Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gordon in the morning: Vickers gets a smack

Even Gordon Smart can see that Diana Vickers has pretty much torpedoed any defence she might have had against claims she ripped off the Red Hot Chili Peppers:

The legal wrangle was pretty much inevitable.

Diana confessed in a recent interview she'd been listening to Under The Bridge the day before writing the chorus for her own song. She said "Sod it," when asked about the similarities.

She added: "Yeah, that happened without even knowing.

"We wrote the song in an hour. We had the song and it didn't have the My Wicked Heart bit in it and then we put the vocal in and we were like, 'Why does it sound so familiar?'

"Then we realised it was because we were listening to Under The Bridge the day before. We were saying, 'Should we change it? Should we not? What should we do? Sod it, no, we're just gonna keep it, it works'."
But this bit in Gordon's coverage just bemuses me:
Diana will be re-enacting her new video on tomorrow's X Factor, dressing as a circus ringmaster and a clown.

She might be feeling like that again when the lawyers' bills come in.
When the lawyers bills arrive, she'll feel like she's dressed as a ringmaster?

Music Business expert says something sensible

There was a period in the 1980s when Rob Dickins was the public face of the non-musical bits of the music industry; he was quite good-looking, good on camera and could well have passed for a second-string Radio One DJ at the time.

You don't hear quite so much from him these days, but he's been on a panel at In The City (which, again, you don't hear quite so much about as you used to a while back) where he said something surprisingly wise for a former label executive:

The price of music albums should be slashed to around £1, a former major record label boss has suggested.

Rob Dickins, who ran Warner Music in the UK for 15 years, said "radically" lowering prices would help beat piracy and lead to an exponential sales rise.
Speaking at the In The City music conference in Manchester, Mr Dickins said album prices had already been pushed down by price wars and declining demand, and were likely to fall further.

"What we need is a revolution. What we've got is an erosion. When I was running Warners, a chart CD could be £12.99. A chart CD now can be £6.99, maybe even £5.99."

Some major album downloads currently sell for as little as £3.99 through retailers such as Amazon.

If record labels made the decision to charge much less, fans would not think twice about buying an album on impulse and the resulting sales boost would make up for the price drop, he predicted.
The rise in sales won't be so huge as to be the equivalent of albums retailing at thirteen quid, but there's every chance that it could close the gap to a six quid price point. And you'd only have to charge this for online - there's no reason why physical CDs couldn't still command a five or so. Indeed, given the carbon footprint of the products, they probably should.

It's a sane suggestion, and every experience of online transactions points in that direction. And Dickens couldn't be accused of being some piratey-hippy type. He's one of them, right, so the music industry must be nodding and saying "he could have a point", yes?

Of course bloody not:
Paul Quirk, chairman of the Entertainment Retailers Association, said: "Rob Dickins is part of the generation of executives who benefited from the age of £14 CDs and gave the music business a bad name.

"So it is ironic to hear him espouse the cause of the £1 album. Basic arithmetic indicates that this is a non-starter."
Aw, bless you, Paul Quirk. You think that the brief period when CD prices were being artificially inflated was the only period when the music business had a bad name? You don't think it's behaviour in the last decade has been a bit more besmirching of its image?

After all, charge fifteen quid for a CD, and you're only treating your customers like mugs. Start sending over-inflated, threatening demands to single mothers and grandparents who haven't ever touched your products, and you've suddenly declared war on the world.

And the lobbying of the last few years has been pretty shabby. And let's not even start on the dismal site of the IFPI running round pretending they're police.

So, yes, it's true that Dickins was a big figure during one of the music industry's darkest days, but let's not pretend that things got better when he left.

And for the Entertainment Retailer's Association to have a fit of the vapours at the idea of a product being priced high is absurd. Do they recommend to their clients that they find out the highest pricepoint at which people would still purchase - are they a surprisingly socialist group which says 'hey, people will pay £5 for a CD but that's a bit much, so let's say £2?'

At least Dickins is consistent in his embrace of supply and demand pricing. When demand would stand £13, he charged it. Now that demand suggests albums be much cheaper, he's following that logic.

Sure, he was around at the time of Home Taping Is Killing Music, but even if Peter Sutcliffe was making the suggestion, the evilness or otherwise of the messenger doesn't have any effect on the cold, market logic of the message.
Jonathan Shalit, who discovered Charlotte Church and manages N Dubz and Russell Watson, described it as a "totally ridiculous suggestion".
And if you're working with Dappy, you'd know a ridiculous suggestion when you see one.

Shalit comes up with a ridiculous justification for rejecting the Dickins gambit:
"Right now if you buy a bottle of water it's £1," he said. "A piece of music is a valuable form of art. If you want the person to respect it and value it, it's got to cost them not a huge sum of money but a significant sum of money."
Does anyone who's done a couple of weeks of GCSE business studies want to explain the difference between a physical bottle of water and an unlimited supply of music downloads? Possibly even Dappy could spot that's a bit of a stupid thing to say.

The music industry could have learned something from bottled water: people do pay a quid for a bottle of water, despite having unlimited, almost-free water available on the tap. The existence of torrents of virtually free water hasn't hurt the paid-for water market; Nestle have never attempted to sue people for drinking tap water.

But the price of a bottle of water doesn't really have anything to do with what the price of a record should be, and paying or not doesn't really have anything to do with respect or value. Newspapers cost a pound, and they're expensive to produce, and are still valued by their readers. Numerous museums and galleries charge no admission fee, but that doesn't mean visitors don't value and respect the 'content' inside.

It might appeal to an accountant to think that the only way people can relate to something is by how much they pay for it, but nobody working in a creative field who actually cares about what they're doing thinks in that way.
Chris Cooke, editor of music industry newsletter CMU, predicted that the major labels would "resist it hugely".
Yes, they almost certainly will.
"It is a gamble," he said. "Once you've slashed the price of an album you can't really go back."
Well, actually, you can - after all, the price-cutting frenzy in the quality newspaper market passed, and papers returned from costing pennies to costing closer to a quid; and if the gamble fails, it would suggest that there's no price elasticity of demand in the market for music downloads and so returning to a higher price point wouldn't be much of a problem.

But perhaps the major labels have reached a point where they feel their future is so doomed, they're going to take the short-term approach to try and scrape what they can before they vanish altogether. It's the only real explanation for such a cussed refusal to connect with what their diminishing customer base wants.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Gordon in the morning: Lit crit

Gordon's got hold of a copy of Justin Bieber's book, and he isn't very impressed:

IF ever there was a reason not to give a teenager a book deal look no further than JUSTIN BIEBER.
Of course, if your column is stuffed with material like "Heigl makes a couple of legal boobs" because a woman spoke to the police while wearing a bikini, you might want to avoid rolling your eyes at other people's writing.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Downloadable: Giant Sand

It's 25 years since the first Giant Sand album, and just over ten days until the next one, Blurry Blue Mountain. This is the 'bloody hell, I'm getting old' one - and here's an mp3ed taste:

Giant Sand - Fields Of Green

Gordon in the morning: Awwwk-waaaard

Gordon does mention that she's 17 now, but even that doesn't stop this feeling really creepy:

MILEY CYRUS gives us an eyeful of her Brits as she forgets to wear a bra under her white T-shirt.

The Hannah Montana star, 17, wore the clinging top with denim hotpants as she nipped out for lunch with her family in Los Angeles.
Maybe there was a small voice in his head that made Gordon suddenly wonder if this was an appropriate matter for a grown man to be getting excited about, as he then appends an attempt to make this sound like it's cultural analysis rather than looking at a seventeen year-old girl's nipples:
She seemed to be shaking off her squeaky-clean image - like singer BRITNEY SPEARS did in her teens.
Really, Gordon? You think she went out without a bra as part of a marketing plan? I guess if that makes you feel a bit less like Uncle Disgusting, you might want to cling to that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ashbury Heights claims Out Of Line are out of line

SideLine magazine is tutting that a band shouldn't go public with problems with a label, which seems a bit unfair, as Ashbury Heights tell Facebook that their label has been a bit rubbish:

In a post on their Facebook, which also ended up on the Side-Line forum, Swedish electropop act Ashbury Heights blame their label [Out Of Line] for not having achieved the success the band hoped for. Says Anders Hagström: "I feel that after five years with them without any real progress it wouldn't be fair to ourselves or to the fans to allow them to continue their mismanagement of our music."

He also says that the band was "never meant to be a niche act, circumstances outside of our control made us sign with a niche label however and in hindsight it was probably not a good idea."
Not entirely sure that you can totally blame a niche label for making you a niche act if you signed with them for whatever reason, and it's not entirely clear that Swedish electogothdance was ever going to be a major taste - they surely weren't expecting Bieber-type audiences, were they? - but I'm a bit surprised that SideLine thinks they should keep their gripes to themselves. Presumably the posting is the end of a long, frustrating process rather than the first time the label has heard the band is upset?

RIAA surprised to discover Google wants paying in return for work

The RIAA and the IFPI - two entirely separate organisations, albeit run by the same cartel - has got in a bit of a huff as Google has asked them to pay for finding possibly unlicensed files on the internet:

The burden of finding the offending links has however always rested in the hands of the people who wish them taken down. Given what a time consuming process that has proven to be, the RIAA and the IFPI asked Google to “provide a means to help them track down pirated material more efficiently,” in the words of Cnet.

Google did not respond in the way they had hoped. Instead of offering to devote their own resources to help fight online piracy, Google directed them to their Web Search API option called Site Search, a product that charges $5 per 1000 executed searches. This in short told both the RIAA and the IFPI to do their own work, and to pay Google for using their products in their hunt to protect their content.
There's been some squawking that this is somehow "unfair", with an attempt to build some sort of logic that Google should do it for free because, erm, people might search for unlicensed files on Google and Google sells advertising and... you know, it's not fair.

Which is a bit like saying that Microsoft should chip for the costs of searching for files, because people use Windows to run a browser which they do the search on, so it's only fair, right?

Feargal Sharkey goes to POLIS

POLIS are running a series of dialogues on the theme of 'what is media for', one of which will feature Feargal Sharkey insisting that "Media is for the Culture Industry".

Which sounds a bit clunky - even if the phrase "the Culture Industry" itself doesn't make you want to start destroying culture with sticks and marker pens. Other speakers are suggesting that media is for things like free speech, or mobility, or peace. Nobody else seems to be suggesting quite so directly that the idea of having media should be to line their own pockets. And there's a sense that there's half a sentence missing in Sharkey's contention - for the Culture Industry to do what, exactly?

Still, the idea that media is something that comes from the rich and culturally powerful at the citizenry should't be a surprise coming from Sharkey.

His brief biography, as given by Polis, is interesting:

He will discuss the challenges facing the music industry today, and in particular, how problems of file sharing and intellectual property look from the perspective of the artist.
Except Sharkey isn't really an artist, is he? He's a curator of his own back catalogue, but he's not released a single since 1991. There's something a little disingenuous suggesting that he's the voice of the artist in New Media; Sharkey speaks for a very different part of the family.

Lambert's lament

Oh, poor Adam Lambert, he struggled so much dropping the gay kiss from his show when he played Malaysia:

"I think it's a tough decision to make, but to me, there are so many amazing fans in Malaysia that it's more important for me to be able to come and do my show there for them and entertain them and thank them for supporting me."
"My main goal is to keep people entertained - not to make them uncomfortable," he explained.

"It's something I'm doing out of respect. It's just one little thing. Man kissing another man is something that government really doesn't appreciate."
Well, yes, if the government doesn't like it then you shouldn't do it, should you? Because why should you have sense of spine and stand up to a bigoted, homophobic ruling?

Dropping the kiss wasn't a "tough decision", Adam. Keeping it in would have been tough. Canceling the gig would have been a "tough decision". Caving in and saying that if the Malaysian government says being gay is wrong, then it's 'disrespectful' to say 'no it isn't' isn't craven and weak.

Taylor Swift says sorry in a song

Back To December, it turns out, is a mea culpa by Taylor Swift:

Taylor Swift has revealed that the lyrics to her new track 'Back To December' were written as an apology to a former boyfriend.

The song - which will appear on her forthcoming album Speak Now - allowed the singer to find closure on a difficult relationship during which she acted 'carelessly', reports MTV News.
Sometimes the apology is worse than the insult, it appears.

You might wonder how heartfelt the apology is when you're busily raking in cash from it - although I guess if the time I'd smashed the Hummel I could have got radioplay royalties for my tearful 'sorry, Mum' I would have taken them.

Even so, if I was Swift's ex, I still think I'd have been happier with a bunch of flowers and a muffin basket.

Albarn bars Glee

Damon Albarn hasn't been asked to let Gorillaz tracks be used on Glee, but he's busily telling everyone he wouldn't let the programme use them even if they did turn up. Even if they begged:

"We wouldn't let that happen," Albarn said in an interview with The Associated Press last week.

"And not that they've asked us because they haven't, and now they definitely won't," he continued with a laugh.
There's something incredibly self-regarding about telling everyone that you wouldn't take up an offer than hasn't been made - it's like a teenager going 'yeah, and even if he did ask me out I'd say no, and he probably hasn't even asked because he KNOWS I'd say no'.

Other bands with Gorillaz pedigree - including The Archies, and Animal Kwackers - have also indicated they wouldn't let their art be polluted by a Glee adaptation.

Gordon in the morning: Kings of misery

If someone told you that Caleb Followill "felt like Kurt Cobain", you'd assume they meant he was driven to the point of suicide, right?

It turns out that's not quite what we're talking about:

Caleb revealed: "We were on the road and I'd just found out my house had been broken into.

"On top of that the record was doing really good. That was my Kurt Cobain moment: I was hating success, I was scared and thought people are gonna think we did this on purpose and made this record so it could be big."
Moping about how terrible fame is isn't "a Kurt Cobain moment"; Kurt was mentally ill. It's a Robbie Williams moment if it's anything.

Gordon copied the quote down while listening to the radio, but don't let that give you the impression that it's a thin day on Bizarre:
DAVID Beckham likes to keep down with the kids - wearing a backwards baseball cap to match his sons on a day out.

Soccer star David, 35, Romeo, eight, and five-year-old Cruz sported red toppers as they shopped in Hollywood.
I know what you're thinking: surely printing a picture of a man and a boy and saying 'the man and the boy wear red hats' is more picture book than news service, but there is a news angle:
But 11-year-old Brooklyn went bare-headed.
Man wears hat? That's not news. Boy doesn't wear hat? Oh, that's news.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Listen with No Rock: La Roux / Kanye West

Obviously, you can see the marketing potential in getting Kanye West in to do stuff over the top of La Roux. But it still feels a bit like selling the South Downs by building a theme park on the top of them.


In the next, ooh, twenty minutes you'll get sick to death of seeing the pre-title Lady GaGa on The Sopranos. But can we just get this straight: it wasn't a "cameo appearance", it was a bit part. No shame in that.

Working with Michael Monroe

Yes, yes, there's little surprise at Lemmy turning up on Michael Monroe's next solo album. But who would have thought Lucinda Williams would pop up on it? That's going to cause a struggle for some Williams completists.

Julian Cope: The movie

This is potentially fascinating: David Morrissey has bought the rights to Julian Cope's Head On and is trying to secure funding to turn it into a movie.

At the moment, Morrissey is thinking of being Bill Drummond and - inevitably - Rhys Ifans is being muttered about for the Cope role. (Really? Is it now a law that Ifans is the only person in the UK who can pretend to have done drugs in front of a camera?)

No word yet on potential casting for Pete Wylie, but I hear that Pete Wylie might be available.

PJ Harvey is capital

Polly Jean and friends have lined up a small, capital-city only tour of Europe:

Brussels Cirque Royale - February 18 2011
Berlin Admiralspalast - 21
Paris Olympia - 24
London Troxy - 27

You never need an excuse for a spot of PJ Harvey:

Absolute response

I think this it's probably only fair to pick up Absolute's response to what I wrote about their latest accounts at the weekend. Clive Dickens said this:

Hi Simon, The accounts you refer too were the period ending December 2009.

Q3 Rajar will be published in a few weeks time covering the first 9 months 2010 which will show that The Absolute Radio Network now has MORE audience than The Virgin Radio Network at the time of the new brand launch in OCT 2008.
We look forward to the next set of Rajars with interest.

Gordon in the morning: Noel alone

How does Gordon Smart describe Noel Gallagher this morning?

Yes, I'm afraid he really does.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Apparently without John Lennon, there'd have been no Jonas Brothers

In a bid to try and squeeze some publicity and misbegotten credibility out of his birthday, the Jonas Brothers recorded a tribute to the dead Beatle:

Sitting together on a couch, NIck Jonas offers a concise tribute to Lennon's influence on them.

"We grew up listening to the Beatles in our home, John Lennon specifically. And his words, and his lyrics, and his music spoke to many generations of people and continue to," brother Nick said.
Yes, when you listen to Video Girl you can really hear the influence of The Plastic Ono band on the Jonas Brothers.
"It's his birthday, 70th birthday, so happy birthday, John. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the music. And thanks for showing the world that it's time to come together and live in peace. You're the man."
Yes, thanks for that, John. Imagine if you'd not pointed out that war was bad. We would never have noticed.

Gordon in the morning: The cinema super friends club

Gordon reports this morning that Madonna is getting film-making tips from Prince Edward.

It's a bit like Harold Shipman getting patient care tips from Crippen, surely?

What's Edward going to offer? "Don't put yourself in as an actor and - oh, yeah - lots and lots of coverage of people playing real tennis. That's the celluloid magic."

It turns out Edward is giving advice more on content than form - Madonna is making this movie about Wallis Simpson. How Edward would help here is a bit of a mystery - he'd have been not born when his uncle abdicated, so his value as eyewitness will be about as great as the guidance he can bring from his own filmmaking days.

Princess Michael Of Kent - who's like the supply teacher royal - has also offered her unique perspective, having been born just nine years after abdication and marrying into the family forty years later.

By the way, if you've been wondering how Madonna will manage to louse this one up, Gordon has a pretty strong hint:

W.E focuses on how Edward gave up the throne to marry Mrs Simpson - who was still wed to her second husband when they met - plus a modern-day romance between a married woman and a Russian security guard.
Oh, a parallel story in modern dress you've made up all by yourself? Yes, that's what this story was crying out for.

Why did the royals get involved? As you'll have noted, it's the sort of royal who would turn up on the off-chance if they spotted a velvet rope; "other senior royals" apparently turned Madonna down.
The source added: "When the Palace were contacted by the film company for guidance on historical fact, they were a bit apprehensive at first given the subject.

"But when they heard Madonna was behind it they lent their support and arranged for key people to get involved."
Really? The Palace did? Because The Queen's staff are starstruck by Madonna, are they? And since when were Edward and - god help us - Gloucester and Mrs. Gloucester the Monarchy's key figures?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wales considers UDI from PRS; PRS looks worried

Welsh artists and labels are showing signs of increasing discontent with the UK-wide PRS organisation. The Welsh Music Foundation has held a conference to discuss the feasibility of constructing a Wales-only royalty collection agency, mainly irked by the BBC's National Regional stations paying royalty rates on a par with local radio stations rather than the UK-wide networks.

Naturally, the PRS aren't happy with the idea and suggest that a breakaway Welsh-only organisation could be a terrible idea:

"We are a well-oiled machine, and we have all the things in place to administer on behalf of all a members in Wales," said John Hywel Morris from PRS.

"We have over 2,000 PRS members in Wales - it's a very small fraction of people who have turned up here voicing their concerns.

"Yes, they are concerns that we take seriously. We've been in discussions with them for the last three years, and I speak to a lot of the people who have been hit.

"And we have been working to better reflect what the usage of Welsh language music is in general."
If the PRS is really convinced that only "a very small fraction" of people suggest breaking away, they could hold an event in Wales to demonstrate the depth of support for the current system, then? That'd be a useful exercise.

You can understand the fear, though - if Welsh artists quit, it'd only be a matter of time before the Scottish and Northern Irish explored their own options, and the very existence of the PRS would be thrown into question.

Perhaps, though, the PRS having taken three years of discussion to get absolutely nowhere indicates why it's time for someone else to have a go.

Bo Ningen weekend: Nonsense

Ending at the very start - this was the band's first gig:

[Part of the Bo Ningen weekend

James Blunt will stop the war

Actually, this could work:

[Blunt] says: "I'm tired of the Afghanistan war and I'm going to go out and fix it. I'm going out there at Christmas time and will sing the Taliban into surrender. If I can't do it, then who can?"
Yes, it would work. But, like dropping depleted uranium on children's heads, forcing people to listen to James Blunt is just something that civilised nations shouldn't be doing.

Soulobit: Solomon Burke

Self-styled "legendary king of rock and soul" Solomon Burke has died in Amsterdam.

Best known for Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Burke's official website perhaps slightly over-states his position in the pantheon:

Solomon Burke burst onto the scene, shattered the cultural barriers of the time, scored a massive hit with “Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)” and quickly redefined the way the world would think about music.
Burke, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer since 2001, is more than simply a pioneering American legend from another time and place--he is an innovator whose timeless music spans generations and has inspired millions of fans and hundreds of recording artists across the decades.
You can understand the self-satisfaction a bit; he started his career at the age of 14 with a gospel hit, Christmas Presents From Heaven, which sold a million copies, and he was working all the way up to his death.

Alongside the music, Burke was a preacher and the spiritual leader of The House of God For All People. Although given that he set up the church, that still shows a little self-regard.

Solomon Burke had 21 children; he died at Schiphol Airport of unknown causes on Saturday night. He was 70.

Bo Ningen weekend: Live

An unidentified track at The Rest Is Noise festival:

[Part of the Bo Ningen weekend]

This week just gone

The most-read things around the site this week have been:

1. First sight of disquiet at this year's Glastonbury ticketing
2. Yes, that R Kelly thing. Still.
3. Glastonbury 2011: Lots get tickets, still more get frustrated
4. Anti-Defamation League suggest Roger Waters is being anti-Semitic even while admitting he isn't
5. McFly get their cocks out. They often do.
6. Resonance dumpes Max Tundra, accuses him of ego
7. AC/DC refuses to come to iTunes
8. Spaceman sues Dido
9. KT Tunstall: People remember she exists, ask the 'is she gay' question again
10. Billboard insists The Cast Of Glee are the new Beatles

The interesting releases this week:

Clinic - Bubblegum

Download Bubblegum

Anbb Alva Noto & Blixa Bargeld - Mimikry

Download Mimikry

Badly Drawn Boy - It's What I'm Thinking

Download It's What I'm Thinking

Blondie - At The BBC

Download At The BBC

Divine Comedy - Live At Somerset House

Download Bang Goes The Knighthood

Saint Etienne - Tales From Turnpike House
part of a bunch of reissues

Download Tales From...