60 Minutes of Unchecked Facts

It's more like 42 minutes and 18 minutes of commercials.

By: Billy BeerSlugger

I didn’t actually see this episode of the investigative news/magazine 60 Minutes since the Phillies were on but from what I and other people on the internet can tell you, their editor needs to do a little better in the fact checking department.

Their segment was on how illegal downloading was costing Hollywood 6 billion a year, which may or may not be that far off, however, the reasoning they give to support this claim is pretty much fabrication or conjecture which ever way you want to look at it.

First there is the claim that Organized Crime (the Mafia?) is making most of it’s money off of counterfeit movies.  Now I’m not going to dispute the fact that there are bootlegged movies out there but 60 Minutes is having me believe that Tony Soprano is behind all of this and not some dude with a DVD burner in his basement looking for some extra cash. I mean I could at least warm up to the idea if 60 Minutes gave me any proof. There was some talk about gangs of pirates using mafia style pickups but the focus quickly turned to illegal downloading.

Second, there is the segments claims by director Steven Soderbergh that piracy is costing the movie industry 6 billion a year.  Neglected is the fact that Hollywood continues to make more and more money each year. Another Soderbergh assertion is that fewer movies are being made and will continue to be made because of piracy.  Another assertion debunked given the statistics on movies 567 movies made in 2004 and 1038 in 2008, almost doubling inside of 4 years and still increasing.

I’ll give you that if movie tickets continue to go up every year then revenues should go up every year but you can’t really say that in this kind of economy.  Bottom line Hollywood made more money last year than the year before and the year before that.

The segment also delved into the role Bit torrent plays into illegal downloading and then cutting to a guy saying, “what we have done for 15 years is not put in any speed bumps, any technological blocks in the way of individuals so that the conclusion that the younger generation in particular draws is that if it’s so easy it cant be wrong.”

Well yes it is easy, people can choose to share anything they want on Bit torrent and if they choose to share or download things illegally it is on the government and the copyright holders to find a solution that does not intrude on the openness of the internet. The blocks and speed bumps the guy interviewed in 60 minutes is advocating sound a lot like bandwidth throttling and packet sniffing, things which go against the principles of net neutrality.

While there are millions of Bittorrent users out there, I only know about 3 people who could use Bittorrent effectively enough to download music, movies and the like. So if it’s so easy and so popular, why don’t I know more people that do it? Why can they use iPhones and computers but have no idea how to use Bittorrent even after I wrote an article on it?

I digress, the real focus here is on 60 Minutes and it’s one sided affair with File Sharing and the Motion Picture Industry.  There were a few facts thrown in about how the movie Wolverine was leaked and still did extremely well at the box office but overall there was not a peep from anyone on the opposing side of issue of illegal downloading.  Further, the “so called facts” that they gave didn’t coincide with any of the generally accepted statistics reported all over the internet.

I wonder how much money CBS makes off of Movie Advertisements a year?  Could this be yet another sacrifice of journalism for advertising dollars?  The whole thing to me seemed like a propaganda piece for the MPAA, chock full of bogus facts and subjective estimations.

Maybe more people would go to see movies if 90% of them were not lacking in substance, didn’t recycle old stories, didn’t remake old movies or have plots which are so horribly obvious as to the outcome that all you really needed to see was the previews.

What about the film-makers who are using file sharing technology to get their movies seen by the masses or the ones exploring new business models like some in the music business are. Let’s not talk to the copyright professionals or consumer advocates who render baseless most of the MPAA’s claims 60 Minutes. That wouldn’t be a balanced approach to the issue, would it?

P.S: Maybe if Steven Soderbergh didn’t put out pieces of crap like The Girlfriend Experience people wouldn’t walk out of the movie theater requesting their money back like me.

Total Eclipse of the Heart – Literal Version

This parody video showcases how completely avant garde and ahead of their time that 80’s Music Videos can be. Lots of hidden meaning, metaphors and symbolism out the ass.  If you listen to the regular version which was immortalized in my generation by the movie Old School and a cursing wedding band, you know it’s classic 80’s ballad. However, with this dubbed version of the song on Youtube, the words and visuals mesh so well that I figured you needed to see it.  So here it is for your viewing and listening pleasure.

The video also reminds me of how obsessed our culture is with looks. There’s no way (even with a dynamite voice and flowing locks of teased blonde hair) that Bonnie Tyler gets airplay today. Maybe on the John Tesh radio program but that’s about it.

The Evolution of The Music Industry

An artifact for later generations to discover
An artifact for later generations to discover

By: Robby RipChord

I Want My MTV MP3!

With the sale of The Pirate Bay to a company and their plans to turn it into a legal file distribution site (the same route Napster went) it would seem to be a monumental victory for the Recording and Motion Picture Industries.  As monumental or bigger than the fall of free Napster.  However, what these organizations fail to realize is that they are treating a symptom, not the problem and effectively putting a band-aid over a bullet wound.

The RIAA has an antiquated business model particularly.  You won’t even see a CD in 10 years the way you don’t see a Vinyl Record nowadays.  While for the last 70+ years recording labels have had a monopoly on where music could be sold and at what price, those days are gone.  The distribution of music for our and subsequent generations will be the digital way, downloads.  The problem with this and the problem that the Recording industry has not yet come up with a solution for is the unlimited amount of copies that a digital version of a song can birth.  As they are leaked onto the internet the copies go up in numbers exponentially. There have been tries to mitigate music piracy, Digital rights management (DRM) is a systematic approach to copyright protection for digital media.  This endeavor has failed miserably to curb illegal downloading although I believe is still used in iTunes.

What some of the smarter Record Labels are realizing is that the money from artists is shifting from CD sales to concert ticket sales.  That’s one part of the equation. Though to really weather the storm that is file sharing, the Record labels and or Artists need to adapt their business models.  Artists like Trent Reznor (a born Pennsylvanian I might add) have shown that you can give your music away for free and still make buttloads of money. Of course Trent and band Nine Inch Nails became famous before the tide turned the way of illegally downloading music and this business model probably would not work in most instances given NIN’s already large fan base but Trent began growing weary of the corporate greed earlier.  A quote from Reznor in states, “…the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more.” in response to Interscope’s price gouging of NIN’s latest offering. He even encouraged people to steal their albums online.

I’m not necessarily a Nine Inch Nails fan but I don’t think there’s doubt that Reznor is a true visionary on this battlefront.

Other artists have begun to embrace a new way of distributing their music online, offering something tangible.  Mos Def has offered a free t-shirt with the purchase of his album or rather a free album with the purchase of a t-shirt.  Some artists have experimented with sending autographed album or other band related artwork in poster form to fans who buy limited edition albums. The concept of offering a physical product with a digital download of an album is a novel one and somewhat makes up for the lack of a material album in fans hands.

Whatever the idea, it has been proven that real fans will shell out money for their favorite artists for their newest release no matter if they can get it free or not.  That does not help the struggling garage band make it to the big time without an already large following but if their ideas are smart enough, viral enough and the band is actually good enough that people will want to see them then they will survive.  Just as Music Video’s catapulted artists in the 80’s and 90’s into mainstream consciousness so can it’s cousin YouTube.

The Music Industry needs to embrace these ways of selling albums rather than relying on and defending a dying business model.  There will be piracy no matter what now that we have entered the digital age, the Record Labels that adapt will be around as long as they have a product that is relevant to fans. And true, die hard fans are always going to be there and support their favorite acts.  It is now a matter of making these acts matter to the public and I’ll leave that up to the music industry and the artists themselves to figure out.

Lucero: Hard Drinking Country Rock Band

luceroBy: Robby RipChord

I have been following Lucero since about 2004 and have seen them in concert about 3 or 4 times.  They’re a real tried and true rock band from Memphis Tennessee with various influences ranging from The Pouges to The Ramones but most notably Springsteen.  It’s country(ish) music with stories of love, hope and despair at a faster, more unique pace with often sweeping and or crunching guitar, sweet piano and Ben Nichols’ whiskey soaked voice. Lucero lacks the banal copycat nature of traditional country rock. It’s music that lends itself as much to a rock show as it does to an acoustic session without missing a beat.

I just found out they officially got signed to Universal for 4 albums, the first to be released in October, and couldn’t be more happy for them.  The band makes a living on the road, touring all over America, and apparently hard work does pay off in the music business if you don’t suck or sell out.

Last October I saw lead singer Ben Nichols in Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour and the man was on crutches. I met him as he was hobbling along amongst the crowd at the First Unitarian Church and he had explained to me and some other people how he had hurt his ankle but I was too drunk to remember.  All I know is the guy got up on stage on one leg and played guitar and sang like nothing was wrong.  The first time I saw Lucero in concert at the North Star Bar, one of the guitarists messed up a bunch of songs towards the end of the last set, as i have heard drinking is something they also do pretty well.  The shows are usually sing-alongs, with every audience member screaming along with Nichols.

There has been steady progression in their work from the self titled Lucero in 2001 to the well produced Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers in 2006 and Im sure their upcoming release 1372 Overton Park will be another step in the right direction.

Check them out in Philly on October 16th at:

Starlight Ballroom
460 N. 9th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Tickets are $16.

Check out most of their albums on MySpace

Pearl Jam: Are they Back?

pearl_jamkyRobby Ripchord with Music

You know I haven’t even considered buying an album in a long long time. I couldn’t even tell you the last album I actually bought instead of downloading, but if Pearl Jam’s latest single “The Fixer” is any indication of the way the forthcoming album “Backspacer” will turn out, I may just have to.

It brings Pearl Jam back to Vitalogy in my eyes though some will argue they never really went astray.

Pearl Jam, ever the rock band is famous for feuding with ticketmaster on ticket prices and to my recollection not playing a huge Philly gig until that situation was resolved.  Gotta give some cred to that.  Now Pearl Jam is operating without a label.  They have agreements with target as well as several other outlets and I believe even filmed a commercial for Target.  The Fixer also could be heard during the MLB All Star game and while this and the Target relationship may seem like “selling out”, given the current state of the music business and their lack of a label is exactly the right thing to do.

Pearl Jam also debuted a song called “Get Some” on the first Conan O’brien show as Late Night Host.  Great song and keeps in the mold of throwback PJ but The Fixer is still the winner.

I’m hoping Pearl Jam does not disappoint with the rest of the album but only time will tell.  Overall it’s nice to see PJ going back to it’s roots a little in terms of style.

80’s Flashback – Hall & Oates

So usually I’m doing 90’s Tuesdays and 80’s Thursdays but I got drunk last night and I didn’t get to it.

So here we are with the 80’s Flashback a day late: Hall & Oates, “Out of Touch”. Sons of Philadelphia, Hall & Oates had many hits including “Rich Girl”, “Kiss on My List”, “Private Eyes”, “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”, “Maneater”.

They are on Philadelphia’s little known walk of fame on South Broad St. between Locust and Spruce along with other Philadelphia acts like Will Smith and DJ. Jazzy Jeff (I’m not making this up). I only know that this walk of fame is there because I used to live behind the Wilma Theater. Most people just walk over it not even knowing it’s there.

90’s Flashback – Arrested Development, “Tennessee”

This song/group from the 90’s reminds me of how uplifting rap was in the early 90’s. Intelligent lyrics with a positive message, Arrested Development won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1992.

My favorite part of the video is in the beginning when the one guy shed’s a single tear, like he knew that rap was going to the toilet a year later when Gangsta Rap became mainstream and rap lost it’s message.

Here’s a link to another great song from Arrested Development, Everyday People

80’s Flashback

“Do you like Phil Collins? I’ve been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn’t understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins’ presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group’s undisputed masterpiece. It’s an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. (American Psycho)”.

I remember this as one of my favorite 80’s video’s on MTV back when they still had videos on MTV and not just reality (and I use that word loosely) TV and completely scripted dating shows where parents and the kid dating their daughter/son talk shit to each other while watching their son/daughter/boyfriend/girlfriend go on a series of dates with the point of being to get the datee’s to spout out as many sexual innuendo’s as possible.  But that’s neither here nor there.

I really like the puppets in the video, essentially caricatures of the band and various political figures.  Plus the song rocks.

The video quality could be a little better on youtube but you get what you pay for right.

“But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is Sussudio Land of Confusion, a great, great song, a personal favorite.”