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The Smart Marks Music News Udate
Posted by Matt D on Aug 13, 2002, 20:52

Hello, and welcome to the first ever Smart Marks Music News Update! This is the debut of a weekly feature here at the site, as I will be scouring the web every other week–Other Music Guy Danny Gregory will be working the alternate weeks--to bring you up to snuff on whatever I find interesting going on in the music scene. Let's get down to business, shall we?

Ashcroft is gunning for music loving computer geeks

In move of bipartisan unity that rarely occurs outside of trivial matters like the following, 19 lawmakers from both sides of the political fence have come together to ask U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft via letter to go after patrons of popular file sharing sites such as Kazaa and Morpheus. The letter, dated July 25th, but not made public until last Thursday, expresses concern of the misappropriation of copyrighted materials without paying, and that the Justice Department should be more active in policing said materials online. "Such an effort," the letter says, "is increasingly important as online theft of our nation's creative works is a growing threat to our culture and economy."

The argument presented here is the same thing we've been hearing since the heyday of Napster, but now we have no less a personage than the Attorney General of our country getting involved. Also, we have a worst case scenario of patrons of sites like Morpheus seeing jail time. That sounds–and is–absurd, but, no matter how much you sugarcoat it, distributing copyrighted items without pay is stealing. Yes, as much as the Recording Industry Association of America thinks otherwise, this is an insignificant problem, but stealing is stealing. I'm not saying it's right or wrong–I rarely use the aforementioned sites, so I wouldn't miss them if they met the same fate as Napster–but merely stating what it is. But for all you people who do frequent these places, it's unlikely that they'll target the users themselves, as they'd rather go after the websites.

(Credit: Associated Press)

This leads me into my next selection...

The musicians think you're getting ripped off, too

The reason so-called peer-to-peer groups like Kazaa have flourished is simple: Record companies charge too damn much for CDs. You step into any record store at any mall in this country, and you'll find compact discs as high $19.99. Why would anyone in their right mind pay that much for a CD? (I don't. You can go to a place like Best Buy and find a CD from practically any genre of music for under fifteen bucks, but anyway...) Well, a trip to (a place I avoided like the plague until I got this music news gig) has shown that the artists feel the same as you. As ex-Soul Coughing singer Mike Doughty states, "Who wants to spend $20 when your friend will burn you copy of the one good song on the CD? Not me."

This is why record labels have been drastically reducing the prices of certain albums, and often to great effect. Artists like Ashanti and Musiq have made big splashes on the Billboard 200 albums chart with their recent releases thanks to their ten buck price tags. Everyone benefits from this: the consumer, the artists (they're contractually obligated to receive roughly a dollar per unit moved, regardless of the price, and, yes, the record companies. But that would be the easy way out, I guess.


Founding member of rock band Widespread Panic has died

Houser, lead guitarist of Athens, Georgia-based jam band Widespread Panic, died in his home on Saturday, August 10th, due to complications related to pancreatic cancer. He was 40.

The band formed in 1984, and, like many a jam band, had maintained a loyal cult following. Things had gone well enough for the band, though, in a recent months, rumors had been circulating that Houser was ill, though no one knew how serious or to what extent. On the 16th of last month, however, Houser posted a statement on the band's website that he had terminal cancer. He remained optimistic, though, saying "I have hopes of playing again soon, although I can't say for sure when or where." The band's future, which included a tour this fall, is in doubt at this time.

The following message can be found [URL=]on the band's website[/URL]: "In this very sad time, we encourage you to gather with your Panic families in your hometown and celebrate Michael Houser's life on Monday, August 12th. As a living memorial to Michael and his love of music, the family requests that contributions be made to The Michael Houser Music Fund. Mike, his wife Barbette, and his son Waker have all been deeply involved with Athens Academy and through this fund the school will be able to provide children with the opportunities to discover the richness and wonder of music that so enriched Michael's own life. Memorials may be sent to: The Michael Houser Music Fund; Athens Academy; PO Box 6548; Athens, GA 30604.

Our hearts are with you as we know that your thoughts and prayers are with us."

(Credit: Rolling Stone)

Chuck D calls Eminem the new Elvis. So many jokes I could make...

We are currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, so naturally there have been many stories covering this occasion, and in one written by Newday, Public Enemy front man Chuck D, when asked if there was a modern-day Elvis, Mista Chuck singled out none other than controversial rapper Eminem. Quoth D, "Eminem is the new Elvis because, number one, he had the respect for black music that Elvis had," Chuck D said. "I think he's courteous and sympathetic to black music, and, unfortunately, he's more sympathetic to black music than many black artists themselves." For those of you reading you may've been taken aback by Chuck's noting Presley's respect for black music–due to one of PE's most famous songs, "Fight the Power," which contained the following lyrics: "Elvis was a hero to most/But he never meant shit to me you see/Straight up racist that sucker was..."–he admits that Presley had an undeniable love for black music, and he (Chuck), a musicologist, could see and respect that. The one thing he couldn't stand, however, was how the American public had turned a blind eye to all that came before him. "My whole thing was the one-sidedness--like, Elvis' icon status in America made it like nobody else counted ... My heroes came from someone else. My heroes came before him. My heroes were probably his heroes. As far as Elvis being 'The King,' I couldn't buy that."

Is Eminem the new Elvis? Obviously, they are very different musically, but Chuck D has a point. Eminem seems to care more about his product from an artistic standpoint, as well as those that came before him. I'm not a fan of his, but I can't argue that he's more genuine than a commercial whore like Ja Rule.

(Credit Jam! Music)

Well, kiddies, I think I'm gonna wrap it up here. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about my first stab at any kind of news report ever. The wrestling writers must have it a little easier, as they have a lot less to choose from in the way of subject matter. That could be a hindrance, as well, but doing something on the world of music is tough when so much happens in so little time. Feh, enough of my self-pity, shoot me some feedback and let me know how I did.

As I said earlier, Danny will be doing this report next week, and I have no idea what he's going to do with it, but I'm sure it will be mighty fine. I believe he also will be doing an album review this week, and who knows, I might turn up with one as well. Until next time....

Matt D

(Oh yeah, if you're reading this Rando–and I hope that you are–you will notice I failed to include your suggestion for this column. Due to some random screwiness that caused the delay of this article going up, I did not include it, but I will next time. Still, I promised to mention you here, so here goes: Rando rocks.)


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