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Today, Pandora lost roughly $120 MILLION in value, dropping 5% in the first hour of trading on Wall Street. Why, you ask?
Yesterday, the Huffington Post picked up the Pandora/Blake Morgan story that was first broken here on Wordsushi six days ago on May 1. HuffPo picked up on the groundswell and ran with the continuing saga
giving it a huge splash on their Tech homepage as well as a video. And then keeping it on the Tech page where it became a HOT social media item, gaining over 3,000 likes in just about a day. All I can tell you is that people, very influential people in Washington D.C. and in the music biz are buzzing about this Blake Morgan/Tim Westergren exchange, and about Pandora’s hypocrisy… and it looks like Wall Street is beginning to notice, too…
$120 million is a LOT of money to lose in one day. You have to believe that Tim Westergren and the entire Pandora board has to be shitting a brick right now.
There’s more to come…. stay tuned… This story has legs because it’s about the sweatshop-like exploitation of musicians who are being taken advantage of by a company pretending to have their best interest at heart… and now that the truth is being revealed, I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more about this story in the days and weeks to come…
This is where it all begins, amidst the fire and song, the wire and the wood.
We smash cut to an explosion on a darkened stage, entering this world kicking and screaming. Pyrotechnics fly as the opening salvo of music is catapulted directly upon the faithful and adoring. The band’s thunderous intro is so fierce, as it pounds those opening chords through thousands of amplified watts of sonic power, that it grabs thousands of fans by the throat with an unbreakable grip. The great, throbbing throng, all looking for something to feel, pushes closer to the stage to get something they can never have: a true glimpse at the man.
Why? Behind those eyes, Pink is very much a man sheltering a scared and wounded child within. Tonight, a truly dark night of the soul, will be a journey of self-discovery.
It will not be an easy passage.
In fact, Pink will experience torment enough to strip away his very soul. Will he be strong enough to get it back?
The clues to this rich, deep psychological puzzle begin seventeen seconds earlier, somewhere outside as the sun shines on a field the color of dark summer jade. From afar, they come — a small group of buskers, musical vagabonds really, playing their instruments as if they can summon a spirit from beyond an enormous wall that reaches unnaturally into the sky. Their tune is a pastoral incantation, challenging the unalienable forces of nature to allow them to take their comrade home.
The first seventeen seconds of The Wall are themselves a small puzzle piece. What I came to realize as I closely examined this sonically rich album and all of the gems, clues and Easter eggs hidden inside, was there was zero chance this intro of sorts did not have a viable significance of its own.
The tune, evocative of music from a different era, is in fact a continuation of “Outside the Wall,” the track which closes the final half of this deep narrative. Here, it begins with an abrupt and cryptic spoken sound bite: “We came in…”
These words, the very first uttered by Roger Waters on the album, sound like the tail end of a fractured sentence, the full meaning of which we are not allowed to grasp. Buried low in the mix, they almost seem like the by-product of some impromptu conversation barely caught on mic while the tape was rolling. However, I must question if that could be the case or that the exact wording is unintentional — because one of the things that becomes quite apparent listening to The Wall is that nothing appears in the mix by accident. Every little sound advances the story.
This pastoral tune has a decidedly Word War II era musical sensibility; the melody is carried by a clarinet, an instrument that is all but obsolete in modern music but was extremely prevalent in the type of swing that became popular in dance halls, table top radios and record players of the time. There is significance; World War II plays a large part in this allegorical tale of isolation and madness, which will become evident later in the album.
Finally, the big rock and roll salvo erupts, a grand spectacle, one that mirrors the grand spectacle of birth itself: you enter the world, the stage of life, screaming your lungs out as others watch your every move. Let’s not forget that birth is also the first event of our lives that is not of our own personal choosing.
Musically speaking, the band makes a very interesting choice here: the intro, with those acoustic minstral strains of “Outside the Wall,” is in the key of B major. If you aren’t musically inclined, don’t worry, I’ll simplify for you. Songs in major keys tend to be about happy and positive things while those in minor keys, obviously, sound a bit sadder and moodier. Here, you could categorize the melody played by the clarinet as “hopeful.” This is very much set up by the interval jump taken by the first two notes.
That interval, the distance between the first note and the second in terms of its musical scale, is a perfect 4th. Before I stray too far from my musical over-simplification, the “perfect 4th” is a very keystone interval jump used in harmony. Moreover, it’s a very recognizable two-note interval jump. Close your eyes and think of the first two notes in “Here Comes the Bride” or “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” You’ll hear that same perfect 4th interval.
The reason I’m placing this seemingly innocuous two-note interval under the microscope is because this is an example of a common practice in music and film scoring: using certain sounds and melodic intervals to cue your subconscious mind into understanding what amounts to a sort of pop-cultural emotional shorthand. Music, a true global language, can speak in the abstract to paint a visual picture in your mind. You don’t need lyrics to understand the triumphant evocation of the main title theme from Star Wars, nor would you mistake the sound of Darth Vader’s “Imperial March” for anything other than menacing and foreboding.
One of the things that makes The Wall so fascinating is a very pervasive use of musical elements — interesting sonic nuggets buried in the mix to vividly fill in the story. As you begin to hone in on them, you’ll note how they not only relate to the underlying subconscious narrative elements of Pink’s life and the emotional turmoil he’s going through, but also use abstraction to enhance specific things occurring in the background without pulling you out of the story.
Structurally-speaking, The Wall very much follows a cinematic three-act structure common to film. The very beginning of the first act introduces the protagonist in his natural element. The Wall is no different, as we go from that hopeful B major key into a darker E minor during “In the Flesh?” — a sonic portrayal of a normal moment in Pink’s life. As he is a rock star, that moment naturally occurs on stage during a concert.
As the band kicks in to the very uniform opening of this rock opera, it implies a rhythmic quality akin to a grand march. We hear a parallel with the first auditory salvo simulating the explosive opening of a rock show: bombastic drums playing with almost militaristic precision. The sound of the Hammond organ — its long chords and place in the mix resembling the wailing of human voices – carries a gospel quality, adding to the pseudo-religious vibe. The blaring rock-n-roll pomp-and-circumstance quantized to the nature of the beat implies spectacle.
Here we discover Waters setting up musical motifs in the same way master film music composer John Williams uses leitmotif — signature musical themes for different characters such as the aforementioned “Imperial March.” These motifs are later revisited within the structure and arrangement of other songs in The Wall, bringing us back to the emotional beats Waters has already taught us to feel.
See? Emotional shorthand.
Once Pink begins singing in this triplet rhythm, the kick (bass) drum plays a pattern reminiscent of a heartbeat, very similar to the heartbeat that opens and closes Dark Side of the Moon. This internal rhythm is a perfect match to the lyrics – literally Pink’s own, subconscious thoughts. Whether he is actually singing them to his audience via his in-concert alter ego is less important overall than the realization that these are his true feelings and, without a doubt, demonstrate an obvious level of discontent about his life.
He tells them that they have no idea who he is, that they will never see behind the mask he hides behind. When he sings about them having to claw their way through this disguise, he means he will not give up his true self without a fight. He is very protective and distances himself from those who seek to know him. Perhaps even himself?
Here you are as a rock star, but you’re not happy because you aren’t really you.
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times, indeed.
Keep note of this twisted mirror image dichotomy; as we continue through the narrative of The Wall, you’ll see how this Yin/Yang motif continues to play a significant psychological measure in Pink’s life.
The harmonic voices of the background singers bring a somewhat wholesome sound to the mix, imbuing the piece with a completely subversive counterpoint. Listen to the thick, strong major chord harmonies: there’s an element of Beach Boys and a bit of 50’s do-wop. Take away the vocals and you’d probably think it was a happy song. That is why I believe these lyrics live only in Pink’s subconscious rather than being part of the song he’s performing. He’s only delivering this venomous invective to the audience on the inside, where all of his troubles are brewing.
Production-wise, the slapback echo on Pink’s voice is not only symbolic of the large hall in which he performs, but also of the repetition of this forced performance, night after night, an unsatisfying repetition, ad nauseum, when the passion for this audience is gone.
Consider, for a moment, the lyric “Space cadet glow…” Here you have the beaming faces of the stoned or of the “sheeple” in the audience, whose own lack of intelligence makes them the prime followers of any cult of personality. These are people who need to be told what to do, how to think, how to act — whose very allegiance gives them a sense of meaning and purpose in lives that would otherwise be full of fear and uncertainty. They are empty vessels, often lied to and taken advantage of for the purpose of fulfilling someone else’s agenda.
In an interesting use of foreshadowing, “In The Flesh?” gives us a very deep, brilliant first look into the character of Pink and illuminates the cracks in his foundation (without revealing too much!) that will require him to change as all good protagonists must. Before we know it, we’re at the crescendo of this “performance;” the low end mechanical rumbling begins, and you can almost sense these sheeple being steamrolled by some giant machine. They are just grist for some massive mill. After all, man reduced to faceless fodder is a theme that recurs throughout The Wall.
This mechanical rumbling evolves into the rising propeller pitch of a dive-bomber closing in on its target. We follow a synthetic whistle of its falling ordinance, but instead of an explosion we are greeted with the sound of a wailing baby.
From the war machine’s cry of death comes the cry of life anew.
Because this is where…”We came in…” This is where it all begins, entering this world kicking and screaming.
Read more about the influences, themes, lyrics, music and production in THE WALL. Pick up a copy of my book, TEARING DOWN THE WALL today.
Pandora Founder Tim Westergren gets Pwned by ECR Music Group CEO Blake Morgan. Robyn Gardner case solved in “Vanished Beauty,” and the glory of the Heil PR-40.
Tim Westergren, Founder of Pandora has apparently been trying to get indie musicians to drink the Pandora Kool Aid. My good friend and ECR Music Group CEO, Blake Morgan (pictured) , received Tim’s “personal” email to join up. True to form, Blake saw right through the smokey haze of Westergren’s bullshit and called him on it. His response back to Tim was so on the money, I had to repost the whole conversation here.
On May 1, 2013, at 1:15 AM, Tim Westergren wrote:
I hope you don’t mind this unsolicited email. I realize Ed on our team has already tried reaching out, but I thought I’d give it one last shot.
Hopefully you received the earlier email along with the attached artist deck that gives a preview of the product direction we’re considering at Pandora to help working musicians build their audiences.
Over this past month we’ve had over a 1000 conversations with independent musicians on Pandora. It’s been a very productive, and encouraging dialogue. One thing is crystal clear, there are large numbers of musicians who have not been part of the mainstream that have the talent and commitment to break through. And internet radio could be the difference.
We received a ton of feedback on the artist deck, and ideas for the future. We’re consolidating all that feedback and will be circulating a summary shortly. The input will most definitely impact the direction of our product development. Our goal is to make something truly useful – not just interesting or cosmetic. Something that can materially impact the ability of artists to make a living. So stay tuned for that.
The letter of support which we also included in our earlier email has also taken on a life of its own. We’re approaching 500 signatures! As we suspected, there is a huge appetite among working musicians to be heard, and to begin participating in shaping the future of the music industry. The response has been so enthusiastic that we have decided to expand the campaign more broadly. If you’re curious to learn more, or think you’d like to somehow participate, we’d welcome you. We really think there’s an opportunity here to change the course of the industry in a direction that will be far more inclusive and empowering for independent musicians.
We look forward to hearing from you.
To which, Blake responded:
To: Tim Westergren <email@example.com>Cc: Ed Rivadavia <firstname.lastname@example.org>Subject: Re: Pandora
Hi Tim,I have to be blunt and honest in my reply.I like Pandora, and have supported it. However, this approach and idea that Pandora is intimately interested in the success of independent artists rings quite hollow––especially from a policy standpoint––when it’s put next to the reality of the so-called Internet Radio Fairness Act.I was terribly disappointed to find your company working hand in hand with someone as unscrupulous as the reality-deprived representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on this bill. This is a congressman who aside from voting against economic stimulus packages and voting NO on banking regulations, also denies evolution (I’m not kidding) and global climate change, while insisting that President Obama is not an American citizen. Certainly not the sharpest––or most reasonable––tack in the box.Representatives Watt and Conyers have gone so far as to re-name this bill humorously as the Paycheck Reduction Act.The AFL-CIO, NAACP, Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, SoundExchange, and others all oppose this bill, and the supposition that Pandora should pay less to artists and songwriters in order to accomplish higher profitability.So again, Tim, I support Pandora and would like to believe that you and your company have artists’ best interests at heart. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to stomach this idea based on policy, and reality.best,B
Robyn Gardner and Tina Watson, were they victims of the perfect murder? Watch this brand new video promo for VANISHED BEAUTY, then pick up a copy of the book and discover the shocking details of what actually happened to these two women.
Yes, that’s my voice over on the promo.