Perjorative Much? (updated)

What an opening line – this is how to characterize fans? Yahoo, Gracenote launch lyrics servicepdf

Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO – news) and digital media company Gracenote launched an online lyrics service on Tuesday, the first industry-backed effort in a market dominated by unauthorized, rogue Web sites.

Later (2007 May 7): Yahoo untangles licensing web for lyrics servicepdf

Yet at Yahoo and elsewhere, lyrics remain a notable omission from digital music files either purchased or acquired through subscription models. Not only do consumers not receive song lyrics with their download, they can’t search for songs by lyrics within Yahoo Music Unlimited or any other digital music service including iTunes.

The cost of including the lyrics to these files — primarily the result of the licensing fee — would either force digital retailers to increase the cost of their service or accept less of an already-thin margin.

But Yahoo and Gracenote say these issues will be resolved over time once publishers begin realizing the added revenue that lyrics bring them. Gracenote CEO Craig Palmer estimates that lyric license fees could result in as much as $100 million in annual revenue within 10 years.

Reconciling the Irreconcilable

One more demonstration of the problems a notion of ownership engenders in this space: Microsoft, Trying to Avoid a European Fine, Defends Demand for Royalties

The legal skirmishes over the European Commission’s antitrust ruling against Microsoft are moving into a fourth year. In its original ruling, the commission ordered Microsoft to sell a version of its Windows operating system without its Windows Media Player. Microsoft did so, but the so-called N version, which sold for the same price as Windows with the Media Player included, was a commercial flop.

Microsoft maintains that the other remedy imposed in the 2004 ruling — that it share its confidential server software code — implied that it could charge royalties.

But competitors say that Microsoft is asking exorbitant fees, discouraging many from designing software to work with Microsoft products. According to its Web site, Microsoft is proposing royalty fees that range from $5.60 to $666.75 a server under a formula that ties the fee level to the revenue generated by any software designed using Microsoft’s information.

OT: Ya Think George McGovern’s A Little Upset?

From today’s LATimes: George McGovern: Cheney is wrong about me, wrong about warpdf

VICE PRESIDENT Dick Cheney recently attacked my 1972 presidential platform and contended that today’s Democratic Party has reverted to the views I advocated in 1972. In a sense, this is a compliment, both to me and the Democratic Party. Cheney intended no such compliment. Instead, he twisted my views and those of my party beyond recognition. […]

[…] THE VICE PRESIDENT spoke with contempt of my ’72 campaign, but he might do well to recall that I began that effort with these words: “I make one pledge above all others — to seek and speak the truth.” We made some costly tactical errors after winning the nomination, but I never broke my pledge to speak the truth. That is why I have never felt like a loser since 1972. In contrast, Cheney and Bush have repeatedly lied to the American people.

It is my firm belief that the Cheney-Bush team has committed offenses that are worse than those that drove Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and Atty. Gen. John Mitchell from office after 1972. Indeed, as their repeated violations of the Constitution and federal statutes, as well as their repudiation of international law, come under increased consideration, I expect to see Cheney and Bush forced to resign their offices before 2008 is over.

Aside from a growing list of impeachable offenses, the vice president has demonstrated his ignorance of foreign policy by attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria. Apparently he thinks it is wrong to visit important Middle East states that sometimes disagree with us. […]

[…] We, of course, already know that when Cheney endorses a war, he exempts himself from participation. On second thought, maybe it’s wise to keep Cheney off the battlefield — he might end up shooting his comrades rather than the enemy.

On a more serious note, instead of listening to the foolishness of the neoconservative ideologues, the Cheney-Bush team might better heed the words of a real conservative, Edmund Burke: “A conscientious man would be cautious how he dealt in blood.”

LATimes on Morissette’s YouTube Entry

Working the system; sending a message; establishing cred? Satire busts a humppdf

At first glance, it simply looks like another pass-along parody, a takeoff on the original “My Humps” hit by the Black Eyed Peas. But Morissette’s video is armed with a provocative subtext that has people abuzz with debate. It’s a fascinating piece of video art, an inspired combination of satire, social criticism and career reinvention that is a signature artifact of today’s viral Web culture.

On one level, “My Humps” is a commentary on dim-bulb pop. The Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps,” though a huge smash, was widely mocked for its vapid, suggestive lyrics. (Sample: “The boys they wanna sex me, they always standing next to me, always dancing next to me, tryin’ a feel my hump, hump.”) The video, featuring Fergie, the group’s lead singer, was, if possible, even tawdrier. Full of nonstop teasing and thrusting, it’s the kind of hip-hop booty porn that would make great torture material for Muslim prisoners at our Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Dressing herself Fergie-style, with baubles and bling, surrounded by black-clad male dancers, Morissette retained the original’s visual sluttiness but replaced the Peas’ thumping rhythm track with a pensive solo piano. By removing the intoxicating bass line and clearly enunciating the crass lyrics, she gave the song’s sexpot swagger a new tone of sadness and desperation while simultaneously parodying her own artistic tendencies toward self-absorbed angst.

It’s a striking performance, functioning as both social criticism and self-criticism. It also has given an instant shot of street cred to Morissette, whose career had slid downhill after her incandescent debut in 1995 with “Jagged Little Pill.” Stereotyped as an earnest navel gazer — one blogger recently dismissed her as an “emo-feminist” — she suddenly has fans seeing her through fresh eyes.

[…] Morissette has followed the model once practiced by Bob Dylan, who in his ’60s heyday refused to explicate anything, bobbing and weaving in interviews, baffling the MSM of the day with a fog of evasions, sly jokes and put-ons.

Unlike Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Fergie, who can’t stop blabbing about their various addictions, pet causes and loser lovers, Morissette has greeted all “My Humps” interview requests with a vow of silence.

Then, we are suddenly talking about FoxAttacks.com. Not that I don’t see a connection, but it’s not at all clear that it’s *the* connection that I would make.

A Win For Fair Use

Activist groups drop suit against Viacompdf

The Electronic Frontier Foundation declared victory in announcing that Viacom agreed to add information on its Web site about its stance on such parodies and to set up an e-mail address to receive complaints about possible errors in the future.

Viacom, however, sought to play down its concessions, saying the lawsuit’s dismissal was a recognition of “the effective processes we have consistently applied.” In a statement, Viacom said the lawsuit “could have been avoided” had the groups contacted the company ahead of time.

The EFF and Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project had filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of MoveOn.org Civic Action and Brave New Films LLC, which had jointly produced the parody.

EFF press release; EFF archive; Fair Use Project

Cheaper Distribution, Specialization and New Opportunities

A possible example of efficiency gains through lowered startup costs — consider what it took to start up the wire services (or, for that matter, Salon, which is certainly a competitor in this space): USA Today to Use Items From Start-Up News Site

Three months after two journalists left The Washington Post to start a new-media venture, their political coverage has found its way back to a national newspaper: USA Today.

USA Today said Friday that it would begin using articles produced by the start-up, The Politico, a mostly online news operation staffed by journalists who have worked for news outlets like Time, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press.

Also — interesting to note that the NYTimes article includes hyperlinks to USA Today.com, but not to The Politico.

When Does Promotion Become Lying?

A look at the culture of entertainment negotiation. Sounds like a lot of other claims — say, about lost sales? Cussler’s sales claims undermined in trialpdf

Anschutz and Cussler have been waging a fierce legal battle in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom over who is to blame for the financial failure of the movie “Sahara,” which starred Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz. The film has lost about $105 million since it was released in April 2005. A jury is expected to hand down a verdict in the trial next month.

Cussler is scheduled to take the witness stand for a fourth consecutive day this morning in the courtroom of Judge John P. Shook.

On Friday, Cussler offered myriad explanations for his accounting of the “Sahara” numbers. Asked if he pulled the numbers out of thin air, Cussler said, “Pretty much.” He added: “I honestly thought I probably did sell 100 million books. That doesn’t seem out of the ordinary to me.”

Cussler’s response, made during tense cross-examination testimony, “illustrates that he is perfectly comfortable lying about the number of books he sold,” said Alan Rader, one of several attorneys from the O’Melveny & Myers firm who represent Anschutz. “He was willing to say whatever it took to get the $10 million.”

Participation Culture: Singing

Why listening to music might not be enough — and the biochemistry of the teen music industry: SING OUT, SISTERpdf

It makes intuitive sense that singing is psychologically good, that it can elevate one’s mood or provide an outlet for sadness. But a growing body of science shows that not only is singing mentally healthful, it’s also physically good for you. It can improve the body’s immune response. In elderly people, it can reduce the use of prescription drugs, doctor visits and emergency room care. The conscious breathing from the diaphragm involved in singing can itself reduce stress.

[…] Some researchers, including Walter J. Freeman, a neurobiologist at UC Berkeley, think that when people sing, oxytocin is released. A handful of small studies provide evidence to support the theory. Oxytocin is the hormone that surges through new mothers after they give birth and when they breast feed, through both men and women when they have sex and through couples when they gaze romantically into each others’ eyes. It increases bonding and it helps imprint memory. Oxytocin peaks during adolescence — probably one reason that the songs we hear and sing during teen years are the ones we always remember.

The hormone’s release is likely part of the reason that group singing forms bonds. “When we sing and dance together, our emotions are synchronized,” says David Huron, a musicologist at both Ohio State University’s school of music and center for cognitive science. “Everyone is on the same emotional page.” The military undoubtedly understands that, readying troops to act in unison in part through rhythmic marching songs.

It’s not just that singing fosters fuzzy feelings. It can boost the body’s immune response. […]

Parallels: Anti-Scalping Laws and Copyright

This is an interesting editorial to come out of the LA Basin. And particularly notable in light of the article I posted yesterday about the rise of the live concert business over that of the record companies — the parallels are interesting to think about, particularly in the case of those jurisdictions where the state restricts the rights of resellers (i.e., scalpers): Ticketmaster’s crocodile tearspdf

Ticketmaster is in the resale business too — fans at selected venues who want to resell their tickets can do so, provided they pay another service charge that Ticketmaster splits with the venue. There’s no reason Ticketmaster can’t compete in the secondary market with StubHub, Craigslist, RazorGator and every other reseller out there, with no artificial constraints on what people do with their tickets.

Ticket prices, typically set by event promoters, tend to be inflexible. Plenty of people are willing to pay far more, which is one reason the resale market is thriving. Meanwhile, Ticketmaster has won no friends among event-goers, who resent the company’s ubiquity and multiple service fees.

The thriving resale market for tickets reflects how hard it is in the digital economy to constrain customers’ choices, no matter how dominant a company’s position may be. And with so much extra money in the resale market, is it any wonder the Rowdy Frynds wanted a piece of the action?

Music Distribution Experiments

Speaking of radio: New Model for Sharing: Free Music With Ads

For years, music labels have been trying to prevent fans from downloading their songs on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. Now, some of them would like to encourage people to listen to music that way — provided they view some advertising first.

Several start-up companies are pursuing the idea of advertising-supported music, including SpiralFrog and Ruckus, which caters to college students. Qtrax, one such company that plans to open for business in September, already has deals to sell music from Warner Music Group and EMI Group, and it plans to announce a similar deal with Sony BMG Music Entertainment today.

On the other hand: In Dallas, Commercial Radio Without Commercials

Facing increasing competition from satellite radio and iPods, Clear Channel Communications is trying something radically different at a commercial radio station in Texas: getting rid of the commercials.

As of today, KZPS in Dallas — on the dial at 92.5 FM or online at lonestar925.com — will no longer run traditional 30- or 60-second advertisements. Instead, advertisers sponsor an hour of programming, during which a D.J. will promote its product conversationally in what the company calls integration.