Even in Losing, Ticketmaster Sets the Terrible Rules


If you are a frequent event attender like myself, you have probably gotten a handful of emails with the subject line “Schlesinger v. Ticketmaster Settlement.” This was a class-action lawsuit where someone actually took ticket monopoly Ticketmaster on and sued them for all their excessive and deceptive “processing” fees.

For once, the good guys won and anyone who ordered tickets between October 21, 1999 and February 27, 2013 can benefit from the lawsuit. The problem is very much on how the settlement payout is being distributed, which feels very much on Ticketmaster’s terms.

  • For each transaction you get a measly $2.25 coupon code per transaction you made up to 17 (for myself, I had the full 17 equaling $38.25).
  • Depending on your past transactions and whether you had tickets shipped, you could also receive $5 UPS discount code for sending tickets, which is largely useless since most people just do print-at-home or mobile tickets these days.
  • The biggest win appears to be the $5M in free tickets that Ticketmaster is distributing to customers, which again, you can get up to 17. I got 17 of these free general admission tickets, but the problem is Ticketmaster is calling the shots on which shows it applies to.

The first round of shows the free tickets applied to was released in mid-June, but turned out to be a who’s who of who you don’t want to see. Most cities didn’t even get shows, and the ones that did, only had shows included at big outdoor amphitheaters like the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park, IL or the Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, IN, venues that get washed-up legacy acts (Def Leppard, Heart, Hall & Oates, Rob Thomas), mainstream country (which is great if you are a country fan, but not helpful if you aren’t), or just straight-up bad 90’s rock acts (Buckcherry, Slipknot, Korn, Rob Thomas). The only consistency seems to be that these are shows that are super unlikely to sell out (so not really affecting Ticketmaster’s bottom line), and Ticketmaster is only giving away a handful of free tickets for each show.

Here’s Stephen Colbert speaking about how lame the options are:

Even at this moment, all of the shows listed are sold out of vouchers, meaning if you want to use your free vouchers, you have to continually check back this website (http://concerts.livenation.com/microsite/settlement) and just hope a show comes up that you actually want to go to AND it isn’t already sold out of vouchers.

Also when it comes to the $2.25 coupon code, this is such a small amount that Ticketmaster has to be thinking this just incentivizes customers to use and buy tickets on Ticketmaster with very little effect on their profit.

So while I’m glad someone actually stuck it to Ticketmaster, it still seems like the music fan barely benefits from this. Fortunately, it seems like there has been a ton of improvement and additional competition over the past few years, with many smaller venues handling their own ticket sales through their websites, other sites like Ticketfly and Brown Paper Tickets taking off, and secondary market sites like Seatgeek reaching new heights. I used to be stuck using Ticketmaster for purchases 3-5 times a year, and thank the Lord, I can’t tell you the last time I had to use Ticketmaster. There is hope for a better ticket world yet.

Even in Losing, Ticketmaster Sets the Terrible Rules

3 Things the Grammys Got Right

Kendrick Lamar performs at the 58th annual Grammy Awards on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Kendrick Lamar performs at the 58th annual Grammy Awards on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Let’s be honest: of the four major award shows – the Emmy’s (TV), Grammys (Music), Oscars (Movies), and Tony’s (Theatre) – the Grammys is probably the worst and least representative of what is truly the best in its field. We’ve covered that plenty over the last five years but if anyone knows me, I like to focus on the positive. I’m a glass half-full type. That proved especially difficult with maddening snubs for Best Song, New Artist, and Album of the Year and just an overall boring broadcast. But I’ll do my best. So here are the three things the 2016 Grammy’s got right.

Hamilton gets its moment in the spotlight

Hamilton has been the biggest musical smash since Book of Mormon, and it rightfully crossed over from the Tony’s into the Grammy’s for a live performance and incredible rapped acceptance speech from creator and star Lin Manuel Miranda. It was a big wakeup from the first 1.5 hours of the awards show that was nothing but snoozy adult-contemporary singing.

Genre awards were largely correct

Whether it was Alabama Shakes winning Best Alternative album, Kendrick winning Best Rap Album, Chris Stapleton winning Best Country Album, or D’Angelo winning best R&B album, several great songs and albums actually won awards. In terms of sub-categories, this is probably the highest hit-rate a Grammy night has had in the last 10 years.

Kendrick getting awards two years after getting snubbed out for Macklemore

Two years after getting snubbed  for all the rap awards to white-rapper Macklemore, the Grammys do what the Grammys do best: make up for a previous wrong. Not completely, but at least in part. This has been done time and time again, and it usually happens with rock bands 30-40 years after their heyday, but fortunately, the Grammys actually got it right with Kendrick Lamar sweeping the rap categories. They certainly screwed up Album of the Year going with Taylor Swift over Kendrick, but that’s not a huge surprise (Speakerboxx/The Love Below by Outkast was the only time a rapper has won Best Album of the Year, and half of that album isn’t really hip hop at all).

Kendrick also delivered easily the best performance of the night, starting by pointing to the injustice towards Blacks in our prison system with “Blacker the Berry”, than going crazy with a huge bonfire and tribal dancers with the Grammy-award winning song “Alright”, and finally debuting a new song where Kendrick raps better and faster than anyone else. It was one of the few thrilling performances in a largely drowsy night.

3 Things the Grammys Got Right

The Brilliance of the Blue Jean Committee


Perhaps no comedian has a better grasp on the music world than Fred Armisen, who was a drummer for Chicago indie-punk band Trenchmouth before becoming a weird comedy star on Saturday Night Live. Since SNL, Armisen has now become the drummer and bandleader for The Late Show with Seth Meyers, as well as one-half of the brilliant Portland spoof Portlandia.

Thus there might be no better person for  a music documentary spoof, and he and the amazing Bill Hader knock it out of the park in their new Documentary Now series, a new IFC TV series that spoofs classic documentaries. The last two in the series are on the Blue Jean Committee, Hader and Armisen’s made-up Cali soft-rock that’s based loosely on the Eagles. The two-part documentary is a quality spoof of The History of the Eagles, a 2013 Showtime documentary that famously cast band members Glenn Frey and Don Henley as complete jerkoffs. Hader and Armisen, as well as show executive producer Seth Meyers, pick up on the irony of such a gentle and soft band made up of a bunch of macho alpha-males that want to kill each other. That, in addition to Armisen’s complete takedown of classic music documentary clichés, is what makes the Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee so hilarious.

Building on the macho men playing delicate music idea, the bandmembers Clark Honus (Hader) and Gene Allen (Armisen) are made into Chicago tough guys from sausage families that first tried Chicago blues, before deciding to opt for a SoCal soft-country sound. As cultural critic Chuck Klosterman says in the documentary, the Beach Boys sing about surfing and never surfed, so why can’t the Blue Jean Committee do the same with California.

In the documentary, the Blue Jean Committee has one breakthrough record in Catalina Breeze, which is really their Hotel California. Songs like “Mama, You’re a Dancer”, “Catalina Breeze”, and “Gentle & Soft” perfectly capture that corny California soft-rock sound. The documentary also includes other AM radio giants that Armisen and Hader are spoofing talking about the fake band, including Kenny Loggins of Loggins and Messina, Michael McDonald of Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, and Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates.

Blue Jean Committee is quickly becoming a reality as well, as the two performed on Late Night with Seth Meyers, and put out Catalina Breeze on Drag City Records. While there have been plenty of spoof bands, this is the best take I’ve heard on that cheesy 70’s rock sound, so definitely check out the Documentary Now episodes  (currently on IFC.com to watch and will be coming to Netflix soon) as well as the music itself. It’s rock parody at its best.

The Brilliance of the Blue Jean Committee

Annual Music Podcast Power Rankings


I last visited the world of music podcasts in 2013 when, admittedly, I had a much harder time coming up with five music-related podcasts worth listening to. Since Serial came out and seriously raised awareness of podcasts, there has been a tremendous increase in podcasts in general. So much like TV, there is now the problem that there are not enough hours in the day to listen to good, worthwhile podcasts. So here are the best five music podcasts that I would wholeheartedly recommend.
Continue reading “Annual Music Podcast Power Rankings”

Annual Music Podcast Power Rankings

Apple Music: The Death Knell for Downloadable Music


Once fat and healthy, the internet in the 21st century has thrown the music industry for a loop time and time again, putting musicians and the industry that produces them in a serious identity crisis as to where the money comes from. With the invention of the iPod and eventually the iPhone, downloadable music in MP3 format became the new form, and CDs went the way of the cassette tape. Vinyl strangely came back into vogue as a counter-cultural music fan move to the digital revolution. Throughout the whole age of digital music, file sharing through Napster, then Limewire, then BitTorrent and any number of other file sharing programs made music easily accessible for free. Finally, streaming came about from outlets like Rdio, Pandora, and Spotify to make music as easily accessible, though it does require some data usage, paying the artists at least something for the music, a fraction of a penny for each listen.

Apple’s entrance into the streaming service world, Apple Music, marks the beginning of the end for downloadable music. Apple, who owns the world’s largest music download store in iTunes, has stopped caring about iTunes and instead has thrown all their eggs in the Apple Music basket. The day Apple Music launched, it became extremely difficult to even find iTunes, or a price on an individual album. Instead, everything became focused on getting you to try the streaming service.

With the ability to listen offline, Apple Music completely blurs the lines between your purchased downloads and music you find in streaming. When you are under “My Music” on your iPhone or iPad, all your selected music, whether downloaded or just streamed, looks the same. Thus, Apple is playing a role in changing people’s understanding of your music. It’s no longer what you own, but it’s what you listen to.  All music is available to snatch up and be listened to in the instance of a quick search.

With Beats 1 Radio, Apple also offers an alternate to Satellite (Sirus XM) and Terrestrial (AM/FM) Radio, for people that prefer someone else to curate their listening for them. Already, Beats 1 is off to a great start, with mixtapes/radio hours from tons of influential artists, including Dr. Dre, Elton John, and St. Vincent. Apple is making sure there is a curated option for every music fan under the sun.

St. Vincent is one of many new DJs for Beats 1 Radio
St. Vincent is one of many new DJs for Beats 1 Radio

Some bugs remain, that will keep Apple Music from becoming a complete no-brainer. For example, there is no easy way, beyond a syncing workaround, to get your music that’s not on Apple Music (say a local artist or an album that hasn’t released is not yet on iTunes) on your device. You can essentially turn Apple Music off, get it added, and then turn it back on, but this is a time-consuming affair. There are plenty of other little kinks Apple still has to work out, but I’m guessing a few software updates later, Apple music will be pretty much all you want it to be.

My prediction is by the end of 2016, streaming and vinyl will be the two largest sources of revenue for consuming music. Yes, those are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, but vinyl still scratches the itch of audiophiles who love the tangible aspect of a record and listening intentionally an album at a time. Streaming speaks to our sense of wanting everything now, on-the-go, and for the lowest price possible, only $9.99 a month. It will be interesting how artists survive this new form, but it could be more exposure for artists, and getting some money (if just pennies) from people who may have been downloaded their records illegally through file-sharing before, is a small step up. The music industry continues to be in the wilderness.

Apple Music: The Death Knell for Downloadable Music

Songs of Summer ’15 Walk-Off


Every year, a song defines the summer: it’s at every wedding, every beach party, and every festival you attend. You simply can’t escape it, but usually its such a perfect song you don’t mind hearing it again and again. Pharrell owned the last two summers, with last year’s giddy-gospel “Happy”, and in 2013, singing the hook on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and producing Robin Thicke’s rapey yet infectious “Blurred Lines”. In 2012, it was the sneaky great “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, and in 2011, it was LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”, which is still inescapable at weddings everywhere.

With Zoolander 2 coming our way at the end of the year, how else could we settle the 2015 Song of Summer than a walk-off? Here we go, with the five leading candidates for song of summer.

Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”

Dance Move: Bounce, bounce, bounce. Trap music is the flavor of the day, and on “Trap Queen”, Fetty Wap captures what people love about the ramped-up rap form in a catchy little package.

Drawback: Being the flavor of the day has its setbacks. I’m not sure we’ll be coming back to “Trap Queen” years from now, but I could be wrong.

Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”

Dance Move: Do the time warp. The psychedelic elecro-pop ride of “Let It Happen” warps space and time for the good of the dancefloor, throwing you through new sound portals left and right.

Drawback: Run time. At 8 minutes, “Let It Happen” is a little long in the tooth for most summer dance parties.

Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring MØ – “Lean On”

Dance Move: The globe trot. “Lean On” combines two of today’s biggest hit makers, Diplo of dancehall project Major Lazer and DJ Snake, with the ear worm vocals of young Danish pop star MØ to make a global dance hit.

Drawback: Repetition. For as much as the song’s repetitive nature makes it instantly catchy, it also makes it get a little old.

Jamie xx – “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

Dance Move: The gold digger. Channeling the old soul sample magic that Kanye West mastered in the middle of his career, British master-producer Jamie xx makes an instant party hit that speaks to modern music tastes (with the rap stylings of Young Thug and Popcaan) with the strength of a timeless sample from the Persuasions “Good Times”.

Drawback: A face. Anytime there isn’t a main hook singer or artist for a song, it makes it a little harder for the song to catch fire, and Jamie xx is no forward-facing superstar; just an extremely wily producer and DJ.

The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”

Dance Move: The moonwalk. Anytime you can channel the King of Pop, you do it. Canada’s Abel Tesfaye, better known as the Weeknd, has always sounded like Michael Jackson stuck in an echo chamber, but “Can’t Feel My Face” finally finds him with the hit worthy of his talent.

Drawback: Is it too much like MJ? Nah.


Your walk-off winner:

I’ll let summer movie superstar Tom Cruise do the honors:

The Weeknd it is!


Songs of Summer ’15 Walk-Off

Bonnaroo 2015 Recap In Full


I’mmmm bacckkkkk! This is Riley Johnson, fellow friend and festival attender of LxL’s Wes, Austin, and Todd. After I attend Bonnaroo, and as is now tradition here at LxL,  I like to quickly recap the experience with a full 1-sentence review of each act I was able to see over the wonderful weekend (Todd filled in on any I might have missed that he happen to catch as well).

Last year, I had my Bonnaroo wristband purchased, my line-up all planned out, and my baby powder and chaffing cream packed away! Sadly, life got in the way and I was unable to make the trip to the farm. However, 2015 brought a new day and I jet-setted back from California to hoof it down to Manchester, Tennessee with some of my best friends. Bonnaroo was not top heavy this year, but it definitely was one of the best festivals I have seen from start to finish. There was a consistent flow of quality, weirdness, and crunk to keep you on your toes. You won’t get my favorite or my worst, but you will get a beautiful little one sentence take on every act I saw over the 4-day brain freeze known as Bonnaroo:
Continue reading “Bonnaroo 2015 Recap In Full”

Bonnaroo 2015 Recap In Full