Friday News ::::: Week of January 26th

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1.  Who Owns Music?

A fascinating story bubbled up this past week about a British musician named Sam Smith and the legendary rocker Tom Petty. It seems that Sam Smith has a hit song on the radio that sounds quite similar to Petty’s seminal song “I Won’t Back Down”.  Judge for yourself:

So, Tom Petty requested his lawyers to seek a writer’s credit on Smith’s song because he believed it was a stolen melody line. Smith insisted it wasn’t an intentional theft, but he and his lawyers opted to grant the writing credit to Petty, pay the royalties and just move on. 

As an occasional songwriter myself, this story is very interesting. There are plenty of times that I’ve scratched out a song and then wondered if I have accidentally ripped off a melody from another song I heard one time. There’s something to be said for being inspired by a certain song and having it inform your own music, but that’s not  the issue here. The issue is whether someone can truly co-opt a famous melody by accident and then be held liable for it. Apparently the answer is now “yes”.  Although I think it should be pointed out that this would never have become an issue of Sam Smith hadn’t started to break out a bit with radio play on this song.

Definitely some echoes of the Vanilla Ice v. Queen and David Bowie controversy.

Well, Taylor Swift wants no part in all this nonsense. She went ahead and trademarked a few key lyrics from her latest hit album “1989” including, but not limited to, the phrase “this sick beat”. Wow.

2. Mom’s Can’t Think 4th Dimensionally

One of my favorite kid’s movies from last year was Mr. Peabody and Sherman. It was a fun adventure film with some time travel conundrums thrown in and a sweet meditation on family at its core. Well, the movie apparently technically bombed at the box office. In fact, it bombed so badly that its studio had to lay off employees, close branches and scale back future production schedules because of money lost on the project.

Now word comes out that the studio believes “Peabody” failed because it was “too clever”.  They say that when the film was pre-screened for test audiences, Moms in particular complained that the movie was too clever. There’s no further clarification on what was too clever about the film, but that Moms want movies that are purely fun and don’t require much thinking.

Wow. That’s more than a bit patronizing to Moms and their kids. I know our family all loved the movie and we now own the DVD.  Plus, The LEGO Movie was a huge hit last year and it was insanely clever and layered.  And look at Pixar’s track record if movies for crying out loud!

Dear Hollywood, don’t dumb down kids’ movies.

3. Comparing Apple to … um…

Apple reported their 1st quarter earnings results this week and proved they have no peers right now.  They have $178B in cash right now, enough to buy hot companies Twitter, Uber, Tesla, Netflix, Dropbox, SnapChat, AirBNB and SpaceX and still have $20B left over. By revenue, the iPhone alone is bigger business than General Motors. After the results were announced, Apple stock rose in value by one entire Yahoo.


4. Star Trek 3: The Search for a Good Movie

It was announced last week that all the upheaval surrounding the production of Star Trek 3 has finally resulted in Simon Pegg coming on board to help write the film! I think this is great news. He’s a great writer, cares about the franchise and will give a fresh coat of paint to the rebooted universe.  He’ll put the film on the right path.


5. Saturation

Are you afflicted with FOMO (fear of missing out) when it comes to TV? You’re not alone. And there’s just too much TV programming out there these days. You can’t watch everything, not even everything you want to watch. According to a report, 1,715 TV series aired in prime time last year. Oof. And that doesn’t count the concluded series on Netflix or Amazon that we all want to watch at some point. Uh boy….



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