La-La-Lawsuits: A Look Back on August’s Finest Litigious Moments

September 1st, 2011

Florida rapper J.R. Bricks changed the name of his song ”Waffle House” to “After the Party” after  he received a cease-and-desist letter from Waffle House, Inc.  Despite the title change, the Waffle House reference remains in the chorus.

Lady Gaga is being sued by Rebecca Francescatti who claims the singer and her producing partner stole her song, “Juda,” to create the hit “Judas.” The plaintiff says she introduced her song to her former bass player and a sound engineer who was working with Gaga.  How similar are the two tracks? You be the judge. “Juda” is available here.  Gaga’s “Judas” here.

As I wrote about in a previous post, Spotify was caught using some nasty cookies that track customers even after they’ve tried to delete the cookies. Now, the popular music streaming service that just launched in the U.S., is one of the latest targets of a class action over breaches in privacy laws stemming from their use of the cookies.

The Writers Guild of America filed a claim against Bring It On: The Musical on behalf of Jessica Bendinger, the screenwriter of the 2000 Universal film on which the new musical is based.  The confidential arbitration demand asserts that Beacon Communications Corp. and Beacon Communications, LLC are exploiting Bendinger’s dramatic rights in the cheerleader-themed Bring It On without her consent, in violation of the guild agreement’s “separated rights” provisions. It seeks damages and an injunction against Bring It On: The Musical, which is being coproduced by Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Beacon Communications and others.  Bendinger had been working on developing her own stage version of the story for the past six years and found out through the rumor mill that the show was being shopped without her involvement.

Dr. Phil and CBS have settled a lawsuit by Shirley Dieu and Crystal Matchett who alleged they were lured by promises of getting personal counseling from Dr. Phil himself, only to be locked during a 2007 filming of the show in a “mock house” on a sound stage and “forced to be in the same room with a completely naked live man while he exposed his entire naked body, genitals and all.”  Last January a California judge denied CBS’ anti-SLAPP motion and determined that the women showed a likelihood of success.  The details of the settlement have not been released.

Lindsay Lohan has sued rapper Pit Bullfor defamation and exploiting the Logan name in the song “Give Me Everything.”  The lyric at issue: “Hustlers move in silence, so I’m tiptoein’, to keep blowin’. I got it locked up like Lindsay Lohan.” Lohan is seeking an injunction and damages.

Maria Menounos has been sued for defamation, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, and intentional infliction of emotional distress by her former stylist, Lindsay Albanese, who claims that the ex-Access Hollywood host cost her clients by telling people she’s a thief.

20th Century Fox has won $40,000 in attorney’s fees from writer James Muller who sued the studio in 2009 claiming that the script for Alien vs. Predator infringed upon Muller’s script titled The Lost Continent.  In an order granting Fox’s motion for attorney fees, the judge gave three reasons why Muller’s claims were “frivolous and objectively unreasonable.” The stories were different, the alleged similarities were ill-conceived, and any similarities were not protectable by copyright, like stock themes.

Vampire Weekend  settled a lawsuit with model Kirsten Kennis who accused the popular indie rock band of violating her publicity rights by using an old photo of her on the 2010 Contra album cover. According to the complaint, the band obtained the photograph from the photographer, Todd Brody, who was accused of forging Kennis’s signature on the release form.  The details of the settlement are not disclosed but Kennis was seeking $2 million in damages.

Katherine Stockett, author of The Help, was awarded summary judgment in a lawsuit claiming that Stockett had based a character in the book on Ablene Cooper without her permission.  Cooper sought $75,000 in damages, but the summary judgment was granted in favor of Stockett because the one year statute of limitations had already elapsed when Cooper filed the suit.

The Throne (Jay-Z and Kanye West) are facing legal action from R&B singer Syl Johnson for allegedly not clearing a sample from Johnson’s 1967 song “Different Strokes,” which appears on the track “The Joy” on their new album, Watch the Throne.

Miles Davis‘s estate is suing a Manhattan jazz club called Miles’ Cafe for infringing his allegedly trademarked first name.

August’s Notable Hirings, Firings & Promotions

August 31st, 2011

Richard Palmese is leaving his post as EVP of Promotion at RCA Music GroupTom Corson, another longtime executive there, was named the label group’s president and chief operating officer.

David Bohrman, the former chief of CNNs Washington bureau, is now the president of Current TV.

David Foster will soon lead UMG-owned Verve Music Group.  He is expected to focus the label’s roster on adult contemporary music.

Rob Stevenson joins Universal Republic as Executive VP of A&R, reporting into CEO Monte Lipman and COO Avery Lipman.

Peter Edge has been named CEO of RCA Music Group, the umbrella group of RCA, J, Arista, and Jive.

RIAA president Mitch Bainwol has officially stepped down, moving away from the music industry to the position of chief executive at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.  Replacing Bainwol as chairman and chief executive will be Cary Sherman, the organization’s president since 2001.

Pandora named Steven Kritzman as Senior Vice President of Advertising Sales.

The Orchard has taken on former Random House executive Peter McCarthy as SVP of Marketing.

Philip Ginthör is now CEO of Sony Music Entertainment GSA (Germany, Switzerland and Austria).

Edgar Berger has been named President & CEO of International at Sony Music Entertainment.

Don Was is now Chief Creative Officer at EMI-owned Blue Note Records.

Ethiopia Habtemariam, an influential young executive from Universal’s music publishing arm, has been named Motown’s senior vice president.

Stephen White is the new President of Gracenote.

Clear Channel Radio promoted Tom Poleman to President of Clear Channel National Programming Platforms and moved  Michele Laven to EVP of Strategic Partnerships.

Eric Dingman was ousted from his role as leader of Classics at EMIDavid Kassler will become the Chairman of Classics and Amanda Cupples will function as the Chief Operating Officer for the Global Classics business, focusing on strategy development and global coordination.

TAG Strategic has just named Jeff Becker as VP Social Media and Brand Marketing.

Bruno Mars manager Brandon Creed is now an A&R consultant for Universal Republic and Island Def Jam Motown, reporting into group chairman Barry Weiss.

More changes at Island Def Jam with layoffs including Garrett Schaefer (Bon Jovi, M Etheridge, Taio Cruz), Paul Resta (The Killers, Neon Trees, Noel Gallagher, Portishead, Noah and the Whale, Jon McHugh (head of Film/TV), JP Robinson (head of Creative) Sam Dailey (head of Phys Retail) and 30+ staffers.

Shortly following the layoffs at Island Def Jam, Sony Music Entertainment cut an estimated 25 employees, including Larry Kanusher (senior VP of business and legal affairs for global digital business), Tom Glaser (VP of sales and marketing research), and Linda Ury Greenberg (VP of consumer research).

Edgar Bronfman, Jr. is now Chairman of the freshly-acquired Warner Music Group, while Stephen Cooper will take on Bronfman’s former position of CEO.

And some news in lawyer-land…The Directors Guild has moved David Dreyfus from associate general counsel. Tiffanie Baker has been promoted to assistant general counsel to fill his spot. The moves come a few days after the guild’s Russ Hollander, David Korduner and Bryan Unger were promoted to associate national executive directors.

Steve Jobs has resigned as Apple CEO.  He will remain a chairman of the company. Tim Cook is taking over the CEO position.

NARM appointed five new board members.  They are: Christina Calio (Director, Relationships and Strategy, Media and Entertainment Group, Interactive Entertainment Business, Microsoft); Michael Davis (President; Alliance Entertainment Corporation); Adam Klein (President & CEO, eMusic); David Krinsky (Head of Label Relations & Business Development, Rhapsody); and Alyssa Vescio (Senior Buyer/Music & Digital Entertainment; Target).

Universal Music Group named Andrew Kronfeld as its first President of Global Marketing, reporting to Max Hole, COO of Universal Music Group International.

CMT named Leslie Fram Senior Vice President of Music Strategy.

Rightsflow promoted Michael Kauffman to Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Content, and Chris Lydle to Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

La-La-Lawsuits: A Look Back on July’s Finest Litigious Moments

July 29th, 2011

Composer Jack Urbont is suing Sony Music Entertainment and Ghostface Killah for illegally sampling his “Iron Man Theme,” originally created for the 1960s television show, The Marvel Super Heroes.

A Florida judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by White Wave International Labs that claimed Lindsay Lohan and a business partner stole a formula for a sunless spray tan.

Orlando Magic (and former University of Arizona – go cats!) guard Gilbert Arenas recently followed Chris Bosh‘s and sued his ex-wife and the producers of VH1‘s Basketball Wives.  Here’s the complaint.

A California Superior Court judge  rejected Ticketmaster‘s settlement with a class of plaintiffs who claimed they were misled on “delivery fees” of concert tickets. According to the judge the settlement ”offered virtually no benefit to the class member.”

American Idol creator Simon Fuller  filed a lawsuit against Fox and Simon Cowell for an exective producer credit and a piece of ‘X Factor’ revenues. More details about the case here.

A New York federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by writer Martin Alexander who claimed he came up with a copyrighted sitcom entitled Loony Ben that bore a striking similarity to the Emmy-award winning ABC comedy Modern Family.  Alexander’s list of similarities over a show to be focused on “a non-traditional family” was not enough to meet the New York court’s threshold for “substantial similarity,” so Alexander will not be getting his demanded 50% interest in the copyright.

Glee co-creator Ian Brennan is being sued his friend Michael Novick, who claims he was promised 15% in backend compensation on the hit Fox musical after helping Brennan develop the show.

Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester sued her mother for getting plastic surgery on Meester’s dime.  The actress alleges her mother used money for plastic surgery, botox and hair extensions that Meester had sent for her brother’s care.  A week later, the mother, Constance, filed her own lawsuit against Meester, claiming Constance “sacrificed her own happiness” for her daughter’s career by paying $230,000 for the actress’s acting classes and education.  Constance also claims that Meester agreed to pay her $10,000 a month for her mother’s case, which Meester has never paid out.

A federal court in New York refused to dismiss David LaChapelle’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Rihanna, Def Jam Records and Black Dog Films.  LaChapelle claims that the video for Rihanna’s “S&M” infringes upon a number of his photographs.  The judge found that Rihanna’s team had access to LaChapelles work (they used it as references in their storyboard), that there is “substantial similarity” between the works, and that the fair use defense in this case is “misguided.”  A pre-trial conference is set for August 10.

CBS sued Lucas Reiter, writer of NBC’s new show The Firm, for tortious interference with contract, breach of contract, and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.  CBS is claiming that Reiter and Entertainment One developed The Firm for CBS under an exclusive contract (which paid over $250,000) and then took it to NBC without CBS’s permission.  The Firm (show) picks up where Grisham’s novel The Firm leaves off.  It is set to air midseason with Josh Lucas as the star.

T-Pain, the R&B singer and producer widely credited with popularizing auto-tune, is suing Antares Technologies, the inventor of the auto-tune technology.  The singer is seeking an injunction to prevent Antavares from using his name, photograph, likeness, and his voice, claiming that continued implication of an endorsement will confuse and mislead the public and damage sales for his own new technologies, including his own voice-manipulation product “The T-Pain Effect.”

The View star Barbara Walters has been sued over allegations that she lied and defamed a woman in her 2008 autobiography Audition: A Memoir.  Nancy Shay claims to have had a relationship with Walter’s daughter nearly 30 years ago when both were teenagers. Shay says she was expelled from school at Walters’ behest back then, thus ruining her life, and was bullied to remain silent all these years. Now, after being allegedly subject to an unflattering portrayal in Walters’ memoirs, Shay is suing for defamation.

Heavy-metal rocker turned radio host and conservative preacher Bradlee Dean is suing MSNBC and Rachel Maddow for allegedly defaming him in a segment when she quoted a radio show statement he had previous made which stated in part “Muslims are calling for the execution for homosexuals in America… They seem to be more moral than even the American Christians do. Because these people are livid about enforcing their laws, they know homosexuality is an abomination.” The lawsuit claims $50 million in damages and alleges that Maddow twisted Dean’s comments in an effort to undermine Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

Joe Pesci is suing Fiore Films for $3 million and punitive damages after claiming they cut his role and salary in their John Gotti biopic, Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father.  Even though a contract was never signed, Pesci claims he was offered $3 million to play Gotti pal and enforcer Angelo Ruggiero and had already gained 30 pounds for the part.

Event Recap: Marketing Your Music

July 22nd, 2011

Last night I attended a seminar at the Gibson Showroom (former location of The Hit Factory studios) entitled “Marketing Your Music: Opportunities in Films, Television and Other Media.”  Although the topic is similar to a panel I co-organized for Women in Music last month, the seminar was pretty different.  It was not a panel, per se, but rather a presentation conducted by Dave Hnatiuk (pronounced Narek with a rolled r) and David Weiss, co-authors of the book Music Supervision.

In assessing this event, I’m going to be brutally honest.  That said, I completely understand how hard it is to put on an event like this, but today I get to wear the audience hat, rather than the event planner.

The event was set to start at 6 pm.  The coordinator of the event did not show up until around 6:45, so we were all waiting around the lobby aimlessly for almost an hour.  The set up was strange with limited seating.  The refreshments were appreciated, but the wine was so warm it was being referred to as “mulled.” There were technical difficulties; the video projector wasn’t working so we watched video examples on a laptop computer held up by David Weiss (who had a great sense of humor about the glitch, which made the experience much less awkward than it could have been).  The presentation itself (including the question and answer period) was no more than an hour, yet the event was advertised as taking place from 6 – 9 pm.  The seminar portion was seemingly cut short by the need for two performance, which took place following the presentation.  I’m not sure I can speak for others in attendance, but I did not attend this event to see a concert. “Live Music” was nowhere in the title of this seminar, and any mention of live performances I assumed would be as background or entrance music.  Those of us meeting each other outside of the room and exchanging information were constantly shushed and told to reenter the studio to see the performance.  The tickets for the event were $40, in my opinion steep for the hour of information.

The presentation itself was useful.  Dave Hnatiuk knows his way around the music industry.  He is a music supervisor, sound designer, engineer and musician.  He can communicate his experiences and advice thoughtfully and effectively to both industry professionals as well as artists.  He described specific examples of launch campaigns, ads, and shows that he music supervised, detailing the process. A number of online resources were thrown out, and I appreciated his honesty in criticizing many popular resources.  Surprisingly, when asked how he finds music, the first answers were Pandora and iTunes.  These may seem obvious, but with nonexclusive music libraries popping up all over the internet and claiming to be the direct link to music supervisors, I was surprised that supervisors stick to basic music providers.  In discussing these online libraries that license music, Hnatiuk said he doesn’t use them much, only when on a very limited budget.  He did praise them for having “authentic sounds.”

Tips for getting your songs placed?  Hnatiuk mentioned a few that I found particularly useful:

  • Make sure you have stems of your music.  Oftentimes the placement will require remixing or taking out certain parts of the song.
  • A direct pipeline to the music supervisor is great, but don’t stalk them!  Email once a month and if they aren’t writing back, take an honest look at your music and ask if it’s good and/or if it’s appropriate for the placement.
  • Send what the supervisors need; don’t force your music upon them if it’s not right.
  • Be specific in your emails about what you’re sending. Describe the music in the subject line of the email.

I’m sure Hnatiuk had much more wisdom to share, but unfortunately was cut short.

Aside from the presentation itself, the audience was a varied group and engaged in the presentation.  People were eager to network following the presentation but conversations were stopped by the live performances.  Some of us managed, however, and I was able to get to know a number of talented new people.  Overall, I can’t say I would spend another $40 on an event like this, especially when through Women in Music, I get to attend similar ones for free.  I did learn more about the current landscape of music supervision, and would be very interested to see the Daves on another panel again soon.

South Park Wins “What What (in the Butt)” Parody Lawsuit

July 19th, 2011

Earlier this month, a federal court in Wisconsin ruled on a copyright case between Brownmark Films, LLC and the folks behind cartoon South Park (including, Comedy Partners, MTV, Paramount, and Viacom  as well as the South Park company), alleging that South Park infringed their copyright in the music video “What What (In the Butt)” (“WWITB”). A 2008 episode of the cartoon, entitled “Canada on Strike,” was about Butters making an internet video in the hopes of having it go viral and make tons of money off it.  The video in the cartoon replicates parts of WWITB, with Butters singing most of the song dressed in various costumes.  In the end, Butters’ video (like the original) goes viral, but the boys fail to make money.  Brownmark Films (alleged owner of the copyright in the original WWITB video) sued South Park for infringing its copyright by using portions of the original WWITB composition.

The defense primarily relied on the fair use doctrine, claiming that the inclusion of WWITB in the South Park episode is a parody of the original work.  Based on this argument, this court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss with prejudice.

Below is a discussion of the various issues in the case and the court’s analysis.

Standing

First, the court looked as to whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring the case.  Only exclusive owners, not mere licensees, of a copyright have standing to bring a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement.   Two of the three creators of the video assigned their interests to Brownmark Films, and the first issue is whether a co-owner of a copyrighted work can grant an exclusive license without all the other co-owners.  The court did not find persuasive the 9th circuit case Sybersound Records, Inc. v UAV Corp (517 F.3d 1137), which set forth the rule that all owners of a copyright must join in granting an exclusive license.  Instead, the court found the assignment here sufficient to be an exclusive assignment to Brownmark of the two owners’ rights in the copyright, a proper basis for standing to bring a copyright infringement claim.

Fair Use Doctrine

The heart of the case is whether the South Park episode infringed the copyright of WWITB; more specifically, whether the defendant’s use of WWITB is fair use, an affirmative defense in copyright law.

The fair use doctrine allows for certain uses of copyrighted works by people other than the copyright owner without the owner’s consent.  Such appropriate uses, such as for purposes of criticism or comment, are not considered infringements.  To determine whether a particular use is “fair,” courts look mainly to four factors: (1) the purposes and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount of substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work (17 U.S.C. § 107).

The court reviewed the four factors for the specific case in question.  The “purpose and character” of the uses was “to lampoon the recent craze in our society of watching video clips on the internet that are – to be kind – of rather low artistic sophistication and quality,” commenting on the ultimate lack of monetary value of such videos.   The opinion notes that the use is transformative of the original “by doing the seemingly impossible – making the WWITB video even more absurd by replacing the African American male singer with a naive and innocent nine-year old boy dressed in adorable outfits.”  Further, it is “truly transformative” because it not only pokes fun of the original but also comments on a social trend.

Regarding the other factors, the court found that the use of the work was relatively insubstantial in that it is less than a third of the length of the original work and that there was little risk that the use would usurp the market demand for the original.

Here is the full decision.

And watch both versions of WWITB below.

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Event: Media Leaders Networking Event

July 18th, 2011

Join fellow Media Leaders in NYC for an event on July 19th to share ideas and enjoy meeting new friends. There’s no keynote speaker or panel of experts, just socializing and mixing with key influencers that are changing the way the industry operates.

Official RSVP required here: http://medialeaders.tv/new-york-networking-event-lexbar-at-st-giles-the-court-hotel/

This event uses these twitter hashtags: #MediaLeaders #NYC

Bring your business cards to take part in a cutting edge junction of leaders in marketing, advertising, PR, and technology while discussing current events and new innovations. We are a group of influencers that come together to exchange ideas and thrive on meeting new people while making lasting connections.

EVENT DETAILS:
Where: LexBar at St Giles – The Court Hotel
130 E 39th Street
New York, NY 10016
When: Tues. July 19th @ 7-10PM
Who: See who’s attending
http://medialeaders.tv/new-york-networking-event-lexbar-at-st-giles-the-court-hotel/#attendees

Big Brother Cast Contract Leak: 10 Reasons to Avoid Reality TV

July 13th, 2011

With a dozen seasons under its belt, Big Brother is one of the major players in reality television.  Ever consider what rights you have to sign away to get into the house?  Now we know.  According to realityblurred.com, the contract sent out to finalists in the casting process was leaked and is available online here.  The only change is that personal information has been blocked out.

I would recommend reading the full agreement for yourself, especially if you’ve ever considered becoming a reality tv star.  But here are 10 (there are many more than 10 baddies in this contract) of the worst provisions (from the participant’s perspective) listed in order of their appearance in the contract:

1. “. . . until the conclusion of the initial network television broadcast of the cycle of the Series on which [participant] appear[s], if any, [participant] shall not be allowed to maintain a personal website” or permit anyone else to maintain a website on their behalf “regardless of whether its contents do or do not relate to [his/her] experience in connection with the Series . . . ”

>> Sites already in existence must be taken offline, and the producer can register domains of the participant’s name and own them forever.

2.  For one year following initial broadcast of the final episode of that season, the participate “will not be permitted to render services or make appearances in any and all forms of media for any third parties.”

3. Participant agrees “to read, to acknowledge understanding of, and to following and obey [the official] Series Rules (as they may be changed, modified or amended by Producer in its sole discretion from time to time with or without prior notice to” participant.

>> The participant is agreeing to following rules that can be changed at any time and they may not know about the changes (but still need to follow them, unconditionally).

4.  “The water supply to the House will be rationed by Producer, and that Producer will ultimately control all power and other utilities flowing into the House.”

>> Let’s hope no one gets food poisoning right when the Producer decides to cut the water off.

5.  Participant releases, indemnifies, and holds harmless Producer, Network and other “Released Parties” from any claims and liability asserting a violation of participant’s rights of privacy, intentional (!!!) or negligent infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and/or any  (!!!) other tort and/or damages in any way relating to the disclosure of personal or other information about participant.

>>>  The producer can commit intentional torts against the participant and the participant has no cause of action (i.e., can’t sue) against them.  So even if the information is false (i.e., defamation) and the Producer never rights the lie, no claims. Example:  Someone on the show says (or it is blatantly implied) that the participant has a particularly nasty sexually transmitted disease (even though they have to get tested as required by the contract) and the participant suffers damages (like, loses his job as a doctor, teacher, etc. or his wife leaves him because she doesn’t believe he’s clean), no claim for damages against Producer. 

Later in the agreement, participant similarly acknowledges and allows producer to use footage in any manner, even though it may be “disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing or of an otherwise unfavorable nature and may expose [participant] to public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation.”

6.  Producer is not required to get any insurance covering participant’s death and/or disability; Participant alone is responsible for any insurance to cover death, disability, etc.

>> I’m guessing that many people leave their jobs for this “opportunity,” which lasts over 3 months, so many may no longer have insurance policies.

7.  If participant plays music that he wrote before the series, participant grants a blanket synch license to let producer record and reproduce the music in or outside of the Series, forever, in any media.  If participant plays music during the series that wasn’t written before (i.e., written during the show), Producer owns it (i.e., Participant has no rights to it; it is considered a work for hire).

8.  Producer can terminate or abandon the production for any reason at any time and is not obligated to award any prize to any participant if the show is terminated or abandoned.

9.  If participant breaches the confidentiality provision in any way, he/she agrees to pay to producer $5,000 in liquidated damages (plus reasonable attorneys fees).

>> So basically if you tell anything about the show to anyone (family included) before the episode with that information airs, you must pay $5,000 to the producer.  The producer doesn’t have to prove that they suffered $5,000 worth (or any amount) of damages. You still pay.

10.  Participant cannot ever write, prepare or produce written, audio, visual, a/v, or any other work with a third party that “depicts, concerns or relates to the Series in any way . . . without prior written consent” of Network or Producer.   This includes TV shows, books, articles, and websites.

Not only that… Particpant grants to Producer the exclusive right to his/her life story, which Producer can produce (in books, theater, tv, movies, etc) “either accurately or with such liberties and modifications as Producer determines necessary or desirable in its sole discretion . . .”  And you have to get similar releases from your family members.

>> No compensation is addressed here.  So basically, you can’t commission or produce a book or movie about your own life. The producer can make whatever they want about your life, forever, in any form, and you have no say over what they include or how they present it.  And you make no money from it.

The Grand Prize is $500,000 (although it can be taken away at any time in Producer’s sole discretion if you are found to have broken any of the terms of the contract).  Is signing this contract worth the (remote) chance of winning?

What Does It Take to Have a Hit Song?

July 1st, 2011

I recently read two separate articles, both about different approaches to having a hit song.  The first, discussed Rihanna’s costs of over $1 million to create and market a song. The other is about Lexi St. George, the winner of Good Morning America’s “Pop Star Challenge.”

For the Rihanna song “Man Down,” the label put $1,078,000 into its release, including a $1 million song rollout and an $18,000 “Writing Camp” (and this is per song) with over 40 writers present.  The article notes that most of the money (from the “song rollout” amount) goes to breaking top 40 radio, indicating the vastness of difference between breaking through viral (free) online campaigns versus top 40 terrestrial radio.

Let’s take a look at the viral approach.  Rebecca Black (who I’ve begrudgingly blogged about previously) was essentially created by Ark Music Factory for less than $5,000.  This included a video too (which that Rihanna budget did not cover apparently).  ABC’s Good Morning America wanted to see how a star is born (at least via Ark Music Factory).  They created the “Pop Star Challenge,” which selected one lucky teen to be made into a pop star in one week by Ark.  The winner was Lexi St. George.  After hours in the studio and a makeover, Ark and Lexi released the single “Dancing to the Rhythm (with Me).”  Is this the new Rebecca Black? Probably not.  In my view, it’s just not bad enough.  Rebecca Black is a hit because everyone hates her music.  “Friday” is really horrible.  St. George’s song is bad, but her voice isn’t as cringe-inducingly nasal and monotone as Black’s.  The song itself also isn’t as catchy as Black’s, probably because St. George actually wrote it herself.  Whereas “Friday” was in my head for weeks after I first heard it, I couldn’t hum the hook from “Dancing to the Rhythm” if I was at gunpoint.

The articles show two vastly different approaches to creating a pop hit.  Compare the two tunes for yourself:

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Kardashians Win Lawsuit over Pulling Out of Credit Card Sponsorship Deal

June 16th, 2011

The Kardashians managed to fend off a $75 million lawsuit, which claimed the girl’s caused the collapse of a credit card company by pulling out of a spokesperson deal and also making disparaging comments about the company.

Despite having a simple sponsorship agreement in place, the court looked to the important freedom of speech issues rather than addressing it as a traditional contract claim. The court granted the Kardashians’ anti-SLAPP motion, a California device that protects the right to comment on issues of public import, and also awarded them over $6k in attorneys fees. The decision noted that the credit card company’s services had garnered negative press from before the sponsorship deal, so the Kardashians were not to blame for the failure of the company.

Read more about the case here.

Schadenfreude: “Let’s cheer up. This is not the music industry,” says Time Warner CEO

June 14th, 2011

At the NCTA Cable Show today, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes tried to rally positive thoughts about the state of the industry. 

“Let’s cheer up. This is not the music industry; this is the cable industry,” Bewkes announced.  The statement was in response to a question about how cable companies will deal with competing online services, such as NetFlix and YouTube.

While there certainly are differences between the industries, the cable industry could probably learn a lot from the struggles of the music industry.  For example, lawsuits against minor piracy infringements aren’t effective; while diversify and teaming up with online services is a good way to stay current in the market.