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If you’re using the link https://lawontherow.wordpress.com, please mark your bookmark to the new home for my blog http://lawontherow.com.  I’ve redesigned the layout and added many new features, so I hope you enjoy it.  And thank you for reading.  Also, you might be interested in my flashy new sister websites, Music Law Boy and Music Thinks, which features selected articles from the archives of Law on the Row.

My belated Father’s Day gift this year was a brand, spanking new iPhone 4 32mb!  So, now that I’ve been using it for about two weeks, I decided to share my thoughts and insights, particularly since I’ve previously blogged about my love/hate relationship with Apple and the predecessor phones.  I am a staunch Windows 7 user, and have my doubts about the seriousness of anyone who uses the Apple operating system!  Just kidding really.

Without a doubt, the first thing you notice about the new iPhone is the superior clarity of tiphone4mainbigfront he 960×640 screen. It’s brighter, fonts are clearer, pictures more vibrant and, overall, it’s simply much more impressive.  Don’t’ take my word for it, hold one up next to your old iPhone and you’ll see the difference instantly.  The 480×320 screen on the older phones appear almost muddy by comparison.  Apple doubled the pixels per inch, and it shows.  They also increased the contract ratio to 800:1.  In the end, the resolution upgrade alone is worth the price of admission!

The next design element I noticed was the shape.  The new iPhone 4 is very distinct from its predecessors in its very UN-zen-like feel, stepping toward a more “slate” type approach.  That can be either a good or bad choice, depending upon your perspective, and how much you liked the original Zen-like design.  I personally really liked the “Zen Stone” feel of the original, with it’s rounded back and corners.  My previous model was the white 3g (oh, sorry Apple, I probably shouldn’t mention the “white” right now huh?).  That said, the new shape and feel have grown on me and I actually like the new aesthetics, although it did take some adjustments in my holding style.  The new model is much starker, with metal edges, creating an almost industrial feel (the very same edges that give the iPhone 4 it’s trademark reception problems).  The phone is more slender than its predecessors as well, which gives the misleading appearance of a smaller screen.  It’s not – actually they are identical in size at 89 mm.  The edges also give the appearance that the 4 is thicker than its ancestory.  Again, it’s not.  It’s actually shaved thinner – 2 mm to be precise! 

Putting aside the incredible screen, the next real beauty of this new model is the software revisions.  Many of my faithful readers will recall my constant berating of Apple about the lack of multi-tasking, something the very first Palm Pilots could pull off with ease.  So, how many years and version upgrades have we been through?  Having poked at the giant enough, I will state unequivocally that Apple’s implementation of this mission critical component is very well done.  Two clicks on the home button and up pops a menu at the bottom showing all running applications and allowing you to move between them.  One can, for example, read a book and take notes, or time a runner and jot down the time.  I know, these seem like simple, ordinary tasks, but try that on an older iPhone!  One feature of multitasking that would be an improvement in future version, however, is the ability to shutdown all applications without having to individually close them.  After several hours of use, the multiple applications begin to pile up and exhaust valuable resources.  But, that caveat expressed, I am SO happy to have multi-tasking on my iPhone.  I was beginning to miss those days with my Palm.

Another one of my expressly desired features that did NOT appear on this new model is the week view in the calendar.  It might sound like a petty request, but in the business world, many people rely on the week view for advance planning and scheduling.  And please, don’t tell me about the “List” view – a more useless apparatus I have never witnessed – it is simply not a replacement for the week view!  Ironically, Apple HAS implemented the weekview feature on its enigmatic iPad.  I was so put out when I found this.  “So, why can’t I have it too?” I asked The “Genius” at the store.  She tells me it is planned for a future version, but I don’t know if I trust The Genius.  Apple’s sin is further amplified by the fact that because of its proprietary philosophy it will not allow third party software designers to access the code to their precious default programs, so no one can even design a work around!  Pocket Informant has a beautiful weekview in its application, but you are relegated to using Google Calendar, not the Apple default.  So, this complicates issues with Exchange servers and is not a good work around.  Ok, so enough of my bitching, let’s get back to the many things I LIKE about the 4!

Let’s talk folders!  Another sadly missing item was rectified by the new operating system by the addition of the foldering system.  Now, instead of 10 or so unorganized pages containing a hodge podge of programs, I have one main screen with my most utilized programs, and a page and one half of folders!  An organizational system in a Personal Information Manager, imagine that!  It’s truly great. 

There are, of course, many other wonder additions on the iPhone 4 – the 5 mp camera and front facing camera, video conferencing, gyroscope, etc. –  but these are my initial thoughts.

Over the next few months, I will be sharing some of my favorite applications on the iPhone with you, but suffice it to say that the new iPhone is working out quite nicely.  I highly recommend an upgrade if you’re considering it and/or are waivering.  There is a a good comparison at Wikipedia.

A little history:

February 22, 1990: Pop sensations Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus, a/k/a Milli Vanilli, who achieved international acclaim as a result of their Arista release, Girl You Know It’s True,  win the Grammy for “Best New Artist.”    Soon, the rumors began to swirl that Morvan and Pilatus were not actually singing on the records as had beeimage n reported in the press.  So intense were these rumors that on November 12 of that same year, Frank Farian, creator and producer of the Milli Vanilli project, confessed that Morvan and Pilatus did not actually sing on the records.  Four days later, Milli Vanilli’s Grammy was “withdrawn,” and Arista dropped them.  After the details emerged, the controversy spurned over 26 different lawsuits across the country under various consumer protection laws.

Early 1992: New Kids on the Block’s song If You Go Away peaks at #16 on Billboard as an associate producer on one of their earlier albums allege that the band lip-syncs to performances by Maurice Star, and that Star actually sang many of the parts on their albums.   As the story develops, the band cuts short a tour to appear on The Arsenio Hall Show to perform a medley of their hits.  During the subsequent interview, the band admits to using Star’s vocals as a backup track during their live performances, and admit that Star sang harmonies on some of their background vocals.   The band never recovered from the backlash, and their record sales steadily declined from that moment.

November 6, 2009: Hundreds of angry fans in Perth, Australia, walk out of Brittany Spears’ Circus concert when it becomes apparent that she is lip-syncing to her songs.

Fast forward to:

January 31, 2010: Taylor Swift wins four Grammys: Album of the Year and Best Country Album for Fearless, Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song for White Horse.  Swift, who is by all accounts an extremely talented songwriter, gave a stunningly weak vocal performance during her duet with Steve Nick’s that drew starkly negatives reviews from professionals and amateur press/bloggers alike.  For example, Bob Lefsetz described her image performance as “dreadful” and opined that she may have single-handedly imperiled her career with this one performance.  The general consensus is that her Grammy performance is not an isolated incident.  Truth is, most professionals in Music City are aware of Swift’s inferior vocal talents – almost every conversation about Swift in this city includes one or more references to “auto-tune” technology.

The query then is this: is there a significant difference between a digitally-created rendition of a vocal performance and using a superior vocal performance from an singer who is not marketable to front a more attractive and marketable duo, a/k/a Milli Vanilli or to using a backup track (even of your own vocal as in Spears’ case) to enhance your live performance.  Isn’t the former example simply a modern, technological replacement for the latter?  If so, then the question becomes why is today’s society not as outraged at Taylor Swift as past society was at Milli Vanilli, New Kids and Spears?

In his response to criticism of the Grammy performance, Scott Borchetta, president and CEO of Swift’s record label Big Machine Records, offers this explanation for this discrepancy:

Maybe she’s not the best technical singer, but she is the best emotional singer. Everybody gets up there and is technically perfect people don’t seem to want more of it. There’s not an artist in any other format that people want more of than they want of Taylor. I think (the critics) are missing the whole voice of a generation that is happening right in front of them. Maybe they are jealous or can’t understand that. . . .   No one is perfect on any given day. Maybe in that moment we didn’t have the best night, but in the same breath, maybe we did.

Borcetta gets no argument from almost anyone I know in the industry that perhaps Swift is not the best technical singer.  But I’m not sure the explanation that Swift is the “voice of a generation” does much to address the underlying issue: The Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance went to singer who, even her label head admits, is not the best technical singer!  Swift’s Fearless live performance tour is sold-out!  In her defense, Borchetta goes on to say “If you haven’t seen her live performance, you’re welcome to come out as my guest to a Taylor Swift show and experience the whole thing, because it’s amazing.”  But if the show’s audio is auto-tuned, how does this amazing experience differ from a Brittany Spears’ lip-synced performance, if at all?  Let’s not forget, in their days, the fans also “wanted more” of Milli Vanilli, New Kids on the Block and Brittany Spears.

Someone else once phrased it this way:

“It’s not about being authentic anymore, it’s about being entertaining.” 

Interestingly, this was a quote from Morvan of Milli Vanilli in a USA Today article in 2010.   Morvan goes on to say

“Twenty years later, what we were crucified for you see everywhere.”

He right, is he not?  Let’s be honest.  In America, at least, pop music has almost always produced a certain amount of, shall we call it, “manufactured product” – performers who were either assembled, created or otherwise the entertainment value.  My first disillusionment with this came in the form of The Monkees when I discovered that they were a band “assembled” by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider as an American “Beatles” alternative, i.e., as a means of capitalizing on the success of the Beatles.  As technologies become more and more sophisticated, this trend toward entertainment value over authenticity is naturally going to increase.  It used to be a little more difficult to go back and “overdub” a particular performance which was out of tune or offbeat, because the engineer had to physically rewind the tape, record the alternative part on a separate recording track, and then sync the new part into the old one.  A bit more time consuming.  Now, we have software which can independently correct not just the pitch, but an isolated note out of a chord which may be out of tune for one reason or another.  It’s a matter of moving the mouse over the note, highlighting it, and correcting it.  Wow!

I suppose the real question, then, is what do we want from our performing artists, whether it be a live performance or a recorded one?  For me, I think I prefer simple honesty.  Or, as Milli Vanilli ironically put it, “authenticity.”  I like to hear performers with technically superior skills performing the music they created.  I do agree with Borchetta that everyone is not perfect, and that many people prefer a live performance that has the feel of being non-technical.  After all, who can forget that off key guitar note at the end of the Allman Brother’s recording of Statesboro Blues (a note which they DO NOT replicate in a live performance), or some of John Bonham’s almost syncopated rhythms on Black Dog?   Those are authentic performances by persons with superior, technical skills. And this is precisely where I think where I differ from Borchetta:  I personally think most people do expect their celebrities to be technically superior, at least with regard to their perceived talents. 

Judging from prior examples such as Milli Vanilli and Brittany Spears, and the audiences’ reaction to those performers, people have an expectation that an artist will be able to actually perform the music that was marketed to them through the media.  In other words, most people expect their performers to be authentic.  Now, maybe Borchetta is correct, that Swift is, in fact, an authentic person who can communicate well through her gift of songwriting – again that’s not the real issue.  The real issue is that Swift is portrayed as more than a songwriter, she is portrayed as the performer with the “Best Female Country Vocal Performance.”   The fact is, Duane Allman, although he might hit an off key note once and awhile, was a technically superior guitarist.  John Bonham, even though that one performance might fade slightly off the beat for a brief moment, was a technically superior drummer.  However, no matter how many tours she sells out and no matter how many millions of CDs she sells, Taylor Swift, while an amazingly-talented songwriter,  will never be a technically superior vocalist.   Not to worry, though, she will most certainly always be the slightly off-key voice of a younger generation of admirers.  Or will she.  Time will tell I suppose.  But lest we put too much stock in past success as an indicator of future fan support, don’t forget, Milli Vanilli’s record was also multi-platinum.

I really enjoyed being on The Music Row Show on 1510 WLAC last evening with Scott Southworth.  I love their motto, “two guys fumbling their way through the music business, so you don’t have to!” 

If you didn’t catch the show (you should be able to download the podcasts from their website in a few days), Scott and I had a very enjoyabl discussion about the future of the music industry and the idea of the “do it yourself” generation of musicians, artists and songwriters which has become my focus and mantra of late.  I believe that with today’s technological advances – the iPod/MP3 player, ProTools, Macbooks, the Internet etc. – entertainers ScottHeinohave the ability to do it themselves in ways never before possible.  The days when you absolutely needed to record deal to reach the fans is absolutely behind us.  As I said on the show, I do not believe that major labels are a thing of the past.  They have provided us with great music for years and will continue to play a vital, although probably modified, role in the development of new talent.  My point is simply that the alternate pathways are becoming more and more fruitful and plentiful.

During the show I brought up some ideas along these lines that I had read and heard about which involved some not-so-famous musicians/artists who have done just that – found a way to connect with their fans in unique ways and give them a reason to shell out some money for their product.  This idea is not unique to me, it grew out of an analysis of the Nine Inch Nails experimentsby Michael Masnick, who is the editor of the Techdirt blog and gave the keynote address from the 2009 Digital Summit, which you view here.

After Masnick gave a shorter version of this talk at Midem, people complained that Trent Reznick was a product of the record industry and, therefore, the experiment would not necessarily work with independent artists.  So, for thie keynote in Nashville, Masnick added in two examples of independent artists who were sucessfully selling product without the add of the marketing machines:

The first was Josh Freese.  Mr. Freese had a rather significant following of fans and found a very creative and unique way to generate sells of his new album “Since 1972”  from that fan base.  For some laughs, click on the link above and look at the variety of offerings.  A few of my favorite offering is the $50 level which, among other things, buys you a “thank you” phone call from Freese.  The $2,500 level buys you not only an autographed copy of the CD, but a drum lesson from Mr. Freese, a trip to the Hollywood Wax Museum with a member of the Vandals or DEVO, a signed DW snare drum and three items from his closet!  He sold two of these packages!  The $10,000 package includes the autographed CD and Snare Drum, but also includes a day with Freese at Club 33 and Disneyland, after which you get to drive away in his late-model Volvo (you have to drop him back home first)!  No takers on that one yet.

The second is the artist whose name I could not for the life of me remember last night during the radio program, but is Jill Sobule.  When she wanted to record an independent album entitled “California Years” back in 2008, she established the website www.jillsnextrecord.com in order to raise the money necessary to produce the record.  On the website, she offered varying levels of support, from the “Pewter” $50 level, which buys you a “thank you” on the CD liner, all the way up to the $10,000 “Weapons-Grade Plutonium Level” which buys you the right to sing on the album and play cowbell (Good guess Scott!).  Other interesting ideas are the $2,500 Emerald level, which gives your “executive producer” credit on the album or the $5,000 Diamond level which bought you a “house concert” from Jill and the right to charge admission!  She actually sold 2 and 3 of these levels respectively.  Ms. Souble had originally budgeted $75,000 for production and distribution and eventually raised all of that and them some.  For a full tally of the more than $88,000 she raised through this effort, here is her “tote board.”

Masnik’s point in the keynote address, and the model he derived from Trent Resnick’s NIN experiment, is that you must “Connect with the Fans” (or CwF) and give them a “Reason to Buy” (or RtB).  Thus, the equation is CwF+RtB = $$$$$.  This is the point I made on the radio program last evening – artists need to determine who their fan base is and find a way to connect.  Through that effort, the goal is to create an e-mail database of those fans so that you have a way to communicate with them (whether it be by e-mail blast, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook or whatever).  Once you’ve connected, the second step is to find a creative incentive that gives them a reason to buy.   As readers of my blog will remember, I’ve been preaching this stuff for years.  Stay tuned for more ideas!

Starting in June, the author of this blog, Law on the Row  – 20-year entertainment attorney veteran Barry Neil Shrum – will be taking the show on the road!  On June 5, 2009, Mr. Shrum will conduct the first of a series of national seminars called MBA, Music Business Academy. 

Mr. Shrum initiated this series of seminars to address a perceived need in the industry: that a growing number of artists, entertainers and songwriters who might benefit from the expertise of an entertainment attorney, could not afford to retain an attorney and get the help they need due to upfront fees and retainers.  To this end, the mission statement for MBA is “music business education for the do-it-yourself generation!”  This unique series of one-day sessions will provide the upcoming and established mid-tier artist, musician, MBA Logo 48ox25o songwriter and other music industry professionals with a cost-effective method of obtaining an essential legal foundation for day-to-day music industry survival. 

The goal of the seminar is to create a sense of being in the client chair, Mr. Shrum will unravel the essential provisions of various industry-specific agreements  – bringing clarity to the legalese and identifying red flags in the “small print.”  Some specific agreements covered in the MBA session are:

*    the exclusive recording agreement (and the new 360 deal)
*    the exclusive songwriting agreement
*    the personal management agreement

For the do-it-yourself generation, Mr. Shrum will also explain the details and implications of guerilla marketing on the web.  He will explore the typical iTunes deal as well as other online distribution issues relevant to today’s guerilla marketers.

When asked about the seminar, Riq Lazarus, of Lazarus Management Group, said:

"Barry Shrum gets it!  The music business is undergoing radical change.  It is absolutely essential that today’s artists have an understanding of the legal issues facing them in this new era of "do-it-yourself" broadcasting.  And because he has the heart of a teacher, Barry’s immense knowledge and experience enables him to empower you with the understanding you need to protect your creations."

It is Mr. Shrum’s goal that attendees walk away from the seminar with a functional understanding of basic copyright, trademark and contract law — a virtual “MBA” in the music business!  Attendees will also receive specialized written materials as a continuing reference and valuable resource and are given the opportunity to purchase reduced rate legal services from Mr. Shrum.

The date of June 5, 2009 has been set for Chattanooga – the day before the Riverbend Festival – and plans are in the works for seminars in Denver, Colorado and Charlotte, West Virginia.   Other cities under consideration are Austin, Texas, Baltimore, Maryland, Boston, Massachusetts, Atlanta, Georgia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  To see if your city is being considered, or to vote for your city, take the online poll.

General information about the seminars can be found here.  A detailed agenda of the Chattanooga seminar can be found at the event website:  www.musicbusinessacademy.info

 

Link to Politico Interview

As a follow up to my previous post on the subject, the radio widget above should play Politico’s interview with Smashing Pumpkin’s founder and frontman Billy Corgan following his testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee in support of HR 848, the Performance Rights Act.

Corgan testified on Capitol Hill on behalf of the musicFIRST Coalition yesterday.  Corgan testified that the current sytems is “hurting the music business” because of radio stations’ failure to compensate musicians for performing their music.

My readers know my thoughts on this subject.  While I agree with Corgan’s overall sentiment, I stand by my emphasis yesterday that the legislation as it is written may be drafted in favor of the record labels more so than the performing artists. 

HR 848 should have a provision that provides for direct payment of royalties to the artists who performed on the sound recording and which specifically does NOT rely on the record labels to distribute these royalties “in accordance with the terms of the artist’s contract.”  (See my previous post).  This kind of language contained in the House version of the legislation at Section 6 only assures that the record labels would receive all the performance royalties and that performing artists would have to overcome numerous obstacles to ever see any of the additional income, inevitably leading to more disputes with the record label.   The current artists agreements with record labels simply do not contain provisions addressing payment of these types of royalties and, even if they did, the artists who have unrecouped balances on their ledger sheets would never see a dime. 

My proposal is that the current system for collection and distribution of performance royalties for musical compositions be utilized.  Specifically, why not allow BMI, SESAC and ASCAP to collect and distribute the performance royalties for sound recording copyrights on behalf of member artists, allowing these organizations to pay 50% of the income directly to the artists (the original owners of the sound recordings) and 50% to the record labels (the assignee owners of the sound recordings).  This structure is identical to the distribution of performance royalties for owners of the musical composition copyright.  It’s a systems that has functioned well since the turn of the 20th century and it is a systems that, overall, works fairly well. 

In general, members of the performance rights organizations have fewer royalty disputes with these entities over  than artists do with record labels, since these entities, for the most part, do not function as profit generators.  There is no doubt that this idea has some flaws as well, but in comparing the alternative, it seems to me that this would benefit the artists and musicians much more than giving the money to the record labels.

Country Radio Broadcasters, Inc. today announced that country legend Randy Owens was the recipient of this year’s Artist Humanitarian Award

Together with his cousins Jeff Cook and Teddy Gentry, Owens was the front man for the one of the best selling country acts of all time, Alabama.  The band, which peaked in the 80’s, racked up over thirty No. 1’s on Billboard’s Country Singles Charts, with memorable hits such as “Love in the First Degree,” “Feels So Right,” “Close Enough to Perfect” and “Take Me Down.”  They also sang backup vocals on Lionel Richie’s 1987 single “Deep River Woman,” which peaked at No. 10.  The group has won two Grammy Awards for "Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal" in 1982 for Mountain Music and in 1983 for The Closer You Get.

Owen co-founded Country Cares for St. Jude Kids® in 1989 after meetingRandy Owen St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas the year before.  To date, Country Cares has raised more than $345 million to fund research in the fight against childhood cancer.  Earlier this year, more than 800 members of the country music industry gathered at the annual seminar in Memphis to celebrate 20 years of support for the children of St. Jude.  In 2008, Broken Bow Records released the Grammy Award-winner’s debut solo album, One On One, and HarperOne published his memoir, titled "Born Country." 

Country Radio Broadcasters, Inc. leads the music industry in recognizing the humanitarian achievements of country artists.  In 1990, CRB instituted the Artist Humanitarian Award, which was first presented during the CRS-21.  Past honorees include Brad Paisley, Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, Charlie Daniels and Kenny Rogers.  For a complete list of past winners, click here.

Last year’s recipient, Clay Walker, presented Owen with the award Wednesday morning during the award ceremonies in the Convention Center. 

The Radio Humanitarian Awards for 2009 went to 97.3 WGH, Norfolk-Virginia (Large Market), 107.7 WIVK, Knoxville, Tennessee (Medium Market) and 93.3 WFLS, Fredericksburg, Virginia (Small Market).  The CRB Radio Humanitarian Awards are presented to full-time country radio stations for their efforts to improve the quality of life for communities they serve. 

This year’s Tom Rivers Humanitarian Award was given to CBS Minneapolis VP Market Manager Mick Anselmo, Sr.  During his tenure at KEEY-FM, Anselmo organized and created a radiothon which has helped raise more than $12 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  His partnership with Sharing and Caring Hands of Minneapolis during a run of Garth Brooks concerts in 1998 set a Minneapolis-St. Paul food drive record.  The former Clear Channel radio executive also created Project Northern Lights, an effort that collected calling cards for troops stationed in Baghdad.

The intent of the Tom Rivers Humanitarian Award, given at the discretion of the Country Radio Broadcasters Board of Directors, is to recognize an individual in the Country Radio industry who has displayed a magnanimous spirit of caring and generosity in service to their community.  The award is given when the board feels an individual, through outstanding service, warrants the recognition. 

Congratulations to Randy and the other winners.

As a Beatles fan, I thought I’d share this interesting little film, which animates an interview which Jerry Levitan conducted with John Lennon in 1969 when Levitan was only 14.

 

Just to give a little historical perspective, 1969 was the year that Abby Road was released, the Beatles performed together for the last time, and was the year that Lennon and Yono conducted their famous “Bed-In” in Montreal Quebec.  A lot happened in 1969:  it was a time wApollo11patchhen the space race was in full force, with Russia and the U.S. leap-frogging each other into the great frontier, culminating in the U.S. landing the first man on the moon, Apollo 11, with Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step for mankind”  proclamation.  The Cold War with Russia was at a boiling point.  It was a tumultuous time:  Nixon was president, the Vietnam war was in full force, the draft lottery was held for the first time since WWII, and Nixon proclaim the “Nixon Doctrine” that he expected Asian allies to be responsible for their own military defense.  Antiwar demonstrations were at their peak, so much so that Nixon asks for the “silent majority” to join in solidarity in support of the troops.  Some events that changed our lives forever that year include: a little Arkansas corporation called Wal-mart is formed, the first GAP store opens in San Francisco, the AIDS virus first spread to the US, the first automatic teller machine was installed in the US in Rockville Centre, New York and the first ARPANET link, the ancestor of the Internet, was established.  CultuArpanetrally, Monty Python’s Flying Circus debuts in the UK, Sesame Street premieres,  and the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Superbowl III.  Notable births that year included Brett Favre, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Matthew McConaughey, and Jennifer Lopez.  Notable deaths include Dwight D. Eisenhower, King Saud (Saudi Arabia), Judy Garland, Boris Karloff and Rocky Marciano.

Levitan was producer for I Met the Walrus.  In 2007, he hired Josh Raskin to direct and animate the short film on behalf of his production company.  It was illustrated by James Braithwaite, who Levitan described as “brilliant.”  It has won numerous awards, including the Best Animated Short awards from the American Film Institute, the Middle East International Film Festival, the Manhattan Short Film Festival, the Cleveland Film Festival, RiverRun International Film Festival and the Coup de Coeur award from the Regard-Saguenay International Sort Film Festival.  It was nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) in 2008 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Jerry Levitan informs me that he written a book by the same, I Met the Walrus, which comes out in May under the Harper Collins imprint.  You can find out more about Mr. Levitan at www.sir-jerry.com

Thanks to my good friend Gray for turning me on to this film and thanks to Jerry Levitan for the kind words about my humble blog!

See these related links:

Film company website.

Read more about the film here.

When big events like the Country Radio Seminar occur, Music Row begins to buzz with various activities and talk about the celebrities.  The Country Radio Seminar is an annual convention designed to educate and promote the exchange of ideas in the country music industry.  This year marks the event’s 40th anniversary and it promises to be another great year for attendance.

Among the buzz this year is Gerry House’s induction into the CountrGerry House y Music DJ Hall of Fame.  House is without a doubt one of the most well known country radio personalities of all time and has been honored many times during his long career as a spinner of vinyl (and now polycarbonate, or make that digits!).  He began that career in the small Tennessee town of Maryville at WBCR.  In 1975, he stared at WSIX-AM in Nashville then moved over to the FM side in the early ’80s.  In 1985, he moved his show to the granddaddy of Country Music Radio, WSM and then to KLAC in Los Angeles.  Ultimately, as life often does, he came almost full circle returning to WSIX-FM.  In 2008, the Gerry House and the House Foundation morning show on WSIX won “Personality of the Year” awards from the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music and Radio & Records.  House also received the National Association of Broadcasters’ Marconi Award and Leadership Music’s Dale Franklin Award. Also an accomplished songwriter, House wrote "The Big One" (George Strait), "Little Rock" (Reba McEntire) and "On The Side Of Angels" (LeAnn Rimes).   House is joined by the induction Cleveland Ohio’s Chuck Collier, a 30-year veteran of country music radio.  On the programming side of the equation, Bob McKay and Moon Mullins are the Country Music Radio Hall of Fame inductees.   Merle Haggard will receive the Career Achievement Award and Shelia Shipley Biddy will be presented the President’s Award.

The Country Music DJ and Radio Hall of Fame events unofficially mark the beginning of CRS each year.  The Hall of Fame Cocktail Party begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday evening. The Dinner and Induction Ceremony follows at 6 p.m.   The remainder of scheduled events for CRS are as follows:

Wednesday, March 4

Wednesday’s events kick off at 9 a.m. with the Opening Ceremonies and Award Presentation.  The keynote address, delivered by marketing expert Seth Godin, will follow at 10 a.m. in the Performance Hall, with the Sylvia Hutton Motivational Speaker/Life Coach panel at 11:15 a.m.  This year’s speaker will be former No. 1 country artist-turn motivational coach Sylvia Hutton.

New label Golden Music will sponsor Wednesday’s luncheon, featuring performances by Benton Blount and Williams Riley.  The previously scheduled morning Artist Radio Taping Session (sponsored by SESAC) will now be combined with the afternoon A.R.T.S. panel.  As a result, the afternoon session will be extended by one hour (2:30 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.).

Performers at ASCAP’s KCRS Live! will include artists and songwriters Jimmy Wayne, Kelley Lovelace, Ashley Gorley and Jonathan Singleton.  The popular Music City JamTM (7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. in the Performance Hall) will be hosted this year by Tim McGraw and sponsored by the Academy of Country Music. 

Additionally, two educational panels will be featured Wednesday afternoon: "Country Radio As Seen Through The PPM Lens," sponsored by Arbitron, and "Back to the Future: 1969-2049."

Thursday, March 5:

Designated as Music Industry Town Meeting Day, single day registration for Thursday’s activities may be purchased on-site for $265.  The day’s agenda includes the return of the Tech Track and Small Market Track panels.  Tech Track panels include "Spinning a Web" and "40 New Media Ideas."  Small Market panels include "Come Hell or High Water: Disaster Preparedness," "You’re a PD, Now What?" and "Champagne Production on a Beer Budget."  Sixteen panels will be offered in all during the day between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Thursday’s events begin at 9 a.m. with The Country Music Association revealing the results of its 2008 Country Music Consumer Segmentation Study, conducted by Leo Burnett Co. and Starcom MediaVest Group.  Sony Music Nashville’s luncheon (noon – 1:50 p.m.) will feature performances by Miranda Lambert and Jake Owen.  At 4:10 p.m. Bobby Pinson, PauMiranda Lambert l Overstreet, Josh Turner and Jamey Johnson will perform during WCRS Live! (sponsored by BMI and Country Aircheck).

Friday, March 6:
Friday is Radio Sales Day.  Single day registration, including entrance to the New Faces of Country Music Show®, is available for $370 on-site.  Friday’s events will kick-off with the Managers’ Breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by CRS-40’s second research study, which will present findings from the Edison Research / CRB National Country P1 Study 2009 at 10 a.m. 

Panels during the day will focus on important topics that affect the Country Radio format, such as consumer habits, promotional and research ideas, voicetracking and tools to increase sales.  Prominent sales panels include "20 Ideas Even a PD Would Love," "PPM!  Selling the Country Format," "What’s NTR Got To Do With It?" "Creative Closing" and "A Car Dealer Tells All About Advertising."  More than a dozen panels will be offered during Friday’s activities.

Friday’s luncheon, sponsored by Capitol Nashville, will feature performances from Darius Rucker and Little Big Town.  Also during lunch, Operation Troop Aid, a non-profit charity organization, will send 500 care packages from CRS-40 to deployed U.S. troops.  Packages will contain phone cards, MP3s, beef jerky, trail mix, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, cookies, candy, granola bars, toiletry items and thank you letters.  At 4:10 p.m., Barbara Mandrell will interview Kix Brooks during the Life of a Legend series.

One of Country Radio Seminar’s most popular events, The New Faces of Country Music Show and Dinner (sponsored by R&R and CMA) starts at 6:30 p.m. with performances from Lady Antebellum, James Otto, Kellie Pickler, Chuck Wicks and The Zac Brown Band.  CRS-40 will then Julianne Hough officially close with the unique 40th Anniversary Jam: A Musical Thanks to Radio, to be held at Cadillac Ranch and sponsored by DigitalRodeo.com.  Artists will cover their favorite radio hits from the last 40 years, featuring performances by Emerson Drive, Andy Griggs, Julianne Hough, Jamie O’Neal, James Otto, Blake Shelton, Jimmy Wayne, Chuck Wicks, Mark Wills and Darryl Worley, among others.

A new CRS documentary can be seen during the three-day seminar at the Renaissance and Hilton hotels in downtown Nashville.  The film, produced by Art Vuolo and titled WCRS-TV, chronicles various CRS highlights over the last 21 years.

CRS-40 will be held March 4-6, 2009 at the Nashville Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn. 

About CRB:
Detailed seminar information and a full agenda can be found online at www.CRB.org.  On-site registration is still available for $699 and may be purchased at the Convention Center.  The Country Radio Broadcasters, Inc.®, the event sponsor, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1969 to bring radio broadcasters from around the world together with the Country Music Industry to ensure vitality and promote growth in the Country Radio format. 

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Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster once penned one of my favorite lyrics in the song Me and Bobby McGee, i.e., “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”  The sentiment is perhaps appropriate for the ongoing war that is being waged against copyright laws as we know them.  The latest battle in this war was fired by the esteemed Lawrence Lessig, famous lawyer and copyright scholar, in his new book Remix: Making Art & Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.

Remix Lawrence Lessig The main goal of the book is the demolishment of existing copyright laws, which Lessig has described as Byzantine.  He believes our current copyright laws are futile, costly and culturally stifling. The "hybrid economy" is described by Lessig as one in which a “sharing economy” coexists with a “commercial economy.”  See this very humorous interview by Stephen Colbert.  He gives examples such as YouTube, Flikr and Wikipedia, which rely on user-generated "remixes" of information, images and sound to illustrate his point.  This “hybrid economy,” in Lessig-speak, is identical to what he calls a "Read/Write (RW)" culture — as opposed to "Read/Only (RO)" — i.e., a culture in which consumers are allowed to "create art as readily as they consume it."  Thus, the “remix” to which he refers is the concept of taking another persons copyrighted work and “making something new” or “building on top of it.”  This is what us less-published copyright lawyers like to refer to as a derivative work!  And that is the crux of Lessig’s problem:  the copyright law DOES in fact make provision for this type of creative endeavor, provided that the creator of the derivative work gains the permission of the copyright owner.  This is that with which Lessig seeks to do away.

In the Colbert interview, Lessig drolly points out that 70% of our kids are sharing files illegally and that the “outdated” copyright laws are “turning them in to criminals.”  This reminds me just a bit of what my Daddy used to tell me: just because everybody’s doing it doesn’t make it right!   Or, as Colbert blithely responded, “isn’t that like saying arson laws are turning our kids into arsonists?”  The obvious conclusion is that perhaps the law is simply not the problem.

Colbert then comically crosses out Lessig’s name on the cover of his his advance copy of Lessig’s book, draws a picture of Snoopy inside, and then questions Lessig as to whether the book was now his (Colber’t’s) work of art, to which Lessig says “that’s great,” we “jointly” own the copyright.  That’s a point to which Lessig’s publisher, Penguin Press, would surely not acquiesce.  In the final retort to Lessig, Colbert makes the point that he likes the current system, and I quote, “the system works for me.”  I might add that the system seems to be working extremely well for Lawrence Lessig as well.  Lessig is making a fortune exploiting the very system he criticizes as antiquated – the very essence of free speech, I suppose, but in the final analysis, a bit disingenuous.

While I do admire Professor Lessig for working toward a solution to a perceived problem, it’s very difficult to believe that tearing down the entire system of copyright laws in order to accommodate a large percentage of prepubescent teenagers who are too cheap to pay for their music is the appropriately measured response we need in this instance.   Call me crazy.

Here are several good critiques of Lessig’s work and ideas here for further exploration of this issue:

The Future of Copyright, by Lawrence B. Solum (download PDF from this page)

Lessig’s call for a “simple blanket license” in Remix, by Adam Thierer

Copyright in the Digital Age, by Mark A. Fischer

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