Money, music and Moby make month memorable

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“The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and the bees, I need money!” Motown founder Berry Gordy co-wrote it, Barrett Strong sang it, even John Lennon took a turn at it with the Beatles cover version. Now, more than ever, musicians are trying to find a way to make a buck in this world of illegal downloading and overnight YouTube sensations. With this volatile commercial backdrop as a setting, a three-day conference co-sponsored by the Seattle-based Experience Music Project and the UCLA Department of Musicology will take place on the UCLA campus Feb. 25-27.

The 2011 EMP Pop Conference at UCLA, which is free and open to the public, is entitled Cash Rules Everything around Me: Music and Money. This year’s Pop Conference, the 10th annual meeting, and first outside Seattle, features presentations on a subject Los Angeles musicians know well, the relationship between writing music and collecting a paycheck.

Ubiquitous DJ and KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley will host the keynote discussion for the conference, which will feature artists Moby, Raphael Saadiq and Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio), talking about “How Musicians Make Do and Keep their Souls Alive in a Changing Pop World.” The keynote panel will take place Saturday, Feb. 26 on the UCLA campus.

One major change over the last 10 years in the music business has been the proliferation of music licensing for film, TV and advertising. A subject Moby should know quite a lot about, given that every track on his 1999 release Play was the first album ever to have all of its tracks licensed for use in movies, TV shows or advertising. This ancillary type of income for artists has, in many cases, far surpassed what a musician can make selling albums or touring.

A record number of panelists, professors and artists will be on hand, including a KISS panel with best-selling author Chuck Klosterman, just one of many leading music critics who will appear. Others include Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau and Ann Powers from The Los Angeles Times. The Experience Music Project’s credo is dedicated to the exploration of creativity and innovation in popular music. After watching Cee-Lo Green sing Forget You, with Gwyneth Paltrow and the Muppets on last week’s Grammy’s telecast, musicians and fans alike need a dose of reality like this event to put everything in perspective. More information on the event can be found at empsfm.org.

If you’re a longtime fan of the seminal punk rock band Black Flag, which formed in Hermosa Beach in 1976, then most likely you’d be approaching the age of 50. Too old to rock and roll? Tell that to the former lead singer of the group, Henry Rollins, who just hit the half-century mark last week. Rollins will be celebrating this milestone with a series of shows in Los Angeles this week at Largo at the Coronet in West Hollywood.

With poster art by Shepard Fairey depicting Rollins in a superhero costume with the grim reaper peering over his shoulder, the former native of Washington D.C. will be hitting up intimate venues across the country with a new talking tour simply titled 50. On stage, Rollins will share stories from and reflections on his first 50 years and the chaos that surrounded him. In his own words, he explains, “On Feb. 13 of 2011, I will turn 50 years of age. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime occasion than by doing some shows. Hopefully, I will be able to evince some imperfect pearls of ancient wisdom to the audience, having made it this far.” The shows will run from Feb. 16-20, and more information can be found at henryrollins.com.

Longtime Los Angeles jazz promoter Rocco Somazzi held a stellar show at Royal T Café in Culver City last week, showcasing trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom’s Plotz! band. Somazzi, a Swiss native, has been presenting jazz shows in Los Angeles for well over a decade, including a stint booking his own room at the club Vibrato on Beverly Glen Boulevard in Bel Air. This night at Royal T, Rosenboom’s sextet played highly complex rhythms and Eastern European-styled melodies at sometimes ferocious tempos.

Rosenboom explained to the audience that the upcoming suite he was about to play was a tribute to ancient warriors and Greek gods and monsters. This was clearly evident as the dark melodies prevailed over the room with a red-hot intensity, while his alto sax player, Gavin Templeton, channeled legendary alto player Ornette Coleman. Guitarist Jake Vossler, meanwhile, was like a mad scientist on his axe, cooking up riffs that both Jimi Hendrix and Bobby Flay would admire. Keep a look out for more Rosenboom shows in the future, as this guy is as innovative as a composer as he is as a player.

Jonathan Weiss is a Los Angeles-based music supervisor for film, TV and advertising. Email him at jonjaz@aol.com. 

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