GET ON YOUR BIKES: Its not often we find ourselves agreeing with Elton John, but - although "Elton tells young musicians to pay dues" smacks of the old trying to control the young - he does have a point. The long hard slog round the few smaller venues which haven't been turned into Wetherspoons or lap dancing joints does turn out acts with a better chance of longevity. What Elton neglects to mention, of course, is that it's nowadays ridiculously difficult for young bands to be able to afford to do that sort of career prepartion - even in the early 90s there was a certain elasticity in the benefits system that would let a group do teeth-cutting support tours for less than it cost to play the gigs without starving. Half-assed "initiatives" like the New Deal for Musicians don't provide the same sort of support and don't spread to as many people as the dole did. Paying dues is all well and good - but only if you can afford it.