Saturday, April 18, 2009

Record Store Day

It is, of course, Record Store Day today in the UK and elsewhere (the "elsewhere" being why it's called Store and not Shop day) - there's probably something happening near you, unless you live in Milton Keynes.

Venuewatch: Worthing Half-Brick

The Half-Brick in Worthing has closed suddenly after the landlord Bob Brookes grew tired of "rising rent and beer prices". In the short term, most of the ticketed music events are being relocated to the Empress Suite in the Conaught Lesiure Centre, but the longer term future for live music in Worthing, shorn of one of its more enthusiastic venues, looks a little bleaker.

Don Henley wants his songs back

The 2010 Senate election is now heating up in America, with Republican senate hopeful Charles DeVore getting the first major lawsuit of the campaign, as Don Henley sues him for using two songs on a YouTube video:

Mike Campbell, Henley's producer, is also named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

"Don Henley and Mike Campbell brought this action to protect their song, 'The Boys of Summer,' which was taken and used without their permission," Henley's spokesman said. "The infringers have vowed to continue exploiting this and other copyrighted works, as it suits them, to further their own ambitions and agenda. It was necessary to file a lawsuit to stop them."

I'll bet DeVore is cursing the party who danced attendance on music industry guys, tightening up copyright law to the point where even parents posting videos of dancing babies get take down notices, right?
"We're responding with a counter-claim, asserting our First Amendment right to political free speech," the site said. "While the legal issues play out, it's time to up the ante on Mr. Henley's liberal goon tactics. By popular request, I have penned the words to our new parody song."

Oh, yes - it's not just slapping The Boys Of Summer on the top of some videos, Grove is also enjoying himself writing skits based on his opponent's alleged desire to tax.

To be fair to Grove, his sixth-form parodies are probably better protected by US law than simply claiming using a song as a video soundtrack is "political free speech". After all, if that's a defence, couldn't all peer-to-peer users claim they were making a political statement?

I'm curious to know when "using copyright law to request an unauthorised file be removed" moved from being a vital bulwark in protecting the creative industries into "liberal goon tactics".

Gordon in the morning: The saving of Radio One?

Oh, if only this story was being carried somewhere you could believe it:

CONTROVERSIAL CHRIS MOYLES, the self-proclaimed “Saviour of Radio 1”, is on his way OUT of the station’s flagship breakfast show.

He will be axed this year after he becomes the slot’s longest-serving host in September.

Radio One, as you'd expect, express surprise at the story:
Last night a Radio 1 spokesman insisted: “We’ve no plans to take Chris off breakfast. He hosts a highly successful show.”

Well, that's pretty clear. Oh... hang on, though:
But when asked how long Chris would stay at the station, the spokesman refused to comment.

Well done, Gordon (and Simon Rothstein, who gets a joint credit) - simply because you got an unequivocal statement that - officially at least - there are no plans for Chris Moyles to leave breakfast, asking a different question entirely and not getting a response proves... um, something.

Gordon also provides a thinky-thinky piece to accompany his shock revelation:
WHEN Chris Moyles took over breakfast in 2004, the show was in terminal decline.

Was it? Really? Terminal?

And, sure, the ratings have improved under Moyles, but much of the credit for that should be taken by the increasingly rubbish commercial sector putting up less and less competition.
Zoe Ball and Sara Cox never filled the boots of Chris Evans, the best in the slot’s history.

Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley (aka Lard) carried on but were too old for the gig. Moyles now faces the same end.

Interesting choice of words - "carried on"? Especially odd since Mark and Marc came before Zoe and Sara. And didn't they get moved not because they were "too old", but because they were too smart for the breakfast slot? After all, if their crime was being too elderly for Radio One's audience, it's surprising they thrived in the afternoon slot for so long afterwards, surely?
His brash, arrogant, no-holds-barred, bully-boy personality was the shock-jock style Radio 1 needed then. But it’s time for The Saviour to move on.

Ah, yes. Radio One really needed a bully at breakfast. Did you read that back before you hit print, Gordon?
The breakfast hotseat has a shelf life and sadly Moyles is past his sell-by date.

Sadly, we no longer need an arrogant breakfast braggart. The modern world no longer requires a honking idiot yelling at it from a position of bemusingly assumed superiority. That's bad news for this bloke:
ON MONDAY, The Sun will be launching a live phone-in show on the internet between 10am and 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Sony award winning DJ, Jon Gaunt will be fronting the show, with famous guests and regular contributions from Sun Columnists.

There's one gaping hole in the Moyles story. Smart claims that Radio One are going to ease Moyles out in September, and replace him with a "rising talent", but:
Drivetime presenter SCOTT MILLS will be asked to step in while a replacement is readied for the prized post.

If you're not dumping the current host until September, wouldn't that give you the best part of a half-year to "ready" your rising talent? Assuming the story, of course, is true.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Best Buy starts descent

The turnstile at which Circuit City handed in its ticket on a journey to extinction was, msot agree, the point at which is dumped all its loyal, knowledgeable staff and hired a bunch of cheaper people. The stores died a little inside that day, and managers who couldn't care less bred an atmosphere of defeat which hurried the chain's demise.

Capitalists never being the sort of learn from even the most recent of histories, Best Buy have decided to get rid of 1,000 of its most experienced staff and cut wages of 8,000 others. By up to fifty per cent.

The justification is "getting more people out on the shop floor" - although who Best Buy really thinks wants to be served by a demotivated and humiliated senior person busted down to sho floor level isn't entirely clear. But imagine the fun of shopping in the Magnolia Home Theater parts of the store, when the guy serving you is thinking "the amount of cash you've just spent there is equal to the pay cut I've just had forced on me." It'll be so much fun, right?

Marilyn Manson: Almost as shocking as a mid-season Skins episode

You want to know why we're nailing boards across our windows and sending the children of the village away?

Why, it's all part of the bracing before the unleashing of another Marilyn Manson record. For, surely, this time it must mark the end of society as we know it.

Oooh, Marilyn, what are you about to do?

"This is not a record that we would leave black and self-titled and mature. This is the experienced record. This album is the 12th-grade guy that has VD and did cocaine in high school, who has been arrested once and the 9th-grade girl wants to fuck him."

That's quite something. Because so far, your albums have been a mixture of the 34 year-old who still lives with his mother and has a subscription to Nuts, and a fifteen year-old boy whose rebellion takes the form of putting chewing gum in the ashtray when his older sister picks him up from Bible Class in their mum's car.

Still, Marilyn, can you make the album sound any more appealing to those who confuse badly-applied make-up with individualism?
This album left many scars

Oh, perfect.
I wrote all the lyrics on the wall of my room. It wasn't to be decorative; it was one of those things, like it's the last thing someone sees before they put them somewhere else.

That's pretty, wow, intense. Even if it does trail off meaninglessly - presumably that bit got hidden when you moved the bedside table to the other side of the bed, right?
And if anyone wants to come into this room and fornicate with me, I think they are a keeper… and when I say keeper, I mean kidnapping.

Oh, Marilyn, you are a one. It's probably just as well you've got more chance of a cow walking backwards down a rope ladder than someone wanting to visit your teenage bedroom.
Because I always wanted to take pictures, my house is set up like a movie set. Instead of lamps I have movie lights and smoke machines and things.

The guy up the road from me when I was a kid was a bit like that, too. And he had stacks of sound-effect records, too. He'd play them at dinner parties, when most people would put on mood music, so you'd wind up having conversations about whether Jim Callaghan could survive the summer to the backing of 'steam train approaching tunnel'.
"I really look at this record as a film, maybe because I sort of directed it. I stopped trying to conform regular life into the idea that it's regular life. Why isn't it all just a movie? If people are watching, they're watching me being an asshole or being boring or creating something amazing. That's just a part of the movie. It allowed me to be more creative."

And also, continued Manson, did you ever think you might be the only person and everyone is just robots or if you closed your eyes it all might disappear?

Marilyn Manson is forty years old.

Downloadable: Jarvis Cocker

Over on You Ain't No Picasso: mp3ed up and ready for listening, Angela - the first fruits of the new Jarvis Cocker album.

Something to listen to: Bootlegs

Coming up on Radio 4 tomorrow night (8pm; repeated Monday afternoon, and on the iPlayer for seven days): David Hepworth doing the Archive On 4 strand with a programme about Bootlegs.

Mobos go North

In what I'm going to be generous and put down to a well-conceived plan to raise the profile of the MOBO awards - the annual music event where prizes are given to people whose music is, in some way, black - has decided to hold its prize-giving in Glasgow this year.

Lemar - for some reason - was given the announcement to make:

"Bringing the MOBO awards here to Glasgow, a city with such a strong and vibrant music scene, is the perfect fit," the singer said. "I love touring in the UK and the welcome I receive when I come to Scotland is incredible."

That'll be why it's Glasgow, then. Because Lemar likes playing in Scotland. Similarly, the locations of the Grammy awards were fixed on using 'where would David Crosby most like to have breakfast the next morning'.

It's not because the event's partners this year are Event Scotland and Glasgow. Oh, no, no. This is nothing to do with chasing subsidy.

There's no reason why a major event should automatically be held in London, although in these straightened economic times, the London-centric music business might be a bit reluctant for people to run up expense bills traveling north for a second division event.

Pirates into prisoners: Web-round up

A quick scoop into the range of reactions to the utterly pointless prison and fine sentences handed out to the Pirate Bay team.

Rhi Jones of the Orchid Thieves, via Twitter:

they should organize a series of music festivals, cheap tickets- money to charity

(in response to Drowned In Sound's requests for appropriate community punishments in place of prison)

Mike Skinner, via Twitter
I think the attitude that music should be free is wrong and their attitude sucked. artists should be selling music but cheap

The IFPI are gurgling with delight:
John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, said: "We're very pleased at the verdict of what was a very important case for us.

"It would have been very difficult to put on a brave face if we had lost, but this verdict sends a strong educational and deterrent message."

Except, of course, it doesn't - who is is deterring, exactly? The Pirate Bay is still there, still online. What is the educational message? That The Pirate Bay is there, presumably. I'm not sure the IFPI have really thought this one through - sure, there are four people in prison, but what good is it doing them?

More from John Kennedy:
“The trial of the operators of The Pirate Bay was about defending the rights of creators, confirming the illegality of the service and creating a fair environment for legal music services that respect the rights of the creative community,” says IFPI chairman and CEO John Kennedy.

“Today’s verdict is the right outcome on all three counts. The court has also handed down a strong deterrent sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crimes committed. This is good news for everyone, in Sweden and internationally, who is making a living or a business from creative activity and who needs to know their rights will protected by law.”

Hey, mister - you're a major record company spokesperson, John. You do not have any grounds to speak on behalf of all the people in the world who make a living from creative activity. Let's not let victories go to our head, eh?

The IFPI's Ludwig Werner is equally giddy:
“The criminal conviction of the Pirate Bay operators will not only hearten the music and film community – it is also a huge shot in the arm for legitimate producers and entrepreneurs, who are trying to create a thriving legitimate online business based on proper respect of copyright. The court has also understood that a criminal conviction in itself is not enough, and that if creators’ rights are going to properly protected, a deterrent sentence was needed reflecting the seriousness of the crime.”

It's a huge shot in the arm, alright. It's like a whole syringe full of smack - it might make you feel good for a bit, but it won't actually make your life any better, and when you come round you'll feel a bit worse, and still won't have any visible means of support.

From the other side, The Open Rights Group suggests the music industry might not want to be popping too much champagne:

Yes, copyright should be respected. Yes, artists need to be paid. But no: illicit copying is not the problem.

The tardiness of the music industry, who after nine years of market failure have only now began to offer alternatives like Spotify, is the problem.

As yet, industry offerings are not as digital native as P2P, with its emphasis on user contribution and decentralised distribution. So they are not as likely to succeed.

Despite that, it is easy to imagine better, more convenient tools than P2P, or new services, such as mixing features, additional exclusive content, or the opportunity to directly financially support your favourite artists.

So let’s not pretend this is a straight choice between the old, centralised recording industry model and a free for all. Consumer power must trump vested interest. That is the real verdict of the Pirate Bay trial.

Just to make a pedantic, but important, point: The music industry isn't offering Spotify. Spotify came from website people, not music people.

But Open Rights is right. The RIAA/IFPI court victory today is just polishing its massive loss. The Pirate Bay grew because the record labels were hopeless at responding to what its former consumers demanded. Getting four people thrown in prison might answer their impotent rage, but it doesn't solve their problems.

And who might be next? Jack Schofield points a finger:
Following the verdict, it will be interesting to see whether the organisations behind the case -- the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries and the Motion Picture Association of America -- will now try to get Google and YouTube into court. There is no shortage of links to copyright information on Google. There is a difference, in that linking to torrent files is a byproduct of Google's ubiquitous search strategy, rather than its purpose. Still, it would be interesting to see Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt jailed as well.

In the NME, Luke Lewis starts off at a tangent:
What is unexpected is the whopping fine: they've also been ordered to pay £2.4 million in damages to record labels.

Hang on. Wasn't The Pirate Bay's defence always that their operations didn't generate any money? The reason they were so cocky – one of them even Twittered his disdain during the courtcase, saying he found it "boring" – was that they were, in legal terms, men of straw. Sue us all you like, they argued, we have no money to give.

This fine suggests otherwise. The amount would have been settled on after an audit of The Pirate Bay's accounts. There must have been significant funds. Which means The Pirate Bay's founders were lying about their motives.

"The amount would have been settled on after an audit of The Pirate Bay's accounts"? This was a criminal trial, and fines are based on damages, not ability to pay. After all, there are numerous instances of people being told to pay damages they can't possibly afford to private copyright-holding concerns. Unless Lewis also believes that maybe those single mothers are also lying when they say they can't afford to pay thousands to the RIAA?

Breaking: Pirate Bay team jailed

BBC News is reporting that the Pirate Bay team are heading to jail:

A court in Sweden has handed down its verdict on four men behind The Pirate Bay (TPB), the world's biggest file-sharing website.

Frederik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Carl Lundstrom and Peter Sunde were found guilty of breaking copyright law and were sentenced to a year in jail.

Mike Batt slaughtering bunnies

"How could a light that burned so brightly" pondered Mike Batt's Bright Eyes "suddenly burn so pale?"

Perhaps because they'd been shot on Mike Batt's orders.

A spokesman for Batt, 59, said the composer felt "terrible" about the shooting of the animals and hoped rabbit lovers would not criticise him.

Good luck with that, Mike.

Breaking: Pirate Bay "loses" case

Peter S Kolmisoppi has just twittered:

According to leaked information from the court we lost (got the news last night). Trustworthy source as well.

So it looks like the record companies might have got their Pyrrhic victory.

Mini Liveblog: McNicholas and Mulligan on copyright

Today are doing the Pirate Bay case with Mark Mulligan of Forrester Research and Conor McNicholas, still editor of the NME. Interestingly, nobody from a record company, or the BPI, or PRS, then.

Mulligan cautions that there's a danger in mixing lawyers and copyright - "results are unpredictable and inconvenient", effectively suggesting the best the RIAA can hope for is a useless Pyrrhic victory.

Conor keeps insisting the Pirate Bay case is like "putting your finger in a dam" - it was always a dyke when I was a kid, but I think, on balance, Conor's imagery of trying to hold back a mighty river rather than plug a gentle polder might be more apt in this case.

He suggests that internally, record companies are accepting they need new ways of handling copyright - and then runs out a brief, polished run through of why recorded music copyright is a twentieth century anomaly and doomed to vanish. Interestingly, this hasn't actually made an NME cover story, has it? I wonder if that's because it might be hard persuading record companies to take advertising around an obituary.

Mulligan then suggests that Spotify is the opposite of the Pirate Bay case, although that would imply that it's also an initiative taken by the record companies rather than just something they responded to differently.

Conor didn't have very much to do.

Straight after this feature, the business news did a piece on Record Store Day.

Very nostalgic feelings for the Zavvi

Popjustice visit the old Zavvi store on Tottenham Court Road to see what's going on there. It's now a temporary clothes shop - a shop that won't be around for long, rather than a shop which sells clothes that fall apart quite quickly. Because that would be Peacocks.

Oh, yes... and you take space in the store. Which leads Popjustice to hatch a cunning plan...

[Thanks to Matt W for the link]

Downloadable: Lee Memorial

Remember Sodastream? No, no, come back, I'm not about to cue in a YouTube video of Jamie Theakston talking about Spangles and trying to "remember" the words to the Friends theme song. The band Sodastream? Evening Session-flavoured Australian relegation-zone indie pop?

Well, Karl Smith out of Sodastream is back, back, back, doing a band called Lee Memorial. You can find out what they sound like - if you can't guess - with a download of Long Days In.

The set-up for the band is actually more intriguing than "one half of Sodastream" would suggest; former Sleater-Kinney & Popemobile drummer Laura MacFarlane is involved, which surely makes it worth a few minutes of your time to investigate?

Gordon in the morning: Creeping with The Enemy

Success hasn't changed us

- That's the announcement which leads in to the Sun's interview with The Enemy this morning.

It's true.

Other things which haven't changed The Enemy: inventing a flying car; learning to perform open-heart surgery; cradling a dying elk in their arms while angry tanker-drivers hurl insults.

The piece - by Jacqui Swift - claims to be an interview, but also has a star rating for the album at the top.

It's quite sweet, as The Enemy seem to have confused themselves with U2:
[Tom] says: “The biggest achievement is me, Liam and Andy can sit down and still have a pint with each other. We’re still mates. No one’s got an ego.”

Gordon, meanwhile, attempts some SATIRE:
POLE-dancing, PVC and dominatrix action. Sounds like a Saturday night behind closed doors for an MP.

Isn't it all leafing through John Lewis catalogues and buying houses these days, Gordon?

Still, it turns out that we're not talking about MPs at all, but plans for the Girls Aloud tour. Oddly, although Gordon suggests that pole-dancing, PVC and dominiatrixes would be wrong and bad if enjoyed by an MP, he doesn't seem to have a problem with it as part of a family entertainment.
It’s with great pleasure I bring you the news that the foxy five have been taking secret lessons in pole dancing for their Out Of Control tour, which kicks off next Friday at Manchester’s MEN Arena.

Hang about, though, that's pole-dancing "behind closed doors", isn't it?
I’m told: “The girls have been taking tips from some of the best pole dancers in the business to put together a really naughty dance routine for their song Fix Me Up.

“Each of the girls has their own podium-mounted pole to show off their skills and costumes. It’s jaw-dropping stuff.”

Yes. Yes, it's jaw-dropping alright. Or, at least, enough to make you bury your head in your hands.

For Gordon, there's nothing better than the idea of women pole-dancing. Well, almost nothing better. You've gone a bit misty eyed, there, mate - what were you thinking about?
I wonder if they had a spare gimp mask left over for her hubby ASHLEY COLE?

Perhaps if you ask nicely, Gordon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Roxette return, possibly

It's surprising the bands you never even noticed had split up. Roxette, for example. They'd split. I don't know, I guess if I'd thought about it, I might have thought they were doing cabaret somewhere, or tromping round whatever the Swedish equivalent of the Butlins-Pontins circuit is.

But, no, they'd split. But they're getting back together. Vaguely:

[Per] says, “I think we will do that, one way or another, maybe not touring but one way or another I think we’re going to do something together. I don’t know when, but I can’t really see any reason why not. Maybe not touring but one way or another I think we’re going to do something together. It’s just a matter of what Marie feels comfortable with and what I’m doing at the moment, so I keep my fingers crossed.”

It may, I suspect, not be touring. But he might, from that, just have dinner and a movie in mind.

Brand valued at TalkSport

Understandably, TalkSport are all thrilled at the idea of Russell Brand and Noel Gallagher popping up on the TalkSport radio to talk about sport. Very, very excited indeed:

"They are global names," [says TalkSport's Moz] Dee. "He is a Hollywood movie star and Noel belongs to the biggest band in the world. They will bring a level of notoriety to wherever they go. But it wouldn't work if they weren't genuinely passionate about sport and about football.

The first half of that sounds a little bit like a pitch for a Hollywood rom-com, doesn't it? "He was a Hollywood movie star... he was a rock star. But when they came together, it was the perfect kick-off..."

Still, it's nice to see Dee is an equal-opportunities hyperboliser - one middling hit does not a Hollywood movie star make, any more than the largely-ignored-by-America Oasis count as the biggest band in the world.

Sent Home(coming) without pay

The slightly provocatively bylined "Scotland's music festival" that was to have been Homecoming is off. And not simply because of T In The Park saying "I'm sorry, what?"

No, money is at the heart of the cancellation, as so often is the case:


It is with great regret that organisers of the Homecoming festival have announced that this year’s event has been cancelled.

This is due to new demands from the council requesting 50% of the profits and a £60,000 bond on the land.

All ticket holders will be entitled to a full refund, and arrangements are currently being made to organise new venues and dates for some of the artists that were scheduled to perform at Homecoming 09.

More details will be revealed as soon as possible.

The website still claims that "tickets are selling fast", which suggests there must be a surprising number of people who pursue refunds for fun and entertainment value alone.

The council would be North Ayrshire, who somehow neglected to mention these demands when announcing the licence for the event.

The festival was to be part of the big Homecoming Year being held in Scotland throughout 2009, which is in no way an attempt to persuade American tourists to visit by telling them that they're probably just as entitled to wear tartan as anybody else.

Regina Spektor:

Good news: Assuming it doesn't leak online and have its launch date brought forward, Regina Spektor's new album will be with us on June 23rd [US release date]. There's going to be a "world" tour in support, or at least a tour of parts of the world.

Gordon in the morning: Everyone is on teh drucks

Oh, what larks: a recording session supposedly featuring Amy Winehouse and Snoop Dogg went, predictably, nowhere and Gordon knows why.

They were all on the drugs.

AMY WINEHOUSE isn’t shy of herbal refreshments and SNOOP DOGG has built his career on smoking industrial-strength marijuana.

Gordon's view of drugs apparently was formed when he was a student, and hasn't shifted much since:
So when the two teamed up in the studio, mountains of Monster Munch were eaten... but not a great deal of music was laid down.

This all took place last year, but presumably the dude who told Gordon had, like, totally forgotten all about it.

Oh, and this is your headline on drugs:
Amy's tracks pawsed

Gordon does know he's not an actual dog, right?

Also in this morning's Bizarre is a piece by Sara Nathan, which turns the question of elective caesarean into, well, a spectator sport:
PREGNANT COLEEN ROONEY is planning a Caesarean birth for her baby, so hubby WAYNE can play for England in a key World Cup qualifier.
Now pals have revealed that excited Coleen has consulted doctors about having a Caesarean in late September. That would allow Man Utd ace Wayne, 23, to witness the birth and help care for their tot in its earliest days before joining his countrymen for the crunch match.

The excellent Tabloid Lies already spent some time this week explaining why the match isn't actually a crunch match at all.

What makes this story worse though is Nathan then goes on to gibber:
“Pregnancy is a miracle, but it’s still the early stages. I really want to be able to keep as quiet and calm as possible for the sake of our baby.”

... and what could be a better way to help with that than by speculating on the delivery method and linking it, falsely, to if England will qualify for the World Cup or not?

But, since you mention it:
The couple, jointly worth £30million, do not yet know the sex of their child.

But friends say they have joked that they will choose James if it turns out to be a boy — because they think the baby was conceived after their 007-themed bash on New Year’s Eve.

Really? Only if the baby was conceived on New Year's Eve, Sara, wouldn't Colleen's due date be the 23rd September, making it almost impossible that the baby wouldn't have been delivered long before the match? And rendering your story a bit pointless?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

UK Zune soon?

Probably not, but that's not stopped everyone getting excited by the prospect of a new look Zune (or, more accurately, a Zune that desperately wants to be an iPod Touch), and even more rumours that it might actually be sold in places other than America and Canada. These rumours, of course, clash with the other rumours of an imminent demise of Zune as a brand. It wouldn't be entirely impossible for Microsoft's Zune division to be pushing ahead with expansion plans even as another part of the corporation is drawing up plans for liquidation, so you could quite happily choose to believe both of these claims.

Leonard Cohen to play car park of some sort

What the hell is Mercedes-Benz World, then? It is, as the name suggests, exactly what you'd expect:

As the flagship of Mercedes-Benz in the UK, and located on the famous Brooklands site, Mercedes-Benz World is a memorable day out for any motoring fan.

Not only can you get hands-on with all our cars; you can take the opportunity to test drive the latest models around the handling circuit, or put both the car and your driving skills to the test with one of our various Driving Experiences.

And although driving is our first passion, it's not all we have to offer. Inside, you can take a walk around the exhibitions and get up close to the famous Gullwing and Maybach. In the cinema, you can learn about the history of the Mercedes-Benz brand; and in the simulator you'll be transported down a production line.

It's like a big car lot, then.

A strange choice of venue, then, for an open-air Leonard Cohen gig, you might think. Pity it's too late for Frank Butcher to be MC.

Kevin Shields invites you to a Christmas party

This year's Nightmare Before Christmas is in the control of Kevin Shields, who has wasted no time in booking some acts, including Sonic Youth and, somewhat more puzzlingly, De La Soul.

Although given their 'splitting the audience into bits and getting them to sing against each other' schtick, perhaps a holiday camp is just the right stage for La Soul.

The Horrors, too, are rewarded for having attempted to pass themselves off as the Telescopes by getting a slot, too, which means they're going to have to keep it up until December.

MySpace Music UK still on its way, promises MySpace

During the easter track smackdown thingy, I was asked why MySpace Music wasn't one of the services. The short answer would have been that, with MySpace Music UK yet to launch, it didn't seem fair to test them.

But that does raise a question: Where is MySpace's UK version of its much touted save-the-house Music service?

Still very much in the future, apparently:

Courtney Holt, president of MySpace Music, distanced himself from steps which had been taken before his arrival in January but admitted the social network may have jumped the gun and approached partners too early.

"I'm working on trying to make sense of a business that existed as a bunch of features," he said. "So we went silent while we brought in the right people. Perhaps we launched the business before we had the key stakeholders in place internally."

You launched before having internal people in place? Wow. That's quite a surprising approach.

Could you perhaps offer up some more gnomic insight, though, Mr Holt:
"Most of the steps on the label side have been dealt with," he said. "We've taken active steps for international expansion. The product side is global so we've done the work for the core offering wherever we go."

What he means it there's a template that they can use. Which, when you're at least a month behind your original schedule, is a quite a weak point to be clinging to - right up there with "well, she hasn't actually yet taken out a court order" in finding cold comfort.

Jacko auction axed

The on-off-on-off Michael Jackson stuff auction is now, ooh, off, what with all the lawsuit business and so on.

To an outside eye, it would appear that Jackson was going to flog all this stuff when he needed the money, but now he's shaken down people for O2 tickets, he's decided to keep his tat:

Jackson's manager, Dr Tohme Tohme, said the auction had only come about after a significant misunderstanding. "It was his personal property. It was never supposed to be sold."

It's so simple to arrange a ten million dollar auction on a misunderstanding, isn't it? Used to happen on Terry And June a lot, with the episode generally ending on Sir Dennis barking "Medford! I distinctly said wine and dine the Japanese client, not arrange for my belongings to be sold to the highest bidder!"

How great is it that Jackson is now being managed by a man named in honour of the Chuckle Brothers, by the way?

Gordon in the morning: National pride

The BPI's press release trumpeting that the UK has a small but growing market share in US recorded music sees Gordon coming over all proud:

Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the airwaves...

Yes. Really.
AMERICA is in the grip of a second British invasion.

Third, if you count the time we stole large swathes of the land, killed all the buffalo and then killed most of the people who lived there.
New data from the British Phonographic Industry shows British acts’ sales have surged in the past year, making us punch far above our modest size in the huge market.

Really? Surged, you say?
UK acts now account for a whopping one in ten records sold in North America.

Oh, yes - that's more than French acts, German acts, Dutch, Eritrean and Gabonese acts put together.

But since the UK population is one-fifth the size of that of the UK, surely selling one-tenth the number of records is actually punching below our weight? Especially when you consider that we have the advantage of a shared language, and the major companies selling recorded music are the same both sides of the Atlantic.

Still, tell us about the surge:
And 2008 saw our share of the multi-billion-dollar American scene leap 1.5 per cent.

So, for every £100 worth of records we sold in 2007, we're now selling £101.50 worth?

That's not really a surge, is it? That's an upwards trickle.

And it does also mean you have to pretend that all of AC-DC is a UK act to make the figures work.

And it's not really even £101.50 records to every £100, as none of this takes account of the fall in the value of the US market.

Still, "British artists sales fall less quickly than US artists" isn't the sort of headline you'd whip out the Union Jack bunting for, is it?

Gordon, meanwhile, is cross because the numbers don't exist to prove that Leona Lewis and Coldplay are better than The Beatles and The Stones:
No reliable sales data was produced at the time, but my insider at the BPI tells me they suspect today’s artists have had a bigger impact.

His "insider" at the BPI, that would be. Yes, the BPI - the body which is paid by the major labels to make them look good - is apparently leaking details which make the major labels look good (if you don't think about it). Gordon, it's fine to actually gather news from people who want to be quoted.

So, secret strictly off-the-record briefing insider, tell us more:
The source said: “It’s frustrating because the US recording industry has not kept the correct data from the time to prove it conclusively.


“But we’re certain British pop music is having more of an impact in America now than it has ever done.

“It’s a huge feat to get to ten per cent because the US record-buying public are notoriously insular in their tastes and often resistant to imports.”

Actually, given that the British music industry are allowing quotes to appear in the UK press effectively telling Americans that they stick to their own, maybe there was good reason for not revealing names. Really, BPI, you think that's the way to talk about your biggest overseas market?

It's not even true, is it? Not especially, and certainly not amongst Americans who buy lots of music.

Still, there is tiny evidence of a Bizarre Invasion into the US - some old tat about Mel Gibson's marriage is, I think, Pete Samson's first major appearance on Bizarre since he quit being Gordon's deputy in favour of the plush Sun US editor's job.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Want to buy a second hand brand, slightly damaged?

Given that Circuit City was a hole long before it closed all its stores, you might wonder who would be interested in buying the name and the brand. Systemax, apparently. That's the same people who picked up the CompUSA brand when that chain crashed, and have since been gingerly reopening stores under the name.

Which must annoy them that most empty Comp USAs still have their lights on at night, which means their expensive brand gets eroded a little bit each time someone drives by.

Still, they're quite keen to take on the values of Circuit City, too. It's probably given Systemax's interests in electronics they won't be overly bothered by the chain's CD business.

We7 gives away Depeche Mode previews

The last Depeche Mode album was a surprising return-to-importance, so there's high hopes around the new one. If you want to know what Sounds Of The Universe sounds like, NME and we7 have hooked up to poke the sound to you through a widget. (Although, strictly speaking, if it's embedded in a page and can't be moved or borrowed or copied, it's not really a widget.)

Spoitfy are also streaming the album, but only to premium users. So, that's five points to Spotify and ten to... oh, hang on; we're not doing that at the moment, are we?

Facebook repels pirates

Facebook has told Pirate Bay it doesn't want links to torrents popping up on the service:

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt told TorrentFreak, “Facebook respects copyrights and our Terms of Service prohibits placement of ‘Share on Facebook’ links on sites that contain “any content that is infringing. Given the controversy surrounding The Pirate Bay and the pending lawsuit against them, we’ve reached out to The Pirate Bay and asked them to remove the ‘Share on Facebook’ links from their site. The Pirate Bay has not responded and so we have blocked their torrents from being shared on Facebook.”

Interesting. It's true that there is a pending lawsuit against Pirate Bay - although, given that it's pending, you might wonder if Facebook might not be better off waiting for the courts to decide on the lawsuit before springing into action.

It's also questionable if Facebook is wise to strike out these links from its end - because asking Pirate Bay not to share is fine; banning all links is fine. But once you start picking and choosing what links you're going to allow, Facebook shifts from being a platform to being an editor. Given that some torrents on Pirate Bay are completely legal, and some links to non-Pirate Bay webspaces are to unlicensed content, Facebook is now having to exercise a value judgement. And if a judgement is being made, sooner or later that judgement is going to have to be explained; especially why some torrent links have been allowed to remain active while others have been blocked, and why some services are targeted when others are not.

Oh, and also: Facebook has decided to not tell its users the truth about why iso links hosted on the Pirate Bay servers are being blocked:
According to the message you’ll see on Facebook it is because it “has been reported as abusive by Facebook users” but this is inaccurate.

At least be honest with your audience, Facebook. If you're sure you're doing the right thing, why hide behind a half truth?

Foxx mocks Cyrus; AP weighs in

Jamie Foxx's idea of advice to Miley Cyrus is, admittedly, crude:

Foxx is heard saying: "Who is Miley Cyrus? The one with all the gums? She need to get a gum transplant!"

He also says: "Make a sex tape and grow up!"

Because, of course, that's the mark of a mature woman.

Crude, and clueless. But when exactly, Associated Press, did this happen?
It's not clear when the comments were made.

Sorry? Given that Foxx only does one show a week, and the AP is always stressing how bloggers and aggregators are feasting off its prime-quality, fresh reporting, isn't a shrug and saying "it happened sometime" a bit... well, weak? Presumably the AP's Nekesa Mumbi Moody must have heard the broadcast for themselves? Couldn't they at least offer a "in a programme still available online" or "recordings of the programme found online"?
A woman is heard calling Cyrus the b-word.

Bastard? Bugger? Bollock-licker? Bumhole? Brian? Biscuit? Booger?

Come on, AP: your audience have just seen a grown man suggest a teenager show maturity through the medium of a sex tape; do you really think the word "bitch" is going to be upsetting in that context?

Free Music Archive doesn't want to be free

WFMU's excellent project, the Free Music Archive, has gone live, promising 5,000 free-and-legal tracks released under Creative Commons licences.

It's exciting sounding, and seems to be popular. Which is probably why it's showing a database error right now...

Amazon defailing

So, after Amazon responds to the reaction to the sudden vanishing of books from its search and sales data, the inquest begins. What was going on?

Everyone seems quite keen to believe that it was down to Weev, because that makes Amazon still seem lovely. The problem, of course, is not just that Weev's code doesn't apparently work (although he responds, understandably, that using it now is going to fail as Amazon have been post-bolted-horse-door-bolting); it's more the philosophical question as to why if he, and his army of "third world" helpers, were targeting Gay and lesbian, bisexual or transgender books, titles like Girl With A One Track Mind or Lady Chatterley's Lover were vanishing, too.

A more plausible explanation for what went wrong has emerged, though: could sexy titles have been lost in translation?

Former Amazonian Mike Daisey offers some insight.

"After hearing from people on the inside at Amazon, I am convinced it was in fact, a 'glitch,'" he says on his Web site. "Well, more like user error--some idiot editing code for one of the many international versions of Amazon mixed up the difference between 'adult' and 'erotic' and 'sexuality.' All the sites are tied together, so editing one affected all for blacklisting, and ta-da, you get the situation."

According to Daisey's inside sources, "A guy from Amazon France got confused on how he was editing the site, and mixed up 'adult,' which is the term they use for porn, with stuff like 'erotic' and 'sexuality.' That browse node editor is universal, so by doing that there he affected ALL of Amazon."

That would be a better explanation of the range of titles which vanished.

After the extreme and rapid Amazon backlash, of course there must be the backlash backlash, with some commentators suggesting that it was unfair to call this an Amazonfail because it might have been hackers exploiting the system. Perhaps - although you'd have to ask if a system that was thus exploited wasn't full of fail in the first place - but certainly, responding to questions from authors who had vanished from search with a tart "yes, that's the policy" email is a PR fail of enormous proportions.

Still, we've all learned something from the tale. Perhaps Amazon might now be working on a better way to keep kids away from porn, without keeping adults away from erotica. Good luck with that, Amazon.

Actor Billy Bob Thornton quits

Well, it wasn't going well, was it? The actor Billy Bob Thornton has pulled the remaining support dates on Willie Nelson's Canadian tour.

Because all of Canada hate him.

Or, officially:

[D]ue to "one band member and several of the crew having the flu".

Flu that, magically, cures itself when you leave a country where you've called the audiences "mashed potatoes with no gravy". Funny that.

Gordon in the morning: One of those good days

Every so often - and it feels like once every eleven months or so - Gordon runs a story which manages to be believable, something we didn't already know and actually quite interesting. I suspect he does it just to throw the grey churn of day after day grinding out stuff about Kelly Brook's breasts into even sharper relief.

Whatever, the revelation that Lily Allen was a ringer on an Atomic Kitten track is wonderful; the claim being that Natasha Hamilton was too unwell to sing Keith Allen's song for the theme tune to Mike Bassett: England Manager, and - surprise - Lily just happened to be ready for a go.

Gordon even has quite a good joke, as well, because he has a picture of a teenage Lily with some puppets:

And I love the one on the left with the Sooty and Sweep puppets.

I bet she did some brilliant voice-overs for them too.

Back to business as grimly usual, though, when Gordon runs the frightful picture of Madonna and Mercy:
MADONNA holds little MERCY JAMES to her breast at a Malawi orphanage — in a tender scene the day before her adoption hopes were dashed.

The snap emerged yesterday as Madge, 50, vowed to keep fighting for the three-year-old to become a sister for her adopted Malawian son DAVID.

Snap, Gordon? "Snap"? Perhaps, if it was a grabbed snap, it might be tender. But not only is the thing posed, it's been whacked through the "Athena Poster" filter in Photoshop. Twice. Apart from adding on tears of blood, and perhaps a UFO over Madonna's right shoulder, the thing couldn't feel more faked.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Breaking news: Spector guilty

BBC News are reporting that Phil Spector has been convicted of second degree murder.

Dee Dee book pushed towards court

Dee Dee Ramone's wife Vera Davie has hit a snag in getting her story of life with a Ramone published. The estate has objected, with executor Ira Herzog claiming Davie had reneged on a pledge to allow him to "review and revise" anything that she wrote about her ex-husband.

It's not entirely clear why Herzog would imagine that he has a right of veto over Davie's own life story - if Dee Dee was still alive, he might have an expectation of fair treatment, but that would come after publication. And he's not alive, otherwise he wouldn't have an executor. Well, I suppose he could be incredibly lazy and faked his own death in order to get someone to take day-to-day responsibility for his financers, but I'm pretty sure we would have heard. Or maybe not, as Herzog might have stopped publication of a book revealing that, too.

Let's assume Dee Dee is dead, for now, and just ponder what grounds Herzog will offer to stop the book.

Easter track smackdown: So, what have we learned?

Four days. Twelve tracks. A bunch of points. But what have we discovered?

Amazon, it turns out, would have been the victor had their management decided to throw away any claims to a moral victory.

As someone pointed out in the comments, 'grey' material thrives on user-generated services - although even with this advantage, Imeem didn't do particularly well.

YouTube could probably save a fortune (and crush Imeem, actually) if it offered an option for people to upload just audio. Seriously, how much bandwidth and storage space are Google paying for to hold and transfer images of record labels and sleeves that people are only making in the first place because there needs to be something for the visual part of the video. Make an mp3 YouTube, Google. You'll save yourself a bundle.

The PRS' doomy claims that music is being switched off from YouTube is a little bit overstating the case - some good stuff is missing, but it's nowhere near as silent as you might think.

iTunes has pretty good coverage for a legal service.

Spotify might just have been unlucky, but to only hit one track out of twelve suggests that it might have more gaps in its memory than Sam Beckett that time he jumped into the hospital and got electroshock therapy.

We7 haven't ever claimed to be a home for obscure stuff, which is quite wise, but their people are lovely.

Bernard Cribbins' back catalogue has survived more successfully than most 1980s-90s indie.

It might be a good idea - we7, you can have this for free - if searches which turn up empty had a box saying "sorry we don't have what you're looking for, can you tell us about the song and we'll see if we can get it for you"?

Some people will do anything to fill their blogs over a bank holiday weekend.

And that, then, concludes the first ever Easter Track Smackdown, with Amazon hiding children from the gays; YouTube punching the air in triumph while humming Eye Of The Tiger, videoing itself doing so and then pulling its own video after complaints from Survivor's record label; iTunes trying to somehow create a Genius playlist out of the events of the last four days and hanging forever; and Spotify looking a little bit like the smart kid from sixth form who's just done his first university seminar and realised that things have just got a little harder.

Easter track smackdown: Final round - Hurrah!

Yes, the end is now in sight. And how better to greet the end of a four-day experiment than by calling for Hurrahs? More precisely, Hurrah's If Love Could Kill - "you had a boyfriend, hundreds of miles away/ I had a girl, away for a day". A tale of a quick shag unraveling four lives, a big favourite with the supposedly virginal Are You Scared To Get Happy fanzine and, sadly, Hurrah's passport to a major deal which quickly beat the attention to detail out of them.

Can it be found digitally?

For this final round - to build an air of tension or something - we're bringing on the competitors based on their positions on the leaderboard, lowest to highest. First to go then is:

It's not even the exclamation point confusing Spotify, which ends its campaign by muttering something about Hurrah! Another Year soundtracks.

Zero points, giving a total of 9.

"Gallant and Gay, we'll march away" is amongst the bemusing and wrong responses to a search for Hurrah. Not that there's anything wrong with it, of course. We7 marches away.

Zero points, giving a final score of 14

Again, this is yer basic indie, and the sort of thing that eMusic should be good at - especially as it calls for a subscription. But, no. Bip Bip Hurrah is not going to satisfy us, sirs.

Zero points, giving a final score of 19

Last FM:
Oh, no: disaster for Last FM just moments from the finish line. Having been very good at knowing bands, even if not having much of the music, it leaps to the conclusion that we're interested in a post rock band from Orlando. We are, actually, but not right now.

After a diversion into emo, the song title comes up trumps, but still mute.

One point off for jumping to conclusions, but one point returned for treating the exclamation mark in the band name as important, for a final score of 27.

Like it's suffering from time lag, or hasn't quite got over the last search, looking for the song title on this one brings up Psycho Mike by KillingxLove. Perhaps this is meant to be an semi-intelligent search, learning as we go. Or maybe it can't get over the word "kill". Like a Daily Mail search engine, it's all got to be about killing.

No marks for Imeem, bringing its final tally to 33.

145 search results for Hurrah!, and not one of them our Hurrah! It's nice to discover a Young Marble Giants album called Live At The Hurrah, but I'm not convinced that's going to get me singing along with a catch in my voice.

iTunes has added nothing to its total, and so winds up with 37

Nobody is doing especially well on the final round, as even YouTube tries to palm me off with Heart's If Looks Could Kill. There's not even a sniff of the band's 1987 Tube appearance, either.

No further points for YouTube, then, but they can wave their 41 points at the PRS in some sort of second-placed victory dance.

Nothing from Amazon, either, so they get no extra points.

However, since we started out on this experiment, the news has broken that Amazon has started to strip sales rank data from "adult" books, and throwing its adult net a little wide, to include stuff like Sexing The Cherry, self-help books for gay men and, erm, the hardcover version of John Barrowman's autobiography; because these sales ranks drive some of the searches and Best Sellers lists, effectively Amazon is making some books invisible. Because it's thinking of the children, apparently:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.

Best regards,

Ashlyn D

Member Services Advantage

"Adult materials" - books, in other words, books with gay characters in just as a given. Some editions of Oranges Not The Only Fruit have had their rankings pulled; The Beautiful Room Is Empty is now bereft of its sales ranking. So, since Amazon are happy to apply capricious and idiotic rulings, so too shall we: fifty points off, with Amazon ending on minus three.

Join us for the final round-up in a couple of minutes.

Easter track smackdown: Round eleven - Das Psycho Rangers

There's a tussle at the top as YouTube, Amazon and iTunes struggle for supremacy in our Easter weekend battle to determine who's best at finding the random list of tracks we scribbled down in the late hours of Maundy Thursday. But now comes a big ask: who can give us a song by an act who are - despite having been on ZTT alongside Propaganda and Frankie - so obscure, they don't merit a Wikipedia page.

The Das Psycho Rangers (or, sometimes, Das Psych-oh Rangers) exist mainly in my mind as a haunting, 4ADesque Janice Long session. The standout track from that session was Homage. Do any of you digital stores hold the studio version?

Now, however much pity you might feel for Spotify, you're not going to expect us to give them marks for bringing up Power Rangers soundtrack songs in response to this search, are you? Zero, again.

Last FM:
The CBS team aren't bemused by the two names - in fact, they've never heard of the Psych-Oh spelling. But there aren't even any suggestions for tracks from the band, so zero.

Please, pleads iTunes, Powersearch. I'm sure my power search will turn up something.

But, no. Not a thing. Zero.

Again, nothing. Last FM is starting to look a lot cooler, because at least it's heard of them, even if it has to make that noise you do when asked for an opinion on a band whose existence you have registered without having ever heard their music.

The comments on the band's one appearance on YouTube, with Love Terminator, suggests they were trying to rip off Zodiac Mindwarp - and from here, you can see where that charge might have come from:

But why would you try to steal ideas from Zodiac Mindwarp, which was essentially Motorheadinjury?

A two point bonus to YouTube for having something, although it does piss a bit over the memory of the Janice Long session iteration of the band. Which, to be fair, is something Zodiac Mindwarp might have done.

When Amazon flops, it flops badly. "Hey - how about picking up this Kelly Clarkson song instead?" Zero.

An almost empty results page tries to interest me in a Psycho ringtone. I walk away, backwards, slowly, smiling... no fast movements, no fast movements... - zero

Roy Rogers? Are you joking? Zero.

There's a salutary lesson here, if you wish to hear it: ZTT were indie, but not, by any means, an insignificant force in the 1980s music scene. That no legal service offers anything approaching their complete catalogue shows how far we are from having everything online. We're not even near everything you'd expect yet.

With that thought, let's take a look at the latest standings:

Amazon 47
YouTube 41
iTunes 37
Imeem 33
eMusic 19
we7 14
Spotify 09

Finally: a fanzine favourite's heart-break classic to round us off.

Courtney Love wants her money back

Courtney Love is about to start the massive task of getting back the millions of dollars she reckons have been stolen from her. The money Kurt earned, obviously. Her lawyer is already busily overselling the case to any gossip column in the US with a vague grasp of contempt of court:

"I have never seen such greed and moral turpitude. This case is going to make Bernard Madoff look warm and fuzzy," Love's lawyer, Rhonda J. Holmes, of Gordon & Holmes in San Diego, told Page Six.

"We will be filing civil cases . . . within the next 30 days. There are many, many millions missing. We've only been able to track down $30 million, but there is more. And then there is the real estate."

Civil cases? But surely, m'learned friend, if this moral turpitude at its most, uh, turpitudinous, shouldn't the boys in blue be involved? First, obviously?

This isn't, of course, about the money. It's the principle. Indeed, Holmes has already pledged the real estate to a good cause:
"There is now a web of homes which were bought, flipped and used to launder money -- up to $500 million worth," Holmes said. "Any of the property we can get back will be donated to people who have lost their homes in foreclosures."

How's that going to work, then? In February alone, there were over a quarter of a million foreclosures. Either those homes have got a shit load of bathrooms, or it's going to get quite crowded each morning in them.

And, since the people buying the alleged money-laundering flipped houses are, themselves, presumably victims in this mess, is it really a good deed to kick them out just to install some other innocent victims in there? Isn't trying to somehow confuse Love's dereliction of her own duty with the financial crisis in the US a somewhat cynical move?

The big question, of course, does come back to 'shouldn't Courtney have noticed all this going on'? Do you have an explanation, Mr. Holmes:
"Courtney noticed the money was gone when there wasn't any left. It's no secret she struggled with substance-abuse issues, but in the last year she's taken a more serious approach to sobriety and started noticing things were wrong. She hired private investigators, accountants and me."

Regular readers of Courtney's MySpace and Twitter accounts will have seen the last year's worth of a more serious, sober Courtney, and can only wonder at what the years previous to that must have been like.

But, yes, the authorities will get involved, eventually:
"We are also working with local and federal authorities," Holmes said. "When Mr. Cobain died in 1994, he left his enormously wealthy estate behind for the benefit of his mother, two sisters, a brother, his wife and young daughter. Many of those [involved with] the estate's coffers mismanaged, stole and outright looted it shamelessly."

And, you know, you can let that sort of thing go on for fifteen years, but sooner or later you've just got to know when to say when, right?

Global Radio: Home of the work experience trainee

Global Radio has been struggling to balance its books, and carry out the cussedly difficult job of broadcasting radio programmes shortly after letting 200 of its staff go.

That's "letting them go" in the same way that the rugby team let their colleagues go when they crashed in the Andes.

So how do you keep the stations on air?

Ashley Tabor has a plan:

"I have been trying to find a way to harness the passion for radio amongst young people," he told the world, well the UK, earlier this week.

The plan is to recruit 500 work-experience lackeys per year. "The Global Academy will ultimately create a supply of real talent to the commercial radio industry," Tabor proclaimed.

Now, there's something noble about the idea of training young, enthusiastic people in the skills of the radio industry. Assuming they get proper training, and get paid for it while they're receiving it, and that the 500 really talented, well-trained people will have 500 well-paid, valuable jobs waiting for them. That would be brilliant, and represent a massive, brave investment from a company that has no money and a business plan that's currently more wobbly than a three-legged kitten on an ice rink.

Of course, if all they're doing is exploiting people's goodwill and turning their dreams into cheap, button-pushing labour, encouraging hopefuls to spend years in low-paid positions on the promise of a job that doesn't exist, then you really do have to hope that Global collapses in on itself in a fetid cloud of ill-intentioned exploitation.

But I'm sure Tabor can explain exactly where the UK commercial radio industry will be requiring 500 highly-paid, highly trade staffers in a couple of years, right?

[Thanks to James P]

Gordon in the morning: Placing bets on Mark Owen's solo career

Gordon this morning reports - complete with a confusing graphic - on Mark Owen's plans for a fourth solo album. A seasoned celebrity watcher like Gordon, of course, will have no problem predicting what will happen next:

History isn’t on Mark’s side but I have a sneaky suspicion he might just do it.

To be fair, that's only a slightly hedged bet.

Gordon applauds Owen's taste in music:
Mark also has impeccable music taste. PRIMAL SCREAM, STONE ROSES, OASIS, THE VERVE and a lot of small indie and rock acts are what he listens to when he’s not making grown women scream.

Smart doesn't say what songs he plays during those secret basement experiment sessions... oh, hang on. I see what he means.

It's funny, isn't it, these moments when Gordon reveals that he doesn't think much of most of the people he writes about, hankering after what he believes to be "proper" music... oh, why can't Lindsay Lohan date one of Kasabian, at the very least?

Billboard hires bloggers

In a bid to keep up to date with what the kids are up to, Billboard has hired a couple of these bloggy chappies from off the internet: Glenn Peoples and David Prince.

The real bad news here is that Peoples is going to shutter Coolfer to concentrate on his new job; Prince is going to continue with The Daily Swarm, but it will shift from main focus to side project.

Easter track smackdown: Round ten - Stop The Violence Movement

Welcome, as the sun rises on the fourth and final day of the Easter Track Smackdown as we attempt to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, what your best bet for finding tracks on the internet is.

Before we move onto the first of our final three slightly obscure tracks, some correspondence which has been entered into: We7's John Taysom popped up to offer a spirited defence of his company's USP - no need to download anything, free to stream stuff before you buy - and asks if he can have their point back.

To be fair, We7 might not have the tracks we've been seeking, but they're pretty usable. And given that they're not doing very well on points, but still happy to actually take the time over a bank holiday weekend to write a proper comment that - unlike QTrax and their nasty astroturf - is polite and measured, yes: you get a point back.

So, then, to today's first tussle, and we're looking for Self Destruction by the Stop The Violence Movement. A Band Aid style project pulled together by KRS-One in the wake of the murder of Scott La Rock, the 1989 record attempted to persuade rappers to put down their guns.

It wasn't, you'd have to say, a major success, and perhaps was doomed to fail when you consider Miss Melody's line that "you ain't guarding a door, so what you got a gun for?", which seemed to just open a loophole when zero-tolerance was probably what was needed. Also, given the way violence was about to spill out into war, only having East Coast artists might not have been the best move.

But it was a well-intentioned effort, and it sounded a lot better than Ferry Aid. (Is it wrong to compare charity singles like that? Have I had three points taken off my mortal soul score somewhere?) The question, though: does it exist online?

Ask Spotify for Self Destruction, and it throws up goth, not rap. Poor show, Spotify. Zero. Again.

Last FM:
The best thing about this being the last day of this event is that I won't have to see that bloody Boat That Rocked banner ad any more. Bill Nighy, what were you thinking? Does Richard Curtis hold your soul in a small metal container, and won't let you have it back until he's stopped making romcoms? And even if he does, did you have to sign off on that photo? Seriously?

Anyway... not only does LastFM know of the track, but it's smarter than us, knowing the song was credited to the Stop The Violence All Stars. Doesn't have it to play, though, but - in the words of Fry And Laurie being Robert Robinson - an extra point for being so clever.

It's smart enough to suggest that Boogie Down Production's track called Stop The Violence might work, providing you scroll far enough through the results. Four points for being near enough.

Again, suggests the BDP version might fit the bill for KRS-One related anti-hiphop violence tracks, which garners four points. And a warning to all to stop copying from their neighbours.

At first, this looks like a fan video. Then, as you get to the scene which looks not unlike that Comic Relief PG Tips/Admiral/Meerkat/Smash boardroom set-up, you realise it's the real deal:

Ten effortless points for the Googleplex, and a surprised guffaw that they started the video making it look like the sort of thing the Chart Show would lob on if there wasn't a video to show.

Amazon coast to an easy four points by listing Boogie Down Productions - in about seventeen different versions. Including an instrumental. An instrumental? Isn't that like releasing Das Kapital, but only with the pictures.

The track? Oh, yes - neatly filed under all the names of the artists taking part. And the video. Almost tempted to give 20 points, but since that would mess with the results, Imeem can have thirteen.

Fifty nine songs called Self Destruction. None of them are the ones we're after. Zero points.

So, we're begging ourselves not to fight, but what has this round done to the rankings?

Amazon - 47
YouTube - 39
iTunes - 37
Imeem - 33
LastFM - 27
eMusic - 19
we7 - 14
Spotify - 09

So, YouTube sneaks ahead of iTunes, while eMusic starts to feel we7's breath coming up behind it. And Spotify discovering that, when the chips are down, you need more than a lot of favourable press coverage to satisfy the further-flung desires of the listener.

But still two tracks to go, with only LastFM's mid-table position seeming secure. Coming next, label mates of Frankie Goes To Hollywood: surely they must be easy to find?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pete Waterman: If you have tears, pretend to shed them now

As the PRS campaign against Google swings into what I suspect they're considering is "action", more of the songwriter's cash has been burned through on holding a press conference to launch And, just to help stress the idea that this isn't about making rich men even richer, they invited Pete Waterman to be the star turn.

Yes, there'd be nothing crocodile-like in tears shed listening to forty-times-over-millionaire Pete Waterman complaining that he only got a few quid from YouTube. You would have thought that if PRS really felt the need to spend cash on an event to promote its pretend-debate site, they might have been better off finding someone to whom a quadrupling, or even dodecarupling, of the YouTube money would make a blind bit of difference to. But they won't find anyone, because they know that there's so little money in individual plays on YouTube it won't help anyone over the poverty line. It's a bit of extra; it's money for jam; it's pin money.

So, instead, PRS invite us to think sad thoughts of a multi-multi-millionaire not making much extra:

"There was I sitting at Christmas thinking, 'I must have made a few bob this year with the old Rickrolling'," he said.

"I rang my publisher and they said 'You'll be all right', until I saw the royalty statement. £11.

"If 154 million plays means £11, I get more from Radio Stoke playing Never Gonna Give You Up than I do from YouTube."

Yes, you're right, Pete - smaller radio stations probably are being strangled by having to play large royalty fees for records. Someone should look into that.

Oh, that wasn't your point, was it?

Firstly, Pete, again you don't mention all the extra royalties that you earned as a result of media coverage of Rickrolling, Astley being invited to turn up and play at places like the Macy's parade, and so on. Earnings that, without YouTube, you would never have seen. Which is at best intellectually dishonest of you.

Secondly: 154 million plays. Where did you get this figure from? The most watched versions of the video seem to be hovering around 15 million plays each - is 154 million a guess?

Third: Even if we take 154 million plays as a fact, doesn't PRS only collect for artists having their work consumed in the UK? Which is why the (limited) removal of music videos as a result of the PRS battle are in the UK, not of UK artists worldwide. So a large proportion of those 154 million views would have been elsewhere in the world, and not subject to PRS royalty collection. It's like having the most-played record on US radio and complaining you've not got any PRS money as a result, isn't it?

Fourth: You're sharing the money with Stock and Waterman, too. You didn't mention that.

Fifth: Yes, it's not very much. But that's because it's not worth very much. And, let's not forgot, that payment was under a deal agreed by the PRS. Shouldn't your wrath be directed at the organisation who - it appears - failed to represent your best interests last time round, rather than suggesting that everyone puts their faith in them again?

Still, no harm done, eh? It's not like you essayed an absurd and offensive position in your defence of demanding more, is it?
"Panorama did a documentary on the exploitation of foreign workers in Dubai," he said.

"I feel like one of those workers, because I earned less for a year's work off Google or YouTube than they did off the Bahrain government."

Waterman failed to explain how everyone else linking to, uploading, playing and enjoying a song he wrote twenty years ago is "work" in the sense that labouring for a pittance in the hot desert sun is, but I'm sure the PRS will be posting an explanation online sometime soon.

StubHub have trouble with "sent" and "receive"

StubHub, eBay's US scalping operation, are subject of a minor roasting on Consumerist - albeit from one side of the story. A Consumerist reader complained to the company that the tickets he paid handsomely for never arrived; StubHub's response was that they sent them, so they must have arrived:

And again I re-iterated that I did not receive them and StubHub should refund my money. She said they cannot do so. After a few minutes of this, I asked her if she can trace the email. She says, "No". At this point, I asked for a supervisor, hoping that maybe there is some recourse. Felica, at this point, tells me that I can't speak to a supervisor because there is nothing a supervisor can do to help. I ask again, stating that I'd still like to speak to one and again she refuses this time adding that no supervisors are available for these types of issues.

Aren't these services - much admired by the official music industry - meant to be protecting us from scalpers and being ripped off? Now, it might be that the complainant has no complaint to make. But if I'm going to have someone laugh in my face and say "there's nobody to complain to, kid", I'd much rather it be a smelly bloke in a raincoat outside the venue - at least you know you're taking a punt.

Soulobit: Randy Cain

Randy Cain, founding member of The Delfonics, has died.

Cain stayed with the band until 1971, during the period when they recorded their two key Philly Sound classics, La La Means I Love You and Ready Or Not (Here I Come). After quitting the band, Cain went on to help turn the rougher-sounding Shades Of Love into Blue Magic. With his guidance, Magic went on to nab a top ten hit with Sideshow.

Cain joined a reformulated Delfonics in the 1980s, fulfilling the rule of reunion acts in that they then split, and carried on with at least two versions Delfonics on the circuit for a time. Cain, however, backed the wrong horse and a rival Delfonics, built around his original replacement Major Harris, would be the one to get the sweeter gigs.

Randy Cain died on Thursday; the coroners office of Maple Shade New Jersey has not released any further details.

The Telegraph don't let facts get in the way of a good story

Roughly, it's estimated that Doctor Who costs £770,000 an episode. So does the Telegraph really believe that the three-minute Radio One ad cost £700,000?

The advert is estimated to have cost up to £700,000 – for facilities, crew, animal hire, costumes, special effects and production time

Really? says who?
– according to advertising sources.

Oh. "Advertising sources". You should have asked a bloke down the pub, Telegraph. Blokes down the pub are great at estimating the costs of producing something that, by definition, they haven't seen.

U2's new pop video isn't a pop video

There was an interesting post on the Creative Review blog about a pop video U2 have made which they were insisting wasn't a pop video:

Deluxe editions of U2’s new album, No Line On The Horizon are accompanied by Linear, a specially commissioned film by Anton Corbijn. “It is not an extended music video or a U2 documentary, it’s a new way to listen to a record - a new way to use film to connect to music,” claims Corbijn.

The idea is that, as many people will be listening to the album on a computer or MP3 player with video screen, they can choose to listen and watch the film at the same time.

So it's a pop video you have to synch yourself.

But, hang on, no... it's not a pop video. No, no, because you don't have to look at it:
The idea of the companion film was apparently developed during the making of the album. “The thinking is that as a lot of people buy music from the internet and are likely to hear this on a computer or mp3 player, their listening pleasure could be heightened by visuals. It is not essential to the record - you can either watch it or ignore it,” says Corbijn.

Whereas, of course, it's imposssible to listen to Steps 5,6,7,8 without having the visuals in front of you. You simply can't do it.

And, it turns out, it's a blog you'll have to imagine, as it's fallen off the Creative Review blog. Wonder why.

Easter track smackdown: Round nine - The Fat Tulips

With Wired already planning its next big cover story - "Internet fails to find song by bloke who used to be in sitcom" - it's up to the DNS servers and, uh, electrical... stuff... to prove that all these years building the web hasn't all been in vain.

Apart from the drumstick-as-dildo porn, of course. We'll always have that.

So, can we discover Peterborough's The Fat Tulips Where's Clare Grogan Now somewhere in our various competitor's hard drives.

Coming from the is-it-ATV, is-it-Anglia town of Peterborough, The Fat Tulips glimmered around the end of the 1980s and recorded their tribute to everyone's favourite pop star for their own Heaven Records. It's one of our first experiences of just how stupid rights holders can be, as the seven inch came with a little slip of paper which explained how they'd asked the distributors of Gregory's Girl if they could include a clip of Clare saying "goodnight Mr Spaceman" at the end of the song, only to be told no. Seriously, the rights holders believed that a small snatch on a self-released 7" would harm ticket sales for the film. Because if you'd heard a five second piece of dialogue, you wouldn't bother going to see the whole film. "I know how it ends, she says goodnight. Not worth going, is it?"

In fact, when you see how difficult to cope the music and movies found 1990, it's not surprising they'd fallen apart totally when things got really difficult, is it?

Still, with The Fat Tulips having dealt with a potential rights nightmare, has the song found its way online?

Did you mean Fat Tulip? asks Spotify. Well... let's say I did. What have you got?

Waltzing Tulip Polka by Fat Louie Szykowski.

Are you 'avin a laugh? Really?

Zero point for Spotify again.

Last FM:
No Where's Clare Grogan Now, but Last FM does have a bunch of late-period Fat Tulips stuff, in a mix of pointless thirty second clips, full tracks and even free downloads. Impressive enough to wrestle four marks from the panel of judges.

iTunes is here again with the Waltzing bloody Tulip. It doesn't even have the good grace to suggest that this is anything other than Not What We Were Looking For. A point off for insolence.

If We7 can't scrape a point this time round, it's going to have an average of one point each round, so it's got a lot to prove.

Obviously, it's not got the Fat Tulips. It doesn't even have yer man Szykowski. I try to find a way to cut a deal to allow even a head-patting single point by asking about Clare Grogan, and even then there's nothing in the vaults. Some people you can't help. Zero.

It has Clare Grogan. It has Fat Tulip's Garden. It even has a bloke apparently smoking drugs from one of the family Liliaceae. But no jangle-pop. Two strikes in a row for Google's evil musician-crushing machine, then.


At least the weight loss advert has an aura of being related advertising here, I guess. Did I mean Fat Joe? Did I mean Fat Bastard?

It does offer a tantalising glimpse of what it claims is Wham doing Young Guns on Christmas Top Of The Pops, but with a still showing Clare Grogan on Pop Quiz. But the video isn't "available", so it's not even getting a consolation point.

Nothing, but it does offer a chance to search for artists like Fat Tulips. Amongst these is Ray Charles, whose C86 work was, perhaps, somewhat cruelly ignored by the critics at the time. Zero.

So, day three of our tournament closes with another track that doesn't appear to be easily found online, legally at least.

A quick look at the scoreboard as we head into the last day:

Amazon - 43
iTunes - 33
YouTube - 29
LastFM - 26
Imeem - 20
eMusic - 19
We7 - 09

Tomorrow, we'll start with a Band Aid style social-campaigning multi-artist effort. Don't bother uploading Hear N Aid's Starz, we7, it's not going to be that...

Easter track smackdown: Round eight - Wilfrid Brambell

Oh, yes, digital world - you might have no problem serving up a slice of Bernard Cribbins playing it straight. But what of Wilfrid Brambell's Second Hand? Can you find me that?

This is, by the way, a lovely song - Brambell clearly playing off his most famous role as Albert Steptoe, lamenting that everything he's ever owned has been found, borrowed or pre-enjoyed, before concluding that even his wife was second hand. You could write a book about what the song says about attitudes to female sexuality in the post-War era.

But not before you've heard the song, of course. Can you help, the internet?

It's probably not surprising, given Spotify's disappointing performance, that it can't help here. Although it does suggest Steve Winwood's Second Hand Woman might fill the gap. No points.

Last FM:
Tantalisingly, Last FM has scrabbled its scrobbles and says that, in all of recorded history, it's spotted three people playing Wilfrid Brambell but, shrugging, it doesn't even know the name of any songs he might have sung. Zero.

iTunes doesn't have a clue. And considering a search for Bernard Cribbins tried to palm us off with the Frenzy movie, you'd have at least hoped they would have come up with Steptoe And Son Ride Again. Apple fail. Zero.

Once we can stop it getting excited about the prospect of "advert free days", we7 unsurprisingly offers nothing by Wilf, but does bring forward a surprising number of songs called Second Hand. It's not exactly a brand new name, is it? [You may now chuckle, if you wish. No? Oh.]

Lots of Wilf on YouTube, of course, including his appearances on Citizen Smith, Holiday On The Buses and in the Beatles movie with Beatles. But doing Second Hand? Not a sniff. No points.

Even our leader Amazon can't help with this one, although it does suggest - in order - a Steptoe box set, a photo of Wilf Brambell, and an audio cassette. A tape. A point off for making a suggestion from the wrong bloody decade.

Imeem doesn't offer any suggestions at all - not even something from New Boots And Panties - and shows an advert which seems to suggest a weight-loss product might also perform surgeryless gender realignment. And YouTube worry they have trouble attracting quality advertising. Zero.

Completing another failure on the part of the Internet As A Whole, eMusic doesn't have anything, either. It does score a point for suggesting I might like to look at tracks composed by Wilfrid Brambell, and then loses it for instead listing other composers called Wilfrid.

So, as the web proves to not be quite all it's cracked up to be, no change in the rankings, then:

Amazon - 43
iTunes - 34
YouTube - 29
LastFM - 22
Imeem - 20
eMusic - 19
We7 - 09

Coming later today, round nine; and a band named for a Tony Robinson series, with a hymn to someone off Red Dwarf. Can the internet do better?

Westwood's Tweets

Anyone doubting the authenticity of Westwood's tweets might like to visit iPlayer and listen to last week's Rob DaBank show, where the man himself reads some of his pieces out. And explains how he's "reinvented" Twitter by using it post random thoughts.

Sunday People offers accessory-based psychological reporting

Michael Jackson, eh? He's a little crazy, right? But we never knew how crazy until the Sunday People brought us the scoop:

ONLY a Wacko like Jacko would wear shades AND an umbrella.

Troubled superstar MICHAEL JACKSON, 50, used the king-sized brolly to shield himself from the Beverly Hills sun this week.

Wow, yeah. The whole Kane-like fun-fair bejeweled ranch? That was possibly the signs of a soul in torment. Dangling the kid over the balcony? Divided the experts. Pyjama parties for strangers' children? Jesus juice? Face masks? Monkeys? Trying to look like Diana Ross and ending up looking like your sister? How can you make a judgement on such evidence?

Wearing sunglasses and carrying an umbrella, though? Let's fetch the straitjackets and fling open the soft cells - clearly, the man is a lunatic.

Gary says no to Robbie... at least in public

Despite the cheerleading for a full-five reunion of Take That from Gordon Smart, it seems that in the cussed fact-based real world it's no nearer happening. Or at least, as the Sunday Mirror puts it:

Asked if they had any Robbie reunion plans, he said: “The answer is no. That’s it. Nothing’s changed on that front.

“We are a happy band at the moment.”

Gary sets the record straight on tonight’s Chris Moyles Quiz Night on Channel 4.

Of course, if they were going to make a major announcement, it's unlikely that Barlow would tell Chris Moyles on a gameshow nobody is watching before he told anyone else, is it? "Actually, we'd booked the O2 for a big press conference, and Robbie was going to come on with a realistic Jason Orange mask and rip it off and say 'surprise' and there would have been some fireworks before we made seat available at all prices, but screw that - yeah, we're doing some dates..."

Woot-ton: You leave Matthew alone, you hear?

Dan Wootton talks up the "stalker" who has been, apparently, making Matthew Horne's life a misery"

COMEDY king MATHEW HORNE has been living in fear after being targeted by a crazed STALKER.

Living in fear, eh?
Mat, 30, endured months of misery, but he admitted: "It's kind of dealt with now."

Yes. That sounds like a man coming out of a living nightmare.

Of course, nobody wants to be stalked, but since stalkers like to feel they've made an impact on their victims lives, isn't over-writing the extent of their influence effectively helping them in their aims?
The woman had been stalking him and had even discovered his top-secret home address causing the police to step in.

That is quite scary. She knew where he lived, you say, Dan?
My source added: "Mat often feels very exposed because diehard fans try to follow him when he leaves the theatre.

"But this one took it too far and there was a real concern that she had discovered his home address. That's when he knew he had to call in the big boys to deal with it."

Ah. So they don't actually know that she knew where he lived, then?

Still, as Wootton helpfully points out, having someone know where he lives is the least of his troubles:
Mat has really been feeling the rougher side of fame recently. He's had to put up with some unfair reviews for his film Lesbian Vampire Killers and TV sketch show with pal JAMES CORDEN.

Unfair reviews? A unfair review would be "compared to The World At War, Lesbian Vampire Killers fails to explain the causes and consequences of the Second World War with any degree of insight or clarity." Reviewing Corner And Horde and saying "it's not very funny and the punchline seems to be that the bigger one is fat. Every time." might not be generous, but is hardly unfair.

This week just gone

Just the shilly bit this week, with a reminder of last week's interesting releases:

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns

download Two Suns

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Vs Children

download Vs Children

Marissa Nadler - Little Hells

download Little Hells

Dananananaykroyd - Hey, Everyone

download Sissy Hits

Great Lakes Swimmers - Lost Channels

download Lost Channels

Doves - Kingdom Of Rust

download Kingdom Of Dust

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz

download It's Blitz

Bob Mould - Life And Times

download Life And Times

The Hold Steady - A Positive Rage

download A Positive Rage

Neil Young - Fork In The Road

Ultravox - The Very Very Very Best Of

download The Very Best Of