Kesha and the economics of misery


A New York state judge has ruled against Kesha in her quest to be let out of her record deal with Sony due to sexual assault allegations against producer Dr. Luke. In the wake of the decision, some of Kesha’s fans have called for a boycott of Sony.

But a consumer boycott against the industry behemoth isn’t likely to do much.

For a boycott against a major entertainment distributor to have an effect, it has to be limited in time (a designated day, for instance) and well-coordinated. Even 100,000 people here and there refusing to buy Sony product will have little impact.

But even if it did, such a boycott would punish other artists who are also tied to the company via record deals they can’t get out of.

New artists refusing to sign a deal with the label might have some impact. However, in a world in which bidding for new artists isn’t that competitive, turning down a record deal is a lot to ask of anyone. And let’s be honest – every other record company would have done the same thing. It’s an industry-wide problem that isn’t going away anytime soon.

I applaud Kesha wholeheartedly for standing up to Sony. It’s not easy for any artist to do so, let alone one suffering from the trauma of working with an alleged rapist.

So what can we do to help artists stuck in oppressive contracts?

Well for one thing, we can stop downloading or streaming entertainment illegally. That put distributors out of business and stunts competition. We can also call companies out when they turn a blind eye to sexual assault, discrimination or harassment – and that includes paying women less than their male counterparts – such as when Fox purportedly offered Gillian Anderson less than David Duchovny for the “X-Files” reboot.

And if you’re in the industry, isn’t about time you stopped looking the other way in the interest of your own paycheck or the company bottom line? Because it shouldn’t be up to the consumer to prevent wrongful conduct. It should be up to all of us.


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Step up. Speak Out. Change your world.


Earlier this week social media exploded when Amber Coffman of the band Dirty Projectors tweeted that indie-music publicist Heathcliff Berru had groped her at a bar. Afterwards, several other women came forward with even more disturbing complaints.

The allegations forced Berru’s resignation from Life or Death PR, a firm he cofounded and which has represented major music artists. Several artists severed ties with the firm. In a statement, Berru blamed his behavior on drug and alcohol and promised to go to rehab.

Notably missing from the voices of outrage, however, were Berru’s business associates – not just his coworkers, but the agents, managers and executives who worked with him. Continue reading

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Salvador Dalí’s fear of castration

Salvador Dalí’s fear of castration.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: (Abandoned)

Moroccan Kids in Marrakesh

Moroccan Kids in Marrakesh

On a trip to Morocco in 2002, I came across two groups of kids just hanging out in a seemingly abandoned part of the Medina.

The older boys are aware of (and perhaps keeping an eye on) the two younger boys, who sit on a smashed cardboard box, oblivious to everything but whatever game they are playing.

The photo hearkens back to a time that no longer exists in much of America, when children were left on their own to play and discover the world as it was, not as the internet tells us it should be.

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The Year I Turned 18 and Met the Messiah


I turned 18 on December 20, 1977.  To celebrate, I took myself to New York.  This was the era of American Hustle, when the beautiful people were snorting coke and drinking champagne at Studio 54.  As a rocker, however, I wouldn’t be caught dead there.  Instead, I hung out at CBGB or Max’s Kansas City, or even better at Trax, where I could see Richard Belzer kill it with his famous Jagger impression.  It was the place to be if you were a rocker.  And it made for the one of the loneliest birthdays I’ve ever had.

 For one thing, my face had started breaking out.  Or at least that’s what I thought.  I’d covered the spots with make-up, but they kept showing through.  Worse, they were starting to hurt.

By the time my aunt finally took me to her doctor two days later, they covered my entire face.  I was stunned when the doctor told me they were cold sores.  I’d never had one before (or, for that matter since).  I didn’t know you could get them anywhere other than your lip.  And the doctor said they could leave scars. So instead of a fabulous pre-Christmas week in the Big Apple, I was stuck indoors, soaking my face in medicated compresses.  Happy *@*%! birthday to me.

Handel’s Messiah saved me.  As a secular Jew, I would have been reluctant to go to church on Christmas Eve under the best of circumstances.  As a dead ringer for the Elephant Man, there was no way I wanted to hear people sing about Jesus for three hours at a midnight mass.

But music is a funny thing.  At its best, it transcends its subject matter.  And when people come together to celebrate joy, joy is what you get.  Mundane things like religion – or a face that looks like pepperoni pizza – seem to disappear.  And so every December 23rd or so, I skip the mall and head for Disney Hall.  Because while Messiah may not be the most exciting music ever written, there’s something about a room full of people singing the Hallelujah Chorus that embodies the true Christmas spirit and reminds of the best part of our humanity in a way that fighting over that last Play Station on the shelf never will.

 So to all of us this Christmastime — no matter who you are, or what you believe — I wish you Peace on Earth and all the joy in the world.


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Runaways mania in Tokyo

In June 1977 the Japanese caught Runaways mania. It was the moment we’d been waiting for — to play in front of truly appreciative fans, to stay in nice hotels, to get a taste of the rock star life. But there was a scary side to it as well and two memorable incidents stand out.

One came at a scheduled appearance at a record store, where we were to meet fans and sign autographs. We were supposed to be dropped off by limo at the front entrance, but the appearance was over-attended and the front of the store too packed for us to go in that way. So the limo driver went around back through the alley. Once we got into the alley, though, we discovered that it was even more packed than the front, but there was no turning back as the limo was immediately overrun by fans and the driver couldn’t see to reverse.

We inched our way through the alley, with the driver and us terrified we were going to run over some poor Japanese kid. The windows were rolled up and as the fans surrounded the limo and press up against the exterior vents, we started to run out of air, a truly terrifying moment. So someone cracked a window, at which point the fans started to throw things through the cracks, including a letter addressed to me, which turned out to be a heartfelt five page love letter. After about 45 minutes of inching forward in fits and jerks, we finally made it through the alley, although we never made it to the store as the record company decided it was too risky.

Later that week on our way to a television appearance, the crowds grew too thick again and we had to we had to crawl into an office through a window, walk down five flights of stairs and through a basement with a very low ceiling which led into a kitchen in the basement of the building next to it. From there we took an elevator up to a department store, where we were hustled through the crowd and out the main door. Some of our fans, however, had figured out our escape path and were waiting for us. They chased us down the street until we managed to get away long enough to make it back to our hotel, where yet more fans were waiting and we had to run through the back entrance. It really was like a scene out of Help!, both fun and scary at the same time.

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