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SOOPie Awards

As 2006 comes to end, Jim and Greg take a look back at the year in music — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and give out their annual“Soopie Awards.” Here are this year's winners:

  • The 14:59 Award: Kevin Federline. The dancer turned husband turned wannabe rapper started off this year with a new single, "Popozao," and a new hope for a better, bill-free, life. Now K-Fed is a soon-to-be twice-divorced father of four who was dumped via text message and booed by fans on the same night. The clock is ticking…

  • The Most Clichéd Criminal Act Award: Snoop Dogg. Rapper Snoop Dogg was arrested a number of times this year, but the final criminal act really took the cake. He was stopped after an appearance on The Tonight Show with what must be the gangsta rap starter kit — pot, cocaine and a weapon — soon to be available at a Wal-Mart near you.

  • The Award for Rock Aging Gracefully: The Sex Pistols. Upon receiving an invitation to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Sex Pistols responded thusly. Sound Opinions H.Q. is glad the punk spirit is still alive somewhere.

  • The Award for Rock Aging Poorly: CBGB's. One place the punk spirit isn't alive is Las Vegas. Yet that's exactly where the original Lower East Side punk headquarters is relocating. We just hope Patti Smith doesn't join Celine for an extended residency.

  • The Best New Sheriff in Town Award: Eliot Spitzer. 2006 was a big year for the Attorney General. Mr. Spitzer not only won the office of Governor of the State of New York, but he also brought down some of the giants in the music industry who continued the practice of payola. He received his largest settlement from Universal Music (which checked off all major record labels) and is now moving on to radio.

  • The“Hootie”the F** Are You? Award*: three-way tie between Rascal Flatts, The Fray & KT Tunstall. No one seems to know who you are, but your names continue to appear on the charts. Jim and Greg can only blame this on the Hootie effect.

  • The Politics Paying Too Big a Price Award: Dixie Chicks. After telling a British audience that she's ashamed the President is a fellow Texas native, Natalie Maines and her fellow Dixie Chicks have been boycotted by country radio stations and have been forced to cancel many tour dates. Jim and Greg wonder whatever happened to free speech?

  • The Politics Not Paying Enough of a Price Award: Barbra Streisand. Maybe we'll rethink that free speech thing… On her recent tour, the always liberal Barbra Streisand decided to incorporate political satire and sketches into her performance. After paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for tickets, many audience members wished Babs would just stick to singing. Jim and Greg agree.

  • Award for Best Rock Couple. Nominees: Paul McCartney and Heather Mills; Kim and Marshall Mathers; Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson. The Winner: Jay-Z and Nas. They've been“beefing”for years, and made their careers dissing one another. But now pure friendship (aka Def Jam and profit-sharing) have brought them together. Thank God those two kids worked it out!

From all of us at Sound Opinions, Happy New Year!

Go to episode 57
news

Music News

Universal Music, the home to U2, Eminem and Lil Wayne, has decided to drop its CD prices to $10 or less. These new prices will certainly be welcome by both consumers and retailers, but Jim and Greg wonder if this is a case of too little, too late for the music industry. CDs were nearly $20 a decade ago when physical music sales were at a high. Now that those sales are down, $10 may draw some consumers back in, but it's still a heck of a lot more expensive than an mp3.

Alex Chilton Next Jim and Greg remember musician Alex Chilton who died last week at the age of 59. Chilton first came on the scene as the 16-year-old singer of The Box Tops' "The Letter." He then joined Big Star, and as Jim and Greg explain, became hugely significant to musicians in the 1980's. Big Star was never a commercial hit, but everyone from REM to The Replacements has name-checked Chilton and the band's power-pop sound as an influence. The singer and songwriter died only days before a scheduled Big Star reunion at SXSW. The event turned into a tribute, one that Greg describes as one of the most memorable shows he's ever seen. To honor Alex Chilton Jim and Greg play a song from Big Star's third release Third/Sister Lovers called "Thank You Friends." For more Big Star love, check out the Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissections of #1 Record and Radio City.

Go to episode 226

Music News

The Rolling Stones made headlines this week after inking an exclusive recording deal with Universal Music. This has prompted speculation that the Stones are planning to leave longtime label EMI, which is restructuring under new ownership. This would be one of many big name acts rumored to be headed for the hills, including Coldplay and Robbie Williams. Paul McCartney and Radiohead have already fled, and the potential loss of the Stones catalog could cost EMI over $6 million. New CEO Guy Hands refuses to express concern, but Jim and Greg predict that the music industry may come down from the six major labels it had at the turn of the century, to only three.

Singer/songwriter John Stewart passed away earlier this week at the age of 68. Stewart penned The Monkees' classic tune "Daydream Believer," but many listeners may not know about the huge song catalog he left behind. He recorded nearly four dozen solo albums and helped to create what we now know as "Americana." In addition to influencing artists like Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and Roseanne Cash, he was idolized by Lindsey Buckingham, the Fleetwood Mac member who teamed up with him and Stevie Nicks for Stewart's hit single "Gold."

Go to episode 113

Music News

Capitol Hill continues to hear from the rock world this week as they conduct hearings on the Performance Rights Act. One of those testifying before our nation's lawmakers is Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan. Corgan is one of many artists who support a bill that would insure that musicians are paid for radio broadcast performances just as songwriters already are. As Jim and Greg explain, for a long time radio was able to respond to pleas for additional royalties by saying that radio airtime is like an advertisement for musicians. But, now that the landscape of radio has changed, they can no longer make this claim. Fewer and fewer artists are able to use radio as a publicity tool. What was Congress‘ response to this problem? Work it out and learn to play nice, because you can’t afford for us not to intervene.

In other royalty-related news, a verdict came down last week in a case that could have dramatically changed the way artists are paid for their music. Two Detroit producers who had a hand in Eminem's 1999 album The Slim Shady LP sued Universal Music over payments on ringtones and digital downloads. The producers claim they were shortchanged, but according to a Los Angeles jury, the label can continue doing business as usual. This was lucky news to the music industry, according to our hosts. In today's dying music business, digital revenue is looked at as a saving grace.

Go to episode 172

Music News

American Idol is currently on summer vacation, but they've still been making quite a bit of news. The pop music contest and music industry juggernaut has decided to take its business to Universal Music and away from Sony. In years past, the show's winners and runners-up released albums on Sony under the direction of powerhouse Clive Davis. Now it appears that Interscope executive Jimmy Iovine will become the new mentor. In addition, both Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres are out as hosts. Kara DioGuardi may also be leaving. In their place? Possibly Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. And, since it's been years since Idol produced a Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson, hopefully these changes will mean more exciting winners as well.

It doesn't look like we can count on an “Iranian Idol” anytime soon. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made a strong statement against music this week, proclaiming that it is“not compatible”with the values of the Islamic republic. Many are seeing this as leading to an outright ban of music in Iran and an expression of Khamenei's long-held mistrust of Western cultural influence. As rock evangelists, this attitude toward music is, of course, disheartening to Jim and Greg. For more on rebel culture in Iran check out Marjane Satrapi graphic novel and film Persepolis and the Cannes winner No One Knows About Persian Cats.

Go to episode 245

Music News

Chuck D is always“fighting the power.”This time around he's taking on Universal Music in a $100 class-action lawsuit, alleging that the label has short-changed its artists and producers in licensing deals for digital downloads and ringtones. The suit says that artists are entitled to 50% of profits from digital downloads, and that currently Universal is paying out as it would for physical product, giving a lower royalty rate and deducting for physical media charges like containers and packaging. The Public Enemy front man is just one of many artists to take to the courts during this digital music revolution. Eminem recently won a landmark case against Universal, and previously Cheap Trick and the Allman brothers settled a similar suit.

Members of the hip-hop community are mourning the death of rapper Heavy D this week. He died Tuesday at age 44. Jim describes the“Overweight Lover”as larger than life in every way. He wasn't a hardcore rapper, but was full of charm and humor. He also moved over to the film and television worlds, appearing in The Cider House Rules, Tower Heist and Boston Public. To say goodbye to Heavy D, Jim and Greg play his 1991 hit "Now That We Found Love." It was written by Gamble and Huff and recorded by The O'Jays and Third World, but it's Heavy's version we'll always remember.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNWmF3SYzZI&index=1&list=RDcNWmF3SYzZI

Go to episode 311

Music News

Jim and Greg begin the show by discussing two of the oddest news stories to pop up in a while. And both speak to people's paranoia about music“ownership.”The first news item involves record industry enemy #1: 18-month old Holden Lenz from rural Pennsylvania. His parents uploaded his free-form dance performance to YouTube to share with friends and family, but unfortunately the song Baby Lenz was dancing to is none other than Prince's 1984 copyrighted classic "Let's Go Crazy." In the past couple of years Prince has made it clear that he doesn‘t support anyone enjoying his songs for free — whether it’s an illegal downloader or a bouncing baby boy. So, Universal Music, Prince's label has demanded the content be removed from YouTube, and now there's flurry of legal activity from both parties. Jim and Greg are simply baffled.

The other bit of news that caught our hosts' eyes is a press release put out by the heavy-metal band W.A.S.P. If you remember W.A.S.P. at all, you remember them from their role in Tipper Gore's PMRC campaign against explicit music. But, more likely you have no idea who W.A.S.P. is and have no interest in recording their live music to make a profit. Well, the band isn‘t taking any chances and have notified fans that they will not only confiscate digital cameras and video recorders, but also cell phones with cameras. So, with no lighters, and no cell phones, how’s a fan supposed to salute a great performance?

Go to episode 101

Music News

After years of letting Apple rule with the iPod, Microsoft has decided to fight back and release its own mp3 player, called the“Zune.”While analysts don't predict the Zune being stiff competition just yet, Microsoft has already broken new ground in how it does business, striking a deal with another giant corporation, Universal Music. In exchange for giving Microsoft the rights to sell its music, Universal will receive a piece of Zune sales. Jim and Greg explain that this strategic move gives record companies a stake in Zune's success. But, even with the backing of labels like Universal, Zune will still have to convert devoted iPod users. And with fans ranging from The Pope to The Queen, they'll need a major ad campaign to do that.

Go to episode 51

Music News

After 31 years at EMI, The Rolling Stones have moved over to Universal Music. The label is boasting about its acquisition, but Jim and Greg wonder if the Stones are such a catch after all. As a“heritage artist”they surely bring rock-cred to any company, but as former Chicago rock critic and NPR arts editor Bill Wyman points out, EMI only sold about a million Stones albums a year, which is about as much as a single Eagles album alone sold. A million records is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it may not warrant the expense of housing such a band.

In other Stones news… Abkco Music Inc., the publishing company that owns the right to the British band's song "Play With Fire," is suing rapper Lil Wayne for what it claims was an unauthorized release of an altered version of the song. Lil Wayne's new track "Playing With Fire," does not list any samples in its credits, but Abkco believes the song is clearly derivative. You be the judge.

While it holds a place in the hearts of a generation of music fans, the cassette tape has almost gone the way of the 8-track. The New York Times recently published what is essentially an obituary of the cassette, pointing out the one area the technology still thrived was the audiobook industry. But now, even books on tape are being dumped. Add this to the fact that none of Billboard's Top 10 albums last week were issued on cassette, and it seems time to say goodbye to our dear friend.

Go to episode 140

Music News

The first story in the news this week is a sign of things to come according to Jim and Greg. They have been reporting on power shifts in the music industry for years, and now they're seeing two giants come together: Ticketmaster and Irving Azoff. For listeners not familiar with that second name, Azoff, a longtime tastemaker and power broker in the record business, is behind the careers of New Kids on the Block, Van Halen and Guns 'N Roses, and brokered the recent deals between AC/DC, The Eagles and Wal-Mart. Now he'll be helming Ticketmaster Entertainment, and Jim and Greg think consumers should beware.

The next two stories showcase two new ways the industry is trying to curb file-sharing. As reported on the show previously, the U.K. is going after Internet service providers, since no one has had much luck putting the fear in consumers. Now we know who will be heading this war on downloading: punk rocker Feargal Sharkey. The former Undertones lead singer is being unveiled as the chief executive of UK Music, an umbrella organization that will represent songwriters, promoters and other members of the music industry.

Back in the States, Universal Music has struck a deal with Dell Computers to provide consumers with a bundle of tunes along with their computer purchase. They believe that if people have legal music on their hard-drive, they won‘t try to get more illegally. But Jim and Greg don’t think this deal factors in the importance of choice. In 2008, with so many ways to hear and consume music, fans don't want label executives curating their listening for them.

A recent survey shows that indie labels still don't have access to radio airplay despite the FCC's effort to equal the playing field. Part of 2007's payola settlement was to insure that 8,400 half-hour segments of airtime should be dedicated to indie labels and local bands. This was to help cease any pay-for-play practices. But, organizations like The American Association of Independent Music and the Future of Music Coalition are saying that, unfortunately, things are as grim as ever.

Go to episode 153

Music News

Major labels made a bit of news this week, and allowed Jim and Greg to justify their use of the“brontosaurus hurdling toward the tar pit”metaphor. So what is driving this particular dinosaur into extinction? According to our hosts, it's technology. Universal Music appeared to recognize this hurdle this week when they announced that they were cutting costs of some of their online music in Europe. So if you want to buy something from their catalog as a digital file, rather than as a physical CD, you'll only have to pay around $10. Seems reasonable to us here in the States. The CEO of EMI Music reiterated this idea in a statement to the London School of Economics. He said,“The CD as it is right now is dead.”A bit of an overstatement perhaps, but it's entirely possible that the market will split between iTunes listeners and die hard collectors (who want vinyl). In the meantime, EMI consumers can expect more content packaged with their old-fashioned audio CD.

One artist who hasn't been hurt by extinction is Kurt Cobain. Forbes named him the number-one-earning dead celebrity, even ahead of The King, Elvis Presley. Cobain's estate earned over $50 million this year alone, mostly due to the sale of Nirvana's song catalog to Primary Wave Publishing. Fans have widow Courtney Love to thank for that.

Sound Opinions always loves when Bono is in the news (which is usually every day). This time, though, it's more U2's music than the man himself. Apparently 150 Episcopal churches across the nation have adopted a new service entitled the U2charist, which blends the band's songs with the traditional Eucharist. The service kicks off with a rendition of "Pride," and also includes a collection for Bono's campaign to eradicate extreme poverty and global AIDS. Of course rock + religion is nothing new. Al Green and Solomon Burke infuse their pop music into religious ceremonies with great success. But the real question is how Bono measures up to Mase.

Go to episode 49

Music News

It's been a while since Jim and Greg have had an opportunity for a "Bono Rant," but this week U2 made big music industry news. The longtime Irish band has made a deal to hand over the management of its worldwide tours, merchandise sales and website to concert promoter Live Nation. This is a similar deal to the one Madonna inked a few months ago, only U2 will continue to release albums through Universal Music. Jim has to wonder why a band as big as U2 even needs a company like Live Nation, especially because they are so notoriously fan-unfriendly. But, he's more horrified at the prospect of seeing Bono and company performing live in their '60s. As Greg reminds him, geezers on stage are all too common these days.

Live Nation's ties with Ticketmaster will be severed at the end of this year, but the mega-company is making some new deals of its own. The Dave Matthews Band and Ticketmaster have teamed up to offer concertgoers a digital album filled with material from the band's upcoming summer tour. Since the DMB tour basically every year, this may not appear to be such big news, but Jim and Greg were both shocked to see the famously grassroots band get in bed with an evil empire like Ticketmaster. Whatever you think of their music (and it's evident where Jim and Greg stand), they were always an admirable band from a business standpoint…until now.

According to Brandweek, music tour sponsorships have grown 75% since 2003 and will hit $1.04 billion this year. This will come as no surprise to concertgoers who have experienced marketing and ads at every moment of a show. But Greg wonders why ticket prices haven't gone down if sponsorships have been so profitable. Jim is equally dismayed, and both hosts are anxious to see if anyone has the courage to stand up to the brand.

Go to episode 123

Music News

After the RIAA started to crackdown on the selling of mixtapes a few months ago, Universal Music has decided to sell legal, corporate sanctioned versions of the tradionally grassroots compilation. These "Lethal Squad Mixtapes," will sell for $5 to $6, but it's unclear whether there is a market for a series like this. Part of the appeal of mixtapes is that they are underground, and, as Greg notes, Universal is about as“street”as the next company they discuss in the news. Fellow corporate giant Walmart announced that it will sell DRM-free downloads at a lower price than competitor iTunes. Jim and Greg are surprised that the music industry would agree to sell their digital songs for lower prices, but Walmart is the world's largest retailer. Also, this fits into the big box store's M.O.: give consumers what they want at lower prices, even at the expense of other retailers.

Auto manufacturers such as Toyota's Scion brand, are planning on getting into the Internet radio business to provide special content to their drivers. Jim and Greg think this is an interesting move considering the recent hikes in webcasting royalty rates and their effect on small webcasters. And, this follows suit with Scion's attempt to establish a“cool”identity for itself. The Toyota brand was one of the few corporate sponsors of the Pitchfork Music Festival, and now they've tapped Vice Records and Ninja Tune Records to program their channel. But, despite this indie pedigree, Greg points out the reality: "You can't buy cool."

This summer's biggest blockbuster movie, Spiderman 3, racked up well over $300 million in the U.S. In fact, there were a number successful films that eclipsed the $300 million mark. The music industry, however, cannot boast such impressive figures. They were banking on big name releases from the likes of 50 Cent and Kelly Clarkson, but of those two, one got bumped, and the other tanked. The number one selling album of the year so far is from an American Idol rejectee Chris Daughtry, but that was actually a 2006 release. So, in light of these industry discrepancies, Jim and Greg wanted to invite New York Times music reporter Jeff Leeds on to the show to discuss the summer season. Jeff explains that movie studios have many sources of revenue from a film like Spiderman (DVDs, toys, etc), but record labels depend on a single revenue stream. Their only saving grace is concert sales; a live music experience, like a live movie screening, can't be replicated with a download. These three critics are curious to see what big fall releases have to offer.

Famed jazz percussionist Max Roach died last week at the age of 83. Roach was the last link to the Bebop era of jazz, but Jim and Greg explain that his love of music and his style of playing continually evolved. Greg explains that it's impossible to talk about rock drumming and hip hop without mentioning Roach. Unlike some jazz purists, the musician saw those contemporary forms as natural extensions of African music, like jazz. You can hear his unique style in the composition "Freedom Day," which also features vocals from his wife Abbey Lincoln.

Go to episode 91