“Please Papa can I go. Down to Richmond to the traveling show. Please Papa don’t you say I can’t. I just want to see the elephant.” See The Elephant, music and lyrics by James McMurtry.

I’m not a lucky person. I’ve never won the lottery, not even a five-dollar scratch-off. And when it comes to art, I’d have better luck at a raffle drawing than drawing an object, portrait, or thing. But this past weekend, I found myself in front of a booth run by Martin Guitar being invited to enter a contest that would require both luck and artistic talent to win.


Continue Reading Guitar Wars – Martin Fights to Save Wildlife and Its Brand

“I am a lonely visitor. I came too late to cause a stir, Though I campaigned all my life

towards that goal. ” Campaigner by Neil Young

donald and neil

The race to win the Republican Presidential nomination, already awash with candidates, got weird this week when Donald Trump threw his hat into the ring. Weird not just because of The Donald’s trademarked boardroom bravado as he took on the competition. The Donald expected jibes from members of the press who he labeled as “losers,” and from the likes of “Jeb!,” Marco, Rand, Huckabee, and the rest of the GOP hopefuls. But his first opponent hails from North of the Border with “dream comfort memory to spare,” Yes, before Mr. Trump could begin proving his Presidential mettle, he had to tackle Neil Young.

Continue Reading Stop, Hey, That’s My Sound! Neil Young Protests Donald Trump Campaign Theme

“The room was humming harder, As the ceiling flew away, When we called out for another drink, The waiter brought a tray.” A Whiter Shade of Pale by Keith Reid, Gary Brooker (recorded by Procol Harum)

Surprise turned to Schadenfreude last week in trademark land when micro-brewer Lagunitas sued micro-legend Sierra Nevada for trademark infringement. The mark at issue? IPA–a common acronym for the style of beer called “India Pale Ale.” For years, Lagunitas’s IPA packages featured the letters IPA in large, highly stylized script. And Lagunitas saw red when Sierra Nevada changed the packages for its IPA to put those letters front and center:


Continue Reading Beer TM Today, Gone Tomorrow: IPA Spat Goes Flat

“He’s a tortured artist. Used to be in the Eagles. Now he whines. Like a wounded beagle. Poet of despair! Pumped up with hot air!” Don Henley Must Die, by Mojo Nixon

Ask a serious music fan about the Eagles and their singer Don Henley, and you’re likely to hear sentiments not so different from Mojo Nixon’s satiric verses in “Don Henley Must Die.” Sure, Mr. Henley has been outspoken in support of artists’ rights, testifying before Congress on a symphony of issues relating to recording industry practices. And his positions on environmental issues, reflected in his stewardship of the Waldon Woods Project, have been pristine.

So why do music fans like me–whose tastes swing between the Eagles’ forerunners and many of the band’s progeny–cringe at the thought of Don Henley–the man and his music? Why, when we hear him crooning on “The Boys of Summer,” do we immediately pray for an early frost; for the top to go up and wipers turned on in old Don’s California idyll? Could it be that the maitre d’ at the Hotel California, the head honcho in that band of Desperadoes, has seen one too many Tequila Sunrises and simply lost his sense of humor?

Continue Reading Legal Eagle or Fairly Mocked Bird? Don Henley Wings Into Court

“Got a idea tell you what let’s do
Let’s go out to that place on the Turtle Bayou
We’ll maybe get lucky, maybe get shot
It couldn’t be half of the trouble I got” Turtle Bayou by James McMurtry

You remember the Turtles? The mid ’60s group best known for the hit song “Happy Together?” The semi-parody love song that ended with the line “So Happy Together. How is the weather?” Not exactly the type of sheer profundity that propelled Lennon, McCartney, Dylan, and Paul Simon into Rock and Roll immortality. And yet, when it comes to the music of pre ’72 AM radio, the cornucopia of rock, soul, pop, psychedelic, country, and easy listening that all managed to coexist on stations such as WABC in New York and WFIL in Philly, the Turtles just may go down in history–not for their music, per se, but for their persistence in pursuing their legal rights.

Continue Reading Turtles to Satellite Radio: Get Sirius About Pre 72 Public Performance Royalties

You got yourself framed on the wall. And people come by and they look at your face. And they say it’s the fairest of all.” Your Picture by Camera Obscura

Monkeys, apes, and chimpanzees have had a long history in front of the camera on the silver screen and television. What would Tarzan have been without Cheeta? Reagan without Bonzo? Eastwood without Clyde? Heston without his planet of them? And when it comes to TV, who can forget Peggy Cass, Jack Weston, and their trio of adopted chimps on the 1961-62 series “The Hathaways?” Well, almost everyone. (Even I had a hard time remembering the premise of that show, which aired when I was 5. But it goes to show you–casting a non-human hominid in even a mediocre sitcom leaves a lasting impression.)

 But a monkey behind the camera, calling the shots? Hard to imagine, despite the infinite monkey theorem that posits “Give a thousand monkeys typewriters and infinite time and they will almost surely type Shakespeare’s plays.” But it’s actually happened, and it’s caused a copyright tussle that could be dubbed the “Rumble in The Jungle II.”  No, it’s not as violent as Ali and Foreman duking it out in Zaire before George traded in his gloves for a grill. But it’s a saga more captivating than any boxing match of recent vintage.


The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) recently warned fashion brand Cole Haan that its Wandering Sole Pinterest Contest (“Contest”) violated Section 5 of the FTC Act.  Section 5 of the FTC Act requires an advertiser to clearly and conspicuously disclose a material connection between the advertiser and endorser when their relationship is not otherwise apparent.  A connection is “material” and must be disclosed where the relationship might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement.  In this case, Cole Haan tripped over Section 5 by not disclosing that its contest had enticed consumers to “pin” Cole Haan shoes to their individual Pinterest boards.

In the Contest, which offered the winner a $1,000 shopping spree, Cole Haan required contestants to create Pinterest boards with the hashtag “#WanderingSole” which displayed five images of the contestants’ “favorite places to wander” and five shoe images from Cole Haan’s Wandering Sole Pinterest board.  Those who did so “entered” the contest and qualified for the chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree.

Continue Reading FTC Knocks Down Fashion Brand’s Pinterest Promotion


“Well I came upon a child of God; he was walking along the road.” Woodstock by Joni Mitchell

USA Today reports that three-day passes to Coachella, the mega music festival taking place this weekend and next in a California valley, are commanding nearly $3,000 on the secondary market—more than $2,500 over face value. There’s a reason music fans and other revelers snapped up tickets for both weekends in a matter of hours when they went on sale in January. Coachella is more than just a parade of bands and singers. And indeed, tickets go on sale—and then are gone—before the festival lineups even are announced. So while the prospect of seeing today’s “it” band mingling with yesterday’s legacy acts no doubt fuels the ticket frenzy, it’s the event itself—symbolized by the name, that’s the main attraction for Coachella, its east coast counterpart Bonnaroo, and the scores of other festivals that will dot the concert landscape from April to October. These festivals and others have become brands, and the branding of music festivals is becoming big business transforming the face of the music business itself. Going or gone are the days when most artists tour to promote a new record; today, more often than not, artists put out new records to be in the running for a coveted spot on the festival touring circuit. Playing in front of captive audiences in the tens of thousands sure beats playing in front of a few hundred fans at a smaller club or listening room. This seismic shift has as much to do with festivals like Coachella becoming recognized brands as it does with the quality of the actual performances that grace the multiple stages that are the hallmarks of these mega-festivals. Each of the major summer festivals is immediately identifiable through a distinctive logo, and each nurtures its own unique brand identity. Coachella has its “chill” California desert Spring vibe, while Bonnaroo, set in a dusty field south of Nashville, is known for its grungy, gritty, tent-city terrain and whimsical stage names—“This Stage, That Stage, What Stage, and Which Stage.” And they each have their own visual image to go with their distinctive vibes, as shown above with the Coachella logo.

Continue Reading Festivals Making Their “Marks” on the Music Biz


“Go make it happen. Take the world in a love embrace.” “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf

Flipping through Comcast’s program guide last week, I came across a listing I could not resist. “Easy Rider, ” the 1969 paean to motorcycles, pot, free love, and all the other accoutrements of the Woodstock era. I was thirteen when the film came out, too young to see it in the theater, and definitely too young to join the tens of millions of slightly older members of my generation who claim to have been among the half a million strong who descended on Yasgur’s Farm that August. And though I am sure I managed to catch a screening of “Easy Rider” at some point in my film-going career, most likely at a repertory house like DC’s long departed Circle, Key, or Biograph theaters, my relentless march towards the big 6-0 made it hard to remember whether I’d actually seen this counterculture landmark or was just hallucinating. So, even though the hour was late, and the lure of “Frasier” reruns was nearly gravitational, I pressed OK on my remote and headed out on the highway with Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson; it was a great ride for about fifteen minutes, as Fonda and Hopper cavorted with a tie-dyed, braided clan of commune-dwellers, all drawn to Fonda’s character, especially the women-folk. But as a troupe of itinerant actors begged to sing for their supper, my attention span sputtered, my craving for the two Doctors Crane too great. So I flipped back to the Hallmark Channel where I drifted off to Kelsey Grammer’s mellifluous Brahmin accent.

Continue Reading Hopper to Hopper: No Easy ®ide

“Silk suit, black tie, I don’t need a reason why.” Sharp Dressed Man by Frank Lee Beard, Joe Michael Hill, Billy Gibbons (“ZZ TOP”)

It’s been a tumultuous, if not downright difficult, year for Men’s Wearhouse, the men’s clothing chain known as much for its founder as its fashions. For years, television ads for this decidedly un-high end haberdashery featured the voice and dashing visage of George Zimmer, the avuncular eminence gris of good grooming who vanquished doubts–about our wardrobes, about ourselves–by ending each commercial with this simple but powerful promise: “You’re gonna like the way you look.” For George Zimmer, this was no mere idle quip or empty sentiment. No. He gave us his word, his bond: “I guarantee it!”

One would think that in this age of anonymous commerce, much of it conducted across the empty ether of the Internet, having a name, a face, and a voice we had come to trust, even befriend, would be a corporate asset of incalculable value.

Think again.

Continue Reading When Brands Collide, Will You Still Like The Way You Look?