The Washington Area Music Awards -- better known as the Wammies -- will move into a new venue for this year's awards: the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, instead of Lisner Auditorium. The Friends of the Kennedy Center will be helping to subsidize the Oct. 20 awards show.
The local band Downtown's sweep of seven awards, made possible by an intense lobbying effort through its fan club and mailing list, has led to some restructuring of the voting process. Except for 10 categories that will be open to public voting, the majority of this year's awards will be decided by WAMA academy members; nominees in each category will be decided by the membership, with a panel of experts in each field to act as monitors.
WAMA will be conducting a membership drive over the next six months to get a vote that is not simply ballot stuffing by fans, but the choice of the music community participants who are most familiar with the local scene.
Last year there were 46 categories, and that will increase this year by 13 -- one big band and 12 classical. Not all of the awards will be given during the ceremony; like the Grammys, Tonys and Emmys, the Wammies will have a special ceremony before the show to announce some of the winners.
WAMA is also sponsoring a major local benefit: the Crosstown Charity Jam on June 11. Eight local clubs will host some three dozen local bands; clubs and bands alike are donating their services and the funds raised will go to a number of local charities (WAMA will keep 20 percent for its educational projects). The participating clubs are Blues Alley, the Bayou, Roxy, 9:30, Babe's, Birchmere, Chapter III, Chelsea's and Kilimanjaro's. Independent Promoter Sues
Joe Isgro, one of the two independent promoters singled out by "NBC Nightly News" in February reports on links between independent promotion and organized crime, has filed a $75 million lawsuit against the Recording Industry Association of America and most of the major record labels, charging them with conspiracy and restraint of trade under federal and state antitrust statutes. The suit followed the labels' suspension of Isgro's services -- and those of most independent promoters -- within days of the NBC programs.
The suit was filed April 30 in Los Angeles on behalf of Isgro individually and his businesses, Isgro Enterprises and Quickcross Promotions. The suit names the RIAA, Capitol, MCA, Polygram, RCA and the Warner/Elektra/Atlantic labels, as well as some smaller independents; the only major label not named in the suit is CBS. The complaint says that because of the refusal to deal with independent promoters, "price-fixing, group boycotts and foreclosure of competition have and will continue to fester" while the "beneficial and lawful effects of . . . competition among and between record companies is eliminated and destroyed." Isgro is seeking damages for loss of profits, estimated at $25 million, which triples under both state and federal laws.
The RIAA has acknowledged Isgro's suit but declined to comment further. Lyric Warning Labels
Six months after the voluntary accord between the RIAA and the Parents Music Resource Center, there have been precious few "explicit lyrics" warning labels on new records. They have been notably absent on new albums by such frequent PMRC targets as Prince, Ozzy Osbourne, the Rolling Stones, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Of course, there were many loopholes in the agreement, including allowing major artists who retain control over the artwork on their albums to veto any such warning labels.
WASP, a rather repugnant heavy metal band that is a favorite PMRC target, did sticker its new album, "The Last Command," with a simple "lyrics may be considered offensive by some audiences."
Often, however, the warning concept has been treated as a joke, as on George Clinton's new album, "R&B Skeletons (In the Closet)," which incorporates its "warnings" not as a sticker, but as a part of the artwork on both its front and back covers. The front one says, "volunteer ratings system (for record company and concerned parent use only):
"This album may contain material that depicts (check all that apply)
*illicit drug use
*improper grammar and/or slang
*communist agitator lyrical overtones
*Bambezi fertility rites
*suspicious and unknown social impact."
On the back, the message is simpler: "Caution: segments of this album may contain jungle music."
The most crassly commercial use of a warning sticker comes on Serge Gainsbourg's "Love on the Beat" (Polygram). Gainsbourg, a popular French vocalist who first gained notoriety in the late '60s with the orgasmic "Je t'aime . . . moi non plus" and with his sound track for "Goodbye Emmanuelle" and got attention more recently by propositioning Whitney Houston on a live French television talk show, must be trying for an upscale audience: The album, which includes songs like "Hmm Hmm Hmm" and "Lemon Incest" (a duet with his teen-age daughter), is stickered "Explicit French Lyrics; Parental Advisory."