Unpopular, But Effective

When the recording industry began suing consumers in an effort to scare users of peer-to-peer file trading networks into ceasing their illegal trading of copyrighted songs, the chorus of protest was heard across the country. The RIAA’s move was called draconian, unnecessary, and absurd. But the strategy appears to be working: new site tracking numbers out this week show that usage of the leading file-trading service, Kazaa, is down 41% over the last three months.

Kansas City Dumps Acoustician

The board in charge of building a $304 million performing arts center in Kansas City has fired Russell Johnson as acoustician, and replaced him with Yasuhisa Toyota of the Japan-based Nagata Acoustics. Johnson is known as the world’s preeminent acoustical designer of large concert halls, and consulted on the new Disney Hall in Los Angeles, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and the renovation of Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall, among others. The board cited rising costs as a major reason for the change, and also expressed concern with Johnson’s tendency towards using “expensive sound chambers and movable panels” in his recent projects.

Baby Steps Towards Solvency

The San Antonio Symphony, which shut down in May and has effectively cancelled the 2003-04 concert season, says it is close to a new deal with its musicians, which would be a major step on the road back to fiscal solvency. “Federal Bankruptcy Court Judge Leif M. Clark gave the symphony and the American Federation of Musicians until October 15 to work out a new deal and submit it to the rank and file for approval. A new contract would insure that the musicians, many of whom have moved on to other jobs, would be available when the San Antonio Symphony is able to resume performances.”

Art For Dummies? Yee-Haw!

John Weeks applauds attempts to “bring art to the masses” by explaining it in simple terms. “We’re all familiar with those books like ‘Auto Repair for Dummies’ and ‘Computers for Dummies,’ and it seems like there is a growing movement to accommodate dummies of all kinds. Apparently, the trend has finally spread to the arts world. This is exciting. Art truly can extend its reach if it makes itself more accessible to America’s largest demographic group, namely idiots. Now, when I say ‘idiots,’ you know I don’t mean you and me. Well, yes I do, but I mean it in a loving, affectionate way.”

Stage Collapses In Birmingham

A stage in Birmingham, England, collapsed, injuring 15-20 people. “The audience was taking part in a ‘sing song’ before the show. Members of the audience who were dressed as nuns were asked to get on the stage and take part in a sing song. There were about 30 or 40 people on the stage and as they walked forward to the area which covers the orchestra, the stage collapsed.”

Study: If You’re Smarter, You Live Longer?

As the body ages, so does the brain, and as it does, some people lose their mental ability. This loss can become especially pronounced as we reach our seventies and beyond. Because the quality of life in old age is influenced by how well mental ability is maintained, considerable research is now being carried out on how aging affects our ability to think, reason and remember.” A new study reports that “the 70-somethings scored quite a bit better than they did at age 11; second, that mental ability differences are pretty stable from age 11 to age 77; with some interesting exceptions, the high scorers did well and the modest remained so.”

Danielle Steel Opens A Gallery

Mega-selling author Danielle Steel is opening a gallery in San Francisco. “She plans to favor work by lesser-known and younger artists. ‘Not necessarily chronologically young, but those who are really struggling with something.’ Steel anticipates skepticism and even ridicule in her new venture. ‘The first thing that was said about us came from San Francisco Magazine. We hadn’t even put the carpet in yet and they wrote, ‘Can you spell dilettante’?”

Florida City Bans Suicides At Concert

The St. Petersburg, Florida city council passes an emergency ordinance making it “illegal to conduct a suicide for commercial or entertainment purposes, or to host, promote or sell tickets for such an event.” The council was responding to plans by a local heavy metal band to feature the death of a terminally ill person at a concert this coming weekend. “I’m sickened that we even have to entertain such an ordinance. While I’m reasonably sure this is just a publicity stunt, we can’t just sit idly by while somebody loses their life.”

The Ken Burns Effect

PBS’ Jazz series two years ago was a big success. Will the same happen for the new Blues series? “The dust from Ken Burns’s Jazz has settled enough after 2½ years to allow some consideration of its impact – its successes and its consequences – now that Martin Scorsese’s The Blues is on the air. Foremost among those successes are the sales for the Burns series CDs on the Verve and Columbia/Legacy imprints – a five-disc boxed set and 22 single releases devoted to individual artists…”

Adventures In Retailing – Museum Shuts Down For-Profit Retailer

Two years ago, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts was the first American museum to create a private company to “run its gift shops, publish its glossy mail-order catalog, and hawk posters, T-shirts, and jewelry on the Internet.” But “with the company losing $2.9 million its first year and $3 million for the fiscal year that ended June 2002, the museum could no longer support it,” and so the company is being closed.