Millions of enthusiastic fans, a major-label record deal, and/or a secure spot on the Billboard chart is not always enough to keep your guitarist present and accounted for. First came the announcement that Alien Ant Farm guitarist, Terry Corso, left the band due to “irreconcilable differences.” Without missing a beat—or a show—the band rebounded with Victor Camacho, an old friend who was enlisted to finish out their November 2003 tour with 311. Sometimes these relationships end so abruptly—no info was available at press time as to Corso’s future plans or whether Camacho will remain as AAF’s full-time lead guitarist. It’s likely that details about the latter will become available on the band’s official site, alienantfarm.com.
A mere five days later, reports emerged that wonder kids Evanescence up and lost their guitarist, founding member Ben Moody, while on tour in Berlin. Offering little in the way of explanation, their Web site stated: “Ben Moody has left the Evanescence tour and returned home. The band will continue touring without Ben and have brought in a new guitarist to fill the spot.” Is it possible that these two guys realized that there’s actually more to a fulfilling and meaningful life than copious record sales and throng upon throng of adoring fans? Or maybe they’re just tired. Either way, there may be a couple of high-profile guitar jobs open.
• As CD sales continue to plummet, the major labels continue the scramble for market share. At press time, Universal—already the market leader by a fair share, as the home of Interscope/Geffin/A&, Island/Def Jam, Mercury Nashville, Motown, Roadrunner, and Verve—was about to absorb, er, I mean buy, DreamWorks SKG. DreamWorks (which was launched in 1996 by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen) has an eclectic roster, ranging from Nelly Furtado and Toby Keith to the late Elliott Smith, Eels, Rufus Wainwright, and Saves the Day. This is the second time a Geffen label has become Universal’s, and it marks the end of a fairly major indie.
Simultaneously, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sony and BMG have signed a “a nonbinding letter of intent to combine their recorded music operations.” The principals rushed to get this letter signed before Warner Music and EMI had the chance to sign their own agreement, as it’s unlikely that anti-trust laws will allow both mergers to go through. If on the off chance both did happen—and, as the WSJ reports, in times of economic crisis, if such moves are seen as the only way to preserve the companies, they could be allowed—it would mean that 75 percent of world-wide recorded music is now controlled by three companies. Considering the diminished number of choices an artist would have to get their music heard—not to mention the fewer choices consumers will have when looking for new artists—these consolidations are dangerous territory. Such desperate attempts by archaic businesses to preserve their profits will ultimately harm both the artist and the consumer.
But if you’re looking for choices in the music download arena, you’re all set. Following the launch of Apple’s groundbreaking iTunes music store—which opened up to Windows users in October 2003—a flood of legal download sites have emerged. Napster (napster.com) returned, banking on brand recognition and tons of exclusive tracks to sell its new, legal software. Audio Lunchbox (audiolunchbox.com) offers users the same 99 cent per song/$9.99 per album price that Apple set the precedent with for their slew of indie releases, but, unlike Apple, lets you download the tracks and then do whatever you want with them—including burn to a CD. (Seems like they managed that one by avoiding the majors.) Meanwhile, Weed (weedshare.com)— not just a catchy name (huh, huh, huh) but actually a very pro-artist and pro-file-sharing group—has set up a system to pay the artist back, as well as the user, by allowing the user to “buy a share” of the track or album. The artist always receives 50 percent of each sale, and the rest goes to those who helped distribute the file: the user, the person who the user recommended the track to, and then 15 percent back to Weed. Basically, they’re paying you to help distribute and get the word out about artists. Pretty cool. The future of the music industry has arrived.