Friday, February 22, 2008

Please don't tell me to 'do the math'

Hypebot has invited a guest blogger, Bill Houghton, to run his eyes over the likelihood of advertising supporting the music industry online.

He's not encouraging:

A quick analysis of both industries illustrates the point. Including P2P downloads, the online music industry has an estimated value of about $30 Qtraxbillion and rising. That number will only rise as in-store CD sales continue their slide. Free and subsidized distribution models also will increase the percentage of music distributed online.

Meanwhile the total revenue from Internet advertising across all markets and platforms is about $20 billion as reported by MediaPost. Experts are predicting this number is approaching a plateau for various reasons. Online media accounts for only 20% of consumers’ attention – implying that there’s a limit of 20% market share that online advertising can hope for.

That’s a clear shortfall of $10b billion and growing. Obviously the entire ad industry does not produce the revenues sufficient to subsidize the online music industry… and it likely never will.

Bill concludes than an all-advertising model is, thus, impossible.

The other possibility, which Bill doesn't entertain and won't provide any comfort to people running music operations for profit, is that the current 'market value' of music is unsustainable.

Neither ethical nor well-executed

Two days after the ship had sailed, Leona Lewis is still trying to buy her way to success in the Brits.

Bestival scoops the lot

Bestival - when it's not smiling gently at Glastonbury and going "what happened to you, Dude, you used to be cool?" - is actually managing to pull together a pretty impressive line-up, headed off with My Bloody Valentine.

Will Smith: Never loved Hitler

The World Entertainment News Network has apologised and paid damages to Will Smith after it reported him saying he thought Hitler was a good man.

His solicitor, Rachel Atkins, told London's High Court the article was "deeply distressing" to Smith and had caused him "acute embarrassment".

Ms Atkins said the star, who was not in court, was "a highly-respected actor of international repute and a man of complete integrity".

She said the I Am Legend star believed Hitler to be "a vile and heinous man".

"The article alleged that the claimant had declared in an interview that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was a good person," she said.

"The allegation is false and without any foundation.

"It wholly misrepresents the claimant's actual words, given in an interview to the Daily Record, a Scottish newspaper and website."

What Smith actually said was the slightly more subtle 'Hitler thought what he was doing was good':
"Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'let me do the most evil thing I can do today'," said Will. "I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good'. Stuff like that just needs reprogramming."

Actually, we're quite taken with the idea of Hitler waking up in the morning and deciding what he's going to do each morning; perhaps over a bowl of sugarpuffs.

That's what Michael should have done

If only Michael Jackson had followed the example of the Cowboy Junkies, Thirller 25 might not have been kept out of the charts. For the twentieth anniversary of The Trinity Sessions, the band have gone back to the same venue, and re-recorded each track. Pitchfork aren't impressed, mind:

The performance has been released on CD/DVD as Trinity Revisited, and it is certainly an odd product-- redundant to anyone familiar with The Trinity Sessions and unconvincing to everyone else. This isn't a reinterpretation, but a re-enactment. The Junkies run through songs almost note for note, and when they go off-script, as on the overly dramatic reading of "Sweet Jane", they display only their limitations.

Which seems a little unfair - if you see the album as an attempt to see what difference twenty years makes, even if the answer if "precious little", that doesn't entirely make it a failure. It's like the way scientists have to explain to arts graduates that experiments which don't deliver the expected results haven't failed, but worked.

Government pushes ISPs to become the police

It's been trailed quite heavily, so it's not a surprise, but Andy Burnham's DCMS proposals to do the BPI's bidding and 'open consultations' on whether ISPs should be made to police their customer's online activities still bring something of a shudder.

Leaving aside the issues of copyright and ownership and if it could work: Andy Burnham is proposing that private companies should not only be given the right to eavesdrop on your conversations, but could actually be legally compelled to do so.

And what makes it even more frustrating is that even the BPI don't believe it'll make any difference to their sales. The record company cartel's spokesperson Matt Philips admitted as much to the Guardian's Technology supplement yesterday:

But imagine, finally, that a rigorous self-regulation procedure is in place, and that the internet populace knows about it. Does the BPI think its members' sales will grow? For once, Phillips hesitates. "That's really hard to answer. But it would send out the message that copyright is to be respected, that creative industries are to be respected and paid for," he says. "It would mean that the people who are paying for content wouldn't be subsidising those who don't. But I can't say to you now that it would make sales grow, or by how much."

So, this invasion of everybody's privacy - the treating of all broadband users in the UK as suspects, and as such open to the investigation of any corporation which provides ISP services - isn't even going to do anything other than "send out a message" about copyright. Let's hope they don't start publicising new records in the same way - "we're asking the government publishes people's health care records online to promote the new Kylie album".

The official announcement of the threat is part of a wide-ranging DCMS press release which tries to get away with hiding the unpleasant policy amongst some fluffier stuff. But it's in the fluff that you can see the little deals that have been done behind the scenes - clearly, part of the trade off has involved record companies doing little favours to prop up Burnham's weak creative industry 'stimulation' plans in return for being allowed to dictate government policy on filesharing:
# securing 5,000 apprenticeships across the creative industries by 2013. BBC at mediacity:uk, Tate Liverpool, Universal Music Group and Monkeydevil Design are among the first to sign up to offer high quality training

# working with the industries’ most successful creators, including Aardman Animations, EMI, and the Royal Opera House to develop five new ‘centres of excellence’ in creative skills

[Our emphasis]

Universal and EMI, eh? That's a strange coincidence, isn't it?

The government is trying to make it sound like it's merely encouraging a dialogue between ISPs and the BPI:
The Government supports current discussions between internet service providers and rights holders for action on illegal file sharing and our strong preference remains for a voluntary solution. However, to date no voluntary agreement has been reached, and we will shortly consult on options for a statutory solution, with a view to implementing legislation by April 2009. This consultation is in parallel with the voluntary discussions and we will stop the statutory “clock” if and when a voluntary solution is reached.

All very civilised. However, when the negotiations are taking place against a ticking clock, with the knowledge that if there's no agreement, the BPI will get what it wants anyway through legislation, you might wonder how fair the government is actually being.

What was the theme of the Brit Awards? 1970s sexism, apparently.

There was some confusion over the theme at this year's school prize giving. The presence of Ozzy, the giant skull, the apparently-straightfaced-use of Anarchist symbols on the onscreen graphics suggested that this was an event with ROCK at its heart.

But then Kelly did say it was the year of pop when she was presenting. It's very confusing. Who can adjudicate on such matters?

How about the Official website? Rock or Pop, Brits - what were you?

The theme of this year’s BRIT awards is Glam Rock and every last bit of the BRITs is dripping with glamour.

Glam rock? GLAM ROCK? In what way was the theme of that event glam rock? Did someone do a T-Rex cover we missed? Was that Ian Hunter rather than Paul McCartney getting the lifetime achievement award? Was the event so poorly conducted that Elton John's pieces got dropped from the running order?

Of course, the glam rock angle was just an excuse to explain why the BPI had taken money from Agent Provocateur to let them have space backstage. Anyone who thinks that the inherent sexism of the music industry and the marginalisation of women into the limitied roles of groupies or girlfriends is a thing of the past, look away now:
And what’s more rock ‘n roll than half naked girls? Accordingly, Agent Provocateur, who have built a special boudoir booth to showcase their new skin care and fragrance have their very own scantily clad vixen.
Esme’s acting skills won’t be heavily called upon this evening as all she has to do is hand a mike over to whichever presenter is mounting the stage. She’s one of a quartet of glamorously dressed girls who are here for the sole purpose of “adding some beauty and some boobies”. “The presenters will run through a gamut of girls who’re there to escort them to the stage, they can take their pick”.

Picking from a bunch of mute women - sorry, girls - who are just there to add some tits to the proceedings. Doesn't the British music industry make you proud?

Mika Bomb make a bomb

Simon out of Sweeping The Nation emails to alert us to the unlikely presence of Agi from Mika Bomb on the BBC News website, reporting on the different shape of the music industry in China.

We have to raise a curious eyebrow at this:

The singer made about $2000 (£1,000) a month from music royalties and live shows with her band Mika Bomb when she lived in London.

But in China, her band Long Kuan Jiu Duan can almost double that by singing just one song at a commercial gig.

The singer from Mika Bomb was raking in a grand's worth of royalties every month? Really?

Although the article is headlined 'Chaos' Of China's Music Industry, the piece is less about chaos and more about an industry that's accepted that the shape of the world has changed and it needs to explore different approaches to selling music. Is an industry where an artist can make a couple of thousand pounds for doing one song at a corporate gig in more than chaos than one where - having spent a couple of years trying to sue its customers - they're now trying to make telephone companies check every bit of data for illegal filesharing?

You might not like some of the conclusions China's music companies are reaching - the reliance on sponsorship money raises a slew of questions - but at least they're not desperately trying to find a thousand ways to preserve a business model that's more extinct than an all-male species of impotent monkeys with intimacy issues.

What I did at the Brit Awards by Ricky Wilson, aged 13

Ricky Wilson has a permanent record of his day at The Brits in The Times. He had an exciting time, hanging out with famous people:

You get to spy people like David Tennant and proper celebs, such as Simon Pegg. He told me that he'd just been filming the new Star Trek - he's Scottie, for gawd's sake. You don't get that kind of chat by a portaloo in a boggy field.

Really? You don't think you could talk to Simon Pegg backstage at Glastonbury?

Aware that he's sounding a little over-excited about hanging out with James Blunt, Ricky attempts to justify his enthusiasm:
I get angry now when I see bands acting like they don't care about the Brits. I just think of all the bands that would love to be asked. Everyone wants to go. It's the biggest and best awards ceremony - our Oscars - and I'm so glad that it's music, so we are invited. I'm even more glad that we're relevant enough to be asked to perform. And be nominated, even if we were robbed.

Everyone wants to go? Really? And yet they have to fill up the front rows with kids from the Brits School.

Pop stars have drinks; Mail outraged

The Daily Mail is fuming with rage at the drunken antics of pop stars & hangers-on after the Brits had finished (possibly even as soon as they'd switched to ITV2) and is so upset it feels compelled to share photos with the public so you, too, might be upset:

If you thought that they looked bad before the Brit Awards started then these pictures of Britain's finest pop stars as the night wore on are even more shocking.

Amongst these 'shocking' pictures are Beth Ditto with her mouth open, and Peter Kay yawning. The most shocking photo of all, though, is one of Mark Owen leaning on a trolley - shocking as in 'of a quality so low it's not worth printing in a national newspaper, surely' as he's got red eye.

The Mail's Richard Price, though, is most exercised by a snap of Sarah Harding kissing a girl:
Too much 'kiss and make-up' for Sarah Harding?

At the Universal Records party in Bayswater, Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding was seen being driven away looking clearly worse for wear, even sharing a kiss with a female companion before collapsing in the back of her car.

Did he just say, effectively, 'she was so drunk she turned into a lesbian'?

Jennifer Lopez: It's twins

Oh, apparently everyone knew it was going to be twins. One of each, mind. Oh, you'd heard that too?. Oh.

No word yet on which one will be the evil one.

Gordon in the morning: Cheryl's ignored his advice

Having spent a week getting excited at the prospect of Cheryl divorcing Ashley, preparing to share his drawer-full of young men's phone numbers and making it clear only a split could satisfy him, how does Gordon react to, erm, Cheryl Cole giving her marriage a second chance?

By castigating Cheryl, of course, and telling her off.

Sorry, we mean giving "pals" the space to tell her off:

Cheryl's a fool to forgive Ashley

It's not clear if he means Cheryl's friends, or just Gordon's - the byline suggests the latter:

Considering there's two people writing it, nobody seems to have given too much attention to the writing:
Until Wednesday, Cheryl, 24, had not seen Ashley, 27, since The Sun revealed he bedded blonde hairdresser Aimee Walton, 22 — then offered her cash for an abortion.

The Sun offered Aimee cash for an abortion? Or did The Sun offer the money to Cheryl?

No, we know what happened, but since the paragraph is written on the asusmption of no background knowledge of the story, you think it might be clearer.

Elsewhere, Gary Barlow's moaning that Take That only win Brit Awards voted for by the public and not the Academy is given more space than it deserves because Gordon was able to run the picture of him with the band above it. Barlow could have been calling for Murdoch to be run out of town on a stick and, with that picture, it would have appeared in the paper.

Gordon also has a bizarre little rage at ITV for shifting the last couple of McCartney songs to ITV2:
I FEEL for the viewers who missed out on the full MACCA set from The Brits.

ITV shunted Sir Paul on to ITV2 towards before some memorable tunes.

Viewers on ITV1 did see him sing Dance Tonight and dedicate classics Live And Let Die to his beloved first wife LINDA and Hey Jude to JOHN LENNON.

You feel for them, do you, Gordon? You share the pain of... who, exactly? As long ago as last September, 85% of UK households had digital TV (and it's fairly safe to say many of those that don't aren't that arsed about watching television anyway) so, effectively, you're shedding tears for people who couldn't be arsed to change the channel on their digital remote control. Will you be offering them counselling?

Bobby Gillespie's there

While it's not entirely untrue, we're amused that the latest episode of Soft Foucs is billing its guest as "Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream / Jesus And Mary Chain" - obviously, it's factually correct but seems a little bit odd to give a few months banging a single drum equal weight with Bomb The Pentagon and Crystal Crescent and Kate Moss and Screamadelica and... you get the point.

This is the first episode (and, no, we don't know when Gillespie turned into Ian McCulloch):

Further chunks on

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Argos angry at enforced sales

Eddie Argos and his gang have released a single. Apparently without knowing it, according to the Art Brut website:

Attention, the Internet!! It seems Art Brut have accidentally released a single. Yes, the rumours are true. But how could this happen, you may ask? Why were we not informed? Why was it not available in my local record shack, thrust pride of place along side the latest View recording? Well, my friends, pick up any thread of incompetence and it will usually lead you to a record company. That's right, it seems EMI have decided to release Pump Up the Volume without informing either the band or myself, making any kind of wide scale promotion rather difficult. Adding to this curious new marketing stratagem of discouraging sales, EMI have chosen to make the song available via download only. So no luck in the record shacks either.

However, there is a video! Again, curious, as it is accompanied by what could quite possibly be the opposite of marketing but nevertheless it is available for your viewing pleasure. Recorded live for Australian television, no less.

Of course, the record labels only do what they do in the artist's best interests. It now turns out not only do the artists not know what's best for themselves, but they don't even need to be told what's happening to them.

Perhaps mentioning Thriller's age in the album title wasn't a good idea?

Michael Jackson is grumpy that old album Thriller has been kept off the Billboard album charts because it's an old album.

For reasons that we can only conclude are to do with being kind to Nickelback new releases, Billboard have a separate chart for catalogue releases, upon which Thriller 25 sits, like a shop-soiled colossus. Jackson's current people are upset:

one source says, "It has six new songs. Michael went into the studio and recorded with Kanye West, Fergie, Akon, Will.i.Am - and there's a brand-new song from Michael, and videos. It beat Grammy winners Amy Winehouse and Herbie Hancock, with 167,000 crossing the counter. Yet for reasons unfathomable to folks in the music industry, Billboard has decided to relegate it to the catalogue chart. Catalogue makes it look like same ol' same ol', but with a new cover.

"Michael expected it to be on the Top 200 chart."

Actually, this 'source' underestimates what the chart does - it doesn't even look like it's got a new cover, just the old one with a big number slapped on it.

The protests might have a little more weight if the official product description didn't call the thing a reissue. It can't be simultaneously a reissue and a new album, can it?

Billboard's call is fair enough - after all, it's not like anyone is buying the record because it's got some godawful wibbly Fergie nonsense slapped on it.

What is interesting, though, is the revelation that it's outselling Hancock and Winehouse - and yet has managed just a smidge over one and a half hundred thousand, which puts Amy's sales at somewhere shy of that figure. It might be a nice sounding chart position, but in sales terms, with the bounce of the Grammys telecast, it's not that good for either Amy or the US music industry as a whole, is it? A few tens of thousands of sales after all that exposure is an American public yawning and scratching.

Grohl takes on Wolverine

The Foo Fighters are launching a legal attack on Marvel: apparently Dave and the boys are unhappy that Marvel slapped some Foos music on the trail for the Wolverine and The X-Men cartoon series. It's not clear what recompense the band are seeking, but our legal expert suggests that Dave could force Wolverine to hand over some haircare tips as compensation.

Irish music could be in trouble

An alarming headline from Gigwise:

Snow Patrol To Speak On Behalf Of Irish Music
At Stormont today...

Good lord, how did they land that gig? I mean, were they elected? Or was it an evil trick by Welsh music to make its rival across the sea look bad?

It turns out they're only talking on behalf of an Irish music project:
Lightbody is expected to show how the project, Oh Yeah, has helped Irish musicians across the country.

Oh Yeah was set up by Ash’s Tim Wheeler in a bid to establish a dedicated music centre in Belfast.

Which is a lot less alarming than it first appeared.

Chester Bennington's stalker inside

The sad detail in reports of the Chester Bennington's stalker being sentenced is that she's being given mental health care rather than punishment. Devon Townsend has sixty days to surrender herself to a low-security prison (although we can't help wondering why someone with mental health issues is being told to leave them for a couple of months - perhaps they're hoping she'll wean herself off Linkin Park first?)

Brits: Audience drifts away slowly

ITV is, apparently, quite happy with the audience figures for the Brits last night, posting a headline 6.1 million viewers, up 800,000 on last year's figures.

Doubtless many people will be suggesting it was their magic element which helped the audience rise, although the key factor ("not being on at the same time as BBC One showing an FA Cup replay") it's hard for anyone at ITV to take credit for.

The 800,000 extra viewers figure is interesting in its own right - because that's the number of viewers who deserted the programme during its two hours on air. The first fifteen minutes of the show were watched by 6.5 million; by the time McCartney came on, only 5.7 million were still tuned in. It's unclear if those figures include viewers watching from behind their sofas.

Even more darkness at 3AM: Which awards did they go to?

We're surprised to read on the 3AM website how well the Osbourne's performance went off last night:

We were expecting four-letter outbursts and presenting skills worthy of Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood's Brits nightmare.

But Ozzie and Sharon Osbourne's performance was worthy of a Brit in itself.

Drafting in Kelly and Jack to help them with the proceedings, it was a blunder-free and faultless display.

Helped by slick scripts and even slicker autocue, there wasn't a fluffed line in sight. The highlights included Sharon leaving daughter Kelly speechless by introducing fat DJ Chris Moyles as "my future son-in-law".

She then drew an equally pained expression from hubby Ozzie when introducing Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as "a man who is so gorgeous he needs a good licking, and I think I'm the woman to do it."

Be scared, Jonathan, very scared...

Yes, not only do they keep mis-spelling Ozzy's name throughout the piece, but they somehow have managed to miss all the fluffed lines, Ozzy introducing Paul McCartney about five minutes too early, that odd bit where Sharon screwed up and Kelly filled with a panicky 'ho-ho, we're all having fun' laugh... it's almost as if they filed the story just after the event had begun, isn't it?

More Darkness at 3AM: Don't be rude to the school, boys

The 3AM site has just been updated with a curious story about last night's Brits which tries to suggest that being mildly sarcastic about the Brits School gets you censored:

Angry TV bosses pulled the plug on the Arctic Monkeys after they unleashed an abusive tirade.

An 'abusive tirade'?
After winning Best British Group, frontman Alex Turner sarcastically dedicated his win to the Brits school - the performing school which benefits financially from the awards ceremony.

He snarled: "I'd like to thank the Brit school, of course, which I graduated from."

But before he could dig himself in any further over the school, whose past students include the Kooks, Adele and Will Young, ITV bosses blasted out fake cheering from the speakers, turned off their mikes and cut to the backstage interview with Fearne Cotton.

Hmm. Isn't actually the case that Sharon Osbourne and Vic Reeves had spent so long in drunken bickering and yelling 'pissed' that the event was in danger of having its timings screwed, and the hustling of the Arctic Monkeys offstage wasn't because they were going to upset some school in Croydon, and more to ensure that Paul McCartney wasn't crashing the News At Ten bongs?

Still, why let the facts, etc etc?

Daily Mail: it's about the skirts and thugs

While most people's reaction to seeing Amy Winehouse look almost human on-stage was one of relief, the Daily Mail was not so soft as to fall for that sort of thing. This morning, the paper barks:

And at the end, she yelled: 'Make some noise for my husband Blake'. A reference to her incarcerated husband Blake Fielder-Civil, who has been remanded in Pentonville prison on charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

We love the way they explain carefully who Blake is, in case you've not heard of him before.

This looks like they'd left some space open to run a 'Winehouse collapses on stage/ doesn't show' story, and had to fill it with whatever was to hand.

The rest of their coverage is of the red carpet:
Girls Aloud won the fashion honours at the Brits last night as they sashayed down the red carpet in a selection of daringly short skirts.

That Kimberley was wearing a skirt down to her knees doesn't seem to have bothered the Mail team.

The boys, meanwhile? Why, they were typical:
DJ and producer Mark Ronson looked typically immaculate in black tie dress while singer Mika arrived in typically flamboyant style wearing a silver jacket.

Typically so.

And you know who else was there? Some people who have sex with footballers. The Mail can barely contain its excitement:
The outright winner of the contest to find the shortest, tighest, most revealing outfit was Liverpool football star Peter Crouch's girlfriend Abi Clancy, 22.

Oh, and apparently Paul McCartley or someone was also there.

Darkness at 3AM: Leave her aLeona or something

Over at 3AM, they also headline their Brits coverage with the non-winning of Leona Lewis. As if it wasn't bad enough being passed over four times, we're sure that Leona will be delighted to see her not winning is the key theme of this year's prizes.

3AM's pun is even blunter than Smart's:


We consoled a disappointed Leona who got nothing after being nominated for four awards - including Female Solo Artist, Album, Single and Breakthrough Act.

... and then went home to call her a Loser. Charming.

Apparently, Paul McCartney's performance was like scrubbing the world's minds with minderasers:
Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney had the last laugh on money-grabbing Heather Mills in his Brits performance last night - by erasing her from his life.

Sir Paul dedicated his Outstanding Contribution finale to his late wife and love of his life, Linda. But he completely ignored Mills in a video montage of his life. The cheeky ex had been begging to come to the ceremony but Brits bosses were warned to keep her away.

Really? How odd he didn't choose to feature the woman he's in the middle of fighting in an acrimonious divorce in his best bits clips show.

It's not quite "erasing her from his life", though, is it? Not until the cash transfer goes through.

Gordon in the morning: Brits ahoy

Of course, for the papers, the live transmission of the Brits is a bit of a nightmare - the morning titles are now sent for publication so early, the presses start rolling before the ceremony finishes, which means that the paper version of Bizarre is quite lucky to have any shots of the event at all - although the sharp-eyed will spot that the onstage shots come from the very start of the event. Given the chance to pick from all the live performances, would they really have chosen Ditto and Mika rather than, say, Kylie or Rhianna?

The Sun gets some coverage onto the news pages under the headline Leona Lewses, which is both a rubbish pun (unless she's planning to move to the county town of East Sussex out of shame) and a really odd angle to take.

As Pete Samson points out, though, the much-predicted "Pop hits back" story for the event proved to be a duff sell, with the Monkeys, Foos and Nash scooping armfuls of prizes for the rock-ish tendency.

With deadlines working against him, Gordon fills his spread with Cheryl Cole, of bloody course, burbling esxcitedly about a "secret summit" between Cole and Cole "just hours before" the Brits. Once again, though, Gordon's lead story points out that his big claims on Tuesday were useless, as it turns out that not only was Ashley not in the UK on C-Day, but, erm, neither was Cheryl, as she flew in yesterday:

Yet just hours earlier she held the secret summit with England and Chelsea ace Ashley after he begged her to see him when she jetted back from Los Angeles yesterday afternoon.

So, the big C-Day summit and the participants weren't even on the same continent. Still, it's apparently finally happened.

So, what was the outcome, Gordon? (Actually, we say Gordon - he shares the byline on the story with Richard White, but we suspect Gordo's bits are the gossips nuggets from the Brits.)
“Cole knew this was his last chance, but he still hasn’t been forgiven. Just a couple of hours before the Brits they had a showdown and Cheryl was a wreck.

“All the recovering she has done in the last three weeks was blown away by seeing Ashley again.”

So, nobody really knows.

The actual interesting part of the story isn't anything to do with the Cole circus:
Cheryl’s band-mate NADINE COYLE failed to attend the lavish Brits ceremony in Earls Court.

She was expected to claim she had lost her passport, preventing her from flying in from LA.

But band sources said it was her way of saying she wants no more to do with Girls Aloud, who were up for Best Group.

Perhaps she just didn't want to be on the plane with Cheryl running through her speech for Ashley over and over.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wouldn't you rather be watching Torchwood? The Brits liveblog

"Tomorrow's tabloids in the making" promises the continuity announcement, with what we can only assume are fingers crossed.

Mika's up first, then, doing a song that feels about four years old already. The giant finch hanging from the stage is a nice touch, mind. For some reason he's dressed as a matador. This year's Scissor Sisters, isn't it?

Mika opens a small door, and out pops Beth Ditto - like a faux indie version of Hearsay Its Saturday. She's wearing one of those silly little perching on head hats; they attempt to meld Love Today and Standing In The Way Of Control into one song - with limited success. This really does feel like I Love 2006. Mika's still going on - Ditto's disappeared, and so has the giant cutout finch.

Tom Baker is doing the voiceovers again - another warm-twenty-four-months-ago touch.

Sharon and Ozzy have come on stage, with the kids - nepotism, nepotism. Sharon is screeching like she's never been on stage before. Ozzy is stood looking lost.

"If you think this is over the top, wait to see what we've got in store for you later" screeches Sharon. It's not over the top, dear, it's struggling to rise to the occasion.

Award one: best live act. "A very naughty man" is presenting - "he gets loads of complaints, but let's face it, all the best people do these days" says Sharon. Eh? What does that mean? Talent is no longer capable of entertaining without offending? Isn't that a bit sad.

It's Moyles, who's come out. Oh god, Kelly and Jack are apparently sticking around for the whole show. Why?

Actually, Moyles seems to be auditioning for hosting the show - he'd actually have been better at it than the gaggle who got the gig.

So, best live act, then - sponsored by Radio 2 (but don't say it out loud). If it's sponsored by Radio 2, shouldn't Terry Wogan be presenting?

Obviously, the prize goes to Take That.

The prize, apparently, is a sign that "pop is back", which seems to have been decided is the official line of the show. (Although why have a rock icon presenting them, then?)

Take That are very polite. Mark Owen appears to be wearing some sort of lady's neckerchief and matching blouse. It's very fetching.

Jason thanks the riggers and truck drivers - see, very polite indeed.

Kelly and shambledad come forward to introduce the heavily-trailed Rhianna/Klaxons duet.

They're in a giant pyramid - it looks a bit like a offcut from the Crystal Maze.

Oh. It's not a very happy marriage, either; less a collaboration, more Rhianna singing her hit despite what the Klaxons are doing. Oops.

(The tabloids will tell you this is amazing tomorrow.)

This is going to bemuse the people who like the song, while not really persuading people to sample The Klaxons. Maybe they should have tried a different song? But then celebrating 2007 without having Umbrella would miss the point a little.

Fearne is backstage, padding out the show with backstage interviews. Mark Owen seems to suggest the That got last year's awards copied down the arcade by the bloke who cuts the keys from a stall outside Marks and Spencers.

The Hit40 stations get a clear mention for their support on the Best Single prize. Jesus - The Hoosiers made the shortlist? No wonder Ricky Wilson was annoyed at being left off.

First break: Jack Black's done one of his wacky films, then. Oh good.

Yikes... it's that bloody scary Lloyds TSB advert. That gives me nightmares, it really does. And since when did Lloyds and trains go together?

And we're back. Sharon's STILL EXCITED. It's no surprise, she tells us, that Adele's won the "critic's choice" award. She's a lovely girl, apparently. Jack is settling into a thousand yard stare.

Sharon makes a lame gag about Will Young being gay, which is met with a slightly stunned silence.

Will tries to explain the critic's choice award - he can tell us what it is, but not why. What's the point?

Blah blah blah Brits school blah roll of honour blah Amy Winehouse...

Adele has celebrated by getting an even bigger bun for the back of her head. "I'm not gonna speak for too long cause I think big speeches are borin'". She instead churns out a long list of thanks instead. Because that's much more compelling.

British Breakthrough Act

What is Sharon talking about? What?

Jonathan Rhys Myers is presenting - ten years since Velvet Goldmine, you know.

Radio One has supported the breakthrough act; this is probably the only interesting competition of the evening. Unless it goes to Mika.

It goes to Mika.

Mika bellows like a man who has caught his penis in a revolving door.

He's beaten Bat For Lashes, Kate Nash, The Klaxons... and yet it feels like his career has already peaked.

Presumably the parachuting in of Kelly and Jack must have been a result of some terrible rehearsals? Kelly never mentioned she was presenting during the nominations.

Ew, what is Kylie wearing? It looks like one of Carol Vorderman errors from mid-period Countdown. The presence of Daft Punk style blokes in tinfoil suits doesn't disguise that Wow is probably her weakest single since... well, The Locomotion. And the 'wow wow wow wow' bit sounds like when you put your hand over your ear and open and close it quickly.

Kylie's hair seems to have been inspired by the Lindsay Lohan as Marilyn Monroe photoshoot.

Ooh, she's got some half-hearted glitter, like she's won quarter of a million on deal or no deal.

Backstage, Fearne asks Adele if winning has sunk in yet. "I found out in December" points out Adele. I'm warming to her.

Another break: Weetabix this time - try it with some fruit on. Yeah. It's like advertising toilet roll with advice to "have a go with it doubled it".

Why have Cadburys brought back the Crunchie advert from so long ago? It looks horrible on modern high-def television.

"Welcome back" screeches Sharon, stumbling over her speech. It's one of Destiny's Child! Oh, but it's only Kelly Rowland. And she's only presenting a prize, but neither Sharon nor Kelly O bothered to mention what the award was for. Kelly picks up the slack. It's International Male time.

Kanye West has won. He's sent a tape because he can't be arsed to plod over to London to get the statue. He does some mildly amusing business about being humble, before thanking Westwood. And "most importantly the fans".

Sharon's confused about the next category. Kelly laughs in panic. Neither woman has a clue how to get back to where they should be. It's falling apart.

So they wheel on Beth Ditto with the British male prizes. Ditto also stumbles over the category name.

And the winner is... Mark Ronson. Well, if they still did a best producer prize he'd have won that, and at least it's not Mika. Is it entirely fair for the soloist prize to go to someone who isn't a soloist.

Ronson does a gag about having "some notes", waving around sheafs of paper. Old, but at least he's making an effort. And he admits that he's not really a soloist, too.

We commend to you at this point David Hepworth's piece in the Independent on the Brits, where he points out that its twin aims are efforts doomed to fail - nobody outside the UK is interested in an event where 'Cumbawamba throw water over John Prescott' is considered to be a highlight, and in the always on, instant reaction world of scrobbling and blogging, celebrating the songs from last year in February is a little late.

Jack Osbourne takes the lead in introducing the Kaisers - although Ozzy does get to say "Iwaaarryouuallltogacraaaeeforthekaissercheeese".

They're doing Ruby on what Fearne Cotton had promised would be the "craziest" Brits set ever. It's some scaled down models. It looks like the opening credits to The House of Tiny Tearaways.

They're off key, too.

Beth helpfully points out that Mark Ronson has won loads of awards and so, effectively, a Brit ain't so much. Mark mumbles something to try and take the sting from that rude-but-true observation.

Another break?

Oh, they're trying to push Kinder chocolate as an adult chocolate still, are they? That's never going to work, unless they put porno toys in the eggs.

Over on the Guardian liveblog (from within the event - get them), Rosie Swash reveals that Missy Elliott's guest of honour is Lulu. Which is more interesting than the show itself.

As if on cue, Kelly O says that this where the show gets interesting - as if admitting the first hour has been a bit ho-hum.

Ah! Here's David Tennant, with an internation female prize. Now, a cynic would expect Rhianna to win this, what with her doing the show and all.

Ah, but Kylie is also up for it. She gets the prize, too - how many more times are Tennant and Minogue going to share stages?

God, it takes Kylie an age to get to the podium. Could they not have sat the nominees nearer the front? Trevor starts at Ten sharp these days with the news, you know.

Sharon mentions the X Factor to remind us that she's not always rubbish on live tv and to try and suggest that, somehow, Leona Lewis owes it all to her. A "fabulous talent", apparently.

Sorry for not mentioning the commenters, by the way: Sharon/Harry Hill very apt, anon. And, yes, Mat, you've nailed the thing that's been bugging me. Expensive hair, wide mouth - Kelly is Shami Chakrabarti tonight, isn't she?

Leona Lewis actually turns out to be not so very good - it's a nice backing vocal, but it's all screeching otherwise. Still, she gets more glitter than Kylie did. Probably to make up for losing that prize to Mika earlier.

The kids are having a go now - Kelly struggles with "Olivier award", as if she'd never heard of Sir Larry. Andrew Lloyd Webber has come on - he'd be BBC1's answer to Sharon Osbourne, if you think about it - and done some business with Denise Van Outen. (She'll work with anyone - Vaughan in the morning, Milord Webber at night). They're doing the big International Award, none of whose nominees have been bothered to turn up.

It goes to The Foo Fighters, under the well known 'Dave Grohl's a nice chap (apart from the AIDS business)' rule governing awards ceremonies.

James Nesbitt is now dragging himself up on stage - somehow even more out of place than on Buzzcocks - but reminds everyone the football is on Sky before the British female prize.

Something else David Hepworth said is that the British/International distinction is meaningless in the 21st century - and wouldn't you want to see Bat For Lashes take on Feist instead of Leona Lewis?

Kate Nash wins. Another Brits school winner for this award, points out Fearne, which makes the whole thing seem even more like a closed shop than an open competition.

Extemporising, Kate Nash is a lot less fascinating than she is on record. She even thanks Virgin Publishing.

Good lord - in a bid to try and shore up ITV2's purchase of Bionic Woman (a buy-in that doesn't seem quite so smart now) Michelle Ryan is on with the winner of International Album.

The Foo Fighters have been judged to be better than The Eagles. In this context. Dave Grohl mildly takes the piss out of Kula Shaker on his taped acceptance.

It's the kids again, barking up the "very special" bit - Mark Ronson and... Adele. Not... you know, Amy Winehouse, then? Because it's not like she'll be backstage to come on and surprise everyone halfway through, is it?

Considering how humble Mark Ronson seemed picking up his award, it's hilarious the stage consists of giant marquees with his name on them.

Why, who's this? That's not Winehouse. It's the Stop Me bloke again. Nobody stops him, unfortunately. And the 'You Keep Me Hanging On' snatch isn't clever when the meandering last longer than the actual song you were supposed to be singing.

And now, here's someone else. Surprise! (Not, you know, actually surprising) Yes, its Winehouse. Not doing it that well - like a child in a karaoke competition, to be honest - but (like the dog on hind legs) it's amazing you're seeing it at all. The trouble is she's clearly TRYING for it now. The one thing she always used to have was an air of effortlessness.

But perhaps that's just the nerves at coming back. And, seriously: Better her here, doing that, than to be covering her funeral.

Yet another break. This is, after all, commercial television. They're showing the advert for Heinz Microwave Beans - the ones which imply that, somehow, opening a ring-pull can and hearing on a stove is somehow a complex operation.

Mikey: assuming you come back at 9.50 and don't turn over for the next episode of Torchwood on BBC3... marks out of ten for tonights 'Wood?

And Random - an eight year old boy's haircut on a thirtysomething woman is an expensive undertaking indeed. Have you any idea how much it costs to scalp a child these days?

Daniel Merriweather. That's the bloke who did Stop Me. ON THE BRITS STAGE. Why? Why? It's like the BAFTAs giving stage space to a bloke from Hollyoaks.

Uh-oh - looks like Sharon just swore, and the seven second delay involved just slowing the tape down so she sounded like she was Godzilla. Some gag about Simon Cowell.

Ian McKellen off Coronation Street comes on, and does a joke about wanting to meet Mika. It falls rather flat.

But at least they don't have to slow it down.

The Arctic Monkeys have shown up to accept their award. Sell-outs! Sell-outs!

They're dressed as country gentlemen - To The Manor Born chic - although the joke actually makes them seem like they're the Kaiser Chiefs for some reason.

They've got a duck call and a decoy with them. If someone rushed on stage with a gun and a labrador, thay'd make it funnier.

Kelly is now introducing "my dera friend" Amy Winehouse - according to Mitch Winehouse and Closer, it's the Osbournes who are getting her straight. But would you really choose to kick heroin just to turn into Sharon? Hard to credit.

Doing Love Is A Losing Game, she looks quite awkward - not in the drug-era, about-to-topple-over way, but in a 'how does this work again' way? And she looks more like Gaynor Faye than ever.

"Make some noise for my husband, my Blake". Uh-oh.

Sharon's been allowed to introduce Alan Carr all on her own. She delivers the words - some joke about Ding Dong, obviously - with the panache of a 1980s text-to-speech programme.

So, who's got single of the year - voted for by the people who are watching this programme? (The world's most sophisticated electorate, expect for those voting for Man of the Match on Sky One.)

It's Take That - but apparently only just ahead of Leona Lewis; paradoxically, then, appearing live seems to have hurt rather than helped her.

Take That are now a little more drunk. But still quite polite. What is Alan Carr doing in the background with the two Osbourne women?

Sharon chases Take That off the stage - at least she's handy when you need to pick up the pace. Until she starts talking and goes waffling off again.

Vic Reeves has come on with what I think is the fifteenth prize that Sharon has described as the "big one". Reeves hasn't actually thought his bit through. And doesn't seem to know where he is. In these circumstances, its important to have a host who can smooth things over.

Osbourne Mere screeches and yells. Sharon keeps telling Vic to piss off as they fight over the winner. The Arctic Monkeys look a little frightened at having to go onstage while Osbourne shouts "pisshead" and Reeves tries to grab the card back.

This is how the BPI thinks they can sell records in the emerging markets.

The Monkeys roam about while Osbourne shouts "bloody hell... get a move on... what have they come as?" - apparently unaware she's wearing a microphone, and on live television.

The producers give up and cut from the stage to Fearne in a bid to try and keep to some sort of timings. It turns out they're keen to make sure that Paul McCartney's set splits nicely betweent ITV and ITV2. The one night of the year that News At Ten might stand a chance of giving the Ten O'Clock a run for its money, and they're scuttling its chances by pied-piper like leading away of half the audience.

Another break. Let's hope it's long enough for them to sort Sharon out. And maybe see if someone can find out what's happened to Ozzy, who we don't think we've seen for about an hour.

Ooh, there's a trail for the Tens - a desperate appeal for a missing child... full details after the Brits. That's not too tacky, then.

Paul McCartney's being lined up - and even Ozzy is back to introduce "Mr Sir Paul McCartney". As everyone else panics "not yet... not yet..." Yes, Ozzy's had one thing to do in sixty minutes, and fucks it up.

"She's a survivor like me..." - yes, Sharon's trying to introduce Kylie as if they're sisters under the skin. Kylie is the closest thing to a safe pair of hands the show's had on stage in a while (why hadn't she been asked to present the whole thing?).

Here's Macca, then, getting his first Brit Award, more or less. He's wearing a sensible coat, fully-buttoned up. Must be feeling the chill at his age.

"Thats it from us" says Kelly Osbourne; Sharon explains who Paul McCartney is like a headteacher forced to do a religious bit in assembly, and claims that Ozzy has played Paul's music every day she's known him. Considering he was off his skull for a large chunk of it, that seems a little unlikely - "I'll have some drugs, but I'll pop on Band On The Run first"?

Macca takes the stage to show why he's picking up the lifetime achievement award - and launches into recent fab-wacky-by-numbers plodder Dance Around. It's like DaVinci getting an innovation award and saying thank you by inventing a trouser press or something.

In other words: McCartney has, inarguably, written some bloody brilliant songs in his time - so why isn't he doing one of those instead of trying to push his most recent album?

This is a bit more like it - and by "it", we mean "that set he did at Glastobury a few years back" - Live And Let Die. He appears to have some fireworks for it, but mostly film of fireworks. Live And Let The Guy From Health And Safety Have A Look At The Plans, then.

Anonymous commenter - if the Osbournes had been any more over the place, they'd probably have announced McCarthy, and I think under the rules they'd have been obliged to play.

He's onto Hey Jude, now. You might have trouble hearing it over the sound of Yoko grinding her teeth. What's the betting in a couple of years they'll have to create some way of giving John a balancing prize, to be presented to, ooh, shall we say his widow? Not next year - that'd look too like a tit-for-tat. But we're betting on 2009.

So, what have we learned - as McCartney splits the audience into men and ladies for some singing of rounds, like at a church picnic? That the Osbournes were as bad as we'd feared - not wild, out of control, did-you-see-that-brilliant-thing wild, just half-arsed, bad-choice bad. Whoever parachuted Kelly and Jack in to prop them up probably deserves to be sent a box of thank you muffins from ITV - and how bad must something be if the presence of Kelly Osbourne makes things better?

The prizes didn't really go to anyone that surprising, but then the shortlist was uninspiring so that wasn't very surprising at all.

Kate Nash is less than we'd hoped; Mark Ronson is more charming than we'd expected; and Vic Reeves is never going to work again.

That wooshing sound you can hear? It's the 2008 Brit Awards ceremony vanishing into a vacuum. It felt less like the biggest night of music in the year, and more like that thing they do at kids parties where they show you some unrelated things on a tray, cover it up and see how many you can remmeber.

There was a duck... and, erm, a... was there a joke about bingo?

EMI shows off its digital plan. Oh, dear.

Hopes that Terra Firma were at least grasping the future for music companies is providing content under licence, embracing the idea of an arms-length world where it doesn't need to be the distributor any more have just died. Not simply died, but died in a horrible way. With a nasty noise.

EMI has decided that it actually wants to be a webpublisher instead of a music company.

No, really. It thinks that's a good idea.

'EMI has long been a pioneer in the digital space,' said a company spokeswoman. 'We will unveil more of our digital strategy as it develops.'

The thing is, they probably believe this, although if you asked EMI to name any evidence of this pioneerng spirit, they'd have to spend a bloody long time before they could come up with something. "One of the first companies to sue Napster", perhaps?
Plans are at an early stage, but EMI is believed to be developing a series of branded social networking sites to provide consumers with fresh platforms for interacting with artists across its labels, which include Angel, Addictive, Parlophone and Relentless.
The decision is intended to allow EMI to replicate the success enjoyed by stars such as Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen on MySpace and Bebo.

Now - leaving aside the question of how far the Monkeys and Allen were dependent on the existing social networking sites - what sort of logic is it that looks at the propostion 'The kids hear about new music on MySpace and Bebo' and concludes the best idea is not looking to get your artists onto MySpace and Bebo, but instead to try and build an inhouse version of MySpace.

We could just about see it almost working, if there was something unique about the access this EMMySpace could offer to, say, Kylie. But if all we're talking about is a couple of ghostwritten blog entries and the odd remix download, it's impossible to see why the company is wasting its money when, for about one sixth of the price, they could put the same content in front of a much bigger audience by using the existing networks.

The overriding logic of the music industry: never take a scheduled flight if you can get to the same place, at the same time, by chartering your own jet for ten times the cost.

Coming delight

Unless Relocation, Relocation is especially compelling, we'll be live blogging the Brits from 8pm this evening.

Of course you have better things to do.

Vivendi launches Zaoza. No, really, that's what it's called.

The people who are trying to shore up what's left of the Virgin retail empire can allow themselves a small smile this lunchtime - Zavvi is no longer the worst name in the music business.

That honour goes to Zaoza, a new service from Vivendi which manages to be both unpronounceable and unspellable. The idea is a pan-European subscription service providing ringtones, music and computer games. Which makes sense from their point of view, as they make all those things, but is harder to see as being a compelling offer to a customer. Why would I want to pay a subscription for three things when I only want one of them?

Even Vivendi isn't making any great claims - estimating it'll have half a million subscribers across the continent by Christmas. At that rate - and having blown ten million Euro on it - they expect to be in profit by Autumn. Good luck with that, then.

Hart breaks Pink's heart

When splits happen, thank god there's a publicist there to make it all better. Pink's woman at the press conference, Michele Schweitzer, puts a brave face on the split between her boss and Carey Hart:

"The decision was made by best friends with a huge amount of love and respect for one another," Schweitzer told People magazine. "While the marriage is over, their friendship has never been stronger."

Although, presumably, the sex is no longer anything like as good.

Pink will continue to concentrate on her musical career; Hart will continue to... what was it? Skateboards or pogo stick competitions or something... let's just say avoid getting a proper job.

Hot topics! Le Tigre spin-off ahoy

JD Samson and Johanna Fateman from Le Tigre are taking advantage of a very, very long break from the band to do something different. Something DJ-led. Something called Men:

"We were kind of burned out after the tour promoting 'This Island,'" Samson tells "Everyone wanted to do their own thing -- Johanna opened a salon, Kathleen (Hanna) went back to school and I was on tour with Peaches for a year."

After Le Tigre decided to take a break, Samson began DJing in clubs around the world as an income supplement. In the spring of 2007, Le Tigre was invited to DJ at the opening of WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Hanna, who fronts the group, couldn't appear because of school obligations, but Samson and Fateman jumped at the opportunity.

"As time went on, we kept DJing together and talking about writing original material that lent itself more to the club atmosphere," Samson says. "One day I just texted Johanna and said, 'I'm ready, let's make a record.'"

For continuity purposes, and (we'd imagine) to help carry across some fans, they're mashing up some Le Tigre stuff.

See them on tour in the US, and at SXSW; sample them at their MySpace.

Bono returns to one of his many dayjobs

Good news for the Dutch exchequer: U2 are back in a recording studio shaping some noises into a new album.

Yes, it's hardly good news for anyone else. Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois are there:

"We're going to try and break new sonic ground and deliver a masterpiece," Lanois tells "The sleeves are rolled up. Bono is all charged up with a lyrical angle."

Breaking new sonic ground? Presumably with some sort of guitarry-steam-hammer? No, apparently with a springboard:
"We've had some exciting beginnings via jam sessions," he continues. "Now we will pick our favorite beginnings and say, 'OK, that's a lovely springboard. Now what are we trying to say?' The springboards are sometimes melodic, sometimes riff-based, but I can assure you they are exciting."

Aha. Can you also assure us that it's not a load of pomp-besplattered stadium rock that's just in need of a black and white video to finish? Mr. Lanois? Hello?

Nope, the line seems to have gone dead.

Lily Allen makes new friends

Good news for Lily Allen: her 'look at what we've found on YouTube' programme might not have been very popular in its launch week, but the audience has rallied for the second week. Yes, 7,000 extra viewers plonked themselves down to watch Lily Allen And Friend this week. Might not sound much, but when you're scraping quarter of a million, every few helps. It's actually a lower audience rating than that programme about the girl with four legs was getting on Channel 4's hour-later catch-up service.

MySpace plans step-up in music services

There's nothing exactly new about MySpace planning a service which allows free streaming of music - or, indeed, downloads of tracks. It's arguable that the streaming of music, while not the foundation of the service's success,is the reason for it managing to maintain much of its position.

However, Rupert Murdoch's home on the internet is currently in talks to upgrade its offering. The FT reports prep work on an ad-supported free streaming service filled from the major label's catalogues, complete with a download store for people hungry for takeaways.

The moves are slightly - though not entirely - foxed by Universal's current lawsuit against MySpace (blah blah stealing our music blah blah getting fat off our investment blah blah give us some money). The possibility of a service a bit like SpiralFrog, but which has a userbase and might, therefore, work, is probably going to be too tempting for the labels to walk away from.

If MySpace does carve out a niche as a major music retailer, it'll be interesting to see what this means for Rupert's newspapers and how they report the doings of the artists whose work their boss is trying to flog.

A difference of opinion from the Winehouse house

While Gordon is playing fantasy divorce courts and claiming that the Winehouse family don't believe that Blake would get a penny because Amy was drug-addled when she hooked up with him, Mitch Winehouse has given an interview to Closer which is a lot more understanding of Blake's position, and - crucially - claims that she hated hard drugs before she met Blake. That would seem to offer a suggestion that Winehouse entered the relationship clear-eyed.

It's also clear that Mitch, at least, isn't pushing for a divorce at any cost. Not at the moment, anyway:

Mitch said: "He had a problematic upbringing, he moved out of home at 16 and was homeless in London at 18. That's why I do have sympathy for him.

"Blake's got the chance now to prove how much he really loves Amy by staying drug-free. Their marriage can't survive if they're together on drugs.

"One or both will die, that's all there is to it."

Not quite the hard-faced viewpoint Gordon was suggesting. Perhaps he hasn't had his Closer delivered yet.

No Good Advice

As if things weren't bad enough for Cheryl Cole, now she's got Liz Jones weighing in with "advice from a woman who's been there."

Presumably Jones doesn't mean "there" in the sense of Ashley Cole's "there", although that particular there seems to have had more visitors than Chessington World of Adventure, with most leaving at with a similar sense of disappointment.

Actually, Liz Jones doesn't offer that much advice, filling most of the column with a story-so-far and some half-arsed psychology:

Let's look at the woman Ashley Cole decided to "allegedly" cheat with.

Aimee Walton is not a Brit-nominated popstar, but a hairdresser.

Not that there is anything wrong with being a hairdresser, just that Cole's choice of paramour is proof that men always, always, always want to have sex with a woman who is of a lower status than his wife.

Eh? Really? But since Liz clearly believes that being a pop star is quite top-drawer, the question would be 'if Ashley Cole was going to have sex with someone of higher 'status' than Cheryl, what sort of job would they have to do?' Minor royal? Presenter on Woman's Hour?

Of course, like every Liz Jones column ever, this really isn't anything to do with what she's supposedly writing about, and all about her:
When I found out my husband was continuing a relationship with a woman he had met while travelling, what made me see red was that he had seemingly fallen for someone who was a travel agent and who couldn't, given her missives via e-mail, even spell.

More recently, and even though we are now divorced, I railed at him for seeing a woman who is "a secretary! How could you!?"

We've just taken a straw poll, and 'travel agent' and 'secretary' both turn out to be held in higher esteem than 'one-note Daily Mail columnist. But Liz is still going on with her, erm, advice:
And as for the fashion sense of these worthless trollops, looking at the photos he had lazily left on my camera of one particular woman, I couldn't help wailing: "But how could you find a woman who wears a white broderie anglaise maxi skirt attractive?"

Liz! You're meant to be helping Cheryl, remember, not getting yet another bloody column out of your split.
Reading e-mails from lots of different women to my clearly then very-married husband made for illuminating reading, allowing me a glimpse into how the predatory female mind works.

Women are alarmingly forward. "Why don't you come over and we can Fuck" read one e-mail to my husband.

Liz... Cheryl? Remember?
I suppose my advice to Cheryl is that, no matter how many Brit Awards you are up for, you will have to play your own success down a notch if you want your husband to be dominant in bed, and to feel good about himself. You may, like me, decide the level of ingratiation necessary is simply not worth it.

Let's not even bother with the quality of the psychological basis to the advice, and just ask: how would you do this, when you're in a pop group? It's easy if you write for the Mail - nobody worth having sex with would read it - but is Tweedy supposed to somehow create a double life, switching off the radio when the chart rundown starts to edge into the top ten? "Shall we watch the Brits, Chezza?" "No... let's watch whatever's on Channel Five, instead?"

"Cheryl... what's this gold disc in the living room?"
Take it from someone who has done all the things you are doing, and then some. Nothing will work. Get out now. While you still can.

... before you start turning into someone who is only capable of writing about your failed relationship over and over and over and over and over and over and over...

Gordon in the morning: Amy not at the Brits

So, that was the big upset of the night, then: the no-show of Amy Winehouse at the Brits... hang on, it hasn't happened yet, has it? Turns out it was a rehearsal she didn't show up for.

Gordon happily takes credit for the disaster:

The singer missed a crucial awards show rehearsal on Monday after learning her jailbird hubby BLAKE FIELDER-CIVIL was trading her signed pictures for hits of heroin.

Distraught Amy thought he was swapping the snaps for cigarettes from other lags in London’s Pentonville Prison.

Her friends believe his sordid deals, which I revealed on Monday, has pushed her “closer than ever” to ditching the junkie loser.

We imagine the detail about "swapping signed photos for tobacco" is meant to try and - belatedly - plug some of the gaps in the original story back on Monday. It doesn't, of course (wouldn't it have been simpler to give him some cigarettes instead of signed photos to barter with?), but it's nice to see Gordon getting excited by the prospect of another divorce for the second day running:
Amy’s family are already prepared for what will happen if she and Blake divorce. Despite fears Blake will try to get his grubby mitts on a big chunk of her music fortune, they reckon he hasn’t got a hope.

They are convinced he will not be entitled to anything, arguing Amy was addled by drugs when they married last May.

So, not only has Gordon got the divorce going, but he's decided that Blake will want large sums of cash, and created the line that the Winehouse family will use to fight claims for money. Oh, and:
“He will be offered a one-off payment and told if he goes to court to get more he will end up with nothing, as Amy was not in a fit mental state to marry him.”

... also come up with outcome of the hearing that would happen. Quite an impressive extrapolation from 'woman fails to show up for a run-through of a song'.

What about the other divorce? Cheryl Cole, Gordon reported yesterday, was flying back to go eyeball to eyeball to Ashley Cole. Despite him being in Greece. Amusingly, not only is there not a word about the Coles in Bizarre this morning, for the first time in days, but links to yesterday's big story have vanished - and Gordon (or a nominated adult) has done some subtle, unacknowledged editing of yesterday's story, which now reads:
LOVE rat ASHLEY COLE will come face to face with wife CHERYL for showdown talks on their crumbling marriage this week.

Of course, this time yesterday that opening read:
The cheating Chelsea star will come face to face with wife CHERYL tonight for showdown talks on their crumbling marriage.'

It means that Gordon has had to abandon his "C-Day" conceit - as "C-sometime-this-week" made even less sense, which means that he's also had to lose his bit of business about D-day ("Divorce day", you'll recall.)

Trouble is, whoever tried to tidy up the story to remove the obvious howlers missed one, as the story as republished yesterday still makes the claim that the big showdown was coming "tonight", the 19th:
She stopped eating after The Sun revealed the England footballer cheated on her with hairdresser Aimee Walton.

Cheryl has told Ashley she will go back to their Surrey mansion and hear him out tonight.

Presumably whoever did the corrections couldn't bring themselves to wade all the way through the piece, and hoped nobody else would bother, either.

It's good that Gordon has admitted his original story was rubbish, and there's nothing wrong with correcting webpages when you've printed something that couldn't possibly have been true. What's shady, though, is to try and do it without anyone noticing. Everyone makes mistakes, Gordon. But big ones like this you should at least make some mention of when you're tidying them up.

Or perhaps just keep to the safer 'writing about what you can see in a photograph'. Today, Gordon has a photo of Kate Moss which shows her knees. In the cold, you can make out her kneecap. This sends Gordon a little odd:
Model's knees are Jaffa Kates

IT might be chilly in London but that didn’t stop KATE MOSS getting her orange knobbly knees out.

She’s just back from a holiday in the Maldives with boyfriend JAMIE HINCE and Kate’s pins reminded me of one of my favourite snacks – the Jaffa Cake.

I told you last month how EVA LONGORIA’s knees look like Tunnock’s Tea Cakes – the finest biscuit/cake combo.

I’d choose Tea Cake with Eva over a Jaffa Kate any day...

Whoever produces the index page for Bizarre seemed to have trouble understanding what the hell Smart was on about when producing the one-line teaser, plumping for:
Moss has snack attack as she gets her knobbly knees out in chilly London

Because 'actual newspaper columnist decides whose legs he'd rather eat' might just look a little strange.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Drumkit, set it up, packet of three

I don't understand. I've tried to make sense of why anyone would bother to market a range of condoms under the name of Marky Ramone but... no, I don't understand. Not even Joey, mind. Marky.

I'm not sure I'd trust Marky Ramone to save me a seat on the bus, never mind saving me from syphilis and unwanted pregnancy, and I can't imagine that anyone who is sexually active would place a Ramones drummer above the London Rubber Company as a quality mark.

How did it come about? Did Marky always have a desire to see his name on a Johnny? Or was it someone at Ready 2 Go, the company responsible, getting back the testing reports think "the best way to target these new condoms at the market would be, um, getting a fifty something punk replacement drummer in to use as the brand champion"?

No Depression; no more publication

American heart country magazine No Depression is ceasing its print edition after thirteen years, explaining the editor's decision in a letter to readers:

Dear Friends:

Barring the intercession of unknown angels, you hold in your hands the next-to-the-last edition of No Depression we will publish. It is difficult even to type those words, so please know that we have not come lightly to this decision.

In the thirteen years since we began plotting and publishing No Depression , we have taken pride not only in the quality of the work we were able to offer our readers, but in the way we insisted upon doing business. We have never inflated our numbers; we have always paid our bills (and, especially, our freelancers) on time. And we have always tried our best to tell the truth.

First things, then: If you have a subscription to ND, please know that we will do our very best to take care of you. We will be negotiating with a handful of magazines who may be interested in fulfilling your subscription. That is the best we can do under the circumstances.

Those circumstances are both complicated and painfully simple. The simple answer is that advertising revenue in this issue is 64% of what it was for our March- April issue just two years ago. We expect that number to continue to decline.

The longer answer involves not simply the well-documented and industrywide reduction in print advertising, but the precipitous fall of the music industry. As a niche publication, ND is well insulated from reductions in, say, GM's print advertising budget; our size meant they weren't going to buy space in our pages, regardless.

On the other hand, because we're a niche title we are dependent upon advertisers who have a specific reason to reach our audience. That is: record labels. We, like many of our friends and competitors, are dependent upon advertising from the community we serve.

That community is, as they say, in transition. In this evolving downloadable world, what a record label is and does is all up to question. What is irrefutable is that their advertising budgets are drastically reduced, for reasons we well understand. It seems clear at this point that whatever businesses evolve to replace (or transform) record labels will have much less need to advertise in print.

The decline of brick and mortar music retail means we have fewer newsstands on which to sell our magazine, and small labels have fewer venues that might embrace and hand-sell their music. Ditto for independent bookstores. Paper manufacturers have consolidated and begun closing mills to cut production; we've been told to expect three price increases in 2008. Last year there was a shift in postal regulations, written by and for big publishers, which shifted costs down to smaller publishers whose economies of scale are unable to take advantage of advanced sorting techniques.

Then there's the economy...

The cumulative toll of those forces makes it increasingly difficult for all small magazines to survive. Whatever the potentials of the web, it cannot be good for our democracy to see independent voices further marginalized. But that's what's happening. The big money on the web is being made, not surprisingly, primarily by big businesses.

ND has never been a big business. It was started with a $2,000 loan from Peter's savings account (the only monetary investment ever provided, or sought by, the magazine). We have five more or less full-time employees, including we three who own the magazine. We have always worked from spare bedrooms and drawn what seemed modest salaries.

What makes this especially painful and particularly frustrating is that our readership has not significantly declined, our newsstand sell-through remains among the best in our portion of the industry, and our passion for and pleasure in the music has in no way diminished. We still have shelves full of first-rate music we'd love to tell you about.

And we have taken great pride in being one of the last bastions of the long-form article, despite the received wisdom throughout publishing that shorter is better. We were particularly gratified to be nominated for our third Utne award last year.

Our cards are now on the table.

Though we will do this at greater length next issue, we should like particularly to thank the advertisers who have stuck with us these many years; the writers, illustrators, and photographers who have worked for far less than they're worth; and our readers: You.
Thank you all. It has been our great joy to serve you.

So, it's not the move of readers online which has killed the magazine so much as the advertisers finding their funds drying up and sales outlets disappearing. It's easy to forget that the music industry is an ecosystem like any other, and extinctions can speed other changes. Disheartening news.

Woman rides bus

While we support Chrissie Hynde and the campaign to ensure that public transport in Akron is properly funded and accessible to all, we're not entirely convinced that her publicised bus trip is quite the way to go about things.

After all, going "woo-hoo, look at me - I'm on a BUS for charity" doesn't exactly suggest that going by bus is a normal, everyday event for Hynde. People who travel the bus every day don't exactly issue press releases about it. It's like a slightly-less-cringeworthy version of those celebs who sleep out on the streets for a night to raise "awareness" of homelessness.

And, although we believe in public transport with every fibre of our being, we're not sure that Hynde's quote makes much sense, either:

If you feel you have to have a car, you feel trapped," she said, adding that people who rely only on cars "forget what it is to walk and enjoy the city."

The second half, yes, unquestionably. But do car owners really feel trapped? We think she probably meant something less soundbitey - along the lines of 'in a city with no public transport, if you can't afford a car, you feel trapped', but instead she wound up making it sound like one of the few unquestionable positives of car ownership - the power to go anywhere tarmac and gasoline prices will let you - is outweighed by the car ownership itself.

Boys will be boys

Is there something sexist - as well as unpleasant - in the gossip media's coverage of falls from grace asks Alex Williams in the New York Times, suggesting that women who stray get more coverage than men who do the same things. We're not sure Williams is completely wrong, but we're not sure we can fully agree:

A VIDEO of Heath Ledger hanging out at a drug-fueled party two years before his death would seem to constitute must-see material for a tabloid entertainment show.

Relatively speaking, the late Heath Ledger has been treated gently by the news media.

But when such a video ended up in the hands of the producers of “Entertainment Tonight,” the program declined to broadcast it, a spokeswoman said, “out of respect for Heath Ledger’s family.” The 28-year-old actor died on Jan. 22 from what the medical examiner called an accidental overdose of prescription medications.

Amy Winehouse did not merit the same discretion. Images from a video that showed her smoking what a British tabloid, The Sun, said was a pipe of crack cocaine, as well as admitting to having taken “about six” Valium, were widely disseminated in the news media around the same time.

The trouble is, Williams knows they're not comparing like with like. Firstly, Winehouse hadn't just died - she was still happily alive, and not even admitting her problems, which meant that rather than upsetting dead relatives, The Sun could at least argue that it was trying to help her worried family by revealing the "real" Amy.

More importantly, there's a world of difference between US network television and the Murdoch UK tabloids. Because The News Of The World happily ran the video on its website.

And, finally on this one: Pete Doherty's a bloke. He's hardly had his drug problems treated gently by the papers.

Williams offers another instance for our consideration:
When Owen Wilson was hospitalized in August after an apparent suicide attempt, his plight was the subject of a single US Weekly cover story. Not so Britney Spears, recently confined in a psychiatric ward, who has inspired six cover stories for the magazine during the same time span.

But Owen Wilson went into hospital, and came out, and disappeared into mundane behaviour - Spears, meanwhile, has been charging about, shaving hair, going to court, having people fight over who will be her custodian. There's been more coverage of the Spears story because there's been more to cover.

And it's not like Owen Wilson is particularly interesting - the public appetite for Britney stories was there before she started to get so seriously ill.

Williams tries again:
When Kiefer Sutherland was released from the jail in Glendale, Calif., after serving a 48-day sentence for a drunken driving conviction, the event merited little more than buried blurbs.

Contrast this to Paris Hilton’s return to jail last year after a brief release to serve the rest of a 45-day sentence for a probation violation involving alcohol-related reckless driving. The event invited a level of attention that evoked the O. J. Simpson trial. Hordes of cameras enveloped the limousine that ferried the tear-streaked heiress to jail.

But, again, it's not quite so simple: Keifer Sutherland coughed, and went off to do his time more or less uncomplainingly. Hilton's return to jail was the culmination of a botched release from a man who had received campaign funds from her grandfather followed by an order from above that she go back to jail; the story was of a different order entirely not because Paris was female, but because she'd been given a soft touch and then had it taken away.

There is, of course, more coverage of women going wrong - but that's rooted more in there being more coverage of women not going wrong in the same magazines and on the same websites. Which might be a more valid starting point for Alex Williams' investigations.

Is KT Tunstall credible?

We know it's meant to make us think "wow, KT Tunstall is one cool woman - we were so wrong about her" but, as we listen to the Bloc Party cover she's done [RealPlayer download], we just think "there's been a marketing meeting dedicated to trying to make us think that KT Tunstall is one cool woman".

Grooverider: Not so Fabio

Grooverider has pleaded guilty to taking drugs into the United Arab Emirates, and is now settling down to a four year sentence in Dubai. His defence was the drugs had been in his pocket and forgotten about, rather than actively smuggled:

"It's ridiculous. I must have forgotten the spliff. It was a small amount. Back home I would not even get prosecuted," he said last month in an interview from his prison cell.

Not, perhaps, the most diplomatic language to be using prior to a trial for possession in a famously drug-sceptic nation - it's a bit like shouting at the judge "I am an opium eater and in my decadent homeland we'd be smoking crack out of your children's lunchboxes".

Fabio is going to continue to present the Fabio and Grooverider show, while Grooverider considers an appeal and hoping nobody misunderstands his nickname on the cell block.

Hucknall: "Beams? What beams?"

Mick Hucknall thinks that music in Britain is in a bit of a terrible state, truth be told, and he blames Simon Cowell. While taking no personal responsibility, of course:

"Our culture isn't supporting recorded music in the same way it did 10 years ago.

"The X Factor's done an incredible amount of damage. It's benefitted one or two individuals - like Slimy (Simon) Cowell - who've made a fortune, but I wonder how much the actual artistes will make or if anyone will know who they are in 10 years?

"It's great family entertainment for people who don't give a toss about the recording industry, but for us as artists it's very damaging."

Of course, endless 'Greatest Love Of All' compilations with I'd Give It All Up For You and Something Got Me Started, churning out every time we hit a gifting season, choking up the dumpbins of Woolworths and the aisles of Tescos - that wouldn't be a problem, would it?

All we are saying is give peace a chance, and let us have a go on those guns

Excitement over the discovery of a card which suggests John Lennon might have been in the Air Training Corps:

He once sang "Give Peace A Chance" but it seems the teenage John Lennon might have been less of a pacifist.

The man, who returned his MBE because of Britain's links to the Biafran War, was possibly an air cadet.

A card showing Lennon's apparent Air Training Corps membership was found when The One Show staged a Beatles memorabilia roadshow in Liverpool.

We're not so sure that this is quite the act of rank hypocrisy that it's getting dressed up as, though - it does date from a good few years before he sent back his MBE and he was still at High School at the time. Added to which, it's not like the ATC is quite on a par with the Hitler Youth as youth groups go - it's more the scouts with gliders, isn't it?

And who's to say that John joined out of bloodlust and a desire to bomb people? Our understanding of the ATC was that most of the kids who joined up were attracted by the access to planes rather than the chance to wear a uniform. In the Liverpool of the time, it must have been quite an attraction.

Oh, and it might not even be genuine.

The story of how it came into its current owner's possession is bemusing, too:
It now belongs to firefighter Tom Mills following a fire at the city's Speke Airport in the 1970s.

No, we don't quite see how a fire at an airport suddenly leads to a transfer of title, either.

It's nice to note that the airport is now named after John Lennon.

One further thing that catches our eye: When the story was first published, BBC News Online described Lennon as a "peacenik", which has since been softened to "pacifist".

[Thanks to Jim McCabe for the link]

Gordon left floundering by the subs' bench

James alludes to this in the comments, and thanks also to Barry S who emailed us the link to Football365's Mediawatch column:

Mediawatch would like to make a couple of suggestions to The Sun's 'Bizarre' columnist Gordon Smart.

1) Please crawl back into the vile, putrid gutter from whence you came and never darken our door again, but before that, 2) Do a spot of research.

From today's 'column':

'TODAY is C-Day for love rat ASHLEY COLE.

'The cheating Chelsea star will come face to face with wife CHERYL tonight for showdown talks on their crumbling marriage.'

That might come as something of a surprise to Cashley himself, as he is currently with the rest of the Chelsea squad in Greece, preparing for their Champions League game with Olympiakos tonight.

But hey, they put 'TODAY' in capitals, so it must be true.

Tomorrow, it will still be in capitals, but with underlining.

Mail explains non-settlement for Mills

Having confidently informed its readers that McCartney and Mills would shake hands on a £55million divorce package, is the Daily Mail feeling sheepish this morning, as the divorce hearing ends without any agreement at all?

Not a bit of. It was right, it maintains - it's just, erm, Paul must have changed his mind at the last minute:

Paul McCartney attempted to pull off a high-risk legal stunt yesterday by abandoning a record £55million divorce deal just hours before it was due to be signed in the High Court.

The turn-around came late on Sunday evening after Fiona Shackleton and Nicholas Mostyn QC - Sir Paul's legal team - advised him he could save millions by letting High Court judge Mr Justice Bennett decide on a payout for Heather Mills.

Why, even Heather seems to have read about the done deal in the Mail:
Miss Mills turned up fully hoping the deal would be signed shortly after 9am yesterday.

Soon after that she learned that there had been a major change of tack and that Sir Paul would not be coming to court to sign the settlement after all.

Miss Mills, who sources say had been celebrating the imminent deal all weekend, was said to be "incandescent with rage" after realising Sir Paul and his legal advisers had "stood her up" at court.

Insiders - it's not clear if they're inside the legal teams, or merely inside the Mail's staff canteen - reckon that the McCartney team have seen "the worst" that Mills has to throw at them, and so aren't bothered by the prospect of a public appeal. Probably.

Gordon in the morning: Cheryl Cole again?

There's a shock in store for Gordonwatchers this morning: Cheryl Cole, who should be looking too thin, is actually looking "much happier".

Aware that his column has been inconsistent to the point of insanity on Cole, Smart tries to explain the flip-flopping perspective by suggesting it's been a long time:

Cheryl’s smiles are a big turnaround from the situation just a few weeks ago

And, apparently, last Thursday and Saturday.

As Cheryl prepares to talk to Ashley, and reveal words and feelings known only to her and her heart, Gordon does some wonderful fudging to suggest he knows what's going to happen:
[S]he will dish out her decision before she goes to the Brit Awards tomorrow night — giving him one last chance to beg for forgiveness.

So, he's getting one last chance. Or is he?
I reckon she is about to give him the red card.

No, he isn't.

There's something really nasty about Smart's keeness for the marriage to end terribly - however you feel about the Coles, watching someone stand on the sidelines chanting "divorce, divorce, divorce" like it's a spectator sport is a little unedifying:
I just hope it will be tough Geordie love on C-Day with tomorrow being D-Day — for DIVORCE.

Perhaps Gordon is too busy to read the rest of his paper, but he seems unaware that the editorial line amongst the grown-ups is that family breakdown is one of the signs of endtimes:
This rampant gang culture claiming teenagers’ lives all over Britain is born of bad education policies and family breakdown.

The paper, surely, can't expect families to stick together when one of its writers treats an impending divorce as a lark, can it?

Smart then offers to help Tweedy out:
Chezza, you’re a beautiful, successful woman, send Ashley packing.

I’ve a drawer full of phone numbers from lads around the country offering you a shoulder to cry on ...

Gordon keeps a drawer full of young men's phone numbers? I wonder if he scores them on the back.

Elsewhere, Agent Provocateurs have decided not to use Lily Allen in their advertising:
Lily, 22 — snapped in a corset and stockings with a whip — is said to be “gutted”.

You can see why.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I predict a pouty sulk ill-disguised as good natured joshing

Most of the right-thinking world was surprised that the Kaiser Chief's Ruby made the longlist for the Brits single of the year. Ricky Wilson, though, was more surprised that it didn't win through to the shortlist:

"Apparently we were in the nominees and then (someone handed me a piece of paper) with five nominees and we were not in there. Everyone knows Ruby is the best single, if you are gonna whittle them down to five, you'd think Ruby would be in there wouldn't you?"

"(The final five have) all got their merits, but I am just a bit annoyed. There is no point making enemies with these people cos they will all be there."

Oh, come on, Ricky - "Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby Do ya do ya do ya do ya" - it's clearly something you tossed off in a weak moment. Would you really be able to accept a prize for that without having the weight of it hang on your conscience?

Boston asks Mike Huckabee to stop

Mike Huckabee - now, we believe, officially the ickiest of all those left in the Presidential race - has got a letter from Boston. Tom Scholz has asked him to stop using More Than A Feeling at campaign stops:

"Boston has never endorsed a political candidate, and will all due respect, would not start by endorsing a candidate who is the polar opposite of most everything Boston stands for," wrote Scholz, adding that he is supporting Democratic Senator Barack Obama. "By using my song, and my band's name Boston, you have taken something of mine and used it to promote ideas to which I am opposed. In other words, I think I've been ripped off, dude!"

The Huckabee campaign has - rather than reacting with quiet, good grace - launched a broadside:
Fred Bramante, who was chairman of Huckabee's New Hampshire campaign, called the allegations ridiculous. He said he attended dozens of Huckabee rallies in New Hampshire and other states and never heard Huckabee play "More Than a Feeling," other than when [former member of Boston Barry] Goudreau campaigned with him in Iowa in October.

"Governor Huckabee plays 'Sweet Home Alabama.' Does that mean Lynyrd Skynyrd is endorsing him? He plays 'Louie Louie.' Does that mean the Kingsmen are endorsing him? To me, it's ridiculous," he said. "Never once has he said, 'The band Boston endorses me.'

Mmm. That's exactly the sort of belligerent over-reacting defensiveness that most people hope to see in a potential White House team.