Liner Notes: Bullet News for February 29th
It’s been a wild ride for Montreal entrepreneur Saroosh Alvi, filled with ups, downs, reversals of fortune and dramatic twists. Around the corner is VICE’s biggest coup yet: Today, the company he helped birth launches its own TV channel, Viceland, as part of Walt Disney Co. and Hearst Corp.’s A&E Network in the US, and on Rogers in Canada. Money has been raining down on VICE for the past few years: Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox put up $70M for 5% of the company in 2013; A&E and Technology Crossover Ventures contributed $250M each for 10% portions in 2014, and A&E has since upped its share to approximately 15%. In the fall, Disney pumped in $400M for a reported 10% share.
- Stingray Digital cofounder and CEO Eric Boyko is betting his Montreal company can stand up against the titans like Apple and Google in the music field, and even suggests a number of the streaming companies are dead in the water when the VC bubble bursts. “Once the VCs stop funding them, the only players out there will be Google and Apple. Maybe Spotify has a chance, but the other guys—it’s a matter of time,” he tells Joe Castaldo in an informative Canadian Business feature.
So far, Bay Street is buying into the story. All three analysts who follow Stingray have an Outperform rating on the stock. “Stingray is well-positioned to capitalize on its global growth ambitions and consumers’ embrace of curated content,” wrote National Bank Financial analyst Adam Shine. Stingray is modestly profitable (it earned $9 million in its last quarter), whereas some of its peers are perennial money-losers. Spotify, for example, has to spend heavily on marketing to acquire new customers and is believed to pay out a hefty amount of revenue in royalties. Andrew Sheehy, chief analyst at market research firm Nakono in the U.K., wrote in a report that Spotify’s model is “inherently unprofitable.” He concluded: “Our analysis is that no current music subscription service…can ever be profitable, even if they execute perfectly.”
- Tommy Mottola is being sued for pocketing US$150K as an advance for a book he has yet to write about the kid from the Bronx who reached the apex of music biz power. The former Mr. Mariah Carey inked a deal with Hachette Book Group in 2011 to write “The Bronx School of Business,” detailing how his street smarts led to success, the NY Daily News reports.
- Ennio Morricone won his first Academy Award last night for Best Original Score to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, 37 years after he was first nominated. At 87, Morricone has also become the oldest winner in the history of the awards – surpassing the record held by Christopher Plummer (who was 82). The composer was given a standing ovation as he received the award and in his acceptance speech he said, “There isn’t a great soundtrack without a great movie that inspires it.” Previously, Morricone had earned six nominations, but had always been overlooked by the Academy.
- Samsung is reportedly taking a second look at Tidal, the music streaming service owned by Jay-Z. The Korean electronics giant has restarted acquisition talks with Tidal, according to a report by the New York Post. The paper is also reporting that Tidal has been in talks with Google and Spotify about possible partnerships.
- Michael Jackson’s estate has blasted GourmetGiftBaskets in a suit filed Thursday in California federal court alleging the online gourmet popcorn retailer infringed the deceased megastar’s trademark rights by launching sales site KingOfPop.com and making “sham” excuses for using Jackson’s nickname.
- Members of Led Zeppelin asked a California federal judge last week to toss a copyright suit alleging they stole the opening riff from 1971's "Stairway to Heaven" from the band Spirit, saying there's no evidence that Zeppelin members ever even heard Spirit's composition.
- A rent hike in the city’s chinchilla row is forcing music retailer HMV to shut its 50 Bloor Street store at the end of March. The closure leaves five outlets in Toronto: the 333 Yonge Street flagship, at Eglinton and Laird, the Eaton Centre, Dufferin Mall and Sherway Gardens.
- Frank D’Angelo says he has “great respect” for Vanity Fair but calls out one of its writers for a less than complimentary story about the singer’s quest to become a movie mogul. The voluble Siciliean termed the scribbler a “fucking dick head” and a “prick” among other names in a recent Anthony Cumia HD video podcast. Separately, D'Angelo's latest epic, Sicilian Vampire, gets a respectable nod in the Globe & Mail. He's taken out full page ads for the flick in the G&M, and the National Post—and every Friday there's a full page promoting some aspect of his career in the Toronto Sun.
- Alfie Zappacosta has had a long career keeping his head above water, his respect for himself intact and somehow found a niche in a career that has never quite found a comfortable spot in an industry that forever wants to pigeonhole its participants. He tells his story from his perspective to Cam Fuller in the Star Phoenix shortly before taking the stage at the Village Guitar.
- Aerosmith bassist Bob Hamilton recalls recording “Big Ten Inch Record” on the band’s classic Toys in the Attic album: “Jack (Douglas, producer) knew this guy from Canada, a boogie-woogie piano player named Scott Cushnie, he was blind. Jack had him come down to the studio to play some piano on the record. I remember thinking, ‘Why are we doing this song? It’s just some stupid old blues song.’ But it’s a crowd-pleasing song, even now we play that song and people love it. It’s a blast to play, too.”
- There are big changes afoot for the annual North By Northeast (NXNE) fanfest this year. ANOW magazine, reports a large component of NXNE is shiting from the downtown Toronto core and into the slowly emerging docklands district. The plan is to erect a new concert venue capable of hosting crowds of up to 10K for shows on June 17 and 18. Assistance from the City is being sought for the switch. Given NOW’s close ties to the fest, the report is credible. Let’s hope something can be done about the notoriously poor public transit service to this area, and that this doesn't end leaving a legacy tax bill for the already over-taxed denizens to deal with.
- Elton John knows something about gratitude. For him, it meant adding to an already busy weekend by performing a free "pop-up gig" Saturday on the Sunset Strip, thanking the city of West Hollywood for 24 years of hosting his annual Oscar viewing party for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Joining him on stage, Lady Gaga wearing impossibly high high-heels. Rolling Stone has the story.
- The Levitation Vancouver festival returns to Stanley Park and various Van venues from June 16-18. The lineup for the left of centre fest includes Flying Lotus, Of Montreal, Thundercat, White Lung, Thee Oh Sees, Tycho, Holy Fuck, The Growlers, Fidlar, Louise Burns and Suuns.
- Our congrats to Toronto-based indie record label Idee Fixe. They just celebrated their 5th anniversary with gigs last week at The Horseshoe and the Garrison, featuring imprint acts Jennifer Castle, Bry Webb (of The Constantines), Fiver, The Highest Order, Bart and Alex Lukashevsky. Some IF albums have made the Polaris short and long lists, and the label continues to stress quality over quantity in its releases.
- The Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival (TOsketchfest) will feature a star-studded musical event as part of the fest. HELLO! THUNDER BAY! takes place on Monday, March 7 at the Randolph Theatre. Hosted by Dave Bidini of Rheostatics, it will feature musicians such as Alex Lifeson, Terra Lightfoot, Tom Wilson, David Quinton Steinberg (The Mods, Dead Boys), and Odario Williams sharing their funniest stories from the road, while Canada's musically-inclined comedians such as Gavin Crawford, Jessica Holmes, and Sean Cullen, perform parody songs. Sounds like a blast.
- From Richard Flohil’s Facebook page: OK, what does it take to get the A&R people at Maple Music and Paper Bag Records to answer e-mails and respond to phone messages? Polite persistence? Or dynamite? Suggestions cheerfully considered! Online responses to the Sunday posting included telepathy, a lawsuit, and camping out.
- Warner Music’s Steve Kane on Facebook shared from Ken Boyer's page a a flash of a mural at the company’s new digs. A nice creative touch and all copyright cleared, we are sure.
- And from Wanted Sound + Picture and former MCA exec Bob Johnston's Facebook page: Following an incendiary performance at Montreal’s Forum on Dec. 2, 1973, the Who attended an after-show party put on by MCA executives. Would you be surprised if we told you that legal trouble and property damage ensued?
The Quadrophenia tour had reached its apex, and the Who planned to celebrate by ushering in their variety of holiday cheer. The hospitality suite at the posh Bonaventure Hotel (Pete Townshend remembers it as a Four Seasons) was the scene for the festivities that one witness would later compare to “Hiroshima.
TBT memories fun but $35,000 damages to the suite later we had to bail them out. Donald K Donald took it out of the 60 / 40 cut from the concert. Bob Johnston kept his GM job at MCA Quebec. Far left, the late Scott Richards and Richard Bibby from MCA Canada, and Bob's dead centre flanked by John Entwistle and a bashful Pete Townshend.
- Rob Braide does Sunday brunch: While the weather outside is frightening, this is a shameless plug for one of Montreal's best Sunday brunch spots. La Ruche is right on the corner of Mount Royal and Park. Northwest corner across from the Petrocan. The menus are very creative and they use our (ed’s addition: delicious, hand made, thick cut) Braide et Fils bacon. Owner George is one of our finest pastry chefs and his lovely daughters run the place. I'm off there now. Hope to see you if you're so inclined.
- Now publisher Michael Hollett enthusiastically posts: Some of you may know I have been working on a novel for, well, quite a few years. Spent the summer and the fall working with my great editor on re-writes etc. Now it's off to market tomorrow. If I was more restrained I would have waited to share this until there was a deal but, you also probably know, I'm not that restrained. Ahem, now Richard Flohil, are you reading this?
- John Parikhal posts a reminder about Neil Postman’s published book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Entertainment. JP’s comment: He's got it right. But, still, no one is dealing with the central issue about how we got into this mess.
- Retired broadcaster Chuck Camroux on Facebook: Got to thinking. In these 54 years (of marriage and working in radio) we've lived in 11 cities, 5 provinces and 16 homes. Kids were born in three different cities and two different provinces. Prior to the '54', I worked in 6 different cities (Camrose, AB, Grand Prairie, AB, North Battleford, SK, Antigonish, NS, Santa Rosa, California & Edmonton, AB). Just on those stations alone I could write a book. Pictured here with Chuck, wife since '54, Charlene.
- Bell Canada CEO George Cope has rolled out the company’s Starter pack for TV subscribers that meets CRTC requirements but is skimpy to the point of being so awful that no one’s likely to want it. The entry-level package costs $24.95 per month and includes the Weather Network, TVO and 10 francophone channels among its 26 offerings. If you want a la carte, CNN’s gonna cost you another $7.00. Rogers skinny package costs the same (plus digital box rental or purchase), but includes US channels such as Fox, NBC and PBS.
- CIMA has announced that its 2nd Annual Celebration & Awards Gala is set for Monday, June 13, at Berkeley Churchin Toronto. Last year’s 40th anniversary bash was a smashing success, with tickets selling out within days! Ticket info for this year’s event to be posted ASAP. Nominations for the Brian Chater Leadership Award, Entrepreneur Award and Unsung Hero Award will be open to CIMA’s membership. Members are encouraged to submit up to three names per category and have received information on how to participate via e-mail. CIMA is also introducing a new award in 2016, the Marketing Award.
Registration is open now for the ‘The Mastering of a Music City’, a new international creative-economy summit taking place Saturday, May 7, 2016, alongside Canadian Music Week. Entrepreneurs, industry executives, tourism experts, artists and musicians from London to Nashville will join in sessions that break down the value of the musical creative community from the economic to the esoteric. Individual tickets are available now, or you can gain access with the CMW VIP pass. For full details, visit http://musiccitiessummit.com/.
- Skrillex and Diplo as a unit call themselves Jack Ü and have recorded with Justin Bieber, Kiesza and American rapper 2 Chainz. The duo has teamed up with another Canadian, Kai, on “Mind” - a new music video you can view below.
- Pink Bomb Productions, in collaboration with The Working Class, will be hosting the inaugural Heart of Gold Fest this coming April in Timmins, ON. The hard rock town festival will be held from Friday, Apr. 21 to Sunday, Apr. 23 at both the Working Class and Victory Tavern. The line-up is to be announced March 1 on the event’s Facebook page.
- Vivendi SA has agreed to pay $775 million to Liberty Media Corp. to end allegations the French media company hid its financial woes to inflate its stock ahead of a deal to buy Liberty’s stake in USA Networks Inc., nearly four years after a jury awarded Liberty $847.4 million.
- A daughter-and-father team who had one of the biggest Canadian hit records of the 1950s, and an iconic 1980s post-punk band, are the newest additions to the London Music Hall of Fame. The Jack Richardson London Music Awards (JRLMA) announced Thursday the late Don Wright, his daughter — Toronto-area singer Priscilla Wright — and the band Sheep Look Up were its 2016 inductees. Also honoured was London barber-shopping legend Greg Backwell, who was named as 2016’s Dennis Brown lifetime achievement award recipient.
- Radio France, the country's largest public radio station, has been acquiring electronic music records since the 1960s. Now it plans to dig into its archive to sell some of those records in a public auction. According to the French music website Trax magazine, the broadcaster is selling over 4,000 records from its vast collection (almost 450,000 vinyl). Most of the records in the sale are electronic music-based, including some that date back to the ‘60s.
-'90s TV series Fuller House is back but this time via Netflix and the show's classic theme "Everywhere You Look" has been given a fluffy 2016 makeover by "Call Me Maybe" singer Carly Rae Jepsen.
- The Mahones take over the Phoenix Concert Hall on March 16, a date that just happens to be the night before St. Paddy’s Day. Revelers can count on this being a staggered crossing to the Shamrock binge that guarantees they all turn green before the Guinness and whisky have run dry.
- David Marsden is offering a month Free Trial to his online show NYTheSpirit.com. Some of the shows are re-broadcast via the Mars Bars’ YouTube channel. An example from March of 2015 is the following interview with CFNY alumni, now UMC exec Ivar Hamilton.
- Tickets for Korean superstar act Dynamic Duo are scaled between $80 and $190 for the opening of two Canadian shows at the Danforth Music Hall on March 26. The night following the duo plays The Vogue in Vancouver. The popular Korean hip-hop musicians Choiza and Gaeko have recorded eight albums and have also signed, managed, and produced music for a roster of six other artists on their Amoeba Culture label.
- If you’ve got $100M laying around, you’re in luck to purchase Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. The 12K square-foot house sits on a scenic 2,700-acre estate, located in Los Olivos in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, and if you want to take a look at what you’re getting, there’s a video on Sotheby’s real estate website—synced to MJ’s “Man in the Mirror”.
- Former manager to the Doors and Iggy Pop, Danny Sugerman’s almost 5,000 square-foot home overlooking the Hollywood Hills over top of Sunset Blvd is up for sale. Take a gander, and consider it yours if you want to pony up US$3.4M.
- And Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro had to tone down his Goth touches when he decided to list his Hancock Park bungalow in LA. It cost about $8K to fluff it, but the makeover worked and he sold it for the asking price of $1.695M.
- Nathalie, of New Jersey, and Mourah, of Switzerland, have emerged among the front runners for the 2016 International Portuguese Music Awards, with four nominations each. They are followed by Elizabete, of Canada, and Mike Kerr and Joey Medeiros, of the US, with three. The nominations for the 12 categories, ranging from hip-hop and dance to fado and música popular, were announced Friday. Entries came from countries scattered over four continents.
- And, finally, Canadian Country music chronicler Larry Delaney sent the column this fabulous slice of topicality:
Credits: Bill King, Al Mair, Gary Muth, Michael Greggs, Dave Chesney, Alan Cross