I’ve greatly enjoyed Alan Krueger’s “Land of Hope and Dreams: Rock and Roll, Economics and Rebuilding the Middle Class” speech given at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past June.

In the speech, Krueger compares the economics of the music industry to what is happening in the U.S. economy as a whole. It puts the major shift in the average cost of concert tickets right next to changes in the US income distribution.

It features details from a clever study (.pdf) that measured the impact of luck in combination with merit on the success of artists in a system for downloading music. It also puts forth proposals from President Obama’s economic agenda for addressing the dangerous consequences of a winner-take-all economy.

I’m an avid concert-goer and watched ticket prices climb in the late 90s and 2000s. Later I ran a Dave Matthews Band fan website where we were so regularly bombarded by requests to run advertisements from scalpers we had to take a stand.

Not surprisingly, my favorite portion of the speech focuses on the concept of fairness:

If artists charge too much for their tickets, they risk losing their appeal. In this sense, the market for rock ‘n roll music is different from the market for commodities, or stocks and bonds.

Considerations of fair treatment exert pressure on how much musicians can charge, even superstars.

Along these lines, one of my favorite performers, Tom Petty, once said, “I don’t see how carving out the best seats and charging a lot more for them has anything to do with rock & roll.”

This is a major reason why there is a market for scalped tickets.
But many artists have been reluctant to raise prices to what the market will bear for fear of garnering a reputation of gouging their fans.

They also protest when tickets sell for a higher price on the secondary market, and often try to prevent the secondary market entirely. And it is considered scandalous when performers sell tickets on the secondary market themselves.

This behavior can only be explained in light of fairness considerations. Singers want to be viewed as treating their fans fairly, rather than charging them what supply and demand dictate.

Indeed, you can think of market demand as depending on the perception of fairness.

Read The Economist’s digest of the speech or Download the text of the speech (.pdf)


Yeezus Comes. Into and Out of Kanye West

Kanye's Barking Dog Background from Black Skinhead on SNL
Kanye’s Barking Dog Background from Black Skinhead on SNL

I first got into Kanye West in 2005 with the release of Late Registration. There is a Grammy winning track on that album called Diamonds from Sierra Leone. It was originally a solo recording for Kanye but Jay-Z extended the track with his own verse and it was included as the final track as a “remix” of the original. I thought the remix was great and Jay-Z crushed it. I became a fan of Kanye West.

I had been really into Bonnaroo at that time of my life. I was running a Dave Matthews Band fan site at the time and used it to get press credentials for the festival. I shared some amazing memories and built relationships at Bonnaroo. I wrote reviews of the festival and set up interviews with the likes of Grace Potter and Sharon Jones.

In 2008, Kanye was scheduled to perform the main stage at Bonnaroo and I defended him to my pals, insisting he was worth listening to. Then he rescheduled his performance and arrived late to that. Ultimately he really blew the performance, only to later condemn Bonnaroo.

I contrasted Kanye’s performance with then rising Lupe Fiasco’s set in The Other Tent as a difference of appreciation for the festival. As a long-time attendee, I had never witnessed such a lack of professionalism from an artist at Bonnaroo. Kanye has had a lot of problems in public, yet I had given him a pass. But this was too much, I stopped listening.

And then he dropped My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The demonstration of artistry on that album re-wired my senses, allowing his music to cover for his public mistakes. I still listen to that album.

Rumors have been swirling about a June release titled Yeezus and what guests might appear. Naturally, I’m pretty interested. Here’s what I’m seeing:

Last week he did a surprise appearance at the Adult Swim Upfront event last week that included a rant. This past weekend projected a video debuting “New Slave” in 66 locations worldwide and performed New Slave and Black Skinhead as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

Both tracks have interpretations posted on RapGenius, which are worth a look.

I’m watching and waiting for the release. Kanye may be the most talented and complicated artists I’ve followed to-date. I’m watching this album closely, and will try to update this post as it develops.

Update 1: Def Jam Records, Kanye’s label has confirmed album art for Yeezus:

Update 2:  Kanye does interview with New York Times:

“I think you got to make your case. Seventh grade, I wanted to be on the basketball team. I didn’t get on the team, so that summer I practiced. I was on the summer league. My team won the championship; I was the point guard. And then when I went for eighth grade, I practiced and I hit every free throw, every layup, and the next day I looked on this chart, and my name wasn’t on it. I asked the coach what’s up, and they were like, “You’re just not on it.” I was like, “But I hit every shot.” The next year — I was on the junior team when I was a freshman, that’s how good I was. But I wasn’t on my eighth-grade team, because some coach — some Grammy, some reviewer, some fashion person, some blah blah blah — they’re all the same as that coach. Where I didn’t feel that I had a position in eighth grade to scream and say, “Because I hit every one of my shots, I deserve to be on this team!” I’m letting it out on everybody who doesn’t want to give me my credit.”

Producer Zach Saginaw and his Greatest Tour Story

I’ve been enjoying Sun Glitters’ most recent EP Mouth / Tight and was drawn into Zach Saginaw’s remix of the song “Mouth”. I’m writing to offer some more visibility to Zach and his work.

Zach goes by the pseudonym “Shigeto,” which is both his middle name and the first name of his grandfather. This bit of background and more is covered in his profile at Ghostly International. Ghostly is a Michigan-based record label that also works with emerging electronica artists like Com Truise, Mux Mool and Phantogram.

Shigeto released Lineage, a mini-LP, around this time last year which covers jazz, hip-hop and funk in eight songs.  Here’s a link to stream the first track from the album online.

Prefix Magazine did an interview with Shigeto this past June. They asked him about a variety of things including the impact technology and greater accessibility are having on making music today. For example, if everyone can make and release music, what will become of music quality? In Zach’s response he broadened the impact to cover creativity overall: Continue reading Producer Zach Saginaw and his Greatest Tour Story

Four Inspirational Hip Hop Songs for Entrepreneurs

Coming up in the game of Hip Hop is often described as a hustle, which is to obtain something through energetic activities.   Entrepreneurship is most certainly a hustle, and if there ever was a time where hustling is a factor in success, it is right now.

We are in the depths of the worst economic slump in the past 80 years, and for many this makes the already difficult task of  business building even harder.  Entrepreneurs need to be reminded that they are in the good company of other determined people, that there is a reason they do what they do, and turning a sharp ear to hip hop is a great way to fulfill that.

Many successful hip hop performers come from difficult socio-economic backgrounds.  Broken families, poverty and exposure to criminal conduct are recurring themes.  In rhyming about the trials and tribulations of the hustle, rappers often share their own history of determination.

Part of credibility in the Hip Hop hustle is rising from these extremely difficult circumstances where the odds of success are far longer than the typical entrepreneur.  Those champions of hip hop who actually make it often turn their lyrical and musical focus towards their own journey. Continue reading Four Inspirational Hip Hop Songs for Entrepreneurs

Rock Show Concert Posters 2.0: Now on iPhone and iPod Touch

concert posters rock show ipad iphone

I’m pumped to announce availability of Rock Show 2.0.  This is the first version of Rock Show that works on the iPad and both the iPhone and iPod Touch.  A lot of fixes and tweaks are in this version of the application, along with some new posters as well!

Two articles are up about the release, Padgadget is hosting one item and a second can be found at IntoMobile.  For a full low-down and updated info on the app, visit its page:

New MIA Album Maya Now Streaming

I don’t know how MIA arrived at the decision to stream her new album via MySpace, though I can only assume that it had something to do with a curly line struck through by a straight line.  ThatPlace is a harbinger of bad user experience that may be contagious.

The good news is that soon we may find hardened amber containing DNA from this long evolved-past website.  Following this, a white bearded father figure may start a park on a remote island in South America seeking to recreate the fantasy of this long departed wild animal leading to an escape and adventure beyond our wildest expectations.

Here’s a link to check out the new album:

Reprogrammed Animatronic Bear Band Plays MGMT Cover

Aaron Fechter the President of Creative Engineering, Inc has been reprogramming a working animatronic bear-band set up.  It looks like the company created it for a line of restraunts similar to Chuck E. Cheese.  He’s currently taking cash bids to do syncing or “choreography” for the band members.

The way the performance is filmed and presented are awesome.  Shakey prolonged shots, quick pulls outward.  The overall video quality is low and the colors look a bit washed out.  Everything is blurry and the bear with the guitar has a spooky shadow.   Great media.