Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nicki Minaj doesn't really apologise, but comes close enough for Spin

Nicki Minaj decided to use Malcolm X to promote her new single.

Spin explains how:

Nicki Minaj has come under fire not for her new video — in which she fires a pair AK-47s akimbo — but for the art used to promote that song, "Lookin Ass Nigga." Found on her site (still, as of 6:15 p.m. EST) and on her Instagram (no longer), the grainy image repurposes a famous photo of Malcolm X holding a large gun while he peers out a window, seemingly concerned for his safety. Considering her use of weaponry, and that titular oft-weaponized word, people are pissed.
Pissed enough for two petitions to be raised - and, okay, "creating a petition" is probably the very least activity that can still be called activism, but it stung Minaj into a response.

Spin sees this an apology:
What seems to be the issue now? Do you have a problem with me referring to the people Malcolm X was ready to pull his gun out on as Lookin Ass Niggaz? Well, I apologize. That was never the official artwork nor is this an official single. This is a conversation. Not a single. I am in the video shooting at Lookin Ass Niggaz and there happened to be an iconic photo of Malcolm X ready to do the same thing for what he believed in!!!! It is in no way to undermine his efforts and legacy. I apologize to the Malcolm X estate if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued. The word "nigga" causes so much debate in our community while the "nigga" behavior gets praised and worship. Let's not. Apologies again to his family. I have nothing but respect an adoration for u. The photo was removed hours ago. Thank you.
This is a whole new level in the apology that isn't an apology, because not only does Minaj do a "if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued" non-apology, but then she follows it up with an "apologies again to his family" - which doesn't really require an "again" and, from the whole tone of the response, right from the opening, bored "what seems to be the issue now", shows no understanding of the cause of offence or any real contrition at having got it so badly wrong.

Still: it doesn't matter if you do something crudely insulting, providing it's not done on an official single. So that's alright then.

Tiny royalty cheques

There's a post over on Aux TV which gathers some of the tiny royalty cheques that some artists have recently received.

Some of them are genuinely astonishing, like this one:

That's Camper Van Beethoven & Cracker's David Lowery getting a million streams on Pandora and pocketing less than twenty dollars for their efforts.

We've been here before, of course: how suprised you'll be depends on if you want to compare that figure with what they would have earned if they'd sold a million copies, or if it had been played on traditional radio to an audience of a million listeners.

There's also this one:
Mike Schleibaum getting a cheque for a penny.

Now, there's an element of Esther Rantzen here - is it really worth sending out a cheque for a single cent?

Of course not; that's ridiculous. But then the question would be what should the cut-off point be for rolling a royalty over into the next round of payments? Ten cents? A dollar? Is it really worth sending out a cheque for anything less than ten dollars?

Except... if Mike is earning cent, if Music Reports didn't send its cheque until he'd amassed even ten dollars, it'd be a very long time before his mailman would be called upon to spring into action.

More to the point, if Music Matters took a sensible-sounding line of not triggering a cheque until earnings reached ten dollars, and they've got, say, a million clients who potentially could have nine dollars ninety nine in their accounts, suddenly there's a "Music Matters sitting on ten million dollars of artist's money; artists haven't received cheques in forever" scandal blowing in the opposite direction.

So everyone gets an expensively-administrated, disappointing cheque every time.

(There's a bigger question of why they're sending sodding cheques in 2014, like they're settling debts incurred at a card table in Pemberley, but that's for another day.)

Besides the idea of sending a tiny cheque, though, there's the question of why it's a tiny, tiny cheque in the first place.

Schleibaum got some fun out of his micropayday:
“This is what we call, “BIG TIME!,” he wrote on Facebook. “Don’t worry..big news is coming but for now..we got to spend all this cash!”
Hang on a moment, though. Music Reports mostly handles licencing for local TV affiliates, some cable networks and other small users of music, like greeting cards companies.

Schleibaum has two main jobs in music. The first is as a member of melodic death metal band Darkest Hour who, good as they are, seem unlikely to have their music featured in a Happy Birthday card or soundtracking a sports package on the Fox affiliate in Boise. So, presumably, you wouldn't expect that much cash to flow from that angle.

He also composes music for television - if you tapped your foot to the beds on MSNBC's Charles Manson and His Followers, you were enjoying Mike's work. But presumably this work is done with the channels buying out all rights in the work - which means that again, Mike would expect his payment cheque to be fairly small.

So perhaps the surprise is not that there's a cheque, but that there's a cheque at all.

[Thanks to Michael M for the link]
[UPDATED 18/2: Rewrote a paragraph to make it clearer that the royalty cheque is from David Lowery, out of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven]

Twittergem: Foals

"Hey, you guys... in a very real sense, if it wasn't for you lot out there right now in this hall, we wouldn't even be playing this gig."

Morrissey, Cliff and Tom Bloody Jones: The Men Of A Certain Age tour

The news that Morrissey has announced dates with Tom Jones and Cliff Richard isn't really as surprising as people seem to think.

First, if we've learned anything from the last couple of years, it's that Morrissey's great strength is announcing gigs; he's less good at turning up to play them. On that basis, why not book extraordinary names? It's frankly more surprising that he's not publishing bills with Princess Grace, that main dude from The Lego Movie and Nostradamus.

Secondly, we all know how stung Morrissey is when people suggest he's a little bit racist. How better to prove your credentials as embracing everyone than by sharing the stage with Cliff Richard (born in India) and Tom Jones (who has orange skin)?

More generously, Mozzer has never hidden his affection for British culture of the early 60s and, if you put a piece of paper over both Jones' and Richard's cvs to cover off anything post-punk, you've got two titans. On that basis, the plan is no more unlikely than Morrissey's work with Sandie Shaw or his eulogy for Kenneth Williams.

Perhaps slightly less generously, if you then take the piece of paper off the cvs, you have careers which start out astonishingly edgy - Tom doing first-person songs about murder and incarcerated criminals; Cliff being inspected by authorities to see if that nasty Elvis had somehow infected England - which somehow mutated into a conservative, mundane slop of game shows, Christmas songs and shirtless calendars and tours to a fanbase slowly moving from 'pickled in aspic' to 'preserved with embalming fluid'. Morrissey might recognise something there.

More interesting is whats in it for the two older singers. Jones, clearly, is eyeing up the next series of The Voice, given that this year it's proving an opportunity for him to have a quiet nap in a comfy seat; a date with Morrissey will top-up his list of names to drop.

Cliff, for his part, cheerfully announced that he was doing it because it's a larger audience than he could usually manage in the US:

Richard also said the chances of him playing to 15,000 people in New York were “pretty well nil” without the support of Morrissey, but stated he was determined to make his one-hour set the best he possibly could: “I’m just going to make it really difficult for Morrissey to follow me.”
The dates take place in June, which means we're expecting Morrissey to contract lassa fever sometime around the end of May.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Circulation figures for NME stuck on repeat

As I type this, Today on Radio 4 are effectively using the latest NME sales figures as a chance to have run a eulogy.

And the figures are grim - down below 20,000 for the first time; it's a point where received wisdom in publishing suggest there's no hope for a title.

I suspect this won't come as a surprise to the title - the last few weeks had seen a return to the front page of John Lennon, and nothing says panic like slapping The Beatles on the cover.

It's a pity, though, as particularly since the last relaunch the magazine has been better than its been for years - intelligent features, often about surprising subjects, sparky writing. There's still a tendency to do long, pointless lists (how do determine with single X is the 435th or 436th best single ever?) and the covers don't always reflect how much thought is going into the magazine these days.

And maybe that's the trouble - there's a treble problem; having spent so long doing little more than applaud every bon mot of the Gallaghers, there's an alienated audience who might be impossible to win back; the new readers who might have replaced the natural wastage a music title experiences as fans move on need persuading to buy a print publication at all; and the Ozzy Osbourne splashes aren't really helping convince browsers that this is still a magazine that has its ear near the beating heart of music.

With the parent company going through a painful period of restructuring, and such a long history of decline to turn around, the brittle truth is that it might now be too late for simply being better to salvage a print edition.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Jordan Catalano as Ringo Starr

Apparently Liam Gallagher is still grimly pressing on with his joyless Beatle film project and, oh, is he setting his sights high:

Gallagher is preparing to hold castings in Los Angeles in April (14), and Leto, as well as Before Midnight's Ethan Hawke, are on the shortlist to star in the movie, according to the U.K.'s The Sun newspaper.

An insider tells the publication, "He knows he's not going to manage to entice someone like Brad Pitt but he wants high-calibre people who are more on the indie scene of Hollywood. He thinks actors such as Jared and Ethan would be perfect."
Bless him. "I might not quite get Brad Pitt, but hey, Jared Leto is probably sitting around waiting for the chance to get a meaty role."

Shane Ritchie and the bloke who played Fred Elliott are holding slots in their diaries, Liam.

Beibs don't reign in Indianapolis

Indianapolis International Airport set out to get some lovely artwork for one of the concourses. "I know" they thought, "let's get one of those hippity-hoppity grafitti artists to do some - uh - 'dope' artwork. That'd be modern."

Tre Reising didn't quite give them what they were expecting:

An airport spokesman tells WISH-TV that managers expected a display about hip hop and art. Instead, Reising made multicolor letters of the word "belieber" that the singer uses as a social media tagline.
The airport have paid Tre off and decided not to do this. For Reising's part, he made the fatal mistake of doing something that he thought would be "fun" for people.

Nuevatrovaobit: Santiago Feliu

Santiago Feliu, the Cuban Nueva Trova singer songwriter, has died.

Feliu started playing the guitar at the age of five. As a small child, he held the guitar the "wrong" way round; the stance worked for him and he stuck with it all his life.

At a gig last year, Feliu decided he'd not done his best on some of the songs, and opted to have a second go. He was concerned, though, that not all the audience would view this as a bonus, as On Cuba reported:

He admits he did not like the way in which some of them were played, even though we all have been especially pleased. “You can stay in the room, or leave if you wish,” he says to the audience, his audience that has been faithful after decades, and knows him and loves him as he is. His public stays and accompanies him in this act of precious reparation, almost contradictory when they have already forgiven him when, with sympathetic laughter, made ​​an inexplicable pause in the midst of a song and meticulously lit a cigarette, before saying: “I swear I do not remember what the fuck follows now.”
Feliu once described his aim as trying to find the best balance between music and poetry - which is something of a surprisingly rare aim in some musicians.

If you've a bit of time to spend, here's a 2013 show at the Universidad de Madres de Plaza de Mayo:

Santiago Feliu was 51; the immediate cause of his death is being reported as a massive heart attack.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Won't someone please think of George Michael?

Hundreds of homes. Thousands of people. Numerous businesses. Wildlife across the country.

All these have been affected by flooding, but the wet winter has just got serious.

It's targeting George Michael:

Now, the rising River Thames has almost destroyed the country manor of pop star George Michael.

Floodwater can be seen surrounding the detached property - lapping against its front door and garden wall.

However, it is yet to flow over the wall surrounding the manor in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire - with sandbags also positioned outside the property.

Today, a woman - believed to be one of George's sisters - could be seen standing at one of the manor's windows.
Yes, well done, the Daily Mail - the nation is disappearing under water, but it's still sending out people to peek through celebrity windows. That's the plucky Brit spirit, carrying on being arseholes in the face of adversity, right there.

A UKIP spokesman - obviously a spokesman - nodded sagely and said "well, he's one of them, isn't he? It's obvious that his property would flood. It's in the Bible."

Harry Styles as Lennon, with Lennon as Jesus

If you're ever in need of a working example of "the second time as farce", you can now reach for the outrage that has greeted Harry Styles turning up in America and saying One Direction are, right now, bigger than The Beatles.

A spokesperson for Jesus giggled and said "now Lennon knows how Jesus felt when he was throwing round the comparisons in our direction. Stings, doesn't it, John?"

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hanna movie gets UK distribution

The Punk Singer, the movie about Kathleen Hanna, is getting a proper UK distribution.

Dogwoof have picked up UK rights:

"We’re very much looking forward to releasing The Punk Singer alongside Kathleen Hanna’s return to the U.K. with the Julie Ruin tour in late May – the film’s documenting of this remarkable woman and the Riot Grrrl scene will no doubt go on to inspire a whole new audience in addition to the existing fanbase,” said [head of distribution Oli] Harbottle.
I suspect that unless there's also a 3D version you might still have to travel a little further than the nearest multiplex to see it, but good news for people who have the sort of cinemas which would show this sort of film.

Shirley Collins: I think you safely can call this a comeback

Shirley Collins hasn't played live for 35 years - she's suffered from dysphonia, which effectively scuppered her folk career.

Hadn't played live, that should read. On Saturday night, she returned as an unbilled support at Current 93's date at Union Chapel. Attn Magazine was there:

“I don’t think I would have done this for anyone else but David Tibet,” she announces to a stunned applause, before quietly slipping into a rich, earthly rendition of “All The Pretty Little Horses”. Her voice swoops at the commencement of each line, channelling the sound of age into a sort of momentum; gorgeous vocal curvatures both smoothed and textured like pebble edges, wearing her years of existence like a cloak that trails and dances behind every lyric.
It later transpires that David Tibet has been trying to encourage her to perform again since he met her back in 1994, and as he stumbles over words in an attempt to express his gratitude for her appearance, the magnitude of the occasion becomes clear.
There's something magnificent about a gig review which can make you well up, isn't there?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Spotify invent new 'bloke talking about music' format

Spotify - which, conventional wisdom insists, is a success because it allows you to listen to music in a radio-style without someone waffling on in-between.

Oddly, though, they're now introducing "talking playlists" - Billy Bragg is leading the way - which adds someone waffling on in-between the songs.

Coming in 2015: Spotify launch live talking playlists in the morning, which also include travel news.

Prince: The returns

2007: Prince does a large scale comeback, distributing a new album for free with the Mail On Sunday. Everyone's invited.

Result: Little interest.

2014: Prince does a small scale comeback, playing tiny gigs in London at which a surprisingly high proportion of attendees work in the media.

Result: Front pages held, features on Today, mass acclaim, etc.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

This week just gone

The most-read stories from February 2009 (now, officially, five years ago):

1. RIP ELO's Kelly Groucutt
2. Former INXS lead singer apparenrly sleeping in a car
3. Videos: Joan As Policewoman weekend
4. Liveblog: Morrissey on The One Show
5. Liveblog: Brits 2009 (The year of Horne And Corden and Duffy)
6. RIP: The Primitive's Steve Dullaghan
7. Grammys 2009
8. RIP: Buffalo Springfield's Dewey Martin
9. RIP: Radio City's Phil Easton
10. On oath, IFPI chief insists that every single file downloaded for free would have otherwise been purchased

This week, these were added to the piles of things for sale:

The Len Price 3 - Nobody Knows

Download Nobody Knows

Maximo Park - Too Much Information

Download Too Much Information

Suzanne Vega - Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of The Pentacles

Download Tales From The Realm...

Broken Bells - After The Disco

Download After The Disco

Ø - Konstellaatio

Download Konstellaatio