Saturday, April 7, 2007

USC: Improving the Educational Experience

The University of Southern California is an incredible school that is one of the best in the country and strives towards being the best, constantly improving the educational process, in order to continue establishing a high recognition of academic excellence. USC takes pride in being one of the best universities available to college students in the Los Angeles area and along the Pacific Rim. According to USC’s role and mission statement, “The central mission of the University of Southern California is the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit. The principle means by which our mission is accomplished are teaching, research, artistic creation, professional practice and selected forms of public service.” Also, the Dean’s Prize, which allows students to submit their input and ideas for educational improvement, advises students to; “think seriously about learning, be creative and daring, and inspire us.” USC’s first priority is the education of its students and the USC Dean’s Prize allows students to make proposals to enrich the academic life and the educational experience. I would like to make a few suggestions and comments pertaining to the improvement of the educational experience, with USC's plan in mind.

As an aspiring student at USC, with a minor in the Music Industry, I would like to make some comments and suggestions that may benefit the students involved in my field of study. The first class of study and unit credit towards the Music Industry minor has been MUIN 277, Introduction to Music Technology, taught by Professor McIlvery. Professor McIlvery is an incredibly talented man in his professional field. He has worked in the music industry for over 30 years as a recording engineer, which involved working with many famous artists, including Michael Jackson, Ricky Martin, and many others. Professor McIlvery is very knowledgeable in his field and he conveys that knowledge to his students in a very efficient and interesting way. The class covers a wide range of topics regarding modern recording techniques, which includes topics like: studio acoustics and design, microphones, digital audio recording, monitoring, analog tape and recorders, signal processing, and synthesis and sampling. Many of these topics are very technical, and it is difficult to understand and grasp the concepts through the use of books. The books are helpful, but what is lacking in the class is the loss of any practical applications of these techniques. A lab with practical “hands-on” experience, using recording equipment such as: recording consoles, digital audio workstations, Pro Tools, monitoring equipment, etc. would be incredible tools for students to really understand the technical applications and concepts of the recording techniques. Professor McIlvery’s talents would prove to be incredibly useful to help students with the “hands-on” experience. Most classes that involve recording techniques offer the use of actual recording programs and equipment. For example, MUIN 446ab, Computer Assisted Recording and Editing, which is a class offered at USC, allows students the use of Pro Tools for the proper learning environment. It would not be difficult to incorporate these tools into the MUIN 277 class, since it is already accessible on campus.

USC emphasizes in its strategic plan the importance of becoming a “learner-centered college by developing three capabilities: (1) create educational and structural methods that better fulfill students needs, (2) harness technology for more responsiveness and flexibility in education and, (3) offer learning opportunities beyond graduation and across the world…Traditional lecture courses will decline, giving way to a variety of more flexible and interactive approaches to learning.” Acknowledgement of these USC standards and guidelines, would give rise to the perfect opportunity to allow the students involved in the MUIN 277 class to have access to the “hands-on” experience. Providing the digital audio workstations, recording equipment, and technological opportunity in this class, would satisfy all the learner-center concepts and desires. Student’s educational needs would be better fulfilled. Technology would be incorporated for educational responsiveness and flexibility, and learning opportunities would go beyond school and reach into a global society. Students could incorporate their “hands-on” skills outside of school, to be used in their professional field, and in the recording studios. These skills could be used to create their own music that could reach many individuals on a global scale, not just locally.

Los Angeles is the center of the music industry and USC is the leading school in Los Angeles and Southern California. This requires that USC’s music department provide the best educational experience to their students so they may carry these tools into their creative fields, which would directly affect the industry in Los Angeles. USC has a high influence in Los Angeles and the music industry, which in turn, affects society globally by reaching individuals on a larger scale. USC takes pride in having one of the best music schools, and having more technological availabilities to the students would only help to keep that reputation. Music affects people on a global scale, and the more knowledge students have to bring to society, the more benefits the world would receive through student’s knowledge and contributions. Incorporating recording equipment into the music technology classroom would prove to be highly beneficial for everyone.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Prince: An Honorary Degree Nominee

With the University of Southern California commencement for the spring of 2007 drawing near, I would like to address the issue of the honorary degree awards for this year. The awards are issued to extraordinary individuals in their field who have obtained very high achievements. According to James Freedman, president emeritus of the University of Iowa and Dartmouth College, “In bestowing an honorary degree, a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most.” Freedman also states that the degree should “celebrate distinguished and sublime achievement.” With such importance of the honorary degree awards, I wanted to take the initiative to address this issue and how it pertains to the world of music. Music has always been an incredibly creative and influential part of the world and people’s lives. Creative mastering can be a highly challenging accomplishment for any artist, while also becoming successful and famous in their field. There is a particular artist that fits the criteria for being one of the best musicians, while obtaining worldwide recognition, and someone who is exceptionally qualified for the USC honorary degree for Doctor of Music.

Every year USC takes the initiative to award these degrees and “honor the individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities. To honor… individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of…the communities of which they are a part.” Acknowledgement to an individual from USC, and to receive a degree of this magnitude, is an exceptional award that would be greatly honored by the receiver. This is why the individual that is the perfect choice, and my nominee of exceptional experience and talent in music, is Prince (birth name: Prince Rogers Nelson).

Prince is a self taught musician on several instruments and he released his first album at age 19. He is a master musician on the guitar, bass, drums and percussion, keyboards, and vocals. As a very diverse artist, he has constantly expanded his musical palette through out the years with a wide range of music styles that include: Rhythm and Blues, Funk, Soul, Pop, Rock, New-Wave, Jazz, and Hip-Hop. His ability to write, compose, and produce, allows him to make most of his music single-handedly, while playing most of the instruments on his albums. Many critics have dubbed him a musical genius because of his versatility, dancing, singing skills, and ability to play various instruments. He has released over a thousand songs both under his own name and through other artists, and is known for having composed and recorded many more songs that remain unreleased. Prince was signed with Warner Bros. and released his first album with them in 1978, titled For You, and the album reached the Billboard 200, while the single “Soft and Wet” performed well on the R&B charts. Known as a musical icon who has released over 25 albums, Prince has sold millions of albums that were ranked as top albums on the Billboard charts, while many of his singles also ranked as number one hits on the charts. Just to name a few, because the list is endless, Purple Rain sold more than thirteen million copies in the U.S. and spent twenty-four consecutive weeks at the top Billboard 200. Two songs from Purple Rain, “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” both would top the U.S. single charts and were hits around the world. Prince has recorded soundtracks for movies, including Batman in 1989, which was top of the U.S. album charts at number one. He is known for having a very androgynous and somewhat risqué and provocative style, which shows that he is a very diverse individual that does not follow the stereotypical “norms.” A controversial time in his career was when he changed his name to a male and female symbol as a way of taking back his identity, because he felt Warner Bros. controlled and owned him as an artist. He was known to have the word “slave” written on his face as an act of rebellion. Finally in 2000, his publishing contract with Warner-Chappell expired and he returned to using the name “Prince.”

He then became an independent artist and released his music on the internet through his internet subscription service On June 12, 2006, Prince was honored with a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his “visionary” use of the Internet that included becoming the first major artist to release an entire album-1997’s Crystal Ball-exclusively on the Web. In 2004, he was introduced to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2006, he was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. On February 4, 2007, he performed at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show in Miami, Florida. In April 2004, Prince released the Musicology album and grossed an estimated $87.4 million for the tour. Pollstar named Prince the top concert draw among musicians in America. The album Musicology went on to receive two Grammy wins. On March 2nd, 2007, Prince won an award for "Outstanding Male Artist" at the NAACP Image Awards. Others have benefited from his sympathy and compassion, through his contributions to his community in the form of donations, charity, and animal rights. He donated $37,000 to Princeville, N.C., for building supplies, after the Hurricane Floyd devastation. After Hurricane Katrina, he recorded two new songs, “S.S.T.” and “Brand New Orleans,” and all the proceeds went to the Katrina victims. Animal rights is an important issue for Prince, and he has received a Dolly Green Special Achievement Award by the Ark Trust, an animal-rights group, for his contributions to animals. He is also a vegan vegetarian, and according to PETA the award-winning singer is a "symbol of humanity" because he refuses to eat "anything with parents."

One can see that Prince is of exceptional merit by looking at all his accomplishments in his field. Few people have even come close to achieving as much as he, in the field of music. Some might argue that he shouldn't receive the award because he is strange and has feminine tendencies, including the way he dresses. He is known for wearing high heels and has been quoted saying, "People say I'm wearing heels because I'm short. I wear heels because the women like 'em." This shows that Prince is not afraid to express himself and be diverse, even if others may not agree with it, and diversity is important in the USC criteria for the award. USC takes pride in the Thorton School of Music and is very aware of the hard work and dedication that is involved in a career in music, and the talent that is necessary in obtaining all the achievements made by Prince. At commencement, Prince would advise the class of 2007 to follow dreams and not to let anything get in the way of achievements, or accomplishments. To have pride and seek truth and follow important beliefs. Find passion in life and be the best, and don’t settle for anything less. Prince is the perfect nominee for the USC honorary degree for Doctor of Music.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Music: It Makes the World Go 'Round

Music has always been a passion of mine ever since I can remember. I loved listening to music as a child and through out all my years. Music has a power to affect my mood within that moment of listening. There is that power to change a sad moment to a happy one, just by listening to a song that elevates my spirit and uplifts my soul. My mood may also be happy and instantly change to sad, by listening to a song that connects me to a sad memory or brings me back to a particular time in my life of feeling sad. Everyone has been affected by music in this sense and this is a very powerful phenomena. I have always felt a connection with music and music is a passion that engulfs my spirit. I can completely divulge myself into a song and not have any other thought in my mind or worry-just a feeling of contentment and awareness of only the notes played by each instrument, and the song’s melody to be my main focus. This experience can be through listening to a song, without being a participant in playing an instrument, but only a sponge absorbing the complete sound of the song. To play an instrument is also an incredible feeling that engulfs my complete spirit and is an amazing creative outlet. The action of strumming a guitar and having my physical body help produce a beautiful sound, by playing the instrument, is amazing. To be free of stress and heavy thoughts, and only focus on my fingers picking the notes, my hand strumming the strings, and my ears listening to the sound of the music, can be a spiritual experience. The feeling can be almost meditative, with that rush of energy and lightness of the soul that is like no other type of experience.
Musicians have the ability to affect others in a powerful way and people can become very emotional and full of passion when experiencing a live concert. Concert goers can do very extreme things while being “moved” by the music. Women throw their underwear at rock stars and men dance in "mosh pits." Women can faint by the site of certain musicians and men want to be like the rock stars they see on stage. The lyrics in songs can also have a very profound effect on the listeners. Rock stars can send a message to the world through their lyrics. Songs can speak of politics, love, hate, death, and anything people can relate to, and have millions of listeners that are affected by the song. Artists like John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix (above image) had the ability to “move” people and they still do today, even after they are dead. NeilYoung (left image) can be very political in his lyrics and people really listen to what he has to say in his music. Some artists are able to affect the public more than the President or any politicians. This type of power and phenomena that is involved in music, musicians, and fans is very appealing to me and I love being around this type of energy and genre.
Everyone needs a creative outlet and a sense of feeling connected to something, and music has always been that for me. People should do what’s in their heart and soul and not be afraid to follow their dreams. Our souls can become lifeless and without passion if we don’t follow some type of dream or have some sort of creative outlet. Life is about really living and realizing who we truly are inside. What are the things that we love in life and what really makes us happy. Everyone needs something like this to relate to and give them the drive to keep on living. Music has always fulfilled these feelings for me, and to work in a field with something I love is a “dream come true.” I don’t want to be miserable doing a job I hate, just to bring home a paycheck everyday. Money is important, but it is not truly living if you hate what you do. I will always love music, whether it’s playing an instrument, just listening to a song, enjoying a concert, or working in the music industry as a business person. Music is my life and my joy, and without it my flame would be forever dim and lifeless.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Rap and Hip-Hop: A Negative Influence

Rap and hip-hop music have been around for many years and at one time, many people could relate to this type of music and culture. But after thirty years of growing popularity, rap music sales have recently declined. According to recent statistics: Though music sales are down overall, rap sales slid twenty-one percent from 2005 to 2006, and for the first time in twelve years no rap album was among the top ten sellers of the year. Some people have reason to believe that the decline is from increasing criticism about rap and hip-hop’s bad influence. A recent study by the Black Youth Project showed a majority of youth think rap has too many violent images. According to Chuck Creekmur, who runs the leading web-site, “A lot of people are sick of rap…the negativity is just over the top now.” In a poll of Black Americans by the Associated Press and Aol-Black Voices last year, fifty percent of respondents said hip-hop was a negative force in American society. Here is an example of some of the negative lyrics that are heard in rap music, where guns and violence are glamorized, in Snoop Dog’s (image top left) song called, “20 Dollars 2 My Name”: “Nothing left to do but buy some shells for my glock. Why? So I can rob every known dope spot. I got 19 dollars and 50 cents up in my pocket with what? With this automatic rocket, Gotta have it to pop it, unlock it, and take me up a hostage.” This is only one song, but many other rap songs have lyrics like this one.

A new study suggests that fans of rap and hip-hop are more likely to drink, use drugs and engage in violence, and it’s hard to prove that rap music changes the way fans act, but a recent study strongly suggests that it does. In 2002, researchers surveyed 1,056 community college students aged 15-25 from California’s Central Valley about their music listening habits, drinking habits, and use of marijuana and “club drugs” such as Ecstasy. They were also asked whether they’d recently engaged in violent behavior, such as getting into fights or attacking people. The study confirmed that there is a strong and significant association between listening to those types of music and engaging in those activities. A study from the 1990’s found that nearly half of all rap songs referred to alcohol. These findings could mean that people who are drinking alcohol and using drugs are drawn to this type of music, or the music influences young people to drink, do drugs, and become violent. Researchers have found that listening to music with violent lyrics can cause “at least a temporary increase in aggressive thoughts and feelings,” said Craig Anderson, professor of psychology at Iowa State University in Ames. But he said the long term effects are still not clear.

Rap artists frequently use the N-word in their lyrics. The use of the N-word can be very offensive and negative. The word was a term slave masters used to label their African slaves. Rap and hip-hop use the word like it is normal and as a term of endearment or as a substitute for black. This angers black leaders who consider those who use the word as ignorant of the horrors of slavery, segregation and racism, all of which are a part of American History. Although there are a lot of negative lyrics in rap and hip-hop, the music originally began with a more positive note, and the music held a political significance as a form of unification against repression. But today’s artists have a type of hyper-masculine “thug” theme that has forgotten about the early world of rap music. People are growing tired of all the negativity and are looking for some positive influences in life and in music. There is an increase in popularity for Christian hip-hop and rap, and Christian rap began two decades ago with an acceptance among churches and the music industry. "The...reason the music is getting more attention is that the artists are just better," says Christian rapper Bingo Kenoly. "Now, we have Cross Movement, Da Truth and myself raising the standard and making authentic Christian rap." He also says that, "hip-hop has been knocking on the door of gospel music for a long time but gospel music was ignoring it. But, now hip-hop has like taken over secular music and dominated it for a decade now and you can't get away from it." For the first time, The Grammy Awards included a category for best rock or rap gospel album. Hopefully this is a move in the right direction for rap and hip-hop to have a more positive influence on listeners. With fans becoming tired of the negativity that’s heard in rap and hip-hop, the Christian route may shed some positive light on the music’s reputation.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rock Stars: Turning to Sobriey

Today many artists are seeking rehabilitation when their lives become unmanageable and out of control due to the abuse of drugs and alcohol. We are seeing more and more famous musicians turn to AA and drug rehabilitation as an alternative to the chaotic life that the abuse of drugs and alcohol can bring. Artists are turning to the solution to their disease of addiction as opposed to partying until they end up dead, insane, or in jail. There is help to be found for famous musicians with addictions, and it is becoming popular for them to seek help and become a better person, instead of ruining one’s career due to “alcoholic” or “druggy” behavior. Fans and the public appreciate positive role models for their children, instead of chaotic addicts who can influence their kids to use drugs. Artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Jim Morrison (image at right), are a few examples of famous musicians who have died of drug overdose or drug related deaths. Now we have artists like Aerosmith, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ozzy Osbourne, Lindsay Lohan, Courtney Love, and Keith Urban, who are turning to AA in order to have a better life and career, and they are not ashamed to admit that they are addicts seeking recovery. I have posted comments at two different blogs pertaining to famous people, AA, and rehabilitation facilities. Please refer to the articles below to view these comments or click to their links directly.

In response to your blog I would like to state that although Lindsay Lohan might still be partying as wildly as ever and wearing sobriety baubles, as you stated, she is at least trying to stay sober and attending AA meetings. Sometimes alcoholics and addicts take time to accept that they truly have a problem and it may take them a while to fully embrace the AA program. Not all people in recovery really understand the program of AA and turn their life completely around right away. Lindsay may continue to attend AA meetings and party at the same time, until one day she can truly stay sober. Each alcoholic and addict is different in their recovery and some take longer than others to really “get” the program. Addict musicians know that there is help for them and they are turning to healthy alternatives instead of continuing to live with the problem of addiction. I do agree with you that the rehab phenomenon is not a new trend in Hollywood, but I do think that famous people are not ashamed to admit they have a problem and seek help today-seeking help is more cool and accepted than dying as an addict.

In response to your blog and quote by Professor Boyarsky, I would like to state that it is not “bull” when someone checks into rehab or seeks help for their problems. Although a person’s motives for checking into a facility may not always be considered to be the right motives, they can still sometimes get the help that they need. If a famous person’s behavior is that bad, then there must be a reason for that inappropriate behavior and rehab may be the only answer at the time. While in rehab, even if it is only for a short time (as Bill Boyarsky stated in your blog), the person may experience a life changing event that they may not have experienced if they had not entered rehab. As you stated, Lindsey Lohan’s commitment to a rehab facility might be questioned because she is in and out of the facility. I like to state that at least she has entered a facility. She is seeking help and she may not be a perfect example of a recovering addict or alcoholic, but she is doing the right thing by checking into a facility. It may take her some time to achieve full sobriety and recovery.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

DRM: Should It Be Abolished?

The Digital Rights Management system is used to protect music against theft and requires customers to purchase music from the Apple’s iTunes store. Apple’s DRM system is called FairPlay and helps Apple to protect the music that’s downloaded and sold on iTunes, because Apple does not control or own the rights to any of the music itself. There are four major music companies that own the rights to the music sold on iTunes, and those companies are: Warner, EMI, Sony BMG, and Universal. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music. Apple approached these four companies in order to license and distribute their music over the Internet legally. The four major music companies required that Apple protect their music from being illegally copied, so the DRM system was created. The DRM system only allows songs purchased on iTunes to be played on authorized devices.

DRM systems have secret codes and locks that prevent illegal downloading of the music sold on iTunes. But, there are people who discover the locks and secrets and make the music available for downloading illegally. Every time someone discovers the locks and codes for the DRM system, Apple must come up with new locks and codes to protect the music from being illegally downloaded.

Recently, Steve Jobs (image to the right), the chief executive of Apple, proposed that the DRM system should be dropped altogether. Jobs said, "...the DRM system hasn’t worked and may never work, to halt music piracy.” Only two percent of music on the average iPod has been purchased from the iTunes store. Also, music that is sold in the form of CD’s is unprotected and can be purchased and then uploaded onto the internet, and then illegally downloaded and played on any computer or player. So technically, what good is the DRM system?

Job’s proposal to abolish the DRM system has received mixed opinions from music companies. A report made by analyst Mark Mulligan showed that 54% of music executives that were questioned thought that current DRM systems were too restrictive. Among all record labels, 48% of executives thought ending DRM would boost download sales. Executive of Warner Music, Edgar Bronfman, had a different opinion from Jobs. According to Bronfman, "DRM and interoperability are not the same thing. Warner Music believes very strongly in interoperability. Consumers want it and consumers should have it." He said, "As a content company, we, of course, want consumers to seamlessly access our music and to use the music they have purchased on any platform and with any service, physical or digital." Bronfman also stated that, "The issue is obscured by asserting that DRM and interoperability is the same thing. They are not. To suggest that they cannot coexist is incorrect." Bronfman supports the continued use of DRM to protect their music and the artist’s music even though their music is illegally available unprotected. The same copyright and protection laws apply to software, television, film, and video games, so why should music be an exception?

Some have speculated that Apple’s motives are to look good in the eyes of the consumer. Apple is using the DRM-free music as a PR effort with consumers. Apple wants to look like the “nice-guy” compared to the big music companies who look greedy and unconcerned about the consumers. Also, Jobs has stated that DRM-free music would be better for customers who want to use alternative music stores and music players. As Jobs stated in his "Thoughts on Music" letter, "The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where...any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat." But, logically it is easier and more cost efficient for Apple to not have to maintain and update FairPlay constantly.

Steve Job’s main concern is Apple. Steve Jobs and Apple are not concerned about the record companies or the consumer’s best interest. The continued use of a DRM system requires that Apple hire competent computer experts that require to be paid substantially, to constantly update, code, and apply secret locks to the FairPlay system. The DRM system adds unwanted costs for Apple, so it would be in Apple’s best interest to abolish the DRM system. DRM-free music would allow Apple to continue to sell their music on iTunes and make profits without incurring added costs from paying computer experts to encode the FairPlay system. This is the true motive behind Steve Jobs and Apple computers DRM-free system.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Rising Concert Ticket Prices: A Form of Price Gouging

Concert ticket prices every year are increasing at a high rate making it incredibly unaffordable for the average consumer. According to Pollstar, a company that provides music-industry related data, concert ticket prices have grown by 61 percent, while the Consumer Price Index (the measure of the price of all consumer goods) increased by just 13 percent. Artists today are charging an average of about $75 to $300 per concert ticket. Acts that have a large fan base, through many years in the music industry, are charging the highest amount for concert tickets. The high increase in ticket prices has a lot to do with artist’s income decline from low sales of recorded music-due to music downloading off the internet. Concert tours in the past were a way for artists to promote themselves to increase record sales. But, today high ticket costs are needed to make more money off the tours in order to balance the decrease in CD sales.

Recent comments made on two blogs pertaining to high concert ticket prices and retaliation by Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon can be found at:

These comments may also be found in the below paragraphs:

Ozzfest for free is a great idea and ticket distribution could be problematic. A free concert will create a very high demand for tickets from the fans. The main distribution of the concert tickets will be through the internet at Websites of various sponsors for the tour. Ozzy will be the headlining artist and several other bands are expected to perform including Alice in Chains. The other artists besides Ozzy will not be expected to perform through out the entire tour. The Ozzfest brain trust and tour producer Live Nation will ask corporate sponsors to help cover some of the costs of the free tour. Also, additional revenue will come from food and souvenir concessions that will probably have increased prices during the tour. The statement that Ozzfest and the artists performing are making to the music industry is an important and groundbreaking one. The fans and artists are taking back the power by not putting up with the price gouging that is happening through Ticketmaster and the concert promoter conglomerate known as Clear Channel Entertainment. Rock on Ozzy and Sharon!


The free Ozzfest tour is going to be a very ground breaking and incredible event. Ozzy Osbourne has been in the music business for many years and he has a huge fan base. This event will go down in history and will be an event remembered by everyone, especially the fortunate fans that will attend. A concert of this magnitude that will tour the country for free has never been attempted. This is a great way to say to the monopolistic promoters that the artists and the fans are not going to put up with the outrageous ticket prices that keep increasing every year. The fans are tired of the price gouging and so are the artists. The artists know if they continue to charge outrageously high ticket prices, their fans will not be able to afford to attend the concerts. The hard rock artists will especially get hit the hardest because their fans are usually younger and don’t have as much disposable income. Rock on Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne and thanks for watching out for your fans!


Monday, February 5, 2007

Downloading Music: Harming or Benefiting the Music Industry?

The Music Industry has been going through some major changes since music became available for downloading off the internet. Downloading music became popular when people were able to share music files for free. Some issues with copyright laws became a factor because people were not paying for the music. The band Metallica (image on right) created a stir about these copyright laws being broken through a company called Napster, and record companies were loosing money. Metallica went to court and won. This created music downloading sites that charged for downloading music.

Today there are many websites that one can pay as a member to download music. These websites are proving to be profitable in the long run. But in the short run CD sales have been declining and will keep declining. What will balance out the CD sales decline is the fee-based digital download websites. According to Jane Weaver of MSNBC, Forrester Research projected that downloading music from the internet will reach $2 billion in sales: or 17 percent of the music business in 2007. Global CD sales declined 5.1 percent in 2002 and in 2003 had a decline of 6 percent.

So, the transition from CD sales to profitable music downloading for the music industry is a slow and painful transition, but in the long run it can prove to be profitable.
What is harming the industry today is the file-sharing sites like KaZaA. Sites like KaZaA came about after Napster was sued and forced to comply with a US District Court Injunction. These free websites are proving to be very controversial and most law experts agree that it is illegal to download music that is copy written or owned by a person or company. People who use KaZaA share their music files with other KaZaA users. If free downloading continues this could cause record companies and musicians to continue to loose money. The recording industry is cracking down on illegal file sharing and has started suing people who engage in this activity (as image below and to the right shows a kid downloading music). A mother of a 12-year old downloader had to pay $2000 to settle a lawsuit by the recording industry for illegal downloading. According to Cary Sherman, President of Recording Industry Association of America, “We want people to stop engaging in the theft of music so that people can go on making it. This is a terrible thing where people are biting the hands that make the music and destroying the very music that they want to continue to be created.” The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) plans to file many more civil lawsuits against offenders who are illegally downloading and distributing copy written music on peer-to-peer networks.

Other countries besides the U.S. have had a decline in CD sales since internet downloading. Canada claims to have experienced significant financial losses due to music downloading. The loss is due to decreased music sales and is attributed to peer-to-peer file sharing. Canadian artists have also suffered material loss. Graham Henderson, president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) argued that music downloading has devastated the industry. The decline in CD sales for Canada, over a 6 year period, has been approximately C$ 431.7 million.

Tower Records appears to be a victim of music downloading. On August 20, 2006, Tower Records filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to facilitate a purchase of the company prior to the holiday shopping season. On October 6, 2006, Great American Group won an auction of the company’s assets. Tower Records had going-out-of-business sales at all U.S. Tower Records locations and closed by December 22, 2006. The Tower Records website was sold separately. Many people believe that Tower Records filing bankruptcy had much to do with music downloading and decreased CD sales. Tower Records had been in business since 1960. This is a huge company that has been in business for many years. It is not coincidental that Tower Records would go out of business during this major transition in the music industry. Some companies are bound to pay the price when it comes to music downloading. Music companies today need to be smart and cash in on the legal music downloading sites that are making a profit. Once this transition is complete, music companies will definitely make millions of dollars in profits. The transition may not be a smooth one, and certain companies may get hurt along the way. But, in the long run music downloading can prove to be a very profitable business.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Women Today in the Music Industry: Products of Sex

Today women in the music industry are thought of as sex objects. An artist's musical talent as a reputable musician has taken a back seat to the concept of a woman's looks and sexiness. Female artists today need to be attractive and have a certain body type in order to become part of the popular mainstream music industry. Never mind the question, "Can you sing?"-that's not the issue in the music scene today for female artists. The question today is, "Are you sexy and do you have a great physique?" It's a very sad but true issue for women in the music scene today. Take a look at some of the popular female artists today-are they talented? Well some might think so, but if a good look is taken at these artists we have to wonder what is really going on here. Most of the popular female artists of today are young, have sexy bodies, and have a certain look-as opposed to real talent. Some of these artists are: Britney Spears, Christina Aguillara, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, and Madonna-just to name a few. Grant it, some of these artists do have incredible voices, but without a certain type of look they probably wouldn't be where they are today.

All of these artists are expected to play a certain role or a type of sexual fantasy. If these women don't play the "sex" game then the record companies would not put as much money, time, and energy into promoting these artists. Sex sells and the record companies know it. Record companies are all about making money whether or not one has any musical talent. As long as these female artists are selling records and making money for the industry, the record companies could care less if they are talented or not. Studios today are loaded with digital equipment that only takes a push of a button to make an artist sing in key or hit the correct note. Female artists like Janis Joplin, Carley Simon, and Karen Carpenter are talents of the past. Today's female artists are commercialized packages like a product you find at the grocery store-the package looks pretty, but are you really getting what you paid for?

There is one female artist who isn't a "sell out" and is a musician of real talent-Mellisa Etheridge. Mellisa is a poet with incredible vocal talent. Her lyrics are comprised of real current issues that can have a life changing affect on the listener. Mellisa is one female musician who did make it on her talent and her talent alone. She doesn't have to strut around half-naked to sell her records. Mellisa is a breast cancer survivor and she has written songs about her battle with breast cancer, she also reaches out to women who are going through the same struggle. Melissa is also very politically active and does charitable work with many organizations.
The Hip-Hop scene is also known for its sexual exploitation of women. Hip-Hop artists speak of women as sex objects and portray women as sex objects in their music videos. Certain Hip-Hop videos are thought to borderline with pornography.

This message of female objectivity that's being sent to our children today is very sad. Young girls think they have to look pretty and sexy in order to be of any value as people. Young boys look at the way women are portrayed in music and they learn not to value or respect women as human beings, but as sex objects for men's pleasure. There needs to be a complete change in the music industry-a change that embraces talented female musicians and women in general, for their talent and not their looks. The attitude towards women as sex objects needs to change to an attitude that women are valuable individuals no matter what they look like. Women have more to contribute to the world than good looks and sexy bodies.