Category: Music Biz

Listen to Joe Smith's talks with Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, more

Veteran record executive Joe Smith is donating hundreds of hours of taped interviews to Library of Congress
Taped interviews that veteran record executive Joe Smith conducted for his 1988 book “Off the Record” and which he is donating to the Library of Congress this week [June 19] contain a storehouse worth of anecdotes from a couple hundred of the biggest names in pop music.

Talking to rock, pop, R&B, folk and jazz musicians as well as fellow record label chiefs, high-profile managers, songwriters and others, Smith got access to many key figures who are often reticent to talk to the press.

Pop & Hiss is posting some excerpts of the unabridged interviews, collectively known as “The Joe Smith Collection,” that are entering the Library of Congress for posterity, the subject of a news feature in a separate post.

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Nicki Minaj, Glen Campbell, Wilco among L.A.'s top summer concerts

Southern California’s summer pop music calendar includes Hard Summer, Make Music Pasadena and Rock the Bells festivals.

Images: Fiona Apple (Jack Plunkett / Associated Press) Nicki Minaj (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times); Maxwell (Sean Gardner / Getty Images)
Nicki Minaj. Skrillex. Glen Campbell’s goodbye tour. Wilco. Some big names in pop are coming to Southern California this summer, promising a decent warm-weather season and the extension of a concert year that already has promoters singing.

Last month, promotion giant Live Nation, which also operates Ticketmaster, reported a 6% increase in ticket sales for the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same period last year -- no doubt due to a spring that has seen Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, the Beach Boys and Roger Waters touring; the Beverly Hills-based company also just promoted three sold-out Coldplay shows at the Hollywood Bowl. With artists such as Justin Bieber and Madonna not making it out West until the fall, the year’s blockbuster tours would seem to conveniently miss L.A.’s summer months.

But music fans still have a lot to celebrate this summer.

The annual downtown dance event known as Hard Summer has expanded from one day to two, and the yet-to-be-announced rock-centric festival known as FYF, also downtown and produced by the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival promoter Goldenvoice, has also stretched from one to two days over Labor Day. A festival spokeswoman says to expect the lineup to be revealed by the end of this month. What’s more, the Dave Matthews Band, one of the concert industry’s biggest stars, will swing through Southern California in September.

Gary Bongiovani, editor of concert-tracking publication Pollstar, also notes that tours are maximizing value: “We’re seeing good solid three-act shows these days. One way to stand out of the fog is to combine and offer fans real value. We see Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez, Wisin Y Yandel. That’s a great tri-bill. In previous years, we may not have seen that combination of talent.”

Here’s a look at just a few of the big-name acts and can’t-miss shows coming to the L.A. this summer.

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Tom Windish’s acts are all over Coachella

Tom Windish and his Windish Agency have grown with Coachella. The agency represents 20 of the 143 acts at this year’s festival.

Click here for complete coverage of Coachella
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival would get along just fine without booking agent Tom Windish. Yet strike the artists from the Windish Agency off the Coachella bill, and the desert festival would suffer a direct hit. 

Since its start in 2004, the Chicago-based Windish Agency — which has more than 550, mostly club-level acts on its roster — has supplied a steady stream of artists to Coachella. 

 COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

This year alone the Windish Agency reps 20 acts on Coachella’s bill of 143 artists, including headliner dance and electronic acts such as Justice and Amon Tobin, as well as buzz artist of the moment Gotye

At the recent South by Southwest Music Festival and Conference in Austin, Texas, Windish suggested meeting up to see some of his artists. One didn’t have to go far to hear one of his agency’s acts, as they were featured in more than 700 performances over the five-day event. 

The act settled upon was Brooklyn electronic duo Tanlines, and on the walk to the venue Windish, 39, stopped numerous times to offer up concert promotion tips. “Look at this poster,” Windish said, pointing at an advertisement for a multi-act punk show headlined by veteran O.C. punk band Social Distortion. “No one is going to go to this,” he said, pointing out that the poster failed to provide such basic, fan-focused information as set times. 

As for Tanlines, it was slated to play second on a five-act bill. Windish smiled when he saw the full lineup on a flier at the venue where the band was to perform. “Actually,” he said, “it turns out I book all these acts.” 

The democratization of the music business brought on by the rise of file-sharing and downloads has helped the Windish Agency soar while record labels have struggled. 

Windish now employs 15 agents, and recently opened an office in Los Angeles to further expand into marketing and licensing. The agency has increasingly taken on the look of a label without becoming a label, reflecting a music business in which acts can thrive outside of the mainstream by surviving largely on touring income.

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Billboard Hot 100 now counts on-demand streams

Billboard Logo

Is your song hot or not? 

Billboard, the publisher of the Hot 100 singles and other music charts, will be incorporating spins from on-demand streams from services such as Spotify, Rhapsody, Muve, MOG, Slacker and Rdio in determining which songs top its charts. It will also publish a new chart for top on-demand streaming tunes, with the first chart debuting Wednesday.

The change in the industry's de facto hotness formula is a joint effort between the magazine, Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems and the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers.

"With some of these services growing exponentially and integrating into the social web, the time is right to launch a streaming chart and to incorporate this activity into the Hot 100," said Bill Werde, Billboard's editorial director.

The charts will rely on data from Nielsen, which has been tracking digital music streams since 2005, but had not publicly shared the information. In the first 70 days of this year, Nielsen said it captured 4.5 billion audio streams -- 494 million during the week that ended March 4, up from 321 million in the week ended Jan. 1. Nielsen does not track Pandora, which does not provide data to Nielsen on its personalized radio streaming service to more than 20 million users. 

Among the nuggets found in Nielsen's data, which will be released Wednesday along with Billboard's new On-Demand Songs chart and the revamped Hot 100, is that streaming activity decreased 17% in the week after Christmas, while digital download sales jumped 20% -- presumably from people cashing in their iTunes and gift cards.

Those looking for evidence that streaming services eat into music sales will be disappointed -- even as on-demand streams hit all time highs this year, digital track sales are up 7% so far this year compared with the same period in 2011.


SXSW 2012: The music stories to watch

SXSW 2012: Rdio gets new look, needs more subscribers

The Black Keys black out Spotify, others from streaming 'El Camino'

-- Alex Pham

Don Cornelius remembered: Kenneth Gamble touts 'Soul Train' pride

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff worked closely with Don Cornelius and 'Soul Train'

Kenneth Gamble, along with partners Leon Huff and Thom Bell, was responsible for discovering and nurturing numerous R&B and soul performers during the heyday of their Philadelphia International Records label in the 1970s and '80s. Gamble and Huff also became one of the premier songwriting and production teams in popular music, putting their stamp on dozens of hits, including songs by Brian Holland-Lamont Dozier-Eddie Holland and Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Here, he remembers "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius, who died Wednesday.

“I’m sad to hear of his passing. He was such a wonderful person and an American icon.

“Don Cornelius’ ‘Soul Train’ made a great contribution to American culture. It came directly from the African American community. It was more than TV dance show; it was a source of pride and dignity for African American community. There were hardly any venues at that time, especially on TV, that would give African American artists any exposure, including ‘[American] Bandstand.’

PHOTOS: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

“‘Bandstand’ was a dance show, but it basically concentrated on Caucasian people. They had a few black artists on from time to time. ‘Soul Train’ was something that the African American community first embraced -- and it’s always good to see African American people on TV -- but then it spread to become a national and an international phenomenon.

“I first met Don Cornelius in the late '60s or early '70s. We got a long real well. He was just getting started at the same time we were just getting started. We both agreed that hopefully we’d be able to make records some day.

"We had some local acts -- the Intruders, the Delfonics -- that we working with here in Philly. He said ‘Come do my show.’ It was in Chicago then and it was a regional show. So we used to send what little acts we had at the time to Chicago and they were able to get that regional exposure.

"But when he moved to California and 'Soul Train' became a national sensation, we could send an artist like Billy Paul or Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and you got instant national exposure, which became something that helped increase record sales, increased the crowds at their performances and everything.

“‘Soul Train’ not only became a community -- something that gave the African American community a lot of pride -- but it became a strong economic engine for the total music industry. It got so popular that artists like Elton John and David Bowie and the Bee Gees wanted to be on ‘Soul Train.’ By that time it had gone far beyond the color barrier this country has embraced for so long.

“During the time when ‘Soul Train’ was going to California and was starting to get real big, our relationship with Don Cornelius continued. I used to talk to him two or three times a week. At one point I said, ‘Don you need a theme song.’ He said, ‘Well you, know, I got a theme song I use. I said, 'No, you need your own theme song and I want to do one for you. Johnny Carson’s got a theme song, Bob Hope has a theme song, Every great person has a theme song. You know what I mean.

“So we invited him to come here to Philly, and he came on a Friday night. Huff, Thom Bell and myself were messing around with some concepts and we went into the studio that Saturday, but we weren’t really satisfied with what we came up with. Don would say, ‘I’m going back home,’ but I said, ‘You’ve got to stay one more day. You can go back on Sunday. He went back to his hotel and Huff and I came back to our office.

“We got onto the piano and tried to break our brains because we’ve gotta come up with something great for this guy. Then we got the part that goes ‘Soul train, soul train,’ and everything fell into place once we got that hook. We borrowed something from ‘Love Train’ -- the line about ‘people all over the world’ -- because the show was trying to communicate with people all over the world. That thing just fell into place. Don was so happy, but when he heard it, it still wasn’t finished; we only had the rhythm section. We put the Three Degrees in there; they were hot with ‘When Will I See You Again,’ along with the MFSB orchestra and got it finished.

“We said, ‘Let’s call it “The Soul Train Theme.’ But Don didn’t want to. He said 'I’m protective of my ‘Soul Train’ brand.' You can call it anything else you want. We called it ‘TSOP’ and in parentheses ‘The Sound of Philadelphia.’  It became a No. 1 record all over the world. In the Philippines it was No. 1.

“Even today when you hear it, you think of ‘Soul Train.’ Don told me [later], ‘That was the dumbest move I ever made. It should have been called 'Soul Train theme.’

"Those were great times. Without Don Cornelius, people like the O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, the Three Degrees, Billy Paul -- all the artists we had -- the Delfonics, all these great artists would never have gotten national exposure.

"There were not other opportunities for black artists. A lot of that happened because you don’t get the sponsors for black art in America. America trying to run away from black thought. That’s a detriment to America. People don’t realize the value they have in the African American community and the contributions that have been made and that are still being made.

“He was taking artists nobody ever heard of -- that’s the most important part. It’s great to get the big-name artists, but who’s going to take great new artists like the Intruders, put them on your show and then they become a million seller? He played a big part in developing new talent.

“Also, look at all the dancers that were on that show and how creative they were. They made their own costumes, put together their own skits and many went on to be movie stars, television stars, choreographers, everything you can think of.

“It was a moment in time. A moment that comes around every now and then, when someone has a vision. Don Cornelius had a vision and the talent to put together an idea that was timely and able to capture the imagination of the whole world.

“He was a great man, a humble man, and a very giving man. I pray for him. When I think of him, I think of fun times. Those were fun times in America.”


Photos: Don Cornelius | 1936 - 2012

Don Cornelius, creator of 'Soul Train,' dies at 75

Video: 6 'Soul Train' performances from Don Cornelius' heyday

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Kenneth Gamble, seated center wearing blue suit, shakes hands with Joe Jackson after signing on the Jackson 5 in 1976. Leon Huff is seated behind Gamble. Credit: Philadelphia International Records

Guitar Geek Festival 2012 this weekend in Anaheim

Deke Dickerson Guitar Geek Festival in Anaheim

The NAMM Show is officially under way in Anaheim, the annual event put on by the National Assn. of Music Merchants that’s part equipment and accessories exhibition, part new-product unveiling, part deal-making frenzy between manufacturers and retailers, and possibly the most cacophonous musical assemblage on the planet.

While the bulk of NAMM events are private -- accessible only to registered, badge-carrying members of the trade, some evening performances by musicians who descend on Anaheim to promote products for companies that endorse them are open to the public.

One of the liveliest and most colorful is roots-guitar whiz Deke Dickerson’s Guitar Geek Festival, which the veteran fretboard maniac is expanding to two nights this year, Friday and Saturday at the Anaheim Plaza Hotel Ballroom.

In previous years he has brought in such guitar heroes as Duane Eddy, Junior Brown, blues great David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Ventures lead guitrist Nokie Edwards, Buddy Holly’s Original Crickets, Teisco Del Rey and Paul Johnson, Bill Kirchen, and usually, Dickerson himself.

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'X Factor' champ Melanie Amaro signs to Epic Records

Melanie Amaro, the inaugural winner of Fox’s stateside edition of “The X Factor,” has signed to Epic Records, the label announced Tuesday.

Amaro snagged the largest guaranteed prize in television history with a $5-million recording contract to Sony Music through Syco, a joint venture between Sony and show creator Simon Cowell, when she took the crown in December.

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U2, Taylor Swift have highest-grossing concert tours of 2011

U2 has highest-grossing concert tour of 2011. In North America, Taylor Swift is second, followed by Kenny Chesney, Lady Gaga and Bon Jovi.

Taylor Swift, Bono
U2's final spate of shows on its massive “360 Tour” lands as the top-grossing tour of 2011 across North America and throughout the world, according to Pollstar, the concert-industry tracking magazine.

The Irish quartet, which had to postpone a significant chunk of shows that had been scheduled in 2010 when singer Bono injured his back, roared back in 2011, pulling in $156 million from 25 shows in 21 cities in North America. Worldwide the group logged $231.9 million from 34 shows in 26 cities.

U2 was the only act to cross the $100-million mark in North America, but pop-country princess Taylor Swift came close with$97.7 million for her “Speak Now” tour, which visited 59 cities for 80 performances.

PHOTOS: Top 10 concert tours of 2011

The rest of the Top 5 for the continent are country superstar Kenny Chesney, who grossed $84.6 million, Lady Gaga ($63.7 million) and the previous year's touring crown winner Bon Jovi. The New Jersey rock band registered $57.1 million during 34 shows in 27 cities, down from $108.2 million in 2010 racked up during a more intensive year of touring that logged 51 shows in 38 cities.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Elton John ($51.8 million), Sade ($48.6 million), Kanye West and Jay-Z's “The Throne” tour ($48.3 million), Lil Wayne ($44.4 million) and Celine Dion ($41.2 million).
Overall Pollstar's preliminary figures for the Top 25 tours showed total gross ticket revenue of $1.19 billion, down about 4% from the $1.24 billion tallied in 2010 in North America. Worldwide, the figures were nearly identical year to year at $2.1 billion.

“Although the overall dollar volume was down in 2011, the industry fared much better doing fewer shows and taking a more cautious approach in its objectives,” Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni said in a statement issued along with the revenue figures. Pollstar's complete report on the Top 200 tours of the year is scheduled to be released Jan. 5.

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RCA to close Jive, Arista and J label imprints [Updated]

Britney Spears
 RCA Music Group is slimming down for the holidays by shuttering its Arista, Jive and J Records subsidiaries, a move by new label execs to strengthen the identity of the RCA brand. Artists who have been with those three imprints, which have been home to Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Rod Stewart, Pitbull, Whitney Houston, Justin Timberlake, Barry Manilow, R. Kelly, Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Dido, Jennifer Hudson, Leona Lewis and others, will be shifted to RCA.

[Updated at 11:11 a.m. Oct. 7: "In an effort to refresh RCA Records, all label imprints -- J Records, Arista Records and Jive -- will now be under the the iconic RCA Records label," according to a statement RCA issued Friday.]

Jive produced several of the biggest-selling albums of all time in the midst of the youth pop boom a decade ago, including the multiplatinum hits for 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and Spears.

There’s no mention so far of what role under the new arrangement will be played by Davis, who in recent years had continued to sign and develop artists on J.

On Friday morning, there was no indication of the change evident on Jive Records official website, but sites for both J and Arista now default to the RCA Music Group site.

[Updated at 1:27 a.m. Oct. 7: The changes do not affect the Arista Nashville label, or the other three country music labels that are under the Sony Music Nashville umbrella: RCA, Columbia and BNA.  "Arista Nashville and its respective roster are not impacted in any way," Gary Overton, Chairman and CEO, Sony Music Nashville, said Friday in a statement. "Our four-label Sony Music Nashville operations remain unchanged."]


Kyuss: Rocking hard again

Weekend Top 10: Blink at the Bowl, CicLAvia and more 

"Steve Jobs gave the blind eyes; the deaf ears" -- Stevie Wonder

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Britney Spears. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

No I.D. appointed executive vice president of Def Jam

No I.D. appointed executive vice president of Def Jam

Grammy award-winning producer No I.D. has been appointed executive vice president of A&R for Def Jam Records, the label announced Tuesday.

The Roc Nation producer, who’s worked with Kanye West, Jay-Z, Common, Kid Cudi, Rick Ross and Drake, has also signed an exclusive label deal for his Artium Recordings that will be distributed by Def Jam. 

“No I.D. is one of the hottest and most well-respected hip-hop producers of our era," Barry Weiss, chairman and chief executive of Universal Republic and Island Def Jam Motown, said in a statement. "His years of mentoring and developing artists in the studio should serve him perfectly in his new A&R role and will surely help take Def Jam to the next level."

“I’m proud of the success I’ve had with so many of the great artists and songwriters at Def Jam,” the producer said in a statement.  “The Def Jam brand is cultural and iconic, and I'm excited to be working closely with the artists, Barry, Karen [Kwak, executive vice president and head of A&R for Island Def Jam Music Group] and the team in what promises to be an incredible new phase in my career.”

No I.D. became known as the “Godfather of Chicago hip-hop” after shaping the bulk of Common’s early albums. He has reunited with the rapper for his upcoming album, “The Dreamer, The Believer.” Earlier this summer, the producer released the acclaimed “The Pursuit EP” from his Cocaine 80s collective.

He will report directly to Weiss and Kwak.


Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label inks deal with Def Jam

L.A. Reid officially named chairman and CEO of Epic Records

Brandy signs deal with RCA Records

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: No I.D. Credit: Courtesy of Roc Nation


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