Saturday, June 20, 2009

Noel Gallagher discovers no kind deed goes unpunished

It was actually quite a sweet gesture for Noel Gallagher to offer people who saw the first Oasis Heaton Park gig their money back if the power cut had spoiled their evening.

Unfortunately, he forgot what Oasis fans are like.

20,000 of the 70,000 have decided to take him up on the offer. Noel is disappointed:

The guitarist said: "It seems that around 20,000 of you have asked for a refund from that night at Heaton Park!! 20,000!! So you were genuinely disappointed?

"I don't recall seeing a 20,000 gap in the crowd. Cheeky -----. Tsk ... some people," he wrote on his online blog.

[The quote comes from the Telegraph - nice of them to differentiate between Gallagher's 'online blog' and, presumably, an offline one?]

Isn't there something rather Gallagheresque about taking up the offer of cash back whether you really feel you deserve it or not?
>And... you know... making offers that you don't want people to take you up on... it's like... teasing or something...

Gordon in the morning: Perhaps time to move on from Ronaldo?

Gordon runs another piece by Pete Samson stressing just how not-gay Ronaldo is, while an accompanying piece suggests that Gordon's mockery might not only have had a nasty taint of homophobia, but were also out of step with public opinion by a good distance:

RONALDO'S tight shorts and smooth body have sparked a copycat rush.

High street stores are reporting a surge in demand for skimpy pants and hair-removal cream.

Debenhams have had to order thousands more figure-hugging trunks.

Still, until Kasabian start dressing like that, Gordon won't be joining in.

As if that wasn't enough for Gordon to cope with, he also runs a piece on how Ashley Cole is showering gifts on Cheryl Cole:
To think, only 18 months ago the couple were on the rocks.

Lured by a certain gossip columnist stood on the cliffs with lights.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Trent Reznor: Retweet

Everyone seems delighted at Trent Reznor's return to Twitter earlier today.

Well, everyone except The Independent, who only got around this morning to telling its readers that Reznor had quit social networking "for good".

Jammie Thomas verdict: Ouch.

In a somewhat surprising move, the jury in the Jammie Thomas retrial has found her guilty and ordered her to pay $80,000 per disputed file.

Nearly two million dollars, in other words.

Even the RIAA realises this is absurd, presumably because it knows this sort of crazy judgement is precisely the sort of stinking decision that can help push for a change in the law; its statement is all about 'let's try and settle on a figure that's a bit more realistic, shall we?'

Thomas, for her part, also thinks the judgement is impossible:

Embed and breakfast man: Simian Mobile Disco

From the computers of Pitchfork TV, here's Simian Mobile Disco doing a bit from the new album. This track is Audacity Of Huge:

[via stereogum]

Polka News Network: User-friendly polka fest

Oh, Grammy organisers, claiming the world has turned its back on polka, how do you explain the need for the Central Wisconsin Polka Club's 36th annual festival to take larger space?

About 500 to 700 people on average come from all over the state and the Midwest to attend the festival, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday at Merrill's Smith Center.

The club moved its festival from the fairgrounds to the large room inside the Smith Center to make the event more "user-friendly," said Tim Baumann, the club's president.

In previous years, dancers would have to move from one building to another, which was especially burdensome when it rained, Baumann said.

Polka: impervious to the slings and arrows of Grammy organisers. And now also to rain.

God help us...

Matador's website is promising a full length stream of God Help The Girl by God Help The Girl (Stuart Murdochian side-projection), but at the moment all we're seeing is 30 second clips. Hopefully that'll be sorted soon.

Lily Allen sues The Sun

Given that stories about Lily Allen slagging people off aren't entirely in short supply, you might raise a curious eyebrow that she appears to have had enough: Allen is suing The Sun over the most recent stories saying that she'd had a pop at Cheryl Cole and that.

The Sun had apparently read the comments in a French sports magazine - who says Gordon and the Bizarre team don't do thorough research? - and the magazine is also getting a letter from Allen's lawyers.

Bookmarks: Some stuff to watch on the internet

The MIDEMNet blog has posted a number of sessions from this year's music industry electronics gathering, including a conversation with Radiohead manager Brian Message and why knowing your fan matters.

Sadly, there's no film of the heads of the four majors trying to prove their understanding of new technology by trying to set up a teasmade.

Embed and breakfast man: Pinkshinyultrablast

Some Russian shoegaze - that's not a dirty word - from Pinkshinyultrablast. Imagine if, after Rachel Goswell had done the woo-woo on that Chapterhouse, she'd somehow become infected with that band's approach and then cross-infected Slowdive. Actually, don't imagine. Watch this instead:

St Lucia extends its warmth to Amy Winehouse

I'm starting to think that Amy Winehouse's long sojourn in St Lucia might be making the island the UK equivalent of Guantanamo - a small place overseas where we've dumped something we're not quite sure how to deal with.

It sounds like St Lucia has had enough, too. "Former government official" Jeff Fedee has written something for the papers:

Referring to her ill-fated recent live comeback at the recent St Lucia Jazz Festival, which he watched, Fedee insisted she "needs help".

"For me it was a stomach churning experience to witness a reptilian looking character with a skeleton frame, staggering onto the stage, barely fitting into what appeared to be a size zero dress, cut just above an unsightly crotch.

"I thought Amy Winehouse should be locked up, be put in compulsory rehab and force fed to put some flesh on her insect frame", he wrote.

Doesn't everyone have a skeleton frame? Otherwise you'd be kind of lolling about on the floor. Which, come to think of it, isn't entirely unknown behaviour for Amy Winehouse.

And I'm struggling with the dress - again, not entirely unknown behaviour for Whitehouse. Does Fedee really mean the dress was cut above the crotch? It seems a little unlikely that she'd have gone on stage with a dress that didn't at least cover that. But if it did go far enough, then how would Fedee know it was an "unsightly" crotch? And what makes a crotch unsightly? Neo-brutalist concrete shopping centres? Graffiti?

I'm sure he was writing out of genuine concern, but if St Lucia's approach to people looking painfully thin is to deprive them of their liberty and force-feed them... well, maybe it is a bit like Guantanamo after all.

Katy Perry will kill all the homophones

Katie Perry has been working for a couple of years as a high-end designer in Australia, and was about to open her first store. She decided to protect her trademark.

Trouble is, she got hit by a cease-and-desist from Katy Perry and EMI, afraid that the singer's fans are so stupid they might confuse an Australian clothes shop with an American pop singer and start dry-humping the hat display stand or something.

EMI try to make this "you can't use your own name to sell your stuff" intervention sound reasonable:

EMI said in a statement Thursday that a "routine notice letter was sent to Ms. Howell, as is customary in trademark practice, alerting her of Ms. Perry's intended application" for trademark protection down under.

You'd have thought that, with all the money EMI spend on lawyers, someone would know the difference between 'alerting' someone to something and sending a cease-and-desist. Otherwise, sheepish EMI staff must have awkward moments - "well, yes, Mother, you did ask me to alert Father that the coal cellar door was open - and, believe me, I was on my way to meet with a couple of guys from the legal department to draft a document forbidding him from falling down the hole and breaking his leg when... well, when he fell down the hole and broke his leg."

Embed and breakfast man: Cocosuma

Their PR materials describe them as "Two Parts French Pop, One Part London Chanteuse", and given that their album title is inspired by Ferris Bueller's Day Off, you'll probably already have Cocosuma down as being a Saint Etienne-type affair.

And you'd be right. But that, of course, is no bad thing.

They've even recently swapped out their lead singer - Kacey out, Amanda in - much as the Saints did when they drafted Sarah Cracknell in. And that worked out well enough.

To be fair, although we're filing them under 'shiny new bands', they've actually managed to clock up four albums over eight years, and even lead the single for the new album came out back in 2007. It's more like they're having a more concerted attempt at getting people to notice. And round here, it's sort of working, at least.

Here's an example of what they do; this is Charlotte's On Fire:

Gordon in the morning: Lady GaGa stole my tiny, tiny pants

Because not wearing many clothes hasn't really done her much good, September has decided to try and start a feud with Lady GaGa over whose idea not wearing many clothes:

September says: “I’ve been wearing similar outfits to Lady GaGa for years across Europe while I’ve been promoting my records.

“Now when I wear outrageous costumes people say I’m copying her. It really annoys me. She stole my look and I want it back.”

Gordon - having decided to try and make himself peacemaker in the struggle between Coldplay and Yusuf Islam to own one of Chris Martin's dirge - steps in with the wisdom of a horny, teenaged Solomon:
I say there’s enough room in pop for two women who wear very little.

For Gordon, of course, it's all an excellent reason to print photos.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bonnaroo: Man found dead

Actuarial realism means if a lot of people get together in one place at a time, chances are this might happen: The clean-up crew at Bonnaroo found a dead man amongst the festival's left-behinds.

Police are saying there's no evidence of foul play, so it's either going to be the drucks or just bad luck.

Limp Bizkit albums "some sort of sideshow"

Fred Durst, trying to resign himself to being caught forever pretending to be a fourteen year-old boy, tries to spark interest in the new Limp Bizkit album:

"Every time we've made an album it's been so different.

"It's like stepping into a haunted house - you know there's an entrance and an exit door - but you don't know what's inside. It could be fun or it could be spooky."

Well, actually, every time you step into a haunted house you know exactly what you're going to get - some half-arsed attempts at creating an atmosphere on a low budget, which relies on the audience suspending their disbelief and lowering their critical thresholds in order to try and wring some enjoyment out of an entertainment that exists solely to give preteens the sense that they're in some way living on the edge.

By accident Fred Durst has stumbled into a working simile.

Amazon price cut: cock-up not an offer

It turns out that Amazon UK's 29p price promotion yesterday wasn't a loss-leader on the model of those run in the US, but some sort of error:

Amazon declined to say what had caused the blunder or how much money it had lost.

A spokesman for the company said: "We can confirm that earlier today there was a pricing error on a small number of MP3 albums.

"This issue has been rectified. Despite our best efforts, with the millions of items available on our website, pricing errors can occur."

So it was an error. Not a promotion.

Unless, of course, it was one of those "errors" designed to get people talking about Amazon's mp3 download store. The albums cut in price seem slightly random to have happened by accident; the slight loss in revenue surely more than offset by the new conversation around their offering?

Amazon try to monetize IMDB

Interesting email from Lucy B:

Admittedly this has nothing much to do with music I'm afraid, but it is about the way some of the biggest entertainment websites show the same ruthless imperial tendencies as the giant corporate behemoths of the 'old days'.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) was, and mostly still is, a huge free information resource about movies and TV which is much loved by its users.

But lo, what happens all of a sudden if you try and 'register' on the IMDB so that you can post messages to its apparently free and independent messageboard? It turns out 'registering' is only a first step which gives you no useful access rights whatsoever. In order to register in the sense of being able to post messages, you have to either give your amazon user account details (eh?) or provide a credit card number (what????) so that the IMDB can 'verify' your account.

I presume this means 'verify' in the sense of 'either force IMDB's users to sign up for Amazon accounts or make them give financial details over the internet, all for a service which is supposed to be free' which is a usage of the word I hadn't come across before.

Where's the need to 'verify' people anyway? This isn't Ebay and the IMDB's users want to write ill-spelt messages about who they think should have played Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek, not sell knocked-off Ipods to each other.

I'm saddened by all this - suddenly the IMDB, which was such a democratic and spirited entity, has become a front for something altogether more commercial. I'm even saddened by Amazon, which I previously had thought was astute, but not underhand.

What's perhaps even more galling is that, even if you do hand over this information, your "registered" account will still see you stuck with what Amazon call a "posting quota" but is actually an enforced delay between posts of anything up to a couple of minutes. If you want no quota at all... well, you can hand over some cash for a 'pro' account.

Festivals: Bryn-fest scratches

Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival is taking a break this year after a "considerable financial loss" in 2008; organisers insist it will be back next year.

It's blaming the disaster of last year on the weather and "fear of the credit crunch" rather than the appearance of Boyzone on the bill.

Gordon in the morning: Counting the ladies

Gordon has done some adding up, and announces that we're living in a gynocracy:

GIRL power is back, with TEN slots in the Top 20 taken by females.

Leading the charge is PIXIE LOTT at No1. Elsewhere, LADY GAGA is at No13 AND No14.

Gordon doesn't bother to mention when the last time something like this happened - I don't know either, to be fair - or pauses to consider that a fifty-fifty split is kind of a reflection of what you'd probably expect based on the gender make-up of wider society. Or that ten out of twenty isn't 'girl power' so much as delicately balanced power blocks of equal size.

You might also wonder why, if the top twenty is half-lady, Gordo chose to highlight Lady GaGa so far down the chart. It's so he can run a photo of this:
Meanwhile, in Seoul Lady GaGa wore yet another raunchy see-through outfit to promote her album.

Ah, yes. That sort of girl power.

With gender equality taken care of, Sacha Baron Cohen then licences an opportunity for Gordon to show his grasp of sexual politics. You don't need to bother with it - it's all "queens", "gay old time" and misuse of the word "camp".

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Embed and breakfast man: Landscape

Reading the story about the man who dressed up as his dead mother (to claim her benefits rather than for anything more dubious) made me desperate to hear this: Landscape - My Name Is Norman Bates:

He was his mother, see? All along! Oh. We've just spoiled the ending.

Weak copyright is good for all of us

It's not just the thought of Lupe Fiasco fuming gently in his expensive trousers that makes a weak copyright good for all of - Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf at the Harvard Business School have issued a report which explains why it's good for culture all round. Michael Geist has the gist.

So, is file sharing killing creativity? As the Fleet Foxes suggest, not really:

Overall production figures for the creative industries appear to be consistent with this view that file sharing has not discouraged artists and publishers. While album sales have generally fallen since 2000, the number of albums being created has exploded. In 2000, 35,516 albums were released. Seven years later, 79,695 albums (including 25,159 digital albums) were published (Nielsen SoundScan, 2008). Even if file sharing were the reason that sales have fallen, the new technology does not appear to have exacted a toll on the quantity of music produced. Obviously, it would be nice to adjust output for differences in quality, but we are not aware of any research that has tackled this question.

So, we're making more music than ever. But what about the losses? Musicians are losing money, right? Isn't that a given?
Moreover, the authors' canvass the literature on the effects of file sharing on music sales, confirming that the "results are decidedly mixed."

But, but, Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf, you can't say that. The UK government is busily building its digital policy on the belief that it's a given. The RIAA has employed an entire stadium's-worth of lawyers for years on the belief that it's a given. It's got to be a fact. Make it a fact! Make it a fact!

Lupe Fiasco is very, very upset

Who knew it was so easy to insult Lupe Fiasco? All it takes is a little bit of bittorrentage:

"If you come across it and you like it and keep it to yourself that's all cool with me but to make it where as other people are able to download it in a public forum is honestly an insult to me. Especially because of how much I love you guys. That shit is kinda like a slap in the face."

Like a slap in the face, but with the advantage that you don't have to get within an extended arm's distance of him. But he's only so insulted because he loves you so much. Yes, you. And what do you do? You slap him in the face.

Actually, it's not really you at all. Lupe believes in the record label myths:
My entire first album leaked and possibly cost me from going platinum my first time out as the final estimates of how many people actually downloaded that album illegally was well over half a million."

The final estimates? You mean a guess? And, yes, it's possible it cost you some sales - after all, there are some artists who won't thrive in a world where you can try before you buy. But it didn't cost you half a million sales, Lupe. You're just making yourself look even more foolish.

Courtney Love reopens her Hole

For textual reasons too difficult to discern without hearing the album, Courtney Love has decided that her next album is going to be released under the Hole band name.

Perhaps by this is means it doesn't sound like a solo Courtney album - although since solo Love is generally music that sounds too weedy to stand alongside her former band's work, maybe that doesn't mean too much.

Melissa auf der Maur appears on the record, although only providing backing vocals; Larrikin Love's Micko is in charge of the guitar. So it's not like it's a classic line-up.

Of course, this is Courtney Love we're talking about. So everything could change within minutes.

Ed Vaizey: Never mind the words, listen to the tune

David Cameron, you'll recall, claims to have been a big fan of The Smiths. Nobody ever did get to the bottom of how he so enjoyed songs apparently at total odds with his worldview.

Now, shadow arts minister Ed Vaizey turns out to be a big fan of The Specials. The Guardian reports:

his pop tastes are rooted in the late 1970s and early 80s (he is a fan of the Specials).

A big fan of The Specials? And yet, also, a big fan of Thatcher:
What does Vaizey make of Thatcher's record on the arts? "She believed in greater involvement of private ­donors," he says. "And if you have frank conversations [behind] closed doors, a lot of people in arts organisations will say that a lot of what Thatcher did was actually quite good, in making them go out to the marketplace and raise money."

Who would those people be, exactly? Presumably the ones whose jobs are in the corporate sponsorship, which is a bit like people who make stab vests saying that knife crime isn't all bad.

Still: The Specials and Thatcher. How can you extract value from both?

Embed and breakfast man: Au Revoir Simone

Yesterday, Au Revoir Simone visited Seattle's KEXP. This is what they did:

[via The Music Slut]

Fleet Foxes: filesharing's fine

Robin Pecknold offers an interesting argument in favour of filesharing - forget the question of paying for music, think about what exposure to music does for the culture:

Pecknold, 23, says his band, one of the success stories of 2008, would have been different had he not had access to Napster and similar music sources while growing up.

"That was how I discovered almost everything when I was a teenager - my dad brought home a modem," he said.

"That was how I was exposed to almost all of the music that I love to this day, and still that's the easiest way to find really obscure stuff.

"I've discovered so much music through that medium. That will be true of any artist my age, absolutely."

Pecknold's comments are a timely reminder that we're now seeing artists come through whose entire experience of music has been in a world where you can get it for free, online, anytime. The major labels would have you believe such a world is one where creativity doesn't thrive; early indications are it's looking good.

Spotify hope to get you to open your wallet

The hole in Spotify's business plans that was the discovery that the free service is so good nobody can be bothered to pay for the premium service. Now, they're trying to plug that hole and get people to hand over the cash:

The music streaming service hopes to convert its 1m users to a premium subscription by offering extras such as mobile and living-room access, higher quality streams, bundled downloads, recommendation, ticketing and social features

What's that you're offering? If I give you money, you'll offer me slightly higher quality streams to play through my tinny speakers? And the chance to buy tickets to events, thereby saving me the need to go to a different website and not pay a subscription fee before buying?

And recommendations? You want me to pay you some money, and in return, you'll suggest other tracks I might like? But right now, with your free service, I can ask my friends on Twitter or Facebook what I should listen to next, and find it on your free service, and then listen to it? Why do companies think that an admittedly useful quick crunch of subscriber tastes to suggest 'if you like this, you might like this' is adding so much value that people will pay for it? If there's one thing in greater, free supply online than music, it's opinions and suggestions.

Actual indie labels less than thrilled by 50% indie chart

The Guardian's Louis Pattison asks indie labels about the new rules for the Independent Chart.

They're not that impressed:

Allison Schnackenberg of Southern Records, which acts as an umbrella label for Dischord, Kranky, Crass Records and Ipecac Recordings, among others, describes the new rules as "an absolute con". The issue is the "50% or more" rule, meaning that labels can receive a significant chunk of major-label funding and still qualify as "indie". "It's turning the independent charts into yet another marketing ploy for major-funded ventures," she says. "They are blurring the lines to the point that the word 'independent' will be meaningless to the general public. One is either independent or not. You can't be 'mostly independent.'"

Stewart Green from Beggars is a little more welcoming, but has his doubts about indie as a concept:
"Without getting too philosophical, what does 'indie' mean anymore? It's been used and abused to represent a watered-down form of guitar music rather than a totem for original, innovative, challenging music. So work needs to be done to reposition what the term 'indie' actually means – it cannot be allowed to be a term lost forever to a genre of guitar music! The success of the charts and breakers chart will depend on coverage. They need to be embraced by media outlets and given the space to exist alongside the commercial chart. Perhaps only then we will stake a claim to a truly interesting, diverse and meaningful independent chart."

To be fair, though, Stewart, the reason why 'indie' became synonymous with thin-legged boys playing guitars and wearing black jeans is surely in a large deal because that's the sort of music which used to dominate the indie charts? Given that the new big idea is a chart, I wouldn't hold my breath for a change in what that means.

And, from a broader listener's point of view, is there any real value at all in having a term which identified music not by its genre, but by the structure of the company which released the track? I'm pretty convinced that the idea clung to by Sony, for example, that "being on Sony" means something to a consumer is a desperate fallacy; for people who get their music between Chris Moyles' monologues and out the rack at Tesco, what difference is knowing a Bon Iver record is selling more copies than a different album released by a small label really going to make to them?

A small Management fee

Amazon UK is adopting the US sister company's policy of flash deep price cuts on mp3 albums, with MGMY's Oracular Spectacular on offer for just 29p.

[via Music Ally]

Darkness at 3AM: Fill latterly

The 3am Girls report on some great work for charity that Ronan Keating has done:

Ronan Keating's kids clearly have him licked... To celebrate Father's Day, the saccharine star has donated photos of his children to Royal Mail to be turned into stamps. Anyway, didn't kids used to have to shell out their pocket money to buy dad a gift?

I'm not sure any of this makes any sense - why would the kids lick Ronan if they're on the stamps? Wouldn't it be the other way round? And it's not like Ronan has done this as a gift to his children in lieu of a father's day present anyway, is it?

It doesn't help that 3AM seem to have misunderstood the story on which they're reporting - Keating has made one of those sets of Smilers books of stickers and stamps in to be auctioned on eBay in aid of Barnardo's; not quite what the Mirror team is suggesting.

Simon Cowell's got compassion

Simon Cowell's claims that he would have ripped up Susan Boyle's contract had he believed she was too stressed to cope are, naturally, an expression of concern for a fellow human being.

Any similarity with a an attempt to keep a story going by exploiting someone's clear discomfort to raise interest in the tour he is promoting and the records he will make is just an unfortunate coincidence.

Duffy can bike, if she likes

There were complaints, you know, about Duffy's Diet Coke advert. The Advertising Standards Authority has considered the ones about her lack of safety equipment - the more visceral 'why, in god's name, why?' ones are outside their remit.

And the ASA says it's okay:

The authority said the cycling sequence was clearly "unreal and fantastical" and the ad was not shown around programmes children were likely to be watching.

The report continued "...and besides, it's Duffy -if she rode down the street in a way that drew attention to herself, she'd be making herself a target, wouldn't she? Some people are better off skulking about in the shadows, knoworramean?"

Actually, Coke denied she had ridden her bicycle without proper preparation:
Coca-Cola said it carried out a "vigorous" assessment of highway code regulations. Duffy had been wearing a black and white sequined top that reflected light and gave her a "luminous glow" so that she stood out in the dark. The soft drinks company added that the bike had lights.

"No, officer, my headlights might be out, but look at the luminous glow I'm giving off. I'm able to see three miles ahead using my aura alone."

Still, the news that the advertising agency spent so long reading the Highway Code explains why they clearly only had about three minutes to come up with that awful "Hello You" slogan.

Gordon in the morning: Further into base camp

Having spent two or three days after the first confused, slightly frightened piece on Ronaldo's "camp" behaviour backpedalling by running guff about the footballer standing near women, you might have thought Gordon would leave it alone now.

Oh, no.

I FEAR the sunshine has been getting to the normally well-attired footballer RIO FERDINAND.

Either that or the Man United ace has fallen under the combined spell of former teammate CRISTIANO RONALDO and gay fashion icon BRUNO.

Smart does try to tone down the playground construction of 'wearing tiny shorts = gay = bad', and relies on references to Bruno - who he talks about as if he was real and not a tiresome construct - to nudge his readers in that direction.
Trotting round his Tel Aviv hotel pool in tiny denim shorts and a multi-coloured crop top is a fashion crime of the highest magnitude.

It's a get-up camp Austrian fashionista Bruno might happily sport.

And he is a gay. Or at least would be, were he not a made-up, clumsy stereotype.

Gordon, though, is all man. And to prove it, he sends Richard White to stare at Victoria Beckham's breasts. Apparently breast reduction surgery is a sign of a new seriousness.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Progobit: Hugh Hopper

The bassist for Soft Machine, Hugh Hopper, has died.

Born in Canterbury on the day between the deaths of Mussolini and Hitler, Hopper played his bass alongside Robert Wyatt through a number of bands, before the Soft Machine line-up came together in 1968. Orginally, Hopper's role had been to manage the Machine but - having missed out on the band's Hendrix support tour - he picked up the bass.

Hopper remained with the band until 1973, but even before he quit, he had released a solo album - 1984.

Apart from a couple of years break in the mid-1980s, Hopper remained active musically until his diagnosis with leukemia last year - moving effortlessly from prog to jazz and, in 2002's partial Soft Machine reunion Soft Machine Legacy, back again. A dizzying list of acts he played with, or founded, includes Hopper Goes Dutch, In Cahoots, Soft Bounds, Caveman Shoestore and HUMI - but there were many, many others.

Hopper married his partner, Christine, on June 5th; he died on June 7th. His last solo album, Dune, was released last year.

Guitarobit: Bob Bogle

The death has been announced of Bob Bogle, the lead guitarist with The Ventures.

A masonry worker before forming the band in Tacoma in 1958 with Tom Wilson, the initial lack of response to their demo tape inspired them to take a Do It Yourself approach and set up their own record label, Blue Horizon for their initial releases. Eventually, Dolton Records - one of the labels who turned them down - revised their decision, and signed the band up. The result was Walk, Don't Run, a track only kept off number one by Elvis doing It's Now Or Never.

The Ventures enjoyed their greatest success in Japan. Their first visit, in 1962, was as a two-piece because the promoter couldn't afford to bring over the rest of the band. Nevertheless, they went down so well they started to build a following which saw them still touring the country five decades later.

This overseas success was instrumental in helping The Ventures win induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame last year.

Bob Bogle, who was 74, had been fighting lymphoma for some time; he died on Sunday.

Sony lawyer insists $150,000 a fair price for an unlicensed upload

The retrial of Jammie Thomas, accused of breaching copyrights and destroying the US music industry, has got underway, already yielding one of those moments where music industry witnesses say the most amazing things with a straight face, as ArsTechnica reports:

Defense lawyer Kiwi Camara pressed Sony Entertainment's Gary Leak[...], trying to force him to [put a value on each infringement]. Leak refused to be baited. It was "impossible to determine harm" in this case, he said, which is why the labels want statutory damages that can range from $750 to $150,000 per song.

Camara pressed again. "A message should be sent," Leak said. But Camara wanted numbers; what, in Leak's view, did Thomas-Rasset owe Sony?

"You can't tell the jury a number?" he asked aggressively. No, said Leak, it's up to them to decide; the law allows these damages, and we are asking only what's allowed under the law. The jury must pick the award.

Camara wouldn't give it up. He asked if, by Leak's logic, even the maximum $150,000 per song damage award would therefore be an appropriate amount.

Leak at last gave in. "Certainly!" he said in apparent exasperation, milliseconds before an objection from recording industry lawyers put an end to that line of questioning.

Gary Leak is, by the way, a music industry lawyer. So that was one music industry lawyer having to rescue another music industry lawyer. But not before Leak had said - after making a promise on the Bible about God to tell the truth - that there was no reason at all to think that charging the equivalent of thousands and thousands of downloads was in any way absurd. Because, you know, the law lets you.

The case continues.

Digital Britain: Hang on until 2015, DAB

If the parts of Digital Britain which deal with filesharing seem like polite attempts to placate rights holders by pretending they have good ideas, then what to make of the idea of switching off FM and AM by 2015 in a bid to make millions of radios obsolete and fill up the dumps of Britain?

Sure, TV switched over quite painlessly, so far - but TVs and radios are fundamentally different; you can adapt most TVs to take a signal from a set-top box, turning them from analogue into digital. And most households have already, voluntarily, taken themselves digital.

Radios, though, aren't so easy to turn into digital devices. Effectively, if you've got a radio that gets Radio Fuddleduck FM, the only way to make it pick up Fuddleduck Digital is by unscrewing the plug, throwing the radio away, and then putting the plug on a digital radio.

And most households have yet to voluntarily take themselves digital.

Partly because, really, there's little point. Sure, you get 6 and 7, but most of the extra channels are weak, or just what you get elsewhere. Milton Keynes, for example, is still waiting for its regional multiplex, and when it finally turns up, most of its channels are going to be slightly different local variations of Heart. I've got a DAB because I love radio, and gadgets - but the radio I use most often is the one which picks up signals from my wireless router, not the DAB.

So turning off FM and AM isn't going to be as smooth as pushing the last few stragglers to Sky or Cable or Freeview; Gordon Brown might want to cast his mind back to the marches through central London when the BBC proposed removing Radio 4 from Long Wave; taking everything off AM and FM might be a foolish act for a politician bleeding popularity. And to push a broadcast network which has already been surpassed in range by IP radio? Why would you risk that?

It might make more sense to think about how to get wireless internet radio into cars. And leave AM and FM to fade away when there's a serious alternative.

Digital Britain: a world where no file need fear violation

So, then, the detail on those filesharing proposals contained in Digital Britain. The proposals are up for consultation, through the Bis department. The Bis department is, of course, the one where Dame Manda Rin is minister of state.

Seriously, though, it's not clear why the Department for Culture, Media and Sport throws up the idea of three-strikes (or something like it) and then passes it over the Business, Innovation and Skills to do the dirty work. Joined-up government or fractured thinking?

The consultation document talks often of "illegal" filesharing, although the title of the consultation itself is a little more conciliatory:

Consultation on Legislation to Address Illicit P2P File-Sharing

Illicit rather than illegal.
Action 13 sets out two obligations which will apply to ISPs. ISPs will be required to send notifications to subscribers who have been identified in relation to alleged infringements of copyright.

Action 13 itself suggests that there will be some sort of level of proof required, albeit vaguely: there's lots of talk about how there will be a certain level of evidence, but that's going to be thought about later on, somewhere down the line. When, presumably, someone else can deal with the problem of just how this 'evidence' will be gathered without private companies snooping on individuals.

The second obligation is for ISPs to maintain (anonymised) records of the number of times an individual subscriber has been so identified and to maintain lists of those most frequently identified.

So, let's get this straight: If, for example, Warners say I'm file sharing - offering some sort of evidence which is apparently enough to satisfy Ofcom but not good enough for Warners to actually bring their own court action, my ISP will start to compile a list.

Then, the mere fact of having been on the list frequently can be used to build a case against you in court.

It all seems a bit extreme for a futile attempt to try and impose 1970s music pricing structures on music sales in the 2010s.

There's to be an injunction on Ofcom to "reduce" filesharing by 70% in a year - the year is yet to be specified - through the sending of stiff letters (the government seems to believe they work; perhaps they view a 'you have downloaded' letter as being a civilian equivalent of a 9pm call from the Daily Telegraph that starts 'just been looking at your expenses...'). If they don't hit this target, then the more strict rules will be brought in - throwing people offline, a bit, but gently, for a while, or - hilariously - blocking their access to certain sites "or protocols".

How? How will you do that when, if you tell BT to not let me go on piratebay, I'll just go out and buy a pay-as-you-go dongle from 3 instead? Does anyone really believe this sort of thing even makes any coherent sense? Or are the government merely responding to letters from the BPI and chums in the way an uncle might indulge a child by awkwardly playing fairy tea-parties with them?

And how would you go about "measuring" filesharing anyway? How on earth could you establish a regime for doing a benchmark study and then a comparison a year later? Especially with a degree of accuracy that's going to trigger a round of legislation?

Are we to take the rights-holder's word for it - even when their ability to provide straight numbers has been proved somewhat unreliable in the past? Or will Ofcom be given the power to inspect people's internet traffic? But, frankly, why should they?

The numbers at the back of the report reckon that the costs of the measures will be £35million to set-up, with up to £50million a year; the benefits are estimated at £200m annually. If those figures are correct, then why not invite the rights holders - who will benefit - to pay the costs of the ISPs, who will be paying out? Rights holders would surely be quids in - unless their claims of how much they're losing, and could expect to claw back, are just fantastic.

The acknowledgments are interesting:
We would like to thank the following organisations for their time and efforts in helping us produce this consultation:

• British Phonographic Industry
• BT
Business Software Alliance
• Carphone Warehouse
• Channel 4
• Consumer Focus
• Federation against software theft (FAST)
• Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA)
PRS for Music
• Motion Picture Association (MPA)
• NBC Universal
• John Newbigin
• O2
• Ofcom
• Orange
• Premier Rugby Ltd
• Rugby Football Union
• Sony
• Thus
• Tiscali
Time Warner
• T Mobile
• Warner Bros
• Universal Music
• Virgin Media

Somehow, it's almost as if nobody thought to ask people who use telephony services, or internet, or listen to music or go to films. The only apparent 'voice of the consumer' is Consumer Focus, the gnats-weak body that has subsumed the fail-corpses of organisations like Postwatch and Energywatch. And that's the government. Apparently you can only help shape the direction of the discussion if you have a financial, not a cultural, interest; if it leans towards the status quo, so much the better.

MySpace defriends one in three of its staff

I think we should take this as a sign that maybe the strategy of using music to drive MySpace's growth is failing a little: the company is laying off 30% of its staff.

This, though, should not be seen as a bad thing. Oh, no no:

“Simply put, our staffing levels were bloated and hindered our ability to be an efficient and nimble team-oriented company,” said MySpace Chief Executive Officer Owen Van Natta.

Aha. So, not just canning people, but telling them at the same time that they're the reason the company was inefficient and sludgy. Classy outfit.

BBC news ticker points out the weakness in Digital Britain proposals

LATEST: Government to introduce laws to stop illegal file-sharing of digital content

The government is going to write a law which outlaws something already illegal? Let's hope that works, or they might have to legislate something to ensure that law-enforcing law isn't scoffed at.

To a casual observer, Warners might look like they don't have a clue

It's not so very long since Warners decided to tear up its current digital strategy and call its investment in Imeem a write-off.

Now, it's had a change of heart and is building new bonds with the struggling media service, only this time not giving them any (more) money but just handing over loads of licenses.

At best, this might have been a clumsy negotiating position - Warners playing hard-to-get like a high school prom date - but even so, it gives the impression that there might be less of a coherent policy at Warners than a big, spinning wheel of 'what shall we do now, then'?

Brighton honours its links with the Beatles

We do like the Brighton and Hove Bus Company's habit of naming buses after the famous and honourable amongst those who once made the city their home. They've just announced a new batch of names for the fleet on the five route (the one which I used to take to and from town).

Amongst the Ivor Novellos and Frankie Howards (no, the Albion groundkeeper, not that one, missus) is David Jacobs. Not that David Jacobs, either: this one is the guy from Hove who used to be The Beatles' solicitor.

We don't want to spoil the surprise, Scott, but...

Call me old-fashioned, but if you issue a photocall to promote a TV series, it can't really be very much of a surprise, can it?

Where: Main Entrance, BBC Radio 1, Yalding House, Clipstone Street, London W1
What: David Hasselhoff arrives at BBC Radio 1 studios with his two daughters, to surprise buddy - DJ Scott Mills
Time: 17.00 hrs

This is all to push the sequel to the series where Scott Mills went to live with David Hasselhoff - to be honest, I'd assumed that had just been made by accident last year, but it turns out it was commissioned.

This time round, Scott and David have to unite to save the world from a gang of criminal masterminds, intent on stealing the Buletter diamond - the gem which regulates gravity itself. Can they beat the gang and stop everything from floating into space - while disguised as chipmunks? Tune in to Living TV this... oh, hang on... wrong synopsis:
TV legend and pop culture icon, David Hasselhoff, is set to return to LIVING for an all-new six part series, which will air exclusively on the channel from September. Following the runaway success earlier this year of The Hoff: When Scott Came To Stay on LIVING (March ‘09),

"Runaway success" = somewhere between 'no sanctions imposed by Ofcom' and 'Pick of the day in Now! magazine.
the new series will continue the story

'Man makes television programme with other man' - can't wait to find out what happened next.
and follow the whirlwind life of the epic Knight Rider and Baywatch star.

Didn't know KITT was in Baywatch as well.
David will spend this summer in the UK and wider Europe along with his Hoff-spring, daughters Hayley and Taylor-Ann, and plans to immerse himself in British culture and embrace everything that makes our summer great.

Hoff-spring? Really?

What's with "wider Europe", exactly? What does that mean? Can't they find enough to keep him entertained in the UK? Have they had a cross-promotion deal with the manufacturers of Hovercraft?

Still, the idea of David experiencing a British summer - sitting in a traffic jam ten miles from Stonehenge, putting rubbish in a bin full of wasps, skeeting grey rain washing in across Robin Hood's Bay and trying to get the wrapper off a lemonade sparkle - might make for a good TV show. Well, not a good TV show but a fitting punishment for David Hasselhoff.

But that's not what they've got in mind:
We’ll join David on everything from country pursuits in stately homes, having a traditional cockney knees up and picnic-ing and kite flying on Hampstead Heath to playing polo, rowing with the Oxford Blues and inspiring lifeguards on the Devon coast. The Hoffmeister will be taking viewers on a tongue in cheek VIP journey through British summertime that’s anything but quintessential.

Hang about - is this embracing everything about the summer, or not? It can't be both the quintessential British summer and anything but the quintessential British summer, can it?
Hot on the heels of his hit appearance as a judge on America’s Got Talent, The Hoff has wasted no time nestling firmly back in the bosom of his British fan-base. Episode one will follow the chaos of his arrival in London as hurricane Hoff is reunited with Scott and taken on a sightseeing tour across the capital.

Hoff on an open-top bus, then.
Other series highlights will chronicle David as he’s joined by daughters Hayley and Taylor-Ann, who are pursuing a pop career,

as they take in the best of Britain and its stellar summer events line up. David will put paid to the theory that an Englishman’s home is his castle, as he holes himself up in a haunted castle and takes in a spot of clay pigeon shooting.

Is it even worth pointing out that an American staying in a haunted castle has very little of value in exploring the contention that the writ of British law stops once you are own your own property? And if he really wanted to test the theory, he might be better off talking to Tony Martin?
Fulfilling a lifetime dream, David will also be hiring a barge and cruising through the canals, locks and backwaters of the British countryside to Oxford, spending quality time with his girls.

What exactly is David's "lifetime dream" here? Has he really always wanted to go on a barge? Couldn't he have made a booking with Hoseasons?

Anyway, there you have it: The David's summer plans. All starting with trying to get Scott Mills to at least act surprised, dammit, this afternoon.

Downloadable: The Papertiger Sound

Fancy some lovely Yorkshire-meets-Canada electro-dreampop about robots? Of course you do. Get yourself over to CBC's daily download site and snaffle the mp3 of The Papertiger Sound's Tiny Robot Love. It will make your day better.

eMusic hikes prices, blames everyone else

With the price of online music rapidly approaching zero, it's something of a surprise to discover eMusic raising its prices. Apparently, it's everyone else's fault:

Danny Stein, eMusic CEO: Our existing labels, for the most part, have been asking us to raise prices for a long time. What I told the New York Times is that we were looking for a “catalyzing event” to do it. And really, the catalyzing event is adding catalog, adding more content. We used this as an opportunity to do it, but we didn’t do it because of Sony. We did it because in order to sustain the economics for our label suppliers and their artists, we needed to do it.

So it's the indie labels' fault, and Sony provided a "catalysing event" - which seems to be weasel words meaning 'a smokescreen to cover our asses'.

The thinking seems to be that users would go 'oh, we've now got access to Sony's catalogue, that's worth a few extra bucks'. Although, presumably, current eMusic subscribers have chosen eMusic quite happily without access to Sony's stuff. It's a bit like adding photos of dogs to the kitten library and trying to charge more from cat fans.

But, hey, Sony isn't all Billy Joel:
Stein: Definitely. The reality is that eMusic’s customers love music of all flavors and genres, and there are a lot of less mainstream names [artists with albums soon to be sold on eMusic as part of the deal include Captain Beefheart, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Kate Bush, Miles Davis, The Clash, Miles Davis, Franz Ferdinand, Robert Johnson, Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, Psychedelic Furs, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Spiritualized and the Stone Roses], and this catalog is rich in jazz and classical. In addition, there are more mainstream artists who will benefit the less mainstream artists dramatically by allowing us to use our editorial expertise to compare and contextualize the lesser-known artists with the better-known artists so that the lesser-known artists have more exposure. We have a feature called “Six Degrees”…

I think the list of bands was inserted by Wired, rather than eMusic, but anyone who thinks Kings Of Leon, Kate Bush and The Clash are operating beyond the mainstream must have a pretty narrow view of what counts as mainstream.
Cathy Halgas Nevins, vice president of eMusic corporate communications: Yes, that’s going to be a new editorial feature where we’re going to take an album that might be really well known and show you some independent artists that were influenced by that record who you should know about

Hmm. I'm not sure if I had subscribed to an indie music library I'd be that excited at being told I was going to pay more for a service because it can tell you that if you like Bruce Springsteen, you might like Woody Guthrie. It's a nice feature for new subscribers, tempted in by the Sony stuff (if there are any) but I can't see existing subscribers thinking they're getting something worth the money.

And couldn't eMusic do this without the Sony catalogue? You don't actually need to have Nebraska on the site to say "if you enjoyed this record, here are some that might have been an inspiration on it."

There's also some confusion about the new 'album-download' rates:
Stein: We’ve never had album pricing before and at times that has hurt the service and the user experience. We’ve heard from our customers that for albums that may have 20 tracks, you get charged for 20 tracks. Our new pricing is simple. It’s 12 credits per album, and that’s if the album has 11 12 songs or more [Stein apparently misspoke]. Below that, it’s by track, so an album with eight regular tracks will cost eight credits [each credit costs 42, 45, or 50 cents depending on which plan you have; credits expire after 30 days]. We’ll eventually roll out some other price points for albums to give our labels more options.

Yes. That sounds like a situation that needs some more price points rather than fewer. Interesting, though, to see eMusic effectively admit that they see their role as facilitating the needs of labels rather than providing a service for their subscribers.

Gordon in the morning: Good parenting

I think we're meant to read the story placed in Bizarre this morning as an indication that Madonna is a fit adoptive mother:

MADONNA telephones new adopted daughter Mercy James every night, it emerged yesterday.

The Malawian orphan, four, who speaks basic English, got a call on Sunday.

An insider revealed: “She said, ‘Mommy is waiting for you across the seas’.”

Aides are arranging travel papers for Mercy in capital Lilongwe before a private jet takes her to New York.

Oh, how touching, right?

Trouble is, the effect is the exact opposite of that intended - because even if you buy the idea that her money somehow allows Madonna to buy her way out of the eighteen month residence law, you'd have to hope she could at least be arsed to hang around for a week or two while the paperwork is sorted and bring the kid back to her bemusing, goldfish-bowl life herself. The Madonna camp might be trying to stress her brilliance as a mother, but it's all backfired a little.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Polka News Network: Polka in Pittson

The Grammys might have decided that polka is a doomed artform, but Dolly Kubasko of Pittston, Pa thinks otherwise:

Kubasko, of Pittston Township, has spent much of her life promoting polka music in the region. For nearly 20 years, Kubasko has produced a yearly calendar of polka dances throughout the country without fail. Also, she started her own Web site to promote live polka music to encourage people of all ages to get out and dance.

The calendar and the site have an updated list of polka performances and dances throughout the country. Kubasko keeps the calendar just because she doesn't want to see the music she loves fall by the wayside.

"I want to keep an interest in it," Kubasko said. "I want people to have a good time."

Meanwhile, while Grammy organisers sense a declining interest, South Dakotans think otherwise. The state polka & music fest is being expanded this year:
For the second year, organizer-founder Jay Davie put together the festival, but this year it's bigger and better.

"We have nine bands this year, up from four, because people like more variety," Davie says of the Friday, Saturday and Sunday event at the W. H. Lyon Fairgrounds' Expo Building.

The Beatles came from Liverpool, you know

After the not-entirely-successful attempt of Capital Of Culture year to prove there's more to Liverpool than The Beatles, the City Council returns to business as usual:

John Lennon's son Julian and Liverpool's Lord Mayor are teaming up for a global peace initiative tomorrow (Tuesday, June 16).

They will light a white candle at the Beatles Story museum in the Albert Dock urging people to think of peace.

Are they going to light it together? Isn't that a marriage ceremony type of thing?
Candles will be sent to all cities across the globe for civic leaders to do the same in memory of John Lennon's struggle for peace and understanding, and Julian's continuing efforts.

All cities? I'd love to know where Liverpool got a definitive list of cities from. And the money to buy tens of thousands of candles. If you live in an urban area and don't get a candle, you might feel a bit slighted, so let's hope that it's watertight.

Interestingly, that "Lord Mayor" is none other than Mike Storey. Somehow, the civic leader of the city is a man who had to resign as leader of the city council after leaking information; it's ironic that a man who got himself into such a position over a big council row is now offering to send out candles of peace to the world.

Anyway, it's not really about peace, is it?
The event coincides with the opening of an exhibition at the new Beatles Story branch at the Pier Head on Wednesday (June 17) called White Feather - The Spirit of Lennon.

The exhibition offers an introspective view of Lennon's personal life including his rise in fame and fortune.

Ah. So world peace is being used as a way of marketing a tourist sideshow, then? Classy.

Julian is happy to be involved:
Julian Lennon said: "The white feather is so prevalent in my life. One thing for sure is that it's always represented peace to me. One of the things my father said to me was that should he pass away, if there was some way of letting me know he was going to be ok, or that we were all going to be ok, it was by in some way, shape or form presenting me with a white feather.

"I hope this exhibition lets people see another aspect of his life and our time together as a family. This collection represents something of great importance to us as it is part of our history.''

That's quite touching, isn't it? It does, though, sit awkwardly with the way Julian used to speak about his pa before he abandoned a solo career in favour of being John Lennon's Official Child:
Well it’s difficult when people come up to you and say ‘I loved your father so much’ y’know coz it tugs at my heart in two ways. Yes, as an artist in his solo work and with the Beatles- he was fantastic..but as a father I don’t have much respect for him coz he wasn’t there and he didn’t take the time to be.

Mike Storey, meanwhile, wants to remind you about something important about John Lennon. He came from Liverpool, you know:
"John Lennon, and indeed the Beatles are a huge part of the history of the city. As a city we will never forget the contribution John Lennon made not only to music but towards a more peaceful world.

"The candles represent a white feather which was a symbolic part of both John and Julian's life. We are hoping that all major cities will take part and help create a more peaceful world."

Oh, it's just the major cities now, is it? Sorry, Aurora, if you didn't get one; you're just not major enough.

You've got to love the "and indeed The Beatles", haven't you?

As James M (to whom, thanks for the link) sums it up:
So heartening to see the civic leaders championing new, unsigned acts from Liverpool & not falling back on tired old stereotypes as well as a band that split up 40 years back in order to have easy PR stunts, eh?

Indie charts prepare for 1995

It's not like the BPI and the Official Charts Company don't really care about the indie charts, but they've just got round to having the first tweak of the rules for inclusion since 1978.

Yes, the BPI and the charts people are redefining indie:

The initial criteria defined an independent release as any record which was released by a label with independent distribution, in an era when major record companies were self-distributed and smaller labels used alternative routes. Today, however, with even majors outsourcing their own distribution to independent operations, this criterion has become less relevant.

Under the new rules, a download or CD will be eligible for the Official Independent Charts if it is released on a label which is 50% or more owned by an independent (or non-major) company, irrespective of the distribution channel through which it is shipped or delivered.

In other words, your record can now come out on a label fifty per cent owned by EMI, and still be magically 'independent'. It's a fair point that the criteria probably needed changing, but 'half-owned by a major' seems to be an odd compromise point.

Actually, isn't the idea of there being an "official" independent chart slightly odd anyway?

But there's more. A whole new chart:
In addition, two new charts will be launched to reflect "breaking talent". The Official Independent Breakers Charts - for singles and albums, respectively - will be open to independent releases by artists which have not previously been featured in the Top 20 of the Official Singles or Albums national charts.

This is like the old 6Music chart, only with slightly tighter entry criteria, then.

Given that the indie chart ceased to have any meaningful relevance to the average person sometime between the time The Chart Show finished and NME dropped its chart pages, it's probably not especially important that these rules are being changed - although I'd love to know where they feel the demand for an Indie Breaking Talent list is.
Julian Wall, the BPI's Director of International Events & Independent Member Services says, "The independent chart has a long and illustrious history. After 30 years, the time is right to bring it back into a world in which truly independent labels are releasing masses of music that deserves to be heard and recognized. A credible independent label chart for albums, single tracks and new 'break' acts is an important step to achieving this.

"Working alongside AIM, Iain McNay (the chairman of Cherry Red Records responsible for launching the independent chart in 1978) and the Official Charts Company, has been a great experience. The BPI is 101% committed to the re-launch of an authoritative and genuine UK Independent Chart."

Only 101%? Couldn't give it that final hyperbolic extra 9%, could you? Although since the BPI's commitment to independent members is such that Wall has a whole other job to do as well, I'd be interested to see how he manages to overdeliver that commitment on half his time.

It's instructive, though, to discover that the independent chart is vital to provide a showcase for slightly-non-mainstream music to be heard.

But hang on... what's this, in the press release sent out to promote the change?
They will be accompanied by the new Independent Breakers charts. The new Breakers Charts are designed to reflect and bolster music from the independent sector’s newer, developing acts, by remaining open only to artists which have not previously scored a Top 20 hit in the UK – in the first few months of this year, they would have benefited critical darlings including Bon Iver, Friendly Fires, Patrick Wolf and The Horrors.

So these moves mean Friendly Fires and Patrick Wolf will have a platform? But since they're already "critical darlings" (and isn't that a slightly sneery term, a put-down rather than a leg-up?) why do they need a new platform to be discovered? Wouldn't they be brining credibility to the charts rather than the charts offering visibility to them?

It does make me slightly nostalgic for the old days of working through the 94 pages of charts in the back of the Record Mirror during Wednesday night tea, though.

Virgin Media plots an all you can eat buffet. Sort of.

Virgin Media (the thing that used to be NTL & Telewest) hope that the attraction of an all-you-can-download music service is still there, as they announce plans for a new service.

When they say 'all you can eat', though, it's not quite that: their deal is with Universal, so it's more a bottomless serving from a limited section of the mainstream music industry rather than a true smorgasbord. And since most people don't know what label artists work sits under, the potential for disappointment as you discover that, oh, Pipes Of Peace wasn't released on a Universal-leaning label, is high.

And then there's the price:

The proposed monthly pricing structure of the new Virgin Media downloads service has not been revealed. But the company is thought to be looking at charging at a level roughly the cost of purchasing "a couple of albums a month". This would put a monthly subscription at about £15.

I will allow a slight pause to allow you to wipe off whatever you may have splattered across your monitors.

Fifteen quid? A month? £180 a year? Just for Universal's music?

Given that you're competing with a wider offering that costs nothing near two hundred quid, it's hard to see how this is meant to be attractive. There had been talk about hiding all-you-can-eat deals in the cost of normal broadband access, but if one record label thinks that access to its service is worth that sort of money, it's clear that consumers would notice quite sharply any such attempt.

Maybe a fiver a month, if all the majors were on board, and you might have a consumer offering.
"Virgin Media's agreement with Universal is a world first and lays the ground for a truly unique service when it launches later this year," said Richard Branson, the chairman of Virgin Group and a shareholder in Virgin Media. "It will give music fans all the MP3s they want for a small monthly fee whilst supporting the artists whose creativity is the lifeblood of music."

Branson may well think £180 a year is a "small" fee, but surely even he knows that "all" the mp3s people want may come from other labels? After all, while this deal gives access to V2, it doesn't have access to proper Virgin Records' back catalogue, which sits in the EMI vaults.

A Virgin offering which doesn't actually include Virgin product. Nice.

I wonder if anyone took Branson aside afterwards and pointed out that it's not entirely a world first, either, being as how it's just a stunted version of the one between Nokia and the majors?

Tied in with this is the pushing of a hugely watered-down 'three strikes' system:
In addition Universal Music and Virgin Media say they will work together to protect the music company's intellectual property to "drive a material reduction in the unauthorised distribution of [Universal's] repertoire across Virgin Media's network".

This will include raising awareness of online piracy, legal downloading alternatives and, as a last resort for "persistent offenders", a temporary suspension of internet access. Suspension of service could be for as little as five minutes.

"No customers will be permanently disconnected and the process will not depend on network monitoring or interception of customer traffic by Virgin Media," the company said.

Eh? While welcoming the reaffirmation that throwing people off the internet for having an unlicensed tune or two is just daft, what is the point of a five minute disconnection? Who is driving BPI policy this week - Supernanny Jo Frost?

"now... you're going to have to sit on the naughty step until you learn."

Five minutes? Isn't there every chance that the user might not even notice the suspension? Or - if it's five minutes of requested access - they could just start their machine up while they go and make a pot of coffee?

And how does Virgin intend to do this without monitoring or intercepting customer traffic? Will they just do it at the behest of the labels regardless of if there's any evidence or not? Are Virgin really saying they'll happily cut people off - for however long - without any idea if an offence has been committed?

And if you've paid fifteen quid for unlimited access to Universal's back catalogue, will you still get sat on the naughty step for downloading the same tracks elsewhere? It's all a bit half-arsed.

Virgin closes New York store

There is one store left winding up, in Hollywood, but the closure of the Union Square Virgin Megastore in New York is effectively the end of the retailer in the US:

“It’s clear that the model of the large entertainment specialist working in a large space is not going to work in the future,” said Simon Wright, the chief executive of Virgin Entertainment Group, North America.

Perhaps part of the problem was a mindset that saw "entertainment" as a specialisation in itself, rather than a top level description.

Nolans: They were big in Japan, you know

The coming back of bands you thought broken before belief continues: now here comes The Nolans. Again.

ContactMusic sees this as important:

British pop group THE NOLANS have reunited for the first time in more than 25 years - with plans for a comeback tour later this year (09).

The first time in 25 years? But they were on Brookside, weren't they?

It turns out that when ContactMusic says "25 years", it actually means, erm, four:
The singing sisters began their career in 1974 as a five-piece - Anne, Denise, Maureen, Linda and Bernie, with younger sibling Coleen joining in 1980.
Denise was first to quit the band, leaving in 1978, followed by Linda in 1983. Coleen and Bernie left in the 1990s, while Maureen and Anne, together with Anne's daughter Amy and unrelated singer Julia Duckworth, carried on the group until they disbanded in 2005.

ContactMusic tries to suggest that the fact they've barely had a chance to drop their stage outfits round the dry cleaners isn't that important:
But now four of the original group are back - Coleen, 44, Bernie, 48, Linda, 50, and Maureen, 55 - to play a string of U.K. dates to mark the 30th anniversary [of I'm In The Mood For Dancing].

But you just said that Coleen wasn't an original member.

But they were big in Japan.

And let's never forget that they did this:

Yes, that's the Nolans doing Panic on Tonight With Jonathan Ross.

Gordon in the morning: What happens when everyone's off at Rebekah Wade's wedding

Keith Richards signs autographs for gondoliers. Not much of a story. Can you dress it up with a clever headline?

Just one cornet-Stone, Keef it to me

No. It turns out, no.

Don't even try and parse the headline. It only seems more painful the more you think about it.

If running the weak 'Ronaldo and Paris Hilton' story was a way of trying to atone for the awful 'camp' error of last week, it looks like The Sun still has some making up to do:
CRISTIANO RONALDO enjoyed a weekend on the lash in Las Vegas with a bevy of beauties.

The footballer sipped cocktails at the gambling mecca's top nightclubs - and had his pick of the mini-skirted babes.

Again, this piece by Pete Samson still neglects to include Gordon's tent-o-meter device.

While suing for peace with Ronaldo, Gordon claims to be bringing peace in the disagreement between Yusuf Islam and Coldplay:
YUSAF ISLAM, formerly known as CAT STEVENS, has asked Bizarre to help him make peace with the band over his claims that they ripped off his epic 1970s track Foreigner Suite.

He's asked Bizarre to do that, has he?
He said: “I want them to know that I don’t have any ill will towards them.

“I stand by what I said. They did copy my song but I don’t think they did it on purpose.

“I can understand why they got so upset because they probably don’t even realise they have done it. It happens all the time.

“I have even copied myself without knowing I have done it.

“I’ll write down what I think is a new melody and then listen back to it and realise it’s the same as something I have already done.

“It’s just one of those things and I don’t want them to think I’m angry with them.”

He added: “I’d love to sit down and have a cup of tea with them and let them know it’s ok."

Oddly, the paragraph where Islam grips Smart's arm and begs for assistance seems to have not made the final cut of the piece.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Great big Mini prize

Topper Headon is raffling his mini: Tickets are a tenner each, all proceeds to Strummerville. It's not clear how he's planning to get about now, though.

Woot-ton: Who would fall for that?

Yes, Dan Wootton, Peaches Geldof may very well be kissing girls in front of the cameras in a bid to boost her profile, her ITV2 programme, and what we'll call her 'career'.

So if you're so cynical about it, why are you running a large picture about it, mentioning the programme, and raising her profile, helping to boost her career?

Murder on the Google

Sophie Ellis-Bextor tells the News Of The World that she sometimes tries to make herself feel bad using modern technology:

Googled yourself? When I'm feeling masochistic I Google 'I Hate Sophie Ellis-Bextor' to see the horrible things people say about me.

To be honest, though, Sophie, you do only get 246 results, which isn't that bad.

I like this spoof coz I hate Sophie Ellis Bextor, at least didn't like her when she was famous .

... that 'when' might well smart a bit.

Just as a matter of comparison, if you use Bing, you only get one response on the search. Perhaps they could use "not as good at finding people who hate you" in one of their adverts with Dean Cain.

Download: Manson wears a hat

Light from a dead star, as Marilyn Manson tries too hard at Download:

Marilyn Manson played Download this evening (June 13) and was joined onstage by a small entourage of make up and costume assistants, who primped and preened him after almost every song.

Wow. He's gone from being deeply gothy to Ugly Betty.

Tell us about the entrance, then, NME:
Manson arrived on the main stage at 7.20pm [BST], ten minutes after he was scheduled to appear. A giant black sheet which was covering the stage dropped dramatically to reveal...

Ooh! What? What did the god of twisted-evil-headfuckery have behind his big sheet? Virgins being deflowered by zombies? Priests having their innards fed to hounds? What? How did Manson twist everyone's minds? reveal Manson sporting a gigantic hat.

Oh. A big hat.

Did I say Ugly Betty? It's more a mid-season challenge on Britain's Next Top Model.

Still, anyone following the NME store's suggestions of Manson records would rediscover a sense of nauseated horror:

Embed and breakfast man: Perhaps the shoddiest cash-in ever

The revival of the twenty year-old Milky Way advert featuring the Red Car and The Blue Car reminded me of this - and if it's stuck in my head, I think it's only fair to share:

If you're making a record based around an advert which is comprehensively retro-styled, why would you pad the video out with clips of "amusing" retro adverts? If the budget was so tight you couldn't even get any new cartoony parts, would you not at least have done a little post-production to tint the black and white cars red and blue? Would there not have been a point at which you'd have just looked at what you'd done and thought "you know what, maybe we shouldn't really bother?"

[These are British Milky Ways, which are 3 Musketeers in the US.]

This week just gone

Most-viewed comments pages in the last, ooh, couple of years (not, you'll note, quite the same thing as 'most commented'):

1. Strokes expand their side projects
2. R Kelly, his sex video, and his partner
3. Brett Anderson: The Wilderness years
4. Gordon Smart discover Jennifer Aniston has nipples
5. Amy Lee says exactly what she'd like to do to Britney Spears
6. Pink threatens to spank Beyonce
7. Cliff Richard and his close personal priest
8. HMV try to turn themselves into a web 2.0 business
9. John Barrowman shows his penis on the radio
10. Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong withdraw album

These were this week's interesting releases:

Placebo - Battle For The Sun

download Battle For The Sun

VAST - Me and You

download Me And You

Little Boots - Hands

download Hands

Sonic Youth - The Eternal

download The Eternal

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Download Dirty Projectors stuff

Neil Young - Archives

Anti-Flag - People Or The Gun

download People Or The Gun

Astrid Williamson - Here Come The Vikings

download Here Come The Vikings