Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sean Lennon denies Yoko selling out his Dad for money

Oh, sure, Yoko Ono might have pocketed a bunch of cash for letting Citreon chop John Lennon into an advert. But Sean Lennon is keen to defend his mother - it's not about the money at all:

Writing on micro-blogging site Twitter, Sean Lennon said the ad was "not for money" but was intended to keep his father "out there in the world".

"Having just seen [the] ad I realize why people are mad," he wrote. "But [the] intention was not financial."

Yes. That'd be it. Given that it's about a full ten minutes since The Beatles were all over the media with the computer game and the re-releases, it's quite possible that people might have forgotten Lennon ever existed.

But... hang on: why would you need to make a car advert to promote Lennon?
[Lennon] defended his mother, saying she was merely "hoping to keep dad in [the] public consciousness".

The ad, he said, meant "exposure to [the] young". "Not many things as effective as TV," he continued.

Yes. That's what you think of when someone mentions John Lennon, isn't it? "He's that guy who was on the Ed Sullivan Show a while back, wasn't he?"

Sean could say "look, my Dad loved money as much as anyone and Yoko's just worked out that he's reached a point where he's more valuable as a cash-cow than a pretend hippie. If he hadn't been shot, Lennon would be doing Nespresso adverts and writing start-up jingles for Microsoft." Trying to pretend that flogging cars is simply a way of keeping a philosopher's flame alive just makes everyone look silly as well as grubby.

Streaming now: Gorillaz

I'm not sure the world actually needs another Gorillaz album, but as pointless exercises goes, it works. The Guardian is currently streaming Plastic Beach in full.

[You can buy Plastic Beach if you like it. And haven't hijacked the audio.]

Radio WM dropping some or all music

It's not just 6Music and the Asian Network that are being mucked about with at the moment. BBC Local radio is also having one of its periodic 'being tugged about from the centre' upheavals.

The Stirrer has claimed that Radio WM is about to drop music altogether, although the Birmingham-based station's controller Keith Beech says not quite:

Beech said, “Since Helen Boaden became head of news we have become much more focussed on news, and if you look at what’s happened to Phil Upton’s [breakfast] show, that’s gone all speech until 9.30.

“Local radio is going back to its roots, but we’ve seen this coming, so we’re in a good place to respond to the strategic review.

“We’re ahead of the game”.

To be fair, much of the music played on the BBC local stations performs the function of the jam in an Arctic Roll - sticking things together without providing much distinctive flavour - but there are a couple of specialist shows on WM. Most notably, there's the West Midlands variant of Introducing - and if 6Music is to die, let's hope the regions can keep their couple of hours supporting new music alive, at least.

Gordon in the morning: JLS have a five year plan

Quite brave of JLS to come up with a five year plan - after all, when puberty kicks in they might change their minds.

Anyway, Gordon Smart - or the Official JLS News Agency, as his column has become - has the details:

JLS to Beat Again, again, again, again & again

Oh no - their mums are going to be so angry having to wash all those sticky sports socks. JLS are gonna be in big trouble.

Oh, it turns out that's not what they're planning:
Each November until 2015, the lads intend to release a new album and announce an arena tour for the following winter.

Let's hope they haven't already booked the MEN Arena for January 2016. I hear getting a deposit back on that place is a nightmare.

In other unlikely claims:
Pixie's A Lott Like Brigette Bardot

No. No, she isn't. Apparently, sitting in the same position as Bardot is enough to fool Smart into thinking they look alike.

Still, that's a clever headline. Lott. You see? Because it's her name, and it's a word that means "many" or "much". I can't think why Smart's not used that before.
Pixie’s getting Lotts of offers

Oh, he has.
Pixie’s Lotts of love but no sex

More than once, it turns out.
Pixie: I’m up for a Lott of awards
Pixie looks a Lott different
Pixie's throat hurts Lotts
Pixie has Lotts of fun on 19th
Pixie wears a Lott less in LA

Not that he's always quite so unsubtle:
Pixie has a lot of specs appeal

See? no extra 't' there, so you had to think about it. Hang on a moment, though... specs appeal? That... that sounds like...

Downloadable: White Rose Movement

One of the regrets about things I missed while we were in America over the last couple of weeks was a chance to hear this lot's new stuff. White Rose Movement gave Hoxton a first out-of-the-rehearsal airing to the tracks that will form the second album later this year.

For those of us inhibited by time and space, RCRDLBL offer a sample of what to expect in the form of the track Helsinki. It's going to sound like this. A bit.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Folkobit: Fred Wedlock

And there you go: Fred Wedlock, singer of The Oldest Swinger In Town, has died.

Fred started singing to the customers of the pub he was born in - earning sixpence at the age of four, according to his official site. Like Jasper Carrott and Billy Connolly, he built his skills by working the circuit of folk clubs, and earned his wider fame thanks to his sharp wit.

Having had something of a portmanteau career, Wedlock tried proper jobs - teaching, most notably - and assembled a three-decade span of doing this and that. He even spent a spell as HTV's answer to David Dickinson, presenting a series of Bargain Hunters.

Fred, who was 67, had been suffering from pneumonia and died yesterday after a heart attack.

RIAA use charity album in piracy battle

An angry RIAA post wails that unlicensed music sharers are stealing bread from the victims of the Haiti earthquake:

On the heels of the encouraging news high that the “Hope for Haiti Now” charity album became the first all-digital record to top Billboard’s 200 music sales chart, we’ve also learned that there is a group of P2P users who are uploading and downloading the charity album illegally.

As the “Reaching new lows – charity album piracy” post on James Gannon’s IP, Innovation and Culture blog notes, the album is now widely available on illicit BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay, Torrentz and more. The posting highlights a truly ugly side of P2P piracy – the undermining of humanitarian fundraising efforts via online theft of the “Hope for Haiti Now” compilation. So much for the notion that illegal downloading (“sharing”) is an effort to help advance the plight of artists.

That last sentence doesn't actually make sense, does it?

It's possible that people are downloading the album and sending the money straight to charity. Unlikely, but possible.

But hang on a moment... are the RIAA even right about this? Music Ally holds the claims up to the light:
I wondered just how popular the album is on file-sharing networks. It might be available, but how many people are downloading it? So I asked someone best placed to answer that question – Eric Garland of BigChampagne, which tracks activity on these networks.

“Yes, the charity record is available online, on torrent sites and one-click hosting etc, but the interest/volume is relatively low – nothing like a big pop record,” he says. And he pulled out some stats to show the comparative downloads of Hope For Haiti Now and Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster to show it.

At its peak on 24th January, Hope For Haiti Now was being downloaded 2,680 times a day according to BigChampagne – compare that to The Fame Monster’s 63,845 downloads the same day. Meanwhile, by 23rd February, Hope For Haiti Now’s daily downloads had dwindled to 820, compared to 47,971 for the Gaga album.

So there are a few people helping themselves - presumably the sort of people who wouldn't have bought the album even if it hadn't been available free - but most people are leaving it untouched on the networks.

The evidence, then, suggests that people who use unlicensed files are quite decent in their behaviour when it comes to a charity album. Certainly no worse than a music industry cartel using half-truths and crocodile tears about a charity album to try and advance their political position.

Visa rejected: Erik Hassle

It would have been a great opportunity for Erik Hassle: opening for the trending Marina & The Diamonds in New York, and then on to SXSW. Result? Lots of lovely press and web coverage, hundreds of new fans, and dozens of pairs of knickers flung in his direction.

Trouble is, though, Hassle has had his US visa turned down. They're hoping he'll be able to get across in the Spring.

Sellaband: Not the future after all

It's been a miserable week or two for Sellaband.

First there was the report that Public Enemy had failed to scrape enough together to make an album via the site.

Part of the problem there was that PE were after quarter of a million bucks - a hefty budget to be seeking through Sellaband. And there were questions over the offer, as Billboard pointed out:

Given that the only benefit to come with a $250 investment that didn't also come with a $100 one was a free t-shirt, many might have wondered why they should invest the extra $150.

But Public Enemy also exposed problems with the model, too. Not least that Sellaband only markets within its own service - limiting the likely investors somewhat.

Then Sellaband went bankrupt:
On Friday February 19th, SellaBand AG requested provisional suspension of payments (moratorium). This was granted by the Court in Amsterdam on the same day. Yesterday, Monday February 22nd, this moratorium was changed into bankruptcy, with appointment of, Mr Paul Schaink, an amsterdam lawyer, as trustee. The trustee wishes to inform the 'Sellaband community' that, apart from a few technicalities, the completion of a transaction with a potential buyer of the business, is to be expected soon, in order to make a fresh start, safeguarding both the rights of Believers and Artists. More news will follow shortly.

The whole thing was picked up a buyer in Munich. The trustee sent this email to artists:
Yesterday I sold the Sellaband business and assets to German buyers in Munich. This transaction was approved by the Amsterdam Court. The contract will be signed today. The buyers have guaranteed that they will take over 100% of the obligations towards both the Believers and the Artists. So, both the monies owed to the Believers and the Artists are safe. The monies owed to the Believers will remain in an independent trust account (Treuhand) in Germany which is separated from Sellaband, as it was before. It is expected that the Sellaband website will open again no later than either tonight or tomorrow. Further developments will be published through the Sellaband website. It is important now for the ‘Sellaband community’ to calm down, because there should be no fear towards their investments. At this stage I will not give any information as to the background of the bankruptcy of Sellaband. In about 3 weeks an official report to the Court will be released, that can be found on

New owner Michael Bogatzki shared a brief message:
We will continue to advance this fantastic platform while acting in the spirit of the SellaBand community and its founders. We are thankful for the exceptional work of Johan Vosmeijer and his team.

Starting from today we proceed with this unique concept and maximize the potential of SellaBand with the trust and faith of all Artists and Believers. In personal I am proud to be part of this idea and I am aware of my responsibility for done work and successes. I will take care about the community and spirit of with your help and confidence.

It's too late, though, for many. As if the last couple of weeks' uncertainty hasn't been enough to shake confidence, Sellaband users like Matthew Ebel are starting to wonder why they need a clunking middleman in relationships like these.

Were I an artist or a "believer" (the cutsey name for investor), I think this is the bit where I'd do a lousy Duncan Banatyne impersonation and say "I'm out":
Sellaband holds onto believers’ money until the artist’s goal is reached, if ever. If they disappear, so does the money.

Seriously? Is it an investment or a gamble?

Glastonbury 2010: Police rub hands at first certain drug arrest

Willie Nelson has just confirmed he's playing Glastonbury this year.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

6Music: Ed O'Brien wants it saved

Apart from the questionable 'Herr' at the start (is nobody above deciding that someone they disagree with must be a Nazi, and then conflating being a Nazi with simply being German?), Ed O'Brien's response to the pillow being pushed over 6Music's face is spot-on:

Mark Thompson, Herr Director General of the BBC, announced yesterday that 6 music was to be closed ... which is obviously a ludicrous decision for those who actually love hearing great music on the radio ... so I've written to the BBC Trust, who apparently have the ability to reverse the decision, and if you feel this way inclined the link is Here's what I wrote: To whom it may concern, I am writing regarding the news today that 6 Music is going to be closed, in the hope that you reconsider this decision. To be honest I, along with a vast number of other musicians, music industry types and real music fans, are completely shocked and baffled by this news. I wonder if those who made this decision are actually aware of the hugely important role that 6 music plays in fostering and promoting new bands, as well as still playing the likes of the band that I am in. It literally is the radio lifeblood for music outside of the mainstream.

Not to denigrate Radio's 1 and 2, but it really is the only station that puts music first, and that's from a punters point of view and not some bloke in a band. Nowhere else can you hear an archived session track from T Rex juxtaposed next to Midlake's latest release.

As David Bowie, put it ... it keeps the spirit of John Peel alive. Please realise the impact and severity of closing this station down. It will be a huge blow for new bands and their labels. It's not enough to 'refocus' Radio's 1 and 2 as 6 music does a very specific thing.

What you have with 6 Music is a gem of a radio station, it is doing what no other station in the world does or can possibly do. Remember it is also still relatively young, give it time. You also finally have a fantastic and seemingly settled line up of DJ's. Please get behind it and from what I can gather about it's annual budget of £6m, it surely punches way above it's weight in terms of cultural relevance and importance.

Thank you for considering this. Ed O'Brien (Radiohead) Ed

Deunionised: Janes Addiction split again

Eric Avery's uncomfortable presence on the seemingly never-ending Janes Addiction reunion meant they could market themselves as the classic line up.

Not any more, though, as he's walked. He announced it on Twitter, so it must be true.

Avery said he'd only decided to do the reunion when the NME gave the band some sort of 'old band' prize; presumably now the trickle of 'you woz grate' prizes has come to an end, Avery has chosen to go back home.

The John Mayer ewwws explosion

Hello, Jessica Simpson? If someone calls you "sexual napalm", like John Mayer did, and it really upset you, perhaps you might like to think about not reminding everyone about it every time you go on TV.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: With a ladder and some glasses, he can see to Hackney Marshes

Whoever would have thought we'd live long enough to see a chart battle between Gracie Fields and The Courteeners? One a clapped-out act beloved only of a few older types, and the other... oh, you know where I'm going with that, don't you?

Who can explain this strange chart race? How about HMV's Controller of Press (Dead People v Skinny Trousers Department), Gennaro Castaldo?

HMV's chart commentator, Gennaro Castaldo, said: "The recent No.1 album from Vera Lynn demonstrates that age need not be a barrier to chart success. There is an audience out there for almost everyone if you can find a way to connect with them through music that's timeless. Whether it's the current economic climate or a simple yearning for more optimistic times, you get a real sense that nostalgia has a growing appeal right now. There's a whole generation of heritage artists - who were huge stars in their day, that we could very easily become re-acquainted with, not least Gracie Fields.

"Gracie was Britain's first true pop star at a time when recorded-music really began to take off among the wider public. With Dame Vera having opened the door, the Gracie Fields Collection is flying off the shelves. To think that a singer born in the 1800s is outselling some of the very best new musical talent around is truly remarkable."

Is it? Really?

Of course, this chart battle isn't quite as violent as the story may lead you to believe, as the tussle between the Courteeners and Gracie is only taking place in the minds of the Manchester Evening Newsin Rochdale.

Indeed, the story concludes that it's not even a skirmish nationwide:
In the national album charts The Courteeners debuted at six with Dame Gracie at 29.

Outside of Rochdale, then, few care about either.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Oh, and goodbye MTV2, too

Unlikely to gather quite large enough a crowd for Ed Vaizey to throw his weight behind saving it, but MTV2 is being dumped.

In its place, a new channel called MTV Rocks. No, not in an ironic way.

Zane Lowe has said he's getting out of there as fast as his contract will let him.

The long fade-out: Mark Thompson proposes slow, slow death of 6Music

So, it's official: Mark Thompson is going round to 6Music and the Asian Network and asking them to turn the music off. Not straight away, though:

During the briefing Mr Thompson said the earliest 6 Music and Asian Network would close would be by the end of 2011.

It was reported on Friday that the two digital stations would be closed, after the report was leaked to The Times.

That's quite a clunky phrase - tomorrow, strictly speaking, is "by the end of 2011", but it seems to suggest we've got at least 150 more Marc Riley sessions to go before anything gets switched off. Which is something.

Meanwhile, the Tories - never having seen a bandwagon they don't want to clamber onto - have seen that 6Music is popular with hard-to-reach voters and performed another one of their pretty pirouettes.

On Friday, Shadow 'Culture' Minister Ed Vaizey was delighted at the news of the BBC cutting back:
Vaizey said the Conservatives wanted "a smaller BBC", but did not want "to beat up the BBC". He added that proposals to close digital stations 6 Music and the Asian Network and cut back the BBC website, reported in today's Times, were "intelligent and sensible".

Intelligent and sensible.

By yesterday lunchtime, though, Ed Vaizey had noticed that there might be votes in this: can reveal that when challenged by an angry fans of the station, he admitted he had not heard the station before but claimed he had become an avid fan over the weekend. This was part of a public backlash over the closure of 6 Music, which included tens of thousands of supporters protesting via Twitter and Facebook.

"Having not listened to 6 Music, I took it on trust that the BBC knew what it was doing in this regard," said Vaizey in response to an email sent by a member of the public who took him to task over his support for the package of cuts.

"Several things have happened since I spoke out. I had no strong views on 6 Music on Friday, I now know it is brilliant with a passionate and articulate fan base – I am now an avid listener to 6 Music. I suspect that 6 Music has doubled its audience. I strongly suspect 6 Music will be saved."

Let's just pause awhile: the man who - in all possibility - may be in charge of the UK Government's cultural policy was running round on Friday applauding decisions to close radio stations he not only had not listened to, but knew nothing about.

The Save 6Music campaign might not save the network, but it's really exposed how rubbish the Tories' arts and culture team are.

The plans to cut back the size of the BBC operations, you'll recall, have been constructed with an eye and a half on the possibility of a Tory gorvernment, and Vaizey's repeated calls for the BBC to do less. So, having got us into the mess in the first place, and then celebrated the mess, now Vaizey's having second thoughts.

Ticket 'scammers' facing slammer

Since a CAPTCHA only exists to decide if the entity which is looking at it is capable of decoding it, is there anything morally wrong with using a machine which can solve them?

We ask as four men behind a company trading as Wiseguy Tickets in the US are charged with an alleged scam:

Federal prosecutors in New Jersey said on Monday that four men operating under the name Wiseguys Tickets had hacked into online sites, buying more than 1 million tickets to some of the country’s most popular musical and sporting events and then reselling them for more than $25 million in profit.

In its 43-count indictment, the prosecutors say the men built a computer network that created thousands of fake accounts and built a program that could outsmart the ticketing software that creates those odd-shaped letters designed to require human verification.

I'm not sure, even if the claims are true, that anyone has hacked into anything - they've worked out how to game the system; they've written or obtained software that perform the same function as a person but much, much more quickly - but if you were hacking in, you wouldn't be bothering to solve CAPTCHAS in the first place, would you?

Keeping supplies of tickets out of the hands of fans and selling them on later at a massive mark-up, though, is clearly wrong and criminal. Except when Ticketmaster is doing is it, apparently.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Peter Paphides suggests 'difficult for new bands'

Writing in the Times, Pete "Peter" Paphides worries that the exciting new music industry might be good for big bands, but tough for small bands:

Neither does it work for a group such as Butcher Boy, from Glasgow. Their recent album, React or Die, received unanimously adoring reviews, making it into The Times’s list of the decade’s 100 best albums. For all that, Butcher Boy find themselves in a quandary. With day jobs, they can’t tour. And without tour money, they can’t give up their day jobs.

Erm... hasn't that always been the case for small, unsigned bands, since the start of time? I've certainly been on tours where singers have been calling in to their day job "unwell" shortly before heading out to Bath Moles.

I guess in the internet age, there is more risk of being caught out when people Tweet "great gig by Stiggy Pants" when Stiggy has told their boss they're in bed with flu.

Listen with No Rock: Autechre

Are you doing anything tomorrow? How about spending twelve hours with Autechre?

As they prepare for the launch of the new album Oversteps, they're doing a half day long radio programme. You know, it actually lasts twelve hours, unlike the George Lamb programme which only felt like it did. If you visit their site now and sign up, you'll get a polite alert when the programme is about to begin.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The twilight of the rock star: Noel Gallagher

Let's remember, the next time that Noel Gallagher pops up pretending to be some sort of rockstar wild figure, that he wants to own his own posh shed:

Mr Gallagher, who quit the band last summer, has applied to Chiltern District Council for permission to build a "refuge in the garden".

In the application he said the wooden octagonal building with thatched roof would be for "occasional use" by his family in their Chalfont St Giles home.

But, hey, you just bet that he rips the crusts off his cucumber sandwiches.