It is hard to tell who likes milestones more: the media or the music makers but as time rolls by, there are new opportunities for both.
PBS recently aired a film by Cameron Crowe, "Pearl Jam 20: American Masters." Another 20-year anniversary for the U-2 Album "Achtung Baby" also merits a documentary about its recording sessions in Berlin airing on Showtime. U-2 did not just reissue a remastered version, they created a multi-level audio marketing experience for their fans. According to USA TODAY, at the bottom is the basic CD ($14). At the top is the "Uber" edition "in a magnetic-puzzle box that adds such bonuses as vinyl singles and Bono's "The Fly" sunglasses ($470)." In between are a double CD with extras ($30), a four-disc vinyl box ($120) and a super deluxe set with six CDs, four DVDs, 16 art prints and a hardbound book($168). Something for every U-2 fan on your Christmas list.
And who knew that MTV is celebrating its 30th birthday this year? I would have missed it if I had not seen the authors of a new book, I Want My MTV on a morning talk show. For me the music video era and MTV have been a generation-skipping phenomenon. I am fascinated by the documentaries made in the early years of all of kinds of music but by the time music marketing merged with cable television it seemed a competition for gimmicks and computer generated special effects over the words and music. MTV was an interesting chapter in modern musical history. The authors, Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, point out how "Thriller" put the cable channel on the map and rocketed Michael Jackson into pop icon status. It offered a similar launch pad for Madonna (whose success is hard to imagine without the moving pictures) and to a lesser degree REM, Bon Jovi and U-2. MTV is also great business school case study. They were able to start it up because the content came for free from the record companies and they dropped the three-minute movies (or relegated them to subchannels) as soon as they found their reality shows drew bigger ratings than the music. At least they provided the platform for creating a visual music history that can live on at You Tube (if not the Smithsonian).
Finally, there is the guy with so many milestones, he could have his own Stonehenge: Tony Bennett. He's back doing (like a lot of other superstars) an album of duets (with a lot of other superstars) and it debuted as #1 on the Billboard pop charts when it was released. Although it will not be until next year that Tony can celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his first album, we hope he will still be going strong and the media will mark it with much fanfare. Tony is doing music videos (with Lady Gaga) and he's getting a lot of press for his duet with Amy Winehouse in the Abbey Road Studios on "Body and Soul." On The Daily Show recently Tony paid her tribute as "the only singer who sang the right way because she was a great jazz, pop singer." He added that when he told Amy she sounded like Dinah Washington, it changed the whole session. "Oh my god, that's my god, that's who I love," Amy replied.
That prompted Tony to recall the greats he had performed with and admired over the years. "Corporations will say that's old music but to me it's not. It's gonna last forever. Nat, Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, is gonna sound great 50 years from now."
Jon Stewart: And you know who else?