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Friday, March 20, 2009

Manny's Music To Close - Maybe 48th Street Too

The glorious Manny's Music store on 48th street in New York City will be closing on May 15th at the completion of its lease. Once the largest independent music store in the country, Manny's was the home to countless musicians and a place where stars and bar bands rubbed shoulders to try and buy the latest piece of musical gear.

Although not the same since purchased by rival Sam Ash in 1999, Manny's is still an icon and the entire industry will shed a collective tear when it closes.

But Manny's won't be the only store on that famed part of 48th street to close. General Electric has bought up the entire block that's populated by music stores (NYC's version of "music row") for expansion of Rockefeller Center. Sam Ash's lease expires in another 2 years, and then an era will end.

A couple of Manny's stories:
I remember when I was a kid from the sticks in Pennsylvania, I would go to Manny's wide-eyed because not only did they have the best prices, but the latest gear that you couldn't find anywhere else. Their inventory was enormous as well. They always had whatever you wanted in stock.

I bought a strobe tuner, I think, at Manny's about 6 months prior that wasn't working properly, so I took to back, fully expecting them to send it out for repair, waiting for a long turnaround, then having to plan another 3 hour trip back to the City to pick it up. Henry Goldrich (the owner) happened to wait on me that day. He took my defective tuner and promptly gave me a brand new one, no questions asked. I was so impressed, because that kind of thing just wasn't done at the time, at least in any of the stores I frequented in PA. He never forgot me either, and even though I visited the store infrequently, he would always at least act like he knew me. I didn't buy everything from him afterward, but I always tried to. Henry left a big impression on me.

The other story was when I was a sales manager for Amek consoles in the early 80's. I was there on "official" business and at 6PM the store abruptly shut (they usually waited until all the customers finished their business). Up pulls a limo and Eddie Murphy (at the peak of his Saturday Night Live fame), Joe Piscapo and John Sabastian got out and came into Manny's. Eddie wanted to buy a drum set and Henry kept the store open just for him. I remember talking to Sebastian for about 45 minutes about acoustic guitars before I realized who he was. He turned out to be just a regular guy with no pretensions, as was Piscapo. Murphy was a bit of a jerk, but Henry knew just how to keep big egos in check and eventually a good time was had by all.

There are other stories, but these are the ones that stand out. Manny's, we'll miss you.

Jack White's New Business Model?

White Stripes and Raconteurs guitarist and frontman Jack White is trying something new in terms of Music 3.0 business models. White is launching 3rd Man Records, which in itself is nothing new, but its headquarters will also house a retail record store, photo studio and performance stage.

The idea is sort of based on the old Motown model with a twist.

Says White,
If one of the bands working here says, 'Jack, there's a great band that played at the End on Friday night, you should check these guys out,' Saturday morning, they can come to Third Man Studios and we can cut a couple of songs. They can come back to the photo studio and we can take a photo of them. We can cut the acetate and run it down the block, and within three weeks, we can have a thousand copies of a 45 that they can sell at shows
Jack's idea is a little bit too old school for Music 3.0, but we'll see how well it works. At this point of the music business, anything new can't be bad.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bob Lefsetz vs. Gene Simmons

In one of the more hilarious confrontations in a while, industry gadfly Bob Lefsetz takes on Kiss's Gene Simmons in a separate dedicated session in Toronto at the Canadian Music Week conference.

The confrontation resulted from a posting in the Lefsetz newsletter accusing Simmons of a long commercial for his new record label during his keynote address. Simmons responded with an email of his own, basically saying, "Who is this guy? What has he done to dare diss me?"

As if he doesn't know. And if he doesn't, Simmons is too far out of the business to own a record label, since Lefsetz has been in the craw of label heads for about 20 years.

The following video is quite an enjoyable exchange though.

We Knew It - Youtube View Counts Inflated

It's always been pretty widely known that the counts on Youtube videos and Myspace songs were artificially manipulated by the bands and artists to appear to be larger than they really are. This inflated number might look impressive, but record labels, managers, agents and anyone who counts gave up on these figures long ago.

Youtube has finally acknowledged this with an email to subscribers below:
From YouTube:

An Update On Our View Counts

Video view counts reflect the YouTube community's interests and the grassroots popularity of videos. We periodically make changes that allow us to display consistent view counts and accurately reflect a "real" view based on video consumption, video streaming and spam filtering. Unfortunately, a few people still try to artificially manipulate their video's view counts. Some people game third-party view counts as well. That can make things unfair for everyone.

Recently, we found spamming issues associated with the view counts on a small number of videos. The inflated view count number on these videos will be frozen until actual views catch up to the published, artificial, view count. Also, a few people have commented that their view counts are updating more slowly. Occasionally the speed with which views update changes -- sometimes it’s faster and sometimes it’s slower. But we are always working to make sure that the final view count numbers are an accurate reflection of the community's interest.

Michelle Schlachta
Community Manager
The YouTube Team
Let's stay real, all you social media artists. It's better for everyone in the long run.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prince Experiment's Some More With New Release

Prince is back trying to push the boundaries a bit more with his new 3 disc release, due out on March 29th and exclusively sold at Target.

On March 24th, Prince will launch a new subscription site called lotusflow3r for sales direct to his fan base. For $77 fans will get downloads of the 3 disc set plus exclusive videos, behind the scenes peeks, news, concert info, and chances for tickets to upcoming shows.

Prince has hosted a subscription site before with great success, but he abruptly shut it down about 3 years ago. Although there was never an official explanation, the feeling was that he felt it had run it's course at the time.

Prince has always been on the cutting edge of marketing as well as music and it should prove interesting to see how this new arrangement will work out. Of course, it all depends on how good the music is, a point frequently overlooked by everyone but the fans.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dolby Pro Logic IIz Introduces 9.1 Sound

Ready for surround sound again? Ready for an improvement over the standard 5.1? How about 9.1?

Dolby's latest surround sound entry, Pro Logic IIz, introduces two additional channels to the ever growing mix - height channels. This expands the audio stream to 9.1, which means three speakers across the front, two on the sides, 2 in the rear, a subwoofer reproducing the low frequency effects channel (the ".1" of the 9.1), plus the new stereo height channels. The height channels are feed into speakers located in the air above the listener, giving a sense of spaciousness that can't be had any other way.

Height channels are nothing new actually, as they've been around since the beginning of modern surround sound itself (1993 to be exact). Many audiophile mixers, having no use for the .1 low frequency effects channel, used the full bandwidth channel as a height channel for some recordings. Good idea but it never caught on (but surround sound didn't either).

The problem with height channels is that many times it's difficult to mount the speakers in the correct locations up in the air (so what else is new?). But a bigger problem is that the standard position of the side speakers in a 7.1 configuration still isn't settled. Not to mention that there are few recordings available in 7.1, and very few consumer setups at home. 7.1 is having a tough time gaining acceptance, let alone 9.1.

Having played with a height channel for about 10 years thanks to recordings made with the early Holophone surround microphone, I can tell you that it does add that extra realism that you can't get any other way (if realism is what you're going for). But the hassle factor is large for the production team, and still a huge barrier in the home. Most people are just fine with stereo, unfortunately. Hats off to Dolby for pushing the technological envelope though.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Big Week For U2? In Music 3.0 It Is.

Nielsen SoundScan reports that U2's new album "No Line On The Horizon" sold 484,000 copies last week, yet the press seems to view this amount as a disappointment. Consider that the next closest album (Taylor Swift's "Fearless") sold only 52,000 and the U2 release looks better all the time.

But what they're not telling you is that on-line research company Big Champagne estimates that another 431,000 copies were illegally downloaded in the same period. Put both figures together and the reach of the album looks pretty good, especially for these economic times.

In my upcoming book "Music 3.0 - A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age" I outline the new thinking regarding music releases, and in this case, the basic concept goes something like this. You release the album to sell the tour, not the other way around like in the old days.

U2 is truly following the tenants of M30 perfectly, but it's probably too early to predict how successful their tour will be. As with everything else, the economy has the ultimate say in their success.


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