Saturday, January 30, 2010

Book Review: All You Need To Know About The Music Business, Seventh Edition by Donald S. Passman

Published first at Blogcritics January 28, 2010

Donald S. Passman is a popular, well-respected entertainment lawyer throughout the music industry, having garnered praise from the likes of Jimmy Iovine, American Idol judge Randy Jackson and producer Rick Rubin, among others, and whose many clients over the years include Green Day, Quincy Jones, Tom Waits and Pink.

Late last year, he published the seventh edition of All You Need To Know About The Music Business, a book that aims to give musicians, producers, and anyone else trying to make a living in the ever-changing industry the essential guide on how to survive and thrive in it.

Not counting the Index, the book is 444 pages long. If this sounds like too much reading for you, it’s good to know that author thinks so, too. Passman writes in its first pages, “You can read it as casually or intensely as suits your interest level, attention span, and pain tolerance.” You’ve got to love a writer with a sense of humor – there’s plenty more of that throughout these pages. But everyone starts with “Part I: Your Team of Advisors,” which is a long but useful guide on how to pick your team of professionals as an artist: personal manager, business manager, attorney, and agent.

Of all the great info in this section, the following stands out: A personal manager is the most important member of your pro team, since he/she is more involved in an artist’s day-to-day activities than other members. However, an industry lawyer is “much easier” to get than a manager, according to the author (an attorney himself). That’s because a lawyer’s time with you is minimal compared to a manager’s time, and they’re less expensive, believe it or not. A Passman line worth noting: “It’s the lawyer’s relationships – not their time – that count.”

Key book tip one: The site is an often updated list of people in the music business you might want to contact and make part of your pro team.

Key book tip two: Pick a lawyer with good references and who believes in you as a recording artist, not one who will shop just anyone. Lawyers have good and bad reputations within the music industry and picking the wrong one could backfire on you.

Heading into “Part II: Record Deals,” the biggest change since the sixth edition of the book, according to the author himself, is that though labels are losing lots of money and power in the industry, they are increasing their earnings from an artist’s income in non-recording ways to make up for its financial shortcomings. Called “360 deals,” this means labels (major and independent) can ask for a piece of the “total pie” of an artist’s income, including monies from fan clubs, touring and merchandise.

Arguments as to how fair this is to an artist and how justified labels are for going this route will go on. But Passman’s lay out of the legal rights and financial aspects of so-called “360 deals” is very much worth reading.

This good news for artists is that if you are a “niche” type – a jam band or indie rocker - and appeal to a relatively small number of fans, you don’t need a record company and can use your own resources (or TuneCore) to sell your music to Amazon, iTunes and other popular digital outfits. Digital sales, in fact, are now 25% of the music business revenue and still growing, and artists should take advantage of this development. That said, Passman writes that if you’re a more mainstream-sounding pop rock or country act, you may still need a label and its veteran staff to help your music stand out from the millions of others vying for the same fame you are after.

Speaking of labels, more valuable insight includes his “bummer” of a fact that major record companies don’t listen to musicians’ work unless it’s been submitted to them by a manager or attorney in the business, though this is less the case with independent labels. The reason for this Passman says is because labels can get 300-400 submissions of music in a given week, and listening to what a reputable third party (attorney/manager) hands them is a way to lessen the “floodgates.”

Other areas the author goes knee deep into include the proper and standard fee rates artists pay to members of their pro team. The author includes the latest updates on the record royalty process as well. Hint: Passman says that in the last couple of years, it has become simpler than ever after years of it being “more complex than NASA’s formula for getting the Space Shuttle home.” All of this advice, if listened to carefully, should help you avoid getting screwed or screwing up on your earnings as an artist.

Elsewhere in later chapters and sections, Passman gives you the ins and outs of touring, webcasting and other new technologies, songwriting and music publishing (including how to set up your own publishing company), as well as a chapter on music “Group Issues” that comes complete with a “trivia quiz.” He also includes sections on merchandising, motion picture music, and even classical music. Like the man said, pick what interests you and read it all carefully, with a highlighter and working pen.

The bottom line: Mr. Passman may not take himself too seriously, and he may show his dry humor in words and illustrations throughout the book, but his step-by-step guide and attention to detail in every chapter on how to be successful and avoid failure in the music industry is sincere and simple to understand, even for the most inexperienced among music career seekers. He talks to you like a good friend more than a good lawyer. And what a winning and refreshing approach that is.

All in all, All You Need To Know About The Music Business is hands-down the richest, most informative and of course, fun music business book on the market. It is so comprehensive that I can’t think of a single important aspect of the music business he didn’t cover or at least touch upon.

After over 18 years and seven editions of the book, Passman has surely perfected his craft. Outdated advice and updates in an ever-changing industry such as the music world would be the only drawbacks in a book such as this, but those worries don’t apply here since these pages give you all the basics you need to know about the music industry.

If you’re a pro or novice in the music industry, an executive or an artist, make sure to read and keep this big bright red book nearby, whether it be on your office desk, in your practice space or tour bus. It may very well further your career.
5 Stars

Charlie Doherty’s Favorite 209 Songs from 2000-2009 - Part II: 2005-2009

Published first January 27, 2010 at the site of Blogcritics Magazine

Continuing where Part I left off, this list is shorter but no less eclectic.

You’ll see a little post-punk (Elefant), reggae (Ziggy Marley, Matisyahu), melodic death metal (Into Eternity), hip-hop (Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, Beck), indie folk (Bright Eyes), and so much more on this list of the last 89 of my 209 favorite tunes of the 2000's.

Of course, with a list this long, some songs meant more to me than others. For instance, Imogen Heap’s collaboration with legendary guitar whiz Jeff Beck, “Goodnight & Go” helped get me through post-surgery complications back in 2006 (along with Radiohead’s underrated “Lurgee”). And Junkie XL’s “We Become One” is the dreamiest, spaciest song I’ve ever heard that Peter Gabriel never wrote. It was also cool to hear the Dropkick Murphys make the suburb they started out in (Quincy, MA, also my hometown) the subject of the chorus of “Finnigan’s Ball.”

In this half of the decade, I found myself discovering and listening to a boatload more female-fronted bands and artists than the first half, including Natasha Khan’s Bat For Lashes, Neko Case, Arch Enemy, Emily Haines’ Canadian troupe Metric, the blue-eyed soul of Welsh singer Duffy, and the lovely Jenny Lewis, among others. Then there were bands I got more into than ever, including hard rock mainstays Clutch, My Morning Jacket, and Royksopp.

Newer favorites included Silversun Pickups, Company of Thieves, Band Of Horses, Torche and The Whigs. And of course, bands I grew up with kept delivering the goods, including Pearl Jam, a reunited Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Now, without further ado, here are the fine 89. As always, feel free to comment on them below.

Part II: 2005-2009

Allen, Lilly “Smile”
Arcade Fire “Keep The Car Running”
Arcade Fire “Wake Up”
Arch Enemy “Nemesis”
Band of Horses “First Song”
Bat For Lashes “What’s A Girl To Do”
Bat For Lashes “Daniel”
Bat For Lashes “Sleep Alone”
Beck “Hell Yes”
Black, Frank “I Burn Today”
Black Eyed Peas “Don’t Lie”
Black Label Society “Suicide Messiah”
Brazilian Girls “Don’t Stop”
Bright Eyes “First Day Of My Life (f/Jesse Harris on guitar)”
Bright Eyes “Lua (f/Gillian Welch)”
Broken Social Scene “7/4 (Shoreline)”
Broken Social Scene “Fire Eye’d Boy”
Case, Neko “Star Witness”
Chemical Brothers “Galvanize (f/Q-Tip)”
Clutch “10001110101”
Clutch ”Electric Worry”
Company of Thieves “Oscar Wilde”
Corgan, Billy “The CameraEye”
Death Cab For Cutie “Cath”
Down "Mourn"
Dropkick Murphys “Finnigan’s Ball”
Duffy "Mercy"
Flaming Lips “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)”
Future Of The Left “You Need Satan More Than He Needs You”
Gaslight Anthem “The ‘59 Sound”
Heap, Imogen w/Jeff Beck “Goodnight And Go”
Into Eternity “Timeless Winter”
Iron & Wine “Flightless Bird, American Mouth”
Jay-Z w/Alicia Keys "Empire State of Mind"/Alicia Keys "Empire State of Mind (Part II)"
Junkie XL “Mushroom”
Junkie XL “We Become One”
Killswitch Engage “The End of Heartache”
King, Kaki “2 O’Clock”
Kings of Leon “On Call”
Kings of Leon “Sex On Fire”
Legend, John “Ordinary People”
Lewis, Jenny “Rise Up With Fists!!”
Lewis, Jenny “Big Guns”
Lifehouse “Hanging By A Moment”
Loomis, Jeff “Sacristy”
Low Red Land “Dog’s Hymn”
Marley, Ziggy “Love Is My Religion”
Mars Volta “Goliath”
Matisyahu “King Without A Crown”
MGMT “Time To Pretend”
M.I.A. “Paper Planes”
Minus The Bear “Pachuca Sunrise”
Megadeth “Sleepwalker”
Metallica “All Nightmare Long”
Metric “Monster Hospital”
My Morning Jacket “Anytime”
Muse “Starlight”
Nine Inch Nails “The Hand That Feeds”
Oakenfold, Paul “Ready Steady Go”
Paramore “That’s What You Get”
Passion Pit “The Reeling”
Pearl Jam “Got Some”
Phoenix “1901”
Radiohead “All I Need”
Radiohead “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Snow (Hey Oh)”
The Rifles “The Great Escape”
Royksopp “Only This Moment”
Royksopp “Vision One”
Satellite Party (Perry Farrell) "Milky Ave"
School of Seven Bells “Half Asleep”
Silversun Pickups “Rusted Wheel”
Silversun Pickups “Substitution”
Silversun Pickups “Three Seed”
Smashing Pumpkins "Stellar"
Smashing Pumpkins “That’s The Way (My Love Is)”
Sonic Youth “Incinerate”
Stevens, Sufjan “Come On! Feel The Illinoise!”
Third Eye Blind “Non-Dairy Creamer”
Torche “Across The Shields”
Travis “Selfish Jean”
Travis “Colder”
Tunstall, KT “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree”
TV On The Radio “Wolf Like Me”
West, Kanye “Gold Digger (f/Jamie Foxx)”
Waltham “Cheryl (Come And Take A Ride)”
The Whigs “Right Hand On My Heart”
The White Stripes “Blue Orchid”
Wolf Parade “The Grey Estates”

Charlie Doherty’s Favorite 209 Songs from 2000-2009: Part I: 2000-2004

Published originally on January 26, 2010 in Blogcritics Magazine

As one would imagine, this was a bit of a hefty project, coming up with a ridiculous amount of music from 10 years gone by and putting it on a digestible list. I don’t know if I actually accomplished that goal, but after dividing it into two parts (2000-2004 and 2005-2009), it does look impressive, if I don’t say so myself.

2000-2004 Overview

In the first half of this decade, I dug everything from nu metal (Disturbed, System Of A Down, Slipknot) retro synth-pop (The Killers) and electronica (Royksopp) to the garage rock revival, led by a bunch of “the” bands (i.e. The White Stripes, The Strokes).

Veterans like U2, Springsteen, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Filter, Joe Satriani and supergroups of sorts like Broken Social Scene, Audioslave, A Perfect Circle, Velvet Revolver and Zwan were also exciting to follow well into the new millennium - and BSS still is. But it was indie rockers like Death Cab For Cutie, Pinback and “m” bands like Matt Pond PA, Minus The Bear and Modest Mouse that I started listening to and seeing live more and more as the years went by.

There’s music for all moods and seasons in here, whether it’s feel-good hip-hop from Outkast, a metal masterpiece like “Stick Figure” by West Virginian group Byzantine, or more mellow music like M83, Blur’s Cocteau-Twins-esque “Battery In Your Leg,” and Sigur Ros. So yes, as if you couldn’t tell, I like a variety of music, to say the least. The amount of it is insane, I know.

It’s nearly impossible to do a meaningful ranking of all these songs, so here now, in alphabetical order are the 120 songs I remember listening to time and time again that came out during the first five years of the 2000s. Part II, the other 89 favorites from 2005-2009 will be published soon.

If any of these first 120 songs were your favorites too, feel free to comment below.

Part I: 2000-2004

2 Skinnee J’s “Big Beat Evangelist”
311 “Amber”
A Perfect Circle “3 Libras”
A Perfect Circle “The Hollow”
A Perfect Circle “Vanishing”
Adams, Ryan “Nuclear”
Afroman “Because I Got High”
Ashcroft, Richard “New York”
At The Drive-In “Pattern Against User”
At The Drive-In “Invalid Litter Dept.”
Audioslave “Show Me How To Live”
Audioslave “Gasoline”
Beck “Lost Cause”
Black Eyed Peas “Let’s Get Retarded”
Blink 182 “Stay Together For The Kids”
Blur “Battery In Your Leg”
Broken Social Scene “Cause = Time”
Broken Social Scene “Guilty Cubicles”
Byzantine “Stick Figure”
Coldplay “Yellow”
Cypress Hill “Rock Superstar”
Daft Punk “One More Time”
Death Cab For Cutie “Lowell, MA”
Death Cab For Cutie “405”
Death Cab For Cutie “The New Year”
Death Cab For Cutie “A Lack Of Color”
Deftones "Change (In The House of Flies)"
Dianogah "Wrapping The Lamb, Sir"
Disturbed “Stupify”
Dropkick Murphys “The Gauntlet”
Elefant “Misfit”
Eminem “Lose Yourself”
Evanescence “Going Under”
Filter “God Damn Me”
Filter “The Only Way (Is The Wrong Way)”
Flaming Lips “Do You Realize??”
Foo Fighters “All My Life”
Foo Fighters “Times Like These”
Fountains of Wayne “Stacy’s Mom”
Fountains of Wayne “Hey Julie”
Furtado, Nelly “Turn Off The Light”
Godsmack “Sick Of Life”
Gorillaz “Clint Eastwood”
Green Day “American Idiot”
Harvey, PJ “This Mess We’re In (f/Thom Yorke)”
Hot Rod Circuit “Radio Song”
Howe, Greg “A Delicacy”
Idlewild “Idea Track”
In Flames “Pinball Map”
Incubus “Wish You Were Here”
Interpol “Obstacle 1”
Interpol “PDA”
Jimmy Eat World “Sweetness”
The Killers “Mr. Brightside”
The Killers “Smile Like You Mean It”
Lamb of God “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For”
Lekman, Jens “Rocky Dennis’ Farewell Song To The Blind Girl”
Lekman, Jens “The Opposite Of Hallelujah”
Linkin Park “Somewhere I Belong”
Linkin Park “One Step Closer”
Linkin Park “Lying From You”
Ludacris “Saturday (Ooh! Oooh!)”
M83 “Run Into Flowers”
Mars Volta "Eriatarka"
Matt Pond PA “Measure 3”
Matt Pond PA “Summer (Butcher Two)”
Mayer, John “Clarity”
Mayer, John “No Such Thing”
Minus The Bear “Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse”
Modest Mouse “Float On”
Modest Mouse “Paper Thin Walls”
Muse “Hysteria”
Muse “Time Is Running Out”
My Morning Jacket “One Big Holiday”
My Morning Jacket “Mahgeetah”
New Order “Turn My Way (w/Billy Corgan)”
Opeth “Windowpane”
Opeth “The Leper Affinity”
Outkast “Hey Ya!”
Outkast “Ms. Jackson”
Pearl Jam “Thumbing My Way”
Pinback “Concrete Seconds”
Postal Service “Such Great Heights”
Pretty Girls Make Graves “Speakers Push The Air”
Queens Of The Stone Age “No One Knows”
Radiohead “Motion Picture Soundtrack”
Radiohead “Wolf At The Door”
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Can’t Stop”
Rehab “Sittin’ At A Bar”
R.E.M. “Bad Day”
The Roots “The Seed 2.0”
Royksopp “Poor Leno”
Satriani, Joe “Until We Say Goodbye”
Satriani, Joe “Up In Flames”
Sigur Ros “The Nothing Song (Njosnavelin)” from Vanilla Sky
Slipknot “The Heretic Anthem”
Smashing Pumpkins “Try, Try, Try”
Soulfly “Jumpdafuckup (f/Corey Taylor)”
Snoop Dog “Drop It Like It’s Hot”
Sparta “Air”
Sparta “While Oceana Sleeps”
Springsteen, Bruce “The Rising”
Springsteen, Bruce “Waiting On A Sunny Day”
The Strokes “Hard To Explain”
Sunny Day Real Estate “The Ocean”
System Of A Down “Chop Suey”
Tool “Parabola”
Travis “Side”
U2 “New York”
U2 “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”
U2 “Yahweh”
Velvet Revolver “Slither”
Weezer “Hashpipe”
Weezer “Island In The Sun”
The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army”
Wilco “Heavy Metal Drummer”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Pin”
Yorn, Pete “Life On A Chain”
Zwan “Come With Me”
Zwan “Settle Down”

Charlie Doherty's 40 Favorite Songs of 2009

Link to original Blogcritics Magazine article is HERE

After years of reading respectable music magazines (PASTE, SPIN, Rolling Stone), and online sites (Pitchfork) and their year-end so-called "best of" lists, I've realized that they never truly reflect more than 40-50% - if that - of the music I dug in a given year. It's become an almost completely useless exercise for me.

Now if you're talking about someone's list of "favorite" songs/records of the year, they are more valuable, not to mention less arguable than "best of" lists, for the authors usually give a more personal and passionate explanation as to what a certain song or album meant to them. Such write-ups may convince you to check out such music yourself to see if you get that same reaction.

Therefore, when you read a list such as the one below, it only reflects my personal taste, not my "music critic" side, though some of these songs were ones I did indeed discover as a reviewer. With audio/video links and descriptions accompanying many of these choices, I hope you find this list at least somewhat useful since you are taking some time out of your busy life to read it.

Without further ado, here are my Top Forty Favorite Tracks of 2009.

40. Appleseed Cast “Raise The Sails”
A dreamy, shoegaze tune that (top music blog) Stereogum is directly responsible for me hearing. Thanks!

39. N.A.S.A. "Spacious Thoughts (f/Tom Waits & Kool Keith)"
Whoever came up with the idea of pairing up a crazy cool veteran underground rap star in Kool Keith with this legendary New Jersey elder statesman of rock deserves to be paid handsomely.

38. The New Up "Bitch"
A young San Francisco band with a female lead singer (ES Pitcher) that’s being compared to Chrissy Hynde and Emily Haines definitely got my attention this year. This track is the clear highlight from the group’s Better Off EP.

37. Jack’s Mannequin "Swim"
This is one heck of an inspirational and hope-filled song written by Andrew McMahon, a cancer (leukemia) survivor.

36. Julian Lennon "Lucy"
Speaking of inspiration, the last song I added to my Top 40 list is a tribute to the late Lucy Vodden, who as a young girl inspired a drawing by Julian Lennon, which his dad John Lennon saw and wrote into a song with his fellow Beatles you may have heard of, "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds."

35. Let Me Run “Like A Fish”
Love the punk spirit here.

34. Rocketboys “All The Western Winds”
Discovered via PASTE magazine late in the year, these guys deliver slightly ethereal alt-rock in the vein of the best aspects of Coldplay.

33. Amazing Baby “Headdress”
The twin guitar work here impresses me every time.

32. Dead Weather “New Pony”
Jack White holds his own on the skins while the band rocks out '70s garage hard rock style.

31. Wild Light “California On My Mind”
The lyrics might be angry/negative but this is a care-free, fun, guitar pop tune with some happy harmonica parts to boot.

30. Washed Out “Feel It All Around”
Listening to this track, I picture a slightly cloudy, summery day circa 1986. It's retro chill music indeed, from South Carolina.

29. Prince "Ol’ Skool Company"
If you wanted to order a tune with a fresh mix of soul, rock and funk this past year, this hot (and slightly political) track was it.

28. Serena Ryder “Little Bit of Red”
She could be the next Melissa Etheridge with more tunes like this.

27. Cut Off Your Hands “Happy As Can Be”
It’s like Echo & The Bunnymen, but less dark - for New Zealand.

26. Street Sweeper Social Club “Promenade”
This bouncy rap rocker features some of Tom Morello's finest soloing in years.

25. Kentucky Nightmare “Caroline & I”
A little Americana never hurt anyone.

24. Phoenix “1901”
2009 was a breakout year for these guys, and this is arguably their best song yet.

23. Favours For Sailors “I Dreamt That You Dreamt You Loved Me In Your Dreams”
This infectious powerpop rocker will have you wondering when they will get their big break. They'd be a perfect opening act for Weezer. (Hint, Hint)

22. Future of the Left “You Need Satan More Than He Needs You”
It’s loud, ridiculous and most importantly, fu***** rocks your socks off.

21. Annie “Anthonio”
The Norwegian electro-pop singer/DJ always has a sweet or downright hot voice to match her music, and this track is no different.

20. Kiss “Modern Day Delilah”
Simply the best song they've written in more than a couple decades.

19. Yeah Yeah Yeahs ”Heads Will Roll”
A great workout/dance song that also rocks from Karen O and the boys.

18. U2 “Magnificent”
They've made more elite albums than No Line On The Horizon, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have great material. This one made the list for its memorable chorus alone, the end of which slightly recalls the chorus of Achtung Baby favorite “Even Better Than The Real Thing.” And that’s a good thing, of course.

17. Silversun Pickups “Substitution”
I'm so glad they released this as a single as it is one of the most dynamic tracks on 2009 CD Swoon.

16. Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse “Revenge (w/Wayne Coyne)"
A late night track perfect to relax to after a long day.

15. Metric “Blindness”
Definitely the most emotion-filled track on the Fantasies disc, one that sees Emily Haines presumably empowering herself to overcome drug addiction.

14. Clutch “Struck Down”
Yet another ace track from the veteran Maryland stoner rockers, this tune proudly wears its current blues rock influence on its collective sleeves.

13. Jay-Z “Run This Town (w/Rihanna/Kanye West)”
You couldn't avoid liking this tune if you tried, mostly because of Rihanna's stadium-sized vocals.

12. Jay-Z w/Alicia Keys “Empire State Of Mind”
As anthemic and cool as this version is, Keys' own piano-based version turns it into a beautiful number that's just as great, if not better.

11. Neko Case “People Got A Lotta Nerve”
A short, jangly hooky pop song from one of the best female indie rock artists of the 2000s.

10. Imogen Heap “First Train Home”
The genius of electronic pop hits a home run again with this one.

9. Third Eye Blind “Non Dairy Creamer”
The subject matter may be political, but it's also humorous. And the music (pop rock) is undeniable ear candy.

8. Royksopp “Silver Cruiser”
Phenomenal production, out-of-this-world soothing sounds. Electronic music doesn't get cooler than this.

7. Pearl Jam “Got Some”
It's their most urgent and energy-packed loud rocker they've released since "Go" came out in 1993.

6. Bat For Lashes ”Sleep Alone”
A hot beat behind retro electronic drums and synths, and The Cure-ish atmospherics equals an A+ track to these ears.

5. Passion Pit “The Reeling”
These Boston boys came out of nowhere to score a hit with the most swirly, hypnotic, synth-pop tune I've heard in years.

4. Low Red Land “Dog’s Hymn”
Discovered via SPIN magazine, this San Fran group's best song evokes Minus The Bear (one of my favorite bands of the 2000s). Thus, it easily became one of my favorite songs of the year.

3. Bat For Lashes “Daniel”
This darkly romantic '80's-style synth rocker ruled my world this year - not to mention my mp3 player.

2. Bright Eyes w/Gillian Welch “Lua”
First released in 2005 solo acoustic, this beautiful re-recording is the most improved version of any song I've ever heard, period.

1. Company Of Thieves “Oscar Wilde”
It's got a funky bass line, emotive guitar work, a fine vocalist with powerful pipes and a message that serves as an indictment of humanity: "We are all our own devil/And we make this world our hell." It's my song of the year and thanks goes to Carson Daly for introducing the Chicago band to the world in 2009.