U2 didn’t just give away their CD; Lincoln Calling (initial) line-up announced; Noah’s Ark in the park, Lars & Mal, Derby Birds tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 1:02 pm September 10, 2014
The slugline over the Apple photo read "A big moment in music history. And you're part of it." Did they mean the end of recorded music history?

The slugline over the Apple photo read “A big moment in music history. And you’re part of it.” Did they mean the end of recorded music history?

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Did you follow the Apple announcement yesterday?

Needless to say, I’ll be replacing my broken-screened iPhone 5 with an ultra-slim 6 sometime in the next two weeks. And how about the Apple Watch! Gotta have one of those, right? Starting at $349, maybe not. I’m waiting to hear the first Apple Watch joke, something along the lines of “It works like the iPhone; if you’re on AT&T it drops a few minutes out of every hour…” *rimshot!*

But maybe the most interesting announcement was when Tim Cook trotted out U2 and then proceeded to give away the band’s new album, Songs of Innocence, to anyone with an iTunes account. I figured something like this would happen eventually, albeit with indie labels like Saddle Creek and Sub Pop. And I said that when it happened…its success will breath new life into an already-established (though waning) act, who will see its biggest crowds ever on tour, generating merch and back-catalog sales for the label and causing the music industry to rethink (again) how it does business.

Who would have thought that U2 would become the poster child for this model? But the fact is, U2 didn’t give away its new album. The Wall Street Journal had the skinny behind yesterday’s give-away. From the article:

We’re not going in for the free music around here,” Bono joked on stage.  Apple didn’t pay a traditional wholesale price for each of the 500 million albums. Instead the company paid Universal and U2 an undisclosed lump sum for the exclusive window to distribute the album. Universal plans to piggyback on the big push for Songs of Innocence to promote the band’s 12 older albums, a critical factor for a veteran rock band.”

The article went on to say the album’s first single would be used “as a central element of a global, 30-day television advertising campaign for its new iPhones and Apple Watch. The campaign is believed to be worth around $100 million, according to a person familiar with the talks.”

Of course most people who download the CD from iTunes for free won’t know the financial backstory, and will assume U2 just gave it away, further enforcing the idea that recorded music has become (or is) essentially worthless. Especially when it just “shows up in your iTunes library” like magic.

I think we’re only a year or so away from an era when all the monster pop acts — Shania, Katy Perry, Gaga, Jay Z, (i.e., the VMA acts) — will give away downloads of their new albums as a matter of course, just to get the music out there before they go on tour, just like U2 has done. I’m not sure where that leaves the little guys (and labels) who still count on revenue from album sales.

And at what point does the RIAA quit going after people who illegally download music, figuring what’s the point when some bands are giving it away and it’s all available online via Spotify anyway….?


As for the quality of the new U2 record, someone online equated U2 to Coldplay yesterday when all this was going down, and goddamn if that comparison isn’t apt. The new U2 album indeed sounds like a Coldplay record. You have to wonder if Bono and Co. ever listen to their older stuff and ask themselves when the spark went out? Can you believe there was a time when U2 was considered subversive? I still remember the first time I heard tracks off War on Z-92, spun by none other that Slats Gannon, who knew he was playing something new and different. What pups we wall were back then…

* * *

Catching up on some news that went down while I was out… Jeremy Buckley announced that there will, indeed, be an 11th Annual Lincoln Calling Festival this year. With Buckley’s role in Vega, I thought perhaps last year’s fest might have been his swan song.

Buckley’s current status with Vega I cannot say here, other than it has indeed changed since last year. None of the parties involved are willing to go on the record as to who is running Vega these days, though it’s common knowledge that Eli and Carrie Mardock are still involved in the day-to-day operations.

The dates for Lincoln Calling are Oct. 7-12. Venues include The Bourbon, Duffy’s, Zoo Bar, Yia Yia’s Mix, Fat Toad Pub, The Cask, Tower Square and Vega. And the bands announced so far:

A Ferocious Jungle Cat
Ages and Ages
All Young Girls are Machine Guns
The Baberaham
Bonehart Flannigan
The Bottle Tops
Bud Heavy and the High Lifes
Christopher the Conquered
Evan Bartels Band
The Fabtones
Flannel Channel
Found Footage Festival
Gerardo Meza
Gloom Balloon
Hank & Cupcakes
Homegrown Film Festival
Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery
The Kickback
Lars and Mal
Manic Pixie Dream Girls
Matt Cox Band
The Melon Company
The River Monks
The Ro Hempel Band
Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band
Sidewalk Chalk
Sol Seed
Thirst Things First
Universe Contest
White Mystery
Zoolarious Comedy Showcase

I’m glad to see that DEERPEOPLE is on the bill. I was introduced to this band via Lincoln Calling years ago, and caught their set this year at SXSW. Definitely worth seeking out when you’re wandering O Street that week.

Buckley tells me more details are forthcoming, more bands are being confirmed. Stay tuned, and follow along at the LC2014 Facebook page.

* * *

After two cancellations, Hear Nebraska is finally going to host their finale showcase for this year’s Live at Turner Park Series tonight, and it’s a doozy: Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship and Snake Island are the featured acts. Get some food and booze and head on down. The music starts at 6 p.m. and it’s free.

Another free show going on tonight is at Slowdown Jr. where locals Lars and Mal and The Derby Birds will be performing. This one starts at 9.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Column 344: Lincoln Calling downsizes and upgrades; a few words about Steve Jobs; Dick Dale tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:38 pm October 6, 2011

Column 344: Does Size Matter? Lincoln Calling Pt. 8

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Lincoln Calling logo

We live in a culture where “bigger” is always perceived as being “better.” Some might argue that this concept is The American Way.

Well, Jeremy Buckley, the impresario behind the annual Lincoln Calling Music Festival, isn’t concerned about getting “bigger.” On the surface, one might look at this year’s festival — the 8th Annual, an achievement in and of itself — and say that it’s a step backward. There are no significant national touring acts on the 100-plus-band 16-DJ (so far) roster whose schedule is spread over five nights at 10 venues in downtown Lincoln. Financial support was cut in half for ’11, thanks to a tsunami that not only devastated Japan, but also washed away sponsorship dollars from Toyota. But a glance at the schedule shows (which you can view at lincolncalling.com), this year’s event may be the best ever.

Buckley, as you can imagine, agrees.

“Each year is a different beast,” he said between football games last Sunday afternoon. “Last year the sky was the limit. We had an assload of money from sponsors and a perfect storm of national touring bands that just happened to be coming through at the right time. This year it was doing what we could with what we had, and I think we put together something great.”

Though the festival’s organization falls exclusively on Buckley’s shoulders — and that’s the way he wants it — this year he loosened the reins oh so slightly and got input from folks who asked to be part of the fun. The result is a more varied lineup that spreads the festival’s genres beyond its usual indie-only focus.

“I guess I tried to put an emphasis on making other people do my work,” Buckley said. “Quite a few aspects of this year’s festival came from people asking to help out.”

For example, Buckley received a Facebook message from Corey Birkmann asking why so few punk and metal bands were involved in the program. Buckley’s reply: “I don’t know much about punk or metal, so I don’t know the difference between the good and bad bands.” Birkmann offered to help by booking a show a day at The Spigot that was metal and/or punk-oriented.

“So I said, ‘Roll with it.'” Buckley quipped.

As a result, 12 Lincoln punk and/or metal acts are booked Thursday through Saturday at The Spigot, including Dust Bled Down, Ten Dead and Beaver Damage. “So this year, metal and punk are getting some love,” Buckley said.

KZUM talent Hilary Stohs-Krause, host of radio show “X-Rated Women in Music,” asked Buckley if she could curate a showcase that featured women musicians in an MTV Unplugged-style setting. “I told her to roll with it,” Buckley said. The two-hour Friday afternoon program will take place in the art gallery above Duffy’s. Called The Parrish Project, it will feature student artists from the LPS Arts and Humanities Focus Program under the tutelage of Mezcal Brothers’ Gerardo Meza.

Then there’s music website hearnebraska.org (which Buckley helped develop), that will host a Saturday afternoon program that includes musicians merch booths at The Bourbon Theater. And DJ Spencer Munson a.k.a. $penselove, who pulled together a posse of DJs who will perform at clubs throughout the festival, including the all new Mix Barcade, a venue in the old Bricktop space that will debut as part of Lincoln Calling.

While all that help is “making things a lot less stressful” for Buckley, the festival’s primary attraction continues to be its overall line-up. No, Lincoln Calling didn’t attract any Saddle Creek bands this year, but it did draw the cream of the crop of the non-Creek acts, including Ideal Cleaners, Conduits, Digital Leather, Eli Mardock, Gus & Call, Icky Blossoms, McCarthy Trenching and Pharmacy Spirits, The Show Is the Rainbow, So-So Sailors, UUVVWWZ, Machete Archive, Talking Mountain, Son of 76, The Whipkey Three, Matt Cox, and even some out-of-towners. They include the always amazing The Photo Atlas, poorly named Gauntlet Hair and Nebraska adoptees Cowboy Indian Bear.

Glancing at the line-up, there were a lot of acts that I flat-out didn’t recognize. Buckley even has an answer for that in the form of a massive 47-song digital download available for free from the Lincoln Calling website.

Like like every real festival, all bands are receiving some sort of compensation, whether it’s a guarantee, a cut of the door or an all-access pass to all five days of the event. Helping defray costs were donations from the Downtown Lincoln Association, Guitar Center and Lincoln’s Young Professional Group.

The particulars: The festival kicks off Tuesday, Oct. 11, with the Homegrown Film Festival at The Bourbon Theater at 8 p.m., a listening party at Duffy’s at 10 p.m. and an acoustic open mic night at The Zoo bar at 9 p.m. The real stuff gets rolling Wednesday, Oct. 12, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 15. All access passes for the full festival are $30, one-day passes run $10 to $12, or you can pay the door at each venue, which runs from free to $8.

So no, Lincoln Calling isn’t as big as it was in 2010, “and I’m OK with that,” Buckley said. “I know there are 5,000 people who will go to this and have a good time, and the bands will have better crowds than on any given Friday night.”

That said, Buckley’s already thinking about the 10th Annual Lincoln Calling in 2013, and for that one, size will definitely matter.

* * *

If Steve Jobs is remembered for anything, it will be that he was a great judge of talent and had a terrific eye for design. Even more than that, Jobs inspired greatness in others.

No, Jobs didn’t design the iMac, iPod, iPad, iPhone or any other modern-day Apple product. Jon Ive and his design team did. Jobs didn’t write the code that makes those devices operate – in fact he didn’t know how to code. That was the work of his programmers. And Jobs didn’t come up with the phrase “Think Different” or write the words spoken by Richard Dreyfuss in that amazing commercial. Ken Segall and his team at TBWA\Chiat\Day did that.

Last night when I heard about Jobs’ death, I clicked around on the ‘net and eventually wound up at folklore.org, a website that compiles stories about the making of the first Macintosh by those who were actually involved. Their stories cover everything from the computer’s initial design to programming, construction, marketing, you name it. Through it all, Jobs was an insufferable task master. He put a boot up everyone’s ass that worked at Apple, and if that boot didn’t fit, he fired them. He made insane demands and never accepted “no” for an answer.  He added his two cents to every decision, and expected perfection from everyone.

So no, Jobs didn’t do a lot of what he’s being credited as doing in the endless stream of requiems. Instead he did something that was just as important — he made decisions, he inspired innovation, he recognized good ideas and demanded their implementation. And yes, in the end, he represented all those products and ideas as a bigger-than-life icon as indelible as the Apple logo itself.

Jobs was a perfectionist and had impeccable taste. It seems unlikely that his successor, Tim Cook, has those qualities at the same levels Jobs did  (or if anyone does, for that matter). Cook’s ability to inspire greatness remains in question, along with the future of Apple as an innovator.

* * *

Another aside: Ironically, Jobs will be remembered by some as the guy who helped bring down the music industry as we knew it, when in fact iTunes came along two years after Napster and was designed to help protect the industry in the face of widespread music-file piracy.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s the return of Dick Dale. I interviewed the “King of Surf Guitar” way back in 1998 (which you can read here) and was happy that he was still alive and rocking. Now at age 74, Dale is still alive and still rocking. With Speed! Nebraska band The Mezcal Brothers. $20, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.