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iTunes Tag

Dave Steed: Indie label Century Media has pulled its catalog from Spotify. First of many? Or first one I’ve heard of of many that have already done it?

Chris Holmes: So now Spotify is the bogeyman killing record sales?

Zack Dennis: I’m not sure how the finances work out necessarily, but this seems to make about as much sense as them demanding that the radio not play their music anymore.

Matt Springer: This portion especially is SO PAINFULLY WRONG:

Physical sales are dropping drastically in all countries where Spotify is active. Artists are depending on their income from selling music and it is our job to support them to do so. Since the artists need to sell their music to continue their creativity, Spotify is a problem for them. This is about survival, nothing less and it is time that fans and consumers realize that for artists it is essential to sell music to keep their heads above water.

The only artists left who are sensibly “depending on their income from selling music” are selling millions of records at a swat.

Michael Parr: Damn, I really wanted to listen to … wait, who the hell is even on this label?

Chris: You mean you’ve never heard of Iwrestledabearonce?

Steed: I may just casually ignore Century Media releases when they hit my queue now. Okay, well, I already casually ignored the iwrestledabearonce album when I saw track titles like “You Know That Ain’t Them Dogs’ Real Voices, “Karate Nipples,” and “Deodorant Can’t Fix Ugly.”

Chris: Those look like the titles to bits from a Larry the Cable Guy routine.

Part 13: Private Salt’s Accompanied Spades Unexclusive Solo (2001)

What does the title mean?  If it isn’t already obvious, my idea for this album name came from the impression that I think Flaming Pie would have left – that the Beatles were playing it safe, and although they were still a great band, they had lost their ‘edge.’  Sean Lennon notwithstanding, they would have been seen as an ‘old person’s band’ by this point, and they just didn’t have another Sergeant Pepper in them.  One critic may have even said “What the Beatles are doing now is the complete opposite of Sergeant Pepper.” Get it?

So the Beatles’ penultimate album was a wild stab at connecting with a younger audience.  Not that they don’t still sound like the Beatles, of course, but with certain tracks, they are breaking away from the conventional structures they are known for and in a way virtually invented.  I like to compare this album to Rockestra from 1980 – it has a kitchen sink feel to it, and is different from Flaming Pie in the same way that Rockestra differed from Grow Up.


“Day After Day” – originally this was on Flaming Pie but I bumped it over here due to the last-minute inclusion of Sean Lennon material.  Fairly conventional for this album, but it’s hard to find otherwise in Photograph Smile.  The strings are somewhat reminiscent of ‘60s Beatles, but I hope Julian can find some more original ways to call out his past on his forthcoming CD.

“Fine Line” – Paul’s Driving Rain and Chaos and Creation in the Backyard albums are both excellent, and I don’t know why it took me so long to buy them.  This is the leadoff track from Chaos and was a top 20 hit in the UK, but not here because Paul has gray hairs.  Sheesh.  Next thing you know you’ll tell me today’s teenagers haven’t heard of Level 42 either.

50CCM50 returns this Thursday with part 4 of our countdown, but in the meantime, here’s another giveaway opportunity for our readers.

Jyro Xhan, part of the duo Mortal and the band Fold Zandura, struck out with a new band in 2007 named Lucena. They released an EP titled Mercury Light, were informed another band already had the name Lucena, changed the name to LCNA, and in December of 2009 announced the band under either name was no more. There was word, however, that a variation of the group with a different name would be recording soon.

Part 12: Flaming Pie (1997)

This is where we officially get into the Beatles’ modern era.  By this point, the Fabs are a band which fully admits to being less cutting edge than they used to be, but still can write some quality tunes, and releases a new album and goes on tour every five years or so when they feel like it and need money to pay for their luxury yachts. I can’t help but be reminded of an interview I heard with Genesis after they released We Can’t Dance, with Phil Collins explaining that they were drawing the line between what they saw as a passing fad and their own music, which they felt would better stand the test of time, or at the very least appeal to the more ‘sophisticated’ crowd.

That doesn’t mean they don’t try to keep up with the times, though.  Thanks in part to the influx of either Sean Lennon or a John Lennon who doesn’t want to be a old fogey, the new singer-songwriter ethos makes its way into the Beatles’ canon starting here.  Less production, a revisiting of the ‘70s as well as the ‘60s, and the occasional nod to electronica and ‘alternative,’ whatever that means, and you get some pretty good stuff.

Sifting through the more recent material is in some ways trickier, due to the lack of songs that everybody knows.  It becomes even more a question of personal preference, so if I’ve overlooked something you really like, don’t hesitate to make a suggestion!  Even more so than the earlier editions, these last three ‘albums’ are not written in stone.  Many of the real life albums I’ve only listened to once or twice, so this is what grabbed me upon initial listen.  Special thanks to the folks who suggested I include some Sean Lennon material – it really helps these albums escape the ‘aging rocker’ label they may have had otherwise, in particular the next installment (which you’ll see in a couple weeks).

Earlier this week, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips announced the next project for the band may not be an album. Instead, he’s considering recording singles, releasing them as videos, and then collecting the videos up as a film – much like a “video album,” an experiment from the early days of home video.

While it is an interesting turn, albeit one of great concern to those interested in the Lips’ all-inclusive concept albums, it’s not particularly a new one. Throughout 2010, Kanye West premiered songs for free on his site, some of which arrived on his latest album. Rush debuted two tracks as an iTunes single, purportedly as a taste of what was to come from their upcoming Clockwork Angels album. However, because of the positive response from their Time Machine Tour, those album plans have been pushed back, by some reports indefinitely.

It begs the question: while the single, in digital form, has been the dominant form for many years now, have we seen the tipping point? Artists that clung to the album-as-end-product method of production are veering away from it, while a small handful cling to the notion. Have we crossed the line where they are now exception but never the rule?

On a warm evening at the end of June of 1981, the dimly lit stage at the Los Angeles Forum illuminated to reveal a musical band of brothers, each armed with their respective instrument for the evening of music that was ahead. With the roar of the crowd welcoming Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers to the stage, Petty immediately engaged the hungry crowd with a bit of call and response, enveloped by the instrumental din of the Heartbreakers tuning up in the background. The band will be onstage for nearly five hours on this particular evening, a longer set than normal, for sure. But then again, The Live Anthology is no ordinary show for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

Following the release of Runnin’ Down a Dream, the excellent Peter Bogdanovich documentary in 2007, Reprise Records (Petty’s record label) wanted to put out a live album. The initial plans were to release a standard double CD live package, but as the band dug into the idea, they realized that two CDs simply wouldn’t cut it. The blueprints for The Live Anthology were in place, and after digitizing the analog portion of the band’s archives (a process that required baking of the tapes prior to transfer), it was time to get down to business with 169 multi-track recorded concerts to choose from. Engineer Ryan Ulyate created an iTunes library of the recordings and began the process of sifting through over 3,509 live tracks with Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell. Once they’d identified a hefty list of highlights from 30+ years of recordings, they brought Petty into the mix to help further distill the list down to a rough cut of 80 tracks.

Of those 80 tracks, 48 ended up the final cut of the standard edition (also available on vinyl), with an additional 14 cuts available on the deluxe edition, which is the version that we’ll be talking about today.

jonkate8-7168011Jon & Kate Plus … Date?: Can’t help but start with the worst first. If there’s one thing that’s certain in the world of entertainment, it’s the love of a good old-fashioned scandal. Only this time, really not that surprising or scandalous — it’s just too bad. Pure as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet, the reality TV version of Eight Is Enough, the Gosselins from TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8, are now embroiled in a “cheating” hullabaloo of sorts.

For those not yet in the loop on this one, husband Jon was apparently caught partying late with a woman who wasn’t his wife and (shock!) that’s set off a firestorm of public opinion. It was a bad judgment call that’s awakened all the perfect parents out in TV land, all of whom now feel free to psychoanalyze the real human beings in this delicate situation. The Gosselins’ site doesn’t say much, but the blog Gosselins Without Pity (ouch!) is hot to trot (natch) about this story.

The bottom line? Look, having eight kids so close together in age, and all in a goldfish bowl to boot, has got to be traumatic. Both these parents are “stress cases” who, once upon a time, thought a reality TV show was a good idea. They’ve made their money, scored their book deals and traded up in the lifestyle category (and then some). But if you look at them closely these last couple of seasons, they’re pretty miserable (watch the body language). Jon and Kate are a lost couple, working their way around each other (despite the cameras) and it’s obvious.

They don’t need a television show or the money, they need counseling and their kids.

You know, I don’t rant in public too often (yeah, right), but I’ve been getting really annoyed with iTunes and my iPod lately, so I think it’s time I let it out.

You see, I love my iPod. It still goes down as one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. I bought my 80-gigabyte iPod in May of last year, and close to 9,000 songs later I have no idea what I’d do without it. It gets me through my workday, it allows me to listen to metal without my wife running away, and it helps me write these Bottom Feeders posts.

However, I’m getting really pissed off at the technology. Now, I’m the first person to admit I’m not the savviest when it comes to trinkets of the electronic nature. So everything I say here could have some solution that I just haven’t located yet. But I find it hard to believe the answers to the following problems are still out there.

The biggest problem is the iTunes interface. Every now and then I actually purchase a record on iTunes ’cause, you know, I’m legal like that. The other day I purchased an album that was 58 minutes long; it took 18 minutes to download the 13 tracks. But I can go to some blog on Google and download the same album in about three minutes and without paying $10. And it’s not like I’m so in the dark that I’m still on dial-up or anything.

Then of course I wanted to burn the album onto a disc so I could listen to it in the car — iTunes usually burns the album at maybe 10-12x speed, if I’m lucky. My CD-burning program outside of iTunes burns a 58-minute disc in about 90 seconds, but iTunes takes about five minutes.

Okay, this is how I think it’s going to go down: before the end of the year, a major player in the music industry will announce that it’ll no longer sign bands to make albums. It’ll institute ten-song deals versus three albums, the product to be delivered over a two-year period versus a contract tying up five to ten years. Each of the ten songs are to be considered singles, radio-ready, with at least a 65 percent probability of hit status, otherwise the band in question is liable to be dropped for fulfillment issues. If the losses are great, breach-of-contract litigation is not out of the question.

setSound ridiculous? Or does it sound like the obvious conclusion for an industry that continues to lose money and customer patronage, seeking to cut away anything that doesn’t promote profit — album tracks that may appeal to a creative sense but can’t be capitalized upon, extra production costs inherent in those tracks, and design, packaging, and promotion of a product the public only wants 10 percent of. Witness the next music-industry model circa 2010: the business model of 1961. A label executive now sees his competition focused solely on bankrolling hits, not album sides or expensive packaging, and has to mull over whether it’s better business-wise to chop his staff in half or chop his label’s output in half, retaining the profitable side for himself. Of course the second option is better. He follows suit, and the business model we know today ceases to exist.

Now, you as a music fan and album purchaser hear this news and are appalled — what about the creative angle, the cohesive whole, and the notion that an artist has the broadest canvas with which to work, expand, and grow? Well, what about it. It was recently reported that Apple’s iTunes is now the dominant provider of music in the world, bigger than electronics stores that stock CDs as loss leaders, bigger than even monolithic Wal-Mart, which itself was once the king of music retail. iTunes has made its bones on singles, pure and simple. Few of the portal’s primary users actually go for album sides; people with that mind-set are still likely to buy the physical product, but their numbers are dwindling fast. To say the public in general will miss the album is to ignore the obvious — not only won’t they miss it, they haven’t missed it for five-plus years and counting.


I didn’t mean to take a three-week vacation from writing Sugar Water, but here I am with my first post for the month of April, which is already on its way out the door. But did you see that interview I did earlier this month? And those record reviews? And that Chart Attack! I wrote while Jason Hare’s in detox (again)? Those things didn’t write themselves, you know. (Or at least that’s what the computer program that actually did write them told me over and over again, but then I reminded the computer program that it doesn’t have emotions and shouldn’t be complaining.) I was also out of town last weekend, and I was in detox myself the weekend before that, but not because I have a drinking problem like Jason does — my problem is that I swallowed some toxic waste (again).

I also did my part for Record Store Day yesterday by going to Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Chicago and buying Office’s A Night at the Ritz and David Cross’s It’s Not Funny on CD. Then I set fire to an Apple Store to kill all the Apple computers that have iTunes on them, because iTunes is killing record stores. You should’ve heard those computers cry out in pain — until I reminded them they can’t feel pain. Anyway, Sugar Water had to be put on hold for a while.

Two weekends ago I went AWOL from detox for a few hours to attend a screening of the documentary Movin’ On Up: The Music and Message of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions at the Chicago Cultural Center. Movin’ On Up will be released on DVD next month by Reelin’ in the Years Productions, which specializes in music documentaries that include full, uninterrupted performances, either from decades-old concerts or TV shows, by the artist or artists who are being profiled. Movin’ On Up is worth seeing if you’re a Mayfield fan, though it would’ve been nice to see more archival interview footage of Mayfield, who died in 1999, talking about his songs.

Before I attended this screening of Movin’ On Up, the last movie I’d seen in a theater was David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, way back in September. I used to have Thursdays off from work, which is when I would usually see movies, but my schedule changed at the end of September, and I’m a little too claustrophobic and agoraphobic to brave the local cinemas on weekends, plus I can hear everything that every single person in the theater is saying. If there’s a pill I can take to turn down the volume of those voices for two hours, let me know.

My mom, God rest her soul, hit the nail on the head. She always used to ask me, “Why must you do everything ass-backwards?” She had a point. Shoes went on before pants, finalizing efforts always preceded initializing efforts, and have you ever seen me get out of the backseat of a car? It’s like some horrid recreation of a breach birth.

So in this modern age, you can put a shiny, silver disc into the face of your car’s dashboard and hear wonderful sound. You can put a machine the size of a candy bar into your pants pocket and a headset the size of dental floss with tiny tumors into your ears and hear wonderful sound. Me? I like records.