Loud Music is a $40 Fine

Just my personal blog.

July 19, 2007

Music Listening Ettiquette

We went to see Rachel Williams Wednesday night at 3rd & Lindsley. She was celebrating the release of her new CD, Lonely At The Bottom. The place was packed.

I liked the music (especially since our friend, Vickie Carrico, was singing background). The crowd was full of Rachel’s fans. So you’d think that they’d have given her the respect someone on stage deserves by being quiet during the songs.

As usual, I was wearing ear plugs just in case the sound level was too hot (we were sitting in one of the tables next to the stage). There was a table right behind us, and they were talking so loud that I could barely hear the music.

For her encore, she sang a song with acoustic accompaniment, and she specifically asked the crowd to quieten down. But there were folks who were still trying to have a conversation over her music.

I don’t get it.

If you’re a fan of an artist, why disrespect them by a) not paying attention to the music, and b) trying to have a conversation during the music, such that you have to talk so loud it disturbs the folks at the table next to you?

The Bluebird Cafe is famous for shushing people who talk during their “in the round” shows. Maybe it’s time other venues started doing that.

Anyway, the show was good. Before Rachel took the stage, she had a few songwriters do some self-accompanied songs. Marcia Ramirez, Karleen Watt, Wood Newton, Austin Cunningham, Karen Staley, and Lisa Carver all did two or three songs that they’ve written or co-written. It’s really great to be able to hear the songwriters sing their own songs, to get a feel for the song as they intended it to be heard.

Rachel took to the stage with her band, and they did about a 60 minute set of songs from her new CD. I think I liked “Firestarter” best. Here’s a little sample of a show she did at 3rd & Lindsley back in February.

July 17, 2007

IndyCar: “Nashville” Superspeedway a Snoozer

The yearly IndyCar race was held at “Nashville” Superspeedway Sunday. Rain caused the race to be postponed from its Saturday night start.

Scott Dixon won the race. Dario Franchitti led most of the first half of the race, but Dixon took advantage of some slow cars that were holding up Franchitti and passed him. After that, it was all Dixon.

It looked like they were going to actually have a decent finish. A late-race caution had the field restarting with less than 10 to go. Then the announcers started talking about the lapped cars in between the lead-lap cars. Huh? They then explained that IndyCar doesn’t do like NASCAR and put the lapped cars behind the last lead-lap car; they just let them continue to affect the outcome of the race.

So, with the lapped cars still trying to stay ahead of the 2nd and 3rd place cars, the final laps were the perfect cap to a boring race.

Some random thoughts:

  • How can a venue be called “Nashville” Superspeedway when it’s not even in the same county as Nashville? Someone unfamiliar with the geography of Middle Tennessee would naturally assume that the track was actually in Nashville, especially with all the references to Music City and downtown.
  • What’s up with HD? Last night, the race coverage was in High Def. Today’s race wasn’t. Didn’t make any sense to me.
  • IndyCar needs to adopt the same 10-lap-left rule that NASCAR has. It’s a shame to let cars that aren’t in contention for the win have an affect on the outcome of the race.
  • Part of the reason for the dullness of the race was the facility. They’ve never had a good IndyCar race at that track. Maybe if the banking were higher the racing might be more exciting.
  • I was a big fan of the Indy Racing League when it started. The idea was for it to be an all oval track series, with American drivers. Then the CART teams started buying into the series, and it’s pretty much become what CART was back in the mid-90’s: a series dominated by foreigners run on too many road courses in too many other countries.
  • I caught a little bit of a racing radio show on WLAC Sunday night and the hosts were talking about IndyCar’s drivers at the race. Apparently some of the IndyCar drivers have forgotten why they’re where they are. When asked for an autograph, one driver rolled his eyes and said “I hope this doesn’t start something”. Just 6 short years ago, they were grateful for the attention. Now they’re too good for the fans.

Not sure when the next IndyCar race will be. If I’m channel surfing and it’s on, I’ll spend a few minutes to see if it’s worth my time.

July 16, 2007

Fairgrounds Race Track Future in Doubt

A few years ago, when the politicians were lobbying the public to approve the stadium, you’d have thought that Nashville had never been home to professional sports. As usual, motorsports in this city didn’t get any respect. NASCAR held one or two races at the Speedway at the fairgrounds every year from 1957 to 1984. Then in 1984, the Fair Board told NASCAR to shove it.

It wasn’t until 1995 when Bob Harmon got the lease to the track that NASCAR came back, with a Busch Series race and a Truck Series race. The track was a victim of its success; Dover Downs Motorsports bought the lease to the track, and once they had the superspeedway built in Wilson County, they took the races with them.

Now the future of the Fairgrounds track is in doubt. The Fair Board, in their infinite wisdom, asked the public what to do with the property. Apparently, some folks who live near the track actually don’t like the noise. These aren’t folks who’ve been at the site longer than the track; they’ve moved there within the last few years.

They’re also going to hire a consultant to get his recommendation of what to do with the acreage. The ideas run the gamut: build a baseball park, have an art colony, and others too idiotic to mention.

The Fair Board has pretty much created a self-fulfilling prophecy with the track. They don’t give the promoter a long lease, so he has no incentive to improve the facilities. The place gets run down, people stop going, cars stop coming. The one time they did give a promoter a long lease (a 13-year lease broken into two five-year and a three-year lease), he (Bob Harmon) paved the track, installed new, ADA compliant rest rooms, and made other improvements to the facility.

But as I said above, he did too good a job, and once the lease was transferred to Dover, they used the track as a placeholder for their races that were to be moved to the big track. The leaseholder who came after Dover didn’t know what he was doing. The current leaseholder at least has a history of running tracks, and is trying to undo the damage the last one did.

I don’t know what influence the mayor’s office has over the Fair Board; sometimes it seems as if the Fair Board does what it wants, even to the detriment of the Fairgrounds. I’ll be basing a large part of my decision on who to vote for for Mayor based on what I can find out about their plans for the Fairgrounds.

The Tennessean has a good article on this situation, as well as the Nashville Blotter. Maybe we can get enough Nashville residents involved to make a difference.

July 13, 2007

F1 Leaves Indy

Formula One won’t be back at Indianapolis next year to run the US Grand Prix. F1 came back to America to race at the specially created road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 8 years ago.

According to F1 head Bernie Ecclestone, F1 doesn’t need the race in the US, despite the fact that the race has one of the largest crowds on the circuit.

I’m really not a big F1 fan, but I tried to watch the Indy races. But for some reason, they didn’t seem to advertise them. In reading the story about F1 not returning next year, I discovered that this year’s US Grand Prix had already been run.

I would have at least made an attempt to watch it, but either they didn’t advertise it or it wasn’t on TV due to some stupid blackout rule. This makes at least three US Grands Prix that I’ve missed simply because they didn’t publicize it.

I complain a lot about NASCAR, having been what I call a former fan. But at least in NASCAR, winning the pole doesn’t guarantee you the race win. And in NASCAR, at the end of the race, you’re at least guaranteed points. I can’t imagine what it’s like to spend a gazillion bucks (or Euros or whatever) on a race team and then not score any points.

F1 races for the most part are like watching qualifying laps. After the first lap (and the inevitable wreck at the first turn) there’s no passing; they just put in lap after lap. These are supposed to be the best drivers in the world, but I don’t see that. They have so much technology in those cars that about all the driver does is steer it.

So, to F1 I say, So Long. Glad you don’t need a US audience. Go back overseas with the soccer players and continue to spend all that money on all that technology. Over here, we have real racing to watch.

July 12, 2007

Digital Music

So, the Spice Girls had to go to the studio and record their “perfect” parts before their appearance at the Concert for Dianna? Seems they felt they were a little rusty in the vocal department, and decided to use some computer technology to “help” them out.

In a nutshell, what they did was record the vocals as they should be, and then during the live performance, the software compares what’s coming out of their mouth with this pre-recorded “perfect” sound, and “fixes” the resulting audio, all within a split second, so there’s no visible delay.

What the Daily Mail article doesn’t mention is whether or not they used vocal “sweetening” in the recording process to get their perfect sound. Nowadays, you can take an off-pitch vocal and, with the right software, make it pitch-perfect. It’s possible then that the “perfect” vocals will be based on already-processed vocals. Seems like it’d have been easier just to lip sync their shows.

You have to wonder how many other acts are using this technology, both live and in the studio? I’m sure the studio use of this technology is widespread, and I’d guess the live application will give some American Idol alums a longer touring life.

But shouldn’t there be some sort of “truth in entertainment” law? Music fakery has been happening for decades. As I wrote about yesterday, “bands” have been created to be nothing but pretty faces for the public to see. Probably the most glaring example of this is Milli Vanilli. Unlike Ohio Express, those guys didn’t even try using their own voices on the records.

I believe we’re going to get to the point where you can’t really trust what’s on the CD package (you already can’t trust the record labels). Technology is only going to make it easier for these kinds of frauds to be foisted on the public.

Hat tip: Taxing Tennessee

July 11, 2007

Record Label Shenanigans

I just finished reading this post about a band called The Ohio Express. In my book, record labels are one step above loan sharks, but this story takes the cake.

In a nutshell, the one big hit the band had, “Yummy Yummy Yummy” wasn’t even recorded by them. It was done by session musicians, but the band was expected to go out and act as if it were their song, ie. perform it live, and lip sync it on TV.

The record label took advantage of a bunch of naive kids. They basically said “here’s the deal, take it or leave it.” The group took it.

They’re still reportedly owed a bunch of money for the live shows they did. They were being paid a weekly amount, with the rest being put in escrow. The band never saw the money that was supposedly put in escrow.

I’ve had my own experience with a record company here in Nashville. I was contracted to write a royalty program for one of the independent labels. As I got further along into the project, I realized that what they were doing wasn’t ethical. It might have been legal, but I wasn’t comfortable with it.

When a band signs with a record label, they’re given an advance. That money is used to record the album. The label recoups that money from the sales of the album. The artist is also charged for marketing, packaging, and other items that come out of the royalties they’re entitled to. You could say that the record company is a loan shark. Although they’re not charging interest to the band, they make sure they get their money back, and in some cases, they make sure they make a profit before the band does.

As albums are sold, the record company collects the money and distributes it to all the folks who have a piece of the pie. In order to protect themselves, they withhold a percentage of the sales “in reserve.” That is, if a band has a contract with 10% reserves, the record company will only pay them 90% of the royalties due in the quarter. The next quarter, that 10% is supposed to be paid to the artist. What I found unethical with the company I was dealing with was that they added that 10% back into the gross sales. In effect, they were going to withhold money from sales they’d already withheld reserves on. That could theoretically go on forever, with the band not getting credit or royalties for all they’re due.

I ended up buying my way out of that contract. If I’d known what slime balls they were going into it, I’d have never agreed to do the program.

One other thing record companies do is to retain ownership of the music. That is, even though the company recoups the cost of recording, the record company claims ownership of the masters. So what happens if the record company goes out of business? The masters end up being part of their assets, and in the best case scenario, those masters end up with another company who’ll reissue them. In the worst case, the masters just disappear.

Congress should enact a law that would require any “abandoned” recordings be given back to the artist who made them. If the company goes out of business and the new owners don’t have any interest in the masters, the artist should get them back along with full rights. Or if the assets are acquired by another company and that company doesn’t have any interest in putting out or reissuing the album, then the artist should get the masters.

I keep reading about the plight of the record industry. They’re claiming that online piracy is keeping CD sales down. As usual, the record labels must think the public is stupid. They’ve conspired to keep CD prices high while at the same time they put out garbage. It’s no wonder demand is low. The record companies need to wake up and realize they’re in the 21st century. Instead of suing 6th graders, they need to revamp their business model.

So, as you can see, I don’t hold record companies in very high regard. I think if they were marketing any other product, they’ve have been under investigation for RICO violations a long time ago.

July 10, 2007

NASCAR: The Last Pepsi 400

Since I got burned out on weekly NASCAR racing a few years ago, about the only races I try to make an effort at watching are the restrictor plate races, since they usually have more excitement than the others. Saturday night’s Pepsi 400 was one of the better races Ive seen in a while. Here are some random thoughts I have about it:

  • Isn’t there a “big one” supposed to happen at plate races? I think the most number of cars we saw in a wreck Saturday night was two or three. What happened?
  • TNT debuted their Wide Open coverage. They touted that viewers were getting the 16×9 “letterbox” view on regular 4×3 screens. I switched back and forth from high def to regular a couple of times, and the high def picture still showed more than the regular picture. Plus, on the high def side, they wasted a LOT of space at the bottom with their info box or ad box or whatever.
  • I will give kudos to TNT for at least trying something new. Putting the crawl at the bottom of the picture was interesting, but, like ESPN, the crawl doesn’t go all the way across, stopping on the left side where a regular 4×3 picture would end. Couldn’t someone have watched a Fox broadcast to see how they do it? TNT and ESPN/ABC neither make full use of the high def screen real estate; they both have a lot of wasted space. And what’s with the non-high def in-car cameras? Fox had those.
  • The main goal of TNT’s Wide Open coverage was to get people to watch commercials. Didn’t work on me. I set the race to record on the Comcast DVR, and started watching it about an hour and a half after it started (the only live viewing I did was to compare the picture against the regular TNT channel). About half way through the race we decided to go see a musician friend play, so I watched the rest of it after we got back. I did see one commercial though, and it was pretty funny. It was the one where Larry MacReynolds hopped on the golf cart to go get a Subway sandwich. The rest of the time, when a commercial came on, I hit the macro buttons on my remote that skip 30 or 60 seconds at a time. I guess the most effective “commercials” were when Bill Weber announced that the segment was “brought to you by” whoever.
  • Kyle Busch is definitely a man without a team. He’s a diamond in the rough, and once he matures I predict he’ll be one of the better drivers on the circuit. It’s critical for his career to get with the right team next year.
  • NASCAR and Sprint officially announced the name of the Cup series for next year. As predicted, it’ll be called the Sprint Cup Series. I wonder if the Sprint car folks have any concern about that name?
  • Tony Stewart once again opens his mouth and inserts his foot. Why can’t he just do what his teammate did and say “I haven’t seen the replay yet” and if they show him a replay, say something less insulting about his own teammate?
  • Dale Junior is looking for a new driver. Hey Dale? Why not help someone who helped you when you were wrecking cars at Nashville Speedway USA? Casey Atwood would be a good choice. Put him in some decent equipment and he can get the job done.

I’m not sure where the Cup cars are racing next week. That’s a shame. I used to be so into this sport, my whole weekends were planned around it. If NASCAR doesn’t figure out that they’re losing long-time fans at the expense of getting new ones (who won’t stay around as long), they’re going to be in deep trouble.

July 6, 2007

NASCAR: New Name For Me, But Not For Thee

A telecommunications company pays a lot of money to be a sponsor. That company is then bought out by another company. The new company wants to change the name on the sponsorship to the new name.

That sounds a lot like the Cingular/AT&T deal, except it’s not. An announcement is expected tomorrow (7/7/07) that NASCAR’s Nextel Cup Series will be renamed to the Sprint Cup Series (or something like that).

So, it’s ok for NASCAR to have a sponsor that gets bought out and changes its name, but not for a car owner? NASCAR needs to stop competing with its car owners for sponsorship dollars.

Suspension update: In a post titled “That’ll Teach ’em, NASCAR” I talked about suspended crew chiefs still being at the track. NASCAR has just announced that they are no longer allowing suspended crew members at the track. As I said before, “Hello? The series sponsor is a cell phone company! They don’t have cell phones in the pits? Come on.” If NASCAR finds out that a suspended crew chief is still in contact with his team on race day via cell phone, what are they going to do? Maybe they are starting to get tough with the rules. It’s going to take a lot to convince me, but they’re on the right track.

July 4, 2007

Happy Birthday, America!

Hope everyone has a safe Fourth of July.

July 3, 2007

That’ll Teach ’em, NASCAR

At the Sears Point race, NASCAR suspended a couple of Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs for 6 races. So at last weekend’s race at New Hampshire, how did Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson perform?

Gordon qualified 8th and finished 2nd.  Johnson was worse off: he qualified 10th and finished 5th.

Those penalties sure did have an effect on the teams, didn’t they? And if I heard right on the little bit of pre-race coverage I watched, at least one of the suspended crew chiefs was actually at the track. NASCAR says they are only prohibited from areas where you need a NASCAR hard card, plus they can’t talk on the team’s radio. Hello? The series sponsor is a cell phone company! They don’t have cell phones in the pits? Come on.

Suspension should be suspension. They’ve escorted other suspended individuals off track property before, so I’m not sure why it’s ok for a suspended crew chief to hang out in the team’s motor coach.

Now NASCAR is making noises that they may start suspending other team members as well if the cheating doesn’t stop.  It’s really simple for NASCAR to get a team’s attention: all they have to do is suspend the owner, the driver, and the car for the weekend of the race that they’re caught cheating in. Doesn’t need to be a multi-week suspension (unless the team is really dense about getting the message; one could argue that the #48 team meets that criteria). How many missed races would it take before the sponsor wants some of their money back? That’d beat a measly $100,000 fine anytime.