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BUSINESS & TECHNOLOGY NEWS: MusicNow To Launch Digital Music Service For Vans Warped Tour

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — MusicNow LLC, provider of customized digital music stores and subscription services, and the Vans Warped Tour have launched the world's first online music store and subscription service created for a concert festival called the Vans Warped Tour Digital Music Club powered by MusicNow.

The Vans Warped Tour Digital Music Club empowers tour organizers to offer commercial releases by its artists beginning June 24, the day before the tour opener. Exclusive live tracks from the tour itself will roll out as it travels to more than 50 locations through August. Fans of the tour and its 150-plus artists will access the club through a Vans Warped Tour branded and programmed Web destination. Bands confirmed for the 2004 Vans Warped Tour include: Bad Religion, Good Charlotte, NOFX, Thursday, New Found Glory, Simple Plan, The Vandals, Taking Back Sunday, Lars Frederickson &the Bastards, International Noise Conspiracy, Coheed and Cambria, Bouncing Souls, Flogging Molly, Atmosphere, Anti-Flag, Rise Against, The Casualties and Yellowcard, among others.

"For the first time ever, MusicNow bridges the online music and live concert worlds, giving more power to the artists and extending their connection with fans into the online universe," said Scott Kauffman, CEO of MusicNow. "MusicNow is transforming the music experience. By providing customized digital music stores programmed around a concert tour, MusicNow empowers artists to fulfill the demand for recorded music created by their live performances, and provides fans with easy and entertaining access to the music they really want."

Commercial albums by Vans Warped Tour artists who have appeared over the past 10 years will be added throughout the summer. In order to ensure that Vans Warped Tour fans never have to shop for digital music at any other site, users of the Vans Warped Tour Digital Music Club will also be able to search, browse and shop from MusicNow's entire catalog of 500,000 tracks.

"The Vans Warped Tour has always been a platform for the best current and upcoming artists and for bringing them closer to the fans," said Kevin Lyman, founder of the Vans Warped Tour. "Our goal in 2004 is to implement a number of new, music-oriented programs that are more closely aligned with the digital lifestyle of today's music fans. Our partnership with MusicNow will help keep the concert scene strong for many years to come."

The offering will consist of a Vans Warped Tour branded and programmed download store and a corresponding subscription service. The store will enable all fans to purchase individual tracks for $.99 and entire albums for $9.99. The service will offer members unlimited streaming and conditional downloads of individual tracks, entire albums and playlists made exclusively by Vans Warped Tour artists for Vans Warped Tour fans. Membership will be $9.99 per month. In addition, MusicNow will have $10 Download cards available for purchase at all of the 48 Vans Warped Tour venues and at participating Vans retail stores throughout the country. –Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

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Showtime Returns To Stand-up Comedy With George Lopez

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Showtime is returning to stand-up comedians with George Lopez, who will take center stage for his first solo televised comedy special, George Lopez: "Why You Crying" premiering on May 29 (9:00-10:00pm ET/PT). Showtime was once the leader in showcasing and breaking some of the biggest comedians to emerge from the stand-up comedy world, including Tim Allen, Denis Leary, and Drew Carey to name a few.

Having conquered primetime television with his hit comedy series, "The George Lopez Show," multi-talented actor-entertainer Lopez, who regularly sells out enormous comedy venues around the country, taped the special before a standing-room-only live audience on February 21 at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, CA.

"I am happy to report that Showtime is back in the comedy special business, and George Lopez is the first in a line up of great specials coming this year," said Showtime Entertainment president Robert Greenblatt. "George Lopez is a brilliant observational storyteller who brings his own family into his comedy and manages to make his storytelling absolutely universal. His show is side-splittingly funny, sometimes politically incorrect, but always from the heart. I think he is at the peak of his game right now, and we're thrilled to welcome him to the new Showtime comedy family."

"I am very excited about my first comedy special being on Showtime," said Lopez. "It's nice to have a home, but I do feel bad that I've pirated cable for the last five years!"

"Why You Crying?" takes Lopez on a cathartic, comedic journey hilariously dissecting his life growing up Mexican in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Along the way he reminisces and riffs about the unique Mexican culture tackling such relatable topics as family relationships, insecurities, sexuality, drinking and language.

There have only been three Latinos in history to carry their own television series: Desi Arnaz, Freddie Prinze Jr., and George Lopez. His ABC-TV series has been renewed for a third season, his "Team Leader" CD was nominated for a Grammy and his first book, "Why you Crying? My Long Hard Look At Life, Love and Laughter," will be published by Simon and Schuster timed to the Showtime special on which it is based.

"Why You Crying?" is a RickMill Production, the executive producers of the Showtime special are George Lopez, Ron DeBlasio, Kimber Rickabaugh and Paul Miller with Kimber Rickabaugh producing and Paul Miller directing. — Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

CCE & Habitat For Humanity Form A Partnership

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Clear Channel Entertainment and Habitat for Humanity have entered a partnership titled "Raise the Roof." The innovative program features top artists who will lend their name and their support to a Habitat house-building project in a community where they are performing on tour. Corporate sponsors, community volunteers and a few lucky fans will have an opportunity to work alongside the artist on the construction.

"We are very excited about this partnership and the unique way in which we can make an impact in our local communities," said Brian Becker, chair and CEO of Clear Channel Entertainment. "Habitat for Humanity is one of the most exemplary charities in the world today and we feel that Raise the Roof is an ideal way to involve our employees, artists, corporate partners, and music fans in bettering the lives of people in our home communities.

Clear Channel Entertainment is extending invitations to artists across all music genres, and house builds are beginning to be scheduled along tour date calendars. Clear Channel Entertainment has committed to fund a significant portion of the expense for each house build with the balance being raised among corporate sponsors, Habitat supporters, fans, and in some cases, the artists themselves.

"Clear Channel Entertainment is a perfect partner for us not only because of the resources and relationships they have, but the commitment they have to making an impact in local communities where they operate," said Chris Clarke, senior vice president of communications for Habitat. "Raise the Roof gives us a creative, high energy platform to reach and educate new supporters about what we do. It also offers volunteer and sponsorship opportunities that are truly meaningful because you can see the impact immediately on those lives this affects."

Kimberly Bowron, senior vice president of corporate culture and philanthropy, will oversee and direct Clear Channel Entertainment's charitable initiatives both nationally and in coordination with the company's local efforts. While the company has contributed millions of dollars in cash and in-kind donations throughout its history, this effort is the first time that Clear Channel Entertainment has partnered with a national charity to reach beyond its traditional boundaries.

"We have a tremendous record as a company of helping to improve the individual communities in which we operate," said Bowron. "By expanding our efforts we will make an even bigger difference in our markets and direct our resources to where they are most needed." –Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner

Businesses Struggling To Pay Licensing Fees For The Music They Play

BEAVER, PA (AP) — Mario Fratangeli thought he was setting a mood, not breaking the law, by playing Italian music in his Beaver pizza shop.

But then came a phone call from New York City informing him that he had violated federal copyright laws by playing compact discs on his shop's stereo. A representative for Broadcast Music Inc. told Fratangeli he'd need to pay an annual $250 licensing fee to continue playing CDs for his customers.

"I paid for these CDs once, why do I have to pay for them year-round?" said Fratangeli, who runs Mario's Woodfired Pizza. "I mean, people aren't coming here for my music, they're coming for my pizza."

Until contacted by BMI, Fratangeli was among the many business owners unaware of a law that protects and serves American composers, lyricists and publishers.

"Many businesses are often surprised and skeptical when representatives of performing-rights licensing organizations inform them that they need to pay to play (music)," says the Better Business Bureau in a brochure targeted at business owners.

BMI has launched an educational campaign aimed at restaurant and beverage associations, though company spokesman Jerry Bailey said, "There are a lot of businesses still unaware of their responsibility when using copyrighted music."

Citing Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, BMI insists the creators and owners of music are entitled to money each time their songs are played publicly.

The daunting task of monitoring every American mall, restaurant, fitness center and professional office that publicly plays music falls mainly to three major licensing agencies: BMI; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers.

Those agencies monitor Web sites and advertisements, and check with restaurant associations to learn which businesses are publicly offering music. Businesses without a license receive a barrage of letters and phone calls until they pay up.

Carole McDanel, owner of Jeffries Landing in Bridgewater, said BMI relentlessly phoned her, demanding her restaurant acquire a nearly $2,000 license to continue offering BMI-represented songwriters and composers on her jukebox and stereo. Jeffries Landing already was paying nearly $2,000 a year to ASCAP, so McDanel initially resisted BMI, until the corporation sued her restaurant in federal court.

"I tried to fight them, but I couldn't," McDanel said, adding that through a court settlement, Jeffries Landing had to pay BMI $15,000 in damages, on top of the nearly $2,000 annual fee.

"It doesn't seem like a fair law," McDanel said. "Copyright laws exist for a reason, I understand that. You shouldn't be able to copy a CD then sell it.

"But once I purchase a CD, I should own those songs," McDanel said. "How many times should I have to pay?"

Strict enforcement of copyright laws hinders small businesses trying to offer customers entertainment, McDanel said.

"If we were a chain, like the Hard Rock Cafe, it would different, because we'd have a lot of big-money backers," McDanel said. "But it's tough being an independent business, and that's who this law hurts the most."

Bailey, of BMI, said, "We try to be patient with business owners."

But if a business continually ignores BMI's letters and phone calls, the agency will send in a music-savvy snoop — such as a disc jockey, musician or music journalist — who will sit in that business and secretly jot down or tape-record all the copyrighted music that's played without a license. Such data then can be used in a lawsuit, and the penalties can be stiff.

Copyright owners can seek between $750 and $150,000 in damages per infringement. So, if a BMI spy claims a bar played five unlicensed jukebox songs, theoretically, the company could seek $750,000 in damages.

In 1994, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Duffy's Countryside Restaurant and Lounge in Marion Township owed $7,500 to ASCAP, which had filed a copyright suit claiming its artists were owed money for music played by a disc jockey at the Marion Township tavern. Among the co-plaintiffs listed on the lawsuit was Bruce Springsteen.

In setting their annual fees, the licensing agencies use a sliding scale.

"It's based on the size of your business and the intensity of your music use," Bailey said.

Fratangeli argues his pizza shop doesn't charge a cover, and isn't directly drawing customers with its atmospheric music, so he doesn't think the law is fair.

"I'm a small business. I'm a pizzeria," he said.

Along with supplying Italian ambiance to his customers, Fratangeli argues that he's helping musical artists, especially local ones, by exposing their music to customers.

"Do you know how many times people ask me, 'Who is this?' and I say, 'That's (the band) We Three, they're out of Carnegie,"' Fratangeli said.

As a treat during last year's bicycle race in downtown Beaver, Fratangeli hired mandolin player Egidio Faiella, a friend from Aliquippa.

A BMI spokesman told Fratangeli that without a license, his pizza shop no longer will be permitted to hire local musicians, even for such special occasions. Fratangeli said the BMI representative told him it doesn't matter if a hired musician performs only his own music, "because sooner or later, he's going to play a copyrighted song."

It's the principle, as much as the fee, that bothers Fratangeli.

"It's hard enough for small businesses," Fratangeli said. "If they want to keep nickel-and-diming us, then sooner or later, the bottom is going to drop out."