JAIMIE VERNON – THE MUSIC WAR’S LOST AND WE’RE STILL FIGHTING OVER IWO JIMA


It’s been a week of chaos in the Vernon household (lost one computer while trying to get the Encyclopedia Volume 2 finished, no money, no gas, child home sick on week #2 of the new school year) so sitting down and writing one of my brilliantly pithy divisive diatribes has been next to impossible. So, I thought I might do a round up of topics floating about on the interwebs right now. Call it my scream of consciousness.


Firstly, there’s been a brouhaha related to independent music artist Amanda Fucking Palmer (aka Mrs. Neil Gaiman or maybe that dead girl on ‘Twin Peaks’….we’re always getting the two confused). A few months back she fired up a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to launch not only her next independent album release but a record label and recording studio. I wrote a blog in DBAWIS about what she was offering her fans in exchange for their loyalty (i.e. a good part of their yearly income and a tattooed body part). On the surface the campaign seemed pretty transparent – she gave the costs of all the things that needed to been done, acquired or manufactured. The fans would get a shitload of product, swag and concert time from the chanteuse. But I had a problem with her hard costs and pointed out that she’s either lying about those costs or just too lazy to shop around for better deals. She claimed a vinyl version of her LP was going to cost about $25,000 just to manufacture. Even a double gatefold sleeve in 4 colours with lyric sheet for 1000 copies would be under $7500. And I can’t imagine she’s got 5,000 fans looking for the vinyl version. Regardless, the campaign went on – she laid all her cards on the table and the fans leaped at the chance to help this lady realize her goal. She raised $1.2 million, manufactured the album and is now on tour.

And then the shit hit the fan this week. Turns out she made a statement to the effect that she couldn’t pay some of the musicians performing on tour with her. The comment went viral and she was cyber-stoned by fans, casual observers and all matter of liberal minded “feed the artiste” placard wavers and finger waggers. Palmer back-pedaled and said she was offering novice musicians the chance to get on stage at her tour stops just for the chance to have a big-stage experience. These musical ‘interns’, as it turns out, weren’t the ones complaining about not getting paid – but, like the Duddley Do-Nothings of our PC generation, someone had to stand up for these people and stop the oppressors. In this case, Amanda Palmer is the oppressor…despite being one of their own. Palmer is sitting on $1.2 million dollars. “Surely she can PAY the musicians!” they yelled! One statement says she can’t, the other statement claims it wasn’t about paying people in the first place. With the recent knuckle wringing about musicians getting compensated for their work, time and experience it would make sense that Palmer would be sensitive to such an ideal. I guess that’s going to be her cross to bear as the fallout continues.

But, my take on this is a bit different than all the villagers storming her Twitter feed with pitchforks. Nowhere did Palmer say she’d be sharing the money from Kickstarter with others except in the instances she specifically mentioned (graphic designers, photographers, etc.). The money was for the completion of the album, promotion, the incorporating of a record label, and the building of a studio whose use can be deferred over dozens of future projects (if not indefinitely). It’s what she told the fans. It’s what she delivered to the fans.  The only people who have the right to bitch about Palmer’s wealth are those hundreds, if not thousands, of people that GAVE it to her. Had she failed to deliver the album or the swag or the concerts, THEY would have a right to complain. If it’s not your money on that stage…or tied up in recording that album…or in building her studio….then shut the fuck up! You don’t get a say. And if you’re a musician who is getting screwed by this woman, that’s between you (the employee) and her (the employer). And if she still won’t pay you, I hear Gaiman’s made a few bucks himself in the entertainment world. http://youtu.be/pJVWSu5Nfi8

Failed singer-turned-successful actor Bruce Willis announced this week that he’s going to sue iTunes because he found out that despite purchasing the entire history of Rock and Roll from the downloading service to listen to at his own convenience, he doesn’t actually OWN the tracks. In fact, when he dies he cannot, legally, leave the collection to his children like one would with a vinyl or CD collection. Mr. Willis has uncovered a massive bait and switch clause in the user agreement that everyone approves (without ever reading) when getting the iTunes service. Turns out that a $0.99 or $1.29 download “purchase” is nothing more than a rental fee. You don’t own a single song in your iTunes digital collection. SURPRISE! Meanwhile, in a ‘add more fuel to the fire’ move, iTunes announced yesterday that they’re going to launch a ‘new and improved’ iTunes in 2013. I expect that this version will TAKE your downloads…right off your computer hard drive, CD players, and old 8-track tape machines buried behind the stack of old Playboy magazines in your garage. To paraphrase Canadian music journalist Alan Cross after he heard the news this week: iTunes is screwed….everyone’s streaming….the $0.99 per track model is dead. Segarini and I have been saying this since 2003. [THIS JUST IN: a more recent story this week says that Willis ISN’T suing iTunes after all. No matter, the issue has now been brought to light]

To that end, Sony and Universal Music signed on to Google’s fledgling cloud music service this week. Google’s got the ubiquity and the staying power to compete against the monopoly that iTunes has controlled for nearly a decade. The question remains…is it too little too late? The music industry battle has been lost. Everyone has become a casualty – from music makers to manufacturers to distributors to retailers and more. So why are we still fighting over the metaphorical Iwo Jima of the music biz? The internet is the last hill, the last place to plant a flag and once you’ve taken that territory, then what?  Will one company control it all? Will Google or Apple or some unknown future megalithic corporate monstrosity feed music into your brain via Wi-Fi? Or will there be anything left to actually control? There’s still a billion Chinese who’ve never seen a Victrola. Some clever entrepreneur can still make a killing selling 78RPM vinyl…you just gotta be willing to chase a different audience.

GRACE NOTES

Yes, you heard correctly. Telus’ newest commercial for smartphones has tapped 1981 dance hit “Living On Video” by Montreal studio act Trans-X featuring Pascal Languirand (instrumentation) and Laurie Ann Gill (vocals) . Few people know that this song was Canadian as was the second charting hit “Message on the Radio”. Consider yourself informed. http://youtu.be/b9xBAtCsCTQ

Until such time as Klaatu reunites to make a sequel to their 1977 JUNO Award winning album ‘Hope’ (currently in a 35th anniversary remastered CD version through klaatutheband.com) fans can get their fix with solo projects. Currently guitarist/vocalist Dee Long has a fun cover band going called Atomic Tracktor who have an album’s worth of remakes available here: http://deelong.bandcamp.com/album/run-4-cover

Speaking of Bandcamp, the amazing New York power pop master Eytan Mirsky has a new album available entitled ‘Year of the Mouse’. Until such time as I get my second computer fixed and can download it for a proper review, please take my word for it that this release is worth the $7.00. Check it out here: http://eytanmirsky.bandcamp.com

Once again, I ask anyone that missed it last week to please donate charitably to the campaign set up to help Toronto guitar legend Rick Gunn in his battle to recover from his recent stem cell transplant. He is home and attempting to convalesce, but it’s a long road with a lot of ongoing bills for medicine and in-home care. http://www.kapipal.com/rickgunn

Today would have been my father’s 73rd birthday. He passed away two weeks short of his 68th. I don’t celebrate birthdays of people who have passed but what I will do is celebrate the great 67 years he had when he was here. Some may have seen this on Facebook when I posted it on August 30th, but here is the song I wrote for him while he was alive and could appreciate it. It’s a testament to a life well lived and well loved. http://youtu.be/RTWdDYeJctQ

Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9 CANADA

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com

3 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON – THE MUSIC WAR’S LOST AND WE’RE STILL FIGHTING OVER IWO JIMA”

  1. Another very interesting column by Mr. Vernon.

  2. I always loved reading your columns Jaimie you always say it like it is to give folks the reality the state of this industry is. Some youngster will want to be a rock star some day but he or she need a lot of work to get there even if they need to make music themselves and have the right people to help them out.

  3. adding another bullet point to my “anti-itunes” list, thanks Jamie! i much prefer buying from cdbaby, maplemusic or directly from the artist so i know a) where my money is going and b) that the music stays with me!

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