Music Notes

Johnny Ramone: 19548–2004: Rock fans were saddened by the September 16 death of guitarist Johnny Ramone, founding member of pioneering punk rock band The Ramones. Surrounded by friends and family, he passed away at his Los Angeles home after losing a five-year struggle with prostate cancer. His death came just a few days after a concert held to celebrate the band's 30th anniversary and to raise funds for cancer research.

Born John Cummings, Ramone was the second member of the group to succumb to cancer; Joey Ramone (Jeff Hyman) died in 2001 of lymphatic cancer. Bassist Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin) died from a drug overdose in 2002, the same year the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Drummer Tommy Ramone (Thomas Erdelyi) is the only surviving member of the original group, formed in 1974.

Cashing out: In mid-September, Sotheby's auction house exceeded its wildest expectations with a three-day auction of items owned by the late Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash. More than 1000 bidders purchased Cash memorabilia, spending nearly $4 million, almost triple the $1.5 million that auctioneers had expected. The most expensive item sold was a 1986 Grammy award that fetched $187,200, a stunning price given Sotheby's estimated $7000. Cash's custom-made Grammer guitar brought $131,200, far beyond the anticipated $20,000. Cash's black Martin guitar often featured in photos of the gravel-voiced country legend also surpassed pre-auction estimates . Also in the auction were household furnishings and other belongings, sold at the behest of the Cash family, and the result of a contract signed by them with Sotheby's in 2000. Johnny Cash died of complications from diabetes in September 2003, only a few months after his wife passed away following surgery. Read Wes Phillips' appreciation here.

Green for Green Day: Rock band Green Day hopes that it has found a way to leverage fans' enthusiasm for making compilation CDs. The group has begun offering a collection of five custom-printed blank discs, with photos of the band and artwork from previous albums. Sold through the band's website, the blank discs come in color-coordinated cases, priced at $7.99 for the boxed set. Packaged instructions include admonitions to "burn responsibly."

XM online: In October, XM Satellite Radio will begin making most of its channels available over the Internet. Access to the service will require an additional $3.99 per month from XM's 2.1 million subscribers, who currently pay an average of $9.99 per month. Competitor Sirius Radio has long made its programming available online at no extra charge, accessible to subscribers via passwords issued when they sign up. Sirius subscriptions are approximately $12 per month, depending on payment plan.

XM is embroiled in a new variety of copyright crackdown in the wake of growing use of software allowing users to copy audio streams onto their hard drives. TimeTrax, created by Canadian programmer Scott MacLean, lets music fans program their computers much the way TV fans use digital video recorders like TiVo. Originally made to work with a now-discontinued XM-marketed home receiver called the PCR, TimeTrax is at the forefront of what Cherry Lane's digital visionary Jim Griffin calls the "next P2P." While they were available, XM's PCRs sold for only $49; they are now bringing in excess of $350 on eBay, according to some reports. The inexplicable part of the copy-protection paranoia is that recording over-the-air broadcasts—or FM radio via cable—has always been completely legal.

Broadcasters vs Microsoft: The question of who owns the rights to what is also a matter of contention in the recent launch of Microsoft's Radio Plus service, which uses published playlists from almost 1000 US and Canadian radio stations to create "online clones" with fewer screaming commercials and DJ banter.

While adhering to genre formats, Microsoft claims that Radio Plus offers less repetition than the stations it is attempting to emulate through its subscription service. Those who have analyzed the service say the opposite is true, and that the automated playlists often include songs by the same artists within 30 minutes of each other, a violation of Federal law, which prohibits online repetition within four hours of works by a single artist.

Broadcasters are riled by Microsoft's hijacking of what they claim is their intellectual property—their playlists—despite the fact that the lists have been publicly available since 1990. Legal experts quoted by Randy Dotinga in Wired News say the issue is a fascinating one in that facts, or lists of facts, cannot be owned. Broadcasters are also miffed that Microsoft charges $30/year for the service but won't give them a cut. A court case over "Radio Plus" is scheduled to begin soon.

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