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by Jason Gross

26 Mar 2010

“I’m sure that many of the ‘liberal elite’ won’t like hearing this but the decentralization of media sources will also inevitably mean that more conservative music criticism is coming our way. Instead of a knee-jerk disgust with such an idea, I think it would be much healthier to actually welcome this (as long as it has some quality to it) because journalism should thrive on healthy debate and different perspectives.”

That’s me, making a prediction back in ‘05 (about the 2004 writing landscape) and no, it didn’t happen.  Maybe it was the flush of the election of Bush Jr for his (soon to be disastrous) 2nd term but I really did think that music scribing would be the next conservative frontier or at least that the party would be able to tweak pop music culture successfully.

by Jason Gross

14 Mar 2010

After a year of prepping it and bugging my editor, I finally got my Rock and Roll Hall of Fame piece in the Village Voice.  I had 1000 words to play with so I could cram in as many ideas as I liked, including some inside info from the people there and some thoughts from detractors to give it balance.  I was pretty happy with the end result, especially as I had to write most of it up in less than two weeks time even though I had some general notes going back to 2008 and recently did about 7-8 interviews to get as much info as I could from sources.  I hated the whole idea of the HOF for a while but softened a bit when I visited it years ago and later realized that it’s something you can rant against but it won’t disappear.  Also, it’s been around for over two and a half decades itself so it’s at least worth pondering.

Even so, I wished I had more time to actually speak to some musicians about the HOF- not just soon-to-be inductees but also past ones and some who hadn’t made it.  Another thing that I only thought about later is that I found out (off the record) that the HOF nominating committee has several sub-committees for rap, art rock, etc.. so that the art-rock group boosted Genesis and the rap group boosted a certain TV star who didn’t make the cut this time.  Some committee members also admitted that they were kind of surprised that some performers who were highly boosted in their meetings got shot down in the general vote of 500 or so writers, former inductees and others who have final say over who gets in.  As I mentioned in the piece, many committee members don’t even know who these people are (other than former inductees).

Another thing occurred to me about the article.  I’d been writing for the Village Voice for over 13 years but this was the first time that one of my articles was the main piece in the music section.  I was pretty proud of that but it also made me wonder why that was.  I figured out the main reason pretty quickly though.  Just like in my zine, I like to champion acts that don’t get lots of recognition.  I understand that isn’t lead story material and as such, I can’t fault my editors for that but it also makes me wonder if I should turn my attention to stories like the HOF or bigger acts more often when I have something worthwhile to say (like I do sometimes at PopMatters).  Not that I’d give up on cult artists to write about- I’ll also have a soft spot for them, not to mention the feeling of camaraderie in the kind of work that I do.

by Jason Gross

3 Mar 2010

Very interesting story from Billboard about Apple’s challenging of Amazon of exclusive rights to sell new albums cheaply.  The labels clearly want some competition so they’re not beholden to Jobs all the time but for now, it looks like he’s still got the juice, being able to scale down Amazon’s ambitious plans in this area . 

So who’s the good guy or bad guy here?  Keep in mind that these are two big companies fighting to see which one of them will dominate the label-approved download market (which Apple still does by a wide margin), which nowadays is kind of like two dogs fighting over a relatively small (and shrinking) piece of meat from a dumpster. ... which is to say that even with 10 billion downloads sold by Apple, the market for online music sales isn’t exactly booming now

So why are they fighting this turf war?  Apple still wants to dominate not necessarily with iTunes but with the iPhone and to a lesser extent the iPod (which ain’t the hot new item anymore), which gives them a much higher profit margin than song sales.  The fact is, they also need the song sales tied to iTunes to help sell their hardware.  Amazon wisely sensed the need for some competition in this market that Apple’s dominated for years.  They want to sell hardware too (Kindle) though they don’t have their own device for music, at least yet. So for now, they’d like you to get accustomed to downloading media from them, be it books or music.

by Jason Gross

25 Feb 2010

Most people probably didn’t notice but for us music junkies, a disaster happened this morning.  MySpace was down for at least an hour or so. 

I know- that sounds like piddly crap, especially when Facebook and Twitter have overtaken it as the hottest social media sites out there (Google Buzz hit a bump with privacy concerns after its launch).  But despite this, MySpace still has millions of users and it’s still an important and easy way for bands to get the word out about their music simply by posting it there to stream for free.  In fact, as SXSW is coming up and I always like to remind bands how a bad homepage is no substitute for a no-frills MySpace page with a few of their songs on it.

But back to MySpace’s problems… They’ve had a lot of ‘em lately, especially with top execs fleeing or being fired.  They’re now trying to reposition themselves as a ‘discovery’ site, which ain’t too far-fetched.  I still learn about a lot of great bands that I’ve never heard of before through their service. 

But when they went down this morning (EST), I was frustrated because I rely on them so much.  I wondered about being so reliant on them and if bands should be so reliant on them.  As I said, despite the disses they get now that Facebook’s overtaken them, they’re still an important resource and any band would be stupid NOT to have a MySpace site.  But should we all rely on MS alone for our music needs?  Of course not.  There’s so many other places to get your fix online now (Last.FM, Pandora, Lala, Napster, Rhapsody, Spotify, etc..) so that if Fox/Murdoch decide that they’re losing too much money from MS and either close it down or tamper with it too much (i.e. use paywalls or metered service), both bands and music fans aren’t necessarily out in the cold when it comes to music.  In fact, it’s probably healthy to have many online destinations for bands to share music and fans to discover them.  Facebook hasn’t quite figured this out yet but rest assured, they’re working on something. 

As such, MS would be wise to stay with their tried-and-true formula and build on it.  As for fans and bands, remember that MS is out there but don’t let it be your be-all and end-all for your music jones.

UPDATE: As I’m listening to bands that are playing at SXSW, I’m now noticing that a number of their homepages include links to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube but not MySpace.  In many cases, they do have a MySpace page but I find it interesting that they don’t think it’s necessary to list the info on their website anymore.

by Jason Gross

4 Feb 2010

It’s that time again and while I’m not football fan, I’m always interested in the music for the half-time show.  As such, here’s two oldies-but-hopefully-goodies about that:

Stones’ superbowl self-bleep (from 2006)

Paulie cleans and flushes the Superbowl (from 2005)

Notice that I mention the Who in both posts!  I wonder if the NFL are reading my posts…

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