Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Come in here, dear boy, have a plaque

Filed under : Music
On June 16, 2006
At 12:01 pm
Comments : 13

Despite being tired and not just a little hung over, I thought I’d tell you about My Fun Week in the Music Biz. Earlier this week I attended a press conference for the new RIAA Master Ringtone Award. Let me back up and define all my terms here.

Sort of like the Yankees, this is an organization in my life that I deeply adore, but yet, is reviled by all of you. I understand. They sued your grandmother and stopped Napster from being free (it is again, but it’s not the Napster you knew in 2000, is it?). The RIAA is our lobbying organization in DC. I’m sure your industry has its own politically astute people in DC to look after your interests and you are pleased that they are doing so. I have good personal friends over there but that’s not why I’m saying this. The RIAA rocks, sorry. Downloading is theft and your grandmother deserved it. [/end rant]

Master Ringtones
You know when you’re sitting in Starbucks, peacefully sipping your twelve dollar latte, musing about the vagaries of life, when suddenly, the most irritating tune imaginable emanates from someone’s messenger bag? And the person seems shocked, just shocked, that the fact that they carry a cell phone has led to an actual call, so they have to go digging deep into the nether regions of said messenger bag to retrieve it so that you end up hearing the whole damn song twice? Right, well you pay a few dollars for those ringtones and the sales are tracked.

When you hear the phrase “Gold record,” what do you think? You think, “that sold a lot but I don’t know how many. I think it’s a lot.” You probably think that when a CD reaches that level of sales, whatever that level may be, it just automatically becomes Gold or Platinum. Wrong! One of the ways the RIAA promotes our industry is to advertise high sales with these awards. When a CD reaches 500,000 in sales, the label submits evidence of this to an auditing agency which then makes a decision and reports back to the RIAA. Then the RIAA officially certifies it Gold (500k), Platinum (1 million) multi-Platinum (multiples of 1 million) or Diamond (10 million).

So lets put that all together, shall we? If you’re now thinking of those people on the Electric Company making words (a, ward, award) then you’re about the same age as me. Anyway, the RIAA will now be certifying ringtones with Gold and Platinum awards. Yay!

So the press conference was held in the Time Warner Center and had lots of press (they had pads and cameras), cell phone company execs (they wore suits), label execs (they wore funky suits), and other industry people (we were casual). First the announcement was made and then a few artists were given big fancy plaques. They were kind of B-list. They had Bow Wow, Bubba Sparxx, Dem Franchize Boys, and Rick Ross. That’s the thing about ringtones. If you have a big song, you’ll sell a lot of ringtones. Career artists have lots of songs, not always frantically catchy ones. Many times, a popular catchy hit comes from a one hit or five hit wonder.

But it was OK, Dem Franchize Boys’ matching sunny shirts made up for everything. They made me want a glass of fruit juice. Luckily, Whole Foods was two floors below us.

Anyway, later on in the week, I went to a show by one of our artists. Lots of people think this is an amazing fringe benefit of working at a label, and it is. But really, it’s work. First off, I don’t love all our artists and many of them I’d never choose to go see on my own dime or with my own free time. Also, you are there to show the artist to people who need to see them, so you have to schmooze. The publicity department brings press people. Promotion people bring radio station programmers. Sales people bring retail buyers. Then you have to be “on” the whole show.

But here’s the part of shows that I love no matter who is playing. You get to see the audience. We at the label toil all day, trying in any way possible to reach you people and get you to discover this artist who we think you’d love if you only knew they existed. But I never see you. You buy the CD at Tower or iTunes and listen in your car or in your room, and I never see who you are. You’re just a number on my spreadsheet. But when I go to a show and you’re there and your eyes are fixed on the singer and you’re waving your arms and your face is shining and you’re singing every word, I’m watching you. Don’t freak out, I’m just happy that maybe something we did helped you to reach this moment. Of course, I can see you because you’re sweating on the floor and I’m up on the balcony. But don’t feel envious. You’re cuddling with your SO and I’m schmoozing some rep. But I do get free drink tickets. Don’t hate me because I’m hung over.

Think labels suck? Musicians seem to share your opinion. And yet, they keep signing those contracts.

Pink Floyd – Have A Cigar

Everclear – You Make Me Feel Like A Whore

The Byrds – So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star [Live]

(Title comes from Have a Cigar, for you youngsters.)