Saturday, August 02, 2014

DJobit: Mike Smith

Mike Smith - who died yesterday - was the Radio One breakfast DJ at the point where I stopped listening to the Radio One breakfast show.

It wasn't because of him - in fact, his reworking of the programme with a soft-but-still-noticeable news agenda was rather well done and arguably lives on in Five Live. It was just reaching that point where you find Today a bit more compelling. (And then, during its glorious reign, Danny Baker's Morning Edition; and then Today again.)

You wouldn't say he was the most exciting of broadcasters, but his hands were definitely safe. (And, knowing what we know now, who could blame Radio One management for wanting someone a little more trustworthy?)

A series of solid performances - across CBTV, Radio One, Breakfast Time, sidekicking for Noel Edmonds and straight-facedly spooking the nation on Ghostwatch - before deciding he'd had enough of being on the presenter side and took to doing aerial photography work instead. For a full, generous overview of his work, you could do worse than dip into TV Cream's appreciation of Mike Smith from a couple of weeks back.

Mike Smith was 59; he died following complications after heart surgery.

Jarvis Cocker: Made of cake

Sheffield pop star Jarvis becomes one of the cake people
Sorry... what did you just say, Sheffield Star?
Bespectacled Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, along with Louis Tomlinson from One Direction, have both had their likenesses moulded out of cake, complete with edible painted icing.
This is to celebrate Yorkshire Day. And to be fair, the one on the right is meant to be Judi Dench and not Louis Tomlinson.

Ne-Yo has lost some money

Ne-Yo apparently had millions of dollars snaffled from him by his manager, according to a lawsuit he's just filed.

What's surprising is that the manager - Kevin Foster - appears, based on these figures, to have allegedly embezzled littleless than he was paid:

The lawsuit says Foster moved some of Ne-Yo's money without permission. It also alleges that Foster faked Ne-Yo's name on loan documents and invested Ne-Yo's money in a water company that was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

The lawsuit seeks $4.5 million plus $3.5 million in fees that Ne-Yo, 34, says he paid Foster.
Ne-Yo, if someone is charging you millions and millions in fees, while also finding time to run a leaky water company, you're being ripped off, even if you're not being ripped off.

Katona cancels; loses battle

Tonight, there was meant to be an 80s v 90s face-off in Blackpool, but Kerry Katona has pulled out after realising she couldn't remember the words to the Iceland commercials ("after an incident-packed week at home").

This means the 1980s wins by a walkover. The 80s were pleased, telling local reporters that they felt honour was restored "after what Atomic Kitten did to The Tide Is High". The decade will now go on to face down One Direction, with a special focus on One Way or Another.

Friday, August 01, 2014

I do not recognise this song. Please turn it off.

There was an interesting piece in yesterday's G2 about how the Co-op tried playing unsigned music in its stores, and lasted 24 hours before bailing:

The supermarket was piloting a new system to “help emerging artists promote and monetise their music” by playing only unsigned acts from licensing company Emerge on Co-operative Radio (the fact that it is about 50% cheaper to profile unsigned artists than mainstream ones may have been an incentive, too). Unfortunately staff weren’t thrilled about the chance to explore new music at work. One angry Facebook campaign later, and the supermarket chain returned to playing its regular, pricier chart music.
You've got to feel for the Co-Op. They really can't catch a break at the moment. When they're not putting a drug-quaffing amateur in charge of the bank, they're facing Facebook backlashes for promoting unknown singer-songwriters over the baked beans.

Although, it turns out, we might have to take the side of outraged customers here. The Guardian's Harriet Gibsone visited Sports Direct - where Emerge are still in charge of the music - to find out what the experience was like.
A few minutes into one particularly epic track – think the Killers fronted by X Factor’s Jamie Afro – I sidle up to an unsuspecting member of staff to ask who is playing.
I'm thinking of an act like that, and it is making me feel so queasy I'm starting to wish I had the need of anything Sports Direct sells just so in order I could buy it elsewhere in protest.

But this is unfair. That's just one song, one act. What, Harriet, beside Killerkaraoke, did you hear?
one breezy little song by a band I’m touting as the German Sugar Ray
I see.
Midway through a song by a group I’m calling “Nickelback for the Tinder generation”
Swipe. Swipe, dammit. SWIPE.
a pop track by a guy I’ll call Darius 2.0
Oh, the humanity. It seems the good shoppers of the Co-Op have been unfairly traduced. They weren't music haters, reacting violently at the opportunity to hear something new. They were music lovers, trying to save themselves from a service which appears to be dedicated to uncovering artists who are clearly unsigned for a bloody good reason.

Vince Power: Hop Farm Fest relied on hope

You'll recall Vince Power, regarded as one of the most competent music festival impresarios despite the odd problem here and there, and despite the Phoenix Festival. Oh, and having to pull Hop Farm Fest last year. And those years when Leeds ended in fire.

Still, he's been running festivals for years, so at least he knows what he's doing, right?

What's that, Kent Messenger?

The founder of the Hop Farm Music Festival has been banned from playing music in public after it was revealed events were hosted without a licence.
That's quite a big oversight. Especially for someone who has been running festivals back when it was possible to do one without a sodding ferris wheel and silent disco.

But just an oversight, yes? Embarrassing but maybe an envelope unposted?
However, at the court it was claimed Power infringed copyright at The Hop Farm Festival at the events in 2009
Well, that was the second year. Maybe the assumption was that last year's licence was still valid?
Okay. Two small oversights.
and 2012.
Well, that looks a bit systemic. You kind-of hope that Power had actually gone to all the trouble of getting a licence last year, and it turned out to be such a complex process he had no time to do anything else.

Still, I'm sure that Power was able to clear up why he ran a festival for four years without a licence for playing music. Right?
PRS claimed that Power was the “guiding will and mind” of the companies and authorised or directed the alleged acts of infringement.

But when they took legal moves against him he failed to file a defence to the action with the result that PRS was this week given judgment against him by Mr Justice Birss at London’s High Court.
There's a secondary question here: if a barber shop in Golders Green switches on the radio without a PRS licence, they're being swarmed over by the royalties company in seconds. How the hell did a festival run by a large company manage to get away without having a PRS licence for so long?

[Thanks to @RichardButton04 for the tip]

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rajars: two key moments

Two key things from the latest round of Rajar audience figures.

First, Chris Evans is now pulling the largest-ever radio audience (this century, at least), with 9.91 million. (This isn't at the expense of Grimshaw, either, as the Radio 1 breakfast show has started to grow an audience, too).

Second: 6Music now has more listeners than Radio 3. Not bad for a network that was supposed to be nothing more than a trivia question by now.

N'Sync: The last to know

Were you surprised at the recent release of the two-disc Essential N'Sync collection?

You weren't the only one:

Sony released the two-disc album on Tuesday, July 29. Member Lance Bass, however, tweeted his frustration at the label for not informing him and his bandmates.

Bass wrote: "I love when the record label doesn't even tell you they are releasing a new 'NSYNC album tomorrow !"

"Guess the label didn't expect all our amazing fans to still be there for us," he added later on.
I'm not quite sure how Bass thinks that would work - presumably Sony thinks there's still a bunch of middle-aged people desperate to cling to their youth by repurchasing tracks they have already got at least twice already ("still a massive fanbase") otherwise they wouldn't have released the record at all.

What the pop papers say: The Stinger

It's not often these days you get the chance to write about a successful music magazine; it's even rarer you hear of one which is a print magazine. Which makes the success of The Stinger even more something to celebrate.

It's a free publication which serves Hastings and what appears to now be known as "the 1066 area". (The implication that nothing much has happened in the area in the last thousand years or so might seem unfair, unless you've ever been to Battle.)

It looks gorgeous, and is just coming up to its third edition. It works because it treats music as a perpetual timeline and runs history alongside the contemporary. Kind of the thing NME has spent the last five years trying to fumble its way towards, but without the horrible whirring of gears. Perhaps living in an area where the main attraction is a military defeat a millennium ago makes you better at absorbing the past and using it to drive the present. Or perhaps the team is just more confident at explaining why music moves them.

Either way: a great read. Let's hope their reign is as long and solid as that of our Norman overlords.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Google News giggles at Gaga's jazz direction

Of course, it's just an algorithm pulling an unrelated image from a nearby article, but...

It does look like Google is suggesting GaGa's jazz collaborations are most likely going to end up with the off-brand breakfast cereals and wonky-faced dolls on the shelves of US discount stores.

Michelle Shocked attends to new dog audience

Last time we heard from Michelle Shocked, she was trying to explain her disappointing-cum-heartbreaking anti-gay ranting as some sort of play acting.

She's back, though, and going after a softer target - digital music executives. And she's, erm, using the medium of songs only dogs can hear (a step forward from stage shows only Republicans can stomach, I suppose):

She recently released a silent album on called “Inaudible Women,” containing 11 brief “songs” named after big-shots in the music industry. With titles like “David Drummond (Google, Youtube),” “Robert Walls (Clear Channel),” and “Chris Harrison (Pandora),” she’s calling out people who run the digital streaming world.
Or possibly acting the part of someone who calls out the people who run the digital streaming world.

Dygeddit? It's not a silent album, because that would be bad and break the rules; it's an album with music on, but music that only dogs can hear.

A spokesperson for some dogs issued a statement, saying that while they enjoyed her early work they're more excited for the La Roux album right now.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Charli XCX: Apparently PopCrush is easily surprised

A rustling in the bushes, and Popcrush is at our window, panting wildly:

Charli XCX Shares Surprising Remarks on Music Industry
Surprising remarks? She's not suggesting that the remaining major labels merge, stop making music and start raising chooks and herbs instead, is she?

What did she say that was so surprising, Popcrush?
Her next album is due out later this year, and armed with her new LP, Charli says she wants to “f— up the music industry, not make it a prettier place.”
Oh. That's not actually especially surprising, is it? That seems to be exactly the sort of thing that Charli XCX has been saying since she first started releasing music. It's a bit like hearing Ed Miliband say he intends to win the next election and finding that a surprise.

Still, surprised Popcrush is, and it needs to reassure its apparently hugely conservative readership:
But don’t let her tough words fool you — her sound is still pure pop.
Phew. That's alright then. I was worried her attempt to work around the structure of the multinational music industry would only be possible by making free jazz.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Aretha Franklin: Burger queen

Aretha Franklin ordered takeout from a Johnny Rockets. She then sat down to eat it inside the restaurant, whereupon a staff member tried to explain the concept of takeaway.

Now, obviously, it's Aretha Franklin, but that didn't buy her any favours:

The spokesman says Franklin ordered a hamburger after performing a sold-out show. But he says the server screamed at Franklin, saying she couldn't sit down to eat because she ordered takeout.

Franklin says in a statement that the worker was "very rude, unprofessional and nasty."
Of course, releasing a statement about getting some subpar service in a minimum-wage establishment is in no way rude, unprofessional or nasty.

But Rockets, naturally, has caved and has kicked its own staff:
A Johnny Rockets spokeswoman says the franchise owner is sorry for the actions of "a new and very young employee."

She says the owner has spoken with the employee and has clarified his takeout policies.
The clarification is "don't pick a fight with someone who looks like they might have their own PR team and nothing much to promote right now."

Nivea: 'I was seen as unfuckable, and therefore unsellable'

Remember Nivea? No, not the lotion, the singer.

At the start of the century, she was doing quite well, but around 2005, Jive Records suddenly stopped promoting her second album, Complicated; since then, she's seemed to spend a lot of time working on projects which didn't seem to go anywhere.

What happened? Nivea has a theory:

“At the time I wasn’t receiving a lot of support,” expressed the Atlanta native. “I had management issues and imaging issues. I was being labeled ‘unf*ckable’ to male fans because the industry wants female artist to be attractive because sex sells. They said, ‘you are getting booed up, wifed, and trying to have a baby. You are unf*ckable to us.’ Jive Records, the industry itself and all of the games you have to play, and the fake persona you have to maintain is overwhelming.”
Of course, it's not impossible to be, erm, "wifed" and still have a successful career - but you do have to be Beyonce first.

What's especially depressing is that even within its own shabby logic, the music industry makes no sense. Because if you're saying 'basically, we're only making records so we can film videos for people to wank to', what sort of people do you think make up that target market? They'll be sat at home, sports sock at the ready, just about to get going but thinking "you know what, I'd better just check Wikipedia to make sure the person I'm just about to dehumanise doesn't have a home life"? The music industry doesn't understand music fans; it doesn't really seem to understand solitary masturbators either.

What's wrong with the entertainment industry? Don't they understand how fantasy works? "Yeah, sorry, you'd have been perfect for the role of Superman but now the Mail Online has these pictures of you taking a bus, the audience will KNOW you don't fly everywhere."

But this is discovering someone has dug a cesspit in your living room and worrying about the quality of the spadework. The most depressing thing is it's not even surprising hearing that the 21st Century music industry still has the values that made post-war Hollywood such a wonderful place for a young woman to be.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Folding magazines: Bop

Bop - which has provided American youngsters with permatanned-and-white-toothed pin ups since 1983 - has been closed by its publisher:

Sister title Tiger Beat remains, but probably on borrowed time.

Bookmarks: REM

If you have 20 minutes to spare, discover why REM's Out Of Time turned wasteful CD packaging into a solid piece of legislation. And what happened to the Longbox format. Pitch, the music podcast, explains all

Promoterobit: Jon Fat Beast

Last night, noticing it was the 25th anniversary of the the Venue, I was thinking about there was the only place I ever saw Jon Fat Beast doing his warm-up act (for The Family Cat), and was wondering what he was doing these days.

Woke up to this, this morning:

Although most famous as the shouty, shirtless, sweaty bloke who'd come on stage just before Carter USM, Beast's real contribution to music was the work he did as promoter - through The Timebox, and (at first) The Bull & Gate.

If we live in an age now of landfill indie, Beast's model was - as he cheerfully acknowledged in an interview with Plunder The Tombs - more pile 'em high; sell 'em cheap:
I would get sent over 300 demos a week at its peak.
We were very cheap/free entry and made our money selling hundreds of sweary tee shirts I designed
It'd be difficult to come up with a list of bands from the era who played their first (or sometimes last) London date thanks to the support of JFB, but if you write down a list of bands from the era, you wouldn't be far wrong.

And - again from that Plunder The Tombs interview - he upset the right people:
I used to call Simon Cowell a cunt twice a week, he was at Phonogram as an A and R man.
No further details about his death at this point. But the music world has lost a legend - even if the focus of the legend probably looks at the wrong part of his work.

This week just gone

The most popular July stories:

1. Harry Styles likes porn
2. Nicky Wire meets John Major
3. Lloyd Cole withdraws from Spotify
4. Tax asshole Gary Barlow to launch invesigation into how he came to be a tax asshole
5. James Arthur feels Glastonbury was missing James Arthur
6. VH1 organises a chance to kick Robin Thicke
7. Why it's worse when it's the Arctic Monkeys than it is when Gary Barlow
8. Downloadable: Hannah Peel
9. RIP: Tommy Ramone
10. Jack White sounds a bit creepy out-of-context

These were this week's interesting releases:

La Roux - Trouble In Paradise

Download Trouble In Paradise

King Creosote - From Scotland With Love

Download From Scotland With Love

Raveonettes - Pe'ahi

Woman's Hour - Conversations

Download Conversations

Sparks - Left Coast Angst

Download Left Coast Angst