What’s in a Name? – A Story of Greed

“I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.”

– Jay-Z

“Shut up Jay-Z, you’re going to poison your daughters mind god damnit.”

– Phillip Richard

Disclaimer: This blog post contains light, but frequent profanities. Don’t read if your offended by the english language. Also don’t read if you are a big fan of Beyonce and/or Jay-Z. Actually you know what, never-mind. Read it, it will be good for you. I honestly like their music too so whatever.

Well folks, it’s starting to get ugly out there. This is a story of people all over the place taking advantage of each other for personal profit. I don’t really know who wins, at the end of the day I guess they all do because the mind of innocent baby girl is left protected but as you’ll see it’s a crazy ass ride. I don’t know how to start or to even get my points across exactly, so I think I’ll begin by writing a script about a conversation that likely* happend (or at least something like it anyways) between the biggest couple business partnership in music around last January…

~  SCENE-1  ~

Jay-Z: “Holy shit Beyonce, this kid could be a bigger cash cow than all of our albums combined!”

Beyonce: “I know I can’t wait to exploit the hell out of her, but where do we start?”

Jay-Z: “Well, I suppose we turn her into a product A.S.A.P. ya dig? I mean we need to trademark her name/identity before anybody else does.”

Beyonce: “Genius! Let’s do that right meow. I’m going to milk this for all it’s worth. I’m talkin’ ‘Baby Blue Ivy’ bullshit all around: Baby Carriages, Baby Cosmetics, Baby Bibs, Chairs, Dolls…”

Jay-Z: “Hell even as insult to injury to all of our fans that will blow their entire paychecks on this crap, even if they don’t have kids, we will throw in some Diaper Bags!!!1 ‘Let your baby take a shit in our babies brand name shit.’ How’s that for a poetic metaphor?  No wonder we are multi-millionaire artists. Nothing can stop us now! hahahahahahlol

…or can it?

 END SCENE 

Well, if you didn’t follow any of that Beyonce and Jay-Z got the, (clearly in my opinion) tasteless, but smart business idea to trademark the name of their daughter Blue Ivy, to begin a line of beguiling baby products.

Unfortunately for them and fortuneatly for their daughter they weren’t able to trademark the name. I mean the girl is going to grow up in the most superficial environment possible already, with her mom being, to many, the most attractive woman in the world, and with too much wealth to possibly know what to do with. She’s right on track to being a spoiled shitty self-entitled materialistic itch-bay. Quite frankly having her own million dollar franchise before she even knows how to avoid vomiting on herself is a step closer to everything nobody wants Beyonce’s and Jay-Z’s child to be.

Anyways, they go to their lawyer and are all like, “Blah blah blah trademark my kids name.” And the lawyer is like “Sweet, ok. Give me too much money.” But the lawyer soon finds out he can’t do this because somebody else already has. Well, ladies and gentleman as you can imagine at this point shit hit the fan and this overindulged couple didn’t go down without a fight. Nine months of court cases and I’m sure millions of dollars coming off of trees for I.P. lawyers later the case was lost to Veronica Alexandra, a small Boston based business owner. Her company is called Blue Ivy and they plan weddings for people. How nice.

Let’s take some time to reflect. So far we have Jay-Z and Beyonce taking advantage of each others fortunes, then we have them trying to take advantage of their first and only daughter so far, then we have the lawyers dragging an expensive court case over a nine month period and we also have, which I have yet failed to mention, fashion designers already trying to trademark the name before them. Some douche-bag fashion designer by the name of Joseph Mbeh tried to trademark the name “Blue Ivy Carter NYC” four days after the kid was BORN. Someone else tried to trademark the name “Blue Ivy Carter Glory IV” for a damn fragrance. What on earth would that have smelled like? Petroleum jelly and baby powder!? You people sicken me. Finally, and most importantly we have Veronica Alexandra of Blue Ivy Events who is happily soaking in the publicity and increased business like a parched sponge. Seriously though, take a look at the front page of her website. http://www.blueivyevents.com

Seriously click it. Did you see that? I know right? It’s like the main feature on her front page. Look at all the sparkling stars and shit coming off of that once in a lifetime promotional opportunity. Damn. This small wedding planning company is probably going to explode so big that by the time it’s little Ivy’s turn to get married she probably won’t even be able to afford the damn service. Owell at least Veronica has the decency to admit that she is using and abusing the whole circumstance: “I can’t be frustrated with something I think is going to bring me to produce and define my brand even more, which is financially exciting in itself and intellectually exciting as well. It’s like they caused me to create more opportunity for myself.” However, as sad as it is, everyone has their price and Ms. Alexandra is still open to the possibility of a buy out.

Anyways this whole thing is both sad and hilarious to me. While most parents spend their time thinking of a name or a small gift or how wonderful it will be to watch them grow into happy contributing citizens, the Carter family is going through a trial to turn their daughter into a labelled, branded product.

People, especially Berklee students seem to be in a constant desire to live and lead the life of Beyonce and Jay-Z, or any other super star for that matter. We must remember that while it is important to brand yourself and your artistic work, as artists there is a fine line between your business and your personal life. Once those lines get crossed things can get all kinds of fucked up. Sell your products not your souls ladies and gentlemen.

Phillip Richard

*This means it almost certainly didn’t happen, please don’t sue me.

Sources and Further Reading:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahsweeney/2012/10/22/blue-ivy-trademark-name-a-no-go-for-beyonce-and-jay-z/

http://www.bostonherald.com/business/general/view.bg?articleid=1061168659&srvc=rss

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/reliable-source/post/blue-ivy-the-trademark-feds-move-fast-on-rights-to-beyonce-and-jay-zs-babys-name/2012/02/03/gIQAOTDGnQ_blog.html

http://uk.eonline.com/news/355945/beyonc-and-jay-z-lose-trademark-battle-for-blue-ivy-but-get-good-advice-from-president-obama

LIVE MUSIC INDUSTRY IN TROUBLE!!

The impact of the recent hurricane Sandy in New York has provided a big debate regarding to the amount of losses who has been encountered in the live entertainment industry. Companies as Live Nation, AEG, are suffering in a significant way and the reschedule of the concerts is not a comfortable and convenient thing.

President of AEG, Randy Philips, says that this happening is serious because of involving one of the most significant entertainment industries and the amount of expenses encountered by stakeholders will be hardly recouped. That’s because at the moment it’s difficult to predict what will happen again.

This blog reflects the relationship between artist and promoter who don’t have to pay a guarantee provided that this is a case of force majeure clause application. On the other hand, there have been significant losses related to marketing and promotion costs provided by the cancellment of big concerts, apart from damages that not every venue covers in terms of insurance due weather conditions.

http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/industry/touring/hurricane-sandy-to-cost-live-entertainment-1007993472.story

The Best in Festivals & Conferences: Ibiza International Music Summit

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CH. V – IBIZA INTERNATIONAL MUSIC SUMMIT

The Ibiza International Music Summit (IMS) is a hub for the world’s leading professionals in dance and electronic music. It is held annually in Ibiza at the end of May and lasts 3 days. It is really an electronic music festival combined with a serious music summit/conference offering the opportunity for all businessmen and artists to listen and be apart of vital conversations with the world’s leading figures across music, business and digital strategy. Most of the artists, DJs and keynote speakers from the music industry partake in forward-thinking discussions, interviews, panels, case studies and conferences about the latest trends and strategies in the music (dance & electronic) industry on topics such as Twitter, Spotify, Touring models, Foursquare, etc.

The IMS obviously features networking events and a bunch of parties & shows such as the IMS Grand Finale Festival, a spectacular open-air celebration of the very best in modern electronic music with DJs such as Pete Tong, Carl Cox, E.A.S.E. from Nightmares On Wax, Calvin Harris, Bob Sinclair, etc.

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Ibiza being such the important platform it is for electronic and dance music; it just seems logical that the EDM summit was set-up there. It’s been running since 2008 and has grown since to welcome, yearly, about 425 paying delegates (285 euros registration fee) 100 artists, 250 media person, 200 sponsors attendees and 25 000 PARTY PEOPLE (clubbers) attending IMS related events and parties.

This seems like one of the most important place for Managers of DJs to create contacts and partnerships. It also gives a great exposure to DJs who are participating in the event or in related events in clubs around Ibiza.

Gibson Guitars & the Government

 The public perception of music instruments today seems to be overshadowed by everything else in the music industry: digital music innovations, upcoming festivals, rising stars, controversies in performances and so on. For my next blogs I will be focusing on issues in the music instrument industry. I think whether being a musician or a manager, music employee or employer, it is important to be well abreast on these issues.

***

It seems to have been a stressful year for Gibson Guitar Corporation who was recently charged by the US federal government for illegally importing rare wood for their guitars. Apparently what they use for their fret boards is illegally imported ebony from Madagascar.

Blame it on the Lacey Act, a century-old law originally passed to protect animal species. In 2008 it was expanded and now bans the importing of wood that is exported illegally under the other country’s laws.

But Gibson’s CEO Henry E. Juszkiewicz claims that the ebony they imported was exported legally under Madagascar’s laws. According to Gibson, Madagascar allows the exportation of “fingerboard blanks” (basically a piece of hardwood cut to the dimensions of a guitar fret board). Nevertheless Gibson agreed to the terms of the government and acknowledged that they failed to act on information” that the wood from Madagascar may have violated laws against deforestation.

Interestingly even before this charge, on 2009 and August last year, the federal government raided Gibson’s facilities in Nashville, seizing significant amounts of ebony fingerboard blanks from Madagascar as well as India.

However, things have been resolved- for now. Gibson entered into an agreement with the US government, which defers criminal prosecution of the Lacey Act violations. Gibson had to pay a $300,000 fine and donate $50,000 to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to promote conservation of protected tree species used in the music instrument industry. Also through this agreement, Gibson gets back from the government the fingerboard blanks from India that were seized and allowing future imports from India.

This case shows that the issues in the music instrument industry are worlds apart from the often elusive topics associated in the music industry such as copyright, digital streaming, royalties and so on. What remains though is the importance of product and quality that is top priority for a brand like Gibson. I think Gibson did the right think by complying quickly to avoid bigger lawsuits and risk being banned completely from their sources of wood.

All this talk on wood species, international law and government aside, this case of Gibson raises a question of to what extent laws and regulation can dictate on the music instrument industry. Here it can be argued that the government may be overstepping its bounds. Who knew guitars could be so involved in politics?

-JOEY

SOURCE:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/06/gibson-guitar-settles-claim-over-imported-ebony/

http://www.forestlegality.org/laws-policies/lacey-act

The Coolest Live Show

In my first post, I showed you the coolest and wildest light show in the live music scene today. That was Phish, and yes they do have the wildest ‘light’ show in the game today.

Now I am bringing you the coolest and weirdest futuristic light show in the game today, Ghostland Observatory’s lazer show. They set up with a few lights, but mainly with their 7 multi-colored lazers. They strategically place the 7 seven rainbow colored machines around the stage and synchronize them with the music. It is by far, the newest and wildest lazer show in the game today.

While they tour from show to show and festival to festival, their visual experience attracts more and more fans every time. Coming from Texas, this duo is humble and excited to share their live performance with new fans everywhere. They are the first to use these new high-tech lazers in this way and no one has even tried to copy them at this level. enjoy

The Best in Festivals & Conferences: Shambhala

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CH. IV – SHAMBHALA

Shambhala is most unique music festival I’ve ever been to. Born in 1998, it has grown to become one of the largest and most longest running electronic music festival in Canada.

It began as big party held on a huge private farm in the West Kootenays, in British Columbia. The promoters of the festival used to rent that land from the family that owned the farm, but as it became more successful, the farmers themselves decided to actually “buy” the festival and operate it themselves. The festival now lasts 5 days and 4 nights, hosts 10 000 people in the middle of the nature, and offers a mix of electronic music, from hard trance to really weird and trippy techno.

I wanted to write about this festival because there are a lot of weird and wonderful things about it. The main thing is the sense of community it has developed. Everyone in BC knows about Shambhala, has been there at least once and still talks about it like the best experience of their lives. As if everyone was part of the experience, of the loving community of Shambhala.

I got a job there in the summer of 2012 and road-tripped from Montreal to get there. I was eager to see why exactly people were so enthused about it and how it could be so different than other electronic festivals. I now understand why it was so hard to understand…Because it is so hard to explain. The special thing about Shambhala is the VIBE created by that sense of community, freedom and love. Entering the site, you are warned that you are entering a utopian world with its own rules where no judging is permitted and where everyone must love everyone. Sounds like a hippy, happy, druggy, fantastic festival. It is. So everyone says hi to everyone, everybody is on a few different drugs, and no one sleeps.

Similarly to Tomorrowland, a LOT of attention is paid to the theatrics, décor, audiovisuals and atmosphere at Shambhala. The difference is that everything is “homemade” or built by members of the community. Most of the DJs (except for some of the headliners) are from British Columbia and also part of the “family”. Most of the festivalgoers are from BC and 95% of the volunteers as well. I could write about that festival for pages so here is quickly what I thought was most important:

–       the sound. PK stereo systems sponsor a few of the stages. I’ve never hear something so loud in my entire life. They literally install WALLs of sound in front of the stages. I still don’t get why people like to listen to music so loud.

–       the 6 stages. Every stage is UNBELIEVABLE and managed & operated by its head DJ. I think that was a clever way to involve your “employees” and make them feel special and important (they actually are). Therefore, each stage manager books his line-up of artists and is responsible for every concert held at his stage during the entire festival.

–       The costumes. At Shambhala, everybody is whoever he/she wants to be because no ones cares. So everyone is costumed, and some take that WAY more seriously than others.

–       A “Sober” Festival. Shambhala prohibits alcohol on the festival site because (and it’s true) it would completely change the atmosphere of the festival. So intense security muscle guys search every single car that gets it the festival and take everything (alcohol and drug they can find). We all wonder what they do with it after. Result: everyone is on drugs. There are a couple of overdoses everyday and a community built hospital on-site.

–       Sponsorship-free festival. I realized after a day that I hadn’t seen any advertising and it hit me. Shambhala is a sponsorship-free festival. The community supports everything and they make their money on tickets entry only. THAT is spectacular for an event of that size…

http://www.shambhalamusicfestival.com

Google Plus as a Marketing Tools for artist management

Mayday official on Google Plus had announced a very exciting news for their fans (included me!!!) that they are having a live performance at Google main office at California, USA and an activity ” Mayday takes you to Google”been organised for only Google Plus user will have the chance to win the flight ticket to USA through posting the creative photo. In the description of youtube, there is a good introduction for my favorite rock band- Mayday and the reason why they are famous!!!

After seeing the success of facebook platform, Google intend to create their own social network. After the failure of launching Open Social, they had launched Google Plus at 28th June 2011 and seems like they operated it pretty well by using the strong marketing strategy – collaborated with artist in different region that have huge fan base to become the spokesman of google plus by targeting their fan as potential google plus user and artist can get more benefit from managing the personal official website by interacting more potential fan from Google Plus user and increase reputation through worldwide, which creates a win-win strategy!!

For instance, in Taiwan, Mayday is the main spokesman who have an enormous fan database around the world and i am one of them that been attracted to join Google Plus. For fans, is not only about getting the latest information of the band but also the sense of achievement that we could do something for our favourite band. For instance,the official Google Plus of Mayday had announced that when the followers of Mayday Official Google Plus website had exceed 120,000, google will selected a fans and sponsor them to go USA with Mayday for their live performance in Google main office which is the activities i mentioned above; exceed 200,000 then Mayday will invited 9 fans from Google Plus and having a video chat gathering with them through Google Plus function- hangouts. This again created a win-win strategies by leads user familiar to the google plus function and also artist is building relationship with their fans.

As Vic Gundotra, the Senior Vice President of Engineering for Google, had announced a new milestone for Google+: 400 million registered users and 100 million monthly active users at 17th September 2012. Google Plus might have the potential to become the next Facebook or beyond it through their multi function and artist will do the tutorial for those function that create buzz!!! The amount of user may still increased and as the success story of artist get benefit from Google Plus such as Mayday, many artist can build their fan database might follow this marketing strategy path by building their own Google Plus Artist page. There are two website that provide good explanation that why google plus is a good marketing tools for artist and how to build the Google Plus artist page:

http://zero2illo.com/tips-on-google-for-illustrators-and-artists/

http://zero2illo.com/tips-on-google-for-illustrators-and-artists/

 

If anyone interested in Mayday, i have lots of information to provide!

Reference:

http://thenextweb.com/google/2012/09/17/as-predicted-google-passes-400m-registered-users-now-100m-monthly-active-users/

http://techorange.com/2012/04/19/google-power-up-plus-mayday-help-to-get-eyeball/

The Best in Festivals & Conferences: Sónar

CH. III – Sónar

Sonar International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art (let’s just call it Sonar) will host its 20th edition in June of 2013. The festival started in 1994 in Barcelona and since then expanded its operations to Brazil, Asia, South Africa and North America. About 15 employees work in the organization year-round and that number increases to about 500 employees, as the festival gets closer. I asked the COO of Sonar, Ventura Barba, if any of those 500 workers were volunteers and he responded that he doesn’t believe in people working for free. Props.

The festival lasts three days and two nights and attracts about 80 000 people annually from all parts of the globe. It has become, according to Barba, an international destination for festival goers because of the great reputation it has built over the past two decades. It focuses on avant-garde and experimentation. That’s why, year after year, the festival includes a good combination of underground, up-and-coming electronic artists along with more popular artists (LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A., Cut Copy, Boys Noize, Deadmaus) in its line-up. They structured their artistic programme in a way that up-and-coming artists play during the day at Sonar by Day where there are concerts, showcases, a professional zone and an exhibition area. The focus of Sonar by Day is the discovery of new talent while Sonar by Night presents the leading international names and major shows. This is why Sonar is an amazing platform and emerging artists. They get exposure and play in front of curious, attentive people eager to discover new artists and bands.

An interesting part of the organization I found was their partnership with RedBull Music Academy, which has its own stage and brings its own talent, picked out directly from their Academy. That’s a good use of a sponsor and a brilliant way to involve them directly in the organization of the festival.

The festival also attracts professionals of the industry with SonarPro, a place for the industry guys to create contacts and do business. In their words, it’s a meeting point for an audience eager for new ideas and specifically for professionals from around the world from various sectors in the creative industries.

I find the branding of Sonar really reflects their product. Creative, a bit underground, weirdly original and different. Instead of videos with the artists, the crowd and all that shazam, they present a new video each year, introducing the festival. They’ve even turned some of these videos into award-winning films. Here’s their 2012 video.

The New Generation of Superstar

Admittedly, I was losing hope in the ability of talent shows to produce stars. Perhaps this is because the UK version of X Factor has been dodged by countless controversies not to mention the “novelty” acts that are put on the show just to piss people off.

 

Just when you were thinking talent shows no longer have the ability to create stars, enter Carly Rose Sonenclar and Diamond White. Whether or not they each have lasting careers is irrelevant right now, the girls can sing! They are both only 13 years old so can only get better! Carly’s audition and progress through the X Factor USA competition is remarkable. Shocking audiences with Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” in her first audition where L.A. Reid said “remember this day everybody. A star is born!” She went on to further stun audiences during her judges houses performance where Will.I.Am went as far as saying she is “possessed” with some crazy talent. See for yourself below:

 

Carly Rose Sonenclar performs at judges’ houses

Let’s not forget Diamond White, talk about a superstar name! She is out-of-this-world talented. She sings like a baby Whitney and is also only 13 years old! L.A. Reid told her that she truly is a “diamond.” When she sings, her competition might as well quit in my opinion.

 

There are some similarities between these girls and Christina Aguilera in terms of vocal talent at a young age. Christina auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club at the same age and stunned audiences with her soulful performance of Whitney Houston’s “I have nothing.” If managed correctly, maybe they can individually have lasting careers like Christina’s (she is a bit off the music radar at the moment but manages to stay in the public eye through being a judge on The Voice). What does it take to manage young talent like this? Anyone lining up to manage the careers of Carly and Diamond, have the task of shaping their careers to build something long term since they are so young. How do you do this in an industry that is churning out music without meaning and sounds the same? How do you build a sound so unique and be a superstar all at once?

 

The age to audition is creeping lower and lower, with X Factor US allowing children as young as 12 to audition. Is it really fair to put a kid through the stress of these shows? Remember Rachel Crow’s breakdown when she was eliminated from X Factor US? But then, look at the talent of these young kids! Some of them sound like they’re 30 something with so much experience, it amazes me. I guess it’s a bit of a trade off, youth sells: look at Justin Bieber and One Direction fans, they’re kids.

 

Seeing as both these girls are super talented, here is Diamond White singing  “I have nothing” by Whitney Houston at bootcamp:

THE BARGAINING POWER OF DIGITAL PLATFORMS

It’s a matter of fact that nowadays listening habits are changing, provided that a big percentage of U.S teenagers, accounting for at about 64, are getting used to listen music on YouTube, rather than watching MTV. Well the thing is that the former uses the videos provided by the latter with a result much more appealing in terms of listenings and watchings, earning huge advertising revenues. Let’s think how some popular videos as Gangnam Style have increased massively the popularity of K-Pop, having been clicked milions of times. These figures clearly benefit the image of those acts in terms of marketing and brand value. However, in terms of songwriters/cowriters shares, the result is not great.

Infact, the income generated by streaming,  has been considerated moderated by artists and record labels, while on the other hand there has been a significant growth in terms of revenues for the owners of the recordings. Spotify, as revealed from an independent Swedish label called Hibrys, doesn’t recognize any revenues for musicians and also publishers/songwriters get a low share. However this tool advantages the labels, providing that it has become so popular within them.

In addition, Pandora has reducing his royalties commtiments, on a basis that the satellite radio pay less than 10% of their revenues in royalty payments. Well this is unfaire, also taking in consideration that in Usa artists don’t get paid for air play.

So let’save the songwriters, let’s think about a new business model that could reduce the bargaining power of labels and digital platforms !!

guardian.co.uk

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/oct/10/music-streaming-songwriters-youtube-pandora