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.)


13 Comments for this post

  1. Jane says:

    How many albums make it to Diamond status? A lot?

    I always hear about a Gold or Platinum album, but very rarely do I hear about a Diamond selling album. Is it rare? Or am I just not paying much attention?

  2. Becca says:

    Yes, a lot!

    Here’s a list of those who have achieved it. The award itself is really lovely, too, a big crystal pyramid thingy. I know because one of our artists had his shipped to me. I know, I know, I should have kept it.

  3. starz says:

    Becca, I checked out your Diamond link, and I’m a bit chagrined to see Britney at the same level as Patsy Cline. Ouch.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You could have put the Tom Petty version of that Byrds song as an homage to me and my week ahead, but I will forgive you because I love Floyd and Everclear.

    Rock on,


  5. Becca says:

    Starz, that’s just Crazy. Oh bwahahahahaha!

    KP, I almost did, however, they only had his live version as well. Without a studio version available, I had to go with the original, albeit, live, version.

  6. soxy says:

    I am totaly one of those people. I have the theme song from Beverly Hills 90210 on my phone. When I hear it, I think “Rock on! That is so cool. I love that show…wait, that’s me ringing.” Then I wait until I can do the Brandon fake punching Dylan thing, and I pick up the phone.

  7. penguindeb says:

    soxy- you are adorable.

  8. Becca says:

    And to think I made her ROTM without even knowing that.

  9. penguindeb says:

    …or that i know exactly where int he opening sequence that fake punch is… sigh. the reruns used to be on sunday mornings at 10.

  10. Anonymous says:

    How weird. We were just discussing Luke “Forehead” Perry yesterday. I insisted he always had a big forehead. Mr. Kp thinks his hair line is receding.

    Eh, what does he know? He was too busy fretting over Donna’s virginity to notice anyone else.

    The Peach Pit 4ever,


  11. penguindeb says:

    oh KP that made me laugh!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I know, this post is sooo last week, but I have been slack with my MJ reading (how is this even possible?) If it makes you feel better, I didn’t check my email for 3 days either. lol My husband was having a heart attack over that one. Why? I mean if he had something to tell me, why not just tell me? Why email it? I will never understand men, especially IT types like my hubster.

    Anyways, the point of my post is this: Becca, thanks for sharing your side as to why the RIAA doesn’t suck as bad as everone says it does. I am a believer that there are two sides to every story and I enjoyed immensely hearing the other side of this one. Now when MrHurley gets on his soapbox about this particular issue (he has many, many soapboxes) I will have some perspective.

    by the way, my ringtone is the theme from Harry Potter. The instrumental part. It gives me such joy to hear it, because I am a complete dork. But the funny part is watching when people recognize it. I can instantly tell a fan by the look on their face. (that is, when I am not in a library or othe inappropriate setting….I do try and remember to turn the ringer off, people! Sometimes it just slips my mind, sorry)


  13. Becca says:

    MsH, I’m glad to hear that. I know the RIAA is vilified but they are really the fall guys for us, the labels. I understand people just want to listen to a song sometimes to decide if they wish to buy it but downloading a song rather than buying it is really the same as stealing it. Then the artist and the people who spend all their time investing in and promoting that artist don’t get paid for their hard work. Luckily, now we have lots of good paid download sites where you can pay for your music and avoid viruses and spyware as well! Everybody wins.

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