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NON-COMMvention 2017

It’s about the music. Sure, that’s an oft used tag-line preferred by programmers and imaging directors across multiple formats, but it’s also befitting of NON-COMM, one of the year’s most chill industry conventions. Officially named NON-COMMvention, with over 30 artists slated to perform, this year’s festivities promise to delight, as ever. True to form, the cast of characters is representative of format young bucks and torch bearers, from Blondie and the Pixies to Robert Cray and Laura Marling… and that’s barely scratching the surface of 17th Annual event taking place May 17-19th in Philly, hosted of course by WXPN.

We were pleased to catch up with WXPN’s Dan Reed about the big weekend, and asked him to talk about what makes this convention so different. “We’ve always wanted to keep the non-comm oriented to the stations and keep it friendly. One of our biggest goals is for everybody to have FUN. It’s busy-it’s a busy three days.”  Asked about speakers this year, Dan continued

“Everybody’s tired and stuff, but there’s a lot of music to get to, there’s a lot to talk about. Psyched to have Dan Auerbach come in this year to our NON-COMMversation should be very interesting to talk to him. It’s gonna be great. The lineup is, I think, really solid. It’s another year we’ve sort of got this down to a science around here and it should roll nicely, hopefully.”

Upon being called “chill” in his overall approach, Dan laughed. “That’s the first time I’ve ever been called that. It’s a team effort here. That’s what we’re blessed with that maybe other conferences are not. We have a lot of people that work here at ‘XPN and there are a few key people that make sure it runs right. Ellen Oplinger, Paul Severin who are my production managers for this thing are fantastic. We’ve all done it for so many years, ya know?  We know what to expect and everybody from top to bottom is into it.  It’s all hands-on deck for those three days, so that makes it much, much, easier for everybody. It’s truly a team effort– there’s no doubt about it.

We asked Dan how he sees the evolution of the format and convention over the years.

Formatically, I think we’ve stumbled into something that works pretty well. You know, none of us had any experience back when I started in Louisville, but everyone’s into it.  So, the people who come, it’s a friendly group. It’s a cooperative group. People like Non-Comm. Everybody has a stake in it, I feel like. So, a lot of people who have attended for many, many years feel a little bit of pride of ownership in it, as they should. So it’s been really organic. It’s grown organically. We’ve always tried to keep it about the music and about the stations and I think as long as we continue to do that, things will continue to go.  I feel very fortunate that the record companies and the managers and the publicists and the artists feel like it’s a worthwhile endeavor, ya know?  The hardest thing about it is whittling down the bands. It’s hard. We just try to go for balance, try to ascertain who’s got a buzz. I always wanna get a few like “wow” type of acts booked that people wouldn’t expect to see. But that’s the hardest thing about it. I could book three NON-COMMs if I wanted to. Or more. There are a ton of legitimate acts that would love to play and that’s flattering that people find it an important destination. Every year I have to deal with disappointing people and I don’t enjoy that. Most people understand though. It’s the way it goes. It’s a very competitive thing to get into.

Dan went on to explain the uniqueness of the format as well as the event.

When you get to Non-Comm radio, Our P1s give us money so the intensity’s up a little bit. The good thing about Non-Comm stations is most of the people who support these stations and are P1s and are members of our stations expect us to take chances to some degree. They expect us to play more new music. They expect us to make mistakes sometimes. Our hardcore listeners, people that really care about the station, understand it’s a continuous experiment trying to find the right kind of stuff to play. I find them very forgiving, the public radio audience. They certainly let you know what they think but for the most part they’re very loyal. That sense of ownership is there. They feel they are part of the family and they are. We say it all the time in fund drives- I mean we wouldn’t be here without our members. It’s imperative that we pay attention to them. The good thing about it is these are musically inquisitive people who want to be challenged by their favorite radio station and that makes it fun to program.

That carries over to the event itself.

I think the fact that we involve a small group of ‘XPN members who come in and get passes sort of ramps up the excitement a bit ya know? And the meetings every year are pretty good. When we started this thing I was saying I went to conventions and I thought they’re not really addressing #**# that I need to be concerned with in my Non-Comm world. It’s different– we have different concerns. So, we try to tailor the meetings as much as we can to our situations.  We’ve got stations from the biggest media markets in the state and some of the smallest that come to Non-Comm, but we all have one thing in common: we’re Non-Commercial stations. We’re member supported stations. So, we’ve all got the same sort of concerns and challenges to keep the stations going, especially given the current political atmosphere. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen, so we’ve got plenty to talk about this year as far as that’s concerned.  I think a lot of this idea exchange stuff takes place outside or in the hallways and stuff. The other thing about Non-Comm that I’m really proud of is that it gives an opportunity for some of the smaller media market sized stations to really talk to some of the bigger labels, some of the managers, some of the radio stations. It’s a pretty equal kinda thing here. We’re all in the same boat.  That’s what it’s always felt like to me. Hopefully people agree with that. That’s very important to all of us that there’s an inclusiveness with this get together that you don’t get in some radio conventions.  It’s reflective of our staff and certainly my philosophy. Inclusiveness is very important. As long as we can keep it at that level and keep that on the top of the agenda I think we’ll continue to be able to do this.”

Yeah, I think that’s a good bet.  Make sure you say hi to Play MPE’s Laurie Gail in Philly!  For the lowdown on all the festivities, head to http://www.xpn.org/events/non-comm

Promo 101

“The key to this business is personal relationships.” Jerry Maguire’s mentor Dicky Fox said it best. Mind you, he was referring to sports agents, and is also fictional…but he still nailed it. And the it in this case is record promo.

In real estate (incidentally, an oft chosen 2nd career choice for those in Music Industry Recovery), it’s “Location, location, location.” Let’s think “relationship, relationships, relationships.” And the key to most is empathy, right?  One must consider the other person’s perspective in any relationship in life or else you end up alienating the very people you’re charged with winning over.  While it’s not rocket surgery per se, there are some gentle reminders that may be helpful as one begins to navigate the swampy waters of promoting records to radio.  (And yes, even if they are digital and are rarely represented in physical, they will forever remain “records.”)

Rule 1:  Enlist Play MPE for your promotional distribution needs. (Well, duh.)

Rule 2: tied with Dicky Fox’s, above: This generally goes without saying, but… treat others as you’d like to be treated.  Sure, it’s a vaguely sacrilegious rephrase of the main rule from the guy upstairs, and he certainly didn’t intend it as the “Golden Records Rule” …but it’s still key.  Because it applies to everyone, in every scenario– including the gatekeepers. And by gatekeepers, we’re talking Caitlin who covers phones… Caitlin who stands between your getting on the phone with the MD during music calls and you’re getting on the phone with voicemail during music calls. (Keep in mind, Caitlin has also been known to move from transferring those calls to answering them down the road).

Rule 3: Think like a programmer. This means knowing your target audience and your programmer’s.  From the promo person’s perspective, the audience is the programmer. Get in his shoes. Consider the mathematical equations facing the station each week. The number of “slots” available. Know that in many cases, for your record to be added to rotation, another must be dropped. Mind you, this is not to say you should ever badmouth the competition. Programmers can be sensitive souls, and it’s just uncouth to throw stones. Considering the numbers allows for realistic expectations. Consider too how your record will mesh with others on the playlist at a particular time. A station might be particularly ballad heavy at a given time, or have 30% unknown artists in their medium rotation, for example. That said- always remember the gift of the specialty show: Let there be spins! If you’re working a “baby band” –this is an affectionate term– you may wish to start by asking to reach the specialty host or AMD.

 Rule 4: The KISS method: Keep it simple stupid. Programming radio is one of those “fun” jobs.  And with such jobs can come a great deal of pressure from hovering or even absentee landlord style managers who have high expectations, largely because they think programmers listen to records all day and get wined and dined. Realistically, those high expectations can amount to short time availed for music calls. So, the easier you can make it for the programmer, the better. This can be as simple as trying to stay within call times, but over time as you build your relationships, that rigidity should fade like the last few seconds of a Steve Perry single. Bullet point your record’s growing story quickly– and never bury the lead. If you have ‘em, include call letters in your Play MPE sends. Include touring info, press highlights, social media stats.  Keep in mind, though, the weight of each bullet tends to vary from station to station. (And now we’re back to “know your audience.”) Sure, it’s good info to know stations X and Y are on board with Johann Ripplesnipple’s first single, but you might be on the phone with a station that prides itself on charting its own course, (pardon the mixed metaphor), concerned most about in-market listener habits and in-market airplay.

Rule 5: Mediabase is your friend. Know your charts. Let your fingers do the walking and make sure you know who and what’s getting played where. This circle back to the “think like a programmer” rule. Be mindful of all as you make the pitch. Plus, to hear each of those chart toppers, you can click on the handy dandy Play MPE music logos.

The tip of the iceberg for sure, these 1-5 jumping off points as you dive into your quest for airplay. Tune in, as they say for more.

Islands in the Stream: Deezer

Launched in his bedroom in France in 2007 by then 23-year-old Daniel Marhely, streaming service Deezer now has over 12 million users across 180 countries, and boasts a catalog of over 43 million tracks.  Deezer is also a friend to Podcast, with over 40,000 available to users.

Clearly a force to be reckoned with, Deezer is bound to make waves with scuttlebutt of their plans to switch to “artist centric” licensing, vs. “service” or “user” centric.  As it stands now, the standard is service based – for the streaming peeps to divide up the revenue by way of the total tracks streamed, taking that number and multiplying that per stream rate by number of songs streamed for each artist. The user-centric form sees royalties are paid out based on each individual user’s listening habits, rather than the entire pool of monthly listening.

MIDiA Research’s Mark Mulligan helps us understand. “So if a subscriber listens 100% to Metallica, Metallica gets 100% of the royalty revenue generated by that subscriber.”  This is counter to the existing sitch where “if Katy Perry accounted for 10% of all streams in a month, the 10% of that metal fan’s subscription fee effectively goes towards Katy Perry and her label and publisher”.

My brain hurts. Mulligan characterized label reaction overall as “cautious optimism“ in response to the rumored ponderings. “If Deezer is able to persuade the labels to put user- centric licensing in place, it will be another sign of increasingly maturity for the streaming market,” he shared. “User centric licensing could, and should, be just one part of getting streaming ready for another 5 years of growth.”  It’s a complicated re-think, for sure, and brings to mind “long tail” marketing principles. MIDiA Research is a boutique media and technology analysis company focused “solely on the intersection of content and technology, working with both the biggest global companies and early stage startups.” MIDiA’s bevy of clients includes young upstarts like Viacom, Samsung, BBC Worldwide, Samsung and more.

Just as rumors are afoot re: this shift, Deezer has amped up promotion of Flow, the magic behind its programming. Flow is the name given to the playlists and suggestions resulting from users’ listening habits once compared with other network profiles. Expect to see campaigns reinforcing the Flow brand across the UK, Germany, France, and South Africa. Clearly always looking forward, Deezer’s chief commercial officer Golan Shaked shared “Flow is a product feature, but it really focuses on the fact that music streaming services have to evolve.” While available in more countries than Spotify, there’s no word yet as to when Deezer will be stateside. Stay tuned for developing news from Deezer’s developers!

Streamin’ Sweden

While Sweden claim’s trees amongst its big money makers, wood pulp isn’t the only industry moving the needle, if you will. Additionally, with telecommunications and home goods accounting for growth in Sweden, the Scandinavian market overall has also been quite hospitable of late towards streaming music. (Sweden is, after all, home to Spotify). This past year saw a 6% sales increase overall in terms of money spent on recorded music in general, clocking in at $126m.

IFPI Sweden CEO Ludvig Werner said in a statement: “We have become accustomed to streaming services creating a much-awaited growth in the market in recent years, but it’s important not to forget how positive it is that in 2016 alone, it grew by around six percent.”  Werner went on to comment regarding the nuances of the digital landscape.

“With ten years’ experience of streaming and the new economic possibilities it creates, we know how important it is for all of the food chain – composers to artists and record companies – that all music services are covered by the same regulations. For one service to negotiate with rights owners and pay 60-70 percent of revenues, while another service doesn’t need to negotiate and pays 8-10 percent, is clearly not sustainable.”  We’ll let the lawyers duke that one out, but for now, at least things are on an upswing.

Nonprofit IFPI prides itself on being “the voice of the recording industry worldwide”, representing the interests of 1,300 record companies from across the globe. Their just published Global Report finds digital revenues surpassing physical for the first time, thanks to streaming. Speaking with Billboard, IFPI chief executive Frances Moore said that the industry’s upturn “hadn’t happened by chance…As an industry we’ve had years of investment and innovation to make it happen and we’re starting to see the shift now: from adapting to the digital age to actually driving the digital age.”

Alongside this increase, CD sales took a not 9% hit, tandem style. But not so fast, OG media naysayers…vinyl accounted for twice the cash of downloads, at a cool 5mil.

The Swedish portion of the musical pie?  28%.  International artists make up that 72%.

A decade into streaming, Sweden clearly has found its sea legs. (No small thing considering streaming revenue represents over 80% of total cash spent on music.)

It’s worth noting that Spotify’s cofounder Daniel Ek was just named one of Time magazine’s “Titans” — named for “the huge impact that his company is having on the global music industry – with or without an IPO.”

Great Danes

Just as Sweden has been swimming in… well, streams, there’s been much downloading afoot in Denmark. In fact, music revenues overall have shown a spike this past year, at a not insignificant 9%.  Spotify, Apple Music, and YouSee Musik brought in 54.6% million in 2016, according to IFPI.  This accounts for 77% of music loot in the home of the Danes.  IFPI reckons that YouTube is the destination for 59% of Danes looking to stream. Regardless of age, really. (Everyone from 16 to 70 knows there way around YouTube!) Mind you, in Denmark in 2016, YouTube accounted for only 2% of the business itself.

The Danes are trendsetters fo’ sho’. Known to be one of the world’s most digitally advanced markets, Denmark boasts a total streaming market share of 79.4% total market accounting for over 56 million in revenue last year.  IFPI Denmark Chairman Henrik Daldorph has more than a few concerns on that front. Daldorph points to YouTube’s so-called “safe harbor” protections, asking that EU copyright step in and make reforms.  Daldorph asserts YouTube is using outdated EU legislation to avoid paying for the very same music as competitors like Spotify, Apple, and YouSee Music. The Chairman asks, in the face of such competition, “Where is the incentive for further development of services?”

Nonetheless, times remain good. It wasn’t so long ago that this jump was even more pronounced. 2014 saw income from streaming services increase by 50%, generating nearly $38 million. Looking back just two years before, 2012 saw the pie split thusly: 25% streaming, 28% download, 43% CD’s.  2016 saw streaming gulp up 79 percent of the market to 9% downloads, and 6 % CD’s. LP’s continue to increase, rounding things out with a giant 93% leap last year, accounting for 4.8% market share.  This past year marked the fourth in consecutive growth overall for the industry. Not too shabby!

Vinyl is enjoying a renaissance in Denmark as well, generating $5 million more in sales this year.

Kristoffer Rom, head of Danish Independent Labels told Denmarkbrazil.com, “It’s about vinyl’s tactile and visual qualities giving people a much-needed music experience, which allows for more modality than what the digital services have been able to provide.”

It’s clear that there’s room for everyone at the Nordic musical table, tactile or digital.

Keith Test


Country Radio Seminar 2017

The Country Radio Seminar (February 22nd -24th), is proving itself once again as the annual gift of great live music, good times, networking, and thoughtful pearls of wisdom from the stage which have earned CRS its stellar reputation for nearly 50 years.

Country Radio Broadcasters, Inc. was founded to provide a platform and structure for education and growth for the Country Music format, serving as the conduit connecting the interests of Country Radio with the Country Music Industry. CRB says their motto is and has always been “Growth Thru Sharing”! That motto led to the Country Radio Seminar®, which continues to evolve, educate and promote the exchange of ideas and business practices which keep the Country Format dominant and vital.

This week is seeing some of the biggest names in the industry rubbing elbows in Nashville, catching up on all the latest in the biz, and enjoying live music from a Mount Rushmore bill that includes Trisha Yearwood (opening with the National Anthem), Lady Antebellum, Luke Bryan, Vince Gill, Sam Hunt, Kip Moore, Jon Pardi, Darius Rucker, Chris Stapleton, and young upstart Keith Urban.

Also set to perform: A Thousand Horses, Trent Harmon, Delta Rae, Midland, Carly Pearce and Maddie & Tae to name just a few.

And of course, there’s much to be learned at this year’s mentoring breakfasts, including breakouts devoted to Programming, Digital and Tech, Sales Mentoring, and Women’s Mentoring. Alongside, attendees will have much to glean via other educational elements including “Speeding Towards Tomorrow: Programming & Branding in a Mobile World,” “The Digital Revenue Explosion,” “Lace Up Your Boots and Get in the Trenches with Social Platforms,” You Are More Valuable Than You Think,” “Women Empowering Women,” and “Cultivating the Farm Team: Sources of New Talent.”

The Programming Mentoring Breakfast, sponsored by Sun Broadcast Group, promises to be an open Q&A forum tapping some of the most seasoned PD’s around, facilitated by CBS Radio Houston’s Bruce Logan. Additional participants due to be on hand are Shelly Easton, WXTU Philadelphia; Tim Richards, KMLE Phoenix; Tim Roberts, WYCD Detroit; Kenny Jay, KMPS Seattle; Rod Phillips, SVP/iHeart; Steve Stewart, KSD St. Louis/iHeart; Mike Brophey, WKLB Boston; Jeff Garrison, KCYY San Antonio; Andrew Bland, WWKA Orlando; Mike Preston, KKWF Seattle; Charlie Cook, WSM-FM Nashville/Cumulus; John Shomby, NASH/Cumulus; Nikki Thomas, WIVK/Cumulus; DJ Scout, WSOC Charlotte; and Mike Moore, KWJJ.

And, sure to be an especially good time is the “On-Air Talent Mentoring Happy Hour” which offers attendees the chance to mix mingle with on-air talent, managers and programmers alike, talking common issues like finding talent, digital advice, and marketing.

As always, Laurie Gail,  Play MPE’s VP of Label and Radio relations is on hand capturing the magic for digital posterity!

Academy Fight Songs: Oscars 2017

With awards season in full swing, the big kahuna Academy Awards are upon us February 26th.  The movie industry’s biggest night has plenty for music fans to chew on though, as stellar performers have been lined up for Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.

Nominees for Best Original Song in a motion picture include gems from Sting, Justin Timberlake, and La La Land’s “City of Stars” as well as “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, performed in the film by Emma Stone. Composer Justin Hurwitz is honored by 3 nominations for his work on the Hollywood love note La La Land, including for Original Score.

Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” comes to us by way of Trolls. (The film, not the internet bullies). The sugar-poppy number debuted at number one on the Hot 100 and was called by Slate “Timberlake’s ‘lightest confection’ since his boy band days”.  We’ll take it.  And it’s more than just a catchy little tune. It’s made history outta the gate: first week sales reached 379,000 which is strikingly the highest weekly amount for any song last year.  This alongside 15 million first week streams, mind you. Equally notable, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” is only the 26th song in Hot 100 history to debut at number one.

Also, getting a nod is “How Far I’ll Go”, from Disney’s Moana, a 3D computer animated musical comedy.  The song is performed in the film by American actress and singer Auli’i Cravalho , in the role of the film’s namesake. Canadian singer Alessia Cara performed the song on the film’s soundtrack.  “How Far I’ll Go” was written and produced by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Sting enjoys his 4th nomination, for “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story, HBO’s documentary honoring the legacy of the frontline journalist abducted and murdered in Syria in 2014. The song was composed with 2 time academy award winner J. Ralph.  Sting had this to say about the powerful song. “I was celebrating Thanksgiving with family and it dawned on me: leave an empty chair. If this happened to me…  I got my lyric! When you find the metaphor, you have your song, but until you find that metaphor, it’s tricky. This was the guy who told the stories of refugees. I wanted to honor his hope and courage, real American heroism, not the John Wayne kind. This is important because he died to tell the truth.”

All are set to perform at the big event along with the man, the myth, John Legend.

Ahead Of The Curb

With a history 5 decades deep, Curb Records counts itself amongst the industry’s indies to be reckoned with.

Named for founder Mike Curb, Curb Records is one of the world’s leading independent music companies. Owned and operated under The Curb Group since 1962, Curb Records has achieved 433 number one records, over 1,500 hundred Top Ten records and charted over 4,500 total records.

Not the typical background story of a label founder, Mike Curb’s is that of a a lieutenant governor and governor, by way of California. In addition, in his own right, Curb brings to the table experience as a music industry professional prior to Curb Record’s launch. He has enjoyed considerable success as a producer and songwriter, credited with writing over 400 songs, receiving awards and nominations along the way.  In 1972, Billboard anointed Curb with the Overall Producer of the Year award.  Not content to stop with those successes and that of his label, Curb also launched the Mike Curb Family Foundation and serves as the Chairman of gospel music’s Word Entertainment, named by Billboard as Overall Top Imprint in gospel for 2006. Mr. Curb produced “My Guy” for Petula Clark, “So Young” for Roy Orbison, and “Candy Man” for Sammy Davis, Jr.  Mind you, this of course only scratches the surface. An unmatched swath in the fabric of the industry, Curb recently told Billboard, “I’m never leaving Music Row. Are you kidding me? In my will, I’ve got a trust set up where they can’t move us off Music Row.”

As a philanthropist, Curb’s reach is equally striking. Educational programs bearing Curb’s name grace over a dozen schools across the states, while medical, homeless, and other family programs join Curb’s work with the Scouts of America.

All this rightfully led Curb to be anointed with stars on both Nashville’s Music City Walk of Fame and Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. But wait, there’s more for this label namesake’s renaissance man: For over 40 years, Curb has driven alongside the best of them in the realms of Indy Car, NASCAR, World of Outlaws and USAC. His wheels have even been lent out to none other than Dale Earnhardt. Capping off an already banner year in 2006 saw Mike inducted into the West Stock Car Hall of Fame.

With such a talent at the helm, it’s no surprise Curb Records has the likes of Ryan Dokke, as its Promotions lead. Three years ago, Ryan came aboard as Vice President of Promotion. CEO Jim Ed Norman had this to say about Ryan: “Ryan is a natural born leader. His tenacity and drive combined with his love of music make him perfectly suited to meet the demands of this rapidly changing industry. The Curb Group’s enterprises are numerous and extend to many areas, from music to motorsports to education and beyond. We’ve been searching for a candidate with the vision to actuate the many varied opportunities available here and we found that in Ryan.”  VP Taylor Childress added “Ryan is known for his passion and his dogged determination, both of which will serve him well in his new role here. His meteoric rise during his 10 plus years working in radio made him one of the youngest Program Directors in the format– demonstrating his ‘Can Do’ attitude. He has the intelligence and vision needed to lead Curb Records’ promotion efforts. He’s also a great human being and is lauded industry-wide for his solid character.”

It’s always nice to be able to take a moment to salute the good guys while simultaneously admiring their remarkable companies. After all Curb’s celebrated roster has included Sammy Davis, Roy Orbison, The Righteous Brothers, Hank Williams, Lyle Lovett, Lee Greenwood, Carl Perkins, Wynonna, and LeeAnn Rimes… just to name a few.

Mr. Curb and… Curb Records, we salute you.

To hear and download the latest in Curb Releases, including Selah – I Got Saved, Mo Pitney – Everywhere and Rachel Holder – You Only Call Me When You’re Drunk, check out your trusty Play MPE Player.

Curb photo: Copyright © 2017 Curb Records, Inc.

The Bully Pulpit

With the seemingly infinite reach and power of social media, there’s been a steady increase in chatter regarding the dangers of online bullying… but to this point, it’s usually something we associate first with our more vulnerable members of the population, and 7th graders caught in Snapchat’s daunting crosshairs. However, the heated sentiments of the past year have proven that music’s superstars are not above the fray when it comes to judgement and a lack of civility forging its path through that qwerty keyboard and out to the universe.

In a post-”wardrobe malfunction” TV world, notoriously, Mariah Carey took heat for an apparent audio playback malfunction at December’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve performance. Carey ceased lip synching and refrained from singing as the crowd heard Carey’s vocals play on. Indeed, Carey even spoke to the crowd as her recorded vocals continued to play under.  Immediately, the inevitable Twitter storm brewed.  (“Even Mariah Carey can’t’ sing along to Mariah Carey.” amongst the notable jabs.)   Trolling of the “meltdown” even extended beyond social media, across the field of entertainment – across the relationship between performer and audience, and to… professional sports. Adorned in a pink leotard, the San Antonio Spurs Mascot coyote even carried a mic as he walked around the court at subsequent game, facing fans. The coyote went on to lip sync (unsuccessfully of course) to Carey’s “Emotions.”

And fast forward to the most watched event in TV, year after year, and we find Lady Gaga giving it her all (as ever) at the Super Bowl. Inconceivably, it seems there are those who felt Mz. Gaga’s body is less than perfect – and took to self-publishing online to celebrate their perceptions. They did not phase the superstar however, who responded on Instagram: “I heard my body is a topic of conversation so I wanted to say, I’m proud of my body and you should be proud of yours too. No matter who you are or what you do.”

There were those too who were relentless in response to those who performed at the Inauguration, including Chrisette Michele. The virtual attacks on Michelle were so striking, that India.Arie stepped in to defend her. In an open letter, India.Arie wrote: “…Stop the petty talk – AND USE OUR ENERGY FOR THE HIGHEST GOOD. WE ARE MORE POWERFUL THAN WE KNOW when we are making “woke” or what I call, “high consciousness” choices…”

This year continues to shine a light on the sheer magnitude of the internet’s reach…in all its playing-field evening magnitude. While we idolize these stars, at our weakest we seek to simultaneously take them down a peg. While we once identified with these enviable escapees from the island of misfit toys, twitter and Snapchat have given us a forum to drunk text the whole world at our not so finest moments.  As stated on CNN’s series documenting the 80s, and in particular the public’s growing obsession with television, “any tool for human expression will bring out the best and the worst in us.” Each day we seem to get closer and closer to a self-perpetuated Orwellian state reminiscent of They Live, to mix apocalyptic metaphors. While the thought police are hopefully still at bay, heckling and tomato throwing will always be a part of free society and the performer-audience dynamic. And there won’t always be “safe places” to shield those from opinions different from their own.  But… there will be dancing, and the show must go on.

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