Musicians from around the world are converging at the Museum of the Moving Image this weekend for the UnCaged Toy Piano Festival’s third biennial event. If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s wonderful avant-garde music played on miniature toy pianos! The festival takes inspiration from John Cage’s 1948 “Suite for Toy Piano”. The fantastic Angelica Negrón of the band Balún (and my former label-mate) will be performing. You can read more about it here.
In another example of the dwindling New York City music industry, Saatchi & Saatchi New York confirmed they are laying off their entire music department. This is undoubtably partially due to turmoil in the music industry as a whole, but for a place like NY, arguably once the center of the musical universe, it is especially hard to watch another segment of this cornerstone of our cultural capital take another hit. With the recent news of the recording facility Avatar going up for sale, and in recent years the closing of Frank Music, Colony, Steinway’s iconic flagship location, Roseland, and the end of music row on 48th street, among other losses, it is another reminder of why MOMENT NYC exists — to help preserve New York’s musical history, to support it’s present and to do everything possible to secure its sustainable future. NY’s traditional musical ecosystem is made of many parts: music venues and recording studios of all sizes, a variety of genres of music being created by multiple generations —working separately but also together, passing on traditions, wisdom and skills— and commercial and non commercial places, and communities where people can make and experience music. Today the very problem we see with the national economy is echoed in our music economy; there are very few middle class job opportunities left. There are also the effects of technologies that increasingly make being located in places like NY less of a necessity. However, NY’s unique density of diverse cultures and communities, its world class venerable institutions, and more critically its small specialized groups still clearly create ample conditions for great stimulation in the arts. MOMENT NYC hopes to bring the common concerns of these diverse groups together as one voice that can advocate for a healthy sustainable future for the music industry and musicians in NYC, to build an institution that represents the beautiful story of music in NY that can directly provide work for musicians and education for the next generation of musicians through NY’s unique music history, exposure to a wide variety of music and hands on interaction with professional musicians, instruments and materials. The warning signs have been many and clear. Ultimately the high profitability of NYC real estate creates strong incentives that run counter to building artistic communities and without a fight these incentives will continue to gut grass roots communities. On the other end of the spectrum are the large industry players. If we lose the big ad agency work, the big studios and record labels, the mid sized concert venues, the mom and pops and the middle class jobs, what will be left? Broadway musicians are fighting to keep from being replaced by canned music, orchestras are struggling to fill seats. We need a larger vision for solutions that can benefit the entire musical community of New York City and all its citizens. As I just heard John Zorn say about the NY music scene on the Brian Lehrer show “..it’s still the most exciting city on the planet.” Let’s keep it that way!
As reported in the September 25th article in Billboard Magazine, according to their sources, the legendary New York City recording facility Avatar, formerly The Power Station, is up for sale. Avatar is one of the last big studios left from New York’s heyday as a mecca for producing hit records. Among the many famous recordings made at the facility are: Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., Rolling Stones’ Some Girls, Peter Gabriel’s So and Duran Duran’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Bob Clearmountain, Scott Litt, Jimmy Iovine and Jellybean Benitez all spent years working in the 33,00 square foot recording complex that was built by producer Tony Bongiovi in 1977. Some of their other famous clients include: Elton John, Aerosmith, David Bowie, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Madonna, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Chic, John Mayer, Adam Levine, Walter Becker, The Kinks, Arctic Monkeys, Baltimora, Counting Crows, The Clash, Kings of Leon, Marc Anthony, The B-52’s, Tony Bennett, Michael Brecker, Devo, Dire Straits, Dream Theater, John Lennon, Grayson Hugh, Throwing Muses, Serge Gainsbourg, The Strokes, Bryan Adams, Bernadette Peters, Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett Trio, Neil Young, Jaco Pastorius, Harry Connick, Jr., Journey, Muse, George Michael, Betty Carter, Sum 41, Moby, Vanessa Williams, Blondie, Porcupine Tree, Michael Stanley, Joan Jett, The Last Shadow Puppets, The Rumble Strips, Trey Anastasio, Helix, Kathem Al Saher, Gang Starr, Honor Society, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Weather Report, Roxy Music, and the band Power Station, which was named after the studio itself.
Will someone save this grand facility or is it to end up another victim of foreign investor condominiums?
The original ‘kids’, who starred in the groundbreaking NYC movie Kids by Larry Clark, are doing a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary that looks back from the perspective of 20 years later, on how the movie and the times effected their lives, and how they see that period of their lives now. The original movie documents a time of great change in NY and the underground music that was a part of it. Some of the unreleased footage is sure to contain rarely documented glimpses of yet another bygone era of New York City’s underground culture. Here is a link to the Kickstarter.
From the Kickstarter campaign:
“We grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s when New York City subcultures thrived: skateboarding, pre-gentrified downtown, Hip Hop, punk, and the rave and club scenes. Kids barely glossed the surface of the poverty, racism, and segregation we experienced in real life, behind the scenes.
With Larry Clark himself fully supporting the project, our documentary will weave together never-before-seen archival material from the ‘80s and ‘90s with intimate, present-day interviews featuring the core cast of characters from Kids.
This film is about our real lives and the real stories that inspired Kids, as well as the lives lost in the journey: Harold Hunter, Justin Pierce, Keenan Milton, Mike Cardona, and Sajan Bhagat. This film is for them.
Our project is about honoring the community that built a global movement and inspired a game-changing film. It is only right that it be an international communal effort to make this project take flight. We want to unite together. All of us. Not just us, THE KIDS, but anyone who’s ever felt unheard.”
102 year old Alice Barker, who danced at clubs such as The Apollo, Cotton Club, and Zanzibar Club, with legends including Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, recently got a chance to see footage of herself from the 30s and 40s. It is amazing to think how many great stories she must have!
MOMENT NYC’s goal is to honor, appreciate and gather as much of these personal histories of NYC music entertainment as possible. We cannot allow these precious pieces of our history be lost to time. Please consider joining our cause.
Check out the amazing video:
You can read the full story here As reported in the Herald Recorder.
Companies Sued For Failing To Fund Pensions
August 10, 2015
The American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (AFM Pension Fund) is suing Atlantic Recording Corporation (Atlantic), Hollywood Records (Hollywood), Sony Music Entertainment (Sony), Universal Music Group Recordings, Inc. (UMG), and Warner Brothers Records, Inc. (Warner) for failing to make pension fund contributions.
The suit states that the five recording companies failed to make pension fund payments from foreign audio stream revenue and foreign and domestic ringback revenue.
For over 75 years, the major recording companies have had contracts with the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) requiring the companies to share a portion of sales revenue with musicians. Most of the revenue was originally from record sales and later CD sales. In 1994 AFM and the recording companies entered into an agreement, subsequently renewed, requiring the companies to pay 0.5% of all receipts from digital transmissions including audio streaming, non-permanent downloads and ringbacks.
“The record companies should stop playing games about their streaming revenue and pay musicians and their pension fund every dime that is owed,” said Ray Hair, AFM International President. “Fairness and transparency are severely lacking in this business. We are changing that.”
Last year independent auditors discovered that the recording companies had not made the required revenue payments from foreign audio streams, ringbacks, and foreign non-permanent downloads. Attempts to reconcile the issues outside of court have been ongoing for several months to no avail. Suit was filed today in New York.
This is the fifth lawsuit filed against major media corporations for contract violations in the past few months. Under Hair’s leadership, AFM has begun aggressively enforcing existing contracts and standing up to large corporations that fail to pay musicians when their work is reused or offshored.
The suit seeks payment for all missing revenue owed the AFM Pension Fund, late payment penalties, interest, damages and legal costs. Read the complaint here.
The documentary film “Danny Says” about Danny Field’s – the visionary, publicist, booking agent, and musical connector who first booked Max’s Kansas City, managed the Ramones and made the Doors famous – is finally having it’s New York City premiere. The film, by Brendon Toller, features some great interviews and clips, like a fantastic audio clip of Lou Reed’s reaction to hearing the Ramones for the first time! Field’s life story is nothing short of amazing if only for the number of musicians and celebrities that are in someway connected or touched by his life, but beyond that, his key role in the NYC underground rock scene of the 70’s cannot be understated. Unfortunately, the premiere which will be at the Walter Reade Theater on July 29th is already sold out.
You can learn more about Danny Fields and the film here.
James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem has been working toward his longtime vision of making the NYC subway system a more musical experience. Here he is talking about it in a recent interview on WQXR.
and here is a short film that sums up the project, which has recently received sponsorship from Heineken.
Wednesday, August 5, 8:30pm Walter Reade Theater – tickets
Boogaloo—which fuses R&B, doo-wop, and soul with mambo and other Caribbean styles and polyrhythms—is a vibrant sound that originated on the streets of New York in the 1950s and ’60s and went on to move hips all around the world. Reflective of the civil-rights struggles happening at the time, these scrappy teenage musicians openly challenged the powers that be and record labels representing buttoned-up Latin artists (who later collaborated to squash the movement). This fascinating piece of musical history is told through rare concert footage and visits to the old neighborhood with living legends Johnny Colon, Bobby Marin, and Joe Bataan.
Lincoln Center Out of Doors – We Like It Like That! A Boogaloo Celebration with Joe Bataan, Ray Lugo and the Boogaloo Destroyers and special guests Richie Ray and Pete Rodriguez
Thursday, August 6, 7:00 pm at Damrosch Park – Free
Lincoln Center Out of Doors is hosting We Like It Like That! A Boogaloo Celebration with Joe Bataan, Ray Lugo and the Boogaloo Destroyers and special guests Richie Ray and Pete Rodriguez, ABAKUÁ Afro-Latin Dance Company, & DJ Turmix on Thursday, August 6, 7:00 pm at Damrosch Park. More information at lcoutofdoors.org