Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Get Out of Town

(October 1) With September now nothing more than a distant memory, many people will start to spend more time lying around on their couch scanning the television dial. In my case, it’s not much different than any other time of the year. But for most people, the change between summer and fall is quite drastic.
With outside activities slowing down, the television networks take advantage and roll out their new season. In the past two weeks, every network has unveiled their lineup. All except Fox, who are tied up until the end of the month with baseball. Then again, when was the last time that Fox put on something worth watching? Probably twelve years ago when the first episode of the Simpsons was aired.
So the last few days I have felt a duty to sit through hours and hours of bad tv. And I’m here to tell you that this season could quite possibly be the worst season in television history. Of course, that has been said about the last few years, but I really don’t think any season could sink lower than what I have witnessed the last few days.
Here’s a few trends that need to be immediately stopped:
1. Reality television. I know, I’ve ranted and raved about these shows before. But they need to be eliminated, kicked off the island, tarred and feathered, tortured at that Cuban military camp. Anything to get rid of these shows.
Thankfully, dismal ratings this summer has spared us of new versions of the kiddy porn version of American Idol and a few other similar shows. But that hasn’t stopped the networks from putting on new versions of Joe Millionaire and The Bachelor. These shows are pure evil, pushing forth that stereotype that a woman is not a complete person unless she’s married. And the guys they choose for these shows couldn’t be any dumber. I never, ever need to see another tearful model-wannabe cry because the soulmate she met three hours ago kicked her off the show. “We had such a connection”. Boo hoo.
And let’s not forget Survivor, which should have never attempted a second, let alone sixth season. Jeff Probst is the devil incarnate, and the words “fire represents life” should never, ever be uttered again. And how is it that every year is the most shocking season?
2. Under-performing, over-hyped, nonsensical new shows. Anyone who watched any network programming this summer was forced to endure promos for shows featuring Alicia Silverstone, that guy from the Sopranos whose head was cut off, a comedy featuring that woman from the Regis show, some drama trying to take advantage of the popularity of the word Matrix, and about a dozen CSI ripoffs. Trust me, I never ever need to hear that fluffy teen-pop song that’s the theme for that Silverstone show.
Nor surprising, but all of these shows suck. An extra special suckage award has to go to Coupling, which has managed to turn a great British show into the worst show of recent memory, even while utilizing the exact same script.
3. Over the hill, way past their prime, former hit shows. Hey Joey, I don’t believe for a second this romance with Jennifer Anniston. Carter, every other star of ER has left, why haven’t you? Frazier, just admit that you and your brother are gay and go count your money. Sipowitz, we’ve seen your ugly naked ass way too many times, and that young blonde cop is way too hot for a fat drunk like you. And I won’t even go into the nonsense that’s called Boston Public and The Practice.
4. Dr. Phil. I just have one question – how can anyone who’s got a belly bigger than mine dole out weight loss tips? Why doesn’t he follow his own guidelines?
Dr. Phil is pure evil. The fact that he got his gig thanks to Oprah, who really is the anti-Christ, is reason enough to fear this fool. He berates people, particularly husbands, after interviewing them for just a few minutes. That’s just not right.
And his tour pimping his book was just embarrassing. Like any good pimp, he traveled form the Today Show to the Tonight Show, from Leno to Letterman. His show during that time period just happened to deal with the issues from his book. Who needs infomercials when you have your own show?
By the way, my silly sister was conned into buying this travesty, so I took a look. He seems to have stolen every weight loss idea from every other book and somehow combined them all together. Every paragraph or so features what he considers a bold statement, but in reality is nothing more than common sense. Save your money; don’t buy anything with Dr. Phil’s name on it.
5. Jessica Simpson. Or Jessica Simpleton, as I heard someone say a few days ago. God, where does one begin? There has never, ever been a more unlikable entertainment subject then this twit. I never thought I’d actually feel sorry for a member of 98 Degrees, but having to deal with Jessica completely absolves him from any musical sins he has or ever will commit.
The girl doesn’t know what rigor mortis is, confuses tuna with chicken, thinks buffalo wings are made out of buffalo, and is scared that she’ll swallow fishheads while swimming. She burps, farts, has pet names for her poop, and bitches and moans even more than Roseanne Barr.
The obvious question has to be whether she’s faking it. Could she really be this stupid? I say yes, but she definitely plays it up. Watch the next time she’s confused by something her husband says. That empty look in her eyes indicates she’s not playing dumb. But it’s also obvious that this moron has lived her whole life with people catering to her every whim. Her silly utterances has always been “cute” and “precious” She’s lived in a sheltered world where she’s the Princess. And now that she’s sort of rich and somewhat famous, people continue to kiss what she likes to call her stinky ass.
But I’ve come up with one way to deal with her show. I propose a drinking game. Every time she says something stupid, you drink. You’ll be drunk in ten minutes.

Last Week's Get Out of Town

(September 24) It was approximately 18 months ago that I upset quite a few folks at a certain large granite building that looms large over this section of downtown Sioux Falls. Thin-skinned beuracrats caught second-hand knowledge of my babbling, and Cade’s phone started ringing off the hook. It marked the first, but hardly the last time, that one of my weekly rants resulted in a few headaches for the fine folks in the Midco building.
A few weeks ago, I was almost willing to grant these folks a pardon. 2003 has, for the most part, been a banner year for the Washington a Pavilion. Schlock artists like Lori Line and Bill Cosby are still the norm, but they’ve also shown a little bit of testicular fortitude in some of their booking. They booked a couple of current country artists, a few rock shows, a bit of reggae, and in a couple of weeks they’re breaking down the hard rock barrier with an appearance by Queensryche. And I am impressed that they have opened their doors to the local punk and hip-hop scenes.
But the show that really made me reconsider my position was last week’s booking of Wilco. Here was a band seemingly tailor-made for the building – a critic’s darling touring behind the biggest album of their career. A band with an extremely devoted following of fans who trade CDR’s of concerts, radio appearances, and studio outtakes.
Personally, I had a lot at stake with this show. After all, this was a band that I quite often used as an example of the sort of band that should appear at the Pavilion. Since this city does not have a club that regularly features national touring acts, I feel that it’s their duty to reach out to those kinds of acts. With that in mind, along with the hope of getting a bit of help in acquiring premium seats, I reached out to Steve Hoffman a few days before tickets went on sale.
In my email to Mr. Hoffman, I acknowledged that I probably wasn’t a person he wanted to hear from…but if he was willing to put all that behind him I was willing to do anything and everything to help promote the show.
Three weeks later, I finally received a reply. Claiming to be out of town when the email came in (but in truth they probably had a series of meetings to determine how to deal with me), Steve claimed to be happy to work with me on this show, and stated that he was forwarding my message to Mary Staddick Smith, the Pavilion’s Director of Marketing. But he also took an opportunity to criticize the so-called “bashing” the Pavilion receives on my website (www.ScottHudson.20m.com). Although he claims to “respect” Freedom of Speech, he offered to “fact check” anything I put on my site or talk about on this station. Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
That same day, I received an email from Mary, who requested my phone number to talk about promotion. Within seconds of receiving the message, I replied with both my home and cell numbers.
Once again, I heard nothing from anyone from the Pavilion for the next few weeks. Finally, I sent another email to both Steve and Mary. In that email, I expressed my disappointment that they had yet to contact me and their lack of promotion so far. I included a list of ideas, from papering record stores, coffee shops, and bars with posters and flyers to working with the college radio stations not only in Sioux Falls but Vermilion and Brookings. I pleaded with them to buy cheap cable television or Fox ads, and to also maybe work with the television stations on doing some feature on this unique band. None of these ideas were earth-shattering, but it was time for them to get off their asses and do something. And I was willing to do it for them.
They both sent complimentary emails concerning my ideas, and promised to follow through on them. Days later, Rick Huffman was here to talk about another event, and I begged and pleaded for some posters from him. Although he said they didn’t print many, he promised to provide me a few. Not one was left at the agreed-upon drop-off. Hell, I would have been happy with just one, as I was willing to make more at my own expense.
Still, I heard nothing. What’s worse, they did nothing. Besides a few spots on this radio station, and the daily eight-page ad that nobody notices in the newspaper, they did nothing.
The day of the show, I did finally receive a phone call from both Hoffman and Smith. To their credit, they called to offer me free tickets to the show…although if they had read my piece in Etc. they would have known that I already was in the front row. But I have to admit that it was a nice gesture. I missed Hoffman’s call, but was home when Smith called. While I was pleasant to her, I did admit that I was disappointed in their promotional efforts. She immediately became defensive, first stating that they didn’t have much money to spend, and then finally admitting that while it was no excuse, she “just didn’t have the time”. What the hell is her job then? And why do I see huge stacks of promos, on heavy paper, for the Beethoven exhibit?
Obviously, the show didn’t do so well. 800 people, which is almost a half-full auditorium. But it could, and should, have done better. The over-priced tickets didn’t help, as tickets in Minneapolis and Chicago to see this same band is rarely over $15. But promoting the show is more than slapping yourself on the back. You have to get out on the road and let the people know about the show. When I co-promoted the Replacements at the Coliseum way back in 1987, my partner and I spent a day where we canvassed the entire southeastern portion of the state, from Yankton to Brookings and from Mitchell to Marshall. Every bulleting board and restaurant/bar that was willing was given flyers. We talked one of the local television stations to air a story on their early news promoting the band.
That’s what promotion is all about. You have to reach as many people as possible. There should have been a huge display at Ernie’s and Last Stop. Zandbroz, Black Sheep, Kristina’s, and every other hipster hangout in town should have had fliers hanging in the door. Best Buy should have had Wilco programmed into their background music, just like the Jazz and Blues Society does for their shows. Hell, the day after the show a number of people told me they would have gone if they had known about it. Hell, this past weekend in Minneapolis a handful of fans said they would have made the drive down here for the show (not that I expect them to advertise in the Cities). All of the necessary promotion listed above could have been done for less than the cost of one Argus Leader ad, and would have done more to put butts in the seats.
So instead of a Hudsonland pardon, this week I’m sentencing those fine folks at the Pavilion to once again take a hike. I appreciate the fact that they brought in one of my favorite current bands, but I can’t help but think of the missed opportunity to bring joy to a certain segment of the population that is generally ignored…and I also shudder at the future possibilities for more shows of this ilk.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Get Outta Town September 10

(September 10) You know, I wanted to attack a local this week. It’s been awhile, actually, with the exception of that imbecile who decided he’s a private eye working for Wild Bill.
But this past weekend, I didn’t get much sleep. No, it wasn’t because of booze, pills, and whores. I could only dream of that sort of weekend.
My lack of sleep was due to those bastards from the RIAA. That’s the Recording Industry Association of America, who promised to launch a wave of lawsuits against anyone caught trading MP3’s online.
Actually, I didn’t lose much sleep. While I do download a lot of music, it’s mainly higher quality shn files of concerts, and a few upcoming releases that I inevitably purchase when released. I don’t waste my evenings looking for the same Eminem and Pink tunes that you hear on the radio every few minutes.
And I rarely use Kazaa, or it’s similar sister networks. My downloads come from newsgroups and other obscure programs that are next to impossible to trace…which also shows how futile the record industry’s heavy-handed approach really is.
This story began earlier this year, when the RIAA filed lawsuits against a handful of college kids who had set up their own search engines on their campuses. What wasn’t publicized was the fact that these programs weren’t used primarily for music – they were search engines to assist students in research.
Aided by quick settlements with these students, and a crazy court decision that opened the records of Verizon Wireless, two months ago the record industry announced plans to initiate lawsuits against anyone that they discovered downloading.
Last week, the bastards offered what they called a “general amnesty” to file traders who stepped forward and promised not to do it again. Like anyone would do something as stupid as assisting these people in creating a database that could be used against them in the future.
Here’s what the RIAA required in this so-called amnesty – a notarized form promising to delete illegally downloaded files from their computer, a submitted copy of a photo identification, and a pledge to refrain from future downloading. In return, the RIAA would agree to not sue them.
Wired Magazine covered this story last week, and many experts questioned this idea. “I would think that many of the people who have downloaded music would be concerned about their privacy rights,” said attorney Tom Lewry. “I think people distrust the RIAA.” I would think that we should be worried anytime a giant entity starts collecting information on individual Americans. Who knows how that info will be eventually used, especially since there are many questions concerning the RIAA’s authority to even grant amnesty. After all, they don’t represent songwriters and music publishers. I don’t think it would be a stretch to imagine the RIAA providing this information to someone else looking for a quick buck.
People that were already being eyed by the RIAA were exempt from this program, and earlier this week 261 people were sued. That number may not seem very high, but it’s just the beginning. Included in this group was a twelve year old girl, whose parents have stupidly already settled for $3,000, at least two grandparents, and a number of other parents who had no idea that their computers even housed illegal files.
I don’t deny that downloading is a part of the record industry’s declining sales, but it’s not nearly the entire problem. As I stated a few months ago, the entire economy is struggling, and more and more of the ever-shrinking discretionary dollar is going to DVD’s, video games, and even cell phones. Plus, the cash cow for the record industry for years was not new releases but old catalog. Twenty years after the CD was unveiled, anyone who wants the Eagles Greatest Hits already owns it. But they don’t already own those Simpson’s box sets on DVD.
And let’s face it, this has been a piss-poor year for new releases. I’m not saying that there isn’t great music coming out this year; I’m talking about the so-called superstar releases that make or break the industry. With the exception of Metallica’s new album, no new release has had realistic dreams of multi-million sales. You can hype Ashanti and Mya all you want, but those albums were dead on arrival. Madonna had to suck face with Britney just to stay in the news.
So what does the record industry do to bring attention to themselves? They piss off their potential best customers. Keep in mind that an independent study conducted earlier this year indicated that the biggest downloaders were actually purchasing more music than ever before. Keep in mind that people like me are almost forced to use downloading to discover those hidden gems that are a bit off the beaten path.
And now listen to these numbers. If the record industry’s intention was to piss of their best customers, they have succeeded. The backlash has begun. While downloading has declined since the RIAA’s crackdown, the decline in CD sales also accelerated. On June 15, the day the RIAA launched their subpoena campaign, CD sales were down 6.1 percent for the year to date. In the seven weeks since, the sales decline has accelerated 54 percent.
And let’s face it, this entire problem is the fault of the record industry. They were the people who developed a digital version of music that was easily duplicated. They were the people who constantly resisted calls to set up a system for LEGAL downloading. They were the ones whose initial attempts at downloading services were so cumbersome that nobody in their right mind would subscribe. Who’s going to pay for songs that you couldn’t even burn to disc? Who’s going to pay to listen to low-quality streams that expire at the end of the month?
It’s time that the record industry changed the way they operate. They need to look at the success of Itunes and develop a model that grants access at reasonable rates. They need to realize that downloading services are vitally important during a time when discovering new music through traditional methods is next to impossible. And they need to realize that the majority of people who fill their computers with song files are the same people who borrowed their friend’s album to copy to cassettes just a few years ago. They didn’t buy music then; they don’t now.
I’ll conclude with a pledge…or is it a promise…or maybe it’s a threat. I currently purchase an average of five CD’s a week. Just yesterday I dropped $150 on new releases. I’ve been a lifelong consumer of music, from 45’s when I was barely out of diapers through the eras of albums, cassettes, CD’s, and now DVD-Audio discs. If I ever receive any sort of threat from any label or any music-related organization, I’m through. My music collection will suddenly be considered complete. I’ve got more than enough tunes to last me a lifetime…and maybe that extra money will be better spent on booze, pills, and whores. If I’m going to break the law, I might as well do it right.

Monday, September 08, 2003

So the record industry really believes that people will turn themselves in as downloaders? How stupid do they think we are?

ARTICLE: Music Biz to Give File Sharers Amnesty - Forums powered by UBB.threads™

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Get Outta Town September 3
(September 3) Friends, enemies, babes, Cade, and Jen. This past Thursday evening you almost lost your Get Out of Town correspondent. I don’t recall precisely when – was it during that contrived, non-shocking, no tongue-in-sight kiss between Britney, Christina, and their grandmother…I mean Madonna? Or was it during that wretched mall-punk sound of Good Charlotte? Or maybe it was during the 50th airing of that Beyonce Pepsi commercial, or her not-even-close lip-synching Super Bowl halftime performance of the same song. Wait; I know when it was – after the seemingly 100th reaction shot of Justin Timberlake.
Actually, I really don’t know when suicide crossed my mind, but sometime during last Thursday’s MTV Video Music Awards I had this sudden urge to run to Wal-Mart to buy a rifle and rid myself of the misery I was enduring.
Even during the worst of years, the VMA’s had some redeeming value. There was always something that was entertaining – even last year there was the segment featuring the Hives and the Vines.
Not this year. With the exception of Chris Rock reading my mind while dogging everyone from Paula Abdul to 50 Cent, there was absolutely nothing worthwhile on this year’s telecast.
Should I be surprised? No; it’s actually been years in the making. There was a time when MTV was ahead of the curve; playing future hits and plenty of them. In the early days, you could catch British pop and rock that was way cooler than the steady dose of Journey, Styx, and REO Speedwagon that was all over the local radio waves.
Later, they accepted the mainstream pressures that came with success, but still mixed in up-and-comers with the Michael Jackson and Phil Collins videos that drove us all nuts. And there was always 120 Minutes, which in its prime was everything college radio should have been but rarely was.
All of that seemed to change when Kurt Cobain died. I don’t know how or why it happened, but I truly believe that MTV execs colluded with the record industry to make sure that nothing as scruffy as grunge and Green Day would ever happen again.
Around that time, MTV cut their music programming to just a few hours a day, replacing it with endless reruns of Real World, Road Rules, and other silly shows. (The award to worst show would have to go to Say What Karaoke, with the Frat and Sorority Lives right behind it. And let’s not even go into the Anna Nicole imitation that is Jessica Simpson.)
As for the music, if it was real it couldn’t be on. Starting with the Spice Girls, the past decade has been nothing more than a running progression of created no-talents, from Hanson to Da Band. All it takes is a pretty face, a sampled 70’s r&b hit, and a producer with the latest in Pro Tools technology. Those model-types lacking charisma hide behind layers and layers of ghetto-tastic pimps and ho’s. The little bit of rock that is aired appears to be cast out of a sitcom casting call, with the same sort of behind-the-scenes guru forcing their every move. And no matter how vapid these people obviously are, they’re still fawned over by mega-tool Carson Daly on TRL.
No, MTV is no longer a music channel. It’s a fantasy lifestyle channel, equal parts Nickleodeon and E! A never-ending commercial for the latest in mall culture – programmed into young adults and teenagers minds through constant repeats and overexposure.
Look at the buildup to this year’s show. For weeks they ran the same clip shows repeating that same line about how one has to expect the unexpected. Look, there’s Courtney Love ambushing the Madonna interview. Look, there’s Krist Novoselic hitting himself on the head with his bass. And don’t forget about the infamous kiss between Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. Every clip is accompanied by some pseudo-celebrity commenting on how it’s “off the hook”.
And then there’s the pre-show. Thinking they’re the youth version of the Oscar red carpet, we get to watch the stars arrive. Generally, you can judge the talent level by the amount of clothing. Coldplay wear normal clothes; Christina shows her ever-growing ass. Beyonce’s mother tells Rolling Stone that her daughter would never show cleavage in an issue that arrived on the same day that Beyonce’s breasts were begging for release out of her J-Ho-inspired scarf-wrap.
This is all accompanied by repeating that mantra from the clip shows – the VMA’s are crazy; expect the unexpected. “Anything can happen”, explains one of the Olsen Twins. I don’t know who that Asian VJ is but I want to know who she blew to get the gig. After listening to her interviews and self-hype for an hour, I long for the days of Selena Altschul and that red-head twit who asked Clinton if he wore boxers or briefs.
Finally, the show begins with the infamous “Like a Virgin/Hollywood” medley. Was anyone really surprised by the kiss? Does anyone think that this happened only because Madonna’s new album has been the biggest bomb of the year? I like girl-on-girl as much as the next guy, but how about something truly inspiring and shocking – like maybe Britney with Jenna Jameson? And really, whatever boner one could conjure from that coupling was instantly gone when Missy Elliot appeared onstage.
I guess the kiss did it’s job – it got Madonna back in the news; it changed the normals’ view on Britney. And it’s the only thing that will be remembered from this year’s telecast, despite the constant replays and self-congratulation that we’re bound to endure for the next ten years.
As you can guess, I’m kicking MTV out of town; out of this country; out of this world. And please take with you the following people – Sean Paul, Fred Durst, every MTV VJ except for Kurt Loder (who just has to be a heavy drinker to endure this twitfest every year), Beyonce, the Queer Eye For the Straight Guys guys, Ashanti, Lebron James, Good Charlotte, Dave Navarro (for that wankfest appearance with Christina), Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent (or 50 as everyone else called him), Duran Duran, Nelly, P. Diddy, and Metallica. Your time is up people. Let’s get rid of the Wal-Mart mentality and get back to what made MTV famous – the music.