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Music News

First up in the news this week is a discussion with Dave Frey, manager of the band Cheap Trick. Jim and Greg talk to Frey about the recent lawsuit he and the Rockford natives recently filed against Sony BMG. Cheap Trick, along with the Allman Brothers Band, launched the suit contending that the label has underpaid artists for digital music transactions. Artists currently receive about 4.5 cents per 99-cent download, while the label can receive as much as 70 cents per transaction. Considering that hits like "Surrender" or "Ramblin' Man" were made and paid for decades ago, the split doesn‘t seem very equitable. The reason for this, Frey explains, is that many bands’ contracts were drafted long before digital technology emerged. In fact, CDs are still considered“new media”for Cheap Trick. Therefore, royalty deductions are made to account for outdated“breakages”and“containers.”But until Frey can discern what the container is for an MP3, and how it breaks, he stands by the suit, which is asking for $25 million on behalf of all Sony Music artists.

Fellow rocker Keith Richards has also been in the news. According to reports, the Rolling Stones guitarist suffered a concussion after falling from a palm tree. What he was doing climbing a palm tree is still unknown, but Richards seems to have emerged from this latest accident fairly intact. Jim and Greg muse that this is not the first time the notoriously hard-living Stone was put in harm's way: He has previously broken ribs, punctured a lung, infected a finger, and battled heroin addiction. It seems Greg is correct to compare Richards to a cockroach; nothing can take him out.

Go to episode 23

Music News

Legendary hit-maker and label head Clive Davis announced that he'll be stepping down from his post at Sony BMG. He'll remain on as“chief creative officer,”but this is definitely a demotion for the man who broke the careers of Whitney Houston, Aerosmith, Alicia Keys, and most recently, Leona Lewis. With Lewis on the path towards diva-dom, why's Davis being pushed out now? Jim and Greg surmise that the music mogul just became too expensive for Sony? Davis is perhaps the perfect representation of the old way of doing business in the music industry. But with album sales down, music videos gone and music radio on the way out, it may be time for the old guard to change.

Fans of print music journalism will be disheartened by the next news item. According to recent reports, ad revenues for major music magazines like Rolling Stone, Vibe and Blender are significantly down this quarter. Only Spin is experiencing growth, but that's after a dismal couple of years. This comes after the news of smaller titles like Harp and No Depression closing up shop. Jim and Greg speak with No Depression co-editor and co-founder Peter Blackstock about the magazine's decision to cease publication. Blackstock sees this trend as evidence that there's been a devaluation of the written word in our culture. But, he's hopeful that the long-time alt-country title will be able to thrive on the web and in longer magazine/book form.

Go to episode 126

Music News

The Payola investigation conducted by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is making some headway. Universal Music Group, the world's biggest music company, has agreed to pay $12 million to settle accusations that its executives paid radio programmers to play certain songs. This is the largest settlement of its kind. Warner Music Group and Sony BMG made similar deals last year, and Mr. Spitzer is still in the process of investigating EMI, as well as radio companies like Clear Channel and CBS Radio. And, as we heard a couple of weeks ago, the FCC is conducting a similar inquiry. As always, Sound Opinions H.Q. will keep you posted.

Another story in the news this week suggests that record company lawyers won't be taking a break any time soon. All four of the major record labels have just launched a lawsuit against XM Satellite Radio. Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI all claim that a new XM device called the "Inno" violates music copyright law by allowing people to not only listen to satellite radio, but record it. Therefore, according to the labels, XM has become a digital retailer, like iTunes, and should be required to pay similar fees. It's yet another example of the recording industry scorning new technology rather than embracing it.

Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose is also making news, though Jim and Greg are wondering why. The buzz is that his long-awaited album Chinese Democracy is forthcoming — but our hosts are skeptical. Rose has been saying that he's on the brink of finishing for years (15 to be exact), and in the process he's become one of the long-running jokes in the music industry. But fans can take solace in the fact that the singer recently performed some Chinese Democracy tracks in New York. A good sign indeed.

Go to episode 25