Thursday, January 31, 2008

Venuewatch: Turnmills ground down

London club Turnmills, a fixture on the scene for nearly quarter of a century, is to close in March:

Turnmills closing means that it is falling foul of a similar fate to that of Kings Cross clubs up the road (The Key, The Cross and Canvas). Turnmills lease is up and the landlord wishes to redevelop the site although in typical Turnmills style there's no hard feelings as the landlord has accommodated the club until they felt it was a good time to hang up their hats.

Home to Sister Bliss and Tall Paul, the club has hosted sets from nearly all the big names in UK clubbing - The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, 'not a real' Judge Jules; it's going out with a bang over the Easter Weekend.

[via Lipstick Vogue]

Jazzobit: Miles Kington

The second tangential obituary of the day: Miles Kington, who died yesterday after a short illness, wasn't just a columnist and wit. In his early career he worked as a jazz reviewer, and also played as a member of one of the few comedy-jazz ensembles the world has seen, Instant Sunshine. It was in this role that he co-presented one of the more extravagant weeks of Jackanory, which not only saw Instant Sunshine turning the story slot into a musical extravaganza, but enjoyed on location filming of the sort rarely seen on the studio-bound series.

Blur reunion just sort-of didn't happen in the end

So, whatever happened to that Blur reunion, then? The studio was booked, the hatchets buried, Alex James persuaded to not talk about cheese for five bloody minutes... and then: nothing.

Graham Coxon has told NME what happened:

"I think people thought, ‘Oh, it’s a bit too much, just jumping into a studio’," he said. "We met for a catch-up and it was great, but there was no real talk of recording. It doesn’t really bother me. I’ve got enough going on to feel happy and fulfilled."

We think this elaborate code for "we got a bit drunk and fell out a little", to be honest.

Promoterobit: Jeremy Beadle

As we're reminded by TJ Worthington's appreciation of Jeremy Beadle for Talk About The Passion, although he will be remembered as a prankster, Beadle's first forays into the entertainment world were as a promoter of festivals and gigs: indeed, he brought Captain Beefheart to play in the UK, a move which surely will offest giving Sarah Kennedy a national platform.

He also edited Time Out for a spell - although there seems some confusion if he took the role at the Northern edition, the London edition, or both, depending on what obituary you believe - and, besides presenting in his own right on LBC, TalkRadio, and Radios 2, 3 and 4, wrote for some of the radio legends, including Kenny Everett.

Jeremy Beadle died yesterday of pneumonia after a long bout of repeated illnesses. He was 59.

Morrissey chests up Obama's run

There's a wonderful photo of Morrissey wearing a tshirt picturing him stood next to Barack Obama during his aborted run of London gigs (Mozzer's gigs, not Obama's); apparently it was made for him by one of his hardcore fans.

That might prove a bit of a problem, though, what with Obama's position on US immigration, calling for a "path to citizenship" for all undocumented workers in the country. Oh, hang on, though - Morrissey only objects to immigration into the UK, doesn't he, what with his happy emigration to other nations. So maybe that's alright, then. We'd love for Mozzer to explain, but experience suggests we shouldn't hold our breath.

The t-shirt also depicts Mozzer with a head full of hair, which is presumably to underline the fantasy inherent in the idea of a Brit as a Vice-Presidential running mate.

Sweet! Caroline for Glastonbury

According to Q magazine's website, Neil Diamond is going to be playing Glastonbury.

Well, Eavis did promise a black American act for the young people, and... well, one out of three is considered a passing rate for some GCSEs.

We suspect Diamond will take that Sunday afternoon 'and for those of you watching on BBC Four' slot, and not be "headlining" as some over-excited websites have it.

We love that this has 'leaked' the day before ticket registration goes live, as if it might persuade some undecided types to have a go at getting on the list.

Sony BMG shrinks a little more

The inevitable human cost of shift to digital distribution: Sony BMG are losing 25 staff from roles connected with physical distribution.

Radio audiences: we have a difference of opinion, Geoffrey

Proving, perhaps, that the RAJAR figures are so hard to navigate you can read into them what you wish, Digital Spy and report simultaneously on a 10% and 16.6% share of radio listening for Digital audiences. The discrepancy, of course, is because Digital Spy is quoting the figure for audiences listening on a DAB receiver, while MAD is looking at any digital platfrom.

The news isn't good for commercial digital broadcasters, though, as of the five largest ad-supported digital-only stations have had their audiences slip over the last quarter; of the big five only Heat managed an increase.

New owners of EMAP's old radio business, Bauer Radio, might be sucking a thoughtful tooth when they discover Q had displaced a quarter of its listenership between September and December.

Happily, a weak set of commercial results was balanced by strong figures for 6Music - edging ever closer to the magic half a million mark despite the new shouty-boy daytime schedule - 1Xtra and BBC7.

Back on old fashioned radio, Moyles is closing in on Terry Wogan - now just 420,000 listeners shy of his breakfast rival. Although Moyles has been doing the show four years now; at this rate Wogan's going to be dead before he catches him.

London's always diverting battle sees Capital continuing to languish in the area it once dominated; Heat and Magic are both the biggest radio stations now depending on if you care about reach or share. They'll take some comfort in that the gap between them and Kiss is a little wider - 90,000 listeners compared with 10,000 this time last year - although 'victory in the battle to avoid dropping to fourth place' isn't much of a song to sing to the shareholders.

They might be feeling a little vindicated, though, looking at XFM's performance year-on-year: their share of total listening in London hasn't shifted - 1.3% - but the size of the audience has nudged up from 479,000 to 513,000. Killing off presenters has brought in more listeners.

All year-on-year comparisons, by the way, are effectively valueless as RAJAR changed it methodology in Summer 2007.

Britney hospitalised

TMZ is reporting that Britney Spears is being detained in hospital in LA on a "5150 hold" - apparently meaning she's considered a danger to herself.

Darkness at 3AM: Groins gone toxic

Day four of the new management at 3AM, and it looks like they've already run into the ground: today, they're running with Alfie Allen's public hair.

Yes, the-brother-of-the-daughter-of-the-bloke-from-the-mouthwash-advert. Apparently he's had to have his pubes trimmed before going onstage in Equus.

Yes, that's their lead story.

They also have a pop stars get drunk shocka - the Arctic Monkeys, in this case. They attempt to make the story interesting by injecting a not-very-subtle drugs reference:

Jaime [Winston, who turned up] clearly had quite a thirst as she kept shouting for her Coke.

Do you get... oh, you do.

More surprisingly, they manage to get the Natasha Bedingfield story completely wrong:
All that attention in the States must have gone to Natasha Bedingfield's head 'cos she seems to have forgotten where she comes from.

The toothy singer has cracked America by being the first UK-signed female to enter the Billboard album charts at number three. And her next single is being released in the US first.

Except, of course, the album was held back for months in the US before being pushed out in the weak, post-Christmas period - hence its better-than-expected chart entry point - garnering a bunch of less-than-impressed reviews.
But with all this talk of being big in the US, she's ignoring her UK fans.

All 10 of them, that is, because last night Natasha cancelled all her UK tour dates again blaming US commitments.

"Last night"? Ten days ago, surely?

Gordon in the morning: Again with the Coles?

The continuing tale-a-day of the unhappy Coles dominates Gordon Smart's column this morning, with Gordon himself dredging up a new angle: a claim that Cheryl isn't eating:

HEARTBROKEN CHERYL COLE has not eaten for a WEEK since The Sun revealed her husband ASHLEY cheated on her.

Having set up his own story, Gordon then, erm, reveals that it's not quite true:
A source close to the Geordie singer said last night: “Everyone is really worried about Cheryl.

“She didn’t eat for a couple of days and everyone close to her understood because she was so upset.

“But time has dragged on and she has now gone the best part of a week without a proper meal. "

So, even Gordon's own "source" doesn't say she's not eaten for a week; just that she's not had a "proper meal" for "the best part of a week".

So Gordon's story is actually: upset woman doesn't have hearty appetite.

Smart tries to work it up into a pending medical emergency:
“She can’t force food down because she is still in shock. She’s been having dizzy spells and is close to collapse. It’s really worrying.”

She can't force food down because she's in shock?

Elsewhere, the team who are covering Britney Spears' mental health crisis come up with the perfect Gordon Smart Bizarre introduction:
BRITNEY SPEARS is addicted to crystal meth, it was claimed yesterday - as the singer nipped out in a revealing top.

Gordon also gets excited by Maggie Gyllenhaal's movie supporting the striking writers. Gordon, bravely adopting the role of Industrial Correspondent, gets excited:
Gyllenhaal in 'lesbian orgy'

Well... Gyllenhaal in film, actually. But poor Gordon gets all heated up only to be left with his sports sock on and nowhere to go:
The other ladies join her on the bed, but, as things start to get interesting, the lights fade and the film ends with a sexy pizza delivery girl entering the bedroom.

So, erm, no 'lesbian orgy', then.

David Walliams' admission that his cameo in Virgin Territory isn't very good excites Smart, as it allows him to look at some breasts:
Actually, that’s what the redeeming features are, - knockers - and they belong to model KATE GROOMBRIDGE.

I’ve seen some stills from the film and she kindly displays her perfectly-formed breasts, while a couple of naughty naked nuns share a saucy bath with Christensen.

Good to see the Star Wars hero keeping the lightsabre well oiled (and I thought I had the best job in showbiz).

How long will you keep that job if you think that Darth Vader is the hero of Star Wars?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

MIDEM 2008: Orange: DRM is hobbling our business

It's not just customers (or would-be customers) who get frustrated by DRM: it's a pain in the arse for retailers, too. At MIDEM, Orange music product development director Brenda O’Connell has told MocoNews that DRM has caused problems for the company's attempts to create downloads usable on PCs as well as mobiles:

“The DRM ecosystem on the mobile and on the PC is fundamentally different; getting them to talk together to create a seamless experience was a huge amount of work.”

And results have been “nothing to write home about”, she conceded: “It’s taken us two years to get this converged service to market, two years is far too long. We’re also very concerned about the fact that customers are really rejecting DRM. We want to launch not only a la carte services but subscription-based services, rental models. DRM is what’s holding us back at this point.”

Something to think about as you read music industry bosses raging at people who grab music where they can - after all this time, it's the industry's reluctance to trust people which is, reducing the legitimate options for downloads and ironically making theft more likely.

For all the talk about this MIDEM being a conference where the industry has embraced digital, when you listen to the people who are trying to work with the majors, it's clear they've not actually changed their position at all - just started realising they're going to have to. Ten years too late, and they're still dragging their feet.

Still, Orange retain some optimism:
Orange content services SVP Herve Payan: “If we don’t remove the DRM, we believe it will be slow growth. Ideally, we will have MP3. The majors are changing; we think in the next six months we will have it.”

But still another six months? And that's the optimistic view?

[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Valentines day extended

My Bloody Valentine have added some extra dates to their tour, with a schedule which Pitchfork is now tracking thus:

06-20 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-21 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-22 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-23 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-24 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-28 Manchester, England - Apollo
06-29 Manchester, England - Apollo
07-02 Glasgow, Scotland - Barrowland
07-03 Glasgow, Scotland - Barrowland
07-03-06 Roskilde, Denmark - Roskilde Festival
07-09 Paris, France - Zenith
07-17-20 Benicassim, Spain - Festival Internacional de Benicassim
08-08 Oslo, Norway - Oya Festival has a bit of a 'mare

An anonymous contact gets in touch to point out the slightly fall-apart nature of one of the pages on today, which apparently puts Razorlight's next album as the third richest woman in rock and suggests that Britney Spears had high tea at the Dorchester with her mother. Oddly, the page is still like that, some eight hours later.

We all have bad days, and it's the easiest thing in the world to put a broken page live. You'd just hope someone would notice...

We're also a little puzzled by the vague wording of the advert for this week's magazine - "great competitions on every page"? Really?

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: The difference between the NME and Brit awards

For those of you uncertain about the difference between the NME Awards and the Brit Awards - and, frankly, apart from the attitude towards Mika it can be hard to tell - Gennaro Castaldo has popped up on Newsbeat to explain:

He said: "Album sales go up much more if an artist wins a Brit because a lot more people read about it in the papers and hear about it on TV.

"The Brits act as a platform for a more mainstream audience who don't buy music as much as NME readers. But, they will respond to key events during the year whether it's the Brits or the Mercury Awards."

"The ones that do particularly well haven't quite had that full public exposure but they've been bubbling under," he explained.

"With an emerging artist sometimes their sales can go up by three, four maybe five times their typical sales level. In that sense the Brits does allow you to connect to that much wider audience."

Unlike the Brits, the NME Awards focus on "specific music fans" who are "very passionate about music" and the ceremony tends to focus "on the quality of the record or artist overall", according to Mr Castaldo.

So... if the NME awards concentrates on the quality of the music and the artists, does that mean the Brits don't? Obviously, we'd agree with that, but since HMV are going to try flogging albums with "Brit nominee" stickers on, it's surprising to see their press spokesperson suggesting that the prizes are given out to people with no regard for quality, for people who don't care about music, purely to boost sales.

[Thanks to Peter D for the link]

Universal rub hands with delight

ContactMusic haven't sourced the quote they attribute to Hassan Choudhury, vice president of Universal Music International, and you really have to hope it's not genuine. They claim he said:

"There's no getting away from the fact all the coverage has kept Amy Winehouse's profile at the highest level.

"Everyone (at Universal) is extremely happy with the amount of records we've sold and a lot of it has been down to some amazing marketing opportunities in the market when the artist wasn't available."

How fortunate that "the coverage" of a woman getting more and more addicted to crack has helped the profile and sell records, eh?

Like we say: let's hope the quote has got a little lost in translation. If it's genuine, then he might want to consider his position. If it's not, ContactMusic have some explaining to do.

The Kooks split. But not enough.

Max Rafferty has left The Kooks, for the second time. The band have got a replacement - because they teach you that 'the show must go on' at stage school - but for now, we're choosing to see it as one down, three to go.

The Brit biter bit

Not pausing to have much of a grapple with the concept of irony, one of the paparazzi hanging outside Britney's house had a little strop at being filmed by TMZ yesterday. Hey, the guy's only trying to do his job, shoving a camera in the face of a mentally ill womman - does he deserve to have a camera shoved in his face?

Rather less gloriously, TMZ is streaming live coverage from outside Spears' house. Perhaps E! could send a crew to tape them. Or maybe everyone could go home...

MIDEM 2008: FT senses restraint

The Financial Times' overview of MIDEM paints a picture of, if not austerity, then at least restraint:

Normally, business at Midem is conducted from yacht to yacht, but seasoned veterans of the industry’s most prolonged schmooze have already detected a certain restraint in spending this year. Maybe it can be laid at the door of EMI. When Guy Hands of Terra Firma first gained entrance to the venerable institution, he declared it a mountain of waste.

Although having hundreds of staff from an industry pop over to the South of France is, in itself, a bit of a cash burn-off, isn't it?

The FT's man with the Pina Colada, Ben Fenton, was asked to believe a thousand unlikely things before each good breakfast:
Robin Hunt, former CEO of Spiral Frog, the first serious attempt at an ad-supported download service, and now chief strategy office of Qtrax, the next and rather more heavyweight effort, told me that whichever single is number one in the US is having five million songs a day stolen.

Five million songs a day? Really? That means 1.8 billion downloads of just the number one single, every year. Or every man, woman and child in the US 'stealing' a copy of a number one single every two months.

But worldwide, last week, the IFPI insisted that the ratio of legal:illegal downloads was 1:99. And that there were 1.7 billion legal downloads. Which means we're expected to believe that one per cent of all illegal downloads worldwide consists of American number one singles downloaded in the week they were number one.

That's just bollocks, isn't it? Another made-up number being thrown around. It's a pity Ben didn't ask him to prove his eye-catching claim. Or, indeed, where his licence agreements actually were. Do QTrax executives have jedi mind control skills or something?

[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Anyone who had a heart op: Not me, says Macca

Paul McCartney has taken to the internet to deny the stories circulating that he's had a heart op:

"There was a minor irregularity which I needed to have tests for and which I have now been assured is completely fine."

Saying he wanted to set the record straight, he joked: "I have secretly been enjoying all the sympathy."
Sir Paul said the tests took place over a year ago.

"The media have only just recently reported an exaggerated version of this and that is why people have been asking me if I am OK," he said.

Actually, Paul, people are asking you if you're okay because over the last twelve months you've started to look drawn and haggered, heart op or no heart op.

Curiously, this might be one of those rare occasions where the Daily Express has been proved to be rig... to be riiiii... no, however hard I try my computer keeps rejecting the phrase suggesting that Britain's number one source for Diana-and-Maddie fibs might have been correct. But it was the Express which reported back in 2006 that McCartney had had a heart scare - although the McCartney camp, erm, denied the story:
A spokesman for Sir Paul denied the visit was caused by a health scare.

They said: "Sir Paul had a routine, regular check-up. It was not to do with his heart and was something planned for some time."

Presumably the current denial of that denial is intended to make the denial of the more recent story seem more plausible, although on this basis, McCartney's people will respond to his obituary with a chipper "he's not dead, but did have heart surgery in 2008 which is probably where this story originated."

It's up to Paul what he chooses to make public, of course, but if his people had just told the truth in 2006, he could probably have avoided this rumour taking hold.

MIDEM 2008: Qtrax: follow the money

Why would a company announce its super-duper new service when it knew that it didn't have any licenses for the service? Hypebot wonders if it was all about the share price for QTrax:

Another explanation may be stock manipulation. Qtrax is controlled by Brilliant Tech Corp (BLLN) who's penny stock has languished at 5 cents for more than a year. But on Monday rafter the announcement the price almost doubled to 9 cents before falling back to a 4.5 cents after revelations from the label.s And now speculators willing to gamble that Qtrax will complete the deals have raised the stock to 5.5 cents.

What's even more interesting is that the price [dynamic page, so won't be relevant by the end of the week] appears to have hit 9 cents at the end of trading on Friday - before the announcement - despite there being very few trades of BLLN shares; there was, however, a lot of activity in the market on the Monday.

[Thanks to Michael M for the link]
[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Capital of Culture Update: Liverpool pays up

A couple of days ago, an anguished Paul Clein, Lib Dem city councilor from Liverpool, wrote the Guardian to defend his team's record:

John Healey's claim that Liverpool city council tops the league of inefficient councils is blatantly partisan and contradicted by the evidence.

Here's some blatantly partisan evidence for you to consider. The doughty council tax payers of the city are having their pockets picked to find a quarter of a million to pay off Jason 'Beg, Steal or' Harborow, former head of the Liverpool Culture Company. Harborow fell out with council leader - we're using leader in an ironic sense here - Warren Bradley after the mismanagement of the Mathew Street Festival came to light earlier in the year.

It's not entirely clear if the quarter of a million quid will come from the £20m hole in the Capital of Culture finanaces, or if it will be added to the size of that hole.

Secret dancing

Secret Shine are going to do some djing (or, as they put it, "play[ing] records in a ‘Dave Lee Travis kind of way’", at Big Pink Cake at The Crown, Bristol, February 6th. It's three quid in.

The cake has a MySpace

Darkness at 3AM: First with the gossip

It's 8.30.

Still no new 3AM Column online.

New Kids dance of the seven reunion veils

We're already sick to death of the New Kids On The Block reunion, and it's not even been confirmed yet. Instead, the past three days of Danny Wood going 'it's not... it might... ooh, you never know' has been enough to remind us why we found them so annoying in the first place.

Presumably the uncertainty is because they can't decide if they'll use the now-more-inappropriate-than-ever New Kids On The Block brand, or their failed, later branding as NKOTB.

Gordon in the morning: Kylie to the rescue

Who can save Britney Spears now? Gordon Smart thinks he knows:

Kylie says she'll help Britney

Really? Is she going to offer a bolthole for her? Is she going to fly over and sort out her head?

Um... not quite:
Kylie said: “I wish someone would write a manual about fame because it’s not easy. I’m always loath to say that because there are a lot more difficulties out there that people deal with every day - but when fame is handed to you, it is unique.

“It’s not to the same extreme, but I can remember having a mini-meltdown myself - and unless you’ve got good people around to support you, you’ve got a problem.

“Who knows what is going on in her life? Britney isn’t that young any more. I think she will still come back but it’s like she’s taken an extended holiday.

“Whatever help she needs, she should reach out and get it.”

Aha - it's Kylie helping by saying "ooh, there's no guide book for the famous and, you know, Britney probably should ask someone for some sort of help."

Still, it's one of those mornings where Gordon does have a good point about something. No, really. Running a piece about the retooling of Leona Lewis' album for the US release - she's adding a track recorded with accident prone child-threat Akon - he quotes an "industry insider":
“Leona could be a massive hit in America but the album needs this cutting-edge revamp.”

Which prompts Gordon to ponder:
I reckon it’s a bit cheeky. Why should the Yanks get two extra songs when Brits voted for her to win X Factor?

Yes. He's got a point - there is an implication that the British will take any old shit, but you've got to actually make an interesting record for the US. Mind you, it is a duet with Akon, so it's not exactly going to be a brilliant track, is it?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blonde moments

Blonde Redhead have posted a slew of European dates:

9th April Aarhus, Denmark Voxhall
10 Copenhagen, Denmark Pumpehuset
11 Malmo, Sweden Debaser
13 Stockholm, Sweden Debaser Medis
14 Oslo, Norway Rockefeller
17 Paris, France Bataclan
18 Bourges, France Auditorium
19 Hasselt, Belgium Pukkelpop Indoor Festival
21 London Shepherds Bush Empire

This is the sort of thing they do: Water, live in 2002:

Universal, Sony BMG formalise cartel deal for Asia

We often rib the RIAA with the claim that it's a cartel - obviously, the big four were colluding to rig the market in the US a few years back; they were upbraided for it, but carried on.

Now, Sony-BMG and Universal are apparently proud of working as a cartel in Asia. Being pitched as some sort of agreement to "resolve a variety of issues regarding the sale of online music in Asia", the two large businesses are going to be setting a single, secret rate to cover online music:

The two companies have, for the first time, set a specific, undisclosed rate for digital services in Southeast Asian countries, including Hong Kong, China, India, Taiwan and more, though rates had previously been established in Japan and Korea. Among the digital services that are included in the deal are audio and video downloads, subscriptions services and mobile products including ringtones, full-track downloads and mobile video.

A sensible move towards making things simple - or an attempt to rig the market in plain view? Given how much of the market the majors control, is it right that they should be exercising this sort of muscle in so many markets?

Tindersticks rekindled

There's something wonderful in the Tindersticks having just one MySpace friend - and that's Tom, who nobody really likes. The site is hosting a stream of a track from the first-album-in-half-decade, Waiting For The Saw. That's due at the end of April.

EU court tells music industry: ISPs don't have to squeal on filesharers

While the music industry is gathered in the South of France, a cold wind blew in from the West: the EU supreme court ruled that there is not community-wide compulsion on ISPs to reveal personal data about alleged filesharers to assist copyright holders in civil cases:

"Community law does not require the member states, in order to ensure the effective protection of copyright, to lay down an obligation to disclose personal data in the context of civil proceedings," the court said in a statement.

Promusicae wanted names of Telefonica Internet clients who shared copyright material on the Web using the KaZaA file exchange software, so it could start civil proceedings against them.

The court said that if national governments wished to bring forward legislation, that was their affair, but it wasn't mandated at a European level.

Life imitates Rex Bob Lowenstein

Back when Simon Mayo ruled breakfasts on Radio One, one of his regular favourites was Rex Bob Lowenstein, a single by Mark Germino which mythologised the role of dj with an account of a presenter who reacted to being given a programmed playlist by locking the door, and driving the station into the ground.

Now, there's a real life Rex Bob, although as Paul Webster Feinstein burned KOOP's studios to the ground, forced them off air and caused a third of a million bucks worth of damage, it doesn't seem quite so heroic any more:

The report filed states that Feinstein confessed to making a copy of the station key and waited for staff to vacate the studios for the night before pouring gasoline over two control panels. The fire department's trained dog sniffed out the gasoline, alerting investigators to the possibility of arson.

Feinstein was, apparently, upset at changes made to his playlist for a late-night slot; he now faces up to twenty years inside.

Mags from A-Ha sells out new record

How has Magne Furuholmen managed to sell the entire run of his A Dot Of Black In The Blue Of Your Bliss? Hard work, creativity, shrewd marketing. Oh, and only pressing up 300 helped.

Even so, he pocketed 100 euros a copy, and they went within two days.

You can, however, download the tracks from MySpace; Magne plays Notting Hill Arts Club and The Albert Hall in May.

Britn€¥ $p£ar$

The charming world of the celebrity watcher: According to CNN, never mind the subprime collapse, if Britney sorts her head out, the economy is never going to recover.

Magazine newstand sales in the US increased 1% in the first half of 2007 - might not sound much, but since nobody is meant to be buying old media any more, a rise at all is quite something. And virtually the whole of the increase is down to the celeb rag titles:

"The increase is almost entirely attributable to the growth of the celebrity magazine," said John Harrington, who runs industry consulting agency Harrington Associates.

Any time a magazine can boost newsstand sales past its average, the revenue is booked nearly entirely as profit, Harrington said: "People prints 2.5 million copies and sells about an average of 1.5 million. If they have an issue that sells 2 million, the extra half million goes to the bottom line."

OK!, the sibling of our own OK, is especially excited at the prospects of making a few bob off the mental illness of a young woman:
"An editor's dream is to have a real-life soap opera unraveling in front of you, and Britney provides that every week," said Sarah Ivens, OK!'s U.S. editor. The magazine has a 10-person team in Los Angeles devoted to Spears coverage. "We're on constant Britney alert."

She wouldn't disclose the costs to the magazine, saying only that Spears has been "amazing" for OK!'s business. Publisher Tom Morrisy said Spears drives newsstand sales and helped the magazine's ad revenue more than double to $51 million in 2007. OK! expects to turn a profit in 2008, three years after breaking into the market.

Britney has been on the cover of OK! 54 times. It's published 103 issues so far.

Clearly, if all the attention pushes her over the edge, OK will be upset - but the three weeks of memorial issue sales will, doubtless, help.

UB40 split: now even less amicable

The departure of Ali Campbell from UB40 is being handled as smoothly as a Tory MP giving dropsy to his kids.

At first, you'll recall, the band issued a statement announcing Campbell had quit to pursue solo opportunities.

Then Campbell issued a statement denying he was quitting to go solo; he was happy to continue UB40 alongside his solo work, but was leaving because he didn't agree with the way the band was managemed.

Now, UB40 have issued another statement denying Campbell's denials:

[A] spokesman for UB40 said: "The band would like to clarify that they do not have artist management and that all decisions relating to UB40 as a band - both past and present in their 30-year career - have always been by a democratic process of all eight members."

This was a process "which Ali Campbell has actively participated in" as "a fully paid-up member", the spokesman said.

The spokesman added: "Ali made a very simple decision, he chose to pursue and put his solo career over and above continuing to work with UB40."

But Campbell never said anything about there being a separate manager - he said he had problems of management difficulties. UB40's response is akin to responding to someone accusing you of driving dangerously by saying "we don't have a chauffeur; we drive ourselves.

So, do we believe Campbell or UB40? The thing is they can't both be right, and you'd have to assume that, all other things being equal, a bloke would know if he was stepping down amicably, or flouncing out in disgust.

Wonderfully, they've still got a bunch of dates to get through together.

MIDEM 2008: Kennedy's endorsement

As part of The Register's coverage of MIDEM, John Kennedy of the IFPI was given a gentle going over by Andrew Orlowski.

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now, for Kennedy is upset by the perception of his industry:

On a daily basis we see people consuming more music than ever before, and yet the music industry is seen as parasites and idiots – all the worst words we can think of. So we need to turn the corner.

Oddly, the idea that perhaps stopping flouncing around suing people, behaving like you're entitled and calling for telephone companies to spy on their customers might lead to people starting to like the companies a little more hasn't occurred to Kennedy. Or if it has, he isn't saying so. Could it really be that people sit in the IFPI offices, reading bad headline after bad headline, and really not understanding why these multinational corporations are so loathed?

Kennedy's thinking is pretty - sorry, John, this might upset you, too - weak. He seems to base a lot of his policies on weak assumptions, and presumably then imposes these ideas on the IFPI as a whole. An example of this weak assumptive base:
Firstly people have loaded their iPods and music players with CDs – so they're going to back catalogues for the moment. Now they're thinking "well we need some new music".

Now, it's nice to see that - at long last - the music industry has abandoned one of its lies that people fill iPods with stolen music, but where is the evidence for people, once they've got their songs on their device, suddenly getting a desire for new music that wasn't there before? And, more crucially, if they do - and let's assume that they then steal music to whack onto the device - it might be frustrating, but there's no net loss to the music industry, as by Kenendy's logic, if they hadn't bought the mp3 player, they wouldn't be desiring the music anyway. The challenge should be in monetising the new relationship, rather than punishing. If the music industry had met this desire and found a way to work, what a happy world we would live in now. Instead, they've spent years trying to put a fence up in a world where everyone is equipped with wirecutters.

But John reckons he's right to go with trying to make ISPs police downloaders - and he's got the focus group evidence to prove it. (A focus group is where you invite a bunch of people in, tell them to say what they really feel, and watch as they try to work out what you want to hear, and then say it. Usually with biscuits):
We've put kids into focus groups, and we say to them: do you know what you're doing is wrong, and they say absolutely. Well why do you it then? They say, it's too easy. You've got to make it more difficult for us or you've got to make so there are consequences for us. We say, OK if you're in charge, what would you do? They say: well your lawsuits aren't bad, but none of our friends have been sued. We've heard you talk about disconnection – well, now you're getting scary for us, because none of us want to lose our internet connection. If you can deliver on disconnection then in fact there may be a solution – because there's a risk.

Really? Poor old John Kennedy. He's still struggling to keep up - if you switch off a broadband connection to a house, the kids will just look for a nearby open wi-fi network, or decamp to Starbucks and use their connection. Or the local library. They'll go to their mates houses, and wi-fi into their network. Or they'll simply switch to using their mobile account, and plug in a dongle from 3. And if 3 cuts them off, they'll swap to Vodaphone.

Kennedy, however, seems to think that 'connectivity' comes through one pipe, which can be switched off:
'm sure you've heard my story about my kids – there's a 19-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl. In my house. If the boy got them disconnected, his sisters would kill him. I started telling this story a year ago. Now it's the parents who would because the parents can't manage without the article. So the prospect of losing your interconnection is going to change behaviour – there's no doubt about it.

But is a telecoms company going to lose a customer simply because the IFPI claims that their kids might have been downloading? With all the money ISPs spend on customer recruitment? And since, as Kennedy admits, many people now can't "manage without the article" ('the article' suggesting he views connectivity as some sort of box, or a creature, perhaps), isn't there a chance that someone is going to claim that loss of a connection into the internet is akin to having other utilities - like gas, or water - removed, and thus probably illegal?

And if BT cuts off a house's connectivity, what's to stop them signing up with Sky the next day? Does the IFPI intend to maintain a blacklist? And will that be done on numbers - but what happens when family x discover they can't get broadband because family y, who used to live in their house were barred at the behest of a self-appointed trades organisation?

Or will it be names blacklisted? But what happens when Mr. Smith merely gets his partner Mr Jones to apply for a line in their name instead?

Clearly, the IFPI are keen to make ISPs police this because their members can't afford legal action and know its ineffective. And if Broadband was like a delivery of coal every week, it might be an effective measure. But over in the real world, it's never going to work.

Not that Kennedy lives in the real world. It turns out Kennedy is outraged not just the people steal songs, but that they don't steal enough of them when they do it:
You talk about people valuing music - I've noticed something recently. When you want one song from an artist, you download their whole catalogue on BitTorrent, it's there as one download. Then you get the song you want, and throw the rest away! You'd have to be a real fan to collect someone's life work once – but now people routinely throw away their life's work, as if you never had it. To me that's incredible. So isn't the "value" going down all the time you don't license music?

So... the message from the IFPI is keep all the stolen music, right?

Kennedy lives in a world where the album is sacred - he can't understand that people, when given a choice, don't want filler tracks, instrumental noodling, lame b-sides and poorly recorded live versions. He doesn't see that when people select all but one track and then delete them, they are valuing music - and they're saying that the tracks they delete have no value to them. This must be hard for a business which has made a good living for sixty years out of bundling up a mixture of pure and diamonds and making people buy it all, but surely he can see if people toss away stuff, it's because they don't want it.

Kenendy sees this a problem, but seems to think that, in time, the sixth-track-written-and-sung-by-the-bass-player will be loved again:
There's the bundling problem – where people pick one song from an album they like.

The ability to only buy what you want isn't a "problem", though, is it?

Suddenly, though. Kennedy decides, actually, it's a good thing and not a problem at all:
No, but we can't complain about unbundling. We complain not about technology but about the abuse of technology. What technology has done is give people the ability to take a single rather than an album. But we can't complain about that – that's the law of supply and demand.

I have four jukeboxes in my house, I've always loved singles. I consume almost all my music as singles then dip back into albums. We just have to find ways to make it more attractive.

The model that enables you to buy two tracks and then upgrade to the album and get credit for two tracks is a very good model. I think ten per cent of the album market in the US is now digital, that's a good sign. So the pressure comes back on the artist that you've got to deliver an opus of work that makes people to want it as a whole album.

Unbundling isn't anybody doing anything wrong, we have to accept it

Just now, though, you said it was terrible that people didn't want a complete package of work. Make your bloody mind up, man. Or at least wait to think through your positions before embarking on a pronouncement.

Kenendy admits that the more pressing challenge is getting people to pay anything, but still doesn't see that downloads are overpriced:
But the first step is to actually get people back into the habit of buying, and 99c or 79c [Euro] is not a problem for people once they don't have the choice of free.

But people would pay a fair price - really, as your own report said last week, John, free music is a rubbish way of getting downloads, it's effort and it's clunky. The problem is that your pricing propostion is equally unattractive. History shows people don't steal bread, except when inflation makes the loaves unaffordable: at the moment, 79p is an overprice loaf.

Not that Kennedy would have that:
if you give any of my kids a pound to go down the sweetshop they look at you as if you're mad. So 79p has to be a good deal. Then you have to scale up to what volumes people are going to buy.

This anecdote is quite telling - not only because Kennedy's kids would have to be the size of whaling boats if he really gave them more than a quid every time they popped down the sweetshops, but because it illustrates Kennedy's divorce from how the majority of people live. While he's sat sipping the finest on the IFPI tab in Cannes, he's picturing a world where families of five are able to easily spend five, six, ten quid on a little treat in the sweetshop. He has no idea. He doesn't understand his customers.

He doesn't understand the technology, either, as he makes his case for filtering:
Filtering can deal with encrypted material. When I started talking about filtering three years ago, it was difficult and cumbersome and not 100 per cent reliable. Now filtering is effective, it's really cheap and it works including dealing with encrypted streams.

He's got a filter than can unencrypt encrypted streams of data? Bloody hell, he should take that to the CIA, never mind to MIDEM. Perhaps he got it in a deal with a supercodedecoder ring. You'd have to use a lot of effort to break the encryption - and so you'd have to be smart about targeting your resources. So you'd have to be pretty certain you were looking at traffic from a file-sharer. And if you're that certain - why not use the old lawsuit trick?

Kennedy then talks about In Rainbows, and how terribly everyone behaved:
The Radiohead example is in some ways even more depressing. They come up with this wonderful, flexible model and people still go onto P2P and BitTorrent to download it. That's scary.

But if the album was made available on a 'pay what you want' basis, why is it scary that some people paid nothing for it by downloading it? If you've been told you can have something for free, what does it matter where you cash your voucher?

Kennedy also finds some time to flatter Guy Hands, the man whose withdrawal of subscriptions could send John tumbling into a world where a quid treat in a sweetshop becomes a very big deal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kennedy thinks Hands is a great man:
There are talented A&R people out there, a few, but too many people were given big salaries when they weren't that talented and didn't have that track record. So what Guy Hands is doing is absolutely right in pruning, and you need that expertise.

... just don't prune the cheque going to the IFPI, eh?

[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Nebraska seeks taxes on downloads

You don't often hear of the great state of Nebraska in the context of the entertainment industry - even although it's the only state named after a Bruce Springsteen album, but it's certainly punching above its weight at the moment.

Alarmed as CD, book and movie purchasers abandon the malls of Omaha and... other towns in Nebraska, the State Revenue collectors are lobbying to be allowed to slap sales tax on downloads.

Charmingly, the tax collectors believe the law is on their side - a precedent where an electronic mailing list was deemed to be equivalent to a paper one for tax purposes; the catch is that only companies with a "physical presence" in Nebraska would have to collect the money. So Apple, by virtue of its stores in the State, would have to levy a fiddly tax for Nebraskans buying from iTunes, whereas Amazon wouldn't.

Now, we're not tax advisors, but this sounds more like a recipe for technology companies fleeing from Nebraska rather than a shrewd way to raise extra tax revenue.

Imeem buys Anywhere for music everywhere

There have been services before which would allow you to store your music collection on the web to access anywhere you go - effectively, your own streaming library. Most have run aground on the copyright issue - although there's no moral reason why you shouldn't choose to keep your tracks on a server outside your home, the RIAA companies weren't happy and conjured images of one server, many users to frighten the pioneers out of business.

Now, though, with Imeem acquiring AnywhereFM, there's a chance of one which actually works. Imeem gets Anywhere's technology; Anywhere, meanwhile, is now part of a company which has already persuaded the big four labels to license their online music service.

Baby, it's cold outside

The Western Mail reports this morning that Catatonia is popular with foetuses:

Helen Rogers, head of the Royal College of Midwives, Wales, says the anecdotal evidence from pregnant women she has cared for over the years is overwhelming.

Time and again they have told her that the voice of the Welsh pop star works like a traditional nanny’s lullaby and that babies seem to turn towards avocado if it is offered to them in the months following birth.

She said, “Babies tend to like melodies, and lots of mums tell me that Cerys has a lovely mother-like female voice that seems to be soothing for babies developing in the womb, during labour and after they are born too."

So, there's an attraction in Cerys' voice for helpless, mewling types who lack the ability to communicate in anything other than screams and tantrums. That makes some sense, but it still doesn't explain what Matthews sees in Bannerman, though.

NME Awards 2008. You might have to look at the 'new band' category to tell the difference from 2007

Yes, brought to you by the NME and some sort of hairgel, the nominations are revealed. If Mitch was upset by Amy being listed as a potential villain, thank the lord the Mirror didn't tell him she was up for worst dressed, too.

Foo Fighters. Kings of Leon. Babyshambles. Arctic Monkeys. Muse. JO WHILEY. It all feels a bit dull. Here's the list in full:

Best British Band
Arctic Monkeys
The Cribs

Best International Band
Arcade Fire
Foo Fighters
The Killers
Kings Of Leon
My Chemical Romance

Best New Band
The Enemy
Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong
The Pigeon Detectives
The Wombats

Best Live Band
Arctic Monkeys
The Cribs
Kaiser Chiefs
My Chemical Romance

Best Solo Artist
Kate Nash
Jamie T
Jack Penate
Amy Winehouse
Patrick Wolf

Best Album
'Favourite Worst Nightmare' - Arctic Monkeys
'Shotters Nation' - Babyshambles
'We'll Live And Die In These Towns' – The Enemy
'Myths Of The Near Future' - Klaxons
'In Rainbows' – Radiohead

Best Track
'Fluorescent Adolescent' – Arctic Monkeys
'Flux' – Bloc Party
'Men's Needs' – The Cribs
'Lord Don't Slow Me Down' - Oasis
'Let's Dance To Joy Division' – The Wombats

Best Video
'Teddy Picker' – Arctic Monkeys
'Flux' – Bloc Party
'D.A.N.C.E.' - Justice
'Golden Skans' - Klaxons
'Teenagers' – My Chemical Romance

Best Music DVD
'Up The Shambles' – Babyshambles
'The Song Remains The Same' – Led Zeppelin
'Unplugged In New York' - Nirvana
'Lord Don’t Slow Me Down' - Oasis
'I Told You I Was Trouble' – Amy Winehouse

Best Live Event
Carling Weekend: Reading And Leeds Festival
Muse At Wembley Stadium
T In The Park
V Festival

Hero Of The Year
Matt Bellamy
Pete Doherty
Noel Fielding
Ryan Jarman
Thom Yorke

Villain Of The Year
Tony Blair
Johnny Borrell
Gordon Brown
George W Bush
Amy Winehouse

Best Dressed
Pete Doherty
Noel Fielding
Kate Nash
Alex Turner
Gerard Way

Worst Dressed
Johnny Borrell
Pete Doherty
Gerard Way
Amy Winehouse

Best Dancefloor Filler
'Flux' – Bloc Party
'Hummer' - Foals
'D.A.N.C.E.' - Justice
'Atlantis To Interzone' - Klaxons
'Let's Dance To Joy Division' – The Wombats

Best Album Artwork
'Favourite Worst Nightmare' – Arctic Monkeys
'The Good, The Bad And The Queen' – The Good, The Bad And The Queen
'Sawdust' – The Killers
'Because Of The Times' – Kings Of Leon
'Send Away The Tigers' – Manic Street Preachers

Best Radio Show
Russell Brand (Radio 2)
Zane Lowe (Radio 1)
Chris Moyles (Radio 1)
Colin Murray (Radio 1)
Jo Whiley (Radio 1)

Worst Album
'1973' - James Blunt
'The Trick To Life' – The Hoosiers
'Spirit' - Leona Lewis
'Life In Cartoon Motion' - Mika
'Blackout' - Britney Spears

Worst Band
30 Seconds To Mars
Fall Out Boy
The Hoosiers
My Chemical Romance
Panic At The Disco

Best TV Show
'The Mighty Boosh'
'Never Mind The Buzzcocks'
'The IT Crowd'

Best Film
'Hot Fuzz'
'Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End'
'The Simpsons Movie'

Sexiest Man
Howlin' Pelle Almqvist
Julian Barrett
Noel Fielding
Nicky Wire
Patrick Wolf

Sexiest Woman
Jenny Lewis
Kylie Minogue
Hayley Williams
Rachael Yamagata

Best Venue
Brixton Academy
Manchester Apollo
Glasgow Barrowlands
London Astoria
Wembley Stadium

Best Website

Best Band Blog
Foals (
Lilly Allen (
Lightspeed Champion (
Radiohead (
The Streets (

Best Music Blog
The Hype Machine (
The Modern Age (
Nothing But Green Lights (
Spinner (
Stereogum (

The most exciting thing about the nominations is probably the appearance of Noel Fielding. But how the hell did Wembley Stadium make it into the "best venue" shortlist? Really? That's what NME readers think of when they ask themselves "where would I want to see a gig?"

Darkness at 3AM: Updated

So, while we were showering, the 3AM Page was updated: it's not entirely helpful:





The Simple Life star


That's... informative. Especially the item "The Simple Life star".

Are they sure about this 'gossip gone toxic' strapline? I know it's meant to suggest a gossip column which has got no mercy, but it makes it sound like a tub of cheese spread that's been sat at the back of the fridge with the lid off.

The Winehouse story here is that, erm, NME have nominated her for villain of the year:
Mitch was livid when he heard about the nomination, just days after his daughter was admitted to rehab.

He told us: "That's stupid. There are more important things to be worrying about."

... apparently worrying about it. But isn't the idea to stop Winehouse looking cool for doing drucks, and wouldn't booing be better than cheering under those circumstances?

The new 3AMies also chew away at the Cole -Tweedy story, offering little more than a giggle at Ashley's cock:
The stunning singer told the midget (in all departments, apparently) that he has to...

The 3AM Girls then detail a supposed "five point plan" that Ashley has to stick to if he wants to remain in OK! ma... sorry, in a relationship with Cheryl. Oddly, "not fucking the sort of woman who will sell the story to the papers" isn't one of them.

And who has been "clocked", then?
Arctic Monkeys proving they've gone up in the world by swapping Sheffield Travel Lodge for The Dorchester

But why would they have stayed at the Travelodge in their home town?

Darkness at 3AM: Um...

After yesterday's excitement of the new, relaunched 3AM Column... the Daly Mirror hasn't updated their website yet.


Away from 3AM, the Mirror is reporting "exclusively" that Michael Jackson is recording a remake of Thriller. Although a large number of other media outlets are reporting the same thing, and, of course, news of the remake has been circulating since Will I Am was yakking on about it at the start of the year. That sort of exclusive, then.

Gordon in the morning: A man of his word

Having pledged to 6Music listeners that Amy Winehouse would "get some space now" to fight her problems, Gordon's column this morning once again confirms it's the sort of space where her every move will be reported. This morning, Bizarre details how Winehouse is supposedly watching Monroe films:

The singer’s love of the tragic 1950s icon - who died of a sleeping pills overdose aged 36 - is the only thing making her smile in rehab.

Mitch Winehouse happily details what's happening to his daughter; however, the detail seems to contradict Smart and Dudman's interviews with the BBC justifying running the crack pictures last week as it made Amy agree to rehab:
“She’s compliant and follows everything they tell her ”

But Amy faces being SECTIONED if she leaves [....] Mitch was considering it before we filmed her binge.

So, was it really a case that she picked up The Sun and thought "uh-oh" - or did she enter rehab "willingly" because she was going to be marched there anyway?

Virginia Wheeler and Pete Samson - two writers - handle the big 'Amy watches film' story, while Gordon himself finally strings some words together on the already-mined-out Ashley Cole story, with someone who he may or may not have had sex with claiming that he told her he didn't need a condom because Chelsea had told him he was clean. Although she says she was drunk at the time, although not so drunk she was unable to decide to "take a gamble".

After all that, Gordon needs some relaxation, and it comes in the form of a tshirt for skin cancer awareness featuring a naked Victoria Beckham. Gordon is quite excited:
I think I might buy one for a closer inspection.

We don't want to put the image in your head, but we're picturing him using it like a page three calendar and a sports sock all in one.

Monday, January 28, 2008

MIDEM 2008: U2 manager bangs "hold the ISPs responsible" line

Speaking at MIDEM, Paul McGuinness has pushed the music industry line of the moment - having failed to sue the public into compliance, they'll now try and shake cash out the ISPs instead:

"A series of warnings to a file sharer would culminate in disconnection would address the problem."

"If ISPs do not cooperate voluntarily, there will need to be legislation to force them to cooperate - you cannot compete with illegal files for free on P2P networks."

"They've been making excuses that such things have not been possible for a very long time - we're sick of it - we're not dealing with honest people here."

Let's just leave aside the interesting concept of "forcing" people to "co-operate" and wonder if the question is not so much if it's possible for ISPs to watch everything going through their cables (and we're not sure it is, and if it is, how are they to tell the difference between legitimate files, out-of-copyright material, samples, paid-for, legal filesharing and 'wrong' files?) and ask, once again, if it's desirable, on any level, to enforce responsibility for traffic onto the ISP. It's rather a dangerous step, removing the telecom companies' defence of being dumb pipes, while making it mandatory for them to spy on their customer's activities.

Clearly, Bono's camp is more interested in grubbing a few extra Euros than the nasty implications of opening up that can of worms - if ISPs "must" ensure customers don't file share, why should they not also be compelled to ensure their customers don't indulge in intemperate behaviour? Or, perhaps down the line, campaign against the government of the day?
He accused the "hippies" and "deadheads" who built technology companies of having, "for far too long, had a completely free ride on clients' content" and having "built a multibillion dollar industry on the back of our content without paying for it". "We all know kids don't pay $25 a month for broadband just to share their photos and do homework," he said.

Apart from wondering exactly how many people of an age where they have to do homework would actually be paying the phonebill in the first place, this speaks much of the solipsism of the music industry. Just as how a few years ago, the RIAA couldn't conceive of a use for blank CDs other than the duplication of their member's products, McGuinness believes that everybody is so enamoured of bloody U2 songs that their sole reason for going online is to steal their songs. It doesn't occur to him for a moment that a lot of kids are actually using their broadband connection to push content they've made out, rather than suck stuff other people have made down; that they live online, sharing and meeting and tweaking and - sometimes, yes, sneaking the odd track they haven't paid for.

The music industry has never understood the internet; never understood the motivation of people who are online, the people who should be their customers. To hear a supposedly intelligent man argue that people with broadband connections must be indulging in largescale copyright theft because he simply can't imagine anything else they could be doing would be funny, if he and his chums weren't so close to an equally clueless political class.

[Part of Midem 2008]

MIDEM 2008: SpiralFrog battles on

There must be something in the air in France at the moment - a few days after that bloke kept throwing money down the corporate toilet at Societe Generale, up at MIDEM pitches SpiralFrog, to throw some more of their good money after bad. Like Jack Duckworth at the bookies, they're convinced that this is the time they're going to win big.

Vice President Matthew Stern tells PaidContent they're having good times:

SpiralFrog has added another 30,000 registered members since Jan. 24, when it announced it had reached 400,000. It’s grown from 800,000 tracks at its September 17 launch to 1,030,000 tracks, “so our growth ingestion has been very positive ... we’re adding thousands of tracks a week ... this month, we’re on track for our target of 1.2 million.”

If the figures for sign-up are correct, that's quite impressive. Less impressive, though, is how much use those members get out of the service:
He said the service is averaging about 10 minutes engagement per user.

Ten minutes? That suggests that people are signing up, trying out... and then heading off. Who listens to music for ten minutes? A music service which manages to hold attention for less time than most men spend picking the dirt out from between their toes of a morning doesn't sound like it's that compelling - especially when it's hoping to sell advertising to fund itself.

[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Yo! MTV rapped for unfair competition

MTV's Freeview channel, TMF, has received a ticking-off for running a competition onscreen which promised a prize of £25 - although winners on the £1 a call line discovered they'd only be entered into a draw to win £25.

MTV's defence? That they told entrants about the rules.

Unfortunately, they only did so by scrolling text directing people to look at online terms and conditions. Not good enough, says Ofcom, agreeing with the complainant and all the demands of basic justice:

The caption “for full t’s & c’s visit ”, was one of six captions screened in sequence, while the captions, “win £25” and “enter the pin to win” were on screen permanently during the competitions. Ofcom notes that the prize draw element of the competition was clearly stated in the terms and conditions on MTV’s website. Nevertheless, Rule 2.11 requires that, “…prizes should be described accurately and rules should be clear and appropriately made known.” The permanent captions appeared to us to tell viewers that they would win £25 if they solved the four digit code. We consider it was inadequate to make the prize draw element of the competition clear on the internet only – the rule had not been “appropriately made known.” As the prize draw element of the competition was not clear to viewers, the prize – a chance to win £25 – had not been described accurately.

We're also far from convinced that the page that hosts the terms and conditions - where silver grey text sits on a deep red background is entirely easy to read, too.

Bucked trends: Opening a record shop

Proving that there aren't, actually, any hard-and-fast rules about selling music in 2007, a record store has just celebrated its first birthday. Phonopolis, in Montreal, is not only a shop making a success of selling physical product - but 70% of its sales are on vinyl. It's probably about 1990 since there's been a new shop that does that anywhere in the world.

X marks the spots

They're probably not going to make it to the UK, but X have announced an American anniversary tour:

19 - Chicago, Ill. @ Metro/Smart Bar
21 - Madison, Wis. @ Barrymore Theatre
22 - Minneapolis, Minn. @ The Cabooze
25 - Denver, Colo. @ Bluebird Theater
26 - Aspen, Colo. @ Belly Up
28 - Boise, Idaho @ Big Easy Concert House
29 - Portland, Ore. @ McMenamins Crystal Ballroom
30-31 - Seattle, Wash. @ Showbox

9 - Solana Beach, Calif. @ Belly Up
10 - Los Angeles, Calif. @ Henry Fonda Theatre

This isn't, it should be stressed, like the Sex Pistols reunions.

As they won't come to us, we'll go to them: This is Your Phone's Off The Hook, But You're Not:

Bobby Brown: there's only fake reality left

Bobby Brown goes country and western? Really?

Why would he do that?

He tells MTV he wanted the challenge:

"My dad was a big country-music fan, but I felt it was something I could conquer," said Brown, who can tell you stories about hanging out in Nashville "every other weekend." "I've been through R&B and rap, television, movies. It just brings it all together, country music."

Except, of course, this is less to do with a desire to make a country album, and everything to do with having to accept any humiliating job offer that comes his way. In short, some godforsaken reality country music show. Genre swap, perhaps:
He's one of seven celebrities to hook up with Big & Rich's John Rich for the Country Music Television reality show "Gone Country." The contestants, including Sisqo, Twisted Sister's Dee Snider and Julio Iglesias Jr., are competing to be the next big country star.

There's apparently one of the Brady Bunch in there, too. But then there probably would have to be, wouldn't there?

Still, the attention gives Brown a chance to talk about his recent heart attack:
"I did not have a heart attack. No. I went to the hospital, they pushed my stomach, I farted, then they sent me home."

You'd have to wonder at a man who is now so damaged he requires medical intervention to part his sphincter, wouldn't you?

MIDEM 2008: The other side of the Trax

So, what happened to QTrax, then?

Someone's posted a link in the comments to one of our earlier stories to an unofficial website which is linking through to an .exe which it claims is the official download of the service - but, frankly, you'd have to be so trusting to even try such a link as to be incapable of functioning in the real world.

The official site, meanwhile, is still promising the download will go live at midnight last night, New York time, while the media is catching on. The Times reports the company being in a "humiliating climbdown":

Questioned by The Times in Cannes today, Alan Klepfisz, Qtrax's flamboyant chief executive, insisted that he had not misled the industry or music fans.

"We are not idiots," he said."We wouldn’t have launched the service in front of the whole music industry unless we had secured its backing. We feel we have been unfairly crucified because a competitor tried to damage us. Everyone is very upset."

But has QTrax been lying about having the majors onboard? Opinion is split: the labels deny they've signed anything; QTrax claims they have.

"We do have industry agreements including the major labels. Even today we are working on more deals," Mr Klepfisz said. He added that although "ink hadn't dried" on some of the deals, Qtrax still planned to deliver on its promises "within months."

So, last night they were launching with all four majors; now, it turns out, there might be some, um, negotiations still to take place.

The funny thing is, this isn't the first time QTrax has announced it's done deals with the big four. Back in June 2007, the New York Post was being told by the company a very similar story:
With a full complement of songs from the major labels as well as the esoteric live recordings and personal tracks stemming from users' own collections, Klepfisz estimates Qtrax will have access to between 20 million and 30 million copyrighted songs at launch in October.
That Qtrax has the support of the four major record labels - EMI, SonyBMG, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group - and all of their respective publishing divisions underscores the industry's increasing realization that peer-to-peer services can't be sued out of existence and instead should be embraced as a potentially lucrative new source of revenue.

So, half a year ago they were claiming to have all the big labels on board. That ink's taking a bloody long time to dry, isn't it?

They'd also been promising a September launch, too. Round about the time they took on SpiralFrog executives, last April.

[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Is that it?

If you've ever wondered about the cover of the Strokes Is This It - and apparently it's "controversial" - Goldenfiddle's posted a Vimeo feature with a woman who was the then girlfriend of photographer Colin Lane, talking about how the shot came about:

Yes, it does stop after a minute and give way to a Strokes song playing over a black screen. And, yes, far from revealing who the woman was, she still remains an unknown person. I suppose having a face is a step on from just being a bit of a body, but it's still all a bit reductive.

Doherty solo gig announced; axed

Pete Doherty's living up to the stereotype: today, in fairly short measure, a solo gig at the Reading Fez was announced, and then cancelled. Unforeseen circumstances, apparently.

Older Kids, same block?

Worrying ruminations on the Pop Candy website: is the revamped NKOTB website a pilot fish for a New Kids reunion?

MIDEM 2008: A new way of doing things

After digital has done making old-style labels look untenable, there's going to be a new project. It's the collection agencies who should start to shuffle uncomfortably in their seats. In an age when it's easier than ever to track sales and plays and who's sold what to whom, is there any point in paying agencies to go round collecting money from broadcasters and shops to pass on, eventually, to artists and labels?

That's the thinking behind RoyaltyShare, a company who are attracting a lot of attention down in the South of France with the simple-but-screamingly-obvious propostion: wouldn't it make more sense, and cost less, for the downloads warehouse services to process the royalties at the same time?

They've already got Beggars onboard. If I worked for MCPS, PRS or PPL, I'd be spending tomorrow thinking about how collection agencies can have a future. This afternoon, though, I'd be tidying my CV.

MIDEM 2008: Amazon say remember us?

Although Amazon haven't bothered to send anyone to MIDEM, they've taken the opportunity of the event to announce plans to roll out their DRM free MP3 store internationally.

Or, rather, if not actually announce plans, to mention that it might happen, and just about loud enough to try and take the shine off some other announcements:

"We have received thousands of emails from Amazon customers around the world asking us when we will make Amazon MP3 available outside of the US," VP of digital music, Bill Carr, said.

"We are excited to tell those customers today that Amazon MP3 is going international this year."

Of course, "going international this year" might mean a 100-territory roll out before Valentines Day, or a Polish store sometime late December. The lack of any real information in the announcement lends itself to the suggestion the latter might be more likely.

Ironically, of course, the main effect of Amazon's announcement was to take attention away from the QTrax offering - which worked against Amazon's interests, leaving the headlines hanging without much overview of the detail. Downloads still not working, by the way.

Winehouse fallout: Gordon takes to the air

A flurry of activity on the radio as The Sun attempts to justify its coverage of the Amy Winehouse stories.

First up was managing editor, the splendidly named Graham Dudman, who ventured onto Five Live to explain how it was all for the best. (A large chunk of the interview can be heard on the Guardian's MediaTalk podcast). Dudman explained how the paper ran the film as some sort of social service - in the hope that the police or, mysteriously, "social workers" would get involved to help her as a result.

Momentarily wrong-footed by a question from Sheila Fogarty, Dudman seemed to suggest the Sun might donate any profits from the issue running the footage of Amy doing crack to help other drug addicts. We'll believe that when we see Rebekah Wade handing over an enormous cheque.

Meanwhile, Gordon Smart popped up on 6Music's The Music Week to defend the story. He kept repeating that it was a great exclusive - although not so great he though to mention Nick Parker, whose byline graced the story in the first place. Smart suggested that, since Amy went into rehab straight after the Sun ran the story, the paper had done a good thing by providing this last, crucial piece of evidence that gave Amy a chance to wake up to what she was doing. It made her admit she was a drug addict, and that she needed help.

However, even Gordon's own tale of events after the pictures appeared - which saw Winehouse pulled into Universal's offices, confronted with a bunch of negative press cuttings (that one guy had spent two days pulling together) and given the "choice" to admit she was hooked - makes it clear that far from being a moment where Amy opened her eyes, it was just the point where her paymasters lost their patience. Because if the Sun's video had made Amy decide to seek help, why would she have needed to spend time at a record company office block looking through a dossier?

The video wasn't a cold, hard dose of reality; it was merely something else for Universal to bounce her into rehab with.

Challenged that some 6Music listeners felt uncomfortable with the paper running shots from the film, and the invasion of privacy involved, Gordon rummaged around for an excuse. Aha! "Amy would take drugs regardless of if there was a photographer chasing her or not" explained Smart. So she didn't care if she was seen, we're meant to conclude, and from this there was no invasion of her privacy because she was behaving as would have in public.

Besides being a weak argument from a logical point of view, it's bollocks anyway - if Amy was always taking drugs when there were photographers around, where are all the photos, then? Clearly, she attempted to keep at least the consumption of drugs private.

Gordon also offered the defence that she went into rehab and thus, the invasion of her privacy was justifiable as "she needed the jolt". And then he tried to argue, again, that Winehouse held some sort of public office when meant the paper was justified in revealing what she got up to behind closed doors - "drugs" Gordon revealed "aren't glamorous; [Amy is] a serious role model [with] a position of responsiblity."

But if the idea is to try and stop kids thinking that doing drugs is cool, then why has Smart (and the rest of the media) run page after page on her drug abuse? Since Amy doesn't publicise her drug use, the only way the impressionable kids are going to know that Winehouse does drugs is because they've read it in columns like Gordon's. If they don't want kids to grow up thinking fame and snort and blow and cash go together like an after-hours party for Man United players, why keep banging on about it? And isn't it a bit hypocritical for Smart - who glories in over-indulgence, awarding a prize for "Caner of the Year" - to suddenly start worrying about role models and bad influences?

Some gentle probing about the source of the video gave Gordon a chance to stress how much he cares again: the tape reminded us how Amy is surrounded by "parasites... characters trying to make money out of her." The same parasites who, presumably, The Sun had paid money to for the footage in the first place. If there wasn't a market, there wouldn't be any parasites, would there, Gordon?

Most laughably of all, Smart promised that - since Amy is being good - her rehab will be "handled delicately". Having had photographer pursue her to the door of the clinic, that seemed unlikely; given that Smart is running a piece on Winehouse 's treatment this morning, we suspect he knew he was lying even as he told 6Music that "she'll get some space now" yesterday lunchtime.

[Thanks to Steve H]

MIDEM 2008: QTrax misses launch

QTrax - the 'legal' peer-to-peer service - is starting to fall apart already: it missed the midnight in New York launch (although, if you use a Mac, it's asking you to wait until March 18th anyway); more worryingly, QTrax's claims to have all the majors onboard has been denied by Warners, EMI and Universal. Sony BMG haven't said they've not given permission; but they've not yet confirmed they have, either.

PaidContent's vedict, looking at the expensive marketing push in Midem and the short-fall in actual service? This is SpiralFrog all over again.

Darkness at 3AM

The Mirror has been very excited about this morning's relaunch of the 3AM Column, headed up by Danielle Lawler, who had lasted about a week in Gordon Smart's 'cabinet' over at The Sun and Clemmie Moodie (whose name sounds like an exercise set by a speech therapist). It was trailed as a first taste of what the new, modern, redesigned Mirror is going to feel like, but it doesn't (online at least) have very much of a different feel. And the content? As far as you can judge, it's same old same old.

Although it is difficult to tell for sure, as today's column is all about the new 3AM girls, making the same mistake Gordon did when he took over: assuming readers give half a honk about the people who filter this stuff.

So, we discover that Danielle's first album was Kick by INXS:

Kick by INXS. At least it wasn't Jason Donovan!

while Clementine Tangerine's was, inevitably, Jason Donovan.

Naturally, a bunch of PR staff have ghostwritten welcome messages from their charges - but even then, it's quite a poor selection: Kelly Osbourne, Leon Jackson, Leona Lewis, Ant and Dec and Simon Cowell. Even if you can get over the wonder that all the well-wishes have come from people connected with Cowell's Saturday night talent shows, you'd have to say that this is a bit weak. No Madonna, not even a Daniel Craig? Instead, they're relaunching with warm words from Leon Jackson, a man who couldn't even remember his own name if 'who won the X Factor in 2007' came up on the pub quiz machine.

Even the wicked whispers are about them:
Which showbiz columnist kissed a very un-single Hollywood actor in a trendy Portuguese nightclub? The love-rat didn't say he was taken...

Unless that was Gordon. It couldn't have been Gordon, could it?

Gordon in the morning: Business as usual

You'd have thought with the new 3AM column launching this morning, Gordon would have pulled out the stops for Bizarre this morning.


The lead story is Kelly Rowland wore a basque. Or, as Gordon put it:

The former DESTINY’S CHILD star has covered up her assets for too long.

So it was great to see her strutting her stuff in this basque and sexy fishnets at London Astoria’s G-A-Y night on Saturday.

Gordon takes the opportunity to have the first of, what we fear might be many, unsubtle jives at Adele for not conforming to his idea of what's sexy:
She’s obviously been taking notice of the chart battle between ADELE and BASSHUNTER and realised it’s not just good vocals that get you ahead in the music world.

You'd have thought that even Gordon might have thought his story that Amy Winehouse is getting better would have been of a higher priority - although since she's only been in rehab for a couple of days, it seems unlikely that she's in a position yet where the headline ("Amy has cracked it") is anything other than over-optimistic. The story is hung on claims by a "close family friend" but, we suspect, the real meat of the tale is the large chunk in which yesterday's News of the World 'interview' with Blake is torn to pieces:
The family friend also slammed Amy’s jailed husband BLAKE FIELDER-CIVIL for saying he fears her habits could kill her within three months.

Blake is in Pentonville Prison in London awaiting trial over trial-fixing allegations and GBH.

The friend went on: “That is a complete joke. Before Amy met Blake she never took any Class A drugs.

“It is him who started her off on crack and heroin.

“She has gone into rehab so she lives to see her thirties, forties and fifties.

“It would destroy her to read his comments."

Ah, the Monday Sun - or "don't believe anything our sister says".

And now the Sun trashes the NOTW...

Poor Cheryl Cole. The question of whether Ashley has done anything - and who with - has now ceased to be important; now, the story is all about sister papers scrapping in public.

You'll recall that yesterday's News of the World had offered Cheryl the chance to tell the world that Ashley can't hold an erection while he's drunk, to counter The Sun's claims that he'd had sex with a woman who was not in Girls Aloud.

This morning, The Sun counters that Cole's "people" offered to pay for an abortion for Aimee Walton. Cole hadn't worn a condom because, he's supposed to have said that he didn't "do that shit".

Abortions; refusal to wear condoms; and - it turns out - three separate shags. It's surprising how much colourful detail Walton had forgotten to mention the first time she sold her story to The Sun.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

MIDEM 2008: YouTube ask 'who should we make the cheque out to?'

In the MidemNet warm-ups for Midem proper, one of YouTube's founders Chad Hurley has been talking about the frustrations of trying to be legitimate worldwide. One of the problems is the patchwork licensing covering each country - he had a cautious welcome for recent EU plans to try and create a single licensing regime from the Baltic nations west - but a more interesting problem is caused by - yes - the big music companies:

. "Beyond streamlining the process, what we really need is the data, is to understand what they need to be paid, because (collectors) are not telling us," he told the crowd. "With the labels, they've invested in the infrastructure to automate that process. To do to a deal and not to understand what or who to pay? I think we need a solution there to really be able to make these deals move forward, because we want to do deals."

Now, we're not conspiracy minded here, but if we were... we'd be wondering if the reluctance to share that data might be for fear that future licensing deals between creators and YouTube could then proceed without the need for a label to perform any middlemen functions.

[Part of MIDEM 2008]

The Ride weekend: Today

As we approach the end of our weekend exploring the musical delights of Ride, the lead track of the Today Forever ep:

[Part of the Ride weekend]

MIDEM 2008: Labels embrace peer-to-peer technology

Yet more confused positions from the big labels emerges as QTrax is announced at MIDEM.

Having spent years insisting that giving away music for nothing teaches that music is valueless, and thus not worth paying for, the labels eventually added the rider 'except, of course, if there's advertising being sold and we get a share - then, magically, the idea of giving music away doesn't teach the negative message', now the labels are, um, throwing their weight behind file-sharing.

Yes, in the same week that the IFPI issued a report which suggested that filesharing was difficult, unpopular and offered a poor range of music choices, comes the announcement of QTrax. QTrax is a free, peer-to-peer service which will also be advertising supported - and it's got the labels on board. Because they are having their mouths shoved full with QTrax's gold, and because Microsoft's DRM is going to make the tracks virtually unusable, the majors are happy to give the nod to the service.

It's nice to see the record companies finally accepting that they're not going to wipe filesharing off the internet and trying to find a way to work with it; it's just unfortunate that they've missed the factors which have made illegal file-sharing such a success. And it's going to be fun to watch the RIAA trying to vilfy filesharing, except for the bits its members have financial interests in.

Atomic Kitten's guide to downloading

So, the big push to grab "Liverpool's first number one of 2007" - part of the Capital of Culture celebrations is on.

It's not really clear that Atomic Kitten were the best choice for the job, as it does rather remind people that - despite Liverpool's former strong record at turning out chart hits - the city hasn't topped the charts since Atomic Kitten did back in 2002. It's not quite the longest drought - there was a seven year gap between Sonia and Three Lions - but making a huge fuss about being the home of number ones when you've not managed a big one for over half a decade seems a bit of a hostage to fortune.

The omens for the Kitten's cover of Anyone Had A Heart breaking the dry spell aren't great, either. The Liverpool Echo reveals:

Their aim is to get Liverpool’s first number one of 2008 and raise £1m for Merseyside charities.

But, it is only available as a download, which means you will need a computer with internet access to get your hands on a copy.

So, nobody much interested in releasing it as a physical single, eh?

Aware that these new-fangled downloads are confusing to a lot of people (apparently), they decide to show that anyone can do it. Since the rules on employing three year-old kids are difficult, they've got one of the Kitten to explain how simple it can be:
Liz McClarnon showed just how easy it is.

She said: “I’m a big fan of downloading. I get everything on the internet these days. Plus, it’s loads cheaper, so rather than paying two or three pounds for a single, you only pay 79p.

Although, of course, a single has more tracks on, and you're getting a physical article as well. So it's not "loads cheaper" - actually, for what you get, it's more expensive.

Oh, and the official site hosting the download is charging 99p.

Adele beat up Gareth Gates fans

We're usually pretty dismissive of the Sunday Mirror's Showbiz with Zoe column, but we have to applaud her this week for the glimpse into life at the Brits school.

She does describe it as "the trendy Brits school", which is both a really archaic word (why not go the whole hog and call it 'groovy'?) and wrong, anyway, as it's a kind of vacuum-packed stage school nightmare, which has never been the in thing. Unless you have fantasies which revolve around The Swish Of The Curtain. And if you do, that's wrong.

Still, Adele - a recent graduate, of course - reveals that this supposed cauldron of talent, the place where the next generation of British music drones are trained up, were so in thrall to Simon Cowell, the playground fights were over Will Young:

"Will Young was my first proper love. I was obsessed.

"The Gareth Gates fans were horrible to me and I wasn't having any of it.

"We had a fight and I was called into the head teacher's office and sent home. It was serious.

"It was so embarrassing when I met Will. I've loved him since I was 14, and the first thing that came out my mouth was, 'I voted for you 5,000 times!"

Zoe is proud to be talking to Adele:
I had the first interview with the rising star, who is being given the Critics' Choice statue at the Brit Awards next month.

First interview. Quite a scoop - although you have to ignore the Channel 4. And the one with Orange Music. Oh, and Time Out and Simon Mayo. And This Is Fake DIY, The Observer, Virgin Radio and BBC News Online. But if you ignore all of those, it's a hell of a scoop.