Lovers Lane
In The Flesh

File: July 2007

| June 28, 2007

Cannibals At The Gate

Much like Major League Baseball and anti-trust laws, terrestrial (that means land-based) radio enjoys a certain loophole to keep itself alive and occasionally relevant. Radio, as a music broadcaster, only has to pay royalties to songwriters and publishers. Right or wrong, performers and record companies have been shut out. But now they want their cut.

Former Supreme Mary Wilson (right), fresh off her fight against imposter acts, is spinning the wheels of justice again to get a bigger piece of the pie. “They’ve gotten 50-some years of free play,” the Chicago Tribune reported her saying. “Now maybe it’s time to pay up.” The RIAA has her back, arguing the decline in CD sales warns people away from careers in music, and reduced income stifles creativity. (Ah, the RIAA — strangely quiet when it came to payola).

But will two wrongs make a right? Forcing already-starved stations to tap another vein will ultimately drive more of them bankrupt (or underground), putting more and more control in the hands of corporations and deal-cutting major labels (who then homogenize playlists nationwide, etc., etc.). This isn’t the first time the exemption has been challenged, but with the music industry as disunited as ever, the robbing of Paul to pay Peter is about to turn into a vicious mugging.

Virgins Sacrificing Virgins

Sound like a prison movie you caught on Cinemax when your folks were asleep? Wrong. (Well, maybe.) News came down in May that Virgin Megastore on Michigan Avenue is about to whore itself out and make way for fashion retailer Forever XXI. Virgin announced this goes down in July, and it will also close its Salt Lake City location (uh, duh!) dropping the London-based operation to 11 U.S. stores.

Yes, rah! rah!, we’ve beaten the British again, but this is emblematic of larger trends. Not only are mom-and-pop stores folding by the dozen (Mojo Music, we hardly knew ye), but Virgin is following Tower Records down the pooper. The chain has gassed seven stores since 2006 and unconvincingly still tells itself its mission is “predicated on the quality of its stores rather than the quantity of its locations.” Sounds like Downing Street rhetoric circa 1948, if you ask us. (That’s a late-night PBS reference.)

WTF? Please Come

O.K. band members: You finally landed a gig at Uncle Duke’s Drink & Puke, your friends all asked you to make them VIPs and put them on the guest list, and the bozos flake out on you! Well have devised away to keep your slacker fanbase in line.

It’s time to get friendly with the idea of Mobile Fan Clubs, where “regionalized text messaging” allows you to cut through swaths of Web pages and reach your fans directly. Got a release show coming up? Text ’em! Change a set time on the fly? Give them a digital goosing. Haven’t met your minimum take and the owner’s threatening you? Bands such as Reel Big Fish, Trapt, The Cinematics, and Melissa Ferrick are already dissing yesterday’s MySpace friends for this contraption. You never know when you’ll be on the radio, much less how to tell anyone once you find out.

— Steve Forstneger

Category: Columns, File, Monthly

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