Saturday, June 28, 2014

Soulobit: Bobby Womack

The link to the New York Times story about the death of Bobby Womack didn't work, so I was hoping it was just an internet rumour.

But it turned out my wifi had just seized up, and Bobby Womack is, indeed, dead.

As great a songwriter as he was a performer, he wasn't always the best strategist:

His friend Sam Cooke persuaded him to let the Rolling Stones record It's All Over Now.

"He said, 'One day you'll be part of history, this group is gonna be huge,'" Womack told BBC Newsnight in 2012.

"I said, 'Why don't they get their own songs?'"
He spent a long time not making music, too, because of the drugs; it was Damon Albarn who brought him back to the mainstream when he persuaded him to take part in the Gorillaz project.

Bobby Womack was 70; he'd been diagnosed with cancer and Alzheimer's Disease as well as the after effects of years of drug abuse but no cause of death has been made public.

Glastonbury 2014: Meanwhile...

Downloadable: Kill Rock Stars

Twenty-one tracks of delights from across the Kill Rock Stars roster: You don't even have to pay, but you could chip in a bit, yeah?

Included is Free Kitten, Emily's Sassy Lime, Bratmobile and... well, 18 other great bands.

Glastonbury 2014: View from the sofa

"We're not going to go on about it" reassure Mark Radcliffe and Jo Whiley, leading off the late night live chunk of Glastonbury coverage on BBC Two.

But they do, of course.

And then when they hand over to Lauren Laverne in another part of the field, she can't help but talk about it, too.

And why wouldn't they? This year, clearly, isn't the Glastonbury of Metallica; it's the Glastonbury where the lights went out.

Trouble is, although Lauren had rather a good anecdote - about being chided for asking the bear-slaughterers if they'd bought the heavy metal thunder with them - the stuff that was most interesting about the power outage wasn't touched on.

(Incidentally, it wouldn't be Metallica's heavy metal thunder; Dolly Parton has brought a rainbow with her, and we all know what you have to endure to get one of those working.)

Normally, the BBC's Glastonbury coverage is padded with films of people who've paid silly money for tickets doing really dull things - giving us a taste of the "festival experience". This year, when it'd actually be really interesting to know what it was like to be in a city of tens of thousands of people when the electricity stopped being in the wires and was just in the sky - nothing.

Apart from Mark Radcliffe saying something about communal singing in a tattoo tent, there was no answer to the question 'what was it like on the site?'

Instead, the crisis was reduced to a short snatch of footage of Rudimental walking off the stage.

The big disappointment this year is the red button coverage - clearly all the love has been poured into the website. Three channels of music, more or less lobbed on screen; with whatever happens to be on TV given (it appears) a free pass.

So, at one point, you could have watched Elbow on BBC Three, or something else on BBC Two. If those options didn't delight you, you could press red to get three more bands - except one was Elbow and one was BBC Two.

What's the point of pushing the stream that's already on TV through the red button service?

And doing it so badly - for a good ten minutes, the "BBC Two" Glastonbury feed was so locked in to simulcasting BBC Two that it pushed out a great chunk of Newsnight. (If Jean-Claude Juncker was actually being inducted in the cabaret tent, my apologies to the red button team.)

I suppose it's fair to say that it's more surprising that there's a red button at all - with SmartTVs and Chromecasts and whatnot, it's easier than ever to get the rather good experience onto your TV.

(Slight grumble here - the Glastonbury content from iPlayer doesn't show up on the iPhone version of iPlayer, which makes it harder to enjoy on a TV. I know this is a bit like complaining that the handle on the cup the ambrosia comes in is a little fiddly to hold, but... worth mentioning.)

So, what of the bands themselves?

Arcade Fire, it's clear, have edged ever closer to vanishing over the Bono Horizon.

I know, I know...

... how can I possibly think that?
You know when the fireworks (literal fireworks) are at the start, not the end, of the set, that you're watching a band who are overdoing the spectacle.

Men made out of mirrors; the bobbleheads; two-faced skeletons (one of whom, distractingly, had a brand name of a morphsuit maker on his ass); a stage full of around thirty people at one; racoon make-up; pyrotechnics... it's just so fucking tiring to watch, and it's dressing up music that doesn't really need all this extra packing. You've written songs that are packed full of strong, striking images - why are you hiding them in the worst circus ever?

Elsewhere, Blondie were a little ragged around the edges - doing the high bit from Rapture would be difficult under normal circumstances, but Harry just-about nailed it on a stage, early in the day, outdoors. And the cover of (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) was a delight - especially watching the ripple of 'oh! this is what this is!' run through the crowd at different speeds.

Sidenote: After last year's fuss about whether jokes about the Rolling Stones being old were okay, it's worth mentioning that Debbie Harry is 69 on Tuesday. But people don't obsess over it because jokes about Blondie being old were never a thing.

Also because she'd kick your butt.

Chvrches were great; and Drenge are still on course to become Mudhoney by the end of next year.

Big Day Off

There's no question about what the big festival story was yesterday - no, not the lights going out in Glastonbury; it was Lollapalooza owner C3 Presents buying out Australia's Big Day Out festival, and promptly shutting it down for 2015.

This year's festival apparently lost AUD15million, which is why BDO's AJ Maddah was happy to sell his stake to C3 for a single dollar.

The plan, apparently, is to take 2015 off to "restructure" the event (presumably by trying to plug the massive hole down which the money flows) and return in 2016.

Actually, they don't say 2016 specifically, C3 just say "in future years".

Friday, June 27, 2014

Concert evacuated after Lil' Boosie fails to think things through

You know what? If you're playing a town where there was recently a high-profile shooting incident at a gig, you might want to think twice before using gunfire sound effects.

Lil Boosie didn't think twice, and ended up causing a problem. 9News:

The artist Lil' Boosie was performing at the National Western Complex Thursday as part of his Touchdown to Cause Hell Tour.

Denver police say during his first song, people heard gunshots. The sounds forced the large crowd to quickly clear the venue.

It turns out, the gunshots were only sound effects that were part of Lil' Boosie's performance.
It's possible, I guess, that the audience were just looking for an excuse to leave the venue as quickly as possibly.

Lady GaGa: The famous monster

Perez Hilton still banging on about how Lady GaGa started to be mean to him:

Hilton went on to say that he believed Gaga was "just using him" during their friendship.

"I think it was fame that just poisoned her. She had an album Fame Monster, her second album, and she became consumed by that which she was fascinated about. You know, fame can be a very deadly drug and it has damaged her personally.

"I think she has unfortunately become a victim of this character she created. Instead of being an artist she became this freak and this cartoon character and so unrelateable to people," he said.
Perez Hilton, of course, is a man who in no way would let a bit of fame for writing "OMG" in Microsoft Paint on photos of Nicole Richie go to his head for about a decade. Just so we're clear.

Metallica will apparently end at some point

The good news is that Kirk Hammett thinks that Metallica can only go on so long.

The bad news?

The 51-year-old guitarist hopes the band can work out a plan which means they can play for the next 20 years but he's not very hopeful.

He said: ''I personally think we have another 10. Maybe that's one album, maybe that's two albums, I don't know.''
There's a potential break point in 2024, but there's a danger they'll still be dragging themselves round, slaughtering wildlife and moaning about technology until 2034. That means they'll be hanging around for as long as Switzerland's nuclear power stations. Scientists say it's too close to call which institution will create the most toxic crap in that time.

What has led the band to realise that tempus fugit?

Watching the Stones, apparently:
Kirk said: ''I saw the Stones last year in San Francisco and I thought they played fucking great, and for a bunch of guys who are 70-plus, it was a pretty amazing feat.
Hang about, Kirk - although there's an element of backhandness to that 'brilliant for old guys', you might want to really hammer it home:
''I don't know if we can do what we do when we're in our 70s, because playing one of our songs is equal to playing eight Stones songs in terms of physical energy and intensity.'
Yeah, they're brilliant for old guys playing songs that are only 12.5% of a Metallica song. That's nailed it.

One out of Friends is engaged to one out of Snow Patrol

Even if it was Matthew Perry, it'd still be a dull story. It's Courtney Cox and Johnny McDaid.

Friends continues to be repeated every fourteen seconds on Comedy Central, and Snow Patrol songs seem to be persistent as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

T in the Park seeks new park

Turns out that going to T in The Park has been a bit more dangerous than you might have thought. There's an oil pipeline running under the current site, and that's been worrying people to the point where, from next year, the festival is going to a new venue.

Apparently this venue is being kept a top secret; it's likely this will be the second most popular focus of speculation at this year's festival. After "do you think our tent is right on top of the oil pipeline?"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Glastonbury 2014: Lily Allen's plus ones are better than yours

Now, that's a nice gesture: Lily Allen's given her free Glastonbury tickets to kids from her village instead of what she apparently describes as "my showbiz mates":

"I get a certain allocation, and because I am on the Pyramid main stage you get more. My husband has been in charge of ticket allocation. I have quite a lot of blaggy friends who hit me up for stuff all the time and never really appreciate it. I have all the calls, `Can we have some tickets?" Allen said.

"He has given them all to our villagers. There`s, like, 25 kids from Canham who have never been to Glastonbury and who are going to have such a shock, and all my showbiz mates are like, `Er?`" she added."
I'm not quite sure I'm buying the 'my showbiz mates' phrase, but "blaggy friends" sounds genuine enought.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Charts: Surely they've streaming already?

An announcement from the South Bank...
Just before we get to the announcement from the South Bank, what's with the Official Chart Company and the BPI having some of the most expensive office space in London, right down opposite Parliament? Given everything the BPI does is funded by its members, which means ultimately it is money that otherwise would have gone to musicians or songwriters, shouldn't it look to taking cheaper rooms? I suppose they'd argue that being in the old GLC buildings is great for access to the people who make law, but is that true? Do they communicate by semaphore from across the Thames? Or just nip out and hang around outside the Tesco Express hoping to bump into Michael Fabricant? Because they could do that with an office in Uxbridge and an Oyster Card.
The Official Chart Company has announced that streaming will be added to the toxic brew ("mix") which makes up the charts:

Official Charts Company boss Martin Talbot told BBC News that the changes are "about future-proofing the charts".

"So far this year we've seen nine tracks which have been streamed more than one million times in a week," Talbot explained. "Last year there were only two tracks that had reached that kind of level."

Bastille's 'Pompeii' is the most-streamed track of all time in the UK so far with 26.6 million steams to date but only made number two in the singles chart based on sales alone.
Bastille were given the announcement to make:

On one hand, this makes sense, and it's surprising that it hasn't happened before - like, eighteen months ago, probably.

On the other... this is a bit problematic. The Billboard charts always included radio play alongside sales, on the basis that that was a measure of popularity. The UK charts never did, for the two strong reasons.

One, that just because something is being listened to on the radio doesn't mean it's being enjoyed (look how long DLT broadcasted for).

Two, that radio play is a lot more nebulous than sales. How do you weight a play on Little Rissington FM against someone paying 79p to buy a track? Can you be sure all those plays for that local band on Froome Sound are because the band is popular, and not because the station manager's daughter is the bassist?

So, sesnsibly, the charts focused on a slightly more trustworthy measure of popularity - a financial transaction.

Obviously, this was, and is, still open to gaming - managers filling the trunks of their cars with godawful CDs by their terrible bands, purchased to give them a boost; slipping singles into different sleeves. But it was a least bad situation.

The problems with radio play are multiplied by streaming. How many 'listens' indicate an enthusiasm that equals someone willing to shovel over some money over to own that track?

Maybe the falling price of a single has made this argument less compelling, but even so - does 'I keep hearing about this Kasabian all over the place, I wonder she's like, I'll go to Spotify and play her song OH MY GOD THIS IS AWFUL are they all this bad? I'll try another OH MY GOD THIS IS WORSE' really have the same weight as someone who thinks 'I love Lana Del Ray, I've already bought the CD single but simply can't wait for it to be delivered so I'll get the download too'?

And if you accept that a single Spotify play can't equal a purchase, you suddenly find yourself having to create an exchange rate. And once you do that, your chart becomes opinion-based, not fact-based.

There is such an exchange rate:
To reflect the difference in weight between streaming and purchasing, 100 streams will count as equivalent to 1 single (download or physical single) in the chart compilation process.
Oddly, the amount of cash earned by a musician for their track being streamed on Spotify isn't 1% of the amount they get, so you have to wonder about the 'science' behind this particular ratio.

And that's before you ask the question about how you can be certain there are ears listening to the stream, rather than just a handy-dandy little script or two deployed across a number of computers?