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Music News

The song contest/political science experiment called Eurovision took place on Saturday. Jim and Greg have been looking forward to the weird and wonderful phenomenon since speaking with expert John Kennedy O'Connor last month—and Eurovision 2014 did not disappoint. This year's prize went to "Rise Like a Phoenix," a power ballad belted by Austrian diva Conchita Wurst, the drag persona of Mr. Thomas Neuwirth. But the real star of the evening? Politics. Though some considered Wurst's win a victory for tolerance, it outraged conservatives in countries like Russia and Belarus. Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine turned the conflict over Crimea into a fight for the spotlight, and the audience showed disdain for Putin by booing the Russian act. Americans may not“get”Eurovision, but 180 million viewers can't be all wrong…

In other bizarre international news is a story from the New York Times. Apparently the people of China have gotten used to saying "goodbye"—or, more to the point, "get out!"—to the dulcet tones of one Kenny G. All across China, the elevator jazz giant's 1989 hit "Going Home" is played at malls, gyms, libraries, and even wedding banquets to signal the day's end. Many don‘t know the song’s name, but they know to pack up and leave once it starts playing. And while China's non-existent royalty policy means that the sax-man makes very little off his ubiquitous tune, Kenny has taken it in stride, joking that at Chinese concerts, he plays“Going Home”last to keep people from leaving early. Greg thinks that China has managed some impressive social engineering—almost Pavlovian, says Jim. But our hosts can sympathize: Hearing Kenny G makes them evacuate the premises, too.

Go to episode 442

Music News

After much debate, France has passed its three strikes law against filesharers. That means that if you are caught illegally downloading three times your internet could be shut down. It also signals an alliance between the French government and the record industry, and according to the EU, a limiting of personal freedom.

Speaking of limited personal freedom, the Chinese government continues to hinder access to popular music. Eager to curb potential protests, China's Ministry of Culture has cancelled major Oasis shows and moved the major MIDI festival from centrally located Beijing. Jim is not usually a fan of censorship, but actually favors an Oasis crackdown.

While we in this country have been busy with American Idol, Europeans were anxiously anticipating the winner of the biggest song contest in the world. This year's Eurovision winner is Alexander Rybeck of Norway. More than 100 million people watched his song "Fairytale" take the crown. Of course, Jim and Greg don‘t take this contest too seriously, but it’s nice to know that the love of schlock pop is universal.

Alexander Rybak

Go to episode 182

Music News

After years of offering music for 99 cents, iTunes will be launching its variable pricing plan next week. That means that hit songs will soon be sold for $1.29, and some older tracks will go for $0.69. This is good news for the labels, who see the billion dollar digital music industry as a lifesaver. But, it's not certain how consumers will react.

In other digital music news. Google will now be offering free downloads of licensed music files in China. Right now 99% of all music tracks distributed in China are pirated, so this is a huge market for Google to tap. Their revenue will come from ads on the music site-revenue they will share with the labels.

Blender Magazine has just published its last issue, leaving only three major music magazines. Jim isn't happy to hear of any music magazine folding, but he for one will not be mourning the loss of Blender. Jim felt the magazine was often sexist and lowest common denominator. Greg was impressed with the writing talent they pooled, but doesn't think anyone, even the best writers, can do much under 150 words. He wishes there were more music magazines that valued long-form journalism.

Go to episode 175

Music News

First up in the news, Pepsi is launching a music label in China. This is a strange, but perhaps smart move considering the large, untapped market there. The soda company will produce a "Battle of the Bands" television show to find artists to record. In addition, those artists will be featured in Pepsi ads.

Two sad news items follow. First is the death of Mink DeVille frontman Willy DeVille. DeVille was one of the key artists from the CBGB punk scene. But, he distinguished himself from the Blondies and Ramones with his unique sound. He was more a child of the Brill Building music of the '60s, and actually introduced Jim and Greg to a lot of those influences. To honor DeVille they play his Jack Nitzsche-produced track "Spanish Stroll."

John HughesAnother recent death is that of director, writer and producer John Hughes. While Hughes isn't necessarily a music figure, Jim and Greg know that he was a huge fan. His musical choices in films like "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles" influenced what young people heard, and for many teens it was their first exposure to "alternative" music. In honor of Hughes, Jim and Greg play the original version of "Pretty in Pink," by the Psychedelic Furs.

Go to episode 194

Music News

It seems like just yesterday that the British first invaded rock and roll. But, many early recordings by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who are so old they were about to fall into public domain. However, the European Union just extended that copyright law from 50 years to 70 years, giving record companies another two decades to collect big revenues. It's being called Cliff's Law after pop singer Cliff Richard, but other artists don't think the law will benefit them. Here in the U.S., copyright law allows for artists to reclaim ownership of their work after 35 years. So, many American musicians who made recordings in the 1970s, including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Don Henley, are able to file claims. But the big four labels are heavily resisting, claiming that performers were mere employees doing“work for hire,”and thus have no rights.

In other news across the pond, U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has called on search engines, such as Google, to bar links to websites with pirated material. You expect these kind of restrictions in China, but not necessarily in England. Hunt has rejected suggestions that this is“an assault on the ‘freedom’ of the internet,”but for Google that's exactly what it is. They said they already work with copyright owners to remove infringing materials. So it looks like legislation is the next step.

Go to episode 303