prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Roll Out the Red Carpet: It’s Time for the Media Awards Shows

Posted by prof e on February 14, 2016

AwardsThe 58th Grammy Awards show tomorrow night, Feb 15th, continues the awards show season that started with the Golden Globe Awards show broadcast on January 10th. Next up will be the movie industry’s gala, the 88th Academy Awards show, (aka, the Oscars), scheduled for February 28th. Two smaller awards programs, the iHeartRadio Music Awards show and the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards, will air in April. TV’s big night, the Emmy Awards, will air sometime in the fall season.

These awards shows are an opportunity for media executives and celebrities to take a stroll on the red carpet while they pat each other on the back. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but the hoopla is mostly an insider’s party that the public is allows to watch from the sidelines. (Of, if you’re really lucky, up close as a seat filler.)

If you like music, movies, and TV there will likely be something for you to enjoy. But there will also be performances and awards that will just as likely make you wonder what else is on. These awards shows are all about pop media content, but the range is pretty broad and not to everyone’s taste.

However, if you need a reason to tune in here are a few.

Grammys: 1) Taylor v Kendrick, 2) you’ll get to see a number from the Broadway show Hamilton, and 3) Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie.

The Academy Awards: 1) will be hosted this year by Chris Rock, which is particularly newsworthy because of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and the calls to boycott by leading black actors, and 2) Leonardo DiCaprio is up for an Oscar for The Revenant, and 3) the outfits.


Posted in film, media industry, music, tv | 3 Comments »

The Beat Goes On

Posted by prof e on September 20, 2015

A new report from Nielsen confirms that music is still an important part of most Americans’ lives. The Music 360 2015 Report found that 91% of us listen to music and we spend an average of 24 hours each week listening. That’s an average of 3.4 hours/day…that’s more time than college and university students spend on work and related activities (2.5 hours) and even more time than they spend on educational activities (3.3 hours) (link).

According to Nielsen,

Radio continues to be the No. 1 source of music discovery in the U.S, with 61% of respondents saying they find out about new music from AM/FM or satellite radio, a 7% increase over last year. Word of mouth is also important, particularly for teens: 65% say they discover new music through family and friends, well above the average of 45%.

music-360-chartAccording to another report from Nielsen, “On average, U.S. consumers report spending $109 each year on music. So aside from albums, what other types of music options are consumers spending their money on? Surprisingly, live events are gaining momentum, as they now account for more than half of total music activity spending each year.”how-we-spend-money-on-music-final

The chart on the right shows how American music consumers are spending (or not spending) their dollars to acquire music. As you can see, live concerts and CDs are the top two ways of purchasing access to music. While this chart may not describe your spending patterns, it is interesting to note that traditional means of acquiring music are still important. And you may also be interested in knowing that two albums alone sold a combined 7 million units last year…dominating album sales. “Combined, Taylor Swift’s 1989 and the Frozen soundtrack accounted for almost half of the year’s top 10 album sales.”


Posted in media industry, music, research | 3 Comments »

Stadium Rock: 50 Years Ago

Posted by prof e on August 17, 2015

50 years ago the Beatles played to a crowd of 55,000 fans at Shea Stadium in NYC. At the time it was the largest concert crowd ever.

See more photos here.

Know what else happened 50 years ago?

Answer: the Mass Communications program was founded by professor Richard Pavlik!

Posted in music | Leave a Comment »

Jailhouse Rock: Pussy Riot Found Guilty

Posted by prof e on August 18, 2012

In case you haven’t heard, members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years in prison for, “hooliganism driven by religious hatred.” The trial and sentencing of the three Russian women has attracted attention and outrage from around the world. Amnesty International and other supporters of free speech and human rights have declared them “prisoners of conscience.” According to USA Today,

The three were arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral, high-kicking and dancing while singing a “punk prayer” pleading the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin.

Several celebrities have spoken out in support of Pussy Riot. Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion, as well as Paul McCartney and Madonna have expressed support for the rights of the performers. Russia does not have the same level of protection for speech that we appreciate.  Thanks to the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution, US citizens have much more freedom to speak our minds than do most other citizens of the world.

But we also want to be careful that free speech rights do not infringe on the rights of others. Hate speech is one of those sensitive areas where, even in America, free speech sometimes has to take a back seat. But who gets to decide that a specific act of speech crosses the line into hate speech and, in so doing, forfeits the rights of the speaker to protection under the law? That’s a question that many are asking in light of this sentence.

Update Aug 20: In an unusual twist, Madonna is being sued for over $10M by concert goers who “were offended by her support for gay rights during a recent concert in St. Petersburg.” See more here.

Posted in 1st amendment, music, politics, regulation | 7 Comments »

Whitney Houston’s Teachable Moments

Posted by prof e on February 15, 2012

Whitney Houston taught us a lot about life. When a pop star lives, and dies, in the media spotlight teachable moments are part of the package. But not all of those moments have a happy ending. The last, and some would argue most lasting, lesson from Whitney’s life may be that battling addiction is a struggle that too often ends tragically for everyone involved.

Whitney had it all: a gift of a voice that only comes around once or twice in a lifetime, beauty, fame, and fortune. Whitney taught us that moving from the church choir to the concert hall takes just a few short steps if you’ve got real talent. She taught us that life is to be celebrated and that music can lift our spirits like nothing else. And she taught us to be careful about who we choose as friends and lovers.

Sadly, Whitney joins a long line of musical performers who lost the battle with drug and/or alcohol. Every generation and every musical style can point to artists who sacrificed their own lives in the pursuit of their musical passion. See my earlier post, Popular Music’s Sad Legacy, for other recent examples of musicians who met a similar fate.

For some the struggle to rise from obscurity to stardom is too much to bear. Climbing Mt. Everest may be a suitable metaphor. While many aspire to reach the top, the summit has room for only a  few superstars at a time. Those who slip and fall off the trail are quickly forgotten and even those who reach the summit are not guaranteed a safe return to base camp. The air is thin, and the lack of oxygen can impair one’s judgement at those critical moments when the trail gets steep and storms roll in.

The mass media are known for creating, and destroying, careers and legacies. Even after a career has peaked, the after-market of reality TV shows are there to drain whatever life remains. Whitney’s family and friends probably wish they could “undo” the hours of videotape footage that was recorded in the making of Being Bobby Brown, a reality TV series that aired on Bravo in 2005.

No doubt, Whitney Houston’s music will live on long after her death. But it will always be remembered as music that ended abruptly before the final verse and chorus were sung.

Posted in music | 23 Comments »

Popular Music’s Sad Legacy

Posted by prof e on July 23, 2011

The death of Amy Winehouse–from what some suspect was a drug overdose–may not come as much of a surprise to her fans or those who study popular culture. Sadly, too many aspiring young musicians have died early deaths as a result of addictive behavior and a hard-driving lifestyle. The phenomenon has  been chronicled in a 2009 book, The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll.
There’s also a movie, The 27 Club, based on the tragic and dangerous lifestyle that too many have tried, unsuccessfully, to live. Here’s a brief synopsis of the movie:

When you’re dead, you’re gone. You exist only in the minds of those you leave behind. You become a fragment of a story; a beginning, middle or end. Tom is dead. Elliot has been left behind. Tom was the front man of their successful band, Finn. He died on his 27th birthday. Elliot is left to decide if he, too, will join The 27 Club.

Members of the real-life 27 Club include, among others: Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. A complete list is available here.

Music, an important social and cultural force, and the music industry have long attracted artists and creative minds that sometimes march to the beat of a different drummer. Add to that a lavish lifestyle and the trappings that come with fame and fortune and the outcome is sometimes too easy to predict. The need to succeed–which for many musicians is exemplified by an appearance on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine–often eclipses more rational and reasonable needs that are part of a healthy lifestyle. It is sad to watch talented and creative musicians self-destruct. In some cases the downward spiral is quick and catches us off guard. For other, such as Winehouse, the signs have been present for quite some time.

August 24 Update: Toxicology reports indicate that illegal drugs are not responsible for the death of Winehouse leaving experts puzzled. However, the following from ABC News indicates that the evidence is not conclusive.

But Pittsburg forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht cautions against reaching a conclusion from the family’s statement.

“The fact that the family said no illicit drugs were found does not mean in and of itself other drugs obtained legally were not found,” Wecht told “Most drug deaths are from legally obtained drugs. That’s one caveat I would express in regard to the family’s statement.”

Bruce A. Goldberger, a toxicology professor at the University of Florida, said some prescription drugs, illicit drugs and “designer” drugs can escape detection.

Posted in media industry, music | 51 Comments »

Misogynistic Hip-Hop Lyrics: What’s the Big Deal?

Posted by prof e on September 14, 2010

In class today we discussed the prevalence of misogynistic lyrics in rap and hip-hop music. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to hear from more than a few of you, and I’m curious about what others think about this issue. To rephrase the issue, is it okay for popular rap and hip-hop artists to denigrate women? If so, are women paying a price for accepting attitudes and images that reduce them to sex objects and second-class citizens? And if not, why do people defend the music and the musicians that perpetrate these images? Before you weigh in, watch this five minute video on YouTube:

Before posting a reply remember that this is not a forum to attack a culture, subculture, ethnic group or individuals belonging to any group. Keep your comments civil and attack the issues…not other posters.

Posted in media effects, media industry, music, regulation, Uncategorized | 47 Comments »

Copying is Not Theft…Or is it?

Posted by prof e on April 21, 2010

This video is a rather “cute” argument in favor of digital copying, but the logic has some serious flaws. As YouTube commentator “spare2288” noted (with a little ad hominem thrown in for effect), “Copying is not theft. okaaaay. Also, theft is wrong. uhh yeahhh. Therefore copying is not wrong. hmm…sorry are you a moron?”

On another blog, “Anonymous” said, “I’m sure the manufacturer of the bicycle in the cartoon will be glad that making a copy of the bicycle is so easy. This will free him from the burden of actually manufacturing and selling bicycles which used to be a high-paid technical position. User-generated copying saved him just like it saved the music industry.”

If you’re a bicycle maker, or musicians, having people copy your work for free may not put you in the mood to sing along with this catchy little tune.

Posted in media industry, music, regulation | 28 Comments »

Have Grammy Awards become Irrelevant?

Posted by prof e on January 31, 2010

Okay, there are a million opinions out there (reality check: Google search = about 44.4K results) about whether the Grammy awards have become irrelevant. First some quick background. The 52nd Grammy Awards, on CBS tonight, will probably have less than 20 million viewers (update: 2.13.11, they had 25.8 million viewers in 2010, the most in 6 years). Compare that to 90 million for the Superbowl next week and 30+ million for American Idol. Unlike American Idol, the Grammy awards do not incorporate viewer/popular voting. The Grammy awards are selected by industry professionals who belong to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and who skew older than the average music fan. Some argue that the Grammys are about musical consensus and we are no longer (if we ever were) a nation of consensus, especially when it comes to musical tastes. So, what do you think? Which of the following statements best describes your view of the Grammy awards?

  • There are too many music awards shows on TV.
  • The Grammy judges don’t acknowledge the artists that I like and listen to.
  • The artists don’t seem to care, why should I?
  • The performances are usually pretty lame.
  • The music industry is in a free-fall…and the Grammy Awards celebrates the industry, not the musicians.
  • Other: _____________ (fill in the blank)

Posted in media industry, music | 9 Comments »

Idol’s New Season Starts Tonight

Posted by prof e on January 12, 2010

American Idol has been a huge success for the Fox TV network. Year after year at first place in the ratings, AI continues to dominate prime time TV. That kind of success yields substantial revenue. A 30-second spot on Idol nets Fox over $600,000. That and product placement deals with Coke, Ford, AT&T, iTunes and others makes this franchise a gold mine.

Earlier today I asked my Media & Society students why they think American Idol is such a hit with viewers and they offered up several very insightful responses.

  1. Viewers are able to participate in the potential rags-to-riches story line of contestants…seeing themselves as potentially rich and famous if they were just given an opportunity to compete.
  2. We enjoy seeing people make fools of themselves on TV. The Germans have a word for it…schadenfreude, which is translated as pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.
  3. The large contestant pool means that our social network may allow us to know someone who knows someone who is a contestant. The old six-degrees-of-separation meme strikes again!
  4. And, the interactivity and audience participation provided by the text voting gives viewers/voters a sense of ownership.

I think the students came up with some very compelling explanations for the success of American Idol. It will be interesting to see if that success continues. In case you haven’t heard, the big news this season is the planned departure of the acerbic Simon Cowell. Cowell reportedly turned down $144 million per year to stay. Time will tell just how much Simon’s biting commentaries will be missed by fans of the show. What do you think? Is this the beginning of the end for American Idol?

Posted in advertising, media industry, music, tv | 3 Comments »