Local Rhythms – CRB May Put Pandora In A Box

With Apple’s introduction of the iTunes App Store, there came a whole range of things to do with the iPhone and iPod Touch besides phone calls, music and movies.

Like Internet radio – the über gadget twins aren’t the first to offer Pandora, a leader in the emerging field of personalized stations.  But these digital concierges, dedicated to finding songs that match your musical tastes, come equipped with a seamless link to iTunes, the most popular online music store in the world.

It’s the perfect scenario – create a Katy Perry station that leads you to the new Missy Higgins tune, push a button and presto! You’ve purchased the song.

The record companies must love this, right?

Uh, not so much; rather than see it as an obvious promotional bonanza, opening new markets and providing a feedback loop to help them find the next generation of entertainers, the industry seems hell-bent on killing Internet radio.

Pandora could be the first casualty.

In March 2007, I wrote about the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), a government tool of organizations like the RIAA, and its decision to impose usurious fees on Net radio stations – up to 70 percent of total revenue in most cases.

A year or so later, Pandora founder Tim Westgarten has told the Washington Post that he’s close to “pulling the plug.”

“We’re funded by venture capital,” Westgarten said Monday.  “They’re not going to chase a company whose business model has been broken. So if it doesn’t feel like its headed towards a solution, we’re done.”

This mess began back in 1995, when lobbyists paid Congress to redefine copyright law to their liking.  What used to balance the interests of copyright owners, users and the public – laws collectively known as “801b” – became, says RAIN’s Kurt Hanson, “something nearly impossible to interpret or quantify.”

It led to last year’s stalled (but not yet dead) PERFORM Act. Which opened the door to the CRB’s decision to effectively end a promising technology before it really began.

Here’s the kicker – Senator Feinstein, who co-wrote the PERFORM Act, doesn’t even know what 801b is.  Yet she’s willing to let the industry define “fair market value” any way it sees fit.

I am so sick of these Luddites, and their handmaidens in Washington, ruining the future of music.  Pandora, formally known as the Music Genome Project, is more than a radio station.

Sadly, its fate is being determined by much less than a government of, by and for the people.

How about some live music?

Thursday: Jeff Warner, Lebanon Farmer’s Market – Warner is a New Hampshire singer/guitarist who recreates the 19th century in music – North Carolina Outer Banks fishing villages, Adirondack lumber camps and New England whaling ports.  If the new millennium is bringing you down, this may be the perfect remedy.  Hearing these songs wafting through stall selling locally grown produce and freshly baked bread helps, too.

Friday: Hitchelfit, Electra – Alt-metal music from this Lebanon band, with a healthy dose of tunes from the likes of 3 Days Grace, Stone Temple Pilots, Finger Eleven and other modern groups.  It’s been a long time since Hitchelfit played Electra – 10 months to be exact, so this should be an energized night. Check this West Leb nightspot’s calendar for some good local talent that’s stopping by in the coming months.

Saturday: Sirsy, Salt hill Pub – One of my favorite New York imports returns to the area.  If you haven’t seen them, Sirsy is a two-person band that plays like five.  Lead singer/drummer an flutist Melanie Krahmer belts it out like there’s an amp wired inside her chest, and guitarist Rich Libutti doesn’t just ride along – he drives the action, too.  Sirsy packs Sh every time they’re in town.

Sunday: Joey Leone Trio, Outback –
A guitar virtuoso with a summer residency in Killington.  Leone’s “Chop Shop” (with a massive collection of guitars) appears Fridays, while the stripped-down (but no less rockin’) trio holds forth on Sundays.  Blues dominates, along with reinterpretations of Great American Songbook standards like “Misty” and “Over the Rainbow.”  But the focus is always Joey’s amazing chops – no pun intended.

Tuesday: Robert Cray w/ Keb’ Mo’, Shelburne Museum –
Two masters of the American blues idiom perform with their bands and share the stage.  There’s some excellent YouTube footage of the two singing “Bring It On Home,” with Cray’s electric guitar out front, and “Shave Yo’ Legs” – on the latter, Mo’s easygoing singing is a joy to hear and behold.

Wednesday: Fred Haas & Sabrina Brown, Elixir – Expect a different theme each week for this “Jazz Show and Jam Session”  – Ellington, Ella, Gershwin, Mercer ad everything in between. The husband/wife team – he plays sax and piano, she sings – will invite friends to the series (which runs through November) to re-create a New York supper club vibe in downtown White River Junction.

Local Rhythms – Internet Radio Goes Local

Writing about music is fun, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.  That’s why I frequently point readers in the direction of Yellow House Media, a one-stop repository for local bands.  Dave Clark’s web site offers selections from 51 different artists, who perform in venues from Brattleboro to Burlington.

Let’s say you’ve considered attending this Sunday’s Whole Hog Barbeque, but don’t really have a sense of what the music will be like.  With just a few clicks, Dr. Burma and the Stone Cold Roosters will be playing on your computer speakers.

But with that example, you need to know what you’re looking for.  Absent such motivation, there’s no reason to visit, right?

Ah, but now there’s Yellow House Radio, a newly launched service that streams random music from area artists – endlessly.

I fired it up the other day, and within minutes I’d been clued to Loose Cannons, a Plainfield band specializing in acoustic rock, and family-friendly Django Reinhart disciple Lewis Franco – just for starters.

Finding out more about these bands took a bit of work. Artist biographical information is basically nonexistent, but that’s what the Google is for.

I asked Dave about this, and he responded unsurprisingly, “that’s gonna take money.”  His site is a labor of love, and with the advent of streaming radio and the “Homegrown” web/public access TV series, traffic has gone through the roof.

That’s good and bad. Keeping equipment humming along gets expensive, but more visitors means increased advertising revenue.   When that happens, all sorts of things are possible, from adding staff to an online store (though he’s avoided that due to royalty accounting complexities).

In the meantime, Yellow House Media remains the best friend local musicians have, and Dave is quick to urge any and all performers who’d like their music included on the site to be in touch.

Just the other day, he added a few tunes by Pariah Beat and the Conniption Fits, two bands who sit a bit apart from the rock, blues and folk of the Gully Boys, Gypsy Reel and Wagtail (one of my favorites) typical to the site.

You can’t love music without an open mind, Dave says.  Combine that with boundless energy and an unparalleled commitment to the regional arts scene, and you have an absolute go-to resource.  Do yourself a favor – visit it soon.

Here’s the scoop for the next few days:

Thursday: Tom Rush, Sunapee Mountain Lodge – The show and an optional dinner celebrate the 75th annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair, running through Sunday.  Portsmouth-born Rush helped launch the careers of Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell, penned the folk standard “No Regrets,” and recently achieved YouTube fame with his boomer lament, “The Memory Song.”

Friday:  Five O’clock Belles, Latchis Theatre – Five part harmony in a lovely Brattleboro setting.  This all-female band performs music from all over the world – Québec, New England, Appalachia, the UK, the Republic of Georgia, Corsica, Bulgaria, Hungary, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.   Tonight’s show is a CD release party, which should add some energy to their performance.

Saturday:  Live, Collective Soul & Blues Traveler, Meadowbrook – Mid-90’s modern rock can induce either howls of pain or fits of pleasure, with little middle ground.  I’m a big fan of Collective Soul’s wall of sound angst-rock.  I find Live’s spiritualized shtick less appealing, though “Throwing Copper” is one of the era’s best albums.  I’d see Blues Traveler for John Popper’s ammo belt harmonica holder alone.  Each band plays a full 90-minute set, and the venue is the best in the region.

Sunday: Whole Hog BBQ & Music Festival, North Haverhill Fairgrounds – Three bands and a Memphis-sanctioned grill competition are good reasons to head north for the day.  Dr. Burma plays songs from their funk-busting “One Bite Won’t Kill You.”  Ted Mortimer and Linda Boudreault do double duty with the Stone Cold Roosters, and Vermont blues man Chris Kleeman plays his heart out.  Ribs, chicken and brisket are a nice, tangy bonus.

Tuesday: Bonnie Raitt & The Refugees, Capitol Center for the Arts – Politics aside (this is a benefit for Senate candidate Jeanne Shaneen), this is a great night of music.  Raitt is living proof that second acts are possible in pop music, and the Refugees is a California supergroup featuring Wendy Waldman, Cindy Bullens and Deborah Holand.  It’s Waldman’s second all-star ensemble; along with Kenny Edwards and Karla Bonoff, she’s made some excellent music with Bryndle.

Wednesday: Pete Merrigan’s All-Stars, Ben Mere Bandstand – What a way to spend hump day, as Pete takes a break from playing solo to team up with Sandy Alexander  (vocals, keyboards), Brian Kennell  (bass) and Bobby Gagnier (drums).  Merrigan fans should definitely visit his web site for inside information on a show to be held later this month (no details here, but admission requires a secret handshake).