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Steve Jobs Craps Pants, Cries In Corner Over Royalties

Posted by: on Oct 1, 2008 | Comments (3)

Apple has announced that if the iTunes Music Store is forced by a Library of Congress-appointed Copyright Royalty Board to increase their royalty rate for publishers and songwriters by six measly cents per song, then boo hoo, waah waah, they’re going to have no choice but to shut down the iTunes Music Store altogether.

From Wired:

“If the [iTunes music store] was forced to absorb any increase in the… royalty rate, the result would be to significantly increase the likelihood of the store operating at a financial loss—which is no alternative at all,” wrote Apple iTunes vice president Eddy Cue in a statement filed with the board last year, according to Fortune. “Apple has repeatedly made it clear that it is in this business to make money, and most likely would not continue to operate [the iTunes music store] if it were no longer possible to do so profitably.”

It’s easy to see that Apple is bluffing its ass off in an attempt to get record labels to absorb the six cents. But what’s even more infuriating is that they have the full stupid support of music fans who’ve been indoctrinated for the last ten years to believe that anything except 100-percent free music is the product of the evil recording industry and who clearly don’t know the difference between the record label, the recording studio, the RIAA, and the publisher.

One comment is indicative of many:

“As much as I have been an apple hater over the years and despise the i-tunes concept becuase of the DRM, kudos to them for taking such a hard line stand. The studios know the end of i-tunes will pretty kill their last existing business model. It’s about time somewith the power has the moxy to tell the RIAA F-YOU”

Now, I’m aware that Internet comments are by nature an intellectual cesspool, but what worries me is that everyone takes this knee-jerk “fuck the record industry” stance without understanding that this mechanical royalty rate increase is a move to actually help the artist. Of the four categories above—label, studio, RIAA, and publisher—there’s one that does right by the artist, and that’s the publisher. Nearly all songwriters work with a publishing company which pays them songwriting royalties. And everyone knows that songwriting royalties are the best and most feasible way for musicians to support themselves.

I’ve personally known musicians who’ve released 10 albums and hardly seen any paychecks at all. Then, bam! One day their song gets covered by a more famous artist, or used in a commercial, or played in the background on a made-for-TV-movie that airs in Australia, and all their hard work finally pays off—to say nothing of the many obscure artists who share songwriting credit for hip-hop samples, or those important figures who’ve maybe never even recorded a song but have written hit after hit.

Six cents might not sound like a lot, but try telling that to David Axelrod, the Los Angeles musician whose “Holy Thursday” was tapped for a sample on Lil’ Wayne’s mega-selling The Carter III. Try telling that to Rowland Salley, whose beautiful “Killing the Blues” was included by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant on their mega-selling Raising Sand. Try telling that to Tom Waits, whose “The Long Way Home” from Norah Jones’ mega-selling Long Way Home earned him more royalties than his entire brilliant 1972-1980 catalog combined.

So to Steve Jobs: Quit your crying. In the immortal words of Seth Tobocman, you don’t have to fuck people over to survive. Pay the six cents and earn yourself a little goodwill.

Bits ‘n Pieces: Tom Waits, Downtown, Restaurants, Traverso’s, Mel Torme, etc.

Posted by: on Jul 13, 2008 | Comments (9)

Don’t ask me how I know this, but I assure you it’s true: Tom Waits officially recorded his show last week at the Fox Theater in Atlanta for a broadcast on NPR. From all the reviews on Eyeball Kid, it seems like one of the best shows on his entire tour so far. There’s also this great little Excel spreadsheet-type calculation thing of every single song Tom Waits has played on the American leg of his tour over at Eyeball Kid, which is a drool-inducing jealousyfest for fans like me.

 

In a matter of incredibly arcane Tom Waits trivia, we here at City Sound Inertia bow our heads in remembrance of China Light, the dingiest little Chinese restaurant in Santa Rosa, on the corner of College and Cleveland Avenues. I used to live around the corner from the place, back when it was painted a ridiculous pink color, and every night at about 10pm they’d close so the whole family could eat around a large round table in the family dining room, off to the side. It was sweet. What does this have to do with Tom Waits, you ask? It’s this room that Tom Waits chose for a photo shoot, posing with a book about human oddities, right after Mule Variations was released.

The best thing about China Light, of course, was the beautiful misspelling on its corner sign: “Lunch Specil.”

I’m not sure that Waits ate there very much; he probably just liked how run-down the place looked. Do you remember when a car crashed through the front of the building, and it took the owners 8 months to patch up the gigantic hole? Seriously, for 8 months there was just a pile of bricks and a sheet of cardboard covering the wall. I checked their health code violations on the Sonoma County Food Inspection website once—they had about 5 or 6 critical violations. Not that it mattered; I loved their soup, although it did go a bit downhill. The last time I ate there was the day that Blowfly played at Michele’s, in Santa Rosa, and all I remember is that the chicken was so gooey and undercooked that I was literally spitting it out onto the ground as I left out the front door.

 

Apparently Tom Waits signed his contract with Epitaph at Rinehart’s Truck Stop in Petaluma; or, to be more precise, the now-defunct Zoya’s Truck Stop Cafe. Now that’s a place I miss. A perfect cheap spot between Santa Rosa and San Francisco, with the most amazing painting of an eagle, on the wall above the booths. Run by Russians; on bad days, it smelled more like borscht than burgers. Story goes that Waits was willing to sign with Epitaph, but insisted on meeting label head Brett Gurewitz there. So Gurewitz drove up from L.A. and met him at the truck stop, contract in hand. (It’s on the same exit where the makeshift memorial for Georgia Lee Moses is, immortalized in Mule Variations‘ “Georgia Lee.”)

Greg at Flavor told me tonight that Waits used to come there every Tuesday for a while. Then he stopped. Aw, hell, I could go on and on about Tom Waits—hey, what about restaurants? Bummed that Cafe Japan, right next to Flavor, closed; they were such nice people, and to my mind the best sushi in town. Here’s to a good run.

 

Probably the strangest dining experience I’ve had lately was eating at Mariscos F. Magiy on Sebastopol Road a couple weeks ago. While I ate my squid quesadilla, I was kept company by a very large and smiling bulldog, panting and drooling next to my table. I love dogs, but some guy (who works there? hangs out there? I dunno) saw me and firmly warned, “Stay there. Don’t move.” Eventually he got the bulldog to go back into the kitchen. “He looks friendly,” he said, “but he’ll turn on you.” Hmm. Incidentally, the quesadilla was delicious.

 

Old Santa Rosa diehards like me are all abuzz over the news that Traverso’s is moving to Fountaingrove; it makes sense for them to be across the street from a lot of old people with money, but I will miss them being downtown in a major way. But now who will spend all day politely dealing with people asking for change for the bus? Mr. “Shut Up Hippie” over at Cafe Martin?

I was talking with Michael Traverso, one of the friendliest check-out clerks in the world, after they sold the building and started looking for a new location. Here’s my favorite thing about the move: Michael says they’re completely planning on taking the store’s hardwood floor with them. “Really? You can do that?” I asked him. “Sure!” he said. “It’s the original floor! We moved it from our old location when we moved here!” You gotta love stuff like that.

Is there a copy editor out there who can solve the mystery of the Traverso’s sign? Right next to the smiling man holding a stretch of salami and the promise of “101 Varieties Cheese,” it proudly boasts their motto: “Traverso’s Got It!” Since the name of the joint is Traverso’s, shouldn’t it read “Traverso’s’s Got It?”

The sandwiches at Pete’s market on 4th and Mendocino are better and cheaper anyway.

 

Long overdue are my dorky kudos to the city of Santa Rosa for making our sidewalks more skateboard-friendly! Just about every raised crack in town, it seems, was shaved flat back in the springtime. The skateboarders of the city thank you. Now if only it was legal to ride on the sidewalks!

 

Parking meters, parking meters: those new pay stations are wack and everyone knows it. I’m guessing they’re here to stay, which is ridiculous since there is a much more convenient way for people to pay for their parking. It also requires no adaptation of the city’s current meters: have you ever noticed the credit card-sized slot in the city’s LCD meters? It’s there to accept parking cards, a program that the City of San Francisco has used to great effect. It’s easy: you buy a parking card from City Hall, it has a certain dollar amount on it, and when you park somewhere, you insert it into the slot while the meter counts up. Reach the desired time, remove the card, and that’s that—no change needed.

I asked a woman at City Hall’s Parking & Transit office the other day if there was any possibility of the city issuing parking cards to use in these ready-and-waiting slots. “Not gonna happen,” she said. “Not in this budget cycle, at least.”

The two most plausible theories about the city’s excitement over the new pay stations that I’ve heard are 1) With the new pay stations, the city can make more money because it’s impossible for drivers to tell if there’s money left on a meter, and 2) Some outside city analyst suggested that removing all the parking meters would make the city look nicer.

 

They’re finally fixing the drinking fountain in Courthouse Square, at least.

License plate of the week, parked at the Odd Fellows Hall in Santa Rosa.

I was sitting on some steps eating a sandwich a couple weeks ago and looked over and saw this collection of heroin needles in the bushes. Corner of Mendocino & Silva, where the cops routinely crack down. Kind of a weird place to shoot heroin, in my opinion.

Isn’t this supposed to be a music blog?

I was defeated in a lyric-remembering showdown recently, when Anna Allensworth knew the correct opening line of “Sunday in New York” and I, in shame, did not. I thought it was “New York on Sunday / Big city havin’ a ball.” Anna was right: “New York on Sunday / Big city takin’ a nap.” Two very different things. Congratulations, Anna!

 

In a related tangent, I have been together with Liz now for almost seven years, and only just tonight, I discovered that she knows all the lyrics to “Singin’ in the Rain.” I thought Gene Kelly was the only one who knew more than the first four lines. Congratulations, Liz!

 

After he played it for me one night and I couldn’t shut up about it for days, Josh Staples gave me a copy of an amazing, amazing album: Modern Windows by Bill Barron. It rides a real fine line between post-bop and avant-garde, and it’s all one long uninterrupted suite separated into different movements, and Barron’s tone on the tenor sax is a menace. I love it. Thanks, Josh!

 

The two crappiest music videos I’ve seen all week: “Puff Puff Give” by Hannah’s Field and “No Tight Clothes” by Thug Slaughter Force. Painful shit, folks. Click at your own risk.

Okay—enough rambling. Time to get back to watching The Big Knife. It’s a great film that was part of the United Artists 90th Anniversary Film Festival at Film Forum in New York, but unfortunately not part of the touring version which hits the Rialto at the end of this month. Video Droid‘s got it. Rent it from them, and no, I still don’t have a Netflix account.

You Give Publicity A Bad Name

Posted by: on Jul 9, 2008 | Comments (2)

This is so ridiculous I’m amazed that I even feel like pointing it out, but despite what you’ll read in just about every corner of the Internet media, no one is actually selling tickets to Bon Jovi’s Central Park concert for $1500.

In case you haven’t heard: 60,000 tickets were distributed free by the city of New York, and the media is having a field day over the fact that one person and one person only posted a Buy It Now listing priced at $1500 for a pair of tickets on eBay.

This does not mean that tickets are “selling” for $1500. All it means is there’s some total schmoe online hoping to dupe someone into paying hella more for something than it’s worth, and I’m sorry to say, but that happens every single day. Good job, Bon Jovi’s publicist!

(A 10-second check of completed eBay listings shows that Bon Jovi tickets are actually selling for about $10 to $20 a pop.)

I, myself, am more inflamed over the increasing prominence of StubHub. They’ve even got TV commercials now.

Here it is, folks: the age is upon us when everyone’s a scalper, none of the concerts you want to see have available face value tickets, and StubHub takes a 25-percent cut of all tickets sold for two, three, five times the face value.

In 38 states, it’s still illegal to sell tickets on the sidewalk outside of a concert, but StubHub, which is owned by eBay, is posting huge profits year after year.

Giving money to a guy on the street: Bad!  Giving money to an $8 billion company traded on NASDAQ: Good!

Ian Curtis’ Gravestone Stolen

Posted by: on Jul 3, 2008 | Comments (8)

As reported by BBC News, the gravestone for Joy Division’s Ian Curtis has been stolen this week from its Macclesfield, UK cemetery.

Police and city authorities are “stunned,” “shocked,” and “agog” at the theft, but, like, have they never met any Joy Division fans? Can they really be surprised that the tombstone of a singer with the most death-obsessed fans in the world has been stolen?

More obviously: look at the thing. It’s begging to be stolen. It’s the perfect size to fit in a backpack and it’s held in place by tarmac, for chrissakes. On top of all that, it’s inscribed with the ultimate Joy Division epitaph, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” I mean, geez. Who wouldn’t think about stealing it?

I don’t wanna seem like I’m rooting for the bad guys, but come on.

(I was way more surprised when Mac Dre’s tombstone got nabbed.)

Ticketmaster Finally Starts To Die

Posted by: on Jun 25, 2008 | Comments (0)

It might not make up for the hundreds of dollars grudgingly given them in exorbitant service charges over the years, but it nonetheless brings a huge smile to my face that Ticketmaster has recently been dumped by its parent company, LAC/InterActiveCorp.

Probably the most surprising fact of the split is that Ticketmaster is currently $750 million in debt.

So, just to get this straight: after charging service fees; after charging facility fees and convenience fees; after charging handling fees; after charging delivery fees—and perhaps most insanely of all, after actually charging a fee to print out your own tickets, on your own printer, at your own home—Ticketmaster is still $750 million in the hole?

I don’t normally say things like this, but man, God bless the Internet and its equalized playing field for finally bringing down those fucking bastards.

SFJAZZ Lineup Announced

Posted by: on Jun 24, 2008 | Comments (0)

The lineup for the new season of SFJAZZ was announced this morning, and once again, it showcases the kind of variety and talent that’s made the ongoing festival one of the Bay Area’s jewels.

The upcoming schedule, running Oct. 3-Nov. 9, includes jazz legends like Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and the Dave Brubeck Quartet; vocalists Jimmy Scott, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Mavis Staples; new blood like Wayne Horvitz and Ravi Coltrane; world musicians Toumani Diabate and Le Trio Joubran; and, for some reason, Randy Newman.

Cecil Taylor, whom I saw about five years ago at the Palace of Fine Arts, rarely plays solo—and in Grace Cathedral, it should be insane. I saw Jimmy Scott a couple years ago at the Herbst Theatre, and he was excellent; age has only slightly slowed him down. Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra at Yoshi’s a few years back demonstrated just how relevant his 40-years-and-running project is, and I have personally seen Ravi Coltrane blow Pharaoh Sanders out of the water on stage, which is saying something.

The guy I’m most excited to see? Saxophonist Archie Shepp, who very rarely comes to the Bay Area. A force that shows no signs of diminishing, Shepp has persevered under the radar as a lesser-known avant-garde artist since his “new thing” heyday of the late 1960s, and I’m not sure what kind of group he’ll have, but in the small Herbst Theatre, how can you go wrong?

Tickets go on sale to the public on Sunday, July 13. Complete lineup and information after the jump, or you can cue it up at the festival’s official website.

Treasure Island Festival Lineup Announced!

Posted by: on May 22, 2008 | Comments (3)

It’s no secret that one of my favorite concert-going experiences is the Treasure Island Music Festival, a two-day soirée with an incredible lineup and a beautifully scenic setting out in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. With the organizers planning the gigantic Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park this year, I expected that a second year out the island might be a sinking prospect. I needn’t have worried. This year’s lineup was announced today:

Saturday, September 20:
JUSTICE | TV ON THE RADIO | GOLDFRAPP | HOT CHIP | CSS | ANTIBALAS | AESOP ROCK | AMON TOBIN | FOALS | MIKE RELM | NORTEC: BOSTICH + FUSSIBLE

Sunday, September 21:
THE RACONTEURS | TEGAN & SARA | VAMPIRE WEEKEND | SPIRITUALIZED | OKKERVIL RIVER | TOKYO POLICE CLUB | THE KILLS | DR. DOG | JOHN VANDERSLICE | THE DODOS | FLEET FOXES

It’s $65 per day, $115 for a two-day pass. Tickets go on sale Friday, May 30, but make sure to visit the festival website for mailing list signups and presale passwords.

So what makes the festival so great? I’ll tell you.

Healdsburg Jazz Festival Picks

Posted by: on May 20, 2008 | Comments (0)

I’ve had quite a few people ask me for recommendations on the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and what I’ve found is that most people in the world are interested in jazz but simply uninformed. There’s no better place to brush up on your jazz than this year’s festival, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is a grand slam as far as festival booking goes. Every show’s a winner, but here’s a quick run-down of the shows that I personally am planning on attending; keep in mind that everyone has their own idea of what’s cool and what blows.

First of all, any newcomer to jazz is virtually required to see Mark Cantor’s Jazz Night at the Movies (June 1 at 7:30pm, Raven Theater). The impact of Cantor’s amazing collection of 16mm jazz reels (he’s got over 5,000 at this point) is incredible, providing a cinematic history of live jazz from almost every era. Cantor’s personal introductions provide connect-the-dots context, and every single clip is moving in its own way; either hilarious, like Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang trading call-and-response eights, or downright poignant, like Billie Holiday singing “My Man” from a 1950s television special. Plus it’s only $10!

I’m stoked on finally seeing Charles Lloyd (May 31 at 7:30pm, Jackson Theater), who’s been making interesting records on ECM lately with a great group. He’s got this really great pianist, Jason Moran, and an excellent, rock-solid drummer in the form of Eric Harland. He’s getting older, but he’s an innovator from within, and those people never run out of ideas, regardless of age. Charles Lloyd was lucky enough to be booked onto Fillmore shows in the late ’60s by Bill Graham, and his searing solos fit in nicely with the psychedelic scene in San Francisco; if you’re looking for envelope-pushing jazz, check this one out.

The show I can fully recommend to everyone—and especially those with kids—is the suave-lookin’ guy pictured above, clarinetist Don Byron (June 2 at 1pm and 7pm, Raven Theater), whose Ivey Divey was my #1 jazz album of 2004. Combining klezmer, jazz, and classical styles, in a word, Byron’s music is fun. The show he’ll be presenting is great: old Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons get projected on the Raven Theater’s screen while his group plays music from his 1996 album, Bug Music. Both Raymond Scott—whose music will be represented in great supply—and Byron have that element of surprise that kids love, but he’s innovative enough (and has a great band, with Billy Hart on drums) to appeal to anyone. It’s $25, but bring a kid and it’s only $15 for the both of you!

One of my all-time favorite jazz musicians is Eric Dolphy, who played the saxophone, bass clarinet, and flute like no one else who walked the planet. He died in 1964, but his music was so great that it takes two people to resurrect it properly: saxophonist and clarinetist Bennie Maupin and flutist James Newton (June 6 at 8pm, Raven Theater). Maupin played on Miles DavisBitches Brew, and most people only know Newton from his highly publicized Supreme Court case with the Beastie Boys over sampling rights (“Pass the Mic”—the Beasties won). Newton is a hell of a flute player, on par with Dolphy and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and he and Maupin have unearthed some sheet music that Dolphy left behind. It’ll be out there, but in the best sense—Dolphy never wanked for wanking’s sake—making this the show I’m probably most excited about.

How can you go wrong with the lineup for ‘A Night in the Country‘ (June 7 at 7:30pm, Raven Theater)? Charlie Haden is one of jazz’s most intuitive bassists, having helmed the Ornette Coleman quartet, the Liberation Music Orchestra, and the Quartet West (he’s also a great interview). Kenny Barron is the one pianist that no one I know hates, and saxophone superstar Joshua Redman is going to thrive in this setting. Also on the bill is Julian Lage, who I cannot say enough good things about (and that’s not just because I sold him his copy of Everybody Digs Bill Evans when he was 12). Simply put, Lage is a miracle, a supremely talented guitar player with gallons of taste. He’ll be playing with monster bassist Ray Drummond to boot!

Jazz has always been nighttime music to me, but if you can hang with the sunny outdoors at a winery, then by all means, go see Bobby Hutcherson (June 8 at 3pm, Rodney Strong Vineyards). Always terrific, Hutcherson is also a complete crowd-pleaser, hovering over his vibes and making wild body movements as he plays. He’s played on some seminal albums, including Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, and he was the saving grace of Freddie Hubbard’s disastrous performance last month at Yoshi’s. Also on the bill is Cedar Walton, who played on the John Coltrane album Giant Steps, and Craig Handy, an outstanding tenor player from Berkeley who always blows me away.

The complete Healdsburg Jazz Festival lineup is here. Say whassup if you see me around.

What the Hell’s Wrong with Neil Young?

Posted by: on May 7, 2008 | Comments (1)

For what has literally been decades of anticipation, Neil Young fans have been waiting for the ultimate Neil Young box set. Years have rolled by. All of his comrades and co-workers released box sets. Even Buffalo Springfield released a box set. Nothing from Neil.

This week, Neil Young announced that he’s finally satiating the thirst for his massive treasure trove of old recordings by releasing a huge 10-disc set this fall—hell yes, finally!

Here’s what sucks: the Neil Young Archive, as it’s called, is only coming out on Blu-ray.

Do you own a Blu-ray player? Yeah, me neither. They’re $400.

The set, announced as the first of five volumes, will contain 128 tracks, 500 photos, letters, old papers, and additional material designed to be viewed on the screen while listening to the music. In his press conference, Young encouraged his mostly middle-aged fans to buy a Sony Playstation 3 in order to be able to “experience” the box set. “We want people to spend the same hours on it like a video game,” he said.

You know what? Neil Young has been beating this misguided audiophile horse for far too long. He’s latched onto DVD audio like it was the second coming of Christ and saturated the market with awkwardly-shaped and utterly confusing versions of his albums—many of which get returned by customers who can’t listen to them, and which go back to collect dust on warehouse shelves or clog up landfills. His belligerence with the technology is a waste, and the world is not going to get in step with him on the idea. It’s expensive, it’s ego-driven, it’s elitist, and I think it’s pretty much the last straw.

Tom Waits Tours; Eugene Hütz Wanders Off

Posted by: on May 5, 2008 | Comments (0)

Living, as we do, in the same area as one of the greatest songwriters to ever live, we here at City Sound Inertia HQ heard through the grapevine long ago that Tom Waits was touring this year “through the south.” And knowing, as we do, of Waits’ propensity to keep the king away from his castle, so to speak, we didn’t hold our breath for a Bay Area show.

Waits announced his tour this morning. A round-trip ticket to Phoenix, AZ is $240. We’re seriously considering it.

June 17 – Phoenix, AZ | June 18 -Phoenix, AZ | June 20 – El Paso, TX | June 22 – Houston, TX | June 23 – Dallas, TX | June 25 – Tulsa, OK | June 26 – St Louis, MO | June 28 – Columbus, OH | June 29 – Knoxville, TN | July 1 – Jacksonville, FL | July 2 – Mobile, AL | July 3 – Birmingham, AL | July 5 – Atlanta, GA

In other news, correspondents tell us that Gogol Bordello’s Eugene Hütz totally fuckin’ rocked the walls off the French Garden restaurant on Saturday night in Sebastopol. To finish off his time spent at the Herdeljezi Festival, Hütz lined up a bunch of shot glasses along a table, filled them with strong liquor, and imbibed to his Romani heart’s content while climbing on top of chairs and powering through a fiery set of traditional gypsy tunes. (You can read David Sason’s Bohemian interview with Hütz here.)

Hütz had been spending the weekend staying at his buddy Les Claypool’s house, and someone close to the Claypool family informs us that Hütz’s wandering spirit must have overtaken him after the show on Saturday.

He never came home that night.