Saturday, September 15, 2007

Canadian music industry doesn't want iPod levy

For years now, if you buy blank media in Canada, part of the price has gone to the local music industry to make up for the "losses" home taping and CD burning have caused it. Some well-meaning Canadians have started moving plans that will extend this levy to mp3 players and the like.

The Canadian Music Industry is rushing to try and stop this happening.

Yes, you heard: to stop it. As they've realised that it would effectively mean peer to peer fiel sharing in Canada would be perfectly legal, even for copyrighted material.

It's caused something of a split between the board which oversees the levy, the Canadian Private Copying Collective - which wants the lucrative "iPod tax", as there's not much future for it in levying blank tapes and CD-Rs - and the CRIA. A knock-on effect is the bringing into the open of a disjunction between the artists who have been recompensed under the exisiting scheme, and those who have had their work copied. In other words: Canadian artists have been getting an unfair slice of the levy pie all these years.

Cushioned excitement

Silverchair have returned to the studio, with the intention of breaking a record for the most Australian number one albums, although NME reports the record is currently shared between Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel - so, surely, the best Silverchair could be doing is trying to equal the record rather than break it?

Still, it sounds, uh, thrilling:

[W]hen recording the new album songwriter Daniel Johns reportedly wrote "more than 20 songs" about insomnia.

Then he decided to try Horlicks, which worked.

Taping Travis

Fran Healy is, refreshingly, taking an anti-Prince stance, happily ensdorsing fans who tape their stuff when they play live:

“From a purely selfish view it helps me. I can go onto the internet and check out a song - at any given time you have 100 amateur cameramen taking a picture of your show from a variety of angles.

"It's a great way of finding out what works and what doesn't. The quality may not be great, but you get the vibe."

Of course, this means we're heading towards an internet in the future which has everything Travis has ever done, and nothing Prince has ever done. Is that what anyone wants?

Hard for me to say I'm sorry

Having almost destroyed herself on a major awards show televised live, coast-to-coast, can Britney Spears really be considering trying to regain the advantage by, erm, going on another live, coast-to-coast awards show?

The idea, apparently, would be that Britney would say "sorry" (To whom? For what?) on the Emmys. It all sounds a little unlikely - her people could barely manage to get her to go and open and close her mouth in time to a backing tape last week; are they really able to deliver a coherent live apology this weekend?

Libertines unbound is giving away a free chapter from Anthony Thornton's excellent Libertines Bound Together biography. You have to download it off the NME site, though, you can't just go into Waterstones with a Stanley knife and chop out the chapter.

Mindy McCready is off the streets

Mindy McCready has been sentenced for her probation violations - a hefty year in jail. We're not quite sure if this would have been the outcome she was hoping for when she pleaded for leniency:

"Your honour, I can honestly tell you this - this has been the longest two months of my life... not being able to hold my son... has been excruciatingly painful," she said.

"I could only say I'm sorry. Please give me a chance to make things as right as they can possibly be."

First, though, the judge decided to give her the chance to have a go on the big clothes press in the laundry.

Radio One More Time: Those who also entertained

Radio One has had, in its time, some unusual choices presenting programmes. Some were surprising and right, some surprising and wrong. Some were Kelly Osbourne.

Mark Ellen used to present occasionally, sitting in for Annie Nightingale, heralding his appearance with rhyming trailers. This was a good thing.

Emma Freud, for some reason, was in charge of the lunchtime programme for a ridiculously long time. We have a soft spot for Emma, but the one thing that spot is not is a two and half hour spot on a pop radio network.

Muriel Gray did a few swing shifts for Janice Long; we quite liked her, but Radio One at the time had problems with women doing radio, never mind Scottish women.

Tom Watt also did Night-time a few times - now that he's doing lots of football programming, it's not so odd, but when he was still Lofty off EastEnders, it felt wrong having him turning up to play Housemartins sessions.

Lenny Henry was recruited for some weekend work - we imagine the thinking was "an anarchic force in the mould of the young Kenny Everett". He wasn't bad, but he didn't stick around overlong.

Jamie Theakston turned up at One FM as part of the ongoing attempt to turn TV stars into radio personalities - while it worked with Zoe Ball, and people seem to have accepted Vernon Kay, Sara Cox and Fearne Cotton despite shows which can be as cold as Gazpacho Soup outdoors in Iceland - he was one who didn't take.

An even stranger presence, though, was Greg Proops, who we seem to remember having a crack at being Mark Radcliffe for a week or two. It turned out he really was at his best when Clive Anderson could sound a buzzer to get him to move on.

Tom Robinson was another "in for Janice" choice; his style, and introduction of Then Jericho and "the devastatingly handsome Mark Shaw" was encouraging, but felt a little off-key for Radio One. Still, Tom only had to wait another fifteen years or so for someone to invent 6Music to give him a home.

[Part of Radio One More Time]

Bono helps the Africans

We're a little behind the loop on this one, but we've just seen a physical copy of the Bono-edited edition of Vanity Fair - you remember, with Madonna and George Bush and the like on the twenty "collectors" covers (encouraging you to buy the same fashion magazine 20 times; that'll raise spirits of people living on less than a dollar a day).

There, slipped inside, was a Jewellery supplement, advertising gold and diamonds and multinational couples dealing in precious metals and gems.

Pregnant query

Yesterday, we had Dannii Minogue bravely announcing that she has "nothing against pregnant women"; today, we have Victoria Newton applauding Christina Aguilera for coming out:

CHRISTINA AGUILERA flashed her preggers ’n’ proud look as she and husband JORDAN BRATMAN dined out at Toscana Italian restaurant in California.

(For anyone over the age of nine, we should point out that "preggers" in nursery-speak for "pregnant.")

Pregnant and proud? Since when did pregnancy become something to be ashamed of so much that it's required a Gravid Pride movement? Is that adopting from the developing world has become so commonplace in Hollywood that people who actually give birth to their own children are seen as being impoverished in some way?

[EDIT: It was Minogue and not Louis Walsh who apparently doesn't have anything against pregnant women]

Ricky Gervias and the first rule of comedy

Former new romantic popstar Ricky Gervais has been entertaining his famous chums again, reports The Sun:

PRINCES William and Harry sneaked into Ricky Gervais’ stand-up show — and roared with laughter at a joke about their gran WEEING.

Office star Gervais, 46, poked fun at the Queen’s toilet habits, despite knowing the two fun-loving royals were in the audience.

It's heartwarming to hear that Gervais' act has now caught up with that of younger comedians and, in particular, Ted Bovis' "famous people on the toilet routine" that always went down so well at Maplins.

"I'm full of contradictions - I'm a human": Ditto finds a get out

Beth Ditto's been sharing her poorly-thought-out politics with Radio One, but does at least seem to have realised that very little of what she says actually makes any sense. So, she's come up with a cover-all get-out:

I'm full of contradictions - I'm a human.

Well, yes. On the other hand, saying one thing and doing another could suggest another word beginning with 'h', too, couldn't it?

Beth starts by telling us how you wouldn't know how she suffers:
I think what makes me unhappy is how unhappy people are with me. If you're not big you really cannot possibly understand. You can be dead, you could be a drug addict as long as you're not fat. And I think that's so absurd.

If you are big you cannot possibly understand. Yeah, Martin Luther King, you think you're so hard done-by. Matthew Shepard? You had it easy; you don't know discrimination. Lots of people are bullied and picked on for different reasons, Beth, and to suggest that being bigger than other people is not only so much worse than any other bullying flashpoint is a little presumptive, and to claim that smaller people would be incapable of empathising with you is insulting.

Oh, and to suggest that the dead get treated better than the fat is insane - unless nightclubs in the US are markedly different to the UK, I've never heard of bouncers going down the queue picking out the corpses to let them in ahead of everyone else, for example.

The trouble is, of course, that at heart Ditto has an important point - society does treat people of all non-standard body types pretty badly; the constant stream of government reports and Tonight With Trevor McDonalds that focus on obesity, as if it must be a character fault rather than a blanket term covering a range of causes and lifestyles. Ditto could be a powerful voice calling down this - instead, we get "the dead get a better deal".
When I was a kid I had weird idols. I was really into Miss Piggy - she was extremely girly and extremely tough.

I feel like when I was a kid it was just so different. At least you had Cyndi Lauper who totally looked so weird and now it's so Hollywood Paris Hilton. It's a joke.

Beth has clearly been getting good feedback on the Miss Piggy anecdote, and will be using it for the foreseeable future. But was Piggy a great role model?

Yes, she was girly, and tough. On the other hand, she was vain, shallow and self-obsessed and in constant need of male approval to validate her. Added to that, her only response to people with a different point of view was to go "hiiiiii-yaaaa" and hit them, which hardly speaks of a great intellectual powerhouse.

And to suggest that back in the day "you had Cyndi Lauper but now it's Paris Hilton" is a bit of a stretch, too, as if the late 80s were some sort of feninist Eden from which we've fallen. Cyndi Lauper co-existed with Baywatch and, surely, Gwen Steffani isn't a million-miles away from Lauperesque "mainstream pop dressed up as slightly kooky" stylings?
We said no to Top Shop - it was really important for me not to take money that they offered, not to take the bait and be sure and strong in myself. But the thing is I'd still wear Top Shop. I'm full of contradictions - I'm a human.

Well, yes. And you're working with one of their designers, which suggests a little more than "contradiction".
It's so obvious but so deep about our culture, and what it says about women and their worth in the world.

To be a zero and like, that is your ultimate goal - not to be smart, or appreciated, or be an amazing artist, or be an amazing nurse or doctor or lawyer.

The biggest thing in your world is to be nothing - I think that is so intense. How about getting rid of the zero and putting a number to that, even if it's a small number? People are naturally small.

Now, here there's actually a good point there - the idea of aspiration to zero is a strange one; a wish to disappear completely which keys in to some motivation that some anorexics talk about.

But if you're worried about people killing themselves inspired by catwalks, isn't "changing the number" of size zero to some whole number a little odd? The eye-catching "zero" gave a hook on which a lot of the reaction to super-thin models could be hung - would headlines talking about "Girls starving themselves to get to size four" have created such a reaction? - and, surely, an unhealthy bodyshape is an unhealthy bodyshape regardless of what you call it; calling it something warmer might actually be an encouragement and endorsement?

Oh... and "people are naturally small", are they, Beth? Does that mean larger people are, in some way, unnatural? You clearly have no idea how larger people suffer, young lady. Treated worse than the dead, they are.

Oh, no, hang on - apparently people aren't "naturally small" after all:
Some people are just really big, some people are short, some people are tall, some people have blue eyes, some people are completely blind - that's the real world.

But what people want to tell you is that the real world is harsh and cruel and the reality is that if you're fat and ugly no one will ever like you.

That's not true - that's not reality. Real life is your skin, your flesh, your heart, your blood, walking down the street. That's real life.

We're not quite sure what this means - it sounds a little bit like one of those pointless cod-philosophical waffle-burps that Mohinder does at the start of Heroes ("When we evolve, change comes suddenly. But a slow evolution does not mean that the door must always be closed to the instant alteration - for, in the blink of an eye, everything can be altered, and yet remain exactly the same..."). Ditto suggested at the start of the interview that life being larger is cold and harsh, but now she seems to be suggesting that it isn't. And if "people" will tell you that the real world is harsh and cruel and nobody will ever like you, but that isn't the real world, then who are the people telling you you're shit? Are they made-up?

But really, the saddest part of the rambling quote is this:
"[I]f you're fat and ugly no one will ever like you"

Even Beth yanks together 'fat' and 'ugly', as if they're synonyms. That's quite heartbreaking.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Baby blues: X Factor dump pregnant woman

Lovers of Victoriana will be delighted to hear that an almost entirely-preserved Victorian Attitude has been discovered in Simon Cowell's permafrost: X Factor tryout Katie Boothand has been kicked off the show because she was pregnant:

With Dannii Minogue the only one to say "no", the 24-year-old was stunned to learn she has got through to the next stage, but after she leaving the room, the panel had doubts.

Cowell said: "A part of me thinks we shouldn't have just done that because she's five and a half months pregnant. That should have been a 'no'. It doesn't feel right, I'm almost inclined to change my mind now."

Louis Walsh agreed, and Minogue says: "I've got nothing against pregnant women but you can't be singing on live TV and giving birth at the same time."

We love the "I've nothing against pregnant women but..." - it's not that Louis Walsh comes over all squeamish at the thought of vaginas and blood and babies and breathing, oh no. Not at all.

Isn't there, you know, some sort of rule about discriminating against women because they're pregnant?

Fran Healy: don't use music to be famous

After having spent the last couple of years sliding backwards towards obscurity, Fran Healy has decided that using music as a route to fame, cash and easy sex is wrong:

“Music shouldn't be about the band or the personalities. It's about the songs. As long as the songs are out there making people happy that's what it's all about.”

For this reason, and to ensure that the largest number of people draw the greatest amount of happiness from his work, Healy then announced that all Travis tracks from here on out will be made available for fr... oh, no. He seems to have forgotten that bit.

Fred Durst: Hit and run

Since he apparently stopped blogging, Fred Durst has been a little quiet. Now, though, we've found out what he's been up to: hit and run driving.

Yes, the charmer who threw abuse at security staff trying to help a fan with fatal injuries has now added driving into people, and driving off, to his list of accomplishments.

Durst plea-bargained his way down to three years probation, fines and compensation to keep himself out of prison.

Something to listen to: Babyshambles

The Times is offering a track from the Babyshambles album for download and consumption; alongside, they run a commentary by Adam Ficek on the making of the new record. Apparently, it was no more strenuous than the first:

There is a lot of expectation with this album, but that is nothing new – we had that with the first one, Down With Albion. People criticised that one for being underproduced but Mick Jones did a sterling job. At the time Pete was on the verge of going to prison.

Hasn't Pete Doherty been on the verge of going to prison consistently since about 1903 now?

This new album is very, very different:
Shotter’s Nation is a more ambitious record, whisper it, a “crossover” record. The songs are all really strong and it’s not genre-specific like most indie stuff, there are surprises on there. Yes, there is that English Sixties sound, but there’s also a touch of Britpop and Stone Roses.

Goodness, British Invasion, Britpop and Baggy. What a massive range of reference points you're drawing on there - we can see how that would be different from middle-class-white-boy-with-guitar-and-Revolver of "genre-specific" indie stuff.

Parkinson: I am the music man

For years, Michael Parkinson has liked to suggest that his TV chatshow - far from being the William Hickey column with moving pictures - is some sort of hotbed of journalism. Now, as he prepares to retire - again - he's also laying claim to being some sort of latterday John Peel, "breaking" risky new acts:

Asked whether he had had to fight to get acts such as Cullum and Krall on his shows, he said: "Oh absolutely. I mean the thought of putting someone unknown now on to television on a show like mine would cause them to have a heart attack and you say to them look what happened to Jamie?

So Michael Parkinson gives new young acts (Razorlight are also mentioned) a break. We love the idea that he had to "fight" to get Razorlight on the show. Really?

Sting's brothel visit prompts untold hilarity

You'd have thought that a photo of Sting outside "Hamburg's top brothel" would have been one of those stories which was complete in itself - a nice balance of innuendo and eyebrows raised.

Instead Victoria Newton uses it as a launching point for what reads like a verbatim transcript of an improv night in a third-string University's student bar after closing time:

Of course we haven’t a clue what the star was De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da-ing in the area.

But if any of the brothel’s 40 naked models HAD caught sight of him, we’re sure he’d tell them Don’t Stand So Close To Me.

After all, Bed’s Too Big without wife TRUDIE STYLER. And Every Little Thing She Does IS Magic.

So this snap’s just bad luck on old Sting. Poor fella must wish he was Invisible, Sun.

A newspaper printed this.

Radio One More Time: Current Affairs

Radio One's news means only one thing, of course: Newsbeat. Except for the brief period when Newsbeat in the evening had given way to News 89, or News 90, depending on what the year was - a whole thirty minutes of mainly news which, we suspect, had been launched in response to Capital Radio's much-missed The Way It Is, only abandoned when Five Live was launched to cater for the I-like-news-but-I'm-not-obsessed-with-news audience. Perhaps the key Newsbeat - the most Newsbeaty Newsbeat of them all - was the lunchtime edition which covered both the attempted coup by military-obsessed hardliners in Moscow and the launch of Take That's first single. Who knew that both would be organising their comebacks at the same time?

We've never been sure, but we've always suspected that the existence of Radio One's semi-unique news on the thirties would have been down to sharing a news team with Radio 2 in the early days and an easy way of letting one presenter be on two networks without needing to be in two places at the same time. Of course, the two minute, half-past news bulletin never used to part of the Newsbeat 'brand', only changing during the Banister-era. "It's not Newsbeat" protested Danny Baker, "it's just the news".

The station has always seen a current affairs offering as being essential to its position, sometimes going a little extreme in its determination to keep world affairs in amongst the pop. Mike Smith's tenure at the Breakfast Show saw headlines bursting out every twenty minutes, but without a 'crew', Smith himself was expected to do the newsreading for all but the standard news slot. You don't know the meaning of "clunking change of gears" until you've heard a man trying to get from "has the victim of the IRA bomb made it through the night" to "has Bon Jovi made it three weeks at number one". When Simon Mayo settled in to the Breakfast chair, he was gifted a team to try and make this work more easily - Rod Mckenzie, who then did the news and is now in charge of Newsbeat, and Sybil Ruscoe, who was travel and weather, and went on to open the BBC Bar in Manchester Oxford Road. Ruscoe was the first female breakfast regular, although, of course, she was only allowed to do the lady-slanted "don't forget your sou'wester and make sure the kids get to school on time" bits.

Simon Bates, clearly, wanted to be thought of as Radio One's key anchor, which meant that if something interesting happened, he'd be jumping into a radio car to bring the news. We do wonder if anyone actually asked him to drive to Berlin when the wall was coming down, but he did, popping up to report for the breakfast show. Bates was away from the rest of the world media, but bravely insisted that this was because Radio One's Golden Hour was right, and CNN, BBC News, ITN and the German Media were wrong: "If you're watching TV, you're missing the story. They're at the Brandenburg Gate, that's not where the real Germans are, that's where the TV cameras are, that's where people go when they want to get on TV. We're where the real Gemrans are." And Simon Bates, of course.

[Part of Radio One More Time]

Amy was robbed, but Jo gets paid

Fascinating, just a few days after Jo Whiley was complaining about how "Amy Winehouse was robbed" at the Mercurys, to see her doing a voiceover on the Klaxons album adverts showing to turn a few quid out of the Mercury victory. We're glad that Jo was able to cope with her burning sense of injustice long enough to sign off on this one.

Blunty's needs

There's a big interview with James Blunt in today's Sun, in which he stresses how much he means it:

I got such a positive response to begin with. But, obviously, when I’d moved on from the early definition of underground, attracting more and more attention, there also seemed to be a negative reaction.

When was James Blunt ever "underground"? "Not having sold mainstream records" isn't the same as being underground, Blunt. It's not like you've ever been Richard Hell.
Sometimes, people can use quite strong words but I’m sure they don’t mean it as a personal affront. More they’re clear in their minds that it’s to do with taste and opinion.

It's a good point - there's no reason to hate James Blunt's personality. It's like hating elves or Atlantis.
I realised that I can’t please everyone, and nor should I. I don’t do music for that reason. I do it because I need to. Honesty and expression. I’m not trying to impress people and it’s nothing to do with image.

"Need" as in "am forced to create by my nature" or - as is more likely - "need" as in "otherwise they don't give me any bread and soup"?
Blunt does speak warmly of Cat Power, who he suggests is a "success" despite not selling as many records as he does. We wonder how many people who like Blunt will be sampling Chan Marshall's work expecting similar daytime ITV stuff.
Picking up the Pacha reference, why have you chosen Ibiza for your home?

It’s just a really special place. It not only has amazing nightlife but, more importantly, it also has incredible countryside and beautiful Spanish rural lands. And, as a songwriter, it’s a great place where I can go and be totally secluded.

You wrote most of the album there?

Yeah, in the winter. With only local Spanish farmers for company. There are a whole load of artists and musicians out there actually.

So, it's wild, secluded and there are only Spanish farmers for company. Except, erm, for all the artists and musicians. It's like all those people who live in the "real" Provence surrounded by English dentists and Welsh advertising executives.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor opens up for Gary Barlow

What could be sweeter than a Take That tour with no Robbie Williams, but added Sophie Ellis-Bextor?

Sophie is putting her own tour on hold to do the Take That swoosh:

"I'm thrilled Take That have asked me to tour with them," she added. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity any girl would be a fool to turn down.

"I promise you when my own tour happens next year it'll be bigger and better than ever."

... and, if the gamble pays off, include a few extra ticket sales to converted That fans.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hadn't you retired?

Apparently, Eminem is working on a new album:

"I'm always working -- I'm always in the studio. It feels good right now, the energy of the label. For a while, I didn't want to go back to the studio ... I went through some personal things. I'm coming out of those personal things [and] it feels good."

Considering he wrote songs about killing his wife and had her grave tattooed on himself, it's boggling to think what might have been too "personal" for him to share. It's probably best we don't ask.

Dave Grohl doesn't want your love

Dave Grohl is keen to stop rock stars being held in high esteem:

"We played a show recently for a bio-engineering company. We met the man who invented synthetic insulin. He basically saved millions of people's lives by reinventing that drug. He is the kind of dude who deserves a medal - not some drunk onstage wearing eyeliner and selling 10 million records.

"What we do isn't changing the world."

Hang about - weren't you on the Live Earth bill on the understanding that what you do can change the world?

Ja Rule looks for whipping boys

Another email from James P, demonstrating that "Ja Rule is American for Jim Davidson".

We'll let him tell you why:

Responding to the forthcoming Congressional hearing which will look into whether the media stereotypes and degrades black women, Ja Rule isn't happy. His reckoning? If they're going to look into whether rap lyrics are corrupting the nation's youth, they should also look at what teh gheys are doing. Apparently it's just as bad...

"If (lyrics are responsible), then we need to go step to Paramount, and fucking MGM, and all of these other motherfuckers that's making all of these movies and we need to go step to MTV and Viacom, and lets talk about all these fucking shows that they have on MTV that is promoting homosexuality, that my kids can't watch this shit. Dating shows that's showing two guys or two girls in mid-afternoon. Let's talk about shit like that! If that's not fucking up America, I don't know what is."

Whilst I agree with him in principle - MTV should not be screening dating shows mid-afternoon (because they're a MUSIC CHANNEL and the last time I saw any music on MTV was in 1998) - I must admit he loses me a bit with his reasoning. If I'm reading it correctly, he's saying we shouldn't be investigating one possible source of minor-corruption because, erm, he can think of another one.

Another thing; I always thought that the whole appeal of popstars was that they provided an alternative to our stuffy parents, giving us spokespeople who were kicking out against the mainstream, shaking up the system. Ja Rule, on the other hand, seems to be spouting the exact same homophobic piffle that ver kids could read if they picked up their Dad's Daily Mail. (I've never understood this 'promoting homosexuality' thing; Are our children at risk of suddenly turning gay if they meet a convincing-enough salesman? Could the staunchest heterosexual be turned if Barry Scott demonstrated the benefits of homosexuality, possibly with some sort of Penny Test?)

Now, Rule might think he's demonstrated that rap isn't that bad - but, boy, he's so angry, and hate-filled, and full of paranoid fear... it's hardly a good advert, is it?

HMV steps into the future

The first of the new-look HMVs has opened in Merry Hill, and The Guardian has been down for a look.

Curiously, Simon Fox, who has overseen the flipcharts and market surveys which has led up to this moment, used to be in charge of Comet, and he's brought with him everything he learned making shopping there such a dispirting experience - genuinely, who can tell the difference between a Comet and a Currys? Who really enjoys traipsing through them?

So, you get a dash of the coffee shop from Neighbours:

The fresh juice bar is all part of a plan to entice customers in for longer. Sipping on smoothies they can sit at sleek new Apple computers surfing a select number of websites including social networks Bebo, MySpace and Facebook.

That'll certainly bring people in - after all, Apple Stores in the US had to block MySpace because its shops were getting overwhelmed with people updating their MySpaces and not buying - but will that lead to sales, or is HMV investing in providing enormous youth clubs?
A row down from the "social space" are terminals where shoppers scan the barcodes on CDs and DVDs, listen to and watch them and click on a buy button for free delivery of a copy to the customer's home.

So, you go in to town, fight your way through kids sipping smoothies and... can order your album to be sent to your house. And go home and wait for it. Why, exactly, would you bother to go into town to do this? You could hear the tracks online at home, order it, and wait. HMV, clearly, need to bring people into stores, but simply by adding a stage of 'going into town and going to a store' into the process of purchasing online isn't going to work.

Unless HMV is aiming squarely at people who don't have access to the internet elsewhere - not, we'd have thought, the same market who would be supping smoothies and stalking social networking sites.
Mr Fox hopes inspiring people to buy at least one item thanks to easier-to-navigate stores divided into areas like "watch", "listen" and "play" will make the economics of the refit work. At £100 per square foot, it means the price tag on Dudley's store is £800,000. If HMV decides to go ahead with 40 more next generation stores - it will decide after Christmas - the cost will be £20m.

Twenty million pounds? That's very, very serious money. I suspect they'd be better off spending it on a wider range of stock.

[Thanks to James P]

Microsoft promise DRM for DRM-free tracks

According to patent it's busily filed, Microsoft have invented a way to put DRM fingerprints on DRM-free tracks.

It might be the first time anyone's patented a paradox, but MS claims it could allow record labels to track what happens to the files with "stealthy audio watermarking" - presumably someone warned against calling it "super-sneaky nosey technology" in case it looked kind-of spylike.

MS also claim that it's impossible to remove the audio fingerprint, and that each print is unique.

Prince: Take down Get Up

Prince is spending large sums of cash ensuring that unauthorised Prince stuff on the web is moved about a bit, to different servers, or taken down for a while and then put up in a different format:

More than 1,000 unauthorised clips have been taken down in the last few days, according to Web Sheriff, the UK firm he has hired to enforce the ban.

That only leaves about 2,700 odd returns on GoogleVideo search if you look for "Prince Live", then.

Prince's people insist it's not about a rich man trying to hold on to every penny:
John Giacobbi, managing director of Web Sheriff, said: "Some artists are very relaxed about the use of their image and music on the internet, some less so.

"Prince feels very strongly that people should remember his concerts as they were, not as some grainy mobile phone footage."

Of course, you could ensure that by allowing people to bring HD video cameras with them, then. No? Oh.
The artist has also instructed Web Sheriff to police unauthorised distribution of his music on file-sharing websites such as Pirate Bay, and is seeking to stop auction sites like eBay from selling unauthorised merchandise.

Mr Giacobbi said: "We are not targeting fans who might want to sell their copy of Purple Rain, we are targeting companies in China manufacturing Prince handbags and selling them in their thousands.

"Prince's actions are a brave and pioneering step to challenge the status quo and hand control over internet rights back to the artists."

How reassuring that Prince isn't "targeting fans" who are selling second-hand records - what with that being perfectly legal and their right. Why not pat yourself on your little purple back for not suing people for humming the chorus from 1999 while you're at it?

As for 'unofficial' merchandise, what actually gives Prince the right to try and stop this? If what you sell isn't being passed off as somehow official, and uses images that are public domain or otherwise not subject to license fees, and assuming Prince hasn't trademarked his name for Chinese handbags, then on what grounds is he stopping their sale? There is an enormous difference between "unauthorised" and "illegal", however galling it might be for the artist; we should perhaps challenge any attempt to try and suggest that a secondary market for this sort of thing is, by its existence, wrong.

Is Britney avoiding another public blow-up?

E! is reporting that Britney Spears might be working with Kevin Federline to try and avoid a second public drubbing. They've had a meeting trying to head off the need for Monday's court hearing about child custody; no agreement yet, but they're still talking.

Mind you, it could just be Kevin's waiting until Britney's antidepressant dose is so high she'll agree to anything.

Growing anxiety

Following the anxiety-induced axing of the US tour, The White Stripes have now pulled their UK dates, too.

Instant publishing

The report about Muhammad Abdel-Al's intemperate attack on Britney and Madonna is interesting:

Muhammad Abdel-Al is quoted in new book 'Schmoozing With Terrorists: From Hollywood to the Holy Land Jihadists Reveal their Global Plans - to a Jew!' attacks the two pop stars, labelling them "prostitutes".

Abdel-Al rants, "If I meet these whores I will have the honour - I repeat, I will have the honour - to be the first one to cut the heads off Madonna and Britney Spears if they will keep spreading their satanic culture against Islam."

He did, however, say that Dannii Minogue was alright.

Now, clearly, there's something wonderful about someone who thinks that Britney Spears is in a position to get out of the house on her own, much less spread a satanic culture against a major world religion, but what really puzzled us was this:
The comments have been made just as Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie prepare to celebrate the Jewish New Year with 2,000 Kabbalah followers in Israel.

The comments were made... when? Just made? In a book that's already been printed? "The comments were ragged out by a publisher's PR person just as...", shurely?

You've let yourself down, you've let us down, but worst of all you've let MTV down

Timbaland is boiling mad with Britney - he wants an apology, dammit, for the way she... uh, you know, just is. But he does have a comeback plan for her - make a record with Justin Timberlake:

She needs a story. She has no comeback story. That's the problem. She has to have a team.

"She needs to come back with Justin doing records. (Then we'd see headlines like), 'She went back to her ex and she's making smashes.' (But instead she got) so big-headed and (was) like, 'Screw you, screw you, I don't need nobody.'

"She should humble herself and make a phone call and say, 'I'm sorry.' She knows what she's sorry about. She needs to say, 'I was wrong,' and it'll definitely move forward. That's all she has to say."

Would we see headlines like the one Timbaland's predicting? Or would it look even more pathetic that she'd been reduced to trying to coat-tail her downward spiral to Justin's bemusingly rising star.

Timbaland, of course, had been due to orchestrate one such Brit and Ju reunion track, but Britney said no. Which, to be honest, is probably the last time she came to a rational decision.

Courtney asks us to join in with a chorus

Cunningly, Courtney Love has come up with a way to stop people cutting and pasting her wasted MySpace postings onto the general internet - she's making the entries viewable to friends only. And friends don't cut and paste friend's stuff, right.

Oh, hang about, though: MySpace friends aren't friends in the sense of the word, they're more "people who exist" than actual friends, so her latest entry has already bubbled out faster than greyhound with the scent of sausage sandwich. She wants us to do her work for her:

"I need some help with lyrics. If I use them you will get a publishing fee.

If you feel more comfy copywriting before sending them, that's cool too."

Copywriting them? As in "go for the snack with the longer-lasting pack - that's Twix" type copywriting. Presumably she means copyrighting them.

How nice of Courtney to offer to, erm, pay people for work. We wonder if she's like that with tradepeople? "Cumn fix mi kitchen sync - i will pay | a plummers" rate for the job"

Gcap goes with One branding

The exciting synergy of opportunities presented by the merger of GWR and Capital into GCap has been realised. "Synergy" being a business term meaning "let's squeeze any individuality out of the businesses", of course.

The local stations of the single company are about to be made even "better". Taking advantage of local radio's attempts to really understand and reflect the unique natures of the geographical communities they serve, all the stations will now have the same logo, strapline and much of the same programming regardless of where you live.

They've gone with the One Network, which - besides there already being a radio network which pretty much is called One - is also, winningly, the name of one of the companies that occasionally push trains up and down the railway networks.

The strapline is:

Haven't you heard?

- although that seems to be only a step away from building a relaunch on the phrase 'You've not been listening, and is only two letters away from Radio City's 'Have you heard' slogan for the disastrous City Talk 1548 launch twenty years ago.

Network programming is now going to include Myleene Klass and Jeremy Kyle, who love the area you live in and know all about it, or at least are able to trigger adverts that are in someway local.

GCap insist that, far from meaning the abandonment of 'local' radio in any meaningful sense, having a station in Kent playing the same programmes under the same banner as a station in South Wales means more local programming, not less:
On-air changes will include more local news, listings and traffic information, while all One Network websites will offer local artists the chance to upload their music and potentially have their song played on the station.

More local news? Really? Or do they mean 'slightly longer time given in the news to local stories', which isn't quite the same thing. A station that reflects local news will react to a major local tragedy or victory not simply by filing a thirty second report, but ribbed throughout the feeling of all programming during the day. You can't do that properly if your one concession to 'localness' is thirty seconds of news in the hour, before going back to - yes, sometimes - RYAN SEACREST presenting a show from America.
"This is a hugely exciting development for the country's biggest radio network," said Simon Daglish, the national sales and trade marketing director, GCap Media.

"The One Network is not only a great, vibrant brand, it's a one-stop shop which offers clients the opportunity to reach consumers across the whole of the UK in an environment which is all about unrivalled content, big names and incredible production values.

"The revitalisation means continuity across all stations, backed by an in-depth understanding of our audience, providing better targeting for our customers"

It says it all, of course, that the "audience" is now seen, primarily as something which the stations sell to its customers. Of course, this is going to make for bland, soulless, heartless broadcasting (Kyle? Seacrest?) but it's going to generate much, much simpler pie-charts for the advertising sales department.

Adding up the comeback

We're told the extraordinary news that

An estimated 20 million people rushed to register for tickets to see Led Zeppelin

Twenty million? That's quite impressive. And, of course, we can verify this figure, can't we, because there will be twenty million registrations, right?

Um, no:
The concert's website has struggled to cope with demand, and organisers have asked fans to be patient.

So "twenty million" is a figure being used to explain away why the servers can't cope, rather than a fact. Even if there have been twenty million attempts to log on, there'd be no way to ascertain if that really was twenty million people, or one bloke with twenty million attempts.

Twenty million. That would be an astonishing number of people interested in going. One in three of the UK population. Now, admittedly, there will be interest from beyond these shores, but, really: not just twenty million fans, but that number logging on at once?

Meanwhile, Harvey Goldsmith ahs outlined his lottery plans:
Tickets for the show will be allocated by public ballot - a move promoter Harvey Goldsmith hopes will deter touts.

"We just hope and pray that those people who get a ticket in a ballot are just going to act accordingly," he said

Uh... so the idea is that you, um, win a ticket and then "act accordingly" - presumably meaning that when you sell it on to a tout, you organise a lottery system to decide who you'll flog it on to.
Goldsmith also warned fans who turned to internet auction sites like eBay or other unauthorised sources that they would have their tickets cancelled.

"They might have paid the money but they ain't going to get the ticket," he said.

So, steer clear of eBay, then. The message from Goldsmith is: sell your ticket without using a third party who'll reveal your details to someone else. It seems to be suggesting that Goldsmith would rather fans have to try their luck in unregulated markets than have at least an eBay paper trail to give them some degree of consumer protection. It's the same mentality that thinks its better for gangsters to sell heroin than to make it medically available for free to addicts - putting the fine detail of the law above actually thinking what would work best.

Blunt's coming down

In what looks like a calculated attempt to try and reposition himself, James Blunt is telling anyone who'll listen that his new album was written "coming down after raving in Ibiza."

Sharing a growing sense of depression and a terrible headache, then.

Blunty also has a dream:

“I’d like to see JIMI HENDRIX cover one of my tracks but it’s probably not going to happen.”

Chances are, no, James. Not because he's so very dead, but more because can you really see Hendrix covering your supermarket tannoy slop?

Radio One More Time: Bird or bloke?

Is it a bird? Is it a bloke?
Haven't a clue, mate
Sorry I spoke
Is it a bloke? Is it a bird?
No idea, pal
How absurd

It's not just Radio One where the management value the big, sweeping competitions while the presenters (and usually audiences) would rather have the offer of lots chances to win small, rather than the occasional opportunity to win big. I once came across a memo while working in, shall we say, a large commercial radio station which banned any competition offering anything smaller than a holiday. The management believed that audiences were built by the big bang, thereby reversing the prevailing wisdom in broadcasting that what counted was lots of contact between station and listener. The memo was especially disdainful about giving away CDs. The station felt that sending out hundreds of envelopes with gifts of music in was, in some way, a bad thing for its image, rather than a great way of making a large number of people get a small but significant 'thanks for listening'. It's kind of the way men believe that what counts is the enormous , sweat-drenched, non-stop shagnight, whereas relationships are really built just as much on the holding hands in the supermarket and little kisses when you're heading to the toilet.

Radio One sometimes goes mad for its competitions - Thirty One Days In May being a case in point, where the entire arsenal of the network would be put on standby for what was a giveaway Olympics. Simon Bates voiceovers, all presenters having to do at least one part, prizes that "money can't buy". All presenters - even John Peel was roped in, admitting he felt "nervous as a kitten" seconds before playing his "trigger record" (Teenage Kicks, of course) and then asking some sort of questions which won a caller the chance to go to a European football match with him.

It was all very impressive, but - really - nowhere near as much fun for listening to as something as simple as Mark and Lard's Bird Or Bloke. This was a list of people with ambigendered names - Lesleys or Joes - with an invitation to identify them as a bird or a bloke. (When Lindsey Corkhill came up, I think they needed the third umpire.)

The idea was adapted for Dobbins or Bobbins, where the names may or may not have been horses running that day. The different rules required, of course, a different jingle:

Is it a dobbin?
Really a horse
Or is a bobbin?
Made-up, of course
Will you be stealing
A prize on the spot
Or will you be sobbing
Thick Jack (or Jill) Clot

[Part of Radio One More Time]

Britney: It was the hairdresser's fault

A new contender for the growing list of those responsible for the Britney Spears career-wall on Sunday night. To the hotel, MTV, and everyone else we can now blame it on the hairdresser:

An MTV source told The Sun: “The scene in the dressing room before the show was one of absolute blind panic.

“She knew she hadn’t rehearsed enough and was going to mess up the whole show and possibly her career — then she saw her hairdo and it was the final straw.

“She went into a wild rage and started lashing out at everyone — including her stylist.”

Desperate lackeys at the glitzy Las Vegas Palms Casino resort fetched her doctor, who gave Brit the prescription drugs.

The source said: “Britney took enough to floor an elephant. They calmed her down — but were clearly too effective.”

If MTV really did send on a woman to perform knowing she'd been given a large dose of anti-depressants, that would be quite a serious breach of a duty of care.

Arctics, Winehouse seek an Q 'aye'

We can never remember if the Q Awards are the first awards of 2008 which look back at the whole of 2007, or the final awards of 2007 which effectively celebrate 2006.

It's Q. It's going to be last year, isn't it?

Anyway, the shortlist is out, although not, confusingly, on the Q website, so, cobbling together the nominees from the BBC report, we get:

Best Act In The World Today:
The Killers
The Arctic Monkeys
The Foo Fighters

U2? Can that be right? Maybe it's looking back to 2004 after all.

Best Album:
Arctic Monkeys- Favourite Worst Nightmare
Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, The Angry Mob
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Manic Street Preachers - Send Aways The Tigers

We thought that our eyebrows could shoot up no further than they managed for the Kaiser Chiefs... but the Manics album? Really? One of the best five of the year?

Breakthrough artist:
Kate Nash
Jack Penate
Jamie T
Calvin Harris

Looking at this, you might cry a salt tear for the state of British music.

Best track:
Kaiser Chiefs - Ruby
Athlete - Hurricane
Manic Street Preachers - Your Love Alone...
Suburban Knights - Hard Fi
Kings of Cydonia - Muse

Presumably Muse have been allowed in to reassure you that, no, this really is 'best track' and not a new category for 'sleep-walked-through band-by-numbers self-parody of the year'. It took me about two minutes staring at the words "Athlete Hurricane" before I could remember if it was a track Athlete by Hurricane, or Hurricane by Athlete, and - absolutely genuinely - I realised I'd typed 'Snow Patrol - Athlete' into the list.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Meg White's high anxiety

The reason behind the scrapping of the White Stripes tour has been revealed: Meg White is suffering from extreme anxiety.

The band are apologetic about the cancellation:

"The White Stripes sincerely apologize to their fans. We hate to let people down and are very sorry."

It's a rock and a hard place - do you play, and feel anxious about that, or cancel, and feel anxious about the not playing?

More bad ends from the MTV Awards

The damaged heads following MTV's Sunday nights weren't limited to Britney Spears' people banging their skulls agianst any surfaces they could find. Oh, no. Brent Hinds of Mastodonwound up in hospital with unexplained head injuries:

Hinds' nose was also broken, and he sustained two black eyes, according to the band's manager, Nick John.[...]John did not provide details about what led to Hinds' injuries, he said they occurred at around 3 a.m. Monday morning.

We're suspecting this wasn't an accident with an open door.

Just send money...

Has Kevin Rowland really signed off on Come On Eileen being used on some tatty sofa shop advert? Really?

Another fall tour falls

In what's been something of a record week for cancellations, The Noisettes have dropped their US tour in favour of a bit of sit down:

The band members came to the conclusion they needed to take a break if they were going to be at their best for the tour."

"They've been on the road for two years," said their agent Matt Hickey "It's frustrating and it was a tough decision for them to make, but they decided they needed to get some rest, regroup and come back and do it right."

The tour might take place early next year, instead, if everyone can get some sleep before then.

Naomi Campbell misses the point a little

Naomi Campbell - yes, she has released a record, since you ask - has been trying to square the circle to explain why she took part in the "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaign and then, erm, started turning up in fur. Apparently, it was PETA's fault:

"When PETA started targetting Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfield and putting dead animals on their plate, I felt that they went too far and I thought, I didn't want to be a part of this campaign anymore."

But while we can see that you might disagree with PETA and choose to disassociate yourself from the organisation, surely you wouldn't then abandon your convictions - or was it a case of "I hate PETA so much, I'm going to make them squeal?"

No: it's just that Naomi apparently doesn't understand that taking a stand is meant to be different from following a fashion. It turns out that Naomi doesn't have a problem with fur at all:
"I do like wearing fur and I still do."


So, it's on, then: Led Zeppelin have confirmed a one-off reunion - apparently they wanted to get in before Blue stole their thunder.

It's part of a memorial for Ahmet Ertegun; it also provides a platform for Havrey Goldsmith to bang on about ticket touts again. The idea is that this time, touting will be beaten through a lottery system, with Goldsmith promising that "multiple applicants" will, somehow, be weeded out. We're not quite sure how Goldsmith can tell between two people with different names, and one person using different names, but doubtless he'll have a scheme.

EMI wants you to do their A&R for them

In a move not-entirely-unlike Sony's Vox initiative from six months ago, EMI are inviting bands to use a service which will sort-of-somehow-function as an A&R operation:

The Scoutr feature offers a service for musicians to create profiles, upload their new tracks and have them rated by other users using a similar system to as music recommendation site

This is either BTgetoutthere all over again, a brave attempt to democratise decision making, a weak company that's lost faith in its own abilities to predict what people will like, or all of the above.

The twin weaknesses here are that there's little demand for yet another unsigned artist site, where - by the very nature of bands - most music will be made by acts who don't have a record contract for a very good reason; and, more dispiritingly, if you leave decisions about where to put your budget to a popular vote, you end up with a world of Will Youngs and Girls Alouds, rather than more specialist tastes that could serve a smaller audience, but over a longer period. Would, say, The Cure, or even U2, have got a deal if they were required to please a mass, undistinguished audience?

Sure, Scoutr could have be a useful tool, but it's not clear what it can discover that getting an A&R guy to spend some time surfing MySpace or Bebo couldn't work out.

Still, EMI have already announced some bright, new talent: John Birt's just joined the board.

My Chemical Romance: Style over substance

My Chemical Romance have virtually completed work on their fourth album:

In a fresh interview, band frontman Gerard Way says that the band have picked the as-yet-untitled record’s artwork in preparation to hitting the studio.

He told the Daily Star: “We’re a plan ahead band. Concepts and stories, even fonts, are picked sometimes years in advance of records.”

Yes, all done except the actual music, but - as the first three albums showed - that's only of very secondary importance. It's making sure the tie-in t-shirt is eyecatching in Hot Topic that's where the money is.

Haggard: Why isn't everybody here on drugs?

Merle Haggard blames the poor state of modern music on the lack of drugs:

"I miss the freedom. They've taken all of our freedoms away. Everything's illegal now. I miss the music too. Why do you think the music was so good? Everybody was doing pills! Everybody had this great attitude."

Not quite, Merle - as recent Winehouse shows prove, musicians taking drugs don't make the performance any better. The audience, though, will tolerate a lot more if they're off their cakes.

How much trouble is Liverpool 2008 in?

The crisis after crisis that has beset the planning for Liverpool's Capital of Culture year has resulted in a panicky change at the "Culture Company" overseeing the, uh, celebrations. Most notably, Phil Redmond and North West Development Agency chair Bryan Gray are now heading up a team of six, replacing the fourteen-strong board:

Phil Redmond will spearhead the artistic side of the 12-month cultural extravaganza, with NWDA chairman Bryan Gray in charge of the purse strings. Council leader Warren Bradley will be the link with the council and communities.

They're denying this is as a result of the embarrassing cock-up when the Mathew Street Festival was axed:
[...T]here were denials today the shake-up was the result of last month’s festival fiasco, with members saying there had always been plans to wind down the culture board when the full 2008 programme was announced.

Oh, really? If this a planned administrative change, then why is Liverpool Council's Warren Bradley going down to London next week to explain the DCMS about the changes? And why is Redmond effectively starting the planning all over again:
The former Brookside supremo will target greater community involvement and question the value of some setpiece events. He also wants a greater Liverpool “feel” to 08.

And what better time to start thinking about these issues after four years of burning through pots and pots of public cash, with just three months to go?

Oh, and:
Members have not ruled out reallocating money or finding cash to fund changes in the programme.

So, even if you think your event has been funded, the cash might be whipped away to fund something else. That's going to leave everyone able to finalise their plans, then.

Naomi Campbell batters Pete Doherty

How sweet and supportive: Naomi Campbell has ripped Pete Doherty for not being good enough for Kate:

"I hear Kate has a new man. That's fantastic - good for her. As long as he's not like that arsehole Pete. Urgh.

"I hated the way he treated her. I don't mind if her new guy's a rocker, as long as he looks after her.

"I'm so happy for Kate. She truly deserves the best."

We remember Naomi saying this back when they were together.

Oh, hang on, we don't.

The idea of Naomi Campbell giving lectures in the correct way of treating people is an interesting one, though. Presumably she just needs a chance to beat some sense into Doherty with an electronic organiser.

Radio One More Time: Junior Choice

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Unwanted returns: Blue

Having discovered that, individually, nobody is that interested in them, Blue are hoping that getting Blue back together might allow them to make some ready cash in time for Christmas.

No word on what they're planning to do, but we'd suggest they look at trying the hand carwash business.

Simon Cowell brings his insight to bear

Simon Cowell has brought the weight of his experience making Gareth Gates a star to give his opinion on Britney's VMA experience.

She wasn't very good, he says. See? That's the sort of insight you could only get from a professional.

"If I had been looking after Britney I’d have taken one look at her in rehearsals and I wouldn’t have allowed her on stage."

Although, surely, the problem was lack of rehearsal, and her management not being able to get her in the right place at the right time?
“The problem she has now is that she could have killed her career. It’s difficult to come back from that performance, for a while at least."

Not that he's hedging his bets. He'd have made a great doctor: "I'm sorry, your husband is dead. At the moment, anyway."
“If she had turned up and given that performance at the X Factor auditions then I wouldn’t have put her through to the next round."

We love the way that "getting through a round on the X Factor" is being used here as if it's some sort of assay unit of musical quality. Louis Walsh pops up, too:
He said: “Britney wouldn’t make it through one audition of X Factor because she can’t sing live.”

In other words: the X Factor would have rejected the woman who made Oops I Did It Again and Toxic in favour of Shayne Ward. There would be your "price of everything, value of nothing" right there, then.

Madonna is "like Mary Poppins"

Which is, we suppose, not that far from being Like A Virgin. The Mary Poppins observation is according to a supposed link from Malawian social service's investigation into the adoption of David Banda.

We know, we know: Mary Poppins was a nanny and not a mother, and she wouldn't have hired in another nanny to actually look after the kid. Although she did have a relationship with a bloke who spoke in a fake cockney accent. The Sun reports:

A pal said yesterday: “It is the final legal hurdle in adopting David and they are so relieved it went well. No wonder they look so happy and have been buying sex toys.”

"No wonder they look so happy and have been buying sex toys."

Yes - that's exactly what Mary Poppins used to do to mark a job well done. It's a strap on, by the way, Guy. You're going to have your chim-chimeny place seen to.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kaiser Chiefs "too busy" for America

The Kaiser Chief's tour of North America has been shelved because they, you know, can't find the time to try and build an audience in the biggest market:

"We'd like to apologise to fans in America and Canada, especially those who have already bought tickets, but something had to give. We've been extremely busy all year and had no time to focus on the future, we plan to have new material out as soon as possible and we've wanted to record all summer.

"This needs to happen before our European & UK shows at the end of the year so we can play a few of our new songs live, we're keen to explore new ground, beyond the sound of our first two records, so we're headed back into the studio to begin that process."

So, that's a burning desire to record new music and not a sinking feeling that nobody in America was giving a rat's arse about them, then.

Kanye: ... and they gave Justin a red balloon and I wanted the red balloons

Having been caught sounding like a poor loser after the MTV Awards, Kanye West has tried to clarify matters.

And come off sounding even more childish:

"I wasn't mad that I just didn't win any awards," West says. "For me, [MTV] made it seem like performing on the main stage was a bad thing, and the suites were just so great. It was my dream when I made 'Stronger' to open up the VMAs with a real power performance.

"And I just feel like I got betrayed by them," the rapper continued. "They opened with Britney. They opened with Justin last year and let him close the show this year, and he had his own suite."

Sniff... sniff... they love Justin more than me, he always gets the cool slots...

Oh, and he didn't like Pamela Anderson's introduction:
"One of the best times I've ever had was making out with the next performer in the middle of the desert. I think I had my tongue so far down his throat I could taste his fiancée—and I might need a repeat performance later tonight," Anderson said by way of introduction.

"I'm engaged, and I feel like it's disrespectful to my relationship," West said of Anderson's remarks, which he claims MTV assured him would be in acceptable taste.

Anderson was making play of having guested with West for the Touch The Sky video - we're a little at a loss to understand how West could get the hump at someone describing what they did for the cameras, but didn't mind doing it for the cameras.

West is, somewhat self-importantly, cutting all ties with MTV. Why?
"I have a connection in the fans' heart that the press can't stop."

It's not all about Kanye, of course - he was also worried about Britney. He claims.:
"They exploited Britney in helping to end her career," West said Monday in an interview with New York radio station Z100. "When Britney was opening, near the end, I felt so bad for her. I said, 'Man, it's a dirty game. This game will chew you up and spit you out.'"

Here, he might have a point - Britney's comeback (and, more honestly, the prospect of seeing a career vanish) helped this year's awards bounce back in the ratings - 7.1 million. Trouble is, the impressive-sounding 23% rise came after a 28% drop last year, and comes in the context of dwindling audience for the channel as a whole, down to an average below 750,000 now.

Ludacris unloved

Boston, it seems, isn't that bothered by Ludacris. Not only has he had to pull his show there, but his poor ticket sales were so spectacular, the guy who runs the venue has been running round telling everyone how poor they were:

President of the venue, Wayne MCCary, says the show had to be called off because only 700 tickets for the 6,100-capacity arena had been sold.

When even the guy who took a soaking on the gig is giggling at the poor sales, those are some bad figures.

Kelly Osbourne knows other people

You might think that Kelly Osbourne's fame relies on being able to churn out stories about her Dad and Mum. But that's unfair.

She knows other people, too, and she'll happily use those connections to pad out interviews, as well. Did she mention she knows Kate Moss?

"We were on holiday in Spain recently and there was a full staff there, but she got up every morning, made her own breakfast, cleared it up and then made breakfast for other people.

"Kate made me scrambled eggs in bed one day when I wasn't feeling well. I think people forget she's a mum. I felt terrible, and she put me in bed and sat with me. She's a good person."

And, to ensure that no good deed goes unpunished, Kelly's gone to tell Closer magazine all about it.

White Stripes leave Austin

The White Stripes have pulled their Saturday appearance at the Austin City Limits festival, citing "medical reasons". No further information - sciatica? temporary colour blindness? - is forthcoming.

Kerrang picks up Big Brother presenter

Last week, Ofcom reduced the amount of new music Kerrang had to play on its Birmingham FM station. This week, Kerrang have announced that Kate Lawler is taking over the breakfast show from current host Ugly Phil.

Kate Lawler at breakfast, eh? Let's hope nobody remembers RI:SE.

Blunt bemoans bundle abandonment

According to the Music Week Daily mail-out, James Blunt is upset at iTunes:

Atlantic-signed singer-songwriter James Blunt has hit out at digital retailer iTunes for failing to promote albums over stand-alone tracks.

We wonder why James Blunt would be upset at the shift from selling packages of popular songs padded out with filler tracks, to just letting consumers buy the songs they want?

Nope, can't think of a reason.

Underrehearsed, under the influence, under the weather: Why Britney blew it

In direct contradiction of the "it was the venue's fault" explanation for the Spears career suicide evening, the New York Post offers a more plausible-sounding explanation:

"She didn't even get to Las Vegas until 4:30 p.m. It was ridiculous [...]
"She went to her hotel room and ordered a bunch of food and some frozen margaritas," the spy said. "She came down, like, an hour later with a frozen margarita in her hand."
"The dance number was spectacular - without her," said our spy at rehearsal. "When the stand-in was rehearsing with the dancers, in the hours they were all waiting for her, it was amazing. Then Britney showed up and refused to do anything. The dancers were supposed to lift and twirl her in the air a few times, and that just wasn't going to happen. The more complicated dance moves had to be erased because she couldn't do them."

Another spy said, "The dancers were texting pals, asking them to pray for them. They were worried."

And it turns out that the bra and knickers was down to her forgetting to bother with a costume:
"MTV wanted her to wear a corset outfit. It would have looked great and covered a lot of things up, but she hated it and didn't think it was sexy enough."

There is, again, the dispiriting suggestion that Spears was somehow overweight - as if the real 'being fucked up' wasn't enough without adding some spurious '... and she's fat, too" element to it:
Spears changed into a spangly bra-and-underwear outfit she'd brought with her that emphasized her weight gain over the last year.

Ironic, given that her body shape is the only thing about Britney that has got healthier over the last twelve months.

KT Tunstall throws down her guitar

Not, unfortunately, because she's retiring; instead, it's because she is going to up the visual element of her shows still further. Yes, first the glamming up, now it's lessons from Kanye West's choreographer. It's almost like she's a pop star or something.

Tuesday's iTunes killer

Vodaphone is about to launch a mobile music store which is being touted as no sort of iTunes killer at all.

Oh, alright, it is:

Rob Lewis, chief executive of Omnifone, which developed MusicStation, believes the service will help operators exploit the full potential of their networks and the relationship they have with customers in a way that the iPhone does not.

"A device like iPhone, at the end of the day, ties a consumer to an Apple strategy forever. It does not utilise the 3G data network; it is not even 3G compatible. It does not allow over-the-air downloads; it only allows downloads from iTunes using a credit card, and it certainly does not allow unlimited downloads wherever you are," he said.

Analysts believe the iPhone will be a powerful, but niche, product, and the full potential of mobile music lies in making it easier to buy and play tracks on a mobile phone. This year alone, more than 1.13bn mobile phones will be sold worldwide, according to estimates from the industry expert Gartner, while 110m iPods have been sold since 2001.

This, of course, does rely on consumers being a bit... well, slow. Because otherwise, they might weight the "ease" of downloading on their handset against not actually owning the track - Vodaphone have gone with a rental model; not having the track on anything other than your phone; limited phone storage meaning that if you like more than a few hundred songs, you'll be constantly deleting, reloading, deleting, reloading and, of course, seeing through the pricing trick:

Which sounds okay - although at £104 a year, you'd only start to see an advantage if you'd have bought more than 131 tracks on iTunes - but, of course, you also have to pay Vodaphone for the datatransfer as you suck these songs down. And at least when you sync your iPhone with iTunes, you can copy across anything you've ripped from CDs you already own.

Mobile music stores are built on the hope that customers are either very, very stupid, or very, very rich.

Try it, and I'll tell you

A few years back, there was an advert for a sherry designed to be used as a mixer which - acknowledging the horrific nature of the idea - was built around the belief that if you didn't know what it was when you tried it, you'd really be able to enjoy it. Like with Oedipus, of course.

A similar approach has been adopted by a Chicago radio station, Q101, which has discovered that people really love the new Hanson material - providing they don't know it's Hanson when they hear it.

It's an interesting social experiment, but Tipo Sherry still failed, and Oedipus didn't see the funny side when he realised it was his Mother.

We're rubbing our eyes

We suspect that Kele Okereke's tale of meeting Madonna may have, uh, grown in the retelling. The scene? Backstage at Live Earth:

"She's a super-huge fan. But our tour manager is this guy from Scotland who doesn't know much about popular culture.

"So when she came in, he alerted security and security dragged her out. In a headlock. It was really surreal, and everyone stopped speaking.

"And all we could hear is Madonna cursing and saying she's gonna kill these guys. She's really tough because of all that Pilates that she does, so she got out of the headlock quite easily."

So, it's not only the tour manager - a tour manager - who didn't recognise Madonna, but security - the security team at an event Madonna was headlining - didn't either? Kele, by tomorrow night you're going to be suggesting that Madonna burst in with a gun...

Radio One More Time: Records by DJs

They reckon that music journalists are just frustrated pop stars, which might be true. But they're nowhere near as frustrated as disc jockeys are. The desire to make a record instead of merely playing them seems to seize every DJ at some point in their career and, however ill-advised, they will go ahead and find someone willing to stick something out.

We've already explored Mike Read's attempts to boost his Trainspotters profile by recording his own jingle based on his own single, but there were to be worse transgressions.

Steve Wright, for one. Wright's first toe dipped into seven inch vinyl was merely irritating: as Young Steve and The Afternoon Boys, he turned a weak catchphrase into a weaker single - one which even Russ Abbot might have thought twice about recording:

I'm alright
You're alright
Everyone's feeling alright tonight
Having a laugh and singing a song
If you're alright, you can't go wrong

The b-side, though, Oh, Damien, wasn't bad for a novelty single - being based on one of Wright's "characters" back when they had some sort of actual character to them - this was an ode to Radio One's supposed in-house social worker. Obviously, you wouldn't want to hear it more than once, but that's still more times than you'd want to hear the follow up single, Get Some Therapy.

Again, trying to spin out a catchphrase into three minutes, Get Some Therapy still managed to sell well enough to persuade Steve to try something more complex on his third single. Unfortunately, "complex" turned out to mean homophobic. In an age where Konnie Huq gets a bollocking for suggesting that we should ride bikes rather than taking the car, it's incredible that as recently as 1984 one of the BBC's highest-profile presenters was able to release The Gay Caballeros, which suggested that Wright being pursued by stalking Mexican male rapists was a light comic motif, and nobody batted an eyelid.

Perhaps one of the most successful bids to storm Top of the Pops as artists rather than presenters was Convoy GB. Having noticed that CW McCall's Convoy - a tribute to the then slightly-modish CB Radio - consisted mostly of talking, and realising they could talk, Dave Lee Travis and Paul Burnett knocked up a spoof, rushed into a studio and released it under the not-entirely-secret identity Laurie Lingo and The Dipsticks. Despite being a novelty parody of a novelty hit, and despite Travis' cod Scouse accent, it was taken to the nation's hearts.

Of course, even John Peel popped up from time to time on record. He once whistled on an Altered Images album track.

[Part of Radio One More Time]

Sinking like a Stone: MTV Awards leftovers

Twenty four hours after the MTV Video Music Awards, our papers of record finally get the chance to report on the events you've already read all about. But, to be fair, they do manage to find angles that online media have somehow missed.

3AM reports on, erm, Joss Stone's "pre-awards" appearance - which, of course, was "fab":

Joss Stone's fantastic performance at a pre-MTV bash showed she's put awards show embarrassments behind her., presumably, the simple expedient of not being invited to appear at the awards show.

Still, never one to miss the bendy-bus of a zeitgeist, they also join in the 'Winehouse was robbed' chant, treating her unsurprising no show/no prize hand off as the second criminal snub to Winehouse in a week.

Victoria Newton is in no doubt who the star of the evening was: breast tape. This is handy, as on a thin night, it means she can stuff Bizarre with a bunch of pictures of women holding up their breasts with duct taping.

Still, kudos to the Bizarre team, who did at least manage to spot a Briton at the awards. Mind you, it was only a Spice Girl. And even then, it was only Mel B.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Britney Spears: smoke and mirrors

Bubbling around the internet is what purports to be insider knowledge of why Britney screwed up last night. It was, erm, the venue's fault:

Britney Spears was to perform under the magic of Chris Angel... but MTV freaked out at the last minute finding out what Britney was actually going to do.

Supposidly, what Britney and Chris were planning was to do a set of mirrors and flotation. But when told to the Palms Hotel/Casino... the hotel flipped.

Insurance was the main problem, and the stage couldn't support the performance. MTV also freaked at the last minute because of their fear of being "too controversial" during the performance. Britney and Chris were in fact furious with MTV's sad excuse and told Britney to change the performance at the last minute.

Britney's original performance was to in fact appear and disappear. To float through the air... and for much mature dancing.

Hmm. So some sub-David Nixon magic, and all of a sudden the thing was "too controversial"? And if the stage was physically incapable of supporting the set, then regardless of its quality or "mature dancing" content, how could it have gone on? Would the cross-struts have suddenly been more rigid if the morals of the choreography had been sharpened up?

And how could this have happened at the "last minute"? If it was a last-minute change, how did the pair manage to get through rehearsals without the hotel's representatives having a problem? And if it wasn't at the last minute, wouldn't a fairly undemanding dance routine have been simple of Britney to pick up?

Most of all: whatever the dance was, how come Britney didn't know the words of the song? Or did the Palms change those too?

You seriously have to hope this isn't a professional attempt to salvage the night, and just the work of a well-meaning, though fundamentally deluded fan.

Sort-of-indie compilation sort-of-stiffs

In this age of digital downloads and two-track ringles, is there place in the American consumer's heart for that slightly alt-rock compilation This Is Next?


Units shipped: 100,000
Units sold: 1,014

Avril: She'd have rebuilt those levees single-handed

We might have given the impression recently that Avril Lavigne lives in a world where only Avril Lavigne counts. Nothing - nothing - could be further from the truth. She's giving:

"I am a very giving person. When the hurricane thing happened, I went to my closet, filled six boxes of stuff and said to my assistant, 'Take it to Katrina!' I also like to give stuff to people who are my 'workers', especially if they don't make much money."

See? Lavigne knows that some of her staff are getting poor wages, and she's going to make sure that none of them go hungry. Assuming they can eat unwanted clothes. Obviously, she could see they get paid more, but then she wouldn't have the money to be able to fill six boxes with unused ties and Hot Topic make-up when disaster strikes.

This week's new format

Just in case the one-track CD, or USB sticks, or digital vinyl singles wasn't quite enough choice, Sony-BMG are throwing their wait behind the ringle.

Yes, the ringle. A CD with two music tracks and a ringtone.

A ringtone. Shouldn't that just be a giveaway extra rather than the focus of the disc?

Carl Barat says goodbye to the Circus

The Dirty Pretty Things have gone off the Twisted Circus bill with a trump, trump, trump. The band had been advertised as headliners for the Skegness festival; instead, they're going to be in the studio.

I can give you what you want

... assuming, of course, "what you want" is a new single from New Young Pony Club. Get Lucky is out on October 22nd.

Effin' hell: Lily and Monkeys land broadcasters in bother

Liberal use of swearing has caused trouble for the BBC and ITV, in the latest round of Ofcom judgements. The BBC's Glastonbury coverage inadvertently let through a "fuck" from the Arctic Monkeys at teattime:

One viewer contacted Ofcom stating that he was concerned that whilst watching the highlights coverage of Glastonbury at approximately 17:50 on Saturday 23 June 2007, a member of the band, The Arctic Monkeys, said “Now fucking come on now”. The complainant considered that this language could have been edited out.
The BBC explained that a failure of communication between the recording team and
the outside broadcast control truck meant that the precise point of the recording at
which they should have cut away from the band back to the presenter was not made
sufficiently clear.

Ofcom wasn't having that, and ticked the BBC off.

More surprisingly, This Morning, over on ITV, slipped up with Lily Allen:
Eight viewers complained to Ofcom that a fashion item on kaftans was accompanied by the song “Smile” by Lily Allen which featured the lyric “…but you were fucking that girl next door”.

Kaftans? In 2007?

Anyway, as it the usual way in these matters, ITV blamed human error ("human error" is the new official job title for what used to be called Junior Researchers.) Ofcom welcomed the network's apologies but sighed that it should have been more careful.

Jo Whiley: Amy was robbed

Jo Whiley has abandoned the strict impartiality required of her as presenter of the BBC coverage of the Mercury Prize - which is fair enough, as she'd earlier abandoned the required interviewing technique, too - and insisted that Amy Winehouse should have won the Mercury.


Erm, because Jo liked the album:

"Everyone was surprised. Amy was the favourite."

Er... Amy was the second favourite, Jo - remember that man from the bookmakers telling you on television that Bat For Lashes was the favourite?
"The Klaxons are lovely boys but Amy should have won.

"Back To Black is definitely my album of the past year - it's spellbinding. Her performance at the Mercury show was amazing. But it's not about how she performed, it's about the album."

We've not had a chance to look at the rules, but we're fairly sure that the prize is meant for the album decided by the judges to be the best of the year, rather than being an award for Jo Whiley's favourite.

We have a sneaking feeling that what probably happened in the judging stage was votes for Amy and votes for Bats For Lashes were cancelling each other out - the 'ooky female vocal' split - which let the Klaxons through. But we're getting tired at this insistence that, somehow, Winehouse had a moral right to the prize. Clearly, when the judges voted they didn't believe she did. When people bet on the likely winner, they didn't feel she had, either.

Madonna tells Wintour: Rocks' off

There are some mutterings around the gossip blogs that Madonna has displeased Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, by pulling out of a deal to be on the cover of this year's Fashion Rocks magazine.

The usual denials are in place - Madonna never under consideration, no falling out, plenty of room for two Ice Queens - but are somewhat undermined by the story having started out the traps from the Portfolio blog - part of the same Conde Nast empire where Wintour roosts.

Kanye: MTV VMAs don't care about black people

Kanye West didn't take rejection by the MTV Awards with good grace:

"That's two years in a row, man ... give a black man a chance," West said, stomping around his entourage and directing his comments at a reporter. "I'm trying hard man, I have the ... number one record, man." West said he never will return to MTV.

You'd have thought that Kanye would see not being fawned over by the VMAs as some sort of badge of honour. He could have stayed away next year to be aloof from a confused applause from Viacom. Instead, if he doesn't turn up, he'll just look like a poor loser.

Gossip axe live dates to push 'live' DVD

The Gossip's planned November US tour - which was to have had Long Blondes support - has been pulled to allow the band to sync it with the release of their 'live' DVD. The upside? With a couple of months free, the Long Blondes are going to be recording a new album this side of Christmas.

They must find the songwriting process easier than Beth and the boys. According to Rick Rubin, the live record is to fill a gap caused by writer's block:

'I saw [the Gossip] at the Troubadour, and they blew my mind'," [Rick Rubin] said. 'It was the best show I've seen in five years. Afterward, I met with the band. They felt stressed, and they were having trouble writing songs. The energy in the room when they were performing was so intense, and I'm not even sure how we'd get it to feel like that in the studio. So we decided to record a live show during their European tour, and we're going to release a DVD of the live album as their first release.'

How surprising that Beth Ditto - who has so much to say - is so dry of ideas they're lobbing out the same songs again in lieu of a proper new record.

Me! I'm Mel Galley!

Identity theft - nobody's safe. Not even Mel Galley, once of Whitesnake. Apparently, he's got a ringer using his name:

"I would like to inform your readers that a conman is operating in the Nottingham and Derbyshire areas pretending to be the guitarist and singer Mel Galley who is best known for his work in the bands TRAPEZE, WHITESNAKE, and the PHENOMENA project. He introduces himself to bands in pubs and elsewhere as Mel, offers advice, hands out plectrums, wears a snake ring and tells about how he is set to go and work with Tony Iommi (BLACK SABBATH) in studios in Birmingham or play with ZZ TOP in the USA etc. He told one band that he hadn’t spoken to former colleague Glenn Hughes for over five years. These are all lies. He even has the cheek to autograph CDs and albums and have his picture taken with fans. It would appear he has being doing this for a number of years.

"How do I know all this? Well, apart from actually being Mel Galley myself, last year I set up my own Internet page on MySpace and also for my band TRAPEZE and ever since then I have had messages thanking me for watching bands I have never heard of, in pubs I have never been to! The only actual band I have met this year is an excellent American one called BLANCO DIABLO who toured the UK recently. The imposter tells people he can’t play the guitar due to a well documented injury I suffered whilst in WHITESNAKE. If you visit my personal site you will see that I actually played live very recently.

"Sorry to disappoint those of you who think you have met me."

The odd thing is that this other Mel Galley doesn't seem to be doing this for any sort of personal gain - unless 'having people think you were once in Whitesnake' is a bigger buzz than it seems.

Of course, we only have the Mel Galley MySpace's word for it that he is the real Mel Galley. At least the fake one seems to be better at putting himself about.

Suggs gets fishy

Oddly, Suggs seems to be easing out Captain Birds Eye. He's taking on the role of fish-finger salesman, promoting the health-giving benefits of over-fishing as part of the latest advertising campaign. Apparently they're packed full of Omega3, like catfood.

Radio One More Time: Perkins Grange

If you ever needed evidence that some ideas work much better on radio than on television, Noel Edmonds' Sunday morning trips to Perkins Grange, compared with the same idea, transplanted to BBC One and Crinkly Bottom, pretty much makes the case open-and-shut.

What on radio could be implied and glossed over - naturally, you're in the baronial home of Radio 4 newsreader Brian Perkins, who happens to be on hand to help out during the morning - needs to be shown on television; where Perkins Grange existed as a perfect mental image, Crinkly Bottom was clearly a cheap studio set in a television hangar in London.

Other elements lost something in translation.

On Radio 1, Noel pretty much invented the funny phone call. Actually, the Funny Phone Call, for that's what he called them. Before every idiot able to operate a mixing desk phone got in on the act, and the wit was bludgeoned out to make room for Scott Mills telling parents their kids are changing their name to Wanker, there was still something amusing in the idea of Noel ringing up in a "disguised" voice, making a mild claim (traffic lights outside your window, that sort of thing), letting the victim get slightly riled, before the big reveal "it's Noel Edmonds, on Radio 1..."

Actually, we don't know why Noel bothered putting on a fake voice, as it was always the same fake voice. As a relatively fresh idea, it never needed to push itself to levels of credulity-stretch or cruelty to get its laugh, and was so popular BBC Cassettes even stuck out a couple of compilations of the 'best' calls.

When taken to television, though, the concept was ratcheted up into the Gotcha, and the extra budget required celebrity targets, and before long it was all about Dave Lee Travis and Keith Chegwin. Interestingly, the move to celebritising the format had been presage during Mike Read's period on the Sunday morning show, where he took to doing prank calls on celebrities - most notably, persuading Su Pollard she'd been chosen to sing the lyrics that were about to be added to the EastEnders theme tune.

Likewise, the readings of Thomas The Tank Engine - the 'something for all the family' element of Sunday Mornings - somehow worked itself up into being Mr. Blobby on the TV. Presumably, these days, no Radio 1 show would be able to the cost of rights to bring Thomas to the air, but Edmonds was working back before Ringo Starr built the Tank Engine's stock to such levels.

Noel might point to the surprisingly high figures for Noel Edmond's House Party and proclaim it a success. On the other hand, when he did the Radio 1 show, he was one of the most popular presenters in the UK; by the end of House Party, Noel was something of an entertainment pariah. It all depends, of course, on what you see as a success.

[Part of Radio One More Time]