Archive for the Music business Category


Posted in Don Was, Music business, Music Videos, My Damn Channel, New Media, Wasmopolitan Cavalcade of Recorded Music with tags , , , , , on January 31, 2008 by Rob Barnett

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LIFE ON THE PIG (11.17.07 – 4:11 am)

Posted in Don Was, MTV, Music business on November 17, 2007 by Rob Barnett

This is NOT the title of a blog about my kids. If you’re a music fan – read on for a peek inside old MTV and for new pathways to free music. Here endeth the commercial.

My wife and I took our twins in for another doctor visit yesterday. They seemed to have grown visibly – in just one day or so. The thought seemed improbable – but it was true. Dylan’s up to 9 pounds and Jessie’s up to 7/13.

You hardly ever get to experience rapid change if you’re in the grown-up game. We’re conditioned to desire, to answer hunger, and to chase after what we want. But if you’re looking for significant, life-altering changes, then you’re usually looking at the kind of wait time that takes years.

Instant, important growth is a rare reality inside the vicissitudes* of life on the PIG (Planet Instant Gratification).


Expectations about life and work getting better in an instant are false realities made more intense in the post-MTV age of immediate online communication. In the 80s + 90s, we were attacked at MTV for fueling a quick-cut culture that turned art and music into crass pop product. Most juries would enter a guilty verdict on that one.

MTV Pillow

Bill Flanagan is a great writer and a soulful music fan. He was one of a few trusted co-cons during our VH1 days together in the late 90s. Bill is still at MTV. If you ever watched his VH1 shows like “Storytellers” or “Legends” or “Crossroads” on CMT, then you know that Bill Flanagan is dedicated to keeping the “M” in Music Teleeevision.

Bill Flanagan

Bill once shared a theory about “music then” vs. “music now” – and it’s never gotten out of my fat head: Those of us who first met Rock as an original art form grew up believing that the music we heard had the distinct possibility of defining who we were. Our jukebox heroes delivered idealized visions of how we could live life if we had the balls or the guts. Ladies Rock too, fellas. Our Real Rock heroes were missionaries who showed us how to embrace freedom without fear. True Rock n’ Roll hearts beat in opposition to rules that demand conformity and retreat. There aren’t many of these twisted, crazy aortas left out there. Unfortunately, many of the hearts you find in the music game are a little dyslexic.

Professor Flanagan said that the music culture we found in the late 90s sent out a simple and sad message to a new generation of listeners. New sounds were being served up and received as product. Quick hits popped up out of nowhere from artists who seemed to be a lot more driven by cash and fame than by the possibility of spiritual transformations with an audience.

The wheels have been falling off the music business wagon since the day Shawn Fanning put up his radical roadblock. At 19, Mr. Fanning introduced a revolutionary, anti-corporate, pro-democratic assault on crash commercialism by launching Napster. That tale has been written to death – but simply stated: he killed the music business. Shawn, if you’re out there – or someone is who knows how to get to him – here’s an open invitation to envisioning your own “My Damn Channel.”

Shawn Fanning

The old business has been hanging on, hoping that somehow the digital genie would dissipate. Bad move. New distribution pipes opened up everywhere taking away one of the last reasons inspired musicians needed major record companies. Little Steven tried to tell me in 2000 that the new digital pipeline recreated the old ‘single’ mentality and shoved the ‘album’ idea to the back of the bus. I didn’t want to believe him, but he was right. He always is.

Little Steven

Good music still exists, but you rarely find it on commercial radio, or on corporate cable television. The monopolies that controlled these distribution pipes have little to no interest in taking risks by playing songs or artists that are not yet proven to be able to generate gobs of cash. The cumulative effect of decades spent denying all this shit at the top has done a great job of igniting soulful flames at the bottom of the corporate food chain. You know the places: it’s the basements, garages, and laptops where the good shit is happening.

Little Steven knew this when he created the world called: UNDERGROUND GARAGE. He continues to take ‘the word’ to every distribution outlet he can find: radio, satellite, television, web, Wicked Cool Records, record stores (remember them!), and even now: to Rock & Roll High Schools.

Steven: I know you’re a little busy at the moment – but it’s likely high time we did a little more co-conspiring. More than 5 people are starting to hear your call. We had over 160,000 unique visitors to My Damn Channel yesterday. We’ve only been LIVE for 109 days and our insanely fast success is largely due to the amazing work of Brothers Harry Shearer, David Wain, Troy Hitch, Matt Bledsoe, Andy Milonakis, and Don Was.

Rob and Don

I first met Don Was about 8 years ago. He entered the mystical land of mass consciousness as a founding member of the band Was (Not Was). Their hits like “Walk the Dinosaur” ruled the earth + MTV back in the day. In Modern Times, this soulful saint has served many of the most important artists in music as one of the most trusted producers in the world. Don Was helped birth albums for Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Iggy Pop, The B-52’s, Brian Wilson, The Black Crowes, Willie Nelson, Barenaked Ladies, and scores more.

Don found our old web site: – and he emailed to reconnect just in time to be a charter member of the My Damn Channel launch team. Our baby business has never wanted to be “another comedy web site” and we’re certainly not trying to lay claim to the YouTube throne. But we signed Don Was to give My Damn Channel a shot at creating an entirely new model for music distribution. The result is something Don calls “The Wasmopolitan Cavalcade of Recorded Music.”

Our idea is pretty simple. Don produces new music every week with some of the most talented musicians from every genre – every sound is valid. He normally takes artists into an LA studio – the old Charlie Chaplin studio – later the home of A&M Records – and now Henson Recording Studios.

In one single session, Don produces an A-side and a B-side. He also documents the work by creating music videos shot in black & white and captured LIVE as the real music is being made. Try to find music videos on television where the guitar player is playing the real take that went down or the singer is filmed doing the recorded vocal live and you’ll end up with a sore thumb. We don’t have any cheerleaders or beach balls in our music videos (Hey Don – maybe we’re missin’ something?), but we’re hell-bent on presenting the real deal – without artifice.

Don has a crazy business model we think just might be crazy enough to start a little revolution. He’s offering every new recording to fans as FREE MP3 downloads. The artists are paid through generous grants from our sponsors including LINCOLN/MERCURY. It’s just like it was back in the earliest days of broadcasting – except Don has much better HAIR! He’s even experimenting with a new LIVE performance show called the “Wasmopolitan Dance Party.” He’s creating “Radio Was: The Party Shuffle Show,” a weekly radio show available free at My Damn Channel. If you want to discover new and old music the old fashioned way – this is the most eclectic, authentic thing you can find.

Next time you find yourself jonesing for another dose of instant gratification ask yourself: “Well…….how did I get here?”

My beautiful wife reminds me of what’s real. Our family: Julia and Jessie and Dylan – and our extended clan – is mixed with blood, marriages, and a like-minded circle of soulful rebels all searching for that beautiful reward. There are never enough minutes and seconds for soul time in Life on the PIG (Planet Instant Gratification) – but my kids are sleeping right now and I’m going to take my snoot out of the virtual troth to listen to some good music with a sincere invitation for you to do the same.

* Vicissitudes: 1 a: the quality or state of being changeable : mutability b: natural change or mutation visible in nature or in human affairs 2 a: a favorable or unfavorable event or situation that occurs by chance : a fluctuation of state or condition <the vicissitudes of daily life> b: a difficulty or hardship attendant on a way of life, a career, or a course of action and usually beyond one’s control c: alternating change : succession