Sonique was the first artist signed to Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub

The brainchild of music industry veterans Jimmy Iovine and Doug Morris, was envisioned as "a one-stop music community, which would serve the artists and the fans alike". With its mix of rock, pop, rap and hip-hop, it surely seemed that would make any music lover happy. was a TV show, a music label and a website where anyone who aspired to be a singer could record their own song and upload in on the site for everyone to hear. Additionally, held some of the best live performances featuring a wide variety of artists. "Jimmy and Doug's" was aired on USA from 1999 until early 2001. The short-lived TV show provided only a snippet of the multi-media enterprise spawned by Interscope/Geffen/A&M co-chairman Iovine and Universal CEO/chairman Morris.

Betting the Farmclub - A report from behind the scenes of

Why is MTV's Matt Pinfield shilling for the shamelessly corporate music show Can you say "synergy"?

Matt Pinfield   
Matt Pinfield

Matt Pinfield, the stocky, bald-headed broadcaster who established his reputation as the station's tough-looking savant and host of MTV's "120 Minutes" show, is starting to seem a lot more like one of those infomercial blowhards. Take a look at his new show, "Jimmy and Doug's" He used to be gruff and monotone; now he's chipper and overflowing with niceness, his voice a couple of octaves higher. The guy is easy like Sunday morning when interviewing bands, tossing up softballs like "It's cool that you guys are back on the road/in the studio again" for Gwen Stefani or Dr. Dre to hit out of the infield.

Pinfield left MTV last year to join "Jimmy and Doug's" when it debuted earlier this year. The show is an hour-long music television show cablecast on the USA Network every Friday and Saturday night. It showcases videos and live performances by national talent and aspiring unsigned or indie label superstars, from Beck and Nelly to the Texas band ... And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead.

The show looks and sounds good - sort of like MTV when it still played music. But MTV in its 1980s prime, for all of its faults, was essentially an independent media outlet. As such, it chose the videos it would run and often angered the major labels that it depended on for music and videos. Early on, Columbia is said to have browbeat MTV into playing Michael Jackson. The roles reversed once the station had more power. At one point, the biggest record labels were so irritated with MTV - especially because they had to give the station their videos for free - that they even considered boycotting the music channel. Yet MTV was too strong, and the labels could never agree to work together. Sure, MTV has sucked up to the biggest stars countless times since its inception, but it has remained essentially independent of them.

That's hardly the case with "Jimmy and Doug's" Hosts Pinfield and pinup Ali Landry provide the first clue that something is amiss. Both refer to the company's website and record label (Jimmy and Doug's more often than infomercial maven Ron Popeil employs the term "rotisserie," and Pinfield has transformed from the cerebral band geek from MTV into a kinder, gentler and dumber Mad Matt - a glorified pitchman for, its record label and its website.

But there's another problem with the show that runs a bit deeper than all of Pinfield's cross-promotional pitches. At its core, is simply an extended commercial for the biggest record label in the world, presented under the guise of wholesomely unwholesome pop-culture entertainment. For starters, the show is a block of paid programming, like an infomercial, which means that "Jimmy and Doug's" buys airtime from USA outright, and then sells the commercial time itself.

Now here's where it gets good. Guess who's collecting that money? It's the USA cable channel, which is 43 percent owned by Seagram Company Ltd., which also owns Universal Music Group and "Jimmy and Doug's" Of course, it's not like anyone at Universal or Seagram is trying to bury their involvement with the show, which is, after all, named after "Jimmy" Iovine, co-chair of Universal's Interscope label, and "Doug" Morris, CEO of Universal Music.

    Fred Durst
Fred Durst
Every week, hosts performances by three or four bands. And guess which artists are given major play on the show? Universal artists, of course: Nearly every week, since the first show on Jan. 31, at least one of the performers has been affiliated with Universal. That's airtime for more than 20 Universal artists (and for the members of Staind, who while not being connected with Universal directly, are friendly with Fred Durst, vice president at Interscope and lead singer of Interscope recording artists Limp Bizkit).

In return for providing some cool content, some performances and interviews, Seagram (via its record labels) receives a few enviable benefits. First, the conglomerate gets the opportunity to build an alliance with consumers, making them feel as if they are part of a faceless industry. Surfers can log on to the website, listen to audio files by unsigned acts and cast votes for which artists will appear on upcoming programs. The band-o'-the-week winner gets a visit from Pinfield, shiny-happy mug and cameras in tow. The procedure manages to make Seagram look like it actually cares about been-nowhere garage bands. Meanwhile, the Universal A&R team gets a ready-made test market.

Take, for example, DJ Sonique, earning originally some attention only in the Tampa Bay area by local DJs and radio listeners. Her song "It Feels So Good" first appeared on the Farmclub website. By receiving votes from web surfers, she won a spot on the show. After the performance, the label made Sonique's "Hear My Cry" its debut album. In March, Sonique landed in the Top 10 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart; then she jumped up to No. 85 on the Top 200 album charts, selling 20,000 records a week, and eventually went gold. Four other acts have also been signed to the label, and are receiving big PR pushes and distribution help from Universal. No other media outlet has offered so many little-known bands such major airtime.

    Matt Pinfield interviews Sonique for
Matt Pinfield interviews Sonique for

Universal also gets two hours' worth of primo advertising space for its already signed artists. According to the Nielsen ratings, the show earns about 1 million viewers per episode. Of course a large portion of those numbers came as a direct feed from the prior hour of television, USA's well-viewed WWF wrestling. It's too early to see what will happen since the show switched to Fridays, but it doesn't exactly matter: The show, ratings be blessed/damned, has reserved time slots and will continue running until April 2001. (Vivendi, which is acquiring Seagram, has mentioned separating music and liquor, but it's hard to tell how that would affect

  About Andy Schuon

Andy Schuon

Andy Schuon was named Pre-
sident and Chief Executive Officer of Pressplay in June 2001. As head of the company, Mr. Schuon oversaw all aspects of Pressplay's operations, including the launch of the online subscription service, the management of its technical operations and the overall branding and development of the service. Prior to joining Pressplay, Mr. Schuon was president and Chief Operating Officer of Jimmy and Doug's where he was respon-
sible for overseeing all aspects of the company's record label operations, online activities and television program-
ming since its launch in January 2000. Previously, Mr. Schuon was Executive Vice President and General Manager of Warner Brothers Records, with responsibility for all creative and administrative issues including promo-
tion, marketing, artist relations, advertising, art, sales and production. Before his post at Warner Brothers, Mr. Schuon spent several years at MTV: Music Television, culminating in his title as Executive Vice President of Programming. Mr. Schuon is credited with engineering the station's evolution from "video jukebox" to a fully realized "youth culture" network. He was the executive producer of the MTV Video Music Awards and the MTV Movie Awards, and created and developed such programming as "Alternative Nation", "MTV Live" (now TRL), "MTV Jams", and "The MTV Beach House". Mr. Schuon also served as Executive Vice President of Programming at VH-1 where he supervised the channel's successful re-launch.       

The only thing stopping from being a beginning-to-end commercial for Universal acts is credibility. "Universal is the source of our funding," says president and COO Andy Schuon (see info box right). "We don't try to hide it, we're not ashamed of it and Universal has the largest market share, so naturally, you're gonna see Universal bands. [But] for us, credibility is important. We need to establish relationships with every label. We have to operate independently. You can't have credibility that way."

It's hard to take Schuon's point seriously if you believe that there is a difference between advertising and media exposure. Advertising, of course, is a marketing tool that anyone or any band with access to a small business loan or a wealthy financier's checkbook can use. Media exposure (e.g., entertainment programming), by contrast, is ideally a phenomenon of selectivity. Producers and editors at media outlets such as "SNL", MTV and even the "Today" show rely on their personal tastes (and, sure, focus groups) to invite the bands with appeal and talent to their stages. Acts that have little more going for them than friends in high places don't see a lot of exposure. Every time features a Universal artist, it's essentially cutting out the middleman.

As entertainment, is damn near enjoyable. The show is relatively easy on the ears (until the gas-bag performer - and Universal-affiliated - Enrique Iglesias starts moaning, as he did recently) and eyes, with curvy bimbos strategically placed in front of the stage and Pinfield's co-host Landry never far from the camera. You could say that it's what cable shows could become if programmers had any vision, or at least as much vision as Seagram's marketing chiefs. But when turns out to be just another version of a bigwig corporation trying to shove product down our throats, it makes watching the show a lot more difficult. Pinfield and all of those Universal-related artists start to look like a mutant fish-baby: You might not know what the hell you're looking at, but you know it's not right.

The venture - which has since rooted itself on the Internet and branched out with Web radio, downloadable video channels and much more - continued to thrive despite its TV absence, releasing a prized "Live and Unreleased from" disc via UTV on 8 January, 2002. Immortalizing the TV program, the CD boasts performances by Eminem, Staind, Limp Bizkit, Ja Rule and DMX - and that just skims the surface.

Intended as a middle ground where superstar musicians and developing artists would intersect, Farmclub morphed into a more splayed music media network after partnering with GetMusic in the spring of 2001. That project's Internet presence is strong, with the official Web site ( encouraging new artists to upload their material for consideration by the label chiefs as well as other browsers. An online label is also being developed.

15 November 2000, by Anthony Mariani (modified, and later information added)

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