Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rate 08: This year just gone: January 2008

According to a bellowing James Corden on the television every fifteen bloody seconds, it's Christmas. And that, of course, is a traditional time for bloggers to pad out their stuff with a load of looking backrelive the highs and lows of the past twelve months. Between now and New Year, I'll be bringing you a months' worth of canter-through every morning. And, coming up on Christmas Day, there'll be a YouTube selection box of the year's top tunes; Christmas Eve we'll have our annual too-large collection of worthwhile albums from the year and on New Year's Eve, the valette pays tribute to those whose deaths we've recorded over the past twelve months. First, though, this is what happened during January

The Core disappeared from DAB, Sideline dropped its printed edition, The Kaiser Chiefs abandoned albums and Pandora left the UK. User-generated telly needs some users, so it's no surprise MTV Flux flopped rather badly. QTrax ballyhooed its launch at MIDEM, before its partners revealed that they hadn't signed up at all, actually.

Robbie Williams went on strike although nobody spotted the difference; the risk of the writers strike bringing down the Grammys did create more alarm.
David Cameron and Hazel Blears had a battle over which party owned The Smiths while it was left to the Culture Media And Sport Select Committee to investigate resale ticket prices.

Glastonbury announced it was seeking registration again for 2008 but hold on, because Rav Singh predicts that Michael Jackson will be playing 30 nights at the Millennium Dome in the summer.

It turned out you can't believe Jo Whiley, Global set its cap at Capital Radio and EMI flapped about like a confused dolphin in a milk churn.

Britney Spears set up home, briefly, with a paparazzo while Chris Martin slapped one. But nobody beats a journo like Bjork, who was at it again. Gordon Smart wouldn't rest until Cheryl Cole left Ashley.

Sing-Sing split and Moldy Peaches went onto hiatus. Still, The Sex Pistols were promising new material. Or, perhaps more excitingly, Ricky Spontane returned and Vince and Alf brought back Yazzoo. Better yet, UB40 split.

In the face of all evidence, Kasabian promised to expand our minds, Adele suggested Gareth Gates fans were the hooligans of the Brits School and Debbie Gibson claimed the title 'the Miley Cyrus of her generation'

As Bob Geldof started the fight for the future of Kent with letters to local papers, Bono turned up in Davos.

As Liverpool started its year as Capital Of Culture, Ringo spoiled the party and Kerry Katona felt slighted at being left out of things. Cerys Matthews, apparently following Katona's post-IACGMOH playbook, was worrying her family sick. Also worrying their families, Andy Kershaw was jailed but at least Amy Winehouse could count on the belated support of Universal. The good news, though, was there was nothing wrong with Paul McCartney's heart. His back, though, wasn't looking so good.

Sony BMG dumped, rather than dropped, Annie Lennox, perhaps intending to spend its money more wiselty with one of the companies offering to listen to your MySpace tunes repeatedly. Ghost listeners may, perhaps, have enjoyed Hannah Montana gigs where the audience could hear Miley Cyrus singing live - even when she wasn't on the stage. Perhaps Cyrus was taking the unlikely claims of a teenage kid that he was going to fly a plane into one of her concerts.

Guns N Roses promised 2008 really would be Chinese Democracy's year. As if.

Friday, December 19, 2008

RIAA admit: lawsuits failed; try new method that won't work

According to Rolling Stone, the RIAA have finally realised that the idea of suing your own customers is about as expensive and futile a way of trying to promote digital sales as it could come up with, and so they won't embark on any new lawsuits:

“We’re faced with the reality of ‘this shit isn’t working.’ And legally the ground is getting shakier in terms of winning these lawsuits. And it’s costing money,” says a major-label source familiar with the lawsuit discussions. “So, time to move on.”

Wow, if only, you know, everyone in the world outside the major labels had warned them of that five years ago that they'd just end up pouring cash away and starting to lose cases, huh?

You've got to love that "legally the ground is getting shakier" - what that means, of course, is that it's always been legally shaky but people are now starting to realise that if they challenge the demands of the RIAA, they're more than likely to win.

Still, never ones to totally lose heart in a losing battle, the companies aren't going to abandon cases that are already in progress. "This is expensive and isn't working, so let's just carry on for a few more months and stop".

The new plan that won't work is to try and make the ISPs police their customers' behaviour, building on the failed work done by RIAA's UK client organisation the BPI. We could tell them now that it's going to be a miserable failure, but let's not bother: they'll work it for themselves sometimes round the time of the 2012 Olympics.

All hail Posh, the fashion queen

Yesterday's Guardian G2 supplement raised its hat - its stylish, fashion forward hat - to Victoria Beckham. In a curious departure from the usual layout, the shortcuts stuff was booted off deeper in the magazine to clear page two and three for a celebration of Beckham, and her style:

The making of an icon
Two years ago, she couldn't get a ticket to a fashion show. Now style insiders are queuing up to buy her clothes. How did that happen? By Hadley Freeman

How indeed? Perhaps that 2006 book Beckham had published under her name might have something to do with, eh, Hadley? You might remember it:
Packed with realistic and practical advice as well as gorgeous photos and illustrations, Victoria will share her personal top tips as well as anecdotes from the fashion world. That extra half an inch will be the ultimate girl’s guide to looking and feeling the best that you can, and learning a bit about fashion as you go along.

That would be the one. It wasn't all Beckham's own work, though, was it?
Victoria will be writing the book with Hadley Freeman. Hadley is an award winning fashion journalist and currently deputy fashion editor of the Guardian and a contributing editor of Vogue.

You might wonder if there's something a little lacking in distance to co-(let's not call it ghost-)write a fashion book with someone one moment, and then hail your partner as a fashion genius a few moments later.

U2 warn what their new album will be called

No Line On The Horizon, apparently - as in 'you can't see no line on the horizon, as U2 have invested in ugly buildings which are blocking your view', presumably.

They've scheduled a release date of March 2nd 2009 for the record, which is to give U2 fans a couple of months to practice saying "actually, it's a really fascinating new direction for the band..."

Apple dips in DAB

Apple have - without much fanfare - purchased a small stake in Imagination. Who is Imagination? They're the people who own Pure, the DAB radio manufacturer. It's a safe guess Apple is less interested in DAB as such, and more fascinated about the work the company is doing with IP radio.

Downloads up, optimism down

The release of the latest NPD estimates of music consumption by internet uses causes some gloom over at Paid Content:

Demand for music down in Q3; paid downloads grow a mere 2%

But is that actually supported by NPD's report? (Their figures, it should be noted, are all drawn from the US market). Not quite, as it turns out.

15% of internet users bought a download in the last quarter; in the same period in 2007, 13% of internet users did so. This is not, you'll note, a growth of 2%, but of two percentage points - the growth is actually more like 15%. A market growing by that size, against the current backdrop, is surely something to be applauded, rather than miscalculated and dismissed as a "mere" figure.

More importantly, as PaidContent notes:
In general legal music download volumes grew by 29% in Q3.

That's pretty impressive growth.

And there's some even better news for people who sell music:
Teens purchased 34% more paid digital downloads compared with year-ago

Not bad, considering the prevailing glum-wisdom that young people won't pay money for music.

With all this purchasing and growth, it's hard to see how the gloomy 'demand for music' stands up. Let's look at the original press release:
According to The NPD Group, the leader in market research for the entertainment industry, year-over-year consumer demand for music among Internet users in the U.S. fell 2 percent in the third quarter (Q3) of 2008. This overall decline in music acquisition includes purchased CDs, purchased digital music downloads, files obtained on peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing Web sites, and borrowing music files to rip to a computer or burn to a CD.

So, that's not quite 'demand for music' as 'number of discrete tracks obtained' which has fallen. Could it be that part, or maybe all, of that 2% would be wiped out by the number of people streaming music from Last FM, Imeem or YouTube - or simply listening to online radio? It's a fatal flaw to assume that demand for music can only be satisfied by the acquisition of a thing; it suggests that NPD's surveys might be counting the wrong things in the first place.

Gordon in the morning: Now with Francis Rossi

The story about doctors recommending neck braces for headbangers has got Gordon Smart all annoyed:

IT’S enough to give heavy metal fans a headache.

Health and safety experts want to pull the plug on headbanging – the skull-shaking dance craze which started at a Led Zeppelin gig in 1968.

He's so angry, he's called in Francis Rossi to join him in an anger-swamp:
WHEN I heard that experts are advising headbangers to wear neck braces, I thought it must be a joke.

That, Francis, is because, erm, it was a joke. It was a bit of fluff for the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal. They weren't actually seriously suggesting that you wear neck braces to heavy rock gigs. It was meant to be lighthearted...
[T]he nanny state would have had a field day with us.

There have been so many times that we’ve nearly decapitated each other by swinging our guitars around our heads.

Even if they weren't joking - which they were, and you're getting all annoyed about something meant as a joke - they're university researchers and not part of the "nanny state", and were only making suggestions, not prescribing rules. But it was a joke anyway.
[T]here’s a difference between taking care of yourself and being totally paranoid in life.

What, you mean like being so paranoid someone writes a tongue-in-cheek article for a Christmas edition of a magazine and you're so blinded by belief that people are trying to do you down that you write an opinion column for a national newspaper? That sort of paranoid?
Not so long ago, RICK (PARFITT) twisted his ankle on stage from rocking out during a gig. What did he do?

He carried on playing and sorted it out afterwards.

If health and safety had been there, no doubt they would have carted him off on a stretcher and kitted the rest of us out with protective bodywear.

Yeah - damn health and safety and their nannying ways, theoretically trying to stop Rick Parfitt from having a nasty injury which might have caused him mobility problems in later life, if they'd been there, whoever "health and safety" might be.
Some people even look on a sore neck and ringing ears the morning after a gig as the sign of a good night.

I wonder if Pete Townshend might like to take Rossi to one side and explain exactly why that might be an especially dangerous thing to say. Somehow, Rossi has managed to take a joke and turn it into something that could potentially persuade people to put their hearing at risk. You'd have thought that Gordon might have had the wit to remove that line.

Madonna: At the going-down of the sun

It's taken a couple of weeks for anyone to notice - perhaps they were hoping for a last-minute surge - but the last Madonna single didn't so much run out of steam as struggle for breath. It's her worst-selling single ever, and only managed to limp to number 39.

At least she's still got all that money.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mail uncovers new top-level scandal

Yes, you did feel the ground shake: The Daily Mail has been angered again.

DJs sacked after 'porn star' slur on Des O'Connor's daughter

Uh-oh - who's put their foot in it this time?
Two radio DJs have been sacked after claiming live on air that Des O'Connor's daughter secretly worked as a pornographic actress.

The lack of a mention of the BBC in either headline or first paragraph would suggest that this must be a commercial station - so is it TalkSport? Virgin Radio or whatever it's not being called these days? Johnny Vaughan?
The allegation, which is unfounded, was heard by listeners across the West Midlands after it was broadcast on...

The West Midlands? BRMB, then?
... after it was broadcast on the Birmingham University station Burn FM.

Sorry, who?
Birmingham University station Burn FM.

So, Daily Mail, when you say "listeners across the West Midlands", you neglected to add in the words "a couple of".

Yes, it was a snide thing to say, and unacceptable - but this is a student radio station. Which makes the whole story a little weak. As you must know, Mail, otherwise you might have mentioned "student djs" in the headline.

What are you going after next? Someone being a bit fruity over the PA in a supermarket?

Thanks for the shares, but Bono wants his money

Back when LiveNation signed up U2, part of the deal was a large chunk of LiveNation stock being transferred to the Dutch band. Presumably LiveNation hoped that this would give Bono and his chums a sharper interest in performing well - if they do well, the company does well; if the company does well, they will do well. A virtuous circle.

Unfortunately, U2 have decided they'll rather have the cash, and have flogged off their shares. Even more unpleasantly for LiveNation, the company had promised to guarantee the stock would be worth at USD25million - a guarantee which might have been wise when the deal was struck, but which is looking a little sick now that the markets have got troubles.

Indeed, the stock has plummeted so far that LiveNation are going to have to find USD19million for U2.

It's not entirely clear that it makes sense to suddenly pitch up to your employer and demand - in straightened times - that they find millions and millions of dollars from somewhere; it might be thought of as a little self-defeating to give financial problems to the company to whom you look for investment in your career. Perhaps U2 really, badly need the money. Or maybe they were just afraid that the stock value of LiveNation could have wiped out the company before they got a chance to cash it in. Could it be that U2 know what a stinker the next U2 album will be?

Gordon in the morning: Eddie Murphy does some Riddling

Thrillingly exciting exclusive news from Gordon and Jess Rogers this morning, claiming to know who's going to be in the next Batman movie:

FUNNYMAN EDDIE MURPHY will play The Riddler in the next Batman movie, The Sun can reveal.

"Funnyman" is always a bit of a rubbish description of a person, but even more so when you're talking about Murphy, who scientists have proved hasn't done anything funny since about 1974.
Execs have also signed up rising Transformers star SHIA LABEOUF, 22, to play Robin.

Still, quite a scoop there, Gordon - let's hope you're not ending the year with a duff Eddie Murphy story. You know, like the way you started the year with a duff Eddie Murphy story and claimed he'd got married to Tracey Edwards. It won't be like that, will it?

Hang on... what's this in CinemaBlend this morning?
The Sun claims that Eddie Murphy has been signed to play the Riddler and Shia LaBeouf is set to play Robin. This is entirely untrue.

We spoke to a proven industry source of ours earlier tonight who confirmed to us not only that the rumor is a fake, but where and how The Sun got their information. Unfortunately, in order to protect our source's anonymity we can’t tell you. Ain’t that fun? But we're certain, there’s no truth to this at all.

So, The Sun have built a story on "insiders", while CinemaBlend are knocking it down on a "proven industry source". You pay your money...

I've been told, by the way, by a small knitted teddy bear finger puppet, that The Riddler is actually going to be played by Phil Cool "taking Gordon's funnyman, and raising it with a rubber-faced funnyman."

Gordon also runs a story about Uri Gellar wanting to hid subliminal, positive-thinking messages on singles:
The Israeli-born spoon-bender has become so concerned with the prospect of global financial collapse he’s teamed up with his pal MICHAEL JACKSON in an attempt to safeguard our future.

Uri now wants to bend our ears with an uplifting subliminal message on selected singles. It features himself and Jacko calling on people to think positively in a bid to end recession.

Wasn't Uri in the papers recently explaining that he doesn't see so much of Michael since Jackson got kind of busy?

Still, Gordon does weigh the benefits of his plan as if Uri wasn't a self-publicising sideshow:
His cutlery-curling career was plagued by allegations that he was a fraud, and he was unable to bend spoons chosen for him when he was on The Tonight Show in the US in 1973.

But we know the credit crunch is biting — unemployment is spiralling, house prices collapsing... someone has to do something.

But certainly not Uri. And certainly not this.

Yes, because once you switch on a mumbling subliminal message from Uri and Jacko, how would you switch it off? Within weeks, we'd all be a race of over-positive superhumans. There wouldn't be a safe spoon on the planet.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rufus Wainwright: I was taken out of context

It's funny, isn't it: it's always "I've been taken out of context".

Latest victim of an apparent misunderstanding caused by people taking his words literally is Rufus Wainwright, who has attempted to clarify his comments about how "I’m actually not a huge gay marriage supporter”:

“Recently, a quote from an interview was taken out of context and as these things go, it has appeared on many internet sites. So, to set the record straight (or shall we say gay?), I am not nor have I ever been opposed to anyone's right to marry - straight or gay.”

The singer goes onto say that he is “appalled” that lesbian and gay couples in the US don’t have the same rights that straight couples do.

“I myself just don't want to at the moment and feel a strong tie to the traditional bohemian concept of being a homosexual, ie: the last thing we want is to be like everybody else. But who knows, a girl likes options. Maybe someday I will want to marry! Plus, in terms of practical issues such as citizenship, taxes, inheritance, is appauling (sic) that LGBT couples don't have the same rights and options that other people have and compared with Europe and Canada, the US should be ashamed of how they treat love.”

Did you spot the joke where he said "to set the record straight - or gay"? But once the hilarity has ensued - it's a little hard to see exactly how Wainwright has been taken out of context: he was reported as saying he's not a great supporter of gay marriage; his clarification pretty much says the same thing. He does go on to say that he "strongly opposed" Proposition 8 and "will continue to do so", which does seem a little contradictory. And it's interesting that Wainwright didn't even bother to mention his other comments where he drew parallels between gay marriage and marrying dogs, but perhaps that's been taken out of context so badly that he wouldn't know where to begin.

We're not even going to try and pick the bones out of "being gay means you shouldn't want to be like everybody else, but you should have the same rights as everyone else, but apparently not including marriage, which I don't support, but do".

In the comments section on our earlier story, Danbut argues that Rufus' comments have been misportrayed and shouldn't be seen as being inconsistent - and actually does better at explaining Rufus' position than Wainwright manages.

EMI launch their Last FM type site

PaidContent seem a little surprised by the launch of the new site, although since Terra Firma had been talking about it months ago it's hard to see why.

This is the replacement of the old corporate site with a new corporate site that at least tries to sell music and offers a rudimentary 'if you like this, you'll like that' search engine, which really is a bit of a hoot.

Try telling it you like the Dead Kennedys, and it suggests you check out Ivar Ruste, HM Royal Marines and, erm, Johnny Cash before going "oh, and maybe some punks."

Like the Field Mice? EMI know who they are, but can't think of anyone quite like them.

Tell the system you're fond of Nanci Griffith, and it figures you're going to dig Dion and The Belmonts and, surprising, Racey.

Still, it's early days. The basic idea of the site - which promotes and sells music direct - isn't a bad one, and had EMI launched this ten years ago they might not be desperately scrabbling round trying to refinance eye-watering debt. But viewed from 2008, it's puzzling to watch a company pouring cash into trying to create a walled garden which apes social networking sites without any genuine attempt to create links with the web off EMI 2.0. Other sites do this sort of thing better, without the constraints of only featuring employees of one company. It's too little, too late.

Lily Allen is warming up her album

Having heard the lead single from the new Lily Allen record, you have to applaud her for taking the exciting step of releasing the weakest track from the album to lead off with. I mean, that has got to be the weakest track, right?

Lily has an album to promote, and so she's doing it the only way she knows how - with a lot of press comments that sound at first like they're charming and self-deprecatory, but actually turn out to be self-aggrandising. Take, for example, her verdict on Lily Allen and Friends, the TV show that divided a nation - into those who'd never seen it, and those who would never watch it again:

When asked how she'd rate it, she said: "Probably five out of 10.

"It was a period when I decided not to be a singer or go on tour."

Fair enough, she's given herself probably about five more out of ten than she'd deserve, but is this an admission that it was wrong to do? No, because you know what? She got LOADSAMONEY:
"I made a lot of money out of it. Thank you, licence-payers - that was very nice of you. You think Russell Brand is your problem. Actually it's me."

No, actually, nobody thinks Russell Brand is their problem - whatever else, at least he was usually entertaining for the money. "It was rubbish, but hey I got paid" isn't quite as winning as Allen seems to think.
And what of her isn't-that-somewhat-like-what-Travis-would-do cover of Womanizer? Ooh, she's in twubble:
"Now, some of you may be wondering why I covered 'Womanizer' - simple really, I love Britney and I love the song."

... and, people might think there was something unusual about a pop singer doing a pop song and find it edgy.

Seriously, who would have been wondering why someone would do a cover of a great pop song? It's like Huw Edwards blogging his reasons for wearing a tie during the Ten O'Clock News.

But it turns out we should never have heard the song:
"It wasn't my intention for it to have whizzed round the world like it has," added Allen. "Mark Ronson asked me for something no one had heard to play on his radio show, and 'Womanizer' was the only song I had as an attachment on my Blackberry, and I couldn't get home to send him anything else in time."

"I had asked him to talk all over it so it wouldn't get ripped, but he didn't," explained the singer. "Thanks Mark - for getting me in serious trouble with my record company."

Oooh, everyone copied the song because it was so GRATE and UNEXPECTED and they put it on the torrents and I haz a Blackberry and know Mark Ronson and he begged me for a tune but it was almost TOO POWERFUL and I bet EMI put me in detention now for sure. And it was all just a fabulous coincidence.

Robbie Williams is not likely to turn up on the X Factor

Good lord, the Telegraph has let itself go, hasn't it? Being owned by the sort of nasty pieces of work who react to losing an election by closing all their businesses like stropping teenagers, it must be awfully embarrassing for the paper trying to talk about grown-up matters, but why on earth must it destroy its own reputation by reporting clear-tattle-as-fact? Today, it reckons that Robbie Williams is going to be a regular judge on the X Factor. The paper tries to wrap the unlikely tale with an "it has been reported" - but, curiously, doesn't say where. Beyond, obviously, in the pages of the Telegraph.

Henry Priestman's surprising debut

Simon T emails, in response to Digital Spy's story about Henry Preistman signing with Universal:

"Henry Priestman has been trying to sign to a label since 1978", apparently. Which is presumably why labels signed him when he was in The Christians, It's Immaterial and Stiff makeweights The Yachts, as well as, according to a couple of minutes' Googling, singing on a Jools Holland album and appearing on the number one Hillsborough charity cover of Ferry Cross The Mersey. But apart from that...

Indeed - and, come to that, the deal with Stiff under which The Chronicles Of Modern Life - which DigitalSpy describes as his "debut album" - originally came out on in September this year.

Still, why let the facts, etc etc?

Gordon in the morning: Milking it a little

It's not clear how long Burke was at Wapping - from the scanty number of quotes Smart harvested, it must have been about four minutes. But, boy, does Gordon milk it, trying to build no less than three stories from the meeting.

It's actually a little sad, as Burke clearly has tickets on herself and seems to have confused 'winning a teatime gameshow' with 'being a bit like Elvis':

She told me: “Cheryl will play a major part in my career. I am making sure she stays involved.

“I respect her opinions dearly. She was in this position six years ago and she can advise me well.

“She will have an official position as well as being my friend. We are always texting and calling."

Yes - as much as two days after the final they've kept in touch. That's special.

Alexandra Burke also insists that she's big mates with Kate Moss - although "she won't be leading me astray" and, naturally, weighing up the idea of becoming a footballer's wife:
[S]he said: “If the right dude comes along then maybe. He’d have to be from Manchester United or Arsenal — my brothers support them.”

Well, of course: you won New Faces, why would you even consider someone from the Championship?

It might, of course, all be down to over-excitement rather than arrogance, but there is a nasty taint of entitlement about her brief interview. If Gordon didn't get any quotes which didn't make her seem grabby and demanding, he didn't choose to run them.

Still, who won't be looking forward to the new Diet Coke adverts as Gordon is describing them?

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: You don't really care for music, do you?

I don't want to come across as too precious about this, but you know Hallelujah? Well, could someone point out to the Daily Star that it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, "Alex's song". She's only borrowed it, and she isn't looking after it very well.

Still, with Buckley and Burke heading for the top ten with the same song, it's time for Popfressor Gennaro Castaldo of HMV to explain what's going on with it:

HMV’s Gennaro Castaldo said: “It’s now just behind Leona Lewis, at No 3, and we suddenly have the very real prospect of two different covers of the same song occupying the No 1 and No 2 slots in the Official UK charts.

“I don’t think this has ever happened in UK chart history, – and certainly not for Christmas.”

That "certainly not for Christmas" is only lacking a "this century" to really make the claim weak. I wonder if, as Gennaro was speaking, he had a grainy memory of the late 1950s and early 1960s when 'two versions of the same song' wasn't unusual in the UK charts and decided to hedge his bets a little?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Streaming now: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

It's their Christmas gift to you: All I Want For Christmas Is You, streaming from the Yeah Yeah Yeah's MySpace. Santeriffic.

No Doubt: No album, no surprises

No Doubt's Adrian Young has been talking to MTV News with the surprising announcement:

No Doubt Drummer Says New LP Won't Be Ready This Year

Really? With fourteen whole days to go? Surely you're kidding?

Actually, it turns out he means next year, which is slightly more noteworthy.

Young also speculates on how the world has changed since the last time he was on a record people were going to buy:
During No Doubt's hiatus, there have been many changes in the music industry, some brought about by the Internet. Young feels it's an interesting time for the band to release an album.

"On one level, it's scary to watch successful bands put out records and maybe they were less of a success than their past records, but it's also pretty awesome to watch any band put out a CD with all the different Internet accessibility," he said. "It's a little daunting to put out a record for a successful group. I don't know what's going to happen. We're going to see."

Why, yes, what could possibly be more awesome than, uh, all that different accessibility? I mean, seriously: you can get it on your phone and everything. Literally mind-blowing.

Axl Rose: Pepper spray

Axl Rose is hoping that people don't think he's the sort of bore who would instruct his lawyers to go after Doctor Pepper, oh, no:

Answering questions on fansite, Rose distanced himself from the legal dispute, although he said he supported his lawyer.

"Sure [I agree with the letter being sent], but the actions taken so far had nothing to do with me and I was taken off guard as I had specifically told our team, 'Who fucking cares?!" he revealed.

He added: "Right now we have a record to deal with. My feelings are after their public response. It was cute. Maybe the guy who got it rolling originally meant well, but it turned out sour and maybe it's just me, but he seems like maybe he wants a bit too much attention so..."

Yeah, Axl, you're so clearly talking about word make form your mindy-head has thoughts to create about.

No Rock's highly-trained team of logicians have been trying to extract the sense from "I told them I didn't care, they sent a letter that was nothing to do with me, I totally support what they did despite having told them not to" - they hope to have a response to if he's a humourless douche or not by the end of the week. The second paragraph, though, they have deemed to be too dangerous to attempt to parse.

Elton John: Love the winner, hate the show

Even while the entire nation was gathered round ITV on Saturday night, Elton John was insisting he was above The X Factor:

Performing at Greenwich’s O2 Arena on Saturday night, the flamboyant singer told the crowd that he would rather have his “cock bitten off by an Alsatian” than watch the ITV show. Without going into too much detail on a family website, he also said he would be happy to lose his testicles in the process.

So: the X Factor is a terrible, terrible thing. Right, Elton?
Across the capital at The X Factor’s studios in Wembley, a stunned Burke, in the arms of judge and music mogul Simon Cowell, was being told that as well as securing a record contract, her win meant she would share the 02 stage with Grammy magnet John in two-and-a-half weeks time.

Revellers at John’s concert heard the news shortly afterwards. As they were exiting the stadium, a message over the loud speaker announced Burke’s imminent performance with the man who had just blasted her route to fame.

As The Times points out, John has tried to navigate this awkward 'it's not who you are, it's what you've done' double-standard in the past:
"The X Factor is a cruise ship show. I've got nothing against the people who go on - good luck to them. But I hate how they're treated.

"They're given an awful sense of stardom and pressure straight away but they're only successful until the next series. The record companies sell a lot of records and those people are gone. It's cruel."

Which would seem to be a fair position - except, clearly, John had agreed to do the duet without whoever won the competition, suggesting a deal cut with the show's producers rather than the contestants. If the programme is so cruel, why would you be shaking hands with the producers to be part of the prize?

Gordon in the morning: Here you are, Robbie

Gordon Smart's continuing use of Bizarre as Robbie Williams' personal cheerleader reaches a new low today, with a story that suggests, ooh, that Williams could sign a huge contract once he's free from EMI after the next album:

But now the record industry is queuing up to sign him once his EMI deal ends — laden with loads of dosh. A source revealed: �Rudebox was not Robbie’s greatest work and things went very quiet for him afterwards.

�He went into rehab and has spent time getting his head together.

�But now his next deal could be a record-breaker.

�Word is getting out that his new album is sounding brilliant and the Take That reunion coverage has helped.

�Live Nation would be very keen. They have recently signed MADONNA and U2 on massive deals. They could give Robbie a huge contract which would include his releases, live dates and all the extras that accompany that.�

(Incidentally, isn't it a little pathetic that the Sun is incapable for publishing a story without munging the quote marks into these strange � things?)

The "source" - who, clearly, is someone trying to talk up the value of a Williams contract - seems to be hoping against hope: LiveNation have recently had a reshuffling of management which makes them cooler on the idea of giving large sums of cash over to acts. Even if they were still doing enormous 360 degree deals, why would they be interested in a "record-breaking" deal with someone who couldn't sell a record in America if it came with a free Taco Bell burrito on the cover? If Williams' team really wants a large deal from LiveNation, they'd be better off trying to find a credulous US journalist to run their press releases. That they can't find one, and they're wasting their time tickling the London papers, shows the problem they have.

Music industry crashes the wedding

You really have to tip your hat to the music royalty business - the companies which exist to collect cash really don't have any boundaries at all. The Spanish General Society of Authors and Editors have just been caught sneaking a private detective into a wedding to film the party because they believed that the venue owners might have owed a few quid.

The video was used in a prosecution of the Salón de Bodas, with SGAE actually lying and claiming it had been shot by a guest, rather than a grubby gumshoe who had violated the party. It's not clear if the copyright industry body had come up with an elaborate explanation as to how the video would have come into their hands - perhaps a rogue uncle might have sent it in, angered at the unlicensed fun.

The result has been a large fine for privacy breaches to the SGAE. So, lesson learned, right?

Other wedding videos have been taken surreptitiously by SGAE investigators to pursue venues for not paying copyright fees. Pedro Farre, the director of the SGAE, said: “Using private detectives to investigate fraud is common. We will carry on doing it.”

Remember, these are guys who are quick to insist the law must be upheld. Although not, it seems, when it doesn't fit with their own interests.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rufus Wainwright lines up on Elton's side

Et tu, Rufus? Wainwright has attempted an explanation of why he isn't interested in helping the pro-Gay marriage campaign:

"Oddly enough, I'm actually not a huge gay marriage supporter. I personally don't want to get married but I think that any law or amendment to the constitution that deals with sex and love should just be banned in general."

So you personally don't want to get married, Rufus, so there's no need to support the rights of those who do. You don't think that, perhaps, many of the freedoms we enjoy have been fought for by people who are not personally going to benefit from the victory, but do it because it's right?

It gets worse, though:
"I don't think any government should encroach on what goes on in the bedroom at all. Frankly, if you want to marry a dog, why don't you go ahead and marry a dog, I don't care. I'm a complete libertarian and so I really disagree with it".

This is a gay man, lazily comparing gay marriage - which is about the state valuing a relationship, and one of the few times the government has to encroach on affairs of the heart - with marrying a dog. Although, confusingly, Rufus seems to think that marrying a dog is fine, but marrying someone of the same sex is a right you shouldn't even need to have. And if he is a "complete libertatian", then shouldn't he be campaigning for those beliefs, rather than just doing nothing and trying to claim that his apathy is somehow noble?

Sharon Osbourne really does want Cheryl Cole's job

As if to help re-secure her place in the nation's hearts, Sharon Osbourne is, it's being claimed by E!, doling out some vi-o-lence:

E! News has confirmed that a police investigation has been launched after Osbourne allegedly attacked a contestant on the VH1 show, scratching her face and pulling her hair during a reunion taping on Saturday.

"We know a battery incident is alleged to have occurred on a taping of a reality show Sharon Osbourne hosts," said Los Angeles police spokesman Ben Llewellyn. Llewellyn would not confirm whether a police report had been filed.

Apparently contestant Megan Hauserman had accused Osbourne of being famous solely for managing Ozzy; Mrs Osbourne came up with an inspired way to make herself famous for something else.

The programme is called Rock Of Love Charm School, not that it matters overmuch.

Pretending your games machine in an instrument: Game Over?

Worrying news from the world of computer games. No, this isn't about that advert for Wii with Louise WhatusedtobeinEternal in it, where she's using her Wiimote to vacuum up virtual dirt, although the idea of a piece of electrical equipment which you can use in your living room to, erm, hoover up the dirt on the floor does sound a little like they're running out of ideas of things to simulate - presumably 2009 is going to see a Wii game where the remote can be used like a remote control, turning over TV programmes which will be shown on your TV screen.

No, the news that will be worrying people in Gamesland is that the Guitar Hero / Rock Band boom is over:

Electronic Arts, publishers of Rock Band, has issued another profit warning, and reports "disappointing sales figures," while Guitar Hero is expected to see a 50% drop in unit sales.

If you need any evidence that a mildly-diverting idea has now been throttled, Metallica have just turned up at the party with their own version of Guitar Hero.

Sex Pistols realise you can't live off butter adverts forever

Country Life advertising character John Lydon and his old chums out of The Sex Pistols might very well be about to make a new record, warns Glen Matlock:

"The Sex Pistols? We've done our bit this year…we'll meet again in the new year and see what we want to do," he explained.

"We were not recording a new album - I think that journalists are making it up, but you can never say never," he added.

"We all got ideas between us. It's a double-edged sword if you do it not good as the original, and if you don't do it people want to know why - but it's up to us. We are the masters of our own destiny."

Unusually for someone issuing such a dire threat, there has not yet been a follow-up list of demands that must be met in order to prevent said threat being carried out.

It's not yet known if the NME has plans, should there be another record, to launch a campaign like last year's bid to get God Save The Queen back to number one, but we can only hope.

Andrew Gowers: Andy Burnham is out of touch with reality

It's not quite throwing shoes at the president, but there's no respect at all in Andrew Gowers' assessment of Andy Burnham's sudden quavering on copyright extension.

Gowers, of course, wrote the original report for the Department of Culture Media And Sport, recommending that fifty years is plenty long enough for a recording to be out of the public domain. He's not impressed with Burnham's decision to start moving towards copyright extension:

There was, he said, “a moral case” for performers – who often do their best recorded work in their 20s and 30s – to benefit from it throughout their lifetime. The government would therefore consider extending copyright for recordings to 70 years from the present 50.

As political speeches go, this is pretty silly. A moral case? You might just as well say sportspeople have a moral case to a pension at 30.

Copyright is an economic instrument, not a moral one, and if you consider the economic arguments – as I did two years ago at the request of Gordon Brown – you will find that they do not stack up. All the respectable research shows that copyright extension has high costs to the public and negligible benefits for the creative community.

Burnham's suggestion that, somehow, extending copyright for longer might make the world a more creative place is swiftly despatched:
Twenty years’ extra earning power in 50 years’ time does nothing to put more money in the pockets of struggling performers now: two thirds of lifetime income from an average compact disc comes in the first six years after release.

And it will not alter the incentives for creation one jot. As Dave Rowntree, Blur’s drummer, told my review: “I have never heard of a single band deciding not to record a song because it will fall out of copyright in only 50 years. The idea is laughable.”

Rowntree, of course, is not just the drummer from Blur, he's also a member of Burnham's party and keen to enter Parliament at the next election.
There are two broader messages. First, to music companies: you have moved beyond trying to close the internet down as a distribution channel, but you have still not done enough to exploit the swirl of creative and commercial opportunities unleashed by the world of social networks and web 2.0. Please focus on innovation, not on trying to eke more rent from the successes of yesteryear.

Second, to policymakers: many of you are debating how government can support business in these challenging times, and that is fine. But you would do well to pick the targets for assistance and the instruments you use with care. Get it wrong, and you will end up looking silly and out of touch like Mr Burnham.

I think I might be a little bit in love with Andrew Gowers.

Atomic Kitten against the fats

Natasha Hamilton has taken time off from frisking customers going to her nightclub to visit Downing Street as part of a campaign against unhealthy food:

“As a mum I’m always conscious of needing to make sure my kids stay healthy and active.

“We play such a key role in shaping our children’s future so from an early age I’ve taught my kids to understand the importance of having a balanced diet and that they only have junk food as an occasional treat.

“It’s up to us as parents to act now and help protect the health and wellbeing of our children.”

Natasha is part of a campaign that's trying to reduce the amount of time nasty, unhealthy food gets advertised on TV. Man, I know the other ex-Kittens didn't get on with Katona now, but trying to get Gordon Brown to banish her from TV? That's harsh.

Now Nokia's ComesWithDRM can be set free

Introducing Tunebite, a piece of software that removes the DRM from ComesWithMusic, which means that the service will now actually do what the adverts claim, and let you keep any tracks you download forever.

It's not a hack: apparently, it just plays the songs really, really quickly and re-records them to a clean file that doesn't have the DRM which locks "your" music to "one PC, one phone" once you stop giving money to the company - and, of course, can do the same thing for other company's music files.

Interestingly, it claims it's legal. The RIAA may take another view.

Gordon in the morning: Roses re-bloom

If it's true, you have to admit that Gordon's news of a 20th anniversary Stone Roses reunion is a pretty good scoop.

If only he'd got someone else to write it up for him:

This comeback bug is really catching. There must be something in the water. Or should that be Jack Daniel’s?

Given that the 'comeback bug' has been afflicting bands now solidly since Victoria Newton was in nominal charge at the Sun's showbusyness pages, that Smart has only just noticed says something about his powers of observation.
Seeing THE SPECIALS recently announce a comeback tour has convinced Mani the baggy Lords could put their differences behind them and do a tour.

Oh god - did he just call The Stone Roses "the baggy Lords"? What is it with Smart and giving everyone cod titles?

Still, Stone Roses reunion, huh? And it's in the bag, right?
THE STONE ROSES bassist MANI has pledged to fans that the legendary band will reform next year – once he has persuaded frontman IAN BROWN.

It turns out that all Gordon has to go on is something that Mani has said, with an admission that Ian Brown isn't actually interested right now. So, the band doesn't feature anyone who can sing. Or even Ian Brown.

Still, it's a great scoop, Gordon. How did you get it?

Oh, strangely, although this is flashed over as an "exclusive", it seems to be based on something from "internet TV station channelbee".

So apparently an "exclusive" now means "something I saw on the internet", although not "something I read in a magazine" as Smart isn't claiming the Madonna to appear on Britney's tour story as being his and his alone. This one seems to be little more than a "you helped prop up my ailing tour, now I'll come and ruin yours" bit of kite-flying.

And as Coldplay tumble through to the London leg of their tour, Gordon attempts a review:
COLDPLAY rocked London last night with singer CHRIS MARTIN picking up the guitar to thrill their fans.

The gig at the O2 was the latest stop on the band’s gruelling Viva La Vida world tour and their first in the capital.

Some rock bands have problems making their music fill vast venues – Coldplay aren’t one of them.

Recording their album in a church must have helped.

Erm, yes - assuming they were recording in, say, the National Catherdral in Washington.

A cynic might wonder if Gordon's review had been filed while he was waiting for the taxi to take him off to the Millennium Dome, rather than when he got home.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Zavvi in one hell of a mess

Zavvi isn't having a good time of it right now - the unlovely chain was reliant on Woolworths for most of its deliveries and has already had to close its online store right at the busiest time of the year. Oh, and while bunches of prebooked and preprinted adverts were sending customers to the place.

It's getting worse: the company have had to bring Ernst And Young to help them pick their way through the minefield of their current trading. Zavvi owes £106 million to Woolworths' Entertainment UK subsidiary, and could be forced to hand over the money (which it doesn't have) or give back the stock in its stores:

Suppliers could claim they have "retention of title" over millions of pounds of stock, potentially allowing them to reclaim the goods from Zavvi stores.

People working with Zavvi are concerned that the company may be forced to choose between returning some stock at its most crucial time of year or continuing to sell it in defiance of the music labels.

Oh, come on, Zavvi - surely you don't think entertainment industry companies would be as short-sighted as to demand return of unsold stock right before Christmas, thereby making inevitable the collapse of one of the only two major record chains left trading? It's not like the BPI companies are bungling and can't separate short-term cash from long-term best interest, is it? It's not like they have a track record of that.

At the moment, the whole thing is balancing on a line of credit underwritten by Richard Branson - a man who must have thought he'd never have to worry about those bloody stores when he offloaded the Virgin Megastore chain back in September 2007.

The website is like a bizarre Mary Celeste webspace right now - you can go through, look at items: there's just no way you can buy them. "Pick up instore" is the best the website can offer, allowing all the convenience of a high street store with none of the convenience of not having to go into a poorly-lit digital rummage souk. That link, by the way, takes you to the Rubiks Cube page:
It's the no.1 Christmas present this year and the best selling puzzle in history! It has 43 quintillion combinations, but it can be solved in under 30 seconds.

The number one Christmas gift this year? Really? Perhaps in households that are relying on Zavvi for their income.

I don't want to blame the Rubiks Cube page for bringing down the whole company, but is "hey, this is a puzzle which you can solve in less than a minute" really a great selling point for any product? "Hours of fiendish fun", maybe; "seconds to learn, a lifetime to master" - that could be good. But "buy your kids something that has an even shorter lifespan than our company" doesn't sound like a sweet spot for your consumer goods.

Last weekend I happened into a Zavvi for the first time since they grew ashamed of their roots and started to hide the records behind the service elevator, to buy a DVD box set as a gift. "Would you like a bag?" asked the assistant. Normally, I'd decline but I had other shopping to do, and it was a gift needing concealing, so I said "yes, please."

The assistant disappeared under the counter and re-emerged holding the sort of brown paper bags greengrocers would use for mushrooms, shoved the box into the bag and handed it over.

So I'm left holding a package which is same size, shape and weight as it was before, and still equally as difficult to carry as it had been before the bag became involved. Only now: it looked like pornography.

Katy Perry: She's got more than one idea, you know

Under the unlikely-sounding headline "I’m no bland pop tart", Katy Perry tries to keep up flagging levels of interest in her letscallita career by telling the News Of The World's Fabulous magazine that - and you might want to sit down - she could be a tiny bit lesbianesque:

"I did have a girl crush on my best friend when I was 15 or 16. She was beautiful, like a ballerina, with porcelain skin and cherry lips and I was obsessed with her. And girls do smell much better then boys!

"My first kiss was with a boy and he tried to swallow my head. Maybe it would have been better if I had tried to kiss a girl."

Well, yes - you could then give interviews about how you really did kiss a girl, rather than how you might really have kissed a girl once.

Hang about, though, Katy - you have given interviews talking about how you really kissed a girl, haven't you?
In an interview with OK! magazine, Perry was asked if she really had kissed a girl.

She replied: “Of course. I think I was 19. I kissed a girl and it was great.”

Perhaps, you know, if there was more to Katy Perry, she wouldn't have to keep churning out slightly-contradictory statements about kissing girls. Just a thought.

"Turn left at Sympathy For The Devil Close and take the shortcut through State Of Shock Drive..."

Dartford - boyhood home of Jagger and Richards - is proud of its famous sons. It gives them something to talk about other than the tunnel. So, how better to celebrate a new housing estate than to give the streets names related to Rolling Stones songs?

Yes, there's even a Ruby Tuesday Drive, which if isn't already the name for a sex act presumably will be by sunset tonight.

What this really tells us is not how proud Dartford are of the Stones, but what the vintage of the council who approved the idea is:

Leader of the council, Jeremy Kite, said he thought Ruby Tuesday Drive sounded a "fantastic" place to live.

Passing Americans will assume it's named after an unpleasant chain restaurant, and expect to see an intersection with Red Lobster Avenue, but let's give Kite his moment:
"It is a very groovy development - a very modern, creative community and I think people will enjoy the street names," he said.

Yes, he did just call it a "groovy" development. He really, really did. In 2008. Dartford Council have told the Ordnance Survey to not feature the new housing estate on its maps, as the only directions you need are that, man, it's just out there.

Kite doesn't explain why a modern community would be the best place to slap down some names of songs that are the best part of half a century old - he was presumably on his way to open the Ivor Gurney Youth Centre.

This week just gone

The most popular stories published this month have been:

1. John Barrowman's penis not seen on webcam; Mail outraged
2. Trent Reznor says sorry for being Kanye West
3. Coldplay sound a lot like something else
4. Mail On Sunday launches a record label
5. Never rubbish Simon Cowell: 80 page contract for X Factor chumps
6. Second hand mp3 store opens
7. What's a SlotMusic disc? Lady GaGa embraces pointless new format
8. Grammy nomination list in full
9. Oasis concert gets XFM ticked off
10. RIAA crushes remaining hope from the life of depressed, disabled woman

The releases were drying up a little:

Neil Young - Sugar Mountain

Pavement - Brighten The Corners

Liza Minelli - The Complete A&M Recordings

The Wire - Box Set all 3,500 minutes

The Angel & Daniel Johnston - Live at The Union Chapel