Thursday, April 17, 2008

You Fucked Up File: ABC

Welcome to the inaugural entry to ASIAF's YFUF. What's a "YFUF"? A dear friend and former colleague in the music biz has to deal with any number of challenging, demanding artists from baby bands to international superstars based all over the globe. Years ago he instituted what he calls the "You Fucked Up File." When the band inevitably fucks something up, it's added to their YFUF. This way if there are any disputes about why a third single isn't released from a disappointing album, tour support is reduced, etc., he whips out their YFUF and sets them straight.

Last night saw the worst ever piece of election coverage by any network not named Fox. After 3,492 Democratic debates you'd think ABC could get it right. Not that I watched it. I have read and viewed much of the press coverage. Sometimes that's more important than what actually happened. Because by all accounts your average American couldn't have tolerated more than 5 minutes of it, this was one of those times.

Yes, the candidates' performance was lackluster. But ABC's Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos acted like they had participated in some perverse pre-debate Right Wing Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. WTF was up with that?

You know ABC fucked up when the crowd actually and loudly booed Gibson. You know they blew it when Obama is asked about some badass he knew when he was 8 years-old. You know it was awful when Editor & Publisher's Editor Greg Mitchell calls it "perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years." You know it was bad when one of the many gotcha questions is supplied by Sean Hannity and NY right wing radio looney Steve Malzberg. You know it was terrible when Philly's Daily News' Will Bunch rips it not once but twice. You know it went well past weak when the "flag pin" kerfuffle and every other kerfuffle is resurrected. You know it was ugly when it took an absolutely unforgivable 51 fucking minutes for the motherf***ers moderators to bring up one policy issue(!?!). You know it was shameful when Keith Olbermann sez "The campaign may have seemed dirty. It had nothing on one of the moderators of the debate tonight."

Look, I know Stephanopoulos is ABC's DC bureau chief but he was Bill Clinton's senior political advisor and communications director fer chrissakes.
I don't want to say that George had a hard-on for Obama but he should have put a coat on to cover his naked bias. Fox's Hugh Hewitt would have been a more appropriate choice. Is Charles Gibson really so light that he couldn't have moderated solo?

The only good to come out of this unmitigated disaster is that every single debate henceforth will seem amaaazing.

++Update: Harper's Ken Silverstein provides one-stop shopping with Deep Throats: A Compilation of Debate Porn.


Liesl said...

"Last night saw the worst ever piece of election coverage by any network not named Fox."

Bwah! And yeah, totally fucking embarrassing to watch Georgie act like a second string high school debate team coach.

James Nitti said...

It may have provided you with a nice blog post, but your "friend in the music biz" with the YFUF for the bands he signed, sounds like a real piece of shit.

I'm a producer who's seen a lifetime of young bands who get fluffed, fleeced and fucked by record labels and I can tell you without hesitation that the people who run the labels, from the CEO to scummy A&R men (which it sounds like your friend is) are the miserable chunks of human excrement.

It's one reason why it doesn't bother me one bit that filesharers all over the world are taking the record labels for a ride straight to hell.

I have completely stopped buying music from anyone but the artists themselves. With luck, the entire music business as it exists today will go into the crapper.

And you know what? There will still be music made and musicians making livings. It's only the music "businessmen" who will get the pain they so richly deserve.

Good post, though.

Anacher Forester said...

James, I understand where you're coming from believe me I do. But you're reading too hard. My friend is not a real piece of shit. He's a great guy who works for one of the few truly artist friendly labels. The vast majority of those who have worked with him would back me on this. It's not like he pulls this on everybody for kicks.

Many bands have unrealistic expectations. Some, typically the unrealistic ones, may prove unwilling or unable to do hold up their end of the job by blowing off interviews, chronically missing soundchecks and otherwise screwing up tasks they specifically, clearly agreed to do. My friend has learned over many years that setting such a band/management straight can be difficult. Rather than arbitrarily blasting 'em in pique of anger, YFUFs allow him to do it calmly and efficiently with documentation that backs up his position. The sharp kids actually learn from this.

Save your animus for the rest of the biz. There's plenty who deserve it. My buddy is not one of those people.


James Nitti said...

OK, Anacher, I'm sorry.

Now, see how easy that was, folks? One person says something a little overboard, another corrects him, apologies are made and bygones are bygones. If two liberals who don't know each other can straighten something out this easily, we should be able to elect a friggin' president who's not an idiot warmonger!.

I do enjoy Andrew Sullivan is a Fraud. Please apologize to your friend for me losing my cool.

Anacher Forester said...

No worries James. I can't expect that just because I say that someone's my friend you will assume he's one of the good guys. But you should. Ha!

I don't have a lot of time or patience for the folks you described. It's a big reason why I'm not currently working in the music industry.

Thanks for stopping by.

Liesl said...

I wonder if the music business is the same as the film business in that the majority of the people who work on a film are below the line and therefore the ones screwed with profit loss. The execs and above the line people get paid no matter what (for studio releases). So, downloading is only really hurting the technical people, the people who do most of the work.

Anacher Forester said...

Here are the main differences between the film industry and movie industry:
1. In the music industry, the artists get screwed with disturbing frequency. A recording contract's structure gives labels the upper hand. Labels bankroll all of a release’s associated costs through an advance to the artist. Before the artist sees dime one from album sales, that advance must be recouped. Just about every kind of cost imaginable is recoupable.

With their industry wide success rate at about 1%, the record cos. think this makes perfect sense. Unless you're superstar, they own the recording masters in perpetuity too.

Can you imagine your average regularly working actor waiting for a film to break even before they get a check? Me neither. But musicians have multiple other potential revenue streams not available to actors. Music licensing (commercials, video games, film, TV), publishing, merchandising come immediately to mind.

2. From day one until the theatrical release, the film producer is the primary driving force. The film producer picks scripts, hires directors, secures financing, etc. In the record biz, the producer is analogous to a film's director. He's hired by the label for the recording process alone.

3. Everyone in the film business wants to be in the record business.

4. Everyone in the record business wants to be in the film business.


Anacher Forester said...

FYI James,

Sure, "filesharing" hurts the record cos. A lot. But due to the "recoupable" part of the recording contract, it actually hurts musicians first and foremost. It literally takes money out of their pockets, reduces resources available to them and limits the time they are allowed to develop.

"Filesharing" without permission from the file owners i.e. the band and the label is stealing. Period. You wouldn't be happy if someone went into the business you own and helped themselves to whatever they wanted. It's the same thing.

You can make the argument that the old music biz model needs to be blown up. It does. Badly. Stealing music via file sharing does it the wrong way: at great expense to musicians.


Nittacci said...

Filesharing only hurts the musicians who have had the bad judgment to have signed with a label.

In fact, I make the main part of my living as a musician and composer and I encourage filesharing. When I work with a label, it's only as a publishing company, not as some sort of overarching "daddy" that's going to market me and then dribble money into my cup. I have found other models for monetizing my work, too, such as work for commission and direct sales.

It may be that the model of music distribution that the music "industry" have foisted upon musicians in the last 50 years have warped their expectations a bit.

Artists are supposed to be innovators, so now it's time for the creative ones to innovate when it comes to making a living with their art. If the entire top-down music industry as we know it went away tomorrow, it would be a net plus for music and musicians.

Anacher Forester said...


Encouraging file sharing of your music is your choice. That's cool. If you can make a living this way, that's very cool. Ripping all bands signed to all labels for their "poor judgment", that's way out of line. I'm not sure why you think thousands of your fellow musicians and their families should suffer in order to force the music industry to change. Believe me, they'll be the first to suffer.

It's easy to rip the evil record companies. Most of them deserve it. However, when they sign an artist, they do take a significant financial risk. The artist takes a major gamble too.

Through this relationship musicians do receive at least a tremendous initial benefit. The label's resources give them the opportunity to practice their art at a much higher level. With this backing, musicians have access to higher quality recording studios, producers, art direction, equipment, supplemental musicians, etc. Theoretically, and most frequently, the end result is a lasting finished work they are happy with and could not otherwise have achieved.

The label-band relationship benefits the artist in other ways. Tour support allows them to bring their live show to more people and places. Publicity depts. secure and coordinate interviews, pre-release press, trade press, tour press, etc. Promotion people get airplay, on-air interviews & co-promotes. Retail folks get and keep product stocked, coordinate digital releases, set up in-store displays, performances and promotions. And so on.

Yes, artists should be innovators. They should want to create the best piece of art too. They should want their art to reach the largest number of people intact. They should want to get paid for their work. They should be very careful of who they go into business with.

We are in the midst of a massive paradigm shift. Bands like Radiohead are leading the way with their label-less online distribution model. When I first met them in 1993, they were looking for a US deal and didn't know their ass from their elbow. Now they are financially secure. Radiohead achieved this security through their business relationship with their former record company. With out they would not have been able to afford to record Pablo Honey in Boston. There would be no "Creep." It's likely Radiohead would be long gone by now.

Again, I am not an apologist for the music industry. I do know a bit about how it works gleaned over some 30 years immersed in it. I welcome change with open arms but not at the expense of thousands of musicians.

May I ask what kind of music you make?


Nittacci said...

Music for film, electronica, experimental, etc. Sound design for visual media and installations, too.

I also produce for other musicians, in genres from pop and hiphop to jazz and other more "progressive" styles.

In the last few years, I've started doing some commission stuff, sort of the way painters and sculptors work. I deliver the master and the owner can then do whatever he wants with it, including copy and resell. I agree not to distribute any other copies. I get paid and retain the authorship attribution (under my nom de guerre), and that's all.

Thank you for asking. I have to get back to work now. I will continue to look in on your blog.