Saturday, March 21, 2009

Woodstock again?

You'd have thought that after the 30th anniversary event descended into fire, riot and claims of rape that nobody would be bothered about a doing a 40th anniversary Woodstock.

Michael Lang is keen to press on, though. He thinks the smell of acrid fires and sexual assaults has dissipated:

"I think it always hearkens back to the '69 event, somehow," he said. "When people think (of Woodstock) they don't think '99 or '94. They think (of) the '69 event. I think (1999) has its ramifications, but I don't think it did any real damage in that sense."

Yes. They might think of 1969 when they think of Woodstock. But when they think of ill-conceived anniversary revivals of Woodstock, it's always going to be 1999.

It's not going to go ahead unless it can find a sponsor, which perhaps is just intended to be some sort of humorous punchline to the original's much-proclaimed hippy ethos.

Alice In Chains struggle with the 21st century

Sean Kinney, drummer for Alice In Chains, was asked by about making music in the 21st century:

"It's a world where people steal music and record companies can't sell music. They sort of screwed up. It's such a different time and place; there are so many real unknowns now. It's going to be really cool. . . The great thing is that you can get your music out to a lot of people. But on the flipside, people want it for free. Studio time isn't free; we put a lot of money and effort into what we do. They expect us to be talking to them twenty-four hours a day on blogs and things. It takes the mystery away, I think. We're not from that 'era.' That was never really our 'thing.' It'll be interesting to see how we fit in, if we fit in."

So, let's see if we can get this straight: he loves the internet because you can reach large numbers of people, but he only wants them to be interested when it suits him? He thinks that it's "going to be really cool" but seems to hate all the opportunites that actually make it really cool.

What's really horrible is that - in about three years - we're going to hear the scream as he catches up with Twitter.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Too old for the charts

The Western Mail got incredibly excited at the news that the Pet Shop Boys might have written a song for Shirley Bassey, even although the PSBs didn't make it sound like a record coming to shops near you any time soon:

Pet Shop Boys keyboardist Chris Lowe said: “I didn’t think anyone knew about that.

“Well, we’ve written a song for Shirley Bassey which we’ve heard she likes so that’s all I know.”

But here's the problem: how can the Western Mail make a full story out of a couple of words from Chris Lowe that suggest there's not really much of a story anyway? Is there someone, perhaps, they could call; someone willing to work up analysis out of the throwaway mention that Shirley might have heard a song written by Lowe and Tennant?
HMV music expert Gennaro Castaldo said: “She doesn’t have to worry about getting in the charts anymore, she is past all of that, but she might find it quite appealing in conjunction with the Pet Shop Boys.

“You could be looking at a number one.”

Or possibly a number 37. Or maybe even a song which never sees the light of day.

Still, charming to see that HMV's obsession with bringing in the youth to their stores has reached such Logans Runesque proportions that being a bit older than the average pop star sees you being pegged as "past" wanting to have a record that sells well. It's not as if Chris Lowe is going to be welcomed a Club 18-30 holiday, is it?

Roger Daltrey defends Iggy's insurance spots

BBC News asks Roger Daltrey if selling out isn't so bad after all:

You've just re-released your third album, The Who Sell Out - which attacked the commercialisation of rock. What do you think of people like Iggy Pop making car insurance adverts?

Who cares? Everybody's trying to feed their kids and earn a living. That advert will be gone in two years and people will forget about it. He's still Iggy Pop, he does great performances and he's still a great artist.

It's perhaps unsurprising that Daltrey has no problem with people shuffling from the edge of the counterculture into doing telly spots for financial services products. But he might be kidding himself if thinks nobody will remember them a couple of years on. For example, I can't quite shake the image of, ooh, somebody doing TV spots for American Express from the edge of his trout farm a couple of decades ago...

Drink deep from Justin Timberlake's well

If you'd asked us to come up with a drink product to be marketed under a Justin Timberlake brand, I'd have suggested a weak lemon drink. Or maybe a watery alcopop.

Instead, though, he's decided to start his own tequila. I wouldn't have thought of associating Timberlake with that particular drink, although perhaps "shriveled worm that nobody ever wants to touch" is meant to be the link.

Timbo is calling his booze 901 - which is both his hometown dialling code, and a time:

“that time of night when your evening is ending, but your night is just beginning.”

If you're reaching for the tequila by nine o'clock, your night is probably going nowhere, unless he's thinking of launching a sister product 1017, to represent the time when your concerned friends find you facedown in the toilet cubicle, unable to remember where your trousers were when you saw them last.

The Edge digs a trench

What's most surprising about the coverage of The Edge's alleged despoiling of the environment around his LA home is that people are surprised - after all, it's not like he's not got form for pushing on with redevelopments in the face of local objections. What with the Clarence Hotel being given a "futuristic" look and the hubristic U2 Tower in Dublin, it's not like The Edge has a reputation for being sensitive to the environment when there's a few quid to be made.

And, according to LA Weekly, he's got some grand plans for one of the nicer, wilder bits of the city:

Residents in the Coral and Latigo canyon areas of the Malibu hills are in an uproar over the Edge’s plan to build five homes across a proposed area of nearly 1,000 acres on two key sites, one bordered by the spectacular Latigo Canyon and the other at Serra Retreat.

They're not entirely surprised, though:
Among those most frustrated by the Edge’s plans is Candace Brown, a resident and longtime partner of Malibu mayoral candidate Councilman Jefferson Wagner. She accuses the U2 guitarist of spearheading an overly ostentatious and self-serving development that will upset the ecosystem and create an eyesore of, in her words, oversized “McMansions.”

“They evicted the archery club, which was an institution in Malibu,” says an exasperated Brown of the Edge and his project partners. She says that they also dug a 15-foot trench “the size of three football fields,” and that eyewitnesses have reported seeing wildlife, including deer and fox, trapped in the trench.

It's not believed, though, that The Edge is eating the trapped animals, nor smearing their blood over his face before dancing around under the moon, naked save for the skins of the captured wild creatures.

God alone knows why The Edge needs such a big trench. Perhaps he's burying his money. Or maybe he doesn't trust them modern flushing toilets.

It gets worse, though. Apparently he's going to have a crack at a job usually best reserved for faith - moving mountains:
One disgruntled neighbor, Jim Smith, a building contractor who has looked at the Edge’s plans, estimates that the proposed construction would affect the community for years to come. Smith says that an existing mountain on the property will, in effect, disappear, and that approximately 5,000 truckloads of earth removed from the site would be transported along a road not nearly large enough to handle the load.

The Edge "declined to comment" on the story to LA Weekly, but it's not just his environmental destruction which is upsetting the neighbourhood. He turns out to be a bit of an all-rounder when it comes to knobbish behaviour:
“There was one occasion when his enormous tour bus stopped dead on the road to my house, blocking it. Myself and several other cars had to wait behind it for some time until I became annoyed and approached the window of the bus. I asked the driver to move, though he said I’d have to wait, as he didn’t want to interrupt the Edge and Axl Rose [a fellow Malibu resident], who were in an intense discussion at the back of the bus.”

It's far from clear why The Edge would want to even get involved in building houses. He clearly doesn't need the money. Now, what would be the word for someone who just loves money so much he doesn't care what he has to do to get it?

Vedder fights for Tomorrow

It really is a pity that Pearl Jam sound so bloody awful, as Eddie Vedder really seems a genuinely nice guy who often is right about stuff. Like his attempt to organise support for Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World cartoon.

Tomorrow's strip has been dropped from twelve US alternative weeklies:

“Obviously that means a loss of income for him,” Vedder says. “Perhaps even worse is the lost connection to readers who faithfully turn to Tom and his sardonic penguin Sparky to help them survive the absurdities of the world around us.”
“When you write, please be polite and respectful,” Vedder asks. “Many of the editors at these papers are friends of the cartoonists we’re supporting... after all, they’re the folks who gave the cartoons a home in the first place. Suspending the work was a corporate decision made during incredibly tough times for all newspapers.”

It's not only Tomorrow who's suffering: Matt Groening's 22 year-old Life In Hell has also been caught up in the cull, as Village Voice Media drops all its syndicated cartoons. And the papers are also losing staff writers. The question might be if there's any alt weeklies left to not publish cartoons in for much longer.

Gordon in the morning: Paint along with GaGa

Gordon shuffles his papers this morning and finds some photos of Lady GaGa:

SPRAY painting palm trees can be an exhausting pastime.

Just ask LADY GAGA.

The curvy chart-topper, clad in tiny black pants and high heels, could only manage a brief ten-minute graffiti session before she had to call it a day.

Hang about - since when did The Sun, scourge of the yob, start to criticise people for not putting in the hours on a vandalism kick? Are we going to see Rebekah Wade running think pieces lamenting that the gang who did the bus shelter down the street could only be arsed to smash two of the four panes of glass?

But hang on... why was GaGa painting trees anyway?
The wacky stunt on Venice Beach in Los Angeles was staged for a photoshoot.

A photoshoot? Really? She wasn't just spraypainting trees and happened to be spotted, then?

In which case, surely she only needed to do it for a few minutes while she was being photographed, didn't she?

Elsewhere, Gordon runs one of those pieces which seems to be cobbled together from a couple of vague facts and a lot of jumping to conclusions - Ricky Wilson ditching music for TV, anyone?:
KAISER CHIEFS are taking a sabbatical after single Good Days Bad Days flopped and frontman Ricky will use the time to try to break into TV.

A source said: "He’s really good on telly. Lots of people have commented on his appearances on music shows and think he comes across well.

"He’s funny and has a good manner. They want to give the band breathing space and I think he could do really well on music or youth TV."

Let's give Gordo the benefit of the doubt and assume that there really was a source and it wasn't just Pete Samson muttering something as he passed by the desk: wouldn't giving at least some sort of indication who this source might be, or what their background is, help in allowing us to work out if it's significant that the "source" thinks Wilson would be good on TV?

Because if it's someone like a controller of a channel, or a seasoned producer, that would mean something. But if it's Wilson's mum, then "I reckon he'd be great" becomes a lot less significant.

And since when would someone say "he could be a good TV presenter" only do so on the condition of anonymity? Unless, you know, you were merely allowing Wilson's agent to dictate the contents of your column in a bid to try and find their client some work. But that's not going to happen to a proper columnist, is it?

Friday, March 20, 2009

SXSW 2009: Enter Shikari, pursued by fans

The beautiful-and-discerning Enter Shikari couldn't have had a better time at SXSW if they had been covered in cream frosting and jam: NME reports queues round the block as they played Emos.

Also having a good SXSW is Graham Coxon; having a bad SXSW are AT&T, as the combination of SXSWi geeks and SXSW music hipsters brought a slew of iPhones to Austin, taking down the only network on which they work.

Rolling Stone has been thrilled by Circle Jerks and the Dicks:

When the Dicks hit the stage — a little chubbier and grayer than they were in the ’80s — pot-bellied lead singer Gary Floyd offered these words of thanks: “For me, to thank the little people is very easy.”

Rolling Stone is having a go at cultural institutions for getting flabby and grey? Mote-and-beam, surely?

Amongst the kindaexclusives gathered between sets and Mexican food, the LA Times discovered that Devo are about "half-way through" their next album. Since they've already had 19 years to work on it, we'll expect that in 2028, then.

And the Associated Press spoke to Big Boi about his debut solo album. What's it going to sound like, Mr. Boi?
"They can't put Big Boi in a category. Rock, funk, blues, soul, gospel — some of everything."

That's a problem, though, as in that case the record shops are just going to have to pile the CDs in the middle of the floor. Unless they have a section marked 'Hip hop acts who think that putting a few guitars on the record makes them into Jonathan Miller'.

Twittergem: Danrebellato

Pete Waterman: "I spent 3 months trying to find out what a 'Venga Bus' was". 3 months? What form do we think this investigation took?

- from twittercom/danrebellato

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet: SXSW

It's worth keeping an eye on Mark McNulty's photoblog - he's in Austin, but taking photos of stuff away from the stages. (He'll be doing the bands too, though.)

Beatles only: Dhani Harrison suggests private shop

Still convinced that there's an enormous market for Beatles downloads, Dhani Harrison has been suggesting that the estates & survivors of The Beatles might eschew iTunes and the other altogether and create their own store:

It seems they’re mulling going it alone with a Beatles digital store, rather than signing on with iTunes. “We’re losing money every day, so what do you do?” he says. “You have to have your own delivery system, or you have to do a good deal with Steve Jobs… [Jobs] says that a download is worth 99 cents, and we disagree.”

You're right, Dhani - given that Freemantle Media are suggesting that the sweet spot for TV programme downloads might well be five pence, or 7.5 cents, it really does sound like Jobs is able to artificially inflate prices.

Oh, you didn't mean that you thought Apple were overpricing, did you?
Harrison says he’s the most tech-savvy person at Apple Corps

That's kind of ominous - if he's the smartest guy in the room, and can't see that iTunes manages to eke a premium out of downloads through the store's ease and range and convenience, if he really believes that Maxwell's Silver Hammer has a per download value of more than a dollar a pop, it sounds like Apple could be losing money every day for quite a while longer.

Gordon in the morning: Death and drink

Much of the online version of Bizarre is given over to Natasha Richardson this morning - for the third day running, though, the coverage is built on the "wife of the more famous Liam Neeson" platform, although the paper has also remembered there's a crucial Lindsay Lohan angle. If you relied on The Sun, you'd come away thinking "it's terrible about Liam Neeson's wife - and did you know she used to make the occasional light comedy in her own right back in the day?"

There's also room found for yet more coverage of the last days of Jade Goody. Indeed, with all this real death around, John Squire's artwork referring to descerating the grave of the Stone Roses isn't appearing in the happiest of contexts.

Elsewhere, it's business as usual. Apparently Lily Allen hasn't really given up drinking. And Amy Winehouse hasn't really given up drinking again. Last summer the Sun's leader column was insisting that parents should teach kids about responsible drinking, wasn't it? How would 'getting drunk and falling over makes you famous' fit in with that education aim, exactly?

Still, it's not all death and hangovers. Cristiano Ronaldo (who apparently plays football for a job) has decided he'd like to become a pop singer when he has to get a proper job.

Hang about - has he really, Gordon?

Ronaldo says: “Somebody mentioned to me a few years ago that it would be a great idea if myself, the Brazilian Ronaldo and Ronaldinho made a band called The Three Rs."

He went on: “I loved the idea, it was so funny. I’ll mention it to them when I retire, we might even have a No1.”

Ah - so it would be a joke, then. He's joking, Gordon.
He adds: “I don’t know what the other two would like to do but it would be brilliant if I was lead singer.

“You never know, I will have to do something after football.”

He's joking, Gordon. It's a... oh, what's the point?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why there should be no concerns about LiveNation and Ticketmaster merging

After all, it's not like you can't trust them, is it?

Take, for example, their work in New Jersey, where LiveNation decided to bring in a six dollar parking fee per ticket for the PNC Bank Arts Center.

Yes, that's six dollars per ticket. So if four of you go to a gig in the same car, you end up paying twenty four dollars for parking.

The New York Daily News asked why everyone was charged six bucks to park a car - even if they intended to arrive at the venue by taxi, or on foot, or by hovershoes. So LiveNation took the six dollar parking fee off.

And, erm, put the prices of all tickets up by six bucks instead.

And then, when that was noticed, reintroduced the parking fee.

LiveNation reckons it's always been there, though:

"We have always operated under a system at PNC Bank Arts Center where parking is charged as a per-ticket fee. This policy is in place to alleviate traffic issues ... to ensure that all fans can enter the venue in a timely and safe manner," a spokesman said.

Really? How exactly does charging every single person going six dollars "alleiviate traffic issues"? How does a flat fee have any influence on people entering the venue in a timely or safe way?

If the idea was to use a fee to control the flow of cars arriving at the venue, wouldn't you have to make the fee voluntarily? Because otherwise, if people are foreced to pay a parking fee, won't they think 'if I've paid for it, I might as well use it' and be more likely to drive?

Of course, LiveNation know this. Their spokesman knows that his explanation makes no sense. But it's not like he's going to admit "yeah, we're grabbing cash because we're chiselers. What you gonna do about it?"

Do you see what Snoop Dogg has done there?

It's not so long ago that newspapers campaigned to keep Snoop Dogg out the country because he was "a sick bastard". Now that he's spoofing Slumdog Millionaire with Snoop Dogg Millionaire - for all the world like a closing number on the Two Ronnies - he's asking to be turned back from Heathrow on grounds of taste.

Commercial radio: it's not going to live forever

The Guardian's Changing Media summit today had a poke at the state of the UK's commercial radio sector and made a sucking noise:

UK commercial radio 'dying out'

That was the gloomy headline, although it's not quite as bad as it sounds:
Commercial radio could die out within 15 to 20 years as advertising revenues dwindle, the MediaGuardian Changing Media Summit heard today.

Claire Enders, the founder of Enders Analysis, made the prediction, pointing to the large number of radio stations in the UK that are currently unprofitable.

In twenty years? Seriously? In twenty years we're all going to have music and news weeped straight into our faces by highly trained, internet-connected fact bats, so predicting there might not be a space for thirty thousand variants of Heart FM isn't quite so daring.
She said revenues from classified, online and search advertising all outstripped those from radio, and that advertising agencies were tuning out of the medium.

"There is a next generation of people in agencies who are not that keen on radio," she said."

Which is unfortunate, as - listening to commercial radio - there also appears to be a generation of people in radio who are not that keen on radio.

Clive Dickens, out of that station that used to be Virgin, reckons he knows what the problem is:
"As an operator who has been in the sector with this brand for five months, [I would say] a whole range of failed models – plc models – have failed to grasp what consumers wanted: extended choice not upgraded sets," he said.

"Greater choice in the first seven years [of digital radio] came from the BBC. As someone operating for five months, I say watch this space."

Dickens is keen to stress that he's only been doing it for five months, but he's being modest: in that time, he's managed to chase away audience in numbers that some more seasoned heads would take years to lose.

Is it true that audiences want more choice, though? Isn't it that they want to feel a connection with the station they listen to, and most of the UK's commercial sector has been busily losing the valuable sense of connection by turning well-loved local brands into centralised, one-size-fits-all megabrands?

Nirvana untouched: Plans to work Cobain's corpse flops

Back in 2006, Courtney Love did a deal bringing in a company called Primary Wave Music Publishing to work on the Nirvana back catalogue. They paid her fifty million dollars, with the plan of using the songs to soundtrack adverts and video games.

It hasn't been a staggering success, with the company having managed to scrape a return of a little under two and a half million.

Why so? Partly because it's Nirvana - you're not really going to get that many supermarket chains lining up to use Polly as a soundtrack for their ad spots, are you?

And partly - perhaps more so - because Primary Wave only controlled 50% of the catalogue; the other 50% was controlled by Love and the rest of the band:

A source told Portfolio that one deal to license a number of NIRVANA songs for a special episode of "CSI: Miami", that would be written around the music, collapsed when Love, the publisher and former members of NIRVANA asked for "twice the industry standard" in licensing fees, leading CBS-TV to back off.

At least Courtney didn't insist on writing the episode of CSI. CBS should thank its lucky stars it didn't spend weeks taking delivery of small pieces of paper with the words "plottKILLRy ANADAms" scrawled all over.

MSTRKRFT lift the Jimmy Kimmel show

There's not very much to recommend the Jimmy Kimmel Show, which means it's incredibly generous of them to cut it out when something good happens, like MSTRKRFT doing Bounce, and put it up on YouTube.

Leon laid-off

James P emails with upsetting news:

Sad news: After a glittering year, one album and two top-5 singles, 2007 X Factor winner Leon Jackson has been dropped by Sony.

He's keeping his chin up, saying "I had a great year and learned so much recording and releasing my album. Every artist knows these things can go either way" (which isn't quite true - George Sampson apparently didn't know that).

He adds that he's looking forward to his tour which begins later this year, and looks like being the most awkward bill in recent memory. He's being supported by X Factor runners-up, overly-toothsome brother-and-sister act Same Difference. If you can't picture this line-up, imagine a tenth-rate Michael Buble tribute act being supported by an eleventh-rate Steps tribute act. I'm sure it'll sell out, even though the evening promises to be half cheap-big-band covers and half the sort of performance you get towards the end of a local drama group's pantomime when the leading girl sings a duet with Buttons.

Where was I? Oh yes. He's been dropped.

Steady on there, James, people might think that this is the hate George Sampson society. Which, of course, it isn't; that's firmly behind the paywall.

Still, it's sad to hear that Leon Jackson's fabulous career has ended. On the bright side, he did get a couple of months longer reign than if he'd won Miss United Kingdom title, so it's not all bad. And it's not everyone who gets to do a farewell tour when they're still young enough to enjoy it.

Twittergem: Amanda Palmer

very happy moment. DEVO just walked by and they were WEARING THE WEIRD ANGULAR FLOWERPOT HATS.


VH1 bring back Behind The Music

By the time VH1 axed its Behind The Music series, it was looking pretty tired - reduced to doing a special on Pantera. But, hey, it's been five years or so - surely some exciting new bands have come and given the revived series lots of juicy stories for their wish list? Right?

Lil Wayne and Scott Weiland have signed on to participate, and the network is near agreements with several other performers.

So, no, then. Lil Wayne? Really?

Fred Durst tries to think of something to make a Limp Bizkit reunion interesting

Given that the world had only chuckled and turned away when the Limp Bizkit reunion was announced, no wonder Fred Durst has been making his brain-chunk whirr away to try and come up with something to make people notice.

He's fallen back on that time he said he was dating Britney Spears, only for her to scratch her head and say she didn't even really know who he was:

The confusion over the affair still remains with Durst, and the rocker points to the episode as one of the first in a long line ensuing erratic erratic episodes for Spears. "I look back on it as very interesting [in terms of] how things have been sort of unraveling for her since," he said. "[But] it is what it is. I can sleep at night knowing I made decisions that I wanted to make. [Still], I'm a supporter. I was then, I guess I am now."

Except, of course, it would only be erratic if she had, indeed, somehow managed to displace memories of a passionate affair with Durst. Otherwise, going "who is he again? The one with the mask or the one trying to cover his hairline with the baseball cap?" would be perfectly consistent.

And Durst's apparent willingness to bang on to anyone who'll listen about how he used to go out with that Britney Spears, you know, but only in the vaguest of terms doesn't exactly support his side of the story. Given that Spears can't chat to a newspaper vendor without People rushing out a "Wedding Bells for Britney?" special, that this 'relationship' managed to occur with nobody but Durst apparently noticing remains one of the true wonders of our age.

But you've got to love his courtly "I suppose that, after our relationship ended, that's where it started to all go wrong for her", with that hanging implication that the end of a fling with Durst will leave you so bereft your life will fly off its very axis.

But, Fred: as cough someone who got so close to Britney, you must have some special insight into Britney's life and career:
"Her own decisions and different things in her life, people can judge her all they want, but she has an extreme presence and when she's giving it, it's really good," he continued. "I don't think you can really write her off and I just think it'd be silly for people to think that they could. Everything kind of works in cycles and I think she's an example of how those things work."

What a gent, eh? He manages to not just be discreet, not only talk about Britney as if he'd never met her, but actually delivers such a vapid, meaningless quote it's like a schoolboy writing an answer in an exam he's done no revision at all for.

But Durst and Spears - well, we might laugh, but that's because the world just doesn't understand. We're just bigots, right?
"I just guess at the time it was taboo for a guy like me to be associated with a gal like her."

Yes, the world won't allow someone to retain their artistic credibility if they're thought to be hanging out with someone whose music is clumsy lyrically and aimed at undiscriminating preteens. No wonder Britney pretended not to know him.

Now they come for Edgar Bronfman's bonus

While most of the capitalist hunting sport is currently being had chasing the public-supported bankers' bonuses, attention is starting to shift to other CEOs who are drawing huge bonuses despite not dong very well. Like, for example, Edgar Bronfman, who trousered a three million dollar bonus. This was in recognition of his steering Warner Music Group to a USD56million loss and a halving of share price.

It's probably just as well he did such a rotten job - if that's what he gets for terrible results, it's unlikely Warners could have afforded the size of his bonus if he'd been a success.

Google takedown takedowns

Giving evidence to the New Zealand Telecommunications Carriers Forum as part of investigations in the nation's Copyright Code Section 92A, Google drops some statistics about the takedowns requested under the American DCMA:

Google notes that more than half (57%) of the takedown notices it has received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998, were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims.

That stuff attracts unfair takedown notices isn't a surprise - you'll have read stories about people putting their own, non-commercial music online only for Blogger to yank it at someone else's request. What is a surprise, though, is the extent to which the DCMA is being abused - nearly six out of every ten claims are spurious? Bloody hell.

Google took the advantage of the opportunity to put its stance on copyright into the public domain:
"While inadequate copyright protection can reduce incentives to create, excessive copyright protection can stifle creativity, choke innovation, impoverish culture and block free and fair competition. As both an intermediary and an innovator in online technologies, Google supports a flexible and adaptable legal framework that provides those who create and invest in new technologies the freedom to innovate without fear that their efforts will be hindered by an overly restrictive approach to copyright. Copyright must have sufficient flexibility so that new, legitimate and socially desirable uses, enabled by new technologies, can flourish."

Also so that Google can make money. Probably best to not mention the making money bit.

Gordon in the morning: Death stalks the gossip columns

I suppose at least Gordon's team has remembered to put Natasha's Richardson own name in the teaser for the story about her horrible, untimely death. Just about:

Neeson's Natasha dead

Because it's not like she had a career in her own right, or that her death is upsetting without needing to frame it in the grief of an equally famous husband.

Still, at least the report of her death is fairly well put together, unlike the mawkish dish served up by Martin Phillips and Emily Smith, who've dredged up an interview Natasha gave in 2003 where she told a story about having a cursed marriage. Oh, and slaps in some paparazzo snaps of her kids as well.

The clunking, invasive Our Tune tone of the coverage undermines somewhat The Sun's outrage over OK's clumsy decision to publish its Jade Goody farewell edition without waiting for her to die first.

Elsewhere, Liam Gallagher's clothing range (no, seriously) is greeted with excited coverage. It's going to be called Pretty Green - see, he's not limited to ripping off Lennon, he can do clodhanded filching from Paul Weller, too.
The limited menswear range will feature everything a Jack the lad could want.

Ah. Limited menswear range. A range of clothes for limited men.

But Liam, why are you taking a large cheque in return for adding your name to some trousers?
He said: “The reason I’m doing it is I like clothes. We’re going to do clothes I like. If people like it, cool. If they don’t, they don’t.”

'I just run up the trousers I like and if anyone else likes it, it's a bonus.'

So, will you merely be signing off the advert that has your name in it, or will you be down in the sewing room?
He added: “If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to get involved. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be good.”

Rumours that he'll ask Noel to design the outfits, choose the fabrics, oversee the sewing room and sort out the orders, while he turns up to check the zippers work and appear in the pictures, are probably unfair.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stone Roses: No tour, probably

There is to be no Stone Roses tour. Ian Brown and John Squire say so.

Given they've not agreed on anything in two decades, that's got to be significant.

"I guess the 20th anniversary of the album has got folk speculating," said a spokeswoman for the former guitarist.

The statement added: "John Squire has just completed another exhibition in London and has plans to take it to Japan in July. Right now this is his priority. "

The people of Japan would never forgive him if he put that on hold, even for a couple of months.

And Ian Brown? What's he too busy doing?
A spokeswoman at Brown's label Fiction/Polydor said: "We know nothing about this. Ian is working on his new studio album which is due out later this year."

So, at this rate, it looks like Mani will be doing the tour on his own. Which he seems to be up for.

Kanye West charged with rumpus-creation

Given how Kanye West hates to be made to go places and come away with being handed something, he must be looking forward to the forthcoming court trip he's got in store. West and his manager after a battle with photographers at LAX last year:

West has been charged with one count each of: vandalism, grand theft and battery and faces up to two years and six months in jail if found guilty. [Manager Don] Crawley has been charged with two counts each of vandalism, grand theft and battery and could face up to five years in jail.

Splendidly, it turns out West's defence is in the hands of a man called Blair Berk.

The Jonas Brothers get ready to tour

MTV News has the headlines:

Jonas Brothers Say Tour Will Be Different From 3-D Movie

Which I'm taking to be a warning to fans not to expect quite as many dimensions as you might get in a 3D cinema.

The Brothers are thrilling themselves inside-out at the prospect of going and miming to some songs for a little while in a room where nobody can hear them above the screams:
"This is something brand-new," Kevin Jonas promised Wednesday (March 18). "We've never embarked on an in-the-round tour. The new songs on the new record are very exciting for us. For us, for all the opportunities we get, we're astonished every day. To be able to visit so many people ourselves will be very great."

"Yes" agreed another Brother, possibly Tim or Calum Jonas: "It's very great to visit so many people on the stage from where we be on the... um... maybe we should stick to getting the boss to write those words for us to be... saying... outwards?"

EMI: Hands off, Pryce is up

It's being spun as a fantastic move for Guy Hands, but his move from CEO of Terra Firma, with day-to-day control of the company, to being group chairman and chief investment officer instead, is hardly a promotion. Especially with that massive write-down on investments. He's being replaced by Tim Pryce.

The press release makes it all sound exciting, though:

Guy Hands said:

"Having worked closely with Tim for nine years, I am delighted that he has agreed to take up this position. He will make an excellent CEO of Terra Firma. Tim has been an integral part of Terra Firma since its formation and has done an outstanding job in his previous roles at the firm. Terra Firma has grown significantly since its creation in 2002. Over this period, staff numbers have increased from approximately 60 to over 110 people, investor relationships have expanded from one UK party to over 200 relationships in 26 countries, and assets under management have grown from €2 billion to €11 billion while 80% of our portfolio businesses’ revenues are now from outside the UK. As Chief Executive, Tim will be responsible for Terra Firma’s day to day operations while I will concentrate on investments, investors and developing the business internationally."

That might read a little oddly, but Guy made his statement while on a sponsored 'how many times can you say Terra Firma' challenge.

Pryce, meanwhile, did his best to make it sound like he was slipping onto a well-run deck and not being handed a bucket of manure with no bottom or handle:
"I am delighted to take on this role. Guy has built one of the leading private equity groups in Europe in a very short space of time which now manages and invests money on behalf of institutions all over the world. I look forward to making sure that the organisation works optimally in supporting Terra Firma's global investment and fundraising activities and to continuing to work with Guy on developing the business."

... once Guy has finished emptying the bins and given a polish to my new name plaque, of course.

Zavvi dreams of a new, online life

Flicking through New Media Age earlier, I was surprised to see bullish remarks from the Hut Group - who have bought the Zavvi brand to use online.

Yes, the Zavvi brand. The brand that was so underdeveloped, even when the company was going out of business every news report had to nudge the reader or viewer with "yes you do... the old Virgin Megastores..."

So Hut intend to try and build a consumer business on the back of a brand that, if people recognise at all, will recall as a basket case which, erm, stopped taking any online orders at all in the run-up to Christmas as its stores turned into something like a rummage sale in a day hospital. That's going to be tricky. Let's hope they're not setting their sights too high, eh?

[Dominic Starkey, head of ecommerce at The Hut Group said] "we're looking beyond HMV and Play,com as competitiors, more to That's where we want to take the Zavvi brand"

Mr. Starkey had to end the interview there, as he had to supervise an ant which he had employed to relocate a rubber tree plant.

I have a dream. I'll tell you what it is for £1.70

Martin Luther King's speeches, you might think, are so important they should be shared, and repeated, and used freely.

But King copyrighted them, and since his death, his estate has fought to ensure that use of his words generates revenue. Now, in order to squeeze a few extra quid out the man, they've signed up EMI to manage the rights.

Yes. EMI. The company are ecstatic:

Roger Faxon, the chief executive of EMI's music publishing division, said the move was not much of a departure for the music company because “extracts of many of his speeches are already used in musical compositions - and because we have expertise in ensuring that there is a proper licensing regime for intellectual property”.

Extracts of his speeches have turned up in songs, so it's not that different really. Likewise, EMI has released songs in which people play pianos, which means they'd be the perfect people to move a baby grand from one country to another.

And let's just take a second to review Faxon's assertion that EMI are some sorts of experts in ensuring licensing regimes. EMI. It's not like their business has spent the last decade flapping round like a plastic bag in a hurricane as their stuff vanishes off into darknets and peer-to-peer networks while their 'experts' suggest that suing single parents and postmen for tens of thousands of pounds is the answer, is it? Good lord, if EMI are experts in ensuring maximised revenue in an online marketplace, you'd hate to meet someone who only had half a clue, wouldn't you?

To be fair to the estate of Martin Luther King, the idea of appointing licensing 'experts' isn't totally motivated by greed, as revenue from the use of his speeches does help fund the Atlanta King Center:
Dexter S. King, chairman and chief executive of the King Estate, said that it wanted EMI “to monitor and bring under compliance the unauthorised usages of Dr King's words and intellectual property on the internet and digital media”, which would “increase the King Estate's ability to preserve, perpetuate, and protect the great legacy of Martin Luther King”.

Is strangling the rights to use his words really the best way to do that, though? If you really want to ensure King's legacy, does forcing people to pay to quote his most inspirational words really help with that in the long term?

The downward Spiralfrog: Croaked at last?

Given that I'd bet a George Michael paycheck that you've probably forgotten it even existed, the rumours of Spiralfrog's closure will probably be more surprising that they hadn't packed up ages ago.

You'd have to think that Spotify - a similar idea, only done right - would have been another nail in an already fairly well secured coffin lid.

George Michael: Yours for £1.5million

I'm betting that George Michael might find the already-limited market for gigs at one and a half million quid a pop is shrinking somewhat, so it's probably wise that he did a couple when the demand was there.

Mind you, if I was paying that for a George Michael gig, I'd be insisting I got the tiny-white-trunks-in-a-shower George Michael, rather than the falling-asleep-in-a-car- version. You do wonder how much extra it would take to get Andrew Ridgeley on board - a tenner for Andrew, another half million for George?

Gordon in the morning: It's funny because he's got a famous name

Will, you wonder, Gordon and his pals ever tire of the humour opportunity offered by Madonna dating a bloke called Jesus?

Not faster than Jesus tires of Madonna, it looks like:

Oh Jesus, what are you up to?

Do you see? Because Jesus is both a common name in South America and a thing that people say when they're exasperated.

David Willetts has filed this for Bizarre, churning up some rumour that Jesus had been dirty dancing with a "lingerie model". To make matters worse, this model doesn't even have name that comes from the Bible - she's called Luciana Costa, not Noah or Pontius or anything.

Actually, what is an "lingerie model" anyway? Does she refuse to model outwear? Or is it simply that she has done a bra shoot from time to time? Isn't that a bit like calling a fireman "a supermarket fireman" on the basis that they once put out a blaze above a Liptons?

Anyway, Jesus and Luciana were either mates enjoying a dance, or illicit lovers kissing - KISSING - behind Madonna's back, depending on if you have a page of gossip to fill or not.

Is there any real evidence, David, that Jesus was out on a tomcat prowl?
Jesus, wearing a jaunty hat, held 31-year-old Luciana close and whispered in her ear [...]

A jaunty hat, eh? Clearly up to no good.

And whispering in an ear? What other explanation could there be, other than this being in a noisy nightclub where you have to bellow into people's lug'oles in order to make yourself heard?

Also on Gordon's page, Bizarre manages to publish a headline about Natasha's Richardson's terrible accident without mentioning her name:
Ski crash horror of Neeson's wife

FILM star is in a critical condition after suffering brain injuries in a skiing accident

On the actual story, a sub editor seems to have spotted this and crammed the word "Nat" onto the end of the headline.

Gordon himself is looking at the news of a threat to something we're meant to think of as a national treasure:
The latest in this noble line of plus-size funnymen to find fame is Bizarre Award winner JAMES CORDEN.

But alarming news reaches me — the cuddly comic may not stay tubby much longer.

The Gavin & Stacey star is going on a health kick to shift a few of his larger love handles.

He has swapped his penchant for pastry for low-fat veggie wraps.

But... but... if you remove the "... and James Corden, or the character he is playing who is a lot like James Corden although perhaps wearing a cheap wig, is FAT" punchline from Corne & Horden or Hoddle & Waddle or whatever it's called, there won't be any jokes left at all, surely?

Happily, it turns out that Smart doesn't know anything about a diet, it's just the bloke in sandwich shop says sometimes he has a tuna wrap when he pops in. Phew.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Crows fly: Geffen loses band

Another step in the move towards the record industry becoming little more than a library of old tracks: Counting Crows have quit Geffen after 18 years:

Eighteen years ago, when Counting Crows signed our first record contract, we were an unknown band signed to DGC, the cool indie-flavored boutique label of Geffen Records.

Our label mates were Sonic Youth, The Posies, Nirvana, The Sundays, Maria McKee and That Dog, to name a few. Bands knew each other, played on each other's records, toured together... It was a dream environment to be a musician, even for that time.

A lot of things changed in seventeen years. DGC disappeared except as a logo on our records, and Geffen became one of many labels of a much larger conglomerate. Still, Geffen and Counting Crows never stopped working together and never stopped succeeding together. We made great music and together we sold a lot of records. We're still here.

But these days, it's a different world for a band than it is for a label. A lot of people think it's a tough time to be a band but we don't feel that way. The internet opens a world of limitless possibility, where the only boundaries are the boundaries of your own imagination. We want a chance to push those boundaries back as far as we can. Unfortunately, the directions we want to go and the opportunities we want to pursue are often things that our label is simply not allowed to do. We've been friends for a long time and we've worked together for a long time so they understand the direction we need to go in and we understand why they can't always go there with us. We all want what’s best for everyone which is why we've decided to part ways.

Eighteen years ago, Counting Crows was just a little band from Berkeley. Geffen Records helped put us on the map and then they were our partner for almost two decades. We want to thank every person who worked hard for so many years to make us a successful band. We're going to go out now and see what the world has to offer a band with a lot of ideas and a lot of energy and, hopefully, a lot of years left in a career that's already surpassed our wildest dreams.

This is a big change for us but it's a border we've been wanting to cross for a long time so we want to celebrate it. The best way to do that seems to be to give a little something to all of you since, after all, you've been with us the whole time too. So, in the spirit of this new frontier we're entering, we offer you our homage to a certain lady who honored us last year by expressing her longtime deep and abiding worship of our band by naming her entire album after one of ours. From us to you, Live from The Royal Albert Hall in London, our tribute to Madonna: "Borderline". Dig it.

We've covered a lot of road on this ride and, as far as we're concerned, the busses still have a lot of white lines ahead of them.

We are on our way. We will see you soon. We are coming, as Elton said, "From the end of the world to your town."

To be fair, the band have been honest and generous in their description of DGC in the early days, although you have to wonder what a label that had That Dog and The Sundays and Nirvana on-board saw in Counting Crows. Could it be that "signing Counting Crows" was a symptom of the decline of the label in the first place?

Perhaps the most interesting piece of this letter is that Geffen - or at least some people there - know what the band want to do, know what needs to be done, but are incapable of making it happen. It's easy to portray everyone in record labels as incompetent buffoons, but the tragedy is that there are a lot of bright, switched-on people working in those offices who do understand how bands need to approach the future, and even have ideas about how it could be done. They're just not allowed to put those plans into action. And, thus, a two-decade partnership and investment has to be trashed.

From Ash to Bat For Lashes

As twittered by Sweeping The Nation earlier, Charlotte Hatherley has taken work with Bat For Lashes:

I'm happy as Larry because the music is so ACE and i not only get to play heavily chorused guitar a la The Cure, but get to play throbbingly fuzzed up bass, keyboards and twinkly bells.

The good news, though, is that she's not skimping on the stuff she does under her solo banner, either:

You may be wondering where that leaves me and my third solo album Cinnabar City...we-he-hellll next weekend i am making a video for the first single 'White' which is going to be AMAZING. No, really you must take my word for it. I am learning the song backwards which is incredibly weird and will be having paint thrown at me from all directions, whilst wearing a super sci-fi white dress. Think a happy Carrie from the future. I'll also be getting a whole load of new photos done and have gotta do a full make over of all my websites. I'll be blogging about the video next week and putting up pictures and videos of me getting splattered.

White is due for release over the summer, and the album will be out in September. I'll be doing solo festivals, and then will properly on the road Sep/Oct/Nov through to 2010. Jesus, 2010 looks weird written down. It's an impressive looking year. It looks very likely i'll be touring the States with Cinnabar as we've had loads of interest, this record is really striking a chord over there. Australia is also looking good for 2010 release.

September is not so far away.


Lovely work by The Times, who have produced a sliding calculator thing which allows you to work out exactly how hard Michael Jackson will have to work to clear his debt.

It allows you to adjust ticket price, the amount spent on piles of crap by the average concert-goer, the number of nights paid and so on, to see how much of his cash-hole will be filled. The only thing missing from the equation is the drain on his income that will happen when Jackson discovers those shops in Piccadilly Circus that sell souvenirs.

Mixed results for online music in the US

NPD group, who analyse markets in return for money, have got some mixed results in their latest survey of music-buying by internet users:

[T]he number of internet users who paid for music increased by 8 million to around 36 million last year — purchased music downloads grew by 29 percent since last year, accounting for 33 percent of all music tracks bought in the U.S.

Well, that all sound positive, doesn't it? In the face of claims that people expect music to be free online, it turns out that more and more people are actually handing over their credit card details.

There is, though, a chill note:
Without CDs, it seems that many people are giving up on buying music entirely. In ‘08, the number of total music buyers fell by 13 million in the U.S. The decline in music buyers was led by a 19 percent drop in CD sales. Only 58 percent of web users said they bought CDs or digital music downloads last year, versus 65 percent in 2007.

So, in other words: people are shifting to downloads, and away from CDs. Hardly, you'd have thought, news that will come as any great surprise.

But why are people spending less on music? Turns out - and here's a funny thing - it's nothing to do with illegal filesharing. Nope, it's the recession. It turns out that while music industry executives may picture themselves as delivering an essential, new records or files are seen by the market as a luxury. Apparently, when times are tight, you might just listen to old CDs again instead of buying new ones.

Making the situation worse - from a sales point of view - is the increasing use of free, legal streaming services:
In the case of online radio company Pandora saw its recognition double, NPD says, as 18 percent of web users were able to identify it. The introduction of MySpace Music is also appears to be having an affect on listening habits, the study said. Social net climbed from 15 percent in Q407 to 19 percent in Q408. Nearly half of U.S. teens say they listen to music on social nets, which is an increase from 37 percent a year ago; among college-age web users, the percentage rose from 30 percent in ‘07 to 41 percent last year.

Well done, the US music industry - your attempts to shift people from illegal to legal sources of music seems to have had the side effect of turning audiences from people interested in acquiring music, to people who'll listen to it floating by instead. That... was what you wanted, wasn't it?

50 Cent goes for scale, not quality

Let's take 50 Cent's announcement that he's going to release two albums this year not as a sign that he's running low on money and needs to start milking the fans before Matt Crawford catches up with him, but instead as a sign that he's bursting with artistic ideas that need two discs to be contained:

“The new announcement is that I’m dropping two albums,” 50 told MTV News. “I’ve had an opportunity to record since I thought I was releasing an album in December. But the portion of my record that I recorded with Dr. Dre was incomplete, because there was no opportunity to mix it.”

... said Mr. Cent, before having to turn his attention to Ocean Finance on the other line.

Amy Winehouse's day in court

Because there's nothing like making a first impression, Amy Winehouse's lawyer was very quick to apologise for her late arrival at court this morning:

Her lawyer, Mark Haslam, apologised to district judge Timothy Workman for the singer's late arrival at court.

He said she left home at 8.15am but experienced some delay. "I do apologise to the court on her behalf."

You know how it is, you get halfway to the tube and remember you've left your Oyster card behind, and forgotten your keys, and have to shimmy up a drainpipe to get in through the kitchen window to get them, and then you find your dog has eaten your homework and, dude, that cheque was so in the post. Happened to us all.

Winehouse pleaded not guilty to a charge of common assault; the case has been adjourned to the 23rd July.

Record shop of horrors: Selectadisc closes

Not exactly first with the news on this one - apologies to Peter D who emailed me with the story at the end of last month and got stuck on the pending pile.

And it's not good news, either: Nottingham's Selectadisc has closed, taking with it the third most successful independent record shop in the country. And one of the best ones, although not a profitable store:

The store’s owner Phil Barton says the shop has been unprofitable for many years and he had no more money to put into the business.

“Everyone here has crawled across the field of broken glass to keep this open, but in the end it didn’t work,” he explains.

“I think it is one of the top three independent stores in Britain. But that doesn’t stop it being uneconomic. Everyone here is aware of tough things have been for the last two years.”

I have really fond memories of Selectadisc, a visit to which could always soothe the soul before embarking into the beer-soaked-carpets of hell that were Rock City; not least the day my friend spotted a copy of the Revolving Paint Dream album for a tenner there one day. Which was a steal, although I don't think the undervaluing could have contributed to the collapse of the store. This was a bit back in the past.

Music Week suggests there are now 305 indie stores left in the UK, which is better than I'd have guessed at, but a quarter down on the number last year.

Pras Michel finds homeless not thrilled at being extras in their own story

A couple of years back, Fugee Pras Michel made one of those cringeflicks where a rich man sleeps rough for a couple of days to find out what life's "really" like for the homeless.

It turns out, though, that the actual homeless didn't find this a wonderful and heartwarming experience: they're now suing Michel for "dehumanizing" them and invading their privacy. Dammit, don't you people realise you should be grateful?

Pete Burns: Dead or alive?

Alive, but only just. Pete Burns was whisked off to hospital last week after kidney failure. He's in quite a bad way:

"I'm in a very serious condition on 24 hours intravenous morphine for the pain. Intravenous fluid as I'm so dehydrated and the kidneys can't retain the liquid.

"I'm critically ill and under 24 hours observation and will be in hospital for quite a long time."

Still issuing press releases, though. Let's hope he's back on his feet soon.

Stone Roses: I still wanna be adored

There's been rumours about Stone Roses reforming ever since the band split, and usually they're scuppered by Ian Brown not being interested, but the Mirror seems certain about the a 20th anniversary tour:

At least 21 gigs have been planned for the UK and there are talks of a US date – possibly the Coachella Festival in California. The gigs will coincide with the re-release of the band’s self-titled debut album.

It's exciting news for younger fans who never got a chance to see how bloody awful the band were live.

Still, I wouldn't believe it until there's a mumbling press conference.

Gordon in the morning: Cops with guns

Okay, I'll give you this one, Gordon - the headline on the story about the Pet Shop Boys' b-side on the execution of Jean Charles De Menezes is pretty good:

Met shock Boys

Gordon, you can tell, can't quite bring himself to celebrate the idea that a pop group can release a song complaining about the erosion of civil liberties:
The chorus voices fears that liberties are being eroded by measures such as the anti-terror laws that followed the suicide attacks which left 52 people dead and more than 700 injured.

Okay, he doesn't come out and say "the Pet Shop Boys are helping the terrorists win", but the implication is there.
NEIL TENNANT and CHRIS LOWE’s most controversial track ever tells how De Menezes was gunned down at point-blank range in Stockwell Underground station after police mistook him for a suicide bomber.

But is that controversial? It might be their angriest song ever; it could well be their most political song ever. But since when did 'the police should be a bit more careful before summarily shooting people' become a controversial idea?

Then again, Smart is writing for the paper which stood applauding the day after the killing with its "one down, three to go" coverage.

Perhaps Gordon's on safer ground sticking to pop froth, like this advice to Cheryl Cole on how to break America:
If she’s going to sing, then she should get her vocal chords in order and blast herself off with a big show.”

The wiser head offering this advice? Mel B.

Career advice from Mel B. It's like civil liberties advice from regular Sun columnist David Blunkett.

Twittergem: The_4th_Floor

Radio One's 4th Floor tweets the announcement that this year's One Big Weekend will be in Swindon:

And we can confirm that N-Dubz will be there - although we'll be announcing another HUGE act soon! #bigweekend

Which seems to mean: N-Dubz are going to be there. But don't worry, there's going to be an announcement about someone better.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Denham tries a new sell on longer copyright

Clearly, the idea of extending the life of copyright in recordings beyond the already excessive fifty years is an unpopular one with all but the few who will make big money out of the deal; now that the government has decided to ignore the findings of its own Gowers report, innovation, universities and skills secretary John Denham is trying a new approach to persuade us that the shrinking of public domain is a good thing:

A spokeswoman for Denham said yesterday: "The aim is to give the lesser-known artists and the sessional musicians a much bigger share of any increase of new royalties after 50 years. Many Motown singers, for example, who are now out of copyright protection, got pretty raw deals during the 1960s and they could be the first people to gain from any change in the law."

Right. So record companies ripped off artists some decades ago, and the response is not to get the record companies to make good on their bad faith, but instead to change the law to force all recorded product to remain out of the public domain for anything up to another forty-five years?

That's crazy, surely? It's like reacting to a greedy idiot destroying two banks and god knows how many lives by giving him a sixteen million pound pension pot drawn from funds the bank doesn't have, to take an unlikely-sounding example.

Denham is fighting Europe to allow nations to implement any copyright extension locally, choosing how to divvy up the cash:
Denham wants the money from royalties to be split 70/30 in favour of the artist after the first 50 years. This would mean, in most cases, that much more money would go to the artist rather than the record company. In the case of some megastars who already command as much 90%, however, it would mean a cut in income.

He also wants a break for artists at 50 years. This will allow them, if their record company will not re-release their tracks, to be able to launch their own CD label or get another company to do it for them - and keep all the royalties.

This does, at least, seem to be the government conceding that the driving claim of those who would extend copyright - that it benefits poor, starving artists - is hogwash; it's a pity the response is "let's try and see if we can fiddle to change the distribution a little bit" rather than "... so let's not reduce the concept of public domain any further".

PRS ask members to do its lobbying for them

I'm getting confused now - isn't the PRS meant to be the organisation that speaks for its members? Only now, it's starting to look a lot like it's asking the membership to speak for it:

PRS membership appeal from Twitpic
This image comes from TwitPic; it's a screengrab of the PRS asking its members to go on those well-known blogs Google and BBC to put across the PRS line in the YouTube dispute. Is there any more compelling evidence that the PRS don't understand the internet and are probably ill-equipped to represent songwriters in engaging with the new world than the clumsy wording of that message?

Or, indeed, the apparent belief on behalf of PRS that "collection agency" and "songwriters and composers" must have the same best interests?

Government to musicians: No deal

The New Deal for Musicians, Labour's 1999 attempt to try and replicate 'signing on while getting a band together', is being axed. Not, as the Independent makes it sound at first, because it's been targeted specifically, but because the whole of the New Deal is being replaced with something called Flexible New Deal, which is probably going to be a less-well-funded version of the original.

And has the scheme been a success?

Since its launch in 1999 with the backing of Sir Paul McCartney, it has helped more than 4,000 unemployed youngsters get a foothold in the music industry as aspiring bands, instrumentalists, singers and songwriters. Those helped include James Morrison, nominated for Best Male Artist at last month's Brit Awards, the indie rock band the Zutons, the Welsh singer Jem, Toploader and the jazz saxophonist-rapper Soweto Kinch.

Bloody hell. And we're going to let it go on doing damage until October?

The government insists that it doesn't mean the end of support for musicians:
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "If someone has a specific talent in music, their help and support would be geared to music. They will still get all the help they require."

Trouble is, of course, under NDfM, (certainly at first), would-be musicians would be given a mentor who understood the music industry and was able to help them. It's not clear if under the Flexible New Deal a general advisor will be expected to provide support for guitarists and songwriters regardless of if they understand their needs or not.

YouTube v PRS: UK Music issue a press release

Following on from Fergal Sharkey's intervention last week, the UK Music organisation has issued a statement coming out, unsurprisingly, in favour of PRS:

Great music attracts an audience.

This has always been true, and it is true now, more so than ever. Internet start-ups have quickly learned that they can build huge user-numbers by offering access to our members’ music.

Creativity is the lifeblood of the digital economy.

Such popularity is also proof of music’s huge intrinsic value. Without this high quality raw material - generated by the endeavours and creativity of our songwriters, composers, artists and musicians and all those who invest in them - sites such as YouTube would be somewhat less compelling.

However, whether online or offline, demands that our creative talent should subsidise someone else’s business model is as unreasonable as it is inappropriate.

Licensing embryonic start-ups has brought significant challenges to all creative businesses. There still are challenges - for both sides - although they can and will be overcome. A huge diversity of licensed digital music services are already active in the UK, and as an industry we remain committed to growing the future of our business.

Google, however, qualifies as neither embryonic nor a start-up. In 2008 alone, the internet search giant recorded profits of over £3bn.

By comparison, PRS for Music is a not-for-profit organisation, run by its members for its members.

In this light, it is difficult but to interpret Google’s actions this week as anything other than cynical and exploitative.

Such unheralded and counter-productive negotiation tactics are not only detrimental to music fans, but also to the UK’s songwriters and composers.

Interestingly, UK Music find no space to mention in the course of this that PRS is actually a member organisation, and so it's not offering a disinterested viewpoint but a partial one. Perhaps they just believe that their organisation is so well known it goes without saying that everyone knows they're talking about one of the groups that subscribes to them.

Or, perhaps, they thought that with so much credulity-straining tucked into the statement, people's synapses would be twanged into uselessness before they were able to process the information.

Take, for example, the claim that "without music videos, YouTube would be somewhat less compelling." Given that YouTube found a massive audience for a dog having an epileptic fit and a panda sneezing, the music industry might want to ponder for a moment whether music videos are quite as crucial to YouTube as they seem to believe. Can't see an Avril Lavigne clip? Never mind, here's Alan Sugar firing an Apprentice, or someone making stuff explode.

And then there's the whole obsession with if YouTube is a start-up or not. Does the royalty rate really depend on if the service is x number of months old? Shouldn't it be based on something a bit more tangible, like, say, the actual amount of cash coming in? If a start-up invented a music distribution platform that suddenly started generating billions of pounds in the first month, would the people at UK Music not demand more cash because the company was technically a start-up?

Which leads us, of course, to this bit:
Google, however, qualifies as neither embryonic nor a start-up. In 2008 alone, the internet search giant recorded profits of over £3bn.

And British songwriters deserve to share in the profits generated by a search-and-advertising business because... why, exactly? Do musicians deserve to get paid more cash by Sony because the PlayStation sells well?

The key question is how profitable is YouTube, not how profitable the parent company is. That UK Music chooses not to focus on that figure suggests they're well aware that YouTube isn't guzzling down large profits right now, choosing instead to somehow suggest that the team who write James Blunt singles have a moral right to some of the cash Google makes by selling adverts around people searching for plumbers.

Still, contrast that nasty Google with the virtuous PRS:
By comparison, PRS for Music is a not-for-profit organisation, run by its members for its members.

And how much of its members money was spent on the utterly pointless and self-aggrandising "rebranding" of PRS into PRS For Music? Surely a move which did nothing for actual musicians, at their expense?

But apart from introducing irrelevant comparisons, information of dubious value and failing to declare its interests, good work all round from UK Music.

Nectar remember they have a music store

Nectar - the Tesco Clubcard for people who don't shop at Tesco - launched a music store a few months back, quickly securing a position as the music download destination which people look most surprised about when they remember it exists.

Now, though, they've decided to try and build some sort of market share, and are doing so with a free Alesha Dixon track and a competition where you can dance with her.

That's actually dance, it's not a euphemism.

Alesha Dixon recently helped Chris Moyles to get to the top of Kilimanjaro, so maybe she's viewing 'making Nectar a music destination' as the next level of uphill challenge.

Downloadable: How I Became The Bomb yet again

The ultra-generous How I Became The Bomb have just made available the third in the series of free download eps.

YouTube refresh their approach to viewcounts

Not entirely unconnected with the current debate over how much money bands should get for their videos being shown on YouTube comes an announcement from the tubers that they're getting tougher with bands and others who get their viewcounts artificially inflated:

Video view counts reflect the YouTube community's interests and the grassroots popularity of videos. We periodically make changes that allow us to display consistent view counts and accurately reflect a "real" view based on video consumption, video streaming and spam filtering. Unfortunately, a few people still try to artificially manipulate their video's view counts. Some people game third-party view counts as well. That can make things unfair for everyone.

Recently, we found spamming issues associated with the view counts on a small number of videos. The inflated view count number on these videos will be frozen until actual views catch up to the published, artificial, view count. Also, a few people have commented that their view counts are updating more slowly. Occasionally the speed with which views update changes -- sometimes it’s faster and sometimes it’s slower. But we are always working to make sure that the final view count numbers are an accurate reflection of the community's interest.

In other words: hitting F5 over and over again will do you no good.

Of course, there remains a slight question over how YouTube will determine if its system is being gamed or not; you'd hope that - given these figures will be at the heart of any recompense to artists - they'll share the data upon which these decisions are taken. Otherwise it could all look a little high-handed.

Gordon in the morning: He eats a lot of salad

Gordon has closed his entirely pointless poll to find out what his "readers" want Michael Jackson to play, still pretending that it's in some way related to the songs that the famous warning from history will actually feature:

My poll will now be shown to the legendary King Of Pop before he makes a final selection.

Probably. Possibly.

Gordon knows it's been tough for his readers:
This is a man who has had more hit songs than I’ve had hot dinners, so it can’t have been an easy task to narrow down your favourites.

From this we can calculate that Gordon has eaten somewhere south of fifty hot dinners. I'm assuming he meant it literally because nobody would take such a freezer-burnt old cliche and pop it into an article otherwise, would they?

Supposedly, Bizarre readers want Who Is It, In The Closet and Thriller as the encore. Smart gives no indication what size the poll was to cook up such unlikely results. (Fifty quid to go home with Who Is It hanging in the air? Really?)

Elsewhere, the sound of shouting from a distant street:
RAZORLIGHT are gearing up for a head-to-head battle with their ex-drummer ANDY BURROWS.

Really? They're releasing records on the same day, are they?

Not quite:
Andy, whose songwriting abilities helped Razorlight gain their only No1 single with America, will now spend the next few months putting together a backing band to help his new project — and could be ready to record by the end of the summer.

That would put him on a collision course with Johnny and Co, who will have finished their festival commitments by then and will be recording their fourth album.

So, that's "head-to-head" in the sense of "vague chance they might both release fetid albums in the same accounting quarter". Right up there with other great battles, like when Godzilla and King Kong booked hotel rooms in the same city within six months of each other. Actually, I say Godzilla and King Kong. This battle is more like Bambi fighting a Care Bear.

Smart tells his readers that the record label has annoyed Borrell by making it so:
Egotistical frontman JOHNNY BORRELL is furious that his Universal label have signed up the man who jumped ship just when Razorlight were preparing to break America.

But wouldn't Borrell more-than-likely have already been signed to Universal as part of the contract Razorlight signed?

Link and Breakfast man: Superdrag

Ah, like drops of water found in a cactus, non-YouTube video excitement: Superdrag have just released a new video for Aspartame. Drink, my friends, drink.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

IFPI's John Kennedy turns in a humorous new routine

John Kennedy clearly believes that it's only a matter of time before the record companies who underwrite his RIAA-lite, the IFPI, pull the plug and so seems to be counting out the final days turning himself into a parody-figure. After he brought the house down with his claim in court that every peer-to-peer download is really a lost sale, he's now turned up at Canada music week:

Canada’s continued development of world-class musicians is in jeopardy as the country is mired in sky-high piracy rates and lack of cooperation between Internet service providers and music companies, John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said today at Canadian Music Week.

“The lack of interest in intellectual property by the Canadian government is truly astonishing,” says Kennedy, who participated in a industry forum this morning at Toronto's Royal York Hotel.

What he means, of course, is that the Canadian government isn't doing what the the RIAA wants it to, rather than "not having an interest".

It's not the money that Kennedy cares about, of course. Oh, no: he weeps for Canada's very soul:
Kennedy says one of his main concerns is the lack of new Canadian talent capturing attention domestically and internationally. He noted that according to Nielsen Soundscan, only two of the Top 20 selling albums in Canada – Nickelback and Quebec’s Lost Fingers – were created by domestic acts.

Yes, yes, Kennedy is the head of a global music industry body who is mainly bankrolled by the big four record companies - one from the US, one from Japan, one from France and one from the UK - and so his job is ultimately concerned with promoting the interests of global artists who force out local talent all round the world, but let's not let that detain us here.

Nor, for that matter, if Canadians might happily chose to lose all their local acts if there was a possibility of it taking Nickelback down with it.

Let's just ponder for a moment if it's all the unusual for the Canadian charts to be rammed with foreign acts. Take, for example, the top ten singles for January 5th, 1980. A happier time, before the internet, and before - we presume - the Canadian government lost interest in intellectual property. Tom Petty was at number one; the Little River Band at number two. In fact, the highest Canadian act would be Streetheart at number nine. Oh, and Saga were at number 20.

Perhaps that's an unfair example. Let's look instead at June 7th, 1986: Madonna, George Michael and Jennifer Rush holding the top three slots; indeed, by the time you get past the scouse, Swiss, British novelty acts, it's number 16 before you come across a Canadian act. Chalk Circle, since you ask.

Are we to assume that John Kennedy simply doesn't know that the Canadian charts have long been dominated by British and American acts, or that he did know, but decided to pretend he didn't? The Canadian government might or might not care about intellectual property; I wonder what their stance is on intellectual honesty?

Please, Hammer, don't desert them

Simon & Schuster have instructed lawyers in a bid to claw back an advance they paid to MC Hammer for a book that he never quite got round to writing.

Enemies of the Father: A Message from the Heart On Being a Family Man, to be precise. Apparently, Hammer took on the task of writing this in 2002; by 2004 the publishers realised they weren't going to get it, and have been trying to get the cash back ever since.

Frankly, they should probably be thankful that they didn't get the book - after all, who wants a moral parable written by a bloke who sinks USD61,000 into his incredibly deep pockets and shimmies away? It'd be like getting Noel Gallagher's Guide To Mediation.

Twittergem: Ruskin147

"Great line from friends' teenage daughter while discussing "free" music: "I'm really old school - I still use Limewire." - Rory Cellan-Jones

Ed O'Brien on the FAC

The first proper meeting of the Featured Artists Coalition did offer a cooler head than most music-industry groupings have managed, and so it's interesting to see Ed O'Brien's take on what went on:

Traditionally in the music industry two groups have been shut out of any negotiations and rights/revenue carve ups … and that’s the artists and the fans. The formation of the FAC is all about changing this state of affairs … hopefully we can not only do artists justice but also the people who listen to our music. After all, in order to be a musician you have to be a music fan …

Well, up to a point, Lord Radiohead. Didn't Anastacia give an interview a couple of weeks back where she effectively said she couldn't stand music? And there's a few bands whose work suggests they're producing music as part of some sort of grudge against the artform?

But even so, it's not entirely obvious that, because musicians love music, their best interests and those of the people who buy music will line up. Sure, it's great that the FAC does at least realise their customer base is something more than a bunch of faceless forms with debit cards, but I can't really think of any body that has ever successfully represented consumers and producers. And, as Ed seems to realise, trying to represent just musicians is going to be a big enough task:
I’m going to post up stuff about this because it’s an exciting time and also because there is going to be some seriously heavy PR aimed at us by the interested parties who might deem the FAC a threat …there’s a lot of fear out there in the biz….

But it's a Yes We Can moment:
Timing is everything and with a man like Barack Obama in the Whitehouse, it’s a moment to set up a really great and dare I say it noble organisation. That word is not often used these days, it seems a bit old-fashioned in our ironic, knowing times …. Well, too bad, I think it’s appropriate.

That might be more convincing had Obama not signed up so many RIAA representatives to key roles in his administration. Still: nobility. It's something to aim at.

Sleeve values: Courts block CD cover

There's a bit of a battle taking place in the US between The Arizona Daily Star and the Awful Truth; a judge has ordered an injunction against the band using a photo from the paper on their sleeve pending a full consideration of the copyright issues.

What makes this interesting is it's not, for once, about the money, but about the rights of an artist (in this case, the photographer and the newspaper) to not have their work used in a way which harms them. The picture is off two policemen kneeling over the body of a third, murdered, policeman; the album's title is Kill a Cop for God. You can see why the paper might be worried at any suggestion they were relaxed about the image being used in that context.

The Awful Truth, for their part, claim that the picture falls under fair use protection - that the courts have granted an injunction suggests the judge doesn't think so.

You'd have to hope that the band would see sense before it comes to court - regardless of the copyright issues, putting the rights of a musician to use a photo ahead of the rights of the family and friends of a murdered person to make some kind of point. Even if you believe you're in some sort of war, you should respect the fallen of the other side, surely?

George Sampson torpedoes what's left of his career

It's probably not fair to be too hard on a fifteen year-old, but you might think that George Sampson might have counted to ten before moaning about Simon Cowell's "management" of his "career" to the Sunday People:

The cheeky teenager told me he has no contact with the showbiz mogul, 49, adding: "I don't know how Simon is because I never see him or hear from him.

"He is supposed to be my manager but he is never around.

"If he's not in America doing American Idol, he is doing The X Factor and if he's not doing that then he is in bl***y Barbados."

Wise to censor the word "bloody", lest it offends any under-sixteen year-olds. Apart from the under-sixteen year-old who said it.

George seems not to have concluded that, just perhaps, Cowell might have concluded that 'bloke who does some dancing whose cute-value is being eroded by the onward march of puberty' is a proposition whose time has passed and bitching in the Sunday prints might not be the best way to reopen negotiations about securing future work.

News of the World goes a bit Ga-Ga

Pimping their colour supplement, today's News Of The World splashes this:

I worked as a stripper, confesses Lady GaGa

"Confesses"? The News Of The World's attitude to people whose jobs involve removing their clothes is an endless source of bemusement - it's something shameful, and should be "confessed", rather than discussed in a matter-of-fact manner, except for when you're taking your clothes off for Wapping-based newspapers (or, presumably, those DVDs advertised in the back of the newspaper.)

Does anyone actually think that GaGa is going to approach having worked in a strip club as something she'd confess, anyway?
“I was working in strip clubs when I was 18. Girls from my background weren’t meant to turn into someone like me. I come from a wealthy Italian family, went to a good school [she was at the same super-rich Manhattan Catholic girls’ school – Convent Of The Sacred Heart – as Paris Hilton]. You’re meant to live with Mom and Dad until they die. I went against all I was brought up to be; I moved out of home, wouldn’t take any help from my parents [her internet entrepreneur dad and his Lady business partner wife] and supported myself with waitressing jobs and stripping.

“My act was pretty wild. I’d wear black leather and dance to Black Sabbath, Guns N’ Roses and Faith No More. Very rock ’n’ roll.”

That really sounds more like bragging than confessing from where I'm sitting. Mixed with a bit of pride.

But Louise Gannon's piece is pretty ropey throughout. Describing GaGa's stage school background, we get this:
A graduate from the Tisch School of Arts (think The Brit School for New Yorkers)

Or, if you will, think Paul McCartney's Liverpool 'Fame' school but for people in New York. Seriously, Louise, you think that your readers are so dense they might need some help to work out what a "school of arts" might be, but will be able to grasp it by reference to an obscure place in Croydon which they didn't even bother to mention on the Brit awards this year?

The trouble is, GaGa throws her all sorts of juicy ideas:
“I do love British men, though. They’re smart and the accent is borderline pretentious, which I love.”

You might think this would lead to a discussion around that borderline pretension, and if a rich girl from a comfortable family and an arts school background starts to embrace 80s pop and a streetlife background in a knowing way, if that crosses the borderline.

Louise's response?
Could recently single Prince Harry be a contender?

Apart from anything, Louise, Harry's accent? It's not pretentious. He really is a member of an unsustainable ruling elite.

Still, it's not like Louise came unprepared. She'd done a little research, and found out that this music job is paying so much better than either stripping or waitressing:
She’s also on her way to becoming amazingly rich, recently being paid £10,000 for a couple of hours DJing.

GaGa doesn't think it's all about the money, though:
“I don’t do this for the money,” she says, “I don’t want to buy a flash car. I just want to put everything into my music and art. I’m going to get bigger and bigger.”

But armed with her research, Louise is going to be prepared for this, isn't she? Because the obvious question is why do charge so much if it isn't all about the money? And is taking a high-paying DJ job really about art anyway? Go on, Louise, probe:
You go, GaGa!


This week just gone

The ten most-read stories published this month have been:

1. Google pulls videos from YouTube as PRS asks for more
2. Ticketmaster collapses under weight of Jackson presale
3. U2 announce a stadium tour; world tries to feign surprise
4. Government takes adverts on Spotify; Telegraph outraged
5. Gennaro Castaldo talks up U2 sales
6. Jay Kay's car smashed
7. Thom Yorke blanks Miley Cyrus; Cyrus complains
8. PR companies suggest rehabilitation routes for Chris Brown
9. Half of U2's audience have vanished since last album
10. Limewire make Darknets easier; RIAA's job harder

These were this week's interesting releases:

Micachu & The Shapes - Jewellery

download Jewellery

Propagandhi - Supporting Caste

The Rippingtons - Modern Art

Starsailor - All The Plans

download All The Plans

Nick Lowe - Quiet Please The New Best Of...

The Boy Least Likely To - The Law Of The Playground

download The Law Of The Playground

Steve Earle - Live At The BBC

Download Steve Earle back catalogue

Mary Coughlan - The House Of Ill Repute

download The House Of Ill Repute

Polly Scattergood - Polly Scattergood

download Polly Scattergood

Pete Doherty - Last Of The English Roses

Download The Libertines back catalogue instead