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Sales charts and the lies they tell

8 Jan

by Mike Hansen

Michael Jackson Thriller zombiesNow that comics shops have only one nationwide distributor that carries the major U.S. publishers, it’s easy to look at Diamond’s sales figures and assume they’re pretty accurate. Except that Diamond adjusts the numbers for comics with various sales-incentive schemes, and doesn’t release figures on returns or overseas sales.

There are ways of tracking actual sales to customers (not just to retailers). The music industry used to certify Gold and Platinum albums based on how many albums were shipped to stores, not how many sold to customers. Then along came SoundScan, which revealed that a lot of so-called hits were getting returned unsold to the record labels.

Bookstores have a similar program called BookScan, but it doesn’t cover Walmart or book club sales, among others.

A friend shared with me a recent New Yorker article about the top-selling albums of all time, worldwide. It turns out that Michael Jackson’s Thriller didn’t sell anywhere near a hundred million copies, as Sony Music (remember them?) has claimed. Here’s the actual top ten sales (click on the article link for more):

1. Michael Jackson, “Thriller”: 66,200,000
2. Soundtrack, “Grease”: 44,700,000
3. Pink Floyd, “The Dark Side of the Moon”: 44,200,000
4. Whitney Houston et al., “The Bodyguard”: 38,600,000
5. The Bee Gees at al., “Saturday Night Fever”: 37,200,000
6. The Eagles, “Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975”: 36,900,000
7. Bob Marley, “Legend”: 36,800,000
8. Led Zeppelin, “IV”: 35,700,000
9. AC/DC, “Back in Black”: 35,700,000
10. Shania Twain, “Come on Over”: 35,400,000

We already know Continue reading

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COPYRAGE: Sony screws Bob Dylan fans with ridiculously limited-edition box set

7 Jan

by Mike Hansen

Bob Dylan 50th front

Way to rub it in everyone’s faces, Sony!

U.S. copyright law tends to revolve around ensuring that Disney continues to own Mickey Mouse in perpetuity (along with Warner Brothers clinging tenaciously to Superman and Batman, Marvel to Captain America, etc.). In Europe, it seems to be all about its music superstars.

Today, Rolling Stone reported something sure to annoy 99.999999999999% of Bob Dylan fans: about 100 copies of an official 4-CD, 86-song Bob Dylan box set of 1962 outtakes (Dylan’s first year with Columbia Records, now owned by Sony Music).

“This isn’t a scheme to make money,” a Sony Music source tells Rolling Stone. “The copyright law in Europe was recently extended from 50 to 70 years for everything recorded in 1963 and beyond. With everything before that, there’s a new ‘Use It or Lose It’ provision. It basically said, ‘If you haven’t used the recordings in the first 50 years, you aren’t going to get any more.'”

Bob Dylan 50th backSo even though Sony doesn’t intend to make money from these recordings (most of which are widely available on bootleg), it wants to ensure that they don’t enter the public domain so they can be freely copied and shared. Really? Is Sony that afraid of having to compete with anyone’s ability to package, release, and distribute the material in a manner of their choosing?

Bob Dylan’s 1962 debut LP became a part of the European public domain on January 1st, meaning anybody in Europe can release the music without paying Dylan one dime. “The whole point of copyrighting this stuff is that we intend to do something with it at some point in the future,” says the source. “But it wasn’t the right time to do it right after he released Tempest. There are other things we want to do in 2013 though.”

Oh, okay: so Sony DOES intend to make money off it. LATER. So they’re lying. Classy!

I’m all for compensating artists for their work, but these are recordings that sat on the shelf for over 50 years while the artist and record company made no effort to make a penny off them. And instead of just allowing the material to become public-domain (like Dylan’s first album and, I assume, the Beatles’ earliest recordings), Sony released just *100* copies of the material to protect its copyright while ensuring that virtually 0% of Bob Dylan fans will actually (legally) hear the material. In a business where record labels routinely underpay their artists (and overpay their executives), this is simply a corporate move to hold onto property it doesn’t care about, just in case it might be worth a few dollars later. This doesn’t benefit the artist; it doesn’t benefit the consumer; and it doesn’t benefit the corporate behemoth greedily clutching the rights. What’s the point?

According to the New York Times, it looks like only Dylan fans in France and Germany can legally download this material from the artist’s website. What?

… Sony is not alone. Universal, which owns the Motown catalog, has released a series of jazz, gospel and rhythm and blues albums under the rubric “Motown Unreleased 1962,” which makes a large body of its unissued archives eligible for the European copyright extension.

Wow. If this isn’t abuse of copyright law, I don’t know what is. It’s no wonder music fans continue to use extralegal methods to acquire music. This is Exhibit A for why copyright law needs to be amended for the benefit of creators and the public, instead of for corporations that behave like mental patients.

A few good links

5 Jan

by Mike Hansen

Superior Spider-Man 2 cover

Spidey’s gettin’ grabby.

Several websites have reported on a Connecticut group’s plan to hold a public burning of videogames, CDs, and DVDs in the wake of the Newtown massacre. Here’s the best writeup: the CBLDF’s take on the situation.

For many others, however, the impending destruction recalls the past incineration of all kinds of creative works, from Beatles records to — of course — comic books, that some adults thought had a negative influence on youth. In reality, there is no proven link between gun violence and video games, but that has not stopped lawmakers and media commentators from trying to blame them for virtually every mass shooting by a young male since the Columbine massacre in 1999. Of course, this requires ignoring the fact that millions of people around the world, of all sexes and ages, play and enjoy a wide spectrum of video games that some would consider violent without embarking on real-world killing sprees.

Remember when Harry Potter books all went away after a few loonies burned them? Yeah, me neither.

The Hollywood Reporter talks about the settlement of one lawsuit between the producers of the TV show Smallville and Warner Brothers, after the judge ruled that the case had enough merits to warrant a jury trial:

The case touched upon a sensitive issue in Hollywood: so-called “vertical integration.” The producers contended they were deprived of significant profits when WBTV allegedly undersold the series to affiliates the WB Network and then The CW instead of licensing the series to outside companies.

This reminds me of the problems reported by several Vertigo series creators, who complained that DC cockblocked media offers that would have made them good money because Warner Brothers wanted to give the media rights to its own production companies (which never produced anything). Not cool.

And finally, a verdict in a California rape case involving an outdated law and impersonation to trick a partner into sex:

“A man enters the dark bedroom of an unmarried woman after seeing her boyfriend leave late at night, and has sexual intercourse with the woman while pretending to be the boyfriend,” the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal said in Wednesday’s ruling. “Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.”

So now that Doctor Octopus’s mind is in Peter Parker’s body, does that mean every time he has sex it’s rape? I hope Marvel clarifies this, and soon…

Cool webcast tonight

13 Nov

by Mike Hansen

Die Antwoord tour posterAs part of their 2012 tour, the band Die Antwoord will be appearing at an event at Meltdown Comics, one of SoCal’s best comics shops (often seen on Attack of the Show!). It’ll be webcast, so check it out – more details here at Boingboing.

More Links Catch-Up (Walking Dead, Superman, Alan Moore, Joss Whedon, D&D, etc.)

14 Jun

by Mike Hansen

CBLDF

CBLDF (Photo credit: badlyricpolice)

Sorry about the lack of posts yesterday – I’m hammering away on some comics story proposals to pitch to publishers in the coming weeks. I’ll be sharing more info about them in the future. In the meantime, I thought you’d dig these stories:

Awesome story about a kid who asks a comics retailer, “Are you Superman?”

After moving their channel numbers, Dish Network has threatened to stop carrying AMC’s networks next month. That means no more Walking Dead and Comic Book Men (among others) for millions of people. Click here to tell Dish what you think about this.

The CBLDF gives a quick take on the mother who complained about an Alan Moore comic at a library being available for teens. (While I’d call Neonomicon one of Moore’s more “adult-oriented” comics, I’d never suggest that teenagers aren’t mature enough to handle “mature-readers” comics – after all, I happily read Elfquest, Groo, Swamp Thing, Sandman, and Hellblazer as a kid – all of which had nudity, sex, and/or “graphic” violence…)

Now that the Avengers Continue reading

Ice-T Goes White & Nerdy

25 Oct

by Mike Hansen

Cover of "Pimp to Eat"

Well, if not white, then he’s still light enough to go Incognegro…

This was a strange-but-good surprise: Ice-T and friends going Nerdcore, rapping about technology and comics characters in addition to smacking a bitch. It’s weird to hear the Godfather of Gangsta like this, but it’s cool that he still has tricks up his pimp coat’s sleeve.

On my last CD-buying spree in San Francisco, I picked up the stellar album Pimp to Eat by Analog Brothers, a side project from 2000 featuring Ice-T, Kool Keith and others. The tracks are filled with tight old-school sounds from 808s and 909s, with the kind of crazy dope flow typical of Kool Keith’s all-over-the-place eclectic approach. With lots of comic-book references, like track 6 (“Analog Anilalator vrs. Silver Surfer”) and track 2:

(obviously NSFW lyrics)

 

Some more classic cuts: Continue reading

ALL WEEK: The Week’s Most Popular Stories

25 Sep
Logo of Marvel Comics

You'll get your turn, don't worry. (Image via Wikipedia)

Once again shamelessly stealing this idea from Bleeding Cool

Based on the stories on this site so far, you’d think I was a hardcore DC fan: Not true! I AM a hardcore comics fan, but I’d say less than half of the comics I’ve held onto are from Marvel or DC. I’m just a fan of good comics, of good storytelling in our perfect medium of Words ‘n’ Pictures, and DC has been doing a lot that’s worth talking about lately: The New 52 is bringing a much-needed sales boost into many stores, which means that comics buyers are spending more and/or that lapsed DC readers are returning to comics to see if the New 52 will hold their excitement. Probably both. We’ll see if DC’s current approach (which so far hasn’t done much for me as a reader) works in the long term…

Anyway, I’ll get to Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, IDW, Boom, and all of the other fantastic (and not-so-fantastic) publishers soon – promise!

Here are the week’s most-clicked-on stories: Continue reading

The Most Awesomest Music Videos You’ll Watch Today (NSFW Audio)

21 Sep

Scott Kurtz’s simple-yet-elegant takedown of the return of bad, ’90s pointless poses reminded me of this incredible series of videos on YouTube.

An unknown person (or persons) took all of the tracks from Girl Talk’s genius mashup album Feed the Animals (which features hundreds of incredible and unlicensed song samples) and created mashup videos for them. Without anyone’s permission. He/she just did it, and it is AWESOME.

Here’s the first one:

There are Continue reading

MUST-HEAR Videogame Theme Song

13 Sep

No words can do it justice.

Via Comics Alliance, the most insane rock ‘n’ roll theme song for any superhero videogame EVER:

This started a LOLocaust in my house…

Lots o’ Links

12 Sep
The Brave and the Bold #28: Debut of the Justi...

Digital comics are one of the many tentacles of the comics market... (Image via Wikipedia)

After a week of blogging, I’m quickly figuring out that there isn’t enough time in the day to talk about everything that catches my attention. So I’m going to borrow from Drew McWeeny at Hitfix and just post a quick round-up…

Let’s go!

This could be one of the biggest stories of the year: CNet is reporting that Amazon is considering e-book subscriptions that would be, in essence, digital libraries. It’s like Continue reading

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