American Idol Paying Big to its New, Young Stars

May 31st, 2011

Two days before the final American Idol episode of the season, a judge in California approved two draft contracts outlining the recording deal terms for contestants Scotty McCreery, 17, and Lauren Alaina, 16.  Court approval was necessary for both contestants’ agreements this year because for the first time, both final contestants were under the age of 18.

The winner of the season – Scotty McCreery – will receive at least $250k in advances for winning the show and recording his first album as well as an additional $50,000 for granting likeness, merch, and endorsement rights.

Runner-up Lauren Alaina will receive $87,500 for finishing second; the amount will be doubled if Alaina records an album.  Alaina’s draft merchandise agreement pays out $40,000.

These figures beat most teenagers’ summer job wages, but don’t quite reach former Idol contestants’ payouts.   Season Six winner Jordin Sparks’ draft contract guaranteed her an advance of $180,000 after the show and another $180,000 after delivering her first album.   Season Seven runner-up David Archuleta draft contract offered an advance of $155,000 for placing second and double that once he produced an album (he would have made $360k total if he had won the show and recorded an album).

Remember, these advances are only for the first album.  It was not disclosed how many options (future albums) each artist is committed to under the agreement, but each option will bring additional advances.

Personally, I was pretty disappointed with the Idol season this year.  The talent wasn’t very impressive, and the judges were nauseatingly complimentary.   I think it was the judges who ruined it.  With Randy Jackson providing the only rare bits of criticism throughout the season, the contestants did not receive enough constructive feedback to allow them to cultivate their performance skills.  Jennifer Lopez was beautiful and sweet, as the “new Paula,” but Steven Tyler was nonsensical.  Most of the time, I honestly had no idea what he was talking about and found his repeated references to a female contestant’s beauty as winning the night for him to be sexist and demeaning.  If you don’t have the guts to tell a pretty teenager that she just bombed the ballad, you should not be a judge on Idol.  As far as I’m concerned, American Idol’s reign over this country is over.  I’m ready for some Simon Cowell on X Factor or, even better, popular music which I’m not forced fed during three hours of prime time television a week.

Spring’s Notable Firings, Hirings & Promotions.

May 31st, 2011

Publishing Group chairman and CEO David Renzer left Universal Music at the end of April.

A couple days later, President of Universal Motown Sylvia Rhone exited as well.

Geffen chair Ron Fair left Universal  as well, heading towards a full-time American Idol gig, according to Billboard.

Universal Music also promoted Amanda Marks to Global Head of Digital Accounts.

Longtime Vice Chairman of Strategy and Operations of Warner Music Group Michael Fleisher has left the building.

BMI promoted Darren Briggs to Vice President of Technology Innovation.

Rightsflow has just named Chris Potter as its Director of Marketing, with oversight that includes Limelight.

The Orchard named Josh Builder the new CTO.

Nederlander Concerts promoted Paola Palazzo to Vice President of Talent.

Music Choice promoted Evan Grossman to Senior Director of Sales & Affiliate Relations, Western Region.

[Thanks to Digital Music News for most of the updates.]

The Spectacular Rise & Fall of the Cassingle, 1988-1999…

May 28th, 2011

Digital Music News posted this chart.  It’s just too funny/random not to pass on.

“Hard to say which was more painful – the rise or the fall. Shipment stats courtesy of the RIAA.”

I don’t know why I find the whole “Cassingle” premise so amusing at this point. I guess I’m of the CD generation, although I definitely had the Tiffany and Kris Kross cassettes in my mini-backpack at all times in 1992.

Event Recap: WIM Presents MIMs – How to do it all

May 27th, 2011

Last night I went to a panel presented by Women in Music at BMI’s new (well, a year old) offices down by the WTC.

First, let me say that the BMI offices are really beautiful, with huge windows revealing views of the river and city paneling every room.  I was very lucky to get a pretty comprehensive tour by one of the awesome people over at BMI.  It’s a very impressive space, and I look forward to planning more WIM events there.

The panel itself was an incredible group of women and a very receptive audience.  All the panelists are Moms in Music (hence the title of the event) and have managed to balance a full professional life in the music industry with being a mom.  One of the coolest parts about the panel was that each woman was in a different position – single mom, married mom, mom who adopted, mom who’s a lawyer, mom who runs her own business,  working musician mom.  Each woman shared their advice on how to balance a full personal and professional life.  What I appreciated most was the honesty.  The panelists were completely open about their challenges, fears, insecurities, and history.

It was a really enjoyable evening, and I was fortunate to meet such inspiring and successful women.

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La-La-Lawsuits: A look back on May’s finest litigious moments

May 27th, 2011

Warner Music Group is facing two class action lawsuits brought by its shareholders challenging the recent sale of WMG to Access Industries for $3.3 billion.  The shareholders are attempting to enjoin the sale, claiming that WMG breached its fiduciary to shareholders by facilitating the acquisition “for grossly inadequate consideration and through a flawed process.” Reports show that there were potentially two higher bidders for the company, but WMG argues that other factors besides just the price tag went into consideration.  The class action says that major shareholders who own 56% of the company agreed to the sale, leaving minority shareholders, such as plaintiffs, with no way to stop the transaction through a shareholder vote.  It’s understandable that the WMG big wigs are pushing for the deal. Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. will receive a $13.6 million payout as a result of the transaction.  Read the NY Class Action Complaint.

Marlon Brando’s estate filed a lawsuit against Harley-Davidson Motor Company for allegedly selling a line of boots called “The Brando.” According to the lawsuit, the boots look similar to a pair that Brando wore in the 1953 classic The Wild One.

Donna Douglas, known for her role as Elly May in The Beverly Hillbillies, sued Mattell in Baton Rouge, Louisiana over the a recently released “Elly May” Barbie doll, asserting claims for false endorsement under the Lanham Act, violation of the Louisiana right of publicity statute, common law misappropriation, and unjust enrichment.  Douglas asserts in her complaint that the packaging and publicity for the Elly May Barbie uses Douglas’s photograph and name, that the doll copies Douglas’s “distinctive attributes in the portrayal of the Elly May character,” and that she never endorsed the doll or gave Mattel permission to use her name or likeness to promote sales of the Elly May Barbie

S. Victor Whitmill, the man who gave Mike Tyson his distinctive facial tattoo, has sued Warner Bros. over the similar-looking facial art on Ed Helms‘ character in the upcoming The Hangover: Part II,  asking for an injunction to stop the Memorial Day weekend release of the highly-anticipated comedy sequel.  Here’s a great article discussing the legal issues behind tattoos as well as Warner Bros.’ potential litigation tactics in the case.  On Tuesday, May 24th, the judge denied Whitmill the injunction, although the copyright infringement case will continue.  The judge noted Whitmill has a “strong likelihood of success” on the merits.  Big NYT article about the case here.

Curb Records sued Time McGraw for breach of contract, claiming that McGraw delivered the master recordings for his new album, Emotional Traffic, too closely to the completion of his 2009 album, Southern Voice.  According to the record deal, McGraw had agreed that each new album would be recorded “no earlier than 12 months and no later than 18 months” following the delivery of the previous album.  The suit alleges McGraw began recording “Emotional Traffic” tracks “in 2008 or before,” prior to the allowable period under contract, so the recordings are not “topical and new” as required by the agreement.  McGraw has counterclaimed, arguing that Curb’s release of numerous greatest hits albums violates the same provision that Curb is striving to enforce.

Jake Gyllenhaal‘s lawyers were busy sending out cease and desist letters to websites which published a picture of the actor stretching in tighty-whitey undies.  The photoshopped image allegedly violate’s Gyllenhaal’s rights by “portraying him in a false light, violating his right of publicity and constituting a false designation of origin in violation of the Lanham Act.”  Targeted websites include Queerty.com (which has decided to keep the photo up) and Buzzfeed.com.

Charles Bronson‘s estate sued MGM and Warner Bros. for failing to pay profits from two of Bronson’s 1970′s films, St. Ives and Telefon.  The suit was prompted by an audit of the companies, which showed that the films’ revenue had been significantly under-reported.  The causes of actions claimed are breach of contract, declaratory relief, accounting, unjust enrichment, money due on open book account, conversion, fraudulent misrepresentation, and unfair business practices.

Courtney Love has been sued by her former lawyers for libel, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional interference with a prospective economic advantage..  Apparently, Love accused one of the lawyers of taking bribes.  For example, one Twitter post from Love said, “I was fucking devastated (sic) when Rhonda J Holmes Esq of San Diego was bought off [...]“.

USTR “Priority Watch List” – The World’s Biggest Piracy Offenders

May 26th, 2011

The US Trade Representative published a report on global infringement of intellectual property rights (IPR), detailing a “priority watch list” of the biggest offenders. The report also discuss developments in IPR protection and enforcement.

Here is the priority watch list, in order of most offenses, along with excerpts taken from the report that I found interesting.

USTR Priority Watch List

1.  China

“It is estimated that there are 457 million Internet users in China, as copared with 223 million in the United States; when coupled with reports that 99% of all music downloads in China are illegal, the concersn of industry are understandable.”

2.  Russia

“[N]umerous pay-per-download websites as well as cyberlockers, BitTorrent sites, and unauthorized music services . . . reside in Russia. . . . Additionally, recent litigation with respect to the single collecting society accredited to collect royalties on behalf of all performers and record companies (i.e., the All-Russia Organization for Intellectual Property (VOIS)) has introduced uncertainty regarding VOIS’s status and the status of the accreditation process generally.”

3.  Algeria

“[C]opyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting remain widespread and enforcement efforts remain insufficient.”

4.  Argentina

“[S]erious problems persist, including widespread available of pirated and counterfeit goods, an inefficient judicial system, and a failure to adjudicate civil and criminal cases and impose deterrent level sentences. . . . [O]verall levels of copyright piracy continue to present a problem, as reflected, for example, in a reported growth in piracy over the Internet.”

5.  Canada

“Canadian efforts in 2010 to enact long-awaited copyright legislation were unsuccessful.”

6.  Chile

7.  India

“India continues to have a weak legal framework, and ineffective overall IPR enforcement persists.”

8.  Indonesia

“The United States also urges Indonesia to address its serious market access barriers for IPR-intensive products . . . [including] its customs valuation methodology for imported motion pictures and continuing market access restrictions in the entertainment industry.”

9.  Israel

“The United States encourages Israel to amend its copyright law to provide for statutory damages . . . [and] to enforce judicial decisions requiring cable operators to compensate copyright holders for the unauthorized retransmissions of television broadcast signals containing their works. . .”

10.  Pakistan

“[W]idespread copyright piracy (including book piracy and piracy of software programs in enterprises), as well as trademark counterfeiting, persis.”

11.  Thailand

“Piracy and counterfeiting, including illegal downloading of pirated works frm the Internet, and the theft of cable and satellite signals, remain rampant in Thailand, and the motion pictures industry has reported a significant increase in unauthorized camcording of motion pictures in theaters.”

12. Venezuela

Access the report and other related documents here.

Harry Fox Introduces Reduced Commission Program

May 25th, 2011

The Harry Fox Agency has introduced a new program, which offers a substantially reduced commission for clients who use HFA exclusively for all mechanical licensing and royalty processing.

Program Details: (from the HFA Website)

  • The RCP provides a fixed commission rate of 5.25% for a three (3) year term.
  • The RCP requires that all U.S. mechanical licensing volume be centralized through HFA, including royalties for licenses originally issued directly by affiliates to third parties and/or intercompany affiliates, subject to limited exceptions.
  • Affiliates participating in the program are eligible to receive advances if their mechanical volume through HFA was greater than $250,000 in each of the last three years.

Learn more at http://www.harryfox.com/reducedcommission/info.jsp.

NYC Smoking Ban Takes Effect Today

May 23rd, 2011

As of today, smoking is prohibited from parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas (e.g., Times Square).  The law will be primarily enforced by signs and social pressures, although park officials may also fine the smoker $50 per violation.

Is the ban constitutional?  The smokers’ rights group C.L.A.S.H. filed a lawsuit in 2003 challenging the constitutionality of the bar/restaurant smoking ban.  The court held that the City’s basis for the ban – protecting citizens from second hand smoke – was a sufficient rational basis to withstand the constitutional challenges (Court Decision).  This new ban, however, dictates behavior in public spaces.

Smokers have spoken out against this new ban. Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of ABC’s “The View” made a statement against the ban during the show’s Feb. 3 broadcast: “There should be a designated place, and I’m tired of being treated like some damn criminal. If they’re really worried about the smell in the air, give us electric buses, give us electric cars, and then I’ll understand.”

I remember when smoking was banned in bars and restaurants in New York in 2002.  Prior to the ban, it was pretty disgusting coming home at night with my hair and clothes reeking of cigarette smoke.  Now I can have my Central Park picnics in smoke-free peace.

http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2011/05/23/for-city-smoking-ban-puffs-of-disgust/

Amazon Sells Lady Gaga Album for 99 cents

May 23rd, 2011

Amazon is offering the new Lady Gaga album, Born This Way, for 99 cents, today only.  This is significantly cheaper than iTunes or any other mp3 purchase site.  The download comes with a year-long free upgrade to a 20gb cloud drive with Amazon (5 gb is the normal ‘free’ version). All mp3s purchased from Amazon are stored for free and don’t count toward the capacity limit.

This seems like a very effective way to get consumers to try out new cloud based music services.  It worked on me at least!  I hadn’t planned on using a cloud service yet, but now I have a 20 gb cloud drive with Amazon and 14 tracks of Gaga goodness.  For 99 cents.

How to Make $3.2m Working in the Music Industry

May 23rd, 2011

Apparently, the way to make money in the music industry is to work at the RIAA.

According to Digital Music News, the non-profit’s IRS filings of 2009 (submitted 2/11/11 – better submitted late than never, I suppose) reveal a payout of over $16 million in “salaries, other compensation, and employee benefits.” Topping the list is President Cary Sherman who made a whopping $3.2 million in 2009.

The RIAA works to protect the intellectual property and First Amendment rights of artists and music labels; conduct consumer, industry and technical research; and monitor and review state and federal laws, regulations and policies. (See, www.RIAA.org for more info about the organization).

Source: http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/stories/052211riaa