Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Springsteen gets his location wrong, media has a field day? WTF???

You'd think all my years in the music business would make me immune to the stupidity of some of the media, wouldn't you?

Surprise. At times, they're the gift that keeps on giving.

I refer to the media flurry over Bruce Springsteen greeting his audience with the wrong location the other night. The man said, "Hello Ohio!" to a crowd in Michigan. Horror of horrors (!)

For those unfamiliar with unusual punctuation marks, the above exclamation point in parenthesis denotes sarcasm. (Handy little guy, isn't it?)

What the media either doesn't know--or what the media may know full well but may be choosing to ignore in order to create a "story"-- is this:

Shouting out the wrong location happens to nearly every performer. It's an occupational hazard that comes along with faced-paced tour schedules, jet lag, and concert venues that often look a hell of a lot alike and are sometimes even named identically. Shouting out the wrong location doesn't even mildly qualify for my Music Business Blunders column on MusicBizAdvice.com, simply because it happens to pretty much every touring musician at least once. It happens to comedians, too.

A little embarrassing? Yes. But "left shame-faced", as some of the media, including the Mirror, reported? Puh-lease. "Shame-faced" is what the media should feel for reporting such a thing. (Google "Bruce Springsteen wrong state" and see what comes up: over 71,000 results as I write this.)

Anyone who's ever worked backstage at an arena has seen the temporary signage posted by the crew of that night's artist. In the production office, the dressing rooms, on the walls of the hallway leading to the stage, pinned to the fabric of the quick-change tents at the side of the stage, and sometimes even taped to mirrors and telephones are reminders: "You are in Phoenix, Arizona." "This is Buffalo!" "Cleveland!!!"

You can't tell me the media has never seen them.

But for the artist, who's accustomed to being on the road and makes his home on it for weeks or months at a time, it's like anything else that becomes familiar: after a while, you just don't notice it.

There's no offense intended, either to the town in which the mistake occurs, or to the audience. It just happens.

I can't count the number of times backstage when a musician or crew member, in the middle of a conversation, has asked me, "This is [such and such city], right?" Or, accompanied by a nervous laugh, a sheepish, "Where are we?" Most of them were stone-cold sober at the time.

But here's the most important, and in my opinion, the coolest, thing: Many musicians never forget a face, and a lot of them even remember the name that goes with it...

especially a reporter who exaggerates a common occurrence for the sake of creating a story.

(Oh, and psssst! By the way, Reporter, the correct name of the venue, which you bungled in the midst of your railing on Bruce, is The Palace of Auburn Hills. I'm sure the good people of Michigan would like to see that corrected.)


Disclosure of Endorsements/Recommendations/Financial Compensation or Business Relationships per FTC Blog Disclosure Regulations in effect December 1, 2009: In the 90's I worked for a concert promotion company that presented many Bruce Springsteen shows. Additionally, MusicBizAdvice.com website (and by extension, this blog) sells Amazon products as an Amazon Associate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

6 1/2 hour day for an H1N1 shot

After careful consideration--and a lot of discussion with friends in the healthcare industry--on Sunday morning, with CFIDS* symptoms flaring loudly, I got up at 4:30 A.M. to stand in line to get the H1N1 flu shot.

I don't usually get a flu shot, but this one is different. My reasons for getting the H1N1 vaccine are that I have a double-whammy risk factor (autoimmune disease + asthma), and because I can name four friends of friends who've died from H1N1. Since I'll be be exposed to large crowds at shows I'll be attending this winter and spring, the odds lean heavily toward protecting myself.

(Sidebar: The sickest I've ever been was the day after receiving a handshake from an artist's fan who informed me--after shaking my hand--that she'd dragged herself out of bed with a high fever because she couldn't stand the thought of missing the show. Then she ran off to the ladies' room to throw up. Thank God no one let her anywhere near the artist; it was a fast-acting bug with the power to cancel shows and put people out of work.)

By the time I arrived in line for the vaccine clinic a little before 6:30A.M., there were already a few hundred people in line...enough to pack at least a rock club. By the time the doors opened after 8, there were thousands. I couldn't see the end of the line, as it wound all the way around the block. I couldn't see the beginning of it either, or how far we'd have to walk to get into the building where the vaccination clinic would take place. My best friend, who went beyond the definition by coming with me to stand in line, volunteered for a front of the line reconnaissance mission. One of L.A.P.D.'s finest was standing at the entrance of the building to be sure no one cut the line, with more on hand for crowd control.

The lady in front of me had a cane. There were some elderly people (who came in teams of two, so that one could stand in line while the other sat resting for a while on a low wall across the street), and a lot of pregnant women, and many babies who'd been roused from their warm beds to stand in the California morning air, which, despite its warm reputation, can cut to the bone if there's a damp wind coming off the ocean. I couldn't help wondering what would become of the people who weren't well enough to stand in line for hours that day. There was no handicapped access, though I did see two healthcare workers helping an elderly lady to the vaccination room.

The people in line, for the most part, were not poor; just uninsured, like me, or in some cases they'd come in search of the vaccine because their regular doctor didn't have it yet.

Welcome to the U.S. healthcare system.

Not that I'm not grateful to be able to get the shot at all; I'm currently without a regular doctor and would probably be out of luck if I had to rely on a doctor's office delivery system. But my friends in Europe didn't have to go through this; they simply went to their regular healthcare provider, with no waiting, no fuss, no getting out of bed at O'dark:30 to stand in a long line around a cold football field. And everyone is covered. But I digress. Back to our U.S. vaccine clinic...

After a while, when the vaccine began to run low, pregnant women were pulled from the line and admitted first. The rest of us were asked to fill out questionnaires to determine our medical priority. It began to feel a bit like a poker game: he's 29, she's got such and such, autoimmune plus asthma beats a pair. My survival mode kicked in, and although I answered the questions truthfully, I highlighted the answers that would be most helpful in getting me in by marking them with a very large X instead of the checkmarks I usually use. I also hoped that the low grade fever I'm used to having, but which could bar me from getting the vaccine, would make a hasty exit. It did.

After a check of my paperwork by several of the clinic workers, I was admitted to the vaccination line. Autoimmune people are sometimes advised to get the "thimerosol free" version to give our systems less to try to deal with. But the clinic was running low on it, so I was sent to consult with one of the doctors. He said there was still a small trace amount of thimerosol in the "thimerosol free" version, which what with my flaring CFIDS symptoms, scared me a little. Then he said, in the direct manner I use when a client is headed for legal trouble, "You're autoimmune. You need to have this" which scared me more. Ahh, The Power of the White Coat.
Attitude adjusted, and paperwork OK'd for "thimerosol free", I got my shot.

It was 11:00A.M.

*In the U.S., the autoimmune disease I have is called CFIDS or CFS and has a very vague diagnosis and treatment protocol which in the U.S. often focuses more on fatigue than on other, more serious symptoms of the disease. In the UK and Canada, what I have is called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), which has a more specific diagnosis and treatment protocol that focuses more on the serious symptoms such as the cognitive, brain injury and respiratory aspects of the disease. Since writing this entry I've joined the campaign to change its name in the U.S., because eliminating the word Fatigue from its title would help provide better medical care, research, and funding for patients in the U.S., as well as better understanding of the disease by the general public.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Facebook Follies

Arrrgh! Over on my personal Facebook account, Facebook's automatic spam catcher has banned me from sending private messages. It's infuriating because I'm adamant about MusicbizAdvice.com staffers adhering to CAN-SPAM Act rules, and neither we, nor I, engage in it.

I also don't use Facebook's Friend Find function, nor do I contact random Friends of Friends that Facebook recommends. (Maybe Facebook is pissed off that I don't?) In my opinion, and according to my understanding of the CAN-SPAM Act, THAT would be spam. And, as those of you on my Facebook Friends lists know, I rarely send Facebook messages or event notices, choosing to keep in touch with Facebook Friends by using the Wall / update function instead.

Here's how it happened, so it doesn't happen to you:

The supreme irony is, the Friend requesters contacted me first, not the other way around...

So, rather than just rudely ignoring people, I responded to the Friend requests from people I didn't know by using the "send message" option to ask them to please join me at my business Facebook instead, "as this one is my personal account" and included a link to my business Facebook (the facebook.com/MusicBizAdvice account). I've been doing it this way over on MySpace for years with no problem, and it's led to a lot of great conversation and a few actual working relationships and friendships...which is how social networking was originally supposed to work, right?

I sent 10-12 of these responses today, with a total of a mere 25 since opening my personal account in June. (Facebookers usually find me via my /MusicBizAdvice account, so there's really not much message traffic from my personal account.)

In sending the responses, I was afraid of accidentally triggering the anti spam filter, so I made a point of changing the wording and personalizing each one. I manually entered the captchas properly. Facebook gave me a popup warning telling me to "slow down". So I did. Then Facebook banned me from messages anyway.

(Sidebar: Facebook was the first entity ever to accuse me of being a fast typist, by the way. I'm a decent writer, occasionally even a good one, but a lousy typist. Our staffers and my former employers will have a good laugh at that.)

Simple solution: If Facebook offered a "Confirm friend to other account instead" option in its Friend acceptance options, and allowed the Friend requester to check a box that opted them in to being transferred over, this wouldn't happen.

That way, people could leave their privacy settings open just enough that their actual friends and relatives can find them, thus ENcouraging use of Facebook, rather than DIScouraging it.

Another irony: Over time, for direct communication, I've been gradually using Twitter more and more. (Why send a "message" when you can talk with someone directly, at a faster pace?) At this rate--first Facebook's privacy issues, then Facebook's content ownership / licensing issues, etc.--my Facebook accounts are rapidly headed toward being used simply to garner search engine results, with very little actual one-on-one conversation (kind of like MySpace has become)...which is the very thing Facebook was trying to avoid when it was created.

That doesn't seem fair to those of my family, friends, colleagues, and readers, who do enjoy using Facebook. Who wants to be used? But even more than that, it's not fair to the whole concept of social networking.

Get it together, Facebook.