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FROM THIS EPISODE

It Was The Best of Times

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

It's been another busy news week here at On the Beat.

First, there was the post-Grammy blues. American Idol beat out the The Grammys in the ratings race for viewers, leading some to believe America cares more about new champions than established stars. Since Kelly Clarkson, herself an American Idol winner, took home a few Grammys that evening, one wonders if the award show is in serious need of a major remodeling. Maybe next year, we might see The Extreme Grammy Makeover?

But perhaps a makeover of The Grammys isn't all that's needed. Last week, after 29 years, Mr. Barry Manilow earned yet another #1 record, according to SoundScan, the industry sales chart. With this kind of response, one wonders if teenagers even step into record stores.

I believe the answer is no, and I have the statistics to back me up. The Warner Music Group announced this week it missed market expectations, and the stock price took a tumble. The silver lining on that cloud is Warner did post continued growth of digital songs, and they lowered their cost of doing business. Of all the majors, the Warner Music Group seems to be taking a very pro-active role in adjusting to the new economic climate of the business. They may have taken lots of cash out of the company for their restructuring but at least they understand it's now a whole new ballgame.

In fact, in spite of all the corporate gloom and doom, there are quite a few bright spots on the horizon this week. Lollapalooza is returning as a three-day festival in Chicago, in early August. The festival took a holiday last year, and now with its own make-over, plans to double its size this summer. And speaking of doubling up, Blender, the contemporary music magazine has teamed up with AOL to present new CD reviews and artist interviews for the online giant.

When it comes to giants, the record business is full of them, and these days in such uncertain times, there are a lot of warring factions among the troops. Turmoil in the ranks is reported at Sony BMG, the Warner Music Group, and Interscope, Geffen A&M;.

But it was mighty peaceful at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood this weekend, where the young met the jaded in the Do It Yourself Music Conference, otherwise known as the DIY conference. The Do It Yourself movement gives artists, producers and business executives a forum to discuss how to build careers, outside the big label arena. About a thousand artists, producers and business executives got together and business cards went flying.

Do It Yourselfers in the music business are building the new music revolution, one listener at a time. Though the future may not be nearly as bright as for these artists as for those on American Idol, there's still a viable, creative living to be made. The keynote speech at the conference was given by CD Baby-owner Derek Sivers, who offered perhaps the greatest hope. Mr. Sivers told the eager crowd that his 2005 CD sales had grown to $10 million, and his digital sales were quickly following suit. That a lot of money for a cottage industry. With an online retailer like CD Baby behind them, many DIY artists look to build a different kind of professional life, trading in their bling for some ka ching.

No matter how you view it, every week is interesting these days in the music business. With over ten daily newsletters dedicated exclusively to music news, the American music business is alive and well.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat on KCRW.

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