Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse: DVD + CD

This past June, I saw Aimee Mann Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, an intimate little venue just under the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a special evening, with Mann’s performance perfectly in sync with the capacity audience’s expectations. All told, a great concert was enjoyed by the 1200 people in attendance.

By coincidence, the show I saw was video recorded, and just came out on DVD .

Here’s what I cannot understand: The DVD is $15 — but it also comes with a CD of the concert. Will someone explain to me why major labels release 45 minutes of music on disc for the same price as a small label’s DVD and CD ?

Perhaps its Mann’s notorious dislike of her past labels. The New York Times’ Jonathan Van Meter wrote:  "Mann is known for writing clever, disappointed love songs that can also be read as damnations of the music industry."  Her Album "I’m with Stupid" was a thinly veiled reference to Geffen (What label are you with?) as were numerous songs on that disc (Choice In The Matter, Par For The Course, You’re With Stupid Now); The song "Nothing Is Good Enough" off the CD Bachelor No. 2 was reputedly based on a conversation with a music exec.

Mann subsequently dumped her label  (Geffen’s Interscope, mentioned previously), negotiated the purchase of her masters, and set out for own label: Superego Records, part of United Musicians, a cooperative, artist owned label. In a further break with the big labels, her most recent albums can be streamed — for free — at her site (click "listen").

I doubt that releasing a DVD/CD — for the same price as a major label CD — is a money losing idea. Even a 9 camera shoot will be profitible, if it sells modestly. It just goes to show ya how corrupt the major label $15 CD business model is.

Maybe someone with basic math skills can explain to the major labels what they are doing wrong.

UPDATE:  November 28, 2004 12:29pm
A quick trip this morn to Best Buy reminded me that "Coldplay – Live 2003" was a similar DVD + CD; There was also a Sarah McLachlan DVD + CD combo (Mirrorball?)

UPDATE 2:  November 28, 2004 1:32pm
On a hunch, I went ot Amazon’s DVD section, searched fro DVD+CD, and came up with 152 results. These combo DVD+CDs are apparently an ongoing trend, and gaining in popularity . . .

Makes sense — if a CD at $15 is a lousy deal, than a DVD+CD at $15-20 is a pretty good one

UPDATE 3:  November 29, 2004 3:33pm
More DVD+CD: R.E.M. will reissue their entire Warner Bros. catalog on February 15th, with each two disc set including the original album and a bonus DVD featuring the record remixed in 5.1 surround sound, as well as unreleased documentary and video footage.

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More P2P Promotion: Napster Rescues Shaggy

JACOB SLICHTER: So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life

I just finished Jacob Slichter’s So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star. Slichter is the drummer for Semisonic, which had a breakout hit single with “Closing Time.” Its an amusing look at the music industry by an insider, and was a welcome reprieve from my usual fare of economic/market related reading.

Towards the end of the book, there’s an interesting discussion: It turns out that Semisonic’s label, MCA, had a well deserved tin ear for deciding what was “single worthy” or not. The book suggests that a long series of missteps by MCA very much hindered the band. Despite critical acclaim, they never managed to really gain much traction on format radio beyond Closing Time.

Slichter offers Shaggy as an example of the pooor judgement of the execs at MCA. It seems the Jamaican born rapper handed in his new album, Hot Shot to the label, and the first two songs on the record suggested as singles were “It wasn’t me” and “Angel:

“Remember those song titles and read on: The MCA bosses listened to the album and complained “They’re no singles.” The bosses demanded that Shaggy return to the studio and record new songs, and Shaggy agreed. This was exactly the scenario that Semisonic had faced in late 1997 when Jay Boberg and other [MCA] senior executives heard no hit potential in Closing Time and suggested we return to the studio to record more songs. Jim warned us that if we recorded a new batch of songs, the label would choose the single from the new batch and forget about “Closing Time.” Fortunately, we heeded Jim’s warning.

When faced witht he same dilemma, however, Shaggy accepted MCA’s mandate to record more material, and no surprise, one of the new songs was selected as the single. The CD came out in August 2000, the single flopped, and within weeks MCA stopped working the album.

Meanwhile, a DJ in Honolulu, Pablo Sato of KIKI 93.9-FM, had downloaded Shaggy’s album off of Napster and started to play one of the other songs, “It wasn’t me.” KIKI was flooded with calls and “It wasn’t me” became a local hit. Bonnie Goldner and other Shaggy supporters at MCA seized on the success and advocated the song be pushed to other stations, and within a few weeks the song was a nationwide smash. By Christmastime, the album was on its way to number one, and after another hit, “Angel,” the album had sold 12 million copies worldwide, no thanks to the people running MCA. It was Pablo Sato, his listening audience, and Napster — the dread enemy of the music industry — who pulled Shaggy’s album from its grave at the Music Cemetery of America.”

I’m lost as to which is more amazing: the astonishing incompetence of the label at promoting their own bands, or artists actually being saved by P2P.

How many more of these stories are out there? Eminem, U2, Wilco, Radiohead and now Shaggy.
(If you have any other concrete examples of P2P functioning as a defacto promotional machine for the labels, please post them in the comments or send me an email).

UPDATE:  November 28, 2004 2:40pm
A commentor reminds me of Steve Albini’s The Problem With Music; In many ways, this book lays out that critique from the musician’s perspective . . .

So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star
Jacob Slichter
Broadway Books, 2004 7131547 9942524?v=glance&s=books

MCA, August 8, 2000

Feeling Strangely Fine
MCA, March 24, 1998

The Problem With Music
by Steve Albini

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