My Cold-Weather Rock and Roll

Jim Morrison, retro. RET

Winter has tightened its grip on Chicago. On a Friday afternoon in early December, the temperatures feel like they are dropping by the minute. The sun escapes the chill of the day early, leaving behind long shadows and an occasional gust of cold wind. This is the time for staying inside and listening to cold-weather rock and roll. Cold-weather music feels heavy like a wool blanket. Cold-weather rock songs can sound as dark and foreboding as a January night or as quiet as a snowfall, but in either case, they make you want to retreat from the outside world. “Gimme Shelter” is cold-weather rock. “Miss You” is not. Led Zeppelin’s fourth (untitled) album is cold-weather music, but Houses of the Holy by and large belongs to summer. Here are some of my favorite cold-weather albums — the music of my world now:


All Things Must Pass. In my mind’s eye, George Harrison writes somber, majestic songs like “Beware of Darkness” on a cold November afternoon while cloistered in the shadows of his Friar Park estate. Never mind Continue reading

The Musician and the Brand


This is a tale of two artists: a rock legend and a musician who has probably been off your radar screen for years. The legend wants your money. The musician wants your ear.

First, consider the musician: Boz Scaggs. Remember Boz Scaggs? You know — the guy who gave us radio-friendly hits like “Lowdown” in the 1970s? He’s not the most high-profile musician in history. Although he’s been a critic’s darling for years, he’s never been a massive star. After enjoying commercial success with hits like “Lido Shuffle” in the 1970s, he went into semi-retirement (co-owning a nightclub) before re-emerging in 1988 with a series of critically acclaimed albums. Last month, at age 68, Boz Scaggs released Memphis, a gorgeous set of soul music as good as anything he recorded when at the height of his fame in his early 30s.

Memphis has earned a positive reception, with Rolling Stone giving the album a three-and-a-half-star rating and All Music proclaiming, “This set is a stunner.” You can download Memphis from Amazon for $5, and for about $50-60 you can buy a ticket to see him in concert.

And now, the legend: the Rolling Stones, whose history is so well known that I’ll stick to the recent past. At about the time Boz Scaggs was at the height of his fame in 1976, the Stones were muddling through a creative trough before re-establishing themselves with Some Girls in 1978. The Stones continued to release new music after Some Girls, but since 2000, the band’s creative output has practically come to a halt with the exception of the album A Bigger Bang in 2005. The band’s latest album, Grrr!, consists of yet another greatest hits collection (the band’s 11th) with nothing new to offer but two songs that I’ll bet you will forget.


A download of Grrr! will set you back $22 (yes, the album contains more songs, but seriously, don’t you own these already?). You can also opt for a 5-disc super deluxe box set with some merchandise tossed in if you don’t mind paying $140. Oh, and seeing the Stones will typically cost anywhere from $150 to $600 a ticket (unless you very lucky and snag the limited-run $85 tickets), which means if you take a date, pay for parking, and indulge in some merchandise, you’re making a serious financial decision.

Two artists of the same generation: one producing vibrant new music receiving positive notice and the other resting on its laurels. But you’ll pay a heavy premium for the Stones. Why? Simple:

  • Boz Scaggs is a musician. The Rolling Stones are a brand.
  • Boz Scaggs tours to support new music. The Rolling Stones take care of business — period.
  • Boz Scaggs explores new sounds instead of coasting on his hits from yesteryear. The Rolling Stones sell living history.

Has Boz Scaggs ever recorded anything as breathtaking as the best music the Stones created during their glory years? No. There’s just no comparing their legacies. But Boz Scaggs is creating great new music that stands up to any soul and R&B on the market today. The Stones are not.

You can really sense the difference between the two artists in the way they talk about their music now. Check out Scaggs’s interview with Mike Ragogna of The Huffington Post, which is an informative examination of his music — his influences, how he chooses material, and how he records. Now read Mick Jagger’s conversation with Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune, which is all about the business of touring, including the cost of tickets. On the topic of recording new music, the best Jagger can offer is, “I have a lot of songs and I’d love to do some more recording with the band. But we’re going to get through the tour first and then see what happens.”

If you want to see living legends, enjoy the Rolling Stones if you have the budget. The band puts on an excellent show. My wife and I would have wanted to give our 11-year-old daughter a chance to see them had we been able to afford the tickets (which we can’t). But if you have $5 to spare, please reward the musician.

5 Marketing Lessons from the 121212 Concert for Sandy Relief


Rock concerts for causes have come a long way since George Harrison and Ravi Shankar organized the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 and raised $250,000 to help refugees in war-torn Bangladesh. The Concert for Bangladesh was an untelevised rock show (actually two of them) witnessed by 40,000 people in Madison Square Garden. By contrast, last week’s 121212 Concert for Sandy Relief was a multimedia experience accessible to 2 billion people globally, earning $35 million in one night (with millions more to come). Here are five marketing lessons from the 121212 Concert:

1. Extend Your Reach

The 121212 Concert, which supported Robin Hood Relief (a highly regarded organization assisting Hurricane Sandy victims), made it virtually impossible for you to miss the show.  The concert was broadcast on 39 television stations, streamed to 25 websites, and aired on 50 radio stations, creating “the most widely distributed live musical event in history,” according to Nielsen. By contrast, even the highly successful 2001 Concert for New York City (which also benefited Robin Hood Relief) was broadcast on VH1 exclusively. If you wanted to watch the concert, they gave you no reason to miss it.


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It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll and Technology for the Rolling Stones

How do rock and roll bad boys stay relevant when they grow older and less dangerous?

The Rolling Stones no longer symbolize youthful rebellion and decadence as they did 50 years ago. So like a smart business that refines its brand, the Stones now focus on one core asset: their rock legacy. As the Rolling Stones celebrate their 50th anniversary with a limited-run tour that came to the United States December 8, the four principal band members (average age: 68) have assumed the role of the blues greats who inspired them to become the Rolling Stones in the first place:  playing their music onstage until they drop. And the Stones are innovating with digital technology to share that legacy. In doing so, the Rolling Stones provide a lesson for marketers on how to update your brand and find new ways to create a valuable audience experience.

The recent 50 and Counting Tour concerts in London and New York, drawing upon a catalog of songs such as “Gimme Shelter” and “Paint It, Black,” have reminded fans and critics of the band’s musical legacy. And you simply cannot overstate what the Stones have accomplished in their storied career. Especially in their first 10 years, the group created music that was by turns brutal, beautiful, threatening, and galvanizing. Their most well known songs and albums routinely rank near or at the top of critics’ lists of the greatest and most influential works in rock history.

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Celebrating Memorable Album Covers

Everything old is new again. In the classic rock era, musicians and their audiences met each other through record albums. For music fans, holding the vinyl in your hands and exploring record cover art was part of the joy of discovering new music. For musicians, the album artifact was an important way to express their art and sell albums. Apple destroyed that relationship by launching iTunes in 2001. But in the era of Pinterest and Instagram when people post 3 trillion images online a year, consumers are rediscovering the joys of record cover art, as we’ve witnessed with the resurgence of vinyl sales. To celebrate the apparent return of the LP cover, I’ve launched my own Memorable Album Covers Pinterest board.

Periodically I’ll feature selections from my board on Superhype. Todays’ feature is Ray Charles’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, released in 1962. Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music an example of how smart design creates a memorable album cover. Art meets commerce in his LP cover, which was designed to sell by featuring the instantly recognizable Ray Charles face and name. Notice how the tilt of his head guides your eye to his name, which was featured at the top of the cover to make sure you could find the recording on LP racks in record stores. The stark red background, bold type, and powerful image make for an inviting cover of a classic recording.

I’m not going to comment on the quality of the music on each LP cover I discuss (although in most cases my opening the featured) record album led to a memorable listening experience) but rather the attributes that make for a memorable cover, such as:

  • Visually arresting design, as with Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.
  • Design that best reflects the content of the album, of which there are numerous examples, Pink Floyd’s enigmatic Dark Side of the Moon cover being one of the best-known examples.
  • A cover that captures the essence of the artist or even an entire form of music — for instance, the way Sticky Fingers captures the licentious nature of the Rolling Stones or how the cover of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols captures the spirit of punk rock.

Stay tuned for more. Please also share with me your own covers and reasons why you find them memorable.

From Eminem to Warhol: creating art out of vinyl

Daniel Edlen makes art out of vinyl LPs. Yup, I’m talking about the shiny black LPs that defined how we experienced music in the pre-digital era, which have become in vogue again more than 60 years after vinyl was introduced. Daniel’s business, Vinyl Art, offers stunning images of iconic musicians via portraits hand painted with white acrylic on vinyl.

His website offers a compelling challenge: “Gone digital? Get back to what you lost” by exploring the tactile world of vinyl as experienced through Daniel’s portraits of musicians ranging from Eminem to Elvis. For $350, you can bring Johnny Cash’s brooding face or Aretha Franklin’s soulful gaze to your home — or have a piece of your own commissioned.

By celebrating the joy of the physical musical experience in a digital world, Vinyl Art is succeeding. His work has been exhibited in locations such as the VH1 Corporate Gallery, commissioned by the David Lynch Foundation, and owned by the likes of Lou Reed.

According to Electric Moustache, “Vinyl Art is badass,” and I agree. I recently interviewed Daniel to find out more about Vinyl Art — what inspires him to do what he does and how he uses digital to build his business. He also discusses a brand new Andy Warhol triptych he created to celebrate Warhol’s iconic album designs for The Velvet Underground & Nico, Sticky Fingers, and John Lennon’s Menlove Ave. In the interview, Daniel shares not only a passion for music and art but for giving, as well. To view more Vinyl Art, check out a free eBook of his work here.

Why vinyl art? What inspires you to do what you do?

Giving inspires me. Not giving to get but giving to contribute. I like the question “Are you a miner or a farmer?” Miners take and don’t give back. Farmers take but then replenish, remix, restore. Throughout my earlier years I took from culture, incorporating sights and sounds into who I am today. The opportunity to create my Vinyl Art is an opportunity to give back to our culture in my way. Continue reading

How the Rolling Stones got their mojo back (and you can, too)

Let’s say you’re an aging business or marketing executive with your back against the wall. You’ve accomplished great things in your career but nothing substantial lately. A brash generation of upstarts threatens to muscle you aside with their attitude and fresh ideas. What would you do?

If you wanted to follow the lesson taught by a group of famous multimillionaires known as the Rolling Stones, you would start throwing punches with one hand and waving your middle finger in the air with the other.

As recounted by the recently published The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls by Cyrus R.K. Patell, the Rolling Stones of the late 1970s was a band on the ropes. The group’s most recent albums (Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, and Black and Blue) had revealed signs of complacency and artistic decline. Keith Richards was in the grip of heroin addiction. And the rise of punk rock, full of piss and vinegar, made the Stones look more like dinosaurs than the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.

In 1977, when Keith Richards was busted in Canada for possession of heroin with intent to traffic, the band’s future was very much in doubt as Richards faced the possibility of a stiff jail sentence.

How did the Rolling Stones respond? By going into the studio and recording what would turn out to be one of its most critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums, Some Girls.

With Some Girls, the Rolling Stones shocked their critics and reasserting their relevance to modern rock music and popular culture. The album would eventually achieve more than 6 million units sold and would be ranked among the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone. The Rolling Stones returned to greatness by:

1. Beating the upstarts at their own game.

Punk rockers, brimming with anti-establishment swagger, forgot that the Stones were the original punk upstarts in the 1960s. On Some Girls, the Stones showed up the punks as wannabes by recording sneering, nasty songs like “When the Whip Comes Down” and “Respectable,” which gave society the middle finger (sample lyrics: “You’re a rag-tag girl, you’re the queen of porn/You’re the easiest lay on the White House Lawn”).

The title song famously inspired Reverend Jesse Jackson to launch a boycott against the album for its supposedly racist lyrics. At the time, Jackson characterized the song “Some Girls” as a “racial” insult” that “degrades blacks and women.” Jagger’s reply: “I’ve always said, ‘If you can’t take a joke, it’s too fucking bad’” – a gutsy rebuke given Jackson’s public stature and how much Jagger had to lose at this point in his career. Infamous punk rocker Johnny Rotten seemed like a tame choirboy by comparison.

Keith Richards, meanwhile, was no less unrepentant and defiant. His Some Girls song “Before They Make Me Run” was an unabashed nose thumbing delivered to the Canadian authorities who had busted him in 1977. “I will walk before they make me run,” he vowed in the song — a ballsy statement given that he had yet to be tried for the bust and faced years of hard time in jail. It’s easy to sneer at society when you have nothing to lose — doing so when you could pay the price with your life is another matter.

Even the album cover managed to piss off the entertainment establishment for its unauthorized and unflattering use of photographs of hallowed American icons such as Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe (the Stones later changed the album cover art under threat of litigation).

With ugly yet energetic songs like “Some Girls,” the Stones were really recapturing the sound and attitude they had created in the 1960 when they were fined for public urination. And they did so with a vengeance.

Patell characterizes the sound of songs like “When the Whip Comes Down” this way: “it’s the Stones out-doing punk, or perhaps incorporating punk sound into their own, layering on sonic nuances that are beyond the ken of all but a few punk and New Wave bands.”

To cite an analogy from the marketing world circa 2011, it’s like one of the established offline agencies figuring out how to beat the social media boutiques by drawing on good old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing techniques that have existed for decades.

2. Learning new tricks

Some Girls features one of the great Stones singles, “Miss You,” which became a Number One song on the Billboard charts in 1978. With its disco-tinged beat and Jagger alternately cooing falsetto and growling about lonely angst, “Miss You” sounded quite unlike anything the Stones had ever recorded (although “Hot Stuff” on Black and Blue from 1976 was something of a portent).

In 1977 and 1978, when the Stones were recording Some Girls, disco music was at the height of its popularity. Billboard’s top hits for 1977 included “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave and “I’m Your Boogie Man” by KC and the Sunshine Band. Discothèque Studio 54 was the epicenter for the rich and famous ranging from Truman Capote to Mick Jagger himself.

As related in The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls and in Keith Richards’s biography Life, “[‘Miss You’ is a] result of all the nights Mick spent at Studio 54 and coming up with that beat, that four on the floor . . . Mick wanted to do some disco shit, keep the man happy. But as we got into it, it became quite an interesting beat. And we realized, maybe we’ve got a quintessential disco thing here. And out of it we got a huge hit.”

But by drawing upon disco, the Stones took an enormous risk of sounding like a bunch of old farts trying to pander to a contemporary sound. And disco was dangerous territory for a rock and roll band. Disco was enormously popular, yes, but also alienating to the old guard of rock fans who wore their cut-off jeans proudly and sought refuge in the guitar-heavy sound of Boston and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Contempt for disco would famously erupt in the chaos of the “Disco Demolition Night” riot of 1979 in Chicago’s Comiskey Park.

Incredibly, the Stones figured out how to incorporate the irresistible parts of disco (bass and beat) and in fact claim the sound as their own. How? By adding rough guitars, the bluesy harmonica of guest musician Sugar Blue, and Jagger’s brooding lyrics and soulful singing.

Writes Patell: “Jagger would insist, however, that ‘Miss You’ wasn’t simply a disco song: ‘’Miss You’ wasn’t disco disco. Disco records at that time didn’t have guitars much, and they had all shimmering string lines and oo-eoo-ee girls. It was influenced by it, but not it. I like that.’”

And we like “Miss You,” too. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and artists ranging from the Black Eyed Peas to My Morning Jacket have covered it.

“Miss You” endures because the Stones, although down and out at the time – or perhaps because they were down and out – tested new waters but still had enough confidence in themselves to remain firmly rooted in the sound they knew.

By 1978, the Stones had played together long enough to know how to make great music. By combining the new with their time-tested sound, the Stones recorded a song that still sounds fresh today, while eclipsing many disco tunes that remain trapped in a 1970s time capsule.

From the business and marketing realm, a similar example of adapting embracing the new while staying true to yourself is the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference. Since 1984, the event has attracted the world’s leading thinkers with the promise of delivering “ideas worth spreading.” Part of the event’s mystique is its velvet-rope policy. Not just anyone can attend or speak at TED. Attending requires a $6,000 fee and an application. And only the most engaging speakers who agree to adhere to TED’s standards may appear. (Past speakers have included President Bill Clinton and many Nobel Prize winners.)

And yet TED has changed with the times. TED now makes hundreds of its talks available free on the TED website. The organization uses social media to keep its brand fresh and relevant beyond the annual conference. TED also grants licenses to third parties to hold spin-off TEDx events so that you can experience a little bit of TED around the world. And yet the keynote TED conference is stronger than ever (TED 2012 is sold out already).

TED has successfully adapted by using digital and making its brand more accessible while staying true to its mission of sharing ideas worth spreading.

Where is your Some Girls?

Sooner or later, you’re going to feel threatened as the Rolling Stones once did. If you’re a seasoned grey hair, already established in your field, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re 22 years old and you’re reading this post, just give yourself some time: you will get older, and someone will usher in a fresh idea that’s going to make you feel like you just got kicked squarely in the ass.

And that’s good. We all need to be kicked in the ass from time to time. The question is, How will you respond? Will you stick your head in the sand or come out swinging like the Rolling Stones did?

All hail Imax

As an avid movie goer, I applaud the recent financial success of Imax — the company that offers movies on giant screens with overwhelming sound. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, within the past two years, box office sales for movies shown on Imax screens have more than tripled, and Imax says it will have 600 screens in operation by the end of 2011, up from 266 in 2005.

Why the growth? Because Imax fulfills a promise that 3D technology still struggles to deliver: make movies on the big screen more fun and immersive.

To me, 3D amounts to gilding a lilly. I don’t miss 3D when I see the same movie with and without it. Toy Story 3 comes to mind. Pixar technology is already stunning in 2D; the animation humanizes Woody and Buzz Light year. 3D on top of Pixar technology is like putting flashy hubcaps on a well designed Mercedes.

But Imax elevates two essential elements of the movie going experience — sight and sound — to a completely different level, something “immersive and massive” in the words of director J.J. Abrams. The world that James Cameron created for Avatar becomes otherwordly when experienced on an Imax screen that is 72 feet wide and 53 feet high, with uncompressed sound delivered in six channels.

The Rolling Stones are something more than a legendary rock band entertaining you from behind a celluloid screen when you see Mick Jagger and Keith Richards light up the Beacon Theatre in the Imax version of the concert film Shine a Light — they are a larger-than-life legendary rock band pulling you into an experience of their creation.

Perhaps 3D represents the long-term future of movies. If so, I hope 3D can become something more than tarted-up special effects and uncomfortable glasses that make you feel like a nerd when you wear them. Fortunately, the financial success of Imax suggests that massive screens and enhanced sound will be part of that future, too.

And that’s something I’m willing to pay extra for — ironically an affirmation of what movies on the big screen were supposed to have been all along until the advent of theaters with screens the size of postage stamps: an experience full of wonder that you cannot get at home.

Getting a Life

The two people outside my family who read my blog regularly know that occasionally I find lessons for marketers from pop culture, especially music and books. I don’t read books or listen to music in order to become a better marketer; rather, the learnings just come to me from what I naturally read, watch, or hear.

Lately I’ve been plowing through the sprawling Keith Richards autobiography Life, which is a droll and sometimes surprising reflection on the journey of a confirmed rebel, libertine, and one of the greatest guitarists ever. Among the surprises: as a youth, Richards was fond of the Boy Scouts. He credits the Scouts for helping him learn how to organize a band (although he did get kicked out of the Boy Scouts eventually).

Along with the amusing anecdotes come moments of insight that inspire me. For instance, there’s this passage explaining how he became well known as something of a fashion icon in the late 1960s for his eclectic and unpredictable clothing style:

  • “Anita [Pallenberg — his one-time lover] had a huge influence on the style of the times. She could put anything together and look good. I was beginning to wear her clothes most of the time. I would wake up and put on what was lying around . . . Otherwise, it was plunder, loot that I wore — whatever was thrown at me onstage or what I picked up off stage and happened to fit. I would say to somebody, I like that shirt, and for some reason they felt obliged to give it to me. I used to dress myself by taking clothes off other people.”

I love that: a guy becomes a fashion icon by wearing whatever is lying around or whatever anyone gives him. So why do I care? Because I think you can become a better writer, creative thinker, and marketer if you adopt just a bit of Keith’s open-mindedness in the way you go about your job — not necessarily in the way you dress (unless your sartorial choice is a legitimate part of your job) but in how you formulate ideas.

Fashion icons

Here’s an exercise in taking suggestions and running with them, Keith Richards-style. Next time you’re stumped for a blog post idea or are trying to figure out a theme for a special event you might be planning, visit the largest news stand you can find, or if you don’t have access to one, go to a library. Then start walking up and down the aisle where the magazines are located and visit every type of magazine you can. Take care to find titles that you normally don’t read, especially anything outside your comfort zone. If you hate mechanical things, seek out Popular Mechanics. If you don’t have any children, find magazines for kids like Kiki or Muse. If you’re a guy, grab a copy of O. Thumb through them all. Don’t feel like you must read the articles very closely. Just get main themes.

Required reading for guys

Don’t worry about what may or may not be resonating with you, but if you are so inspired, jot down the name of an idea or a theme that sticks with you. Then clear your head, get back to your work assignment, and just let the ideas work through you. Run with the ideas that stick. (Later you can always vet them with someone else if you need to do so.)

Grown-ups should read this

Sometimes you’ll find this process of collecting ideas to be a waste of time. But there will also be times when you’ll be glad you did.

Even asleep he looks cool

What have you heard, read, or seen lately that surprised and inspired you? Do you find ideas lying around like Keith Richards finds his clothing? If not, what works for you? I would love to know.

Old bands, great brands shine in 2010

There seems to be no end to the merchandising of so-called legacy rock stars, and 2010 was no exception:

  • Elder rockers ranging from Robert Plant to Roger Waters made headlines with new music (in Plant’s case) and an updating of a rock classic via a stunning tour (Waters).

As I’ve blogged before, legacy rockers (sometimes from the grave) provide a relatively young art form (rock) the gift of perspective as they come to terms with their past and chart a course for the future. What did they say about themselves in 2010? Here’s my take:

  • “The king is dead. Long live the king.” God bless Robert Plant. After re-uniting with three quarters of Led Zeppelin to perform at London’s O2 arena in 2007, Plant endured tremendous pressure to tour again with his old band mates under the Led Zeppelin banner. But Plant would have none of that. Instead in 2008 he toured with Alison Krauss to promote their celebrated Raising Sand. In 2010, Plant continued to firmly keep Led Zeppelin in his rear-view mirror by releasing his latest solo album, Band of Joy (the name is a reference to one of his bands prior to Zeppelin). Anyone hoping for a Zeppelin reincarnation was disappointed. He chose a quirky mix of Americana covers spanning folk and rock (recorded with lesser known musicians) and embarked on a modest tour in places like the Robinson Center Music Hall in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was rewarded with some of the best reviews of his career.

  • “Remember us.” The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis, and the Rolling Stones kept their names in the public eye without releasing any new music. Amid much hoopla, including a weeklong celebration on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the Rolling Stones unveiled the remastered Exile on Main St. Months later, Keith Richards, surprising fans with a still-intact and lucid memory, published his 565-page autobiography, Life. In August, Elvis Presley’s entire catalog was released via a massive 30-CD box set retailing for more than $700 — and in an era in which CDs are supposed to be dead, the first-edition limited release sold out. In October, Sony released mono CD editions of Bob Dylan’s seminal recordings from the 1960s (the box set included a thoughtful essay by noted rock historian Greil Marcus). I think that Dylan, the Stones, and the caretakers of Elvis’s brand essentially were re-establishing their places in history for newer generations of rock critics (and it sounds like John Jurgensen at The Wall Street Journal wasn’t convinced). None of them technically released new material (the previously unreleased Exile tracks date back to the making of the original album). Instead, they continued to keep their past achievements relevant (even to the point of the Stones successfully licensing “Gimme Shelter” for use in a video game). I think it’s also significant that the Beatles finally made their music available digitally through iTunes. I don’t think the move was about generating sales (although sales did result) but rather passing the band’s legacy down to digital generations both today and tomorrow.

  • “I am an artist!” It’s no secret that Roger Waters and his ex-Pink Floyd band mates have fought bitterly over who is the rightful owner of the Pink Floyd legacy. In 2010, Waters made a statement in the best way possible: performing the 1979 Pink Floyd classic The Wall as a high-concept solo tour, replete with the construction of a giant wall in the elaborate stage act (as Pink Floyd with Waters did via a limited series of concerts decades ago). So how was The Wall tour different from the re-release of Exile on Main St.? Because Waters re-interpreted and updated the music he wrote in the 1970s as a modern-day statement against corporate greed and bellicose governments (the U.S. war in Iraq among the topics he explored with the modern-day performance of his songs). And having attended one of The Wall concerts, I think he suceeded.

In 2010, we also heard from many other legacy rockers, including Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, and later, in the year, the king of pop, Michael Jackson. I expect 2011 to bring more of the same. And I have mixed feelings about what’s happening here. I think we should give the giants of rock history their due just as newer generations of readers should continue to buy books by Hemingway or pay admission to see the works of Picasso. But for every dollar we spend honoring the gods, rock fans need to be supporting new music financially. How many new and emerging artists have you supported lately by actually paying money to enjoy their music (whether recorded or in concert)?

I hope you’ll make a commitment in 2011 to both the old guard and the vanguard.