Tuesday, February 03, 2009

That'll be the day (this thing gets posted)

With this catch-all entry, let us pause and remember the significance of this day, February 3, 2009. For today marks one of the most notable days in music history.

Fifty years ago, on February 3, 1959, a trio of young rockers on a midwestern ballroom tour, rocker Buddy Holly opted to get out of the dilapidated and freezing tour bus and charter a plane to take him and his band from Mason City, Iowa to their next gig in Moorhead, MN, hoping to arrive early enough to get some laundry done.

Tourmate Richie Valens flipped a coin with one of Holly's bandmates, Tommy Alsup, for his plane seat. Valens won. And another tourmate, J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson, suffering from the flu, begged Holly's other bandmate, Waylon Jennings, for his seat, to which Jennings obliged.

When Holly learned that Jennings wasn't going to fly, he said, "Well, I hope your ol' bus freezes up." Jennings responded, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes." No more ominous words were perhaps ever spoken. The plane wound up doing just that not too long after takeoff, killing all aboard.

Read more about The day the music died.

And here it is, the catch-all entry. Enjoy.

The day the music could die at EMI

This one is a bit off-topic in general, but is, however, music-related. And there are parallels between the entertainment industry and the media industry. Both have consolidated to the point that the biggest players hold an increasingly large chunk of the pie, and in some cases, some companies have fallen under the control of private equity firms with myopic slash-and-burn mentalities.

Most notable in the music industry is venerable British label EMI, which has a long and storied history. They're the ones that brought us Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Garth Brooks. Their Abbey Road Studios in London is perhaps the most famous and most innovative studio on the planet. And now, it looks like EMI's recording legacy could come to an end.

EMI has long been suffering, and even more so since the takeover by the Terra Firma private equity firm. Their deep-pocketed rivals have gotten much bigger, and EMI has seen an exodus of some of their biggest stars, including Brooks, Radiohead and Paul McCartney, who have all recently opted to go the indie label route. All of the combined factors have resulted in the recording division posting losses of £757 million ($1.08 billion) for the year ending March, 2008. Even after cleaning up some sloppy business practices and slashing 1500 jobs, the company is still hemmhoraging money.

Terra Firma may sell off EMI's recording division and keep its lucrative music publishing division. Could EMI land with yet another private equity group or get swallowed up by one of the other big industry fish, such as Sony, Time Warner or Universal Media Group? Or could we see a situation where some of the crown jewels, i.e. the lucrative Beatles catalog, get sold off separately, perhaps to the band members/estates themselves? Music fans will likely be watching this one closely.

And the prospect of a Big Three holding sway over most of the music industry could be a double-edged sword. With the ability of smaller independent labels and consortiums finding distribution and promotion to be quite simple compared to years past, and big artists such as Brooks, The Eagles and Nine Inch Nails releasing their new material sans-label online or through exclusive deals with retailers like Wal-Mart, do we really need major labels anymore?

Early in the Morning

Starting this week, you can hear Rachel Maddow in mornings at Air America, as she has given up her weeknight show on the radio network.

The New York Daily News says that Maddow will "provide content" for an hour-long morning program, largely built on her MSNBC show of the previous evening.

The problem, says Maddow, is that something had to give.

"I just couldn't keep doing both," she says. "It was a quality control issue - the quality of the program and my own quality of life. I need time to, say, eat and sleep, which I understand most people do every day. I wasn't. I needed not to be grabbing food off a cart at 2 in the morning."

Oh, Boy!

Two years after they almost killed it, and only a few weeks after management tried to shake it up by making some rather controversial changes, it appears that the listeners were right after all.

And with that, congratulations are in order for WXXM (92.1 The Mic) in Madison. In the most recent ratings book, they have jumped from a 2.2 share to a whopping FOUR POINT FREAKIN' SEVEN (!!!) in the overall numbers. That's a 4.7, folks, and marks a record for the biggest number for a purely progressive talk station in America.
Currently, they are tied for #6 overall in the market with country music sister WMAD.
And they say nobody listens. Feh!

Not Fade Away

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you know that television will undergo a major transformation in 2008. Gone will be the seven decade-old analog standard, to be replaced by ones and zeros.

As it currently stands, all of the nation's full-powered television stations will be required to turn off their analog transmission facilities and continue with their digital-only facilities on February 17. This may be extended to June 12 if Congress acts soon (and President Obama has signalled he will sign the bill once it leaves the House successfully). That means that, if you receive your television signals via rabbit ear antennas, you need to take note.

First, if you subscribe to cable, satellite or similar service, you're set. You're good to go. You may not even notice anything come February 17.

If you get your signals over-the-air, you may need to take note. Do you have a newer wide-screen LCD, plasma or other flat-panel set? Or a newer CRT (that big picture tube) unit that already receives digital signals? You're also set, but you may have to refer to your instruction manual to make sure you've already scanned the digital channels.

Now, if you have an older set (made more than three years ago or so) and it doesn't already receive digital signals, you may need one of those digital converter boxes. So far, they've been selling like crazy. So much that the government program that doles out $40 discount vouchers for the units has run out of money. That has been replenished, thanks to the recent stimulus bill that just got passed.

If you've been procrastinating and still haven't applied for your voucher yet, you can still do so, unless you just don't care about television anymore. Otherwise, you can still pay full-price for a converter box, if so desired. The boxes typically retail for $50-60, and can be found at most big-box retailers such as Best Buy, Radio Shack, Target and Wal-Mart.

Keep in mind that even though the analog shutoff may be postponed, individual stations, faced with the expense of keeping their old signals on for another four months, may opt to sign off analog come February 17. The FCC has been allowing stations to do this. Once the analog signal signs off for good, you'll need to be digitally compliant to still watch.

Now, let's say that you get your signals over-the-air. If you haven't already scanned for digital channels, then do so. Stations are still signing on their digital counterparts and even debuting subchannels. With the analog signals shut down, some stations may increase their digital power, allowing for a greater coverage area. And some may even change channel locations. It certainly would not a bad idea to occasionally rescan to update the tuner. And make sure you've got a decent antenna (often, a simple $20 one will suffice - a rooftop antenna is ideal).

But if you need a converter box, and don't already have one, what the hell are you waiting for?


raccoonradio said...

Is progtalk already gone in Boston? It returned Dec 1 w/ Jeff Santos mornings and Peter Collins (from West Coast) at night. The promised syndie show for midday ("in January") never appeared, and now two people report on messageboards that Sporting News Radio ran in place of Collins last night while Santos did not air this morning. Barring possibilities such as a board op error and a cold or dead car battery for Santos, it's possible it MAY be gone.

They had to pay to get on. Money may have run out. Details as they become available. No sign of any change on revolutionboston.com or on the WWZN site

raccoonradio said...

Boston update: Robin from the Save Prog Radio Boston yahoo group reports that the absence of Santos (and Collins too?) had to do with a negotiations squabble which she hopes will end soon.

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