Fab Faux Pas?
Music played a pretty big role on the final Tonight Show featuring Conan O’Brien last week. There was the tone-deaf but kinda funny version of “Free Bird” featuring Will Ferrell in the Ronnie Van Zant role and Conan on sloppy guitar (plus Beck, Ben Harper and one of the bearded dudes from ZZ Top) that closed the show and Neil Young’s lovely, fitting “Long May You Run.”
But our favorite moment was more subversive. As Tom Hanks came on, Max Weinberg and the house band played The Beatles’ “Lovely Rita” (presumably a reference to Hanks’ wife, actress Rita Wilson) which some are saying cost NBC a pretty substantial fee.
Roots drummer and Late Night music director ?uestlove, in an online posting about “walk-on” fees on talk shows (where he revealed artists like Justin Timberlake and Chuck Berry charge outrageously high licensing fees, as he’s found out first hand), estimated it would cost the show about a half million dollars to have a Beatles song performed. A rep for Sony/ATV (which owns the rights to much of the Beatles’ catalog) told The New York Times that figure wasn’t accurate and that talk shows only have to pay a “nominal” fee for a “blanket license.”
But one has to wonder a) why Beatles music is never played as walk-on music normally and b) why ?uestlove would, as he wrote, have to pre-clear songs (some of which are turned down for cost) with NBC bigwigs before shows.
The High Price of Listening
Speaking of ridiculous music-related fees, the nearly $2 million file-sharing fine leveled by a judge on behalf of the recording industry against a Minnesotan mother of four has been reduced 97 percent (to a still hefty $54,000) by a U.S.
District Court judge who called the original fine “monstrous and shocking.” (The woman reportedly “stole” 24 songs.)
The RIAA (which initially asked for just $5,000 to settle, but was turned down) may appeal and one of the woman’s lawyers has said that they’ll challenge the constitutionality of any fine, so one of the industry’s worst PR moves in history seems far from over. We still think the woman is being punished excessively because Richard Marx was among the artists she allegedly downloaded illegally. Isn’t listening to Richard Marx punishment enough?
One Nation, Under Ticketmaster, With Neither Liberty Nor Justice for All
Two of the most powerful companies in the music business will be allowed to merge, according to a recent report from CNBC. The merger between Live Nation (which owns a gazillion concert venues and also has huge “pro motional deals” with artists like U2 and Madonna) and Ticketmaster (which sells most of the concert and other event tickets you buy and also runs bigtime management company Front Line) has some screaming “Monopoly!” (and not in a fun, boardgame way) and warning that higher ticket prices and greater harm to independent promoters are on the horizon.
Others are wondering if President Obama might step in and stop the merger to make an example of big business getting too big and stifling competition. But after the recent Supreme Court ruling that gives corporations unlimited financial influence in our elections, after the next few campaign cycles it’s not going to matter what’s good for the consumer. The companies with the most money will have all the power and you, dedicated music fan, can only sit on the sidelines and watch. For, undoubtedly, an enormous service fee.