Saturday, January 19, 2008

Morrissey treats the French

Last night, Morrissey went to Strasbourg, and delighted the French with some new songs - one, with the Nick Cave-esque title Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed, has appeared in a snatch on the YouTube.

Martin, camera have bitchfight

It's only a few days since Gwyneth Paltrow revealed her love of gossip magazines and the gossip they shared. It always seemed like a hostage to fortune, and - having spent some time in hospital - it seems the Martin family's amused tolerance of the lower-shelf producers has run out.

Indeed, Chris has indulged in a spot of decidedly non-pacifist photographer bashing:

The photographer claims that Martin attempted to steal his camera, but was forced to give it back after being wrestled to the ground.

It's a bit rubbish to attack the photographers you court at other times anyway; but if you're going to do it, at least make sure you can beat the sods. There's nothing more humiliating than not only not stealing one person's photos, but then being photographed being beaten up by the paparazzo.

Debbie Gibson leads the new Electric Youth

Emboldened by her position as Cowell-like judge on an online talent show, Debbie - now Deborah, if you please - Gibson has established a camp for young people. The Electric Youth camp, of course.

Gibson believes her career means she's, like, Hannah Montana 1.0:

"I was like the Miley Cyrus of my generation and I have a lot of experience and knowledge to offer today's aspiring performers," says Deborah Gibson. "Working with young talent and helping cultivate their skills is extremely rewarding."

We're not entirely sure we'd choose Debbie - sorry, Deborah - Gibson - to guide our kid's career, as she drove into the ground quite quickly and wound up doing, well, this sort of thing:

Of course, when the Debbie Gibson pictures appeared in Playboy, they weren't quite so coy about her being nude.

Hot Chip: Cheap as chips

In a give-us-your-details-get-an-mp3 trade off, EMI are offering a free Hot Chip track for download.

Onesidezero, Adema, Re:Ignition eurotour pulled

The European tour featuring Onesidezero, Adema, Re:Ignition has been put on hold, according to a Onesidezero statement:

"Things like this happen and it sucks! Of course we're all bummed out, but Tiefdruck Musik, our German label, our manager, and Onesidezero have worked really hard to make this happen," commented drummer Rob Basile. "We're not looking at this as a complete cancellation, but an opportunity for all bands to regroup and reconvene at a later date. We're still hyped to get there!"

"While Adema, Onesidezero, and Re:Ignition will not be fulfilling the February and March '08 dates scheduled in Europe, we have intentions to revisit these tour plans sometime in the near future," added Onesidezero manager Shawna Morey. "Tiefdruck-Musik, Onesidezero's European label, has been very supportive of all artists involved, and we're looking forward to a long lasting relationship and all overseas touring opportunities to come."

'Head out on tour

Portishead have posted a new slew of European tour dates; sales start on Wednesday on the Portishead website before going on general release a couple of days later:

Wednesday 26 March Oporto Coliseum
Thursday 27 Lisbon Coliseum
Sunday 30 Milan Alcatraz
Monday 31 Florence Sashall
Wednesday 9 April Manchester Apollo
Thursday 10 London Hammersmith Apollo
Saturday 11 Edinburgh Corn Exchange
Sunday 13 Wolverhampton Civic
Monday 5 May Paris Zenith

Present, Albini hook up again

Although there was some Albini work on Cinerama record, there's something especially exciting about the news that the next Wedding Present record is going to be produced by Steve Albini.

The last Albini-produced Weddoes album was Seamonsters, back in - no, really, 1991. No word yet on a release date, but we'll squeal like giddy kittens when we find out.

Gordon in the morning: Oh, alright, afternoon, then

Gordon's byline doesn't appear on the coverage of Blake Fielder Civil's day in court yesterday, but he's clearly cast his eyes over the report:

She then flew into full Peggy Mitchell mode and screamed: “I love you handsome, gorgeous one.”

Blake mouthed back: “Alright baby?”

Flaming Nora. This pair make the BBC soap look like bleeding Shakespeare.

Isn't 'flaming Nora' more Corrie than EastEnders? And "bleeding Shakespeare"? Really?

In fact: what does that even mean? That the real-life events in court yesterday were more poorly scripted than a soap opera?

Also today, there's another picture of Nicola Roberts. You'll recall Gordon calling her a dog earlier in the week:
Earlier this week I showed you a shot of Nicola with no make-up on as she took delivery of a wardrobe at her home. But scrubbed up here, she looks a totally different woman.

Goodness. Apparently people look more presentable when turning up at a launch of their make-up range than they do when they get out of bed to answer the front door. Who'd have thought it, eh?

Gordon also offers a picture of Kate Lawler, Michelle Heaton and someone else in their pants. The idea, apparently, is to try and sell pants, but Gordon apparently finds it near-fatal:
They shouldn’t find it hard to get a date on February 14 – as they’re already giving fellas everywhere a heart attack.

Goodness. That's terrible. Heart attacks, you say?

Embed and breakfast man: The Pooh Sticks weekend

Yes, it's a weekend with the Pooh Sticks. First, here's The World Is Turning On:

The rest of the videos will... no, they won't. That's it, unfortunately.

So, how to get to Hue Pooh Stick?

You can still get the records:

Formula One Generation

Million Seller

There's also a fansite, hosted on Tripod (so set your pop-ups to zero).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Johnny Borrell: The Kemp Brothers of our age

How interesting to hear that Johnny Borrell of Not Just Johnny Borrell There's Razorlights As Well is heading off to sequestrate himself writing the new album. Presumably the rest of the equally-important band members will join in by speakerphone, then?

En route, Borrell found the time to turn out for Oban's local football team. It surely can only be a matter of time before Melchester Rovers puts in a call?

Geldof inspects Kent; Kent is found wanting

Seemingly having decided that Africa is a bit big for one man to sort out, Bob Geldof has instead picked Kent to save. He's been writing letters to the local paper about:

"It's a mad mystery - the battle of the ugliness of (Kent seaside town) Margate against the charm of its beaches. Kent is a bit scruffy and worn at the edges and some of its ugliness is inexcusable."

The county of Kent resorted by pretending to have trouble hearing, saying "what was that? Bob Geldof accused me of being 'a bit scruffy and worn at the edges'? Bob Geldof?"

A more measured response came from Andy Somers, president of a local college:
"This is just another slap for the kids of Margate - to be told by somebody they respect that their home is ugly."

Actually, Andy, it's Bob Geldof. I suspect not many kids even know who the strange old man moaning about the hanging baskets being wonky is.

It's not strictly crossing a picket line if you fly over

John Legend has come up with a plan for pleasing record company bosses and sticking to the letter of the Screenwriter's Guild request: he's going to play his Grammy gig in a plane:

Details are still being worked out, a Grammy spokesperson tells, but Legend will perform a 30-minute set aboard a Delta Air Lines, Grammy-branded Boeing 757. The flight will leave New York on Feb. 7 en route to Los Angeles.

Not only is Legend managing to say 'screw you' to the Unions, he's also found a way to make his tiresome plugging of an industry back-slapping as environmentally disastrous as you can get without actually burning a whale in a leaky nuclear submarine. Let's hope there's some Greenpeace campaigners entering that sweepstakes...

Pete Doherty on the pitch

German football team KFC Uerdingen have issued a plea to Pete Doherty to help ease their financial crises by coming to play a gig at their stadium.

Given that Babyshamble's UK stadium tour was such a financial disaster they're having to hoof round the country to try and chase the losses, it's got 'recipe for disaster' written all over it.

Daniel Johnston to tour

This is one of those times when you really are better off being American: Daniel Johnston is plotting a US tour, says Pitchfork, which which also has the dates.

Kaisers drop new album. Altogether.

The Kaiser Chiefs have announced they're not going to release albums any more. At least, not until they're told to.

For the time being, it's going to be, um, formats that are quite like albums, warns Nick Hodgson:

"We mentioned mini-albums and double EPs, but we've got no fixed plans yet," drummer Nick Hodgson told the NME. "We want to break the routine of having to make an album every two years. It's totally boring.

"In the charts there are tons of indie bands playing chords and singing songs about the weekend. We're going to be doing the opposite and being the best."

There's two things here - the first is what exactly is the "opposite" of playing chords and singing about the weekend? Are the Kaisers working on an atonal noseflute opera about Thursdays?

Secondly: Poor old Kaisers, eh? The boring old drudge of having to record a dozen songs every twenty-four months must be so grinding for the poor dears. That's roughly one song every four weeks. It presumably doesn't help that people like nurses and care workers don't appear to show any sympathy for the poor lambs.

Moldy Peaches resting. Or maybe not.

Kimya Malaika Dawson out of the Moldy Peaches has told Phawker that the band are on hiatus right now.

As Phawker points out, a few moments later she was telling NPR they were going to do television.

The Peaches' involvement with the movie Juno has led to vast outbreaks of grumbling amongst people who liked them before anyone else did, as can be seen amongst the comments on the YouTube coverage of their premiere appearance.

Beyonce and Grohl to break writer's strike

Although the striking Hollywood writers have appealed to everyone to stay away from the Grammys, the Recording Academy have gleefully issued "statements of support". First up, comes Matthews Knowles:

"The work of The Recording Academy is vital to the music industry, and we have every intention of being with the entire music community to celebrate the GRAMMYs' 50th birthday in February. Beyoncé, as well as my other artists Solange and Trinitee 5:7, have been asked to participate and will do so. We have an incredible Beyoncé performance that will be announced soon. We wish the GRAMMYs the best."

Actually, it's the 50th Grammys, which if our calculations are correct, would make it the 49th Birthday. Unless Beyonce is putting off appearing until next year.

Meanwhile, Dave Grohl is happy to put his 'good bloke' status in the balance by turning up:
"We're participating in 'My GRAMMY Moment' because it creates opportunities. Opportunities to write, compose, play and study music — skills that absolutely need to be passed on to generations to come. And thanks to 'My GRAMMY Moment,' a musician from that next generation is going to get the chance to audition on YouTube to play with us at the GRAMMYs as part of our orchestra."

... and the message that it's okay to cross picket lines will be spread as wide as possible.

Music brave as Fiasco quits

Enjoy the next Lupe Fiasco album - well, you know what we mean - as it's to be his last:

"I have one more album in me and then I'm out. I've been doing this music hustle for eights years and have more things I still want to do.

"There are other ways besides putting out an album that allow me to channel my creative energy and I'm writing a book about a window washer. I will have more than enough to keep me busy."

We presume he means his book is going to be about a windowcleaner rather than insight into the life of a windscreen wiper. Let's hope he'll call it "If I don't see you through the week, I'll see you through a window".

We're keen to find out what the plot of this window cleaning novel will be - we're betting the woman at 19, Inkerman Street will loom large. Or if not her, the hip-hop equivalent.

It is the Capital of Culture, Kerry

Kerry Katona is bemused as to why she won't be part of the reunited Atomic Kitten:

"It's mad because I got a call asking me if I wanted to be involved. I said yes, but then I never heard anything back."

We wonder how that call went. We're picturing something along the lines of "Kerry... I expect you're way too busy, and wouldn't want to go back over old ground, but we thought we'd ask if you'd like to do the Kitten reuion... oh, you would?... um... you realise it's going to be lots and lots of rehearsal. And the pay is terrible... oh, you're still keen? Um... I'll get back to you..."

EMI: Economies of scale - they'll save us...

With money getting tight and a label losing talent both artistic and managerial, what can Guy Hands do to try and salvage EMI?

Erm, spend more money buying Chrysalis, apparently.

It suggests that Hands' strategy is going to concentrate more on catalogue and publishing than the riskier business of making new records. But it also suggests a certain degree of creeping desperation at the top level of Terra Firma.

Gordon in the morning: The real world intrudes

The heartbreaking story from Lily Allen makes for a sober Bizarre this morning, with Gordon delivering a piece of almost straight reporting - although the gleeful "Exclusive" label slapped over the piece and the mawkish online condolence book feel a bit misjudged, and there's much stating of the obvious. "Distraught"? Really? You don't say.

Then, with a crunch of the gears, it's back to business as normal, as Gordon claims that you'll find Kylie Minogue wanking to online porn:

IT’S usually blokes who are caught checking out girls on t’internet – mouse firmly in the left hand.

But I’m delighted to discover KYLIE MINOGUE is also a fan of clicking out the opposite sex.

Really? Erm, not quite:
The singer, who is back in the dating saddle, has admitted using web search engine Google to find out if celebrity men she fancies are single.

That's "web search engine Google", in case you're not familiar with it. (Surely it should be "t'web?")

So it's not like she's tapping in her credit card details, then? No, it's a different sort of online fantasy Gordon's asking us to share:
Sister DANNII has been known to do the same. When Kylie was asked if she also indulges, she blurted out: “I can’t lie. I did it with a friend and she would out me. I can’t tell you who, though.”

Gordon Smart, maybe? If only.

Well, if she did, she'd find your MySpace and discover you're married, wouldn't she Gordon? So it wouldn't do you much good at all.

Having established by, erm, reading that on the internet, Gordon still has some research to do ("words to write") and so he decides to dredge up a joke from an edition of Never Mind The Buzzcocks from two weeks ago and hammer that one some more:
But the pint-sized pop stunner then admitted on Aussie radio that she has been investigating one famous face - and my money is on Brit TV star MATHEW HORNE who she met when they filmed The Kylie Show last November.

And yes, Gordon Smart then goes on to Google Mathew, and shares what he's found:
Mathew’s MySpace page came up with the quote: “She’s so hot, she’s making me sexist.”

Erm... and?
An apt description for Ms Minogue, if you ask me.

Um... Gordon, that's a line from a Flight of The Conchords song. You do know that, and that it's not really a justification for writing Neanderthal-level stuff about Jordan's tits, don't you?

Hang on - Gordon's Googling again:
Another site I found was entitled: “Pls tell me Mathew Horne is not gay.” The plot thickens.

Well, no it doesn't, Gordon. There isn't a plot and even if there was, an unsourced website speculating about someone's sexuality doesn't actually mean anything, does it?

Look: Please tell me Gordon Smart isn't going to win a What The Papers Say Award.

You see?

More curiously, if you use the web search engine Google on the phrase '"Pls tell me Mathew Horne is not gay"', the only returning entry right now is... erm, Gordon's page where he claims he found a site titled this by using Google. Funny that, isn't it?

Gordon has run out of pages that mention Mathew on the internet, so then trots out a few paragraphs speculating on the likelihood of a Kylie-McCartney romance, something which exists only in his mind in the first place. He concedes it's not going to happen, but:
Well, I bet Macca was looking back at Kylie and thinking: “No More Lonely Nights.”

Yes. Because Paul McCartney thinks solely in pisspoor puns based on his songs.

Gordon has to come to some sort of conclusion, and he does:
Go get on to Google, lads, and Kylie could be yours for Valentine’s Day next month.

Eh? How? Since Kylie has used Google, once, to check out someone's marital status, how would that work, Gordon? It's not like she's typing in 'single bloke AND Neighbours fetish NOT Jason Donovan', is it? And how does Gordon suggest lads "get on to Google"? Does he think you can send a postcard in and get yourself indexed?

Lily and Ed lose the baby

Whatever you feel about Lily Allen's music and career, it's impossible to send her anything other than sympathy this morning. It's not a thing you'd wish on anyone.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fashionobit: Bill Belew

TV and film costumier Bill Belew has died.

Belew's long-running career dressing celebrities reached, perhaps, its peak when he created one of the few occasions where describing an outfit as iconic isn't hyperbolic. It was he who came up with the black leather suit Elvis wore for the 68 Comeback Special; a look spoofed, copied and cloned numerous times in the last forty years.

Belew was also, perhaps less kindly to posterity, put Presley in jumpsuits and rhinestones, figuring that by then, they'd established Elvis' masculinity enough to not need to worry how he looked. They never quite went as far as a muu-muu, though.

Furnaces' caucus

What with 2008 all being about the election, Fiery Furnaces have launched a caucus system which will determine the shape of the next record. And, we think, if we've understood it correctly, the shape of US foreign policy on the Middle East through to 2013.

They're calling it Democrock, which sounds unfortunately like Demo Crock, but it's quite fun, if you can follow the system. We understand that supporters of Archer Ave. Cupid’s Corner are running adverts claiming that Roughing It (Or Two Delinquent Dads) features chord changes which are unAmerican.

And EMI lose another one...

At this rate, Hands isn't going to have to bother about shrinking the artist roster - there's not going to be anyone left for them to cull. Sparklehorse's contract with Astralwerks has expired; they're looking for another home.

The Enemy pick up award everyone's forgotten about

The XFM debut album award that was launched with a little fanfare last year has now been handed out to a winner, with The Enemy scooping the prize. Apparently they were selected by a panel of experts, rather than having the title given to them for simply remembering the thing hadn't yet been wrapped up.

The prize means The Enemy will now be able to ask their label to put a little sticker saying "Winner XFM debut album award 2007" on their jewel cases.

Gavin Rossdale gets his chance

You might have been wondering what Gavin Rossdale's been up to recently.

Oh, come on, you might. Perhaps in case it comes up on an end-of-term quiz or something.

It turns out, he's been busy working on a debut solo album. A source told the Mirror:

"Gwen loves London so she doesn't mind staying here while Gav promotes the album. After months looking after their 19-month-old son — Kingston — it's Gav's turn to go out and bring home the bacon."

Normally, "bringing home the bacon" is a term which means "spend some time as the main wage earner in the household", but in this case, bearing in mind the likely demand for a solo album from the singer out of Bush, the source probably does mean it literally. There might be enough for half a dozen eggs, too.

Luckily, Gwen's combination of in-demand back catalogue, fashion line and perfume ranges means that the family will continue to tick over while Gavin has a go.

Will TimeWarner thin out peer-to-peer users?

The (incredibly limited) trial of metered broadband proposed by TimeWarner Cable in the US could, reckons Valleywag, put the kibosh on piracy:

The cable provider is preparing to test a new billing scheme in Beaumont, Texas that would charge customers based on actual Internet usage instead of a flat monthly fee. This means BitTorrent downloaders would pay a premium for all those packets they seed across the net. Pirated content is far less appealing when it isn't free.

Mmm. Perhaps, but it seems unlikely. First of all, the teeny-tiny nature of the test - one town in Texas out of all the seven and a half million customers - suggests it's hardly something that TimeWarner is confident about; more to the point, it'll only reduce peer-to-peer filesharing if all carriers adopt the way of billing, and choose to place the cost of bandwidth at such a level that would make sending lots of files unattractive. And they'd only do that if they wanted to discourage people using their computers for multimedia fun. Which would seem to run contrary to the whole marketing position on which broadband is sold in the first place.

Grammys in danger of black out

The organisers of the Grammys are getting a bit jumpy at the prospect of their 50th glittering event being run aground by the Hollywood writer's strike. The Writers Guild of America is lobbying artists to not show up for the event; the Recording Academy is hoping it can keep the ship afloat.

They've got some support: The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) have issued a heartfelt plea to writers to let the Grammys flow:

"AFM and AFTRA are encouraged by today's news that the Writers Guild of America has signed an interim agreement with the NAACP that will allow The 39th NAACP Image Awards to be telecast as scheduled," reads the statement. "John Cossette Productions, the producer of the 50th Annual Grammy Awards telecast, has made a written offer to the WGA to sign a similar interim agreement to allow the Grammy Awards to be telecast as planned on February 10.

Because, of course, the music industry's annual back-slap is on a par with an event run by, and for, a civil rights organisation. We can see the same principle should apply.
In light of the news that the producer of the Grammy Awards has made a firm offer to the WGA, AFM and AFTRA strongly urge all of our members to support the important work of the Recording Academy by participating in the Grammy events.

It's not just an awards ceremony. Oh, no. It's important work. Apparently, between the best Polka album and the best spoken-word album not featuring Larry King categories, they're going to really get cracking on finding a cure for cancer.

Not quite getting the idea of how a strike works, Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow has suggested writers should get involved for their own benefit:
Portnow pointed out that reaching an agreement to allow the show to go on "would both allow the talented writers for the show to be compensated fairly for their valuable services and allow us to demonstrate support for the creative community of writers in a tangible and meaningful way."

If only Thatcher had tried that with the miners - "come and dig some coal for the electricity industry, Mr Scargill, which will allow you to earn some money and allow us to show support for your withdrawal of labour."

Perhaps we're being unfair - maybe Portnow has plans for some sort of musical salute to striking writers. Possibly Prince and Beyonce dancing on a giant typewriter keyboard.

Wonderfully, Portnow attempts to use the RIAA's pursual of file-sharers to show that everyone's in this one together:
He made the argument that the music industry has been fighting to obtain fair compensation for artists' digital music, and thus supports the WGA in its fight to obtain similar results for its own members.

Let's not mention that many of the record labels are part of the same companies which are attempting to bilk the writers in the first place ("Universal are on your side... well, apart from the movie and television divisions...") and instead wonder exactly how 'companies trying to struggle cash from consumers for digital music' are in the same battle as 'writers trying to get their cut from the cash companies are already taking from consumers of digital video'. Besides sharing some of the same words.

Portnow concludes by arguing on behalf not just of children, or Americans, but the whole world:
Grammy Week represents the most significant worldwide music event of the year. And we are in a different industry than the motion picture and television business; I am quite certain that most are aware of the extremely difficult and challenging conditions facing our industry's creators and companies, unparalleled in our history. This year, more than ever, Grammy Week and the milestone of a 50th Grammy Awards, along with the 50th Anniversary of the founding of The Recording Academy, are a centerpiece and beacon of hope, optimism, and represent literally multi-millions of dollars in sales, promotion, and marketing for our musicians and as such, take on far more significance than simply three and one-half hours of television programming... Let me reiterate our desire to bring this matter to a positive resolution working with the WGA.

We've been struggling for years to work out what unit you measured hope and optimism in; who knew it was "millions of dollars of sales".

We're sure that 'please let us advertise our product on the television' is exactly the way to hit the striking writers' hearts.

EMI lose another artist

The departure of the Rolling Stones to Universal isn't much of a financial blow to EMI - a one-off live album of the 21st century Stones isn't exactly going to have people banging on record shop doors on day of release - but it's another blow to the image of the company.

The latest Word podcast was talking about the departure of Tony Wadsworth, suggesting that his euphemistically-phrased 'decision to step down' was effectively the symbolic point where EMI abandoned its history and ceased to be the company it was.

We suspect that Warners is only putting off this point because Edgar Bronfman is more emotionally connected to the predigital music business than Guy Hands is.

Weakest Link goes Britpop

We suspect there's no real plan to produce a Britpop Special edition of The Weakest Link beyond a vague idea and a Daily Star gossip columnist, but let's play along.

Naturally, the big idea is to refight Blur versus Oasis - yet again - this time as quiz; beyond Albarn and one of the Gallaghers:

[o]ther stars that bosses want to have on the show include Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, Elastica's Justine Frischmann, Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield and Suede's Brett Anderson.

We suspect the best they'll manage is one of the Boo Radleys; Bonehead and/or Guigsy; Phil 'I was on Park Life' Daniels; the drummer from Echobelly and probably, stretching a point, Justin Hawkins.

It might be indistinguishable from a normal edition of the programme.

Blake wants a divorce - apparently

Mitch Winehouse has, it appears, told Grazia that Blake Currently-Inside wants to separate from Amy Winehouse. Like, legally. Obviously they're separated at the moment. Indeed, as he's in a prison, he's actually legally separated anyway, in a sense, but you know what we mean.

It's unclear if Blake is upset at not having access to Amy's pocketbook; if he's got the hump at her failure to live like a nun while he's inside; or if he's simply found someone else while on remand.

Still, Mitch isn't happy:

“Blake threatened to issue divorce proceedings when they were having a row.

“Unfortunately, Blake is influenced by things his mother has said. I think [his mother] Georgette wants them to divorce, but it's up to them.

“From Amy's point of view, she would stick by him not matter what. But he has said things like, 'I want a divorce'.”

Mitch, of course, wants to leave it 'up to them' as you can't control what choices your daughter makes. Unless it's hanging out with Pete Doherty, of course.

EMI lose its digital pilot

One of the brighter sparks for EMI since Terra Firma took over has been that its approached the digital marketplace with a new confidence. The man who's been driving EMI's digital strategy, pioneering a relaxed view of DRM free tracks, for example, has been Barney Wragg.

Has been is key here: he's quit, apparently unhappy with the plans unveiled this week would have seen him taking less of a strategic role.

So, who is going to replace him? Someone else who understands digital?

Not quite: the new head of digital is to be Mark Hodgkinson. Up until now, he's been doing something with marketing - a field in which EMI hasn't been doing that well.

So, as Hands starts swinging to cut off what appears to be a surprising amount of dead wood from the firm, he's also managed to displace one of the few people who actually understands where music is going.

It's bloody lucky EMI doesn't have shareholders any more, isn't it?

HMV: Now, that's a surprise

Gennaro Castaldo should be in for a large bonus - confounding city expectations and a fairly dismal time on the High Street, HMV has posted like-for-like sales growth of nearly 10% over the Christmas period. Even their album sales were better than in 2006.

Of course, a cynic might point out that the economic slowdown and there generally being less cash around means that cheaper gifts like DVDs and CDs means HMV is doing quite well out of everyone else's pain.

We Are free

Streaming out of the We Are Scientists MySpace: After Hours, the new single.

Travis Barker powers up for drink battle

Travis Barker is upset that Rockstar - the nasty Red Bull type "energy drink" - used his face on a promo website, implying that he endorsed their product. He's suing, of course.

It's a pity Rockstar didn't ask first; an endorsement from a man who knows a thing or two about cloying, sickly products would have been a perfect fit.

Inside EMI

There's a wonderful piece in today's Telegraph by Robert Sandall, who was at Virgin a decade ago, explaining just how badly run EMI was. Virgin refused to be part of its parent company:

Round at ours, EMI was spoken of, if at all, in the same dismissive tones as real commercial rivals such as Sony or Warners. Contact with the corporate HQ, only a couple of miles away in West London, was minimal, and we competed fiercely with the mothership whenever we got the chance.

I vividly remember the jubilation in the Virgin building when EMI's great white hope, Robbie Williams, failed to make number one with his first solo single, Freedom. Our joy at the dismissal of a senior EMI manager following an onboard incident with a female flight attendant was unbounded. We swaggered outrageously in the year when, thanks to the soaraway Spice Girls, Virgin UK reported more profit than its EMI parent.

But if Virgin saw itself as cooler than its Dad, its fake-indie sublabel replicated the relationship:
The guys who ran our faux-indie Hut label - home to the Verve and Placebo - were desperate to keep their operation out of the hands of Virgin's in-house press and marketing teams, whom they viewed as too corporate to be trusted with hypersensitive types such as Richard Ashcroft.

Clearly, it's going to be easy for Hands to sack 2,000 people - he can just prune off the people who refuse to accept they're part of a major label.

Sandall makes the point that when times were good, the lack of any corporate coherence wasn't a problem; it was only when the cash started running out that things got bad.

He is a little unfair, though:
Becoming the most successful record label on the planet encouraged EMI to embark on a long and giddy expansion programme that saw it merge with the TV rental business Thorn, and acquire large stakes in the retail sector, notably in HMV record stores and the booksellers, Dillons and Waterstones.

The vast amount of time and money spent on those failed hook-ups would have been better used tightening up the business itself and, more specifically, investing in the digital download market that EMI, like all the other majors, chose initially to view as a threat rather than an opportunity.

It's arguable that this is true of the Waterstones takeover - although that was a decision taken by the HMV shops management team rather than the people running the record business; but the Thorn-EMI merger happened in 1977. We're no fans of the major labels, but suggesting it was short-sighted to not be investing in digital downloads two years before CDs were invented seems a little harsh.

Gordon in the morning: What a charmer

Gordon handles the big story on Bizarre this morning himself. Indeed, to make it clear who's in charge, the byline is:

Bizarre Editor

Just in case you forget who's nominally in charge.

He's leading with the news that Eddie Murphy's not bothering to sort out the legal problems in his new marriage; a story covered in slightly more depth on E! Online who have all the details Gordon has, but also run the official statement:
“After much consideration and discussion, we have jointly decided that we will forego having a legal ceremony as it is not necessary to define our relationship further.

"While the recent symbolic union in Bora Bora was representative of our deep love, friendship and respect that we have for one another on a spiritual level, we have decided to remain friends.”

Still, it's not like that's all Gordon has this morning. He's been given a photo of Nicola Roberts accepting a delivery "first thing in the morning" as he acknowledges.

What do people look like first thing in the morning? Generally, if you tumble out of bed, not your best. Gordon, though, seems outraged that anyone dare open their door without being glammed up first:
Tried the hair of the dog, Nic?

Yes, a journalist on a major newspaper is calling a woman who fails to please him "a dog". Let's hope his bosses Rebekah and Victoria never dare to show up at the office without a brush through her hair.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


If you're reading this more or less as we're posting it, Radiohead are streaming on via Flip4Mac or wmv, depending on your machine. They're at 93 Feet East.

[This, by the way, is the instore which is no longer instore: The police and council 'suggested' they move it from the Rough Trade shop.]

Please adjust your calendars: The Sex Pistols think it's still 1978

If the Sex Pistols want to get back on stage and creak about for a few coins, at least nobody has to look. But it seems that isn't enough for them, and they're now talking about writing new material.

Yes. The Sex Pistols. New material in 2008:

Paul Cook said, "There's talk of new material. The only problem is that it's a bit hard to work on anything as John and Steve are in America and Glen and I are in the UK. So, it's a case of finding the time to get together."

We can only hope those scheduling conflicts will lead to the idea of new stuff being abandoned. At least when Lydon trundles through Anarchy In The UK, he has the justification that he owned the song when he was younger. What is he going to be doing now? Songs about the Subprime crisis? 'My experiences on I'm A Celebrity'?

Ice Turner

According to TMZ, the coroner of San Diego County is reporting that Ike Turner's death was drug-related:

Paul Parker, Chief Investigator at the Medical Examiner's Office, said, "We are listing that he abused cocaine, and that's what resulted in the cocaine toxicity."

Hmm. It seems to have taken a surprising length of time for a coroner to conclude that a coke addict, found dead with cocaine in his blood stream, was probably killed by the cocaine poisoning caused by taking cocaine.

George Michael's rememberances

HarperCollins has put together a million-plus deal that will see unsold piles of George Michael's autobiography be shipped from Waterstones to The Book People warehouses sometime after next Christmas.

Actually, quite touchingly for a supertstar autobiography, Michael is intending to write it all himself. So, at the very least, we'll finally get to see if repeated heavy use of cannabis does screw the memory up.

Now that Rupert Murdoch's paying a large sum to George for his life story, it'll be interesting to see if The Sun changes its attitude towards Michael in the coming months.

Andy Stephens, who manages George, is promising an unalloyed work:

"People aren't stupid. They're beginning to notice that the truth is more interesting than the stories the press come up with."

Given that the stories in the press involve enormous amounts of drug consumption, a sex life to rival Captain Jack's and the odd spot of cottaging, the mind does boggle as to what could possibly be more interesting than that.

The RIAA believe student's brains aren't fully formed

Don Reisinger over at CNet's Digital Home is carrying an interview with the RIAA's spokeperson Cara Duckworth, giving her a chance to explain why a group of multinational companies feels the need to sue students to protect their industry. Some of Cara's responses are worth close inspection:

It was becoming clearer that despite cool new legal services and the ongoing educational efforts, too many students--some of music's biggest fans--were getting their music illegally and learning the wrong lessons about stealing and the law.

Hey, kids, won't you use our cool new legal services?

It might occur to you, were you in a business, to ask why it is that these Fonzie-cool services weren't enough on their own to stop people filesharing. Not the RIAA, though - they reach for lawsuits.

Not for their own sakes, though: it's a moral case. It's stealing and it's wrong. They just wanted to remind people about the law.
There had to be a deterrence factor involved so that individuals knew that along with personal consequences (i.e., viruses, spyware infiltrating hard drive) there would also be legal consequences to engaging in illegal downloading behavior.

Good lord, 2007 and they're still hoping that saying 'ooh, you might get a computer VIRUS' is going to have an effect on people's behaviour. And it's a bit rich for the RIAA to be all concerned about spyware popping up on computers, after Sony's little rootkit debacle.

The broader problem, of course, is that clearly there isn't a deterrence factor at all - the lawsuits have, by nature of their cost, been so far and few between people who share files tend to view the chances of a letter from the RIAA in the same way that people who fly think about hijacking: it'd be unpleasant, but it's hardly likely to happen.
Bringing lawsuits was by no means our first choice, but a necessary step we had to take.

It's hard to say what they were doing retaining all those lawyers if they weren't using lawsuits as a first option - perhaps they'd all come round for a game of parchesi and, since they were there...

Cara, you'll note, doesn't list what the options which were first choice were. It's probably true, though, that the lawsuits did become necessary, but only because the RIAA's wrongheaded strategy, of setting themselves at war with their customers, had no other place to go. Filesharers effectively called the RIAA's bluff, and the RIAA is left, lumbered with this unpopular, expensive, failing strategy.

Digital Home then asks why the RIAA were targeting college students:
[C]ollege students have reached a stage in life when their music habits are crystallized, and their appreciation for intellectual property has not yet reached its full development.

So, in a turnaround from everything you've ever expected, the RIAA believe that your music habits when you reach college have got to a point where they will never change again, but your ideas about stealing are "underdeveloped".

Yes, let's just look at that again: I, apparently, should never have moved on from listening to Radio 1 and playing music on tape recorders, because my musical habits would have crystalised when I was at college.

While students are embarking on law degrees all over the US despite their sense of right and wrong not having had a chance to develop yet.

It's not that the RIAA are desperately trying to shore up Warner Music. Oh, no. They're worried about all these kids who don't appreciate intellectual property:
Understanding the value of intellectual property is important to the future job market for many of these students--industries that rely on copyright protection employ more than 11 million workers nationwide and continue to grow.

So, there are 11 million people employed in a growing sector of copyrighted materials. It's not immediately apparent from those statistics that the creative industries are being threatened by on-campus piracy - indeed, it's a growth industry. Perhaps that growth is partly being fuelled by the freer exchange of ideas and information made possible by peer-to-peer networking? Maybe the RIAA should be suing the kids who refuse to use bittorrent - perhaps, you know, they could be UnAmerican.

Duckworth then gets a little odd:
While college students used to be some of music's greatest fans, unfortunately that is no longer the case. I would point you to the evidence of the extensiveness of music theft amongst college campuses from Student Monitor and other market research firms to show why we are focusing some of our efforts on universities.

Is she saying that college kids no longer like music? Or is she merely saying they listen to a lot more than they pay for? Isn't there a subtle difference between being a 'fan' of music and being a person who diligently respects intellectual property rights?

Of course, it's only a record label employee who could see music as being something you're a "fan" of in it's own right. I'm a big fan of music; I've got a tshirt with a treble clef on, and my wallpaper has little notes on it. It's like saying "people used to admire cheese". And it's only a record label employee who would think the only way you can show support for something is by paying money over.

Many of the biggest music fans I know showed their devotion to their favourite bands despite not having very much cash.

Reisinger then asks 'aren't you just bullies'? Apparently not - the problem is their marks keep squealing:
When an individual is caught illegally downloading music, it sometimes happens that the person creates a stir.

So... you're not bullies, then; it's just people complain when you try to sue them for thousands and thousands of pounds.
But if we had sat on our hands and chosen to do nothing about the piracy problem as the music industry was hemorrhaging jobs and lost sales, imagine what the extent of theft would be today and how the legal marketplace would be struggling to gain traction.

Let's imagine... it would be pretty much like today, I'd guess - the legal marketplace has developed alongside a surprisingly huge pile of unpaid downloads. Indeed, the only real difference would have been that the RIAA companies would have a few million quid they no longer have, and their reputation wouldn't be as tarnished.

Not that this RIAA spokesperson is going to admit they're failing, though:
Since we began this initiative, we've seen a P2P problem that once was growing at dizzying speeds essentially flatten out.

An interesting definition of success, then, having the problem which you set out to end not declining but "essentially flattening out".

That might also be because everyone who would like to fileshare has, by now, got on board and there's nowhere for new filesharers to come from.

So, why are you so disliked, asks Don?

Amusingly, the RIAA doesn't believe they are:
I don't agree with the loaded premise of the question. In some online quarters, there may be lots of heat about the tough stands we sometimes must take. But amongst the general public, the favorability ratings of the record industry remain as positive as ever and surpass other forms of entertainment like movie or TV studios.

Aha - so the RIAA is only disliked amongst people who talk about them and - if you confuse 'a cartel of major labels engaged in legal action against young people' with 'the music industry', then apparently "favourability ratings" (whatever they are) show that they're, you know, popular.
Let it be said--the RIAA is much more than lawsuits.

Oh, yes. There's the patronising public 'education' campaigns and the lobbying, too.

Radiohead out in the world

When they were selling In Rainbows as a download, Radiohead promoted online.

Now it's an actual record you can buy, Radiohead are going out to promote it in shops.

We're given to understand they're playing the Rough Trade shop in London this evening.

The Greatest Love Of All

When it was pushing Whitney Houston's first post-crack greatest hits album before Christmas, Sony BMG trumpeted:

a collection of all her biggest hits, together on one CD for the very first time

A TV viewer, who'd already bought a Greatest Hits collection with all but one of the songs on, thought this claim a trifle odd and complained to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Sony's defence? Ah, yes, the songs have been released on a package before, but this is the first time they've been on a single disc:
Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Sony) said The Ultimate Collection was a one disc CD, whereas The Greatest Hits album, which was released in 2000, was a two disc CD. The ad was therefore referring to the fact that Whitney Houstons greatest hits were appearing on one disc for the first time and was intended to distinguish The Ultimate Collection from The Greatest Hits. They believed the claim was correct and truthful. They said they had deliberately avoided stating that the greatest hits were together on one album for the first time, because they believed the term album was generally used to describe a collection of recordings, whereas the term CD was generally used to describe the music format.

Clearcast (formerly the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre) endorsed Sonys comments. They said the claim "together on one CD for the very first time" described the format of the album and how many discs it comprised and was literally correct. They said many ads for artists and bands referred to their new albums; a format was specified only if it was a special edition. They argued that consumers who already owned The Greatest Hits would recognise the songs played in the ad and would be alerted to the fact that they were now available on a single disc, whereas consumers who had not bought The Greatest Hits and wanted all of Whitney Houstons greatest hits on one CD would receive exactly that if they purchased The Ultimate Collection; they therefore believed the ad would not mislead viewers.

Surprisingly, this 'it might not be the first time they've been in a single jewel case, but they've never been on a single disc inside a jewel case' defence was allowed by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Cerys' family "worried sick"

After her rather-noticeable over-enjoyment of alcohol, Cerys Matthews sorted herself out and got sober.

Not any longer, as "worried family and friends" have erm, told Closer magazine:

"We're worried sick about Cerys. But we can only sit and watch as she drinks again. She drinks with Marc nearly every day.

"It's dangerous - she's not good with alcohol. At the moment she's happy because she's in love. But what happens when they have a big row or split up?

"She'll reach for the bottle or drugs in a big way, only this time she has kids - we love her too much to let it happen again."

And, naturally, the thing you do if you love someone that much is flog a story to one of the trashier magazines about it.

Interestingly, the implication seems to be that it's Marc Bannerman leading her astray, rather than the more plausible possibility that going on I'm A Celebrity in the first place, the Hellomance and, yes, drinking, might all be symptoms of the same problem.

Cerys isn't stupid though: let's hope she sobers up before she starts becoming a habitué of the middle pages of Closer and Pick Me Up.

With deepest sympathy

How terrible is the woman who's married into Ron Wood's family? Judging by the linking blurb for the 3AM Girls' story, she must be terrible:

Wood weeps at wedding: Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood was comforted by Kate Moss when he wept at his son's wedding.

It turns out, though, that they don't mean "comforted" at all, as Wood was crying tears of joy.

Gordon in the morning: Picking through the leftovers

Naturally, Gordon Smart is forced to the edges of his own section by the Britney story, which is left in the safer hands of US editor Emily Smith. At least in the paper, his marginalia is allowed the main stage. He's leading with a story about how great the new Robbie Williams stuff is.

Yes, like his boss and previous incumbent of the space, Victoria Newton, swore that Rudebox was brilliant.

Gordon, though, fails to live up to his surname:

I THOUGHT that ROBBIE WILLIAMS was supposed to be on strike?

Well, yes, but obviously he's got to talk up the stuff he's doing now - it's hardly going to bother EMI if Williams says he's withholding without anything to withhold.

Indeed, Smart seems to be part of Williams' negotiations with EMI, offering Robbie a chance to show his label bosses - supposedly - what he's missing. Smart struggles to decide if Williams is a clapped-out figure of fun, or a musical genius.

He's a figure of fun:
Rotund Robster

He's a musical genius:
it’s a Reason To Be Cheerful for Rob

He's terrible:
I’m not quite sure how you are supposed to know Robbie is on strike. He’s sat on his backside for most of the past year anyway.

He's wonderful:
And singing funky pop numbers is what Robbie does best.

He's rotten:
Apart from eating muffins and drinking coffee, of course.

Gordon's inability to decide if Robbie is a fat, washed-up, lazy nobody or Britain's leading musical talent seems to have been stirred up by Williams working with Chas Jankel. Smart seems unable to slag off Williams while he's working with a Blockhead, but at the same time is afraid to praise Williams new stuff in case it turns out to be as embarrassing as Rudebox is if and when it gets a release. Newton's creeping round Williams might have been pathetic, but at least she managed to retain a consistent approach across the length of a sentence.

We're not entirely convinced Smart has much more of a vague idea of who Chaz Jankel is, either:
Jankel was credited for the funk influences in Ian Dury And The Blockheads, who had a hit with the brilliant Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3.

- which is accurate, but on a par with "The Beatles had a hit with a song called Love Me Do".

Britney Spears and the "suicide note"

The Sun has big, chunky story this morning - a world exclusive, no less - as a "friend" of Britney shares what the paper calls a 'suicide note' written by Britney Spears.

It's not, actually, a suicide note - just using the phrase "perhaps it would be better if I was dead" doesn't make something a suicide note; the letter, if genuine, is distressing enough as a glimpse into Spears' mental turmoil without the need for ramping it up by suggesting that Spears tried to kill herself. The source of the note doesn't say anything that suggests they believe it was a farewell letter; the paper can only offer an oblique hint to try and stack up the headline:

Britney’s suicide note was found in her bathroom just before her meltdown earlier this month, in which she was rushed to a psychiatric ward after refusing to hand her sons to Federline’s security guards.

"Just before" is a bit vague - presumably a period of time actually greater than the "on the evening of" that's being suggested.

I'm not clear on mental health law in California: is there a local equivalent of sectioning?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"He was dead and the dead must be buried. Everyone knows that"

Nick Cave's And The Ass Saw The Angel is getting a luxury reprint in a collector's edition - we suspect it's probably roughly a 20th anniversay edition. Give or take.

Kasabian promise to "open your mind"

Kasabian are apparently working on their next album which - although it will end up sounding like a plodding chunk of slightly grumpy dadrock - sounds amazing in Serge's head:

We're sort of in the process.

“I don't really know when it’s going to be released, but as soon as we think it's ready it'll be out. It's psychedelic this one, it's going to open your mind.”

The only way a Kasabian song is going to open anything is if it kicks a door in because it's forgotten its key, surely?

Enemy beg 'don't hate us'

The Enemy's Tom Clarke has apologised for pulling their European tour:

“Please accept my apologies for having to again cancel the recent shows in Europe. I’ve come down with a bacterial throat infection that’s made it impossible to sing and forced us to come home. It’s the last thing we wanted to happen, but under doctors orders I am back home resting.”

“We got one blinding show into the tour in Holland, I wake up the following day and can't sing! We cancelled one show and tried to wait it out but I just got worse.

“I’m gutted about this, we were really up for coming over there giving it 10 and blowing you lot away, especially after having to cancel last time too! Please bear with us, we’re dying to get back out there, but the doc says no. Hopefully I’ll get the all clear soon and back out on the road.”

One night in the Netherlands and you've picked up a bacterial infection, have you, Tom? We had a mate who that happened to. Yoghurt and bedrest sorted him out.

Lennox let go, slapped in face

Now, we're not big fans of Annie Lennox round here, but we're a little slack-jawed at the way Sony BMG treated her as they decided to no longer offer her a musical home:

"They totally ignored me. It was bizarre. It was a kick in the teeth. They didn't return my phone calls or emails for three weeks. I'm trying to find out what's behind it.

"Probably a good thing I'm no longer with them - mild understatement. Unless it's them trying to tell me something... Hello!"

It's one thing to let someone go - it's a business decision, and that's fair enough - but this is a pretty shitty way to treat someone who's done good business for the label over the years. It's one step shy of dumping a girlfriend by text.

More trouble for EMI

Set again the bigger problems that EMI is struggling with, it's not much, but let's hope that Hands keeps enough staff on to deal with the lawsuit from Victory Records. The smaller label has the hump that Virgin tempted Hawthorne Heights into breaking their contract.

Amusingly, Victory have costed their losses at ten million dollars, and want twenty five million on top of that in punitive damages. Ten million dollars? Victory really believe that's what they could have expected to make? In profits?

The group's public announcement in August 2006 that it would no longer record for or work with Victory and the ensuing controversy -- along with a "shock and awe" legal and public relations campaign against the label and its founder, Tony Brummel -- drove down the sales of the second album, the suit says. As a result, retailers have returned more than 500,000 copies of the second album to Victory, which suffered "millions of dollars in damages for returned product alone," the lawsuit alleges.

How many copies did they press up in the first place?

MIA takes on News At Ten

As if the two news programmes going head-to-head wasn't enough, MIA is also squaring up in the battle of current affairs television, turning up on Canadian TV's 4Real series exploring Liberia today.

Or, more accurately, Liberia 12 months ago - as that's when she went, blogging quite extensively about it at the time:


Hmm. It's not the most obvious approach to charity work - and there does seem something a little arrogant about buying clothes from the poor and then shrugging "they got them for free in the first place". It's not quite as bad as those people who roll the shoebanks down hills to get their hands on free winklepickers, but it's getting there. If the idea is to give people the cash, then give them the cash. Otherwise, it's just 'rich person making the poor people strip for cash'.

Michael Jackson's comeback: remember why he went away?

Michael Jackson has something of a problem. Since all he's done in the last, ooh, twenty years is get accused of being too close to young boys, promise benefit records that never materialise, gone to court more times than Virgina Wade and run out of cash, he needs to re-establish himself in the world's hearts.

He's decided the best way to do this - not to mention the laziest way - is to rework a track from back when the world used to treat him with respect. Rather than as the punchline to a "nose falling off" gag.

So he's reworked a song from Thriller. Unfortunately, he's chosen to rerecord The Girl Is Mine, the clunkiest, biggest stinker on that album. Yes, The Girl Is Mine. Only with Will.I.Am in the Paul McCartney role.

This is going to be followed by a whole album, comprising of remixes of Thriller. Remixed by the likes of Akon - a young man following the footsteps of Jackson, of course. With the embarrassing sexual misunderstandings involving children.

So, Jackson is taking his one, unquestioned achievement, and having it mucked about with. Nothing says "I have ceased to mean anything" than needing a Kanye West remix to even get a slot in the racks at FYE.

EMI: can shrinking save a broken beast?

Perhaps the most telling detail in the coverage of EMI's restructuring announcement is that it's not even made it to the front of the FT's website. EMI, once one of the biggest, proudest of British companies is pulling itself to pieces, and the FT doesn't even think it's that important.

So, what's going to give, then? virtually everything, by the sounds of it:

“We have spent a long time looking intensely at EMI and the problems faced by its recorded music division which, like the rest of the music industry, has been struggling to respond to the challenges posed by a digital environment.”

That's possibly a little overkind to the music industry, which has less been "struggling to respond", more "hiding under the duvet squealing".
“We believe we have devised a new revolutionary structure for the group that will improve every area of the business,” he said. “In short it (the restructuring) will make EMI’s music more valuable for the company and its artists alike.”

Of course, it's arguable that the two thousand people being bounced onto the dole won't find their areas of the business have improved - and its unlikely those who remain will enjoy the increased workload, to be frank.

Hypebot is waiting to see details, but isn't expecting to be impressed, judging on the reports so far:
I'm skeptical that this all will prove to be like so many other takeovers, buyouts and mergers we see on the corporate world. They wring savings and profits from existing assets buy cutting jobs and overhead as Hands did today. But all to often in the long run they do little to build new ones.

It does all seem fabulously vague, as the FT summarises it:
He focused on four key areas where he said the changes would make a difference, including repositioning EMI’s numerous labels, developing a new partnership with artists, and opening new income streams such as enhanced digital services and corporate sponsorship arrangements.

The first of these is meaningless - nobody much cares which sublabel a major artist is on; it's not going to suddenly make EMI profitable by changing the Virgin imprint to a classic label. Presumably the idea is to shrink the number of brands to reduce costs.

"Developing a new partnership with artists" is an interesting way of phrasing what is probably 'trying to stop the talent thinking we're screwing them'. But given that Macca and Radiohead and Williams and Coldplay have all got the hump since Hands arrived, it sounds like this might not exactly be EMI's forte.

"Enhanced digital services" - is that really a new income stream? Isn't selling music what, you know, the point of the company was supposed to be in the first place? God alone knows what is actually going to be "enhanced", but if Hands believes that people are going to suddenly start paying more for downloads, he might want to think about finding someone else to run the show for him.

By the time you get to 'corporate sponsorship', it's clear there aren't actually any ideas here at all, beyond sacking people and hoping the bills might drop below income sometime soon.

To echo Hypebot's take: the major labels are unquestionably in need of major surgery. But Hands is the wrong sort of surgeon: EMI needs a transplant of young, fresh, ideas; instead, they've got a cosmetic surgeon syphoning fat off a dying body.

Gennaro Castaldo watch: What of the Brits, Gennaro?

Gennaro Castaldo is called away from whatever he does when he's not commenting on the music scene, to deal with a Press Association eager to know what his thoughts on the Brits nominations are:

"Usually you have just one or two artists dominating the nominations, so it's unprecedented to see at least four major acts all in with a chance of bagging a handful of awards. It says a lot about the strength and vibrancy of British music right now," said HMV's Gennaro Castaldo.

Let's leave aside that 'handful' usually means 'a few' or 'a small number' and not speculate on if he meant 'armful' or 'sackful' instead, and instead ponder if having three acts with four nominations really is so very different from one or two acts having a lot of nominations.

Julia Fordham: think of her and she will appear

Last night, when we were doing the live blog of the Brits Nominations, we nearly added Julia Fordham to the pairing of Mari Wilson and Sam Brown.

So it was slightly spooky to get an email this morning alerting us to the release of a new album by Ms Fordham. It's her tenth, and it's one of those downloadable affairs. It's got a wonderful cover version of I Keep Forgettin', which almost sounds like a duet with the ghost of Michael McDonald.

If you've never come across her before: imagine if Annie Lennox wasn't so constantly impressed by being Annie Lennox. But only the good bits.

Clay Aiken is the new John Cleese

Our recent trip to Washington was only slightly marred by our hotel being next to the theatre hosting Spamalot, meaning every trip out either commenced with fighting your way through a bunch of overdressed Pyhton fans, or rushing past a television blaring a constant loop of What Great Larks it all is.

Still, it turns out it could have been worse: Clay Aiken's joined the cast:

"The first time I saw it I thought it was the stupidest thing I'd ever seen in my entire life. My tour drummer is the 'Spamalot' drummer, and (he) said you've got to see it again."

How dull would your wit have to be to need a second visit to Spamalot to 'get' it? It's a musical based on a Monty Python film. It's hardly obscurantist humour, is it?
"I thought Monty Python was a person until three months ago."

Oh. That would be roughly where the dull wit would be calibrated, then.

Apparently it's not easy being in the show:
He told [Newsweek] he was so sore from rehearsals he "couldn't even get off the toilet the other day."

"It hurts so bad. I don't know if it's I'm not coordinated or using muscles I never had to use before," he said.

What muscles, exactly, are in your bottom that you need to use for acting that you might never have exercised before?

Andy Kershaw jailed for three months

That it wasn't entirely unexpected doesn't make it any less upsetting: Andy Kershaw has been sentenced to three months inside after pleading guilty to breaching a restraining order:

Passing sentence, High Bailiff Michael Moyle said Kershaw's life was turning into a "Greek tragedy".

He added: "You seem hell-bent on destroying yourself and you do not seem to appreciate that the author of your destruction is yourself."

Mr Moyle told Kershaw that Miss Banner and Mr Imrie were "entitled to be protected from your unlawful activities".

He continued: "I genuinely regret that you, by your actions, have brought this state of affairs to pass.

"I regret that I feel I have no obligation other than to impose custody."

It's an increasingly sad story; let's hope - for everyone involved - this marks its lowest point.

Michael Stipe nips out of jury duty

Michael Stipe wasn't much interested in being considered part of peers of a man accused of sneaking into a High School:

Stipe told Clarke County Superior Court Judge Lawton Stephens on Monday he could not be fair and impartial in the case because he has been the target of stalkers and death threats, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.

Apparently, this was enough to get him off. Although I'm a little confused as to when being a victim of crime made you incapable of being on a jury, we're sure Stipe didn't make an excuse simply to avoid doing his duty.

Why internet radio will be throttled by rights holders

In light of the decision by Pandora to pull out of Britain, James Cridland has done the math on the "reasonable" demands of PPL/MCPS/PRS: reports that MCPS/PRS was asking for 0.085p per song per listener - which also appears on this PDF file on the MCPS/PRS website. PPL, in a press release about the Pandora closure, says they would charge 0.0561p 0.0773p per song per listener (the interactive radio rate). Pandora plays around 15 songs per hour.

Vordermanned out, this comes to:
Total music rights payments: 2.434p per listener, per hour.

Cridland then considers the established radio industry:
The latest figures from the UK’s Radio Advertising Bureau says that the commercial radio sector as a whole brought in £593m in 2007. The latest RAJAR figures show that commercial radio is listened-to for 441m total hours every week, or alternatively 23,018m total hours a year.

So… 23,018m total hours brings in £593m. Divide one by the other, and we find that, as a total industry average, commercial radio makes 2.57p per listener, per hour. And the revenue figures also include non-radio activity, like websites.

In other words: the rights holders want Pandora to be paying sums just shy of the established operators' entire turnover, just for rights. Never mind the other costs facing Pandora.

No wonder Pandora felt it couldn't afford to continue. It's up to you to decide if PRS-PPL-MCPS are shortsighted, greedy, or just hoping to screw as much cash out of the internet as they can before they're dumped and replaced with an organisation more suited to the new music world.

[Thanks to Alan C for the link]

Doherty embraces his Art. Garfunkel.

3AM have opened up Pete Doherty's blog, and have got all confused:

The Babyshambles singer has revealed that he now shuns nightlife to stay in and watch movies.

In his blog from a hotel in Barcelona, he writes: "I was in bed by 3, watching Watership Down and working on some new songs."

Now, I'm getting on a bit, but surely "in bed by three" hardly constitutes "shunning nightlife", does it?

Gordon in the morning: Kylie and the Brits

There's are tow different leads in Bizarre this morning. The newspaper version splashes with the Brits - "Chart acts rule the show" says the paper, although by the time the page appeared on the internet, someone apparently realised that the number of acts who get nominated for a Brit without having obtained some chart success is probably so close to zero as to effectively be none, and the headline morphs into:

Brit Awards go pop for 2008

- which at least makes sense, although Smart's summation that this is a year when pop rules the nominations is a little undercut by, erm, his own commentary:
ARCTIC MONKEYS, KAISER CHIEFS, MARK RONSON and KATE NASH should be in for a good night too, with three nominations each.

And fair play to the academy for nominating the brilliant RICHARD HAWLEY in the Best Male category.

Indeed, surely the line-up of nominations mean that this is the year pop doesn't rule the Brits, with Girls Aloud and Take That outnumbered by three rock (albeit Tesco rock) acts in best group; Leona Lewis the sole pop act up for best female; and Mika the closest thing to pop in the best male category.

Online Bizarre, though, knocks the Brit nominations into second place to make way for a throwaway comment Kylie made elsewhere:
“I enjoy dating, so I’m not totally alone. Don’t worry about it.

“It’s not that long ago that I came out of my last relationship.

“A year had gone by really quickly with me running out of illness and trying to just embrace health as much as possible.

“So I haven’t really had that much time to sit and feel like, ‘where’s Mr Right?’ I’m sure he’s making his way.”

Now, this, to us, makes it sound like Kylie's nipping out for the odd drink-and-baked-potato for laid-back dating, but is neither looking for, nor expecting, to have a big romance right now.

Gordon reads it in the opposite way:
It’s time for guy to get so lucky

Lads! Kylie's looking for Mr Right

But it doesn't matter anyway, as it's really just an excuse for bunging in a bunch of photos of Kylie in her knickers.

Aware that this isn't quite enough, though, Gordon tells us about something he saw on television a week ago:
One fella who has been trying to make his way is E4 presenter and actor MATHEW HORNE.

SIMON AMSTELL grilled him during TV’s Never Mind The Buzzcocks the other week, forcing Mathew to confess to sending Kylie his phone number and flowers.

If that’s all it takes, I’ll be on to Interflora tomorrow.

Hang on a moment, though, Gordon: according to the MySpace someone shared with us in the comments yesterday, wouldn't you also have to come to an arrangement with your wife before dialing the flower shop?

Elsewhere, a photo of Victoria Beckham wearing a headscarf leads Gordon to surmise that, erm, she should be given a lead role in the new Rambo movie:
THE fourth Rambo film is out next month – and after seeing this snap of VICTORIA BECKHAM I reckon she’d make a terrific leading lady.

Gordon, presumably, does understand that when a major Hollywood movie has a release date less than a month in the future, it might be a little late to be casting lead roles.

But it's not just the bandanna, Gordon is also excited by Victoria's unbuttoned shirt:
I couldn’t give a monkey’s about what the fashion critics say about the outfit – a shirt showing off the assets is absolutely fine by me.

You have to feel sorry for his wife, don't you? It can't be that great having a husband whose job is publicly drooling over women out of his league, like a circle of embarrassment, can it?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Something to listen to: Architecture In Helsinki

Away from the, uh, fun of the Brits nominations, the latest in the impressive series of Daytrotter sessions has been published: Architecture In Helsinki. Veh veh good.

Steroids in pop

It's probably not surprising that 50 Cent's name has turned up on a list of alleged customers of an illegal steroid dealer; more surprising is the allegation he ordered the make-me-chunky-and-grumpy pills under the false name of Michael Jordan.

Even more surprising was Mary J Blige's apparent deals - or Marlo Stanfield, as she apparently called herself. (One for The Wire viewers, there.)

Brits nominations sort of live

Oh, lord... did they really introduce ITV2's coverage of the 2008 Brits nominations with The Final Countdown? Really?

Here are Reggie and Kelly, then, trying to force some pizzazz into a second-tier event. But first: Editors.

We like Editors, but we can't work out if they're here because Coldplay are too grand, or because the Brits organisers believe they're an example of the Best British Music today (albeit not good enough for the Brits proper.)

After they're finished, Kelly trills "we've kept you waiting long enough", which suggests they're seen as ballast, padding out a few lists of band names just enough to make a programme fit for ITV2.

Nominations underway, then. First, Best British Group (wasn't this the sort of category you should build to?)

Kaiser Chiefs - who might have just about counted for last year's awards, but don't appear to have done anything memorable since;
Arctic Monkeys - who were, at least, slightly more visible than the Kaisers;
Girls Aloud - who should waltz this against the competition;
Editors - who at least turned up this evening; and
Take That - who advertised both Marks and Spencers and Morrisons. Simultaneously. Can't be trusted.

International male solo artist:

Kanye West - who might turn up if he's promised he'll win;
Rufus Wainwright - really? The international equivalent of Take That? Really?
Bruce Springsteen - now, he's the international male Take That
Michael Buble - snurkle! You're joking, right?
Timbaland - although he might have been voted for by people thinking he was the same as Justin Timberlake

British breakthrough

Kate Nash - funded by the Brits awards past so surely a conflict of interest, right?
Kalxons - didn't they breakthrough a while back?
Bat For Lashes - turning up here tonight, but not entirely sure the "breakthrough" really has happened yet?
Leona Lewis - well, popular, yes, but didn't her breakthrough come the Christmas before last?
Mika - broke through; disappeared instantly

"We're speeding through the show" says Reggie, as if they're in danger of running out of material before the first break.

Sadly they don't.

Oh, lord, there's a taped insert from Sharon Osbourne wishing "smelly Kelly" luck.

More noms:

British male solo artist

Mark Ronson - whose success is based on collaborating with other artists and isn't really solo in any sense
Newton Faulkner - a man who thinks a review calling him "the British Jack Johnson" is something to be proud of
Richard Hawley - every category has one great act who doesn't stand a horse's chance in a dog race
Jamie T - still yet to qualify for British breakthrough, though, hasn't he?
Mika - Perhaps it's a joke. Maybe they're joking

International album

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible - only slightly disappointing as a follow-up
Eagles - Long Road Out Of Eden - have yet to meet anyone in Britain who even knows this has been released, much less who cares
Kylie - X - but for the long, health-induced gap in her career, this would have been seen as her Madonna moment, where the magic has gone and all that is left is production and memories
Kings Of Leon - Because Of The Times - The junior Eagles
Foo Fighters - Echoes... - This will win, because everyone loves Dave Gorhl and wants to check he'll turn up

Female solo artist

Alicia Keys - Still going, apparently
Bjork - we know she's still going, she beat someone up in a airport to prove she's still alive
Rhianna - all one song
Feist - see Richard Hawley
Kylie - she was alright in Dcotor Who, wasn't she?

There's now some more business about the Osbournes; Kelly is revealing how "fun" it'll be because her parents can't speak without swearing: "where's the fun without profanities?"

On tape again, it's back to Sharon: "I didn't think the Brits would ask us." No, we didn't see it coming, either. Not in 2008. She mumbles something about not being Trevor McDonald and keeps repeating "it should be fun", like she's desperately trying to convince herself as well as us.

Bat For Lashes is the next live act, doing exactly the sort of thing that should be in the proper Brits - an acoustic What's A Girl To Do? - but will never appear, as actual spine-chilling music must make way for Jason Orange and Prince jamming to covers of Beyonce tracks or whatever this year's musical entertainment might be.

To be fair to the organisers, at least this year's nominations have made a little bit of effort to include some less-obvious acts, if you can call saying "ooh... what was the song on that iPod advert again" as pushing the envelope.

Kelly says that the Brits are "a credible event which helps fund the Brit school...", which is half true.

Leona Lewis has gone back to the Brits school to show what her alma mater is like - but if they're that good at training people for music industry skills, how did she end up begging for a job on the X-Factor? It's like Harvard Business School being proud if one of their graduates winds up on The Apprentice.

Now Mark Ronson has turned up for an interview.

"How do you feel?"
"I feel... Brit...ish"

The interview lasts five seconds. He seems less than impressed.

More padding now, as they ask artists of the sort prepared to appear in a package about 'who do you like' what they think about the nominations for best British male. Kate Nash is positive about Newton Faulkner. Craig David says Mika is "very unique", as if there are degrees of uniqueness.

There's an awful lot of padding.

The advertisers in the commercials include mouthwash and computer dating agencies. Who, exactly, do they think will be watching this programme, then?

Kelly Osbourne trills "coming up, we've got some more live performances, but first back to the serious business of music" - so what are the live performances going to be, then? Magicians? Vent acts?

Another slew of nominations - it's odd that these are just being churned out on tape, while the programme makes room for acres of other old bits of shit. Couldn't they at least have got someone - anyone - to come out and read them out of a piece of paper in a big gold envelope?

Best live act
The Klaxons - hmm
Take That - hmm
Kaiser Chiefs - hmm
Muse - hmm
Arctic Monkeys - hmmm

This whole category is just there to provide a nice gift for the boys who don't run fast enough to win one of those proper prizes, as hardly anyone is going to be in a position to be able to vouch for all the shortlist, so it's just guessing, really, isn't it?

International group
Foo Fighters - they'll be replaced next year with the red Hot Chili Peppers, of course, as they alternate
Eagles - if all the votes from anyone under 50 are discounted
Kings Of Leon - depsite the novelty having worn off sometime around summer 2006, still popular with industry insiders, it seems
Arcade Fire - it'd be nice if they did win, wouldn't it?
White Stripes -... unless it turns them the way critical acclaim made the White Stripes (i.e. Jack) go as pompous as Captain Mainwearing

British female artist
KT Tunstall - "or do we mean Sandi Thom? which was the one who didn't vanish?"
PJ Harvey/Bat For Lashes/Kate Nash - funny; normally this is the category which is scrabbling around for actual talent active in the year in question to nominate, which is why Annie Lennox usually turns up, but this year they're spoiled for choice...
Leona Lewis - ... but will probably give it to the one off the telly anyway.
No Winehouse, you'll note.

There's a new award now - the "Critic's Choice". Blimey, there's Peter Robinson talking about it. It seems to be some sort of attempt to redress the balance of the awards being shit, so they've asked journalists to come up with someone a bit more exciting. It's restricted to artists releasing debut albums.

Foals and Duffy lose out to (ex Brits school) Adele. So not only have they done the credible award off on the prelaunch programme, but they've also managed to choose the dullest of the three who was being underwritten by the Brits organisation anyway. The funny thing is, Adele does have a great career ahead of her - but it's clearly a Mari Wilson/Sam Brown lite-jazz, occasional-live-spot-on-Woman's-Hour type of career. Brilliant to watch, but not going to save the UK record industry.

Another sludgy collection of 'who will Sugababes vote for, assuming they don't attack them with sticks' vox pops. The Klaxons say Kate Nash could be the next Cilla Black; that's probably not as insulting as they intend it to be.

Mika is wearing braces: "Bat For Lashes is very creative... and not the norm..."

Apparently, there's more of this sort of thing on the Brits website. Don;t all rush at once.

Brits performers being run down now:
Kaiser Chiefs (they've promised not to do I Predict A Riot, honest)
Kylie (she was alright on Doctor Who, remember)
Leona Lewis (this is ITV)
Rhianna (doing... go on, guess)
Mika (it's like when they booked The Darkness too early and nobody cared any more by the time the show came round...)
Mark Ronson (they half hope he'll bring Amy; the half hope he'll bring Candie Payne instead)

Oh, god, they've sent Jodie Harsh to ask passers-by what the best single of 2008 was: it's like a cross between Lily Savage's Blankety Blank and That's Life.

They keep trailing the Hoosiers as if that's something to stop you turning over to see Trevor McDonald crawling out of retirement.

Ricky Wilson is now being interviewed - let's assume he's just been up early delivering milk and not, in any way, out of his gourd on the diminishing largess of the major labels, shall we? He does admit that Kaiser Chiefs are simple.

Top ten singles, from which the world can vote:
Kate Nash - Foundations
James Blunt - 1973
Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
Mark Ronson - Valerie
Kaiser Chiefs - Ruby
Mutya Buena - Real Girl
The Hoosiers - Worried About Ray
Take That - Shine
Mika - Grace Kelly
Sugababes - About You Now

The Hoosiers? How the hell did they get in this list? I mean... really?

British album:
Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare - the record which defined the year as being the year they released an album that was, you know, okay
Leona Lewis - Spirit - in with the running as the "happy Mother's Day" lazy gift choice of the year
Mark Ronson - Version - the sort of record which execs and Jo Whiley love, but doesn't really make an emotional connection with
Mika - Life In Cartoon Motion - stop it, it's not funny any more
Take That - Beautiful World - the "so, timmy got you Leona Lewis, and I got you this, Mum" choice

My god; they really have built up towards The Hoosiers as the peak of the evening. It's 'quirky' and 'off-kilter' for people who believe they, themselves, are quirky and off-kilter. Also, the song is a rip off of Happy Together for people who would rather think themselves quirky and off-kilter than listen to The Turtles.

Oh, hang on, there's one more award to announce - a prestigious one, too: the 'well done for not dying Paul McCartney award'.

So, the scene is set for the big event then: or, at leaat, the odds have been firmly stacked against it. This has been kind of the kid's table at the wedding.

Brits nominations: gird yourself

The organisation themselves haven't got round to actually posting the details yet, but BBC News is reporting the Brits nominations include four for Mika - yes, four, even with the benefit of hindsight - and a similar number of nominations for Take That.

We're a little bemused as to which bright-eyed expert came up with the idea of holding a ceremony on the same day as the Golden Globes which - even in its strike-bound, released-terrorist-hostage-style press conference, still manages to eclipse Kelly Osbourne clumping through Mika's nominations.

The glittering event is "live" (except it's not) on ITV2 this evening, with Reggie 'even in the glittering history of Doctor Who bit parts, man, being on Brighton sea front briefly instead of held captive on the Master's ship, that was some bit part' Yeates.

They're not your friends; they're not even listening

Perhaps unsurprisingly - although the stench of desperation is somewhat strong - it turns out there are companies who you can pay to boost the number of plays for your band on MySpace:

From: Want More PROMO?
Date: Jan 2, 2008 8:12 PM

These are the promotion packages we offer to bigger artists:

5,000 a day for 1 month - Total plays a month: 150,000
10,000 plays a day for 1 month - Total Plays a month : 300,000
15,000 plays a day for 1 month - Total Plays a month : 430,000 for a month

Whoever would have thought that all those 'popular' bands on MySpace might just have deep pockets rather than wide fanbases?

XXL plans expansion; dumps editor

This is involving rather a lot of reading between the barebone lines, but we suspect Elliott Wilson's enforced departure from XXL amid claims that publisher Harris Publications wanted the title to "expand its scope" is an indication that the hip-hop cash-cow has finally started to dry up and Harris hopes to keep the magazine alive by moving its scope from a musical force which is rapidly turning niche again.

Meanwhile, The Smithsonian is hosting a gallery full of hip-hop portraits this coming autumn, which suggests that any role the music had as the authentic voice of anything is coming to a pause, if not a halt. The big names are now so big they get covered in the mainstream media and in the national gallery; when your counter-culture becomes the culture, people looking for an escape are going to look elsewhere.

Eagles over Greenwich

We imagine if you like the Eagles the news they're playing the Millennium Dome would be a cause of great excitement. March 20, 22, 23, 26, since you ask. If they sell out - and, of course, they will, as touts will ensure there's not a ticket left in the box office, if not ensuring that there's not an empty seat in the venue - we expect they'll add... two more, maybe?

Tickets go on sale Friday morning; onto eBay around lunchtime.

Bjork re-releases greatest hit

Much as the return of Trevor McDonald to the News At Ten reminds you of happier times while feeling sympathy for his plight today, the news of Bjork attacking a photographer at the airport takes you back, doesn't it?

Herald photographer Glenn Jeffrey said his shirt was ripped all the way down the back by Bjork, who was with a man who had asked Jeffrey not to take photos.

"I took a couple of pictures... and as I turned and walked away, she came up behind me, grabbed the back of my black skivvy (long tee shirt) and tore it down the back," Jeffrey was reported saying in the Herald.

"As she did this she fell to the ground. At no stage did I touch her or speak with her," he said.

The man accompanying the singer said to her: "B, don't do this, B don't do this."

Mind you, it's really rude to take pictures of Bjork when she's not dressed as a swan or Aphrodite or plutonium.

It's 11 years since Bjork last attacked someone in an airport.

EMI falling apart in public

More previews of the EMI downsizing announcements for tomorrow - if they could get the papers interested in their acts they way they're interested in Hands' cuts, they'd be in clover.

The job losses - or "tightening of support", as it's being euphemistically described - are going to be announced through that modern tool of corporate cowardice, the video link:

The changes will be announced to staff tomorrow by video link from the Odeon Cinema in Kensington, West London. Artists and their managers have also been invited to participate as Mr Hands tries to reassure them over the impact of the changes.

Don't you wish you worked for a company in such financial difficulties it hires a cinema in central London in order to prevent staff and management being in the same room?

Besides sacking nearly everybody, there's to be a new broom, too. Yet another new broom:
The restructuring of back-office functions will be handled by Mike Clasper, the former chief executive of BAA, the airports operator.

Clasper has experience of the entertainment industry - he's a non-executive director of ITV as well. BAA, EMI, ITV - it's like he's trying to collect faded three-letter British brands, isn't it?

Of course, the one piece of light relief in all this is the huffing and puffing - more puffing than anything - of Robbie William's arthritic career. The one thing EMI isn't bothered about is the 'strike':
Mr Hands is said to be “pretty relaxed” over Williams’s threat to withhold his album, preferring to focus on more profitable artists such as Norah Jones.

... and letting newspapers know about it.