Saturday, October 24, 2009

Still ill: Morrissey collapses on stage

Well, that's what a cold evening in Swindon can do to a man: Morrissey has been taken to hospital after swooning away on stage:

A spokesman for the Great Western Ambulance Service said: "A 50-year-old man who was reported to be reported to be suffering from respiratory problems and was unconscious. We sent a paramedic in a doubled-crewed ambulance. When they arrived they found a conscious patient who was not feeling well at all."

A spokesman for the Great Western hospital said: "Morrissey is being reviewed by the medical staff and his condition is stable."

It's not known what's wrong with him, which means it's probably related to his unidentified illness from earlier in the year.

Mika's no need for a mic-ah

Bob Lefzetz went to see Mika play Hollywood yesterday. I say 'play'; his review makes it clear any actual playing had taken place at another time and place:

Mika would move his head away from the mic, but his vocal would remain perfect. But when he spoke, there was distortion, a distinct lack of clarity. That’s what live sounds like. Most of the time tonight, it was Memorex.

I’ve been to so many shows, and I’ve never heard sound like this. So perfect, it doesn’t sound like the record, it IS the record!

I’m not saying everybody’s mic was turned off, that no one was plugged in. But I don’t think Jeff Pevar could get that acoustic guitar sound live. And, who are all these Mikas doing the backup vocals if he’s singing the lead?

Lefsetz does concede that there wasn't much need for Mika to bother singing, as his audience weren't really interested in music anyway - they had a good time.

And, indeed, provides a measure of exactly who the audience were:
People were lining up to pay for balloon hats.

If you're shoveling over cash for a balloon hat, who would be bothered what's happening on stage?

Music industry begs prosecutors to put present, future on trial

"German music rights holders" have approached the prosecutors in Germany in a bid to have senior YouTube and Google executives put on criminal trial. Because of some unlicensed bits and pieces on YouTube, not because they all grouped together and stole the music industry's shoes while they were swimming.

Criminal prosecutions.

The current investigation started as the result of a formal complaint by Hamburg-based lawyer Jens Schippmann, who represents 25 German musicians, producers and music publishers. Schippmann sued Google in civil court earlier this year, alleging that videos of his clients have been viewed more that 125 million times without any compensation. Schippmann now alleges that Google didn’t respond to requests to take down more that 8,000 videos and that his clients were denied access to the company’s Content ID Program. He also claimed that users would utilize YouTube as a kind of “covert file-sharing platform,” tagging his clients videos with keywords like “album quality” to encourage downloading.

Oh, lord. YouTube as covert file-sharing? Does Schippmann really not understand what he's talking about, or is he simply pretending to be an idiot to try and impress confused prosecutors? Even record labels use YouTube to host content, and they're hardly the sort to promote a covert file-sharing platform.

Embed and breakfast man: Cerys Matthews

It's been a little overlooked in the grand scheme of things, so here is a reminder of just how good Cerys Matthews' new, high-polish, swooshy sound is:

[You can own this single by buying it]

Don't laugh, it'll be Tory party policy before you know it

Ian Brown thinks that working-class pride can be rebuilt by showing them 50 Cent movies:

He tells Britain's Mojo magazine, "I think all kids should be made to watch the Biggie Smalls film (Notorious), the Eminem story (8 Mile) and the 50 Cent film (Get Rich or Die Tryin').

"There's not enough about working class kids getting on in life, the working class got cut out of history, and we can't let that happen.

"I met Biggie Smalls in September 1995 and it was mega (amazing). He was like something out of the Bible, talking in parables, and he looked like an old '20s jazz star. Some days I have to pinch myself that I met him."

The explanation of what "mega" means is ContactMusic's, I should point out.

But, seriously, Ian? You think that Fiddy is going to somehow inspire a kid living in Moulsecoomb and isn't as far from their experiences as, say, giving them a copy of Love On The Dole? Also, isn't part of the message of Get Rich that you can make a fortune dealing drugs as a handy fall-back if you're not that good at rapping?

A kind of tribute

Although it's hugely unlikely that Kraftwerk will ever appear on stage working their way through a Simple Minds album, there is something pretty pleasing about the planned tour event where OMD and Simple Minds will join forces to cover Neon Light.

Two bands, who slumped into perhaps-less-good work and pomped-up meaninglessness respectively, reclaiming their early electronic heritage with a knee-bend to their inspiration? It almost makes the idea of a joint OMD/Simple Minds tour a cultural landmark.

Tour dates:

Newcastle Arena - Nov 30
Birmingham LG Arena - Dec 2
Manchester MEN Arena - Dec 3
Sheffield Arena - Dec 5
Cardiff CIA - Dec 6
London Wembley Arena - Dec 7
Glasgow SECC - Dec 11
Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre - Dec 12

Public Enemy raise the cash

Nice to hear that Public Enemy have successfully used Sellaband to swiftly raise $50k to make a new album. I'm not quite sure the method they used, but surely the threat of Flavor Flav otherwise making another reality series must have encouraged the opening of PayPal wallets?

Twittergem: Radio 3

Cai,14, young ranter at #r3thinking in gateshead says - I believe popstars should be abolished as they are talentless and overpaid

- from Radio 3's Twitterstream.

Something to listen to: Whispering Bob on Roger Scott

You can't actually listen to this yet, as it hasn't happened, but after 11pm tonight you can hear - for the next seven days - Bob Harris featuring a tribute to Roger Scott. Twenty years since he died, which is why Radio 2 are memorialising him.

New Juliana Hatfield

Something to look forward to in 2010: Juliana Hatfield is promising a new record for February. It's been recorded in an apartment on an eight-track, which means both that it's stripped down and laid bare, and - more importantly - it'll be into profit from about the sixth download. The record is called Peace And Love, and, in case you're interested, this is the tracklisting:

1. Peace and Love
2. The End Of The War
3. Why Can't We Love Each Other
4. Butterflies
5. What Is Wrong
6. Unsung
7. Evan
8. Let's Go Home
9. I Picked You Up
10. Faith In Our Friends
11. I'm Disappearing
12. Dear Anonymous

Yes, yes. We're all fascinated by what track seven is going to say.

Thurston Moore against the Griffin

As if it wasn't bad enough that the BBC put poor Nick Griffin in a room full of people who disagreed with him, and somehow contrived to make him look like a nasty, racist, self-serving idiot by pointing a camera at him and letting him speak, now even Sonic Youth are having a pop from the stage of the Kentish Town Forum:

"Thanks for standing up to the BNF goons," [Thurston Moore] told the crowd, eliciting loud cheers. "Fucking clowns..."

The NME helpfully suggests that maybe Moore was deftly conflating the BNP and the NF, rather than confusing the two.

Nice filesharing server you've got here. Be a pity if anything happened to it.

Meet DigiRights solutions, a company whose business plan seems to verge on blackmail:

After initially running through some pretty mundane stats about how much online piracy is costing copyright owners, the DRS presentation goes through their process of finding and pursuing users who illegally download songs and movies. They explain that after they find the alleged downloader, they send out an email demanding a payment of 450 euro ($650) per file. DRS keeps 80% of whatever they collect thus leaving 20%, or 90 euro ($130) per download, for copyright holders.

Then suddenly the presentation turns into a pitch comparing the profitability of legal and illegal downloads. Ernesto goes on to report :

“A legal online purchase of a song brings about €0.60 into the pockets of the copyright holders compared to the €90 per alleged file-sharer that pays up. So, the copyright holders get 150 times more from pursuing filesharers than from selling actual music, the company claims.

Yes, why bother selling stuff when you could just leave the door of the shop open, wait for people to help themselves, and then send some thugs round to threaten them into handing over their life savings?

Hopefully, even the record labels might draw the line at this behaviour. Right? Theu would, wouldn't they?

Bring in three strikes, and the terrorists have won

For a while now, the default piracy/terrorism line has been that terrorists are making their money from flogging dodgy DVDs down the car boot sale. This has always had the scent of eau du unlikely - do you know how many wonky copies of Marley And Me you'd have to flog in order to even buy the briefcase to put your dirty bomb into?

Now, though, it turns out that MI5 are worried that a big crackdown on internet filesharing could help the terrorists. Not because filesharers would go back down the car boot sale to buy their copies of Rain by Mika, but because it would drive take-up of encryption:

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have suggested public resistance to such prying could prompt many more to encrypt their internet connection and make monitoring more difficult, The Times reports.

As well as obscuring traffic to current analytical techniques, widespread encryption would also damage the case for the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), an ongoing multibillion-pound, cross-government attempt to to increase surveillance of the internet.

"The spooks hate it. They think it is only going to make monitoring more difficult," a source involved in drafting Lord Mandelson's Digital Economy Bill told the paper.

I'm not quite sure that MI5 would really be that bothered - surely if the technology exists already, any half-decent terrorist would be using it already? Presumably the fear is that, at the moment, if you're scrambling your electronic doings, that might look a bit dodgy; in the future, for everyone sending plans to send a kitten packed with explosives into a kindergarten, there's going to be a hundred thousand people merely cloaking their search for a copy of The Ohio Players doing Rollercoaster. It's almost as if MI5 are arguing that the power to scramble online should really be left to the criminals.

Gordon in the morning: Doing some research

I'm not entirely sure 'getting porn when you search for something online' quite counts as a news story, but it's good enough for Gordon Smart:

MIKA fans have been getting an X-rated surprise when searching online for his latest video.

His new track is called Rain and as soon as the name was released people hit the net to try to find the promo.

But it turns out there's a porn star called Mika Rain.

People were rushing to search for a new Mika single? That stretches credibility a little.

Still, Gordon's been looking into it:
I felt compelled, in the interests of thorough journalism of course, to check the accuracy of this information. And can verify I saw rude things.

Nice to see Gordon actually doing some research for once - although, curiously, if you search on "Mika Rain" on Google at the moment, you have to go a very, very long way through the results before you come to anything porny; you do tend to get actual results about Mika and his song. Perhaps Google has radically overhauled its ranking since Gordon did his work.

But where did this story come from in the first place?
The singer's management have been bombarded with calls and emails from fans who also got an eyeful.

Really? People send emails to the management of an artist because - supposedly - they can't use Google? If you're unable to find anything but porn when you search on 'Mika Rain', how would you be able to come up with contact details for his management?

Besides, aren't people who are looking for Mika Rain the pornstar the one with the real grudge?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

LCD Soundsystem: When life gives you e-lemons...

LCD Soundsystem react to the leaking of their track not with lawsuits and witch-hunts, but by turning it into a promo opportunity:

well, bye bye bayou totally leaked everywhere, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, since anything that exists is essentially all over the internet in 5 minutes—but it wasn’t actually supposed to come out until november 7th (that indie store vinyl day), so we’ve asked and parlophone have given us 20,000 free downloads to give away to the first, well, 20,000 people. one per customer. or downloader. or avatar or whatever.

Interesting that Parlophone believes (in this context, at least) that it's possible to put a cap on the number of downloads shared out, which runs somewhat contrary to the usual Macauly Culkin style scream the RIAA pull whenever they see an mp3 in the wild.

[Hat tip to Currybetdotnet]

PRS got greedy

After yesterday's story where the PRS grudgingly admitted demanding a licence for a shopworker who sang might be a little over-the-top, a bigger slap has come to the PRS from the Copyright Tribunal.

The tribunal has judged that hikes in royalty rates charged to shops in 2005 were excessive:

The 2005 increases resulted in some retailers suffering a doubling of costs overnight. One fashion retailer’s bill rose from £176,000 to £408,000 per year and a tile chain’s from £25,000 to £73,000.

The ruling should save retailers £5m a year and lead to the return of £20m to shops, restaurants and other affected businesses.

The PRS is going to appeal against this decision - and unsurprisingly so, as the need to scrabble together twenty million quid in a hurry could prove something of a difficulty.

Where would the PRS get that cash from? The fair thing to do would be to demand repayment from the artists who got too much in the first place - but that would seem to be costly and a bureaucratic nightmare - not to mention one which would cause a problem if Madonna decided she didn't want to hand the money back. Would PRS be able to sue her?

Dipping into the current revenues would seem to be simpler - but why should, say, La Roux or Little Boots, who weren't operating back when the PRS got greedy, have to see a dip in their royalty pay-out because Boyzone and Mika were getting too much in previous years?

Either way, it's hard to see that the current management of the PRS could claim they're operating solely in their artists' best interests. No wonder they're appealing.

[Thanks to Peter D]

MySpace: Doesn't care about friendship, only music

Having seen Facebook steal most of the time-sinking behaviour for which it was once famous, MySpace has now decided to concentrate on the one area where it is still doing fairly well: Music and entertainment:

Mr Van Natta wants to capitalise on MySpace’s status as a leading online music destination and used a presentation at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday to unveil new features that enhance its music credentials.

The company has struck a deal with Apple’s iTunes store to allow its users to buy tracks without having to leave the MySpace site. It has integrated iLike, a music application company, and launched Dashboard, an interactive tool for bands and musicians, as well as compiling the largest catalogue of music videos on the web.

Mr Van Natta said the applications were a “springboard” for the revamped MySpace and would be followed by other new features in the coming months that tap into the site’s large online community.

Hosting music is pretty expensive, and it has to be questionable how long bands will flock to use MySpace if the audience is heading off elsewhere. Still, at least it's a strategy, and it's felt like a long time since MySpace had one of those.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chris Brown has shaky grasp of how justice works

Chris Brown is currently trying to make us forget what he got up to earlier this year. It might be working, given that MTV headline their report on the latest Chris Brown interview with "Chris Brown On Rihanna Altercation: 'I'm Learning From My Mistakes'", thereby downgrading domestic violence to something more akin to a scuffle.

Brown - somewhat hopefully - tries a gambit suggesting the fault might be in people who look at a person beating their parner, rather than the beater:

"Just be human. Because at the end of the day, I'm human. Of course you're gonna have your thoughts and opinions. I'm not gonna say they're wrong. But at the end of the day, it's not right to judge someone. People make mistakes all the time. I'm learning from my mistakes everyday and I regret it every second."

You didn't turn before your light changed, Chris, or snaffle an extra cookie from the plate - you beat the crap out of Rhianna. That's a little more than "making a mistake", don't you think?

And where does the idea that we shouldn't judge a self-confessed domestic thug come from? Isn't that a key element in criminal behaviour, that - by definition - it's something society will judge and find wanting? Shouldn't Chris concentrate a little more on the contrition, a little less on telling the rest of us we're in the wrong?

"Of course, if the doctors did use any drugs they never did so in front of me..."

George Martin has had some minor surgery and is recovering well, says his manager.

Rumours that Martin was having his voicebox remastered and his eyeballs rescanned in hi-res could not be confirmed at this time.

PRS backtracks on singing shop assistant

Damn right that the PRS should be apologising to a shopworker who they hassled for a licence because she was singing while she worked:

She told the BBC news website: "I would start to sing to myself when I was stacking the shelves just to keep me happy because it was very quiet without the radio.

"When I heard that the PRS said I would be prosecuted for not having a performance licence, I thought it was a joke and started laughing.

"I was then told I could be fined thousands of pounds. But I couldn't stop myself singing.

"They would need to put a plaster over my mouth to get me to stop, I can't help it."

The trouble is, the PRS line seems to be in response to the outcry, not because it was capable of seeing this sort of thing as being a result of its central policy, and paying its "inspectors" a bonus if they do well. I guess we should be thankful that at least this time they've backed down rather than grimly pushing ahead (as with the woman who was told she needed a licence to play the radio to her horses).

This organisation, though, is being treated as a serious player in shaping copyright for the 21st century - and it takes a public outcry before it admits that you don't need to pay a licence to hum while you work. Are they really a credible voice?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Laura Viers goes about

Laura Viers is starting 2010 with a UK tour:

Sunday 17 January - GLASGOW - Oran Mor
Monday 18 January - GATESHEAD - The Sage
Tuesday 19 January - MANCHESTER - Academy3
Wednesday 20 January - CAMBRIDGE – Junction
Thursday 21 January - NORWICH- Arts Centre
Friday 22 January - OXFORD - Academy
Sunday 24 January - LEAMINGTON - Assembly
Monday 25 January – BRISTOL - Thekla
Tuesday 26 January - BRIGHTON - Hanbury Club
Wednesday 27 January - LONDON - Union Chapel

If you're not already excited, here's a little something to fire you up: Laura performing Where Gravity Is Dead at Studio UGO:

Downloadable: Mates Of State

Back in April, The Mates Of State flung out the first in what seems to be a series of remixes on 12 inch vinyl - and now they're putting the remixes onto digital stores. To give you an idea of what your money will buy you, if you buy Re-Arranged: Remixes Volume 1, there's this free sample: You Are Free (The Mae Shi). Download to enjoy.

Irish Daily Mail shuns Daily Mail

Not only does the entire world seem to be disgusted by Jan Moir's homophobic piece on the death of Stephen Gately (Moir contended that a gay man cannot die unexpectedly from natural causes, you'll recall), but even the Irish Daily Mail is shunning Moir:

The Irish Mail on Sunday carried four pages of coverage on Gately's funeral in Dublin and printed a disclaimer, as did the Irish Daily Mail yesterday: "Comments made by journalist Jan Moir about Stephen Gately in her newspaper column caused controversy on Friday. Jan Moir's column has never been published in the Irish Daily Mail which, like the Irish Mail on Sunday, is edited and printed entirely in Ireland – independent of the UK titles – and does not have an online presence."

MediaGuardian points out that it's sort-of true; the paper is stuffed with former members of the London operation, and runs swathes of copy from the 'proper' Daily Mail, so it's independent like a fiefdom where a foreign Prince holds sway.

Still, the Daily Mail condemning a piece run in the Daily Mail. That you actually couldn't make up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

TalkTalk walk the walk

As a useful contribution to the 'three strikes' debate (or the Lily Allen Clause, if you'd rather), Talk Talk have conducted a stunt showing how easy it is to drift along the street sucking wifi connectivity from other people's homes.

The point being that the record labels want people kicked off the internet for unlicensed filesharing, but you've got no way of knowing who was actually using the IP address at the time of the alleged "crime".

The BPI aren't flustered, though:

However the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) is confident that a "robust" system for gathering evidence will ensure that only persistent file-sharers are targeted by the measures.

So that's alright, then - it's not like, say, your next door neighbour's kid would be in a position to persistently use your wifi connection.
BPI spokesman Adam Liversage told BBC News: "The account holder would receive a notification in the first instance, which would represent an opportunity to discuss file-sharing with others in the household and which would provide the account holder with the information and tools to help ensure that the account is not used illegally again.

It would "provide an opportunity to discuss file-sharing with others in the household" - although if your wifi is being sipped by the bloke next door, it's not immediately apparent how that would do any good.

Still, you've got to love the BPI's boundless optimism that most people support repressive copyright legislation, and there are hundreds of families just waiting for a threatening legal document to arrive so they've got an "opportunity" to talk about it.

The BPI have also managed to jump a stage or two - they're suggesting that their information will somehow provide the "tools" to help ensure that the account is not used illegally again. Actually, Adam, you're trying to construct this whole new set of rules because you don't want to have to prove any illegal activity - the system you and your labels are promoting doesn't have any legally-recognised trial of your claims; the ISPs would be expected to act on your say so.

Still, it's nice to see the BPI are finally admitting than an IP address does not link any particular person to activity on the internet. It would be nice if - having conceded this ground - they then apologised for having wasted everybody's time proposing an unworkable system and moved on.

But that isn't the BPI's way, of course. Having realised it is incapable of protecting its own copyrights, it tried to force the duty onto the ISPs. Having discovered that won't work either, the BPI now seems to be trying to suggest that 'looking after EMI's intellectual property' is a duty that you take on if you buy a wireless router. How much further is their absurd procession going to go? Will having sex without a condom suddenly mean that you're legally obliged to take responsibility for any infringement of Sony's IP rights that any possible issue might get involved in?

The BPI continue:
"This information would extend to explaining to the account holder how they can secure their wireless router to ensure that it isn't accessed by unknown third parties. But ultimately, householders will be held to account for what happens on their own networks."

Held to account? Held to account? You're from a group that puts out music, not bloody Judge Dredd. We've seen the BPI confuse themselves with the emergency services in past, when they've trotted alongside the police on piracy raids; someone really should take them aside and remind them that they're a trades assocation and not the army. Before they start buying guns to protect the next Duffy album.

[Thanks to James P]

Downloadable: Echo And The Bunnymen

Monday Mac-ness from Echo and The Bunnymen, via RCRDLBL: Life of 1000 Crimes, ready for you to pop into your ears however you might like to.

A screed on Creed

Also from yesterday's New York Times, a lengthy interview with Scott Stapp as Creed get back together for the mo... oh, apparently not for the money:

All of which makes Creed’s reunion — which includes a United States tour that wraps up on Tuesday and a new album, “Full Circle” (Wind-Up), due on Oct. 27 — more than the usual sentimental, cash-generating victory lap. It’s an attempt at rehabilitation.

“I’m asking all those who’ve become disenchanted with the band because of me to allow me to reintroduce myself and, with the other guys, show who we really are,” Mr. Stapp said.

Stapp seems convinced that Creed were a bit more important than bystanders might have considered them:
He admitted that he had grown cocky and defensive back then, but he also pointed out that Creed was an easy target: “We were the biggest band in the United States.”

Thank goodness he got the cockiness out of his system, otherwise he might well be making elaborate claims for his band's greatness that aren't quite borne out by the facts.

But let's not criticise, shall we? Stapp takes it to heart:
The album’s producer, John Kurzweg, who also produced the first three Creed albums, described the sessions as a “mess.” Years of withering criticism had battered Mr. Stapp’s self-confidence.

“If he read a review, I’d be like, ‘Look, you’ve got a fan base. Why worry what these people are saying?’ ” Mr. Kurzweg recalled in a phone interview. “But he took it very seriously, and that had an effect on everything, including his writing.”

There is, surely, a possibility that the criticism stung not because it was unfair, but because it was spot-on? The story the Times runs with - a man struggling to cope with fame and doubt about his talent - is interesting; the one it ignores - a man who knows he's selling snake-oil - is far more fascinating.

And if Stapp has got the gang back together not because of his weak solo career, but because he really wants to try and prove that Creed was something more than a rock act whose popularity was built on a parent-pleasing Christian message, how would that be going now?
According to the concert industry publication Pollstar, Creed has been playing to roughly half-full amphitheaters and grossing nearly 60 percent less money per night than on its 2002 tour

You might conclude - once its fan base no longer has to make purchases while on shopping trips with mum and dad, and can buy records without having to say "it's alright, it's about Jesus" - there's not much left for Creed at all.

Opening Pandora's box

Yesterday's New York Times Magazine went behind the scenes at Pandora, watching at the company sucked all the joy out a new delivery of music:

Over the previous six weeks or so, the Pandora analysts listened to 650 Indian pieces, and the session I observed was a refresher course. Steve Hogan, who oversees Pandora’s analyst squad, had given a half-dozen of its members the same two songs to analyze. The first was “Raga Ahir Bhairav,” recorded by Bismillah Khan in 1955. But the analysts had not been given this cultural information; all they had for the assignment was the music and their ears. Hogan played a snippet and pointed to Kurt Kotheimer, a bass player who often gigs around the Bay Area.

Kotheimer consulted his listening notes: “Flat second, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, major sixth, flat seventh.” Everybody nodded: that’s the tone set, which helps identify the particular raga, one of 25 new “genes” added to Pandora’s algorithm to accommodate this variety of non-Western music. Based on the beat, everyone agreed that this raga was set in Teentaal, with a 16-beat rhythmic cycle often heard in North Indian classical music; it’s now in the genome too. But that was the easy part, apparently.

They moved on to vocals, and Alan Lin, a violinist, ticked off the scores he came up with for things like rhythmic intensity and the relative exoticism of the melody scale. “I actually put exotic at 3.5,” he said. This prompted Sameer Gupta — a percussionist and an expert on Indian music who was weighing in by speakerphone from New York — to lead a brief discussion of how to think about melody and exoticism in this context. Seven or eight scores related to melody, and then about the same number for harmony. (“A 5 for drone,” one analyst announced.) More scores related to form. Tempo. The timbre of the reeds. When Gupta gave his score for riskiness on the percussion — a 3.5 — Lin did a sort of fist pump: “Yes!” Evidently he’d scored it the same way, meaning progress toward properly fitting Indian music into the Music Genome Project. Things went on like this for a while. “Even if you have a solo violin with a tabla, you’re still going to have monophony,” Gupta remarked at one juncture. “I just wanted to point that out.” It was hard to believe there was a business riding on this kind of conversation.

Pandora aim to cut out the influence of hipsters and taste makers in order to concentrate on finding music which is structurally similar to songs you like - it's very clever, and academically time-consuming, but seems to miss out on a whole lot of the things that make songs resonate.

This kind of box-ticking and point-scoring might work if you have incredibly limited tastes; if you don't, the weakness of Pandora (and, to a lesser extent, Last FM) is that there's a tendency to make your listening more conservative.

The problem is this: you tell the system you like Madness, so it plays you The Specials because they're a bit alike. You tell them how much you like that, and it chooses the next song. But the problem is that you're always on this branch. Sure, you can start over again and plug in Nanci Griffith, but once again you're going down the arm - and how can the system ever hope to tell how your affection for Madness and Nanci Griffith balances out?

The nice thing about relying on hipster bloggers is that sometimes you'll stumble across things you never knew you were going to like - and most people would say they discovered more music through a John Peel show than they ever would from The Evening Session.

Because even if subconsciously you favour songs with a 3.5 rating for exoticness and 2.7-worth of timpani drums, boiling it down to a matrix of numbers seems depressingly mechanistic. Do we really need a time-saving device to spare us the effort of serendipity?