Saturday, December 24, 2011

We need to talk about '11: May

May is Eurovision month.

1Xtra got jumpy about the use of Palastine in a live mix. It took Tegan And Sara to point out that Tyler The Creator is actually a tiresome jock. Not that they got thanked for it. Bob Dylan insisted that preapproval and censorship are different things. MTV pulled anti-abortion ads and hoped nobody would notice they'd been running them a year before.

After the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the world's first thought was: What does Nelly Furtado make of all this? Apart from those who looked instead to Mel B for leadership. When caught behaving like an asshat on radio, Morrissey blamed Poly Styrene's death for his behaviour.

Pete Doherty went back inside. Courtney Love revealed what happened when she quit drugs. John Elway got cross with punks using his name.

Warners found a rich Russian oligarich to bail them out. EMI decided to look after its own digital royalties, presumably having done such a good job with everything else. Nokia shut Ovi.

A special party was thrown to celebrate Dave Gahan not over-celebrating anymore. At a different party, Beyonce tried to insist on no photos, only to realise she couldn't move in her dress and had to be carried away while photographers booed. Paul McCartney insisted the Stones were jealous that the Beatles had uniforms. And Ringo finally said sorry to Liverpool for laughing at it.

Lee Ryan revealed he'd like to work in porn' luckily, pornographers will always have jobs for people with buckets to do the clean-up afterwards. Still, even that would be more dignified than Lady GaGa turning up to flog songs in Farmville.

Going quiet: N-Dubz.Still back: Aqua.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Will an end to unfair credit and debit card fees make concerts cheaper?

Good festive news: the government is proposing a ban on made-up credit card processing fees. Companies like Ticketmaster will still be able to charge credit card fees, but not the silly, made-up mark-ups they currently do.

Bad festive news: this won't stop Ticketmaster making up other fees, and slapping arbitrary sums onto those.

In effect, then: from the end of 2012, you'll be ripped off on a different line of your gig ticket bill.

We need to talk about '11: April

Liam Gallagher's ambition for Beady Eye was to be bigger than The Beatles. Let's start with being as big as Ringo's All Star Band, shall we? The manager of hitherto largely unknown band One Soul Thrust got himself into a downloading tizzy. At least the empty battle between Kings Of Leon and Glee came to an end.

Less than a year after slagging off American Idol, Roger Daltrey turned up begging for a slot. Yet to arrive in cinemas is the promised Jagger and Bowie comedy buddy movie, and banned from the listings were Holy Fuck.

Lady GaGa attempted to bully photographers, shut down Weird Al and tossed around 'retarded' as an insult.

The people who run the Grammys suddenly noticed that their ceremony drags on a bit. NME suddenly realised its Joss Stone and Muse Olympic anthem story was bollocks. Will I Am suddenly noticed My Humps was a terrible, terrible song.

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist was forced to make a grovelling apology to Talking Heads, but Congress got treated to a White Stripes video to help them understand the banking crisis.

MySpace went up for sale and the Metro worried the cuts to free Spotify would create bad pirates. Google tried to play nicely with the majors, but even Google do not have unending patience. New Zealand used the death and destruction of the Christchurch Earthquake to, erm, tighten up copyright law.

Did George Osborne's budget save HMV? Not so much. But Adele's massive sales might help.

Splitting: The Music and You, Me And Everyone We Know. Returning: Danny Baker.

An academic tried to answer the question does teen music make you more depressed?

2011 Month-by-month
Part of We Need To Talk About '11

Thursday, December 22, 2011

We need to talk about '11: March

In his latest attempt to make people look/raise some coins, John Lydon insisted he wasn't ever a punk. Another cackling from a faded icon, as Pete Doherty got involved in a burglary. Duff McKagen insisted that it doesn't count if you're only gay while on tour.

Coke's use of music as a way into the mouths of young people was set out quite clearly. To sell some fizzy pop, Maroon 5 handed control of their production process to 'fans' or anyone on the internet who happened by. Meanwhile, Avril Lavigne decided her life experience would be enough to make an album out of. Cliff Richard? He went soul.

Chris Brown didn't take being asked about his violent outburst well, and had a violent outburst about it.

Spotify took an initially relaxed approach to offering Skrewdriver songs but quietly dropped them later. Potential rival service QTrax finally launched, to little interest.

Heavy-handed policing at a Death From Above gig turned a crush into a riot. In other odd crime news, a lobbyist from the RIAA finds themselves hearing copyright cases as a judge.

Realising the way the wind was blowing, Nelly Furtado "remembered" the money she took from Gaddafi and gave it to charity, just four years after the gig. Bob Dylan in China let the authorities see his setlist. Over in Malawi, Madonna's charity was in turmoil.

HMV warned their last profits warning might have been a little over-optimistic as Jon Bon Jovi railed against Steve Jobs. Microsoft admitted nobody was ever going to buy a Zune.

Retiring: Phil Collins and Alan Lewis. Revived: 120 Minutes. Splitting: The Bluetones.

Francis Rossi put his finger on it. Everyone's rubbish these days.

2011 Month-by-month
Part of We Need To Talk About '11

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We need to talk about '11: February

After Justin Bieber claimed that abortion was "killing a baby" and that if you've been raped "everything happens for a reason", Rolling Stone tried to help dig him out his hole. In other words that might come back to haunt him, Bieber insisted he'd never have sex without love.

Worrying signs that Lady GaGa has started to believe her own press, while Jon Spencer Blues Explosion became the unlikely highlight of the Superbowl and Wyclef Jean was being hailed hero of the Arab Spring.

It can't be proved that the theft of South African cables was designed to try and scupper a U2 gig, but I know what I believe. One Direction did at least make it to the stage in Oxford, but only played four songs. The U2 gig did go ahead, and Bono managed to offend swathes of people with his support for Shoot The Boer.

Great news for Michael Jackson: the whole dying thing sorted out his debt problems.

Radio 1 decided that Jo Whiley had done enough, as she moved to 2 and Radcliffe and Maconie headed off to 6Music. James Corden hosted the Brits, the NME awards were doled out to much the same people. And after Arcade Fire did well at the Grammys, outraged people who hadn't heard of them decided there must have been a mistake.

As NME posted sales down over 16% on a year it started to add made-up stuff to people's quotes. Music Week made some big changes to avoid going the way of the industry they write about as Citigroup took EMI off TerraFirma.

Last FM introduced a fee for mobile while Murdoch, along with his other problems, was losing millions on MySpace every month. Also having digital problems was Jeremy Hunt, saddled with an unworkable DEA. Sony muttered that it might take its music off iTunes, at some point in the future, and you just see if they don't.

Returning: Beavis And Butthead. Reunited: The Primitives. Retiring: The White Stripes.

Oh, come on: Who really would believe Beyonce would headline Glastonbury? Oh.

2011 Month-by-month
Part of We Need To Talk About '11


Monday's MediaGuardian had a nice interview with Nick Gatfield, Dexy's saxophonist turned chief executive of Sony Music UK. He talked a good talk about the music being important, comparing his position now with his previous experience at EMI during the Guy Hands years:

"Your 'product' is human beings who have opinions," Gatfield says, leaning forward on the sofa in his spacious corner office at the west London HQ of Sony UK, the company which appointed him chief executive in July. He gives an example. "I remember someone at Terra Firma asking why the [release date for the] Gorillaz album had slipped. I said 'well, you know, Damon [Albarn]'s not ready,' and he said 'But it's on the release schedule'". The art of managing talent, Gatfield says, is to "reduce that slippage" as far as possible, but it's impossible to treat artists as commodities and reduce the art of making music to a box-ticking exercise. "Terra Firma didn't like the dark arts of A&R," he says. "A lot of it is done by gut instinct."
So, then, his label is one where A&R and chasing guts is at the heart of things, right?

Not so much. Oddly, Gatfield clams up when asked how far Sony is being propped up by Cowell Says Op Knocks:
What proportion of sales are generated by [X Factor] talent? "I don't know the figure off the top of my head," Gatfield says, "and I don't really want to share it with you."
It could be that Gatfield is genuine in his desire to bring forward proper new talent, and will use a warchest built on the backs of the Cardles and Little Mixes to fund that. But his reluctance to be honest about how far the company relies on what s showing the frst signs of beng a delcining franchise doesn't really inspire confidence.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We need to talk about 11: Month-by-month

The year in music, broken down into small, bite-sized pieces:


Part of We Need To Talk About 11

We need to talk about '11: January

It's getting close to the end of the year, and so - in what has become an annual event, like renewing car insurance or forgetting to send your aunt a birthday card - No Rock embarks on a twelve-day review of the last year:

One of the Cheeky Girls claimed she wasn't shoplifting, she was researching. Of course. As Ireland gave Jedward the call-up for Eurovision, it wasn't a good month for welcome-outstaying Cowell-created sibling novelty duos. The UK floated Blue as Eurovision entrants, so it wasn't a good month for anglophone competitors, either.

The PRS decided the hardest working man in showbusiness was Peter Andre, although it might have just seemed that from the constant churning of ITV2 trailers. When Michael Buble said he didn't think was sexy, though, it was easier to agree with.

The BNP attempted to turn Billy Bragg's neighbours against him and just made themselves wind up looking like stupid, ignorant idiots. Actually, they started out looking like that, come to think of it. Having said that, compared to Ted Nugent, they look fairly balanced.

After hanging in the balance for years, the intervention of Tory minister Grant Shapps was enough to condemn Ringo's childhood home. Shapps, naturally, was trying to save it and bungled. Down in Oxford, Courtney Love was being adopted by the Tories. Unlikely for David Byrne to receive similar toff-love, after he explained patiently to Michael Gove just how rotten Gove's policies are.

As HMV crumbled, Gennaro Castaldo did a quick find-and-replace on his 'don't panic' press release to send a local message to everyone. Still, HMV is finding it hard in the digital age, where they have to contend with cunning ruses like Britney Spears' special treat for fans: if you 'like' her on Facebook, she'll, erm, sell you a record. Mind you, it's not all cashpiles and IPOs online, as MySpace was looking for a buyer; Nokia's much ballyhooed ComesWithMusic went without fanfare.

Capital Radio abandoned most of its local radio brands, announcing it was attacking Radio 1 as a national pop station, except for the bits it doesn't cover. Radio 1 itself was being accused of being too black while in Canada, Dire Straits' Money For Nothing was banned for the use of the f-word. No, the other f-word.

A Backstreet Boys cruise ended badly as AJ McClean over-relaxed and caused a mutiny. Larry Mullen lost a libel case.

Guy Hands vowed to fight to keep hold of EMI even as painfully contrived mechanisms were being floated for a takeover.

Sting let us in on some of the bedroom secrets of his life with Trude. Chris Martin revealed Coldplay hadn't made a masterpiece. We'd noticed, Chris.

Reassuringly, Kings Of Leon were able to confirm their row with Glee was because they were up-themselves rather than down on gays. Luckily, they didn't have to call their mum in, as James Blunt did, getting his ma to stick up for him over claims that he was posh. Then his dad did, too.

Split: Slow Down Tallahassee. Reunited: Death From Above 1979 and House Of Pain. Axed: The Electric Proms.

2011 Month-by-month
Part of We Need To Talk About '11

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Presidentobit: Vaclav Havel

He was the first president of the Czech republic. But what really marked out Vaclav Havel, who has died at the age of 75, was his passion for the Velvet Underground:

This week just gone

These are the most-read stories across December so far:

1. HMV pre-emptively announce X Factor winner
2. R Kelly sex video to be shown to jurors
3. Tesco celebrate Christmas with cheap, lazy faggots
4. Showbiz Zoe goes to Romford
5. McFly strip off
6. Tatu wonder why people think they're gay
7. Coldplay pay women to take their shirts off
8. AC/DC iTunes hold out
9. Kylie's pants expand
10. Masque in Liverpool closes

These were the interesting releases:

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Stage Whisper

Download Time Of The Assassins

The Music - The Last Dance Live

Download The Last Dance

X - The Unheard Music