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I discovered a great article on MSNBC by Lorraine Ali and Vanessa Juarez (written for NEWSWEEK) titled "Hit or Miss."

The subtitle really caught my attention: "Sugarcoated pop is over. While a few cool new artists have emerged, the troubled record industry needs to face the music. "The article offers lots of food for thought and, I believe, optimism for new artists and non-mainstream music.

I encourage you to read the entire article at:

If you don't have time right now, here are some highlights:

- Britney is like last year's Razor scooter. Her peers, who were also created by Svengalis, are doing no better: the Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, O-Town and others of their ilk may soon be playing the local mall -- or looking for jobs there. This trend signals that bubblegum pop's sticky hold is finally slipping.

- The failure of these former cash cows spells disaster for the record industry. CD sales slipped for the second consecutive year, from 763 million in 2001 to 681 million last year. The good news: The giant gaps left by disappearing pop acts are windows of opportunity for more authentic artists to break into the mainstream.

- A&R executives are now like beachcombers with metal detectors, scanning for the next Marshall Mathers. If labels don't uncover more original acts -- and figure out how to embrace the Internet -- the business as it's now structured may collapse.

- Norah Jones debut, "Come Away With Me," was a fringe CD when it was released nearly a year ago. Now it's sold almost three million copies and picked up five Grammy nominations, including Best Album.

- "When you try and manufacture art, you are headed for short-term gains and nothing more," says Bruce Lundvall, president of the jazz label Blue Note, who signed Jones. "As Norah's album attests, there is still a tremendous passion for quality."

- But the industry -- a collection of labels now mostly owned by five large conglomerates -- has been too busy looking for fast cash to focus on quality.

- Norah Jones may not release a mega-platinum debut like Britney's, but it's more probable she'll sustain over the long haul. She also appeals to the 35-plus demographic, a sector that's been largely ignored by labels, even though it represents half the record-buying public.

- Analysts predict more bad news in 2003. But it's the kind of shakedown we need. As the fabricated idols crumble and corporate executives lose their grip, real music by real artists may finally be able to reach fans.

- "These companies are decaying and basically destroying themselves," says Jeff Tweedy from the band Wilco. "Their business models don't work anymore, and they're unwilling to change them out of fear. That's fine with me. I think there are more exciting times around the corner."

The moral of the story: Don't let the economy or the sad state of the music "industry" give you convenient reasons to put your music goals on the back burner. Now is a great time to work smart and hard to break through the dullness and show fans that you have meaningful music to offer.

People will still spend money on music and entertainment and things that enrich their lives -- if they find something that's worth getting excited about.

So no more excuses. Now is the best time in recent history to ignore the industry and promote your own music in your own way.

Have a great week!

Friday, 17 January 2003 - Bob

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