss of songwriter Jerry Leiber when we got word that Nickolas Ashford, half of the songwriting and performing duo Ashford & Simpson, had also passed away at 70 after a battle with throat cancer. If Leiber and Stoller soundtracked the R&B of the pre-Beatles era, Ashford & Simpson were, alongside Holland/Dozier/Holland, their spiritual successors. Nick Ashford had a hand in writing “You’re All I Need To Get By” and many more Motown hits, not just for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell but also a slew of other artists, notably Diana Ross. With Ashford & Simpson producing, Ross scored a number of solo hits with both older Ashford & Simpson compositions like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and new ones like “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”

Even as they wrote and produced hit after hit for Motown, they notoriously butted heads with its founder, Berry Gordy, insisting on retaining the rights to their compositions and productions. Their often-bitter struggle paved the way for songwriters of all stripes to protect their intellectual property.

All of this is not to mention the duo’s illustrious career as a performing duo, scoring R&B hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s, crossing over to the pop charts most successfully with “Solid” in 1984. They have continued to perform and record together. Above, watch the duo perform “Gimme Something Real” in New York City in 2006.
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Last Lap: Monday’s Odds And Ends In Music News

Rest In Peace, Jerry Leiber
Jerry Leiber, one half of the songwriting team Leiber and Stoller, passed away today of heart failure. He was 78. With Mike Stoller, he wrote six top ten hits for the Coasters, three top tens for the Drifters, three #1 and four other top 20 Elvis Presley singles, and “Stand By Me”; we could go on for some time about the duo’s indispensable contributions to pre-Beatles rock and R&B, their other Billboard chart appearances (the total is over 100, for the record), their production credits (e.g. Stealers Wheel‘s “Stuck In The Middle With You”), their jukebox musical (Smokey Joe’s Cafe), their American Idol theme episode this season, and more, but sadly we can’t offer the tribute Leiber deserves. For more, check out Michaelangelo Matos‘s brisk, informative, and YouTube-embed-packed eulogy at Sound of the City, or seek out the second episode of the 1995 PBS documentary Rock & Roll.

My Morning Jacket Help Neko Case Cover Stevie Nicks
At a tornado relief benefit show in Tuscaloosa on Friday night, Neko Case, backed by My Morning Jacket, took on Stevie Nicks‘s “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (with MMJ frontman Jim James providing the Tom Petty vocals). Hear it at TwentyFourBit.com. [via Spin]
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by (@unclegrambo)

Song Of The Summer Countdown: Adam Levine Reaps The Benefits Of His TV Hosting Gig

At this time last year, hopes for Maroon 5‘s third studio album, Hands All Over, were high. The lead single, “Misery,” had hit #1 on Billboard‘s Adult Pop chart, and since the band had convinced famed superproducer Robert “Mutt” Lange to come out of semi-retirement to produce their album, everyone looked for the band to take the leap from a well-liked, fairly popular M.O.R. band to the next level and a spot among the world’s most commercially successful bands. However, once the album finally hit streets in October 2010, the masses shrugged their shoulders and largely ignored the album. The record was certified gold by the RIAA for shipping over 500,000 copies, but worldwide sales stalled out at just 529,000 total units.

Perceived failures like this have sunk many a band in the past, but thanks to charismatic frontman Adam Levine and ten weeks of national TV exposure courtesy of NBC/Universal’s The Voice (corporate synergy at its finest!), the band has totally reversed their fortunes in less than a year. Their new track, “Moves Like Jagger,” hit #1 on the iTunes chart this week, and Levine’s featured hook on Gym Class Heroes“Stereo Hearts” propelled the song to a Top 20 finish in this week’s Song Of The Summer countdown. No wonder artists like Mariah Carey (The X-Factor), Sara Bareilles (The Sing Off) and more are looking to land prime positions as judges on televised singing competition shows; it’s exactly the kind of exposure to Middle America that the flagging music business is no longer in a position to give these artists using “traditional” music channels. As Maroon 5 has proved, it’s great work if you can get it!

As for the rest of our Song Of The Summer chart —only two more weeks until we crown a champion!— kudos to Katy Perry for her ninth consecutive week in the #1 spot.


[Click here for a larger image]

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Kelly Clarkson On Demo Leaks: “I’ve Been Physically Robbed…But This Is Much Worse”

Kelly Clarkson is featured in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly, discussing her new album Stronger. In a preview of the feature launched today on EW’s website, Clarkson talks about the demo leaks that took place in July.

Apparently, the songs leaked while Clarkson was on vacation, so she returned to hear the news, with no knowledge of how the songs got out into the world. None of the tracks were close to completion, and they range from a few that will end up (in finished form) on her forthcoming album to some that were written off during sessions for her 2003 album Thankful (and in some cases were actually songs written for others to perform). Clarkson doesn’t say which are which among “Let Me Down,” “Cleopatra,” and others, but certainly the ones written for others are not so valuable anymore. It’s not just the value, though; Clarkson told the magazine, “I?ve been physically robbed a couple of times, but this is much worse.” She refers to the confusion and misperceptions about her new album, her career, and her artistry, based on suppositions using evidence from the demos. She hopes (as do we) that Stronger will clear everything up.

Kelly Clarkson On Leaked Songs: She Was “Robbed” [EW Music Mix]

[Image: Getty Images]

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Bono Spokeswoman Denies/Spins “Health Scare”

This morning, Bono denied weekend reports that he’d had a health scare while vacationing just outside Monaco in the south of France. In a statement to Reuters, a spokewoman stated that the U2 frontman had indeed gone to Princess Grace Memorial Hospital in Monaco, as Ireland’s Independent had reported, but that the visit was merely a routine checkup. “Reports of his being rushed to hospital for emergency treatment are untrue,” the spokeswoman stated, despite the fact that the initial Independent report made no such claim.

According to the Irish paper’s sources, Bono experienced “chest pains” and underwent “48 hours of medical tests” under the supervision of “a top heart specialist at the hospital,” none of which was exactly contradicted by the not-quite-denial. Presumably a routine checkup wouldn’t take two full days. The initial report in the Independent (which claimed Bono was “renowned” both “for his partying” and “for his socialising on the French Riviera”) and the denial to Reuters concur that the heart palpitations turned out not to be a health issue.

U2 Singer Bono Denies Reports Of Health Scare [Reuters via Rolling Stone]

[Image: Getty Images]

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Lil Wayne To Digitally Release Tha Carter IV Early (And By That, We Mean Right On Schedule)

Lil Wayne announced this morning that his forthcoming album Tha Carter IV, scheduled to be released in stores on Monday, August 29, would be available for digital purchase in advance?specifically, at midnight ET after the Video Music Awards air (at 8pm on Sunday, August 28). But wait, you say. Don’t albums tend to premiere digitally around midnight the night before their physical release?

That’s very incisive of you?but this press release isn’t merely a rebranding of an existing fact. The pullquotes provide the clues. Cash Money Records CEO Ronald “Slim” Williams, talks about “pairing the release of Tha Carter IV with the VMAs,” and this pairing seems to have been the plan for some time now. Lil Wayne announced the album’s release date in an MTV News interview last month, after the Video Music Awards had already been scheduled.

Furthermore, MTV President Stephen Friedman says that the digital release allows VMA viewers to “go online at midnight and download the album they?ve all been waiting for.” The similarity of this attempt to digitally recreate the experience of lining up outside a record store to that of Watch The Throne two weeks ago is probably not coincidental. Even still, both Lil Wayne and The Throne are not necessarily aiming to improve their sales with these tactics; rather, they hope to recreate the big-tent release-date excitement of old (albeit not that old; for the most part the day-of iconic big releases?like Use Your Illusion I and II, twenty years old next month?were part of a marketing plan that did not really exist en masse prior to the CD era).

All in all, this is a canny move by the rapper. Anecdotal evidence suggests that viewers of television shows (particularly those on HBO and other premium cable channels) will wait impatiently for a download to become available for purchase (or, erm, “free”) if they don’t get the channel or miss the airing. Why not replicate that for music? Of course, this is another adaptation to the digital world that may only be effective for the biggest artists, but if it catches on, it’ll be an interesting one nonetheless.