Global Decision: New Music Will Be

Released On Fridays, Starting This Summer


     After months of discussions and negotiation it appears every country will now adopt a standardized music launch day in an attempt to create “a sense of occasion around the release of new music.” That’s the word from IFPI, the worldwide body representing the recording industry, which this week said that sometime this summer  all new music will be released globally on Fridays.

“As well as helping music fans, the move will benefit artists who want to harness social media to promote their new music,” the IFPI said in a statement. “It also creates the opportunity to reignite excitement and a sense of occasion around the release of new music.” Currently, new music is released in the U.K. on Monday, with U.S. releases coming out on Tuesday. This new arrangement will see new albums and singles released at 00:01 am (local time) on Fridays. IFPI says the decision to standardize the release day came after thorough consultation with all parties who have an interest in recoded music.

“We’ve had a long consultation involving retailers, artists, and record labels, and we have looked at a large amount of insight and research,” IFPI CEO Frances Moore told Music Week. “The good news has been the widespread support we’ve seen around the world for global release day – no one has seriously questioned the concept. The only debate has been about the day. The artist organizations and many retailers and record companies internationally support Friday, and this is backed by consumer research in many countries.”

Still, many independent labels and artists appear to be dissatisfied with the idea of designating Friday – or any day – as “new music day.” And since there’s no law that forces companies to comply with this new agreement, look for some rogue players to defy the standard and release their singles and albums on any day they choose. 

Apple Reportedly Buys Camel Audio;

Plans For Tech Firm Remain Unclear


Apple      Apple Inc. reportedly has acquired U.K. music technology company Camel Audio – a company that, among other things, built the Alchemy software suite that allowed musicians to produce their own tracks digitally. While Apple has not officially acknowledged the acquisition, digital music blog MusicRadar says the deal closed in early January, around the time Apple attorney Heather Joy Morrison was named as the company’s sole director. Camel reportedly has shut down its operations, leaving behind a website containing only a user login page for contacting customer support, and miscellaneous legal information.

A notice on the website reads, in part: “We would like to thank you for the support we’ve received over the years in our efforts to create instruments, effects plug-ins, and sound libraries. Camel Audio’s plug-ins, Alchemy Mobile IAPs, and sound libraries are no longer available for purchase. We will continue to provide downloads of your previous purchases and email support until July 7, 2015. We recommend you download all of your purchases and back them up so that you can continue to use them.”

Thus far it’s unclear how the Camel Audio acquisition fits within Apple’s apparent plans to lead the digital music space. Apple already offers products for digital music production, including Garageband and Logic Pro X, and some sources believe Camel’s products will be folded into those existing products or perhaps into iTunes. The Silicon Valley giant has issued a vague statement noting that, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” The statement is typically offered when an acquisition rumor is legitimate, suggesting Apple did in fact purchase Camel Audio last month. [Read more: Apple Insider

Google Play Music Increases Its Music

Storage Capacity To 50,000 Songs


     In an attempt to thwart any attempt by Apple to grow its dominance in the digital music space, Google Play Music this week announced it has upgraded the storage space for registered users from 20,000 songs to 50,000 songs. The extra space is a free upgrade for users, and the expanded capacity is applied automatically for those who already host their music collection in Google’s cloud. Google Play Music is a music streaming and storage service that lets users listen on the web, smartphones, or tablets.

While many consumers are shifting to streaming services and away from downloaded digital files, many users have invested in building – and listening to – massive music libraries. Google’s offer to host even bigger collections is an attempt to lure those customers who are unwilling to give up their previous musical life in favor of streaming platforms.

Because of this single change many analysts say Google Play Music significantly has strengthened its competitive position against Spotify; a lack of storage for music and other media is considered one of the core issues still plaguing smartphones and tablets. Example: Apple sells the iPhone 6 with 16GB of storage, not nearly enough room for all the functions a modern smartphone is expected to provide. Even the base Moto X, which some people consider the best Android smartphone available, has only 16GB of storage. Google’s expansion to 50,000 songs – approximately 200 GB of cloud space – goes will beyond this limit and provides the convenience of streaming their own library. [Read more: Forbes Tech Crunch  Engadget

Starbucks Will Stop Selling CDs

In Stores At The End Of March


     As CD sales continue to slip both in the U.S. and globally, Starbucks has decided to stop offering them at its 21,000 retail shops by the end of next month. Starbucks representative Maggie Jantzen told Billboard the company “continually seeks to redefine the experience in our retail stores to meet the evolving needs of our customers. Music will remain a key component of our coffeehouse and retail experience, [and] we will continue to evolve the format of our music offerings to ensure we’re offering relevant options for our customers. As a leader in music curation, we will continue to strive to select unique and compelling artists from a broad range of genres we think will resonate with our customers.”

Starbucks supposedly will continue to provide digital music to its customers, although Jantzen did not reveal what offerings will be available in the future. “Music has always been a key component at Starbucks,” she said. “We are looking for new ways to offer customers music options.”

Starbucks began investing in music in the late 1990s with its purchase of music retailer Hear Music, which created collections that would inspire people to discover new music. That effort resulted in significant in-store sales, and the company expanded its music push with a partnership with William Morris. A subsequent deal with Concord Music Group led to original music releases from such major artists as Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, and Alanis Morissette.


Grace Digital’s WiFi Devices Log

More Than 1 Billion Listener Hours


Music Business      Grace Digital, a manufacturer of Wi-Fi-based wireless music systems, announced this week its North American customer base has exceeded 1 billion total internet radio listening hours. According to the Edison Research report titled “The Infinite Dial,” internet radio has seen steady listening increases in the U.S. over the last six years, as 21% of Americans listened to it in 2008, while 47% do so today. Listening hours also have increased: the average listening time in one week in 2008 was 6 hours and 13 minutes, a figure that today has more than doubled to 13 hours 19 minutes.

“The growth we’ve seen year over year… mixed with the projections within the industry, show us clearly that wireless streaming of digital content will continue to grow and has become the standard,” Grace Digital Audio’s CEO Greg Fadul said in a statement. “We are committed to our customers and will continue to provide products that will aid in this digital revolution.”

While numerous devices can be used to listen to online radio from a fixed or mobile location, Grace Digital’s Wi-Fi music players serve more as a traditional stereo unit designed for in-home use. 

A publication of Bunzel Media Resources © 2015

The poor fetish: commodifying working class culture

By Joseph Todd On February 25, 2015

Post image for The poor fetish: commodifying working class cultureBullshit jobs and a pointless existence are increasingly driving London’s spiritually dead middle class towards a fetishization of working class culture.

Photo: Fruit stall in Shoreditch, London (Source: Flickr/Garry Knight).

Literally, he paints her portrait, then he can fuck off  —  he can leave. When Leonardo DiCaprio is freezing in water, she notices that he’s dead, and starts to shout, ‘I will never let you go,’ but while she is shouting this, she is pushing him away. It’s not even a love story. Again, Captains Courageous: upper classes lose their life, passion, vitality and act like a vampire to suck vitality from a lower-class guy. Once they replenish their energy, he can fuck off.

– Slavoj Zizek on Titanic

London’s middle class are in crisis — they feel empty and clamor for vitality. Their work is alienating and meaningless, many of them in “bullshit jobs” that are either socially useless, overly bureaucratic or divorced from any traditional notion of labor.

Financial services exist to grow the fortunes of capitalists, advertising to exploit our insecurities and public relations to manage the reputations of companies that do wrong. Society would not collapse without these industries. We could cope without the nexus of lobbyists, corporate lawyers and big firm accountants whose sole purpose is to protect the interests of capital. How empty if must feel to work a job that could be abolished tomorrow. One that at best makes no tangible difference to society and at worst encourages poverty, hunger and ecological collapse.

At the same time our doctors, teachers, university professors, architects, lawyers, solicitors and probation officers are rendered impotent. Desperate to just do their jobs yet besieged by bureaucracy and box-ticking. Their energies are focused not on helping the sick, teaching the young or building hospitals but on creating and maintaining the trail of paperwork that is a prerequisite of any meaningful action in late capitalist society. Talk to anybody in these professions, from the public or private sector, and the frustration that comes up again and again is that they spend the majority of their time writing reports, filling in forms and navigating bureaucratic labyrinths that serve only to justify themselves.

This inaction hurts the middle-class man. He feels impotent in the blue glare of his computer screen. Unable to do anything useful, alienated from physical labor and plagued by the knowledge that his father could use his hands, and the lower classes still do. Escape, however, is impossible. Ever since the advent of the smartphone the traditional working day has been abolished. Office workers are at the constant mercy of email, a culture of overwork and a digitalization of work. Your job can be done anytime, anywhere and this is exactly what capital demands. Refuge can only be found in sleep, another domain which capital isdetermined to control.

And when the middle classes are awake and working, they cannot even show contempt for their jobs. Affective (or emotional) labor has always been a part of nursing and prostitution, be it fluffing pillows or faking orgasms, but now it has infected both the shop floor of corporate consumer chains and the offices of middle-management above. Staff working at Pret-à-Manger are encouraged to touch each other, “have presence” and “be happy to be themselves.” In the same way the open plan, hyper-extroverted modern office environment enforces positivity. Offering a systemic critique of the very nature of your work does not make you a ‘team player.’ In such an environment, bringing up the pointlessness of your job is akin to taking a shit on the boss’s desk.

This culture is symptomatic of neoliberal contradiction, one which tells us to be true to ourselves and follow our passions in a system that makes it nearly impossible to do so. A system where we work longer hours, for less money and are taught to consume instead of create. Where fulfilling vocations such as teaching, caring or the arts are either vilified, badly paid or not paid at all. Where the only work that will enable you to have a comfortable life is meaningless, bureaucratic or evil. In such a system you are left with only one option: to embrace the myth that your job is your passion while on a deeper level recognizing that it is actually bullshit.

This is London’s middle class crisis.

But thankfully capital has an antidote. Just as in Titanic, when Kate Winslet saps the life from the visceral, working class Leonardo DiCaprio, middle-class Londoners flock to bars and clubs that sell a pre-packaged, commodified experience of working class and immigrant culture. Pitched as a way to re-connect with reality, experience life on the edge and escape the bureaucratic, meaningless, alienated dissonance that pervades their working lives.

The problem, however, is that the symbols, aesthetics and identities that populate these experiences have been ripped from their original contexts and re-positioned in a way that is acceptable to the middle class. In the process, they are stripped of their culture and assigned an economic value. In this way, they are emptied of all possible meaning.

Visit any bar in the hip districts of Brixton, Dalston or Peckham and you will invariably end up in a warehouse, on the top floor of a car park or under a railway arch. Signage will be minimal and white bobbing faces will be crammed close, a Stockholm syndrome recreation of the twice-daily commute, enjoying their two hours of planned hedonism before the work/sleep cycle grinds back into gear.

Expect gritty, urban aesthetics. Railway sleepers grouped around fire pits, scuffed tables and chairs reclaimed from the last generation’s secondary schools and hastily erected toilets with clattering wooden doors and graffitied mixed sex washrooms. Notice the lack of anything meaningful. Anything with politics or soul. Notice the ubiquity of Red Stripe, once an emblem of Jamaican culture, now sold to white ‘creatives’ at £4 a can.

The warehouse, once a site of industry, has trudged down this path of appropriation. At first it was squatters and free parties, the disadvantaged of a different kind, transforming a space of labor into one of hedonistic illegality and sound system counter-culture. Now the warehouse resides in the middle-class consciousness as the go-to space for every art exhibition or party. Any meaning it may once have had is dead. Its industrial identity has been destroyed and the transgressive thrill the warehouse once represented has been neutered by money, legality and middle-class civility.

Nonetheless many still function as clubs across Southeast London, pumping out reggae and soul music appropriated from the long-established Afro-Caribbean communities to white middle-class twenty-somethings who can afford the £15 entrance. Eventually the warehouse aesthetic will make its way to the top of the pay scale and, as the areas in which they reside reach an acceptable level of gentrification, they will become blocks of luxury flats. Because what else does London need but more kitsch, high ceiling hideaways to shield capital from tax?

The ‘street food revolution’ was not a revolution but a middle-class realization that they could abandon their faux bourgeois restaurants and reach down the socioeconomic ladder instead of up. Markets that once sold fruit and vegetables for a pound a bowl to working class and immigrant communities became venues that commodified and sold the culture of their former clientèle. Vendors with new cute names but the same gritty aesthetics serve over-priced ethnic food and craft beer to a bustling metropolitan crowd, paying not for the cuisine or the cold but for the opportunity to bathe in the edgy cool aesthetic of a former working class space.

This is the romantic illusion that these bars, clubs and street food markets construct; that their customers are the ones on the edge of life, running the gauntlet of Zola’s Les Halles, eating local on makeshift benches whilst drinking beer from the can. Yet this zest is vicarious. Only experienced secondhand through objects and spaces appropriated from below. Spaces which are dully sanitized of any edge and rendered un-intimidating enough for the middle classes to inhabit. Appealing enough for them to trek to parts of London in which they’d never dare live in search of something meaningful. In the hope that some semblance of reality will slip back into view.

The illusion is delicate and fleeting. In part it explains the roving zeitgeist of the metropolitan hipster whose anatomy Douglas Haddow so brilliantly managed to pin down. Because as soon as a place becomes inhabited with too many white, middle-class faces it becomes difficult to keep playing penniless. The braying accents crowd in and the illusion shatters. Those who aren’t committed to the working class aesthetic, yuppies dressed in loafers and shirts rather than scruffy plimsoles and vintage wool coats, begin to dominate and it all becomes just a bit too West London. And in no-time at all the zeitgeist rolls on to the next market, pool hall or dive bar ripe for discovery, colonization and commodification.

Not all businesses understand this delicacy. Champagne and Fromage waded into the hipster darling food market of Brixton Village, upsetting locals and regulars alike. This explicitly bourgeois restaurant, attracted by the hip kudos and ready spending of the area, inadvertently pointed out that the emperor had no clothes. That the commodified working class experience the other restaurants had been pedaling was nothing more than an illusion.

The same anxiety that fuels this cultural appropriation also drives first wave gentrifiers to ‘discover’ new areas that have been populated by working class or immigrant communities for decades. Cheap rents beckon but so does the chance of emancipation from the bourgeois culture of their previous North London existence. The chance to live in an area that is gritty, genuine and real. But this reality is always kept at arm’s length. Gentrifiers have the income to inoculate themselves from how locals live. They plump for spacious Georgian semi-detached houses on a quiet street away from the tower blocks. They socialize in gastro-pubs and artisan cafés. They can do without sure start centers, food banks and the local comprehensive.

Their experience will always be confined to dancing in a warehouse, drinking cocktails from jam jars or climbing the stairs of a multi-story car park in search of a new pop-up restaurant. Never will they face the grinding monotony of mindless work, the inability to pay bills or feed their children, nor the feeling of guilt and hopelessness that comes from being at the bottom of a system that blames the individual but offers no legitimate means by which they can escape.

This partial experience is deliberate. Because with intimate knowledge of how the other half live comes an ugly truth: that middle-class privilege is in many ways premised on working class exploitation. That the rising house prices and cheap mortgages from which they have benefited create a rental market shot with misery. That the money inherited from their parents goes largely untaxed while benefits for both the unemployed and working poor are slashed. That the unpaid internships they can afford to take sustains a culture that excludes the majority from comfortable, white collar jobs. That their accent, speech patterns and knowledge of institutions, by their very deployment in the job market, perpetuate norms that exclude those who were born outside of the cultural elite.

Effie Trinket of the Hunger Games is the ideal manifestation of this contradiction. She is Kaitness and Peeta’s flamboyant chaperone who goes from being a necessary annoyance in the first film towards nominal acceptance in the second. The relationship climaxes when, just as Kaitness and Peeta are about to re-enter the arena, Effie presents Hamich and Peeta with a gold band and necklace, a consumerist expression of their heightened intimacy. And in that very moment, her practiced façade of enthusiastic positivity finally breaks. Through her sobs she cries “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” and backs away, absent for the rest of the film.

For Effie, the contradiction surfaced and was too much to bear. She realized that the misery and oppression of those in the districts was in some way caused by her privilege. But her tears were shed for a more fundamental truth — that although she recognizes the horror of the world, she enjoys the material comfort exploitation brings. That if given the choice between the status quo and revolution, she wouldn’t change a thing.

Joseph Todd is a writer and activist who has been published in The Baffler, Salon and CounterFire, among others. For more writings, visit his website.

The last Ramone standing

“We were 90 percent fun and 10 percent pent-up animosity”

Marky Ramone on losing his bandmates, why he didn’t punch Johnny in the mouth, and that scathing Morrissey review

The last Ramone standing: "We were 90 percent fun and 10 percent pent-up animosity"
Marky Ramone (Credit: AP/Star Shooter)

When you know you are going to meet Marky Ramone in person, and you see him in the flesh, your instinct is to walk first across the street and protect him from oncoming Ubers or falling debris. He is rock’s spotted owl, or black rhino: the very last of a magnificent species (apologies to Richie and C.J.), an original, living, breathing Ramone, and even though he glows with health, and is clearly in great shape, your gut tells you he simply must not come to any harm on your watch. Joey Ramone died in 2001, Dee Dee overdosed in 2002, Johnny lost his battle with prostate cancer two years later and only last year, founding drummer Tommy passed away.

Marky, who joined in 1978 after Tommy decided to work behind the scenes, was regarded as one of the best drummers on the legendary CBGB’s scene on the Bowery, having played with cult rockers Dust, and both Wayne (now Jayne) County’s band (known, believe it or not, as the Backstreet Boys) and Richard Hell and the Voidoids. As a Ramone he appeared in the cult classic “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” drummed for Phil Spector on the attendant album “End of the Century,” bottomed out on booze, got sober, and rehired and saw the greatest New York City band to ever pound our pavement to their end in 1996. After a stint in the Misfits, today, he plays in Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg with party rocker Andrew W.K. on vocals. He hangs out with famous foodies like Daniel Boulud and Anthony Bourdain and has his own line of marinara sauce. And now, he’s written a memoir that holds absolutely nothing back and should be the last word on the Fab Five from Forest Hills (and Brooklyn). Titled “Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone,” it’s co-written with Richard Herschlag and was released late last month by Touchstone. (Note of full disclosure: At one point, long ago, my name might have been in the hat briefly as a co-writer; I cannot confirm that, but there was a discussion with my then agent, and I decided, correctly given how much I enjoyed the read, that it would be something that I would rather consume than help create.)

We met on an early February afternoon on a Bowery that looks nothing like it did back in the summer of ’77 (or even 2007). It was freezing and his jet black hair is covered with a wool watch cap. He wears a black mink coat (“I’m not a mink guy,” he explains, “but I swore I’d never freeze again.”). We head toward a high-end Italian place to have tea and (perhaps the only thing appropriate about the surroundings) pizza and talk at length about life in and out of the world-famous Ramones.

I was down here a couple of years ago with the four B-52′s and they had not seen the area since they were still playing CB’s and they were shocked by the gentrification.

It’s more shocking when you’re not around to see it being built. When you’re away from it and then you see it, it’s shocking, like you said.

But you’ve taken the Bowery’s transformation in stride?

What do you do? Do you consider it progress? Debate it?

Philosophically, I think it’s just New York being New York. It changes. So let’s talk about the memoir, Marky. In preparation, did you read Patti Smith’s book? Did you read your one-time band mate Richard Hell’s book? Other books of the kind?

I read all the Ramones’ books and there was some interesting things in them, but I don’t like exaggerations, and I wanted to quell rumors. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote the book.

You’re citing Dee Dee’s book (“Lobotomy: Surviving the Ramones” with Veronica Kofman, published in 2000, two years before Dee Dee died of a drug overdose) or Johnny’s book (2012’s posthumously published “Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone”) or both?

All the books.

Even Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s classic “Please Kill Me”?

Yeah, you know the thing with Dee Dee is that he had a very vivid, childlike imagination. Anything you asked him, it was exaggerated. And obviously Legs went along with it, right?

And Dee Dee basically was a drug addict.

He had a scar and he would tell people that he was in Vietnam, but it was from his appendix.

Dee Dee didn’t really believe that he’d gone to Vietnam?

He didn’t but he tried to convince other people that he was.

So he was a button pusher?

That was a gift, considering the fact that he was such a great songwriter, that he can use all these [fantasies].

He was definitely a talented guy. But I also remember seeing him in the Chelsea Hotel years and years ago, in the late ’80s, and he just looked so wasted. He just looked really unapproachably wasted, and it was sad because I’d been a Ramones fan since I was like an early teen.

And so I wanted to write my book. I figured 15 years, 1,700 shows, and it’s not just that. It’s the other bands I was in before the Ramones, like with Wayne County and Richard Hell and the Voidoids.

Both of them have written books. Wayne County wrote a book (as Jayne County, in 1996, one with the excellent title “Man Enough to Be a Woman”). Richard Hell wrote a book.

What did Richard write about?

I haven’t read his book. It came out shortly after Patti Smith’s and kind of looks the same. It seems like maybe the publisher was trying to make it like, if you enjoyed Patti Smith’s book then you should buy this book too. That’s kind of how it was marketed.

Just poetry?

No, it’s a memoir. It’s called “I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp.” Back to your book, “Punk Rock Blitzkrieg.” Had you kept diaries over the years? There’s a lot of vivid detail.

It’s basically in my head. The incidents that did happen — how can you forget them? It was just so many things. We were such a unique bunch of people. We were out of the norm.

When you joined the Ramones after Tommy left the drum seat in 1978, it seems like you didn’t bargain for a life with such a deeply strange group of guys.

I thought they were all brothers. Friends. Everybody was getting along.

And yet there are these long descriptions of you in this cramped van with Dee Dee and he’s taking like nine baths a day. Joey is completely suffering from serious OCD and Johnny is just this general, barking out orders.

A drill sergeant that no one listened to.

It was basically insanity.

Tommy’d had enough because they were bullying him, and he wanted to produce. He wanted to be on the other side of the glass.

You write that when you came aboard for album four, “Road to Ruin,” you wanted to kind of change their sound a little bit, if that’s fair to say? Kind of rock them up a little bit more?

I wanted to make it heavy. They needed it.

The later albums kind of are heavier and continued to be so through the ’80s.

The three first albums are great, but there were enough of their three-chord wonder albums already. They needed to advance somehow.

So just to clarify, your recall is just sharp. It’s just a gift. You can remember the ’70s, the ’80s. You have no diaries? Did you have to look at mementos?

I had composition notebooks. The ones you went to school with. I also have the largest video library of the Ramones. There’s 400 tapes.

Of the backstage stuff?

Everything. That’s why I made the video “Raw.”

Did you contribute material to the Ramones’ “End of the Century” documentary also?

We had a separate producer and director for that. That was his take. I wanted to make a more fun movie about what is was like being in the band. The thing is, though, we were 90 percent fun and 10 percent, I would say, pent-up animosity. Especially between Johnny and Joey.

And you kind of skewed towards Joey, even though you say Dee Dee was your best friend in the band. I think, politically, you were more aligned with Joey.

Oh yeah. Definitely.

Johnny was a right-winged, hardcore conservative.

Borderline fanatical. The thing with John is he went to military school. It overlapped into the Ramones. But we didn’t listen to him.

But Marky, I have to say, when I’m reading your book, and I’m hearing these stories about Johnny carrying on, I literally had a couple moments where I was like, why didn’t you just punch him in the mouth?

I could’ve.

I mean, you can’t have a Ramones without Joey, but can you technically have a Ramones without Johhny? Is that why you held back? Because there’s an argument that anyone can copy that down-stroked guitar.

Not like that.

But the frontman is the frontman, you know?

At one point with Joey, he was canceling shows and we considered asking Stiv Bators from the Dead Boys to audition for the Ramones. This is just what happened, because Joey was doing separate things and the other two Ramones didn’t like it.

I just wonder, why didn’t you just tell Johnny to shut the fuck up?

I did.

I’m saying like permanently. Would that have been the end of the Ramones?

If I kicked the shit out of him, who would play guitar?

It’s bittersweet for fans like myself because you imagine the Ramones, and you want them to be like the Beatles in “Help!” You want them to all live in a house together. You want it to be like the Monkees or the Banana Splits where they fight crime together. You want it to be a family because you’ve all got the same last name! When you find out the truth that there’s such a volatile mixture of personality and chemistry, it is a little heartbreaking. I think a lot of fans exist in denial that that was the case and that you’re not and never were the cartoon Ramones, all for one. It’s like they say: never meet your heroes, yeah, or read their memoirs. (laughter) But everyone should read this because it’s funny and detailed.

It’s involved.


It’s the beginning of my life. And it isn’t just about the Ramones, again. It’s about Wayne County, and my times [hanging out] with the Clash and playing with Richard Hell and the Voidoids and touring England in 1977, all the way up to what happened backstage at the Hall of Fame induction [in 2002, their first year of eligibility].

Should we talk about the Hall of Fame speeches now? A lot of people were shocked that Tommy was the only one who thanked Joey –.

I did too!

Oh, sorry. I thought it was just Tommy.

No. I thanked Joey and his mother. And Joey’s siblings.

And Dee Dee thanked himself.

And John thanked George Bush, which had nothing to do with his career. Inappropriate.

I interviewed Johnny shortly before he passed away. It was one of his final interviews and it was for Spin. And I got the sense that even when he was facing the end, he had no regrets and was a hard guy to get to admit he was perhaps wrong about anything at all. I asked him about the Bush remark and he just said, “He’s the president.”

But what did that have to do with his career? Nothing.

I think he was trying to shake things up and show support for a war that was rapidly losing public support. In a way, it was the most punk rock thing he could do and in a way it was an asshole thing to do. It’s not the time or the place for it, at an awards ceremony, but he knew he had the audience. He knew he was sick too, maybe.

It was his last attempt. He wanted to get a rise out of the music industry. That’s why he did that.

You claimed you knew he was sick for a while. When you knew they were both sick, how did that emotionally resonate with you?

Horrible. First it was Joey.

Was the band still together?


But you were still in contact with them and they were together as a business.

I noticed it in Joey’s physical appearance, especially on his skin. He contracted cancer. John didn’t yet have cancer until a couple years later. That’s probably one of the reasons why in ‘96 we decided to retire, because Joey’s chemotherapy had to start.

Towards the end of Joey’s life, you told Johnny that Joey was dying. By the way, why do you call him John and not Johnny in the book?

I guess it’s easier than Johnny. We used to call each other by our real names. I used to call Dee Dee “Douglas.” I used to call Joey “Jeff.”

So, anyway, you said to Johnny, “It’s the end. You gotta go see him.” You were in the room when Joey was on the way out.

I was the only Ramone to visit him.

That portrait you paint of Joey literally on his deathbed, God, I don’t think I’ve read any account about that.

Because nobody else was there!

Why do you think after all those years and all those records and all those hours on the road and the Ramones family nobody but you came? Dee Dee maybe has an excuse because he was probably strung out or in L.A. But you get on a plane. It’s 300 bucks. Jet Blue.

Pick up the phone and it’s even cheaper. He could’ve at least called him.

Do you think that would have meant a lot to Joey?

Yes. Definitely.

Did he look a lot different?

He clearly looked different. Thinner. Paler. The thing that John remarked was, Why should I go see the guy? I don’t like him.

That’s the one thing I just hit over and over again with Johnny when I talked to him on the phone for Spin. I was like, “You were brothers! You were Ramones. You at least have that bond.” And he was like, “Yeah, if anyone else said anything about him, they would have a problem because he was a Ramone.” I guess to him it was more about the institution of the Ramones being bigger than the individuals.

Sounds cliché but it’s true. We left all that animosity off the stage.

So how does it feel for you now? You’ve had a rough year as far as losing some key people in that institution.

Yeah. Tommy. My father I lost. Arturo Vega.

Before that, the great guitarist Bob Quine (of the Voidoids). Linda Stein. Kim Fowley just died. Leee Black Childers. Hilly Kristal. Joe Strummer. I interviewed Leee a few times and he was a sweetheart. Is all this the kind of thing that compels you to tell your story by putting you face to face with your own mortality? You clearly live healthier now than some of the years you describe in the book.

Yes. I make sure of that.

You look great. I’m not sure of your exact age [note: Ramone is 62] but I have an idea and you look probably 10 years younger than you actually are. Playing the drums keeps you fit, huh?

It’s physical. It’s exercise. You can’t walk away from it.

But at the same time, time flies and we all have to reckon with mortality. Is that something that inspires you to write a memoir?

No. I don’t think about it. That had nothing to do with it. I just want to tell my real story. Being a Ramone. Being in this nucleus. Having my dealing with the other three Ramones and Tommy.

You tell details of your life that I think even serious Ramones fans don’t know: For instance, you write about your father being in show business too.

No, it was my grandfather, at the Copacabana and the 21 Club also.

Right. Your grandfather. And that you’re a twin. I didn’t realize that also. And your history as this kind of old-school Brooklyn-ite. I’m a fourth-generation Brooklynite also. I went to high school in Long Island because my parents got divorced. I grew up split between five towns and Canarsie, but I think my dad might have gone to the same high school as you? I have to double-check.

Erasmus? OK. Neil Diamond went there too. I was the Brooklyn guy who met the four guys from Queens.

I love how the book starts. You talk about how you get into rock ‘n’ roll through novelty songs, which nobody ever admits. They always try to credit cooler bands. You talked about “Purple People Eater” being the first record you ever bought.

And “Monster Mash.” I was a kid. I liked sci-fi and horror.

Did you have a rule, like no matter what, I’m going to be honest with this book? You’re very frank about your addiction and your recovery.

I wanted to put that in there.

Not to screw with your anonymity but I think the cat’s out of the bag. Did that help you? You can’t lie in those rooms.

There’s only lying to yourself and it’s a hindrance to your sobriety. But I thought it would be good to put in there because if anyone else has the same problem and they’re impressionable and they like what I wrote, maybe it could help them.

In that scene that was marked by booze and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, you would just wake up and hit the bottle, right?

I would have wine in the morning.

It was a coping mechanism for you. And then you would have to drum and play these incredibly fast songs.

I never got high before I played. Not even during recording an album. Only one album.

Would Johnny be able to tell if you were fucked up?

Yeah. He would know. Some people who drink can drink and you don’t even know it.

But you didn’t drink a cocktail with an olive in it. You swilled from the bottle. You drank to get high.

I had my wine glass. They’d give you free drinks everywhere. I’d have my martinis. Rum and coke. And that would be it. But eventually, it was getting to me and I realized I didn’t like waking up with headaches anymore. It was affecting the situation with the other three Ramones.

What do you think about all the money the Ramones are making now from licensing and stuff like that?

I think it’s great. We live in a capitalistic society.

The Cadillac commercial that claims, “The Ramones started in a garage.”

It was a basement. That’s Cadillac. That’s what they thought.

Can we talk a bit about the Voidoids? Specifically Bob Quine? He might be my favorite guitar player. His stuff on those two Lou Reed records, “New York” and “The Blue Mask.” Also, the big Matthew Sweet record (“Girlfriend”) and obviously “Blank Generation.” Nobody sounded like him and nobobody sounds like him today.

He came out of the box. Out of the cage. He really let loose with his Stratocaster. He knew how to play it properly.

Punk was so full of amateurs and genuine musicians. Can you tell when another musician is exceptionally unique?

Yeah. Definitely. Quine was one. Richard could have been one if he hadn’t succumbed to heroin.

When you met Phil Spector was he one too?

Yes. With Phil Spector, I knew immediately. He was on a different plane.

What about Joey?

Joey. I always considered him to be the perfect histrionic singer. Very timid, shy and introverted. But when he hit the stage, it was his. That spot that he stood on. Some people are like that. They transform.

You have bad karma in terms of being in bands with heroin addicts.

When you travel to other countries, the availability of getting the quality can definitely vary. Especially with Richard Hell. It made him very paranoid. What would he be able to cop and how good would the quality be? There would be a lot of hissy fits. Attitudes. But what I said in the book was if the heroin didn’t overcome him, he could’ve been the next Bob Dylan – a punk-poet on a much bigger level.

He had the words. He had the look. He had the voice and he had a great band behind it. Do you think he regrets it now?

Secretly, I think he does, yeah. He was the leader of the band. There were three other people with him. That was his responsibility. He didn’t take into account me, Bob, Thorn and Ivan, because of his love of heroin. So what was more important was his addiction, but it’s an addiction. Could he have helped it at the time if he wanted to? Yeah. But he didn’t want to. I guess he enjoyed it.

You write in typically great detail about auditioning for the Ramones and just knowing that you had nailed it. What made you know that you were going to be a Ramone? You’d met them before?

They used to come see my band.

You didn’t know your last name would become Ramone [Marky was born Marc Bell] and they would figure so heavily into your future at the time.

No. I didn’t even know that Tommy was going to leave the band.

There was nothing cosmic. No ray coming out of the sky. Do how did you wrap your head around it? That you were going to become the key member of this iconic band?

Tommy was being bullied. He was sick of the road. He wanted to produce. To be away from them.

Being bullied by John?

Joey started picking on him, too. Tommy was only 5-foot-6, 5-foot-6 and a half. They wouldn’t let him smoke. They were bullies. So fast forward. Tommy was leaving. He suggested to the other three to get me on board. He told Dee Dee that if he saw me in CB’s to ask me. So Dee Dee was the first one to ask me to be in the group. Then it was John. Then there was an audition. There were about 20 other drummers hanging around, but I knew I got it. I heard these songs already in the jukebox at CBGB’s. I knew them very well. I practiced them.

Did you have a conception of how fast they were played?

I saw them. I listened to a lot of jazz drummers and I knew how they held their sticks. They didn’t use their arms hardly.

So it’s almost an illusion. It seems like you’re pounding but it’s fast.

If I was going to use my arms for the whole hour and 20-minute set, it wouldn’t work. If you’re just using your wrist and fingers, it’s simple.

Do you talk shop with other drummers still?

They want to know how I do what I do and I explain to them. They’ll say, I can’t do it. My arm tightens up. I’ll say you’re doing it wrong then. You gotta exercise your wrist and fingers.

I’m going to read you a quote that I wrote down. This is a Phil Spector quote. We’re talking 14 or 15 years after Lenny Bruce died, but he comes in and is still obsessed with Lenny Bruce and he says, “All the true sacrifices were made in the late ’50s and the ’60s. This is a lazy time out here. Someone else paved our way. I was there.” I was reading then when I was reading your book and thinking you could apply that to pretty much any time. You could apply that to now. You could apply that to something now that you might feel at your age with all you’ve done. Looking at the kids in punk bands with tattoos who don’t have to worry about being beaten up by teddy boys in England or frat boys in America. Do you relate to Phil a little bit more now?

I always related to his politics.

But the feeling like it was an age of pioneers that don’t really exist anymore?

Who is there really? Who’s out there? Where are they?

It’s technology now. Those are the pioneers. That’s the difference. The new Ramones are techies. The new Lenny Bruces are techies.

Will that help them develop social skills? I doubt it. I hope so.

Will it help music?

I don’t know what we’re entering in the next 10 or 15 years, but it will hinder creativity in other artists because of all the piracy and the downloading.

Are the Ramones pirated a lot?

Well, everybody is, but it feels like our fans want to support us. But I’m talking about new bands.

The famous crest and the T-shirts?

All of it. “Hey Ho” and “Gabba Gabba Hey.” But I think that music is going to be stifled because a lot of artists are going to go, “If I keep getting ripped off then I’m just not going to do it.”

You’ve definitely broadened your interests or allowed yourself to spend more time on an interest that was already there in terms of cooking and marketing your own spaghetti sauce, which I have not tried but I would like to.

It’s No. 2.

But if you give me the URL, I’ll put it down in the piece where people can get it. 

I got my own beer coming out all over America.

You’re not only a survivor in the literal sense, but also a survivor in the sense that you realize there’s more to life than just being a punk rocker and being a Ramone.

We live in a capitalistic society. It’s America. I have the opportunity that if I put out a product, I can give some of it towards charity, which I do with my food. My beer’s going to go to Musicians Without Borders. The sauce proceeds are going to go towards Autism Speaks. I’m happy for that — that I’m in a position to be able to do that.

Do you think it helped you survive everything? That you had other passions, whereas — I don’t know. I guess Johnny had other passions, like baseball?

He was a sports fanatic. He liked horror movies. So did I. We used to collect sci-fi posters together.

But you need something else. Whether it’s family or a pet. Alice Cooper golfs.

I like to work on my cause.

Tell me about the end of the book, where you take a couple of pages to list your favorite everything. Favorite producers. Favorite films.

I just wanted people to see what my lists would be.

I’d never seen that at the end of a book before. It was great.

My favorite rare cars. Drummers. So they can get more of an idea of what I like besides just drums.

There was a point where the Ramones became more of an institution in the way that the Grateful Dead or something like that, where you go and see the show and it’s an event, but you’re not going to lay your money on them having a top 10 hit. During this period, you kind of bottomed out and you got sober. You were fired or did you quit?

No. I was let go. By the whole band, not just Joey.

Then you were asked to rejoin four years later. But at the same time, you seem like one of the more stable rock stars I’ve interviewed. What’s the key? Your head is on your shoulders, Marky.

I never smoked cigarettes.


Is it New York? Is it just the way you grew up in Brooklyn?

There was a code in Brooklyn. You gotta be blunt. Upfront. No bullshit. No airs. Be who you are. Stop the crap. Stop the bullshit. When I confronted people who had the airs and the rock star attitudes, I didn’t deal with them. I’d just walk away.

But at the same time you have some flash. You still have that rock ‘n’ roll thing. You have a good combination of rock style and rock attitude but you don’t seem remotely self-destructive or bitter.

Bitter? For what? No reason to be bitter.

A lot of people write memoirs to settle scores.

That’s the thing. I wouldn’t write a book to be vindictive. I wrote a book to be informative. To be comprehensive. When you write a book to be vindictive it’s so childish, because that book is going to be around forever. You have to live with it. If I wanted to be vindictive, I could be, but not in a book. Not in my book. It’s childish. It’s not the right premise to air your feelings of vendettas towards other people because the general public who are going to buy the book are not going to know the inner vendettas that the band had towards each other.

Arturo and Tommy were still alive when you started?

Yeah, they were. They knew I was writing a book. See, when Tommy died, the book was done already. I would’ve devoted a whole chapter to the guy. There wasn’t time.

Do you feel a weight of responsibility now that all four of them are gone? You take a band like Lynyrd Skynyrd who all go down in one plane crash, or Badfinger. It seems like there was some real money funny business going on that maybe triggered something that was already there and the two guys killed themselves. But the Ramones, like one after the other, what happened?

They succumbed to cancer. Why? Who knows?

People get sick, people die. It’s part of the life cycle. It seemed cruel. This is a band that I love, that you love, that everyone who loves good music loves, and they all died too young.

We were closer than family.

But was it because they didn’t take care of themselves on tour all those years?

No. The thing is this. Joey occasionally dabbled in cocaine and alcohol, but not to a point where he was on skid row. Cancer can affect anybody, from the strongest person in the world to the weakest. It doesn’t discriminate what body it enters.

But four people from the same band within 10 years?

Very ironic. I know that. I think about that all the time. Why? Three. Not one. Not two. Three. And then Dee Dee overdosed.

But you’re still out there. How did you hook up with Andrew W.K.  [who sings Ramones classics with Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg band]?

Through a friend. Steve Lewis. I don’t know if you know him or not, but he’s responsible for a lot of the nightclubs in New York. So Andrew W.K. was suggested. Andrew agreed to come down to rehearsal and it worked out. He loves the Ramones’ songs.

Do you think if the other members were around to see it, they would acknowledge that it’s within the same spirit?

Oh, they’d be very grateful.

You’re literally a flame keeper. And Andrew W.K. is definitely a true believer in rock ‘n’ roll.

He knows how to engage people.

He’s a little nutty.

I like that because it creates an interest and curiosity. He does it his way. I didn’t want a Joey clone.

The book’s been out nearly a month. Are you starting to get a balance of praise for the actual quality of the writing?

Four and half stars on Amazon. No. 1 for three weeks.

We didn’t talk much about the ’90s, which is when things kind of started leaning towards where we are now, where the Ramones are — I don’t want to say posthumously because you are alive and playing — but after the band broke up, they were appreciated and you had to watch Green Day, Rancid, the Offspring and Blink 182 take basically this thing that you invented, not in a garage but in a basement or CBGB’s or Max’s or wherever, and sell millions and millions of records and play outdoor sheds and arenas. I think you were very frank in saying that it irked you guys a little bit.

Joey got hurt the most because he was the most sensitive.

Not that they weren’t grateful or respectful to you. I think Green Day opens all their shows to this day with “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

Oh, they do, and we were grateful. It’s flattering. Any artist that’s imitated. But what they did is they used our foundation, sprinkled their magic on it, and then started their own bands.

Did you feel like, hey, we’re not done yet?

In ‘96? No. We knew. We had discussed it.

It gave you a couple extra years.

On a larger level, yeah. We did Lollapalooza. The radio started playing us some more.

U2’s new single is called “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).”

But it doesn’t mention his name in the song.

No. It’s the subtitle. What did you think when you heard that single?

I thought that the dedication was nice, but knowing his intelligence, he could’ve put Joey Ramone’s name in the song. Now if you don’t know the Ramones and what he’s referring to, what’s he singing about?

Right. He could be singing at the Clash.

It’s very generalized. It’s not specific.

You have a pretty good bullshit detector. You can tell who the true fans are and who they aren’t.

Like this guy Morrissey. When the Ramones went there to promote their first album, he wrote the most scathing review of the first album that I ever read. Now, he’s a big Ramones fan and he’s sorry he wrote the review, and Rhino and Warner’s is letting him choose an album [Morrissey Curates the Ramones] that we just put out the songs on. They let him choose the songs on it. This guy who hated the Ramones.

Maybe he didn’t get it yet?

That’s not the point. You either get it or you don’t.

Lester Bangs. When “Exile on Main Street” came out, Lester famously trashed it, and then he ran a retraction of his review saying this is a great, great record. Sometimes, especially when you’re young, you want to be iconoclastic. It’s my tendency to defend Morrissey because I’m a fan. I’m just playing devil’s advocate.

You don’t go back on your word.

There’s a long history of revision of opinion in culture. I don’t think that he knew that a letter he wrote to N.M.E. when he was a teenager– that he would grow up to be a pop star and every word he ever wrote would be preserved. The larger point is that now the Ramones are a legend and the music has proven to be lasting and powerful, people come around and say I was into them from the beginning. That must be frustrating for you but also gratifying. If it wasn’t beloved, no one would say anything.

A lot of people at the time were afraid of change. That was the problem.

You were opening for Van Halen and Black Sabbath fairly early on.

1978. Wrong pairing. Let’s put it that way. But back then who could we play with? How many bands were around, you know what I’m saying? But anyway. That’s what we were up against. But for Morrissey, all of a sudden, 40 years later, to convince Rhino to put out a song-selected album that he put together? Give me a break.

I guess they just assumed that they would sell records with his name.

I don’t know why they have to use his name.

Well, this is great. Thank you so much for being so generous with your time and the coffee and pizza. As I said, I’m a huge fan. I brought the book if you would sign it.

What I like about [co-author] Rich Herschlag is that he was able to write the book in my voice. That’s important.

Did you actually type with him?

No. I talked into a tape.

But he caught your voice? That’s hard to do.

Very important. A writer can make you sound like you have the King’s English and I don’t.


Freeplay Sues Four YouTube Multichannel

Networks For Copyright Infringement


Lawsuit      Freeplay, an independent music-licensing company, this week filed lawsuits against four YouTube multichannel networks – Disney’s Maker Studios; AwesomenessTV and its Big Frame division; and BroadbandTV – claiming those platforms infringed hundreds of its copyrighted songs. In the lawsuits, Freeplay claims it previously contacted the four MCNs about licensing the music in question, but the companies were unwilling to negotiate. The suits seek unspecified monetary damages and demand that the infringement cease.

“The systemic misappropriation of its copyrights without authorization has harmed our client,” said Oren Warshavsky, partner with law firm BakerHostetler, which is representing Freeplay. “We seek to right that wrong through this action.”

Interestingly, two other YouTube MCNs – Machinima and Collective Digital Studio – earlier this month filed their own lawsuits against Freeplay, claiming the company is a “copyright troll” that initially offered music it said was free to use, then threatened to sue unless the MCNs entered into licensing deals. Freeplay said those allegations are baseless and without merit.

As reported by Variety, Freeplay Music was founded in 2001 and manages administrative rights to a catalog of “tens of thousands” of songs. The company claims it has issued more than 1.8 million licenses to date.

The lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.


Pandora’s Earnings (Again) Point To

Increasing Costs As The Root Of Its Red Ink


Pandora Mobile      Shares of Pandora last week were slammed after the company reported its Q4 2014 earnings fell short of revenue estimates, and also revealed its revenue picture for Q1:15 would be weaker-than-expected. Motley Fool this week observed that, while Pandora has made some progress in increasing the amount of advertising revenue taken in per hour of music, its net costs continue to rise, as well. The result has led to “continued and growing losses, indicating a severe spending problem that may not have a clear solution.”

As the Fool’s Timothy Green wrote, “Pandora makes a royalty payment for each song it plays, and it attempts to bring in enough advertising dollars per song to pay for both these royalties and its operating expenses.” During the fourth quarter of 2014, the company brought in $48.19 in advertising revenue for every thousand hours of music streamed, an increase from $40.95 in the fourth quarter of 2013, and $32.33 in the fourth quarter of 2013. Meanwhile, mobile-driven dollars made up 78% of Pandora’s revenue during the fourth quarter, and over two years, Pandora has increased the advertising dollars per thousand hours on mobile by nearly 75%, compared to a 16% increase on computers.

These increases, combined with 15% growth in listener hours during the fourth quarter, led to a 33% year-over-year jump in revenue during the fourth quarter. “But all this improved monetization came with a cost,” Green says. “During 2014, Pandora increased its sales and marketing spending by 52.2%, faster than the 44% increase in revenue in 2014. Total operating expenses also rose faster than revenue, jumping nearly 53%.” Add to that the royalty fees, which are likely to increase this year, and Pandora remains mired in a business model from which there is no easy escape. 

With Upcoming Beats Reboot, Apple

Aims To Be The Music Industry


     While analysts continue to speculate on Apple’s reboot of iTunes Radio (with a $3 billion infusion from Beats), company insiders reportedly are eschewing comparisons to Spotify or Pandora. Apple’s goal apparently is to be the music business, not to compete with other services, as it leverages the existing 800 million iTunes and App Store customers from which it already has active credit card numbers.

Apple Insider reports the company is debating pricing for its upcoming subscription music service, looking to reduce the $9.99-per-month rate of the existing Beats Music product. While a price point of $7.99 has been floated for several weeks, major labels are said to be skeptical of reducing the value of music to that level.

Apple is said to be looking to evolve its entire iTunes focus as consumers move away from purchasing music to listening to it via online streaming services. Digital music sales have plummeted since 2013, while music streaming listenership has grown 54% over the same period. With about 1/10 of the world’s population in its iTunes database, Apple clearly believes there’s a way to own the music customer for years to come. 

MySpace Still Gets 300 Million

Video Views A Month…Really!


MySpace      Believe it or not, MySpace – the former king of all social media – still gets 300 million video views a month. That’s good enough to place it at #16 on comScore’s Video Metrix (at least in November)…so what’s up with that?

What’s up is the fact that the digital platform that put social networking on the map is alive and well almost a decade after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. dropped $580 million on it. In an expensive lesson of corporate “bigness,” Murdoch and company failed to grasp the enormity of social media and caused the site to languish through a combination of executive oversight and rigidity that turned off most of its once-loyal users. Taking a $545 million loss, News Corp. sold the emaciated MySpace to internet ad company Specific Media in 2011 for $35 million.

The purchase was a costly bet that ultimately turned into a “series of expensive lost opportunities,” Murdoch told CNN last month. “This was just ahead of Facebook, and [MySpace was] just about to start a video service, which would have been three months ahead of YouTube. [But] we took bad advice. We put in a layer of bureaucracy.”

While MySpace has faded from the online ad world’s general consciousness, the site actually is doing fairly well, especially among young users. Tim Vanderhook, chief executive of parent company Viant Inc., told the Wall Street Journal that the music-oriented platform reaches 50 million unique users every month – more than five times its reach in late 2013. Most of those users are 17 to 25-year-old music and entertainment fans, but the site also sees a lot of return visitors from its mid-2000s heyday, particularly on Thursdays. As the WSJ notes, these folks have old digital photos stored on their old MySpace pages, and they occasionally retrieve those pics for Facebook’s weekly “Throwback Thursday” posting ritual.

“MySpace was an early photo-sharing platform, so we still see a lot of people coming back to access old photos,” Vanderhook told the Journal. “They may not visit every day but they come back once a week or once a month.” 

Digital Music Streaming Keeps Losing $$$

…So Why Do Labels Think It’s The Future?


Music Business      While music sales continue to slide,  music consumers increasingly are listening to Pandora and Spotify – even as those companies (and others) seem to hemorrhage money on a daily basis. While it may appear short-sighted for record label execs to place their industry’s fate in the hands of companies that could drag them down under the weight of performance fees, the lucrative nature of music licensing presents a profitable business model in a post-album world.

As Paul Resnikoff, editor of Digital Music News (no relation to this publication) recently pointed out, “nobody’s making any money in digital music” – from songwriters and performers, to music services that had hoped to ease the transition from physical to digital with a thriving music economy.

As summarized by USA Today:

* Pandora continues to lose money each quarter amid sky-high royalty payment charges. (See separate story, above.) In its fourth fiscal quarter, Pandora reported a net loss of $30.4 million despite a 44% jump in revenue of $920.8 million. Pandora now claims a record 81.5 million monthly listeners.

* Music download sales, once considered the savior to declining CD sales, have seen their sales peak. Unit sales fell 12.5% in 2014, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and look to fall even further this year as more consumers look to cloud-based subscription services.

* Spotify, the world’s most popular paid music service, with 15 million subscribers, sits atop a heap of similar services struggling to find audiences, including Rdio and Rhapsody. Still, Spotify lost $80 million on revenues of about $1 billion in its most recent earnings filing.

While Apple could bring innovation and direction to its much-anticipated new streaming service, company executives have to weigh the risk of diving completely into the streaming pool at the risk of damaging download sales altogether. Insiders report the music service – minus the Beats name – will be built into the iOS8 operating system so the service will show up in iTunes and on the iPhone and iPad Music app – one of four key icons on the home screen.

iTunes “needs to be in streams,” DMN‘s Resnikoff says. “The conversation is moving forward without them.” 


A publication of Bunzel Media Resources © 2015


Attorneys For BMI And Pandora Offer

Opening Statements In Rate-Setting Trial


Gavel      The much-anticipated rate court trial pitting BMI against Pandora opened in New York yesterday (Feb. 10) with lawyers for both sides arguing over the percentage of revenue that must be paid for playing music and the term for which a license agreement applies. BMI is seeking a rate of 2.5% of total revenue and a four-year period, while Pandora maintains it should pay 1.75%, the same rate it has paid for years, over a five-year period. The burden of proof here is on BMI to justify the rate increase it is seeking.

At the heart of the rate-setting case are fundamental questions about cultural content in the digital age. While the internet offers the possibility for vastly increased distribution of music and other cultural works, it also has proved less efficient at making money, setting up the battle between content producers and their agents against digital distributors.

Attorney Scott Edelman (of Milbank, Tweed, Hadly and McCloy) said the 2.5% fee that Yahoo’s Launchcast was ordered to pay to ASCAP during a similar proceeding in 2008 should be applied to Pandora in this case. By contrast, Pandora’s lawyer – Kenneth Steinthal, of King & Spalding – pointed out that ruling was appealed and the rate was never affirmed, but rather remanded back to the District Court.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, BMI and ASCAP operate under a 1941 consent decree with the Justice Department that requires money disputes with music users to be settled by a “rate judge,” currently two judges in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Judge Denise Cote, who oversees ASCAP-related cases, last March in a similar case sided mostly with Pandora, ruling that the streaming service should pay 1.85% of revenue a year for five years.

The BMI case is being heard by Judge Louis L. Stanton. 

Recording Academy’s Portnow

Calls For Fair Performance Fees


     Using last Sunday’s Grammy Awards as a public platform, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow (left) was joined by recording artist Jennifer Hudson and OneRepublic singer/producer Ryan Tedder to push for increased compensation for artists in the digital age.

As reported by Billboard, Portnow said new technology and distribution would have to adapt financially to the new digital landscape. Noting that “music has tremendous value in our lives,” he observed that, “while ways of listening to music evolve, we must remember that music matters in our lives, and that new technology must pay artists fairly.

“What if we’re all watching the Grammys a few years from now and there’s no Best New Artist award because there aren’t enough talented artists and songwriters who are actually able to make a living from their craft?” he asked. “At a recent congressional hearing, I made the case that laws…must strongly protect those who create the soundtrack of our lives.”

Hudson and Tedder echoed Portnow’s call for increased performance royalties, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler called attention to “a major battle going on in Washington between music creators, who are fighting to keep control of our music, and tech and media companies, who want to use our music for paying very little – or for free.”


At Grammys, Sony/ATV’s Bandier

Calls For Fair Songwriter Compensation


     While some artists this year seemed to use the Grammy Awards as a personal P.R. platform, Sony/ATV Music Publishing Chairman/ CEO Marty Bandier took the opportunity to call for more digital dollars to go to songwriters. Bandier was presented with the President’s Merit Award at the Recording Academy’s annual pre-Grammy Gala last weekend, and reiterated his mission to secure publishers and songwriters a bigger slice of the digital pie. Noting that he was the first music publisher to receive the President’s Merit Award, he said he’d like to thank all songwriters everywhere.

“This includes not only those songwriters I have worked with, but also those I have never met and those who came before me but whose words and music will nonetheless live forever,” he explained. “Unlike other forms of art – and to me there is no doubt songwriting is an art form – few people know who created a classic song, unless it is the performer.”

Bandier went on to state that songwriters are not being adequately compensated for their creations, nor have they  received the credit they deserve. “While I am honored that this award is celebrating my own success, I would not be here tonight without the songwriters who I have cared for and worked with. They and their songs have inspired me all these years. And it is because of them that I have made it my number one priority to ensure they are fairly paid for what they do.” [Read more: Complete Music Update

Bridge Ratings: Expanded Streaming

Playlist Augments AM/FM Experience


     When it comes to online radio streams of broadcast radio, would listeners prefer alternatives to the simulcasting of the broadcast content? That’s the question Bridge Ratings  sought to answer last month through a study that found a significant upside for radio programmers who offer content on the internet that differs from their on-air broadcasts. According to company President Dave Van Dyke, upsides to this strategy could include:

  • Increased usage of the internet radio streams by current listeners,
  • Increased awareness and usage of unique streams by new listeners,
  • High conversion rates of new internet listeners to brand champions of the broadcast platform, and
  • Increased revenue.

For this study, Bridge Ratings studied six radio stations covering Top 40/CHR, Country, and Urban Adult Contemporary. The research firm captured listening occasions and time-spent-listening for the simulcast station listening first, then built alternate internet radio versions with the same general format profile. These alternate stations allowed listeners to customize their experience by adjusting the music served to them by percentage of music types and eras within the scope of that which was being offered by the broadcast brand. The custom stations included audio branding and no personalities, and also featured reduced commercial content of six 15-second commercials per hour with no more than two commercials in any break.

Details of the study can be found here, but essentially it showed that broadcast radio has options when it comes to the type of internet offering stations provide for their listeners. Specifically, the study suggested there was greater interest in an online option that differs from AM/FM programming that’s simply repurposed online. Interestingly,  use of the customized internet versions did not reduce listening to the broadcast platform stations. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the sample said the customized version enhanced their brand experience, which tended to improve top-of-mind choice when listening to broadcast radio. 

As Apple Is Set To Dominate Music Biz,

Artists Fear Their Income Will Suffer


     Apple’s much-anticipated post-Beats subscription music service has been described by analysts and critics as everything from “too little, too late” to a Spotify-killing game changer. No matter how consumers take to the new digital music platform, artists are growing increasingly wary of Apple’s clout with the major record labels, as well as what might happen when the world’s largest seller of digital music begins to push streams rather than sales. While details of the new service have yet to be announced, nagging questions include whether artists will be stiffed by music streams that pay them only a fraction of a penny and, if music sales continued to plummet, will those artists have any choice other than to fall in line?

As reported by the International Business Times, there’s increasing evidence Apple has reached a label licensing deal that would set a monthly subscription rate of $7.99, far less than other services. Additionally, the streaming service would be integrated with both Apple and Android devices.

“It is not a done deal,” Tom Silverman, founder of Tommy Boy Records, told the Times, explaining that whatever the monthly rate, it primarily will benefit the major labels rather than artists or independent recording companies. Noting that Apple has over 500 million customers worldwide could lead to a stranglehold on the streaming music environment, he said the service will be 20 times as big as Spotify within a month. “All people have to do is press a button that says, ‘Yes I want it,'” he said. “They have this great chance to get a high conversion rate.” 

Onkyo Music Offers Hi-Res Albums,

Tracks Through New Download Store


     Audio Visual specialist Onkyo has expanded its existing e-onkyo music service outside of its native Japan to offer high resolution music for download in the U.S., U.K., and Germany by partnering with 7Digital for a new high-resolution music download store. Aptly named the Onkyo Music Store, the online service reportedly offers hundreds of thousands of tracks in 24-bit 44.1kHz – 192kHz audio, and millions more ripped as CD quality 16-bit FLAC files. In a company statement, Onkyo said it is seeking to make the store the world’s largest hi-res platform, which  currently can be found in beta form at

Unlike some hi-res audio services (e.g. Qoboz and Deezer’s Elite subscription option), Onkyo Music is a download platform only. Users pay for individual tracks or entire albums, but there is no streaming option. The site also has a search option to filter for hi-res tracks only, or to include the CD quality files.

Tracks and albums purchased through the Onkyo Store will be available to be downloaded to multiple devices, and also are stored in a cloud locker to re-download at any time. Universal Music is the first of the major labels to offer its content on the platform, and Onkyo reportedly is negotiating with Warner Music and Sony, as well. [Read more here


A publication of Bunzel Media Resources © 2015
Reed Bunzel, Editor and Publisher