Liner Notes

By Hans Fink

Adding incentive to the already legendary Coachella Festival, the event’s official website recently announced lots of new things—including a new farmers market—for onsite campers. Fresh produce every morning for your three-day concert experience? Not bad. They are also toting “Down & Derby,” a late-night roller-skating party with a ‘70s theme. Anyone remember the roller-skating gang from the film, The Warriors?

Texas-based rapper PAUL WALL was recently named president of the Texas chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), the organization responsible for the Grammys. Wall previously held the title of governor alongside notable Houston executives and artists like MATHEW KNOWLES, saxophonist JOE POSADA, renowned bass player CHUCK RAINEY and others. Wall himself has been nominated for a Grammy, but has yet to win one of the coveted awards. Hmmm . . . well, I suppose branch presidency is one way to secure that nod! I jest, I jest. Wall’s intentions are just and credible. Even while working on his forthcoming album, Heart of a Champion, Wall stated that as president of the Texas chapter of NARAS, his primary objective is to boost the local membership.

ICE CUBE is releasing a documentary entitled Straight Outta L.A., which chronicles the origins of the Raiders from their time as an Oakland-based team, until 1982, when a court decision allowed the team to move to Los Angeles. Straight Outta L.A. will screen April 23 at the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival, while the documentary will make its television debut May 11 on ESPN.

In a decision that’s probably a decade or so late, Universal Music Group intends to change U.S. music pricing by testing a new frontline pricing structure, which is designed to get single CDs in stores at prices ranging from $6 to $10. Well, better late than never, right? Beginning this quarter and continuing through most of the year, the company’s Velocity program will test lower CD prices. To accommodate the lower charges, UMG labels also plan to step up deluxe versions of albums and sell them at higher prices for the more devout music fans and collectors. “We think [the new pricing program] will really bring new life into the physical format,” Universal Music Group Distribution President/CEO Jim Urie said. CD sales are down 15.4 percent so far this year. Last year, they were down 18.2 percent. They were down 19.7 percent in 2008, when CD sales totaled $360.6 million, compared to the $706.3 million units scanned in 2000. The new UMG pricing structure for CDs won’t affect its digital pricing—the company plans to keep its current pricing for digital.

As CD sales continue to decline, retailers have asked the labels to reduce prices. In the past few months, Trans World Entertainment began testing the $9.99 price point in more than 100 stores, while Wal-Mart has been telling the majors to release shorter albums at lower prices more frequently. The Trans World test—in which most independents and every major except for the Warner Music Group participated—produced a unit sales increase of more than 100 people, according to label executives who participated in the tests. The Trans World test helped sell the new pricing model to the Universal labels.

Call it an era for concert festival comebacks: First it was CYPRESS HILL’s SmokeOut late last year, and now it’s SARAH MCLACHLAN’s Lilith Fair. Founded by McLachlan with Nettwerk Music Group founders Terry McBride and Dan Fraser, Lilith Fair enjoyed a limited but influential run from 1997–99. During this time, the event raised more than $10 million for national and local charities. Eleven years later, the famed female-artist fronted festival returns this summer, hoping to raise the bar. The revived event features a fantastically diverse and powerful line-up of artists, including CAT POWER, ERYKAH BADU, HEART, SHERYL CROW, METRIC, THE BANGLES, NORAH JONES, TEGAN AND SARA, SUZANNE VEGA, THE GO-GO’S, CORINNE BAILEY RAE and, of course, COURT YARD HOUNDS, which includes two members of the DIXIE CHICKS. The festival will hit 36 North American venues, beginning July 2 with an event at the Clark County Amphitheatre in Portland, Ore. Southern California fests are in the works but have yet to be announced.

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