Plugged

Lots of music festivals have second stages. Adding one for the Rock Band videogame during Crüe Fest is just brilliant.

I have good memories of Motley Crüe concerts from my high school days: Tommy Lee's drum set vomiting pyrotechnics while spinning over the crowd during the drum solo; seeing real-life breasts for the first time. It was all good.

Those boys know how to throw a good party, so setting aside a special stage to let all those testosterone-filled fans try and rock out to their favorite songs using the Rock Band equipment is a fun idea. And giving fans the chance to actually "perform" songs between sets on the main stage via the Rock Band game—simulating drums, guitar, bass and vocals—is just…cool.

Certainly for MTV and the guys behind Rock Band, this is a fantastic marketing opportunity, and I hope the Crüe Fest organizers are getting a nice fat paycheck out of it. But putting the money aside for a minute, you just have to applaud the bigger picture here.

The concert has always been a great way to re-live the experience of listening to your favorite album or band. Done right, it is the ultimate interaction between music and fan. But it's no longer the only interactive experience for music. Rock Band (and Guitar Hero too… not forgetting about you guys) offers a 20th century take on the same idea. Rather than passive listening, these games allow fans to more fully experience the music by—at least virtually—joining in.

Is it more fun than the actual performance? No (or at least I freaking hope not), and it certainly doesn't beat girls flashing the stage. But don't overthink it. Rock concerts should be about giving a mob of young kids something fun to do. Merging the analog with the virtual forms of doing so does just that, and speaks volumes about the music industry we find ourselves in today.


UnPlugged

Perhaps the only idea worse than attempting to introduce a tax on digital downloads is doing so in mid-April, but not by much.

Spurred in part by the 4 billion songs sold via iTunes, but more likely by the $8 billion deficit the geniuses running the state have managed to rack up over the years, California is back angling for a way to apply a sales tax to digital content purchased online. Thankfully, the measure failed, but I guarantee this won't be the last we'll hear of the issue.

Now the argument for doing so is rather simple, by every definition of the word. If I buy a CD at the local record store, I pay sales tax, so why not when I buy a digital album as well? Easy… because when I buy a CD at the store, I drive on tax-maintained roads and park my car in a lot lit by tax-maintained streetlights and protected to a degree by tax-funded cops, etc. The CDs that stock that stores shelves follow much the same path.

But a digital sale takes place from the comfort of my home. That home also benefits from the same roads, lights and police protection, etc. as the store where I bought my CD, but I think my property taxes more than cover those expenses, thanks very much. And the servers where these digital albums are downloaded sit in a nice facility somewhere owned by a company paying its share of corporate taxes to cover the same.

Aside from the headaches implementing such a tax would cause, let's consider for a moment the broader implications. The music industry is still trying to convince people to, you know, PAY for music in the first place. Adding a sales tax would only serve to drive more fans to unauthorized P2P sites, resulting in fewer profits for both the labels and the digital services offering their music, meaning less corporate taxes and so on.

The music industry has done enough to muck up the evolution of the digital music space on its own. It hardly needs the government to lend it any further assistance.