Saturday, February 02, 2008

After nearly 50 years, Cliff finishes his review of The Beatles

Cliff Richard - and we can only assume this has been eating away at him since the middle of the last century - isn't impressed by The Beatles Please Please Me:

"Some of the guitar is so out of tune it's unbelievable. I couldn't believe that here they were in this hi-tech age and they couldn't go back and do it with a tuned guitar."

Since Cliff made his observations, the public have realised they've had it wrong all these years and are demanding refunds. Branches of Rumblelows are to reopen specially to provide people with refunds.

Robbie Williams is not done paying yet

The libelous Rudebox track continues to fill Nigel Martin-Smith's pockets, as he accepts payments from Chrysalis after they distributed Williams' work. Although the High Court had stepped in before the album was made available to the public, the original version had been distributed to journalists; although the label tried to recall them, they didn't do so quickly enough:

Matthew Nicklin, for Chrysalis, said that it "wishes to make it clear that it did not intend the lyrics of The 90s to be taken at face value or as a serious statement of the views that Chrysalis holds of Mr Martin Smith."

"Chrysalis did not intend to allege that Mr Martin Smith has ever stolen funds from Take That, or from anyone," he said.

You do wonder if EMI had anyone from their legal department listen to the track before pressing up the records. Or even if EMI has a legal department these days.

Filling iPods for scientitific purposes

A well-meaning and welcome move by the Italian parliament to non-commerical sharing of 'degraded' music files has effectively created a massive loophole in Italian law - because all mp3 files are 'degraded' in a legal sense.

Of course, having had their error pointed out to them, Italy's lawmakers could simply pass a new law to tighten up the wording of the old - but they might be too busy right now.

Sadi Thom takes it on board

Apparently, the criticism of her last album has shaped Sandi Thom's new one:

"I've learned to take criticism better and grown a thicker skin," Thom told the Daily Record. "Some of the songs were inspired by criticism from the media."

She can't have taken too much on board, though, otherwise she wouldn't have made a second album, would she?

Thom suggests the whole stunt which launched her was a bit of a mistake:
"The webcasts were a great thing to happen but they overshadowed the music. It was unfortunate. I want this album to wipe the slate clean. Just listen to the songs. There's nothing contrived, it's just about the music."

So, that would seem to admit the whole of the first album - from the 'unsigned basement sessions' onwards - was contrived.

The kids are alright, and fairly legal

So, the music industry claims it needs more and more powers to slap down illegal filesharing, citing large numbers of illegal files sweeping off servers round the clock.

We've always raised a curious eyebrow at the extent of illegal activity the RIAA claims; our eyebrows are now rising so high that we're going to have to get a mirror on a stick to pluck them in future with the release of a survey which reveals that 70% of Americans aged between nine and 14 download, and the most common source of music for that sector is iTunes. 49% of them turn to Apple - despite not having credit cards, which makes it difficult for them; despite having grown up with illegal free music on offer, a circumstance which the RIAA insisted would make their generation never value music and not expect to pay for it.

A quarter, admittedly, did say they used peer-to-peer, but that's a suprisingly small figure - and much, much below the picture painted by the RIAA. Encouraging news, you would have thought.

Hannah Montana: Our line of defence against Bono

In what was possibly conceived as a gesture towards the one he loves most, Bono had been hoping to dominate 3D cinemas on Valentine's Day. Plans had been laid to push the 3D U2 movie into as many theatres as possible for February 14th.

Trouble is, it's been scuppered: Hannah Montana needs the screens and, in what might prove something of a blow to Mr Vox's ego, he might be able to demand an audience with Henry Kissinger, but when it comes to the multiplexes, it's Miley Cyrus who has the weight.

Rhapsody fades

One of the many touted iTunes killers, RealNetwork's Rhapsody service has been finding the battle against Apple something of a struggle; it's merging with MTV's Urge and, as a result, is laying off staff. Rhapsody America, the service which will emerge from the merger, doesn't look likely to have any more impact than the two from which it is hewn.

Jay-Z for the Pyramid stage

Now, we're all for the idea of Jay-Z turning up at the Glastonbury Festival - it's all confirmed now; BBC Radio Somerset got the scoop. But we're not sure that Michael Eavis has really thought this through:

"He will appeal to the young people and under-25s for sure, so that's a big pull for them.

"It's not like the traditional one we do, like Radiohead, Coldplay and Muse and Oasis."

Is Jay-Z really more attractive to the teenage market than Radiohead are? Especially amongst the sort of people who'd go to Glastonbury? Isn't this an older, middle-class, white bloke's idea of 'the sort of thing the kids like'?

And, with tickets costing more than ever, requiring a credit card and ID checks, is having a rapping singer on the bill really going to do that much to bring younger people back to the festival?

Sony: Keep the music you've paid for. For a bit.

The imminent closure of the Sony Connect Music store might be causing some worry to the people who'd thrown their hard-earned cash at the DRMed product. But not worry - Sony has put together an FAQ to help their loyal customers adjust to the new world.

For example, you might be wondering:

What will happen to my library (content I own)?

'Own' as in 'have paid for', of course.

Sony is generous - why, just because they're going out of business, you won't lose the music you've bought...
You will continue to be able to play, manage, and transfer the music in your SonicStage® library and on your ATRAC player. For music purchased via CONNECT, this means you may continue to enjoy it as usual...

Splendid! your current PC configuration in accordance with our terms of use.

Aha! So, having been honest, and paid out for the tracks in accordance with the wishes of the music industry, you get to keep your songs for as long as you can hold off upgrading your computer.

The suspicion is that you might have been better off keeping your money in your pocket, and having access to the tracks forever. Why would you buy a DRMed track in future, if even a bloody record label can't guarantee you'll be able to play them in the future?

[Thanks to Karl T for the link]

Darkness at 3AM: What have they got against Bedingfield?

Have the new 3AM Girls got some sort of score to settle with Natasha Bedingfield? Yesterday they ran a piece snorting at her "ten fans" and then suggesting that she'd let down a UK fanbase that they claimed didn't exist. Today, Bedingfield's people have tried to make ammends:

The singer's people have been on to us saying she's as "disappointed as her fans" and that she "really wants to come home ASAP and make it up to them".


We're told: " She'll release a single with Sean Kingston this spring and do some free gigs in the UK before the end of summer to try and give something back to the fans."

And the 3AMies response?
Try harder.

What? Free gigs, a tour as soon as possible, a new single? What do the 3AMies want, exactly? Some sort of ritual act of contrition? Self-evisceration on national television, perhaps?

Hudson hawkish as Spices split

Gary Thatcher draws our attention to The Mirror's coverage of the Spice announcement, and in particular, Polly Hudson's commentary:

THIS has literally been the worst week ever. We’ve endured the horror of Tweedy-Gate, the shock of Britney-Gate and now we’ve suddenly got Spice-Gate to contend with too. Sheesh!

We'd have thought that the last word in the paragraph might have alerted Hudson to the overstatement of her first sentence. As Edgar says, "The worst is not, so long as we can say, "Sheesh!"

Polly is puzzled:
I’m baffled as to why the Spice Girls have made this huge announcement that they’re splitting up.

No, hang on, she's outraged:
The unforgivable bit is they cancelled shows, letting down fans they insisted they were doing it for.

So, either there were large numbers of fans who needed to have the news broken to them, or there was no reason for them to make an announcement. Unless you're Polly, of course, in which case both contradictory stances can exist together.

That they haven't actually cancelled any shows doesn't seem to have made their behaviour any more forgivable for Hudson.

Gordon in the morning: Little sympathy

What a charmer Gordon Smart is: this morning, running a story about Lily and Ed's break-up and, as if that wasn't tawdry enough, topping up the piece by detailing their recent loss, all over again. Perhaps we're better off if he sticks to stories like Naomi Campbell's nipple slip. (Although why would you bother running a grainy shot of an accidental nipple-poke by a supermodel? Don't about one-in-ten of her professional shots have a nipple in them?

Gordon's "closeness" (i.e. perpetual crawling) to the Spice Girls camp has resulted in what may-or-may not be the true story behind the axing of the world tour: Mel C doesn't want to do any more. We suspect this might demonstrate what part of the Spice Girls camp he's close to. If only Mel C had been so determined twelve months ago.

That's how people grow tired

Obviously, Morrissey had already resumed his tour this Wednesday - after being too ill to play half his London dates - but even so, for someone who had only just got back to full strength, hoofing it down from Doncaster on Wednesday to tape a Jonathan Ross show on Thursday is quite a feat:

Talking of Ross and Morrissey, the awkward, toe-curling moment where Ross, Russell Brand and Dabid Walliams came onstage at the Roundhouse is preserved for all eternity on YouTube - "from every angle" as The Word's podcasters observed. This is why it's better for such announcements to be made over loudspeakers:

Spice Girls discover 'family' more attractive than 'half empty halls'

The Spice Girls reunion tour has been truncated, with a slew of dates being deep sixed around the globe:

"Sadly, the tour needs to come to an end by the end of February due to family and personal commitments for Emma, Geri, Mel B, Melanie C and Victoria.

"It was announced in June that, as well as the Europe and the US, the girls planned to visit Australia, China, South Africa and Argentina.

Really sorry if we didn't get to see you this time round. We all have other commitments in our lives now, but who knows what will happen next

"Due to the phenomenal demand for tickets in the UK and the US, along with the touring logistics for such a massive production, it was not possible to fit everything in."

Those "other commitments" in the Spice Girls' lives - what would they actually be, then? Is the Australian Dancing With The Stars refusing to take 'no' for an answer from Geri? Has Mel B decided she needs to drive up and down Eddy Murphy's street bellowing DNA test results? Is Victoria thinking that, damn it all, 2008 is the year she needs to finally tackle Anthony Powell's A Dance To The Music Of Time, and no excuses?

The band will still play Toronto, a town which showed its enthusiasm for a Spice Girls visit by registering online; they'll now just not play any of the places which demonstrated their lack of enthusiasm for a visit by not being that interested.

Britney Spears: Father takes control

BBC News is reporting that the courts have given Britney Spears' father "conservatorship", something akin to power of attorney, over her assets:

The conservators will have power over the 26-year-old singer's liquid assets and can bar people from visiting her, officials said.

The Los Angeles court also placed a restraining order on Spears' manager Sam Lutfi, and gave permission to change the locks on her estate and remove anyone who was there.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Anyone who had a harp

There's some lovely coverage - in words and pictures - of Joanna Newsom in Brooklyn over on Brooklyn Vegan. Of course.

Mozzer abandons Camden

Having had his illness problems halfway through his Roundhouse run, it now turns out that Morrissey isn't going to bother to reschedule the cancelled three dates:

Concert promoters SJM released a statement saying: “The artiste and promoters tried strenuously to reschedule the three shows but it proved impossible. We would like to extend our apologies to all of Morrissey’s loyal fans over this unavoidable situation.”

Clearly, Morrissey's busy life of cutting out articles from the Daily Express and firing staff doesn't leave room for popping back over to London. Still, as SJM point out, his fans are loyal - and if you've stuck with him through the last few years, clearly being treated as disposable once again won't put them off.

Kylie Minogue too hot for TV

Ofcom stepped in to stop Channel 4 showing Kylie's new video on Wednesday. Why? Could it be the regulator was objecting to a video which was so hot it constituted a Kylie Mingoue sex tape? Was the television watchdog outraged by the possibility of a video showing Kylie naked except for two chocolate hobnobs, sitting astride a giant phallus, screeching about her desire to be done, now, by everyone?

Or could it be that they were just a bit worried the strobing lights in the video might cause people suffering from photo sensitive epilepsy to have an attack?

Yes. The last one.

A little Ghetto heaven

Founded by the coming together of Deerhunter's Bradford Cox and Cole Alexander from Black Lips, Ghetto Cross are like some sort of supergroup. If you're not that fussy about requiring supergroup members to have their own country mansions. What do they sound like?
This, actually. The song's called Dog Years and features the line "I love you like a fat man loves a doughnut..."

The Beatles in space

Scientists worry that astronomy and space and the universe and the possibility of other life isn't fascinating enough in its own, which leads them to attempt to hook-up with popular culture in awkward and slightly stilted ways. For example, NASA has just announced plans to pump Across The Universe by The Beatles into space. It's the first song ever to be beamed directly into space, claims NASA, although it doesn't seem to offer any real explanation as to why they're doing it.

Macca is thrilled:

"Well done, Nasa," he added. "Send my love to the aliens. All the best, Paul."

Although he'd probably rather NASA sends his ex-love to the aliens instead.

Yoko also embraced this opportunity to open new a market for John Lennon branded babygros and peace-enabled pencils:
"I see this as the beginning of the new age in which we will communicate with billions of planets across the universe."

EMI is readying boxed sets even as we speak. Just in case. It's not yet clear if aliens living on the other side of the universe will be asked to imagine a lack of heaven below them, or if that would constitute cultural imperialism.

Going to court lands R Kelly in court

R Kelly must be thinking something along the lines of "I live a very model of a Kafkaesque existence" right now - okay, he's probably putting it more like "sucky sucks sucks suck" - as his enforced appearance in a Chicago courtroom last December has now landed him with fresh new legal proceedings from the promoter of the gig in Atlanta he missed as result.

It appears Mr. Kelly has forgotten to return the upfront fee he pocketed for the event he never paid; the promoter has decided, actually, he'd quite like it back, with expenses.

DPT experience sophomore slump

Chances of the Dirty Pretty Things turning up at Glastonbury are dropping, as Carl Barat reveals the second album is proving, well, difficult:

"The recording process was quite long. We were approaching from a different style of doing things as well, less jingly-jangly and happy-go-lucky. It was a bit more planned.”

"Glastonbury's been rumoured but we don't have many bargaining chips when we don't have any songs out.

"It's quite frustrating not to have anything out. We're eager to get the record out but a lot of hiccups seem to be happening along the way.

"There are a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up properly and then someone had to go back to Los Angeles and pick up the files again and strange things like that."

See, last night's Buzzcocks might have had a lot of fun at the expense of the Yellow Pages, but if the band had had a copy round they could have looked up 'Couriers: International' and saved themselves a couple of days. Something to think about when Glastonbury are forced to stick The View on instead of the DPT.

Second spurt

Nocturnal Emissions' um, seminal 1985 album Songs Of Love And Revolution is getting a limited edition re-release. This time, the CD is being mastered from the vinyl album rather than the original tape, on account of how bad the first CD version sounded; fans also get the 12" No Sacrifice tracks. There's only 400, so don't hang about washing sheets at 2am if you want one.

Dawn load down Landes

The rather splendid Dawn Landes is heading out for a US tour to promote Fireproof; it's home to the track Bodyguard which, rather than describing, you can hear, here. (It's the 'official' version of the track she did live on Radcliffe & Maconie a couple of weeks back.)

[If you like music coming out your computer, don't forget to explore the Ride weekend]

Darkness at 3AM: Lolly plop

Obviously, if The Sun isn't going to leave Winehouse alone, neither is the Mirror. The trouble is, with Smart's lot discovering that Winehouse (apparently) was rushed to a proper hospital on Wednesday night, 3AM's giggling tale of Winehouse eating ice lollies looks a little weak. We half expected to see a story announcing that Britney Spears has taken up sketching, but... no, the rest of this "toxic" column doesn't actually get close to that sort of story. Kate Moss has night out and stays up late! Pregnant woman looks pregnant! Is this all you've got?

The new team struggle to find something to say about Ashley Cole-Cheryl Tweedy, and so ask Louise what used to be in Eternal. On the basis that, erm, she's also married to a footballer. Louise offers nothing approaching advice:

"I can't judge anyone's relationship but Cheryl needs to follow her heart. I've been married now for 10 years and, you know, sometimes I want to kill him."

So... is Louise saying that she herself should "follow her heart" and kill Jamie Redknapp? Presumably not.

Has the new 3AM team run out of steam so quickly?

The pop museum

There's an interesting piece by Emma Townshend, daughter of Pete, in today's Times, worrying that - because pop memorabilia collections tend to dissipated, the future might not be great for future archivists:

David Hesmondhalgh, Professor of Media and Music Industries at Leeds University, sets out the problem: “Pop music is full of transient, fleeting stuff that's very hard to keep. What you have out there is a lot of fans who are collecting. I'm wondering what happens when this generation of people die: where will all those collections go?”

Landfill, mostly, we guess.

Townshend was inspired by a visit to France:
An article in last month's French Vogue highlights what we're missing. Charlotte Gainsbourg shows us round her father Serge's now-infamous Paris apartment which she plans to open as a museum. Each room feels as if Serge just went out to get his Gauloises: strewn with magazines, guitar leads, tape machines and gold records, they have an extraordinary flavour of the man. The value of the collection as a key to Serge Gainsbourg is inestimable because it hasn't been broken up into saleable items. It can provide an amazing glimpse into his off-the-scale way of life. There's nothing else like it anywhere in the world.

Hmm. The daughter of Pete Townshend suggesting the model to follow might be a daughter of a rock star carving a niche for herself as her father's archivist.

The introduction to the story makes a quite alarming claim:
There's more documented evidence for Handel than for Jimi Hendrix, who lived in the same London house 200 years later

although, it turns out, this isn't quite true:
Sarah Bardwell['s] Mayfair building was the 18th-century home of the composer Handel, but in recent years a blue plaque was put up for Jimi Hendrix, who lived in the top-floor flat during the winter of 1968.

“Yet we have infinitely more documented evidence for Handel, who lived in this house from 1723 to 1759, than we do for Jimi Hendrix,” Bardwell explains.

That would seem to be suggesting not that there's less documentary evidence about Hendrix life than that of Handel, just less at that particular house. Which might be sad, but is less alarming.

Townshend pere explains that a lot of the problem is that rock didn't seek to leave any traces:
My father Pete Townshend of The Who says: “My early manifesto for The Who was that we would destroy everything about us in a very short space of time. It was like an art installation idea, which was that there would be nothing left after 18 months. I'd been indoctrinated at college, firstly by people like Gustav Metzger, saying it was the artist's duty to make their work self-destruct, but on the other hand, by my art-school friends telling me that in ten years' time all information will be on the back of a pin head that you put behind your ear and then everybody will know everything. So it seemed as if there was no need to keep stuff.”

We're not so sure that things are quite as grim as Emma paints it - she's quite disdainful about the Hard Rock style of collecting, but the desire to fill awful burger bars with old guitars and stage costumes has given a value to a lot of material which would otherwise, in all likelihood, have disappeared; there are more collections and holdings than you might expect.

The real problem is knowing what we should be preserving. It's impossible to retain everything - you only have to visit those dingy flats full of piles of newspapers to know where that madness lays. Pete Townshend does:
“Wading through is deeply disturbing and exhausting. It's like moving house. And there's an arrogance, a smugness, to keeping everything, like people who keep every one of their child's drawings.”

So what do you keep? How do you know if, fifty years hence, a ticket to a Hoosiers gig is going to have more value than a Kate Nash set list?

Preserving the music might be seen as being the first priority: Townshend visits the Sound Archive:
One of the few bastions of curatorial care for our popular music is the British Sound Archive at the British Library. “We try to get a copy of everything commercially issued in the UK,” says Andy Linehan, the curator. (And there are shelves and shelves of printed materials, including a collection of the NME dating back to 1926.) “We have voluntary agreements with the major record labels; then a significant part of the job is picking up all the smaller labels, encouraging them to send copies into us. We even try to cover limited editions - we have hundreds of Fierce Panda recordings. Basically - we try, we try, we try.”

A collection of NMEs which dates back 26 years before the first issue is quite impressive. But you've got to love a man whose job involves gathering Fierce Panda records.

Emma suggests that, perhaps, we need a proper national collection on the model of the Lottery funded writer's archives. It's not a bad idea. If only we weren't pissing away all the lottery money on the Olympics.

Right-wing politician announces tour dates

We'd much rather Dana busied herself with playing gigs than being active politically. After all, her views on reproductive rights reform in the Republic of Ireland was considered too extreme by the Catholic Church. But is it really possible to watch her trilling jolly little tunes without being a little queasy knowing that this is a woman who finds all kinds of everything reminds her that IUDs are the work of the devil? Can you really return to light entertainment after a period as an extremist politician?

Gordon in the morning: So much news...

It's an action-packed Bizarre this morning: Britney Spears in hospital, handled by US editor Emily Smith; some made-up figures about what Cheryl Tweedy's divorce settlement might be, written by Richard White (showbiz reporter rather Bizarre team) and news of Amy Winehouse being put on a drip - which, again breaks Gordon Smart's promise at the weekend that Winehouse would be left alone now, although it, too, isn't actually written by one of Smart's enormous team.

So, what has left Gordon and the team too busy to write the main stories? Um... he's been looking at Alesha Dixon's new video. Gordon is outraged that it's actually an advert for a car:

WHEN I first saw these glam shots of ALESHA DIXON, I thought I was looking at a pop video.

But have you ever seen one with a Ford Focus in it? No, me neither.

The Strictly Come Dancing winner posed by the motor in an internet-only video for her track 4 U I Will.

A Ford spokesman said that the video was to “celebrate” the car.

That’ll be an “advert” to you and I.

Now, he might have a point - although this isn't quite as tacky as the My Chemical Romance advert-video, where the main video featured product placement and the plot was dictated entirely by the advertistser, this is more of an ad based on the video, but it's still a bit clunky. But is Gordon really so angry at this creeping commercialisation? Is he about to join Adbusters?

Erm... not quite; after all, the advert might be an advert, but it does have a young woman showing her legs in it. Gordon bravely swallows his objections to run the pictures anyway.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Venuewatch: Turnmills ground down

London club Turnmills, a fixture on the scene for nearly quarter of a century, is to close in March:

Turnmills closing means that it is falling foul of a similar fate to that of Kings Cross clubs up the road (The Key, The Cross and Canvas). Turnmills lease is up and the landlord wishes to redevelop the site although in typical Turnmills style there's no hard feelings as the landlord has accommodated the club until they felt it was a good time to hang up their hats.

Home to Sister Bliss and Tall Paul, the club has hosted sets from nearly all the big names in UK clubbing - The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, 'not a real' Judge Jules; it's going out with a bang over the Easter Weekend.

[via Lipstick Vogue]

Jazzobit: Miles Kington

The second tangential obituary of the day: Miles Kington, who died yesterday after a short illness, wasn't just a columnist and wit. In his early career he worked as a jazz reviewer, and also played as a member of one of the few comedy-jazz ensembles the world has seen, Instant Sunshine. It was in this role that he co-presented one of the more extravagant weeks of Jackanory, which not only saw Instant Sunshine turning the story slot into a musical extravaganza, but enjoyed on location filming of the sort rarely seen on the studio-bound series.

Blur reunion just sort-of didn't happen in the end

So, whatever happened to that Blur reunion, then? The studio was booked, the hatchets buried, Alex James persuaded to not talk about cheese for five bloody minutes... and then: nothing.

Graham Coxon has told NME what happened:

"I think people thought, ‘Oh, it’s a bit too much, just jumping into a studio’," he said. "We met for a catch-up and it was great, but there was no real talk of recording. It doesn’t really bother me. I’ve got enough going on to feel happy and fulfilled."

We think this elaborate code for "we got a bit drunk and fell out a little", to be honest.

Promoterobit: Jeremy Beadle

As we're reminded by TJ Worthington's appreciation of Jeremy Beadle for Talk About The Passion, although he will be remembered as a prankster, Beadle's first forays into the entertainment world were as a promoter of festivals and gigs: indeed, he brought Captain Beefheart to play in the UK, a move which surely will offest giving Sarah Kennedy a national platform.

He also edited Time Out for a spell - although there seems some confusion if he took the role at the Northern edition, the London edition, or both, depending on what obituary you believe - and, besides presenting in his own right on LBC, TalkRadio, and Radios 2, 3 and 4, wrote for some of the radio legends, including Kenny Everett.

Jeremy Beadle died yesterday of pneumonia after a long bout of repeated illnesses. He was 59.

Morrissey chests up Obama's run

There's a wonderful photo of Morrissey wearing a tshirt picturing him stood next to Barack Obama during his aborted run of London gigs (Mozzer's gigs, not Obama's); apparently it was made for him by one of his hardcore fans.

That might prove a bit of a problem, though, what with Obama's position on US immigration, calling for a "path to citizenship" for all undocumented workers in the country. Oh, hang on, though - Morrissey only objects to immigration into the UK, doesn't he, what with his happy emigration to other nations. So maybe that's alright, then. We'd love for Mozzer to explain, but experience suggests we shouldn't hold our breath.

The t-shirt also depicts Mozzer with a head full of hair, which is presumably to underline the fantasy inherent in the idea of a Brit as a Vice-Presidential running mate.

Sweet! Caroline for Glastonbury

According to Q magazine's website, Neil Diamond is going to be playing Glastonbury.

Well, Eavis did promise a black American act for the young people, and... well, one out of three is considered a passing rate for some GCSEs.

We suspect Diamond will take that Sunday afternoon 'and for those of you watching on BBC Four' slot, and not be "headlining" as some over-excited websites have it.

We love that this has 'leaked' the day before ticket registration goes live, as if it might persuade some undecided types to have a go at getting on the list.

Sony BMG shrinks a little more

The inevitable human cost of shift to digital distribution: Sony BMG are losing 25 staff from roles connected with physical distribution.

Radio audiences: we have a difference of opinion, Geoffrey

Proving, perhaps, that the RAJAR figures are so hard to navigate you can read into them what you wish, Digital Spy and report simultaneously on a 10% and 16.6% share of radio listening for Digital audiences. The discrepancy, of course, is because Digital Spy is quoting the figure for audiences listening on a DAB receiver, while MAD is looking at any digital platfrom.

The news isn't good for commercial digital broadcasters, though, as of the five largest ad-supported digital-only stations have had their audiences slip over the last quarter; of the big five only Heat managed an increase.

New owners of EMAP's old radio business, Bauer Radio, might be sucking a thoughtful tooth when they discover Q had displaced a quarter of its listenership between September and December.

Happily, a weak set of commercial results was balanced by strong figures for 6Music - edging ever closer to the magic half a million mark despite the new shouty-boy daytime schedule - 1Xtra and BBC7.

Back on old fashioned radio, Moyles is closing in on Terry Wogan - now just 420,000 listeners shy of his breakfast rival. Although Moyles has been doing the show four years now; at this rate Wogan's going to be dead before he catches him.

London's always diverting battle sees Capital continuing to languish in the area it once dominated; Heat and Magic are both the biggest radio stations now depending on if you care about reach or share. They'll take some comfort in that the gap between them and Kiss is a little wider - 90,000 listeners compared with 10,000 this time last year - although 'victory in the battle to avoid dropping to fourth place' isn't much of a song to sing to the shareholders.

They might be feeling a little vindicated, though, looking at XFM's performance year-on-year: their share of total listening in London hasn't shifted - 1.3% - but the size of the audience has nudged up from 479,000 to 513,000. Killing off presenters has brought in more listeners.

All year-on-year comparisons, by the way, are effectively valueless as RAJAR changed it methodology in Summer 2007.

Britney hospitalised

TMZ is reporting that Britney Spears is being detained in hospital in LA on a "5150 hold" - apparently meaning she's considered a danger to herself.

Darkness at 3AM: Groins gone toxic

Day four of the new management at 3AM, and it looks like they've already run into the ground: today, they're running with Alfie Allen's public hair.

Yes, the-brother-of-the-daughter-of-the-bloke-from-the-mouthwash-advert. Apparently he's had to have his pubes trimmed before going onstage in Equus.

Yes, that's their lead story.

They also have a pop stars get drunk shocka - the Arctic Monkeys, in this case. They attempt to make the story interesting by injecting a not-very-subtle drugs reference:

Jaime [Winston, who turned up] clearly had quite a thirst as she kept shouting for her Coke.

Do you get... oh, you do.

More surprisingly, they manage to get the Natasha Bedingfield story completely wrong:
All that attention in the States must have gone to Natasha Bedingfield's head 'cos she seems to have forgotten where she comes from.

The toothy singer has cracked America by being the first UK-signed female to enter the Billboard album charts at number three. And her next single is being released in the US first.

Except, of course, the album was held back for months in the US before being pushed out in the weak, post-Christmas period - hence its better-than-expected chart entry point - garnering a bunch of less-than-impressed reviews.
But with all this talk of being big in the US, she's ignoring her UK fans.

All 10 of them, that is, because last night Natasha cancelled all her UK tour dates again blaming US commitments.

"Last night"? Ten days ago, surely?

Gordon in the morning: Again with the Coles?

The continuing tale-a-day of the unhappy Coles dominates Gordon Smart's column this morning, with Gordon himself dredging up a new angle: a claim that Cheryl isn't eating:

HEARTBROKEN CHERYL COLE has not eaten for a WEEK since The Sun revealed her husband ASHLEY cheated on her.

Having set up his own story, Gordon then, erm, reveals that it's not quite true:
A source close to the Geordie singer said last night: “Everyone is really worried about Cheryl.

“She didn’t eat for a couple of days and everyone close to her understood because she was so upset.

“But time has dragged on and she has now gone the best part of a week without a proper meal. "

So, even Gordon's own "source" doesn't say she's not eaten for a week; just that she's not had a "proper meal" for "the best part of a week".

So Gordon's story is actually: upset woman doesn't have hearty appetite.

Smart tries to work it up into a pending medical emergency:
“She can’t force food down because she is still in shock. She’s been having dizzy spells and is close to collapse. It’s really worrying.”

She can't force food down because she's in shock?

Elsewhere, the team who are covering Britney Spears' mental health crisis come up with the perfect Gordon Smart Bizarre introduction:
BRITNEY SPEARS is addicted to crystal meth, it was claimed yesterday - as the singer nipped out in a revealing top.

Gordon also gets excited by Maggie Gyllenhaal's movie supporting the striking writers. Gordon, bravely adopting the role of Industrial Correspondent, gets excited:
Gyllenhaal in 'lesbian orgy'

Well... Gyllenhaal in film, actually. But poor Gordon gets all heated up only to be left with his sports sock on and nowhere to go:
The other ladies join her on the bed, but, as things start to get interesting, the lights fade and the film ends with a sexy pizza delivery girl entering the bedroom.

So, erm, no 'lesbian orgy', then.

David Walliams' admission that his cameo in Virgin Territory isn't very good excites Smart, as it allows him to look at some breasts:
Actually, that’s what the redeeming features are, - knockers - and they belong to model KATE GROOMBRIDGE.

I’ve seen some stills from the film and she kindly displays her perfectly-formed breasts, while a couple of naughty naked nuns share a saucy bath with Christensen.

Good to see the Star Wars hero keeping the lightsabre well oiled (and I thought I had the best job in showbiz).

How long will you keep that job if you think that Darth Vader is the hero of Star Wars?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

MIDEM 2008: Orange: DRM is hobbling our business

It's not just customers (or would-be customers) who get frustrated by DRM: it's a pain in the arse for retailers, too. At MIDEM, Orange music product development director Brenda O’Connell has told MocoNews that DRM has caused problems for the company's attempts to create downloads usable on PCs as well as mobiles:

“The DRM ecosystem on the mobile and on the PC is fundamentally different; getting them to talk together to create a seamless experience was a huge amount of work.”

And results have been “nothing to write home about”, she conceded: “It’s taken us two years to get this converged service to market, two years is far too long. We’re also very concerned about the fact that customers are really rejecting DRM. We want to launch not only a la carte services but subscription-based services, rental models. DRM is what’s holding us back at this point.”

Something to think about as you read music industry bosses raging at people who grab music where they can - after all this time, it's the industry's reluctance to trust people which is, reducing the legitimate options for downloads and ironically making theft more likely.

For all the talk about this MIDEM being a conference where the industry has embraced digital, when you listen to the people who are trying to work with the majors, it's clear they've not actually changed their position at all - just started realising they're going to have to. Ten years too late, and they're still dragging their feet.

Still, Orange retain some optimism:
Orange content services SVP Herve Payan: “If we don’t remove the DRM, we believe it will be slow growth. Ideally, we will have MP3. The majors are changing; we think in the next six months we will have it.”

But still another six months? And that's the optimistic view?

[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Valentines day extended

My Bloody Valentine have added some extra dates to their tour, with a schedule which Pitchfork is now tracking thus:

06-20 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-21 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-22 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-23 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-24 London, England - The Roundhouse
06-28 Manchester, England - Apollo
06-29 Manchester, England - Apollo
07-02 Glasgow, Scotland - Barrowland
07-03 Glasgow, Scotland - Barrowland
07-03-06 Roskilde, Denmark - Roskilde Festival
07-09 Paris, France - Zenith
07-17-20 Benicassim, Spain - Festival Internacional de Benicassim
08-08 Oslo, Norway - Oya Festival has a bit of a 'mare

An anonymous contact gets in touch to point out the slightly fall-apart nature of one of the pages on today, which apparently puts Razorlight's next album as the third richest woman in rock and suggests that Britney Spears had high tea at the Dorchester with her mother. Oddly, the page is still like that, some eight hours later.

We all have bad days, and it's the easiest thing in the world to put a broken page live. You'd just hope someone would notice...

We're also a little puzzled by the vague wording of the advert for this week's magazine - "great competitions on every page"? Really?

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: The difference between the NME and Brit awards

For those of you uncertain about the difference between the NME Awards and the Brit Awards - and, frankly, apart from the attitude towards Mika it can be hard to tell - Gennaro Castaldo has popped up on Newsbeat to explain:

He said: "Album sales go up much more if an artist wins a Brit because a lot more people read about it in the papers and hear about it on TV.

"The Brits act as a platform for a more mainstream audience who don't buy music as much as NME readers. But, they will respond to key events during the year whether it's the Brits or the Mercury Awards."

"The ones that do particularly well haven't quite had that full public exposure but they've been bubbling under," he explained.

"With an emerging artist sometimes their sales can go up by three, four maybe five times their typical sales level. In that sense the Brits does allow you to connect to that much wider audience."

Unlike the Brits, the NME Awards focus on "specific music fans" who are "very passionate about music" and the ceremony tends to focus "on the quality of the record or artist overall", according to Mr Castaldo.

So... if the NME awards concentrates on the quality of the music and the artists, does that mean the Brits don't? Obviously, we'd agree with that, but since HMV are going to try flogging albums with "Brit nominee" stickers on, it's surprising to see their press spokesperson suggesting that the prizes are given out to people with no regard for quality, for people who don't care about music, purely to boost sales.

[Thanks to Peter D for the link]

Universal rub hands with delight

ContactMusic haven't sourced the quote they attribute to Hassan Choudhury, vice president of Universal Music International, and you really have to hope it's not genuine. They claim he said:

"There's no getting away from the fact all the coverage has kept Amy Winehouse's profile at the highest level.

"Everyone (at Universal) is extremely happy with the amount of records we've sold and a lot of it has been down to some amazing marketing opportunities in the market when the artist wasn't available."

How fortunate that "the coverage" of a woman getting more and more addicted to crack has helped the profile and sell records, eh?

Like we say: let's hope the quote has got a little lost in translation. If it's genuine, then he might want to consider his position. If it's not, ContactMusic have some explaining to do.

The Kooks split. But not enough.

Max Rafferty has left The Kooks, for the second time. The band have got a replacement - because they teach you that 'the show must go on' at stage school - but for now, we're choosing to see it as one down, three to go.

The Brit biter bit

Not pausing to have much of a grapple with the concept of irony, one of the paparazzi hanging outside Britney's house had a little strop at being filmed by TMZ yesterday. Hey, the guy's only trying to do his job, shoving a camera in the face of a mentally ill womman - does he deserve to have a camera shoved in his face?

Rather less gloriously, TMZ is streaming live coverage from outside Spears' house. Perhaps E! could send a crew to tape them. Or maybe everyone could go home...

MIDEM 2008: FT senses restraint

The Financial Times' overview of MIDEM paints a picture of, if not austerity, then at least restraint:

Normally, business at Midem is conducted from yacht to yacht, but seasoned veterans of the industry’s most prolonged schmooze have already detected a certain restraint in spending this year. Maybe it can be laid at the door of EMI. When Guy Hands of Terra Firma first gained entrance to the venerable institution, he declared it a mountain of waste.

Although having hundreds of staff from an industry pop over to the South of France is, in itself, a bit of a cash burn-off, isn't it?

The FT's man with the Pina Colada, Ben Fenton, was asked to believe a thousand unlikely things before each good breakfast:
Robin Hunt, former CEO of Spiral Frog, the first serious attempt at an ad-supported download service, and now chief strategy office of Qtrax, the next and rather more heavyweight effort, told me that whichever single is number one in the US is having five million songs a day stolen.

Five million songs a day? Really? That means 1.8 billion downloads of just the number one single, every year. Or every man, woman and child in the US 'stealing' a copy of a number one single every two months.

But worldwide, last week, the IFPI insisted that the ratio of legal:illegal downloads was 1:99. And that there were 1.7 billion legal downloads. Which means we're expected to believe that one per cent of all illegal downloads worldwide consists of American number one singles downloaded in the week they were number one.

That's just bollocks, isn't it? Another made-up number being thrown around. It's a pity Ben didn't ask him to prove his eye-catching claim. Or, indeed, where his licence agreements actually were. Do QTrax executives have jedi mind control skills or something?

[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Anyone who had a heart op: Not me, says Macca

Paul McCartney has taken to the internet to deny the stories circulating that he's had a heart op:

"There was a minor irregularity which I needed to have tests for and which I have now been assured is completely fine."

Saying he wanted to set the record straight, he joked: "I have secretly been enjoying all the sympathy."
Sir Paul said the tests took place over a year ago.

"The media have only just recently reported an exaggerated version of this and that is why people have been asking me if I am OK," he said.

Actually, Paul, people are asking you if you're okay because over the last twelve months you've started to look drawn and haggered, heart op or no heart op.

Curiously, this might be one of those rare occasions where the Daily Express has been proved to be rig... to be riiiii... no, however hard I try my computer keeps rejecting the phrase suggesting that Britain's number one source for Diana-and-Maddie fibs might have been correct. But it was the Express which reported back in 2006 that McCartney had had a heart scare - although the McCartney camp, erm, denied the story:
A spokesman for Sir Paul denied the visit was caused by a health scare.

They said: "Sir Paul had a routine, regular check-up. It was not to do with his heart and was something planned for some time."

Presumably the current denial of that denial is intended to make the denial of the more recent story seem more plausible, although on this basis, McCartney's people will respond to his obituary with a chipper "he's not dead, but did have heart surgery in 2008 which is probably where this story originated."

It's up to Paul what he chooses to make public, of course, but if his people had just told the truth in 2006, he could probably have avoided this rumour taking hold.

MIDEM 2008: Qtrax: follow the money

Why would a company announce its super-duper new service when it knew that it didn't have any licenses for the service? Hypebot wonders if it was all about the share price for QTrax:

Another explanation may be stock manipulation. Qtrax is controlled by Brilliant Tech Corp (BLLN) who's penny stock has languished at 5 cents for more than a year. But on Monday rafter the announcement the price almost doubled to 9 cents before falling back to a 4.5 cents after revelations from the label.s And now speculators willing to gamble that Qtrax will complete the deals have raised the stock to 5.5 cents.

What's even more interesting is that the price [dynamic page, so won't be relevant by the end of the week] appears to have hit 9 cents at the end of trading on Friday - before the announcement - despite there being very few trades of BLLN shares; there was, however, a lot of activity in the market on the Monday.

[Thanks to Michael M for the link]
[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Capital of Culture Update: Liverpool pays up

A couple of days ago, an anguished Paul Clein, Lib Dem city councilor from Liverpool, wrote the Guardian to defend his team's record:

John Healey's claim that Liverpool city council tops the league of inefficient councils is blatantly partisan and contradicted by the evidence.

Here's some blatantly partisan evidence for you to consider. The doughty council tax payers of the city are having their pockets picked to find a quarter of a million to pay off Jason 'Beg, Steal or' Harborow, former head of the Liverpool Culture Company. Harborow fell out with council leader - we're using leader in an ironic sense here - Warren Bradley after the mismanagement of the Mathew Street Festival came to light earlier in the year.

It's not entirely clear if the quarter of a million quid will come from the £20m hole in the Capital of Culture finanaces, or if it will be added to the size of that hole.

Secret dancing

Secret Shine are going to do some djing (or, as they put it, "play[ing] records in a ‘Dave Lee Travis kind of way’", at Big Pink Cake at The Crown, Bristol, February 6th. It's three quid in.

The cake has a MySpace

Darkness at 3AM: First with the gossip

It's 8.30.

Still no new 3AM Column online.

New Kids dance of the seven reunion veils

We're already sick to death of the New Kids On The Block reunion, and it's not even been confirmed yet. Instead, the past three days of Danny Wood going 'it's not... it might... ooh, you never know' has been enough to remind us why we found them so annoying in the first place.

Presumably the uncertainty is because they can't decide if they'll use the now-more-inappropriate-than-ever New Kids On The Block brand, or their failed, later branding as NKOTB.

Gordon in the morning: Kylie to the rescue

Who can save Britney Spears now? Gordon Smart thinks he knows:

Kylie says she'll help Britney

Really? Is she going to offer a bolthole for her? Is she going to fly over and sort out her head?

Um... not quite:
Kylie said: “I wish someone would write a manual about fame because it’s not easy. I’m always loath to say that because there are a lot more difficulties out there that people deal with every day - but when fame is handed to you, it is unique.

“It’s not to the same extreme, but I can remember having a mini-meltdown myself - and unless you’ve got good people around to support you, you’ve got a problem.

“Who knows what is going on in her life? Britney isn’t that young any more. I think she will still come back but it’s like she’s taken an extended holiday.

“Whatever help she needs, she should reach out and get it.”

Aha - it's Kylie helping by saying "ooh, there's no guide book for the famous and, you know, Britney probably should ask someone for some sort of help."

Still, it's one of those mornings where Gordon does have a good point about something. No, really. Running a piece about the retooling of Leona Lewis' album for the US release - she's adding a track recorded with accident prone child-threat Akon - he quotes an "industry insider":
“Leona could be a massive hit in America but the album needs this cutting-edge revamp.”

Which prompts Gordon to ponder:
I reckon it’s a bit cheeky. Why should the Yanks get two extra songs when Brits voted for her to win X Factor?

Yes. He's got a point - there is an implication that the British will take any old shit, but you've got to actually make an interesting record for the US. Mind you, it is a duet with Akon, so it's not exactly going to be a brilliant track, is it?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blonde moments

Blonde Redhead have posted a slew of European dates:

9th April Aarhus, Denmark Voxhall
10 Copenhagen, Denmark Pumpehuset
11 Malmo, Sweden Debaser
13 Stockholm, Sweden Debaser Medis
14 Oslo, Norway Rockefeller
17 Paris, France Bataclan
18 Bourges, France Auditorium
19 Hasselt, Belgium Pukkelpop Indoor Festival
21 London Shepherds Bush Empire

This is the sort of thing they do: Water, live in 2002:

Universal, Sony BMG formalise cartel deal for Asia

We often rib the RIAA with the claim that it's a cartel - obviously, the big four were colluding to rig the market in the US a few years back; they were upbraided for it, but carried on.

Now, Sony-BMG and Universal are apparently proud of working as a cartel in Asia. Being pitched as some sort of agreement to "resolve a variety of issues regarding the sale of online music in Asia", the two large businesses are going to be setting a single, secret rate to cover online music:

The two companies have, for the first time, set a specific, undisclosed rate for digital services in Southeast Asian countries, including Hong Kong, China, India, Taiwan and more, though rates had previously been established in Japan and Korea. Among the digital services that are included in the deal are audio and video downloads, subscriptions services and mobile products including ringtones, full-track downloads and mobile video.

A sensible move towards making things simple - or an attempt to rig the market in plain view? Given how much of the market the majors control, is it right that they should be exercising this sort of muscle in so many markets?

Tindersticks rekindled

There's something wonderful in the Tindersticks having just one MySpace friend - and that's Tom, who nobody really likes. The site is hosting a stream of a track from the first-album-in-half-decade, Waiting For The Saw. That's due at the end of April.

EU court tells music industry: ISPs don't have to squeal on filesharers

While the music industry is gathered in the South of France, a cold wind blew in from the West: the EU supreme court ruled that there is not community-wide compulsion on ISPs to reveal personal data about alleged filesharers to assist copyright holders in civil cases:

"Community law does not require the member states, in order to ensure the effective protection of copyright, to lay down an obligation to disclose personal data in the context of civil proceedings," the court said in a statement.

Promusicae wanted names of Telefonica Internet clients who shared copyright material on the Web using the KaZaA file exchange software, so it could start civil proceedings against them.

The court said that if national governments wished to bring forward legislation, that was their affair, but it wasn't mandated at a European level.

Life imitates Rex Bob Lowenstein

Back when Simon Mayo ruled breakfasts on Radio One, one of his regular favourites was Rex Bob Lowenstein, a single by Mark Germino which mythologised the role of dj with an account of a presenter who reacted to being given a programmed playlist by locking the door, and driving the station into the ground.

Now, there's a real life Rex Bob, although as Paul Webster Feinstein burned KOOP's studios to the ground, forced them off air and caused a third of a million bucks worth of damage, it doesn't seem quite so heroic any more:

The report filed states that Feinstein confessed to making a copy of the station key and waited for staff to vacate the studios for the night before pouring gasoline over two control panels. The fire department's trained dog sniffed out the gasoline, alerting investigators to the possibility of arson.

Feinstein was, apparently, upset at changes made to his playlist for a late-night slot; he now faces up to twenty years inside.

Mags from A-Ha sells out new record

How has Magne Furuholmen managed to sell the entire run of his A Dot Of Black In The Blue Of Your Bliss? Hard work, creativity, shrewd marketing. Oh, and only pressing up 300 helped.

Even so, he pocketed 100 euros a copy, and they went within two days.

You can, however, download the tracks from MySpace; Magne plays Notting Hill Arts Club and The Albert Hall in May.

Britn€¥ $p£ar$

The charming world of the celebrity watcher: According to CNN, never mind the subprime collapse, if Britney sorts her head out, the economy is never going to recover.

Magazine newstand sales in the US increased 1% in the first half of 2007 - might not sound much, but since nobody is meant to be buying old media any more, a rise at all is quite something. And virtually the whole of the increase is down to the celeb rag titles:

"The increase is almost entirely attributable to the growth of the celebrity magazine," said John Harrington, who runs industry consulting agency Harrington Associates.

Any time a magazine can boost newsstand sales past its average, the revenue is booked nearly entirely as profit, Harrington said: "People prints 2.5 million copies and sells about an average of 1.5 million. If they have an issue that sells 2 million, the extra half million goes to the bottom line."

OK!, the sibling of our own OK, is especially excited at the prospects of making a few bob off the mental illness of a young woman:
"An editor's dream is to have a real-life soap opera unraveling in front of you, and Britney provides that every week," said Sarah Ivens, OK!'s U.S. editor. The magazine has a 10-person team in Los Angeles devoted to Spears coverage. "We're on constant Britney alert."

She wouldn't disclose the costs to the magazine, saying only that Spears has been "amazing" for OK!'s business. Publisher Tom Morrisy said Spears drives newsstand sales and helped the magazine's ad revenue more than double to $51 million in 2007. OK! expects to turn a profit in 2008, three years after breaking into the market.

Britney has been on the cover of OK! 54 times. It's published 103 issues so far.

Clearly, if all the attention pushes her over the edge, OK will be upset - but the three weeks of memorial issue sales will, doubtless, help.

UB40 split: now even less amicable

The departure of Ali Campbell from UB40 is being handled as smoothly as a Tory MP giving dropsy to his kids.

At first, you'll recall, the band issued a statement announcing Campbell had quit to pursue solo opportunities.

Then Campbell issued a statement denying he was quitting to go solo; he was happy to continue UB40 alongside his solo work, but was leaving because he didn't agree with the way the band was managemed.

Now, UB40 have issued another statement denying Campbell's denials:

[A] spokesman for UB40 said: "The band would like to clarify that they do not have artist management and that all decisions relating to UB40 as a band - both past and present in their 30-year career - have always been by a democratic process of all eight members."

This was a process "which Ali Campbell has actively participated in" as "a fully paid-up member", the spokesman said.

The spokesman added: "Ali made a very simple decision, he chose to pursue and put his solo career over and above continuing to work with UB40."

But Campbell never said anything about there being a separate manager - he said he had problems of management difficulties. UB40's response is akin to responding to someone accusing you of driving dangerously by saying "we don't have a chauffeur; we drive ourselves.

So, do we believe Campbell or UB40? The thing is they can't both be right, and you'd have to assume that, all other things being equal, a bloke would know if he was stepping down amicably, or flouncing out in disgust.

Wonderfully, they've still got a bunch of dates to get through together.

MIDEM 2008: Kennedy's endorsement

As part of The Register's coverage of MIDEM, John Kennedy of the IFPI was given a gentle going over by Andrew Orlowski.

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now, for Kennedy is upset by the perception of his industry:

On a daily basis we see people consuming more music than ever before, and yet the music industry is seen as parasites and idiots – all the worst words we can think of. So we need to turn the corner.

Oddly, the idea that perhaps stopping flouncing around suing people, behaving like you're entitled and calling for telephone companies to spy on their customers might lead to people starting to like the companies a little more hasn't occurred to Kennedy. Or if it has, he isn't saying so. Could it really be that people sit in the IFPI offices, reading bad headline after bad headline, and really not understanding why these multinational corporations are so loathed?

Kennedy's thinking is pretty - sorry, John, this might upset you, too - weak. He seems to base a lot of his policies on weak assumptions, and presumably then imposes these ideas on the IFPI as a whole. An example of this weak assumptive base:
Firstly people have loaded their iPods and music players with CDs – so they're going to back catalogues for the moment. Now they're thinking "well we need some new music".

Now, it's nice to see that - at long last - the music industry has abandoned one of its lies that people fill iPods with stolen music, but where is the evidence for people, once they've got their songs on their device, suddenly getting a desire for new music that wasn't there before? And, more crucially, if they do - and let's assume that they then steal music to whack onto the device - it might be frustrating, but there's no net loss to the music industry, as by Kenendy's logic, if they hadn't bought the mp3 player, they wouldn't be desiring the music anyway. The challenge should be in monetising the new relationship, rather than punishing. If the music industry had met this desire and found a way to work, what a happy world we would live in now. Instead, they've spent years trying to put a fence up in a world where everyone is equipped with wirecutters.

But John reckons he's right to go with trying to make ISPs police downloaders - and he's got the focus group evidence to prove it. (A focus group is where you invite a bunch of people in, tell them to say what they really feel, and watch as they try to work out what you want to hear, and then say it. Usually with biscuits):
We've put kids into focus groups, and we say to them: do you know what you're doing is wrong, and they say absolutely. Well why do you it then? They say, it's too easy. You've got to make it more difficult for us or you've got to make so there are consequences for us. We say, OK if you're in charge, what would you do? They say: well your lawsuits aren't bad, but none of our friends have been sued. We've heard you talk about disconnection – well, now you're getting scary for us, because none of us want to lose our internet connection. If you can deliver on disconnection then in fact there may be a solution – because there's a risk.

Really? Poor old John Kennedy. He's still struggling to keep up - if you switch off a broadband connection to a house, the kids will just look for a nearby open wi-fi network, or decamp to Starbucks and use their connection. Or the local library. They'll go to their mates houses, and wi-fi into their network. Or they'll simply switch to using their mobile account, and plug in a dongle from 3. And if 3 cuts them off, they'll swap to Vodaphone.

Kennedy, however, seems to think that 'connectivity' comes through one pipe, which can be switched off:
'm sure you've heard my story about my kids – there's a 19-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl. In my house. If the boy got them disconnected, his sisters would kill him. I started telling this story a year ago. Now it's the parents who would because the parents can't manage without the article. So the prospect of losing your interconnection is going to change behaviour – there's no doubt about it.

But is a telecoms company going to lose a customer simply because the IFPI claims that their kids might have been downloading? With all the money ISPs spend on customer recruitment? And since, as Kennedy admits, many people now can't "manage without the article" ('the article' suggesting he views connectivity as some sort of box, or a creature, perhaps), isn't there a chance that someone is going to claim that loss of a connection into the internet is akin to having other utilities - like gas, or water - removed, and thus probably illegal?

And if BT cuts off a house's connectivity, what's to stop them signing up with Sky the next day? Does the IFPI intend to maintain a blacklist? And will that be done on numbers - but what happens when family x discover they can't get broadband because family y, who used to live in their house were barred at the behest of a self-appointed trades organisation?

Or will it be names blacklisted? But what happens when Mr. Smith merely gets his partner Mr Jones to apply for a line in their name instead?

Clearly, the IFPI are keen to make ISPs police this because their members can't afford legal action and know its ineffective. And if Broadband was like a delivery of coal every week, it might be an effective measure. But over in the real world, it's never going to work.

Not that Kennedy lives in the real world. It turns out Kennedy is outraged not just the people steal songs, but that they don't steal enough of them when they do it:
You talk about people valuing music - I've noticed something recently. When you want one song from an artist, you download their whole catalogue on BitTorrent, it's there as one download. Then you get the song you want, and throw the rest away! You'd have to be a real fan to collect someone's life work once – but now people routinely throw away their life's work, as if you never had it. To me that's incredible. So isn't the "value" going down all the time you don't license music?

So... the message from the IFPI is keep all the stolen music, right?

Kennedy lives in a world where the album is sacred - he can't understand that people, when given a choice, don't want filler tracks, instrumental noodling, lame b-sides and poorly recorded live versions. He doesn't see that when people select all but one track and then delete them, they are valuing music - and they're saying that the tracks they delete have no value to them. This must be hard for a business which has made a good living for sixty years out of bundling up a mixture of pure and diamonds and making people buy it all, but surely he can see if people toss away stuff, it's because they don't want it.

Kenendy sees this a problem, but seems to think that, in time, the sixth-track-written-and-sung-by-the-bass-player will be loved again:
There's the bundling problem – where people pick one song from an album they like.

The ability to only buy what you want isn't a "problem", though, is it?

Suddenly, though. Kennedy decides, actually, it's a good thing and not a problem at all:
No, but we can't complain about unbundling. We complain not about technology but about the abuse of technology. What technology has done is give people the ability to take a single rather than an album. But we can't complain about that – that's the law of supply and demand.

I have four jukeboxes in my house, I've always loved singles. I consume almost all my music as singles then dip back into albums. We just have to find ways to make it more attractive.

The model that enables you to buy two tracks and then upgrade to the album and get credit for two tracks is a very good model. I think ten per cent of the album market in the US is now digital, that's a good sign. So the pressure comes back on the artist that you've got to deliver an opus of work that makes people to want it as a whole album.

Unbundling isn't anybody doing anything wrong, we have to accept it

Just now, though, you said it was terrible that people didn't want a complete package of work. Make your bloody mind up, man. Or at least wait to think through your positions before embarking on a pronouncement.

Kenendy admits that the more pressing challenge is getting people to pay anything, but still doesn't see that downloads are overpriced:
But the first step is to actually get people back into the habit of buying, and 99c or 79c [Euro] is not a problem for people once they don't have the choice of free.

But people would pay a fair price - really, as your own report said last week, John, free music is a rubbish way of getting downloads, it's effort and it's clunky. The problem is that your pricing propostion is equally unattractive. History shows people don't steal bread, except when inflation makes the loaves unaffordable: at the moment, 79p is an overprice loaf.

Not that Kennedy would have that:
if you give any of my kids a pound to go down the sweetshop they look at you as if you're mad. So 79p has to be a good deal. Then you have to scale up to what volumes people are going to buy.

This anecdote is quite telling - not only because Kennedy's kids would have to be the size of whaling boats if he really gave them more than a quid every time they popped down the sweetshops, but because it illustrates Kennedy's divorce from how the majority of people live. While he's sat sipping the finest on the IFPI tab in Cannes, he's picturing a world where families of five are able to easily spend five, six, ten quid on a little treat in the sweetshop. He has no idea. He doesn't understand his customers.

He doesn't understand the technology, either, as he makes his case for filtering:
Filtering can deal with encrypted material. When I started talking about filtering three years ago, it was difficult and cumbersome and not 100 per cent reliable. Now filtering is effective, it's really cheap and it works including dealing with encrypted streams.

He's got a filter than can unencrypt encrypted streams of data? Bloody hell, he should take that to the CIA, never mind to MIDEM. Perhaps he got it in a deal with a supercodedecoder ring. You'd have to use a lot of effort to break the encryption - and so you'd have to be smart about targeting your resources. So you'd have to be pretty certain you were looking at traffic from a file-sharer. And if you're that certain - why not use the old lawsuit trick?

Kennedy then talks about In Rainbows, and how terribly everyone behaved:
The Radiohead example is in some ways even more depressing. They come up with this wonderful, flexible model and people still go onto P2P and BitTorrent to download it. That's scary.

But if the album was made available on a 'pay what you want' basis, why is it scary that some people paid nothing for it by downloading it? If you've been told you can have something for free, what does it matter where you cash your voucher?

Kennedy also finds some time to flatter Guy Hands, the man whose withdrawal of subscriptions could send John tumbling into a world where a quid treat in a sweetshop becomes a very big deal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kennedy thinks Hands is a great man:
There are talented A&R people out there, a few, but too many people were given big salaries when they weren't that talented and didn't have that track record. So what Guy Hands is doing is absolutely right in pruning, and you need that expertise.

... just don't prune the cheque going to the IFPI, eh?

[Part of MIDEM 2008]

Nebraska seeks taxes on downloads

You don't often hear of the great state of Nebraska in the context of the entertainment industry - even although it's the only state named after a Bruce Springsteen album, but it's certainly punching above its weight at the moment.

Alarmed as CD, book and movie purchasers abandon the malls of Omaha and... other towns in Nebraska, the State Revenue collectors are lobbying to be allowed to slap sales tax on downloads.

Charmingly, the tax collectors believe the law is on their side - a precedent where an electronic mailing list was deemed to be equivalent to a paper one for tax purposes; the catch is that only companies with a "physical presence" in Nebraska would have to collect the money. So Apple, by virtue of its stores in the State, would have to levy a fiddly tax for Nebraskans buying from iTunes, whereas Amazon wouldn't.

Now, we're not tax advisors, but this sounds more like a recipe for technology companies fleeing from Nebraska rather than a shrewd way to raise extra tax revenue.

Imeem buys Anywhere for music everywhere

There have been services before which would allow you to store your music collection on the web to access anywhere you go - effectively, your own streaming library. Most have run aground on the copyright issue - although there's no moral reason why you shouldn't choose to keep your tracks on a server outside your home, the RIAA companies weren't happy and conjured images of one server, many users to frighten the pioneers out of business.

Now, though, with Imeem acquiring AnywhereFM, there's a chance of one which actually works. Imeem gets Anywhere's technology; Anywhere, meanwhile, is now part of a company which has already persuaded the big four labels to license their online music service.

Baby, it's cold outside

The Western Mail reports this morning that Catatonia is popular with foetuses:

Helen Rogers, head of the Royal College of Midwives, Wales, says the anecdotal evidence from pregnant women she has cared for over the years is overwhelming.

Time and again they have told her that the voice of the Welsh pop star works like a traditional nanny’s lullaby and that babies seem to turn towards avocado if it is offered to them in the months following birth.

She said, “Babies tend to like melodies, and lots of mums tell me that Cerys has a lovely mother-like female voice that seems to be soothing for babies developing in the womb, during labour and after they are born too."

So, there's an attraction in Cerys' voice for helpless, mewling types who lack the ability to communicate in anything other than screams and tantrums. That makes some sense, but it still doesn't explain what Matthews sees in Bannerman, though.

NME Awards 2008. You might have to look at the 'new band' category to tell the difference from 2007

Yes, brought to you by the NME and some sort of hairgel, the nominations are revealed. If Mitch was upset by Amy being listed as a potential villain, thank the lord the Mirror didn't tell him she was up for worst dressed, too.

Foo Fighters. Kings of Leon. Babyshambles. Arctic Monkeys. Muse. JO WHILEY. It all feels a bit dull. Here's the list in full:

Best British Band
Arctic Monkeys
The Cribs

Best International Band
Arcade Fire
Foo Fighters
The Killers
Kings Of Leon
My Chemical Romance

Best New Band
The Enemy
Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong
The Pigeon Detectives
The Wombats

Best Live Band
Arctic Monkeys
The Cribs
Kaiser Chiefs
My Chemical Romance

Best Solo Artist
Kate Nash
Jamie T
Jack Penate
Amy Winehouse
Patrick Wolf

Best Album
'Favourite Worst Nightmare' - Arctic Monkeys
'Shotters Nation' - Babyshambles
'We'll Live And Die In These Towns' – The Enemy
'Myths Of The Near Future' - Klaxons
'In Rainbows' – Radiohead

Best Track
'Fluorescent Adolescent' – Arctic Monkeys
'Flux' – Bloc Party
'Men's Needs' – The Cribs
'Lord Don't Slow Me Down' - Oasis
'Let's Dance To Joy Division' – The Wombats

Best Video
'Teddy Picker' – Arctic Monkeys
'Flux' – Bloc Party
'D.A.N.C.E.' - Justice
'Golden Skans' - Klaxons
'Teenagers' – My Chemical Romance

Best Music DVD
'Up The Shambles' – Babyshambles
'The Song Remains The Same' – Led Zeppelin
'Unplugged In New York' - Nirvana
'Lord Don’t Slow Me Down' - Oasis
'I Told You I Was Trouble' – Amy Winehouse

Best Live Event
Carling Weekend: Reading And Leeds Festival
Muse At Wembley Stadium
T In The Park
V Festival

Hero Of The Year
Matt Bellamy
Pete Doherty
Noel Fielding
Ryan Jarman
Thom Yorke

Villain Of The Year
Tony Blair
Johnny Borrell
Gordon Brown
George W Bush
Amy Winehouse

Best Dressed
Pete Doherty
Noel Fielding
Kate Nash
Alex Turner
Gerard Way

Worst Dressed
Johnny Borrell
Pete Doherty
Gerard Way
Amy Winehouse

Best Dancefloor Filler
'Flux' – Bloc Party
'Hummer' - Foals
'D.A.N.C.E.' - Justice
'Atlantis To Interzone' - Klaxons
'Let's Dance To Joy Division' – The Wombats

Best Album Artwork
'Favourite Worst Nightmare' – Arctic Monkeys
'The Good, The Bad And The Queen' – The Good, The Bad And The Queen
'Sawdust' – The Killers
'Because Of The Times' – Kings Of Leon
'Send Away The Tigers' – Manic Street Preachers

Best Radio Show
Russell Brand (Radio 2)
Zane Lowe (Radio 1)
Chris Moyles (Radio 1)
Colin Murray (Radio 1)
Jo Whiley (Radio 1)

Worst Album
'1973' - James Blunt
'The Trick To Life' – The Hoosiers
'Spirit' - Leona Lewis
'Life In Cartoon Motion' - Mika
'Blackout' - Britney Spears

Worst Band
30 Seconds To Mars
Fall Out Boy
The Hoosiers
My Chemical Romance
Panic At The Disco

Best TV Show
'The Mighty Boosh'
'Never Mind The Buzzcocks'
'The IT Crowd'

Best Film
'Hot Fuzz'
'Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End'
'The Simpsons Movie'

Sexiest Man
Howlin' Pelle Almqvist
Julian Barrett
Noel Fielding
Nicky Wire
Patrick Wolf

Sexiest Woman
Jenny Lewis
Kylie Minogue
Hayley Williams
Rachael Yamagata

Best Venue
Brixton Academy
Manchester Apollo
Glasgow Barrowlands
London Astoria
Wembley Stadium

Best Website

Best Band Blog
Foals (
Lilly Allen (
Lightspeed Champion (
Radiohead (
The Streets (

Best Music Blog
The Hype Machine (
The Modern Age (
Nothing But Green Lights (
Spinner (
Stereogum (

The most exciting thing about the nominations is probably the appearance of Noel Fielding. But how the hell did Wembley Stadium make it into the "best venue" shortlist? Really? That's what NME readers think of when they ask themselves "where would I want to see a gig?"

Darkness at 3AM: Updated

So, while we were showering, the 3AM Page was updated: it's not entirely helpful:





The Simple Life star


That's... informative. Especially the item "The Simple Life star".

Are they sure about this 'gossip gone toxic' strapline? I know it's meant to suggest a gossip column which has got no mercy, but it makes it sound like a tub of cheese spread that's been sat at the back of the fridge with the lid off.

The Winehouse story here is that, erm, NME have nominated her for villain of the year:
Mitch was livid when he heard about the nomination, just days after his daughter was admitted to rehab.

He told us: "That's stupid. There are more important things to be worrying about."

... apparently worrying about it. But isn't the idea to stop Winehouse looking cool for doing drucks, and wouldn't booing be better than cheering under those circumstances?

The new 3AMies also chew away at the Cole -Tweedy story, offering little more than a giggle at Ashley's cock:
The stunning singer told the midget (in all departments, apparently) that he has to...

The 3AM Girls then detail a supposed "five point plan" that Ashley has to stick to if he wants to remain in OK! ma... sorry, in a relationship with Cheryl. Oddly, "not fucking the sort of woman who will sell the story to the papers" isn't one of them.

And who has been "clocked", then?
Arctic Monkeys proving they've gone up in the world by swapping Sheffield Travel Lodge for The Dorchester

But why would they have stayed at the Travelodge in their home town?

Darkness at 3AM: Um...

After yesterday's excitement of the new, relaunched 3AM Column... the Daly Mirror hasn't updated their website yet.


Away from 3AM, the Mirror is reporting "exclusively" that Michael Jackson is recording a remake of Thriller. Although a large number of other media outlets are reporting the same thing, and, of course, news of the remake has been circulating since Will I Am was yakking on about it at the start of the year. That sort of exclusive, then.

Gordon in the morning: A man of his word

Having pledged to 6Music listeners that Amy Winehouse would "get some space now" to fight her problems, Gordon's column this morning once again confirms it's the sort of space where her every move will be reported. This morning, Bizarre details how Winehouse is supposedly watching Monroe films:

The singer’s love of the tragic 1950s icon - who died of a sleeping pills overdose aged 36 - is the only thing making her smile in rehab.

Mitch Winehouse happily details what's happening to his daughter; however, the detail seems to contradict Smart and Dudman's interviews with the BBC justifying running the crack pictures last week as it made Amy agree to rehab:
“She’s compliant and follows everything they tell her ”

But Amy faces being SECTIONED if she leaves [....] Mitch was considering it before we filmed her binge.

So, was it really a case that she picked up The Sun and thought "uh-oh" - or did she enter rehab "willingly" because she was going to be marched there anyway?

Virginia Wheeler and Pete Samson - two writers - handle the big 'Amy watches film' story, while Gordon himself finally strings some words together on the already-mined-out Ashley Cole story, with someone who he may or may not have had sex with claiming that he told her he didn't need a condom because Chelsea had told him he was clean. Although she says she was drunk at the time, although not so drunk she was unable to decide to "take a gamble".

After all that, Gordon needs some relaxation, and it comes in the form of a tshirt for skin cancer awareness featuring a naked Victoria Beckham. Gordon is quite excited:
I think I might buy one for a closer inspection.

We don't want to put the image in your head, but we're picturing him using it like a page three calendar and a sports sock all in one.

Monday, January 28, 2008

MIDEM 2008: U2 manager bangs "hold the ISPs responsible" line

Speaking at MIDEM, Paul McGuinness has pushed the music industry line of the moment - having failed to sue the public into compliance, they'll now try and shake cash out the ISPs instead:

"A series of warnings to a file sharer would culminate in disconnection would address the problem."

"If ISPs do not cooperate voluntarily, there will need to be legislation to force them to cooperate - you cannot compete with illegal files for free on P2P networks."

"They've been making excuses that such things have not been possible for a very long time - we're sick of it - we're not dealing with honest people here."

Let's just leave aside the interesting concept of "forcing" people to "co-operate" and wonder if the question is not so much if it's possible for ISPs to watch everything going through their cables (and we're not sure it is, and if it is, how are they to tell the difference between legitimate files, out-of-copyright material, samples, paid-for, legal filesharing and 'wrong' files?) and ask, once again, if it's desirable, on any level, to enforce responsibility for traffic onto the ISP. It's rather a dangerous step, removing the telecom companies' defence of being dumb pipes, while making it mandatory for them to spy on their customer's activities.

Clearly, Bono's camp is more interested in grubbing a few extra Euros than the nasty implications of opening up that can of worms - if ISPs "must" ensure customers don't file share, why should they not also be compelled to ensure their customers don't indulge in intemperate behaviour? Or, perhaps down the line, campaign against the government of the day?
He accused the "hippies" and "deadheads" who built technology companies of having, "for far too long, had a completely free ride on clients' content" and having "built a multibillion dollar industry on the back of our content without paying for it". "We all know kids don't pay $25 a month for broadband just to share their photos and do homework," he said.

Apart from wondering exactly how many people of an age where they have to do homework would actually be paying the phonebill in the first place, this speaks much of the solipsism of the music industry. Just as how a few years ago, the RIAA couldn't conceive of a use for blank CDs other than the duplication of their member's products, McGuinness believes that everybody is so enamoured of bloody U2 songs that their sole reason for going online is to steal their songs. It doesn't occur to him for a moment that a lot of kids are actually using their broadband connection to push content they've made out, rather than suck stuff other people have made down; that they live online, sharing and meeting and tweaking and - sometimes, yes, sneaking the odd track they haven't paid for.

The music industry has never understood the internet; never understood the motivation of people who are online, the people who should be their customers. To hear a supposedly intelligent man argue that people with broadband connections must be indulging in largescale copyright theft because he simply can't imagine anything else they could be doing would be funny, if he and his chums weren't so close to an equally clueless political class.

[Part of Midem 2008]

MIDEM 2008: SpiralFrog battles on

There must be something in the air in France at the moment - a few days after that bloke kept throwing money down the corporate toilet at Societe Generale, up at MIDEM pitches SpiralFrog, to throw some more of their good money after bad. Like Jack Duckworth at the bookies, they're convinced that this is the time they're going to win big.

Vice President Matthew Stern tells PaidContent they're having good times:

SpiralFrog has added another 30,000 registered members since Jan. 24, when it announced it had reached 400,000. It’s grown from 800,000 tracks at its September 17 launch to 1,030,000 tracks, “so our growth ingestion has been very positive ... we’re adding thousands of tracks a week ... this month, we’re on track for our target of 1.2 million.”

If the figures for sign-up are correct, that's quite impressive. Less impressive, though, is how much use those members get out of the service:
He said the service is averaging about 10 minutes engagement per user.

Ten minutes? That suggests that people are signing up, trying out... and then heading off. Who listens to music for ten minutes? A music service which manages to hold attention for less time than most men spend picking the dirt out from between their toes of a morning doesn't sound like it's that compelling - especially when it's hoping to sell advertising to fund itself.

[Part of MIDEM 2008]