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Trakin Care of Business The Politics of Youth

Ticketmaster, Live Nation Go Their Own Ways

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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

August 24, 2007

Better get used to it.

Disney's juggernaut continues this week, with High School Musical 2 leading the way.

The soundtrack reaches the million mark faster than any other album this year, with a second week that looks to be between 450-460k, more than the rest of the Top 10 combined yet again. With the Hannah Montana 2 soundtrack at #6 sporting 45-50k in sales and Hollywood's Jonas Brothers at #8 boasting 35-40k, Bob Cavallo's better Mouse trap once more has three of the Top 10.

New Line's Hairspray soundtrack, which is experiencing what our retail reporters are calling the "Zac Efron" effect, is a distant #2 with 60-65k in sales. The High School Musical star has a prominent role in the film and on the CD.

UTV/Ume's Now 25 is up next with 55-60k, while the week's top debut, Blacksmith/WB conscious rapper Talib Kweli's Ear Drum, is at #4, with between 50-55k, followed by Interscope/A&M's reslient Fergie at #5 and 45-50k in sales.

Universal Motown hip-hop maestro Swizz Beatz' One Man Band Man is the week's other Top 10 bow at #7, with an estimated 40-45k.

Rounding out the Top 10 are WB's Linkin Park, Jive/ZLG rappers UGK and Metal Blade Christian metalcore thrashers As I Lay Dying, all on track for 35-40k.

Don't expect anything to change until Sept. 11, when IDJ's Kanye West, Interscope's 50 Cent and SBMG Nashville's Kenny Chesney go head to head to head on the fall's first Super Tuesday.


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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

August 24, 2007

1. M.I.A., Kaya (XL/Interscope): This is the sound of the Third World "knocking on the doors of ya hummer hummer," as Sri Lanka-British rapper M.I.A. (Maya Arulpragasam) puts it on "Bamboo Banga," the lead track on this stunning follow-up to her acclaimed 2005 bow, Arular. Denied a U.S. visa and forced to use her advance on a globe-trotting aural collaboration that took her to Trinidad, Japan and Australia with a brief American sojourn, the young daughter of a politicized rebel father combines the righteous anger of the victimized with the privileged view of someone who's managed to escape her destiny and create her own. There's a mish-mash of popular culture and indigenous forms, from the Jonathan Richman "Roadrunner" sample in "Bamboo Banga" and The Clash "Straight to Hell" cop in "Paper Planes" to the Bollywood disco of "Jimmy," the African tribal hip-hop of "Hussel" and the aboriginal Wilcannia Mob choir and native didgeridoo in "Mango Pickle Down River." For M.I.A., violence and commerce exist side by side, as in "Paper Planes," where the hook is supplied by a gunshot, followed by a cocked trigger and the ka-ching of a cash register. Kaya is the rhythmic pulse of Western civilization refracted through the prism of those on its fringes who are increasingly impossible to keep out. "Every wall you build," she chants on "World Town." "I'll knock it down to the floor." She may be "bubbling quietly" right now, but M.I.A. is just about ready to boil over. Hear the world changing before your very ears.

2. Superbad (Columbia Pictures): Judd Apatow's revenge of the nerds continues in his second comic blockbuster of the summer, basically the teenage prequel to the early 30s slackers of Knocked Up, efficiently directed by TV alum and frequent Apatow collaborator Greg Mottola. What American Graffiti was to the '60s, Dazed and Confused to the '70s and Fast Times at Ridgemont High the '80s, Superbad is its foul-mouthed, tits- and ass-obsessed, snot-nosed kid high schooler on the eve of graduation right now, grabbing the R-rated comic zeitgeist like a doctor administering a hernia test. Apatow protégé Jonah Hill (25, but playing 18 as too-old co-screenwriter Seth Rogen's stand-in) and Arrested Development's lovable George Michael Bluth, a fumbling Michael Cera, make a classic comedy duo, one incorrigibly obnoxious but in reality vulnerable, the other painfully insecure and quite obviously vulnerable. Interspersing ruminations on Orson Welles peaking too soon with the merits of a porn site named "The Vag-tastic Voyage," the film is both up-to-the-minute pop culture savvy and crudely vulgar, but never less than real. Newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays class geek McLovin like he just stepped from the halls of a Valley high school, which he did, while SNL's Bill Hader and Rogen himself appear as two Keystone cops who make the kids look like models of civility. The film would be nothing more than a modern-day Porky's if it weren't for the subtext of a buddy-buddy love story that completely nails the instant you change from boys to men, simultaneously sentimental, hilariously knowing and ironically anti-homophobic at the same time. And it's got a great funky '70s-style soundtrack you can dance to, featuring everything from the Bar-Kays and Bootsy Collins to Van Halen's "Panama." This is not just another teen sex comedy, but a sex comedy that happens to star teens. And if it doesn't quite have Knocked Up's strong female characters, Superbad still offers some knowing pleasures for the perpetual adolescent still lurking inside all of us... especially the guys.

3. The Beastie Boys at the Greek Theater, L.A.: It's been a long time since Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D were booed offstage as an opening act for Madonna, or for that matter when they manned the stage with beer cans in hand, spewing more into the air then they ever actually drank. They no longer need to fight for their right to party, especially on a balmy Monday night underneath the Hollywood stars, where they were greeted like returning heroes, part of a tour in which they're mixing up old-school (going back to their punk-rock roots for "Egg Raid on Mojo" from a 1982 EP), greatest hits (they let the crowd sing the "here's a little story" lyrics from "Paul Revere," with "Brass Monkey," "The Skills to Pay the Bills," "Intergalactic," "Ch-Check It Out," "Body Movin'," "Pass the Mic" and an encore of "So What'Cha Want" and the searing finale "Sabotage") and even some groove-oriented tracks from the new instrumental The Mix-Up album (most notably a tasty "Suco de Tangerina" and the B3 workout, "B for My Name"). The trio still exchanges the rapid-fire lyrics like a hip-hop version of an Elizabethan comedy, though, clad in nifty, Blues Brothers sharkskin suits and shades, Adam Yauch's hair is now flecked with gray, Adam Horovitz's fedora-clad head is shaved and Mike D's Jewfro makes him look like Screech in Saved By the Bell. There are still plenty of yucks, especially Money Mark falling all over his keyboards, while Mix Master Mike rolls the wheels of steel like nobody's business, but after 25 years, it's obvious there's a craft to what the Beasties do. When they pick up their instruments, Yauch on electric and stand-up bass, Horovitz manning the guitar, Mike D behind the drums and are joined by percussionists Alfredo Ortiz and Eric Bobo, it's obvious this is a band with more than enough musical skills to pay the bills and then some. And while their moment as innovators has long since passed them by—Paul's Boutique remains the Sgt. Pepper of hip-hop—their entertainment value is as high as ever. Long may they pass the mic to future generations discovering hip-hop to express themselves.

4. Lookout (Miramax): Third Rock from the Sun's Joseph Gordon-Levitt is all grown up as a high school ice hockey star in a small Missouri town suffering brain damage from a graduation night joy ride crash behind the wheel that kills two of his friends. The directorial debut of screenwriter Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Minority Report, Get Shorty) is definitely literate in its inexorable tale of Levitt's Chris Pratt as the night janitor in a bank, a role that undoubtedly would've been played by Keanu Reeves 10 years ago. Pratt is literally sucked into a scheme to rob the place by a bunch of local small-time hoods, led by Matthew Goode, almost unrecognizable from his role as the upper-class cuckold in Match Point. The morality play is reminiscent of such Coen brothers pulp fictions as Blood Simple and, most notably, Fargo, while Pratt's memory loss, which entails him writing down stuff in a small notepad lest he forget, evokes Memento. The movie is filled with excellent, deeply etched performances, including Jeff Daniels as Pratt's pragmatic, wise-cracking blind roommate, Isla Fisher as the femme fatale who seduces him into the caper, Bruce McGill and Alberta Watson as his well-meaning, but icy parents, Sergio Di Zio as the oblivious Deputy Ted and Greg Dunham as the murderous Bone. At once a caper movie with a point-of-view about coming to terms with your past, learning to forgive yourself and moving forward, Lookout is one of the overlooked gems of the year. Hopefully, more people will see it in its DVD incarnation.

5. Rocket Science (HBO Films): The fiction directorial debut of documentary filmmaker Jeffrey Blitz goes from the spelling bees of his acclaimed last feature, Spellbound, to an autobiographical piece about high school debating societies. The movie's lead character is Hal Hefner, yet another lovelorn nerd, played by Reece Thompson, a stutterer who makes the freaks and geeks of Superbad look like high school Lotharios. Recalling such films as Rushmore, Election and Napoleon Dynamite, though not quite up to their gloriously absurd heights, the movie focuses on Hal's hapless attempts to harness his disability to join the debate team, with Tony nominee (for High Society) Anna Kendrick's scheming Ginny Ryerson offering the lure of sexuality in exchange for bringing out the competitive beast within. The kid performances are all pretty spot-on, including the marvelous Vincent Piazza, a Joaquin Phoenix look-alike, as Hefner's greasy-haired, surly brother and Aaron Yu as his even geekier pal, with oldsters Maury Ginsberg as his clueless guidance counselor and the underrated Margo Martindale (a Tony nominee herself for the 2004 Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) as the no-nonsense debating team coach. Extra credit goes to the clever use of the Violent Femmes' music, especially a cello-and-piano duet on their masturbatory ode "Blister in the Sun," and the lack of a Rocky-style ending, but Hal's speech impediment, which is all too real, begins to wear on you about 3/4 of the way through, and despite some wonderful insights into the pain of adolescence and the anguish of young love, so does the movie.

6. Paul Anka, Classic Songs, My Way (Decca): You can't put Anka in the same class of crooners as such master stylists as his idol Frank Sinatra (for whom he wrote "My Way"), Tony Bennett or Mel Torme, but this one-time teen idol easily outdistances peers like Pat Boone in his second collection of reinterpreted contemporary pop-rockers. Of course, what has helped his longevity is the fact he started out as a journalist in his native Ottawa, and applied that same observational sensibility to writing songs either for himself ("Diana," "Lonely Boy," "Put Your Head on My Shoulder") or others ("She's a Lady" for Tom Jones, "Puppy Love" for Donny Osmond or "The Tonight Show Theme" for Johnny Carson). He approaches these songs as if they were standards, finding the romantic pathos in the likes of Duran Duran's "Ordinary World," The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" and Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," delivered completely straight-faced and without a hint of camp, which makes them even more curious. He pays tribute to the Chairman of the Board by vamping through Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" and a pair of duets, one with Bon Jovi on "My Way" and the other featuring Michael Buble on a reworking of his own teen hit "(You Are My) Destiny." Call me crazy, nostalgic or weird, but Anka's sometimes completely left-field takes on these songs are just strange enough to be oddly compelling.

7. Zac Efron: The squeaky-clean teen world of Disney's High School Musical 2 couldn't be farther from the profane hijinks of the gang in Superbad, but there's one thing both have in common, and that's a love of song and dance. With its patented Kenny Ortega choreography, HSM2 has the verve of such movie musicals as Footloose, Flashdance and its prototype, Dirty Dancing, with a scrubbed, rainbow coalition cast of characters headed by Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, a vaguely ethnic type in stark contrast to the spoiled rich kid blonde played by Ashley Tisdale, who basically steals the show chewing scenery as Sharpay. What's interesting about the movie is the way it weaves class and ethnic distinctions into the plot, spotlighting Efron, Hudgens, Corbin Bleu and the rest of the Wildcats as lovable underdogs with heart against the upper-class snobbery and status-mongering represented by Tisdale and her stuck-up country club parents. Efron himself stands out as someone who can sing, dance and even act a bit, destined to follow in the footsteps of John Travolta and Johnny Deep as a teenage star with real legs. And while the plot may be banal, like all good musicals, everything is forgiven when the set pieces and the songs, which are bubblegum in the best sense, kick in. Once they enter your brain, they don't leave. You might as well get used to it.

8. Carlos Beltran: The Mets' $117 million centerfielder raises the ire of the team's passionate fan base because he plays with a cool, dispassionate nonchalance that makes it look like he doesn't give a shit. The Amazin's signed him to a giant deal after he tore up the NCLS three years ago as a member of the Astros, literally playing himself into the nine-figure deal which came only after a competitive bidding war. Since he joined the Mets, Beltran had a mediocre, injury-riddled first season, then an MVP-caliber second year, which unfortunately ended with Carlos standing at the plate, bat on his shoulder, after a called third strike in the ninth inning of the seventh game in the National League finals, leaving the bases loaded in a 3-1 defeat to the eventual World Series champion Cards. This year, Mets blog sites have been filled with disdain and cries to trade Beltran, who was bothered by a variety of ailments, including a strained oblique muscle in his abdomen, which he gamely tried to play through. The thing is, when the guy gets hot, he can take a team on his back and carry them, as he's doing right now since his return from the disabled list, smashing home runs and racking up RBIs like a man possessed. Even at his most disappointing at the plate, Beltran can patrol centerfield with the best of 'em, and while I often get frustrated with him, I've also grown to appreciate the guy as a very important player who needs to produce if the Mets are going anywhere. It just goes to show you, baseball is a game of patience. You have to take the good with the bad and the ugly while hoping and waiting for better things to come. And right now, Carlos Beltran is giving it his best.

9. Garlic Chicken Sausage at Cupid's Hot Dogs: A Valley institution, the quality at any particular Cupid's Hot Dogs, each now franchised under separate ownership, can be widely divergent. This location, on Ventura Blvd. a block west of Tampa, is attached to a car wash, and it took me a little while to realize that the condensation forming on the outdoor benches was from an overhead mister, not the hoses spritzing water on the automobiles as they go through the rinse cycle gauntlet. Run by Middle Easterners, this Cupid's adds hummus, falafel and chicken kabobs to the usual menu of Chicago and N.Y. style kosher hot dogs, but for me, the best entry is the above-mentioned Garlic Chicken Sausage, with chili, cheese, mustard and onions, French fries and a Dr. Pepper for $7.50, $8.10 with tax. Despite that hefty-sounding combination, the sausage goes down easy, and the chili is neither too spicy nor greasy, but just the right consistency. It rivals anything at Pink's, for instance, you very rarely have to wait, and there are L.A. Weekly and City Beat newsstands to keep you occupied while waiting for and then while eating your dogs. A small pleasure, granted, but a very real one and, if you want, you can get your car detailed at the same time.

10. Gripe of the Week: Trust me when I tell you the music industry used to be a fun place to work. People enjoyed their jobs and record label gigs were among the most coveted around. That's why watching this vintage, eight-minute-long Atlantic Records video, which I'm guessing was shot for a NARM convention back in 1973, featuring members of their promotion and sales staffs dressed up in football uniforms, touting the latest releases, depressed me. There's label head Jerry Greenberg, holding up album jackets for Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, the Eagles' Desperado and Yessongs, making sure to tell us they'll all be on tour; Dave Glew, still sporting a few strands of hair, looking impossibly young and veteran Vince Faraci hamming it up for the cameras, everyone excited, pumped about their product, but having a good time, too. It's almost unthinkable that something like this would be made today, which is pretty sad, when you think about it. Sure, we've come a long way since then, but not necessarily for the better. Check out the video for yourself, shot by Fox News' John Gibson, on YouTube here. It's like another era.


HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.




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Reprinted with permission from Hits Magazine

August 22, 2007

Ticketmaster will no longer serve as Live Nation's ticketing agency when their agreement expires at the end of the year.

A Ticketmaster memo obtained by Billboard's Ray Waddell states, in part, "While it has been our sincere desire to create a new long term partnership [with Live Nation], we now believe it is doubtful we will extend our agreement when it expires at the end of 2008. Live Nation has been a valued client for a very long time and we believe we've taken every reasonable step possible to facilitate a renewal, but they seem intent on a direction for their business that leaves us no viable way to work together."

The contract between Ticketmaster and Live Nation dates from1998 with Live Nation's predecessor, SFX Entertainment. Venues acquired as part of Live Nation's House of Blues acquisition last year are contracted with Ticketmaster through 2009.

Ticketmaster struck the deal with what became Live Nation after Robert F.X. Sillerman consolidated concert promoters and venues into SFX, and the deal continued when Clear Channel Communications bought SFX for $4 billion in 2000 to form Clear Channel Entertainment. After Clear Channel spun off the publicly traded Live Nation, CEO Michael Rapino talked of the possibility of new revenue sources, including ticketing.

Live Nation represents about 10% of Ticketmaster's overall revenue and will now presumably handle ticketing in-house. Last year it acquired an interest in a pair of companies, Musictoday and Ultrastar, that specialize in the direct-to-fan space, which also includes artist e-commerce, fulfillment and fan club ticketing. Livenation.com attracts 3 million unique visitors per month, compared to Ticketmaster.com's 21 million.

Ticketmaster sells between 14 million and 15 million tickets per year to Live Nation events, generating about $100 million in service-charge fees of its nearly $1.1 billion in revenue last year. Live Nation is also interested in obtaining ticket-buyer information for its data base, along with the attendant marketing and sponsorship opportunities.


HITS magazine is the most powerful information vehicle in the music industry, and is read religiously by all the top executives and everyone else.




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By Kenny Kerner

According to Nielsen SoundScan, album sales were down a whopping 15.1% for the year during the first six months of 2007. On a more positive note, digital sales were up some 48.5% with approximately 417 million tracks downloaded.

Believe it or not, there now seems to be some serious controversy surrounding the mysterious death of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison some 36 years ago. The singer allegedly died in a bath tub in France at the age of 27 with "natural causes" as the cause of death on Morrison's official death certificate. But now, a former close friend, Sam Bennett, came forward saying that Morrison died of a heavy heroin overdose in the toilet of a club he was managing and that the body was later moved by two drug dealers to Morrison's apartment and dumped in the bath tub. Naturally, Bennett has written a book called The End-Jim Morrison which was published in France. French authorities are looking into these charges as we speak.

The city of Springfield, Vermont, was proclaimed the official hometown of the animated cartoon family, The Simpsons. The small town, with a population of 9,300, beat out 13 other cities—also named Springfield—for the honors. Winning city got the rights to host the premier of The Simpsons full-length movie.

Are you hip to the feud that's been ongoing between superstar Kelly Clarkson and industry genius Clive Davis? Clive, very conscious of having hits on any CD release, wanted Kelly to record material by outside song writers but Kelly wanted her new My December CD to contain original material written by her. In the August issue of Blender Magazine, Clarkson said: "I don't know you very well and I'm not a bull %#@*er. I get that you don't like the album. You're 80 years old—you're not supposed to like my album. I literally got told to my face that it wouldn't sell more than 600,000 copies. And I got lied to. One reason I don't like working with people at the label is that they lie." In the meantime, Clarkson fired her manager (she recently signed up with Starstruck Entertainment out of Nashville) and cancelled her recent tour because of light ticket sales. By the way, have you seen the video for the first single, "Never Again"? Does Kelly look older, meaner, and less glamorous or what? Just my opinion.


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