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Free Tracks: Today, Amie Street will offer thousands of free tracks from indie labels including Beggars Group, Matador and Polyvinyl. All songs on Amie Street are initially free but will eventually rise in price based on popularity up to 98 cents. Download away!

Perez Recordz: Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton has been negotiating a deal that would provide him with his own imprint at Warner Brothers Records according to the New York Times. Perez could receive $100,000 a year as an advance against 50 percent of any profits generated by artists he discovers and releases through Warner Brothers.

iTunes Now Number Two Music Retailer in the US: iTunes is now the number two music retailer in the US, behind Wal-Mart, based on data from the NPD Group. There are now over 50 million iTunes Store customers. iTunes has sold over four billion songs, with 20 million songs sold on Christmas Day 2007 alone.

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New Music: Your Vegas is an unknown act but these circumstances may change. The band is from Leeds, UK but recently relocated to the US. The David Bendeth produced record will be released in April through Republic Records. Check out the tracks Troubled Times and It Makes My Heart Break. These tracks place Your Vegas at the same level with gold selling artist Keane. Let’s hope the band gains some traction in the US.

Recommended Listening:

Get it Darlin by Mercy Mercedes

The Angels Sing by Lights Resolve

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He who writes first will determine success or failure of a particular album. This has become a common complaint among promoters. Whichever publication is first to review an album will trigger a series of similar reviews, which could either bury the record, or turn it into the new ‘must download.’ This fear of the domino effect has left many promoters holding on much tighter to advances, careful to leak earliest to those who will have a favorable opinion because of past reviews, personal opinions, or a love of free t-shirts. Why does this happen? Simple- there is no integrity left in music journalism.

KOAR posted an article in June of last year discussing the breakdown between the label and press due to the volume of material and shortage of employees/respectable outlets. The problems discussed in that piece have only gotten worse. Everyone involved is still overwhelmed with material, and there are even fewer places with credibility. Add the issue of every album being a virtual roll of the dice, quality-wise, and a population of artists who are quickly losing hope, and I think it would be fair to say we are at the end. How long we wait here for a new beginning and how dark it gets is yet to be determined.

The new Black Crowes album Warpaint received a less than stellar review by writer David Peisner in March’s issue of Maxim, who wrote, “They sound pretty much like they always have.” One problem- he’s never even heard it. The label isn’t making advance copies available. If that’s not startling enough, the editor essentially responded with “We either make stuff up about you or you aren’t gonna be in our magazine.” The Crowes were pissed. As they well should be. They can now expect 30 more ‘it’s more of the same’ reviews, as more bloggers and writers plagiarize the original fake review, because that’s faster than listening to the album and forming an original thought.

This level of unprofessionalism is common these days, and writing a review without actually listening to it is a skill that many writers have down to an art form. Some choose to review other people’s reviews, and some simply project their prejudices based on their critical assessment of the band’s name, song titles, myspace/website and photo. I am sure this Black Crowes review is not the first bullshit article to make it into the magazine, and Maxim is far from the only publication willing to print fluffy fabrications. How much does this hurt the artist? Is the Black Crowes new album doomed to obscurity, coveted by only the most hardcore of existing Black Crowes fans? Will there be no single, no video, no world tour…no future, all because of one bad writer poisoning the well?

I have no idea. I haven’t heard the album. Maybe they wouldn’t have had those things even with a string of excited, positive press. Or maybe it will be the album that changes the course of modern music, despite the bad press. Perhaps you cannot stop an album from fulfilling it’s destiny. Greatness always rises to the top, right? I think that’s a romantic notion, and as a firm believer in the cosmic power of music, I’d like to believe it. However, it seems artists today have a lot of forces working against them. This industry has broken, and that doesn’t only affect the major labels. It affects every facet of the music world, from how it is distributed, to how it is promoted, to how it is performed, to how it is received by the public to, ultimately, the artists themselves.

Artists have conceded the labels. They watched radio and television eliminate themselves from the opportunities list. They gave up the money in the name of ‘freedom’. They bounce around the disorganized distribution systems, waiting to see who wins; and now press, in its transition period, has tuned out to them completely, finding plagiarism and pure fabrication preferable to listening to their music or finding out anything about them. Musicians have been quite passive in these turbulent times. Maybe the dissolution of press will be the catalyst they need to become more involved, but it will probably just be another nail in their coffin. Strap on your aprons and ready your name tags.

-Angela ‘AJ’ Jenson

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Maxim Reviews Black Crowes Album Without Listening To It: In the March issue of Maxim, David Peisner reviewed the new Black Crowes record, “Warpaint”, giving it a two and a half stars.

“The Black Crowes’ label didn’t make advance copies of the album available for review, so they were surprised when they saw Maxim’s turn up”. When they contacted the magazine, they say an editor emailed them:

‘Of course, we always prefer to (sic) hearing music, but sometimes there are big albums that we don’t want to ignore that aren’t available to hear, which is what happened with the Crowes. It’s either an educated guess preview or no coverage at all, so in this case we chose the former.’

Imagine reviewing a video game without playing it! This is one of many reasons why magazine reviews have become irrelevant.

SXSW Torrent: A torrent has been created for every artist playing at SXSW 2008 that can be found here. There is one MP3 file from 764 different artists which is almost 3.5 GB of new free music.

Nickelback Holds the Cards: Though Nickelback has three albums left on its contract with Warner subsidiary Roadrunner Records, sources say the band is looking to use its multi-platinum success as leverage for a new deal. “Insiders say EMI, SonyBMG and Universal Music have all reached out to gauge Nickelback’s interest in leaving Roadrunner”.

Last.Fm Enjoys Traffic Increase: Full-length streams has boosted Last.fm traffic which resulted in 59 percent surge in unique visitors, and a 58 percent increase in total pageviews over the past month. Ok, so you have more people in one room — now what? People can now stream full length songs — now what?

Artist Updates: If you were unable to get into Magic Bullets’ sold out Seattle and San Francisco shows, or if you couldn’t catch them on their co-headline tour with The Blakes, make sure you don’t miss them on February 28th supporting MTV’s Human Giant at San Francisco’s Mezzanine as part of the celebrated Noise Pop festival. Check out their single, Red Room, which has been getting spins throughout California. Contact Rob Wells or Chris Castle for more information.

Recommended Listening:

Kill the Lights by The Jakes

I’m Not Over by Carolina Liar

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Chaos’ of China’s Music Industry: According to BBC Chinese pop stars need to find alternative ways to make a living because of the huge numbers of pirated CDs and high numbers of illegal downloading. Let the China music industry be a warning for the U.S. government and lawmakers.

The RIAA Crackdown: The trade organization (The RIAA) who protects artists and labels has announced another batch of 401 letters to offending students at Columbia, Drexel, North Carolina State, Ohio State, University of Maine, University of Southern California, and several others. The RIAA pointed to an anti-piracy emphasis against protocols and applications like Ares, BitTorrent, Gnutella, LimeWire, and Morpheus. Read more at Digital Music News…

Britain threatens legislation over Internet piracy: Britain will impose legislation on Internet service providers (ISPs) by April 2009 if they do not work with the music and film industries to curb illegal downloading. Industry estimates put the number of broadband users in Britain who download files illegally at around 6 million. Do you see folks? we are seeing a turning of the tide against illegal downloaders. The movie industry will not suffer the same fate as the music industry, I guarantee that. The movie industry will help put the pieces back together again and bring organization to the internet that will benefit the music biz. We don’t have to end up like China.

Failed to React: Timbaland-produced single Outta My Head that was written for Ashlee Simpson failed to react at radio. Simpson’s record label rushed to release a new single Lil’ Miss Obsessive that features Tom from
Plain White Ts. To be honest, it’s another highly derivative track and will probably suffer the same fate as the first single.

New Music: Emo act Story of the Year saw commercial success in its major label debut, “Page Avenue”, consisting of the popular singles “Until the Day I Die” and “Anthem of Our Dying Day” that had catchy choruses and connected with the troubled youth. Their second album “In the Wake of Determination” abandoned the well- defined choruses and suffered the sophomore slump. The band is now finished with their third studio album The Black Swan, their first on Epitaph Records and posted a new track titled Wake Up on their myspace. The first single Wake Up has the same intensity as the song that broke the band, ‘Until the Day I Die’.

Arizona indie band Lydia has posted a new track titled Hospital from their new album “Illuminate” that is due in March. The band will be posting new songs periodically through the next several weeks. Lydia connecting to a larger audience is still an unknown but their strong following will allow them to buy some time providing them an opportunity to develop over the next couple of albums if they decide to stick around.

Kings of A&R: We want to hear new music. We want to hear a great song that tells a story followed by a killer hook. Email us a link with your myspace and tell us what song we need to listen to. Don’t send us a long biography because we won’t pay attention. “Let the music do the talking” as Steven Tyler said of Aerosmith. If the songs show signs of greatness, we will take you to the land of OZ. Email tips@kingsofar.com

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Michael Jackson Dropped From Grammy’s: After his diva demands proved too much for the show’s producers, Michael Jackson was dropped from the Grammy Awards. He requested was that he be referred to as the King of Pop no less than 30 times during the ceremony. He also insisted on receiving a special award that no one had received before and never would again, and wanted a special honoree to introduce him.

Also, the 25th anniversary edition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (Epic/Legacy) sold 166,000 copies in its first week of release but it won’t be found on the Billboard top 200, it is considered a catalog release by Billboard.

TVT’s Bankruptcy A Warning For Chart-Driven Indies: Coolfer recently pointed out an interesting observation regarding TVT’s bankruptcy. Its top artists represent two of the genres that are lost in a transitioning market. “First you have rappers like Lil’ Jon who have traded album sales for ringtones and single downloads — all the while diverting time toward consumer products and other revenue-generating schemes. Rap has lost crossover fans, too, and they won’t return any time soon”. Read the rest of the commentary here.

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Recommended Listening: Check out Portland, Oregon rock band
The Crash Engine. The Crash Engine has had their music featured in the Independent film “Last Man Running” and one of their most crowd pleasing songs “The Sky Retreats” appeared this year on Deep Elm Records’ critically acclaimed Emo Diaries compilation. Listen to the track Weary Anthems and Wake Up.

New Artist Updates: San Franciso indie act Magic Bullets have been named Live 105’s Soundcheck Breakthrough Local Artist of 2007. Aaron Axelsonare is giving them repeated spins on the tastemaker radio show. The band has been featured on imeem’s music page as well as YouTube’s music page. Management is Rob Wells and legal is Chris Castle.

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