Monday, December 28, 2009

New Music : December 22 - 28

Eminem "Relapse: Refill"
Lil Wayne's "Rebirth" has been delayed ... again ... but that doesn't stop Weezy from popping up on Eminem's new title swapping rhymes with Drake, Kanye West, and Eminem on the hit four-way "Forever," one of seven cuts amended to the expanded edition of Shady's chart-topping full-length from earlier this year. With "Relapse 2" on hold until 2010, this stop-gap should satisfy dedicated fans with additions including "Taking My Ball" (as featured on the new DJ Hero game) and "Hell Breaks Loose" featuring Dr. Dre.

Mary J. Blige "Stronger With Each Tear"
With the movie "Precious" popping up on many film critics' year end best-of lists, the timing seems ideal for a new album from Mary J. Blige, who contributed the churchy "I Can See in Color" (co-written with Raphael Saadiq) to its soundtrack. The ninth studio record from the queen of hip-hop soul features many collaborators from her 2007 hit "Growing Pains," including Tricky Stewart, The-Dream, Stargate, Ne-Yo, Johnta Austin, and Sean Garrett. Lending some additional vocals and lyrics are T.I., Trey Songz, Jazmine Sullivan, Darkchild, and Polow Da Don. Aside from "Color," the fourteen tunes include the defiantly self-assured "I Am," and the recent club banger "The One," with featured guest Drake..

Mudvayne "Self Titled"
A follow up to "The New Game" that is produced by Jeremy Parker (Slipknot, Evanescence). The album art and text is printed in ink that reacts under black light. Singer Chad Gray has said that the eleven new songs -- including "Beautiful & Strange" -- are "more retro" sounding than their more recent offerings, while drummer Matt McDonough claims "that this album is the best that the band has recorded since our second album, 'The End of All Things to Come'."

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack "9"
Kate Hudson rocks!! Playing fashion journalist Stephanie Necrophuros in the motion picture "Nine," the actress rips into "Cinema Italiano" with jazzy gusto. Based on the hit Broadway musical (which was inspired by Fellini's autobiographical masterpiece "8½"), the film also stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, and Sophia Loren -- all of whom are featured on the soundtrack. Admittedly, Loren's turn on "Guarda La Luna" is pitched somewhere between spoken word and Julie London at her laziest. Fergie, who portrays the prostitute Saraghina, slathers on the cheese for her campy number "Be Italian."

Other New Releases Worth Checking Out:
(Have not listened to, but please feel free to post a review)

* Hurricane Chris: "Unleashed"
* James Brown: "The Singles, Volume Eight: 1972-1973" [Remastered]
* Rupert Gregson-Williams: "The Prisoner" [TV Soundtrack] (More on the show)
* Duke Ellington and Count Basie: "Souvenirs" [Remastered]

Thursday, December 24, 2009

CydeClops' Top Movies of the Decade (2000 to 2009)

As this decade comes to a close and a new one on the horizon. Time now for the CydeClops Productions Top Lists!! First ever, since the company's formation within this decade. We will shell out our picks of the greatest, in our opinion, in Music Albums and Movies. Hope you were entertained the same way we were and we hope you think the same way about them. If not, please feel free to post your own picks and let everyone else know what your thoughts are!!

This blog will cite the Top Movies by particular categories between 2000 and 2009. Some may be trilogies, double features, prequels, or sequels. In some cases, we either named the entire collection as one or just the particular movie of the collection. The movies aren't numbered as cutting down the list was hard enough!!

Here's how what we based our picks on (not in any particular order).
a) Technical - acting, plot, visual effects, etc.
b) Sales
c) Groundbreaking effect
d) Hype - news, media, friends, word of mouth

Top Movies of the Decade (2000-2009):

Top #10 Drama
- A Beautiful Mind
- Kite Runner
- The Last Samurai
- Million Dollar Baby
- Crash
- Gran Torino
- Pursuit of Happyness
- The Bucket List
- Blow
- Gangs of New York

Top #5 Action
- The Bourne Series
- Kill Bill Series
- Casino Royale
- Mr. and Mrs. Smith
- Live Free or Die Hard

Top #5 Sci-Fi
- The Matrix Series
- Lord of the Rings Series
- Avatar
- 300
- Star Trek (2009)

Top #5 Comedy
- Wedding Crashers
- Me, Myself and Irene
- The Hangover
- Borat
- Meet the Parents

Top #5 Animated
- The Incredibles
- Monsters, Inc.
- Shrek Series
- Up
- Finding Nemo

Top #5 Thriller
- Ocean's 11 Series
- Man on Fire
- Catch Me If You Can
- The Village
- Minority Report

Top #5 Couple Movies
- The Wedding Planner
- Moulin Rouge
- Hitch
- The Break Up
- The Notebook

Top #5 Super Hero Movies
- Superman Returns
- Dark Knight Series
- Iron Man
- Hancock
- Wolverine

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Web TV Series Looking to Mirror "American Idol" Success

An ambitious web series, "If I Can Dream," launching in 2010 with three distribution partners, two major sponsors and one goal - do for web video what "American Idol" did for broadcast TV in 2002. 19 Entertainment's Simon Fuller, creator of "American Idol," being the brains behind it may help to accomplish that goal.

The series will be following five young Hollywood hopefuls who will live together, "Real World"-style, in a house in the Hollywood Hills. The names of the performers are expected to be announced before 2009 ends. Footage will be streamed live, 24/7, at, while viewers can also interact with the show via Facebook and Twitter.

Hulu, Clear Channel and MySpace are distributing "If I Can Dream," and each will take unique roles in pushing out the series and its five stars. Hulu will stream one episode of highlights per week beginning in late February. "If I Can Dream" will also be the first series to stream to select international audiences on Hulu. MySpace will be the exclusive social-networking platform for "If I Can Dream," where fans can upload videos to audition for potential inclusion in the series. "If I Can Dream" will also have a dedicated MySpace page for fans to interact with the show and its cast members. Clear Channel Radio is the exclusive radio partner, which brings its local on-air personalities and online network of 28 million unique monthly users, 8 million of whom stream audio and video content.

Evan Harrison, Clear Channel Radio's exec VP-head of digital, talks about how the show's creation with 19 Entertainment began about six months ago. Both parties worked out a plan to introduce talent in a nontraditional way.

"Our feeling was we could collectively chart the show's success with our on-air distribution and marketing and following it online. We are in the business of bringing that kind of content to the masses. We already do it for music, news, talk and sports, so this is a new opportunity for us to pair up with a top-notch creator and production company," he said.

The pressure for all distributors of "If I Can Dream" is to help establish the web as a destination for original, appointment programming. Hulu has created an audience for watching broadcast programming online, with TV-like viewing numbers after its record October viewership. Clear Channel, a primarily on-air radio company until Mr. Harrison's appointment in 2004, has created a bigger digital footprint in recent months, thanks to the growth of its iPhone and BlackBerry application iheartradio. MySpace, which is losing the social-networking share battle to Facebook, has focused on its MySpace Music.

Although Mr. Fuller has hinted that "If I Can Dream" could potentially include a TV component, the onus is on the web to make it work. "The benchmark is to help break talent and create a new paradigm for doing that," said Clear Channel's Harrison.


Is this concept too new to the digitized audience it seeks? Its a novel idea that has the makings of a revolutionary turn to web instead of TV. Could also be the beginning of death of TV... as if that has not already begun!! The partnerships of major corporations and media companies forms some great alliances and a big influence in what audiences view, hear, download, etc. Will there be an App. for this too? Future musicians may want to see how this all unfolds, as will we... To Be Continued.

New Music : December 15 - 21

Alicia Keys "The Element of Freedom"
No twists or curves on her new album and that's pretty wise. Keys made her dent in the flashy world of pop largely by displaying consistent good taste and genuine talent. Although the disclosure of her romance with a married man (Swizz Beatz, one of several producers on "Freedom") generated some gossip, the meditations on love and desire on her fifth full-length seems to sidestep undue melodrama. "Put It in a Love Song," her team-up with Beyoncé, underwhelms (you'd expect more sizzle from the meeting to these two superwomen), but the successes outshine the snoozers. "Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)," which features backing vocals by Drake, vividly evokes the mix of vulnerability and confidence that accompanies giving one's self over to a lover. And no matter how many times you've heard the No. 1 hit "Empire State of Mind," you won't miss Jay-Z a bit when you hear Keys close the album with her alternate, solo rendition.

Robin Thicke "Sex Therapy"
The title track to Thicke's new album basically rewrites "Sexual Healing" for a generation too young to remember Marvin Gaye. It's complete with breathy, upper register vocals. Miraculously, Lil Wayne, who appeared on Thicke's last two records, is MIA this time (how do you make a record without Lil Wayne in 2009?), but his label mate Nicki Minaj represents the Young Money crew, talking raunchy on "Shakin' It for Daddy." Snoop Dogg, Kid Cudi, Estelle, Game, Jazmine Sullivan, and Jay-Z also appear. Polow da Don, Teddy Riley, Jeff Bhasker, and Scott Storch help out on the production side.

Animal Collective "Fall Be Kind"
After their "Merriweather Post Pavilion" showed up on tons of best-of-2009 lists, the timing seems ideal for them to slip a little something else into the marketplace. The five-song EP isn't quite as sunny in its psychedelic splendor as that critically lauded predecessor (although those Beach Boys harmonies still permeate opening cut "Graze"). The sprawling, polychromatic "What Would I Want? Sky" interpolates the first officially licensed sample of the Grateful Dead, which seems appropriate.

Pet Shop Boys "Yes"
It doesn't nearly live up to all the kudos it received, however, one of the album's brighter spots is "All Over the World". It cleverly interpolates a chunk of a perennial holiday favorite, Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite." Which makes that ditty a perfect bonbon to stuff into the electro-pop duo's five-song digital "Christmas" EP. Also included are a new recording of the 1997 fan club offering "It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas," two versions of their cover of Madness' "My Girl," and the medley of "Domino Dancing" and Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" featured on their recent concert tour.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

New Music : December 01 - 08

Allison Iraheta "Just Like You."
The success of Chris Daughtry proved that finishing fourth doesn't always auger the worst for an "American Idol," and there are certainly entertaining moments for her debut full-length. I Good guitar riffs on "Robot Love" with a sample of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part Two." "Beat Me Up" seems good, but with questionable lyrics. Iraheta puts it over with energetic glee, however. Album also includes two cuts by Swedish hit machine Max Martin, including lead single "Friday I'll Be Over U," while Pink and Kara DioGuardi contribute the power ballad "No One Else."

The Bravery "Stir the Blood"
The Bravery's third official go at it way with more catchy songs - front man Sam Endicott and producer John Hill wrote two numbers on Shakira's "She Wolf," including the title track. Predictable, perhaps because of how its new wave/post punk pastiches often evoke the atmosphere and sound of earlier artists, from U2 to the Cure, yet never quite reach their aesthetic heights. The first single, "Spectator," with its affected vocals and woozy synth hook, sounds like something Franz Ferdinand would do. The album lacks much originality with sounds that have been done a decade or two ago, but it's not like many current artists are reinventing the wheel, either.

R. Kelly " Untitled"
Kelly hasn't had an easy time of it the past few years, between album leaks and legal hassles. His ninth album, which he told the media that fans should call the record whatever they please, includes some yodeling. Longtime supporters will probably be excited with the traditional sexed-up fare like "Echo" and "Number One." The latter, a collaboration with Keri Hilson, recently put Kelly back in the R&B top 10, for the 35th time since he started appearing on the charts back in 1991. The album has 15 cuts that also include the swaggering "Supaman High," and "Pregnant," a collaboration with Tyrese, Robin Thicke, and The-Dream.

Juvenile "Cocky & Confident."
After his 2006 predecessor, "Reality Check," entered the charts at No. 1 and ten years after his breakout hit, "Back That Azz Up," the New Orleans gangsta rapper returns with his ninth studio full-length. He's already spun three singles off the 18-song selection, including the rugged "Gotta Get It," "We Be Getting Money," and his collaboration with R&B crooner Pleasure P, "Hands on You." Other guests on his first album following the 2008 slaying of his 4-year-old daughter include Bobby Valentino, Rico Love, B.G., and Kango Slim.

Enya "The Very Best of Enya"
Since 1988's "Orinoco Flow", Enya has gone on to become one of the world's most popular artists, selling more than 70 million albums worldwide during her 22-year solo career. "The Very Best of Enya" compiles 19 of the Irish new age icon's best-loved offerings (10 of them newly remastered), including "Book of Days" and "Only Time." The program also features a previously unreleased version of "Aníron (I Desire)," from "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," and (just in time for Christmas) her interpretation of "Silent Night," "Oíche Chiuín (Chorale)."

Other New Releases Worth Checking Out:
(Have not listened to, but please feel free to post a review)

* Blakroc (The Black Keys): "Blakroc"
* Il Divo: "An Evening With Il Divo: Live in Barcelona"
* Soundtrack : "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel"
* Westlife: "Where We Are"
* Cunninlynguists: "Southernunderground"
* Soundtrack : "Up in the Air"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New Music : November 24 - 30

Rihanna "Rated R"
Long awaited after such a dramatic year or so outside of the studio, the fourth full-length album from the Barbados-born pop icon is the first since her highly publicized split from Chris Brown, and that ordeal seems to have galvanized the singer. She sounds angry and hurt, and throws around a lot of swear words. She gets plenty of all-star assistance: Ne-Yo wrote and produced the creepy "Russian Roulette"; Slash fires off some generic riffs on "Rockstar 101"; and one of the album's best moments, "Cold Case Love," comes courtesy of Justin Timberlake. What you don't hear much of are the killer hooks that made "Good Girl Gone Bad" so unstoppable; even at its angriest, nothing here approaches "Breakin' Dishes." Despite its title, "Rated R" isn't as edgy as it could be.

Shakira "She Wolf"
Her third English-language album which was postponed so many times that it seemed inevitable the final product would disappoint. Like the hit single of the same name, "She Wolf" offers up a nifty selection of lightweight yet catchy electronic jams, augmented with Latin and dance hall touches. Plus there's the out-of-sync charm of her ESL lyrics, which range from name-dropping Matt Damon ("Men in This Town") to using three-dollar words like "lycanthropy," to heighten her idiosyncratic appeal. She co-wrote and co-produced all but one song, and kept her pool of collaborators small.

Susan Boyle "I Dreamed a Dream"
Shae became a cyber-sensation. First the Scottish singer ignited YouTube, landing more than 300 million hits with her little "Les Misérables" ditty. Now her full-length debut is setting records as the most preordered album in history. In addition to her signature tune, Boyle's 12-song set includes several sacred classics ("How Great Thou Art," "Amazing Grace"), interspersed with unique interpretations of the Rolling Stones ("Wild Horses") and, um, Madonna ("You'll See").

Adam Lambert "For Your Entertainment"
From its Sylvester-goes-New-Wave cover art to the saucy electro-strut of the Lady GaGa-penned "Fever," the Idol finalist's debut offers a welcome reminder that rock 'n' roll is supposed to be fun. Even silly. Just listen to the way he ecstatically tears into the opening cut, "Music Again," written by Justin Hawkins of the Darkness, or Pink's confrontational contribution, "Whataya Want From Me." Lambert's album may not be rocket science, but it sure sounds jet-propelled. "Time for Miracles," a tune from the "2012" soundtrack, is a bonus cut.

Lady GaGa "The Fame Monster" (rerelease)
A case of making a good thing better. Great anthem like club hit, "Bad Romance", has teens cuckoo for bath haus video, but "Video Phone," her duet with Beyoncé, is the tune about to blow up. Breat gesture by GaGa's marketing and record label team for making the eight-song add-on available separately, for those fans who already bought "The Fame".

Other New Releases Worth Checking Out:
(Have not listened to, but please feel free to post a review)

Tom Waits: "Glitter and Doom [Live]"
Wiz Khalifa: "Deal or No Deal"
Tom Petty: "The Live Anthology"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Music : November 17 - 23

Norah Jones "The Fall"
Jones returns with the slow-dances-and-love-scenes café jazz that made her a star. Far from her modest 2nd album, she really experiments with her trademark sound. Working producer Jacquire King (Modest Mouse, Kings of Leon), Jones seems inspired in this new album - check out shuffling opener "Chasing Pirates". "Light As a Feather," a collaboration with Ryan Adams, nails the sweet spot between blues, torch song, and raw country with one of Jones' finest vocals. Additional musicians and co-writers of note include Marc Ribot, Smokey Hormel, Joey Waronker, and Will Sheff of Okkervil River.

50 Cent "Before I Self Destruct"
This is the 4th album from hip-hop's mogul and he is still able to get so much mileage out of the same formula: rhymes about firearms, premium spirits, attitudes toward women that make cavemen seem like radical feminists, and all of the accompaniments of the gangsta lifestyle are still here. Pop-leaning cuts with sledgehammer hooks, and production from heavyweights like Dr. Dre and Polow Da Don. Eminem drops by, making loco fingers around his ears on the wheezing "Psycho."

John Mayer "Battle Studies"
Recorded primarily in his private California home where he lived and worked simultaneously, this 45-minute set features a pairing with Taylor Swift ("Half of My Heart"), his own variation on Robert Johnson's "Crossroads", and the recent singles "Who Says" and "Heartbreak Warfare." Mayer even critique's his own album via Twitter on @johncmayer. Here's a tweet posted from Nov. 10: "It's been extremely uncomfortable at times to stay open and honest, but I feel like 'Battle Studies' may be proof it was worth it."

Leona Lewis "Echo"
After the global success of "Spirit," and its best-selling single "Bleeding Love," the pressure to solidify her status as the Universe's Next Top Diva with her sophomore release must be intense. Despite its title, Lewis' sophomore set isn't a rerun of her first, although ballads like "Don't Let Me Down" (co-written by Justin Timberlake) won't shed those pesky Mariah/Whitney comparisons. Dance floor banger "Outta My Head" comes courtesy of Swedish pop wunderkind Max Martin, while "Love Letter" shoehorns Lewis into a Kelly Clarkson-style rocker with mixed results."Brave," with its subtle Middle Eastern flourishes, displays the nuanced drama of a classic James Bond theme song.

Annie "Don't Stop"
Amidst your big names shines an underground artist who's become synonymous with contemporary pop at its finest, even if she's hardly a household name. Hip kids on both sides of the Atlantic have embraced Norwegian electro-pop artist Annie since her 2004 breakthrough singles "Heartbeat" and "Chewing Gum." After numerous delays, her inventive yet accessible second album finally arrives, spanning a gamut from the mysterious "Marie Cherie" to the drill team stomp of "Hey Annie." In a perfect world, "My Love Is Better," featuring guitar by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand and giddy production by Xenomania (Girls Aloud), would flood the nation's ears as quickly as Britney's mind-numbing "3" did.

Crooked Vultures "Self Titled"
The self-titled debut from the kick-ass triumvirate of Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and Led Zeppelin vet John Paul Jones packs a heavy wallop, yet also incorporates plenty of eyebrow-raising weirdness. Hints of glam creep into "Reptiles"; "Caligulove" dives into gut-bucket soul-rock a la Black Keys; and "New Fang" throws down some hard-driving boogie.

Other New Releases Worth Checking Out:
(Have not listened to, but please feel free to post a review)

Kid Sister "Ultraviolet"
Robbie Williams "Reality Killed the Video Star"
Rakim "The Seventh Seal"
Dilana "Inside Out"
Jace Everett "Red Revelations"

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Music : November 10 - 16

Wale "Self Titled"
This Washington, D.C. rapper generated underground buzz aplenty these past few years. "Chillin," the lead single from his debut album. His hit "Attention Deficit" Samples Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye" and taps Lady GaGa to imitate M.I.A. His 14 selections incorporate '70s Afro-funk ("Triumph"), vintage soul mixed with go-go ("Pretty Girls"), sinewy, barely-there electronic squiggles ("Let It Loose") and much more. His mix of producers is equally eclectic: TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, Cool & Dre, the Neptunes, Green Lantern, and Mark Ronson. There are plenty of prominent cameos, too, including K'naan, Chrisette Michele, Jazmine Sullivan, and Pharrell.

Bon Jovi "The Circle"
The New Jersey rockers return to the sort of uplifting, working-class arena rock that initially brought them fame during the 80's Glam Rock Era, and move away from the Nashville influence of their previous full-length, "Lost Highway." Speaking of highways: Having racked up the No. 1 grossing tour of 2008, Bon Jovi will return to the road in 2010, with two years worth of shows in 30 countries already lined up, including a residency at London's O2 Arena.

Britney Spears "Singles Collection"
Her infectious title track, another creation by evil Swedish genius Max Martin (Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Pink), entered the pop charts at No. 1, the first record by any artist to do so in three years. However, if you've downloaded that song already, buying "The Singles Collection" seems redundant; there's nothing else new here, although the inclusion of recent hits like "Womanizer" and "Piece of Me" makes it a much stronger retrospective than 2004's "Greatest Hits: My Prerogative."

Flyleaf "Memento Mori"
The sophomore set from the Texas modern rock quintet is a Latin expression that translates roughly as "remember you will die." Which is a backward way of summarizing the album's message to live life to its fullest. "Each day is a new beginning," says guitarist Sameer Bhattacharya. "It's never too late to become the kind of superhero you imagined you'd be when you were a kid." Singer and lyricist Lacey Mosley has one of those love-it-or-hate-it voices, a la Alanis Morissette. Yet it's hard to deny the melodramatic appeal of these 13 new selections, produced by Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach, All-American Rejects).

Switchfoot "Hello Hurricane"
This band has enjoyed terrific success in the contemporary Christian market. But please don't pigeonhole the San Diego five-piece. New tunes like "Needle and Haystack Life" and "The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)" are polished, radio-friendly alt-rock. Those are just two highlights from their seventh full-length. This collection of new tunes is produced by Dr. Dre and Eminem affiliate Mike Elizondo. Switchfoot's good intentions: Throughout their current North American tour, which concludes Dec. 9 in Boston, the band is conducting a canned food drive.

Wyclef Jean "From the Hut, to the Projects, to the Mansion,"
Quite the humanitarian, who over the years has gone to great lengths to assist the people of his native country, via his Yéle Haiti charity. That cultural heritage also colored the material on a new concept record on which he assumes the role of Toussaint St. Jean, a character inspired by an 18th century revolutionary. His comrades-in-arms include Eve, Timbaland, and Cyndi Lauper, plus T.I.'s right-hand man, producer DJ Drama. Although "From the Hut" features 13 selections, it is billed as an EP; a new, self-titled Wyclef album is slated for release next spring.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New Music : November 3 - 9

Weezer's "Raditude"
A record full of big guitars and radio-friendly riffs. Rivers Cuomo and company dish out nervy power-pop, a la Cheap Trick and the Cars, on "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To," and glam it up for the arena-sized "Girl Got Hot." They get creative with A Lil Wayne collaboration "Can't Stop Partying," and the Bollywood fantasy "Love Is the Answer."

Soundtrack from "Glee."
New selections from the show about an oddball high school choir. "Glee: The Music, Volume 1" collects 17 of them. The best bits are still the arrangements that take risks with classic rock staples ("Don't Stop Believin'," "Somebody to Love"). In addition, Jill Scott's "Hate on Me" or Rihanna's "Take a Bow." Removed from the context of the show, and ingested back-to-back, the music loses some of its impact, but still worth listening to.

Carrie Underwood "Play On"
Since her 2005 victory, she's won four Grammy Awards, racked up 10 No. 1 country singles, and been inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame (right up there with Wanda Jackson and Patti Page). On her third album, Underwood continues writing more of her own material (she has a credit on seven of the 13 songs) and says she opened up lyrically. But there are also contributions from Top 40 pop heavyweights, including Kara DioGuardi, Max Martin, and Mike Elizondo; the latter, a cohort of Dr. Dre and Eminem, had a hand in her attitude-saturated smash "Cowboy Casanova."

Amerie "In Love & War"
The fourth album from this talented, yet underrated r&b diva. Her 2007 release, "Because I Love It," was barely released in America. That's a pity, since the R&B singer's aesthetic is refreshingly difficult to pigeonhole; at her best, she's the kind of wild card pop act Janet Jackson wishes she still was. Something in the breaks, scratches and audible crackles on her underrated summer jam "Why R U" gave it an edge more reminiscent of '90s trip-hop than contemporary Top #40. With a little push from her new label, Def Jam, more folks may discover what sets Amerie apart.

Slayer "World Painted Blood"
The ninth album from the two-time Grammy Award winners, is the first they wrote entirely in the studio, rather than working up material beforehand. Guitarist Kerri King has told press that the disc is a little more eclectic than most of their catalog, likening it to 1990's "Seasons in the Abyss" in that regard. The 11 selections include "Psychopathy Red," the hardcore punk number they showcased on limited edition 7-inch single last spring, and the whiplash-inducing tempo changes of "Hate Worldwide."

Morrissey "Swords"
A collection of B-sides spanning his 2004 return to form "You Are the Quarry" to the present. Pointed selections like "Good Looking Man About Town" and "Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice" are strong along with the deliverance of a cover of Bowie's "Drive-in Saturday".

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Movie Remakes Currently in the Works

Some of the movie successes of the past are going to be put to the test once more as there are works in progress for most of them to reprise their stories in the near future. Without delay, here are a few notables already in the helm...

P.S>: Stay tuned for more movie updates to come

Russell Brand is reportedly in the early stages of developing a remake of Dudley Moore’s famous, and Oscar-winning, comedy. Thus far, he’s believed to be meeting with writers on the project, and Larry Brezner is attached to produce (he previously produced Good Morning Vietnam, and the US take on Little Britain). No release date clues yet.

They Live
Given that much of the John Carpenter back catalogue has already been remade, or is the process of being redone, the recent report that They Live was getting the treatment too was little surprise. The firm who remade Dawn Of The Dead, Strike Entertainment, are trying to get the rights, and it’s the same company that’s also working on the remake of The Thing. Very early stages for this one, though.

Romancing The Stone
Fox has raided its back catalogue and chosen the cracking Michael Douglas-Kathleen Turner adventure for the remake treatment. Thus far, it’s found a writer for the project, with Eagle Eye scribe Daniel McDermott hauled in to pen a script. No news yet on casting, director (although it’s safe to say that original director Robert Zemeckis wouldn’t give it another go) or release date…

The Incredible Shrinking Man
The 1950s movie, with a title that leaves few clues as to what it’s about, is being redeveloped as an Eddie Murphy vehicle. Brett Ratner had been in talks to direct, but a helmer isn’t yet attached to the project, and Murphy has Beverly Hills Cop 4 coming up anyway. Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (who penned Night At The Museum) have written the script. It was originally down for 2010 release, but that may be a little optimistic now…

The Illustrated Man
Once he’s done and dusted with Watchmen, Zach Snyder has a plethora of projects he’s linked with, and the remake of The Illustrated Man has been on the table for a while. Originally made in 1969, and based on a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories, Alex Tse (who scribed the Watchmen movie) is on script duties. 2011 would be a good shout for this one, should Snyder get to it next.

When Worlds Collide
Originally brought to the screen in 1951, and picking up a special effects Oscar for its troubles, director Stephen Sommers is now linked to a remake of the film. The story of Alpha Centauri being on a collision course with the Earth currently has Sommers reportedly working on a script. He’s currently in post-production on G.I. Joe, but has also been linked with the new Tarzan movie. Still, this is a project believed to be live and kicking, and one heading for the screen in 2010/2011.

Fantastic Voyage
The 1966 classic about a submarine that’s shrunk and injected into a man’s bloodstream to try and stop a potentially fatal blood clot is on director Roland Emmerich’s slate. Cormac and Marianne Wibberley – who wrote the National Treasure movies, among others – are on script duties. Emmerich is still in the midst of making 2012, however, so don’t expect this one for a couple of years yet.

Back To School
The original was a hit for the late Rodney Dangerfield. But the 80s comedy is now in development again as a vehicle for Cedric The Entertainer. David Ronn and Jay Scherick are penning the new script, and the project is currently stuck in development pending a formal green light. That may be in time to get it to the screen in 2010, though.

The original: directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Bill Murray. The proposed remake: potentially to be directed by John Whitesell, he who gave us Big Momma’s House 2 and Deck The Halls. Hmmm... Expect it in 2010 at the very earliest.

The Dirty Dozen
Robert Aldrich’s late-60s classic is on producer Joel Silver’s slate for a remake. An assortment of writers are attached to the project, although there’s no director or casting news yet. The film is pencilled in for a 2012 release.

It looks like the third big screen Conan adventure will be heading back to the source material and doing a bit of a ‘reimagining’. And while we’re not averse to the idea of Conan coming back – with Arnie apparently having his arm twisted to try and get him to do a cameo – the likelihood is that Mr Brett Ratner will be directing, once he’s done with Beverly Hills Cop 4. A 2010/11 release window is likely.

Clash Of The Titans
A remake of the 1981 movie, this is set to start filming in the Spring, with The Incredible Hulk’s Louis Leterrier set to direct. Sam Worthington is the only known casting so far, and the film is set for release in 2010.

The film that kickstarted anime cinema’s assault on Western audiences, 1988’s Akira has been mooted for remake for some time. The current status is that a final draft of the script is still to be forthcoming (Gary Whitta is on scribing duties), with Ruairi Robinson – the 3D animator on Breakfast On Pluto – down to direct. Leonardo di Caprio is producing but not appearing in what will be a live action remake. 2011 is the earliest you’ll see it.

The Karate Kid
The 80s classic is heading back to cinemas, possibly as early as the end of next year, with Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith attached to the film in the title role. Stephen Chow, the original director linked with the project, is likely to find his Green Hornet commitments count him out, so expect news on a helmer shortly. In the meantime, the script is being polished off, and filming is set for next year.

The latest news on the planned Footloose remake is that High School Musical’s Zac Efron is in line to star. HSM’s director Kenny Ortega is down to direct, for a 2010 release.

The Last House On The Left
The remake of Wes Craven’s 70s horror is in the can, set for release in 2009. Dennis Illiadis has directed, and the cast features Monica Potter and Sara Paxton. Craven is attached as producer.

Red Dawn
The 1984 hit is being remade, with Dan Bradley behind the camera, and Disturbia scriber Carl Ellsworth penning the screenplay. Bradley was the second unit director on Quantum Of Solace, incidentally. The film is due out in 2010, but a start date for filming hasn’t been confirmed.

Short Circuit
This one’s still on for 2010, although a director and cast are still to be announced. David Foster is producing though, and he was one of the string-pullers behind the 2005 remake of The Fog. He also produced the original Short Circuit. And he’s attached to…

The Thing
This one’s still in the script stages, where we hope it gets stuck. The original is a flat-out classic, but given how many John Carpenter movies are getting the remake treatment, we suspect it’ll get to the screen in the next three years.

The Birds
The Hitchcock classic is up to be remade, and Casino Royale director Martin Campbell is still believed to be involved. A 2011 release date is mooted, and both Naomi Watts and George Clooney have been linked to the project. No word on a filming start date, though.

Clive Barker’s classic is coming back to the big screen, this time in the hands of writer/director Pascal Laugier. However, it’s still some way from getting to the screen, given Laugier’s commitment to another project first. 2011 would, therefore, be a good guess for a new Hellraiser project.

No studio seems as committed to pillaging its back catalogue as MGM is, and Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist is currently on its slate as well. The 1982 original, produced by Spielberg, will be remade by Vadim Perelman. He previously directed House Of Sand And Fog, and the new Poltergeist may make it out for next year.

Steven Spielberg is bringing a new take to Oldboy than the 2003 Korean corker, with Will Smith attached to the project too. Smith has said that the film will be based on the original manga, rather than the film itself. Not strictly a remake, then, but you can bet that the overlap will be noticeable…

It’s been an on-off project for so long, that we hope that the late Michael Crichton’s terrific original will be allowed to stand. However, a rampaging robot around a theme park is just the kind of thing Hollywood likes, and the project is still believed to be in the scripting process.

Logan’s Run
It’s been caught in development hell for a while, but the planned remake of Logan’s Run is believed to be back on the burner. Joseph Kosinski, who’s currently working on TR2N (or Tron 2, as we prefer to call it), currently has it lined up as his next project, for a 2010/11 release.

Child’s Play
Chucky is coming back to the big screen, potentially with Brad Dourif involved in the project. Seed Of Chucky director and original writer Don Mancini is down to write and direct this remake, which is set for release in 2010.

Rosemary’s Baby
The original: a 70s classic, that still pull its punches now. Directed by Roman Polanski, it’s regarded as one of the best movies of that decade. The remake? It’s being produced by Michael Bay. It’s due out in 2010.

The Jetsons
The animated movie is getting a live action remake, clearly inspired by the stunning pair of Flintstones movies. Ahem. Robert Rodriguez was in talks to be involved in the project, but no formal confirmation has since been forthcoming. Expect it in 2011 at the earliest…

The 1984 cult hit The Last Starfighter could be heading back, with original director Nick Castle at the helm, presumably with a more bountiful budget to play with. It’s still in development, though, with a 2010 release window the earliest we’d get to see it.

Forbidden Planet
The main reason to be interested here is the involvement of Babylon 5’s J Michael Stracyznski. He’s attached to the script for the remake of the 1956 classic, although it doesn’t appear yet that a screenplay has been finalised. Joel Silver is producing, with a 2010 release date planned, but looking unlikely.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance
Charlize Theron is loosely attached to the planned remake here. Chan-woo Park, the writer/director of the Korean original, is not believed to be involved. Theron is currently linked as producer, but may star when the film gets to the screen, probably in 2010.

Near Dark
Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes company is behind the remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1987 vampire flick. Attached to direct is Samuel Bayer, whose CV is filled primarily with musical videos to date. The film seems a little lost in development hell right now, however, and the release date is at best a few years away.

Grindhouse’s Rose McGowan is attached to the lead role in this planned new take on the source material that inspired the Jane Fonda movie of the same name. Robert Rodriguez will be directing, although the film is reportedly having trouble getting its finances together. Don’t expect a release anytime soon…

Red Sonja
Rose McGowan again, although this one’s closer to getting to the screen, giving that the new take on Red Sonja is currently in pre-production. Directing is Douglas Aarniokosoki, who has previously done second unit directing work on Taken, Once Upon A Time In Mexico and Resident Evil Extinction. Presented by Robert Rodriguez (in the words of the poster, anyway), the film will be out in 2010.

Last Tango In Paris
Believe the rumour mill, and Tom Cruise is potentially circling the Marlon Brando classic as fodder for himself and his wife, Katie Holmes. Nothing is in pencil, yet alone ink, but the mere suggestion of it brings us out in the shivers.

Angel Heart
The Robert De Niro/Mickey Rourke horror, originally directed by Alan Parker, has been picked up by the man who used to run New Line Cinema, Michael De Luca. Along with this co-producers, he’s now believed to be in the early stages of putting a new film together based around the book Fallen Angel, which provided the foundation for Parker’s film. It’s a good few years away, though.

My Fair Lady
A film that many of us have a soft spot for, but perhaps not if Keira Knightley, as planned, gets her paws on the role of Eliza Doolittle. Musicals are big business right now, though, and while Knightley isn’t believed as of yet to have committed to the role, the film is likely to go ahead.

The rights have been picked up to do a new take on the Blake Edwards/Dudley Moore/Bo Derek comedy 10. Edwards is apparently on board as an executive producer, although a new cast and director is yet to be announced. Expect a 2010 release, though, would be our guess. It’s too easy a poster to pass up.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Creative Music Marketing for the Unemployed

An innovative way to turn people's pitfalls into something positive. This piece of marketing gives a crossover audience, the unemployed professional, a new look at music and gives the musician an untapped market - one that seems to be unfortunately increasing. Also a great way to drive audience to video and song website.

Ryan Star's 'Breathe' Is Helping Job-Seekers Attract Employers by Sharing Their True Stories
by Judann Pollack
Published: October 27, 2009

Ryan Star, a rocker/musician, knows about being unemployed -- but what he didn't know was that he'd create a new model for music marketing.

This rocker is working on an album release, has a reality TV show under his belt and just wrapped up a gig as the opening act for "American Idol's" David Cook. Being unemployed, he states, "I know what it is like to be down and have nothing and now I can reach out a hand to help."

What he's done to help is feature real unemployed professionals in the music video for his new single "Breathe," and in the process he's blended music marketing with recruiting. The website,, is clearly there to sell the single, but it also acts as a very public posting board for a dozen real job-seekers, from software consultant and restaurant manager to balloon artist and digital-marketing specialist. People viewing the video who are interested in hiring them can send an e-mail through the site, which has already drawn a nibble for at least one hopeful less than a week since its posting.

"Touring around the country with David Cook, I've met a lot of people after shows," Mr. Star said. "Going to Detroit, and all these cities, I've seen the good, the bad, the ugly and the sad. I've seen what it's all about. These are people who want to work."

He's had some success -- his song "Brand New Day" is the theme song for Fox's "Lie to Me," he's appeared on Mark Burnett's reality program "Rock Star: Supernova" and his album, "11:59," is due early next year -- and he decided he wanted to give back when it came time to do the video.

"The purpose is to make you look good -- you are selling a product at the end of the day -- but it didn't sit right with me to spend a lot of money on something to make me look good knowing what [not having a job] means to these people. There were a million visuals I could put to it ... but I wanted to find an idea that would mean something in the bigger picture," Mr. Star said.

The lyrics to "Breathe" fit that purpose -- "Breathe, just breathe, take the world off your shoulders, put it on me" -- but the singer was also wary of looking crass with the finished product. "You don't want to do something cheesy that looks like you are trying [simply] to sell something," he said.

But so far, it's been well-received and has generated some publicity from CNN, NBC's local L.A. affiliate and ABC Radio, as well as a Twitter plug from none other than @aplusk, Ashton Kutcher, who spread the word to his 3.89 million (and counting) followers. "I don't even know him," said Mr. Star, himself an indefatigable Twitterer (@ryanstar). "It's not like I said 'Hey man, do me a favor,' it's just spreading."

That's good news for Trey Pitts, billed in the video as a digital-marketing specialist and retail manager. Mr. Pitts, a self-taught digital expert, is actually a friend of Mr. Star's who helped shape his Facebook and MySpace pages. He's been out of work for about six months after being laid off as a manager for TJX Cos. and has also worked as a racetrack manager, a video-store supervisor and sold real estate.

His contribution to the video has generated a couple of e-mails for more information and Mr. Pitts, whose dream job is to create digital marketing for a music or movie company, is hopeful.
So is Mr. Star, who is pumped up by the video hitting 181,000 tweets in a day and becoming a trending topic. "People underestimate the masses," he said, tossing away his apple core. "You and I are the masses."

(Source: AdAge Daily 10/28/2009)

Monday, October 26, 2009

How to Handle ''Badvocates'' as a Company Marketer

GM, American Airlines and others try to win over critics on the Web.

During General Motors' financial meltdown this year, politicians, corporate executives and journalists piled on to gripe about the auto-maker's business. Most were expected, but what was surprising was the number of bloggers and social media hounds who chimed in to grouse about the car-maker and its vehicles.

GM is one of many companies trying to manage a slew of online critics, particularly since the economic downturn has made so many bloggers--and their followers--distrustful and critical of big companies. The musings and grumbles of these "badvocates," as they are called, can now be transmitted around the globe. These powerful critics represent 20% of the world's adult population online and they reach an estimated 14 people with their opinions, according to New York public relations firm Weber Shandwick.

Muzzling them is impossible. So how do GM and other companies handle such criticisms? At GM, a social media team of six employees troll the Web, tweeting, updating Facebook and occasionally commenting on personal blogs. In the case of on "badvocate" who has 29,000 followers on Twitter, GM invited him to Detroit and encouraged him to log the details of his trip and post video clips of interviews with executives. Other companies are also setting up meetings with bloggers to try and establish better relationships with them. Some even hope to drown out critics by getting brand fans to write positive blogs.

GM's executives say they can't invite every blogger to the company, but they plan on reaching out occasionally to make sure that influential writers are equipped with correct information about the car maker. In July the Detroit company also launched, a site where consumers can leave their gripes or ask questions and actually get comments from a GM executive. The site helped GM respond to critics who might otherwise be splattering comments elsewhere on the Web.

Airlines have experienced a lot of brand bashing on the Web in recent years, particularly on trip-planning sites and, more recently, on Twitter. When consumers miss connecting flights or experience delays, they reach down for their mobile phones and Tweet or blog about it.

American Airlines of Fort Worth is reaching out to people on social networking sites, says Roger Frizzell, vice president of corporate communications, brand and advertising. In August, when New York's LaGuardia Airport closed a terminal due to a bomb threat, American Airlines posted notices on its Web site and sent a Tweet to its followers on Twitter. It leaves general information on lost baggage and canceled flights on its Facebook site. Getting the word out before consumers run into problems at the airport is one way to avoid criticism, says Frizzell.

That’s key, agrees Jack Leslie, chairman of Weber Shandwick. Companies should check out what's being said about their brands and figure out if they should react or comment. Worst case scenario, says Leslie, is to have a viral video like the one United Airlines experienced this past July, when country singer Dave Carroll wrote a song about the airline's failure to replace the guitar the airline supposedly smashed in transport.

Some of GM's watchers say they still feel comfortable speaking out against companies, but they're more likely to talk to them first to get information and comments. Some recommend that big corporations should respond to bloggers who bash their brands.

**Source: Forbes Online Magazine/CrisisOnline/October232009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Video Games + Music = Still a Great Marketing Combo

Video games, especially the music game genre, got a good jump to the holidays back in September on the backs of new releases "The Beatles: Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero 5."

MTV's Beatles videogame, released September 9, sold 595,000 units, according to the NPD Group, making it the third-best selling game of the month overall behind "Halo 3: ODST" and "Madden NFL 10." Activision's "Guitar Hero 5," released September 1, ranked fourth overall for the month with 499,000 in unit sales.

Both totals are on par with that of first-month sales for the flagship music offerings from both companies last year. Activision's "Guitar Hero World Tour" had first-month sales of 534,000 units last year, while "Rock Band 2" sold just over 238,000 copies its first month.

Combined, however, both "The Beatles: Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero 5" drove a 72 percent increase in revenue for the music game genre over September 2008. From both a revenue and unit sales standpoint, the results represent good news for a music industry with vested interest in the continued popularity of the music game genre.

Year-over-year revenue for the genre had fallen 46 percent this year through August, sparking speculation that the category was a passing fad. But that decline was likely more a function of fewer and cheaper music games hitting the market this year, compared with 2008, until September's dual high-profile releases.

Music and video games have always been dancing toe-to-toe year in and year and year out with overall good results. Bands, such as Yellowcard, have seen album or singles sales go up thru their presence in video games. As most in the industry think, its a fad, most will say that the odd couple makes for a great marketing tool. With the advent of digital downloads, the music industry has been trying to find good ways to keep music in the forefront of whats popular - MTV, ring-tones, mp3 players, download cards, etc. Video games is just another avenue. Now, not all music would be a welcome fit to the gamers market, but for the edgy, musician, its a great starting point. Video games have also seen its successes by using popular, edgy music. Just take a look at the success of video game soundtracks like Grand Theft Auto Series or Soundtracks to Final Fantasy.

Both industries depend on creativity to strike their audience's appeal. Now the audience is just waiting for the next lightning from the combo to strike.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bleak Look at Black Friday - Or is the Glass Half Full?

A survey focused on consumer's 2009 holiday spending outlook by Burst Media finds that 62.8% of consumers plan to spend the same or cut back on their holiday purchases compared to 2008. Although most consumers plan to hold on tight to their spending this holiday season, 85.3% of respondents will be doing their shopping online. This number is on the rise from year to year.

Only 14.6% of respondents expect to spend more this holiday season than they did in 2008, while 32.7% expect to spend less and 30.1% expect to spend about the same as they did last year. Interestingly, this year finds that women will be more frugal than men this holiday season with 38.1% planning to spend less on gifts and entertainment, compared to 27.3% of all men. But you can look to this as slightly behind because the study was before the announcement of some solid gaming releases. Also, there were more newer gadgets last year, with the new i-phone 3g, than this year.

The income segments that will trim holiday spending this year looks like this:
• 29.5% of respondents reporting household income (HHI) of less than $35,000 cutting holiday spending,
• 46.3% of households reporting HHI of $35,000-$75,000
• 31.3% of households reporting HHI of $75,000 or more

The Internet has become a go-to holiday shopping resource. Despite the fact that 63% of consumers express concern over credit card security when making an online purchase, seven out of ten still plan to make an online holiday purchase on the Internet. Consumers will also use the Internet to "window shop". The most popular online window-shopping activities are comparing different retailers to find the best price (56.8%), and comparing the features of different brands (55.3%).

The Burst study also found that there does not seem to be a clear start to the holiday shopping season as only 13.6% respondents consider "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving) to be the official kick-off.

Many experts feel that with such uncertainty to when the actual shopping season will begin, advertisers should take advantage of creating awareness now.

(Source: Center for Media Research)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Twitter Activity Slowing Down - Whats Causing the Buzz Kill?

Twitter growth appears to be slowing. Even with cable news, reality TV personalities, and internet and social media marketers all widely embracing Twitter, the diffusion beyond this core set of supporters, at least compared to the historical adoption curves of MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube, appears to have hit a buzz kill.
The Sysomos study on Twitter usage, in the beginning of summer 2009, found that 85% of Twitter users posted less than once a day; that 21% had never posted, that 94% had fewer than 100 followers, and -- perhaps most telling -- 5% of users generate 75% of the tweets (Ashton Kutcher and comScore Executive Chairman Gian Fulgoni, I'm looking at you...) Of course, a persuasive argument may be made that following is as important to Twitter as tweeting is, and in that context we should be careful not to evaluate Twitter traction merely by the creation of content, but also by its consumption.
Professional outlooks toward Twitter may be distinctly binary. On one hand, the more elder hand, they just do not get the point; the other, more younger professionals are entirely energized by this new, cutting-edge technique for engaging into the real-time zeitgeist of human consciousness a la the Matrix. No one seems to be neutral about Twitter, and that in itself is interesting.
ComScore's U.S. Media Metrix shows that in December 2008, only 1% of U.S. Internet users visited; by June 2009 that penetration had ballooned to 10.4% -- but, at least with respect to Web site reach, the data show that Twitter penetration has slowed. In July, reach was up a comparatively modest half a point, to 10.9%; and in August, it dipped slightly to 10.6%.
However, Sysomos reported that half of Twitter activity originates offsite through applications such as Tweetdeck -- the reach figures quoted are the share of the online population who hit the site at least once from a computer in a month. Even the most avid Tweetdeck users are likely to make at least one visit to the site in a month. (For comparison, Facebook had a reach in Media Metrix of 46.7% of U.S. Internet users in August.) Facebook also shows 22 monthly visits per visitor, and Twitter with 5. Again, that frequency will understate the true Twitter activity because of posting from off site.
A noteworthy report is time spent. In August, accrued 533 million total minutes of usage; web users spend twenty-four times as much time with MySpace, and thirty-two times as much time with Facebook. Twitter is probably more like Google than like Facebook with respect to engagement, lending itself to very short interactions as opposed to deeper dives. Most of the avid tweeters do much of their tweeting from their phone, and mobile traffic is thus far excluded from Media Metrix. It will be interesting to see what the impact is on Twitter usage (and indeed, on Facebook and MySpace, both with aps on my iPhone) when we can look at the total Twitter universe, including mobile access, via Media Metrix 360. Thus far, at least in the U.S., incremental traffic accruing from mobile devices remains quite small for many publishers. Twitter may well be the first significant exception to that rule.

Clearly, Twitter has become indispensable for its avid users. It will be interesting to see how the same avid users tweet in the years to come.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Whats All the Buzz About Socialized E-mails?

In the past year or so, there have been numerous emerging metrics that all email marketers should be considering when looking at integrating social media into their programs. These out of box new ways of communication have helped businesses to socialize their email campaigns in order to increase reach and conversions. Here’s an example of one company’s success.

The objective of the company,, was that with over a million and half online users, they knew that referrals from current customers were a big contributor to the addition of new accounts and a major contributor to its overall growth. With that in mind, they’re marketing company researched ways to accelerate referrals and ultimately decided to test enhancing one of its most successful channels (email) with social media capabilities.

After much research, came up with a program and introduced three social "treatments" into its email program. All three programs asked email recipients to share their positive experience by referring friends. The really innovative piece came in the way tested the various offers. Once recipients clicked the link to share their experience, they were presented with three different "social motivators" to share. The first offered the opportunity to win a "Minty Green" iPod Nano once three of their friends became users.

The second offered exclusive access to the content (in this case access to its Financial Fitness beta program) in return for referring three new users. The third served as a control group, offering no reward. We tested all three offers against a smaller segment of the list and found that the exclusive beta access "treatment" was the clear favorite. As a result, deployed the winning campaign for the balance of its broader email target segment.

The Results: When looking at the results from socialized email programs, it is critical to focus on two areas, reach and conversion.

Reach: Socializing email, at its core, is about extending the reach of your current email programs. If you can motivate your customers to share on your behalf, you can grow your email file, subscription lists and ultimately your customer base exponentially.

Conversions: The other basic premise of socialized email is that social networks are filled with friends with similar likes and interests. If any given person fits the ideal customer profile, then it is likely that several members of their social graph (the people in their personal address book, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc.) also fit the profile… see the connection and growth??

Even more important is the added credibility brands get when consumers are introduced to their offers from within their social network of friends and colleagues. On the social Web, friends trust friends. It is this peer advocacy that results in increased conversions within socialized marketing programs.

Below are statistical results for

Social Accelerating Reach and Conversion

The winning "exclusive access" email was opened by 48% of those mailed. Of those, over 10% became "Influencers" for the brand by sharing the invitation with an average of five friends each, significantly expanding the program's reach.

The increase in reach aside, these invitations generated an unprecedented 61% click-through rate for friends viewing the invitation. More importantly for's bottom line, every 2.6 invite clicks led to one friend becoming a new user.

So, by having 10% of those mailed becoming influencers and sharing an average of five invitations with their friends, was able to add more than 8,000 new users, which was a significant boost in the conversion rate over its typical, un-socialized and already successful email campaigns!

Article written from posting and research by Ryan Deutsch - VP, strategic services & market development, StrongMail Systems

For more information on socializing e-mails, write to

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Music's Digital Trends - A War Against Illegal Piracy??

With piracy rampant in an over-saturated market and with CD sales tanking causing many performers to bank on live performances, creative PR, and even corporate gigs to make a living. Ringtones, sponsorships, partnerships, legal downloads, and even branded content may be the only glimmers of hope at the moment for the war against piracy, illegal downloads, or black markets.

One example is the latest trend in the UK where Virgin Media and Universal Music unveiled plans for a ground-breaking digital music service designed to bring about a rapid and permanent change in the way UK consumers buy and listen to music. The service – a world first – will enable any Virgin Media broadband customer or user to stream and download as many music tracks and albums as they want from Universal Music’s entire catalog, in return for a great-value monthly subscription fee.

Downloaded music will be theirs to keep permanently and to store on any MP3 compatible device. An “entry level” offer will be available for customers who download music regularly, but may not want an unlimited service. The service is intended to launch later this year. Virgin Media is negotiating with other UK major and independent music labels and publishers to ensure it can offer a complete, compelling catalogue by the time it launches.
This new service reflects the shared commitment of Virgin Media and Universal Music to keep up to step with the ever growing demand for online music in an increasingly digital world. In parallel, the two companies will be working together to protect Universal Music’s intellectual property and drive a material reduction in the unauthorized distribution of its repertoire across Virgin Media’s network.

This will involve implementing a range of different strategies to educate file sharers about online piracy and to raise awareness of legal alternatives. They include, as a last resort for persistent offenders, a temporary suspension of internet access. No customers will be permanently disconnected and the process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media.

Commenting on the new service, Virgin Media’s CEO, Neil Berkett, said: “In terms of both convenience and value, our new music service will be superior to anything that’s available online today and provides a fair deal for both consumers and artists. There is no better example of Virgin Media’s commitment to harnessing digital technology to give customers what they want, when they want and how they want.”

Lucian Grainge, Chairman and Chief Executive of Universal Music Group International, said: “Britain has a world-class reputation for artists and music. Now British consumers will have access to a world-class digital music service. I believe this puts all of us at the forefront of a new era.”

The issue at heart is this - while this is a generally pretty decent offer, the existence of sites like Limewire and many other digital "black markets" can never really be taken out. Its as huge a battle as the drug wars, prostitution wars, etc. The demand for product will never diminish and the ways of getting the products will never decrease. People will always find ways of getting what they want. Thats how this industry has survived, everybody wants and needs it, but they all have different ways of getting it!! Hence, the different ways of distribution.

Its a waste of time and breath for any individual, company, or entity to even say that they are fighting against something like piracy or black market. There is no need to fight, but there are a lot of needs to co-exist. Both the sides of this "war" have a pretty big playing field and certainly, a few number of consumers to attract.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Marketing Around Negativity to Create a Positive Campaign

Marketing a negative can be a real positive for music artists. An example is how the negative trend of album leaks can be used to hype up a musician’s upcoming release. One such brave, and smart, artist is Lil’ Wayne. His album "Tha Carter III" became 2008's best-seller despite the fact that most of its songs were available and downloaded countless times before official release. According to an Advertising Age article, this was “a rare hip-hop crossover success story, he scored major mainstream, if surreal, PR coups in the form of a CBS interview with Katie Couric and an appearance on ABC's "The View." He even provided his voice to the narration of Gatorade's massive branding campaign around the Super Bowl.

Last year was Lil Wayne's year thanks to the massive success of the "Tha Carter III". In marketing terms, it was notable for the fact that most of its tracks were distributed on mixtapes that delayed the initial planned release. But rather than hurt album sales, the internet leaks acted as the best marketing the album could have had, helping it become the first album to sell a million copies in the first week of release since 2005, when 50 Cent's "The Massacre" did it. It was an example of how to build and maintain a community by giving it what it wants: in this case - more and more music. The business followed.
"He stayed connected and nurtured his audience," Sylvia Rhone, president of Universal Motown Records, told The New York Times. "He was always working. And I think the rabid following he's cultivated is reflected in those sales numbers."

That type of buzz and the decision not to try to control the content was without a doubt the biggest lesson of Lil Wayne's marketing team. But also backing the release were TV ads from Universal Motown and online partnerships with MySpace, Yahoo and AOL and a promotion on Apple's iTunes. His cultural ubiquity continued with his blogging and Super Bowl-party reportage for ESPN.

As he's gotten bigger, Lil Wayne has pulled no punches, talking frankly with Ms. Couric about his marijuana use and penchant for drinking cough-syrup-laced cocktails of the sort that have been linked with deaths. That consistency has helped form a virtual critical consensus that's taken him from the favorite of hard-core hip-hop aficionados to the mainstream press to indie-rock snobs.

Mix Tape King

"Weezy [became] the biggest brand in hip-hop by spitting fire on countless free internet mixtapes," said Gabe McDonough, senior producer of music and integration at DDB. "By always saying exactly what he wanted to say, with no apologies, Lil Wayne has simultaneously become the voice of hip hop in the streets and for the Pitchfork Media cognoscenti."
Not surprisingly given the subject matter that typically surrounds Lil Wayne, the jury is still out on whether Weezy can do for brands what other top rappers have done. Beyond the recent Gatorade spots, he's been most associated with endorsing little-known brands such as Strapped condoms and Milestone Brands' Halo Champagne, which, though yet to be launched, made an appearance in Lil Wayne's video for his hit "Lollipop."

The lesson learned overall is that when you cannot control the inevitable – why not take advantage of it and worry about what you can control!! As an artist looking to get exposure - no one controls your creativity, your choices/decisions, and your ability to take action.

Monday, June 1, 2009

How the Music Industry Can Thrive by Using Websites Like Twitter

According to Advertising Age, musicians from Q-Tip to Jimmy Eat World have discovered Twitter as a means of engaging fans, using the conversational medium to not only let people know where they'll be, but get them to feel personally involved enough to actually show up. And now, one of the best-selling hip-hop artists of the past decade is using it in a very different way to build up substantial buzz for what might become the first album of the year to go platinum.

In the music industry, a five-year absence is an eternity. Eminem's new album, "The Relapse," gave the marketing team at Aftermath/Interscope Records a chance to mount an audacious campaign that playfully smears the lines between the rapper's troubled past and the nightmarish, fictionalized world of his latest work. They used Twitter to write up short, controversial thoughts and links to multimedia components revolving around a mental institution. They've helped make the album the most highly anticipated hip-hop release of the year

In an Advertising Age interview, Paul Rosenberg, the nine-time Grammy-winning rapper's manager, said the marketing effort isn't necessarily the biggest push Eminem has attempted, but it's clearly the most creative.

"In the past, when we've tried to do things in a new way for Eminem, it was just more of OK, cookie-cutter types of ideas," he said. "But in this one we really pushed ourselves, because of the time we're living in, to create a different experience."

Two kinds of tweets
That experience lives on several social networks, but for many fans it has originated on Twitter. Some of the tweets are behind-the-scenes updates leading up to the album's release tomorrow ("They are still editing my video") while others are seemingly non-sequitur paranoia ("There's no place to hide ..."), complete with links to images that suggest Eminem is in a mental hospital and/or rehab facility called Pompsomp Hills.

Other tweets have included a link to the album's cover, a mosaic of pills that form an image of Eminem's face; a screenshot of his upcoming paid iPhone and iPod Touch game set in Pompsomp Hills; a link to a blood-splattered video for his single "3 A.M." that's set in the fictional clinic; and a link to an interactive web experience that's set there as well. That a simple Google search reveals a just-amateur-enough-to-look-real website for Pompsomp Hills makes the narrative details even more discomforting for fans familiar with Eminem's recent real-life troubles with prescription drugs, which put him in rehab and led to his hospitalization for pneumonia in early 2008, as he recently revealed in a Vibe cover story. Omelet, a branding, advertising and entertainment agency based in Los Angeles, helped develop the Pompsomp Hills website, along with other facets of the nontraditional push.

The entirety of "Relapse" was leaked onto the web last week, and in it the rapper reportedly describes his problems in both blunt terms and twisted fantasies, bringing life, marketing and product full circle.

Dennis Dennehy, head of marketing and publicity at Interscope, said Twitter has been the perfect platform to slowly build anticipation since October 2008, when the album was first announced.

"By the nature of the way the information came out, you've had a trail of breadcrumbs to the album," Mr. Dennehy said. "The way we approached this is 'Let's keep that trail coming.'"

Impressive results
While Eminem hasn't relied exclusively on Twitter to get the word out, the effort has produced some impressive results. According to Compete, reached 113,868 unique visitors during April, while the most popular of his tweets -- which linked to on May 7 -- reached at least 41,704 people within just one week, according to an analysis of data provided to Ad Age by Tweetreach. And data provided by Native Digital, the start-up behind music-buzz tracker We Are Hunted, suggest that Eminem was the most-talked-about artist on Twitter last week, the week before the album's release.

"Twitter is, in a way, the world of 'stans' who now have access to artists," Mr. Wilson said. Although Eminem is using the service in a "real typical promotion way, the fact that he's willing to be part of that, to be in that world, has helped him build up mystery around the record."

Scott Yeti, a marketing consultant to film studios and record labels who runs the hip-hop-marketing blog Woooha, said Eminem's use of storytelling on the web for this campaign goes well beyond the scope of most music marketing.

Not the first
Eminem isn't the first artist to build up a reality-melting, cinematic backdrop for an album release. For Nine Inch Nails' album "Year Zero" in 2007, frontman Trent Reznor hired 42 Entertainment to expand the album's dystopian story line into a dizzying array of cryptic websites that could be discovered only by rabid fans. Mr. Reznor recently announced -- through Twitter, of course -- that he's continuing to develop the concept, and it may become a TV show.

Keep in check, though, because some in the hip-hop-marketing world downplay the impact of the messaging service, and Eminem and Aftermath/Interscope are not putting all their eggs in the Twitter nest. They're also hitting a mass media approach normally used in music campaigns, such as radio appearances, a performance at the MTV Movie Awards, and cover stories in Vibe and XXL. Yet some of those "old media" placements are atypical as well: On, Eminem is a celebrity judge for the "No. 1 Stan" freestyle-rap competition, and XXL is featuring the first part of a Punisher-Eminem comic in conjunction with Marvel Comics; the second half is free online.

Characteristic publicity
Now that the album is out in the wild, some of the rapper's lyrical barbs are generating much of the attention-grabbing publicity he's created in the past. The single "We Made You" and its video skewer a number of women pop stars and make lewd references to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, which prompted an unsurprising response from conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly, and some have taken notice of (and offense to) the track "My Mom," which contains an unflattering pill-popping reference to the late Heath Ledger. But perhaps the biggest blowback from the album has come from TV personality Nick Cannon, who took offense to criticism of his wife, pop icon Mariah Carey, and publicly challenged Eminem to a fight.

That kind of raw reaction is exactly what feeds Eminem. Its his M.O. to get the public thinking and feeling agitated because it creates his mystique. Regardless of how well "Relapse" sells, his work on the album and its holistic promotion are signs that Twitter can be just as effective at drawing out mystery and building anticipation as it is at making bands and brands more accessible.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Earned Media VS. Paid Media

Marketing gurus and companies are spending more on PR-public relations. Talk of "earned media" has gone from conference rooms at PR shops to center stage at bigger, more widely attended conferences. Veronis Suhler, a business equity firm, said that U.S. spending on PR rose 7.1% in 2008. WPP noted PR was the fastest-growing discipline, and the holding company was up 17.3% in the discipline in 2008. PR is thought to be underused and underfunded. There are many industries that don't seem to understand the principles or ethics of the discipline. Here are some basic principles to know in order to embrace what few are beginning to realize.

Earned Media is not a paid media. Any media that takes cash for editorial credit is not worth your time and is definitely not credible – unfortunately, with the exception of fashion magazines. What's more, a pay-for-play approach may end up hitting the negative headlines for trying to deceive.

Earned Media requires being interesting and open. Have a great story to tell – must be real, credible, and meaningful so that any fan, consumer, media company, media member, blogger or tech-empowered person will think it is worth listening to and sharing.

Listen to the people you hired to help you. It does not make sense to hire a marketing or PR person or agency only to ignore them when they tell you that the story you're presenting is either too boring, a lie or, even worse, a lie that'll get found out. PR people are prone to saying "yes, I know it's bullshit, but it's what they wanted to say." Not only is going against their advice a waste of your money, but it undermines your PR people's credibility and therefore your ability to earn media when you do have something to say.

You can't control the message. Despite the popular tabloid moniker, PR is not a doctor service and shouldn't be spinning. PR helps you communicate something demonstrably true. If you need to know how the message will look when it is shared with the public, stick to ads. When it doesn't come out quite like you'd imagined, don't scream at the PR person or the journalist or blogger in question. You'll just make influential enemies. If your message does come out exactly as you hoped, make a note that the journalist in question has no integrity and will soon have no readers, or thank your stars that you got lucky.

PR is NOT cheaper than advertising, or more expensive, just different. PR agencies have done little to dispel this common misconception, for obvious reasons. But its like saying that watching a concert on TV is the same as actually being at the concert.

PR will never replace advertising. You often need one, and then the other. Ideally, they both should be operating in harmony, orchestrated by the same conductor. Without advertising, there'd be no editorial opportunity. Advertising boasts what you can do. PR will show what you’ve done. Take for example a new band trying to break into music. Marketing companies and labels do their best to advertise them thru shopping their songs and getting their faces everywhere. It’s the job of PR to review their music, their shows, their activities off the stage, or their contributions to community. Without advertising, no one will ever know who you are. Without PR, no one will ever know what you’re about.

The idea of media isn't to cheer for you, your brand, your company, your music or even your sound. The media's job isn't to be positive or negative. It's main focus should be provoking thoughts about you, your brand, music, or to issues of the day. Think about how much more you would be "googled", clicked on, read about, or viewed if you, your brand, your music, or sound caught the curiosities of the public. People DON'T conduct searches for you because they know you, they conduct searches because they want to know more about you.