At a press conference in Bron-Y-Aur early this morning, Jimmy Page announced that to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of Aleister Crowley’s death, Led Zeppelin will reunite. Although reporters joked that a seance would be held to bring John Bonham back, Jimmy cracked nary a smile and said the drums would be handled by Zak Starkey. Rumormongers believed Jason Bonham would sit behind the kit, but after attending a recent Who show, Jimmy determined the diminutive Mr. Starkey would invigorate the players most, and perform for less, since he had something to prove, his father still being alive.
There will be no agent. No one was willing to work for the one percent Jimmy offered. Instead, Jimmy has made a direct deal with AEG. Turns out with Beckham injured, Philip Anschutz has some newly-freed up cash, and he jumped at the chance to ice Live Nation’s puck.
The initial gig will take place at the Oakland Coliseum, and the co-promoter will be Gregg Perloff’s Another Planet, as penance for the beating of Bill Graham’s employee back in 1977. To insure there will be no fracas this time, there will be no custom signage, nothing for a member of Zeppelin’s entourage to covet.
Furthermore, as payback to the other city by the bay, tickets will be sold at 1977 prices. Having seen the Red Sox break the curse, Jimmy figures by playing in this baseball stadium for ten bucks tops, all the bad karma associated with Zeppelin will be eviscerated.
This first gig will not be televised and it will not be Webcast. However, taping will be allowed. So break out your old Norelco decks, no MD recorders will get through the phalanx of security guards. Furthermore, all recording will be done on Maxell XL cassettes, sold at the merch stand for $100 apiece. It was believed that this inflated price was just another concert industry rip-off, but it turns out that there is no Maxell tape left, and after lengthy negotiations with the Japanese company, it has agreed to fire up the production line one more time. Jimmy preferred to do a deal with TDK, but it turns out their machinery was scrapped. As to whether this Maxell tape is of the same standard as the cassettes of yore, there’s no confirmation of the report by the BBC that they will be good for one play only, and thereafter will have to be baked for transfer to digital equipment. So buyer beware.
Tickets for this initial gig will not be sold via TicketMaster. Rather, vacant Tower Record stores have been commandeered for an initial sale date on June 21, the summer solstice. CNN showed footage shortly thereafter of lineups, but it’s unclear whether those at the head of the line will be able to purchase ducats first, or whether the dreaded number system will be utilized, wherein Globe tickets are passed out and a random starting number is picked as a selling starting point.
This will not only be a no comp show, but a no VIP show. That’s right, there will be no tickets held back for industry insiders and celebrities. They’ll have to line up and buy tickets themselves if they want to go. There will be no reselling, for all buyers will have two pictures taken with Polaroid SX-70’s upon purchase and the one they bring to the Coliseum with their ticket will have to match the one on file. There were problems acquiring this old Polaroid equipment, but Tom Scholz uncovered a treasure trove of cameras in a bunker alongside Boston’s Route 128, and is refurbishing them as we speak. So, if you want to go to this show, I’d advise getting in your car now.
But this will not be the only show. The second gig will be in Seattle, where the band will play on a barge aside the Edgewater Inn. This "Mud Shark" gig will be for boaters only. Tickets will be controlled by Paul Allen, who will anchor his ship in the bay, and is charging others with yachts a million dollars apiece to float in the water and hear the band. There will be no charity partner, all revenue will go to Zeppelin. The goal is to have 200 boats, so that in this one gig Zeppelin will eclipse the grosses of both the Rolling Stones and U2, demonstrating once again that they’re the biggest band in the world.
But there will be a final gig. At Madison Square Garden. This will be a Bands Reunited Spectacular. I kid you not, that’s the trademarked name. Turns out as part of his exit deal with Viacom, Tom Freston got the Bands Reunited moniker from VH1. Yes, the reason Tom has been quiet all these months is because he’s been working behind the scenes orchestrating this series of concerts. Which will be aired live, on Fuse.
The first band to reunite will be the aforementioned Stones. Ronnie Wood will be kicked out, and Mick Taylor will swoop in to resurrect the act’s reputation. Mick will be doing it for a vastly reduced fee, since his presence will knock Keith Richards’ cred to a new, low level, demonstrating that the band hasn’t done anything great in three decades because Mick’s been absent. Time may wait for no one, but Mick will play the stellar licks from that track, as well as those on "Can’t You Hear Me Knocking" and "Ventilator Blues".
The second act confirmed is the original Rod Stewart band. You didn’t think Tom would leave Woody out, do you? They will be playing the "Gasoline Alley" album from start to finish. There has been one report that while on stage Rod Stewart will return his J gold records and denounce Clive Davis as the antichrist, but this report came from Lonn Friend, so its trustworthiness is in question.
It was believed that three acts would be sufficient, in tribute to Bill Graham’s bills at the old Fillmores, but Live Nation threatened to sue for business practice infringement, and even though Mr. Freston believed its claim was unenforceable, he has decided to add a fourth act, to avoid any similarity. This will be the Who. Jimmy protested, fearful that Townshend and company would blow Zeppelin off the stage, but Mr. Freston convinced him it was fair play for stealing their drummer. And yes, Jason Bonham will pound the skins for the Who.
This will be a week-long stand. Each evening Zeppelin will play a different album, and on the night they play "Houses Of The Holy", a little over two hundred thousand dollars will be placed in the Drake Hotel safe, where it will be stolen by the following morning. But Zeppelin will not fly home that day, they will continue to play.
Now some might note that there are only seven days in a week, and there are ten Zeppelin albums.
Well, Jimmy has always decried the sound of the live album, so that’s out. And, of course, since they’re playing live, it’s superfluous.
"Coda" doesn’t count. Furthermore, after these Madison Square Garden gigs, it will be deleted from the Atlantic catalog forevermore. Yes, you will be able to purchase it for thousands on eBay, but why would you want to?
Still, that leaves us with eight records.
Jimmy at first lobbied for only six days in the week. But Freston said that no one in the music business had that close a relationship with God. Yes, Jimmy wanted to stop with "Physical Graffiti", like reasonable fans. But there will be one more album/show. Latest reports have it as "In Through The Out Door", but that’s not set in stone.
Now on the fourth day, after the "Zoso" album is played, "Stairway To Heaven" will be retired from radio. It will thereafter be illegal to spin it. Like the guitar shop in "Wayne’s World", all classic rock stations will be required to have a "No Stairway" sign in their studios. "Kashmir" will be left alone. However, in order to stay in business, all classic rock stations will be required to donate ten percent of their revenues to Led Zeppelin. The band believes the format was built on its back, and once Vince McMahon threatened to blow the whistle on their illegal practices in Congress, they acceded.
But Vince is not the only wrestler involved. The final smackdown, er, evening, will be MC’ed by Hulk Hogan. He doesn’t look like Peter Grant, but he’s the most famous wrestler ever, so he got the gig.
There will be a soundtrack recording. Available only through iTunes. Howard Schultz bid the price up high, but Jimmy said that he didn’t want those pricks who frequent Starbucks getting first crack at his music. Yes, Howard wanted an exclusive.
There will be a special Apple package. But unlike U2, it won’t be an iPod, but a whole computer. Yes, the Zeppelin Mac will be a black desktop computer, with the Zoso insignia instead of the Apple logo in silver on all of the equipment. Dell has cried foul, but with their present financial problems they were in no position to put up a fight. As for Microsoft… Supposedly there will be Zune festival two weeks later in Kansas City, starring Journey with Steve Augeri and his replacement, what’s his name, but most people think that show will have no impact, for it will be broadcast with Windows Media DRM. Most analysts believe these Zeppelin shows will be the final nail in Microsoft’s coffin, after this Mac OS X will rule. Steve Jobs tried to get Zeppelin to move up the concert date, to coincide with the release of OS X Leopard, but Jimmy said there wasn’t enough rehearsal time, so that plan was scotched.
After the live recording goes on sale, Warner Music will quit the new music business and only sell catalog. However, there is no truth to the story that thereafter the company will be known as Rhino Records.
As for Zeppelin itself…
John Paul Jones gets no say, he’s just happy to be playing.
Robert? Robert is letting Jimmy have his way. And when the shows are over, he will tour with a three piece blues band. Which will make no records, and will play in the Mississippi delta exclusively.
As for Jimmy… Now that Chris Robinson has broken up with Kate Hudson, the Black Crowes are available. But most people believe Jimmy will just hang it up and rest on his laurels. With the legacy as the guitarist and producer of the biggest and best band ever. Then again, rumor has it that David Gilmour and Roger Waters are talking about reuniting Pink Floyd and playing stadiums in 2008…
Iovine To LimeWire
Famous for being in the right place at the right time, as of June 1st, Jimmy Iovine will no longer be employed by Universal Music. He is ankling the firm to return to New York City to run LimeWire, the P2P service based on the Gnutella protocol.
Two factors seem to have triggered Jimmy's departure, the radical drop in CD sales and his kids' reaction to the RIAA lawsuits. Always in touch with the younger generation, the true Dick Clark, Jimmy thought it was time to get out while the getting was good. His move reminds one of nothing so much as that old Graham Parker chestnut, crawling from the wreckage into a brand new car.
So how did Jimmy get out of his Universal deal?
Turns out his contract has got a bonus structure based on sales volume. And, if a certain volume is not reached, either party can terminate the deal. There was some debate as to whether digital sales counted in the formula, but unfortunately for Universal, even when they were added in, the sales target was not reached. Doug Morris was flabbergasted that Jimmy would want to move on, then again, unlike Mr. Iovine, Mr. Morris is notorious for still living in the twentieth century, still believing in the formula of getting records on terrestrial radio and seeing if they react at sales outlets. Hanging out with Steve Jobs, Jimmy has now seen that podcasts are a better way to reach the public, that new media is the way to go, so he got up and left.
But why not start his own label?
Because distribution is king. Universal might own all this fabulous content, but if they can't get paid for it, what difference does it make? It's best to be where the rubber meets the road, where people acquire and pay.
Yes, but who's paying for LimeWire now?
That's just the point. Mr. Iovine believes Ted Cohen's editorial in "Billboard" this week represents the tipping point. It's time to license P2P and see how it all turns out. Negotiating a fifty percent interest in the company, for his imprimatur, Jimmy is now the licensing point person. And smart money has him closing deals.
The new pay LimeWire will at first feature unique content that eclipses anything ever offered at the iTunes Store. To save the business, now that he's got the ball rolling saving Africa, Bono will cut a solo track, only available via LimeWire. Turns out that there's no solo deal in U2's contract, and that Bono is free. Everyone felt U2 was like Metallica, and no solo discs would be allowed, but Bono doesn't need to leave the band like Jason Newsted to make his own music, his effort is condoned by Edge and the other two.
But that's just a start. There's a whole Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty duets album in the can. Each cut as good or better than "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around".
And Jon Landau inserted a key man clause in Bruce Springsteen's contract with Sony. Turns out if Andy Lack isn't in charge of a combined SonyBMG, if he's not top dog, Bruce can walk. Being a man of the people, Bruce is leaving the big bucks behind, to do something for the good of the business, for his fans. Then again, will he end up making more money when everybody owns his albums, when they can be purchased for such a low price? As to Jimmy producing said record, nothing has been confirmed. However there are still some unreleased tracks from the "Darkness At The Edge Of Town" sessions, and Max Weinberg has said they're every bit as good as "Candy's Room". However, believing in the new paradigm, Bruce is not going to appear on Conan. You see to be exclusive to LimeWire, you can't do television. Word of mouth will drive sales/trading. Jimmy feels this is the only way for acts to maintain their cred, and their longevity.
Of course there have been negotiations with Irving Azoff for the Eagles. Jimmy thought he had the inside line, since he produced Don Henley's duet with the aforementioned Stevie Nicks on her debut solo album. But Irving wanted fifty percent of Jimmy's action, twenty five percent of the company, to close the deal. And still believing in the major label mantra, that the executive is bigger than the act, Jimmy said no.
Of course the Pussycat Dolls can't come along. But Jimmy believes it's only a matter of time before the majors cave and make a deal with him, and he has all the content. And despite the flash and hype of the new acts, all the money is in the heritage acts anyway, so Jimmy's starting there. It is believed the acts that get broken on LimeWire in the future will be more akin to the classic acts anyway. That they'll be able to sing and play, and will write hummable tunes. Timbaland is in negotiations with Kazaa, as is Snoop, for that company is offering elephant bucks to performers to make a big splash upon relaunch, but Jimmy turned those dollars down, famously saying it would be like making a deal with Sony Connect. Who wants to be king of nothing? Dre? Dre's still up in the air, blown away his godfather walked out without telling him. He's worried his new album on Universal will stiff without Jimmy there to steer it, so he's sitting on the sidelines for now. He tried to get Jimmy to stay through its release, but expediency has always trumped loyalty in Jimmy's book.
So how's it going to work?
At first, before the major labels sign on, LimeWire will cost two dollars a month. Then, every time a major label group signs on, another two dollars will be added to your bill. So when all the majors are on board, it will cost ten dollars a month for all you can eat, unprotected MP3s. There will be no indie bonus. The indies, although a growing percentage of overall sales, are getting screwed again. Yes, you see every time a major signs on $100 million is transferred to their account, which, of course, goes straight to their bottom line, staving off Wall Street until LimeWire truly takes hold. For it's envisioned that once LimeWire takes off, within the next twelve months or so, there will be so much money distributed, the majors will be rolling in profits.
The deal is LimeWire skims fifteen percent right off the top. The rest is distributed to the labels owning the traded tracks, a la ASCAP or BMI payments. How that money is then distributed is up in the air. One hopes fifty percent will go to acts, and that publishers will go to a percentage rate, but expect big battles. The only way to avoid all this is to make a deal with LimeWire directly. Then Jimmy coughs of up fifty percent of the revenue. Of course, then he keeps fifty percent. On top of his fifteen percent distribution fee. It's not clear if Jimmy wants to expand this sphere of the business or not. After all, the money's truly in distribution, a fiber cable never called in the middle of the night looking for dope or crying about its girlfriend leaving. Advisors are telling Jimmy to just make enough deals to launch the ultimately truly legal service. But can Jimmy avoid double-dipping? Only time will tell.
And what's in it for the consumer, you ask? Well, in addition to the exclusive content, Jimmy has made a deal with Mitch Bainwol and the RIAA. Anybody owning a LimeWire license will be exempted, immune from lawsuits. Yes, a credit card bill will with a LimeWire charge will be an absolute defense against a lawsuit. Jimmy's kids told him that college students still would not pay, but blanket trading licenses for universities are being negotiated as I write this.
The future has finally arrived. And contrary to all the spin, it was not brought to you by Steve Jobs, but someone from the music business, who understands relationships, who understands musicians, who understands the audience. Mark April 1st down on your calendar as the day the music business was saved.
From Bob and all of us at CelebrityAccess "Have a great April Fools Day!"