Sunday August 18th, 2002
New CD's this week:
- Keith Sweat - Rebirth: Harlem born Keith Sweat still going strong on album nr 8.
Short news stories this week:
Blackstreet Reunites For New Album And Song With Original Members
The '90s R&B group Blackstreet returns
to the music scene with a new
album, Level II, due out on November 12 on DreamWorks Records. The
record reunites members Teddy Riley, Chauncey Hannibal, Mark Middleton,
and Eric Williams. All except Middleton appeared on the group's last
album, Finally, released in 1999 on Interscope.
Level II additionally includes the song "Bygones," an effort with former
group members Dave Hollister and Levi Little, who appeared on
Blackstreet's 1994 self-titled debut. Joseph Stonestreet also guests on
The first single from Level II will be "Wizzy Wow," featuring Mystikal.
"Wizzy Wow" is expected to revive the flare of the group's "No Diggity,"
a collaboration with Dr. Dre and Queen Pen.
"No Diggity" appeared on the group's sophomore album, Another Level.
Last year, Riley was working on a solo album for Virgin Records.
However, a spokesperson for the label was not able to confirm whether
Riley would still be releasing an album on the label.
Mary J. Blige Winding Down 'No More Drama' Tour
Mary J. Blige is currently winding up her
"No More Drama" world tour.
The singer was scheduled to perform her second show at New York's Apollo
Theater on Thursday (August 15) and to wrap the tour on Saturday (August
17) in Detroit.
On Tuesday, Blige played her first night at the Apollo Theatre and
several surprise guests performed with the star. Sean "P. Diddy" Combs
joined Blige for the remix of "No More Drama," while Jadakiss and
Fabolous joined her for "A Family Affair." Ja Rule also got into the act
by joining Blige via pre-recorded video for a rendition of their hit
Blige will be heading into the studio to work on a new album after
taking a short break
3rd Storee Promise A Little Bit Of Everything On Second Album
3rd Storee's name comes from their mission
to build a foundation on
influential singing groups New Edition and the Jackson 5, but it's
Britney Spears, 'NSYNC and Usher who've actually been their launching
The Los Angeles quintet spent the last few years touring with those acts
and others, such as Dru Hill, fine-tuning their sound and building a
With Get With Me, their first album with their current lineup, 3rd
Storee hope to get a few steps closer to their initial goal.
"It's an album with songs for everybody," the group's newest member,
Gavin, said. "We got in the studio and made a universal album. It's got
a little bit of rock on it, a little bit of soul, gospel, R&B, pop. We
really put our [heart] in this album. We're happy about it."
Due September 24, Get With Me features a mix of party anthems like "All
Aboard" and "Clap Your Hands," and ballads like "Don't Lose Hope."
3rd Storee, which also includes Kevontay, D'Smoove, Jay-R and J'son,
worked on the album with producers Pajam (Boyz II Men), Dru Hill's Nokio
(Mya), newcomers Presidential Campaign and hit maker Rodney Jerkins, who
manned the title-track first single.
"We didn't want too many producers on the album," said D'Smoove, the
rapper of the group. "We narrowed it down to four or five so it would
3rd Storee, whose self-titled debut was released in 1999, last appeared
on the "Rush Hour 2" soundtrack with the ballad "I'm Sorry"
Alicia Keys And Usher Clean Up At R&B/Hip-Hop Awards Show
Alicia Keys and Usher took home the most
Friday (August 9) at the second annual Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Awards.
Keys received four awards: top R&B/hip-hop album, top female R&B/hip-hop
artist, top new R&B/hip-hop artist, and top R&B/hip-hop albums artist.
Usher was bestowed with three winnings, including the top R&B/hip-hop
artist, top male R&B/hip-hop artist, and top R&B/hip-hop singles artist.
Ginuwine and producer Timbaland were additionally recognized in multiple
Billboard's founder's awards were given to the Isley Brothers (R&B), and
Afrika Bambaataa (hip-hop).
The event, co-hosted by Heineken and American Urban Radio Networks,
featured a number of performers including Sean Paul, Lyric, Martin
Luther, Seth Marcel featuring Jadakiss, Anthony Hamilton, Lathun, and
Aaliyah's Former Record Label Accused Of Refusing To Pay Funeral Home Costs
Nearly a year after singer/actress
Aaliyahand eight others were killed
in a plane crash in the Bahamas on August 25, a local funeral home
claims that Aaliyah's former label Virgin Records has yet to fulfill its
promise to pay the $68,000 bill for preparing Aaliyah's body and
shipping it to the U.S.
Loretta Turner, director of Butler's Funeral Home in Nassau, told LAUNCH
that Virgin Records denies that it owes the funeral home "anything,"
primarily due to the company's departure of husband-and-wife team Ken
and Nancy Berry, who were the CEO/EMI Recorded Music, and vice
chairman/Virgin Records America, respectively.
"They were the ones that organized everything with us through the U.S
Embassy here through the Bahamas. I don't know whether they were
terminated or not. I just know that they're no longer with Virgin, so
Virgin is not standing by any agreements that they made."
A spokesperson for EMI North America, Virgin's parent company, said she
was unable to discuss the charges. "It's a terrible tragedy, and because
of pending litigation, I can not comment further," the spokesperson
Turner denies reports that she intends to retain death certificates of
the passengers and pilot. "No, that is not true," Turner said.
Nelly, Ashanti, Shadows Fall Agree: CDs Should Be Cheaper
Consumers consider $18 for a CD too much.
Record labels argue the price
covers expensive development and marketing costs. But what do the
"That's way too high," Lifehouse singer Jason Wade stated bluntly.
"It is one of the greatest consumer scams," fumed singer Mike Patton
(Tomahawk, Fant?mas, Faith No More).
"Kids don't want to take a chance because there's so much sh-- out
there," the Calling's Aaron Kamin explained. "I wouldn't want to buy a
record for $18 either."
"I would buy a CD if it was $10.99," added Nelly. "Coming from a
consumer standpoint, if I was somebody off the street, I might even buy
"Who wants to spend $20 when your friend will burn you a copy of the one
good song on the CD? Not me," admitted former Soul Coughing singer Mike
Clearly, artists have sided with consumers, which could explain why
labels and retailers are beginning to offer lower-priced albums.
"We can argue and fight to get them priced how we want," Stroke 9 singer
Luke Esterkyn said. "We do have a say."
Indeed. But certainly the music industry has other motivations for the
recent trend of price reducing, which has resulted in new Linkin Park
and Bruce Springsteen albums selling for as low as $9.99.
The labels realize, as Doughty pointed out, how good downloading free
music from illegal file-trading programs like Kazaa looks to consumers
when the other option is spending nearly $20 on one album. While they
struggle to shut down such companies, many of which are based overseas,
the labels are experimenting with ways to improve CD sales, which have
fallen 12 percent in the last year.
"I definitely think that sale prices help to sell CDs," said Brian Fair,
singer for metal band Shadows Fall. "People will be less likely to burn
a copy from a friend if they can get the whole packaging for a low
price. And with such a huge emphasis on SoundScan numbers these days, it
always helps to have large sales at major chains in weighted markets."
The music business is all about SoundScan
numbers these days, added
chart-topper Nelly. "As far as the labels go, they looking at it from a
Scanning sales figures, the labels appear
to have benefited from making
releases cheaper. Albums from Ashanti and Musiq both made big debuts on
top of the Billboard 200 albums chart, perhaps partially due to their
under $10 price tags (factoring in the rebate that came with Ashanti)
(see "Musiq Tops Albums Chart, Lauryn Hill Makes Big Debut").
"It was very important to put [Ashanti] out at a reasonable price,
especially the first week," Ashanti said.
Vanessa Carlton, whose Be Not Nobody was $8.98 in some stores, debuted
at #5. And in recent weeks, records from the Vines and Trust Company
have benefited from prices even lower than $9 in some stores - both acts
made top 20 debuts.
"When our first record came out, it was like $7.99 in one of those
little cheapie bins," Lifehouse's Wade said. "When everybody started
selling them, then all of a sudden it's like 19 or 20 bucks. I remember
when I was like 12 [years old], they were like $14.99 or something. That
seems a little bit more reasonable. Twenty-five bucks is kind of
Sale prices have been particularly effective in breaking up-and-comers
like Norah Jones, John Mayer and the White Stripes, all of whom had
their CDs debut at prices under $10 at some outlets. And as radio
stations consolidate and it becomes harder to get new music on the air,
record companies are looking to do anything they can to expose young
"I have always been a believer in discount pricing for developing
artists," said Greg Spotts, a music industry veteran who co-founded the
Shortlist Organization last year to reward groundbreaking artists (see
"Strokes, Neptunes, Beck, Spike Jonze Nominate Discs For Shortlist").
"We need to return to the days when music was an impulse buy, especially
for artists who are just beginning to receive exposure."
"This is a great way to expose new artists to a price-sensitive market,"
added Destiny's Child manager Mathew Knowles, who is introducing several
rookie acts on his Music World Music label this year. "I see [reducing
prices] as more for new artists."
Marc Roberge, singer for Ohio roots rockers O.A.R., feels music fans
will be more willing to take a chance on a new artist if their music is
priced reasonably. "With the low price there is a reduced risk, which
creates a heightened interest and a greater desire among people to want
to try it out," he said.
Alternative metal band Soil are among the many new bands that have
experimented with value-priced CDs. Guitarist Shaun Glass explained
that, like many artists, Soil came out of the gate at less than $7 at
some outlets to bolster initial sales, and then later settled at the
still low price of $10. "Everyone can benefit from the exposure," he
said of the $7 or lower tag, which usually garners special placement in
ads for Best Buy and other retailers.
Another factor that may be influencing record companies is the rise of
DVDs, which have increased in sales in recent years as their prices have
dropped. Not only could this be a retail blueprint for CDs, but labels
are also looking at DVDs as competition for shoppers' entertainment
"With $100 million movies for sale on DVD for $15.99, consumers are
going to think twice before buying a CD for $20," Shortlist's Spotts
"$18.99 is far too high for a CD when you consider that you can buy a
DVD with four hours of bonus footage for the same price," added Rob
Thiessen, bassist for Canadian metal band Noise Therapy, whose August 13
release, Tension, can be pre-ordered for lower than $12 via such online
retailers as Amazon.com.
Movie studios, however, make back most of their bottom line in theaters.
Record companies depend on CD sales to stay afloat. And without high
profits from sales, they cannot develop and market as many new acts.
Musicians' pocketbooks, it is important to note, are not affected as
much by the price of CDs, as their record contracts usually stipulate
they get paid a standard amount, typically $1 or less, per CD sold.
"It's fine for us, because our record company takes the hit, and they're
not the best people all the time," said Kamin of the Calling, whose
debut was initially priced below $10. "And we get the benefit of having
people want to buy our record. [Lower prices] only help the artist."
Added Wade, "How we survive is by touring. If there's going to be a
bunch of people downloading our records off the Internet and that's
going to make them come see us, then more power to them. I don't feel
sorry for the record labels at all. I feel like they've got plenty of
The question facing the music industry is whether there is a way for
everyone to be happy.
Some, including Pamela Horovitz, president of the National Association
of Recording Merchandisers, have suggested bringing back CD singles. In
a letter to labels and distributors, she wrote that the once-popular
singles give consumers who just want one song a more reasonable option.
Former Soul Coughing singer Doughty agreed. "I think that's the only way
to get people to want to go to CD stores again," he said. "If you could
buy an armload of CD singles at a buck a pop, that would be totally fun,