Fish Nation Information Station

News from the world of music, entertainment, communications, and technology.

NEWS ARCHIVE 2010

New Duran Duran Single, Album “Now”

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The new Duran Duran album All You Need Is Now might not be absolutely complete yet, but it is just about ready for release, thanks to the rapid turnaround of the digital download format. The title song was released in iTunes Store today as an advance single, and the video and album will follow on December 21. A more traditional CD release will follow around February, but the pre-Christmas release makes it possible to put the album in a Duran Duran fan’s stocking.

With producer Mark Ronson, the four members of Duran Duran put together their well-known high-gloss sound, dressed up with layers of electronic dissonance that remind some listeners of the Rio album. The single offers the irony of a nostalgic comeback for the post-hippie reliance on the present, in a song that says, in effect, “You don’t have to dance . . . but you know you’re going to.”

The video was directed by Nick Egan, who previously directed the band’s “Ordinary World” video.

In Europe only, Duran Duran will also be releasing a short Christmas album, From Mediterranea With Love.

2010-12-08

Oasis Members Form Beady Eye, Plan Tour

When Oasis drove out their musical leader and songwriter a year ago, there was still a functioning band left behind, and they promised at the time that they would keep going. Earlier this year they went into the studio to record with producer Steve Lillywhite.

Now they’ve taken on the name Beady Eye and scheduled a European tour for March. The band promises the upcoming concerts will provide a preview of their debut album.

So far there have been few hints of what the band will sound like, but it sees fair to guess that it will sound a lot like Oasis. Given the personalities involved, the sound could be more optimistic than Oasis, and more psychedelic, if that’s possible. It may also have something of a party vibe. But it appears fans will have to wait until March to find out.

2010-12-03

Notes

With scheduling conflicts preventing Bah & the Humbugs from getting together to record a new album for their 25th anniversary year, they opted instead to put together a tribute album, with the help of fans and 25 other Christmas bands. Bands recording Humbugs songs for the new record Bigger Than Santa: A 25th Anniversary Humbug Tribute include Twas, Iron Reindeer, St. Saint, and Tree-X.

The new Christmas band December People features former 3 singer Robert Berry on bass and Boston sideman Gary Pihl on guitar, both of whom have also played with Sammy Hagar. The band’s memorable gimmick is the way they mimic soundscapes from well-known rock songs to create arrangements for traditional Christmas carols. December People is touring California this month.

Not content to let 25 other bands fill up their tribute album, Bah & the Humbugs slipped a few recordings of their own onto the new album Bigger Than Santa. For example, the song “Mincemeat” appeared as a download last year on the Bah & the Humbugs web site. The identical recording is the opening track on CD 2 of the new set, but credited to Potentially Elves. Sources involved in the album confirm that “Potentially Elves” is, in reality, Bah & the Humbugs by another name.

Another Christmas album comes from Wilson Phillips, the California band that recorded its last regular studio album in 1992, but has reunited several times since 2001. The new album Christmas in Harmony features a remake of the 1973 Wizzard Christmas record “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.”

Fish Nation has learned that all the tracks on the new Bah & the Humbugs tribute album were, in fact, recorded by various combinations of members of Bah & the Humbugs posing as a different band for each song. For example, the ILO song “Titanic Tannenbaum” is actually Paul Nordquist imitating the sound of a 1970s orchestral baroque rock band; Felicity Pepperpot, the singer on “Million Dollar Christmas,” is actually Amy Guskin, disguising her voice to sound like a 1950s pop singer; and the various songs that sound like they must be tracks from a previously unheard Vance Lehmkuhl Christmas album secretly recorded in the summer of 1988 are, in fact, just that. Bah & the Humbugs must have secretly gotten together to play one more joke on their listeners for their 25th anniversary.

Another band with so many Christmas songs that they just had to find a way to repackage them is The Brian Setzer Orchestra. The twist on the new album Christmas Comes Alive is that it is a live album with noticeably different arrangements of songs from the band’s previous Christmas records.

Update: Fish Nation has now learned that Bah & the Humbugs did not get together for the new “tribute” album Bigger Than Santa, as previously reported. Instead, sources familiar with the matter tell Fish Nation that Bah has not been heard from in years and is believed to still be hiding out in Rio, while the supporting musicians who make up Bah & the Humbugs have become so disenchanted with the process of trying to hold the franchise together that they have been communicating only through their attorneys, who have been sending text messages to each other from undisclosed locations. The Bigger Than Santa album, then, was put together by their agents, Dexter Halls with Bowser Holly. Unable to locate even a single Humbug, the agents were forced to cancel the band’s December tour. But not knowing the meaning of the phrase, “There won’t be any Christmas this year,” Bowser Holly pulled together all the demos, outtakes, scratch tapes, and rare B-sides he could find, while Dexter Halls worked the phones trying to line up corporate sponsors for the accompanying TV special. There were no sponsors, of course, and no special. As old Abe Lincoln famously said, you can’t fool all of the corporate sponsors all of the time.

2010-12-01

Conan Wins Time Slot on Cable

When the news first came out that Conan O’Brien would be starting a new show on TBS after his ouster from The Tonight Show, there was an obvious question: Would TBS be a big enough platform for a competitive late night television show? TBS has a much smaller reach than the major television networks that carry the competing late-night shows. Last night’s debut of Conan on TBS put any such concerns to rest.

On its first night, the new show pulled a higher rating than either The Tonight Show or The Late Show. And among viewers under 50, it drew a larger audience than those two shows combined.

2010-11-09

Notes

Sony has stopped manufacturing of the cassette Walkman in Japan, and sales in that country will stop when inventory runs out. Manufacturing continues in China for the rest of the world, and CD and flash memory versions of the Walkman continue to sell worldwide.

The Lord of the Rings movie prequel The Hobbit has been given the go-ahead by backers after a year-long delay caused by financial uncertainty at MGM. Production is expected to begin in February. The previously announced director dropped out during the delay, then an actor union boycott threatened to drive filming out of New Zealand. The production will stay in the country, however, with last-minute legislation that clarified that movie actors and other temporary movie workers are not studio employees.

The new book Life by Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards may cost him a role in the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Richards’ revelation, in his book, that he had used illegal drugs over a period of years apparently gave Disney executives second thoughts about having Richards associated with the film.

Shakira’s new album contains her recent World Cup song, “Waka Waka.” And since the World Cup isn’t such a big deal in the United States, it makes sense that the album, Sale el Sol, is mostly in Spanish.

Yes has signed a one-album deal with Frontiers Records. The progressive rock band will record a new album this winter for a scheduled summer release, with a tour to follow. The band’s touring success in recent years, with new singer Benoit David and keyboardist Oliver Wakeman, made recording a new album essential, longtime members Chris Squire and Steve Howe explained in a statement last week.

2010-11-01

Notes

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The new Doobie Brothers album World Gone Crazy finds the band working with producer Ted Templeman again. The album took five years to make, in between tours, but the result is a carefully polished album.

No one knows what will happen to Sun Microsystems’ open-source projects now that Sun has been acquired by Oracle, but office-automation suite OpenOffice.org, at least, will carry on. Volunteers on that project have formed a new formal organization, the Document Foundation, and have delivered an early beta release of a new version under the name LibreOffice. The Document Foundation says it wants to make LibreOffice easier for users to adopt. LibreOffice is the most advanced and feature-rich office suite available, and it’s free, but its competitors are ahead of it in areas such as look and feel and ease of installation.

Another of Sun’s projects was the leading relational database, MySQL, and there seems little reason to hope that database-vendor Oracle will want to keep its biggest competitor going. The most likely outcome is that the official MySQL will be overshadowed next year by at least three competing branches, one tuned for web applications, one for enterprise applications, and one for small-scale and scientific research applications.

With Yes finished with its touring for the time being, drummer Alan White’s band White is up and running again with a new lead singer and a permanent keyboard player, both recruited from the Yes tribute band Parallels. Singer Robyn Dawn is perhaps best known for her Black Sabbath tribute band Supernauty, though she provides a lighter, more soulful touch when singing with White. Keyboardist Jonathan Sindelman has become known in recent years as a go-to progressive rock keyboardist. The new lineup played its first show at a festival on September 11.

The new will.i.am/Nicki Minaj single “Check It Out!” relies heavily on samples from the Buggles hit “Video Killed the Radio Star,” so the Buggles returned the favor in their one-off concert September 28 by covering the song, which was a surprise for everyone there. Singer Trevor Horn had to read from a lyric sheet, but managed to turn the rap into a kind of technopop harmony.

The new Neil Young album Le Noise has its soundscapes shaped by producer Daniel Lanois. That’s an important detail, as the backing tracks on the album are provided mostly by echoes and electronic effects, rather than the usual approach of additional musicians and overdubs.

2010-10-01

Music Sales Flat This Year

Nielsen reported that U.S. digital music sales were unchanged in the first half of 2010 compared to the year before. That follows a 45 percent increase in the previous two years. Digital music sales continued to increase in other major countries, though not as fast as in prior years.

Low consumer confidence and a paucity of major new releases could be causes for the slack pace of sales, Nielsen suggested.

2010-09-27

Viruses Attack Twitter

A flaw in the Twitter web site has led to an attack by hundreds of viruses this morning. People who go to the home page, or timeline, in the Twitter web site and mouse over any part of the page are likely to be redirected to other web pages by malicious tweets. At the same time, the viral tweet uses their accounts to repeat the tweet to other Twitter users.

The Twitter vulnerability became apparent early this morning, and by 5 a.m. PT, viruses were redirecting Twitter users to commercial web sites. At 6:42 a.m., Twitter deployed a fix, but from Twitter’s description, the initial patch blocks only part of the attack. Twitter web site uses can avoid the problem by accessing Twitter using apps or by keeping the mouse completely out of the web browser while viewing pages on the Twitter web site.

2010-09-21

Notes

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White LED lights that serve as energy-efficient replacements for traditional light bulbs might be getting all the attention this month as they make their debut in stores, but colored LED lights have already become commonplace on stages and dance floors over the course of the year. Colored LED lights have become especially popular as a way to add interest to a DJ lighting setup, because their versatility and light weight make it easy for a DJ with no training in lighting to create a dance floor atmosphere in any room.

The people at Billboard love charts. It is, after all, the magazine that invented the idea of the “top 40.” When it came time to report on Twitter, then, the obvious approach was the “Top 20 Tweets of the Week” — not the most-repeated posts on Twitter, but the “coolest and funniest tweets” from music personalities.

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Leon Russell and Elton John have always admired each other’s work as piano-playing entertainers, and now they have recorded an album together. The new album, The Union, was produced by T Bone Burnett and includes songs written by the two singers, with some lyrics provided by Elton’s usual collaborator Bernie Taupin. The release is set for October, with some live shows — it’s not clear how many — to follow.

Imagine Santana recording the Def Leppard song “Photograph.” That song and 12 other well-known guitar songs are included on the new Santana album Guitar Heaven, which comes out September 21.

The new Phil Collins album Going Back is based on a recording approach that duplicated the sound of 1960s Motown hits by using the same models of microphones and other audio equipment. The result is an album on which you can easily imagine Phil as one of the early Motown singers.

It might be Bah & the Humbugs’ 25th anniversary year, but the band members weren’t able to get together to record a new album. Fans, though, are hoping to fill in the gap. They’re looking for 25 satirical Christmas bands to record a tribute album. If they can pull this off, we might hear some surprising new takes on Humbugs classics this Christmas.

Death: Michael Been, lead singer of The Call, on August 19. He was working as a sound engineer at the Pukkelpop Music Festival in Belgium and was backstage when he suffered an apparent heart attack.

2010-09-01

Notes

Red Velvet Car

Now finished and ready for release within weeks: the new Heart album Red Velvet Car, on which Nancy Wilson sneaked in more autoharp than ever; an Alan Parsons movie on recording music, expanded from 8 to 10 hours in length during a year of delays, The Art and Science of Sound Recording; the new Sara Bareilles album Kaleidoscope Heart, featuring the single “King of Anything”; Rick Aster’s rewrite of his debut book Professional SAS Programming Secrets; Going Back, Phil Collins’ painstaking remakes of 18 Motown hits, on which he played drums despite the nerve injuries caused by recent spinal surgery. Nearly finished: the new Duran Duran album. Out now: the new Sting studio album Symphonicities based on the tour of the same name; a new Foreigner live set recorded this year in London.

Paul Nordquist’s Unruly Beast of a Songblog is spending the month of August discussing the role of inspiration in songwriting.

2010-08-01

Rabin Performs With Yes

Trevor Rabin made a surprise appearance at the Yes performance in Los Angeles July 9, singing and playing his famous guitar solo on the band’s biggest hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” The show was at the Greek Theater. A video of the performance quickly popped up on YouTube.

Yes has been touring with Peter Frampton this summer, reprising a double bill from 1976. Before the Los Angeles show, the two previous shows were cancelled after high winds in Concho, Oklahoma, destroyed a stage tent, damaging much of the equipment on stage in the process, an incident that Yes bassist Chris Squire called the worst disaster in Yes touring history.

Meanwhile, two former Yes members are planning a much shorter tour. Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson have announced a five-week acoustic tour of England for October and November.

2010-07-11

Google to Stay in China

After months of threats and intimidation, which included breaking into Google’s e-mail servers, China has backed down and will allow the search engine to remain in the country. Government-sponsored server break-ins forced Google to move all its servers out of China, and for a time it seemed as if the authorities would come bursting through the door any day to shut the office down, but the fury died down and now, China has renewed Google’s Internet search permit.

That is not to say that everyone in China can access Google. The Internet remains locked down, with even e-mail inaccessible, in large areas of China.

2010-07-10

Notes

Animated sci-fi serial Futurama is back on television. The series was canceled seven years ago to make room for some sort of reality show or something that no one seems to remember now, but strong DVD sales helped bring the show back to the screen. Unlike other series that come back after a long hiatus, the new episodes are a seamless continuation of the original series, with the same writers, characters, and actors, picking up the story line right where it left off.

Aerosmith is back together for a three-continent summer tour, which arrives in North America at the end of July. After the tour is over, the band will figure out how to restart the new studio album, a project that fell apart two years ago before any songs were completed.

Larry King Live is ending this fall after 25 years, as Larry King announced this week that he would be moving on to a smaller stage. The interview program has been the one constant in the CNN lineup, which otherwise has been completely remade every ten years.

Electric car maker Tesla Motors raised more than $1 billion in its initial public offering, and will use the money to purchase a factory and begin production on its planned family cars, which are expected to sell by the tens of thousands.

Following on the heels of the iPad introduction, a slimmed-down iPhone is Apple’s hottest seller ever. After brisk advance sales and a surprisingly strong opening weekend, Apple and AT&T have warned that supplies may be limited for months to come. Apple is postponing planned rollouts in other countries.

Microsoft has canceled its Kin social-networking phone less than two months after its release. The Kin was positioned to be a “Sidekick killer,” but its time-warp design was confusing to the young adult consumers Microsoft was targeting. Besides, Microsoft had already killed off the Sidekick by deleting the Sidekick data center in a software upgrade last fall. Microsoft will continue to try to get a foothold in the cellular phone business, adding music-download integration to its mobile operating system later this year.

U.S. concert attendance might be on the slack side this summer, but tours are doing well anyway. Acts and promoters have been cautious in planning shows, not wanting to push the limits on the scale of a tour, venue sizes, or the number of shows in a time when consumers seem content to stay at home for the summer. Several of the biggest tours planned for the summer, including one by Christina Aguilera, were postponed till next year, with promoters hoping that music fans will have more money in their pockets by then. With fewer shows on their schedules, venues are reporting that attendance at shows is similar to recent years.

2010-07-01

Heavy Metal Goes to the Cinema

Heavy metal isn’t the first thing you expect to see at the cinema, but that’s what’s coming June 22. And metal fans won’t want to miss it, because four of the top metal bands are performing live on the same stage for the first time ever.

The concert itself is part of the Sonisphere Festival, taking place in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Big Four: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax will be beamed live to cinemas worldwide. U.S. ticket prices are similar to tickets for premium movies — in other words, much less than you would pay for concert tickets. It’s fair to guess, though, that the sound in the cinema will not be nearly as loud as it will be at the concert arena.

2010-06-11

Notes

A short list of scheduled summer album releases: Steve Miller Band, Eminem, Miley Cyrus, Kylie Minogue, Devo, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Christina Aguilera, Yoso, Ozzy Osbourne, John Mellencamp, Stone Temple Pilots, Lordi.

It’s no surprise that Avatar, as big as it was in theaters, took only two weeks to become the biggest Blu-ray release ever. It seems likely to also become the biggest DVD movie ever, but it could take the rest of the year to record that many sales.

U2 lead singer Bono will spend most of the summer recuperating from emergency back surgery. Sixteen tour shows that were scheduled for June and early July have been postponed.

Hard rockers Ratt still sound convincing on their new album Infestation, which came out in April at a star-studded record release party in Los Angeles. The band, still with three of its original members, is on the road for an extended summer tour of Northern Europe and the United States. If the buzz over the new album continues, look for the tour to be extended through the end of the year.

Preproduction for the Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit is mostly complete. Filming is expected to start around the end of the year, but only if the financial situation surrounding MGM can be sorted out by then.

Google used the recent holiday weekend to roll out its new SSL-encrypted search servers. The SSL encryption reduces the risk that your Internet search terms could be intercepted by a third party, such as the owner of an Internet access point, or a criminal organization affiliated with a government. It might also prevent the next web pages that you visit from gaining access to your search history. If successful, the SSL search strategy is sure to be copied by other search engines.

Death: Ronnie James Dio, singer for Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio, died of stomach cancer. He was 67.

2010-06-01

Google Marks Pac-Man 30th Anniversary With Game

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man, Google has hidden a game inside its logo. Just click the Google logo today to access an arcade-style game built around the Google name. Or Google “Google Pac-Man” for a more detailed explanation.

2010-05-21

Floods Hit Nashville

Downtown Nashville was flooded after heavy rain last weekend. The floodwaters, the highest in 77 years, started to recede today, and there many reports of damage in the music and entertainment industries.

The Grand Ole Opry stage remains underwater, so its shows will broadcast from alternate locations, starting with a show held last night. The Opryland Hotel is also closed, with the atrium level under 8 feet of water.

Gibson has not yet had a chance to see the damage at its guitar factory, as streets in the area remain closed, but the company has already said that we can expect shortages of Gibson guitars for an extended period of time.

A significant fraction of the U.S. music industry is located in downtown Nashville, and numerous rehearsal and recording studios, venues, and offices remain closed because of the flooding.

At LP Field, where the NFL’s Tennessee Titans play, the field was underwater for three days, but the flooding did not extend up beyond the first row of seats. The damage to the field is thought to be minor. LP Field would be expected to flood, as it is in the flood plain, not particularly protected by a levee in this kind of storm runoff, but it was a similar story at Bridgestone Arena, located at the top of a hill, where NHL's Nashville Predators play. There, the playing surface and locker rooms were flooded by storm runoff, which forced the arena to shut off power for three days. The offices reopened today, and while carpets and other surfaces will have to be replaced, the arena is expected to be operating again in time for the next event on the schedule, a James Taylor and Carole King concert on May 22.

2010-05-05

Notes

Sony has announced that it will stop selling floppy disks a year from now. The 3.5 inch floppy disk was once the primary means of data storage and transfer for the computer industry. Twelve years ago, it was considered a bold move when Apple started to remove the floppy drive from its computers, though the rest of the industry followed suit over the next five years. Sony now sells only about 10 million units a year. Floppy disks will still be available from Fujifilm and other manufacturers. Though no longer used in computers, they continue to be used in scientific, medical, and musical equipment from previous decades.

In other Sony news, Sony’s March decision to remove Linux from previous PlayStation 3 units via a firmware update has prompted a class action lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit notes that Sony advertised Linux compatibility as selling point for the PlayStation 3 and promised last year that the Linux feature would remain on older models, even as it removed it from its new models. Sony’s removal of Linux appears to be in reaction to a concern that users could modify game files.

A new fiction podcast, the Different Worlds anthology, is built around the music of Asia featuring John Payne. The series got started April 9 with a short story about war and dragons by Shaun Farrell. The current episode is a story by Terry Mixon of the Dead Robots’ Society podcast. There will be at least five more stories, each by a different author and inspired by a specific Asia featuring John Payne song, between now and the end of summer.

In a recent interview with Hard Rock Service, Bobby Kimball said that his new band Yoso is “on hold for the moment” with “changes” and “decisions” being considered. While he waits for that to sort itself out, he is diving into a new solo album and preparing to tour with solo and Toto material.

Lala is shutting down. Lala’s plans to be the leading music CD-trading service were scuttled by the hefty small-package postal rate increase in 2007. It turned into an attractive music download and subscription site, but music subscriptions haven’t been a profitable business model for anyone to date, and Lala had only a limited catalog available for download. The web site is no longer open to the public, though registered users can still log in and make purchases through the end of the month.

Kylie Minogue has completed a new album, Aphrodite, which is being prepared for a July 5 release. The advance single, “All the Lovers,” will come out one week sooner.

Just the name, Happily Ever After, the Farewell Tour, tells you that the three-week summer Go-Go’s tour, wrapping up in Austin July 27, will be their last. The tour is not likely to be extended, as singer Belinda Carlisle reportedly has solo tour commitments, including a late summer tour of Europe.

Emerson Lake & Palmer will be playing together for the first time in ages at the High Voltage Festival in London, on July 25. There are rumors that there may be more to come from the band, perhaps not this year, but next. Drummer Carl Palmer’s other band, Asia, will be featured at the same festival the previous night, promoting its new album, Omega. Carl Palmer is touring most of this year with his regular job in the Carl Palmer Band. Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, the other two members of Emerson Lake & Palmer, are currently on a short U.S. tour without a band. The tour is scheduled to wrap up May 15 in Atlantic City.

Adobe last month, in announcing that it was giving up on its Flash development for iPhone, pointed the finger of blame at Apple, saying it had blocked its Flash app for the iPhone. Apple CEO Steve Jobs fired back with a memo, posted on the Apple web site, that effectively described Flash as a legacy movie player that wouldn’t matter to anyone who had an HMTL 5-compatible web browser. Jobs may be willing to take the heat for the absence of Flash on the iPhone and iPad, but the reality is that Adobe’s development efforts for Flash have been half-hearted. Flash is unstable on any platform or operating system, and Adobe has not yet been able to get it to run without crashing on any mobile device. The window for Flash may be closing, as the forthcoming official release of the HTML 5 spec will render it obsolete as a movie player, which ironically is the only use most people have for it.

If Adobe has let Flash languish, it may be because it was focusing on its new product suite version, CS5. Adobe’s previous statements, confirmed on its web site as recently as last month, had said in no uncertain terms that CS5 would not run on Mac. Now, in an unexplained about-face, it is taking orders for the Mac versions of CS5. Insiders say the Mac development work was going on all along and was completed at the beginning of April.

Twitter search now processes more search transactions than any Internet search engine with the exception of Google. People often search Twitter looking not for definitive information but for the latest talk on a subject. People may also search Twitter more often because its results change from minute to minute, in comparison with the fastest Internet search engines, which change from hour to hour.

2010-05-01

Ning to Axe Most Networks

Ning, which promotes itself as the easy way to create a social network, will be shutting down most of its networks in the near future, it announced last week.

Most of the social networks hosted on Ning are unpaid sites, using the most basic services Ning offers to promote discussion among members of a group. Ning has approximately 2.3 million networks, a significant fraction of all the social networks on the Internet. No one seems to know how many are “free groups,” but it seems a likely guess that about 1 percent of the groups are paid for, and 99 percent are advertising-supported. Another guess is that about 1 percent of the free groups will opt to pay rather than have the group go away or move. This means that, at a guess, Ning is about to shrink to about 50,000 networks, and its traffic may fall by 80 percent. (Or Ning might shrink by more than this, as there are indications that some paid Ning networks are also canceling in reaction to this news.)

It’s a cost-cutting move by Ning. Ning let one of its founders go last month, 40 percent of the staff may be axed this month, and with the drastic decline in business that will follow, more cuts are surely on the way. Ning executives have said this month’s cutbacks should help the company focus on developing its new software, which they hope will give the company a new chance at success. Yet the drastic nature of the cuts is leading some observers to assume that Ning has already failed, at least in financial terms.

The decline in Ning also reflects the decline in advertising. The advertising revenue from Ning pages must have been declining along with the advertising industry as a whole.

The typical group on Ning is smaller in scope that what Ning envisioned for its site. Ning networks are set up to plan weddings, discuss trends in an industry, or distribute announcements and assignments to students in a university class. Some groups will move easily enough to a collaboration site such as Google Sites or Basecamp, or will scale back to fit on a discussion board or blog. Business networks on Ning may want to start managing their own sites. With templates based on web content management software such as Joomla, Drupal, and Elgg, a Ning-style group can easily be added to any existing web site, usually with no additional cost for hosting. Various blog engines and other providers, including Posterous, have begun trying to position themselves as a replacement for Ning. Even the old standby MySpace now has privacy settings advanced enough to replace the average Ning network.

For the ordinary user of a Ning network, the consequence will be broken links, as Ning redirects the canceled network pages to advertising pages. (At this point, the pages say only, not very helpfully, “This Ning Network has been taken offline by its owner. It’s likely that the owner will bring it back online shortly.”) This week is the time to figure out where the old Ning network is moving to, or at least designate a announcement page for the group that will say where the new group site will be. And if anyone wants to save their blog or other Ning content, the time to do that is now.

2010-04-19

The Wall Tour Focuses on Fear and Hope

Roger Waters has announced a new tour of The Wall, which will crisscross North America in the final four months of 2010. The tour is set to start in Toronto on September 15.

The new tour, Waters says, will focus on the fear that lies behind the more bizarre and unpleasant aspects of human behavior.

It is a topic he says is timely, with so much talk of war, but with the Internet possibly turning into a common ground that could overcome some of this. The Wall was written 30 years ago about personal fears, but Waters says the clash between fear and hope for humanity is a universal theme: “I believe we have at least a chance to aspire to something better than the dog eat dog ritual slaughter that is our current response to our institutionalized fear of each other.”

2010-04-14

Notes

A new Asia album, Omega, is set for release this month. The album artwork features a fantasy landscape with a Siberian tiger. A spring tour will follow in Europe and Japan.

Devo is seeking fan input on song selection for its forthcoming album. This is the Devo album that was scuttled two years ago, only to come back to life.

Former Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher was well received as a solo artist headlining at the Teenage Cancer Trust shows last week.

A jury found that SCO never bothered to obtain the Unix copyrights from Novell. This means that all of SCO’s legal cases against Unix and Linux users between 2003 and 2007 supposedly for copyright violations were improper. The jury decision is essentially the end of the Unix story, as the most influential operating system of the 1970s has failed to keep up with the changing times. SCO has been in bankruptcy for two years and after this jury decision will probably be liquidated before the year is over. In its short existence, SCO never had a quarter in which it made a profit from its operations.

The Apple iPad and iBookstore are about to see the light of day. Apple has apparently taken about 1 million advance orders for the iPad, and it may take this entire month for the factories to catch up with the orders. Apple’s online bookstore will sell ePub-formatted e-books with FairPlay digital rights management, primarily for use on the iPad.

2010-04-01

Court Rules Against EMI on Pink Floyd Singles

A court has ruled that EMI, Pink Floyd’s record company, didn’t have permission to sell the band’s songs as singles, which the record company has been doing for the last 11 years. The court has ordered EMI to pay $60,000 in court costs, but has not yet determined the extent of damages, which could be several million dollars.

Analysis in Rick Aster’s World: The Return of the Album

2010-03-11

Notes

Philadelphia International Records was damaged by a fire a week ago. The legendary recording studio attached to the offices largely escaped damage, however.

EMI has clarified that it is not looking to sell Abbey Road Studios, but it is seeking an investor to finance an expansion of the studio’s operations.

ITunes Store has passed 10 billion song downloads.

Asia featuring John Payne has signed with Favored Nations, Steve Vai’s record label. A new album is expected in time for the band’s summer tour.

Scorpions are releasing what they say will be their final studio album on March 19. The album Sting In The Tail will be followed by a final 3-year world tour, beginning in Germany in May. The album includes a guest appearance by singer Tarja Turunen on the advance single “The Good Die Young,” which is out now.

Death: Tom “T-Bone” Wolk, bass player for Daryl Hall & John Oates, died yesterday of an apparent heart attack. He played in the Saturday Night Live orchestra between 1986 and 1992. In the last two years he was a prominent figure in the music series Live From Daryl’s House.

2010-03-01

EMI Seeks Buyer for Abbey Road

EMI, after losing more than $3 billion last year, is said to be looking for a buyer for Abbey Road Studios.

The recording studio could be worth $50 million. EMI urgently needs to raise at least three times that amount to meet its debt obligations.

Abbey Road became a household name after it was chosen as the title of one of the last Beatles albums. The studio has more recent ties to Alan Parsons, Oasis, U2, and the Lord of the Rings movies.

2010-02-17

Notes

The doors closed for good at Miramax Films on Friday. The art-house film production company, owned by Disney since 1993, was probably best known for Kill Bill, Trainspotting, and Pulp Fiction. It had been reined in and scaled back in recent years, and had focused on low-budget productions after its founders left in 2005. The Miramax label will continue on sporadic future film releases from Disney.

Amazon.com has always required e-book publishers to subsidize its e-book reader hardware, and now there are signs that that business model is starting to break down. For the first time on Friday, Amazon removed a major publisher from its catalog, refusing to sell e-books, printed books, or any other product from Macmillan. According to published reports, Amazon saw this as a preemptive move that could force Macmillan to accept flat royalty rates for e-books, which typically run $1–3 per copy at Amazon. The royalties on an Amazon e-book are not always enough to cover the publisher’s costs in generating the proprietary file formats that Amazon requires, so the likely result of Amazon’s hard-line stance would have been the loss of other publishers. All e-book revenue combined is less than 1 percent of book publishers’ total revenue, and while publishers and authors were willing to try new technology as an experiment in the hope of creating a future revenue stream, they may not be so eager to continue if they conclude that there will never be any money in it for them. By this morning, Amazon had changed its mind, and issued a statement saying it plans to sell Macmillan titles again and pay a real royalty on Macmillan e-books. This will surely lead other publishers to ask Amazon for e-book royalties in the range that the book industry pays.

Pre-production for the Hobbit movies is well underway, with two movies planned based on the 1937 J.R.R. Tolkien novel, along with short stories that cover the 60-year span between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson, who directed the Lord of the Rings movies, is in a production role in the Hobbit movies, and is supervising the screenplay writing, which has probably been completed by now. Production for the two movies is set to begin in June and is hoped to complete in July 2011. The first movie is likely to be released in 2011.

Jay Leno returns to The Tonight Show tonight. NBC fired previous host Conan O’Brien a week ago after concluding that his humor was too edgy for a mass audience. Leno was fired last year for having too little youth appeal, but NBC apparently decided it could live with that, and brought him back.

The new Billy Sherwood album Oneirology is now shipping. The title refers to the study of the process of dreaming. Meanwhile, Billy’s band Yoso, which features Toto’s original singer Bobby Kimball and original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye, is planning the release of its debut album, to be followed by a summer tour.

At the Grammy Awards, Imogen Heap won the award for Best Engineered Album in the non-classical category for recording her own album Ellipse. It’s the first time a recording artist has won an engineering Grammy.

2010-02-01

Apple Announces iPad, iBooks

Apple today announced the iPad, essentially a larger iPod Touch with about 6 times the screen area and more computing power. The iPad runs on a custom 1 GHz processor developed at Apple.

In connection with the iPad announcement, Apple announced that it is entering the book download business using the iBooks name, on business terms that are apparently equivalent to those of e-books in the iTunes store. If true, this means Apple will be paying e-book publishers twice as much as current e-book sellers typically pay.

Apple’s e-book business will be based on the EPUB format. This is a published specification, widely used in the publishing world, and based on XHTML 1.1. However, it is not clear that EPUB is robust enough for textbooks and technical reference books, and its very limited support for graphics makes it unsuitable for comic books, magazines, catalogs, and most children’s story books.

2010-01-27

Avatar Biggest Movie Ever

Avatar has become the highest-grossing movie ever, with worldwide box office totals after 6 weeks approaching $2 billion. It passed the previous record holder, Titanic (also from the same director, James Cameron), around $1.8 billion. Avatar is a science fiction war movie, with mostly computer-generated scenes, but including plenty of live action, and in 3-D. The higher ticket prices for the 3-D showings have helped boost its revenue.

Avatar is also said to be the most expensive movie ever made, with production costs perhaps approaching $300 million. Its setting on an alien planet has given it a stronger international appeal than most Hollywood war movies, and it has been especially popular in North America, Europe, Russia, and China. In China, where Avatar is the most popular movie ever, a mountain has been renamed in honor of the movie. Local officials say photos of the mountain were used as reference images in creating the fictional setting of the movie.

2010-01-26

Air America in Bankruptcy

Air America announced today that it was filing for bankruptcy liquidation. Its last show ended at 6 p.m. ET, and it will air reruns until early Monday evening.

The move is another sign of the decline of the radio industry. While music radio has declined the fastest, talk radio is also in decline, especially among listeners under 60 years old. Air America mentioned the decline of radio in its announcement: “With radio industry ad revenues down for 10 consecutive quarters, and reportedly off 21% in 2009, signs of improvement have consisted of hoping things will be less bad.” It said it had sought new investment, but gave up on that search this week.

The network says it is hoping for a rapid and efficient liquidation in bankruptcy.

2010-01-21

Germany, France Warn Against Internet Explorer

Officials in Germany and France are warning against using Internet Explorer because of the security risks. The warnings come after attack code used in the recent attack on Google, an attack that apparently was coordinated by the Chinese government, was published on the Internet. The attack code uses flaws in the design of Internet Explorer, particularly version 6, to take control of computers that visit modified web sites. The attackers can then copy data from the computer or use it to attack other computers. Now that the attack code has been published, officials worry that it could be widely used in the coming days and weeks, before Microsoft can develop an update to its browser that removes the vulnerability.

Microsoft’s software generally is riddled with security holes that the software maker has made only half-hearted attempts to patch over the past 15 years. Some of the security holes are the result of sloppy programming, but most were introduced intentionally as part of Microsoft’s network-first design philosophy that it adopted in the early 1990s. Its Internet Explorer web browser has been implicated in most of the web exploits used by criminal organizations. Microsoft has patched Internet Explorer thousands of times after exploits have been identified, and it says there is reason to hope that the newest version of Internet Explorer should be safer than previous versions, although it has generally the same weak spots. The government officials, though, are asking web users to avoid all versions of Internet Explorer.

2010-01-18

Editor & Publisher Finds Buyer

The journal of the U.S. newspaper business Editor & Publisher was set to shut down last month as owner Nielsen mostly got out of the magazine business, but it managed to scratch together a January issue, and now has a new owner in Duncan McIntosh Co., a California-based boat magazine publisher. The new owner plans to continue in the monthly format, keeping some of the staff of the magazine.

2010-01-15

Google’s First Android Phone

Google today started selling the Nexus One, likely to be the first phone using the Google Android phone operating system to catch on with the public. The Nexus One costs about the same as an iPhone, and has a generally similar form factor, though the operating system offers a lower level of interactivity — more like using a traditional smart phone than a computer. The integration with the Google infrastructure and support for custom applications are the pluses that some customers will insist on. So far, only T-Mobile supports the Nexus One, but other carriers will support it later this year. Google hired HTC to design the hardware and build the Nexus One. Google is selling it on its new web store.

2010-01-05

Notes

Meat Loaf may be ready for a comeback. The epic rock singer, slimmer again and with a little less hair, wrapped up work on a new album December 10. He is counting on tracks written by Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins to propel him back into the limelight. People are particularly talking about a large-scale song from Hawkins called “Love Is Not Real.” Hawkins had recently written a song for the Adam Lambert album.

The Asia reunion will have a second studio album. The band has hired Mike Paxman to produce the album and Roger Dean for cover art.

Psystar has stopped selling Mac clone computers, and instead will sell only computers running Linux. The computers will still be relatively compatible with Mac OS X, but will no longer come with that operating system pre-installed.

American Idol will probably lose its star judge at the end of the year. Simon Cowell is working on a U.S. version of his popular U.K. music competition show X-Factor, which is planned to debut in 2011, possibly on the same network as American Idol. American Idol will finish at least its 2011 series even if Cowell is not available.

The Washington Times is shutting down its sports section after today, and more cutbacks are coming. The newspaper is also raising the price of its weekday editions to $1.00.

Death: Eric Woolfson, songwriter, keyboard player, and singer for Alan Parsons Project. He had battled cancer for some time. Hours before his death, he reported that he had finished revisions for his musical Gambler. His last musical, Edgar Allen Poe, also called Poe, is in the middle of its premiere run in Berlin.

Death: Norton Buffalo, harmonica player for the Steve Miller Band. He played on hundreds of albums over the years, including several by the Doobie Brothers. A tribute concert is planned for January 22–23.

2010-01-10
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