Wednesday, August 31, 2005

CD's slowing down but not dead

Don't blame Warner Brothers for touting its own horn about how they're revolutionizing the music game by having one of their acts put out their material in just about every format except compact discs. I blame publications for accepting the story on face value: see Web, DVDs Could Mark CDs' Slow Death for one example. Ask yourself this for starters: if WB was so gung-ho about this concept, why wouldn't they do with say Green Day or Eric Clapton (who just put out a new record)? The obvious answer is that they're not too sure about this idea so they're using a smaller act as a guinea pig to see if it'll fly.

As another reality check, let's remember that downloads (legal downloads to be exact) don't come anywhere near to matching CD sales. The fact that CD's are falling is enough for majors to lose faith in them evidently. That wasn't their plan. What the majors had hoped is that they could push through yet another format like SACD or DVD-A so that we'd replace all of our music just as many were forced to do when vinyl was killed off and the labels made the transition to CD's. But vinyl didn't actually die, despite their best efforts (even though it's far from being a popular format as it once was). Also, while the companies were prepared to line-up and back one of these new formats (similar to what's happening now with the video/DVD battles in Hollywood), they saw the writing on the wall: more and more people wanted their music in a virtual realm. It took them a while to really understand this, hence the popularity of Napster and other P2P sites which they went after with lawsuits.

You can't blame the labels for being in panic mode since you can only blame P2P services for so long. Whether this tact that WB is adapting will work is debatable. The Sun isn't a household name and unless WB puts more marketing muscle behind them, they're probably not going to become stars (even then, it'll be a long shot for the band).

Obviously, one incentive for the labels is that virtual music is easier and cheaper to manufacture than a CD. But there's kind of an inconsistency here (surprise, surprise). Last time I checked, DVD's are still little discs like CD's so it's not like WB is going totally virtual here. Also, they're offering the songs themselves as downloadable MP3 files which you can... burn to a CD if you want! So it's potentially a wash in the end and most likely a gimmick, right?

When WB says that the CD is dead or dying, it's partly wishful thinking. Besides the continuing sales for the format, they're obviously not quite ready to give up on discs. Even Sony, who's about to offer their catalog online through a UK service, isn't saying that they're done with CD's (though that might be an implication behind their move). Previously, the incentive was to wean consumers off one format to get them to invest in a new one but since everyone with a fairly new computer has a system that can play MP3's and DVD's, it's going to be hard to entice people to reinvest in the music they already have. Extras can be offered but if you're not doing it through a disc format (say the Dual Disc), buyers aren't likely to re-purchase old songs though some of them who are real fans might spring for nifty extras (out-takes, videos, etc) that weren't available before.

Regardless of the non-death of the CD, the idea of the album is still alive and well but that's another entry...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Eminem- sweet dreams

Though he's sure to turn it into fodder for his next record, Enimem's drug problem is no joke. Since it involved sleep medication, it's not surely not as easily to peg it as part of the live-fast myth if he'd turned to harder drugs instead. I'll be that some people are bewildered to hear that of all things, it was some No-Doz type pills that laid him out for now but the fact of the matter is that there are millions of people who have similar problems. I know 'cause I'm one of them.

Recent studies have shown that America is a nation of walking zombies, meaning that most of us don't get the eight hours of sleep a night that we need. Reasons include everything from stress to diet to body chemistry to living conditions to financial problems to... just about anything else you can imagine that doesn't let us forget everything, shut down our brain and rest.

My own problem was that my office moved so my commute changed and I had to get up eariler: it took me a long time to adjust to this and I usually had to take a nap on the train ride to or from work just so I wasn't a wreck otherwise (which I later found wasn't a good idea). I took sips of Nyquil to help me go to sleep earlier but when I found I was doing that daily, I was alarmed that I was forming a bad habit, addiction or not. I had tried melatonin but found that it was much too potent- even a sliver of a pill would knock me out so badly, I could barely wake up in the morning. I've pretty much settled into a good sleep routine (for now I hope) but as I said, it wasn't easy.

But what about everyone else with the same problem? There's unsettling recent reports like this: Insomnia can cause depression. Even more to the point, it seems that Mr. Matthers isn't alone: Addictive Sleep Medications Remain Popular. Let the customer behave when getting perscriptions.

For help, I'd recommend Webmd insomnia treatments and this Well site offers some good recommendations too. And obviously if you're still having problems, it's time to see an MD but make sure you know what kind of meds you're getting.

Back to M though, I hope he gets over this and can continue on. Other than work its way into his raps (as it surely will), it'd be great if he himself can make some kind of public statement on behalf of all us zombies out there and this very real problem.

Goodnight folks...

Pat Robertson creates a new extremist sect of Christianity?

Letter to the New York Times

Even though he didn't claim that God passed on the wisdom to him, the fact remains that Pat Robertson is a religious leader who, on a religious program, called for a murder of a head of state. Any sane person should find this deplorable but it seems that the Christian conservative groups who usually have no problem speaking on an any moral or social issue have remained strangely silent now. It's obvious that they're afraid of criticizing one of their own but in this case, this kind of rhetoric goes so much against the core of Christian beliefs that they should have no trouble in saying "we do not agree with this." They claim to be "too busy" to comment? Is this the beginning of a new sect of Christianity that ignores the Ten Commandments and advocates murder?

If memory serves, America is fighting against a brand of religious extremism in the Middle East which perverts Islam to justify killing. How can our country morally say that we are on the side of right if we have our own religious leaders perverting Christianity to justify killing?

Monday, August 22, 2005

RIP Robert Moog

Though news of his illness had been going around for a while, it was still depressing to hear that Robert Moog passed away.

In the course of doing a compilation of electronic music, I met and spoke to Moog a few times. He was a very decent, sweet guy for sure, always enthused about his ongoing work with electronics, especially his beloved theremins. Needless to say, he didn't create the synthesizer itself. Like most computers in the '50's, synths were these huge, cumbersome machines that took up an entire room and required days to program a simple command. Like Steve Jobs, Moog's contribution was to take these enormous monsters and shrink them down to size so that they could be much more easily used and not required hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase. Once synths were easier to afford and use, they become part of common vocabulary of rock and pop and later became indispensable to funk, techno and numerous other styles of music, increasing their vocabulary. For me, the sonic soundscapes that ambient music were able to cover were always a glorious wonder- of course, this would have been almost impossible without Moog's work.

This is an interview that I did with Moog a few years ago for my zine, covering his thoughts on his own work. I also recommend the recent documentary about him, even though some fools disparaged it for being too dry.

So here's to you Doc Moog. By the way, I always thought it was pronounced 'moo-g' but it was actually 'moe-g' (rhyming with 'vogue')- thanks to Rogue for correcting that for me.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Wal-Mart: we decide your entertainment needs

Other than the troubling way that employees are treated and paid and their anti-competitive destruction of smaller local businesses (Starbucks and Microsoft must be taking notes), a WireTap/Alternet article, The Wal-Mart Thought Police, documents another disturbing trend with the huge retailer.

If you live outside of a metropolitan area, chances are that the store which will be ready to service the whole spectrum of your consumer needs is probably Walmart. When one store has that much reach over the country, they also have the power to dictate what's being pushed or offered to the public. As the article notes, any store has the same power to some degree but nowhere near the degree that Walmart does because of its size. If they decide that a CD or DVD is unacceptable and doesn't meet their standard for 'family values,' then the artist and their company is SOL. This even includes stickered/labeled items that warns parents that they shouldn't be letting their kids partake in it. Because Walmart is the 'No. 1 CD retailer in the world,' record companies and movie studios take this very seriously. They know that if they don't stock their product, they're missing out on a potentially huge market. As a result, they have to cater to Walmart's standards.

Obviously any store, no matter how big, can't stock everything. Also, every store has a right to make a decision about what to carry and what not to carry. But when one single store has the power to make that kind of decision nationwide for its customers, that's troubling, especially when their decisions are based on their view of acceptable community standards, which is something impossible to maintain throughout 50 states (and something the FCC should realize for their own standards).

Also, no doubt following the Starbucks model, Walmart is now deciding to work exclusively with Garth Brooks. If Alanis and now Dylan can do it with the coffee retailer, how long was it going to be before Walmart was going to follow charge? And when will it end? Are the days that we can potentially find all the big name artists and best sellers in one place over? There are a lot of possibilities and surely, more artists and retailers will go this route. So far, Starbucks minted a good idea but you can see where this can haywire, having to make several trips around town to find the stores exclusively stocking the music you want.

But then there's the Net. You could more easily just go to each of these company's websites to find each of these exclusive records. But again, there's a built-in inconvenience factor- you can't go to one site to find everything but instead have to surf around the web to see where your favorite artist is offering their latest album. That ain't fun.

That leads us back to the Walmart problem. If what we want is or isn't available in one place and we have to go out of our way to find anything that isn't at the store we happen to be in, how motivated are we gonna be to search elsewhere, online or offline? Walmart is banking that consumers are gonna settle for what they have there and indeed, many will. That's a shame 'cause that means that any product/artist that doesn't fall under their guidelines or their exclusive licensing is shut out. That kind of selective stocking isn't going to be a problem until a big enough artist or product that demands loyalty makes consumers look elsewhere. So far, we haven't reached that point yet. But if enough exclusive deals are inked and there's product wars (which is inevitable), Walmart's lock on the U.S. market might not hold. And that definitely wouldn't be a bad thing. Ideally, one of the glories of consumerism is freedom of choice, right?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"Complaints to FCC down" but don't rejoice yet...

On the surface, a headline like Complaints to FCC down sharply in '05 is good news but you have to wonder why this is happening. Is it because the FCC rules about obscenity are still so obscure that radio and TV stations are desperately policing themselves, scared of what their perceived violations might be?

This includes someone as unbelievably innocuous as Prairie Home Companion's Garrison Keillor. Apparently, he was saucy enough to say the word 'breast' on the air (you know, like the thing that Janet Jackson has revealed at the Superbowl?). As Keillor noted, context should ideally mean something: "Should you say 'elbow of snow' instead of 'breast of snow'?" Also, if a news report is about breast cancer screening, should women not be informed of potentially life-saving information because the FCC won't tell stations if this appropriate or not?

I'd hope that any sane, rational person would see this as disgraceful. I'd also like to encourage people to complain to the FCC but not about obscenity. I think we should complain about the atmosphere of fear and censorship that they've promoted. Tell them to stop intimidating stations with fines for laws that they refuse to define. Remember that the FCC is a government agency and it's your tax dollars that fund them and they're supposed to be regulating the airwaves in the interest of the public and that's you. Until people stand up to them and remind them of their responsibilities, this madness is going to continue.

As they themselves tell you, "Filing a Complaint with the FCC Is EASY." See their complaint website and give them a piece of your mind.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bands across the water- traditions vs. global reach in World music

From the Financial Times comes this interesting article on world music: Bands across the water
Specifically, it describes the conflict between recording 'authentic' music and third world music trying to break out of its market.

"In world music circles, this potential clash of interests is given added frisson. A couple of days before Womad’s opening night, the veteran record producer Joe Boyd was complaining in a radio interview of his dealings with the Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour, one of world music’s shining lights. Boyd was due to collaborate with N’Dour on the African singer’s new album, and he explained that he favoured a basic, stripped-down sound, for it was simplicity and authenticity that the world market was after. N’Dour, he said, accused him of being a racist; of wanting to keep African music in its place, not allowing it to benefit from the sophisticated techniques offered by cutting-edge popular music."

"It is an understandable dilemma. If western ears are exposed to, and warm to, west African music, the last thing they want is for that music to become infested with the ubiquitous banalities of western pop music. Yet if you are a west African musician, the last thing you want is to be patronised by foreign markets who want to be charmed by your “different” sound, but would prefer that it remained in a comfortable niche. It is the epitome of first world arrogance: essentially not allowing world music to join the world. And yet a truly “global” music, melding different styles and traditions, can be the most awful mess. Do we really want distinctive, centuries-old art forms to converge into commercially driven pap?"

And so, who's right here? Both sides have valid arguments: preserving tradition and outreach. Maybe the question shouldn't be who's right but why can't both things be achieved?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Chris Matthews rocks

You might know him as the rabid host of MSNBC's Hardball but there's also a kinder, gentler side of this Washington political lifer on NBC's The Chris Matthews Show. Of the many Sunday morning politico shows on the major networks, Matthews probably provides the most intelligent, thoughtful dialog. It's not entirely as civilized as Meet the Press or Face the Nation but it's also less snoozy and much more provacative.

As of late, Matthews has been on a music kick and after doing an end of show segment about what happened to rock, he opened the question up this week to his panel. Granted, you're not going to expect much from a group of well-manicured middle-aged media elite but this segment (which he regrettably called "Rebel Yell") actually had some worthwhile comments and opinions floating around, even if they did sidestep the issue of Elliot Spitzer's recent investigations, corporate control of labels, mergers cheered on by the FCC, etc..

Sad to say, Matthew's site hasn't kept up with show transcripts so please excuse my hatsy notes of the show below, with some added comments and bolding of some particularly interesting insights.

Chris Matthews- CM
Norah O'Donnell -- NBC News - NOD
David Gregory - NBC News - DG
Julia Reed - Vogue Magazine - JR
David Brooks -- New York Times - DB

CM: (annoucning the segment) In the 50's, it was number one on the charts. In the 1960's, it was the loud soundtrack of the sexual revolution. A movement itself. David Brooks, I brought it up last week. It's the 50th anniversary of "Rock Around the Clock."

DB: That's for old people. (laughs)

CM: Talk about the big eruption of culture and everything else that's gone on in the last 50 years and is it over?

DB: There's two reasons why rock of that sort is dead. The first one is that the idea that you're supposed to be a teenage rebel is dead. Teenage people don't have the 70's to rebel (against). The second thing is that the market is just segmented- there's rap, hip hop, there's a million different things.

CM: Was that a sort of dangerous, bad boy aspect? Has that just been transferred into hip hop?

DB: It's all doing Cadillac commercials! It's been domesticated.

DG: Could I agree with that? It's just been so, so decentralized and in so many places. And you're hearing the stuff on your I-Pod now. People aren't rallying around it anymore.

CM: David, there's no big rock stations in the big cities anymore. They're all closed down. A half dozen closed recently.

DG: But they could listen to satellite radio or download it...

CM: You mean "Sixties On Six"? (ED NOTE: from XM satellite Radio)

DG: Right, right! (laughs)

CM: I love it. I listen to it all the way home.

DG: There's no rallying point anymore culturally for people to say... rally again.

CM: Let me ask you this. I looked at Pollstar, which is the chart I've been taught of the biggest concert markets, the money that people go to see concerts, who's buying the tickets? We got McCartney coming here to Washington, we got the Stones coming here. It's those groups pulling in the huge money. Norah, you're giggling 'cause you're younger than most of those people at those concerts, right?

NOD: (It's) because music is an opportunity for community. It's like just when (there was) rock and roll, you used to go to the dance and you used to do American Bandstand. Concerts now have become that. Other than that, most people listen to music individually, which is with an I-Pod or in their homes, maybe with their family but not in the sense of community or dancing.

CM: Don't you wish you were there back then so you could have squealled for the Beatles?

NOD: Totally! Absolutely!

CM: See that's what I'm talking about.

DG: Nora and I will go see McCartney because...

CM: 'Cause he's the cute one!

DG: 'Cause when he was in Wings, we thought he was the best.

CM: He was the cute one and Lennon was too intellectual. (everyone laughs) Julia, you're from that Southern base that doesn't get represented on this show enough. Country, jazz, blues... it all tied together with rock and roll. This is real America here. Is it dead?

JR: Well, that kind of rock and roll is dead. Now we have wimpy bands like Coldplay and everybody love Widespread Panic. You know, music to get stoned to... For one thing, there's no kind of hard rock 'cause there's nothing to rebel against. Now, you can have all the sex and drugs you want. Or like David (Brooks) said, most teenagers are concentrating on their 4.0 (grade point average). They wanna make some money. I mean, there's no percentage in being James Dean.

CM: Do you think like you sound? (everyone laughs) You just have the greatest way of thinking and talking!

DG: Kids aren't going to be rebelling unless there isn't a DVD embedded in their TV.

Not bad but I have a little trouble taking Wings' fans entirely seriously. Also, the fact that they can't speak about anyone who doesn't sell out an arena much less artists from other genres isn't surprising and does detract from the discussion. But given those limitations, this was better than the usual segment on these news shows that bashes pop/rock/rap for corrupting the youth of America. These are earnest boomers trying to understand what's happening in the music industry today and while a lot of these points aren't exactly news themselves, hopefully their same-aged, like-minded audience will be want to think more about this.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Fiona's apple sauce

So now we find out that it wasn't the big bad record company but the artist herself who pulled the plug on her own album (Extraordinary Machine)? That's what Billboard magazine is reporting: Fiona Fashions A Different 'Machine'

Quite an interesting twist on the story, isn't it? Note that it's not Fiona who's commenting on this now but her new producer. Wonder what her old producer, Jon Brion, has to say. For that matter, it will be interesting to see what Apple herself has to say when she does the inevitable publicity for her comeback.

Is it too cynical to wonder if part of this story is a little... shall we say contrived? Her own fans mount an online protest against her record company about her album and she remains silent for the better part of a year? Some of them ain't gonna be happy about that, rest assured. Granted that it's not inconceivable- remember that Prince did the same thing with The Black Album back in the late 80's when it was also first assumed that his record company was the culprit (even though his contract stated that he had complete control over his albums).

One of the questions you have to wonder about is why did the story come out that it was her record company who decided that her album wasn't commercial enough. She could have easily and quickly denied that. If you go along with that reasoning, then you could speculate that she was a little embarrassed to say that she herself wasn't happy with what she delivered to them. But if that's the case, who was the source of the leaked album? Wouldn't make any sense for her label to do that. Someone get Patrick Fitzgerald on the case and jail someone!

But seriously folks... Other than hearing her own explanations (which should be very newsworthy itself), it'll also be interesting to compare her final product with the version that's been floating around the Net. She's going to have to do quite a balancing act to appear credible here. I honestly wish her luck with this- I do like her work and always thought that Machine should have come out as it was. But she owes it to her fans and admirers to say why she was totally silent during the controversy.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Sir Mick slaps Dubya

Yes, the Rolling Stones about to fill up stadiums again and the writers are dusting off their 'lock up your grandmothers' jokes. Oh, and they have a new album out too. This fact would generally elicit a shrug from anyone except their most rabid fans (and even then...) but this time, the ever-clever Mick Jagger has slipped in a little wink that was brilliantly calculated to garner media coverage.

Even though only some reviewers have heard it, a few lines of the song "Sweet Neocon" have been Net-talk favorites already. Sorry you can't sing along yet- truth be known, I haven't heard it either. Here's the prime lines that are making the rounds:

"You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite
You call yourself a patriot, well I think you're full of sh*t."

Again, being a wise guy, Jagger's insisted that this isn't specifically about President Bush. Rather than being scarred of Dubya's wrath, he understands that at least the appearance of a little artistic distant gives him some credibility. In other words, overt political slogans make better bumper stickers than songs: if you don't believe me compare Robert Wyatt's "Stalin Wasn't Stallin'" to his "Shipbuilding." Of course, lines like the ones Jagger penned now are obviously a swipe at Bush just the same way that Fox News claims it's 'fair and balanced' but obviously ain't.
The problem here is Jagger's words are just so damn obvious. Some Democrats will be glad to turn an unadulterated Stones lyric into a banner or sign but as for lyrics itself, they don't look like sing-a-long material. If you look at the best Stones material (say '64-'72), you'll notice that the only politics that the boys almost always espoused were sexual politics, unless you want to count "Street Fighting Man" (which was a correspondence from the front lines). Since American politics resembles out-and-out warfare now and the sexual revolution that the Stones chronicled is old news, what buttons do these supposed bad boys have left to push?

To Jagger's credit, his ploy worked and as with this entry, the album's getting press now like they haven't gotten for a record since... most of us can remember. But is the record any good? Is "Sweet Neocon" a good song? Most of us don't know yet. And maybe it won't matter by the time the album actually comes out. Let's see if it's in their set the next time they tour in a few years and especially if some 'intelligent design' president is in office. Then, what the hell is Jagger going to try to rebel against and get some press...?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FCC decency battle brews

As gratifying as it is to see that the FCC has finally woken up and noticed that payola does exist in the music industry, you have to wonder why it took New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer to remind them of their job. Shouldn't they have been the ones who would spearhead investigations into this practice since they're supposed to regular radio among other things? What might distract them from doing their jobs? "Indecency."

Loathe as it is to admit, Michael Powell now may look a little better. He was a craven, boot-licking tool of the major media corporations, looking to fatten their pockets by letting them gobble-up as many stations as they wanted but at least he was squeamish at times about battling real or imagined obscenity on the air waves. He waffled on Bono's spontaneous TV explicative and decided after the fact that Saving Private Ryan was OK for prime time television even with curse words (even though he only revealed that to broadcasters AFTER the fact).

So while Jr. Powell will be mostly missed by the people he was supposed to regulate, his successor looks to take the job of levying fines on broadcasters to a whole new level. Kevin Martin went so far as to hire a consultant, Penny Nance, who was already pushing the FCC to pounce harder on TV/radio stations that were peddling what she considered to be slime. Her group had as part of its mission the job of "helping... to bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy." Which is all good and well for a theocracy, right? (And to think that we're worried that Middle East countries will become hardcore religious states...)

The most interesting passage from theMediaweekk article linked above is this:

"In a January letter to President Bush, Nance joined others in calling for stricter enforcement of indecency laws and identifying a "huge indecency problem"” on basic cable. She has said TV broadcasters should restore a family hour when racy programming is held off the air. In 2002, she asked regulators to ensure direct broadcast satellite provider DirecTV did not fall under control of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, whom she dubbed a purveyor of "“must-sleaze TV" on the Fox network. (Murdoch gained control of DirecTV in 2003, after regulators blocked its merger with EchoStar Communications that Nance backed.) "

Uh oh. Can you say "conflict"? This isn't the first time that the religious practitioners have bumped head with the politpragmatiststists. Shortly after the last election, some Christian conservatives expressed concern that their moral stances weren't being pushed enough by the Republicans. And what kind of arguments are you going to hear now?

Practitioner: We've got to fine Murdoch and teach him a lesson

Pragmatistitist: Um... but he's... they're... supporting us.

Practitioner: But he's still peddling sleeze

Pragmatistitist: But we rely on him and Fox News for getting our message across unfiltered.

And back and forth, on and on. Who will win out in this battle in the end? If pragmitists do, they're going to further alien their Republican base. If the practitioners win out, they're going to chop the legs off their biggest, best media outlet. Kind of a no-win situation, ain't it?

Either way, the FCC is going to be absolutely fine-happy now and make the American entertainment landscape safe for kiddies everywhere while the adults will probably shift even more to cable for shows that don't entirely insult their intelligence. If Martin and company really want to start fining and investigating improper financial procedures, might I suggest looking into CMJ once they're done with Clear Channel (who've also proven to be chummy with Republicans and may cause future conflicts) and the networks?

Monday, August 08, 2005

RIP Peter Jennings

I know, I know... I shouldn't get weepy over the mainstream media but there was something decent and humane about this ABC News anchor that I always admired. I watched World News Tonight for years with him on it and always thought that he was earnest in his work. You see less and less of that in the media landscape nowadays. With the boom of the cable and then Net and eventually blogs, it was obvious that the news machine on the major networks wasn't covering everything (then again, who does and does it well?). But you could feel somewhat secure that he and his gang nailed some of the big national and international stories as well as they could. This was someone who really strived to be fair and balanced. Also, I always admired how especially recently, he would keep hitting the road, leaving his NYC home office, to find out more about the rest of the country and share that with viewers.

After he come on the air and said that he wouldn't be broadcasting regularly, speaking in that heart-breaking, raspy voice, I always hoped that one day he'd poke his head back in and make an appearance. Evidently, he did but it was behind the scenes.

It was obvious that this day was coming but that doesn't make this any less sad. I'll miss ya Peter. Thanks for the fine work.

If you'd like to share your own thoughts about him and his work, ABC has this message board.

Friday, August 05, 2005

CBGB's- plucky, optimistic, defiant?

Along with a slate of benefit shows all this month for itself, CBGB's has now schedule some early September shows, which is past its August 31st deadline to renew their lease. Are they being arrogant or confident here or do they already know something about their renewal...?

Thursday, August 04, 2005


July 30, 2005

Paul Chevigny, plaintiffs lawyer, 212.998.6249,
Eric Demby, Legalize Dancing NYC, 917.579.7435
Andy Gensler, Legalize Dancing NYC, 917.686.5224
Adam Shore, Legalize Dancing NYC, 917.513.3452


WKCR DJ/jazz historian Phil Schaap, New York City Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins, "Mad Hot Ballroom" instructor Yvonne Marceau, "Footloose" choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett, others support landmark case to overturnProhibition-era statute as unconstitutional.

Four dancers ‹ Byron Cox, Ian Dutton, John Festa, and Meredith Stead and a social-dance organization, the Gotham West Coast Swing Club, filed suit June 23, 2005, in New York State Supreme Court, calling for the immediate repeal of the Cabaret Laws on the grounds that they restrict the state¹s guarantee of freedom of expression by legislating and limiting the act of social dancing at eating and drinking establishments.

The plaintiffs in the case are represented by a team of lawyers that includes NYU law professor Paul Chevigny and former New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Norman Siegel. The next court date in the case is September 2, when the city will offer its initial response to the suit. On October 18, the plaintiffs will file their response. The judge is Hon.Michael Stallman.

Prominent members from across New York¹s dance community are supporting the suit, demonstrating the Cabaret Laws¹ broad negative impact on dancing of every kind, and on dancing as a vital cultural influence. Supporters who filed affidavits for the plaintiffs include: Phil Schaap, WKCR FM on-air DJ and renowned jazz historian; Peter Martins, New York City Ballet Master in Chief; Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Footloose (the film) and Alvin Ailey choreographer; and Yvonne Marceau, who teaches ballroom dancing at the Juilliard School and the American School of Ballet, and whose New York City grade-school dance classes are the basis for the hit documentary film Mad Hot Ballroom.

Additional affidavits were submitted by two musicologists, a music journalist and singer/percussionist from El Barrio, a DJ and former owner of the Plant Bar on the Lower East Side (which suffered thousands of dollars in Cabaret Law fines), and a dance-studio owner who claims New York City has become virtually devoid of venues for social dancing due to the stifling
atmosphere of the Cabaret Laws.

Professor Chevigny's involvement in the case is significant, as he is attempting to complete the total abolition of the Cabaret Laws he began in 1986, when he won a State Supreme Court case on behalf of the Musicians Union which overturned a portion of the laws requiring musicians to obtain a license when performing live. Chevigny¹s history of the laws, Gigs: Jazz And The Cabaret Laws In New York City, documented the dubious foundations of the laws in 1926, when Jimmie Walker¹s Tammany Hall cracked down on rampant vice in segregated Prohibition-era New York. Although he doesn't dance as often as he used to, Chevigny views overturning the dancing portion of the laws as unfinished business.


The suit marks the latest phase in the effort to reform the Cabaret Laws. Beginning with public protests during the Giuliani administration, including the Dance Liberation Front's hokey-pokey around City Hall and the Million Mambo March to Tompkins Square Park in the 1990s, a grassroots movement evolved into an organization called Legalize Dancing NYC. LDNYC increased public awareness of the authoritarian enforcement of the Cabaret Laws ‹including a cover story in the Village Voice and national coverage in The New York Times, Spin, and Rolling Stone ‹ while working with the City Council and the Dept. of Consumer Affairs to remove dancing from New York City's law books.

In 2003, the city proposed a new "Nightlife License" that, although imperfect, would have legalized dancing while imposing new restrictions on bars and clubs. Although the proposal was eventually withdrawn, Mayor Bloomberg and his administration appeared to support the idea that legislating dancing is ridiculous.

On the record:

Mayor Bloomberg told The New York Times on February 7, 2004: "Now I don't think in this day and age we need dancing police. Let's get serious. Who cares if you dance? If you want to have a bar that has dancing, God bless you."

In 2003, Gretchen Dykstra, who was then commissioner of the Dept. of Consumer Affairs, which administers the Cabaret Laws, said, "[Nightlife establishments] have to expend resources and energy telling people not to dance. They don't have any community problems, they don't have violations.But people can't shake their booties. And that strikes us as a little odd."

New York City Council Member Alan Gerson, who represents Lower Manhattan, told the Times in 2003, "The [Cabaret] laws are an indirect and inefficient way to regulate noise. At worst they are a ridiculous regulation of a legitimate form of expression. We are regulating the wrong thing."

Contact info:

To further discuss the court case, contact:
Professor Paul Chevigny, 212.998.6249,; or
Legalize Dancing NYC co-founders:
Eric Demby, 917.579.7435
Andy Gensler, 917.686.5224
Adam Shore, 917.513.3452

For additional information about the Cabaret Laws, go to

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

New music trendz

A few new musical styles, courtesy of the Eno mailing list:
  • Theremin Funkabilly
  • Death Oompah
  • Grindbop
And I'm still waiting for ambient drillcore to catch on... Let me know if I've missed any others.

RIP CBGB's Freestyle Jazz & Rashid (Sun Ra)

As of now, the Freestyle Jazz nights at CBGB's are history, as the club itself may be soon despite some benefit shows. When Dee Pop came to the stage to make the introduce the bands for the final night on Sunday, there were some sad groans and moans from the crowd but he didn't want to hear any of that. This was still a celebration, he insisted, not just of the people there but of this marginalized music and the home that it had there. Though a four-hour drive earlier that day meant I didn't have the energy to stay long, it was indeed a celebration. Not just seeing Roy Campbell, Joe Morris, Sabir Mateen and others on stage but the collection of people boisterously chatting each other up at the other end of the club. Normally, such distractions would be annoying but here, old friends were enjoying the moment, maybe wondering where and when they'll be able to gather like this again (hopefully before the next Vision Festival in spring '06).

Another sad jazz goodbye to report, courtesy of Gary Smoke. "Manuel Palanque aka Rashid passed away over the weekend. He used to play trumpet for Sun Ra. Manny worked for me and was one of my closest friends. He got sick after work on Thursday evening and was taken from the subway to LI College Hospital. He fell into a coma and died on Sunday. Please notify anyone who may know Manny and feel free to share my e-mail address with them."