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Friday, Aug 13, 2010
Arcade Fire top the Billboard charts, but how much of a win is it really for them and Merge Records and where do each of them go from here?

After topping the Billboard album chart and selling out two shows at Madison Square Garden, an irresistible David-and-Goliath story emerged (they beat Eminem on the chart though he’d been there for weeks) not just about Arcade Fire but also the indie label that they’re on. But how much of a win is it really for Arcade Fire and Merge Records and where do each of them go from here?


When I first heard Arcade Fire’s 2004 debut Funeral, I thought that leader Win Butler’s voice was a pretty repulsive whine, the same type that made me vomit over the Shins in the early ‘00’s. But just as got over (and actually enjoyed) James Mercer’s pipes, Arcade Fire’s songs swept over me and I got the point—the drama in Butler’s voice matched the melodrama of the tunes. But then I sunk on ‘em again after seeing them at Bowery Ballroom five months after the album came out. They got there a few hours late after taping for a late night TV show and they looked and sounded tired. Several times, Butler chided the audience for not showing enthusiasm and I was ready to yell ‘right back at ya!’ By the time they were finishing up, streams of people were already leaving and not with big warm smiles on their faces (in fairness, a friend who was in the balcony said that people up there were loving it).


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Friday, Aug 6, 2010

Ah, you gotta love music execs these days. They’re so calm, well-mannered and easy-going, except for most of them, especially Irving ‘Sweetheart’ Azoff. Irvy is not only a manager-extraordinaire but also the head honcho of Live Nation and Ticketmaster. None of which makes it a conflict of interest, or so he and LN/TM tell Congress. One other important thing you should know about Irvy is that he happens to be a schmuck.


Irvy was railing to a Billboard reporter that the problem with the touring business isn’t the prices, the over-saturation of acts on the road or the economy but instead, it’s the press, who’ve done the terrible disservice of reporting on the facts about the downturn in touring revenues. And now, just to compound it, Irvy’s tweeting that that the fourth estate are making him look even worse for reporting what he said before. What’s even funnier is that he insists that his angry, ridiculous comments have nothing to do with his work in the record biz but are just his own personal observations. To be fair, if you spit out crap like this, you’d probably want to retract it too: “so if you want ticket prices to go down, stop stealing music” or (referring to the Billboard writer) “glenn peoples u r a jerk.”


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Friday, Jul 9, 2010

Here’s a little lesson in promotion and audience expectations… Last Friday, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and John Zorn did a performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival that pissed some people off.  The Montreal Gazette got in on the action by describing the furor and going so far as having both positive and negative reviews posted by the paper’s writers and some of the attending fans in what seemed like a Dylan-At-Newport type incident (though not as historical).


The problem seemed to center around perception- should the fans have rightfully expected a more rock-type show with Reed participating or not?  Were the festival organizers at fault for now saying clearly enough that this wasn’t going to be a typical rock performance (shades of PiL at the Ritz)?


For some clues, take a look at the program for the day.  The listing is for Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed and John Zorn (not that Lou gets middle billing here).  If you drill down through the site, you see more about the program for the performance:


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Friday, Jul 2, 2010
Like Roger Ebert, Christgau went beyond simple grades and gave you much more in his reviews, almost always rewarding your attention.

In the latest and probably last edition of Robert Christgau’s Consumer Guide (published yesterday), this is what the noted scribe had to say:


Barring miracles unlikely to ensue, this is the final edition of Christgau’s Consumer Guide, which MSN will no longer publish following this month’s edition. The CG has generally required a seven-days-a-week time commitment over the 41 years I’ve written it, and I’m grateful to MSN for paying me what the work was worth over the three-and-a-half years I published it here. But though I always enjoyed the work, work it was, and I’ve long been aware there were other things I could be doing with my ears. So while I have every intention of keeping up with popular music as it evolves, being less encyclopedic about it will come as a relief as well as a loss.


Mind you, this is only about 10 weeks after Jim DeRogatis left the Chicago Sun-Times as a columnist.  Just as movie journalism had its breath taken away only four months ago when long-time movie critics Todd McCarthy was fired by Variety, it could be that music journalism might be having one of those moments now.  In McCarthy’s case, writers were worriedly wondering, ‘if there’s no place for him in the media landscape, is any of us save either?’


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Thursday, Jun 24, 2010

As mags are still scratching their heads about what they’ll do to survive, Rolling Stone proves as savvy as ever.  Or does it? 


After launching a branding initiative a few years ago (something even most national mags haven’t really thought through well), their investigative bureau has been kicking butt lately, which is doubly impressive in this age where this type of reporting is becoming an endangered species at pubs, frequently getting farmed out to 3rd parties to do the heavy lifting.


Not only did RS get some good scoops about what the government did or didn’t know about the Gulf Oil Spill early on, but they also made news quicker than even they could report it with the rapid fall of General McChystal, which similar to White House press maven Helen Thomas came about from some stupid remarks that he made.  But while Thomas made a few dumb, indefensible comments to a video blogger (which in this visual age is a much worse crime than just having a damning print quote), the General made an endless stream of stupid gaffes to a reporter over the course of a few months, only later realizing that maybe he shouldn’t have been so contemptuous of his co-workers and boss (Obama) in front of a reporter.


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