IT’S APRIL FOOL’S DAY, and what better way to celebrate than to rummage through the ol’ rumor pile for a few juicy nuggets of unconfirmed scuttlebutt that yours truly has scraped off the street and/or from the mouths of high-powered music industryites?
LAYOFFS: There’s further consolidation allegedly a’comin’ at the Capitol Tower, as the backroom functions of the various labels that make up the EMI Music empire get pushed tighter than a walrus in a phone booth. Despite what you may hear elsewhere, there were more than a few bands dropped from the roster recently.
Other layoff rumor du jour: An East Coast-based label that has severely downsized in the last three years has again quietly trimmed its field staff, with several other layoffs pending.
LOLLAPALOOZA: It looks like the summer’s hottest tour will offer several young bands a chance to make an appearance on the main stage for at least part of the tour. Names swirling in the stew of possible appearances: Alice in Chains , Arrested Development, Rage Against the Machine, Primus, Fishbone, Peter Gabriel, Nine Inch Nails, Blind Melon, Dinosaur Jr.
My question: What happened to the plans to include more female bands in the mix? And is it true that plans to open the show in Canada may be in some trouble because of immigration problems?
VELVET UNDERGROUND: Lou Reed’s first vehicle reportedly will reunite for some European dates in the summer, with possible U.S. club fun later in the year. Can an album be far behind? And will that album sell more than the handful of copies to angst-ridden bohemians that the original stuff did?
JOE SMITH: Does anyone really believe that the veteran music mogul will stay away from the scene for any length of time? Smith already has his own office set up and running. Could a deal with son-in-law and former Fox exec Jamie Kellner be in the offing?
COUNTRY MUSIC: Is it true that certain junior stars on the circuit get as much fan support as the big-hair bands used to get? And that one prominent star’s poses of fidelity are just that?
SUMMER TOURS: The next best thing to playing your own stadium tour is opening for one. Except if you’re Atlantic’s Stone Temple Pilots, who allegedly turned down the Aerosmith slot.
MONEY: Polygram Group Distribution did $ 850 million in wholesale billings for the year, according to an Associated Press article on the death of the compact disc longbox, with about 60% of those billings for CD sales. Was that number purely domestic sales? And if so, where does PGD now fit in the Big Six pantheon, third or fourth?
SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST: Chronic complainers say the show has gone the way of the New Music Seminar and College Media Journal (CMJ) convention, filled with big-label intervention and shifting away from the purity of the unsigned band. Of course, there are hardly any unsigned bands left in the U.S. since every major distributor began plotting its own independent branch.
RECORDING INDUSTRY ASSN. of America president Jay Berman is expected to sound the alarm today before a World Intellectual Property Organization symposium at Harvard University. Berman’s speech is expected to focus on the fact that the music industry is losing the technology war, particularly in regard to broadcasting and other transmissions.
Berman and his organization are lobbying hard for a performance right for sound recordings, the basis for his speech before Harvard and his testimony late last month before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and Judicial Administration.
The RIAA also is urging overseas trading partners to provide a performance right based on national treatment in a new international treaty that would grant exclusive rights to the copyright holder to control the digital transmission of sound recordings.
Hard to argue with the business entities that helped create the music magic being paid for their efforts.
But before we allow ourselves to get all sentimental about the multinational corporations losing money, it’s worth noting that we’re unlikely to see a call for a Congressional inquiry into many of the contractual injustices perpetrated against artists, some of which have existed since the 1950s. These injustices have their own mantra: Recoupable, recoupable, recoupable.
While nobody holds a gun to anyone’s head and makes them sign a contract, a business fueled by the genius of young artists still has far too many horror stories about multiplatinum bands that have to borrow money to buy dinner to truly feel good about the moral base of its intellectual property arguments.