MarComedy: Don’t make me laugh

For what tickles my fancy in media, communications and life in general.

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

99 Problems & Ticket Sales Are One

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CBC, among others, is reporting on poor tickets sales for this year’s Glastonbury festival.

Noel Gallagher of Oasis, who’s never been one to keep his opinions to himself has said,

“Glastonbury has a tradition of guitar music. Even when they throw the odd curve ball in on a Sunday night, you go ‘Kylie Minogue? I don’t know about it.’ But I’m not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong.”

In defence of the selection, the event organizer has chosen to attack a perceived musical conservativism among the British public,

“There is also an interesting undercurrent in the suggestion that a black, U.S. hip-hop artist shouldn’t be playing in front of what many perceive to be a white, middle-class audience,” she wrote in the Independent. “I’m not sure what to call it, at least not in public, but this is something that causes me some disquiet.”

So is the problem racist undercurrent that the organizer seems to want to suggest or the ever increasing ticket prices, increased competion from other festivals, the logistical & security nightmares or the muddy swamp that the festival grounds seem to turn into every year?

Perhaps the reflective glory of Jay-Z’s bling & gold records will shed some light.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

April 16, 2008 at 10:54 am

Posted in Music

Is this the answer to the DRM/Music Download debate?

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From the BBC’s Click program, I came across this new music download service called We7.

Though still in beta, the service offers (will offer) DRM free music and promises an artist-friendly environment. What this means is that they have a model where the free downloads are supported by advertisement that have been pinned to the beginning of the music file.

The revenues from the ads are then shared among the publishers, the artists, and so on. Here’s the model:


According to We7, the ads will run about 10 seconds and after a month of so the user will have the option to remove the ad/message. We7 also promises that the ads will be targeted and relevant to the user.

It’s has the potential to be a big step forward and has built a legitimate model for generating revenue for artists off free-to-consumer downloads. We7 also counts Peter Gabriel among its founders. Though Peter used to dress up & behave like this when he was with Genesis back in 70’s

he’s since become a widely respected and forward thinking advocate for world and digital music.

Here’s the pitch from their press room.

Now we try & see…

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

June 5, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Music, Technology

DRM and the Fight for the Future of Music

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Those of you in the GTA will likely have noticed that BBC World has replaced CNN Headline News on your TV dials. While I’ll admit to occasionally missing Glen Beck and Nancy Grace spit bile at anyone who comes across their path, this is clearly a change for the better.

One of BBC World’s programs is Click. Click is weekly review of web/tech/media issues and news. This past week’s edition focused on Digital Rights Management (DRM). In short, it took a look at the technology/software behind DRM and how it is being used by major music companies as a way to fight piracy and protect intellectual property (you can find the bulk of the episode on the website).

Though I’ve recently seen examples of how new media tools have allowed independent bands to establish/connect with an audience (here and here), I have a number of reservations about whether this really indicates a sea-change in music distribution or merely a couple of good examples of what can be done (not, I should add, what we can expect to become the norm anytime soon).

– Most acts sign on to major labels because they help off-set production and marketing costs. Studio space & time, recording & production equipment, distribution, promotion and so on are very expensive activities and beyond the reach of most independent, small or just-starting-out bands. Though improved technology and new & powerful distribution channels are making independent production more realistic.

– When bands sign on with major labels, their contracts (typically) are not for a defined period of time but rather for a certain number of albums. This makes it very difficult for the artists to sever ties with their label without long and drawn out legal battles. It also means that the only way to break the contract (barring, I suppose, gross mismanagement by the label is to pump out a couple of albums in quick succession which could ultimately harm the artist if they are concerned with quantity rather than quality).

– It will, I believe, take a number of major artists adopting direct-to-consumer distribution for there to be any real pressure placed on the majors to change their tune (pun intended, but sheepishly offered). You see, even if artists are able to break their contracts with their labels it is highly likely that the label will retain the copyrights for any material produced while the artist was under contract. This was famously demonstrated when John Fogerty (the voice, guitar and songwriter behind CCR) was, for many years, unable to use the name of the band he created or in some cases even play music that he wrote as his previous label owned the copyright. There is so much money to be had through back catalogue sales that the labels will not simply release the rights to the artists, nor will the artist likely want to lose the revenue associated with their creations.

– It is true that artists have much to gain from going direct-to-consumers (ie. the lion’s share of revenue vs pennies per sale), but the loss of the back catalogues will temper those moves.

– Frankly, many artists (particularly established artists) are too lazy to take a stand and start the revolution. It will take a major artist with a social conscience (say, Radiohead or U2) to even make music executives consider alternate approaches to their business..

What is encouraging is that the tools exist  for artists to take greater ownership of their creative output and deliver their work directly to consumers. In time, I’m sure we’ll see more artists (particularly those starting out) taking this approach. The will and interest certainly seems to be there in some quarters. It should be encouraged. But it will be a long time before that becomes the norm and an even longer time before old favourites will be available in this fashion.

PS. I should note that my claims about the music industry and its artist contracts are based purely on my own observation/reading. If I have misrepresented how these things work, I’m happy to be corrected.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

March 20, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Blogroll, Music, Soap Box

Now With 50% More Cynicism

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In my previous post, I wrote about a contest U2 was holding where participants had to search for highlighted letters in banner ads placed on various websites. The letters would form an answer to a question that then qualifies entrants for the grand prize.

I speculated that some of the participating websites would be organizations that represented causes near and dear to U2’s hearts. I felt that, given U2’s(or at least Bono’s) penchant for advocacy, this would be a great awareness-building opportunity.

How wrong I was.

The final list of participating sites has been revealed. It includes Canada’s youth-friendly pseudo-news site Dose, but not a single website to any of U2’s pet causes. In fact, most are news and music site popular among youth and other savvy surfers & music aficionados. I.E. the people who buy U2’s music.

I should have expected this. I gave U2 too much credit and allowed for too much independence. The contest is clearly being driven by the music label and other companies with a stake in the U2 money-making empire.

Despite visiting all the participating sites and refreshing the pages to cycle through the ad inventory, I was unable to find a single example of the banner ads. This disappoints me as I was very interested to know where the banners link to. Guess it’s up to my imagination.

From now on, I promise to not give anyone credit until they’ve earned it. To quote a U2 lyric (only seems appropriate):

It’s no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest. It’s no secret that ambition bites the nails of success. Every artist is a cannibal. Every poet is a thief. All kill for inspiration then sing about their grief.

(from The Fly).

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

October 24, 2006 at 7:39 pm

U2 Scavenges the Internet

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U2, the legendary Irish rockers, are holding a contest where the winners will receive an all expense paid trip to Hawaii for the final show of their Vertigo tour.

The contest will require participants to find:

Banners featuring short lyrical excerpts from U2’s songs (that) will be posted on websites around the world. To enter the competition you must locate these hidden lyrics, aided by different clues which we’ll be posting here on

The banners will have one letter from each excerpt highlighted and contestants will have to collect the letters which will then be used to answer a question. The list of participating sites will be revealed in a few days.

U2 are exceptional marketers with Bono in particular being a fantastic (self?) promoter (and to some a pompous git – Q: What’s the difference between God and Bono? A: God doesn’t walk around the streets of Dublin telling everyone he’s Bono.).

In fairness to U2 & Mr. Vox (Bono’s full stage name is Bono Vox – Latin for ‘good voice’), they have done a lot to raise awareness for a whole host of very serious global issues.

I would anticipate that the participating website will include some of Bono’s pet projects and frankly (if this turns out to be the case) I think it is a brilliant PR move (for both U2 and the organizations). For all his self-righteousness, you have to applaud Bono for using his profile to draw attention to some of the world’s most troubling crises. U2 has legions of fans and his passion is a powerful tool in mobilizing support.

I just hope this isn’t a kiss of death…remember when Bono spoke so passionately in favour of Paul Martin at the last Liberal leadership convention (sadly, I can’t find a link to Bono’s speech)?

PS. I realize it is a stretch to associate Bono’s speech/support with Paul Martin’s ineptitude while holding the country’s highest office…but it just fits so nicely with this post.

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Written by Jonathan Dunn

October 19, 2006 at 7:40 pm

Posted in Blogroll, Marketing, Music