Pia Toscano Leaves American Idol !

Pia Toscano was kicked off of American Idol tonight after the American viewing public displayed their musical ignorance yet again.   Now, I’m not saying that American Idol is art in high form, rather American Idol is art in …. popular form.   So I suppose it’s OK that Pia was a victim of what must have been her talent and good lucks, because she was one of the favorites for those of us who … know music… : )

OK, sure this is *partly* an SEO post hoping to see how JoeDuck can rank for searches for Pia Toscano and American Idol searches, but it’s also a reflection of my sadness at Pia’s departure from the show.    I’m a fan of the show and most of the family has been watching it for many years.   Pia’s departure is … a tragedy!

My working hypothesis is that there’s a bias in favor of the most appealing personalities and Pia did not come across as well as most of the others, so maybe that’s the reason Pia is no longer on American Idol.     Stay tuned for more reports…

Pia Toscano

Pia Toscano off of American Idol!

Diana Ross, Jeopardy will be live at CES 2009

I’ll be reporting live again in January from CES 2009, the world’s biggest (and that means HUGE) and most influential Consumer Electronics Show.  The reports will mostly be over at Technology Report, my new technology blog project with a good friend of mine from California.

Pictured below is Noel Lee of Monster Cable, one of the music industry’s key players and host of one of CES hottest party tickets – the Monster Party.     Last year Mary J Blige gave an awesome concert after the Monster Retailer awards.


Jeopardy will be filming at CES as well, with 11 shows scheduled to be taped during the week of CES.    One of the challenges of an event this large is that you simply cannot see everything – there are thousands of exhibitors and events and sessions and the venue is so large it takes up all of the Las Vegas Convention Center and most of the Sands Convention Center.

Disney and World Peace

Millions of kids in America and around the world are big Disney fans.   So am I.

In fact I think that Disney may be doing more than *any other entity* to bring harmony and peace to the diverse and complex cultural landscape.   Although they avoid some of the complex and probably unsolvable problems like wahabism vs western culture, they really do a great job promoting racial understanding and cultural understanding via the diversity in the programming .  Simply *modelling cooperation and understanding* to a global audience is powerful,and when you add the huge appeal of Disney music and production values it works on more levels.  More powerful are shows like the upcoming special filmed in India where fun trumps conflict.

Is Disney’s a childish vision of global harmony?    Perhaps, but maybe that is the most effective path of all.

Madonna Rocks the Music

Madonna’s $120,000,000 deal ( Wall Street Journal story) with Live Nation signals a powerful shift in the music industry that hopefully will lead to a cutting out of the middlemen in favor of the best for the artists and for the music consumer.  I don’t follow this industry all that closely but my take on the coming trend is different than most of what I’ve been reading.  It seems to me that over the coming decades we will see music thankfully shifting to a less sensational and more “niche genre” focus.   We’ll see more emphasis on quality music, and perhaps on quality concerts because the human to human aspect of music will not go away anytime soon, and may even be enhanced as artists move to online communities where they can interact with thousands effectively and somewhat intimately.    We’ll see more independent artists who can make an “OK” living thanks to an online global fan base, and this will thankfully come at the expense of the Britney Spears and Madonnas who have been rather spectacular beneficiaries of the giant music marketing empires that made all stars what they are today.  

The idea that individuals are the key component in these things is absurd.  They matter in the big profit and entertainment equations but the key component is generally the huge support system that starts as a small gathering behind promising talent and then blossoms to a cast of hundreds as the promoters step in to “discover” the new talent. 

American Idol’s brilliant model created a huge fan base for the participants as the weeks went on, and many of the top 10 American Idol singers are now doing quite well as actors or singers.   This “social networking” approach will become increasingly important in a music world ruled by the fans and not the big players.

File sharing fines go mainstream

Many see as harsh the recent $220,000 fine levied  on a Minnesota housewife for online music sharing, but it’s more appropriate to view this action as a significant milestone in the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) strategy to crack down on illegal music and try to push people to legal file downloading.   The coverage on this file sharing case is overwhelming and it will be very interesting to see how the online community will absorb this verdict.

CNET’s Declan has a good summary of key points in this RIAA case here, although in one sense it should be easy to understand the verdict because pretty much everybody knows file sharing is illegal!    Common use does not make file sharing “fair use”. 

Now, one can make a reasonable case that the illegality of file sharing is a trivial offense – something like driving going 58 mph in a 55 mph zone.  One can hammer home this point noting that simply making a mix tape for friends is also technically illegal but never enforced by RIAA, and that gray areas about in the law surrounding intellectual property.    But only foolish people (ie a lot of people) seem to argue that file sharing is a perfectly legal activity.

So, what is the solution here?   RIAA would say it is for everybody to stop illegal downloads and sign up for paid services.   Yet RIAA must be spending far more than 220k on this case, and won’t ever get that much from her anyway.  Given the difficulties of prosecution and the prevalence of the behavior I think the laws should to be modified to reflect widespread accepted social standards while still protecting copyright holders.  However this may just open up a new hornet’s nest of legal complications.    

More DMCA fun

OK, this seems { NYT article } like an interesting twist on the normal stuff about DMCA.

The company says that because the companies are avoiding use of its purportedly effective product, they are violating the DMCA.

Hmm – I can see how they might argue generically that the companies have an obligation to protect digital rights, though even that’s a complex issue since the violation does not come so much from the lack of protection as from the theft.    Can a lock company sue me because I did not use their lock and then I got robbed?

Verdict:  This suit will be thrown out immediately but will win a lot of free publicity for them.

The Day … the Music Sales … died

NYT reports that music sales declined very substantially and that this fact may portend serious problems for the music industry.    Makes sense to me.   For some time there have been many silly suggestions from music download enthusiasts that downloading was not going to cut into profits and that revenue alternatives to traditional music sales would present themselves eventually.    Of course they won’t, but it’s all good.   The music industry is driven by superficial mass appeal and good riddance to it.   Thanks to abundant downloading venues, cheap production, and the rise of online promotion tools like Myspace we’ll hopefully see people democratically decide who are the best bands and which deserve their support.   Let the people drive music consumerism for a change rather than media moguls.

Steve Jobs’ down with DRM campaign could get him elected….

Wow, when Steve Jobs suggested music producers effectively getting rid of Digital Rights Management in his post “Thoughts on Music“, a few people were interested in that. Since blogging may determine the outcome of the coming presidential election, I recommend Jobs run for US President on the “A chicken in every pot and free music in every pod” platform.



Here, from TechMeme, are some of the people who are talking about it: Technovia, InformationWeek Weblog, down the avenue, A Copyfighter’s Musings, The Tech Report, confused of calcutta, Paul Colligan’s …, The 463, Things That, PaulStamatiou.com, TechBlog, Macsimum News, i-boy, The Last Podcast, The Digital Edge Blog, The Workplace Blog, Rex Hammock’s weblog, Forward Thinking, Seeking Alpha, WeBreakStuff, Business Filter, Change Is Good, Paul Kedrosky’s …, BuzzMachine, The Future of Music …, The Viral Garden, Medialoper, Fast Company Now, Jeremy Toeman’s LIVEdigitally, Blogging Stocks, The Gong Show, DeWitt Clinton, Blackfriars’ Marketing, Listening Post, Geek News Central, SearchViews, rc3.org, A VC, Life On the Wicked Stage, PSFK Trend: PSFK, Buzzworthy, robhyndman.com, Slashdot, Ministry of Tech, Joseph Scott’s Blog, Podcasting News, Paul Thurrott’s Internet Nexus and UNEASYsilence


My first reaction is that internet people tend to talk too much about music news, but DRM is a very significant topic both in terms of the impact on the industry in terms of money and innovation and perhaps will have broader influence in the coming debates about who owns what and why. So, squawk on dudes!

Alison Krauss Rocks the Country House

Alison Krauss is my favorite vocalist and with Union Station puts out superb bluegrass music. Unlike many, MANY in country and pop music she does NOT use Auto Tuning software (usually the Antares version is used by pros I think). Tonight she’s on CMT with Vince Gill, another great country performer.

Auto Tuning takes off-key notes and puts them in key. This process is used routinely on recordings and even in many real time performances using high end gear that routes the microphone output through the auto tuner before it goes out the amplifier.

I don’t object to the use of Auto tuning – it’s inevitable – but I wonder if it’s changing the music industry in undesirable ways.  For example attractive artists are now more likely to beat out unattractive ones because their pitch problems can be corrected.   Why is that a problem?   Clearly innovative music is more likely to come from great musicians, not attractive ones, and obviously better musicianship is an asset to the industry.