Archive for August, 2000

Pasadena. We have a problem.

Entertainers going afoul of the law is nothing new. Violent and erratic behavior has gone hand in hand with the music industry for decades. The two are about as inseparable as George Clooney & Mark Wahlberg have been of late.

No matter what generation or what genre you choose to draw upon you can always find something to support this position. The colorful and flamboyant personalities that musicians always seem to possess, along with the hype they generate, pretty much guarantee that fact.

The 80’s saw tens of thousands of rabid Menudo fans (if ya can believe that one) trampling dozens to death. In ’69, the supposed “Summer of Love”, the Rolling Stones saw one of their fans
stabbed to death by their own security guards.

Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis had so much contempt for one another that even when
touring they had to be separated at all times. Hell, if you go back to the Renaissance you can find
accounts of young composers engaging in duels with one another.

So in this era of all things “Xtreme,” why should anyone be the least bit surprised that an out-
burst of violence forced police to shut down last months Source Hip-Hop Awards?

I certainly wasn’t.

A The August 22nd show was barely an hour into its taping when witnesses and police claim that
no less than a half dozen fights broke out in the audience. Before anyone knew what happened
between 75 and 100 people had stormed the stage in a ”Jerry Springer-esque” like fashion.

Thankfully, after all of the dust had settled reports of injuries were limited to minor cuts &
abrasions. But the blow dealt to the already “thuggish” reputation of hip-hop may have been a criticalone. And it doesn’t help matters that no one cangive an adequate explanation of what started all of this.

The awards show was televised as scheduled on the 29th of August, with added portions
edited into the footage already taped at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. All footage capturing
the violence in the crowd was excluded, though we look forward to seeing it on the next installment of Real TV.

Please note the sarcasm.

Not wanting to point a finger at just the urban music scene, all of this comes on the heels of
what was described as organized chaos at a Chicago Limp Bizkit/Cypress Hill concert venue.

A free-for-all for tickets? That's insane in the membrane...

About 6,000 fans showed up the day before the two gave a free performance (sponsored by the beleaguered net company Napster) to wait in line for  approximately 3,500 tickets. When the proverbial dinner bell rang all hell broke loose.

One witness summed it up by saying “whoever ran the fastest and pushed the hardest got the tickets- nothing else mattered”.

“A lot of people wanted to get out of line [when it got crazy]” says Brian Dugan, from Gurnee, Illinois. “l was pushed from my wheel chair twice in the frenzy. l was lucky the 4  or 5 guys behind me were more interested in keeping the crowd from crushing me than they were in getting their tickets. It could have been a real bad scene.”

Though no one was seriously injured, the incident raises serious concerns about the safety
measures taken at these events. The list of tragedies at these things is a long amd dubious one. The Who concert in ’79 that saw several people die, the aforementioned Menudo & Stones concerts, a 1991 charity basketball game at NYC college in which 9 attendees lost their lives, and this years mishap at Copenhagen are but a few.

You. People. Are. Idiots. Go jump off a tall building now please.

For whatever reason, when you combine a ‘lil alcohol, a lot of people, and some loud music you are pretty much rolling the dice. And no single event in recent years reflects this belief more than last years Woodstock Music Festival.

Approximately 500 people that can best be described as ”wastes of genetic material” ruined what had been an extraordinary experience for the quarter of a million sane people at the festival.

Yet despite millions of dollars in property damage, four reported rapes, dozens of sexual assaults, and countless injuries, only seven (count ’em, 7) arrests were made. Anyone who saw the footage, and we all did thanks to MTV, should have been nothing short of disgusted by what they saw.

Disturbingly, there seems to be somewhat of a trend to this whole thing. Fans and musicians alike act as if they are engaged in some psychotic form of one-upsman-ship in which the goal is to be as reckless and irresponsible as possible.

Whether it’s burning everything in sight or brawling in the stands, it’s gotten out of hand.

Even more troubling about the recent fracas at the Source Awards is this. No genre has seen more hardship and tragedy than the hip-h0p world has in recent years. Big Pun’s death due to natural causes in February should have shown everyone that life throws enough cuwe balls at us, claiming loved ones along the way, that we don’t need to make matters worse with all of this foolishness.

Frankly, I am sick of hearing about young, talented artists that are taken from us in their prime for trivial reasons like who dissed whom. ‘Pac, Biggie, Freaky Tah, and Big L. were all taken from us prematurely and without reason.

When Tah was gunned down one quote in the New York Times claimed that the rapper was “gunned down like a dog in the streets.” That started me thinking. When was the last time
you remember reading about a dog that took three to the chest or one in the dome? You can’t.

lf some nut case were to pull a Dylan Klebold on some canines, PETA, the SPCA, and a slew of movie stars would raise such a clamor that they’d bury the guy under the jail. Meanwhile, some hip-hop star gets cut down and it’s just “the same ‘ol, same ‘ol.”

Gone but not forgotten.

We’ve gotten to the point where we are so desensitized to it that it borders on the surreal. Now the ball is in all of our courts. Fans, artists, promoters, you name it. We all need to do what we can to make sure that the problem doesn’t get any further out of hand.

Performers can tone down violent sentiments in their work a little bit, promoters and venues can be a more responsible with the serving of alcohol at shows, and the fans can start acting more like adults and less like adolescent teens every time they go to a Red Hot Chili Peppers show.

We all got ourselves into this mess so we all have to do what we can to get us out of it. Take heed people because the stakes are high: human lives.


Recently, two federal appellate court judges granted Napster, Inc. a stay allowing the wildly popular music trading service to remain online.  Well, temporarily at least.

The service was facing a deadline for shutting down after a lower court judge in the California federal circuit had sided with the Recording Industry Association of America, which claims Napster allows users to violate copyrights.

The July 28th ruling by the appellate court means Napster can remain in operation until the lawsuit goes to trial.  No trial date has been set.

“I am very happy and grateful that we do not have to turn away our 20 million users and we can continue to help artists,” says Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning.  “We will keep working and hoping for the best.”

But not all artists seem to think the Internet has their best interests in mind.  “They claim that this is going to help small label or unsigned artists but I’m not seeing that,” says Bob McNaughton, lead vocals/guitarist for the local group Luckytown.

“Most unsigned acts and indie group’s target audience are college students.  They’re the ones using Napster.  They (Napster) keep claiming that sales are up but that is for mainstream groups.  I’d like to see what those figures look like solely for the college demographic.”

Those sentiments have been expressed by a number of acts, from every genre, that call Hampton Roads their home.

RIAA President Hilary Rosen was disappointed with the last-minute reprieve but issued a statement saying:  “We remain confident that the court will ultimately affirm once it has had the opportunity to review the facts and the law.”

Prior to the stay being issued, hundreds of thousands of outraged Napster users had threatened to boycott the record industry in retaliation for its lawsuit.  One website found more than 75,000 people vowing not to buy music unless the RIAA dropped its lawsuit against Napster.  It has been estimated that if each person claiming to support a boycott went through with the threat it would cost the industry tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

Additionally, new file-sharing sites have begun to spring up that are NOT based within U.S. borders, thus not bound by our laws concerning intellectual property rights.

From the looks of it this one is going to drag itself in an O.J.-like manner so you might want to tune in next week.  Same Nap-time, same Nap-channel.

On July 28th A U.S. District Court of Appeals in San Francisco granted a temporary stay of an injunction that would have effectively shut the MP3-swapping service down.

Napster, Inc. filed for the stay on the 27th, less than 24 hours after a federal judge had ordered the company to remove all copyrighted material from its service pending a trial this fall concerning the copyright  infringement lawsuit filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

In court documents, two circuit court judges for the Court of Appeals noted that Napster had “raised substantial questions of first impression going to both the merits and the form of the injunction” and granted an emergency stay.

Prince, who was one of the first artists to turn to the Web as a means of distributing his music, has posted an essay titled “4 The Love Of Music” at his site in which he comments on the matter.

In response to a recent Los Angeles Times interview with Richard D. Parsons, President of Time Warner Inc., Prince notes that the heart of the Napster issues isn’t copyright infringement, but lost revenue streams.

“The record company doesn’t really care about [copyright infringement],” he claims.  “All it cares about is some kid downloading the MP3 file for the one hit song on the latest release they put out with a huge promotional campaign, hoping to sell 2 million copies when there is only one decent song on it.  They don’t care about the principle of it, they care about the lost revenues.”

In the lengthy essay he predicts that as the digital revolution continues fans and users will find a way to reimburse the artists for downloading their works, a position touted by Billy Corgan, Courtney Love and of all people Stephen King.

Throughout the piece he reiterates his belief that Napster has helped bring the hypocrisy of the current system to light and that it will help bring an end to the exploitation of artists by their labels.

In the next phase of the injunction hearing, the RIAA will be responding to the opening brief Napster delivered to the full appellate court on August 18th.  The RIAA’s responding brief is due on September 8th, with Napster having the option of replying to that brief on September 12th.

Oral arguments before the appeals court will then be scheduled for the next available calendar days after all briefs have been submitted and reviewed.  I’ll keep you posted.