<p>Psy</p>

Psy

Credit: AP Photo

What's wrong with RIAA's gold and platinum certifications adding streaming songs

The shift is akin to switching deck chairs on the Titanic

Today, the RIAA (the Recording Industry Assn. of America) made big news with its decision to include on-demand audio and video song streaming in its certification methodology.  Here’s how it works: previously, songs had to sell 500,000 units (through physical and digital sales) to be certified gold and 1 million units to be certified platinum. Two million and above counts as multi-platinum.

Now, streaming will figure in the tabulations: every 100 streams will count as the equivalent of 1 download. Take something like Psy’s “Gentleman” or Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” both of which were much bigger streaming sensations than digital sales successes.  They will go gold much faster based on a few days’ worth of streams (although only US streams will count in the designations) than a song that people are plunking down money to buy.  User-generated videos will not count.

To be sure, the music industry has been horrifically slow to embrace change and new technologies. Its arrogance and belief that consumers would continue to buy full albums when they wanted singles lead to the creation of Napster and widespread piracy.  Plus, internecine fighting over whether steaming counts as a sale or as airplay further muddied the issue, especially when it came to figuring out royalty payments for songwriters and artists, so congrats to the RIAA for not moving at a glacial pace and for getting the industry to agree to the changes (although finding new ways to congratulate themselves have never been the music industry’s problem). 

Also, once Billboard added YouTube streaming into the calculations for the Billboard Hot 100 (it already included select other streaming services), it was really only a matter of time before the RIAA made this call. Billboard’s move helped legitimize streaming. Among the streaming services now included in the RIAA’s tabulations are MOG, Muve Music, Rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Spotify, Xbox Music, MTV.com, Vevo, Yahoo and YouTube.

Here are my issues with the decision:

*Streaming is not a sale. RIAA certifications, whether or albums or singles, have always been based on sales. Even in this transitioning world between physical vs. digital and buying vs. streaming, a sale still counts as a level of commitment that streaming does not. Now, if I have an incredible yen to listen to The Beach Boys’ “Sail On Sailor” and I’m too lazy to go into the other room and grab the CD, I simply call up Spotify and play it 12 times in a row (yes, this is a true example). My laziness will now help songs become certified gold and platinum.

*This move comes at a time when the music industry continues to be evolving as sales continue to fall. Digital sales have not increased to offset the decline of physical sales, much to the disappointment of the music industry.  In some ways, this feels like a panacea for the music industry to falsely convince itself that the sky isn’t falling because it can now crow about increased certifications and make artists feel good about themselves. The music industry has never been shy about finding ways to pat itself on the back, but this is basically rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

*People consume music differently now than they did even two years ago, and the RIAA’s move is recognition of that, however the 100:1 ratio seems too low to me as the opening rate. As we move toward sustainable subscription models, that ratio could be correct, but for now, the ratio  should be higher: maybe 1000 streams to one download. As sales continue to erode and streams climb even higher, then bring the numbers closer together, but by starting at 100:1, the RIAA hasn’t left much wiggle room as the climate continues to shift.

What do you think about the shift?

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<p>Macklemore and Ryan Lewis</p>

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Credit: John Shearer/Invision for MTV/AP Images

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis set a Billboard Hot 100 record with 'Can't Hold Us'

What happens to Pink's single?

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis set a record this week at “Can’t Hold Us,” featuring Ray Dalton, goes to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 making them the only duo in the history of the pop chart to land its first two singles at the top.

“Can’t Hold Love” follows “Thrift Shop,” which spent six weeks at No. 1. A third song from the pair, “Same Love,” is at No. 83 on the Hot 100). The last solo act to hit No. 1 with its first two singles was Bruno Mars in 2010-11 with “Just The Way You Are” and “Grenade,” according to Billboard.

“Hold” swaps places with Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason,” featuring Nate Ruess, which was No. 1 for three weeks. Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” rises 5-3, while Rihanna’s “Stay,” featuring Mikky Ekko, slips 3-4. Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man”  slides up 6-5.

The previously mentioned “Thrift Shop” falls 4-6, Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” featuring Charli XCX, continues its upward climb rising 9-7. Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive” rises 10-8. Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” sails its way 13-9 based on the remake of the duo’s tune with Nelly.

Wrapping up the Top 10 is Pitbull’s “Feel This Moment,” featuring Christina Aguilera.


 

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Watch: Selena Gomez wants you to 'Come & Get It' in new video

Watch: Selena Gomez wants you to 'Come & Get It' in new video

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Maybe she should have played hard to get?

Selena Gomez continues on her path to let us know she’s all grown up in her video for “Come & Get It.” The beautifully-lensed video for the  song, which sounds like a Rihanna reject, opens with Gomez luxuriating in haute couture in a beautiful flower-filled field, as one does.

[More after the jump...]

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Watch Imagine Dragons' 'Demons' video and grab the tissues

Watch Imagine Dragons' 'Demons' video and grab the tissues

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Rock band dedicates clip to young cancer patient

Everyone has a story, as Imagine Dragons’ new video for “Demons” shows, and the tales often come with very sad endings.

 The clip, which starts as a standard concert video, albeit one bathed in beautiful blue light, features the “Radioactive”-band performing the heavy mid-tempo track about the demons we all have living inside us before a hometown audience in Las Vegas.

[More after the jump...]

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Album Review: Lady Antebellum's 'Golden'

Album Review: Lady Antebellum's 'Golden'

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There's not enough shine on the group's fourth set

Part of Lady Antebellum’s broad appeal is that the trio rocks just enough to be embraced by mainstream pop fans and yet the group is country enough, with the obligatory  mandolins and banjo, to fit solidly into the country format. The co-ed ban balances the two adroitly again on “Golden,” its fourth studio album.

For “Golden,”  out today, the Grammy-winning group said they wanted to stretch out and throw away any formula.  However, other than the spunky first single, “Downtown” and the driving, Byrds-like “Better Off Now (That You’re Gone)” —two of six songs on the album written by outside songwriters— there’s nothing much here that couldn’t have been on any of Lady A’s previous three albums. That’s not to say there’s not a lot to like here: Hillary Scott’s and Charles Kelley’s voices still weave in and out of each other’s airspace beautifully  and the melodies are catchy, if unchallenging, especially on “Better Off Now (That You’re Gone).” However, at this point in their career, the threesome, which also includes Dave Haywood, should be comfortable taking a few more risks.

The biggest change here is the increased confidence in Scott’s vocals. Kelley has the more distinctive voice of the two and his slightly gruff tone is what gives the group whatever edginess it has, but on “Golden,” Scott sounds more commanding than she has previously, especially on the Tom Petty-reminiscent opener “Get To Me,” and the wistful “Nothin‘ Like The First Time.”?

Also to the band’s credit, with all three now happily married and Scott very close to becoming a mom, it would have been understandable if they had succumbed to writing nothing but songs that glow about being in love. While such songs are certainly represented here, there are also plenty of tunes that address the aftermath of love’s ruins, including the sad “It Ain’t Pretty,” about the uncomfortableness of trying to re-enter the dating scene. Scott adds a poignancy to the track as she takes her “walk of shame,” with her high heels in her hand. Similarly, Kelley brings the right amount of pain to  “All For Love,” a conversation with Scott, on which they trade verses in a he said/she said about a break-up. And he lets loose nicely on the end of “Goodbye Town.”

Many of these songs were written during jams sessions while the band was on its sold-out headlining tour, and they may have been served better if they’d remained less polished once they hit the studio. For as much as Lady Antebellum seems to want to strip away some of the veneer, there’s nothing on here that approaches the ruggedness of their breakthrough single, 2007’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.”

While there are few losers here, closing track “Generation Away” is a fun arm-waver musically but lyrically, it’s trite, clunky lyrics and its segue into “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” is a regrettable, generic way to end the set.

Fans of Lady A will no doubt embrace the new set, but here’s hoping the band achieves the change on the next album it seems to believe happened on “Golden.” They have the talent and the ability, which is part of what makes their largely treading familiar ground here all the more disappointing.

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What you didn't see on Fox's  'Rihanna 777' television special
Credit: AP Photo

What you didn't see on Fox's 'Rihanna 777' television special

We give you the true view from the trenches


Watching Monday night’s “Rihanna 777” special on Fox was a little like watching home movies from the roughest, most exhausting vacation you can imagine and all you see are shots of the pretty sunsets, cute animals, and none of the footage of the crazy relatives. It was an incredibly whitewashed version of what really happened when the superstar took journalists and fans with her to play seven shows in seven countries in seven days. The special bore pretty much no reality to the truth.

As one of the 150 journalists on the journey, I watched the special with disbelief. It made it seem as if we were all a little sleep deprived because of the schedule, not because Rihanna or other circumstances made it so that we took off at least six hours later than planned every flight and were stuck waiting in the airport each time. Plus, after Rihanna made her foray through the plane on our first flight from Los Angeles to Mexico, she never deigned to talk to the press again until we were on our final approach into New York, the final stop.

I understand that the point of the special wasn’t to show how rough the coddled press had it, but what really struck me was that even as a commercial for Rihanna, the special failed. Say what you will about Rihanna, but the one thing she isn’t is boring and yet as I watched the special, I felt like there was nothing at all compelling about her as a personality or as a performer (although the latter is sadly largely true, there were certainly moments that shone--bright like a diamond--during the shows and yet the editors decided to primarily show footage of songs from “Unapologetic” to prop up the new album’s sagging sales).

A few other thoughts on the special:

*Rihanna addressed how the press wanted her to come back and talk but she needed to rest her voice. And yet she managed to go shopping for lingerie, have after parties until 4 in the morning, drink with her friends, do yoga, etc. We only needed 10 minutes or so once she boarded the plane each day/night and yet we only got it on the first and last flights. The simple fact is she wanted nothing to do with us once she had us captive.

*While I understand that the special, which was to promote Rihanna in all her goodness after all, didn't want to stress how badly she ignored the press, the special could have benefitted from some of the humor that sprung up around her disappearing act, including a MISSING RIHANNA poster, the kind you see attached to telephone poles for missing pets, that one of the TV crews created, as well as the fact that many of us resorted to getting our pictures taken with a cardboard cut out of  RuPaul that a journalist from Logo brought on the trip that served as the same role as a Flat Stanley.

*God bless Mike Ruffino, who served as the journalist/talking head for much of the special and gets far more airtime than Rihanna (who apparently didn't give her film crew that much access either). There’s so little substance that he gives some context, as sanitized as it is.   Ruffino is a lovely guy, so this is not meant as a slag of him at all, but it was crazy for the rest of us journalists that the Island Def Jam label representatives were so besotted with Ruffino that we felt like he was the official #777 mascot. The rest of us were left to our own devices and could have been left bleeding in the street, but IDJ reps were obsessive about knowing where “Mikey” was at every turn. If he weren’t such a cool dude, we may have thrown him off the plane, but we enjoyed him as much as IDJ did. The bigger question now is if he was there the whole time solely to be used as a talking head since he didn't seem to cover the trip for any outlet, and was he paid by IDJ to be there.

*Yes, Rihanna has very ardent fans, but when two fans outside the Parisian show talk about how she’s one of the best performers ever after we’ve just seen footage of her moving the mic away from her mouth as she should be singing “Umbrella,” it’s laughable. And there’s no footage of the Berlin fans who were furious after waiting four hours for her to come on stage or the Swedish audience who waited for three hours and were belligerent and surly because they’d been served lots of free vodka during the delay. Also, why are we watching band members, who are on Rihanna's payroll, talk about how great it is to play with Rihanna? Are they really going to say anything different? 

*Speaking of selective, when Tim, the Australian DJ, streaks, and Ruffino talks about mutiny, the special in no way explained the level of frustration and exhaustion that we had reached after five days of no sleep because we were always waiting for hours to take off and we had nothing to write about because Rihanna’s show was the same every night and she had ignored us for five days. Another week under these conditions and we probably would have resorted to cannibalism.

*The journalists were invited to two of the  afterparties that manager Jay Brown talks about, but most of us were too exhausted to even think about trading a few hours sleep for the possibility of getting near Rihanna. Plus, the few journalists who did go were sorely disappointed: they were allowed nowhere near Rihanna who was surrounded by her bodyguards.

There is a fascinating film to be done on the #777 tour and how the wheels came off, and what it says about album promotion and the press as part of the machine, but whatever aired on Fox on Monday had absolutely nothing to do with that.

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Watch: Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu come to life in new video for 'Q.U.E.E.N'
Credit: Bad Boy Records

Watch: Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu come to life in new video for 'Q.U.E.E.N'

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Clip continues her black and white motif

Janelle Monae continues her black and white motif with the video for “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring the Erykah Badu.

The  Alan Ferguson-directed video starts with Monae as a time-traveling rebel, who has reduced to an exhibit in a museum, as a relic. She was captured for launching Project Q.U.E.E.N., “a musical weapons program in the 21st century” that trafficked in, among other things, “emotion pictures.”  Badoula Oblongata, aka Badu, is similarly frozen in time.

A museum goer puts a vinyl version of “Q.U.E.E.N” on the coolest turntable you’ll ever see and Monae and her band and dancers come alive.

Badu and her poodle and her changing wigs show up for her part about four minutes in, but the clip belongs to Monae, who ends it solo on camera delivering her minute-long rap.

It is a gorgeously-shot, stylish video, shot against a white background, that focuses on Monae’s charisma. Few artists are as compelling to watch on screen.

"Q.U.E.E.N" is the first single from Monae's forthcoming album, "The Electric Lady." 

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<p>P!nk</p>

P!nk

Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Pink makes it 3 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100

Icona Pop finally makes it into the Top 10

Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason” makes it three weeks at No. 1. The tune, featuring fun.’s Nate Ruess, does the seemingly impossible by remaining in the top spot while not leading any of the three components that make up the chart: radio play, streaming songs, and digital sales.

That means that “Just Give Me A Reason” will probably be knocked off the  top next week by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us,” which holds at No. 2 in the closest race between No. 1 and No. 2 in six months, according to Billboard.

Rihanna’s “Stay,” featuring Mikky Ekko, climbs 6-3, pushing Macklemore & Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” down to No. 4.  Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” rises 7-5.

The bottom half of the Top 10, Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” drops 4-6, Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie,” featuring Jay-Z, rises 8-7, Pitbull’s “Feel This Moment,” featuring Christina Aguilera climbs 9-8. Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” featuring Charli XCX, which has been around for months now, finally makes it to the Top 10 as it climbs 13-9. Just as “I Love It” makes it into the elite Top 10, Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” returns to top the top 10, rising 12-10.

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<p>Ke$ha</p>

Ke$ha

Catching up with 'Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life'

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She finally gets laid, while we get bored out of our skull

I missed the first episode of MTV's  “Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life” last week but if the second episode, which aired Tuesday night is any indication, I missed nothing.

As we catch up with Ke$ha in this six-episode “documentary” culled from footage shot by her brother Lagan Sebert over a two-year period,  it’s June 2011. This immediately begs the question, “Why on earth would we care about seeing footage that’s two years old?”

She’s headed to play at Glastonbury and she’s lost her voice, but even more trouble looms as one of her two tour buses breaks down en route to the British festival. The “essential” personnel from bus 2 hop on Ke$ha’s bus, while others, like her mother, are apparently left by the roadside to fend for themselves. Oh, the inhumanity!

But it gets worse! The Glastonbury field is so muddy, there’s no way to load in all her production, so Ke$ha has to scale back her show. Her peppy guitarist Max tries to get her to cheer up and it’s a good thing that Ke$ha is resting her voice and not speaking, because otherwise she’d probably fire him on the spot.

“My voice is everything,” she declares, as we go into a montage of her on stage at Glastonbury (interestingly, we never see more than a few seconds of her actually performing), and yet she seemingly relies on every trick in the book on stage to distract people from her vocals.

The crowds love her,  but she’s bummed because she hasn’t made out with any hot guys yet, so she resorts to watching “penis movies.”  She’s lamenting her months-long dry spell, as she declares she wants “a beard.” Hmmm, that clearly means something different in Ke$ha’s world than what it means to the rest of us.

And so it goes for 30 minutes, with lots of commercials thrown in every four or five minutes because  MTV knows it’s hard to watch more than a few minutes of this drivel at a time. Lagan may have had 24-hour access to his sister, but he doesn’t seem to know what to actually do with that and how to create any kind of story arc out of the footage.

Ten minutes in, I’m wondering what Ke$ha had to promise to MTV to get the cable outlet to air this. This feels like someone’s very boring, bad home movies. She’s touring Europe and there’s not even any pretty scenery to distract us. There’s no way this series will help her sell records and there’s certainly no way it’s going to get good ratings for MTV.

“In 2009 The New York Times names Beirut the top place to visit,” her manager tells Ke$ha, as they sit on Ke$ha’s bed in the Lebanese capital. It’s almost impossible to calculate the cultural divide between Ke$ha and the New York Times.  There seems to be a great deal of security for Ke$ha who worries that she’s driving down the same road where the Lebanese president was assassinated a few years ago. It’s this fake sense of drama—trust me she’s in no real danger—that makes the show even more asinine. Not to mention the fact that she goes from worrying about getting kidnapped back to moaning about not having a boyfriend in about 30 seconds flat.

Her European tour over,  she returns triumphant to Los Angeles. Next thing we know she’s at “Conan” complaining to fellow guest Pauly Shore (doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know) that she can’t get laid and that her mom, who is along for the ride for no discernible reason other than to irritate her daughter, is a horrible wingman. Shore looks like he’s torn between suggesting that he help Ke$ha through her rough patch and knowing he’s going to get shot down if he even hints at that. (Conan O'Brien wisely isn't seen on camera at all)

In a move that can’t end well, Ke$ha picks up one of her crew members and hangs out with him and eventually gets laid...and no one seems to think it’s weird and that this guy couldn’t say no since she’s his boss. She nicknames him “Baby Spoon” for reasons that I can’t quite figure out because she’s explaining it while riding in a car to someone we don’t see and the sound is so bad. Plus, by now I don’t care if she calls him “Grown Up Spork.”

The show is  frenetic and horribly edited and, worst of all, boring. It’s not even that Ke$ha is unlikeable, because she isn't, she's just nothing; an endlessly yammering voice. I wish that she were unlikeable; that would make for more interesting television. She’s just there and the camera never stops long enough to focus on any of her thoughts for more than a nano-second. Oh! Ke$ha has lost her voice! Oh! Ke$ha’s bus breaks down. Oh! Ke$ha wants to get laid! Oh! Ke$ha picks up a boy in her crew! Oh! Get me out of here.

Ke$ha’s second full-length album, “Warrior,” hasn’t come near the success of first album “Animal,” and maybe the series was seen as a way to goose sales, but all this will do is get people to change the channel.  I’ve dropped in on “Ke$ha” and I won’t be back. If you decide to watch the rest of the series, you’re on your own.

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<p>Kenny Chesney's &quot;Life on a Rock&quot;</p>

Kenny Chesney's "Life on a Rock"

Album Review: Kenny Chesney's 'Life on A Rock'

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Genial, easy-going album hits just the right notes

Kenny Chesney has always had one foot planted as surely  in the Caribbean as in Nashville. On “Life On A Rock,” out today, he’s steeped in that casual, relaxed feel that the island sand and surf bring.

Instead of party anthems (he’s given us plenty of those already), the songs on “Life On A Rock” sound like they came about during those hours in the day that lend themselves to quiet reflection, whether they be at sunrise or sundown, or “It’s That Time Of Day,” as Chesney sings. The songs on “Life On a Rock” are about what happens between life’s big moments.

The album opens with first single, “Pirate Flag,” a chugging, derivative tune that sounds  a little too much like Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance"about trading the city life for life on a boat and an island. It’s the one and only remotely rocking song on the pleasing 10-tune set.

The other nine tunes are just like the island’s inhabitants: these songs are in no hurry to get anywhere and are more than willing to go with the flow. Watches and schedules are for losers when you’re living in paradise.

The album is, for the most part, quiet and reflective in a way that Chesney has often hinted at on certain songs on past albums, but has never devoted a full album to such thoughts.  They aren’t always deep thoughts, to be sure, but the songs on “Life On A Rock” are so thoroughly laid back and  easy going that you’ll feel your blood pressure drop just by listening to them. However, that’s not to stay they ramble. It’s quite the opposite. Most of the tracks here feel concise, many of them bolstered by beautiful guitar work. “Lindy” offers a portrait of everyone’s favorite beach bum, who’s never leaving the Island. Willie Nelson joins Chesney on the lilting “Coconut Tree,” a song about being “high in a coconut tree.” Take it however you want to, folks.  The Wailers join in on reggae tune “Spread The Love.” The autobiographical "When I See This Bar" has a Mellencamp, rootsy feel.

the album ends with “Happy On The Hey Now (A Song for Kristi),” a lovely, spare goodbye to a departed friend who loved dancing on the bow of the boat. It’s a moving elegy that anyone who has lost a loved one, even landlubbers, can appreciate. The same stands for the rest of the album.

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