Mariah Carey Dishes on ‘Idol’ Experience with Angie Martinez: “It Was Like Going to Work Every Day in Hell with Satan”

With her new single “The Art of Letting Go” finally here, Mariah Carey visited Hot 97 for some girl talk with Angie Martinez. The R&B diva spoke on her new management situation with Jermaine Dupri, insecurities at this stage in her career, the new album coming tentatively in January, married life with husband Nick Cannon, the decision to release her new single on Facebook, and Mariah’s kids singing on her upcoming solo LP.

After sharing some toasts and having a few celebratory drinks, Mariah opened up on her rocky experience as a judge on American Idol. “It was like hell…like going to work every day in hell with Satan,” said Mariah jokingly before mentioning she loved the contestants and meeting great people along the way. Out now, purchase “The Art of Letting Go” oniTunes.

Lessons from the Music Industry: Should We Put Our Faith in Technology Companies?

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Camper Van Beethoven (album)Camper Van Beethoven (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of us who came of age in the post-punk musical era of the mid 1980′s, David Lowery holds a special significance. Lowery was (and remains) the leader of Camper Van Beethoven, a groundbreaking band that channeled the best of punk rock through an eclectic filter of ethnic folk music, ska, and country, all performed with humor, intelligence and exceptional musicianship. Through Camper Van Beethoven, and his later band Cracker, Lowery was a fierce critic of corruption in the music industry, from shady nightclub owners to perhaps the greatest takedown of corporate RIAA greed ever written.

Which is why it was surprising, if not downright shocking, to come across this recent piece by Lowery, “Meet the New Boss, Worse than the Old Boss?” which declares that musicians were better off under the thumbs of the RIAA than they are with their new taskmasters, digital technology companies:

I was like all of you. I believed in the promise of the Internet to liberate, empower and even enrich artists. I still do but I’m less sure of it than I once was. . . . I feel that what we artists were promised has not really panned out.  Yes in many ways we have more freedom. Artistically this is certainly true. But the music business never transformed into the vibrant marketplace where small stakeholders could compete with multinational conglomerates on an even playing field.

In the last few years it’s become apparent the music business, which was once dominated by six large and powerful music conglomerates, MTV, Clear Channel and a handful of other companies, is now dominated by a smaller set of larger even more powerful tech conglomerates.  And their hold on the business seems to be getting stronger. . . .

Everywhere I look artists seem to be working more for less money.

Before you dismiss Lowery’s complaints as the bitter tears of an aging hippie, take a moment to read through his qualifications as a musician, programmer, and entrepreneur, and note the 20 years he’s spent working with a “freemium” business model. His thesis is fairly straightforward — despite the poor way in which music labels treated musicians, they shared a common goal and offered at least some level of support and insulation from financial risk. The new landscape is instead dominated by technology companies who see all creative content as mere fodder for fueling their own business models (selling ads or devices for example) and they offer no support, no insulation:

Things are worse. This was not really what I was expecting.  I’d be very happy to be proved wrong. I mean it’s hard for me to sing the praises of the major labels. I’ve been in legal disputes with two of the three remaining major labels. But sadly I think I’m right. And the reason is quite unexpected.  It’s seems the Bad Old Major Record Labels “accidentally” shared  too much  revenue and capital through their system of advances.  Also the labels  ”accidentally” assumed most of the risk. This is contrasted with the new digital distribution system where some of the biggest players assume almost no risk and share zero capital.

The new bosses further cement their position by “waging a cynical PR campaign that equates the unauthorized use of other people’s property (artist’s songs) with freedom.” Through an army of “quasi-religious” surrogates (“freehadists”), the industry pushes for a “Cyber-Bolshevik campaign of mass collectivization,” where creative output is devalued. He sees it as particularly cynical because there’s one exception to this devaluation, one type of IP that is seen as sacrosanct — and that exception is software patents.

Lowery states that suggestions that artists simply need to find a new business model are a clear indication of awareness that artists are getting a raw deal. The new business model is already here, it’s been in place for over 10 years, and it’s making an enormous amount of money. But very little of that money goes to the creator.

At some point, one has to question whether it is still possible to earn a living as  a musician, or any type of creator. William Gibson, in a speech from 2003 makes the suggestion that those times are gone:

Prior to the technology of audio recording, there was relatively little one could do to make serious money with music. Musicians could perform for money, and the printing press had given rise to an industry in sheet music, but great fame, and wealth, tended to be a matter of patronage. The medium of the commercial audio recording changed that, and created an industry predicated on an inherent technological monopoly of the means of production. Ordinary citizens could neither make nor manufacture audio recordings. That monopoly has now ended. Some futurists, looking at the individual musician’s role in the realm of the digital, have suggested that we are in fact heading for a new version of the previous situation, one in which patronage (likely corporate and nonprofit) will eventually become a musician’s only potential ticket to relative fame and wealth. The window, then, in which one could become the Beatles, occupy that sort of market position, is seen to have been technologically determined. And technologically finite…It may well be that the digital will eventually negate the underlying business model of popular music entirely. If this happens, it will be a change which no one intended, and few anticipated, and not the result of any one emergent technology, but of a complex interaction among several.

Lowery offers no answers here, just a hope for an honest discussion of what’s going on that will possibly lead to new approaches. It’s a long piece, but one worth reading, filled with both humor and real-world numbers, and a particularly informative explanation of how Facebook and YouTube help garner attention for a musician, but ultimately steer their listeners away from the musicians themselves.

Cory Doctorow makes a related point about the publishing industry in a recent column, where he goes to great pains to contrast publishers, who he sees as virtuous, with other media companies.

In publishing, the publisher pays . . . expenses out of its pocket, and the author isn’t expected to pay it back. . . . Publishing doesn’t do debt slavery.

It’s true that very few writers get rich or even make a living off their book deals, but that’s because their books don’t sell very well. It’s not because publishers have stacked the deck against writers in the way that other entertainment bogeymen have for their creators . . . writers get square deals.

Doctorow thinks this is a key message for the survival of the publishing industry, that we can build support by making it clear that we’re, as he puts it, “on the side of the angels.” This was a continuous theme throughout the recent 2012 Society for Scholarly Publishing Annual Meeting — that we need to do a much better job explaining to the world just what it is that publishers actually do.

The scholarly community itself needs to understand the perils of the musician’s path. Would-be reformers are ready to tear down the publishing industry and replace it, often with the apparently not-so-benevolent rulers of Silicon Valley and other privately held for-profit start-ups. Publishers at least share common ground with the research community. Producing high-quality books, journals and other forms of content is the ultimate goal, not a step along the way toward selling user data to advertisers.

Even better for the researcher, much of what is seen as a monolithic, corporate industry is in fact owned and run by the academic community itself. Through not-for-profits, research societies, and university presses, researchers control their own destinies and can do what’s right for scholarship, rather than what’s needed to sell someone else’s unrelated product.

If your priority is the dissemination of knowledge, then partnering within your own community to further that goal makes a lot more sense than turning over the future of scholarship to those who see it as a means of selling Kindles or iPads. The “scorpion” at the very heart of a company like 23andMeultimately sets them at odds with the needs of the research community. Even a seemingly benign overlord can morph over time into something else in order to meet shareholder demands. Google’s recent acceptance of paid inclusion in search results, something they once declared “evil” and they swore they would never do, is a prime example.

So many of the current movements in the scholarly publishing space revolve around control — who holds the copyright, who gets to re-use the published material in new ways.

If the research community wants to reclaim the ownership of its output, then it would be wise to truly do that, and to not merely trade one set of commercial owners for another.

Google Glass Will Expand Its Features Into Music

Google Glass

Young Guru, a record producer and D.J., at work in the music studio with Google Glass.

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Published: November 12, 2013

To sell Glass, its augmented-reality form of eyewear, Google has already tried to make it a fashion accessory and a must-have video device for any parent or sky diver. Now it is also presenting this $1,500 piece of wearable technology as a way to interact with music.

On Tuesday, Google will unveil a set of features for Glass to search for songs, scan through saved playlists and listen to music in high fidelity. This can all be done while a user is wearing the lensless frames, which respond to vocal commands and have a small computer and transparent projection screen above the right eye.

When Glass boots up, it will display “listen to” among its standard voice commands — like “take a picture” and search for a term on Google — and let a wearer name a song or artist and then stream that music through Play, Google’s media and apps hub. Users can link their Play accounts to have access to playlists and song recommendations based on what they have listened to in the past.

Google is also introducing a set of earbud headphones designed for Glass, which will be available by the end of the month for $85. Sound Search, a feature introduced to Glass two months ago, acts like Shazam or SoundHound by identifying a song playing in the vicinity.

“With these new features, we’re now building a great music experience on Glass, whether you’re a classical music professor, an acclaimed sound engineer and hip-hop producer, or someone who wants to listen to their favorite tunes anytime, anywhere,” Ed Sanders, the director of marketing for Google Glass, said in a statement.

The features expand the practical uses of Glass, a product that was announced last year and released to early users this spring. The device has already been the subject of wide debate — not only about whether it will catch on with consumers, but also whether Glass represents an invasion of privacy.

Aside from helping Glass to market itself, the features could help publicize Google’s streaming music offerings, including Google Play Music All Access, its Spotify-like subscription service, which have been slow to gain traction with consumers. A high-end technology product with a connection to music is already seen as a marketing angle with potential. The music industry is eagerly awaiting Beats Music, a subscription service from the makers of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.

For now, only Google’s music services are available on Glass, but others are expected to be introduced.

Part of Google’s pitch for Glass is that its voice commands and easily visible display will free users from staring down at their smartphones all the time. Young Guru, a record producer and D.J. who has worked with stars like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Rihanna and Ludacris, agreed wholeheartedly with that assessment.

promotional video for Glass shows Young Guru using the eyewear to order food in Spanish, and to identify a Latin-flavored song playing overhead, tracking down a vinyl record of the song and then spinning the record in the studio.

“It’s an immense timesaver, and a great tool to make the world that much cooler, and realize some of the dreams we had as kids,” Young Guru said in an interview on Monday.

Jermaine Dupri on Turning Records Leaks Into Promotion [KarmaloopTV]

Michael Jackson Estate’s Valuation ($2,105) Vs. IRS’ MJ Valuation ($434 Mil.): Guest Post

Michael R. Morris is an attorney with Valensi Rose PLC and is based in Los Angeles, California. As a former trial lawyer for the IRS and a Certified Specialist in Taxation Law, Michael has the educational background and practical experience that enables him to provide insightful solutions to his clients’ complicated tax, estate and business transaction issues.

 

With all of the media focus on the recent decision in the Jackson family’s wrongful death suit against AEG, in which a jury found AEG not liable over Michael Jackson’s death, there is another court battle generating less press but which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. This case pits the estate of Michael Jackson against the Internal Revenue Service, and centers on the $7 million taxable value of the estate’s assets which were reported to the IRS. There’s little doubt that the valuation of Michael Jackson’s name and likeness rights at a paltry $2,105 raised a few eyebrows at the IRS offices — the IRS’ valuation was greater than $434 million and, in all, valued Michael Jackson’s estate at more than $1.1 billion. The IRS has issued a notice of deficiency — a bill for debts owed — of estate taxes totaling more than $505 million. And because the IRS contends the executors significantly undervalued the estate’s property, it tacked on additions of $196 million for good measure!

In response to the IRS’ notice of deficiency, sent on on July 26, 2013, the Jackson estate filed a petition with the U.S. Tax Court, contending the valuations of the assets “were accurate and based upon qualified appraisals by qualified appraisers who had extensive experience valuing entertainment industry assets.” On August 20, 2013, the IRS filed its response to that assertion, which detailed all of the proposed IRS valuations of Michael Jackson’s assets, including his name and likeness. The disagreement has set the stage for a contentious valuation battle.

There’s little doubt that the IRS knows that the exploitation of dead celebrity names and likeness is big business. What makes the estate of Michael Jackson’s battle with the IRS of extreme interest is that, while the valuation of an estate’s assets for federal estate tax purposes is usually made when a person dies (there is an election of value estate assets as of six months after the date of death), any subsequent dispute with the IRS over the worth of celebrity “name and likeness” rights rarely become public.

Michael Jackson’s Recent History

The rights of a deceased celebrity’s estate to that celebrity’s name and likeness rights are governed by state, not federal, law. So unless a deceased celebrity died a resident of a state affording posthumous protection for rights of publicity, such rights literally go to the grave along with that celebrity. This happened in the hotly litigated cases involving Marilyn Monroe, where the ultimate determination of her status as a New York and not a California resident meant Monroe’s rights of publicity failed to survive her (since New York has no law protecting posthumous rights of publicity).

Conversely, California has for many years statutorily protected the rights of both living and dead celebrities in their names, voices, signatures, photographs and likenesses. In fact, these rights extend for 70 years after death, and, like most property rights, are licensable, transferable and descendible.

The holder of the deceased celebrity’s right of publicity must, however, register the claim with the California Secretary of State (a simple procedure), and until that is done, damages cannot be recovered for any use prior to such registration.

To come within this statutory protection, California law requires that a decendent’s right of publicity must have had “commercial value at the time of his or her death, or because of his or death.”

Determining the value of intellectual property based on projected future earnings and discounted to a present value is not an exact science. In the case of the King of Pop, his estate has generated hundreds of millions of post-mortem licensing dollars, which the IRS no doubt factored into its valuation. So now the IRS and the estate of Michael Jackson are locked in a hotly contested battle over just how valuable the future earnings power of Michael Jackson’s posthumous celebrity rights could be. While the Jackson case may settle prior to the Tax Court’s adjudicating what these rights are worth, the litigation between the IRS and the Michael Jackson’s estate could signal similar IRS scrutiny of other high-profile celebrities’ name and likeness rights. Accordingly, the administrators of such estates need to be aware of the necessity to engage both qualified appraisers to value such rights and experienced tax professionals to defend against the inevitable IRS audit.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Become a possibilitarian.  No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.”
-Norman Vincent Peale

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