Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Vandermark on touring Europe vs. the US

Monday, February 19th, 2007

One last Ken Vandermark post: I was browsing through his tour notes yesterday and came across this interesting paragraph from his recap of last year’s Vandermark 5 U.S. tour:

People frequently ask if it’s better to tour in Europe and I always say no, that aside from the fact that there’s more money available through government arts support and festivals, in many ways it’s the same. Since there are hardly any festivals in the United States that focus on the kind of music I play, and which have any kind of budget (I need to go to Canada for those North American opportunities), all the music is usually performed in small venues by presenters who don’t receive any funding for the work that they do. This means that I am paid about three times more for comparable work in Europe. Otherwise, aside from festivals, the audience turnouts are almost identical in their numbers and demographics, and if you remove the subsidy money from the equation the net economic result is nearly the same. Another similarity between North America and Europe is that the best gigs are organized by presenters who really care about the music and the players. The experience for the musicians isn’t only based on the size of the city, it’s based on the motivations of the people involved with the concerts.

Zorn gets $500,000… what now?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

The big news today is that John Zorn has won the so-called Macarthur “Genius” grant, the same one that Ken Vandermark won a few years ago, that pays out half a million dollars over five years. Folks in the avant-garde community are having predictably mixed reactions over this one. On the one hand, Zorn isn’t particularly cutting-edge these days and hasn’t been for several years. More, the dude already seems to have a hell of a lot more resources than plenty of other equally deserving semi-underground artists out there. Giving him $500,000 for even more Masada live releases seems almost perverse.

On the other hand… he’s still John Zorn, still one of the more fiercely independent musical minds out there, and it’s cool that he’s getting recognition from the establishment (the Macarthur Foundation is large enough to be considered part of the proverbial “establishment,” I think — even though they have given this grant to folks like Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman etc). So, congrats to him, although I hope that instead of expanding the Tzadik release schedule to 5,000 releases per year instead of just 4,000, he uses the funding to take a radical left turn, maybe starting a brand new label for underground artists with a completely different bent. Or at the very least maybe he can now tour outside of New York City and Europe.

eMusic carving out their no-DRM niche

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

Great, great article at ArsTechnica (an excellent computer-geekery site), regarding the rise of eMusic thanks to their business model eschewing cumbersome digital rights management (DRM) copy protection schemes. The problem with this model is that none of the major labels are willing to distribute their product electronically without DRM, so eMusic has to “settle” for indie labels.

Well, turns out this isn’t a huge problem after all. In an encouraging sign for the state of music today, apparently eMusic has a 12% market share of digital music downloads — and if the article is right, there’s plenty of room for growth, as the “bands found on the site account for almost 30 percent of sales in the US music market” — all this despite the fact that not one major-label release is anywhere to be found. I think that’s pretty great. And, equally amazingly given the ridiculous cheapness of eMusic downloads (you can literally get full albums for 25 cents), apparently their business model is making money.

On a side note, I find it fascinating, and pretty shocking, that the average age of eMusic’s customer base is… drumroll… 39! Really? I wonder what the average age of an iTunes customer is — or for that matter, the average age of anyone that downloads (legal) music. Probably at least a decade younger.

Jazz as “the opposite of business”

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Nice ending paragraph from an article in today’s New York Times about the 2005 releases of a 1957 Thelonius Monk Quartet archival on Blue Note, and Coltrane’s One Down, One Up (which is at the top of my wish list).

This is how jazz works. It is not a volume business. (Its essence is the opposite of business.) Its greatest experiences are given away cheaply, to rooms of 50 to 200 people. Literature and visual art are both so different: the creator stands back, judges a fixed object, then refines or discards before letting the words go to print, or putting images to walls. A posthumously found Hemingway novel is never as good as what he judged to be his best work. But in jazz there is always the promise that the art’s greatest examples - even by those long dead - may still be found.

If this is the case, then, and I say this because I have Tzadik on the brain thanks to eMusic, John Zorn and company are following the right model — releasing scads of great live recordings alongside (or, in the case of bands like Electric Masada, in lieu of) relatively contemporaneous studio recordings. Tim Berne is another great example, as his Screwgun releases are often basically just high-quality audience DAT recordings packaged onto CDs.

On that topic, I’m currently most enthralled with the latest 50th Birthday release, Painkiller’s. This series has been a real goldmine for me, although I’ve been avoiding the non-band stuff (Zorn solo and with guests) except for Volume 5, the duo with Fred Frith, because I know that stuff will just grate on me more than anything else. But the stuff I do have is fantastic, including this one (Volume 12).

Help save Tonic

Friday, February 4th, 2005

Two things, one important, one not. First, if you live in or around the NYC area and like avant-garde music of all shades, you’re probably aware of Tonic, somewhere off Delancey St on the Lower East Side if I remember (I haven’t been there in a couple years). It’s a great club, I’ve been there a few times, I think I saw Sigur Rós there the first time, actually. They also hosted the big Zorn/Tzadik 50th birthday celebration. Anyway, they’re in financial trouble that sounds like it has more to do with real estate and associated expenses in NYC than anything else, so they’re asking for help. I implore folks to check out their website and make a contribution if you feel so inclined - especially if you’ve been there before or see shows on their calendar that you’re interested in (Tim Berne’s Acoustic Hard Cell band is playing soon, as is Masada String Trio…).

The other thing is frivolous: to add to my list in the previous post, another upcoming new release I’m watching for is The Decemberists‘ new one, Picaresque, which I believe is due out March 22. These guys are an indie-rock group that excels at a sort of heavily orchestrated, lushly produced, melodic folk sound; but most prominent are the lyrics, which are well-read, almost literary, and which invariably tell great stories. Their latest release is an EP, The Tain, consisting of a single 20-minute epic that completely rocks. In any case, most of the comments I’m reading about Picaresque now indicate that it’s their best album yet, which is saying something since I don’t think they’re released anything that I would rate as less than “very good”.