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Aug
30

Developer Willing to Work with Institution to Preserve Studio ‘A’

August 30, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  2 Comments

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Friday (8-29) evening, local internet traffic in Nashville buzzed with the news that the recent buyer of the city’s historic Studio ‘A’ building had concluded an assessment of the building and decided that bulldozing would be a more cost-effective fate for the building compared to renovations. Bravo Development pulled the West Wing tactic of releasing the information on a Friday afternoon in hopes the news would blend into the background by Monday morning, but Adam Gold writing for The Nashville Scene brought to light the press release from PR firm Seigenthaler Public Relations, as well as an open letter from Bravo Development’s Tim Reynolds.

In both the press release and Mr. Reynolds’ letter, we’re told what we’ve already known for months—that the building was in disrepair, not up to code, and the most cost-effective solution would be to demolish it and start over. This same assessment had already been made preliminarily earlier this month, and the condition of the building was at the heart of why Studio ‘A’ caretaker Ben Folds freaked out when news of the building being sold very first broke. The building that houses Studio ‘A’ and a wing full of offices has bad HVAC issues, has to be brought up to Disabilities Act code, and the cost of such repairs is not worth what any owner can recoup in rent of the building’s spaces.

But not all is alarmist about what was included in the Bravo Development’s statements, despite it being characterized as a virtual death knell for Studio ‘A’ by many. The 20,000-square-foot building at 30 Music Square West was never going to be renovated by a development company or commercial buyer. The only solution to save Studio ‘A’ has been, and continues to be to find and public or private institution that sees the cultural value in the building, not just the commercial value, and that can manage and preserve the space free of strict commercial concerns.

In the statement from Bravo Development’s PR Firm, they state,

Reynolds has approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under Bravo Development’s ownership. He hopes to have further information on that front in the coming days. He is also looking at ways to commemorate the Studio’s history as part of any development.

In the Tim Reynolds open letter, he states,

We have approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under our ownership. We hope to have positive news to report about those conversations in the coming days.

There is no question many legendary studio recordings came to life within the walls of Studio A and that those performances are worthy of commemoration; as such, our architects, advisors and designers are confident that there are many creative ways to memorialize these events. Again, we know there are many people who share our appreciation for Nashville’s music-rich history. We want to take the right “next step” with this property with careful consideration of its current condition and limitations.

Whether Tim Reynolds is just telling preservationists what they want to hear or is truly soliciting public institutions to find a new caretaker for the building, this was always the most logical next step in the fight to preserve Studio ‘A’.

As Saving Country Music pointed out in August 6th in an article entitled “What About A Public Or Private Institution Purchasing Studio ‘A’?

Any developer whose plans are simply concerned with the bottom line highest valuation for the asset would likely not be interested in renovation…So who might look to take on Studio ‘A’ simply for the spirit of preserving the landmark, while still getting some functionality out of the existing space? It would have to be a not-for-profit, or a public or private institution not concerned with bottom-line financial outcomes, beyond making a sound investment on a piece of property in a desirable location. And it would have to be someone with the financial resources to purchase it.

Luckily there is precedent for public institutions taking over Music Row properties, and being very successful in that pursuit. Music Row’s Studio ‘B’ on virtually the same piece of property as 30 Music Square West is owned by the Country Music Hall of Fame and is on the National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places. It is co-operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame, who gives guided tours of the studio daily, and another private institution, Belmont University. This partnership has resulted in both the preservation of the site, and the continued use and profit from it as a Music Row institution.

There is another example of an institution purchasing a historic Music Row property that is much more recent, and much more relative to the situation with Studio ‘A’ since the studio will never be donated by its current owners like Studio ‘B’ was. In early July, Vanderbilt University purchased Sony’s century-old office on Music Row for $12.1 million. Vanderbilt was currently occupying 27,000 square feet of space in the building, and when it was put up for sale by Sony, who intends to move to Nashville’s “Gulch” area a couple of miles from its current location, the purchase made sense. Vanderbilt’s close proximity to Music Row made the logistics of the sale feasible, and just like Belmont University, who has numerous co-inhabited properties with Curb Records on Music Row, the university sees the Music Row campus as a natural extension of its borders and interest.

Though there is no good news in the Studio ‘A’ assessment by Bravo Development and Tim Reynolds, there is nothing here that is unexpected. And though some would like to think Tim Reynolds is going back on his word, from the very beginning Reynolds said, “We are now in the early stages of the engineer work and architectural work, but if that can be achieved, we will incorporate that studio and preserve it.”

READ: As It Is With Nashville’s Historic Places, So Should It Be w/ Music

The fight to save Studio ‘A’ is far from over, and the studio very well may still meet its demise. But now it is on the right track to the only possible solution that was ever out there in the first place: finding a new owner with a preservationist’s heart. Studio ‘A’ preservationists should join Bravo Development in the search for an altruistic owner, and make sure that Bravo is doing their due diligence in approaching Belmont, Venderbilt, Mike Curb, Scott Borchetta, The Country Music Hall of Fame, and other Music Row movers and shakers who might be in a position to do right by the Studio ‘A’ space’s historic significance.

Open Letter from Tim Reynolds of Bravo Development:

August 29, 2014

Over the past few months, there has been much public discussion surrounding cultural preservation concerns in Nashville, TN and more specifically, Music Row. As you are aware, last month Bravo Development LLC purchased 30 Music Square West – within which RCA Studio A is located. Our purchase has sparked a public debate on the potential preservation of the entire Music Row neighborhood.

We care a great deal about the history of Nashville and recognize the extent to which all corners of this city have served as songwriting inspiration, settings for landmark recordings, and performance venues over the long history of Country Music. The broader question at hand is how to best preserve that history while protecting the rights of property owners and recognizing Nashville’s evolving business climate.

We understand the property that we purchased was offered for sale for over a decade. The building was built in 1963 and is now in a visibly obvious, compromised state of repair. At the same time, Music Row, Downtown, The “Gulch”, Midtown and the like continue to attract the newest and most creative commercial and residential property offerings in our metropolitan area. Due to the age and condition of 30 Music Square West, management has and continues to face ongoing challenges leasing the property in this competitive marketplace. Based on these co-existing conditions, the building is no longer economically viable “as it is.”

We are in the business of identifying and studying the current use, adaptive re-use and the re-development of under-utilized or under-valued real estate. As such, we have and continue to work with most qualified professionals in exploring the architectural, structural, mechanical and aesthetic suitability of a building within the context of its local competitive market. We have been especially diligent with our analysis of 30 Music Square West and have engaged qualified professionals to thoroughly evaluate the building in its present condition. Now, with the results of those assessments in hand, we will consider all options regarding the best use of this property.

We have approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under our ownership. We hope to have positive news to report about those conversations in the coming days.

There is no question many legendary studio recordings came to life within the walls of Studio A and that those performances are worthy of commemoration; as such, our architects, advisors and designers are confident that there are many creative ways to memorialize these events. Again, we know there are many people who share our appreciation for Nashville’s music-rich history. We want to take the right “next step” with this property with careful consideration of its current condition and limitations.

Respectfully,
Tim Reynolds
Bravo Development, LLC

Sturgill Simpson Performing in Studio ‘A’:

Aug
6

What About A Public Or Private Institution Purchasing Studio ‘A’?

August 6, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  3 Comments

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Now that the building that houses the historic Studio ‘A’ on Music Row in Nashville has been sold to Brentwood, TN-based real estate company Bravo Development, the next question is what moves do preservationists have in the playbook to help save the landmark? Ben Folds, the current renter of the studio, and someone who has spent over $1 million on the space in the last dozen years in both rent and renovations, says he is being forced out of the building because of a 124% rent increase. Bravo Development says the building is in poor shape, citing asbestos, bad plumbing and wiring, a leaky roof, and mold in the air ducts. And despite Bravo’s promises to Ben Folds that it was always in their plans to save the historic studio if it was architecturally feasible (even if they tore the rest of the building down), as soon as the company gained possession of the building they immediately put it back up for sale to whichever new developer is willing to pay their price. Saving Studio ‘A’ from the wrecking ball continues to get more complicated by the day.

Preservationists are trying to get the city to grant a zoning overlay on 30 Music Square West and many of Music Row’s other historic landmarks, but there is push back from wealthy developers and some of the property owners on Music Row not wanting to jeopardize future real estate profits by succumbing to such financially cumbersome restrictions. Though there is a lot of popularity for preserving Music Row’s landmarks in the community, it is not a given that saving Studio ‘A’ can be accomplished through the City of Nashville.

So now the question is, who, if anyone, would be in a position to purchase the property with the intent of preserving the Studio ‘A’ space, and potentially the building it occupies? As Bravo Development has stated, the building is in poor shape. All indications are that financially, the most feasible move for most any developer would be to demolish the building and build on the property footprint.

One of the problems in the fight to save Studio ‘A’ is that aside from the studio occupying part of the building, the building itself is not necessarily historic, or attractive, or architecturally significant. We are not talking about a turn of the century structure like the Ryman Auditorium with its regal exterior, or Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church with its Egyptian Revival style. 30 Music Square West was built in 1964 and has a very utilitarian, austere presence indicative of mid-century modern architecture. In other words, it’s a big rectangular box with little ornamentation or imagination. It’s one part offices, one part large-scale studio, with a row of windows along half of it’s horizontal front face, and a mostly brick exterior with some stone thrown in to break the starkness. Compared to the buildings that surround the property, it is fairly nondescript, if not outdated, without being old enough to be called classic. Add on top the other infrastructural and environmental problems with the building, and the outlook is not particularly rosy.

That doesn’t mean that the building, or Studio ‘A’, couldn’t be preserved, the building renovated, and the property beautified by the right owner. But it would take an institution just as interested in preserving the historic space as they are being financially smart about how to craft a sustainable future for the property. Any developer whose plans are simply concerned with the bottom line highest valuation for the asset would likely not be interested in renovation. One of the reasons the building might be in the condition it is in is because the previous owners—the estates of Chet Atkins and Owen Bradly—didn’t see the point in putting more money into a doomed building. That also might be the reason the property was up for sale for so long without finding a buyer, until Nashville’s current boom got so big, developers started looking to gobble up any assets they could.

So who might look to take on Studio ‘A’ simply for the spirit of preserving the landmark, while still getting some functionality out of the existing space? It would have to be a not-for-profit, or a public or private institution not concerned with bottom-line financial outcomes, beyond making a sound investment on a piece of property in a desirable location. And it would have to be someone with the financial resources to purchase it.

RCA Studio 'B'

RCA Studio ‘B’

Luckily there is precedent for public institutions taking over Music Row properties, and being very successful in that pursuit. Music Row’s Studio ‘B’ on virtually the same piece of property as 30 Music Square West is owned by the Country Music Hall of Fame and is on the National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places. It is co-operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame, who gives guided tours of the studio daily, and another private institution, Belmont University. This partnership has resulted in both the preservation of the site, and the continued use and profit from it as a Music Row institution. Of course, it helped that the studio and land were donated by previous Studio ‘B’ owner Dan Maddox in 1992, but despite the profit potential of the property, preservation prevailed and not at the complete expense of financial return. The Studio ‘B’ building is not particularly architecturally impressive or significant either, and Studio ‘A’ and Studio ‘B’ are virtually connected, making the ability to manage the studio or conduct tours between the two properties by the Country Music Hall of Fame or someone else fairly easy.

The Country Music Hall of Fame also has the resources to raise the cash to fund the acquisition. Keith Urban, who has headlined numerous concerts for the Hall of Fame that have netted millions and helped pay for a recent $100 million expansion on the Hall of Fame, has already lent his voice to Studio ‘A’ preservation. Taylor Swift also recently gave a large sum to the Hall of Fame. Like Studio ‘B’, Studio ‘A’ could continue to function as a studio, while tours could help buffer the overall income environment for the building. The Country Music Hall of Fame could also use the offices for accounting and other tasks that don’t need to be housed at the Hall itself, or open up a Music Row museum as an annex to the Hall and the studios proper.

There is another example of an institution purchasing a historic Music Row property that is much more recent, and much more relative to the situation with Studio ‘A’ since the studio will never be donated by its current owners like Studio ‘B’ was. In early July, Vanderbilt University purchased Sony’s century-old office on Music Row for $12.1 million. Vanderbilt was currently occupying 27,000 square feet of space in the building, and when it was put up for sale by Sony, who intends to move to Nashville’s “Gulch” area a couple of miles from its current location, the purchase made sense. Vanderbilt’s close proximity to Music Row made the logistics of the sale feasible, and just like Belmont University, who has numerous co-inhabited properties with Curb Records on Music Row, the university sees the Music Row campus as a natural extension of its borders and interest.

Even if a new buyer for 30 Music Square West makes promises of preserving the historic Studio ‘A’ space, and even if new zoning restrictions kick in from the City of Nashville, minds can chance, and so can ordinances. If an institution like The Country Music Hall of Fame, or Belmont or Vanderbilt University, The City of Nashville itself, or some large entrepreneurial spirit with an established footprint on Music Row such as Mike Curb or Scott Borchetta could buy the property, it seems like this would be the best option to see the long-term preservation of Studio ‘A’. Out on the open market with investors and developers dealing in the future of the property, most indicators point to the historic studio being doomed.


30 Music Square West (Studio ‘A’ Building):

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Studio ‘B’ Building on Left (lighter exterior), Studio ‘A’ on Right

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Inside of Studio ‘A’

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Aug
1

Ben Folds Being Forced Out Of Historic Studio ‘A’

August 1, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  8 Comments

ben-foldsThe saga to save Nashville’s historic Studio ‘A’ and other Music Row landmarks sees another setback as Ben Folds says he’s being forced out of the space he’s spent over a decade renting and spent over $1 million on in rent and renovations. Because of raised rent of 124% from the new ownership, Ben Folds says he’s planning to vacate Studio ‘A’ by November. The building that resides at 30 Music Square West was officially sold on Monday (7-28) to Bravo Development, who immediately put the building back up for sale to other potential developers, and raised rents across the board for all the building’s tenants, including Ben Folds, and country artist Jamey Johnson.

Bravo Development’s assessment of the building is bleak, citing asbestos, bad plumbing and wiring, a leaky roof, and mold in the ducts. Though Bravo said initially it was their intention to attempt to preserve this historic studio even if the rest of the building was to be razed, they’re now saying their main intention is to resell the property as soon as possible to someone else. Bravo stated right after the sale went through that increased rent to the building’s tenants was on the way.

The fight to save Studio ‘A’ is very much a centerpiece in the preservation fight for many of Nashville’s historic places as development encroaches on many of the city’s cultural districts, including Music Row where Studio ‘A’ is located.

READ: As It Is With Nashville’s Historic Places, So Should It Be with Music

Studio ‘A’ was built in 1964 by Chet Atkins, and was originally called “RCA Victor Nashville Sound Studio.” It was built was to have a big enough studio space to record the string instrumentation that found itself onto many of the country music recordings of the time. It has since been used for many legendary recordings in country music and many other genres.

You can find the entirety of Ben Folds’ statement below.

Dear All,

After closing on the purchase of 30 Music Square West, home of historic RCA Studio A (of which I’ve been tenant for 12 years) Tim Reyholds of Bravo Development in Brentwood TN has just informed us that our rent will be raised 124%. Haha, okay Tim, we got it, and we’re moving out as soon as our current lease runs out. That means we will be there until end of November. He is on public record saying he will not demolish the building, though I’m not sure how any studio owner could make bottom line with rent that high.

We have and will continue to send investors and planners his way who have ideas on how to both preserve the space, keep the studio working and make everyone the money they want. I will continue to raise public awareness of the grand history of Music Row that is threatened by hasty development. Today we did Morning Joe and an NPR segment on 360 will also air soon – many more outlets to come. My hope is that all our efforts have given us a moment to pause and consider how Nashville might continue to grow, while also retaining the identity and culture that has made it Music City.

Since the rally was held at the studio on June 30, a group called Music Industry Coalition has formed, elected a Board, begun filing its official papers with the state, fashioned a mission statement and collected over 1500 members. Their mission is to give the working folks in the music industry a voice and to work with city officials on a plan for Music Row that allows our music culture to co-exist with new growth. I will continue to help them in any way I can.

Yeah, I’m sad personally, but I had a good decade plus run and will be recording as much of my new album as I can there before November, including with the absolutely incredible sextet yMusic from New York. The Nashville Symphony and I recorded my Concerto For Piano and Orchestra there recently. What other studio can handle 80-piece orchestras in one take?

This whole #SaveStudioA and #SaveMusicRow thing was never about me (or the former owners or Tim Reynolds) and that’s why the issue has resonated with people here and around the world who are concerned about retaining Nashville’s identity, culture and music economy. Thanks for reading, and for the concern and effort! It’s working. That’s all I got to say.

Ben

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Jul
6

Independent Labels Back Down YouTube in Rights Fight

July 6, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  6 Comments

youtubeThree weeks ago, YouTube and its parent company Google started a dangerous game of brinksmanship with the independent music world. YouTube required that indies adhere to obtrusive demands for rights to use their music as part of YouTube’s upcoming streaming service, or be faced with extinction from the YouTube format entirely, including the current free YouTube site. That’s right, even big stars on independent labels such as Jack White and Adele would vanish. The thought of this sent the independent music world into a tizzy, and despite YouTube claiming their streaming launch and the subsequent eradication of many independent artists on their site was set to transpire “in a matter of days,” it never did.

Amid the blow back YouTube was experiencing from fans, artists, and labels, they are now second guessing their strategy. In this high stakes game of music streaming chicken, the independents won, at least for now, as YouTube and Google executives head back to the drawing board and negotiating table to hammer out how to include everyone in the new service.

According to the Financial Times, YouTube has postponed their controversial plan to block independent music that has not signed deals, and give more time for negotiations. “They’re back-flipping and backtracking,” is the way one member of the independent label community put it, though it’s entirely possible that some labels and artists could still be blocked if consensus is not met in the future.

One of the problems for YouTube was the matter became a legal one. A trade body representing independent labels called Impala filed a formal complaint with European trade regulators, claiming YouTube’s move to block indies was unfair and discriminatory. Europe’s antitrust chief Joaquín Almunia made it known on Monday that he could look into the YouTube matter if the company used its dominance of the online video marketplace to abuse independent labels. Many of the independents that could get hosed in the YouTube deal are from Europe, including XL Recordings, home of Adele and the Arctic Monkeys.

The primary sticking points to why some independent labels refuse to sign to YouTube’s rights deals are:

  • YouTube is paying out even less than Spotify and Pandora pay, which has already caused much consternation in the music community. Spotify pays out roughly 70% of revenue, while YouTube is looking at 65.5%.
  • YouTube only wants to pay content providers when there are ads tied to the song play, instead of each play like exists for Spotify and others. In other words, if you don’t see an ad as part of the YouTube video, there is no payout to the label, publisher, or artist. YouTube argues they don’t want to put ads on every song, because this discourages people from watching and listening.
  • A “most favored nation” clause in the proposed agreements puts independent labels at an unfair disadvantage compared to major labels. Long story short, if the major labels agree to lesser percentages for payouts (below the already industry low 65.5%), then independent labels immediately get docked down to the lower percentage as well.
  • Some independent labels feel there’s already too many hands in the music streaming game, and YouTube’s entrance into the marketplace will only par down earnings even more because of streaming services’ payout structures.

Some experts surmise that YouTube never had any intention of pulling independent music content off the site, and it was simply a scare tactic to get more independent labels to sign up. In some instances, it may have worked. According to YouTube, it is only about 5% of the music currently on the site that has yet to sign agreements, though others contend it’s more.

The fight to keep independent music on YouTube is not over, but for the moment the crisis has been averted. Meanwhile YouTube and Google remain very antsy to launch their streaming service amidst the rapid boom in the streaming market and the continued abandonment of physical formats and even MP3′s, evidenced in the music sales numbers for the first half of 2014. YouTube has been pushy because they feel like they are rapidly losing market share, and need to enter the streaming game soon.

Jun
25

Independent Music Makes Its Case to Congress

June 25, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  21 Comments

rosanne-cashThe desire for virtually all of America’s largest media companies to get into the business of music streaming in some capacity or another has potentially created the biggest strain on the music economy, and especially the independent music economy, that the industry has ever seen. Amazon, and now YouTube’s attempt to gain a market advantage against its competitors by paying out rates that are even less than the measly rates streamers like Spotify and Pandora pay out already has now created a fractured situation where some artists are not included on these formats, and YouTube has threatened to lock out all music from independent artists and labels who refuse to sign up for their anemic royalty rates.

There is no economic basis for these streaming services. They are getting into the business because of peer pressure, and because they feel they need to have a music streaming arm to partner with wireless providers such as AT&T and Verizon, and to be viable on mobile devices. Nobody is making any money however, not the artists, not the industry, and not the providers. It is all predicated off of a cheap or free model to entice consumers to the provider’s subscription rolls in order to monetize that presence in the future with cross-promotional opportunities.

READ: Look This Is The Deal With Independent Music Getting Pulled from YouTube

On Wednesday, The United States House of Representatives’ House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet took up the issue in an open hearing, specifically taking up the matter of music licensing Under Title 17 – Part 2 of the current law. Multiple members of the independent music community came to testify, including Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, who listed her grievances to the hearing in a prepared statement.

Rosanne told the committee:

…To me as a singer/songwriter, a recording artist, and a participant in many other parts of the music business it seems painfully obvious that all creative people deserve fair compensation when their work is used by others For various reasons, that does not seem to be happening in the marketplace today, and we need a realignment

I have been publicly critical about the payment structures streaming services currently offer artists. For example, for an 18 month period, there were nearly 600,000 streams of my songs on a popular subscription site. I was paid $114.00 for those streams. I am not a lawyer or a politician or a policy wonk, and I couldn’t begin to parse the incredibly complex, outdated, pre-­‐Internet laws regarding licensing and copyrights but I CAN tell you that I see young musicians give up their dreams Every Single Day because they cannot make a living, they cannot survive doing the thing they most love, the thing they just might be on the planet to do.

There are three main points of contention Rosanne laid out to the committee about the current law:

  • The lack of a public performance right for terrestrial radio play for sound recording artists.
  • Issues concerning how rates are set for compulsory and collective licenses songwriters offer for their work.
  • The lack of federal copyright protection for pre-­‐‘72 sound recordings.

Also testifying today was Darius Van Arman, the co-owner of Secretly Group, an Indiana-based independent label group. Van Arman also serves on the boards of A2IM, SoundExchange and Merlin. A2IM and Merlin are organizations made up of independent labels and artists banded together to attempt to advocate and negotiate globally with bigger institutions over rights. In an editorial posted prior to his Congressional testimony, Van Arman spelled out how independents are currently getting the short end of the stick.

American independent labels want nothing more than a free market with a level playing field. But one thing is standing in our way: market concentration. Big companies are using their power and accumulated resources to take what is not fairly due to them, to the detriment of independent labels, artist creators and songwriting interests. So when Congress reviews the state of music licensing and considers any remedies or revisions to copyright law, it should take great care not to replace our current licensing system with one that is more privately controlled, that leads to more market concentration, or that diminishes the fair and equitable compensation of creators.

Twenty-five years ago, there were six major labels in the recorded music market in the United States. Today, just three companies exist, comprising 65.4% of the recorded music sales market in the United States, based on copyright ownership. These three major recording companies control an even higher percentage of the total market share of U.S. music distribution. Using their concentrated market clout, these large recording companies have become proficient at extracting more than their fair share of copyright-related revenue from the marketplace. They hold up digital services for big, lump-sum payments — whether they are in the form of advances or guarantees — that well exceed what they expect to earn via royalty rates…..

In the end, all the independent sector wants is a free market with a level playing field. We want to compete, to provide the economic growth and job creation that our American economy needs. Is that asking for too much?

Though the copyright-related revenue issues have been a big burden on the music industry for a long time, the Congressional hearing couldn’t be any more timely. YouTube is reportedly days, maybe hours away from launching their new streaming format that would stamp out a large percentage of independent music on the service, making an even more uneven playing field for independents. Music, especially independent music, is on the brink of losing any economic viability it has left, and revisions to Title 17 – Part 2 of the current law may be the only way to save it.

Jun
24

Ben Folds Is Trying to Save Nashville’s Historic Studio ‘A’

June 24, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  3 Comments

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***UPDATE (8-1):

Ben Folds is being forced out of the Studio ‘A’ space because of increased rents.

READ THE FULL UPDATE

***UPDATE (6-27):

Developer Tim Reynolds of Bravo Development has told The Nashville Scene that they have no intention of demolishing Studio ‘A’.

“We’re glad to [say] that if Bravo Development consummates its sale, it is our full intention to preserve and incorporate the studio into our design,” says Reynolds. “We are now in the early stages of the engineer work and architectural work, but if that can be achieved, we will incorporate that studio and preserve it … It was always part of the plan.” 

“All I can say is that this speaks volumes about the character of Mr. Reynolds and demonstrates an appreciation and respect for our city’s great music heritage,” says Ben Folds. “Thank you Mr. Reynolds. I look forward to learning more about the studio’s ultimate fate, and will pass along any further information I receive.”

***END UPDATE

Singer, songwriter, and record producer Ben Folds is trying to save what is arguably the most important, and most historic studio in the history of country music. RCA’s famed “Studio ‘A’” located on Music Row in Nashville is where many of country music’s finest classic records were recorded by a dizzying list of the genre’s stars. Many important albums from noteworthy artists outside of the country also recorded in Studio ‘A’ over the years. It is the epicenter of the classic sound of country music.

The studio’s sister studio, “Studio ‘B’” is currently operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame, and has been preserved as a landmark. But according to Ben Folds, Studio ‘A’ is in jeopardy. The studio has been owned by the descendants of Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley—the architects of ‘The Nashville Sound”—and has been rented by Ben Folds for the last 12 years. But the property where Studio ‘A’ is located is set to be sold to Brentwood, TN-based commercial development company Bravo Development. Though the plans of Bravo for the building have not been made public, Ben Folds is concerned this could be the end of the historic studio.

Studio ‘A’ was built in 1964 by Chet Atkins, and was originally called “RCA Victor Nashville Sound Studio.” It is located at 30 Music Square West on Music Row.

Ben Folds has penned an impassioned public letter, letting people know of the sale of Studio ‘A’, hoping to engage the public in an effort to keep the studio open, and help make it a landmark for music fans. You can find the entirety of Ben’s open letter below.


ben-foldsDear Nashville,

Last week, on the day that would have been Chet Atkins’ 90th birthday (June 20, 1924), my office received news that the historic RCA Building on Music Row is set to be sold. This building, with the historic Studio A as its centerpiece, was Atkins’ and Owen Bradley’s vision and baby, and had become home to the largest classic recording space in Nashville. Word is that the prospective buyer is a Brentwood TN-based commercial development company called Bravo Development owned and operated by Tim Reynolds. We don’t know what this will mean to the future of the building.

First off, kudos to the estates and descendants of Atkins and Bradley for doing their best to keep the building alive. They’ve owned the property all these years and could have at any point closed it up or mowed it down. Sadly, it’s what happens in the name of progress. Studio A, which turns 50 years old next year, has a rich history.

Here are just some of the artists who have made hits here:
Peter Bradley Adams, Gary Allan, Brent Anderson, Anika, Arlis Albritton, Asleep at the Wheel, Sara Bareilles, The Beach Boys, Ben Folds Five, Tony Bennett, Amy Black, Jason Blaine, Blind Boys of Alabama, Joe Bonamassa, Wade Bowen, Eden Brent, Jim Brickman, The Brothers Osborne, Rachel Bradshaw, Brentwood Benson, David Bullock, Laura Bell Bundy, Ken Burns, The Canadian Tenors, The City Harmonic, Steven Curtis Chapman, Chocolate Horse, Brandy Clark, Brent Cobb, Jesse Colter, Elizabeth Cook, Wayne Coyne, Margaret Cho, Billy Currington, Matt Dame, Danae, Ilse DeLange, Rebecca de la Torre, Steve Earle, ESPN, Jace Everett, The Fabulous Headliners, Dani Flowers, Danny Flowers, Ben Folds, Colt Ford, The Frog Sessions, Eleanor Fye, Cami Gallardo, Billy Gibbons, Sarah Gibson, Vince Gill, Alyssa Graham, Peter Groenwald, Harlan Pepper, Harper Blynn, Connie Harrington, Hunter Hayes, John Hiatt, Faith Hill, JT Hodges, Adam Hood, James House, Sierra Hull, Alan Jackson, Joe Jackson, Casey James, Jenny Jarnigan, Jewel, Jamey Johnson, Josh Jones, Kristin Kelly, KESHA, Anna Krantz, Ben Kweller, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Sonny Landreth, Samatha Landrum, Mark Lanigan, Stoney LaRue, Jim Lauderdale, Frank Liddell, LIfeway, Meagan Lindsey, Longmont All Stars Jazz Band, Lyle Lovette, Luella and the Sun, Tayla Lynn, Amanda Palmer, John Pardi, Rich Parkinson, Alan Parson, Charlie Pate, Kellie Pickler, Pistol Annies, Pretty Lights, Mike Posner, Sean McConnell, Scotty McCreery, Kate Miller Heidke, Ronnie Milsap, Miss Willie Brown, Danny Mitchell, Allison Moorer, Kacey Musgraves, Musiq Soulchild, David Nail, the Nashville Symphony, Jerrod Neimann, Willie Nelson, Joe Nichols, Sierra Noble, Natalie Noone, The Oakridge Boys, Jake Owen, Rainfall, Johnny Reid, Thomas Rhett, Lionel Richie, The Robertson Family, Henry Rollins, Shannon Sanders, Jader Santos, Alejando Sanz, Mondo Saez, Kate Schrock, Bob Seger, Sera B., Brian Setzer, Nikki Shannon, William Shatner, SHEDaisy, Jordyn Shellart, Joel Shewmake, Sleeping With Sirens, Jake Shimabukuro, Mike Shipp, Kevin Shirley, Anthony Smith, Joanna Smith, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Chelsea Staling, Steel Magnolia, Tate Stevens, Jay Stocker, Rayburn, RED, RockIt City, Jeff Taylor, Justin Towns Earle, Josh Thompson, Those Darlins, Josh Turner, Bonnie Tyler, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Ben Utecht, Phil Vassar, Venus and the Moon, Andy Victor, Amanda Watkins, Chuck Wicks, Hank Williams Jr., Williamson Country Youth Orchesta, Alicia Witt, Lee Ann Womack, Word Entertainment and Charlie Worsham.

I had no idea of the extent of legacy of this great studio until I become the tenant of the space 12 years ago. Most of us know about Studio B. Studio A was its grander younger sibling, erected by Atkins when he became an RCA executive. The result was an orchestral room built to record strings for Elvis Presley and to entice international stars to record in one of these four Putnam-designed RCA spaces in the world. The other three RCA studios of the same dimensions – built in LA, Chicago and New York – have long since been shut down. I can’t tell you how many engineers, producers and musicians have walked into this space to share their stories of the great classic recorded music made here that put Nashville on the map. I’ve heard tales of audio engineers who would roller skate around the room waiting for Elvis to show up at some point in the weeks he booked, stories about how Eddy Arnold recording one of the first sessions in the room and one of the songs was “Make The World Go Away,” Dolly Parton (Jolene) and The Monkees recorded here, and so on. Legendary songwriter John D. Loudermilk and his bride were serenaded by a session orchestra hired by Atkins who were recording here for an artist. He recalled that they danced all the way to the loading doors and into their limo, reminiscing about the beautiful floor tiles which still line the entire space. He co-wrote countless numbers of songs with Atkins and many others in this studio.

To this day, Studio A remains a viable, relevant and vibrant space. In recent years these artists and filmmakers have recorded or worked here, to name a few:

Sara Bareilles, William Shatner, Kacey Musgraves, Ken Burns, Kesha, The Beach Boys, Wayne Cohen, Tony Bennett, Willie Nelson, Kellie Pickler, Hunter Hayes, Charlie Worsham, David Nail, Jamey Johnson, Joe Bonamassa, Word Music, Gary Allan, me and Ben Folds Five.

While we Nashvillians can feel proud about the overall economic progress and prosperity we’re enjoying, we know it’s not always so kind to historical spaces, or to the legacy and foundation upon which that prosperity was built.

My motivation for spending over a million dollars in rent and renovations over these past 12 years was simple. I could have built my own space of the same dimensions with that kind of investment. But I’m a musician with no interest in development or business in general. I only want to make music in this historic space, and allow others to do the same. I’ve recorded all over the world and I can say emphatically that here’s no recording space like it anywhere on the planet. These studio walls were born to ring with music. I just wanted to keep it alive.

Before the news of the sale I had been in recent talks with other entities on how we could collaborate on allowing visitors to Music City to see the space firsthand and hear its rich history, while also making sure that it stays busy making music history of tomorrow. No one can say now what will become of that idea.

Selfishly I’d love to remain the tenant and caretaker of this amazing studio space. I love it dearly. But if I must let it go in the interest of change, my only hope is that it remain intact and alive. A couple of years ago my co-manager, Sharon Corbitt House, promised the late, great producer Phil Ramone, while he was in town recording Tony Bennett and an orchestra LIVE in this space, that she would do what she could to keep the studio doors open. Ramone had watched the former New York RCA studio transform into office space for the IRS and couldn’t bear to see the last of this incredible acoustic design fade away.

So here’s where we’re coming from. Historic RCA Studio A is too much a part of why such incredible business opportunities exist in 2014 in Nashville to simply disappear. Music City was built on the foundation of ideas, and of music. What will the Nashville of tomorrow look like if we continue to tear out the heart of the Music Row that made us who we are as a city? Ultimately, who will want to build new condos in an area that has no central community of ideas or creatives?

We are Music City-the only city in the world truly built on music.
My simple request is for Tim Reynolds or whoever the next owners might be of this property, before deciding what to do with this space, to take a moment to stand in silence between the grand walls of RCA Studio A and feel the history and the echoes of the Nashville that changed the world. I’d like to ask him and other developers to listen first hand to the stories from those among us who made the countless hit records in this studio – the artists, musicians, engineers, producers, writers who built this rich music legacy note by note, brick by brick.

I don’t know what impact my words here will have on anything. I just play piano. But I felt the need to share, and to encourage others who also care about preserving our music heritage to speak up as well.

I believe that progress and heritage can co-exist in mutual respect. Maybe this time we can at least try to make the effort.

Yours,
Ben Folds

 

Jun
9

Larry & His Flask Have Van & Gear Stolen – UPDATED

June 9, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  6 Comments

larry-and-his-flask

Bend, Oregon-based roots band Larry & His Flask had their van and trailer with all of their musical gear and many personal possessions stolen in Cayce, South Carolina, just south of Columbia, on Saturday, June 7th after playing a show at the New Brookland Tavern in Columbia. The theft happened at the Riverside Inn at roughly 4 AM in the morning after the band had gone to sleep. The theft left the band stranded and without instruments while in the midst of a tour with Foxy Shazam with 16 more dates to play on the tour.

The van was later found in a nearby county, though the trailer and all the personal contents of the van were gone. The van was damaged in the theft as well, including the ignition key cylinder that the thieves destroyed to steal the van. A similar string of thefts where the crooks steal a van and trailer to take the contents and ditch the van have plagued the area recently. Larry & His Flask were able to get the van repaired and back on the road to play a show Monday night at The Culture Room in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but they are still out all of all of their gear, merchandise, and many personal possessions.

larry-and-his-flask-vanThough police in South Carolina are saying the chances are slim that any of Larry & His Flask’s gear or possessions will ever be found, the band is asking people to be on the lookout for their gear (see a complete list below, which will be updated when more information is available). They are also taking donations through paypal, which concerned fans can send to larry and his flask at gmail dot com.

“We are barely able to express adequately how thoroughly bowled over we are at the unbelievable kindness of so many of you,” the band posted on their Facebook page. “Strangers as well as friends, from near and from far far away. Our minds are blown, they really are. Our belief in the innate goodness of humanity was seriously kicked in the butt on Saturday when the theft went down, but since then the extreme generosity, incredible words of support and abiding love from so many of you has turned an utterly demoralizing situation into something that while bitter is also bearable, something that we feel pretty sure we’ll be able to move on from and keep on carrying on doing what we do best, which is play and make music for all of you.”

As and updates come in about the band’s gear, they will be posted here.

Stolen Gear to Look Out For:

King trombone
Holton trumpet
1952 olds baritone horn
Pbone trombone
Palomino upright bass
2 Deering good time banjos
SJC Custom Drums drum kit
Phil Jones 1200 bass amp
2 Godin 5th ave. guitars
2 Breedlove Guitars acoustic guitar
Ampeg 6 by 10 bass
Carvin 600 bass amp
3 venue DI’s
Fender Guitar blues junior
Camp gear
A ton of Larry and His Flask merch (tshirts mainly)
Skateboards
Nikon d-50 camera
3 Sennheiser USA wireless systems
2 summit audio tla 50
DBX 1231 dual 31 band eq
BBE 4821 sonic maximizer
@Gator rock case

May
11

Mike & The Moonpies Van & Gear Stolen in Dallas

May 11, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  9 Comments

Mike and the Moonpies, a staple of the Austin Honky Tonk circuit, had their van , trailer, instruments, and gear all stolen sometime Sunday morning, May 11th in Dallas. Folks are being asked to keep a lookout for the gear (list & pictures below), and a fund has been set up for folks who want to help the band get back on their feet.

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From Press Release:

It was 8:30, the morning after Mike and the Moonpies performed to a packed-to-the-gills room at Austin honky tonk The White Horse, when bass player Preston Rhone pounded on frontman Mike Harmeier’s front door. Less than 6 hours since they’d left a crowd of sweaty dancers and revelers breathless, the boys were back on the road. After a quick audition for a Grand Marnier commercial, they headed up the interstate to Dallas-based venue The Rustic to share the bill with their buddies, The Kernal (Tennessee). “It was a really great bookend to a weekend we’d looked forward to for a long time,” says Harmeier. “The chance to come back and play to the crowd at the place that started it all for us [The White Horse, where The Moonpies had held a popular
residency since the bar's opening week, moved on to do more touring in July 2013] and play a few shows with one of our favorite bands. It felt like it was just going to be one hell of a memorable weekend.”

Unfortunately for the 6-piece band, the memorable part was just about to take a turn for the worse. “The show at The Rustic went great and we were so exhausted from the run that we all just headed back to the hotel to crash,” recalls Harmeier. The next morning, Harmeier discovered that the band’s van and trailer, which had been parked next to The Kernal’s in the La Quinta parking lot, had vanished. “Just crushed” is how steel player Zachary Moulton described it. And just like that, one of the of the hardest working bands in country music was suddenly out nearly $25,000 in instruments, gear, personal belongings and transportation. “The hardest part was losing the sentimental pieces,” says guitar man Catlin Rutherford. Along with
his two stolen guitars and various gear was a mic stand emblazoned with the words “The Purple Sage”, a relic of his family’s now defunct Uvalde dance hall.

Friend of the band and drummer for Dale Watson Mike Bernal offered up a spare set of drums to lend. Multiple offers for
guitars, amps and pedals have been pouring in. Other bands across the country have reached out to share their experiences and monetary relief. Kevin Geil of Two Tons of Steel, who were recently set back with the loss of their own tour trailer, called to share comfort. Fans began sharing memories of the band on Facebook along with calls to action to help get the band back on their feet. “We are overwhelmed by all the support Y’all have given us,” Harmeier announced on the band’s Facebook page Sunday evening. The group has a long way to go to replace all of the equipment and locate a new van and trailer but they can rest easy knowing that the community that they have given so much to is giving back in such a big way.

***Mike & The Moonpies Stolen Gear Fund***

INSTRUMENTS
- Black Martin Acoustic Guitar w/ Tortoise Shell Headstock
- White Squier Telecaster (Clasic Vibes 50s Reissue) with Pearloid Pick Guard, Unfinished Birdseye Maple Neck, Tx Flag Sticker, Nice Chops Sticker, Mike and the Moonpies Sticker, Lone Star Beer Sticker (S/N CGS0801155)
-Natural Wood Tuskey Custom Telecaster (S/N 006) with Black Binding, Hipshot B Bender, Mustache Logo on Headstock
- Black Emmons Pedal Steel Guitar w/ Texas Flag Sticker (3×4)
- Yamaha P-90 Keyboard w/ Burns on Keys
- Nord Electro 2-73 Keyboard
- Ernie Ball Musicman SubBass Guitar w/ Natural Wood Finish
- PDP 24″ Kick Drum (Red)
- PDP 12″ Rack Tom (Red)
- PDP 16″ Floor Tom (Red)
- 14″ Snare Drum (Brown)

AMPS
- Kustom Bass Amp 500W-Head
- 6×10 Ampeg Cabinet
- Peavey Session 400 Guitar Amp w R.J. Smith written on Speaker
-2×12 Fender Cabinet
- Fender Twin Reverb Amp (S/N AC026043)
- Music Man HD212 (S/N C002562)
- Orange Micro Terror Guitar Amp in Ammo Box
- Roland KC350 Keyboard Amp
- Yorkville Blok 100 Keyboard Amp

ACCESSORIES
- Drum Hardware Case (Black, 4 wheels, metal corners) + contents (drum throne, 3 Crash Symbol Stands, Snare Stands, Legs for Floor Tom, Hi-Hat Stand)
- Iron Cobra Kick Pedal and Case (Black)
- Zildjian Hi-Hat Cymbals (Bronze)
- Zildjian Aredis 14″ Crash Cymbal (Bronze)
- Sabian Ride Cymbal (Bronze)
- Paiste Crash/Ride Cymbal (Bronze)
-Cases with all Drums (Black)
- (2) Ernie Ball Volume Pedals
- Holy Grail Reverb Pedal
- Pack-a-Seat
- Boss TU-3 Tuner Pedal
- Boss Delay/Reverb Pedal
- Boss A-B Switch
- Shur SM58 Microphone
- Polytune Chromatic Tuner Pedal
- MXR Phase 90 Pedal
- Maxon OD808 Pedal
- Stryman Flint Tremolo/Reverb Pedal
- Boss Blues Driver Pedal
- Boss Pedalboard
- Microphone Stand w/ Base Painted “Purple Sage”
- Aluminum Guitar Case with Red Interior
- Fender Grey and Black Guitar Case with Black Interior (Well Worn)
- Video Tripod Manfrotto 504 HD Fluid Head
- Video Tripod Manfrotto 546 TB LE65
- American DJ Galaxian 3D
- American DJ Galaxian 3D MKII
- American DJ COB Strobe Cannon
- (2) Large PA Stands, T-Bars
- SDC6 DMX Controller
- DMX Cables
- Audix i5 Microphone
- Radial Pro D2 (Direct Box)
- Keyboard Stand
- Folding Seat
- (2) Boss TU-2 Tunes Pedals
- (3) Microphone Stands
- Large Keeley Road Case (Merchandise Case)
- (3) Short Microphone Stands
- Ipad Mini (Engraved: ‘MDH Mike and the Moonpies”)
- $2000 Cash – See more at: http://www.youcaring.com/other/mike-and-the-moonpies-stolen-gear-fund/176761#sthash.Nhx0OPTP.dpuf

Apr
2

Justin Moore Responds to ACM Eligibility Controversy

April 2, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  16 Comments

justin-mooreOne of the big stories leading up to the Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday April 6th has been the ineligibility of Justin Moore for the New Artist of the Year award that he’s nominated for, and is considered a front runner to win. Now Justin Moore has responded to the concerns, and the issue has gone all the way to making the front page of Fox News.

“It’s really exciting for us to finally get this monkey off our back,” he told Connecticut radio station 92.5. “I feel like forever I was the coach who could win games, but not the big one. Somebody asked me the other day what I felt about being up for ‘New Artist’ and my response was “I would take ‘Female Vocalist’ if they’d give it to me.’ It sounds kind of funny, but I’m kind of a country music history buff. Throughout the history of this award, people have won it well into their careers. [Kenny] Chesney won it five, six, seven years after his first album … so it sounds a little funnier than what it historically has, who’s won it over the years, so hopefully we’re the next one in line. We’ll see.”

Read: Open Letter to ACM’s Bob Romeo On Justin Moore Eligibility

On the surface, Justin Moore is right. Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, and others have won the ACM’s New Artist of the Year award many years after the initial start of their career. But that is not what is at issue. Despite their prior years of service, Kenny Chesney and Eric Church were both still eligible by the stated rules laid out by the ACM’s voter guidelines when they were nominated and won the award. Justin Moore is not.

Justin Moore, similar to the ACM President in his response on the issue, is trying to deflect from the core of the problem. It’s not only that Justin Moore doesn’t pass the eyeball test as a “New Artist” with his first hit single “Back That Thing Up” being almost six years old, it’s that there are specific rules governing which artists are eligible for the awards so that the integrity of the awards can remain in tact and impropriety cannot creep into the system. The ACM’s rules specifically state:

Any solo artist that has sold 500,000 copies of a previously released album (with general exclusions of specialty albums, such as seasonal or live recordings) according to Nielsen SoundScan, are not eligible for this category.

Unfortunately for Justin, his name is on two separate albums that can’t jump this hurdle: His self-titled Justin Moore album released on August 11th, 2009 that has been certified gold with 550,000 copies sold, and Outlaws Like Me released on June 21st, 2011 that has been certified gold with 577,000 copies sold. Any talk of where Kenny Chesney was in his career when he won the award, or how much Justin Moore might deserve it, are irrelevant. Furthermore, the stipulations of the ACM’s rules give the ACM President and Board of Directors the ability to change the rules if they wish, but they don’t give anyone the unilateral ability to break them. The New Artist rules have yet to be amended to reflect the realities of Justin Moore’s nomination, and even more inconvenient for the ACM is the fact that they set the precedent in 2009 when they changed the rules to make Jamey Johnson eligible for Album of the Year before the nominations were announced.

Read: Why The Best Fan Vote for the ACM’s Is No Vote At All

History buff or not, Justin Moore is still ineligible, and the Academy of Country Music still refuses to do anything about it. The sad part for Justin is, none of this is Justin Moore’s fault, though he may ultimately get stuck with the blame from some fans. Justin Moore, with two gold albums under his belt, probably does deserve some recognition from these top level awards that have ignored him for years. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of the rules that are set up to make sure the ACM process is one that is governed by clear statutes, one that resides above corruption, and one that is handled with transparency.

Mar
7

Open Letter to ACM’s Bob Romeo On Justin Moore Eligibility

March 7, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  19 Comments

openletterDear Bob Romeo,

I first want to congratulate you as the President of the Academy of Country Music for the continued success of your storied institution, and your ability to extend the ACM’s as a viable and vibrant forum from which country music can be promoted to the masses in an engaging and exciting presentation that stops down America on an annual basis to celebrate what your institution deems is the best talent country music has to offer.

It is in the spirit of wanting to keep the viability and the storied nature of the ACM’s in tact that I write you to address a concern that I, as well as other country music writers and fans have voiced over the eligibility of Big Machine Records artist Justin Moore for the New Artist of the Year award at the 49th Annual awards set to transpire in a month from now.

Please don’t let it come across that I am assuming or alluding that you are not aware of your own rules, because I’m sure you are more aware of the ACM rules than anyone, but it is clearly stated in your voting criteria that artists are not eligible for the New Artist of the Year distinction if they have sold 500,000 copies of a previously released album according to Nielsen Soundscan. Unfortunately Justin Moore, one of the three remaining nominees for New Artist of the Year, has no less than two such albums that have crossed the 500,000 sales threshold: Justin Moore from 2009 with 550,000 copies sold, and Outlaws Like Me from 2011 with 577,000 copies sold, at last count.

I understand you are aware of this concern and specifically addressed it as Saving Country Music and others had asked you to do. And though your statement does help us in establishing both that the Academy of Country Music is aware of this issue, and what the official stance on this issue is by you as the President of the ACM, unfortunately it doesn’t go any further in resolving it.

You told Music Row Magazine, “This decision is in line with our criteria, and the Board’s right to be flexible in our efforts to be inclusive vs. exclusive of a young artist who has had budding success.” But unfortunately, with all due respect, the decision is not in line with your criteria, and though the decision might be inclusive of Justin Moore, it is exclusive of other artists who are indeed eligible under the Academy of Country Music’s eligibility rules that were drafted by the ACM itself.

As for “the Board’s right to be flexible,” I presume you’re referencing the provision in the voting guidelines that states, “The criteria and voting procedures are set forth by the ACM Board of Directors in accordance with the bylaws, and may be amended from time to time as the Board deems appropriate in the best interest of Country music.” However this rule only grants the Board the ability to amend the rules, not break the rules. As Saving Country Music and others have stated throughout the transpiration of this eligibility matter, the Academy of Country Music has every right to amend their own rules, and I and others have encouraged the Academy of Country Music to do so if it sees an issue with the stated criteria for the New Artist of the Year category.

But no such rules changes have been implemented. Furthermore, the Board of Directors for the Academy of Country Music set the precedent for amending rules before announcing nominees in 2009 when the amount of copies an artist must sell to be eligible for the Album of the Year category was reduced to 300,000 so that Jamey Johnson’s critically-acclaimed album That Lonesome Song could be included in the nominations. More importantly, the ACM’s also delayed the announcement of the Album of the Year nominees in 2009 while you and the Board of Directors finalized the rule change, making sure you did not violate your own rules by announcing their nominees too early.

What’s even more concerning in regards to precedent is the one that will be set if the Academy of Country Music Board of Directors unilaterally breaks its established rules instead of amending them, which will happen if the Justin Moore nomination is etched in stone by not resolving it before the awards ceremony on April 6th. Even worse could be the precedent if Justin Moore wins.

What bestows the honor behind the Academy of Country Music trophy is the prestige the ACM has built into the awards over its 49 years of history. The rules behind the awards are the very foundation of the institution and of the awards themselves; they are the framework from which the ceremonious credence in an otherwise inert trophy is bestowed, regularly bringing recipients to tears upon receiving it.

But all of this can be called into question, and the weight with which the awards are regarded diminished if the rules are ignored. And this issue is not just about one specific nominee or recipient in one given year. If the rules are disregarded, that decision could become effusive, and impinge on the integrity of the awards in their entirety, including awards given out in the past and future. Murmurs of block voting and label impropriety have swirled around the ACM Awards for years, and not just from spurious sources and industry gadflies such as myself, but long-term, trusted journalists like radio personality Jimmy Carter, and previous recipients of ACM Awards themselves.

And beyond the rules specifically, Justin Moore, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others, does not pass the ‘eyeball test’ as a ‘New Artist’. If he did, and it was the rules that seemed to be either unfair or non useful, instead of the clear action of breaking of them, then maybe some consensus could build behind making an exception. Ironically, if there is any consensus between the ACM Board, and many of the voices of concern for the rules oversight, it is that Justin Moore, with his clear commercial success, probably does deserve some sort of distinction from the Academy of Country Music in 2014. But it shouldn’t come at the sacrifice of a clear and transparent rules regime put in place to make sure nothing unethical transpires in the process, or the spirit of the ‘New Artist’ award of giving a hand up to a new artist instead of locking one out by including an established artist, which the inclusion of Justin Moore ostensibly does.

Furthermore, with the financial windfall an artist receives for being nominated or winning an Academy of Country Music Award, and the rules oversight in this particular case being both obvious and unprecedented, I think it is fair to ask if there wouldn’t be any legitimate legal grievances by the parties that were replaced by Justin Moore’s illegitimate inclusion in the New Artist category, and/or his potential win of the award.

And so, with nothing but the ACM Awards’ best interests in mind, I plead with the Academy of Country Music to second guess your nomination of Justin Moore for New Artist of the Year. How you wish to resolve the matter specifically is not my place to say. Whether you disqualify Justin, amend the rules in a way that somehow resolves why the amendment wasn’t made before the nominations were announced, or make some other distinction for Justin Moore to be eligible for, something must be done. And if nothing is done, then I and others, as is our journalistic duty, must call into question the legitimacy of the awards themselves.

The ACM Awards have gone 49 years without allowing their rules to be violated. Let’s try to make it 50.

Yours truly,

Kyle “Trigger” Coroneos

savingcountrymusic.com

Mar
1

Scathing Jason Aldean Concert Review Censored

March 1, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  119 Comments

jason-aldean-2

UPDATE: Interview with the writer of the censored Jason Aldean review, Travis Kitchens.

For the better part of February, Saving Country Music has been following the saga of a concert review published by Baltimore’s alternative newsweekly called the Baltimore City Paper that painted a pretty unfavorable picture of pop country star Jason Aldean. The review in question was written by music reporter Travis Kitchens after attending the Aldean concert at the Baltimore Arena on February 1st. According to Kitchens, he attended the concert with an open mind, wondering if he would “make my traditional folkie friends go crazy” if he actually enjoyed the show. But Travis did not enjoy it, to say the least.

The subsequent posting of the review on February 4th by the Baltimore City Paper has caused a ripple that has shaken the environment of the Baltimore journalism community to its very core, upset huge, nationwide sponsorship companies, and resulted in the censoring of the Kitchens review and potentially subsequent postings by the paper against the will of Kitchens and the paper’s editorial staff. Since then, Baltimore City Paper has been in massive upheaval, with eight employees being laid off, and the rest of the staff being locked out of the paper’s online interface.

The Jason Aldean review was taken down a week after being posted due to pressure from two big advertisers who said they would never advertise in City Paper again if the piece wasn’t pulled. After two days of resisting pressure from upper management and threats against his job, City Paper editor-in-chief Evan Serpick took the review down according to Baltimore Brew. “I’m not proud of it,” says Serpick. “[They said] the review was ‘not objective,’ which was ridiculous, since it was a review. It was opinion, obviously.”

The two sponsors that threatened City Paper were reportedly LiveNationDC who promoted the Jason Aldean concert, and Baltimore-based Under Armour, whose Duck Commander product line is endorsed and promoted by Jason Aldean.

The issue of the Jason Aldean review came up right as Baltimore City Paper was being sold by its parent company, Times-Shamrock Communications, to Baltimore’s daily newspaper, The Baltimore Sun.  Apparently Times-Shamrock was told to clean house at City Paper, and eight employees, including a 30-year and 25-year veteran of the publication, were laid off late this week. Other City Paper content has also been censored, and according to numerous sources, the remaining employees of the paper have been locked out of the news blogs, and are being told to forfeit control of the paper’s social network properties.

In the spirit of free speech, and by the request and permission of Travis Kitchens, here is Travis Kitchen’s original review of Jason Aldean’s Baltimore concert of February 1st.

Warning: Language


A review of Jason Aldean’s 1/1/14 concert at Baltimore Arena

By Travis Kitchens

Baltimore Arena smelled like the inside of a Spearmint Rhino Saturday night. Reams of rednecks streamed in from every direction across Baltimore Street and it took a half hour to get through the line and inside to will call. They all came to see Jason Aldean.  You might not recognize his name, but  that’s okay, because you probably wouldn’t recognize his music either, or at least not be able to distinguish it from anything else on country radio.

I grabbed an $11.50 beer, passing booths selling shirts and koozies reading “I’m About To Get My Pissed-Off On,” and lots of Fireball Whisky schwag. Drinking Fireball gives you a slight cinnamon burn in the throat, then travels to the stomach, and, judging from the men’s bathrooms, immediately evacuates the bowels and gut. The puke smell along with loud shitty music and fog machines reminded me of traveling from Kentucky to Florida for Spring Break in high school, and that makes me part of Aldean’s target market.
 
Tyler Farr, the opening act, looks like Joey Fatone from N’Sync, and he’s only slightly less talented. Farr shuffled around the stage Saturday night with a prop guitar hanging from his neck like a No Limit chain, announcing the chart position of every song before playing it. “Ain’t’ Even Drinkin’” is the I-hope-this-night-never-ends prom song, a teen smash spell hand-crafted in a Nashville laboratory. “Ain’t even drinking but I’m buzzing baby/ain’t even smoking but I’m so stoned/feels like I’m getting lit/ain’t even took a sip/but I’m already gone.”
 
The crowd was infected, and showed their enthusiasm by gently poking the sky in a circular motion with I-don’t-give-a-fuck faces on. “Whiskey in My Water,” a shitkicker twist on “Me and My Girlfriend,” starts by ripping off the melody of Shooter Jennings’ “Fourth of July.” The artificiality and repetitiveness of his songs may have contributed to the vomit smell, and I felt like I was being subjected to military torture.
 
Whatever trivial contribution white people may have previously made to rap music has now been permanently nullified by pop country rap duo Florida Georgia Line. The Line was created from the leftover scraps of the Showbiz Pizza band, and they have an impressive number of programs, or songs. Beach balls were dispatched to the audience for “Party People,” and generic video footage playing on four jumbotron monitors above the band illustrated each song: dirt bike races and buggy mudding, video models molesting muscle cars, and giant all-white stadium crowds waving cell phones and American flags. “Gonna get buckwild/get a little buzz on/David Lee Roth style/might as well jump, jump.”
 
Each song is basically an advertisement performed live for the audience, the most blatant example being “Cruise.” Footage of new Chevy trucks play on the jumbotrons while they sing: “You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise/down a back road blowin’ stop signs through the middle/every little farm town with you/in this brand new Chevy with a lift kit/would look a hell of a lot better with you up in it.”
 
Advertising and country music is not a new relationship (Hank Williams shilled for Mother’s Best Flour, etc), but the way it has seeped into the songs and motivations of the artists has reached new and vulgar heights. They mentioned sponsor Fireball Whisky in the song lyrics and several times in between, and said to the roughly 14,000 people in attendance, “You guys truly are life changing.” Considering their latest album has already sold over 1.5 million copies, I would imagine that’s true.

Finally it was time for the headliner, Jason Aldean, whose show was a lot like watching a two hour beer commercial, and I don’t think his fans are unaware of that. You don’t listen to and enjoy Aldean’s music, you take it. It’s a mindless dopamine rush as precise in it’s effects as methamphetamine, and the not-so-subliminal marketing strategy deployed on the audience is as sophisticated as that of a presidential campaign. He struts around the stage with his prop guitar like a rockstar android wiggling his ass in a manner so contrived it makes Madonna look like Miles Davis in comparison. Aldean uses the “Margaritaville” market approach, tailored for the Buckwild generation. His empire is sponsored by Under Armour and Southern Comfort and there’s talk of a new redneck themed restaurant venture called Fly Over Steaks, where patrons are served and sweared at by waiters dressed as the cast of the television show Duck Dynasty (fingers crossed for an Inner Harbor location).

Aldean’s band looks like action figures from Spencers, and play like the American Idol house band. There were occasional flourishes of pedal-steel guitar, along with non-stop ear-splitting bass, a horrifyingly awful attempt at rapping, and brash guitar solos in every song. During “Dirt Road Anthem,” the adults in the crowd air scratched while half-staggering like they’d just had a stroke (imagine your grandma as an extra in the “Nothin’ But A G Thang” video). Aldean also rekindled his ongoing beef with Justin Bieber, this time taking shots at Biebs over who is more influential with hair styles. It was a chilling moment, and it was clear that this crowd did not like Justin Bieber one bit.

But the highlight of the night was Aldean singing a duet with a hologram of Kelly Clarkson. I didn’t know she was a hologram at the time, but I’m now wondering if Aldean was even there, and hoping he wasn’t.

Interview with the writer of the censored Jason Aldean review, Travis Kitchens.

Feb
5

Justin Moore Should Be Disqualified from ACM’s “New Artist”

February 5, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  51 Comments

acm-awards-logoFor years, country music and other award shows throughout the industry have been making an aberration of the term “new” when nominating and naming their “New Artist of the Year” awards. Many times the nominees and winners have spent half a decade or more in the music business, and not just as an independent artist slogging through the honky tonks waiting on a deal, but signed to major labels, releasing charting singles and albums, and appearing on industry tours.

The spirit of “New Artist” awards is to help cultivate new talent in the industry, giving the nominees and the winner a hand up in their career. But as we have seen more and more well-established artists crashing the “New Artist” nominee lists over the last few years, it is beginning to become a default category for second-tier industry talent that can’t cut it with the other major awards, but that labels still want to showcase in the awards format.

Such can said to be the case when the Academy of Country Music, or ACM Awards announced their candidates for New Artist of the Year for 2014. The ACM fielded a list of eight candidates, with fans voting on who the final 3 candidates will be. Included in that list are artists like Lee Brice, who signed with Curb Records seven years ago, and Kip Moore, whose been signed to MCA for five. But the most quizzical inclusion to the ACM’s list of “new” artists is Big Machine Records’ Justin Moore.

Forget that Justin Moore signed to Big Machine’s Valory Music imprint in 2008, that he had a #1 single in 2009, and a #1 album in 2011; as first pointed out by Windmills Country, according to the Academy of Country Music’s specifically-stated rules of eligibility for the “New Artist” category, Justin Moore should be disqualified because he’s had not one, but two albums certified gold in previous years—gold albums denoting over 500,00 copies sold.

Here are the eight initial nominees for the ACM New Artist of the Year:

  • Lee Brice
  • Brett Eldredge
  • Tyler Farr
  • Justin Moore
  • Kip Moore
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Parmalee
  • Thomas Rhett

Though the ACM’s annual naming of performers as “New Artist” nominees may or may not pass the eyeball test, there are actually established rules that govern these matters just to make sure no impropriety takes place.

The rule for the ACM New Artist of the Year specifically states:

This award is presented to an outstanding male vocalist, female vocalist, vocal duo or vocal group in the country music industry who gains either initial fame or significantly greater recognition through their efforts during the prior calendar year of November 29, 2012 to November 27, 2013. The artist(s) must have success in digital media; in addition to having charted a single in the Top 40 on Billboard’s Country Airplay (BDS) or Country Aircheck (Mediabase) country charts; and/or selling 100,000 album units reflected in Nielsen SoundScan during the qualifying period. The top eight (8) vote getters determined by a nomination ballot, subject to the approval of the Board, will be considered semi-finalists, with the final three (3) nominees being determined by a combination of votes from the ACM professional membership and fan voting (online). The winner is determined by a combination of votes from the ACM professional membership and fan voting (online).

Okay cool, so nothing in those rules specifically disqualifies Justin Moore, or any other artist from this year’s nominee list. But it is the second provision to the New Artist category that unequivocally disqualifies Justin Moore two times over.

Any solo artist that has sold 500,000 copies of a previously released album (with general exclusions of specialty albums, such as seasonal or live recordings) according to Nielsen SoundScan, are not eligible for this category.

justin-mooreUnfortunately for Justin, his name is on two separate albums that can’t jump this hurdle: His self-titled Justin Moore album released on August 11th, 2009 that has been certified gold with 550,000 copies sold, and Outlaws Like Me released on June 21st, 2011 that has been certified gold with 577,000 copies sold.

In other words, by the Academy of Country Music’s own stated rules, Justin Moore should be disqualified from the 2014 New Artist of the Year Nominee pool.

So the next question would be, how was Justin Moore nominated in the first place? How was this rule overlooked? Did some impropriety transpire between Justin Moore’s label and the Academy of Country Music? Who would have been nominated in Justin Moore’s stead? And is the damage already done, even if Justin Moore is disqualified because of the increased exposure another candidate would have received upon the announcement of the nominees?

And the most important question is, what will the Academy of Country Music to resolve this gross oversight?

Sep
25

Willie Nelson’s Stolen Armadillo – UPDATE: Returned

September 25, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  4 Comments

willie-nelson-2

(This story has been updated, see below)

A small stuffed toy armadillo may not seem like a big deal to most, but apparently it is a big deal for Willie Nelson and one of the members of his road crew, and they want it back after it walked off after a concert.

At Willie’s show on Thursday, September 19th at the Capital Theater in Port Chester, NY (a northern suburb of NYC), the small stuffed armadillo was stolen off the sound desk backstage by a woman who can be seen in low grade surveillance footage from the show (see below). The armadillo is affectionately known as O’ Dillo, and it is the property of Aaron Foye, Willie’s monitor engineer. More notably, O’Dillo is a beloved mascot of the Willie Nelson crew, and his kidnapping stimulated a message to Willie fans through his social networks.

Someone stole Aaron’s Armadillo from the sound desk backstage on Sept 19 at the Capital Theater (149 Westchester Ave, Port Chester, NY 10573) Did you go to the show? Did you work the show? Help us find the WOMAN in this video who stole him.

Armadillos are small armored mammals that rarely exist outside of Texas, and are considered an affectionate symbol of the Lone Star State. When Willie Nelson left Nashville for Texas in the 70′s and helped stimulate the Austin, TX music scene and country’s Outlaw movement, the epicenter of the movement was a club known as the Armadillo World Headquarters.

Anyone who knows the whereabouts of O’ Dillo is asked to contact Willie Nelson’s management, or can contact us here at Saving Country Music, and we’ll do our best to see it gets returned to its rightful owner.

****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****

(9/27/13 8:30 PM CDT): According to theater manager Tom Bailey at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY, O’Dillo has been returned. The toy was returned to the theater’s box office in a sealed box. It was not the same woman who can be seen on the video below taking the animal, and the woman did not identify herself. Tom Bailey says they believe they know who stole the Armadillo, but Willie’s monitor engineer Aaron Foye has decided to not press charges.

Jun
6

Local Waylon Birthday Bashes Unite For Charitable Cause

June 6, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  7 Comments

waylon-fundFor years now, around the June 15th birthday of Waylon Jennings, local groups of Waylon fans in various parts of the country have come together to celebrate the music and legacy of Waymore in “Waylon Birthday Bashes.” Last year, a handful of local Waylon Birthday Bashes united to raise money for The Waylon Fund, a part of the T Gen Foundation whose goal is to end the debilitating disease of diabetes that Waylon suffered from for many years.

This year, the amount of local Waylon Birthday Bashes working to help The Waylon Fund has doubled, with 18 separate events in 9 different states set to transpire over a span of 10 days, including some multi-day events like the Waylon Jennings Festival in Whiteface, TX. Funds from the birthday bashes support research at TGen that uses information about the human genome to find new treatments and hopefully a cure for the 26 million Americans afflicted with the debilitating disease.

“It is a great honor for TGen to be a part of the legacy of a true music legend and the Waylon Birthday bashes that are sweeping the nation,” says Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation. “We are thrilled that so many of Waylon’s fans are joining TGen’s fight against the disease that took his life.”

Joining The Waylon Fund in sponsoring many of the Waylon Birthday Bashes is Texas-based Shiner Beer, Phoenix-based Swift Transportation, and Arizona-based Zia Record Exchange, where people can donate at any of their 8 store locations – 4 in Phoenix, 2 in Tucson, and 2 in Las Vegas.

“Waylon Jennings plays a big role in the cultural history of Phoenix,”  says Dana Armstrong whose organizing the Phoenix Waylon Bash at the Crescent Ballroom on June 15th. “His fan base here started while he was playing the local clubs in the ’60s, and it continues to grow today. Celebrating his life and contribution to our community while supporting research at T Gen is a win-win for us.”

Below is a list of the participating Waylon Birthday Bashes, and if you can’t make one, you can still contribute to The Waylon Fund.


waylong-jennings-festival-whitefaceHouston, Texas
Firehouse Saloon
June 6, 2013

Brad Boyer
Chad Ware Band
Leslie Anne Sloan
Mitch Jacobs
David Van Langen

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Whiteface, Texas
June 7-8, 2013

Shooter Jennings
Whiskey Myers
Jason Boland and the Stragglers

Eric Strickland & The ‘B’ Sides
The Rowdy Johnson Band
Jackson Taylor and the Sinners
Tommy Jennings
Wayne Garner
Jimmy Miles
Sergio and the Outta Luck Band
Chas Jr.,
Dave Slater
Black Dutch Show
Creed Fisher and the Redneck Nation Band

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Los Angeles, California
Midnight Rider Presents Country My Ass
Footsies
June 9, 2013, 7 PM – 2 AM

Shooter Jennings
Ted Russell Kamp
RT and the 44s
Rachel Dean and Ryan Norman
Andrew Sheppard & The Gallivants
DJs Mitra Khayyam (Midnight Rider) and Justin

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Honky-Tonk-Throwdown-2013-450Atlanta, Georgia
Meehan’s at Atlantic Station
June 10, 2013

Levi Lowrey & The Antique Rodeo Show
John Hopkins
Ty Manning
Fester Hagood
Daniel Lee
Coy Bowles
Joe McGuinness
Reynolds and Williams Band

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Detroit, Michigan
Honky Tonk Throwdown
PJ’s Lager House
May 10-11-12, 2013

The Orbitsuns
Billy Don Burns
Deadstring Brothers
Bull Halsey
Behind the Times
Whiskey Charmers
The Sights
Katie Grace
Horse Cave Trio
If Birds Could Fly
Captain Ivory
Ryan Dillaha
Mary Cutrafello
Fifth on the Floor
Brunswick Brawlers
Crooked Little Reasons
Jeremy Porter and the Tucos
Dock Ellis Band
The Greavers
John Holk and the Sequins
and more…

- – - – - – - – - – - – - -

waylondonationPlano, Texas
Love and War in Texas
June 13, 2013

Cole Dillow Band

- – - – - – - – -

San Antonio
Floores Country Store
June 14, 2013

Brandon Rhyder

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Bellingham, Washington
The Green Frog
June 14, 2013

The LOST
HIGHWAY BAND
& special guests.
Johnny Waco and
Rattlesnake Ron
playing Waylon’s
personal guitars
Music Starts
at 7:30 p.m

- – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Seattle, Washington
The Tractor Tavern
June 14, 2013

The Outlaw (Waylon Tribute)
Jeff Fielder and his Redheaded Stepchildren (Willie Nelson Tribute)
Special Guests TBA

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

WaylonBash-phoenixPhoenix, Arizona
Valley Fever Country Music Night
Crescent Ballroom
June 15, 2013

The Rowdy Johnson Band
The Tony Martinez Band
Larson Parks Band
Hans Olson
Junction 10
Johnny Dixon (MC)
DJ Dana
DJ Johnny Volume

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

New York, New York
Rodeo Bar
June 15, 2013

Sean Kershaw & NY Country All-Stars

- – - – - – - -

Oneonta, New York
B-Side Ballroom
June 15, 2013

Deadstring Brothers
and more TBA

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Huntsville, Alabama
Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 3263
June 15, 2013

T. Graham Brown
Waylon & Willie Tribute
Soul Society
Tequila Falls

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

LSMC_WaylonRun_13Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
The Palm Room
June 15, 2013, 7PM-2AM

Super Waylon Open Jam!
Travis Shallow
Danny Mcleod
Kyle Garris
Harrison Parker
And Friends!

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Asheville, North Carolina
Emerald Lounge
June 15, 2013

Andy Buckner and Southern Soul Campaign
Blue Jeans & Khaki Pants
Hawks & Arrows

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Conroe, Texas
Corner Pub
June 15, 2013

Jubal Lee Young
Brad Boyer
Matt Harlan and Rachel Jones
and more…

- – - – - – - – - – - – - -

Luckenbach, Texas
June 16, 2013

Shooter Jennings
Jesse Dayton
Paula Nelson

- – - – - – - – - – - – -

Carterville, IL
Walkers Bluff
June 27, 2013

Creedence Clearwater Revisited

Oct
15

How Billboard’s New Chart Rules Affect YOU

October 15, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  67 Comments

When Billboard announced new rules on how the songs on their “Hot 100″ country chart would be tabulated, it caused a tizzy amongst folks who pay attention to these sorts of things. But the average Joe fans out there may have a little trouble understanding why the issue is something they should care about, and how it could negatively affect the music they enjoy. Make no mistake about it, I and many other folks who keep an eye on music charts as part of our jobs believe that these new rules could cause the largest wholesale power shift to superstars that music has ever seen, while sending the already existing trend of genres coagulating into on big mono-genre into hyperspeed.

There are many losers in the new Billboard format, and what I have been struggling with since they were announced is to name the winners. On the surface, they are the superstar names like Taylor Swift and Mumford & Sons, but at the same time the new rules take away the power of these artists to control the amount of attention their music receives over time. The new rules render the the music “single” virtually irrelevant since they include digital download data for songs that haven’t been released in single form.

Below are detailed explanations of how the new Billboard chart rules could affect you as a music fan.

As Fans of Major Country Music Stars with No Crossover Appeal

Not just small, up-and-coming artists will be affected by the new rules. Huge, major country music mega-franchises are feeling the effects already. Taylor Swift songs rocketed up the charts to #1, #2, and #10 when the rules were implemented, while Miranda Lambert’s latest single “Fastest Girl In Town” for example went for #9 to #16, Jason Aldean’s “Take A Little Ride” went from #1 to #5, and Toby Keith got knocked out of the Top 25 all together.

If the new rules hold, you can almost guarantee labels and artists will begin to produce more “crossover” songs to take advantage of the revised format, meaning more pop-oriented country songs, more pop songs that call themselves country, and more non-country artists “going country” to take advantage of the new rules.

Meanwhile artists as far ranging as George Strait and Alan Jackson, to Justin Moore and Brantley Gilbert will have trouble getting their singles to attain chart success. Only artists with crossover appeal, or top tier superstar artists who can really drive digital sales will get any advantage from the new format, and will likely completely monopolize the chart with most or all of the songs off a new album once it is released, just like Mumford & Sons is doing in rock right now (see below), and Taylor Swift will do in a couple of weeks when she releases her new album Red.

It is a very real possibility that upon Red’s release, Taylor Swift will own every single top spot on Billboard’s country chart. Literally she could have #1 thru #16 sewed up because of the amount of downloads the songs and album will receive upon release.

Mainstream artists still in the developmental phase of their career can pretty much kiss goodbye any chance of having a breakout single rocket up the charts. The top of the charts will be so locked down with crossover artists, and the middle of the charts filled with names that used to be at the top, it will be nearly impossible to break through. The one exception seen on the charts so far is Florida Georgia Line’s song “Cruise”. Florida Georgia Line, like Taylor Swift, is signed to Big Machine Records, clearly one big winner under the new rules, at least on the surface.

As Fans Of Independent/ Underground Music

I bristle at the idea that none of this matters to folks who don’t listen to the radio or mainstream music, that this is a bunch of hubbub not worth caring about because their favorite bands don’t have a shot on the charts anyway. That’s like saying you don’t care that 20% of the country doesn’t have jobs because you do. If you are a fan of music, and music being better than worse, then these rules will effect you. Sure, not everybody needs to get exercised over the issue or get involved if that’s not their thing, but to get annoyed that other people are or to act like the issue is irrelevant is an exercise in musical elitism.

Everyone has a right to good music, and every artist with true artistic talent has a right to make a living off that music. Fair, equitable charts are one tool to help make that possible. Charts that pander to incumbent superstars and crossover material get in the way of talent development and discovery by both fans and industry.

And the truth is, Billboard’s charts do matter to many of independent/underground fans’ favorite artists. When Hank Williams III’s Damn Right, Rebel Proud debuted at #2 on Billboard, upstaging albums from Taylor Swift and Darius Rucker, this was a huge victory for underground country. Red Dirt albums from folks like Cody Canada and Jason Eady have recently received chart play, and the elevated name recognition from both fans and industry the accolade conveys. Maybe one of the best feel good stories in country music in 2012 is Will Hoge’s song “Even If It Breaks You Heart” that became a #1 hit for Eli Young Band. This song and many others written by honest, hard working, and relatively obscure songwriters will likely never get the recognition they did before under the new format.

The royalties a small-time songwriter can receive even off of one song can set them up for life. It can take a struggling artist from being poor and having to work part-time jobs, to being able to make moderate living off of music. It can also take a musician already making a moderate living off of music to the point where they can afford to raise a family, pay for health health insurance, own instead of rent their home, etc. And I don’t want to hear anyone say they want their favorite artists to stay poor so they continue to write good songs. Being poor should be a choice for an artist to make if they decide that is where they draw their inspiration from, not some benevolent state-of-being foisted upon them by the industry.

The fight might not be yours and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean the fight is not worth waging to make the overall music world a better place.

As Fans of Rock, R&B/Hip-Hop, Latin, & Other Genres

That’s right, the counting of crossover radio plays isn’t just affecting country, but other genres as well. You thought Taylor Swift benefited from a chart boost under the new rules? Rihanna’s song “Diamonds” went from #66 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart before the changes, all the way to #1. Why? Because it is being played on pop radio too.

And the same monopolizing of charts that we see in country with Taylor Swift is happening in the rock charts, only worse. Mumford & Sons have the #5, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23 songs on the rock chart right now. Literally every song on their new album Babel is charting. This is based on the strength of digital downloads, but only one of the songs, “I Will Wait” has actually been released as a single.

As Fans of Taylor Swift

Oh, so you think that Taylor Swift is the big winner under this new system? In some respects she is, but in others this brings the country pop princess under renewed scrutiny.

First off, Taylor Swift doesn’t need the additional attention having multiple songs at the top of the country charts brings her. She’s already in the public eye, enjoying the utmost exposure any artist will ever get from media. Her new album Red will be the best-selling debut in 2012, trust me, and probably by 200,000-400,000 copies.

So what does Taylor Swift’s chart success bring her? Additional scrutiny. What are the two big knocks on Taylor Swift? That she can’t sing and she’s not country; the latter already at the top of public debate because she released a succinctly pop song and another “dub-step-inspired” tune off her new album. Taylor Swift doesn’t have to worry about creating exposure for herself, she has to worry about managing the exposure she’s already getting, lest that exposure turns into overexposure, backlash, and burnout of her brand. The new system doesn’t allow her to do that because it takes away the power of the radio single.

Numerous times in the past, Taylor Swift’s career has been diagnosed with overexposure. This happened with Taylor shortly after the 2010 Grammy Awards; the whole off-pitch singing situation with Stevie Nicks that led to her panning by critics across the country and her writing the song “Mean”. Afterwards, even the “Country Music Anti-Christ,” Taylor’s label owner Scott Borchetta admitted she was over-exposed, and was happy she was headed to Australia for a tour, and then on a hiatus from the public eye.

The Australian dates had been planned all along, but it actually worked out great…as far as the talking head of Taylor Swift, that one’s gone into hiding for a little bit, at least on this continent.

Another overexposure moment happened in September of 2009 when Kanye West accosted Swift at the MTV Awards. Just in August, Spencer Cain of StyleCaster asked if Taylor Swift has become overexposed from her previous episodes and her recent headlines for dating an 18-year-old Kennedy son.

When Taylor Swift’s new album Red is released and every single song charts under the new Billboard protocols, it could cause massive negative exposure to Taylor Swift’s career. Meanwhile the benefits Taylor Swift receives from her chart success are only parliamentary, etching her name as the best-selling songstress of this moment in time, but not effecting her sales, or her success overall.

Sign the petition to stop Billboards Multi-Format Airplay Rule

Oct
8

Musician & Songwriter Hall Of Fames Swapped at Music City Center

October 8, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  2 Comments

On Thursday Oct. 4th, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced plans to permanently locate the Songwriters Hall of Fame to the new Music City Center, the behemoth convention center and hotel complex in downtown Nashville being built right beside the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was announced previously that the Country Hall Of Fame would be connected to Music City Center and have some shared space between the two buildings. Now the Songwriters Hall of Fame whose home has been virtual up to this point, will have a permanent place as part of the project.

But there is an important wrinkle to this story that is going unreported.

As important of an institution as the Songwriters Hall of Fame is, it may not be the most deserving of a spot in Music City Center. If all things were equal, that opportunity would go to the Musicians Hall of Fame: the institution that was imminent domained by the City of Nashville and given a week to remove its artifacts before being bulldozed to make way for the new building. And more importantly, the Musicians Hall of Fame was the one initially promised the space.

Musicians Hall Of Fame before being bulldozed

The Musicians Hall of Fame opened in June of 2006 just across 4th St. from the Country Hall of Fame in Nashville, with the charter of showcasing the unsung heroes of music: the musicians behind the big names, and the big names that are excellent musicians as well. Though located in Nashville, the Musicians Hall of Fame didn’t showcase just country music, but all genres, and hosted music lessons and workshops, as well as private events in their museum space.

When plans were launched for the new Music City Center complex, it was determined by the City of Nashville that the Musicians Hall of Fame had to go. Nashville initially reached out to the institution and offered them a space in the new building.

“We were told that they would provide us a place to go for free while the construction was goin’ on for the convention center for the next three years, and then we would move into the new convention center,” says Joe Chambers, the founder and CEO of the Musicians Hall Of Fame. “They brought plans over, they had the plans drawn out for us.”

Where things went south was when the city’s appraiser valued the Musicians Hall of Fame land for $4.8 million, half of what a private appraiser, and the same appraiser that evaluated the property when the Musicians Hall of Fame bought it in 2003 valued it at; $9.8 million. When Chambers refused the City of Nashville’s discounted offer, Nashville took the matter to the courts and had the property seized through governmental fiat. Then the Musicians Hall of Fame was only given 7 days to vacate the 30,000 sq. ft. of space filled with the museum’s priceless artifacts.

This is where the story gets worse.

Musicians Hall Of Fame Founder Joe Chambers inspecting damaged instruments

Since the Musician’s Hall Of Fame was a museum with no home, they were forced to put all of their artifacts in storage. Then in the middle of May, 2010, when downtown Nashville experience historic flooding, the storage place housing the museum’s artifacts was flooded, destroying many of the priceless instruments, including the first drum ever played on the Grand Ole Opry, the upright bass played in Hank Williams’ last recording session, and guitars from people such as Jimi Hendrix, Peter Frampton, and Johnny Cash.

See Video Of Damaged Instruments

Eventually the Musicians Hall of Fame did find a new home a mile down the road at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. The Hall of Fame will be housed in the building’s basement, and the name of the building is being changed to “Musicians Hall of Fame at the Municipal Auditorium” but this is no gift from the City of Nashville. The Hall of Fame is having to lease the space from the city instead of owning it like the previous location. They also must pay for all the expenses due to the name change of the auditorium.

Read How Gaylord Entertainment Opposed Music City Center Project

The good news is the Musicians Hall Of Fame did eventually find a new home, and one that still exists in downtown Nashville. The Musicians Hall Of Fame is still not open at its new site. Its website says the hope to open sometime later in 2012. Calls and emails to them from Saving Country Music for comment were not immediately returned.

The question that citizens of the City of Nashville and citizens of the music community should be asking is how did the Songwriters Hall Of Fame and the Musicians Hall Of Fame get swapped in the Music City Center project? If there is enough room for a hall of fame on the premises, why would the preference not go to the one initially promised the space, and whose home got razed in the construction?

No offense to the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. It is great they finally have a physical home, and it appears that the Musicians Hall Of Fame is happy with their location at the municipal auditorium, and that the city is working with them to attempt to make it right. But with the announcement of the Songwriters Hall Of Fame being part of the Music City Center complex, if feels like an injustice has been done to the Musicians Hall Of Fame. Once again.

Sep
17

Song / Video Review – Eric Church’s “Creepin’”

September 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  46 Comments

Let’s not mince words: Eric Church is a two-faced prick. He’s cheesed off more of the mainstream country establishment than he hasn’t, and not for good reasons, but for being rude, arrogant, and at times hypocritical. And then there’s the whole thing where he swears he’s not an Outlaw, but then sells shirts that say that he is.

But the job of any honest music reviewer is to divest any off-stage drama or personal feelings about a man from his music. I’m still being nailed to the cross in some circles for giving Eric’s album Chief 1 1/2 guns up. Much of that positive review stemmed from the strength of this song.

Let’s first get the most obvious complaint out of the way. “Creepin’” isn’t country, it’s a rock song with some country-inspired elements. In parts it’s driven by arena rock riffs, and the chorus comes across as a little obvious. Just because something is rock though doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means it is mischaracterized in the country format.

The catch-all, stock argument made against folks that complain that rap, rock, and pop influences are encroaching too heavily into the country genre is to say that country must evolve. Eric Church has made that argument himself in the boldest of terms when he wrote the song “Country Music Jesus”, inspired by an article on Saving Country Music.

There’s this writer, at the time that kinda had written a critique of the new country Outlaw movement. Said something about “I wish all these new guys would do it like the old guys did it, and make the same music, the same way, over and over.”

Of course this is an erroneous take of Saving Country Music’s stance. Many times adding influences from genres outside of country results in devolution of the music because the motivation is to make the music appeal to the widest possible audience by attaining the lowest common denominator. Of course country music must evolve, and it has been in the independent, Americana, and underground country worlds for years to the general ambivalence of the mainstream.

But none of this has to do with “Creepin’”. In the mainstream of a genre that has grown stale with laundry list cliche songs, gimmicky pop and country rap fare, and droning adult contemporary ballads, Eric Church and “Creepin’” display bold, creative leadership. This song takes chances. There’s few “sensibilities” here, no resorting to the easy avenues of country lyrics delivered in rap pentameters, or overt pop elements to draw a bigger crowd. Instead there is striking out in uncharted mainstream country territory.

“Creepin’” has a very catchy, rhythmic base, but adds a depth dimension by layering and texturing the rhythms with different tones and instrumentation. This gives it a sort of epic, evolving, breathing nature. By Eric Church mouthing the hook of the song at the very beginning, it’s almost like he’s saying, “Okay, here’s the starting point. Now watch what we do with this.”

Country purists will be bemoan Eric’s moderate, but obvious use of vocal filters and loops, but the approach of these sonic tools is to replicate and emphasize decay as opposed to let’s say Auto-tune meant to deceive by feigning perfection. Eric’s employment of technology is more akin to megaphones and moog than drum loops and synth, and it is well-balanced. Any more and it would have eroded any “roots” in this song, any less and the spatial, trippy nature he envisioned may not have been realized. This is no different than what Emmylou Harris did on Wrecking Ball some 17 years ago, just this song may receive widespread radio play.

Lyrically “Creepin’ is refreshingly ambiguous and fey; subtle and oozy where it can crawl into the contours the mind of each individual listener to be interpreted differently by different perspectives. As Church told the Rolling Stone:

It’s a lot deeper than some people think. It’s really about this guy who’s haunted by a ghost of some sort, the main female character. What you don’t know is she’s the one feeding the coal that makes this train get crazier and go farther and take him back through all these memories.

None of this is easy to translate to the physical representation needed for a video, but that’s exactly what Eric Church does in this gritty, train-themed cinematic-style short.

Eric Church has a large army of detractors that will look at this video, see his little rat-looking face and won’t care what transpires next; they won’t like it. And with all of his off-stage extra-curricular activity, it’s hard to blame anyone with an anti-Eric Church reactionary prejudice, or wonder why some will say  “Creepin’” is Eric exploiting underground influences for mainstream fare.

I certainly don’t have much love for the guy and certainly don’t find the appeal in many of his songs. But he struck gold here, however intentional or accidental, and it’s good to see some substance finally “creep” onto mainstream country radio, even if it’s really rock.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

May
22

Mississippi Blues Legend T Model Ford Suffers Stroke

May 22, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  10 Comments

(This story has been updated)

Mississippi blues legend T Model Ford, who became a roots icon along with R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, and many other older blues artists from Mississippi through Fat Possum Records, has suffered a stroke. This is not the first stroke T Model has suffered, but the people around him were describing the always-jovial, 90+ years-old blues player’s spirits as “uncharacteristically low.” Since then his health and spirits have improved some.

T Model was admitted to Greenwood Leflore Hospital in Greenwood, MS over the weekend after suffering a stroke, or possibly a series of strokes. According to T Model’s wife Miss Stella, initial tests indicated some serious blockages, and T Model was to undergo angioplasty and start physical therapy. However, because of his age and general health, angioplasty was taken off the table. Since then his health “…has improved a bit and has regained partial use of his right hand and can walk a bit using a walker,” according to family friend Randy Magee. Today, (Wednesday 5-23) family friend Roger Stolle reports that T Model was scheduled to be discharged from the hospital and sent to a physical therapy facility closer to his home.

****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****

Family friend Randy Magee visited T Model Ford at King’s Daughter’s Hospital in Greenville, MS yesterday, 5/25 and reports:

T says he’s doing fine folks. He had just come from physical therapy and his lunch came shortly afterwards… let’s just say loss of appetite IS NOT among T’s problems. He showed me that he could move his right arm, hand and fingers, but confided that he couldn’t remember how to play his guitar. He was telling me that he’d forgotten how to sing and a speech therapist came in to start working with him. I gave Stella some cash that some friends from the Netherlands sent for T and left him with the therapist as he already had a room full of family there.

****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****

T Model Ford, born James Lewis Carter Ford is the last surviving blues man from the original crop of artists the label Fat Possum Records sought out to make records of and preserve their sound beginning in 1992 from the North Mississippi region. He regularly tours with the Seattle blues band GravelRoad, and is scheduled to play this year’s Muddy Roots Festival. T Model’s actual age is unknown, though it is thought he was born sometime between 1921 and 1925. He recorded 5 albums for Fat Possum from 1997-2008, until moving to Alive NaturalSound Records. T Model’s sound along with the other North Mississippi blues legends has been given credit for inspiring the sounds from artists like The Black Keys and Scott H. Biram.

The Ford family is seeking donations to help with expenses. Information on where to donate can be found below. The Saving Country Music donate button has also been activated in the top right column of the site, so folks wishing to donate through paypal can do so there.

SEND DONATIONS DIRECTLY TO BANK:
James Ford
Routing# 084205708
Account# 4700445890
Planters Bank
424 Washington Ave
Greenville, MS 38701
PH: 662-335-5258
FX: 662-378-4429

OR MAIL CARDS, CHECKS, ETC. TO HOME:
James Ford
443 South 7th Street
Greenville, MS 38703

 

May
21

Waylon Birthday Bashes Join to Benefit Diabetes Research

May 21, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  10 Comments

This upcoming June 15th would have been Waylon Jennings’ 75th birthday. The Littlefield, TX native died in 2002 from complications with diabetes, a disease he battled for years. Waylon fans have been celebrating Waylon’s birthday in informal “Waylon bashes” for years, from back porch picking sessions to full blown concert events in and around Waylon’s birthday. This year, The Waylon Fund, an extension of the TGen Foundation that is searching for a cure for diabetes is bringing a national focus to Waylon’s birthday bashes by organizing these various Waylon tributes into a national benefit.

From Nashville to New York, from Detroit to Seattle, fans will be getting together to raise funds for diabetes research and to pay tribute to one of country music’s biggest Outlaws. From Billy Don Burns to Shooter Jennings, from Rachel Brooke to Jackson Taylor, bands and artists will be giving of their time to help out a good cause.

“We have a built-in Waylon fan base here who are happy to support a progressive diabetes research fund in his name,” says Dana Armstrong the local organizer for the Waylon tribute scheduled for June 17 at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe, AZ. “We have held Waylon tribute nights in the past, and if we can raise awareness and some funds for TGen in this way, I know we will have a good time doing it. Waylon’s music and pioneering spirit have always been influential to Valley Fever, and you’ll see that in a lot of the bands that play here…”

Support for The Waylon Fund from the 8 different tributes around the country happened organically. The idea started when one of Waylon’s relatives in his hometown in Littlefield contacted TGen to see if the birthday bash they were planning in nearby Whiteface, TX could go to benefit the foundation. Soon volunteers and organizers were popping up all over the country, ready and willing to help with the cause, including Muddy Roots that will be throwing the birthday bash in Nashville at Robert’s Western World, and the 3-day Honky Tonk Throwdown in Detroit.

And if you can’t make it to one of these benefits, you can do the next best best thing: put on a Waylon record and donate online.

Current List of Waylon Bashes benefiting The Waylon Fund:

Whiteface, Texas – June 16, 2012

Shooter Jennings
Whiskey Myers
Jimmy Miles
The Rowdy Johnson Band
William Clark Green
Jackson Taylor and the Sinners
Tommy Jennings
Sergio and the Outta Luck Band

Detroit, Michigan – Honky Tonk Throw Down
PJ’s Lager House – June 8- 9-10, 2012

  • Billy Don Burns
  • Chelsea Crowell
  • Clark Patterson
  • Rachel Brooke
  • Bull Halsey
  • The Orbitsuns
  • The Howling Diablos
  • Horse Cave Trio
  • Paul Lamb and the Detroit Breakdown
  • JJ and the BTs
  • Crooked Little Reasons
  • Alison Lewis
  • Ryan Dillaha
  • Afternoon Round
  • Desolation Angel
  • Pat V & The Detroit 3
  • Matt Dmits
  • Switchblade Justice
  • Bixy Lutz

Tempe, Arizona – Valley Fever Country Music Night

Yucca Tap Room – June 17, 2012

J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices
Ray Lawrence Jr
Tony Martinez
James Parks
Steve Larson
Hans Olson
Junction 10
DJ Dana
Johnny Volume

Seattle, Washington – High Dive – June 15, 2012

Fascination Nation
The Outlaws (a Waylon tribute)
Jeff Fielder’s Redheaded Step Children
Plus special guests!

Houston, Texas – Firehouse Saloon – June 16, 2012

Matt Harlan
Brad Boyer
Al Staehely

Nashville, Tennessee – Robert’s Western World
June 17, 2012 – 6-10 p.m.

The Silver Threads
Special guests to be announced

New York, New York – The Wayland – June 15, 2012

(More info coming soon!)

Crestview, Florida -Don’s Ice House
June 15-16, 2012

(more details coming)

May
8

Stacy Kranitz: “CNN chose the most extreme photographs”

May 8, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  21 Comments

Yesterday Saving Country Music took exception to a photo blog posted by CNN depicting “the everyday lives of Appalachian people” with photos of KKK members, burning crosses, snake preachers, and other subversive subjects taken by photographer Stacy Kranitz. After learning that Kranitz was distancing from CNN’s take on her photos, we reached out to her and she provided us with the statement below.

Apparently CNN chose some of the most extreme 16 photos of a 77 of photo essay that is part of a multi-year project still in the development stage, that was never meant to depict Appalachia’s “everyday people”, and instead ironically was meant to “demystify” stereotypes.

Please take time to check out the complete Old Regular Mountain Project.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

CNN chose the most extreme photographs and I did not know that they would do this until I woke up yesterday morning to see it published like everyone else.

I think people are rightfully angry. I am disgusted to see the words “the everyday lives of appalachian people” next to images of the KKK. That is a real insult to the region as is the reductive edit of my work and I understand why people are so offended by it.

Photo from Stacy Kranitz's ongoing Appalachia project

I do not see what I have photographed as a look at “the everyday lives of appalachian people” as CNN has claimed, Nor is that written anywhere in the CNN interview questions I answered or on my website.

I hope you take time to look at the 77 images and see that CNN chose only the most salacious ones to drive traffic to the website.

http://stacykranitzprojects.com/old-regular-mountain

For this project I sought out the stereotypes and photographed them so that I could then offer a counter to them. That is what the project is about. It is meant to be a dialogue about stereotypes: the mythology they create, their value and their role in society and how they factor into the representation of place. It seemed the furthest from possible that CNN knowing my interest in both seeking out and demystifying stereotypes would make an edit of only the stereotypes. What they did is the opposite of what I am trying to do.

I made clear to CNN that the work was in the very early stages of a multi-year project and when pressed by CNN to come to an authoritative conclusion about the people of Appalachia I wrote.

“Unfortunately I am not yet at a place with this work where I have a handle on everything I am trying to say. I am just a traveler exploring new territory with the desire to be able to share my own experiences in an unfamiliar terrain …. I’m not entirely convinced that I will ever truly understand what I seek out but the work is about the process, the attempt to understand.”

I take full responsibility for being so naive as to trust that CNN was interested in my work and the process I go through to make photographs that question an outsiders ability to represent place.

I am truly sorry.

Best,

Stacy

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