Posts Tagged ‘greed’

You may not feel much sympathy for her because of her lifestyle, but the events following her death are disturbing.

Found this great piece from David Martin @ The Faster Times. Seems he found the immediate “marketing” of Amy Winehouse’s death as disgusting as I did:

The news of Amy Winehouse’s death on Saturday no doubt triggered a range of emotions: Misery and grief among her familyand relatives and sorrow and shock (although many will have anticipated it) for her fans.

But, sadly, for some organisations who thrive off the Winehouse brand, sentiment was quickly overridden by the potential for  big bucks.

Microsoft has come off the worst in trying to market the “Rehab” singer’s death. The computing company’s  UK-based Xbox PR branch tweeted, “Remember Amy Winehouse by downloading the ground-breaking ‘Back to Black’ over at Zune…”.

After receiving enraged replies, @tweetbox360 was forced to backpedal, apologising for the “commercially motivated” tone of the tweet, presumably asserting that it was purely compassionate.

However, while Microsoft is feeling the brunt of a gross error in shamelessly marketing Amy Winehouse’s death, neither Apple nor Amazon can exactly claim to be perched high up on the moral pedal stool.

The iTunes Store has its own “Remembering Amy Winehouse” banner, while Amazon’s MP3 store has what at first seems like an obituary for the singer whose career was invested with drug addiction, but quickly sours into an unconvincing marketing pitch and a link to just about everything she ever released, vinyl and deluxe editions included.

Disgusting lack of compassion shown by Corporate America in my opinion.

Marketing the death of an icon is no new practice for any media organisation involved in music, print or whatnot.

But now, in the era of Web 2.0 and social media, where companies are appealing directly to those who are willing to be appealed to, consumers don’t need to bear witness to the cold and emotionless marketing ploys in exploiting an artist’s death.

Sure, everyone will want to use the “Winehouse” name to their marketing advantage now – in some respects, this article included –  but if not done tastefully you risk coming across as the gleeful distant cousin who only turns up at a grandparent’s funeral because their name was on the will.

Tweetbox360’s Twitter feed wasn’t the only one having a bad day, however. Fans also lambasted the magazine Esquire, after its  style blog implored its readers to “Meet the stylish man who inspired Amy Winehouse” via Twitter. The “stylish man” being Blake Fielder-Civil, Winehouse’s abusive ex-husband, who, the article maintains, “will be great, even if he’s still a bit fked up…”.

It’s one thing trying to market the music that made Amy Winehouse great and earned adoring fans the world over. It’s another when you try to market an article that glorifies the trendy clothes worn by the man who beat her and reportedly introduced her to the hard drugs that inevitably led to her death.

I was pretty much taken aback with social media coverage of her passing. I had immediately noticed the distasteful marketing blitz sites like Amazon engaged in.

Anyone who has ever read my blog knows full well that I don’t think highly of corporate entities. I pretty much think of them as heartless, soulless beasts with no allegiance to anyone or anything other than the “bottom line”.

This behavior has done nothing to change that.

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Napster Inc. and the music industry came one step closer to ending their long ass war earlier this month. The company announced plans to license music from three of the five major label record companies for its upcoming subscription service.

The new service, due later this summer, is now scheduled to provide music from BMG Entertainment, EMl Recorded Music, and Warner Music Group, whose rosters include such high-profile artists as Christina Aguilera, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beatles, and Madonna.

Napster plans to license the music through MusicNet, the joint venture formed by the three record companies in April in order to make their music available online.

lt seems that while the idea was a good one, the trio of companies couldn’t get the damn thing to work. That being the case, they did what they always do when a new technology threatens their bottom line, they bought it out and infused it into their system (remember the Digital Audio Tape people?).

When the new subscription based service launches, users who pay the monthly fee-an estimated $4.95-will not be able to get music from any of the three companies libraries. The only files available on the service will be the indie labels and anything from other labels that slips through Napster’s filters.

In order to get MusicNet content-which apparently will only be available from MusicNet’s centralized servers, not through Napster’s traditional file-sharing methods users will have to pay an additional monthly fee.

That fee is expected to be around the cost of a single CD, MusicNet CEO Robert Glaser said. MusicNet will provide both streaming and downloadable music, but only in a yet—to-be determined secured format, not as MP3s.

In statements that cast some doubt on MusicNet’s deal with Napster, EMI and Warner both said Tuesday that they would not make their music available to Napster unless they were satisfied with the new system’s copyright protection measures.

But Hank Barry, CEO of Napster, said that he was certain that the record companies would be pleased with the end product, claiming that such concerns “would not be an issue? However precarious, Napster’s deal with MusicNet is exclusive, Barry said.

That means that the two other major label groups, Sony and Universal-who have a competing online-distribution venture called Duet-would have to join MusicNet if they want to provide their music through Napster.

“What we are trying to do is to go from the chaos and the confusion and contentiousness of the way this market’s been, to a market where the consumer experience, and artists and rights-holders get what they want{’ says Glaser. Yeah, and if you buy you probably think Mayor Oberndorf and her cronies on the City Council have our best interests at heart.

Simply put, things aren’t going to get easier anytime soon. With the online music company MP3.com having sold itself to the French conglomerate Vivendi (parent company to the Universal Music Group) for a whopping $372 million, things are only getting cloudier. It’s another case of “Let’s just buy what we are too inept to create.”

Vivendi now has the online infrastructure it needs to launch Duet with Sony, in direct competition with AOL’s MusicNet.  My, oh my, how things get so complicated so damn quick.

The biggest surprise to me out of all of this is that it was such a surprise to many people. After all, the business does have a long and storied history of snuffing out new technologies that are perceived to be a threat to profits. And when they don’t snuff them out they just throw their vast financial resources at the problem and buy and the thing out.

Audiotapes, DATs, and now MP3s have all been branded “pirating techniques” in the past and now all three are vital parts of the industry. So when Napster hit big late in 2000, they were set on suing to suppress rather than integrate the software.

They trotted the notional “vaporware” in front of an increasingly senile Sen. Orin Hatch and touted bogus deals that were all sound & fury.  All the while crucifying the technology in front of Congress AOLTime Warner, EMI, and BMG formed MusciNet while Sony and Universal tried to launch Duet.

As is par for the course, neither looked very promising. So the next logical step was for the MusicNet deal with Napster and Vivendi’s purchase of MP3.com, which it quite ironically could have had at half the price if it hadn’t forced the company to spend almost a hundred million dollars in legal fees and court settlements. How does the saying go? lf ya can’t beat ’em, swallow ’em up.

As the dust settles on the online music landscape, there appears to be little left that the big labels haven’t either bought or broken. Napster traffic is plummeting as the court—purchased, er l  mean mandated, filtering systems have made it almost impossible to find the music you are looking for. Among the top-10 music sites, only two don’t belong to the labels themselves.

In retrospect, the labels probably owe Napster a big freakin’ pat on the back for corroborating online music in a rapid and conclusive fashion. lf it had been up to the labels themselves, we’d have had to wait to the end of the decade to be where we are at now.

But let’s not get all cute and cuddly just yet. There will still be some intricate dealings when it comes to multi-artist collaborations, royalty rights to publishers and artists, and the obvious conflict between running a distribution business and a content business. “That’s why record companies can’t own radio stations.” Says David Goldberg, CEO of Launch.

While it finally appears that the proverbial starter’s gun has been fired, these bad boys need to understand that the race is on. Whether they will launch later this summer or not, which seems increasingly less likely, Duet and MusicNet need to understand one thing.

Move fast gentlemen, or in a world where the underground is fine-tuning its file-swapping programs that are harder to pin down than Napster was, you’ll endup like the Jamaican BobsledTeam.

Dead last mon.

Garth Brooks is no stranger to weird decisions in his long decorated, multi-platinum wrapped career.

To quote myself, “Garth’s not content with just playing the role he’s given and being a Country music star. He’s a true artist, a rebel, a maverick, a… bad decision maker.”

His latest “wtf moment” comes in the form of an alter-ego, painfully cliché, alt-rocker by the name of Chris Gaines.

Paramount Pictures and Brooks’ own company Red Strokes Entertainment are in the process of creating a film that Brooks will have the leading role in.

This film, entitled The Lamb , is to revolve around rock-star Chris Gaines and his experience of the “trials” of being famous.

The film is set to feature Brooks starring as the fictional figure. As part viral marketing and part publicity stunt, Brooks has brought the Gaines character into our “reality”.

But, much to Brooks chagrin, the Chris Gaines character is just a terrible representation of what Brooks and his team seem to perceive as “alt-rock”. This especially being the case when they dressed him like a stand-in for a member of Marilyn Manson, Rammstein or any industrial metal band.

Love him or hate him, Garth Brooks knows how to write chart topping songs. To be blunt, he should have stuck with what he knows. Sadly, he didn’t and we are left with this poorly executed publicity stunt. It has done nothing but lead people to question Brook’s mental health rather  than garner interest for The Lamb.

The main reason the Chris Gaines scheme failed isn’t just because it was probably a bad idea from the beginning but because it was done totally half-assed (which is STILL better than being four-assed…but I will get to that later).

There are a couple of possible ways this could have been handled differently. Option #1 is that Garth could have tried to keep his Clark Kent identity a secret. This record was released on Capitol Records. Capitol could have promoted him as a new artist, put all the backing you need to get on MTVH1 and Clear Channel radio.

They could have pushed for late night talk show performances and interviews. He could have played smaller venues and record store performances.

Once Chris made a name for himself, they could have pulled back the curtain and it might have actually been kind of “slick”.

Option #2 is Garth could have just said “I’d like to make a pop album.” He could have released it under his own name and promoted it just like his country albums. It’s not as much fun, but it could have expanded the world’s view of him as just a country artist.

However, had he gone with either of these instead of the lukewarm middle path, there is still one hurdle to get past.

In order for option #1 to have worked, the songs would have needed to not suck. In order for option #2 to have worked… the songs would have needed to not suck.

Here’s the thing with the music on this album. It’s not all that horrible by most commercial standards. I bet your average soccer mom would find some stuff on here that she likes. They listen to Michael Bolton and Bonnie Raitt and this crap could fly just well as that crap.

The biggest problem with the thing is its utter lack of continuity.

The first single, a sappy Sade-type ballad called ‘Lost In You’ is not what one would expect from either country music hero or an aging rocker.  Maybe if it was more like a rock ballad, it wouldn’t have been such a stretch.  But it’s more like adult pop, in the vein of Eric Claptons recent hit ‘Change The World’ (same writers).

The B-side is some kind of rap redux of The Youngbloods ‘Get Together’ called ‘Right Now’, that left more people scratching their heads than grooving. Seriously, Garth Brooks trying to spit a few bars?

While there are worse things in life than being told than your song is as emotionally haunting as the ones put out by Sade, that isn’t exactly a glowing endorsement for a “rocker”.

This stuff is the most boring, we-need-a-song-in-the-background-of-a-restaurant-scene-in-a-soap-opera music that’s ever been written.

It’s not worthy of being one of the long blond pubic hairs that comprised Michael Bolton’s former flowing mullet. So while it’s not all that horrible, ninety-nine percent of it is.

Beyond the fact that the music was not very good in general, there is another glaring problem with the songs here and it would have been even more noticeable had the movie been made. The songs on this CD are supposed to represent the entire career of the artist formerly known as Garth. Chris had released 5 albums in his career and this CD, being a greatest hits, collected 2-3 songs from each of these albums.

So why do the songs recorded in 1986 sound so much like the ones he recorded in 1999? Of course we know why; because in reality they were all recorded at the same time. But when you’re trying to create a work of fiction, you have to pay attention to the details.

The music of 1986 does not sound like the music of 1999. The music a person makes when they are 19 is not the same music they make when they’re 32. Recording the “old” songs with a current sound is sort of the equivalent of Moses wearing a Members Only jacket when he parted the Red Sea because that’s what Charlton Heston wore on the set that day.

This lack of attention to detail is indicative of the half-baked nature of this whole project and in the end leads to its downfall.

My entire reason for existence as a music critic is to inform you about, and recommend to you, albums which I think you should listen to or avoid like they carry the bubonic plague.

So let me be perfectly clear on this one.

Like Doctor Alphonse Mephesto’s infamous four-assed monkey of South Park fame, this album is an abomination and has no place in the world of man.